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In this regular feature we ask the Everything Indie Over 40 social media community to help us compile a top ten list of a chosen topic. Our resident curator John Hartley (@JohnyNocash) then ponders, disects and finally supplies the narrative.

In this edition:-

The Indie Top Ten Songs With Famous People In The Title

“Fame, fame, fatal fame,” sang some bloke in a band once. “It can play hideous tricks on the brain”. I once met this self-same bloke. I say met, what I mean is that I stood next to him in the long-since defunct Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. He was looking at CDs in the Bobby Vee section, and I was nosing at what he was looking at. As he said, fame plays hideous tricks on the brain.

Anyway, I became slightly concerned during 2016 that this particular bloke might be the biggest name to croak and I have to say that I am relieved that my prediction of mid-February last year did not come to fruition. That said, it was still alarming to say goodbye to so many of our heroes – musical or otherwise – during the last year, which prompted the suggestion at the back end of the year that the theme for this next Everything Indie Over 40 Top Ten be songs that recognise in name if nothing else those people we see as famous.

Such fleeting brushes with fame as the one described above seem to have peppered my life. I saw Brian May of Queen in the very same branch of Tower Records with his wife Anita Dobson (Angie from ‘EastEnders’, for those who may otherwise not know.) They both looked identical: shoulder length permed hair, long overcoat, matching red clogs: very bizarre. It would also be very bizarre to not include a Half Man Half Biscuit song in this Top 10, given that they have made a career out of their perfectly-chosen name drops.

There were several nominations for HMHB, but let’s start this Top 10 with the one song that celebrates the best way to spot a minor celebrity: in the supermarket. Here’s ‘Fuckin’ ‘Ell, It’s Fred Titmus’ – the famous cricketer in case you don’t know already – as suggested by @GLPNE73.


It became clear that I was destined for a life of mingling with the stars from an early age. One of my earliest memories of school was attending the summer fayre as a junior, one typically grey, humid Saturday afternoon in the North. I was especially excited to learn that the school fayre was being opened by an actor, one from ‘Dad’s Army’, no less. I still possess (somewhere, though Lord knows I can’t put my hand on it right now to prove it) a signed photograph – my very first autograph! – from Colin Bean. You know, Private Sponge; one of the supplementary cast who sometimes got the odd line to utter. Incredible, isn’t it.

Unfortunately, nobody has seen fit to write a song about Colin Bean, but @Wimon has identified Hefner as having written a song called ‘Alan Bean’, so that’ll have to do. Alan may well have been the fourth man to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, but I bet he never stood in the same room as Arthur Lowe whilst the latter hissed “Stupid boy!”


From that point on my status as celebrity’s ‘plus one’ was cemented. Hardly a childhood trip to Manchester would go by without my mum pointing out Victoria Wood sat in the Royal Exchange café (just over there, behind you, a few seats away, looking down…) as we had a snack. I had no idea who Victoria Wood was at the age of 8, never mind what she looked like. And of course, Jean Alexander – or ‘IldarOgden’ as she was better known – sometimes caught the same train from Wigan as my dad.

And then there were The Houghton Weavers, local boys come good with their own TV show and all, just sat there at the cricket club on a Saturday. I know, I know: ‘Just Like Johnny Marr’, if you close your eyes, replace Westhoughton with Wythenshawe, and listen to Alpaca Sports as @Inalvsmat suggests.


And then of course there were the sports stars. This line of fame-by-association began at secondary school in the athletic form of British Olympic bronze medallist and namesake-by-marriage Donna Hartley, with whom participants in some sponsored event or other were invited to have their photograph taken.

Before too long footballers were also queuing up to make my acquaintance. First, former Bolton Wanderers and England player Peter Reid kicked off the staff v pupils football game in our open day, although the occasion got too much for him and he left before I scored my hat-trick.

And then, future Manchester City and England U-21 manager Peter Reid answered the door as I struggled to deliver his mum’s Saturday copy of the Bolton Evening News. It was summer, so he wasn’t playing. Like Colin Bean, Peter Reid hasn’t had a nominated song written about him either, but he did play in the same Everton team as incognito indiekid Pat Nevin, who stars in The Tractors’ effort ‘Pat Nevin’s Eyes’, as put forward by @PozNoz.


 Actors, sports stars… before too long I was inevitably to be found mixing with pop stars of the modern age too. Not content with seeing Happy Mondays dancer Bez coming out of a pub on the Salford/Manchester border one Wednesday lunchtime (he was wearing a suit, so I guessed he may have been up in court for some misdemeanour or other. I might have been wrong…) I was soon to be found assisting Manchester’s rock royalty in their hour of need. Making a quick getaway from Inspiral Carpets’ support slot with James at Manchester Free Trade Hall, Clint Boon found himself caught in a crossroads as his girlfriend’s Cortina broke down at the most inopportune moment. Lucky for him that my mates and I were in the vicinity to give him a push in the right direction.

