Tag Archives: music


In the small hours of the morning, the night is blue with the hanging pall of cigarette smoke, of promises made and broken, I love you and fuck no and God yes, yes. You should be at home, you should be in bed, you shouldn’t have drunk this much. But here you are, in a basement bar that you couldn’t find your way home from if you tried, breathing in that blue smoky air, body pressed tight to another, slumping into their arms.

The notes come creeping and smooth, easing themselves through the crowd. You’re tired and drunk and a little in love. The shuffle of feet and the heart beating against yours is like a heavy lullaby, soothing you away to nothing but this moment, this here, this now, this us.


“You want to live in this lousy world? Play it cool.”

Coloured version of a quick doodle, your average crummy JDs

Coloured version of a quick doodle, your average crummy JDs

Recently I stumbled across this photo by Bruce Davidson, from a collection on 1950s Brooklyn teenage gangs that I first saw a couple of years ago:


And it got me doodling some 50s teenage hoodlums, which in turn made me want to dig out my West Side Story dvd.


I love West Side Story. I mean, I really really love it. People who don’t like musicals tend to get this eyes-glossing-over thing when I mention it, which is sad because, seriously guys, this aint no normal musical. Yes, it takes a while to get used to the fighting-via-dance format of a lot of the film (Quick! He’s using jazz-hands!), but when you do you start to notice, shit, that dancing is pretty physical, and the music is gorgeous, and the lyrics are so, so sad. That chirpy song the kids sing about Officer Krupke is fun, right? It’s also about a bunch of teenagers -when “teenagers” were an entirely new concept- with junkie parents who beat them, a society that’s failing them, and a hopelessly bleak future. Tony and Maria’s Romeo & Juliet love-story isn’t the only tragic thing about the film.

But this is me talking – I love the ’50s and ’60s, I love New York, and I’m hopelessly soppy – so I was always going to love it. But if you get the chance to watch this film, before your eyes gloss over, admire the acrobatic, incredibly physical dancing, listen for the beautifully tremulous strings behind the vocals in “One Hand, One Heart”, try and catch the brilliantly sharp lyrics about the way 1950s USA treated immigrants in “America”, and the heartbreakingly sad little lines: “Why do you kids live like there’s a war on?”

Also, you know that finger-clicking is cool.


West Side doodles

Here’s a collection of images I’ve got stuck in a file on my desktop, some from West Side Story, some by the brilliant Bruce Davidson, a couple of gorgeous illustrations of New York in the ’50s by M.Sasek (one of my favourite illustrators), and a few others thrown in for good measure:

And here, the West Side Story prologue in full, because I love you:


Found at Auction: The Unseen Photographs of a Legend that Never Was






Winter Songs

It is snowing. One of the very biggest challenges of my adult life thus far is to restrain myself from behaving like a 4 year old at christmas every time it snows. Middling success.

Here are the songs that I’m listening to right now, that make me think of snow:

White Winter Hymnal – Sonos

Virus – Bjork

Postcards from Far Away – Coldplay (instrumental)

Cherry Red Girl – Seth Lakeman

Arrival of the Birds – Cinematic Orchestra

Teignmouth – Patrick Wolf

Sugar Hiccup – Hannah Peel and Laura Groves

Gnossienne No 1. Lent – Satie

From the Virgin Queen soundtrack – lyrics are a poem by Queen Elizabeth I

Orphir – The Magnetic North

Bring Me A Boat – Kate Rusby

Hella Halloween!

Hey pickles! It’s nearly Halloween, my favourite time of year! Here’s a pick of some of my most favouritest Halloween tunes – from the classics (Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’) to a few that might be new to you (the excellent Molotov Jukebox, Black Casino & the Ghost), and from rockabilly (Imelda May) to folk (Bellowhead and Kate Rusby). Hope you enjoy – leave a comment below if so, and please do share the Halloweeny goodness!

01. Psycho – Imelda May
02. The Strange Face of Love – Tito & Tarantula
03. Way Down Hadestown – Anais Mitchell
04. Something Beautiful – Clem Snide
05. Face to Face – Siouxsie & The Banshees
06. Lullaby – The Cure
07. Fright Night – J.Geils Band
08. What’s the Life of Man? – Bellowhead
09. Bloodshed – Modernaire
10. Dirty Dancehall – The Zutons
11. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
12. My Angel Put The Devil In Me – Murray Gold and Yamit Mamo
13. Culling Of The Fold – The Decemberists
14. I Put A Spell On You – Creedence Clearwater Revival

And on to number 2….

