Friday, 30 March 2012

If Being Wrong's a Crime, I'm Serving Forever

I like a good out of context cover version - I mean what's the point of a carbon copy? This adaptation of the old Replacements tune has been around a while, but is out & about again thanks to the album release this month. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Chiffchaff Karaoke

On Saturday we took an early morning walk down the lane, along the river and back across the marsh. A mist clung to the ground as we left the house, but within half an hour the sun burned the moisture away, the temperature rose and the intended short stroll stretched out to more like four or five miles.


It was gloriously warm and tranquil along the riverside, the chatter of birds our constant companion. Then I heard a bird song that stopped me in my tracks. I shook my head and walked on a few paces before I heard it and stopped again. it was a chiffchaff I think, or maybe a tit, but whatever the breed - it was whistling the chorus of 'Circus Games' by The Skids!



Next time I'm down that stretch of the river i'll be shouting out requests - the sax-line from 'City of the Dead' by The Clash perhaps or Steve Diggle's insistant guitar pattern from 'ESP' by Buzzcocks. Who new I had such talented neighbours?



Friday, 23 March 2012

The Pictures On My Wall



The first of an occasional series looking at the memorabilia and mementos I keep close at hand.

There were many 'Golden Age of Comedy' style programmes on TV during the 1960s and 1970s, featuring silent shorts and early sound films. The work of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd all featured heavily in a series of compilation shows at the time. Some of the protagonists, from in front and behind the camera, were still alive at that point and through interviews, were able to bring back to life a world long gone.

Laurel and Hardy in particular, had a great deal of TV exposure around this period with one of their short films being shown most afternoons after school - and so my enduring love of their comedy began.

They made 107 films together. Laurel made over 60 before the teaming and Hardy made over 270 without Stan! There are many more rumoured appearances, but nevertheless that's over 430 films in 37 years! An astonishing workrate.

Stan & Ollie made the transition from silent to sound with apparent ease. Where many great careers faltered at this point, Keaton's and Lloyd's among them, Laurel & Hardy's comedy appeared to work in any medium and indeed any language - for a period in the early 1930s they made a selection of their films up to four times each, working phonetically in German, Spanish, French and Italian.

This picture is one of two Laurel & Hardy shots to appear on my wall over the years, neither being conventional poses. It was taken in 1928 on the set of 'We Faw Down'. The scenes shot on this simulated skyscraper location were so good that they were cut from the film and used to form the basis of the duo's next movie 'Liberty' the following year.

The posed photo shows them, in character, with backs to camera, looking out over the streets of Los Angeles 84 years ago. Although we don't see their faces, it couldn't possibly be anyone other than Laurel & Hardy. Ollie puts a reassuring arm round Stan's shoulder and summarizes their onscreen relationship with a simple gesture of protective friendship.

In real life it was Stan Laurel who was the driving force behind the team, devising and directing, without credit, many of their greatest moments. Oliver Hardy preferring to spend his time on the golf course until required on set, trusting in his partner's comedic instincts absolutely.

Here are some examples of Laurel & Hardy's genius.









Tuesday, 13 March 2012

John Cale: Belated Happy 70th Birthday

This notable date somehow passed me by until I stumbled on a link for an article from March 9th that began:

'As of today, the Velvet Undergrounder/singer/songwriter/producer/composer/cantankerous Welshman John Cale is officially a septuagenarian. He is still cooler than you.'

If proof were needed, check out this terrific, if grainy, vintage OGWT footage and here's a more recent, belting performance from a 63 year-old Mr Cale in 2005.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bird in Flight

By November 1979 I had been in my first full-time job, at an insurance company, for around 2 years. It was soul-destroyingly dull, a dullness only alleviated by some of the good people I worked with and also the chance to spend my lunch & post-work hours hanging out in the local independent record shop - a matter of yards away. I spent a huge amount of time (and money) in the place and got to know most of the staff quite well. One day, the owner of the shop, Chris, took me aside and asked if I'd be interested in a Saturday job over the Christmas period. I gave it my full consideration for a nano-second and said yes.


For the next month & a half I had the time of my life. At the end of a boring week in the office, the weekends were a riot of music, laughter and alcohol. The shop was crazily busy, but in those pre-Sunday-trading days it left myself and the rest of the staff Saturday evening and all day Sunday to hang-out, drink and talk - and all we talked about was music. Passions sometimes ran high. In the midst of a heated Jam/Clash discussion in the pub one evening, I stood up, threw a pint over someone and stormed off into the night! It all seemed very important at the time.

All too soon the Saturday Gig was coming to an end. By the second half of January 1980, business had returned to normal and my extra pair of hands were superfluous. During one of the final shifts, Chris was mulling over his pre-orders for forthcoming single releases. At the time a big 7" single might sell 50 copies or more instore and were often ordered by the box (25). He read a few names out to gauge the opinions of the staff and we'd reply with '5', '10' or 'cover it' (meaning just order one copy). When he came to Toyah's 'Bird in Flight' he answered his own question before any of us could jump in - 'I'll just cover it'. Now, at the time I'd been quite partial to her first two releases 'Victims of the Riddle' & 'The Sheep Farming in Barnet EP' and had heard the promotional copy of this new one - slightly dark indie pop, though we no doubt called it New Wave back then, and her best effort so far I thought (and way more interesting than what she'd go on to produce). 'No, you'll need a box' I blurted. Silence. Then a few sniggers from my cohorts. Chris just looked at me. 'Really? You think so?' Of course at this point with all eyes on me I began trying to retreat from my position, but to no avail - Chris ordered 25 copies.

Back to being just a customer, one lunchtime on the week of Bird in Flight's release I tentatively stuck my head round the door of the shop half expecting a torrent of abuse and/or ridicule for my ludicrous ordering suggestion, but found that nearly all 25 copies of the Toyah single had been sold and another box was on order! I'm not sure who was more amazed - me, Chris or the rest of the staff!

Only a week or so later, Chris offered me a full-time position to replace someone who was moving on. Whether the Toyah suggestion played a part in his offer I don't know, but, in my mind, the song looms large as a major turning point in my life. I quit the office job and stayed with Chris's company for 7 years before leaving to run my own little record shop for a further 14.

21 years later, in the early weeks of the 21st century, after a period of struggle I finally bowed to the inevitable and closed my shop, finding myself, for the first time in my life, unemployed. Chris & I had remained good friends over the intervening years as fellow indie retailers and one day, soon after my business folded, he offered me some shifts in his shop until I could sort myself out with a new job.

So it was, that my career in the 'Music Business' (for the want of a better term) ended as it had begun, with a few happy care-free shifts, back where it had started half a lifetime earlier.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

...walkin' down the street....

When we were far younger than we are now, but old enough to know better and had reached the required level of insobriety after an evening's imbibing, a group of my closest friends and I - collectively known as the Furious Five - would stand in a line outside the pub, arms around each other's shoulders and do the 'Monkee Walk'. This consisted of stepping out straight-legged, right-left-right-left, whilst bellowing 'Here we come....walking down the street....', as per a brief moment from the opening credits of The Monkees TV show, until we all broke down laughing. This would mark the conclusion of the night's festivities and would happen two or three nights a week!

The Furious Five are now scattered around the South East of England, so geography prevents us from performing a memorial 'Monkee Walk' to mark Davy Jones' passing, but I'm sure wherever they were and whatever they were doing yesterday when they heard the sad news, each of my former drinking chums would have taken a moment to remember a time when we were all a little less burdened by life - and were a good deal sillier.

R.I.P. Davy Jones.

Here's a favorite Davy-led Monkees tune featuring Neil Young's dazzling fretwork.


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