Friday 29 March 2024

"I've seen him miss these"

When you knock about with people who were born this century it kind of keeps you on your toes. For instance, when you play pool with them they all want to beat you. Pool Club is now a regular fixture in my calendar. A night when balls are potted, beers are sunk and where the art of sledging reaches dizzying heights. There's a couple of older heads too who keep proceedings in check. One of these wise old sages is also the keeper of records. Every month the latest league tables are published on the group WhatsApp and every month we have a post mortem as to what actually happened on the night. Those keeping score can often suffer major memory loss. Baby boomers, eh?

Probably wouldn't happen if it was left to our resident Generation Zers. Two of which, Sam and Laura, recently took part in a Glitter Ball finale - a Strictly Come Dancing charity do in aid of the Rosie May Foundation.

This was the dance that won them some major silverware. I'm proud to call them my friends. Except on Pool Night, obviously. 

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Lean in closer

Steve Reich (1936-)
I find the older I get the more I crave music and sound that jumps around; where the time signature is not always known. And even if it is it's probably got more counterpoints than you can shake a shitty stick at. Atonal? Yep, I'm all over it. I can binge on Philip Glass and I can gorge on Steve Reich. I absolutely love John Adams (A Short Ride in a Fast Machine, anyone?) Listening to them makes me pay attention. Makes me lean in closer. We should all lean in closer.

LSO Percussion Ensemble - Quartet (Steve Reich)

"Great music can transport you to another world and make you feel things you've never felt before." Amen to that, Steve.

Sunday 24 March 2024

Let Me Dream of You

In the twelve months or so since I last saw the Hanging Stars they've elevated themselves to next level. Some might even say God tier. Last night they owned the stage in the Chapel (sitting as it does atop the Old Angel in Nottingham) - the perfect setting in which to see a band at the peak of their powers unveiling their shiny new long player - On a Golden Shore - an album filled to the brim with heart tugging harmonies and guitar licks that positively jangle. 

This band should be huge. One day this band will be huge. In the meantime, I'm just so glad  to have seen them play quirky little venues rather than soulless concert halls and arenas.This is the album (and set) opener and something of a mission statement heralding all that follows. 

The Hanging Stars - Let Me Dream of You (2024)


Saturday 23 March 2024


Oded Balilty is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli photographer. Born and raised in Jerusalem, he began his career as a photographer for the Israeli army magazine Bamahane. In 2002, at the height of the second Palestinian uprising, he joined The Associated Press. In 2007, Oded won the Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of a lone Jewish settler confronting Israeli security officers during the evacuation of a West Bank settlement outpost. He lives in Tel Aviv.

From Oded's website and his photojournalism piece Life of a Mannequin: 

"Like in real life, most mannequins begin their lives in a similar way, but each one takes a different path. All begin in factories, like the Lucky Human Mannequin Factory in Shenzhen, China, or Goldsmith in New York, each of which produces tens of thousands of mannequins a year. Some live their lives in glamour on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue; others end their lives in a Beijing junkyard. Unlike real life, they are all shaped the same, according to what society believes are the ideal proportions of the human body."

Thursday 21 March 2024

No dummies

In common with most, if not all1, artistes, Roxy Music had a (very) small window when they couldn't put a foot wrong. I mean when the press, their fans, friends and peers all blew smoke up their arse and praised them to the hilt. Purists will say this window remained open for about three years: between 1972 & 1975 (though in all honesty this mythical window had already started to close as early as 1973 after their third album, Stranded.)

Odd then that, somewhat belatedly, I have fallen headlong in love with an album they brought out when the window had long since been removed by the builders and subsequently bricked up. Manifesto, from 1979, came out when I was still knee deep in the new wave. However, even new wave was becoming a somewhat oxymoronic label three years after New Rose and Anarchy. If Bryan Ferry and Co. had been listening to anything by the Damned or the Pistols it certainly didn't show2 - not when you hear the singles they culled from the album - Angel Eyes and Dance Away. Which, if I'm perfectly honest, was all I'd heard from this particular period of post-Eno Roxy. Both of which I felt were insipid and left me rather cold3

That is until a couple of album tracks started to appear on those pesky Spotify playlists that get shared around, and this entered my psyche. It's the album opener which for its first two minutes you think is a blistering instrumental, and then at 2:30 Ferry limbers up and announces his arrival. How had I missed this?

