Bands I didn’t Like, But Do Now…. By Martyn Taylor

As I wrote in a previous blog, the kind of music I listen to now is a lot different to the sort of stuff I used to like. My teenage years were dominated by generic indie bands that were aboard the ‘Britpop’ gravy train. I have already told you about the 5 bands that I used to like but no longer do (which you can find a link for here  https://sittingontheswings.com/2014/01/16/bands-i-liked-but-dont-now-by-martyn-taylor/) so I feel it is time for me to produce the 5 acts that I never held a flame for in my youth, but have now, not only grown to love, but idolise.

1. Pulp. These reluctant ‘Britpop’ figures formed in 1978 and struggled for a decade or so trying to gain prominence in the U.K. By the mid-90’s they hit the big time with their Disco influenced pop infused social commentary (try saying that after a few drinks) Their 3 90’s album releases spawned many sing-along classics The reason why I didn’t like appreciate Pulp at the time was simple. I didn’t like Jarvis Cocker! His styling was totally against the grain of the time. He was never seen in a parker, and his ‘Weed in tweed’ fashion was not attractive to me. Luckily in my more recent years, I have grown to overlook his appearance, and now love Pulps 3 90’s masterpieces.

2. The Smiths. By the time The Smiths were known to me in the early 90’s, they had already split and Morrissey was already well into his more successful solo career. During the 80’s The Smiths poetic commentary from the council estates defined an era in Thatcher’s Britain. They were later known as the most influential British group of the decade. I know what you’re thinking: “how could he not like them?” My brother idolised Morrissey. He wore turned up jeans, NHS glasses and sported a quiff even Elvis himself would envy. My Bro would play all the of the Smiths’ brilliant albums over and over again on his tape deck in the bedroom we shared. He wouldn’t let me play my Jive Bunny cassettes so I took it out on The Smiths hating them Nowadays, the red mist has lifted and my admiration for Morrissey and The Smiths is still growing.

Nearly thirty years later, Johnny's hair is suspiciously still the same colour.

Nearly thirty years later, Johnny’s hair is suspiciously still the same colour.

3. Radiohead. Thom Yorke and his falsetto voice haunted the airwaves of Radio 1 in the 90’s. Radiohead had an expansive sound and themes of alienation which propelled them to international fame. Their dramatic change in style at the turn of the century could have been career suicide, but it turned them from celebrated rockers, into championed experimental digital stars. Mr Yorke and his wonky eyes, quirky lyrics and massive student following made me dislike the band. I hated everything to do with the student scene. However my dislike of all things student was only a phase, and I now see that I was missing out on a revolution, and some of the all time greatest albums had passed me by. Radiohead released great rock albums, but their early rock evolved into one of my favourites of all time in O.K Computer.

Normally, a man who looked like this would be asking you for a pound so he could "get into the hostel tonight."

Normally, a man who looked like this would be asking you for a pound so he could “get into the hostel tonight.”


4. Nirvana.
The death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 was massive news worldwide at the time. I couldn’t have given a toss! I didn’t know him, his band, his music or problems. I thought I should check it out. I didn’t like it! It was noise to me. I went to my 2 Unlimited C.D and Adidas trackies. When I left school in 1998, I caught a recording of Nirvana Unplugged on MTV . Kurt’s version of Bowies ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ was pure brilliance. It led me to revisit Nirvana’s albums and renew my interest in them. Cobain’s death left many questions unanswered. The question I’d like answered is, what might have come next?

Someone's just told Kurt the wife's on the phone.

Someone’s just told Kurt the wife’s on the phone.

And finally
5. Take That.
This choice might seem a little strange considering what I have picked already. During my Kelvin Hall days I hated all Boy Bands. I was into ‘Britpop’, and girls snubbed us because we didn’t possess Boy Band good looks. Take That had the cheeky one, the cute one, the song writer, the dancer and the other one. Their split in 1996 was celebrated among me and my friends. When I look back now, I don’t think there was a single song that they released that I didn’t like. When they reformed in 2006 as a Man Band, I was surprised by the quality of Gary Barlow’s writing and was converted as a fan. In 2010 Robbie Williams re-joined to complete the original line up, they were rejuvenated and were more entertaining than ever. Up yours Justin Bieber!!!

 

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 32 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

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Thirty-Something by Allen Miles

On the fourteeth of October 2011 I turned thirty years old. The six weeks or so previous to that, as my friends, family and work colleagues will attest, I was at the very peak of my diva-ishness. Constant tantrums, flouncing around at work, I was absolutely petrified of hitting, as they say, the big three-oh. I’d always been so hung up on being the young, gobby wild one wherever I’d been. As my drama queen displays were noticed, my favourite colleagues in my department (my DEPARTMENT, Polly, you know you’re my favourite of all before you start whinging) had mixed advice for me on hitting that horrible milestone.

Karen and Ali were positive. They said “don’t worry, its just a number, you can still tear it up and have a good time and you still look like you’re in your early twenties anyway.” Very kind of them. Less sympathetic was Emma, who did nothing but take the piss for the entire time, which being two years younger than me, she was entitled to do. She also publicised a hideous picture of me from the night out we had for my thirtieth, standing in Ali’s kitchen during my “skinny jeans” phase, towering above everyone else in the shot, wearing a jacket that can only be described as a colossal error, with my comic-book style-legs in a position that seemed to defy the laws of physics. There was a reason my tactless-father used to call me the white Carlton Palmer. And finally my surrogate big sister Mel, who is running on two hundred hangovers a year and an obsession with welsh footballer and adulterer Ryan Giggs. “Don’t worry,” she slurred, “Look at me, I’m thirty six and I’m doing alright.” then she stubbed her fag out on the palm of her hand, lost her balance slightly, took her glasses off and tried to somehow wipe the pink out of the whites of her eyes. They don’t make ’em like Mel anymore.

But for all my fear and trepidation, being in my thirties has actually turned out pretty well. I can honestly say, that at the age of 32, I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been. There are, however, certain things you notice. Certain scenarios you find yourself in that you wouldn’t have two or three years ago. You accept that there’s nothing you can really do about these situations, as they’re just par for the course when you hit thirty. Often they are slightly pathetic and/or desperate, but always inevitable, and it’s usually best just to let nature take it’s course. Like when you see a snail making its way across a pavement; you could pick it up and put it on that patch of grass before somebody treads on it couldn’t you? Nah, let’s just see how it gets on. Let’s just see how it gets on.

This is a list, written from a male perspective, of thirty things that will happen once you hit thirty. Enjoy.

