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. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

White Rabbit

Alice: 'How long is forever?'

White Rabbit: 'Sometimes, just one second.'

Should you find yourself in a rabbit hole, do not resist. It spoils the fun.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Men Who Sleep in Trucks

I'm indebted to Mark at So it Goes - as you can see Mark watches 500+ films a year, so you don't have to. Instead, take a look at his shortlist and cherry pick your own. That's how I came across The Men Who Sleep in Trucks. Made by Marc Isaacs in 2016 and commissioned by BBC3, it's a seventeen minute vox-pop with long distance lorry drivers filmed in various truck stops just before they get their heads down for the night. Once you've got past a bunch of fat lads without their tops on, it reveals just how sad, lonely and isolated these kings of the open road really are. Compelling viewing.

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Being a Rat (b. December 1960) and with the approaching year of the Rooster (Chinese New Year - commencing 28 January), 2017 is, apparently, going to be a 'colourful' year for me; whatever that means. I'll keep you posted.

Here's Mick Taylor, the finest guitar player the Rolling Stones ever employed (and, D-O-B 17 January 1949, a fellow Rat), singing an ode to that noisiest of farmyard creatures. And/or his cock.

Mick Taylor - Little Red Rooster

Saturday, 31 December 2016

What about the Diddy Men?

Suit you 'Sir'
I woke up this morning to see Ray Davies' mug staring back at me from the telly. 'Christ, not another one!' I bellowed. Turns out Raymond Douglas Davies is very much alive - fit as a butcher's dog in fact. No, the reason he's on the news is because Her Majesty has given him a New Year's shiny thing: a trinket for services to Waterloo, or somesuch. Which is all well and good, fair play to the lad, but what about our kid?

Without Dave Davies there would be no Kinks (it was Dave's band, let's not forget), no Ray Davies the songwriter, no Knighthood. Someone needs to have a word with Queenie. You can't do one without the other. It'd be like honouring Ken Dodd but forgetting the Diddy Men - the young lads who did all the spade work and made him so tattyphilarious; it couldn't happen.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016


It was my birthday today. And I've had a great day. James and Janneke made it special. Janneke showed me how to make a Gibson. And an Espresso Martini. And she's going to knit me a bespoke scarf. James on the other hand is taking his old man to the Royal Albert Hall next year to see Seu Jorge perform The Life Equatic live.

2017 will be a year of changes. And lots of them. Some bigger than others, but changes nonetheless.

Seu Jorge: Changes

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

English Rose

You don't often see Paul Weller drop his guard; but when he fluffs the intro to English Rose in the clip below, Weller actually breaks into a grin; there never were such times.

When he first put Rose on The Jam's All Mod Cons album he never even credited it on the sleeve; such was his aversion to (at that time) writing tender love songs. Also, back in 1978, Weller didn't know what dyed in the wool Jam fans would make of anything that didn't come thundering out of the speakers like a tube train emerging from a deafening tunnel.

He needn't have worried.

Paul Weller: English Rose

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Blinded When I Met You

By now the eagled eyed among you will have spotted that I haven't yet compiled a single 'Best Of' list for the year just gone. And nor will I be doing. That said, I've been absolutely staggered this year by the quality and sheer brilliance of new material by my peers at the two Songwriters Circles I frequent. Songs by local writers & performers such as Martin Heaton, David Swann, Matt Beer, Rowena Simpson and Peter Lister would not be out of place in anyone's Top 10, least of all mine.

And a special mention must go to Paul Lewis. I've mentioned on here before that, not only is he the most consistently brilliant writer, but also the most prolific - if York had a Brill Building, Paul would definitely live there. I know I'm not alone when I say I love this song:

Paul Lewis: Blinded When I Met You

Friday, 23 December 2016

Some things are over, some things go on

In the pub this evening reminiscing about the year gone by. 2016 has had its fair shares of ups and downs, and then some.

People have left our lives. And people have entered. Where will we all be this time next year? Only a fool would bet on the outcome of that particular brain teaser.

Thursday, 22 December 2016


"Here's the thing, none of us get out of life alive. So be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful for the opportunities that you have." (Jake Bailey)

Take that mantra into 2017 and you won't go far wrong.