Sunday, 26 February 2017

Radio Times

It's a well known fact that the seventies were brought to you by the colour brown. Cars, wallpaper, furniture, clothes. In fact, flossy pictured (left) on the sleeve of Your One Hundred Best Tunes (a Decca release, which tied in with the Light Programme radio show of the same name) is a perfect case in point; I don't know how she's done it, but, as a result of some seventies related condition, she's managed to morph into her brown armchair and appears to be reaching out to her brown transistor radio in a vain attempt to reverse the procedure. And all the while a well thumbed copy of the Radio Times clings to her lifeless hands.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How can he be sure?

David Cassidy has just announced his retirement. During a recent live show he forgot the words to a number of his hit records and at one point tumbled off the stage; he hadn't fallen off the wagon, as some initially thought, but instead has been diagnosed with dementia.
The former pop idol has not had much in the way of luck lately. Rehab clinics, courtrooms and the back of police vehicles have been his backdrop for the last few years; the days when he could sell out venues faster than the Beatles are long gone. Ditto his poster boy image.
For anyone interested in where it all started to go wrong - after a handful of years where it was all going so incredibly right - I seriously recommend his self-penned memoir 'Could it be Forever?'
And if you fancy some tasty reworkings of his old 45s, look no further than his rather excellent 1998 album Old Trick, New Dog.

David Cassidy - How Can I Be Sure?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

"Please yourself"

Peter Skellern (1947 - 2017)
I was saddened to hear yesterday of Peter Skellern's passing. The obituaries in today's papers and online all seem to be cut & pasted from the same handful of facts some rookie journalist has cobbled together from Wikipedia: born in Bury, could play the piano a bit, had a hit in the early seventies, and became a priest not long before pegging it aged 69.

Not that I can add much more to the plaudits bestowed on him by his family, friends and fans. Other than to say I will always remember him as Carter Brandon in the radio adaptation of Uncle Mort's North Country by Peter Tinniswood. Skellern's monosyllabic one liners teed up his laconic uncle's withering monologues perfectly.

  They gave Carter Brandon a week off work, so he thought he'd spend the time taking day trips in his car. He took his Uncle Mort with him.
  It was an ancient Ford Zodiac with sad headlamps and limp seat belts.

'Shall I sit in the front seat, Carter?'

'Please yourself.'

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Mosteiro Estrada

Lisbon, Saturday afternoon

From left to right:

Jim (George)

Dom (Paul)

JT (Ringo)

Matt (John)

Thursday, 9 February 2017


Eusébio, my friend JT, and Super Bock. There, that's about my sum knowledge of Portugal. Oh, and Baxter Dury (great Portugal reference - below). Maybe by the time I get back from Lisbon on Monday I'll know a bit more.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Getting in early

James & Janneke
It's James' birthday next week. We won't see him on the day, but we're spending this weekend with him and Janni and will take his presents with us. James lives in Manchester these days and is heavily involved in the Arts up there. I've always worn my Proud Parent badge unashamedly, and never more so than when I watch films like this:

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Speke now...

Amateur photographer Keith Jones loves his native Liverpool with a passion. His latest project has seen him going around the city snapping the Pool as it is today, and then overlaying how it would all have looked 50+ years ago; the Beatles landing at Speke Airport in 1964, now John Lennon Liverpool Airport, being a prime example.

Friday, 27 January 2017


© Rowena Simpson
I love gardens, but I hate gardening; the only thing worse than gardening is people talking about gardening. When we move I don't care if our new garden is the size of Richard Branson's wallet or a mere postage stamp - just so long as it's south facing. And if it's anything like Rowena's garden, then so much the better.

The Sounds Of My Garden - 'I painted what I could hear'

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Songs We Were Singing

That's the way to do it
Lennon and McCartney wrote many songs together; and many more apart. But if you were to add up the ones neither of them had a hand in - but should have got a co-write on -  you'd need a supercomputer. You know what (and who) I'm talking about: take your pick from any of this lot's back catalogues just for starters: Crowded House, World Party, Squeeze, Cheap Trick, Dodgy, Badfinger, Big Star, Oasis, Cotton Mather, ELO, Pugwash, XTC, Utopia, and (don't forget) The Rutles - the list is endless. Interestingly, these days Macca himself can't write a Paul McCartney song anymore without it sounding like a Wings pastiche. How tragic is that?

As this blog enters its eighth year you can see there's been a lot of Beatles related activity (the leader board on the left hand side of the screen is a dead giveaway) since 2010. But I've never before mentioned this trio of moptastic Macca infused Beatles soundalikes: from the top - The Rembrandts condensing the White Album into three minutes, followed by the Chili Peppers melding 'Helter Skelter' & 'Vanilla Sky'. And, finally, Jellyfish, who probably lived on a very limited diet of Rubber Soul and Revolver.

Macca is currently taking Sony through the courts, trying to get his hands back on 'Love Me Do', 'Please Please Me' and all the other tunes he and Lennon wrote which are soon coming out of copyright quarantine. If I was his him I'd be setting my legal rottweilers on all the artists I've mentioned above. And the hundreds more I haven't.

The Rembrandts - Johnny Have You Seen Her?

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Aeroplane

Jellyfish - She Still Loves Him

Monday, 16 January 2017

You're a swine Lennon

In 1971 there was no love lost between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Their solo albums from the time were loaded with venomous intertribal references; both eager to piss on the other's chips. Lennon, however, had to have the last word. Early copies of his Imagine album came with a limited edition postcard of him fondling a pig's ears. A direct jibe at Macca's Ram album cover. I told you it was serious.

'You're a swine.'

Sunday, 15 January 2017


(Not) all my own work

That splash
The first canvas of the year
The brushes came out for the first time this year. But feeling lazy, and a little mischievous, I had a go at copying one of my heroes.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, David Hockney is a unique British artist. His Bigger Splash has been copied and parodied many times; not least by John Myatt. In the world of fakes, Myatt is the real deal. He did four years bird for conning the art world. These days he teaches fellow artists the tricks of the trade. And like all the best teachers (well, those who've done time) he's part mentor, part bully. I love the series he did for Sky Arts a few years back - this is the Hockney episode:

Friday, 13 January 2017

Chris Higgins

Along with the Number One Son, my friend and fellow Beatles nut Chris Higgins (Chiggins) has been sending me end of year CD compilations for as long as I can remember. He'll invariably chuck in a couple of self penned tunes in there by his band The Ruminators. And most years it's a blind tasting with no track listing. Tricky. This year's opening salvo was a belting tune I could have sworn was one of his. Turns out it was by The Eagles of Death Metal. D'oh! Anyway, he thanked me for the compliment. He also agreed to subject himself to a long overdue interrogation.

So, Chris, what music was being played in your house as you were growing up?

I think I was quite lucky - typically involved The Beatles, ELO, Leonard Cohen, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dylan, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Duran Duran.

What was the first record you bought with your own money?

Duran Duran – Seven and The Ragged Tiger (cassette). First 7" was You Take Me Up by the Thompson Twins.

And the last album you bought?

Gregory Alan Isokov – The Weatherman (A slightly disappointing follow up to This Empty Northern Hemisphere - which is pure genius).  I’ve since joined the Spotify Gang.

How long between owning your first guitar and writing your first song?

I bought a guitar quite late (I was about fifteen) with the sole intention of writing songs.  Having taught myself badly, I was writing songs properly a couple of years later.  I think things can sometimes sound better when you're playing to the edge of a fairly limited ability.

Lyrics or tune. What’s more important?

I think the melody is the most important for sure.  Without a good melody you haven’t got a song – just ‘written word’ on a bad piece of music - I subscribe to all that is the Beatles - if the words are good – you’ve probably got a very strong song. If the words are poor, you still might havet something worth a listen.

Are you writing stuff all the time, or do they take a while to gestate?

I’m constantly writing songs in the melody/chords/structure sense. As I get older, lyrics take more and more time which really delays the finishing off/recording part.  Typically I have up to ten songs hanging around waiting to be recorded at any given time; if after a few months they haven’t become the priority to record I tend to discard them forevermore - never to be completed.

You’ve got the opportunity to donate one of your songs to Macca. Which one do you give him?

As big a Beatles fan as I am, my songs don’t sound very McCartney-esque (unfortunately) - but there is one called It's About Time which he might like? (It's sort of in his ballad territory.)

You’ve got the use of a time machine for the night: where (and when) are you going?

August 15,1965 - Shea Stadium.

Sell Brighton to me in a sentence.

Brighton is open minded, traditional, cosmopolitan & British where anything can happen, and a place very few seem to leave once a few roots sprout.

You don’t fancy living in Nashville?

No! I had a demo rejected (Pretty Baby) by a publishing company in Nashville for sounding too traditional/old school. In the meantime, most modern country sounds to me like a hiding place for bad 80’s rock.

Beatles or the Stones?

Have a guess!

Early doors or late nights?

These days early doors, I’m afraid.

Indian or Chinese?

Indian. Every time!

Do you share your bag of sweets on long train journeys?

For me a train journey is time to slope off into your own world – so no, sorry!

A big thank you to Chris for taking the time, and here's a link to more of his fabulous songs.

Chris' partner in crime and fellow Ruminator, Ali Gavan, records all their stuff in his own rather FAB studios in Brighton.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Bigger Splash

Southern California, not East Yorkshire*
David Hockney painted A Bigger Splash in early 1967 whilst teaching at Berkeley. It captured a typical California day - a swimming pool, a cloudless blue sky, palm trees; a 'typical' day we could all get used to if we had to, I'm sure. The original, hanging in the Tate, measures 8 ft. by 8 ft. and is seen as a defining moment in Hockney's career. A contemporary of Peter Blake he was one of the key players in the whole Pop Art movement of the 1960s, but would soon outgrow any labels the art world tried to put on him and took his work in directions few could have second guessed: landscape, expressionism, portraiture, cubism and, of course, his iconic collage photography.

* Hockney has lived all over the world, including a number of years spent in a pile in Bridlington, East Yorkshire - which he sold in 2015. These days he spends much of his time in his beloved California.