Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Have yourself a hillbilly Christmas

I decided to get this the other day after hearing one of the tracks on MOJO's Electra compilation. I was vaguely aware of them due to Gene Clark having recorded a couple of albums with one of them (looked it up: Doug). It's a full on bluegrass affair which, if I'm remembering the blurb in the magazine right, was recorded as a fuck off to the label which backfired by becoming a hit (I love it when that happens). Seems harsh though, I'd have thought Electra was a very cool set up.

The Dillards Old Joseph

I'm safely tucked away up north for Christmas now, after a nightmare journey. I think I might grow a beard.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tickle on the tum

From time to time it's occurred to me to write some things about where I live and now, inspired by a property type article about the place in today's Evening Standard, here's my guide to Twickenham.

The Stadium. I've never been to a sporting event or a gig here. Just an art deco pottery fair. And I didn't buy anything. So, moving on into the town itself, b
eing a delicate indie-type I don't venture into the high street pubs - the Cabbage Patch and the George etc. The closest I get to entering a manly, rugger pub is the St Margarets Tavern over in St Margarets (which, when I think, I have sort of written a bit about).

When it's not chock full of hearty types in Harlequin tops it's very relaxing and cosy for such a big pub. The food's very good too and one of my mates was always chuffed to drink there cos they did Becks on tap. It's across the road from Twickenham film studios where the Beatles recorded some bits of the Magical Mystery Tour I think, they did something there anyway. I imagine there's a good chance they had a few beers in the place.

Also in St Margarets is Ches' caff which does an excellent breakfast, though it was done up a while ago and now has a proper evening restaurant bit. This has rendered it ever so slightly poncified. Moving along into the main bit of Twickenham the article mentions Church Street which features the Fox, the only pub in central Twickenham that I drink in. The first time I stepped down into the place two old buffers puffing away on pipes had created a mighty fug. It is, of course, not like that now. A shame, the pipe smoke, the lower than street level floor and the riverside location gave it a piratical vibe.


Also good on Church Street is Langton's Bookshop. I tend only to buy kids book in there to be honest. It scores heavily though for having a tearoom in the back - very comfy. Last stop for me on Church Street is Sweet Memories, which as the name suggests, is one of those boutique sweet shops that have sprung up recently to cater for sweet toothed nostalgists such as me, and for which trend I'm grateful. I noticed a few years ago that newsagents had stopped selling boiled sweets - and I do like to have a quarter of aniseed rock in my coat pocket when I go for a long walk.

Round the corner (past Flood Lane, look up to see commemorative plaque in the wall opposite showing the level of a flood in 1775) is the Thames. On the right is Eel Pie Island. Sadly you no longer haul yourself across on a rope ferry, there is instead quite a striking, high-arched bridge. My wife's known this part of the world for longer than me and the first time we walked down to this bit of the river I said something like, "That looks interesting" to which she casually replied something like "Oh yeah, it's Eel Pie Island". I couldn't believe it - as a big fan of both George Melly and the Rolling Stones the place was semi-mythological to me. I raced over the bridge to explore and...was pretty disappointed really. It's all private, as far as I could make out the general public only have access to a few yards of pathway. There's an article about it in this month's Uncut actually.

Along the Thames the other way (towards Richmond) you go past another good pub, the White Swan. It's long been an ambition of mine to get there early on a misty winter morning and get a window seat. Most times though it's been sunny afternoons and I've sat in the beer garden, which floods when the tide comes in. Trevor Bayliss, ladykiller and inventor of the clockwork radio, can occassionally be seen sat seductively in his powder blue E Type Jag outside this pub. Such a beautiful car.

Back into Twickenham and the main drag, as the article says, is a disappointment. There are plenty of charity shops, though not much vinyl to be had. The high street is long and featureless - it could do with a cinema round about where the big timber merchants is now. It needs a bit of character - which,speaking for myself, I think a greasy spoon and a decent record shop would go a long way towards providing.


Back to reality - trudging along the next good thing you come to is Angelo's. A slighly scruffy Italian restaurant. The owner (Angelo?) is, on the other hand, a very dapper Italian gentleman, probably in his sixties now but still capable of carrying off his dazzling tonic suit. Slightly further up is Panda Garden which does the best beef chow mein I've ever eaten, but my wife hates it. As a consequence I'm usually dispatched to get the Chinese from the brilliantly named, and admittedly superior, Ewok over in St Margarets.

Moving beyond Panda Garden (past the brand new tattoo parlour) you come to a railway bridge. Being a provincial country mouse I always get a big kick out of seeing trains going by overhead. It is, in my opinion, one of the most urban things ever. Walking under the bridge you cross from TW1 into TW2 and in doing so you are now unlikely to be eligible for free delivery from takeaways in places such as Mortlake and Sheen. Emerging from the shadow of the arches you are faced with the impressive horse chestnut lined triangle of Twickenham Green, the easternmost surviving portion of Hounslow Heath apparently.


Arthur's Restaurant there does a decent bacon sandwich but I mention it mainly because I'm certain that the building was originally a large (probably Edwardian) public lavatory, it's got that look about it. On the opposite side of the green is the cricket pavilion. According to their election literature the local Tories are very proud of the pavilion, and I admit it is a lovely building. Cricket is played on the widest part of the green but that doesn't stop them from hitting the cars parked around it. I've never seen them hit a moving car but it'd only take a good six.

A row of shops runs along the green the most fantastic of which is Shepperton Design Studio. Many's the time I've stood gawping at the reflec armour on display. However tempting the Tie Fighter pilot's outfit is I don't think I'd get away with buying one considering the sulks I've gone into when I've discovered the true price of some of my wife's handbags. I'd never, ever live down spending over a grand on a plastic spacesuit which I'd almost certainly never wear outside my flat.

If you've travelled this far and fancy a curry you'll be faced with a choice between the Green Spice and the Taste of Raj which, oddly, are right next door to each other. I favour the Green Spice on the grounds that it has booths and a mirrored mosaic bar that is a classic of its type. And I suppose it's a few feet closer to my flat that the Taste of Raj. A little further along you'll see the burnt out remains of two shops - a post office and a laundrette. Allegedly the fire was caused by a cannabis factory in the flat above the post office. I fantasize about turning the laundrette into a greasy spoon, it's just the right shape and size and the door and windows arrangement is perfect for a caff.

Finally, a bit further along, Crane Park - a long thin park that stretches alongside the River Crane (I noticed in the Guardian's obituary of Monty Sunshine that one of his first bands had been the River Crane Jazz Band, Twickenham was clearly a hotbed of post-war beatniks). I remember a few years ago commenting in the pub on the pleasant ease of walking by rivers, only to be slighty crestfallen at a colleague's prosaic observation that this was probably down to the fact that such walks were almost guaranteed to be along the flat. Hmm, good point I suppose.


