Friday, December 6, 2019


OK, just a quick one, mainly because I cannot believe we have got this far in a thread themed 'Family' with no mention of Leicester's finest, um, Family. A quick rustle back through the back pages and it seems they don't get any mention in any other category at all. How can this be? Surely the sandpaper gargled vocals of Roger "Chappo" Chapman translate to more than any purely eurocentric vibe? Please tell me so.

So, if in doubt, go wiki, and it looks not, their US peak being with an inwithabullet 177 in the Billboard album charts, with 'Fearless', in 1977. What a shame, what a loss, as, when good, they were very very good. OK, and yes, when they were bad they were horrid, but that wasn't often. We're talking 1968 to 73. Very few bands achieved all killer, no filler.

No time for a history lesson, but I guess one issue was their inability to be pigeon holed within any one genre, hopping from style to style almost song to song, combined with an ever-changing membership that could include standard guitar, bass, drums with violin, vibraphone, trumpet. You name it and they probably did, encompassing rock, folk, jazz, funk, prog. The lot. All carried by the incomparable vocals of Chapman. Have some hits. And, if you can't be arsed, fer chrissakes, at least listen to Burlesque, the dirtiest bit of sleazy funk this side of Sleazyfunktown in Sleazyfunktownshire.

The Weaver/s Answer (1970)

In My Own Time (1971)

Burlesque (1972)

My Friend the Sun (1973)

After they split asunder in the early 1970s, Chapman and guitarist, Charlie Witney, carried on for a while as (Chapman-Witney) Streetwalkers, with, I guess, even less acclaim. Chappo then became, 'big in Germany', that country always retaining an enduring love for the knights in blue denim of 60s into 70s UK rock. ( And, yes, to save your navigation, Family do get a shout.) Astonishingly, after a mere gap of 40 years, a version of the band reformed, Chappo, no Witney, and they play, sporadically to this day, alongside Chappo's solo project, Roger Chapman and the Shortlist. (I wanna ticket!!!)

Burlesque (2013)

At least now if anyone searches 'Family' on this site, up will come the band, and that, say I, is as it jolly well should be.

Burlesque: you know you want it!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Family: We’re A Happy Family

The Ramones: We’re A Happy Family

After a few prog-related posts in a row, we need a little punk palate cleanser, right? Sort of like how during a Thanksgiving dinner filled with heavy foods, you need something tart to shake things up. Which may be the first time anyone compared The Ramones to cranberry sauce.

Although this Family theme was designed to relate to the gathering of relatives during the Thanksgiving season, my two song selections have taken a little different approach. Last week, I wrote about a man contemplating patronizing a prostitute, but who ultimately passes, somewhat reluctantly, because he’s a family man. Today’s song, from possibly The Ramones’ best album, Rocket To Russia, is a satirical look at a dysfunctional family, featuring a closeted drug dealing father, a pill-addict mother, and a neglected, fly-eating sick baby, all of whom eat refried beans. This is nothing at all like my family, although when I was born, my mother and father and I did live in Queens, about 4 or 5 miles away from where The Ramones hailed from.

I’ve now been blogging long enough that I can’t remember if I’ve ever discussed how lucky I feel that my family, for the most part, gets along. This year, we had a relatively small Thanksgiving—my wife and I, our widowed mothers, my sister and her daughter, and my brother. Over the years our family table at various holidays have included my son and daughter-in-law (who were celebrating with her parents), said daughter-in-law’s parents (which gives me a chance to link to this again), my late father and father-in-law, my expat daughter, my siblings’ former spouses (and then their occasional “plus ones”), my sister’s son (off serving in Americorps), my brother’s kids (celebrating this year with their mother’s family), and occasionally some others.

It is always a fun time. There is, of course, laughter, good food, football (including sometimes of the European version) on the TV, a Thanksgiving-themed playlist created by the family music blogger, and, of course discussions, sometimes even of politics.

