Boxing Day. A day to relax. A day to do precisely nothing; the square root of nothing, no less. There's even a formula for this prolonged bout of inactivity: e=√FA That said, I am reading a rather splendid book at the moment, whilst simultaneously demolishing nearly half a tin of Quality Street. Oh, and I've hung a few pictures this afternoon that have been leaning against walls for far too long. And I'm currently compiling a couple of playlists. Downtempo playlists, if you will; nothing too strenuous, nothing too upbeat. Not today. Not on Boxing Day.
Paul Weller bookends the first one with two different versions of My Ever Changing Moods - one of my fave Weller songs from his Style Council days. He did a rather tasty piano version 30+ years ago and then, last year I think, included it in a specially recorded BBC session - a version reflecting his now slightly reduced vocal range (Macca, a hero of Weller, does something very similar when he sings Beatles songs these days).
Best Bar/Pub: either Jenkins [Sherwood] or the Organ Grinder [Loughborough] - I really can't make my mind up Best App: remove.bg Remove the background from any photograph Instantly (see 'Wish You Were Here' - below)
Best Walk: Attenborough Nature Reserve. By a country mile
Best Breakfast: Warsaw Diner, Canning Circus Best Gig: The Prodigy - Nottingham Arena
Best Open Mic: The Running Horse - with a big thank you to Paul Carbuncle Once again a big thank you to everyone who looks in my shop window, and an even bigger thank you to those who trust to luck and cross the threshold... Have a peaceful Christmas
Fox On the Run came on the radio...I nearly came with it. Fucking brilliant when a song like that creeps up and surprises you
Tell you what, give me 150
words on why Fox On the
Run is so fucking brilliant
and I'll put it up on the blog.
John, this isn't quite what you asked for - but do as you wish with it.
An ordinary Thursday afternoon. Christmas themed background music dominated the airwaves. And then...the explosion. It's amazing that despite having 24 hour access to one's musical preferences, when one of them springs unexpectedly from a radio station, it's inexplicably different. It's a joyous three and a half minutes of nostalgia that no pre-planned station can bring. March 1975. Sweet. Fox On the Run. Yes, lyrically it's bitter, criticising as i does somebody whose glory of youth has deserted them. 'But the rest of you is out of place.' Hardly a compliment. Not being appropriately trained, I can't identify what its musical qualities are. To be honest, I don't care. But what an ensemble. Like so many great Sweet songs, it didn't quite make the top, being denied by the hysteria of Bye Bye Baby. This is a matter which has recently been ignored amid the apparently more significant Brexit issue, but is still one I intend raising with my MP on March 30th 2019. It's never too late to gain justice.
The Woodlands Gallery (about to enter its fifth year, and now located in Nottingham) has recently acquired two new paintings. Yep, the brushes came out for the first time in ages yesterday and here they both are.
Sunburst Finish, I think it's safe to say, owes very little to the 1976 Be-Bop Deluxe* album of the same name, but the colours and texture cried out Sun as I was working on it yesterday - despite the fading afternoon light on the canvas.
Wood Embers (Acrylic on Canvas)
Wood Embers on the other hand is, excuse the pun, something of a slow burner. I wasn't jazzed with it at all while I was painting it. It's only when it began to dry that the colours bled through. The title, meanwhile, came a little while later...
* Be-Bop Deluxe really did try and set the world alight, but always seemed to be punching above their weight. Being neither Glam nor Prog in the mid seventies, and with one eye on the impending new wave, they somehow got left behind in a world that loved the idea of a band like Be-Bop Deluxe, but didn't necessarily want to buy their records or foot their ladder as they tried to climb it. Shame, really, as Bill Nelson - Mr. Deluxe - knew how to write good songs. Like this:
If there's a bigger ball ache than remembering old passwords, retrieving forgotten passwords and/or resetting new ones then please tell me; because I really don't think there is one.
And as the majority (alright, all) of my passwords are variations on a theme, I'm buggered if I can remember which ones do or don't have an uppercase letter, do or don't contain a number, and do or don't have a 'special' character; which is why, if left to me, they would all be 123456 or ABCDEF. Sorry, make that aBCDEf1@, no, hang on, I think it it was ABCdeF?100. Oh, fuck it.
