Monday, 13 September 2021

Fast Cars

Julian & Kerry

Who wants to live forever? Cryogenics, anyone? Nah, me neither. This kind of appeals tho' - my friends Julian and Kerry have been immortalised via the medium of Scalextric. You heard right; slot car racing is a big thing at The Dragon pub in Nottingham. So much so, not only can you take part but you can be in the crowd; as in be in the crowd. Pretty cool, huh?


Buzzcocks - Fast Cars (1978)



Saturday, 11 September 2021

Joy Orbison



London DJ and electronic musician Peter O'Grady a.k.a. Joy Orbison has finally got round to releasing his first full length album. And true to form Still Slipping Vol. 1 has been recorded and segued much like a mix-tape: beats and ambient rhythms that work, I think, just as well in my car as it would, and I'm really going out on a limb here, in a club (though, for reasons too many to list here, please don't quote me on that).

I'm not sure where you'll be listening to it, but throw your headphones on, go for a walk and see where it takes you; literally. Here's a wee taster... 

Joy Orbison - in drink (2021)


Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Young and beautiful, but someday your looks will be gone

Dennis Wilson (1944-1983)

Dennis Wilson was a proper Beach Boy; the only Wilson who could surf, for one. Probably better than his drumming, that's for sure (his percussion parts were regularly overdubbed in the studio by session guys). Not that it bothered him; Dennis was a rock star - he had money to spend, drugs to take, gangs to join, women to fuck and cars to trash.

But the middle brother came good during the band's fallow period in the early 70s when Brian's head began to unravel. Some of his songs, whilst maybe not as pitch perfect as his elder sibling's symphonic masterpieces, nevertheless had a certain unique quality that carried the group through their quieter years. Cuddle Up, co-written with 'Captain' Daryl Dragon (he and his partner, Toni Tennille, were both bona fide Beach Boys [and girl] at the time) is a nailed on classic. It's a timeless song that sits rightly at any top table of classic Beach Boys records. I love it.

The Beach Boys - Cuddle Up (1972)



Friday, 3 September 2021

Missing



I've had better weeks; that's for sure. Though, truth be told, testing positive for Covid on Monday didn't really come as a major surprise. I just think I've been riding my luck for the last 18 months; we all have. 

And has it put a crimp in my life? Hell, yeah. Just in the immediate term I had to cancel my blood donor session last night, get a refund on my Leeds Beer Festival tix this weekend and then put a call thru to friends cancelling our visit to Scotland next week. But, you know what? It doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't matter; in the grand scheme of things. I'm still the right side of the grass - and for that I'm eternally grateful.

...

A couple of things that I'd like to share with you as I sit here self isolating. The first of which I'm sure a lot of you can relate to. We've all seen those 'Lost' and 'Missing' flyers stuck on telegraph poles. Cats and dogs. Sometimes hamsters. But nearly always cats. Sherwood in Nottingham - where I live - is certainly no exception. But what happens if and when they're found? And how do we know? The owners often take the posters down, but that doesn't definitively tell us that Tiddles has turned up after 48 hours spent under next door's spare bed. But last week there was lovely bit of footage I saw of an owner taking down her Lost poster whilst carrying the recently found feline under her arm. The perfect story arc. Frustratingly, I can't find the film for the life of me; instead I'm posting a rather quaint photograph (above) I think is self explanatory. Or is it?

... 

KEXP Radio in Seattle have been knocking it out of the park for well over 20 years; their live sessions have gained legendary status with featured acts, from both sides of the Atlantic, using their appearance as major bragging rights. And Vanishing Twin are no exception. If you ever find yourself having to self isolate, stick the kettle on and give their sesh a spin. Until such time, however, here's a quick fix: this is their latest single:


Vanishing Twin - Phase One Million (2021)



Monday, 30 August 2021

Where the air is good and the day is fine


Nearly all my walking these days falls under the banner urban walking; living in the 9th largest city in the UK it's hardly surprising. Steel and concrete outnumber trees and grass 10:1, probably. During LD1 especially, all walks begin and ended at my front door; escaping to the countryside was, at that time, simply not an option. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Moving back to Nottingham in 2017 for all the reasons I left in 2010 says it all. I traded in living on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors for a bustling city - no questions asked. (What's the point in having a mind if you're not prepared to change it?)

Which is all a long winded preamble for me telling you that I went on a country walk yesterday. And barely saw another soul the whole time. Field after field of...nothing. A distant tractor was the only sign of human existence for the whole trek. Though the pub half way round was full of real people drinking real beer (talking real bollocks, too - some things never change).

The town where I started the walk is well served by both trains and buses so I may well be making a habit of this particular route; at least until Winter arrives. It'd be a shame not to. 

...

A word to the wise - they keep their beer particularly well at the Royal Oak in Car Colston; you won't be disappointed. However, if you want to order food after 2.30pm, you may well be.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Bacaruda


I don't think I've led a sheltered life; when people say you need to get out more, I don't think they ever said it to me. So how come I'm only now* just hearing about the Brian Jonestown Massacre? And in particular the song I'm spending every waking** hour listening to? It's called Anemone (a word I struggle to both spell and say***). And it sounds like this. But you knew that already. (You obviously got out even more than me.)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Anemone (2004)


* I'm 60 years of age for Christ's sake

** And non waking; I swear it's featured in two of my dreams already this week

*** In the same way an old work colleague of mine could never say "trigger mechanism"

Monday, 23 August 2021

Getting the band back together


The Reunion

It's Friday evening in a sleepy Lincolnshire market town. Pop Medd is playing host to his two sons - they're jetting in from nearby Nottinghamshire and Rutland - and making up the quartet is his grandson -  training it all the way from Greater Manchester. It'll be the first time all four of them have been in the same room since January 2016 - that's  five and a half years in anyone's language. Added to which it's the first time young James has had a beer in Grantham on a Friday night; his last visit being his grandma's funeral back in July '15.

So what brought about this multigenerational gathering of 'lads' - age range 31 to 85 - all bearing the same four letter surname? As has been touched upon round these parts previously, apart from me and James (my son, Pop's grandson) we Medds are not what you'd call tight knit; not by a long chalk. However, I think, deep down, we all wish we probably were; it's just that nobody wants to admit it. 

And was the night an unqualified success? No, not really. But it was good fun nonetheless. There was plenty of laughter - mainly at Pop's expense - he was (quite literally at one point) the fall guy. Did the two brothers bicker; yes, of course they did. But, and here's the thing, they both regretted it deeply afterwards. Always the way. Bloody drink. But James was the glue that kept the whole thing together; if he reads this he'll probably say "was I?", but his presence probably kept the evening on the rails. 

Best gag of the night? Well, that would be mine - obviously: in one of the many hostelries we frequented the subject of where we'd be dining later was discussed: it was decreed that we'd go to a Nepalese restaurant called Everest - "So that would make this place Base Camp," I said. These are the jokes, as Ronnie Scott used to say.

My duck curry was perfect. The taxi back to Pop's was eventful. And the Mario Lanza and Jimmy Young on the sterogram fitted the mood at the end of the night perfectly. We'll skip over the last bit when the brothers tried to turn everything serious over too many tumblers of whisky and fast forward instead to 9am...

After a Full English, and hugs all round, we parted company, still bleary eyed, with flimsy promises about "doing it again" and "not leaving it so long next time." Maybe, let's wait and see shall we?


Sunday, 22 August 2021

Stripes and badges

When some friends recently stayed with us we didn't just take them around our favourite pubs and caffs; though there was a lot of that going on in the 48 hours they spent with us. No, we gave them a bit of culture and threw in a liberal helping of local history too. Nottingham Castle has had a makeover; not since the days of Robin Hood & Maid Marion has so much money been thrown at the place. A rather splendid Visitor Centre has been constructed in the grounds and at the time of writing this the Paul Smith exhibition is still in full swing.

Smith is something of a local hero. Born in Beeston, Nottingham 1946 he opened his first shop in the city in 1970. Fifty years later and he's got boutiques all over the world. I've always liked his style; his shirts are works of art and although his linen jackets crease like buggery I still like to wear them in summer. His badges, however, like all pins, probably work better on denim.


And although our recently fitted stair carpet may not be out of his stable, it's certainly influenced by him; definitely a Paul Smith bootleg.
Smith's use of stripes is something of a brand signature (seen on everything from wallets to Minis) and is a feature I always find visually pleasing. Almost as pleasing as walking down stairs in bare feet!




Thursday, 19 August 2021

It's the only way to live


I don't drive a flash car; not these days anyway (tho' I must dig out some of my old car photos to show you some time); no, my current set of wheels wheels is modest by anyone's standards. A head turner it is not. When I pull into a parking space nobody bats an eye. Until the other day that is. Manoeuvring into a tight spot I had this playing on the stereo. Very loud. And with the bass cranked right up. Passers by did then take a second look; not at the car, but at the emerging driver who, I'm sure they were thinking, was old enough to know better. Fuck 'em.

The Notorious B.I.G. - Hypnotize (1997)




Friday, 13 August 2021

ATMP



Nothing lasts forever; I guess it's inevitable. George Harrison probably put it best (he often did) when in 1970 he said, quite simply, All Things Must Pass.

A couple of things this week have knocked me off my perch; although unrelated they both fall into the ATMP category. El Goodo (Lazy welsh psychedelic band - their strap line, not mine) announced on Twitter this week that they were breaking up: 'We're sorry to announce that El Goodo is no more, we're calling it a day. Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the past twenty odd years. Adiois Amigos. Hyyl Fawr." To say I'm gutted is an understatement. Although I came to the party late, one of the albums that got me thru LD1 was their immaculate 'Zombie' from last year; chockablock full of glorious toe tapping tunes. As swansongs go it's perfect. Live fast, die hard and leave a good looking corpse; as somebody, not George Harrison, once said.

And then, as if this news wasn't bad enough, another Twitter announcement from the makers of one of my favourite podcasts. We Share These Streets (True tales of everyday folk in bygone Nottingham) dropped this bombshell yesterday: "A quick message to let you all know that episode 20 of We Share These Streets will be the final one one. As we all come out of lockdown and life returns to a sort of normality, we're finding it more challenging to make the time needed to research, write and tell the stories as a regular show. Thank you so much for listening and being part of the community." Again, gutted. These 20 minute vignettes of my hometown have been put together with such love, care and attention they are just perfect. But what can you do? All Things Must Pass. Whether it be Hillman Hunters or typewriters, Ceefax or Spangles, fax machines or white dog poo, honest politicians or Little Chefs - they don't make 'em anymore.

A bit like the threepenny bits I bought on a market stall last Saturday - one from 1938 and another, more shiny, from 1967. I asked the stall holder if he'd shined the later one up. He said no, explaining to me that the nickel content was much greater in '67 - it being the last year they were minted. You live and you learn, as somebody far wiser than me once said.

Heads


Tails





Friday, 6 August 2021

Czech Mate


My friend Vladka recently returned home to the Czech Republic for a few days to visit her family, so I mackled together a few tunes for her to listen to on the flight. I had no idea that so many of the selections would push her buttons (I haven't known her that long) and loved the stories she told about some of the songs when she got back this week. I've talked about it many times around these parts about how a record (sometimes it only takes the opening bars) can transport you back to a time and a place when you first heard it; and all the memories come flooding back. I don't know when I'll next be up in the air but if anyone wants to send me a playlist you're more than welcome.

...

Monday, 2 August 2021

You've got Mael


Yesterday was something of a red letter day: I crossed the threshold of Nottingham's fabulous Broadway Cinema for the first time in nigh on 18 months. That's right, I went to the pictures; who would have thought in those halcyon days of 2019 (seems lik
e a lifetime ago) we would have considered a pastime so (seemingly) normal to something we now shout from the roof tops.

Arriving at the venue 30 minutes before showtime for a coffee and I could see that they've not been sitting on their hands during Lockdown - the foyer, café and mezzanine bar have all had makeovers - following on from the pre-Covid screen room upgrades. Our tickets were booked online so I knew where I'd be sitting (front row - always the front row), and with adjacent seats either side blocked out and every other row temporarily out of commission it meant that everyone felt really safe.

The Sparks Brothers is everything you'd expect a big screen documentary movie about Ron and Russell Mael to be. Brash. Clever. And very funny. How many bands improve with age? The answer to that rhetorical question is, I can tell you, not many. But after 50 years, 25 albums and almost 400 songs, Sparks just go from strength to strength. Their tour bus certainly shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Showing in selected cinemas now.



Monday, 26 July 2021

The places where we go


I tweeted recently that during a visit to a local churchyard I'd found peace; literally - see the photo above. Let me explain, my latest lunchtime ritual is walking to the local churchyard and sitting on a bench sitting in a tranquil part of the grounds under the canopy of a gorgeous ash tree whilst eating my sandwich. I generally stay for twenty minutes or so and cogitate (mindfulness for slackers). I've been mulling over a few things that haven't been sitting right with me lately. To be honest I'd rather do it in the middle of the day than toss and turn at night and lose valuable shut eye.

As I say, it's a relatively new ritual but I find it helps me compartmentalise a lot of the crap that's currently going round in my head. And today I had something of an epiphany: just as the church bell chimed one something pretty amazing happened. A white feather fluttered down from the tree above my head and landed on my shirt. Now, whether I believe in angels is a subject for another day, but what I heard in my head as I picked the feather up and let it fall to the ground was "All will be right for you soon." At least I think that's what I heard... 

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Backlit



A few weeks away from the blog and, apart from opening a couple of windows to let some fresh air in & quick whizz round with the antibacterial wipes, everything's pretty much as it was when I was last here. I've pulled in a couple of mini breaks during my layoff resulting in me spending more than one night away from Medd Towers: not since 2019 have I rested my head on someone else's pillow for two or more nights on the bounce. And, because my humble blog is nothing more than random keyboard ejaculations, I figured I could slink away for a couple of weeks and no one would report me as a missing person.
So, what do you want? Would you like to see footage of the badgers that took up residence in my back garden and scared Doris (my cat) shitless? Tales of Devon and a beautiful week spent with James and Janneke? Drunken shenanigans in York with two of my oldest and dearest friends who knew me when I could still touch my toes and stay out till five in the morning - all whilst wearing a pair of 32" waist trousers. Or, perhaps, the demise of my old part time freelance gig and a return to more, ahem, regular employment? Or the tune I told you I was going to run by you the next time I dusted off my turntable?

The truth is, at this present time, I'm really struggling to summon up the enthusiasm to wax lyrical about anything. Maybe because it's still over 20 degrees outside my office window as I'm splurging these scattergun thoughts at *looks at watch* 1.05am I'm feeling a little lethargic and a lot tired (I know, that last sentence doesn't even make sense). So, as I thought all along, with the exception of this little update, I think I'll write July off and come back again next month - harder, better, faster, stronger. See, that's just daft. Back soon. J x

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Spiky


Before I get back into my writing groove (looking at my 2021 timeline it may appear, to the untrained eye, that I've forsaken my trusty quill and parchment but I really haven't) I'd like to quickly share with you a couple of recent lockdown discoveries I hope you'll find agreeable. Tell you what, I'll do one now and another one next week (when I return from Devon). 

Yard Act are a four piece from Leeds - they've not played many gigs (then again who has in the last 18 months?) but the recently formed west Yorkshire combo have released a couple of blinding singles that seem to have gone down well in all the right places; not least The Guardian, who called them spiky. Yep, I think spiky sums up their minimalist, deadpan shtick quite well.

Yard Act - Fixer Upper (2021)



Monday, 14 June 2021

Two of a Kind


I have absolutely no idea if today's highly unimaginatively titled post will be a blink and you miss it one-off or a jumping-off point for a feature I'll wheel out on high days and holidays. Or, even, Mondays. 

I've been going through my photographs and theming them. At the risk of telling you how to suck eggs they can be by subject, location, time, colour, texture; you name it - it may even just be a feel. So what I thought I'd do today is give you a couple of photos I took in Nottingham recently. The first is a tunnel which is cut into the sandstone not far from the city centre; it's still one of the best kept secrets that many Nottinghamians are blissfully unaware of. This shot is quite literally the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tunnel Road, Nottingham NG1 (2021)


Its photo buddy for purposes of today's 'Two of a Kind' was taken in the pub (quelle surprise) last week. The light streaming thru the open door was too good an opportunity to miss.

The Abdication, Daybrook, Nottingham NG5


...

To round up this one-off/feature (watch this space) I'm also looking at two records that are thematically linked. This brace are both well known Top 10 UK singles from the 70s and have been joined at the hip thanks to a rather lovely pub quiz question. I'm sure you all know the answer, tho' I will slip it in at the bottom of the page*.

Roxy Music - Virginia Plain (1972)



And then a mere seven years later these lads from Deptford in South London came up with a perfect three minute kitchen sink drama. From the Difford & Tilbrook songbook -

Squeeze - Up the Junction (1979)



And finally, a further bit of connectivity that joins the dots between Roxy and Squeeze - both Chris Difford and Phil Manzanera have recently been guests of David Hepworth and Mark Ellen on their splendid antidote to lockdown, Word in Your Attic. Give them a coat of looking at if you get a spare minute.

* The title of both songs are mentioned only once, and in the final line.

Monday, 7 June 2021

The End of the End


Life. What's it all about? Search me. Likewise death. I listened to Start the Week this morning (Tom Sutcliffe was introducing (I can't listen when that clown Andrew Marr does it) and it was all about dying. A rather melancholic start to the day you would have thought and yes, to a point, it was. Only it was debated so humanely and so compassionately I'd defy anyone who heard the broadcast not to have had a smile on their face whilst listening. Good radio does that.

To paraphrase my talented writer friend Alyson, but this is a music blog so play us a bloody tune, Meddy. Well, today's selection is probably a song that many Paul McCartney fans will want to have played at their funerals; it may well be played at the man himself's service. I have a feeling it will soundtrack a myriad of montages from the ex-Beatle's life when the inevitable day arrives. A beautiful song that McCartney sings in a register he's totally at ease with these days. And lyrics to die for. Quite literally.

Paul McCartney - The End of the End (2007)

On a lighter note, I ordered my McCartney First Day Cover stamps today. I shall look forward greatly to framing and displaying them.

...

