Archive for the 'lists' Category

The indisputably correct list of the ten best albums ever

Here is the indisputably correct list of the best ten (non-compilation/ Greatest Hits) albums ever, in no particular order.

  • "Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols"

    The lurid, ransom note logo and album cover by Jamie Ried (cf my own at the top of this page). The sheer fucking excitement of the opening of "God Save The Queen" or "Pretty Vacant" makes this a fantastic album. The opening of "Bodies" still sends a shiver up my spine.

  • Blue – Joni Mitchell

    Mitchell’s guitar, dulcimer, piano playing is perfect. But it’s the songs that make it: the heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics, the melodies with their key changes. Sublime. Maaaan.

  • dubnobasswithmyheadman – Underworld

    Electronica with real vocals. Dada-esque cut-up lyrics. Dance songs and chill-out songs. I have vivid memories of getting stoned and travelling through the skyscrapers of Bangkok in the back of a taxi listening to this.

  • Loveless – My Bloody Valentine

    What on earth is wrong with this pressing? I asked myself on my 25th birthday as I played my brand new CD. Then every time I listened, I heard new sounds amongst the feedback and gently melodic crooning.

  • Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said. Wonderful, even if it is hippie/ rock shit.

  • "London Calling" – The Clash

    I’ll never forget buying this double album in 1979 for £3.50 (the same price as a single album) and the first time I played it. It was the first time I’d heard political music. It was my first exposure to reggae; I know it was from white boys, but until then I’d only heard sanitised pop reggae. The Clash just melted down loads of influences into something amazing. The cover is great – and the Elvis reference is genius.

  • The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said.

  • Revolver – The Beatles

    It’s got ballads, kids’ songs, psychedelia, string sections. It’s got it all. The latest reissue, remixed into real stereo by Giles Martin, has crystal-clear bass that wasn’t really possible in the 60s (too much bass would cause record player styluses to jump out of the groove) so you can hear McCartney’s genius, and also the non-album single from the same sessions: Paperback Writer and its even more marvellous B-side, Rain, with its backwards vocals, stunning harmonies and bass.

  • Dummy – Portishead

    No-one had ever heard music like this before. Shares in theramins went through the roof.

  • Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan

    It’s got loads of great tracks. And “Visions of Johanna”, which is His Bobness’ towering achievement.

  • Bonus runner-up: Wrong Way Up – Brian Eno And John Cale

    Two geniuses, legendary pioneers of experimental music get together, combining loads of different and unusual instruments and cut-up loops. Instead of some unlistenable avant-garde weirdness, they produce an album of slightly off-kilter pop songs full of melodies and harmony. It initially sounds catchy but slight, and as you listen more, new depths are revealed. The album’s title comes from its song “Empty Frame,” a sea shanty about a cursed ship going around in circles, never returning to port. A lost classic.

Feel my mighty influence!

The Birmingham Mail has published a totally scientific list of Midlands Twitter users who “have the ability to influence the UK more than most in the region”.

Apparently, I’m a respectable number 101 which means I’m more influential than

  • Black Sabbath (#191)
  • a Personal Beauty Shopper at Selfridges (#188)
  • Sutton Park Donkey Sanctuary (#164)
  • Birmingham city council (#120)
  • James Morris, Conservative MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis (#115) – ha!
  • Solihull police (#112)

I was pipped to the number 100 post by Drayton Manor theme park. Now we know why they were so damn anxious to build their Thomas The Tank attraction, Thomas Land.

I’m now crowd-funding “William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch Land” to be built in my back garden, and am recruiting mugwumps. I must beat Drayton bloody Manor.

My Krispy Kreme playlist: ten musical guilty pleasures

Like everyone else on the Web, I’m a musical snob. I’d far rather listen to arty difficult stuff like Can and My Bloody Valentine than Abba. But I’m also a musician so have a love and admiration for great catchy melodies and brilliant production. Here are top ten guilty pleasures – the Krispy Kreme Playlist – of songs that I genuinely love, not through wanky PoMo irony, but because they’re great.

Gita Gutawa – Bukan Permainan

This song obsessed me when I was doing a University lecture tour of Indonesia and heard it in a taxi. The helium voice, perfect production, harmonies and vocal line took residency in my brain within 4.3 nanoseconds of her starting singing. I attracted quite a crowd in a Jakarta shopping mall attempting to sing it to astonished music shop counter staff. They finally handed me – a middle-aged white man – a CD of a girl in a big pink wedding-cake dress who looked about ten years old. They must have thought I was Gary Glitter’s brother.

