Friday, 17 November 2017

Blue days, black nights

Pray silence
Rejoice! The mighty Pugwash are just days away from releasing their seventh album; once again the airwaves will be awash with the majestic, heavenly sounds of Dublin's finest.

Several journals and blogs have got in early and are, already, heralding this brand new piece of plastic as the band's finest hour. Until I get my hands on a copy I can call my very own, and post my scores on the doors, I'll defer judgement. Instead I'm going to leave you with Thomas Walsh's tribute to a songwriting hero of his and, I suspect, many of you who secretly adore the luscious, and often luxurious, sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra.

Pugwash - Telephone Line

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Fall Out

It's been a long time since I fell out of a party at breakfast time - with a floozy on my arm falling out of her frock. Damn, when did I get old? Today's post, believe it or believe it not, had nothing to do with privileged Cambridge students stumbling out of champagne fuelled dens of debauchery, blinking in the early morning light not knowing if it's New York or New Year.

No, today's offering was going to be a eulogy to a well known landmark by the side of the A14 situated between the M11 and the Great North Road: the Trinity Foot pub has been a touchstone for me for more years than I care to remember. Heading either into, or out of, London, the Trinity Foot was a halfway house. A marker post that seemed to whisper 'not far to go now.' Alas, no more; they knocked it down this week.

And the reason for the photo above? I Googled 'Trinity Foot Cambs' (other search engines are available) and that's what came up. Straight up. Is it any wonder productivity has fallen off a cliff since they discovered the Word Wide Web?

Anyway, to balance things up, here's a picture of the aforementioned hostelry in its heyday. Before the wrecking ball smashed her into the ground.

The Police : Fall Out

Thursday, 9 November 2017

'I'd Like That'

My friend Emma* has recently taken delivery of a new bicycle. She's loving the open road, but is scared stiff she can't see a thing behind her. 'Get a mirror' I said. You always need to know who's behind you. Always.

My sad excuse for a bike, on the other hand, is lurking at the back of the garage somewhere; unloved and unkempt, sporting two perished tyres and a rusty chain. I can't remember the last time I donned the yellow shirt, lycra bottoms and Day-Glo bike clips. Maybe this is the answer: draw a cartoon of myself on the window of a New York cab and roll the film.

How good is this btw?

*No, not that Emma - Em's far too busy being mummy to the most beautiful baby in the world. 

XTC - I'd Like That

Saturday, 4 November 2017

I Scare Myself

A great song is a great song; and as such, I make no apologies for including not one, not two, but three versions of today's great song.

My only concession to Halloween this year (I spent the entire evening with the lights out not answering the doorbell*) was digging out an old playlist I did for my friend when she ran her own bistro. Six or seven years ago Kate used to put on a lot of themed nights and, one in particular, Halloween 2011, was particularly memorable. Not least because of the scary food that was on offer that night. The sausages you see pictured made for a unique starter, let me tell you.

But, back to the playlist. I had a lot of fun with it - looking back at it now you can see the, often tenuous, linked songs that were on there. I put a ton of stuff on it, enough to last all night (we were there from 7 o'clock till midnight) - here's just a flavour:

Black Keys - Howlin' for You
Dusty Springfield - Spooky
Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London
Alice Cooper (& the Muppets!) - Welcome to my Nightmare
Twisted Nerve theme

You get the picture, I'm sure.

Of the 80+ tunes on there (opening with this), the one that jumped out at me (and I've been playing it in the car all week) is 'I Scare Myself' by Claire Martin. Claire took the time to do a Q&A for my blog back in 2013 and she's an absolute sweetheart.

Although I knew it was a Dan Hicks song the version I was most familiar with was Thomas Dolby's. Dolby was, and still is, a studio geek, so by playing around with tape speeds he actually sounded more like a female vocalist at the time.

And here's the original. Dan Hicks sadly passed away last year. He left behind a great body of work; not least some cracking song titles: How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away? being just one of many.

* Which proved more than a little problematical as I was also waiting on an Indian takeaway delivery. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Still in Love

"I have always loved Del Amitri's music; far too many of their songs feel like they've been written for, or about, me." [Anon.]

Monday, 30 October 2017


I is for Elvis

Ian Pile - Piley to his mates - needs no introduction on this blog. Suffice it to say he is one half of the excellent Mondo & Piley monthly PODROPHEN1A podcast which you can find here . I was thrilled to receive this email in my inbox last week:

Hi John,

Hope you are well. Please find attached a pic of me with the first album bought with my own money.

Had numerous albums before this (Bugs Bunny, Sooty, Pinky and Perky, few 'Top of the Pops' albums), but all purchased as presents or nagged a parent into buying! Mum was a 'middle period' Elvis fan. The films and soundtracks mostly. I was an avid Top 40 listener on Sundays, and was diggin' the mid/late 70s Elvis singles (Moody Blue, Way Down). So much in fact that I recorded them off the radio (is there any higher praise than that?!). Anyway this rockier style didn't feature on anything my mum had, so i trooped up to Woolworths in Hadleigh to see what i could find. The recent RCA albums were all out of my league pricewise (I did get them all in the following few years), so was drawn to the cheapy MFP/Pickwick/Camden spinner rack. There were a number of Elvis albums less than half the price of the RCA ones so decided to get one of those instead. In my innocence i picked US Male purely because it had the most recent picture of him on the cover. So obviously this would be more recent tunes!!

I had no idea these were all just rehash after rehash of old tunes. Turned out most of 'em were on my mum's albums anyway! Still, the great news was it had Burning Love on it. Still to this day one of my all time favourite Elvis songs. 

Cheers mate!



Sunday, 29 October 2017

To Sarah with love

Going for an early Currie
It's all about timing. Being in the moment. And it helps if you know what the other person's thinking; like if they're playing a show in town and decide to bring the whole thing forward by an hour. Six bloody hours before the clocks go back.

I've never seen Del Amitri, so jumped at the chance of sliding in to the Rescue Rooms last night to catch Justin Currie. 'What time's he on?' I casually asked the guy on the door. Looking at my watch it was half eight. 'Put your money away, he's been on an hour, get yourself in.' Aaaaaagh!

By the time I found my vantage point he started playing the divine Driving With The Brakes On. Had I have paid to get in then this alone would have been worth the entrance money. Thirty minutes later and he was done. I didn't have the right to feel short changed as money hadn't exchanged hands; I just wish I'd known earlier. I don't even know if he played this . As you can see it reduces Chris Difford to tears. It does me as well. And here it is played on the piano.   

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Spring forward, fall back

Fall, 2017 - Grizzly
Spring, 2010 - Fresh
I treated myself on Tuesday. I let the train take the strain (1st. Class, obvs) and met my good friend Mondo. Bethnal Green at one o'clock we said; perfect for a spot of lunch at Pellicci's followed by a stroll down to Brick Lane.
I've said it before, but it's worth saying again anyway, without Mondo this blog would not have got off the ground; in 2008/2009 (when I first heard Mondo & Piley's Podrophenia podcast), after just a couple of emails I knew I was gonna get on with this fella. His passion for all things rock, and indeed roll, coupled with his guidance and encouragement helped me get this stuff out of my head and into the world we now call social media.

I went for the mixed grill and Mondo went for the chicken. Johnny Depp and Michael Gambon were no shows, but Dave Gorman was sitting next to us; not sure if he's already on their wall of fame.

To the Truman Gallery to see another mover and shaker, but not till we've shaken hands with half the East End - Mondo's treated like royalty in these parts. I just basked in his reflected glory.

The Pigeon Detectives
After conducting a four year Twitter relationship with Morgan Howell it was good to finally meet him on Monday. He was sharing the gallery with Chris Barton & Horace Panter, and together they were showing Cassette versus Vinyl; Morgan's Super Size record sleeves vied for wall space with mutant cassettes and gigantic 'button' badges.
I'd only ever seen his masterpieces on line and in Sunday supplements, so seeing them up close and personal was very special, to say the least. Morgan was very generous with his time and was great company. We talked about everything under the sun, including how to get rid of uninvited pigeons who fly into prestigious galleries.

Chris Barton was a nice fella too. He took the time to explain how he made the giant musicassettes and boxes. I wish the Number One Son had been with me at this point as laser cutters were thrown into the mix and I know James would have been all over him like a cheap suit.

Chris Barton carrying the Cash
Hunky, and indeed, Dory

A rather Special pigeon

Catch that pigeon
From the Truman Mondo then gave me a guided tour of Spitalfields pulling in a fair few hostelries. It transpires Mondo's old man was a contemporary of Ronnie and Reggie. He glossed over the finer details but, like Morgan, he painted a picture of a world that just doesn't exist anymore.
Glasses were charged and recharged, photos were taken of Spoons carpets and we swapped more rock and roll stories than you could shake a shitty stick at.
Around nine bells it was time to depart; to Liverpool St. - homeward bound. Until the next time.

Before I go, here's Mondo's latest squeeze. They're called Howling Black Soul. Check out their bass player.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Johnny. Vaughan

From left to right - Johnny & Vaughan
When Kate and Vaughan came over from Lincoln to se us at the weekend I kinda knew that Saturday would be a boozy day. I think we started in Spoons just before midday, moving into town not long thereafter. Our late lunch at the Old Angel (where vegan is really taking hold) was exceptional. And it was great to see flossy behind the bar who used to work at the Hockley Caff.
But by late afternoon/early evening Vaughan and I were only communicating in Michael Caine and David Bowie voices. Come sundown and it all started to go a bit wavy.

I think this photo of us was taken on the cusp. We were having a good night. I do believe we were telling everyone around us we were having a good night.

Happy. And ever so slightly drunk: a great combination.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Black Hole

I recently enrolled on a screenwriting course. Last Wednesday evening was week three of an eight week introduction to learning how to develop characters, fine tune stories, dialogue, plots & subplots and generally getting an insight into turning an idea into a fully formed, all singing all dancing, script.

We're looking at a lot of films (full length and shorts), covering a lot of genres and in so doing trying to bottle that elusive spark that will ultimately give birth to the complete package - something that can then
be pitched to film makers. That's the theory, anyway! Me and my other nine cohorts are under no illusions; whilst we all enjoy writing and are bristling with ideas, the chances of us getting a script picked up by Hollywood is as remote as a lottery win.

Some of the films we've looked at contain little or indeed no dialogue. The Black Hole is a case in point. This five minute gem is near perfect. It had a budget of less than $5,000 and is the real deal. Forget what I said about Hollywood earlier - if I came up with something this good, I'd be a happy man. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Every now and again Netflix throws up something so random, yet at the same time so utterly compelling and so bloody watchable, that you would never - for a minute - think of unsubscribing.
The Good Place is sublime. The concept is simple, yet throws in subtle twists just for fun. Imagine dying and going to the good place, only to find out there's been a glitch: you're not meant to be there. You were destined for the bad place. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in the afterlife gone awry. The script fizzes (as does Ms. Bell) and leaves you wondering what makes frozen yoghurt, clown paintings and sink holes so attractive. And, try like fork, it's impossible to swear. As you can probably gather, I love it.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Grass Man

My friend Adele feels the same way about gardening as I do: there's only one thing worse than gardening, and that's people talking about gardening.

However, a garden without grass is one thing, but a world without grass is unthinkable. Say hello to the Grass Man.

Whilst Adele was with us this weekend we went to see Dodgy in a little club in town. As usual they were on fine form. Unusually, however, they were without Matthew their drummer. He was moonlighting.

But they did play this. Obviously.

Dodgy: Grassman

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

I'm climbing up ladders, and sliding down snakes

Lat night night was choir night. We're getting there, slowly building our, ahem, repertoire: softly softly, catchee monkey.

So, alright, we're not quite match fit yet; not the finished article, but we're not far off. We could do with strengthening at the back - a couple of strategically placed flyers dotted around NG5 (I'll drop a few off in Doctor's Orders and Kraftwerks) should, with a bit of luck, yield an extra vox or two.

We're quite an eclectic bunch who are always on the look out for new material. We've already had a go at couple of my songs and, I think, this one suits our voices. We've sung it both a capella and with me on the guitar and everyone singing the chorus & harmonies. Both work well, but we'll get a definitive version nailed in the next week or two. In the meantime, here's my demo: