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.