There follows not a single reference to Brexit (Hard or Soft), Backstops or Theresa Fucking May
References to my Gaelic roots are dotted all over this blog. Without this maternal streak of Irishness running thru me, James couldn't have applied for his dual nationality, and I probably wouldn't spend as much time as I do shouting 'FECK!', 'DRINK!' and 'That would be an Ecumenical matter' at the drop of a tricolour hat. Nor would I spend so long listening to RTÉ Radio. In particular John Creedon's excellent midweek show which goes out live from Cork every night between 8:00 and 10:00 on RTÉ Radio 1. Take a peek at some of his recent playlists. Tasty aren't they?
He played a song by Declan O'Rourke last night that I'd never heard before, and I fell in love with it instantly.
The plane touched down yesterday just after three o'clock. It was wet. It was windy. It was cold; everything Lanzarote wasn't. A miserable December Saturday afternoon in the UK has absolutely nothing going for it whatsoever. Even the pilot was apologetic, bless him.
Rewind less than 24 hours and I'd been gazing out to sea thinking how much more tolerable life would be if this was my view, this was my vista; a light so bright and so beautifully sharp, that, if I close my eyes (even as I'm typing this), I can still see. Let's hope I can still retrieve it from my memory bank next week, and the week after... Charles Trenet - La Mer (1946)
What a year it's been; and continues to be. I'm sure there are other fairground mechanical contraptions that can I can compare the last 12 months to, but I'm struggling at the moment to call one to mind.
I'm jumping on a plane in a couple of hours. Five nights away - a bit of sun on my back, catch up with the latest Anne Tyler, and gorge on a few of my favourite podcasts*. I may even have a few glasses of the local grog, it has been known. As ever when I'm away, my thoughts will be wandering. But in a good way this time.
* Including: Ruthie - Me & My Dad. I've just discovered this quirky podcast where washed up radio presenter Martin Kelner and his 17 year old daughter Ruth sit down at the kitchen table and tell each other what it's like to reside in 2018. Essential listening.
It was going to be called 'Go Into Settings' - Ruth explains in the first episode (or is the second?) that whenever she's telling an 'old person' how to do something on their phone it's the first thing she says. Ouch, sounds familiar.
It doesn't take a lot to frighten me; though I'm much better than I used to be. I remember trying to watch Eraserhead on my own and not being able to get past the opening credits. Seriously.
The first house I ever owned had a basement cellar. Did I ever go down there? What do you think? And don't get me started on horror films where hands come out of graves. Ever wondered why I went grey so early?
So how come then I'm currently wading through Season 1 of American Horror Story on Netflix? That is a very good question. Firstly it comes highly recommended. Secondly, it doesn't take itself too seriously: they shoehorn every conceivable trick from the horror repertoire into each and every episode, thus making it more Carry On than Carrie. I absolutely love it.
But, back to things that truly frighten me. I still can't listen to Here in the Hole by Barry Adamson without clutching at my invisible rosary beads and offering up a silent prayer; it scares the living crap out of me (that's right, I don't play it very often).
I recently found a Youtube mix of it where it segues into Sonny Boy Williamson's Help Me. It's the kind of light relief you need after putting yourself through Adamson's emotional wringer.
I have to confess that, despite the title of today's piece, I have never done The Stroll1. In fact, until as recently as ten minutes ago I wasn't even aware that it came with its own song. Yes, I'd heard Led Zeppelin's mighty Rock and Roll2 and yes I knew Nick Lowe slipped a reference to it in I Knew the Bride, but I still couldn't have told you, strictly or otherwise, which foot to lead with or, indeed, who takes the initiative. However, looking at this video, I don't think any of that really matters; all you do, seemingly, is, er, stroll. Who knew?
The Stroll - from American Bandstand, February 1958
1. Not knowingly, anyway. 2. I recently played my stripped down version of Rock and Roll at the Running Horse in Nottingham. I introduced it by saying that if there were any Led Zep fans in the room, then now might be a good time to go to the bar.
In June 2016's EU Referendum 52% of the UK population (it's been argued this majority comprised mainly the elderly, less well educated and the less well off) saw the phrase Taking Back Control, turned it into a mantra and made it their primary reason for pulling out of Europe; being free of the EU and being able to trade with anyone we wanted to.
With a deal now put forward by our hapless Prime Minister that effectively still ties us to the EU (but with none of the benefits of being in the EU), and our biggest ally, the United States, giving us the middle finger and potentially vetoing any future trade deals with them, I wonder what they see now?
I drove to Hull today and spent some quality time with my Auntie Margaret and Uncle Brian. I can't believe they celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary earlier this year, but celebrate it they did, even receiving a signed card from our reigning Monarch. Around the time this photo was taken I remember Brian, an electrician by trade, building me a bespoke external speaker for my tinny portable cassette player - giving it much needed Oomph! Their friends recently found the 70s snap, blew it up, framed it and gave it to them as a gift on their big day. It's such a spontaneous photograph, I love it.
Since time immemorial Beatles fans and scholars alike have been debating (often heatedly) whether or not the White Album coulda/shoulda been released as a single album; trim the fat, ditch Revolution No.9 (the Emperor's new clothes, without doubt) and generally rid it of anything devoid of FABness. Pah! I hear you say. Even four sides isn't enough - we want six sides, eight even.
Blue Vinyl (1/1) - signed by Macca (rare as fuck)
Well, as you're probably aware, this month saw the majestic release of a whiter than white White Album with alternative takes, demo recordings made at George's house in Esher - complete with Harrison asking Macca how many sugars he wants in his tea - and is, essentially, the kitchen sink in vinyl format. Indeed, fetching it home from your local record shop would necessitate mechanical lifting machinery and, possibly, road closures.
But to go back to the double album/single album hot potato for a second - if you ever wondered what the perfect pared down track listing would have looked like (5 tracks on Side 1, five on Side 2) - then jazzer Ramsey Lewis has beaten you to it. By 50 years. That's right, Lewis went into the studio and recorded his White Album (he actually called it Mother Nature's Son) in December 1968 and released it later the same month: only a handful of weeks after the Beatles released theirs in the November. He didn't mess about did he? The world was still coming to terms with how utterly brilliant Lennon's Cry Baby Cry was, and here was Ramsey Lewis straight out of the traps giving us his sublime instrumental take. And, I have to say, almost edging it for me. Almost.
I had an out of body experience today. Seriously. I really did. And, here's the thing, no artificial stimulants were involved; unless you count coffee (and no one counts coffee). Want to know more?
Ever wondered what the future sounds like? No, neither did I particularly. Until this morning.
Then this arrived in my inbox - it was around 10:00. "You MUST listen to this," it said. " WITH HEADPHONES." So I did. By 10:05 I was in a bit of a state, I don't mind telling you.
And that's what you must do - right now. Don't shilly shally. Just do it. And, don't forget, WITH HEADPHONES!
What did you think? Let's park up the fact that it's the work of the Devil - was that amazing, or was that amazing? It's called 8D Audio. And it's appearing all over the place. From Eminem to Bo Rhap; everyone's doing it. Don't get left behind. And remember, you heard it (and I mean HEARD it) here first (unless, of course, you've got the jump on me already, in which case - why didn't you tell me?!)
Fashion guru Paul Smith paid a flying visit to his old stomping ground this week. Smith was born in Nottingham in 1946 and opened his first outlet in the city in 1970, before setting off on his travels and taking the iconic Paul Smith brand all over the world*. But he came back yesterday and took a butchers at a recently painted mural depicting the man of many stripes.
Interestingly he shares a wall with Richard Beckinsale - star of Porridge & Rising Damp and, tragically, cut down in his prime aged just 31.
*Situated just a couple of blocks away from where I smashed a hire car in Los Angeles a few years ago is Paul Smith's LA store; people come from miles around just to have their photo taken outside it. Well, they would, wouldn't they? It is a thing of beauty.
A conversation in the pub tonight took me back to a time when home taping, far from killing music, kept two overgrown schoolboys sane for much of the 90s & indeed the noughties. One mixtape I did for Steve was two sides of a C90 rammed with wah wah tunes. And for the life of me I can't remember what I put on there. Except this - this definitely opened proceedings:
Dodgy - Cold Tea (1993)
Be careful whee you tread You don't want to do any harm
I've noticed lately that a number of blogs I read on a regular basis have given over their Monday editions to a feature called Monday Long Song.*
I won't even begin to insult your intelligence by breaking that down for you; suffice it to say that a great song written by Booker T Jones c.1969 and given many makeovers thereafter (not least by Billy Idol in the mid 80s) was, for me, really brought to life back in 1977 when reggae singer George Faith agreed to record it for Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Easy now.
