As July is about to start, it marks the official half-way point of the year, and as with tradition over the last couple of years, I generally mark this milestone by listing my top fifty songs of the year so far.
The poll is totally unscientific, thought over a couple of lunchtimes racking through my head for songs I like and having a quick look at the most played songs on my MP3 player.
If you don’t like it, tough. My chart, my rules.
In December, there will be a top hundred chart of the year in five part, because i’m such a tease.
For me, it’s been a very slow year for music so far, so hopefully the second half of the year will improve.
The leader so far may come as a surprise. Trust me, Katie Melua’s previous catalogue of 1mph acoustic drivel is not my cup of tea, but her comeback single ‘The Flood‘ is surprisingly good.
Enjoy. Debate. Listen.
1. Katie Melua – The Flood
2. MGMT – Flash Delerium
3. Alicia Keys – Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart
4. Amy MacDonald – Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over
5. Fyffe Dangerfield – She Needs Me
6. Tegan and Sara – Alligator
7. Brandon Flowers – Crossfire
8. B.O.B – Nothing On You
9. Adam Lambert – What Do you Want From Me?
10. Marina and the Diamonds – Hollywood
11. Miley Cyrus – Can’t Be Tamed
12. Girls Can’t Catch – Echo
13. Paul Weller – No More Tears To Cry
14. Uber Glitterati – Armour
15. Wonder Villains – Oh Peter
16. Owl City – Fireflies
17. Gorillaz – Stylo
18. Tiffany Page – On Your Head
19. Kelis – Acapella
20. John D’Arcy – Scotty
21. Kylie Minogue – All The Lovers
22. K’naan – Wavin Flag
23. John D’Arcy – Poptart
24. Katy Perry – California Gurls
25. Marina and the Diamonds – Mowgli’s Road
26. Pixie Lott – Turn It Up
27. Lena – Satellite
28. Nevergreen and Chenee – A Moment Like This
29. Scissor Sisters – Fire With Fire
30. Eliza Doolittle – Skinny Genes
31. John D’Arcy – More Like Me
32. Marina and the Diamonds – Oh No
32. Daisy Dares You ft Chipmunk – Number One Enemy
33. Jason Derulo – In My Head
34. Ellie Goulding – Guns and Horses
35. Cutaways – Lovers Are Lunatics
36. Amy MacDonald – Spark
37. Kid British – Winner
38. Plan B – She Said
39. Lady Gaga – Telephone
40. Mumford and Sons – The Cave
41. Eliza Doolittle – Pack Up
42. Train – Hey Soul Sister
43. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Bittersweet
44. Wonder Villains – Spacejam
45. Eminem – Not Afraid
46. B.O.B ft Hayley Williams – Airplanes
47. Mika – Kick Ass
48. Plan B – Prayin
49. Professor Green – Need You Tonight
50. General Fiasco – I’m Not Made Of Eyes
The topic of Northern Ireland players on the mainland is a difficult balancing act, but the report on Luke McCullough was insightful and watchable and avoided the Stephen Watson-esque trap of screaming like an excitable schoolgirl about celebrities and ignoring the actual topic they are doing a report about.
UTV (and BBCNI) need to realise they are not competing against national media, but they are a compliment to the national media.
Wether they like it or not, unless Northern Ireland qualify, UTV can only offer a duplicate service and sub-standard alternative to what has already been offered by the national media, be it BBC or ITV during their World Cup coverage, or the 24 hour News channels.
There is nothing that UTV can offer to the story 30 hours after the event that hasn’t already been offered already.
As viewers in Northern Ireland, we view local news for that very reason, for local news. When a major story in Northern Ireland breaks, we will always watch it on the local news, be it UTV Live against BBC News, or BBC Newsline against ITV News.
Whichever way you dress it, the England football team, even though they have a player with the same name as a town in Northern Ireland is not a local news story, especially when we, as viewers, are over-catered for by the national media.
Despite this, the report tried to add a tenunous link with the phrase “Roy Keane says”, a phrase which has guaranteed Sunderland and Ipswich Town more media coverage than is nescessary in Northern Ireland.
