Monday, 14 January 2019

Get Carter

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that despite 2019 being barely two weeks old we already have a contender for tune of the year: 'Faraway Look' by Yola Carter is a song so utterly huge, so monumental, that it would take several gangs of labourers working round the clock with industrial tune moving equipment for the next eleven and a half months to dislodge it from my brain’s playlist generator.

Imagine Memphis era Dusty joining forces with, say, Glen Campbell, Scott Walker and Gene Pitney – and Phil Spector manning the controls - belting out a sixties clarion call to end all clarion calls in a ‘You’ve Lost That 24 Hours From The Son Of A Wichita Preacher Man’ kind of way. That’s how big this is.

And if you think I'm over egging this particular soulful pudding, then pull up a chair and see for yourself.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Dying to Die

Black Mirror
When your time's up, your time's up; most of us, luckily, don't have the slightest clue when that is. But some of us, apparently, know when last orders have been called. David Bowie knew. He'd been preparing for it. Just listen to his final album - Blackstar; the album he released on his last birthday as an earthling. And, only two days later, achieving almost perfect mortality salience, he floated off in his tin can for the rest of eternity. (He didn't have Five Years left to die in.)

January is a pretty miserable month at the best of times. If it's not the teetotal puritans blockading pubs or right wing loonies telling us how great it's gonna be when Europe cut us loose, we are reminded that David Bowie left us three years ago this week. He was just 69. I'm not sure what that is in human years, but I do know he left behind more than a handful of songs that will never be forgotten. This being my personal favourite:

David Bowie - Conversation Piece (1969, released in '70)

Bowie must have liked it too; enough to put it on a B side, anyway. Conversation Piece is Bowie at his most fragile. Quite how it never made the cut for his Space Oddity long-player is beyond me. But he did rectify matters early the following century when he re-recorded it, made it sadder(?) and put it out on his Heathen album. I love them both.

David Bowie - Conversation Piece (2002)

David Bowie (b. 8 January 1947, d. 10 January 2016)

Friday, 4 January 2019

Just Remember How We Shook Shook

Bass players often get a bad rap; contrary to popular belief they can change a light bulb1. And some of them, I'm assured, even have girlfriends. I know, who'd've thought it?

I mention this because a track appeared on my annual Best Of CD from Chiggins which, even though my age begins with a 5, made me think2: 'God, I'd love to play the bass.'  The Look by Metronomy contains a bass line so haunting, so dreamy, so f**king catchy, I wanted to go down to the music shop, grab the nearest bass3 off the wall and run out with it yelling 'Pay you Tuesday.' I believe members of the Who used to do this on a regular bassis; never did them any harm.

Anyway, here's that song:

Metronomy - The Look (2011)

And here's a (bassic) guide telling you how to play it

1 It actually only takes one bass player to change a light bulb. After the guitar player has shown him how to do it.

   2 Don't get me wrong, playing bass has been on my bucket list ever since I first heard Jean Jacques Burnel playing Walk On By

  3 And by 'nearest' bass, I mean Rickenbacker 4001. obvs, as played by everyone from Marin Gordon from Sparks and Radio Stars, to Wings' Paul McCartney - and a veritable Who's Who in between.

Martin Gordon plays a Rickenbacker

This fella plays one too
All the punk bands in the 70s seemed to favour the Rickenbacker. Everyone from Eddie and the Hot Rods to the Damned (actually that was the same fella - Paul Gray) and a whole lot more besides.  And don't get me started on Lemmy...

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Ready for Take Off?

2019. Starting a New Year. It’s a bit like air travel. Safe as houses; apart from take-off. And landing. Two points at which all bets are off and, if anything bad’s gonna happen, chances are that’s when it’ll all come crashing down. Quite literally. But, even if it looks like you’re running out runway and you swear the pilot has left it too late to lift the nose cone, 99.99% of take offs take off. They do. That’s what I keep telling myself.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

The Hush Before the Silence

A rather splendid book
Boxing Day. A day to relax. A day to do precisely nothing; the square root of nothing, no less. There's even a formula for this prolonged bout of inactivity: e=√FA

That said, I am reading a rather splendid book at the moment, whilst simultaneously demolishing nearly half a tin of Quality Street. Oh, and I've hung a few pictures this afternoon that have been leaning against walls for far too long.

