Saturday, 19 August 2017


Shelby, Shelby & Shelby
For all its faults, and it has many, believe me (dodgy Birmingham accents, PJ Harvey all over the soundtrack, ropey dialogue), Peaky Blinders is actually getting under my skin - imagine Deadwood set in the West Midlands. I never thought I'd get past Season 1 Episode 1, but now, thanks to those good people at Netflix, I'm at the point of no return: S2, E4. If they hadn't have decamped to Camden Town and brought Tom Hardy in I think I would have kicked it into the long grass long ago. 

But Christ, how hard can it be to do a Brummie accent? Nearly all the cast must think Birmingham is on the Wirral. Then again, Timothy Spall did set the bar quite high in Auf Wiedersehen Pet. And Vic and Bob.

Anyway, it skips along at quite a pace and if you don't mind a script liberally carpet-bombed with 'f*cks' then give it a go. Nick Cave sings the theme tune.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Red Right Hand

Friday, 18 August 2017

Miss You

 I'm no apologist for the Rolling Stones; they don't need me to fight their corner. That's what they pay their management for. And I'm sure the Stones' global fanbase are more than capable of fighting off any naysayers. 
 However, I did see recently that some nitwit had written: 'The Rolling Stones haven't released anything worthwhile since 1972.'
  So Angie, Heartbreaker, It's Only Rock'n' Roll, Fool to Cry & Start Me Up are not worthy? Or Miss You? 

I played my stripped down version of Jumpin' Jack Flash on Wednesday and it went down really well. That's prompted me to record it properly. As soon as it's done I'll put a link up.

Thursday, 17 August 2017


I was invited to a school reunion a couple of years back; I think I had some drying paint that needed watching that night, so I politely declined. Actually, I didn't: my email had not an ounce of politeness contained within its hastily typed two lines. Sorry Andy.

So why*, therefore, have I just ordered a new novel which, judging by the PR blurb I've been reading, is nothing more than a lid lifting exercise on my old school. (A school, can I just say, run by a sadistic, right wing, child-hating man of the cloth - ably assisted by his mortarboard & gown clad henchmen). Only the names have been changed, apparently.

*I'll tell you why. It's written by someone I haven't clapped eyes on in thirty odd years who was in the year above me at said educational establishment. Nick Barrett, sorry, Nicholas Barrett, to give the author his full title, was a good lad. I think he was on the minibus that took us to Charlton in 1976 to see the Who. To say Nick was a Who fan is like saying the Pope is a bit religious. In fact, Nick's Who connection forms one of only three things I can really remember about him. These three things being:

1. He always wore a full length fur coat. Keith Moon gave it to him. I know, you can't make it up can you?

2. Nick played drums in a quasi metal/punk band called Pagan. I remember Bill Peake was on bass and they would open their set with Neat Neat Neat.

3. He drank in the Beehive. We all did.

Anyway, Michaelmas Term (Or - Why is that Boy Naked?) is winging its way to Medd Towers as we speak. I may have to write a follow up piece.

The Damned - Neat Neat Neat (Unsurprisingly, no footage of Pagan exists)

Friday, 11 August 2017

Up Up and Away

The passing of Glen Campbell this week was sad. Very sad. But as I touched on back in April, the Campbell we all knew and loved had already gone. We'll miss him, I'm sure, and none more so than Jimmy Webb: this week has seen as many column inches given over to the writer of Wichita Lineman, as the singer. And rightly so. It's been labelled the finest song ever written in the twentieth century. I for one wouldn't disagree with that.

As well as the other ubiquitous hits he scored for Campbell, Webb also wrote songs (prolifically) for many other artists. This is one of my favourites. A friend of mine is going to a Balloon Fiesta this weekend, so it's quite fitting. Check out the 5th's natty threads.

The 5th. Dimension - Up Up and Away

It's Jimmy's birthday next week - he'll be seventy-one. Happy Birthday Jimmy, from all at Medd Towers.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Live Bugg

Scott Bugg, formerly of the Swines and now front man of the Vital Few, is getting loads of radio play at the moment. That's what happens when you write instantly memorable songs - it's a sure fire way to get playlisted; his younger cousin plows a similar furrow. If he doesn't get a similar lucky break then it certainly won't be for the lack of trying.

I'm hoping to catch Scott on Saturday night in town supporting the Flavells. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't play Taxman; not the only Fabs reference in this contagious new Beatle-esque song of his.

