Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Get Out of my Face...

As anyone who's met me will testify, as a rule, I'm a pretty easy going fellow. It takes quite a lot to wind me up. Obviously, I'm not perfect and, like anyone, I have my little foibles - things that, though trivial, will always hit the exact spot most likely to cause me to fly into a brief but passionate rage before once again returning to my more usual demeanour of icy cool, zen-like calm. Often they're such silly things, I myself wonder why I'm letting them get to me at all. Like the way that Rachel in Friends pronounces Joshua; "Josh-oo-wah". Or Kirstie Allsop thinking that by paying someone a tenner for a tatty Reject Shop mirror, passing it on to a master craftsman who will charge her several hundred pounds to give it "that distressed look" she is somehow "personalising" her vast country pile in Devon. Then there's Carol Kirkwood - don't you just want to shoot someone who's that chirpy at 6 minutes past 6 in the morning? Alex Ferguson? Fucking sclerotic cunt - I'll fucking chin him if I'm ever within spitting range of his unsportsman-like wristwatch-pointing because his team of over-paid, wife-beating superstars needs another 10 minutes of time added-on-for-stoppages in order to win or draw the game that they've probably already fixed with the referee. Bastards. And don't get me started on David Cameron. Just because you once looked at someone else's copy of The Queen is Dead doesn't make you remotely cool, you chinless middle class tosspot. Fuck off back to stockbroker belt and take that stuffed pig Allsop with you, you effete tory wanker. Maybe you can make her Minister for Skips in your first cabinet re-shuffle and send her out to make multi-coloured tumblers or cushion covers with some Holocaust-denying Polish Euro MPs, eh? You fucking arsehole.

Of course, this inner serenity is easily explained. Unlike today's breed of self-obsessed, overly materialistic youngsters, people of my generation were bought up to be grateful for what we had and to be prepared to wait for the good things in life rather than having everything delivered to us via a digital download two minutes before it's even been finished - and then having the temerity to complain because the download speed in Dumfries means you have to wait 22 minutes for the entire Godfather trilogy to be delivered in HD format onto your i-pod instead of the national average of 17. In my youth, you knew you'd enjoy that Scalectrix or Arnold Palmer indoor golf game (complete with moving Arnold Palmer doll at the base of the trigger-operated golf club *and* extensive range of woods, irons and putters) *so* much more once you'd waited for your uncle/nephew/older brother to bash the shit out of it for several years before handing it down to you - by which time you'd discovered masturbation anyway and so had no use for pathetic plastic replicas of South African golf legends, even if you could use them to hack lumps out of your sister's shins and be far enough away to avoid getting kicked). Whereas nowadays, if the slightest thing goes wrong in anybody's life, it's been posted up on the world wide inter-web and within weeks turned into a raunchy ITV2 vehicle for Billie Piper that no one will watch because it clashes with Ladette to Lady.

It could be argued, I suppose, that this is all part of the empowerment of people which, we're told, is such a beneficial by-product of the globalisation process. Whether you're from Ankara, Kabul, Midlothian, North Carolina or Peru, you have the same right to complain as someone from Hertfordshire. It's called democratisation, but doesn't it often ring hollow? In any case, I suppose we'll have to get used to all the moaning minnies who want everything on a plate, instantaneously, as a matter of right, and whose freedom to do as they damn well please is the single most important issue in the whole history of human affairs. But it comes to something, I'm sure even the most rabid free-market individualist would agree, when even the *criminal* *classes* begin to mither about how hard done by they are. Like the granny murderer who featured on the news the other night. Rather than count his good fortune for having got away with his despicable crime on a technicality (the police "lost his files") and put his hands up in time honoured "it's a fair cop guv, but society's to blame fashion, when cornered by a brave/foolhardy (delete as applicable) journalist trying to bring to his attention the recent changes in the double jeopardy laws that may lead to a retrial he thrashed away with his stick at the cameraman yelling at him "get out of my face". So, right now, personal space, it seems, is above all else sacrosanct.

Right, where's the Radox?


E is for... here to find out...

Music from The Smiths, The Tammys, The Coasters, The Blue Nile, Sister Sledge, Elvis Presley, Kate Bush, more Sister Sledge and Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs...

....can you guess what it is yet??


Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Like most senior civil servants, I try to draw a very distinct line between my personal and professional lives. Consequently, the area of work has featured rarely on these pages and, given the highly sensitive nature of my employment, that will no doubt continue to be the case in the main. However, the development of an exceptionally intriguing and bizarre set of highly comic and work-related circumstances has combined with my not having the foggiest what else to post, given that the third test doesn't start until the week's virtually over, and given me no option but to shed a little light into that otherwise dingy corner of my 9-5 existence.

Obviously, I'll have to relate much of this in very broad brushstrokes as I'm legally obliged to treat all but the most trivial of the day's business with the utmost discretion. This is one reason I've never been able to reveal the names of those involved in the infamous Roussos-o-gram incident, nor shed more than the most innuendoous light upon what happened to the pitchfork and the tent frame after the unfortunate dawn raid by the West Sussex constabulary on the junior minister's weekend retreat. Those details will, like so much else, have to wait until my retirement - although I can probably post up a link of him in the Doris Day outfit should there be a widely felt desire that to do so would be in the national interest.

Suffice to say, the department in which I am but a small cog in the relative scheme of machinations is primarily concerned with, in the very broadest and decent sense of the word, procurement. For reasons of personal and national security, I can't be specific about the exact nature of the services/goods it is within our remit to acquire but the precise nature of the day to day business of our office is not itself the kernel of the comedic scenario beginning to unfold this fateful week. Let us say, for the sake of hypothesis and in order to flesh out the narrative sufficiently so as to retain the reader's interest a little further, that the items in question are, oh I dunno, off the top of my head....oh yes, ....books. Yes, that should do the trick. 'Books' it is.

So, in the feint hope that anyone has persisited this far with the tale, as in so many quarters over the last 12 months, the various financial and credit restrictions which have been ravaging the economy have been keenly felt in our sector. Indeed, had it not been for some judicious recycling of envelopes and a determined effort to ensure that all lights and PCs were turned off by the last person leaving the office, I sincerely doubt that our department would have been able stagger on into the last financial quarter. But stagger on we did and, despite the evident ignominy of working within a team whose sole raison d'etre was, not to put to fine a point on it, spending money, and discovering that there was little appetite among our colleagues higher up the monetary pecking order for expenditure of more than the most frugal and cheeseparing sums, it's been a rewarding time for our battle-hardened troops.

But yesterday, shortly before close of play, came the bombshell. My supervisor (who may or may not be flamehaired and sultry of lip, according to the overactivity or otherwise of the esteemed reader's imagination) appeared to dissolve into what can only be described as liquid form as she perused the latest email from on high. We have, it seems, £80,000 to spend. On 'books'. By Friday.

Oh well, on with the motley...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Match of the day...

The Sir Bobby Robson Trophy.

England 3 (Ferdinand, Thompson, Shearer [pen]), Germany 2 (Hellmer. Bobic)

I'm not a huge fan of Clive Tyldesley, but he's in cracking form commentating on the Sir Bobby Robson trophy match between veterans of the England and Germany teams of Italia '90. "To a man, St James's Park rises to it's feet..." he intones solemnly as the camera closes in on the man of the moment, the wax-faced and wheelchair-bound Bobby Robson. 11 of those who took part in that unforgettable World Cup semi-final 19 years ago have turned out to honour the former England coach and raise money for his charitable Trust which supports NHS hospitals on Tyneside. It's 12 if you count Tydesly's co-commentator, Terry Butcher, who's unable to play because he's had knee replacements in both legs. Gary Lineker just couldn't be arsed.

The pre-amble seems to last the length of three matches. Paul Gascoigne reminisces in rapid fire, scatter gun geordie on his 1990 World Cup: "Like I say, Aberdeen Angus Montessori school the lion the witch and the wardrobe pennies from heaven total eclipse of the heart James Gandolfini to be fair. Wilson Keppel and Betty inna gadda da vida do the locomotion with me catch a falling strar and put it in your pocket save it for a rainy day for the Gaffa, like..." David Platt nods in grave assent.

