What would be on your family playlist? (And what’s the best-known Beatles song?)

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To celebrate the recent launch of the iPhone 6 handset and its family sharing functionalities (you can now share purchase from iTunes with up to 6 people in your family), I was asked to compile a family playlist and, honestly, I got quite excited. I love a playlist, me, and I make them for each of my books and also for different moods and experiences (currently also compiling both Halloween and Christmas playlists).

UnknownOne of the things I love about iTunes is that I can have books and music and TV shows and films all in the one place, so it’s perfect for a family playlist. In fact, the most-played music on there is Phineas & Ferb. That’s not me. (Apart from Love Handle’s You Snuck Your Way Right Into My Heart. I love that one.)

The boys have also been asking a lot about The Beatles, so we’ve been listening to quite a few of their songs too. In fact, Harry asked me what the most famous Beatles song is. Not the best, but the best-known. Any idea? I think it’s Yellow Submarine. David said Yesterday (which hadn’t occurred to me) and Help, All You Need Is Love and Let It Be have all been suggested.

Remember when I asked for recommendations for Harry’s ‘musical education’ playlist? We still listen to that too. We actually need to add some more for Joe…

imagesFilm-wise, both boys are a bit obsessed with Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – they’ve seen the original, but prefer the remake (sigh) – and have watched it over and over. Also on the playlist is Despicable Me, which none of us ever gets tired of watching (“Curse you, tiny toilet!”). I’m about to download Out of Sight because I haven’t seen it for years and George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez are at their sexiest. No, it’s not family-friendly, but you know what they say, if mum’s happy…

mightybThe TV shows section of my iTunes is like a wander through the boys’ TV obsessions over the past few years. From Teletubbies to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Peppa Pig to Horrible Histories and the Wallace & Gromit Collection. Plus a couple of Peanuts specials forced on them by me (they made me nostalgic when I was a kid, I can hardly bear them now!). One of the most recent additions is Amy Poehler’s animated series, The Mighty B!, which is anarchic and hilarious.

UnknownThe Radio 4 sitcom Cabin Pressure is, I think, essential for a family playlist. For a while, the boys listened to an episode before bed (actually, so did I) and flying back from holiday recently, they both got very excited when ‘cabin pressure’ was mentioned as part of the safety demonstration, thinking that perhaps Martin, Douglas, Carolyn and Arthur were on board. (Almost as excited as I’d have been had Benedict Cumberbatch been on board. But I doubt he flies Ryanair much.)

What’s on your family playlist? 

Lips like clouds: confessions of a Brosette

Since Bros are in the news, I thought I’d repost this. It was originally published on Dollymix in 2007 (2007!). If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll have seen this (probably more than once). Sorry about that – I’ve added some photos, if that helps…

Before coming clean about my particular brand of boy band obsession, it was suggested I might like to introduce Bros for the benefit of those who may not have heard of them (imagine that!). They were twins, Matt and Luke Goss and their school friend Craig Logan. They were massively successful pretty quickly and then suffered an enormous fall from grace which included court cases, bankruptcy, ill-health and exile. Between 1988 and 1991, they (particularly Matt) were pretty much all I thought about…

It was always known as “following” Bros, but I’ve no idea why. Some fans “followed” – the fans that had cars; for us pedestrian fans a more accurate description would have been “loitering” or “impeding the public highway” which is what the police often threatened to charge us with. I suppose “freezing your arse off for no reason waiting for Bros” doesn’t sound quite as interesting. And it wasn’t.

Scanned Image 7
The day I moved to London, October 1989. That’s me in the red, with the blue camera.

But why do it at all? I have no idea. It was just something I fell into. I liked Bros, I wanted to meet them, I went to London for a concert and met people who’d been to their houses and had met them and told exciting tales of chatting and hugging and snogging aplenty with Matt, who had “lips like clouds”. This sounded good to me. Funnily enough they hadn’t told me tales of police “harassment”, the terrorisation of anyone new by certain other fans, the long-suffering neighbours chucking buckets of water out of windows and the almost interminable waiting and numerous disappointments before this chatting and hugging and snogging could take place.

The die was cast the very first time I went to Matt’s Maida Vale mansion block, Clive Court, and joined about thirty other “Brosettes” in the road at the back of the flat (he very rarely came out of the front). I’d only been there about half an hour when a frisson ran through the throng and everyone began a slow and mock-casual advance toward the back door. I managed to squeeze myself into a prime position and looked up to see the man I had been dreaming about for just over a year sauntering down the path. He progressed about thirty feet, I took about fifteen photographs (if I had the urge I could easily make a “The First Time I Met Matt Goss” flick-book) and then he was standing right in front of me. I murmured, “Can I have a kiss, please?” and he kissed me. On the lips. And they were right. His lips were like clouds. He got into his car and was away. He hadn’t said a word, nor had he smiled, but I was hooked.

PicMonkey Collage
Do you remember the first time?

Perhaps if, that very first time, I had waited twelve hours in the snow and not even seen his curtain twitch – as was to happen more often than not in the future – I would never have bothered going again. But I doubt it. I knew of a way to meet him and I don’t think anything would have discouraged me. But two years later I was discouraged. God, was I discouraged.

In three years I spent – approximately you understand, allowing for illness (though that didn’t always keep me away) and holidays (I only had one) and Christmases – four thousand, eight hundred and sixty hours waiting for Matt Goss (yes, I worked it out). And four hours, at the very most, actually chatting hugging and/or snogging him.

There were good times. He once told us he was off to Hyde Park and we all leapt on the bus. In the park he played us a couple of the new Bros tracks and lay around sunbathing with us. And he once invited us to follow him by taxi to the Embankment at about 3am where we chatted, and he looked at a photograph of me when I was about four years old and said I was cute. And once he turned up on the Kings Road where we just happened to be shopping and weren’t even looking for him. And, er… Well, trust me, there were good times.

Hyde Park. Oh yes.
Hyde Park. Oh yes.

And it was these good times that caused the problem. It would be terrible, boring, cold, for weeks on end. We’d catch glimpses of him getting into his car and his hand waving out of the window as he sped past. And I’d start to think, maybe I won’t do this anymore, maybe there isn’t much point, maybe there isn’t as much snogging as I was originally led to believe. And then there’d be a good day. And I’d think, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that. My Matt, love of my life, thinks I was cute when I was four. My life now has meaning. Well, not quite, but you get the drift.

PicMonkey Collage

Or the worst could happen. One day you’d wake up and think, I won’t bother going today – it’ll be shit as usual. You’d have a day behaving like a normal human being and then, just before bed, the phone would ring. And it would be your best friend. Who hadn’t spent the day behaving like a normal human being. She had in fact spent the day playing Rounders with Matt Goss at Virginia Water, and he’d bought her an ice cream, and dipped his finger in and dabbed it on her nose. And her life had meaning. And yours didn’t.

And it was this that kept me going for three years. For three years I would sit outside Clive Court in the freezing cold, pouring rain, baking sun (although I mostly remember the cold) – bored senseless, waiting, longing for the day when Matt Goss from Bros would dab ice cream on my nose.

A toot from the past: Kool & the Gang at Live Aid

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked for this online. Actually, I probably could – it’s not that many, I’ve got a job (sort of) – but finally someone has put it on YouTube.

Skip to 4 minutes (unless you really like Cherish) and watch the trumpet player as he gets his big moment and can’t understand why nothing’s coming out of his trumpet. I watched this over and over immediately after Live Aid – I thought it was utterly hilarious, particularly when he manages one small squeak.

(I didn’t find it anywhere near as funny as I did when I was 14, but I’m still very happy to see it again.)

Wendy James was ahead of her time

My online friend Stuart tweeted a link to this video of Transvision Vamp’s Wendy James on Going Live and indeed pointed out how ahead of her time she was, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until just now and it’s amazing. She starts off saying she doesn’t usually wear knickers (and Sarah Greene neither gets flustered nor apologises, as would no doubt be the case now) and goes on to talk about feminism and the environment. In 1991.

I worked with* Wendy James around 93/94, I think, and she was absolutely lovely. I was scared of her before I met her (I was pretty much scared of everyone back then, but she had such a tough image), but she surprised me by being a total sweetheart: kind, funny and completely down to earth (she once asked us to book a flight for her, and my boss – who felt very maternal towards her – told her she should know how to do it herself, so made Wendy do it under our supervision. Wendy was – or seemed to be – completely fine with this, grateful, in fact). I wish I hadn’t been such a nervous wreck – maybe I would’ve got to know her better, god knows I could’ve learned a lot from her back then.

Also, I really miss Going Live…

Interview starts at around 6 mins.

* I worked in a music business accountants and she was one of my “client roster”.

Is this the most 80s pop video evah?

I had a brief obsession with Sam Harris (in 1984, I mean, not lately) and was reminded of his existence yesterday. I didn’t notice at the time how much Sugar Don’t Bite (“you know I’m a bleeder” just made me laugh out loud) rips off Papa Don’t Preach. Also? How utterly ridiculous the whole thing is. But BRILLIANTLY so. It’s got everything! Anyone else remember him?

I think I first saw him on Wogan doing this

which completely blew me away at the time. Obviously, I loved a tiny, frosty-haired, melodramatic man in his dad’s dressing gown. Now he rather reminds me of Bobby Davro doing a Liza Minnelli impersonation. (Which I think Bobby Davro actually did do when I saw him supporting Barry Manilow. I’m not making this up. I wish I was.) Also, PLEASE watch to (or from) 1:40. The big finish has to be seen/heard to be believed.

October 2006: Watch out, watch out

Jarvis Cocker edited last Sunday’s Observer Music Monthly and it included a fantastic piece about unintentionally scary songs.

Suggestions included Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire thanks to the lyric, ‘Hey little girl is your daddy home?’ Billy Bragg apparently called it ‘the rapist’s song’. Ugh. And some really disturbing music/murder connections which I won’t repeat here cos they’re too horrible.

Ultravox’s Dancing With Tears in My Eyes is suggested and that would have to be one of mine too. Scared the crap out of me due to ever-present teenage nuclear war paranoia (thanks to that sodding Protect & Survive campaign). Two Tribes for the same reason. Still can’t hear that siren and ‘if your grandmother or any other member of your family should die whilst in the shelter, put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes’ without wanting to burst into tears.

There’s an in-between bit on Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation album where you hear snatches of different TV or radio channels and (and I haven’t heard it for a long time, so you’ll have to excuse the vagueness) there’s something about a school shooting and in my mind you hear children screaming (though you might not really). I remember listening to that album on my walkman, while on a National Express overnight coach that had stopped for a driver break in a dark garage in Birmingham. Earlier I’d been reading one of the True Crime magazines I was into at the time. The combination gave me a right nervy episode that I don’t like to think about even now.


Hey Matthew by Karel Fialka – god, just got total shivers thinking of that ‘The A-Team, The A-Team, I see the A-Team’ bit.

– In fact, anything with children singing. Grocer Jack, which was on an album we used to play when I worked in Waterstone’s. That one from The Lost Boys.

The Humphrey Song by the Mad Hatters. “Watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out … there’s a Humphrey about!”

Puff the Magic Dragon makes me cry. Well, it would if I ever listened to it, but I get shivers just thinking about it so I don’t.

Bright Eyes is more creepy/upsetting than scary (probably linked to the fact that I had to be carried weeping out of a school showing of Watership Down). Also We Are Siamese from The Aristocats.

Jeez. After all that I’m going to have to go and not lie down in a very bright room.

So what are yours then?