Category Archives: Moon Under Water

No, I don’t want a cup of tea

A few quick pub updates from recent wanderings.

When the rumour went round that the Salutation was going to be closed down by its owner, Manchester Metropolitan University (which I should note is my employer), I resisted the general doom and gloom; I had already heard that the pub was staying open, and that it would be run by the Students’ Union. Obviously it would change, a bit, but I was hopeful that the Sal would retain its character – and its excellent beer range. I stuck my head in the other day and found that, of the four hand pumps, only one was in action – the (Pennine Brewery) house bitter. There were a couple of those small blackboard-on-menu-holder arrangements on the bar, advertising Gaymer’s (keg) cider and Jeremiah Weed. Things may change when term starts in a couple of weeks; I’ll reserve judgment till then.

Another pub with a house beer is the (JDW’s) Sedge Lynn in Chorlton. Their arrangement with Brightside has yielded the interesting experiment of a house dark mild (which I foolishly never got round to trying) and – on now – a house golden ale. It’s very light – not-touching-the-sides light – but pleasant in its way. Last time I was in they also had Mordue Belma Red, which puts up a bit more of a fight. Not the prickliest red ale I’ve ever had, but worth £1.80 of any CAMRA member’s money. Some Spoons’ do put some good stuff on. On a couple of occasions recently I’ve seen the same beer on at the Sedge Lynn and Pi or De Nada, both of which obviously charge considerably more – I wonder how the breweries make it pay.

From house beers to house breweries: for me there’s been a small question mark over the beer range at the Horse and Jockey since its takeover by Holt’s. Taking on the Horse – complete with the Bootleg brewery – seemed downright bizarre at the time, although it now looks more like an early sign of Joeys’ new direction. When I looked in the other day they had seven beers on: three Holt’s (Bitter, IPA and the golden ale Two Hoots), two from Bootleg and two guests, from Beartown and Conwy. It’s not the kind of range the Horse had before the takeover, but it’s not bad (I’m a bit of a fan of Conwy).

A couple of doors down from the Horse, the Beech continues to plough its own furrow: lots of Timothy Taylor Landlord and Golden Best, supplemented by three or four guests, some adventurous (Oakham, Salamander) but most not (Hobgoblin, Ruddles). The other night I thought I saw Pedigree on the bar; I looked again and realised it was Pedigree New World, a special using the Pedigree recipe with (you’re ahead of me) New World hops. It was OK, but after one pint I went back to the Landlord.

Electrik have a few distinctions in the crowded Chorlton bar scene: one is having three of their own beers (brewed at Happy Valley), another is having a free jukebox of high quality, while a third is having a wide range of comfortable-looking seats on which it’s actually impossible to get comfortable. When I’m there I’m looking for a chair I can lean back in, with enough light to read by and no draught on my neck; the combination is hard to find, and I usually end up shifting between two or three different seats. I keep going back, though. Last night both their own Bright Spark and the rum stout Black Out were on (I had the latter, which was excellent) as well as the very welcome sight of Ticketybrew Pale Ale. It was, once again, a fantastic beer – and keenly priced at £3.40 a pint.

Lastly, a weekend note. I’ve got a long-established Saturday routine, involving going out early doors for a couple of pints with something to read. It’s a habit I got into when I didn’t know many people in the area, and I’m reluctant to break it now, although I’m conscious it may sometimes make me look anti-social. Last Saturday I divided my time between the Marble Beerhouse and De Nada. I hadn’t had a drink in the Marble for months, & I was very pleased to see that the framed posters which graced the walls for years have been put back up: two of Brendan Dobbin’s unique West Coast Brewery posters, a Thirsty Moon, a Wobbly Bob… They didn’t have any of those beers on, mind you – in fact, they only had one guest (from Marble offshoot Blackjack), although I think another had just gone off. There were five Marble beers, though, and – sign of the times – a guest keg font (Magic Rock High Wire). Sitting on an upholstered bench next to a sleeping cat, reading my paper by the light of the fading evening sun, in complete silence but for the sound of conversations from the far end of the room, I had a pint of Marble Lagonda. And what a mighty beer that is – a full-on pale ale, but with a fruity body in comparison with the more astringent likes of Dobber.

