I did a playlist for a friend who was going on holiday to Cornwall this week. Not really knowing the sort of stuff she listens to I trusted to luck and went for a mixed bag; listening back to it now it's probably a tad downbeat. However, I needn't have worried.
Friday, 30 September 2022
Tuesday, 27 September 2022
Saturday, 24 September 2022
The way George pronounces care and beware ("take kurr, bewurr") is so enchanting I can't stop smiling every time I hear this. I've written countless times on this blog why young George was, and will always be, the fabbest of the Fabs. And when you watch Get Back and see how frantically John and Paul try and bring him back into the fold after his beautifully choreographed, but short-lived, flounce you realise how much more they needed him than he needed them.
Thursday, 22 September 2022
I was on business in Worthing yesterday; Brighton's scruffy little brother. My meeting finished earlier than I thought so I rang my cousin Suzie who lives up the road in Hove and invited myself round for a cuppa; we'd not seen each other since before Covid so it was great to catch-up. She still smiles when I call her Suzie; she was always Suzie when we were kids, but now she's a grown up and everyone calls her Susan. Except me. Oh, and we had lemon drizzle cake too.
Today's blog post was brought to you by a sixty-one year old man. Normal service will be resumed, I promise.
Wednesday, 14 September 2022
I could be wrong - it wouldn't be the first time - but in all the years I've been writing about music and popular culture* (and certainly in the last dozen or so I've been curating this blog) I've used many superlatives and adjectives when waxing lyrical about artists and their work, but I don't think I've ever reached for the D word to describe anyone or anyone's music. Until now, that is.
GusGus** are an Icelandic electronic combo with an impressive eleven studio albums under their belt. This is taken from their tenth, Lies are More Flexible. And, yes, in my humble opinion, it is divine.
GusGus - Fuel (2018)
** From a 1974 German film Fear Eats the Soul, in which a female character cooks couscous and calls it gusgus.
Sunday, 11 September 2022
Friday, 9 September 2022
|Artist: Jeni Amos Rodger|
It's subjective, I know, but my favourite London bridge is Chelsea Bridge. To the best of my knowledge this particular Thames crossing is still very much up. Billy Strayhorn wrote a song about it in 1941 (even though he got it confused with Battersea Bridge - the next one along). Strayhorn is not unique in getting his bridges mixed up.
“London Bridge is Down” pic.twitter.com/08w0yV4U68— Josh Pugh (@JoshPughComic) September 9, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)
Tuesday, 6 September 2022
On the back of my guitar solo piece a couple of weeks ago I was really interested in some of the comments that were posted in response; not least by old friend of this blog, Artog. Artog comes, and Artog goes; but when he does put his head above the parapet, usually once every five years or so (I suspect he's part of the witness protection program), I always take note. He said he loves it when guitarists do fucked up things. I told him I did too. For instance, Bob 'Derwood' Andrews' from Generation X leaves his calling card all over their first (and best) album. But he was doing it long before on this, the definitive version of No No No (not the cleaner album version or even the John Peel session) - it appeared on the flip side of Ready Steady Go released in February '78. Fast forward to 3:04 and hear Derwood as he tries to keep it together, then listing at the end before finally, and inevitably, slipping anchor. Marvellous stuff, I think you'll agree.
Generation X - No No No (1978)
* Don't hold your breath for #2 - me and long running series don't mix very well. I leave that kind of behaviour to the ineffable Rol.
Saturday, 3 September 2022
I found myself up in the North East recently, Sunderland to be precise. I was a bit early for my meeting so I grabbed a coffee in a little caff whilst reading a couple of the flyers from the counter; it seems the Osmonds are coming to town, well, facsimiles of (if you know you know). The Osmonds musical - story by Jay Osmond - is coming to the Sunderland Empire (the West End of the North East) on September 13 where it plays for five nights + a couple of matinees too.
And before you ask, yes, I am tempted. What's not to like? Long before I got into heavier and more 'serious' music, the kind of disposable* bubblegum pop those five brothers used to make was right up my strasse and is still hardwired into my brain to this day; if you grew up in the 70s the chances are those songs are still front and centre in your brain too.
The Osmonds - One Bad Apple (1970)
When I came back I took a slight detour via Gateshead to pull in one of Antony Gormley's most iconic sculptures. I've passed it countless times bombing up and down the A1, but never before took the time to study it at close quarters. I'm so glad I did. It dominates the landscape without totally taking over, if that makes sense?**. Go and see it, if you haven't already...