And I'm currently compiling a couple of playlists. Downtempo playlists, if you will; nothing too strenuous, nothing too upbeat. Not today. Not on Boxing Day.

Paul Weller bookends the first one with two different versions of My Ever Changing Moods - one of my fave Weller songs from his Style Council days. He did a rather tasty piano version 30+ years ago and then, last year I think, included it in a specially recorded BBC session - a version reflecting his now slightly reduced vocal range (Macca, a hero of Weller, does something very similar when he sings Beatles songs these days).



Sunday, 23 December 2018

Wish You Were Here

Wedding of the Year 2018
2018. It's had its ups and downs, for sure; but with more ups than downs, definitely. All in all it's been a good year - well, it would be, it's got an '8' in there, hasn't it?

A lot of firsts; my eyes have widened and my soul deepened, that much I do know. I also know that, pretty much like last year, my end of year round up is very simple, being both compact and bijou:

Best Wedding: James & Janneke
Best Bar/Pub: either Jenkins [Sherwood] or the Organ Grinder [Loughborough] - I really can't make my mind up
Best App: Remove the background from any photograph Instantly (see 'Wish You Were Here' - below) 

Best Walk: Attenborough Nature Reserve. By a country mile
Best Breakfast: Warsaw Diner, Canning Circus
Best Gig: The Prodigy - Nottingham Arena
Best Podcast: Ruthie - Me & My Dad
Best Radio Station: another joint 1st. prize - Soho Radio [London] / RTÉ Radio 1 [Dublin]
Best Radio Presenter: Pete Paphides
Best Book: The Chalk Man - C J Tudor (below)
Best Open Mic: The Running Horse - with a big thank you to Paul Carbuncle 

Once again a big thank you to everyone who looks in my shop window, and an even bigger thank you to those who trust to luck and cross the threshold... 

Have a peaceful Christmas

Saturday, 22 December 2018


For Fox Sake

Text message from my cousin Ray on Thursday:

Fox On the Run came on
the radio...I nearly came 
with it. Fucking brilliant 
when a song like that creeps
up and surprises you 

Tell you what, give me 150 
words on why Fox On the
Run is so fucking brilliant
  and I'll put it up on the blog. 

John, this isn't quite what you
asked for - but do as you wish
with it. An ordinary Thursday
afternoon. Christmas themed 
background music dominated 
the airwaves. And then...the 
explosion. It's amazing that 
despite having 24 hour access
 to one's musical preferences, 
when one of them springs 
unexpectedly from a radio 
station, it's inexplicably 
different. It's a joyous three
and a half minutes of nostalgia
that no pre-planned station can
 bring. March 1975. Sweet. Fox 
On the Run. Yes, lyrically it's
bitter, criticising as i does 
somebody whose glory of youth 
has deserted them. 'But the rest of 
you is out of place.' Hardly a 
compliment. Not being 
appropriately trained, I can't
identify what its musical qualities 
are. To be honest, I don't care. 
But what an ensemble. Like so 
many great Sweet songs, it didn't
quite make the top, being denied 
by the hysteria of Bye Bye Baby. 
This is a matter which has recently
been ignored amid the apparently
more significant Brexit issue, but is 
still one I intend raising with my 
MP on March 30th 2019. It's
never too late to gain justice.

Perfect. Thank you.

The Sweet - Fox On the Run (1975)

Monday, 17 December 2018

Sunburst Finish

Sunburst Finish (Acrylic on Canvas)

The Woodlands Gallery (about to enter its fifth year, and now located in Nottingham) has recently acquired two new paintings. Yep, the brushes came out for the first time in ages yesterday and here they both are.

Sunburst Finish, I think it's safe to say, owes very little to the 1976 Be-Bop Deluxe* album of the same name, but the colours and texture cried out Sun as I was working on it yesterday - despite the fading afternoon light on the canvas.

Wood Embers (Acrylic on Canvas)

Wood Embers on the other hand is, excuse the pun, something of a slow burner. I wasn't jazzed with it at all while I was painting it. It's only when it began to dry that the colours bled through. The title, meanwhile, came a little while later...

