Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Be Careful, There's a Baby in the House


Uncle John

T minus 7
Little Sailor
Thomas Freddie George was born on 6 September at quarter past seven in the morning. The little fella weighed in at 7 lb. - 11.5 oz. and is everything proud parents Emma and Adrain could have wished for. And then some.

Today I made my first return visit to Yorkshire since emigrating four months ago to go and see him. And, as you can see, he's absolutely adorable. Emma passed him to me for a cuddle and he fell asleep in my arms almost immediately. I have this effect on people.

No caption required

This is for Emma and Adrian:
Loudon Wainwright - Be Careful, There's a Baby in the House

,

Sunday, 24 September 2017

1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Prompted by a couple of Phill Jupitus tweets last night, I've been carrying a whole bunch of XTC tunes in my head since I woke up at the crack of sparrows this morning.

I can't remember a time when XTC haven't featured on a mixtape/CD compilation/playlist at sometime or other in the forty years I've been knocking these things out. Beginning with Statue of Liberty🗽 back in 1977, the bunch of cheeky misfits from Swindon have written and produced some of the most intoxicating, quintessentially English, pop music spanning nearly four decades. The fact that Andy Partridge called time on their live career in 1982 due to crippling stage fright, never stopped them from hunkering down in the studio and consistently churning out magical album after magical album.

I'm sure everyone has their favourite favourite XTChoon they can't live without; with so many to chose from, it can only ever be a transient trio. I told Mr. Jupitus that Dear God, Grass and I'd Like That would be my first three out of the starting blocks. @FurryCanary commented that they formed a pleasing narrative arc; I never saw them like that, but I guess they do. I then remembered I'd nearly forgot The Meeting Place. Written by Colin Moulding it's probably the band's finest hour - from what is certainly their finest album.

I absolutely adore this quirky instrumental cover*. In fact it would be well at home in the little Folk club I belong to. Can you have a sea shanty without words. Or sea? An XTC shanty, perhaps.


Or if that doesn't float your sea vessel, how about this cracking lounge version of Senses Working Overtime?  It looks like it was recorded at a Route 66 roadside diner somewhere in Southern California. Further from Swindon and the miserable M4 I'd say it's impossible to get. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...


* After having listened to it again several times over breakfast, it puts me in mind of the Camberwick Green/Trumpton/Chigley soundtracks. I'll get my coat...

Saturday, 23 September 2017

I think I needed it just a little bit more than you


I mentioned the gig at the Bodega a couple of weeks back with Ryan McMullan. As good as he was, and he was, I think the young lad supporting him matched him punch for punch. Ryan probably shaved it on points; but he didn't have a song in his set half as good as this.

Travis sang 'Needed It' a cappella that night from the front of the stage, totally unplugged. And such was the respect shown to all the musicians on the bill that night, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop when he played this.

Travis is a Tourist: Needed It

Monday, 18 September 2017

Get Lucky

The Daftness

You're an English rock band from the East Midlands: Derby, to be precise. You release an album and get a bit of interest, but gigs dry up and the record company lose interest; you can't get arrested. What to do?
Move to LA, of course! Put out a catchy single, get it played on every FM station from the Eastern Seaboard to the West Coast and perform it on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to a TV audience of kajillions. Then watch the offers pour in to open for the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Foo Fighters...

And, what won't do any harm, record a tasty (very tasty) cover and shoot a stylish promo film for it in black and white. In a pub. In Derby.

The Struts: Get Lucky


They say their influences are Queen, The Darkness, Aerosmith and the Stones. No shit, Sherlock:

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Wearing aftershave ironically - file under 'First World problems'

In the mid 90s, when Loungecore had its day in the sun, I didn't need poking with a pointed stick to make me clean out my parents' record collection. Or pay silly money for lounge compilations (back when CDs were still selling for an eye watering RRP of £16) full of Tony Hatch*, Alyn Ainsworth and the Harry Roche Constellation: I sort of loved this stuff anyway. So when clubs like Blow Up and Fabric were having Lounge nights and hipsters (not the hipsters we know today) were crate digging for the easiest of easy listening long-players, I didn't have to listen to this stuff ironically anymore. I could just listen to it.


But how does it work with men's fragrances - I'm talking 1970s aftershaves here? I remember writing that when I was seventeen I thought Blue Stratos was the last word in men's toiletries. At a time when men's grooming comprised soap on a rope and low budget splash-ons - Brut, Denim, Hai Karate, Old Spice, Tabac et al - it was only Blue Stratos that warranted repeat usage. Once you took away the aroma of stale fags and beer from most pubs back in the seventies and early eighties, the only smell left in the room (apart from BO) would have been a couple of wide boys at the bar who'd spent all there disposable income drowning themselves in Brut 33.


So I recently spotted online that you can still buy Blue Stratos. Whether or not it went away and has now come back, or just never went away in the fist place is anyone's guess. Anyway, I had to investigate: would it come in the same distinctive blue bottle? Yes it does. Would I still get that same frisson when I unscrewed the top? Er, no, not really. And, more importantly, would it still smell the same, a smell that would take me back to a time and place? Mmm, sort of. (Or would it smell like an industrial household cleaning product?). And, even if it did smell the same, would I be able to wear it? And by that, I of course mean would I be able to wear it for real, or would it just be an ironic gesture gently reminding me that a much younger version of me would wear this scent in the feint hope of pulling fair maidens who, like me, knew no better? I'll get back to you on that one.

Hardly a ringing endorsement - the jury are still holed up in their hotel, they could be there quite a while yet. Without going into a laboured review of Blue Stratos 2.0 and banging on about floral top notes & musky base notes, the bottom line is that it's 'quite pleasant, actually.' And no, it doesn't smell like an industrial household cleaning product. Not on me, anyway...

* I make no apologies for digging out this Longecore classic again. Tony Hatch can do no wrong in my book.

The Tony Hatch Orchestra: Soul Coaxing

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Holding Me Down

It was something of a Northern Irish showcase last night at the Bodega in Nottingham. Portaferry boy Ryan McMullan, top of the bill, supported by Travis is a Tourist (Belfast) and Stephen McCartney (Bangor).

Playing to a packed house, the three lads all put in stunning sets and were all visibly moved by the warm reception they received: if they like you at the Bodega they really do show it.


There will be a longer piece on all three of them in the next week or two, but, as a taster, I just want to share this song with you: Holding Me Down by Ryan McMullan has been playing in the car all week, and he wound up his set with it last night before rushing to the back of the room to man his own merch stand.

After signing a couple of CDs for me he described how fast things were happening for him (he really is gaining traction in Europe) and how well the recent German and Dutch gigs had gone. Nottingham was the first night of the UK and Ireland leg of the tour - they then go all over the place, finishing up in Cork, on October 15; I haven't ruled out a quick dash over the Irish Sea for that one. Yes, he is that good.

Ryan McMullan - Holding Me Down

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Crossing the Red Sea


It's Sunday. A day of rest. You might go to church. Or temple. You might clean the car. You might even mow the lawn. For what it's worth I'm a lapsed Catholic, I take the wheels to the car wash down the road apiece and I let my next door neighbour cut what little grass we have 'as it's no bother' to him. Thank you Sat.

Sunday is also the day when British Rail decide to do their 'engineering' works. This will inevitably mean the network operates a reduced service, resulting in (even) slower trains and, worse still, no porters to carry your matching luggage from carriage to cab. Hang on a minute, about those porters...

This little outpost on the digital network has had some minor engineering works of its own carried out today. Hopefully, without any disruption whatsoever. Can you see what's been going on? This question doesn't have a right or wrong answer by the way. Because if you said 'yes', it means you can see the (subtle) advertising placed beneath each of my posts. If you had said 'no', then you probably haven't been offended by the serendipitous ads that, I think, are quite in-keeping with the look and, dare I say it, style of my blog.

Let me explain (whilst at the same time assure you that I have neither sold out or part exchanged my soul with the Devil*).

Even Monkeys Fall Out Of Trees has been going nearly eight years. Back in 2007 it started life as nothing more than a weekly diet of pop ephemera - stuff that had been cluttering my brain for far too long and needed expunging. Putting it 'out there' (in the nefarious world commonly known as social media) was cathartic. I enjoyed writing it (and still do, tremendously) and my 'readership' for want of a better word seemed to get it. And throughout its life it has transmogrified into a cross between a social & cultural documentary from the standpoint of a white middle class male of a certain age, and the ramblings of a mad man.
This is where you will find out who invented the Venn Diagram, what makes chips and curry sauce a meal of Kings and why the Sweet (and not the Beatles) were probably the best rock and roll band in the world.

My modest two up two down blog now gets just shy of 30,000 page views a month. Every month. Incredible isn't it? I think so anyway. And that was the thing that made me think (and I know I'm not the first blogger to think this, or the last) "Can I earn some pin money doing this and, at he same time, keep the look and feel of the blog and not piss my readers off?"

Of course it's way too early to begin to answer that question. The ads only went live at midnight.

What you will see, I think you'll agree, are ads that fit. So far I've seen ads for audiobooks, tee shirts and guitars. Stuff I have no problem with. I'm not selling arms, tobacco or cars here. Or washing powder. I'll leave that to Danny Baker, and James Hunt before him. These messages will, I'm hoping, slot in nicely - font, colours etc. with the rest of the blog. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think it works. Whether or not I actually see any pounds, shillings and pence out of this is another thing. That would, quite literally, be a bonus.

I look forward to writing each and every post on tis blog like you wouldn't believe. The buzz of the blank screen suddenly filling up with words, my words, is just as big a thrill now as its always been. And that's because, nine times out of ten I write from the hip. Yes, there's an element of fact checking going on - I was a professional writer in another life - but, and I hope this comes across,  I try not to get too bogged down with timetables, regular features, and lists - content that can turn writing for pleasure into a chore. That said, nobody likes a list more than me. But I'm far more likely to present it like this, than in a chart rundown sort of way. Themes are great too, but as a lover of words, you're far more likely to encounter this sort of thing, than a bunch of misfit songs with a tenuous link. OK, I've done the odd tenuous link too, guilty as charged.

Will it last, I hear you cry. The blogs - definitely. This advertising malarkey - who knows? Will it make me a fortune? No, of course it won't. I've read testimonies from fellow bloggers who basically see two bob and a conker from it. But as I said earlier, money is not the driver here. And if at anytime the ads take over or distract from the main event, then, to paraphrase Jim Reeves, they'll have to go.

* Actually, I've already sold my soul to the Devil.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Goodbye Girl


Rereading 'Squeeze - Song by Song' (Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook with Jim Drury, Sanctuary 2004), Glenn Tilbrook said that Goodbye Girl was their breakthrough song in America. By changing the line 'My wife has moved to Guernsey' to 'My wife has moved to Boston', it opened up New York, Boston and the whole of the East Coast; though the Americans still didn't have a clue what lino was.
It was pointed out to Tilbrook much later that the tune is very reminiscent of the Muppets theme, a fact that still keeps him awake at nights. It's time to put on make up...🎵

Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook - Goodbye Girl


I mentioned Song by Song above, a compelling insight into Difford and Tilbrook's much lauded songwriting partnership. Another tome, a natural companion piece, is Chris Dfford's recently published memoir 'Some Fantastic Place - My Life in and out of Squeeze'. One of the (rave) reviews read: 'Anyone who can read should go out and buy a copy.' Ah, Mrs. Difford, bless you.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

When we sing together, that's the best of all

I was only telling someone today, if I say I'm gonna do something I do it. That's how I roll. Sorry, I can't believe I just said 'that's how I roll.'

Anyway, if you remember this (it was only May this year), then you'll be pleased to know I've joined a choir. A community choir. I went along on Monday with absolutely no preconceptions (OK, I went along on Monday with a list of preconceptions as long as yer arm) and, I have to say, had a ball. Summertime, Lean on Me, Amazing Grace...I really enjoyed it. So much so I said I'd go back. Well, with the puppy dog eyes they were giving me, I couldn't not. Even the tramp who stumbled in half way through begging for change didn't put me off (we keep it real in NG5). More updates as my choir career unfolds. I can hear Carnegie Hall calling.

Pete Morton - When We Sing Together

Sunday, 3 September 2017

What's so funny?


Backed by a band comprising a bunch of Kendo Nagaski lookalikes, Nick Lowe has found his second wind; it may even be his third. Los Straitjackets, the surf instrumentalists who all wear designer Mexican wrestling masks on stage, have given Lowe a springboard to getting his tunes in front of a whole new audience. The Straitjackets are, seemingly, still riding the Pulp Fiction wave that saw the likes of Dick Dale & The Deltones appearing on uber cool Tarantino soundtracks back in the late nineties. And it's a two way carretera - they've now recorded a bunch of Lowe's songs, bastardised his Jesus of Cool artwork and are discovering Lowe's fans dig them too.

Here they all are in the Current 89.3 studio recording a track Lowe gave to Elvis Costello in the late seventies. It's now been given a Mexican twist, loads of reverb and even a bit of tremolo. What's not to like? Apart from the fact that Lowe is sharing a room with a group of masked men, that is.

Nick Lowe with Los Straitjackets - (What's so Funny 'bout) Peace, Love & Understanding


A little easier on the eye, maybe, is this live clip of Los Straitjackets live on stage with 'The World Famous Pontani Sisters' - burlesque for the surf generation?

Los Straitjackets - Brooklyn Slide

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Coffee?

He won't thank me for reminding him, but Glenn Tilbrook, 50% shareholder of Squeeze Ltd., said goodbye to his fifties today. I'm sure if you trawl the back issues of this blog you'll find plenty of references to both him and his common law songwriting partner, Chris Difford. To say their partnership has been rocky would be an understatement, but, not for nothing, were they once compared to Lennon & McCartney. And rightly so.

I've seen Glenn live in so many different permutations I really have lost count. And in all those times - Glenn solo, Glenn with Squeeze (with and without Jools), Glenn with the Fluffers, Glenn with Chris - I've only ever seen him play Black Coffee in Bed on the guitar. But, here he is vamping a few chords on the old Joanna:

Glenn Tilbrook: Black Coffee in Bed


Glenn Tilbrook - 60 today. Happy Birthday Glenn!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Warm hands

My second* favourite picture of James & Janneke
James and Janni made a whistle stop visit this weekend; it's so much easier for them, now we don't live in the arse end of nowhere. As always, we crammed a lot into the 24 hours they spent with us. We even had a 'conference call' with James' pop - a kind of low budget two-way family favourites. And Gordon, to his eternal credit, was able to announce to the pair he was doing a spot of giving with warm hands. Grandparents, eh? They never cease to amaze.

* This being my favourite

Friday, 25 August 2017

Three Faced

It's called 'Doing a Swede' - named after the young man who thought it would be a hoot to have your photograph taken holding the first album you ever bought with your own money; whilst at the same time doing a rudimentary version of the Dance of the Seven Veils.

Anyway, as you can see, Mr. Swede lost his cherry to Marc Bolan, I took the Sweet behind the bike sheds and Alyson, well...it would appear Alyson let Mr. Presley into her boudoir after lights out. Allegedly.

If you still have your first 33 and you don't mind sharing a Polaroid of yourself in the kitchen clutching said artefact (looking only mildly silly), then now's the time to say 'There's no time like the present' and ping the image over to Medd Towers.

I'd particularly like to hear (and see) regular (and irregular) readers' debut platters. So Mondo &PileyCMartinMark, Skirky Rol and anyone else out there who can still locate that first piece of black plastic they bought in 19 Seventy/Eighty, come on down.