Friday 22 October 2010

They do it in The Congo

Like a headless ghoul, Paul McCartney roams this blog moaning and wailing and appears when you least expect him. Preparing for next Thursday's move I came across this eye catching stamp from the Republique Democratique Du Congo. It's been in my 'to frame' file for as long as I can remember. It'll have to wait 'til we get to the new place now.

But what do we know about The Congo? Well, there's this for starters:

The DROC is situated in Central Africa. With a population in excess of 70 million it has access to the Atlantic Ocean through a 25 mile stretch of coastline and the five mile wide mouth of the Congo River. Depsite over 200 languages being spoken, French is the official language. As with many African countries, it's had its fair share of wars and upheavals. And when I say war, I mean millions killed between the late '90s and the early part of this century - statistics not seen since WW2.

From 1971 to 1997, it was, of course, known as Zaire. In October 1974 its capital, Kinshasa, played host to one of the greatest sporting clashes of all time: the classic Ali v Foreman fight, aka The Rumble In The Jungle:

Great fight (Ali won it in the 8th), great record (further proof, if proof were needed, that all great bands have two drummers).

Sunday 17 October 2010

For the record

We were more concerned with keeping Britain tidy than saving the planet in the 70s; when buying singles as a kid, the bedenimed hired hand on the other side of the counter would never ask if you wanted a bag. On the contrary, they insisted you had a carrier bag in which you took your freshly acquired black plastic off the premises. And as long as you disposed of it carefully and didn't try and smother a baby's head with it, then all was well with the world. Only thing was, I never disposed of mine. Carefully or otherwise. That's why, all these years later, I've got a bag in the bottom of my wardrobe stuffed with the bloody things - it's like a poor man's Russian dolls.

It's all very sad really (on more than one level, I know) but in the few short years since I first went unchaperoned into a record shop (OK, it was 1972) we've all but lost vinyl completely (black, coloured, shaped) and with it, artwork, gatefold sleeves, picture sleeves, Dansettes, radiograms, turntables, 8-track cartridges, blank cassettes, musicassettes, mini discs. Hell, the record shop itself is going through the death throes. It's no wonder, therefore, that Medd Towers could rival The Smithsonian when it comes to rock and roll relics. But I digress. Back to the bags.

I couldn't possibly put them all up here; what few readers have got this far (and, if you have, I'm guessing you are male and of a certain age) can have a shufty at this selection and see if these bygone artifacts ring any bells.

These are a couple of Richard Branson's early paper efforts. It's not Barney Bubbles, but they have a certain charm nevertheless. Although the term nerd had yet to be coined I suspected from an early age that this side of collecting was probably putting me in a party of one. I could however comfort myself with the fact that I wasn't cross referencing the bag to the record. Though I seem to remember The Motors were housed in one of the Virgin bags.

The Pendulum, Berwick's and Andy's Records are throwbacks to another world: small provincial record shops in small provincial towns.

Ditto this trio from Grantham. The Play Inn was way ahead of its time with a snack bar and amusements and would soon devour any pubescent's meagre pocket money in the blink of an eye.

And who can forget Boots and Woolies? Singles 40p, albums £2.10. It wa
s never cool to be seen in there, but sometimes you couldn't help yourself.
The rest are just a small selection
I acquired on my travels; most if not all will be long since gone. In the case of IT Records in Lurgan, it was blown to pieces during the troubles. The Harlequin and Small Wonder were picked up on forays into the capital; in the case of Small Wonder it would have been a Patrik Fitzgerald or Desperate Bicycles single, probably. Real Indie.
So there you have it. Coming here must be like like lying on the shrink's couch. These bags have been part of my past for thirty plus years. And no, I don't want to talk about my mother.

Thursday 14 October 2010

You never give me your money

I'm looking forward to reading the newly published FAB - An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes. Until now the only in depth critique of Macca has been Barry Miles' fawning account, Many Years From Now, which, whilst giving a meticulous insight into Beatlemania, left McCartney's quotes uncontested - the rags to riches yarn was therefore given a heavy coating of McCartney gloss. I'll be interested to see if his legendary tightness is put under the microscope. Stories regarding McCartney's deep pockets and short arms abound: it comes to something when your own daughter calls you 'a tight bastard.' But enough of that, it looks as if it should be a cracking read. Anyway, I'll report back with my findings.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Sanity Clause

We've just signed contracts for the house - we exchange on Friday. I was looking for the sanity clause. Then I remembered. There ain't no Sanity Clause.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Gravy's good tonight

Despite my love of all things culinary I've never taken this blog down the well trodden path that leads to Gastro-Lit. There's a whole army of writers and fighters out there who are way better qualified than me who can give you 500 words on their latest visit to The Ivy, or the simply divine dinner party they gave at the weekend, complete with photographs* of every course.

But... I can't not mention the dish I rustled up for dinner last night. And all thanks to a fictional character. Anyone who's watched The Sopranos will be familiar with Artie Bucco. To those of you not in the know, here's his bio from The Sopranos Family cookbook, followed by Artie's excellent (sorry, no photos) recipe for Pollo Cacciatore al Forno. You really should try it. If you can't read the scan below, email me: john[at]johnmedd[dot]com

ARTIE BUCCO came home from cooking school in London to receive the keys to Bucco's Vesuvio from his parents, who were on their way to retirement in Brick Township, NJ. That day he became the keeper of the Bucco flame. Today, under the stewardship of Artie and his wife, Charmaine (and after a tragic three-alarm fire in 1999), Nuovo Vesuvio is in its third home, still located in the greater Essex County, New Jersey area. Reservations are recommended.

Gravy's good tonight

* I'm with Giles Coren on the whole photographing your food nonsense.

Saturday 9 October 2010

If John Lennon was still alive today

He and Ringo would go parading in Central Park every Sunday afternoon.

The concierge at The Dakota Building would be remembering that it was nearly thirty years since he had a polite word with the NYPD about some speccy loner hanging 'round the place.

Liam Gallagher would still be labouring on Manchester building sites.

Jeff Lynne would not have been added to the ranks of 5th Beatle.

The rainforest would not be so depleted.

I'd wish him a Happy Birthday.

And if he was still making music, it would probably sound something like this:

Cotton Mather: Homefront Cameo

Thursday 7 October 2010

Hushabye Mountain

Does anybody want an alarm clock? Mine will be going on eBay tomorrow - it's my last day at the coalface. I don't think I'll need much rocking tonight. Anyway, here's Richard Hawley with a classic from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Let's ballad.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Johnny Paycheck

I've recently been reading about country legend Johnny Paycheck. In his time on this earth he'd probably been around the block more times than the rest of us put together. Born Donald Eugene Lytle in 1938 he was known in the 70s for being a big player in country's Outlaw Movement along with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard et al. As with many of his contemporaries he was plagued with drug, alcohol and legal problems resulting in the ubiquitous spell in clink (he shot a man in Hillsboro, Ohio*) followed by a rapid decline in his health and musical abilities.

Paycheck recorded numerous singles and albums including Don't Monkey With Another Monkey's Monkey, Slide Off Your Satin Sheets, Motel Time Again and even made a cameo appearance on the long running TV show Dukes Of Hazzard. But he'll forever be remembered for his 1977 single, Take This Job And Shove It.

He died after a lengthy illness in 2003 and is a member of The Grand Ole Opry. Here's his self penned epitaph.

“I'm a man who believes that right is right and wrong is wrong. Treat me right, and I will give you my all. Treat me wrong, and I will give you nothing. They don't like me for that, but that's the way I am."

* Not Reno

Saturday 2 October 2010

Question Time

I think I'm looking forward to next week, but I can't be sure. I'm leaving the company I set up with my business partner in 1994. It's time to move on. Steve and I have shared an office for nearly seventeen years and in that time we've barely had a cross word. Though that's probably because instead of getting stressed about whether the FTSE or the Dow Jones Index is going up or down, we've wrestled with far more important issues. Over the years these have included:

What was the tog rating on Don Revie's coat?

Can Paul McCartney really peel an
orange in his back pocket?

Has there ever been a better single released sin
ce White Man In Hammersmith Palais?

What would Dad's Army have been like if Jon Pertwee had accepted the Captain Mainwaring gig?

If you put a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room, who would win?

What are the pros and cons of Time Travel?

But, time and again, the burning question we return to is: just how big was Thunderbird 2? As kids we can both remember seeing cutaway drawings and blueprints in comics and magazines, but, if they were accurate, it would have to be as big as a farmer's field. Maybe it was. Well, it had to carry a pod which housed The Mole: and we all know how big The Mole is. Don't we?

I know we could cheat and look it up online. But, like most search engines, Google has killed the heated debate with a single bullet. So no, we won't look. Hell, next thing you know we'd be on Google Earth trying to find Tracy Island.