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.