Friday, 18 August 2017

This Could Be the Last Time

Walthamstow was like the Wild West in those days. My cousin and I, Christmas 1965

In the second half of the 1980's, my cousin's company temporarily relocated her to their New York office, where, in the fullness of time she met and married a very fine American man. The temporary relocation became permanent and every year thereafter, she and her husband travelled back to the UK for a couple of weeks each Summer to stay with her mother (one of the two elderly aunts, who are often mentioned on these pages). 20 years ago they began to bring their first child, a boy, with them. 17 years ago he was joined by a sister and 12 years ago by a second sister. All five of them crossed the Atlantic annually, bringing a few days of joy into all of our lives - until 2015. By the summer of 2016 I feared we might have seen the last of them as a full family unit. The boy (or, more accurately, young man) was off travelling with friends prior to starting college in Rhode Island and the oldest girl had signed up for a Summer-long photography course in New York, while her dad stayed home to look after her. My cousin and her youngest daughter came over to England alone. It was of course lovely to see them, but felt like the end of an era. So imagine our surprise and delight when, a couple of months ago, my cousin unexpectedly announced that all five of them would be flying over en masse once again this Summer. I'm keenly aware that this really could be the last time we see them all over here together, as I'm sure is my aunt. The eldest is already looking at work placements for next Summer and by then his oldest sister will be preparing for college too.

This is all a very long-winded way of explaining why things have been a little quiet around here this week. I don't have any kids, siblings, or indeed much family left at all, so every moment shared with my cousin, her husband and their wonderful kids is precious indeed. The full New York contingent, plus my aunt, have just returned to London after spending a few glorious days up here with us. Mrs S & I be heading down to the smoke to enjoy a little more time with them next week, before they begin their journey home to New York. I'm missing them already.

Callers - O Family

Monday, 14 August 2017

Work in Progress #3: Big Audio Dynamite - The Bottom Line

Following his dismissal from The Clash in 1983, Mick Jones helped out on the first General Public LP, then in early 1984, put together a band he christened Top Risk Action Company. T.R.A.C. comprised Mick, John Lennard from Theatre of Hate on sax, bassist Leo Williams from The Basement 5 and a certain Mr Topper Headon on the drums. It was a short-lived configuration. Before the year was out, Mick and Leo had moved on to form Big Audio Dynamite. The only evidence that TRAC existed at all is a single band photo and a handful of demos. One of those demos, 'Du Cane Road', was later re-recorded by Topper in 1985 for the b-side of his first solo single 'Drumming Man', while another, 'The Bottom Line', was radically re-worked by Mick in the same year to become Big Audio Dynamite's debut single.

Top Risk Action Company - The Bottom Line 

Big Audio Dynamite - The Bottom Line

Friday, 11 August 2017

Version City #66 - Glen Campbell sings Nico

Though we all knew the day was coming, the death of Glen Campbell on Tuesday was still a painful blow. In the days since the announcement, the tributes have been warm and plentiful and much of the great man's music has received a deserved airing.

On his 2008 'Meet Glen Campbell' LP, Glen, backed by musicians such as Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson and the great Jason Falkner, covered songs by Tom Petty, Travis, Foo Fighters, The Replacements, U2, Lou Reed, Green Day and John Lennon. Also on that record was Glen's reading of 'These Days', a much covered song written by Jackson Browne, one that I initially became familiar with on Nico's first post-Velvet Underground LP 'Chelsea Girl'.

Glen Campbell - These Days 

Nico - These Days 

As a bonus, to round things off, here's the aforementioned Jason Falkner, performing an acoustic version of 'Wichita Lineman'. Farewell Glen.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Where Joy Kills Sorrow

A quick heads up for fellow fans of The Triffids, Go-Betweens, Moodists, Blackeyed Susans, Bad Seeds and alternative Australian music in general. In 2000, producer and steel guitarist extraordinaire 'Evil' Graham Lee put out a country infused compilation entitled 'Where Joy Kills Sorrow', which featured otherwise unavailable performances from a whole host of his showbiz chums. The album has been a little elusive in recent years, but word has reached me that some sort of limited reissue is in the offing. There's no confirmed information yet, but keep 'em peeled! 


Robert Forster - The Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness

Monday, 7 August 2017

Easy, As You're Waiting

As the winds increased still further and the rain began to fall in sheets, Mrs S & I retired with haste to the nearest cover. It was one of those ancient, wooden, open-sided huts that were once omnipresent on the promenades of our coastal resorts, but are now only found in the most gentile of seaside towns, relics of a bygone age. This one must have stood unchanged for a hundred years or more. As we sat sheltering from the deluge, something blurred past us and up into the rafters causing a flurry of excited screams, before blurring back past us out into the rain. It was a swallow's nest, just a few feet above our heads. We watched the parent (or parents) come and go a half a dozen times within the space of a few minutes. I was thrilled and mesmerised. If Mrs S hadn't pointed out that the rain had eased up, I'd be sitting there still.

In between parental visits, three little heads peered silently and expectantly from the gloom. I optimistically fired off at least 20 shots into the semi-darkness - just one came out with any clarity.


I was inordinately fond of Los Halos for a few years in the early noughties and, if your tastes run in something of a Sparklehorse direction, I can thoroughly recommend any one of their first three LP's. 'Easy, As You're Waiting' is taken from my favourite of those three, 2002's 'For Ramona'. If you like this tune, check out (and/or pay what you like for) the whole album here.

Los Halos - Easy, As You're Waiting

Friday, 4 August 2017

Coast Ghosts

From the end of the pier

You heard it here first. As exclusively predicted earlier this week on these very pages, Mrs S & I headed the few miles over to the coast on Wednesday, in order to celebrate her birthday. It was an exhaustingly windy day, one of those days where your face becomes stuck in a weird contorted grimace as you walk into the howling gale, but we were determined to enjoy the break from our normal routine and joined a few other hardy souls for a walk on the beach and along the pier. I don't know where all the holidaymakers were, tucked up snugly indoors probably, but it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves. It was tough just holding the camera steady in the wild weather, but I managed fire off a couple of shots to mark the occasion. Click on any of 'em to blow them up to a reasonable size.

Yes, we got wet

 Only the gulls remained unfazed by the wind

It's her birthday and she'll paddle if she wants to

From The Kramford Look's debut LP '1970', confusingly released in 2011, this is 'Coast Ghost'.

The Kramford Look - Coast Ghost

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Red Gold & Green #22 - Ken Boothe

It's Mrs S's birthday. I'm writing this a few days ahead of time and we've not yet decided exactly what we're doing by way of celebration, but if I were a betting man I'd stick a fiver on it involving a coastal walk, a pub and a big plate of chips. We're easily pleased.

Here for Mrs S, on her special day, is her favourite song by her favourite reggae artist, Ken Boothe's 1973 cover of Syl Johnson's 'Is it Because I'm Black?'

Ken Boothe - Is It Because I'm Black?

Greatest Hits