Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Mick Hucknall out of Simply Red

Mick Hucknall can belt out a tune; that's a given. However, if the whole singing thing hadn't worked for the lad, then a career as a professional footballer was surely on the cards. Just the few cameo appearances he made for Fulchester Utd back in the late eighties/early nineties were enough to guarantee him a place in any right-thinking* manager's starting lineup.

But long before Fulchester and Simply Red and even before he used to get mistaken for Sideshow Bob, Hucknall was in a punk band. Judging by this early demo of Holding Back the Years, a very soulful punk band.

And here's the polished version from Picture Book, just a handful of years later, when horn sections and shooting atmospheric videos in Whitby were de rigeur.

* Never one to be labelled right-thinking, Tommy Brown, Fulchester Utd's manager, used to write a regular column in the match day programme. This from 2 April 1990, ahead of their match against arch rivals Grimthorpe City.

'As team manager my job has not been an easy one. I've been sacked, slandered in the gutter press, I've suffered a fatal heart attack, been kidnapped and taken to Mars, undergone a sex change operation and travelled back through time to caveman days. But that's football. You don't take a job on like this and expect to have an easy time of it. Of course at the end of the day my job is to get results. Football is about winning, and when the final whistle goes if there's no silverware in the chopping cabinet, it will be my head on the trophy block. That's what this game of ours is all about.'

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Stuck in the middle

  I was crate digging long before the record collecting hipster who coined the term was born. When record emporiums were knocking out chart singles at 40p, I used to slide down to my local market on a Saturday morning and trawl through the boxes and boxes of ex-jukebox singles. Here, for 25p, was a world of 45s that had been playing in pubs on their record machines before they were usurped by the latest batch of single releases; out with the old, in with the new.

  The fact that they didn't have middles was of no concern. Adaptors could be bought for tuppence each and came in all shapes and sizes.

  It being a Sunday, having started something of a tradition this time last week, I've tried to commit to canvas a few of these small but perfectly formed appendages.
  And, just for good measure, I've chucked in a couple of videos. The first one was what Gerry Rafferty had in mind when he wrote Stuck in the Middle with You. It's followed by Quentin Tarantino's now infamous interpretation of same.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Quarry St. kids in leather take Hamburg

Creole was sharp but his guitar was acoustic, go Johnny go, use your electric
A proper fairy tale
Although Elvis did meet The Beatles (in August 1965, many years after John was in Hamburg), this photograph is a fake. But it makes you smile doesn't it? Talking about fake photographs, a friend of mine is currently researching the Cotttingley Fairies: now that's an enchanting story. But not content with just turning it into a three minute folk song, PP Woodlands has plans to to take a full blown musical production of 'Away with the Fairies' to the West End later this year. I'm there.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Goodbye Gary Glitter, hello Generation X

Apparently you can still buy cassette tapes. Who knew? I thought they'd gone the same way as typewriter ribbons and telex machines. I really can't remember when I last saw the remnants of a jettisoned C90 fluttering in the wind, stuck in a hedge by the side of the A1.

I've still got a box of tapes which, in all honesty,  will probably never get played again. Many of them have still got Dymo labels stuck on the front heralding things like The Saints (John Peel Session) and Rory Gallagher In Concert. The Saints would have been from the same night Peel played Television's Marquee Moon for the first time and Rory Gallagher would almost certainly have been coming from the Paris Theatre 'in London's West End',

Apart from a few made by BASF and Philips the majority of cassettes sitting in my garage will be TDK. I don't even have to look: between 1972 and 1992 I must have pumped enough money into the TDK corporation to buy a small yacht. And then some.

The D90 was my tape of choice. It was cheap and cheerful. Just look at the picture above. It's a thing of beauty isn't it? And It didn't snap if your deck (we always referred to them as decks) rewound tapes a tad  too fast and you could record over stuff again and again. So when  punk came along I was a bit like the BBC: I had to wipe existing stock purely because of room. Goodbye Garry Glitter, hello Generation X.

I got the brushes out yesterday and tried to recreate a bit of my past. I hope you don't mind, but I substituted the TDK moniker for my own. And it's Richard, before you ask.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The boy with the coat hanger on his head

Lord Snooty is as old as the comic in which he resided. So if The Beano started life in 1938, and he was roughly ten years of age, I'd say Snooty must be well into his eighties by now. Same goes for coat hanger head. I think his name was Thomas and, so the story goes, he had his own spin off series in the forties.

He's pictured here kicking a tin can around with the rest of the gang*. The sound it made, of course, was 'CLUNK!'. However, there's no footage of him heading it. Well, he couldn't, could he?

* The gang seemed to comprise a fat lad (there was always a fat lad in a gang), a pair of pyjama clad twins, a posh girl, a girl of colour and a Jack the Lad character who always had his sleeves rolled up. And, of course, our top hatted hero. As an avid reader I remember they all used to say 'Grrr!' quite a lot.

Monday, 12 January 2015


Piano stool
Red chair
Ever wondered how Pete Townshend stumbled across one of rock and roll's most iconic of intros? Baba O'Riley, side one track one from Who's Next, has, probably, the most recognisable of any opening motif recorded in the last fifty years - sounding like a cross between a carousel fairground ride and a musical box.

It actually comes from a bit of kit not dissimilar to the mighty Wurlitzer found in the ballroom at the top of Blackpool Tower: the Lowery Berkshire Deluxe Organ TBO-1, to give it it's full name, probably took up more room than it's contemporary Hammond, coming as it did with a vast array of arrangements and novelty sounds that could keep John Shuttleworth in material for the rest of his career.

In 1971 Townshend discovered that if you played about with the Marimba Repeat tab, it made a noise something like this:

And with a bit of tweaking and by hooking it up to one of those new fangled synthesiser things that were all the rage it suddenly took on a life of its own. Here it is many years later, in 2000 to be precise, with Pete, Rog and John joined by Nigel Kennedy at The Royal Albert Hall:

Saturday, 3 January 2015


Depending on your age, and your musical compass, the RCA Victor label will either mean Elvis, Perry Como and Clodagh Rogers, or, most likely, The Sweet, Bowie and Lou Reed.
  Regular readers know that my love affair with their classic green and white paper sleeve goes back to a time when men wore hats, women wore hairnets and children played in the street dodging Ford Cortinas and white dog poo.

  And then through the seventies RCA did the whole rebrand thing and before you could say Eight Track Cartridge we were surrounded by rainbows and flowers. But, alas, labels and sleeves have gone the same way as 4 Star petrol and phone boxes. However, these miniature canvasses, painted by my friend Tony and now hanging in my music room, will serve as a memory to a time when the pound in your pocket could buy you two singles (sometimes three) and Steve Priest could still get into a pair of 30 inch waist trousers.

Friday, 2 January 2015

About His Person

Simon Armitage: Chief Inspector of the Poetry Police
To paraphrase Pete Townshend, I take inspiration for my songwriting anyway, anyhow, anywhere I can. In the case of About His Person (No Gold or Silver), I quite shamelessly nicked someone else's words. When I say nicked, I borrowed Simon Armitage's poem About His Person. But not before I tried to get hold of Simon to ask if I could use his prose and that I wouldn't be recording it or putting it on my next million seller album: I would just be playing it in front of polite middle class folk/acoustic club audiences in my little part of the world.

The reply I received from his management company was so draconian (they wanted me to sign copyright contracts, disclaimer clauses and everything), I sort of gave up on the idea. Until earlier this week, when I spent a couple of days on it and turned it into, I think, a dark but poignant little ditty that leaves the listener asking questions; just like the poem, really.

But, as I say, I can't share the finished product with you: I wouldn't want the Poetry Police kicking my door in during one of their dawn raids.

However, I can share this little film with you. And, no, it's not my handwriting, nor is it my music.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Small beer

Remember rosettes?
As someone who used to set pub quizzes, I stumbled on a lovely question the other day. In what year was the Penalty Shootout first introduced into English football and who scored the first goal?

Anyone who remembers The Watney Cup* would tell you that in 1970, prior to the first Semi-Final between Hull City and Manchester Utd, it had been announced that, in the event of a stalemate, the match would be decided by spot kicks. This, taken from the programme notes:

Drawn games in The Watney Cup will be decided by penalties. Both sides will be given five chances to score. The Watney Cup will be the first tournament to introduce this method of deciding drawn games. EUFA & FIFA have now agreed to use it in forthcoming European and World Cup games. As league secretary Alan Hardaker says: 'It will be good to settle something by pure football.'
 The Scaffold: pretending to like Watneys

Alex Stepney (United's goalkeeper) could be as vital to Manchester United as George Best when it comes to scoring goals. As Alan Hardaker says: 'It will be good to get a few goals from goalkeepers. Gimmicks used to encourage the scoring of goals are good for the game.' 
George Best arriving at Boothferry Park

Not sure about that, even forty five years on. And, a couple of seasons later, this short lived competition introduced another 'gimmick'. A variation to the offside rule which meant you could only be given off side if you were goal-hanging in the 18 yard box.

The programme notes go on to say: That's what the game is all about. Putting the ball in the net. But not many people in soccer with the exception of Watneys, of course, can guarantee goals.