At the end of the end

It's the start of a journey

To a much better place

And this wasn't bad

So a much better place

Would have to be special

No need to be sad


On the day that I die I'd like jokes to be told

And stories of old to be rolled out like carpets

That children have played on

And laid on while listening to stories of old


At the end of the end

It's the start of a journey

To a much better place

And a much better place

Would have to be special

No reason to cry


On the day that I die I'd like bells to be rung

And songs that were sung to be hung out like blankets

That lovers have played on

And laid on while listening to songs that were sung


At the end of the end

It's the start of a journey

To a much better place

And this wasn't bad

And a much better place

Would have to be special

No need to be sad


Friday, 4 June 2021

Here comes the ice-cream man


Today's date has been in my diary for a while now: later this morning I will have a second shot of Astrazeneca in my arm. So that's me all jabbed up then. I know a few people reading this will also be double-bubbled too; so if you want to buy me a coffee (or a beer!) there's never been a better time to meet up...

...

June 4th was also something of a red letter day back in 1979. On a sunny afternoon some 41 years ago I left my parents house with L plates on my Vauxhall Viva Rockbox - I returned a couple of hours later with said plates in a waste bin outside the Test Centre. Over a million miles later and I'm still on the road.

...

But today also marks a far more harrowing anniversary. On this day in 1989 a student lead pro-democracy demonstration in Tienemen Square, Bejing, which had started peacefully seven weeks earlier, was brutally suppressed by heavily armed Chinese troops - complete with tanks. The ensuing massacre resulted in a death toll which has still to this day not been verified - but estimates put it at 10,000 minimum.

Grinding gears alert - when Blur released their eighth studio album, The Magic Whip, in 2015 it contained a (seemingly) jolly little song called Ice Cream Man. But it had dark undertones. Damon Albarn explained to Billboard magazine: "The sinister ice cream man with his white gloves. I set him in context of the (Tienemen) protest. He's a policeman and the whip is the state control. But the ice cream man is really sinister."

Blur - Ice Cream Man (2105)

When the band were promoting the album on Record Store day later that year this was how they reached out to their Californian fans - an ice cream van rocking up at various record shops selling ice cream and records. The eagle eyed among you will spot Amoeba Records - the best record store in the world, bar none. Fight me.


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

21-81 (No look behind me glances)


Susan Fassbender (1959-1991)

Like a tired diver finally emerging from the icy depths, I can't tell you how good it feels to be back in circulation once again; after nearly 15 months of privation - that feeling you get when you hug your Number One Son, or somebody serving you a meal you haven't cooked, or a beer you haven't poured, is still very much a novelty. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say never again will I take my freedom for granted. 
...

Many of my musings carry a piece or indeed several pieces of music. However, a lot of my recent scribblings haven't. Let me make up for that today. James - with his finger constantly on the pulse - sent me a collection of tunes last week under the banner "'21". And, as you might expect, it's a pot-poori of delights one can only assume were recorded (and maybe written) during lockdown. And what a life affirming selection it is. 

And if I had to rescue just one song from its waves? I think I'd have to go with this one:

Billy Nomates - Heels (2021)  



Whilst listening to to James' playlist for the tenth time on the bounce (it's been on in my office, in my kitchen, in my car),  I thought I'd volley the ball back over the net and hit James a with a bunch of songs that were made 40 years earlier; for no other reason other than I could call my collection "'81". (I've told you before: I'm a simple man.) 

...

When UFO recorded 'Profession of Violence' vocalist Phil Mogg was asked where his lyrics came from. He told the music press of the day that his inspiration had been (albeit very loosely) a paperback of the same name he'd recently read - the explosive (and rather grisly) tale of two of the most notorious criminals of the 1960s - East End twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray. It is with some sadness that I listen to the song now - three* members of the band died within 12 months of each other in 2019/20.

And here they are with (their latest) guitarist Vinnie Moore playing the song in 2005.

UFO - Profession of Violence


...

Today's final selection was a late addition to '81. Susan Fassbender was something of an enigma and 'Twilight Café' is, for me, one of the defining songs of the 80s; the riff that runs thru it is as catchy as a catchy thing. Unfortunately it's also one of those records that pulls you up short whenever it's played on TOTP reruns; reminding you that Susan sadly took her own life in 1991. 

Susan Fassbender - Twilight Café (1981)



Sorry about today's death count; I'm a cheerful little soul aren't I?
  

* Paul Raymond (1945-2019) ... Paul Chapman (1954-2020) ... Pete Way (1951-2020)



Saturday, 15 May 2021

Nothing says 1973 like a knitted yellow tanktop


The story of Jimmy McCulloch is not an epic tome; more a slim novella. Born in 1953 in Clydebank he picked up a guitar at 11 wanting desperately to emulate his hero, Hank Marvin. By 1969, aged just 16, he was on
Top of the Pops playing with Thunderclap Newman on their #1 single Something in the Air; he hadn't even started shaving.

And although he's probably best known for his tenure with Wings (1974-78), this is were he was at just before Macca signed him up. I'd like to think it wasn't just his silky skills on the fretboard that McCartney took a shine to, but his rather fetching gansey. 


Stone the Crows - Penicillin Blues (1973)




Jimmy's guitar sound defined mid-period Wings - he was all over Venus & Mars - but like many of McCartney's hired hands he would only ever be a sideshow to the ex-Beatle. His one composition for the band, Medicine Jar, was a live favourite - even making it onto the triple album extravaganza that was Wings Over America.


Wings - Medicine Jar (1976)



Quite ironic, Medicine Jar was an anti-drug song: just a couple of years later McCulloch was found dead at his London flat - cause of death morphine and alcohol poisoning. He was just 26; like I said, McCulloch's life was sadly not a long one.

Jimmy McCulloch (1953-1979)

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Fit for a King



Elvis had many looks - thin Elvis, fat Elvis, army Elvis. But when you think of early 70s Elvis - the Vegas Years - you picture him in your mind's eye in that iconic white jumpsuit (with the collar turned up. Natch). A sartorial nightmare in the wrong hands, you would have thought: why, who else would be crazy enough to walk down the street in 1972 wearing a heavily sequinned all-in-one jacket/trouser combo verging on the utterly ridiculous; your chances of being run out of town on a rail would, on a scale of 98 to 100, be, well, pushing 100.
Unless, that is, you were the Osmonds. Ever wondered how many white jumpsuits you could fit on a stage at any one time? Five, seemingly. Sometimes six, though long haired (underage) lovers from Liverpool don't really count.

...

When the insanely talented brothers released Crazy Horses, their fifth long player, this was, for my money, the best song on the album. And, as I found out only recently, the intro is the perfect soundtrack to brush your teeth to. I kid you not. 

The Osmonds - Hold Her Tight (1972)



Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Sure Thing


I
t's 20 years since I first visited Amsterdam. I was going to the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague with a few days bookended either side in the capital. My friend Barry and I wanted to go to Europe so we blindly stuck a pin in the map. To cut a long story short (oh, Spandau) I was lucky to come back in one piece. It's an experience that is etched indelibly on my brain; if you ever catch me in an unguarded moment and ask me what happened in Holland I may just tell you. Or I might just act dumb and talk about jazz. Or bikes. 

...

Moving swiftly on. One of the hotels we stopped in had a brilliant bar and was always playing great tunes (once back in Blighty I burned them a couple of CDs; I hope the jiffy bag I bunged in the post with a ton of stamps on it reached its destination). It's where I first heard this:


St. Germain - Sure Thing (2000)



Friday, 30 April 2021

One song to the tune of another


When Jeff Lynne wrote the rather catchy Do Ya for the Move they (unwisely, IMHO) stuck it on the B side of their 1972 single California Man. And there it would have stayed if it hadn't been for one Todd Rundgren. In 1975 Rundgren and his pick-up band Utopia were dropping it in their live set and everyone, seemingly, thought it was one of theirs. Well they would, wouldn't they? It sounds like a Todd Rundgren song.

The Move - Do Ya (1972)



So when the perma-shaded Lynne - by now fronting the Electric Light orchestra - got wind of this he must have said to himself 'Fuck that for a game of soldiers' and promptly rerecorded it for the next ELO album. A New World Record released in 1976 went on to shift five million copies in its first year of release alone; thanks, obviously, to the inclusion of Do Ya.

Todd Rundgren - Do Ya (1975)



And, yes, its striking resemblance to the Sweet's Fox on the Run hasn't gone unnoticed. The harmonies, in particular, have been lifted wholesale. I can only think that Jeff Lynne must have been feeling quite magnanimous about the whole thing and didn't bother filing a lawsuit; cushioned as he was, probably, by his millions in the bank.


Thursday, 29 April 2021

Getting out (more)


It's only taken me the best part of five months, but I bought a 2021 pocket diary today. That's cuz I've got stuff to put in it. I know, scary isn't it? As my mother-in-law used to say - 'There never were such times.' Meet ups with friends & family; a few days away; my second jab. It's all too much. I've always said I should get out more. Well, now I am. 

As you can imagine I was feeling quite giddy earlier. So giddy in fact that I bought a camera on eBay. Some of my photography buddies on Twitter are getting together soon so I thought I'd be reckless. I've been more than happy with my point and shoot Box Brownie (and, of course, my phone) but thought it was high time I acquired a big boy's camera. I used to lug an old 35mm Praktica around with me when I was in my twenties. I'd take it everywhere (gigs, especially), but I dropped it once too often - on a trip to France I think - and can remember throwing it off a boat.

Talking of France (and gigs), my new favourite band have just released their second album. Les Grys-Grys, from Montpellier, are one of the most explosive bands I've heard in a long, long time. They make my pulse race (probably not a good thing when you're my age) and I can't wait till it's safe enough for them to come to the UK. I've already given notice that I'll be following them round the country when they do. I'll probably have a bus pass by then; but at least I'll be getting out more.

Les Grys-Grys - Live on KEPX (2019)




Monday, 26 April 2021

The Boss



I gave an armful of blood this morning. No biggie - it's something I've been doing since I moved to Nottingham (the first time) in 1986. However, what did make it a big deal today was me breaking every rule in the book (well, one anyway); walking home in the early afternoon sunshine I happened upon one of my favourite pubs with a few tables laid out on the sunny side of the street. Let me tell you, never has a pint of beer tasted so good. (Quitting while I was ahead, I hastily cancelled my afternoon plans to operate heavy machinery.)

...

Don't get me wrong, I love a good cover version; you'll find them strewn all over the place if you go thru my back issues. Mashups too - loads of 'em. However, IMHO, I think the most sincere form of musical flattery is the good old fashioned sample. A knowing nod or a tip of the hat to a tune - or tunes - that tell the listener where you're coming from. 

My current sample of choice comes courtesy of a blinding tune James Brown released on his 1973 album Black Caesar. I first came across it when it appeared on the score to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. A great British caper movie and soundtrack to boot. But before the sample, have a listen to the source material:


James Brown - The Boss (1973)




The horns really do make it don't they? The JB's (for it is they) were Brown's backing band for much of the 70s and 80s. Their alumni is quite something; players like Bobby Byrd and Bootsy Collins have at sometime in their lives been a part of James Brown's Revue.

So, this sample that's been floating my boat; well, it's not the Ice T lift that formed the backbone of his 1990 single You Played Yourself. Likewise, neither is it Nas' Get Down from 2002 - ploughing a similar furrow, as it does, to Ice T (albeit with more effin' & jeffin').

No, the one that does it for me is Pete Rock's instrumental 'The Boss' which not only borrowed James Brown's riffs, but also deploys some clever (& sampled) jazz piano loops played (backwards!) throughout. See what you think.


Pete Rock - The Boss (2002)




Thursday, 15 April 2021

(Old) School

Whenever I take a selfie of me & dad we both go into 'wary' mode

Something I read on
Amy Rigby's intoxicating blog the other day really resonated with me. Long story short she said that even though blogging may well be seen by many as outdated, tired or not on trend "I'm just gonna keep chugging along like an old man's dinghy in a stream of slick, shiny yachts." In other words, and I've said this here many, many times - I'm writing this stuff for me, essentially. If others a. find it and b. heaven forbid, like it, that's nice but not why I do it.

...

I went to see Dad on Monday. Since restrictions began to ease I've gone over to Grantham a couple of times now for lunch. We generally walk to the park and have a coffee and a sandwich. And a side order of chips; food tastes better sitting on a park bench I tend to find.

Wyndham Park is a very well kempt park and also near to the grammar school I used to attend when I was not long out of short trousers. I asked dad if he wouldn't mind indulging me while I had a nosey through the railings. It's nearly 50 years since I started my first term at King's. A time when masters still wore gowns and mortar boards and thought nothing of a bit of light corporal punishment to while away the time. Luckily in 1972 there'd been a new intake of staff (teachers, not masters) who wore civvies and were actually decent human beings. Mr Roper, our Geography teacher and form teacher, being one of them. Along with a couple of other good eggs he was probably not long out of teacher training college when he came to the school and, looking back, was probably only ten years or so older than us.


Not a playground; it's a quad

My nosey through the railings turned into a bit more when realising the school was closed for Easter I asked the caretaker in the security hut if I could have a look round the old quad. Fill yer boots she said. So many memories came flooding back (mostly good, but not all) as I was transported to a time when Edward Heath was PM and every single one of my exercise books was covered in pictures of the Sweet. I took a few photos and even snuck in one of my old classrooms. Finding it quite emotional I went back outside where my dad seemed to be taking just as many photos as me. 


St. Wulfram's Church

On the way back we went through the neighbouring churchyard of St Wulfram's. Our old music teacher, Mr. Lank, was the choir master and organist there. I remember he let me and my mate Phil Noon talk about Slade for ten minutes in one of his classes; the things you remember. Walking back to dad's he told me that Mr Roper's 'not so good at the moment.' When dad says someone's not so good it's usually followed by an obituary in the local paper (Dad's seen a lot of friends and colleagues in there over the years.) Anyway, that's what I did on Monday.

I couldn't find my blue plaque anywhere


Saturday, 3 April 2021

Fairey squarey


I've been putting together a fair few playlists over Lockdown (pictured above is some of the artwork). I find compiling them very therapeutic. They've gone out to all and sundry: family, friends, Twitter buddies have all been on the receiving end of these digital mixtapes; lasting no more than 60 or 70 minutes they're an ideal way to while away an hour or so. And let's face it, we've got bugger all else to do.

Often I'll get a text or maybe an email back from the recipient with a "Thanks" or a smiley emoji. However, earlier this week after sending one over to my daughter-in-law's father, I was pleasantly surprised when I got this most unique of responses (and as my reply pointed out, I look forward to receiving a similarly detailed critique for each of the other 10 tracks!) 

Over to Andy...

"So, for those interested in cosmic interconnectedness, the first track is played by the Fairey Band based in Stockport so James & Janneke can probably hear them when the wind is in the right direction. Harry Mortimer was their musical director for 30 years and inspired me to play cornet in the local band. Fairey Aviation built the Swordfish aircraft in WW2 and at the end of hostilities set up Fairey Marine to build sailing dinghies. In 1959 they built the Swordfish that I'm currently repairing and hope to sail this year. It's called Sue and my sister, another Sue, was also built in 1959. It's number 215 the last they built and one of the very few that survive. If there's ever a Swordfish world championship I'd stand a good chance of a medal. Welcome to my Cosmos!"

...

The Williams Fairey Brass Band - Pacific 202 (1997)



Thursday, 25 March 2021

How?


I shan't keep you long today, just a quick show and tell. A song came on the radio earlier this week that, I don't mind telling you, knocked me for seven. And hearing it for the first time I naturally assumed it was a new tune. Well, you do don't you? Wrong! How has this gem, this utterly perfect slice of dreamy pop passed me by? I've been racking my brains and I must have gone to Mars in 2005; that's all I can think. 

...

Emilíana Torrini - Sunny Road 


 

Friday, 19 March 2021

Menacing



I was made aware this week of a rather significant (and genuinely newsworthy) anniversary: My childhood hero Dennis the Menace has just celebrated a significant birthday. Apparently, young Dennis first graced the hallowed pages of The Beano on 12 March 1951, so I make that 70 years. And because he arrived as a fully formed 10 year old that would make him 80 if he's a day. 
I began reading about the naughty schoolboy's scrapes in the late 1960s when I was a little bit younger than him; though, I've got to hand it to him, he's aged a lot better than me.
Along with The Dandy (for my younger bro) I remember both comics dropping on our doormat religiously every Thursday morning. Looking back I don't think my parents cancelled the subscriptions at the local newsagent till both my brother and I were well into our teens; I would often find dad poring over one or the other in his favourite armchair, guffawing loudly. Happy Birthday, Dennis! 



Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Game Changer

Lou Ottens died at the weekend. He was 94*. And although I never met him, Mr. Ottens changed my life; he probably changed yours too.

In 1963, Lou, working for Phillips, presented the first plastic encased cassette tape at an electronics fair. Carrying the strap line ‘smaller than a pack of cigarettes!’ his invention would go on to sell over 100 billion units. As well as countless portable cassette recorders which at a stroke consigned clunky reel-to-reel recorders to the glue factory.

And so the playlist was born. Compilation tapes (mix tapes, if you will) become the currency with which everyone in my school - and the world - shared their music. As I've mentioned many, many times here before, the songs I listened to then (and taped off the radio) essentially laid the foundations my life was built on. Seriously; cut me and I will bleed O Rhesus Glam. Rest easy, Lou.


* Some wag on Twitter said they were pleased he got to see 90.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Bookish


You may be forgiven for thinking today was just another lockdown day; another identikit Thursday - if Thursdays even mean anything anymore. But today was World Book Day; no, I'm not sure what that means in the context of a global pandemic either. I guess it's all about promoting books, bookshops, writers, writing, reading and anything remotely bookish. With most kids not even in school at the moment I don't know how this year's event reached younger readers. By Zoom, I guess. Like everything else.

For what it's worth I'm currently reading Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage and am also dipping in and out of Henry Normal's latest poetry anthology. Oh, and I've just ordered the new Magnus Mills. 

...

If you don't mind sharing, I'd love to know what you're reading right now...


Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Sprung

Archive photo from 2019

Has Spring sprung? Does hope, indeed, spring eternal? Whist the evidence of light at the end of the tunnel may still be in some doubt I can confirm that the light streaming through my bedroom curtains first thing in the morning over the last few days is very real. I said to C over at Sun Dried Sparrows whilst the first cuckoo of Spring may still be a few weeks away, I had my first "99" of the year at the weekend. Should I mark the occasion in some way? I'm not saying we should have a feast day or even a Bank Holiday* (what would we do with another flaming Bank Holiday right now?) but it felt kinda significant.  I guess you get your kicks where you can these days.

The Producers - Springtime for Hitler and Germany (1967)



* I will, however, attach myself to St. John's Day.