Sunday, 15 July 2018

Badge of Honour

Image result for clapton is god
London N5, c.1967

Image result for clapton reading beano
He's not the Messiah
Time was when social media consisted of nothing more than a can of spray paint. If you had something to say then all you needed was a wall; or any surface at all, really.

Long before trending and hashtags it was thought by some in London that Eric Clapton's ability to play guitar had transcended that of a mere mortal, and so he was awarded god like status. Seemingly overnight the sort of graffiti pictured above started to appear all over the capital.

Clapton played it down at the time, but it certainly didn't do record or ticket sales any harm.



Eric Clapton - Badge (co-written by George Harrison)

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Dim the Lights


Although not as depressing to read as an obituary, I've just learned that Phil Mogg, 70, is standing down from all UFO duties after a UK farewell tour in 2019. The band will be celebrating their 50th anniversary next year and Mogg has decided enough's enough. Sad news indeed.

"Being out on the road isn’t always tremendously luxurious and although the playing is as great as it ever was, the stuff that surrounds it becomes very tiresome. I always told myself that when I reached that stage I would step down, and that’s what I’m going to do. This is the right time for me to quit."

My love affair with UFO goes way back. Way back. My friend Rocky Newton - who himself is still trading the boards with Lionheart and Airrace - was a devotee of the band and introduced me to them when he and his band at the time, Next, would drop Rock Bottom into their set in the late seventies. I was hooked. I would go on to seeing them live at every opportunity (and later write about them), Rocky, on the other hand, eventually hooked up with their errant guitarist Michael Schenker, joined MSG, and toured all over Europe.

So next year I plan to go on an a mini pilgrimage around the country and try and pull in at least two or three dates, and pay my respects to one of the most underrated rock vocalists this country has ever produced - while he's very much still with us.

The band's last album was, interestingly, a covers album; an album in which they pay homage to a hand picked bunch of rock classics that have inspired them over the last half century.

I've chosen two for today. First up is their terrific interpretation of the Yardbirds' Heart Full of Soul. It was written by Graham Gouldman, so not much more to say really, wouldn't you say?


Next up is a bluesy version of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid. ZZ Top will be forever remembered over here for their classic MTV videos (with that car) and the clutch of radio friendly hits they had in the mid eighties - Sharp Dressed Man, Legs and Gimme All Your Lovin' - but this is far classier. Listen for yourself.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Things I've discovered in 2018 (Part 1)


I normally wait till the end of the year to write stuff like this, but I've thrown away the rule book for once and got in early - five months early to be precise. And the thing I'm sharing with you today is pretty specific (niche, you could say), and not a carry over from previous years - like, for instance, it's not good to over think stuff (things generally work out, they really do) and a biggie: neither is it wise to reach for your phone when you've had a drink...But I digress.

At school, when our history teacher, Mr. Shorrock, used to write on the blackboard he would print his words: lower case, not capitals - and not joined up. He told us why one day. 4G never normally listened to anything any teacher had to say, but Shorrock was not long out of teacher training college and he liked Led Zeppelin. "I was off school for a week with Measles", he said, "and when I came back all the other kids had been shown how to join up their letters. But I'd missed it." Hence, whenever he wrote anything down it took him bloody ages; however, it was very neat.

At the risk of digressing again, the above preamble tees up nicely my discovery I want to tell you about. Since time immemorial whenever I go shopping - supermarket shopping - I've had an irrational fear of trolleys. More specifically, the coin lock jobby that releases it from the trolley in front. I've always thought it was the work of the Devil, and as such, will, if I'm on my own, only ever use a basket. Two, sometimes - if there's too much beer for one. Quite restricting, but necessary nonetheless. People in Tesco and Aldi (other supermarkets are available) have, over the years, watched in sheer amazement as I have struggled with these dangerously overloaded wire contraptions, generally used for nothing heavier than biscuits and teabags, looking like Geoff Capes pulling a lorry with just a rope between his teeth.

All because, like Mr. Shorrock and his joined up writing, nobody showed me. Until last Sunday. And, guess what? I've been back twice this week to practice my new skill, and it's only Thursday. It may not be Penicillin or even rocket science, but it's one giant leap for John Medd, I can tell you.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Maniaco Guitariste

John Wilkinson (b.12.7.47)
It's Wilko Johnson's birthday this week; something of a miracle seeing as how he stared pancreatic cancer in the eye in 2012 and told it to f*ck right off. His doctors had given him less than a year - shows what they know.

Johnson will forever be known as the manic guitarist in Doctor Feelgood, but they kicked him out of his own the band in 1977. Since then he's been the manic guitarist in Wilko Johnson's Solid Senders and Ian Dury's Blockheads. Now he's just a manic guitarist, period.

Here he is in a superb bit of footage from French TV in August 1976. In it he reminds me of a tethered dog in an overgrown front garden who, try as he might, can get no further than the garden gate; cos if ever did...he'd have your hand off. Nothing's so sure.

