Friday 28 May 2010

Still Bill

Bill Withers' name has cropped up a couple of times just recently. Don't worry, he's not died: Bill's still with us.

Firstly, he came out of retirement recently to write a couple of tunes for his old mate, George Benson. And secondly, The Slackers, those New York ragamuffins, are dropping in a mesmerizing version of Ain't No Sunshine to their current set list. You could argue that covering a Bill tune is like shooting fish in a barrel. And I'd have to agree with you. To a point: I can still remember Les Gray and Co. topping the hit parade with Lean On Me : I think the jury are still out on that one.

Any road up. It's Friday, so a Friday tune is called for. Here we go:

Bill Withers: Lonely Town, Lonely Street

And, before I forget, here's The Slackers playing live in Sacremento. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Transport Caffs

It's not only pubs, post offices and churches that are fast disappearing from our landscape. Finding somewhere to eat when you're on the road, that's either not a chain or an establishment that will require the shirt off your back when paying, is becoming harder and harder. Where once our A roads were littered with transport caffs - the sort that were depicted in B movies, heist films and episodes of The Sweeney - now all that's left is a handful of truck stops, Little Chefs and Motorway Services: have you ever had builders tea or black pudding in a Little Chef, or received change from a £20 note when buying breakfast at Watford Gap? So if you know of a good one (my favourites are The Limes on the A614 and The Salt Box just off the A50), give them the business: don't pass them by.

Thanks to Artog for planting the seed.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

100 Days

Today marks 100 days since I came among you and joined the delightful, though often nebulous, world of blogging. It makes more sense than most forms of social networking (I think), as can be witnessed from the rusty padlock and 'Gone Away' sign that now greet you if you stumble across either my Facebook or Myspace pages - even my website proper has got the neighbours worried with all the milk piling up on the doorstep. No, I love its immediacy and its ability to connect with, well, anyone really. And I've met up with a couple of real fellow bloggers through it, so that's been cool.

The concept of a hundred day evaluation period with which to judge American Presidents was created by Franklin D Roosevelt during the great depression. That was in 1932 and, though I'm not for one minute comparing myself to The Commander-in-Chief of the USA, (though how hard can it be, really?) if you take out my flannel and just leave the music, you're left with 20 tunes fit for High Office. OK, so I would say that wouldn't I, but if K-Tel were to bring it out tomorrow, I'd buy it!

Just time to say thanks to Mondo: the catlayst to getting this off the ground. He told me ' If you've got a robust enough record collection , then share it with us.' Well, I've given it a go. Here they are in date order, starting from February of this year.

1. The Beatles: Piggies (Demo)
2. Len Price 3: Rentacrowd
3. Jamie Cullum: Gran Torino
4. Pugwash: It's Nice To Be Nice
5. Duke Ellington: You're Just An Old Antidisestablishmentarianismist
6. Late Arrival: I Need You
7. Lord Large: Sun In The Sands
8. Uriah Heep: Traveller In Time
9. Tony Hatch & His Orchestra: Soul Coaxing
10. Alice Cooper: Hello, Hooray
11. Ocean Colour Scene: All Up
12. Woody Guthrie: House Of The Rising Sun
13. Tom Wardle: Let Your Love Shine Out
14. Everything But The Girl: Alison
15. David Bowie: Pug
16. Booker T & The MGs: Hang 'Em High
17. Lemon Jelly: Elements
18. George Benson: Breezin'
19. The Housemartins: Build
20. Marc Antoine: Sunland

And finally, to mark the occasion:

Saturday 22 May 2010

Pacific Coast Highway

It's on days like today I hanker for my favourite stretch of road. The Interstate 405 in California connects San Fernando and San Diego. It's particularly evocative in Summer - I first experienced it when visiting an old school friend of mine now living in San Diego: flying into LAX , jumping in a hire car and driving to within spitting distance of the Mexican Border beats your average UK commute hands down. Keeping the Pacific Ocean on your right hand side, you can't get lost. You pass Long Beach, Fountain Valley, Orange County in a heat haze. With the sun beating down, the air-con on full tilt and the radio dial locked onto Smooth Jazz 94.7, all's well with the world. Marc Antione wrote PCH in honour of it, but it's this tune that became the soundtrack to our first vacation over there and still makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention.

Marc Antoine: Sunland

Monday 17 May 2010


It's been a busy few days. I interviewed George Benson on Wednesday before hotfooting it to The Maze to see The Slackers turn in a feisty set. Then a few days in Yorkshire and back this afternoon; just looking at my watch while I type this as I'm covering Paul Heaton for the paper tonight. He's playing loads of pub gigs up and down the land and cycling to every one. As well as solo stuff he's obviously chucking loads of Housemartins and Beautiful South into the mix too. I'm guessing he'll be saddle sore come the end of the tour.

Heaton's local in Hull, The Grafton, was eulogized on their Choke album; it was also my Grandad's boozer of choice back in the '60s & '70s.

Gotta go - he's on stage at 9 o'clock. Take it away Mr Heaton.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Benson & Hedges

I'm interviewing George Benson later this evening for the paper. And no, this won't be the strapline we'll be using. But it would be tempting to ask the man if he was into topiary. Instead we'll probably talk about guitars and Give Me The Night. I'm ringing him at 6, so if there's anything non hedge related you'd like me to ask him, let me know. I've found this clip in the OGWT archives showing just how cool he was back in the day; that's Benson, not Harris.

Friday 7 May 2010


We all lose things from time to time: our wallets, our car keys, our marbles. However, two years ago I lost my iPod. I say lost: despite the fact that I couldn't find it, I know where it was. You see, I'd lost it in the car. One minute it was there, the next it had slipped deep into a nether world usually inhabited by loose change and travel sweets. And in much the same way drug enforcement officers systematically take a car apart at the Mexican border, I looked everywhere for my beloved shiny thing. But it had simply disappeared. So, after shedding a few i tears, I moved on and, with a heavy heart, replaced her with a new model.

Fast forward to yesterday and the car's been with the grease monkeys all day for a big service. And as I'm pulling off the forecourt, what do I see staring at me lovingly from the confines of the cup holder? I couldn't believe it; not a scratch on her. She was low on juice so I gave her a quick charge and she was ready to go. Again.

And when I hit shuffle, this was the first track. It's even, vaguely, topical.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Hang 'Em High

Before you ask, today's blog title is not a reference to the future fate of our MPs or MPs in waiting. No, it's far more serious than that. We had friends round for lunch this Bank Holiday Monday just gone and, as is the norm, I appropriated the CD player, iPod, Spotify and turntable; well it is my house.

So far so good - the lamb curry and cold beers were hitting the spot and the Blue Note compilation was very agreeable. What happened next would, in the normal scheme of things, not raise an eyebrow. And indeed, had I not said something, nobody would have been any the wiser. Next up on the wheels of steel was the album Soul Limbo by Booker T And The MGs. A fine platter I hear you say, and I would have to agree with you. Were it not for Track 3. The third track on this splendid album is a cover of the Hang 'Em High soundtrack. Whether in its full cinematic pomp or this Hammond driven variation it conjures up images of Clint Eastwood righting wrongs and a landscape drier than a pet shop floor. Well it used to. That was until a few years back when Mrs M heard it and erased any such images from my mind. No, she said, when I hear this I see a trapeze artist from a cheesy '70s circus wearing a spangly body suit with only a safety net below her. She might also, Mrs M informed me, be riding a unicycle. Well that did it. Try as I might, whenever that track has come on since, I don't see Clint: all I see is the big top, dancing horses and the high wire. Damn you, Billy Smart.

Booker T & The MGs: Hang 'Em High