Wednesday 22 December 2021

2021 and all that

In mid-November, right at the point where the busyness level at work changed gear from simply hectic to full-on pre-Christmas panic, I started to feel a bit under the weather. Not Covid under the weather, but unusually fatigued and retreating to bed at 6 in the evening under the weather. I couldn't fathom it and soldiered on feeling grotty for four weeks until one evening when I removed my shirt and it all became clear. A vivid rash had appeared across my chest, which by the following morning snuck under my armpit and around onto my back - shingles. With the rash came searing pain to add to the fatigue. My doctor prescribed a course of 5 huge tablets a day on top of the regular painkillers I was consuming every four hours just to obtain some level of comfort. The long and the short of it is that I've been off work now for by far the longest period since catching mumps from a record shop customer in 1980! I'm well on the mend though and only mention all this to explain the tumbleweed that's been blowing around the corridors of this blog for some time. I return with a brief look at some of the music that has kept me going throughout 2021. Links to further information/listening in red.

Laura Cannell & Kate Ellis - These Feral Lands

A monthly EP project, which picked up where the 2020 album of the same name left off. A total of 48 tracks written, recorded and released across the past 12 months, featuring words and music inspired by feral animal sounds, ancient stories and personal folklore. I'm already dreading the empty space where an EP should be come the end of January.

AMOR/LEMUR

The second LP of avant-mutant-disco from Glasgow's AMOR (this time made in conjunction with Norway's LEMUR) appeared way back in January. Since then Richard Youngs has released his usual steady stream of  solo records throughout the year. I've managed to pick up up about half a dozen of them, but I'm sure I've missed many more.

Kungens Män - Den Nya Skivan

In February Kungens Män put out a limited edition box set ('Innanför Boxen') containing four LPs previously only available digitally plus 'Den Nya Skivan', which helpfully translates as 'The New Record'. Providing we're all still here to tell the tale, the band are due back for some UK dates in April. Go see them, they will change your life.

Richard Dawson & Circle - Henki

As many of my oft-postponed concerts of the past 18 months finally started taking place this year, I found myself picking and choosing what to actually attend, passing on several and masking up for just a precious few. One of the essential shows was by the phenomenal Richard Dawson. There really is no-one like him on stage or on record and his recent collaboration with the Finnish group Circle sits easily amongst the best things I've heard in 2021.

Modern Nature - Island of Noise

With every successive release, Jack Cooper sheds a little more of his previous musical skins and now 'Island of Noise' finds almost all traces of Mazes and Ultimate Painting erased. A completely analogue project, 'Island of Noise' was record onto 2" tape, is available only on vinyl and is housed within a box with an accompanying booklet all of which were manufactured using recycled and sustainable materials. Admirable though these details are, they'd mean little if the music itself wasn't so rich and rewarding. 

Alden & Patterson  - Hunter

An absolutely majestic debut duo album from Christina and Alex, who also play in a trio with steel guitarist Noel Dashwood. 'Hunter' is only the first of two lockdown projects from Alden & Patterson to arrive, the second, their first child, is due in February.

National Information Society - Descension (Out of  Our Constrictions)

This brief overview of standout records released over the past twelve months is not in any order of personal preference, though if I had decided to reveal its contents in a TOTP chart countdown format, 'Descension (Out of  Our Constrictions)' would unquestionably be my No.1 album. Recorded live, it's a single, hypnotic, 75 minute piece, spread across four sides of vinyl. Genre defying.

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I'll leave you with Beak's wonderfully sinister festive offering from back in 2017, 'Merry Xmas (Face the Future)'. Compliments of the season everyone - here's to better times ahead.

Friday 19 November 2021

Friday Photo #17


On the very day that the rules of international travel to and from the USA changed last week, my cousin flew in for a brief four day visit with her Mum, the first time they've been together for a couple of years. I was able to make it down to London for two of those days and I can confirm that it was a joy for all concerned.

On Monday my cousin and I took the tube into town for lunch and a wander around Soho, where we dropped into both the Bowie and Stones pop-up shops as well as Morgan Howell's current outlet on Beak Street. If you don't know Morgan's incredible SuperSizeArt work take a look here (and if you happen to have a wad of money burning a hole in your pocket, one of the T.Rex pieces would look very nice on my wall).

I know that part of town fairly well, but as we came out of the much altered Tottenham Court Road tube station I was unsure exactly where our chosen exit would lead and for a moment couldn't quite get my bearings. Then I looked up.

Wilco - Capitol City

Wednesday 17 November 2021

We'll Give All We've Got to Give

What's the oddest, most out of context music you've heard being piped into the supermarket ether as you do your weekly shop? I mentioned my own company's somewhat limited offerings in a previous post, though I'm pleased to report that they've upped their game a little in the interim. Every now and then a random Bowie song will drop into the mix and a couple of months back several Bob Marley songs entered the playlist rotation and still occasionally pop up to delight me when I least expect it. These are very welcome additions to the rather limited selection of tracks that have formed the basis of my working soundtrack for the past couple of years. Every now and then however, complete one-offs appear from nowhere, play once and disappear forever. While dragging a cage full of cakes from the warehouse in the summer, I was surprised to hear 'Turning Japanese' by The Vapours jumping out of the speakers and on another day the reasonably obscure 'One Step Up' by Bruce Springsteen got an airing, neither of them to be heard again. Nothing prepared me for what I found myself  involuntarily singing along to a couple of weeks ago though. I made it, word perfectly, through the first verse, before I fully cottoned-on to what was playing over the music system of a bustling supermarket in the Autumn of 2021. I was gobsmacked, though disappointed that I couldn't find anyone else my age on-shift, with whom to share my bewilderment. Whose idea was it to put this on the playlist?

Monday 15 November 2021

Monday Long Song

It's easy to forget how important UB40 were on the UK reggae scene from 1980-82. During this period the band released a clutch of fine singles (including 'King', 'The Earth Dies Screaming' and 'One in Ten'), three strong studio LPs ('Signing Off', 'Present Arms' and 'UB44'), not to mention an album of dub remixes. They were also regularly championed by John Peel, for whom they recorded two sessions. I saw them supporting The Pretenders, who were promoting their own debut LP at the time, in early 1980 - what a great night that was.

In 1983 came 'Red Red Wine' and the massive 'Labour of Love' album after which their career inevitably took a very different, more mainstream course. In 2008, after maintaining the same line-up for 29 years, lead singer Ali Campbell and keyboard player Micky Virtue acrimoniously left the band, followed in 2013 by vocalist Astro, the three of them forming an alternative version of UB40, much to the ire of the remaining original members.

2021 has been a very sad year for the UB40 camp with the passing of saxophonist Brian Travers in August and Astro earlier this month. Such tragedies would cause many people, however estranged, to offer an olive branch, if only temporarily, but while Ali Campbell left a series of clearly devastated posts on his social media accounts following Astro's sudden death, the original band put this dry missive up.

