Saturday, 23 June 2018

Madness Frontman

Suggs in the City
The death of Suggs' cat on his fiftieth birthday (Suggs, not the cat) surprisingly became something of a turning point for the man who will be forever introduced by the prefix Madness Frontman.  

On that fateful day (for the cat), back in January 2011, Suggs was in the bath (I'm tempted to say Suggs in Suds, but I think I'll pass on that one), when the moggy fell off a collapsed bathroom shelf (a shelf put up by the man in the bath, it transpires). 'There was an almighty crash, broken glass everywhere, and my cat was dead. I was 50, my two daughters had recently left home and now this. I really felt like God hated me.' As you can tell, it knocked him sideways.

That day he started to write about all the events leading up to the moment the dodgy shelf parted company with the wall. In no time at all the Madness Frontman (see, even I'm doing it) had written an autobiographical stage show he could take out on the road and perform. 'My Life Story': a form of therapy? Having seen the show myself, yes, I think it was.  Funny and moving in equal parts (well, maybe 60/40), it received rave reviews. Not least by me - I told him as much when I met him earlier this year.

And now Julien Temple film has made it into a film. Of course he has - it's what he does. Here's the trailer.

This is for Alyson: she asked me to write something about Madness Frontman Suggs (it's catching). I absolutely love this version of My Girl. I hope she does too.

Thursday, 21 June 2018


They call it shameless self publicity; those Mini Cards that Moo are so good at come in really useful. I use them as tags for Medd's Bread. I slip them into birthday cards and CDs. I put them on pub notice boards. I slide them into new paperbacks at Waterstones. I even leave them on trains.

They cost peanuts and you can put as many designs and photos on them as you like. The ones you see here have that picture of my mother in London, the interior of a rather exclusive private members club in Soho, and the new Are We There Yet? mast head - designed by James. I know, I'm shameless.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Back in the Saddle

Every now and again I post something that needs no preamble.

This is one of those times. 

Friday, 15 June 2018


Witness protection
Things you think only happen in the movies:

Pack a bag

Drive to the airport

Casually walk up to the desk and ask: "What's the next flight out of here?"

The Motors: Airport (1977)

Sunday, 10 June 2018

"What were the skies like?"

James screen-grabbed part of their route for me 
That's neat
James and Janni are currently on their American roadtrip pulling in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California, rounding off in Los Angeles: living the dream. Photos are appearing regularly on my phone (RIP postcards) with mini updates. The old me would, I know, have had pins on a map in the kitchen, and everything; I so look forward to receiving these miniature travelogues every day or two.

To give you a flavour - the photo on the right came thru with the caption 'Just driven this badboy from Albuquerque to Santa Fe!'
The one on the left - 'What were the skies like when you were young?*' We're at a really high altitude here so all the skies seem much wider, and I really got out of breath going or a swim earlier!

* Taken from the Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds

Saturday, 9 June 2018

He Ain't Heavy

Name above the door
You know the feeling: you get off the train, walk out of the station and then realise you haven't got a bloody clue where the venue is. 'Excuse me mate, you from Sheffield?' Oh God, thinks the hapless passer by, not another flaming tourist. 'Easiest way to get to the 02?' Fucking hell, that's an easy one, (I can tell) he's thinking. 'It's that big white box building up there', he said, pointing to the big white box building. 'See it?' I did: smashed it. 

Catching a late afternoon train out of Nottingham means there's plenty of time to find the venue (tick), find pub(s) near venue - Spoons and Head of Steam (tick and tick) - have a couple and still get there in good time (tick). No repeat of Amsterdam.

Thomas Walsh is Pugwash
The last time I saw Pugwash was in Islington, north London. I was with my good friends Steve and Mondo and we'd been drinking in Holborn most of the afternoon. I do remember meeting Mark Ellen for the first time and the delightful Kate Mossman. My memories of the gig, however, are patchy, though I do seem to recall the guitarist from XTC joining them on stage at one point.

Anyway, that was back in 2010 and I did say to Mondo the next day how I'd love to see them again when I was a little less, ahem, relaxed.

So when I saw that Pugwash were opening for Nick Heyward on his latest trek around the country I snaffled a pair of tickets faster than the devil on horseback.

When Thomas Walsh walked onto the tiny stage he all but filled it - I wrote a while back that Thomas Walsh is bigger than the Beatles. After a few words of introduction in his broad Dubln brogue he launched straight into Perfect Summer from the shimmering Siverlake album recorded earlier this year in LA. His songs are perfectly formed three minute pop nuggets made to be heard by the whole world: one day they will be, but just for tonight, Sheffield were given their very own private performance. Highlights too many to mention, but Mason on the Boundary (from Duckworth Lewis) and Nice to be Nice meant that I could have gone home a happy man, even if I hadn't have stuck around for the night's star turn.  

Nick Heyward is my brother**
It's not hard to see why Nick Heyward asked Pugwash to go on tour with him. They compliment each other perfectly. And if they're not already writing together then they should be.

Heyward's pedigree meant that he could come out of the traps with two Top Ten Hits (Love Plus One/Take That Situation) and still have plenty of gas left in the tank. Complete with a rather fetching smoking jacket, and an equally loud five piece band (six if you count the man himself), he treated the crowd (though gathering may be a more accurate term) to a masterclass in how to string together a bunch of hits (and a few near misses too), tie them up in a bow and deliver each and every one like his life depended on it.

Standout songs*? If I had to trade one for my grandmother it would be Kite. And He Doesn't Love You Like I do; OK, both grandmothers then.

* Nick has been dropping the Beatles' Dr. Robert into his set for as long as I can remember, and last night was no exception. Here he is in 1993 performing it on Danny Baker's late night Saturday TV show with the Railtown Bottlers, Danny's house band (look out for a very young Mark Kermode on standup bass).

Nick Heyward - Dr. Robert

**Interestingly a woman from Middlesborough who I was chit-chatting to down the front said I looked like Nick Heyward's brother.

In other news, Nick said that his daughter (who resides in Shefield, apparently) was in the audience. So, techNickally, that would make her my niece then?

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Another early bath*

The blues are still blue
Two iconic photographs appeared on my Twitter feed today. The first is a timely reminder that we're only a couple of weeks away from the World Cup kicking off in the former USSR. England, as per usual, haven't got the slightest chance of getting anywhere near the finals; unlike in 1970 when Alf Ramsey took his squad to Mexico as defending champions - 1966 and all that. And though we came close, we weren't close enough. But I just love this photo - everything, the sky, the lads' tracksuits, even the curtains on the coach, is a shimmering blue. With the exception of Alan Ball's red shirt; there's always one.

The green green grass
Exhibit B is that rare thing - a bunch of thugs looking almost wistful. Leeds Utd were, for much of the seventies, known as Dirty Leeds. They would knock seven bells out any opposition they played on a Saturday afternoon. Bar none. Yet, for five minutes on the training ground they quite literally stood like statues long enough for a team photo like no other. And, just for that literal snapshot in time, they looked like butter wouldn't melt. Who needs Photoshop?

Miles Davis - Blue in Green

* In case you're wondering, here's the original early bath

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Surprise Me!

We all like surprises; don't we? Isn't that what gets us out of bed each and every morning - the prospect of a new day and all that comes with it, everything from the planned and expected to those happenstance events that bring the most totally unexpected, and sometimes, exciting moments? It's the not knowing. If we did know what was round the corner then life would be that little bit duller, that little bit more mundane. I'm a bit sad, I know, but I won't even look at Nick Heyward's set list that somebody liberated from the stage in Birmingham the other night - I'm seeing him this Friday and don't want to know what he's gonna start and end with, or even play for an encore; of course I've got a bloody good idea, but you know what I mean?

Radio presenters who herald at the top of the show what they'll be playing over the next two hours. Why? The joy of listening to the live radio, surely, is, again, not knowing what's coming next. And don't get me started on movie trailers (aka plot spoilers) - especially grating when you'll be watching the film only days later.

As they used to say on the Saturday night news, just before Match of the Day came on: "If you don't want to know the scores, look away now."

Friday, 1 June 2018

Thank you for the days

A year ago I was heading in the right direction

Keeping it real in NG5
One year ago, to the day, I turned a corner: quite a few corners actually. 12 months ago, on what was a beautiful sunny morning (an omen if ever there was one), the removal van transported all my worldly goods and chattels down the country and deposited them back in civilisation.

So, an anniversary. Though no song or dance required; well, I may have to raise a glass or two this evening and toast NG5 (my postcode of choice) - just to be sociable, you understand.

I say no song; scratch that. Today's selection is a peach. Try as he might, Ray Davies can do no wrong in my book. His songs will continue to be sung as long as humans occupy planet Earth. And beyond, probably. Of that I am convinced.

'Days' was released as a single 50 years ago this month. Can you believe it? Pinch yourself. It's what I've been doing the last 365 days.

The Kinks - Days (1968)


Postscript, 2 June '18

Oh my word, I've just found this - Ray Davies with the Crouch End Choir (audio only). I want it to be played at my funeral.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

I'm desperate, Dan

I've just acquired a pair of tickets to go and see Danny Baker later in the year on the final leg of his Good Time Charlie's Back! tour. I can't tell you how made up I am.
I spoke to him on the phone many moons ago when he was still doing the Morning Edition on Radio 5; of course he won't remember, but it's still locked in my memory bank all the same. That was when the BBC still let him play whatever damned records he liked. No playlist for him; oh no. Whether or not he ever played Lieutenant Pigeon's follow up single to Mouldy Old Dough is something I may have to ask him when I see him in September.

Lieutenant Pigeon - Desperate Dan

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Generation Sex

L-R: Billy Idol, Steve Jones, Tony James
This is a story I'll definitely be coming back to later: ex Gen Xers Tony James and Billy Idol dropped a world exclusive on Jonesy's Jukebox yesterday - together with Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols, they're gonna be getting together to play old Generation X and Pistols songs. I'm already very excited! I know, I should get out more. I love their little chat: it's like Spinal Tap meets Last of the Summer Wine. And when Billy and Tony talk about writing King Rocker in an afternoon to put a single on their Valley of the Dolls album, you can't not admire them.

You may have noticed that this blog has acquired a new mast head. I thought I'd put Even Monkeys Fall Out Of Trees out to pasture, along with the old JM logo. Like me, it was looking a bit tired. So, please welcome its shiny new replacement - Are We There Yet? will still carry on the well worn tradition of writing from the hip, with scant regard for its readership. Meet the new blog, same as the old blog.

But seriously, thanks to everyone who's rung my doorbell in the last eight years.
I've put a new battery in it now - so we should be good for another eight. At least.

John x
May 2018

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Halfway to Paradiso

Getting to Amsterdam these days is a piece of cake (no, not that sort of cake) - easier than London, almost: thirty minutes to the airport, a short hop to Schipol followed by a ten minute train ride to Dam Square. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tim and I had both been before, but for some reason we'd never landed on Dutch soil together. Until Wednesday. Our trip had been planned for a while and was essentially a jolly-up to go and see Baxter Dury. Dury is a big deal in Europe and is treated like royalty in France, appaarently. We'd got tickets to see him in the world famous (it really is) Paradiso Club: when the Stones played two semi-acoustic gigs there in '95 Keith Richards said they were the best shows the band had ever played; Keef probably says this a lot, however, recordings from both nights did end up on their Stripped album later that year.

The Paradiso is a converted church building and is equally as magnificent inside and out. It's virtually in the middle of the city and barely a five minute walk from our digs. So, bearing this in mind, coupled with the fact that we bought our tickets three months ago and bearing in mind also the fact that we'd been in town since lunchtime, there could be no excuse for rocking up late to this gig of all gigs. And you'd be right - no excuse whatsoever. Erm. Well, it's like this. Hang on a minute, I don't have to explain this to you.

"What time's he on?" The clue is on the ticket
Suffice it to say we only missed a couple of his early numbers - I blame strong liquor and pretty girls on bikes - and the set he turned in was immaculate. Baxter is a consummate front man. Like his old man before him, you can't take your eyes off the fella (well, maybe just for a second or two - to enjoy his rather lovely keyboard players standing either side of him).

When the show finished we could still hear music, so we padded up the stairs into the main auditorium and caught The Vamps playing to a room full (and I mean full) of teen girls screaming their bloody heads off. It was like Hard Day's Night meets Rollermania. And, yes, I know, apart from me and Tim, nobody in the room would get that reference. Not least the young kid who went down like a sack of spuds. The gig was temporarily halted, the houselights came up and the paramedics were in like Flynn (another obsolete reference, I know) administering mouth to mouth and, hey, back on with the show; our cue to leave.

A good night was had by all. I remember a lot of red lights and not much else. We emerged from our digs late the following morning for a classy breakfast in a classy joint (in a classy joint) followed by more Dutch beer, before saying goodbye to the city and a promise that we'd be back real soon.

Saturday, 12 May 2018


Depending on your musical persuasion this little bit of tomfoolery will either leave you with a big smile on your face, or you'll be writing a stiffly worded letter to the CEO of Youtube complaining most bitterly that YouTube wasn't made for this sort of thing - "Stick to skateboarding cats and montages of Donald Trump offending all and sundry."
Personally, I adore it. Although I don't have a Metallic bone in my body, the very idea that someone (Andy Rehfeldt) could see beyond Enter Sandman and turn it into a smooth jazz classic is genius. Pure genius. Let's clap it in.

Metallica - Enter Sandman (Smooth Jazz version)