Saturday, 19 October 2019

Full Speed Ahead

Gordon Tracy; pilot of T4 (2043-)
Despite assurances from many Beatles scholars to the contrary, I can't shake the idea that - even if only in a subliminal way - the idea for Yellow Submarine came from Thunderbirds. Thunderbird 4 - first seen on UK television screens* in 1964 - is yellow, and is a submarine. Step forward Gerry Anderson and take your rightful place in Beatles history. 

However, since Anderson passed away in 2012, it will probably be simpler for Macca to 'come out' and be ingratiated into the extended Tracy family. Full speed ahead.

* I am aware that TV in this country at the time was black and white, but Thunderbird merchandising, though in its infancy, (comics, toys etc.) was still a thing.

Friday, 18 October 2019

The Dude Abides

Library photo; I'm not Pete bloody Townshend
I tweeted last week that my guitar was in dock. I'd suffered a six string malfunction just prior to playing a terrific local Open Mic session at the top of my road. I shan't bore you with the details, suffice it to say that with the help of three people, normal service has been resumed.

Erica - for lending me her guitar that night.
Ben - my good friend at the Crafty Teller for giving me the phone number of...
Dicky Fontaine - guitar doctor extraordinaire;a shining light in these times of doom & despair; a Dude.

Thank you all. Especially Dicky. Have a great tour, man.

Dicky Fontaine, Nottingham 2019

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


The Late Late Show comes out of Dublin every Friday night and is as Irish as, I don't know, leprechauns. The Blarney Stone. Father Ted. Tell you what, roll all three of those into one, put it into an RTÉ television studio and that's the Late Late (as it's known over there). It's been running since 1961 and in that time has only had five presenters, including the saint like Gay Byrne and the irrepressible Gerry Ryan.

D. Cullen on the other hand, whilst very much Irish, is still only a gossoon; he's barely old enough to remember the Millennium. But that didn't stop him playing his new single on the show earlier this month; or bringing a choir with him. Fair play. I think if I was debuting my new single on Ireland's Number 1 chat show, I'd bring along a choir. And a tasty horn section. And a few friends too, what the hell.

So, I don't know what it is - whether it's his voice, the piano, the tempo, or even the choir but I definitely get the feeling John Lennon would approve. I certainly do - it's a shoo in for my end of year Best Of, to be sure.

D. Cullen - Alright (2019)

Friday, 11 October 2019

That much I do remember

I can go through vast swathes of my record collection, especially singles, and tell you exactly where and when I first heard them; a time and a place. Like a lot of other memories, some of them are easier to retrieve than others. When I look at the back issues of this blog I think I allude to these memories quite a bit - even if I don't give precise longitude and attitude; or the runners and riders. And anyway, memories can be unreliable. A bit like this blog, really. Like I've said before, I write it for me essentially. That's why it's my version of what's going on. I have no timetable to work to, no regular features and no minimum word count. My fact count though is generally above average.

In the main, most people who knock on my front door are kind of lost; they're usually looking for someone (or something) else. But they're always polite and never leave until they've had a cup of tea and a biscuit, and a bit of a nose around. They sometimes say nice things in the visitors book before I send them on their way with some lame directions, and everyone's a winner. Teamwork makes the dream work, I think is the current parlance.

Sorry, where was I? Songs and memories, I remember. I love this song btw. A lot. That much I do remember.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Into My Arms (1997)

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Steppin' Out

It's hard to think of your parents as young - having a life before you arrived. When everything stretched out before them; when everything was possible. I'm paraphrasing Ben Watt - please read his account of his parents' lives before he arrived. You'll be glad you did. In the meantime, here's a photo of my mum and dad (before I came along) when they were on the (b)rink... 

Joe Jackson - Steppin' Out (1982)

Saturday, 5 October 2019

And in the End

It was the last album the Beatles recorded together, though not the last album they released (that would be Let it Be). And it's our next Sunday Vinyl Session. I went to see Mark Lewisohn's mesmerising talk last Sunday, so Abbey Road is sitting at the front of my cerebral cortex; where it's been for the last 50 years, pretty much.