Anyway, Crane Park has been on a couple of occasions the route along which, in a fit of post New Year disgust, I've taken myself out for a jog. Predictably enough I was defeated after five minutes or so, my mouth filling up with warm saliva and terrible aches wracking my body. So each time it turned into a slightly delirious amble through the nature reserve there. The park features an unusual, fairy tale looking tower, ironically in fact the sole remnant of the once extensive munitions industry that existed here. The towers were required for the manufacture of shot, which was made by pouring molten lead through a gauze at the top of the tower into a vat of cold water below. I'd never thought about how shot was made before. Will Self writes a bit about it one of his books (Psycho Too, by the sound of it).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Cold comfort

I usually post tunes at random fairly soon after I discover them and I’ve been meaning to post this for ages. But anyway, as you may have noticed, it’s freezing so not only an amazing track, but also highly topical. I can’t remember where I first ran into it – possibly it was mentioned in a Stereolab interview or something.

Wendy & Bonnie The Winter is Cold

In further cold-weather-related-trend behaviour I’m sporting a fantastic duffle coat at the moment. I’d been on the lookout for ages – I had thought I’d pick one up at an Army and Navy Surplus easy but they all seem to have closed down when I wasn’t looking. The purist in me would only settle for a very basic style and on that score the high street was a dead loss. I did find one that I liked in a department store but when I checked the price tag it was £250 – I just thought, “Has the world gone mad?” I got a secondhand one for thirty quid in the end.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Cult corner

I've never been that bothered about bootlegs but years ago, after reading an article in MOJO or some such, I went on a search for Pink Floyd's Vegetable Man. I'd heard the version of it on the b side of the Mary Chain's Upside Down, and fine though that is, the lyrics are drowned under an avalanche of feedback. I approached likely looking stalls from Camden to Portobello Road only to find the vendors there couldn't help and seemed reluctant to discuss bootlegs. Eventually I did acquire a copy on vinyl but it was very murky indeed.

Anyway, about a week ago (I don't know why I hadn't thought before) I realised I could probably, quite easily, find a decent version of it online somewhere. And so I did. Because I could never clearly make them out I'd looked up the lyrics ages ago and they're some of my favourites ever. Incredibly simple - I think what I find so compelling about them is that they're so direct. A description of his physical trappings that's so straight forward that it becomes weird, especially the bit about his watch.

Pink Floyd Vegetable Man

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Burrito No 1

Going to the same sandwich shop week in week out, no matter how good, is one of those little things that can have you wondering what you're doing with your life. Here lies Artog, he ate about 10,000 salami and salad baguettes. So I was pleased, walking through the side streets of SW1 yesterday, to find Picante tucked away on Greencoat Row. (I also noticed that the Cardinal is having a refurb - I hope they keep the dinginess.)

My patronage often seems to be the kiss of death for any range of establishments, so I recommend this fantastic eatery in an attempt to preserve the only source of burritos within easy walking distance of my work place.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hall of Bright Carvings

I read about this exhibition in the Observer, a little article accompanied by a picture of the car or the eagle, I can't remember. The first thing that sprang to mind was the Hall of Bright Carvings. I was keen to go, and when I saw that it was only a ten minute walk from work that settled it.

I’m a bit wary of small galleries and it was weird compared to the anonymity of a bigger gallery, to stand there next to the gallery owner in a room that was maybe only just twice the size of my living room. But the owner (Jack) was a thoroughly nice guy, very chatty about the whole phenomenon.

My favourite was the aeroplane - would they take the wings off to bury it, I wondered, otherwise you’d be looking at digging a seriously big hole in the ground. It wasn't built for a pilot but for an old lady whose unfulfilled wish it had been to fly in one. Others were more representative of their final occupant, lions were popular for warriors and the eagle was for a king.



Another sign of my advancing years, the gallery owner seemed so young. Which brings us naturally enough to mortality and death. Until quite recently it’s fair to say that I spent too much time worrying about death. No matter how long you contemplate it I don’t think you can ever get your head round it.


When I would turn my mind to the practicalities of it all I thought I'd like to be buried, and I previously imagined a cardboard coffin. Now it seems a shame not to try to come up with some everyday item, a freakishly large wooden version of which I could be interred in. Maybe a cigarette packet. Benson and Hedges. As I’ve repeatedly said, I don’t really smoke, but I do enjoy my lapses and I’m pretty certain that the best part of two decades that I spent idiotically puffing away will be at the root of my demise.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A thousand years

While reading about Trinity House I found a link to this - through a link to London's only lighthouse Trinity Buoy Wharf, which is now a venue for cultural happenings and flagship host of Longplayer, which I'd never heard of before. I think it's truly mindblowing. Not the sound so much (though I do really like it) but just the thought of it. It reminds me a bit of the vestal virgins keeping the flame going in their temple.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Itchy and scratchy

Before I moved to London I used to get the train down a lot to visit my girlfriend and for the journey I'd always get a newspaper or two and a music magazine to read. While some people clearly found a couple of hours on a train a bit of a drag I loved it, especially when they still had smoking carriages. (The same with hospital waiting rooms - there's always someone moaning about the wait, I regard it as a golden opportunity to thoroughly read the papers - once they had the Ashes showing on the telly as well, I could have sat there all day.)

Anyway, back in the day I left a free cd given away with one of my train journey magazines at my girlfriend's flat - generally these cds were poor but on one there was a track that I found utterly beguiling, its appeal heightened because I only got to listen to it every three or four weeks (I never took it back with me for some reason). I always meant to pick up the band's album but before I did the cd was mislaid in a move and I realised I'd forgotten both the track and the band name.

I like having a half remembered track or two to be hunting down at any given time, but as the years went by it occurred to me that I'd probably had it with this one. My attempts to track it down were, it transpires, only hindered by my having a vague recall that the bandname contained the word hospital and that the female vocalist was Scottish.

But, wuffling round the blogosphere the other day I saw a band mentioned in a post and a little lightbulb pinged on above my head. Less than a minute later I was reunited with my long lost track.

The Paradise Motel Derwent River Star

This just leaves me now trying to track down a very brisk reggae track with the vocalist toasting over the top a lyric about "them old, old Europeans" and a Dub track that I can only describe as sounding quaintly science fiction spacey with a very tight whirring noise running through it. I despair of ever finding the Dub track.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Blustery with some helicopters

I bumped into this on my walk home. Cool eh? I just missed seeing it land. There seemed to be a problem involving a coach outside the Tate.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Double dip

The record shopping in Wales was very fine. I was heading to Porthmadog anyway to take a trip on the Festiniog Railway and a tip from the Plashing Vole put me onto Cob Records there. It's a serious establishment. As usual I had to go through everything as I always forget particular albums that I want, only that I'll know them when I see them - so I was delighted to so quickly chance on It's My Way by Buffy Sainte Marie (I often start with the Ss, I don't know why). My elation evaporated when I saw the price though: £22. I kept going and moments later found the less crucial but nonetheless intriguing Best of the Vibrations but again reeled at the price tag: £42.

