Saturday 31 January 2015

Saturday Scratch #43 - The Artibella Rhythm

The ska original of 'Artibella' appeared on Studio One in 1965, credited to Ken Booth & Stranger Cole (here). Boothe released his hit solo version of the song, produced by Phil Pratt, in 1970 (here).

In 1972 Lee 'Scratch' Perry produced his own interpretation of the 'Artibella' rhythm with The Upsetters, initially bringing in Milton Henry and Junior Byles to voice 'This World' over it and releasing the results under the moniker King Medious. Several further adaptations of the rhythm would follow.

Hot on the heels of the duet, Byles was back behind the vocal mic alone, creating his classic reading of 'Fever'. At around the same time, the song was also voiced to good effect by Susan Cadogan.

The versions poured out of the Black Ark. Here's Jah Lion with 'Hay Fever'.

Jah T voiced 'Lick the Pipe Peter', with Augustus Pablo's melodica accompaniment, though I prefer Pablo's instrumental 'Hot and Cold'.

There are more, but let's conclude this brief whistle-stop tour with a typically bonkers dubwise excursion on the 'Artibella' rhythm, 'Fever Grass Dub'.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Walking in Circles, Again

Encouraged by recent inspiring posts from chums over at Sun Dried Sparrows and Grown Up Backwards, I've been digging around in my hard drive to find the photos from a couple of local walks I took last year. This first set is from the evening of August 31st, just as the nights were beginning to draw in. Click on any photo to enlarge it. More to follow soon.

Accompanying the visuals is Greek post-rocker George Mastrokostas, trading as Absent Without Leave, with the appropriately titled 'Evening Walks', from 2008. Find more Absent Without Leave music here.


I featured a river walk last time, but this one takes me in the other direction, East. First though, I head out over the marsh.

Swinging left, away from the road, I cross a field and arrive at the river. Look at the length of my shadow. This is a fairly long walk and the sun is already low, though this heron has found a few evening sunbeams to bask in.

All is quiet at the quay. The sign shows me the way.

This is a circular walk and I still have a long way to go until I reach the halfway point, but the sun is already dipping below the horizon. This stretch of river is far more open than the area I walked through last time.

I wonder why this cow is looking so intently in my direction, when suddenly there's a gentle whoosh over my right shoulder. The cow wasn't looking at me, it had seen a barn owl crossing from the other side of the river. It pauses for a breather on a post right next to the cow.

I've never seen a barn owl quartering on this stretch before and I click ecstatically, capturing absolutely nothing but fresh air on my camera, so I give up and for several minutes silently watch the beautiful creature in action. Finding no success in its search for food, the owl swings back across the river just ahead of me and I manage to secure a couple of blurred images.

After about a mile, I leave the river, clamber over a crooked style and negotiate that rarest of all terrains in this area - a hill!

Well this is what constitutes a hill round these parts anyway! And I get a good view back along the first half of my journey from the top.

I love this dirt lane. I like to imagine that this was once a main thoroughfare, frequented by highwaymen lying in wait for a passing horse-drawn carriage - perhaps I've been out on my own for too long! It is becoming very dark.

Even the animals in surrounding fields wonder what on Earth I'm doing out in the middle of nowhere at this hour.

Passing birds form an arrow in the sky - though pointing in the wrong direction! Fortunately the sign on this gatepost tells me all I need to know.

In the a glade on the other side of the long hedge on the right, the evening calls of birds and other animals echo in a spooky cacophony. To my left, a lovely location for an owl box, though I've never seen it in use.

I've been out for well over an hour and as I near civilization, a mist begins to gather on the marsh. A final signpost looms out of the gloom.

I practically have to feel my way across the last short stretch of field towards the houses in the distance. This footpath brings me out in the middle of the village and the warm glow of our nearest streetlight, a few hundred yards from home.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Clean Up

Every Monday afternoon I vacuum the house from top to bottom. It's one of the very few household chores that I've been granted top level clearance to take on alone, though the work is of course carefully monitored and I receive regular and detailed feedback on my performance.

After vacuuming for a few minutes, I get into 'the zone'. My mind wanders and often I'll catch myself singing out loud to a tune in my head as I work, usually something bizarre or relatively obscure. (This week it was a seamless medley of 'Nijinsky Hind' by Tyrannosaurus Rex and 'Surreal Estate' by Be-Bop Deluxe.) Sometimes I don't even realise I'm doing it - until it's mentioned later, during my debriefing.

Here's the late great Jackie Mittoo, fronting Sound Dimension, with a cracking 1969 Coxsone Dodd produced instrumental, 'Clean Up'.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Nina Simone

1978's Baltimore is a good, not great, late period Nina Simone LP, although it does contain three totally essential minutes in her interpretation of Fritz Rotter's 'That's All I Want From You'. The song was a hit in 1954 for Jaye P. Morgan and subsequently covered by artists as diverse as Dean Martin, Bobby Bare and Aretha Franklin, but none of these come close to Nina's fragile, emotional reading.

Friday 23 January 2015

My Back Pages

Dad took me to a speedway match for the first time in the Summer of 1967. I was seven years old and instantly hooked. For the next nine years we traveled all over London and South East England attending three or four speedway fixtures a week. Now I look back on it, we must have gone to around 500 matches in all that time, just me and Dad - originally on his Honda 90 motorcycle and later in his trusty Hillman Imp.

Memories of those many happy hours spent enveloped in diesel fumes, diligently filling in programmes, collecting autographs and cheering on my favourite riders, came back to me recently when I unearthed a couple of pages torn out of two very old speedway magazines, which I found buried at the bottom of a box. The pages feature crowd photos from speedway matches, with a lucky supporter circled on each - a weekly competition in this particular publication. The first one I looked at featured a crowd scene from Romford, taken one Thursday evening in the summer of 1969. And there we are. Dad with cigarette in mouth and programme in hand, and me leaning on the barrier. We're deep in conversation and oblivious to the photographer, unlike the lucky winner! 

The other page is from April of 1968 and features a similar photo, this one taken at Hackney, home of my favourite team, 'The Hawks'. Every Friday evening, Dad and I would grab our preferred vantage point high on the 4th bend, by the pits, which happened to be the very section of the stadium that the photographer chose to take his snap. This time I obviously spotted him, as I've worked my way down towards the front and, bobble hat on head, am looking straight at the camera. Still not a winner though!

And Dad? When I came across these pages a couple of weeks ago, I initially assumed that he hadn't made it into this particular shot. On closer inspection, however, there he is, right up at the back, in the shadows, this time smoking his pipe.

Though neither of us turned out to be lucky winners back in the 1960s, rediscovering these old torn out magazine pages in 2015 is a pretty good consolation prize.


Wednesday 21 January 2015

Misty Mist

Down the garden, over the allotments and across the marsh beyond. I always stop to look out of our bedroom window, whether I'm on my way into bed at night or stumbling out of it at the start of a new day. It's never the same view twice. Here's what I saw this morning.

I could write a whole piece on the range and variety of mists that gather on the marsh, but would struggle to illustrate any of them. Successfully capturing mist on camera is akin to capturing lightning in a bottle, for me anyway. This morning's mist/frost/sun combo was particularly beautiful though. And as I looked out, I too was being observed. I guess the view in the other direction is no big deal to this little 'un.

Later in the day, we endured a private mist of our own - inside the house. The next door neighbours were sanding down a beam and, as our two houses were once one and thus we share some floorboards, a gentle sawdust fog drifted up and through the rooms, leaving a fine covering over everything. I'd only vacuumed yesterday too.

Monday 19 January 2015


Nan, my Maternal Grandmother, was born in Stratford in the East End of London on the 19th of January 1893, 122 years ago today - a time when the first controlled flight of an aircraft lay 10 years in the future and the sight of a primitive motor car on the streets of the nation's capitol was still an incredibly rare event. As a child, she grew up in a house with no electricity, no gas, inconsistent running water, a rudimentary coal stove, a tin bath hanging on the wall and a toilet in the backyard. By the time she died, she'd survived two world wars, outlived two husbands, given birth to one child and watched men walking on the moon on her own colour telly. 

Nan's birth certificate. Frail and precious.

Nan was 67 when I arrived on the scene in 1960, dying a couple of days short of my 16th birthday in 1976. I spent a lot of time with her when I was a kid, particularly during the mid-1960s when both my parents were working. Her vernacular was an anachronistic Victorian Cockney, liberally sprinkled with odd turns of phrase that my Dad always referred to as 'Nan-isms' (a subject I've previously touched on here and I'll devote a whole post to one of these days). Her kitchen was always 'the scullery', my pyjamas a 'pyjam-suit' and, in later years, a 50p coin was a 'silver ten-bob note'.

Nan (wearing her ever-present pinnie), Mum & I, 1963.

When I was being looked after by her, Nan's favourite trick to keep me engaged and, no doubt, out from under her feet, was to sit me at the table with pencil and paper and and give me a subject, often just one word, upon which I would write a story. When I was done, she'd sit opposite me as I read it to her, then she'd dream up another subject to repeat the process. My young imagination was vivid and I loved to make up stories, so this would literally keep me amused for hours. Meanwhile Nan, wearing her ever-present pinnie, might fill the coal scuttle, scrub the doorstep or potter around in the scullery, perhaps baking a cake, before inviting me to scrape out the sticky leftover cake mix from the bowl with my finger. Then I would ask her for new subject, sit down at the table and begin another story.

A treasured inscription in an old autograph book


After the Sex Pistols there was The Rich Kids and after The Rich Kids Glen Matlock formed The Spectres with ex-Tom Robinson Band guitarist Danny Kustow. The short lived combo gigged heavily while pursuing both David Bowie and Alex Chilton as potential producers, but ultimately issued just two singles, both in 1980, a cover of Ray Davies' 'This Strange Effect' and this, their own, 'Stories'.

Friday 16 January 2015

I Should Watch TV

A recent post over at the ever wonderful Sun Dried Sparrows reminded me of the time I was browsing in an achingly (and I really mean achingly) cool, alternative bookstore in Brooklyn several years ago. It was a fascinating and incredibly arty shop, chock-a-block with obscure titles and with ferocious jazz blaring from the in-store sound-system. Anyway, I was nosing about the shelves, when a skinny young man stepped from behind the counter and approached me. He worked at the store and had recognised my English accent. This was a guy who wouldn't have looked out of place in the line-up of a cutting edge band - an impossibly cool individual. So you can imagine my surprise at the question he asked me. 'You're from England...', he said, ' you know a TV series called Lovejoy?' 'Errrm...., yes...' I replied, somewhat taken aback, ' fact parts of it were filmed not far from where I live'. At this, the guy's veneer of cool dropped. 'Oh my God, I LOVE that show...' he babbled excitedly, ' you know when the third season will be out on DVD?'

If only I'd known at the time....

Yes, it transpired that this arty, uber-cool, bookish Brooklynite was a massive fan of the venerable East Anglian antique dealer and he proceeded to pepper me with questions about the programme for several minutes - fairly unsuccessfully as it happens, as I'd rarely watched it myself. His main gripe seemed to be that, at the time, only the first couple of series had thus far made it to DVD in the USA, so he'd had to rely on acquiring bootleg copies of the show to feed his habit! This was well before Ian McShane found American fame in Deadwood, so, to be quite honest, I was surprised to hear that any episodes of Lovejoy had been released on DVD in the States and frankly astonished that the programme was so admired by such a young hipster.

Now, what's that phrase about not judging a book by its cover? It seems particularly apt in this case.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Moon Duo and the Art of Psychedelic Skating

The clip for 'Animal', lead single from Moon Duo's soon-come new LP 'Shadow of the Sun', features pro-skateboarder (who knew there was such a thing?) Richie Jackson, indulging in a little light 'psychedelic skating' - that's without a traditional board to you and me. I'm in no way qualified to comment on Mr Jackson's abilities, although he cuts a fine dash and does look a bit of a dude, but what I can say, without fear of contradiction, is that judging by this storming tune, Moon Duo's powers show no signs of diminishing.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Batch Gueye Band

From 2012, this is the Batch Gueye Band with the enchanting 'M'beugel'. Batch is originally from Senegal, but now operates out of Bristol and this particular tune has been on regular rotation in my house for the past couple of years. 'M'beugel' is taken from a self-titled EP, which you can check out in full here.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Saturday Scratch #42 - Little Roy

Every now and then, atrocities take place in the real world that make blogging feel every bit as frivolous and pointless as it ultimately is.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Colin Stetson

If you think the music of saxophonist and multireedist Colin Stetson is a challenging listen, try watching him make it. Based in Canada, Stetson has played with Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, Bon Iver and Anthony Braxton among a host of others, but when he plays solo it's just him, all him. Listen to the extraordinary 'The Stars in His Head', try to work out what on Earth is going on, then watch a live performance of 'Judges' to find out.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Flip It! #5 - Beat the Intro

Hanni El Khatib's 'Moonlight' is a real grower, that's for sure, but, until recently, growing in tandem with my enjoyment of the song was my frustration as to what exactly the brief 'dum dum dum dum' intro reminded me of.

Cue John Medd's perfectly timed post on RCA record sleeves (here). Ding! Light-bulb moment! In my mind's eye, I could immediately see my 14 year-old self flipping over his RCA 7" single of David Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs' to reveal 'Holy Holy' on the b-side. Check that 'dum dum dum dum' intro. Thanks for helping me put my mind at rest John.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Melanie De Biasio

At the time I first heard 'The Flow (Hex Remix)', I'm afraid to say that I knew nothing at all about Melanie De Biasio. Now, a couple of hours later, I've learnt that she's described by some as Belgium's Billie Holiday (which could be a blessing or a curse) and that this engagingly skittering mix of an excellent, down-tempo original is due to appear on a Gilles Peterson curated compilation in February. I also know that I'd quite like to hear more.

And here's the original.

Friday 2 January 2015

Version City #37 - Ted Heath & His Music Play The Rolling Stones

'The Big Ones' by Ted Heath and His Music is an LP that I just couldn't leave behind when I spotted it lurking in a box at a car-boot sale last summer. I mean, come on. Look at the sleeve. It has 'Groovy' written all over it and was either going to be a complete stonker or an utter stinker. Fortunately it's the former. Pop hits of the day are given the big band treatment with pretty good results, though nowhere more successfully than this all-out assault on golden oldie (it was 4 years old at the time) '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'. Dig it!

Thursday 1 January 2015

Get Well Soon

It's not been a good start to 2015 (or end to 2014 come to that) for Mrs S. It takes a lot to slow her down, but a serious bout of flu has completely knocked her for six and she's currently not very well at all.

Rest Now, Weary Head, You Will Get Well Soon.

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