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 (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. 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.