ITunes Pop Meme

Everyone likes a good Meme: those quizzes and personality tests that get passed round the internet. So I thought I’d try my hand at inventing one. I keep my ITunes tracks sorted into a series of playlists based on year of release. Album only tracks are automatically kept out of the lists, so what I’ve ended up with are the singles of particular years, a series of lovely nostalgia trips. (Although back past a certain point I don’t make the distinction so much. Certain Beatles tracks, for instance, are as well known as anything else from their year whether or not they were singles.) And it occurred to me that this method is an index of many things about my life, and might be revealing for other people as well. So this is my ITunes Pop Meme, with my answers. Do spread it around, and let’s see if it catches on.

Earliest Track in My Library:

Fred Astaire, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ (1937). I love the brittle, vulnerable, very English thing that Fred does here. He’s not the greatest singer, but he knows how to emote it. It’s such a draw-droppingly painful song, framed in such a mannered, restrained, way. ‘The way you changed my life’ gets dropped in there amongst the tiny things of domestic bliss, like a bomb going off. And this is from a world where ‘they’, be they the Nazis or her parents, are still able to effortlessly take her away from him, with no recourse other than a sad song.

Year from Which I Have Most Tracks:

1985, with 75. From Katrina and the Waves’ ‘Que Te Quiero’ through Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy, Sheila E, Springsteen, Prince, Arcadia, Pat Benatar, Kate Bush, and Propaganda. Is it any coincidence that this was from when I was eighteen, and living away from home for the first time? I was at U.C.L., flunking an astronomy degree, so these are the memories of a wonderfully free countryside summer and a terrible urban winter. With loads of lust.

Earliest TV Theme:

Captain Pugwash, from 1957. But that’s just because I’m weird like that. TV themes from before I was alive. Jolly good fun it is too.

Five Star Ratings from the Year I was Born:

1967, and only one, ‘Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)’ by the Monkees. This is one of the great pop songs, and I wish it was better known. It’s a Neil Diamond writing job, designed to be shouted by someone with huge manly passion, but then handed, wonderfully, to little Davey Jones. It’s mainly just an awesomely tight (two minutes thirteen) groove, for girls in minidresses and long hair to gogo dance to. The lyrics depart completely, with vast and lovely confidence, for a few beats just so we can hear the drum and bass thumping better. But those lyrics are about a real painful teenage opera, choosing between two girls our hero genuinely loves. Talking about this one really does feel like dancing to architecture. The grandeur of the Beatles described once again: even their cheap American knock off band were fantastic.

Five Star Ratings from the Year I was Sixteen:

1983, that is, and only one again, ‘Love Over and Over’ by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. A Terry Wogan favourite track the memory of which I kept in my head for decades before I heard it again. Which was when I purchased the re-released album on CD and realised that the actual song was as good as my memory of it. It’s a strange, folky refrain about how talking about love a lot, or writing love songs, is no substitute for genuine emotion. Done in a very rock way, and it arrives like an express train. ‘When no-one’s looking over my shoulder, I like to write rock and roll, but it doesn’t really hang together.’ I know exactly how she feels.

Five Star Ratings from This Year:

Two, Orson’s ‘No Tomorrow’ and ‘Pull Shapes’ by the Pipettes. Orson got to number one, the Pipettes join Marc Almond’s ‘Adored and Explored’ and Helen Watson’s ‘You’re Not the Rule, You’re the Exception’ in my parallel universe chart of Things I Thought Would Be Number One But Got Nowhere. What I love about the Orson track is that, like The Darkness’ ‘Dancing on a Friday Night’ it describes with great romanticism a genuine, not romanticised, teenage experience. These guys are worried about the cost of the cover charge and whether or not it’s a school night, but they feel the same way about dancing I do. They’ve thrown themselves in and love it, while declaring ‘and I can’t even dance’. ‘Pull Shapes’ has the vast confidence and instant catchiness of a number one record (might it not still be, might there still be hope?), and is again about the personal experience of dancing. I very much sympathise with the Pipette who declares ‘I just want to freak out’ after the others have been describing their dance moves. There’s a call out and answer bit in the chorus, and fake audience applause, like they know this is going to be performed in a stadium some day. ‘Clap your hands if you want some more’ indeed! Shameless! And following their appearance in Torchwood and at the last fan (civil partnership ceremony) disco I attended, these guys are getting to be a fan band.

Top Ten on my Most Played List:

The Archies, ‘Sugar Sugar’: the catchiest pop tune of all time. Who cares if they were animated? I love how the backing singer declares ‘I’m gonna make your life so sweet’ in a very restrained way the first time, and the second time goes all Foxy Cleopatra on our asses. Yeah, I know. This is what I discovered doing this meme. In so many ways, I am Austin Powers.

The Bee Gees and Barbara Streisand, ‘Guilty’: I love Brothers Gibb songwriting. And nobody interprets like Babs. ‘Make it a crime to be lonely or sad.’ And that production job. Those with younger ears probably find soft fairlighty stuff the height of bad taste.

Kate Bush, ‘Why Should I Love You?’: co-written with Prince, and with, of all people, Lenny Henry popping up on backing vocals. The Red Shoes is her most emotional album, and I love the lyrics, the feeling of womblike retreat from hurt, the fierce embrace this gives me. There’s hope and ritual in here. I think Kate probably gets bigtime religion and paganism at once, but that’s what pop stars are for, us to project our own yearnings on them.

Janet Jackson, ‘All For You’: just my favourite stupid dance thing.

Michael Jackson, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough’: okay, maybe this is, rather. I love the start, where he’s muttering and this huge Quincy Jones drum thing arrives like a tidal wave. Anyone looks great dancing to this.

Air, ‘You Make it Easy’: The first dance at my wedding.

The Isley Brothers, ‘Twist and Shout’: so groovy. The Beatles took everything except the Jamaican horns, and they should have nicked those too. Utterly danceable.

Kylie Minogue, ‘Love at First Sight’: didn’t like it much until she showed us how to dance to it in the video, and my shoulders haven’t stopped moving since. You can tell I’ve always danced with gay men, can’t you?

Kate Bush, ‘Suspended in Gaffa’: she’s saying something profound here, about art and ambition, but I’m not sure she knows quite what it is. She’s often at her best when being vague, seeing things out of the corner of her eye. When she gets specific she can trip over badly.

The Beatles, ‘Golden Slumbers’: it’s all three tracks, really, ‘Carry That Weight’ and ‘The End’. Unlocked the Beatles for me. Contains the history of music in several different movements in a very short period of time. I’ll blog on just these three tracks one day.

Well, that’s me, now it’s your turn. I’d love to see some of these in the Comments section. And if you post one on your own blog, let me know.


ITEM! It’s the dinner for the winners of the Mark Millar Crohn’s Disease charity auction on Friday. I’ll report on how it goes. Many Who writers coming along. Should be a fun night.

ITEM! And at the weekend I’m off to the Anime Expo at the ExCel Centre. So if you’re milling about and you see me, do say hello:

ITEM! I’m loving Torchwood, and it’s Helen Raynor’s episode this Sunday. Judging by the readthrough of her Who script, I think we can expect fireworks.

Until next time, Cheerio!

More Robin Goodness

Robin Hood himself, from Sherwood Forest, has established an enthusiastic blog about the new series, from the perspective of someone who clearly knows his Lincoln Green:

Here's historical romance author Margaret Moore weighing in with some in-depth insight into the new show's characters:

Those two courtesy of the Robin forum. And here are the new novelisations, including one for my episode, and by such luminaries as Jac Rayner, available in both book and audio book form:

It's a good time to start getting into the show. Cheerio.

Looking Forward to Saturday

I just got the full, inked, lettered (though not yet coloured) first issue of Wisdom to check over, and I tell you, I almost cried. Another lifetime's ambition come true. We've lucked out in that our inker is Paul Neary, one of the greats, and he and Trev go together like egg and chips. I read it three times, just to make sure it was real, and then hustled my wife (for the purposes of this entry she is no longer a metaphorical Robin Hood) in from the other room to read it. Wow. And in a few short weeks it'll be an actual comic I can hold in my hands. And sniff. I'll probably give it a good smelling. To see how much it smells like an Avengers comic bought from the newsagents in Lyneham, Wiltshire, in the early 1970s.