01 – Soldieress’ Lament – Molotov Jukebox (with a bit of Vincent Price on top)
02. The Witch Queen of New Orleans – Redbone
03. Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
04. Killer on the Loose – Thin Lizzy
05. It’s Your Voodoo Working – Imelda May
06. I Am Stretched On Your Grave – Kate Rusby
07. The Killing Moon – Echo & The Bunnymen
08. Bad Company – Bad Company
09. Devil – The Servant
10. The Devil Went Down to Georgia – The Charlie Daniels Band
11. Red Right Hand – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
12. Hells Bells – ACDC
13. Lillibulero – Bellowhead
14. El Luchador – Black Casino & The Ghost
15. She’s My Witch – Kip Tyler
16. Waltzin’ Black – The Stranglers

Party like it’s 1945! – Radio mix Part Two!

So here’s part 2 of my WW2 radio mix, starting with D-day and ending on V-J Day – with track listing and a little bit about some of the tracks below underneath as before. (Part 1 is here.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

01.D-Day Landings news Report – John Snagge BBC Home Service.

02. The Fuehrer’s Got the Jitters – Cab Calloway. This track is awesome – it’s got a great jumping rhythm. In my head this is a soundtrack for some kind of montage.

03. USAFI advert – brilliant little “infomercial” – and this guy has the best voice ever.

04. Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) – Benny Goodman. I edited this track down a bit as it’s a very long one, and loses itself to a jazz-meander halfway through and gets a bit weird. Still this is a brilliant jumping track to dance to – check out the scene from the movie Swing Kids, where a very young looking Christian Bale jives to this track:

05. You Can’t Say No A Solider – Swing And Sway & Sammy Kaye. Girls, if you refuse a soldier you’re being un-patriotic, and he’ll probably die and it’ll be YOUR FAULT. So put out. For your country! But remember girls and boys:

06. A random little joke from Bob Hope which seems to provoke hysterical laughter…

07. Texaco Car Warden ad. This guy’s voice. Just. His voice.

08. King Porter Stomp – Benny Goodman. I think this is probably my all-time favourite swing track. I love its many different solos throughout, and the brilliant plodding rhythm of it, which is fast enough to dance to but not manic like Sing Sing Sing.

09. Head to your nearest shelter, it’s the Air Raid siren!

10. Hold Tight (Seafood) – The Andrews Sisters. “Choo-choo-cha-broadway, Ooh Cincinatti, don’t get icky with the one two three!”. My friend Cara and I can sing this the whole way through in harmony. Brilliantly weird song. “Brrrrrrrryakashaki!”

11. When Johnny Comes Marching Home – Glenn Miller. Brace yourself, there’s a whole heap o’ Glenn Miller coming your way…

12. V is for Victory Call Sign – Colonel Britton. “Eh! Garcon!”

13. And The Angels Sing – Glenn Miller. Love this one too, gorgeously romantic lyrics. Nowadays men sing about wanting you to be their “shorty”. In the 1940s they sang about hearing a choir of angels every time they see you smile.

14. Record Roll-Call – GI Jill. This is from one of the GI Jive recordings.

15. Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree – Glenn Miller. Another song you may know but have never heard the original. Love the lyrics “Watch the girls on the foreign shores, you’ll have to report to me, when you come marching home”.

16. You’ve Got Me This Way – Glenn Miller. “You thought it was funny, me falling so hard, I’m laughing my socks off honey, you’re really a card.”

17. Jukebox of the Air – GI Jive snippet.

18. Fee Fi Fo Fum – Artie Shaw. Love this jaunty little tune.

19. There Are Yanks – Glenn Miller. Yep, there are Yanks, and they’re all here. You must have heard the one about girl’s knickers during the war? One Yank and they’re off. Har har.

20. Army Airforces Training Command advert.

21. Temptation – Artie Shaw

22. I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time – The Andrews Sisters. This song is so beautiful and sad and gorgeous. Beautiful harmonies too.

