The First Festive Fifty Of Them All

In 1976, in those odd in-between days between Christmas and New Year when you’re not quite sure if the country is on holiday or at work, fourteen-year-old me listened avidly to John Peel broadcasting his Festive Fifty songs of the year on BBC Radio One.

Unlike subsequent years, this was an all-time listing, summed up here in twelve minutes.

I’m going to make a cup of tea while you watch and marvel at it.

Good, innit?

Still stands up to this day as a superb list, combining the obvious …

… with the idiosyncratic

… and the occasional complete curve ball

There’s even a couple of Genesis tracks. But we shall move swiftly past THOSE.

Oh, and this Prog Classic by Yes sneaked in at number 50,making it the first Festive Fifty record to be broadcast. Bet Peel LOVED that.

There was no chart the following year, but it resumed in 1978 and continued in its more familiar role as a chart of songs that came out in the current year, until the DJ’s untimely death in 2004.

Strictly speaking, of course, it wasn’t Peel’s Festive Fifty at all – it was, as he frequently stressed, his listeners’ Festive Fifty.

Quite a few fans have carried on the tradition to this day, selecting or voting for tracks they think would have made the chart, had Peel still been with us. Again, these are all well worth checking out.

Special mention to Dandelion Radio, an Internet radio station which plays Peelmusic. They do a Festive Fifty every year, voted for by listeners, and you can hear it every day from Xmas Day until the end of January. They’re fully PRS licensed too, btw, which I think Peel would have liked.

Superstar Bunny – Here We Go!

This week, BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq has been fielding emails, texts and tweets concerning damaged records. I heard this too late to contribute but was reminded of our late lamented pet rabbit Bugsy (and Minstrel too, who also appears in the video) –


We kept them as house rabbits, ie, they weren’t in a hutch in the garden all the time, bored out of their rabbit skulls. They did have a cage, a big dog-type one, which they lived in at night but the rest of the time they had a free run of the whole ground floor of the house.

This has been a broadcast on behalf of the House Rabbit party. Rant over.

One afternoon we left Bugsy and Minstrel in the lounge on their own for a while. After a while we heard some clattering. Intrigued, we went back in to find Bugsy in the middle of a pile of CDs, which he was diligently removing from the free-standing CD rack with his mouth and throwing them onto the carpet.

Wow, we thought. He really doesn’t like Culture Club, fair enough. Or Elvis Costello – hang on a minte. Or Dexys! What is WRONG with him?

For a couple of hours he was set to be the main ingredient in a pie, but Sal talked me out of it.

Thought nothing more of it until we tidied the room up at bedtime. No point in tidying as you go with two rabbits and two teenagers about the place.

We then noticed this:

Brim Of Ash by Shop

Bugsy had obviously found the cardboard cover of Cornershop’s big hit single “Brimful Of Asha” to his liking …

And he had noticed other tasty packages on the same CD rack – Cosmic Rough Riders and Feeder were similarly marked. Indeed, we have yet to locate Black Grape’s Euro 98 song “England’s Ire” to this day.

He was also bright enough to realise that most of the CDs had nasty plastic covers, so he’d discarded them.

Bugsy knew a good record when he saw one – Brimful Of Asha was Number 1 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1997.

RIP, Bugsy. Miss you 8=)

Pussy Riot in Russia

The Russians always start tournaments really well, everybody tips them to win the thing and then they bow out tamely. In Euro 2012 they lost to the vile anti-football of Greece. Shame.

Being of a certain age, if you say Russian music to me the first thing I think of is the traditional folk song “Kalinka”, preferably sung by the Red Army Choir.

Here it is – it does admittedly go on a bit after a while but don’t give up on it – at around 5:30 the mighty good-time rock’rollers with the silly haircuts the Leningrad Cowboys start on “Gimme All Your Lovin” – with full accompaniment from the Red Army guys, Russian dancers, the lot. Mental.

If only the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee organisers were a bit more imaginative. Could have had Take That performing “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” backed by the London Symphony Orchestra with Morris dancers. Or are we saving that for the Olympics Opening Ceremony?

