Saturday 30 June 2018

London Pie

Timing is everything - boiling an egg, the 100 metre dash, buying newly released vinyl; in 1977 and most of 1978, despite being a huge Beatles fan, there was no way I'd be seen dead in a record shop asking for the new Wings album. They were tribal times: the only albums (and singles) acquired* during those heady days of punk and the subsequent new wave (and Wings were obviously as old wave as you could possibly get) were by the likes of the Buzzcocks or the Clash, 999 and the Damned: turns who would regularly feature between the covers of Sounds and/or the New Musical Express, basically. Wings were more Melody Maker, or Record Mirror.

Of course when the dust settled, and the battle lines become less blurry, it was safe to not only bring your old Emerson Lake and Palmer albums out of hiding, but you could once again walk into record emporiums, politely ask for the new, say, UFO album (other second division English rock bands are available) and not be ridiculed by the punk police.

Yet still I never went back and bought the album Macca and Wings recorded in '77 and put out the following year: London Town was released hot on the heels of Mull of Kintyre which had occupied the number one slot seemingly forever (and alienated a lot of Macca fans to boot). In fact, he and the missus, together with Denny Laine, had recorded it in the same sessions but (thankfully?) never put it on the album.

But I digress; all this preamble comes on the back of a Tweet that caught my eye earlier in the week from Eoghan Lyng at the magnificent We are Cult, who had the audacity to claim that London Town was in his Top 5 Macca post Beatles albums. Surely not I thought. Better than Flaming Pie (which didn't feature) I fired back? Oh yes, came the the reply: the exchange went something like this:

So I said to myself I'd live with a copy of London Town for a week and see how I got on; of course, in that short time, it couldn't possibly compete with an album I'd emotionally invested so heavily in over the years: Flaming Pie, for me, was Macca's last hurrah - the last time he was truly relevant. In 1997 he came out with a set of songs that seemed to chime with the very times it was released. 

But in the week that Macca came back to Liverpool (here's his visit condensed into 20 minutes) and, for once, appearing quite humble to be back in his hometown, I wasn't in the mood for a pointless slanging match. You know what, both albums stand up just fine in 2018 and Macca should be proud of both sets of work, bookended, funnily enough, by the birth of his son James and, twenty years on, the same young lad's first recorded guitar solo.

So in the end, I say to Eoghan and all at We are Cult, London Town is the perfect companion piece to Flaming Pie. And, here, to prove same I give you the two standout songs - one from each. The title  track from London Town, here, in the form of a rough and ready promo film of Mr. & Mrs. McCartney and Denny Laine cruising down the Thames eating a bag of chips.

And here's Heaven on a Sunday from Flaming Pie, twenty one years later, with James providing *that* solo.

I really must dig out the notebook I kept at the time that details all record shop purchases from the arse end of 1974 to, I think, mid 1979. And I can assure you that from 1st. January 1977 till the day the Pistols imploded, all my purchases were coated in a fine film of gob.

Saturday 23 June 2018

Madness Frontman

Suggs in the City
The death of Suggs' cat on his fiftieth birthday (Suggs, not the cat) surprisingly became something of a turning point for the man who will be forever introduced by the prefix Madness Frontman.  

On that fateful day (for the cat), back in January 2011, Suggs was in the bath (I'm tempted to say Suggs in Suds, but I think I'll pass on that one), when the moggy fell off a collapsed bathroom shelf (a shelf put up by the man in the bath, it transpires). 'There was an almighty crash, broken glass everywhere, and my cat was dead. I was 50, my two daughters had recently left home and now this. I really felt like God hated me.' As you can tell, it knocked him sideways.

That day he started to write about all the events leading up to the moment the dodgy shelf parted company with the wall. In no time at all the Madness Frontman (see, even I'm doing it) had written an autobiographical stage show he could take out on the road and perform. 'My Life Story': a form of therapy? Having seen the show myself, yes, I think it was.  Funny and moving in equal parts (well, maybe 60/40), it received rave reviews. Not least by me - I told him as much when I met him earlier this year.

And now Julien Temple film has made it into a film. Of course he has - it's what he does. Here's the trailer.

This is for Alyson: she asked me to write something about Madness Frontman Suggs (it's catching). I absolutely love this version of My Girl. I hope she does too.

Thursday 21 June 2018


They call it shameless self publicity; those Mini Cards that Moo are so good at come in really useful. I use them as tags for Medd's Bread. I slip them into birthday cards and CDs. I put them on pub notice boards. I slide them into new paperbacks at Waterstones. I even leave them on trains.

They cost peanuts and you can put as many designs and photos on them as you like. The ones you see here have that picture of my mother in London, the interior of a rather exclusive private members club in Soho, and the new Are We There Yet? mast head - designed by James. I know, I'm shameless.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Back in the Saddle

Every now and again I post something that needs no preamble.

This is one of those times. 

Friday 15 June 2018


Witness protection
Things you think only happen in the movies:

Pack a bag

Drive to the airport

Casually walk up to the desk and ask: "What's the next flight out of here?"

The Motors: Airport (1977)

Sunday 10 June 2018

"What were the skies like?"

James screen-grabbed part of their route for me 
That's neat
James and Janni are currently on their American roadtrip pulling in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California, rounding off in Los Angeles: living the dream. Photos are appearing regularly on my phone (RIP postcards) with mini updates. The old me would, I know, have had pins on a map in the kitchen, and everything; I so look forward to receiving these miniature travelogues every day or two.

To give you a flavour - the photo on the right came thru with the caption 'Just driven this badboy from Albuquerque to Santa Fe!'
The one on the left - 'What were the skies like when you were young?*' We're at a really high altitude here so all the skies seem much wider, and I really got out of breath going or a swim earlier!

* Taken from the Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds

Saturday 9 June 2018

He Ain't Heavy

Name above the door
You know the feeling: you get off the train, walk out of the station and then realise you haven't got a bloody clue where the venue is. 'Excuse me mate, you from Sheffield?' Oh God, thinks the hapless passer by, not another flaming tourist. 'Easiest way to get to the 02?' Fucking hell, that's an easy one, (I can tell) he's thinking. 'It's that big white box building up there', he said, pointing to the big white box building. 'See it?' I did: smashed it. 

Catching a late afternoon train out of Nottingham means there's plenty of time to find the venue (tick), find pub(s) near venue - Spoons and Head of Steam (tick and tick) - have a couple and still get there in good time (tick). No repeat of Amsterdam.

Thomas Walsh is Pugwash
The last time I saw Pugwash was in Islington, north London. I was with my good friends Steve and Mondo and we'd been drinking in Holborn most of the afternoon. I do remember meeting Mark Ellen for the first time and the delightful Kate Mossman. My memories of the gig, however, are patchy, though I do seem to recall the guitarist from XTC joining them on stage at one point.

Anyway, that was back in 2010 and I did say to Mondo the next day how I'd love to see them again when I was a little less, ahem, relaxed.

So when I saw that Pugwash were opening for Nick Heyward on his latest trek around the country I snaffled a pair of tickets faster than the devil on horseback.

When Thomas Walsh walked onto the tiny stage he all but filled it - I wrote a while back that Thomas Walsh is bigger than the Beatles. After a few words of introduction in his broad Dubln brogue he launched straight into Perfect Summer from the shimmering Siverlake album recorded earlier this year in LA. His songs are perfectly formed three minute pop nuggets made to be heard by the whole world: one day they will be, but just for tonight, Sheffield were given their very own private performance. Highlights too many to mention, but Mason on the Boundary (from Duckworth Lewis) and Nice to be Nice meant that I could have gone home a happy man, even if I hadn't have stuck around for the night's star turn.  

Nick Heyward is my brother**
It's not hard to see why Nick Heyward asked Pugwash to go on tour with him. They compliment each other perfectly. And if they're not already writing together then they should be.

Heyward's pedigree meant that he could come out of the traps with two Top Ten Hits (Love Plus One/Take That Situation) and still have plenty of gas left in the tank. Complete with a rather fetching smoking jacket, and an equally loud five piece band (six if you count the man himself), he treated the crowd (though gathering may be a more accurate term) to a masterclass in how to string together a bunch of hits (and a few near misses too), tie them up in a bow and deliver each and every one like his life depended on it.

Standout songs*? If I had to trade one for my grandmother it would be Kite. And He Doesn't Love You Like I do; OK, both grandmothers then.

* Nick has been dropping the Beatles' Dr. Robert into his set for as long as I can remember, and last night was no exception. Here he is in 1993 performing it on Danny Baker's late night Saturday TV show with the Railtown Bottlers, Danny's house band (look out for a very young Mark Kermode on standup bass).

Nick Heyward - Dr. Robert

**Interestingly a woman from Middlesborough who I was chit-chatting to down the front said I looked like Nick Heyward's brother.

In other news, Nick said that his daughter (who resides in Shefield, apparently) was in the audience. So, techNickally, that would make her my niece then?

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Another early bath*

The blues are still blue
Two iconic photographs appeared on my Twitter feed today. The first is a timely reminder that we're only a couple of weeks away from the World Cup kicking off in the former USSR. England, as per usual, haven't got the slightest chance of getting anywhere near the finals; unlike in 1970 when Alf Ramsey took his squad to Mexico as defending champions - 1966 and all that. And though we came close, we weren't close enough. But I just love this photo - everything, the sky, the lads' tracksuits, even the curtains on the coach, is a shimmering blue. With the exception of Alan Ball's red shirt; there's always one.

The green green grass
Exhibit B is that rare thing - a bunch of thugs looking almost wistful. Leeds Utd were, for much of the seventies, known as Dirty Leeds. They would knock seven bells out any opposition they played on a Saturday afternoon. Bar none. Yet, for five minutes on the training ground they quite literally stood like statues long enough for a team photo like no other. And, just for that literal snapshot in time, they looked like butter wouldn't melt. Who needs Photoshop?

Miles Davis - Blue in Green

* In case you're wondering, here's the original early bath

Sunday 3 June 2018

Surprise Me!

We all like surprises; don't we? Isn't that what gets us out of bed each and every morning - the prospect of a new day and all that comes with it, everything from the planned and expected to those happenstance events that bring the most totally unexpected, and sometimes, exciting moments? It's the not knowing. If we did know what was round the corner then life would be that little bit duller, that little bit more mundane. I'm a bit sad, I know, but I won't even look at Nick Heyward's set list that somebody liberated from the stage in Birmingham the other night - I'm seeing him this Friday and don't want to know what he's gonna start and end with, or even play for an encore; of course I've got a bloody good idea, but you know what I mean?

Radio presenters who herald at the top of the show what they'll be playing over the next two hours. Why? The joy of listening to the live radio, surely, is, again, not knowing what's coming next. And don't get me started on movie trailers (aka plot spoilers) - especially grating when you'll be watching the film only days later.

As they used to say on the Saturday night news, just before Match of the Day came on: "If you don't want to know the scores, look away now."

Friday 1 June 2018

Thank you for the days

A year ago I was heading in the right direction

Keeping it real in NG5
One year ago, to the day, I turned a corner: quite a few corners actually. 12 months ago, on what was a beautiful sunny morning (an omen if ever there was one), the removal van transported all my worldly goods and chattels down the country and deposited them back in civilisation.

So, an anniversary. Though no song or dance required; well, I may have to raise a glass or two this evening and toast NG5 (my postcode of choice) - just to be sociable, you understand.

I say no song; scratch that. Today's selection is a peach. Try as he might, Ray Davies can do no wrong in my book. His songs will continue to be sung as long as humans occupy planet Earth. And beyond, probably. Of that I am convinced.

'Days' was released as a single 50 years ago this month. Can you believe it? Pinch yourself. It's what I've been doing the last 365 days.

The Kinks - Days (1968)


Postscript, 2 June '18

Oh my word, I've just found this - Ray Davies with the Crouch End Choir (audio only). I want it to be played at my funeral.