Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Fire one more torpedo, baby

I've been a miserable old sod lately. I know, even more than usual, which takes some doing. And with no good reason, not really. I've been thinking, you see, about possibly undertaking a huge physical and mental challenge in eleven months time. It's an exciting prospect, and it really ought to fill me with excitement and optimism.

And, in part, it does. Because, without going into the specifics (see how non-committal I'm being, even here), if I were to undertake and achieve this challenge, well, it would be quite something. Something that most people never do. Something to look back on when I'm old(er) and grey(er). Something for my child to remember, with pride and maybe even amazement, when I am gone. I don't know if it would qualify as a life-changing experience, but I can see how it might be in that neighbourhood, a tiny bit.

So why haven't I signed up already?

There are so many reasons, nearly all of them things that wouldn't have crossed my mind twenty years ago. Time is one. From March onwards, I would have to give up a lot of time to train: whole mornings at first, then whole days, then whole weekends. Oh, and evenings too. That's a lot of time, especially when my time is not all my own these days. Time is the biggest overhead I have at this stage of my life - I am, as the saying goes, time poor. Cash poor too, of course, and that's another problem - there is a financial cost to this challenge. More accurately, there are a number of financial costs to this challenge. Without doing the maths in detail, I would probably spend somewhere between two and a half to three grand on this, more if I couldn't raise the associated sponsorship target and had to make up the shortfall myself. And again, my money is not all my own these days, especially when I've got half an eye on the fact that I'll probably need to buy a new car in four years time.

The biggest reason though, bigger than these two massive considerations, is the fact that I am not the man I was twenty years ago. I know, I know, who is, right? But I have genuine concerns about my ability to complete the challenge, however much I train and however much I invest in fancy kit to help me. And here's the thing, the real nub, the fly in the ointment, the biggest issue: if I sign up, and invest so much into the effort, only to break down partway through the challenge, to fail, I am not at all sure how well I'd handle that. I fear it might be not very well at all.

And no, this isn't just me being a pessimist, and thinking the worst - there's a real chance I couldn't complete the challenge, that my arthritic knee would rebel, that my glass hip would flare up, or simply that my late-forties body just couldn't keep going. Again, who is, but I am not as physically strong, flexible or durable as I was. Mentally, I'm stronger. But for this challenge, I think you'd need both kinds of strength, especially if the weather's inclement.

So at the moment I'm vacillating, oscillating wildly, making lists of pro's and con's. And am still undecided.

If you're wondering where the title for this post comes from, it's this entirely appropriate slice of Kiwi brilliance:

Monday, 8 October 2018

On my radio

Britain's first (legal) commercial radio station, LBC, went on air on this day in 1973, breaking the BBC's 50-year radio monopoly.

This excellence came along six years later.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Humphrey bumphrey

Vladimir Putin was born on October 7th. Christ. So was Simon Cowell. Double Christ!

Luckily for us all, so was Thom Yorke.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Roles

Life is all about roles, isn't it? Sometimes you're Peter, sometimes you're Lois and sometimes you're Giant Chicken.

Family Guy is sometimes derided as crass, offensive, Simpsons-lite nonsense. But there's real pathos here, I think.

Contractually obliged

Since it was first broadcast on this day 49 years ago, I was a bit too young for Monty Python first time around. My brother though, a crucial four years older than me, had their Contractual Obligation Album. That's what I remember.

It's all here. Knock yourselves out. My favourites? Sit On My Face, Finland, I'm So Worried and the bookshop sketch. Your mileage may vary.

Coincidentally, contractually obliged is how I feel about blogging about the moment, hence these "on this day" posts. Sorry.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Satellite of love

No blogging mojo at all so, in honour of the fact that Sputnik became the first man-made object in space on this day 61 years ago, here's a song by the artist formerly known* as Morrissey.

* Now mostly known by a series of unpleasant names as a result of opening his mouth without engaging his brain, once, twice, a dozen times too often. Oh Moz, please come back.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Cryptic clue time ... the answers

Last week, I posted a music crossword: 152 (count 'em!) clues of varying difficulty - some cryptic, some anagrams, some straightforward. I hoped it might be a fun test, albeit a test that would be easier if you knew my taste in music and/or were a regular reader of the blog.

Anyway, a week is quite long enough to mull over a crossword, so here's the solution. There are no prizes but hey, by all means have a kudos point for every answer you got right.

