Monday 31 January 2011

Barry, John

(Yes, I know it's Barry John)

With today's news of the sad passing of John Barry (fast forward to Brother Mondo's boutique blog), now is probably a good a time as any to finally give Barry his proper dues for writing that theme; the theme his sparring partner Monty Norman took all the credit for. The roots of the James Bond ident can be traced back to The John Barry Seven and the soundtrack he was commissioned to write for the Beat Girl movie in 1960: featuring the evocative sound of Vic Flick (of whom more later in the year) on guitar. Listen to this and tell me what it reminds you of.

The John Barry Seven: Beat Girl

Barry and Monty Norman tussled in the High Court many times over paternity of the 007 theme, and its associated riches, but Norman's legal team shaded it on points. And anyway, if Norman had written the bloody thing, why was he never asked to contribute to any more Bond movies? As you can read here (if you've got a couple of hours to spare), the studio probably weren't happy with Norman's final offering and got Barry to do a total rewrite.

Bond aside, John Barry's legacy will be with us for generations to come. Composers and musicians alike love to reference and name-check him; not least The Special Agents who, along with the afore mentioned Vic Flick, supplied the soundtrack to spoof spy movie Wilson Chance in 2005.

The Special Agents: Wilson Chance Theme

Sunday 30 January 2011

Pint-sized Grappelli

Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997)
(Oil on canvas, Merryl Jaye)

When was the last time you walked into a pub and asked for a pint of Stephane Grappelli? Mmm, thought so. Well, thanks to those fine people at The Crown Brewery in Sheffield, I've been able to step up to the bar in my local and do just that. As you can see their jazz range has already included, among others, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Jimmy Smith. And what a nice drop Stephane Grappelli is too - a rather tasty blonde beer weighing in at 4.5 OG. Martin Robertson, new owner of The Sun Inn, Pickering, is passionate about beer. So much so that he felt the only way to guarantee a perfect pint of real ale to the highest quality (from the start of the barrel to the end) and still give value for money, was to buy his own pub. So that's what he did. It's a bit like me wanting to see Paul McCartney live but because I don't like going to the big sheds and soulless aircraft hangers he insists on playing in these days, booking him privately to perform in my back garden. In fact, Paul, if you're reading this, why not come and play in The Sun's back garden this summer (they're always looking for new turns between 4 and 7 on Sunday afternoons) and we can kill two birds with one stone?

Friday 28 January 2011

Hey Keith, Aaaaagh!

John Lydon and Keith Emerson 2006

Depending on which side of the prog fence you reside, the chances are you have an opinion on the merits, or otherwise, of Emerson Lake and Palmer. You'll either be scratching your head in wonderment that, once again, they missed out in the Queen's New Year Honours list, or you'll have filed them away in the furthest recesses of your brain under T for tossers. And reading Keith Emerson's candid biography Pictures of an Exhibitionist would only reinforce one or other of those schools of thought. Yes, of course they were overblown. Yes, of course they were one of the reasons why punk had to happen. But in their defence they did record Brain Salad Surgery. OK, we'll pretend that whole Jim Davidson thing never happened, shall we?

However, and thank you to Sid Smith for lighting the blue touch paper, even if you despised ELP and all the pomp and circumstance they crammed into their audacious career, you can't help but tip your hat to Emerson for his elegant one night stand in 1976 with jazz legend Oscar Peterson. That Peterson saw fit to have him on his highly prestigious show in the first place speaks volumes; that and the fact that Peterson was often heard bigging Emerson up to his friend Count Basie. And praise doesn't come much higher than that in my book.

Look out for a 'heavily disguised' Carl Palmer behind the drum kit.


Tuesday 25 January 2011

Cathedral Mountain

This album turned up, quite unexpectedly, for my birthday a couple of weeks back. I'd never heard of Dave Jackson before but knew John Head through Shack (with his brother Michael). I don't often plug records but you really should go and beg, steal or borrow a copy. I've likened it to pulling out an old jacket from the back of the wardrobe and finding a tenner in one of the pockets: yes, it really is that good.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Messin' with the kid

An album I keep coming back to time and again is Rory Gallagher's eponymous solo outing from 1971. And as any self respecting, chin stroking, rock buff will tell you - step forward David Hepworth - 1971 was a vintage year for classic albums that has (probably) never been bettered.

After experiencing rave reviews with Taste (frequent comparisons were made at the time to Hendrix's combo) the lad from Ballshannon who had started out (as indeed had most young Irish musicians before him) on the showbands circuit, went solo.

He enjoyed considerable success on his home turf, in the UK and in mainland Europe. His gigs were invariably sell outs and often went on into the wee hours. Shows in excess of three hours were not uncommon - you just couldn't get him off the stage.

