Songs Steve never let me play #2
Tiny Dan fans are often disappointed when they see me in the flesh. This is for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I am quite simply physically disappointing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not grotesque or unpalatable. But neither am I majestic like, say, Jamaican runny man Usain Bolt or unstoppable bike emperor Sir Chris Hoy. I’m more like a human manifestation of October weather. You know, a bit of everything, but not really anything in itself.
But there’s another reason for their disappointment.
I’m just not that tiny.
Listening to the Steve Show, you’d probably end up thinking I was no larger than a sickly hamster. Conversations with me were usually preceded by some tale of how it was lucky I made it to the studio at all, having had a fight to the death with a money spider, using a matchstick as a weapon.
But – and I’m sorry for this rev as it may re-open the whole row about the BBC and truth-telling – I’m a normal(ish) height. Those spider-fight tales were exaggerated.
In real life, I tower over shrinking elderly folk at the bus stop. Next to a housecat, I am a colossus. Even if you’re a big unit who could well have me in a scrap, you wouldn’t particularly want me to fall on top of you from a window.
I guess what my Tiny Dan average-sized brain is trying to say is that everything’s relative.
And that creates a problem, should you land your all-time dream role – namely that of a small section within a two-hours-per-week radio show on a minority interest DAB digital radio station (which you cannot always attend owing to other work commitments) during which you can play a record you like.
Here’s the deal. You’ve all made compilations, right? For mates, for girls you’re going out with and, most importantly, for girls you’d like to go out with.
And what’s the most difficult bit? With apologies to Eric Morecambe – it’s not choosing the right songs, it’s playing them in the right order.
High Fidelity explains the troubled art of compilation-making in full, but for now just accept that some tunes work best in their original context. And so it is with the choice for this column’s Songs Steve Never Let Me Play.
Leftfield 1990s combo Flying Saucer Attack originated, like me, from Bristol. And, like me, when you first clap eyes (and ears) on them, you might be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing remarkable there.
Their sound is murky. You get big slabs of fuzzy noise, prog-like atmospherics, drums down in the mix, buried alongside vocals which, when they emerge, are delivered slowly, monotonously. In many ways, it’s a dirge.
But listen again. Listen to the whole of their debut LP, which is kind of eponymous, but also kind of called ‘Rural Psychedelia’ ‘cos you can see those words on the cover.
Do you get it now? It’s absolutely beautiful isn’t it? Because that big slab of fuzzy sound starts to unravel. You start to pick out the individual parts that make it up. That initially alienating façade is, upon closer inspection, really rather gorgeous, no? The way the noise actually works with the quiet bits. That atmosphere that’s both strange yet comforting. That seemingly tuneless drone actually turns out to be something considerably lovelier than you gave it credit for.
Now apologise to it. Go on. Pick up the record and apologise to it. Say “I’m sorry, Flying Saucer Attack’s debut album (which is kind of eponymous, but also kind of called ‘Rural Psychedelia’ ‘cos you can see those words on the cover) for doubting your beauty. Here’s 20 quid.” And pay the record. Actually pay it. Actually pay it actual money. Thirty quid. Of your own money. Go to the cashpoint now. Make it 50. Pay that bloody record fifty bloody quid and say you’re bloody sorry.
Well, maybe don’t do that last bit. But do understand why the penultimate track on the album, the obliquely-titled and very beautiful ‘Popol Vuh 1’ only makes sense in the context of that album.
Had I played it on a Sunday afternoon to be listened to on its own during the show, it wouldn’t have worked. I’d have been mocked for another melody-free bit of noodle, and the ensuing derisory cackles and hoots from the Steve Show team would have made me feel very Tiny indeed.
If you liked this, then you may like these too