Sunday, 23 November 2008

What's Your Vibe Man?

It's late November 1991, and I've been kicking around at a bit of a loose end drumming-wise since the demise of the Smugglers in the summer. There have been a couple of no-hope `small ad' experiences I'm not anxious to repeat, and a couple of invitations from friends of friends, which while flattering, were not for me. I have got it into my head that it has to be something pretty big, as at 28 I ain't getting any younger.

A call comes through from Jo at Ultimate Records, saying that Cally (one of the exceptions to the rule in the music business, being generous of spirit and genuinely interested in music) has recommended me to Gavin Friday and to call his musical director Maurice to arrange a chat. Thus I find myself in a large and plush apartment in Notting Hill, where said Mr Friday and collaborator Maurice Seezer are over from Dublin to (ahem) `sequence the album'. In layman's terms this means that the record is done, but the tracks need to be arranged in an agreeable running order in order to benefit the album as a whole. It's something us mere mortals do on the back of a beer-mat after a few pints, but as an Island Records recording artiste it has to be done this way, at maximum possible expense to everybody concerned.

I'm way too assured, and even a little put out that they've never heard of the Honey Smugglers.I've also had a couple of `liveners'. I feel a slight bristle in the room when I ask for a beer when offered a drink, as they are both on small bottles of Coca Cola.They're assembling a band to tour Europe from February, and I'm being considered for the drum position. As I sit there nonchalantly in my tracksuit bottoms in front of Gavin and Maurice and their huge stereo, I am somewhat less than impressed with the tracks they play me.
(It sounds pretty good to me now, I must say. Ah, the arrogance of youth.)

Maybe if I'd bothered to find out who Gavin Friday was (no internet in them days mind!) I'd have had a bit more respect, but he kept saying in a strong Dublin accent, things like "every song is loike a movie" and "what's your voibe man?" just a little bit too seriously for what I regarded as quite ordinary music. Suffice to say I don't think we really hit it off, and politely went our separate ways. Even if I didn't like the music that much, I figured, I at least needed to work with someone a bit better connected if I was going to get anywhere in the wonderful world of Pop.

It was only afterwards that I found out he was best mates with Bono.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Dumbest Thing I've Heard This Week

BBC Radio 2 continues to offend in ways it can hardly imagine, and I don't just mean by playing too much Snow Patrol. I had the misfortune on my way home last night, (in-between poptastic CD's of my own choice naturally) to catch approximately 1 minute of Claudia Winkleman's show. It was Clem Burke from Blondie's birthday, and she'd played `Atomic' in his honour. As the record faded, her exact words were "...brilliant ! Happy birthday to Clem, they really should use that song in an advert".

I beg your pardon ? That's all these classic songs are fit for now? Timeless, crafted magnificent pop music reduced to being purloined and bastardised into selling something nobody really needs and ruining the song for everybody in the process? and idiots like her are encouraging this as if it's some kind of achievement and ultimate goal? I didn't think the ignorance of our broadcasters could get much lower, but I hadn't reckoned on Claudia. To some of us, many of us, music is a precious form of communication, a treasured soundtrack. It's a reminder of a time when weren't patronised by politicians and advertisers at every turn. To us thinking types, the music we treasure is one of our only refuges from the landfill which passes for mass culture these days. Our I-Pods the only insulation in public against the inane, intrusive phone drivel of those determined to microwave their brains as quickly as possible.

Remember the mobile phone ad which used Vashti Bunyan's `Just Another Diamond Day' ? The song was written in the late sixties while the author was on a two year sojourn to Scotland with horse and cart and no conveniences at all, never mind a 3G, bluetooth, 10 megapixel ticket to nowhere. Some advertising non-entity hears Vashti's charming little tune at a dinner party in Hoxton and amidst the canapes and coke decides to ruin it for everybody by foisting it upon an ungrateful nation so that rather than being a rare treat to listen to on exactly the right occasion, (on holiday in Pembrokeshire, say) it becomes a source of irritation as it's repeated at every ad break for months on end, under pictures which have absolutely nothing to do with the song. Nick Drake's `Pink Moon' used to advertise VW cars. What the hell was that all about ? Are we to be pleased with the fact that more people discovered this wonderful artist's legacy through this ad than merely by educating themselves and opening their ears in the first place?

John Densmore of The Doors lost his fellow surviving band members a lot of money by refusing to agree to license `Break On Through' to the advertising whores. He said "People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music..... on stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That's not for rent". Amen to that.

I'll be setting my car radio default to static from now on.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Tunes I Never Tire Of #3: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity `Let The Sunshine In'

Oh wow man ! This is a hippie delicacy (from the musical`Hair') all the way from the dawning of the age of Aquarius, but Julie dosen't care about all that bullshit, she just wants to sing, and my god does she belt it out on this one. Although The Trinity are much better known for their absolutely fabulous interpretation of Dylan's `This Wheels On Fire', this one's right up there with it.

Brian Auger is as groovy on the Hammond as it's possible to be, the band is in the pocket, but the song belongs squarely to Julie Driscoll who attacks it with all the fearlessness of a lady who cut her vocal teeth alongside Rod Stewart and gave no quarter. "So for Timothy Leary...." at 1.45 kills me every time.

Driscoll became Tippetts, and turned her back on all the `Face of '68' nonsense she was saddled with by the Pop press to sing free jazz with her pianist husband Keith. They're still doing it, and they're still together. Isn't that great ?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Extreme Noise Terror Over Teesside

Growing up on Teesside did not exactly place me and Duncan at the centre of the musical universe. However, there were enough fellow freaks and a thriving pub music scene to ensure that the opportunity for us to hit the stage soon emerged. Over the course of a year in 1981-2 there were four gigs which served to establish a modus operandi which we still stick with today, albeit with a little more consideration for the audience.

At the age of 18 we discovered the joy of going onstage with an attitude and improvising a truly offensive racket. It was bliss ! This was the way to make music. No tiresome rehearsals, no songs to learn and practice over and over again, no cover versions of `Alright Now' or `Smoke On The Water' to please the guitarist and the audience. Just turn up, set up and turn up.

There were a few good bands in the Redcar and Middlesbrough area at the time, and lots of awful ones, heavy metal ruled OK, punk had disappeared up it's own arse and denim was largely still the order of the day. There was rubbish like Carl Green and the Scene and several other bands whose songs were so lame it's little wonder none of them were ever heard of again, but it at least made for a thriving music scene with several places to play.

Prince Toad couldn't be sure if they were hippies or punks, and were probably both, but they had a bunch of good original tunes, an attitude and a following to boot. The young folks were up for live music in them days, aye lad. No mobiles, no computers, no mp3 players and nowt on telly, (3 channels !) and as everyone still lived with their parents it made sense to meet down the pub, where unlike today you could actually afford a pint or two, even if someone who'd just had their giro ended up standing the round. One Saturday night I'd been out with another mate, and by chance bumped into Duncan in Marske square with my tray of egg fried rice. He'd just returned from Redcar where the upshot of his evening was that we'd been offered a gig. "When is it ?" I asked with interest. "Tomorrow night, supporting Prince Toad" he replied.

Thus a career on the fringes, in the fringes, and nowhere near the fringes of rock'n'roll was born. It was to be our first gig, save for a somewhat fraught attempt earlier in the year at our sixth form college, for which we had made the fatal mistake of rehearsing some songs. It hadn't quite gone according to plan thanks to a combination of acoustic feedback and new strings which went horribly and habitually out of tune....and the fact Jon Davis (who we were basically backing), had consumed `a few' in The Coble, a Sam Smiths pub near the college where a pint was about 35p. He was 18 and drank beer, we were 17 and didn't, although we soon learned.

