Sunday 31 January 2021

Cover to cover

As usual, I've got my head in a book. I'm re-reading Raymond Chandler - I finished The Big Sleep yesterday and am now nearly half way thru The Long Goodbye. Classic Chandler; classic Marlowe. Not for nothing is there a quote on the dust jacket - c/o the Literary Review - proclaiming the author "One of the finest prose writers of the twentieth century." It was first published in 1953 and to the best of my knowledge has never been out of print since. 

Pictured (above and below) are some of its previous incarnations. If and when shops ever open again I'm going to hunt them down; a few days away scouring antiquarian bookshops - I honestly can't think of anything better right now.

Thursday 28 January 2021

'ow do!

I'm a sucker for the spoken word intro. Who can forget Ian Hunter's laconic "'ello" on Once Bitten, Twice Shy or Brian Connolly's now legendary " Are you ready, Steve?" heralding the Sweet's Ballroom Blitz? Not me, that's for sure. 

I'll wager you'll have your favourites too tucked away in the recesses of your record collections. The Damned have got a couple that spring to mind. Can it really be 45 years since the Damned's Dave Vanian's uttered the immortal "Is she really going out with him?" before Rat Scabies fell into his drum kit marking the start of New Rose?

I said they'd got a couple; here's the other one.

The Damned - Love Song (1978)

And here's the source material. It comes from a series of music hall monologues recited by the actor Jack Howarth. Howarth, best known for playing the miserable Albert Tatlock in Coronation Street kicks off proceedings with a very dry "Ladies and gentlemen, 'ow do."

Jack Howarth - 'ow do (1971) 

Jack Howarth (1896-1984)

Monday 25 January 2021


My listening tastes are all over the place at the moment. I blame lockdown. As much as I like to keep an eye on what's currently shakin' on the hill I find myself wandering back, way back; see posts passim - not least this from yesterday. I guess if I was to sum up in a sentence where I am I'd have to borrow a strap line from the wonderful Sun Dried Sparrows : "I was born in the 60s so I grew up in the 70s - that's all you need to know." Perfect. That's me.

So, over the last few days, I have mainly been listening to 'the Quo'. Often derided, often ridiculed, but there was a time when the three chord wonders from south London with a penchant for double denim couldn't put a white trainered foot wrong.

And what time would that be I hear you ask? Well, since I've never been one to shirk a question (a career in politics has never beckoned) I can tell you that you're looking at the period 1973-75. In particular a trilogy (holy?) of albums that still stands the test of time - Hello! ('73), Quo ('74) and On the Level ('75). In fact I'd go as far as to say you don't need any other Quo albums (or indeed singles); everything you could possibly want is contained within these three giant slabs of no nonsense, heads down see you at the end, boogie. 


That said, a rather tasty book-end to their story came about  a couple of years back kickstarted by way of an acoustic (Aquostic, if you will) gig they did at London's Roundhouse in October 2014. Recorded only two years before Rick Parfitt's untimely demise in December 2016, it captures the band in a less frantic setting and eschewing their trademark duh duh duh duh sound. I caught it on BBC 4 when it was first broadcast and loved every minute of it.

This is from their Hello! album. You may remember it sounding like this.

Status Quo - And it's Better Now (2014)

Sunday 24 January 2021


One of the defining sounds of glam rock - that jungle like double drum kit beat underpinning an onslaught of distorted guitars and horns - can trace its lineage back to a musical genre poles apart from mirrored top hats and platform boots; something, in fact, very Irish. Showbands - large ensembles of musicians that would specialise in covering cheesy hits of the day and perform them in dance halls up and down the land.

Borne out of the Mike Leander Showband in the mid-1960s their trombone player & musical arranger John Rossall peeled off to become the Boston Showband. The Bostons who were neither from North America, or indeed Ireland, decamped to Germany in the mid 60s to ply their trade and toured with every man and his dog including Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. During this period they did their ubiquitous 10,000 hours and came back to a very changed UK in 1972 as one of the tightest backing bands around. 

The Boston Showband - Hey Diddle Diddle (1967)

Seeing which way the musical wind was blowing (following a meeting with Mike Leander) and with a liberal smattering of bacofoil stuck to their stage jackets they soon became The Glittermen backing the newly re-badged Gary Glitter (who as Paul Gadd/Raven had sung with both Leander and the Bostons) with his brand new tub thumper Rock and Roll Parts 1 & 2 (written by Leander and Glitter).

The Glitter Band (they were only the Glittermen until 1973), like Cliff's backing band 10 years earlier, soon escaped the shadow of their Leader and starting releasing record under their own steam. And very good records they were too. Stacking up an impressive seven Top 20 hits; the first of which - Angel Face - was lifted from their debut album, Hey!, in 1974.