In case you’re wondering, he said this at a press conference at the start of Ipswich Town’s pre-season training, rather than an “Exclusive Interview” like the one-sentence into a microphone in a Japanese airport carpark that Stephen Watson has dined out on for the last eight years.
Unless he’s speaking about Northern Ireland, or a Northern Ireland player on Ipswich’s books, it’s hard to see ow this qualifies as “Northern Ireland news”.
It’s bad enough to do an irelevant story about the England football team, but it’s just as bad to try and justfiy it by using a quote from a former Republic of Ireland player.
But never fear, the balance was soon redressed and Northern Ireland were soon represented on the report as Lawrie Sanchez, out of work for the last two and a half years and with (probably) bills to pay, appeared to have changed his stance regarding the Northern Ireland media, who he had previously refused to talk to.
His qualification to talk on the issue is that he knows how to beat England in a football match, in 2005. It’s a good job he was available, otherwise they would have had to interview Terry Neill, who guided Northern Ireland to their previous victory over England in 1972.
Let’s face it, interviewing a former Northern Ireland manager about a win over England a long time ago which has no relevance whatsoever to the match between England and Germany in 2010 would have just look silly and tenuous.
Sanchez was soon followed by an interview with Graham Poll (The irony of Poll talking about a referee making a major fuck-up in a World Cup match) to discuss the issue of the controversy over the Frank Lampard (non) goal.
You would have thought they could have got an Irish League referee to talk about the Lampard incident, as they are every bit as useless and attention seeking as Graham Poll.
And finally, we cut to the studio and finish with a live Satellite link-up with ITN Sports Editor Steve Scott.
Something to bear in mind should a local broadcaster defend non-coverage of an Irish League game next season that they don’t have the resources or finances, by pointing out the effort they’ve went to in order to give us the latest on the England football team.
As pointed out last week, if the England Rugby team suffered a similarly humiliating result against New Zealand or Australia in the 2011 World Cup, would UTV be doing a special report on it, with a live link-up to New Zealand.
No, of course not, so why should football have a wider remit, often covering news not relevant to a Northern Ireland audience, and other sports have solely local coverage?
This week, two Irish League clubs will be playing in the UEFA Cup. Call me cynical, but I can’t imagine this getting coverage from out local TV, certainly not on the scale of the England debacle.
This is not an anti-UTV rant, BBC Northern Ireland’s football coverage has hardly covered themselves in glory in recent years.
The sad thing is, both broadcasters have done some good coverage of local football, and are capable of it, but more often than not, it is usually followed by insulting ignorance of fixtures taking place or stuffing our faces with a diet of mainland football already covered elsewhere.
If UTV consider England’s failure at the World Cup to be a local sports story for Northern Ireland viewers, then, as far as i’m concerned, their sports coverage is every bit an abject failure as the England football team were in South Africa.
For those unfamiliar with Belfast, it’s a wee sidestreet off Royal Avenue, leading towards the Cathedral Quarter. The first thing you see when you walk down it is the offices of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Consortium.
The street had previously hosted work by ANCO, which has since painted over.
Those who have noticed graffiti in Belfast will have noticed that he is one of the main culprits.
Like ‘ANCO’, ‘Sick’ and ‘4Fun’, they probably suffer a form of reverse discrimination from myself when it comes to photographs, that I don’t want to have albums where it’s dominated by the same 4 people.
Meanwhile, there’s some update on the STLFTEM front, because I know that’s what you want to hear.
July will be the Base Festival in the middle of the month, though I have applied for tickets to a free show (being filmed for TV) by Australian comedian Adam Hills, who you may recognise from doing the rounds on various TV panel shows.
If I don’t get lucky with that, i’ll try and get to see him at the Edinburgh Festival, which will be my STLFTEM for August.
I’m going on the first week of the festival this year, as opposed to the last week of it last year.
Already booked tickets to see Doves on my first day there. Fucking win.
Meanwhile, September’s STLFTEM promises to be special. When the Premier League fixture list gets published, there is one game which immediately gets circled in red. When the Irish League fixture list gets published, there is one game which gets circled in red. And they’re both happening in the same week.
I’m hopefuly (almost certain) of getting to go to the United-Liverpool game in September. If so, it will be my first United-Liverpool game i’ve attended in person since 1994, having turned down an inivtation to see a meeting in 2004 to watch Linfield beat Glentoran to win the league instead.
