Monday, 31 August 2020

Flat White

The original face covering

This arrived in the post yesterday. It is utterly splendid. Being Baxter Dury it would be, wouldn't it? I'm particularly taken with the Jarvis Cocker remix on the flip side.
Talking of Jarvis, there's a track of his I really want to share - but I'll keep that up my sleeve till tomorrow, if that's alright with you.



Jarvis Cocker - Miami (2017)



Saturday, 29 August 2020

His name was always Buddy

Be in no doubt, I do not want to pull the shutters down on 'Are We There Yet?', but as you can see here, the glitches at New Blogger haven't gone away - and they probably never will. The last drop of gas in my tank will probably take me to sometime in September, after which they turn the Legacy Blogger life support off and it's, well, Goodnight Vienna.
As you know, much of my output over the last 10 years has comprised pieces littered with hyper-links, photographs and imported videos, and generally having fun with fonts, layouts and colours: all tasks which were once easy (HTML code made it so), but now rendered overly time consuming if not virtually impossible. And, as you'll have read in the above link, HTML has been consigned to the glue factory.
For me to continue I can either pack up my things and move to Wordpress. Or throw myself in the Trent; non-starters both. Or I stay here and become a more essay based site (Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, anyone?), but if I'd wanted to do that I'd be in that market already. And I'm not. Nor do I particularly want to be. Aaaaagh!

***

Buddy Rich was a great drummer, but not a very nice person. He would sack members of his band for growing beards, be abusive to fellow band leaders and was genuinely hostile to anyone who had the audacity to ask him for his autograph. And what he had to say about country and, indeed, rock music really isn't fit to print. 
His daughter had a good voice though. Here is Cathy - aged just 13 - with her father.
I was able to download and share this video in seconds flat - just one of the many reasons why I love the immediacy of blogging. It suits how I think; it suits how I write. Or at least it did.

Buddy Rich (featuring Cathy Rich) - The Beat Goes On (1967)


Buddy Rich (1917-1987)

Friday, 28 August 2020

Ch-Ch-Changes

Looking out of my window this morning and the first signs of the changing seasons are apparent. I'm typing this in a long sleeved shirt: my own personal barometer telling me that Autumn, whilst not yet knocking at the door, can only be a couple of streets away. A metaphor maybe for where this blog is going. Are We There Yet? still wakes up every morning and reaches for the pile of tee shirts in the top drawer; reaching for the woolly jumpers hibernating in the bottom drawer is not a natural manoeuvre. I'm kinda clinging to Legacy Blogger like a man on a sinking ship refusing to jump in the lifeboats. To be continued...

***

Gillian Anderson: Bidialectic
So this week I've mostly been watching The Fall. I'm half way thru Season 2 and still no sign of Mark E. Smith. Gillian Anderson may well be keeping him chained under the bed; it really wouldn't surprise me.
And that was going to be the nub of today's blog - I'm fascinated with Anderson's accent: I thought she was channelling her inner Emma Thompson with her clipped received pronunciation. That was until I found out that the American actress best known for X-Files is actually bidialectal. As is Linda Thorson (such was her British accent in The Avengers I didn't realise Thorson wasn't English and actually hails from Canada) who, like Anderson, can slip in and out of accents depending on which side of the Atlantic she finds herself on.

But as much as I wanted to write 500 words on Bidialectals, I'm afriad, not for the first time, I got sidetracked. If you knew me you'd know that happens more often than not.
On weekday mornings, despite the annoying adverts, I listen regularly to James O'Brien on LBC - in my opinion the best broadcaster currently working in this country. Bar none. If this blog does indeed continue I'd love James to do a Q&A for me. Maybe that would be the kickstart I need to push my ten year project into its next phase.
One of those pesky adverts has got one of the catchiest riffs these ears have heard in a long while. I'm sure many of you out there will know it already but it's new to me. And it's already been elevated to Banger status. In fact so good is it I shall have to buy a vinyl copy of it. High praise indeed.

