52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

and in my best behaviour, I am really just like him....

Saddam Hussein is executed.

"Thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” Exodus 21: 23-27

The killing in Iraq continues.

"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless." Mahatma Gandhi.

Friday, December 29, 2006

and I can die when I'm done...

Earworms of the Year 2006

Ohrwurm” - a german word that literally translates into English as “earworm”, and refers to a song or tune that becomes lodged in one’s head.
After spending a couple of otherwise quiet days in the office compiling a spreadsheet of all of the Earworms featured on this blog over the last 12 months together will all of the votes emailed in, I am now able to present you with the official rundown of EARWORMS OF THE YEAR 2006.

As you might expect, it's a pretty diverse list, with around 471 songs by something like 300 different artists (at least 10 of whom don't even exist).

From that mass of songs though, 25 clearly emerged from the crowd...

Ladies and Gentlemen, in reverse order:

25. Johnny Cash - "Hurt"

In the year that "Walk the Line" was released*, perhaps it's not surprising that Johnny Cash was the single artist to have the most different songs nominated as an earworm. This was the most popular of the seven songs, and comfortably the most haunting.

You said:

“I’m not sure how the late, great man would feel about this being used as the tune for an ad for running shoes. I suppose it could be worse, like an ad for plasters or something…”

“Quite simply, I think that he is one of the greatest musicians to have ever walked the planet. The honesty in his voice and music is so overwhelming to me. I realize that this is a Trent Reznor song, but to me Johnny Cash truly made it his own in this recording. Haunting.”

(watch it)

* Actually released in late 2005, but you know what I mean

24. The Raconteurs - "Steady, As She Goes"

Unlike the White Stripes, Jack White's side-project may have been slightly disappointing live, but this song definitely features some of the year's best fretwork.

You said:

“Riff of the year. Always nice to get a quality riff stuck in the head”

“It's not big, and it's not clever... but it rocks.”

(watch it)

23. Muse - "Starlight"

Muse made something of a splash in 2006 with their album "Black Holes and Revelations" and look set for even bigger things in 2007 when they headline the new Wembley Stadium. Matt Bellamy may be famous for the sounds he can coax out of a guitar, but it's a keyboard riff that went down best around these parts.

You said:

“I like Muse....in small doses. I can't normally tolerate a whole album's worth of that operatic screamery in one sitting, but I do seem to be able to hear the odd song of theirs and be able to forgive the falsetto warbling and wholly unnecessary overproduction for four minutes. This is a superb record - I love the keyboard riff particularly”

(watch it)

22. Arctic Monkeys - "A Certain Romance"

In the year that they released their massive selling debut album and generally conquered everything put before them, Sheffield's finest were nominated for four separate songs. The enthusiasm of Cody Bones made sure that this was the one that makes the top 25.

You said:

“I started to listen to the Arctic Monkeys about 6 months ago when they were mentioned almost every day in blog land. After downloading a few songs, I found to my surprise, that I actually like them. They seem to be a combination of The Clash, and The English Beat, two of my favorite bands, again, a song I don’t seem to be able to get out of my head, but unlike 'Temperature', a song I’m happy to have there.”

“I can't get this song out of my head, I guess thats what earworms are supposed to be.”

(watch it)

21. The Feeling - "Love it When You Call"

Cheesy 1970s MOR is back!

You said:

“it...just... won't... get out... of... my... HEAD!”

“There's bits nicked from every guilty pleasures band I can think of, but it's so hearteningly genuine and loveable, that by the time the twin guitar solo comes along, I'm dancing around playing air piano over the end.”

“The Feeling are to Earworms what Hugh Grant is to posh English comedy film roles. I could easily have put Feeling records as every one of these top five - catchy daft seventies influenced pop. Genius.”

(watch it)

20. Sufjan Stevens - "Casimir Pulaski Day"

This one is more or less entirely down to me, I'm afraid. Sufjan Stevens was my big musical discovery in 2006, and this is the song that stuck. It's also the song most likely to move me to tears.

You said:

“Casimir Pulaski Day” is about someone dying of bone cancer, and I find the lyrics incredibly moving because they seem to ring so true."

“It’s breathtakingly beautiful and achingly sad”

(watch it)

19. Billy Joel - "The Downeaster Alexa"

I saw Billy Joel live this year, and he was absolutely brilliant. This isn't one of his more famous songs, but it's aces!

You said:

“Legend. Legend. Legend.”

“Not many musicians capture the troubles of the blue collar worker better than Billy Joel. I love this song, and I don't even know what a "striper" is, never mind why it's a bad thing that you can't sell them anymore.”

(watch it)

18. Scott Walker - "Farmer In The City"

Ah, bestill my beating heart!

You said:

“After 11 years of listening to this, I still can't really fathom what it's about. Is it an auction of some sort? Eerie. Compelling. He's a genius, obviously.”

"Do I hear 21? 21? 21?
I'll give you 21, 21, 21"

nope? Me neither.

(download here)

17. Robbie Williams - "Rudebox"

Robbie does rap. Sort of.

You said:

“I heard this once and it embedded itself right in my brain from that point on. Everytime I listened to it, I heard something else about it to love. The simplicity, the electro beat, the killer of a chorus hook and that plinky plonky keyboard sound that sounds like your food getting passed through the scanner at Tesco. Ok, so he tries to rap! Forgiven for trying new areas though. It's just so damn catchy.”

“According to Victoria Newton of the Sun "The worst record ever made..." Personally I love it. Good show Robbie old chap!”

(watch it)

16. The Theme From Doctor Who

Kaptain Kobold's love of multiple remixes of the Dr. Who theme ensured this a place in the top 20, but it is a brilliantly enduring piece of music. I'm still fairly convinced that the TV show is neither as big nor as clever as Russell T Davies thinks it is though.... and don't get me started on Torchwood.

You said:

“I'm sure it's possible to listen to this too much, but with 60 versions and remixes at my fingertips I haven't reached that position yet. Sad, I know.”

(watch it)

15. The Kooks - "Naïve"

I can take or leave their fashion statements, but this is just a great record, isn't it?

You said:

“Bad hats. Bad hair. Great song.”

(watch it)

14. Take That - "Patience"

After 10 years away, the kings returned to reclaim their crown.

You said:

“Every single shop seems to be playing this over the past month. As if Xmas shopping isn't hard enough as it is. It's doing my nuts in, and my heed. Saccharine.”

“I was never much of a fan first time round, but I was surprised to realise I knew all the words to every song when I watched An Audience With... at the weekend. Shameful. Back for good? I do hope so”

“It's not exactly as high-octane as some of their classics, but it's so simple and so pleasant that I caught myself lustily singing along to it in the car the second time I heard it.... so I'd best have it on the list, eh?”

(watch it)

13. The Killers - "When You Were Young"

The glittery jackets may have been replaced by denim and some whispy-looking facial hair, but they're still pretty much instantly recognisable (How could they not be with Earl Hickey on drums and a member of Marc Bolan's band on guitar?).

Sadly, this is the best thing on the album by a country mile.

You said:

“Sam's Town ain't no Hot Fuss. But this is a damn catchy wee tune”

“they’ve grown some beards, but this is still very recognisably by The Killers. They’re a bit too fond of the lyric “He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus”, and they’ll never write another song as good as “Mr. Brightside”, but it’ll do.”

(watch it)

12. The Feeling - "Fill My Little World"

Undeniably brilliant, but so saccharine that my teeth are melting.

You said:

"When your two year old starts wandering around the house singing "right up, right up", you know that something seriously earwormy is going on. When you start using the chorus line for all sorts of other day to day activities "eat your plate of tea, right up, right up" (etc), it has completely taken over."

"Deeply, deeply M.O.R. and frighteningly reminiscent of REO Speedwagon.... but pleasant enough, and very much parked in my head."

(watch it)

11. Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"

Oh dear God, it's started playing in my head again...

You said:

“Much like the stars of a zombie movie, it never really goes away without drastic force”

“Because sometimes a girl just needs a feel good break up song.”

