Thursday 30 January 2014


Last night I was paid a rare compliment: 'You look snazzy.' I blame my shirt.

Just for the record it didn't happen at a funeral, but, when my time comes I would like the s word on my headstone.

Thank you to the good people at The System for the graphics.

Saturday 25 January 2014


We've all walked across that zebra crossing in North London and recreated The Beatles' most iconic of album covers. But when was the last time you tried aping a Coen brothers movie poster?

Owning a ginger cat and living opposite a bearded folk singer, the idea for this photo shoot practically wrote itself.

Phil and Tom, everyone. Phil's the one with two legs.


Friday 24 January 2014

Going for a song

After my last post, 50 odd gigs, I was asked by The Swede to list 50 odd songs. Nice try TS, but that would be like asking me for my Desert Island Discs. Ask me today and I'll give you one list - ask me tomorrow and you'll get a different list altogether.

And, anyway, a great record is not always a great song. It's one of the reasons Nick Lowe doesn't play I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass live. Listen to it and you'll realise it's what they did in the studio that turned it into a pop record, not what Lowe would have first noodled around with on his acoustic guitar. Likewise some great dance records are just that: great dance records. Or choons as I think the current vernacular would have it. Strip them down and they're hardly songs at all.

That said, what I will do is give you one song.  A song that would be on any Best Of list you ask me to write today or tomorrow. It will be on the last list I ever write.

I won't spoil it by reviewing it. Or rating it. Or even telling you how perfect I think it is. Everything you need to know about it is wrapped up in its three minutes, 37 seconds.

Just listen.

Pete Morton: Another Train (mp3)

Tuesday 21 January 2014

50 odd gigs

I have huge respect for David Hepworth: a fine writer and broadcaster who, to paraphrase Danny Baker, 'always hits the n on the h.' I found this 2009 Blog of his the other day and thought I'd lift the idea wholesale - and come up with my own 50 odd gigs that are memorable for all sorts of reasons. I hope he doesn't mind.

 Their friends included Alex Harvey and Little Feat
1. Lindisfarne - Newark Palace Theatre, January 1975. My first gig. Riggsby's mum took us. I couldn't believe how loud it was.
2. The Who - Charlton Athletic Football Club, 1976. Forget what I said about Lindisfarne. This was loud. The Guinness Book of Records said so.
3. The Stranglers - Leicester De Montfort 1977. Jean Jacques Burnel came on stage during Steel Pulse's set (who were being all but bottled) and said 'If you don't show them some respect, we're not coming on.'
4. Generation X - West Runton Pavilion, December 1978. It was Riggsby's 18th. After 35 years I finally wrote up my gig review.
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers - San Diego, 2000. They were plugging Californication. In California.
6. Rocket From The Crypt - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. This band are so good live we recently flew to Barcelona to catch one of their 'one off' reunion gigs. The Glasgow show was ineffable.
 Brentford's finest
7. Nick Lowe - Jazz Café Camden, 1995. This was where he reinvented himself.
8. Joe Strummer - Princess Charlotte, Leicester. Can't have been long before he died. He organised the crowd so all the short arses came down the front and those of taller persuasion stood at the back.
9. Stephane Grappelli - Mansfield Leisure Centre. Can't remember the year but I remember shaking his hand.
10. The Black Crowes - The Garage, Highbury Corner. More bands should do this - they played an acoustic Saturday afternoon matinee ahead of their evening plugged-in show.
They could have been contenders
11. Paul McCartney - Sheffield. The Number One Son's heart nearly stopped when they lit the Live and Let Die fireworks.
12. The Buzzcocks - Retford Porterhouse, 1977. I'd bought their first album that afternoon: I was ready for them.
13. Joe Jackson - Hammersmith Odeon, 1989. Jenny was pregnant and Joe played his new record, Blaze of Glory, in its entirety.
14. Shack - Nottingham, 2004. They kept it together that night. Greatness always alluded them; probably because they didn't always keep it together.
15. Grover Washington Jr - Concord Jazz Festival, CA., 1998. Smooth. Hot.
16. The Monkees - Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. No wooly hats but the other three were there.
It was nearer 9.00 by the time he came on
17. ZZ Top - Marquee, 1983. I stood next to Gary Bushell and Pete Way.
18. Chuck Berry - Ice Stadium, Nottingham, 1991. Late on stage due to haggling with promoter for money.
19. World Party - Wolverhampton Civic. Karl Wallanger unveiled She's The One. It was also the night he probably sacked his guitar roadie.
20. Trippin' Over Wah - British Legion, West Bridgford, Nottingham, 2004. Ten years later and it's still one of the liveliest debut gigs by a band I've ever seen: the Police were called three times.
21. The Sweet - Rock City, Nottingham, 1981. The guitarist had a pint of beer thrown at him. Refused to come back on.
22. The Bees - Rock City, Nottingham, 2005. The guitarist had a pint of beer thrown at him. Refused to come back on. Déjà vu.
23. The Wilsons - Saltburn, 2013. Sting likes them now, apparently.
24. Martin Taylor - I've seen him so many times it's hard to pick one out; I'll go for Rolls Royce Social Club, Derby - we sat on a comfy sofa while Martin played just feet away from us.
25. Aimee Mann - Nottingham. Jet lagged and slightly tetchy she forgot the opening line to one of her songs. But when someone in the audience shouted the prompt she transformed herself.
 'Disco Dan' did the disco. Disco Dan always did the disco
26. The Next Band and Def Leppard - Grantham Guildhall, 1978. Def Leppard were good. The Next Band were better.
27. Long John Baldry - Astoria, Nottingham. He had Dick Morrissey and Jim Mullen in his band that night - they did a fabulous Morrissey Mullen set.
28. Rod Stewart - Nottingham Arena. Forty years since he and Baldry were tearing it up with Steampacket but Rod still knew how to do it.
29. The Cramps - Rock City, Nottingham. Uncomfortable viewing - Lux Interior climbed speaker cabinets and self harmed all night.
30. Arthur Lee and Love - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham. They played all Forever Changes.
31. Rory Gallagher - Nottingham, 1989.  We left after three and a half hours and he was still playing.
32. The Jam - Derby King's Hall, 1977. I remember Paul Weller being angry. No change there then.
33. Neil Innes - York, Fibbers. I love it when he Rutles.
34. Loudon Wainwright - Newark. A great evening spoilt only by Martha.
 They'd been on Top of the Pops the night before
35. Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Northampton Roadmenders. He was dying. He was helped on stage by Derek The Draw. He was sublime.
36. Bellowhead - Nottingham, seven or eight years ago. When I first began to notice people talking, loudly, during gigs.
37. Field Music - Leeds Cockpit, 2012. Field Music were on form; the audience were not - the talking throughout drowned out the band. We walked out.
38. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby - The Milton Rooms, Malton, 2012. Still railing.

'Do the rat'
39. The Boomtown Rats - Derby, 1977. We went backstage afterwards and got their autographs. Well I was only 16. Bob and the band signed my ticket.
40. Tony Bennett - Nottingham. Proved during one number he didn't need a microphone.
41Eddie and The Hot Rods/Squeeze/Radio Stars - Leicester De Montfort, 1977. Jools Holland tried to play the concert organ. 
42. Richard Thompson - a pub, the name of which escapes me, in Nottingham, 1986. Just him and his guitar fighting to be heard over the tills.
43. Girl - Marquee, Wardour Street W1, 1980. I saw them plenty around this time - they'd got a residency at Soho's finest music club.
44. Clive Gregson & Christine Collister - The Narrowboat, Nottingham, 1987. Gregson & Collister split. The Narrowboat was razed.
This gig was considerably cheaper...
...than this one
45. The Bootleg Beatles - numerous. Too young to see the real thing, I've filled my boots (as it were) many times - Hucknall Leisure Centre and The Pigalle Club in Piccadilly spring to mind.
46. Dodgy - Exeter Big Top, 1997. The Number One Son's first gig.
47. James Yorkston - Nottingham Bodega. The most respectful audience I've ever seen. Anywhere.
48. The Slackers - Nottingham. Picking up where The Skatalites left off.
49. Jah Wobble - The Maze, Nottingham. He turned his bass up to 11.
50. Pete Morton - The Sun, Pickering, 2014. When we sing together, that's the best of all.

Monday 20 January 2014


Morgan Howell - a singles artist
Remember Land of the Giants, that mysterious planet where everything was 12 times larger than its counterpart on earth? Morgan Howell's paintings may not be quite that big but his jaw-dropping 3-D reproductions of classic singles, c/w their often creased and torn paper sleeves, measure 27" x 27" - thus living up to their tag of SuperSizeArt. His work is much in demand and is frequently commissioned by the great and good who all want one of Howell's incredible creations hanging on their wall.

I managed to tear Morgan away from his paintbrushes long enough for a mild interrogation:

What was the first single you bought?

I wish I could say it was Bowie, or Lou Reed. But it was Alvin Stardust and Tell Me Why from 1974. I used to draw him with his sideburns, black outfit and gloved hand holding the mic at a seemingly impossible angle. 

What makes you want to paint a particular record – is it the record itself, the writing on the label or the sleeve?

I have a list that I’m working through, though occasionally I do get interrupted by a commission, or a request for a show piece. This has happened recently with Agnetha from Abba and The Eagles.

Looking at some of the stuff you've painted, it's the 'distressed' sleeves with rips and tears that really capture a record; they're the ones that were taken to parties and had beer spilt on them. Did you look after your vinyl as a kid?

