Sunday 31 December 2017

Don't go chasing Polar Bears

The bloke second from the right may well have a Knighthood, but that don't make him the Best

I may not always be the best person to come to for advice (blog posts passim), but I'll always give you a good soundbite; since moving back (just in time - a year later and I'd have ended up like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and finding myself in familiar surroundings and in the company of friends old and new, I can look back at the year just gone and say 'Yeah, I think we smashed it.'

As for resolutions to carry into 2018, anyone who knows me will testify that you've got more chance of kissing the Queen's tits than me coming up with any resolutions, let alone those of a New Year variety. That said, the Great Escape from Pickering and my relocation to Nottingham has been done to death (again, this blog is littered with reams of the stuff) so, after today, we won't speak of it again; the files have been shredded and the numbers deleted from my phone. Literally.

Right, I'm glad we've got that out of the way. So, in keeping with the unwritten Blogger's Code, here's 2017 all wound up and ready to play; no Top Tens of this, that and the other, just one list. Here you go:

Best Album: Pugwash - Silverlake
Best Single: Pugwash - What Are You Like
Best Gig: Ryan McMullan - Rescue Rooms
Best Choir: Sherwood Voices
Best Novel: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Best Magazine: Ferment - Adventures in the Global Craft Alcohol Movement
Best Podcast: The Allusionist
Best Indian Restaurant: The Balti House, Hockley
Best Pub: Doctor's Orders, Carrington
Best Caff: Warsaw Diner, Canning Circus
Best Beatle: Still George. Obvs.
Best Best: Ditto
Best Postcode: NG5
Best Blog: We Are Cult*
Best person to follow on Twitter: Neville Southall
Best film I went to see on my birthday: North By Northwest
Best TV Programme (Not just of 2017 by the way): Detectorists
Best TV soundtrack: Johnny Flynn (Detectorists)
Best Boxset/Netflix series I've watched this year: Mad Men. By a country mile
And finally, the Best thing I did in 2017: Move On

* Thank you to We Are Cult - always a riveting read - for reminding me earlier this year just how good McCartney II is. Whether or not 'it's the boldest statement a solo Beatle made during Lennon's lifetime' is another thing altogether. (But it makes for a great strap line.)

Macca - Waterfalls

*And that's where today's Blog Post title came from. It could even be your New Year's Resolution.

Happy New Year!

Thursday 28 December 2017

"Have you planned your vacation yet?"

Gibson takes centre stage
So said Alfred Hitchcock in this personal theatrical trailer to his 1959 classic North By Northwest. It being my birthday today, I'm going to see it on the big screen for the first time this afternoon. I'm very excited.

And in true Cary Grant style I may be celebrating later with a Gibson or two. It's shaping up to be a great day.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Come on Down

And who shall wear the starry crown?
Our choir is currently enjoying a well earned break; we've worked hard this year and are charging our Duracells (other batteries are available) ahead of our first sing in January. I've asked everyone to have a think about which songs we'd like to cover next year - and if we each bring in two or three new ideas when we reconvene in a week or so we should have anywhere between 40 and 60 songs that we can begin to shortlist down into a new set.

I've already emailed the video below to them and think we could make 'Down to the River to Pray' work lickety split. O Brother Where Art Thou is one of the Coen Brothers' finest celluloid moments and the soundtrack, which includes Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and, let's not forget, the Soggy Bottom Boys, is a peach. As a stand alone album it scans perfectly, straddling, as it does, Roots, World, Americana, Alt. Country and any other record exec. inspired genre/pigeon hole/label you want to throw at it.

Alison Krauss: Down to the River to Pray

Tuesday 26 December 2017

King of a One Horse Town

A very convivial day yesterday, including a lovely session at our spiritual local - a big thank you to Joe, Dan, Ella, Carly, Lulu, David, Judith, John Otway and everyone we've met at Doctor's Orders since our return in the Summer for making us feel so welcome.

Back to Medd Towers for curry, crackers and choons: Chiggins' mix tape (as ever, sans track listing) made for compulsive - without prejudice - listening. A quick email to Chris to establish the who, what, where and how and we had a perfect accompaniment for our late, very late, lunch.

The email was purely to establish the identity of Track 6 sitting between God Bless This Acid House and Kite; you know that annoying feeling when you recognise the voice but can't quite nail it? Anyway, it was Dan Auerbach (matey out of the Black Keys) and Waiting on a Song from his solo album of the same name released in June of this year. The penny dropped. I love it. Almost enough to nudge Pugwash off the podium; almost, but not quite.

Dan Auerbach - Waiting on a Song

And then, this morning, once you have a foothold you can begin climbing the whole bloody mountain. Try this for size - from the same album. (Funnily enough, and for what it's worth, I know quite a lot about one horse towns.)

Dan Auerbach - King of a One Horse Town

Sunday 24 December 2017

Holy Holy Holy

Left Lion seeks lamb to lie down with
Between 2001 and 2006 Sufjan Stevens recorded five private Christmas themed EPs which he would give to family and friends each year. All in all he put out some forty odd festive songs and carols; initially they found their way onto fan websites before later becoming an officially released bumper CD Box Set. Although I may not have a holy bone in my body, and find all religions nothing more than mumbo jumbo, I do get the spiritual aspect of Christmas. Believe me, I do.

Have a peaceful day tomorrow.

Sufjan Stevens - Holy Holy Holy

Saturday 23 December 2017

Merry Christmas from Nottingham

Green tights
Red hat
White bow
Blue sky
White snow
Robin Hood - there's one in every town

Merry Christmas from Nottingham. Yes, this is the card I've been mostly sending this year. Wherever you may be at this time of year and whoever you are spending it with, have a good one. You can read about my ghosts of Christmas past here, should you so wish, together with the festive tunes that tend to get played at Medd Towers. A big thank you, once again, to everyone who took the time to knock on my front door this year and shared a pot of tea with me - I enjoyed your company; appointments not necessary and the kettle's always on!

Ian Dury - Sweet Gene Vincent

Released as a single 25 November 1977; failed to chart

Monday 18 December 2017

Bigger than the Beatles

Thomas Walsh - he's bigger than the Beatles
I have a knack of calling my Single of the Year before the first cuckoo of spring. In fact, if you trawl through this year's back issues I think there were a couple of early contenders who could've been back in the clubhouse before the clocks went forward.

No matter, it's not over till it's over.

Don't you just love bands who leave it late in the day to release a 45 they know will turn heads everywhere it's played? It's like rocking up at the Palace for your gong - half an hour late; the Queen pretends to be pissed off, but secretly admires your chutzpah. Pugwash left it till the arse end of October to join forces with Matt Berry on 'What Are You Like', the second single from the exquisite Silverlake. And it's a top drawer, top deck, top-loader of a song that top trumps all in its wake. (Even Beck's 'Up All Night' which had been sitting pretty until Thomas Walsh and his Dublin cronies came along and gatecrashed the party.)

Pugwash (feat. Matt Berry) - What Are You Like

Sunday 17 December 2017

Holy Mountain

"There's so much joy in that track. My kids love it, and all my mates' kids love it." * [Noel Gallagher, October 2017]

There you have it in two sentences - how you know you've got a hit single on your hands. I've written here on numerous occasions about Noel Gallagher's approach to songwriting, and what I absolutely adore about Noel and his (seemingly never-ending) ability to pen great tunes/riffs/melodies is his brutal honesty. He gives it to you straight - where every influence (intended or subliminal) has come from and how he then pieces it all together. As a thieving magpie he will tell you where each of the stolen gold coins came from and where his secret nest is.

In the case of Holy Mountain he was pointed in the direction of an obscure bubblegum single made in the sixties. The annoyingly catchy tin whistle was lifted lock stock and barrel. So now I've got two ear worms currently living in my head; I think they've taken up squatters rights. Thanks a bunch Noel.

* And I'm sure all his kids' mates love it too.

Noel Gallagher - Holy Mountain  

The Ice Cream - Chewin' Gum Kid

Monday 11 December 2017

On the Beach

Chris Rea is, I read today, on the mend. He collapsed in Oxford at the weekend halfway through his set.

It's not the first time Rea has had to ring 999. He's not enjoyed the best of health for some time and very nearly checked out on a couple of occasions in the early noughties.

Since reinventing himself as a serious blues musician, the Middlesbrough born guitarist has found a new audience while still retaining his faithful following. It's been a while since Rea troubled the charts with infectious hits like Road to Hell, Fool if You Think it's Over and, of course, Driving Home for Christmas*, but the quality of his new material has never dipped.

*Of course I haven't chosen his Yuletide smash from 1988. No, today I'm going with On the Beach. I love what Rea did when he turned it from a diamond in the rough album track to a Top Twenty single. And the thing he did? Listen to the electric piano motif (3:37) - it only appears once, and lasts for just four seconds! When he re-recorded the song he replicated the same lick on the guitar - where it became the hook that runs through the whole record from start to finish. Genius.

For what it's worth I think I prefer the album version, but if I was listening to this on a beach I'm sure I wouldn't give a monkey's chuff. Anyway, sit back in your deckchair and enjoy them both.

Chris Rea - On the Beach (album version)

Chris Rea - On the Beach (single version)

Sunday 10 December 2017

Audience participation

It's beginning to look a lot like panto season. This year Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are both in Nottingham competing for your hard earned ticket money and booking fee. It'll be the usual helpings of festive silliness brought to you by washed up celebs and wannabe hopefuls; the last time I shouted 'Behind you!' would have been when Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog were in town. It was a riot.

As a kid with a birthday between Christmas and New Year I would often be lured out of my seat and onto the stage to receive a sweetie proffered by a strange man dressed as a woman. Some things never change.

Talking about audience participation, I found this lovely clip of Johnny Flynn (he of the Detectorists theme song) playing a little club in Toronto. When he announces that his next song is The Water (a duet he normally sings with Laura Marling), a rather brave young woman offers to sing it with  him. 'You don't have to' Johnny tells her, probably dreading a car wreck about to unfold before him; he needn't have worried.

Johnny Flynn - The Water

Friday 8 December 2017

You tell me your secrets, I tell you my lies

Chiggins1 emailed me yesterday. He sends me an annual year end round-up Best Of compilation CD2 every Christmas; has done since Radio 1 could still be found on the medium wave. 'I see you've moved back to the fair city - give me your address and I'll chuck it in the mailbag. P.S. I hope 2017 has been a vintage year for you(?)'

As I was replying I remembered writing a wistful post3 almost exactly a year ago. (Interestingly, since writing that particular piece, it is still being viewed over fifty times a day.)  
December 2016 was a very interesting month, for all sorts of reasons; even then I had a feeling that the early part of 2017 could shape not only the rest of the year, but also a life far beyond. Maybe I was viewing the future through some sort of prophetic kaleidoscope, but I knew this year would be, maybe not vintage, but pivotal. Even a blind man on a galloping horse can see that the tone of Even Monkeys Fall Out Of Trees is more upbeat since I made the move back down to Nottingham earlier in the year.

Here's a song I first played with James when he was living in Leeds. I have posted it up here before, but as I've started dropping it in my set again, I thought I'd share it one more time.4.

1.  Chris Higgins. His passport says he was born in Ashby-de-la Zouch. And he once auditioned for a part in Byker Grove. He may only admit to one of those statements.
2. He knows I'll never ditch my CD player.
3. Did I say wistful? It was certainly one of the shortest pieces I'd ever written. Around that time I was like a man on a desert island waving frantically at the sky. And out to sea. I was writing RESCUE ME! in large letters in the wet sand. Every day.
4. You're the One: it's from two Decembers ago - Dec. 2015.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Slippery Slope

Caution indeed
A short story I am currently knocking into shape has the working title 'Slippery Slope'. However, following my recent Screenwriting course at Broadway Cinema, I may well write it as a screenplay for a short film.

As I often do when I've got an idea on the go, and especially when I'm giving it a title, I'll look up the word/words/phrase in Urban Dictionary to see if there are other, earthier, meanings or definitions accredited to, usually, an innocent/harmless phrase such as, in this case, Slippery Slope. (It's good to cover all bases.)

Ironically, when looking up the definition in the aforementioned alternative online dictionary, my search turned into a slippery slope all of its own. Yes, the first two were as you'd expect, but 3, 4, 6 & 7 were, ahem, new to me.

Whilst we're on the subject of slippery slopes, give this a coat of looking at: it's the new Japanese game show that's sweeping, well, Japan. It's hilarious.

Friday 1 December 2017

It seemed like such a good idea at the time

It's the early hours of Saturday morning as I write this, so I'll try and keep it brief. I wasn't planning on recording the fact that today (technically yesterday) marks the six month anniversary of moving back to Nottingham; but somebody in the pub tonight said something to me that I can't get out of my head - another reason for wrapping up here and hitting the hay. 

This person, who shall remain nameless, and I were swapping stories and I mentioned the fact that this time last year I was holed up in God's Waiting Room. And so the conversation turned to all the forks in the road, chances, half chances and happenstance that took us where we perhaps never intended to be but ended up all the same. 'So why did you move up there?' I was asked, not for the first time, and probably not the last. 'Well it seemed like such a good idea at the time.'

More beer was drunk, more stories exchanged and then this person said: 'You do know that if we're lucky we've only got 4,000 weeks on this earth. So you best make the most of it.'

Oh, don't worry - I will. Starting tomorrow. Kate and Vaughan are coming back to see us. We're all going to see the Darkness at Rock City; not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but give this a listen. It may just strike a chord.

The Darkness - Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Tempted though I was to title this post 'One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back' (after the Darkness album from which Good Idea is lifted) I decided to be charitable; after all, if I hadn't moved to the arse end of nowhere I would never have met Kate. Or Vaughan.

Wednesday 29 November 2017


Sorry, I couldn't help myself: Susan Stranks and a real magpie
It won't have escaped your notice that Detectorists is back. TV archeologists will I'm sure, in years to come, if they're not already, be citing Mackenzie Crook's small screen masterpiece as, probably, the finest comedy drama of the 21st. century; amongst the ringpulls and scaffold clips that lie beneath the surface of the Radio Times, Detectorists is a bona fide treasure. The goldest of gold coins. The buried city. The Holy Grail.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Episode 1 ended with this. I won't set it up for you - you'll get it; please just watch (and listen). And fall in love with it like I did.

That's right, 'Magpie' by the Unthanks. Has a soundtrack ever fitted a television programme so perfectly before? I don't think so.
Here are the fabulous Unthank sisters on Later, playing the full extended version.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Showing off

Getting close
We've all done it; showing off around girls. It's what boys - of all ages - do. We can't help it. What would you do if you were the singer in the band, or the guitarist, and Taylor Swift came up to you to share your microphone? Think about that next time you're playing air guitar by yourself.

Def Leppard [with Taylor Swift] - Hysteria 

Saturday 25 November 2017

How I Need You

It was great to share the same stage as Peter Lister last Sunday at the Brain Jar in Hull. Peter's songs move me in ways that sometimes catch me unawares, leaving their mark on me indelibly.

Last year, with a little help from this blog (as I later found out), Peter's tour de force This House made the Top 100 Songs of 2016. I've never thought of myself as a discoverer of new talent (in the same way, probably, that Pete doesn't consider himself to be new), but if one good thing came out of my temporary exile in North Yorkshire (2010-2017) then it was meeting Peter at York Songwriters and listening to, and being absolutely mesmerised by, his beautifully crafted songs.

How I Need You has been on constant rotation at Medd Towers (YO18 and NG5) all year, and has featured on many of my playlists. Not least the one I'm currently compiling for Andy and Monika ahead of seeing them both tonight (more on that story later).

Anyway, fill your boots with another Peter Lister masterpiece.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Helplessly Hoping

Staggeringly not Side 1, Track 1
In the same way I wouldn't leave most bands (let alone a covers band) together in the same room as an XTC song, I definitely wouldn't leave a valuable Crosby, Stills & Nash treasure unattended.

But, it seems to me, Foxes and Fossils aren't most bands.

If you've already seen them tackle Senses Working Overtime then you certainly don't need any more blurb from me today. And, as for their interpretation of Helplessly Hoping, I'm sure you'll find - even the toughest cookies amongst you - that a little bit of your heart is left aching by the time they wrap this beautiful song up.

Monday 20 November 2017


Electric Splatter

My footwear of choice these days is invariably a Chelsea boot; I have several pairs - in leather and suede - and in a range of colours; I quite like my blue ones. I also like to wear a skate shoe. I know - I don't skate. Have never skated. Christ, I can't skate. But Etnies, in true Mr. Kipling style, make exceedingly good skate shoes; I can still remember my first pair.

Phil Collen, on the other hand, is a sneaker freak (his words, not mine) and has recently brought out a Limited Edition range of self painted sneakers in Jackson Pollack splatter style. Collen has form - he also pimped a few Jackson guitars a while back in a similar fashion. This stylish short film ties the two together nicely.

Saturday 18 November 2017

50 odd gigs - revisited

10cc? That's a lot of spunk
David Whitehall is on my Screenwriting course. The first time I met him he'd just returned from Amsterdam after seeing Lambchop over there; that's the sort of thing I do. I knew he'd be a prime candidate to list 50 memorable gigs - I wasn't wrong. Thanks for taking the time David, I appreciate it.

'Hi John, I've enjoyed doing this 50 Gigs list, though in the next life I'll definitely keep my ticket stubs! These are the ones I remember, but I was surprised to see how few I'd been to in the 90s; must've had something to do with being a parent! So, from the top:'

August 1964, The Jimmy Shand Band, Oban, Scotland. At 7 years old, first experience of live music. Remember joyfully stamping my feet to traditional Scottish music.

December 1972,  Lindisfarne, BBC recording ('Full House'), University Theatre, Newcastle. Taken by my parents, the first time I'd seen a 'rock' band: three (very loud!) songs from their Dingley Dell album.

April 1974,  Strawbs, Newcastle City Hall. First gig with mates - remember they played 'Lay Down' and 'Part Of The Union' - one of my dad's favourites: earlier that year, he'd gone on a one day strike from his job as a bank employee - my dad, the rebel!

More cc on the other side too
September 1974, 10cc, Newcastle City Hall. Re-scheduled gig so City Hall only half full. Rapturous crowd - three encores, the last one a jam : 'We've run out of songs!' Found my way into their dressing room after the gig (relieved not to find them engaged with groupies) and all four signed my ticket.

October 1974, Roxy Music, Newcastle City Hall. Knew that when I grew up, I wanted to be Bryan Ferry.

January 1975, Supertramp, (support Gallagher and Lyle, Chris de Burgh), Newcastle City Hall. Remember being mesmerised by the visuals to 'Rudy' and 'Crime of the Century'.

September 1975, Paul McCartney and Wings, Newcastle City Hall. His first tour since the split doing Beatles songs: gave my all in harmonies to 'Yesterday', until the bloke next to me told me to 'Shurrup!'

August 1976, Eric Clapton, Newcastle City Hall. In his band was young gun guitarist Larry Colyell. Remembering him doing a solo: Clapton watched, languidly put his fag on the machine head of his Strat, then did one of his own, fingers tearing up the fret board - genius.

December 1976, Joan Armatrading, Albert Hall, Nottingham. First gig I saw as a student. 'I am not in love, but I'm open to persuasion', the opening line to 'Love and Affection'. Newly arrived in Nottingham, I shared her hope.

January 1977, Genesis, Leicester de Montfort Hall. The Phil Collins Show - brilliant.

September 1977, Peter Gabriel, Newcastle City Hall. Remember him at one point disappearing off stage, re-appearing at the back of the hall, walking through the crowd and, predictably, being mobbed.

December 1977, Lindisfarne, Newcastle City Hall. 2,000 raucous Geordies welcome local heroes. So many highlights, but Alan Hull playing 'Winter Song' was/is a thing of beauty.

October1978, Mitislav Rostropovich, Nottingham Albert Hall. Dragged there by Olly, a classical music fan, I left knowing I'd witnessed greatness. The sounds he summoned from his cello were sublime.

December 1980, The Kinks, Rock City, Nottingham. Hoped they'd play 'Celluloid Heroes' - they didn't - but compensated with 'You Really Got Me' and 'Waterloo Sunset.

July 1981, Bob Dylan, NEC Birmingham. For some, his voice is an acquired taste, but I was struck that night by how powerful it was. Also remember with amusement the puzzled looks on people's faces, forced into a game of 'Guess The Classic' by his radical re-interpretations; though he did play something that sounded a bit like 'A Simple Twist Of Fate' so I, at least, went home happy.

July 1982, Rolling Stones, Roundhay Park, Leeds. Got a bus with a crowd from Selectadisc (Nottingham's late, lamented record shop). Stones supported by Joe Jackson, on stage sweetly taking photos of the crowd: 'I've never seen a crowd this big !' From our position (on a hill, seemingly several miles away) Jagger's voice drifted on the wind.

December 1982, Dire Straits, NEC Birmingham. 'Love Over Gold Tour' and Mark Knopfler's wonderful guitar playing. At the time, remember him promoting a new fangled invention: the Philips Compact Disc Player. I bought one soon after!

May 1983,: Robert Palmer, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Always loved 'Johnny and Mary' and 'I Woke Up Laughing' - remember RP looking very stylish in a black, bolero jacket. I wanted one immediately!

December 1983, The Police, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Took my girlfriend (who became 'the wife') - bought as a surprise for her birthday. I was definitely surprised by the parking ticket I got after queuing for tickets at 4 a.m.), and remember being unimpressed by Sting's use of an on-stage trampette.

December 1985, Dire Straits, NEC Birmingham. 'Brothers In Arms' tour. A favourite band in the 80s, and happy to catch them whenever I could.

December 1986, Level 42, NEC Birmingham. Remember a portion of the arena being curtained off, so not a sell-out, but hits got played.

August 1987, U2, NEC Birmingham. The Joshua Tree tour. Allied incredible power with melodic subtlety. A stunning gig and after it, to show solidarity, I even bought a U2 tee shirt - which inevitably shrunk in the wash.

January 1988, Eric Clapton (featuring Mark Knopfler), NEC Birmingham: marvellous duelling on 'Layla' and 'Sultans of Swing'.

October 1990 : Prefab Sprout, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Heard 'When Love Breaks Down' on the radio for the first time and remember the DJ saying 'Not if but when love breaks down' - struck by the apparent inevitability of love failing, I've been a fan ever since. And Paddy McAloon? Up there with vintages McCartney for melodies and hooks.

October 1990 : Everything But The Girl, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Even Tracey Thorn's voice and Ben Watt's harmonies were over-shadowed by seeing Prefab Sprout the night before.

June 1995, Ry Cooder, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. He tours so rarely, it's always good to see a legend. Played 'in the round' and remember the atmosphere being reverential - like being at a classical concert.

June 1998, Lightning Seeds, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Loved 'Jollification' (still do) and Ian Broudie has written some superb love-lorn songs ('Telling Tales', 'My Best Day').

March 2000, Prefab Sprout, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall and Warwick Arts Theatre. Catch 'em when you can: they didn't tour very often, brilliant when they did, but sadly now, not at all.

April 2001, Neil Finn, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. So comfortable with the audience, cheerfully encouraging banter and in total control. Great voice, great songs: clearly loves performing.

April 2004, David Cassidy, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. If forced to express a preference, I would say David Cassidy over Donny, or any of The Osmonds. This was a surprise present for my wife, Therese but I was impressed: he played with an energy and a joy I really hadn't expected.

October 2004, Kings of Convenience, Warwick Arts Theatre. Two Norwegian guys playing guitar, harmonising beautifully, singing songs worthy of Simon and Garfunkel. Perfect.

Mr. Hawley's setlist: got to stay awake
May 2006, Richard Hawley, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham. Performer and stand up comedian. Brilliant. Standout track ? So many, but 'The Ocean' was especially memorable.

August 2006, Paul Buchanan and The Blue Nile, The Sage, Gateshead. Beautiful, melancholic songs, great voice: Buchanan captivated an adoring audience.

August 2007, America, Ogden County Fair, Utah. Assumed America hadd split up years before, so I was thrilled to discover they hadn't, and stunned to discover they were performing in Ogden, Utah at exactly the same time as we (me, Therese and our two daughters) were visiting family close by in Salt Lake City. 'Horse With No Name', 'Ventura Highway' - so many classics, and afterwards they signed my copy of their greatest hits. A definite result!
America in America

November 2007, Arcade Fire, Nottingham Arena. Special for me, because I took our eldest, Lucy -her first gig with her dad! It was memorable too for front man Win Butler - arenas are difficult venues for a band to connect with an audience and the band didn't: the show never recovered after a shoe thrown from the crowd hit Win Butler straight in the face. Not unsurprisingly, he vowed never to return to Nottingham. And he hasn't.

The mighty Glenn Campbell
October 2008, Glen Campbell, Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall. Catch the legends while you can, and make sure you're there for the start of the gig! Ticket said 7.30. No gigs start on time. This one did, so missed a few of his hits but did get to hear 'Witchita Lineman' - stunning. Hadn't known he was such a brilliant guitarist either. And although I hadn't intended to, I waited outside after the showe with a few hard core fans and he signed my ticket. I've been in the presence of greatness.

November 2008,  Fleet Foxes, Nottingham Trent University and Leadmill, Sheffield. Impressed with a band who, at the time, were relatively under the radar. Took our youngest, Rebecca, to the Sheffield gig: her first gig with her dad. J.Tillman, their drummer, was support. Soon after, he left; re-emerging as Father John Misty.

June 2009, Neil Young, Nottingham Arena. Not a big fan, but he's not a legend for nothing. His presence completely dominated a packed arena. A triumph.

October 2009, Kings Of Convenience, Warwick Arts Theatre. The duo returned, plus a piano accordionist and double bass player. As perfect as their 2004 show.

October 2010, Badly Drawn Boy, Nottingham Albert Hall. Sadly, a sparsely attended gig but a tremendous performance from Damon Gough showing no evidence of his apparent grumpiness. Took Lucy and delighted when he played 'The Shining' and 'Magic In The Air,' two of our favourites. Support was from The Candle Thieves - met them at the interval and we've loved them ever since.

October 2011, Bob Dylan, Nottingham Arena. Support from Mark Knopfler who acknowledged his back catalogue with a couple of Dire Straits songs. Then, a 90 minute set from Dylan during which he engaged with the audience - just the once - when he introduced his band at the end.We loved it! I watched through binoculars fascinated by the interplay between his band and the tight focus they had on Dylan's every move. Great band, and though Dylan's voice was shot, still a great gig.

March 2013, Julian Lloyd Weber (with Nottinghamshire Youth Orchestra), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. He played Elgar's Cello Concerto - I'd had it on CD for ages, so it was a thrill to hear it live.

May 2014 : Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, Mahler 6th Symphony : melody and melancholy combined, with an apocalyptic ending. Played nationwide on American radio immediately after 9/11 : easy to see why.

January 2015, First Aid Kit, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Just two sisters, a slide guitarist and a drummer, but what a sound : such gorgeous harmonies. Half way through, a full house fell silent as the two girls unplugged, went to the front of the stage and did an entirely acoustic version of 'Ghost Town' to an audience enthralled.

July 2015, Chris Difford, Poppy and Pint, West Bridgford, Nottingham. Not often you get to see a rock star perform in your local! Not really a Squeeze fan, but Chris Difford showed himself to be a wonderful raconteur and performer. Great support from Arcelia and slide guitarist Melvin Duffy - and we only had two streets to walk home.

July 2015, Bert Bacharach, Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall. Sang, played piano, conducted his band - still very much got it at 87!

September 2016, Brian Wilson, Southend Pier. Glorious Beach Boys singalong : another 'oldster' who's still got it.

June 2017, Adele, Wembley Stadium. One woman and a crowd of 95,000: an unbelievable occasion. Great sound, great show 'Set Fire to the Fire' and the fireworks that accompanied it, just awesome.

David, left, and Lambchop
October 2017, Nile Rogers and Chic, Liverpool Echo Arena. Non-stop party time, a packed crowd on their feet dancing from the first note of 'I Want Your Love' to 'Good Times' 90 minutes later: the most joyous gig I've ever been to.

October 2017, Lambchop, Zonnehuis, Amsterdam. Small venue - a lovely Art Deco theatre filled with 150 knowledgeable and appreciative fans. Wonderful interplay between Kurt Wagner's guitar and Tony Crow's piano : a consistently beautiful sound.

Friday 17 November 2017

Blue Days, Black Nights

Pray silence
Rejoice! The mighty Pugwash are just days away from releasing their seventh album; once again the airwaves will be awash with the majestic, heavenly sounds of Dublin's finest.

Several journals and blogs have got in early and are, already, heralding this brand new piece of plastic as the band's finest hour. Until I get my hands on a copy I can call my very own, and post my scores on the doors, I'll defer judgement. Instead I'm going to leave you with Thomas Walsh's tribute to a songwriting hero of his and, I suspect, many of you who secretly adore the luscious, and often luxurious, sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra.

Pugwash - Telephone Line

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Fall Out

It's been a long time since I fell out of a party at breakfast time - with a floozy on my arm falling out of her frock. Damn, when did I get old? Today's post, believe it or believe it not, had nothing to do with privileged Cambridge students stumbling out of champagne fuelled dens of debauchery, blinking in the early morning light not knowing if it's New York or New Year.

No, today's offering was going to be a eulogy to a well known landmark by the side of the A14 situated between the M11 and the Great North Road: the Trinity Foot pub has been a touchstone for me for more years than I care to remember. Heading either into, or out of, London, the Trinity Foot was a halfway house. A marker post that seemed to whisper 'not far to go now.' Alas, no more; they knocked it down this week.

And the reason for the photo above? I Googled 'Trinity Foot Cambs' (other search engines are available) and that's what came up. Straight up. Is it any wonder productivity has fallen off a cliff since they discovered the Word Wide Web?

Anyway, to balance things up, here's a picture of the aforementioned hostelry in its heyday. Before the wrecking ball smashed her into the ground.

The Police : Fall Out

Thursday 9 November 2017

'I'd Like That'

My friend Emma* has recently taken delivery of a new bicycle. She's loving the open road, but is scared stiff she can't see a thing behind her. 'Get a mirror' I said. You always need to know who's behind you. Always.

My sad excuse for a bike, on the other hand, is lurking at the back of the garage somewhere; unloved and unkempt, sporting two perished tyres and a rusty chain. I can't remember the last time I donned the yellow shirt, lycra bottoms and Day-Glo bike clips. Maybe this is the answer: draw a cartoon of myself on the window of a New York cab and roll the film.

How good is this btw?

*No, not that Emma - Em's far too busy being mummy to the most beautiful baby in the world. 

XTC - I'd Like That

Saturday 4 November 2017

I Scare Myself

A great song is a great song; and as such, I make no apologies for including not one, not two, but three versions of today's great song.

My only concession to Halloween this year (I spent the entire evening with the lights out not answering the doorbell*) was digging out an old playlist I did for my friend when she ran her own bistro. Six or seven years ago Kate used to put on a lot of themed nights and, one in particular, Halloween 2011, was particularly memorable. Not least because of the scary food that was on offer that night. The sausages you see pictured made for a unique starter, let me tell you.

But, back to the playlist. I had a lot of fun with it - looking back at it now you can see the, often tenuous, linked songs that were on there. I put a ton of stuff on it, enough to last all night (we were there from 7 o'clock till midnight) - here's just a flavour:

Black Keys - Howlin' for You
Dusty Springfield - Spooky
Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London
Alice Cooper (& the Muppets!) - Welcome to my Nightmare
Twisted Nerve theme

You get the picture, I'm sure.

Of the 80+ tunes on there (opening with this), the one that jumped out at me (and I've been playing it in the car all week) is 'I Scare Myself' by Claire Martin. Claire took the time to do a Q&A for my blog back in 2013 and she's an absolute sweetheart.

Although I knew it was a Dan Hicks song the version I was most familiar with was Thomas Dolby's. Dolby was, and still is, a studio geek, so by playing around with tape speeds he actually sounded more like a female vocalist at the time.

And here's the original. Dan Hicks sadly passed away last year. He left behind a great body of work; not least some cracking song titles: How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away? being just one of many.

* Which proved more than a little problematical as I was also waiting on an Indian takeaway delivery. 

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Still in Love

"I have always loved Del Amitri's music; far too many of their songs feel like they've been written for, or about, me." [Anon.]

Monday 30 October 2017


I is for Elvis

Ian Pile - Piley to his mates - needs no introduction on this blog. Suffice it to say he is one half of the excellent Mondo & Piley monthly PODROPHEN1A podcast which you can find here . I was thrilled to receive this email in my inbox last week:

Hi John,

Hope you are well. Please find attached a pic of me with the first album bought with my own money.

Had numerous albums before this (Bugs Bunny, Sooty, Pinky and Perky, few 'Top of the Pops' albums), but all purchased as presents or nagged a parent into buying! Mum was a 'middle period' Elvis fan. The films and soundtracks mostly. I was an avid Top 40 listener on Sundays, and was diggin' the mid/late 70s Elvis singles (Moody Blue, Way Down). So much in fact that I recorded them off the radio (is there any higher praise than that?!). Anyway this rockier style didn't feature on anything my mum had, so i trooped up to Woolworths in Hadleigh to see what i could find. The recent RCA albums were all out of my league pricewise (I did get them all in the following few years), so was drawn to the cheapy MFP/Pickwick/Camden spinner rack. There were a number of Elvis albums less than half the price of the RCA ones so decided to get one of those instead. In my innocence i picked US Male purely because it had the most recent picture of him on the cover. So obviously this would be more recent tunes!!

I had no idea these were all just rehash after rehash of old tunes. Turned out most of 'em were on my mum's albums anyway! Still, the great news was it had Burning Love on it. Still to this day one of my all time favourite Elvis songs. 

Cheers mate!



Sunday 29 October 2017

To Sarah with love

Going for an early Currie
It's all about timing. Being in the moment. And it helps if you know what the other person's thinking; like if they're playing a show in town and decide to bring the whole thing forward by an hour. Six bloody hours before the clocks go back.

I've never seen Del Amitri, so jumped at the chance of sliding in to the Rescue Rooms last night to catch Justin Currie. 'What time's he on?' I casually asked the guy on the door. Looking at my watch it was half eight. 'Put your money away, he's been on an hour, get yourself in.' Aaaaaagh!

By the time I found my vantage point he started playing the divine Driving With The Brakes On. Had I have paid to get in then this alone would have been worth the entrance money. Thirty minutes later and he was done. I didn't have the right to feel short changed as money hadn't exchanged hands; I just wish I'd known earlier. I don't even know if he played this . As you can see it reduces Chris Difford to tears. It does me as well. And here it is played on the piano.   

Saturday 28 October 2017

Spring forward, fall back

Fall, 2017 - Grizzly
Spring, 2010 - Fresh
I treated myself on Tuesday. I let the train take the strain (1st. Class, obvs) and met my good friend Mondo. Bethnal Green at one o'clock we said; perfect for a spot of lunch at Pellicci's followed by a stroll down to Brick Lane.
I've said it before, but it's worth saying again anyway, without Mondo this blog would not have got off the ground; in 2008/2009 (when I first heard Mondo & Piley's Podrophenia podcast), after just a couple of emails I knew I was gonna get on with this fella. His passion for all things rock, and indeed roll, coupled with his guidance and encouragement helped me get this stuff out of my head and into the world we now call social media.

I went for the mixed grill and Mondo went for the chicken. Johnny Depp and Michael Gambon were no shows, but Dave Gorman was sitting next to us; not sure if he's already on their wall of fame.

To the Truman Gallery to see another mover and shaker, but not till we've shaken hands with half the East End - Mondo's treated like royalty in these parts. I just basked in his reflected glory.

The Pigeon Detectives
After conducting a four year Twitter relationship with Morgan Howell it was good to finally meet him on Monday. He was sharing the gallery with Chris Barton & Horace Panter, and together they were showing Cassette versus Vinyl; Morgan's Super Size record sleeves vied for wall space with mutant cassettes and gigantic 'button' badges.
I'd only ever seen his masterpieces on line and in Sunday supplements, so seeing them up close and personal was very special, to say the least. Morgan was very generous with his time and was great company. We talked about everything under the sun, including how to get rid of uninvited pigeons who fly into prestigious galleries.

Chris Barton was a nice fella too. He took the time to explain how he made the giant musicassettes and boxes. I wish the Number One Son had been with me at this point as laser cutters were thrown into the mix and I know James would have been all over him like a cheap suit.

Chris Barton carrying the Cash
Hunky, and indeed, Dory

A rather Special pigeon

Catch that pigeon
From the Truman Mondo then gave me a guided tour of Spitalfields pulling in a fair few hostelries. It transpires Mondo's old man was a contemporary of Ronnie and Reggie. He glossed over the finer details but, like Morgan, he painted a picture of a world that just doesn't exist anymore.
Glasses were charged and recharged, photos were taken of Spoons carpets and we swapped more rock and roll stories than you could shake a shitty stick at.
Around nine bells it was time to depart; to Liverpool St. - homeward bound. Until the next time.

Before I go, here's Mondo's latest squeeze. They're called Howling Black Soul. Check out their bass player.