“Fiendishly addictive. This song is a guilty pleasure”

(watch it)

10. Dolly Parton - "9 to 5"

Where the hell did this come from? Ah well, that's the beauty of the earworm.

You said:

“Dolly, dontcha just love her! She's become almost a pastiche of herself, but my bet would be that’s she's one of the smartest artistes on the planet.”

“I was minding my own business doing some work earlier in the week when I overheard someone’s mobile phone ringing. Their ringtone was some sort of odd mash-up between Bouncy Knowles’ “Crazy In Love” and this stomping Dolly ditty. It’s that whole breathless opening verse – “tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen/pour myself a cup of ambition” that I couldn’t get rid of, closely followed by the bloody chorus. It was a great description of my day, though – “it’s all talkin’/and no givin’/they just use your mind/and they never give you credit”…..”

(watch it)

9. Red Hot Chilli Peppers - "Dani California"

In spite of its good reviews, I thought that "Stadium Arcadium" was bloated and extremely disappointing. Still, this is catchy, and it did have a great video, eh?

You said:

“a band that charts in three different decades, without selling out.”

“The Peppers have managed to chart in three different decades, quite an accomplishment if you ask me. This also managed to be a good song, unlike the Stones with 'Start Me Up', for their third decade hit. Typical Peppers song, rockin with just enough funk. “Poppa was a copper, mama was a hippie””

(watch it)

8. The Flaming Lips - "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song"

This is just joyous.

You said:

“A song questioning the corrupting influence of absolute power set to an insanely catchy tune. When Bono and Chris Martin talk about this kind of thing, they always sound preachy. The Flaming Lips just sound like they're having fun. You're a lot less likely to see U2 or Coldplay prancing around with giant furry animals onstage either - more's the pity”

(watch it)

7. Hot Chip - "Over and Over"

The joy of repetition really is in you.

You said:

“Did someone say kitsch? Oh yes... like a monkey with a minature cymbal”

“No, really, they've done this on purpose haven't they? Surely there's something in the Geneva Convention about weapons grade earworms? This came into my head over a fortnight ago and has absolutely refused to budge. Having said that, what's not to love about a monkey with a miniature cymbal?”

(watch it)

6. Lily Allen - "Smile"

Hmm. We seem a touch ambivalent about this one.

You said:

“Is it cool to like Lily Allen? I'm not sure. There's something not right about her accented singing, but this is a song you just can't shake”

“Coincided with the summer heatwave. Played everywhere. Not bad as pop music goes”

“College Friend brought me the Lily Allen CD as a hostess gift when he visited. I played it at work and giggled all the way through. She has such a sweet and lyrical style, but the words she's singing are rarely sweet and lyrical.”

“I'm now firmly of the opinion that not only is this song annoying, but that Lily Allen is also a tedious, attention seeking little brat”

“Do us all a favour and shut up, you silly little girl. And her dad. I can't stand her dad either.”

(watch it)

5. Sigur Ros - "Hoppipolla"

Gloriously otherworldly.

You said:

“Thanks to the BBC showing 'Planet Earth' at both ends of the year and using this as the trailer music, it has been firmly implanted in my consciousness. I mean, it was getting there anyway, being a cracking tune in its own right, but the BBC really haven't helped here.”

“I love that 'Hoppipolla' means 'hopping into puddles'.”

(watch it)

4. Snow Patrol - "Chasing Cars"

Sappy indie pap. I love it, obviously. They've had a pretty good year, all told - what with the best selling album of 2006, a string of hit singles and now a top 5 placing in Earworms of the Year poll....

You said:

“I had to ask somebody what this song was and who recorded it. I know nothing about Snow Patrol. I only heard the song when it was used in a trailer for the "Greys Anatomy" TV series. I don't know what you would call this. An indie anthem? Whatever. It's just a wonderful, emotional song.”

“It’s been a cold and rainy week, and somehow every time I am in the car this song is on. And now, even when it’s not, it runs through my head while I am driving. That’s okay, though, because it’s a good song.”

“Big, sweeping, epic, tearful.... it's nice to have them back.”

"Just a bloomin' good song and one of the highlights of the charity gig at Rock City when Gary Lightbody had lost his voice and the audience sang it for him. He looked genuinely over-awed by it."

(watch it)

3. The Fratellis - "Chelsea Dagger"

This one's lost on me, to be honest. Are they the Scottish Kaiser Chiefs?

You said:

“Surely the catchiest tune of the year? And Scottish too. Hurrah”

“Good, old fashioned, knees up, singalong, (Dad) rock and roll. Lad music at it's best. I bet that Rod and the Faces would have done a great version of this in 1974. The video was like a party that I would have liked to have gone to”

“Very catchy”

“I really don't want to like the Fratellis. Billed as the next Franz Ferdinand and almost as over-hyped - the biggest thing to come from Scotland since the Bay City Rollers, apparently. But this song's fab. I can't help it.”

(watch it)

2. Scissor Sisters - "I Don't Feel Like Dancing"

No sir, no dancing today.

You said:

“I can't say I was a huge fan of the Scissor Sisters first album. I found the whole thing a bit feeble, to be honest. Then, out of the clear blue sky came this epic disco anthem. It is, let's be fair, fantastic. Not only that, but in a rather ironic way, it is the song that gets a giddy two year old out of her seat and walking like Mick Jagger across the living room floor like nothing else has since "I Believe In A Thing Called Love"”

“Do you think the laser ‘pow pow’ noises are too much? Nah, this is kitchen sink disco. It’s got the lot, and that “no sir, no dancing today” lyric is just genius.”

"Classic and bloody catchy!"

(watch it)

1. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"

This was top by an absolute country mile. It was the first single to go to Number#1 in the UK singles chart on downloads alone... it was top of the chart for 8 weeks until it was deleted... it was the most downloaded song of 2006.... in other words it was inescapable.

Just as well it's a good record, eh?

You said:

“No other song could have been my number 1, this year. Until I saw the video I wasn't too sure if this was being sung by a man or a woman, as the voice was curiously asexual and seemingly on the verge of hysteria. Brilliant, dark and repetitive (in a good way). Just genius. A while ago I heard a mashup that grafted the vocals of Liberty X's "Just A Little Bit" onto the backing track of "Crazy" and it still worked. This was the real deal. Best track of the year.”

“I am only human, of course this got stuck in my head, and it's gleaming pop with an understated video that made me want to see it. The ohrwurm has danced a groovy dance in my lobes on and off for pretty much the whole year”

"Around for months before it was released - and loved....until it started to feel like it would never go away."

“Best Number one evah.”

“Who didn't love this when they first heard it. Completely infectious, boating more hooks than a fisherman on one of those fishing programs on Discovery Channel. It's one of those songs that even now, after being killed by overplay (Thanks Radio One!), even now you can't help but want to turn the volume up....just a little more.”

(watch it)


Many thanks to all the guest editors who contributed this year and to everyone who emailed in their votes. You can't always control what's playing in your head, but on the whole it's a hell of a lot better than silence.... may your internal jukebox in 2007 always be in credit.

2006 - that was the earworm that was.

Happy New Year.


Next Week: Sarah
Forthcoming attractions: Flash, Ka

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II]

you're my favourite waste of time....

Pay attention - here's the science bit.

The (more or less) complete list.... in rough ranking order.

crazy, gnarls barkley
I don't feel like dancing,scissor sisters
chelsea dagger,the fratellis
chasing cars,snow patrol
hopipolla ,sigur ros
smile,lily allen
over and over,hot chip
yeah yeah yeah song,flaming lips
dani california,red hot chilli peppers
9 to 5,dolly parton
since u been gone,kelly clarkson
when you were young,the killers
patience,take that
naïve,the kooks
fill my little world,the feeling
dr who theme,
rudebox,robbie williams
farmer in the city,scott walker
the downeaster alexa,billy joel
casimir pulaski day,Sufjan Stevens
love it when you call,the feeling
certain romance,arctic monkeys
steady, as she goes,raconteurs
hurt,johnny cash
I bet you look good on the dancefloor,arctic monkeys
I write sins, not tragedies,panic at the disco
the current,blue man group
yeah yeah,bodyrox
set fire to the third bar,snow patrol
kids with guns,gorillaz
james bond theme,monty norman
all sparks,editors
once and never again,long blondes
Los Campesinos,you! Me! Dancing!
young folks,peter, bjorn & john
is it any wonder,keane
forward kwenda,tadzungaria
wake up,arcade fire
lola,the kinks
Waiting for You (say say say),Hi_Tack
guns of brixton,clash
love,serenity OST
the man with the golden gun,lulu
gleaming auction,snow patrol
it's tricky ,run dmc
there was a time,guns n'roses
get out of my dreams (get into my car),billy ocean
always a woman,billy joel
theme from thundercats,
snow ((hey oh)),red hot chilli peppers
when you wasn't famous,the streets
theme from um bongo,
kia ora advert,
supermassive blackhole,muse
free money,patti smith
daddy sang bass,johnny cash
suzie,boy kill boy
jailbreak,thin lizzy
if you leave me now,chicago
hunting high and low,A-Ha
Don't know much,aaron neville & Linda ronstadt
chicago,Sufjan Stevens
love like a river,climie fisher
first of the gang to die,morrissey
merry xmas everyone,slade
na na hey hey,steam
leaving on a jet plane,john denver
you know my name,chris cornell
pass the hatchet, I think I'm goodkind,yo la tengo
overture from tommy,the who
holding in the world,bob schneider
celebrity tarzan,moyles
I believe in a thing called love,hayseed dixie
the man comes around,johnny cash
one piece at a time,johnny cash
In the Mood,Glenn Miller
standing on my own again,graham coxon
firefly main theme,firefly
chocolate salty balls,chef
every rose has its thorn,poison
push it / no fun,salt n' pepa / stooges
we hold each other up,the wonderstuff
never went to church,the streets
it's a hit,we are scientists
big guns,jenny lewis and the watson twins
and she was,talking heads
she moves in her own way,kooks
pop goes the weasle,anthony newley
walking abortion,manic street preachers
sheila ,jamie t
le freak,chic
cannonaball,the breeders
oh l'amour,erasure
john wayne gacy jr,sufjan stevens
harrowdown hill,thom yorke
teenage kicks,undertones
the way you move,outkast
mr e's beautiful blues,the eels
travelling riverside blues,led zeppelin
ebony & Ivory,macca
make your own kind of music,mama cass
sellotape my hands,little my
science fiction / double feature,rocky horror
get back,the beatles
what, what you got,little man tate
getting bright at night,the icarus line
dignity ,deacon blue
brilliant creatures,marc almond
break the night with colour,richard ashcroft
lonely soul,UNKLE feat. Richard Ashcroft
I just died in your arms tonight,cutting crew
suddenly I see,KT Tunstall
the art teacher,rufus wainwright
no surprises,radiohead
concrete schoolyard,jurassic 5
thank you jack white,the flaming lips
le toi du moi,carla bruni
dear god please help me,morrissey
panther dash,the go team
for the price of a cup of tea,belle & sebastian
all night come,DJ Nite
new england,jamie t
wake up ,rage against the machine
back to the sea,the futureheads
for your eyes only,sheena easton
I'm gonna be,the proclaimers
more than a feeling,boston
copacobana,barry manilow
it's beginning to get to me,snow patrol
truck drivin' song,weird al yankowich
Gods gonna cut you down,johnny cash
sexual healing ,marvin gaye
All together now,the farm
snap your fingers,l'il john
crash and burn,gran bel fisher
crazy in love,beyonce
rehab,amy winehouse
distant sun,crowded house
heaven help the new girl,the long blondes
take that look off your face,marti webb
new york state of mind,billy joel
I've been waiting for tomorrow all my life,The the
wonderful life,black
everywhere,fleetwood mac
another sunny day,belle & sebastian
better together,jack johnson
wicked soul,kubb
nature's law,embrace
stockholm syndrome,muse
worry,different gear
camera obscura,carl bartos
new born,muse
heartbreaker,led zeppelin
flight of the bumblebee,douglas
skip to the end,futureheads
bad medicine,bon jovi
stacked actors,foo fighters
yes,manic street preachers
black coffee,all saints
wake up and make love to me,ian dury
speak to me someone,gene
being around,lemonheads
How Come,Ray LaMontagne
one night in bankok,murray head
banquet,bloc party
london bridge ,fergie
quicksand,david bowie
temperature,sean paul
double team,tenacious d
in the sun,michael stipe
and I was a boy from school,hot chip
god of darts,grindrinker
a sky of honey,kate bush
I know who mogwai are too, darling,george pringle
the greatest,cat power
red dress,sugababes
all good things (come to an end),Nelly Furtado
running the world,jarvis
think I'm in love but I'm kinda scared to say so,beck
casanova in hell,pet shop boys & rufus wainwright
miss murder,AFI
you only live once,the strokes
but it's better when we do,panic at the disco
ramble on,led zeppelin
foxtrot uniform charlie kilo,bloodhound gang
glory box,portishead
arthur murray taught me dancing,helen o'connell
war of the worlds,jeff wayne
cocaine blues,johnny cash
john the revelator,depeche mode
jenny don't be hasty,paulo nutini
sewn,the feeling
how to save a life,the fray
blue jeans,blur
positive tension,bloc party
pale blue eyes,Velvet Underground
knocking on heaven's door,bob dylan
jonny briggs,jonny briggs
fake tales of san francisco,arctic monkeys
I'm your villain,franz ferdinand
child psychology,black box recorder
neighbourhood #1,arcade fire
all these things that I've done,the killers
ever fallen in love,fine young cannibals
gone,kanye west
superstition,stevie wonder
the golden path,chemical brothers
slight return,the bluetones
everybody needs someone to love,blues brothers
homesick,the vines
you shook me all night long,AC/DC
I feel love,blue man group
music for a found harmonium,penguin café orchestra
thunderbirds are go,busted
something wicked this way comes,the enid
theme from "new tricks",Dennis Waterman
The baby eating bishop of bath and wells,Graham Parsnip
drive my car,beatles
don't do me any favours,a-ha
welcome to the jungle,guns n'roses
sweet jane,Velvet Underground
vicinity of obscenity,system of a down
sweet child o'mine,guns n'roses
atlantic ,keane
bang bang, you're dead,dirty pretty things
my favourite game,cardigans
everlong,foo fighters
she's losing it,belle & sebastian
back in black,AC/DC
when the going gets tough,billy ocean
one of us,abba
time of our lives,Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
you got the love,the source feat. Candi statton
superfreak,rick james
communication,the cardigans
tom's diner,suzanne vega
girl,robots in disguise
8675309 Jenny,tommy tutone
Exes and hoes,modern groove syndicate
junk shop clothes,the auteurs
enter sandman,metallica
la la love you,the pixies
henry the eighth,joe brown
something kind of ooh,girls aloud
grey day,madness
keep the faith ,bon jovi
losing touch with my mind,spaceman 3
beat my guest,adam and the ants
smiley faces,gnarls barkley
I started something I couldn't finish,the smiths
another opening, another show,cole porter
science is golden,the grates
gold,beverly knight
reach for the sun,mik mak mok
terror shark,municipal waste
candyman,Christina Aguilera
tired of me,jesu
the mask,dangerdoom feat. Ghostface
jolson and jones,scott walker
red alert,basement jaxx
the sun in my eyes,sally oldfield
don't stop me now,mcfly / Queen
Another day in paradise, phil collins
dub be good to me,beats international
What else is there,Royksopp
run,snow patrol
most of the time,bob dylan
life becoming a landslide,manic street preachers
till I die,beach boys
In the Midnight Hour,wilson pickett
impeach the president,the honeydrippers
in the year 2525,fields of the nephilim
the mess we're in,PJ Harvey
40',Franz Ferdinand
where I end and you begin,radiohead
dry your eyes (chris martin version),the streets
burning benches,morning runner
back again,boy kill boy
like glue,sean paul
death of a salesman,low
paranoid,black sabbath
vehicles and animals ,athlete
drive,the cars
closing time,semisonic
lovestain,jose gonzalez
kirby's house,razorlight
annie, I'm not your daddy,king creole and the coconuts
you needed me,boyzone
the timewarp,rocky horror
lips of an angel,hinder
swallowed in the sea,coldplay
bullet with butterfly wings,smashing pumpkins
515,the who
rose,the feeling
red war,probot
the unfilmable life and life of…,spencer mcgarry season
delirious love,neil diamond
monster,the automatic
weekend without makeup,long blondes
you're all I have,snow patrol
ikea,jonathan coulton
biology,girls aloud
oh bondage up yours,x ray spex
this time,INXS
goodbye my lover,james blunt
NY State of Mind (lights out remix),Nas feat Billy Joel
neighbourhood #2 ,Arcade Fire
I love you baby,andy williams
batya,the ukranians
late night, maudlin street,morrissey
just,mark ronson
Warrior,public image ltd
hit the city ,mark lanegan
the whores hustle and the hustlers whore,PJ Harvey
theme from grandstand,
everybody's gone to war,nerina pallot
life is a pigsty,morrissey
I'm with stupid,pet shop boys
don't panic,coldplay
new french girlfriend,the auteurs
take me out,Franz Ferdinand
groove is in the heart,dee-lite
fake plastic trees,radiohead
blueberry hill,fats domino
fallen angel,elbow
the one and only,chesney hawkes
no good deed,wicked
one step beyond,madness
who are you,the who
thrill of it,robert randolph
fat children,jarvis
waiting for the moving van,david ackles
teenagers,my chemical romance
just like honey,jesus & mary chain
comfortably numb,pink floyd
love changes everything,climie fisher
summertime,miles davis
float on,modest mouse
truth rest your head,gene
where are you baby?,betty boo
let me kiss you, morrissey
in the crossfire,starsailor
cecilia ann,pixies
my sharona,the knack
like a rolling stone,bob dylan
my war,black flag
sewn,the feeling
buck rogers,feeder
protection,massive attack
the youngest was the most loved,morrissey
everybody knows,leonard cohen
the wait,built to spill
don quixote,nik kershaw
the immigrant song,led zeppelin
upside down,jack johnson
no one knows,queens of the stoneage
easy lover,phil collins
jungle boogie,Kool and the Gang
make me smile,steve harley
since you've been gone ,rainbow
little boxes,malvina reynolds
ready or not,the lightning seeds
crackin' rosie,neil diamond
bille jean,michael jackson
the only living boy in new cross,carter usm
young folks,peter, bjorn and john
today has been OK,Emiliana Torrini
no, no never,texas lightning
losing my edge,lcd soundsystem
in my heart,moby
samba pa ti,santana
JCB song,nizlopi
candy pop,bis
doctor destructo,tangerine dream
rapper's delight,sugarhill gang
tragedy,bee gees
cosmo canyon,final fantasy VII
I'm only sleeping,beatles
jackson,johnny cash
I'm finding it harder to be a gentleman,white stripes
lose yourself,eminem
go your own way,fleetwood mac
boss of me,they might be giants
dosed,red hot chilli peppers
PYT,michael jackson
unsolved child murder,the auteurs
battle of the planets,fader gladiator
hey ya,outkast
talk (thin white duke remix),coldplay
the girls and dogs,scott walker
the chain,fleetwood mac
sound & vision ,david bowie
let it grow,eric clapton
leningrad,billy joel
anchorage,michelle shocked
the theme music to stuart little,stuart little OST
innocent man,billy joel
Just Want to dance the night away,the mavericks
backwater,meat puppets
I just don't trust myself (with loving you),John Mayer
marblehead johnson,the bluetones
england's glory ,max wall
ibi dreams of pavement,broken social scene
july morning,uriah heep
99 Luftballons,Nena
baba o'reilly,the who
when the sun goes down,arctic monkeys
theme from super mario brothers,london symphony orchestra
leaders of the free world,elbow
heartbeats,jose gonzalez
such a small love,scott walker
my girl,temptations
kathy wilson,wolfsbane
marian,sisters of mercy
manchester,the times
blinded by the lights,the streets
voulez vous,abba
ca plane pour moi,plastic bertrand
when will I be famous,bros
theme to chicken tonight,
cum by yar,
the bends,radiohead
three lions,lightning seeds
2 minutes 2 midnight,iron maiden
magic moments,perry como
blue orchid,white stripes
wake up boo,boo radleys
it's like that,Run DMC feat Jason Nevins
from paris to berlin,inferno
kennedy,the wedding present
right stuff,new kids on the block
I am the resurrection,stone roses
theme from the A-Team,
playing in the band,grateful dead
e Pro,beck
talk tonight,oasis
love machine,girls aloud
whatever happened,the strokes
blood witch,the melvins
incantations,mike oldfield