I won't dwell on his untimely end but instead give you an idea of just how high his stock was in the mid 70s. When Mick Taylor left The Rolling Stones it appeared that William Rory Gallagher was in the frame to plug the gap. Rory's brother, Donal, picks up the story.

"At the end of 1974, Mick left the band and Keith and Mick had to look for a replacement. In January 1975, I got a phone call from The Stones management wondering if Rory might be interested, because Mick saw a lot in Rory. That was the case and of course it also made my mouth water. The auditions took place in The Hague, in The Netherlands. Rory went there on his own, and to this day I regret that. He was put up in a hotel, jammed a bit with the band, but no decision was forthcoming. Even then The Rolling Stones were an unassailable mega act and could have everything they wanted and keep everybody waiting. Rory on the other hand had a tour of Japan in his agenda and those dates kept getting closer. The Stones’ management knew that, but probably thought that Rory would cancel it. However they didn't count on Rory’s stubbornness, as well as his loyalty to his fans. He kept waiting to the end, but finally packed his bags and left a note at the reception: "If you still want me then I will hear from you" and he left for Japan. If I had been there I would have tied him to his chair if I had to. I wonder sometimes: what would have become of him if he had become a member. Would he be alive still? There was never any word from The Stones. They were probably offended to death by his perceived impertinence."

Listen to Laundromat (Side 1, Track 1 from Rory Gallagher) and tell me that Mr Wood was the right man for the job. No offence Ronnie, but what the Stones needed back then (and probably still do) was someone who could bring something new to the table; not a Keef clone.

Rory Gallagher: Laundromat

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Rolling Stone

I must thank my friend Riggsby for sending a bag of goodies all the way from San Diego. Riggsby's one of my oldest school friends now residing in California. I always look forward to his parcels landing on the doormat; in amongst the pot pouri of cultural gems was December's issue of Rolling Stone magazine: it was their round up of the year just gone and it's always good to see what our American cousins rate and hate. Also, it makes a refreshing change from the often stilted and predictable UK music monthlies - Word magazine excepted.

One platter they were gushing about was, I must admit, an album that passed me by entirely - Brothers by The Black Keys. What's refreshing here is that they've clearly dispensed with the minimalist guitar and drum dirge and augmented their sound with (crikey) a bass player and keyboards. Here's a belter from it entitled Howlin' For You: I particularly like the way they pay homage to Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

The Olyphant in the room

A new year always brings with it a plethora of shiny new box sets (having a birthday between Crimbo and New Year does have its advantages sometimes) and so 2011 has proven to be no different - those winter nights in front of the log burner will positively fly by with the help of Spin City, Thunderbirds (all 32 episodes on nine DVDs - in Supermarionation) and more Morse than you can shake a shitty stick at.

However, currently at Medd Towers, we're filling our boots with Season 1 of (the quite superb) Justified. To all disciples of pulp fiction this latest transformation of one of Elmore Leonard's short stories will need no introduction. But to those of you out there who aren't yet in the loop and would like your appetite whetting, here's a wee sample:

Timothy Olyphant plays the role of US Marshal Raylan Givens with every ounce of subtlety his creator surely intended. When the other guy gets shot - as happens on a regular basis - Givens' response is invariably 'he drew first.' He was justified.

Any Deadwood fans out there will know Olyphant from his role as Sheriff Bullock. With an fpm count exceeding that of any American show (Sopranos included) that's ever seen the light of day, here's a classic encounter between Olyphant and the actor formerly known as Lovejoy.

And yes, you've got to admit it, Olyphant can carry a hat.

Saturday 8 January 2011


Apologies for the delay in starting 2011, but I've not been well. Like you wouldn't believe: I think I did Christmas and New Year on autopilot - however, normal service has now been resumed. And for that I can't thank my very own Florence Nightingale enough for being there when it mattered (I guess that's what they mean by that whole 'for better or worse' malarkey).

Anyway, just got time to say that we've now got tix for the first gig of the new year. Dodgy (Nottingham Central Fri 21 Jan), it must be said, probably released the most consistently fab grooves of all the Britpop movers and shakers of the time. If you want three essential albums of the early 90s you can forget Oasis and Blur; The Dodgy Album, Homegrown and Free Peace Sweet capture the (don't worry, I'm not going to say the z word) very spirit of that whole TFI Friday buzz that defined the fag end of the last century. Bostin.

I interviewed Nigel Clark a few years back and remember telling him that this was the best song he'd ever written. He didn't disagree.

The feline models at the top of the page btw are our very own Tom and Doris, who proudly posed for Phill Jupitus' Pets In Band Tee Shirts gallery.