Saturday, 21 July 2018

Nothing Rhymed

Gilbert O'Sullivan and friends
It's late,  I'm tired, and I've had this song going round in my head all week. It was released in 1970 and, in all honesty, I'm guessing there are only a handful of tunes written since that are even fit to tie its boot laces.

I really need someone like Alyson on hand who could put Nothing Rhymed into all sorts of perspectives - musical, personal, cultural, political even. All I know is that if you're sitting anywhere near me on the train to Sheffield tomorrow morning, I'll sing it to you. I apologise in advance.

Before I go, does anyone know what drink Gilbert's talking about when he name checks a Bonaparte Shandy? It sounds very elegant, though probably isn't at all.

Night x

Gilbert O'Sullivan - Nothing Rhymed (1970)

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?

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Another early bath*

The blues are still blue
Two iconic photographs appeared on my Twitter feed today. The first is a timely reminder that we're only a couple of weeks away from the World Cup kicking off in the former USSR. England, as per usual, haven't got the slightest chance of getting anywhere near the finals; unlike in 1970 when Alf Ramsey took his squad to Mexico as defending champions - 1966 and all that. And though we came close, we weren't close enough. But I just love this photo - everything, the sky, the lads' tracksuits, even the curtains on the coach, is a shimmering blue. With the exception of Alan Ball's red shirt; there's always one.

The green green grass
Exhibit B is that rare thing - a bunch of thugs looking almost wistful. Leeds Utd were, for much of the seventies, known as Dirty Leeds. They would knock seven bells out any opposition they played on a Saturday afternoon. Bar none. Yet, for five minutes on the training ground they quite literally stood like statues long enough for a team photo like no other. And, just for that literal snapshot in time, they looked like butter wouldn't melt. Who needs Photoshop?

Miles Davis - Blue in Green


* In case you're wondering, here's the original early bath

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Surprise Me!

We all like surprises; don't we? Isn't that what gets us out of bed each and every morning - the prospect of a new day and all that comes with it, everything from the planned and expected to those happenstance events that bring the most totally unexpected, and sometimes, exciting moments? It's the not knowing. If we did know what was round the corner then life would be that little bit duller, that little bit more mundane. I'm a bit sad, I know, but I won't even look at Nick Heyward's set list that somebody liberated from the stage in Birmingham the other night - I'm seeing him this Friday and don't want to know what he's gonna start and end with, or even play for an encore; of course I've got a bloody good idea, but you know what I mean?

Radio presenters who herald at the top of the show what they'll be playing over the next two hours. Why? The joy of listening to the live radio, surely, is, again, not knowing what's coming next. And don't get me started on movie trailers (aka plot spoilers) - especially grating when you'll be watching the film only days later.

As they used to say on the Saturday night news, just before Match of the Day came on: "If you don't want to know the scores, look away now."


Friday, 1 June 2018

Thank you for the days

A year ago I was heading in the right direction

Keeping it real in NG5
One year ago, to the day, I turned a corner: quite a few corners actually. 12 months ago, on what was a beautiful sunny morning (an omen if ever there was one), the removal van transported all my worldly goods and chattels down the country and deposited them back in civilisation.

So, an anniversary. Though no song or dance required; well, I may have to raise a glass or two this evening and toast NG5 (my postcode of choice) - just to be sociable, you understand.

I say no song; scratch that. Today's selection is a peach. Try as he might, Ray Davies can do no wrong in my book. His songs will continue to be sung as long as humans occupy planet Earth. And beyond, probably. Of that I am convinced.

'Days' was released as a single 50 years ago this month. Can you believe it? Pinch yourself. It's what I've been doing the last 365 days.




The Kinks - Days (1968)



***********************


Postscript, 2 June '18

Oh my word, I've just found this - Ray Davies with the Crouch End Choir (audio only). I want it to be played at my funeral.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

I'm desperate, Dan

I've just acquired a pair of tickets to go and see Danny Baker later in the year on the final leg of his Good Time Charlie's Back! tour. I can't tell you how made up I am.
I spoke to him on the phone many moons ago when he was still doing the Morning Edition on Radio 5; of course he won't remember, but it's still locked in my memory bank all the same. That was when the BBC still let him play whatever damned records he liked. No playlist for him; oh no. Whether or not he ever played Lieutenant Pigeon's follow up single to Mouldy Old Dough is something I may have to ask him when I see him in September.


Lieutenant Pigeon - Desperate Dan


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Generation Sex

L-R: Billy Idol, Steve Jones, Tony James
This is a story I'll definitely be coming back to later: ex Gen Xers Tony James and Billy Idol dropped a world exclusive on Jonesy's Jukebox yesterday - together with Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols, they're gonna be getting together to play old Generation X and Pistols songs. I'm already very excited! I know, I should get out more. I love their little chat: it's like Spinal Tap meets Last of the Summer Wine. And when Billy and Tony talk about writing King Rocker in an afternoon to put a single on their Valley of the Dolls album, you can't not admire them.


You may have noticed that this blog has acquired a new mast head. I thought I'd put Even Monkeys Fall Out Of Trees out to pasture, along with the old JM logo. Like me, it was looking a bit tired. So, please welcome its shiny new replacement - Are We There Yet? will still carry on the well worn tradition of writing from the hip, with scant regard for its readership. Meet the new blog, same as the old blog.

But seriously, thanks to everyone who's rung my doorbell in the last eight years.
I've put a new battery in it now - so we should be good for another eight. At least.

John x
Nottingham
May 2018

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Halfway to Paradiso

Getting to Amsterdam these days is a piece of cake (no, not that sort of cake) - easier than London, almost: thirty minutes to the airport, a short hop to Schipol followed by a ten minute train ride to Dam Square. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tim and I had both been before, but for some reason we'd never landed on Dutch soil together. Until Wednesday. Our trip had been planned for a while and was essentially a jolly-up to go and see Baxter Dury. Dury is a big deal in Europe and is treated like royalty in France, appaarently. We'd got tickets to see him in the world famous (it really is) Paradiso Club: when the Stones played two semi-acoustic gigs there in '95 Keith Richards said they were the best shows the band had ever played; Keef probably says this a lot, however, recordings from both nights did end up on their Stripped album later that year.

The Paradiso is a converted church building and is equally as magnificent inside and out. It's virtually in the middle of the city and barely a five minute walk from our digs. So, bearing this in mind, coupled with the fact that we bought our tickets three months ago and bearing in mind also the fact that we'd been in town since lunchtime, there could be no excuse for rocking up late to this gig of all gigs. And you'd be right - no excuse whatsoever. Erm. Well, it's like this. Hang on a minute, I don't have to explain this to you.

"What time's he on?" The clue is on the ticket
Suffice it to say we only missed a couple of his early numbers - I blame strong liquor and pretty girls on bikes - and the set he turned in was immaculate. Baxter is a consummate front man. Like his old man before him, you can't take your eyes off the fella (well, maybe just for a second or two - to enjoy his rather lovely keyboard players standing either side of him).

When the show finished we could still hear music, so we padded up the stairs into the main auditorium and caught The Vamps playing to a room full (and I mean full) of teen girls screaming their bloody heads off. It was like Hard Day's Night meets Rollermania. And, yes, I know, apart from me and Tim, nobody in the room would get that reference. Not least the young kid who went down like a sack of spuds. The gig was temporarily halted, the houselights came up and the paramedics were in like Flynn (another obsolete reference, I know) administering mouth to mouth and, hey, back on with the show; our cue to leave.

A good night was had by all. I remember a lot of red lights and not much else. We emerged from our digs late the following morning for a classy breakfast in a classy joint (in a classy joint) followed by more Dutch beer, before saying goodbye to the city and a promise that we'd be back real soon.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Smooth

Depending on your musical persuasion this little bit of tomfoolery will either leave you with a big smile on your face, or you'll be writing a stiffly worded letter to the CEO of Youtube complaining most bitterly that YouTube wasn't made for this sort of thing - "Stick to skateboarding cats and montages of Donald Trump offending all and sundry."
Personally, I adore it. Although I don't have a Metallic bone in my body, the very idea that someone (Andy Rehfeldt) could see beyond Enter Sandman and turn it into a smooth jazz classic is genius. Pure genius. Let's clap it in.