1. You give up your dream of being a professional footballer, and start dreaming of having a son who might.

2. Roberto Martinez is not forty years old. He is only forty years old.

3. Instead of throwing out an old pair of trainers, you keep them because they’ll be “good for the garden.”

4. You may be earning more money, but everything you want costs between £150 and £300.

5. You start to define yourself by the newspaper you read, even though the magazine of every “quality” Sunday paper is exactly the same.

6. You prefer drinking in the afternoon to drinking in the evening, but you always fall asleep when you get in.

7. You no longer get funny looks when you buy Disney dvds, as the till staff just assume they’re for your child.

8. You one day realise that Frank Skinner and Noel Gallagher are no longer considered “cutting edge.”

9. You’ve always got plenty of Gaviscon in.

10. In a conversation with your friends, you will have used the following phrase at least once: “It’s not us getting old, the music has actually got shit.”

11. Nightclubs have become very scary places, and when did they get so loud?

12. Vitamin supplements are something you feel mysteriously obliged to take. My own personal morning pill pop consists of one zinc tablet, one odourless garlic capsule, an omega 3 fish oil pill and a multivitamin. I’ve got absolutely no clue why I take any of them.

13. You start to become bothered by spelling mistakes in graffiti.

14. You have actually started buying socks for yourself instead of just waiting to get them off your mam at Christmas.

15. You find yourself in the queue at Homebase with a full basket. You haven’t the faintest idea how you got there.

16. You are baffled to find out that people who were born in the nineties are old enough to be in pubs.

17. When looking for a holiday, the first word you search for is “quiet.”

18. You are wary of being Facebook friends with anyone more than five years younger than you, lest you are accused of “grooming.”

19. Where once your boozy conversations with groups of your best friends consisted of how your band was going to rule the world and how you were thinking of going travelling for a year, you now discuss your utility bills.

20. You will check your hairline every single day.

21. The prospect of getting a new kitchen appliance is something that excites you.

22. When you turn on the telly, you automatically home towards the documentary channels.

23. You live in permanent fear that one of your parents or parents-in-law start hinting that they want to move in with you.

24. You don’t know whether the singles chart exists anymore.

25. You start noticing which beers make you billious, and avoid them at all costs.

26. Caffeine is either something you are addicted to, or terrified of.

27. The worst day of the year is now The Day You Have To Clean The Oven.

28. You’ve embraced the straight and narrow. Not the lifestyle, the trousers. Gone are the days of ludicrously baggy skate pants and blood-restricting skinny jeans. Bring on the Farahs.

29. If you get up after half past nine, you curse yourself for “wasting the morning.”

30. While channel-hopping in the middle of the afternoon, you stumble upon a repeat of The Bill from 1997. Inexplicably, you feel absolutely elated…

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Al’s Top 30 Albums – No. 7

bob blood
No. 7 Blood On The Tracks – Bob Dylan

I could write a million words. I really could. Not just on this album, obviously, but on the phenomenon of the human race that is Robert Allen Zimmerman. Lots of people don’t like him. Because he can’t sing. Bollocks to them, they’re morons. They’re the same people who say that Ringo was a crap drummer and Noel can’t play guitar. Sometimes virtuosity is not important. Maybe you should stop listening to people who chuck shit against a wall and just listen to words and melodies, because that is what makes a great song. And in the history of popular music, there has never been a greater exponent of the song. Not Lennon, McCartney, Ray Davies, Neil Young or Van Morrison.

Blood On The Tracks is Bob Dylan’s divorce album. He was at a low creative ebb in 1974, Planet Waves had (I think) been his lowest seller for quite a few years and he appeared to be coasting. He hadn’t toured since 1966 and his lyrics, once the inspiration for almost cultish adoration, had become rather lack-lustre, toothless. Where once he sang the head-spinningly brilliant litany of socio-political insults that is It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding, now he crooned of domestic bliss and farmyard animals. And in comparison to his run of six albums that started in 1963 with Freewheelin’ and burnt out three years later with Blonde On Blonde, arguably the hottest streak any musician has ever hit, at this point in his career he had released a string of average to awful records, with only John Wesley Harding and New Morning garnering anything more than a six out of ten review. So, in a classic shit or bust scenario, two things happened; firstly, he took up painting, which he claimed put him back in touch with his creative powers; and secondly, he started touring again, probably with a rocket up his arse having signed the biggest recording contract in history at that point. And obviously, he found himself knee-deep in groupies, drink and drugs within a very short time. Not unreasonably, his wife found this rather contrary to their wedding vows, and gave him the sack. And there is the premise of the greatest document of human relationships ever set to music.

It starts with Tangled Up In Blue. It’s like a drug hit. He tells a story of several years in less than six minutes. There’s a strip club, adultery, a spliff, a job fishing, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and a girl who sold everything she owned. It is a story beyond comparison, and arguably the best opening track of any album ever. You’ll notice here that the most famous bad singer of all time has actually found his voice, and he is no longer sneering as he had done so many times before. For the remainder of the album he sings with as much passion, conviction and melody as any soul singer, as much venom as a punk singer and as much eloquence as any poet you could ever hope to find.

It is an album that is not so much crafted as intuitive. The group of musicians Dylan assembled had been hand-picked over a period of time, he thought nothing of sacking session players within minutes if they couldn’t keep up with him. He was in deadly focus, and ruthlessly pursued his vision. There is a fascinating bootleg of the studio sessions called Blood On The Tapes, in which he is singing certain lyrics to the melodies of different songs on the album. It’s as if he knew he had something, he just couldn’t quite piece it together. But when he finally did, it was quite magnificent. It is an album of stark contrasts, the music switches between warm and aggressive, the words between hateful and regretful. Simple Twist Of Fate and Shelter From The Storm are gorgeously intimate songs about looking back wistfully on past relationships, and You’re A Big Girl Now and If You See Her, Say Hello are two of the most heartfelt confessionals of not being able to maintain a relationship you’ll ever hear. Indeed the latter may well be the saddest song in rock music’s entire cannon.
There are two great blues songs where Dylan actually shows his musician’s chops for once, Meet Me In The Morning and Buckets Of Rain, the latter featuring the line “Everything about you is bringing me misery.” There is the customary nine-minute storytelling-epic in Lily Rosemary and The Jack Of Hearts, and a wonderful throwaway folk song called You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go which has a harmonica intro that sounds like an old steam train setting off. And then there’s Idiot Wind. Oh Hell’s bollocks. Idiot Wind.

The centerpiece of the album, Idiot Wind is an eight-minute howl of pure hatred. It is a vicious diatribe of ill-will that is purveyed through one of the most poisonous vocal performances in history. It is the bitterest song ever written by someone that isn’t called Alanis Morrisette. Listen to it now, and hear the screaming, see the spit flying from Bob’s lips and take in some of the most remarkable lines ever committed to tape:

“I can’t remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed, your eyes don’t look into mine.”
“I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read/ Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishing I was somebody else instead.”
“I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline that separated you from me.”

The next time people heard music this confrontational, it was being made by the Sex Pistols.

There is a version of Idiot Wind on a live recording of the subsequent tour called Hard Rain. He finished the set with it. The gig was lashed by torrential rain and the band kept getting electrical shocks from the stage. Our hero was hungover to fuck, having spent the past few days gorging on groupies and booze. His wife was at the side of the stage, with the kids, demanding to know what was going on. It is intense to the point of being voyeuristic.

I will write extensively about some of the staggering feats of innovation and musicianship from this point upwards on this list. There are albums that I will talk about from here on in that encompass creative talent that I can’t possibly comprehend. But in many ways, great songwriting is simply about putting words to music. And if you can put the most exquisite poetry into those words, and such beautiful melody into the music, then you are a great songwriter. And if great songwriting really is about just words and music, then Blood On The Tracks is the greatest album ever made.

Best Tracks:
Tangled Up In Blue, Idiot Wind, Shelter From The Storm

Best Moment: Two moments in Idiot Wind that show what a genius Dylan is:
The booming last verse: “You’ll never know the hurt I suffered, or the pain I rise above
And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry….”
And the very last line where he tips the story on its head and manages to blame himself for the whole thing:
“We’re idiots, babe, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.”

Like this? Try:
American Recordings by Johnny Cash, 1994

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

The Straights Are Coming! by Paul Featherstone

This week, “12 Years A Slave” led the way in the Oscars nominations- which is somewhat appropriate as white, Christian men looked to corral another minority group into virtual slavery. I say a minority group, but really gays, homosexuals or label them as you will, are all around us. They are only minority groups in areas where they are not common place, such as the past.

The mounting and offensive nature in which the gay community is treat within not only the press, but also the wider global community is verging on the great offenses of our generation.

We stand here, as we revel in the idea of a black man as a US President and the sainthood of Nelson Mandela, as something of a great indicator of how far we have we have come as a human race. In truth, we pat ourselves on the back and turn a blind eye to what is not only in danger of becoming something of a social holocaust, we are so far back in the stone ages it is frightening.

If we are still of the belief that someone’s sexuality is their choice rather pure genetics, circumstance or fate (such as their colour or nation), we continue to enslave the people of our world in a way that is so far beyond their control, we are condemning them to the shadows at birth.

Yet, it shames me, as it does you, that is about where we stand today. Look towards the current rhetoric in society towards the gay community and tell me that if it was towards a race, there would not be the pumping of fists to resolve it?

In a short amount of time we have had-

* the blaming of the recent UK floods on gays and gay marriage

*Putin equating gays to predatory paedophiles in Russia

*the idea that gay lifestyle is linked to smoking

*Jeremy Clarkson happily tweeting a photo of him asleep with “Gay Cunt” and an arrow next to his head

and on and on…..

Yet none of it ever reported as horrific by the press, just a case of “Look at what they gone and said!”.

Clarkson himself, in his own afterbirth-of-Thatcher kind of way, semi-apologised for being asleep when the photo was taken. He of course missed the point- being that he had made the photo somewhat acceptable by releasing it to his followers. In the infantile world that he inhabits, in which he is surrounded by prepubescent over-achievers such as Richard Hammond, it is fine to use such a phrase as an affront. To be a gay is to be something of ridicule, certainly to a man like Clarkson.

One has to wonder if someone had written on his forehead “Big Lipped Fucking Nigger”, as he had slumbered, if he would have been so eager to tweet it?

I bet my choice to not asterisk the last sentence shocked you in a way didn’t it? “If he is such an advocate of censorship, why use the N-word in such a casual manner?”. Did anyone bat an eyelid at the full use of “Gay Cunt” though? Very few, I fear to tread. Maybe, none. Certainly more about the good old C-word.

Should that not be as offensive a phrase as any in the English language?

Now, lets confess shall we? We have all used homosexuality as a slur. Many as younger, less educated people. That is why Football is so straight- they are all still in school, scared to come out, for fear of ridicule. I would like to think that my offense at homophobia comes with getting older, having more gay friends but really, society just grew up. I’d always held my views on the gay community, it was just okay to say them out loud without being labelled gay and beaten in the street for it. I was a coward.

If I had waited just a few years for that voice, imagine the agony of being gay? Now imagine the slow decline of that still muted voice being muffled by the hands of those in society that have no real justification for their cause?

I respect religion. I often wish I had it’s comfort to support me through the times that defy logic in this world, but as doctrines that have elements that abuse children, women and human rights as common practice continue to point the finger at the gay community, they cannot expect legitimacy in my eyes.

I could defend homosexuality by pointing out the various ills of the religious community, but that would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Instead, let us end with the simple idea that we not be judged by anyone on this earth but the one’s in the heavens. If we are truly to be judged by them for our time on this earth, should we not be judged on the pureness of our souls?

If that truly is the case, then every gay person I know has the given right to pass unhindered into a peaceful afterlife (should it exist). None of them are perfect, nor do any of them get a free pass for their choice of bedfellow. They have faults and qualities upon which I judge them as human beings and as to how close, if at all, I involve them in my life.

Isn’t it time that we, as a collective society, chose to define people by how they treat their fellow man and the kindness of their heart, rather than the adult they choose to give their soul to?

I get married in under two months to the person I love the most in the world. I chose her without a seconds thought and with a determination unknown in my life, as did she. We are adults and we are fully aware of the huge choice we are undertaking. If that is not a basic human right and something we do not deserve to be nailed to a post for, then what is?

We cannot hail the strenuous work of the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK and Lincoln as they battled to redeem one element of society, whilst we refuse to learn from the lessons of history against another.

Society cannot bathe in the past waters of its river, as it continues to wash such murky waves over the face of itself in the present.