If a PR person put this out they should be relieved of their position with immediate effect. If this statement was actually drafted by the band they should hang their collective heads in shame. It's a petty, point-scoring little tweet, which managed to successfully unite fans of both versions of the band in condemnation. Would it have hurt so much to dignify Astro with the epithet 'founding member' or original member', rather than the cold, clinical 'ex-member'? Very sad and unnecessary.

I still pull out those first few UB40 records from time to time, particularly the fantastic debut 'Signing Off'. From it here's an early savage Thatcher take-down, 'Madam Medusa'. Remember them this way.

UB40 - Madam Medusa

Friday 5 November 2021

Friday Photo #16


Southwold was a favourite destination for Mrs S & I. We travelled the few miles over to the coast regularly throughout our years together, particularly out of season, for many a pub lunch and cobweb-clearing walk. I'd been studiously avoiding that part of the world even before the pandemic, for fear of reawakening ghosts - indeed until this week it'd been over two years since I'd set foot in the place. On Tuesday I found myself out in that area on other business and thought that perhaps it was time to tentatively revisit the old haunts. It was a clear, gloriously sunny late-afternoon, but I initially felt myself hurrying around the streets, as if anxious to get it done and hot-foot it back out of town, so I wandered down towards the beach, gulped down several lungfuls of fresh sea air and felt my anxiety drift away. A few short weeks ago I wouldn't have been able to move for holidaymakers, but now it was largely deserted. As the light faded, the air reverberated to the noisy chatter of hundreds of Barnacle Geese coming down onto the grazing marsh beyond the houses on Gun Hill. I pulled out my phone and caught a shot of the sun's final rays, stretching across the ancient cannons that point mutely out to sea. What a lovely evening. The ghosts? They were around alright, but they kept a respectful distance.

Tommy McCook & the Aggrovators - Cannon (1975)

Monday 1 November 2021

Monday Long Song

I've sure I've mentioned my brief minimal music phase in the past and even offered up a couple of samples of the stuff I was listening to, particularly while driving, in the late 2000s/early 2010s, but this is perhaps one of the more extreme examples of the form. Notionally a Spring Heel Jack remix of a tune by post-rockers The Sian Alice Group, it's actually a pulsating drone made up of little more than a barely evolving locked groove crescendo. It won't be to everyone's taste (perhaps not to anyone's taste!), but believe it or not I'd often have this on repeat for the whole 80 mile round trip I'd regularly make to visit Mum when she was poorly. It certainly helped to clear the clutter in my brain at the time.

As we join proceedings, the wheels are already well in motion and the whole thing concludes just as jarringly 16½ minutes later, as if the tape simply ran out. Somewhere out there, this tune is still going.

The Sian Alice Group - Untitled (Spring Heel Jack Remix)  

Friday 29 October 2021

Friday Photo #15


Many of my early family photos were taken in one of two places - by the lean-to in the back garden or on the front doorstep. These were the two closest points to being indoors, while actually being outside the house and using available daylight - each flashbulb cost money in those days and was usable only once. Consequently both these locations may turn up with some regularity as this series progresses. Here's one from the doorstep, taken in 1965. I don't know what Dad said that was so funny, but he certainly captured my reaction to perfection.

Here's an appropriately titled tune from 'Free Dirt', the 1986 debut LP by Died Pretty. The Australian band were responsible for one of my absolute favourite songs of the 1980s, which I shared here a while back. Go check it out if you haven't already.

Monday 25 October 2021

Monday Long Song


On Friday evening, I did something that in years gone by I would regularly do three or four times per week. Now, doing it just the once was completely exhausting. Where did I ever find the energy back in the day? I'm talking, in case there's any confusion, about making a 150 mile round trip to see a gig. The mighty Kungens Män paid a brief return visit to these shores last week, something I knew that I couldn't miss out on, even though it arrived in the middle of a run of early shifts at work. The band were every bit as dynamic, intense and far-out as the first time I caught them in December 2019, back when the world was a very different place indeed. After that first gig a couple of years ago, I had only a quick chat with the band after their set, so it came as a bit of a surprise at the conclusion this latest show when guitarist Mikael Tuominen came up and greeted me by name. Mikael plays in four bands; Kungens Män, Fanatism, Automatism and Eye Make The Horizon, all of whom are well represented in my record collection, as well as working on his own project Solitär. He also, along with fellow Kungens Män members, has a full time job back in Sweden. He's a busy guy, yet he not only took the time to stop and talk, but remembered my name from that one short meeting two years ago, remarkable.

Kungens Män - Ljupt Djud

Friday 22 October 2021

Friday Photo #14


For my 60th birthday in April 2020, I was scheduled to make a long overdue return visit to New York City, the flight a present from my cousin who lives in Lower Manhattan. The trip, the celebration and the family reunion didn't happen of course, instead I spent my big day filling shelves at work. It turned out to be a pretty good day in the end though. A bunch of work colleagues bought me a cake plus several bottles of beer, so I went home quite happy. With travel restrictions still in place, earlier this year my 61st birthday came and went and the credit note for the flight is still sitting in a folder on my laptop. I've tentatively started to make plans for April 2022, we'll see how things pan out. 

Of more urgent concern however, is the fact that my cousin has been unable to visit her mum in London for nearly two years. Although she has an American husband, three duel nationality kids and has lived and worked in New York for nearly 40 years, my cousin has never taken American citizenship, so international travel at any stage of the lockdown was out of the question. Travel rules finally ease on November 1st and the following weekend she's flying into London for a very brief visit with her mum. I'm hoping to get down there to be a part of the family catch-up as well, even it's for only 24 hours.

One morning, during one of our trips to visit my cousin in the mid-noughties, Mrs S & I set out on a roughly 5 mile walk from the apartment in Tribeca, across the Brooklyn Bridge, through Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens until we eventually reached Red Hook - in those days fairly inaccessible by public transport. We picked up a couple of pieces of Key Lime Pie, from Steve's, a place that had been highly recommended, before wandering into the nearby Louis Valentino Jr Park, which offers impressive views across the bay to Liberty Island and Jersey beyond. I had a fairly basic point and press camera at the time and fired off a couple of shots, one of which is at the top of this post (click on it to enlarge). In spite of the distant grainy quality, it's a photo I've always been pleased with - the anonymous ferry on the way into Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry on the way out and Liberty between them. 

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Today's tune comes from 1972. While most of the kids at school were grooving to the Chinnichap glam of 'Wig Wam Bam' by The Sweet, me and my mates (and, no doubt, a certain Master John Medd) flipped over the 45 to dig into the heavy, self-written b-side 'New York Connection', featuring a rare example of a solo Brian Connolly vocal, devoid of the usual harmonies from Mick Tucker, Steve Priest & Andy Scott.

The Sweet - New York Connection

Monday 18 October 2021

Monday Long Song


Following on from last week Yes post, we stay in 1974 for 'You', the third of Gong's 'Radio Gnome Invisible' trilogy of albums. Soon after its release, founding member and leader Daevid Allen departed from the band, closely followed by guitarist Steve Hillage, whose own 1975 debut solo LP 'Fish Rising' featured heavy contributions from many core Gong members, with the notable exception of Allen.

'A Sprinkling of Clouds', which closes side one of 'You', features Tim Blake's moog prowess to the fore. Blake is still actively participating in a number of musical projects including the current incarnation of Hawkwind, for whom I saw him rockin' a mean theremin just a couple of years ago.

Gong - A Sprinkling of Clouds

Monday 11 October 2021

Monday Long Song

Two years ago, almost to the day funnily enough, I shared a track by Refugee as a part of this very series (here) and was pleasantly surprised to receive a reasonable amount of positive feedback for what was an 18 minute, typically complex 1970's prog work-out. I mentioned in the post how keyboard wiz Patrick Moraz was whisked away to the big league in 1974, when he was poached by Yes following Rick Wakeman's departure from the band at the conclusion of the 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' tour. Moraz made just the one LP, 'Relayer', with Yes, before Wakeman rejoined the fold in 1976. 

In spite of its one-off nature, 'Relayer' holds a place of special affection in the hearts of many long-term Yes fans. All three tracks on the LP qualify for the Monday Long Song feature, though I've spared you the glorious 21 minute epic, 'Gates of Delirium', opting instead for the first piece worked up by the band after Moraz's arrival, 'Sound Chaser'.

Yes - Sound Chaser

Friday 17 September 2021

Friday Photo #13

Robyn Hitchcock on stage at the Ipswich Transport Museum

Over the past 18 months I've tuned in to over half of Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift's twice weekly Sweet Home Quarantine live streamed shows - that's about 90 hours of music all told. Us regulars in the audience have become collectively known as The Groovers to Robyn, Emma and each other - a band of brothers, sisters, friends and strangers, spread around the four corners of the Earth, tuning in to forget about our problems for an hour or so, be they personal, political, local or global. While the outside world was steadily going to hell in an ongoing series of handcarts, on Sweet Home Quarantine nothing was off limits - Soft Boys classics, back catalogue gems, deep obscurities, newly penned songs and cover versions galore were joyfully delivered from their laptop to ours, all interspersed with warm conversation and regular appearances from adorable Scottish Folds, Ringo and Tubby. And apparently the show will go on. Even as we tentatively tiptoe back towards some form of 'normality', Robyn and Emma have expressed a desire to maintain the community and continue to broadcast Sweet Home Quarantine shows into the future, as and when real life commitments allow. 

The real life commitment currently causing a hiatus in Sweet Home Quarantine shows is Robyn's much delayed UK tour. Last Saturday I was at the Ipswich Transport Museum to witness him play a wonderful set on a stage laid out between a tram and a trolley-bus. One of Robyn's life long passions is ancient, redundant modes of  public transportation, as can be witnessed in the lyrics of several of his songs and he seemed genuinely overwhelmed by his surroundings, claiming it to be the most perfect venue he'd played in 45 years on the road. The setlist reflected the transportation vibe - 'Fifty Two Stations', 'I Often Dream of Trains' and a really beautiful 'Trams of Old London' were all given outings. Most poignant of the lot though was 'Raymond and the Wires', the story of a 1964 trolley-bus trip young Master Hitchcock took with his father (the author Raymond Hitchcock). Robyn sang the opening line '...my eyes have seen the trolley-bus...' and paused, gently strumming his guitar as he looked left and right at the ancient vehicles all around him - an emotional moment at the beginning of a particularly personal song.

Robyn Hitchcock - Raymond and the Wires 

Friday 3 September 2021

Friday Photo #12


I have no idea how my parents persuaded me to sit on this little horse, let alone ride it, so timid was I at three years of age. I appear to be having fun nevertheless. The year is 1963. The venue? Possibly London Zoo, but that's just a guess. How cool is the lady guiding the horse though? I like to imagine her nipping off to meet friends at the 2i's in Soho after work, for an evening of fab tunes and frothy coffee.

Here's a really fab tune, albeit from the early 1970s rather than the early 1960s. The LP 'Dedicated to You, But You Weren't Listening' by The Keith Tippett Group was originally issued on the legendary Vertigo swirl label in 1971. A copy in decent condition will now set you back an eyewatering sum, should you be lucky enough to find one. Even reissues from 2012 are changing hands for £50 plus, so I'll have to stick with the CD for now.

Monday 30 August 2021

Rainford Hugh Perry 1936-2021

A legend, photographed with another legend.

Perhaps it's an example of where I went wrong, business-wise, with my record shop, but one day over the Christmas period in 1997, instead of playing a current chart album like 'Butterfly' by Mariah Carey or 'Falling Into You' by Celine Dion as my competitors no doubt were, I was giving some in-store airtime to the recently released 'Tibetan Freedom Concert' triple CD. 

About a third of the way through the second disc, a customer wandered over and enquired who the singer of the current song was. I told him that it was the great Lee 'Scratch' Perry performing 'Heads of Government' and asked him what he thought of it. 'I've never heard anyone sound so totally exasperated and pissed off in my life', he said! 

My customer was right of course. Scratch screams and rants his way though an utterly compelling performance like a man possessed. It's a tune I still reach for to this day, every time some jumped up nincompoop in power says or does something dangerous, ridiculous or downright scary - so it's on pretty much constant rotation round these parts as you can imagine. 

Rest easy Upsetter.

Friday 27 August 2021

Friday Photo #11

Early morning on the last day of the festival. Wandering through the site in search of coffee.

My profile round these parts has been lower than ever of late as a result of a hefty stretch of overtime to cover staff holidays and Covid-related gubbins at work. When I'm into a run of long shifts, I find that I rarely have the required concentration levels to focus on the laptop of an evening after I've showered and eaten. I usually just hit the sack ridiculously early and read a sentence or two of a book before falling asleep. Such a lightweight!

Then, at the end of last week, I took a long-arranged short break myself. I went to FolkEast, a reasonably local festival, held over three days in the grounds of a Suffolk stately home. Usually FolkEast boasts a hundred plus acts across at least half a dozen stages, a cinema tent, a makers market and myriad other distractions to be enjoyed, but this year, unsurprisingly, things were somewhat scaled down. There were just two stages, running alternately, featuring a total of only 30 acts across the whole weekend. Having said all that, it was an absolute blast to be outside, listening to music and, cards on the table, drinking several pints of beer. The event was very well attended, but the acres of additional space on site made everyone feel completely safe. Proof of double-vax was required on entry and there was a heightened medical presence on hand, just in case. The threatened thunderstorms never materialised, instead, beneath unexpectedly strong sunshine, I ended up overdoing the outdoor life and getting a lightly roasted nose and forehead!

Highlight of the weekend? The fantastic Alden and Patterson. If Christina and Alex roll up in your town, either in the duo permutation or with the addition of steel guitar virtuoso Noel Dashwood, do yourself a favour and seek them out. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Wednesday 25 August 2021

RIP Charlie

One weekend, more years ago than I care to remember (somewhere around 1985-ish I reckon), I was back in Ipswich staying with Mum and Dad. On Saturday evening I'd driven from my Essex base, where I was the manager of a record shop located within a shopping centre, dropped off my car and dirty washing at home and twisted Dad's arm to cadge a lift into town so I could meet a group of friends at the pub. Some hours later, after a riotous evening of imbibing, we said our goodnights and headed off for our respective homes. There were no night buses and my parents lived a two mile wayward stagger out of town. It took an eternity. 

On Sunday morning when I stumbled downstairs for coffee and cereal, Mum told me that there was a car-boot sale round in the hospital carpark. I put on some shades, pulled myself together and ambled the short distance to where the event was already in full swing. I couldn't really concentrate, had a thumping hangover and was about to head back home for more coffee when I spotted a large pile of LPs laying flat on the tarmac, one on top of the other. I flicked through a few before spotting a real good 'un that helped to clear my foggy head pronto - 'Gris-Gris' by Dr John, which I promptly stuck under my arm. Moving down the pile it quickly became apparent that this was an extraordinary bunch of records to find at a car-boot sale even then, some of which joined Dr John under my arm ('Fire on the Bayou' and 'Trick Bag' by The Meters, Cream's first album, 'I Feel It' and 'Don't You Want to Go?' by The Meditation Singers (both US imports on Checker), a Japanese pressing of 'Oh Yeah' by Charles Mingus and one or two others). Quite near the bottom of the stack and perilously close to a puddle, I came to a copy of 'Beggars Banquet' by The Rolling Stones. It was one of those hairs on the back of the neck moments as I looked more closely - the sleeve was signed by the whole band. Desperately trying to remain calm, I slid 'Beggars' into the middle of my pile of LPs and waved at the stallholder for a price. I got the lot for less than a fiver.

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We lost Charlie Watts yesterday and, even though he was 80 and in shaky health, it still hurts a lot. Both Mick and Keith have regularly acknowledged what an absolutely fundamental figure he is to the band and one wonders where they can possibly go from here. In this clip of 'All Down the Line' from 2006, the camera stays on Charlie for the entire performance. If you're not fussed about hearing the song, skip forward to his expression at the 4.35 mark - it's priceless.

Rest easy Charlie. 

Monday 16 August 2021

Monday Long Song

U-Roy & Big Youth

The list of golden-age reggae greats who are still performing grows ever smaller with the passage of time. One of the true greats, the mighty U-Roy, passed away in February and his final studio album, 'Solid Gold' has just been released on Trojan Records. It's a mixed bag to be honest, the guest-heavy reinterpretations of classic material are a little hit and miss, though when they are good, they are very very good indeed. Take for example the epic re-working of 1978's 'Every Knee Shall Bow', featuring terrific guest turns by Big Youth and Mick Jones no less. Remember him this way. (Buy 'Solid Gold' here).

U-Roy - Every Knee Shall Bow (Feat. Big Youth & Mick Jones)

Friday 13 August 2021

Friday Photo #10

In early 1960, after nearly five years of marriage, my parents got a mortgage on a house in Walthamstow. The cost of the house? £1100. When we moved out of London in 1975, Dad sold the house for £11,000. A quick search online tell me that my childhood home is now worth (depending on its current state) in the region of £750,000, which is making my eyes water to be honest. Anyway, I digress, in 1960 £1100 was a massive stretch for my folks - Mum was expecting me any day and Dad worked in a shop selling electrical goods. It was a big house for one family and their plan was to rent out upstairs, which is where my Aunt and Uncle enter the picture. My cousin came along in 1963, which is how we grew up as Brother and Sister, each with an extra set of parents on hand. Dad's investment was a shrewd one. It was also the only time in his life that he took out a loan. He never owned a credit card and was an old fashioned believer in saving up for everything he wanted to buy.

Though we had a toilet downstairs, the only bathroom in the house was upstairs, in my Aunt and Uncle's part of the house, which we did use by arrangement, but other options were explored from time to time. For instance, for a period in the early 1970's we used a foldaway plastic shower in our kitchen, with hot water that had to be manually pumped up to pressure. It was an enormous faff to unpack, erect, empty and pack away again. Perhaps Dad was considering having another bathroom installed downstairs, though that of course would have entailed taking on a sizeable loan, which he would've been unwilling to do

As a very young boy I bathed in a metal bath on the floor of the kitchen, or, if it was particularly cold, in the living room in front of  the paraffin stove. But before that, way back in June 1961, I and my rubber duck still splashed about in a plastic tub on the living room table - which is where you find me in the photo above. What a little angel!

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Here's Stephen Coates (aka The Clerkenwell Kid) in his guise as leader of The Real Tuesday Weld. The band employed an attractive retro/electronica hybrid that had me picking up a fistful of their albums throughout the noughties. 'Bathtime in Clerkenwell' from 2002, comes with an animated video by Alex Budovsky (the first of a number of collaborations), while the origins of the song itself go back to 'Sweeter Than Sugar', a 1934 number by The Mills Brothers.

The Real Tuesday Weld - Bathtime in Clerkenwell

The Mills Brothers - Sweeter Than Sugar

Monday 9 August 2021

Monday Long Song

Adem Ilhan, Kieran Hebden and Sam Jeffers formed Fridge in 1994, releasing five albums and a clutch of singles between 1997 and 2007. Their modus operandi was post rock, with all that that particular descriptor entails. 'Distance', which originally appeared as part of the 'Orko' 12"/7" EP set in 1998, is a deceptively simple tune, suffused with wonky melancholia. 

Fridge - Distance

Friday 6 August 2021

Friday Photo #9

I've written about my Great-Aunt Maud before. It was she, standing all of 5ft tall in her stockinged feet, who peered up at me as I shot through the 6ft mark in my teens and exclaimed '...blimey, I reckon I'm growing downwards...' From the end of the 1970s into the early 1980s, the last few years of her long life, Aunt Maud lived in a care home on the coast, a few miles away. Most Sundays Mum and I would pick her up and take her out for a drive, along the seafront, round the country lanes or up to the old part of town to enjoy an ice cream as we watched the boats coming and going. One day, our impromptu jaunt happened to take us down a remote lane, past a small plot of land where a rather forlorn old donkey stood in the corner. We pulled up and wandered over to the fence  to say hello. The donkey was initially wary and kept its distance, but the spot became a regular stopping off point over the weeks and in time it got used to us and trotted over to us when we arrived, attracted no doubt by the carrot Aunt Maud got into the habit of bringing along in her cardigan pocket. I snapped photo above as Aunt Maud was giving the donkey a telling off, after it'd tried to help itself to the carrot one day, while it was still in her pocket! The poor thing looked so chastened and thoroughly ashamed of itself that both Mum and Aunt Maud burst into fits of laughter, which is when I caught the second shot.

To soundtrack the photos, 'Ride your Donkey' a classic by The Tennors from 1968, covered 21 years later by Joe Strummer on his 'Earthquake Weather' LP.

