Wednesday 30 March 2011

Poetry please

Having succeeded in escaping from his Desert Island, Ian McMillan, The Bard of Barnsley, has put out a disc of his own - Homing In. It's the second album he's recorded with his fabulous orchestra and combines McMillan's unique verse with some dazzling roots music for accompaniment. You can read my review here.

Along with James Mason, Bill Nighy and Kevin McCloud, McMillan has a timbre to his voice that would bring the phone book to life; I guess the modern day equivalent is being asked to do a Sat-Nav voice-over; well, if Brian Blessed can do it...

Here's a taster:

The Ian McMillan Orchestra: Ten Forgotten Moments From History

Thursday 24 March 2011


These days the (not so) little box in the corner of the room is very rarely used to watch live television; along with much of the populus I'm a box set addict - 24, Sopranos, Lost, Deadwood - and so it goes. But every now and again the BBC will put out a series that demands my attention. That means watching it once week and then waiting seven whole days to watch the next installment; virtually impossible when getting up close and personal with Jack Bauer during one of his bad days.

The Boat That Guy Built is the antithesis of your average HBO blockbuster. No one gets clipped, everybody keeps their kit on and the nearest you get to a profanity is a 'by heck.' TBTGB is fronted by TT Racer and tea junkie Guy Martin. On the inside he's 50% Jack Hargreaves, 50 % Fred Dibnah. And to look at him he could moonlight in a Mungo Jerry tribute band, such are the dimensions of his mutton chops. What about the plot? Well, it's a man on a narrow boat. Drinking tea and calling everyone 'chief'. Drinking more tea and referring to everything as 'mint'. Join the dots and it goes something like this: 'Any chance of a brew chief? Mint!' Did I say that it's narrated by Liza Tarbuck? I'm hooked.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

I'm on Twitter

Er, that's it really. So, if you follow this blog and would like more of the same (well, 140 characters - so it's actually less), you can find me @JohnnyMedd

Thursday 17 March 2011

Smoke and mirrors

Don't worry, I'm not getting bent out of shape over this; but when Kate Moss lit up a Benson & Hedges on the cat walk last week (on National No Smoking Day) it started a chain of events, the aftershock of which will be felt by the medical profession for years to come: in the same way her throwaway comment 'nothing tastes like skinny feels' encouraged gullible young models to starve themselves so they can fit into size zero frocks, so the take up of impressionable girls starting the habit seems set to rise.

As the above photo demonstrates, Moss is already taking on board the smokers 'long paper round' look. It won't be long 'til she looks in the mirror and sees this staring back at her. Pretty scary, huh?

I prefer to remember Bardot this way

Sunday 13 March 2011

Dapper Dans

Prompted by Pete Paphides, aka Mr. Caitlin Moran, I've dug out these examples of sartorial elegance from the back pages of Melody Maker. It's from January 20, 1973 (priced at 8 new pence, or 50 cents if, per chance, you were buying it in the USA) and has Eric Clapton on the cover pictured at his comeback gig at London's Rainbow Theatre the previous Saturday.

Looking rather fetching in his white suit, a look also favoured by Messrs. Presley, Lennon and Hopkirk, Clapton would have been looking out at a crowd not sporting Cream or Blind Faith tee shirts (back then rock and roll merchandising was still in short trousers) and nor would his disciples have been wearing anything with a designer label. No, what Clapton would have seen was three thousand guys and gals dressed in garments like these:

Or, more likely, these (note the subliminal cigarette advertising):

Just as well the term fashion victim hadn't been coined back then; there are two pages full of embroidered loons, velvet loon jackets, Danish clogs, male clogs, brushed denim dungarees, genuine RAF overcoats, shaggy pile jackets, cavalry boots, velvet caps, square neck vests...I could go on, but I think you get the picture. As Paphides says, these are historical documents. If you want to know what was going on (or to see what the natives used to wear) during a particular time frame, look no further than back issues of the British music press.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Lost in the supermarket

Yesterday morning I bit the bullet and made the short expedition to my local soul sapping Sainsbury's (other supermarkets are available). Within minutes of arrival I'd already taken a wrong turning and soon found myself in uncharted waters - namely the soft drink aisle.
All the usual suspects were there: Coke & Pepsi (in fat ba**ard and diet formats), own brand Cola (just like Coke or Pepsi but with added sh*te), Dr. Pepper (?), Lucozade (now re-branded as an 'energy drink' - its hospital bedside ubiquity long gone) and, of course, good old dandelion and burdock (just what is a burdock exactly?) And then I saw it: 'Good God', I must have mumbled under my breath, 'do they still make this stuff?' I refer to Shandy Bass - a beverage I'd not seen since the scorching Summer of 1975 (or was it '76?). They said at school that even if you drank twenty cans in one sitting you'd never get drunk; not that that stopped us from trying. Maybe somebody should have explained that to the boys in blue at Leicestershire Police.

And while I'm on the subject, can you remember Shandy Bass' main rival? I'll give you a clue: Kurt Cobain (allegedly) demanded three cans as a rider when Nirvana came over to Blighty and performed on The Word; if I was a conspiracy theorist I'd think it was a hell of a coincidence that Top Deck was withdrawn shortly thereafter.

The Martin Kitcher Band: Shandy Bass (Westcliff on Sea)

Friday 4 March 2011

Hey, hey, we're (not) The Beatles

Boy bands. Don't you just love them? Who do you reckon was the first? The fact that such an accolade is often bandied around when talking about The Monkees is to totally rewrite history. It also airbrushes barbershop, doo-wop and harmony groups from pop's rich tapestry: The Ink Spots, anyone? But, in as much as they predated The Osmonds and The Jackson 5, Messrs. Dolenz, Nesmith, Tork and Jones were certainly among the first guests to arrive at the party.

Back in 1966 the moguls at Screen Gems decided to manufacture a group to rival The Beatles. And, as befits such a manoeuvre, it was all done very tongue in cheek; giving four unknown actors (that's right, actors not musicians) a 'zany' script, hiring in some professional songwriters (and a house band) and then pump out the resulting mix on prime-time coast to coast television - and seeing what happens.

And what happened was a massive TV show, numerous Top Ten hits including three Billboard No.1s (I'm A Believer, Last Train To Clarksville and Daydream Believer), an iconic logo that still makes me smile and (though it would take many years) a grudging acceptance by the public that at least half (if not three quarters) of the band did prove themselves as bona fide musos. Sorry Davy, you should have stuck with Coronation Street.

But were they ever a serious threat to Beatlemania? No, of course not, don't be silly. Have they left a lasting legacy? Well, yes they have actually; whether it be the rich seam of catchy singles, the critically acclaimed Headquarters album or Head, their cinematic wig out with Jack Nicholson, The Monkees place in rock and roll history is assured. Oh, and don't forget Robert Wyatt's blinding cover of I'm A Believer.

During their heyday comparisons with our own moptops were rife. But in as much as a Skoda and an Aston Martin both have four wheels and an engine, there the similarity ends. However, as the photographs of Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork testify, they did get to meet their Liverpudlian counterparts though it's doubtful they joined forces in any songwriting circles. If they had, maybe they would have beaten Go Home Productions to this: