Wednesday 31 December 2014

Small beer

Remember rosettes?
As someone who used to set pub quizzes, I stumbled on a lovely question the other day. In what year was the Penalty Shootout first introduced into English football and who scored the first goal?

Anyone who remembers The Watney Cup* would tell you that in 1970, prior to the first Semi-Final between Hull City and Manchester Utd, it had been announced that, in the event of a stalemate, the match would be decided by spot kicks. This, taken from the programme notes:

Drawn games in The Watney Cup will be decided by penalties. Both sides will be given five chances to score. The Watney Cup will be the first tournament to introduce this method of deciding drawn games. EUFA & FIFA have now agreed to use it in forthcoming European and World Cup games. As league secretary Alan Hardaker says: 'It will be good to settle something by pure football.'
 The Scaffold: pretending to like Watneys

Alex Stepney (United's goalkeeper) could be as vital to Manchester United as George Best when it comes to scoring goals. As Alan Hardaker says: 'It will be good to get a few goals from goalkeepers. Gimmicks used to encourage the scoring of goals are good for the game.' 
George Best arriving at Boothferry Park

Not sure about that, even forty five years on. And, a couple of seasons later, this short lived competition introduced another 'gimmick'. A variation to the offside rule which meant you could only be given off side if you were goal-hanging in the 18 yard box.

The programme notes go on to say: That's what the game is all about. Putting the ball in the net. But not many people in soccer with the exception of Watneys, of course, can guarantee goals.

Hull City v Manchester Utd: Wednesday 15 August 1970
1-1 after 90 minutes
Man Utd won 4-3 on penalties
George Best was the first player to score a penalty
Denis Law was the first to miss a penalty
And Ian McKechnie, Hull City's goalie, was the first keeper to save a penalty (though he did miss at the other end, thus gifting the tie to Man. Utd.)

* The Watney Cup was a pre-season tournament played out between eight teams  - the top two scoring clubs from each of the four divisions who had not qualified for Europe or been promoted. Hull City had scored 72 in the Second Division, Man. Utd. 66 in the First. It was also the first sponsored competition of its kind.

Tuesday 30 December 2014


It's that time of year: everywhere you turn you get beam-ended by yet another 2014 round up or, worse still, a bucket list.  Don't get me wrong, I like a list as well as the next man - in my previous life as a music journalist, the run up to the end of the year was all about rating and ranking one album or film or gig above another. And plenty of my fellow bloggers you see in the right hand margin of my ramblings are filling their boots also. It's a good way of compartmentalising the past; 'tidy up time' as a very annoying Antipodean BBC radio presenter working in the West Midlands used to say.

These days I tend to latch onto stuff much later. If you want to know what my favourite film of 2014 was, ask me in about 2018 - there's every chance I might have seen it by then. But if you really must know what's been floating my boat this year and don't fancy trawling through the 100+ blog posts I've written this year, here's my rough and ready reckoner:

Best Gig

I'm tempted to say Dodgy at York Fibbers. Not least because I supported them that night. I'd also love to report that violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy (who shared my birthday earlier this week) headlining this year's Scarborough Jazz Festival made it to the top; he very nearly did, but not quite. That accolade goes to Wreckless Eric. Eric, complete with a full band for the first time in years, all but lifted the roof at The New Adelphi in Hull. When he played the ubiquitous Whole Wide World - the signature tune he wrote whilst living in the Humber Delta - you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were in the presence of rock and roll royalty.

Best Book

I've read an awful lot of fiction this year but my favourite read has been Going to Sea in a Sieve by Danny Baker. Danny's a writer and it shows. I now that sounds completely bleedin' obvious, but so many memoirs are penned by ghost writers or, worse, read like an eleven year old's diary (Pete Townshend springs to mind). Every line has been thought through, every gag seems effortless and, like a stick of seaside rock, it's got honesty written through it from start to finish. His David Essex story alone is worth the price tag.

Best Album

After watching The Detectorists on the BBC earlier in  the year I was blown away by the theme tune and the incidental music written and performed by Johnny Flynn. Country Mile, his latest CD, arrived on my birthday and, even though it's still in its shrink wrap, I just know it's going to be my album of the year.

Best Single

Without shadow, I've not heard a better 45 all year than My Type by Saint Motel. I was digging it in August and I'm still digging it now.

Best Podcast

As much as I would love to give it to Rhod Gilbert for his BBC Radio Wales Saturday morning radio show, I'm going out on a limb here and nominating Serial. And I've only heard two episodes. A young girl goes missing in Baltimore in 1999 and week by week the story is stood up on its end, pulled apart and dissected. Gripping stuff.

So there you have it; well, very nearly. After spending the first half of this year working away from home I was going to list my best B&B, pub, restaurant for diners who dine a la todd, Open Mic Night etc. but thought that was maybe going a bit too far - though honorary mentions must go to Brodies in Chalfont St Peter, The Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage, The Wheatsheaf in East Hendred and The Catweazle Club in Oxford.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Party Time

Nice ganzie
Karl Wallinger's current band are just about to enter their thirtieth year; I say band, but World Party have never really been anything more than Wallinger, his songs and a bunch of session musicians he picks up from time to time to record and or go out on tour with. And there's been precious little of either of those activities lately.

In 2001 Wallinger suffered a major brain aneurysm. It literally stopped him in his tracks. For five years. Since then he's put out various compilations and anthologies and embarked on a couple of mini tours but, and here's the rub, since writing and recording She's the One, in 1997, he's been all but bankrolled by Robbie Williams. Williams, along with former World Party member Guy Chambers, recorded their own version without telling Wallinger and turned it into a monster. Albeit a very profitable monster.

Here's some footage of a new slimmed down World Party (the band that is, not Wallinger) busking outside a record emporium as part of last year's Record Store Day.

Thursday 25 December 2014

It's Christmas Time

The Number One Son is spending some time with me and his mother this Christmas.

He's opened a few goodies and already it's looking like a good haul; these three lovely mini canvases were unwrapped early doors. Sun Ra fans will recognise the top one. And regular readers will know that James plays in a rather good Sun Ra Arkestra.

Happy Christmas James!

Monday 22 December 2014

Sun Readers

I'm pleased to report that 2014 has been a good year for The Sun Readers; you could say we're enjoying our second wind (we took a gap year in 2013). The little book group that meets regularly in The Sun have just had their Christmas bash at Medd Towers with an evening of poetry and recitals, informed discussion and a selection of cheese and wine that would have put Margot Leadbetter to shame. I was particularly moved by a reading taken from A Christmas Carol. Who couldn't be?  

Paul, our resident Prof., must have way too much time on his hands and has just produced some reader stats. I've always said there's nothing that can't be explained by means of a graph or a Pie Chart. Or, indeed, a Venn Diagram. A big thank you to all Sun Readers, past and present - see you all in The New Year.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Clarinet Factory

Radio 3's Late Junction is one of the finest radio programmes currently on the airwaves. I guarantee that whatever your bag is you will find it a veritable treasure trove of musical delights. Working away this week I pitched up at a faceless hotel at the wrong end of the country; so on Wednesday night, just after 11:00, I turned the dial like a professional safe cracker on my little travel radio and immersed myself in LJ's eclectic mix.

I know nothing about Clarinet Factory other than the fact that I will now be seeking out their recordings from wherever I can. They grabbed my attention on Wednesday night. I hope they grab yours now. Here they are at St. Mary of the Snow Cathedral in Prague.

Saturday 20 December 2014


The tree went up today: it had to, it's the last Saturday before Christmas - Medd folklore is binding.

Die Hard: Christmas movie?
I tell people I don't like Christmas and that I don't like snow. I also tell people I don't like mince pies. Well, two out of those three statements are true; but when the tree goes up and the lights are switched on, I start to get a bit misty eyed and can't help thinking back to Christmases past. Despite the Black Friday & Cyber Monday nonsense and Nigella's kitchen fakery, I shall look forward more than ever to this festive season and the homecoming of The Number One Son on Christmas Eve: gifts will be exchanged, glasses will be raised, turkey will be devoured and the perennial Die Hard will be watched and dissected - is it really a Christmas film? And, thanks to our Anglo-German friends, Andy and Monika, back in Nottingham, the music of Bugie Wesseltoft will be omnipresent over the next few days.

Friday 19 December 2014

Fly me

Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-2014)
In 1960, and barely sixteen, model Mandy Rice-Davies was draped over car bonnets at Earls Court Motor Show. A couple of years later, with fellow showgirl Christine Keeler, she would rock Harold MacMillan's Tory Government to its very foundations amid tales of sex, sex and more sex. No wonder the tabloids loved her. They'd never seen the like before; words like mistress, lurid, scandal and of course, sex, could now be strung together in the same sentence and increase readership faster than you could say Profumo.

Rice-Davies summed it up perfectly many years later: 'In a world full of deference, I had none.' Well, she would say that wouldn't she?

Sunday 14 December 2014

Twenty Flight Rock

Birmingham has never been pretty. In the late sixties they were pulling down their slums and erecting shiny new skyscrapers. And it wasn't just Birmingham, it was happening in every other major city in the UK. But no matter how hard you tried to polish it, Birmingham never sparkled.

There was a cross over period when they hadn't quite finished knocking down the old and they hadn't yet finished building the new. John Bonham would have been able to tell you all about it if he was still with us: in 1968 when Wimpey built Butterfield Court in Dudley, he was one of the first to move in.
In fact a lot of Led Zeppelin fans think it was the drummer's tower block that appears on the inside sleeve of Led Zep 4. It is in fact Salisbury Tower in the Ladywood district of Birmingham; both equally ugly. They've knocked a lot of these eye sores down now. People, it would appear, given the choice, prefer not to live up in the air.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Robin Who?

My good friend Mark and his bin lids went to see The Who in Nottingham last Friday night - and I'm grateful to him for letting me use these fabulous photographs.

That Townshend and Daltrey are still dragging their caravan around the country in 2014 barking out lines like ‘Hope I die before I get old' is nothing short of amazing. But are they still The Who? It's Pete and Rog playing classic Who numbers, that's for sure. But, for me, the band finally died when John Entwistle pegged it in 2002.

I’ve seen them live. Twice. The first time was in 1976 with Keith Moon, the second with Kenney Jones not long after Moony bought the farm. Were they any good? Of course they were. At Charlton they were spellbinding. Next time around they didn’t really do it for me; despite a laser light show that lit up half the night sky. But The Who have always been a live band - they never could bottle what they did in a live situation and capture it on vinyl; even Live at Leeds falls under the ‘you had to be there’ category.

But I mustn't carp. Anyone who still hasn't seen them and gets the chance to witness a couple of real rock legends (even in their dotage) really should go along and see what all the fuss is about. The Number One Son caught them at Glastonbury in 2007 (he spent the entire gig leaning on the barrier down the front with 250,000 people leaning on him) and said they were definitely worth getting trench foot for.  

Friday 5 December 2014


   It doesn't matter where you live in the developed world, if you turn to the What's On guide of your local paper this evening the chances are you'll see a listing for a Led Zeppelin tribute act playing just up the road from your house.
   You've just had a look haven't you? And was I right or was I right? It seems there are as many tributes to Led Zep as there are to The Beatles - scary stuff.
   Now, go back to those local listings and check if the band in question are one of the following. Even if they aren't I'll wager it'll be a derivation or some equally contrived Zeppelin type pun. (I may have dropped a couple of my own in there.)

No Quarter
Houses of the Holy
Whole Lotta Led
Fred Zeppelin
Ramble On
Get the Led Out
Turn the Page
Letz Zep
John, Paul Jones, Robert & Titch
Swan Song
The Rubber Plants
Mr. Jimmy
Led Zep Again
Hats Off to Led Zeppelin
Bled Zeppelin

   And, of course, Kashmir. This isn't them, but it's probably the best cover version of Kashmir you'll hear this weekend. And there's not a bare chest or Gibson Les Paul in sight. The song remains the same? Only just.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Till the wheels come off

Guy Garvey made me laugh on Desert Island Discs the other day. After painstakingly choosing eight favourite records he was asked what luxury item he would like to take to the island. Quick as a flash he replied: 'A radio.' Garvey's total missing of the point of the programme was soon glossed over by the lovely Kirsty and a pair of nail clippers or somesuch was hastily requested instead.

7/8 of Mr. Elbow's selections, however, all paled into insignificance compared to this beautiful song from Tom Waits. The line 'I'm gonna love you till the wheels come off' is, quite simply, perfect.