It's snowing. But not just any old snow. Oh no - this snow has got a name. And a pretty scary name at that. They're calling it the Beast from the East. It's a Snowmageddon. This Siberian icy blast could be the death of us. Hell, it must be serious - we're being told to wrap our letterboxes with clingfilm. Man Alive.
So while the BBC goes into meltdown and bellows out warnings telling us all to stay indoors for the next six months, wear every garment of clothing we possess and wrap ourselves in electric blankets whilst licking our radiators, my friend Sharon stuck two fingers up to the weather today.
It may well have been minus 10 degrees today, but what the hell.
The Web is awash with lists. Some might say saturated. Music websites, and blogs in particular, crave the condensing; the diluting and editing of anything and everything (and anybody) into a Top 10 - usually an artist or band's entire output boiled down to a rag tag bunch of songs that then has the word 'definitive' accredited to them. As if.
And none more so than the Beatles. To be fair they had a couple of stabs at it themselves. Once (A Collection of Beatles Oldies) while they were still kicking a ball, and two more (the Red & Blue double albums) when Macca realised that the revenue from Wings was hardly likely to keep a roof (or roofs, to be more precise) over his head. Then we had Anthology, of course, followed a number of years later by the unimaginative 1, before the joyous Love (take a bow Giles Martin) became, for many, the last word in Greatest Hits: the ultimate Beatles list, the Top 26, if you will.
But what of the Beatles solo material? Sure, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr have all been victims of record company hastily prepared compilations - individually. But nobody has put out the combined Greatest Hit compilationwith all four of them sharing centre stage. Is such an eight-legged monster even capable of walking, let alone running into a record store and jumping up onto the counter?
And, to be fair, as big a Beatles fan as I am (have you seen just how many namechecks they get around here?), even I would doubt the validity of such a piece of nonsense.
Which is precisely why I am more than prepared to commit heresy and offer up before you not a Best Of album, but a Greatest Hits EP - four songs that capture the very being of the post-Beatles recorded output. And that was my only guiding principle - it had to have just four recordings on there; not even one of each. Any four. Any.
It's at this point that it dawns on me, not for the first time, that John Lennon didn't care much for being an ex-Beatle (George even less so). But John really struggled to achieve anywhere near the PB he set himself while he was with the Fab 4. He peaked creatively in 1966 and, with the exception of a couple of White Album pearls (you know the ones I'm talking about), Lennon was pretty much a spent force. And no, Imagine is not the Holy Grail everyone thinks it is: it's crass and it's insensitive. If I ever hear it again it'll be too soon. Lennon, for me, very nearly missed the cut altogether - George was going to have two on there, but thoughts of the subsequent hate mail, and the fact that Working Class Hero probably defines Lennon, means it kicks off proceedings on Side 1, Track 1.
Next up is the biggest slice of glam ever to come out of 1972. And it had some real competition too; Bowie, Sweet, Glitter. Not to mention Bolan whose fingerprints are all over Ringo's Back off Boogaloo. A great way to round Side 1 off with.
Flip our little EP over and you'll be met by George's greatest ever song. Better than Something. Better than that one about his weeping guitar; better, even, than Taxman. When George realised, quite early on, that the Beatles wouldn't even last until the seventies (let alone forever), he began stockpiling lyrics and melodies in his personal song bank. When he came to make a withdrawal in 1971 he had a perfectly formed triple album's worth. A real dark horse, wouldn't you agree? I so very nearly chose the title track, All Things Must Pass, but then came to my senses. I'd Have You Anytime is perfect. It knocks the other three songs on this fantasy project into an old brown shoe.
Macca will be furious he's been left till last. Good. I'd love to tell him that he's not all that. I'd love to tell him that every time I hear him sing Hey Jude I want to stab myself in the eyes with knitting needles. I'd also like to tell him that how he talks about John Lennon is mean spirited and churlish. Someone once asked 'Is it me, or are the Beatles dying in the wrong order?' I knew what he meant.
So, what's it to be then? What one song written and performed by James Paul McCartney will fade out into the run-off grooves?
Damn you Macca. How the hell did you come to write something so bloody perfect as Maybe I'm Amazed? I've gotta give it to you, it's genius.
So, there you go, four musicians' (well, three and a drummer) entire solo canon reduced to less than a quarter of an hour. Let's clap it in:
It's been a very interesting week so far, and we're still only on Wednesday. My midweek bulletin board this week is threefold. I hope it doesn't come across too angry; the Post Office won't be letting me put any more notices in their window at this rate.
⚠️ M: I'm stubborn, always have been. And the older I get the more stubborn I become.
I won't reply to your email. I've already told you: I'm not coming back.
⚠️ To the nitwit trying to score a few cheap points questioning who bloggers write for. I can't speak for anyone else, but I write for me.
