Saturday, 21 April 2018

Shadow Dancing

Surf's Up
Hank Marvin has got a lot to answer for: when surfing (literally) Youtube I don't think I've ever seen a single 60s combo playing their then current instrumental hit of the day and not do the  Shadows Shuffle. The Chantays are no exception.

Their 1963 hit Pipeline is a tour de force. It's impossible to keep still when it comes on the radio. Not that many radio stations in 2018 go in for a lot of surf.

As with the Ventures, this video clip is magical. When the group introduce themselves you just know that this is the biggest night of their lives; and, who knows, maybe it still is.

The Chantays - Pipeline

P.S. Many years later Johnny Thunders really took the song to town - this live version even ended up on the Sopranos soundtrack. A bigger accolade you'd be hard pushed to achieve.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Walk Don't Run

I saw this photograph on Twitter this morning. The caption read: 'When you don't want people running down the hallway.'

So the music kind of chose itself today. This is from a Surf compilation album I bought the first time I went to California back in the late 90s. My friend Riggsby took me to a Tower Records store in Mountain View store that was still open at midnight. It's by the Ventures and, for a while, would regularly appear on C90 mix-tapes I was knocking out during that time.

The clip below is over 50 years old and is a superb snapshot in time. It's got everything - the 'group' trying to look cool but failing miserably (the Shadows dance routine is priceless), girls in the audience chewing bubble gum like it's going out of fashion and a backdrop that looks like it was put together just minutes before the red light went on. Perfect.

The Ventures - WALK DON'T RUN (1961)

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Call the Fire Brigade!

Janet [L] & Sharon - On Fire!
When band members cite reasons for leaving a band then 'musical differences' must be the most well worn of them all: cliché central. But that's precisely why I, together with Sharon and Janet (pictured above), left our last choir and decided over a drink one night to start our own: CHOIR ON FIRE!

We start proper a week on Monday and already we're getting a lot of interest. The venue's booked, the set list is taking shape and we're getting ready to sing. And we'll sing anything from Abba to Zappa - that's what it says in the Nottingham Post!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

King of Rome

I very nearly back-heeled Carrington Triangle last night; it was a foul evening, but I closed the front door behind me, turned the collar up on my coat and strode out. And I'm so glad I did.
I knew there was something about Julie when she walked in the room about ten minutes or so into the session. She sang a couple of songs including The King of Rome from Dave Sudbury's enchanting book, and I knew I had to ask her to join our choir. She has an an absolutely fabulous voice, and I was bowled over right from the off.
During the interval I introduced myself and found out we share a real passion for making bread - Julie runs a community bakery - and actively promotes the connection between singing and baking. Please take a look at her blog Eat Bake Sing - you'll be amazed at what she gets up to. She also invited me to one of her workshops, so can't wait till we organise that.

King of Rome was a pigeon, owned by a Mr. C. H. Hudson, who won a race from Italy to England in 1913. He flew, bless him, all the way from Rome to Derby, a distance of 1,001 miles. No surprise that only 62 of the 1,200 released birds made it back to Blighty. The little fella lived to a ripe old age and died in 1958. He's subsequently had a radio play written about him, and been immortalised in print and song.

Here are two quite different versions of the song. The first, sung unaccompanied by Lucy Ward, is how you'll probably hear it in most folk clubs:

The Unthanks (I have rather a soft spot for the Unthank sisters), on the other hand, give it the full brass treatment courtesy of the Brighouse & Rastrick Band. Excellent versions both.

Not forgetting little Poppy-May

Monday, 9 April 2018

Waltzer Girls

The Fair would come to town every year. For three days they would shut the Market Place off at both ends and the fun would begin. Dodgems. Waltzers. T Rex turned up to 11. And girls; that's what I remember anyway, though not necessarily in that order.

Standing on the running board that ran round the Waltzers was as near as me and my friends ever got to being Jim MacLaine; the louder you scream, the faster we go.

Trying to look at least two years older than we really were and hoping our ridiculously wide Oxford Bags wouldn't get snagged in the machinery, whilst at the same time road-testing some lame chat up lines on girls from the High School, was precarious to say the least. Sometimes they'd jump on with you, more often than not they told you to "do one." Even when you said you'd pay. But still, even when they didn't acquiesce, the view from the touch line often made up for the disappointment: the sight of a well turned ankle and all that...

I was reminded of Waltzer Girls when I was reading C. J. Tudor's The Chalk Man last week. If you've not already read this latest bestseller, then I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the story of Waltzer Girl runs through her novel like a stick of rock. I loved it.

And with the magic of social media I was able to tell C. J. Tudor (Caz) I loved it. And she thanked me for taking the time. Bless her.

I didn't tell her about my Waltzer Girls though.

Friday, 6 April 2018

A Proper Charlie

I picked up a new car last week; so it goes. It's black, and it's rather nippy. But they're not the two things I have to know when I take delivery of a vehicle. They are:

* Which side is the filler cap on?
* What's the sound system like?

And, as I've discovered over the last few days, I can tell you:

* On the right
* Not bad at all 

And here's the thing - I'm now listening to all my music from an SD card. That's right, a billion tunes on a piece of plastic no bigger than my finger nail. There never were such times, as my late mother-in-law used to say.  

Charlie Rich has been cropping up a lot. I absolutely adore the music of Charlie Rich. I don't need any excuse, whatsoever, to listen to Charlie Rich. And I don't have to apologise for dropping Charlie Rich into the same paragraph four times. Told you.

Charlie Rich - Behind Closed Doors

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Avril à Paris

James & Janneke - April in Paris

[L] Sur le train

[R] La Tour Eiffel

Monday, 2 April 2018


Mother's Ruin #Gin
It's sleeting. It's cold. It's still dark at nearly 9 o'clock in the morning. That can only mean one thing - the festival season is upon us!

Gin for breakfast
That's right, kicking off in a little under two hours is 'The Sherwood Gin Festival'. It being a Bank Holiday Monday, my friends have decided that I can't possibly have anything better to do today than drink copious amount of what was once described as Mother's Ruin*. They know me so well.

*You'd be run out of town on a rail these days for using that outdated term. It's strictly hashtag gin now - the new craft beer - which, I've been promised (and the only reason I'm going today, to be honest), is also being served today. Don't get me wrong, I love the stuff, but a gin only diet would mean I'd be an early faller for sure, and, after about 2:00 p.m. could not be held responsible for my actions.

Frozen Gin - A Lass of Ripley (2008)

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Fooled Again

I made it all the way to l2 o'clock without reading about any spaghetti trees or safari parks breeding Velociraptors.

And neither did I tell the bloke in the corner shop this morning that his shoelaces were untied*.

Tom Petty - Fooled Again (1977) 

* Well OK, maybe I did

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Brought to you in Technicolor

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
I love this photograph. That's my mother on the right, and her younger sister Carmel (my favourite auntie) taken in Trafalgar Square c.1954. Mum would have been 20, Carmel barely 18. It's quite obvious, looking at them over 60 years ago, they hadn't got a care in the world - their whole lives ahead of them.

Although mum's not around anymore, I decided to bring this photo to life, blow it up, frame it, and give one copy to Carmel and one to my dad - both very much alive and kicking.

I've been following Andy the Photo Doctor (@andythephotoDR) on Twitter for a while now - he restores historic black & white football photos and, with the knowledge of old football strips, can kickstart a once tired tired image and make it look like it was taken only yesterday. I asked Andy if he would do a commission for me, we agreed a price and then it was down to business.

As mum and Auntie Carmel weren't wearing football shirts the day they visited the capital in the mid-fifties, my only markers were hair colours and maybe the livery of mum's coat. My email to Andy last week must have read like gibberish: 'Mum had dark hair in her twenties, not black as such, but not brown either. Her coat would probably have been dark blue - but I haven't really got a clue. Am I making sense?'

No, but then, when did I ever?

But fair play to Andy, it was only a couple of days later when I got this sneak preview - the crop on the right (Duffle Coat Man had to go) was my edit. I liked this version so much I took it to my picture framer straight away.

And then, only a couple of hours ago I got the finished article. Again I'll probably crop matey on the right - you never know who's behind you when you're having your photo taken, do you? In an ideal world I'd also want to air brush the guy standing directly behind mum; but no worries, I'm absolutely made up with the final image.

It's Carmel's birthday soon, and Father's Day, so when I get them back from the framers I'll hand deliver both presents and watch as they peel away the wrapping, and travel back in time...

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Hey there Mister Blue

Mr. Blue. He invented glam, you know
A songwriter friend of mine came over the other Saturday afternoon with his guitar - we played, drank gallons of tea and swapped a few ideas. He produced a melody and some snatches of lyrics he was turning into a new song. He told me it's premise was all the girls he'd ever gone out with were together in one room - and what they'd say.

"Are you mad?" I think I may have blurted out. But he wouldn't listen. "Finish that song mate and there's a whole world of pain coming your way, nothing's so sure."

However, it did get me thinking. What if all the people I'd ever done a mixtape for all congregated in the same room? "Fuck me," they'd say to one another, I thought he only put 'Car 67' on mine just to wind me up. And what was 'Sunscreen' all about? But I really liked that bluegrass version of 'White Wedding' he put on mine." A lot of the blokes may remember me putting this on their CD compilations: "I think I got yours" one of the chaps would say to the girl in the corner wondering what she was doing in a room full of strangers - all clutching a drink in one hand and a C90 cassette in the other.

"Oh! Oh! Who remembers that song by the crazy Bollywood guy? I still dance around the kitchen to that one!"

Mohammed Rafi - Jaan Pehechan Ho (1965)

Some of my 'Best Bits' would be playing thru the PA and a few in the room may get dewy eyed about Another Train. Others maybe jumping on the furniture when Block Buster! comes on. Not pretty.

But I wonder how long it would be before Barry Blue's 'Do You Wanna Dance' entered the conversation? "He used to tell me Barry Blue invented glam", one would say, and someone else would pipe up "And did he put it on at the start, just after Gene Hunt shouting "Don't move you're surrounded by armed bastards?"



Barry Blue - Do You Wanna Dance (1973)

For Alyson - even though I've never done her a mixtape

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Son Of My Father

The father of two close friends of mine (brothers) died suddenly last week. It’s the first immediate family loss they’ve had to deal with, and they’re taking it hard; it's understandable - the death of someone so pivotal in your life will always knock you off your perch.

We all deal with bereavement in our own way – there is no right or wrong way. Just your way. But no matter how you choose to handle the fall out and the very fact that that person is no longer around, it’s vital that the memories you retain accurately reflect the deceased. Keep the latest revision, or at least one that you’re comfortable with, and file it in your emotional hard drive where it can be retrieved easily and without (too much) pain. Bloody hell, I sound like a counsellor.

Loudon Wainwright has built a career on writing songs about his family. This is one he wrote just after his dad left the building for the last time.

For M & T

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Can you pull a few strings?

Could this seat be any bigger?

He doesn't walk like a Thunderbird puppet
Yesterday was kind of special: I'd got tickets for Thunderbirds Are Go at Broadway Cinema including a pre-screening Q&A with the late Gerry Anderson's son, Jamie.

There's something about sitting on the front row at the pictures - if it's good enough for Jamie Anderson and Scott Tracy, then it's certainly good enough for me. Scott was very quiet all afternoon, however Jamie was more articulate; he told me afterwards it was the first time he'd ever seen the film on the big screen.
Knee high

I also asked him how cool it must have been as a kid to have Gerry Anderson as your dad. "Kind of," he said, "But, between the ages of 11 and 16, never a day went by without someone at school asking me why I didn't walk like a Thunderbird puppet." A small price to pay, I'd have said.