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.

Monday, 20 May 2019

A lighthouse; or two


"What time are you on tonight?", I asked her in the pub. "We're on at half eight, but Tim's on at half seven - he's really good, I think you'll like him." So said Rachel Unthank when I saw her in the Prince Rupert, just round the corner from the Palace Theatre on Friday evening. She'd just sound-checked and was with her sister Becky and the rest of the entourage having their tea.

I'm sure I'll wax lyrical about the headliners (and my chance meeting with an Unthank) - I may link to my gig review in the local rag. I might even post the photo of me and Rachel.

But, for now, I'm just gonna put this up here: I did get to the venue for half seven. I did see Tim. And, yes, he is really good. Thanks for the heads up, Rachel.

Tim Dalling - Two Lighthouses

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Quite

No need to turn to page 26; he's a bit nearer than that

Baxter Dury was interviewed in 2005. The Beatles cropped up... 

"My old man rejected the Beatles and white rock'n'roll from England, he was pretty dismissive of it, so you grow up precociously being dismissive of it yourself. There is something I still hate about the Beatles, but when you're trying to write songs you're an idiot if you don't acknowledge them, 'cause they're brilliant."

Quite.

Baxter Dury - When I'm Sixty-Four (2012)

Monday, 13 May 2019

I'm Partial to Your Abracadabra


In the same way he wouldn't be able to sing Helter Skelter anymore, or I'm Down, Macca would struggle to reach a good 90% of the notes he shrieked when he covered Ian Dury's Partial to Your Abracadabra. It was for a Dury charity album released the year after his death - Brand New Boots and Panties - with the likes of McCartney, Suggs and Robbie Williams covering the great man's tunes (many with the Blockheads as house band). This was probably the last time Sir Paul of Kintyre really tore it up.

Paul McCartney - Partial to Your Abracadabra (2001)

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Trombone


I've spent much of today in hospital wards and waiting rooms; where staff are kind and caring and dispense care and sympathy to all-comers 24/7. They are places where an hour can last a day and vice versa; you're as well taking your watch off when you enter through their cavernous sliding doors - you leave when you leave. I have no right to judge, I wasn't there in a patient capacity. Not today.

So the time passes - reading, listening to podcasts, looking up to see if there's a familiar trolley being wheeled in your direction. And then, when you need a shot in the arm (vending machine coffee ain't all that), a few tunes to tap your toe to on the cleanest floors this side of anywhere.

This isn't remotely medically linked or themed, but it appeared in my ears twice today. It's Nick Lowe's brand new single which has its official release next week. I hope you like it.

Nick Lowe - Trombone (2019)


Monday, 6 May 2019

You Can't be too Strong

Phonogram RIP

Unlike other stand alone record labels, Phonogram was never a label per se, but an umbrella company with a host of catch all labels in its stable including Philips, Mercury, and Vertigo. As with so many other labels and imprints it was subsumed by Universal Music; any identity these labels retain today is purely nostalgic. Which is probably why I paint them.



One of Vertigo's star players from the seventies was the maverick Graham Parker. His silky skills provided the perfect counterpoint to the emerging punk and new wave. I love this song.


Graham Parker - You Can't be too Strong (1979)

Thursday, 2 May 2019

I Wanna be Adored


1989 was a momentous year. For all sorts of reasons. The collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the Tiananmen Square massacre - to name but a couple. How trite, crass even, would it be on the back of that to say that on May 2nd - 30 years ago today - the Stone Roses released their debut album?

But they did. An album so audacious it threw paint at anyone who even looked in its direction. It covered the indie rock crowd, and fair splattered the dance fraternity too. Many column inches have been given over to just how groundbreakingly awesome this was in 1989. And it was. But you don't need to read all that again today. Instead, I've chosen the track you would, if you had to explain to an alien who had just beamed up from another planet, play to him/her/it, and, in its resplendent 4' - 33" they would totally 'get it'.


Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored (1989)

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Walk and Talk


Nottingham Poetry Festival 2019 is in full swing. Curated and overseen by its Creative Director, the effervescent Georgina Wilding - the whole thing runs from 26 April to 5 May. And, as you would expect, there's a fantastic smorgasbord of poets doing full-on gigs, readings, workshops & open mics in scores of venues across the city.

I was lucky enough to see Georgina on Sunday supporting Caroline Bird (more on her to follow, I can assure you) at one of Nottingham's newest venues, Metronome. Georgina was Nottingham's Young Poet Laureate 2017/2018 and has had an extremely busy 12 months - taking her work all over the county, and beyond (she was recently in India). She is currently in the process of completing her first soon to be published anthology and, in a few days time, is jetting over to Poland for a few weeks to write, gig, teach and perform. Not bad for someone who was telling me after Sunday's gig that she never thought of herself as academic when she was at school.

Georgina Wilding - That's Where We Live (2018)

Monday, 29 April 2019

Where Dreams Go to Die

Don't ask me. Seriously
You wouldn't want me as your phone-a-friend if Chris Tarrant Jeremy Clarkson was asking you the £million question on John Grant. Ask the audience, I would beg you. My knowledge of Grant probably amounts to the square root of fuck all.

That said, I do absolutely 110% know that Where Dreams Go to Die is a beautiful song. An utterly, utterly beautiful song.




John Grant - Where Dreams Go to Die

Saturday, 27 April 2019

What happens next is private, it's also very rude

I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that our second Vinyl Session album will be Ian Dury's New Boots and Panties. After the success of our debut session (when we dissected David Bowie's Hunky Dory) we will, once again, be convening at Nottingham's Running Horse to listen to the Blockheads' 1977 classic - in full.

It would be rather wonderful if you could join us on Sunday May 12th; the Runner is a very convivial venue with a great PA and some rather splendid beers.

We kick-off at 2:00 p.m. whereupon lots of Dury and Dury associated chit-chat will, no doubt, ensue. And, of course, the album will be played in its entirety. If you can make it, please feel free to bring along any Blockhead related goodies - singles, ticket stubs etc. and we'll celebrate the quite unique talent of Ian Dury.

Ian Dury - Wake Up and Make Love with Me (1977)


Ian Dury (1942-2000)

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Square Route


A midweek smash and grab raid on that London yesterday. Quality time spent in the company of Brother Mondo and Brother Steve. We zoned in on some of the West One Squares with Beatles and Bowie connections. And nearby pubs too. Obvs. First, the EMI Building in Manchester Square and, just around the corner, is where David Jones was snapped reading all about it. We volunteered a German passer by, showed her Bowie's pic and asked her to recreate same; despite a bit of camera shake, I think we just about get away with it.


Staying in the same zip code you then come across Montagu Square - it's actually a rectangle - and situated at No. 34 is where John Lennon holed up for most of '68. It's not Strawberry Fields, but it's got a blue plaque outside, nonetheless. 

A huge thank you to the boys for another great trip to the capital. Let's do it again in the Summer.



Tuesday, 23 April 2019

What's in Store?

"Do I hear 25 quid?"
I very rarely mention Record Store Day around here; maybe it' something to do with the very fact that we now refer to them as stores; I was brought up with (and, for a time, virtually lived in) record shops. Quite when we changed the lexicon (and why) is unclear. Am I being petty/churlish? Probably. Can I move on and not let it spoil the rest of my life? Of course.

But while I'm here, and while RSD19 is still, for some anyway, fresh in the mind, another thing that annoys the hell out of me - folk queuing thru the night to enter the store at 9:00 a.m. and buy a single by, let's say Generation X, for a fiver (red vinyl, picture sleeve) and, by eleven bells, are selling it on ebay for a score. Probably the same charlatans who buy four tickets for a gig, keep two and sell the other pair on the secondary market. We are the secondary market and everyone is now a tout - since venues stopped selling their own tickets exclusively and it all went online.

I don't know what Tony James (bass player with Gen X - pictured above) would have to say about it. Though he's probably too busy preparing for the re-release of the band's eponymous album - first released in the Summer of 1978. Back when the hair atop his head was all very much his own.

Generation X - Your Generation (1977)

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Making an exhibition of myself


A collection of my photographs is currently being exhibited at A Room Full of Butterflies in Nottingham. A big thank you to Andy Welch at the gallery; Andy thought my 'Bio' was too self deprecating, so has asked me to have another go and big myself up. We'll see.


A Room Full of Butterflies
632 Mansfield Road
Sherwood
NOTTINGHAM
NG5 2GA


P.S. 30 April 2019.

So, this is how my (revised) Bio. reads:

John Medd


John has been photographing people and places all his adult life. This collection brings together six striking images that capture the colours and textures of life in a city - and beyond. His work regularly appears in his vibrant blog - Are We There Yet? 

John lives in Sherwood, and in winter can often be seen photographing puddles. 

www.johnmedd.com

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Pure & Simple

Calling my Gig of 2019 in April may well be premature. Provocative even; but not unheard of.
Eleanor McEvoy is, I must confess, my new crush. After a truly stunning show last week (she's literally just finished the UK leg of her Gimme Some Wine tour), I grabbed a few words with her and was *absolutely* starstruck. Pure and simple.


Eleanor McEvoy - Slow Hand

Monday, 15 April 2019

Oh! You Pretty Things

An early sighting of the Swedey McSwedeface*
Yesterday was a good day. A very good day, in fact. Our inaugural Sunday Vinyl Session at the Running Horse went really well: listening to Bowie's Hunky Dory - in its entirety - thru the house PA was absolutely spellbinding. (A big thank you to everyone who came out, and thank you, again, to Rich, my partner in crime.)
We're already building up a head of steam and have loads of ideas for upcoming albums and associated events/gigs on the back of it.
Watch this space, as they say.

In keeping with these crazy times we even had a meaningful vote - to whittle down our very longlist of potential albums for next month to a more manageable shortlist which we'll decide over the next day or two on social media.
I'm really hoping I won't have to go to Brussels to ratify the final choice.

But what made yesterday an especially good day was the visit of a blogging buddy of mine who has been reading and commenting on my blog (and me his) for nigh on a decade. But we'd never met. As I was setting the levels on the mixing desk a fella walked in the pub with a vinyl album shielding the lower half of his face* and extended his hand: the Swede. He'd travelled over 100 miles to listen to tis album. That's how good Hunky Dory is. I'm afraid it meant even more chinwagging, more beer consumption and staying out all night (it's a dirty job, but someone had to do it). Roll on Session #2 - Sunday 12 May.

Hunky Dory. And a b**tleg
And from this fine album, here's what some people on Twitter are calling the best song. Ever. I'm not arguing with that.

David Bowie - Oh! You Pretty Things (1972)


* Swedey McSwedeface

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Jazzy, Sunny, Hypnotic & Bonkers*


I don't own many perfect albums. I'm not even sure if such a thing exists; most Beatles albums have a Ringo track on there somewhere, and Bowie could have his moments too. But Lemon Jelly's Lost Horizons is as close, I think, as you can get. Which means I can play it from start to finish without thinking once about reaching for the remote. I bet there's not many albums you can do that with; not if you're totally honest with yourself. This is the second track this week from Lemon Jelly's debut album from 2002, which, as today's post title tells you is, according to one reviewer, all these* things; in the words of Annie Lennox - who am I to disagree?

And it's something of an anthem at Medd Towers. I'm gonna play you the children's song it was sampled from first, and then drop the real thing in. I hope you like them both.

John Langstaff - All the Ducks


Lemon Jelly - Nice Weather for Ducks

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Away From the Numbers


Some very interesting photos appeared on my Twitter feed today - not least that one of the Black Hole. It's 55 million light years away (1 light year = 6 trillion miles) and measures, at least, a billion miles across. Just thinking about what those numbers mean hurts my brain; so I'll park it up for now and come back to it when I've had a little lie down.

In the meantime, the one above is a lot easier to get your head around - the Golden Gate Bridge taken in the early 1960s. So that makes it roughly 5,500 miles and 50 years away. I can cope with numbers like that. I just love everything about this photograph - if there's been a better photo taken of San Francisco's iconic landmark, I've not seen it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Bagpuss Sees All Things


Today's show and tell is self explanatory. It really is.


Lemon Jelly - Ramblin' Man (2002)



'Brixton' kicks in at 4 mins, 10 secs



Monday, 8 April 2019

Riff!


Rock and Roll is built on riffs. Always has been, always will be. Some good ('Satisfaction'*), some not so good ('Smoke on the Water'). Either way, they're the tune within the tune: the bit you sing in your head. Or play air guitar to if you're on your own. In an empty house. With the curtains drawn.

I'm sure if you trawl back through my backpages you'll find loads of examples. I was thinking the other day who's writing the good riffs today; the ones that guitar shops ban the kids from playing when they're road testing a new Les Paul (other guitars are available)? - 'Stairway' DENIED! Anyone who is familiar with Greta Van Fleet will know that they've shamelessly plundered the Led Zeppelin back catalogue, changed a few titles, and have, effectively, released a bunch of Zeppelin outtakes. Think Custard Pie, think Dancing Days, think Greta Van Fleet. Great riffs though.

Here's one from a few years back that haunts me to this day. When Jack White wrote The Hardest Button to Button he planted an ear-worm so large in my head I'm surprised people can't see it waving at them as I walk around. And, like Greta Van Fleet, White is paying homage to the God of Riffs - namely Jimmy Page - without whom Rock and Roll would have died out years ago.

White Stripes - Hardest Button to Button (2003)


* Interestingly, when Devo covered Satisfaction they left the riff in its box and never referred to it once. Not once.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Confessions

A Brace of Mavericks
In addition to the Neil Young autobiography waiting to be read, two more memoirs have recently dropped onto the door mat: Pete Way's Fast Ride Out Of Here tells the story of one of rock and roll's original wild men - his diet of sex, drugs, rock and roll (and that's just before breakfast) has made much of his life the stuff of folklore. He once told his wife he was just nipping to the shop for a pint of milk, only to come back three months later after touring North America with UFO. Having just seen the band on their final jaunt around the UK, I've gotta say it's not the same without Pete up on stage (he left the band for the last time in 2009 for medical reasons). I'm hoping this read will, in some small way, make up for his absence.

Next up is Austin Mitchell's Confessions of a Political Maverick. Mitchell, who was the Labour MP for Great Grimsby between 1977 and 2015 has had two successful careers in politics and broadcasting: prior to embarking on his Westminster duties Mitchell anchored Yorkshire's daily current affairs TV show, Calendar, in the early 70s; from where this vintage interview with Brian Clough came. Leeds Utd. fans look away now.

Calendar (1974)


And below we see a faithful* transcription of the same interview as featured in The Damned Utd. A truly great film, with a stellar performance from Michael Sheen as Brian Clough. In the Yorkshire TV sequence (below) Mitchell is played by actor Mark Bazeley.

The Damned Utd (2009)


* Kind of

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

"I've been in love and I've seen a lot of war"


Neil Young was one of the last turns I went to see before we left Nottingham in 2010. I think I covered it for the paper, but I can't remember now. It would've been around the time he released his 30th. studio album Le Noise. As with a lot of latter day Young, it pretty much flew under the radar - if the critics can't see a Southern Man on there or a Hey Hey, My My they tend to dismiss it. Their loss.

One day I would love to gather my thoughts on Neil Young and try and put into words what I think  makes him a true one of a kind; a maverick. But first I need to finish his autobiography which, along with about another dozen or so paperbacks, is currently weighing down my bedside table.

In the meantime, and because I heard it on RTÉ tonight while I was in the bath, here's a beautiful song from that album which harks back to a more stripped back, acoustic Neil Young and one that certainly pushes all my buttons.

Neil Young - Love and War (2010)


FYI this is post No. 1,000 to appear on my blog. Are We There Yet? (formerly Even Monkeys Fall Out Of Trees) became a thing on February 15th. 2010. And yes, I know there's a picture of Manchester City's Neil Young at the top of the page.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Capable Man


I know I've said it before, but helluva lot of new stuff I listen to comes care of the Number One Son. Almost since I first introduced him to the Beatles back when he was still in his cot, James has been my constant sherpa when it comes to navigating treacherous indie landfill and other, equally dangerous, hazards. His end of year roundups, in particular, are a thing of beauty - and also very small - appearing as they do these days on a micro SD card.

I don't know if Man & The Echo will make this year's cut (it is, after all, still only April), but Capable Man appeared on my phone yesterday complete with a simple instruction: 'Listen to this, Old Man!' So I did. It could be a contender. See what you think.

Man & The Echo - Capable Man (2019)  

Monday, 1 April 2019

These Foolish Things

Twitter was awash with fake news this morning. And by fake news I mean bona fide fake news of the April 1st variety. You know the sort of (unbelievable) thing - Elvis found on the Moon manning a burger stand; Bono paying his taxes; Theresa May getting Brexit over the line. I stayed well clear. Till twelve o'clock, anyway.

Talking about foolish things, here's some joyous footage of Dave Brubeck playing live at the University of Rome in 1959. Paul Desmond on sax never sounded so good.



Dave Brubeck Quartet ft. Paul Desmond - These foolish Things

Thursday, 28 March 2019

F*cking Noddy?


Anyone who remembers Chris Morris' quite brilliant Blue Jam that went out on Radio 1(1997-99) in the wee small hours will, I guess, in their minds, still link the dark downbeat comedy sketches with the equally downbeat ambient grooves that in the late 90s made for such perfect post-party bedfellows.

If you listened to this at three in the morning coming down from whatever sort of night you were coming down from then it all made perfect sense; not that it doesn't now. In fact it probably chimes more now than it ever did. Fucking Noddy?

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Black Sky

"Can we make the sky black? Like Justin did."
God bless Twitter; yes, like any branch of social media, it's got its fair share of nut jobs and knuckle draggers. But no more than you'll find on your average high street or indeed Clapham omnibus. And although to the untrained eye it may appear to be full of nothing but Brexit, and kitten videos (and, to be fair, it's hard to remember a time when it wasn't), you'll come across nuggets like this:
Hands up if you knew that Justin Hayward's promo video for his 1978 single Forever Autumn was the prototype for Bowie's Ashes to Ashes. My hand would have remained firmly down at the back of the class. Whilst we're on the subject of Hayward, Pete Paphides played an extract from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds on his Soho Radio show this week. It was a particularly gloomy passage - that's H. G. Wells for you - and afterwards Paphides came out with a simple solution for making this particular concept album a little less miserable: instead of Richard Burton doing the narration, they should've given the gig to Ronnie Corbett. How wonderful would that have been?

David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes (1980)

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Hunky Dory


Of all the projects I've set up, and being associated with, in recent years, I think the one currently in the pipeline is the one I'm most excited about. Our new Sunday Vinyl Session we've got kicking off next month - listening to albums in full - is going to be a zinger. And we're starting with an absolute nailed on classic from 1971: David Bowie's Hunky Dory.

We're meeting at the Running Horse, one of the city's most celebrated music boozers. The format, such that it is, runs on rails - a bit of chit-chat at the beginning introducing the platter de jour and putting it in context, and then straight into Side 1. A comfort break, refills at the bar, a bit more chatter about the artist and then Side 2. Closely followed by more beer, and maybe a few associated singles/ B sides, and everyone chipping in with stories and or ideas for next time. And with it being a Sunday afternoon, it'll still be light by the time we're all wrapped up. What's not to like?

The fun begins on Sunday 14th. April. See you there...

With thanks to:

Rich - his idea, I'm just riding shotgun.

James and Janneke - for the beautiful artwork.

Simon - for help and support: he started all this malarkey in Glossop five years ago.


Matt - for the RTs - check out his club Off the Record in Birmingham.

And last, but not least, Rob. Landlord at The Runner. And fellow music nut.

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 - the part 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...