Later in the week I headed south and paid a visit to Hag's Records in Lampeter. Lampeter is where I went to college and in the three years I was there the almost daily purchases I made at Hag's provided a sizeable part of my collection. My customer loyalty was amply rewarded the first time I went back, about ten years after I graduated, when the great Hag himself walked in and, without any prompts on my part, recognised me straight away.

It's my favourite record shop for two reasons - I always find something that I really, really want there. And it's always incredibly cheap. This visit was no different and I was, very discreetly (it never does to show too much emotion on these occasions), ecstatic to find a copy of Buffy Sainte Marie's It's My Way for a mere fiver.

Buffy Sainte Marie Ananias

Saturday, 16 October 2010

South Stack lighting

I find lighthouses a bit terrifying for some reason. It may stem from a Dr Who story I vaguely remember set in one - featuring a classic blob-type creature killing off the occupants one by one. (I looked it up: The Horror of Fang Rock. Broadcast September 1977. I was five).

Lighthouses perched atop headlands I can deal with, in fact I'd love to live in one. But those standing in the sea, rearing up from the very waters themselves, I can hardly bear to look at them. I think because when I do I inevitably imagine myself in those waters desperately scabbling for a hold on the slippery walls. It isn't just a straightforward fear of drowning, even if I were safely afloat in a lifejacket and knew help was on the way I wouldn't be able to look up at my surroundings. I'm not sure what this is all about - possibly some kind of cosmic dread, like the sea is the universe or something.

Despite all that I'm quite into going to see lighthouses. While I was planning my recent holiday my research consisted of checking Lighthouses of England & Wales and The Modern Antiquarian (and, er...the Readers Digest Touring Guide to Great Britain). I'd been thinking more of heading south and so it was only a couple weeks before I set off that I looked north and realised Anglesey was in easy striking distance and that South Stack, somewhere I've wanted to visit for years, was seriously on the agenda. I did my homework and was gutted to discover that the lighthouse would be closed to the public from the end of September - a few days before I could get there.

I crossed the drab expanse of Anglesey to get there anyway and sure enough the little office was shut up. However, I obstinately made my way down the four hundred steps and, magically, found the gate across the little bridge unpadlocked. I snuck across and approached the tower. I didn't go right up to it as I could see an open door with paint pots lying about and I didn't fancy a telling off from some gruff, nautical type.


It was certainly a weird environment, half sacred precinct and half secret military installation (the latter effect heightened by the pair of jet fighters circling about). I don't know why I found the tower so sinister - it works, after all, unceasingly for good. But I dunno, its whiteness, its height, the barely audible turning of its great cyclopean eye and its remote location all added up to a very strange vibe.

The authority responsible for lighthouses in the UK is Trinity House, which I think sounds ancient, respectable and somehow quietly evil. And that was before I read that it was governed by a court of elder brethern, and presided over by a master, none other than arch-lizard HRH the Duke of Edinburgh himself.

Monday, 4 October 2010

C'est Fab, part deux

Yesterday I killed two birds with one stone and saw the impossibly svelte Fabienne Delsol at the 100 Club. I'd never been to this legendary venue and apparently sky high rents are forcing it to close by Christmas - which, now that I've been, I can say would be a great shame - it's exactly the kind of club that I love. It's just the right size and last night it was reasonably full of blokes in snazzy cardigans and aging retro beauties.

The first support act, an instrumental three piece, efficiently cranked it out and I missed most of the second band as I went for a wander down Wardour Street in search of cigarettes. When I got back in I walked over to the stage and positioned myself near where the microphone had been set up and that was that - I'm so used to hardly being able to see bands it was weird to be standing two yards away, I didn't know quite where to look half the time.

The show was to promote her new album which I haven't heard but according to the blurb is meant to be a bit mellower than her previous output, but everything sounded pretty crunchy last night. The highlights for me, not very adventurously, were the ones I'd heard before, the best being the closer - a cover of early Quo tune When My Mind Is Not Live. After this they left the stage and someone (the club owner?) jumped up and tried to cajole them into an encore - Fabienne returned to the stage and said she'd sing if the band were up for it. They weren't. At least I think that's what happened - I was a bit drunk. I was hoping that they'd play My Love Is Like A Spaceship.

I was surprised at how low key the event was, I clearly have a tendency to assume that bands I like are bigger than they are - I was amazed when I saw Fabienne walk around the stage placing out the set lists and just generally hanging around throughout the evening. I'm fairly sure that kind of thing didn't happen at even the crummiest gigs I attended as a teenager. Someone's posted a tune from the very night on youtube already. My bowlcut makes an appearance from 1' 03" onwards.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

American dream

Today I achieved one of my longest standing ambitions - I ate a Twinkie (about five actually). If I'm honest I hadn't really thought about them for ages. But when I was a kid I used to see adverts for them (and for sea monkees) in the back of American comics and they were just one of the things that seemed to epitomise America. I haven't been to America but never doubted that one day I will, and on that day I'd buy and devour some Twinkies.

Anyway, a few weeks ago a quip from me within earshot of one of my wife's American friends led to a box of Twinkies being dispatched over the Atlantic. And the verdict? They're alright. A bit like miniature Victoria Sponges but without the jam. I expected them to be crunchier I think. Maybe if I deep-fried them?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Behind the sleeves

The other week I was listening to Stereolab's Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night and while I sat there, stroking my chin, I admired the sleeve art. It had crossed my mind before that a lot of their sleeves, as well as being dead good, were also often in a similar style.

So I arose from my beanbag to do a little research, and a few minutes later I'd discovered my favourites were indeed the work of one man and on finding this very helpful webpage I realised that I'd unwittingly been into the work of Julian House for ages. Even the little covers he did for those MOJO compilations.

I'd heard of him in connection with the last Broadcast album but I think it was only after seeing the sleeves he'd done that I decided to have a listen to the Ghostbox catalogue. A lot of the music's a little too library for my liking (though And The Cuckoo Comes is one of the best things I've heard for ages). But again I love their sleeves, he's clearly in thrall to Penguin book design,
in particular the Marber grid.

Anyway, back to Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, this is my favourite song on the album - despite their reputation I don't think tunes really come much more accessible than this.

Stereolab The Emergency Kisses

Oh, and this one as well. Another of my favourite musical moments at 0.10. I don't know what's making that noise but it sounds like the future.

Stereolab Op Hop Detonation

Friday, 17 September 2010

Visiting time

Of course the only real way to arrive in Portmeirion is to be rendered unconscious by agents in the privacy of your London flat and to wake there some time later with a snappy blazer hanging in your closet. So it was a bit weird just turning off the A487. I've wanted to go for donkeys years but by the time I actually got round to it I'd wondered if it would be disappointing - a couple of scenic vistas and a tacky Prisoner shop? (I did pop in and check out the blazer - I was not tempted).

There was no need to worry - we were lucky with the weather for the time of year so it was a sunny day with not that many people milling about. My admiration for the tv series to one side it really is a very beautiful place. Seriously, if I believed in heaven this spot would be a pretty good template. There's a tower-like vantage point not far from where you first enter the village proper (No. 6 and No. 2 have a chat there in Dance of the Dead). From there, with the sun on my face and cooled by the sea breeze, I could have stood surveying the dimpled beach below for hours. Later I went to go to the beach but it was a bit muddy so I didn't bother - I did see this jellyfish though.


Thursday, 16 September 2010

More autumn stone

I thought I'd post these because it's autumn (I'm not complicated) and because I really like the sleeve there. Dead leaves and some nice Arnold Bocklin text, no wonder you see it called the Autumn Store from time to time.

The Small Faces What'cha Gonna Do About It

I never realised just how short this track is. It jumped on my first vinyl copy between 1:24 and 1:27, I still find it odd hearing the lyrics in full there. It also features a great stretch of feedback which ends with one of my favourite little musical moments at 1:10 when a piercing guitar note caroms off an organ jab.

The Small Faces Red Balloon

I only found out this was a Tim Hardin cover a few weeks ago, still prefer this version though.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tony's place

What with the onset of autumn and the cooling of the weather I find the call of the greasy spoon that much harder to resist. I went for a wander this lunchtime and decided to give Tony's Snack Bar on Chapter Street a try. I've walked past it dozens of times I suppose but today for the first time I peered in and knew straight away that I was onto a winner. It's about a five minute walk from the much vaunted Regency Cafe. And part of its attraction was that compared to the Regency, with its crowds and bellowing hostess, Tony's is an oasis of calm.

The seating consists I think entirely of booths - my favourite arrangement, the whole look of the place is pleasingly muted and, while I'm sure it's well within health and safety requirements, the place doesn't seem fanatically antiseptic. I can't stand places where every aspect of the decor is subservient to hygiene.

My lunch there, not too promising at first sight perhaps - the squared off egg, the sausage sliced down the middle. I normally specify two sausages, egg and chips but, trying a new cafe and not wishing to make a fuss, I just casually requested sausage, egg and chips and to hell with the consequences. Sometimes that'll mean two sausages, sometimes not. Now I know. It was all surprisingly tasty and, washed down with a can of coke, it came to £3.50, which was good value - especially compared to the £7.70 I ended up paying last week for a take away burrito over on Fleet Street.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

I got the funk

I may have suggested recently that I find London a hassle but if you want stuff it's hard to beat. The other day I was roving the internet and some reggae tunes led me to Soul Jazz's Dancehall compilation. Checking out their website I dropped my quest for reggae and realised that I probably couldn't live without both their New Orleans Funk compilations.

And so lunchtime the next day I hopped on a bike and pedalled to Sounds of the Universe. Five minutes and about twenty-four quid later I walked out of there with six shiny vinyl discs of very high quality funk. What a bargain. What a label. What a shop. It's impossible to go wrong. I'm even considering that Polyphonic Voices of Georgia album.

Anyway, a tune from vol 2. The original, which I'm not ashamed to say I'd never heard before.

Benny Spellman Fortune Teller

And, for variety, a less funk but no less cool cover version. I've always loved the Stones version but found this during some pre-purchase sussing out. The Vibrations - a bit of confusion had me thinking those brothers really nailed that British Invasion sound. But no, a classic British garage track with one of the scruffiest riffs this side of You Really Got Me.

The Vibrations Fortune Teller

Monday, 13 September 2010

Cold dead hands

I was following blog links the other day and found a site which had some amusing things to say about some cool tunes. The blogger was American and when I hit home his most recent post was a gloating tract on the relative failure of recent gun control legislation in that country. I thought about leaving a comment but didn't. I've forgotten the name of the blog now but I'd like to hear him or anybody else continue to defend such widespread gun ownership in the face of this pathetic lunacy.

Clarks for the winter

I bought these beauties the other day. I missed them in the sale but when I went to buy them they fetched some out of the back and only charged me the sale price anyway. Absolutely made my day. My love of Clarks shoes has been a source of amusement to several of my acquaintances over the years, especially at work for some reason. I suppose they do look a bit like two great big Cornish pasties.

The Small Faces The Autumn Stone

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Ad astra

I've been having a great run in secondhand book shops recently, the highlight of which has been Spacecraft 2000-2100AD. It was in the window at Oxfam, I had it when I was a kid, I went in and asked: £3.99. How could I resist?

It's a load of sci-fi book cover illustrations gathered together with a narrative spun around them. My favourite back then was the TDA 107C Partisan and I think it probably still is. Published in 1978 its timeline is on the verge of looking a bit ridiculous - work is due to start on Mars Station by 2012. And we'd better get a wiggle on if we're to perfect the warp generator by 2027. But you never know.

Inevitably there's a website dedicated to it now and you can buy mugs, a tee-shirt and little models of the spaceships are planned. I was most intrigued to see that there had been follow up books which I never knew about when I was a kid - Spacewreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts of Space looks cool.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Nostalgia is a dish best served cold

The Day Of The Triffids is listed in my profile's favourite books but I love The Midwich Cuckoos just as much. The film version Village of the Damned is a classic Saturday afternoon film, but the title is so crude in comparison to the quainter yet so much more sinister title of the novel. The cover illustration there bears a slight resemblence to the work of Ronald Searle, another of my favourites from the same period. The artist in question, Paul Hogarth, was a friend of Searle's I read somewhere.

The reason I mention all this is that I'm going through a fifties sci-fi phase at the moment. Well, I watched Quatermass And The Pit the other night. I'd been curious about it for as long as I can remember due to my mum going on about it, and my brother bought it me for my birthday the other month. Like the Wyndham novels it's an amazingly original idea. The most obvious heir of both Wyndham and Quatermass is Dr Who, which at its best (Tom Baker for me) shares their spookiness and brutality. Apparently they used to throw references to Bernard into episodes of Dr Who.

Anyway, The Midwich Cuckoos, if anyone out there gets the allusion in the title of the final chapter, Zellaby of Macedon, I'd be grateful if you could clue me in. It's been bugging me for years.

And now a track. No direct relationship as far as I know. Just the word cuckoo, a high level of eeriness and a description of a world turned upside down. I couldn't find out where the vocal comes from (I'm assuming it was sampled from something). And the sleeve art is yet another homage to Penguin. Actually there is a link, there's a sort of Quatermass soundtrack on Ghost Box Records. This isn't from that though.


