Thursday, 23 March 2017

We are not afraid

I'm currently in the capital, and travelling around London today have seen/heard the We Are Not Afraid mantra all over the place.Yesterday's deadly attack must remain just that - *yesterday's* deadly attack. The horror of what happened must not be allowed to turn another British landmark into a Lockerbie, a Hungerford or a Dunblaine.

The graphic mobile phone footage and aerial photography from police helicopters cannot become the default position for the historic Thames crossing and approach to Parliament. If we are to overcome this adversity and show the world that London, and Britain, will not take this lying down, we have to neutralize the shocking images of yesterday: they must not be used as totems to fuel hatred and start further conflict. Instead, put one of these two images in your head when thinking of the stretch of road that links Westminster and Lambeth. And no, I am not in anyway downplaying the carnage of yesterday or belittling the immense grief and upset caused by the events of Thursday 22 March. Far better to turn this whole thing on its head and show the world we are strong; stronger than anyone. Daleks and Kiss included.

I dedicate today's blog to the memory of the dead and injured innocent bystanders who will be remembered by their friends and families forever; not least PC Keith Palmer. A husband. A father. A hero.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

I Want Kandinsky

Bubbles: Music for Pleasure (1977)

Kandinsky: Composition VIII (1923)
Kandinsky: Transverse Lines (1923)
Barney Bubbles, the man who put the pictures in picture sleeves, drew his influences from far and wide; and long ago. His sleeve for Generation X's 1977 debut single stretched way back to 1924.

Likewise, when he was commissioned to design the sleeve for the Damned's difficult second album, Music for Pleasure, again from '77, Bubbles retreated back to the jazz age. Here are three terrific pieces by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) that Bubbles must have had on his mind when he took the gig.

I love Kandinsky. I want his stuff hanging on every wall in my new house*. Anyone got the Guggenheim's number?

* Footnote: whilst writing this post earlier this morning, I blagged a (very reasonably priced) Kandinsky copy.
Kandinsky: Black and Violet (1923)

Friday, 17 March 2017

Wood for the trees

Under normal circumstances you'd be hard pushed to link former England captain and '66 World Cup hero Bobby Moore with prog rockers ELP; wouldn't it be nice to discover that in 1973 Messrs. Emerson, Lake & Palmer had invited West Ham's finest to sit in on the Brain Salad Surgery sessions and sing the odd harmony (just like he did on Back Home)? Or, even better, to unearth evidence that Keith Emerson once had trials for the Hammers? I'd even have been happy to read that Carl Palmer's original drum teacher had been Bobby's brother when he was living up in Cradley Heath. Alas, no.
However, what I can tell you is that in the early seventies both Bobby (and his missus, Tina) and the band John Peel once described as a waste of time, talent and electricity had their mugshots taken deep in the heart of Epping Forest.

I can't tell you how many hours I pored over the Trilogy gatefold sleeve that depicted all three members of the band lurking behind every tree. It was like Where's Wally?' only in reverse.

Confession time (1). Every time I see a wooded glade (especially when I'm in the car) I shout out 'Trilogy!' It's at times like this, I suspect, that members of my immediate family fear for my sanity.

Confession time (2). As much as I love ELP, and I do, the image of Tina Moore with the England shirt pulled down as far as it will go does it for me every time. I'm only human after all, as Rag'n'Bone Man would say.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

'45' (1924-1977)

45: Berlewi (1924) 
45: Bubbles (1977)
45: Your Generation

The Number One Son told me last week that one of his neighbours is currently sporting a giant Generation X '45' framed print in his flat - James isn't stalking the guy, this piece of artwork is so large it can be seen from space, apparently. Now, I know a thing or two about Generation X: 'I think you'll find that particular design was the brain child of Tony James' (Gen X bass player and joint CEO with Billy Idol), I said with that tone that fathers adopt when handing down vital nuggets of rock history down the male bloodline. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
45: Idol

45: James
If the graphic artist, sleeve designer and troubled soul that was Barney Bubbles (1942-1983) had been eavesdropping our conversation, he would have been yelling in my ear that, actually, the Generation X masthead was one of his - Tony James would just knock out copies when he was screen-printing band tee shirts.

However, I think Barney, real name Colin Fulcher, would be the first to admit that he was influenced by Polish artist Henryk Berlewi (1894-1967), whose 1924 work 'Composition in Red, Black and White' (at the top of this blog) was surely the inspiration behind Barney's 1977 iconic sleeve for Generation X's first single.

45: Derwood

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Carr trouble

I have trouble with Jimmy Carr; I think a lot of people do. For every gag that has you choking on your false teeth, there'll be another hot on its heels that will make you feel uncomfortable; you'll laugh, but you'll still be uncomfortable. And for a comic who openly admits that, with the exception of the Hillsborough disaster, everything else is fair game, then you're never far away from a joke that some a lot of people are going to find offensive. But, hey, you know that when you step over the threshold.

His appearance last week on Desert Island Discs was very revealing. Give it a listen and you may come away with different feelings towards the fella; I know I did. The way he spoke about his mother, dyslexia, Catholicism, depression and not losing his virginity until he was twenty-six was very honest and at times very touching. And when he chose 'I Will Follow You into the Dark' by Death Cab for Cutie as the record he'd save from the waves, I was practically reaching for the fan club application forms.

Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Follow You into the Dark

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Till Another Day

My friend Martin Heaton has just released a new album; he very kindly bequeathed me a copy at Songwriters on Monday night, and it's been on constant rotation in the car all week. Despite it being stacked to the rafters with great songs (Martin never short changes his fans - it's got 16 tracks in total), I've got two personal favourites:

Till Another Day mp3

The Letter mp3 

Copies of 'Pillow Talk' are available directly from the artist - you can email Martin at

Sunday, 5 March 2017

(Another) Another Train

A couple of years ago I was corresponding with Pete Paphides for a piece he was writing on obscure record shops, and I did a mixtape for him. He said that half way thro' listening to it he'd logged onto CD Baby (other online stores are available) and was buying up most of the stuff off it! Including Another Tain by Pete Morton. He'd never heard it before, loved it and commented that it was 'just the right side of soppy.'

I wonder if Pete P's heard Pete M's reworked version of the song he did with with Full House?

We fill our heads with the craziest things that only break our hearts

Friday, 3 March 2017

Sock drawer. May contain memories

New socks. Old socks; some with holes in. Ticket stubs. Receipts. Cuff links. Photographs. Diaries. Birthday cards. Postcards. More photographs. Phone numbers. Guitar picks. Pens. More photographs. Keys. Invitations. Elastic bands. Unchecked lottery ticket. Spanish phrase book. Loose change. Map of New York. Oyster card. Book marks. Theatre programmes. More bloody photographs. Memories; a ton of memories.

And that's just my real sock drawer; don't get me started on my digital sock drawer. Or the one that lives in my head. What was it Ben Watt said, 'You can put things to the back of your mind, but you can never forget.'

The deeply unfashionable Alan Parsons may or may not have been talking about sock drawers back in 1982, but he too was plowing a similar furrow.

The Alan Parsons Project: Old & Wise

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Radio Times

It's a well known fact that the seventies were brought to you by the colour brown. Cars, wallpaper, furniture, clothes. In fact, flossy pictured (left) on the sleeve of Your One Hundred Best Tunes (a Decca release, which tied in with the Light Programme radio show of the same name) is a perfect case in point; I don't know how she's done it, but, as a result of some seventies related condition, she's managed to morph into her brown armchair and appears to be reaching out to her brown transistor radio in a vain attempt to reverse the procedure. And all the while a well thumbed copy of the Radio Times clings to her lifeless hands.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How can he be sure?

David Cassidy has just announced his retirement. During a recent live show he forgot the words to a number of his hit records and at one point tumbled off the stage; he hadn't fallen off the wagon, as some initially thought, but instead has been diagnosed with dementia.
The former pop idol has not had much in the way of luck lately. Rehab clinics, courtrooms and the back of police vehicles have been his backdrop for the last few years; the days when he could sell out venues faster than the Beatles are long gone. Ditto his poster boy image.
For anyone interested in where it all started to go wrong - after a handful of years where it was all going so incredibly right - I seriously recommend his self-penned memoir 'Could it be Forever?'
And if you fancy some tasty reworkings of his old 45s, look no further than his rather excellent 1998 album Old Trick, New Dog.

David Cassidy - How Can I Be Sure?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

"Please yourself"

Peter Skellern (1947 - 2017)
I was saddened to hear yesterday of Peter Skellern's passing. The obituaries in today's papers and online all seem to be cut & pasted from the same handful of facts some rookie journalist has cobbled together from Wikipedia: born in Bury, could play the piano a bit, had a hit in the early seventies, and became a priest not long before pegging it aged 69.

Not that I can add much more to the plaudits bestowed on him by his family, friends and fans. Other than to say I will always remember him as Carter Brandon in the radio adaptation of Uncle Mort's North Country by Peter Tinniswood. Skellern's monosyllabic one liners teed up his laconic uncle's withering monologues perfectly.

  They gave Carter Brandon a week off work, so he thought he'd spend the time taking day trips in his car. He took his Uncle Mort with him.
  It was an ancient Ford Zodiac with sad headlamps and limp seat belts.

'Shall I sit in the front seat, Carter?'

'Please yourself.'

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Mosteiro Estrada

Lisbon, Saturday afternoon

From left to right:

Jim (George)

Dom (Paul)

JT (Ringo)

Matt (John)

Thursday, 9 February 2017


Eusébio, my friend JT, and Super Bock. There, that's about my sum knowledge of Portugal. Oh, and Baxter Dury (great Portugal reference - below). Maybe by the time I get back from Lisbon on Monday I'll know a bit more.