We're having a small party for the Robin Hood broadcast. It's been a busy week in that I've been scripting my own show re-pitch script, writing a horror short story, finishing the plot of one prose thing and getting back to the other prose thing. And I went to a Who readthrough, Helen Raynor's two-parter, which blew me away. I may have a new favourite if they land that thing right. If Season One was Songs to Learn and Sing, and Season Two was Pet Sounds, Season Three is Bat Out of Hell. It's that huge and bold and firing on all cylinders.

Anyway, the blog will resume shortly. Possibly on Sunday morning, after I've cleared up. Until then, Cheerio.

The First Robin Hood Fan Site

Here it is: forum; news; fan fiction; LJ avatars; wallpaper, the whole kaboodle!

Robin Hood, Infoquake and Bella Pagan

A number of things to talk about today. I hope you’re all going to catch Robin Hood tonight. It’s a cracking opener from Dominic. I’m looking forward to watching a new fandom making itself. Do let me know about fan fiction (Robin/Much slash anyone?), music videos, excited fan fora, etc.. My first episode, ‘Who Shot the Sheriff?’ is on on October 21st.., and having just seen the final version, I must say I’m really pleased. Some lovely stuff from Keith Allen especially, and it’s very well directed by Richard Standeven.

Iain McLaughlin, the Doctor Who audio writer and current Desperate Dan scribe, took a wander from The Dandy over to Commando on my behalf the other day, and discovered, thanks to a Who fan who works there, Scott ‘Field Marshall’ Montgomery, that one writer on that title keeps dropping in Who in-jokes. His name is Sean Blair, and is indeed responsible for my appearance therein. The artist was Keith Page. It’s a pity, in a way, in that I was hoping it was someone I knew, but I’m even more flattered.

Speaking of real people appearing in media, I run a Fantasy Cricket contest, the Faringdon and Fandom League (if you’d like to sign up for next season, even and especially if you don’t know anything about cricket, do let me know, but only those who already know me in some small way, please). Our league became, during the course of the season, collectively enamoured of the P.A. to one of our number, who works as a publisher. Her name is all we know her by, and she would be referred to by said publisher only in his automated responses to our group e-mails. If he is not there, these e-mails told us, we should get in touch with Bella Pagan. Bella Pagan. A name to conjure with. The new lifestyle magazine from the makers of Bella. ‘Ten hex tricks He won’t have seen before.’ ‘Our six hundred and sixty six favourite pointy hats.’ So it was with a feeling of walls between private and public worlds collapsing that I read the latest issue of X-Men (#191), in which appears ‘temporal physicist’… Bella Pagan. I gather that Mike Carey, current X-Men writer, is known to our publisher friend, and that this is no accident. Or sign of a magickal fiction/reality breakthrough incident.

On the same subject, the Outpost Gallifrey Doctor Who forum has had a thread or two lately about how to commemorate taunted-to-death Who fan John Clews, whose passing I mentioned a while back. There’s a campaign of sorts to get a character in the show named after him. I find myself weirdly uncertain, verging on not keen. I don’t know who such a move would serve, for one thing. I don’t think he has family around to notice. Secondly, given the nature of Who supporting characters, it might be hard to find one who could be named after a real person without giving offence: I mean, how many small characters in our favourite show both survive it and are noble? But given that it’s possible to get around that, I feel it would almost be a diminishment rather than an elevation. We need to remember who he really was, not fictionalise him, and to write stories with him in mind, not just drop him into one.

I’ve just finished David Louis Edelman’s first novel, Infoquake.( It stayed with me, kept on impressing me way after I’d finished it. David was part of the gang of writers, artists and publishers I hung out with at Worldcon, but friendship has never been a ticket for a free ride on my critical faculties. Infoquake is a book about future boardroom battles, company tussles. Only three shots are fired in total, but at exactly the right time, because this is a thriller like Graham Greene wrote thrillers. Its setting is something I haven’t seen for a long time, a quite distant future that is nevertheless utterly plausible, and remains connected (unlike say, Dune), through history, to our own. The businesspeople in question write and sell software for the human body. The book answers Geoff Ryman’s manifesto about ‘Mundane SF’ (, that is, it presents a future where no unfeasible technology or situations (faster than light drives, alien contact, telepathy) exist. People are still people, history is still history. There has been no mythological upheaval (such as ‘the singularity’) of the kind that British SF culture seems to regard as certain, a near future event, the Revolution, the Rapture. Icky reality has not gone away. There are true believers, therefore, that will assert that the novel is simply mistaken. There is still money. Someone empties the bins. The world that is built is a society of humans, based on human needs, sociability, civilisation. It is not wildly far flung. It can read on first sight as being familiar, even parochial. That is because it is flung exactly as far as it should be. The thrill of the book is a thrill familiar to those of us who do business on the net and in fandom, the thrill of being a commercial (and this is the origin of the word) adventurer, someone who ventures capital. It’s about commerce and glamour, the edges and barriers created in social situations through nothing but personality. It’s conceptually exciting, the current expressed as the future and the future as a refreshing crash through the ranks of those who say there is none. The world depicted is not an ideal: it’s a complicated mess in which characters can only do their best. Exactly like it always has been and always will be. My one caveat is that when you read the first section of the book, you’ll wonder why I made all this fuss about it. It’s not the greatest start in literature. It prepares you for a book nowhere near as good as this one. And perhaps I could have done with a bigger conceptual wallop of elevating the stakes to a new level at the end. But this is the first of a trilogy, and I await book two missing the characters, referencing things in their terms (‘a memecorp like the BBC’) expecting such an elevation, certain of it. I have faith in this Mundane masterpiece.

I worked through the lettering draft of the first issue of Wisdom with Marvel Comics editor Nick Lowe this week. It’s a fascinating process, and Nick’s very good at it, editing a lengthy page of espionage dialogue that I was sure wouldn’t fit by just snipping one word balloon. The meaning of one action sequence changed completely, for the better, by another dialogue addition he suggested. I love working with people who are prepared to take pains, and getting the tiniest placings of dialogue in comics right is the very definition of a small thing that makes all the difference. I’m sorry to find out that I won’t be able to use the manga technique of having ‘subtext’ words floating in the air beside character’s faces, because, and I should have thought about this beforehand, it doesn’t work so well in colour comics, where the lettering needs a cleared white balloon behind it, or gets lost and murky. We’re working on some sort of special box for subtext instead. Trev’s now supplying gorgeous pencil pages for issue two. I can’t wait for the first week in November. (I’m sorry to say, however, that I’m having trouble setting up an American equivalent to Forbidden Planet’s generous offer on the the title. I will keep trying.)

All of us who’ve worked on Faringdon Arts Festival were delighted this week when the first recruiting meeting for the 2007 Festival attracted twenty-three people! Caroline is FAF’s new PR and Marketing person, and there’s also going to be a new website very shortly. The FAF dates next year are 6-8 July.

I’m doing an interview for the Church Times next week about a book I recommend as having moved me in a spiritual way. So this is going to be one of the more unusual promo pieces for the manga Fruits Basket.

The great John Picacio has just sent me a first mock-up of his cover for the new Monkeybrain Books (
edition of my novel British Summertime, which is on the way sometime next year. All I can say at the moment is that I’m blown away by it, and it’s great to have one of the foremost cover artists of our time onboard.

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be appearing at the 33rd. SwanCon, in Perth, Western Australia, in 2008:

And, closer in space and time, that I’m popping along to the North Wales Society of Cult Television at the Faenol Fawr Hotel in Bodelwyddan on November 18th, for ‘An Afternoon with Paul Cornell’. Contact Edward Watkinson if you want to come along.

Until next time, cheerio.