Saturday, 31 December 2016

What about the Diddy Men?

Suit you 'Sir'
I woke up this morning to see Ray Davies' mug staring back at me from the telly. 'Christ, not another one!' I bellowed. Turns out Raymond Douglas Davies is very much alive - fit as a butcher's dog in fact. No, the reason he's on the news is because Her Majesty has given him a New Year's shiny thing: a trinket for services to Waterloo, or somesuch. Which is all well and good, fair play to the lad, but what about our kid?




Without Dave Davies there would be no Kinks (it was Dave's band, let's not forget), no Ray Davies the songwriter, no Knighthood. Someone needs to have a word with Queenie. You can't do one without the other. It'd be like honouring Ken Dodd but forgetting the Diddy Men - the young lads who did all the spade work and made him so tattyphilarious; it couldn't happen.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Changes

It was my birthday today. And I've had a great day. James and Janneke made it special. Janneke showed me how to make a Gibson. And an Espresso Martini. And she's going to knit me a bespoke scarf. James on the other hand is taking his old man to the Royal Albert Hall next year to see Seu Jorge perform The Life Equatic live.

2017 will be a year of changes. And lots of them. Some bigger than others, but changes nonetheless.




Seu Jorge: Changes

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

English Rose

You don't often see Paul Weller drop his guard; but when he fluffs the intro to English Rose in the clip below, Weller actually breaks into a grin; there never were such times.

When he first put Rose on The Jam's All Mod Cons album he never even credited it on the sleeve; such was his aversion to (at that time) writing tender love songs. Also, back in 1978, Weller didn't know what dyed in the wool Jam fans would make of anything that didn't come thundering out of the speakers like a tube train emerging from a deafening tunnel.

He needn't have worried.


Paul Weller: English Rose

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Blinded When I Met You

By now the eagled eyed among you will have spotted that I haven't yet compiled a single 'Best Of' list for the year just gone. And nor will I be doing. That said, I've been absolutely staggered this year by the quality and sheer brilliance of new material by my peers at the two Songwriters Circles I frequent. Songs by local writers & performers such as Martin Heaton, David Swann, Matt Beer, Rowena Simpson and Peter Lister would not be out of place in anyone's Top 10, least of all mine.

And a special mention must go to Paul Lewis. I've mentioned on here before that, not only is he the most consistently brilliant writer, but also the most prolific - if York had a Brill Building, Paul would definitely live there. I know I'm not alone when I say I love this song:

Paul Lewis: Blinded When I Met You

Friday, 23 December 2016

Some things are over, some things go on

In the pub this evening reminiscing about the year gone by. 2016 has had its fair shares of ups and downs, and then some.

People have left our lives. And people have entered. Where will we all be this time next year? Only a fool would bet on the outcome of that particular brain teaser.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

4G

"Here's the thing, none of us get out of life alive. So be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful for the opportunities that you have." (Jake Bailey)

Take that mantra into 2017 and you won't go far wrong.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

This House


Last night at our Songwriters Circle I was privileged to sit next to Peter Lister when he played This House. I just about kept it together, but lost it at the end. He sent me the Soundcloud link to it today and I listened to it again; only this time I didn't make it to the end.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Where the buses *do* run



One of the many reasons I'm moving back to the city (and there are many, believe me) is the myriad of public transport options that will be available and all the spin-offs these links offer. Living in a town with no taxis, buses less frequent than the daily stagecoach and trains still powered by steam has worn me down more than I can tell you.

Black cabs, mini cabs, trams and trains will join up my life and give me that feeling, once again, of being connected. I've spent so long off the grid - if I stay here much longer I fear I may end up pointing at aeroplanes. And I haven't even mentioned the buses. And buses that run after dark - that'll be a novelty: the last bus round here leaves before the Six O'Clock News. Talking about night buses, here's a book I found today - Nick Turpin's On the Night Bus is a stunning collection of nocturnal photographs taken over the last four London winters of, you've guessed it, passengers on night buses.

 In the words of Rod Stewart: Every picture tells a story. Don't it?


On The Night Bus from Nick Turpin on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Feeling giddy


Going on holiday earlier this year didn't do it. And nor does the imminent prospect of Christmas. But the feeling you get just before you start a new book. That's giddy.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Wanton


Who said you can't judge a book by its cover? I beg to differ. And this racy piece of pulp fiction from 1957 had not one but two strap lines plastered all over it:

'She Was Fair...She Was Frisky...She Was Oh, Such Fun...'

'A Lusty Novel Of Wilderness Passion And A Wife Too Naughty To Be True!'

I'd say that was quite steamy for its time.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Childish

Hotel Lobby

Lee Child
Christmas is once again fast approaching and, this year, you know what, I think it's gonna pass me by. I'm not 'doing' it this year; enough already. And it's not been the best of years*, let's not roll it in glitter. So, a fake tree, a pint on Christmas morning and a turkey curry at some point in the afternoon - job done. I have, however, asked Santa for one small gift: In Sunlight Or In Shadow is a selection of short stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. Lee Child, one of my favourite authors**, has contributed The Truth About What Happened based on Hopper's Hotel Lobby. Written from the perspective of the 'invisible' fourth person in the painting (the hotel clerk at the back on the far right that nobody sees), it's the one thing I'm genuinely looking forward to this December 25th.

With a bit of luck and a following wind, Christmas festivities will resume in 2017.

* Though 2016 has not been without its high points.
** I devour his Jack Reacher novels mercilessly.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Tempted. Again

Justin Currie calls Nothing Ever Happens by Del Amitri his list song. That's not a bad thing. I love a list song - Come Together, California Girls, Route 66. There are hundreds of them out there. There is, I'm sure, a list of all the list songs somewhere in the cyber world. Gotta be.

However, as good as the songs I've mentioned above are, and as good as the countless others that I've not listed are, they are all eclipsed by this divine offering written by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.



Tempted



Tempted. Again


Talking about Squeeze, the answer to yesterday's quiz was b. Shanghai Squeeze.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mrs. Simpson

Wallis Simpson, American socialite and one time wife of Prince Edward - formerly King Edward VIII - was famous (sort of) for her:

a. Chinese Burns?

b. Shanghai Squeeze?

c. Peking Duck?


Answers on a postcard

Sunday, 27 November 2016

This Charming Penguin

You'll know by now that I love podcasts: discovering new ones is a joy, especially when they're as good as the Penguin Podcast.
I've just listened to my first one - a charming conversation between David Baddeil and Johnny Marr. Marr's autobiography, Set the Boy Free, was published by Penguin a couple of weeks ago and he was bringing Baddeil up to speed about it.
Although I was never a big fan of the Smiths, I've always had a soft spot for Johnny's guitar sound. Here he is explaining how he wrote the riff for their first single. When he was nineteen. Nineteen!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

God's waiting room

Losing our first buyer was unfortunate. But, yesterday, losing our second, far from being careless is just bloody soul destroying. But, hey, we're still kicking a ball.
I'm sure when we do finally cut the cord we'll look back and laugh about it all. Even the time-wasters and tyre kickers. And don't get me started on the fuckwits and bumpkins. So, maybe not all then.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

See Emily's play

A day spent up town yesterday. Top ranking indeed: an hour atop the sky deck of the Shard where visibility - at 1,000+ ft. - couldn't possibly have been any better, followed by lunch in the Nell Gwynne in the heart of Theatreland. If we hadn't had tickets for the matinee performance of Dead Funny I think I could, quite easily, have taken up residence in the little hideaway pub just off the Strand and stayed in there all afternoon. I do have form.

But, with five minutes to go before curtain up, we strolled the twenty or so yards to the Vaudeville next door and took our seats for the revival of Terry Johnson's wonderful play, which first opened at the Hampstead Theatre in 1992. I won't spoil the story for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, suffice it to say that it's essentially a black comedy using, as it does, the deaths of Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd as a springboard for the slightly dark farce that follows. I absolutely adored it. And as much as I loved the stellar performances of Steve Pemberton, Ralf Little, Katherine Parkinson and Rufus Jones, it was the beautiful Emily Berrngton that, for me, stole the show. It's running till next February. Try and get along if you can.


Emily Berrington liked your Tweet
4h:
I've never laughed as much as I did at Sat. matinee. Great play, great perf. And as for your Benny Hill tribute costume...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Then and Now


If yesterday's selection was a (strong, I think) contender to kick-off a soul infused, late night, bluesy, jazzy mixtape, then today's choice would, almost certainly, bookend it.

