At the start of the pandemic, I felt resentful towards anybody who proposed we might use this change of pace to learn a language, take up oil painting or write a novel.

“Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague!” Well, blow up my bloomers and stick a quill up my arse, Shakespeare didn’t have two small children at home and a business to run.

Like so many of us, my 2020 work time was squashed into tiny fragments of the day when I wasn’t being shouted at for snacks or answering endless demands from two feral beasts who were bouncing…

image credit

Hello — is it Lionel trivia you’re looking for?

It’s 37 years since Hello topped the charts, becoming one of Richie’s best-known hits and Motown’s first million-selling single in the UK.

To celebrate the existence of this super-ballad and its famously awful music video, here are some ace facts about our Lionel. The total mega-watt megastar, King of the Crooners, Captain Ballad, Sergeant Smooth FM. We love you Lionel!

1. He was a high school tennis phenom

Lionel was the star tennis player in his high school and went to study Economics at Tuskegee College, Alabama, on the back of a tennis scholarship. …

Image by Mat Dale Photo

From 1996–2008 I played in noisy DIY bands. I sat in the back of stinking Transit vans. I drove to Durham in an Austin Maestro to play to a room full of exuberant underage drinkers. I secretly photocopied endless flyers at work. I sat in rock clubs and listened patiently while boys in cardigans told me the meaning of my lyrics. I slept on stranger’s floors. I slept in record shops. I sat on merch stalls. I stood on sofas in packed living rooms at house shows and watched the headliners blow up my amp. I played with all-time heroes…

The seventies. An era of hairy men with guitars, schmoozy crooners, snotty punk rock and shiny disco. If you’d suggested a teenage girl from Kent in a floaty dress was about to top the charts with a self-penned ode to a Brontë novel, people would have laughed so hard they’d have fallen off their platforms.

And yet, in 1978, aged 19, Kate Bush appeared like Cathy’s ghost at the top of the UK charts with Wuthering Heights.

With its unusual subject, searing vocals and now-legendary interpretative dance moves, Wuthering Heights could so easily have been a novelty record or a…

Way back in March 1981, a swoony cover of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy became the first number one hit for art-school rockers Roxy Music.

Roxy’s interpretation poured a shot of heady glamour into the original, catapulting it onto a thousand low-lit dancefloors. There are a lot of us who reckon it’s the best version of Jealous Guy, despite the original having been written by a legend.

It underlines (in swirly script) the golden rules of cover versions:

Done badly, they’re mere karaoke.

Done well, you have a refreshing alternative — like choosing cherry coke for a change or taking a…

The moon leans down, large and white.

My eyes are closed but I see you in my dreams. You are standing over me. Your wine-coloured mouth is saying something, I see the shapes.

It’s not good, this thing we’re in. This space. You are asking me something, pleading.

The sheets surround me, crisp and white.

Outside the pinpoint stars shine, unblinking.

I hear it now.

You are singing.

You never had the best singing voice, did you love? Good for you though, you’re putting some feeling into it, throwing yourself around like you’re on American Idol.

“I’ll go anywhere with…

It’s happening. Office workers all over the country are being told to pack up their work laptops, locate the charger for said laptop (shit), access VPN (argh) and work from home.

This time just over a year ago I jacked in my own office job to go freelance. I have valiantly battled through my first year of hermitude, and oh! The lessons I’ve learned.

For the home is but a jungle of distractions. Here’s how to be ready.

Remove all housework from eyeline

If you can’t shove it in a cupboard, remove yourself from where you can see it. Work from a spare room, a…

Nena’s 1983 smash hit 99 Red Balloons is a reliable staple of every 1980s compilation CD and the soundtrack to many a drunken wedding disco. Yet its catchy-like-a-cold hooks belie a more serious political message.

The song was inspired by a trip to a Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin, 1982. Nena’s guitarist Carlo Karges witnessed balloons (unspecified in number) being released as part of the performance. As they drifted over the stadium, they formed a UFO-like shape, making Karges wonder how they might be received if they happened to pass over the Berlin Wall into East Germany.

A seed…

Blondie were one of the first bands I really remember. I was introduced to them so early on that, initially, Debbie Harry seemed unremarkable in her women-in-a-band-ness. As I grew out of childhood and into worldly awareness, that concept got flipped.

I began to see Harry refracted through the male gaze. A rare and untouchable sex object in a world of critically acclaimed white boy rock music. A shiny bird’s egg in a snakepit of auteurs with guitars.

I never paused to ask — why aren’t there more women playing this stuff? …

It is September 1999, my first week at university. None of my flatmates are into punk rock, I’ve already looked.

Some have brought less than 10 CDs with them and one has a Jamiroquai album. This is not the bohemian paradise my parents promised me.

And now, against my better judgment, I am dressed in school uniform, along with a thousand or so other freshers, and swigging aftershock at Uropa. It is heaving and about a million degrees.

Oh what a night/ Late December back in 63/what a very special time for me/as I remember what a night

Some disgusting…

Penny Brazier

Copywriting | Content Strategy | Comms

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