Monday 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

Just a quick, but heartfelt, thank-you to anyone who has taken the time to stop by over the past 12 months. Have a magnificent 2013.

To sing us out, here's a relatively recent discovery at Swede Towers, Lord Huron. I've been digging their debut album 'Lonesome Dreams' since it hit the shelves in the States a couple of months back. Look out for a UK release in January. 

Saturday 29 December 2012

The Strypes

We live a fairly low-key life, I'll admit. We haven't owned a TV for 10 years. I rarely even buy a music magazine these days. But, hey...I don't live under a rock, so how comes I'm the last person on Earth to have heard The Strypes? I followed a link to this very performance in total ignorance just a couple of weeks ago and in very short order my chin was resting on the keyboard. I really thought I'd stumbled onto something unknown, but it seems that the whole world is talking about them. Where have I been?

The average age of this band is 15....15 fer flip's sake! But if you think they look young here, check-out their 2011 version of 'Taxman' elsewhere on YouTube, which makes them now look like grizzled old men by comparison. I realise theirs is probably a carefully calculated image, put together by someone with access to an excellent record collection (their parents...or grandparents?) and that there is a suspicion of a extra guitar being twanged behind the scenes somewhere, but I absolutely refuse to don my cynical hat. How exciting are The Strypes in this world of talentless X-Factor wannabes to which we've all  become accustomed?

It appears that, until recently, their set largely consisted of many of the same R&B covers that the Stones, Beatles, Who & Kinks cut their teeth on all those years ago, but now they've started writing their own stuff and if 'Blue Collar Jane' is anything to go by, they are no slouches.

When they become huge, as they surely will, The Strypes will no doubt drift off my radar and onto every bedroom wall in the country, and quite rightly so. For now though, it's enormous fun to hear these tunes bashed out as they should be - with youthful verve and abandon. I'll be back in 2017 to check out their psychedelic period.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Gerry Anderson R.I.P.

The products of Gerry Anderson's incredible imagination lit up my childhood, all the way from Fireball XL5 in 1963 to Space 1999 in the mid-1970s. These weekly sneak-previews of the future (as I was convinced they were) captivated me at a time when I had no more serious concerns in life than what style of  hover-scooter I'd require when I grew up and whether or not caps with flip-down communication devices would be available in my size.

Thank you, Mr Anderson, for the countless hours of pleasure. F.A.B., S.I.G., P.W.O.R.

Monday 24 December 2012

Seasonal Scratch

So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having f.....hang on a minute.....I've heard Nod & Jim's seasonal perennial so many times during the l-o-n-g build-up to the big day, that the words just roll out automatically. In all seriousness though, I really would like to wish all and sundry a splendid festive period, however you choose to celebrate it.

We'll be spending tomorrow with Mrs S's Dad and Nan. I'm driving, so no drinking for me until we get home in the evening, but I've heard tell that there'll be cheese, crisps and similar savoury snack-treats aplenty to keep me happy - I'm easily pleased. I will, however, be taking a bag of Bolivia Finca Canton Uyunense Teodocio Mamani (catchy name don'tcha think?) and a cafetière though. I can live without wine, but no-one's Christmas would be very merry if I couldn't have a decent coffee or two during the day! 

I'll leave you with a 1985 seasonal greeting from this blog's most regular contributor, Lee Perry. Saturday Scratch will return as a slightly more occasional feature in the new year.

Have fun and stay safe.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The Tracks of My Year

A few weeks ago, I was surprised and honoured to be invited, by the fine folk over at Tune Doctor, to come up with three of my favourite songs of 2012 for inclusion in their year-end round-up. A year of music condensed into three tracks - a tall order? A hellishly difficult task more like. Or, as flycasual wryly noted, a process akin to 'dumping your friends.'

I started with a very long list, whittled away at it until I was left with just 20 titles and from there chopped and changed until eventually settling on my three tunes. Of course, ever since I sent the email listing my final choices, several tracks that I'd overlooked have re-emerged from the cobwebs of my memory, but I'm very happy with the three that made the cut, which you can check-out here.

Thank you again to the Tune Doctor posse for inviting me to contribute.

Friday 21 December 2012

T.Rexmas 1972 (Part 3)

So the very first band I ever saw on a concert stage were...Bees Make Honey. The pub-rock outfit were T.Rex's support act on the evening of December 22nd 1972 and were greeted with a mixture of apathy and abuse - a tough crowd for sure. A few records (including 'All the Young Dudes' with the entire audience shouting the '... I got T.Rex' line) followed, before Radio 1's own Emperor Rosko was wheeled out to introduce Marc & Co in much the same fashion as he had at the Wembley shows earlier in the year, forever immortalised in the film 'Born to Boogie.'

The noise level was astonishing. The band alone was louder than anything I'd heard up to that point in my young life, but, with addition of the relentless wall of screaming, it soon became impossible to communicate with my pals John and George. My initial feeling was one of mild panic. It was hot too - a couple of thousand over excited kids were leaping around and working up a sweat, while many dutiful parents sat alongside their offspring, with fingers in ears. Condensation ran down the walls.

And so to Marc Bolan, Mickey Finn, Steve Currie and Bill Legend. Forty years on, in the cool light of 2012 and with hundreds of concerts under my belt, I can safely say that T.Rex in 1972 weren't a great live band. Legend and Currie certainly earned their £25-a-week, maintaining some form of structure to the music, indeed for long periods of the evening they were the band. Bolan did as he pleased, everyone was there to see him after all. Sometimes, as in the opener 'Chariot Choogle', his playing was sharp and tight, while at other times, notably during a 15 minute 'Hot Love' and 20+ minute 'Get It On', he became hopelessly self-indulgent, soloing endlessly and running a tambourine up and down the frets, creating cacophonous howls of protest from his guitar. Quite often he'd do nothing, he didn't need to. Just being in the same postcode as him was more than enough for most of us. Mickey Finn? He inaudibly hit a bongo occasionally, but spent much of the show throwing mini-tambourines out into the audience - hundreds of them, each one fought over to the extent that I doubt that any whole tambourines made it out of the hall in one piece at the end of the night, splinters and scraps must have been all that remained.

Having said all that, if I remove my 21st century hat (which could almost be a line from a T.Rex song), the show that night could not have been any more perfect for this 12 year-old boy and his chums. It was colourful, loud and exciting, featured an seasonal fake-snowstorm that engulfed the stage and part of the audience and starred a man at the peak of his popularity who, from our perspective, had seemingly beamed in from another galaxy. The evening was a musical rite of passage for us. We entered the Edmonton Sundown as boys and very sweaty boys, with our ears ringing! It was an overwhelming experience and, for me at least, a life-changing one.

