Wednesday 30 June 2010

Down The Hatch

Tony Hatch is 71 today. I'm sure we all (even those poor unfortunates who were on the receiving end of a shoeing on New Faces) wish him Many Happy Returns.

Hatch's Menorca retirement is obviously funded by his throwaway Neighbours jingle jangle, but he has a huge loungecore following who fondly remember Soul Coaxing, Man Alive, Sportsnight (with and without Coleman) and many more easy listening staples.

And that's before you even touch his Pet Clark anthems, Don't Sleep In The Subway and Downtown:

Or the perennial Crossroads - forget the shaky sets, Amy Turtle and daft Benny - you can even forget the lamentable Macca cover version. Just remember this:

Saturday 26 June 2010

England's Dreaming

Just back from a scorching few days in South Devon: Mrs M and I took the Number One son & his lovely fair maiden and a splendid time was had by all.
Whilst not impossible, it's hard not to mention that soccer competition going on in Sun City. The lad and I took respite from the rays and watched England make hard work of Slovenia in a South Hams hostelry; during our National Anthem I was put in mind of this little nugget, which I first heard on one of Danny Baker's venerable football podcasts. It dovetails nicely with the poster seen in the window of Kingsbridge's bookmakers - Pat Potter - earlier in the week; no doubt Pat's relieving many England fans of their hard earned lucre ahead of tomorrow's encounter with the old enemy.

Friday 18 June 2010

Fabulous Poodles

I like The Fabulous Poodles. I also like Lego. What do you think the odds would be on somebody shooting a film and combining the two?
Not as high as you'd think, apparently.

The Fabulous Poodles - Mirror Star (1978)

When punk gave up the ghost and the new wave took over, it was left to this bunch of comedians, fronted by Tony de Meur, to make one of the best singles of 1978. Produced by Muff Winwood, and on pink vinyl, it even got them on TOTP. But my abiding memory of the Poodles was a corking John Peel session, where they put the wind up (My Fair Lady's) On The Street Where You Live. That and the fact that their Think Pink album came out in a 24'' sleeve, which I lugged 'round the West End all day.

Thursday 17 June 2010

The Magnificent Seven (+1)

Back in '66 when we hosted The World Cup, The FA used eight grounds across the country. Can you name them? Without googling the answer (and unless you're of a certain age), the chances are you'll probably be able to reel off the first seven: Wembley (obviously), Old Trafford, Hillsborough, Villa Park, Goodison Park, Ayresome Park and Roker Park. But who remembers the eighth? Was it Highbury? White Hart Lane? Well, it was in London; was being the relevant word in that sentence.

The ground nobody remembers is White City. Or to give it its full title, White City Stadium.
Opened in 1908 for the Olympics it had a running track & a cycle track and the infield was blessed with both swimming and diving pools. So how did it come to feature in The World Cup? Unlike today, back in the swinging sixties we didn't live, breathe and sleep football (groan) so when the Wembley bosses wouldn't cancel the dog racing for the night, WC stepped in. They only put the one game on, Uraguay v France, and then it was business as usual. In its lifetime it played host to not only athletics and cycling but rugby union, speedway and greyhound racing. They even put on the odd gig.

In July 1973 a festival that included Edgar Winter, Sly & The Family Stone and Canned Heat played to a full house. The Kinks headlined that day and it wasn't without incident. That said it was rare indeed for a Kinks gig to pass without incident. Ray Davies let his potty mouth get the better of him and resigned from the band live on stage. His missus had just left him and poor old Ray went into meltdown. It wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last.

White City closed its doors for the last time in 1983 and, in 1985, they tore it down. Our friends at the BBC live there now.

Monday 14 June 2010

Esso Blues

My first World Cup was Mexico 70. I was football mad and we'd just got a colour TV. It was the dawning of a new age - though not, as it transpired, for English football; little did we know back then, but, we had to fill our boots while we could - we wouldn't be troubling the world stage for another twelve years. But it wasn't just the matches that occupied my time. I had wall-charts to fill in, football cards to swap, even Hartleys were putting the squad on their jam jar lids. All to the backdrop of 'Back Home.' This, however, was all overshadowed by the Esso World Cup coins - the mother of all collecting crazes. Every dad in the land was hounded by their offspring to forget fuel economy. We demanded that the old man went to the forecourt at least three times a week: more petrol meant more coins. And then we had to get the rarities: yer Peter Osgoods and yer Jeff Astles were ten a penny. We needed Henry Newtons and Colin Harveys. Alas, it wasn't to be. My collection was filled with gaps (a little like our defence when we should have beaten the Hun) and so the coins c/w display board (bought separately for the princely sum of 2/6) got flung into the loft with the Christmas decorations and winter woolies. Cash In The Attic? Maybe not.

I couldn't leave this piece without mentioning Back Home. Yes, it's been done to death and, yes, it's cheesy. But flip it over and you get a pleasant surprise. Brian Labone and barrel chested Frannie Lee slip anchor with a cracking bit of singalong bubblegum (from the stable of Martin and Coulter, no less).

