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.

Monday 23 October 2017

Johnny. Vaughan

From left to right - Johnny & Vaughan
When Kate and Vaughan came over from Lincoln to se us at the weekend I kinda knew that Saturday would be a boozy day. I think we started in Spoons just before midday, moving into town not long thereafter. Our late lunch at the Old Angel (where vegan is really taking hold) was exceptional. And it was great to see flossy behind the bar who used to work at the Hockley Caff.
But by late afternoon/early evening Vaughan and I were only communicating in Michael Caine and David Bowie voices. Come sundown and it all started to go a bit wavy.

I think this photo of us was taken on the cusp. We were having a good night. I do believe we were telling everyone around us we were having a good night.

Happy. And ever so slightly drunk: a great combination.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Black Hole

I recently enrolled on a screenwriting course. Last Wednesday evening was week three of an eight week introduction to learning how to develop characters, fine tune stories, dialogue, plots & subplots and generally getting an insight into turning an idea into a fully formed, all singing all dancing, script.

We're looking at a lot of films (full length and shorts), covering a lot of genres and in so doing trying to bottle that elusive spark that will ultimately give birth to the complete package - something that can then
be pitched to film makers. That's the theory, anyway! Me and my other nine cohorts are under no illusions; whilst we all enjoy writing and are bristling with ideas, the chances of us getting a script picked up by Hollywood is as remote as a lottery win.

Some of the films we've looked at contain little or indeed no dialogue. The Black Hole is a case in point. This five minute gem is near perfect. It had a budget of less than $5,000 and is the real deal. Forget what I said about Hollywood earlier - if I came up with something this good, I'd be a happy man. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday 18 October 2017


Every now and again Netflix throws up something so random, yet at the same time so utterly compelling and so bloody watchable, that you would never - for a minute - think of unsubscribing.
The Good Place is sublime. The concept is simple, yet throws in subtle twists just for fun. Imagine dying and going to the good place, only to find out there's been a glitch: you're not meant to be there. You were destined for the bad place. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in the afterlife gone awry. The script fizzes (as does Ms. Bell) and leaves you wondering what makes frozen yoghurt, clown paintings and sink holes so attractive. And, try like fork, it's impossible to swear. As you can probably gather, I love it.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Grass Man

My friend Adele feels the same way about gardening as I do: there's only one thing worse than gardening, and that's people talking about gardening.

However, a garden without grass is one thing, but a world without grass is unthinkable. Say hello to the Grass Man.

Whilst Adele was with us this weekend we went to see Dodgy in a little club in town. As usual they were on fine form. Unusually, however, they were without Matthew their drummer. He was moonlighting.

But they did play this. Obviously.

Dodgy: Grassman

Tuesday 10 October 2017

I'm climbing up ladders, and sliding down snakes

Lat night night was choir night. We're getting there, slowly building our, ahem, repertoire: softly softly, catchee monkey.

So, alright, we're not quite match fit yet; not the finished article, but we're not far off. We could do with strengthening at the back - a couple of strategically placed flyers dotted around NG5 (I'll drop a few off in Doctor's Orders and Kraftwerks) should, with a bit of luck, yield an extra vox or two.

We're quite an eclectic bunch who are always on the look out for new material. We've already had a go at couple of my songs and, I think, this one suits our voices. We've sung it both a capella and with me on the guitar and everyone singing the chorus & harmonies. Both work well, but we'll get a definitive version nailed in the next week or two. In the meantime, here's my demo:

Sunday 8 October 2017

M is for Macca

In a perfect world my house would be adorned with Morgan Howell's artwork. If you're not familiar with the name, I'm sure you've seen his Super Size Art all over the place. His depiction of vintage record sleeves is frighteningly  real - right down to every last tear, crease and crumple.

Back in January 2014 I asked Morgan if he wouldn't mind doing a quick Q&A for my blog. Four years later and I was knocking on his front door again. 'You know this Swedey McSwedeface craze that's sweeping the nation?' I asked...