(Postscript. When it was over, Dad was waiting for us outside in the appointed spot. We got into the car soggy, steaming and hoarse and drove home in exhausted silence. As we dropped them off at their respective houses, John and George wished Dad a Happy Christmas and thanked him for buying the tickets. I did too - and I hope I also remembered to thank him for trusting us, by not getting a fourth ticket for himself, which would have allowed him to chaperone us inside and throughout the whole show - where he would have sat, no doubt, with his fingers in his ears.)

Thursday 20 December 2012

T.Rexmas 1972 (Part 2)

I think I actually wept with joy when I opened the envelope. An early Christmas present from Mum and Dad. I genuinely had no idea, no clue whatsoever that they had purchased three tickets to see T.Rex at the Edmonton Sundown on December 22nd, one for me and one each for my two closest friends, John and George. Before Dad sent off the postal order (for £3.75!!) and all-important stamp addressed envelope, Mum called the parents of my chums in clandestine fashion to OK the whole adventure. None of us had ever been anywhere at night on our own, so it would've taken a bit of planning to get us there and back, even though the venue was only six miles from where I lived.

Come the 22nd, Dad rounded us up and drove us to Edmonton. Outside the theatre, there were people everywhere - confused, excited, disoriented young people, much like us. I had no idea what to expect and nothing with which to compare the experience. We had some money, probably given to us by relatives who were in on the secret from the beginning, so while Dad waited, we ran off to buy some of the quality merchandise on offer - a poster, a four page programme, a faux-silk scarf...a plastic pendent..! All good stuff! We threw our haul into the back of the car as Dad repeated, for the zillionth time, where and when we were to be after the show so that he could collect us. Then he was gone and we made our way inside.

One of the first things I noticed upon taking our seats, was the number of kids my age...accompanied by at least one of their parents! At the time I felt for my peers and was even amused by their predicament, but with hindsight I realise what a big step it must have been for our folks to give us our space and let us go into the gig alone. We were 12 years old, in an unfamiliar environment, with a couple of thousand strangers, in a strange town with no idea how to get home had we needed to. No mobile phones, no GPS, no Oyster cards. (To be continued.)

Wednesday 19 December 2012

T.Rexmas 1972 (Part 1)

In 1972, my favourite band didn't have a website on which to promote itself. There were no trending Twitter updates, no video clips on YouTube, no Flickr or Instagram photos to gawp at, no Facebook profile to check, no apps I could consult. No, in 1972, in order to get the hot scoops not available in Sounds, Melody Maker, NME, Record Mirror, Disc, or even Jackie, I had to sit tight and wait. Then, every six to eight weeks, an envelope would drop through the letterbox from the T.Rex Fan-Club with news and exclusive photos, direct, it seemed, from the band's inner circle.

The November/December 1972 newsletter was even more special, containing, as it did, a Christmas flexi-disc, featuring Marc Bolan and the band performing hastily composed seasonal songs and generally larking around. I had no idea that T.Rex were merely continuing a festive pop tradition established by The Beatles in the 1960s - why should I? The Beatles were black and white and gone. T.Rex were in colour and here and now.

I absorbed the newsletter and diligently filed it away, the next one being due towards the end of January 1973. The flexi- disc remained on heavy rotation on my little mono record player, alternating with current single 'Solid Gold Easy Action.'

Then one day in early December, quite unexpectedly, another envelope from the fan club dropped onto the door-mat. Inside was one sheet, more of an addendum really, containing up-to-date news about the 'Born to Boogie' movie premiere and a handful of Christmas concerts. I was 12 years of age, these events were outside my sphere of knowledge....and there were no photos! The information was like a foreign language to me, so I quickly went back to my record player. Unknown to me, however, Dad spotted this additional newsletter, noted its contents and put plans in motion to purchase a Christmas present for me that I would never forget.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Pete Seeger

In May 1994 I paid my second ever visit to New York to visit my cousin and her husband. In recent years when a trip to the Big Apple is coming up, I pre-book tickets for gigs or other events of interest online, but in those pre-internet days she would mail me a copy of The Village Voice listings guide to peruse a couple of weeks before I traveled, order any tickets I'd require by phone and I would settle up with her when I arrived. It was all very long-winded, but that was how I found out about an event entitled 'In Their Own Words - A Bunch of Songwriters Sittin' Around Singin''. This was a one evening only event at The Bottom Line, an intimate venue on West 4th Street, taking place bang in the middle of my stay and a show I didn't want to miss.

For my $18 I got to spend a couple of hours in the company of Ted Hawkins, Roger McGuinn, Pete Seeger and Joe South as they sat in a semi-circle on the stage talking about their lives and playing their music acoustically in a very informal setting.

I'd seen Ted Hawkins live in England in 1986 on his first wave of success following radio exposure from Andy Kershaw, but he'd fallen off the radar again quite soon after. By 1994, however, he'd been re-discovered and chatted enthusiastically on stage about his new album on the major label, Geffen, and played us a few songs from it. Tragically, Ted's life was to end seven months later as the result of a stroke aged just 58.

Hawkins played a big part in the evening, but the majority of the New York audience were there for McGuinn, Seeger and South, all of whom played their best known material interspersed with anecdotes and memories. Inevitably, given the location and the parties involved, Bob Dylan loomed large in several of the conversations. Roger recounted the 'give this to McGuinn' story regarding the opening line to 'Ballad of Easy Rider', Pete Seeger explained exactly why he wielded an axe the day Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and, perhaps most fascinating of all, Joe South spoke a little about the Nashville 'Blonde on Blonde' recording sessions in 1966. An unforgettable evening.

Sadly, we lost Joe South in September this year, the same month that Pete Seeger, at the age of 93, released what he has claimed is the first album of all original music he has ever recorded. 'A More Perfect Union' was written and performed with Seeger's long-time friend, stroke survivor and, in his mid-sixties, by comparison a mere youngster, Lorre Wyatt. Guests on the album include Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.

'Fields of Harmony', sung by Seeger alone, stood out for me when I chanced upon the album a couple of months ago. The vocal, little more than an abrasive whisper, is almost unbearably moving.

'When my days have been consumed, like smoke
I will lay me down to sleep, in peace
Over fields of harmony , I'll fly.'

Friday 14 December 2012

Version City #3 - Toquiwa

I'm forever banging on about how a good cover version should take the song somewhere new and different, and that there's no point in a carbon copy of the original. Well forget all that for the next three minutes, because this is about as straight forward as cover versions get - and it's bloody marvelous!

Japanese band Toquiwa take on The Wedding Present's 1989 stone-cold classic 'Kennedy' as if it's theirs by right and, if you're not grinning like a Cheshire cat by the end of it, take a look on You Tube at some of the audience shot footage of the band playing the song live on stage - talk about infectious!

Toquiwa were spotted by David Gedge in Tokyo and invited to support The Wedding Present on their European and North American tours, he's also signed the band to his own Scopitones label. There's a man who knows a good cover when he hears it!

Thursday 13 December 2012

Tim Burgess

If you'd have told me, at the beginning of 2012, that twelve months later one of my favourite albums of the year would be a solo effort by Tim Burgess.....well, quite frankly I wouldn't have believed you. Not that I have anything against Mr Burgess, a man of impeccable musical taste, as demonstrated on his DJ stint on 6music, or The Charlatans, a band I was a fan of until I lost track of them at the turn of the century. It's just that Tim & Co had been off my musical radar for quite some time and his debut solo LP, 2003's 'I Believe', came and went without me even registering it. One chance hearing of 'A Case For Vinyl', however, changed all that.

'Oh No I Love You' finds Burgess in inspired collaboration with Lambchop genius Kurt Wagner and, in addition to Wagner's bandmates, features members of My Morning Jacket and Clem Snide alongside Tim favourite, R.Stevie Moore. It's a rich, understated album, that is one of the surprises of the year for me and highly recommended.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


With the tenth anniversary of Joe Strummer's passing fast approaching, it seems an appropriate moment to give a quick plug to the charity that bears his name. Strummerville was established soon after Joe's death by his widow and daughters, all of whom remain trustees to this day. Its aim is to offer support, resources and performance opportunities to artists who would not normally have access to them and fund projects that could, in Joe's words, change the world through music.

If you are looking for a Christmas gift for the Clash fan in your life, while simultaneously making a donation to this worthy endeavor, Strummerville's merchandising page offers a selection of t- shirts from baby size to XXL and a cool 'Forever Joe Strummer' 2013 calendar, featuring the photography of Bob Gruen. A terrific Gruen shot of Joe, taken on the snowy streets of New York City, is this year's Strummerville Christmas card, available in packs of 6.

The next couple of weeks will be tough for his family and for us old Clash fans, but it is at least comforting to know that his legacy is in safe hands and is being managed in such a positive and worthwhile manner.

Friday 7 December 2012

Happy Birthday Tom Waits

Singer, songwriter, legendary raconteur, star of my favourite film (Down By Law) and all round genius Tom Waits, is 63 today. Like fine wine he gets better with age. Long may he mature, but may he never grow up.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Saturday 1 December 2012

Saturday Scratch #19

Every member of my family wears glasses. In fact every member of my family that I can ever remember has worn them and although I have no brothers or sisters, my cousins of a similar age were all in spectacles before they hit their teens. Except me. I've somehow reached the halfway point of my 53rd year without the need for any ocular correction whatsoever. Until now.

On Wednesday I had an eye-test and although my sight is still apparently very sharp, it's the muscles used to re-focus from distant to close-up vision that are worn out and in need of a little assistance. So I left the opticians with a prescription and now have to choose suitable frames for my first ever pair of glasses, a selection I will make with the gentle guidance of Mrs S.

Though considering glasses and frames is a new experience for me, one thing I do know is that however good the specs, they won't give me 'X-Ray Vision'. For that i'll need Glen Adams & the Upsetters.

Enjoy your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Milk & Biscuits

Here's a corker from Brighton based collective Milk & Biscuits. 'White Noise' is a song of two halves, worlds apart stylistically, but forming an unexpectedly thrilling whole. Quite magnificent.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Saturday Scratch #18

I didn't fly for the first time until as late as 1993, but during the 1960s, Dad would occasionally take me out to Heathrow Airport to watch the planes taking off and landing. In those days there was an open-air gallery on the roof of a nearby building offering uninterrupted views across the terminal and runway. It was quite an adventure to see planes so close and loud and one that I enjoyed and appreciated more and more with each visit.

I recently had all of my family's ciné films from the 60s & 70s transferred onto DVD and among them is a great sequence on that very Heathrow roof from around 1966, where Dad follows a plane along the runway to take-off only for my 6 year-old head to bob up in the way at the vital moment! Judging by the look on my face, Dad was none too pleased at me for spoiling the shot and, suitably chastened, I quickly ducked back out of view.

I was probably 10 or 11 the last time Dad and I made the trip to Heathrow, but the first time, I was a mere 2 months old! I'm not quite sure what he thought I would get from such a noisy environment at such a tender age, but the trip is immortalised by a strip of images from a photo-booth at the airport, the best of which is this one.

I don't know if I was spooked by the flash or the noise, but whatever it was, made for an amusing photo - I haven't changed a bit!

Mum and Dad flew just twice in their lives, to Jersey and back for a holiday in 1991, but looking back on our trips to the airport in the 1960s, I sense that Dad had an unfulfilled hankering to explore further afield. Mum, however was less than impressed by the whole experience! Indeed she recorded the following in her diary immediately after her first flight, 'Didn't think much of that!'

Tomorrow it will be five years since Dad passed away. Here for him, from his over-excited little boy on a noisy rooftop a lifetime ago, is an appropriate pair of Lee Perry produced David Isaacs singles from 1969.

Enjoy your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Saturday Scratch #17

This week, I've been groovin' to the latest instalment in Pressure Sounds' series of Lee Perry dubplate selections. 'The Sound Doctor' has bounced around the release schedule for a while, but finally hit the streets on Monday. If you're familiar with the 'Sound System Scratch' and 'The Return of Sound System Scratch' LPs, you'll know what to expect here - dubs, vocals, instrumentals, alternative versions and devilishly rare tunes aplenty. That's my weekend sorted then!

Here's a sample of the delights on offer, Lee & Jimmy's 'Key Card'. There's also a brilliant dub of this on the album, called 'Domino Game' which, as the title suggests, features a recording of the musicians arguing over a game of dominoes as the tune plays in the background - genius!