Hull City v Manchester Utd: Wednesday 15 August 1970
1-1 after 90 minutes
Man Utd won 4-3 on penalties
George Best was the first player to score a penalty
Denis Law was the first to miss a penalty
And Ian McKechnie, Hull City's goalie, was the first keeper to save a penalty (though he did miss at the other end, thus gifting the tie to Man. Utd.)

* The Watney Cup was a pre-season tournament played out between eight teams  - the top two scoring clubs from each of the four divisions who had not qualified for Europe or been promoted. Hull City had scored 72 in the Second Division, Man. Utd. 66 in the First. It was also the first sponsored competition of its kind.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


It's that time of year: everywhere you turn you get beam-ended by yet another 2014 round up or, worse still, a bucket list.  Don't get me wrong, I like a list as well as the next man - in my previous life as a music journalist, the run up to the end of the year was all about rating and ranking one album or film or gig above another. And plenty of my fellow bloggers you see in the right hand margin of my ramblings are filling their boots also. It's a good way of compartmentalising the past; 'tidy up time' as a very annoying Antipodean BBC radio presenter working in the West Midlands used to say.

These days I tend to latch onto stuff much later. If you want to know what my favourite film of 2014 was, ask me in about 2018 - there's every chance I might have seen it by then. But if you really must know what's been floating my boat this year and don't fancy trawling through the 100+ blog posts I've written this year, here's my rough and ready reckoner:

Best Gig

I'm tempted to say Dodgy at York Fibbers. Not least because I supported them that night. I'd also love to report that violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy (who shared my birthday earlier this week) headlining this year's Scarborough Jazz Festival made it to the top; he very nearly did, but not quite. That accolade goes to Wreckless Eric. Eric, complete with a full band for the first time in years, all but lifted the roof at The New Adelphi in Hull. When he played the ubiquitous Whole Wide World - the signature tune he wrote whilst living in the Humber Delta - you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were in the presence of rock and roll royalty.

Best Book

I've read an awful lot of fiction this year but my favourite read has been Going to Sea in a Sieve by Danny Baker. Danny's a writer and it shows. I now that sounds completely bleedin' obvious, but so many memoirs are penned by ghost writers or, worse, read like an eleven year old's diary (Pete Townshend springs to mind). Every line has been thought through, every gag seems effortless and, like a stick of seaside rock, it's got honesty written through it from start to finish. His David Essex story alone is worth the price tag.

Best Album

After watching The Detectorists on the BBC earlier in  the year I was blown away by the theme tune and the incidental music written and performed by Johnny Flynn. Country Mile, his latest CD, arrived on my birthday and, even though it's still in its shrink wrap, I just know it's going to be my album of the year.

Best Single

Without shadow, I've not heard a better 45 all year than My Type by Saint Motel. I was digging it in August and I'm still digging it now.

Best Podcast

As much as I would love to give it to Rhod Gilbert for his BBC Radio Wales Saturday morning radio show, I'm going out on a limb here and nominating Serial. And I've only heard two episodes. A young girl goes missing in Baltimore in 1999 and week by week the story is stood up on its end, pulled apart and dissected. Gripping stuff.

So there you have it; well, very nearly. After spending the first half of this year working away from home I was going to list my best B&B, pub, restaurant for diners who dine a la todd, Open Mic Night etc. but thought that was maybe going a bit too far - though honorary mentions must go to Brodies in Chalfont St Peter, The Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage, The Wheatsheaf in East Hendred and The Catweazle Club in Oxford.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Party Time

Nice ganzie
Karl Wallinger's current band are just about to enter their thirtieth year; I say band, but World Party have never really been anything more than Wallinger, his songs and a bunch of session musicians he picks up from time to time to record and or go out on tour with. And there's been precious little of either of those activities lately.

In 2001 Wallinger suffered a major brain aneurysm. It literally stopped him in his tracks. For five years. Since then he's put out various compilations and anthologies and embarked on a couple of mini tours but, and here's the rub, since writing and recording She's the One, in 1997, he's been all but bankrolled by Robbie Williams. Williams, along with former World Party member Guy Chambers, recorded their own version without telling Wallinger and turned it into a monster. Albeit a very profitable monster.

Here's some footage of a new slimmed down World Party (the band that is, not Wallinger) busking outside a record emporium as part of last year's Record Store Day.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

It's Christmas Time

The Number One Son is spending some time with me and his mother this Christmas.

He's opened a few goodies and already it's looking like a good haul; these three lovely mini canvases were unwrapped early doors. Sun Ra fans will recognise the top one. And regular readers will know that James plays in a rather good Sun Ra Arkestra.

Happy Christmas James!