Tuesday 31 December 2013

Let's See What Next Year Brings

The last red berries and the first white snow
I wrote Let's See What Next Year Brings at the arse end of November; thus giving myself a four week window in which to perform it live, before it gets put away in my cranial garage 'til next November/December. That's the trouble with writing anything seasonal: it becomes perishable the minute you make any reference to the time of year, prevailing weather conditions and tinsel. Or sleigh bells.

Anyway, it being New Year's Eve, I'll be giving it a final 2103 outing tonight. And then, in true Noddy style, I'll change the lyrics to include eggs & bonnets, bunnies & buns.

And just before we sign the old year off, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thanks for swinging by.

Sunday 29 December 2013

A mere Bagatelle?

Batteries not required

1966 and all that: England lift the World Cup, Ford launch the Ford Cortina Mark 2, The Beatles release Revolver & John Medd gets a Bagatelle for Christmas; and you know what? I've still got it. And the box it came in: 'To John, from Santa' it says.

A bit like The Queen, it gets wheeled out every Christmas day afternoon. This year, however, we waited 'til the 27th. We were invited to a Games Evening, so took the Bagatelle c/w box with us. Not surprisingly it went down a storm. Well it would, wouldn't it? It doesn't need plugging in. It doesn't need batteries. Nor does it come with instructions or a rule book as long as your arm. It just requires you to sit down and pull a rudimentary trigger mechanism and fire six ball bearings around a piece of wood with some nails in. What could be easier?

Some people, of course, took it way too seriously. I won't use their real names here - let's
just call them Zoe and Emma. They were questioning the score keeper. They were sledging. They were tipping drinks all over the playing surface. Well, they are twins. From Leeds. Need I say more? I blame the parents.

Friday 27 December 2013

Get Bacchanale

Our Christmas revelry has been kept in check this year - not very Bacchanalian; though glasses were charged and raised at the appropriate times. Contrast that to the music we've been listening to this holiday: lots of Medieval Babes and Red Priest - classical baroque fits like a hand in glove at this time of year. Saint-Saëns provided the soundtrack to the bird cooking in its own juices and the subsequent (mini) banquet that followed. Here's the Baccahanale with Gustavo Dudamel conducting The Berlin Philharmonic. Hold on to your seats.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Children Go Where I Send Thee

Shiny 45s hanging from the tree and Nick Lowe entombed in a snow globe; Noddy was right - it's only just begun.

Speaking of Nick Lowe, he was persuaded by his American record company earlier this year to make a 'Holiday' album. In the wrong hands this project would surely have become another of Herod's victims. Instead, it sounds like this:

Saturday 21 December 2013

Dying Day

Christmas will be a quiet affair this year; just the two of us. We will, though, in keeping with family tradition, still be be putting the tree up this afternoon - big switch on 16:00 GMT (11:00 Eastern). And, as ever, it will be decorated to a Dean Martin soundtrack; not one of his Christmas albums but, invariably, Live at The Sands* or The Essential Collection. Don't ask me how, why or when this all started but we simply cannot deck the halls with boughs of holly to anything other than a Dino backdrop.

But here's the thing. And a very apposite thing at that. Dean Martin died on Christmas Day. Who knew?

Thursday 19 December 2013

I always get chocolate stains on my pants

In 1977 you couldn't move for punk rockers. They'd taken over the country. They'd taken over our airwaves and they'd taken over our TV screens. It was wall to wall Clash, Sex Pistols and The Damned. It was Anarchy.

Maybe in a parallel universe the punks really did take over. In reality, apart from the aforementioned stalwarts, the UK punk and new wave scene was essentially John Peel's nocturnal Top Gear radio show and Billy Idol curling his top lip and miming on Top of the Pops. And Sounds on the newsstand every Thursday, of course.

Which is why, despite numerous attempts to rewrite music history (1976 - Ground Zero anyone?), much of the old guard carried on with business as usual. Not least Thin Lizzy. Their leader, Phil Lynott, like Pete Townshend, befriended many of the young upstarts and actually found a lot of common ground. Lynott would go on to front The Greedies with Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the rudderless Sex Pistols and play both Lizzy and Pistols favourites; you couldn't slide a cigarette paper between them.

In 1977, whilst the music industry was allegedly knee deep in gob, Thin Lizzy released Bad Reputation - one of their most commercial albums. And on it was one of the catchiest tunes put out as a single all year. It has finger clicking. It has a sax break. It positively sashays off the turntable; I swear Brian Downey, Lizzy's drummer, is using brushes. Dancing in the Moonlight has it all.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

70 Thru and Thru

Anyone who walked into a branch of William Hill in the 1970s and put a tenner on Keith Richards making his 70th birthday will find themselves very rich today. He wasn't meant to live this long. Hell, it wasn't in the script that he'd see 40; I'm sure Keith would be the first to tell you that he used his body like a laboratory during his drug and drink fuelled heyday. So much for The Verve's mantra.

Thru and Thru is Keith taking the spotlight, sidelining Mick, and producing one of the Stones' finest moments. Fans of The Sopranos will recognise it immediately. It's a crying shame that James Gandolfini isn't around to send the new septuagenarian a telegram.

This goes out to Mondo who, I understand, has just broke the shrink-wrap on his Sopranos box-set.

Tuesday 17 December 2013


© Rober Palmer (c/o The Oldie)
Tom's getting on. We think he's 19; he may even be 20. Despite being recently diagnosed as having Diabetes he still has days when he thinks he's about four and runs 'round like a lunatic. But mostly, he'll go to sleep for the day and only wake up to be fed and watered. Whenever I write a new song I play it to Tom first; I always ask him to tell me if he's heard the tune before. However, when my guitar come out, he just covers his ears with his paws and plays dead.

But as soon as he sees the tree go up on Saturday he'll be straight back into kitten mode - 'helping' us with the lights and tearing up our paper chains; like he's always done. And that's just fine, because we know Tom probably won't be with us for many more Christmases; we just won't tell him.

(Thank you to Hannah Donovan at The Oldie)

Monday 16 December 2013

There Goes Signin' Simon

Cover photo (probably) not taken at Grimsby Docks
Today's offering writes itself: Roger Busby, musician and Sun Inn regular, met Paul Simon in Grimsby - a town better known for its fishing and maritime industries than its connections with music legends. Rog takes up the story:

"Paul Simon was playing his second gig at Grimsby Folk Club in the winter of 1965/66. I was 18 at the time and Paul would have been 23. I was sharing a flat in the town with work colleague and friend, Bill Johnston, and we had been regulars at the club for about a year at that time. During the break we got chatting with Paul and asked him where he was staying that night - he said that he didn't know (although it was the custom at the time for the club organisers to arrange a bed at someone's house) so we said why not stay with us? Bill had a VW Beetle at the time so imagine four of us plus Paul and his guitar crammed into that!
 Signin' Simon
We had an hour or so chatting and listening to music and he was telling us about how his US record company had dubbed electric guitar, bass and drums onto an acoustic track of The Sound of Silence that he'd recorded with Art Garfunkel and had released it as a single. 'It looks like it's starting to sell' he said, 'so I may have to go back.' Of course it went to # 1 in America and started the whole Simon & Garfunkel phenomenon. We had to get him up very early next morning to catch the milk train back to London and he wasn't the best of early risers. However, I did ask him to sign my copy of the Paul Simon Songbook which was, together with an acoustic EP with Garfunkel, the only recording available at that time. He signed it 'To Bill and Rog, thank you for the bed, the meal and the conversation.' I still have it to this day."

Saturday 14 December 2013

The Man in Black

Between 1988 and 1992 on Radio 4 Edward de Souza resurrected his persona, The Man in Black, to present Fear on Four: thirty minutes in length these beautifully crafted contemporary horror/thriller dramas played host to some brilliant writers and a supporting cast to match. Spine tingling stories by, among others, Roald Dahl, John Wyndham, Stanley Ellin and Ray Bradbury were played out by a veritable who's who of British acting talent including Timothy West, Thora Hird, Anna Massey, Bernard Cribbins and Imelda Staunton.

I used to make an appointment with fear every Sunday evening for half an hour of aural suspense. Here's one I still find genuinely unnerving; it was Number 12 in the series, as The Man in Black will explain...

If your heart can stand it, set aside half an hour, dim the lights and hit the Play button:

Friday 13 December 2013

Clichés & toupées & threepées

10cc may or may not have derived their name from the average amount of semen in a male ejaculation, but what is not in dispute is that between 1972 and 1978 they clocked up over a hundred weeks on the singles charts.

Well they would, wouldn't they? They had two pairs of songwriters in the band - busy at their respective typewriters: Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart with their classic pop sensibilities had already put their songs into the Hit Parade with The Hollies, Herman's Hermits and The Mindbenders. Then you had the art school agitants - Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. Their slightly more cynical style and edgy lyrics were the perfect counterpoint to the luxurious sounds coming from across the corridor. Put the two together, throw in a little rudimentary studio trickery and, voilà, the unmistakable 10cc sound.

Silly Love was one of their few flops - if only getting to # 22 can be considered a flop - and shows that when push came to shove they could roll up their sleeves and get stuck in; or indeed any other cliché you may want to insert into that last sentence. I wasn't aware of this until I found the clip below, but in true 70s style they deployed two drummers when in a live situation.

Thursday 12 December 2013


Scoring heroin on a failed housing project in Liverpool's inner city would not be the subject matter of choice for every songwriter. But to brothers Michael and John Head it's something, by their own admission, they know a lot about. Streets of Kenny is a powerful depiction of life on the other side of the tracks; in every sense of the word. That it got written and recorded at all is a minor miracle - the brothers were in free fall for many years. That it then became one of the main building blocks for their majestic HMS Fable and was performed from the heart and so beautifully makes it even more listenable, to this day.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

I blame Joe Strummer

Cod Reggae: the clue's in the name. If there was an FM station that, heaven forfend, only played this watered down white man's reggae it would probably have the first two Police albums on a permanent loop with 10cc's Dreadlock Holiday thrown in for good measure. And maybe Nice 'n' Sleazy by The Stranglers if they were really pushing the boat out and ting.

Don't get me wrong, if it's done right it can be served up as a delicacy; but for every White Man In Hammersmith Palais there's a Reggae Like It Used To Be (Paul Nicholas really was old enough to know better). Likewise, for every Big Six (Judge Dread was actually on the Trojan label) you've got The Tide Is High - Blondie stylee. Or even worse, Seaside Woman by Linda McCartney; that's right, her take on reggae was about as authentic as her sausages. And before the hate mail comes in, I will gladly put forward Macca's C Moon and praise it to the hilt. Skanking.

Mettlers usually stay well clear of this sort of thing. But Girl were different. That's why I always had a soft spot for them - especially this pleasant little ditty lifted from their 1980 debut album, Sheer Greed: my Cod Reggae guilty pleasure.

Girl - Passing Clouds

Monday 9 December 2013

Three legs, two hearts

George Lippert (c.1842-1906) was, as his strap-line on the Barnum Circus flyer heralded, the original Three-Legged Man. 
And, with six toes on the end of his third limb, that gave him 16 toes in total. Not only was he born with an extra leg but he had two fully functioning hearts side by side in his chest. So when in July 1906 his right heart stopped beating it wasn't the end; though because of advanced Tuberculosis he did peg it a couple of weeks later.

Friday 6 December 2013

Still Playing at 78

Got a birthday in December? I'll drink to that!

My dad has got a birthday coming up in the next few days with mine following on a few days later. And his dad, my Pop, would have celebrated his birthday the day after mine. All these family birthdays dotted around Christmas have invariably meant that unlike a regular birthday falling in, say, July, these dates don't have their own identity; they just become part of the C word. You try arranging something in December between the 21st. and the 31st. and see how far you get; pound to a penny it'll be a 'no can do, we've got Christmas and/or New Year parties to go to.' The subtext being 'why can't you have a normal birthday like everybody else?'

So for that reason I'm getting in early, before the onslaught of fake bonhomie, mince pies and Cliff bloody Richard, and taking this timely opportunity of wishing the Old Man 'Many Happy Returns'. I'm sure he won't mind me telling you that he'll be 78; a very sprightly 78 - he still manages to pull in a round of golf three times a week. And, anyway, it gives me chance to publish the photograph above (taken circa 1965) that I only saw for the first time at our, now legendary, family summit a few weeks ago.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday 4 December 2013


I've just started reading Vertical, Rex Pickett's follow up to his novel Sideways - a beautifully written homage to California wines with a road movie thrown in - which, not unexpectedly, transferred to the big screen remarkably well. The sequel picks up Miles and Jack seven years later. A sort of Big Sur version of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads. Miles, as you can see from the clip below, is an insufferable wine snob.

Thursday 28 November 2013

You're not The Boss of me


* Born in the USA: 100 %

* Detachable nose: 0 %

* Sharing a bedroom with Ernie: 0 %

* Muppet: 32 %

* Downfall parody: 96 %


* Born in the USA: 100 %

* Detachable nose: 99 %

* Sharing a bedroom with Ernie: 98 %

* Muppet: 100 %

* Downfall parody: 0 %

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Wedding ties

Even if I was three stone lighter I wouldn't be able to get into my wedding suit. Like a lot of my clothes it ended up in a charity shop somewhere - no doubt with the jacket pockets full of confetti. And as for my shoes, I parted company with them at Cockfosters tube station; long story.

But I do still have the tie I wore. As you can see it has a Paul Gauguin reproduction plastered all over it. Most people seemed to like it. Even Jenny's mother. I found it the other day, in a bag of other discarded ties, at the back of my wardrobe. I don't wear ties anymore, save for weddings and funerals. The last time being earlier this year when we said goodbye to Jenny's mother. No, I decided against the Gauguin that day. Though I'm sure Margaret would have smiled had I given it an outing.

Many years later I discovered that Michael Franks had borrowed Gauguin's Two Tahitian Women for his Objects of Desire album cover in 1981 - nine years before we tied the knot (pun intended). Surrounded by the likes of Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Larry Carlton and David Sanborn it's a smooth jazz clssic. But it's still not as good as his Blue Pacific platter from which Long Slow Distance is taken. Jenny and I hope to be renewing our vows next year and this voluptuous tune will definitely be on the playlist.

Michael Franks: Long Slow Distance

Monday 25 November 2013

First, find yourself a 200 foot chimney

Is it any wonder we don't send men to The Moon anymore? Apparently Messrs. Armstrong and Aldrin were told that their chances of coming back were 50-50. Middle management just wouldn't allow that anymore; at least not without a high-vis vest.

Take a look at this clip of Fred Dibnah, wearing his trademark flat cap, climbing a 200 foot chimney with a scaffold board strapped to his back, smoking a fag and half way up calmly announcing 'one false move and it's half a day at the undertakers.'

If the car was invented this week they'd ban driving within a week. Nothing's so sure.

Wednesday 20 November 2013


You can't beat a good theme tune. And Dream Themes know how to nail 'em. It says something about this finely crafted classic that when it's thrashed to within an inch of its life it sounds even better than the original; imagine Frank Bough mashing it up with Pete Townshend in a sweaty club. On the other hand, maybe that's not the best analogy. Anyway, if you like this, see what they've done to BBC News 24 and the snooker.

Monday 18 November 2013

Dropping Bombshells in Belfast

The new resident pianist in The Europa Hotel (pictured moments before the blast)

As I alluded to a couple of weeks ago my cousin Raymond and I have been planning an elaborate family reunion in Northern Ireland where nobody, not even me, knew the full ensemble; you see Ray had invited a 'mystery guest'. Ray doesn't do smug, but this came close. More on that later.

I love reunions, especially when there isn't a wooden box in the corner of the room. I won't bore you with details of people you don't know or talk you through every permutation of photograph that was taken (aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, first cousins three times removed), suffice it to say that Friday night was perfect. Before proceedings got under way proper I met my cousin Adrianne who I'd not clapped eyes on since the scorching summer of 1976. She hadn't changed a bit. I, on the other hand, looked old enough to be her father - and I'm a year younger.

Adrianne and I lay in wait in an adjoining room with the party now getting into full swing. I put a phone call in to Ray's father, my Uncle Aidan, from, he thought, across the Irish Sea: struggling to make himself heard above the hubbub I calmly walked into the party, still talking to him on the phone and straight into his line of vision: Bombshell # 1. After we restarted his heart I casually asked how Adrianne was these days. Her cue to walk through the door: Bombshell # 2. Whilst the Paramedics were working flat out reviving everyone the door bell rang. Auntie Stella. The 'mystery guest': Bombshell # 3. Carnage.

Saturday morning started as every Saturday should with enough bacon and sausages to feed an army washed down by gallons of tea. Ray was holding court in the kitchen basking in the success of the night before knowing that 2013's Party Planner of the Year award would be coming his way.

We left the oldies back at base, many still strapped to ECG machines, whilst us young 'uns ventured forth into Belfast for a few pints of Guinness in The Crown Liquor Saloon. On the train I told Ray I needed to drop into the Europa Hotel. I said I was writing a piece about Europe's most bombed hotel and that the manager had got some old photographs for me to use. He bought it.

Unknown to him, and the rest of them, I'd arranged for the Number One Son and his fair maiden to come over from Manchester and join us on the Saturday. And, after a quick call to the Europa, what better way to 'introduce' him, he being a musician, than for him to swap places with the resident pianist in the Piano Lounge and be playing when we all walked in; it went like clockwork. Ray was in bits: Bombshell # 4. Wipe out.

Thinking of organising a party? My rates are very reasonable.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Claire Martin

She's rather fond of Jelly Babies you know

Claire Martin has been delighting jazz audiences for over twenty years. Her sideboard must be creaking under the weight of all the trinkets she's won in that time, not least the six Best Vocalist awards bagged at the prestigious annual Jazz Awards. Backed by an an impressive back catalogue, her distinctive delivery and superb choice of material have kept her at the forefront of the jazz scene on both sides of the Atlantic. Claire also presents Jazz Line Up on Radio 3 where she gets to play her favourite records and meet her idols.

Claire took the time earlier this week to answer a few probing questions:

I remember seeing you at a jazz club in Sheffield one Sunday lunchtime around the time your first album, The Waiting Game, was released; but where and when was your first paid engagement?

'Blimey, that was a long time ago! I guess my first real paid gig was when I turned professional at the age of nineteen and sang with the house band in a hotel in Bournemouth called The Savoy. Sadly not half as glam as The Savoy in London! I worked 6 nights for £150 a week, £50 of that went on rent!'

Jim Mullen was in your band that day – as he has been for a long time. You and Jim work really well together. Any plans to record an album with just the two of you?

'I keep thinking that we must do a duet album. As you know, Jim is a master musician and would be marvellous in this setting. One day it will happen...! 

Claire Martin with Jim Mullen - Gettin' High (1998)

 You've been with your record company, Linn, right from the get go. What's so good about them?

'Linn are incredibly supportive in many ways and most importantly they give me full artistic control. They pride themselves on the sound quality of all their records and have never said no to any of my mad ideas over the years. They are small but perfectly formed and have recently gained much more distribution worldwide.'

You recorded Help! with Noel Gallagher on guitar: was he the perfect gentleman? And what do you look for in a song that makes you want to record it?

Paul Stacey the producer of the Perfect Alibi album was working with Oasis at the time and told me about Noel playing Help! as a slow song at his gigs. I was intrigued to give it a go and was really thrilled that Noel agreed to do the session. However, on my way to the studio I got caught up in the most horrific traffic jam in Brixton and JUST as I arrived he had left. He did leave me a plectrum though and apparently said "give this to the girl singer". Song lyrics reach me first, but I am listening for good harmony and form too. Sometimes great jazz tunes are over too quickly, so I like a bit more structure.
Claire Martin - Help! (1999)

 You're a Brighton Bird these days: can you see the sea from where you live?

'I used to be able to from my old house if I hung my head out of the very top window and looked right! Oblique views I think is the term! Now I am up by the Sussex Downs which are more green than blue. I love Brighton and it’s the best move I ever made.'

Do you like touring? How many gigs do you clock up a year?

'If the tour is well planned and not too gruelling then, yes, being on the road can be fun. Since I became a mum I’m less likely to agree to longer than a week on the road at a time. I did take my daughter to New York last year as the engagement was for 3 weeks. It’s a privilege to be a musician and a joy to do something that you love, but most musicians would agree that the travel aspect is a killer. Only a few weeks ago I drove 7 hours to get to the gig as traffic was horrendous on the M25. To get to a gig north of London on a Friday, it’s best to set off after breakfast! Ideally I’d like to do 4-6 gigs a month, sometimes that happens but other times it’s either feast or famine. This week I'm doing 5 gigs but the week after I’m doing none at all.'

What's it like working at the BBC?

'This is a dream gig for me and has saved my bacon over the last thirteen years. I’ve met and interviewed some of my heroes (Brecker, Metheny, Previn) and have been able to keep my finger on the pulse of the jazz scene easily as I’m sent so much new material, magazines, special invites etc. It’s a joy and I’m really really lucky to be part of the Radio 3 family.'

Have you got a favourite jazz club?

'Yes, the 606 club in Chelsea. Many a night has been spent watching world class music, hanging with my mates and eating great food. Steve Rubie the owner is a legend. I’ve been most proud of the charity events we have put on their thanks to Steve. We have raised thousands through the generosity of the club members. A GREAT JAZZ CLUB.'

You've won many many awards over the years. Which one would you run into a burning building to rescue?

'I’m still in shock that I received an OBE for my services to jazz in 2011. Especially when there are people like Steve Rubie out there. I thought at first it was a hoax! I took my mum and dad to the Palace and we had a terrific day out and a very boozy lunch in Soho afterwards with my husband and brother. I guess I’d run back in for my medal just so I could prove it was true!'

Who do you most admire as an artist and which album could you not live without?

'That’s tough! I have so much admiration for so many jazz singers – all for different reasons. I’d have to say that Carmen McRae is my number one. Her artistry is second to none and I’m still learning every time I listen to her, she is an inspiration. The album ‘Bittersweet’ is as good as it gets.'  

And finally...

Sinatra or Bennett?

'Sinatra - just'

Liquorice Allsorts or Jelly Babies?

'Jelly Babies - no contest!'

Indian food or Italian?

'Indian - had killer curry last night'

Beer or wine?

'WINE!!!!!!!!!!! (red)'  

Cinema or DVD Box Set?

'Cinema - life's too short for box sets'

Thank you Claire.

Monday 11 November 2013

Taking a Flyer

Exhibit 'A'
Also Exhibit 'A'
In November 1977 Graham Parker was criss-crossing the UK promoting his Stick to Me album; you may remember the advertising space his record company took out in all the weekly music rags - Sounds, NME, Melody Maker etc. What you may not remember is that the following month The Next Band, a none too shabby power trio, were playing Grantham Guildhall; I doubt very much that you'll have heard of them, but I think you'll recognise the flyer I liberated that night. As far as I'm aware Next were not in any way related to Mr. Parker, but they obviously took a shine to his artwork.

Saturday 9 November 2013

A Spot of Bother

A Spot of Bother © Robin Dale

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of James Moffat who, under the pseudonym Richard Allen, wrote several infamous youth culture novels - published by New English Library (which became a Hodder & Stoughton imprint in 1981). Always gritty, often right wing and loaded with sex and violence they served as a bluffers guide to early 1970s counter culture. With titles like Boot Boys, Skinhead and Suedehead they were devoured by males of a certain age. His style has been borrowed by many subsequent writers, not least John King; his Headhunters, England Away and Football Factory trilogy explores similar themes.

Friday 8 November 2013

Jock & Margaret

Jock and Margaret, 1947

Jock and Margaret: they make a fine couple don't they? Just don't ask me who they are. Or where they come from*. Or, indeed, what became of them.

I rescued them from a flea market a couple of years ago. They were living in a discarded photograph album at the bottom of a cardboard box. I couldn't believe that anyone (let alone family) could throw away such a delightful book of memories: all the photos are individually mounted and most have a little byline underneath with dates and locations - the album begins in September 1945 ('Taken in Exeter') and concludes with the photograph below ('The gang at Marske') dated August 1951.

I'd like to think that Jock and Margaret are still with us (I'm guessing they'd both be in their late 80s if they are) but even if they aren't I hope they both had great lives.

Margaret (2nd from right) with the gang

* Though I have a feeling they may have been from the Midlesborough/Redcar area

Wednesday 6 November 2013


Gardening in the Rain: an excerpt taken from The Daily Telegraph's website. Stay Dry - Get some wet weather kit. A waterproof hat with a rim allows more movement than a hood. Wellies are fine for most garden duties, but, for carrying heavy items or digging, walking boots offer more protection. For quick dashes it's worth keeping a pair of plastic clogs by the back door.

In her article Liz Dobbs makes no mention of gnome etiquette;  we must assume, therefore, that leaving garden gnomes out in all weathers is discretional.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Bake Off

Mr. Murphy
* Camberwick Green parking permit: 98 %
* Faithful to his wife: 100 %
* Selling delicious walnut cakes for 5 shillings: 100 %
* Brian Cant voice-over: 100 %
* National Treasure: 96 %
* Flour supplied by Windy Miller: 100 %
* Baker Man: 99 %

Mr. Hollywood

 * Camberwick Green parking permit: 0 %
 * Faithful to his wife: 2 %
 * Selling delicious walnut cakes for 5 shillings: 1 %
 * Brian Cant voice-over: 0 %
 * National Treasure: 3 %
 * Flour supplied by Windy Miller: 0 %
 * Baker Man: 10 %

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Take it to the Bridge

Surrey born Dick Morrissey's place among the jazz hierarchy was assured even before he discovered jazz fusion & funk in the late 60s /early 70s with If and Morrissey-Mullen. In 1961 and barely out of his teens Morrissey, a self taught sax and flute player, cut his first solo album It's Morrissey Man; though it never set the jazz world alight he nevertheless spent the majority of the decade carving out a lucrative living on the London jazz circuit - tearing up venues like Ronnie Scott's, The Marquee and 100 Club. With pianist Harry South and any number of bass players and drummers he spearheaded a formidable quartet while at the same time regularly cleaning up Melody Maker's annual awards.

In 1968 he joined forces with guitarist Terry Smith and formed If - a groundbreaking jazz fusion outfit who from their base in Sweden over a six year period released four critically acclaimed albums. But they called it a day in 1974 and Morrissey moved back to London and formed a cracking little trio with organist Mike Carr. It was around this time that he met Scottish guitarist Jim Mullen. He and Mullen then went to America to play and record with The Average White Band who at that time were enjoying  massive global success. And so Morrissey-Mullen was born. They went on to record many revered jazz-funk and soul albums, mostly on the Beggars Banquet label, and they weren't averse to putting out 12" singles either - many of their cuts were crossing over to European dance-floors. Over a career that spanned fifteen years they became festival favourites but realised they'd taken their sound as far as they could.