* Be-Bop Deluxe really did try and set the world alight, but always seemed to be punching above their weight. Being neither Glam nor Prog in the mid seventies, and with one eye on the impending new wave, they somehow got left behind in a world that loved the idea of a band like Be-Bop Deluxe, but didn't necessarily want to buy their records or foot their ladder as they tried to climb it. Shame, really, as Bill Nelson - Mr. Deluxe - knew how to write good songs. Like this:

Be-Bop Deluxe - Sleep That Burns (1976)

Friday, 14 December 2018

Remember Me


If there's a bigger ball ache than remembering old passwords, retrieving forgotten passwords and/or resetting new ones then please tell me; because I really don't think there is one.

And as the majority (alright, all) of my passwords are variations on a theme, I'm buggered if I can remember which ones do or don't have an uppercase letter, do or don't contain a number, and do or don't have a 'special' character; which is why, if left to me, they would all be 123456 or ABCDEF. Sorry, make that aBCDEf1@, no, hang on, I think it it was ABCdeF?100. Oh, fuck it.

Blue Boy: Remember Me (Original 12") - 1997

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Birds of a Feather

There follows not a single reference to Brexit (Hard or Soft), Backstops or Theresa Fucking May 

References to my Gaelic roots are dotted all over this blog. Without this maternal streak of Irishness running thru me, James couldn't have applied for his dual nationality, and I probably wouldn't spend as much time as I do shouting 'FECK!', 'DRINK!' and 'That would be an Ecumenical matter' at the drop of a tricolour hat. Nor would I spend so long listening to RTÉ Radio. In particular John Creedon's excellent midweek show which goes out live from Cork every night between 8:00 and 10:00 on RTÉ Radio 1. Take a peek at some of his recent playlists. Delicious aren't they?

He played a song by Declan O'Rourke last night that I'd never heard before, and I fell in love with it instantly.

Declan O'Rourke - Birds of a Feather (2004)

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Shimmering, glimmering

The plane touched down yesterday just after three o'clock. It was wet. It was windy. It was cold; everything Lanzarote wasn't. A miserable December Saturday afternoon in the UK has absolutely nothing going for it whatsoever. Even the pilot was apologetic, bless him.

Rewind less than 24 hours and I'd been gazing out to sea thinking how much more tolerable life would be if this was my view, this was my vista; a light so bright and so beautifully sharp, that, if I close my eyes (even as I'm typing this), I can still see. Let's hope I can still retrieve it from my memory bank next week, and the week after... 

Charles Trenet - La Mer (1946)

Monday, 3 December 2018

Go into settings

What a year it's been; and continues to be. I'm sure there are other fairground mechanical contraptions that can I can compare the last 12 months to, but I'm struggling at the moment to call one to mind.

I'm jumping on a plane in a couple of hours. Five nights away - a bit of sun on my back, catch up with the latest Anne Tyler, and gorge on a few of my favourite podcasts*. I may even have a few glasses of the local grog, it has been known. As ever when I'm away, my thoughts will be wandering. But in a good way this time.

* Including: Ruthie - Me & My Dad. I've just discovered this quirky podcast where washed up radio presenter Martin Kelner and his 17 year old daughter Ruth sit down at the kitchen table and tell each other what it's like to reside in 2018. Essential listening.

It was going to be called 'Go Into Settings' - Ruth explains in the first episode (or is the second?) that whenever she's telling an 'old person' how to do something on their phone it's the first thing she says. Ouch, sounds familiar.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Here in the Hole

I've only ever seen the 90 second version 
It doesn't take a lot to frighten me; though I'm much better than I used to be. I remember trying to watch Eraserhead on my own and not being able to get past the opening credits. Seriously.

The first house I ever owned had a basement cellar. Did I ever go down there? What do you think? And don't get me started on horror films where hands come out of graves. Ever wondered why I went grey so early?

So how come then I'm currently wading through Season 1 of American Horror Story on Netflix? That is a very good question. Firstly it comes highly recommended. Secondly, it doesn't take itself too seriously: they shoehorn every conceivable trick from the horror repertoire into each and every episode, thus making it more Carry On than Carrie. I absolutely love it.

But, back to things that truly frighten me. I still can't listen to Here in the Hole by Barry Adamson without clutching at my invisible rosary beads and offering up a silent prayer; it scares the living crap out of me (that's right, I don't play it very often).

I recently found a Youtube mix of it where it segues into Sonny Boy Williamson's Help Me. It's the kind of light relief you need after putting yourself through Adamson's emotional wringer.

Ready to be disturbed...?

Barry Adamson - Here in the Hole (2006)

"You see, that's the way the world is"