James and I stayed up into the wee small hours on my birthday talking about all sorts of stuff - road trips, foreign train travel, football, politics, beer and, of course, music. His recent Best of '22 roundup had been gratefully received only a few days earlier and was therefore a good convo starting point (and prompted many subsequent rabbit holes to fall down). I'll post a link to it below.
I sometimes forget that when James was growing up at Medd Towers just how many hundreds/thousands of hours he must have spent listening to his OM's record collection; it was kind of inevitable, therefore, that much of what was played in his formative years at the dinner table/in the car/on holiday would eventually trickle down and shape his own taste and, by inference, his future record collection.
One album that used to live in whatever car I was driving at the time was Adrian Belew's Salad Days. It came out in 1999 so James would only be nine when he first heard it and I reckon he knew every song on it within a handful of weeks. Fast forward to 2022 and Belew can be found five or six songs into James' playlist joining forces with Todd Rundgren on Runt's Space Force album that came out a couple of months ago. Rundgren has collaborated with some other big hitters including Sparks, Thomas Dolby, the Lemon Twigs, and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, to name but a few, and produced one of his most coherent albums in a long time. 'Puzzle' with the aforementioned Belew kickstarts the record and reminds me of something Andy Partridge and XTC may have cooked up in a parallel musical universe.
I hope you all had a good Christmas; ours was quiet, but that's how I like it these days. As I type this, Boxing Day's embers are all but ashes in the grate and December 27th (the most unremarkable day betwixt Christmas and New Year) is practically upon us. My festive playlist is, therefore, about to expire and go into hibernation for another year; so goodbye Medieval Baebes, Burl Ives, Dean Martin, Bugge Wesseltoft, Nick Lowe et al and with them all their time sensitive musical offerings. See you next December.
However, one album that inexplicably only comes out at Christmas isn't even a Christmas album at all: Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia generally makes its way to Medd Towers around the second week of December and two weeks later, never outstaying its welcome, Knopfler is offering to shake my hand and bid us farewell - with the (guaranteed) promise of 'Doing it all again next year.' A hail fellow well met if ever there was one.
As I say, in its 13 song track list there's neither a sleigh bell or a hoof on the roof in sight. Yet its place at the high table of festive musical accompaniment is assured every year. No questions asked. And since James left home some 15 years ago he too affords it the exact same level of Christmas importance as tinsel and a tree; one of us generally texts the other around the 12th/13th of the month with the call sign 'It's time' and an image of the album cover.
Every track is a gem. From the barnstorming opening chords of 'What it Is', to the closing bars of its finale 'One More Matinee' the quality never lets up for a second. This one does it for me every time: when Glenn Tilbrook's vocal part comes in at 4:09, I tell you, I'm gone.
Remember when we couldn't go to the pub? Or go to gigs? Or even leave the house? Christ, what desperate times they were. I try not to think about those dark days; I'm sure if I was to trawl thru my back issues I'd find plenty of Covid and LD references. (But you know what, I'll save that particular trip down memory lane for when I really am in my dotage.)
Throughout that wretched period I remember saying, often, to myself (and probably on here too) that as soon as this nightmare was all over I'd make up for lost time. I knew that pubs and venues alike had struggled to keep their heads above water - with no money in their tills for the best part of two years it needed everyone to get back out there and, basically, drink like a Viking. Whilst at the same time going to see every band that was playing in their town. As it turned out, I certainly did try to flash the cash in as many pubs as I possibly could and also pulled in a fair few gigs; I was doing my bit for the economy. Still am. And not just in my town. As well as Nottingham I also did my bit for the tourist industry and saw bands as far afield as Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Totnes. That's right, a rock and roll gazetteer.
If you've been dipping in and out of this blog during the last 12 months you would have seen that I flagged many of these up. Curse of Lono in a little upstairs room above a pub in Sheffield; Crowded House in a Manchester amphitheatre; The Unthanks at Nottingham's beautifully appointed Albert Hall; The Slackers at Leeds Brudenell; Stuart Pearce supporting the Nightingales at The Bodega in town; John Power at the same venue a few weeks later; The Hanging Stars at The Running Horse. And, of course, Ian Prowse and Amsterdam all over the country! I talked a lot about how Ian's Does This Train Stop on Merseyside? moves me to tears every time he plays it as do a couple of newer songs on his last album One Hand on the Starry Plough. He's probably one of our greatest songwriters that relatively few people know. I really hope that changes.
And before you ask, no, I'm not going to rank these gigs. They were all special. And they all moved me in ways I can't begin to describe. If you read my Crowded House piece for instance then you'd know. So I've been blessed this year for gigs. And blessed by the people I went to some of these gigs with; you know who you are...
I'll sign off with Lucas & King. They supported Curse of Lono and were absolutely mesmerising. We were spoiled that night - Bo Lucas is also part of Curse of Lono's touring band.
Pauline Boty with her Scandal '63; the year it was last seen
Pauline Boty was a co-founder of the British Pop Art movement in the 1960s and its only recognised female member. A peer of Peter Blake she starred with him in Ken Russell's acclaimed 1962 film Pop Goes the Easel* highlighting the Pop Art pioneers of the day. Unlike Blake, however, her trajectory was both short-lived and deeply sad.
In June 1965 Boty fell pregnant and during a pre-natal exam was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour; she refused an abortion and chemotherapy. She died 1 July 1966 aged just 28. After her passing her work was stored away on her brother's farm where it remained for the best part of 30 years - before it was 'rediscovered' in the 1990s: some of her paintings (tho' not the elusive Scandal '63** - pictured top) formed part of a major exhibition and a solo retrospective. Her rebellious art was a shot in the arm to the prevailing feminist movement and it's nothing short of scandalous that her name is not better known today.
It's York, December 2022. Our Jorvik pub crawl has not long begun. ''Look out for the purple door with the fox knocker,'' I said to our friends as we were seeking out a hostelry I remembered going in a couple of years ago; though I couldn't recollect the name of it I knew it was down a narrow alleyway and just before it, on the right hand side, was a heavily glossed bright purple door with a fabulous fox knocker on it. (I later went on to use the image on a friend's playlist.)
And so my latest photography craze began. I say began; it was only a few days later whilst I was on my regular lunchtime walk when I espied another fox (I now have a brace) that I realised I would now subconsciously be looking out for these brass bad boys wherever I happen to find myself. In true Shaw Taylor style I'll be keeping 'em peeled.
Feel free to contribute any foxy sightings you may stumble upon in your part of the world. I'd like to think they live hidden in plain sight and have been watching us all for sometime now...
2022. Where did it go? Blink and you miss it; only seems like five minutes ago since I was planning my American adventure. Now it's December and I can only dream about California. (However, my Amtrek photobook is beginning to take shape.)
Spotify have just wrapped up my year, as they normally do, and informed that I've clocked up nearly 40,000 minutes of listening in '22 and have heard just shy of 4,000 songs. Below are the Match of the Day highlights...
It probably won't surprise you to learn that of the Top 5 most listened to artists I've been to see three of them live this year; and in the case of Ian Prowse I'll be clocking him for the 4th time this year when he visits The Resue Rooms on Thursday. He's very kindly put us on the gezzy - we've spoken to him after all three previous shows this year (Hull, Manchester & Totnes) and he is such a nice guy. Ian mans his own merch stand and the Medds always have a drink with him and invariably make a purchase!
I really hope I can apply the handbrake to 2023 before it runs away with me but I very much doubt I'll be able to. I've got so much I want to cram in next year it's untrue. But I'm jumping the gun, I know; slowly slowly catchy monkey.