The Tennors - Ride Your Donkey

Monday 2 August 2021

Monday Long Song

Quite often, when a blogging chum recommends a book or record that tickles my fancy for one reason or another, my automatic response is '...I'll add it to the list...' It may appear a flippant phrase, but it's sincerely meant. The immense list of music I'll never get around to hearing is only outweighed by the colossal amount of books I'll never have time to read. I'm currently chipping away at one book on the list however, albeit five years after the rest of the world. 'Robert Forster's 'Grant & I' is a wonderfully written account of a long friendship and musical partnership, a love story if you will, tragically cut short when Grant McLennan died suddenly in May 2006. It's hugely recommended, but then you knew that already. You're probably one of the blogging chums who recommended it to me in the first place.

During The Go-Betweens' 1990's hiatus, Forster and McLennan each released four solo albums, Robert's were very good (whereas I reckon his recent run of 'The Evangelist', 'Songs to Play' and 'Inferno' are all absolutely fantastic), but for my money Grant's were nigh-on impeccable. I for one would gladly go into the red for a vinyl reissue of 1994's double CD 'Horsebreaker Star', one of my favourite albums of that decade. 

'What Went Wrong' originally appeared in embryonic form as a b-side in 1993, before being extensively re-worked for inclusion on 'Horsebreaker Star'.

Grant McLennan - What Went Wrong

Friday 30 July 2021

Friday Photo #8

I took this shot in a small coffee shop near Spitalfields several years ago. The espresso was as divine as it looks.

Outside of music, the biggest indulgence in my life is undoubtedly coffee. I'm endlessly fascinated by the complex range of taste profiles to be discovered in various brew methods, not to mention the immense variety of beans themselves. It's a never-ending journey of wonder and discovery, one that I already spend a fair amount of money on, but one that I could easily sink vast sums into if I didn't restrain myself. 

Within the past 18 months, independent coffee shops have opened both near my new home and right across the road from where I work and in spite of the terrible effects of the pandemic on all businesses, I'm delighted to report that these two fine establishments are each going from strength to strength. I turn to them in particular for my espresso needs and also to purchase freshly roasted single origin beans for use in my current set up at home, where I have the options of Chemex, Clever Dripper or V60 methods on hand. 

Fear not, I'll stop there - I really could nerd out for hours. Besides, it's time for a brew.

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Guitarist Matthew J. Rolin, percussionist Jayson Gerycz and hammered dulcimer player Jen Powers originally issued 'Beacon' on a limited edition cassette in March 2020. A similarly limited vinyl and CD release saw the light of day almost exactly a year later and although only a few months have passed since then, these are already changing hands for substantial amounts, so unless there is a further pressing at some point in the future, I've probably missed my chance to pick up a copy.

From 'Beacon', here's a paean to my favourite beverage.

Gerycz / Powers / Rolin - Black Coffee

Monday 26 July 2021

Monday Long Song

Oh man this is so great. Abdullah Ibrahim (then still trading as Dollar Brand) leading a South African band back in 1976. They are all great players to a man, but listen in particular to the work of drummer Gilbert Matthews at the absolute core of this tune, in much the same way as Jaki Liebezeit often was in Can, Clyde Stubblefield was with James Brown, Benny Benjamin was at Motown and Roger Hawkins was at Muscle Shoals. It's Gilbert's relentless rhythm, intertwined with Ibrahim's rumbling bottom end keyboard, that sets Black Lightning swinging so heroically.

Abdullah Ibrahim - Black Lightning

Friday 23 July 2021

Friday Photo #7

My aunt, my cousin and I in 1967

I'm just back from visiting my aunt in East London. She turns 92 in a couple of weeks and hasn't seen her New York based daughter in 18 months, but is nevertheless in remarkably fine fettle. I'm pretty damned sure that I couldn't have handled lockdown in total solitude as stoically as she has. Typically, she managed to find a few odd jobs for me to do around the house in the crippling heat of the past few days. As a result I've been climbing ladders, crawling around floors, deciphering impenetrable flatpack instructions and running a series of relatively straight forward repairs, all the while being updated on the marital and employment statuses of each of the respective families of my aunt's many former neighbours. The former neighbours themselves are all long dead, but my aunt continues to keep in contact with successive generations of their families, who are now scattered around the country.

I pulled out my phone on Wednesday evening for a surprise Skype call with my cousin, her husband and two of their kids. My aunt is fairly hard of hearing and struggled to catch the majority of the conversation, but they could see each other, which meant the world to all concerned. I automatically drifted into chirpy-jokey mode during the call, if I hadn't there would probably have been tears all round. 

I can't be with my aunt for her 92nd birthday and obviously neither can her daughter at the moment, so we're immensely grateful to one of the children of those former neighbours, now a parent of a grown up child of her own, who is making the journey to London to visit her on the big day.

Jethro Tull - Back to the Family

Monday 19 July 2021

Monday Long Song

About once a week I refresh the selection of CDs in the car. It usually takes me two or three days to get through a full length album on the drive from home to work and back again. At just after 5.30am on Wednesday I fired up the engine, pressed play and headed off. As it happened, the CD already in the player on this particular morning was 'Ringer', a 2008 EP by Four Tet. The title track faded up, throbbing and swaying as I edged onto the deserted streets. It's one of those tunes you can easily get totally lost in, time becomes immaterial and before I knew it I was turning into the car park at work and pulling into a parking space. As I reached to turn off the ignition, the track bubbled and splurged to a conclusion. 'Ringer', door to door.

Four Tet - Ringer

Friday 16 July 2021

Friday Photo #6

The Angles Way kicks off at Great Yarmouth and finishes, 77 miles later, at Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve near Thetford. Apparently it takes between 28-36 hours to walk the entire length of The Angles Way, but it's the dozen or so miles of the footpath that wind around my part of the world that I'm most familiar with. I took today's photos on the stretch that passes very close to my gaff, before it snakes off round the river and out into the countryside. The curve of this branch fascinates me and I find myself photographing it often - these two shots, one from each direction, were actually taken several months apart (click on them to enlarge). My instinct is to say that the bend in the branch was created over the years by endless walkers pushing it upwards or aside as they pass by, but perhaps it's just an interesting quirk of nature. The shape allows me to pass by in comfort anyway - no exaggerated bending of my 6ft+ frame required here.

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To accompany the photos, a tune. 'Bend the Tree' appeared on the b-side of 'Ratchet Knife' (a different song using the same tune) in 1969, one of only two singles released by the mysterious Amiel Moodie & the Dandemites. It's a bit of rarity too. According to the Discogs listing, a mere 17 lucky people own the original 7" and 547 are on the lookout for a copy. Good luck with that. Only one has ever changed hands on the site and that was nearly two years ago. It went for a whopping £216.

Amiel Moodie & the Dandemites - Bend the Tree

Tuesday 13 July 2021

A Hundred Million Miles Above the Sea

In 1995, four years after the demise of Danny Wilson, Gary Clark formed King L. That year and into the next I crossed paths with the band several times in and around my part of the world, supporting in large venues or headlining in smaller ones. King L released an album, 'Great Day For Gravity', and two singles during their short existence, with the material ranging from polished pop to gnarly guitar workouts. Their recordings have a not-quite-the-finished-article quality about them in places, with a couple of the b-sides being little more than demos. I'm not sure that Clark fully settled on what he wanted the band to actually be. One night in concert I saw them crank it out as if they were Neil Young & Crazy Horse and on another they delivered a mellow, almost acoustic set. Either way, I wish they'd stuck at it. There are at least half a dozen really top notch songs on 'Great Day For Gravity', some co-written with Boo Hewerdine, and the unfulfilled promise of much more to come.

King L - First Man on the Sun

King L - Tragedy Girl

Friday 9 July 2021

Friday Photo #5

I had a more recent photo in mind for this week, but following Alyson's recent post which featured her memories of family caravan holidays from years gone by, here's one from my own family archive, starring my cousin and I at the Jaywick Martello Tower Caravan Park in 1965. My aunt, uncle and cousin all lived in the same house as my family at the time and, for a couple of years at least, we even took our holidays together, their tiny box caravan next door to ours. That's the aforementioned Martello Tower in the background.

Today my Mum, Dad and Uncle are all gone. My cousin lives in New York with her husband and two of her remarkable kids (the oldest and youngest are at home, her middle kid is at college in California), while my aunt, now nearly 92, lives alone in East London. The pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions have ensured that my cousin hasn't been able to visit her mum for nearly 18 months - she's understandably desperate to be able to do so. She plans to make at least a flying visit to the UK as and when the current rules on self-isolation ease and return for a longer stay in the Autumn. I have a week off work fast approaching, during which I aim to spend a couple of days with my aunt and make a Skype call to my cousin while I'm there, so they can at least see each other for a few minutes - even if my aunt probably won't be able to hear very much of the conversation. 

The other reason for choosing this particular photo is that today just happens to be my cousin's birthday. She's three years younger than me, so it's not quite the big one - that's next year, but I'm sure she'd say that it's big enough! She's my closest confidante and oldest friend. I love her dearly and can't wait for the day when I too can see her and her family face to face again.

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A number of notable musical figures have blotted their respective copybooks of late, sharing ill-considered (not to mention dangerous) views on the pandemic, masks, vaccinations, or all of the above. Morrissey (unsurprisingly), Noel Gallagher, Eric Clapton Ian Brown, Richard Ashcroft and, erm, Right Said Fred, all spring to mind as recent offenders. Long time curmudgeon-in-chief Van Morrison has even released songs containing daft lyrics like '...scientists making up crooked facts...' It's all thoroughly depressing and a very far cry from this scintillating, jumpsuited performance with The Band at The Last Waltz in 1976.

Monday 5 July 2021

Monday Long Song

Just before the weekend, I chose the 1965 Billy Stewart classic 'Sitting in the Park' to soundtrack the fourth instalment of my Friday Photo series. I've been humming it ever since to be honest, so stand aside for the first version of the song I ever heard, originally released by Dr Alimantado (aka '...the doctor who was born for a purpose...') in 1977 and reissued as an extended 12" single on Greensleeves Records in 1979. 

Dr Alimantado - Sitting in the Park

Friday 2 July 2021

Friday Photo #4

Dad had a great eye for composition. If I was lining up this photo in the digital age, I'd probably click off a dozen shots and pick the best of the bunch, but he got it in one, in spite of its slightly wonky perspective. There I am (wearing my favourite jacket once again) leaning very mischievously in towards my pal, who appears to approve of whatever innocent skulduggery I have in mind. In the background, two more anonymous kids, very possibly up to a similar amount of no good. We're all sitting in the local park, where I spent a huge amount of my time as a kid, with friends or with my folks - and there's a decent amount of photographic evidence in the family archives to prove it. 

I'd disappear from the house with Mum's '...be home in time for tea...' invariably ringing in my ears, walk down the road knocking for one or two chums along the way ('...hello Mrs Smith, can Billy play out?...') before stopping off at Cissy Green's shop for a bag of sweets. I dread to think how or from where she got her stock, but it would always be thrown haphazardly around the shop floor in open cardboard boxes, I don't remember any shelving. This was long before the era of 'best before' or 'use by' dates - crisps from Cissy Green's would frequently be rubbery, sweets teeth-shatteringly rock hard and biscuits would often have an unpleasantly musty, crumbliness about them. Everything was cheap though, cheaper than the many other corner shops in the area, so it was a regular haunt for me, my pals and our meagre resources. Cissy was a formidable lady who'd sit in the corner on a wooden chair, wrapped in a grubby pinny with a cigarette permanently hanging from her lips. A substantial mountain range of ash grew from the floor at her slippered feet and a fug of smoke billowed around her hairnet. There was no counter and there was certainly no customer service at Cissy Green's. I'd rummage around for a while, hold a bag of sweets or crisps up and she'd shout out the price, '...a penny ha'penny love...' Then I'd warily edge over to her to pay. She'd snatch the coins from my hand and drop them straight into her pocket - there was no till in the shop either.

It was a short walk down the narrow alley that ran alongside Cissy Green's, to the park entrance. With no watch, no sense of time and no hurry, I'd be out for hours, eventually returning home with a bloody knee, a ripped shirt, or minus a lost football. Those were different times. After Cissy Green's closed down in the mid-1960s, her shop stood empty for a couple of years before being demolished. The narrow alley became a fully fledged road, connecting the street where I lived to another beyond and the once quiet cul-de-sac now leads to a busy industrial estate.

Billy Stewart - Sitting in the Park

Friday 25 June 2021

Friday Photo #3

The main problem I can foresee cropping up in a series largely revolving around the snapshots I take while out walking, is that I tend to obsess over the same subject matter - time and again. So this is a heads-up, expect to see plenty of pathways drifting off into the far distance. Oh, and  sunsets, plenty of sunsets too. Here's an example of the former, taken a couple of weeks ago. Before heading out on that particular day, I had a lengthy circular route planned, but with the option of extending it still further if I was feeling up to it, several miles in. A couple of hours later I picked up the extension and pressed on into the unknown. 

Sometimes landowners play fast and loose with the upkeep of public footpaths that pass across or around their fields. These should be clearly designated and maintained, but it's not always the case. I remember one occasion a few years ago becoming hopelessly lost in the middle of a vast sweetcorn crop which towered over my (not inconsiderable) head height, obliterating what should have been a clear public footpath to the other side. There was no such problem with the one I stumbled upon here though. A consummately maintained thoroughfare, neatly parting the crop and positively enticing this weary rambler to wander on.

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Today's soundtrack is a groovy little interlude from German outfit Out of Focus. 'Straight Ahead' was recorded in 1972, but shelved when the band split, before eventually gaining a release on the 'Rat Roads' LP in 2002.

Out of Focus - Straight Ahead

Friday 18 June 2021

Friday Photo #2

Here's a photo taken on June 18th 1955 - 66 years ago today. Mum and Dad, newly wed, being greeted with a storm of confetti outside St Andrew's Church, situated on the Barking Road in Plaistow, East London. They enjoyed a long and happy marriage until Dad passed away very suddenly in 2007, with Mum re-joining him in 2010. It was only when clearing my parents' house that I found their wedding photos up in the loft, buried in a box of general family ephemera. I'd never seen them before. I've previously shared my absolute favourite of the bunch, a beautiful shot taken at the alter (here) and whereas that one captures the solemnity of their vow-exchanging, today's example really exudes the communal joy and happiness of their big day.

To soundtrack the photo is an appropriately titled slice of the Bakersfield Sound, produced by Buck Ram and released in 1961. 

Georgia Lynn - On Your Wedding Day

Monday 14 June 2021

Monday Long Song

Spells of hot sweaty weather such as the one we're experiencing at the moment traditionally send me off on a reggae tip - and indeed I had one such selection in mind for this week's long song entry. At some point during an 11 hour shift at work on Friday however, a portion of 'Never Lose That Feeling', the epic 1992 racket by Swervedriver, nudged its way to the forefront of my internal jukebox, where it lodged itself until I could come home that evening and play the whole darned thing for real. Utterly splendid stuff it is too, here complete with the equally marvellous 'Never Learn' coda.

Swervedriver - Never Lose That Feeling / Never Learn 

Friday 11 June 2021

Friday Photo

In an effort to give my moribund mojo a good kick up the backside, behold - a new series. Actually, the idea is so simple that even if the worst comes to the worst, my mojo can just stay skulking over there in the corner where it's been for the past couple of years, while the post takes care of itself. A photo, probably taken on my phone while out walking, or maybe an oldie retrieved from the family archive, perhaps even an anonymous antique snapshot plucked from what remains of my collection of such ephemera. To accompany it, a tune, ideally one that's at least partially inspired by the image.

It's an idea brazenly half-inched from any number of my blogging chums, not least Swiss Adam who slots one of his own excellent mid-wander shots into the majority of his posts. Here's a recent photo of mine, taken in the middle of nowhere, to kick things off.

Iron & Wine - Tree by the River

Thursday 27 May 2021

His Name Was Always Buddy

I've probably mentioned this before, but scattered around the various hard-drives in this flat lurk several partially completed ICA's, destined, one day, for JC's consideration to be included in his legendary ongoing series over at The (New) Vinyl Villain. A couple of weeks ago, The Blogfather himself shared a Buddy Holly ICA, one of the very artists that I had on my 'to be finished' list. When it comes to Buddy's music, it'd be hard to put a foot wrong in terms of pulling together a worthy compilation and indeed JC's ICA is pretty much faultless.

Buddy Holly had been dead for 14 months when I appeared on the scene, but his music was in the house from day one. Dad was a fan and I still carry his handful of original singles with me to this day (that's one of them at the top of this post). I played those singles endlessly on the trusty family radiogram from a very young age and know every note, every crack and pop on each one of them, intimately. Buddy's music had such a profound effect on me that years later I later picked up one of the very earliest career spanning box sets ever released by any artist, 1979's 'The Complete Buddy Holly'.

Here's a song that would've made my version of a Buddy Holly ICA. 'Take Your Time' appeared on the b-side of 'Rave On' in 1958 and is a sparse, organ led gem. It's lyrically interesting too - consider such lines as '...heartstrings will sing like a string of twine...' or '...go with me through, times 'til all times end...' Somewhere, a young Bob Dylan was paying attention. At the time of his death on February 3rd 1959, Buddy was just 22 and had been recording professionally for barely 2½ years. 

Buddy Holly - Take Your Time

Monday 24 May 2021

Salute Him When His Birthday Comes

I'm fortunate enough to have seen Bob Dylan in concert nearly 70 times - from Blackbushe in 1978 to the Royal Albert Hall in 2015, via France, Switzerland, America and all over the UK. People sometimes ask what it is that keeps me going back again and again? I tell them that it's the moments. Across the years I've witnessed astounding, transcendent performances - shaky, uneven performances and everything in between. But even the bleakest concerts have contained moments that made me laugh out loud, cry real tears or simply involuntarily yell out my appreciation. We in the audience know when something magical is happening up there - we're lifted, elevated, even levitated. It's hard to explain, as you can see.

Here's an example. Back in 1994 I did a three show run across France, taking in Paris, Besançon and Lyons. I could write a volume on each night, but just take a look at this performance of I'll Remember You from Lyons. It's a grainy audience shot video of an ok song from a wildly overproduced mid-80s album, but, not for the first time, for some reason Bob really connected with it lyrically that night. After noodling through the intro, Dylan is immediately engaged with the opening verse - passionate, articulate, focussed. More noodling, then he steps forward to deliver verse two, again, fully engaged with his vocal. Things almost imperceptibly step up a level with the 'There's some people that you don't forget...' line, but nothing prepared us for the change of gear with 'When the roses fade, AND I'M IN THE SHADE...'  - just listen to the audience reaction. To quote a great man, something is happening here and we don't know what it is. By now he is elsewhere, as are we. I'm feet away, caught in the spell, as the spittle flies from his mouth '...didn't I try to care..?' He sensibly pulls back from the brink for the final verse, but once again it's a controlled, passionate build to the concluding '..in the end, my dear sweet friend, I'll remember you...' and the audience, once again, erupts. Note the wry smile that flickers across his features as he sings '...it was you who came right through, it was you who understood, though I'd never say, that I done it the way, you would have liked me to...' If he's ever addressed any audience directly and openly, it was right there and then. Naturally, Bob being Bob, having taken us to an altogether higher plane with a phenomenal, captivating vocal, then allows the song to drift instrumentally and aimlessly to an eventual conclusion, a very l-o-n-g three minutes later. Seriously, when the vocal is done, you can switch off and get on with your day. 

The fact that Bob Dylan features so rarely on these pages is a conscious decision. If you've made it this far, you've no doubt noticed that I can bore for my country when I get into pontificating about the man, his cultural impact on my life and the minutiae of his art. The last thing the world needs is another amateur wannabe Bobcat spouting forth, when there are so many far more eloquent students of his work available to tap into. I couldn't let today of all days pass by unacknowledged though. Many happy returns of the day Bob.

Friday 21 May 2021

Big Ben Rock

Digging through some old photos recently, I came across this one, taken by Dad on one of our many Sunday outings around London in the mid-1960s. We hit a lot of well known spots on that particular day, several of which he documented with his trusty camera. Dad worked in busy hi-fi shops on both High Holborn and Oxford Street during this period, but enjoyed wandering the relatively quiet streets of the city on Sundays, when practically everything was closed. I vividly remember that, in spite of it being 20 years on from the end of World War II, a number of bomb sites still remained, scarring the landscape, apparently untouched and open to the inquisitive eyes of a little boy and his Dad. Many central areas were truly deserted, our footsteps and chatter echoing around the empty streets and pavements. Later we'd amble East to the heaving Petticoat Lane Market, where it felt by comparison that every family in London had gathered to barter, haggle and trade. 

So there I am in front of a filthy looking Big Ben (it practically glistens these days), wearing what is by far the coolest jacket I've ever owned in my life. An old Green Line coach heads out of shot - possibly a 705 on the way to Victoria. A Ford Anglia passes on my side of Westminster Bridge - a car I knew well as an Uncle drove one throughout the 1960s. An unknown lady walks into shot. When I initially rediscovered the photo, my 21st century instinct told me that she was looking at her phone, but of course on closer inspection she's holding her own camera. Perhaps, buried deep in an old shoebox somewhere in this world, there's a fading image of Big Ben being photobombed by an anonymous young lad in a rather fetching brown jacket.

The snap gives me a perfect excuse to dig out Lee 'Scratch' Perry's fantastic 'Big Ben Rock', a 7" single released for Record Store Day 2019 and featuring Boz Boorer on guitar. 

Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Big Ben Rock

Monday 17 May 2021

Monday Long Song

Flip over the 12" of George Faith's classic 1977 reading of William Bell's 'To Be a Lover' and you'll find 'Rastaman Shuffle', a lengthy instrumental ramble through the same tune by The Upsetters - essentially it's the backing track, stripped of vocals and effects. Sometimes you need a thudding drum and bass heavy dubwise selection in your life, but at other times a melodic, chugging beauty such as this just hits the spot.

The Upsetters - Rastaman Shuffle 

Friday 14 May 2021

This is Where Your Solo Would Go

To coincide with the first anniversary of the passing of keyboard maestro Dave Greenfield, The Stranglers have issued a fitting tribute to their fallen comrade, 'And If You Should See Dave...'. I'll put my hand on my heart and admit that I've not followed the exploits of the MeninBlack to any great degree since the halcyon days of the classic line-up, but this really is a fine and moving song, taken from the 18th Stranglers LP, 'Dark Matters', due for release in September. Greenfield played with The Stranglers for 45 years and appears on eight of the eleven tracks on the forthcoming album. The song's video, shot on the streets of Los Angeles, features key locations in the band's relationship with the city such as the Whisky A Go Go where they played a 1980 residency and the Regent Theatre, scene of Greenfield's last ever American show with The Stranglers.

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Bob Marley - 40 Years Gone

There are a select handful of favourite artists who ploughed their respective trades within my timeframe, that I never, for one reason or another, managed to see live in concert. Most of them I've come to terms with by this stage, others I'm still irritated that I missed out on, but one or two are almost too upsetting to dwell upon for any extended period. Bob Marley, who died 40 years ago today, falls squarely into the latter category. 

Bob Marley & the Wailers - Sun is Shining

Bob Marley & the Wailers - Smile Jamaica

Thursday 6 May 2021

Sunny on the Outside, Stormy on the Inside

I've never been what you'd call a voracious reader, but I've usually had a book or two on the go at once - up until a couple of years ago anyway. Since then, well for one reason and another I've found it nigh-on impossible to concentrate on any serious reading - I've tried several times, but just found myself struggling through a handful of pages, putting the book down and never picking it up again. This lack of focus hasn't stopped me buying the blighters though and when I moved house in October, my aching back told me just how many unread volumes I'd accumulated. So a couple of weeks ago, when out of the blue I was hit by the overwhelming urge to read, you might naturally assume that I'd pluck one of those unread tombs from the shelf and dig in, but no. Instead, I went out to a newly reopened independent bookshop and purchased a copy of Richard Thompson's recently published recounting of his own nascent musical journey, Beeswing. It turns out I made a good decision, instantly drawn in, I polished it off in a couple of sittings. 

Beeswing is a thoroughly engaging read, written in an easy, conversational style that isn't overwrought and doesn't dwell unnecessarily - for example, by as early as page 21 the initial line-up of Fairport Convention is already in place. Songs are dissected, relationships examined, legendary names dropped (Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, Phil Ochs etc) and tragedies reluctantly addressed. More importantly than anything, Thompson's writing sends you scurrying back to those early records - and I can offer no higher praise than that. 

Here's a Hutchings/Thompson original from the Fairports' oft overlooked 1968 debut LP. 

Fairport Convention - It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft

Monday 3 May 2021

Monday Long Song

When favourites of The Swede collide - Miles Davis sits in with ELP!

It's been a couple of months since I reached for a lengthy prog piece to fill the Monday Long Song slot, so here's one of the biggest names from the golden era of that most divisive of genres, Emerson Lake & Palmer, with the title track from their second LP 'Tarkus', recorded and released in 1971. Written in six days, recorded in four, the piece consists of seven movements and nearly brought the band to a premature end, with Greg Lake being initially unconvinced by Keith Emerson's musical vision. On release however, 'Tarkus' quickly became a fan favourite and remained a staple in the band's setlist up to their final reunion show in 2010.

Emerson Lake & Palmer - Tarkus

Monday 26 April 2021

Monday Long Song

When Black Sabbath initially unleashed 'Vol.4' in the Autumn of 1972, my ears were probably too occupied with the recently released T.Rex masterpiece 'The Slider' to notice the kerfuffle. I came to 'Vol.4' a little later and it's always been my favourite of The Sabs' albums, though the follow up, 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath', runs it mighty close. I saw the classic Ozzy-led line-up just once, a little after their prime perhaps, but they were still an impressively thunderous live prospect.

Black Sabbath - Wheels of Confusion 

Monday 19 April 2021

Monday Long Song

In the summer of 2020, Grant Beyschau (trading as Tambourinen), released 'Wooden Flower' on the cassette only Avant Unity Music label. Multi-instrumentalist Beyschau is best known for being one fifth of the current incarnation of far out Arizona psych merchants The Myrrors. With one listen of 'Wooden Flower' I was hooked and, given no indication of a more user friendly format on the visible horizon, snapped up one of the 100 tapes produced. Fast forward to the end of the year and the ever dependable Cardinal Fuzz imprint popped up with an LP release, limited to 500 copies. I was delighted to be honest - that cassette was never going to be played. 

Tambourinen - Wooden Flower


Friday 16 April 2021

The Big Six One

A group of us at work who were due to celebrate a milestone birthday or anniversary last year, came to an informal agreement when it became increasingly apparent that no-one would be doing any celebrating whatsoever in 2020. We decided to ignore the usual protocol and steam into 2021 intent on marking the traditionally less celebrated occasions -  22nd or 51st birthdays, 26th wedding anniversaries etc. In that spirit, I've spent the last couple of weeks bigging-up my impending Big Six One, which has duly arrived today. Is it wine o'clock yet?

Here's the great Fred McDowell recorded live in November 1971.

Mississippi Fred McDowell - 61 Highway (Live)

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