Friday, 31 July 2020

(Not) Everybody Loves the Sunshine


Phew! What a Scorcher. Today's sky high temperatures probably won't appease those living in the North West of the country who woke up today to find a sudden withdrawal of privileges.(Once again our spectacularly inept Government proved beyond a shadow of doubt they really don't have a clue what's going on.) So if, like the Number One Son, you live in Manchester, I feel for you. I really do. As with Leicester, it can't be much fun standing on the naughty step as you watch the rest of the class go outside to play.

Ironically, James sent me his 2020 (So Far) playlist only yesterday and it's full of wall to wall Summer bangers. Party music, if you will; as long as the party is neither in your home or garden. Or with other people who aren't from your household. Give me strength.

Anyway, back to those bangers. James knows my love for the System. Here's a tune that is so heavily influenced by the soul funk duo who gave us You Are In My System (a huge hit for Robert Palmer) it's uncanny. I absolutely love it. 
This then goes out to anyone with an M postcode.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Real Tuesday


Today is Tuesday; it being the day after Monday, that figures. But today actually feels like a Tuesday - not a lockdown Tuesday. For the first time in a very long time (it started at the weekend) there is a modicum of normality (normalcy, anyone?) creeping back into my life. Later this morning I've got a Zoom call that should secure some freelance work, and this afternoon I'm joining my friend Deke on the final leg of his charity challenge walk to provide tea and encouragement - I may even walk a couple of miles with him. Like I said, it actually feels like a real Tuesday; long may it continue.

The Real Tuesday Weld - The Day Before You Came (2014)

Monday, 27 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#7)


Despite being a man of a certain age I'd like to think I can more than hold my own in this frighteningly fast moving digital age; although I am mildly disappointed that we have yet to see the jet-packs, monorails and Wimpey Bars on the moon we were promised as kids.

As digitalised as we all are entering the third decade of the 21st. century, it's become apparent - to me anyway - that even since lockdown how the pace of change has accelerated yet further still, hurling us headlong into a virtual contactless only way of going on; at a time in history, perversely, when most of us are craving more human interaction, not less.
"Hello!"

Thank God then for pen and paper. Even in 2020 I still write things down: diary (yes, I still keep a pocket diary); lists, notes to myself, doodling - all are all done with my humble pen.


And my pen of choice? A Bic four in one biro, of course. The immensely satisfying staccato clicking between the different colours is as pleasurable for the user as it is annoying for anyone else within ear shot. I've been using them for years and see no reason to change horses now. Parkers may come and Papermates may go, but give a me a Bic any day. With a vast choice  of barrel livery (as you can see I'm currently using a 'silver' one) and permutation of ink colours, what's not to like? 

I think one of the reasons I love this particular writing implement is that it's a throwback to when sales assistants in hardware shops would have them sticking out of their top pockets; when, despite a total lack of health & safety, the world was still a safer place. In every respect. The Bic four colour biro - today's object.
...

However, I've just seen the future: the Bic 3+1 with mechanical pencil. I want one! Tomorrow's (World) object!



Friday, 24 July 2020

Be-Bop Friday

David - he's colour blind
My friend David - he of the salmon pink shirt which he swears blind is orange - recently wrote 100 words for me on the first single he bought with his own money.
At our most recent compact and bijou Vinyl Session (the one before lockdown), being a huge fan of Be Bop Deluxe, he played Futurama - their second album from 1975. Last Friday night when we discussed rebooting the sessions again, I asked David to tell me in 200 words why Be Bop Deluxe are his favourite band of all time.
And no, he didn't use the dreaded phrase Wakefield's finest; however, I did have to edit out at least five uses of the word genius; well, maybe two. Only kidding, David! But your shirt is still salmon pink.


"The reason I have always been enamoured by Be-Bop Deluxe, throughout my 40-odd years of being relatively sentient and capable of critique, is that they encapsulate perfectly all the things I love most about the rest of my favourite music. They are, for me, the absolute yard-stick of genius*.
Their prolific run of albums (five released between 1974 & 1978) is an absolute tour-de-force of song-writing, production, musicianship and downright inspired artistry.
Fronted by the sprite-like impresario Bill Nelson, the band were somehow able to contain his phenomenal guitar-playing, cool stage-presence, magical lyricism and innovative production techniques to come up with a sound that was as complex, unique, and relentless as it was loud.
Be-Bop Deluxe were simply the epitome of the heart-thudding excitement that good music induces; always so deliciously upbeat and able to use their breath-taking creativity to transport the listener to other worlds and sensitivities; like watching a movie. And the way their multi-layered productions included brass bands, guitars, synthesisers, horns and, of course, Bill Nelson’s virtuoso axe wielding, means there is always something new to discover. Even now.
Be-Bop Deluxe really did show how awe-inspiring, uplifting, artistic and, yes, clever putting together sounds and talent to make music can be."

* I kept one in!

Be-Bop Deluxe - Maid in Heaven (1975)


Are you able to write 200 words on your favourite band or artist? If so, you could be next up in the feature I'm already calling Be Bop Friday.  Please do get in touch.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Nice 'n' Sleazy


I love a sleazy guitar riff. The kind Keith Richards used to play on early Stones records*. The kind of riffs that emanate from smoke filled speakeasies; on the wrong side of the tracks; late at night; very late at night. Even in these crazy days; especially in these crazy days - I'm sure there are lockdown clubs where you go down a dimly lit flight of steps, give a 'secret knock' and, with a conspiratorial glance up to street level, you are quickly ushered in by what appears to be nothing more than a shadow. From lockdown to lock-in.

And this would be the sound that greeted you; this would be the tune being played at full tilt. With the bass turned up so loud you can feel it through your chest.

Natural Child - She Got a Mind (2012)



And if you're an advocate of Ozark you'll know it as the soundtrack to when Ruth (played by Julia Garner) auditions for the stripper job at Lickety Splitz**. I did say it was sleazy, didn't I?

The kind he nicked off Bo Diddley.
** Spoiler alert. If you know Ruth Langmore, you'll know this scene doesn't end well for the club owner.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Russia Report


This morning at 10.30am will see the long overdue publication of the Russia Report. The fact that Johnson and Cummings are in it up to their scrawny little necks is a given; we don't need a 50,000 word dossier to tell us we have one of the most corrupt governments in modern history. Or maybe we do. My faith in due political process is being pushed to new limits every day. Each day brings with it a cavalcade of fresh horrors that are quickly relegated to tomorrow's chip wrappers when yet more dead cats are thrown into proceedings. But this isn't the time or place* to throw shit around; like a lot of people I may have become more politically attuned since 2016 (everything was broken by the Brexit referendum), but save for the odd outburst I try to park my political views; which is not always easy.
...

Moving on, here's a link to a rather tasty Soviet mix from the Number One Son: three shin-kicking tunes that, remarkably, all carry the line  'Discussions with Russians'. Very timely, James! The song that opens proceedings is the first single ever released on the Stiff record label from the self proclaimed Jesus of Cool. 

Nick Lowe - So it Goes (1976)



I'm afraid tracks 2 and 3 that make up the playlist - great though they are - are both acts I know precious little about. Maybe James can shed some light on them...  

Beat Happening - I Love You (1985)


Young Presidents - Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (2013)


* Twitter's the place for that sort of thing.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Toy Box


I was contacted recently by a like minded soul on Twitter who asked me if I'd be interested in joining a psychogeography group he was setting up in the area. Why not I thought? I love cities, urban walking, architecture, photography, and generally seeking out life's flip side - so what's not to like? I've added my name to their online forum where there was a bit of a digital meet and greet, ahead of hooking up in person and discussing, in a pub - probably, the direction of travel for this most interesting and unusual of groups. 

The term psychogeography, I must confess, is kind of new new to me (even though it was coined back in 1955) and there are, as you might expect, a million and one definitions. However, the one I like best, the one I think neatly describes this fascinating intersection of psychology and geography: "A whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities... just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness." Yep, I can relate to that. I'll keep you posted.

Portishead - Toy Box (1995)

Sunday, 19 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#6)


The recent passing of Jack Charlton was a sad loss not only to the world of football, but also to the world of playing cards. Let me explain. We Medds are inveterate card players; as soon as we're able to count, a place is set for us at the table and somebody deals us in.

When James was growing up and living at home he played many, many hands of Rummy, Newmarket, Predictions with friends & family, and could hold his own from a very early age.
One of the packs of cards we used depicted badly drawn footballers  - we often wondered if the artist even knew who Gary Lineker was - and it soon became our default deck.

A number of catchphrases built up around several of these these hapless artist impressions: whenever Jack Charlton(a humble Two of Clubs) came out of the deck, it was met with a derisory 'Jack? He'll win you jack!' Nobby Stiles simply: 'Nobby lad!'

David Beckham, on the other hand, was quite literally the ace in the pack. Lay down the Ace of Hearts and a shout of 'Becksy's out the pen' would drown out many a game.
But now Jack joins the list of those in the pack sadly no longer with us - George Best, Bobby Moore, Stanley Matthews... 
Football playing cards. Today's object.


Speaking of George Best:

Link Wray - Ace of Spades (1965)

Thursday, 16 July 2020

I Had too Much to Dream Last Night

It's only Thursday and already this week I've had two back-to-back nights of lockdown dreams; my first since it began nearly four months ago. I'm usually a good sleeper as well, so dreaming of social distancing is not what I go to bed for, can I just tell you. I even got up at 3am a couple of nights ago just to break the cycle. I went downstairs, put the kettle on and read a couple of chapters of my book. (Then again, I'm currently reading Kafka - perhaps that's not helping?) Maybe tonight I'll dream about the Surfrajettes instead.

The Surfrajettes - I Had too Much to Dream Last Night (2018)

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Apache

Boyfriend material?
I recently watched The Shadows at 60 documentary on the iPlayer and was, yet again, blown away by just how tight they were. Always too good to be someone else's backing band - even Cliff (especially Cliff) - you could see they were destined for bigger (and better) things. Although this bit of footage wasn't in the film (and neither was their cameo in Thunderbirds) it's them playing Apache on British TV in March '61; though not with their regular guitarist. Their stand-in, for what it's worth, went right up in my estimation when I saw this. 

The 1959 Fender Stratocaster you see non-Hank playing is the first Strat to have made its way to these shores from America. Originally finished in Fiesta Red (though Hank Marvin always said it was more Flamingo Pink), this film, for the record, can confirm that it was actually Battleship Grey. It now belongs in the custody of Bruce Welch.

The Shadows - Apache (1961)


Monday, 13 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#5)




I mentioned the deteriorating state of my eyesight as far back as 2010. Back then I was floating the idea of wearing my glasses on a chain round my neck; no, of course that didn't happen. However, in the intervening period I've had my eyes tested regularly and upgraded my bins as my eyesight has, predictably, got worse. In this time, therefore, I've changed eyewear on at least four occasions and each time had my previous pair turned into sunglasses. So that has meant two spectacles cases to carry round, put down, and mislay. They have been part of my life for so long they've become part of my spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch mantra before I can leave the house.
The glasses cases - one pictured here - are what I call the Toblerone type: triangular. They also have a magnetic lid and, as you can see, fold flat; so easy to put in my inside pocket. The cases I use - made by Lindberg - date from when I used to wear their glasses. The cases that all my subsequent glasses have come in are nowhere near as robust, so I've stuck with my trusty Toblerone. Today's object.

...

I tweeted about my new bins here. Similar to my last pair (in my profile pic), but they're yellow on the inside. And on the top. But you'll only see the yellow if you stand over me. It's the little things in life.


Friday, 10 July 2020

Twofold(s)


We know 2020 has been the year from hell; a year we'd all like to forget. And we're only just past half way; who knows what fresh horrors await us between now and New Year's Eve? If you're looking for a silver lining - of which there are precious few - then we should count ourselves lucky we have Ben Folds among us. Why's that, I hear you cry. Well, Ben Folds has, without any fuss or sense of mawkishness, neatly written and recorded what we're all thinking right now and encapsulated the year to date; and it all clocks in at under three minutes; now that's what I call songwriting. However, don't take this the wrong way Ben, but I'm praying we never have to call on your services again. Although a plague of locusts surely can't be far away. 

Ben Folds - 2020 (2020)
(And thank you to Rol for pointing me in the direction of this)


While I'm here, I thought I'd drop another of Ben's tunes in. In the 10 years I've been writing this nonsense I can't believe I've never talked about this track before. When Folds released his Songs for Silverman album in 2005 there were, for me, two absolute standout tracks on it: 'Jesusland' which made #2 on the UK charts, and this masterpiece which was criminally overlooked at the time. 'Landed' can be filed under Songs I'd run back into a burning building for. Note to self, double check breathing apparatus in broom cupboard.

Ben Folds - Landed (2005)


My Life in 10 Objects will be returning shortly.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#4)


In 1977 John Noakes, Blue Peter's most unlikely Action Man, was about to climb Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square - without a safety harness and wearing nothing more than a car coat and a pair of flares. His mission - to help clean pigeon droppings off the statue of Nelson.


I must confess I've been looking for an excuse to show this classic bit of footage for ages. And what better way to shoehorn it in to my blog than to include my actual Blue Peter badge - the one I received as a competition runner-up in 1968, c/w a signed letter from the show's producer, Biddy Baxter. It's been sitting in a 'badge box' (not to be confused with a badger box) full of all my old punk pins - Generation X, Buzzcocks, Radio Stars et al - for donkey's years. So I'm pleased to elevate it, finally, to treasured status. It is my fourth object.

The non-Shep related quote below is taken from Noakes' IMDb page. It's from the commentary he overdubbed on to the film afterwards; as opposed to the ongoing nervous dialogue he's having with his appointed sherpa, and the BBC camera man during his assent (both of whom are also wearing precisely the same amount of PPE as Noakes i.e. bugger all).


"At this level, the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me."

John Noakes (1934-2017)


Monday, 6 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#3)



If you could say it in words there'd be no reason for mugs
Apparently radiocarbon dating is the most effective way to both accurately date an artefact and to establish the site from which it came; though with fossils, for example, you could still be a few million years out either side.
Thankfully, I think it's safe to say, I can date the 10 objects in this series with a fairly high level of accuracy without the need for such technology.



In the case of today's show and tell I think it's pretty much beyond doubt exactly how old it is, and indeed where it's from: you've just got to look at it. A visit to Tate Modern in the summer of 2004 to see the magnificent Hopper exhibition was the backdrop for a perfect day out in the capital. Ah, train journeys to London; remember them? I can't wait to see John Betjeman at St. Pancras again and tap him on the shoulder.


Vintage 2004
I've written about Hopper hereabouts and in particular Nighthawks so, I hope you don't mind, I'll limit today's missive to concentrate on my purchase from the gift shop at the Tate. Not having a spare £50M about my person that particular day (how remiss of me) I had to content myself with the ubiquitous mug. Which, can I say, is still alive and well (after 16 years) in my kitchen.

At the risk of making me sound like a crazed loner I need to tell you that I only use it on Saturdays and Sundays; coffee only. I have mugs a plenty for use in the week; mainly, though not exclusively, for tea. But not Hopper. Oh no, not Hopper. He's a weekend mug. And a coffee mug. Today's object.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#2)


I love a scarf; I have a bit of a thing for them. From my Tootal silk scarves to the lovely wooly one my daughter-in-law knitted a couple of winters ago, they all sit in an orderly pile* at the bottom of my wardrobe.

Today's object can be found in amongst them. When my pop sadly passed away in 1983 his estate comprised nothing more than a few pound notes stuffed under the mattress and a modest bank book. Doreen, his second wife, was therefore left enough readies to pay the rent for the next couple of months and not a lot else. Before she took his clothes to the charity shop she asked me if there was anything I'd like. Quick as a flash I said 'That scarf' pointing to the coat hooks in the hallway. Pop's favourite scarf - the one he'd worn for years - hung on a peg looking every bit alone as Doreen would be in that already quiet house.

Nearly 40 years later and I wear it every winter. I'm proud to say it's never been washed and I'm sure I can still smell his scent on it.

As a bonus to today's post you can see another object on display here (#2A!); that's right, the vintage coat hanger. This too has been in my procession for more years than I care to remember: liberated by my dad from the Bonnington Hotel in London's West End sometime in the 60s, this hanger, despite having endured  upwards of a dozen house moves, is still holding up; a coat hanger amongst coat hangers!



* For orderly pile, read heap

Friday, 3 July 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#1)


I've been listening to recent reruns of the excellent Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects. It's a history of humanity through a myriad of man made objects of ancient art, industry, technology, and arms dating back to 9000BC. This amazing programme is presented by Neil McGregor from the British Museum who curates an incredible collection, and pulls in priceless artefacts as diverse as Hoa Hakananai's Easer Island Statue, relics from the Byzantine Empire, Moche warrior pots and a Japanese bronze mirror from the 12th century. A truly epic series broken down into one hundred 15 minute nuggets. Absolutely riveting. I can't recommend it highly enough.

I only wish I could say the same for this new mini series of my own. My Life in 10 Objects is, I've got to be honest with you, far from riveting. Seriously; I don't even know how I have the temerity to even mention the Director of the British Museum in the same sentence as this cheapskate version of Mr. McGregor's award winning series he took four years to research. But, hey, what are you gonna do?

My life on this planet, such that it is, has seen men walk on the moon, the Beatles, punk rock and more internet porn than you can shake a shitty stick at. So how does a child of the 60s condense nearly six decades of love, life and happiness (mostly) into a clutch of objects that probably wouldn't even fill an average size suitcase? Good question. The items I have chosen are a hotchpotch of the everyday mingled with stuff that I turn to only occasionally but are every bit as poignant/important to me. And no, I haven't got anything in there as mundane as my car (or even my car keys) or my phone or my favourite winter coat; though my list of also rans at the end of the series that didn't quite make the cut will include, I'm sure, all sorts of flotsam and jetsam that help make up my dodgy DNA.

Today's inaugural offering is an item that despite me knowing exactly where in the house it resides, I tend to only seek it out when I allow my mind to wander; specifically when it wanders back to one of my earliest exposures to television. So between Watch with Mother (when I'd be around five) and Doctor Who (I was all of seven when I first encountered Patrick Troughton) came Captain Scarlet. Quite how the colours of all the characters who worked for Spectrum were ever conveyed through the medium of a black and white telly is something of a mystery, but as a very impressionable six year old I'm convinced I could see that Captain Scarlet was indeed wearing a shiny red uniform and that Captain Blue's was, er, blue. It must have had something to do with all the merchandise around at the time - TV21 comics, action figures and the like.

Pride of place in my 1967 bedroom, however, was given over to a Spectrum wallet. Pictured here you van see it came in a striking scarlet livery and, most importantly contained a a driving licence that a full ten years before I got behind the wheel of my Vauxhall Viva, permitted me to drive both a Spectrum Patrol Car (the sporty red one) and a Maximum Security Vehicle (the one you drove whilst facing backwards). I probably wasn't cognisant of the fact that opportunities to drive such vehicles in Kingston upon Hill in the mid-1960s were few and far between; but that didn't shake the notion in my mind that I could walk into a back street petrol station, show my licence to the owner who would then point me in the direction of a dilapidated out building wherein would be parked one of the above mentioned vehicles. Equally important information was contained within this magical document too: a short Bio of each spectrum member beneath a passport style photo. Scarlet, for instance, was actually Paul Metcalfe in real life; not surprisingly he hasn't even been born yet - his date of birth is given as December 17, 2036 in Winchester, England.

Funnily enough I've dug this wallet out more times during the last three months than I have my 'real' wallet; it still contains the same tenner in there and trusty pieces of plastic that I went into lockdown with.
The woman in the spine must have finished that book by now.