This time it was to be out in the world proper, namely the sea spray swept environs of The Dolphin on Redcar prom. Sunday 6th September 1981. Bloody hell that's a long time ago. The band was immediately christened `Purple Roof' by bassist Mark `Sandy' Sanderson. These days he's a viking you know....but I digress.

After struggling down there on the bus with as much gear as we could carry we realised that we'd forgotten any means of recording the thing, and both of us stubbornly refused to trudge there and back on the bus for a tape deck, sadly therefore the events of that night remain lost in the sea sprays of time...what I do recall is feeling that this was possibly the best night of my life so far. (I hadn't yet hit the jackpot with those mysterious creatures known as girls...)

I got to thrash around the Prince Toad drum kit as I still didn't have my own, and I got to wear eyeliner. Who could ask for more ? I've always found having make-up applied by a young lady a very sweet experience. Goth pillocks Bauhaus were very popular at the time, so make up was `in'. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

It's hard to describe how we sounded, sitting back there on the drums in the corner of a pub floor with no monitors there was no chance of hearing what Jon Davis our vocalist (above, with Christine) for the night was actually singing, all I know is that the racket we were all making sounded thrilling and new in the way that it always does when you're making a racket that is thrilling and new. There's just something I love about beginning a performance not knowing what you are going to do. I can still remember the train-like beat I was banging out on Dave's toms to this day. It was the only time we played live with Dave Conn, Robert Linus and Mark Sanderson and certainly the only time they were all in the same band, so here's to them.

Live music was immediately banned from The Dolphin after that because Jon's lyrics based on the sex life of fictional couple Gerald and Cynthia was deemed obscene by the landlord. We were off to a good start, even if I hadn't been lucky enough to hear it all for myself.

It was the summer of 1982 when the next opportunity for extreme noise terror presented itself, this time at the Hydro in Redcar, a fantastic pub and regular haunt for the golden youth of the era. It was small and carpeted, having a balcony area running around the upstairs looking directly down on a space which while not exactly a stage, could at least be called a focal point . If there were a few people in the band, the keyboard man often found himself setting up on the balcony and looking down from above. Downstairs were a series of booths just like `Happy Days', and happy days they certainly were, this time being the occasion of Duncan's 19th birthday.

We now had guitarist Steve Roberts in tow. He was an art student with big hair and a penchant for all things gothic. He was certainly noticed by all on the Marske to Middlesbrough train as he made his way to art college every morning. This was of course in the days when nobody had dressed like that before. It was Steve who christened us The Whores Of Babylon, which I'm sure you'll agree is a great name.

He played guitar in a good way, ie he hadn't learned how to play the bloody thing properly, and was therefore free of all those rock'n'roll cliches. His combination of a cheap effects pedal (Colorsound I think) gave off a powerful swirling vibe of howling banshee horror. Duncan had built a little box of tricks of his own, basically a hand controlled oscillator and busied himself with that and bass guitar while I tossed about with the Roland Dr Rhythm Drum Machine and an impossibly crappy Italian synth whilst making aircraft crashing noises with an echo unit. The power was in our hands for half an hour of glorious fun.

There may be no photos of the gig but there is audio. We were always very good at recording things. Come with us now on a journey through time and space!

Whores Of Babylon , Hydro Redcar 30/6/82 (It's an edit, it was originally 30 minutes)

If you make it through to the end, listen for the chorus of cheers which dies down only for an annoymous lass to declare it "Shit" with impeccable Teesside timing. Roadie `Nog' can also be heard giving his verdict, before signing off with a brief profanity delivered in a textbook Redcar accent. The Whores made a return visit to The Hydro in August when I was on holiday, I was gutted to have missed it. This time amongst the source material was a heavily processed interview with Pete Murphy on wonderful Radio One. Funny how Bauhaus figured so much in things back then. People actually used to like them you know.

A lunchtime in October of the same year: I was meeting Jon Davis and Tim Love in the Hydro and when I walked in, right smack bang in the middle of the band platform was a massive, ugly and immovable video jukebox. All of a sudden it was possible to watch Peter Gabriel's `Shock The Monkey' (as good as it got really) and unfortunately Duran Duran's `Rio' which looked even more absurd than it already was when viewed from grey, rainswept Redcar. The punters and the landlord agreed; the future had arrived. If ever there was a moment when the world changed, it was then. I have always hated music promo videos with a passion. 99% of them are an utter waste of time and vast amounts of money. It's a record for God's sake. You're supposed to listen to them, not watch them.

We rarely made it into the great metropolis of Middlesbrough (a mere 10 miles or so) even to see whatever top pop band was in town, our impoverished status as students put paid to that,
and there was a better than average chance of being beaten up if they found out you were from Redcar. We did however have one final clinching glory at Ossies nightclub on 24th August 1982, and even lived to tell the tale. Ossies was in that district of Middlesbrough which resembled Beirut on a bad day, and was usually a straightforward nite spot/copping-off dive for the cognoscenti of the area. Tuesday was a quiet night, so they decided to let somebody book bands.

Tim Love from Shock Headed Peter had sold his band to the venue as `modern dance music' to clinch the gig. `Modern dance' was Haircut 100 and all that shite at that particular time, but at least the Shock Heads had songs you could move about to and clap at the end of.

Unlike The Whores Of Babylon who were now augmented by Jonny Neesham from the art college. He could be heard reading from a prayer book through an effects pedal. (9 minutes into the audio). His startling entrance sounds like an invasion from the planet Endrogynon.

As we shuffled on to that stage a most fearsome racket ensued from the outset. Tim from the Shock Heads was heard to shout "DUNCAN!" in desparation for us to turn it down on more than one occasion. The audience were unusually close to the band due to the layout of the place, and believe me, conversation was not possible. Drinking was difficult enough, with the waves we were creating, and I'm sure if we'd `Memorexed' it, glasses would have shattered too. (Pete Murphy was in that ad too wasn't he ? He gets everywhere). There was me playing in tapes of a French brass band I'd recorded on holiday, Duncan working wonders with whatever instruments of terror he had at his disposal and Steve Roberts chipping in with his Tonebender pedal and guitar of disgrace (rather than `bend' tones it heated them up to meltdown temparature before hammering them completely out of shape).

The game plan for the gig was to eventually bring the Roland drum machine into the mix and then climb up to the drum kit and join in, but just as I'd finally set it off and made myself comfortable at the kit, the landlord decided he'd had enough. It's brilliant that it took him this long to decide that this was truly an unacceptable racket, (14 minutes !), but the drum machine was seemingly the last straw for him and he cut the electricity unceremoniously and without explanation.

On the recording you hear the drum machine start up for a short while, the juice then goes off causing the cassette motor to grind to a halt. The recording therefore speeds up, and just at the last instant I make my one and only contribution on the drums by playing a single crash on the cymbal. A big beautiful full stop on the brief career of the Whores of Babylon.

Power is soon restored and life carries on....the strains of floppy fringed flick-head* anthem`Favourite Shirt' by Haircut 100 fills the dance floor and civilisation is restored.

Listen for yourself here:
Whores Of Babylon: Ossies, Middlesbrough 24/08/82

Quote from `Ossies' manager the next day when another Teesside band fancied a gig and called them up: "After the bands we had in last night from Redcar, we're only booking agency acts now".

That's three venues we'd never play again...we came, we saw, we made one hell of a racket.

(*Flick-heads were those fashion victims seen around the pubs and clubs who had that one sided floppy fringe which required them to forever be flicking it out of their eyes with a jolt of the head. They often had a single ear stud to go with it, the tossers.)

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Tunes I Never Tire Of #2: Mott The Hoople - Roll Away The Stone

It's back to the stack-heeled glory of the early 1970's for this one. Heralded by the kind of guitar figure which lets you know immediately that you're in for a good time, this fabulous slice of fifties influenced seventies rock is a delight. What the overbearing cultural commentators on the pre-punk era usually forget is just how much fun pop music was in the golden age of `Top Of The Pops' and this record epitomises it.

There are chugging saxes and big reverby drums reinforcing the speeded up Phil Spector feel of this paean to partying,"come out and have a good time !" it screams from the rooftops.

The girly backing vocals by the mighty Thunderthighs are splendidly exuberant ("sha la la la push push !") and after all, you can't have a good party without an almost equal amount of both sexes. The chorus is one of their best, and I love the middle eight as `anything goes' mad 70's pop at it's finest:

Ian Hunter: "There's a rockabilly party on Saturday night, are you gonna be there ?"
Backing girl: " I got my invite"
Ian Hunter: "Gonna bring your records ?"
Backing girl: "Ooh will do !"

This little exchange is finished off with a small vignette on the VCS3 synthesiser which covers the spare 4 bars leading back into the chorus. I can just see the mystery player (presumably pianist Morgan Fisher ?) `dropping in' and recording his take, grappling with the rate controls as his synthesiser struggles to stay in line, but making it soar up to infinity just in time. "Made it !"
declares Ian Hunter before crashing back into the glorious chorus to fade (or does he say "Lady" ? It'll always be "made it" to me)

Here they are doing it on Top Of The Pops, a joy to behold.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Tripping Spires

The Honey Smugglers show at Oxford University's Xmas Ball sticks in the memory for several reasons. Surrounded by dreaming spires, a sense of history and great learning it made a nice change from more familiar indie venues like the back room of the Dog and Sausage. It was also the only time I've ever been under the influence of LSD.

It was the end of 1990, and my diary reveals a busy schedule of gigs, rehearsals and band meetings, I honestly don't know how I managed to hold down the day job when I look back at this endless round of drinking opportunities and late nights.

We find ourselves in the inner sanctum of Oxford University, through endless corridors and staircases being shown to a remote dressing room with ancient stone walls on the top floor of an old and beautiful building. A generous drinks rider arrives and we quench our thirst before shuffling down to the sound check. This is over by about seven o'clock, so singer Chris and I end up going for a wander to a nearby pub, as we aren't due on stage until midnight. I don't know what the rest of the guys were doing, probably something sensible like eating some food.

A few pints later, on our way back through the campus, there is magic in the cold December air. Manicured lawns and Olde England's finest architecture, it's like another world. Everyone making their way to the ball is dressed in tuxedos and the most stunning ball gowns, and there's us in our battered jeans and baggy long sleeved T-shirts feeling like rock'n'roll peasants but really cool too, because we stand out a mile and are noticed everywhere we go. We're the only ones not dressed up to the nines, so we must be the band.

As we survey the scene, Chris unexpectedly produces a tab of acid from his pocket and suggests it might be a really fun time to take it, and at that moment I totally agree. It's the perfect unusual situation. I've never taken it before, but kind of know broadly what to expect, the timing is right, so we have a half tab each.

The night grows and grows into a truly great time, the dance floor of the old debating hall is heaving with wealthy and beautiful girls who look good enough to eat. We proceed to get pissed in time-honoured fashion, finding time to visit support band International Resque in their dressing room, where they are quietly reading a selection of literary classics and sipping tea. Only joking. They are actually having a contest to see how hard they can punch each other in the stomach, and doing unspeakable things involving cigarettes and their penises. Back on the dance floor, Ged is by now so hammered that he just has this beatific glazed smile on his face, some people get violent and nasty on booze, Ged just smiles at everybody. We dance with a few ball gowned beauties before getting down to the serious matter of the gig itself.

When it finally comes to stage time I'm hovering slightly above it all, the acid having fully kicked in, and feeling good. It has quite a `speedy' effect, sharpening the senses and cancelling out the alcohol. As the disco stops and we start playing, the beautiful people just keep on dancing in front of us, and as we hit our stride I began to notice two things through a kind of telescopic blur. Firstly that the colours seem very bright onstage, and more interestingly, there is a `slow motion me' battling for head space with the 'on the case' me. It's certainly quite entertaining watching my own arms powering away at the cymbals, my sticks bending one way and another like rubber and leaving motion traces. My mind is seemingly detached from the whole thing, but everything is under control. It's a wild gig; a loud, chaotic and fantastic explosion of sound and colour.

Towards the end of the set Chris is having a fine old time singing his heart out and grooving in that jerky and captivating manner of his. On a steady course to the next level of consciousness, he's swooping and diving across the stage with his guitar. For most onlookers, this is entertainment enough, but Chris has other plans.

I watch with some amazement as he suddenly leaps upwards, mid-song, guitar still round his neck, to try and grab hold of a huge chandelier which has been hanging just out of his reach throughout the gig, tempting him and beckoning him with it's curved brassy arms. He latches onto it perfectly and it holds his weight for long enough for him to be able to swing back and forth on it a few times, as everyone in the hall gazes on in disbelief. This is after all, the old debating hall of Oxford University, a sacred place where great minds have argued the philosophies and politics of western civilisation for centuries. Now there's a mad man swinging from one of the bloody chandeliers! It's quite a spectacle for a precious few seconds until the inevitable happens.

Luckily as it breaks he doesn't manage to wrench the entire unit from the ceiling and kill himself in the process; the chains which hold it are strong, but the bit he's been clinging onto soon comes away. Chris is a human pendulum between the stage and the audience, and fortunately he falls as he's swinging over the stage rather than break his ankles landing awkwardly in the audience, which as gambling buffs will remind us, he has an equal chance of doing.

Somewhere in the assembled mass of groovy people the promoter looks at Andy our manager and gestures the dreaded `cut throat' sign. We are docked £100 of the £150 we were due to be paid for the gig, but money can't buy memories like that !

Later into the early hours, I leave the still bouncing dance floor to see what everyone else is up to. Hiking up the staircases and corridors to our loftily situated dressing room , I arrive to find Chris alone, with a big smile on his face, following the emergency fire escape procedure. This means basically that he is just about to abseil 100 ft down the side of the old building to the lawns below. There's an old rope and pulley system mounted on the stone wall in case of emergency, and he's decided it needs testing out.

I immediately recall everything I've read about people's propensity for throwing themselves from great heights while under the influence of the `evil mind altering drug' (Daily Mail) coursing through his brain, and initially try to talk him out of it. But he is on a mission, and has such assurance that I soon understand that the best thing to do is to go with the flow and encourage him.

Not that he needs much encouragement. As I look up, he launches himself out of the window and down the side of the building with all the aplomb of somebody from the SAS. I make it to the window in time to see him covering the last 50 feet to a safe almost textbook landing. (here is the only pictorial evidence, fire escape harness and window can be seen at the right of the photo).

It was a charmed evening, distinguished also by keyboard man Stevie C's first romantic encounter with the future mother of his children. After a perfect night like that I've never felt the need to take acid again.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Jewels From The Oxide #1

As those who know me will testify, I used to tape everything. I still do, except that it's digital (with a thing that looks like a shaver) these days. Rooting around in this mountain of cassettes can be the source of much amusement to pass the winter evenings, long forgotten gigs come alive once again at the push of a button. All are precious slices of time from which verbal exchanges like this sometimes make themselves known:

Chris : " I only joined this band because I couldn't get laid"
Steve : "Now you've got even less chance".

(Honey Smugglers: Islington Arts Factory 12/11/88)

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Honey Smugglers meet the Barking Bard, with hilarious results !

It's August 1990 and the Honey Smugglers are flying high; with write-ups in all three music papers that week, and gigs coming thick and fast on the eve of the release of our first EP `Listen'. At two days' notice we have landed a gig with Billy Bragg at the most happening Mean Fiddler in Harlesden. It's a great venue and sure to be full for Billy B who is at the top of his game and warming up for Reading Festival the next day. As we're soundchecking on the carpeted stage, we meet Billy and find him to be an ace chap. "Hello you Smuggler types" he greets us cheerily, and as I'm introduced to him he says "ah yes, the drummer. Always the one most likely to say "fuck" in front of your mother".

The reason we have the gig is that Mushi Jenner who's a young fan of ours, and her chaperone Annie, have persuaded Mushi's Dad/Billy's manager Peter to put us on the bill. He's not visible at the soundcheck, Annie confides "he says he's heard it all before". In this case, he really has. Who needs to hear our psychedelic pop quartet with an organ and visionary lead singer on scrambled guitar when the first band you managed was Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd ?

Inevitably when we do meet later, I can't resist from drilling him and his charming Japanese wife Sumi for information about some of the legendary figures (and indeed heroes of mine) he's looked after....Syd, Roy Harper, Kevin Ayers..."bloody hell" he protests "you'll be asking me about the Third Ear Band next !" (if he only knew). I thought he deserved some sort of medal for managing this most mercurial set of eccentrics, which can't have been straightforward to say the least, but belief in sheer talent goes a long way I guess.

The Mean Fiddler has two well-appointed dressing rooms, the main act's room is accessed through the support band's. Pre-show The Honey Smugglers made themselves comfortable, enjoying the luxury of something other than the more usual toilet with added chairs. As we're chatting, smoking and drinking the rider away, I happen to remark that tonight's a "bit of an incongruous bill" amongst other possibly indiscreet remarks.

About half an hour later out comes Mr Bragg from the dressing room at the end. We had no idea he was in there all the time. "Hello again" he says, "incongruous Bill here".

Tunes I Never Tire Of #1: Buzzcocks - I Don't Mind

The first in an occasional series. Beware, it could be `Tarkus' next time. I can't see this building into one of those definitive and oh so `correct' Top 100 's of which we are all, I'm sure, heartily sick. This series is wont to take a much more random shape as whatever my idea of perfection is this week takes precedent over any numerical order.

Like many, I now have a collection of CDs so large that there are many I will never hear again in this lifetime, but amidst this sea of treasures there are certain songs which will always stand out like diamonds. The ones you reach for when nothing else will do. Songs which `spring to mind' for no reason other than there isn't a better way to spend the next few minutes (or in some cases, 20 minutes).

Everyone has their own idea of perfection. I personally only know it when I hear it, it is as elusive as quicksilver, so hard to define. This tune hits the spot in every way imaginable for every second of it's 2:18. Naturally, it did nothing in the singles charts, (Number 55 ! I ask you). Buzzcocks will always be known primarily for `Ever Fallen Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've), which of course rightly occupies a high position in their wonderful canon of perfect pop alongside another 20 or 30 peerless classics. But I think `I Don't Mind' takes the biscuit and the cigar.

At his youthful peak Pete Shelley had a naive, seemingly automatic way of coming up with these perfect pop songs (he tells recently of dropping his girlfriend off at Woolworths and having written `Love You More' by the time they met for lunch). Herein lies the magic I guess, get it nailed before there's time to analyse it.

`I Don't Mind' sits at the top of the tree for me because this tale of romantic indifference is so effortlessly melodic and original, the way the chord changes breathlessly follow the vocal line a bar at a time propelled by the urgent and perfect drumming of John Maher, like it's a race to the end of the song. The guitar roars like a chainsaw, and the part for me which kills is the simple yet devastating 3 note guitar part at 1:27 which leads to THAT sublime key change. Punk simplicity and a deliberate and playful 2 fingers to musicianship.

Go on, dig it. You know you want to...