Tag Archives: Top of the Pops

They Fuck You(r Musical Tastes) Up, Your Mum and Dad (with apologies to Philip Larkin)

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen

Artist: Andy Stewart

Although no version of the song is referred to in Skagboys, my internal jukebox immediately began to play the version by the famous (in certain circles) Scottish balladeer, Andy Stewart. I suppose that’s because I must have heard it so often on the radio programmes my mother and father used to enjoy because I don’t believe we ever had it on a record. But it’s remarkable that when I hear the song title, 45 years later, I can hear the voice and remember at least the first couple of lines of Stewart’s rendition.

Just a couple of months ago my daughter was horrified when I pointed out that she was singing along with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go You Own Way,” a song she professes (along with the band’s entire catalogue) to despise.

Nothing changes.


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Familiarity breeds disinterest

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Artist: The Four Lads

Last November, Paris was the target of a terrorist attack and the world responded with a flood of tricolors. Last week Istanbul was the target of a terrorist attack. I failed to notice any instances of Facebook users generating a profile pic overlaid with red and the white crescent and star of the iconic Turkish banner. Yesterday, Dhaka in Bangladesh was the target of a terrorist attack. I haven’t seen any profile pics being overlaid with green and the red disc of the rather less familiar Bangladeshi flag. I wonder why that is. Are those places just not as sexy or evocative as Paris for many people, Americans especially, or are these attacks, like the mass-murders by gunmen in the US becoming so commonplace that people don’t have the time or inclination for the Paris-like outpouring of Facebook emotions?

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Jim Morrison is Dead and So is Elvis

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Riders on the Storm

Artist: the Doors

Jim Morrison was only 27 when he died. Never ceases to shock me when I re-read that.

Leaping forward in my reading many, many months into your future, though not mine since I’ve already read it, I revisited Stephen King’s “The Stand” recently. There’s a great little vignette in the book where a character tells the story of encountering a mysteriously familiar figure at a small petrol station in rural West Texas at which he worked part-time. Having fumbled with that unexpected familiarity for a while this gas station cowboy realized he’d just sold fuel and sundries to the living, breathing Jim Morrison. In that universe, he’d obviously faked his own death and burial. I’d bet that everyone who reads that scene for the first time expects it to be Elvis. I did. Apart from it being an unexpected gem buried in the epic novel which manages to be more eerie in those few pages than the entire premise of the book—a plague-emptied America becoming the stage for a classic good v evil contest—I like it for that – it dodges the obvious. It strikes me as I write this, though, that Elvis may not even have been dead when King wrote the novel (or this part of it). It was first published in 1978, a year or so following Elvis’ death, but he’d been writing it for several years.

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Will Daft Punk Please Make Themselves Known to a Steward?

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: White Lines

Artist: Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel

I’d love to see Daft Punk get their hands on this one – it’s tailor made for them to unleash their helmet-tinged, electronic sorcery on.

I learned when Googling this song that Grandmaster Flash played no part on this record and that one of the lines is about John DeLorean. To return to a recent theme, Ireland did kind of claim DeLorean too because he built his cars in Belfast. Then we didn’t because he became a disgrace. We have enough of them of our own without having to claim other countries’.


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Not Too Shy for that Hair

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Too Shy

Artist: Kajagoogoo


The Irish nation never claimed Kajagoogoo. We had U2 by then. And that hairstyle?


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Will Ireland Claim Donald Trump?

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Claire

Artist: Gilbert O’Sullivan

It’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time … six months fly by, don’t they?

Anyway, I’m bound to have already mentioned the fact that Ireland in the 1970s was a miserable place on a macro level and—outside of the Eurovision Song Contest—a generally, though not always, parochial place on a musical level. When Gilbert O’Sullivan emerged from that gloom in the very early years of that decade with a few hit songs in England—”Alone Again,” “Get Down,” and this one, “Clair”—it quickly emerged that he was Irish.

Ireland’s gotten very adept in the years since at claiming a lot of non-Irish-born celebrities for herself. It may be the attempt of a small country to draw attention to itself or a reaction to the English media’s annoying habit of claiming Irish celebrities of pop culture and sport as one of their own (they do it with the Scots, too) but, in any case, we do it a lot. Every time for example, a new US president is elected, there’s an immediate scramble to locate his (his, so far) Irish ancestry. Not sure it there’ll be such a rush if the Republican nominee (presumptive) in 2016 is elected.

Back to the Gilbert, though, he was a real Irishman – didn’t matter that he left “home” when he was just seven, he was one of us. He had nice songs. he was Irish, and he was on Top of the Pops. Didn’t take much to make us happy back then.

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Here There Be Dragoons

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: Amazing Grace

Composer: John Newton

I was raised a Catholic. I think there are hymns that Catholics sing and there are hymns that Protestants (of all varieties) sing and sometimes ne’er the twain shall meet. At least that’s the situation I perceived in the Ireland of the early 1970s. My mother was in the local choir so I was used to hearing hymns sung around the house all the time. She sang a lot – not just hymns – but Amazing Grace was, as far as I recall (and we now know that my powers of recollection are not to be wholly trusted), a hymn that was never heard in our house.

So the first time I heard it was in 1972 when, somewhat bizarrely, it became a number one hit single in England and was heard on that bastion of pop-ness, Top of the Pops. What makes the story even odder is that the chart-topping version was an instrumental rendition performed by the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – a cavalry regiment of the British Army. Clearly the enmity between much of Ireland and the British Army at that juncture of our history was cast aside for that period since it also reached number one in Ireland. Astonishingly it was only five years later that the bagpipes featured in another huge number one in England – but that was another band and another story.

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