Monday, 18 March 2019

Sunday Girl


Beggars of Life, the 1928 silent classic starring the absolutely gorgeous Louise Brooks, was showing yesterday afternoon in town. I say silent; the Dodge Brothers, Mark Kermode's pick-up band, provided the soundtrack. Live!

And with the brilliant Neil Brand tinkling the ivories. I know - the perfect way to idle away a couple of hours on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon.

In case you're wondering what it sounded like, here's a taster:


Louise Brooks (1906-1985)

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Part Time Millionaire

Driving Aquaplaning back from Manchester this evening, the rain was coming down sideways - as it had  been since about 9 o'clock this morning. It truly was like the End of Days.

Craig Charles agreed to ride shotgun. He's the perfect passenger - playing as he did some spectacularly good choons. Like this:



Flevans  - Invisisble (feat. Laura Vane) - 2019


It's from his new album Part Time Millionaire. I think it comes out next week. I want a copy. Now. It will be my Album of 2019; you just see if it isn't.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Life after After Life


The television set that nestles in the corner of my living room - all 32''/34"/36" of it (a bit like my waist, I have no idea of its actual size) - is really nothing more than a glorified monitor (do we still call screens monitors, even?). All I know is that it's not hooked up to an aerial or dish or indeed any other other bit of sundry metalwork fixed to the side of the house.

In that respect it's been a long time since Reginald Bosanquet and News at Ten has been seen on my telly. These days I get my news feed on Twitter and, maybe, 20 minutes of Radio 4's Today programme in the morning. Evening wise I've had to knock PM on the head: Eddie Mair left behind a perfectly reliable news vehicle (one mostly careful owner) before giving the keys to Evan Davis. And already he's wrapped it round more lamp posts and driven into more walls than can be possibly good for listening figures.

But back to the box. So we've established I don't do normal telly. But I do do Netflix. I know, who doesn't? This blog is full of nods and winks to dozens and dozens of binge watch classics.

And here's another one. After Life written by and starring Ricky Gervias. If you've not seen it, here's the trailer:


I absolutely loved it. On more than one occasion I found I had something in my eye. Gervais has, it seems, come of age. It had me enthralled from start to finish. The writing, the cast, the jokes (yes, despite its dark leanings it's got some great gags), the soundtrack and a proliferation of the word cunt. It's got everything. Including a stellar performance from Penelope Wilton, despite her never moving from a graveside bench throughout - less being definitely more.

Of course I won't give anything away here, only that you'll find Cat Stevens in there. Perfect. Please tell me you'll watch it.

Cat Stevens - Lilywhite (1970)



Monday, 11 March 2019

How Many?

It's a Japanese import, don't you know
One Sunday afternoon a few years ago while I was living far, far away, the next door neighbours came round for a drink. Their little girl, Autumn, who was probably seven or eight at the time, loved music. And maths. Counting was her thing. She asked me how many CDs I'd got. 'I don't know,' I replied. 'Shall we find out?'

With mum and dad's consent I set her to work straight away. Holed up in my music room with just a glass of juice and a pen and paper she set about the task in hand.

Two hours later she emerged. I still have her scribbled notes and workings out somewhere. She'd played a blinder. She also couldn't believe how many CDs could be kept in one room*. I could. It's probably why I'll never be a rich man.

Buying albums like this didn't help. I only wanted the single, but couldn't find it anywhere. So I ended up buying the album: the Japanese import. I don't think I ate that week.

Sniff 'n' the Tears - Driver's Seat (1978)


* c.3,500

Saturday, 9 March 2019

I Look From the Wings at the Play You are Staging


In 1968 when Walter Matthau paired up with Jack Lemmon in the film adaptation of Neil Simon's stage play The Odd Couple, he was reprising the role he'd played on Broadway in 1965. Matthau was Oscar Madison the upbeat but slovenly sports writer - sharing his apartment with Felix Unger, fellow divorcee, poker school friend, hygiene obsessive and, in today's speak, something of a snowflake. (In the play Felix was originally played by Art Carney.)

Matthau would later relinquish his role, giving way to Jack Klugman (later to star in Quincy), extending the play's run for another year. When the film of the play then transferred to television in 1970 Klugman kept the role of Oscar, with his comedy foil being played by Tony Randall. The show  was syndicated coast to coast and pulled in huge viewing figures. It was four times Emmy nominated, ran until 1975 spanning five seasons and 114 episodes.

Here's the opening credits with the perfectly pitched theme (it worked beautifully in the film, so why change it) by Neal Hefti - jazz heavyweight and composer extraordinaire.


It's not generally known, but a vocal version was also recorded at the time of the TV show. The lyrics - by Hefti - are a little on the lame side; which is probably why it doesn't come out to play very often.


Over the years the play has seen a number of revivals both here and in America, not least an all women cast; again, written by Neil Simon. Other productions include a West End run where Victor Spinetti played opposite Klugman, and in 2005 Bill Bailey & Alan Davies played it to packed houses at the Edinburgh Festival. Tantalisingly, in 1997, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal talked about taking a production on the road, but, it never saw the light of day.


A revival that really did happen though was the one that came to London's Haymarket Theatre in 1996. A three month limited run saw Klugman and Randall return to their TV roles one last time, with a support cast that included a veritable Who's Who of British TV: Henry McGee (Benny Hill Show), Rodney Bewes (Likely Lads) and Trevor Bannister (Are You Being Served?) were all household names at the time. I also seem to recall Eric Sykes treading the boards for this one but he's not in the programme - maybe he stepped into an earlier production.


Before the cast take their final curtain call, I'd like to come back to the theme music. Martin Taylor is without doubt the world's greatest living jazz guitarist. What he can't do with six strings and a plank of wood isn't worth knowing. Back in 2000 Taylor included a rather chilled version of the theme on his Kiss and Tell album. I absolutely love it. See what you think...


Those who have served:

Walter Matthau (1920-2000)
Jack Lemmon (1925-2001)
Jack Klugman (1922-2012)
Tony Randall (1920-2004)
Neil Simon (1927-2018)
Neal Hefti (1922-2008)

And not forgetting Rodney Bewes(1937-2017): one of the most underrated actors this country has ever produced.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Lowe

Despite Arthur Lowe's exhaustive theatrical, film and TV career spanning five decades, it's rather inevitable that, in the final reckoning, he's probably remembered by many for one role and one role only.
Lowe's alter ego, the pompous* Captain Mainwaring - a role he played for almost 10 years - must ultimately have weighed him down. 
He will have had as many, if not more, Dad's Army fans come up to him in the street and shout 'Stupid Boy' than Alan Partridge acolytes have yelled 'AHA!' at Steve Coogan whenever he's nipped out for a pint of milk.

*Who remembers him voicing over the Mr. Men animated series back in the late seventies? Towards the end of Lowe's career he was a functioning alcoholic and could, allegedly, be every bit as pompous as Mainwaring himself. I'm not sure if Roger Hargreaves ever wrote a Mr. Pompous book, but here's Mainwaring Lowe reading Mr. Uppity. Fall in at the back.



Monday, 4 March 2019

Teal?

Was there a Yellow Album?

Weezer. Weezer by name, Weezer by album title. Between 1994 and 2019 the Los Angeles band have, thus far, released thirteen studio albums - six of which are, quite simply, called Weezer.

That's right, half a dozen albums all with the same title. Their record company must love them.

But wait, help is at hand; providing you're not colour blind, that is. Their first, third, sixth, tenth, twelfth and thirteenth releases are colour coded. Here's a sample:

Weezer (1994) Blue Album


Weezer (2001) Green Album


Weezer (2008) Red Album


Weezer (2019) Teal Album


Not pictured are their Black and White albums, but I'm sure you get the picture. I latched onto the band quite late and remember buying the Red Album when it came out. Phill Jupitus and, I think, Tom Robinson were playing the hell out of them on 6 Music. I became very attached to Heart Songs. It's a song about, er, songs: songs and artists that influenced the band. What's not to like? I'm particularly fond of it, not least as it name-checks Grover Washington. Nice.

Weezer - Heart Songs (1996)


And so to Teal. Teal? That's turquoise to you and me. In 2018 the band recorded a cover version of Rosanna by Toto. Why? I'll tell you why. Some internet trend picked up by Twitter users and fans of Weezer (one in particular - see the story here) was pushing for them to cover Africa -Toto's monster hit and now a global/viral behemoth generating memes and everything. But the band resisted; instead covering Toto's least popular hit. As you do.

However, it did lead to them doing an album of covers. And, what do you think is on there? That's right - a joint venture with someone I'm sure a few of you out there will remember. Weird.

Weezer - Africa (2018)


As a footnote to the story, and to prove Toto have a sense of humour too, when Weezer took Africa to #1 in the US Billboard Alternative Singles Chart, a couple of days later Toto released their version of Hash Pipe - a song Weezer released in 2001 from their Weezer album. Which, if you've been keeping up, is their Green Album. Till next time...

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Dirty John

What's wrong with this picture? Well, quite a lot actually
I've just finished the last Dirty John on Netflix. Bloody hell. It hasn't been an easy watch - not by a long chalk. Harrowing doesn't come close; and knowing it's based on a true story only ramped up the tension (and my blood pressure) to dangerous levels.

For those who haven't seen it I won't give too much away here, just to say that when successful businesswoman Deborah Newell meets John Meehan - a sociopath masquerading as a doctor - through an internet dating site, it's only a matter of time till things go wrong. Very, very wrong. It makes for uncomfortable viewing at times. That's all I'll say.

The story was first aired as a true crime podcast in 2017 where the listening figures apparently went through the roof - anyone who heard Serial will know the format. I've just downloaded the podcast (to fill in the gaps), having watched the TV series first. And for those of you who still crave more, Netflix have just completed a documentary about the whole sad story. Buckle up.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Tork Talk

I was deeply saddened when I heard about the recent passing of Peter Tork. Not since the news of Strummer, and Bowie I guess, has the death of a rocker affected me in quite the way this Monkee's demise has.

It was while I was replying to another blogger about this I said that the iconic Monkees logo is a bit like a security blanket; wrap yourself in it and only good things happen. I'm hoping he's only nipped out to look for Davy Jones - maybe they'll both come back together in a little while with a crazy story, or two.

This brief Q&A comes from The Monkees 1968 Annual: I picked it up in a charity shop ages ago. So, Peter Halsten Thorkelson, in your own words...


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Ruthie Kelner

Ruthie (dad not pictured)

Ruthie - Me & My Dad  "charming"
A regular fixture in my Podcast Diary is the charming Ruthie - Me & My Dad. I'm absolutely bowled over by its relaxed sensibility; that and its Route One approach at getting to the nub of all 21st. Century tribulations; be it anti-Semitism or the Kardashians, Ruth and her dad (Martin) nail it.

Back in 2014 Martin very kindly agreed to do a quickfire Q&A this blog and I thought it would be great if Ruth would like to follow her dad's footsteps and answer a few questions (nothing too taxing) of her own. She did. And for that I really can't thank her enough.


As Ruth is about to sack it off to Uni and has got some important exams coming up, instead of writing down her answers, she fired them back at me during the latest podcast episode - Eternal Sunshine. Tune in from 02:30. Thank you again Ruth. And Martin.

And while I'm in thanking mode, I'd also like to thank the pair of them for putting me onto Schtum - Jem Lester's account of his profoundly autistic 11 year old son. It's now on on my ever expanding to-read list.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

This is Ours


I'm still coming down from Dodgy's gig at Rock City last Saturday. There's more than a strong possibility I'll be seeing them a little later in the tour; if only to hear them do their a capella version of Find the Cost of Freedom. For years now they've been dropping it into their set as part of This is Ours. I could listen to them harmonising all night. Here it is/they are from the Astoria in London doing just that.

Dodgy - This is Ours/Find the Cost of Freedom (1995)


And here's the original. Absolutely no introduction necessary.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Find the Cost of Freedom (1970)

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Albert


This week has seen a new arrival at Medd Towers. He's been dropping by, unannounced, for a couple of weeks now. At first it was nighttime sorties only - waiting till after lights out, entering by stealth thru the cat-flap, then making his way to the kitchen and helping himself to Doris' supper.
But now in true Six Dinner Sid style, he's casually breezing in for a spot of breakfast, a bit of a play, whereupon he'll jump up on the window cill and watch the world go by, before exiting stage left. And come nightfall he's back again. I call him Albert; he looks like an Albert. I think he likes it here.

Whilst on the subject of Albert, I can't not mention the recent passing of Albert Finney. Finney was a great character actor. His portrayal of Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night Sunday Morning was superb. I saw it recently on the big screen for the first time earlier this year and he and Nottingham never looked better.

I also name-checked him in the early days of this blog - in Gumshoe, Finney played dreamer Eddie Ginley - a smalltime bingo caller/private eye who gets caught way out of his depth in a very murky early seventies Liverpool. Such was his performance alongside Billie Whitelaw and Frank Finlay, this classic film noir will always feature in My Top Ten Movies.


And then today I found this in my office. A theatre programme from 1960. When Albert Finney took on the role of Billy Fisher (another dreamer), he brought Keith Waterhouse's novel Billy Liar to life. Interestingly, when it had the movie makeover a couple of years later it would be Finney's mate Tom Courtenay who was cast as our anti-hero.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

What Have I Done Wrong?


I've lost count of the number of times I've seen Dodgy live. More than 20? Definitely. More than 50? Probably; and when I said here they'd be going round the country to mark the 25th anniversary of Homegrown (their second long player), I knew that I would drop all plans and get myself down the front.

It's hard to comprehend where the last quarter of a century has gone. 1994 seems like another world. Though I'm glad to report that even though a few brain cells have been lost along the way, I still have my original copy of the album. As well as my own teeth. And hair.

Of course Homegrown* had Staying Out For The Summer on there, and Melodies Haunt You, even So Let Me Go Far. But this was the standout song for me last night. Still relevant too, as Nigel Clark pointed out - social media has got a lot to answer for. It really has.


Dodgy - What Have I Done Wrong? (1994)


They were even selling programmes last night. How refreshing, how Dodgy. Five English pounds** secured a permanent reminder of a brilliant album and a brilliant night. And I still haven't ruled out Brighton and/or London yet...


* The song Homegrown, perversely, is not on Homegrown. It can be found on Free Peace Sweet.
** 10% of all profit made from the programme goes to Musicians Against Homelessness. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Delicate Wallflowers

You've gotta laugh. Even on Twitter

This week I have been mostly upsetting Specials fans on Twtter. Nobody told me what delicate wallflowers they all are. Ah well, at least Horace Panter saw the funny side. In the end.

That being the case, it's probably best I say only good things about Terry Hall; shouldn't be hard, I actually like the fella. Really, I do. He's a fine songwriter, no question about it. In fact, if you asked me today to list my Top 50 albums there's a very good chance Laugh from 1997 would be in there. I can't say fairer than that, now can I?

Terry Hall - Summer Follows Spring (1997)


Terry Hall - Love to See You (1997)



Postscript 16.2.19

On the advice of Mark (see his comment below), I sat down for an hour with a cup of tea and watched Richard Herring's podcast with Terry. And, can I just say, what a revelation it was. Quite literally. I can't recommend it highly enough. If you're at a loose end this weekend (and even if you're not) please give it a coat of looking at. You'll be glad you did, I promise you.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk

Unaccompanied, as they are
Pubs. And music. Surely two of the most pivotal things in life; in mine anyway, don't know about yours.
Before they became the Unthanks*, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset could walk into pubs in Sydney**, casually stand at the bar, and belt out folk standards like this. Don't you just wish the Hero of Waterloo was your local?

Rachel Unthank & the Winterset - Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk


* A bluffers guide to the Unthanks. And last seen at Medd Towers here.

** A helluva way from Northumberland. Some people don't mind travelling that little bit further to get a decent pint.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Johnny Reggae

Johnny Clarke
In 1977, being something of a part time punk, I had absolutely no idea that Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman was a cover. Yes, it sounded catchy, familiar even. But despite that whole Punk/Reggae collision thing going on in the late seventies, if you'd told me it was Richman's take on a Jamaican rub-a dub 45 from only three years earlier I'd have been none the wiser. John Peel would probably have known, bless him, but I don't remember him ever telling me.

Johnny Clarke - None Shall Escape Judgement (1974)



Jonathan Richman - Egyptian Reggae (1977)

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Almost Hear You Sigh

Signature Sound

When you listen to Keith Richards' 1988 demo of Almost Hear You Sigh, you can see why he was holding back from putting it on his solo album, Talk is Cheap. It was good, but it wasn't great. It had a groove, but it wasn't groovin'.

It needed Mick, for sure: Jagger would add his vocals and blag a co-write. But, more importantly, it needed Charlie's drums; Mick and Keith don't make the Stones. Mick + Keith + Charlie = the Stones. Elementary.

Sans Charlie (1988)


Avec Charlie* (1990)



Live (1990)

Criminally, they only ever played it live a handful of times (on the Steel Wheels tour in 1990). It was then put away in a bottom drawer where it resides to this day.


* Also contains a most exquisite Spanish acoustic guitar solo from Keith.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Deeper Than You Think


One of my favourite showbiz anecdotes concerns David Niven - actor, gentleman. And more than a little flawed*.

In the late 1960s before leaving his home in the south of France to go on a film shoot, Niven gave specific instructions to his builder for the dimensions of his new swimming pool. Thirty by twenty by eight.
When Niven came back the pool had been built to his exact requirements. Sort of.

Ever the Brit, Niven had been talking in feet. His French builder, however, had been listening in metres.

Niven would often boast that he owned the deepest swimming pool in Europe, if not the world.


George Benson (featuring Joe Sample) - Deeper Than You Think



* It was said of Niven that he had charm. But not to spare.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Rock and Roll

Nat - 'Wing Back'
Back in December I said that I'd started playing a stripped down version of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll.

And in the October I speculated about my next batch of recordings - in particular my desire to bag the services of Nathaniel Mason, the finest banjo player this side of the Trent.

So, on Thursday just gone, Nat came over for a spot of supper and a bit of a play. We ran through a few songs together, one of them being the aforementioned Rock and Roll. After playing it once thru we had a feel for which way it was going. On the second time, it sounded a bit like this:

The next time we play it will be in a couple of weeks at the Running Horse in Nottingham. Led Zeppelin fans may well be washing their hair that night.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Sheeps

Sheeps
Anyone who knows me will tell you that, more often than not, I've always got a camera about my person. But it's inconspicuous1 and can sit quite snugly in my inside pocket. Be it a 35mm SLR or a simple point and shooter, it's always on hand. I always say that were it not for me the Medd family photograph album would be nothing more than a couple of faded snaps sitting in the bottom of a kitchen drawer full of rubbish. 

In my head I'm always framing a potential photo opportunity. People. Places. Things. Anything really. Even sheep. However, when I saw this flock the other day I'd only got my phone with me; so that had to do. It was late afternoon as I approached my woolly friends, and the light was fading. As soon as they spotted me they all stood stock still and wouldn't take their eyes off me; quite unnerving.

It's at this point I feel I should give you my Top 10 Sheep Songs. But I leave that sort of thing to the mighty Rol. What he hasn't turned into a Top 10 you could fit on the back of a postage stamp2. That said I will leave you with two sheeps, not least because they make me laugh; for different reasons.

Robert Wyatt always makes me laugh. His music is invariably uplifting and joyous. And mischievous. Everything he does will put a smile on my face. Somebody once said about him: "It can be a bit like finding Tommy Trinder popping up in the middle of Yessongs or Del Boy guesting with the Mahavishnu Orchestra." Yeah, I'll go with that.

Robert Wyatt - Heaps of Sheeps (1997)


Second sheep - Sheep May Safely Graze (surely in J S Bach's Top 10?). Whilst, obviously, not a laugh out loud piece of music by any means, please take a few minutes to watch this most pretentious and preposterous bit of footage of Khatia Buniatshvili playing a Steinway grand piano in the middle of a forest(!). And all the while tossing her Harmony hair-sprayed mane and giving it serious 'bedroom eyes'. A fine tune indeed. But hysterical nonetheless3.


1 Nobody wants to look like a tourist; or even worse. that guy
2 I'm sure Rol has even given us his Top Ten postage stamps(?)
3 Funnier than the Housemartins and Pink Floyd, that's for sure


Monday, 28 January 2019

January. Sick and Tired, You've Been Hanging on Me

Pilate
The January Man, if we're to believe the song, 'walks abroad in woolen coat and boots of leather'. I'm not sure about that; but what has been a horrible month (God, I hate January) is, thankfully, nearly at an end.

I can almost see the distant uplands of spring - if not around the next corner, then maybe the one after that. I live in hope, as Barrington Womble once said.

And what better Long Song for the last Monday of this unfeasibly long month. Well, the clue is in today's title. That's right, Pilot.

Grandaddy - He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot (2000)

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Bottom

As band logos go, the Average White Band's is, shall we say, not very subtle. The line drawing*of a naked woman's bottom forming the 'W' is very route one. A single entendre. But what else were a bunch of horn players from north of the border going to come up with in the early 1970s? At a time when the very sound they were trying to emulate was essentially James Brown, or to be more precise his backing band - the JBs. Blaxploitation? Not really, more Jocksploitation.

When thy wrote Pick Up the Pieces in 1974 they used the JBs Hot Pants Road as their template. And why not, it had pedigree: the JBs had scored with variations on that groove - Pass the Peas, for instance, had given them a sizeable hit earlier in '72.


The JBs - Hot Pants Road (1972)


Average White Band - Pick Up the Pieces (1974)



And by way of thanking the Scottish sextet, the JBs under the moniker AABB (Above Average Black Band), repaid the compliment and came back at them with this. Touché.

AABB - Pick Up the Pieces One by One (1975)


* However, she did come to life briefly:

Saturday, 26 January 2019

You'll Hear Better Songs Than This

Eleanor McEvoy was on the radio a couple of nights ago while I was in the bath. I had to stop playing with my rubber duck, such was the beauty of her songs. She was chatting away and playing in front of a live audience in Dublin - I was hooked. Ducks and hooks in the same paragraph, blimey. She's on tour in the UK in April. I really hope you can get along. I know I'll be at one of her gigs, for sure.

Here's one of Eleanor's beguiling songs that says in three minutes what most of us (songwriters and non-songwriters alike) struggle to say in a lifetime.


Eleanor McEvoy - You'll Hear Better Songs Than This

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Arrr!

George with Billy Idol's brother
Let there be no doubt: George Harrison was the funniest Beatle. The youngest Beatle. The Darkest Horse. And the Wilbury most travelled.

George was, as I said in my Neil Innes piece, a fervent supporter of, and friend to, the Rutles.

He was also, as this piece of film from 1975 quite clarly shows, the most self deprecating ex-Beatle of them all. Watch the young lad from Wavertree in this archive footage from Rutland Weekend Television as he lampoons not only himself, but his former global Number One single He's So My Lord.  

George Harrison - The Pirate Song (1975)

Monday, 21 January 2019

Lundi Chanson Longue


Regardez vous les bloggers sur la right hand side de this page, beaucoup writer compagnons are using Lundi to jouer longue chansons - sometimes lasting neuf, even dix minutes. Zut alors! Some are bien, some are not so bien. I had a go last Novembre. Voici mon latest attempt.

Sash! - Encore Une Fois (1997)

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Rutling

Bewigged

In 1996 Blair’s Britain couldn’t get enough of Britpop. With TFI Friday regularly outgunning News at Ten's viewing figures1, saturation point had yet to be reached and so, what Oasis and Blur had unwittingly started less than two years earlier, was now operating with an open house policy to all and sundry.

But quite how a Fab Four parody troupe who hadn’t been seen since 1979 fitted into the scene was, at first, a little unclear. But fit they did, perfectly.

The Rutles were essentially a ragtag bunch of bewigged men old enough to know better. A post-fab guitar band (in the guise of Neil Innes2 – or was it the other way round?) who had openly lifted3 more Beatles riffs, harmonies and melodies than a flock of thieving Noel Gallaghers. Maybe, just (definitely) maybe, this resurgence was down to their mighty Archaeology album in which Innes lovingly tipped his John Lennon cap to the Beatles’ recently released Anthology series. Innes had mined his huge pop sensibility songbook and came up with something far and away greater than a regular tribute to Four Lads From Liverpool Who Shook the World™.

Laid out before us were 16 tunes, each of them a stand alone classic, yet when listened to back to back in, shall we say, the context of a lost Beatles album, then the ensemble piece was staggering. Staggeringly good, staggeringly incisive. Although context is usually everything, Innes proved with Archaeology it isn't always.
At the back end of last year when Neil Innes, via his Twitter feed, agreed to answer a few quick-fire Rutle related questions I jumped at the chance. I kicked off our brief 140 character limited chit-chat with:
He went on to tell me that "Questionnaire was the song that persuaded me to go ahead." And what a great song that is - dipping, as it does, in and out of Fool on the Hill, I am the Walrus and Imagine, but never giving up its own identity; unlike the first album where the line between Beatles/Rutles, real/parody was so blurred it all became one.


When I asked Neil if he could condense Archaeology into a 4 track EP4, along with Questionnaire he name-checked Major Happy, Rendezvous and Shangri-La.
Shangri-La is so clever (but not in a smart arse way) in that it turns pastiche on its head. Not long before Archaeology Noel Gallagher had ripped off Innes' How Sweet To Be An Idiot (when Oasis recorded Whatever). Innes couldn't resist dropping that motif straight in at the start. I guess all's fair in love and plagiarism.

However, unlike George (a huge supporter of all things Rutle) and, to a lesser extent, John, Paul McCartney never liked the Rutles (no shit Sherlock). He hated them. Indeed because of Macca, Innes spent many an awkward day in the High Court defending both the band and his own songwriting.
So treasure Archaeology. And treasure the Rutles. They may not troubled the charts, or indeed the tabloids, in quite the way that Damon Albarn or the Gallagher brothers did in those heady days of Britpop, but if its songs you're after (and, at the end of the day, aren't we all?), former Bonzo and Python Neil Innes is definitely worth taking a detour for.

1 I may be playing fast and loose with the ratings here.
2 Eric Idle had left the band some years earlier. He couldn't get into his stage pants anymore.
3 Interestingly Innes was accused of stealing Cheese and Onions from the Beatles (it once appeared on a 1980 Fabs bootleg - credited to John Lennon!) It was, in fact, Innes' original demo of his own song.
4 I often condense great works of art into miniature.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Get Carter


I think it’s a pretty safe bet that despite 2019 being barely two weeks old we already have a contender for tune of the year: 'Faraway Look' by Yola Carter is a song so utterly huge, so monumental, that it would take several gangs of labourers working round the clock with industrial tune moving equipment for the next eleven and a half months to dislodge it from my brain’s playlist generator.

Imagine Memphis era Dusty joining forces with, say, Glen Campbell, Scott Walker and Gene Pitney – and Phil Spector manning the controls - belting out a sixties clarion call to end all clarion calls in a ‘You’ve Lost That 24 Hours From The Son Of A Wichita Preacher Man’ kind of way. That’s how big this is.

And if you think I'm over egging this particular soulful pudding, then pull up a chair and see for yourself.



Saturday, 12 January 2019

Dying to Die

Black Mirror
When your time's up, your time's up; most of us, luckily, don't have the slightest clue when that is. But some of us, apparently, know when last orders have been called. David Bowie knew. He'd been preparing for it. Just listen to his final album - Blackstar; the album he released on his last birthday as an earthling. And, only two days later, achieving almost perfect mortality salience, he floated off in his tin can for the rest of eternity. (He didn't have Five Years left to die in.)

January is a pretty miserable month at the best of times. If it's not the teetotal puritans blockading pubs or right wing loonies telling us how great it's gonna be when Europe cut us loose, we are reminded that David Bowie left us three years ago this week. He was just 69. I'm not sure what that is in human years, but I do know he left behind more than a handful of songs that will never be forgotten. This being my personal favourite:

David Bowie - Conversation Piece (1969, released in '70)


Bowie must have liked it too; enough to put it on a B side, anyway. Conversation Piece is Bowie at his most fragile. Quite how it never made the cut for his Space Oddity long-player is beyond me. But he did rectify matters early the following century when he re-recorded it, made it sadder(?) and put it out on his Heathen album. I love them both.

David Bowie - Conversation Piece (2002)


David Bowie (b. 8 January 1947, d. 10 January 2016)

Friday, 4 January 2019

Just Remember How We Shook Shook

Bass players often get a bad rap; contrary to popular belief they can change a light bulb1. And some of them, I'm assured, even have girlfriends. I know, who'd've thought it?

I mention this because a track appeared on my annual Best Of CD from Chiggins which, even though my age begins with a 5, made me think2: 'God, I'd love to play the bass.'  The Look by Metronomy contains a bass line so haunting, so dreamy, so f**king catchy, I wanted to go down to the music shop, grab the nearest bass3 off the wall and run out with it yelling 'Pay you Tuesday.' I believe members of the Who used to do this on a regular bassis; never did them any harm.

Anyway, here's that song:

Metronomy - The Look (2011)


And here's a (bassic) guide telling you how to play it




1 It actually only takes one bass player to change a light bulb. After the guitar player has shown him how to do it.

   2 Don't get me wrong, playing bass has been on my bucket list ever since I first heard Jean Jacques Burnel playing Walk On By

  3 And by 'nearest' bass, I mean Rickenbacker 4001. obvs, as played by everyone from Marin Gordon from Sparks and Radio Stars, to Wings' Paul McCartney - and a veritable Who's Who in between.

Martin Gordon plays a Rickenbacker

This fella plays one too
All the punk bands in the 70s seemed to favour the Rickenbacker. Everyone from Eddie and the Hot Rods to the Damned (actually that was the same fella - Paul Gray) and a whole lot more besides.  And don't get me started on Lemmy...