Friday 30 July 2010

(Big) Cats Protection League

It seems to be open season on Leppards - especially the Def variety: it would appear that professional Northerner and vocalist Joe Elliott has been bemoaning the fact that rock bands get a bad press these days (no shit Joe?). And his guitarist cohort, Phil Collen, has just married the (third) girl of his dreams, in what appears to be either a very badly scripted episode of Dynasty or an out-take from Spinal Tap.

But it wasn't always thus. When Elliott and his gang formed Def Leppard at the arse end of the '70s, they had no bigger goal in their sights than playing Thin Lizzy covers and, maybe one day, getting a crack at their beloved Sheffield City Hall opening for Rory Gallagher. But, in less time than it takes to say spandex pants, they went from a self pressed EP (Getcha Rocks Off) and working men's clubs to the States and a multi-million selling album (Pyromania) that became the template for all metal albums in the '80s (and beyond).

I remember Joe living in Isleworth, west London, during the transition stage. He was sharing a house with some friends of mine, The Next Band (their drummer Frank Noon played on that EP). It was as if he was waiting for MTV to happen. And when it did, they showed the rest of the world how to use it. Uncle Sam adopted them and, not since the giddy days of The Beatles had the Americans taken to a bunch of working class English kids playing their rock'n'roll.

But it wasn't to last; the stories have become part of heavy metal folklore - car chases, severed limbs, fatal overdoses. Nobody from the School of Hard Knocks comes banging on their door for overdue subs.

However, some 30 years later, they're still doing what they do best: filling stadiums the world over and, yes, rambling on about how much better rock was in their day.
But cut the lads some slack. They don't mean any harm. They're metallers (albeit with a soft centre these days). If you want an edgy rock and roll quote, then go and stick a microphone under Damon Albarn's nose. Or Morrissey's. But if it's plain talking you want, then Joe's still your man.

Instead of trawling through the Leppard catalogue, I've found this: a bunch of bluegrass fingerpickers giving Rocket a full makeover.

Pickin' On Def Leppard: Rocket

Wednesday 28 July 2010

On The Buses

It started as a murmur and now appears to be getting louder. I refer to the current crop of blogs in which the great and the good seem to be falling out of love with the novel. Can this be true? Have our attention spans really been wiped so that all we can manage is the sports page of the paper and the occasional glossy? Now this humble outpost has never had any literary aspirations, however, I'm always on the look out for a good read, a new author, something that will capture my imagination. And the blogeratti always come good - I'm thinking of The Word's 'A Night In With' in particular.

So now I'd like to return the favour. Magnus Mills has a knack of creating ordinary characters, living ordinary lives, and observing them like we would observe leaf cutter ants in the garden. Novels like The Restraint Of Beasts and All Quiet On The Orient Express find Mills turning the prosaic into mini masterpieces. But the one I'd recommend to everyone is The Maintenance Of Headway. Taking a bunch of bus drivers and watching their every turn (quite literally) will transport you headlong into Mills' parallel universe. From The Arch to The Bejewelled Thoroughfare. To a world where the timetable is king. It's less than 200 pages and Amazon are practically giving it away. Like I said to Cocktails and ISBW - what have you got to lose?

Friday 23 July 2010

Thank You World

I'm going out for a few beers tonight with one of my oldest friends. Mark and I go way back: we met over 20 years ago and, as with many bloke relationships, it's a friendship with its roots firmly based in music, beer and football. Over the years we've got drunk in most of Europe's major (and some not so major) cities, as well as on home turf.

I've been under the cosh recently, what with one thing and another (previous and, no doubt, future blogs refer), so it'll be good to slip anchor and do what the male of the species does so well - talking bol**cks. Suffice it to say that stories will be told (and re-told), landlords will be telling us to turn the noise down and carriages will whisk us back to our lodgings sometime before day-break.

It was Mark who introduced me, many years ago, to World Party: he did me a copy of Goodbye Jumbo when it first came out - that C90 then lived in my car for as long as I can remember (I really must thank him for that tonight). Prior to that I'd not really latched on to Karl Wallinger, but have kept an eye on his career thereafter. He's not always had the rub of the green, but, and this isn't true of most troubadours - he's judged by his songwriting peers to be one of the elite. I mention all this because for the last week, whenever my iPod has been on shuffle, World Party have been, pretty much, omnipresent.