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 32 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

Bands I Liked, But Don’t Now….By Martyn Taylor

The kind of music I listen to now is a lot different to the sort of music I listen to these days. During my teenage years in the 1990’s and early 00’s I listened to bands that were not a challenge to understand. There was nothing better at the time to than listening to the latest ‘Tubthumping’ anthemic release from whatever group was in fashion that particular week. It seemed that every week a new copycat Britpop band were debuting a new album. Back then I couldn’t get enough of these clones. There were a few acts in particular that I liked at the time, but now that I look back, it seems my judgement was clouded. I’ve picked 5 bands that I liked to listen to back in the day, but don’t rate very highly any more. They all helped to define an era for me, but their flimsy, lightweight material hasn’t stood the test of time..

1. Space. These cheeky chappys from Liverpool formed in 1993 but hit the big time in 1996 with the success of their debut album ‘Spiders’ Their hit singles ‘You and Me Against the World’ and ‘Neighbourhood’ featured predominantly on britflick ‘Shooting Fish’ Lead singer Tommy Scotts singing style was comical, and their use of hip-hop style mixing was imaginative. Unfortunately their dark-humoured singles which had grabbed my attention didn’t carry on through their albums. Listening to ‘Tin Planet’ (their second release) it seemed my uneducated ears would listen to any old garbage.

Space. One of the men in this photo tried to sell you a PPI rebate over the phone last week.

Space. At least one of the men in this photo tried to sell you a PPI rebate over the phone last week.

2. Sleeper. A hot chick with a guitar! What wasn’t there to like about Sleeper? My teenage hormones were in over drive. However, it seemed that aside from a couple of catchy guitar rifts and singable choruses, Sleeper were ‘just another girl fronted band’ riding on the coat-tails of success of Elastica. Sleeper had great success with their 3 albums, and while supporting Blur on their ‘parklife’ tour were touted as the next big thing. It seems to me that the allure of Sleeper was not their music, but their guitar clad goddess lead singer Louise Werner.

3. Shed Seven. It was good to see a band from York in the charts, their ballads like ‘Chasing Rainbows’ and ‘Going for Gold’ had lighters in the air at festivals in the mid 90’s. Indie discos were not complete without a stomp around the dance floor to ‘Disco Down’ or ‘She Left Me On Friday’ Looking back now, Rick Witter’s vocals were dull and the band do not grab my attention anymore. I do reckon that if they had been around 5 years earlier, their style would of fitted better.

Rick Witter of Shed Seven. Cool it, girls.

Rick Witter of Shed Seven. Cool it, girls.

 

4. Dodgy. Not many bands define a year as well as Dodgy, well, not quite a year, more like a season. The sound of summer 1996 will always be ‘Good Enough’ by the band. barbeques across the land sang out to it, Their bleach blond locks set the trend , with everyone from Robbie Williams to Gazza sporting a peroxide dye. However I feel it was one of the members relationship with Denise Van Outen that kept up the publics interest in the band rather than the bands music.

5. Coldplay. I always liked Coldplay’s debut album ‘Parachutes’, I’ve even stuck up for it in arguments with my good friend Allen Miles. Mr Miles played his trump card on me though last summer. While out enjoying a summer drink in town, Al handed me a HMV carrier bag containing ‘Grace’ by Jeff Buckley. Al had listed it at number 14 in his ‘Top 30 albums of all time’ here on Sitting on the Swings, but I had never heard it. After a few drinks I went home and gave ‘Grace’ a good listening to, Al had won! It seems to me, and anybody that has ever heard ‘Grace’ would know that ‘Parachutes’ is not only a poor imitation, but a blatant copy of Jeff Buckleys masterpiece. Coldplay didn’t just take inspiration, they straight up ripped it off! On their subsequent albums Coldplay have ripped off Radiohead, Kraftwerk, Joe Satriani and U2. I now hate them!

If this man wasn't a musician, he would work at a Holland and Barratt's. What a wanker.

If this man wasn’t a musician, he would work at a Holland and Barratt’s. What a wanker.

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 32 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

Songs In The Key Of Anger by Allen Miles

I wrote a blog some months ago when I was drunk about the sense of apathy in this country, particularly amongst our young people. It saddens me deeply that I am now too old to be part of any revolution, because as my fellow writers Mr Featherstone and Mr Ware will identify, my 32 year-old brain simply refuses to accept the world as it is. The idea of doing a Back To Mine-type article in which one would choose to write about ten songs on a certain topic is one I’ve had for a while, yet I could never think of an appropriate theme. I wrote a brief facebook blog about miserable songs a few years ago, but I realise that I am in danger of becoming a bit of a self-pitying caricature in some-people’s eyes, and given a recent spate of less than flattering reviews for my ultra-miserable book I’ve decided I’ll leave the navel-gazing for a bit. So as I read about the latest slaughters our repulsive Prime Minister intends to inflict on the country along with being in a generally bad mood with my ailing physical condition and the fact that Lily Allen is making a comeback, I give you a new series of articles entitled Songs In The Key Of…

Anyone is welcome to have a go, but I’m going first. Here are the ten ANGRIEST songs ever written.

10. Killing In The Name Of – Rage Against The Machine

The lyric to this song, despite sounding like a repetitive screamed dirge, is actually an eloquent diatribe regarding the republican party’s amazingly convenient policy of choosing members of the ethnic minorities to fight on the frontline in all the good ol’ US of A’s silly wars. The reason it sounds so incendiary is due to the hard funk soundtrack and the avalanche of “f” words, tailor made for twenty year-olds wearing baggy jeans to shove each other around on a dancefloor. Rage frontman Zach de la Rocha is an actual political activist, and allegedly one of only three musicians the FBI have ever kept a file on.

Angriest bit: Probably the bit where he shouts “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” sixteen times.

9. Where Did It All Go Wrong –  Oasis

Oasis weren’t an angry band. There were about love and happiness and good times. Until one day in 1998 when Noel Gallagher woke up from a four-year cocaine bender and realised he utterly loathed everyone who had managed to blag their way onto the way onto the Oasis funbus and he had come to the very brink of pissing away his status of best British rock and roll songwriter of all time. The anger here is not in the song itself but the performance. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants is his comedown album and this Wall-era Pink Floyd-sounding howl is the sound of a man looking in the mirror and saying to himself “What the fucking hell have you become?”

Angriest bit: All the choruses. A man whose trademark is lighters-aloft optimism, screaming utter self-loathing.

8. She Watch Channel Zero – Public Enemy

Remarkably prescient for a song written in 1988, one of Chuck D’s finest raps about finding nothing but shite on TV. This is what hip-hop could have been. It’s so fast, so precise, so violent. The main riff is a Slayer sample, and Chuck booms away with the utmost authority while Flav cackles around him like the weirdo who hangs on to the school bully. The percussion is relentless. They were essentially a black punk band. If they hated television this much in ’88, what the hell would they make of it today?

Angriest bit: The utter genius of this passage from the third verse. If I may quote:

“Her brains retrained
By a 24 inch remote
Revolution a solution
For all our children
But all her children
Don’t mean as much as the show”

7. Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon

Classic, Vietnam-era anti-government tirade from a man who was an absolute expert, in the same way that Bob Dylan and Lou Reed were, at using words and music to hurt people. I don’t just mean shock or offend, anyone can do that with a few swear words, but Lennon had that unique gift that so very few writers have of being able to personally insult people that he’d never met. His voice on this track is amazing, only Noddy Holder and Liam Gallagher have swallowed as much sandpaper as Lennon did. He really hated everything.

Angriest bit: 2:07, where he actually loses his breath.

6. Of Walking Abortion – Manic Street Preachers

The evacuating of the bile duct of an alcoholic intellectual at the end of his tether. This is the only song on this list that isn’t sung by the person who wrote it, which makes the performance of James Dean Bradfield here a mission of the most extreme voyeurism. The ugliest song on one of the ugliest albums of all time, a four minute vomiting-session during which Richey Edwards props himself up on his elbows and declares that he’s disgusted with every single thing he can see. The outro is so intense that it could make your grandmother’s neck veins bulge.

Angriest bit: “WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? YOU FUCKIN ARE!!!”

5. Free Satpal Ram – Asian Dub Foundation

Asian Dub Foundation should have been massive. They were the first proper ethnic punk band in the UK, their songs were as good as anything The Specials ever did, and when I saw them in 2003 supporting Radiohead, the biggest band in the world, they blew them offstage. Satpal Ram was an Englishman of Asian descent who was attacked by six skinheads in a Birmingham restaurant in 1986 over an argument about music. He stabbed one of his assailants with a table knife in self defence after being  stabbed himself and glassed in his face. He served 16 years in prison for murder. The defense lawyer he was assigned didn’t meet him until half an hour before his case was up in court.

Angriest bit: The row of the guitar solo at 1:57

4. Common People – Pulp

Class war is a very English phenomenon. And other than Billy Bragg and a band you’ve never heard of called McCarthy, Pulp are England’s best musical exponents of it. This song will either hit you in the exact centre of your heart, or you will just think of it as a cool song to dance to. I remember my disastrous attempt at going to university; my schedule consisted of getting up at six to go to work, then getting on the bus from work at eleven to go for my lecture, then running for the bus back to work which pulled up six minutes after my lecture finished, then working till eight. Repeat to fade. Repeat to exhaustion.  Coupled with the fact that I had to pay £500 a term and received no sort of bursary or grant, I was living on the very edges of my nerves. One rainy Thursday morning I slumped down in my chair for my eleven o’clock lecture, having had about two hours sleep, full of red bull and my eyes rolling back in my head. Some kid from my group called Lee sat next to me and said, “I really don’t get on with these early lectures, brother.” It took me every calorie of strength I had to stop myself from biting his eyeballs out. And that is why I love this song. And it’s finest achievement is that it gets the very kids he’s slagging off dancing to it.

Angriest bit: “They will NEVER UNDERSTAND how it feels to live your life….” it’s not on the single version…

3. Streets Of Sorrow/Birmingham Six – The Pogues

Before Shane MacGowan became the shambling drunken mess we know him as today, he was one of the finest songwriters in the world, a master of the love song, and for this writer, one of the top five lyricists of all time. This song, about the sixteen year imprisonment of six innocent men on a charge of being IRA bombers, starts with Terry Woods’s fragile acoustic lament about the unbearable sadness of the Troubles, then MacGowan elbows his way in and starts snarling through his splintering, gritted teeth about the dangers of “Being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time.” Tory party lizard Douglas Hurd actually amended the Anti-Terrorism Act and had the song banned from the BBC in order that  “the British public should be prevented from hearing terrorist organisations and their supporters.” Hugh Callaghan, a member of the Birmingham Six, having been released in 1991 saw it differently: “The last thing the government wanted was people like MacGowan educating the public about the Birmingham Six.”

Angriest bit: “May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds/And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads.” Political protest was never so poetic.

2. Mosh – Eminem

Eminem is at his best when he’s at his angriest, and I nearly picked The Way I Am, but while it’s a brilliant song, we can’t really relate to his anger about being rich and famous. This however, a call-to-arms in protest against a moronic war-mongerer who somehow came to be in charge of the most powerful country in the world, is an poundingly aggressive statement of disgust. It is a genuinely frightening piece of music. Every moving part functions; the military beat stamping all the way through, the thunderclaps and twisted synths, the parrot fashion Pledge of Allegiance from whiny school-kids at the start. The video is absolutely superb, and then of course there are the words and the voice; never has such unbridled rage been so articulate. And the best thing about this song, is that where the likes of NWA and Ice-T would be banging on about shooting cops and taking sawn-offs to the white house, Mr Mathers is simply trying to get people to vote. Eloquence in screaming, indeed.

“Maybe this is god just saying we’re responsible/For this monster/This coward/That we have empowered…. How could we allow something like this/Without pumping our fists.”  Whether you like him or not, he’s brilliant with words.

1. Tramp The Dirt Down – Elvis Costello

After the blazing torrents of bhangra, punk, hip-hop and rock on this list, it might seem somewhat odd to see a simple folk song featuring nothing more than a couple of acoustic guitars, a snare and a tin whistle sitting on the top of this unholiest of trees. But listen to it. Here is a song that was written at the arse-end of Margaret Thatcher’s despicable time in office by England’s greatest ever lyricist (yes Dunham, he’s better than Morrissey) at the age of thirty-four; old and wise enough to not have to try hard to rebel or shock. It is a song that states in the most languid and poetic manner that the writer wishes to see another human being dead. Now listen to it again, hear how he rasps and growls in such hushed tones, and how you can feel the spit hit the microphone as he lists the atrocities that she committed unto the people she was supposed to be representing. Listen to the bit at 3:24, where he gets choked up and sounds like he’s going to burst into tears of rage. Famously driven by “revenge and guilt” to write songs, Costello here bleeds over his guitar as he watches his own country get battered into submission by a group of back-slapping school-tie wearing bacteria who simply do not give a toss. He knows he’s defeated, and he can only take pleasure from the vision of standing by her grave laughing. This song was written in 1989. It could have been written yesterday.

