7 Songs From My Youth

October 15, 2015

First posted on Facebook, as a series of seven daily posts.

Day 1.

I’ve been nominated by JFH, a long-lost friend from university days, to take part in ‪#‎musikchallenge‬: seven songs from my youth, posted over a week. Here’s my first choice: a song I fell obsessively in love with, shortly after my twelfth birthday. Or rather, it’s two songs, contrasting but inseparably linked. The first is inspired by a painting; the second is a miniature lament. Both are exquisitely put together, with a level of invention and craft that I had never heard before. Thus began my six-month journey from glam to prog.

Day 2.

For Day 2, I’ve skipped past prog and gone straight to punk. Some historical context for you: having signed to CBS records, who had promised them full artistic control, The Clash were pissed off that the label had released Remote Control – one of the lesser tracks from their debut album – as their second single, without consulting the band. “Our next single will be called COMPLETE Control”, they snarled.

And so it came to pass. Produced by Lee Perry, pioneer of dub reggae, the track journeys from petulance to paranoia, climaxing with an exultant roar of defiance. For me, it’s their finest single. (And then they released an under-par follow-up and an iffy second album, at which point I lost interest, hey ho.)

Please play this with as much volume as your circumstances will allow!

Day 3.

It’s Day 3 of ‪#‎musikchallenge‬: seven songs from my youth, all of which I fell obsessively in love with. For me, Blondie’s Dreaming absolutely captures a time, a place and a renewed state of mind, as I emerged from a thoroughly ghastly adolescence and began to enjoy being a teenager at last. I felt carefree, newly connected to the world outside of my own head, full of optimism for what lay ahead – and this song, more than any other, provided the perfect soundtrack.

Day 4.

For Day 4, I’ve chosen one of the many songs from my “formative” years that allowed me to wallow in my youthful angst, of which there was more than plenty. But in this case, I felt that the singer (Howard Devoto) wasn’t just indulging in self-denigrating self-pity, but that he was also mocking himself for doing so, in a sardonic, almost self-glorifying way. And so, even as I wallowed along with him, I could smile at myself in the process. (Oh, and there’s a killer bassline too, from the wonderful Barry Adamson.)

Day 5.

It’s Day 5 of ‪#‎musikchallenge‬, and we’ve reached the “shared student house off Derby Road” years. I wanted to pick something that JFH and I would have danced to – probably at the Babel club on Huntingdon Street, which for some strange reason became our favourite bopping shop until the much cooler Asylum opened in late 1982 – but the main reason for my obsessive love of this song was its almost comically overblown romantic idealism, which matched my own state of mind with pinpoint accuracy. I had started coming out to friends, but was still a few months away from taking my first timid steps onto the Nottingham gay scene. In the meantime, I pined – and “The Look Of Love” was tailor-made for pining.

Day 6.

For Day 6, I’m back in West Berlin, dancing till dawn on Sunday mornings at the vast Metropol club in Nollendorfplatz: anonymous in the crowd, streaks in my hair, lasers in my eyes, “room odorisers” wafting through the air around me, still a little over-awed by the whole spectacle. Of the many club tracks that soundtracked my coming of age on the gay scene, this one hung around for longer than most – I must have heard it almost every weekend for well over a year – and although it might sound cheesy to modern ears, it had a particularly intense energy rush that drew me into the middle of the floor, time after time.

Day 7.

It’s now April 1985. I’m back from my year in Berlin, and edging towards my final exams at Nottingham University. I’ve not listened to many guitar bands of late, but a new crop of twangy, retro-tinged Americans have caught my ear: Los Lobos, Jason and the Scorchers, R.E.M… and The Long Ryders, who have just released a single, I Had A Dream. It’s my absolute favourite track of the moment, with a concluding instrumental break that’s shiver-inducingly powerful.

The Long Ryders are touring the UK, and they’ve booked a Friday night date in the compact, low-ceilinged, super-humid basement of The Garage, a nightclub in the Lace Market. I go down there with Dymbel and his good pal, the late DS. We head for the front, inches away from the band, and thrash about wildly – it’s a great gig.

The following night, in another nightclub, I meet K; we’ve been a couple ever since. During that time, I’ve fallen in love with countless more songs, and I’ve yet to lose my enthusiasm for discovering fresh new music. But as much as I still value music as a central part of my life, I don’t think I’m anywhere near as obsessive in my attachment to specific tracks: playing them over and over again for weeks – or even months – on end, as if nothing matters more in life.

So let’s leave me here, on my last night as a single young man: slicked in sweat and slopped lager, and leaping around to a slamming new band, wholly unaware of how fundamentally his life was about to change. Thanks to JFH for suggesting that I take this ride, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the tunes!


Who are the longest running UK bloggers?

July 30, 2014

Since my Twitter feed is currently getting jammed up with @replies on this topic, let’s take the subject to a more appropriate platform.

In order to qualify, bloggers need to be a) based in the UK, b) still blogging now, c) with all their archives still in one place (so multiple URLs are still allowed).

Cut-off date: February 2002.

Please let us know of any omissions!

(Update: I’m getting progressively more relaxed about c), as you’ll see below.)

