Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Toots

Toots (1922-2016)
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans - known simply as Toots Thielemans - was a musician's musician. A consummate composer and multi-instrumentalist - guitar, harmonica, and whistling (yes, whistling) - Belgian born Thielemans came up through the ranks as a sideman to the likes of Benny Goodman and George Shering in the late '40s; he would later front combos with many A-List jazzers including Oscar Peterson, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Pat Metheny. But he was so much more than a jazz man: ever wondered who played the harp solo in Midnight Cowboy? Yep, Toots. The Sesame Street theme? Ditto. Talk about an eclectic resumé.

But today I want to play you something he wrote and recorded in 1957. It's a tune called Soul Station and is taken from his album Man Bites Harmonica. It predates English R&B by half a decade or more, but I'm guessing at least one future Rolling Stone would have been listening to this. Spot the intro.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Once Upon a Time

Starsky & Hutch - the early years
I went to the pictures on Friday. I saw Quentin Tarantino's latest, his 9th apparently, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Whilst it may not be his best offering (I know what mine is, what's yours?), at 161 minutes it must be one of his longest. Of course size isn't everything, but I was completely immersed in Tarantino's portrayal of 1969 California from the get go and never looked at my watch once.


Whilst my cinematic knowledge may not be encyclopaedic, I think I can say with some level of certainty that this is the first time Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have been paired together on the big screen. And what a double act. The insecurity of DiCaprio's Rick Dalton, a struggling Hollywood actor, against his more bullish stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), is played out superbly.
When I heard it was a comedy drama that touched on the Sharon Tate story of 50 years ago I worried where this film may be headed. I needn't have worried. I won't give anyrging away here, but the version of events you see in Once Upon a Time is purely stand alone; as are the 'cameos' of other non fictional characters in this work of semi-fiction. The fight scene, for instance, with Bruce Lee on the lot is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time - I think the Lee estate would be more up in arms than Tate's, that's for sure.
As for the soundtrack, it's precisely what a Tarantino soundtrack should be. It fits like a hand in glove. And whilst the selection appear effortless, random even, you just know it was sewn together with a surgeon like precision. Where else would you find Deep Purple segueing into Neil Diamond?

Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show (1969)


The ending, then, takes us somewhere completely different to that seemingly telegraphed earlier in the movie (very much in keeping with Tarantino's skill of misdirection) and is, er, executed quite brilliantly. It really is extraordinary what some people keep in their shed. 8/10

Sunday, 1 September 2019

This is What Democracy Looks Like


Mine is not a political blog, overtly or otherwise; I'd much rather be talking about biscuits. Or bass players. Even brass bands. Not Brexit, that's for sure. That said, it's not difficult to ascertain which side of the divide Are We There Yet? resides. But I can't let the events of yesterday go unrecorded. The recent actions of our new government, this far right Nationalist Party under its de facto leader Dominic Cummings (Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a mere puppet, albeit a vey dangerous puppet) meant that yesterday, I went on a march. Along with hundreds of thousands of like minded citizens up and down the  country, I stood shoulder to shoulder and demonstrated that what is currently happening in this country and its imminent crash out of Europe will not be carried out in my name.

I know that a lot of you feel the same. If you do, please do something (I'm sure some of you already are): sign a petition, write to your MP, attend a rally, protest, march. Doing nothing is not an option. This chilling quote (right) is from a dystopian future - A Handmaid's Tale - but could so easily have been written about these times. Our times. Please do everything you can to ensure we don't go down without a fight. To say that next week is probably the most important week in peacetime Britain is not hyperbole. Make yourself heard. It might be your last chance.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Pink sedan denied


I'm walking round in a daze today. How did I get it so wrong? I first heard Living Loving Maid (the one on Led Zep 2 that immediately follows Heartbreaker) over 40 years ago, and I've been convinced all this time (I would've put the house on it, really I would) that the opening line was:

'With a purple umbrella and a pink sedan'


I sing it in the shower and everything. What an idiot; I blame low quality Boots C90 cassettes. And teenage cerumen. Bloody 'fifty cent hat'.

Led Zeppelin - Living Loving Maid (1969)

Monday, 26 August 2019

When one door closes


James was here this weekend. Not for the first time we spoke about La Cabina (The Telephone Box): probably the scariest short film ever made. Reading up about it many years later it was an anti-Franco film that through its stark imagery (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) portrayed a Spain where, under his brutal dictatorship, men in suits were often taken away in full view. Franco died in 1975; La Cabina was made three years earlier.

As a postscript to our discussions this weekend, I came across this today: it's a clever parody used by Retevision - a Spanish telephone company - for a recent TV advert, and starring the same actor.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Staring at the Sun


Ciáran McFeely, aka Simple Kid, is from Ireland; you know, that land mass 70 miles west of Holyhead. The island we're just about to throw under the bus. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, McFeely is a Cork lad and his lo-fi musical stylings remind me very much of Beck (a resident of Los Angeles, roughly 5,000 miles west of Cork) and, let's face it, that's no bad thing.

I mention this for the simple reason that despite being old enough to know better I still make playlists; I'm picking James and Janneke up from the station on Saturday and I thought I'd put a few tunes in the car. It's gonna be 27 degrees this weekend, so I can't think of anything more apt.

Simple Kid - Staring at the Sun (2003)

Sunday, 18 August 2019

No One Knows Nothing Anymore


Thursday night's Open Mic was very relaxed; a pre-season friendly for next Sunday, if you like, with just the right amount of beards in the room.
I've got my setlist pretty much worked out: 10 songs - with a bit of chit-chat in between - probably 40 minutes all in all. Perfect; never outstay your welcome.
I say all worked out; I've just decided to drop this one in: Billy Bragg's 'No one Knows Nothing' from his 2013 Tooth and Nail album. Its themes really resonate and, I think, sum up where we're all at in this crazy fucked up maelstrom we call 2019. Just got to work out where in the running order to put it.

Billy Bragg - No One Know Nothing (2013) - with pedal steel


Without 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Skegness Ashtray

Bus* incoming!
There's not many better feelings than putting on a jacket you've not worn in a while and finding a tenner in one of the pockets. Though I do have one: discovering a new Beatles photograph I've not seen before. Here's one such image was made public for the first time only a few days ago. It's from the Abbey Road photoshoot which, unless you've just been beamed up from another planet (or, indeed, the set of 'Yesterday') is probably the most iconic album sleeve ever - certainly the most recreated and copied. Just in case you don't know what the VW Beetle was doing there, or who the guy next to the police van was, you could do a lot worse than taking a look at the most exhaustive back story about that famous day in August 1969 when photographer Ian Macmillan took his memorable snaps.

Back to this new photograph. It was taken by Linda McCartney, who must have been standing practically next to Macmillan as he looked down from atop his stepladders. Apparently no photo exists of either Macmillan from his unique vantage point or, indeed, the police officer who was on hand to stop the traffic whilst the Fabs traversed the crossing. Imagine if such an image was to turn up; an elderly St. John's Wood resident passes and during a house clearance they stumble upon a shoebox with a load of Kodak slides in it. It would surely make the Holy Grail look like a Skegness ashtray.

* I wonder who was driving that bus?

Monday, 12 August 2019

That's the way to do it


In 1974 Bob Dylan was probably at the peak of his powers. From obscure Greenwich Village folk troubadour to global icon, all within 10 years, the man was on fire.
For his 15th studio album he went into the studio in the September with 10 songs and, two days later, he and the band had recorded the lot. Job done. WOAAH! Not so quick Mr. Zimmerman. Can you go back and tidy a few of them up? I'm sure you've got a better take in you.
So between Christmas and New Year he went back and re-recorded five of the tunes. Tangled Up in Blue being one of them. Four weeks later, in January 1975, it and the rest of the album - Blood on the Tracks - was in record stores and flying off the shelves. In the words of Mr. Punch: "That's the way to do it."


Bob Dylan - Tangled Up in Blue (1975)

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

How are you spelling that?

In what may prove to be a very short lived series, I'm looking at bands who changed the spelling of their name; not their name (that'd be like shooting fish in a barrel), but the spelling of same.

First up we have a band from London who, in the early 80s, began to get quite a following in the US - MTV and all that. The only snag being, the Americans couldn't pronounce their bloody name. They were known at that time as Huang Chung. It means yellow bell in Chinese 黃鐘 but, much to the band's chagrin, FM radio jocks were calling them Hung Chung.

In the end their record label, Geffen, made the change for them and, overnight, they became all phonetically correct - Wang Chung. As in, everybody Wang Chung tonight. I know, makes no sense at all. But then it was a time when folks would rather jack, than Fleetwood Mac. Go figure.

Wang Chung, would you believe, are still trading the boards. Earlier this year they joined forces with the Prague Philharmonic and gave a few of their old hits an orchestral shot in the arm. This was always one of my Walkman faves.

Wang Chung - Dance Hall Days (2019)

Monday, 5 August 2019

Crying Out

My knowledge of Wigan is patchy, sparse even; the Northern Soul scene in the mid-seventies (Wigan Casino, Wigan Pier), rugby league and, er, that's it really.
However, I've just stumbled upon a bunch of young lads from there calling themselves the Lathums. Jangly guitars and Smiths influences abound, but that's not a bad thing, right? 

Lets put it this way, I'm going to blag a copy of their album and see if I can't pull in one of their gigs - they look like they're gaining a bit of traction, so it'd be nice to see them in an intimate venue before they get too big for their boots.


The Lathums - Crying Out (2019)

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Just Who is the 5 O'Clock Hero?


Once again I'm looking forward to combining two of my favourite pastimes - music and beer: I've been added to the bill at Nottingham's Bar 71 on Sunday 25 August. It's a Bank Holiday, so the atmosphere should be quite special. 

Bar 71 is a thriving community micro-pub a mile or so from the city centre (and conveniently a mere hop, skip & a jump from where I live). The incomparable Paul Carbuncle is compering the event and headlining too.

I think I'm on at 5pm. Promises to be a great day.


Wednesday, 31 July 2019

I know how she feels

It's not going so great, is it? Johnson's only been in charge five minutes and already the Irish (both lots), the Scots and the Welsh are threatening to dissolve the Union. So much for those promised sunlit uplands. Stop the world I want to get off.

It will only be when the country is brought to its very knees and begs to come back into the EU fold that the leavers will finally wake up to the fact that, actually, what we have now is not so bad. It's workable. We trade with Europe; we trade with the rest of the world. And they trade with us. Frictionlessly. Everybody wins.



But come October 31st it's gonna be a cold wind that blows across the Channel and into the dystopian badlands of a once great Britain. Our just in time procurement chain will last seven days before essential supplies run out. Queues at the forecourt and fighting on the streets. And that's just for starters. It'll be like an episode of Survivors - that post apocalyptic drama from the 70s, only for real.

Or will it? All I know is, I've got a bad feeling about this. And it's not going away.

Dodgy - U.K.R.I.P. (1996)