Author Archive for Brent Curtis


When the kids get the camera


Otto’s lego version of a creeper from Minecraft. [Otto]



Tosca chewing a bone. [Otto]



Barbie and Ken. [Lucy Jean]



Greycute’s fat belly. [Lucy Jean]


when the kids borrow the camera…

… they make funny faces.







And then there are the Rothko-inspired artistic shots with Barbie shoes:




Eugene McGuinness and his lions are out on the prowl

We listen a fair bit to Radio 6 which has some amazing shows from Huey, Don and Lister, but often the chat of the DJ gets too much and we turn to Late Night Jukebox. This is a bit of a cop-out since a fair chunk of the music they play is stuff we already own. Still, there is room for something new.


Her name is Madleen Teetsov.

They have been playing this song called Lion on high rotation and it is cool and catchy in a Queens of the Stone Age kind of way. Once you figure out what he is saying the lyrics are a hoot and the bass line is a killer.

After hearing it for the tenth time in two weeks I figured it was time to find out who sang it, so I put down my glass of rosé and wandered to the computer sitting in owl corner at the other end of the large, cold house and looked it up on youtube. It turns out not to be QotSA, but someone called Eugene McGuinness. Never heard of him before.

But the video! Who cares about the singer where there’s so much 80s modern dance on display.

I rushed back to get Jean to watch the video (and to retrieve my glass of rosé) and as predicted it was a hit with my modern-dancer wife. The kids gathered around the monitor and wondered what language he was speaking. Yes Otto, that is English.


Prick of the Pops–1964 and 1983

It is Saturday night, which means ‘date night’ where we kick the kids off to watch a movie, drink a bottle of champagne and listen to Pick of the Pops.


What is this shit?

1983 gives us this boppy little synth bass line with lyrics infested with dung beetles. Trust me, I know my cowpats and this song has that smell of digested lucerne and fescue. 

The video has plenty of 80s retro-cool going on, though.


How long did it take to find a good song in the November 1963 chart?

Any time before 1967 is a risk for having a crappy chart. It is nearly as bad as the late 80s! But 1963 did fine tonight. The first great song was The Supremes with Where did our love go? [With Jennifer Hudson, I mean Florence Ballard singing backing vocals out there with Mary Wilson. I like how Florence is a way from the mic so her power doesn’t destroy Diana’s cute sound.]

They all show up again later with Baby Love.


Song that generates the most hatred

The Cure played songs for boys, like A Forest, Hanging Garden and the amazing Primary. Then they went all girly, matching two cute girl words together to create Lovecats. I already whined about it a couple of years ago. I hate it. I won’t embed the video.


Best song played from 1964

All Day and All of the Night by The Kinks. When a song has been covered by both The Stranglers and Alvin and the Chipmunks it has to be good.

I’d never seen that video before. It is a bit of a shock. The song sounds so modern that the video seems out of sync with it.


Best song played from 1983

A slice of pop perfection from Tracy Ullman – They don’t know about us. What a great song we had both totally forgotten, but could sing along with once it started. Aren’t networked neurons amazing?

I’m telling Jean how much she sounds like the fabulous Kirsty MacColl when Tony Blackburn tells us it was written and recorded by her. Oh yeah, so it was.


WTF happened here?

Some Canadian brothers got together and made this song called Safety Dance. On the radio it has no redeeming feature, but the video is jolly. Seven and a half million folk have watched it on YouTube and now you can, too. It isn’t quite up there with Working for the Weekend but a fine performance nonetheless.


Which year won?