12 March 1999 – Giles Turnbull

21 May 1999 – Lindsay Marshall: Bifurcated Rivets

10 June 1999 – Gordon McLean (under various blog titles)

January 2000 – Meg Pickard (formerly not.so.soft and meish, last updated June 2013, old archives set to private)

26 February 2000 – Robyn Wilder (formerly Orbyn, no old archives)

4 March 2000 – Darren: Linkmachinego

early March 2000 – Ann Carrier: Pixeldiva (not updated since February 2014)

7 March 2000 – John Robinson: Sore Eyes

15 March 2000 – Phil Gyford (see also Phil’s comment on The Haddock Directory, which started in 1996)

20 March 2000 – Jez Higgins: The Coffee Grounds

26 March 2000 – Tom Ewing: Freaky Trigger (formerly New York London Paris Munich)

29 April 2001 – Masher: Masher.tv (formerly Masher’s Blog) (older archives missing)

16 May 2000 – Mo Morgan (some long hiatuses, archives incomplete)

31 May 2000 – Nick Jordan (archives incomplete)

3 June 2000 – Cal Henderson: iamcal.com (not updated since February 2014)

25 September 2000 – Graybo: Grayblog

3 October 2000 – Brooke Magnanti (formerly methylsalicylate and Belle De Jour, no old archives)

15 October 2000 – Vaughan Simons: An Unreliable Witness (formerly Wherever You Are, last public post November 2013, all later entries currently set to private)

12 January 2001 – Alan Taylor: Oddverse (formerly Disconnected Zeitgeist)

12 January 2001 – Simon Hayes Budgen: No Rock and Roll Fun

1 February 2001 – Jonathan Green: Overyourhead

4 July 2001 – Matilda: Matilda The Cat

11 July 2001 – Julian Bond: Voidstar

late  July 2001 – Anna Pickard: Little Red Boat

29 July 2001 – Stuart Ian Burns: Feeling Listless

29 July 2001 – Dave Kennamatic: Blogging Up The Works (formerly Kennamatic)

12 September 2001 – Karen/Erzsebel: Uborka / Rise

October 2001 – Mark Sinker: hashtag tashlan (formerly radio free narnia)

30 October 2001 – Mike Atkinson: Troubled Diva (many long hiatuses in recent years!)

6 November 2001 – Perry de Havilland & Natalie Solent (and others): Samizdata

January 2002 – Hg: Hydragenic (archives wiped until 2004)

4 January 2002 – Marcello Carlin (formerly The Church Of Me)

16 January 2002 – Sasha Frieze: Sashinka (last updated September 2013)

5 February 2002 – Gert: Gertsamtkunstwerk (formerly Mad Musings Of Me)

6 February 2002 – Alastair Coleman: Scaryduck

27 February 2002 – Arseblog (based outside the UK, but British content)

Stuff what I wrote in 2013

January 3, 2014













It’s all good.

January 1, 2014

Karen at Uborka asked:

Looking back, what was so great about 2013?

This was my reply.

2013 was a landmark year. After years of struggle, K escaped from a ghastly work situation, and entered a hard-earned new phase of fulfilment, security and freedom. I haven’t seen him so happy in years. This cushioned the blow of my redundancy, which would have been a disaster even a year earlier, but which in turn set me free.

2014 will be another year of massive change, as we leave Nottingham and Derbyshire, and relocate to a dream home in a beautiful part of the world. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead, but I can’t remember the last time I felt so optimistic at the start of a new year. It’s all good.


Uborka Friday Cocktail Orders.

September 9, 2011

Humbled by your collective self-effacement, I have waivered the PIMP YER STUFF rule. And in accordance with @merialc’s request, all cocktails will contain added flecks of gold.

Please collect your orders from the bar. Your ambient cocktail-sipping soundtrack can be found here.

For me: a Long Island Iced Tea, in memory of my happy sojourn in Manila last year.

For @erzsebel: a Bloody Mary. Her choice has something to do with wasps. I have no idea why, as I have always left entomological matters to my civil partner @ktd (a former expert on the subject).

For @Gert: “one of those champagne and Guinness things”. Black Velvet, I believe. I apologise for the lack of Alannah Myles on the mix CD.

For @gordon: a Peartini. I’ve always been more of a lychee-tini man myself, but each to his own.

For @helen_kara: a Margarita, fit for a domestic goddess.

For @graybouk: a vodka, lime and soda. GRAYBOQUOTE: “I love the way that my tune has two listeners – I’m so proud!”

For @uwitness: a Lomg Slow Domestos Up Against The Wall, with ice and iron filings. So much classier than these modern-day Vim-based alternatives.

And finally, for @TrailDragon: a large flaming Sambuca, to wash away the insipid taste of the carrots on which he has been chomping. Just don’t start playing THE SAMBUCA GAME, alright?

The year has been 2004, the blogging has been Second Wave Pre-Book Deal Old School, and I’ve been Troubled Diva Mike. I now return you to your regular hiatus. Cheers!

Uborka Friday Cocktails

September 9, 2011

HIATUS BREAKER ALERT! Following a special dispensation from @erzsebel, I am opening the bar for UBORKA COCKTAILS, for THIS AFTERNOON ONLY.

However, drinks orders will only be accepted if you PIMP YER STUFF, either on the Twitter or in this comments box. Update: I have waivered this rule, on grounds of inappropriateness to the era of British blogging which this post references.

Orders will be totted up, and drinks doled out, at 16:45 UK time.

NOTE: If you haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m on about, then please resume the default “Troubled Diva on Indefinite Blogging Hiatus” position.


Friends and “friends”.

January 13, 2011

Earlier this week, The Guardian ran a think-piece entitled “Friendship, Facebook-style. Are social networking sites promoting devalued, impermanent relationships?” It reminded me of similar observations which I made (while in the grip of an uncommonly sour, grumpy mood, and rather too long-windedly, as was my habit) on my old blog, nearly four years ago.

(If pressed for time, and aren’t we all these days, skip to the third section, just below the second horizontal rule. The rest is ancient history.)

It’s a shame that my old commenting system packed up, as I remember quite a lot of people disagreeing with me, and I’d like to check back. I wonder whether anyone’s opinions have changed since then?


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