Friday, 18 September 2020

C-Bop Friday

I can't tell you how pleased I am to announce that today's guest on Be-Bop Friday (my irregular featurette written by people I like about their favourite artist) is C - head honcho at Sun Dried Sparrows. C's musings have been a regular fixture on my sidebar for as long as I can remember. Reading her blog is an antidote to all the ills currently befalling civilisation. Thank you for taking the time, C. And I look forward to a time when we can hold our Bloggers' Summit (in real life and without masks!) Let's all meet up in the year 2021, to paraphrase that well known polymath from Sheffield.   


"It’s a dreary, damp Saturday afternoon as I write, the kind of Saturday afternoon that anyone who grew up in Britain knows well.  The kind that taps into our memories and effortlessly transports us to the most unremarkable yet evocative days of our youth. Afternoons when we dragged ourselves into town, sheltered from the rain in the jeans shops, fluffed up our hair in the reflection of the Freeman, Hardy & Willis window before diving into the record shop, eager to exchange the pound notes we’d been saving up for the most exciting thing in the world: a piece of 12" vinyl. The Clash, their first album, or Pink Flag by Wire, perhaps – in my case, anyway; whatever it was we favoured at the time.

But our love for those bands might be fleeting. It’s hard to have a favourite which lasts a lifetime; so much changes, both us and them.  So instead my focus turns to a band who somehow encapsulate that very idea – the way we change as we wend our way through life, the influences, the everyday.  The unremarkable yet evocative. Saint Etienne are the band I choose to hear on dreary, damp Saturday afternoons. But they are equally well received against the backdrop of Summer skies, crisp Autumnal Sundays, or street-lit city nights. I think a lot has to do with the fact that Bob, Sarah and Pete are my contemporaries - we share an English '70s past and thus also our middle-aged reflections.  I wrote once before about how, lyrically, they soothe my unease at getting older by reminding me that, actually, it’s alright to be where we are now in our lives because of all the great markers along the way which made us who we are. So, that all seems a bit deep and philosophical, but somehow Saint Etienne convey it with natural ease and no pretension.

It would be hard to pick just one song, there are so many to choose from, but with lyrics which perfectly describe the youthful joys of buying our first records, 'Over the Border' from the album 'Words and Music', seems the most appropriate right now." 

Saint Etienne - Over the Border (2012)

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#9)

The Summer of 2005 was a brilliant Summer for all sorts of reasons - Phill Jupitus came to Medd Towers and did his breakfast show live from our lounge and we took James to New York for the first time (he loved it so much we went back the following year).
It was also the Summer an artist friend of mine, Gerry Laffy, painted James. Still only 15, James was in a band that were tearing up trees at the time. Winning Battle of the Bands, recording a dazzling EP and getting played on the radio - I wanted a permanent reminder of just how amazing (and how amazingly proud of him I was - and still am) that time was.

Gerry didn't disappoint. While we were in NYC I was regularly checking my emails in sleazy internet cafes (remember them?) where Gerry was emailing me progress photos of his painting. The final one being of the canvas drying in his north London back garden. 

A couple of days after returning from America I bombed down to Swiss Cottage and picked up the canvas which, even with the back seats folded down, only just fitted in the back of the car. James' mind was blown when he first saw it. Truth be known, 15 years later, it probably still blows his mind whenever he comes back home to visit his mother and father.

The reason for the delay in posting this is that I was desperately trying to find the photo of me and Gerry posing in his kitchen in front of the canvas. But could I find it? Three house moves in seven years and despite thinking I knew where the photo lived I suspect it might be in one of the as yet still unopened packing cases. I will find it! 

Saturday, 12 September 2020

I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas

I'm yearning. I think we're all yearning. Yearning for a time when we can leave the house without a mask. Go to a gig. Hug friends. Jump up and down. Walk backwards. Anything.
Watching this video of El Goodo on the road and it's like everything we've lost encapsulated in just two and a half minutes. I know I'm being selfish, but I want it back. Just bring it back; I won't ask questions; I won't press charges.

El Goodo - Things Turn Around (2020)

Friday, 11 September 2020

May I?

Tempting as it maybe to chip in with my two penneth about the demise of civilisation all around me, I think I'll stick to writing about music and musicians from the 1970s; which was kind of this blog's modus operandi in the first place. So, hard as it may be - forget Covid. Forget Brexit. Forget Johnson & Cummings. And forget Trump. Yeah, right.

Since returning from a relaxing few days away (my Easter break had been put on ice for six months) I've immersed myself in artists and bands collectively known as the Canterbury Scene. I'm sure many of you know its origins - if not, here's a quick overview. The roster of musicians and artists that came to prominence in this magical period (straddling the late 60s/early 70s) and the albums they churned out was prolific. And like most genres, and indeed sub-genres, there was the good, the bad and the ugly. But, you know what, even the bad and the ugly make for compelling listening. And some of the the stories that came out of 'the scene' are now legendary. For instance, when Robert Wyatt was kicked out of the Soft Machine (his own band), he formed a rival group straight away. He called them Matching Mole - a pun on machine molle - the French translation for Soft Machine.

Which would lead you to think I'd plump for a Matching Mole track today. Well, as my mother used to say, you know what thought did. 

No, instead I've gone for a beautiful song from one of the most influential musicians of all time. And if you don't believe me, this is what rock critic Nick Kent once said about him:

"Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett were the two most important people in British pop music. Everything that came after came from them."

Kevin Ayers - May I? (1970)

Kevin Ayers (1944-2013)

Thursday, 3 September 2020

"Sorry for Everything"

Dad never talked about his brother much. I've only pieced the story together from speaking with my auntie who in turn had based her version of events purely on a handful of postcards she received over 50 years ago.

Don was a dreamer. He left the UK in 1953 and paid his passage on a cargo ship that left Southampton bound for New York. Although his exact whereabouts were never known, it appears that he was washing pots in a sleazy Manhattan hotel in the Summer of 1955: an English school friend of his on vacation in upstate New York, and visiting NYC for the day, saw him quite by chance - in his kitchen whites - on the steps of the hotel and arranged to meet him in the bar when he came off shift. Don never showed.

In addition to the five postcards his sister received between 1954 and 1963, was a letter dated August 1st, 1964. The last communication from him she ever received:

"Dear Maj, sorry for everything. Getting married on Saturday. That's Betty on the red blanket. You'd love her. I do. D x"

And that was it. Until 1970, when Auntie Maj received a letter from the Home Office marked Private and Confidential. It said, quite matter of factly, that Don & Betty had been involved in a road traffic accident between Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, and were both pronounced dead at the scene. A cremation had already taken place and there were no wills, no estate and no personal effects. It's as if they never existed.


I'm away for a few days tomorrow. I'm conscious of the fact that I still have two remaining items in this silly little series of mine. I want to run them back-to-back but am waiting till I can locate a missing photograph. Hopefully I'll find it before Legacy Blogger is, like Don 50 years ago, withdrawn from service.