Saturday, 18 October 2014

Rhyme crime

Those Spandau lyrics in full
Not for the first time a much lauded pop band from a decade in history that many would like to forget have succumbed to the lure of the lucrative reformation; and in so doing have, thanks to an ill conceived return with matching piss poor comeback single, undone all their previous back catalogue quicker than you can stifle a yawn. Step up Spandau Ballet; their new record will surely go down in the annals for the largest gathering of banal rhyming couplets ever found in captivity: where else would you find lines like these?

Couldn't buy more time
Couldn't even spin a dime
And then the world turned sublime


These streets were all I knew
Couldn't find a map to you
No one could tell me what to do

Or try these for size

I was working on a scheme
To build a one man team
Now I'm looking at a dream

Then tell Tony Hadley to sing it like a Bond theme, chuck in a tired sax solo, bring to the boil and voilà: classic Ballet.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Do you really think that's wise?

Left right, left right: John Le Measurier, Bill Nighy

The cast for the new Dad's Army movie was announced earlier this week. Tinkering with classics is always going to be fraught. Even when the original cast made the ubiquitous big screen version of their own TV show in 1971 it hardly set the world on fire. But this time, this time, it may just work. With big hitters like Bill Nighy, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Bill Paterson taking on the roles of Wilson, Jones, Godfrey and Frazer respectively, the project  certainly won't fail for lack of  talent. And hearing that it will all be shot on my doorstep*, almost literally, I'm warming to the idea more and more.

But it will be the script that makes it. Or indeed breaks it. It was an ensemble piece set during the war, but war was the very last thing it was about. It was about people. And people need natural scripts. If the writing is only half as good as that produced by David Croft and Jimmy Perry it will fly. If not, it will end up as soggy as the chips the U-Boat commander insisted on not having in that sketch.

* When the cast come to town they may well need to brush up on their pelican crossing etiquette:

Sunday, 5 October 2014


David 'Jack' Horner bottom left
The word legend is bandied around so much in music these days that, if you were to believe the hype, anyone who played bass in a third division punk band on their instantly forgettable third album would automatically have the L word bestowed upon them. That or national treasure.

We went to this year's Scarborough Jazz Festival and in our digs, sitting at the table next to us at breakfast, was a man so omnipresent on the UK jazz scene during the sixties and much of the seventies that picking up an album in Ray's Jazz or Dobell's that didn't have him in the lineup would have been virtually impossible. Saxophonist and clarinetist David 'Jack' Horner played with the great and the good - Dick Morrissey, Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey, Tubby Hayes and Humphrey Lyttelton to name but a few.

But Jack never took centre stage. He was, and never will be, a legend. He was happy to stay in the shadows and prop up the midfield. An unsung hero. Some may even call him an underdog.

Underdog or not, I wasted no time in sidling up to his table and asking him to sign my napkin. He was a true gentleman and seemed more than happy to talk about the old days. Later that afternoon after watching a terrific session from Alan Barnes, a player very similar in style to Jack, we bumped into him and his latest wife (it turns out he's been married five times) on the terrace and they invited us over a for a pot of tea. A legend would never have done that.

Look carefully for the cat wearing the dark glasses in Tubby Hayes' Big Band in this clip from Ronnie Scott's filmed in 1970. 

Friday, 3 October 2014


I became a Godfather for the first time earlier this year. Not in a Tony Soprano way, I hasten to add, more in a wise old uncle sort of way. Amanda Jane is a beautiful young thing: she's bright and she's bubbly and she makes me laugh. I think I make her laugh too. It's good to laugh.

It's Amanda's birthday in a couple of days and she's having a party tomorrow. From what I can gather it's Friends and close family only.

Just nipping down to the dry-cleaners to collect my Tux.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Is it down to the Lake I fear

It troubled me not that when I saw Greg Lake perform recently at my local Arts Centre he was joined neither by Keith Emerson or Carl Palmer. However, what did set my teeth on edge was when, instead of playing an acoustic set, he saw fit to perform a karaoke night with backing tapes. I've still not forgiven him.

And, anyway, it's been a long while since he's been able to sing half as well as this little combo.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mr. Soul

Sam Cooke, along with Charlie Rich, Solomon Burke and Nick Lowe, has a voice so rich, so layered, he could charm the birds out of any old tree he fancied.

And on 11 December 1964 that's precisely what he was doing; with disastrous consequences. Cooke, a born philanderer, couldn't keep it in his trousers. And that night he paid the ultimate price. But less than a year before, aged just 32, he had recorded and released, probably, the finest soul album of all time.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

What it means to be English

Arthur English, stalwart of seventies telly, is probably best remembered as maintenance man and union representative Mr. Harman in Are You Being Served and everything from Follyfoot to In Sickness and in Health, via cameos in shows like  The Sweeney. But it's as a standup comic in the post war years that he gained his comedy chops. In 1949 he was resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London's West End. His wartime spiv persona surely the inspiration for Fast Show music hall comedian Arthur 'Where's me washboard' Atkinson.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Every picture tells a story

In 1977, after beating the Auld Enemy at Wembley, the rampaging Scots (The Daily Mail's words, not mine) decided to invade the pitch. Nothing unusual in the seventies, but this was the pitch invasion to end all pitch invasions: they dug the turf up, smashed both crossbars and then took woodwork and sods back with them over the border. And the hapless Police just looked on. I remember John Motson being incensed; he wasn't the only one.