The Advisory Circle And The Cuckoo Comes

There aren't many tracks I find unnerving. Frankie Teardrop a bit maybe, even though I know the screams are coming. But the track above is in a different class. It's the voice mainly - with its strange, tranquilized resignation, and the sound effects suggestive of some desolate aftermath. Added to the lyric's simple inversion of the seasons and it all leads inescapably to a feeling that something terrible has happened.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Mega mega

From time to time I mention that I’d like to run away from London and live somewhere quieter. Somewhere in the countryside. West Wales perhaps. The North probably. I spent most of my childhood in a rural setting, the kind of place where you could wake up and find a cow had invaded the garden. At the time, surrounded by all that fresh air and greenery, where I really wanted to live was Mega City One, the fictional stamping ground of Judge Dredd. This was entirely down to the artwork of Carlos Ezquerra.

Ezquerra illustrated most of the Judge Dredd stories in a run from prog 245 through to about prog 320. He came back every so often and the last big story I remember him doing was Necropolis, but by then my interest was waning.

I've not read enough comics to say that his depiction of the future is unique but I certainly preferred it to the other artists in 2000AD (with Mike McMahon a not particularly close second). When I was a kid megacities seemed a certainty (like BosWash). Now though, what with ecological concerns and the massive advances in IT, we’ll probably all be living in sensibly distributed eco-units, attending work (if at all) by some kind of holographic conference call type thing (like in The Naked Sun or A Very Private Life).

When I was little I used to find it a downer that it was all so far off into the future (the Apocalypse War is set in 2105) and that I probably wouldn't be around to witness it. So I was cheered up by the story Night of the Rad Beast, when two of the characters' dates of birth were given and they were slightly older than me. Maybe I'd live to see the Mega City after all, even if I had to become a decrepit cyborg to do so.

I soon started to buy up older issues of 2000AD (and the defunct Starlord) and saw his artwork for the Strontium Dog stories. Following the caseload of an interstellar bounty hunter gave a lot more scope for illustrating alien life forms. Like Dredd, the stories are shot through with a dark strain of humour. One of my favourites was The Killing, in which plot is dispensed with and, as the name suggests, it just gets straight to business with some fantastic pictures of aliens blasting/gutting/dissolving each other.

There’s just the right touch of pulp or hack work to his pictures – hardly surprising given that I read somewhere that he was churning out the artwork for the episodes of the Apocalypse War on a weekly basis rather than months in advance. In most of his pictures there's tons of grimy detail. In an interview he cited as his major influences Breccia and Hugo Pratt, neither of who I'd heard of but after a little digging I can certainly see the influence of Hugo Pratt.

Sci fi films rarely get both the look of the cities or the outfits right or credible. Often the clothing styles are mimimal, white robes or utilitarian uniform type outfits. Compared to these stiff and sterile depictions Ezquerra’s future seems pretty funky. I’m amazed that no film makers have ripped him off – it can’t be that expensive, just lots of rubbery foam to make the outfits (all those knee and shoulder pads).


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Boris bikes

I didn't vote for Boris and I never will but I was all excited about his cycle hire scheme. And today I actually used one of them. And it was great. My morning journey threatened to turn into a bit of a farce when I couldn't find a docking space. I had to go to three ranks before I did and ended up walking slightly further back to my office than makes sense of hiring a cycle in the first place. Still, it all took under 30 minutes so was free anyway. Looking up my homeward journey on my activity log reveals that the usual twenty minute slog has been transformed into a mere seven minute breeze on the bike. What will I do with all the extra time?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Ian Tomlinson

Do they really think this is the best decision? It's so wrong it makes me feel physically sick. I accepted that Jean Charles de Menezes' killing was the result merely of terrifying incompetence, though I found the failure of Cressida Dick to resign incomprehensible. But that a man can be killed with such casual brutality and the officer responsible face only the possibility of some internal disciplinary action. How can anyone not be outraged by the utter contempt this displays?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Here, there and everywhere

I had one of those falling into place musical moments the other day - somewhere out there I was listening to a version of Angel of the Morning by Evie Sands. I'd always assumed the Joya Landis (I had to check) version was the original but I should have realised by now, there's no such thing as an original reggae version of a song.

As I listened I knew that I'd heard Evie's vocals before and after a few minutes of pondering reached for Sonic Sounds for Subterraneans and there she was, side 3 track 1, I Can't Let Go. Possibly my favourite track on there, and that's saying something. I really can't recommend that compilation highly enough.

Evie Sands: I Can't Let Go


Obviously this all merited further investigation and it turns out she did the original version of Anyway That You Want Me, that she was surprisingly white and impossibly beautiful, and that I should probably buy The Red Bird Story.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Pretty much your standard ranch stash

A few years ago I bought The Everly Brothers Roots on the strength of a very brief mention by Bob Stanley of its version of I Wonder If I'll Care As Much. According to Bob this version floated by on a cloud of feedback. The Everlys and feedback - I though that sounded like it could be good. Sadly it's a bit dull. But Roots is still worth having - the brothers look pretty cool on the cover. Turn Around is probably the best thing on it and the sleeve notes led me to its writer's own band, The Beau Brummels and the excellent Bradley's Barn.

I was burned quite recently by Phil's Star Spangled Springer, lured into buying what is in truth a fairly bland album by such an excellent cover. I'll probably keep hold of it if only for the cover and maybe the track Poisonberry Pie. Once albums are in the collection I find it hard to deselect them (on vinyl anyway, I'm more ruthless with cds). I think I've only got rid of three vinyl lps - a Roky Erickson solo effort that had loads of terrible synthesizer noises on it, Hawkwind's Text of the Festival (what the fuck was I on?) and Shuggy Otis's alleged masterpiece Inspiration Information.

Anyway, the Everly Brothers. They were the first band I saw live. Not long after their eighties reconcilliation. A very good show - incredibly loud renditions of all the hits and some droll between song banter. They even managed to restrain themselves from smashing guitars over each others heads.

The Everly Brothers: I Wonder If I Care As Much


The Everly Brothers: Turn Around


The Beau Brummels: Love Can Fall A Long Way Down


Friday, 9 July 2010

Learning tree

I bought a book about trees the other day. I usually know straight away if I’m going to buy a book and this one drew me in pretty quick. In the space of a few random pages I had learned that John Galbraith Graham took his nom de crossword from the Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and that that thoroughly rock and roll word Tupelo is actually a type of tree.

The decider though was a picture of a shiny conker peeping out of its spiky pod. It was just so perfect. And then there are twenty odd pages of pine cones of the type that I can't resist picking up when I go for a walk around Kew. The pictures are all painted by David More who seems to have opted for a life of internet-proof obscurity.

Anyway, while I was feasting my eyes on all the tree pictures I was tapping my foot to the music coming from the shop’s little stereo. I’ve said before that they usually play good stuff and I was absent-mindedly enjoying the track when some lyrics grabbed my attention. “Hello” I thought, “I haven’t heard this version before”. A nice campfire version of the Super Furry Animals' The Man Don’t Give A Fuck.

As I was buying the book I asked the man behind the till what album the track was from. To my momentary bafflement he handed me a Steely Dan cd. I think I probably knew that they'd sampled something. A few years back I bought Pretzel Logic (probably because of an amusing Judge Dredd story that pinched the title). I couldn’t really get into it, but Show Biz Kids: what a track.

Steely Dan: Show Biz Kids


And for comparison purposes the Super Furry Animals track.

Super Furry Animals: The Man Don't Give A Fuck


Monday, 5 July 2010

Nightmare at 120 ft


Without doubt one of the best £10 I've ever spent.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sit on it mother

It doesn't take much to make me happy. Today for instance - a two for one offer on McVities Jamaica Cake and then this bench. I don't know when it was built but part of its appeal is that it's a modern thing that's been around long enough to acquire lichen. But mainly it's the shape of it - simple and logical, like a park bench from the planet Vulcan.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Hey man*, that's beautiful

I've gone on about this track before but I only found this version quite recently. A good one for Sunday morning.

Spacemen 3: Transparent Radiation (violin mix)


*For the record, I never say man like this in real life.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Grimly fiendish


I mentioned in a comment a while back what a fan I am of Ronald Searle. Today, after having been told about it a couple of months ago by my dad, I got my act together and trotted down to the Cartoon Museum's exhibition of his work. I urge anybody who's interested to get their skates on as it closes on 4 July. Having said that the Toy Tales exhibition starting up straight afterwards looks good as well.

Anyway, Ronald Searle, how great is my admiration for his work? I've picked up nearly thirty of his books over the years. I think I prefer his pictures from the fifties and sixties and the exhibition features a fair number of these, though his style hasn't really changed and the pictures here from the nineties are just as good in a way.

Searle's pictures for me will always evoke the 1950s - the gloomy, gothic aftermath of the Victorian empire, ladies in rooms stuffed with knick-knacks, colonial club bores (see below), even the most minor of officials wearing uniform (the zoo keepers above). A certain type of birdcage always puts me in mind of his work. He shares the same sort of space as Ealing comedies (though possibly this is down to the presence of Alastair Sim in the St Trinian films).


While it was great to see some familiar pictures in the flesh - the straight reportage from Looking at London, the brilliant seven phases of Molesworth's Batmanship (uncannily similar to my own experiences at the crease), it was the stuff that I hadn't seen before that exerted the greater hold over me. Some of these labelled from the collection of Ronald and Monica Searle I'm not sure will have been on display before.

The portrait of a Moroccan entitled just Fez, March 1951 for instance. This was sketched while Searle was convalescing there for a bout of bronchitis - again, another world, people just don't do that anymore. Anyway, it was a small but perfect piece of art that was worth the price of the ticket (£5.50) alone.

Another that I don't think I've seen before was Kaiserlauten US Army Base (1964). This again was reportage but of a more satirical nature than either his drawings of London or Paris. Germany seems to bring out more of the savagery (especially a few years later in his Secret Sketchbook, from which no pictures are on display).

She wasn't in the exhibition this time but I saw the unmistakeable Fenella Fielding again on the tube on my way home.

Friday, 25 June 2010

One, two, three. Two, two, three.

God, it's been a long week. It's not been cheering me up that I've been unable to post any music either. But tonight, I find all my little widgets have reactivated. So, here we are. Something I found the other day. Has fiercer, more exuberant whistling ever been committed to tape?

Roger Whittaker: Mexican Whistler


No need for all this new fangled nonsense, all you need is an acoustic guitar, a tambourine and a lot of puff.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A man that you meet every day

After a lot of lunchtime wandering I realised that I really liked this building. It doesn't come through so clearly on the photograph but it's constructed from highly polished browny-purple granite. That and the geometry of it make it look like some kind of immaculate volcanic remnant.

I tried looking it up on the internet but floundered a bit using searches like Transport for London and Victoria Street and a few others. Anyway, on closer inspection I discovered the architect's inscription: Seifert. Using this as a search term the veil lifted from my eyes and I suddenly saw how many fantastic buildings were his. Of the ones I was already aware of the most gratifying was the International Press Centre on Shoe Lane.

When I worked over in Holborn I walked past this every day and always admired it (for a period weaving my way through a crowd of animal rights protesters, who were very angry at one of the companies housed within). When I was younger I think I probably hated all modern office buildings as featureless monoliths, but now I can't get over the modular honeycomb character of this one, Centre Point, Space House and no doubt dozens if not hundreds of others. Perhaps comparable buildings in my native Sheffield just weren't as good, I don't know. I'm wondering if my hatred for the Eggbox might have been, with hindsight, a little callow.

As the most interesting of his buildings that I'd never heard of and which wasn't too far off the beaten track I went for a good look at Space House (now, I think, far more boringly referred to as 1 Kemble Street). It's plan is a bit like a squashed up Starship Enterprise the flat back end of which lies on Kingsway and which I must have walked past so many times but never once cut through to Covent Garden and chanced upon the amazing rotunda. Snapping away a women exiting the building was bemused at my admiration for it, she worked there and its form had somehow failed to lift her spirits.



The lists I've seen so far consist of about fifty buildings which, from what I've read, sounds like about a tenth of the number he actually produced. I was surprised to see that he doesn't seem to be the subject of any large coffee table type book, or any book at all.

The best thing about this is the prospect of going out to see a lot of these buildings that previously I'd never even heard of, though a pleasingly weird aspect of it was the ones that I've been faced with nearly all my life. Going to visit my grandma in Manchester and walking along Gateway House every time I came out of Piccadilly. And King's Reach Tower - for so many years just the location of Tharg's Command Module.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Hurry slowly


I found this the other day. I was unexpectedly watching (and quite enjoying) It's All Gone Pete Tong and it popped up in the background. Due to prolonged musical widget failure I thought I'd check youtube. And this is now my favourite video ever.

I'm kicking myself because I saw the relevant album in a charity shop not so long ago. But I can't remember where exactly.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Twelfth incarnation

Browsing idly this afternoon I read Stephen Fry lambasting the state of telly. He’s right I suppose. I’ve got satellite, if I had the energy I could scour the schedules and line up almost constant interesting and/or edifying programming.

Anyway, this is the picture they used to illustrate article – he’s an absolute natural for Dr Who isn’t he?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

London eye

After a rummage I found the list I referred to in the robot bar post. It was (of course) in a shoe box under the bed. I've put an asterisk next to the ones I've actually visited.

Karl Marx's Tomb
Top of the list and still not been. One for autumn.

Thames Flood Barrier
Probably made a big impression on me in the days when I used to watch Blue Peter. A bit awkward to get to I think.

The Blind Beggar*
Rubbish, just a really boring pub.

The Prospect of Whitby
Because my parents had their engagement bash here. And it's got a funny name.

Boat from Westminster to Richmond
On a hot sunny day. I like falling asleep on boats on hot sunny days.

Greenwich Market
Other than I love markets not sure why this was so important.

Savoy Grill
Very intimidated by big fancy restaurants so haven't been here yet.

Regents Park Zoo
Walked past it a few times, not really bothered about this one now.

Row on the Serpentine
I like rowing. A friend of a friend fell in here once. Couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

Hampstead Heath*
Nice, but to paraphrase Scoobius Pip, just a park.

Somerset House*
Been a few times but not for ages now, can't really get there in a lunch break anymore.

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir *
Absolutely mindblowing. Everybody was very friendly but I felt like an interloper. I'd be peering at a statue and someone would come along and start praying to it. Weird.

Brick Lane Market*
Went a few years ago - had a fantastic day.

Sherlock Holmes statue*
Walked up and down Baker Street looking for this and somehow managed to miss it. Maybe he was being polished that day.

Peter Pan statue
No longer care about this, I'm less whimsical these days.

Old Bailey murder trial
I worked just round the corner for years and never popped in.

Globe Theatre
Still really want to do this one. Quick check of the website...Henry IV, pt 1, that's a possibility.

And two that weren't on the list but which I'll add now:

Big Ben
Like in the Thirty Nine Steps. My fear of heights and of oversized Victorian machinery probably adds up to this being a fairly nightmarish experience, but I can't help myself.


Battersea Power station
I’ve always wanted to get close up to this. I read a great article (in the Independent I think) proposing that instead of developing the station it should be allowed to stand as a picturesque ruin and the area around it should be a park. I think that’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard. Instead we will of course get a boring bloody hotel/luxury apartments/shopping mall monstrosity. That’s if they don’t just knock the thing down outright.

And finally, one that was on a proto-list but which had fallen off the list I found.

Wormwood Scrubs
Just to walk up to the gates - are you allowed to do that?

Monday, 24 May 2010

My beautiful caff

Wandering about Kingston at brunch time last Monday I was saddened to discover that the Eden Cafe had closed for the last time. Such was my job dissatisfaction recently I did some research into opening a cafe. Just the fun bits really – coming up with a menu, costing the various bits of kitchen equipment, trying to decide on the seating, looking up retail leases. Stuff like that.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Phallus uber alles

Have you ever heard of The Monument? Built by Wren, to commemorate the Fire of London? I hadn’t until my dad mentioned it in passing during a tale about his going to see a rugby final at Wembley back in the day. Once I’d heard of it I had to go – it just sounded so weird. A giant, freestanding Doric column? Tucked away near London Bridge? It seemed so unlikely.

Anyway, it was still there and so obviously I had to go to the top. I’m not good with heights but as the ascent was up an enclosed, narrow staircase I thought I’d be alright. This was disproved about half the way up when I suffered a severe dose of the fear caused by a crowd of Italian school children surging around me on their way down. At the top my previously unimpressed wife started to gambol about saying how great it was and cooing at the view. I held grimly onto the hand rail and, with leaden legs, made the one circuit of the viewing platform demanded by my pathetic male pride. You get a little certificate for going to the top.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The lost robot bars of London

When I moved down to London I made a list of places that I was determined to visit. I've not seen it for a while, but from what I can remember I don't think I've done very well over the last decade. Cynthia's Robot Bar is one of the places I did get to. It was a bit depressing actually, the robot Cynthia wasn't even switched on.

Anyway, I was thinking about doing a podcast with the theme being "Robot Disco", I only got so far though.

Imitation Electric Piano: What We Do We Do

I reckon that's the riff from "WIld Flower".

As you might know (or have guessed) Imitation Electric Piano are a Stereolab off-shoot. The track above is from the excellently titled "Blow It Up, Burn it Down, Kick It 'Til It Bleeds" - an album I was drawn to after hearing the impossibly breezy "I Mean Wow", which I wasn't going to post because it's not really robotic sounding, but I've mentioned it now...

Imitation Electric Piano: I Mean Wow

Friday, 7 May 2010

Aftermath

It's not so bad is it? The Tories are in a bit of a spot aren't they? They can either try to go it alone and be humiliated in the Commons on a regular basis. Or they can be left outside of a Lib-Lab pact. The other option of the Lib Dems supporting the Tories just seems so unnatural, with such glaring descrepancies between virtually all their policies. How can that lead to a strong and stable government?

The best Cameron could offer in his first statement was something called the pupil premium - I'd not even heard of that. How can the Lib Dems countenance going into alliance with a party that wouldn't give them anything on massive issues like Trident, tax, Europe and PR? Members of one of the parties (let's face it, the Lib Dems) are sure to be left very disappointed and left wing supporters (the majority? And me, for instance) will leave them in droves - just in time for the next, probably quite imminent, general election. Does it seem insane to think that Labour are actually in the best middle to long term position?

Two mad election things - one of my sisters in law voted Tory. It took a whole day to establish that she wasn't just winding us up. I can't believe it. My wife's sister I'm glad to say, my own family name remains untainted. Secondly, one of my oldest friends has featured quite prominently in the election coverage - he's the copper getting all the abuse in the polling station in Sheffield.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Broadcasting on your frequency

Years ago I was walking along the Embankment with my dad and looking across the river I commented on the ugliness of the South Bank. My dad, with a faint smile, said that the war had just finished and they'd all needed cheering up at the time. Since then I've taken a great liking to the place and when I saw that Broadcast were playing the Queen Elizabeth Hall I bought up some tickets (after a bit of dithering that meant we ended up sitting on the very back row).

I only got into Broadcast through their most recent album "Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age". It topped Wire magazine's 2009 run down and it's got a really cool cover and that was good enough for me. I've listened to it a lot during my commute. The extremely varied tracks come and go so quickly - there are some I'm not mad on but mainly I wish a lot of them lasted longer, ones like "One million Years Ago"and "Let It Begin".

While I can think of half a dozen things that may have influenced them it's still the most original album I've heard for years. I was walking along the other day when my right headphone konked out, "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" continued to grate into my left ear but the other was getting the sounds of a car alarm and some passing children and the high street in general. Maybe that sounds terrible (try it) but it was not dissimilar to one of the less great tracks on the album. It's the same with bus brakes and the start of "Never Understand".

Anyway, the concert. We got there just in time to hear the remaining support act furiously sawing away at his cello for about thirty seconds before the lights came up and we spent the next half hour in the bar. Broadcast started off facing each other over dimly lit consoles that they tweaked to produce a heavy track that went on for a bit too long really, a good ten minutes at least of electronic vipp noises with percussion that sounded like some huge wooden sprocket and treadle.

After that the male half of the band picked up one the guitars that I had assumed had been positioned on stage for feedback purposes only. The track they then played was "Corporeal" - good enough for me to be buying its album.

From this point on the music got more interesting with the noises becoming more intricate and Trish Keenan's vocals more focussed than the earlier portentous wailing. The guitar got another outing for a naggingly familiar riff. It did my brain in until I finally placed it - it was from "I Could Be Happy" - the bit where the guitar really breaks about halfway through into an oriental sounding cascade. I hadn't expected that.

Visually the show was dominated by a continuous flow of images onto one screen - it started off with what seemed like footage from an old black and white sci fi film giving a distorted, alien's eye view of the planet. Other images in conjunction with some effects-channelled vocals often gave off an eerie vibe - which I'm sure is their aim. The Wicker Man, at the instigation of the likes of Jonny Trunk and Bob Stanley, seems to have been seeping through this corner of indie for years.

Probably the most effective image was when the singer cast a stark shadow onto a brightly coloured backdrop for the duration of an almost lullaby-ish song. Standing in front of the black space of her own shadow, bathed in the multi-coloured projection, it looked as though she'd stepped out of the image.

Then all of a sudden it was over, and I knew we weren't going to get an encore. Brilliant.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Imitation Pixie songs

I was going through the Ike and Tina Turner clips on youtube recently (prompted by a post on Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop) and I was drawn to one entitled “Ike and Tina Do The Pixies”. I think I was probably expecting some kind of late sixties tv appearance in the vein of Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” or something. Instead I found an insanely catchy and brilliant pastiche of the Pixies song “River Euphrates” as if performed by Tina Turner. The video’s a bit rubbish so I haven’t posted it. But it did lead to a website with more Pixies covers.

Like the Bob Dylan “Green Eggs and Ham” I’m not totally sure how I feel about this type of thing. I don’t regard myself as too serious but a little voice somewhere seems to cry out, “Fake, fake”, trying to spoil my enjoyment. On the other hand I can’t stop listening to it – which I normally take to be a sign that I think a track is brilliant.

Some of the others:

“Levitate Me”, a not very good Pixies song is, it turns out, a great Beach Boys song. The first minute or so of this is probably the most disconcertingly spot on and, if found out of this context, might have had me wondering if I should check the credit on “Come On Pilgrim”.

“Vamos” – vies with “River Euphrates” as my favourite Pixies song. This version is let down a bit by the slightly unconvincing Jimi vocals but still a good match of song to performer.

Finally Elvis and “No.13 Baby” – like “Vamos” you’re never going to be fooled for even a second that this could somehow, somewhen be the real Elvis – but it does demonstrate that it is so an Elvis song.

Friday, 16 April 2010

SHE

I discovered the missing link between The Shaggs and The B52s the other day. As you can imagine I’m pretty pleased with myself. I can’t take all the credit though, it was a MOJO cover cd featuring “Outta Reach” that put me onto the scent. I loved that track and nearly bought the album on the strength of it but I didn't, and then it wasn’t available any more.

Years later I decided to treat myself to a slap up record buying expedition into central London. The usual thing happened though, the moment I strode over the threshold of Sister Ray’s I completely forgot the content of my wants list and just started to flip aimlessly through the racks. In this random manner I found, and snapped up, Ace Record’s bumper retrospective: “She Wants A Piece Of You”.

She: Like A Snake


She: Hey You


The record buying expedition got off to a wobbly start - I popped into Slam City Skates intending to go down the spiral staircase into Rough Trade records, but the way was blocked by a bench and when I peered down it looked very untidy. I was informed by a haircut that the shop had moved to Brick Lane, "like about two years ago, dude". I felt like Rip Van Winkle.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Excerpt from a teenage record collection

In the deepest, darkest recesses of my teenage memories lurk a load of old shoegazing tunes. And in the same trawl of old tapes that produced the post below I found "Walking 5th Carnival", which featured on many a mix tape back in the day. It's from "Ichabod and I" which the Boo Radleys were later a bit disparaging about about. I can see why - cool name, excellent psychedelic sleeve but a disappointing album. It was a present though so I can't complain.

However, this track is exactly the kind of thing I loved when I was 18, I still do really - mainly on account of that expanding guitar noise. Is it just a wah wah pedal?


Boo Radleys: Walking 5th Carnival

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Have lungs, will travel

At the weekend, fooled by the sunny weather, I went for a walk in a nearby park. I've mentioned before how great it is and this visit only added to my liking for the place. Graffiti is normally depressing but on the walls of the park hut there I found a collection of funny little drawings. This one was the best I think - it looks like an early tetrapod (maybe). Anyway, a nice change.

And then the cafe had apple and blueberry cake. Exceedingly good.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Is there still dimples?

Probably recorded in the summer holidays in 1992 this is the only surviving mix tape I did for the winsome philosophy student who later became my wife. All the others were taped over by her younger sister (mainly with stuff like the Levellers and the Wonder Stuff). I'm slightly surprised that I've mentioned as many as six of the tracks in posts gone by.

Speeding Motorcycle - The Pastels
Jet Boy, Jet Girl - The Damned
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz - The Primitives
Sit On It Mother - The Pastels
Bed & Breakfast Man - Madness
Love Is The Drug - Roxy Music
You're Wondering Now - The Specials
Stupid Marriage - The Specials
Change In Speak - De La Soul
Human Fly - The Cramps
Shimmer - Jesus & Mary Chain
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - The Animals
Today - Ride
Feel A Whole Lot Better - The Byrds

I'm Losing More Than I Ever Had - Primal Scream

Little Doll - The Stooges
I'm A Believer - The Monkees
Freakscene - Dinosaur Jnr
The Nile Song - Pink Floyd
Biding My Time - Pink Floyd
Bike - Pink Floyd
Good Lovin' - Tammy Wynette
Treasure Trip - Primal Scream
Are You Experienced? - Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Crab Song - Faith No More
Jerusalem - The Fall


Breaking the no-two-by-the-same-band rule within the first four tracks and I think I must have stepped out of the room for a while after cueing up "The Nile Song". I stand by the choices. Except perhaps for "Stupid Marriage", which is just not a very good song. The most pleasant surprise was probably "Buzz, Buzz, Buzz" - I'd forgotten all about the Primitives.

Because he was the standing up drummer of the Jesus and Mary Chain Bobby Gillespie was, by default, cool. But after years of reading interviews with him I finally realised the man is an almost total dick: "Bomb the Pentagon", "Make Israel History", "Black man innovator, white man imitator" (er..Bobby, I don't know quite how to tell you this...), and their greatest hits album that left off all the songs from their soppy first album phase. "I'm Losing More Than I Ever Had" is the best thing they ever did, but still not enough to justify twenty years of hype.

And finally Jimi - have you forgotten how good this is?

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced?