Desert

One of my favourite stories of musical cross cultural pollination is Jamaica giving us ska and reggae and in return Jamaican rude boys taking back multiple pairs of Clarks Desert Boots (and Wallabies and Desert Trek). It’s a story that goes back to at least the early 1970s when they were adopted by various Jamaican musicians. Dillinger’s 1976 hit CB200 describes him getting his Honda CB200 motorbike, riding into Kingston and getting himself a new pair of trousers and some Clarks Desert Boots. During police raids on sound systems in the 70s the police would pull all the rude boys wearing the Somerset shoes, assuming they must be criminals- how else would they be able to afford such expensive footwear? Natty dread and natty footwear.

Like the other mainstays of British street style- Harrington jackets, Fred Perry polo shirts, Dr Martens- the price has sky rocketed in recent years. Gone are the days when you could go shopping in town, buy the above and still have change for the bus home and a bag of chips.

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She’s Moved In So To Speak With Featureless TV Producer Steve

When she was five years old, a few years ago now, my daughter ET used to be pretty much word perfect on this Half Man Half Biscuit song- one of their very best incidentally- and particularly enjoyed singing the opening lines, the ‘No frills, handy for the hills, that’s the way you spell New Mills’ part and the ‘old time religion ending’. Glad she never asked what the third line was about.

Tonight she’s going to see Little Mix at the Apollo (where I saw my first band too- Madness back in the early 80s).

Maybe some day she’ll come back to Nigel Blackwell’s unique lyrical viewpoint.

She stayed with me until she moved to Notting Hill 
She said it was the place she needs to be
Where the cocaine is fair trade, and frequently displayed
Is the Buena Vista Social Club CD

 
I thought she’d be back in three weeks and we’d go wandering the Peaks
Sojourn in my Uncle Joe’s ashram
For when you’re in Matlock Bath you don’t need Sylvia Plath
Not while they’ve got Mrs. Gibson’s Jam
Alas I’m brooding alone by the runnel
While she’s in Capri with her swain
And the light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of an oncoming train
Well we both grew up in Eyam and strange as it may seem
Neither of us thought we’d ever leave
But the beak in Leek is weak
And she’s moved in so to speak
With featureless TV producer Steve
And now it’s all Eva Cassidy and aphids in Picardy
And so I can only ascertain
That the light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of an oncoming train
No frills, handy for the hills, that’s the way you spell New Mills
Brooding alone by the runnel

While she’s in Capri with her swain
And the light at the end of the tunnel
Is the light of an oncoming train
Is the light of an oncoming train
Is the light of an oncoming

Old time religion
Gimme that old time religion
Gimme that old time religion
It’s good enough for me.
For the benefit of readers from further afield (outside the north west of England say)- there are websites that can do all the references for you but I can save you the bother with some of them.
 
Matlock and New Mills are both towns in the Peak District. New Mills (in the picture at the top) is on the A6 a few miles south of Stockport but definitely into Derbyshire. The New Mills section is of course based on ‘ A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way you spell New York’ from Dillinger’s Cocaine In My Brain.
 
 
Swain is an old English word for beau or lover.
Eyam is a village in Derbyshire, famous for sealing itself off from the outside world due to a plague outbreak during the 17th century. Hence, I suppose, the ‘neither of us thought we’d ever leave’ line.
 
Leek is a Staffordshire milltown, well known in Bagging Area Towers as the birthplace and hometown of my Dad. The only other reference in popular song to Leek I know of is in Joe Strummer’s At The Border, Guy where he launches into ‘At Leek town hall, Leek town hall tonight…’. Leek doesn’t have a town hall anymore- it was demolished in 1988. The Rolling Stones played there in 1963.
Leek has a non-league football team, Leek Town, who I watched once, on a Saturday afternoon at some point on the mid-80s.
Eva Cassidy is a bewilderingly popular folk-esque singer, who became posthumously famous for her cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The sort of album bought in supermarkets for coffee tables and dinner parties- see also The Buena Vista Social Club.The parent album of this HMHB song is Cammell Laird Social Club (Cammell Laird being the ship building plant on the banks of the Mersey in Birkenhead). It’s one of their best albums- if you haven’t got it, you’re definitely missing it.
 
 

 

A Knife, A Fork, A Bottle, A Cork


Ooh, that Dillinger, what is he like?

Caution- contains drugs subtext.