Wham – Young Guns (Go For It)

Sexist, crass and great.

Sugababes – About You Now

YouTube is full of videos of angsty teenage girls strumming moody acoustic covers of this in their bedrooms, but the mechanical drums and bounciness of the original makes it flawless in every possible way.

Oasis – The Hindu Times

Oasis are, of course, preposterous cockheads who steal their tunes, grunt their meaningless lyrics and walk like incontinent chimps. But this has a great moron riff and splendid changeover from chorus back to verse, thumping drums and a wall of sound. I bet even Blur like this.

Natalie Imbruglia – Torn

Perfect. Some splendid bass guitar wiggling around under Natalie. Lucky bass guitar.

Betty Boo – Doin’ The Do

Sassy girl singer, great bass, great video and great dance music. It was a hard decision whether to include this, or Dee Lite’s Groove is in the Heart, but she won because (a) she’s British and (b) I am genuinely in love with her and want to bear her children.

U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name

Undeniably, Bono’s a nob. Indubitably, U2 are flatulent stadium rock. But this is great and you won’t convince me otherwise with sophistry, even if you’re Lou Reed himself.

ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) – Midnight Blue

A lovely tune, so over-produced that it’s in grave danger of collapsing under its own ludicrousness like an orchid wearing loads of rapper bling and Argos sovereign rings.

Dexys Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen

The warbly vocals. The slow down and speed up again bit. Excellent.

Hanson – MMMBop

Anyone who doesn’t love this has cloth ears and no humour or soul. And that’s proven by science.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Murder On The Dance Floor

Oops – a number 11 in a list of 10. But this is too good not to listen to.

Here’s the Spotify playlist.

Good Birmingham decorator, plasterer, electrician, double-glazing, roofer, plumber

Possibly my dullest-ever post, but two years after moving into a somewhat run-down Victorian house in South Birmingham (West Midlands, UK not Alabama) I’ve used lots of tradesmen – on one memorable occasion, I had 2 plasterers, 2 roofers and an electrician in at the same time.

These were all recommended to me by people I trust, and I can definitely recommend them to anyone else.

Double glazing

Badger Windows – a double-glazing company recommended by a friend, that didn’t try a hard sell or do stupid shenanigans to “give a discount”. They turned up when they said, did the job cleanly, and didn’t ask for money up-front, but invoiced a month later. (I regret using Anglian previously – they mucked around with installation dates, had to come back because the factory had sent the wrong thing then had to be called back because the new double-glazed door had a draught.)

Decorator, wallpapering, painting

Andy Day (0121 733 7359) decorated my previous house. Ten years later, we moved out and the decoration was still really good so we hired him again. He redid almost all of my new house, hanging paper immaculately on 10 feet high walls. He turns up when he says, takes half an hour to eat his sandwiches, and leaves at six until the job’s done. He was recommended to me by a police officer and is also a very nice bloke, which is helpful when you work at home and have someone in your house for 3 weeks.


Andy Day (above) recommended Dean Beach (07833 974859) who did some beautiful work clearing artex off, skimming and repairing some walls and broken coving (from when electricity had been installed half a century ago). Very good price, takes real pride in the job.


My brother recommended Gary Coles (07949 739056) who painted the eaves on my three-storey house, sorted out a couple of leaks, capped some chimneys for a very fair price, without trying to tell me I need a new roof (which the surveyor said I might).

Electrical work

Jason at Knight Security (they do burglar alarms too: 0121 706 5799) added some lights, light switches and plug sockets, lowered the main fusebox (it was 10 feet up – hard to deal with in the dark if the lights go!), installed extractor fans in the shower. Recommended by two different friends.


Jason the electrician – who’s also a guitarist – recommended his mate Paul (07902 624295) who’s both a plumber and a drummer to install a new radiator in a radiatorless, cold hallway.150, including the radiator.

Handyman, shower installation, tiling, handmade oak garage doors

I recommend my old schoolfriend Matt who did loads of stuff for me. Drop me a line if you want details.

The four tiers of David Bowie

After extensive scientific research, I can reveal the four tiers of David Bowie.


I realised I own no Bowie except an old 45 rpm single of “Sound and Vision” which I can’t play as I have no record player, went to the web to buy The Platinum Collection and listened to it a few times.

