Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Moves like Jagger

Wig or no wig. Beard or no beard. You'd pick him out in an ID parade, wouldn't you?

* Male Caucasian

* Height: 5'-10"

* Build: slight

* Lips: livery

* Age: old enough to know better

* Moves: like Jagger

Having said that, this geezer might have you fooled:

Sunday, 21 August 2016

A father and a son

Boys grow up to be grown men
And men change back into boys again
The Number One Son has not long left after spending a brilliant weekend with us. He's so together. And grounded; far more so than when I was his age.
As a father of some twenty six years standing I sort of know how this parenting thing works now. You do everything in your power to keep them on the rails, point them in the right direction and pray they grow up to be safe and happy. And they, for the most part, let you do all that whilst, at the same time, gently mocking you.

Loudon Wainwright - A Father and a Son

Friday, 19 August 2016

Nothing to report

On the eve of Good Friday 1930, anyone tuning in to the BBC to listen to the news would have been greeted with the briefest of brief announcements: 'There is no news today.' Piano music followed.

When a fellow blogger found himself with precious little to say recently, he simply posted a photograph of Joan Collins taken c.1960 about to go snorkeling in a yellow bikini. 'No caption required' would have been the caption, had he assigned it one.

Likewise today: it's all quiet on the Western, so please enjoy nothing more taxing than a library photo of Helen Mirren - back when she still turned heads.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Harriet & Hermes

You have to be very careful when photographing other people's tattoos. Long lenses are fine if your subject is on the other side of the street; but if you're standing within touching distance of your quarry then usually it's the tried and tested method: 'Excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing...'
The lovely Harriet, it transpires, had never had a tattoo done before her beloved Persian cat passed away. Harriet gave me the green light to take her photograph, but not before she got her phone out and showed me a delightful snap of Hermes.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Can we still be friends?

For anyone not familiar with Daryl's House, Daryl Hall gets out his little black book, picks up the phone and asks his musical mates to come round to his and play a few tunes in the den. A couple of microphones are set up, a rudimentary camera and before you know it they're making sweet sweet music. Here's what happened when Todd Rundgren swung by, guitar in hand, and rang the front door bell.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Behind (10) Bars

English pubs may well be closing at a rate of 20+ a week but, in all fairness, a lot of those falling by the wayside had probably outstayed their welcome anyway. That's not to say that a few babies haven't been thrown away with the beer slops, but, if you don't use them, you'll lose them. Nothing's so sure.

Here are ten that I've used on numerous occasions over the last few years (with a couple of exceptions) and each and every one has a certain quality that makes a return trip a necessity, not an option. That they all sell sensational beers is a given. No, what makes these establishments the real deal often won't get mentioned in beer guides and bucket lists of hipster bars you must visit before you die.

Without further ado then, here are, in no particular order, my ten favourite pubs/bars in the UK (well, nine, actually - the tenth being an honorary English pub which sneaks under the wire, in what I will have to refer to as the Overseas Section).

And, so that you know, this is not a forum for gushing five hundred word critiques. I will endeavour to sum up each hostelry in no more than a couple of sentences.

* Knott Bar, Manchester

The Number One Son lives in Manchester and, for me, going in this cracking little boozer on Deansgate is synonymous with seeing James. Added to which they've got a splendid Ramones tour flyer on the wall, and their fish finger sandwiches are to die for.

* The Harrison, London WC1

It's no secret that my former business partner and I named our company after George Harrison. So it was hardly a coincidence that when we were working (or playing) in London we sought out this hidden little gem tucked away behind the Grays Inn Road. And we still go back to this day.

* The Lamb and Flag, Worcester

This is now the only pub on the British mainland where I'll drink Guinness. The snug at the back is like stepping back in time, and, I'm told, Robert Plant has been known to slide in for a dust cutter.

* The Baltic Fleet, Liverpool

There are two pubs on this list that I've only been to the once and this is the first one. This beautiful little drinking establishment is home to the Wapping Brewey. And they hold an annual sea shanty festival - but don't let that put you off! We're trying to schedule a return visit later in the year.

* The Black Horse, Whitby

If you're a shrinking violet or you're seeking anonymity in a backstreet boozer, this little drinking den in the old own probably isn't for you. You sit cheek by jowl with fellow patrons so getting embroiled in a lively discussion is as natural as walking up to the bar to get the next round.

* Reid's Bar, Lurgan

In my humble opinion this diamond in the rough - Lurgan is not a pretty town - would not be everyone's cup of Nambarrie.  But, if you can, prise yourself away from Belfast, take the (not so fast) train twenty miles into Co. Armagh, disgorge at Lurgan, make your way to Reids and get Raymond Murray to stand you a pint of Smithwicks. Tell him I sent you.

* The Crown, Belfast

Or to give it its full moniker - The Crown Liquor Saloon. When the IRA were blowing up the Europa Hotel for fun back in the seventies, The Crown, which stands directly opposite, never had so much as a cracked window pain. And what (stained) window panes they are. It's owned by the National Trust these days a so that makes it a real treasure, indeed. You'll find me in the third booth from the front door.

* Room With a Brew, Nottingham

Nottingham's newest addition to the micro pub scene and one that we only discovered for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The beers, from Scribbler's Brewery, are all literary themed and the walls are adorned with images of Penguin paperbacks. We went in for one and came out four hours later - says it all really.

* The Adelphi, Leeds

Leeds may or may not want to be part of the Northern Powerhouse. What it really wants is more pubs like the Adelphi. Again, when James was billeted in Leeds for eighteen months I would often meet him in him here for a couple after work; so a sentimental choice maybe, but you'll struggle to find a better pint of Leeds Pale in the city.

* The White Horse Tavern, Greenwich Village

A pretentious choice, I grant you, but if I lived in Manhattan I'd probably make it my local. Dylan Thomas used to hold court in there. Bob Dylan freewheeled in there many a time. Next time you're in New York City be sure you give it a coat of looking at.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Muppet Who Fell to Earth

Name: Beaker

Species: Muppet

Occupation: Assistant Scientist, test subject

Secret: Closet Bowie fan

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Mark Ellen

Mark Ellen has edited more music magazines than most people have had hot dinners: Smash Hits, Q, Mojo, Word. He fronted BBC 2's Whistle Test in the 80s and anchored Live Aid with his old mucker David Hepworth. His recently published memoirs Rock Stars Stole My Life charts the career of a music obsessive who still gets excited when he hears the Beatles on the radio. And, whilst at University, he played in a dodgy band (Ugly Rumours) with an equally dodgy Prime Minister in waiting (Tony Blair). Mark kindly consented to a light grilling; so, interrogation lamp on...

Who was the first band (or group, as we used to call them) you went to see and did you get there early for the support?

Appallingly pretentious but my first band was the dizzying prog-jazzers Soft Machine at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse in, I think, 1970 who played in befuddling time-signatures and were impossible to dance to. I was at that stage of teen male adolescence where this brought me a rather smug form of  pleasure as it was lofty intellectual music that only the chosen few could appreciate. The support act was Brinsley Schwarz, slightly countryish pub rockers featuring the 22 year-old Nick Lowe. I was smitten with all of it and beetled off to see Wishbone Ash at Bracknell Sports Centre soon after.

Rumours of Paul McCartney's tightness abound: can he really peel an orange in his back pocket?

Tales of his tightness are, however, unseated by stories of his boundless expenditure. He once sent a sick puppy on a 280-mile return journey to a vet's by taxi. He once ordered a pizza from his favourite place in Greenwich Village which was ferried to St John's Wood by cab, Concorde and cab. Given limitless wealth I'm sure I'd do the same - ie think up creative new ways to get rid of the stuff in handfuls.

Once a writer always a writer - are you ever tempted to buy a cheap and cheerful photocopier, a few reams of A4 and a big stapler from Office World, kick-start your own fanzine and sell copies in your local pub?

I am but I doubt anyone would buy them, especially as I'd be producing a tearful monthly tribute to the Incredible String Band. The general feeling among 'the youth of today' sadly is that print media should be free.

Ray Davies' mother always reckoned he boiled at a different temperature to everyone else. On his day, what set him apart from Lennon & McCartney?

Ray can't match either of them but he did have an incredible run of about 17 consecutive hits in the mid-'60s and mined that rich seam of suburban life that McCartney touched upon in She's Leaving Home. It's the tiny details of ordinary lives (Dead End Street) and extraordinary lives (Sunny Afternoon) that really resonate. Unlike Lennon and McCartney, there was always a sense of distance between Ray and the action, a spectator looking in, a nose pressed to the window. He really *is* tight by the way: when he was shot by a mugger in New Orleans he ran after him to try and get his cash back and when medical orderlies tore his clothes to inspect the wound he bleated "but they're new trousers!"

When all the punks are dead who will write about 1976? And will they rewrite history?

I feel exasperated reading all those pieces by 30 year-olds that begin "It was a cloudless summer morning when Joni Mitchell turned up at David Crosby's place with Graham Nash and turned to James Taylor and said ..." as the writer is so far removed from any first-hand experience of the action. It's like coverage of the Second World War now that those who fought it have gone. Which is why books about punk like England's Dreaming are so valuable as Jon Savage was actually there and gave a precise account of it all. The future legacy of punk will be in the hands of writers who wish they'd been 15 in 1976 and will romanticise the whole era beyond recognition. Viv Albertine's book is terrific - Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys: it's completely unvarnished; you can almost smell the rotting squats they all inhabited.I went to see Adam and The Ants a couple of years ago and the place was gloriously stuffed with lumpy-looking individuals with clanking chains and fading tattoos, all in their early 50s now I guess. They were so principled they walked out when he started playing the pop hits.

Do you and David Hepworth still do mix tapes for one another?

Ha! The last band he tipped me off about was The Silver Seas. We both thought the song 'What's The Drawback?' was a work of unparalleled genius. Tragically I'm just too old to have used the mix tape for romantic purposes (cassettes were only just up and running around the time I got married) but that dimension to it was endlessly interesting I'm told, hours spent pondering which tracks sent the right message and made you look deep and mysterious.

Who was the last real pop star?

There simply isn't enough mystery about people like Rihanna and Lady Gaga because their social media makes them seem so available so I'd probably go for Morrissey. He ticks every box for me - he never appears knowable or remotely ordinary. He's utterly self-obsessed and narcissistic. Every single utterance seems to be to shore up his legend. He seems magnificently other-worldly, breezing in from some distant galaxy to scatter a little fairy dust and then disappear for another six months. You can't imagine him ever taking public transport.

Know any good drummer jokes?

Poor old drummers. It's ill-deserved I think. George Martin once played me just the bass and drum tracks from Something and Come Together and Ringo's contributions and mind-blowing and completely transformational. According to Nick Lowe, a good drummer should 'tell the story of the song' and they're often the heart of the band - eg Charlie Watts - as they're the one member that doesn't threaten anyone so no-one falls out with them. That said I like 'what's the difference between a drummer and savings bond? One will mature and make money.'

Writing or broadcasting. What's your preference?

The great thing about live broadcasting is it's done, dusted and over and you can't change it, quite liberating. Then again the great thing about writing is you *can* change it.

Tell us one thing about yourself you've never shared before.

When I was on the underground rock paper New Music News my pseudonym was 'Candice B Reel': pathetic.

I've got two spare tickets for my time machine. I'm going back to 1971 to see the Faces at the Marquee. Are you coming? Hepworth's already at the bar getting them in.

Of course: mine's a pint of brown with a rum and black chaser!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

All Things Must Pass

In January 1969, when George Harrison played Macca his demo of All Thing Must Pass (George was pitching songs for the next album), McCartney pretended he could hear the phone ringing in the next room and practically ran out of the room shouting 'I must get that.'
Suffice it to say that Macca and his group didn't get that; instead, George saved it for his own jaw-dropping triple album of the same name he brought out eighteen months later. Much to McCartney's chagrin.
People who have met Paul McCartney will tell you he's shrewd. Well, let me tell you, he ain't that shrewd.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Pink gin. And blue

Typically tropical
Blue for a boy, pink for a girl
Having spent most of yesterday drinking beer - thanks to a new micropub discovery in Nottingham (more details on A Room With A Brew to follow) - I thought I'd take a day off today and...make some Gin Skittle Bombs. Using the same method as the Vodka Skittle Bombs from last week, these two bad boys (OK, one's a girl*) are now in the freezer rubbing shoulders with a bag of frozen peas and a leg of lamb; thinking about it, I think I have all I need there for a near perfect meal next Sunday.

* I should really have made a third, LGBT, bottle and covered all bases. Next time.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

If you pick up that telephone

Don't you realise the things we did, we did for real, not a dream
I just can't believe they've all faded out of view

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

It's like being abroad

Don't leave your sunglasses on the dashboard
The roads are melting, you can fry an egg on the pavement and Asda have sold out of BBQ stuff. And if you’ve left your Aviators on the dash, expect to severely brand the bridge of your nose when you return to the car later and put them back on. Yep, it’s summer.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Rainbow alliance

Cheap & cheerful bottle of vodka + Packet of Skittles = Vodka Skittle Bombs