Roxy Music - Manifesto (1979)

Ferry has intermittently got the band back together over the years for live reunions (their 40th & 50th anniversaries in particular) but there's been no new product, no new songs since 1982's Avalon. Tho' they did come close in 2010 when the old gang, including Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and Eno, collaborated with Bryan with a 'y' and recorded some new material. However BF bagged them for himself and put out another solo effort; Olympia - the last Roxy album that never was. 

1The Beatles would have to be excluded from any such list. Wouldn't they?

2However, the intro to Manifesto reminds me of Squeeze's Take Me I'm Yours.

3Not any more - when heard in context, and in order, they make perfect sense. Does that make sense?

Monday 18 March 2024

More cowbell

The latest series of Daryl's House (Darryl Hall's fantasy/vanity project where, going back to 2007, he's been curating some of the greatest songs and songwriters in his 'shed') is probably, in my humble opinion, the best yet; or if not the best, certainly the most varied and therefore the most rewarding. Hall's musical chops know no bounds and so scattergun in nature is his thirst for music, it matters not a jot who knocks on his door - he'll welcome any waif or stray carrying an instrument case.

I've chosen three from the clutch of episodes that were broadcast in November and December last year. Glenn Tilbrook (Ep. 85) is a natural for this sort of format. But even he says on camera that unlike the looseness of his regular band Squeeze, slotting into Daryl Hall's crack band of musical heavyweights made him tighten up considerably. Look at the way he glances over at Hall, as much for reassurance, seemingly, as an unspoken "I hope to fuck you're coming in with the second verse."

Glenn Tilbrook & Daryl Hall - Hourglass (2023)

Next up is Howard Jones (Ep. 87). By his own admission he tells us that he started his musical journey relying almost exclusively on drum machines, sequencers and keyboards. Watch in sheer amazement then as the band tear What is Love a new one. This is such a joyous performance. When Jones is giving his post-match interview I don't think he can quite believe what has just happened.

Howard Jones & Daryl Hall - What is Love? (2023)

I know Robert Fripp (Ep. 90) didn't write Heroes. Daryl Hall knows Robert Fripp didn't write Heroes. But it was Fripp's guitar that, many say, carried Bowie's 1977 anthem. This is special. Even Robert Fripp knows it was special. You can see he's quite humbled at the end.

Robert Fripp & Daryl Hall - Heroes (2023)

So there you go. I'd heartily recommend you dig out the full episodes and watch them in their entirety. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Let me know what you think.

Saturday 16 March 2024

We'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Justin Currie has been diagnosed with Parkinsons's disease. He knows it will only get worse and he knows he'll have to stop performing, probably quite soon; calling the prospect of this 'quite grim' is an understatement to end all understatements. It is truly heartbreaking. In an interview Justin recently to the BBC he talks openly of his fears for the future. I can only pass on my love and best wishes to him.

I'm guessing this performance of Nothing Ever Happens was filmed during Lockdown. However, the starkness of the lyrics lend themselves perfectly to the isolation of each musician as they record their part in their own individual silo. 

Del Amitri with the BBC Concert Orchestra - Nothing Ever Happens

Tuesday 12 March 2024

'Ullo John. Gotta New Motor?

A busy few days - just sold my car through a well known (not to say very annoying) internet company and, a handful of hours later, took delivery of a new set of wheels I'd test driven up in (a spookily deserted) Blackpool just a few days earlier.

I mention this purely because I found the above photo the other day - I was recently asked to take part in a guess the baby picture quiz and as you can see I'm quite taken with this motor (tho' still not sure who it belonged to). I have a few of me from around this time posing with/leaning on various period cars. Must've been a boy thing.

Chris Spedding - Jump in My Car (1976)

Sunday 10 March 2024

I Spy

My Twitter account is littered with my photographic obsessions - the beech tree outside my house, the Humber Bridge, phone boxes (in fact all street furniture), roller shutter doors with random cars parked in front of them, the Home Ales building in Nottingham, ornate door knockers, the list goes on. Some of this flotsam and jetsam will eventually find its way onto my blog, some of it doesn't. One of my side hustles is photographing random launderettes and laundromats. I've even enrolled others into send me launderette pictures from where they live or when they tell me they're going on holiday. It's like the old I-Spy books we all had as kids. Riggsby has sent me scores and scores of them from California and the Swede has sent me quite a few from deepest Norfolk and the East End of London - his home and his spiritual home respectively. Thank you, again, both.