* Not that disposable after all; still sounds fresh to these ears.
** I'm playing with you; as you probably know, I hate the expression 'if that makes sense?' If that makes sense?
Friday, 2 September 2022
Neil Hannon is a charming man; he is charm personified. When I interviewed him for the paper he was continually feeding me lines which meant the piece I was writing (ahead of a local gig he was playing in town) practically wrote itself. I must dig it out and reproduce it here - he really did open up.
But today I learned a new fact about the Divine Comedy's charming frontman. (I've always said you should learn at least one new thing each day; something you didn't know when you got out of bed in the morning.) And today's new factoid...
Hannon is a patron of the Irish animal charity My Lovely Horse Rescue. Well, he would be, wouldn't he? Here's a beautiful acoustic version of a song from his 2006 collection Victory for the Common Muse - the album he was promoting when I spoke to him.
Neil Hannon - A Lady of a Certain Age
Tuesday, 30 August 2022
I love songs that throw you. Benny and the Jets throws me every time I hear it. Firstly, that strange out-of-time vamped piano chord at the beginning that tells you something's not quite right. Next up, it sounds like it's been recorded live; it wasn't - the crowd noises were overdubbed from a live set Reg played in Vancuver in 1972 and, bizarrely, Jimi Hendrix live at the Isle of Wight(!). Thirdly, it originally appeared on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in October 1973 - how would the (fake) crowd recognise it instantly - it wouldn't appear as a single for another nine months? And then there's the falsetto vocals; Dwight said at the time he was trying to sound like Frankie Valli; he really doesn't. But my God, despite (who knows, maybe because of) the above, it still works. A most unusual track both for him and its time (I never had a clue what he was wanging on about when I first heard it; still haven't) and probably one of only a handful of his songs of his I can listen to on a regular basis. I realise that's hardly a ringing endorsement, but, hey, them's the breaks. Take it away, Elton...
Elton John - Benny & The Jets (1973)
Monday, 29 August 2022
I'd shortlisted a couple of selections for today's BHMLS™ but couldn't decide which one to go with; so I've opted to run with both. Neither of which, I can guarantee, will attract any new subscribers to this blog; in fact it'll probably send my regular readership (with maybe the exception of The Swede) running to the hills. But, hey, my bat, my ball, my wicket.
Hatfield and the North & National Health were flag bearers for what we now call prog. And way back when - in the 70s - progressive music was very much an underground scene. TV appearances by its protagonists were few and far between, which is why I've gone for National Health's OGWT set from 1979. Dave Stewart's keyboard set up is reminiscent of an eastern Europe telephone exchange and, no, please don't approach the man writhing on the floor ranting into the microphone; it's for your own safety.
National Health - The Collapso (1979)
Hatfield and the North - the band that spawned National Health - were equally eclectic. With one foot in jazz, one foot in rock and a third (imagine Jake the Peg) planted firmly in the Canterbury scene, this next selection is, I think you'll agree, totally deserving of the BHMLS™ tag, weighing in, as it does, at an eye watering 20 minutes.
Hatfield and the North - Mumps (1975)
Sunday, 28 August 2022
If David Bowie was still this side of the grass the chances are he would, at some point, have been persuaded to take his Hunky Dory album out on the road and play it live - back to back (and probably chuck in a greatest hits set at the end). Tho' for that to have even been a possibility would not just have meant bring one rock god back from the grave, but two: Mick Ronson not only defined the sound of Bowie's seminal 1971 album, but was also responsible for helping create the whole Ziggy zeitgeist during that crucial '71 -'73 period. The Man Who Sold the World couldn't have done it on his own; he needed reliable backup. And in Ronson he found not just his perfect foil but someone to keep him grounded. The fact they both packed their bags and buggered off to Mars the following year is neither here nor there...
Here they are, just the two of them - Bowie on vocals and piano, Ronson on guitar...