Rating system

– 20% is awarded for a catchy chorus
– 20% for having a good verse as well (often why some songs are relegated to Tier 2 or below – great choruses but weak verse)
– 20% for weird lyrics, sexual ambivalence
– 10% for singing in a funny voice (machismo of “Boys Keep Swinging”, mockney sneering)
– 10% for odd instrumentation (“Heroes”)
– 10% for a blistering guitar part (whether medlodic like Starman or just nasty like “Boys Keep Swinging”)
– 10% for being seminal (“Ziggy Stardust”)


1 bottle of Toro Loco Tempranillo wine, stereo cranked up so loud your partner wakes up and comes downstairs to give you a bollocking before stomping off to bed and waking early to turn on some bullshit Kerrang radio in revenge.


Tier 1 (80% or more): Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, Heroes, Scary Monsters, Let’s dance, Boys Keep Swinging, All the Young Dudes (but Mott The Hoople’s version is still better at 100%; Bowie’s suffers from too much sax)

Tier 2: (65% – 79%) Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Jean Genie, Space Oddity, Sound and Vision, Diamond Dogs, The Prettiest Star

Tier 3: (50% – 64%) China Girl, Changes (great choruses, weak verse) Rebel Rebel, Oh You Pretty Things

Tier 4: the rest

Tier 67: Laughing Gnome, Tin Machine stuff, execrable covers of Let’s Spend The Night Together, The Alabama Song


Bowie’s best is sublime, and had hardly dated at all. There is a perception of a quality drop-off in the 80s, but some great songs came about during that time, although there was a lot of mediocre funk nonsense too. In a career spanning four decades, there is a good deal of filler but that’s both unsurprising and forgiveable, given the brilliance of his Tiers 1-3 work.

If Bowie came round to my house, I’d share a bottle of red with him and we could have a jam, and I’d even let him use my 12 string elecro-acoustic guitar.

Personal review of 2012

It’s been an interesting year. I had my mother-in-law stay with us for six months. I can heartily recommend everyone do this. My cousin Mark got married; my uncle Colin died; my aunt Sue died of Multiple Sclerosis.

My son started high school and somehow became taller than my wife and turned from good humoured child into occasionally ill-tempered adolescent who’s the finest gamer in his gang. My daughter turned into a beautiful and strong teenage woman; her strength of character is an immense source of pride. For example, for months she and some colleagues had been bothered by an adult male taking upskirt photos of them with a mobile phone on the bus to school. No-one said anything until my daughter bravely called him out on the bus (getting an obscene tirade in response) and reported him to the police who deported him.


I visited Amsterdam in The Netherlands (twice); Oslo, Norway numerous times (where I bought the most expensive beer I’ve ever bought: £12.50!); Sofia, Bulgaria; Toulouse, France; Dusseldorf, Germany; Krakow, Poland; Moscow, Russia; Prague, Czech republic and Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town was particularly surprising; I didn’t expect to like it much and came away believing it to be one of the few places in the world outside the UK where I could actually imagine myself living.

I didn’t visit the USA in 2012 (but already have plans to go to Future Insights, Vegas) and had to turn down trips to Istanbul in Turkey, Lisbon in Portugal and Venice in Italy because of scheduling conflicts. Thanks to all the conference organisers, fellow speakers and attendees who allow me to travel to beautiful, interesting places and drink beer with and learn from some of the finest minds in the industry.

For pleasure, I visited Thailand and Cambodia with my mum, uncle and cousin and also my grandmother in powdered form, scattering her ashes in Angkor Wat. I did some Asian posing and got papped by a monk.

Having survived Cambodia and Thailand unscathed, I got a horrible bite in the UK which had me in A&E for the second time in two years. (The first time was after I was onstage barefooted in Sweden and stood on a rusty nail.)

After finishing the second edition of Introducing HTML5, I needed to do something unrelated to web in my free time and was commissioned to develop and write a weekend course to train teachers how to teach English to very young children (which is what I did in Thailand before the millennium and getting into the web business).

Talking of web, my personal website saw a few bemused visitors in 2012. The top search phrases were

  1. bruce lawson (2.6%)
  2. personal website (1.5%)
  3. personal site (1.2%)
  4. jacobean plays (1%)
  5. friday jokes (0.7%)
  6. pui fan lee (0.6%)
  7. pui fan lee husband (0.6%)
  8. cartoon newt (0.6%)
  9. pui fan lee married (0.5%)
  10. html5 form (0.5 %)

It’s good to see that I’m not just a one-trick pony (although “html5” was the top single term). In the full list, I was pleased to see “naked men showering”, “spiffing” (an adjective, not a verb), “the pencil test”, “lovely bums”, “kerala beautiful ladies” and – by way of geographic balance, “uk anal sluts”.

So roll on 2013, with new exciting projects at Opera, the browser that a mere 275 million people use. At 4.5 years, it’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one job, because I work with a fantastic bunch of oddball geniuses, helping bring the world wide web to the whole wide world.

Oh – and happy new year to you, too.

Top ten English love songs

(Originally written in 2006 and languished in my draft posts folder until resurrected after hearing “Will You” in a bar in Sofia)

After rubbishing the inclusion of “Wonderful Tonight” in Molly’s list of three great love songs, here’s my list:

  1. Lightning Seeds “Pure”

    A fantastically hummable, happy tune that manages to sound both fresh and comfortable every time you hear it. In contrast to the plodding obviousness of Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” lyrics, the Lightning Seeds’ lyrics are full of metaphors like “leaves pour down, splash autumn on gardens / as colder nights harden”. The chorus is just lovely:

    Just lying smiling in the dark
    Shooting stars around your heart
    Dreams come bouncing in your head
    Pure and simple every time

    Anyone who doesn’t smile when they hear this has a heart of stone and ears of cloth.

  2. Hazel O’Connor – “Will You”

    A song about yearning:

    Take off your ice, bare your soul.
    Gather me to you and make me whole.
    Tell me your secrets, sing me the song.
    Sing it to me in the silent dawn.
    It’s getting kinda late now.
    I wonder if you’ll stay now, stay now, stay now, stay now
    or, will you just politely say “goodnight”.

    What elevates this from “very good power ballad” is the finest saxophone solo in the history of everything.

  3. Joni Mitchell – “Morning Morgantown

    A beautiful tune and typically poetic lyrics celebrating being in together at dawn, having fun with the one you love.

    But the only thing I have to give
    To make you smile, to win you with
    Are all the mornings still to live
    In morning Morgantown

  4. Fairport Convention – “Who knows where the time goes?”

    Sandy Denny’s finest song ever. Her voice is so clear, and so pure, and the lyrics are just a tiny bit dark (what does “until it’s time to go” mean? Their death?). But it’s not just a Sandy Denny solo song; the lead guitar, bass and drums add so much, too.

    And I am not alone while my love is near me
    I know it will be so until it’s time to go
    So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
    I have no fear of time
    For who knows how my love grows?
    And who knows where the time goes?

  5. Beatles – “Here There and Everywhere”

    Of course, there are loads of fab Beatles love songs, such as “I’ve just seen a face”, and “something”. But this gentle McCartney composition gets my vote for the simplicity and directness of the lyrics and the minimal instrumentation.

  6. Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”

    From the first drum beats, to the opening chords, to the guitar solo and handclaps, to the three chord ending, there’s nothing superfluous and nothing missing from this perfect song about teenage attraction.

  7. Nick Drake – “Northern Sky”

    Nick Drake made a lot of pretty tunes before he died, but this is the finest.

  8. Bob Dylan – “Love Minus Zero (No Limits)”

    There has to be a Bob in this list, and it was hard to choose between this, Visions of Johanna and I Want You. But this has a catchy tune, with Dylan’s usual obscure metaphors and literary references, and culminates in the uncharacteristically direct and emotive description “my love is like a raven / at my window with a broken wing.

  9. Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You”

    Forget the preposterous hair and Vegas trimmings; this is a great song, beautifully sung by its author. Forget the horrible, incomprehensibly caterwauling vile mess that Whitney Houston made of it out of your head and listen to it again. Now.

  10. SLF – “Barbed Wire Love”

    A lovesong set in the warzone of late 70s Belfast, with wit and acid, some sex and a great punk rock tune.

    I met you in No Man’s Land
    Across the wire we were holding hands
    Hearts a-bubble in the rubble
    It was love at bomb site

    When I fell it was awful nice
    Caught when not suspecting vice.
    The night was rife with wasteland life
    You set my arm alight

My list of the best non-English language songs coming soon. In the meantime, any disagreement with this top 10 should be recorded below, although doing so is an admission that you don’t know the first thing about music, and your favourite band is rubbish.

God-botherers or Bible-bashers?

Last night, I got a few angry emails after I wrote on Twitter that some visiting relatives were “Bible-Bashers”. I’m happy to accept I’m wrong; they are “God-Botherers” who enjoy going to church but otherwise don’t mention it to people who don’t share their views. There’s a difference.

“Bible-bashers” are those who feel the need to spread their views to others. It’s a term that comes from the religious pamphlets of the English Civil War of the seventeenth century, describing aggressively religious people.

To find out which you are, take this handy quiz:

  1. Do you believe you have an Invisible Friend In The Sky? (Yes=1 point, No= 0)
  2. After spending a few days creating the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies that fill the awe-inspiring majesty of the universe, does your Invisible Friend In The Sky now spend its time closely monitoring your daily actions and reading your thoughts? (Yes=2 point, No= 0)
  3. Does your Invisible Friend In The Sky care which adults you have consensual sexual intercourse with? (Yes=5 points, No= 0)
  4. Is your Invisible Friend In The Sky eternal, beyond the laws of causality and entropy and undetectable by science? (Yes=1 point, No= 0)
  5. Does your Invisible Friend In The Sky regularly intercede in the material world on your behalf (good grades, safe journeys, speedy recoveries) because you ask it to? (Yes=1 point, No= 0)
  6. Does your Invisible Friend In The Sky routinely neglect to help blameless people caught up in calamities like genocide, war, famine, earthquakes or tsunamis because it “works in mysterious ways” (or other manifestations of inscrutability)? (Yes=5 points, No= 0)
  7. Does your Invisible Friend In The Sky require subordinate behaviour from women such as covering their hair, wearing shapeless garments, not being allowed to teach in places of worship or hacking off each others’ external genitalia at puberty? (Yes=10 points, No= 0)
  8. Does your Invisible Friend In The Sky require you to tell people with a different Invisible Friend In The Sky (or no Invisible Friend In The Sky) that they are wrong? (Yes=10 points, No= 0)
  9. Does your Invisible Friend In The Sky think it legitimate or laudable to kill people with a different Invisible Friend In The Sky? (Yes=20 points, No=0)
  10. Are you angered/ offended by this quiz? (Yes=5 points, No=0)

If you scored zero, you are not a God-Botherer.

Between one and five, you might be but don’t know it; you probably tell people that you’re “a spiritual person”.

Between five and ten, you’re a God-Botherer.

More than 10 makes you a Bible-Basher. 20 or more and you’re a fundie.

Schadenfreude blogs

Sometimes I have a bad day, and on those sort of occasions I like to refresh myself by laughing at people who are stupider, uglier, or otherwise less fortunate than myself.

Here’s my list of schadenfreude blogs.

Got any favourite schadenfreude sites?

Seven things you didn’t want to know about me

Langridge tagged me with one of these meme things. It is supposed to be called “seven things you may not know about me”, and Langridge wanted some comedy, but looking at my list I think my title is more accurate.

  1. I’ve had carnal knowledge of women from all the world’s major religions except Judaism. Before you shout “anti-semite”, I tried very hard to rectify this deficiency with Ayelet from Tel Aviv but her room-mate came home too early.

    When I got married I decided that abandoning this particular spiritual quest would be prudent to preserve nuptial harmony. My wife agrees.

  2. I have difficulty playing the basic F major chord on guitar.

  3. I’m actually quite shy, but conceal this with an loud egocentric persona. People think I’m quite easy-going, but I have a vile temper.

  4. I once got a girlfriend pregnant and we agreed she should have an abortion. Our never-was daughter would be 17 years old now. That thought haunts me.

  5. I’m not racist, sexist or homophobic. But I dislike spending time with stupid people.

  6. About a year after we were married, my wife woke up and told me that she’d had a dream of a small girl swimming towards her in the ocean. Later that day she used a pregnancy testing kit and it was positive. That’s why our daughter is named Marina (after the T.S. Eliot poem).

  7. I can transform myself into a duck in my guise as The Great Duckano.

To continue this meme (which is geekspeak for “chain letter”) I have to tag seven more people to tell us seven things we might not know about them. So start confessing, Yeni Setiawan, Simon Mackie, Putri, Citizensheep, Todd Libby, Jake Smith and Joanna Geary.