A split decision. Jean picks 1983 because she knew the songs and it was an era that meant a lot to her, but how could I go past 1964 with its two Supremes songs, The Searchers’ When You Walk in the Room, All Day and All of the Night, Oh, Pretty Woman and Sandie Shaw singing this Bacharach/David number:


1964 playlist

Joe Loss — March Of The Mods

Gene Pitney — I’m Gonna Be Strong

Tommy Quickly & the Remo Four — The Wild Side Of Life

Freddie & The Dreamers — I Understand

The Hollies — We’re Through

Jim Reeves — There’s A Heartache Following Me

The Shangri-Las — Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)

The Pretty Things — Don’t Bring Me Down

The Supremes — Where Did Our Love Go

Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers — One Way Love

Cliff Richard — The Twelfth Of Never

Helmut Zacharias — Tokyo Melody

The Searchers — When You Walk In The Room

The Nashville Teens — Google Eye

The Mindbenders — Um Um Um Um Um Um

The Kinks — All Day & All Of The Night

The Rockin’ Berries — He’s In Town

The Supremes — Baby Love

Matt Monro — Walk Away

Manfred Mann — Sha La La

Sandie Shaw — Always Something There To Remind Me

Roy Orbison — Oh, Pretty Woman


1983 playlist

Aztec Camera — Oblivious

Eurythmics — Right By Your Side

The Rolling Stones — Undercover Of The Night

Limahl — Only For Love

George Benson — In Your Eyes

Donna Summer — Unconditional Love

Status Quo — A Mess Of Blues

Tracey Ullman — They Don’t Know

The Cure — The Love Cats

Madness — The Sun & The Rain

Men Without Hats — Safety Dance

Adam Ant — Puss N Boots

Shakin’ Stevens — Cry Just A Little Bit

Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson — Say Say Say

Lionel Richie — All Night Long (All Night)

Billy Joel — Uptown Girl


Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Hump a bathtub just to please you.

This is Bette Davis and these are her eyes.

So saying someone has Bette Davis eyes means… well I guess it means they have big eyes that are kinda googly. Is it even positive? Indeed with all the lyrics of Bette Davis Eyes I have a hard time figuring out what they mean. It sounds like Kim Carnes is singing about someone tough, cool and horny enough to hump bathtubs. Bette Davis liked the song but she would, wouldn’t she. Her name is the only thing people remember about it. Well, that and the New Romantics.

Bette Davis Eyes made it to number one so it has to have something going for it. And indeed it does: the genius synth line by Bill Cuomo who was noodling around on his synth and came up with the sound that defines the song. The song is Bill’s synth line.

Kim Carnes’ awful rasping voice almost wrecks it. She sounds like she needs to go to bed with a cup of lemon tea and some Sudoku puzzles to rest for the weekend so she can get back to work on Monday. It is distracting and horrible to listen to.

But the video is just great.


The opening shot sets the arty-80s tone with the wind-blown curtain and veil. Hard-faced Kim takes a little away from the look even when she is hidden behind her Ray-Bans. There’s a dorky band that I don’t even remember seeing the first twenty times I watched the video. They are like that gorilla that walks across the basketball players.  And just as I’m getting bored with the video, the New Romantics show up…


…and they slap each other.


Maybe Bette Davis has black eyes?


There’s the magic. Empowered hot women in goth outfits smacking around their guys in time to the music. What’s not to love?

But this song has a secret. It is a cover. Here’s the original. Listen and be astounded.

How in the world did that turn into the Bette Davis Eyes that we all know? I contend that there is a final bit of magic at work here. The producer, Val Garay, heard the Jackie DeShannon’s version and had the incredible imagination to think that would make a great song for Kim Carnes. Kim’s version is so strong the DeShannon version sounds like a parody, like something Lyle Lovett sings to please his audience at live shows.

Val, you get a gold star for production genius.


odi et amo – Photograph by Def Leppard

Def Leppard never did it for me. Once I had listened to Motörhead, all those later British metal bands were just too clean and fluffy. For example, Australia’s rock program Countdown once made the mistake of playing Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills right after Motörhead’s Iron Fist. On its own the Iron Maiden song would have been fine, but following Motörhead it all sounded a bit cutesy.

Def Leppard are softer than Iron Maiden but maybe that is an unfair comparison; Lemmy is a hard act to follow. All I know about Def Leppard is that they have a one-armed drummer and if I ever hear them on the radio, I switch stations. Unless the song is Photograph.


It is worth examining Photograph’s structure to find its true identity.