My college friend David Campt is an expert in fostering dialogues—his company is named “The Dialogue Company,” so it must be true. He travels the country trying to help people with different views engage in constructive discussions, often about race, but not exclusively. I hope that the pre-Thanksgiving interactive piece he co-wrote on The New York Times’ website about how to successfully engage family members with different views prevented bad feelings, broken crockery and spilled gravy at some dinner tables last week. But I count myself lucky that this isn’t an issue with my family—we run the gamut from liberal to very liberal, and there isn’t a MAGA hat in anyone’s closet.

And while that may result in a relatively drama-free Thanksgiving (assuming that I don’t either burn the turkey or start cooking it too slowly), it does ratchet down the stress level a lot. Which is nice, because even though my wife and I have been hosting Thanksgiving for our family for a while now, there are a lot of moving pieces, including a number of dishes that only get cooked once a year (including the all-important bird), so I’m glad that I don’t have to get into a debate with a Trump acolyte, knowing full well that I would eventually forget everything that I learned from David Campt, and revert to my more litigious bent.

So, I’m glad that I really do have a happy family, even without gulping down any Thorazines.

Sunday, December 1, 2019


What could reflect the joy and terror of families better than a wedding, especially after a few gargles have been downed? It was only during the penning of my last piece I realised how little these pages have featured Oysterband, possibly the band I have seen live the most, from a small folk club gig in about 1986, to a classy arts centre last month, by way of myriad gigs and festivals in between. Yup, I love this band, even if I occasionally don't, citing enough is enough, they then pulling some trick or other to haul me back. Bastards!

Anyway, this song comes from their 1983 record Holy Bandits, and is a glorious amalgam of Fisherman's Blues era Waterboys and the thrash folk-punk of the Levellers, back-filtered with a bit of a lick and a polish: at the time the Oysterband were described as "like the Levellers after a good wash", a somewhat back handed compliment to either band. Still a staple in their live shows, it reflects the more boisterous part of their repertoire and acts as ballast against some of the more thoughtful material. It is a glorious hooley.  As anyone who has been to lots of weddings can confirm, and I have had three of my own, the combination of booze and bonhomie can bring out the best and worst of individuals thrown together by dint of circumstance. If the adage is that you can choose your friends, but never your family, so too you can choose your spouse, but as with your own, the family comes gratis. And how often has the proud son of Mr Oil met with the beautiful daughter of Mr Water? The nuptials of the Petrol family with the family Flames come also to mind. (Mind you, it can and does work the other way too, my first wife and I always saying we could never divorce because of the parents, as in them getting on so well. Until, um, we did.)

"do you take this woman? 
 said yes I do 
I love her like crazy
and I think she loves me too 
but we'll do without the family 
if it's all the same to you 
happy ever after 

your mother is a flake 
my father's full of shite 
your sister says you married me 
in white just for spite 
well a party's not a party 
till it ends up in a fight 
happy ever after 

and there was my lot and your lot 
and us two in between 
this is the last time I get married 
this is the last time I get married

my brother's never short 
of a substance to abuse 
rum & glue & Thunderbird 
& wizz & Special Brew 
any minute now he'll show us 
all of his tattoos 
happy ever after 

nephews are obnoxious
nieces are too tall 
a dozen drunken uncles 
are pissing up the wall 
grandad is grinning 
but there's no one home at all 
happy ever after

for richer, for poorer, 
for better or for worse 
now we are married, a blessing or a curse 
kiss me & don't forget 
what you see is what you get

and the best man is the worst man, 
the best man is a beast 
underneath the table 
with the sister of the priest 
the way he's going at it 
she is probably deceased 
happy ever after 

granny's on the brandy
getting bleary-eyed 
guys I went to school with 
want to see me outside 
someone's pulled the bridesmaid 
anyone seen the bride? 
happy ever after

and there was my lot and your lot 
and us two in between 
this is the last time I get married 
this is the last time I get married "

I also feature (above) a video of this song, from barely two years ago, band, and audience for that matter, despite english being their second language, clearly still revelling in the song, as well showing the curiosity of melodeon, cello and fiddle in a six piece rock band. (OK, folk-rock band.) Together (below) with an example of the 'more thoughtful material' alluded to above, and probably the song, 'London City', they sing after leaving the stage following the featured, their traditional closer and encore for many a long year. And, in their 41st year, hopefully still to come.

Whet your thirst!