The week after hopefully seeing United beat Liverpool, i’ll be at The Oval for the first meeting of the season of Linfield and Glentoran. It’s a game I hate and love in equal measure.
Three of the four league games last season (like in 2008/2009) were evening kick-offs, which weren’t good for my nerves. At least with a Saturday 3pm game, i’ll have four and a half hours less of nerves, tension and excitement.
Meanwhile, Four Four Two Photo Awards are now accpeting entries, and I have submitted most of the photos I want to.
In football, there are some teams who, when they are due to play each other, will generate excitement and anticipation amongst football fans.
England v Germany on Sunday is one such match. When you think of England and Germany, you inevitably think of 1990, of 1996, and even, of 1966.
The added spice to Sunday’s game, is how early in the competition it is. There’s nothing better in cup football, than a heavyweight clash in the early stages of the competition, between two sides who believe they can win the competition, but know they face an opponent capable of giving them an early exit.
For me, the clash between the two sides that I remember most is the European Championship Semi-Final in 1996, the 14th anniversary of which will come the day before the sides meet in Bloemfontein.
Looking back, Euro 96 was a competition and time I remember fondly. In 1996, i’d just turned 13, and had just had my first full season watching Linfield every week with my mates, and having a laugh, which I suppose you had to do, as Trevor Anderson’s bunch of expensively assembled misfits limped into mid-table obscurity.
Euro 96 was the first European Championship which had 16 teams competing in 4 groups of 4, meaning that you wouldn’t have major nations missing out like you did in the 8 team format.
There were two matches each day, with the first one kicking-off not long after four (can’t remember if it was quarter-past or half-past), meaning a quick run home from school to watch the first game, dinner, homework (I went to a school where the teachers gave you homework in June) and then watch the evening match with friends.
A combination of growing up but still being young, what felt like endless sunny days and what felt like the charts being dominated by acts like Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Space and Suede (Despite the fact that, in reality, the two biggest selling acts of 1996 were Spice Girls and Robson & Jerome) will forever have the summer of 1996, and it’s major football tournament fondly remembered in my mind.
Perhaps it is my mind playing tricks on me by remembering this event fondly? Maybe if I was 10 years older, i’d be fondly reminiscing about the 1986 World Cup? 10 years younger, and perhaps i’d be fondly remembering the 2006 World Cup?
There’s no denying that Euro 96 is an event which benefits generously from a rewriting of history. Outside of Wembley, and group games at Old Trafford and Villa Park, a lot of the games were played in half-empty stadiums.
I suppose this rewriting of history is a good example of how the English media cover international tournaments, where it’s all about England and nobody else matters, so consumed were they with what was happening in London, they didn’t even notice the empty seats in the North of the country.
With the tournament taking place during the school year, there was never any hope of me going over to this, and I really wanted to go.
Northern Ireland’s campaign was a spectacularly heroic failure, managing to finish unbeaten away from home, but out of the qualifying positions due to home defeats to Latvia, and most devastatingly, Republic of Ireland.
Despite that, me and a friend sat in front of the TV one Sunday afternoon in December 1995 for the draw, and gasped in disbelief as England and Scotland were paired together. Switzerland and Holland didn’t even get a mention as all the hype of the tournament centred around this game.
As with every international tournament, the morning of the opening game always makes me feel like an excitable child on christmas eve, counting down the hours and minutes until kick-off.
I watched the opening game of Euro 96, England v Switzerland, in the company of a half-Swiss friend, as England stuttered to a 1-1 draw against the Swiss.
Finally, the tournament was up and running and football had truly come home.
The following Saturday, was the big one, England v Scotland. Both teams were level on one point, and knew that a win would virtually guarantee qualifivation for the Quarter-Finals.
I watched it as a neutral, not really caring who won, just enjoying the fact that two British teams were going at each other, to put one over the other and retain local pride, for their fans, unaware that they were taking part in a major international competition, as ‘putting one over the other lot’ was all that mattered.
From having a chance to draw level, to going two goals down (or, from almost being pegged back level to going tow goals up, in the space of a minute) in the space of a minute, that’s how football can just mess with your emotions. That’s why people love it and hate it in equal measure.