David Bowie - Eight Line Poem (BBC session 1971)
Thursday, 25 August 2022
Fotheringay - ‘The Sea’ (2:47 - 3:53) https://t.co/lJAnxxboYb— 𝙹𝚘𝚑𝚗 𝙼𝚎𝚍𝚍 (@JohnMeddUK) August 25, 2022
Fotheringay - The Sea (1970)
Tuesday, 23 August 2022
I have a lot of love for John Power: after jumping ship from bass playing duties in the La's in 1992 (he and Lee Mavers had taken the band as far as they could*), Power formed Cast (one of the first - and probably one of the best - Britpop bands I ever saw, early in '95 at Trent Uni) before growing a beard, wearing plaid shirts and transmogrifying into something of a folkie.
John Power - Start at the Beginning (2015)
And along the way he's trod the boards - and gained much critical acclaim - in Lennon at Liverpool's Royal Court playing (the older) John Lennon** and narrator. Here he is backstage rehearsing one of my favourite Lennon songs. I particularly like it as having only two chords it's a tune I often play at the end of a night too.
John Power - Working Class Hero (2013
* I'm over simplifying, obviously. It's well documented that Mavers has spent all his working life trying to write and record the perfect pop song. Some say he achieved it with There She Goes. But not Mavers. Nearly forty years later he's still looking for that perfect melody, that perfect hook, that perfect chorus. It's his personal Holy Grail.
** As a native of Liverpool, a Beatles devotee, and having attended Quarry Bank High School, it's the role Power was born to play.
Sunday, 21 August 2022
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but, as regular readers will know, during those grim days of Lockdown I started taking photographs of the beech tree that lives outside my front door and posting them on Twitter; egged on by my son James who said I should photograph it every day for a year, I ended up doing precisely that. It was all done very much on the hoof so there was no fixed point where a tripod would stand (it was all hand held from, roughly, the same position) and no fixed time of day when I pressed the shutter (most of the shots are mid-morning, but a couple were taken ad hoc to capture a particular light - or the time that it snowed).
So 365 images (give or take) were deposited one by one into a digital folder whereupon I gave them to James and asked him to 'put them together'. Which, to his eternal credit, he's done. He's also scored it which makes the whole thing pretty unique. Here's the first cut.
(Just hit the 'play' arrow on the tree - you don't need a Twitter account to view it)
Remember the beech tree I photographed every day for a year during lockdown?https://t.co/R6HoAJL06n— 𝙹𝚘𝚑𝚗 𝙼𝚎𝚍𝚍 (@JohnMeddUK) August 20, 2022
Friday, 19 August 2022
Mackay & Bowles - sounds like a firm of solicitors. Or maybe a haulage company. Alas, not. Bill Mackay and Nathan Bowles are virtuosos of the guitar and banjo respectively. Of course they are. But until yesterday neither were known to me. Which is fine; I can't be across everything and everybody. Only so many hours in the day and all that. However, what did sound familiar was an instrumental of theirs entitled Joy Ride which they released last year. I heard it and (thought I) recognised it immediately. See what you think before reading on:
Bill Mackay & Nathan Bowles - Joy Ride (2021)
If, like me, you think it sounds like a cover/reworking of a single put out by a bunch of scallies thirty odd years ago, you'll perhaps see why I sent this message to Chicago based Mr. Mackay on Twitter.
As you can see I played it with a straight bat: nothing offensive, nothing blue. Thinking no more of it I went to put the kettle on and made a fuss of the cat. Ten minutes later I'm sitting in my favourite chair with a cup of tea & a custard cream and this pops into my inbox:
The La's - Feelin' (1991)
Tuesday, 16 August 2022
Neil and Tim Finn have been responsible for so much of the music that lives within me; music that makes me smile and music that makes me cry - often in equal measure. Whether it be Split Enz, Crowded House, the songs they wrote and recorded apart or, and this is where I think the the Holy Grail resides, in the albums they made together as the Finn Brothers.
Their 1995 album Finn has just been made available on vinyl for the first time thru Pete Paphides' Needle Mythology label; Pete is truly one of the finest music journalists/authors around and a curator, some may say gatekeeper, of some of pop's most overlooked recordings. Here's a short film of Pete giving Neil his copy of the album.
And here is a taster of what you can expect to find on this luscious album. It's side one, track one and this is (I think) its first live outing on the BBC's Later - with both Neil & Tim (and Jools Holland) looking like mere boys.
The Finn Brothers - Only Talking Sense (1995)
Sunday, 14 August 2022
Thursday, 11 August 2022
Another blog post and another ridiculously hot sticky night. Despite my office being probably the coolest room in the house, as I'm typing this it feels like a nursing home where the thermostat is permanently cranked up to 11. Joy. Talk of a drought, hosepipe bans and the proliferation of wildfires means we are probably only days away from calling a national emergency; as if we haven't got enough on our plates already this year, ffs.
Anyway, enough of my whinging (sorry, I do have a tendency to whinge when I'm hot and bothered). I discovered this beautiful piece of music the other day. It's called Evening Time and I think I want it to be played at my funeral. Which hopefully won't be for a little while yet, unless I melt to death over the next few days...
Kolumbo - Evening Time (2022)
Monday, 8 August 2022
Another day another rock and roll casualty. Olivia Newton John may have been too saccharine for some but, to boys of a certain age growing up in the early 70s, Neutron Bomb was as much a pinup as say Suzi Quatro, Susan Dey or even that model in the Flake commercial; poster girls all. And the fact that she scored her first hit with a George Harrison arrangement of a Bob Dylan tune meant that she could no wrong. I love this song. And you can tell from this clip* she loved singing it. Rest easy, Olivia.
* P.S. 11.8.22 - Apologies, since posting this, Youtube have taken down all the 1971 live footage of ONJ (incl. the one I originally put up) and the audio only versions. Bastards. So I've swapped it for a later versh. Soz.
Olivia Newton John - If Not For You
Monday, 1 August 2022
We're spoiled for good pubs here in Nottingham; despite the rate at which hostelries are shutting up shop, those that remain (together with a plethora of new watering holes), for the most part, are well worth a visit. And often a detour. In particular I can't recommend the Bath Inn highly enough: situated but a stone's throw from the city, in Sneinton, which, if you listen to the new owner*, is on the verge of becoming our very own Covent Garden. We'll see. All I know is they sell some great beers, the surroundings are immaculate and the craic at the bar is fierce.
* When I first met Piers Baker, the new owner (pictured above, behind the bar), I thought he looked (and sounded) very familiar; turns out he's also the only known stockist of sonic screwdrivers this side of Gallifrey.
Laid Back - Bakerman (1989)
Sunday, 31 July 2022
Tuesday, 26 July 2022
Swedish house DJ and producer Axel Boman may well have dedicated today's non-Monday Long Song* to German footballer Jürgen Klinsmann a.k.a. The Dive Bomber; or he may not; it really doesn't matter. What does matter, however, is that there are very few pieces of music that, from the moment the needle catches the first groove, cause as many simultaneous muscle spasms in my right leg as this. Dance music, huh?
Axel Boman - Klinsmann (2013)
Wednesday, 20 July 2022
|How it started / How it's going|
As I write this, a little before midnight on Tuesday in nothing more than my shorts - form an orderly queue, ladies - the temperature has finally dropped below 20 degrees for the first time in I don't know how long; still uncomfortable, but compared to yesterday's apocalyptic high of 40 (higher in some places), I'll take it all the way to the bank.
Anyway, I hope you managed to stay out of harm's way and lived to tell the tale. I know London took a battering - some of the scenes coming out of the capital were unreal.
This exquisite piece of synth pop sums up exactly how I've been feeling for much of the last 72 hours. It's from a time when Sheffield was still annexed to East Germany. And, God, it still sounds brilliant.
Human League - Being Boiled (1978)
Sunday, 17 July 2022
Saturday, 16 July 2022
Twofer: two for the price of one. Never let it be said you don't get value for money at Are We There Yet; here are a couple of musings threaded together by the music of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat.
They're predicting eye watering temperatures in the next few days in England; I say England, and not the UK, as Scotland and Northern Ireland will probably escape the predicted high of 40 degrees. As a result of this barmy weather the country is about to go into crisis mode with schools closing down, railway tracks about to buckle and a plague of locusts due to descend on London sometime around Tuesday lunchtime; I may have been messing with you there but, hey, you get the picture: forty eight hours of 'above seasonal average temperatures' and we're fucked. Call in the army. 1976 (and '75 before that, come to think of it) was also filed under 'Phew, what a scorcher!') though back then we just took our school ties off and continued to cycle round the estate on our Raleigh Choppers whilst sucking on an ice pole. We lived in another world back then. Yes, the grass turned brown - but it grew back again. Yes, the hosepipes were turned off but they were soon turned back on again. And we all put our ties back on again in readiness for the new school year. I hope you survive the next week. Don't forget to drink plenty of beer; it doesn't have to be a cruel summer.