Angriest bit: All of it. Every last snarled word.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 32 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 8

No. 8: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)

TomWaitsRainDogs

“Experimental” is an interesting word when it comes to describing music. For most, it implies some sort of new technology or new technique for creating music. Either that or the influence of some weird, left-field electronica artist who’d sold about fifteen records. David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy was experimental, so the readers of the music press in the late seventies were told, as was Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys, as well as the most experimental record of the lifetime of my early-thirties generation, Radiohead’s Kid A. All of these records were recorded with ground-breaking studio routines, pushing music into a new sphere. None of them experimented by finding two chunks of debris in a junkyard, banging them together and, if it sounded good, recording it and calling it percussion.

Rain Dogs is the musical equivalent of a jumble sale. It is a bizarre smorgasbord of words and music in which nothing fits together and yet everything works. It is a phantasmagorical circus of a record that features manic polkas, deranged rumbas, heartbreaking ballads and Keith Richards. Your host is a man whose voice sounds like he has swallowed a cheese grater, barking and grizzling away as his guitarist tunes his strings to the tightest they can be without snapping.

Let’s start with the start. Singapore. A rattling sea-shanty that features some of the greatest twisting of the English language ever, a pre-cursor for the rest of the album. When the boys are told to heave away, you don’t even realise what instruments are playing, it’s just relentless pounding, and the line “making feet for children’s shoes” seems either Disney-esque, or profoundly disturbing. Clap Hands evokes the feeling of being engulfed by dense fog, and Cemetery Polka, with it’s hilarious/ludicrous couplets, is, apparently a song about families. “Uncle Bill will never leave a will, and the tumour is as big as an egg. He has a mistress, she’s Puerto Rican, and I heard she has a wooden leg.” Nice.

There are others here, on this, the most varied album ever. Jockey Full Of Bourbon is the best song on the album for me, it’s Latino shuffle and twang conjuring up detective movies, nursery rhymes and a guy who is “full of bourbon and can’t stand up.” It all seems so mysterious and dangerous, purple knives, broken cups and flamingos drinking from cocktail glasses sounds like nothing written down, but Waits whispers it to you in a way that seems both terrifying and completely intoxicating, like all the femme fatales in all the film noirs.

There are the jackhammer blues thumpers, Union Square is basically just a heavy smoker shouting in time to a groove so massive you could put your foot in it, and Big Black Mariah features Keith Richards on wrist-action guitar. Apparently Waits, a relatively unknown artist in 1985, had been asked in an interview who he’d most like to work with, and gave the name of the indestructible Rolling Stones guitarist. He received a communique shortly afterwards that said simply “The time has come. Let’s dance.” Waits and Richards would become regular collaborators from that point on.

There are the ballads, Blind Love, Hang Down Your Head, and the song that Waits would become best-known for: Downtown Train. Not for his own version, obviously, because his voice isn’t an instrument that the common herd find palatable. It was in fact Rod Stewart that made it a hit in 1989, and frankly he murdered it.

The centrepiece of the album is Time, an unbearably sad piece for acoustic guitar and accordion that is simply the most knackered sounding song ever written. Tom Waits is, I’ve always thought, an actor who accidentally became a musician, adopting different characters to perform certain songs. On Time, we actually get the man himself, sighing his enchanting lines over this most delicate of backdrops, and when he groans “Ah, she said she’d stick around till the bandages came off.” You know that she didn’t. And it is a testament to the eclecticism of this record that this most sensitive of confessionals is followed directly by the deranged Bavarian stomp of the title track. He is leading a circus parade in top-hat and cane for the benefit of us, the listeners.

All human life is here. It really is.

Best Tracks: Jockey Full Of Bourbon, Time, Downtown Train

Best Moment: 1:48 into Time, when he lies through his teeth “Close your eyes son, this won’t hurt a bit.” He’s an actor, not a singer.

Like this? Try: If I Should From Grace With God by The Pogues, 1988

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Let Them Eat Coke!!! by Allen Miles

So… Nigella Lawson did a lot of cocaine and the readers of that revolting soapbox for middle-aged Aga owners, The Daily Mail, were appalled. Just as they were appalled when it was revealed that international supermodel Kate Moss was photographed with a rolled-up twenty-spot protruding from her nostril, and just as they were appalled when Elton John revealed that he regularly spent upwards of £20,000 a year on flowers. It’s disgraceful isn’t it? What has society come to when mega-rich, mega-famous people behave in a self-indulgent manner?

Just a bit of baking soda...

Just a bit of baking soda…

Or more to the point, what has society come to when society disapproves of this kind of behaviour?

The majority of people in this country seem to live their lives vicariously through celebrity gossip magazines these days, which is an upsetting enough fact in itself, but the really sad thing is how unbelievably tame the lives of these so-called celebrities are that they want to read about.

Chantelle from Big Brother goes out for a jog with her post childbirth navel clearly visible and half a million people spit their morning crumpets out; Miley Cyrus thrusts her bottom at Robin Thicke and hundreds of thousands of fine china tea cups are dropped to the floor in shock; screamingly camp Olympic diver Tom Daly reveals he’s in a relationship with another man and Werther’s Originals block oesophaguses all over middle England. Is this what it takes to shock people in 2013? What a frightened, closeted little country we have become.

Nigella did a load of drugs, Kate Moss did a load of drugs and Elton realised that doing a load of drugs was going to kill him so he started wasting preposterous amounts of money in other ways. If you are famous, with bollock-loads of money and little or no responsibility, it is your duty to behave in this manner. Famous people should live these lifestyles because you and I, the down-trodden, miserable general public with our remote controls and alarm clocks and bus stops can’t live these lifestyles. Instead we’ve got Chris Martin, the lead singer in the biggest band in the world (it makes me want to shoot blood from my eyes to type that sentence) naming his child after a citrus fruit, wearing sensible jumpers and probably watching Last Of The Summer Wine on a Sunday tea time. What a fucking wanker. I hate to use this phrase again, but it was so much better before.

A challenge: name five Oliver Reed films.

It’s alright I’ll hang on…

You can’t can you? But you know who Oliver Reed is don’t you? He is the actor who is known for being an absolute drink and drug monster, and for doing this sort of thing over and over again on the telly.