Fair play to Morgan, he embraced the project both willingly and enthusiastically. I extend my warmest thanks to him. Again.

"I was a Beatles obsessive as a child and they had split by the time I was 5. So I reckon it would have been Wings Band on the Run. Not very cool, but hey. And yes I still have it."

Macca: Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five

Saturday 7 October 2017

J is for Herbie

For the sake of today's post title, I was really hoping Hancock clocked in at 30 mins

Another day, another Swedey McSwedeface. It was only a matter of time till the Number One Son wanted in on the action. As he says himself, below, if this was 'My First CD', it would have thrown up something very different.


As I recall, this is meant to be the "first LP bought with your own money", and this is that. 

This is 5 years or so into my record buying/acquiring life, but all of those were CDs, and the majority were birthday presents or pocket money purchases. A mix of peer influence and your advice had worked me through the likes of Blink-182, NOFX, Sabbath, and Zeppelin up to then, all on small shiny discs. 

By the time I was 16 I was studying Monday to Friday in the city, and working there at weekends too. As a borderline pretentious literature-reading, arthouse-viewing teen, I bought a turntable and made the most of the jazz exposure I'd received through both you and my piano mentor, Steve, and fully embraced the world of fusion with this epic. Bass clarinet, Fender Rhodes, and a funny time signature or two set me on the road to the kind of musical madness I take for granted to this day. 


Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi (1971)

Tuesday 3 October 2017

R is for Slade

Sladey McSladeface

Full bodied
Riggsby and I go back a long way: a very long way. We met at school in, I'm guessing, 1973 and were friends right from the get go. We discovered a lot of stuff for the first time together - you know the sort of things - sex and drugs and rock and roll, to name but three. Even though he now resides in Southern California, we still keep in regular contact. And I know he reads my blog.

Cue today's email from him; it landed first thing this morning whilst I was simultaneously wiping the sleep from my eyes and cursing the alarm. If you're familiar with Swedey McSwedeface, it will all make perfect sense. If not... where have you been?!"

Hi John,

This is a fun idea. "Slade Alive" was (one of) the first album(s) I bought, and one I listened to many times. Their version of 'Born to be Wild' was my favourite track. In the early days of record buying, I also bought Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" I am embarrassed to say. Happily, I did not hold onto that one. I got in the music paper Sounds with Electric Ladyland because I bought a copy that was warped, but the record store closed down and I was unable to exchange it. A very nice person at Sounds arranged for a flat copy to be sent to me.

Of the original albums I still have, I treasure the DAMNED particularly.

All taken in the kitchen, as requested. How's that?

Now with tongues

How's that? It's bloody marvellous, that's what it is. Thank you Riggsby - this one's for you:

The Damned - New Rose (1977) 

Sunday 1 October 2017

C is for Clash

I received a lovely email earlier today from C over at Sun Dried Sparrows. I'm sure she won't mind me reprinting it here - though I have taken her full name off the bottom!

Hi John 

Hope all is good with you! It was a lovely idea you had to gather some more 'Swedey McSwedeface'* shots from fellow bloggers recently. If you're still on the lookout for some, then here's mine! I finally managed to track down a vinyl copy of this, the first album I ever bought 40 years ago. Sadly I got rid of the original a long time ago to replace with a CD, kinda wish I'd kept it now, just for posterity. This one's not the same issue - I distinctly remember 'The Clash' being printed in a vibrant orange, practically fluorescent, whereas it's red here - but I paid under a tenner for it and it was lovely to be reminded of it full-size. If only it wasn't so tatty (mine was well-loved but well-kept too) and didn't smell like a damp cellar, where it's probably been for the last 40 years. I'll never forget hearing Janie Jones for the first time when I asked them to put Side One on in my local record shop, Startime. I'd saved up my pocket money for months. I just had to have it.

Thanks and all the best 


Here's a version of Janie Jones that caught my eye recently. I hope it meets with C's approval.

Pris - Janie Jones

* In case anyone doesn't know what a Swedey McSwedeface is.