So, without further ado (or that Robbie Williams hit), here's a reminder of a couple of Mr. Wallinger's best bits:

Is It Like Today, taken from their 1993 album, Bang!

And, finally, Vanity Fair from 1997's Egyptology - I saw them around this time at Wolverhampton's salubrious Wulfrun Hall. Apologies, in advance, on behalf of the plank who uploaded this clip to YouTube - you'll see why.

Friday 16 July 2010


After 20 years at Medd Towers, Mrs. M and I have decided it's time to up sticks: we're moving. The For Sale board's up and, at weekends, our house is full of strangers asking us which way the back garden faces and what are our neighbours like. We smile politely and tell them what they want to hear. But that's only half the story; do you know how much junk you accumulate over two decades (that's on top of the junk you brought with you in the first place)? Suffice it to say that me and the Number One Son (when he's on shore leave from Uni) have been adding to Britain's landfill problem, while Mrs. M has been keeping Oxfam and Help The Aged afloat single handed.
Thanks to The Bright Ambassador for doing a deal on the Q magazines - just gotta sort out the Mojos, Uncuts, Notts County programmes, When Saturday Comes and all the other publications currently residing in the loft.
Please be assured, however, that all, I repeat all, vinyl, cassettes, minidiscs and CDs will be coming with us to the new place - that's a removal wagon in itself.

Macca: Junk

Sunday 11 July 2010

The Day The Music Died

As a young Frank Sinatra once said: 'It's nice to go trav'ling, but it's so much nicer to come home.' After a few days in Bonnie Scotland, with a night in Berwick-on-Tweed thrown in for good measure, it's back to life, back to reality.

So, what have we learned?

1. Keep 'em peeled on the A1 - there's a killer on the loose.
2. The Barrels in Berwick keeps a magnificent pint of Jarl .
3. In said hostelry I learned that the door of No.10 Downing St has 6 panels.
4. And that the Paramount Pictures logo is surrounded by 22 stars.
5. Ray, my cousin, doesn't have anything on his iPod recorded after the 70s. 'Music died the day John Lennon was gunned down' he laments. Cue this framed photo, again from The Barrels.6. Margorie McCall lived once, but was buried twice: True Story!
7. Currie's and Kebab's (sic) are wrong on so many levels.8. I don't do gardens. But then I saw Drummond. Quite stunning.
9. Jack, my first cousin once removed, should be on the stage: he kept us entertained for the whole holiday. Can I have my hat back, Jack?10. The walrus was not Paul. It's Ray. I have the picture to prove it.

John Otway: I Am The Walrus

Monday 5 July 2010

Making Contacts

We're going north of the border to hook up with my cousin and his family. Ray lives in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, but has won a holiday at some swanky place in Perthshire; so we'll be drinking pints of heavy and feasting on haggis for a few days.*

When we get up there I'll be telling him about David Bailey's latest exhibition; Ray's a huge Beatles fan (probably why he's always been my favourite cousin**) and, amongst Bailey's many contact sheets of The Stones, Michael Caine, The Kray twins et al, are the iconic snaps he took of Lennon & McCartney looking, for the most part, happy in each other's company. Bailey nailed them that day. Of the shoot he said: 'They were culturally so different. Paul was a nice guy, John was an a***hole and I like the a***holes.'

It runs from July 7 to August 13 at Hamiltons Gallery W1. See you there.

John Lennon Interview

* With apologies to any Scottish readers. Well at least I didn't mention deep fried Mars Bars.

** What I like to do he doesn't? No, you're confusing him with my perfect cousin.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Speak Up!

Some of the most interesting records in my collection, and I guess yours too, comprise just the human voice with little or no accompaniment. You may want to call it poetry - and yes, I've got plenty of sublime spoken word pieces (in various formats) by, among others, John Betjeman, Ian McMillan, Hovis Presley, John Cooper Clarke, even Peter Sellers. But other prime examples fall between the cracks - into that muddy area iTunes call Unclassifiable. I'm thinking Barry Adamson's Here In The Hole, James Yorkston's Woozy with Cider, maybe even Coney Island by Van Morrison. And for those of a nervous disposition you can even try Love And Death And An American Guitar by Jim Steinman.

But what I've brought to today's Show and Tell is from Australian film director and maverick Baz Luhrmann. Instead of going into chapter and verse (sorry) about it, just hit the play button and work it out for yourselves.

Baz Luhrmann: Everbody's Free To Wear Sunscreen