The Glitter Band - Angel Face (1974)

I love this next clip. Fast forward 15 years and things are very different. Although Glitter is still in public circulation, he's no longer the pull he once was and he and the Glitter Band are both in reduced circumstances. But this film, for all that, I think still captures very essence of glam. Yes they may well be playing in a pub and yes they're a very stripped back band by this time but, by God, this is one hell of a performance. Gerry Sheppard is channelling his inner Glitter like he was in a venue 10x the size. Enjoy.

The Glitter Band - I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock and Roll) (1989)

Gerry Sheppard (1951-2003)

Monday 18 January 2021



I rang my best friend, Steve, this afternoon. Like me he's almost at the end of his rope with the lockdown; but needs must when the Devil vomits in your kettle - as a wise man once said. We listed all the things we miss (I'm guessing you do the same thing too) and how once this bloody war is over we'll never take anything for granted again (though in time, of course, we will).

Steve has a daughter* currently living in Vancouver and he's missing her, I can tell. I miss James like crazy and he's only in Manchester - though to all intents and purposes Manchester may as well be in Canada - the way this pandemic has confined us all to barracks. 

We always end our calls shouting "STAY IN YOUR HOME!" in our most demented of voices. It comes courtesy of the Stranglers' Curfew lifted from their Black & White album. You should try it; it's very cathartic. We've been doing it that long we probably won't be able to stop ourselves, even in peacetime.

The Stranglers - Curfew (1978)

Friday 15 January 2021


Jake Bugg's new single is already shaping up to be among my Records of the Year - not bad going considering we're only 15 days in. Every time I've heard it it's caught me unawares. It makes me happy and sad at the same time if that makes sense. It's bouncy and full of hope, yet I fear that if it were a book or a film it wouldn't end well. Am I reading too much into this? I don't know. I probably need to get out more; wait, no. Fuck.

Jake Bugg - All I Need (2021)

Thursday 14 January 2021

Espresso Martini

I've just finished watching Lilyhammer - to borrow a phrase from Charlie Brooker's Death to 2020 I binged the shit out of it. Accepting Steven Van Zandt as anyone other than Silvio Dante for me was always gonna be a big ask, though I guess Springsteen fans had to make their own leap of faith when they saw the former E Street Band guitarist transmogrify into a Jersey mobster the first time around; The Sopranos has got a lot to answer for.

Anyhoo, I thought it was terrific. Imagine Fargo meets Goodfellas and you won't be far off the mark. The soundtrack was none too shabby either. While I'm here I may as well confess that until a few days ago I've never heard anything by Van Zandt. However, this instrumental featured in the show (though I can't off the top of my head remember in what context) and it's really rather nice.

Steven Van Zandt - Espresso Martini (2014)

And here he is without his syrup. But with a rather tasty house band. I watched an interview he did for another talkshow this afternoon and I've got to say what a thoroughly nice fella Mr. Van Zandt is.

Espresso Martini - Live on the Aresenio Hall Show

Thursday 7 January 2021

Sarah Shiels

Fast & Bulbous Records are a brilliantly titled new micro label based in Hull and are going to be releasing a digital single every month during 2021. Now that's what I call a New Year's Resolution.

This month's offering is 'Fruits of Life' by 24 year old songwriter and multi instrumentalist Sarah Shiels. Sarah, formerly of Ming City Rockers and Black Delta Movement, also plays bass with fellow Hull musician Sally Currie a.k.a. The Dyr Sister.

Sarah's list of influences is very interesting, name-checking Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega; glimpses of which can be detected in the DNA of this her stunning debut recording. Sarah describes the song as an ode to the modern world, capturing that feeling of watching those who have the world in their hands time and time again throwing away the chance of happiness.

Sarah Shiels - Fruits of Life (2021)


Sunday 3 January 2021

Caravans as flags

I can honestly say (to the best of my knowledge) I've never knowingly taken a photograph of a caravan before. Which is why I can testify right here, right now - may God strike me down now - that this will not be the start of a regular feature; or even an irregular feature. When I stumbled upon this rather jazzy wagon this afternoon it did kinda put me in mind of a flag; which led me to think that there may well be other examples of mobile homes out there resembling nations' ensigns... 


I realise that this opening salvo may not be the most auspicious of starts to a New Year, but in keeping with a very quiet Christmas and an even quieter birthday, this is, for now anyway, how it crumbles, cookie wise. Bear with me, I'll hit my stride again before too long. You just see if I don't.