November 5th is Bonfire Night in the UK, as you may well know: with urchins trying to extract money from your pockets with the plaintive cry of ‘penny for the guy’ (even though these days they wouldn’t be happy with anything less than £5) for a pathetic model of something resembling a human being. My mother tells evocative stories from the 40s of how the RAF arranged a firework display for the servicemen’s children, and how they handed everyone a free baked potato (with sausage!) and a cup of hot chocolate. And I can still remember the days when you could go into WH Smiths and get a box of the buggers for 50p stroke 10/-.
However, I only got into this in the 80s when the resultant bonfire contained an effigy of Margaret Thatcher (my woman of the twentieth century, as you may have guessed from my Halloween post), which would then be burned (which unfortunately has not happened in real life), but otherwise this festival has really meant very little to me, other than the inevitable warnings not to play with fireworks and not to keep fireworks in your pocket via government information films, usually in the morning on school holidays or when you felt like a good skive and faked an illness.
Well, before this post changes into something else, let me introduce today’s tracks from the Festive Fifty, strung together into what vaguely resembles a theme.
Siouxsie And The Banshees released Fireworks (FF 1982 #16 and no. 22 in the UK singles chart) as a kind of lead-in to their change in style on A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, but it wasn’t until the singles compilation ten years later that it was finally available on LP. Unusually, the intro is orchestral, but it’s the underpinning of strings that drives this track, which crackles and burns like its subject and just gets better and better every time you hear it. (NB: The video below really should carry an epilepsy warning. Seriously.)
Darren Styles, however, has gone on to work in various areas of UK dance, writing hits for Ultrabeat, Kelly Llorena and others. He apparently swept the board at the Hardcore Awards last year: not bad for a boy from Colchester whose dad loved the blues.
A Peel favourite band, with their laid-back, wistful and cantering style built around the inimitable guitar player and vocalist Lowell George. Their interest in jazz-rock appeared to peak on their Time Loves A Hero set, from which JP chose Rocket In My Pocket (FF 1977 #60) for his one and only self-constructed chart.
Finally, ‘on Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth perfected their style, becoming sculptors of interweaving guitar lines that could unfold with nearly symphonic grandeur’ (Wikipedia – better put than I could have managed). Track 2 of the original album was Silver Rocket (FF 1988 #29), which takes flight, explodes in the air and doesn’t let hold of its grip up to a frantic crash and burn in the middle section and a return to the opening riff. Watch the video here (embedding apparently not allowed, but it’s worth a look. What a band.)
Have a good Guy Fawkes night: as Patrick Moore once said when he did an assembly at our school, ‘November 5th: when we celebrate the execution of the very man we need in Parliament at the moment’. Absolutely.