Monday 29 February 2016

Better. And better

Better call him
Better Call Saul (a Netflix original) just gets better and better. The latest episode has some of the best dialogue seen on the show so far – the script is positively crackling. Season 2, Ep.2 is the one everyone’s calling The Squat Cobbler; I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it yet. Suffice it to say the last ten minutes will, over time, become a comedy classic. A Dead Parrott sketch for the box-set generation.

It’s also the episode where Chuck is seen trying to finesse the beautiful Sicilienne by Faure.

Friday 26 February 2016

Hey Hey Hey (A Song For You)

My friend Mark and I wandered down to The Station Hotel last night to play a few songs. Apart from my new one, Hey Hey Hey (A Song For You), it was a totally different set to Monday's intimate session at York Songwriters. And, although the two nights were totally different, both audiences were really attentive and respectful. Which was nice.

Set list:

* Hey Hey Hey (A Song For You) *
* Chip Off The Old Block
* Walk A Mile In These Shoes
* Help!
* I Won’t Let It Happen Again

* You can't beat a pair of judiciously placed brackets in a song title

Wednesday 24 February 2016

So, why do you want this job?

I spent much of yesterday interviewing. A thankless task: seeing grownups squirm and sitting just feet away from you is never pleasant. And, anyway, if you’re anything like me, you can probably read people in five minutes. Ten, tops. Bull-shitters, given enough time (and rope) will soon hang him themselves during the course of the conversation. Steering the discussion away from the job and into more generic territory is usually a tad more fruitful; though not without its pitfalls. As soon as I leaf through the part of their CV labelled hobbies or interests I’m usually ready for my first proper drink of the day:

* Watching F1. Dull.
* Socialising. What does that mean?
* Walking? Where to, the pub? 
* Computers. Watching porn?

Not that my achievements amount to a whole hill of beans:

* I can tie my own shoe laces 
* I'm pretty good at parallel parking
* I can make a non too shabby curry
* I used to be a Likely Lad
* I'm the proud owner of a Blue Peter badge

We'll be in touch.

Sunday 21 February 2016

'Have you tried the shoe shop on the corner?'

These boots are made for stomping
Guitar, bass and drums: the three most influential musical instruments in rock and roll? Yes, to a point. Though there are notable exceptions. Not least when it comes to Tamla Motown. That's right, find me a Temptations track or a Smokey Robinson tune that isn't tambourine led and you'll be searching in vain.

The same goes for glam. Whilst the yobbish guitars that adorned any number of Sweet, Slade and T Rex singles were the first noise you'd hear coming out of your Dansette speaker, the main instrument upon which the three or so minutes of glam rock riffery was based could not be found in any music shop: if you wanted to capture the very essence of glam you'd have been making a bee line for the nearest branch of Freeman Hardy & Willis. Wherein you'd have been looking for the most outrageous platform boots you could lay your hands on. We're talking foot stomping.

When Gary Glitter and Mike Leander wrote the tribal Rock and Roll Parts 1 & 2, they couldn't possibly have have envisaged the sheer volume the finished product would make. And, in large part, that's down to several pairs of Size 10s practically destroying any stage or sprung dance floor where it was played. These days Glitter may well be toxic, but this timeless chunk of glam forms the bedrock upon which practically every hit single during the next three years was built. In the words of Noddy Holder: 'Everybody clap yer hands and stamp yer feet.'

Gary Glitter: Rock and Roll Part 2 

Friday 19 February 2016

This will be our last song together, words will only make us cry

This week two people very close to me called time on their relationship. And the fallout has, predictably, reached Medd Towers. My role in all of this – that of Agony Aunt (a role, by the way, for which I have no training whatsoever) – involved lots of listening and a few pastoral words to them both based on my own, not unimpeachable, track record. Unrprisingly, it soon became apparent that I wasn’t equipped with the tools needed for the job and to help get their relationship back on to the track from which it had, only recently, been derailed. It’s all very sad.

Not for the first time, pieces of music come into my mind and, like all pesky earworms, refuse to budge. As one who has observed this purely from the sidelines I can’t help but be moved by this 1973 song from Neil Sedaka.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Special Delivery

Today’s post is for anyone who may be waiting on a delivery from the Royal Mail. On the other hand, as in the case of this short film from Nottingham writer and director Graham Lester George, you may well have been caught off guard by something unexpected landing on your doormat.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Novel idea

'You like writing,' people say to me. 'Why don’t you write a book?' Oh, go away. And boil your head while you’re about it. I started writing my first (for first, read only. And unfinished) novel when Methuselah was still at school. Since then it’s had more false starts than a false starty thing and now languishes barely a third complete in a Word document buried deep in my computer’s digital basement.

The first chapter alone has been rewritten probably as many times as Happy Birthday has been sung around the world. But, like a surgeon frantically trying to save their patient on the operating table when they flat-line,  I will never give up on 'the book'.

I just need to set aside the time each day to get the thoughts decanted from my head onto the page. How hard can it be? Mmm. The fact is that since I started writing this blog in 2010 I’ve written approximately 600 posts and, at an average of 300 words - that’s the thick end of 180,000 words. Yep, I could've written a novel. And the sequel.

So maybe the answer is staring me in the face. Ditch the novel idea and try and turn the blog into a book. I’ve thought about it before: can I see my collected thoughts sitting on a shelf next to the greats? Probably not. More likely next to the air freshener in the downstairs carsey.

Anyway. I've got to go. This book (for book, read bestseller) won't write itself.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't've fallen in love with?

See 17.9
When I was seventeen:

17.1 - Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister and Labour wasn't working

17.2 - I was learning to drive in a Vauxhall Viva Rockbox

17.3 - I pretended I didn't like Emerson Lake and Palmer

17.4 - Ditto Neil Sedaka

17.5 - I was still trying to master the art of unclasping a girl’s bra with one hand

17.6 - I met Bob Geldof

17.7 - I convinced Simon Rigg that I had a sister

17.8 - I was wearing button down shirts, drainpipes and my trusty donkey jacket

Frank Sinatra - It Was A Very Good Year (When I was Seventeen)

17.9 - Debbie Harry was fit

17.10 - I thought that Blue Stratos was the last word in men’s toiletries

17.11 - I was growing tired of Top of the Pops

17.12 - I was making a date with John Peel every weekday night between 10 and 12

17.13 - I'd not long left school

17.14 - I didn't shower every day, but I was the proud owner of soap on a rope

17.15 - I was kidding myself that when I was stood at the bar of The Beehive I looked eighteen

17.16 - Paul McCartney got busted for drugs and John Lennon hadn't got much time left

17.17 - I went to see The Buzzcocks live for the first time. And they played this:

The Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love

Tuesday 9 February 2016

As if we were still lovers

Doing the Sheffield two-step
I was putting together a belated birthday CD for a good friend of mine at the weekend; and in so doing tried to compile a playlist that men of a certain age stress over far more than is good for them. Or warranted. As ever, I was trying to shake up the old with the new, throw in a couple of swerve balls and, obviously, include a couple of astutely placed covers.

Many moons ago I remember hearing on Jonathan Ross’ Saturday morning radio show an interview with Sheffield balladeer Tony Christie. He’d just released his Made in Sheffield album – his tip of the flat cap to Sheffield songwriters – and was telling the story about when he first played his version of Louise to his wife. They were in the car driving down to London when he asked her to listen to the demo he’d just finished the day before of the old Human League single.

He said that at first she went very quiet. Then she just started sobbing. I think she liked it.

I put it on Riggsby's CD.

Tony Christie - Louise

Monday 8 February 2016

It was twenty six years ago today

At 05:27 on February 8 1990 the Number One Son came kicking and screaming into the world. He made me, and continues to make me, a very happy man. By the time I’d held him for the first time, rung friends and family from the hospital payphone, had a strong cup of coffee and made my way back to the car, it was just getting light. I unlocked the door, fired up the engine and put the car radio on. It was Lido Shuffle by Boz Scaggs that came blaring out the speakers as I made the short journey home to get some kip – I’d been awake for nearly two days.

Now, whenever I hear this song I’m transported back to Nottingham City Hospital and the moment I realised I was a dad. Happy Birthday James.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Run For Me

'Let's ballad'
I found myself in Sheffield today. That's to say I was driven there, not that Scotty miraculously locked-on to my coordinates and beamed me up in the middle of S1. Sheffield is one of those sprawling cities that quietly goes about its business without feeling the need to tell the whole world and his dog what they're up to. I like that in a place.
Being chauffeured, I had absolutely no idea where we were going, but, seemingly, every bus and tram that I saw coming towards us was a Richard Hawley album cover. This is probably as good a place as any to tell you that I once fell asleep during a Hawley gig (comfy seats, a belly full of beer and a warm theatre - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). Yet, despite my snoring in the stalls just minutes after South Yorkshire's finest walked on stage and said 'Let's ballad', I really do like his songs: especially this one.

Richard Hawley: Run For Me