Then, up the road at De Nada, I had an XT 4, which was pleasant if unspectacular; I drank it in between eating the complimentary nibbles, while sitting in a leather armchair, reading by the wall light, listening to a hum of conversation all around me and enjoying the sound of the jukebox (when did you last see a jukebox with Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”?) As a way to spend half an hour it was rather fine.

Getting philosophical for a moment, it struck me afterwards that in those two Saturday pints I’d experienced the difference between a pub and a bar. With the sounds, the nibbles and the dim light, De Nada had a real buzz about it; I really enjoyed being there. With the natural light, the quiet and the cat, the Marble had absolutely no buzz at all – and I really enjoyed being there, but in a different way. It would be pushing it, to say the least, to say that that’s what pubs are like – that’s not even what the Marble’s like when it gets busy. But I do think that experience – “take your beer, sit down, now we’ll leave you to your own thoughts for the next hour or two” – is something you’re much more likely to get in a pub than in a bar; just as the more ‘buzzy’ experience – “enjoy your beer, try some nibbles, do you remember this one? this is cool, isn’t it?” – is very bar-like. I wouldn’t be without either of them.


Folk ‘n’ ale

The relationship between pubs and singarounds is surprisingly complex; getting a good match is harder than it might seem.

My main, fortnightly, singaround is based at a pub in Chorlton which has had quite a chequered history. When we started going there it was in a bad way; they served Landlord, Taylor’s Best Bitter and Golden Best, and if you were lucky two of them would be on at the same time. I remember a time when the beer ran out altogether, and by way of compensation the barman came round with the last few pints from the barrel in a jug; nice gesture, but it tasted about as good as you’d expect. The relative emptiness – well, let’s not mince words, the very nearly absolute emptiness – of the rest of the pub didn’t bother us; in fact it was all to the good, as it made the pub nice and quiet for us.

What did bother us after a while were the effects of the lack of custom; as well as pumps running dry, this led to the management being very reluctant to bar anyone, which in turn led to some, er, lively scenes in the rest of the pub. But we kept going, feeling vaguely that we were helping keep the place open. Unfortunately it didn’t work, and we spent several evenings parked rather uncomfortably in the corner of lounge bars in other pubs in the area. (The great pre-requisite for a singaround is a room: an upstairs room, a back room or ideally a snug.)

Fortunately, the Beech (this being the pub I’m talking about) reopened under new and, frankly, much better management; on an average night there’s a choice of about six decent beers, some of them very decent indeed. It’s not a craft beer joint, but it covers the range – from Hobgoblin to Oakham via Summer Lightning and Landlord; the beer’s always good and it’s not over-priced. (“Not over-priced” is a phrase which here means “somewhere in the range from £2.80 to £3.60”.) Unfortunately (for us), on an average night the place is rammed: as the MC of our singaround said the other night, “Around this time of the evening we enact a traditional ceremony, in which men come into the public bar and shout at each other.” The second half of the evening tends to be rather heavy on big songs with rousing choruses.

The room, the beer, the noise; getting them all right is harder than you’d think. For a while, when the Beech was being redecorated, we decamped to Dulcimer, where we occupied half of a rather large upstairs room. The landlord rather sportingly supplied a stack of beer tokens for participating singers and musicians; essentially, anyone getting there in the first half hour could count on a free pint. Since the beer was good, Dulcimer scored very high indeed on the beer front; less so on the room and the noise (it was big shouty numbers most of the way).

