Monday, 27 December 2021

How are you spelling that?


When I heard this rather sexy version of Southern Freeez playing in a bar the other night I made a mental note to hunt it down as soon as possible and add it to my current playlist. Its infectious Brazilian/Bossa rhythms make it impossible to not tap your foot to it; those of a younger persuasion may well be inclined to throw a few shapes to it. I, however, have my back to think about.

And to discover when I got home that it's been put together by Gilles Peterson surprised me not a jot; it's got his fingerprints all over it. The only thing that does surprises me about it is that I'd not heard it sooner. That and the track's faintly ridiculous spelling.

Sonzeira - Southern Freeez (2014)




Sunday, 26 December 2021

Home



Christmas Day was always going to be a quiet affair this year; dad was away at my brother's and James & Janni were at home in Manchester road-testing their swanky new kitchen. But Sam said he was opening up for a few of his regulars, so what better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than with a meat vindaloo washed down with a pint of Cobra. SFSG. After a splendid meal it was just a short cab ride home where I opened the Quality Street and, this is when I knew all was not right, I didn't reach for a beer but instead played safe and put the kettle on. I then proceeded to fall asleep during Let it Be and, when raised from my slumber, could barely play more than a couple of hands of Rummikub before disappearing to the bathroom. Several times. Not 'the rona' - I tested negative with a lateral flow - just a stomach bug that went thru me like the proverbial dose of salts.
Deciding that bed was probably the safest place, I was tucked up a little after 9pm (too exhausted even to read the next chapter of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being) feeling more than a little sorry for myself but remembering to text my friend David and taking a rain check on Boxing Day's planned walk.

But that was then and this is now; after a good night's kip (and no more visits to the bathroom) I think I'm cured! I've woken up with an insatiable thirst (I'm already on my third brew of the day) and can't wait to tackle a few pigs in blankets later.
Anyway, I hope you all had a slightly better day than me yesterday and if you want to know what I'm currently listening to than this is Liverpool legend Ian Prowse. It's not really a Christmas record, but it kind of is - evoking as it does all the sentiments associated with this time of year. Right, I just need to call David and tell him our walk is still on...

Amsterdam - Home (2007)



Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Cry for help


"It upsets me every time I hear it, isn't that ridiculous? Why do I get like this? Perhaps I need psychiatric help."

So said John Peel on his radio show on 24 December 2003. He was talking about the song Ian Prowse and his band Amsterdam released as a single 18 years ago. For the avoidance of doubt, Peel didn't need help; this blog is littered with songs that make me choke up. Does This Train Stop on Merseyside joins a long list of songs that catch me unawares; every time. 

Ian Prowse - Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?





Sunday, 19 December 2021

Please, please, please

Even the most diehard Smiths fans must wince at some of the stories they read about former frontman Morrissey; his recent overt right wing leanings alone are enough, you would have thought, to consign Steven Patrick Morrissey to Room 101. (No wonder The Simpsons were very rude about him.) And yet, and yet...

Anyone who can write a song so achingly beautiful as this can't be all bad. Can they? And when he changes the line 'Let me get what I want' to 'Let me have who I want', as he does here, then I for one have totally melted.

Morrissey - Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want

I recently got confirmation of my first gig of 2022. I'm playing Brady's Bar in Nottingham on 6 March and so thought 'Id do an arrangement of Please, Please, Please on the night. 

Monday, 6 December 2021

5, 4, 3, 2, 1


 I've always held a firm belief that my records talk to each other when I'm out of the room. "Why does he play you all the time? He hasn't played me for ages; do you think he's fallen out with me?"

Far fetched? Only as far fetched as the idea I had as a kid that if all my 33s & 45s came fitted with a meter that told me how often I'd played them then I would have the raw data to go up to certain platters that were perhaps feeling a bit unloved, put my arm around them and give 'em a spin. Which is precisely what Spotify does. I know some of you probably look down on your noses at such streaming platforms in the same way I recoil whenever anyone mentions Wetherspoons, but every year I've subscribed to their service the personalised end of year roundup has been not only an antidote to my piss poor memory but also validation that good tunes will always rise to the top.

I shan't bore you with everything I've been listening to this year (the complete playlist is 100 songs long and, anyway, you'll find tons of 'em in posts passim), instead I'll just give you my Top 5. However, if your appetite is whetted, then I'm sure I can shoehorn some (or indeed all!) of the remaining 95 into a follow up post (or two) sometime in the New Year.


So what's at the top of the shop? Anyone not familiar with the work of Joy Orbison might want to use this track as a jumping of point. All I can tell you is that it will probably be playing at some point on my American rail holiday next year; you'll see why when you hit play... 

Joy Orbison - Transition 2 (2018)



Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Think I'm Alright Now



Felix Bechtolsheimer is Curse of Lono. He writes and sings the kind of songs I like. I only know this because the last remaining music magazine I subscribe to dropped on the doormat over the weekend and, within its covers, was a full page ad for an album called People in Cars by the aforementioned Curse of Lono. I had absolutely no idea what he/they/it sounded like; but I knew from the album cover alone that I would love it (who said you can't judge a book by it's cover?). And so it came to pass; after listening to it twice on the bounce initially and a further couple of times it is now, as I write this late on Tuesday night, lodged squarely in my brain. (Don't you just love it when that happens?) This is the new single.

Curse of Lono - Think I'm Alright Now (2021)




Sunday, 21 November 2021

Cupboard love


This weekend was spent in the company of James and Janneke up in Manchester. Although Janni is still suffering from the effects of Long Covid she was in fine form yesterday and today. Both she and James get a kick out of up-cycling old pieces of furniture: James has recently restored an old 1960s stereogram and given it a brand new lease of life, c/w blue tooth connectivity, whilst Janneke is in the middle of bringing this retro kitchen unit into the 21st century; with a little help from Lily.



Monday, 8 November 2021

We go again


Following our hugely successful first night at our new home last month, Monday Vinyl returns to The Carousel in Hockley at the end of this month with an absolute blinding record: Steely Dan's Countdown to Ecstasy is, you'll not be surprised to learn, in a rather splendid tome that lives on the bookshelf in my local entitled 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Yet another reason why The Abdication in Daybrook is one of my favourite pubs of all time. Blowing the froth off a sensational cask ale while delving in and out of what I can only call the musical bible (I lose all concept of time when I open its pages) is, for me, the perfect way to spend an evening. Feel free to come and join me. Likewise, there's an open invite to anyone reading this who happens to find themselves in Nottingham on the 29th. What could be better than listening to (and talking about) the Dan in convivial surroundings with like minded coves?


Steely Dan - King of the World (1973)


A big thank you to Ben and Christos for looking after us so well at The Carousel - the perfect hosts; as too are Matt & Lucy at the Abdication.

The Carousel, 25 Hockley, Nottingham NG1 1FH

The Abdication, 89 Mansfield Road, Daybrook, Nottingham NG5 6BH


Monday, 1 November 2021

Scottishish

Matthew (left) - Portpatrick, 30.10.21

My friend Matthew has lived and worked in Scotland for 28 years. His two grandchildren are called Hamish and Angus. He eats square sausage and even has a Scottish bus pass - you get them when you're 60 north of the border. But even though he's probably more Scottish than Rod Stewart (in some quarters he'll always be a feb - Matthew, not Rod; though Rod technically is too), Matthew isn't Scottish. But when I took this photo of him on Saturday in Portpatrick he came pretty close.

And here we both are. It was taken in 1986 at Warwick University by our mutual friend Richard Rigg. Matthew and I are going to Los Angeles in March next year where Riggsby now resides. I may ask him to recreate this photo (whilst Matthew and I are both still able to climb steps unaided).

JM (left) & Matthew


Thursday, 21 October 2021

Reach out, touch faith


They do say, do they not, that life imitates art; and, in true Magnus Mills style, so it came to pass that disenfranchised members of the (it has to be said, rather successful) Sunday Vinyl Session would take it upon themselves to kickstart a new club; sticking by and large to the same format, and operating not a stone's throw away from where we used to ply our trade, it's time to say 'hello' to the imaginatively titled Monday Vinyl.

Since the easing of lockdown we've found ourselves a shiny new venue complete with a shiny new turntable; all we need now is a shiny new clientele. So, if you find yourself in Nottingham a week on Monday kicking your heels, why not come down to the Carousel in Nottingham's artistic quarter, and see what's shakin' on the hill?

We're kicking off with 'Violator' - Depeche Mode's rather splendid long-player from 1990.  And what better way to start our new season. This really was a groundbreaking album. We'll talk about it. Play it. Have a drink. And then play it some more. So please come down if you're a fan of Basildon's finest. And please do come down even if you're not; tap me on the shoulder and tell me what you'd like to hear next time. See you on the 25th. 

Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus (1990)


Wednesday, 13 October 2021

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see


I've just read Matt Haig's The Midnight Library. My friend Alyson emailed me a couple of weeks ago and recommended it. And I'm so glad she did. It was a delightful read; the sort of novel I'd love to have read and discussed with my old book club back in North Yorkshire. If you've read it, or are thinking of reading it, I'd love to know how you got on with it. And if you are going to get a copy please support your local bookshop if you can - I'm sure Amazon will struggle on if you decide not to use them this once.

Rather than me give away any plot spoilers, here's the author himself giving a very brief synopsis...



Wednesday, 6 October 2021

A-Z


The first entry in the Nottingham A-Z is Aaron Close in Wilford NG2; the last is Zulu Road in Basford NG7. Guess where I'm walking on Sunday? This cheeky urban ramble is the brainchild of Richard, my psychogeography friend, and promises to be great fun. There'll no doubt be a lot of pointing at stuff and general chitchat, while members of the public look on in bewilderment wondering why we on earth we would find a particular roof detail fascinating or want to take photographs of railings.

For those of you unfamiliar with NG postcodes  Aaron Close* is south of the river (Trent), Zulu Road** is north. Depending on the route we take - and how far we stray off piste - it's around five miles, so not too taxing by any stretch of the imagination. And yes, I have got a boozer in mind at the end where, no doubt, we shall plan our next sortie.

* If you've ever been to the cricket at Trent Bridge you're not a million miles away.

** Not far from where they hold the famous Nottingham Goose Fair.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

What a time to be alive


I managed to get a tank of gasoline earlier today: dropped lucky on a mildly busy Shell forecourt around lunchtime and filled 'er up. My relief was palpable. FFS, how has it come to this? Covid was horrific, but the aftershock following Brexit will be felt for years to come. What a time to be alive. I dread to think what fresh hell will land in our laps between now and the next election. Though whatever does come our way in the next 24/36 months I guarantee it will only make me poorer, angrier and sadder. That much I do know.

On a jauntier note, I hope you like today's photograph; I took it in Lambley - a little village not far from me.

...


Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Does that make sense?

Cracknell - mint

It won't have escaped your notice that Saint Etienne have a new long player out at the moment: I've Been Trying to Tell You is as diverse as you'd expect it to be yet, at the same time, as familiar as you want it to be. Does that make sense? That's a rhetorical question btw; if I get asked one more time, after somebody has told me the most basic of information, 'does that make sense?,' I think I'll swing for them. Does that make sense?


I fell in love with Sarah Cracknell's pipes a long, long time ago; and still her voice makes me giddy. Even though she never sang on their first single Only Love Can Break Your Heart, I still, in my head, think it's her. Does that make sense?

Anyway, enough of this rhetoric nonsense. This is Sarah Cracknell - taken from, surely, a contender for Album of the Year. I hope you like it.

Saint Etienne - Pond House (2021)


Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Last Bus

There's a point in The Last Bus, Timothy Spall's new film, where Tom, the pensioner Spall plays, is asked to show his bus pass; you can just make out the year of his birth -1929; a bit of a reach for an actor nearly 30 years his junior? No, not really. With minimal make-up, a stoop and a walking cane the character you see before you is every bit as believable as the numerous BAFTA nominations Spall has received over an acting career spanning more than 40 years (he made his film debut in Quadrophenia in 1979).

It's a beautiful movie; emotional but not mawkish; sentimental but not schmaltzy. And yes, if you're anything like me, you'll be weeping buckets before the closing credits.

The Last Bus - 2021



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


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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


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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)