Monday 28 February 2011

Pretty pointless

Spot the difference

I may be wrong (it wouldn't be the first time), but here's a new album (Beady Eye: Different Gear, Still Speeding) that I definitely don't need to hear before I pass judgment; Liam Gallagher has decided that he can make an Oasis record without his big brother. Oh dear. What was he thinking? Couldn't he have just channeled his efforts into being the (new) Man at C&A? And if there was any doubt before then look at the promo picture above to confirm that Gallagher really does think he's John Lennon. I can't wait for Noel's verdict: wrong gear, handbrake still on?

Spot the difference: Even when it comes to album art parody The Monkees wipe the floor with Beady Eyeasis

Friday 25 February 2011

Going up!

I was having a few scoops with an old friend of mine the other night. We'd not seen each other for a while so our conversation was peppered with obligatory bouts of 'catching up.' It transpires that Brian's wife is soon to be working at the newly refurbished Arts Tower at Sheffield University. Upon hearing this news I blurted 'Paternoster!'

If you're not familiar with Paternoster lifts, then you must take a look at the above link; it's long been an ambition of mine to 'ride' one of these behemoths. However, due to the nanny state and all things Health and Safety ('A lift without doors? What do you mean it doesn't stop? Are you mad?'), there aren't many still in commission in the UK - the one in Sheffield being only one of a handful left. Looks like I'll be paying a visit to Steel City in the not too distant.

Monday 21 February 2011

Not a Kidd anymore

Football on a Sunday afternoon still doesn't feel right; then again having the FA Cup sponsored by a German energy service provider doesn't sit right with me either. But in the same way I felt obliged to make the short journey from my house to Meadow Lane every other Saturday when I lived in Nottingham, I now feel equally compelled to turn on the TV every time Notts County have the cameras trained on them. Yesterday's 4th Round replay against Man City was, depending on which paper you read, David v Goliath or the paupers up against the millionaires. I won't bore you with the match details (Adrian Chiles and his ITV cohorts did plenty of that with their humourless quips and lazy research), suffice it to say that if you'd had a tenner on Man City thumping us 5-0 the drinks would have been on you last night.

But as good as the game was (and it was, the scoreline really did flatter the foreigners) the reason for this post is not to bitch about the result. Nor is it to wonder what possesses grown men to wear snoods: I'll leave that to people who are far more qualified than me. No, this little offering concerns Manchester City's No.2 - when the third goal went in and the Notts faithful were praying for a miracle, my thoughts turned to Brian Kidd.

Any seasoned campaigner will know Brian Kidd's track record. He was a hero at Old Trafford between 1963 and 1974 (including winning the European Cup on his 19th birthday) and then went on to further playing success at Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton before playing exhibition soccer in the States with Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the 80s. His return to Blighty has seen him coach and manage numerous clubs, most memorably his stint as the switch on Alex Ferguson's hairdryer (1991-1997).

Even his illustrious past, however, is not the reason I was thinking about Mr Kidd. Watching him on the bench (which at Eastlands means individual Parker Knoll recliners) I could only think that he must have a picture of Dorian Gray in his attic: the man never seems to get any older. Time, and the ageing process, seems to have stood still for Brian Kidd. Maybe he uses the same moisturiser as Cliff Richard. Maybe he goes into stasis every night. Or maybe he has sold his soul to The Devil.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

The name's Harrison, not Lennon

Anyone who's been on the receiving end of one of my CD compilations will know this power pop quartet from Austin, Texas; Cotton Mather were once tipped for great things by Noel and Liam and opened for Oasis on a couple of Manc whistle-stop tours of the US. Despite making four albums in their all too brief incarnation (including the critically acclaimed Kon Tiki) they somehow failed to get off the bottom rung. Frontman Robert Harrison - the brains behind the operation - had an uncanny knack of sounding more like John Lennon than John Lennon* but never became a total slave (unlike Oasis) to The Beatles Ltd. They called it a day in 2003, though Harrison is still trading under the moniker Future Clouds And Radar.

Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be John Lennon. From Kon Tiki:

Cotton Mather: Homefront Cameo

This little nugget would suggest that Harrison's menage a trois with Revolver and Rubber Soul is still flourishing. Dr. No is evidence, indeed, that he's still fishing tunes out of the post Beatles, post Cotton Mather backwaters where he now resides.

* Note to Christopher Eccleston: too nasal, too Lily Savage.

Monday 14 February 2011

It was fifty years ago today

It's probably an age thing, but I that find going to gigs these days can be very traumatic; if it's not some f**kwits behind me talking throughout it'll be some clown in front of me with a camera phone who'd rather watch the entire gig through a viewfinder (why exactly, to watch it virtually in their bedroom on a computer screen when they get home?) than watch it unfold live in what I still like to call real life.

Until the advent of this micro technology it was a rare sight indeed to see anyone filming bands on stage. Imagine, then, the stir this piece of footage caused when it was unearthed at the end of the last century; it might only be a few seconds of silent 8mm cine film (shot on February 14 1961 at The Casanova Club in Liverpool) - but it's pretty amazing nonetheless. Then again it is The Beatles and it's in colour. It was only five days earlier they'd played The Cavern for the first time.

This is the oldest known live footage of the Fabs, though some Beatles academics are still undecided if it was from Valentine's night 1961 or February 10 1962 when they tore up the Church Hall in Birkenhead.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Labour Of Lust

The latest installment in Nick Lowe's back catalogue re-release campaign continues apace with the remastered Labour Of Lust (originally released in 1979). Recorded simultaneously with his Rockpile compadre Dave Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary (they shared the same studio and power combo) it's lost none of its vim in the thirty plus years since it was first committed to vinyl.

The peerless Cruel To Be Kind (which, interestingly, shares the same chord progressions and harmonies as The Love I Lost by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes) opens proceedings and within the first few seconds you can see why they opened for Blondie in the States at a time when powerpop was dominating American FM radio.

Cracking Up follows (another song that was lifted as a single) and a perfect vehicle to highlight the harmonies of Lowe, Edmunds and the often overlooked Billy Bremner. It's nice to see the inclusion of American Squirm which didn't make the album first time around; originally a single he recorded with The Attractions it's quite at home here in it's new surroundings. You Make Me finds Lowe dropping down a couple of octaves and with just his acoustic guitar it's reminiscent of Lowe's later output (it predates his Impossible Bird/Dig My Mood/Convincer trilogy by nearly fifteen years). The Mickey Jupp penned Swithboard Susan still fizzes and Endless Grey Ribbon tugs at the heart strings and then it's one of Lowe's many signature tunes: Without Love, sounding like a Johnny Cash cover, was every inch a Lowe original but was later adopted by his one time father-in-law and took up permanent residency on Cash's set-list. Dose of You and Love So Fine combine punchy prose and jangly guitars before the mournful and touching Basing Street (another welcome bonus on this re-release) wraps up this delightful snapshot in time from one of Britain's greatest living songwriters.

The promo video for Cruel To Be Kind also, bizarrely, doubled up as Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter's wedding album:

Fans of Barney Bubbles will know the artwork for Labour Of Lust was the work of the late eccentric graphic artist. A recent exhibition in London was attended by many artists who'd experienced the Bubbles treatment.

And finally, the album's illuminating liner notes come courtesy of Will Birch.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Dark side of the Sun

The Harbingers of Doom are back rattling their sabres again. Not that they ever went away; only now there appears to be some momentum behind the world will end in 2012 brigade. And it's entered the mainstream - kicking and screaming; if you search on Amazon you will find over 40,000 tomes predicting the destruction of Earth on December 21 2012 - that's 21.12.12 local time, 12.21.12 Eastern and Pacific.

Apparently it all goes back to the Mayan race who lived umpteen thousand years ago and, without the aid of telescopes, detected a tenth planet, beyond Pluto, lurking behind the Sun. Planet X, as we must call it (in true sci-fi style), reaches the end of some cycle or other and will reveal itself the year after next - before coming crashing down on us all on December 21 (I hope my Dad's reading this: it'll be his 77th birthday - Dad, I probably won't bother posting a card).

Don't say you haven't been warned.