This of course pales into significance with the time I turned up far too early for a BOB gig in Bolton and was invited to share a pizza with them. BOB’s debut single was called ‘Brian Wilson’s Bed’; unfortunately none of you suggested this, so you’ll have to make do with @SoxanPance’s nominated ‘Brian Wilson’ by Barenaked Ladies.


 By now, word of my emerging status of ‘person-the-celebs-must-be-seen-with’ was spreading quicker than a rumoured sighting of Lord Lucan, and it did not take long for the stars of the small screen to try and weave their way into my little world. Saturday mornings as an A-level student were spent working in a petrol station; Saturday afternoons were spent reading history books and preparing essays in a petrol station as the morning downpour of customers petered out into the occasional light shower.

One of these light showers sometimes manifested itself in the human form of Crackerjack’s very own Stu Francis, getting his petrol on account while it was quiet and nobody would hassle him for autographs. I had to hassle him for an autograph, but only because he had to sign for the petrol he had just taken. He rarely spoke, other than to say ‘thanks’ or occasionally utter some bizarre coded message, like ‘The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave’. Perhaps he was a fan of Butthole Surfers like @gigticket.


 I might have made the end of the last paragraph up. Anyway, my afternoons in the petrol station were clearly well spent as I was sufficiently studied to get a ‘B’ in my History (Social and Economic, if you’re wondering) and off I toddled to University in Newcastle. My daily walk into the city from the outskirts took me down back streets in the vicinity of St. James’ Park, and it was along one of these very streets that I would often see the players of struggling Newcastle United drive past on their way to training.

One day, a small, kindly driver stopped to let me cross the road, sacrificing thirty seconds of his team’s training to make sure I could get to my lecture on time. It was Ossie Ardiles, the club’s then manager, with a few players in the back of his car for good measure. Ossie is also famous for being the subject of a Tottingham Hotspur FA Cup Final song, as well as being an Argentinian World Cup winner. @WillieMcAlpine suggested a song by Kinski about one of Ossie’s compatriots, private dancer ‘Argentina Turner’. Ok, so it’s a play on words and not really a proper name, but it’s a good one so I’ve bent the rules slightly this time (only).


 Newcastle was not the most ideal place for sharing my life with the rich and famous, which is just as well as I was able to focus on the job of getting a degree without too much distraction. No thanks to Ant and Dec mind, who filmed ‘Byker Grove’ just up the road from my temporary home in Fenham, and came and gatecrashed my table in the Fox and Hounds for a spot of underage drinking. They were very civilised, though, and kept the noise down to a minimum.

I couldn’t quite work out what they were talking about, on account of me not listening. Perhaps at that precise moment in time they were plotting world domination under the guise of humorous and likeable TV hosts, via a brief pop career. On the subject of brief pop careers, thank you to @niamunna1: here’s Weezer with ‘Buddy Holly’.


 Degree out of the way with, and after a further couple of unemployed years spent convincing myself that a life of pop fame and fortune surely beckoned (given that someone at Rough Trade had quite liked a demo tape before they moved on to writing for Radio Times), I moved to the outskirts of London. Maybe the streets weren’t paved with gold, but they were littered with stars.

For eight years I largely resided in Stanmore. Madonna lived just up the road; so too did Tom Cruise, who was not averse to popping in to the local Blockbusters to rent a video. However, my first flat was in Hatch End, just around the corner from comedian Barry Cryer. His large house had a ‘granny flat’ attached and I used to fantasise that he kept Willie Rushton in there.

Bazza drank in our local, The Railway (although maybe it was us in his local) and one day I was sat next to him on the station platform when an oblivious passenger asked which train went to Willesden Junction. It was with great disappointment that I heard Barry not reply with “I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue”. Mind, if he had I would then have been disappointed that I wasn’t at that point carrying ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’, which also happens to be the title of an @BullAntics-proffered song by The Membranes.


These days I am much choosier about which famous people I allow to mix in my company. I would count as both friend and work colleague an actor who played a character in ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ and was recently the face of the Virgin Broadband advertising campaign, for example. And she went to a party once with one-time Celebrity King of the Jungle Foggy. She is equally aware of my spectral past as the artist known as Johny Nocash (the man in blue).

To preserve anonymity I lived under this pseudonym for over 20 years before being ‘outed’ by this self-same website. But that’s ok; I learned to deal with this inadvertent unmasking quickly, a task made much easier by the discovery of a Johny Nocash tribute act. I was, therefore, very pleased that this tribute act had himself been recognised, both by @NorwoodTrash, and by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine who wrote a song about him. Ladies and gentlemen, your final song in this Top 10 Songs With Famous People In Their Title: ‘Johnny Cash’.


John Hartley

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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