Enjoy your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Version City #2

It's a brave man who takes on a Jeff Buckley song - step forward Kenny Anderson a.k.a. King Creosote who recorded this re-working of 'Grace' for 2005's 'Dream Brother' tribute LP to Jeff and Tim. Jeff was, of course, no stranger to the cover version, making 'Hallelujah' and 'Lilac Wine' his own on record, while taking on tunes by the likes of Dylan, MC5, Hank Williams, Led Zep, The Smiths and many more, on stage.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Pete and the Pirates

I'm sad to hear that Pete and the Pirates have called it a day. They were a definite notch above yer average indie band and their 2011 album 'One Thousand Pictures' is a big favourite here at Swede Towers . Sorry to see you go chaps.

Here's another one I posted earlier.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

I'm a Heavier Dude Than I Used To Be

I've been making compilations for my own amusement on one format or another for over 40 years and have long regarded them as aide-mémoires or audio diaries - a reminder of what I was listening to at a certain point in time and, by extension, what was going on during that period of my life.

It started when I was ten or eleven, on my Dad's old reel to reel tape recorder, then on my own cassette player which I received for my 12th birthday. The cassette compilations continued on various upgraded bits of kit for 25 years, which is why to this day, after several big clear-outs, I still have a large number of them to sort through.

There then followed the short, glorious reign of the mini-disc. I loved the format. The editing facilities were worth the price of admission alone. You could play around with the running order and insert or remove tracks from the middle of the disc, all this and there was no tape to twist, stretch or snap. They were brilliant - and tailor made for the pedantic compilation maker like myself! The mini-disc, however, was quickly superseded by the CDR and, in the blink of an eye, by anonymous files on a computer.

I liked the idea of a snapshot of time - be it a 60 minute cassette or 70 minute mini-disc/CDR - and when I physically stopped 'creating' compilations in favour of dropping MP3's into a monthly file on my computer I found that, a) I would sometimes end up with 50, 60 or 70+ tunes and b)...I'd never listen to them! So a couple of years ago I started making little 8Track playlists online. Around 30 minutes of music that I'm currently grooving to - perfect. Back to my original premise, a simple audio diary. (And to Mrs S's delight, they take up no physical room in the house!)

I've been a bit lax lately, but I'm going to get back in the habit of putting together and posting the occasional 8Track playlist. There are around 35 earlier compilations here if you ever find yourself in need of half an hour's worth of aural distraction. Maybe one day, if I'm able to figure out the technology involved, I'll digitize and post a few of the really old tapes.

(While we're on the subject, you should also check out Singing Bear's regularly updated and always fascinating Grooveshark playlist over at Grown Up Backwards.)

Moon Duo - I Can See 
Rasha - Azara Alhai 
Stealing Sheep - Rearrange 
Billy Bragg - Old Clash Fan Fight Song 
Gregory Isaacs - Ba Da 
Cheek Mountain Thief - Showdown 
This is the Kit - Sleeping Bag (The Resident Cards) 
Pete Seeger & Lorre Wyatt - Fields of Harmony

Saturday 3 November 2012

Saturday Scratch #15

By all accounts the Lee Perry/Bob Marley relationship was a stormy one, not helped by Scratch's licensing of early Wailers tracks without Marley's consent. In spite of this, the pair continued to collaborate sporadically after The Wailers signed to Island Records - in 1975 for the non-album single 'Jah Live' and in 1977 with 'Punky Reggae Party'.

When they reconvened in late 1978, Perry put forward his own 10 year-old song, 'Who Colt the Game?', for Marley's consideration. Bob was reluctant, but, after some lyrical tinkering, gave it a shot, however tensions between the pair rose to the surface once again and the track was never completed, languishing in the vaults for 20 years.

An import Bob Marley & the Wailers compilation of dubious origin arrived in my shop in the late 1990's, with all the tunes you would expect to find, present and correct. Additionally, and without fanfare, 'Who Colt the Game?' was was in the track- listing. There were no sleeve notes to indicate it's source and I presumed it to be an unreleased demo. It was only later, when Island Records added the song to one of their own, better annotated, compilations, that the Lee Perry connection became clear.

Enjoy your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Saturday Scratch #14

I had quite a different tune in mind for this week's Saturday Scratch, but instead here's Winston Wright & the Upsetters with a a sweet little organ-led groove from 1972 in tribute to the biblical storm that hit us an hour or so ago, 'Hail Stone'.

Stay warm and dry this weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Version City

For the first time in nearly three years, I have a deck set-up and I'm playing through my records, rediscovering forgotten gems and reacquainting myself with old favourites, such as these unlikely versions of 'The Surrey With the Fringe on Top'.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune has been covered well and faithfully on many occasions over the years, by jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal and Wes Montgomery, but I've mentioned before how much I enjoy a well chosen cover version that confounds expectations and these tunes fit that bill to a tee.

The first is indeed a jazz version, by Sonny Rollins, but not the sedate respectful run-through favoured by some of his previously mentioned contemporaries. It captures Rollins and drummer Philly Joe Jones duoing (or should that read duelling?) on a hard bop arrangement that twists and turns it's way to an exhausted conclusion. Genius.

Then there's Dennis Bovell (a.k.a. Blackbeard) - member of Matumbi, UK dub pioneer, creator of Lover's Rock and producer of such varied artists as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fela Kuti, The Thompson Twins and Bananarama! He uses 'Surrey' as a starting point for 'Ska-Be-Doo-Za' from 1978's 'Strictly Dub Wize'. Absolutely inspired, but how did he get away with not giving Rodgers & Hammerstein a partial writing credit?

Saturday 6 October 2012

Saturday Scratch #12

I've been out and about today, getting home just in time to prevent the need for an inaugural Sunday Scratch. So, as the midnight hour approaches, here's George Faith's 1977 psychedelic Jamaican soul version of the Wilson Pickett classic, complete with additional Lee Dorsey references.

Enjoy it - and the rest of your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Saturday Scratch #11

In 1970 Lee Perry devoted much of his attention to writing with and producing Bob Marley & the Wailers. With 'Duppy Conqueror' already a hit, Scratch led The Upsetters through the not hugely dissimilar 'Earthquake', an instrumental he intended to use as a future Wailers backing track. On this occasion, however, a pre-'Double Barrel' Dave Barker ended up vocalizing the cut with close harmony assistance from just the one Wailer - Bunny. The following year, Perry re-visited the rhythm, and it's original title, for a double-tracked toast from the man Joe Strummer would one day come to call 'the mighty U-Roy'.

A kindly soul out there in cyberspace has put the two versions together for our aural delight. Enjoy them and your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Tuesday 18 September 2012


Don't judge a book by it's cover. Or in this case, don't judge a band by it's name. Teen is a poor name and one that should be Googled with care, but their debut album , 'In Limbo', is a fine piece of work and is on heavy rotation round these parts. Kristina 'Teeny' Lieberson, a former member of  Here We Go Magic, put the band together with her two sisters plus Jane Herships, who also performs under the Spider moniker. There are five of 'em in the video, but information is scant, so the fifth part of the puzzle is un-named for the time-being. It's poppy, it's mournful, it's light, it's dark and it's produced by Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3.

Here are two contrasting cuts - see what you think.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Marc Bolan - 35 Years Gone

Today is the 35th anniversary of Marc Bolan's tragic and untimely death. His impact on my life is incalculable and continues to resonate down the years.

 Here's the final track on 'Dandy in the Underworld', the last album issued in his lifetime.

Keep a little Marc in your heart.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Simple Kid

Simple Kid's discography is slim - a couple of albums and a handful of singles. For a while it looked as if he was going to break through, performing on Jools Holland's show in the UK and Conan O'Brien's in the States, even supporting REM in concert. Perhaps that wasn't the point though or perhaps it just wasn't enough.

'Older now,
No longer hip to the groove,
I am roadkill,
As the headlights of mainstream culture throttle mercilessly down upon me.'

As parting shots go, they don't come much better than this. Simple Kid (aka Ciaran McFeely) 'retired' from the music business in 2011 and his swan song 'The Road', a positive spiritual anthem and personal statement rolled into one, was released in Spring of this year.

Monday 3 September 2012

Daniel Rossen

I have a friend who, if she's been kept waiting longer than expected for something, is prone to exaggeratedly describe it as having taken 'all of time' to arrive. Such is the case with the new Grizzly Bear LP, 'Shields'. It really does feel like all of time since the first of a series of tracks was drip-fed on-line, along with the album title and track-listing, back in early June. Now, at last, we're into the final two weeks before release and I've been reacquainting myself with their back catalogue in preparation.

I've been particularly enjoying the 5 track EP, 'Silent Hour / Golden Mile', put out, in a 'solo' capacity, by main Bear Daniel Rossen in March this year. I initially wrote it off as a slight and underwhelming piece of work, but I was way off the mark -  repeated plays have proved it to be a criminally overlooked gem.

Here's 'Return to Form' from the EP. 'Shields' is (finally) released in the UK on September 17th.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Saturday Scratch #8

Following the closure of my record store in 2000, I got a job in a coffee shop. A new outlet was opening nearby and with my passion for the bean and history in customer service, it was a natural fit. The last few years of running my own business were extremely stressful and I looked forward to the luxury of doing a day's work and walking away at the end of my shift with no responsibilities. It lasted three days.

I arrived at the store on the fourth morning to find the area manager running around getting his hands dirty - something was afoot. The manager had walked out. The team behind the counter was about 15 strong, most aged between 17 and 22 - then there was me at 40. A new manager would be in place within a couple of weeks, would I cover until then? Keys were handed over, banking and ordering procedures hastily explained and rotas amended. My stress-free honeymoon was over. 

For the next ten years I managed a succession of stores for the company and was on my feet for 10 -12 hours-a-day, six days-a-week in noisy, airless environments. My record shop flab fell away as I ate on the run and rarely stood still. It was only when I left in 2011 that my body began to revolt. Various aches and pains appeared and followed one after another - and still they come.

My lifestyle after leaving became comparatively sedentary, so I got into a routine of going for at least one good walk per day. In the city I would don my MP3 player for such excursions, but when we moved into the village last year I soon realised that the sounds of nature were all I needed to accompany me and the walks became longer and more frequent. In spite of this, my weight increased steadily and I felt that more was needed and so began power-walking interspersed with short jogs to get the ol' lungs and heart working a bit harder. I've never been a jogger, never-ever. What I do is more akin to shuffling, but by jove, I started to feel better for it.

Two Tuesdays ago I was about halfway round my circular route when a small discomfort on the inside of my right knee became a screaming pain. No pings or snaps, nothing dramatic - it just gradually began to hurt...a lot. After a couple of days of resting my leg, I realised that the pain wasn't just going to go away, so I went to see the friendly, family GP. During the previous 10 years of store management I think I visited my doctor once - lately,the practice is fast becoming my second home. Something has worn out in my leg, but they're not quite sure what - a ligament maybe, or a muscle perhaps - nothing too serious, but enough to stop me in my tracks for a bit. For the time being I'm on painkillers and booked in for a course of physio over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, back at Saturday Scratch.....The Hurricanes, fronted by future Meditations vocalist Danny Clarke, were one of a series of lesser known artists produced by Lee Perry in 1971. The single is a tough, brass-driven tune which was subsequently versioned in 1973 as 'Elephant Rock' on The Upsetters' seminal 'Blackboard Jungle Dub' LP. The title of the original Hurricanes cut? 'You Can Run'......are you havin' a larf mate? I can't even walk properly at the moment!

 Enjoy your weekend and remember to warm-up thoroughly before exercise.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Saturday Scratch #7 - Clash Connections

In the wake of Joe Strummer's 60th birthday last Tuesday, it seems appropriate this week, to feature one of Lee Perry's best known productions, 'Police & Thieves', which was covered, in the year following it's original release, by The Clash on their debut LP.

Scratch cut several tunes using the 'Police & Thieves' rhythm, including three different Junior Murvin vocal titles alone, but instead of a familiar performance, I've selected 'Bingo Kid' which is credited to The Upsetters featuring Earl 'Chinna' Smith and can be found on the deluxe CD version of the 'Police & Thieves' album, issued in 2010.

Strummer's Lee Perry connection didn't end there though. In the summer of 1977, The Clash drafted Scratch in to produce 'Complete Control', their first cut with new drummer Topper Headon. What remains of Perry's contribution in the final mix is debatable, but it gives me an excuse to air this early live bash through the tune, which I literally discovered yesterday. The clip ends with Mick Jones looking like he's about to kick into another intro - is there more of this stuff out there?

Finally, to round off this extended edition of Saturday Scratch, a live version of 'Police & Thieves' by The Clash, as featured in the film 'Rude Boy'. OK, so the overdubs render it not totally live, but what the hell - we're right down at the front of a Clash gig in 1978, so enjoy it, enjoy your weekend - and remember, it's very uncool to gob.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Friday 24 August 2012


Everyone has one. At least one. One particular item of food (or drink) that can't be faced and who's taste turns the stomach. I have a friend who gags at the mere thought of carrots - which baffles me. I think of carrots as being crunchy orange water, innocuous enough and a good addition to a salad. He, however, will sit and pull every grated morsel from a meal before continuing - or better still leave the meal altogether, as he claims that he can taste the carrot residue. He is equally bemused by my nemesis.

The bane of my life is the humble mushroom - or the devil's shite, as I like to call it. Just typing the word 'mushroom' makes me feel uneasy, the smell makes me nauseous and if I ever unknowingly put a piece in my mouth...well, you can imagine the results. This unfortunate set of circumstances wouldn't be so bad were I not a vegetarian - not so difficult now perhaps, but when eating out at the dawn of the 1990s, the veggie option (if indeed there was one at all) would invariably consist of a big pile of 'em, in one form or another. Even now though, when dining in an unadventurous pub, I'll find I have a choice of mushroom stroganoff or veggie chili, the latter sounding great, until I discover that it, too, is loaded with the ghastly fungus.

On my gastronomic journey through life thus far, I've managed to overcome a handful of similar, though not quite as extreme, food hurdles, not least of which is the tomato, one of which I was literally forced to eat, despite my tears, by an unpleasant teacher whilst on a school trip when I was five years old. Looking back, I honestly believe that single event had a profound effect on me and it's only in the past ten years or so that I've been able to ween myself onto tomatoes, in any kind of solid form. I always knew I'd eat them one day though, I just had to keep working at it. Not so the mushroom. I know for certain that I'll never have a deep, fulfilling relationship with a shiitake or button or portobello......

Excuse me, I'm feeling a little unwell.

(These ramblings were inspired by this terrific post)

Saturday 18 August 2012

Saturday Scratch #6

By all accounts, this weekend is going to be a scorcher, so there's really only one Lee Perry tune I could select as the heat piles on. Scratch wasn't actually referring to the physical temperature in this masterpiece, rather the song is barometer of the violent, political period during which it was recorded. Having said that, the pervading wonky, slightly wading-through-treacle feel, perfectly mirrors the mush my brain becomes after a few hours of anything over 25° - and today is going to be considerably warmer than that!

'I-man a-go cool-out
'pon the hill-top'

Enjoy your weekend and don't get burned.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Friday 17 August 2012

Friday 10 August 2012

Carissa's Wierd

I'm a silly boy. I haven't visited a dentist since 1987. The blame for this lies in the physical and mental trauma inflicted on me by my dentist at that time. He was a monster who seemed to revel in my fear and pain.

While not up to the gleaming standards of Keith Richards' or David Bowie's dental upgrades, my most visible molars are actually doing quite nicely, but out of sight, at the back of the mouth, problems are lurking. I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that if and when I do pluck up the courage to sign up to a new dentist, there'll be serious surgery involved. Surprisingly I've had no actual pain from my teeth over the last 25 years, perhaps if I had, it would have given me the kick I needed to seek out and join a new dental practice.

Last night, however, I woke at 1.30am with a prodding discomfort at the back of my mouth, but on the opposite side to where I would have expected. I took some painkillers and worried for a couple of hours before drifting off to sleep again. Come this morning, after closer inspection, it appears a piece of peel or pip had become wedged between tooth and gum, causing the pain. I breathed a sigh of relief, even though the inevitable has merely been delayed.

As I lay in the dark waiting for the painkillers to kick in, working myself into a state of panic, this tune rolled gently, but insistently around my brain. The band is Carissa's Wierd (yes, that's how they spelt it) and the tune, appropriately enough, is 'Farewell to All These Rotten Teeth' from their glorious 2002 LP 'Songs About Leaving.' The band split in 2003, leaving a small catalogue, of which this album is the peak. Mat Brooke went on to join Band of Horses and then form his current outfit, Grand Archives, while Jenn Ghetto currently trades as 'S'.

As mental preparation for what will one day surely come, if anyone has a positive dentist experience to share, I'd be delighted to hear it. Meantime, enjoy the tune and don't forget to floss.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Saturday Scratch #5

'Love Thy Neighbour' by Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus is an album produced at the Black Ark by Lee Perry and originally released in 1979. That all appears to be straight forward enough, right? Well appearances can be deceptive and it's not as simple as it seems.

Apparently a dozen tracks were recorded by the band with Scratch at the helm in 1978 and over the years several different permutations of these tunes have seen the light of day, released under the 'Love Thy Neighbour' banner. Unfortunately though, so far, there has been no compilation of the complete sessions. So there's a massive opportunity for a label like Pressure Sounds to step in and gather together the definitive version of this great album.

My copy of 'Love Thy Neighbour' boasts just seven tracks and I've managed to track down a couple of others on my journeys around the interweb. The sound is haunting and drenched in echo, even by Black Ark standards, and the nyabinghi drums reverberate like a clattering heartbeat through each tune. The reverb and delay create a claustrophobic, menacing atmosphere throughout. I've read some criticism of the production being too murky and dense, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here are two tracks from the album. If you dig 'em, check out the rest, or at least those that are easy to find.

Enjoy the tunes and your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Tuesday 31 July 2012


It's Mrs Swede's Birthday on Thursday, an event that will see us head off to a quiet bit of the coast for a couple of days of walking and eating, but before that, later today in fact, the New York branch of the family arrive at Swede Towers for a short visit.

Before family matters take me away though, I wanted to share this tune from the new Beak album, '>>'. Beak is a side project of Geoff Barrow from Portishead, a band that certainly allows plenty of time for side projects. I played their 2009 debut (you guessed it, '>') a lot at the time, but the new release, which I've been exploring over the past few days, seems a step up both in quality and cohesiveness.

'Wulfstan II' is a beefed up re-working of a tune from '>' and is a big nod in the direction of Neu! and 'Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun' by Pink Floyd. See what you think.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Saturday Scratch #4

In 1963 Lee Perry was working for Coxsone Dodd's Downbeat Sound System and this early ska vocal cut from Scratch is a thinly veiled sideswipe at their big rival in the dance, Prince Buster.

'Come let's face the facts, 
The Prince is in the back, 
 He is completely lost, 
Like a tuppence in the grass'. 

One suspects that the rivalry was a somewhat hyped-up affair, however, as four years later, after Perry had walked out on Dodd, he recorded a number of sides with the Prince, including the classic 'Judge Dread'.

Enjoy your weekend.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Yo La Tengo

At the risk of having severe abuse hurled in my direction, can I just's too hot! I realise I'm in the minority here, but the temperatures of late have been perfect for me - it's just the biblical quantities of rain that I've had an issue with. Now though, after just a couple of days of non-stop sunshine, i'm wilting!

So today I took a drive with the windows down in order to get some air movement going on. The mp3 player was on shuffle, as it always tends to be in the car, and up popped this - as the little repeated piano figure eased it's way into my brain I swear I actually felt a little cooler and more comfortable.

The track is 'Let's Be Still' from Yo La Tengo's 2003 LP, the appropriately titled 'Summer Sun'. The band have released a dozen albums and a plethora of singles, EPs and compilations since the mid-1980s. They're also known for their eclectic range of cover versions and make an annual appearance on New York's WFMU radio station fundraising evening where, in exchange for a pledge, they'll turn their hands to any tune the listeners request. The band even released a limited edition compilation LP of these one-offs entitled 'Yo La Tengo is Murdering the Classics'!

It's a hot and humid evening. Let's spin this one more time.

Saturday 21 July 2012

The Slider by T.Rex - 40 Years Old Today

Just over a month ago, the 40th anniversary of the release of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust LP was rightly celebrated with much fanfare and bunting. Today, I'm dusting off the party hat and dressing in my best bib and tucker, for what I assume will be a slightly more low-key 40th birthday celebration, that of The Slider by T.Rex.

The Slider was my first LP. 'Wait', I hear you cry, 'what about this?'. OK, my first new, real, proper non-cheapo compilation LP! The anniversary of it's actual purchase by me is still a week or so away, but today is the day it was let loose on the world.

By the time of The Slider's release, I was familiar with Electric Warrior and had accumulated many of the band's singles to that point; Get it On and Hot Love from a store selling ex-jukebox records, Jeepster from a slightly older school friend who had already moved on to more 'serious' music (how fickle!), and the album's trailblazers Telegram Sam and Metal Guru were the results of my earliest forays into real record shops. I didn't pick up Ride a White Swan until slightly later. I remember being overwhelmed by the three tracks on offer on each of the latest singles - so much new music all at once! Telegram Sam b-side Cadilac, which didn't feature on the album, remains a favourite to this day.

School was out for the summer and while on holiday with my parents in Boscombe, Dorset during the first week of August 1972, I have my first clear memory of seeing the distinctive, now iconic, sleeve for The Slider in a record shop window. All these years later, I don't recall having been aware of it's impending release, but I do remember the initial frisson of excitement upon seeing that sleeve. I had the wherewithal (holiday spending money from various relatives) and with Dad's help I made the purchase.

A well put together LP sleeve can be a beautiful thing and The Slider's packaging is a very beautiful thing indeed. I should know, I had over a week of our holiday left in which to examine every inch of it before we went home and I could actually play the record!

Then came the music....aah the music. It was at once lush and raw, direct and impenetrable, obvious and mysterious - all produced to perfection by Tony Visconti. These days I might not listen to the album as frequently as I once did, but from time to time it can still take me by surprise. In recent years, in my mind, I've thought of Metal Guru as being one of the band's weaker singles of that period, then one afternoon in 2010 I happened to hear it on the radio. That intro exploded from the speakers in a majestic ka-boom of sound and I was all at once 12 years old again.

There have been thousands of other LPs since 1972, many of which may have been better records, played more often, subject to more critical acclaim, cherished and feted, but you always remember your first love don't you? The Slider has been with me for over three quarters of my life and at this juncture, I think it's safe to say it'll be with me until the bitter end - we're in it for the long haul.

Monday 16 July 2012

R.I.P. Jon Lord

I can't claim to be their greatest fan, but I, like many others of my age, had a definite Deep Purple period. As Mark Steel remarked on Twitter this evening, their heyday was a time when 'heavy metal had a tune that all the family could enjoy'. I'm not sure my parents would have agreed, but I can see where he's coming from. Tonight, to mark the sad passing of Jon Lord, here's a tune from the tail-end of that heyday, but what a stormer it is.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Saturday Scratch #2

This week, Saturday Scratch finds Lee Perry back behind the desk at the Black Ark for this 1977 single by Ronnie Davis.

For over 40 years Davis has worked as part of The Itals and The Tennors vocal groups and he's also been produced as a solo artist by legendary figures such as Bunny Lee and Phil Pratt. Now in his early 60s, he continues to tour and record.

An enterprising soul put the two sides of this 7" together to form a custom made extended edit, although I own a 12" version which has a subtly different mix. This works fine for me though. Feel free to join in with the backing vox.

Have a good weekend.

Saturday 30 June 2012

Saturday Scratch

Another week gone! To ease you into the weekend, here's a tune from the very end of  Lee Perry's Black Ark period. 1980's 'The Return of Pipecock Jackxon' was finally reissued in 2011 and to be honest it's a patchy affair, but 'Bed Jammin' is a mighty fine groove that just keeps rolling and rolling.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Hooded Fang

Hooded Fang's self-titled debut from 2010 was an enjoyable retro-sounding affair, but over the following few months 'Nuggets' must have been on heavy rotation in the band's rehearsal room, as 2011's 'Tosta Mista' boasts more of a 60's garage-rock vibe.

It's a slightly uneven album, but at it's best it's very good indeed. Here's the best of the bunch and one of my fave raves of last year.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

The McCartney Connection

As the shutter clicked, capturing a happy couple in the East End of London exchanging their wedding vows, 225 miles to the North West a young man was enjoying his first day as a teenager. The date was June 18th, 1955. The couple getting married were my parents. The boy celebrating his 13th birthday was Paul McCartney.

The photo obviously means a lot to me on a personal level, but over and above that, I think it's such a wonderful image. It captures the moment beautifully, under what, I imagine, were difficult conditions with the poor light in the church and primitive technology of the day...also the bored choirboy is a nice touch! Today would have been my parent's 57th wedding anniversary. The last they celebrated together was their 52nd. 

Macca, of course, hits 70 today. To try and sum up his life, work and influence in a few words would be let's have a song. 'Press' may be considered a minor work, but it makes me smile every time I hear it - particularly if I hear it in conjunction with the video which is an absolutely joyful celebration of McCartney in 'Thumbs Aloft' mode. To this day, if I'm on the London Underground, I never miss an opportunity to do the 'walking down a wind tunnel' bit!

Many happy returns of the day Sir Paul.

Friday 15 June 2012

Noddy Holder at 66

If you were at school during the early 1970s, chances are that you too were caught up in my generation's pop stand-off. Forget The Beatles versus The Stones...forget Oasis versus Blur, between 1971 and 1973 you were only allowed to express a preference for one band or the other and never the twain should meet - T.Rex or Slade, which side were you on?

I was firmly on the side of the guy who wasn't no square with his corkscrew hair. My first proper album was 'The Slider', first live show T.Rex at the Edmonton Sundown in 1972 and for about 18 months I listened to no-one else.

Gradually though, I realised that there was life beyond Marc Bolan's Les Paul and began checking out other things as well - including Slade, but of course I had to keep that piece of information from the kids at school!

Over the subsequent years, I doubt I've listened to Slade quite as much as T.Rex, old allegiances die hard, but a few of their records did become firm favourites. Here's two of them. Happy birthday Noddy!

Sunday 10 June 2012

Everything's Getting Older

Everything's Getting Older from swede on 8tracks Radio.

Animal Collective - Honeycomb
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Because of Your Eyes
Here We Go Magic - How Do I Know?
Xodus - English Black Boys
Jagwar Ma - Come Save Me
Lower Dens - Alphabet Song
Graham Coxon - Ooh, Yeh Yeh
Bill Wells & Aiden Moffat - The Copper Top

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Everybody Got To Be Free

Where is the time going? I've got a couple of posts in the works, but just can't seem to get them completed. One of these days I'm gonna get myself organizized!

To keep things ticking over, here are a couple of versions of the same groove, by an unlikely pair of Richards - Little and Roy.

Sunday 27 May 2012


Here's a mighty fine tune from Colorama's 2010 album 'Box'. Full-length album number three (there's also a mini-album or two knocking about) is due any day now - indeed it may already be available in Japan, as much of their previous work has debuted out there before gaining a domestic release. Carwyn Ellis fronts the band in tandem with his role as musical director for Edwyn Collins.

'Etiquette' is beautiful, timeless and a perfect soundtrack to this balmy evening.

Colorama - Etiquette by colorama

Friday 25 May 2012

But I'm Different Now - Paul Weller at 54

I must admit that I'd grown a bit tired of Paul Weller. I still enjoyed the odd single, but the albums had ceased to engage me and the live shows I caught in the mid 1990s and early 2000s were....dull. Despite the fact that I fitted age-wise into the bracket myself, I came to look upon his oeuvre as Dad-rock - the ultimate insult!

So I was sceptical, to say the least, when I read the early reviews for '22 Dreams' in 2008 which were, almost uniformally ecstatic. Eventually, as the praise kept coming, I checked the album out. The reviews were on the button. It wasn't so much as a return to form, as an artistic rebirth which has continued with 2010s 'Wake Up the Nation' and the fantastic new album,'Sonik Kicks'. Suddenly all bets are off and no musical style is out of bounds. I loved The Jam, but at the moment I'd argue that Paul Weller is on the form of his life.

Today he's 54 - Happy Birthday Paul, I'm sorry I ever doubted you!

Thursday 24 May 2012

Happy Birthday Bob!

Thirteen songs into the sixth and final night of Bob Dylan's legendary February 1990 Hammersmith Odeon residency, the piano which had sat to the side of the stage throughout the whole week, remained untouched.

Finally, after concluding the acoustic set with Mr Tambourine Man, Bob put down his guitar and ambled ever closer to the piano as the crowd willed him on. He sat down, summoned his inner Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and gave us this...

Not his greatest song by any means, but what a performance - and listen to the reaction of the audience!

Happy Birthday Bob!

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Richard Burton Dubwise

When a mash-up works it can be utterly inspired and this is one such occasion. Take a slice of  Richard Burton's narration of 'Under Milk Wood' and lay it over the 'Ali Baba' riddim and this is the spine-tingling result.

Saturday 19 May 2012


The problem with (still) not having proper access to my physical music collection, is that if a tune doesn't pop up on my MP3 player for a while, it's in danger of slipping off the radar. Such is the case with this sumptuous beauty, which I played endlessly during the early part of 2011 and rarely since.

I'm not too sure about the accompanying clip - I find it distracts rather than enhances - so maybe, like me, you should sit back from the keyboard for a few moments and let this one wash over you.

Friday 18 May 2012

Bay 7, Bed 26

A little under two weeks ago, as I prepared to heave myself into the shower, I had what my Mum would have called 'a funny turn'. It felt as if someone stuck a needle into either side of my neck at the top of my spine and injected bolts of pure pain which spread instantly up and across my skull, leaving me barely conscious. It was, to say the least, a scary experience.

I stupidly tried to ignore the event and struggled on for several days, groggy and unsteady, before finally calling in to see my doctor, who referred me immediately to a neurologist and within hours, for the first time since my birth 52 years ago, I found myself in hospital.

A small bleed to the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage) was a strong possibility - not dangerous itself, but potentially a precursor to something far more serious if it re-occurred. The specialist emphasised this point by snapping his fingers and saying it could be 'game over'. Dramatic, but he got my attention.

Thankfully, after three days of tests, including a lumber puncture (straight into the top five of the all-time most unpleasant experiences in my life) and brain scan, the diagnoses was that I had suffered a Thunderclap Headache, which may sound innocuous, but believe me, is not. A little rest and mild medication and I should be fine.

As the youngest and otherwise healthiest in my ward I was witness to the limitless patience and compassion offered by the medical staff during their 12 hour shifts to old, frail and confused men, some clearly approaching the ends of their lives.  I also briefly got to know some remarkable people who continually overcome seemingly insurmountable health problems and are determined not to 'go gentle into that good night.'

I may write about a few of those I met during my short stay in Bay 7, Bed 26, but I won't forget any of them.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Life Is Too Short For Bad Coffee

A sense of normality returned to Swede Towers this week, with the arrival of a new espresso machine. No, it's not a NEW new machine - much as my inner coffee-nerd cherished one of the top of the range pieces of kit on offer, my inner fiscally-challenged level-headed self won the day and I am now the proud owner of a second-hand workhorse purchased from a well known online auction site.

Here's the little beauty, settling in to it's new home!

Every Saturday morning the comforting thud on the doormat announces the arrival of this week's coffee selection from Has Bean (currently drinking, Rwanda Rulindo). My previous espresso machine lasted a good six or seven years, but breathed it's last just before Christmas, since when I've been on brewed coffee only, however the difference on the palate between the many different ways of coffee preparation can be immense, so I'm glad to now have the benefit of a choice once again.

Told you I was a coffee-nerd! Time for a cuppa I think!

Thursday 10 May 2012

Sly at 60

Happy birthday Sly Dunbar - 60 today!

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