Metallica - Enter Sandman (Smooth Jazz version)

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Beautiful Stranger

Pete Paphides - yes, he wears cardigans
I listen to Pete Paphides' Soho Radio show on Tuesdays. This week he laid down on the studio couch and bared his soul: "Black Coffee in Bed isn't really a Squeeze song", he said.  "It just fell into the wrong hands. Everyone knows it's a Smokey Robinson song. Don't they?"

And so the floodgates opened: Somebody to Love was seemingly snatched from the Proclaimers at birth, and palmed out to Queen. Donald Fagen was just in the right place at the right time when Madness foisted Walk Between the Raindrops on him.

It's that kind of programme. I heartily recommend it.

I'll leave you with this:

In 1999, after posting flyers on telegraph poles that read "LOST SONG. GOES BY THE NAME OF BEAUTIFUL STRANGER", the Charlatans heard this coming out of their radio:

Damn you Madonna



Monday, 7 May 2018

Alan Hudson

Huddy gets down on one knee
Alan Hudson was one of the most gifted footballers of his generation. He found fame at Chelsea (1969-1974), infamy with England and later played with Stoke City and Arsenal before decamping for a while to America. In 1997, he cheated death (just, and I mean just) when he was involved in an horrific hit and run accident: an accident that kept him in a coma for two months - the priest actually gave him the last rites.

Now an acclaimed writer and broadcaster, Hudson's autobiography 'The Working Man's Ballet' set the benchmark for all sports bios that followed. These days he lives a modest life in south west London, not a million miles from where it all began in the late sixties.

Being a west London boy signing for Chelsea must have been like a dream come true?

I was brought up in a backstreet prefab just off the King's Road. Strange thing I was the only Fulham supporter in my neighbourhood, along with Bill Boyce, my best friend from Jamaica. I was the best footballer/long distance runner and Bill the best cricketer/sprinter, we won everything. I opened the batting with him but he was incredible and would have made it if not for racial discrimination in those days. Something we experienced together.

My father was Fulham born, Walham Green in fact, therefore it was Craven Cottage for me and I loved it. It was the first stadium I played in winning the London Federation of Boys Club Cup and handed the trophy by Johnny Haynes a great Number 10 and a man who was becoming a good friend before his fatal car accident. There is a picture of this in the original Working Man's Ballet.

The Chelsea dream did not emerge until 1969/70. I was playing for Chelsea Youth team on Saturday morning and going straight to the Cottage afterwards. Chelsea never discovered me, my father, after me being turned away by Fulham for being 'too small', walked me through those big gates at Stamford Bridge and that was where it all started under Tommy Docherty on a Tuesday and Thursday night. Tommy loved me as a player and I became very close to his son Michael, but unfortunately he moved on to Burnley when we were striking up a midfield understanding.

Anyhow, when it took off in late '69 (love that song 'Summer of') manager Dave Sexton moved in and I was out injured with Schlatters disease of the knee - and Dave had never seen me play. He gave me a run out at QPR in Mike Keen's Testimonial and signed me on the spot, and the following week I was in Mozambique with the first team. It was the dream start. It all began in Mozambique. I wanted to play and travel the world with my new friends not knowing we were going to conquer Europe together. Because of me being dressing room bound through my injury I knew the first team lads, but they did not see me as an up and coming player, more of a glorified boot boy. I loved Oz (Osgood), Eddie McCreadie, Marvin Hinton, and John Dempsey who made his debut with me in that disastrous 5-0 whipping at Southampton - not knowing we'd go on to win Chelsea's first ever FA Cup together.

Then my father found Ian Hutchinson playing for Burton against my brother (Guildford) in the Southern League. I was on the Underground coming back from Highbury when my dad told Bobby Robson (then Fulham manager) to 'take a look at this boy, he can do anything' but it fell on deaf ears.
So Chelsea signed him after scouting him at Cambridge. Hutch then was my new mate. You must remember we only had small squads then of 14/15 players. I loved the unsung heroes like John Boyle and Tommy Baldwin who I was with yesterday at Ray Wilkins' Memorial. After that I loved the newcomers Chris Garland and Bill Garner and Peter Houseman  - he he was a lovely man, I loved Nobby Houseman.

Were you in awe of of Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke et al?

I wasn't in awe of anyone, I played against Charlie George when I was thirteen West London v Islington at Highbury and thought he was the benchmark, he was something else as a kid.

What was it like being a Chelsea idol?

I never once thought of myself as an idol and always had my feet on the floor because my father, although not strict, guided me carefully and told me if I was going off the rails. I'm not into being idolised even today, I'm simply proud of my career and certain performances - in particular ones I know others cannot reach, apart from say Alan Ball.

Do you remember your first interview you did with Brian Moore on the Big Match in 1970? (I saw it on Youtube recently); despite your youth it didn't seem to phase you.

I briefly remember that and thought I was a little under the weather through a very heavy night of celebration. Interviews never bothered me, in fact, I love getting my views across, especially if they upset someone.

What did Chelsea teach you that you took with you to Stoke and Arsenal?

When I hear 'this player was developed at Chelsea or Arsenal it's 'bull': young players like Charlie, Tony Currie, Stan Bowles, Osgood, Worthington around that time will always be players given the opportunity, I'm not a great lover in coaching, in fact, it destroys more youngsters than improves them. I went to Stoke in the worst form of my life and Tony Waddington took the biggest gamble of his life. But he was a magician, not a coach, a man manager who treats men like men and loves a player and we cracked it from day one, that was Dave Sexton's problem, communication, he should have stuck to the training pitch.

In an England shirt - a rare photograph
Only two caps for England. Their loss, right? 

People don't believe me when I say I should have retired  straight affter my first match against Germany, to show Revie and England management I did not need them. I also knew Revie wanted me out. So, had I thought of it in the dressing room afterwards I would have told Revie where to stick his England team. Had my father had walked in and suggested doing such a thing I would not have thought twice because I had proved my point that I could do it against the likes of Beckenbauer. I should have walked away and the Fleet Street gang would have had an enquiry, and my answer is the England set-up is not only bent but racial: Revie hated us Londoners. As for making Gerry Francis captain I believe he used that as a smokescreen! 

Best goal? Best game?

My best goal came at Coventry when I ran the entire field and slid it past Bill Glazier. Although I didn't score many, those I did were precious. My goal against Spurs for Stoke to give them their first win at The Lane in 100 years was special. And the performance as well. After that match Tony Waddington said "Alan Hudson will play for the World XI before he does England" and someone sat up.
My best performance was when Tony flooded the Victoria Ground pitch because my ankle would not take a third match in four days (Easter Monday 1975) on hard pitches. But the Stoke Fire Brigade came to my aid and I ran Liverpool ragged - that's when Bill Shankly came in and shook my hand saying "Young man, I thought I'd seen the greatest performance of my life by Peter Doherty (Man. City & Northern Ireland) but today you surpassed it, you were magnificent, well done" and he was not one for going into the opposition dressing room after defeat!

Best manager you played under?

Need you ask? Waddington was my manager, my mentor and my best friend at Stoke City; he wanted to be a player like me and saw a lot of himself in me. He loved everything I loved, the good life, best food, best wine, best music, and of course beautiful women - I adored him as a man and as a manager he was the wisest I ever met, a lovely man who loved his football and once told me "You're doing all the right things but in the wrong order."
And I only ever heard him swear once: when staying in my home in London after we went to Epsom races and my house was being decorated and he said to me, "Who's decorating this place?" to which I replied "My dad" he then said "Do you know that they say about decorating?" and I said I didn't. He said, "They say whoever invented decorating needs fucking and whoever invented fucking needs decorating", I was gobsmacked and we went straight down my local pub screaming.       

Your best George Best story? 
  
Nobby Stiles wishing his hair would blow in the wind
George was special to me in many ways and the stories I heard I took with a pinch of salt like the one with the hotel porter about "Where did it all go wrong, George?" The loveliest thing though was sending me a personal handwritten letter when I got my three year ban from England around the time he walked out on Manchester Utd; he never wrote to anybody. But one funny story was when drinking with Phil Hughes, his agent, after George had promised writing a foreword for an upcoming book. I said to Phil one day 'I'm waiting for George to get back to me' and he said, "George said, you go ahead and write it because he trusts you" so I wrote the most wonderful foreword bigging myself up, and at a book signing a people kept coming up to me saying "I did'nt know how much George loved you as a man and a player" - and I was screaming inside! 

What was it like living and playing in America in the late 70s/early 80s?

Leaving Arsenal was a bitter pill to swallow because I was injured throughout my stay there - which was the reason for my falling out with the manager. If there's one thing I don't do it's cheat or fake an injury. I played over 80 consecutive matches for Waddington with a chronic ankle injury until breaking my leg at Derby. But Seattle and the whole of the American scene was where Alan Hudson belonged: playing at New York Giants' stadium, and partying in piano bars until 7 a.m., thinking 'This is where Billy Joel sang to Christine Brinkley' ...and all that jazz. 
And going away on a 10 day road trip to play in New York, Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale and Chicago and getting paid for it was truly HEAVEN. I loved every single second of my life in the USA, even though it cost me my marriage. I love flying and to fly to such places as captain of Seattle Sounders was as close to my heart as my heart itself. I was devastated when the new owners unfairly fired me.
Plus, I got to play against Franz Beckenbauer, Cruyff, George Best, Giorgio Chinaglia (the Mafia boss), Bogicevic, Neeskens, Muller and Cubillas. It was incredible and the unknown and untapped talent was extraordinary, there were some fantastic players from all over the world. 

Your well documented accident was a game changer. Michael Parkinson aid about the Working Man's Ballet: "Apart from being abducted by aliens, just about everything that could happen to Alan Hudson, has" What have been the truly memorable bits?

My most memorable moments were putting in special performances like against Liverpool (twice) European Champions, Leeds on several occasions, especially when 2-0 down and winning 3-2 at Stoke to stop them breaking the record. The West Germany match simply and purely because Revie selected me to 'fail' and that is for certain as he could have chosen me in any other match before that one but he thought 'I'll save him for the World Champions.' Unlucky Don, and he never looked at me after, no 'well done' or handshake, nothing. That gave me great satisfaction. I cannot tell you the elation of seeing his long face afterwards.

And my greatest experience was coming through my coma and my years in hospital which was something else. I loved every day, it was like playing Leeds every day, a fight after fight after fight, operating theatres were my best friend, I loved them and my family couldn't understand it. One day my water tasted like the finest wine, which I told me uncle George and I went upstairs to see my father and best friend, the experience that has got me through this last twenty years, and people ask me why are you always happy and I say "because I believe in being positive."

What happened to me in 1997 could have happened after my first season in 1971, then I would have been suicidal. 

When did you twig that you could write?
Player turned author

I have always loved writing but in my first season after becoming runner-up to Billy Bremner in the Football Writers Footballer of the Year I spent many an hour in the pubs and clubs in Fleet Street with the likes of Jeff Powell. Nigel Clarke, Bob Driscoll, Ian Gibb, Brian Madley and Ken Montgomery. And had I not been a player,  I would have wanted their life - writing and flying around the world and having one big party.
I find writing the nearest thing to playing, to be able to put your thoughts down on paper and getting things off your chest. And I love writing about great people like Tony Waddington, Bobby Moore, Jock Stein (who I met and loved), Bill Shankly, Cruyff etc, and then there's the other side of that coin Don Revie and Alf Ramsey! 

Music. Big part of your life? First record you bought?

I recall my mother walking me down to the local record shop every time a new Beatles album come out and there were queues of people but I must have it that day, they were my early inspiration, and although I liked Paul at that time, Lennon became my hero.     

Your Saturday night record? 
                                                                                  

Saturday nights out was in the Lord Palmerston listening to great pub singers like Ray Morgan 'The Long and Winding Road' who I was going to introduce on TV in that show they had on in those days.


And Sunday morning?



Was always Sinatra in our prefab, or Streisand, although my dad would say "Al Jolson never needed a microphone". But our prefab, even at parties was centred around football with dad holding court in our tiny kitchen and music playing in the living room - it was the perfect upbringing, those days I thought would never end x

Is getting paid for talking about football any sort of consolation for not playing anymore?



I would talk about football and music for nothing as we do every Sunday in my local, I love doing Stand Up Talk Shows - if only I could get more work. I simply love mixing seriousness with funny stories, only real ones, unlike others.
There will never be a replacement for getting up each and every morning and going in to keep fit, have a laugh with the chaps and then Saturday do battle with Leeds. You had to live it to believe the absolute delight of such a life, and yeah, if only we were paid the money today's lesser generation get. 

Is the modern game any good Surely it's not a patch on the 70s when you and Bestie, Stan Bowles, Tony Currie and Frank Worthington were walking tall - on and off the pitch?


Todays game is false in many ways. We were brought up to avoid tackles from Tommy Smith, Norman Hunter, Ron Harris, Giles and Bremner but today they pull shirts because they cannot defend properly. It was a 'Mans Game' a 'Contact Sport' whereas today's game is all about handbags and holding your face when you've had your toe trodden on.


Have you made your peace with Chelsea? 


Chelsea betrayed me. I cost them nothing. My father taught me the game and gave me to Chelsea on a plate. They sold me for £240,000 and me and my family never got not a penny - yet they slag me off. It was not my fault they sold me and Peter Osgood to pay for the new East Stand.


I was there yesterday out of respect for Ray Wilkins but had no contact with anyone but Tommy Baldwin and my old mate Tony Woodcock in the Sydney Arms. Plus, when I was in hospital for that year and after that 59 day coma when my mother and family were in bits with worry, Chelsea could not even be bothered to send her any flowers or make a phone call. I played 145 matches in a blue shirt and yet they snub me!


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Soho

I'm not at liberty to divulge where I took this photograph*
With recent talks regarding a possible Anglo-Scottish Blogger Summit currently residing in the long grass, it was good to get together with the original Blogfather for a few scoops.

Picking up where we left off last October, Mondo and I decided that Soho would be the next leg on our A-Z tour of the capital. And so it was that we began our jaunt around the West End in The Ship on Wardour Street. The Ship was always the meeting point, many moons ago, before the hop, skip and a jump to the Marquee Club two doors down. The only physical surviving memory of London's finest rock venue these days being a ridiculously high blue plaque on the side of No. 90.

The White Album was recorded here
Still open nightly
After blowing the froth off a couple, we then embarked upon the well trodden path around Dean Street, Greek Street, Berwick Street, Soho Square &  the myriad of side streets that link them up (rabbit holes all). The area bordering W1 & WC2 is of course still mesmeric and manages to retain a charm that won't go away, despite creeping gentrification and sanitisation -  the Italian coffee shops and clip joints may well have faded  away but I can report the traditional London boozer is still thriving!

Marquee RIP
Highlights included meeting  Suggs in the French House and a cracking late afternoon drink in Trisha's, a modern day Winchester Club tucked away where only those in the know can find it. A spot of banter with Tom Parker Bowles ("Oi! Parker Bowles! No!") in the Groucho Club* while we were still kinda sober, before bookending the day back at The Ship; anchored, you could say.

I set the coordinates for home via the new all singing, all dancing Tottenham Court Road Hub and despite falling asleep on the tube, the train and in the taxi, still made it back unscathed. All in a day's work.

Thanks for another great day Mondo. Where are we going next?


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Shadow Dancing

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

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

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



The Chantays - Pipeline


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