To set the scene: the house I was born and grew up in suffered from chronic damp in the bedrooms, particularly in mine. So, in late September every year from when I was about six or seven until the age of about ten or eleven, my bed would be moved into the main bedroom (this was known as the 'front bedroom', despite the fact that it ran the depth of the house from front to back), to remain there until about April. My bed was set up against the back window, which itself could hardly be described as airtight and faced straight into the prevailing nor'easterlies of winter. A lot of old newspaper got stuffed into the cracks. My parents' bed was between me and the door.
My dad was winding down his working life by this time, and had gone on 'days regular' at the steelworks; this meant that he didn't do shift work and worked from about 0700 to 1500 every day.
Picture the scene, my little ones: it's about half past eleven at night. The light is out, dad is snoring away happily, I'm in that state halfway between dozing and sleeping. Suddenly, from my left comes the cry of, "Nuts! Whole hazelnuts!..."
My father, only half awake and clad only in white vest and Y-fronts, leaped up from his slumber, went out through the bedroom door and got halfway down the stairs before stopping. I nearly dived through the window, scrunched-up old pages of the Daily Mirror notwithstanding.
After a few seconds of silence, my old man walked slowly back into the bedroom and switched the light on, to be met by the sight of his dear wife lying in the marital bed with a smirk on her face.
"Yer daft bugger!", exclaimed Dad, "What d'you want to go and do that for?"
"Well", came the reply, "I was lying here, and I thought, "I can't sleep, why should you buggers!"".
And in such ways, m'dears, is family folklore written.
And since we're talking about nuts, let's talk about balls.
Sparks is a band which for over forty years has followed its own instincts. From the Mael brothers' first coming to prominence with music which owed far more to the European art-music of Roxy Music and Georg Kajanus than to the sounds of their native California, through flirtations with disco, electronic and symphonic pop right to today, their clever, idiosyncratic songs have won them a small but resolute fan-base.
I discovered them when, I suppose, most people did, with their 1974 hit single, This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us. The LP from which that track was taken, Kimono My House, was one of the first rock albums I ever bought, and it was only when I got it home that I discovered that the falsetto-singing, frizzy-haired singer was not a girl, as I had originally supposed from just the sound (sorry, Russell!). There was no mistaking the eccentricity of his brother Ron, however, with his stare of cold derangement and his Hitler moustache.
My chosen track comes from a long time after their mainstream heyday, and is the title track from their 2000 album Balls. Although done in a style which is reminiscent of the Chemical Brothers or Prodigy, it contains the usual Sparks ingredients of an off-kilter concept put across with great vigour by Ron's arrangement and by Russell's voice.
If you don't like it, then all I can say to you is "Balls!".