Scoring was complicated(-ish).

Email votes: A sliding scale of 5 points for a number 1 choice.... down to 1 point for a number 5 choice. If no preference was expressed, they all got 3 points.

Earworms: I catalogued these and scored them on a sliding scale of 5 points for a number one all the way down to 0.5 of a point for a number 10. Again, if no preference was expressed, they all got three points.

This year I counted all of my own Earworm choices as well as those of the Guest Editors.... which explains things like Scott Walker, Sufjan Stevens and Billy Joel.

For the record, "Crazy" got 29.5 points. It was a pretty resounding victory really as second place scored 14.5.

Any mistakes in the scoring are all my fault. Any mistakes in the rankings above are down to Excel.

See you next year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

it's good to know that you are home for Christmas...

Without wanting to rake the whole thing over again, I’ve got an update on the story of the Father Christmas letters….

I got into work this morning to find a carefully wrapped parcel on my desk. I opened it up to find a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Letters from Father Christmas” – a collection of the letters and illustrations that Tolkien produced for his children every year from 1920 to 1943.

Inside is an inscription:

To [ST]

With many thanks for keeping the magic alive, from [my colleague], mother of Hannah and Ellie.”

A nice gesture, I thought. I must admit that I was also rather amused to see that one of Tolkien’s hand-drawn illustrations shows Father Christmas in the kitchen rolling some pastry whilst wearing an apron....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

our time is running out....

It’s my first day back in the office today. I suppose it could have been a nasty shock to the system after a pleasant couple of days off, but I’m pleased to say that I have resisted the temptation to be idle.

Oh yes. I have spent my time in the eminently worthwhile activity of compiling the chart for “Earworms of the Year 2006”. The chart is made up of a combination of every earworm listed in every Friday earworm post this year, together with all the individual votes sent in to me via email. There’s been a proper scoring system and everything (details upon application, but I won’t bore you with that just now, eh?)

Excel tells me that I have so far catalogued 465 different songs by 56 different artists (Johnny Cash alone has gathered votes for no fewer than 7 different songs).

It’s all very exciting, and the results will be revealed this Friday…. It’s pretty close though, so everything is still up for grabs. You still have time to have your say! If you haven’t yet submitted your 5 nominations for Earworm of the Year 2006, then this is your very last chance.

You have until midday on Friday to submit to me (via the email address listed in my profile) the five songs (or ringtones, or jingles, or whatever) that have been dominating your internal jukebox the most over the course of the last year. I don’t care where you heard it, when it was recorded or if it has ever been released… if it’s been stuck in your head at some point in 2006, then it’s eligible.

That’s it.

There aren’t really any rules, except that each person can only submit 5 nominations. Ideally (because I’ll be scoring them) I’d like your choices numbered 1 to 5 and, if you can manage it, I’d like a bit of blurb about each one as I’ll be including some quotes in the rundown on Friday.