The clueThe answer
ACROSS
1Political writings, sort of (7,7)Scritti Politti is pretty close to scritti politici, Italian for political writings.
3They loved different lengths of tape (3,3,3)C30, C60, C90, Go was a hit for Bow Wow Wow.
5He was in a NY state of mind (5,4)Billy Joel sang New York State Of Mind.
12Eternal funk now, from singer (6,8)A straight anagram for Newton Faulkner.
13Had an eye to the telescope (1,1,8)Eye To The Telescope was the debut album for K T Tunstall.
15They should have reformed to cover Candy Girl (5)...because candy is a type of Sweet.
19Cuddly brothers and their band (7)The McNamara brothers fronted Embrace.
23Not big from the neck up (3,5,5)The Small Faces, obviously
26Doing us all a favour on the radio (6,7,12)How else would you describe Public Service Broadcasting?
29They promised that things could only get better (1,4)D-Ream sang this, and were memorably hijacked by New Labour in the process.
33Strange ____, bitches' ____ (4)Brew completes these titles, for a Cream song and Miles Davis album respectively.
35She was torn (7,9)Torn remains the lovely Natalie Imbruglia's biggest hit.
36Shortened tune (3,10)Appropriate anagram for The Undertones.
37Danté’s favourite band (3,6,6)He wrote The Divine Comedy.
39Lawrence’s soft material (4)Lawrence was the frontman of indie nearly-men Felt.
40Not a dick (4)I.e. Moby, without the Dick.
42Unicycles the lot (3,5,7)Another anagram, this time for The Style Council.
45Play cricket for a beating (3,3,6)If you play cricket, you may bat. A beating may be lashes. So Bat For Lashes.
46Extra dinosaur loses indefinite article (1,3)Extra - the indefinite article a = extr, easily re-arranged as dinosaur (and band) T-Rex.
47Left waterhole to fly high (4,9)An oasis might be a waterhole. Who left them and formed the High-Flying Birds? Noel Gallagher.
48The girl kept dry (7)Rihanna had an Umbrella. Ella. Ella.
49“I like ___ ____,” she said, sticking her tongue in my ear (3,4)From a Pixies lyric (I've Been Tired), this is Lou Reed.
52All points west (5)A not-very-good clue for Mr West himself, Kanye.
56They went from Guildford to Japan (3,6)The Vapors came from Guildford and sang Turning Japanese.
57A wild rose grew from his bad seeds (4,4)A hit and the backing band for Nick Cave.
58They asked Johnny Dee (3,13)Ask Johnny Dee was a minor indie hit for The Chesterfields.
61Empty stomach? (9)If you had an empty stomach, maybe your belly would echo; you'd be an Echobelly.
66Guitarist urinates (5)Former G'n'R axeman Slash.
67Crikey, it’s the rozzer! (6,8)Rozzer being an under-used Nineties nickname for Gene frontman Martin Rossiter.
69Palindromic root vegetables (4)A root vegetable might be a swede. The only palindromic Swedes I could think of were Abba.
71Requires antihistamine (5)A wasp Sting might require some cream.
72_____ Washington (5)A straightforward clue for Dinah Washington.
74Tree feeders (5)Belly had a hit with Feed The Tree.
75Richard _____, one-time drummer with 105D (5)Richard Ploog was the drummer with 105 Down, that being The Church.
76Norfolk girls show no respect for their elders (4,3,7)They can't do, given their name of Let's Eat Grandma.
78When Bernard met Brett … again (3,5)Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson reunited, post-Suede, to form The Tears.
79Trap dry owl? (5,5)An anagram of World Party.
80Definite, definite article (3,3)The definite article is the, so definite, definite suggests The The.
81A confrontation (3,5)I was running out of inspiration at this point. Hopefully confrontation suggested The Clash.
84Lettuce and tomato (5)...are components of a Salad.
86They made no criminal records (3,6)A cringeworthy pun about The Police.
87Ordains as a singer? (5,4)Ordains as being an anagram for Diana Ross.
89Took a tumble (3,4)Obviously, The Fall.
92Sweetest trip for half a zebra (5,7)Half a zebra would be just the White Stripes, which happens to also be an anagram of sweetest trip.
94Milkshake vendor (5)Kelis' milkshake brought all the boys to the yard.
97First man and a killer yoghurt? (7)Adam was the first man, allegedly. Ski make nice yoghurt. Killer was a hit for Adamski.
98Left Deptford by the underground (5,7)Squeeze came from Deptford. After leaving them, Jools Holland emerged to front The Tube, another name for the underground.
99Always correcting their own lyrics (7)Because that's what Editors do!
100His dad has a new suitcase (5,5)Papa's got a brand new bag, sang James Brown.
101Not a hard amoeba (4,4)Instead, a Soft Cell.
103Oye Esteban, indeed (10)If not (Steven) Morrissey, then perhaps (Esteban) Mexrrissey?
104Stretchy first letter (8)This would be an elastic A. Or Elastica.
106I get caught up in her hair (7)He hair might be blonde; mix in an I and you get Blondie.
107The males gave birth in this band (3,9)Name an animal where the males give birth? Did you just name The Seahorses?
109Sang 'Between John and Yoko' (4)Between John and Yoko was a song by obscure Swedish indie nearly-men Easy.
111Angry Billy (4)Not just angry but furious, was Billy Fury.
112Others have moves like him (4,6)Maroon 5 sang about having moves like Mick Jagger.
115Half audible (9)Half implies semi. Audible implies sound which implies sonic. So Semisonic.
117Rubbish music (7)Rubbish might be Garbage.
122Sang about matches (3,7)Matches start fires. The Prodigy had a hit with Firestarter.
123Sounds like roe and muntjac (3,5)Roe and muntjac are deer(s), which sounds like The Dears.
126Twin research facilities (9)Twin implies stereo, research facility implies lab. Hence Stereolab.
127With rabbit breeders, on this beach? (4)Martha and the Muffins sang about Echo Beach, hopefully also suggested by rabbit breeding Bunnymen.
128He felt safe, stuck in traffic (4,5)Here in my car, I feel safest of all, sang Gary Numan.
130A definite sphere (3,3)The is the definite article. A sphere is an orb. See how my brain works yet? This is The Orb.
131This band are walked all over (8)If you're British, you walk on the Pavement.
133Two beards and a beard (1,1,3)Two thirds of Z Z Top had beards, and the other third's surname was Beard.
136He liked his OJ… (5,7)Who would like Orange Juice more than Edwyn Collins?
137…but Shaun preferred a darker drink (5,5)That's Shaun Ryder, who clearly preferred Black Grape.
138English prog rockers, sound Eastern (4)How far east? Asia!
139They had the first base for la renard (2,7)La renard is French for the fox. First might be alpha. All leading to Fox Base Alpha, by St Etienne.
140Model heathens? (3,10)Haven't had an anagram for a while. Here's one for The Lemonheads.
141Ancient Mexican Leica (5,6)Could only be an Aztec Camera, right?
142Michael Fish and Billy Giles (3,7,8)Weather forecasters or, if you prefer, The Weather Prophets.
143___ A, Real Gone ___ (3)Kid completes the Radiohead album title and Deacon Blue single.
DOWN
1Trains rely on it (7)Trains lie on Sleepers.
2Little dog goes from Oz to Africa (4)The dog in the Wizard of Oz was Toto, who sang about Africa.
4Lupine, down the rabbit hole (4,5)Lupine suggests wolf, down the rabbit hole suggests Alice. Hence Wolf Alice.
6Arthur Lee’s 60s band (4)A straight clue, for Arthur's band Love.
7Composer Philip _____ (5)Another straight clue, for Mr Glass.
8Blue _____, _____ Jam (5)Pearl completes the names of these two acts.
9Everything but the girl (3,4)Ben Watt was everything but the girl in EBTG.
10They had a cardiac groove (4,4)Who said groove was in the heart? Deee-Lite!
11High powered song by 34D (3)With 34 Down being Wings, this would be Jet.
14Lots of TIAs (3,7)A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a mini stroke. So lots of them might be The Strokes.
16The bookmakers? (3,5)Not, not Ladbrokes. This is The Coral.
17Wide screen film format (8)Cinerama was a widescreen process that used three synchronized 35 mm projectors. It's also Gedge's other band.
18Sounds like they record in a shed (5)This would be Shack, which sounds like a shed, of course.
20Rosy Keith? (4,5)Rosy suggests pink. Keith might be Keith Floyd. So Pink Floyd.
21Home to Mick before he joined the council (3,6,6)Before Mick Talbot was a member of The Style Council, he was in Mod revivalists The Merton Parkas.
22Plain rude (3,7)How else would you describe Bad Manners?
24Luxuriant 4AD band (4)Luxuriant-sounding Lush were signed to 4AD.
25Had to get the best out of them (3,7)It wasn't until Pete Best had been kicked out that The Beatles really took off.
26Debuted with equines (5,5)Horses was the debut album from Patti Smith.
27Family business for alchemists (8,8)Alchemists would use lots of chemicals, so the family business might be Chemical Brothers.
28Late queen (6,8)The late Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul.
30Just playing at being a band (3,10)Playing at might be pretending, hence The Pretenders.
31Just playing at video games (4,3,3)Video Games being the breakout hit for Lana Del Rey.
32A certain Mr Yorke’s quartet (5,3,5)A Thom's four-piece. Or Atoms For Peace.
34The band The Beatles could have been (5)...is how Alan Partridge described Wings.
38All About ___ (3)Eve completes this band name.
41To the end… the focused bit (9,5)Francoise Hardy guested on To The End by unfocused-sounding Blur.
43Not us (4)If not us, then Them.
44They were out of their brilliant mind (9)Brilliant Mind was the biggest hit for the criminally under-rated band Furniture
47She wanted to kiss the pope … of mope (5,7)Nancy Sinatra covered the Morrissey track Let Me Kiss You.
50Positively prog! (3)Yes would be both positive and a prog band.
51Total blockhead (3,4)Ian Dury fronted The Blockheads.
53Loudon or Martha (10)They're a musical lot, the Wainwrights.
54A good source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants (3,11)Yes, The Cranberries were pretty good for you.
55Chris, guitarist in 106A (5)With 106 Across being Blondie, guitarist Chris must be Stein.
59Nothing ever happened for them (3,6)Nothing ever happens, sang Del Amitri.
60The pretenders (10)Not The Pretenders, but another bunch of Charlatans.
62Beloved of cannibals (8)Apparently some cannibal tribes called human meat longpig. Hence Longpigs.
63They were upstairs at Eric’s (5)...that being the title of an album by Yazoo.
64He sold the heat (6,6)Buster, he sold the heat, sang Madness, the Buster in question being the fabulous Prince Buster.
65_____ Basie (5)An easy gap to fill, with Count.
67No nut allergies for these boys (7)Madness were sometimes known as The Nutty Boys.
68Easy as 1-2-3 for Sheffield band (1,1,1)What was easy as 1-2-3? A-B-C, of course!
70Main enema for singer? (5,4)Slightly unpleasant anagram for Aimee Mann.
73Cold relations of 114D (6,7)With 114 Down being Gorillaz, their cold relations must be Arctic Monkeys.
74They scratched in a spiral motion (9)The debut EP from Buzzcocks was called Spiral Scratch.
76Indie rockers from Duluth (3)A straightforward description of Low.
77Not gone up in smoke (3)After the fire, what hasn't gone up in smoke is the Ash.
82A bashful, manic filth (4,3,4,7)Straight anagram for Half Man Half Biscuit.
83Stylish dance act (4)Stylish and dance act hopefully both suggest Chic.
85Did she lament for Stan? (4)Dido's Lament is an aria by Purcell, and Eminem sampled Dido for Stan.
88Amusements up in smoke? (6,4)You find amusements in an arcade and there's no smoke without fire, so Arcade Fire.
90Not the 80's TV alien (6,5)Alf was the 80's TV alien, and also a nickname for Alison Moyet.
91Jenny was a friend of theirs (3,7)So sang The Killers.
93You might expect this band to grow in number (3,8)Because they're called The Breeders, you see? I don't just throw this together, you know.
95___ Vicious (3)Although I did throw this fill-in-the-gap clue together. Sid Vicious, obviously.
96Full-on vocals (8)Full-on suggests ultra, vocals suggest vox. Ultravox, in other words.
102Relatives of 114D? (3,7)More relatives of Gorillaz? This time it's The Monkees.
105Take a pew to listen to this band (3,6)Where do you take a pew? In The Church.
107Test version of a group (3,4,4)In software, a test release is called a beta version. Hence, The Beta Band.
108Former president on Viagra? (6,1,1,1)Jimmy Carter made priapic would be Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, or Carter USM.
110They were on my radio (8)On my radio, sang Selecter.
113Ropey Norfolk indie also-rans (4)Props if you got this. Hopefully ropey suggested Cord to you.
114Monkey men (8)Gorillaz, of course.
115They would write crossword cluze (5)Slade were famed for such mis-spelling.
116Label for early Suede releases (4)Their early records were on Nude.
117Stick a bottle in the face of casino town (9)You might glass Vegas? Terrible clue for Glasvegas.
118He had a satanic hairstyle (4)Beck sang about a devil's haircut.
119Dangerous, their drab light (6)The debut album by Mansun was Attack Of The Grey Lantern.
120 He played a wicked game (5,5)Wicked Game was the biggest hit for Chris Isaak.
121Chilly theatre? (8)Chilly = cold. Theatre = play. Coldplay.
124Spanish archer? (5)El Bow? No, Elbow.
125A band with oomph, with energy (3,5)Oomph and energy both suggesting The Verve.
129From deadly comedy to in-demand producer (5)Producer Youth used to be in Killing Joke.
132Go to Oxford by bike (4)Ride were from Oxford, you see.
134Metal but thin, not heavy (4)Wire is a thin strip of metal.
135Sadly spliced in 2004 (4)Because that's when Gene sadly disbanded.

