Wednesday, 2 December 2020

2020 Wrapped

I'm guessing a few people are sharing these right now: if you have a Spotify account then it's that time of year when they tell you what you've been listening to during the last 12 months (a lockdown special, you could say). And they really do crunch the numbers and drill down into the stats. It's quite anoraky so I'll cut to the headlines.

It would appear that these are the five tunes that have helped provide my musical life support in 2020. You'll find the backstory to most of them I'm sure in the small print of my various back issues. Except maybe this one: it came out at the height of punk and despite my new wave leanings at the time I absolutely adored it.  And still do, obviously, as it made #5 in this highly bespoke/made to measure chart. 

Space were French and this, their debut single, came out on the Pye label in that highly distinctive pink bag of theirs. And that, truth be known, just about sums up everything I know about this early slice of electronica. Imagine Daft Punk with keytars.

Space - Magic Fly (1977)

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Forever Autumn

1 December 2020

They say every man should have a hobby; I'm not sure if this counts, but my pet project over the last few weeks has been photographing the beech tree outside my front door; from the same vantage point and at (roughly) the same time of day. I put the first few in a collage, the rest have been posted on my Twitter feed. At some point someone will have to politely tap me on the shoulder and say "'Enough with the tree already, John." But until such time as the pubs and caffs reopen again it's kind of all I've got right now.

Claire Martin - Brilliant Trees (1999)

Monday, 30 November 2020


On Christmas Eve many years ago my heavily pregnant mother fell down a flight of stairs in a Hull department store. Although she probably jingled all the way, nothing was broken; not there and then anyway - however her waters did break four days later and, instead of being a January baby, I decided to make my way kicking and screaming into this world on December 28th.
The department store in question - Hammonds of Hull - has been lovingly recreated by artist and illustrator Nick Coupland in his new collection Modernist Lines, Brutalist Shapes. As you can see, the staircase which led to my 'early doors' all those years ago has been evoked perfectly in his pen and ink drawing.

Friday, 27 November 2020

(New) Normal

Earlier this month the acclaimed Nottingham Poetry Festival celebrated its 5th anniversary (can it really be 12 months since last year's event?*); befitting of the times it was, of course, held totally online with 'ticket holders' enjoying gigs and readings in the luxury of their own homes via, you've guessed it, Zoom. 

Will the word zoom, I wonder, in years to come, fill the population with varying degrees of dread or, will it, at its mere mention make our hearts go boom? One for future linguistic historians I'm sure. This year we were privileged to have one of my favourite poets - and co-founder of the festival - former local lad, Henry Normal. Henry was beamed into my kitchen last Friday direct from his Brighton home. Not the same as the real thing, you'll agree, but I'd have struggled to have enjoyed his performance any more even had he have bombed up the motorway on what was a wet and windy Nottingham night.

Henry's new collection is called The Escape Plan. As soon as bookshops are open again I shall be blagging myself a copy, nothing's so sure. And when I do it'll be hard not to hear Henry's dulcet Nottingham vowels in my head as I read it in my kitchen; whilst slurping a cup of tea, most likely.

Henry Normal - 'Not My Cup of Tea' (2020)

* Er, no: it's actually 18 months. And a huge thank you to Georgina Wilding for helping to lay on such a lavish festival in what has been a challenging year to say the least.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Ready, Steady, Friday!

A woman of many tee shirts

For this week's Be-Bop Friday I'm delighted to hand over the reins to a new Twitter friend of mine, Carolyn Perry. Carolyn only came to my notice fairly recently; I knew she was a huge punk fan, but it was the tee shirt she was sporting in her profile picture that gave the game away - wearing an iconic '45' shirt can only mean one thing - another Generation X disciple!
Thank you for taking the time, Carolyn. 

"I didn’t get to see Generation X until 1993 when they played a reunion gig at the Astoria as part of a Billy Idol concert. I grew up in Stourbridge and it wasn’t until I started going out with a punk in late ‘77 that I occasionally managed to get into Brum for gigs, though it often involved sneaking out of the house and getting changed at mates’ houses. The lyrics to Kiss Me Deadly really bring back that time for me, just substitute the number 30 bus for the 130 to Birmingham.

‘Seven o'clock they stand in rank

For the thirty bus uptown

And later in a downstairs room

She pulls her lover down

In ecstasy but they can't make a sound

Case her mother might come down’

By the time I left home and moved to London in September '79 Generation X were all but done, and then Billy Idol moved to the US and went solo. It was an exciting time for music with the launch of MTV and Billy’s songs were perfect for new media of music video. Accused of being ‘too pretty for punk’, Billy really suited this format and is a charismatic performer (also I am a sucker for blond spikey hair, which the aforementioned boyfriend also had). I particularly like Billy’s early solo stuff – White Wedding is a phenomenal song and Rebel Yell is my favourite of his albums. I even joined the Billy Idol fan club at one point and have still got the T-shirt!

Idol with guitarist Steve Stevens (Carolyn's pic)

Idol and James wrote some great songs together, and I know I’m in the minority but I think Generation X/Gen X were underrated. I’m hoping that there might be another reunion at some point, but until then I’m glad that Billy is still rocking. I saw him on his 2014 and 2018 tours and he didn’t disappoint. He’s responsible for a lot of timeless tunes and let’s face it, 2020 has been the year for Dancing With Myself*P.S. This video of still sends shivers down my spine."

Generation X - Kiss Me Deadly (1978)

* Funnily enough, Carolyn, I was only saying the same thing myself.