Sunday 29 January 2017

Speke now...

Amateur photographer Keith Jones loves his native Liverpool with a passion. His latest project has seen him going around the city snapping the Pool as it is today, and then overlaying how it would all have looked 50+ years ago; the Beatles landing at Speke Airport in 1964, now John Lennon Liverpool Airport, being a prime example.

Friday 27 January 2017


© Rowena Simpson
I love gardens, but I hate gardening; the only thing worse than gardening is people talking about gardening. When we move I don't care if our new garden is the size of Richard Branson's wallet or a mere postage stamp - just so long as it's south facing. And if it's anything like Rowena's garden, then so much the better.

The Sounds Of My Garden - 'I painted what I could hear'

Thursday 19 January 2017

The Songs We Were Singing

That's the way to do it
Lennon and McCartney wrote many songs together; and many more apart. But if you were to add up the ones neither of them had a hand in - but should have got a co-write on -  you'd need a supercomputer. You know what (and who) I'm talking about: take your pick from any of this lot's back catalogues just for starters: Crowded House, World Party, Squeeze, Cheap Trick, Dodgy, Badfinger, Big Star, Oasis, Cotton Mather, ELO, Pugwash, XTC, Utopia, and (don't forget) The Rutles - the list is endless. Interestingly, these days Macca himself can't write a Paul McCartney song anymore without it sounding like a Wings pastiche. How tragic is that?

As this blog enters its eighth year you can see there's been a lot of Beatles related activity (the leader board on the left hand side of the screen is a dead giveaway) since 2010. But I've never before mentioned this trio of moptastic Macca infused Beatles soundalikes: from the top - The Rembrandts condensing the White Album into three minutes, followed by the Chili Peppers melding 'Helter Skelter' & 'Vanilla Sky'. And, finally, Jellyfish, who probably lived on a very limited diet of Rubber Soul and Revolver.

Macca is currently taking Sony through the courts, trying to get his hands back on 'Love Me Do', 'Please Please Me' and all the other tunes he and Lennon wrote which are soon coming out of copyright quarantine. If I was his him I'd be setting my legal rottweilers on all the artists I've mentioned above. And the hundreds more I haven't.

The Rembrandts - Johnny Have You Seen Her?

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Aeroplane

Jellyfish - She Still Loves Him

Monday 16 January 2017

You're a swine Lennon

In 1971 there was no love lost between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Their solo albums from the time were loaded with venomous intertribal references; both eager to piss on the other's chips. Lennon, however, had to have the last word. Early copies of his Imagine album came with a limited edition postcard of him fondling a pig's ears. A direct jibe at Macca's Ram album cover. I told you it was serious.

'You're a swine.'

Sunday 15 January 2017


(Not) all my own work

That splash
The first canvas of the year
The brushes came out for the first time this year. But feeling lazy, and a little mischievous, I had a go at copying one of my heroes.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, David Hockney is a unique British artist. His Bigger Splash has been copied and parodied many times; not least by John Myatt. In the world of fakes, Myatt is the real deal. He did four years bird for conning the art world. These days he teaches fellow artists the tricks of the trade. And like all the best teachers (well, those who've done time) he's part mentor, part bully. I love the series he did for Sky Arts a few years back - this is the Hockney episode:

Friday 13 January 2017

Chris Higgins

Along with the Number One Son, my friend and fellow Beatles nut Chris Higgins (Chiggins) has been sending me end of year CD compilations for as long as I can remember. He'll invariably chuck in a couple of self penned tunes in there by his band The Ruminators. And most years it's a blind tasting with no track listing. Tricky. This year's opening salvo was a belting tune I could have sworn was one of his. Turns out it was by The Eagles of Death Metal. D'oh! Anyway, he thanked me for the compliment. He also agreed to subject himself to a long overdue interrogation.

So, Chris, what music was being played in your house as you were growing up?

I think I was quite lucky - typically involved The Beatles, ELO, Leonard Cohen, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dylan, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Duran Duran.

What was the first record you bought with your own money?

Duran Duran – Seven and The Ragged Tiger (cassette). First 7" was You Take Me Up by the Thompson Twins.

And the last album you bought?

Gregory Alan Isokov – The Weatherman (A slightly disappointing follow up to This Empty Northern Hemisphere - which is pure genius).  I’ve since joined the Spotify Gang.

How long between owning your first guitar and writing your first song?

I bought a guitar quite late (I was about fifteen) with the sole intention of writing songs.  Having taught myself badly, I was writing songs properly a couple of years later.  I think things can sometimes sound better when you're playing to the edge of a fairly limited ability.

Lyrics or tune. What’s more important?

I think the melody is the most important for sure.  Without a good melody you haven’t got a song – just ‘written word’ on a bad piece of music - I subscribe to all that is the Beatles - if the words are good – you’ve probably got a very strong song. If the words are poor, you still might havet something worth a listen.

Are you writing stuff all the time, or do they take a while to gestate?

I’m constantly writing songs in the melody/chords/structure sense. As I get older, lyrics take more and more time which really delays the finishing off/recording part.  Typically I have up to ten songs hanging around waiting to be recorded at any given time; if after a few months they haven’t become the priority to record I tend to discard them forevermore - never to be completed.

You’ve got the opportunity to donate one of your songs to Macca. Which one do you give him?

As big a Beatles fan as I am, my songs don’t sound very McCartney-esque (unfortunately) - but there is one called It's About Time which he might like? (It's sort of in his ballad territory.)

You’ve got the use of a time machine for the night: where (and when) are you going?

August 15,1965 - Shea Stadium.

Sell Brighton to me in a sentence.

Brighton is open minded, traditional, cosmopolitan & British where anything can happen, and a place very few seem to leave once a few roots sprout.

You don’t fancy living in Nashville?

No! I had a demo rejected (Pretty Baby) by a publishing company in Nashville for sounding too traditional/old school. In the meantime, most modern country sounds to me like a hiding place for bad 80’s rock.

Beatles or the Stones?

Have a guess!

Early doors or late nights?

These days early doors, I’m afraid.

Indian or Chinese?

Indian. Every time!

Do you share your bag of sweets on long train journeys?

For me a train journey is time to slope off into your own world – so no, sorry!

A big thank you to Chris for taking the time, and here's a link to more of his fabulous songs.

Chris' partner in crime and fellow Ruminator, Ali Gavan, records all their stuff in his own rather FAB studios in Brighton.

Sunday 8 January 2017

A Bigger Splash

Southern California, not East Yorkshire*
David Hockney painted A Bigger Splash in early 1967 whilst teaching at Berkeley. It captured a typical California day - a swimming pool, a cloudless blue sky, palm trees; a 'typical' day we could all get used to if we had to, I'm sure. The original, hanging in the Tate, measures 8 ft. by 8 ft. and is seen as a defining moment in Hockney's career. A contemporary of Peter Blake he was one of the key players in the whole Pop Art movement of the 1960s, but would soon outgrow any labels the art world tried to put on him and took his work in directions few could have second guessed: landscape, expressionism, portraiture, cubism and, of course, his iconic collage photography.

* Hockney has lived all over the world, including a number of years spent in a pile in Bridlington, East Yorkshire - which he sold in 2015. These days he spends much of his time in his beloved California. 

Friday 6 January 2017

White Rabbit

Alice: 'How long is forever?'

White Rabbit: 'Sometimes, just one second.'

Should you find yourself in a rabbit hole, do not resist. It spoils the fun.

Monday 2 January 2017

The Men Who Sleep in Trucks

I'm indebted to Mark at So it Goes - as you can see Mark watches 500+ films a year, so you don't have to. Instead, take a look at his shortlist and cherry pick your own. That's how I came across The Men Who Sleep in Trucks. Made by Marc Isaacs in 2016 and commissioned by BBC3, it's a seventeen minute vox-pop with long distance lorry drivers filmed in various truck stops just before they get their heads down for the night. Once you've got past a bunch of fat lads without their tops on, it reveals just how sad, lonely and isolated these kings of the open road really are. Compelling viewing.

Sunday 1 January 2017


Being a Rat (b. December 1960) and with the approaching year of the Rooster (Chinese New Year - commencing 28 January), 2017 is, apparently, going to be a 'colourful' year for me; whatever that means. I'll keep you posted.

Here's Mick Taylor, the finest guitar player the Rolling Stones ever employed (and, D-O-B 17 January 1949, a fellow Rat), singing an ode to that noisiest of farmyard creatures. And/or his cock.

Mick Taylor - Little Red Rooster