And that's it? How did you do?

Here's a picture, for those that like pictures.

Same time next year? Maybe...?

Friday, 28 September 2018

"Four letters... something, something, I, T"

A reminder to all that the New Amusements cryptic crossword answers will be published on Monday, so you've got until then if you're still puzzling away. And if you haven't started yet, what are you waiting for?

Monday, 24 September 2018

Cryptic clue time

I did a crossword on here this time last year; it was quite popular, so I've had another go. All answers are bands or solo artists or record-related. Some clues are cryptic, some are straightforward, and some are anagrams.

You can click the grid below for a bigger view. And new for this year, I've made the whole thing downloadable as a PDF, in case you want to print it off and do it at your leisure. Here's the PDF.

Good luck. Answers on the 1st of October. And yes, I recycled one clue.

ACROSSDOWN
1. Political writings, sort of (7,7)
3. They loved different lengths of tape (3,3,3)
5. He was in a NY state of mind (5,4)
12. Eternal funk now, from singer (6,8)
13. Had an eye to the telescope (1,1,8)
15. They should have reformed to cover Candy Girl (5)
19. Cuddly brothers and their band (7)
23. Not big from the neck up (3,5,5)
26. Doing us all a favour on the radio (6,7,12)
29. They promised that things could only get better (1,4)
33. Strange ____, bitches’ ____ (4)
35. She was torn (7,9)
36. Shortened tune (3,10)
37. Danté’s favourite band (3,6,6)
39. Lawrence’s soft material (4)
40. Not a dick (4)
42. Unicycles the lot (3,5,7)
45. Play cricket for a beating (3,3,6)
46. Extra dinosaur loses indefinite article (1,3)
47. Left waterhole to fly high (4,9)
48. The girl kept dry (7)
49. “I like ___ ____,” she said, sticking her tongue in my ear (3,4)
52. All points west (5)
56. They went from Guildford to Japan (3,6)
57. A wild rose grew from his bad seeds (4,4)
58. They asked Johnny Dee (3,13)
61. Empty stomach? (9)
66. Guitarist urinates (5)
67. Crikey, it’s the rozzer! (6,8)
69. Palindromic root vegetables (4)
71. Requires antihistamine (5)
72. _____ Washington (5)
74. Tree feeders (5)
75. Richard _____, one-time drummer with 105D (5)
76. Norfolk girls show no respect for their elders (4,3,7)
78. When Bernard met Brett … again (3,5)
79. Trap dry owl? (5,5)
80. Definite, definite article (3,3)
81. A confrontation (3,5)
84. Lettuce and tomato (5)
86. They made no criminal records (3,6)
87. Ordains as a singer? (5,4)
89. Took a tumble (3,4)
92. Sweetest trip for half a zebra (5,7)
94. Milkshake vendor (5)
97. First man and a killer yoghurt? (7)
98. Left Deptford by the underground (5,7)
99. Always correcting their own lyrics (7)
100. His dad has a new suitcase (5,5)
101. Not a hard amoeba (4,4)
103. Oye Esteban, indeed (10)
104. Stretchy first letter (8)
106. I get caught up in her hair (7)
107. The males gave birth in this band (3,9)
109. Sang ‘Between John and Yoko’ (4)
111. Angry Billy (4)
112. Others have moves like him (4,6)
115. Half audible (9)
117. Rubbish music (7)
122. Sang about matches (3,7)
123. Sounds like roe and muntjac (3,5)
126. Twin research facilities (9)
127. With rabbit breeders, on this beach? (4)
128. He felt safe, stuck in traffic (4,5)
130. A definite sphere (3,3)
131. This band are walked all over (8)
133. Two beards and a beard (1,1,3)
136. He liked his OJ… (5,7)
137. …but Shaun preferred a darker drink (5,5)
138. English prog rockers, sound Eastern (4)
139. They had the first base for la renard (2,7)
140. Model heathens? (3,10)
141. Ancient Mexican Leica (5,6)
142. Michael Fish and Billy Giles (3,7,8)
143. ___ A, Real Gone ___ (3)
1. Trains rely on it (7)
2. Little dog goes from Oz to Africa (4)
4. Lupine, down the rabbit hole (4,5)
6. Arthur Lee’s 60s band (4)
7. Composer Philip _____ (5)
8. Blue _____, _____ Jam (5)
9. Everything but the girl (3,4)
10. They had a cardiac groove (4,4)
11. High powered song by 34D (3)
14. Lots of TIAs (3,7)
16. The bookmakers? (3,5)
17. Wide screen film format (8)
18. Sounds like they record in a shed (5)
20. Rosy Keith? (4,5)
21. Home to Mick before he joined the council (3,6,6)
22. Plain rude (3,7)
24. Luxuriant 4AD band (4)
25. Had to get the best out of them (3,7)
26. Debuted with equines (5,5)
27. Family business for alchemists (8,8)
28. Late queen (6,8)
30. Just playing at being a band (3,10)
31. Just playing at video games (4,3,3)
32. A certain Mr Yorke’s quartet (5,3,5)
34. The band The Beatles could have been (5)
38. All About ___ (3)
41. To the end… the focused bit (9,5)
43. Not us (4)
44. They were out of their brilliant mind (9)
47. She wanted to kiss the pope … of mope (5,7)
50. Positively prog! (3)
51. Total blockhead (3,4)
53. Loudon or Martha (10)
54. A good source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants (3,11)
55. Chris, guitarist in 106A (5)
59. Nothing ever happened for them (3,6)
60. The pretenders (10)
62. Beloved of cannibals (8)
63. They were upstairs at Eric’s (5)
64. He sold the heat (6,6)
65. _____ Basie (5)
67. No nut allergies for these boys (7)
68. Easy as 1-2-3 for Sheffield band (1,1,1)
70. Main enema for singer? (5,4)
73. Cold relations of 114D (6,7)
74. They scratched in a spiral motion (9)
76. Indie rockers from Duluth (3)
77. Not gone up in smoke (3)
82. A bashful, manic filth (4,3,4,7)
83. Stylish dance act (4)
85. Did she lament for Stan? (4)
88. Amusements up in smoke? (6,4)
90. Not the 80’s TV alien (6,5)
91. Jenny was a friend of theirs (3,7)
93. You might expect this band to grow in number (3,8)
95. ___ Vicious (3)
96. Full-on vocals (8)
102. Relatives of 114D? (3,7)
105. Take a pew to listen to this band (3,6)
107. Test version of a group (3,4,4)
108. Former president on Viagra? (6,1,1,1)
110. They were on my radio (8)
113. Ropey Norfolk indie also-rans (4)
114. Monkey men (8)
115. They would write crossword cluze (5)
116. Label for early Suede releases (4)
117. Stick a bottle in the face of casino town (9)
118. He had a satanic hairstyle (4)
119. Dangerous, their drab light (6)
120. He played a wicked game (5,5)
121. Chilly theatre? (8)
124. Spanish archer? (5)
125. A band with oomph, with energy (3,5)
129. From deadly comedy to in-demand producer (5)
132. Go to Oxford by bike (4)
134. Metal but thin, not heavy (4)
135. Sadly spliced in 2004 (4)

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The chart show... reveal

...and the first video on the New Amusements YouTube channel to 500 views was... Sleeper performing Sale Of The Century. Somewhat predictably, not even Paul Simon could live with a resurgent Louise Wener, despite being online to view for more than a year longer. Funny what attracts attention and what doesn't - I really thought another Sleeper video from the same gig, their live mash-up of Atomic and Love Will Tear Us Apart, would have been more popular, but that currently only has 93 views and no likes. I don't understand people.

Anyway, this is also a reminder that the band are working on a new album, and you can pledge for it here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

All about Eve

If you have access to BBC America, you'll already know all about Killing Eve, but now the series has returned to the mothership, as the programme has launched here on BBC1. This is what the Beeb's media pack for the show has to say:

The BBC’s new eight-part thriller, Killing Eve, has been adapted by Bafta Award-winning writer and actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) from the novellas Codename Villanelle. Produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd (The Durrells, SS-GB), Killing Eve centres on two very different women.

Eve is a bored, whip-smart, pay-grade MI5 security officer whose desk-bound job doesn’t fulfil her fantasies of being a spy. Villanelle is a mercurial, talented killer who clings to the luxuries her violent job affords her. Killing Eve topples the typical spy-action thriller as these two fiercely intelligent women, equally obsessed with each other, go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse.

Starring Sandra Oh as Eve, and Jodie Comer as Villanelle, the series - a combination of brutal mischief making and pathos - is filled with sharp humour, originality and high-stakes action.

And if you think that sounds good, well, it seems to be, and is as original as the press pack suggests. Here's a trailer:

Anyway, on the basis of having watched the first episode, I'd say this looks worth investing some time in. What you might not get from some of the reviews is that the soundtrack is also brilliant but, frustratingly, not detailed in the credits. Thank goodness, then, for Tunefind, which attempts to catalogue all the songs. From series 1, episode 1, I particularly enjoyed these:

Oh, and as an aside, can you imagine any other channel running three such brilliant dramas as this, Bodyguard and Black Earth Rising at pretty much the same time? The BBC spoils us, and we are lucky to have it.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The chart show

Unbelievably, this humble and largely unread blog has a YouTube channel. It is nothing to write home about at all and I don't put a lot of time or effort into it; rather, it's just somewhere to offload videos that I have recorded, mainly grainy gig footage. It sees very little traffic.

Still, at the moment there is a bit of a race on - which will be first to 500 views: a fairly close up video of the reformed Sleeper performing Sale Of The Century, in which the picture quality is good, the cameraman (me) predictably focuses mainly on Louise and the bass drum is a bit too much for the mic on my camera to handle; or, a grainy, camera-phone video shot from way up high of Paul Simon performing Late In The Evening? A distant third sees Morrissey recycling How Soon Is Now? I suppose he could put on a late spurt but at the moment it seems to be a two-horse race.

Here's the playlist of my current ten most popular videos... none of which, as you will see, are very popular. First to 500 views? Place your bets.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Monday Sunday Morning ... 2

I haven't blogged much of late, as I am not in the right frame of mind. I am sort of drafting a piece on the new Paul Weller album, in my head, and an accompanying theory that is probably way off the mark. But until then, I heard this on the radio a week or so ago, and think it is pretty good. I know very little about Paul Jacobs other than that he comes from Montreal. That's it. Anyone fill in any gaps for me?

