Thursday, 30 April 2009
My back up is the far more miserable "Dominoes". It's a proper dirge and the lyrics, I think, seem to touch on mortality. As far as I can remember I came to these choices years apart and it's just a co-incidence that they're both Syd Barrett numbers. Obviously his life was a tragedy but on the surface I don't think of him as a morbid character. Apart from the fact that he's dead of course. Pink Floyd are one of my favourite groups and I also find their band story interesting. Sometime after Syd's death, possibly the 25th anniversary of "Dark Side of the Moon", I saw a very good documentary about them. One thing in it irked me though, the idea that Syd had opted out of the music business because he thought pop was too shallow. This theory is possibly salving a few consciences but is totally blown apart by the fact that he showed up at the recording sessions for "Wish You Were Here" obviously wanting to contribute.
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
All my adult life I've had a greasy spoon to go to. My first regular cafe was The Newbridge in a small Welsh town called Lampeter. It's where I was a student and soon into my first term I was eating there at least three times a week. After some initial sampling I quickly settled on sausage, egg and chips. And this remains the benchmark meal against which all cafes will be judged. Decor-wise, from a purist point of view, The Newbridge wasn't a classic cafe (eg: no formica) but it obviously hadn't been done up for decades so in spirit I think it qualified. Resistance to the outside march of progress is essential in making these places such sanctuaries. After wolfing my food down in a matter of minutes I could sit there for ages smoking fags, chatting to a friend or doing the crossword; almost in a trance, lulled by the indistinct babble, the noise of the teamaking machine and the rain lashing against the large, steamed up windows. In addition to the atmosphere the sausage, egg and chips were the best I've ever had, probably due to the chip-making machine they had on the premises. The place was run by three little old ladies; on graduation day I was going down the line of dignitaries shaking their hands and there one of them was, wearing a Henry VIII style hat and a huge gold chain of office. I went back a few years ago: the place had been renamed (Dai's Diner I think), the little old ladies were gone, the lighting was about fifty watts fiercer and the chips were oven chips. Oh well.
In London I used to go to Farina's on Leather Lane but now I'm nearer The Regency in Pimlico. The Regency looks the part and the food is good, better than Farina's, but I always feel a bit rushed in there - it's very popular. And it's a bit bright. Farina's is nicely dingy and the flow of customers is much gentler. Just up the road from The Regency is the not-at-all-cosmic Astral Cafe, which is okay.
Way out west in St Margarets is the excellent Ches's. I haven't been in since it was done up a year or two ago - but it certainly used to be the most perfectly preserved 1950s cafe I've ever eaten in. The food's brilliant as well. I used to make a point of getting my breakfast here before long car journeys. In the same neck of the woods is The Quality Fish Bar in Richmond. Not sure if chippies count as greasy spoons but just look at the place - it has booths. I wish every eating establishment had booths. Another nice thing about it is that the cutlery and crockery is all mis-matched. Hmm, I might go there this weekend actually.
Finally, my favourite, The Forge Dam Cafe in Sheffield. Not only is it a prefab 1950s hut that serves a very respectable sausage, egg and chips it's also situated in the middle of some lovely woods and, as the name suggests, right next to an old mill pond. It's open every day of the year and the food there has restored me to life on New Year's Day a couple of times. Because it's not an urban cafe it feels less weird going outside to have a cigarette after the meal (I've given up smoking really but I'll always have about three fags rattling about in a twenty pack on the morning of New Year's Day). I'm grateful for the smoking ban but it has diminished the greasy spoon experience.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Despite loving the song so much I didn't buy Revolver until I was about 17 or 18. Not sure why not, possibly because when I was young I didn't realise that the Beatles had released normal albums like other groups. At around the same time I was going through all their other albums and getting pretty blown away. I would say my acquaintance with the Beatles occurred in three phases. When I was a little kid the simple ones like "I Feel Fine", "Drive My Car" and "Norwegian Wood". Then when I was older but still not a teenager the slightly weirder stuff like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I am the Walrus". And finally things like "Why Don't We Do it in The Road" and "Helter Skelter" which I had trouble believing were by the Beatles. It was probably sometime during the second phase when I saw the Yellow Submarine. I remember my mum explaining to me that the film and the songs were the way they were because the Beatles had been using a drug called LSD. I think I was about ten. She cracks me up.
Back to Revolver. I'm neutral when it comes to the whole Lennon vs. McCartney debate but I think this album would pose a problem for hardcore Lennonists. Three of McCartney's song here: "Eleanor Rigby", "Got to Get You into My Life" and "Here, There and Everywhere" are just awesome and all in totally different ways. After "Eleanor Rigby" though it's one of Lennon's that really caught me: "Tomorrow Never Knows". This is another one of those songs that I could hardly believe was the Beatles when I first heard it. I knew that backwards guitars were a cliche of sixties rock but the bit where they come into this just used to give me a chill, and on a good day it still can. And that reminds me, the post title, when I first heard this it was as fresh to me as any music. I remember Nick Hornby rating "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" on the grounds that, as a little known Bob classic, it gave you some idea of what listeners in the sixties must have experienced. I just don't get that. The first time you hear something is the first time you hear it. Maybe genres grow up around innovators and some of the impact is lost but even though The Beatles are just blowing around in the air the whole time I still found most of their stuff a revelation. They're probably the most famous band in the world but it's not as though you'll ever hear "Long, Long, Long" or "I've Just Seen a Face" on the radio.
Read this book.
Monday, 20 April 2009
Friday, 17 April 2009
Finally on Transparent Radiation a mention of the lyrics. Half the time lyrics for me are a secondary consideration. When they're done well obviously it's fantastic (Morrissey, Jarvis Cocker, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan) but a lot of my favourite music is accompanied by fairly dumb (not bad) lyrics. The Stooges, for instance. And Spacemen 3 for that matter. Transparent Radiation's lyrics are wholly surreal - when I looked them up I discovered that what I'd been mumbling along to the music for years was, incredibly, almost totally correct. They're very strange and not at all dumb though I admit I don't really know what they mean. I think it's fair to assume that they're a recollection of an acid trip, so about as impenetrably personal as it's going to get.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
The colours are so bright and the style so intricately psychedelic it's hard to believe they're about 150 years old. I've never felt the urge to have a tattoo done but if I did I'd now have to have one of these pictures or something very like it.
Kuniyoshi produced an incredible 10,000 images in his career. The exhibition is showing over 150 and I found just about every single one worth looking at (I wasn't that bothered about some of the landscapes) but highlights for me were:
Last stand of the Kusunoki heroes at Shijo-Nawate
Three warriors charge to their deaths in a hail of arrows.
Seabed at Daimotsu Bay
Drowned warriors sitting on the sea bed after a battle. A huge anchor used by one of the warriors to drown himself after the defeat rests in the background.
Earth Spider conjuring Demons to torment Minamoto Raiko
The demons are brilliant - they look like so much modern illustration. The Earth Spider appears in a couple of other pictures.
Princess Takiyasha summons a skeleton spectre to frighten Mitsukuni
Some others that I didn't get the titles of: one of a bunch of turtles that have the faces of famous Kabuki actors (it wasn't permitted to produce straight portraits of actors), a brothel scene in which the prostitutes and their clients are sparrows (prostitutes being yet another group that it was forbidden to depict), a general committing suicide by shoving his sword into his mouth and thrusting himself onto a landmine. The card beside it notes that this manner of death was completely new at the time. The image is used for the cover of the exhibition's catalogue. Again, I always say this but I think I'll buy the catalogue for this one. It'd be a perfect desert island book crammed as it is with hundreds of mesmerisingly beautiful illustrations.
As if the exhibition wasn't amazing enough the still very recognisable "Carry On" temptress Fenella Fielding was taking in the show while I was there. Wow.
Monday, 13 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
According to proper boffins such as Stephen Hawkings time travel isn't necessarily impossible but the mere fact that we've never met any time travellers coming back to check out the 21st century probably means we don't invent time travel. I can't remember where I first heard it but isn't it a great theory that this is what UFOs are? The most common occupants of UFOs are Greys and it's easy to see them as what humans might evolve into in a few thousand years. Big brains on spindly, hairless little bodies. The result of a species separated by technology from a world polluted by all the crap we're constantly hearing about and maybe a few nuclear wars as well? Why don't they stop and say hello? They've probably got a rule along the lines of the prime directive in Star Trek or they're worried about stepping on butterflies like in the Ray Bradbury story.
Despite the unlikeliness of me ever hitching a ride on a time machine I have given some thought to my top destinations for a time holiday:
At some point in the reign of Hadrian, pop along to see a show at the Colosseum maybe? Check out a few second hand scroll shops, try and pick up copies of Sulla's memoirs and Claudius' Etruscan dictionary.
Monterey Pop Festival
It may seem trivial but I'd really like to see Jimi Hendrix play. Maybe this is too iconic a performance, it might be better to see him in a small club in London. Or Bob Dylan at the Manchester Free Trade Hall.
Round about 3000 BC. To see what it was (is) really for. And to see it in pristine condition.
And the resurrection. Which I don't believe in, but just to make sure.
To see the medieval city in all its spiky and highly flammable glory. See Shakespeare & Co putting on a play. Eat roast boar at one of those frost fairs on the Thames. Go for a gloat at traitors gate.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
It's the first album I owned, and I think I saw the film at the cinema. I picked up a copy at a jumble sale last summer and finally got around to playing it yesterday (I've just got around to sorting out my stereo, on a little table and everything).
My favourite songs remain "Movin' Right Along" and then "Can You Picture That" by Dr Teeth & Electric Mayhem - the rest is competently performed sentimental slush. While Fozzy and Kermit's duet is still as catchy and amusing as ever Electric Mayhem's effort seems rather tame now, my taste in rock music having become slightly heavier in the intervening years. Still, well worth fifty pence.