Thursday 28 March 2019

F*cking Noddy?

Anyone who remembers Chris Morris' quite brilliant Blue Jam that went out on Radio 1(1997-99) in the wee small hours will, I guess, in their minds, still link the dark downbeat comedy sketches with the equally downbeat ambient grooves that in the late 90s made for such perfect post-party bedfellows.

If you listened to this at three in the morning coming down from whatever sort of night you were coming down from then it all made perfect sense; not that it doesn't now. In fact it probably chimes more now than it ever did. Fucking Noddy?

Saturday 23 March 2019

Black Sky

"Can we make the sky black? Like Justin did."
God bless Twitter; yes, like any branch of social media, it's got its fair share of nut jobs and knuckle draggers. But no more than you'll find on your average high street or indeed Clapham omnibus. And although to the untrained eye it may appear to be full of nothing but Brexit, and kitten videos (and, to be fair, it's hard to remember a time when it wasn't), you'll come across nuggets like this:
Hands up if you knew that Justin Hayward's promo video for his 1978 single Forever Autumn was the prototype for Bowie's Ashes to Ashes. My hand would have remained firmly down at the back of the class. Whilst we're on the subject of Hayward, Pete Paphides played an extract from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds on his Soho Radio show this week. It was a particularly gloomy passage - that's H. G. Wells for you - and afterwards Paphides came out with a simple solution for making this particular concept album a little less miserable: instead of Richard Burton doing the narration, they should've given the gig to Ronnie Corbett. How wonderful would that have been?

David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes (1980)

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Hunky Dory

Of all the projects I've set up, and being associated with, in recent years, I think the one currently in the pipeline is the one I'm most excited about. Our new Sunday Vinyl Session we've got kicking off next month - listening to albums in full - is going to be a zinger. And we're starting with an absolute nailed on classic from 1971: David Bowie's Hunky Dory.

We're meeting at the Running Horse, one of the city's most celebrated music boozers. The format, such that it is, runs on rails - a bit of chit-chat at the beginning introducing the platter de jour and putting it in context, and then straight into Side 1. A comfort break, refills at the bar, a bit more chatter about the artist and then Side 2. Closely followed by more beer, and maybe a few associated singles/ B sides, and everyone chipping in with stories and or ideas for next time. And with it being a Sunday afternoon, it'll still be light by the time we're all wrapped up. What's not to like?

The fun begins on Sunday 14th. April. See you there...

With thanks to:

Rich - his idea, I'm just riding shotgun.

James and Janneke - for the beautiful artwork.

Simon - for help and support: he started all this malarkey in Glossop five years ago.

Matt - for the RTs - check out his club Off the Record in Birmingham.

And last, but not least, Rob. Landlord at The Runner. And fellow music nut.

Monday 18 March 2019

Sunday Girl

Beggars of Life, the 1928 silent classic starring the absolutely gorgeous Louise Brooks, was showing yesterday afternoon in town. I say silent; the Dodge Brothers, Mark Kermode's pick-up band, provided the soundtrack. Live!

And with the brilliant Neil Brand tinkling the ivories. I know - the perfect way to idle away a couple of hours on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon.

In case you're wondering what it sounded like, here's a taster:

Louise Brooks (1906-1985)

Saturday 16 March 2019

Part Time Millionaire

Driving Aquaplaning back from Manchester this evening, the rain was coming down sideways - as it had  been since about 9 o'clock this morning. It truly was like the End of Days.

Craig Charles agreed to ride shotgun. He's the perfect passenger - playing as he did some spectacularly good choons. Like this:

Flevans  - Invisisble (feat. Laura Vane) - 2019

It's from his new album Part Time Millionaire. I think it comes out next week. I want a copy. Now. It will be my Album of 2019; you just see if it isn't.

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Life after After Life

The television set that nestles in the corner of my living room - all 32''/34"/36" of it (a bit like my waist, I have no idea of its actual size) - is really nothing more than a glorified monitor (do we still call screens monitors, even?). All I know is that it's not hooked up to an aerial or dish or indeed any other other bit of sundry metalwork fixed to the side of the house.

In that respect it's been a long time since Reginald Bosanquet and News at Ten has been seen on my telly. These days I get my news feed on Twitter and, maybe, 20 minutes of Radio 4's Today programme in the morning. Evening wise I've had to knock PM on the head: Eddie Mair left behind a perfectly reliable news vehicle (one mostly careful owner) before giving the keys to Evan Davis. And already he's wrapped it round more lamp posts and driven into more walls than can be possibly good for listening figures.

But back to the box. So we've established I don't do normal telly. But I do do Netflix. I know, who doesn't? This blog is full of nods and winks to dozens and dozens of binge watch classics.

And here's another one. After Life written by and starring Ricky Gervias. If you've not seen it, here's the trailer:

I absolutely loved it. On more than one occasion I found I had something in my eye. Gervais has, it seems, come of age. It had me enthralled from start to finish. The writing, the cast, the jokes (yes, despite its dark leanings it's got some great gags), the soundtrack and a proliferation of the word cunt. It's got everything. Including a stellar performance from Penelope Wilton, despite her never moving from a graveside bench throughout - less being definitely more.

Of course I won't give anything away here, only that you'll find Cat Stevens in there. Perfect. Please tell me you'll watch it.

Cat Stevens - Lilywhite (1970)

Monday 11 March 2019

How Many?

It's a Japanese import, don't you know
One Sunday afternoon a few years ago while I was living far, far away, the next door neighbours came round for a drink. Their little girl, Autumn, who was probably seven or eight at the time, loved music. And maths. Counting was her thing. She asked me how many CDs I'd got. 'I don't know,' I replied. 'Shall we find out?'

With mum and dad's consent I set her to work straight away. Holed up in my music room with just a glass of juice and a pen and paper she set about the task in hand.

Two hours later she emerged. I still have her scribbled notes and workings out somewhere. She'd played a blinder. She also couldn't believe how many CDs could be kept in one room*. I could. It's probably why I'll never be a rich man.

Buying albums like this didn't help. I only wanted the single, but couldn't find it anywhere. So I ended up buying the album: the Japanese import. I don't think I ate that week.

Sniff 'n' the Tears - Driver's Seat (1978)

* c.3,500

Saturday 9 March 2019

I Look From the Wings at the Play You are Staging

In 1968 when Walter Matthau paired up with Jack Lemmon in the film adaptation of Neil Simon's stage play The Odd Couple, he was reprising the role he'd played on Broadway in 1965. Matthau was Oscar Madison the upbeat but slovenly sports writer - sharing his apartment with Felix Unger, fellow divorcee, poker school friend, hygiene obsessive and, in today's speak, something of a snowflake. (In the play Felix was originally played by Art Carney.)

Matthau would later relinquish his role, giving way to Jack Klugman (later to star in Quincy), extending the play's run for another year. When the film of the play then transferred to television in 1970 Klugman kept the role of Oscar, with his comedy foil being played by Tony Randall. The show  was syndicated coast to coast and pulled in huge viewing figures. It was four times Emmy nominated, ran until 1975 spanning five seasons and 114 episodes.

Here's the opening credits with the perfectly pitched theme (it worked beautifully in the film, so why change it) by Neal Hefti - jazz heavyweight and composer extraordinaire.

It's not generally known, but a vocal version was also recorded at the time of the TV show. The lyrics - by Hefti - are a little on the lame side; which is probably why it doesn't come out to play very often.

Over the years the play has seen a number of revivals both here and in America, not least an all women cast; again, written by Neil Simon. Other productions include a West End run where Victor Spinetti played opposite Klugman, and in 2005 Bill Bailey & Alan Davies played it to packed houses at the Edinburgh Festival. Tantalisingly, in 1997, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal talked about taking a production on the road, but, it never saw the light of day.

A revival that really did happen though was the one that came to London's Haymarket Theatre in 1996. A three month limited run saw Klugman and Randall return to their TV roles one last time, with a support cast that included a veritable Who's Who of British TV: Henry McGee (Benny Hill Show), Rodney Bewes (Likely Lads) and Trevor Bannister (Are You Being Served?) were all household names at the time. I also seem to recall Eric Sykes treading the boards for this one but he's not in the programme - maybe he stepped into an earlier production.

Before the cast take their final curtain call, I'd like to come back to the theme music. Martin Taylor is without doubt the world's greatest living jazz guitarist. What he can't do with six strings and a plank of wood isn't worth knowing. Back in 2000 Taylor included a rather chilled version of the theme on his Kiss and Tell album. I absolutely love it. See what you think...

Those who have served:

Walter Matthau (1920-2000)
Jack Lemmon (1925-2001)
Jack Klugman (1922-2012)
Tony Randall (1920-2004)
Neil Simon (1927-2018)
Neal Hefti (1922-2008)

And not forgetting Rodney Bewes(1937-2017): one of the most underrated actors this country has ever produced.

Wednesday 6 March 2019


Despite Arthur Lowe's exhaustive theatrical, film and TV career spanning five decades, it's rather inevitable that, in the final reckoning, he's probably remembered by many for one role and one role only.
Lowe's alter ego, the pompous* Captain Mainwaring - the part he played for almost 10 years - must ultimately have weighed him down. 
He will have had as many, if not more, Dad's Army fans come up to him in the street and shout 'Stupid Boy' than Alan Partridge acolytes have yelled 'AHA!' at Steve Coogan whenever he's nipped out for a pint of milk.

*Who remembers him voicing over the Mr. Men animated series back in the late seventies? Towards the end of Lowe's career he was a functioning alcoholic and could, allegedly, be every bit as pompous as Mainwaring himself. I'm not sure if Roger Hargreaves ever wrote a Mr. Pompous book, but here's Mainwaring Lowe reading Mr. Uppity. Fall in at the back.

Monday 4 March 2019


Was there a Yellow Album?

Weezer. Weezer by name, Weezer by album title. Between 1994 and 2019 the Los Angeles band have, thus far, released thirteen studio albums - six of which are, quite simply, called Weezer.

That's right, half a dozen albums all with the same title. Their record company must love them.

But wait, help is at hand; providing you're not colour blind, that is. Their first, third, sixth, tenth, twelfth and thirteenth releases are colour coded. Here's a sample:

Weezer (1994) Blue Album

Weezer (2001) Green Album

Weezer (2008) Red Album

Weezer (2019) Teal Album

Not pictured are their Black and White albums, but I'm sure you get the picture. I latched onto the band quite late and remember buying the Red Album when it came out. Phill Jupitus and, I think, Tom Robinson were playing the hell out of them on 6 Music. I became very attached to Heart Songs. It's a song about, er, songs: songs and artists that influenced the band. What's not to like? I'm particularly fond of it, not least as it name-checks Grover Washington. Nice.

Weezer - Heart Songs (1996)

And so to Teal. Teal? That's turquoise to you and me. In 2018 the band recorded a cover version of Rosanna by Toto. Why? I'll tell you why. Some internet trend picked up by Twitter users and fans of Weezer (one in particular - see the story here) was pushing for them to cover Africa -Toto's monster hit and now a global/viral behemoth generating memes and everything. But the band resisted; instead covering Toto's least popular hit. As you do.

However, it did lead to them doing an album of covers. And, what do you think is on there? That's right - a joint venture with someone I'm sure a few of you out there will remember. Weird.

Weezer - Africa (2018)

As a footnote to the story, and to prove Toto have a sense of humour too, when Weezer took Africa to #1 in the US Billboard Alternative Singles Chart, a couple of days later Toto released their version of Hash Pipe - a song Weezer released in 2001 from their Weezer album. Which, if you've been keeping up, is their Green Album. Till next time...

Saturday 2 March 2019

Dirty John

What's wrong with this picture? Well, quite a lot actually
I've just finished the last Dirty John on Netflix. Bloody hell. It hasn't been an easy watch - not by a long chalk. Harrowing doesn't come close; and knowing it's based on a true story only ramped up the tension (and my blood pressure) to dangerous levels.

For those who haven't seen it I won't give too much away here, just to say that when successful businesswoman Debra Newell meets John Meehan - a sociopath masquerading as a doctor - through an internet dating site, it's only a matter of time till things go wrong. Very, very wrong. It makes for uncomfortable viewing at times. That's all I'll say.

The story was first aired as a true crime podcast in 2017 where the listening figures apparently went through the roof - anyone who heard Serial will know the format. I've just downloaded the podcast (to fill in the gaps), having watched the TV series first. And for those of you who still crave more, Netflix have just completed a documentary about the whole sad story. Buckle up.

Friday 1 March 2019

Tork Talk

I was deeply saddened when I heard about the recent passing of Peter Tork. Not since the news of Strummer, and Bowie I guess, has the death of a rocker affected me in quite the way this Monkee's demise has.

It was while I was replying to another blogger about this I said that the iconic Monkees logo is a bit like a security blanket; wrap yourself in it and only good things happen. I'm hoping he's only nipped out to look for Davy Jones - maybe they'll both come back together in a little while with a crazy story, or two.

This brief Q&A comes from The Monkees 1968 Annual: I picked it up in a charity shop ages ago. So, Peter Halsten Thorkelson, in your own words...