Doctor Feelgood - Going Back Home

Sunday, 8 July 2018

I Often Dream of Trains

Friday night, platform 1. Waiting for my train home. Stay awake John, stay awake. Zzzzzzzzz.

"Excuse me sir, is this your train?"

"The who'll be along in a what now?"

"It's the 23:42 to Nottingham, sir."

"Thanks! Bye!"




Robyn Hitchcock - I Often Dream of Trains

Monday, 2 July 2018

And you use it only for me

It's nearly twenty years since Semisonic released Secret Smile as a single. Christ on a bike - 20 years! And yet, if you were to ask me, I could tell you where I was and who I was with the first time I heard it. And what I'd had for breakfast that day, probably. Which is more than I can do today. And, yes, I was tempted to put a sad face emoji at the end of that last sentence.

As I've said here on numerous occasions, a great song will always be a great song. I heard a dance version of this just the other day (I do remember that), and, I'm almost certain, it's become something of a staple for the X Factor generation; there's no shame in that, whatsoever. I love it when new artists unearth old treasures.

But being strictly old skool I still prefer the original. No surprises there then.

Semisonic - Secret Smile

Saturday, 30 June 2018

London Pie

Timing is everything - boiling an egg, the 100 metre dash, buying newly released vinyl; in 1977 and most of 1978, despite being a huge Beatles fan, there was no way I'd be seen dead in a record shop asking for the new Wings album. They were tribal times: the only albums (and singles) acquired* during those heady days of punk and the subsequent new wave (and Wings were obviously as old wave as you could possibly get) were by the likes of the Buzzcocks or the Clash, 999 and the Damned: turns who would regularly feature between the covers of Sounds and/or the New Musical Express, basically. Wings were more Melody Maker, or Record Mirror.

Of course when the dust settled, and the battle lines become less blurry, it was safe to not only bring your old Emerson Lake and Palmer albums out of hiding, but you could once again walk into record emporiums, politely ask for the new, say, UFO album (other second division English rock bands are available) and not be ridiculed by the punk police.

Yet still I never went back and bought the album Macca and Wings recorded in '77 and put out the following year: London Town was released hot on the heels of Mull of Kintyre which had occupied the number one slot seemingly forever (and alienated a lot of Macca fans to boot). In fact, he and the missus, together with Denny Laine, had recorded it in the same sessions but (thankfully?) never put it on the album.

But I digress; all this preamble comes on the back of a Tweet that caught my eye earlier in the week from Eoghan Lyng at the magnificent We are Cult, who had the audacity to claim that London Town was in his Top 5 Macca post Beatles albums. Surely not I thought. Better than Flaming Pie (which didn't feature) I fired back? Oh yes, came the the reply: the exchange went something like this:








So I said to myself I'd live with a copy of London Town for a week and see how I got on; of course, in that short time, it couldn't possibly compete with an album I'd emotionally invested so heavily in over the years: Flaming Pie, for me, was Macca's last hurrah - the last time he was truly reevant. In 1997 he came out with a set of songs that seemed to chime with the very times it was released. 

But in the week that Macca came back to Liverpool (here's his visit condensed into 20 minutes) and, for once, appearing quite humble to be back in his hometown, I wasn't in the mood for a pointless slanging match. You know what, both albums stand up just fine in 2018 and Macca should be proud of both sets of work, bookended, funnily enough, by the birth of his son James and, twenty years on, the same young lad's first recorded guitar solo.

So in the end, I say to Eoghan and all at We are Cult, London Town is the perfect companion piece to Flaming Pie. And, here, to prove same I give you the two standout songs - one from each. The title  track from London Town, here, in the form of a rough and ready promo film of Mr. & Mrs. McCartney and Denny Laine cruising down the Thames eating a bag of chips.



And here's Heaven on a Sunday from Flaming Pie, twenty one years later, with James providing *that* solo.



I really must dig out the notebook I kept at the time that details all record shop purchases from the arse end of 1974 to, I think, mid 1979. And I can assure you that from 1st. January 1977 till the day the Pistols imploded, all my purchases were coated in a fine film of gob.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Madness Frontman

Suggs in the City
The death of Suggs' cat on his fiftieth birthday (Suggs, not the cat) surprisingly became something of a turning point for the man who will be forever introduced by the prefix Madness Frontman.  

On that fateful day (for the cat), back in January 2011, Suggs was in the bath (I'm tempted to say Suggs in Suds, but I think I'll pass on that one), when the moggy fell off a collapsed bathroom shelf (a shelf put up by the man in the bath, it transpires). 'There was an almighty crash, broken glass everywhere, and my cat was dead. I was 50, my two daughters had recently left home and now this. I really felt like God hated me.' As you can tell, it knocked him sideways.

That day he started to write about all the events leading up to the moment the dodgy shelf parted company with the wall. In no time at all the Madness Frontman (see, even I'm doing it) had written an autobiographical stage show he could take out on the road and perform. 'My Life Story': a form of therapy? Having seen the show myself, yes, I think it was.  Funny and moving in equal parts (well, maybe 60/40), it received rave reviews. Not least by me - I told him as much when I met him earlier this year.

And now Julien Temple film has made it into a film. Of course he has - it's what he does. Here's the trailer.


This is for Alyson: she asked me to write something about Madness Frontman Suggs (it's catching). I absolutely love this version of My Girl. I hope she does too.



Thursday, 21 June 2018

Shameless


They call it shameless self publicity; those Mini Cards that Moo are so good at come in really useful. I use them as tags for Medd's Bread. I slip them into birthday cards and CDs. I put them on pub notice boards. I slide them into new paperbacks at Waterstones. I even leave them on trains.

They cost peanuts and you can put as many designs and photos on them as you like. The ones you see here have that picture of my mother in London, the interior of a rather exclusive private members club in Soho, and the new Are We There Yet? mast head - designed by James. I know, I'm shameless.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Back in the Saddle

Every now and again I post something that needs no preamble.

This is one of those times. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Airport

Witness protection
Things you think only happen in the movies:

Pack a bag

Drive to the airport

Casually walk up to the desk and ask: "What's the next flight out of here?"



The Motors: Airport (1977)

Sunday, 10 June 2018

"What were the skies like?"

James screen-grabbed part of their route for me 
That's neat
James and Janni are currently on their American roadtrip pulling in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and California, rounding off in Los Angeles: living the dream. Photos are appearing regularly on my phone (RIP postcards) with mini updates. The old me would, I know, have had pins on a map in the kitchen, and everything; I so look forward to receiving these miniature travelogues every day or two.

Badboy
To give you a flavour - the photo on the right came thru with the caption 'Just driven this badboy from Albuquerque to Santa Fe!'
The one on the left - 'What were the skies like when you were young?*' We're at a really high altitude here so all the skies seem much wider, and I really got out of breath going or a swim earlier!



* Taken from the Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds

Saturday, 9 June 2018

He Ain't Heavy

Name above the door
You know the feeling: you get off the train, walk out of the station and then realise you haven't got a bloody clue where the venue is. 'Excuse me mate, you from Sheffield?' Oh God, thinks the hapless passer by, not another flaming tourist. 'Easiest way to get to the 02?' Fucking hell, that's an easy one, (I can tell) he's thinking. 'It's that big white box building up there', he said, pointing to the big white box building. 'See it?' I did: smashed it. 

Catching a late afternoon train out of Nottingham means there's plenty of time to find the venue (tick), find pub(s) near venue - Spoons and Head of Steam (tick and tick) - have a couple and still get there in good time (tick). No repeat of Amsterdam.

Thomas Walsh is Pugwash
The last time I saw Pugwash was in Islington, north London. I was with my good friends Steve and Mondo and we'd been drinking in Holborn most of the afternoon. I do remember meeting Mark Ellen for the first time and the delightful Kate Mossman. My memories of the gig, however, are patchy, though I do seem to recall the guitarist from XTC joining them on stage at one point.

Anyway, that was back in 2010 and I did say to Mondo the next day how I'd love to see them again when I was a little less, ahem, relaxed.

So when I saw that Pugwash were opening for Nick Heyward on his latest trek around the country I snaffled a pair of tickets faster than the devil on horseback.



When Thomas Walsh walked onto the tiny stage he all but filled it - I wrote a while back that Thomas Walsh is bigger than the Beatles. After a few words of introduction in his broad Dubln brogue he launched straight into Perfect Summer from the shimmering Siverlake album recorded earlier this year in LA. His songs are perfectly formed three minute pop nuggets made to be heard by the whole world: one day they will be, but just for tonight, Sheffield were given their very own private performance. Highlights too many to mention, but Mason on the Boundary (from Duckworth Lewis) and Nice to be Nice meant that I could have gone home a happy man, even if I hadn't have stuck around for the night's star turn.  

Nick Heyward is my brother**
It's not hard to see why Nick Heyward asked Pugwash to go on tour with him. They compliment each other perfectly. And if they're not already writing together then they should be.

Heyward's pedigree meant that he could come out of the traps with two Top Ten Hits (Love Plus One/Take That Situation) and still have plenty of gas left in the tank. Complete with a rather fetching smoking jacket, and an equally loud five piece band (six if you count the man himself), he treated the crowd (though gathering may be a more accurate term) to a masterclass in how to string together a bunch of hits (and a few near misses too), tie them up in a bow and deliver each and every one like his life depended on it.

Standout songs*? If I had to trade one for my grandmother it would be Kite. And He Doesn't Love You Like I do; OK, both grandmothers then.

* Nick has been dropping the Beatles' Dr. Robert into his set for as long as I can remember, and last night was no exception. Here he is in 1993 performing it on Danny Baker's late night Saturday TV show with the Railtown Bottlers, Danny's house band (look out for a very young Mark Kermode on standup bass).

Nick Heyward - Dr. Robert


**Interestingly a woman from Middlesborough who I was chit-chatting to down the front said I looked like Nick Heyward's brother.

In other news, Nick said that his daughter (who resides in Shefield, apparently) was in the audience. So, techNickally, that would make her my niece then?