Another, monthly singaround has recently been launched, although it hasn’t got a permanent home yet. It started in an upstairs room at the Briton’s Protection. It was a great afternoon; the acoustics of the room were a bit soft (big room, lots of soft furnishings) but we got an excellent crowd. Also, the beer was good and Not Over-Priced.

Emboldened, we had a singaround in the snug at Peveril of the Peak. The room was great acoustically – if a bit small – and the pub was quiet; too quiet, in fact: the bar called last orders at 9.15 (!!!). The beer was Not Over-Priced (see above) but it was very dull – Jennings’ Cumberland, Deuchar’s quote IPA unquote, that kind of thing. Also, 9.15!

So we had a singaround in a side room at the Crown and Kettle. The beer was rather fine (Allgates!) and N. O.-P. Finding myself short of a drink at the end of the evening I went for a bottle of Ticketybrew’s Dubbel, which was very nice and… well, not very over-priced. Sadly the room wasn’t great – rather a lot of noise from the main bar.

(Not easy, this. Not especially interesting, maybe, but you have to agree it’s not easy.)

So then we had a singaround in a back room at the King’s Arms (Salford). There was quite a wide and interesting variety of beer, which wasn’t over-priced.The room was very pleasantly full of singers and had a door which closed – a rare and welcome feature. Unfortunately it also had a constant trickle of low-volume muzak from a defective PA which the bar staff were unable to turn off(!). Cursed, we are, cursed I tell you.

Our latest singaround to date was in a back room at the Gas Lamp. The room was amazing – tiled walls making for maximum reflection, which would be awful for a band playing different parts but is just what you want with unaccompanied singing, whether you’re dealing with big harmonies or quiet solos. The pub wasn’t particularly quiet, but our voices bouncing off the walls made so much noise I didn’t much care. As for the beer, there were two hand pumps on the bar, only one of which was working; it was serving a >5% black IPA from the Six O’Clock brewery, which (although very palatable) was over-priced, viz. £4. (This is less than Port Street Beer House are charging for it, admittedly.) Almost everything else was even dearer. I wound up having three pints (to be precise, a pint of the Six O’Clock, a pint of Jever and a 500 ml bottle of Franziskaner dunkel) and paying £12.80 – which would buy you four pints at most if not all of the pubs listed above, and would have covered two full evenings at Dulcimer. Really not good. Lovely room, though, and a great evening.

So bring me a back room (door optional) with tiled walls; bring me a pub (or bar) that’s solvent but not too busy; and please, bring me beer that’s Not Over-Priced. Alternatively, bring me a barrel and set it upright

Nice here, innit?

Back at the dawn of time, I kick-started this blog with a series of posts about my four main “locals” – four very different establishments, all of which were (and happily still are) doing quite well. I was intending to write a follow-up post talking about how they were doing well, but never got round to it. (I’d have to extend the list to seven, as well.)

Atmosphere has to be part of the equation, though. B&B’s recent comments on a pub in Bristol – a pub with a particularly high level of pubbiness – got me thinking again about pub atmosphere, and what contributes to it. Are there factors which consistently make you feel at home in a pub – that make you think “maybe I’ll stop for another”? And are there factors that consistently work the other way, making you think “maybe I’ll drink up and move on”? Here’s my list, off the top of my head:

“Drink up, move on”

Big, open rooms
Screwed-down tables
Cafe-style furniture (round tables, bentwood chairs etc)
Heavy emphasis on food
Heavy emphasis on gourmet-level beers with prices to match (stress on ‘heavy’; having Nøgne Ø in the fridge is fine, it’s getting in-your-face about it I don’t like)
Uniformly bright lighting
Bland, hotel-lounge decor
Radio on
TV on with sound
Multiple TVs with no sound (so a screen is visible from every corner of the room)
Great crowds of people (crammed into a small pub or spread out in a huge pub – either way, too many people is unsettling)
Mediocre beer, or decent beer in poor condition
A pub quiz, halfway through

“Stop for another”

A pub cat
An open fire
Multiple small-ish rooms
A good jukebox, or very good piped music (what B&B describe is essentially an excellent jukebox)
Bookshelves with interesting books
Squashy leather furniture
Interesting or striking architecture (think the Fletcher Moss in Didsbury or the Centurion in Newcastle)
Interesting decor (bare floorboards, gigantic refectory tables, whatever)
Groups of people chatting and looking like they’ve settled in
One or two people sitting alone reading the paper
Decent beer in good condition
A pub quiz, about to start

What about you?

Update Apparently everyone agrees with me, which is nice. What interests me, thinking about this some more, is that pubs almost always have some elements from both lists; this evening, for instance, I had a blissful pint listening to some excellent music while sitting on a bentwood chair. (I was seriously tempted by the place down the road with the leather sofa.) Spoons’ often tick a lot of boxes on the ‘bad’ list, but there’s one in Manchester with four or five ‘good’ features. There are also some that tend to go together, to the point where seeing one ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feature more or less guarantees you’ll get some of the others: uniform bright lighting is generally a bad sign. And a pub cat is always good to see.

Mr and Mrs Gnome-Aitz and their son…

The London Review of Books

It’s a right riveting read

Yes, it’s a Late Arrival, this time for the Session.

I never seem to notice the Sesh until it’s over; usually it’s no great loss as the topic doesn’t inspire me, but just occasionally a topic is right up my alley. As is this one: drinking in pubs alone.

Conviviality, relaxation, spontaneity; these are some of the great things about drinking in pubs. These days I mostly seem to experience them alone.

Here’s when I drink in company, in descending order of frequency:

  1. When I’m playing or singing at a folk club / singaround. The odd thing about these is that, although they’re usually held in pubs or clubs, they aren’t especially convivial occasions – or at least, the conviviality happens through the music; you don’t spend a lot of the evening chatting over beer. Musical sessions are a particularly extreme example – essentially, two hours of playing traditional tunes, pausing only to draw breath and take the odd gulp.
  2. With my family, usually having a meal, generally in JDW’s. Well, JDW’s, what is there to say? Excellent beer sometimes – but again, it’s generally not the most convivial of experiences.
  3. On work do’s. Nothing against a work do, particularly after the first pint or two. But I have got a problem with big gatherings in general, which is that I’m a bit deaf in one ear – so if the group, or the pub, is at all noisy I have to make an effort to keep up with the conversation, and don’t always succeed.
  4. Meeting a friend for a drink. This is the real deal in terms of conviviality, as long as nobody falls ill or throws a strop, but I don’t do it much; we’re talking number of times per year rather than per month, and they’re generally arranged well in advance. Also, the deaf thing is sometimes a problem.

Here’s when I drink alone, also from most to least frequent:

  1. On Saturday nights, one pint before ordering our regular takeaway and another before picking it up. Good beer, leisurely early-evening weekend atmosphere and something good to read (usually the London Review of Books). Half an hour of mildly alcohol-fuelled semi-intellectual reverie and relaxation: bliss.
  2. On occasional weekday evenings after dropping my daughter at one of her regular activities (on foot, I hasten to add). Usually I turn round and go home again, but sometimes I stay out and pick her up afterwards, spending the next hour with a couple of pints of something decent and the London Review of Books. An hour of [see above], made a bit less blissful by slightly less relaxed mid-evening weeknight atmosphere (darker, noisier, busier).
  3. On occasional weekday afternoons when I’m not working (I work part-time), and I feel like celebrating or it’s hot or something. A leisurely pint, or sometimes just a half, watching the world go by and – just for a change – reading the London Review of Books. Again, the atmosphere falls a bit short of Saturday evening, for the opposite reason – it’s generally a bit dead (although not completely – I’m never the only person in there, and I’m usually not the only person drinking alone).
  4. On tickers’ pub crawls, e.g. Mild Magic or the Winter Warmer Wander. I really enjoy seeing a variety of pubs and getting to know different beers, and doing it on my own doesn’t bother me; I’ve always got something to read (it’s often the London Review of Books).

