Saturday, 22 April 2017

Textbook


My admiration of Magnus Mills is unbridled. Show me a better writer and I can see we'll be looking for the nearest branch of Burtons.

His new novel, The Forensic Records Society, landed on the doormat yesterday; I started it this morning after breakfast and already it's shaping up to be a classic. When a couple of music buffs decide to start a record listening club in the backroom of their local pub on a Monday evening, it's not long till a counter group forms - meeting in the same pub on a Tuesday; textbook Mills.

Did I ever tell you that he once wrote me a postcard? I've just dug it out of my copy of Mills' The Scheme For Full Employment. Nesbitt is a character from same, in case you were wondering.




Monday, 17 April 2017

You Can Go Your Own Way


I heard something this evening that is both quirky and yet weird at the same time; either way, it's something to file under my 'Help! Get me out out of here' file; which is growing at a rate of knots.

It transpires that a resident of the town can't bear to be in a room if Fleetwood Mac come on the radio/jukebox/Spotify playlist etc. Beers have been left half drunk as soon as Stevie Nicks opens her mouth. Of course, pub landlords are now filling their boots with this vital piece of intel and, with the aid of a simple 'ring round' are using it in pretty much the same way farmers lay rat poison to prevent vermin. I know, you couldn't make it up. Let's hope Ms. Nicks never finds out.


Fleetwood Mac - You Can Go Your Own Way

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy


When Peter Kay's Car Share was first broadcast in 2015 I said at the time how superbly written it was. Kay has got pedigree, and not just as a standup or regular on chat show sofas; both Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere were crafted in such a way that, like all good writing, there wasn't a word too many or a word too few. Every line mattered.

In Car Share Kay has interwoven an eighties and nineties soundtrack via the Forever FM constantly playing in Kay's little Fiat: yes, a lot of the selections are cheesy, but every track is hand picked. And there for a reason. Take a look at the 101 songs that spanned both series and, if you know the show (and only loved it half as much as I did), then you'd see a thread that is every bit as tight the dialogue between John and Kayleigh.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Pre-Genie

Bowie's The Jean Genie is nearly 45 years old. Can you believe it? It was released as a single in November 1972, before appearing on Aladdin Sane the following year.

'Make Me Your Baby' by Giorgio Moroder, meanwhile, will be 50 next year. Moroder, the man who gave us Chicory Tip's 'Son of My Father' and a ton of disco smashes including Donna Summers's orgasmic 'Love to Love', released this prototype for the Jean Genie in April 1968.



Giorgio Moroder - Make Me Your Baby

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Tigers on Vaseline

Ziggy
Ziggy and the Spiders. No one was really sure where Ziggy hailed from - Bromley in Kent, probably - but everyone knows where the Spiders came from. And no, it's not the red planet. The Spiders: Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder were all residents of Kingston upon Hull. That would have been a bit of a mouthful back in 1972 when Ziggy Stardust was looking for a name for his backing band. So, Mars it was then.
Waggy
It's not documented whether or not Ken Wagstaff (the greatest striker ever to have pulled a Hull City shirt on) was a Bowie fan or not. But in '72, Waggy and the Tigers were plying their trade in the old Second Division. In that same year The Spiders from Mars tour was in full flow.

Meanwhile, back in Hull, City (unlike now) were consistently under achieving: it would be another thirty years or more before they reached the top flight. Bowie, on the other hand, was on fire. Ziggy Stardust catapulted both him and his East Yorkshire band members front and centre - their mammoth UK and North America1972 campaign pulled in some prestigious dates in the US including New York's Carnegie Hall and the Winterland Auditorium in San Fransisco, before rounding off the year at London's Rainbow Theatre. Hull's itinerary, meanwhile, included exotic locations such as Preston North End. And Middlesborough. Although Waggy missed part of the season due to injury, he was still finding the back of the net. However, they would still finish the season nearer the bottom of the league than the top. Tigers on vaseline, indeed.


๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…

Today's offering comes on the back of finishing my new song, 'Won't Fade Away'. It's a eulogy to Hull - the place where I was born. York Songwriters are putting on a gig in the summer in a little bar in the Fruit Market later in the summer - each of us playing a Hull themed ditty. Unfortunately I'll have moved by then, so will miss it. Here's the first verse:

I was born on the Beverley High Road
When Waggy and the Tigers played at Boothferry Park
And we'd go to the Land of Green Ginger
Have a few few beers...stumble home in the dark

๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…  ๐Ÿ…

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Getting Better

I've got to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time; seven weeks on Thursday.

That's my bit at the end. John and Paul were kind enough to leave the gaps, so you can sing along with the extra line - should you so desire. It actually forms part of the new remastered version of Pepper (it was fifty years ago today, sort of) that will be available for you to buy (again) next month. Sneak preview time:

The Beatles - Getting Better (instrumental) mp3

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Living in Hope

Barry Wom - pretty in pink

hope


noun

       1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen




Barrington Womble (aka Barry Wom) was living in hope; and he wasn't even the best drummer in the Rutles. Allegedly.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Blind Faith

No caption required
What you're about to read in the opening paragraph just couldn't happen now. Could it...?

It's 1969. You're a 14 year old girl. A photographer approaches you on the London Underground and asks if you wouldn't mind taking your top off for some 'artistic' snaps he wants to take for a pop group's new album cover. 'No, I think I'll pass' says the youngster, 'but my younger sister would be up for it.' The shoot is set up (amazingly with the girl's parents' consent), whereupon photographer Bob Seidemann asked the topless 11 year old - Maiora Goschen - to hold a phallic spaceship. He calls the resulting image 'Blind Faith'.

She can laugh about it now
The album in question goes on to sell millions (well, Eric Clapton *was* God at the time), though the sleeve is still reviled in certain quarters. Accusations of child pornography aside, the standout song on Blind Faith's one and only album is 'Can't Find My Way Home'. It was written by a then twenty year old Stevie Winwood. When the supergroup played it at their debut gig in Hyde Park it was a baking hot day in June. Forty odd years later here's Winwood playing it solo and dressed for the tundra. He really needs to crank the heating up.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

This is Your Life


I'd like to think I played a small part in this new release: Your Life is an exquisite collection of songs recorded earlier this year, mostly in her living room, by the adorable Rowena Simpson. Rowena used to play in a little jug band in a former life, before stepping back and letting life do that thing that life does. Twenty years later, and with a wealth of life (that word again) experiences to draw on, she had the makings of a few new songs - and would have been quite happy to keep them to herself, playing them to the cat and the dog.

And then she came to Songwriters. She reminded me of Bambi on the ice; she just needed a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of support. And she flourished.  She got her confidence back and began writing some beautiful songs. And then she got the monkey off her back and started playing live. In front of real people. And she loves it. Her nine track album of self penned material is astonishingly good (well, I would say that wouldn't I?), it really is.

I've chosen three tracks which give you a through the keyhole taster of her CD. I think you'll like them.




That's us at the bottom

Rowena and I shared a stage at the Fulford Arms in York on Thursday night as part of the York Songwriters revue gig we put on. It was an unqualified success: we played in front of a good crowd and the CDs were flying off the Merch Stand like you wouldn't believe!
I'll miss them when I go - I can honestly say that the talent in the room on Thursday was breathtaking. I wish them all well and hope they put on many more gigs like this in the future.

Crumpled Shirt Man - snapped by Rowena



Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Love, Hope and Misery

I've mentioned here before just how obscenely talented Jake Bugg is.
'Love, Hope and Misery' is his tribute to Bill Withers (think 'Ain't No Sunshine') and Robert Cray ('Right Next Door') all rolled into one. That's what I think anyway. But what do I know?
A soundtrack to a breakup if ever I heard one; probably.