George Faith - To Be A Lover (Four seconds shy of 10 minutes)
For those of you who are blissfully unaware of Bands FC, I strongly suggest you take a peek and bring yourself up to speed. Bands reimagined as football emblems/badges is an idea so simple, yet is the sort of lightbulb moment we all dream of having.
And with the, quite literally, thousands of both bands and football team to harvest, it's the gift that just keeps on giving.
Their exhibition is coming to town next month so I'll be sure to give it a good coat of looking at. Living in Nottingham we of course have two quality teams plying their trade in the city - Notts County and Notts County Reserves. Just kidding: Nottingham Forest play on one side of the River Trent, County on the other. When Brian Clough was in charge at the City Ground they said he used to walk on the very water that divides them; love him or loathe him, his presence is still felt around these parts.
And to show I have no axe to grind with the Reds, I'll lead with this. Forest rebranded as the Cure. And why would that be, I hear you ask. Quite simple really - it's that song innit?
And who else but Sleaford Mods could they have got for the County gig? I first wrote about them back in October 2014 and championed the excellent Tied Up In Nottz (you c*nt). And it still sounds every bit as powerful now as it did then.
There's a lot to be said for brevity; in the case of Twitter, not more than 140 characters (I think that's why I love it so much). I'm currently digging six word stories - that's right, stories that pack a punch in less time than it takes to clean your glasses; stories that never outstay their welcome. Stories that demand to be reread.
Ernest Hemingway was the master: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.
That, plainly, is the benchmark. It's probably never been bettered. Though, for what it's worth, I think the following examples come pretty close.
Painfully, he changed 'is' to 'was'.
Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers.
She will always be the one. Underneath you, I erupt into stars. The smallest coffins are the heaviest. ... I know I've chosen some really sad ones; there are, for sure, some really uplifting ones out there too. Maybe next time...
When James rang the other day and said he'd really like us to do another round of recording, it was, quite literally, music to my ears. We've done a few sessions together over the years and he really has helped shape a lot of my songs. I may have provided the playground, but James was the one who put the swings and roundabouts in.
That's not my quote by the way - when Nigel Clark walked out on Dodgy 20 years ago I remember Matt their drummer saying it might be Clarks's name on the records, but they all know how the songs really got written and recorded. Ouch.
That said, I know this time around we'll be doing a couple of covers. James and I both love the Eiderdowns' version of From the Beginning by ELP. Bernard, who played fiddle on Pickering Place would certainly be my Number One choice for this along with Nat: Nathaniel plays sax with local shit kickers Slumb Party, but it's his banjo I want to hear on this:
The Eiderdowns - From the Beginning
And another one I'd like to have a crack at is My Brother Jake. Free had a huge hit with it in 1971, but, again, I want to do it more like the Eiderdowns; so chilled we may all end up getting hypothermia. Let me make a few phone calls and see if we can't fix this up for early in the New Year.
Waking up to find there's an extra hour in the day can't be a bad thing can it? Unless you're in chokey. Don't we all dream of being able to wind the clocks back? As I type this my wrist watch tells me it's not even nine o'clock. A full day ahead. A blank canvas to fill - in anyway I choose.
And, if I go to bed an hour later tonight I've grabbed another hour; time really is going nowhere.
My great niece Scarlett, 4, is something of a TV star. She's currently the face of Channel 4's 'Old People's Home for Four Year Olds'. Scarlett lost her mother last year to cancer and is currently finding new friends in all sorts of places - Old People's Homes, ITV studios - even Eamonn Holmes wants to be her friend. Her father Tim, who also doubles up as Nottingham's Robin Hood, is doing a fabulous job of bringing her up on his own. And through the sadness, as well as keeping the memory of Scarlett's mum, Sally, alive, Tim is keen for her to appreciate just how special Gerry Anderson was, not least his 1967 creation, and Scarlett's namesake.
I've said here, on more than one occasion (and quite recently, too), that when it's quiet, I like to post nothing more taxing than, say, a library picture of Helen Mirren, or a random girl from Amsterdam riding her bike. A modern day Test Card if you will.
The idea came originally from a fellow blogger - whose name I forget, sorry - who, during a fallow period, said that rather than cancel the milk and papers he was just going to put up a photograph of Joan Collins in her 'snorkelling gear'.
Well, as you can see, here is said photograph of Joan Collins in her, ahem, snorkelling gear. It dates from the 1950s, so that would put her somewhere in her mid-twenties. Collins was already something of a Hollywood starlet around this time having played a number of sultry roles in a number of so-so movies. She had yet to put her name to the two projects I particularly remember her for. Namely, that episode of Star Trek:
Star Trek - The City on the Edge of Nowhere (1967)
And this, my favourite movie of 1978 in the category 'Best Trashy Film Adaptation of Equally Trashy Novel Written by Sister of the Leading Lady'.
Gabriel Fauré wrote his Pavane in 1887. Originally conceived as a solo piece for the piano, it soon gained traction amongst his musical peers and became an orchestral tour de force, before transmogrifying into a renowned choral work.
It's a tune (and melody) that works on so many levels and, as you can see from the three versions I've chosen below, there is neither an orchestra or, indeed, choir to be seen.
Acclaimed keyboard player Brian Auger reworked it in 1970 as a crossover classical/jazz infused, Hammond led instrumental. I defy you to keep still while you're listening to it. Would Fauré approve? I'd like to think so.
Next up a trumpet led take on it by horn player Markus Hoerhan. Not really straying too far from the original dots, it's not unpleasant at all. Toot toot.
And finally, a more traditional approach. Straight from the concert hall, but with just guitar (Craig Lake) and flute (Sian Fenn). It's probably how Fauré heard it in his head when he was writing it.
If I had to rank them I think I'd struggle to be honest. What do you think?
It's that time of year - betwixt Goose Fair and Guy Fawkes - which means it must be Nottingham Beer Festival. A pleasant distraction for some, a pilgrimage for others, this huge beer and cider festival casts its net far and wide and brings in thousands of punters from the NG postal district and beyond.
It's moved to a new venue this year (not for the first time - I can still remember when it was held at the local swimming baths), but a bit like the proverbial moth, I care not where the lightbulb is: I'll be there.
You should get down too if you are anywhere near. Friday afternoon is always the optimum time for a gander - busy but not rowdy (the office nitwits are still holed up in their cubicles), 99% of the beers are still on (and in great condition), and the floor hasn't yet turned into a sea of beer slops.
It's been a quiet day today. On days like this I usually post something along the lines of this. Or even this. Today I found a beautiful photograph on my Twitter feed. As the fella who posted it @stuarthumphryes said, it's got nothing whatsoever to do with Doctor Who. It was from a fashion shoot in the 1960s. London still had loads of these Police Boxes knocking around at the time - they were integral pieces of the capital's street furniture.
I know I'm six foot tall. I've been six foot since I turned 16. It says six foot on my passport. Just because the nurse at my local GP surgery recently clocked me in at 5'-11" does not mean I'm 5'-11". No way Pedro. If you look carefully at the above photograph (taken on Saturday at James and Janni's wedding party) I'm kinda leaning in - and down - at the same time. James is not a seven foot giant - he is a mere 6'-4". Just to set the record straight. And, to set it straight even further, dad is not taller than me. He must be standing on a book, or something. Must be.
I'm glad I got that out of the way.
A big thank you to my friend Adele who texted me earlier this evening and put a smile on my face. I'd sent her the photo and she replied back:
When I posted recently this photograph of my mother feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square in the 1950s it prompted a number of people to get in touch - they shared similar photos (mainly of parents) from a similar time. Probably even taken by the same photographer.
Grab him, nab him
However, the snap above is a tad more contemporary. Well, by tad, I mean it was actually taken in 1970, but it's in colour and, dare I say, groovy. And there's not a single collar and tie to be seen. The times they were a-changing.
I don't know if it was choreographed or not. Either way, the scaffolders working on St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in the background would almost certainly have whistled at the girls 'approvingly' when they walked past: it was written into every builders contract at the time; don't tell me it wasn't.
Westminster City Council prohibited the feeding of the birds in 2003 (wolf whistling at pretty girls probably around the same time) when their numbers reached 35,000 (who was counting them?*) and everywhere in the WC2 postcode was knee deep in guano.
Me & James
The photograph on the right was taken a few years before the ban. James looks to be around three or four so, I'd say, 1993/4. We'd been to the Natural History Museum that day, if memory serves, and afterwards we seemed to gravitate towards Trafalgar Square (in true pigeon style).
He loved it. I think that comes through loud and clear. But, as with any rite of passage, he just did it the once.
I don't know where the birds went for bush tucker after 2003. One day they were everywhere, sh*tting on your head, next thing you know they'd buggered off. All things must pass. But not before I leave you with this exquisite slice of Vaudevillian glam from 1972. It was never hip, granted, but this is the missing link between Mrs. Mills and Gary Glitter. And you can quote me on that.
I drove down to London on Saturday morning pretty much on auto-pilot. I wasn't feeling 100% - and that's putting it mildly. The rain was torrential; biblical, almost. I pulled in at Cherwell Valley Services for breakfast. The coffee saved me. It made me almost human again. And the rain stopped.
"Is there a brew pending?"
When I got to my favourite sister in law's*, I was almost feeling a five, if not a six, on a scale of 1 to 10. Instead of cracking open the bubbly, I was more than happy with a pot of tea and 40 winks. When I woke up the Prof was telling me all about the ales he'd bought in - specially for me. "Tea will be fine, David." He looked crestfallen. "Who's going to drink all this beer?" "Sorry Prof, start the party without me." That's when he knew I wasn't faking it.
But it was OK. We didn't leave the house once - and it was still OK. We played cards. And board games. And more cards. And I drank gallons of tea - while everyone else drank fizz, and gin. I know what you're thinking, this isn't his usual No Sleep Till Hammersmith hedonistic weekend. And you'd be right. But needs must.
However, I came home cleansed and, here's the thing, with a passion for Sequence. I'd never heard of it before Saturday and now I'm addicted. I ordered a copy on Amazon while I was down there. Should be here tomorrow. Those winter evenings are going to fly by...
You'll be pleased to know normal service has been resumed. My rock and roll lifestyle - such that it is - has been rebooted.
* Megan knows how to fix me: Saturday's evening meal (and Sunday lunch too) both had her to die for homemade custard on the menu. A throwback to when I was freelancing in London a few years ago and lived with Megan and David for three months.
Another gig for 2019 - Joe Jackson is going on the road with his Four Decade Tour. He's pulling tracks from just five of his albums spanning, that's right, four decades, including Look Sharp (1979) and Night & Day (1982).
I've been a huge fan right from the get go, and have seen him live countless times. He's only playing a handful of gigs in the UK, but it's the two nights at Amsterdam's Paradiso Club that I've got my eye on. I'm very excited. Who wants to come with me?
Joe Jackson - You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) (1984)
I absolutely love this - it's got banjos, it's got finger clicking, and it's got a tune to die for. It also appears that the Dead South are coming to a venue near me not long into the the New Year; there never were such times.
Comic actor Matt Berry (Toast of London, House of Fools, The IT Crowd etc.) isn't frightened of recording studios. Not only does he write and perform a lot of his own TV themes, he has also, over the years, knocked out six albums on the Acid Jazz label. Like I say, no musical slouch he.
So, I guess, it was only a matter of time until he decided to record some vintage TV themes (and by vintage I mean seventies) and give them a couple of coats of jazz funk.
Tony Hatch would, I know, be very proud.
I read a review of the album recently which said you only have to take one look at the sleeve to know you want to own it, hear it & devour it.
Here is Berry's take on Are You Being Served? Bet you can't listen to it without thinking of Mrs. Slocombe's pussy at least once.
James and Janneke are getting married early on Saturday morning. It will be a very private ceremony: just the bride and groom, and their witnesses. No two people have ever been so in love.
I can't wait till I toast my Number One Son and his beautiful new bride.
Postscript - 7 October 2018
A few photos from yesterday. More to follow next Saturday when the mums and dads take them out for a champagne lunch - and toast the new arrivals into our respective families.