Monday 30 September 2013

Wall of Glam

 Alvin Stardust. Big in Rochdale apparently

I've just finished listening to a fascinating little documentary on Radio 4 about Rochdale street artist Walter Kershaw. In the 1970s, armed with his paint brushes, he'd set his scaffold up against a gable end and create giant murals; it made me wonder how the troubles might have played out if Kershaw had relocated his business across the Irish Sea.

Sunday 29 September 2013


Beguiling cop, slightly menacing cop
Pop-up restaurants may be nothing new in London, but they are around here. We received a heavily disguised email earlier this week which indicated that a couple of local foodies were indeed 'popping-up' soon. A subsequent text arrived giving us a little under twenty four hours notice to slot it in our diaries, set the Sat-Nav and make sure we could acquiesce to their quirky dress code.

So on Friday night, after battling against unusually heavy traffic, we arrived in the nick of time at the covert eatery where we were greeted by, it appeared to me, the shopkeeper from Mr. Benn; we never did find out his name but he's the sort of person who would probably seek you out rather than the other way around; I was told, in no uncertain terms, that details of our evening were not to be broadcast to all and sundry. Which is why I'm under strict instructions not to divulge anything that could identify where we were - so the menu and wine list, I'm afraid, amazing as they both were, have to remain a closely guarded secret. I know, it's crazy isn't it? But it was that sort of night.

However, our bearded friend didn't say anything about the music that was playing while we devoured course after course. I can, therefore, tell you that we listened to a lot of this:

Saturday 28 September 2013

Postcard from New York

Lumberjacks of the world unite

A big thank you to the delightful Amy Rigby for letting me borrow her photograph of Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric and Graham Parker taken in New York this summer. That three of the most influential movers in the UK pub rock, punk & new wave scene of the late 70s are still shakin' on the hill is testament to the fact these veterans are, 30+ years on, making some of the best records of their careers. But here at Medd Towers we have to ask - who got these men dressed?

Thursday 26 September 2013

Tune In

Mark Lewisohn, possibly the real Fifth Beatle, is currently having vast quantities of smoke blown up his jacksie for his new epic Beatles tome Tune In; I’ve been following David Hepworth’s attempt to climb the North Face of same and it really is, or so it would appear, the last word on the group’s early years. Forget 1962-1966. And as for 1967-1970, you can only see that far ahead with the aid of the Hubble telescope. No, for this scene setter Lewisohn is concentrating purely on 1942-1962. That’s right; there was still a war on.

I shall, of course, read it myself in the fullness of time; my interest in all things Beatles goes way beyond passing. Until now my main reference point for this period of the group’s life has been Allan Williams’ The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away. Co-written I know, but Williams (their first manager) was there. Many of Lewisohn's references are culled from this book which was written in 1975; only five years after The End. Take the story of a young Richard Starkey writing to the Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1961 looking for work. Williams lobs that in to the mix on page 209, Lewisohn doesn't reach October '61 until page 493. And, still being alive, Lennon (allegedly) read Williams' account and even endorsed it. I wonder if Macca will be as generous with Tune In?

Wednesday 25 September 2013


I once interviewed the guy who wrote this song: Phil Mogg was both charming and also quite mad. This evening I opened with Try Me. At the end of the night a lovely Geordie lad came over and thanked me for my (brief) set. He bought a copy of Pickering Place and said I was 'class'. I couldn't possibly comment.

In this video Mogg and his band, UFO, have seen fit to hire a string quartet. And there's even a candelabra on the grand piano. Now that's class.


Sunday 22 September 2013

Portugal - just what the doctor ordered

Good health!

And so to Portugal for a few days; home to Ronaldo, grilled sardines and ceramics. And Port, obviously. The sun shone for the whole week and everywhere was within walking distance. The resort even had an escalator that took you down to the beach in the morning - and back up again before the intense heat of the midday sun (unless you were a mad dog or an Englishman) - how lazy is that? The beer, always Super Bock (pictured above), was served chilled and hit the spot day or night; warm dark ale just doesn't cut it when the temperature is permanently scorchio. Seven whole days later and I returned with three abiding memories. In no particular order:

Marradas (Portugese bull-running) video clips - who needs MTV when images of rampaging bulls being chased through narrow Mediterranean streets complements any pop tune you care to mention?

Close-up magic - more on this later I promise. Suffice it to say that I have seen the Devil at work - I was more than a little worried when a total stranger could see inside my head. 

And then there's this beautiful, clingy song that, as soon as I heard once, I knew would live with me forever. I only wished I'd written it.

Friday 13 September 2013

It's Time I Took a Holiday

I'm slipping anchor for a few days. This monkey's been falling out of too many trees lately. Be back before you know it. Leave a message after the beep.

Wednesday 11 September 2013


It was all a bit tragic when Terry Hall dug out his Alexi Sayle suit from the back of the wardrobe and pretended to be twenty years old again. The Specials weren’t designed for the 21st Century;  at least not without Jerry Dammers. They weren’t railing against anything. And if Dammers - their leader, their mentor, their one time friend (it was his band, after all) - had been asked to join the party he would sure as hell have breathed new life and new arrangements into their tired repertoire; imagine full blown orchestral versions of Nite Klub or Little Bitch: Sun Ra meets 2 Tone.

And it's not as if Hall doesn't know a thing or two about rearranging older material. His reworking of Todd Rundgren’s I Saw The Light and Music To Watch Girls by, the Andy Williams lounge classic, are nothing short of sublime. And as for his 1994 take on Bacharach and David’s This Guy’s In Love With You. Now that is special.

Monday 9 September 2013

A Day in the Life

Left to right, Bernard Wright, Nat Mason, James Medd
Why don't we do it in the road?
House band
I knew when I asked Frozen Gin to play with me on Saturday they'd go down a storm. And so it proved. Bernard Wright, Nat Mason and James Medd came up on the Friday night and spent a couple of days with us jamming, drinking tea, busking, drinking more tea and generally ingratiating themselves with the locals. Prior to the gig they'd joined us at The Sun for a couple of looseners before taking to the stage and giving the crowd a master class in musicianship; they knocked out a multifarious set including Irish jigs and reels played at breakneck speed then gently applying the anchors for a dreamy set of French Canadian tunes before hitting the gas once again. We raised a lot of money for charity, not least the £48.92 the lads kindly donated from their hour's busking outside Boots the Chemist. A big thank you also to David Swann, Martin Robertson and Phil Wright for their dedication to the cause.

Frozen Gin: Valse Beaulieu/Sheepskins & Beeswax

Saturday 7 September 2013

No fog!

Norwich, driving gloves, Roachford: all roads lead to Alan Partridge. Alpha Papa might not win Steve Coogan any Oscars, but it's been a long time since ninety minutes skipped by so quickly in a picture house. Kiss my face.

Thursday 5 September 2013

They do things differently there

Just lately I feel like a character in a Samuel Beckett play. I'm surrounded by the past: instead of it being something I look at occasionally in the rear view mirror, it’s coming right at me. I've had long lost relatives coming out of stasis, finding me via social networking sites and, since moving house, I've discovered that my next door neighbour and I share links to friendship circles going way back. And don't get me started on the photographs I've come across; photographs that purport to be me. Really? I was that young? And I've even got Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep as an Earworm.

But most recently I've been getting flashbacks of childhood summer holidays spent in Ireland - including vivid, high definition, room by room dreams of my grandma’s house in Co. Roscommon. I couldn’t get the images out of my head; so a couple of weeks ago I Googled the town and the street where she lived. What happened next should be filed under ‘s’ for spooky: the house had just been put on the market. One click was all it took and I was being given a virtual room by room tour on the Estate Agent's website. Just like in my dreams.

To those looking for a profound final paragraph asking what all this means and demanding a compact summary of what this says about the state of my head at the moment, you've come to the wrong place. Regular readers will know I'm neither cut out to give such erudite summations and nor would I want to. Regular readers will also know that, truth be known, if I could go back and live in 1972 you wouldn't see me for glitter dust. 

Wednesday 4 September 2013

It takes Allsorts

Jeff Lynne seems like a nice bloke. He'd be good company on a long train journey; you know it wouldn't be long, on a jaunt between London and Edinburgh say, until his bag of boiled sweets would come out to share - maybe somewhere between Peterborough and Grantham. Unlike Paul McCartney, on the other hand. His goodie bag wouldn't see the light of day 'til the 125 was pulling in to Waverley. Most likely.

Lynne cares for the planet too. But not in a shouty shouty way. I really do love this song that first appeared on his Armchair Theatre album in 1990.

Karl Wallinger must have liked it too. Not for the first time he took an idea from ELO's front-man and ran with it; Always on my Mind tells a similar tale and, for me, is the standout track from World Party's Dumbing Up long-player from 2000. I don’t know how Wallinger would fair on the boiled sweet litmus test though. Anyway, he's probably a Jelly Baby man. Or maybe he has a soft spot for Liquorice Allsorts. Who doesn't? In which case I would understand perfectly if he kept the bag to himself. That said, he's welcome to the round pink things with the black middle. What were Bassett's thinking?

Tuesday 3 September 2013


With just hours to go before the transfer window closed, (Get) Real bought Subbuteo maestro Johnny Flick from some team or other for a record breaking two bob and a conker. Flick has been playing 00 scale football ever since he left the plastics factory that, quite literally, made him the player he is. He will undergo a thorough medical the minute he gets out of the jiffy bag, including the glueing back on of any limbs that may have fallen off in transit. Speculation is rife that as a sweetener to the deal the club have also acquired a new Morphy Richards, thus ensuring that they can iron out any creases on the field of play. Flick was remaining tight lipped about his alleged wage packet (rumoured to be in the region of ten shiny new pennies a week) and insists that he'll be keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

Monday 2 September 2013

Cold Comfort

Don't be fooled by the above photograph. Ice cream has a dark side. And I'm not talking about the side effects of eating it whilst simultaneously drinking cups of blisteringly hot tea -  a pastime reserved for lunatics and nutjobs. No, ice cream can be sinister. And if you don't believe me take a look at this clip from Bill Forsyth's Comfort and Joy. Warning: contains moderate Scottish accents and mild peril. Not to mention blood raspberry essence.