Sunday, 25 June 2017

Always room for a couple of beers

It's late Sunday afternoon and I'm feeling a little tired and a little reflective. But nothing too heavy - especially after the excesses of last night.
I have James to thank for pointing me in the direction of this; it's cheesy for sure, but as a metaphor for life it probably hits the N on the H. I think if I was starting out all over again I would love someone to sit me down and show me this film.
Remember, no matter how full your life is, there's always room for a couple of beers with friends.


Friday, 23 June 2017

White Wedding (Red Tights)

Jim and Debs are tying the knot tomorrow. Great idea to have your wedding in Bristol the same weekend as Glastonbury - we can't wait to hit the M5 tomorrow morning. Cheers Jim Lad.

And I know you said you didn't want presents, you just wanted ca$h. Sorry Jim, no can do. You'll have a toaster and like it - like any other newly weds.

Anyway, I got it in red: it'll match yer tights.



Monday, 19 June 2017

She's Having a Baby

It's taken a little over two weeks. OK, nearly three. Whatever; I've written my first song since making the move south earlier this month. And it's upbeat. Really upbeat!
The inspiration? My friend Em: she's having a baby. I've watched her bump grow every day over the last few months. She's gonna make a great mum. We go for a walk every lunchtime; I hold her hand when we cross the road (after looking right and left and right again) - I just want her to be safe.
I'll probably play 'She's Having a Baby' for her next week before I leave to take up my new position. I'm moving on to pastures new, but the next time I see Em the song will be redundant.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Disturbing

I was only saying the other day how I'm not the world's most prolific writer; but at least I don't have to write each and every one of my posts in longhand, and on goatskin parchment. I'd be lucky if I turned out two a year, let alone two a week.

However, I'm sure if I did find myself in such a predicament I too would be telling anyone prepared to listen: 'I got us into this mess, and I'll get us out of it.'

It will probably come as no surprise that my knowledge of goatskin is a little vague. I am, however, a little more knowledgeable about Goats Head Soup. Thanks to the Glimmer Twins I have never been able to erase the image of this Jamaican dish (the eyeballs really are a delicacy, apparently) from my memory bank.

And while we're on the subject of disturbing images the Rolling Stones were responsible for subjecting me and other impressionable youths in the early seventies to: one of the black and white photographs on the 'Exile on Main St.' sleeve haunts me to this day:

Charlie Three Balls  - with a trio of pool balls in his mouth (Why? How?) - is another image I've been carrying around in my head for far too long.

Well now it's your turn.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

X

 1. X is for X-Ray

I should've known better. I may have finished with Pickering, but, Pickering, quite clearly, wasn't finished with me; one final twist in its tail. An afternoon and evening of goodbyes in the town and a walk back up the hill for the last time.
Why I never saw the dodgy paving slab is still puzzling me. Yes, drink had been taken. But, in my defence, how was I to know that one step would have such consequences? What appeared at the time to be a very bad sprain was actually a break. This is what the result of my X-Ray showed (taken in Nottingham a week later when I was concerned that the swelling still hadn't subsided):

'There is a displaced transverse fracture of the top of the right distal fibula with associated soft tissue swelling of the lateral malleolus and anterior joint effusion. Fracture clinic referral advised.'

Long story short, my fear of being 'in pot' for weeks on end was, thankfully, unfounded. My consultant at the hospital told me that that wouldn't be necessary. A sturdy Chelsea Boot (my footwear of choice) should do the trick and as long as I don't attempt running a marathon anytime soon, the fracture would, in four to five weeks, mend by itself. I'm being over simplistic, of course, but worries about not being able to drive and hobbling around on crutches were dispelled. So, lots of rest then; easier said than done when you chuck my recent house move into the mix. These 80 boxes won't, apparently, unpack themselves.
But at least I can reduce the amount of walking (and driving) around in the next few days/weeks because...

2. X as in taxi

Living back in a city means that I don't have to rely on the car as a sole means of travel - we have public transport (where I've just moved from there was the daily stagecoach that would come through our town and pick up the local snake oil salesmen who would would then head south to the nearest market).

We now have regular buses (every four minutes). And trams (buses on rails). And trains (that will take you anywhere in the country. Even London). And, obviously, taxis.

When we moved, the first App I downloaded to my phone was a local taxi firm who appear to have nicked Uber's booking and tracking system lock stock and barrel (and none the worse for that). Getting around town has never been so easy. I know when my Hackney carriage is coming (I can see precisely where he/she is at any time), the name of my driver and even the registration of the pick-up vehicle. Many of you reading this will be thinking that I must have landed from some distant planet - well, you're not far wrong - I have come from the past. So I guess that makes me a time traveler. And it feels [expletive] great.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Do the first verse and track it Phil

'X' does not mark the spot
It won't have escaped your notice that Britain goes to the ballot box tomorrow. For as long as I can remember I have adopted the following election day routine.

* Come home from work
* Walk to Polling Station
* Spoil ballot paper
* Retire to pub for well deserved post-vote pint

When I say spoil, I don't mean that I write an abusive rejoinder to any of the candidates laid out before me. I really #CBA and, anyway, I'm far too polite. No, my message is just a silly way of recording the fact that I have no faith in any of the nitwits on the list (without actually writing 'none of the above'), and it fits nicely at the bottom of the ballot paper: 'Do the first verse and track it Phil.' I told you it was silly.

The BBC think so too; this from their website:

These kind of deliberately spoiled ballots are part of the British political tradition, are termed "rejected votes" and are included in the overall turnout. However, those wishing to vote for one of the candidates should avoid writing comments. It may confuse the counters and lead to your vote being put in the rejected pile. And however wise or witty a comment, it's unlikely to make much impression on staff who will be frantically trying to count ballot papers.

Ah, well. I always walked out of the booth with a smile on my face.

However, this time is different. I had the audacity to move house during the hustings so, instead, applied for a postal vote. My tried and tested routine went out of the window. So how would I vote this time? Writing silly notes in the comfort of my own home and then sticking it in a pre-paid envelope just didn't feel right somehow. And with there being more at stake this time (a whole lot more) and some really serious issues out there, I decided it would be better to act like a proper grown up and man up.

I trusted to luck and put an 'X' in one of the boxes. For once, I'm hoping you all do the same.


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Carpetbagger

The last few days have gone by like something akin to a whirlwind; long story short (regular readers, feel free to stifle a yawn) - we finally vacated God's Waiting Room on Thursday and have reconnected with civilisation. So, for the last few days all* my possessions, barring the clothes I'm standing up in, are now in storage - where they will remain until next Friday, by which time we will have deep cleaned and decorated the new gaff from top to bottom.

The above preamble is by way of explaining why the milk bottles** have been piling up outside this blog and the neighbours have been reporting me as a missing person. Though not a prolific writer by any stretch of the imagination, I do like to check in two or three times a week and record the random thoughts that invariably blindside me at 4:00 pm on an idle Tuesday***.

Now that Amazon have my new address I was pleased to take in my first parcel yesterday morning: a recommendation from one of the bloggers**** you'll see over in the right hand margin, led me to a wonderful book - Spoon's Carpets. Kit Caless was sitting in a Wetherspoon's pub reading The Way Inn by Will Wiles in which the main character travels the country living in a low budget chain of hotels. Every time he gets out of the hotel lift he sees a different painting which he soon works out form part of a giant collage. Kit then had a lightbulb moment and realised that every Spoon's carpet is totally unique. A hit blog was born - which members of the public embraced and became willing participants and photographers; not to mention enthusiastic beer sommeliers. As a guide it's every bit as important as the Good Beer Guide. And much funnier. I'm heading out later today into our new bustling high street and know that when I cross the threshold of the (huge) Spoons (The Samuel Hall) I will be keeping my head down and my chin up.

Finally today, I've always been fascinated by numbers and sequencing of numbers - Fibonacci being one that has always intrigued me: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89...

But far and away the most personal of sequences (and everyone reading this will have their own unique sequence) now has a new addition: 86, 11, 20, 17, 108, 25, 29, 17, 79, 111, 24, 90. You don't need to be an employee at Bletchley Park to crack this particular code: I was born in No. 86, and 90 now sits on all our new correspondence - nicely rounding off today's offering.

Feel free to share your unique set of (house) numbers.

* The packers even packed my glasses. I'd only put them down for five minutes
** Do milkmen still deliver bottles?
*** With thanks to Baz Luhrmann
**** Pete Brown - the UK's finest beer writer


Girl - My Number


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Hot

Jack Vettriano is no Hopper. But then again he'd be the first to tell you that. And his work may well be panned by serious art critics (whoever the hell they are); indeed his portrayal of women has been portrayed as crass soft porn. Come on, really?
But when I was looking for an image that summed up just how bloody hot it was today, I didn't have to look further than Vettriano's Heatwave.


And a big thank you to the young lady who joined me for a couple of dust-cutters this evening. Here's to a long hot summer; cue the Style Council.



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Preaching to the choir

SiNG!
After watching this five minute video earlier this evening I made a proclamation - 'I'm going to join a choir'; like the one in the film. Just how much fun are they having? If you too watch the video (and I hope you will) then I suspect you'll be thinking along the same lines. In fact I know you will.

COLiN HAY - OVERKiLL


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

If the phone don't ring, it's me


Same goes for texting and tweeting,

emailing and messaging. 

Radio silence. 

Forever.

It'll be...

 deafening.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Waiting for my Real Life to Begin

I listened to an old Desert Island Discs the other day - Kirsty Young was talking to Johnny Vegas back in 2010. He'll be the first to tell you he's been through the wringer - not for nothing does he talk about Johnny in the third person; the character he invented for himself after realising he couldn't earn a living mending teapots turned on him and, very nearly, destroyed him.

He chose this beautifully tragic Colin Hay song as one of his treasured eight discs. And who hasn't experienced the same sentiment at some point in their life?




Colin Hay - Waiting for my Real Life to Begin


Saturday, 13 May 2017

This is where it's at

I know I'm being a tad premature here, but I'm calling my single of the year; if something better comes along within the next seven months then there's every chance Hell will have frozen over.
What I know about The Tates wouldn't get your hair cut: the lead singer works in a record shop (naturally), and the drummer keeps a pet hamster. And they're from Wales.

Did I mention this is their debut single? Talk about setting the bar high. This is where it's at (something I feel sure I would have said if I were twenty years younger).



The Tates - Electric Girl.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

That was then, this is now


Paramedic and part-time street photographer Chris Porsz has been training his lens on the good folk of Peterborough for nearly forty years. With the help of his local newspaper Chris recently set about recreating some of the images he took in the early 1980s; and in so doing ended up with the source material for a fantastic new book bringing together this stunning and socially historic collection of photographs.

I've deliberately not captioned these as the book tells the stories behind them (buy it!); just to say that the couple below snapped on the platform at Peterborough station weren't even from Peterborough, but are still together, and, unfortunately, the lad standing in the doorway in the penultimate photo (reminiscent of the Who's Beaty Big and Bouncy) is sadly no longer with us.




Wednesday, 3 May 2017

I'm holding on

Speaking as someone who a. has openly nicked the chords to If I Had A Gun (Chip Off The Old Block) and b. sometimes closes his eyes while singing certain lines in songs, I was interested to read some of the constructive criticism aimed at Gallagher senior in the comments below this Youtube live acoustic session. I may have touched upon this before, but the knuckle draggers who normally frequent this remote outpost of planet Internet are not known for their quick wit and repartee; you need a strong stomach to follow the diatribe.

If I Had A Gun, though, does contain some beautiful lines* - some of his best - which I may also have to borrow at some point in the future. Come on Noel, chase me through the courts.


*Excuse me if I spoke too soon
 My eyes have always followed you around the room 
'Cause you're the only god that I will ever need 
I'm holding on and waiting for the moment to find me

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Heartbreaking

Glen Campbell's days are numbered, it would appear. His dementia, now full blown Alzheimers, was first diagnosed back in 2012 and has all but taken away one of the greatest guitarists (certainly the most versatile) of all time. As well as having hit after hit in his own right, Campbell played on singles as diverse as I'm a Believer, Strangers in the Night (that's right, Sinatra) and Unchained Melody; and a ton of other stuff by The Beach Boys (he was a stand-in for Brian Wilson in 1964/5), Mamas & the Papas, Dean Martin and Bobby Darin. Seeing recent footage of, let's not mince words here, this legend is nothing short of heartbreaking; best to remember him this way - a mesmerising TV appearance including a masterclass in how to play guitar, and a jaw dropping solo rendition of Wichita Lineman. I strongly urge you to watch it.

I love Any Trouble's homage to the great man. I saw Clive Gregson perform this beautiful song at a house concert a couple of years ago, and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention; there's not many songs that can do that these days.

Any Trouble - When I Hear Glen Campbell Sing

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Textbook


My admiration of Magnus Mills is unbridled. Show me a better writer and I can see we'll be looking for the nearest branch of Burtons.

His new novel, The Forensic Records Society, landed on the doormat yesterday; I started it this morning after breakfast and already it's shaping up to be a classic. When a couple of music buffs decide to start a record listening club in the backroom of their local pub on a Monday evening, it's not long till a counter group forms - meeting in the same pub on a Tuesday; textbook Mills.

Did I ever tell you that he once wrote me a postcard? I've just dug it out of my copy of Mills' The Scheme For Full Employment. Nesbitt is a character from same, in case you were wondering.




Monday, 17 April 2017

You Can Go Your Own Way


I heard something this evening that is both quirky and yet weird at the same time; either way, it's something to file under my 'Help! Get me out out of here' file; which is growing at a rate of knots.

It transpires that a resident of the town can't bear to be in a room if Fleetwood Mac come on the radio/jukebox/Spotify playlist etc. Beers have been left half drunk as soon as Stevie Nicks opens her mouth. Of course, pub landlords are now filling their boots with this vital piece of intel and, with the aid of a simple 'ring round' are using it in pretty much the same way farmers lay rat poison to prevent vermin. I know, you couldn't make it up. Let's hope Ms. Nicks never finds out.


Fleetwood Mac - You Can Go Your Own Way

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy


When Peter Kay's Car Share was first broadcast in 2015 I said at the time how superbly written it was. Kay has got pedigree, and not just as a standup or regular on chat show sofas; both Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere were crafted in such a way that, like all good writing, there wasn't a word too many or a word too few. Every line mattered.

In Car Share Kay has interwoven a clever eighties and nineties soundtrack via the Forever FM constantly playing (both to and from work) in Kay's little Fiat: yes, a lot of the selections are cheesy, but every track is hand picked. And there for a reason. Take a look at the 101 songs that spanned both series and, if you know the show (and only loved it half as much as I did), then you'd see a musical thread that is every bit as tight the dialogue between John and Kayleigh.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Pre-Genie

Bowie's The Jean Genie is nearly 45 years old. Can you believe it? It was released as a single in November 1972, before appearing on Aladdin Sane the following year.

'Make Me Your Baby' by Giorgio Moroder, meanwhile, will be 50 next year. Moroder, the man who gave us Chicory Tip's 'Son of My Father' and a ton of disco smashes including Donna Summers's orgasmic 'Love to Love', released this prototype for the Jean Genie in April 1968.



Giorgio Moroder - Make Me Your Baby

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Tigers on Vaseline

Ziggy
Ziggy and the Spiders. No one was really sure where Ziggy hailed from - Bromley in Kent, probably - but everyone knows where the Spiders came from. And no, it's not the red planet. The Spiders: Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder were all residents of Kingston upon Hull. That would have been a bit of a mouthful back in 1972 when Ziggy Stardust was looking for a name for his backing band. So, Mars it was then.
Waggy
It's not documented whether or not Ken Wagstaff (the greatest striker ever to have pulled a Hull City shirt on) was a Bowie fan or not. But in '72, Waggy and the Tigers were plying their trade in the old Second Division. In that same year The Spiders from Mars tour was in full flow.

Meanwhile, back in Hull, City (unlike now) were consistently under achieving: it would be another thirty years or more before they reached the top flight. Bowie, on the other hand, was on fire. Ziggy Stardust catapulted both him and his East Yorkshire band members front and centre - their mammoth UK and North America1972 campaign pulled in some prestigious dates in the US including New York's Carnegie Hall and the Winterland Auditorium in San Fransisco, before rounding off the year at London's Rainbow Theatre. Hull's itinerary, meanwhile, included exotic locations such as Preston North End. And Middlesborough. Although Waggy missed part of the season due to injury, he was still finding the back of the net. However, they would still finish the season nearer the bottom of the league than the top. Tigers on vaseline, indeed.


πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…

Today's offering comes on the back of finishing my new song, 'Won't Fade Away'. It's a eulogy to Hull - the place where I was born. York Songwriters are putting on a gig in the summer in a little bar in the Fruit Market later in the summer - each of us playing a Hull themed ditty. Unfortunately I'll have moved by then, so will miss it. Here's the first verse:

I was born on the Beverley High Road
When Waggy and the Tigers played at Boothferry Park
And we'd go to the Land of Green Ginger
Have a few few beers...stumble home in the dark

πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…  πŸ…

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Getting Better

I've got to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time; seven weeks on Thursday.

That's my bit at the end. John and Paul were kind enough to leave the gaps, so you can sing along with the extra line - should you so desire. It actually forms part of the new remastered version of Pepper (it was fifty years ago today, sort of) that will be available for you to buy (again) next month. Sneak preview time:

The Beatles - Getting Better (instrumental) mp3

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Living in Hope

Barry Wom - pretty in pink

hope


noun

       1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen




Barrington Womble (aka Barry Wom) was living in hope; and he wasn't even the best drummer in the Rutles. Allegedly.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Blind Faith

No caption required
What you're about to read in the opening paragraph just couldn't happen now. Could it...?

It's 1969. You're a 14 year old girl. A photographer approaches you on the London Underground and asks if you wouldn't mind taking your top off for some 'artistic' snaps he wants to take for a pop group's new album cover. 'No, I think I'll pass' says the youngster, 'but my younger sister would be up for it.' The shoot is set up (amazingly with the girl's parents' consent), whereupon photographer Bob Seidemann asked the topless 11 year old - Maiora Goschen - to hold a phallic spaceship. He calls the resulting image 'Blind Faith'.

She can laugh about it now
The album in question goes on to sell millions (well, Eric Clapton *was* God at the time), though the sleeve is still reviled in certain quarters. Accusations of child pornography aside, the standout song on Blind Faith's one and only album is 'Can't Find My Way Home'. It was written by a then twenty year old Stevie Winwood. When the supergroup played it at their debut gig in Hyde Park it was a baking hot day in June. Forty odd years later here's Winwood playing it solo and dressed for the tundra. He really needs to crank the heating up.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

This is Your Life


I'd like to think I played a small part in this new release: Your Life is an exquisite collection of songs recorded earlier this year, mostly in her living room, by the adorable Rowena Simpson. Rowena used to play in a little jug band in a former life, before stepping back and letting life do that thing that life does. Twenty years later, and with a wealth of life (that word again) experiences to draw on, she had the makings of a few new songs - and would have been quite happy to keep them to herself, playing them to the cat and the dog.

And then she came to Songwriters. She reminded me of Bambi on the ice; she just needed a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of support. And she flourished.  She got her confidence back and began writing some beautiful songs. And then she got the monkey off her back and started playing live. In front of real people. And she loves it. Her nine track album of self penned material is astonishingly good (well, I would say that wouldn't I?), it really is.

I've chosen three tracks which give you a through the keyhole taster of her CD. I think you'll like them.




That's us at the bottom

Rowena and I shared a stage at the Fulford Arms in York on Thursday night as part of the York Songwriters revue gig we put on. It was an unqualified success: we played in front of a good crowd and the CDs were flying off the Merch Stand like you wouldn't believe!
I'll miss them when I go - I can honestly say that the talent in the room on Thursday was breathtaking. I wish them all well and hope they put on many more gigs like this in the future.

Crumpled Shirt Man - snapped by Rowena



Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Love, Hope and Misery

I've mentioned here before just how obscenely talented Jake Bugg is.
'Love, Hope and Misery' is his tribute to Bill Withers (think 'Ain't No Sunshine') and Robert Cray ('Right Next Door') all rolled into one. That's what I think anyway. But what do I know?
A soundtrack to a breakup if ever I heard one; probably.



Monday, 27 March 2017

Swansong


This Thursday night sees York Songwriters putting on their/our latest showcase gig at the Fulford Arms; it's a cracking venue with a great little stage, cool lights, a soundman who knows what he's doing and some none too shabby beers thrown in for good measure.


The fun starts at 8:00. I'm second or third on the bill which will be nice (it could be the last time I'll play in York, what with my impending house move and all). We'll even be selling a few sampler CDs: it's called The Cost of a Pint and, that's right, it's yours for a mere three quid. It'll pay for the aforementioned soundman, with anything left over going in the nearest charity bucket.

I must extend a big thank you to David Breslin who, in recent years, has kept York Songwriters and its ragtag members in some semblance of order through thick and, often, thin. Unfortunately he won't be there on Thursday due to illness, but here he is singing one of his own compositions 'Orpheus in the Underlay'.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

I'm coming home I've done my time

Swings
And roundabouts
Seven years to be precise. During which time there's been a lot of swings, a lot of roundabouts. Good times (mostly), with a few not so good times thrown in too. I should have shipped out a year ago. I wanted to; before it really started to unravel. But, hey, you can't always get what you want.

The solicitors are saying June 1st. That'll do for me. Time enough to make peace with the place, and pack a few tea chests. The Medd caravan rolls on...



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)