Thursday 25 February 2021


I'm not quite sure how to put this - I'm becoming ever so slightly obsessed with Status Quo. I find myself playing them most days*. Don't worry, I've not taken to wearing Quo patches or walking round with my thumbs in my belt loops; not yet, anyway. 

My interest in them musically, as I said here, stopped at around 1975 but that doesn't mean I don't want to read Francis Rossi's recent autobiography I Talk Too Much or watch obscure interviews on Youtube they did on Italian TV. I'm as interested in the relationship Rossi had with Rick Parfitt, his on stage partner of 50 years standing, as I am by anything they ever recorded. Weird, isn't it?


How can anyone with a pulse not find this clip from 1970 (courtesy of Granada telly) absolutely riveting? It was the single that came to define their sound. Which is ironic as they never even wrote it. For a record that only made No.12 in the hit parade it stuck around in the charts for 17 weeks. I know, that's longer than this current lockdown. Normal service will be resumed I can assure you; I just don't know when.

Status Quo - Down the Dustpipe (1970)

Monday 22 February 2021

Sunshine's better on the other side

On the day when the dreaded mantra 'Stay at home' was formally put on notice I'm not quite sure how I should be feeling this evening. It's (way) too soon for elation. Hell, it may even be presumptuous to buy green bananas, but there is a distinct possibility that in the not too distant we may be able to collect our goods and chattels from left luggage and go back out into the big wide world. I'm sure when I've had chance to process this new intel I'll get up on my soap box and tell you what I think(!)

In other news, John Creedon played this tonight on his excellent RTÉ 1 radio show.

John Martyn - Sunshine's Better (Talvin Singh remix) - 1997

Monday 15 February 2021

Rock stars at home (where else are they gonna be right now?)

I'm sure we've all been falling down various rabbit holes as we've tried to seek out live music (or what passes for live music in these crazy times) over the last year. Nigel Clark, Megson, Pete Morton, Megson and Tom Wardle being just a few of the musicians I've been tuning in to as they pull up a stool and play to  the red dot on their respective cameras. Hopefully (and I say this very guardedly) as we approach the beginning of a tentative easing of lockdown restrictions, the need for these virtual gigs will begin to give way to the real thing; whatever the real thing will look like in three, six, nine months time.


Continuing the theme, not only have some musicians been doing these 'live' shows, some have also been busy recording and releasing new material. Even Macca has been having something of a purple patch - he's just scored his first Number One album in donkeys years with his imaginatively titled McCartney 3; fair play, Paul. And here's the thing, it's actually not bad. Not that he needs me to tell him that. The lad's an accomplished songwriter and has fronted a couple of decent bands over the years (file under nothing to prove).


Someone who doesn't receive even a fraction of the column inches the above mentioned ex-Beatle commands is Canadian singer songwriter Ron Sexsmith. I've been dipping in and out of his career for 25 years now and still find myself marvelling at just how bloody good he is. Ron too has been busy recently; though the new album, Hermitage, was pretty much finished before lockdown, like McCartney, he recorded it at home in his front room and plays most of the instruments on it himself. Here's a preview of what you can expect:

Ron Sexsmith - When Love Pans Out (2020)

As a footnote to today's edition I can't not mention how f**king cold it was yesterday. I bring this up for a couple of reasons; not least that I was reminded of another Ron Sexsmith song whilst walking along the Trent with a biting windchill making it feel like -5 degrees; not since I moved back from North Yorkshire nearly four years ago have my bones felt so cold. 

So cold I needed a hat. And I don't do hats, particularly.

Wednesday 10 February 2021

Tree update

As you may be aware I embarked on a little art project last Autumn: I'm photographing the beech tree outside my house every day for a year; I started back in October so I'm about a third of the way thru. When it's complete I'll have 365 images which James and I are going to turn into a short film. I've also asked him to score it with an original soundtrack - I can't wait to see (and hear) the results of our handiwork.

In the meantime here's a couple of recent photos to give you an idea of how it's looking lately. The top image is from January 24th when we had our first dumping of snow. And the one below was taken this morning. (You can track the daily updates here on my Twitter feed, should you get the urge).

P.S. An arborist came out to look at the tree just before Christmas as part of a TPO* survey he was carrying out. When I asked him how old it was he was able to tell me with with a fair degree of certainty that it dates back to around 1880. 

* Tree Preservation Order

Monday 8 February 2021

No guitar, no concertina

Reading a review of a recent Mungo Jerry compilation* sums the band up as follows: 'Doing the simple thing well and in a memorable way is a far harder skill than it might appear, but Mungo Jerry had in spades.' Quite. Starting life as a skiffle/jug band they scored their first Number One in 1970 with 'In the Summertime' and a little later - when they'd expanded their sound and embraced the stompiness (if that's even a word) of glam - a second with 'Baby Jump'. 

So it was on the back of these flattering words that I decided to dig out their first album: 'Mungo Jerry' was released in 1970 and captured a band that already were fast becoming a festival favourite; that may sound a tad trite but just have a look at some early footage from the period and you'll see what I mean. 

I only have one problem with this album - and it's not even a problem as such, more an observation: in 1970 jug bands were all about keeping it real - banjos, upright pianos, harmonicas and jugs (obviously) were a staple part of their sound; so too were kazoos. To the point that when I listen to some of the selections on this (mostly great) album there are times when instead of seeing their mutton chopped leader Ray Dorset (pictured above) belting out another Alright Alright Alright, all I can picture in my head is a grey fluffy puppet character who, as Sooty's nemesis, was always getting into - what were referred to in the 70s as - scrapes. I speak, of course, of Sweep. Probably, after Eric Morecambe, the funniest funny man** of the decade. 

OK then, here are exhibits A & B. First up, a fabulous song from an album nearly as old as me. 

 Mungo Jerry - Maggie (1970)

And here we have one of the finest comedy sketches of the 1970s. Fast forward if you will to 22:40 to see what happens when Sooty decides to perform a violin recital. Just listen to the anguish in Sweep's voice as Mr. Harry repeatedly sends him away with a flea in his ear. 'No guitar and no concertina' is my new mantra.

Sooty and Sweep


* This latest collection is rather clumsily titled 'A & B sides & EP Tracks 1970-75'. Though anyone buying it couldn't possibly argue its moniker was in anyway ambiguous.

** Sorry, dishevelled glove puppet.

Sunday 7 February 2021

The death of fun

Long before Coronavirus I think Jonathan Richman was onto something when he said people would rather watch TV than hear a real person sing; for all his whimsy and clownlike goofiness, in 'USA Parties' Richman documents the rapid decline in fun and dearth of parties & encapsulates it beautifully in a tight 60s homage to both 'Louie Louie' and 'Hang on Sloopy'. In this miserable post-Brexit, Covid world we currently find ourselves in I think we could all do with Jonathan Richman in our lives right now. 

"People are moving to California who hate the beach and things, 

 I think they'd rather watch TV than hear a real person sing."

Jonathan Richman - Parties in the USA (1992)

Friday 5 February 2021


You find me on this Friday morning clinging desperately to a gossamer thin strand of hope that brings with it a gradual easing of lockdown - if not before the first cuckoo then hopefully the second. Or maybe the third...

Whilst many, I'm sure, see this enforced incarceration and privation as nothing more than a violent tilt of life's pinball machine, some will, I hope, see it as a chance to start over. Wipe the slate; reset the controls; make peace with their fellow man; whatever.

However we pick up the pieces of our old lives and begin to navigate the new uncharted landscape, I hope we all try and do it a little more peacefully than last time; a little bit quieter than last time; and also with a degree of humility. We don't own this world, we're just keeping the seats warm before the next lot come in.

And when the shackles are finally removed I know everyone will be planning holidays, visiting family and friends we haven't seen for months and generally making up for lost time. Just writing this is triggering all sorts of flash forwards. And, like you, I'm already making a random list in my head of places to go, people to meet. More on that to come, I'm sure. But where will I go first? That's easy. I'll see you in The Moon Under Water, where it's always quiet enough to talk. Can I buy you a drink?

In the meantime, keep staying safe.

Monday 1 February 2021

Longing it out

There's some pretty major shit going on right now - Covid, Brexit fallout, Trump fallout, a potential Russian uprising, a military coup in Burma, and that's not even the half of it. If you stopped too long to think about it you probably wouldn't bother getting out of bed in the morning.

The news is probably a major contributor to most people's worries and anxieties: I stopped taking a daily paper a couple of years ago instead opting for just a couple of Sundays; I don't even bother with that now - though I do miss the long read. Getting my news in bite size chunks off Twitter and BBC/LBC sound bytes is probably leaving me with a very jaundiced view of the world right now (the UK, anyway), so maybe I need to once more make that pilgrimage to the newsagent on a Sunday morning while my sausages are browning in the oven...

Talking about long reads, when the future of this blog hung in the balance last year (rumours were rife that New Blogger would be making it nigh on impossible for writers such as myself to continue in the way they had been doing for years), I remember saying that one option open to me would be to wipe the slate clean and start a more literary based blog (no messing about with coloured fonts, no cutaway videos, no photo montages) based around the long read format found in Sunday papers and the myriad of supplements contained therein. But I pricked my own bubble and said, basically, that if that was the style of writing I was going to pursue wouldn't I already have moved in that direction long ago?

My writing style, such that it is, combines brevity and levity and leans more in the direction of 'My Top 5 Biscuits' rather than a serious look at 'Biden's First 100 Days'. Though if there is a way to link the two I'm sure I'd find it if I stroked my chin for long enough. That's not to say that I shy away from political hot potatoes. For instance I'd call anyone out for being a hypocrite: show me someone who gets on their high horse about the current mental health of children at the moment and I'll point to that same person who voted for 10 years of Tory austerity and say to them "I don't remember you having a problem pulling funding for mental health and closing libraries." But, and I think this is the point I want to make, as much as I often feel my blog is far too silly or trivial at times, it's only because there are writers far better equipped than me to really tackle the big issues of the day. Leave me to tell you what Brian Connolly of the Sweet used to have for his breakfast in 1974 and I'm yer man. Though if our dimwitted PM makes one more fuck up I'm just as likely to sharpen my pencil and say "Oi! Johnson! No!"