Friday, 25 July 2014

Bootsy was right all along

I took delivery of an iPhone last weekend. I've still not loaded any of my old numbers onto it yet; when my phone rings I don't have a clue who's calling. And as I don't know anyone's number by heart I've barely made any calls this week. I used to be able to remember numbers. I used to be smart. Now I realise Bootsy was right all along.

'We are the greatest computers in the world. But now we've created the smart phone which is smarter than us now. But we're still making dumb decisions; we have given our creations more power than we have, and that to me is dumb.' Bootsy Collins

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bump on the noggin

Spare a thought for my wife tonight. And me, while you're about it. Before the Doctor discharged Jenny from A&E this afternoon he gave us a booklet entitled Head Injuries: Discharge Advice. In a nutshell, I've got to prod her awake every two hours and ask her who the Prime Minister is.

So how did we end up driving away from the hospital feeling like a pair of geriatrics? Walking home this morning, Jenny decided to do a random tensile test on the pavement. With her head. It would appear the footpath, comprising several layers of concrete & tarmacadem is just as hard as you would expect and afterwards showed no visible signs of her crash landing on it. Apart from the blood that is. Anyway, looking on the bright side, at least the emergency services, when they arrived, didn't have to draw chalk lines around her.


Monday, 21 July 2014

So it Goes

'A' Side: Kurt Vonnegut loved The Riddler. Really
Another 'A' Side: Nick Lowe is The Riddler
Slaughterhouse Five: one of the finest anti-war stories ever written and The Sun Readers' latest book under the microscope. Heart of The City: Stiff Records' first single release in 1976 and one half of a cracking Double 'A' side by the man in the green Riddler suit.

So, The Riddler aside ('A' Side?), what else links Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel from 1969 and Nick Lowe's 1976 lo-fi masterpiece?

Kurt Vonnegut said it 116 times in just under 200 pages, whereas Nick Lowe took less than three minutes to blurt it out 24 times. The answer's all around you. So it goes.





Saturday, 19 July 2014

Something for the weekend

The sort of thing you see on the walls of most pub gents would hardly constitute art. Banal graffiti, out of date Sky Sports posters, darts team fixture lists and condom machines; something for the weekend, sir? Then again, unless you've got a small bladder, they're not the sort of places you tend to spend too much time in. And you certainly wouldn't want to be seen getting your camera out in such surroundings. Would you?


Pictured above are two pieces I saw recently hanging in the Men's Room. No names, no pack drill. They both caught my eye for different reasons: if you look carefully, the bird on the right is actually a map of Brighton and Hove. And if you look carefully at the cat carrying girl on the left, you'll see she isn't wearing any clothes.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Steel City?


I love it when the Americans try and ape the Brits. Almost without fail they fall flat on their arse; though there are notable exceptions. Mike Myers totally gets it: as well as being an uproarious comedy trilogy, the Austin Powers movies provided a great vehicle to show off his band's love affair with England. You don't believe me? Listen to Ming Tea's 'Daddy Wasn't There' or 'Do the BBC'.

Next up would have to be Gwyneth Paltrow. Long before she made a tit of herself at The Oscars and became a Coldplay groupie, Paltrow made a charming little film called Sliding Doors. Her portrayal of a young London temp straddling two parallel universes was so convincing I really thought she was one of us.

But for every Mike Myers there's always a Dick Van Dyke lurking round the film lot. Last night I watched the first 30 minutes of The Def Leppard Story. It's an American made for TV biopic that charts the rise of South Yorkshire's most enduring musical exports, Joe Cocker notwithstanding.

It starts with a car chase (well it would, wouldn't it?) depicting their drummer's last tear-up on the A57 before he parted company with his left arm. The stretch of road where it all happened, the infamous Snake Pass, looks like it was shot in The Rockies. The film's budget obviously didn't stretch to coming over to blighty.

Now, I know that nobody in their right mind would want to sit and watch the film, the whole film and nothing but the film - however, I do urge you to watch the opening ten minutes. Apart from the above mentioned car chase you get shots of 'Sheffield' circa 1978. And when I say Sheffield, I really mean Montreal. That's right, in his wisdom, the Director decided that the town known commonly as Steel City should be twinned with a Canadian outpost it shares no geographical links with whatsoever. So watch out for the Dickensian fruit and veg vendor selling his wares outside the factory gates, the rows of 'terraced houses' and the assortment of passing 'classic' cars. It certainly takes your mind off the dreadful dialogue that passes for a script*.

* The actor playing Joe Elliott says at one point he'd chew his own gonads off if it meant leaving Sheffield. Nuff said.

Monday, 14 July 2014

This will be the last time

Candlestick Park and Cow Palace. Two stadiums (stadia?) that not only share the same initials, but practically the same San Fransiscan zip code. And venues that, 18 years  apart, played host to a brace of British beat groups who hung up their gig bags for the last time whilst in the Bay Area.

The Beatles' last hurrah in 1966 is well documented: John knew it was going to be the last time - he even took an early selfie of himself with his back to the crowd. Slade, on the other hand, found themselve supporting Ozzy Osbourne in 1984 and, probably, never knew the significance of the evening's performance. When they returned to blighty Noddy Holder would slowly retreat from the band before finally telling the other three he'd had enough.

My good friend Mark Smith, pictured above, came to visit at the weekend. Mark was practically the fifth member of Slade; his love of the band is well documented and it came as no surprise when he called his first born Noddy and had the letters S L A D E tattooed on his knuckles.*



* As with a lot of content on the internet, some facts contained in the last paragraph may need checking out.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Let's Get Physical


In the summer of 1974 the rock behemoth that was Led Zeppelin retreated to the country and recorded a selection of tunes that would come to define them. The resulting album would be their Exile on Main Street, their White Album, if you will. That's right, an album so big in every sense of the word it would have to be released as a double album and housed in an all singing, all dancing, gatefold sleeve. Physical Graffiti, when it came out in February of the following year, would, at a stroke, put every rock album that had ever been released before it in the shade.



The sleeve depicts a pair of tenement blocks in New York and as men of a certain age (and women for that matter) will tell you, in the seventies you saw an album long before you ever heard it: the artwork was as crucial to the success of an album as the strength of its songs, the dexterity of the guitar solos or the dark art skills of the knob twiddlers.

And Physical Graffiti was no exception. From taking it out of the rack in the record shop, paying for it at the counter and bringing it home on the bus, you couldn't take your eyes off the cover. Where was the photograph taken? Who was that sat on the steps? What does it remind me of?
And, of course, the question we all asked ourselves: will it be as good as Houses of the Holy?

The answers I came up with: 96-98 St Mark's Place, Greenwich Village - where the basement is now home to Physical Graffitea. John Bonham. Jose Feliciano's Compartments (pictured above right) and, oh yes, it was as good as anything they would ever release.




Tuesday, 1 July 2014

3597 Medd Ave, Mount Airy, MD

From time to time I google Medd and see what's shakin' on the hill. My latest reconnoiter took me to an American real estate website. Therein I found a tasty four bed, four bath pile sitting in seven acres in Maryland. Situated between Frederick and Baltimore and a mere eight hour drive from New York City, I think, at $499,900 (£290,000), I've just found my dream house.

Take a look for yourself.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Brid

A big thank you to David Swann, Phil Friend, Martin Heaton, Robin Bunton, Martin & Penny Robertson and all the other great musicians who helped to make yesterday's Bridlington Old Town Festival such a great success. We had a fabulous little sound stage and PA and were made to feel really welcome by the organisers, town folk and visitors alike.

Please be assured I don't normally play wearing sunglasses, but yesterday was the time and the place.

A special thank you to Paula Ryan for her kind words.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Confessional

A Brush 4 and a Deltic, if I'm not mistaken
I was in London for a meeting yesterday. I went down on the train. Looking out of the window as we approached the various stations along the way, stopping at some and flying through others, I was reminded of a time in my life that I still look back on fondly.

I used to be a trainspotter. There, I've said it.

Let me explain. Between 1971 and 1973 I was a young (very young) version of those sad and lonely individuals you see standing at the end of deserted platforms armed with nothing more than a note pad and pen. But I was neither sad nor lonely. There was a group of us who, no matter the weather, would meet up at Grantham station, pay the princely sum of 2p for a platform ticket and loiter around the premises all day. Long before digital arrival and departure boards we knew the times of every arrival and departure, every express, every freight train and every milk train stopping at or passing through the station - day or night. And if it got too cold outside we would seek sanctuary in the waiting room complete with a real open fire and the company of fellow spotters. I was still a pre-teen but there was always older lads around who ensured I didn't get up to mischief or stand too close to the platform edge; when the Deltics rattled through the station at speeds touching 100 mph the danger of being sucked under was very real.

But I haven't told you the best bit yet. When I cycled home, often late and often without lights, the transferring of the raw data from my notepad to the Bible would begin: Ian Allen's Book of Diesel locomotives was a pocket sized tome which had the numbers of every diesel train in the land and the only way to do the copying over was with a pen that didn't smudge, invariably my dad's Parker, and a ruler. The numbers we'd seen that day would then be underlined and a permanent record of all the trains we'd spotted would emerge. Some I'd see every day, others remained permanently elusive. This is where, I guess, for some people it turns hardcore and they just keep doing it. Trying to fill the gaps. I stopped probably six months shy of my thirteenth birthday. At about the same time I discovered rock and roll. And girls.

Judging by those I saw standing on deserted platforms yesterday they'd not had that fork in the road moment which lead them to wine, women and song. I think I got out just in time.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Well starred and signed

PP Woodlands is one of Leeds' finest exports. His songs combine a turn of phrase rooted in West Yorkshire with tunes that get under your skin and stay there. His recorded output, however, was limited to a debut platter from 1971 that should have kept him in hookers and gin without ever picking up a guitar again (Sugarman, anybody?) and a cassette only live album made three years later: Live at The Catweazle caught Woodlands at the peak of his powers. Recorded in front of no more than 100 people, you can hear the effect his songs had on a crowd who knew they were in the presence of a legend. Unfortunately I can no longer play the recording on my trusty Teac tape deck - the ferrous oxide has practically disintegrated.

Instead, I've paid homage to the great man and recorded a lo-fi version of the third track on the album. It's called Love Will and is obviously written about somebody very special in his life.

John Medd: Love Will

Monday, 23 June 2014

Pillar talk

Late Saturday morning and after a hearty breakfast we went walking; a circular route of no more than four miles. Our rudimentary map and route guide informed us that we'd encounter three ladder stiles approximately seven feet high. Disappointingly, we never found one. But we did find this rather nice folly.

Some friends of friends belong to The Folly Fellowship; which all sounds very English and very middle class.

I think I'm ready to sign up.

Friday, 20 June 2014

England F



I'm just glad Bobby Moore wasn't around to witness last night's abject performance from the latest incumbents wearing three lions on their breast.

Having spent a lot of my adult life watching mainly third and fourth tier football, the performance by our hapless yellow boot wearing no hopers was akin to that of the many lower league journeymen I've seen over the years whose best years are clearly behind them. It's hard to comprehend, but the manager and his squad have had four years to prepare for this tournament. Four years. You'd think in that time the keeper would have learned how to defend corner kicks and that the strikers would have been coached how to hit a barn door with their banjos. But as my mother always tells me: 'You know what thought did.'