Monday, 27 March 2017

Swansong


This Thursday night sees York Songwriters putting on their/our latest showcase gig at the Fulford Arms; it's a cracking venue with a great little stage, cool lights, a soundman who knows what he's doing and some none too shabby beers thrown in for good measure.


The fun starts at 8:00. I'm second or third on the bill which will be nice (it could be the last time I'll play in York, what with my impending house move and all). We'll even be selling a few sampler CDs: it's called The Cost of a Pint and, that's right, it's yours for a mere three quid. It'll pay for the aforementioned soundman, with anything left over going in the nearest charity bucket.

I must extend a big thank you to David Breslin who, in recent years, has kept York Songwriters and its ragtag members in some semblance of order through thick and, often, thin. Unfortunately he won't be there on Thursday due to illness, but here he is singing one of his own compositions 'Orpheus in the Underlay'.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

I'm coming home I've done my time

Swings
And roundabouts
Seven years to be precise. During which time there's been a lot of swings, a lot of roundabouts. Good times (mostly), with a few not so good times thrown in too. I should have shipped out a year ago. I wanted to; before it really started to unravel. But, hey, you can't always get what you want.

The solicitors are saying June 1st. That'll do for me. Time enough to make peace with the place, and pack a few tea chests. The Medd caravan rolls on...



Thursday, 23 March 2017

We are not afraid


I'm currently in the capital, and travelling around London today have seen/heard the We Are Not Afraid mantra all over the place.Yesterday's deadly attack must remain just that - *yesterday's* deadly attack. The horror of what happened must not be allowed to turn another British landmark into a Lockerbie, a Hungerford or a Dunblaine.

The graphic mobile phone footage and aerial photography from police helicopters cannot become the default position for the historic Thames crossing and approach to Parliament. If we are to overcome this adversity and show the world that London, and Britain, will not take this lying down, we have to neutralize the shocking images of yesterday: they must not be used as totems to fuel hatred and start further conflict. Instead, put one of these two images in your head when thinking of the stretch of road that links Westminster and Lambeth. And no, I am not in anyway downplaying the carnage of yesterday or belittling the immense grief and upset caused by the events of Thursday 22 March. Far better to turn this whole thing on its head and show the world we are strong; stronger than anyone. Daleks and Kiss included.

I dedicate today's blog to the memory of the dead and injured innocent bystanders who will be remembered by their friends and families forever; not least PC Keith Palmer. A husband. A father. A hero.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

I Want Kandinsky

Bubbles: Music for Pleasure (1977)

Kandinsky: Composition VIII (1923)
Kandinsky: Transverse Lines (1923)
Barney Bubbles, the man who put the pictures in picture sleeves, drew his influences from far and wide; and long ago. His sleeve for Generation X's 1977 debut single stretched way back to 1924.

Likewise, when he was commissioned to design the sleeve for the Damned's difficult second album, Music for Pleasure, again from '77, Bubbles retreated back to the jazz age. Here are three terrific pieces by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) that Bubbles must have had on his mind when he took the gig.

I love Kandinsky. I want his stuff hanging on every wall in my new house*. Anyone got the Guggenheim's number?

* Footnote: whilst writing this post earlier this morning, I blagged a (very reasonably priced) Kandinsky copy.
Kandinsky: Black and Violet (1923)

Friday, 17 March 2017

Wood for the trees

Duology(?)
Under normal circumstances you'd be hard pushed to link former England captain and '66 World Cup hero Bobby Moore with prog rockers ELP; wouldn't it be nice to discover that in 1973 Messrs. Emerson, Lake & Palmer had invited West Ham's finest to sit in on the Brain Salad Surgery sessions and sing the odd harmony (just like he did on Back Home)? Or, even better, to unearth evidence that Keith Emerson once had trials for the Hammers? I'd even have been happy to read that Carl Palmer's original drum teacher had been Bobby's brother when he was living up in Cradley Heath. Alas, no.
Trilogy
However, what I can tell you is that in the early seventies both Bobby (and his missus, Tina) and the band John Peel once described as a waste of time, talent and electricity had their mugshots taken deep in the heart of Epping Forest.

I can't tell you how many hours I pored over the Trilogy gatefold sleeve that depicted all three members of the band lurking behind every tree. It was like Where's Wally?' only in reverse.

Confession time (1). Every time I see a wooded glade (especially when I'm in the car) I shout out 'Trilogy!' It's at times like this, I suspect, that members of my immediate family fear for my sanity.

Confession time (2). As much as I love ELP, and I do, the image of Tina Moore with the England shirt pulled down as far as it will go does it for me every time. I'm only human after all, as Rag'n'Bone Man would say.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

'45' (1924-1977)

45: Berlewi (1924) 
45: Bubbles (1977)
45: Your Generation

The Number One Son told me last week that one of his neighbours is currently sporting a giant Generation X '45' framed print in his flat - James isn't stalking the guy, this piece of artwork is so large it can be seen from space, apparently. Now, I know a thing or two about Generation X: 'I think you'll find that particular design was the brain child of Tony James' (Gen X bass player and joint CEO with Billy Idol), I said with that tone that fathers adopt when handing down vital nuggets of rock history down the male bloodline. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
45: Idol

45: James
If the graphic artist, sleeve designer and troubled soul that was Barney Bubbles (1942-1983) had been eavesdropping our conversation, he would have been yelling in my ear that, actually, the Generation X masthead was one of his - Tony James would just knock out copies when he was screen-printing band tee shirts.

However, I think Barney, real name Colin Fulcher, would be the first to admit that he was influenced by Polish artist Henryk Berlewi (1894-1967), whose 1924 work 'Composition in Red, Black and White' (at the top of this blog) was surely the inspiration behind Barney's 1977 iconic sleeve for Generation X's first single.

45: Derwood

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Carr trouble

I have trouble with Jimmy Carr; I think a lot of people do. For every gag that has you choking on your false teeth, there'll be another hot on its heels that will make you feel uncomfortable; you'll laugh, but you'll still be uncomfortable. And for a comic who openly admits that, with the exception of the Hillsborough disaster, everything else is fair game, then you're never far away from a joke that some a lot of people are going to find offensive. But, hey, you know that when you step over the threshold.

His appearance last week on Desert Island Discs was very revealing. Give it a listen and you may come away with different feelings towards the fella; I know I did. The way he spoke about his mother, dyslexia, Catholicism, depression and not losing his virginity until he was twenty-six was very honest and at times very touching. And when he chose 'I Will Follow You into the Dark' by Death Cab for Cutie as the record he'd save from the waves, I was practically reaching for the fan club application forms.

Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Follow You into the Dark

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Till Another Day

My friend Martin Heaton has just released a new album; he very kindly bequeathed me a copy at Songwriters on Monday night, and it's been on constant rotation in the car all week. Despite it being stacked to the rafters with great songs (Martin never short changes his fans - it's got 16 tracks in total), I've got two personal favourites:

Till Another Day mp3

The Letter mp3 



Copies of 'Pillow Talk' are available directly from the artist - you can email Martin at martinheaton@rocketmail.com

Sunday, 5 March 2017

(Another) Another Train

A couple of years ago I was corresponding with Pete Paphides for a piece he was writing on obscure record shops, and I did a mixtape for him. He said that half way thro' listening to it he'd logged onto CD Baby (other online stores are available) and was buying up most of the stuff off it! Including Another Tain by Pete Morton. He'd never heard it before, loved it and commented that it was 'just the right side of soppy.'

I wonder if Pete P's heard Pete M's reworked version of the song he did with with Full House?


We fill our heads with the craziest things that only break our hearts

Friday, 3 March 2017

Sock drawer. May contain memories

New socks. Old socks; some with holes in. Ticket stubs. Receipts. Cuff links. Photographs. Diaries. Birthday cards. Postcards. More photographs. Phone numbers. Guitar picks. Pens. More photographs. Keys. Invitations. Elastic bands. Unchecked lottery ticket. Spanish phrase book. Loose change. Map of New York. Oyster card. Book marks. Theatre programmes. More bloody photographs. Memories; a ton of memories.

And that's just my real sock drawer; don't get me started on my digital sock drawer. Or the one that lives in my head. What was it Ben Watt said, 'You can put things to the back of your mind, but you can never forget.'

The deeply unfashionable Alan Parsons may or may not have been talking about sock drawers back in 1982, but he too was plowing a similar furrow.

The Alan Parsons Project: Old & Wise



Sunday, 26 February 2017

Radio Times

It's a well known fact that the seventies were brought to you by the colour brown. Cars, wallpaper, furniture, clothes. In fact, flossy pictured (left) on the sleeve of Your One Hundred Best Tunes (a Decca release, which tied in with the Light Programme radio show of the same name) is a perfect case in point; I don't know how she's done it, but, as a result of some seventies related condition, she's managed to morph into her brown armchair and appears to be reaching out to her brown transistor radio in a vain attempt to reverse the procedure. And all the while a well thumbed copy of the Radio Times clings to her lifeless hands.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How can he be sure?

David Cassidy has just announced his retirement. During a recent live show he forgot the words to a number of his hit records and at one point tumbled off the stage; he hadn't fallen off the wagon, as some initially thought, but instead has been diagnosed with dementia.
The former pop idol has not had much in the way of luck lately. Rehab clinics, courtrooms and the back of police vehicles have been his backdrop for the last few years; the days when he could sell out venues faster than the Beatles are long gone. Ditto his poster boy image.
For anyone interested in where it all started to go wrong - after a handful of years where it was all going so incredibly right - I seriously recommend his self-penned memoir 'Could it be Forever?'
And if you fancy some tasty reworkings of his old 45s, look no further than his rather excellent 1998 album Old Trick, New Dog.

David Cassidy - How Can I Be Sure?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

"Please yourself"

Peter Skellern (1947 - 2017)
I was saddened to hear yesterday of Peter Skellern's passing. The obituaries in today's papers and online all seem to be cut & pasted from the same handful of facts some rookie journalist has cobbled together from Wikipedia: born in Bury, could play the piano a bit, had a hit in the early seventies, and became a priest not long before pegging it aged 69.

Not that I can add much more to the plaudits bestowed on him by his family, friends and fans. Other than to say I will always remember him as Carter Brandon in the radio adaptation of Uncle Mort's North Country by Peter Tinniswood. Skellern's monosyllabic one liners teed up his laconic uncle's withering monologues perfectly.

  They gave Carter Brandon a week off work, so he thought he'd spend the time taking day trips in his car. He took his Uncle Mort with him.
  It was an ancient Ford Zodiac with sad headlamps and limp seat belts.

'Shall I sit in the front seat, Carter?'

'Please yourself.'



Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Mosteiro Estrada


Lisbon, Saturday afternoon

From left to right:

Jim (George)

Dom (Paul)

JT (Ringo)

Matt (John)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Lisbon


Eusรฉbio, my friend JT, and Super Bock. There, that's about my sum knowledge of Portugal. Oh, and Baxter Dury (great Portugal reference - below). Maybe by the time I get back from Lisbon on Monday I'll know a bit more.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Getting in early

James & Janneke
It's James' birthday next week. We won't see him on the day, but we're spending this weekend with him and Janni and will take his presents with us. James lives in Manchester these days and is heavily involved in the Arts up there. I've always worn my Proud Parent badge unashamedly, and never more so than when I watch films like this:

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Speke now...



Amateur photographer Keith Jones loves his native Liverpool with a passion. His latest project has seen him going around the city snapping the Pool as it is today, and then overlaying how it would all have looked 50+ years ago; the Beatles landing at Speke Airport in 1964, now John Lennon Liverpool Airport, being a prime example.