Thursday, 16 April 2015

This one skips along at quite a pace

When you get paid to write about music you should stay well clear of the cliché. And the dreaded screamer! If a band or artist's new platter is a return to form, it's best not to mention it; just think it. Likewise, said record may well be a sonic cathedral of sound - but keep it to yourself.

When The Banned recorded Little Girl in 1977 I had no idea it was a cover. Yet despite (cliché ahead warning) nailing it, I think it's safe to say it can't hold a candle to the original.

Syndicate of Sound: often imitated, never bettered, And if you were to say it skips along at quite a pace, I wouldn't argue with you.

For James

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Adele has the honour of being my fifth Penguin and also my first mixed medium: acrylic and water colour. And unlike the previous four (Ian Fleming, Paul McCartney, Jenny Medd and Jane Friend), I've painted her edges.

Although Adele isn't really a posh bird, she is a baker. And a sweetie.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Turn back the dial

My friend Phil does up old radiograms and Bluetooths his eclectic record collection through them in his rather wonderful pub. The names on the dial conjure up all sorts of imagery and evoke so many memories. I swear I can smell the valves warming up. And that's not a euphemism.

From top to bottom, left to right:

BBC Third, National, Hilversum, Athens, Budapest, West Reg, R Norm, Western Reg, Scottish Regional, Brussels, Beromunster, Dublin, N. Ireland, London R, Marseilles, Prague, Radio Eireann, Athens, Madrid, Berlin, Rome, Northern Reg, BBC Third, Cork, Mid. R, Welsh Reg, Paris PTT, Sottens

Oslo, Luxembourg, National, R. Paris, Lahti, Kalundborg, Motala, Ankara, Moscow, Huizen

Monday, 6 April 2015

They should call it the Humber Delta

I was born in Kingston-upon-Hull. That's what it says on my passport. You'll know it as Hull. And if you're a true local you'll drop the H. If you ever pitch up there, the chances are you're not passing through; it's not on the way to anywhere
(except Rotterdam) and, despite its City of Culture status it's still better known for white phone boxes than William Wilberforce. And, of course,  tenfoots.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The McNamaras are coming (back)

'Roscommon' acrylic on canvas
Later this year I shall be making an emotional return to Roscommon. From being a babe in arms to a stroppy teenager, I and the rest of the Medds went on an annual pilgrimage across The Irish Sea to my maternal grandmother's year after year after year. And for the first fifteen of those summers I had a blast. But by 1977 I'd had enough. So much so that two days into the vacation and I baled: a quick 'phone call to my favourite Auntie north of the border and I was travelling, alone, on a bus through 'the troubles' and spent the rest of the fortnight in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. Happy days.
  But now, I want to go back. See the old place again. Will it have changed? Probably. Will I recognise the place? Definitely. Will I be able to take a walk down to Hessians and grab myself an ice cream wafer. Alas, no: Cyril Hessian, like the lone Texaco petrol pump on his forecourt, is long gone.
  My cousin Raymond, who will be joining us on our quest, sent an email to the local rag ahead of the trip. I'm not expecting a ticker-tape reception, but a pint of the black stuff with their reporter & toggy would be nice. Here's what Ray had to say.

I am Raymond Murray, son of Aidan Murray (born 1934, Ballyleague) and Carmel McNamara (born 1936, Strokestown). My mother’s family moved to Ard-na-Greine in Roscommon town around 1940. My grandfather was Sergeant Joe McNamara, my grandmother, Mary (Maxie), nee Lynch from Donegal. They produced 14 children, Sean, Phyllis, Gerry, Joe, Myra, all deceased, and Mabel, Olive, Dolores, Carmel, Paddy, Adrian, Noel, Bernie and Stella. 

My granny may well be remembered by many still living in the town. She was a renowned golfer and a tremendous consumer of a product called Jameson’s Whisky. You may have heard of it! My aunt Stella (Finnerty) has lived locally in Knockcroghery for 40+ years, a couple of doors down from the great Jamesie Murray’s pub. As you know, in the 1950s work was hard to come by in rural Ireland, with many having to go overseas to support themselves. 

My parents moved to London in 1953, returning to marry on 5th August 1957, before returning to England until 1968. We now live in Lurgan in County Armagh. Several of my mother’s sisters also moved and settled in England and live there to this day. As separate families, the various McNamaras travelled from parts of England to visit Ard-na-Greine each summer, but often our paths would cross as we squeezed into granny’s three bedroom house. As is normal, you veer towards those of your own age. So John Medd (born 1960. son of Dolores), Adrianne Stone (born 1959, daughter of Mabel), Susan Medhurst (born 1959, daughter of Olive) and myself (born 1959) formed special bonds. 

Memories of ice-cream from Cyril Hession’s shop opposite the county hospital; what seemed like very hot summers spent at Portrunny on the Shannon in the pre-sunscreen days of old; and the occasional night out to Con Moran’s pub or the Kon-Tiki near Rooskey to hear the soon to be famous Brendan Shine. Then life took over…..we grew up, we married, had children, did what people do….and drifted apart. John, Adrianne and Susan remain in England, but let’s not penalise them for that. We did, after all, thump them at rugby quite recently. But with many of our domestic commitments now fulfilled, and with luck having smiled on us, we have recently rekindled our friendships. We had a wonderful gathering in Lurgan in 2013, but always felt that a visit to Roscommon town would be a fitting way to seal our reunion. It is now 40 years since we spent a summer together in your town……and it’s been too long. Flights are booked, cars are hired and the four of us are staying in Gleeson’s on Saturday 4th July along with our wives and husbands. The girls have husbands, the boys have wives. (It’s not something you would have thought necessary to mention in the 1960’s but the times they are a changing). We hope to visit some of the afore-mentioned places and perhaps pay a tribute to Jameson’s, which killed my poor granny at the age of 93. Legal proceedings are ongoing. I hope this story is of interest to you.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Warner brothers

'Warner Brothers' acrylic on canvas
Harry (1881-1958), Albert (1884-1967), Sam (1888-1927) and Jack (1892-1978): the Warner brothers. By 1923 they already owned a string of movie theatres and, operating out of Hollywood, had moved into film distribution. In 1927, within a couple of years of establishing Warner Brothers Pictures Inc., they released The Jazz Singer - the first film to have synchronised music and dialogue.

Nearly fifty years later they released this. We can only speculate what Al Jolson would have made of it.

Sunday, 29 March 2015


'UK' Acrylic on canvas
What I know about Stockport can be written on the back of an envelope. Actually, make that a postage stamp. However, I do know that, in the 1970s, 10cc used to work out of Strawberry Studios in Stockport and, in 1974, they recorded the mighty Wall Street Shuffle there. As an impressionable thirteen year old I remember being taken with the line 'Are you waiting for the hour when you can screw me, 'cos you're big enough?'

10cc came along at the right time for me: they straddled the boundary between 'bubblegum' and 'heavy rock' in such a way that kept both Tony Blackburn and Alan Freeman happy at the same time. Not 'arf.

Monday, 23 March 2015


'Beanz' Acrylic on canvas
My friend Darren, I think it's safe to say, wouldn't know Roger Daltrey if he fell over him. He does, however, have something in common with The Who's front man - a shared love of Heinz Baked Beans; whether or not he fills his bath tub with them is for him to know and me to find out. But he did recently commission this personalised version of his fast food favourite.

Roger who?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Upside down you turn me

Today's canvas is an ambigram. It was inspired by the splendid Brass Castle brewery just up the road. Someone pointed out to me that their logo reads the same even if you turn it on its head; I could have stared at it for ten years and still not seen it. The Number One Son was taken with it too, so this is for him.

Friday, 20 March 2015


I was lucky enough to get a couple of snaps of the solar eclipse earlier today.

Although 1999 was probably better - I remember the birds stopped singing fifteen years ago - it was still a pretty magical morning. This may or may not be the Corona; I like the word so that's what I'm calling it.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Some mothers do 'ave 'em

Never one to mince her words, I was under strict instructions not to buy my mother flowers for tomorrow. 'Interflora always send crap flowers' was about the gist of it. So, just this once, I listened to what she was saying. Instead, I painted some flowers, wrote her a letter and a card, and chucked it all in the postbox. These flowers, too, maybe crap, but it's the thought that counts.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Single of the Year (and it's still only March)

That's right. If a better single is released between now and New Year's Eve then you'd better point me in the direction of the nearest Burton's.

And here's the thing about The Charlatans (well, two things actually): it transpires that they don't come from anywhere near Manchester. And, they've never split up: God knows what they've been up to in the last twenty years - I don't think I've heard a peep out of them since the heady days of Britp*p and TFI Friday.

Anyway, their latest 45 may sound suspiciously like Good Enough by Dodgy (and none the worse for that), but as The Number One Son said to me last week, you don't get many Rhodes dominated tunes sounding half as infectious as this.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Yellow Penguins

Penguin paperbacks don't come in all shapes and sizes. But they do come in all sorts of colours. The nice man in the short film below will tell you all about them. Suffice it to say that orange denotes fiction, red - drama, green - crime fiction, dark blue - autobiography, purple - essays, cerise - travel and adventure and grey - world affairs. And don't forget the Pelican and Puffin imprints. Penguin devotees looking to find websites dedicated to Penguins in all their guises won't be disappointed. Hardly surprising really - go and take a look at your own book shelf and see how many you've got.

One colour I haven't mentioned and that's yellow. Yellow was used as a safety net by Penguin for anything that didn't fit any of the regular perameters. Life's Too Short by Jenny Medd, for example. An oft repeated mantra here at at Medd Towers, along with 'there are no pockets in shrouds' and 'you're a long time dead', 'life's too short' is a stock response when defending your corner.

Anyway, here's that nice man I was telling you about.