Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Small beer

Remember rosettes?
As someone who used to set pub quizzes, I stumbled on a lovely question the other day. In what year was the Penalty Shootout first introduced into English football and who scored the first goal?

Anyone who remembers The Watney Cup* would tell you that in 1970, prior to the first Semi-Final between Hull City and Manchester Utd, it had been announced that, in the event of a stalemate, the match would be decided by spot kicks. This, taken from the programme notes:

Drawn games in The Watney Cup will be decided by penalties. Both sides will be given five chances to score. The Watney Cup will be the first tournament to introduce this method of deciding drawn games. EUFA & FIFA have now agreed to use it in forthcoming European and World Cup games. As league secretary Alan Hardaker says: 'It will be good to settle something by pure football.'
 The Scaffold: pretending to like Watneys

Alex Stepney (United's goalkeeper) could be as vital to Manchester United as George Best when it comes to scoring goals. As Alan Hardaker says: 'It will be good to get a few goals from goalkeepers. Gimmicks used to encourage the scoring of goals are good for the game.' 
George Best arriving at Boothferry Park

Not sure about that, even forty five years on. And, a couple of seasons later, this short lived competition introduced another 'gimmick'. A variation to the offside rule which meant you could only be given off side if you were goal-hanging in the 18 yard box.

The programme notes go on to say: That's what the game is all about. Putting the ball in the net. But not many people in soccer with the exception of Watneys, of course, can guarantee goals.


Hull City v Manchester Utd: Wednesday 15 August 1970
1-1 after 90 minutes
Man Utd won 4-3 on penalties
George Best was the first player to score a penalty
Denis Law was the first to miss a penalty
And Ian McKechnie, Hull City's goalie, was the first keeper to save a penalty (though he did miss at the other end, thus gifting the tie to Man. Utd.)

* The Watney Cup was a pre-season tournament played out between eight teams  - the top two scoring clubs from each of the four divisions who had not qualified for Europe or been promoted. Hull City had scored 72 in the Second Division, Man. Utd. 66 in the First. It was also the first sponsored competition of its kind.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Listing


It's that time of year: everywhere you turn you get beam-ended by yet another 2014 round up or, worse still, a bucket list.  Don't get me wrong, I like a list as well as the next man - in my previous life as a music journalist, the run up to the end of the year was all about rating and ranking one album or film or gig above another. And plenty of my fellow bloggers you see in the right hand margin of my ramblings are filling their boots also. It's a good way of compartmentalising the past; 'tidy up time' as a very annoying Antipodean BBC radio presenter working in the West Midlands used to say.

These days I tend to latch onto stuff much later. If you want to know what my favourite film of 2014 was, ask me in about 2018 - there's every chance I might have seen it by then. But if you really must know what's been floating my boat this year and don't fancy trawling through the 100+ blog posts I've written this year, here's my rough and ready reckoner:

Best Gig

I'm tempted to say Dodgy at York Fibbers. Not least because I supported them that night. I'd also love to report that violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy (who shared my birthday earlier this week) headlining this year's Scarborough Jazz Festival made it to the top; he very nearly did, but not quite. That accolade goes to Wreckless Eric. Eric, complete with a full band for the first time in years, all but lifted the roof at The New Adelphi in Hull. When he played the ubiquitous Whole Wide World - the signature tune he wrote whilst living in the Humber Delta - you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were in the presence of rock and roll royalty.

Best Book

I've read an awful lot of fiction this year but my favourite read has been Going to Sea in a Sieve by Danny Baker. Danny's a writer and it shows. I now that sounds completely bleedin' obvious, but so many memoirs are penned by ghost writers or, worse, read like an eleven year old's diary (Pete Townshend springs to mind). Every line has been thought through, every gag seems effortless and, like a stick of seaside rock, it's got honesty written through it from start to finish. His David Essex story alone is worth the price tag.

Best Album

After watching The Detectorists on the BBC earlier in  the year I was blown away by the theme tune and the incidental music written and performed by Johnny Flynn. Country Mile, his latest CD, arrived on my birthday and, even though it's still in its shrink wrap, I just know it's going to be my album of the year.

Best Single

Without shadow, I've not heard a better 45 all year than My Type by Saint Motel. I was digging it in August and I'm still digging it now.

Best Podcast

As much as I would love to give it to Rhod Gilbert for his BBC Radio Wales Saturday morning radio show, I'm going out on a limb here and nominating Serial. And I've only heard two episodes. A young girl goes missing in Baltimore in 1999 and week by week the story is stood up on its end, pulled apart and dissected. Gripping stuff.

So there you have it; well, very nearly. After spending the first half of this year working away from home I was going to list my best B&B, pub, restaurant for diners who dine a la todd, Open Mic Night etc. but thought that was maybe going a bit too far - though honorary mentions must go to Brodies in Chalfont St Peter, The Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage, The Wheatsheaf in East Hendred and The Catweazle Club in Oxford.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Party Time

Nice ganzie
Karl Wallinger's current band are just about to enter their thirtieth year; I say band, but World Party have never really been anything more than Wallinger, his songs and a bunch of session musicians he picks up from time to time to record and or go out on tour with. And there's been precious little of either of those activities lately.

In 2001 Wallinger suffered a major brain aneurysm. It literally stopped him in his tracks. For five years. Since then he's put out various compilations and anthologies and embarked on a couple of mini tours but, and here's the rub, since writing and recording She's the One, in 1997, he's been all but bankrolled by Robbie Williams. Williams, along with former World Party member Guy Chambers, recorded their own version without telling Wallinger and turned it into a monster. Albeit a very profitable monster.

Here's some footage of a new slimmed down World Party (the band that is, not Wallinger) busking outside a record emporium as part of last year's Record Store Day.


Thursday, 25 December 2014

It's Christmas Time


The Number One Son is spending some time with me and his mother this Christmas.

He's opened a few goodies and already it's looking like a good haul; these three lovely mini canvases were unwrapped early doors. Sun Ra fans will recognise the top one. And regular readers will know that James plays in a rather good Sun Ra Arkestra.

Happy Christmas James!


Monday, 22 December 2014

Sun Readers



I'm pleased to report that 2014 has been a good year for The Sun Readers; you could say we're enjoying our second wind (we took a gap year in 2013). The little book group that meets regularly in The Sun have just had their Christmas bash at Medd Towers with an evening of poetry and recitals, informed discussion and a selection of cheese and wine that would have put Margot Leadbetter to shame. I was particularly moved by a reading taken from A Christmas Carol. Who couldn't be?  

Paul, our resident Prof., must have way too much time on his hands and has just produced some reader stats. I've always said there's nothing that can't be explained by means of a graph or a Pie Chart. Or, indeed, a Venn Diagram. A big thank you to all Sun Readers, past and present - see you all in The New Year.






Sunday, 21 December 2014

Clarinet Factory

Radio 3's Late Junction is one of the finest radio programmes currently on the airwaves. I guarantee that whatever your bag is you will find it a veritable treasure trove of musical delights. Working away this week I pitched up at a faceless hotel at the wrong end of the country; so on Wednesday night, just after 11:00, I turned the dial like a professional safe cracker on my little travel radio and immersed myself in LJ's eclectic mix.

I know nothing about Clarinet Factory other than the fact that I will now be seeking out their recordings from wherever I can. They grabbed my attention on Wednesday night. I hope they grab yours now. Here they are at St. Mary of the Snow Cathedral in Prague.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Tree

The tree went up today: it had to, it's the last Saturday before Christmas - Medd folklore is binding.

Die Hard: Christmas movie?
I tell people I don't like Christmas and that I don't like snow. I also tell people I don't like mince pies. Well, two out of those three statements are true; but when the tree goes up and the lights are switched on, I start to get a bit misty eyed and can't help thinking back to Christmases past. Despite the Black Friday & Cyber Monday nonsense and Nigella's kitchen fakery, I shall look forward more than ever to this festive season and the homecoming of The Number One Son on Christmas Eve: gifts will be exchanged, glasses will be raised, turkey will be devoured and the perennial Die Hard will be watched and dissected - is it really a Christmas film? And, thanks to our Anglo-German friends, Andy and Monika, back in Nottingham, the music of Bugie Wesseltoft will be omnipresent over the next few days.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Fly me

Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-2014)
In 1960, and barely sixteen, model Mandy Rice-Davies was draped over car bonnets at Earls Court Motor Show. A couple of years later, with fellow showgirl Christine Keeler, she would rock Harold MacMillan's Tory Government to its very foundations amid tales of sex, sex and more sex. No wonder the tabloids loved her. They'd never seen the like before; words like mistress, lurid, scandal and of course, sex, could now be strung together in the same sentence and increase readership faster than you could say Profumo.

Rice-Davies summed it up perfectly many years later: 'In a world full of deference, I had none.' Well, she would say that wouldn't she?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Twenty Flight Rock


Birmingham has never been pretty. In the late sixties they were pulling down their slums and erecting shiny new skyscrapers. And it wasn't just Birmingham, it was happening in every other major city in the UK. But no matter how hard you tried to shine Birmingham, it never sparkled.

There was a cross over period when they hadn't quite finished knocking down the old and they hadn't yet finished building the new. John Bonham would have been able to tell you all about it if he was still with us: in 1968 when Wimpey built Butterfield Court in Dudley, he was one of the first to move in. In fact a lot of Led Zeppelin fans think it was the drummer's tower block that appears on the inside sleeve of Led Zep 4. It is in fact Salisbury Tower in the Ladywood district of Birmingham; both equally ugly. They've knocked a lot of these eye sores down now. People, it would appear, given the choice, prefer not to live up in the air.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Robin Who?



My good friend Mark and his bin lids went to see The Who in Nottingham last Friday night - and I'm grateful to him for letting me use these fabulous photographs.


That Townshend and Daltrey are still dragging their caravan around the country in 2014 barking out lines like ‘Hope I die before I get old' is nothing short of amazing. But are they still The Who? It's Pete and Rog playing classic Who numbers, that's for sure. But, for me, the band finally died when John Entwistle pegged it in 2002.

I’ve seen them live. Twice. The first time was in 1976 with Keith Moon, the second with Kenney Jones not long after Moony bought the farm. Were they any good? Of course they were. At Charlton they were spellbinding. Next time around they didn’t really do it for me; despite a laser light show that lit up half the night sky. But The Who have always been a live band - they never could bottle what they did in a live situation and capture it on vinyl; even Live at Leeds falls under the ‘you had to be there’ category.

But I mustn't carp. Anyone who still hasn't seen them and gets the chance to witness a couple of real rock legends (even in their dotage) really should go along and see what all the fuss is about. The Number One Son caught them at Glastonbury in 2007 (he spent the entire gig leaning on the barrier down the front with 250,000 people leaning on him) and said they were definitely worth getting trench foot for.  

Friday, 5 December 2014

Kashmir

   It doesn't matter where you live in the developed world, if you turn to the What's On guide of your local paper this evening the chances are you'll see a listing for a Led Zeppelin tribute act playing just up the road from your house.
   You've just had a look haven't you? And was I right or was I right? It seems there are as many tributes to Led Zep as there are to The Beatles - scary stuff.
   Now, go back to those local listings and check if the band in question are one of the following. Even if they aren't I'll wager it'll be a derivation or some equally contrived Zeppelin type pun. (I may have dropped a couple of my own in there.)

No Quarter
Houses of the Holy
Whole Lotta Led
Fred Zeppelin
Ramble On
Led-Hed
Get the Led Out
Zoso
Turn the Page
Prezence
Heartbreaker
Letz Zep
John, Paul Jones, Robert & Titch
UnLEDded
Swan Song
The Rubber Plants
Mr. Jimmy
Led Zep Again
Hats Off to Led Zeppelin
Bled Zeppelin
Planted

   And, of course, Kashmir. This isn't them, but it's probably the best cover version of Kashmir you'll hear this weekend. And there's not a bare chest or Gibson Les Paul in sight. The song remains the same? Only just.



Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Till the wheels come off

Guy Garvey made me laugh on Desert Island Discs the other day. After painstakingly choosing eight favourite records he was asked what luxury item he would like to take to the island. Quick as a flash he replied: 'A radio.' Garvey's total missing of the point of the programme was soon glossed over by the lovely Kirsty and a pair of nail clippers or somesuch was hastily requested instead.

7/8 of Mr. Elbow's selections, however, all paled into insignificance compared to this beautiful song from Tom Waits. The line 'I'm gonna love you till the wheels come off' is, quite simply, perfect.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Taxing times

   When George Harrison quoted the Taxman: 'there's one for you, nineteen for me' he kiddeth not. In 1966 the top rate of income tax was 83% on earned income and an eye watering 98% on unearned income.
   Five years later and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could stand it no more: in 1971, and facing a massive bill from what we now know as HMRC, they buggered off to France and became rock and roll's first tax exiles. But not before playing a short UK tour; comprising mostly small halls and colleges it was their first proper tour in years. Jagger had yet to become a parody of himself and in Mick Taylor they'd got the best guitarist the band had ever hired.
   The penultimate date of the tour, March 13, was Leeds University. It was recorded by the BBC for posterity. And the band had never sounded better.
   Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.



Saturday, 29 November 2014

Groovy

She used to be Posh, apparently
   On a Saturday afternoon in December 1997 I remember chaperoning a friend of mine's daughter and taking her to see Spice World - The Spice Girls Movie. She loved it. I had the newspaper with me as we went into the Odeon, thinking I'd be bored rigid. But, strangely, I found myself looking up from time to time and tapping my foot to their catchy brand of bubblegum pop. Say what you like, but they had some good tunes. And everyone knew they couldn't act for toffee; the film was nominated for worst picture, worst screenplay and worst actress (which they won en masse) and was quickly consigned to the turkey farm.
   I mention this for no other reason than I recently stumbled upon Victoria Beckham's final solo release: This Groove, her 2003 single, comprises the artist formerly known as Posh brazenly stealing The System's 1987 soul classic Don't Disturb This Groove. This Groove, the video, features Beckham writhing around on a bed wearing very little in the way of clothing. It's really rather good.

Here she is:


And this is where she nicked it from:

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Knees up


Pictured above are two significant women in my life. What you can't see in this photograph are their knees. Good job; no, they're not knobbly. Nor have they drawn smiley faces on them. But both pairs are, at this moment in time, not performing as they should. Normal service will, I'm sure, be resumed a soon as possible.

In the meantime I'd like to wish the young lady on the left a Happy Birthday.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Melody Maker, January 20, 1973

The Sweet: backs against the wall time

In January 1973 The Sweet were on the verge of glam greatness. They'd just released Block Buster! their clarion call monster of a single which would go to the the coveted Number One slot. A couple of weeks earlier, however, they were giving the press a sneak preview at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club of all places.


For some obscure reason, Chris Welch of The Melody Maker was tasked with providing 1000 words about the event for the paper. And anyone around in '73 would know that The Sweet were definitely not a Melody Maker band.


Sweeties!

   What goes on inside the mind of a man who wears eye shadow, silver boots and sports voluptuous red tresses? Does he indulge in the kind of excesses that put years on Dorian Gray?
   Many strong men upon viewing the elaborately clad youths who make up Sweet, might be forgiven for believing that this highly successful pop group, represent a progressive collapse in the morals of modern society and the final proof that Britain has reverted to the perversions of Ancient Rome.
   Most glamorous of all the glam rock bands, Sweet have a kind of outrageous vulgarity that can arouse the ire of the rock press as much as they upset Len Biggles, manly, beer swigging ruffians with biceps of steel. They expose daring amounts of skin, spend as much on cosmetics as they do on guitar strings, and camp about like a row of bell tents. As they flounce on stage there is a great tickling of bottoms and laying of hands on hips.
   And yet the great effect created is not so much debauched night at the cabaret in pre-war Berlin, but rather a giggle at the new town hop. Sweet underwent the gruelling experience of appearing before the press at a special reception in their honour at, of all places, London's Ronnie Scott's jazz club, last week. Photographic portraits of Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz peered, somewhat shaken, from walls impregnated with sounds of bebop, while photographers, journalists, PRs and record executives jostled for a good view of the band.
   Not only were Sweet to receive a brace of gold discs; they were to perform for our pleasure and display the kind of stage set that turns on their army of fans in ballrooms the length of the land. It was gruelling because Sweet have an act that is difficult to adapt outside the context of mass approval. They found that extracting the 'yeahs' and the 'hey, hey heys' and handclapping almost impossible from the ranks of men and women, who as Kit Lambert once put it, have observed 'one million, five hundred thousand groups.'
   They listened and clapped politely, and were in the main unimpressed. But Sweet weren't bad. They weren't awful. They had more guts than one might expect from a band that sing about wams and coco-c0. They put a lot of energy into their brief showcase , and seemed desperately anxious to please, which is more than can be said for a multitude of their heavier brethren.
   Their musicianship is not of a particularly high order, but they have dragged themselves, by the silver bootstraps, out of the rut of the average soul-disco band, stomping for the dancers, into a hit making combo.
And not forgetting Mick Tucker on the drums
   As the stage lights dimmed, Sweet came bouncing onto the stage normally occupied by the giants of jazz, and launched into a barrage of noise designed to wake up the back rows of ballrooms. This was the 'intro' and lasted several minutes, threatening to shatter glassware and damage hearing.
   Then came the first number Done Me Wrong Alright or the B-side of Co-Co, as it is usually known. There seemed to be lots of changes in tempo, which gave even smiling Mick Pucker [sic], a chance to boogaloo with some dexterity.
   Unfortunately Andy Scott's lead guitar was hideously out of tune for the first few bars, which lead to a certain exchanging of glances among the musicians, but this was swiftly corrected, and the band launched into 'Summertime Blues', a tune normally guaranteed to break the ice.
   Unfortunately the audience remained immobile, perhaps tapping a foot here and there, but unprepared to fling themselves into an orgy of rock and roll revival. Brian Connolly their lead singer, resplendent in a red zipper suit, and sporting a large cross around his neck, was moved to explain to the audience what should have been happening.
   'You'll have to help us out. We're not used to this...' he said with heart warming candour. 'We're used to screamers...'  But they ploughed on regardless, with commendable valour. Andy the guitarist, in silver pants and black cloak, hurled himself into a deluge of notes, and proved himself a respectable funky wailer.
   A rock medley developed that would doubtless lead to mayhem at the average Sweet gig, ranging from Great Balls of Fire to a version of New Orleans in which they placed great emphasis on the 'Mississippi QUEEN'.
   'This is very difficult, you're not there are you' said Brian, nevertheless keeping an even temper. Steve Priest, the buxom wench on bass guitar, tossed his red locks and seemed oblivious, doubtless hardened by far worse experiences at the hands of active jeerers and booers. (Although Sweet do insist that apart from the splash of beer thy receive very little barracking.)
   'Start the sirens!' commanded Brian. 'Come on!' A few seconds later, a siren began to wail around the club, signal for their final number and latest palpable hit, Blockbuster.
   As the piece thundered to a conclusion, Sweet fled the stage, leaving amplifiers feeding back in a painful crescendo that could have been interpreted as a raspberry to their critics, And yet one felt they had very well under difficult circumstances. Nervous and breathless they returned to receive their gold discs for Poppa Joe from RCA boss Ken Glancy.
   'We're not going heavy' said Andy later in Scott's club office, sniffing with a heavy cold that I first interpreted as an emotional relapse. 'All we are saying is don't knock what we do. We've made a few mistakes in the past and we've learnt a few lessons. We started out as a cross between Marmalade and Spooky Tooth. We also did a lot of Motown. We went on to a bubblegum image and it didn't go down too well. After Funny Funny we thought we were finished. Oh well, that's the end of Sweet. But then we had a big hit with Co-Co. And at the beginning of '72 we had to change with the scene.'
   If they were going to be camp, then they would go the whole hog. 'We elaborated on the make-up and clothes and it has all got a bit out of hand. But the kids like it and expect it. We know where we are at.'



Friday, 14 November 2014

Dooooo!


Quite how many Os should appear in the spelling of today's post is really up to Paul McCartney. Or, indeed, Stevie Riks - the one man Beatles*.

'Paul McCartney makes a cup of tea' has been staple viewing at Medd Towers since I first stumbled upon it on Youtube (where else?).


Riks has, without doubt, studied Macca, complete with all his facial tics and mannerisms, in the same way David Attenborough might study a rare species of insect in the Serengeti. As for the 'Doooo', it obviously has its roots in Get Back: fast forward the link to 2:32 and there it is. Moving on a handful of years and here it is again in its first non Beatles setting: 'Wings - the band the Beatles could have been' - as Alan Partridge once said. Its first spotting is at 1:19.



And then as a more recent example we see it rediscovered in a solo performance. Dance Tonight, his Radio 2 friendly mandolin waltz, has a rather special Doooooo clocking in at 2:08. Also, look out for Mackenzie Crook doing his best Postman Pat impression.


* I'd love Stevie to do a one man read through of my Beatles two hander I wrote a while back.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Watching the Detectorists


Detectorists: must watch TV

I must extend a big thank you to the Bright Ambassador for pointing me in the direction of Detectorists. I don't really need to add much more to his succinct critique of the programme. Only that Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook, intentionally or otherwise, make for one of the funniest double acts I've seen in a long time. No, what I wanted to mention was the original music BA refers to: Johnny Flynn, in true Dennis Waterman style, both writes and sings the delightful theme tune. And it is so good and so near perfect that you really can't imagine the show working without it.



And as well as being a nu-folkie Flynn is also something of a thesp. He's no stranger to The Globe and The Royal Court and has bagged a fair bit of TV and film work along the way too.
Here's another one of his tunes. Stylishly shot in black and white, and complete with noises off, it's an acoustic version of the title song from Flynn's Country Mile album. Go get yourself a copy. And, while you're about it, catch up on Detectorists - they're all still up on the iPlayer.



Friday, 7 November 2014

Black and Blue

Do not approach these men
In 1975, following the departure of Mick Taylor, The Rolling Stones were scrambling around looking for a new guitar player. Rory Gallagher and Jeff Beck, among others, were flown out to Rotterdam and sat in on a couple of sessions. Keith was making notes throughout but didn't see or hear anything he liked; not until his old mate Woody turned up that is. The rest, as they say, is why Ronnie Wood is still referred to as the new boy.

'What are ya wearing lipstick for Mick?'
Fool to Cry, featuring not the guitar but an electric piano (courtesy of Mick who locked-on to the perfect groove and stayed with it), captures the Stones at their funkiest; probably only out-funked a couple of years later when Miss You appeared on Some Girls - around the same time as Rod's remarkably similar Do Ya Think I'm Sexy. This is a tasty outtake from the Black and Blue sessions and sounds like they're not far from nailing it. Listening to this you can forgive Jagger almost anything. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Red, White and Blue

All roads lead to The Beatles. Everyone knows that. Anyone who tells you differently is probably holding the map upside down.

For me it all started with my parents' record collection; though collection makes it sound more grand than it really was - it was nothing more than a rest home for dusty Mario Lanza, Andy Williams and Perry Como albums. Frank Ifield was probably holed up in there somewhere as well - handcuffed to Tom Jones. But in amongst these middle of the road crooners and balladeers were a couple of scratchy 45s: Ramona  by The Bachelors (our next door neighbour was related to them apparently), Frankie Vaughan singing Tower of Strength and Can't Buy Me Love by The Beatles.

It was 1972 and when my dad upgraded to a state of the art radiogram I inherited a smart blue and white Dansette in my bedroom. Not knowing who he was, Frankie Vaughan got played once out of curiosity (alright, maybe twice), The Bachelors remained in their paper sleeve (my mother's friend was dull, surely her brother's singing group would be too?), but I played Can't Buy Me Love until the grooves were so shiny the stylus could barely find the grooves. And that's when I discovered something so wonderful, and obvious, it lives with me to this day: I flipped the disc over. I'd discovered B sides; more importantly - Beatles' B sides.

You Can't Do That[1] is still, I think, one of the most powerful songs Lennon and McCartney ever committed to vinyl. But, as I was soon to find out, that throwaway tune was only the tip of a very large iceberg: as good great as the hits were, dig deeper and hidden treasures could be found lurking on B sides, EPs and albums.

Time to take a ferry

I spent two weeks of my first seventeen summers in County Roscommon, Ireland. It was where my maternal grandma lived and, for a few of those years, my Uncle Andy and Auntie Stella lived with her. This period coincided with my awareness of John, Paul, George and Ringo - we're talking the summer of 1973. Only three years, I would later learn, since they'd broken up. Uncle Andy loved his music (he and Stella had been to see The Beatles when they'd lived in Manchester a number of years earlier) and was the owner of a rudimentary hi-fi system - the sort aimed at the music lover rather than the geeky audiophile.

From getting off the boat in Dublin to arriving at Grandma's house I'd been looking forward to a fortnight of generally doing nothing more than kicking a football around with the kids on Grandma's street interspersed with bouts of eating ice cream from Hessians[2] a few doors down. But as soon as I walked in the house and took a look through Andy's record collection I found, proudly sitting at the front, The Beatles 1962-1966. I opened the sleeve and found therein two records. Side 1 & side 2. And, side 3 & side 4; there never were such times. More than 20 Beatles songs. Looking at their titles on the sleeve, I'd only heard about five of them before.

I immediately put the needle on track 1 side 1. From the opening bars of  Love Me Do I was hooked. Continual knocks on the door from friends begging me to come out for a game of football were roundly ignored. I couldn't tear myself away from the turntable. From Nowhere Man to Norwegian Wood I'd never heard anything like it. Hell, I was even singing along to Yellow Submarine. Two weeks later and it was time to go. I didn't get much of a tan that year. Or the subsequent holidays spent at Grandma's. Upon arrival every subsequent year I would dig 62-66 out and play it to death. Interestingly I've never owned a copy of it, preferring as I did (and I still don't know why) to acquire a copy of the only compilation that came out while they were still together - Oldies but Goldies. I guess I knew that my copy of The Red Album (we can call it that now, can't we?) was being looked after across the Irish Sea.

I'm going back to Roscommon next summer - for the first time in nearly 40 years - I'm thinking of calling it the 1962-1966 tour.

So what happens next?

On a rainy day after school in the autumn of 1974 I went to Westmoreland's in the town with five one pound notes tucked away in the bottom of my pencil case. Like Bono many years later, I didn't know what I was looking for. I had enough to buy ten singles. Or two albums. Or five singles and one album. I was all glammed[3] up and didn't need any more Sweet, Slade or T Rex, and as soon as I saw The Beatles section my mind was made up. By this time I'd seen A Hard Day's night on telly[4] and was mesmerised as much by their appearance, their quips and their general gang mentality as I was by their music. And there they were, nestling back to back: I'd heard about these albums from older lads in the fifth form. If 62-66 was the dessert and coffee then Rubber Soul[5] and Revolver were the main course. I bagged them both. When you buy a pair of albums on the same day you play them as soon as you get in. And that's what I did - in constant rotation; it was as if I was playing a double album, such was the natural way one lead into the other; in fact I still struggle to namecheck which songs appeared on which album. Suffice it to say that tunes like And Your Bird Can Sing, She Said She Said and Tomorrow Never Knows lodged in my brain and have been there ever since.

But I digress. Even more important to me on my Beatles journey (I know, everyone's on a 'journey' these days)was the time I borrowed The White Album from Simon Greiner[6] at school. This was a proper double album. And not a compilation either. This had everything on it - quite clearly they'd thrown the kitchen sink at it and by god it made me lean in close and really listen (though by this time I'd discovered headphones). For reasons totally unconnected with the music my dad remembers this record: after borrowing it on the Friday c/w veiled threats as to what would happen to me if I didn't return it by the following Monday, I had to record it (two TDK DC90s) and copy all the words that came with it. That was the other thing - it came with lyric sheets. My brother had a Petite typewriter at the time so at 7 o'clock on Saturday morning with the rest of the house asleep I set about typing up all thirty songs on crisp A4 paper. It was tortuous. And it was loud. People forget how loud typewriters were. Less than ten minutes into my assignment the old man came running down the stairs: 'What the hell are you doing?' He probably added: 'Do you know what time it is?' I knew the answer to both these questions but my dad wasn't interested.'Look' he said 'There's a photocopier at work, I'll copy them on Monday.' I returned the album to my friend in two parts - vinyl on Monday, inserts on Tuesday. By the Wednesday I knew all the words by heart. Forty years later I still find myself singing Rocky Racoon in the shower.


Baby sitting

By 1975 I was practically living in record shops; though I couldn't actually afford many records (£1 a week pocket money didn't go far, my tape collection was now taking on biblical proportions) I was the proud owner of several ex-jukebox singles - the funny ones with no middles. Before the green reissues I was getting hold of all the early Parlophone singles at 30p a pop and doing my own Beatles compilation tapes. So it was only a matter of time until I discovered 67-70. Released in 1973 at the same time as The Red Album this later collection acted as the springboard for exploring Sgt. Pepper and beyond (for me Abbey Road and Let it Be would appear on my radar not long before I was hit by punk's new wave). Again, I never owned a vinyl copy of this album, it was a fixture of my regular babysitting gig next door. Bob and Barbara's copy would get the same treatment as my Uncle Andy's 62-66 as soon as the kiddy winks were in bed and I took up my clients' offer to 'help yourself to tea and coffee.'
I took my primitive ITT cassette deck and DIN leads 'round one night and burned a copy onto a ropey C120. Such was my hedonistic lifestyle at that time. Even the ubiquitous Ringo track was listenable; more listenable, certainly, than Macca's Ob La Di Ob La Da.

Red White and Blue: how to discover a band in three easy lessons. Unlike all the other stuff I was meant to be learning at the time, Newton's Laws of Gravity, The Periodic Table, Plate Tectonics, Latin and Algebra, it's only The Beatles 'knowledge' that remains. Apparently they run degree courses on The Beatles these days. That would have bolstered my meagre handful of 'O' Levels.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Andy Finnerty (1944-1988)

[1] You Can't Do That, She's a Woman and I'm Down: The Holy Trinity of Parlophone B sides.
[2] Hessians: a store owned by Cyril Hessian. They sold ice cream and bananas. And 2 star petrol from the lone Texaco pump out front.
[3] It was 1974 and I had joined the Teenage Rampage. But I was ready for a sit down.
[4] I recorded the audio from the film that night via my cassette recorder's hand held microphone propped up against the TV.
[5] Beatles completists will know this already, but, on The Red Album, Rubber Soul outgunned Revolver 6 tracks to 2.
[6] Simon Greiner aka The Michelin Man

Monday, 3 November 2014

Blue Red and Grey

The Who were once the loudest band in the world. It's official - check out The Guinness Book of World Records if you don't believe me. And, for what it's worth, I was there the night they turned the amps up to eleven.

Pete Townshend is paying for it now though. These days his hearing loss is so bad that Roger Daltrey can call him all the names under the sun and he can't a hear a bloody word. Here's some recent footage of him playing a delightful song from The Who By Numbers album. He'd written Blue Red and Grey with suicide uppermost in his mind and definitely didn't want the song put on the band's latest platter. Their producer, Glyn Johns, was having none of it and, with just a little bit of muted trumpet from John Entwistle as a backdrop for Townshend's ukelele and fragile vocal, it became the album's diamond in the rough.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Sleaford Mods

Sleaford Mods are a Nottingham minimalist duo who rap/rant/cuss in a distinct East Midlands dialect; imagine Alan Sillitoe with tourettes writing a modern day Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with a mobile phone in one hand, an E-Cig in the other whilst ordering a bottle of lager in a crowded pub.

I like them because:

1. Their lead singer Jason Williamson is, by his own admission, gobby: a must for any front man.
2. They're not embarrassed to put a 'z' in Notts.
3. They namecheck Doctor Feelgood and The Sex Pistols
4. They film music videos on the top deck of Nottingham buses.
5. They swear. An awful lot.

Her's a little film Quietus TV made about them and below is the splendid Tied up in Nottz:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Still with us

We've just come back from a most enjoyable few days away in Scotland. Walking out of a music bar in Dumfries on Wednesday night I noticed a framed photo of Frankie Miller - he probably played there a number of years earlier. And, much to my chagrin, I thought he'd passed away. But, of course, he hadn't; despite suffering a brain haemorage while working in New York in 1994 (he was in a coma for five months) Frankie continues his recovery on a daily basis.

Miller has written some cracking songs down the years, and has collaborated with and influenced countless musicians including Rod Stewart, Bob Seeger and Joe Walsh. He's probably remembered in this country for the 1976 hit single Darlin' but north of the border he's best known for turning Dougie MacLean's Caledonia into nothing short of a national anthem.

This footage captures Miller at the top of his game performing at Germany's Rockpalast and sporting his trademark Diddyman hat. He'll be celebrating his 65th birthday next week - many happy returns Frankie and welcome back to the land of the living.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Give him enough rope

Mike Read: bankrupt - financially, musically and politically. The former Radio 1 jock has, not surprisingly, given his previous dalliances with Margaret Thatcher and the Tories, jumped into bed with Nigel Farage while at the same time cooing bastardised calypsos in his ears. But not in a racist way, he alleges.

It would appear now that the entire cast of ex-Radio 1 DJs have pressed the self destruct button with Read being the latest to hit the red tops in a blaze of controversy. They'll be telling us next that Diddy David Hamilton has been holding Black Masses at Craven Cottage.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Rhyme crime

Those Spandau lyrics in full
Not for the first time a much lauded pop band from a decade in history that many would like to forget have succumbed to the lure of the lucrative reformation; and in so doing have, thanks to an ill conceived return with matching piss poor comeback single, undone all their previous back catalogue quicker than you can stifle a yawn. Step up Spandau Ballet; their new record will surely go down in the annals for the largest gathering of banal rhyming couplets ever found in captivity: where else would you find lines like these?



Couldn't buy more time
Couldn't even spin a dime
And then the world turned sublime

And

These streets were all I knew
Couldn't find a map to you
No one could tell me what to do

Or try these for size

I was working on a scheme
To build a one man team
Now I'm looking at a dream

Then tell Tony Hadley to sing it like a Bond theme, chuck in a tired sax solo, bring to the boil and voilà: classic Ballet.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Do you really think that's wise?

Left right, left right: John Le Measurier, Bill Nighy

The cast for the new Dad's Army movie was announced earlier this week. Tinkering with classics is always going to be fraught. Even when the original cast made the ubiquitous big screen version of their own TV show in 1971 it hardly set the world on fire. But this time, this time, it may just work. With big hitters like Bill Nighy, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Bill Paterson taking on the roles of Wilson, Jones, Godfrey and Frazer respectively, the project  certainly won't fail for lack of  talent. And hearing that it will all be shot on my doorstep*, almost literally, I'm warming to the idea more and more.

But it will be the script that makes it. Or indeed breaks it. It was an ensemble piece set during the war, but war was the very last thing it was about. It was about people. And people need natural scripts. If the writing is only half as good as that produced by David Croft and Jimmy Perry it will fly. If not, it will end up as soggy as the chips the U-Boat commander insisted on not having in that sketch.

* When the cast come to town they may well need to brush up on their pelican crossing etiquette:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Underdog

David 'Jack' Horner bottom left
The word legend is bandied around so much in music these days that, if you were to believe the hype, anyone who played bass in a third division punk band on their instantly forgettable second album would automatically have the L word bestowed upon them. That or national treasure.

We went to this year's Scarborough Jazz Festival and in our digs, sitting at the table next to us at breakfast, was a man so omnipresent on the UK jazz scene during the sixties and much of the seventies that picking up an album in Ray's Jazz or Dobell's that didn't have him in the lineup would have been virtually impossible. Saxophonist and clarinetist David 'Jack' Horner played with the great and the good - Dick Morrissey, Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey, Tubby Hayes and Humphrey Lyttelton to name but a few.

But Jack never took centre stage. He was, and never will be, a legend. He was happy to stay in the shadows and prop up the midfield. An unsung hero. Some may even call him an underdog.

Underdog or not, I wasted no time in sidling up to his table and asking him to sign my napkin. He was a true gentleman and seemed more than happy to talk about the old days. Later that afternoon after watching a terrific session from Alan Barnes, a player very similar in style to Jack, we bumped into him and his latest wife (it turns out he's been married five times) on the terrace and they invited us over a for a pot of tea. A legend would never have done that.

Look carefully for the cat wearing the dark glasses in Tubby Hayes' Big Band in this clip from Ronnie Scott's filmed in 1970. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Godfather

I became an honorary Godfather earlier this year. Not in a Tony Soprano way, I hasten to add, more in a wise old uncle sort of way. Amanda Jane is a beautiful young thing: she's bright and she's bubbly and she makes me laugh. I think I make her laugh too. It's good to laugh.

It's Amanda's birthday in a couple of days and she's having a party tomorrow. From what I can gather it's Friends and close family only.

Just nipping down to the dry-cleaners to collect my Tux.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Is it down to the Lake I fear


It troubled me not that when I saw Greg Lake perform recently at my local Arts Centre he was joined neither by Keith Emerson or Carl Palmer. However, what did set my teeth on edge was when, instead of playing an acoustic set, he saw fit to perform a karaoke night with backing tapes. I've still not forgiven him.

And, anyway, it's been a long while since he's been able to sing half as well as this little combo.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mr. Soul

Sam Cooke, along with Charlie Rich, Solomon Burke and Nick Lowe, has a voice so rich, so layered, he could charm the birds out of any old tree he fancied.

And on 11 December 1964 that's precisely what he was doing; with disastrous consequences. Cooke, a born philanderer, couldn't keep it in his trousers. And that night he paid the ultimate price. But less than a year before, aged just 32, he had recorded and released, probably, the finest soul album of all time.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

What it means to be English


Arthur English, stalwart of seventies telly, is probably best remembered as maintenance man and union representative Mr. Harman in Are You Being Served and everything from Follyfoot to In Sickness and in Health, via cameos in shows like  The Sweeney. But it's as a standup comic in the post war years that he gained his comedy chops. In 1949 he was resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London's West End. His wartime spiv persona surely the inspiration for Fast Show music hall comedian Arthur 'Where's me washboard' Atkinson.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Every picture tells a story



In 1977, after beating the Auld Enemy at Wembley, the rampaging Scots (The Daily Mail's words, not mine) decided to invade the pitch. Nothing unusual in the seventies, but this was the pitch invasion to end all pitch invasions: they dug the turf up, smashed both crossbars and then took woodwork and sods back with them over the border. And the hapless Police just looked on. I remember John Motson being incensed; he wasn't the only one.


It's nearly forty years later and, after tomorrow's referendum result, we may once again feel slightly different about our tartan neighbours. It looks like they're all set to start dismantling something (we thought was) far more sturdy than a couple of sets of goalposts. For what it's worth honorary Scot, Rod Stewart, who found himself on the pitch that day has pitched his wagon to the Better Together campaign. As long as he doesn't make a song and dance about it.