Votes please!

Monday, December 25, 2006

in the night the fire is burning bright....

As if it wasn't enough that I have a roof over my head, a warm bed and plenty of food to eat, I also got some really nice stuff for Christmas this year... some books, Seinfeld series 7 on dvd (it's the one with "the soup nazi"), a scarf (to replace the one that I lost, although C is currently knitting me a scarf herself - a real labour of love that I will treasure), a Violent Femmes CD, a very nice woven tie, some scent, a few bottles of wine, some skiing socks.... I'm really very, very lucky.

Do you know what really grabbed my attention though? It was an Iron Maiden t-shirt from Lord B, Hen and Maddie.

Ah, now there's an album - one of the first that I ever bought for myself, and one that had a profound influence on my taste in music. It's a very, very thoughtful gift. It horrified C, naturally, but I love it and I will wear it with pride.

I went for a nice long run this morning, and in spite of the usual enormous lunch, I'm still feeling virtuous enough to plan to do nothing more with the rest of my day than to sit in front of an open fire with my betrothed and drink some wine.

In spite of the fact that we have a house full of my parents, my two brothers and all three of our various partners (and a Korean friend of my elder brother's wife who doesn't speak much English), we haven't even had any major disagreements in our house yet either. But hey! the night is yet young, so I haven't given up all hope yet!


Did I ever tell you the story about my dad's cousin Anne? She has three grown-up kids, and last year my dad decided that instead of sending them each a fiver, he was going to do something different and he gave them a latrine in Africa (or something like that - one of those things you can buy through Oxfam anyway). On Christmas Day, he received a phone-call from his cousin. Did she thank him for such a thoughtful gift? No. She berated him for essentially stealing the food from her children's mouths. I was flabbergasted. How can you be so ungrateful as to not only expect something for Christmas, but to have the audacity to ring up and complain about what is actually a very nice gesture.

I thought that would be the end of it, but apparently this year, my dad's cousin rang him up a few weeks before Christmas to make sure that this never happened again, and to make sure that her kids got "proper" presents this year. Unbelievable. Sadly, my dad caved in to this and have given these "kids" (all of whom are over 25) cash.

What did this cousin give to me and all my brothers? A Christmas card. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't want anything from this woman. The point is, though, that I'm not expecting anything from her. She appears to be totally oblivious to her double-standards, but I do fervently hope that she takes the lack of an invitation to our wedding in June as a snub. I'd say it was nothing personal, but I see her and her family as everything I hate about weddings and there is no way on earth that any of them are going to be at mine. This cousin accosted me at my elder brother's wedding and berated me for not having introduced her mother to C. At this point, C wandered over, so I took the opportunity to introduce her to them.
"Oh, we've already met. We introduced ourselves...."

Life is far too short to have to deal with that kind of nonsense, isn't it?

I'm rambling now, so I think perhaps I should go back to my wine and to Doctor Who now....

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

the christmas you get, you deserve...

I've been banging on for a couple of weeks now about the crappy music we are usually forced to endure at Christmas time. Well, as my special festive gift to you all, here are three of the songs that I have been listening to and enjoying. They might not be everybody's cup of tea, but at least it's not Wizzard or Cliff, eh?

Hopefully they'll put you in the right frame of mind for enjoying / surviving the holiday.

--> Joseph Spence - Santa Claus is Coming to Town*

Whenever I hear this, it puts me in mind of a drunken muppet not letting the fact that he doesn't know any of the words get in the way of a bravura performance of this Christmas classic. Statler and Waldorf would love it, I reckon. I know I do.

--> Pete Broggs - The Twelve Days of Christmas*

Listening to the lyrics in this song, I reckon that a rastafarian Christmas sounds brilliant. What does Pete Broggs want for Christmas? A nice and happy family, a big house in the country, a brand new pretty baby.... and lots of dope.

"...cos I love to smoke my good sensi"

Well, quite.

--> Sufjan Stevens - Did I Make You Cry On Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)

This song is probably worth including purely for its title, but it is also a lovely little number that wouldn't have sounded at all out of place of Come on Feel the Illinoise!

Happy Christmas, and I hope to see you all on the other side.

I'm not a religious man, but this much about the traditional Christmas message I do agree with: peace on Earth, goodwill to all men everyone.

* as discovered on Sweeping the Nation's Christmas Cover Mount.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I'll be your plastic toy....

It's been an exciting couple of days, hasn't it? Well, the good news is that the working week is over and I'm finally able to stretch out in front of the telly with a glass of wine and a whole big pile of wrapping paper. I don't think I've got anything left that I need to get before the big day, and all I've got left to do is to have a nice lunch tomorrow with C., Sarah and Hen, and then head down to my folk's place for a hopefully relaxing couple of days.

Before I can disappear in a flurry of sticky-tape and parcels though, we just have the small matter of this week's earworms to get through.

This week's guest editor is a multi-talented geordie from Cardiff (via Newcastle, Nottingham and Birmingham). He's the curator of several excellent blogs, and a thoroughly good man to have a drink and a chat with.

Ladies and gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #52 - Ben from SilentWordsSpeakLoudest, Black & White & Read All Over and the Art of Noise.

At this time of year, my usual habits of not listening to the radio and avoiding shops as far as possible (oh the joys of the internet!) are even more crucial to the retention of sanity because they mean I am only very rarely exposed to Christmas music. This year I can honestly say I’m yet to hear ‘A Wonderful Christmas Time’ or ‘Last Christmas’ (though neither have I heard ‘Fairytale Of New York’, to which I must confess to being a bit partial).

What’s more, my copy of the fine XFM compilation It’s A Cool Cool Christmas (featuring the likes of Eels, The Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Low, Calexico, Six. By Seven and Giant Sand) has remained undisturbed on the shelf – and I don’t even own a copy of Now That’s What I Call Christmas, contrary to popular rumour. Instead, I’ve been spending the last week or so preparing for the annual end-of-year list bonanza by catching up on a load of albums released earlier this year that had hitherto eluded my clutches – a fact that’s reflected in the Earworms listed below.

So, without further ado…

10. The Melvins – ‘Blood Witch’

Nearly a fortnight on, I’m still feeling the physical impact of witnessing American proto-grunge legends The Melvins and their double-drum-kitted assault in person. I suspect the likes of ‘Blood Witch’, from their latest album (A) Senile Animal, will forever conjure up memories of half-full beer cans arcing gracefully through the air high above our heads in a venue (The Point) that is a converted church…

9. Broken Social Scene – ‘Ibi Dreams Of Pavement’

Up until August I remained relatively impervious to the alleged brilliance of the Canadian collective’s 2004 album You Forgot It In People. But one mind-blowing gig later and I was singing a different tune, and desperate to hear the self-titled follow-up. Which, sadly, has thus far met with much the same response as its predecessor initially did, personally speaking. ‘Ibi Dreams Of Pavement’ is great, though, and the album as a whole deserves more time.

8. Peter Bjorn & John – ‘Young Folks’

In general I’m lucky in largely avoiding infection by really irritating Earworms – this is about as close as it comes. In addition to guest vocals from former Concretes frontwoman Victoria Bergsman, ‘Young Folks’ features a passage of whistling. What is amusing at first very soon becomes bloody annoying. Nowhere near being the best track on their album Writer’s Block, but unfortunately it’s the one that’s stuck.

7. The Jesus & Mary Chain – ‘Just Like Honey’

An absolute classic, rediscovered (as if it was necessary) courtesy of YouTube - YouTube being something I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid as another inevitable means of timewasting. Plus ‘Just Like Honey’ gives me an excuse to link to this (courtesy of Martin), featuring Bobby Gillespie (latterly of Primal Scream) beating out the drum tattoo, as well as footage of the infamous 1985 North London Poly gig riot and genius interview exchanges. “Why are people so excited about you?” “Because we’re so good, because we’re so much better than everybody else”. And indeed they were.

6. Spencer McGarry Season - ‘The Unfilmable Life & Life Of…’

The first of two Earworms taken from the recent CD showcasing local (ie Cardiff) talent, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 22 Of Us. Subtle, beguiling, well-constructed indie pop reminiscent of Field Music. Knowing nothing more than that, I’m eager to see them live in the New Year.

5. The Grates – ‘Science Is Golden’

Shallow, an instant fix, something the NME-reading Youth no doubt approves of (having being knee-high to a grasshopper when Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever To Tell came out) – but the chorus to this single is extremely hard to shake out of your head.

4. Gindrinker – ‘God Of Darts’

Locally speaking at least, Grinkrinker are a legendary – or should that be notorious? – twosome whose mission in life is to reinterpret both The Fall and Steve Albini’s Big Black as surrealist polemicists. They too have a track on This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 22 To Of Us (the very vitriolic ‘Hey! Greengrocer’), but this song – something of a signature tune – concerns a recently revived TV darts / quiz show. The god of darts in question? Jim Bowen, of course.

3. The Long Blondes – ‘Heaven Help The New Girl’

AKA The Slow One which, in old-school fashion, brings the first half of their debut album Someone To Drive You Home to a close. Initially it was a disappointment – why do bands persist in believing that a change of pace is necessary, and isn’t ‘Heaven Help The New Girl’ just the token track thrown in there to fit the bill, the low-key lull before gloriously shouty single ‘Separated By Motorways’ takes over? It self-referential verse (alluding back to second track ‘Once And Never Again’) gave even more reason for suspicion. And yet it grew on me rapidly, and it’s the one that has lodged itself most firmly in my brain.

2. Little My – ‘Sellotape My Hands’

Less than a month ago, I was vociferous in my agreement that Belle & Sebastian should be prosecuted for a litany of crimes. My current obsession with Little My – and this song in particular – makes me think I should be reconsidering my position already. Give me another month and I’ll be happily sending out invites to tea parties in my wendy house exclusive to those who own at least five differently-coloured hair slides.

1. Yo La Tengo – ‘Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind’

First track from the Hoboken, NJ trio’s latest album (the splendidly titled I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass), and the quite marvellous opener when they wowed me live early last month. It’s a simple formula – relentless bassline and sober drumming allowing for lead guitar pyrotechnics – but fuck me is it effective. Ten minutes and forty-five seconds of bliss.


Thanks Ben (is that last one really an 11 minute jam?). I haven't done any checking, and I haven't heard most of it, but I reckon some of these ones are real. Except for the Jesus & Mary Chain. They have to be made up, right?

Next Week: Sarah
Forthcoming attractions: Earworms of the Year 2006, Flash, Ka

Keep sending me your votes for Earworms of the Year 2006. Details here.

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

dream about the days to come....

I wasn't very productive at work today. Well, actually that's not true - I was productive, I just didn't do a jot of work. The upshot of all of my efforts is that I am now the proud owner of two e-tickets to Quito in Ecuador.

There was some debate about whether or not the best route to take would be via Madrid and Bogotá with Avianca, or if we would be better off going via Miami with American Airlines. In the end, the timings of the return flights swung it and we're going via the USA (who wants to get home from 3 weeks holiday in the middle of the night on a Sunday when they have to go to work on the Monday?).

I'm a little nervous about the transfer in Miami though. If everything goes according to plan, we'll have something like three hours to make the connecting flight, but I understand that US Customs will make us pick up our baggage, go through customs and then check in again before we can make our connection. If we miss the connection, we'll have to wait 24 hours for the next one. Well, we'll just have to take our chances.

I've also not exactly heard rave reviews about American Airlines either. To be honest though, as a man of nearly six foot five inches, I tend to approach any long-haul flight in economy as something to endured, so my expectations are usually pretty low anyway. I'm sure it will be fine.

It suddenly all feels very real. I even had a call from my credit card company about five minutes after I bought the tickets. They just wanted to check that it was me using my credit card and not anyone else. They were very, very polite about it, and I was thoroughly reassured.

We leave on March 2nd next year. It's a kind of pre-wedding honeymoon, so I'm hoping it will be brilliant. Here's a quick glimpse at the schedule.

Friday --> arrive in Quito late and transfer to hotel in Otavalo (about an hour away)
Saturday --> Visit the largest craft fair in South America
Sunday --> visit some villages and then transfer to Cuicocha, situated alongside a lake in a dormant volcano and the entrance to the Intag Biological Reserve (pictured below)

Monday - Friday --> trek along the Andean plateau and down into the Intag Biological Reserve. Includes a day horseriding in the cloud forest.

Saturday --> A spot of rafting and horse riding and a visit to a fairtrade coffee project
Sunday --> transfer to Mindo Biological Reserve
Monday --> Birdwatching (humming birds, toucans, parrots and the like)

Tuesday --> Transfer to Cotapaxi Volcano National Park (crossing the equator on the way)
Wednesday --> Cotapaxi National Park - a chance to look at the world's highest active volcano

Thursday - Saturday --> transfer to Banos and Riobamba for some more beautiful scenery and a train ride through the Devil's Nose.
Sunday --> Back to Quito
Monday - Friday --> Fly out to Amazon and take a 5 hour boat ride up to the Yuturi Amazon Lodge
Saturday --> back to Quito and fly home.

Sounds pretty good to me.

It's a fair trade tour, but I think I'm going to need to look into making us carbon neutral for all that flying. Between the two of us, we will be flying about 20,000 kilometers thus contributing something like 4.4 additional tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (calculated here). That's £32 of natural woodland portfolio in the UK, apparently.

OK done - all woodland purchased and we're ready to go.

Roll on March. By my calculations, I will turn 33 somewhere near the summit of Mount Yanaurca....

(s)he came from where the winds are cold and truth is seen through keyholes....

In case you've missed it, the big news is that Lizzy's earworms were fakes. She made them up.

Why I oughta.... etc. etc.

Come on now. Here's what I really want to know:

-> what was your reaction when you first read Lizzy's choices? What did you think?

-> How does it make you feel now knowing that they were fakes?

-> Does it tell us anything about anything, or could you care less?

I didn't know they were fakes until Lizzy told me today, but I'm curious to know what your reactions to this are.

If you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine....


Speaking of Earworms, I still need votes for the Earworm of the Year 2006 poll.... If you haven't already voted, then I need your 5 nominations sent to the email address in my profile. Thank you.

Full details are here.

Lizzy's will be included... I won't get a vote out of her any other way, so made up songs it'll have to be.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

so be good for goodness sake....

A couple of years ago, a colleague of mine asked me if I would mind pretending to be Santa Claus and write a letter to her five year old daughter (details here). Not having any kids of my own, it was actually really nice to get a glimpse into a totally different world - a place where Christmas is still magical and where Father Christmas really does exist.

My colleague told me the other day how her youngest daughter Hannah came home from school, went to her room and pulled out her folder with all her special things in it. She pulled out the letter from Santa and spent a couple of minutes looking at it. She then put it down, wandered over to her mum and asked if she could see a sample of her writing (apparently she already knows what her dad's handwriting looks like). My colleague showed her some of her writing, and she took it away. When she thought her mum wasn't looking, she carefully compared the two bits of writing, looked a touch confused, and put the letter from Santa away again. She's now 7 years old, and is probably just at the age where she is starting to hear that Santa might not be real (although apparently not at an age where she might think that someone other than her mum, dad and Santa Claus might have written the letter). Her faith in Santa apparently confirmed, both Hannah and her older sister Ellie wrote their letters to Santa and left them in the chimney for collection (they've apparently both decided that Santa must have a letter fairy who delivers all these letters to Santa at the North Pole).

Having realised that any future letter from Santa was going to be scrutinised like never before, my colleague asked me if I minded terribly much getting my fountain pen out again....

Of course I didn't.


Dear Ellie

Thank you for your letter. I do have a fairy who collects my letters for me. She tends to get rather dirty, poor thing, so Mrs Claus is always having to do the washing.