Dick returned to his roots and straight ahead jazz. He would continue to play until his untimely death in 2000 aged just 60. The plaudits he received during his lifetime and beyond are too numerous to list here. However, his obituary in The Daily Telegraph summed him up perfectly: 'He possessed the remarkable knack of making everything he played sound not only exciting but happy.'

Here he is boldly going where no tenor sax has gone before:

Dick Morrissey: Star Trek

Monday 28 October 2013

2 December 1978

This is my diary entry for Saturday 2 December 1978.

"Riggsby's birthday today. Not just any old birthday. He's 18! We've got tickets to see Generation X - they're playing West Runton Pavilion tonight. My day started at 7 o'clock with thumb out waiting for a lift to North Walsham (where Riggsby now lives). Only had to wait by the side of the A52 for twenty minutes. Sat up in cab with mostly brilliant, but ever so slightly right wing, lorry driver who was quizzing me about why I would want to go and see a bunch of pooftahs perform in a dancehall a million miles from anywhere. I just kept telling him to listen to their first album and he'd work it out for himself. He bought me breakfast in a greasy spoon where the ten second rule was invented. Stroke of luck he was dropping his load off at Smedley's so was able to throw me out right outside Riggsby's mum and dad's house. Mrs. Rigg is a top mum. She talks to me and Riggsby about stuff my mum has no concept of: Susan Rigg has heard of punk. And the new wave. My mum is still getting over the loss of Glenn Miller. Before the gig she makes us all dinner (that's tea, really) and we all sit round the kitchen table and talk about current affairs, Tommy Cooper and the new ring road in Kings Lynn. We all drink wine. And then we talk about Billy Idol and all the brilliant songs he's written. We go to Riggsby's bedroom to listen to Ready Steady Go one last time before Mr. Rigg drives us to the venue in his beat up old Land Rover. Arrive at West Runton Pavilion and we can hear the band sound-checking but all the doors are locked and there's not a soul in sight. We disappear to The Beehive and blag ourselves a pint of cider each which tops up the wine from dinner nicely. Back to the venue where they open the doors and we race to take up residency at the front of the stage. Generation X come on at half nine - the crowd are going barmy and the pint pots are flying. Billy Idol sneers throughout. We keep shouting to Tony James to play Wild Youth but he tells us repeatedly they don't play that anymore. But they do play Your Generation, Kiss Me Deadly and a clutch of new songs including a real tub thumper called Night of the Cadillacs. And, of course, Ready Steady Go. Riggsby's dad picks us up at eleven - in the car park with steam rising off us we look like a pair of racehorses after a hard race. Gig score: 10/10." 

Where are they now?

West Runton Pavilion: demolished in 1986. Now a car park
Riggsby: living in San Diego, CA
Billy Idol: turned into a racier version of Cliff Richard and fell off a few motorcycles

Friday 25 October 2013

5 x 2 = 10

Take Five, the jazz standard everyone associates with Dave Brubeck, was actually written by his sax player Paul Desmond. It's been appearing on TV soundtracks and movie scores as well in clubs around the world ever since it was first released in 1959. However, written in quintuple (5/4) time (like Lalo Schifrin's Mission Impossible theme) it's virtually impossible to dance to.

After leaving the Dave Brubeck Quartet Desmond would go on to play and record with some of the biggest names in jazz including Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Jim Hall and The Modern Jazz Quartet. But he and Brubeck did get back together again in 1976 for a handful of sell-out reunion gigs and and a live album. In fact the last gig he played was with Brubeck in February 1977, only weeks before the fifty two year old sax man succumbed to lung cancer; three packs of Pall Mall unfiltered cigarettes a day finally taking their toll.

In 1963 Desmond wrote and recorded a pastiche of his own remarkable signature tune - Take Ten - from his Skylark album featuring Bob James on piano.

Paul Desmond - Take Ten (1963)

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Just Backdated

BBC 6 Music are cock-a-hoop about finding a 'lost' radio show that David Bowie knocked up forty years ago to plug his then current album Pin Ups - a perfectly sculptured and segued homage to 60s London. Talking about his version of I Can't Explain, Bowie has this to say about The Who:

'...but the biggest buzz was back at The Marquee. They dressed weeks out of date, but they did all the right stuff – Martha & The Vandellas and all that. A lot of action on a night. They were our band, The Who.'

That's right, The Who's fashion sense was so ancient they dressed weeks out of date; Pete Townshend must have been hanging his head in shame. I love the way Bowie put a sax on the song Townshend freely admits to nicking off The Kinks.

David Bowie - I Can't Explain (1973)

Saturday 19 October 2013

The One After 808

Sun Ra

Graham Massey, Madchester legend and the brains behind 808 State has put together a new combo. The one time Acid guru has collected a dozen of Manchester's finest, scooped 'em up and shared with them his love of Saturn dweller and jazz polymath Sun Ra: The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club are a twelve piece ensemble who, under Massey's orchestration, are currently tearing up venues in the North West. And one look at this video from their recent Liverpool gig will testify that the experience leaves everyone in the room shaken and stirred. The young lad on keys (front right) a.k.a. The Number One Son - who when he joined the band tweeted 'I've joined a cult' - tells me they hope to be recording an album real soon.

Friday 18 October 2013

Yer get meh?

Truckers is the BBC's new Thursday night drama filling their primetime 9:00 to 10:00 slot. Set in Nottingham it follows the trials and tribulations of a haulage company - Banks of England - and the nomadic drivers on its fleet. In the wrong hands this could easily have fallen flat on its arse but two things, for me, have already elevated it to Appointment TV status: firstly, the finely crafted Billy Ivory script fairly crackles and balances the comedy and pathos perfectly; several scriptwriters fail miserably at this. Secondly, and this alone would have sunk the thing, never to be seen again - they've managed to nail the Nottingham accent. As someone who spent over half his life there, I know that trying to mimic an East Midlands accent, Nottingham, Derby Leicester, can be a bit like nailing jelly to a wall. If you put all the actors end to end who opt for a generic Northern accent when asked to 'do' Nottingham they'd probably stretch the full length of the A52.

Step forward, then, Stephen Tompkinson (who all but stole the scene-setting first episode) and John Dagleish who both know that cold rhymes with road (as in 'it's a bit Derby Road this morning') and that 'yer get meh' is how you ask someone if they understood what you've just told them. Not it serry?

Thursday 17 October 2013

If it Walks Like a Duck

I very rarely read the comments lurking beneath YouTube videos; they are, for the most part, the ramblings of mad men. And women.

But when I saw the footer to this Buffalo Springfield clip: 'Stephen Stills is hillarious' (sic) I had to concur. The duckwalk is, by its very nature, a manoeuvre that can in no way be called graceful; there's a time and a place.

Whether or not Stills was in either zone, I'll leave up to you to decide. But he's having a blast, as is Neil Young. Well, it was 1967.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Lazy Susan


In 1972 my hormones were all over the place. My bedroom walls were a homage to, essentially, four bricklayers in drag. Brian Connolly was just a ball of confusion to any pre-pubescent second year oik waiting for his voice to break. The man who sang Block Buster! and who would burst out of our rented telly every Thursday night used to wear eye liner and lip gloss - and I never batted an eyelid. But I did manage to find room high up on one of my walls for one chick: by day she would masquerade as David Cassidy's sister in The Partridge family, but, by night, conjuring up images of Susan Dey sure beat counting sheep.

Larry Carlton - Lazy Susan

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Let's get together again

McNamara's finest
Prior to this photograph being taken in 2009, outside The Crown Liquor Saloon In Belfast,  I'd not seen my cousin Ray in twenty six years; when neither of us had even reached twenty six.
Next month we're pulling off another reunion involving more, as yet in the dark, family members. Ray now tells me that as well as the team listed in the programme he's bringing a mystery player known only to him. This, he assures me, means, and I quote, 'so only I know the full ensemble.' Now, where I come from that's fighting talk.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Top of the world

Not many people climb Machu Picchu dressed like they've just walked off the latest Bond movie set; then again, not many people have Sabbir Hossain's credentials: restauranteur, pilot, TV & radio personality, film critic, race relations adviser, spokesman for the Bangladseshi community in the UK, cricket nut and good friend to the Medd family. It was good to see you again this weekend Sam.

Wednesday 9 October 2013


Grover Washington Jr
Gerry Mulligan
Here's a delicious collaboration between two of my favourite sax players; although Gerry Mulligan and Grover Washington are no longer with us we were lucky enough to see both these jazzers live. In fact we even met Gerry Mulligan – he was staying in the same hotel as us while we were at the Brecon Jazz Festival in 1991. Grover Washington we saw in the summer of 1998 (the year before he died) - he was playing The Concord Festival in a stunning amphitheatre in California; the only part of the world where smooth jazz really works.