SOFI TUKKER - Drinkee (2016)

Monday, 24 August 2020

And I mean that most sincerely


I read a really interesting article the other day about sincerity in music; meaning it, playing like your life depended on it. If you put your soul into every note - good, bad, or indifferent - the audience will get it. I do, anyway. To my mind alchemy happens when musicians take their feet off the bottom and go out that little bit further each time.
Listening to the second Bees long player recently (for the first time in a very long time) reminded me just how exciting they were. Wrap yer ears around this album opener and see what I mean. And at 1:44 there's a yelp/scream that tells the listener just how magical it must have been to be in that band in 2004. I don't think you can fake sincerity like that. And, me being me, I'm curious as to how you'd spell this vocal ejaculation: for what it's worth I'm going with "Hooo!" I could be wrong; wouldn't be the first time. 

The Bees - These are the Ghosts (2004)

Friday, 21 August 2020

Another Be-Bop Friday


Back in May of this year I was singing the praises of ex-Christians and It's Immaterial songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Henry Priestman, whilst at the same time - probably a tad unfairly - bestowing upon him the accolade of Unsung Hero. As you can see, Henry embraced the term (at least I think he did) and after writing about him again here (and bracketing him with Harry Nilsson no less) I approached him about doing something on my blog. The warm email exchanges that followed were, at every turn, reminiscent - I think anyway, and I'm sure Henry would agree - of two old boys who'd known each other all their lives; though we've never met - maybe that will change as soon as this bloody pandemic buggers off. I hope so.

So I asked Henry to tell his musical story up to the point where he met the Christian brothers. I've always thought that the best tales always happen before the main story.

"I was brought up on a 60s diet of Beatles/Kinks/Tamla/Stones etc, then moving on to psychedelia, then 'underground' or 'progressive' (as it was called in those days) in tandem with Bowie and Roxy. My abiding passion as a teenager was just music music music, and all I ever wanted to do in my life was play in a band. I attended Hull Art College in 1974 for a one year Foundation Course, having failed miserably in my 'A' levels(except Art), and, of course, bands form at Art Colleges (well, they did back then), so it was the obvious path for me.

Towards the end of my time at Hull I formed a band featuring John 'Brad' Bradbury on drums (who later popped up in the Specials), and future Yachts guitarist Martin Watson on guitar (with whom I would end up going to Liverpool Art College after the summer). We rehearsed for weeks and played the end of summer term party, supporting a chap from the main college called Eric Goulden (aka Alan Addis), whose band went under the marvellous moniker Addis and the Fliptops (featuring the Binettes). Two years later (Wreckless) Eric and I would both be signed to Stiff records.

Liverpool was actually my second choice for the three year Diploma Course; I applied to Leeds Art College, but failed the interview. Interestingly enough, if I had got into Leeds, I’d have been on the same Fine Art Course (and same year) as Marc Almond & Dave Ball of Soft Cell. It could’ve been all so different! So Martin and I both headed to Liverpool with ideas of forming a band. What sort of band we weren’t sure, and had no thoughts of actually writing our own material. We were lucky, punk came in (meaning you only had to be vaguely proficient on your instrument...ideal for me!): songs became shorter, less than three minutes, but full of 'honesty and energy' (as my later song 'Did I Fight in the Punk Wars for This?' stated). We formed the typical Art College band, somebody suggested we write our own songs and two years later fortune smiled upon us as we (now called Yachts) released our first single 'Suffice to Say'. With Yachts we had a good run for our money: a couple of albums (even scraping into the Billboard charts), toured the States twice, toured Europe supporting the Who...but all bands reach their sell-by date at some point - even if they don’t split up.

It was whilst in Yachts that I formed a hobby band with Yachts’ original singer John Campbell called It’s Immaterial - we’d find obscure songs by American garage/punk/psych bands (like the ones that would appear on Lenny Kaye’s wonderful Nuggets compilation, but even more obscure...so people might think we’d written them!), and just play for fun round Liverpool. I was away in the States touring with Yachts, and when I returned John and Jarvis from Itsy had come up with this idea for a song 'A Gigantic Raft in the Philippines'. Suddenly my hobby band was doing more interesting stuff than my main band, so I made the decision to leave Yachts and do It’s Immaterial full time. The only thing was that I was no longer a writer in the band (I’d been the main writer in Yachts), which started off fine; it was nice not to be having to come up with an album’s worth of tunes every year, and I became the sort of Brian Jones of the band - instrument-wise I’m jack-of-all-trade (master of absolutely NONE), playing a bit of keys/guitar/clarinet/sax/marimba/cello etc etc. This was fun for a while, but I was starting to come up with ideas for songs, and realising I probably wouldn’t get them away with Itsy, I stashed them, and began thinking about whom I could get to sing them. It’s Immaterial were working on a song (that became a single) called 'Ed’s Funky Diner', and we’d heard of this a cappella band of brothers who would be ideal for singing on the chorus of this new song. I was working at that time as an engineer in a demo studio that belonged to Itsy’s manager Pete Fulwell, and the brothers Christian were booked in to add their vocals to the track. I was the only member of Itsy at this session, and when the session ended, I plucked up courage to ask “would you like to hear some of my songs?” Two of them had a game of tennis booked, and didn’t really appear interested, but the three brothers Garry, Russell & Roger  all stayed to hear my demos and we began working together on songs that would end up on the Christians' eponymous triple platinum debut album. You could say that was a fortuitous meeting, and I’m glad I asked them to listen to my songs!"

***

And so to the second part of me quizzing Henry. Could he, I asked him, tell me in 200 words who his favourite band/artist is? Of course he could!

"I go through phases, last month it might’ve been Roy Harper, the month before that Belle & Sebastian; it changes, but currently, having just finished Johnny Rogan’s Ray Davies biography, I’m into all things Kinks - which is sort of where I came in. My friend and neighbour, John Lewis, his dad ran the Hedon Bakery, and John had all the latest singles, so it was a case of free cakes & Vimto, and afternoons listening to his amazing record collection -  Beatles, Byrds, Pretty Things, Stones and THE KINKS. Mum liked the Beatles (she’d bought me 'From Me To You' for my 7th birthday) tolerated The Stones, but couldn’t STAND The Kinks, which of course made me like them even more! And then I found out that me and Ray share the same birthday! So, having saved up my meagre pocket money, my next step was to buy my first album (with my own money). The Marble Arch label came to the rescue: for twelve & six you could buy 'Well Respected Kinks', it had all the classic early singles on, and the B sides were fabulous too. I was hooked. I’m currently trying to buy up all the Kinks LPs I sold in my ill-advised LP cull of 2010. They’re not cheap; lend us £50, would you, John?"


Henry Priestman at home, August 2020 (photo courtesy of Mrs. Priestman - a.k.a .'Her Ladyship')

A huge thank you to Henry who as well as being a perpetually busy man - writing and recording - was also in the middle of selling his house when writing this for me.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Good Heavens!


A recurring theme of late on this blog - maybe Covid and the general state of the world (and my head) has something to do with it* - is time; as in where does the time go? One minute I'm reaching for the stars, the next I actually make an audible noise when I reach for the salt**. And what really brings it all into sharp focus is photographs. Finding photographs of ourselves as we used to look; maybe some of us are still clinging on to the misguided notion that we still do look like our younger selves. Young. Carefree. And the world at our feet.

When someone on Twitter recently posted a photograph of the stunningly beautiful Susan Penhaligon taken in 1974, it was Ms. Penhaligon herself who came back with the following two word response: "Good Heavens!" Thinking about it, what other possible two word response could there possibly have been?

The Connells - '74/'75 (1995)


* It's certainly fucking up my sleep patterns, that's for sure. 
** I don't actually partake of salt, it was a merely a way of demonstrating the onset of my impending decline!

Friday, 14 August 2020

My Life in 10 Objects (#8)


I've been a tad distracted of late, so the latest instalment of MLITO (catchy, huh?) got temporarily jammed in the works while I was busy in the back putting out a few fires.

Today's object comes as part of a twofer, simply because the first object - when it's not in use - resides in the second. Let me explain:

Since James was old enough to throw, and catch, a ball, he's been throwing a frisbee with his old man - usually on beaches (and usually beaches in Devon).

When packing for holidays our Discraft Ultra-Star 175 (175 grams - weight is everything when it comes to frisbees) was every bit as important as a toothbrush or a clean pair of socks.

The action shot below shows perfectly the frisbee in mid-flight.



This was Slapton Sands in South Devon about ten years ago. (Looking at the clear blue sky I don't think thermals would have been an issue that day!)

James is coming up to Scotland with me in a couple of weeks - so no prizes for guessing what we'll be taking away with us.



And that second object? Like the frisbee, I've just remembered, it was bought in the same town (Totnes) and probably around the same time (c.1997). My rucksack - to be found in the bottom of my wardrobe - has been all over the world with me and, as I said above, it gives board and lodging to the frisbee in the close season. Today's object(s).

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Still in Love With Hayley Mills


In what could be a race to the bottom (yes, first Brexit, then Covid and now Blogger), I need to get a few thoughts down before August 24th; not least the remaining three objects in my groundbreaking series(!), and a rather lovely Be-Bop Friday with a real life pop star. So I make that four (at least) in just over ten days. In which case I think brevity, more than ever, must be the watch word.

I make no apologies for having written about this song before; however, this is the sumptuous acoustic version. If I tried to play these chords the fingers on my left hand would fall off, I just know they would. And if its links your after then look no further - yesterday's offering was performed by the son of the actress name-checked here in Paddy McAloon's finest hour; OK, his second finest hour - When Love Breaks Down must, I know, occupy that particular mantle.


Prefab Sprout - Johnny Johnny (1985)


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Hurry on Sundown


It's a Neil Diamond kind of night and no mistake: 27 degrees & 69% humidity at 10.30pm is practically unheard of in this neck of the woods. And as I sit here typing this in just my pj bottoms with a USB desk fan plugged into my Mac, I know I won't be able to sleep for hours yet.

***

Hawkwind's Hurry on Sundown came up rather unexpectedly on my playlist this evening - the folky version from their eponymous 1970 album, not the psychedelic 'space rock' version they released as a single.
Nearly 30 years later and the short-lived Kula Shaker rolled both into one and made a pretty decent fist of it. Crispian Mills' eclectic combo seemed to rub a lot of people up the wrong way back then, but this cover version may have converted a few doubters had it not been hidden away on a B side. I'd certainly have given it an 8/10 if they'd done what they did with Deep Purple's Hush and flipped it over. In fact I still would. And chuck another half in for ignoring it at the time.


Kula Shaker - Hurry on Sundown (1998) 8½/10



***

I've spent much of the last week or so reading about what Blogger are doing to 'upgrade' their platform. And it sucks. I mean, it really sucks. This blogger has put into words almost exactly how I feel. Come August 24th what they have in mind is pretty much a Scorched Earth policy. I think me and my blog are drinking in the last chance saloon. Are We There Yet? Yes, it looks like we are.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Shting-Shtang

Arnold Stang (1918-2009)
I'm indebted to Twitter for pointing me in the direction of this charming vinyl oddity from the late 50s. Released on the Fontana label it featured the vocal stylings of Arthur Stang, best known as the guy who voiced Top Cat; albeit Stang doing an impersonation of Phil Silvers doing a wisecracking alley cat who lived in a dustbin. Sorry, trash can.

Arnold Stang - Where Ya Callin' From, Charlie? (1959)


Hard to believe Hanna Barbera only ever made 30 episodes of Top Cat (originally airing between September 1961 & April 1962). It was a ratings failure - forcing HB, after less than a year, to consign it to the, er, trash can; all the episodes we saw when we were growing up (in the 70s and beyond), would have been at least ten years old - reruns that were syndicated around the world again (and again).

Saturday, 8 August 2020

The Green Fan


I've spoken to so many lads of my age over the years who remember watching this the night it went out on the Old Grey Whistle Test; like a rite of passage. Led Zeppelin, unsurprisingly, weren't unavailable. And as no oven ready promo film of them playing Trampled Underfoot existed, it was left to the boffins at the BBC to come up with something. Anything. They didn't disappoint. 

Led Zeppelin - Trampled Underfoot (1975)

Friday, 7 August 2020

In League With the Freeway?


I don't profess for one minute to know what Robert Plant was wanging on about when he wrote Big Log; suffice it to say that in 1983 it was one of a trio of records (actually, make that four1) that seemed to follow me around in, what I remember as being, one of the hottest summers since 1976. And like '76 it was one of those years that changed me in more ways than one2. 

However (there's a always a however), as good a song as the aforementioned Big Log3 is, and it is, it had one of the most annoying drum machines running thru it from start to finish. It was like he'd left the click track on the recording and forgot to take it off. I still struggle4 with it to this day whenever it comes on the radio. Note to self - compile a list of ten great records spoilt by something that only annoys me.

Which is why I derive so much joy from Allison Krauss' beautiful reading of 'The Log'. I could, I think, listen to this all day. Especially on long hot summer days; like today.

Allison Krauss - Big Log (2004)


1 Along with Long Hot Summer, Cruel Summer, and Information (Dave Edmunds, in case you were wondering).
2 I really must explore the narrative that links those two summers and, perhaps, spill the beans.
3 What a truly awful title.
4 "Aaaagh!" What was he thinking?

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

It Must be Love


In the June of 1976 - my long hot summer - I was seeing a young 
thing called J----; yes I am being coy, it's my story and I'll be coy if I want to. (And the reason I can call her a young thing is because I was a young thing too.) In fact, so infatuated with her was I that, in the merry-merry month of June, I shelled out the grand sum of 40p (eight bloody shillings) and gave her a copy of Queen's then current chart smash 'You're My Best Friend'. I thought she was at the time, so I celebrated the fact thru the medium of vinyl. J---- loved it. And me (she told me). Which was fine because I loved her too. What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward two months (a long time in long hot summers; an even longer time when you're hot and bothered and in love) and I'm paying a return visit to my local record emporium). Another eight bob and another piece of black plastic. I figured nothing says I love you more than Chicago's new single 'If You Leave Me Now'. Looking back now I didn't realise that I was laying myself wide open. Within days of giving her disc number two I was history. There was me thinking we'd come too far to leave it all behind, but instead she took away the biggest part of me. 

Though I think I found it again quite quickly. Probably while Chicago were still in the charts, thinking about it.

See how beautifully Lemon Jelly sampled it 35 years later. This is a taster - full version here

Lemon Jelly - Soft (2001)

Saturday, 1 August 2020

What the Future Holds?


Ronnie Scott's was meant to be reopening tonight; the legendary Soho jazz club of 60 years standing was scheduled to open its doors for the first time since March - albeit with 50% reduced capacity and the by now ubiquitous strict social distancing.
However, it wasn't to be. The plug got pulled at 9.16pm on Thursday night (as did a lot of things) in a cowardly tweet from our inept and grossly corrupt government.

I am a huge fan of Ian Shaw* and it was from watching him and Claire Martin play a behind closed doors** gig at Ronnie's last week that I got wind of the reopening. Ian - and Claire too - have been regulars at the club for such a long time I'm surprised they don't live in the window, Bagpuss style. This is Ian with a self penned song from his excellent Theory of Joy album.

Ian Shaw - My Brother (2016)


* So much more than a jazzer -  Ian is an award winning singer, songwriter, pianist, comedian and actor. He even makes Drum and Bass records - proof, if proof were needed.

** The whole gig is here. If you've got an hour to kill this weekend I can't recommend it highly enough: two artists at the peak of their powers.

...


Talking about brothers, mine has really been through the wringer of late. But some good news came through yesterday. This is for him.