Friday, 7 September 2018

Clandestine Classic LVIII - Lettuce

The fifty-eighth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Everyone loved The Undertones. A great, Peel-endorsed singles band with a cheeky attitude and a distinctive vocal style. Even a song about Mars bars. What was not to love? A fair proportion of the fanbase might have felt a bit short-changed by Feargal Sharkey's solo career though, aside from a couple of catchy singles - the smooth, polished sound was miles away from the rough and ready rock and roll he'd been making with his Derry mates before getting all sophisticated. Lucky for us all then that two fifths of The Undertones (guitarist and songwriter John O'Neill plus his brother Damian) went on to form That Petrol Emotion, a band whose name was, John explained, meant to evoke the frustration and anger of those living in Northern Ireland at the time.

This new five-piece, fronted by Seattle-born singer Steve Mack, released their debut album, Manic Pop Thrill, in September 1985. It would eventually limp to number 84 in the charts, although would top the indie chart. Far more diverse musically than most of The Undertones' output, the band wore their influences on their sleeves. It was also a step forward lyrically, moving away from songs about cars and girls towards politics and social issues. As guitarist Raymond Gorman memorably suggested, it was "like the Undertones after discovering drugs, literature and politics, with a lot more girls in the audience dancing." And it was a denser, heavier sound than the highly-produced pop sheen their former band-mate Sharkey would embrace.

Manic Pop Thrill was critically, if not commercially, successful. John Peel continued his endorsement and Rolling Stone magazine described the band as "The Clash crossed with Creedence", which is a pretty good tagline for any band. And it was the start of a moderately successful career that would see them release six albums, the last in 2000, after which they split. There have been subsequent reunions, of course, but not much in the way of new material.

Today's classic is an album track, not one of the three singles from Manic Pop Thrill, and is called Lettuce (Rol, take note, should you ever do a 'salad' top ten). It's a great example of the heavier sound O'Neill was now chasing, whilst retaining the increased musical complexity of the last Undertones recordings. Crucially, the knack of producing an infectious riff, an ear-worm, has not been lost. Before today, I hadn't listened to this for at least ten years, yet every note remains ingrained. O'Neill's innate pop sensibilities hadn't been lost either - this is all over in less than two and a half minutes. Lyrically? A bit more obscure, I think; it's either about getting laid or getting high, I reckon. Who knows.

There's no That Petrol Emotion "best of" anywhere, which seems like a bit of an omission on somebody's part. If you want to pick up today's classic you're looking at Manic Pop Thrill or an equally good version on their Peel Session. Alternatively, it's on the excellent (and highly recommended) New Season Peel compilation, which is where I first found it. Or there's YouTube, of course.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Clandestine Classic LVII - You Can Talk To Me

The fifty-seventh post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Remember when John Squire left the Stone Roses, first time around, leaving them to scrabble around with stand-in guitarists to fulfil concert obligations? Yeah, you're my age or thereabouts, of course you remember. And remember how excited everyone got when Squire's new project, The Seahorses, emerged, seemingly fully formed, within a year? Okay, so there were mutterings... that Squire's lauded guitar playing had descended into self-indulgence, that the Seahorses' singer was a busker, and that the two didn't see eye to eye that well... that sort of thing. But the mutterings were overlooked, debut album Do It Yourself was generally quite well received, and the singles from it - Love Is The Law, Blinded By The Sun and Love Me Or Leave Me - all did well (#3, #7 and #16 in the singles chart respectively). I seem to remember a performance of Love Is The Law on Top Of The Pops where the crowd bowed, we're not worthy style, before Squire's riffing. Forget vocalist Chris Helme's excellent voice and teen-girl-bothering looks, it was Squire's project, and he was supposed to be the star.

And maybe that was part of the problem. Yes, Helme was spotted busking by Squire's guitar tech, but he could really sing, and he wrote songs too... just not the sort of songs that Squire was interested in. Indeed, John was hesitant about Chris from the start, concerned that he "closed his eyes when he sang and only folk singers do that", and later observing that "he can write the odd tune but I don't really like them and it might be a problem later on if he wants to record them with the band." Equally, Chris, once established in the band, felt undervalued and concerned about Squire's guitar onanism - he would later describe Squire's material as "muso wank". As if that wasn't enough, fan rumours about the band's name were rife, The Seahorses being an anagram of He Hates Roses - a trivial coincidence, but Squire felt the need to deny it, which the NME lapped up, of course. Plus the material was patchy - yes, the singles were great but parts of the rest of the album seemed a bit Fisher-Price, to the extent that some wondered whether the acclaim and column-inches afforded the band had been earned. And to top it all, the band were parodied by DJs Mark and Lard, as The Shirehorses. For all Squire's serious aspirations, the band seemed there to be lampooned.

But there was to be a parting shot. The band, now just Seahorses, dropping the definite article in a fruitless attempt to escape the anagram theorists, released one final single, today's Clandestine Classic, You Can Talk To Me - this saw Helme and Squire share the writing credits, and is perhaps their best co-composition. Helme's voice soars as it is want to do, whilst Squire reins in his over-blown tendencies and plays it with a straight bat, keeping the chords quite simple - it feels almost like a traditional folk tune. Although if you study the lyrics closely, you can almost see the join between the Helme and Squire lyrics - the middle eight with the natural born killer/Polyfilla rhyme feels a bit out of place. Whoever's song it really is, Helme still performs this live, as part of his stripped down solo set, and it still works.

Whatever. The band's last single limped to #15 in the chart, but the expected parent album failed to materialise, and the band imploded (as bands with Squire in tend to do, sometimes more than once). This then was their swansong and, for me, remains the best, most sing-along single from what was most definitely a singles band: Helme (literally) ends on a high note and Squire tacks a bit of muso rock noodling on the end, for old times' sake.

There's no Seahorses "best of" that I can find, so if you want to own today's classic you're talking silly money on Amazon. YouTube it is then.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Coincidence or no?

I rewatched Terry Gilliam's excellent Twelve Monkeys earlier this week, partly because it was referenced in the highly recommended Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema sci-fi episode, partly because it happened to be on the iPlayer and partly because I wanted to remind myself how good it is. And in watching it, I noticed something I hadn't picked up on before.

There's a scene roughly half-way through in which our protagonist, James Cole (Bruce Willis), beats up some lowlife before they beat him up. His heroine, Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), fears that he has killed them, to which Cole replies, "All I see are dead people." Which seems to foreshadow the tag line from another Philly-set Willis vehicle, The Sixth Sense, in which Haley Joel Osment's character Cole Sear explains, "I see dead people."

Coincidence or intentional reference by M. Night Shyamalan? Who knows? And apart from me, who cares?


From one Cole to another...

Twelve Monkeys pre-dates Sixth Sense by four years.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The trouble with anniversary tours

I've nothing against anniversary tours in general. You know the sort of thing: "It's 25 years since Album X was released and Band Y are reuniting to play the whole album, in full - don't miss it!" Later this year, I will be going to see From The Jam on their All Mod Cons 40th anniversary tour - I've got no problem with that, not even the fact that only one third of the actual Jam is now involved. And in recent years I've seen The Wedding Present run through George Best too, which was blissful. So I hope it's pretty clear that I have no problem with the concept - it's rose-tinted nostalgia for the fans and a few quid in the pension pot for the band. Everyone wins.

Except... (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) Except I do have a problem when the anniversary excuse is tenuous and/or the act of celebration is unjustified. You might think something has triggered this mini-rant and you'd be right, for this morning I had an email from a local gig venue advertising this:

In celebration of the twelfth anniversary of celebrated million-selling album 'Twelve Stops and Home', The Feeling will be performing the album in full this October.

Where shall I start?

First off, who celebrates a twelve year anniversary? Even when there's a tenuous (and desperate) numeric tie-in with the album title? Secondly, who feels this album needs celebrating? So much so, in fact, that they feel the need to have a "celebration of ... [a] celebrated million-selling album"? (Really, who edits this copy?) And thirdly, are The Feeling suddenly so skint or in need of a career boost that this seems like a good idea to them?

Christ, if you really must celebrate a twelfth anniversary, why not look at a decent album, maybe Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. Except no-one feels the need to celebrate that because, you know, Arctic Monkeys are still active and producing new material. Still relevant. Still going forwards. Still all the things that maybe The Feeling are not so much, any more. And don't think I've just got it in for The Feeling - after all, last year The View were touting a tenth anniversary tour of Hats Off To The Buskers, unbelievably. My beef really is just anniversary tours that purport to celebrate something that really isn't worth celebrating, rather than just admit career stagnation and financial imperative. Gah!

Anyway, enough of me being a misery-guts. I leave you with selections from albums actually deserving of celebration, for 12, 20, 30 and 40-year anniversaries respectively. Which would you pay to see performed in full?

12 years

20 years

30 years

40 years

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Toes back in

I've been away for a bit, literally (holiday) and sort of metaphorically (offline). I've quite liked both, if I'm honest. But since I heard this on the radio yesterday for the first time in ages, I thought I'd post it here as a way of dipping my toes back in the water. You all know and love it already, I expect, because you're well-informed and of discerning taste. So here's Spitfire by Public Service Broadcasting.

Retracts toes...

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Rock steady

My favourite Aretha track (and one of many tunes I owe to the High Fidelity soundtrack).

R.I.P.

To age is a sin

"... do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticised and vilified and definitely not played on the radio."

Time flies, doesn't it? Even this is 20 years old. Happy birthday, Madge.

And from 1999...

Monday, 13 August 2018

Manners maketh man

I was in the supermarket yesterday, coming towards the end of my shop. I fancied a bottle of ale for the Sunday evening ahead, and so made my way to the relevant aisle. I stood next to a man in his sixties, who was filling his basket with a fine selection of craft beers. I reached up to take a single bottle - up but not, in my view, across.

"An 'excuse me' wouldn't go amiss," said the other bloke, without turning to look at me.

"I'm sorry?" I replied, not really understanding what he was going on about. He turned to actually look at me then.

"An 'excuse me' wouldn't go amiss," he repeated. Now I was genuinely at a loss as to what I was supposed to have done, and for a moment couldn't think of anything to say, so he carried on. "You reached right across me there, without saying 'excuse me'."

And with that, he turned and walked off before I could even begin to defend myself.

But he wasn't done. From the safety of the far end of the aisle he stopped, turned back to me and called out, "All courtesy is gone!" And then, so was he.

This rankled me, and it's rankled me ever since. Moments before I'd arrived in the beer aisle I passed another shopper just as a punnet of strawberries fell to the floor from his overfull trolley. I immediately bent to pick it up for him, he said "Thanks," and I said "You're welcome." See? I am not a rude person. So the thought that some old boy was going to go straight home from the supermarket and pontificate to his long-suffering wife about the decline of moral standards and the loss of common courtesy, using me as an example, really, really bugged me.

There's only one song to go along with this, isn't there? And I heard it on the radio at the weekend too, which reminded me of how good it is. It's quite fashionable in some quarters to knock Sting, call him pretentious, mock his affectations, all that. He didn't help himself with that album of lute songs either. But I loved The Police and I still have a lot of time for their frontman. I slightly surprised myself by remembering all the lyrics to this too, and had a little radio singalong. Maybe they've stuck with me because they suit my world view, what do you think?

I don't drink coffee I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on one side
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I'm an Englishman in New York

See me walking down Fifth Avenue
A walking cane here at my side
I take it everywhere I walk
I'm an Englishman in New York

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York

If "Manners maketh man" as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night a candle's brighter than the sun

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than a license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

If "Manners maketh man" as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York

So I'm trying hard to suffer ignorance and smile, and keep on being myself. Here's the song.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Not (just) another throwback... about a timeless look

Sharon Tate died 49 years ago today, murdered by members of Charles Manson's family. She was 26.

The thing that stops this being just another throwback Thursday post, keeping the blog ticking over, is the observation that, by the tail-end of the 60s, Sharon had adopted a look that was very 2018. Here are some pictures which, in my inexpert view, look like they could have been taken yesterday. What do you think?

You see, by contrast, this was number one in the UK on 9th August 1969. The song stands up well... the look, not so much. Being timeless is hard.

By the way, normal blogging service will be resumed very soon, i.e. no more "about" posts, Wordless Wednesdays or Throwback Thursdays. Probably.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Infrequency

Back in another life, when I used to sell hi-fi, it was easy to sell an expensive pair of headphones. I'd talk about the audible range of the human ear being 20Hz to 20kHz, then I'd show the aspiring audiophile the headphone stats on the back of the box. "See, with these cheaper makes, that top out at 17k, you won't be able to hear the top end." The Beyer and Sennheiser practically sold themselves.

This morning, I caught two minutes of an excellent kid's TV show called Operation Ouch, in which twin brothers and doctors Chris and Xand van Tulleken look at health issues and the human body, in a primary-friendly way. Dr Chris was looking at how the ear works, and why hearing degrades over time. As part of this, he (in his mid to late 30s) went head to head with a 7-yr old in a high frequency test. Dr Chris topped out at 16kHz. The boy was still going strong at 18kHz.

Me? I could just hear 14kHz.

Too many gigs, too many clubs in my youth, and just too darned old (I'm a fair bit older than Dr Chris). If you want to try your own hearing out, there's a good high frequency test that you can depress yourself with at audiocheck.net, although I refer you all to my old man's comments on ageing before you try. And if your hearing is better/younger than mine, don't feel the need to tell me... I probably won't hear you anyway.

Only one song for this, the obvious choice. Don't turn it up too loud.

Great moments in music video history #3a and #3b - Love's Great Adventure and Closer

Personally, I quite like it when a music video steps outside of itself. The first example I can really remember was a past-their-best Ultravox offering up this breather a mere 30 seconds into the video for Love's Great Adventure:

And then there's Closer, from Travis, which I've featured here before. Check this out from around 2:45, with peak outside-ness from 3:06. No points for ID'ing Ben Stiller.

Can you think of any other videos with a pause in the proceedings?

Sunday, 29 July 2018

The King of Parochia

This song is six years old, yet I've only just heard it, because I'm trapped in my own little closed system, my own arrogant little mirrored bubble, of only listening to things I already know I like.

And the worst part of this is, I've always been the same yet, at the same time, have been proud of the breadth of my musical knowledge. What a fraud.