Scott Bugg and the Vital Few: Taxman

Sunday, 6 August 2017

This one's for Jack

I'm currently reading Life - Keith Richards' memoirs. Honest (brutally so, in places), affectionate, and very entertaining. The story of how the Stones came to be is told through a post-war prism so very English; how Richards' describes Dartford, and later London, is as gritty as it comes; the total antithesis of Austin Powers' cut and paste psychedelic London. But, at the same time, every bit as funny.

I really wanted to know how he and Jagger wrote - who did the heavy lifting, who came up with the choruses, where the riffs (those riffs!) came from etc. And Richards' doesn't disappoint. He lifts the lid (although his recall may not be 20/20) on the division of labour and how the credits should be divvied up.

Here's Richards talking about Jumpin' Jack Flash: "The lyrics came from a grey dawn at Redlands [Richards' stately pile in Sussex]. Mick and I had been up all night, it was raining outside, and there was the sound of these boots outside the window, clump clump clump, belonging to my gardener, Jack Dyer. It woke Mick up. He said 'What's that?', I said 'Oh, that's Jack. That's jumping Jack.' I started to work around the phrase on the guitar, which was in open tuning, singing the phrase 'Jumping Jack'. Mick said 'Flash' and suddenly we had this phrase with a great rhythm and ring to it."

Since reading that I've stripped the song right back, slowed it down and turned into something a lot folkier. Keef, and Mick for that matter, would probably have something to say about it. However, the chances of them ever hearing my version are pretty remote, wouldn't you say? Though I will put it up when I've recorded it.

In the meantime, Richards has plenty to say (as you can imagine) on a whole host of topics. Here are five of my favourite Keef Quotes:

* "I don't have a problem with drugs. I have a problem with the Police."

* "The only thing Mick and I disagree about is the band, the music and what we do."

* "I'm Sagittarius - half-man, half-horse. With a licence to shit in the street."

* "You can't accuse me of anything I haven't already confessed to."

* "I'm all for a quiet life, I just didn't get one."

And here is Jumpin' Jack Flash. As honest as he is, most of the time, Richards never credited Bill Wyman for the amazing bass line which tracks the song throughout. And the video, rather than the usual promo film, I've chosen this montage which has some terrific candid photos of Richards and his band mates.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

John Peel Wasn't

He really wasn't
James and Janneke treated us to an exquisite lunch this Sunday just gone. It was followed by a totally impromptu boozy afternoon in one of Lincoln's finest drinking dens. I really do need to update my database of treasured pubs.

Apart from being surrounded by beautiful people and some some quite sensational  beers, we were royally entertained by two old boys manning the Wheels of Steel. Each was sporting a trademark titfer - no surprise then that they went by the name of Hats & Decks - see what they did there? They opened proceedings with Midnight Rambler; what can I say? Not an obvious choice (Start Me Up is what most lazy jocks would have gone with), but it set the tone perfectly for the rest of the day: they didn't play a bad record all afternoon. Hats (or was it Decks, I can never tell them apart) let us do our own crate digging and for a good thirty minutes we held court. At some point (around the time of pint four or five) they played the tune that will forever remind me of listening to John Peel in my bedroom in the seventies. And no, it's not Teenage Kicks.

Grinderswitch - Pickin' the Blues

Sunday, 30 July 2017


On yer Marcs
Getz Set

Tommy Ramone wanted a singalong song in the band's set: 'Something the Bay City Rollers might chant' he was quoted as saying. Blitzkrieg Bop came out in February 1976 and was their first single: punk was officially born. It was also, quite possibly, the final nail in the Rollers' coffin.
Quite fitting then that they love it north of the border: 'Hey, Ho, Glasgow!'

Friday, 28 July 2017

Getz Set

This year marks the 90th. anniversary of the birth of Stan Getz - one of the truly great tenor saxophonists & band leaders who worked his way up through the ranks to become (and if he were alive today he'd probably hate me for saying it) a by word in Bossa Nova and Samba: in 1964 he recorded the definitive version of The Girl from Ipanema with Astrud Gilberto.
He started out as a foot soldier in Jack Teagarden's band in the forties and later with Woody Herman and Stan Kenton, before branching out on his own. He would go on to make many career defining albums with other jazz luminariess including Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson and Gerry Mulligan.

Never one to be type cast, in 1990 he teamed up with Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn to lay down a beautiful solo on The Road, taken from Everything but the Girl's fifth album The Language of Life. Getz sadly died the following year aged just 64.

Amazon are currently selling an eight album, four CD box set for a little over seven quid. What's not to like? You really should take the plunge.

Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd - Desafinado

Stan Getz (1927-1991)

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

On yer Marcs...

T Rex's Slider is 45 years old this year; last week, in fact. I know that because The Swede told me.
However, a more sobering anniversary is lying in wait just around the corner: this September will mark 40 years since Marc Bolan bought the farm.

Cut down in his prime, Bolan was on the up, as opposed to on his uppers. He'd been on the skids for a couple of years. But he was back. He was fit. He'd even got his own TV show. And he'd got a new band to take on the road. For support he hooked up with a bunch of young punks and let them open for him. The Damned didn't disappoint. And neither did Bolan.

Who knew what was round the corner - Bolan certainly didn't. Could he have been a contender again? I think he still had a trick or two left up those elfin sleeves of his.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Swede's Biggest Hit

This album too is 45 
I've nicked the idea for today's post from the magnificent Swede. I won't even pretend that I put an ounce of original thought into today's 250 word offering.
I couldn't even be arsed to come up with a different way of holding the sleeve up for the photo shoot; it's basically an original high quality Swede garment with the designer label ripped out and my own (inferior) brand stitched poorly into the back of the neck - the kind that'll make you itch like a man on a fuzzy tree.

So, the Sweet. What can I say about them that I haven't bored you all to death with a  million times before? Suffice it to say that The Sweet's Biggest Hits was the first album I bought with my own money. And in 1972 that was a whole hill of beans, well £2.18 anyway. And I played it ten times a day. Minimum. Why wouldn't I? Unlike singles which needed flipping over every three minutes (a bit like pancakes) RCA Victor SF 8316 (I still remember the catalogue number) would play for nearly twenty whole minutes before I had to drag myself off the bed and put the needle on the other side.

And I love the way it's called Biggest. It stops at Wig Wam Bam: less than four weeks after its release they would put out Blockbuster (#1), closely followed by Hell Raiser (#2) and Ballroom Blitz (#2). Now they were big: combined sales of those three singles alone was in excess of 1,000,000 copies (and that's just the UK): monster big.
Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye on Swede Towers and see if I can't recycle some more of his ideas and cut and paste them over here. Keep 'em peeled.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

It's driving me insane

The irrepressible Johnny Vaughan has been playing the sh*t out of Kasabian's latest single God Bless This Acid House.  But every time it comes charging out of the speakers, all I can hear is Juke Box Jive by the Rubettes. Seriously. I really think the next time the jesters from Leicester play it on whatever TV show passes for Top of the Pops these days, they should all sport matching white berets; you never know, if could catch on. Well, maybe not in Leicester.
As infectious 45s go, it's almost up there with a cracking little debut single Dean Jackson on BBC Radio Nottingham has had on constant rotation all Summer. 24 Hours a Day by the Shades is a three minute montage of every pop record ever released, from (and including) Rock Around the Clock. Again, when I hear it I can pick out so many nods and winks to classic singles and artists of yore, not least the ghost of Billy Haley whose DNA is still trapped in its rock and roll amber. And it's driving me insane. See what you think:

The Shades: 24 Hours a Day

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Rich pickings

Thank you to Charity Chic for making me delve back into my Charlie Rich collection. He was so much more than the Silver Fox. A bit like yours truly...

The late (and rather great) Charlie Rich had at least three careers: as a session musician he was a regular at Sun studios c.1957/58  when Elvis et al were banging out the hits. But Rich realised, maybe he was told, he didn't have the rock and roll chops to ride that particular train; though I for one would have to disagree, just take a listen to Whirlwind from the first disc on The Essential Charlie Rich Collection. Instead he used his not inconsiderable songwriting talents to supply the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash with quality material.

Rich spent much of the sixties on the periphery, playing more jazzy stuff - he was a fine pianist as well as being a huge vocal talent - and even turned out a couple of mod influenced hits: Mohair Sam and Big Boss Man can still be heard in any venue wherever you see a row of Lambrettas parked outside.

But it was in the early seventies when he was re-energised by country (just country, hold the western). In 1973 his hit album Behind Closed Doors spawned two absolutely colossal singles: The Most Beautiful Girl and, of course, the majestic title track. Rich suddenly found himself with gold discs coming out of his ears, very popular and, I guess, very rich.

However, he couldn't sustain this level of success and found himself once more in the wilderness. Though he would go on to make one more beautiful album: In 1992 he recorded and released one of his finest collection of songs, Pictures and Paintings. It's tinged with jazz & gospel and is sung from the heart. It's reflective. It's almost sorrowful. It's beautiful. And it's where you'll find this:

Charlie Rich: Feel Like Going Home

Charlie Rich (1932-1995)