George & Paul (vocals only) - Something (1969)

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Thomas Earl Petty

I don't normally mark anniversaries around here, of the living or the dead, but two years ago today Tom Petty closed his umbrella for the last time. He was one of the few acts who I always wanted to catch live but for one reason or another the planets never aligned; though looking at his concert archive Petty's appearances on this side of the Atlantic were pretty few and far between. His first gig in England, June 1977, was opening for fellow American Nils Lofgren at Manchester Free Trade Hall. His last, July 2017, saw him headlining London's Hyde Park. A career arc, if ever there was one, bookended by two shows almost exactly 40 years apart.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - I Need to Know (1978)

Friday, 27 September 2019

Better than Tommy?

You'll have noticed in the last week or so that Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have announced plans to take their mobility scooters back on the road one more (last?) time. Although it's 40 years since their drummer died and nearly 20 since they were left bassless, it will still say The Who on the tickets, and the new album too. Will Keith Moon and John Entwistle be looking on wistfully? Who knows.

The Who: signing off?
I can't comment on the the new album - 'Who' isn't out yet - but I have heard the single Ball & Chain and, you know what, it's really rather good. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing more than the Who by numbers, if you'll excuse a namecheck within a namecheck, but that doesn't mean it's not without merit. Daltrey's voice is just about holding up (unlike, say, his fellow septuagenarian mate Paul McCartney) and Townshend's near deafness is clearly not an issue for him in the studio.

But don't take my word for it, listen for yerself.

The Who - Ball & Chain - 2019

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Tommy this and Tommy that

I may have a thing about Led Zeppelin tribute bands; I said as much here, and here. And, after my recent to the west coast of Scotland, I could soon be hurtling down a similar rabbit hole with Clash copycats.

It comes on the back of me seeing the above flyer in a cracking little music boozer in Dumfries - imagine a low rent O2 crossed with the Clansman and you've got the picture. And what a picture. The Tommy Guns have utilised that iconic photo of Don Letts squaring up to the rozzers during the Notting Hill Carnival Riots of 1976 to great effect.

Like Zeppelin, names for Clash tribute bands almost fall out of the sky: Radio Clash; Police & Thieves; the White Riots; London Calling; Complete Control; They Shoot Pigeons Don't They; Combat Rock; Burning London; the list goes on.

As an aside, I used to work alongside a fella called Tommy Dunne. And if you listen carefully to this masterpiece by the New Piccadillys* you'll hear not only Complete Control, but also a final Tommy Gun flourish.

The New Piccadillys - Complete Control (2019)

* A huge thank you to The Swede for pointing me in the direction of this slice of brilliantness (seeing Joe and Mick behind the glass in Supermarionation is, as TS said, genius).

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Badly Drawn Boz

I'm driving north of the border tomorrow; the Scots were still part of the Union last time I looked - so no border checks. But that could all change. What, you don't believe me?

But I digress. Not only do I love it up there, but I love the journey too; it's a helluva way, but the driving doesn't bother me. I've got loads of podcasts and playlists* all teed up so the miles will positively fly by. A spot of lunch en route and the Gretna signs will be looming large before you know it. Then chuck a left onto the A75, and remember to apply the brakes just before the Irish Sea: "You have arrived at your destination, the noo."

* Boz Scaggs is sure to make an appearance tomorrow. Although the above (badly drawn) artwork is a depiction of his 1977 Silk Degrees album, I've been a huge fan of a record Scaggs put out nearly a quarter  of a century later: Dig, from 2001, is peerless. It's got soul, it's got passion and it's chock-a-block full of great tunes. He never bettered it; that's for sure. So, somewhere between, I'm guessing, Keele Services and Shap there may well be a Boz hour. Or two.

Boz Scaggs - Desire (2001)

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


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.