Wednesday 29 April 2020

When I'm a Hundred & Sixty Four

I read the news today, oh boy. This press cutting appeared on my Twitter feed yesterday: a Beatles fan born in 1856. That's right, 1856!

I know it's from the Daily Mail, but back in 1964 the Mail was an esteemed organ yet to succumb to right wing fake news.

As I was asked yesterday, what do we think John Turner - a contemporary of Tchaikovsky - made of Revolver? Tomorrow Never Knows must have melted his head.

Monday 27 April 2020

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

One of my many lockdown cultural casualties has been a pair of tickets for Megson on their latest tour.  Despite their UK jaunt kicking off in good faith it inevitably fell by the wayside after only a handful of shows. I'm sure you too have missed out on pre-booked, pre-arranged gigs or parties, birthday celebrations, weddings, christenings, holidays - the list is endless. 

I'd been particularly looking forward to this one as not only would it have been the first time I'd seen them, but it was going to be in a local village hall and very much an intimate and unplugged affair; just the sort of gig in fact that, going forward, will probably come out of quarantine first - any thoughts post lockdown of 'business as usual' for concert halls, theatres, rock venues and arenas is nothing more than wishful thinking. Think tiny rooms above pubs and small stages in coffe shops - this will probably be the 'new normal' for quite some time to come. It may not be to McCartney or Madonna's liking, but it'll suit Megson just fine.

Anyway, on the plus side, and, let's face it, we're all looking for silver linings during these unprecedented times, Megson, like a lot of other  artists, have been doing live streaming gigs from their house. Being a husband and wife combo means it's quite easy to facilitate; no matter how close Mick & Keef, or Bonio and Mr. The Edge are, I think the Stones and U2 may struggle with this particular business model.

I caught Stu and Debbie's home gig last week, and was bowled over by it. It was a revelation. And very uplifting. Who knew you could have so much fun in your living room? Though, in stark contrast, here they are in a more subdued mood.

 Megson - Are You Sitting Comfortably (2019)

Finally, just a brief note to those who not only read and comment on my diatribes, but anyone who is writing a blog in these most difficult of times.  Instead of bottling it up I know a lot of you find it cathartic to 'get it onto the page'. It may just be a knee jerk reaction to a specific event or series of events, it may well be premeditated and recorded for a retrospective look back when all this craziness is over; if indeed it ever will be. And that's another thing - we're deluding ourselves if we think a reset button is going to be pushed and we spring back to where we were before. That will not be happening. But, I digress. I just want to say - Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep staying strong.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

It'll Come Around

My fellow bloggers should know me well enough by now to know that if their ideas aren't nailed to the floor I'm very likely to beg, steal or borrow them at a moment's notice. Then, once I've filed the serial numbers off, it goes out under my moniker. If you don't believe me just ask this man.

Rol, over at My Top 10, calls his current batch of posts Positive Songs for Negative Times; I can see no earthly reason why I should mess with this most self explanatory of titles, so here, for one week only (until I decide to do it again) is my choice for PS4NT - a beautiful song from Ireland that I think fits Rol's criteria perfectly.

The Whileaways - It'll Come Around (2018)

Tuesday 21 April 2020


Thanks to a recently gifted subscription, a copy of Shindig! magazine lands on my doormat every month regular as clockwork; and as we know nothing is more regular than clockwork.
Concealed within its covers are the sort of bands who, I'm guessing, rarely, if ever, make the mainstream glossies. Some of them may never have seen their names in print before. Ever.

A recent discovery has been a bunch of young lads from the Netherlands. I'm tempted to call DeWolff a power trio, they being a threesome, but that would be doing them a disservice. And the reason I say that is because, yes, they can belt it out with the best of them and, yes, they can probably trace their lineage back to Deep Purple (Mark One, no less) and very early ZZ Top, but, when they drop a gear and gently apply the brakes, they are more than capable of sounding as soulful - and as funky - as this. Nice.

DeWolff - It Ain't Easy (2020)

Wednesday 15 April 2020

If it's not Broken

I finished Broken Greek over the weekend - Pete Paphides' utterly enchanting coming of age memoir. It documents Pete's first 13 years (1969-1982) growing up in Birmingham with his Greek Cypriot parents and older brother, Aki. 

Set against a backdrop of down at heel chip shops and prepubescent anxiety, his early childhood is soundtracked by anyone in the charts (even at such a tender age his knowledge of the hit parade is encyclopaedic) he feels could step in to the breach as replacement parents: one of his many anxieties (and a recurring theme in the book) that, in his eyes, he wasn't living up to his mum and dad's expectations of him. Being glued to Top of the Pops from the age of seven his first musical love, Eurovision winners Brotherhood of Man ("I felt they understood me - the kind faced blonde woman & the only slightly less kind-faced dark-haired woman") seemed like ideal surrogates should his parents ever give up on him. As did Abba. And Kiki Dee ("You could tell she was a nice person, not least because of her immense generosity in letting Elton John join in her song.")

As he moves through school and different friendship circles and as his addiction to record shops becomes all consuming, so Pete's musical palette widens - forays into the Barron Knights (one of the books many highlights) and Racey give way to a new post punk crowd - the Human League, Orange Juice and Dexy's Midnight Runners all fight for ownership of Pete's turntable and all are written about with such love and affection - his homily to Kevin Rowland is particularly moving. By the end, you'll probably begin to see your own interest in music as merely pedestrian by comparison - I know I did.

A huge thank you to Pete for personally signing my very own book plate. And thanks for a riveting read.

Monday 13 April 2020

Mono = One, Rail = Rail

For no other reason than it made me smile, I ordered this tee shirt online today. I realise that precious few people will get to see my new garment - let alone the gag - however, I shall wear it with pride when I am in my kitchen; or even the lounge.

I know I should probably have waited till it arrived - I could have given you all a twirl - but we'll save that delight for another day, shall we. For any non-Simpsons people tuning in, here is the backstory behind the design.

Saturday 11 April 2020

It's a Nice Day to Start Again

My friend Holly Taymar is not only a fabulous musician (solo and as one half of the Bronze), but also - her actual day job - a tireless fundraiser for Mind. During this current incarceration Holly has been presenting her unique Lockdown Jukebox (read all about it here): for a modest donation to a vital and respected mental health charity, Holly will sing you a song - any song - and post it on her Youtube channel along with all the other jukebox selections which have ben pouring in over the last couple of weeks or so.

I asked her if she'd curl her top lip and 'have a go at Billy Idol...'

Holly Taymar & Chris Bilton - White Wedding (2020)

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Antisocial Distancing

I don't really know how best to describe life at the moment; to say 'it's a bit shit' doesn't quite cut it. Being holed up for the best part of 23 hours a day is tortuous at times, but, it's better than the alternative. This somewhat crude image shows in rather bleak terms the worst case scenario if you play fast and loose with your personal space. And, of course, other people's. Wooah! Back off!

Who would have thought that just a handful of weeks ago a simple walk to the shop is now every bit as nerve-racking as traversing a Falklands minefield. What price that tin of beans?
So, be careful out there. One minute you're cock of the north, the next you're in an ICU ward plugged in to a Dyson ventilator. Honestly, you couldn't make it up.  

Buzzcocks - Walking Distance (1978)

Friday 3 April 2020


A friend of mine from Scotland emailed me this morning: a Corona catch-up, if you like. In my reply I rather ramblingly told her what my coping mechanisms were. I won't bore you with them here; anyway, regular readers could probably figure out most of them for themselves.

However, I forgot to tell her about Tim's Twitter Listening Party The idea is simple: every night during at 10pm during Lockdown the Twitter community listen to an album in its entirety. The sessions, overseen by Tim Burgess, are curated in real time by band members who provide intimate insights into the making of the albums and answer questions posed by those 'in the room'. I've done two so far - Jollification (Lightning Seeds) and Steve McQueen (Prefab Sprout) - and I found them totally uplifting. For what it's worth both these long players proved to be very poignant in my life around the time they came out - 1994 and 1985 respectively. Ten year cycles and all that.

A complete list all of future runners and riders can be found here and the link to Tim's Twitter feed is here. I can't recommend the project highly enough. And even if you don't own hard copies of the albums, just hook up your Bluetooth speaker to Spotify at 22:00 and you're good to go!

Prefab Sprout - Goodbye Lucille #1 (1985)

In 1985 I was still known as Johnny; this song followed me everywhere