Thankfully, being neither English or Scottish, I just sat and watched non-plussed.
Come Tuesday night, England were actually out-Dutching the Dutch and allowing a way back in for Scotland, as England’s 4-0 lead, combined with Scotland’s 1-0 lead over Switzerland saw Scotland in a position where they could qualify from a group stage for the first time in their history.
It was too good to be true, and it was, as a Patrick Kluivert goal for Holland swung the race for second place in their favour.
COME ON ENGLAND!!!!!!!! COME ON SCOTLAND!!!!!! I screamed at the TV, wishing one of the two would score a goal that would send Scotland through. It didn’t come.
England advanced to a Quarter-Final against Spain, where they triumphed, whisper it, on a penalty shoot-out. It’s strange, that when the media bring up England’s record in a penalty shoot-out, they never mention this game.
Germany had been very German in their progress, ruthlessly disposing of Czech Republic and Russia before grinding out a draw against Italy, a result which saw the Italians eliminated at the group stage.
In that match against Russia, the Russian manager came up with a brilliant excuse for his teams underperforming, that the home crowd at each ground they played at was against them.
Against Germany at Old Trafford, he claimed that United fans came out to cheer for Germany in protest against Andrei Kanchelskis sour transfer to Everton the previous year.
For their remaining matches at Anfield, he claimed Liverpool fans were cheering for the opposition partly because Kanchelskis was an Everton player, but mainly, because he was an ex United player.
France, also faced a hostile crowd in their matches at Newcastle, by Geordies angry at local favourite David Ginola being left out of the French squad.
After beating Croatia at Old Trafford, Germany had set up a Semi-Final meeting with England at Wembley.
You can tell how big a football match is, by how many people are talking about it, especially people who don’t usually follow or talk about football. In class that day, even the teachers were talking about the game.
The tournament organisers had arranged for both Semi-Finals to take place on the same day, one in the afternoon, another in the evening.
The first Semi-Final was a non-event as far as the English media were concerned, a mere warm-up to the main event.
To be fair, the game between France and Czech Republic hardly inspired the BBC pundits, sat in Wembley three hours before kick-off.
To the BBC’s annoyance, the game at Old Trafford went to extra-time, then penalties, then sudden death penalties, which the Czechs eventually won.
From there, it was a case of well done Czech Republic, almost dismissively, as their prize was to be runners-up to England in the Euro 96 Final.
The Germans couldn’t win, could they?
In truth, it would be very ungerman if they didn’t win. They always seem to have a knack of beating host nations and media darling teams.
It’s why I have a sneaky admiration for the German football team. Supporting Man United and Linfield, you get used to supporting “The bad guys”, the team everybody loves to see lose, which would perhaps explain my admiration for Germany.
The match kicked-off with clear skies over London. As the teams walked out in daylight, they knew that by the time the match would finish and that the sun would set, and the sky turn dark. For one of them, the sun would set on Euro 96.
I watched the game with friends, with excitement, not really caring who won, but just wanting it to be a memorable occasion.
England started on the front foot, and scored within three minutes. Alan Shearer, who else.
With 80,000 roaring them on at Wembley, and millions more in front of their TV, most teams would have crumbled under the wave of England pressure. Not Germany.
It was quite ironic that the scorer of the German equaliser be Steffan Kuntz (pronounced Koontz) whose name had made him the butt of David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s jokes, should score the equaliser against the team riding on a crest of a wave soundtracked by Baddiel and Skinner.
At 90 minutes, it was 1-1, cue anything between 1 and 30 minutes of extra-time. Euro 96 was the first tournament to have the ‘Golden Goal’ rule in extra-time. It was basically goal the winner. A rule, from the school playground, was now being used to decide a European Championship Semi-final.
The two Quarter-Finals that used this were dour encounters, with both teams settling for a penalty shoot-out when the final whistle blew at 90 minutes, and shut up shop for half an hour, to make sure they got to penalties, and to conserve their energy for the shoot-out.
This one was different, as both teams went for it, to try and end it there and then. Both teams tried, but were just unable to.
