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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

Rocking chairs and rocking horses…

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/03/26
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This is my watch:

My watch

I bought it just after I moved away from York most recently. Its 1970s styling attracted me – every time I looked at it, I felt like Robert Culp in an episode of Columbo, artfully timing things with millisecond precision on one half of a split screen while a jazz soundtrack played in the background. But I digress. It wasn’t an expensive watch, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was something I enjoyed having and wearing. Even when people questioned why I was wearing a watch – my standard answer being that it provides some protection from the random crims who ask the time to see what phone you’ve got in case they want to steal it – it never bothered me. It was always something I did because I liked it. No other reason.

I thought the battery had run out, so took it to a shop to replace it. Alas, it turned out there was nothing wrong with the battery – the mechanism itself had gone. I can replace it – but the price is nearly twice what I paid for the watch in the first place.

Then at work, my iPod random played this song:

I first heard this on the record “A Place In My Heart”. Never having heard any Nana Mouskouri, I saw this in a charity shop and seemed to remember she had been immensely popular and bought it for 50p. Of the songs, none of them were particularly interesting, except this one: “Attic Toys”.

My understanding of the song (and I can’t really make out the words that well – there’s a limit to what a 40 year old vinyl bought from a charity shop can reproduce when digitised and shoved into iTunes) is that it’s a moment in time when a woman goes into her attic, and finds the boxes of toys from her childhood.

All those smiling dolls, they had names once. Personalities. She invited them for tea parties, dressed them, cared for them. Nowadays they sit in rotting cardboard boxes, kept company only by the bugs and the spiders up here in the dust. Do they still have names? Who can remember?

Vanished hopes and disillusions
Peel away the memories like a knife

Like “Whiskey On A Sunday“, this song’s almost unbearable to me. It’ll make me cry nearly every time (I’m crying now and I’m only thinking about it).

I have a “watches graveyard”. Timepieces once worn and loved, batteries ran out, replaced by something “nicer” or “funkier” or “more up to date”.


Not this time.

No more Attic Toys.

Tomorrow, I get it repaired.

A Festive mystery…

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/01/15
Posted in Music  | Tagged With: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oh dear, what a corny pun of a title.

OK… recently I’ve become interested in music on vinyl again. I won’t bore you with the details of this fascination, but I’ve been digging through my collection, digitising them, and adding details to Discogs as I go. (Plus, of course, frequenting second hand record shops, and rooting through the vinyl bins in charity shops in search of ancient gems… but I digress)

Finally, I hit new ground. Take a look at this label: Read more

Whiskey On A Sunday

Posted by Simon Collis on 2012/07/02
Posted in Music  | Tagged With: , , , | 1 Comment

What is the song that most makes you rail at the injustice of the world? The song that most highlights how the world is an awful, awful place, and that misery is waiting to tap us on the shoulder and enfold us in its unflinching grim embrace?

For me, as a child, that song was Whiskey On A Sunday by The Dubliners.

Now, I can happily listen to heavy metal. It’s like horror films set to speedy rock and roll with awesome musicianship thrown in. While some might balk at gems like The Misfits’ “Last Caress”, Slayer’s “Divine Intervention”, or Deicide’s “Conviction”, I find them entertaining, amusing even. They’re over the top, too far removed from reality for me to relate to much more than the wordplay or the music. Like Harry Nilsson’s “Together” – a searing examination of a relationship gone wrong that happens to have a catchy bassline, an intricate rhyming scheme and a gorgeous melody, perfectly sung by a master of the genre, these pieces don’t have the raw, gut-wrenching, soul-destroying impact on me that Whiskey On A Sunday still does. Read more