Monday, 14 June 2021

Two of a Kind


I have absolutely no idea if today's highly unimaginatively titled post will be a blink and you miss it one-off or a jumping-off point for a feature I'll wheel out on high days and holidays. Or, even, Mondays. 

I've been going through my photographs and theming them. At the risk of telling you how to suck eggs they can be by subject, location, time, colour, texture; you name it - it may even just be a feel. So what I thought I'd do today is give you a couple of photos I took in Nottingham recently. The first is a tunnel which is cut into the sandstone not far from the city centre; it's still one of the best kept secrets that many Nottinghamians are blissfully unaware of. This shot is quite literally the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tunnel Road, Nottingham NG1 (2021)


Its photo buddy for purposes of today's 'Two of a Kind' was taken in the pub (quelle surprise) last week. The light streaming thru the open door was too good an opportunity to miss.

The Abdication, Daybrook, Nottingham NG5


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To round up this one-off/feature (watch this space) I'm also looking at two records that are thematically linked. This brace are both well known Top 10 UK singles from the 70s and have been joined at the hip thanks to a rather lovely pub quiz question. I'm sure you all know the answer, tho' I will slip it in at the bottom of the page*.

Roxy Music - Virginia Plain (1972)



And then a mere seven years later these lads from Deptford in South London came up with a perfect three minute kitchen sink drama. From the Difford & Tilbrook songbook -

Squeeze - Up the Junction (1979)



And finally, a further bit of connectivity that joins the dots between Roxy and Squeeze - both Chris Difford and Phil Manzanera have recently been guests of David Hepworth and Mark Ellen on their splendid antidote to lockdown, Word in Your Attic. Give them a coat of looking at if you get a spare minute.

* The title of both songs are mentioned only once, and in the final line.

Monday, 7 June 2021

The End of the End


Life. What's it all about? Search me. Likewise death. I listened to Start the Week this morning (Tom Sutcliffe was introducing (I can't listen when that clown Andrew Marr does it) and it was all about dying. A rather melancholic start to the day you would have thought and yes, to a point, it was. Only it was debated so humanely and so compassionately I'd defy anyone who heard the broadcast not to have had a smile on their face whilst listening. Good radio does that.

To paraphrase my talented writer friend Alyson, but this is a music blog so play us a bloody tune, Meddy. Well, today's selection is probably a song that many Paul McCartney fans will want to have played at their funerals; it may well be played at the man himself's service. I have a feeling it will soundtrack a myriad of montages from the ex-Beatle's life when the inevitable day arrives. A beautiful song that McCartney sings in a register he's totally at ease with these days. And lyrics to die for. Quite literally.

Paul McCartney - The End of the End (2007)

On a lighter note, I ordered my McCartney First Day Cover stamps today. I shall look forward greatly to framing and displaying them.

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At the end of the end

It's the start of a journey

To a much better place

And this wasn't bad

So a much better place

Would have to be special

No need to be sad


On the day that I die I'd like jokes to be told

And stories of old to be rolled out like carpets

That children have played on

And laid on while listening to stories of old


At the end of the end

It's the start of a journey

To a much better place

And a much better place

Would have to be special

No reason to cry


On the day that I die I'd like bells to be rung

And songs that were sung to be hung out like blankets

That lovers have played on

And laid on while listening to songs that were sung


At the end of the end

It's the start of a journey

To a much better place

And this wasn't bad

And a much better place

Would have to be special

No need to be sad


Friday, 4 June 2021

Here comes the ice-cream man


Today's date has been in my diary for a while now: later this morning I will have a second shot of Astrazeneca in my arm. So that's me all jabbed up then. I know a few people reading this will also be double-bubbled too; so if you want to buy me a coffee (or a beer!) there's never been a better time to meet up...

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June 4th was also something of a red letter day back in 1979. On a sunny afternoon some 41 years ago I left my parents house with L plates on my Vauxhall Viva Rockbox - I returned a couple of hours later with said plates in a waste bin outside the Test Centre. Over a million miles later and I'm still on the road.

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But today also marks a far more harrowing anniversary. On this day in 1989 a student lead pro-democracy demonstration in Tienemen Square, Bejing, which had started peacefully seven weeks earlier, was brutally suppressed by heavily armed Chinese troops - complete with tanks. The ensuing massacre resulted in a death toll which has still to this day not been verified - but estimates put it at 10,000 minimum.

Grinding gears alert - when Blur released their eighth studio album, The Magic Whip, in 2015 it contained a (seemingly) jolly little song called Ice Cream Man. But it had dark undertones. Damon Albarn explained to Billboard magazine: "The sinister ice cream man with his white gloves. I set him in context of the (Tienemen) protest. He's a policeman and the whip is the state control. But the ice cream man is really sinister."

Blur - Ice Cream Man (2105)

When the band were promoting the album on Record Store day later that year this was how they reached out to their Californian fans - an ice cream van rocking up at various record shops selling ice cream and records. The eagle eyed among you will spot Amoeba Records - the best record store in the world, bar none. Fight me.


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

21-81 (No look behind me glances)


Susan Fassbender (1959-1991)

Like a tired diver finally emerging from the icy depths, I can't tell you how good it feels to be back in circulation once again; after nearly 15 months of privation - that feeling you get when you hug your Number One Son, or somebody serving you a meal you haven't cooked, or a beer you haven't poured, is still very much a novelty. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say never again will I take my freedom for granted. 
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Many of my musings carry a piece or indeed several pieces of music. However, a lot of my recent scribblings haven't. Let me make up for that today. James - with his finger constantly on the pulse - sent me a collection of tunes last week under the banner "'21". And, as you might expect, it's a pot-poori of delights one can only assume were recorded (and maybe written) during lockdown. And what a life affirming selection it is. 

And if I had to rescue just one song from its waves? I think I'd have to go with this one:

Billy Nomates - Heels (2021)  



Whilst listening to to James' playlist for the tenth time on the bounce (it's been on in my office, in my kitchen, in my car),  I thought I'd volley the ball back over the net and hit James a with a bunch of songs that were made 40 years earlier; for no other reason other than I could call my collection "'81". (I've told you before: I'm a simple man.) 

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When UFO recorded 'Profession of Violence' vocalist Phil Mogg was asked where his lyrics came from. He told the music press of the day that his inspiration had been (albeit very loosely) a paperback of the same name he'd recently read - the explosive (and rather grisly) tale of two of the most notorious criminals of the 1960s - East End twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray. It is with some sadness that I listen to the song now - three* members of the band died within 12 months of each other in 2019/20.

And here they are with (their latest) guitarist Vinnie Moore playing the song in 2005.

UFO - Profession of Violence


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Today's final selection was a late addition to '81. Susan Fassbender was something of an enigma and 'Twilight Café' is, for me, one of the defining songs of the 80s; the riff that runs thru it is as catchy as a catchy thing. Unfortunately it's also one of those records that pulls you up short whenever it's played on TOTP reruns; reminding you that Susan sadly took her own life in 1991. 

Susan Fassbender - Twilight Café (1981)



Sorry about today's death count; I'm a cheerful little soul aren't I?
  

* Paul Raymond (1945-2019) ... Paul Chapman (1954-2020) ... Pete Way (1951-2020)



Saturday, 15 May 2021

Nothing says 1973 like a knitted yellow tanktop


The story of Jimmy McCulloch is not an epic tome; more a slim novella. Born in 1953 in Clydebank he picked up a guitar at 11 wanting desperately to emulate his hero, Hank Marvin. By 1969, aged just 16, he was on
Top of the Pops playing with Thunderclap Newman on their #1 single Something in the Air; he hadn't even started shaving.

And although he's probably best known for his tenure with Wings (1974-78), this is were he was at just before Macca signed him up. I'd like to think it wasn't just his silky skills on the fretboard that McCartney took a shine to, but his rather fetching gansey. 


Stone the Crows - Penicillin Blues (1973)




Jimmy's guitar sound defined mid-period Wings - he was all over Venus & Mars - but like many of McCartney's hired hands he would only ever be a sideshow to the ex-Beatle. His one composition for the band, Medicine Jar, was a live favourite - even making it onto the triple album extravaganza that was Wings Over America.


Wings - Medicine Jar (1976)



Quite ironic, Medicine Jar was an anti-drug song: just a couple of years later McCulloch was found dead at his London flat - cause of death morphine and alcohol poisoning. He was just 26; like I said, McCulloch's life was sadly not a long one.

Jimmy McCulloch (1953-1979)