23. Waste Kitchen Fat – Bing Crosby. “Smoooooth-edged cans.” Okay Bing, you got it!

24. A Garden In The Rain – Blue Barron & His Orchestra. I only stumbled upon this track recently but it’s a real doozy. Again, with the romantic imagery. Why don’t people write songs like this anymore?

25. Announcement of Victory in Europe Day – John Snagge BBC Home Service. Hurray War’s over! I can’t imagine what it must have been like to hear this broadcast after 6 years of war.

26. In The Mood – Glenn Miller. I couldn’t not put this in. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve danced to this track at Blitz parties or otherwise. Though I have to admit the little quiet bit in the middle is a challenge.

27. British Crowd Celebrates V-J Day – BBC Home Service. This shuffled on to my iPod as I walked out of Picadilly circus tube station the other, very bizarre to stand there and hear the roar of the crowds on that same spot over 60 years ago.

28. Opus One – Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

29. Buy a Piece of the Peace – Frank Sinatra. This is great – it’s a war bonds song but it’s popular chart music, not a jingle. Also the line towards the end “There are lands, we must, poliiiiiiice!”  – so funny, and yet so not.

30. “This Is Your Victory!” – Winston Churchill addresses the crowds.

31. Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller. An absolute gem of a track, this, and one I absolutely had to include and that felt the natural choice to conclude this mix. Every time I hear it I imagine I’m slow-dancing at the end of the night with a handsome GI. SIGH. Such a dreamy, slow little melody. If I ever get married I’d want this as my first-dance song – and when I die I want this played at my funeral too. And just to complete things maybe I’ll have it piped into the maternity ward if I ever have a baby. That’s the Circle Of Life.

SO. There it is! Hope you enjoy – please do spread the link far and wide like the veneral disease that we all know now is not victory (glad we cleared that up).

Party like it’s 1939 – Part One!

A little while ago, for reasons unknown, I decided that I’d really like to hear a mix or podcast that contained both music and other audio from WW2 – news broadcasts, adversts, propaganda. I love this sort of thing – you just don’t hear enough catchy jingles these days, especially about buying bonds or saving your kitchen fat. Were these the hyper-annoying “Moonpig.com” and “Go Compare” jingles of the ’40s, and greeted with similar levels of irritation? We may never know. But what I can say for sure is that I’d prefer “Buy buy buy buy a bond!” to be parading incessantly around my head than “We. Buy. Any Phone. Any-any-any-any-any-phone.”

SO. Back on track: I looked high and low but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, but what I DID find was countless interesting sound files and snippets of news broadcasts, so I decided to add it to my 1940s music playlist, and, well, voila. I gave a little shout-out on twitter and facebook recently and it seems I’m not the only one interesting in hearing this sort of thing. So I’ve mixed them together (rather clumsily, it seems my DJ older brother got the mad mixing skillz gene) and here’s what came out the other end. There’s a tracklisting and a bit about each song/audio below – the second mix will follow in another post. The mixes aren’t entirely chronological but I’ve tried to organise them to best make sense, and there’s a general timeline.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

BlitzRadio #1 Cloudcast by Jemima Williams, posted with vodpod

Here’s a tracklisting with a little bit about each song/audio clip if you’re interested.
(Mix 2 is here: )

Mix #1

01. Announcement of War – Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

02. Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser. Perhaps a little chirpy to follow such a somber announcement, but I love the line “can’t afford to be a politician”. Yay! Gung-ho! We’re on a “mighty mission”!

03. Intro to I Sustain The Wings – an American radio show broadcast as part of the recruitment effort, with Major Glenn Miller often at the helm.

04. American Patrol – Glenn Miller. How could I not put this in? Brilliant brilliant track. If you didn’t know, Glenn Miller is really the Big Daddy when it comes to swing and big band music. He led a band during the war and travelled around entertaining troops and keeping morale up at home. Sadly his plane was lost over the channel in 1944, and his body was never found.

05. A Boy in Khaki, A Girl in Lace – Dinah Shore. Dinah Shore has the most beautiful voice. I love this song because I am a right soppy so-and-so.

06. Join the WACs – Women’s Army Corps recruitment ad. If they had ads like this nowadays I’d join in a shot. Catchy.

07. Rosie the Riveter  – The Four Vagabonds. This is another catchy one. I also think it’s charmingly amusing, in a massively sexist way, that women are tempted into war-work purely so they can help out their menfolk. No fighting for your country, justice or to defeat evil, missy! Do it for your boyfriend Charlie!

08. Message to the Women of Britain – Princess Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth was a mechanic in the army in the war. Nice one, your madge.

09. The White Cliffs of Dover – Vera Lynn. Still going strong, is Vera Lynn. I had to include this one, as it’s one of those songs that most people know, even if they’ve never heard it.

10. Life in a blackout – a radio broadcast about London during the Blitz. The style of radio presenting is just brilliant. “Accounts of life at work – yes, and of play”.

11. Chatanooga-choo-choo – Glenn Miller. I love this song, so so much. It is the hold-music of my brain. When we were kids my older brother and I would put this on at our Grandparent’s house and run around the house to it till we passed out from exhaustion. That’s how we rolled in them days. This song also has the brilliant line “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer, than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina!”. I’ve never had ham and eggs in Carolina or otherwise, but one day, God-willing, I will.

12. Homefront Sacrifices – no idea where this came from. But I love it.

13. Oh Johnny Oh Johnny – The Andrews Sisters. You can’t have this kind of playlist without some Andrews Sisters. I love the almost pornographic sighing over lovely Johnny at the very end. “You’re not handsome it’s true, but when I look at you, I just Ooooooh Johnny!”. I also have a thing for songs with guys shouting out lyrics, so this ticks many boxes.

14. In Der Fuhrur’s Face – Spike Jones & His City Slickers. A brilliant way to fight injustice? Mock it. This song is just fantastic, as is the video that can be found on youtube of Spike Jones and his band performing this song – saluting “Der Fuhrer” with a backwards middle-finger.

15. Buy Buy Bonds – Bing Crosby. If you’ve seen the recent Captain America film, the “Star Spangled Man” bond drive song and dance number was based on this sort of thing.

16. I’ve Got a Girl in Kalamazoo – Glenn Miller. Brilliant lyrics: “everything’s oh-kay-ay-el-el-em-ay-zee-oh-oh!”. A catchy song that teaches you to spell!

17. Careless Talk – Listen out for what I’m presuming is supposed to be a Japanese accent, but actually sounds like Borat.

18. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square – Anne Shelton. Another gorgeously soppy and romantic song.

19. Inside a London Air-Raid Shelter. No words. This is just awesome.

20. The Siegfried Line – Flannagan & Allen. Brilliant little piece of “up-yours” at the Nazis. Apparently they wrote a come-back. Didn’t quite have the same oomph.

21. Commentary on a Dog Fight. An amazing little snippet of history this. Incredible to think that this sort of thing was witnessed regularly in the skies over Britain.

22. Anvil Chorus – Glenn Miller. There were other big band leaders during the war. It’s just that none of them have featured in this mix yet. Love the frantic pace.

23. Snippet from GI Jive programme – “Shoot some mail to us, John-boooy!” Need I say any more?

24. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen – The Andrews Sisters. A great little tune with brilliant lyrics. (Apparently translates from Yiddish as “To me you’re beautiful”)

25. It’s Only a Paper Moon – Benny Goodman. You know those other big band leaders I was talking about? Here’s one!

26. He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings – Kay Kyser. It’s a bit odd that this song is sung by a man. But hey, no one’s judging. RAF/USAF uniforms are hot.

27. Airbourne Troops Take Off – An amazing little snippet of a recording of the first Airborne troops taking off the night before D-Day. Obviously this couldn’t be broadcast until later as it was all top secret. I love this as I’m a huge Airbourne/Band of Brothers/101st/Easy Co junkie.

28. Goodnight Sweetheart – Al Bowlly. Another sleepy little romantic number to end on. For your own enjoyment, please try to separate it from the tv show of the same name starring Nicholas Lyndhurst.

This way to D-Day, and mix number 2!

Hang on, little tomato

I stumbled upon the song “Hang On, Little Tomato” today – it’s the perfect mix of melancholy and Pixar-movie-esque hopefulness. Last year I blogged about the smell of tomatoes reminding me of my wonderful grandad and his greenhouse. He was the most cheerful, supportive and kind person I’ve had the privilege of knowing. He would have liked this song.

“Just hang on, hang on to the vine
Stay on, soon you’ll be divine
If you start to cry, look up at the sky
Something’s coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead.”