The verse starts with “I’m out of luck, I’m in love…” and a straightforward sound. Guitar riff, basic drums. [And to answer the question going through your mind, yes he had both arms at the time.] How metal are the lyrics? Well, not very. Metal songs are about the Devil and insanity and fucking groupies, not “all I’ve got is a photograph”.

Then the song kicks it up a musical notch – “I see your face every time I dream…” and we have more puke-worthy pop lyrics. The rhythm guitar comes in with a drone and the singer jumped an octave; it’s catchy, it’s exciting with a big hook. 

Oh, look at what you’ve done to this rock n roll clown…”  and we break into the resolution of the chorus with a bigger hook and harmony singing of the “oh”. This is an excellent chorus, better than most bands could come up with. But wait, there’s more!

The actual chorus comes now with the, “Photograph, I don’t want your…”  line and now the lead guitar is picking sweet, smooth notes and there’s more harmony singing. The previous chorus was just lulling you into a false sense of security while the real pop chorus snuck up and hit you from behind.

That is impressive. The song starts off well yet still manages to jump up three more levels. Producers add excitement by starting a song of sparse and adding in more instruments and complexity as the song goes on, but Def Leppard did it with songwriting. That is rare talent, even if it only surfaced in this one song.

You can’t think of this as a metal song, since with lyrics like, “You’ve got some kind of hold on me, you’re all wrapped up in mystery,” they had to hand in their Gods of Metal card. With the harmony singing, the plucked guitar chorus, the lovey-dovey lyrics and the layered hook lines this is a song made more of candy than metal, but that is the wrong way to think of Photograph. Put all notions of metal aside and listen to it as a pop song and it is pure genius.


odi et amo – Lido Shuffle by Boz Scaggs

If ever a musical term gives me the shivers, it is adult-oriented. Boz Scaggs was as adult-oriented as you could get. He’s a grizzled professional with a backing band of excellent session musicians. Indeed his band were so good they went their own way and called themselves Toto. 

His album Silk Degrees had hits like What Can I Say and Lowdown, both mushy numbers that bored the trousers off of me. They were “adult-oriented”. They were so stuck in their mid-Seventies era that if you now listen for a few bars you’ll wish for something fresh to blow away the stench. Which is how we got Punk in the first place.

Then there’s Lido Shuffle.


Look – the names of the Toto members have been snuck into the video title.

Enlisting in the army of reasons to hate this song is its shuffle beat. Rare are the shuffle songs that sound anything but twee. And big drum fills! And a keyboard arpeggio solo! Mee-de-ley mee-de-ley mee-de-ley mee-de-ley. So what could possibly be good about it?

Well the drummer is awesome. He’d better be, he’s the late drum god Jeff Porcaro. The bass player is tight and the line is simple and powerful. He’s a Toto boy too. By the way Toto don’t make the list. There’s no amo for Toto, only odi.

Lido Shuffle is well written, exciting and with a sing-along chorus: Lido – whoa-oh-a-ohoh. Boz sings in an indecipherable slur; always a good idea when there are doubts as to your ability with lyrics.

I write these essays to force into words something that is buried deep in feelings – why one likes music. Sometimes you make a discovery. For example, it took a page on Grace Jones to figure out that I love her music because of her radiance.

So what gives with Boz? Sure the rhythm section is great, but how come Toto isn’t on this list? They have the same rhythm section, but I’m not blessing the rains down in Africa. What is it in particular about this song that makes it break through? And there is the answer, deep in the core of my reptilian brain.

I like Lido Shuffle because it is what you get when you force the musicians of Toto to play straight driving rock music.

The Boz is in charge and those Toto boys are his bitches. They haven’t yet had a hit with Rosanna so their egos are still controllable. We’re not getting their virtuosity and pretension. Boz says no, no, no. They do what he wants, and what he wants is for those session players to play the song the way he wrote it. And that is what they needed to produce magic.

[Aside: Check out pre-fame Patrick Swayze is in this Toto clip for Rosanna. You have to search to find him.]

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