You get the rough idea. Drinking isn’t really a social thing for me; by and large, it’s something I do alone in a social setting. I’m not totally anti-social – I don’t actually prefer newsprint to a chat with a friend. But if that’s not a possibility – which it quite often isn’t – a pint with the LRB isn’t a bad alternative.

Are you experienced?

There’s an interesting discussion over at B&B‘s (which is becoming my blog-from-blog – I’m spending more time commenting there than posting here) about what you might call the Great British Pub. Here’s a question from a US correspondent, with B&B’s response:

Q: Are pubs in the UK generally the quaint, homey, and instantly familiar and comfy establishments we’ve been led to believe?

A: Those pubs do exist but need a little work to find. There are lots of types of establishment calling themselves pubs which are actually restaurants, fast-food joints, dive bars, nightclubs and so on, perhaps with wood panelling and handpumps

I think that’s pretty much right – and, they might have added, there are lots of types of establishment dispensing hand-pulled beer and not looking like a pub, not calling themselves pubs or both.

The interesting thing about this question is how counter-intuitive the answer is. My immediate impulse was to think “of course that’s what pubs are like – dark wood, brass, plush seating, a real fire, the landlord’s cat and handpumps”. But on reflection that kind of establishment isn’t all that common any more, at least in towns. I can think of a few pubs in walking distance that are sort of pub-ish on that definition, but hardly any of them are places you’d go for decent beer.

So is the Pub Experience becoming divorced from the Beer Experience?

That’s one possibility, but it may be more complicated than that. On a couple of occasions recently I’ve looked down the bar at one of my locals and just not been very enthused. Yes, that looks like it’s pale and hoppy, but the pump clip describes it as ‘creamy’ – is that another word for ‘bland’? (It was.) Yes, it’s nice to see porter on sale, but is it likely to be a particularly nice or memorable porter? (It wasn’t.) Is there anything else I could have – anything interesting? Anything 5% or over, even? (There wasn’t.) I was drinking guest ales in two pubs – well, a pub and a bar – with well-earned reputations for good and varied beer; the breweries weren’t stellar, but they weren’t total unknowns either. And perfectly decent pints they were too, the kind of thing you’d drink in a pub (brass, dark wood, cat etc) and be well content. In an establishment that’s more of a beer palace than a pub, I felt a bit short-changed.

Then the other day – staying on the subject of change – I had a pint of Hawkshead Lakeland Gold, a really beautiful beer in excellent condition. I didn’t have time for another pint, so I followed it with a half of Burton Bridge Bramble Stout, an excellent example of how to use fruit flavours to enhance the natural flavours of a beer without overpowering them. Two very different beers, both of which hit the Beer Experience bullseye so hard they put a dent in it. And the two together cost £2.74; I was in a Wetherspoon’s.

In short: if you want the Pub Experience, you’ll probably end up drinking John Smith’s, or Bombardier if you’re lucky. If you want the Beer Experience, your best bet is probably somewhere with all the soul and atmosphere of a hotel dining room. And if you want to drink beer that’s perfectly decent but not terribly memorable, in surroundings that are quite nice but actually not all that comfortable, see where the CAMRA members and ‘craft beer’ fans go (and check your wallet).

I’m sure there are variations. Areas where the dominance of family & regional brewers hasn’t been broken – like Cornwall, or Stockport for that matter – may have seen less change from the old-school Pub Experience pub; smaller towns may have more pub-like pubs simply because the ‘bar’ look doesn’t have so much local appeal. (I have fond memories of York’s Maltings, which is as pubby as you like and served me some excellent beers from SWB and Magic Rock.) And my two locals may just have been having an off week on the guest beer front. They did make an odd contrast with the city-centre Spoons, though.

