Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Jelly (Helplessly Hoping - Again)

Don't worry lads, I'll play yours next time

Got a favourite song, but haven't got a Scooby as to what it's all about? I've got a shed load of them, as I guess you do too. I've even been known to avoid reading the real words to incomprehensible songs and using my own which I think work better. I know, I need to get out more.

I could've told whoever wrote this about one of my top tunes that it's like nailing jelly to a wall. As much as I love Helplessly Hoping, and even though every word in it is as clear as a bell, I think its meaning changes every time I listen to it; none the worse for that. It keeps me on my toes, that much I do know. But right now I think I've sussed it - right time right place, perhaps. Though if I revisit this piece in six months it may be a different story.

They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

And just like the last time I posted it, I have, perversely, chosen the most delicate of covers.

Jellywine - Helplessly Hoping (written by Steve Stills in 1968)

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Don't walk towards the white light

Cured Bacon
I was reading on the train yesterday how Richard Bacon cheated death; a very powerful story. One minute you're feeling a bit unwell on an aeroplane, the next you're in Intensive Care with more tubes sticking out of you than can possibly be good for you. He was told by the Consultant that if they didn't put him into an induced coma for at least seven days in the next 20 minutes he would die. No ifs, no buts.

As he was digesting this news the sleep inducing drugs were already in his system and slowly shutting him down. He remembers his wife whispering into his ear - "Don't walk towards the white light." And there, wrapped up in six words, is my new mantra.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Lucky You

A whole month of World Cup action recently came and went and I managed to keep this sleepy digital backwater a football free zone for the duration. Likewise today, on what is Ian Broudie's sixtieth birthday, I'll try not to mention that song; you know which one I mean.

Ian Broudie has written some cracking songs over the last thirty years or so. His band the Lightning Seeds was really nothing more than a vehicle to take the songs he'd written on the road and play them live. Like a lot of musicians he's much more at home in a studio working by himself, writing, recording, refining. The Lightning Seeds was just a name above the door. When he recorded the tracks for what would become Jollification, apart from some additional vocals by Alison Moyet and Terry Hall, Broudie played every note of music himself and, of course, produced it. Quite literally a one man band.

Jollification came out slap bang in the middle of the Britpop boom and could be seen and heard rubbing shoulders with the likes of Oasis, Blur, Dodgy (who he also produced), Ocean Colour Scene et al. The fact that it spawned four hugely successful singles should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Except, maybe, the slightly morose, slightly awkward scouser who wrote them all.

This one has, for a number of reasons, become something of an ear-worm just lately. Lucky You may not have set the charts alight, but nearly 25 years later it still ringing in my ears; lucky me.

Lightning Seeds - Lucky You

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Hong Kong Ping Pong

Every now and again you come across a mixtape that you wish you'd put together yourself, such is the quality not just of the tunes, but the inter-song banter, the timing, the pace, the very feel of it. And so it is with Hong Kong Ping Pong Mixtapes. I'm reliably told they operate out of a club in Bristol; all I know is I'm hooked - I've had it playing in my ears all week.

Mixtape  #10 - it's funky, it's jazzy and it's got soul - with a capital S O U  & L. See what you think. You might love it, you might hate it. But, just so you know, I love it. The intro is particulatly elogant - it's lifted from Deadwood and the hilarious, I think, 'Wu sketch'. Fill yer boots:

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Woman Driver

Until today, I'm ashamed to say, this NME cover was the only* thing I knew Laura Marling for
Here's something that will brighten up your Saturday morning; stick this short film on while you're having breakfast. It's a deceivingly simple two hander from 2013 - shot in Texas and featuring Laura Marling (who also gets a co-write) it gives a subtle nod and a wink to many road movies of old. I promise you that by the time you've finished your toast and refilled your coffee you'll have come down on either her side, or his; you won't be neutral. I'll defer telling you my take on it until after you've watched it.

*I now know, thanks to Google, that Laura Marling was born seven days before James , her father is Sir Charles William Somerset Marling and her debut album, 'Alas, I Cannot Swim', was released in 2008.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

News of the World

I can't imagine T B Hudson sold too many more copies of the News of the World after this photograph was taken. In fact, he probably shut the door for the last time later that day - if indeed there was still a door to shut. We have Peter Mitchell to thank for this gem from 1974. Mitchell was a truck driver from Leeds in the seventies and, on his rounds, would grab his camera at every opportunity and record the ever changing city in which he lived. That's what I call proper social history.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Church next door, you'll be pleased to know, is now an arts venue,  home to Chapel FM as well as still being a place of worship. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

Monday, 23 July 2018

If You Can't Stand The Heat

With the exception of Keith Floyd, who I once had the pleasure of meeting, I cannot abide celebrity chefs, and their tendencies.

That said, I may or may not have shown tendencies myself back in the day when I was cooking up a storm. It was not uncommon for me to banish everyone from the kitchen and then crank up the stereogram to 11 (and beyond). I must dig out the article I wrote a few years ago for Delicious magazine in which I said that food and music were joined at the hip; obvious, I know - but it was an easy 500 word piece.

I've mellowed over the years - these days, as long as you come bearing a bottle anyone can come and watch me play.

One of the albums that used to come out regularly on a Saturday night was Death by Chocolate by De Phazz. My friend Riggsby had put me on to them and he once told me that someone he used to work with in Germany went out with their bass player. That's good enough for me.

De Phazz - Heartfixer (2001)

Sunday, 22 July 2018

'68 Special

Today's Sunday Times magazine is marking the 50th Anniversary of a remarkable day in the life of the Fab Four. And, as you can see (below), they are really pushing the boat out with a quartet of collectable covers. Anyone familiar with the Beatles' Mad Day Out will know that, for a handful of hours on July 28th. 1968, John, Paul, George and Ringo took a day off recording songs for their White Album and instead, with a select bunch of toggies, slipped anchor and between them created some of the most iconic, and totally non-choreographed set of pictures ever taken of the group.

Their freewheeling adventure took them to some of the most, at the time, insalubrious parts of north and east London including St. Pancras Hospital, Wapping, Cable Street in Whitechapel, Tower Bridge, even Old Street roundabout.

Many of the photographs have probably appeared in this blog over the years, though this one is, I think, my personal favourite.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Nothing Rhymed

Gilbert O'Sullivan and friends
It's late,  I'm tired, and I've had this song going round in my head all week. It was released in 1970 and, in all honesty, I'm guessing there are only a handful of tunes written since that are even fit to tie its boot laces.

I really need someone like Alyson on hand who could put Nothing Rhymed into all sorts of perspectives - musical, personal, cultural, political even. All I know is that if you're sitting anywhere near me on the train to Sheffield tomorrow morning, I'll probably sing it to you. I apologise in advance.

Before I go, does anyone know what drink Gilbert's talking about when he name checks a Bonaparte Shandy? It sounds very elegant, though probably isn't at all.

Night x

Gilbert O'Sullivan - Nothing Rhymed (1970)

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Badge of Honour

Image result for clapton is god
London N5, c.1967

Image result for clapton reading beano
He's not the Messiah
Time was when social media consisted of nothing more than a can of spray paint. If you had something to say then all you needed was a wall; or any surface at all, really.

Long before trending and hashtags it was thought by some in London that Eric Clapton's ability to play guitar had transcended that of a mere mortal, and so he was awarded god like status. Seemingly overnight the sort of graffiti pictured above started to appear all over the capital.

Clapton played it down at the time, but it certainly didn't do record or ticket sales any harm.

Eric Clapton - Badge (co-written by George Harrison)

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Dim the Lights

Although not as depressing to read as an obituary, I've just learned that Phil Mogg, 70, is standing down from all UFO duties after a UK farewell tour in 2019. The band will be celebrating their 50th anniversary next year and Mogg has decided enough's enough. Sad news indeed.

"Being out on the road isn’t always tremendously luxurious and although the playing is as great as it ever was, the stuff that surrounds it becomes very tiresome. I always told myself that when I reached that stage I would step down, and that’s what I’m going to do. This is the right time for me to quit."

My love affair with UFO goes way back. Way back. My friend Rocky Newton - who himself is still trading the boards with Lionheart and Airrace - was a devotee of the band and introduced me to them when he and his band at the time, Next, would drop Rock Bottom into their set in the late seventies. I was hooked. I would go on to seeing them live at every opportunity (and later write about them), Rocky, on the other hand, eventually hooked up with their errant guitarist Michael Schenker, joined MSG, and toured all over Europe.

So next year I plan to go on an a mini pilgrimage around the country and try and pull in at least two or three dates, and pay my respects to one of the most underrated rock vocalists this country has ever produced - while he's very much still with us.

The band's last album was, interestingly, a covers album; an album in which they pay homage to a hand picked bunch of rock classics that have inspired them over the last half century.

I've chosen two for today. First up is their terrific interpretation of the Yardbirds' Heart Full of Soul. It was written by Graham Gouldman, so not much more to say really, wouldn't you say?

Next up is a bluesy version of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid. ZZ Top will be forever remembered over here for their classic MTV videos (with that car) and the clutch of radio friendly hits they had in the mid eighties - Sharp Dressed Man, Legs and Gimme All Your Lovin' - but this is far classier. Listen for yourself.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Things I've discovered in 2018 (Part 1)

I normally wait till the end of the year to write stuff like this, but I've thrown away the rule book for once and got in early - five months early to be precise. And the thing I'm sharing with you today is pretty specific (niche, you could say), and not a carry over from previous years - like, for instance, it's not good to over think stuff (things generally work out, they really do) and a biggie: neither is it wise to reach for your phone when you've had a drink...But I digress.

At school, when our history teacher, Mr. Shorrock, used to write on the blackboard he would print his words: lower case, not capitals - and not joined up. He told us why one day. 4G never normally listened to anything any teacher had to say, but Shorrock was not long out of teacher training college and he liked Led Zeppelin. "I was off school for a week with Measles", he said, "and when I came back all the other kids had been shown how to join up their letters. But I'd missed it." Hence, whenever he wrote anything down it took him bloody ages; however, it was very neat.

At the risk of digressing again, the above preamble tees up nicely my discovery I want to tell you about. Since time immemorial whenever I go shopping - supermarket shopping - I've had an irrational fear of trolleys. More specifically, the coin lock jobby that releases it from the trolley in front. I've always thought it was the work of the Devil, and as such, will, if I'm on my own, only ever use a basket. Two, sometimes - if there's too much beer for one. Quite restricting, but necessary nonetheless. People in Tesco and Aldi (other supermarkets are available) have, over the years, watched in sheer amazement as I have struggled with these dangerously overloaded wire contraptions, generally used for nothing heavier than biscuits and teabags, looking like Geoff Capes pulling a lorry with just a rope between his teeth.

All because, like Mr. Shorrock and his joined up writing, nobody showed me. Until last Sunday. And, guess what? I've been back twice this week to practice my new skill, and it's only Thursday. It may not be Penicillin or even rocket science, but it's one giant leap for John Medd, I can tell you.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Maniaco Guitariste

John Wilkinson (b.12.7.47)
It's Wilko Johnson's birthday this week; something of a miracle seeing as how he stared pancreatic cancer in the eye in 2012 and told it to f*ck right off. His doctors had given him less than a year - shows what they know.

Johnson will forever be known as the manic guitarist in Doctor Feelgood, but they kicked him out of his own the band in 1977. Since then he's been the manic guitarist in Wilko Johnson's Solid Senders and Ian Dury's Blockheads. Now he's just a manic guitarist, period.

Here he is in a superb bit of footage from French TV in August 1976. In it he reminds me of a tethered dog in an overgrown front garden who, try as he might, can get no further than the garden gate; 'cos if he ever did...he'd have your hand off. Nothing's so sure.

Doctor Feelgood - Going Back Home