This is how famous people used to behave all the time. Admittedly, not always on live TV, but they used to take it as their right to gorge themselves on whatever they saw fit, and sod the consequences. It seems the reason people want to become famous these days is to have their airbrushed faces and airbrushed lives plastered all over the front page of various “Celeb Gossip Mags,” earn a fortune in a few months and then disappear. Back in the day when the word celebrity essentially meant that you were going to be on the panel on Blankety Blank, the truly talented famous people would be on the front pages for the quality of their albums, films, or talents with a football. George Best for example, is one of the most beloved and revered footballers of all-time, but if you ask any veteran football journalist or even a member of your own family over the age of sixty, they’ll tell you that Best wasn’t even the best player at Man United, let alone the world. So why do we remember him over Bobby Charlton and Denis Law? I’ll tell you. It’s because Bobby Charlton was bald at twenty five and is the most sensible person in the world, and Denis Law looked like he should live under a bridge. George Best, on the other hand, was appallingly good-looking, incredibly stylish, drank like a fish and banged everything that moved. He knew how to be famous. He knew how to behave like a piece of scum.

You will never, ever be this cool. Sorry.

You will never, ever be this cool. Sorry.

I think a lot of the problem is that in this country we’re too afraid of being told off these days. Its the real Millenium Bug. There’s just too much exposure, what with the internet and all those computers. A year or so ago, Mario Balotelli (a genuinely insane superstar) walked into a sixth form college in Manchester and asked to use the toilet. Within seconds, two dozen eighteen year-olds had tweeted photos of him and it was all over the world. He asked to use the toilet in a college. In 1978, Freddie Mercury hosted a party at New York club Studio 54 at which a number of midgets circulated with sliver trays strapped to their heads, upon which were mountains of cocaine, from which guests would help themselves. Can you imagine if that got into the press these days? They would probably mention it in parliament.

In 2002, John Entwistle of The Who was found dead in a hotel room after a drugs binge with two high-rent prostitutes. Entwistle was known as “The Quiet One” in The Who.

One night in 1979, Elton John, unable to sleep in his New York penthouse, rang his agent and screamed “Can you do something about this bloody wind outside?”

In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a live bat onstage.

In 1995, to promote his HIStory album, Michael Jackson floated a fifty foot statue of himself down the Thames.

This actually happened.

This actually happened.

In 1998, Paul Gascoigne and Paul Merson played a game in which each of them would take a sleeping pill then drink a glass of wine. The winner would be the last one to stay awake.

In 2010, Keith Richards, aged 137, had amphetamine sulphate on toast for breakfast, then played a show in front of 60,000 people for the thousandth time.

And tragically, in 2011, Frankie Cocozza, aged 19, after six weeks on the X Factor, confessed that his life “had gone out of control” and he “just couldn’t hack it anymore.”

Poor lamb.

In closing, being famous has changed. It’s not about wanting to stuff yourself full of drink and drugs and behave ludicrously, it’s about wanting to have thirty sleazy tabloid photographers pointing their lenses at you whenever you leave your house because you are so desperate for attention. If the general public of 2013 want karaoke singers and celebrity chefs as their rock n roll stars then fair enough, but Nigella is deeply ashamed of her drug use. I remember a time when celebrity chefs used to do this:

I suppose I’ll just have to accept, as I dream of winning the lottery and dragging Fev, Lyndsay, Hoffs, Andy and Martyn to Las Vegas and diving, Scrooge McDuck-like into a lake of vodka, that old school fame has died. Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Keith Moon… this kind of star quality is almost obsolete these days. Notorious cainers such as Liam Gallagher and Charlie Sheen have become tabloid punchines, lacking the credibilty that they once had; Morrissey and Bono are too preachy and Joey Barton desperately needs someone to delete his twitter account. Only one person, in my opinion, carries that torch of genuine star quality in 2013. The one man who demands attention, debate, and opinion wherever he goes and whatever he does. Here he is guesting on popular Saturday evening family talent show The X Factor.

"Just a can of Red Bull, honestly..."

“Just a can of Red Bull, honestly…”

I love Robbie. He’s ace.

 

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

In Defence Of… Never Learning To Drive by Ryan Bracha

“There’s a Cockney midget down the front of my bus…”
‘Sorry, you didn’t get the job. We really needed somebody with a driver’s license,’ says the voice on the end of the phone as you slump onto the sofa.You let the phone go and rue another chance to better yourself. Then it passes. Ah well, you think to yourself, I would have been a crap taxi driver anyway.
Driving. Overrated. One of the most expensive things you’ll ever do. You’re putting yourself at the mercy of a thousand different idiots on the road every single day, including you. You’re getting slated by eco-turds for your carbon footprint, except you. Yeah you, eco-turd with your electric car. And don’t even get me started on the M62. Is it worth it? My answer is a resounding no. The benefits of not driving tend to outweigh those of being the proud owner of a pap pap, by about 38 to 1. That’s a real stat too. Seriously, please, give me a bus pass and some quality trainers every day of the week.
‘But Ryan, it’s the freedom to just pick up and go wherever, whenever,’ you’ll say, and I’ll retort ‘hold your horses there Shakira, what do you think your legs are for?!’
‘Public transport puts you at the mercy of unreliable time tables and you have to sit with all the nutters,’ you’ll counter, and sit back satisfied. You’ve just played your trump card. I’ll smile and say, ‘but that’s the beauty of it.’

Public transport is a mine of potential for adventure. For witnessing the real life carnage that is your town. Wherever you live. The cream of society gather together to travel in unison along pre-planned routes. Sometimes there’s a diversion along the way that half of the passengers aren’t aware of, and there’s unrest. A brave soul will venture to the plastic partition and quietly question the driver. What’s happening? Are you still going up Golden Smithies Lane? Can I just get off here? They’ll return to their seat, unsatisfied. Strangers will watch it play out and begin to crane their necks, eager to hear the news. He’s not stopping, everybody’s got 5 more minutes on their journey. Oh dear. Chaos. Ten people pull their phones out and ring work. They’re gonna be late. This is just the beginning of the fun.

The real fun starts with the characters. Take my bus to work for example. In a village called Brampton there gets on a bearded fella with cheap stretchy denim jeans and no belt. Into these jeans he tucks a John Cena or The Undertaker WWE t-shirt. He wears a tight sweaty cap, and a leather bum bag. An actual leather bum bag. He wears this to work. He’s about 40. I’m not judging him, far from it, but on those days when life’s getting me down I can look at that guy and think, ‘at least I’m not you.’

There’s this big fella who makes a habit of taking seats next to people, unfolding his Metro newspaper (that’s a whole other benefit to public transport, that paper. Quality publication) as wide as he can and then edging his massive arse further back into whoever he’s chosen to sit beside. Crushing them against the window. Blocking half of their view with the paper. Once, that happened to me. I never let it happen again. He got some well aimed elbows to the ribs for the whole trip. Don’t suffer fools gladly me, cocker.

There’s the two nerds at the back. Playing a loud game of one upmanship over how many maxed out characters they’ve levelled up on World of Warcraft. There’s the woman who demanded a window seat from a stranger, and got it. The unlucky in love southerner (‘She ended it because I wouldn’t sleep with her on the first date.’) who eyeballs every pretty young thing that clambers aboard. You don’t have to read his biography to know he falls in love twenty times a day. There’s the guy who sat next to me checking semi-naked men out on a local dating website at 7:15am. My personal favourite of the profiles he looked at was ‘Mr Well Hung’ from Doncaster. He looked like the kind of guy you could take home to your mum. These are just the people whose stories I’m reasonably well versed with because they choose to tell the whole bus on a daily basis, not even a slither of self awareness between the bunch of them.

I’m no different. I’m the kind of bloke you hate. I turn my music up full blast because I want you to know how cool my taste in audio pleasures is. I want you to recognise an obscure track and give me a nod of approval. I’m the one who drums onto his knees with his fingers because I want you to see that I’m rythmically blessed. That reminds me, I once saw a fella actually air guitaring to himself at the back of the bus. None of that subtle finger movement. We’re talking full blown thrashing. Why would you not want to witness that?

These are just small examples from a single bus that runs a single route in a single town at a specific time. Imagine the delights that are happening at the same time on a thousand other buses. The laughing maniac punching himself in the face in Chesterfield. The Barbie doll girl with the caked-in-makeup face using her own knockers as a chin rest in Halifax. The identical middle aged twins with the piggy laughs and matching jumpers in Grimsby. These are the people you miss out on when you’re trundling along in your self imposed solitary confinement, driving to wherever. These are the individually wrapped, funsize bites of entertainment that you’re denying yourself.

You, Mr or Mrs Car-Driver, your television is the road. In your soap opera the red lights do battle with your patience. You try to figure out what the hell that tenuous personalised license plate in front of you could mean. Radio One is the soundtrack. Your thoughts are the narrator. And you’re spending almost £1.50 a litre for the privilege. And you look at me with some sort of pity when I inform you that I never bothered learning to drive, like I’m a Children in Need video appeal for those less privileged than yourself. I wouldn’t worry yourself there, kiddo. I’m good where I am. This shoe-less urchin would rather mingle with the others. Get down and dirty in the place where the magic happens. So no, don’t pity me and my lack of driving skill. I’m over the chuffing moon with my lot. How many of the drivers among you will ever in your lifetime, have the opprtunity to say “there’s a Cockney midget down at the front of my bus,”? In Barnsley? It happened to me once, I thought all of my Christmasses had come at once. I didn’t shut up about it for days. That’s the kind of stuff that dreams are made of.

These are my inspiration in my writing life. These are my muses. These are the people that fascinate me. I’m not interested really in the mafia don, or the career criminal when I tell my stories. I enjoy reading about them, for sure, but when I write I want to tell the stories of the man you pass in the street without so much as a blink in his direction. I want to make his reality so bizarre that you can’t help but laugh. These characters on my bus make me proud. They’re the under educated. They’re the underdog. They swear and drink and smoke. They lack as much self awareness as well as they do personal hygiene. But by Lucifer’s beard they’re entertaining, and they’re what make climbing aboard the peasant wagon the pleasure that it is.

About me:

Ryan BrachaRyan Bracha is the Barnsley-based best selling author of Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed Yet, and Tomorrow’s Chip Paper. His latest work, Bogies, and other tales of love, lust, drugs and grandad porn, is released on Sunday 1st December, and is a collection of stories about mad, bad, and downright bizarre characters in the North of England. He has a wife, two cats, and no driving license.

Grow Up David by Paul Featherstone

I read with some curiosity this week as David Cameron was once again given a dressing down by the Speaker Of The House Of Commons for his comments towards a fellow MP during PMQ’s (as the kids call it).

The Labour MP Michael Meacher had asked a seemingly innocuous question regarding research that had shown the UK had even fallen behind developing countries such as Mali in terms of business investment. The response by David Cameron was to (yawn-inducingly and tenuously) link it to the Paul Flowers/Co-op scandal by asking if Meacher had been using mind-altering drugs.

Quite rightly Cameron was forced to withdraw the comment but rather than just moving on he sought to defend it by saying that it is important that parliament doesn’t lose it’s sense of humour and “light-hearted banter”.

If there was ever a sentence that summed up how completely idiotic and out of touch this Government and their leader are, then that is hard to beat. We live in a time when the British public is losing more and more faith in the electoral system. Mere weeks ago Russell Brand was given the platform on Newsnight to openly encourage the youth of this nation to turn their backs on the democratic system that they are so lucky to have in place.

To then stand there and declare that genuine political debate should be replaced with smirking jibes not only exposes the Old Etonian values of Cameron and his ilk, but it also further disengages the electorate at a time their patience is wearing thin.

Cameron, of course, has a track record of this sort of thing- telling female MP’s to “calm down dear” being another fine moment. It sometimes makes me wonder if he and his party are openly seeking to piss off the average voter so much that all that is left is Tory voters? It certainly seems to be working to an extent if he is, as his Government snuck in the side entrance last time due to voter apathy and no clear majority.

If though, the youth of this country continue to see these laughing idiots on their TV point scoring as they sit on the sofa with no real hope of ever getting a job in the near future, that will then be a devastating legacy to the democratic process in this country and motivating it’s inhabitants to get up and give a shit about something or anything.

I read this week about the case of a man who was being forced to pay Bedroom Tax for a room he was being forced to keep his kidney dialysis machine in. He had resorted to selling his only thing of value to pay the tax, his treasured grand piano. The money has now run out as his dialysis is ongoing.

In the midst of this, we have Cameron and Osborne sat in the House Of Commons like privately educated Chuckle Brothers oblivious to the human cost of their policies. One would hope such things would stoke the fire in people to remove them at the next available opportunity, but you suspect people are so beaten down by the grins that emit from their TV’s they have just given up trying to win the war.

If Cameron genuinely seeks to defend Parliament and its values he needs to grow up and fast. He has shown rare glimpses of the integrity to do so when he accepted the vote of MP’s to not intervene in Syria, but for every action like this he is undoing it all week in, week out with his playground exploits.

It is a time where the country is in genuine need of someone to find a solution to the grim future that we are facing, not a smug weekly edition of a panel show and it’s time this Government started taking the job in hand a little more seriously.

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff