Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Toots

Toots (1922-2016)
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans - known simply as Toots Thielemans - was a musician's musician. A consummate composer and multi-instrumentalist - guitar, harmonica, and whistling (yes, whistling) - Belgian born Thielemans came up through the ranks as a sideman to the likes of Benny Goodman and George Shering in the late '40s; he would later front combos with many A-List jazzers including Oscar Peterson, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Pat Metheny. But he was so much more than a jazz man: ever wondered who played the harp solo in Midnight Cowboy? Yep, Toots. The Sesame Street theme? Ditto. Talk about an eclectic resumé.

But today I want to play you something he wrote and recorded in 1957. It's a tune called Soul Station and is taken from his album Man Bites Harmonica. It predates English R&B by half a decade or more, but I'm guessing at least one future Rolling Stone would have been listening to this. Spot the intro.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Once Upon a Time

Starsky & Hutch - the early years
I went to the pictures on Friday. I saw Quentin Tarantino's latest, his 9th apparently, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Whilst it may not be his best offering (I know what mine is, what's yours?), at 161 minutes it must be one of his longest. Of course size isn't everything, but I was completely immersed in Tarantino's portrayal of 1969 California from the get go and never looked at my watch once.


Whilst my cinematic knowledge may not be encyclopaedic, I think I can say with some level of certainty that this is the first time Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have been paired together on the big screen. And what a double act. The insecurity of DiCaprio's Rick Dalton, a struggling Hollywood actor, against his more bullish stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), is played out superbly.
When I heard it was a comedy drama that touched on the Sharon Tate story of 50 years ago I worried where this film may be headed. I needn't have worried. I won't give anyrging away here, but the version of events you see in Once Upon a Time is purely stand alone; as are the 'cameos' of other non fictional characters in this work of semi-fiction. The fight scene, for instance, with Bruce Lee on the lot is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time - I think the Lee estate would be more up in arms than Tate's, that's for sure.
As for the soundtrack, it's precisely what a Tarantino soundtrack should be. It fits like a hand in glove. And whilst the selection appear effortless, random even, you just know it was sewn together with a surgeon like precision. Where else would you find Deep Purple segueing into Neil Diamond?

Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show (1969)


The ending, then, takes us somewhere completely different to that seemingly telegraphed earlier in the movie (very much in keeping with Tarantino's skill of misdirection) and is, er, executed quite brilliantly. It really is extraordinary what some people keep in their shed. 8/10

Sunday, 1 September 2019

This is What Democracy Looks Like


Mine is not a political blog, overtly or otherwise; I'd much rather be talking about biscuits. Or bass players. Even brass bands. Not Brexit, that's for sure. That said, it's not difficult to ascertain which side of the divide Are We There Yet? resides. But I can't let the events of yesterday go unrecorded. The recent actions of our new government, this far right Nationalist Party under its de facto leader Dominic Cummings (Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a mere puppet, albeit a vey dangerous puppet) meant that yesterday, I went on a march. Along with hundreds of thousands of like minded citizens up and down the  country, I stood shoulder to shoulder and demonstrated that what is currently happening in this country and its imminent crash out of Europe will not be carried out in my name.

I know that a lot of you feel the same. If you do, please do something (I'm sure some of you already are): sign a petition, write to your MP, attend a rally, protest, march. Doing nothing is not an option. This chilling quote (right) is from a dystopian future - A Handmaid's Tale - but could so easily have been written about these times. Our times. Please do everything you can to ensure we don't go down without a fight. To say that next week is probably the most important week in peacetime Britain is not hyperbole. Make yourself heard. It might be your last chance.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Pink sedan denied


I'm walking round in a daze today. How did I get it so wrong? I first heard Living Loving Maid (the one on Led Zep 2 that immediately follows Heartbreaker) over 40 years ago, and I've been convinced all this time (I would've put the house on it, really I would) that the opening line was:

'With a purple umbrella and a pink sedan'


I sing it in the shower and everything. What an idiot; I blame low quality Boots C90 cassettes. And teenage cerumen. Bloody 'fifty cent hat'.

Led Zeppelin - Living Loving Maid (1969)

Monday, 26 August 2019

When one door closes


James was here this weekend. Not for the first time we spoke about La Cabina (The Telephone Box): probably the scariest short film ever made. Reading up about it many years later it was an anti-Franco film that through its stark imagery (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) portrayed a Spain where, under his brutal dictatorship, men in suits were often taken away in full view. Franco died in 1975; La Cabina was made three years earlier.

As a postscript to our discussions this weekend, I came across this today: it's a clever parody used by Retevision - a Spanish telephone company - for a recent TV advert, and starring the same actor.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Staring at the Sun


Ciáran McFeely, aka Simple Kid, is from Ireland; you know, that land mass 70 miles west of Holyhead. The island we're just about to throw under the bus. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, McFeely is a Cork lad and his lo-fi musical stylings remind me very much of Beck (a resident of Los Angeles, roughly 5,000 miles west of Cork) and, let's face it, that's no bad thing.

I mention this for the simple reason that despite being old enough to know better I still make playlists; I'm picking James and Janneke up from the station on Saturday and I thought I'd put a few tunes in the car. It's gonna be 27 degrees this weekend, so I can't think of anything more apt.

Simple Kid - Staring at the Sun (2003)

Sunday, 18 August 2019

No One Knows Nothing Anymore


Thursday night's Open Mic was very relaxed; a pre-season friendly for next Sunday, if you like, with just the right amount of beards in the room.
I've got my setlist pretty much worked out: 10 songs - with a bit of chit-chat in between - probably 40 minutes all in all. Perfect; never outstay your welcome.
I say all worked out; I've just decided to drop this one in: Billy Bragg's 'No one Knows Nothing' from his 2013 Tooth and Nail album. Its themes really resonate and, I think, sum up where we're all at in this crazy fucked up maelstrom we call 2019. Just got to work out where in the running order to put it.

Billy Bragg - No One Know Nothing (2013) - with pedal steel


Without 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Skegness Ashtray

Bus* incoming!
There's not many better feelings than putting on a jacket you've not worn in a while and finding a tenner in one of the pockets. Though I do have one: discovering a new Beatles photograph I've not seen before. Here's one such image was made public for the first time only a few days ago. It's from the Abbey Road photoshoot which, unless you've just been beamed up from another planet (or, indeed, the set of 'Yesterday') is probably the most iconic album sleeve ever - certainly the most recreated and copied. Just in case you don't know what the VW Beetle was doing there, or who the guy next to the police van was, you could do a lot worse than taking a look at the most exhaustive back story about that famous day in August 1969 when photographer Ian Macmillan took his memorable snaps.

Back to this new photograph. It was taken by Linda McCartney, who must have been standing practically next to Macmillan as he looked down from atop his stepladders. Apparently no photo exists of either Macmillan from his unique vantage point or, indeed, the police officer who was on hand to stop the traffic whilst the Fabs traversed the crossing. Imagine if such an image was to turn up; an elderly St. John's Wood resident passes and during a house clearance they stumble upon a shoebox with a load of Kodak slides in it. It would surely make the Holy Grail look like a Skegness ashtray.

* I wonder who was driving that bus?

Monday, 12 August 2019

That's the way to do it


In 1974 Bob Dylan was probably at the peak of his powers. From obscure Greenwich Village folk troubadour to global icon, all within 10 years, the man was on fire.
For his 15th studio album he went into the studio in the September with 10 songs and, two days later, he and the band had recorded the lot. Job done. WOAAH! Not so quick Mr. Zimmerman. Can you go back and tidy a few of them up? I'm sure you've got a better take in you.
So between Christmas and New Year he went back and re-recorded five of the tunes. Tangled Up in Blue being one of them. Four weeks later, in January 1975, it and the rest of the album - Blood on the Tracks - was in record stores and flying off the shelves. In the words of Mr. Punch: "That's the way to do it."


Bob Dylan - Tangled Up in Blue (1975)

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

How are you spelling that?

In what may prove to be a very short lived series, I'm looking at bands who changed the spelling of their name; not their name (that'd be like shooting fish in a barrel), but the spelling of same.

First up we have a band from London who, in the early 80s, began to get quite a following in the US - MTV and all that. The only snag being, the Americans couldn't pronounce their bloody name. They were known at that time as Huang Chung. It means yellow bell in Chinese 黃鐘 but, much to the band's chagrin, FM radio jocks were calling them Hung Chung.

In the end their record label, Geffen, made the change for them and, overnight, they became all phonetically correct - Wang Chung. As in, everybody Wang Chung tonight. I know, makes no sense at all. But then it was a time when folks would rather jack, than Fleetwood Mac. Go figure.

Wang Chung, would you believe, are still trading the boards. Earlier this year they joined forces with the Prague Philharmonic and gave a few of their old hits an orchestral shot in the arm. This was always one of my Walkman faves.

Wang Chung - Dance Hall Days (2019)

Monday, 5 August 2019

Crying Out

My knowledge of Wigan is patchy, sparse even; the Northern Soul scene in the mid-seventies (Wigan Casino, Wigan Pier), rugby league and, er, that's it really.
However, I've just stumbled upon a bunch of young lads from there calling themselves the Lathums. Jangly guitars and Smiths influences abound, but that's not a bad thing, right? 

Lets put it this way, I'm going to blag a copy of their album and see if I can't pull in one of their gigs - they look like they're gaining a bit of traction, so it'd be nice to see them in an intimate venue before they get too big for their boots.


The Lathums - Crying Out (2019)

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Just Who is the 5 O'Clock Hero?


Once again I'm looking forward to combining two of my favourite pastimes - music and beer: I've been added to the bill at Nottingham's Bar 71 on Sunday 25 August. It's a Bank Holiday, so the atmosphere should be quite special. 

Bar 71 is a thriving community micro-pub a mile or so from the city centre (and conveniently a mere hop, skip & a jump from where I live). The incomparable Paul Carbuncle is compering the event and headlining too.

I think I'm on at 5pm. Promises to be a great day.


Wednesday, 31 July 2019

I know how she feels

It's not going so great, is it? Johnson's only been in charge five minutes and already the Irish (both lots), the Scots and the Welsh are threatening to dissolve the Union. So much for those promised sunlit uplands. Stop the world I want to get off.

It will only be when the country is brought to its very knees and begs to come back into the EU fold that the leavers will finally wake up to the fact that, actually, what we have now is not so bad. It's workable. We trade with Europe; we trade with the rest of the world. And they trade with us. Frictionlessly. Everybody wins.



But come October 31st it's gonna be a cold wind that blows across the Channel and into the dystopian badlands of a once great Britain. Our just in time procurement chain will last seven days before essential supplies run out. Queues at the forecourt and fighting on the streets. And that's just for starters. It'll be like an episode of Survivors - that post apocalyptic drama from the 70s, only for real.

Or will it? All I know is, I've got a bad feeling about this. And it's not going away.

Dodgy - U.K.R.I.P. (1996)

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Rumours

They're toilet chains, since you ask
We're only a fortnight away from our next Sunday Vinyl Session - our fifth, can you believe? And it's a yacht rock classic - Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.

When the Mac were writing and recording it their personal relationships were all over the place (everyone in the band, seemingly, was sleeping with each other), their level of drug taking was off the scale (cocaine really became 'a thing' in California in 1976) and emotions were close to breaking point. A perfect storm. Yet out of this hedonism - released in in February 1977 - came 11 perfectly formed songs which have formed the backbone of every Fleetwood Mac gig in the last 40 odd years. It cemented their career and meant that Stevie Nicks never had to wait on tables again.

Our friend Pippa Ward is presenting the afternoon - she'll tell the back story behind the album before playing it in full. And in the interval (twixt Side 1 & 2) Pippa will be singing some acoustic Mac songs live. I've got a couple lined up too. So, if you find yourself in Nottingham on Sunday 11th August, we'd love to see you.

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way (1977)


Friday, 26 July 2019

And the Sun was a demon

I think it's safe to say that yesterday was a little on the warm side. James came up with Janneke to see his poorly mother; convalescing in temperatures akin to Hades is no fun, but seeing the Number One Son and his bride was a tonic far surpassing that of any of the morphine based knockout drugs Jenny was prescribed when she left the hospital last Saturday.

I took this photo in my car yesterday afternoon just after 4.30pm. 40 degrees. I tell you what, the Sun didn't feel like it was 93 million miles away. I'm sure it slipped anchor at lunchtime while nobody was looking.

Below is my favourite Sun TV/film clip, bar none. It's from Thunderbirds and is the one where Alan Tracy is stuck on the bridge with his grandma in temperatures similar to those we were experiencing in the East Midlands.

If you fast forward to 2:17 you'll see real beads of perspiration running down Alan's wooden puppet head. That was me yesterday.

Monday, 22 July 2019

After the Savoy Truffle


It's common knowledge that George Harrison cribbed the lyrics from a Good News chocolate box he saw round at Eric Clapton's gaff one day. Clapton was still doing a lot of heroin at the time and, coming down, allegedly, he'd regularly eat an entire box of chocolates in one sitting. Even the Savoy Truffle.

Probably less well documented is how much of an influence on Harrison an EP put out by Lulu two years before the White Album was. The title track, Chocolate Ice (written by Mike Leander - Gary Glitter's scribe), bears more than a passing resemblance to Harrison's effort. Judge for yourself.

Lulu - Chocolate Ice (1966)


Instead of going with the Fabs, I've decided to play you the Analogues' version. The Analogues play Beatles tunes live. Nothing new there, I hear you say. True, but this bunch of Dutch musicians have taken the reproduction of Beatles music to a whole new level. Recreating every note of an alabum - in sequence - with period instruments (often with strings and horns) and with fastidious attention to detail, they really are the business. When they play Maxwell's Silver Hammer, for instance, they even bring an anvil up on stage. I particularly like the songs that not only the Beatles didn't play live (i.e. everything after '66), but also the ones Macca can't be arsed with when he tours; check out Your Mother Should Know from the Magical Mystery Tour EP. You'll be amazed. Truly amazed.

The Analogues - Savoy Truffle 


For further listening, hear what David Hepworth and Mark Ellen think about them.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Sea of Tranquility


Oh I do like to be beside the Sea
of Tranquility
Where Neil and Buzz in ’69
took a giant leap for mankind
and found craters and rocks beneath their feet
Not cheese. Or aliens to greet.
So they planted a flag and left behind
a planet so utterly amazing, beautiful, desolate, barren and beguiling that after fifty years we're desperate to revisit, and find…
The Sea of Tranquility.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Take that to the bank


I have absolutely no comprehension how it must feel to be in a place where your only source of nourishment is through your local food bank; to reach a point where the rug has been pulled from beneath you, your pride is through the floor and your stomach is painfully empty. Yet in the UK thousands of adults AND CHILDREN most certainly do. What a shameful country we live in right now. And it's only getting worse.

Paul Carbuncle - Food Banks and Ferraris (2017)

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Led Zep VII


Thanks to Peter Grant, their thug in a suit manager, Led Zeppelin never released singles in the UK; he thought it was beneath them. Not so in the States, however; Grant wasn't quite so precious about what his charges released over there by way of 45 RPMs. Their seventh single on the Atlantic label was a delicious slice of cod reggae with John Bonham's drums very much to the fore. I think the reason I like it so much is because their po-faced bass player, John Paul Jones, said publicly, many times, that he hated it; hated the song, particularly hated the title. Get over yerself Jones.

Led Zeppelin - D'yer Mak'er (1973)


It only made No. 20 on the Billboard charts, unlike the album from which it was lifted. 'Houses of the Holy'. which sat at No. 1 for weeks on end.

Friday, 12 July 2019

1929

Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington (1899-1974)
You can't overestimate the power of music: during the Great Depression, which took a hold in the United States from 1929 (the Wall Street crash in October launched the country off a cliff) and lasted for much of the 1930s, it was music - jazz music - that got people dancing.

Of course the country was still in freefall - but listening to, and dancing to, this surgent musical uprising (often during 24 hour Dance Marathons) was what got a lot of Americans though one of the bleakest periods in modern history.

They'd be throwing shapes to stuff like this. Duke Ellington's band would often go by a string of aliases. This was one of them.

The Whoopee Makers - Flaming Youth (1929)

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

1979


It's long been acknowledged, between me and Steve anyway, that the 70s actually started in 1968 and probably kept going till around mid-1983. Culturally, musically definitely, and sportingly - mavericks ruled the world in concert halls and football grounds the world over. So when you talk about 1979 be under no illusion that the 1970s still had plenty of gas left in its tank.

Some stonking albums came out in '79. I particularly remember buying Joe Jackson's Look Sharp, Valley of the Dolls by Generation X (produced by Ian Hunter), this classic by Graham Parker and The Damned's Machine Gun Etiquette. It was also the year In Through the Out Door - Led Zeppelin's swan song was released, and the Clash's eclectic mixed bag, London Calling.

Tom Petty was busy too. Together with his band the Heartbreakers, he released Damn the Torpedoes the day before his 29th birthday. And if you were to press me for one song from today's featured year (go on, press me) I reckon it would have to be this:

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Refugee (1979)

Monday, 8 July 2019

1969



The events of 1969 are currently looming very large. There are a number of monumental 50th anniversaries going on right now; not least Apollo 11 - a must see movie is on general release depicting just what Neil Armstrong and the real Buzz Lightyear got up to when they were floating in their tin can half a century ago.

I remember Aldrin saying in Andrew Smith's Moondust that NASA were very candid with the crew when they signed up for the mission of all missions: their chances of coming back alive were given at no more than 50/50. This is one film I will not be missing.


And Abbey Road. The Beatles' final recorded album (Let it Be, despite coming out in 1970, was already in the can before the Fabs entered EMI Studios in Abbey Rad for the last time). Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn is touring the country later in the year giving his unique take on the events that made Abbey Road, quite literally, The End. And he's coming to a venue near me, so I'm well chuffed.

Joey Ramone may have left this earth (as too have all the original Ramones), but he still looks down on New Yorkers: the sign for Joey Ramone Place, if you look high enough (it's been stolen so many times it's now been sited where it can only be reached by basketball players) is in the Bowery district, close to the site of a (long gone) club where he and the band played many of their 2,500+ gigs: CBGBs - the New York punk venue.


Joey Ramone - 1969


Sunday, 7 July 2019

Yesterday


Went to see the much hyped Yesterday yesterday. Being something of a Beatles nut (clock the number of Beatles and Lennon & McCartney posts on this blog [left]), I thought it would be massively churlish of me if I didn't scribble a few words about it here.
I'm usually pretty quick out of the traps when it comes to rating and ranking new movies, but this is a little bit different - I'm still processing it, would you believe; a fantastical plot (a world without the Beatles - really?) with seemingly more holes than a used dartboard, peppered with more than a few comedy cul-de-sacs and incorporating a typically lame Richard Curtis crow-barred rom-com. And yet, and yet...


That soundtrack; those songs. For all its faults, and there are many, it's the music, ultimately, that carries this film over the line. Himesh Patel who plays struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik, has been gifted the most fantastic set of songs served on a silver platter and ready to be devoured. And they are, for the most part, played brilliantly.   


Patel is not just a talented actor but he can play a bit too. That means there's no awkward miming or contrived camera angles to disguise the fact that a non musical actor is holding a strange instrument around his neck and doesn't know what a chord is, let alone know where they can be found on the neck of a guitar.


Himesh Patel - Yesterday (2019)


Apart from Malek's performance (and the Beatles music, obvs) I took three positives away from the film:

Lily James - who played the love interest with just the right amount of girl next doorness. 

Ed Sheeran - just a good egg. The ginger superstar was quite happy to sit on the subs bench for much of the movie, but was given some great lines nonetheless.

The best gag in the film - when Jack Malik realises, after an internet search, that his friends really aren't winding him up when they tell him they don't know who the Beatles are, he then Googles Oasis - nothing but a clutch of exotic holiday websites. "That figures" he says.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Giveaway

Bloody brilliant!
Paul McCartney would often gives songs away: Mary Hopkin (Goodbye) and Badfinger (Come and Get It) being two lucky recipients that spring to mind.
One that a lot of people overlook is a song called 4th of July. In 1974, between the Band on the Run and Venus and Mars albums, Macca recorded a very loose demo but never did anything with it; instead he gave it to John Christie. Polydor put it out as a single, but, despite its lineage, it never amounted to much.

In 2010, when Venus and Mars was given the Macca remastering treatment, they chucked 4th of July in with the extras. Like a lot of stuff McCartney was writing at the time, it walked that fine line between bloody brilliant and twee. For what it's worth, I quite like it.

Twee?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Two to Know


Our next Sunday Vinyl Session (our 4th) is a little bit special: the album, Pink Floyd's 'Relics', has been chosen by Martin Stephenson - he of the Daintees - who will not only curate the afternoon, but also be playing a gig later in the evening in the very same pub!

We've kind of broken our own rule regarding compilation albums with this one, but, hey, it's a belter. Although it's obviously very much Syd's collection (it was Barrett's band, after all), Dave Gilmour can be heard setting his stall out on Side 2.


Here's a rather tasty bit of footage of a Gilmour gig at the Albert Hall in 2006. With very little by way of introduction Gilmour brings an old friend up on stage...


Arnold Layne


Where? Running Horse, Nottingham 
When? Sunday 14 July 2019 - Relics 2-5pm; Martin Stephenson gig 8-10pm

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Sometimes. Always. Never.


I love stylish movies. I love funny movies. Sometimes Always Never is filmed like a series of Hopper paintings with jokes hidden in plain sight. If you like your dialogue crisp and your establishing shots crisper, this is the film for you.
Bill Nighy's name is above the door in this terrific directorial debut from Carl Hunter. Frank Cottrell-Boyce's screenplay about a retired tailor looking for his prodigal son is given a seemingly minimalist treatment by Hunter, but look a little deeper and this tight family based drama is a rich seam of Scrabble words, missing children, Marmite gags and red Triumph Heralds; what's not to like when references to Pickwick label Top of the Pops albums and which buttons to do up on your suit jacket* flow as naturally as Jenny Agutter walking out of the bathroom wearing nothing more than a towel?



And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it turns out the soundtrack is only written and performed by Edwyn bloody Collins. This is a film I will watch time and again; I just know it.

Edwyn Collins - It's all About You (2019)


* Top (sometimes), middle (always), bottom (never).

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Cretin


I have precious little time for Elton John. I have even less for the present occupant of the White House.
The artist formerly known as Reginald Dwight wrote a couple of good tunes* way back when, but now appears to be more famous for his annual spend at Interflora. And his rug. Trump, on the other hand...

Don't get me started; really, don't. Suffice it to say you don't need me to tell you he's got a reading age of eight, and uses the word 'huge' a lot. Here, take a look at this. But not before you've read this - Donald Trump, speaking in Montana:

“I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record.” Cretin.

Apparently there's a We Will Rock You style bio pic currently on release showcasing/shoe-horning some of Elton John's songs into a shoddy narrative. I'm sorry, but while there's a new Bill Nighy movie to catch, and the latest Toy Story, I'm afraid I'll be a no-show.

* Here's one of those tunes he wrote with Bernie Taupin. I'm not sure who sang this version** but it's not half bad.

Top of the Poppers - Rocket Man (1972)


** Reg himself used to sing on these early MFP/Pickwick soundalikes, ironically.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

The Toys are Back


Sequels. Prequels. Sequels to prequels. You'd be forgiven for thinking that the film industry is somewhat bereft of new ideas; maybe they are, I don't know. Hollywood, for sure, know that putting a number after a film makes it odds-on that punters will come back time and again. And again. And again.

Normally I would say 'Down with that sort of thing', but every now and again I hear the clarion call. A call so strong I can do no more than slavishly beat a path to my nearest picture house and wait patiently in line with fellow devotees.

The cowboy has been calling; I'm on my way, Woody.

Chris Stapleton - The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy* (from Toy Story 4) - 2019 


* Written, of course, by Randy Newman

Sunday, 16 June 2019

My Father's Name is Dad


Dad's just rung. He thanked me for his card and then proceeded to tell me that he's going travelling round Ireland at the end of the month. He's 83. Respect. I think the last time he took the car on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry he was driving a 1963 Ford Anglia. And they still had the Punt. Cars and currency may change but my dad's determination is locked-on. There will be stories when he gets back; to be sure, to be sure.


The Fire - My Father's Name is Dad (1968)

Friday, 14 June 2019

Dotage


My love of David Bowie is based, essentially, on a handful of albums and singles from, in the main, the period 1970-1975. Yes, I know this is shortsighted of me and, yes, I know he was so much more than that. But, like opera, Shakespeare, and beetroot, I think I've been saving latter period Bowie for my dotage: in effect, Bowies's dotage if he did but know it. 

This may or may not turn into a feature that I'll return to on rainy days and Mondays. Or even Fridays. As a holding statement I'll just put this out for today. It's taken from Heathen - his 22nd studio album. Released seventeen years ago and produced by Tony Visconti, I'm still to be convinced that Everyone Says Hi was not co-written by Ian Broudie. Have a jolly Friday everyone.

David Bowie - Everyone Sys Hi (2002)

Monday, 10 June 2019

Leave Your Stepping Stones Behind


Bob Dylan recorded It's All Over Now, Baby Blue in 1965. And since then it's been covered by every man and his dog. Far be it for me to tell you which versions are worth seeking out, and those that belong on the turkey farm - I'll let you make your own minds up.
That said, I am rather partial to Chris Robinson's version. I'm not too sure if the former Black Crowe ever released it officially, but this was recorded in a New York radio station a couple of years back. Check the beards out, too.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (2016)


We're a man down: one of our blogging fraternity -  The Swede - is not too good at the moment. I'm sure we all wish him a speedy return to form, and hope he's back in harness before too long.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

More Cunning than the Raven


Moose Allain regularly appears on my Twitter feed. His cartoons put a smile on my face most days. A must when wading knee deep in imbecilic rants from the POTUS; not to mention right wing ramblings from several of our own swivel-eyed loons.

So, crows. What's the story morning glory? And just how do you tell a crow from a raven? Well, look no further. Proof, if proof were needed, that 'Are We There Yet?' also has a charter to inform, educate, and entertain. It can also shoehorn a song from the fabulous Black Crowes into any blog post at the drop of a hat. You're welcome.

The Black Crowes - Remedy (1992)

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Imagine

Dirty John

There are a number of songs I don't need to hear again. And at least two of them were written by John Lennon. Imagine is one; mawkish. Woman is another; anodyne. The latter was lifted from Lennon's Double Fantasy album just days after he was assassinated, and put out as a single. Whereupon it went straight to Number One; of course it did.

Double Fantasy was Lennon's first album in over five years. He'd turned his back on music in 1975 and had been working part-time for Warburtons. His new record, released only three weeks before an infamous autograph hunter lay in wait for the ex-Beatle outside the Dakota building, had generally been ignored by the press and public alike. Mark Chapman, however, changed all that.

But if you take Lennon's killing out of the equation, it's a very ordinary album; considering it was made by a very extraordinary man. It's slushy for the most part and a bit of a let down. With the exception of one track. I'm Losing You had been demo'd by Lennon with members of Cheap Trick and it was John at his lowdown best; dirty John, if you will.

But when it came to the finished studio version the rough edges had all been sanded down and his studio musicians had taken all the life out of it. Shame on them.

The Cheap Trick version appeared about 20 years later tucked away on an anthology. And it's still classic Lennon, sounding just how you've always wanted John Lennon to sound. Imagine if the rest of the album had been this good.

John Lennon with Cheap Trick - I'm Losing You (1980)

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Hitchcockian

RH

Robyn Hitchcock's tweets have been most amusing this week; you see, he has a doppelgänger - another grey haired English singer songwriter of a certain vintage, no less. I'll let the polka dotted former Soft Boy explain.


NL

And, for the avoidance of doubt and any conspiracy theorists out there who say that you never see Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Lowe together in the same room...

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Not the Cheshire Regiment


Badge. Noun - a small piece of metal, plastic, or cloth bearing a design or words, typically worn to identify a person or to indicate membership of an organisation or support for a cause. 

'the Cheshire Regiment'
'they wore plastic name badges'

As ever, I'm indebted to the OED for their succinct definition. I strongly urge you to take no notice of those Urban Dictionary folk; what do they know, anyway?

Anyway, all this is, by way of a preamble, to tell you that Sunday Vinyl Session have got some shiny new badges to give away. If you'd like one, get in touch. Better still, come and see us, why don't you? On June 9th. we'll be talking about, and playing the Beach Boys' 1966 iconic album, Pet Sounds. It's a date.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Silver Star


Seeing the Who at Charlton in 1976 as a young teenager was a big deal for me. A very big deal indeed. I wrote about it, briefly, here. Who knows, I may even get round to writing a proper (and somewhat belated) gig review; one day.

On that Bank Holiday 40+ years ago as well as the 'Oo, Alex Harvey, Little Feat and loads of other turns, there was a DJ on the bill - spinning discs between the bands and bouts of intense rain - Messrs. Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle & Moon very nearly bailed that night such was the inclementness of the weather in south east London that night. His name was John Peel.

I can't remember an single record he played all day. Apart from this - the album version of Silver Star. I think the reason I remember it was it went on for bloody ages. And, on certain days, it's still one of my Desert Island Discs. All six minutes of it.

The Four Seasons* - Silver Star (1975)



* Though not sung by Frankie Valli. Valli was out of commission for much of the late seventies and never sang lead vocals on this, or December 63 (Oh What a Night): it was Four Seasons' drummer, Gerry Polci.


Monday, 27 May 2019

Noel Gallagher's Wheeltapping Shunters


The EP is dead; long live the EP. Noel Gallagher regularly puts out Extended Plays (the awkward cousin of the album and single) and this year he's releasing three. The title track from his new one (out in a couple of weeks), Black Star Dancing, is up there with anything he's put his name to in the last 10 years. It is obscenely good. And whosever idea it was to shoot the video using archive 70s footage from Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club - ITV's then Saturday night banker - needs knighting in the next New Year's honours list. Genius.

"Ladies and gentleman, can we have it now for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds..."


And here Gallagher Snr. tells Johnny Vaughan how the song came about.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Could you be more Pacific?


808 State's Pacific State* was "the song that made a nation chill out." So said some hack at the Independent; and, you know what, I think they were spot on. "Mellow but insistent beats", they went on to say, "a light garnishing of wildlife noises, and a soprano sax threading through it like a viper in the Eden undergrowth."

What then, would it sound like if a brass band got hold of it and transcribed the dots for cornets and euphoniums?

Pretty much like this I guess, from the album 'Acid Brass':

The William Fairey Brass Band - Pacific 202 (1997)


* Graham Massey - 808 State head honcho - once said "there's about 42 different versions of Pacific. Pacific 707 is the single we put out on ZTT."

808 State - Pacific 707 (1989)

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Trees


Anyone familiar with the Archers will be aware that Jill’s new gentleman caller, Leonard (played by Paul Copley - better known to younger listeners on Radio 4 as Tom Wrigglesworth’s dad*), can’t paint trees for toffee. Not even if his life depended on it; he recently passed off a picture he acquired from a gallery as one of his own. Charlatan.

These are for you Lenny.


* As opposed to older Radio 4 listeners who will remember him as Mr. Long in King St. Junior which ran from 1985-1998.