Sunday 31 August 2014

Keeping it Peel

In 1980, I and a couple of friends formed a band and we wrote to John Peel to tell him about it. I don't really know what made us think he'd be at all interested, but, at the time, it seemed the natural thing to do. We didn't have a tape, we'd never played live, we barely had any songs - in fact we were barely a band at all. We just wrote and told him how much we enjoyed his show, that we'd formed a band and to look out for a tape....... sometime in the future! Amazingly, he wrote back. In a handwritten letter of encouragement he said that he looked forward to hearing our 'fab teen combo' and signed it 'music lovin' Johnny P'. We were all astonished that he took the time to personally write to us and the letter took pride of place on the wall in the drummer's house, where we regularly met to practice.

The band, unfortunately, didn't last. We played three local gigs, never committed anything to tape and, within a matter of months, ground to a permanent halt. It was great fun while it lasted though. Our drummer, Andrew, won custody of Peel's letter. Andrew went on to create experimental electronic music of some note, which he continues to do to this day, and yes, his music was eventually played on John Peel's show.

Our short-lived little group was massively influenced by the music Peel was playing at the time, specifically Joy Division, to the extent that we covered 'Wilderness' from 'Unknown Pleasures' in our set. Here's the original, for Andrew and Chris (the boys in the band) and, of course, for music lovin' Johnny P, who would've turned 75 this weekend.

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Most Important Meal of the Day.......

....though someone should point out that, round these parts, it's considered rude to chew with your mouth open.

Monday 25 August 2014

Version City #31 - Half Man Half Biscuit sing Tim Buckley

A Peel session favourite from 2002. An inspired cover, segueing into the unmitigated genius that is 'Vatican Broadside'. You won't spend a more enjoyable three minutes this week.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Aswad at the Notting Hill Carnival

It's a warm, sunny day for those who are out and about in West London, enjoying the Notting Hill Carnival. I've been to a few Carnivals over the years, most memorably in 1983 when Aswad played a storming set, later released on LP as 'Live and Direct'. The band may now be best remembered by a wider audience for their 'pop' hits, commencing with 'Don't Turn Around' in 1984, but in the previous eight years Aswad released a series of consistently strong roots reggae albums and were an exceptional live outfit to boot. Here's a shot I took from the crowd that day in 1983 and 'African Children' from the gig, featuring a wicked 'live' dub section.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Joe Strummer

The bathroom is still a work in progress, it's amazing how much disruption can be caused by the redecoration of one small room. As a layer of ever-deepening dust settles on every surface in the house, my thoughts turn to Joe Strummer, who would've been 62 today. Here he is in full flow at The Cambridge Folk Festival in August 2002, 4½ months before his death, the last time I saw him in concert.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Saturday Scratch #39

If the family bathroom was ever out of action when I was a wee nipper, I would have to endure what Mum would call 'a wash down'. This involved standing in a washing-up bowl on the kitchen floor, while she poured lukewarm water over my head and scrubbed me with a rough flannel. We're experiencing an uncannily similar, if slightly more grown-up, version of the same thing at the moment. The bathroom is currently a building site as walls are insulated, windows replaced, tiles laid and, hopefully sometime late next week, a new suite is installed. To be honest, I'm a a bit long in the tooth for all this wash down malarkey (dousing oneself in water at the kitchen sink ain't what it's cracked up to be), but I know it'll all be worth it in the end.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Robin Williams

"We never expect to hear about death. We never wake up knowing someone will have died today. As we busy ourselves with all of the lovely distractions that life offers us... we push death away... like some unwanted vegetable on the dinner plate. But every once in a while, death enters our periphery and reminds us that it's still there. Not to scare us... not to terrorize us... only to remind us to cherish each bite of the meal put before us. Like it or not we will be made to eat our vegetables. My deepest gratitude for the man who reminded us to play with our food. Au revoir, Robin Williams." - Shane Koyczan, 12/8/14.

Thursday 7 August 2014

The Soundcarriers

I'm a past master at finding any excuse to avoid buckling down to something I know I really should be doing, but this week, in a refreshing break from the norm, I've been hard at it, non-stop. The soundtrack to my endeavours has been provided by The Soundcarriers - I've been particularly hammering 2010's 'Celeste' and the brand new 'Entropicalia'. If you're partial to a little bit of psych, a dash of motorik and maybe a soupçon of folky jazziness, you should make it your business to check 'em out asap. I'll leave you with a sample from each of those cracking albums - I must get back to work.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Version City #30 - The Very Best & The Ruby Suns sing The Beatles

In just a few hours, I'll greet Mrs S with the same phrase my Nan used every year, when I was a kid, on the morning of my birthday. 'Many happy returns of the you feel any older?' Then we'll jump in the car and, as tradition dictates, head for the coast for a beer or two, a portion of chips and a blast of balmy sea air.

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