Big audio
I wouldn’t have given much thought with the 45s, as long as they played. I was more careful with albums and eventually got record boxes so I could take stuff to parties. Now of course I love the wear and tear. The objects themselves have gotten old and worn like us and more interesting for it.

Ever been tempted to work through a label's entire back catalogue (turkeys and all) – say Stiff Records for instance? (starting with BUY-1 The Damned's New Rose).

No, though many people have asked if I’d paint New Rose. So you’re a Damned fan eh?

I see you do boys annuals now. Where else do you see Supersize going? Classic paperbacks? Postage stamps? Dollar bills?

I might paint a giant Curly Wurly. 

(Personally, I'd love to see Morgan have a stab at some of these)

How long do they take to paint? Longer than it takes the band to write and record the record you're recreating?

They usually take a couple of weeks depending on the complexity. The Beatles 'Apple' 45s took longer as I had to paint the cracked black lacquered sleeves and it took a while to get that right. Dancing Queen needed to be ready for Agnetha in under a week.

I've always liked the RCA bags, have you got a favourite design? I love the orange and green one.

My current favourite is 'You Never Can Tell' on Pye International. A fabulously evocative design with the stamped R&B motif in the right hand corner of the bag. And one of Chuck Berry’s finest to boot.

Beatles or Stones? Beatles

Stereo or mono? Stereo

Jukebox or iPod? Juke

Fade out or proper ending? Proper ending. The ballad of John and Yoko and Teenage Kicks being two great examples.

And, finally, which one of your paintings are you most proud of?

Probably most proud of Hey Jude/Revolution on Apple as I gave them to Cancer Research and they were auctioned at Abbey Road by Al Murray and made a fortune. I was stunned and a career was born.

Morgan's website:

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Pulling rank

Someone else is pulling his strings
                        * Penchant for lead piping: 2%

                        * Fear of Mysterons: 100%

                        * Mistaken for Nick Lowe: 77%

                        * Getting jiggy in the Drawing Room: 4%

                        * Eponymous pub in Leeds: 0%

                        * Scoring Lady Penelope's phone number: 99%

His head sits atop a pawn

 * Penchant for lead piping: 98%

 * Fear of Mysterons: 1%

 * Mistaken for Nick Lowe: 0%

 * Getting jiggy in the Drawing Room: 100%

 * Eponymous pub in Leeds: 99%

 * Scoring Lady Penelope's phone number: 3%

Tuesday 14 January 2014

True Colours?

It's not golden, nor does it have any gates
We all know that The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District never repainted the bridge green, but they did, quite cleverly, show the iconic structure in its new livery in an advertising campaign to promote their green agenda - including emission reduction policies, bicycle programmes etc.
Vincent Tan, on the other hand, the new meddling Malaysian billionaire Chairman of Cardiff City FC, The Bluebirds, changed the team's home strip from blue to red overnight; thus instantly destroying 100 years of club history. Apparently the colour red is lucky in his culture. Maybe someone should tell David Moyes.

In 1964 when Richard Lester was brought in to make A Hard Day's Night he decided to shoot it in black and white; one of the film's many endearing qualities. But now, thanks to colorization, we can see Macca's Hofner bass looking the same colour as watery gravy and John Lennon looking decidedly unwell.

Sunday 12 January 2014


Halfway through Breaking Bad and my knowledge of Crystal Meth and how it's cooked is expanding at an alarming rate. As is the number of episodes we're able to devour in one sitting: four tonight.

There are a number of songs on the soundtrack I'll never be able to listen to in quite the same way again. For example, THe Association - Windy

Wednesday 8 January 2014

The Unbelievable Truth with Van Dyke Parks

For today's post I'm indebted to Van Dyke Parks. VDP is a singer songwriter, arranger and producer in his own right but he's probably best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson - not least the legendary Smile sessions. He was in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention for a while and helped pioneer the Moog synthesiser. A resident of Los Angeles he is still very much moving and shaking. His business cards (above) are treasured by their recipients.

I emailed Van Dyke Parks just after breakfast this morning: 

Dear Mr. Van Dyke Parks, 

On Monday I wrote a blog about Dick Van Dyke's recent car fire in LA; you probably passed him by the side of the freeway that very afternoon. 

On Tuesday I wrote a blog about Earl Van Dyke, a fellow ivory tinkler & the beating heart of Motown. 

Today I'd like to write a few words about your good self. I'm interested in the interview you once gave where you talked about The Beatles; as much for the way you described the beach - 'it's where the land comes down to the water'. You probably don't remember. Anyway, this is a long winded way of asking if you'd care to share something with my readers that they possibly don't know about you. You may even want to tell us the back story behind your delightful business cards. I do hope so. 

Thanking you in advance.

When I went to check my emails this afternoon there was a reply sitting in my Inbox:

Dear John,

Since you mention Dick Van Dyke, I may add that we're distant cousins. His family stopped in New Jersey and liked it there. My Van Dyke family line is the first Dutch family in what is now Pennsylvania. Yet that famous actor and I share the same lineage. We both issue directly from one man: Thomas Janse Van Dyke (b.1580, d. 1670) , who sailed from Rotterdam on "die Bönte Kuhe" ("The Spotted Cow") to Nieuw Amsterdam, in 1646. The ship herself ("The Spotted Cow") has an illustrious war-time naval history, participating in much marine battle for Caribbean Territory. My lineage points to the adjacent farms of the Van Dyke and Parks dairy farms, in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. My grandfather Clarence Carson Parks fell in love with Zoe Van Dyke, and their son in my father. I have their Steinway grand (O model) in my living room. It has been in our family since March 11th, 1911, having been acquired as a "maternity gift" to my grandmother, the day of my father's birth. 

 You have my permission to share this vital information with your readers.  

Tuesday 7 January 2014

It's a Northern thing

Earl Van Dyke was at the very heart of Motown: the Detroit born keyboard player and bandleader was the founder of The Funk Brothers - the label's house band; without them there wouldn't have been a Motown. It's as simple as that. Anyone who's seen Standing in the Shadows of Motown will, I'm sure, concur.

From time to time Van Dyke would slip anchor - they'd allow him to open for the names over the door. That's when he'd get to play tunes like this: it's a sure fire floor-filler that goes by the name of 6 X 6.

Monday 6 January 2014

Still with us - just*

Mention the name Dick Van Dyke in conversation and the chances are you'll be on the receiving end of a 'Cor blimey, Mary Poppins' - mocking his woeful Cockney accent from the 1964 Disney staple. But Van Dyke was better than that. Four years later he was the eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts in the enchanting screen adaptation of Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A film in which, strangely, Lionel Jeffries, born the year after Van Dyke, played his father. The movie spawned many musical hits including the title song and this, the truly scrumptious Hushabye Mountain.

In the 1960s Van Dyke cleaned up on American TV with the Dick Van Dyke Show and later in the 1970s with, that's right, The New Dick Van Dyke Show. The programme(s) won more Emmys than was decent and in 2002 was voted # 13 in The Top 50 TV Shows of All Time. In the 1990s he returned to the small screen as Dr. Mark Sloan in Diagnosis Murder. Van Dyke played a Consultant come sleuth at Community General Hospital where week after week somebody would meet a sticky end; despite the high death toll the writers would always shoehorn a song and dance routine into the show, thus reaffirming its cosy crime status.

Recently married to a woman forty six years his junior, Van Dyke refuses to retire - he continues to sing with his own a cappella group The Vantastix and is still a regular on the US chat show circuit.

* Van Dyke, now 88, has over the years battled with alcohol addiction and an undisclosed neurological condition but, in August last year, found himself in what could easily have been an episode from Diagnosis Murder: his car burst into flames by the side of a Los Angeles freeway. In true Hollywood style the whole drama was filmed by an onlooker.

Saturday 4 January 2014


'Where's our change?'
Everybody knows that David Essex was born in a gypsy caravan on a Fairground within earshot of Bow Bells. It's also a well known fact that Ringo Starr taught him how to fleece the punters on the Dodgems and that when his time comes it will probably be some freak accident on a Ferris Wheel or the Waltzers. Either that or he'll choke to death on his candy floss.

Listen out for how Essex pronounces Roller Coaster. You'd swear it was John Lydon.

Friday 3 January 2014

Room for Two

Not since Roy Plomley (right) cast Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais adrift in 1979 have two new residents washed up ashore together on the BBC's Desert Island.

It was only to be expected that Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelley would be a twofer when Kirsty Young chucked her next victims overboard. I like Ant and Dec. What's not to like? A few years ago they were asked to make a tribute to The Likely Lads; it was written by Clement and La Frenais and I thought they made a decent fist of it. And Rodney Bewes makes a cameo appearance as the newspaper vendor.

Thursday 2 January 2014


Dylan's Fender he played at Newport Folk Festival 1965

Bob Dylan has clocked up over 2500 gigs on his Never Ending Tour; a tour that began way back in 1988 and has since straddled the globe many times over. And for over 90 percent of those dates, night after night, he's been centre stage with a guitar strapped over his shoulder. He didn't always play it - for the most part it was just a prop. A symbol that became synonymous with seeing Dylan live. It was his sheriff's badge. All great entertainers have used props: Tommy Cooper had a fez, Eric had Ernie, Rod Stewart's got a mic stand, Mick has Keith - you get the picture.

So, these days, when Dylan hides at the side of the stage behind a piano you sort of feel short changed. It doesn't look right. That he continually rearranges his songs is a given; singing along with Dylan will never become an Olympic event. But seeing him without a guitar just isn't right. The one time song and dance man isn't dancing anymore.