Then again, when it is time for the final curtain call, I think this scenario is probably more credible:

Tuesday 8 February 2011

21 Gun Salute

The Number One Son comes of age today. The last 21 years have gone by seemingly faster than a speeding locomotive, but, luckily, and despite what the rest of the family may think, my memory is still (almost) in full working order; therefore the good times (which account for 99% of the time and for that we feel blessed) are forever etched into my mental hard-drive and, hopefully, can never be un-installed. And I'm so glad that for the last two and a bit decades I always had a camera on hand; James' height chart, for example, comprised a row of photographs in a frame of him and me all taken outside Mr. Music in Totnes (many, many Devon holidays) from the age of three until he was seventeen.

Happy Birthday James.

The excellent cake was made by Elaine Honey and is based on James' beloved Nord keyboard.

And here's a clip of his folk combo Frozen Gin.

Monday 7 February 2011

Mark Saber

I'd never heard of Mark Saber until very recently. Saber was a one armed private eye who spoke in that clipped English accent you always heard on the BBC during the post-war years and beyond. He was actually played by a South African actor by the name of Donald Gray (who had lost an arm during WW2) and Saber (later Saber of London) ran for 155 episodes in the UK from 1955-1961.

But it is for Captain Scarlet that Gray is probably best known - he was the voice of both Colonel White and Captain Black and The Mysterons. Like fellow actors Francis Matthews, Ed Bishop and Cy Grant (Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green respectively) two weeks of instantly forgettable voice-over work in 1967 for Gerry Anderson would live with them for the rest of their lives. Although Gray died in 1978, according to my Spectrum passport, Colonel White hasn't even been born yet! Charles Gray (coincidentally the name Donald Gray would adopt later in his acting career) will be born July 14 2017 in London!

Stick around.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Support for the support

Bearded cove on sofa: Barrington aka Gary Cole

Some might say the only good thing to come out of Derby is the A52 to Nottingham (now rechristened Brian Clough Way); I couldn't possibly comment. Anyway, when flying back to the fair city of Nottingham to interview Dodgy and pull in their gig at The Central, a young bearded cove, from Derby support band WhiteMoor, thrust a CD into my hand and said 'give this a listen.' And you know what, it's cracking little record that's fair bristling with charm and a personality a million miles removed from any Indie Landfill you may have been subjected to on 6 Music recently. You can read my review here.

This gem is what we used to call Side 1, Track 1. I do believe they had the good sense to release it as a single (remember them?) Oh, and their guitarist calls himself Barrington.

WhiteMoor: Three Words

Friday 4 February 2011

Pretty in pink

There's something about neon lighting. Whether it be a sleazy motel sign off Route 66 (see Andrew Wood's film below) or the full in your face overkill they call Vegas - it can't fail to catch the eye. For me it practically says put down what you're doing and look at me. Over the years I've seen plenty of examples in this country too. Here's just a couple: the first one I used to see regularly when working in London many years ago - it was just off The North Circular and at night would glow like some sort of garish lighthouse. I never went to the track itself but, on a couple of occasions, found myself driving into the car-park just to stare at the neon. Of course, like so much of London, it's not there anymore.

And this one always felt reassuring. Pulling in to Loughborough station on winter evenings, with St. Pancras a safe distance behind me, this sign meant I was nearly home. Often, waiting for passengers to get on the train and the signal to turn green, I'd get a note pad out of my bag and try to capture it with an HB pencil.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Mother London

I must thank Lost Jimmy for putting me onto Mother London by Michael Moorcock. It's on the pile to be read next and, coincidentally, will be my third novel on the bounce set in the capital. I'm currently (re) reading Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Sign Of Four' and before that it was Patrick Hamilton's Midnight Bell; set forty years apart (Doyle late 1890s, Hamilton early 1930s) both portray London warts and all and pull no punches when getting to grips with the city's underclass. Of course Holmes always gets his man, while the outcome for Bob, Hamilton's anti-hero, was far from satisfactory.

I've used this clip before, but cut me some slack, it's Ray Davies.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Art for art's sake

Try and get along to John Stezaker's new exhibition. It's like an artier version of Sleeveface.