Grover Washington is a big noise in this house; although anything from 1980's Winelight, surely the benchmark for all smooth jazz, would have been the bookies favourite, Stolen Moments, from his 1988 Then and Now album, shows Grover really was a contender. And this stylish Oliver Nelson cover is a perfect way to end proceedings.

So there you go - the lazy arse way to putting together a compilation album - the beginning and the end. What happens in between would only get messy. A bit like life, really.

Stolen Moments

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Strong Persuader


Robert Cray: Strong Persuader - released, unbelievably, thirty years ago this week.  

It's Because Of Me 

Friday, 11 November 2016

Here Comes the Sun

Harrison: leading from the back
Despite the fact that his ashes have been floating down the Ganges for the last fifteen years, everyone's favourite Beatle, George Harrison, was on to Trump.

Trump's use of Here Comes the Sun for his political rallies was considered 'grossly offensive' by Harrison's estate, and a cease and desist order was slapped on him faster than you could say Ravi Shankar.

If only the living could stand up to him in the same way.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Engaging

Relations between Ireland and the Netherlands are set to reach an all time high as news of an impending bilateral treaty between the two countries was leaked earlier this week. Both parties are said to be delighted and are currently 'holding talks' behind closed doors.

I'm led to believe an official statement will follow shortly.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Two for joy

Comely
I namecheck Jenny Hanley in my latest song. She just popped into my head one day. At a time when the female of the species started to loom large in my life, I knew that despite her noble efforts to try and look like the girl next door, she had a past: Hanley had been both a Bond girl and played comely wenches in Hammer Horrors. All a far cry from her cuddly teatime telly image on Magpie.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Bovver

West Ham Utd are, it would appear, in a spot of bother: problems on the field, and just as many off. There is something perversely just that the east London club's owners have, in their money grubbing haste to flee their spiritual home at Upton Park, brought The Hammers into the 21st. century and, yet, at the same time, dragged them back to the dark days of street fighting hooliganism made (in)famous in the 1970s.



When will those in charge of this now morally bankrupt game get it into their thick skulls that fans don't want to watch their team play in some soulless athletic stadium with a running track around the pitch? Gone is the very notion of touch line seating, and giving the opposition's left half the benefit of your opinion as he's about to take a corner kick. And something tells me that getting a cup of Bovril at halftime time is probably not an option

No wonder then that disgruntled supporters would rather rip up their (not so cheap) seats and knock seven bells out of the visitors than watch the game through a pair of binoculars.What would Bobby Moore think? Or Clyde Best? And where's Alf bleedin' Garnett when you need him?

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Dum spiro, spero


Take it slowly
And hold fast
Just remember
Hope dies last

Saturday, 29 October 2016

New cub

I can't write songs to order; they just don't come out that way. Some people can hail them like taxis. Not me, alas. On Monday night at Songwriters I resorted to playing a couple of old tunes that I've had knocking around for ages. So as I left I half promised everyone that 'I should have something new next time.'

This morning, I locked myself away in my man cave with my guitar, 'the book', a mug of tea and a general feeling of optimism. I emerged a couple of hours later like a proud parent with a brand new song in my arms. Result! I've called it 'Can I See The Lions' and I'm hoping to record it sometime next month - along with a couple of its older, still unrecorded, siblings: 'All You Need Is All You Need' and 'It Is What It Is, We Are Where We Are'.

Until then, here's another Lion Song I'm rather partial to.

Gregory Porter - Be Good (Lion's Song)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad

It's common knowledge that Bono is a spunk trumpet. Everyone knows that, and the reasons why.

And yet, and yet... he only went and wrote Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad. Was total and utter global domination with U2 not enough for the little fella? Apparently not. The story goes that The Ego was quite pally with Frank Sinatra. And, just because he could, he wrote a song for him. However, Ol' Blue Eyes passed away before he could commit it to tape. (Daughter Nancy, though, would later give it the Sinatra treatment.)

I don't remember how, when, why or where I first got hold of Matt Dusk's version of the song, but it's been living on my iPod for bloody ages. And, every now and again, it crops up on shuffle. As it did today. Interestingly, I only found out relatively recently that Bono had written it. Just goes to show, a good song is a good song. No matter who writes it. Still doesn't stop him from being a spunk trumpet.

Matt Dusk - 'Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot of Sad'

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Unnerving


I'll admit it, horror films still scare the crap out of me. If I lived on my own I don't even think I could watch one at three o'clock in the afternoon with the sun streaming in through the windows; let alone after dark, with the lights turned out.

'Tango' is a short film. It's a surreal film, not a horror film by any stretch of the imagination. But a very intimidating film, nonetheless. It's also, for some inexplicable reason, a film I come back to time and again. And, when I do, I feel ever so slightly uncomfortable. It unnerves me.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Spunk Trumpet

As in, 'Bono is a spunk trumpet.' Although the jury is still out as to whether or not it should be hyphenated, its definition, Urban or otherwise, is pretty self explanatory. For the most part.

Try and drop it into casual conversation, or maybe an email, today. Put it in "speech marks" or italics and no one will be offended. Let me know how you get on.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

High Flying Bird

At a time in her life when most women her age have become 'ladies who lunch', my friend is tearing up the rule book. It's long been Jackie's dream to escape the shackles of suburbia and the Partonesque 9 to 5 drudgery. And she really has wanted this for a long time: most young girls at the age of eight wanted a pony - Jackie wanted to be a Trolly Dolly.

And so, after a life spent taking meeting minutes and making coffee for lame brain bosses, she has undergone some serious X-Factor style auditioning and interviewing and, last Friday, received an email informing her that her tenure at British Airways as part of their hand picked cabin crew - working out of Heathrow - begins next month. And, if I know Jackie, I'll put money on the fact that within six months of getting the gig she'll have made the front bit of the plane hers: taking care of all your First Class needs.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Mystery Train


A friend of mine thrust the global best seller everyone's banging on about in my hands last week and said: 'John, you might like this.' She was right. I did. But why did I feel guilty for enjoying The Girl on the Train as much as I did. Was it because...

...it doesn't pretend to be anything other than a glorified Whodunnit?

...in true Blackadder style, it twists and turns like a twisty turny thing?

...I know a real life Rachel?

...I'd never thought of anyone doing that with a corkscrew?

...I too find myself gazing from trains into houses that back onto the line?

...its cheesy Scooby Doo confession at the end ('And if it hadn't been for you meddling kids, I'd have got away with it') worked precisely because it was cheesy?

Or was it just because it's a cracking page turner that can be read in one sitting? Anyway, it's saved me the bother of watching the equally hyped film which, apparently, has moved the story from London to New York for no good reason and, by all accounts, has about as much tension as the Postman Pat movie.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Hold the Bells

I'm neither an inventor nor a maker - I leave that to the Number One Son. But, I have, in the last couple of weeks, invented a drink. A cocktail, if you will. This, I assure you, is my first venture in this sector; I don't claim to be a mixologist. First things first, let me give you the back story.

Whenever Gordon comes up to see us he always comes bearing gifts - flowers for Jenny, some obscure 1960s cutting from the Hull Daily Mail for me and wine for all of us. And, invariably, he augments all of the above with a bottle of Bell's. My parents have won more bottles of hooch over the years in raffles, Conservative Club draws and Golf Club tombolas than you can shake a shitty stick at. A fair percentage of this haul has been Bell's whisky. And because neither of them were whisky drinkers they've been stockpiling this most average of blends in their pantry under the stairs.
However, now the old man knows I like whisky (I do love single malts) he is now siphoning off his whisky lake and flooding us with the stuff instead.

Of course, I can't tell him that I really should be cleaning the drains with it. Instead, I grappled with the idea of disguising it - and that's when I had my light bulb moment.

So, here is my step-by-step guide to make a perfect Hold the Bells. See what I did there?

* In a long tall glass shovel in a generous helping of crushed ice

* Into it pour two fingers of Bell's

* Top up with Dandelion & Burdock

* Now suspend belief and add 3 or 4 dashes of Hendersons Relish, Lea & Perrins if you don't have South Yorkshire's finest

* Whisk to within an inch of its life


* Job done!

There you go. Make one tonight and impress your sophisticated (and not so sophisticated) friends. Money back guarantee if you're not fully satisfied.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

On hold

I'm all over the place at the moment. And treading water at the same time: selling a house in a post-Brexit world was never going to be easy. But, it will go - sooner or later. I know where I want to be, and it's not here. So, for the time being, life is kind of on hold.



Sunday, 2 October 2016

Daddy's Girl

Heather. And Harvey (her daddy)

Don't mess with Amy - the Fire Starter *will* come down on you like a ton of bricks. Just two of the many celebrity sightings at last night's party. In no particular order I spotted, amongst others, Noddy Holder, John and Yoko, a brace of Madonnas, Dolly Parton, Siouxsie Sue, Freddie Mercury, Slash, Angus Young, Kiss (two of them), The Blues Brothers (both of them), The Village People (all of them), Demis Roussos(!), Alice Cooper (and his snake), Kurt Cobain (carrying a gun), several Sgt.Peppers and Ginger Spice c/w 5 o'clock shadow.

It was like stepping into a walking talking version of Madame Tussauds.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Octobowie


I've just listened to the latest Word podcast and was enthralled by Paul Morley talking so eloquently about David Bowie: Morley's biography of The Dame, 'The Age Of Bowie', has just been published and it's Morley's very personal take on probably one of the most influential players in the history of popular music.

The Bowie section on my bookshelves is very minimalist. I bought George Tremlett's sketchy paperback, 'The David Bowie Story', whilst still at school and not long out of short trousers. Tremelett's tome was quite literally a snapshot in time, ending as it does with Ziggy's retirement bash at Hammersmith Odeon in '73.

Sitting alongside Tremlett is 'Any Day Now - The London Years: 1947-1974'. And it is just that. Kevin Cann has put together an exhaustive encyclopedia of Bowie documenting what he was doing - and who he was doing it with - every single day between being born in January1947 and the day he left Britain in March 1974.

Whilst Bowie's influences are as far reaching today as they ever were and his stock, since his demise earlier this year, has never been so high, it's the years 1971-1973 when, for me, Bowie was most exciting. Seeing him on Top of the Pops playing Starman with his blue acoustic guitar, hearing Hunky Dory for the first time and getting giddy when Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars took rock and roll into a new theatrical dimension, is a unique sequence of events I feel privileged to have witnessed first hand.

Picking out random October days from these special years you can see the speed at which he was gaining traction. Space Oddity would not become a novelty hit ball and chain he would forever drag around and he was still a million miles away from Berlin. So, with the Beatles now safely in their grave, the stage was set for Bowie's grand entrance.

1971

The Man Who Sold The World is finally released and his song Oh You Pretty Thing is released by Peter Noone. His son Zowie (Duncan Jones) is born and he meets Andy Warhol for the first time in New York. He also plays Glastonbury Fayre - just as the sun is coming up.

Tuesday 19 October. Preview copies of the new album, Hunky Dory, are pressed with a final track listing and mix.

1972

Hunky Dory charts in the US and Ziggy is unveiled for the first time. He gifts All the Young Dudes to Mott The Hoople and produces Lou Reed's Transformer.

Friday 6 October. The Jean Genie (or 'Dream Genie' as its called on the tape box) is recorded in RCA's Studio D.

1973

A year bookended by Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups with Drive in Saturday and the death of Ziggy somewhere in the middle. By now he's huge - both over here and, all importantly, over there. Over there being America and Japan and most of the English speaking world.


Thursday 18 October. Filming of the The 1980 Floor Show, a Bowie live extravaganza, begins at London's Marquee Club - to be broadcast the following month in the US on NBC's Midnight Special.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Hunter gatherer

Ten things you need to know about Ian Hunter:

* He was 29 when he joined Mott The Hoople.

* That's why he's 77 now - nearly as old as my dad. Just for the record, my dad was never in Mott The Hoople.

* He sings in a fake Cockney accent - hailing, as he does, from Herefordshire. That's nearly in Wales.

* His sunglasses are fixed to his head with No More Nails.

* Hunter is actually his middle name. I think it's got something to do with tax.

* He's prickly. Very prickly.

* He invented the Sex Pistols. Seriously. Listen to this if you don't believe me.

* I saw him play The Running Horse in Nottingham the day after Diana died, and he insisted on a minute's silence before the gig started.

*   'Ships', the song he wrote about his father, was recorded by Barry Manilow. I know, hard to get your head around, isn't it?

* Hunter has just released an eye watering 30 CD anthology. It's called 'Stranded in Reality'. You really should go out and buy a copy. Apart from 'Once Bitten, Twice Shy' and a booklet containing 841 photographs of him in his sunglasses (most of them taken indoors and/or at night), you'll find this favourite of mine:

Ian Hunter : Death of a Nation


For Steve