Tuesday 28 March 2017

Love, Hope and Misery

I've mentioned here before just how obscenely talented Jake Bugg is.
'Love, Hope and Misery' is his tribute to Bill Withers (think 'Ain't No Sunshine') and Robert Cray ('Right Next Door') all rolled into one. That's what I think anyway. But what do I know?
A soundtrack to a breakup if ever I heard one; probably.

Monday 27 March 2017


This Thursday night sees York Songwriters putting on their/our latest showcase gig at the Fulford Arms; it's a cracking venue with a great little stage, cool lights, a soundman who knows what he's doing and some none too shabby beers thrown in for good measure.

The fun starts at 8:00. I'm second or third on the bill which will be nice (it could be the last time I'll play in York, what with my impending house move and all). We'll even be selling a few sampler CDs: it's called The Cost of a Pint and, that's right, it's yours for a mere three quid. It'll pay for the aforementioned soundman, with anything left over going in the nearest charity bucket.

I must extend a big thank you to David Breslin who, in recent years, has kept York Songwriters and its ragtag members in some semblance of order through thick and, often, thin. Unfortunately he won't be there on Thursday due to illness, but here he is singing one of his own compositions 'Orpheus in the Underlay'.

Sunday 26 March 2017

I'm coming home I've done my time

And roundabouts
Seven years to be precise. During which time there's been a lot of swings, a lot of roundabouts. Good times (mostly), with a few not so good times thrown in too. I should have shipped out a year ago. I wanted to; before it really started to unravel. But, hey, you can't always get what you want.

The solicitors are saying June 1st. That'll do for me. Time enough to make peace with the place, and pack a few tea chests. The Medd caravan rolls on...

Thursday 23 March 2017

We are not afraid

I'm currently in the capital, and travelling around London today have seen/heard the We Are Not Afraid mantra all over the place.Yesterday's deadly attack must remain just that - *yesterday's* deadly attack. The horror of what happened must not be allowed to turn another British landmark into a Lockerbie, a Hungerford or a Dunblaine.

The graphic mobile phone footage and aerial photography from police helicopters cannot become the default position for the historic Thames crossing and approach to Parliament. If we are to overcome this adversity and show the world that London, and Britain, will not take this lying down, we have to neutralize the shocking images of yesterday: they must not be used as totems to fuel hatred and start further conflict. Instead, put one of these two images in your head when thinking of the stretch of road that links Westminster and Lambeth. And no, I am not in anyway downplaying the carnage of yesterday or belittling the immense grief and upset caused by the events of Thursday 22 March. Far better to turn this whole thing on its head and show the world we are strong; stronger than anyone. Daleks and Kiss included.

I dedicate today's blog to the memory of the dead and injured innocent bystanders who will be remembered by their friends and families forever; not least PC Keith Palmer. A husband. A father. A hero.

Saturday 18 March 2017

I Want Kandinsky

Bubbles: Music for Pleasure (1977)

Kandinsky: Composition VIII (1923)
Kandinsky: Transverse Lines (1923)
Barney Bubbles, the man who put the pictures in picture sleeves, drew his influences from far and wide; and long ago. His sleeve for Generation X's 1977 debut single stretched way back to 1924.

Likewise, when he was commissioned to design the sleeve for the Damned's difficult second album, Music for Pleasure, again from '77, Bubbles retreated back to the jazz age. Here are three terrific pieces by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) that Bubbles must have had on his mind when he took the gig.

I love Kandinsky. I want his stuff hanging on every wall in my new house*. Anyone got the Guggenheim's number?

* Footnote: whilst writing this post earlier this morning, I blagged a (very reasonably priced) Kandinsky copy.
Kandinsky: Black and Violet (1923)

Friday 17 March 2017

Wood for the trees

Under normal circumstances you'd be hard pushed to link former England captain and '66 World Cup hero Bobby Moore with prog rockers ELP; wouldn't it be nice to discover that in 1973 Messrs. Emerson, Lake & Palmer had invited West Ham's finest to sit in on the Brain Salad Surgery sessions and sing the odd harmony (just like he did on Back Home)? Or, even better, to unearth evidence that Keith Emerson once had trials for the Hammers? I'd even have been happy to read that Carl Palmer's original drum teacher had been Bobby's brother when he was living up in Cradley Heath. Alas, no.
However, what I can tell you is that in the early seventies both Bobby (and his missus, Tina) and the band John Peel once described as a waste of time, talent and electricity had their mugshots taken deep in the heart of Epping Forest.

I can't tell you how many hours I pored over the Trilogy gatefold sleeve that depicted all three members of the band lurking behind every tree. It was like Where's Wally?' only in reverse.

Confession time (1). Every time I see a wooded glade (especially when I'm in the car) I shout out 'Trilogy!' It's at times like this, I suspect, that members of my immediate family fear for my sanity.

Confession time (2). As much as I love ELP, and I do, the image of Tina Moore with the England shirt pulled down as far as it will go does it for me every time. I'm only human after all, as Rag'n'Bone Man would say.

Sunday 12 March 2017

'45' (1924-1977)

45: Berlewi (1924) 
45: Bubbles (1977)
45: Your Generation

The Number One Son told me last week that one of his neighbours is currently sporting a giant Generation X '45' framed print in his flat - James isn't stalking the guy, this piece of artwork is so large it can be seen from space, apparently. Now, I know a thing or two about Generation X: 'I think you'll find that particular design was the brain child of Tony James' (Gen X bass player and joint CEO with Billy Idol), I said with that tone that fathers adopt when handing down vital nuggets of rock history down the male bloodline. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
45: Idol

45: James
If the graphic artist, sleeve designer and troubled soul that was Barney Bubbles (1942-1983) had been eavesdropping our conversation, he would have been yelling in my ear that, actually, the Generation X masthead was one of his - Tony James would just knock out copies when he was screen-printing band tee shirts.

However, I think Barney, real name Colin Fulcher, would be the first to admit that he was influenced by Polish artist Henryk Berlewi (1894-1967), whose 1924 work 'Composition in Red, Black and White' (at the top of this blog) was surely the inspiration behind Barney's 1977 iconic sleeve for Generation X's first single.

45: Derwood

Saturday 11 March 2017

Carr trouble

I have trouble with Jimmy Carr; I think a lot of people do. For every gag that has you choking on your false teeth, there'll be another hot on its heels that will make you feel uncomfortable; you'll laugh, but you'll still be uncomfortable. And for a comic who openly admits that, with the exception of the Hillsborough disaster, everything else is fair game, then you're never far away from a joke that some a lot of people are going to find offensive. But, hey, you know that when you step over the threshold.

His appearance last week on Desert Island Discs was very revealing. Give it a listen and you may come away with different feelings towards the fella; I know I did. The way he spoke about his mother, dyslexia, Catholicism, depression and not losing his virginity until he was twenty-six was very honest and at times very touching. And when he chose 'I Will Follow You into the Dark' by Death Cab for Cutie as the record he'd save from the waves, I was practically reaching for the fan club application forms.

Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Follow You into the Dark

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Till Another Day

My friend Martin Heaton has just released a new album; he very kindly bequeathed me a copy at Songwriters on Monday night, and it's been on constant rotation in the car all week. Despite it being stacked to the rafters with great songs (Martin never short changes his fans - it's got 16 tracks in total), I've got two personal favourites:

Till Another Day mp3

The Letter mp3 

Copies of 'Pillow Talk' are available directly from the artist - you can email Martin at martinheaton@rocketmail.com

Sunday 5 March 2017

(Another) Another Train

A couple of years ago I was corresponding with Pete Paphides for a piece he was writing on obscure record shops, and I did a mixtape for him. He said that half way thro' listening to it he'd logged onto CD Baby (other online stores are available) and was buying up most of the stuff off it! Including Another Tain by Pete Morton. He'd never heard it before, loved it and commented that it was 'just the right side of soppy.'

I wonder if Pete P's heard Pete M's reworked version of the song he did with with Full House?

We fill our heads with the craziest things that only break our hearts

Friday 3 March 2017

Sock drawer. May contain memories

New socks. Old socks; some with holes in. Ticket stubs. Receipts. Cuff links. Photographs. Diaries. Birthday cards. Postcards. More photographs. Phone numbers. Guitar picks. Pens. More photographs. Keys. Invitations. Elastic bands. Unchecked lottery ticket. Spanish phrase book. Loose change. Map of New York. Oyster card. Book marks. Theatre programmes. More bloody photographs. Memories; a ton of memories.

And that's just my real sock drawer; don't get me started on my digital sock drawer. Or the one that lives in my head. What was it Ben Watt said, 'You can push things to the back of your mind, but you can never forget.'

The deeply unfashionable Alan Parsons may or may not have been talking about sock drawers back in 1982, but he too was plowing a similar furrow.

The Alan Parsons Project: Old & Wise