The little fairy definitely prefers clean chimneys - she has told me yours is quite good. She absolutely hates it when people light fires in the chimney. Honestly, how do they expect her to collect letters when there has been a fire burning? I've told her she doesn't need to collect any letters if there is smoke coming out of the chimney.

I hope you have a lovely Christmas and enjoy your presents. Mrs Claus has done a great job on your dress up and I'm sure you will look beautiful

Lots of love from,



Dear Hannah,

Thank you for the letter you wrote with your sister.

Things have been very busy in the North Pole. The fairies and the elves have been working overtime and at one stage Mrs Claus ran out of black thread for her sewing machine. She had to send the letter fairy off to get some more. Actually, I think she might have been making your costume at the time. My, that WAS a bit of a challenge! I'm not sure she has ever made one quite like that before!

As the weather is so very cold, and as we need to keep hidden, we actually live in a massive cave system underground. We have many rooms, and many hallways, and lots of tunnels down to secret cellars for storing all the presents. It is very important that no-one finds us, so there is only one entrance to the outside world. It makes it quite a challenge to get all the presents out and onto the sleigh, but a little bit of magic usually does the trick.

I hope you have wonderful Christmas with your family. It is so nice to be able to deliver presents to this address again.

Lots of love from,



Aw. Int Christmas brilliant?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

too long trying to resist it...

Considering how much time I spend flogging my body through various forms of exercise, I've never been even the remotest bit interested weight training. I just can't see the point of it and I've never wanted bulked up muscles or a six-pack enough to put myself through it.

Cardio-Vascular exercise I get: I run because it makes my heart and lungs stronger and because it makes me feel good. Any other changes to my body that happen as a result of running are just happy by-products. In the main, those other changes are generally pretty good things: I can eat what I want and not put on weight and I have long, lean muscles in my lower body (or so I'm told, anyway). One of possibly less attractive side-effects of doing so much running is that I have a puny upper body. I've always been hopeless at things like press-ups and pull-ups, but a decade of running and little else has meant that the musculature in my arms and chest is, shall we say, rather minimalist.

for more full-on puny body shots, click here or here... but don't say I didn't warn you
(and no, don't worry, they're not *that* full-on)

I've never much cared, to be honest. I've got broad shoulders that go a long way when you're wearing a t-shirt, and besides, I've got the physique that reflects the exercise that I do... and I don't want to be hauling a load of deadweight muscle around on runs, do I?

Well, I went to the osteopath this evening, and things are going to have to change. I mentioned the other day how I was finding it harder to go swimming; how I was really noticing a loss of power across my shoulders and down my arms. This is one of the legacies of the WTs, and I have been keeping a weather eye on this for a while to see if this loss of power is getting any worse. I have been told by my neurologist that the amount and intensity of exercise that I do is probably going to make me feel my symptoms more heavily. Well, at the moment this is a trade-off that I am more than happy to make. Partly this is because it is one of the things that helps keep me sane, but it's also partly because I am already finding exercise harder and I am worried that if I stop altogether, I will find it harder and harder to get started again. I don't want my muscles to waste.

This evening, I was told that the muscles in my upper body have already started to waste. I have lost definition across my pectoral muscles and down my arms. If I don't take action now, then this may prove to be an irreversible decline, as my muscles will not be able to tolerate the exercise needed to build them back up.

Well that's a bit depressing, isn't it? I think I'd better do something about that....

Courtesy of my osteopath, I am now the proud owner of a little exercise schedule. It's not much, but the idea is that it will arrest the decline and will start to try and gently build my muscles up. I am going to have to go out to the shops and buy myself a modest pair of dumbbells, and I will start to do a few biceps curls, shoulder shrugs and deltoid lifts. I will also start doing a few press-ups and some triceps dips. Nothing drastic, just two or three sets of each exercise three times a week, with a day's rest inbetween. Too much will probably cause my symptoms to flare up and I'll have a reaction in my muscles, but hopefully this should be just enough to start to get my muscles back into shape. I'll also be getting myself some weights to carry when I'm running. They're basically either something that you can velcro to your wrists, or they're a nice natty set of miniature dumbbells (ideally pink) that you carry around. The idea is that you are forced to gently exercise your upper body as you run, instead of just carrying it around....

It's not something I'm looking forward too very much, but it's a whole lot better than the alternatives. Needs must, and all that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

somebody spoke and I went into a dream....

When I hauled myself unenthusiastically out of bed at nearly 8am this morning and dragged myself into the office for a little after 9am, I was kind of hoping for a quiet week. It's the last full working week before Christmas and a much needed extra couple of days off. Although I've got something silly like 21 days of holiday booked between the beginning of February and the end of March, I've had almost no time off at all in months and I'm knackered.

Be careful what you wish for..... As I watched the tumbleweeds blow past my desk all day, I did catch myself thinking that although I wanted it to be quiet, I didn't actually want it to be this quiet.... I don't want a diary full of meetings, deadlines and a whole load of stressful running around, but I do want a few tasks to keep me ticking over throughout the day. If I have absolutely nothing to do, then the day just D-R-A-G-S.

I'm kind of between jobs at the moment. My last role is just winding down and my new role is about to kick off. I know that I am going to be absurdly busy for most of next year as I get stuck into the finer detail and politics of a big merger (don't ask). Right now though, I'm in serious danger of getting bored, and that's just rubbish.

Mind you, I do get to be Santa again tomorrow, which will be great.


That 21 days of holiday? a week's skiing in La Rosiere at the beginning of February, and then a little over three weeks trekking in Ecuador and the Amazon in March.

It can't come fast enough....


Come on. Earworms of the Year people. I still need your votes.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

if we can destroy them, you bet your life we will destroy them...

It looks as though "Eyes Wide Open" by Snow Patrol is going to be the biggest selling album in the UK in 2006. Now this is an album that I really like. I'll admit that it took a little while to grow on me; when I first heard the lead-off single, "You're All I Have", I thought it was a bit insipid and seemed to confirm my impression that "Final Straw" was going to be impossible for the band to top. Well, I was wrong. I saw them play a charity gig at Rock City in July and they just knocked my socks off. It is the only gig I have reviewed on these pages that has received a maximum 10/10 review, but it really was the best concert I have been to in a long, long time. When I heard them live, the songs from the new album seemed to take on a new life for me, with the obvious standout track being "Chasing Cars", which had an impact on the whole audience that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It's a gorgeous song.

And yet why am I not surprised to see the knives out in the press?

Here's Miranda Sawyer in Observer Music Monthly last week:

"In 2006, Snow Patrol's Eyes Open was the biggest-selling LP in the UK. Don't blame me, I didn't buy it either".

I hate the smugness implicit in that statement: our Miranda wouldn't do anything so vulgar as buy the most popular album in the UK, and she's pretty sure that neither would the discerning readers of that illustrious music supplement.

Here's Kitty Empire in today's Observer Review:

"In late November Eyes Open overtook Arctic Monkeys and became the biggest selling album of 2006 in the UK. Phew: for a while there it was looking like a great record brimming with wit, vigour and originality might actually scoop the top sales prize. Thankfully, good sense has prevailed. Britain can pat itself on the back, having embraced an album with all the texture and edge of a security blanket doused with fabric softener. The commercial honours of the last few years - Blunt, Keane, Dido, even the distinctly classier Coldplay - tell a sorry tale. We see bands as things with which to wipe our tears, where once they were, properly, rabble-rousers, Pied Pipers and volatile party kindling."

Cobblers. This is snobbery, pure and simple. Why is it that there is nothing that the music snob hates more than success? Empire mentions Keane, and they're a good example of this trend. When they were a new band just starting out, they were THE NEXT BIG THING. "Somewhere Only We Know" was single of the week in the NME, of all places. They were hot. And then they were the current big thing, and suddenly no one (apart from the millions of people who bought their album, obviously) wanted to know. How many easy jokes about Keane have you read this year? Keane are laughed at because they are successful and because we music snobs are a little bit embarrassed that we own "Hopes and Fears", because everyone else likes them too. Well, it's bullshit, isn't it? I don't think all that much of "Under the Iron Sea", and I do find them a little bit dull, but they are still head and shoulders above most of the other shit that got released this year. Anyway, weren't the Scissor Sisters the best selling album of 2004, not Keane? Now there's a band that doesn't fit Kitty Empire's mould, what with being almost the polar opposite of Keane and all that....

