Wednesday 30 December 2020

We Go On

There's probably a word for it in German - that feeling you get when you hear a much loved tune (usually, but not always, from the 70s) being given a makeover aimed at (usually, but not always) millennials; especially when it works. And, boy, does this one work.

Based on a non-charting single 1965 single by Jimmy Clanton, Hurting Each Other (which would later go on to give Richard and Karen Carpenter a massive Number One hit in 1972), the Avalanches have - with a little help from Cola Boyy and Mick Jones - shone new light through old windows and come up with, I think, something rather special.

Jimmy Clanton - Hurting Each Other (1965)

The Avalanches - We Go On (2020)


Wednesday 23 December 2020

Spray and Pray

That was the year that was, it's over, let it go. Only it isn't; not yet, anyway. With still over a week to go, who knows what fresh horrors lie in wait? A plague of locusts surely can't be far away; I fear 2020 hasn't finished with us yet.

One of the few positives I can take from this year, and believe me they've been few and far between, is the sheer volume of music I've listened to. Obviously precious little has been in a live situation - my last gig (The Lathums) was way back in February - but I've invested many many hours of listening and if you want to know precisely what my musical diet comprised then my Spotify 2020 Wrapped is as good a starting point as any.

Photography too has been a big thing in my life this year. I guess with all the additional steps I'm clocking up (2020 has definitely been the year of 'the walk') I've been even more aware of my surroundings so every urban ramble usually offers up new photo opportunities. From the hundreds of photographs I've taken this year, I've condensed it down to a dozen: 12 months, 12 photos* in no particular order. Here you go:

Indoor Market, Carlisle 

Nottingham Trent University

Nottingham Council House

Neighbours' 1st Wedding Anniversary

White Swan, Vernon Park

Happy Hour, Lanzarote

Cows on the Loch Ryan shoreline

Skegness Italia

Sneinton, Nottingham

Sherwood, Nottingham

James & Janneke, Manchester

Ratcliffe-upon-Soar Power Station 

I've not included the tree that sits outside my front door. Regular readers will know I started taking photographing this beautiful Beech back in October and I've been photographing it every day since

* 13 if you count the reindeer currently standing in my local park.


Sunday 20 December 2020

Fox News

I'm trying not to dwell on the never ending torrent of bad news threatening to engulf every last one of us; though if I have a little weep later I'm hoping you'll cut me some slack.

Instead I want to share this little snippet with you: Suzie, my Brighton dwelling cousin, has a regular nighttime caller. And so tame is this beautiful creature that apparently he comes right up to her and gently rubs his nose up against her hand. As the Americans would say - pretty neat, huh? 

The Regrettes - Fox on the Run (2017)

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Jesus of Cool

Nick Lowe - Failed Christian?

So much of what I write here is dedicated to the art of songwriting, I've lost count of how many great songs - written by incredibly talented songwriters - have featured on this blog in the last decade or so. 
Imagine if Nick Lowe, one of the best in the business, wrote a made to measure song for the legendary Mavis Staples; not off the peg, but tailored to fit her very soul. Lowe may or may not be a God fearing man, I don't know, but man alive he has written a song so spiritual it's practically a hymn. And even if, like me, you can be moved to tears in an empty church but become an atheist when it's full, don't worry, this is still for you. 

 Mavis Staples - Far Celestial Shore [2013] (Live and choirless)

Far Celestial Shore (with the full treatment)

Saturday 12 December 2020


On the back of something my friend The Swede posted the other day, I've been making a playlist of records lasting precisely two minutes twenty two seconds; it's called The 222 Club and is taking shape nicely - early inductees include T. Rex (Solid Gold Easy Action), Booker T & the MGs (Soul Limbo) and The Damned (Love Song). It's filling up fast, so I'll hopefully be putting it out there this side of Christmas.

You can file the next bit under 'Stop me if you've heard this before' (I've been writing this blog for over 10 years and can't for the life of me remember if I've shared this with you already or not). Fifteen years ago - whilst James was still living at home - we recorded a demo in his loft bedroom-cum-recording studio. We decided on an old Kinks song, I Need You, but gave it a much heavier feel.  Although we were both pleased with it at the time, it would be another 10 years till we recorded anything together again.  The reason for bringing this up (again?) is that I considered the Kinks for the 222, but was dismayed to learn it clocked in at a laborious 2:24; when James and I were set loose on it we were able to shave a full 22 seconds off that!

I Need You (2005)

Friday 11 December 2020

Where is Wendy? Wendy's missing

I'm currently formulating a mental list of all the films I want to watch over my Tier 3 Christmas break; all the usual suspects will be screened at some point during my three week lay off starting next Friday: Comfort and Joy, The Odd Couple, Gumshoe, Croupier, A Hard Day's Night, Local Hero, to name but a few.

Joining them this year will be Metro-Land, the short film John Betjeman made for the BBC in 1973; the then poet laureate documented a part of suburban north London - following the path of the old  Metropolitan line - never put under the microscope in such a way before. 
The ever urbane Betjeman had an eye for the mundane but could turn it on its head with nothing more than a deft turn of phrase. So I wouldn't be surprised after Metro-Land if I then dig out his travelogues - available thru the BFI portal - many made for the Shell company in the 1950s and 1960s; time capsules all.

I'll sign off with one of his finest poems. In the mid 70s the Charisma label (Genesis, Bonzos, Monty Python et al) thought it would be cool if Sir John would read some verse - backed by the subtle musical arrangement of Jim Parker. He ended up doing a couple of albums for them. Banana Blush is my personal favourite.

John Betjeman - Indoor Games Near Newbury (1974)

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Shag, anyone?

I wonder if anyone's written a thesis on bubblegum? It wouldn't surprise me. Disposable pop music as an art form. Though maybe not that disposable - much of its canon from the 70s has endured to this day and is still, annoyingly, as catchy as ever nearly half a century later. 

Acclaimed music critic Lester Bangs may have been on to something when he described bubblegum as  'the basic sound of rock and roll, minus the rage, fear and violence.' Which is probably why I still get a kick out of hearing songs like this. (BTW - look at the classic chart countdown in the background while the record's playing.)

Shag - Loop-di-Love (1972)

But if Jonathan King is too much for you to stomach, here's the original version sung, a year earlier, by Juan Bastos. Imagine the Pied Piper being followed through the streets of Amsterdam not by rodents but instead by nubiles in calf length boots and hot pants. Well it was 1971.

Juan Bastos - Loop-di-Love (1971)

Wednesday 2 December 2020

2020 Wrapped

I'm guessing a few people are sharing these right now: if you have a Spotify account then it's that time of year when they tell you what you've been listening to during the last 12 months (a lockdown special, you could say). And they really do crunch the numbers and drill down into the stats. It's quite anoraky so I'll cut to the headlines.

It would appear that these are the five tunes that have helped provide my musical life support in 2020. You'll find the backstory to most of them I'm sure in the small print of my various back issues. Except maybe this one: it came out at the height of punk and despite my new wave leanings at the time I absolutely adored it.  And still do, obviously, as it made #5 in this highly bespoke/made to measure chart. 

Space were a French outfit and this, their debut single, came out on the Pye label in that highly distinctive pink bag of theirs. And that, truth be known, just about sums up everything I know about this early slice of electronica. Imagine Daft Punk with keytars.

Space - Magic Fly (1977)

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Forever Autumn

1 December 2020

They say every man should have a hobby; I'm not sure if this counts, but my pet project over the last few weeks has been photographing the beech tree outside my front door; from the same vantage point and at (roughly) the same time of day. I put the first few in a collage, the rest have been posted on my Twitter feed. At some point someone will have to politely tap me on the shoulder and say "'Enough with the tree already, John." But until such time as the pubs and caffs reopen again it's kind of all I've got right now.

Claire Martin - Brilliant Trees (1999)