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Sh*t happens

The News Quiz on Radio 4 never fails to put a smile on my face. They say the best pictures are on radio and, as good as Merton and Hislop are on the telly, Jeremy Hardy and Andy Hamilton* shade it on points most weeks. Last Friday saw Fred MacAulay and Armando Iannucci riffing on the subject of acronyms: following on from Sandi Toksvig's tale of a girl she was at at Uni with who proudly wore a Cambridge University Netball Team sweatshirt, MacAulay and Iannucci came up with The Scottish Hospitals Information Trust. And then, naturally, The Scottish Hospitals Information Trust Executive.

Andy Partridge probably didn't have acronyms in mind when he penned this personal diatribe directed at his ex-wife.

* Mrs M was having lunch with a friend in Birmingham's Mailbox last week when she spotted AH dining alone at the table behind theirs

Monday 7 June 2010

Catch Us If You Can

Just finished reading Five Miles From Outer Hope by Nicola Barker. A delightful leftfield novel set on Burgh Island in the early 1980s. Sitting in the garden yesterday I was transported back there - the famille Medd have spent many Summer holidays in that part of the world. For those of you unfamiliar with Burgh Island, it's situated just off the South Devon coast and at low tide is reachable on foot - the causeway links it to Bigbury-on-Sea. But at high tide can only be reached by the giant behemoth that is The Sea Tractor. And once you're on the island it's dominated by two buildings: the art deco Burgh Island Hotel and, next to it, The Pilchard Inn. Unless you're stopping at the hotel you can only gawp at its splendour and, at the same time, wonder what sort of type would pay north of £200 per person per night for a roof over their head. Disgraced City traders and debauched rock stars? Probably. In the past they've had Agatha Christie and Noel Coward through the door, sipping daiquiris on the terrace. However, I prefer the 7% scrumpy cider they serve in the 14th century pub next door - the edge of the screen really does go wavy after a couple of pints of that strange brew. Christie used it as a retreat to write her novels and a couple of subsequent TV adaptations used the island as a backdrop. Inspiration must come in spades when looking out to see from such decadent surroundings.
And, from the sublime to the ridiculous, it was also used a vehicle for 60s popsters The Dave Clark 5.

Catch Us If You Can cast The DC5 (at the time, 1965, the second most popular beat combo in the country) as a team of stuntmen debunking to the coast and going loco. Dave Clark's on screen girlfriend, played by the (then) glamour puss Barbara Ferris, fell in love with the island and wanted to buy it. It's all pretty lightweight and never set Cannes alight, but, if its dolly birds and E-Type Jags you're after, it won't disappoint.

Tuesday 1 June 2010


The boys at the Met Office were pretty wide of the mark (again) this Bank Holiday, so it was time to come indoors, dim the houselights, and watch a classic British movie.
In Gumshoe, Albert Finney plays the Walter Mittyesque Eddie Ginley; a bingo caller at his local working mens club who, when offering his Private Eye services in the local rag, finds himself well and truly out of his depth. With able support from Billie Whitelaw and Frank Finlay, it's a cracking little homage to Raymond Chandler and is full of social history in a very down at heel 1971 Liverpool. What's also memorable is the soundtrack; not only is it very striking, but it's also written by someone who you would never associate with this genre of film. Andrew Lloyd Webber, for it was he, gave the movie a certain gravitas and, with the help of a young Tim Rice, wrote the classic rocker you hear at the film's denouement.

Roy Young: Baby, You're Good For Me

Roy Young has an interesting back-story: he was one of Jack Good's protégés who was hired for the Oh Boy TV show in the late 50s before recording with The John Barry Seven and then touring extensively with Cliff and The Shads. From there it was only a hop skip and a jump to the 2i's Coffee Bar in London before landing a slot at The Top Ten Club in Hamburg. And it was while he was at The Star Club he joined forces with Ringo Starr and Tony Sheridan, where they became the house band. Brian Epstein offered him a recording contract (with his then friends, The Beatles) but Roy couldn't get out of the deal he'd signed in Germany.

His career then took in stints with Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers (they recorded a version of Got To Get You Into My Life with a little help from Macca), Long John Baldry, Chuck Berry (it was with The Roy Young Band that Berry recorded the infamous My Ding-A-Ling No.1 single) and Jeff Beck. Then in 1976 Young was called in by David Bowie to play some keyboards on his Low album.

Young spent much of the 80s in America touring with Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. In 1995 he got back together with many of the musicians from Hamburg, including Tony Sheridan, and recorded a tribute album to The Fab 4.

These days Roy can be seen treading the boards at all the major rock'n'roll conventions in the UK and Europe. Despite being an unsung hero for much of his career, Roy's credentials as one of this country's finest rock & roll piano players has meant that he's never been out of work; his contribution to the British music scene over the last 50 years will always be more than a footnote.