And anyway, what's this crap about the Arctic Monkeys? They are a breath of fresh air into the charts, it's true.... but is that really a great album? No. It's absolutely not. Give me Snow Patrol any time.

It's okay not to like people like Snow Patrol, Keane, James Blunt and all of that... of course it is... but it's also okay to like a band that becomes unfashionably successful too.


London was great. Busy, yes.... but we managed to fight our way through the crowds to pick up a few presents. We also had a nice meal, stayed in a nice room in a pleasant hotel and we picked up a whole pile of interesting cheeses for the Christmas dinner table from the Neil's Yard Dairy.

The Velázquez exhibition at the National Gallery itself was amazing.

There are four large-ish rooms of paintings assembled from all over the world, ranging from paintings the artist did from the age of 16 all the way through to his last portraits of Philip IV when he was in his sixties. All lined up together, you really get a fantastic opportunity to watch how one of the great masters developed his style.

It's also much more than just a series of portraits of rheumy-eyed, big chinned Hapsburgs...

... although there are a few of those too.

It's on until January, so you've got some time to get yourself over to see it. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 15, 2006

falsehood merchant, nobody believes you...

Evening all. Earworm time again. My internal jukebox is still alternating between Nelly Furtado, Panic! At The Disco and vintage Iron Maiden, so it's probably just as well that I'm handing the keys over to a Guest Editor with a much more varied and interesting musical palate than my own rather blunt instrument.

If bloggers were musicians, then I rather think that she's probably the virtuoso lead guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and song writer to my rather lumpen bass player.

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure, TAFKATUF....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #51 - Lizzy from Literary Hoax


1. Mouldy Persephone – Umbilical Glow

I heard this lo-fi garage rock song in a dream in the small hours of Monday morning. When I awoke, it was still playing. As you can imagine, this confused me for anything up to a minute. Looking out of the bedroom window, I saw the fit man from two doors down slumped and snoring in the front garden, while his phone rang loudly from his lap. Perhaps it was his worried boyfriend? Perhaps it was a wrong number? I don’t know. Anyway, this song was his ringtone. It annoyed me, because I hate waking up suddenly to songs. They stalk you all day.

2. Egg Might Wake – I Fashioned A Simple Tool

When Tanya Donnelly left Throwing Muses, rumours circulated that she would soon join Egg Might Wake. They were entirely without foundation. This song sounds like Billy Idol being dropped down a lift shaft.

3. The Dullards - Epic Transport Stench Syndrome

Yes, a song that is over 14 minutes long if you include the cymbals solo at the end. Inconveniently, I have a rare form of musical OCD which requires me to sing the entirety of any song which I find myself humming. I didn’t get much done this Tuesday as a result.

4. Samantha Happen – Coruscate

This is the club anthem that samples the Bernard Matthews Turkey Drummers advert from 1988. (Sorry, non-Brits: I doubt you know of these high quality meat products at all, let alone the attendant promotional campaign from nearly 20 years ago.) It includes the classic mother-son exchange: “Did it rain?” “Not all the time!”, mashed up and looped with a Timbaland-style Indian drum track. I feel obliged to say “Bootiful!” now, as a weakly amusing verbal tie-in. But the track’s useless, so I won’t.

5. Mine All Mine – Double Poinsettia On Ice (bonus track on ‘Christ & Co’ EP)

The first and last festive entry. This song is quite rare even among hardcore M.A.M. fans, so how it kept waltzing into my shower all week, I have no idea. It’s on Mine All Mine’s 1992 Christmas EP which is unfeasibly hard to find. The “John Major’s got no baubles” chorus dates it terribly, but it holds up rather well apart from that. Sort of like Tina Turner gargling paint stripper over a Polyphonic Spree B-side. That good.

6. Leatherette – Parachute Offences

Probably the only song in my collection that rhymes “faecal contamination” with “Ascot train station”. For that, I can almost forgive its relentless hounding of my synapses last Wednesday. The saxophone intro can go to hell though.

7. White Crime – If Dick Thought It Would Help (He Would)

How this electronica bleepfest managed to hijack my internal jukebox this week, I really couldn’t say. I only heard it once and that was while walking past someone’s car. It must have hooks like a scorpion. Why do some songs do that? Why do some people drive a convertible with the top down in winter? Why do attention-seeking maniacs install enormous bass bins in their cars so that one’s teeth rattle at 140 bpm when they drive by? Or is the clue in the question? Hey, if I had all the answers, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I’d be on a beach with Joaquin Phoenix. But would I really be happy?

8. Riga – Fuerteventura Kidnap 1982

The original singer from Riga once threatened to punch me. This exchange took place outside the Spread Eagle pub in Camden in the summer of 1996. Admittedly, I had just written a a review saying his band made Menswear look like Motorhead. I stand by that statement, and the rest of the band dismissed it good-naturedly as fair comment. Which meant his suicide attempt in the Dingwalls gents’ later that night came as quite a surprise. He moved to Bournemouth 3 months after that strange night, without telling anyone but his sister. I hear he still makes music, after a fashion. ‘Fuerteventura Kidnap 1982’ was recorded shortly after Riga got their current singer, Jo Pinto, but it’s still the same old fey jangly shite.

9. Dominik Pringle – Not Even With Yours

Dominik Pringle is the pseudonym of someone very famous indeed. I won’t spoil it for you, but you’d almost certainly recognise him if you saw him. Here’s a clue: he’s married to someone really thin. Go on. I bet you can guess. This is standard R&B, incorporating a cameo-by-numbers from a middle level American rapper, and boasting a video full of gyrating nubiles. Our host would love it.

10. Manifest Deceit Corporation - Tricks Of The Trade (Queen Liar Liar dub)

I was hoping for some peace and quiet today, but I’ve been mumbling this shouty electropop to myself all day. Inexplicably, it performed really badly on release in the UK but was huge in South America. The woman behind it made enough money to retire, just from the Peruvian market alone, or so the music industry gossips claim. Good on her, I say. It’s a great song and you really ought to buy it, or your record collection will have a yawning chasm where it ought to be. In fact, the void will be so big, you might fall into it. Years would pass before you were found. Your friends would shake their heads sadly and resolve never to let their own music collections fall into such disarray. Small children would devise innovative new insults derived from your name. Don’t say you weren’t warned.


Thanks Lizzy. I have to confess that I'm a touch disappointed that Cliff Richard hasn't made it onto your list this week... but apart from that it all sounds aces! (erm, not that I've actually knowingly heard any of it, that is... stuck in the pale, indie guitar ghetto as I am).

Running the gauntlet of all those nasty festive songs next week will be Ben.... as I happen to know that he refuses to listen to anything in December apart from his "Now That's What I Call Christmas" album, I think we're in for a real treat.

Altogether now....

"A time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease...."

Oh, and don't forget I need your votes for Earworms of the Year 2006 (and thanks to everyone who has voted so far....).

Toodlepip - We're off down to London tomorrow. No, not for shopping (although if we don't have Square Pie for lunch in Selfridges tomorrow, I imagine that C. will want to know why). We're there to have a nice meal and to take in the Velázquez exhibition at the National Gallery on Sunday. Las Meninas has remained in the Prado in Madrid, which is a shame as it is a magnificent painting, but they've shipped loads of other stuff over, so it should be great.

See you on Sunday then.....

Next Week: Ben
Forthcoming attractions: Sarah, Earworms of the Year 2006, Flash *AND* just possibly we may have our Mexican correspondent with an audio earworms post....

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL]