Jul 31, 2021

Erasure's video for A Little Respect, line by line

Erasure's Respect video

In this essay, I will prove that the video for Erasure's A Little Respect is a cinematic masterpiece, on a par with Citizen Kane, the Godfather Trilogy and the Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

Actually, it's not quite an essay. I'm simply going to describe how the video subtly illustrates each line of the lyric. Strap in. Get the video loaded up (or stream at the bottom of this blog post), and follow along below.

Erasure's video for A Little Respect

"I try to discover"
Vince Clarke looks through a magnifying glass while Andy Bell peers into a microscope

"A little something to make me sweeter"
Loads of sugar is spooned into a decorative tea cup, stretching the meaning of the word "little"    

"Oh baby refrain from breaking my heart"
Andy Bell tries to stop a hammer-wielding Vince Clarke from breaking the heart that Andy is holding: Vince does indeed smash the heart, and Andy laughs at the futility of life

"I'm so in love with you"
A child dressed as Cupid curls up on the seat of a JCB, perhaps suggesting love is a bulldozer

"I'll be forever blue"
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell turn blue

"That you gimme no reason why you make-a-me work so hard"
Andy Bell dressed as a construction worker has a lovely time with a pneumatic drill

"That you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no soul"
Andy Bell is festooned with presents, none of which seem to be someone's soul, until, that is, we cut to the logo of the Seoul Olympics

"I hear you calling"
Andy Bell, finished with his construction work and what appeared to be an impromptu birthday, is now yodelling

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
Vince Clarke gives Andy Bell a small sign with the word RESPECT on

"And if I should falter"
Andy Bell leans onto a pillar which falls over, taking Andy with him

"Would you open you arms out to me?"
Vince Clarke opens out the arms of a skeleton and looks very pleased with himself

"We can make love not war"
Clad in army camouflage, Andy Bell and a lipstick-kissed Vince Clarke hide in military netting

"And live at peace with our hearts"
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke stand in the doorway of their home, which is called, according to a tasteless sign above their door, PEACE WITH OUR HEARTS

"I'm so in love with you"
The Cupid child fires a bow and arrow, then cheers furiously, presumably in delight at the person he's just killed – a risky crime considering we know the Erasure boys own a magnifying glass and a microscope

"I'll be forever blue"
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell turn blue again, and show no concern at this repeat incident

"What religion or reason could drive a man to forsake his lover?"
In a scene reminiscent of Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell walk away, bindles over shoulder and surrounded by the precarious pillars that previously foxed Andy

"Don't you tell me no, don't you tell me no, don't you tell me no, don't you tell me no soul"
Vince Clarke shakes his head lots, perhaps in judgement at the next shot, which is Andy Bell using sole fish as earrings

"I hear you calling"
Andy Bell dresses as an old man and uses an ear trumpet to listen to Vince Clarke who is dressed as an umpire or sweet shop owner

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
A smug-looking Andy Bell gives a larger RESPECT sign to Vince Clarke, further stretching the definition of the word "little"

"I'm so in love with you"
The Cupid boy again, whose actions are harder to make out but he could be playing darts at God's face – he doesn't appear again, presumably smited

"I'll be forever blue"
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell turn blue again, the former's raspberry blow showing a cavalier attitude to an increasingly disturbing medical condition

"That you gimme no reason, you know you make me work so hard"
A flat-capped Vince Clarke mops his brow as he pick-axes, off screen, a pavement or possibly the Cupid child

"That you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no soul"
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke are festooned with pieces of paper, none of which seem to be someone's soul, until we cut to, er, someone sewing

"I hear you calling"
A telephone shakes vigorously, perhaps ringing amid an earthquake

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke frolic around some massive letters, which are not yet fully apparent but we can probably guess

"I hear you calling"
An audio speaker is spray painted silver to make the sound go faster

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
The camera pulls out and we can see Andy Bell and Vince Clarke hanging round some absolutely huge letters spelling the word RESPECT, shredding any vestiges of meaning from the word "little", and finally leading to a letter-stealing Vince taking the "P" in what is perhaps the best metaphor of the whole video

Jul 3, 2021

30 qwerty years: a quick overview of my writing life

This month marks 30 years since I became a journalist.

More accurately, it's 30 years since I crashed and burned in my A-Levels, and then at the age of 17 started three weeks of work experience at my local paper, the South Manchester Reporter. They kept me on because the editor said I could type fast. A skill which was, in all fairness, not that common in 1991.

My first assignment was as a music columnist. I would review gigs in the grotty basements of Manchester venues, and tip local bands, always incorrectly, as the next big thing in rock and roll. My pseudonym was Trelawney, and the column was called Sound of the Suburbs, a music reference that was entirely lost on the teenage me. I was paid via a government Youth Training scheme, while previous Trelawney columnists before me were proper freelancers. I could type fast and I was cheap.

Throughout the 1990s, I built up my career at the paper. I worked in the dark room at their production office, a job conducted amid fumes of stinking chemicals. Unlike the newsroom, I could blast the radio in the dark room, and this proved surprisingly informative, especially when John Peel took over a daytime Radio 1 show. I continued as columnist, then went on to become a chief reporter on two of their other newspapers, then music and features editor for a couple of spin-off magazines. Friend to the pop stars, I was. Well. For my allotted 20 minutes during a mid-tour interview schedule.

Then came a big life change. I lost both of my parents quite young, and the subsequent mire of depression had me quitting journalism. After a brief time trying PR, I stumbled into what would become my longest career: bookselling. I was a bookseller for a full 18 years. That's, like, a whole Greta Thunberg. The great thing about bookshops is you're surrounded by writing and writers, so it was quite easy to carry on with freelance journalism here and there.

We're fast-forwarding really quickly now. I did a bunch of DJing. I started this blog. People noticed this blog. I started performing. I became a spoken word artist. I released some books. I did an album (it's on Discogs). Our monthly night won awards. I now work for uber-cool literary venue the Burgess Foundation, I job which I adore and which combines all the skills of everything I've mentioned so far. Oh and Electronic Sound took me on as a music columnist, which means I've technically regressed all the way back to 1991.

It seems weird to have a 30th anniversary of anything, and to count your adult memories in decades rather than years. As I've moved my performance work from spoken word into alternative cartoon comedy weirdness, I've increasingly felt like that naïve but endlessly creative teenager that first walked into the newspaper office asking for work experience. I'm growing older, but younger at the same time.

And yes, I cann stull tyope fast. Sorry, try that again. And yes, I can still tyep fats. Nope. And yes, I can still type fast. Slick work. My old editor would have approved.

Jun 10, 2021

Cover me bad: Flow Coma by 808 State

Cover Me Bad: Flow Coma by 808 State

Dear reader,

This is the blog police. It has come to our attention that there has been suspicious activity on this Blogger account for the past five days, masquerading as a blog series called Cover Me Bad.

The conceit of the series is that the writer and performer Fat Roland thinks he's brilliant at creating cover versions of electronic music tracks. The 'joke', and we use that word loosely, is that he's really bad at it, and each blog post ends in a stream of idiocy.

According to the Weblogs Policing Act 2005, this is really bad blogging. Let's use an example.

Artist: 808 State
Track: Flow Coma
Year: 1988
Reviews: [Mr Roland would then insert a genuine review here, but make it look like nonsense]

He would always print something like that. It is alleged this is a random song choice, picked from his record collection. We have evidence to believe the decision is actually more half-hearted, plucked carelessly from thin air. He clearly is not researching his blog posts.

He would then take elements of the track, in 808 State's the case the dirty acid and the skippy snares, and then imagine how he would mimic the sounds. However, instead of a serious tutorial on Ableton or similar music-making equipment, he usually resorts to bad puns or forced literalism. 

For example, taking the dirty acid and the skippy snares, he would have then talked about getting some actual acid and putting dirt on it, or placing a snare drum in a skip.

This is, at best, lazy writing and, at worst, a crime against blogging. The evidence is written in black and white.

In a recent post, Mr Roland pretended to have a conversation with his own blog, thereby breaking the structure of the Cover Me Bad blog series. This was a particularly heinous crime and we hope he doesn't do this again.

The reader is advised not to have any contact with Fat Roland's blog, otherwise the reader will be charged with accessory to poor interneting.

Yours sincerely,

The Blog Police, 999 Letsbe Crescent (near Letsbe Avenue), Blogford, Bloggington, Greater Bloggery.

Jun 9, 2021

Cover me bad: Eggshell by Autechre

Cover me bad: Eggshell

Nope. Not doing it.

Ah, go on.

I can't keep ruining my blog like this. The previous days' posts have just been embarrassing.

It's what your public want.

No it's not. I've seen the visitor stats. The whole website's tanking. I've lost 20 followers on Twitter.

Just a little one. Go on. Do it.

Absolutely not.

Artist: Autechre
Track: Eggshell
Year: 1993
Reviews: "Muestra el lado más minimalista y bailable del trabajo." 4.5-star Rate Your Music review 

Look, you can insert that text, but I am absolutely not doing one of my parody cover version blog posts.

But it's Autechre. You love Autechre.

Yes, and that's one of their best early tracks. Weirdly euphoric despite being all wibbly and downbeat. That's why I don't want to do a cover version.

Is it because you're not good at doing cover versions?

Shut up. I'm brilliant at cover versions, me. That's why I'm setting up a cover version band-- wait, no. You nearly got me. I am NOT doing this.

How would you make the main tingly keyboard line?

Nope. Not going there.

The smoky IDM chords? Maybe get some smoke?

Stop it. I'm not playing along.

The crunchy percussion? Perhaps get something crunchy, like crisps, autumn leaves or fried chicken.

That's done it. I'm switching you off.

What? You can't switch a blog off. It's not possible.

Yes it is. Stay still. There's a switch here somewhere. Is it round the back?

GET OFF MY BUM.

Do you promise to behave? Stop all this 'Cover me bad' nonsense? It was a vague idea that turned out confusing and bad.

Okay. I'll stop.

Promise?

Pinky promise.

Good.

...

Artist:Aqua
Track: Barbie Girl
Year: 1997 
Reviews: "Garbage!" 1-star Amazon review

AAAAAAARGH! 


Jun 8, 2021

Cover me bad: De-Orbit by Speedy J

Cover Me Bad: De-orbit

Look, can everyone just get off my back?

I've accidentally ruined by blog. For the past three days, I've got caught in a daily loop of (a) pretending that I'm making cover versions of other songs and (b) then posting one of my favourite electronic music tracks and being silly about it.

If I post one more stupid blog post about covering a song then not actually taking it seriously, this blog is finished. You're all hating it: you've made that much clear. Just leave me alone. This has to end.

No more stupid 'Cover me bad' blog posts. 

It. 

Stops. 

Here.

Artist: Speedy J
Track: De-Orbit
Year: 1991
Reviews: "Spine shivering" 4-star Discogs review 

Oh crap.

This is perhaps the only track I love that has, at its centre, a Kool & the Gang sample. It's the breakbeat that persists throughout the track. Sigh. Are we really doing this? Alright then...

To do a cover version of De-Orbit, I'd kidnap Kool & the Gang and make them perform for me under duress. If they don't cooperate, then I'd threaten to withhold their comfort blankets / Gameboys / Pot Noodles / crochet sets / whatever gets them through the day.

There's a squeaky square wave keyboard motif that sounds like a guinea pig having a tantrum during a game of Monopoly. So I'd have a guinea pig. And a game of Monopoly.

Look, I said I would stop doing this. It's demeaning. No-one wants to read this.

There are warm pads adding rich melody in the background that sound like a whale quietly appreciating Water Lilies by the impressionist artist Monet. So I'd use a whale. And I'd get that painting from wherever they keep Monet paintings.

This blog used to matter. It won two awards eleven years ago. That MEANS something, y'know.

As the track fades out, there's some DJ-scratch style detuning going on. The effect is something akin to a malfunctioning laser in a science fiction film. So, er, I'd get Fatboy Slim and detune him. And get a laser. From a film.

Look, I don't know. It's a classic track and nobody should be doing a cover version of it. This whole thing is ridiculous.

Never again. There will definitely not be another stupid 'Cover me bad' blog post tomorrow. Definitely not.

*looks to camera*


Jun 7, 2021

Cover me bad: Chime by Orbital

Cover Me Bad: Chime

I have to make a huge apology. For the last couple of days on this blog, I have pretended to launch a covers band. I then spooled off a load of nonsense about whisks, washing machines and constipated cows. I am sorry to everyone I disappointed.

Please do not read the last two blog posts. They were a waste of valuable internet resources.

Let's take this seriously. I'm going to write a proper cover version, with proper instruments, and people are going to respect me as a musician. Let's choose a random song from my record collection.

Artist: Orbital
Track: Chime
Year: 1989
Reviews: "What a tune!" 5-star Amazon review (I genuinely couldn't find a comedically bad Amazon review)

Bells. We're going to need lots of bells.

Tubular Bells. Cowbells. Church bells. Anything that goes clang.

Kettle bells, which I don't think are real bells, but are the kind of things weightlifters lift up to show people they can lift things off the ground. I want those kind of bells.

Bell's whisky. I need to drink as much Bell's whisky as possible even though I read a booklet once that said blends aren't as good as single malts and I never learnt why but I remembered it so I could sound intelligent when I talked about whisky.

The TV programme Saved By The Bell. Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone even though it was probably one of those urban myths where he got the credit but the telephone was actually invented by Ainsley Harriott or something. 

Ali Campbell from UB40! He's a bell. A camp bell. I'll have him as well. While I'm at it, I'll have David Bellamy, the Scottish band The Bluebells. And Belle and Sebastian. Actually, I'm not that bothered about Belle and Sebastian.

I think that's going to sound lovely. Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” My beautiful cover version of Chime by Orbital, with its infinite cacophony of bells, finally gives Nietzsche's statement true meaning.

Chime has got bells in, right? I can't remember.

Told you I was going to take this seriously.

Jun 6, 2021

Cover me bad: Block Rockin' Beats by the Chemical Brothers

Cover Me Bad: Block Rockin' Beats

Yesterday, I decided to form a cover band. It didn't go well. I've literally had billions of messages accusing me of cruelty to the clergy. So ignore yesterday's blog post. I've decided to try again, properly this time.

I still reckon I could pick any random track in my record collection, and I could perform a brilliant cover version. I am, famously, as talented as Mozart at doing music things, with the added bonus that I can play the kazoo way better than him.

So let's pick a tune and see how we go. I've got my record box in front of me, wedged between my thighs. Eyes closed. Let's choose!

Artist: Chemical Brothers
Track: Block Rockin' Beats
Year: 1997
Reviews: "One, two, three, goodbye!" 1-star Amazon review translated from Spanish

Crikes. This is a tough one. The first thing to note about Block Rockin' Beats is the really tight drum rhythm. They sampled this from a Bernard Purdie drum solo, so I suppose I could sample something as well. Let me just fill my washing machine with coat hangers and put it on fast spin. There we go. A lovely sound.

The next main thing is the screechy sirens bit. Sounds like constipated horses alarmed at a particularly aggressive cow. I haven't got a horse or a cow. Can you buy them off of the internet? Crikes, there's one website that says people drug horses at auctions so they appear calm. Nope, I'm not buying a horse. Let's compromise. Let's find a cow, get it constipated, and wait until it makes a noise. From either end. Sorted.

The final main bit of the song is the voice that goes "Back with another one of those block rockin' beats." Apparently this is a sample of Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D, who narrated Aqua Teen Hunger Force and played a big part in inventing gangsta rap. Simple. All I need to do is become a gangsta rapper, and I've completed my cover version of Block Rockin' Beats,

A Gangsta Rap
by Fat Roland

Roland Fatty Fats is bustin' down your door
So back up otherwise I'll, erm, do a poo on your floor
Gimme the microphone and make sure it's plugged in
Compton and Long Beach, they are places I've never bin
Dibbly bop a-wah-wah-woo
Insert something about g-thangs, although I'm not quite sure what they are
Put a glock on your, um, AK-47
And then put it back again because you don't know where it's been
Inglewooooood!

So there you go. That's my Chemical Brothers cover version done. Got a bit side-tracked there with rapping a different song, but let's not question the artistic process.

Please send complaints to the usual address.

Jun 5, 2021

Cover me bad: Are We Here? by Orbital

Cover me bad: Are We Here?

I've decided to form a cover band.

Ages ago, I found a bunch of tribute band flyers in a pub. Among them were Korn Again. Guns Or Roses. U2-2. Bon Giovi and Slipnowt. The latter being from Yorkshire, I presume.

Tribute bands are the extremists of the cover band world. Committed to one particular act, one particular musical backlist. You can't stray if you're a tribute band. Perhaps a Busted tribute band called Busted Flush could get away with a McFly track or two, but you have to stay within your own chosen discography.

Not so for other cover bands. You know the kind. They play every Tuesday night in the back room of the Duck & Testicles, with the same old playlist. Achy Breaky Heart, Simply The Best, Knocking On Heaven's Door. They'll play anything that gets someone's foot tapping over a warm pint of John Smith's. Instead of going balls deep into a single act's oeuvre, their repertoire is wide and shallow, like a puddle or similar spillage.

You know what? I can do this. Let's dive into my pile of gramophone records and choose a song at random. I bet you ten billion pounds I could do an ace cover version of any song. Okay. I'm flipping through now. Eyes closed. Here we go!

Artist: Orbital
Track: Are We Here?
Year: 1994
Reviews: "Hasn't grabbed me yet." 1-star Amazon review

Oh. Right. I was hoping for My Way or something. We can work with this, don't worry.

The first main element are the questioning vocals. Some bloke waffles on asking questions, as if they're bugging a woman on Twitter. Are we here? Are we unique? What does God say? I'd recreate this by kidnapping a vicar and make them read a sermon under duress.

Then there's the drum and bass-y stuff. Easy. Set up an obstacle course of kitchen implements on the hill near my house. Whisks, toasters, knives, that kind of thing. Anything metallic that will make a clattery noise when hit. Put the vicar on roller skates, and as soon as they starts their sermon, give 'em a good push down the hill.

And finally, the other thing about Are We Here? is that it's long. So once the vicar has rolled to a stop, their battered body embedded with various kitchen gadgets, yank them back uphill with a rope and start all over again. It'll be like Sisyphus with his boulder but, y'know, not that at all.

Like I said, I can do an ace cover version of any song, and I've just totally proved it. You now owe me ten billion pounds.

Who said blogging doesn't pay?