Even this, which I've suddenly discovered, six years after the event, is a predictable "like", with its soft guitar jangle, indie delivery and hint of twee. And really, am I saying I like it, or that I approve of it, with my self-serving sense of unearned, undeserved musical superiority? What a tool.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Latitude 2018 - delicious

It's ten years since I first went to the Latitude Festival, three years since I last went. I've changed a lot in that period, and so has Latitude. I went again this year, just for a day on Sunday. For the first time, my choice of ticket was driven by the undercard, rather than the headliner. How did I get on, in the scorched dust bowl of Henham Park, you might wonder? With the festival app that was so buggy and crash-happy that I forked out a tenner for the programme book instead? Well here, in the manner of my old festival diaries, is what I got up to. All photos can be embiggened with a click.

Sunday:

  • Dylan Moran : Comedy stage. I haven't seen Dylan live before, so I don't know if the whole "doesn't have an act" schtick is an act or, you know, the act, but it doesn't matter because the whole seemingly disjointed, free-associative delivery really works. Moran riffed on the Internet, technology, relationships, gender, giving up alcohol and a whole lot more. Struck a chord.
  • Richard Ayoade in conversation with Mark Kermode : Film and Television arena. I don't mind Kermode, and am a huge fan of Ayoade, so was not going to miss this, even though this was the hottest, most crowded tent I was in the whole festival, so much so that there was a mild rebellion in the audience when the organisers tried to cram even more people in. Mark and Richard discussed the genre classic Roadhouse, Richard's book The Grip Of Film, his film adaptations of Submarine and The Double, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, even The IT Crowd, before opening up for an audience Q&A. This over-ran, and nobody minded in the least.
  • Hannah Peel : BBC Music stage. A cool, breezy tent after the heat of the previous session, but the relaxed atmosphere was spoiled a little by the volume. I don't want to sound like Huey Lewis in Back To The Future but it was just too darned loud, and I put my gig-plugs in. I know, I know. Hannah reaches for a dreamy, ethereal sound, surrounded by a bank of keyboards, with just a drummer to fill out the sound. Name-checking Paul Buchanan and The Blue Nile might give a hint of Hannah's style, but her most effective moment was a cover of Tainted Love accompanied only by a hand-wound music box, playing from a punched card, even if she struggled to hear this over the thump of the main stage. And then, to prove her many talents, Hannah whipped out a violin for her closing track.
  • Reasons to be Cheerful podcast live, with Geoff Lloyd and Ed Miliband : The Speakeasy. After a relaxed and much needed cup of tea and slice of cake from the Greenpeace tent, it was off to see Geoff and Ed attempt to record a live podcast in what used to be called the Literature Arena. Geoff and Ed were beset by technical problems at first, especially with the microphones - Ed tried to compensate for this by geeing the crowd up at every opportunity. But once everything settled down, they brought out their first guest, a scientist called Simon (sorry, I didn't make a note of his surname) to talk about the Anthropocene. Sadly, this was the cue for some in the crowd to bail out. And when Simon pointed out that, because of climate change, the recent heatwave will be common and persistent by 2050, a sunburnt couple in front of me turned to give each other a gurning thumbs-up. This is what we're up against. And the disconcerting facts came thick and fast after that - a estimated three trillion trees have been lost during man's time on the planet; we have produced enough concrete to cover the entire Earth in a layer 2mm thick, and enough plastic to clingfilm the planet. I don't know about reasons to be cheerful, but there were certainly reasons to be thoughtful. As for Ed Miliband ... well, I went to this to see what he was like when he was just being himself, not scripted, not media-schooled, not spun. And you know what? He seems a bit more engaging, more natural, more real. I think this version of Ed would attract more votes than the one that was wheeled out against Cameron.
  • Sleeper : the Obelisk Arena (main stage). For the first time, my choice of which day to attend Latitude was driven, not by the headliner, but by an act lower on the bill because yes, I was very keen to see the reformed and re-energised Sleeper. Like a million other indie boys, I was a little bit in love with Louise Wener back in the mid 90s, and you never forget your first loves, do you? And she and her Sleeperblokes (original guitarist and drummer, Jon and Andy, and new bassist Kieron [ex-Prodigy touring band], plus supplementary guitarist, saxophonist and keyboards) did not disappoint. There were most of the hits from back in the day (Delicious, What Do I Do Now?, Nice Guy Eddie, Inbetweener, Sale Of The Century, and more) plus some interesting covers: a mix of Blondie's Atomic and Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart was particularly ambitious, but well executed. Feeling Peaky seguéd into Lou Reed's Satellite Of Love nicely too, a song that really suits Louise's voice. And yes, I guess I'm still a little bit in love with Louise. Dressed in her Super Her t-shirt, she thought she should tell us, as this was World Cup final day, that she was born on the day England won the World Cup. So yes, she's 52. I'm happy to report that she still bounces the same on stage, though maybe not quite so high. Anyway. Sleeper are recording a new album, funded through PledgeMusic - you can and should back them here.
  • Grace Savage : The Speakeasy. After a quick bite to eat, I made my way back to The Speakeasy and, by virtue of them running late, caught the tail end of Grace Savage. Apparently she has been British beatbox champion four times but, on this evidence, there is more to her than that. She sings original compositions which, although not my cup of tea, were very listenable. Especially since I was sat down, with an actual cup of tea. She also engaged brilliantly with the audience, and had the yoof dancing at the front, no mean achievement in what is basically the book tent. One to watch, I would say, especially if I was 35 years younger.
  • Adam Kay - This Is Going To Hurt : The Speakeasy. It was Adam that I actually came to the Speakeasy to see. Adam was an obs & gynae ("parts and labour") doctor in a large hospital, before a series of events that I won't describe (no spoilers) led him to quit. He has since turned his old reflective learning log into a best-selling book, that shines a light both comedic and tragic on the state of acute care in the NHS, and the pressures on junior doctors. Adam read excerpts from the book, interspersed with comedy medical songs - well-known tunes to which Adam has put funny, medical lyrics. This works well, and he is clearly a talented pianist, if not a great singer. He ended with reading the last entry from that reflective learning log which recounts the tipping point that caused him to walk away, at which point the laughs stopped and Adam began an impassioned defence of junior doctors, and a scathing attack on the politicians who seek to destroy the NHS. This got the biggest cheer of all. I bought his book afterwards, got it signed and shook his hand.
  • Wolf Alice : the Obelisk Arena (main stage). Hanging on to meet Adam Kay made me late for Wolf Alice, so they were well into their stride when I arrived. And man, were they loud! The bass reached inside my chest and reaarranged some organs! Okay, so my hearing is going to hell in a hand-basket, but the subterranean bass emanating from Wolf Alice made me fear for the hearing of the children further forward than me, with no ear-defenders. But anyway. Ellie Rowsell made for an engaging front-woman in her floaty white damsel dress and loosely laced Doc's. The Jumbotrons at either side of the stage also revealed that Ellie was wearing a claddagh ring, but I couldn't remember whether the way she was wearing it meant she was in a relationship or looking for one. Either way, she was on fire, sitting on the edge of the stage for a quieter number, wigging out with the rest of the band for Giant Peach, in this, their first appearance on the main stage having debuted at Latitude five years earlier. Guitarist Joff Oddie worked his way through a series of seemingly identical Fender Jaguars, one of which he throttled rather than played. As Giant Peach faded out into a wall of looping feedback and blue lights, Rowsell picked up sweary bassist Theo Ellis and spun him around - Wolf Alice's work was done. Awesome.
  • Gabrielle Aplin : BBC Music stage. I arrived at the second stage just in time to see Aplin perform her breakout track, the former Christmas ad-soundtracking cover of Frankie's The Power Of Love. It was an undeniably powerful performance, undiminished by familiarity, with Gabrielle spotlit from above. Meaning no disrespect to her more than capable band, this was a hard act to follow - for my money, Aplin is better suited to stripped back, solo songs rather than those with the full band treatment. This was well evidenced on set closer Fool's Love - a perfectly adequate track but it felt like Aplin was stretching, whereas her interpretation of others' songs seemed more relaxed.
  • Rob Kemp - The Elvis Dead : The Speakeasy. Headliners Alt-J weren't ever going to do it for me. I know. I'm an old man, with parochial music taste - you've got me, well done. Anyway, that's how I came to be in The Speakeasy for the end of my day at Latitude, watching comedian Rob Kemp dramatise scenes from The Evil Dead 2, by singing suitably lyric-changed versions of Elvis songs as clips from the movie played on a screen behind him. So "Devil In Disguise" became "Dead Eye In Disguise", and so on. You get the idea. It might sound odd, but it really works, and was very funny. A fine end to a hot, tiring day.