It's nearly forty years later and, after tomorrow's referendum result, we may once again feel slightly different about our tartan neighbours. It looks like they're all set to start dismantling something (we thought was) far more sturdy than a couple of sets of goalposts. For what it's worth honorary Scot, Rod Stewart, who found himself on the pitch that day has pitched his wagon to the Better Together campaign. As long as he doesn't make a song and dance about it.

Monday, 8 September 2014


Roy Wood and that bloke out of Chas & Dave
Jeff Lynne's about to call his old mate Roy Wood, long distance, from his luxury home high up in the Hollywood Hills. Lynne, never one to bear a grudge, fancies getting The Move back together. Their last single, California Man, released in 1972 was the springboard to what would very soon become the Electric Light Orchestra's trademark sound. But Roy Wood jumped ship while land was still in sight and became everyone's favourite Wizzard. Lynne, meanwhile, morphed into a hybrid of George Martin and Paul McCartney and took ELO global. But that was then and this is now. If only Jeff can get Woody on side then maybe Birmingham's finest can have a second bite at the cherry. And, who knows, they might even crack America this time around. Time to make that phone call.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

What did you do today?

So far, so Saturday: got up around seven, put the kettle on and made a brew. Checked my email, read a couple of chapters of my book and then took a cup of tea to the lady of the house. Had a quick shower and dressed before going down the town to fetch the paper. Came back, fed the cat, did a couple of crossword clues and then decided to bake some bread.

Oh, then I nipped down to the crossroads and sold my soul to the devil.

With thanks to Phil Friend, one of the best photographers in the business

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

The Mark 3 lineup of Deep Purple may not have been the most commercially successful of their reincarnations, but it was certainly their funkiest - by a country mile. Mid-seventies albums like Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band saw the group drop their extended guitar solos and take a more introspective look at themselves. In fact it was why Ritchie Blackmore (surely one of the most miserable guitar players ever to have picked up the instrument) left the band. 'I don't play shoeshine music' he told Sounds back in 1974.

How apposite then that this cheeky little mash up finds the Purps sharing a bed with Daft Punk, the behelmeted French funky house duo. I'm guessing vocalist David Coverdale thinks it's a hoot; Blackmore on the other hand probably tried to slap an injunction on it. And, anyway, I think you'll find he nicked the riff for Burn from George Gershwin's Fascinating Rhythm.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Why don't we do it in the road?

If this photograph isn't a hoax then it purports to be over a hundred years old - taken at the turn of the century on Chernomorskaya Road in the Russian city of Yeysk.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Howard and Hilda

Lauren & Bas
A trip to the seaside today: we were on a mission. However, before the job in hand we had time to pull in a spot of breakfast (baked beans and poached eggs with coffee to die for at the Mojo), then a slight detour while I tried on a few shirts: the Uncle Burt I came way with was probably last seen at the height of Rollermania. I was actually singing Shang-a-Lang in the unfeasibly small changing room.

But I digress. Our mission was two fold. We had to get our photographs taken and then present them at the railway station to acquire a rather neat railcard currently doing the rounds called Two Together which gets you a third off all rail journeys - well, all rail journeys with the other person on your, what is in effect,  joint railcard. A couple of trips to see the Number One Son and it'll have paid for itself. As for the photographs, we found a charming photo shop tucked away in a quiet part of town where a most genial chap in a plaid shirt (not a Rollers shirt, I hasten to add) took us into his parlour at the back of the shop and turned us both into beautiful people. We were allowed to giggle as it wasn't for passport purposes. 'You have to look as if your budgie has just passed away, on the day your wife announces she's leaving you, if you were having a passport picture taken' he informed us.
Howard & Hilda

Back to the front of the shop to print our smiling beguiling pictures where a most helpful girl, wearing a matching plaid shirt, behind the counter took payment. 'Company issue?' I enquired, pointing to the shirts. A look of embarrassment shot over her. 'No!' she said, emphatically. 'Bas walked in five minutes after me this morning wearing the same shirt. What are the chances?' I couldn't possibly say. That's one I'll leave to Howard and Hilda.

A short walk to the railway station where our shiny new photos were put in a shiny new case for the next time we climb aboard one of East Coast's shiny new trains.

Just time for a quick aside. Before leaving the station we took a walk to the farthest platform as I knew we would find a truly remarkable, and indeed record breaking, bench: weighing in at 139 metres long it's the longest railway station seat in the world.