'It's too close for comfort, this heat has got right out of hand'
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Cruel Summer (2011)
The Copper Top
When I sent the next song to James earlier in the week I said 'Life and death in a little over five minutes. Perfect.' To which he replied 'Another cheery one then!' Wait till he gets to my age, I thought; I've worn that suit. I've drunk that pint in that bar, conjuring up memories of the deceased away from the fake reverence happening round the corner at the wake - the fake wake, if you will. Yes, it is sad, but it's also quite uplifting too: he didn't stay all afternoon in the pub (for what it's worth, I probably would have done) but I too would have made a mental note about its roof. (Well you do, don't you?')
'I look up and see the pub's once brilliant copper roof has oxidised over the years and now it's a dull pastel green. Everything's getting older.'
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - The Copper Top (2011)
Tuesday, 12 July 2022
In June 1981 the good people of New Holland in Lincolnshire were finally joined up - permanently - to their Yorkshire neighbours over the water. Although there'd been a ferry in operation since 1848 (various paddle steamers had navigated the shallow shifting sands of the mile wide Humber Gap), it was only when the Humber Bridge became a reality that Hull, and East Yorkshire in general, formally cemented relations with the country's second largest county. Measuring 1.38 miles in length it was the longest single span suspension bridge in the world for a while; these days it doesn't even make the Top 10.
I was in Hull again at the weekend visiting family and, as always, came back over the bridge; I pulled in at at Barton-on Humber for an ice cream (Wall's and bridges, anyone?) and took a couple of photos. These two were my favourites. As I tweeted later - I too could quite easily sit on a bench all day and just gaze at this most brilliant of structures.
Postscript - 16 July 2022
Playing to my passion for all things philatelic, in addition to the commemorative stamp at the top of my piece, there were also a couple of interesting First Day Covers from the time which I thought I'd share with you below. I acquired these in the week and love them both; as you can see, the top one has been signed on the back by Coun. Alex Clarke, Chairman of the Humber bridge Board, no less.
Wednesday, 6 July 2022
I've just recaptured a feeling I haven't experienced for some time and, quite honestly, didn't think I'd ever experience again: I'm currently half way thru reading Slow Horses by the supremely talented Mick Herron and am absolutely loving it. And, the reason for my euphoria, I've found out there's another seven books in the seres. Seven! Joy! Something tells me it's gonna be a great summer.
(Yes, I am aware that it's also a hit TV series. But that can wait.)
Friday, 1 July 2022
Last night was special; in fact the whole of yesterday was special. I got to spend some quality time with James: we revelled in each other's company in Manchester visiting several choice hostelries in what has, for the last 10 years, been James' adopted home city. Our Big Boys Beano culminated not in the Bamboo Club (if you know, you know) but at the Castlefield Bowl, a quirky outdoor pavilion venue situated in the heart of M3, where it played host to the last night of Crowded House's 2022 UK tour.
James originally bought these tickets in 2019 but Covid meant that the gig - and its original rearranged date - was pulled. So last night, in more ways than one, was a case of unfinished business; nether of us had seen the band live before1 but we both have Woodface living in our heads2 24/7. I mentioned a couple of months ago that the majority of gigs I've been to this year have been very intimate shows - shows in small venues where inevitably I've been on the front row; so seeing a 'stadium band' in an amphitheater really did mean stepping out of my comfort zone. However, I needn't have worried. The sound was brilliant, our view was perfect and crowd were amazing (even waiving at the trains on the overhead viaduct as they trundled in and out of Oxford Road station). And the band didn't disappoint. I was putty in their hands from the opening bars of set opener Distant Sun to the final coda of Chocolate Cake and everything in between3. Who wouldn't be? So, outdoor gigs - I'm not saying it's the way forward - who knows where that might lead - but as an occasional antidote fto the confines of sweaty rock clubs and upstairs rooms in pubs it was certainly a breath of fresh air. Literally. Let's do it again soon, James!
1 Tho' I did see Neil Finn play a live set on a boat on the Thames in 2011
2 Where it flat shares with the entire Beatles back catalogue
3 James had to prop me up emotionally when they played Four Seasons in one Day (I could write 500 words alone on how that song affected me last night)
As PSs go this is a zinger: did I mention that Johnny Marr4 joined them on stage for Weather With You?
4 Manchester rock and roll royalty