Of course, no England v. Germany match would be complete without a burst of 'Nessun Dorma'. Tenors Unlimited (I'm guessing that's how it's spelt - although, presumably it cost an unlimited amount of tenners to hire them) are wheeled out to over-emote and joylessly pummel the rapidly swelling crowd with unlimited quantities of vibrato.

Finally, the teams are presented to Sir Bobby. Peter Shilton is accompanied by the scariest mascot in the history of the game. If you can picture an even more pasty faced, un-made-up Michael Jackson wearing a Mick Hucknall wig, you'd get the idea. And probably vomit. The poor lass can't help it, I suppose. As Bobby is wheeled down the line of players and officials, it's all smiles, handshakes and bonhomie from both sides, with the exception of German player-coach Lothar Matthaus, who looks as if he wants to kill something.

Sir Bobby is presented with a UEFA lifetime achievement award, presumably for his contribution to touchline jigging and without any further ado, the match kicks off. "The average age of the England side is 45 years old, compared with Germany, who's average age is 41..." says Tyldesley, getting his excuses for the inevitable England defeat in remarkably early even for him. There's early danger as a German wingback strolls up to the byline and floats in a tempting cross to the near-post, but it's serenely plucked from the air by the ever-reliable Shilton, who promptly pulls a thigh muscle in the process of gathering the ball and throwing it out. Apart from picking the ball out of the net after Thomas Hellmer has opened the scoring for Germany, it's his sole noteworthy contribution before being substituted.

"The England bench is made up of a variety of R&B singers, TV quiz show hosts and one or two comedians", Clive Tydesley informs us, and as if by way of proof of the latter, Shilts is replaced by Dave Beasant. It's not long before he too is called into action, retrieving the ball from the back of his goal after Bobic has added a second for Germany. "The German goalkeeper is Oliver Recks", says Tyldesly. "We can only hope..", he adds mournfully.

2-0 down, with only 18 minutes played. This calls for a heavy dose of mid-match anaysis. "What's going wrong?" One of the small army of pitchside reporters ITV 4 have deployed to cover what is, let's face it, one of the key games of the pre-season warm up period, asks England manager for the day, Howard Wilkinson. " We need to inject a bit more pace up front, Wilkinson shrewdly assesses. "Do you think you can do that Howard?" " Oh yes", smiles the coach, adding obliquely, "...once the egos have been satisfied..." So, the England plan is to wait for the Germans to start coasting, take Shearer off and bring on Craig *just* might work...

But intead, the wily Wilkinson conjures up an astonishing sleight of hand. Instead of Craig David, a naked man takes to the field of play. "There's a naked man on the pitch" shrieks Tyldesley, in what will transpire to be the game's major turning point. The camera studiously attempts to avoid him, but a raking crossfield pass is headed straight for him and so the nudist enters the camera's field of view. The naked man neatly dummies the ball for Jorge Albertz, whose low drive fizzes just wide of an upright. But the Germans' rhythm has been upset by the arrival of the portly streaker. "We don't have them in Germany", admits one shaggily haired and clearly distracted - possibly through medication - German player interviewed pitchside.

Within moments of the birthday suited one's appearance, England have pulled a goal back as Les "Sir Leslie" Ferdinand nods home from Alan Thompson's free kick. Still traumatized by their exposure to such flabby bellied northern nudity, the German defence concede another free kick on the edge of their box, one which Alan Thompson converts with a powerful drive. For some reason, I punch the air triumphantly. "They don't even have streakers", gloats a now bouyant Tyldesley. "Call themselves an international power?!?"

I'd been looking forward to watching Gazza play again, but he's having a pretty quiet time and is barely mentioned in the first 20 minutes. It turns out that he's used the time wisely though having stealthily spent the first quarter of the game walking into the German penalty area. Suddenly, there's a flash of the old magic as the ball finds him with a shooting opportunity ten yards out. But with characteristic selflessness, he slips a cheeky square pass to Shearer who, with atypical profligacy, blasts wide.

Finally substituted after heroically walking about a bit for thirty minutes, Gazza is philosophical about the missed chance. "Bits and bobs, la-di-da-gunner-Graham-French kissin' in the USA Borehawood Jeffrey Archer wish they all could be Californian girls Mantovani wristwatch abatoir Reesus pieces chicken korma, I probably should've shot meself, like," he gabbles, ruefully. You see, this may be a friendly, but it's also England versus Germany and, as such, a matter of life and death.

After what seems like three days rather than 45 minutes, referee Dermot Gallagher finally blows up for half time. "I wonder what they'll be drinking in the changing room..." asks a wistful Terry Butcher. We'll never know for sure, but with Gazza around, it's a fairly safe bet that whatever it is will be administered in a dentist's chair..

The second half ambles along in much the same fashion. "England can call on the likes of Angus Deayton, Simon Webbe, Craig David, Paddy McGuinness, Jim Rosenthal, Roger de Courcey and Nookie bear..." Clive tells us (I made up the bit about Roger de Courcey and Nookie Bear, obviously). All the same, Fabio Capello must be deeply envious of the strength in depth at Howard Wilkinson's disposal. Leeds United manager Simon Grayson comes on (at least I think he said Simon Grayson. It could, I admit, have been Larry Grayson - certainly as far as his tackling and distribution was concerned.) Ex-Port Vale trainee Simon Webbe comes on and looks quite a handy outside right. Craig David is poor. At last, with 10 minutes remaining, Alan Shearer runs onto a good through ball and is upended inside the area. Penalty. Shearer steps up and scores and England hang on to see out the result, Paddy McGuinness coming on to shore up the defence for the last minute and a half with the missing 'N' from the name on his shirt hastily written in black marker pen. Nick nack noo.


Friday, 24 July 2009

What we learned this week...

...not much:

"My Daddy Walked in Darkness" by Gil Bateman is a work of genius...

Arsenal fans hounded striker Emanuel Adebayor out of the club, leaving him to suffer the ignominy of having his wages almost doubled in order to live with the indignity of having to play for Manchester City. I hope they're all ashamed of themselves...

Greil Marcus is probably the greatest rock writer of all time...

Have a great weekend folks,


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Gift of the week...

I'm feeling a bit low when Philip bounds up to me and proffers a plastic bag containing, it would seem, something flat and 12 inches squared. "I can't remember if this is one of the ones you were looking for...", he says, as I retrieve a copy of this

from the plazzy bag. "Yes," I smile. "It is one of the ones I've been looking for".

"How much do I owe you?" I ask. Philip waves Thunderbird puppet arms horizontally and demurs, muttering something about only and 50 and pence. I buy him a coffee all the same. It's amazing how seemingly small gestures of kindness can have such a transformative effect. It's enough to restore my faith in humanity, anyway.

In the aftermath of the Beatles' split, Paul McCartney retreated to his Scottish farm and lapsed into something akin to a premature mid-life crisis. (He was 28.) Comparing himself to someone who'd been made redundant, his day job as a Beatle to all intents and purposes behind him, Paul grew, by his own account at least, listless, demotivated. In short, far from fab and, as Linda's cover image visually puns, life was no bowl of cherries either.

If he was able to raise himself from his bed at all, it was probably only to hit the Scotch - the baggy eyes on display in many of the photos collaged inside the sleeve's gatefold document the parlous state he'd been in and unwittingly bely the images of rusticity and family joy those snaps are intended to convey. His mood during that period is best summed up in the first few lines of 'Every night' [click here for MP3]

Every night I just want to go out, get out of my head
Every day I don't want to get up, get out of my bed...

It would be very easy to dismiss this collection of half-baked song ideas, only slightly more polished Beatle rejects and oddities ('Glasses', for example, is exactly what it says on the tin - presumably what with all the boozing, Macca had plenty of these hanging about to run his finger around the rim of...) But if you're looking for emotional honesty and an insight into the man behind the music, McCartney succeeds where the often better written and more carefully produced later solo work frequently disappoints.

The album's often willfully unfinished and hobbyist quality catches an intensely creative talent in mid-falter with polaroid immediacy. Apparently dead-in-the water self-jams as 'Oo You' and 'Valentine', which seem to run out of gas before they've got past the first few bars are object lessons in artistic frustration. It's almost as if the listener's empathy has been assumed and McCartney's thinking out loud, "'re frustrated by having to listen to this? Imagine how *I* ****ing well feel playing it..." By the end of side one, as the pub singalong of 'Man we was lonely' fades out, you're hoping that by some miracle, by the time you've flipped over to side two, the other three will have seen sense and realised that they can't possibly leave their old mucker (or you) in this state and by the time the needle drops down, the Beatles will have reformed.

But that was never an option, was it? So, like Macca, we've just got to get on with it. And so, in one of the most remarkable sides of music he's ever produced, we witness McCartney passing through his own version of Lennon's primal therapy, gradually hauling himself back to life, pushing the demons of inertia behind him. 'Momma Miss America' [click here for MP3] is an astonishing piece. The ridiculously primitive snare sound that graces most of the album is wound even more agonisingly taut and distorted to the maximum as McCartney's amateurish, teenage drummer in a Salvation Army band roll ushers in the genuine surprise of a cool, loping, funky reggae groove that sounds like a throwback from some white boys go all funky post-punk LP from 1979. It's quite miraculous - like coming out of a dark room into the light. But then, just as you're hoping that the vocal will come in, the song just sort of meanders into yet another bored twelve bar work out. Why? Before you can even tell yourself - "ah, but he doesn't have John there to edit him any more, does he??", you've surmised ", but he could have just got someone to snip the tape, couldn't he?..."

Gradually, it becomes so evident that he could, and habitually *would* have, got rid of not just this, but most of all the other indulgences on display here, that you begin to realise that Paul's creative listlessness - or rather, your being exposed to it - is not down to sloppiness but to strategy. In much the same way that on his first solo album, John Lennon took the axe to what he perceived as the 'inauthentic', 'dishonest' production filligree of the Beatles, McCartney forces himself and the listener to enter the post-Beatle world at even closer hand. If for Lennon the dream was over, welcome to McCartney's nightmare. Arguably, it's an even braver stylistic leap for McCartney; the suave, professional polisher of gems stripped of the finery of Abbey Road and George Martin's patient, schoolmasterly guidance.

The Beatles are an almost tangible absence in many parts of McCartney. 'Junk' and 'Teddy Boy' were held back from the 'White Album' and can be heard as almost apologetic embryos on the Anthology CD. The instrumental 'Hot as sun' dates back to their pre-fame days as a Liverpool club band. So you can't help but hear these songs in a new bittersweet light - Harrison's tex-mex guitar line on 'Hot as sun' gives way to a rueful McCartney organ solo. 'Junk' and 'Teddy boy', typical of the sort of 'songs about boring people' that used to so irritate John, are sung as if the only person listening is their composer. Even the 'boring people' take on a new complexity as Teddy's almost perverse attachment to his widowed Mum and disapproval of her new lover perhaps aludes to another famous and unwanted interloper who'd blown in from the east around the time the song was written. Here and there a harmony that John or George would have sung rises up, or a laconic, Starr-like snare will shuffle and the dead-as-nature-intended, sound of the room production style starts to make sense. It's as if he's singing in and to a house full of ghosts.

Consequently, the voiceless, karaoke reprise of Junk, 'Singalong junk' [click here for MP3] comes over as a haunting elegy to the Beatles and their decade. Indeed, you could easily imagine it playing quietly in the background of the film Withnail & I, just as the Hendrix gives way and it's realised that there's only enough stuff left for one more Canberwell carrot ...and then the greatest dceade known to human history will be over...

Kreen - Akore ends the album in a puzzling, red Indian drum-driven approximation of the night sweats. But it's the preceeding 'Maybe I'm amazed' [click here for MP3] that presents the pinnacle of the album's emotional arc. It's a definitively cathartic song - no wonder he's amazed - and the fact that it still sounds like a demo of a great song doesn't in anyway diminish, but rather stands as a testament to, its greatness.

You can pick up a vinyl copy on ebay - probably for less than a tenner unless you want an early pressing, in which case there was one going for about £18. Oh, and that fluttering sound you can hear at the end is the birth of Wings.

Hope you enjoy the MP3s. Oh, and thanks again Philip!


Monday, 20 July 2009

Single of the week...

" ba ba-ooooooh...."

Absolute beginners


Absolute beginners (dub)

Until the release of the definitive Bowie Singles Collection a few years back, bizarrely, to hear one of the great man's biggest hits you either had to buy this single or (...please and don't tell me any of you were foolish enough to do so..) shell out for the fantabulous (not) Absolute Beginners soundtrack LP. Joking aside, Julien Temple's movie was a lot better than I remembered second time around, if still an unsatisfactory attempt to make sense of a dark episode in London's history (The first wave of riots in Notting Hill). Perhaps an adaptation of Colin MacInnes' novel hemmed Temple in a bit too much - or perhaps the idea of combining that narrative with a collection of songs by some of London's finest songwriters in an Expresso Bongo-stylee was just one conceit too many for the much-derided (at the time) project. Regardless, if nothing else, we got this gorgeous, swooning slice of wide-screen romanticism. Bowie's last great populist single and, argubly, one of his best 45s.

On a personal note, I was present at the filming of the fascist rally scene in the movie, in which Bowie makes a fleeting appearance. Unfortunately, there were about three feet of wall separating the office I was working in from the church hall in which the scene was being shot. Had we known at the time what the racket was and that Bowie spent much of the day downing coffees and smoking tabs along the riverside opposite Eel Pie Island, we may even have caught a glimpse of him...Ho hum.

All this and Absolute beginers (dub) too....


Sunday, 19 July 2009

Find of the week...

Sunny Side Up by Wilbert Longmire....what else?

Worth it for the cover alone, were it not for the presence of one of my favourite session guitarists, Eric Gale, and some lovely piano flourishes from Richard Tee. (Just to divert away from the music for a second and back to the lovely pair of yolks on the cover,

it's not uncommon in our house to hear the bastardized strains of a familiar old standard reverberating around the gaffe as we duet:

[Mr. Shadow:] How do you like your eggs in the morning?

[Mrs. Shadow (no relation):] Unfertilized.)

But I digress. Yes, musically, it was a bit of a leap into the dark, but at three quid (and having agonised over whether I'd ever listen all the way through to an Average White Band live double album, the only other contender in the racks of the Geranium Shop for the Blind) it would need to be pretty dire not to reward that meagre investment.

Whilst it's certainly no masterpiece, there's a fair degree of charm poking through the workmanlike sessioneering on all 5 tracks. Opener, 'Black is the colour'* is a pleasing, synth and harmonized-guitar disco workout. But, surprisingly, my favourite track turns out to be Wilbert's instrumental take on Bill Withers' over-familiar classic 'Lovely day'. It's the first song to feature Eric Gale and he immediately makes his presence felt, guiding the band through what evolves into a Chic-like groove underpinning Wilbert's jazzy doublestopping. Closer, Starflight' is worth a listen too, kidding the listener that they're in the pre-flight Concorde lounge circa 1978, trying to attract the stewardess's attention to order another glass of free champers whilst simultaneously avoiding eye-contact with Elton John, Britt Ekland or Rod Stewart.

Had it not been only the CD version I picked up, the 'real' find of the week would obviously have been Cornershop's When I Was Born for the Seventh Time. Despite having bought the single of 'Brimful of Asha' at the time, for some reason, I never got around to the LP from which it came. (Then again, I only watched Team America: World Police for the first time last night, so it shouldn't come as any great surprise. No wonder "I'm so ronery"...) As the lads themseves say, there's "good shit all around". Hanif Kureishi wrote a book called The Black Album. When I Was Born for the Seventh Time. is pretty much what that album would sound like. A fiver well spent, when all's said and done...

MP3s of the Wilbert Longmire songs for your delectation:

Black is the Colour

Good Morning!

Lovely day




*...not, sadly, an homage to the new Chelsea away strip...

Another day, another Tappan Zee/Columbia label....

Wilbert as he was in 1978, note obligatory credit to God, David 'Dave' Sanbourn and a handsomely kitted out Eric Gale, bottom right.

Friday, 17 July 2009

What we learned this week...

A myriad of crazy rock 'n' roll/pop trivia:

Gram Parsons' real name is Cecil Ingram Conner III...

Demis Roussos and Vangelis played together in a group called Aphrodite's Child...

The k.d. in k.d. lang stands for kathryn dawn...

One US critic once described singer Mary Margaret O'Hara as "Annie Hall with a lobotomy"...

Patti Smith once told Blondie they should "get the fuck out of rock 'n' roll"...

Simply Red's Mick Hucknall has the E.U.'s cross and star emblem tattoed on his forearm...

Elsewhere, in the news, proof at last of the persistent industry rumour that Madonna soundchecks with a cover version of Funkadelic's 'Tear the roof off the sucker'... Although, in fairness, I've often held that that voice of hers could open a can at two hundred paces, so who knows...

Finally, the Morton Shadow good taste award goes to Rick 'Ricky' Stein for his seamless interweaving of the joys of Cambodian cuisine with the horrors of the Khymer Rouge in Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey. "How could the Killing Fields have happened in such a wonderful place, with such a beautiful civilisation??" he bleated in between mouthfuls of sumptuous spicy fish curry and 33 export beer. Presumably Rick's conveniently forgotten all about the disastrous effect on the region of centuries of western imperialism. Which reminds me; whatever happened to The Galloping Gourmet...???

Have a great weekend


Thursday, 16 July 2009

D is for... here to find out.

Shadowcast #4 features contributions from (among others...) Kate Bush, The Everly Brothers, John Lennon, Greil Marcus, The Jam, Roy Orbison, Blondie and Bill Nelson...


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Mojo Collection...

On Sunday I picked up a copy of the 3rd Edition of The Mojo Collection*, £2.50 at the FARA shop (like the poor and Davina MacCall, the Romanian orphan, it seems, is always with us...) It's another of those 'list' books so beloved of the anally retentive music enthusiast. I guess the idea is that the albums assembled here and given a brief-but-informative page-long precis by a luminous assortment of Mojo contributors might make up some sort of platonic 'perfect' record collection. As bizarre as it seems, there may just be something in that claim - although I'd very much like to see the household that bought the following releases in 1977:

Boston - Boston
Low - David Bowie
Damned Damned Damned - The Damned
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Marquee Moon - Television
Trans Europe Express - Kraftwerk
Live at the Hollywood Bowl - The Beatles
Small Change - Tom Waits
Hard Again - Muddy Waters
In Colour - Cheap Trick
Pacific Ocean Blue - Dennis Wilson
New Boots & Panties - Ian Dury
Blank Generation - Richard Hell & the Voidoids
Lust for Life - Iggy Pop
Aja - Steely Dan
L.A.M.F. - Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers
Out of the Blue - Electric Light Orchestra
Never Mind the Bollocks - Here's the Sex Pistols
Brel - Jacques Brel
Suicide - Suicide
Second Annual Report - Throbbing Gristle
Blue Lights in the Basement - Roberta Flack
The Stranger - Billy Joel (..that's right *Billy* *Joel*)
Live at the Old Quarter, Houston Texas - Townes Van Zandt

Before getting too despondent, it's worth noting that this is very much a team effort - my eyes started doing that roller blind thing about half way down the list of contributors...we're probably looking at around 50-75 people. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall during all those horse trading sessions..."OK, *have* your Billy Bloody Joel - but *only* if I can put Throbbing Gristle in..." and so on. Nonetheless, I came away from my initial skim overwhelmed by the sheer inadequacy of my own not insubstantial collection.

From what is unarguably a key year in pop history, I have less than half of the titles listed above. Perhaps not surprisingly as I was only 12 and a rabidly blinkered Beatlemaniac, the only one I bought during the year in question was probably the Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Books like the Mojo Collection have a curious effect; one is simultaneously consoled and rebuked by the lists themselves. As surely as one pats oneself on the back with one's left hand for possessing the most excellent bodaciousness of mind to be the owner of an original, pre-'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll' copy of New Boots & Panties (and Out of the Blue) one's right hand wields the whip in readiness for the flagellation necessitated by one's failure to have got round to picking up that beautifully re-mastered version of Pacific Ocean Blue (or The Stranger, even).

So, for the collector, they are useful, if dispiriting, guides. Even though I'll almost certainly never have enough time in my life left over from picking at scabs or removing my own eyeballs to listen to Throbbing Gristle's Second Annual Report, there's a fairly good chance that the next time I see a Townes Van Zandt LP or Gerry Rafferty's City to City, I'll most likely pick them up.

Elsewhere, it's well written and hugely informative. Can't you just hear the band when you read the description of "XTC's vulgar prowess"? And there are some judiciously chosen and wry asides from the participants themselves. "I don't just strap the guitar on - I know how to ride it too...." says "sassy" Bonnie Raitt. And where to start with the pop trivia? Billy Joel was going to omit 'Just the Way You Are' from The Stranger until Linda Ronstadt persuaded him otherwise (...cheers Linda!) "You gotta go with the dames", deadpans BJ. Jacques Brel, a 100 a day sans filtre man, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1977. Rushed into the studio, the results of these final sessions were released in France with almost state funereal solemnity as the Belgian's last work and sold 600,000 copies within hours of release. Contrary to the last, Brel limped on for another 11 months. John Lydon suffers immobility in his hand to this day from the beating dished out to him by royalists during the recording of Never Mind the Bollocks. Iggy's Lust for Life was almost literally buried in the wake of Elvis Presley's death, with RCA dedicating most of its spare pressing and promotion capacity to pushing the dead king's product. And had anyone else spotted the fact that the Who are supposed to be urinating against a monolith (a reference to Pete Townshend's aborted Lifehouse project, which would evidently have pissed all over 2001: a Space Odyssey) on the cover of Who's Next?

Rather like Townshend's 'Rough boys', you want to bite and kiss the Mojo Collection. It's packed to the brim with lovely stuff, but the main thing it tells you is how much there is still to learn...and in such little time.


* this is the edition I bought. The 2008 edition has superceded it and may well be the preferable purchase, if you think sufficiently noteworthy efforts have been released since 2003...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Single of the week...

...well, an E.P. actually.*

Especially for the Dickster, who's been posting engagingly on the Stones over the last couple of weeks.

We want the Stones/Everybody needs somebody to love/Pain in my heart

Route 66

I'm moving on

I'm alright

More remarkable, perhaps, as an index of the hysteria generated by the Sixties phenomenon than as music - nevertheless, hope you enjoy it...


* Note to younger readers: E.P.= Extended Play.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

What we learned this week...

Elvis Costello is not Jewish...
(Which, as some of you will already know, came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I will never trust another word I read in Woman's Realm, so long as I live...)

...Paul McCartney has not been named as a beneficiary of the Michael Jackson estate...

....Laura Nyro's agent was...David Geffen...

...Oh and they're releasing re-mastered versions of all the Beatles LPs...

There go the last of the savings then...

Have a great weekend


C is for... here to find out...

With music by Desmond Dekker & the Aces, Dave Edmunds, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Kenny Rodgers, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, The Clash and Dory Preview.


Thursday, 2 July 2009

B is for... it and find out...

The second episode of 'Morton Shadow's A-Z of Pop' featuring music by Tom Waits, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Morrissey, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart...