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.


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.


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.


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 ' 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

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