Saturday, 28 December 2019

Whatever normal is

Memo

To: All Users
From: John Medd
Date: 28 December 2019

Time was against me in the run up to Christmas, that and the fact that Are We There Yet? has been experiencing some technical glitches of late; long story short, I've been struggling to: a. post new content, and b. reply to any comments left in the last week or so. Also, it would appear that some of you have been ringing my doorbell and, despite the lights being on, nobody has been coming to the front door. What can I say? I've not been ignoring you. Honestly - cross my heart and hope to die.
So, my Number One tech guy (and son) is coming over today not just to wish me a Happy Birthday, but also to take a look under the website's hood and see what the fuck's going on.

Anyway, the above preamble is really only my cack-handed way of thanking all those kind souls who took the 2019 bus to Medd Town, trudged up Medd Hill - rain or shine - and came to say hello. I  really appreciate it, and hope you all had a FAB Christmas. And I wish each and everyone of you an equally FAB New Year. Hope springs eternal.

Normal service will be resumed ASAP, I promise. Whatever normal is.


The Normal - Warm Leatherette (1978)

Monday, 23 December 2019

Fu*k it Up

It was the arse end of 1976. Disco was big. Arguably, funk was even bigger. The Sweet - best known then (and now, not a lot changes) for earlier glam anthems like Block Buster!, Ballroom Blitz and Hellraiser - were in the wilderness and looking for a new direction. Aren't we all.

Inevitably, the new direction was no more than a wrong turn down a dead end street. They soon did a u-ey, came back and stuck to what they were good at. But not before they recorded something of a cult classic. Shortly after its release it was being played in hip New York clubs. Not rock clubs; clubs with red velvet ropes, mirror balls and everything.

The Sweet - Funk it Up (1976)

Friday, 20 December 2019

Stardate 2119.354


It's that time of year when I would normally be thinking of knocking out a few Best of 2019 CD compilations and bunging 'em in Christmas cards. But as this Crimbo will be even more low key than normal and, anyway, I wouldn't know how to condense the year into 20 or so songs, and the fact that this year's card list would probably fit on the back of a second class stamp, I've gone all modern - crikey, it's a Spotify playlist! Next Christmas I'll just lock the coordinates in and teleport myself straight into your living room brandishing a card. On second thoughts...

Click on the link below and enjoy 100+ songs in the comfort of your own ears.


Monday, 16 December 2019

Kebabylon's Burning

Jim Larkin (1876-1947) statue - 1, O'Connell Street, Dublin
Not sure if I'll get around to compiling an end of year roundup this year (Johnson et al have taken the wind out of my sails somewhat, I don't mind telling you). But if I do, then, once again, RTÉ Radio 1 will surely be in the running to grab an award or two; not least for the excellent John Creedon show which goes out every weekday evening from 8pm - 10pm, regular as clockwork.

John played this beauty by Peter Moore tonight. Every town, every city has an O'Connell Street; the street where it all kicks off an a Friday and Saturday night. I absolutely love this - imagine, if you will,  ZZ Top jumping up on stage with the Pogues...

Peter Moore - Positively O'Connell Street (2008)

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Cunts are Still Running the World


Yesterday was tough; waking up and realising it hadn't all been a bad dream. I could use this platform to have a rant, vent my spleen, tell the country they've been fucked over - again. But I won't, it's not that kinda place. Anyway, you know how I'm feeling, because you're probably feeling the same way too.
At a time when good news is pretty thin on the ground, take comfort in the fact that the Greens increased their share of the vote more than any other party, and gained 200,000 more votes than the Brexit Party. Take good news wherever you can get it; in a political landscape where, I'm afraid, cunts are still running the world.

Jarvis Cocker - Cunts are Still Running the World (2006)


Wouldn't you just love this to be #1 at Christmas?

Monday, 9 December 2019

Couldn't Get it Right

There sits amongst my (many) playlists quite a few given over to cover versions. It's well documented around here that the quirkier the cover, the better. No shit, Sherlock. Bring something new to the table, don't just slavishly replicate the original; think Devo, think (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - in the words of Punch (or was it Judy), "That's the way to do it."

In 1999 when the Fun Lovin' Criminals went into full-on lounge mode and threw together a selection of their own stuff - slowed down considerably - and a couple of covers, the resulting album, Mimosa, pressed all my buttons. That said, their version of Couldn't Get it Right, perversely, barely strays from the furrow ploughed by the Climax Blues Band 20+ years earlier. But, what are rules for if not to be tossed aside and put in the garbage?

Fun Lovin' Criminals - Couldn't Get it Right (1999)

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Taylor Made


Made in the Shade was one of the Rolling Stones' first attempts at putting out a Best Of; though in all honesty it was more of a So Far - the Stones in a holding pattern; condensing Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, it drew a line under the Mick Taylor era, giving the band time to woo his replacement, Ronnie Wood. Taylor, as I've said here numerous times, was way too good for Mick and Keith. And, anyway, leaving the band probably saved his life: he wasn't as tough as Keef, yet still tried to take as many illegal substances as his indestructible employer.

The origin of the album's artwork has always ben shrouded in mystery. However, the cover of the Laid in the Shade bootleg kinda gives the game away.


The Rolling Stones - Wild Horses (1971)

Monday, 2 December 2019

In the Can


I've been chronicled. It was all very painless, I can assure you. Let me explain - over the last couple of years filmmaker Steve Oliver has been chronicling local musicians for an online series of short films he puts up on Youtube under the banner The Random Sessions. Shot in one of Nottingham's finest watering holes the format couldn't be simpler: three tunes (two originals and a cover), a couple of beers and a bit of inter-song chit chat and, hey, before you know it, Episode 89 was in the can. A big thank you to Steve - it was great fun to do.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Don't Believe a Word


When Thin Lizzy were recording their 1976 album Johnny the Fox, their head honcho Phil Lynott had been working on a new song: it was a stripped down, bluesy affair that spoke of broken hearts and romantic deceit. The tempo of the song suggested it was probably best heard at three in the morning wafting from a smokey subterranean speakeasy.
However, Brian Robertson, the band's young hotshot lead guitarist at the time, heard it and told Lynott in no uncertain terms he thought it was shite. Lynott was crushed and left the sessions, not returning till a several days later. In which time Robertson had written a new riff to it and speeded it up by a factor of 3X.

still prefer the original arrangement - featured here with Gary Moore, it's from a 1979 episode of the Whistle Test and Moore's instrument looks it's about to be read its last rites. No matter, even with the five remaining strings he gives the rest of the band* a guitar masterclass.

Gary Moore - Don't Believe a Word 


* Billed as Gary Moore and Friends, of the five musicians on stage only two of them are still the right side of the grass

Gary Moore (1952-2011)
Phil Lynott (1949-1986)
Cozy Powell** (1947-1998)
Scott Gorham (1951-)
Don Airey (1949-)

** Until today I was blissfully unaware that Cozy Powell's real name was Colin Tevor Flooks



Thursday, 28 November 2019

You Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow


There's a kid* from Scotland who is getting very much under my skin at the moment; in a good way, I hasten to add. I shan't go into the whys and wherefores as to how Gerry Cinnamon appeared on my radar, but his 2017 debut album Erratic Cinematic has been on constant rotation at Medd Towers for the last two weeks straight.
Cinnamon's lyrics, sung in his native Glaswegian, combine a toxic tenement past with hope for a better (independent?) future. All backed by his rudimentary acoustic guitar and a couple of loop pedals. Oh, and whistling. A whole heap of whistling. Not since the halcyon days of Roger Whittaker has there been so much whistling on one album. But it's OK, it works. Give it a a spin; give a little whistle.

Gerry Cinnamon - Diamonds in the Mud (2017)


* He's younger than me. He's a kid; a wain, if you will.


Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Sing it Again, Ray


It's back. Swedey McSwedeface - the series I nicked shamelessly from my good friend The Swede - makes a welcome return. And who better to kick things off than Raymond Murray. Ray is my older (and, some would say, wiser) cousin who, among many other life skills, has been known to drink a pint of Guinness in less than two gulps whilst simultaneously whistling Danny Boy. Added to which, his chart knowledge covering the period 1971 to 1975 is simply unparalleled. Quite apt then that the first album Ray bought with his own corn was released slap bang in the middle of the above mentioned 'golden era'. In your own words, Ray...


The title immediately reveals my first album purchase as a compilation. That was a tactic of mine in the cash strapped, limited pocket money era of the 1970s. Splashing out the best part of two quid needed a guaranteed return. In 1973 none of us could have imagined just how often and for how long Rod would indeed sing it again.
Mandolin Wind, Reason to Believe, and Handbags and Gladrags contribute to a magnificent Side 1, with Bernie Taupin's Country Comfort a worthwhile addition. But my generation just can't get away from Maggie May as quintessential Rod - superb lyrically and an early challenger for Song of the 70s.
Side 2 was almost obliged to be less spectacular, and so it proved. All things considered though I reckon it was £1.99 well spent.

Rod Stewart (with Ronnie Wood) - Mandolin Wind

Monday, 25 November 2019

ABQ


Albuquerque is the most populated city in New Mexico; though not the capital - that accolade belongs to Santa Fe. You probably know it as the backdrop for Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul. Or, if hot air ballooning is your thing, you'll be aware that the International Balloon Fiesta is held in ABQ every year. No? Then maybe, just maybe, if you're of a certain vintage, you might know it as the title of the best Neil Diamond song Neil Diamond neither wrote, nor sung.

Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque was written by jobbing songwriter Tony Romeo (1938-1995) who gave this slice of seventies musical chutzpah to Keith Partridge and his mother, aka David Cassidy and Shirley Jones for their monster hit TV show. Come on, get happy. That's an order.

The Partridge Family: (Point Me in the Direction of) Albuquerque - 1972

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Off the Peg


On the back of my last two posts featuring Bob James and Joe Sample, I thought it would be remiss of me not to mention Larry Carlton. Carlton was, and still is, the go to guitarist for any discerning jazz musician. Indeed, when Sample hired him for his band the Crusaders in the 70s it wouldn't be long before they were the biggest thing in jazz fusion; no small accolade when you consider the stiff competition knocking around at the time. Likewise, Bob James signed him up in the 90s when his pick-up group, Fourplay, were in the market for a new guitar maestro.

Larry Carlton has played with everyone. His CV reads like a Who's Who of musical greats - he's worked with Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jnr., Michael Jackson, Andy Williams and Dolly Parton to name but a few. He even lent his guitar sound to one of the defining American TV series of the 1980s.

In 1977, like Joe Sample, he got a call from Donald Fagen to come and play on Steely Dan's latest long-player (Carlton had previously given them a dig out on both Katy Lied and The Royal Scam). Aja would go on to become the Dan's Sergeant Pepper, or even Abbey Road, take your pick. In fact Larry liked it so much he even 'borrowed' one of its tunes for his next solo album. No prizes for guessing which one.

Room 335 came out in 1978. The original is a thing of wonder, but, then again, so is this version recorded live nearly 30 years later.

Larry Carlton (with the SWR Big Band) - Room 335 (2017)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Cornered


Regrets; I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention. Alright, here's one: I never got to see Joe Sample (see this from yesterday). Although I did catch the Jazz Crusaders live with Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder in the early 90s (I remember they were introduced on stage by George Melly), neither Sample or original Crusaders drummer Stix Hooper were part of the lineup at the time. And with Sample, Henderson and Felder now all the wrong side of the grass - any thoughts of a Crusaders reunion obviously died with them.

Sample had a varied musical life outside of the Crusaders and played with the great and the good; not least Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell - you'll find him on both Aja and The Hissing of Summer Lawns. I can think of worse albums to have on your resumé.

Today, however, I've gone for a nailed on jazz classic he put out in the mid-90s. It's textbook Sample. Fill yer boots.

Joe Sample - Hippies on a Corner (1996)




Joseph Leslie Sample (1939-2014)

Monday, 11 November 2019

Shortlisted


As lists go, it's pretty short. As lists go, it's also very niche; in fact, as lists go it probably can't even be described as a list. Let me explain. The list to which I refer is headed up "Smooth Jazz Keyboard Players I Need to See Live Before I/They Die". The 'list' used to have two names on it: Joe Sample. And Bob James. But as Joe Sample bowed out in September 2014, the list (hell, it doesn't even warrant a scrap of notepaper in my wallet) now bears but one name.
So imagine my delight when I saw that Robert McElhiney James was playing a two night residency at London's Pizza Express on December 1st & 2nd (a couple of weeks before the maestro's 80th birthday - on Christmas Day). So far so smooth. However, such is the interest in the man who's best known for this, it's SOLD OUT! Bloody lists.

I don't know what tunes he'll be playing to the Soho pizza eating fraternity next month, but if I was in the room I'd be baying for these two, that much I do know.

Bob James - Touchdown (1978)


Bob James - Take Me There (1999)



Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Big Boys Don't Cry

"Special"
I can honestly say I've never been billed as a special guest before. Ever. But Special Guest is, seemingly, what I am for this upcoming shindig on Sunday. I think a greatest hits set is called for; so that would be the one about the woman with the dogs, and the one I nicked off Neil Young. I might even do my version (vershion) of I'm Not in Love. There never were such times.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Someone to Hear Your Prayers

Jesus - this time it's personal
Sex. And religion. A heady mix; this year marks the 30th anniversary of Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode's crossover hit single released at the arse end of the 1980s. Since then it's been covered by all and sundry, not least Johnny Cash and Marilyn Manson.
I love the way the song carries itself. It's got a groove that lends itself to any genre - hence Cash and Manson queuing up to record it. However, my Personal Jesus is the one covered a bunch of lads from south Yorkshire who, back in the 70s, had cut their teeth on Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, and the Faces. They eye up the dots and proceed to give it a right seeing to.

Def Leppard - Personal Jesus (2018)

Sunday, 27 October 2019

I Believe


"I believe in seeds; I believe in water; I believe in ideas" 

So said Mick Jones in 'A National Anthem' - a song he and Tony James wrote together for their (truly wonderful) band Carbon Silicon who were knocking around just after the turn of the millennium. Some bright spark, it may have been Alan McGee, said, when trying to describe them: "Imagine the Rolling Stones jamming with a laptop." He wasn't far wrong. This version, which leans heavily on Marvin Gaye's Heard it Thru the Grapevine, is, I think, far superior to the heavily sanitised recording that appeared much later on their 2007 release The Last Post (by which time, possibly fearing a plagiarism lawsuit, they'd dropped the Grapevine motif).

01 A National Anthem.mp301 A National Anthem.mp3
pixeldrain.com/u/fKT6vfZ4

Saturday, 26 October 2019

You're Joking


I so need to see this film. Not least because Rock & Roll Part 2 is, allegedly, the glue that binds the movie together. I may, of course, be exaggerating, but from the reviews I've read (and the clip/trailer I've seen - below) it would lead me to believe that this defining glam anthem penned by Mike Leander and Paul Gadd (Gary G**tter) in 1972 is, again, finding a new audience. I've name-checked the song (and the singer too, for that matter) here before: long story short, we need to separate the art from the artist. People get prissy about the Leader (and rightly so), but banning his music from being played on national radio isn't the way forward. If we continue down that road then it's only a matter of time before Led Zeppelin suffer a similar fate; read Hammer of the Gods if you want a flavour of just how young Jimmy Page liked his groupies. 

Joker - 2019

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Full Speed Ahead


Gordon Tracy; pilot of T4 (2043-)
Despite assurances from many Beatles scholars to the contrary, I can't shake the notion that - even if only in a subliminal way - the idea for Yellow Submarine came from Thunderbirds. Thunderbird 4 - first seen on UK television screens* in 1964 - is yellow, and is a submarine. Step forward Gerry Anderson and take your rightful place in Beatles history. 

However, since Anderson passed away in 2012, it will probably be simpler for Macca to 'come out' and be ingratiated into the extended Tracy family. Full speed ahead.





* I am aware that TV in this country at the time was black and white, but Thunderbird merchandising, though in its infancy, (comics, toys etc.) was still a thing.


Friday, 18 October 2019

The Dude Abides

Library photo; I'm not Pete bloody Townshend
I tweeted last week that my guitar was in dock. I'd suffered a six string malfunction just prior to playing a terrific local Open Mic session at the top of my road. I shan't bore you with the details, suffice it to say that with the help of three people, normal service has been resumed.

Erica - for lending me her guitar that night.
Ben - my good friend at the Crafty Teller for giving me the phone number of...
Dicky Fontaine - guitar doctor extraordinaire; a shining light in these times of doom & despair; a Dude.

Thank you all. Especially Dicky. Have a great tour, man.


Dicky Fontaine, Nottingham 2019

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Alright


The Late Late Show comes out of Dublin every Friday night and is as Irish as, I don't know, leprechauns. The Blarney Stone. Father Ted. Tell you what, roll all three of those into one, put it into an RTÉ television studio and that's the Late Late (as it's known over there). It's been running since 1961 and in that time has only had five presenters, including the saint like Gay Byrne and the irrepressible Gerry Ryan.

D. Cullen on the other hand, whilst very much Irish, is still only a gossoon; he's barely old enough to remember the Millennium. But that didn't stop him playing his new single on the show earlier this month; or bringing a choir with him. Fair play. I think if I was debuting my new single on Ireland's Number 1 chat show, I'd bring along a choir. And a tasty horn section. And a few friends too, what the hell.

So, I don't know what it is - whether it's his voice, the piano, the tempo, or even the choir but I definitely get the feeling John Lennon would approve. I certainly do - it's a shoo in for my end of year Best Of, to be sure.

D. Cullen - Alright (2019)

Friday, 11 October 2019

That much I do remember


I can go through vast swathes of my record collection, especially singles, and tell you exactly where and when I first heard them; a time and a place. Like a lot of other memories, some of them are easier to retrieve than others. When I look at the back issues of this blog I think I allude to these memories quite a bit - even if I don't give precise longitude and attitude; or the runners and riders. And anyway, memories can be unreliable. A bit like this blog, really. Like I've said before, I write it for me essentially. That's why it's my version of what's going on. I have no timetable to work to, no regular features and no minimum word count. My fact count though is generally above average.

In the main, most people who knock on my front door are kind of lost; they're usually looking for someone (or something) else. But they're always polite and never leave until they've had a cup of tea and a biscuit, and a bit of a nose around. They sometimes say nice things in the visitors book before I send them on their way with some lame directions, and everyone's a winner. Teamwork makes the dream work, I think is the current parlance.

Sorry, where was I? Songs and memories, I remember. I love this song btw. A lot. That much I do remember.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Into My Arms (1997)

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Steppin' Out


It's hard to think of your parents as young - having a life before you arrived. When everything stretched out before them; when everything was possible. I'm paraphrasing Ben Watt - please read his account of his parents' lives before he arrived. You'll be glad you did. In the meantime, here's a photo of my mum and dad (before I came along) when they were on the (b)rink... 


Joe Jackson - Steppin' Out (1982)

Saturday, 5 October 2019

And in the End

It was the last album the Beatles recorded together, though not the last album they released (that would be Let it Be). And it's our next Sunday Vinyl Session. I went to see Mark Lewisohn's mesmerising talk last Sunday, so Abbey Road is sitting at the front of my cerebral cortex; where it's been for the last 50 years, pretty much.



George & Paul (vocals only) - Something (1969)

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Thomas Earl Petty


I don't normally mark anniversaries around here, of the living or the dead, but two years ago today Tom Petty closed his umbrella for the last time. He was one of the few acts who I always wanted to catch live but for one reason or another the planets never aligned; though looking at his concert archive Petty's appearances on this side of the Atlantic were pretty few and far between. His first gig in England, June 1977, was opening for fellow American Nils Lofgren at Manchester Free Trade Hall. His last, July 2017, saw him headlining London's Hyde Park. A career arc, if ever there was one, bookended by two shows almost exactly 40 years apart.


Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - I Need to Know (1978)


Friday, 27 September 2019

Better than Tommy?


You'll have noticed in the last week or so that Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have announced plans to take their mobility scooters back on the road one more (last?) time. Although it's 40 years since their drummer died and nearly 20 since they were left bassless, it will still say The Who on the tickets, and the new album too. Will Keith Moon and John Entwistle be looking on wistfully? Who knows.

The Who: signing off?
I can't comment on the the new album - 'Who' isn't out yet - but I have heard the single Ball & Chain and, you know what, it's really rather good. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing more than the Who by numbers, if you'll excuse a namecheck within a namecheck, but that doesn't mean it's not without merit. Daltrey's voice is just about holding up (unlike, say, his fellow septuagenarian mate Paul McCartney) and Townshend's near deafness is clearly not an issue for him in the studio.

But don't take my word for it, listen for yerself.

The Who - Ball & Chain - 2019

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Tommy this and Tommy that


I may have a thing about Led Zeppelin tribute bands; I said as much here, and here. And, after my recent to the west coast of Scotland, I could soon be hurtling down a similar rabbit hole with Clash copycats.

It comes on the back of me seeing the above flyer in a cracking little music boozer in Dumfries - imagine a low rent O2 crossed with the Clansman and you've got the picture. And what a picture. The Tommy Guns have utilised that iconic photo of Don Letts squaring up to the rozzers during the Notting Hill Carnival Riots of 1976 to great effect.

Like Zeppelin, names for Clash tribute bands almost fall out of the sky: Radio Clash; Police & Thieves; the White Riots; London Calling; Complete Control; They Shoot Pigeons Don't They; Combat Rock; Burning London; the list goes on.

As an aside, I used to work alongside a fella called Tommy Dunne. And if you listen carefully to this masterpiece by the New Piccadillys* you'll hear not only Complete Control, but also a final Tommy Gun flourish.

The New Piccadillys - Complete Control (2019)


* A huge thank you to The Swede for pointing me in the direction of this slice of brilliantness (seeing Joe and Mick behind the glass in Supermarionation is, as TS said, genius).

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Badly Drawn Boz


I'm driving north of the border tomorrow; the Scots were still part of the Union last time I looked - so no border checks. But that could all change. What, you don't believe me?

But I digress. Not only do I love it up there, but I love the journey too; it's a helluva way, but the driving doesn't bother me. I've got loads of podcasts and playlists* all teed up so the miles will positively fly by. A spot of lunch en route and the Gretna signs will be looming large before you know it. Then chuck a left onto the A75, and remember to apply the brakes just before the Irish Sea: "You have arrived at your destination, the noo."

* Boz Scaggs is sure to make an appearance tomorrow. Although the above (badly drawn) artwork is a depiction of his 1977 Silk Degrees album, I've been a huge fan of a record Scaggs put out nearly a quarter  of a century later: Dig, from 2001, is peerless. It's got soul, it's got passion and it's chock-a-block full of great tunes. He never bettered it; that's for sure. So, somewhere between, I'm guessing, Keele Services and Shap there may well be a Boz hour. Or two.

Boz Scaggs - Desire (2001)

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Toots

Toots (1922-2016)
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans - known simply as Toots Thielemans - was a musician's musician. A consummate composer and multi-instrumentalist - guitar, harmonica, and whistling (yes, whistling) - Belgian born Thielemans came up through the ranks as a sideman to the likes of Benny Goodman and George Shering in the late '40s; he would later front combos with many A-List jazzers including Oscar Peterson, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Pat Metheny. But he was so much more than a jazz man: ever wondered who played the harp solo in Midnight Cowboy? Yep, Toots. The Sesame Street theme? Ditto. Talk about an eclectic resumé.

But today I want to play you something he wrote and recorded in 1957. It's a tune called Soul Station and is taken from his album Man Bites Harmonica. It predates English R&B by half a decade or more, but I'm guessing at least one future Rolling Stone would have been listening to this. Spot the intro.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Once Upon a Time

Starsky & Hutch - the early years
I went to the pictures on Friday. I saw Quentin Tarantino's latest, his 9th apparently, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Whilst it may not be his best offering (I know what mine is, what's yours?), at 161 minutes it must be one of his longest. Of course size isn't everything, but I was completely immersed in Tarantino's portrayal of 1969 California from the get go and never looked at my watch once.


Whilst my cinematic knowledge may not be encyclopaedic, I think I can say with some level of certainty that this is the first time Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have been paired together on the big screen. And what a double act. The insecurity of DiCaprio's Rick Dalton, a struggling Hollywood actor, against his more bullish stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), is played out superbly.
When I heard it was a comedy drama that touched on the Sharon Tate story of 50 years ago I worried where this film may be headed. I needn't have worried. I won't give anyrging away here, but the version of events you see in Once Upon a Time is purely stand alone; as are the 'cameos' of other non fictional characters in this work of semi-fiction. The fight scene, for instance, with Bruce Lee on the lot is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time - I think the Lee estate would be more up in arms than Tate's, that's for sure.
As for the soundtrack, it's precisely what a Tarantino soundtrack should be. It fits like a hand in glove. And whilst the selection appear effortless, random even, you just know it was sewn together with a surgeon like precision. Where else would you find Deep Purple segueing into Neil Diamond?

Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show (1969)


The ending, then, takes us somewhere completely different to that seemingly telegraphed earlier in the movie (very much in keeping with Tarantino's skill of misdirection) and is, er, executed quite brilliantly. It really is extraordinary what some people keep in their shed. 8/10

Sunday, 1 September 2019

This is What Democracy Looks Like


Mine is not a political blog, overtly or otherwise; I'd much rather be talking about biscuits. Or bass players. Even brass bands. Not Brexit, that's for sure. That said, it's not difficult to ascertain which side of the divide Are We There Yet? resides. But I can't let the events of yesterday go unrecorded. The recent actions of our new government, this far right Nationalist Party under its de facto leader Dominic Cummings (Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a mere puppet, albeit a vey dangerous puppet) meant that yesterday, I went on a march. Along with hundreds of thousands of like minded citizens up and down the  country, I stood shoulder to shoulder and demonstrated that what is currently happening in this country and its imminent crash out of Europe will not be carried out in my name.

I know that a lot of you feel the same. If you do, please do something (I'm sure some of you already are): sign a petition, write to your MP, attend a rally, protest, march. Doing nothing is not an option. This chilling quote (right) is from a dystopian future - A Handmaid's Tale - but could so easily have been written about these times. Our times. Please do everything you can to ensure we don't go down without a fight. To say that next week is probably the most important week in peacetime Britain is not hyperbole. Make yourself heard. It might be your last chance.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Pink sedan denied


I'm walking round in a daze today. How did I get it so wrong? I first heard Living Loving Maid (the one on Led Zep 2 that immediately follows Heartbreaker) over 40 years ago, and I've been convinced all this time (I would've put the house on it, really I would) that the opening line was:

'With a purple umbrella and a pink sedan'


I sing it in the shower and everything. What an idiot; I blame low quality Boots C90 cassettes. And teenage cerumen. Bloody 'fifty cent hat'.

Led Zeppelin - Living Loving Maid (1969)

Monday, 26 August 2019

When one door closes


James was here this weekend. Not for the first time we spoke about La Cabina (The Telephone Box): probably the scariest short film ever made. Reading up about it many years later it was an anti-Franco film that through its stark imagery (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) portrayed a Spain where, under his brutal dictatorship, men in suits were often taken away in full view. Franco died in 1975; La Cabina was made three years earlier.

As a postscript to our discussions this weekend, I came across this today: it's a clever parody used by Retevision - a Spanish telephone company - for a recent TV advert, and starring the same actor.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Staring at the Sun


Ciáran McFeely, aka Simple Kid, is from Ireland; you know, that land mass 70 miles west of Holyhead. The island we're just about to throw under the bus. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, McFeely is a Cork lad and his lo-fi musical stylings remind me very much of Beck (a resident of Los Angeles, roughly 5,000 miles west of Cork) and, let's face it, that's no bad thing.

I mention this for the simple reason that despite being old enough to know better I still make playlists; I'm picking James and Janneke up from the station on Saturday and I thought I'd put a few tunes in the car. It's gonna be 27 degrees this weekend, so I can't think of anything more apt.

Simple Kid - Staring at the Sun (2003)

Sunday, 18 August 2019

No One Knows Nothing Anymore


Thursday night's Open Mic was very relaxed; a pre-season friendly for next Sunday, if you like, with just the right amount of beards in the room.
I've got my setlist pretty much worked out: 10 songs - with a bit of chit-chat in between - probably 40 minutes all in all. Perfect; never outstay your welcome.
I say all worked out; I've just decided to drop this one in: Billy Bragg's 'No one Knows Nothing' from his 2013 Tooth and Nail album. Its themes really resonate and, I think, sum up where we're all at in this crazy fucked up maelstrom we call 2019. Just got to work out where in the running order to put it.

Billy Bragg - No One Know Nothing (2013) - with pedal steel


Without 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Skegness Ashtray

Bus* incoming!
There's not many better feelings than putting on a jacket you've not worn in a while and finding a tenner in one of the pockets. Though I do have one: discovering a new Beatles photograph I've not seen before. Here's one such image was made public for the first time only a few days ago. It's from the Abbey Road photoshoot which, unless you've just been beamed up from another planet (or, indeed, the set of 'Yesterday') is probably the most iconic album sleeve ever - certainly the most recreated and copied. Just in case you don't know what the VW Beetle was doing there, or who the guy next to the police van was, you could do a lot worse than taking a look at the most exhaustive back story about that famous day in August 1969 when photographer Ian Macmillan took his memorable snaps.

Back to this new photograph. It was taken by Linda McCartney, who must have been standing practically next to Macmillan as he looked down from atop his stepladders. Apparently no photo exists of either Macmillan from his unique vantage point or, indeed, the police officer who was on hand to stop the traffic whilst the Fabs traversed the crossing. Imagine if such an image was to turn up; an elderly St. John's Wood resident passes and during a house clearance they stumble upon a shoebox with a load of Kodak slides in it. It would surely make the Holy Grail look like a Skegness ashtray.

* I wonder who was driving that bus?

Monday, 12 August 2019

That's the way to do it


In 1974 Bob Dylan was probably at the peak of his powers. From obscure Greenwich Village folk troubadour to global icon, all within 10 years, the man was on fire.
For his 15th studio album he went into the studio in the September with 10 songs and, two days later, he and the band had recorded the lot. Job done. WOAAH! Not so quick Mr. Zimmerman. Can you go back and tidy a few of them up? I'm sure you've got a better take in you.
So between Christmas and New Year he went back and re-recorded five of the tunes. Tangled Up in Blue being one of them. Four weeks later, in January 1975, it and the rest of the album - Blood on the Tracks - was in record stores and flying off the shelves. In the words of Mr. Punch: "That's the way to do it."


Bob Dylan - Tangled Up in Blue (1975)

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

How are you spelling that?

In what may prove to be a very short lived series, I'm looking at bands who changed the spelling of their name; not their name (that'd be like shooting fish in a barrel), but the spelling of same.

First up we have a band from London who, in the early 80s, began to get quite a following in the US - MTV and all that. The only snag being, the Americans couldn't pronounce their bloody name. They were known at that time as Huang Chung. It means yellow bell in Chinese 黃鐘 but, much to the band's chagrin, FM radio jocks were calling them Hung Chung.

In the end their record label, Geffen, made the change for them and, overnight, they became all phonetically correct - Wang Chung. As in, everybody Wang Chung tonight. I know, makes no sense at all. But then it was a time when folks would rather jack, than Fleetwood Mac. Go figure.

Wang Chung, would you believe, are still trading the boards. Earlier this year they joined forces with the Prague Philharmonic and gave a few of their old hits an orchestral shot in the arm. This was always one of my Walkman faves.

Wang Chung - Dance Hall Days (2019)

Monday, 5 August 2019

Crying Out

My knowledge of Wigan is patchy, sparse even; the Northern Soul scene in the mid-seventies (Wigan Casino, Wigan Pier), rugby league and, er, that's it really.
However, I've just stumbled upon a bunch of young lads from there calling themselves the Lathums. Jangly guitars and Smiths influences abound, but that's not a bad thing, right? 

Lets put it this way, I'm going to blag a copy of their album and see if I can't pull in one of their gigs - they look like they're gaining a bit of traction, so it'd be nice to see them in an intimate venue before they get too big for their boots.


The Lathums - Crying Out (2019)

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Just Who is the 5 O'Clock Hero?


Once again I'm looking forward to combining two of my favourite pastimes - music and beer: I've been added to the bill at Nottingham's Bar 71 on Sunday 25 August. It's a Bank Holiday, so the atmosphere should be quite special. 

Bar 71 is a thriving community micro-pub a mile or so from the city centre (and conveniently a mere hop, skip & a jump from where I live). The incomparable Paul Carbuncle is compering the event and headlining too.

I think I'm on at 5pm. Promises to be a great day.