Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Radiogram Years...slight return

On this day, a couple of years ago, I shared a handful of childhood photos of yours truly, plonked in front of the family radiogram (original post here). As I explained at the time, the birthday snapshot was an annual family tradition, which, as far as I recalled, came to an abrupt end in 1976. At the time of that post, I'd found eight photos in the archives and was trying to locate the rest to complete the set.

Two years on, I can exclusively reveal that, not for the first time, my memory wasn't serving me well. I have indeed unearthed more radiogram shots and unexpectedly these include three taken after 1976. (Just yesterday evening, at the end of an undeveloped strip of negatives, I found one from the dreaded moustache period.) It now appears that the very last Radiogram photo was actually taken in 1981, on my 21st birthday. There are still gaps to be plugged though, so there may well be further updates to come, somewhere down the line.

Meanwhile, here I am 50 years ago today, wearing a fetching bow tie & shorts combo and looking as if butter wouldn't melt in my mouth. I got a good haul for my 4th birthday, including a basketball, my first big-boy's bike (stabilisers hidden behind the jigsaw puzzle) and, crucially, a transistor radio. My very own personal source of music. Life would never be quite the same again.

(Great song, sorry about the shocking clip!)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Version City #25 - Aphex Twin Vs Philip Glass and David Bowie

Anyone who is as old as me (quite old and about to get older) will probably be able to remember an example of the primitive tannoy system. Basically a bunch of cone speakers, connected by draped cables, hung high on posts around a field for a school sports day, fete, or similar parochial event. The combination of audio delay and wind speed were never considered as a factor in those days, so with the slightest breeze, the sound could drift in and out of shape, causing unsettling sonic collisions as different passages of the same piece of music reached the eardrum simultaneously.

I felt a similar sensation when I heard this on Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone recently. It's Philip Glass's 1996 symphonic interpretation of 'Heroes', mashed up with a smattering of David Bowie's original vocal and given a faintly disturbing remix by Aphex Twin. Is it possible to like and be weirded out by something at the same time?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Saturday Scratch #37 - Shaumark and Robinson

Shaumark and Robinson, a mysterious duo. The Robinson in question is Lloyd, who handles lead vocal duties on their only known Black Ark recordings, 'Peace and Love' and 'Weak Heart Feel It', ably backed by The Upsetters. The identity, or even existence, of Shaumark is seemingly lost in the mists of time.

Friday, 11 April 2014


I have to confess that I know very little about California band Eels. Somehow, 'Novocaine for the Soul' aside, their music has passed me by all these years, but 'Mistakes of My Youth', the band's recent single, has given me cause to rue my negligence. The new Eels LP, 'The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett', is released on April 22nd. It's in the diary.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Poor Thing

At a quarter to eight this morning, I could be found in a field about 20 miles from home, squinting in the low sunlight, trying to decipher the signature on an old, framed, sketch. I was at a car-boot sale and the christian name on the piece in question appeared to be Paul or Porl or Pooh..., while the surname could've been Thys or This or even Thirsty! Regardless of the artist, I was completely taken by the delightful sketch of a Blue Tit in flight.

'I don't know if that's a comment on the bird or the drawing', came a voice over my shoulder. It was the stallholder. I looked at him, puzzled. He looked back at me and, noting my confused expression, gestured at the squiggle I'd been trying to make out. I looked back at the sketch. Of stupid I'd been. The Blue Tit wasn't in flight, it was dead. The unknown artist presumably recorded the bird where it fell, as the work appears to be on the back of a sheet of headed or watermarked notepaper. After completion, at the bottom right hand corner, instead of signing the lovely little piece of art, he or she was then moved to leave a personal comment. Poor thing.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Jesse Winchester

A few years ago, while on holiday in America, I made a special effort to catch an episode of Elvis Costello's TV show, 'Spectacle', as Ron Sexsmith was one of the guests. Ron was, as always, great, performing covers of 'Ring Them Bells' and 'Every Day I Write the Book', in addition to his own 'Secret Heart'. What really stood out that night, however, was Jesse Winchester's incredible performance of 'Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding', which moved me, as well as fellow guest Neko Case, to tears. 

Earlier today, I read a number of articles reporting Jesse Winchester's death and immediately searched out and posted this performance in tribute to him. It now appears that reports of Jesse's passing were premature, although he remains gravely ill.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains

While we're in the neighbourhood, here's a couple of tunes from my favourite contemporary French band (by way of Bristol), Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains. The first song I ever heard by them, five years ago, was 'Be Water (Je Suis de l'eau)' and what a beauty it is - an irresistible shuffle. Also, take a listen to their latest single, 'La Vérité', perfect pop and catchy as hell.

The band have made four albums and, believe me, it's all good stuff. The latest, 'Piano Ombre', is out now on Domino.