Monday, 30 August 2021
Friday, 27 August 2021
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
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.
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
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).
Friday, 13 August 2021
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!
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.
Monday, 9 August 2021
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.
Friday, 6 August 2021
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.
Monday, 2 August 2021
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'.
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