As Gascoigne was unable to reach out enough to divert a cross-shot into the net, it was hard not to think about how all those England fans who’d mocked Carlton Palmer were thinking, as if it was his long legs reaching out for that cross, history would have been rewritten.
As the game went to penalties, there was an inevitability about the outcome.
Despite England scoring all of their penalties, the Germans did likewise. To expect the Germans to even miss just one penalty appeared to be asking too much. When England missed, the Germans were never going to let them out of jail.
We sat in front of the TV, just drained by the 120 minutes of football we had just witnessed. It was games like that which was he we had kickabouts in the street (and sometimes climbing into a local school), dreaming that we migth play in (and win) a match of that magnitude. None of us ever did.
In school the next day, was the same as the previous day, as the football dominated the conversation. The day before it was excitement of the match ahead, today, it was analysis and reaction of the match just passed.
At the end of that week, another school year was done and dusted, and a long summer awaited.
Was 1996 the summer that football came home?
Maybe not, it was just a line in a song which caught the mood of a period in time. But, my word, what a period in time.
For the last couple of days, the failed mutiny led by former England captain John Terry has been all over the media, it’s been hard to escape.
Sadly, Northern Ireland’s ITV franchise, UTV, excelled themselves on Monday night by dedicating over three minutes to the turmoil in the England camp, complete with voxpops from sunbathers in Botanic Gardens and “Football Expert” Steven Beacom, who you would assume would be in South Africa rather than South Belfast, seeing as there’s a slightly major football event on at the moment.
How on earth can they even justify this? Especially on a day when four clubs from Northern Ireland found out who they have been drawn against in the European Cup and UEFA Cup.
It was bad enough to spend three minutes covering the England football team, on a story which has no relevance to Northern Ireland, and doesn’t come within UTV’s remit, but to do so at the expense of our clubs, representing Northern Ireland in international competition, was an insult and a slap in the face to all local football fans.
There’s no complaint if our clubs were left out at the expense of Graeme McDowell’s achievements, nor about Graeme McDowell being the lead story, after all it’s a pretty special and unique achievement, but it would have been better to have no football, than to have an irrelevent story like that.
There’s no real point in our local broadcasters saying they dedicate x amount of coverage to football, if you can break it down and find that subtracting coverage of England, Republic of Ireland and Scottish football, there’s not a lot of coverage of local football.
As far as our local broadcasters are concerned, football is the only sport where they have a worldwide remit.
Granted, that GAA isn’t exaclty a world game and doesn’t have senior leagues and competitions outside of Northern Ireland, but would they take such an editorial stance with Rugby?
If Lewis Moody had a disagreement with Martin Johnson at the Rugby World Cup, would UTV be doing a report on it?
No, of course not, so why should football fans have to put up with this editorial policy?
Bearing in mind the mass-media coverage of the England camp, is there really anything new to the story that UTV can offer?
With 24 hour coverage on Sky Sports News, being covered on the BBC and ITV bulletins, and during the live coverage of World Cup matches on BBC and ITV, people wanting to get the latest news on this story, are already well catered for and will not give local broadcasters a look-in when wanting to find out about the story.
They can’t even use the excuse that it was included for commerical reasons to promote their World Cup coverage, because that simply does not wash, for two reasons.
England’s must win match against Slovenia is live on BBC. Not only that, the World Cup is a self-marketable event, where people already know it will be live on either ITV or BBC, and generally, through the constant plugs given on both channel’s coverage, will know what channel is showing what match.
During the Brazil v North Korea match, Clive Tyldesley commented that “There are no North Korean journalists covering this match, and the TV will only show highlights if they win”
After the complete non coverage on Monday night, it could also be applied to Northern Ireland teams in Europe.
It only just dawned on me that it was a year ago this weekend that I was getting ready to head to Dublin, where I would be based to head to Slane to see Oasis in concert.
It was my 5th Oasis concert, having previously seen them at Lansdowne Road (2000), The Odyssey (2002, 2008) and T In The Park (2002)
In the summer of 2002, I was working part-time in a bar, and won an internal staff competition for tickets to T In The Park.
I spent a day with colleagues, frantically trying to get shifts covered and buses arranged at three days notice.
Oasis are the sort of band you go to this much trouble to see.
I love Oasis. I mean, I love Oasis. I have their entire back catalogue of Singles and Albums.
I got into them, like everyone else did, in the mid 1990s. Without having a disposable income due to being in school, I would usually wait until my brother was out of the house, to sneak into his room to listen to his Oasis CDs.
‘The Masterplan’, was an album compiled of B-sides. B-side is a bit of an insulting term in music, implying that a song is only there to fill up space on a CD so that consumers can’t complain about not getting enough siongs when purchasing a single. Not with Oasis.
That’s the beauty of Oasis, that every song means something. With most bands, people only ever know their singles, but not Oasis.
In a lot of cases, their B-sides and album tracks are often better than their singles. It’s a prolific ratio most bands can only dream of.
This was proved with the 2006 best of compilation album, ‘Stop The Clocks‘, where big hits were side by side with B-sides and album tracks.
It’s only when you look at the songs on it, and not on it, that you realise how good Oasis were.
Back in the late 1990s, when the internet was in it’s infancy as a commercial utility, record companies would leave cards in their CDs for people to fill in with their address, and get sent out postcards of cover art sent out to them in the run-up to a release.
I had sent replies to cards in many CDs, and it was a great excitement to come home from school, and then later tec, on a Friday or Monday (Dependent on how fast Royal Mail were) to see what had arrived through the post, if it was worth buying, and most importantly, as a lover of music art, worth hanging up on the wall.
I would get postcards sent from many varying artists, but it was always the ones from Oasis that generated the most excitement.
An e-mail to your inbox, or a PM on Facebook, will never generate the same excitement.
That wasn’t enough, I also had a vast video collection, taken from MTV and VH1 from the days when they broadcast music programming, of concerts, interviews and documentaries.
A recent documentary on Channel 4 featured voxpops with a wide range of Oasis fans explaining what Oasis means to them.
One of those featured was Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero. Despite being a world recognised public figure, who has achieved the ultimate accolade for both club and country, playing in the best stadiums in the biggest games, he spoke about his childish excitement at getting to meet Oasis, about his favourite songs, just like any other Oasis fan.
I actually met Alan White, drummer from 1995-2004 when I worked in The Apartment, when he was guesting with Ocean Colour Scene.
It was a quiet Wednesday night, so I took the opportunity to chat to him about music and general randomness.
Though being the focal point of the band, there’s more to Oasis than Liam and Noel, as they have been complimented by two different backing line-ups of Bonehead and Guigsy (1991-1999) and Andy Bell and Gem Archer (1999-2009), without whom, Oasis just wouldn’t function.
Every Oasis album since 2000 has been waited with excitement. For ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants‘, I waited patiently for Woolworths in Bangor Town Centre to open at 9am so I could get my copy as soon as it was on sale.
When ‘Heathen Chemistry‘ came out in 2002, I saw them at The Odyssey the night before it came out, having watched the World Cup final that afternoon.
Despite being a student, and having the day off the part-time work I was at, I was up first thing on the Monday morning to get my copy.
For ‘Don’t Believe The Truth‘ in 2005, the final assignments and exams of my HND were to take a back seat while I got my copy of the new Oasis album.
By the time they released ‘Dig Out Your Soul‘ in 2008, I was working for a media intelligence company in an industrial park with no civilisation nearby.
It was a horrible company to work for. The management team was weak and clueless, often being given the runaround by social retards who only got employed through knowing someone who knew someone.
I spent most of my time having to make endless apologies to customers for mistakes made by other people, and the only mistake I made was to pick up the phone when they rang to complain.
The social retardation of my work colleagues was bad enough, but they insisted on playing Cool FM at full blast, believing that Pink, Taylor Swift and The Script on constant repeat is what people want to listen to.
When you are dealing with people who think the lyrics to Pink songs are deep and meaningful, there’s nothing you really can do.
That one day, I went to Tesco at lunchtime, as I did every lunchtime, because it was the only place nearby, but this day was different, as I purchased a copy of the new Oasis album.
As I sat in the office that afternoon, I kept looking at the new CD I purchased, with the giddy excitement I felt in 1998 when I bought the first two Oasis albums with my birthday money.