Strange town

I’m travelling a lot over the next few days. I won’t have the chance to do much exploring of any of the places I’m visiting, but I will be taking the opportunity to fit in a swift half or two on the way back to my train.

So, where’s a good place to drink – in easy striking distance of the station – in…

  • York?
  • Newcastle?
  • Liverpool?

Suggestions in comments please!

Update I’m back in Manchester now, and not planning any more beer tourism. If I were, though, it would probably be in York. The Brigantes had a terrific beer range (I had York Guzzler), although the pub itself was a bit city-centre-gastro and not too comfortable for a lone drinker. The Ackhorne was more pub-like and had an equally impressive range (Rooster’s Yankee for me). ‘Ackhorne’, incidentally, is a medieval variant spelling of ‘Acorn’, which was the name of the old pub which was gutted to make way for this one. There’s logic there somewhere. Later, I found my way to the Maltings, which might as well have had a sign saying “tickers, CAMRA members and visiting Twissups this way”. In fact, larky signage is a feature of the pub, mostly featuring what you could call Pub Landlord Humour – a combination of hearty welcome, assertive jokiness and veiled menace. (“Be warned: our CHILLI will cure your CONSTIPATION!” “We don’t serve children, so DON’T ASK FOR ONE!”) If you like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you’ll like. If you don’t, you can always ignore the signs. Either way, this is a really great pub – basic but comfortable surroundings, a fantastic range of beers and a landlord who knows his stuff. I had Magic Rock Curious (“I hope you like hoppy beer! For a 3.8% beer, this is… bob-on.”) and SWB Nerotype #4 Herkules (“Hoppy beers all the way!”) Both were very nice indeed. The Nerotype black IPA was probably the best of the style I’ve had; as full-on as Buxton Black Rocks, but more subtle (more Thornbridge than Marble, you could say). It was also fairly lively; I was struck by the way it seemed to clear downwards, like Guinness. The Curious was… bob-on. There was a time when I wouldn’t have liked it at all – not so much “hop-forward in the modern style” as “hops smacking you about the face, in the style of a demented alcoholic Tango advert” – but fortunately my tastes have evolved.

I didn’t have much drinking time in Newcastle – just a swift one in the station bar, otherwise known as the Centurion. Just a few handpumps, overshadowed by a forest of keg fonts (nothing ‘interesting’, though; the one logo I didn’t immediately recognise turned out to be Woodpecker cider!) While I’m moaning, my pint was nothing special either – the CO2 was all in the head. But the pub itself is something else: every surface is tiled, with richly coloured and moulded tilework, and the space is approximately the size and shape of an aircraft hangar. Never mind the (beer) quality, feel the architecture.

Liverpool took me to the Swan, the Belvedere, ye Crack [sic] and the Dispensary. The Swan is a long single-fronted room stretching back from the street, with no natural light once you get about three feet over the threshold. It reminded me of bars in Edinburgh; in fact I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of pub anywhere else in England. Two more pale ones – Hopping Mad Brainstorm and Liverpool Organic Shipwreck IPA. Despite being 6%, the Shipwreck struck me as a light, easy-drinking IPA; not much more assertive than the Hopping Mad, and much less so than the Magic Rock. I know the Belvedere has its fans, but it hasn’t left much of a trace in my memory other than being a small back-street boozer where your choices are to listen to the conversation at the bar or to join it. The beer was pale, hoppy and I think it was another Liverpool Organic, but don’t quote me on that. Ye Crack, a name which is just dying to be asked about, is a multi-room pub with a big “local artists” thing going on and a substantial “we knew the Beatles before you did” thing to go with it. This wasn’t entirely my scene either, but the Gertie Sweet Dusky Maiden stout was very nice. By the time I got to the Dispensary I was jonesing for a dark bitter; I ordered George Wright Mark’s Mild, only to realise a minute later that I’d overlooked the pump serving Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime. There was only one thing for it (although I did only have a half). The mild was good stuff, but it was overshadowed by the Hawkshead beer, which is… what? A light-drinking strong porter? A black old ale? Whatever it is (and it’s in an area where beer taxonomies are having a lot of trouble at the moment), it’s very nice indeed.

Then back to Manchester, and straight to a beer festival. It’s a hard life.

Rebellious jukebox

Pete‘s done it, Mark Dredge has done it, the Curmudgeon‘s done it and Barm‘s refused to do it. Time then for me to do it: to say what would be on my ideal jukebox.

I’ve got quite mixed feelings about background music in pubs. (I exempt music sessions and singarounds, which are about making music rather than having it in the background, and which don’t invite an audience: if you’re listening, the chances are you’re also playing or singing.) The only kind I can’t stand is the kind that’s too loud to hear yourself speak; I don’t even like that kind of volume in a club for as long as I’m not actually dancing, and in a venue where you can’t dance it seems downright perverse. I’m not crazy about piped music, or amplified live music for that matter, where it’s loud enough to be intrusive; too much of that and you start hankering after silence. But relatively quiet music can make a good backdrop to a drink and a chat.

The big exception to the rule about intrusively loud music is the jukebox, which I appreciate at more or less any volume. Really, the jukebox is commodity capitalism in musical form: it delivers music in discrete packages, each of which can be purchased for the same fee, and by doing so it generates both demand and competition: if you don’t like what someone else has put on, put your hand in your pocket and buy your own choice. All the same, there’s something liberating – empowering, even – about being able to turn your desire for music so quickly and easily into effective demand: a good jukebox lets you dredge up the song that’s going through your head, be it a B-side or a buried album track, and fill the room with it almost instantaneously. It’s not a million miles away from the buzz of singing a new song at a singaround – although obviously in that case there’s more effort involved, and no money changing hands.

Anyway, here are some songs I’ve filled rooms with in the past and hopefully will do again.

Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks”
“Where immobile steel rims crack, And the ditch in the back roads stop…” What’s it mean? What’s he going on about? Half a minute later it doesn’t matter. Bliss.

the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want”
For a long time I couldn’t pass the Crescent in Salford without going in, and I couldn’t go in without putting this on the jukebox. (To be fair, I only went down that street about once a week.) “I went down to the demonstration, To get my fair share of abuse…” Them weret’ days.

Wizzard, “See my baby jive”
The greatest single ever released. If it doesn’t lift your mood a bit you may be dead.

Radiohead, “Paranoid android”
Sometimes it’s not about lifting the mood. “From a great height… From a great height…”

Mott the Hoople, “All the young dudes”
This single had almost mythical status when I was growing up, largely because nobody I knew had a copy. If you ever found it on a jukebox, what a song. My friends and I were fascinated by the spoken passage that you can just make out in the fade – “I’ve wanted to do this for years… There you go!

David Bowie, “Sound and vision”
I think we don’t always hear how weird this single is. It sounds as if the elements of a pop song have been shuffled and then put back together; they’re all there but nothing fits properly. It’s only let down by patches of downright ineptitude – he should have got rid of that saxophonist.

the Phantom Band, “Throwing bones”
Today on this programme you will hear gospel, and rhythm and blues, and jazz. And folk, and angsty singer-songwriter introspection, and quite a lot of Krautrock. And Scottish accents.

the Pet Shop Boys, “Left to my own devices”
There had to be some Pet Shop Boys (at least, when I’m in a pub there often is). “Being boring” and the wonderful “What have I done to deserve this” were strong contenders, but this won out – the eight-minute album version, of course. (You may detect a theme emerging here. By my reckoning these eight tracks come in at 47 minutes.) Strings by Trevor Horn, rap by Neil Tennant:
I was faced with a choice at a difficult age
Would I write a book, or should I take to the stage?
But in the back of my head I heard distant feet:
Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat.

You can’t say fairer than that.