Strangely, my late Dad had a version of “Kalinka” by the Red Army Choir which I like to think reflected his socialistic tendencies. I’m adding one of his records per week to My Dad’s Record Collection on Pinterest.  Beats The John Peel Archive into a cocked hat for eclecticism. Not that I am biased.

This is a huge current Russian dance hit. I like it, its got a good beat. Its called “Moscow” by DJ Smash and Vintaj. I like dance music a lot better when I can’t understand the lyrics and can therefore kid myself that they aren’t inane.

Yuri Morozov was one of the first Russian singer-songwriters to embrace psychedelia. Like many of his songs, this has a strong Russian folk influence as well. Not a million miles away from Colorama, who regular readers of this blog will know are one of my favourite Welsh language psych-folk acts of the present day.

Here’s a real oddity from 1971 by a band called Pesnary (the name means “Bards”) – mixes up a lot of different influences. You can hear kids TV themes, psychedelia and an incredibly funky bass line.

Finally, an event that happened in Russia earlier this year which deserves wider attention.

This is a band called Pussy Riot who made a name for themselves earlier this year by storming the stage – sorry, altar – at Christ The Saviour cathedral in Moscow

Not simply latter-day Visigoths doing big jobs in the font, far from it. Although that would obviously be brilliant.

The refrain translates as “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, help us and chase Putin away”

The song is a prayer to the Virgin Mary to ask her for help and protection against Russian fascism, and Vladimir Putin in particular. The band (really a loose feminist collective with an indeterminate number of members, all anonymous) can be seen as radical religious warriors who are fighting for what is right.

The music is pretty basic, but just like punk in the 70s in the UK, the music is not the point. And its fair to say that even post-totalitarianism, there is still more to complain about in Russia than in England’s green and pleasant land.

You can follow the Free Pussy Riot Campaign on Twitter and you can also “like” the Free Pussy Riot Facebook Page.

Please do. Sign petitions, spread the word, this shit is important.

One last thing – I’ve just realised the Leningrad Cowboys are in fact from Finland. Bugger.

Katie Malco – The Lexington

Friday 4th November, 2011

First act on at the Lexington last Friday was Katie Malco.

Her voice sounds like honey soaked in whisky. Her songs occupy the same territory as Sarabeth Tucek and Laura Veirs (to these ears). All doe-eyes and wistful and melancholy. She’s left-handed but plays a right-handed guitar much like that other great doe-eyed musician, Paul McCartney did, at least in the early days.

There aren’t many punters in this early at the Lexington. Can’t believe all the hipster HerNameIsCalla fans have something better to do than get here early for the supports. Heck, school finishes around 4 in the afternoon, doesn’t it?

So Katie plays her beautiful songs to a solo guitar and an audience of maybe twenty people, mainly sitting down. She charmingly forgets the words to some Bob Dylan song or other but so what?

Robert Plant famously forgot the words to Stairway To bloody Heaven at Knebworth in 1978, possibly the most famous rock song ever written at that time (and number one in John Peel’s inaugural Festive 50 in 1976, fact lovers.  You think I had to look that up? Hah ! I remember TAPING the show at the time !). And he wrote the bugger!

Katie remembers her own songs fine though, and you can tell that this is what she really wants to do, her own stuff. Although her other cover is interesting (a cover of a mate’s song, whose name I  didn’t catch unfortunately) and I get why people want to do covers early on, I’d say she’d be better sticking to her own excellent material..

Or failing that, do the Abba and Zeppelin covers that she alluded to towards the end of her set … (Knowing Me Knowing You or Immigrant Song could work … just sayin’ … )

I downloaded her debut 5-track EP off of bandcamp, and its loverly.  Best £2.50 I’ve spent all week.

Forthcoming gig with Katie givineg her Courtney Love as her band play a set of Hole covers this Saturday at Brixton Windmill (supporting the Cash-In Pumpkins 8=) ), which I am gutted to be missing … ( I need to put in an appearance at home every now and then or the Wife will forget who I am)

Go see her soon.