And now we have a new kid on the block. My good friend Matthew and his wife Samantha are currently on the high seas cruising around Africa and recently disembarked in Cape Town. Fair play to Matthew, he could, indeed should, have been been soaking up Table Mountain, Cape Point and Robben Island, but instead was tracking down laundromats! Thank you, Matthew. You will be mentioned in despatches.

Saturday 9 March 2024

The effects can last forever

This one had been on the calendar for ages: the Sheffield leg of Dodgy's Free Peace Sweet tour found us bombing up the M1 on a Friday evening to sample some legendary south Yorkshire hospitality. As with a lot of music venues currently (and this one is a real jewel), the Leadmill's future is far from secure. However, a good crowd guaranteed Dodgy a warm reception. When they embarked on the first leg of the FSP tour in 2023 their frontman Nigel Clark said that they'd be playing the album (in full and in its original running order) they recorded 27 years ago when the average age of the band was 27. Phew! And here we are in 2024 with all the songs sounding just as vibrant and passionate as they ever did in back in 1996. (And I should know, having seen them dozens of times over the years). They opened with this. Somewhere in my vaults I have a 12", 12 minute, white label drum and bass remix of this, but today I've gone for a stripped back acoustic version. Enjoy.

Dodgy - In a Room (acoustic) - 1996

Wednesday 6 March 2024

No Sun in Venice

The film may have been a turkey (late 50s French-Italian romance/thriller set in The Floating City) but the soundtrack to No Sun in Venice, composed and scored by their pianist & leader John Lewis (1920-2001), is a Modern Jazz Quartet classic album.

The photograph at the top of the page is by James Lucas. His aerial photographs depicting unique images of cities all over the world are simply stunning.

MJQ - Venice (1957) 

Monday 4 March 2024

Lemon fresh?

I adore the sound the Lemon Twigs make. It's not startlingly original, but then again what is? The D'Addario brothers, Brian & Michael, are magpies. A riff here, a melody there; everything, seemingly, is up for grabs. And why not? Rock and roll is full of plagiarism and plunderers. (Chuck Berry has got a lot to answer for.) Plus, any band who hail from Hicksville are alright in my book. Here they are from a recent Jimmy Fallon show performing their latest nailed-on power pop belter.  

The Lemon Twigs - Golden Years (2024)

Saturday 2 March 2024

Jesus, would you look at the time

It's that time of the month again - Photo Challenge Club. For our 15th instalment I was asking for timepieces. I always find myself having to catch my breath when I put these collections together. And this month is no exception. Thank you to everyone for taking the time. Literally.

As is customary, Rol gets to cut the cake first - "Here you go, John, the clocktower of Barnsley Town Hall, complete with a suitably ominous sky to represent the town that almost broke me. Clearly I was lying in the gutter when I took this photo."

"I did go up into the clock tower once, in happier times." I love this one, Rol. Behind the face.

Another newbie: Pete Zab is a very talented photographer from Nottingham. His work is all over Twitter. "Taken a few years ago on the Harry Potter set at Warner Bros. studio in Leavesden, just ouside Watford." Cheers, Pete, and welcome aboard.
Ernie Goggins makes a welcome return "A clocktower in Muscat taken about five years ago when I was working there for a few weeks." That sky is an amazing shade of blue.

The Swede goes back in time: "The young me, taken by my dad in 1965."

"The elderly version was taken by my cousin's husband last year; we were about eight miles into an epic walk through London." Amazing, TS. As you probably know, I'm a huge fan of this type of time lapse photography. Thank you. 

James was recently in Budapest and sent me this from a gallery he'd frequented.

A bit of background.

A quartet from Riggsby. The first harks back to his time in Germany: "This was the view from the kitchen window from the flat when I lived in Heidelberg. I nicknamed it our kitchen clock."

"This clock stands proudly to commemorate 50 years of the Rotary Club in Del Mar. I pass it on my way home from the office. We've had a lot of rain recently and this was taken between storms."

Richard goes on to say: "Do hourglasses count?" Yep, they most certainly do.

And finally, Geddy Lee Riggsby signs off with "It's five o'clock somewhere." (I was looking for a yard arm but it must be out of shot.)

Jo-Shreeve's photos are always thought provoking "An empty Paddington station at 5.20am after getting the sleeper train from Cornwall xx." Thank you, Jo.

Someone else I follow on Twitter - Tim Widdowson from Notts is next up: "Here's a couple, John. St. Paul's taken from the Rotunda (just realised you'd be unlikely to see the clock from ground level)." 

"And the Courts of Justice on Fleet Street." Two very contrasting skies - thanks, Tim. A great brace to start. Come back next month, won't you?

David Cooper is currently in India. Are there any timepieces over there on the subcontinent, I enquired? "Yes there are John. Have chosen this one. I spent a while waiting to get a shot without the general public in it but was never going to happen. Sealdah Station in Kolkata at 7.08 am. David." This is a superb photo, Coops. And all the better, I think, for having people in the frame.

C from Sun Dried Sparrows next - "This pic should really have been taken on a sunny day! If you look closely you might just be able to work out the time it was taken - a very faint shadow pointing to 1pm. It's on the front wall of a building near me - a sheltered housing complex for older people; not that the residents would probably choose to be constantly reminded of the passing of time! C x." I love it, C. And our only sundial in the collection.

Adam from Manchester - "Hi John, two clocks for you. The first one is our kitchen clock photographed recently with some strange shadows. A fairly monochrome shot to begin with, I later filtered into B&W for more monochrome!"

"Second one is the giant clock inside Mex taken by Baz, a friend of mine. The venue hasn't been used for gigs for years, but in the past New Order, Kraftwerk, Pixies, Happy Mondays have all played here." Thanks, Adam. I've only ever shot the outside of the GMex, never been in. Thank you.

Chartity Chic: "Hi John, George Wylie's Running Clock opposite Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall on a wet Killermont Street."

"And a more sedated offering from Bridge of Allan." Cheers, CC.

Alyson signing in from the Highlands: "I'll start with an old one. It's a view of the astronomical clock in Prague from the window of a restaurant across the road. This was taken in the early 90s not long after the wall came down so we experienced much of how it was during the Communist Bloc era. I'll regale you with the stories one day." I'll be all ears at BC24, Alyson.

"My second one I took earlier this month. It's the frontage of a shop in our local Victorian Market. In addition to the little clocks and watches I particularly like the sign writer's wording - 'All repairs executed by practical workmen'. We wouldn't want them to be impractical, now would we?!" Great shots, Alyson.

Khayem comes with four perfectly formed quadruplets and kicks off with a genre I think needs further exploration - timepieces in album (and singles) artwork. "A much loved and much played OMD 12” single from 1985 which features lots of 80s artefacts, including a clock!"

"The clock tower in Coleford, in the heart of the Forest of Dean, is reasonably big but looks even more intimidating with this extreme angle at the base." 

"This one in Gloucester town high street is a beauty, not least for its ornate metalwork, the weather vane above, the bell below, the characters below that and then at street level, the fabulous shop. Jewellers and opticians, you say?"

"This relatively tiny clock tower is in Stroud town centre, opposite the Subscription Rooms, where I’ve enjoyed a few fine gigs in the past year." A great collection, K. I particularly like the one above Baker's. It reminds me of the Lewis & Grundy clock in Nottingham (see below).

Rob never disappoints. This one landed in my inbox just as I was about to hit 'publish'! - "Here you go, John - a dolphin clock in a Dawlish charity shop!" Excellent, Rob!

Time (sorry) for me to wrap things up. Hopewells of Nottingham is a magnificent furniture store in the town that's been going since forever. I love its simple clock face against the brick facade.

As mentioned above, this is the quirky clock residing on the Lewis & Grundy building on Nottingham's Victoria Street. The two blacksmiths would strike out the quarter hours and hours by striking the anvil. But alas no longer.

I live but a five minute walk from the bus stop at the top of my road. This finely crafted gizmo that lives in my kitchen means I can leave the house at just the right time thus minimising any 'hanging around at bus stops'. Since James designed and built this for me it's been a game changer.

Regular readers will know I love caffs; formica, gingham tablecloths - my idea of heaven. This is on Daleside Road in Cowlick. Half caff, half truck stop - I love it. 

Any Totnesians out there will recognise this straight away. Halfway up (or down) Fore Street is this magnificent clock that straddles the road. Oh, and I love using fish-eye lenses.

One of my favourite buildings in Dublin. I think I've mentioned it before around these parts. Its construction, demolition and subsequent reconstruction is quite the story.  

More formica and more gingham; though sadly gone now. Victoria Centre Indoor Market was once home to half a dozen caffs. When the Market closed a little part of me died with it.

I've got shedloads of photos of St. Pancras Stain but I think we did that one last time. Instead here's King's Cross, next door. Taken from the window seat of one of my favourite Chinese restaurants directly opposite. 

And there you have it. Time to call time. Thank you again to everyone who sent me their fantastic photos. I couldn't do this without you. Till next time. J x