⚠️ I was home alone this weekend - Jenny went back to Pickering. Someone asked me if I was planning on going back anytime soon. Never.
Standing on a freezing cold platform the other night waiting for my train home, I found myself singing Pete Morton's beautiful song to myself; I'd had a drink, so can't vouch for whether I sang it in my head, or I really sang it. It could explain why nobody sat next to me in coach. I stayed awake anyway, that's the main thing. One of these nights/mornings I suspect I'll wake up in sidings in Sheffield. Or Leeds.
I know I've written about this song before, but, hey, my bat, my ball, my wicket. I've met Pete on a couple of occasions and he's one of the nicest fellas around. His songs move me (and I'd be surprised if I hadn't told him that on at least one occasion), none more so than this:
Pete Morton - Another Train
As a footnote, and after recently finding this bit of film, I may have to start a mini-series of singers who wear shirts to match their backdrop. What possessed Pete to wear a brown stripey shirt in the first place is one thing, but then to stand in front of a brown curtain for two hours...
This is for anyone who doesn't know where they're going at the moment - get on the next train. You know you want to.
Anna and Marie. Marie and Anna. Best friends. For Life. They met when they were both nine. That's gotta be 25 years in anyone's language. They looked out for each other then, and they look out for each other now. I love them both.
They told me on Friday they're going to Ibiza. Fueled by gin, and both in charge of heels higher than your average skyscraper, it could get messy. I think they may need a chaperone - my rates are very competitive.
Karen Carpenter died 35 years ago this month. Her unique vocal stylings made the Carpenters one of the biggest selling acts of the 70s. There just aren't enough zeros on your calculator to comprehend how many kajillion records they shifted when they were at their peak. But Karen couldn't understand what all the fuss was about when their fans, and critics alike, would go into raptures about her phrasing, her timing and that sense of warmth and assurance you got every time she opened her mouth. "I'm just a drummer who sings" she once famously said. Yeah, right.
But the Carpenters were never hip; never a bedroom poster band. Your mum and dad liked them, for God's sake; that's how uncool they were. But, so what? It may have taken some of us a little longer than others to realise just how bloody good they were, but I think we're all on the same page now.
It's doubtful that they ever trashed any hotel rooms whilst on tour, even less so that one day they'll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But their body of work has stood the test of time, nonetheless. Massive hits like Close to You, We've Only Just Begun and Yesterday Once More are revered; as is their interpretation of the Lennon and McCartney song book: Nowhere Man, Ticket to Ride and Help never sounded so lush.
Karen Carpenter's premature demise - she was only 32 when she lost her battle with Bulimia - has only magnified just what a unique gift she had. Hers is a tragic story interspersed with blinding moments of joy.
The Carpenters - Help!
I still can't get my head around singing drummers. It just looks so...wrong.
I went out for dinner last night with a friend of mine. At about half past eight a group of middle aged men (all sporting plaid shirts) walked in carrying flight cases: the house band, seemingly.
Man alive, they were good; how many bands do you see where the fiddle player doubles up as the trombonist? Not even Bellowhead, can I just tell you.
And I've not seen many people tackle Nick Lowe's 'What's Shakin' on the Hill and live to tell the tale.
This is for James. It's his birthday today - he'd have enjoyed it last night.
Amsterdam. Everyone's got an Amsterdam story; I'm no exception. However, this is, in all honesty, probably neither the time or the place to share it. Suffice it to say I lost two days of my life the last time I was in the Dutch capital. It was Scary Mary! In my defence, I was just a boy. Giving it all away.
But that was then. This is, well, now. And I'm currently booking a return visit. 'Is that sensible?' I hear you cry. "Can you be trusted?" Good questions both. To which I'd come back at you with "Of course it is" and "Hell, yeah." Well I would say that, wouldn't I? Let's hope my travelling companion thinks so too. More details to follow, I'm sure.
David Bowie - Amsterdam (1973 B-Side)
* Same as the old flag? Not quite - this is what it looked like pre-1975
Hands up if you know what Big Room House is. Mmm, thought so. That's the thing with pigeonholing music. So, let's suppose you own a physical copy of Animals by Dutch DJ Michael Garrix - where are you gonna file it? Answers on a postcard.
To these (ahem, mature) ears, it sounds like Popcorn's great grandson. Hot Butter, anyone? I was at school in 1972 when kids would try and do the sound effects to this early piece of electronica using nothing more than 'finger drums' to the side of their face. Forty years on and I suspect it's a similar story. However, drugs may be involved these days; allegedly.
A really good friend of mine has just put me on to the Sunset Sons. They were on the support bill recently and blew the main band (Imagine Dragons, I think) away. I love it when that happens. I can't believe how good they are. And unbelievably cool.
In 2016 (remember 2016?), they put out an album entitled Very Rarely Say Die.