And that was that. Because I didn't stay for every note of the headliner, for once I had no problem getting out of the car-park and was home at a decent time. So what did I make of Latitude 2018? Is it still essential festival fare? Well... yes. I think so. It's a wonderful event, and the multi-media format, embracing books, film, theatre and more, as well as music, makes it stand out. Would I have liked a headliner that I felt compelled to see? Yes, of course. And would I have liked my hearing to be in better shape, to enjoy the louder bands without gig plugs? Again, of course. But I chose a Sunday ticket to see Sleeper, and they exceeded all expectations. I was also keen to get to know Wolf Alice better, and was bowled over by their performance. The bottom line is this - there is something for everyone, every day, at Latitude. It is impossible not to enjoy yourself there.

I'll leave you with a video or three.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

About the Moon

Because I expect a lot of people will be looking up at the Moon, somewhat wistfully, this time next year, I thought I'd get in twelve months early. And besides, it keeps the blog ticking over.

So, for this, the 49th anniversary of the first man on the lunar surface, here's a clip of one great man interviewing another.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

About the fifteenth of July

Guitarists, note how Bill has capo'ed his way half an octave up the neck, allowing him to sing this half an octave lower than normal. Sore throat, or artistic reasons? We shall never know. Either way, love this version.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The morning after

So it wasn't to be, but well done to Gareth's boys. And they really are boys, in some cases, so young. Anyway, please beat Belgium and at least bring home the third place medal, and maybe a golden boot for Harry. Then (and more importantly) please don't let this be a false dawn - kick on and do well in Euro 2020.

Seems like a good time to play this - re-releases aside, surely New Order's last great single?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Good luck lads

Number 1 when England lost their Euro '96 semi-final was Killing Me Softly by Fugees (yes, really - Three Lions was number 2 that week).

Number 1 when England lost their Italia '90 semi-final was the double A-side Sacrifice/Healing Hands by Elton John (yes, really - Nessun Dorma was number 2 that week, World In Motion was at 6).

So... here's the number 1 from 30th July 1966, when Jules Rimet really was still gleaming.

Good luck tonight, lads - hope you're not out of time come the final whistle.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

About Wimbledon

An early sporting memory to keep the blog ticking over...

As an aside, if you haven't seen it, Borg McEnroe is a very watchable film, dramatising the events leading up to the 1980 Wimbledon final. And for all the talk of bitter rivalry, fire and ice, and Mac effectively retiring Borg after beating him in the '81 final, it's worth remembering that when John came to get married in 1986, Björn was his best man...

Friday, 6 July 2018

In case it doesn't come home...

...which, given that I rate us the seventh or eighth best team left in the tournament, is entirely feasible ... I mean, tomorrow, we're playing a well-organised, defensive side who have only conceded one goal in the whole tournament thus far, and we haven't scored too much that wasn't from the penalty spot or a deflection, and certainly not against any teams of note ... but anyway, of course it's nice to have something positive to think about, something that isn't Brexit, or an impotent Prime Minister, or perma-tanned balding man-babies with nuclear buttons, or overpopulation, or deforestation, or global warming, or species extinction, or - well, the list goes on. Just try to maintain some objectivity, England, that's all - be hopeful but don't be optimistic. And certainly don't be confident.

And since you probably won't be needing to watch the final on Sunday 15th, you might conceivably be looking for something else to peruse instead. Something a bit gentler, maybe comedic, to lift your post-footy mood, maybe a bit blokey, to blur the edges of the testosterone void the inevitable departure from the World Cup has left. So let me point you towards the hidden gem that is Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, in which Bob Mortimer (triple heart bypass) and Paul Whitehouse (three stents) discuss life, mortality and cardiac problems, whilst Paul teaches Bob to fish at numerous beautiful locations in the British Isles. Unscripted, unsentimental, somewhat unplanned and very, very watchable. Here's the trailer, which explains the premise better than I.

And a clip from episode 2, in which novice Bob catches a bigger barbel than the experienced Paul.

I should add that you need no great interest in, or love for, fishing to enjoy this. I've been fishing a few times, in my younger day, with The Man Of Cheese, but that's the limit of my knowledge. But I still enjoy this. It's about friendship, you see, and growing older, and seeing the world through a different lens, and still being able to laugh with your mate about everything. And I'm all in favour of that.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Fantasy Cover Version #16 - if Black Sabbath covered "Bits And Pieces"...

The sixteenth contributor to this series is C, from the always-excellent Sun Dried Sparrows, and is written with all the thought and detail that makes her blog so compelling. As you will see...

My line of thought started when I saw a clip of the Dave Clark Five doing "Bits And Pieces" on something the other day. Ugh, I hate that song. It really grates. I mean, he’s in bits – he’s in pieces, for Chrissakes, because he’s been dumped -and yet the song is all bouncy and happy and singalong. Maybe it’s just his way of combatting the rejection blues but she went away and left him misery, and that’s the way it will always be, now she says it was just a game but all she’s doin’ is leavin’ him pain. And there they are on "Top Of The Pops" swaying cheerily from side to side like those nodding plastic flower things that go nuts in the sun when you put them on your window sill. (I understand the official term for this item is a Flip Flap. Good to know.) The Dave Clark Five sound, and look, more glad all over than in pieces, bits and pieces.


Too glad all over

Thus I started thinking how this song really ought to be a little more maudlin-sounding, surely. Slowed down a little, and played in a minor key. How much would that change it? So, here’s my challenge to you – think of something a teensy bit sad now, and as you start to choke up slightly (sorry), bring the tune and mood of the Funeral March to mind.


Ashes to ashes (not that one)

Okay, once you’ve got that feel, and that general musical vibe going on, try singing these two lines from "Bits And Pieces" at half speed, in the same note pattern as by the Dave Clark Five but much more plaintively. "Since you left me and you said goodbye, all I do is sit and cry." Now, tell me that that couplet in your head, once phrased in this dirge-like manner, doesn’t sound just like Ozzy Osbourne? The limited vocal expression and switching to a minor key would suit him so well, especially with the way the last syllables in each line are elongated into two – bi-iye and cri-iy. It would sound not unlike "Iron Man".


A bit Paranoid

I want, and need, to hear Black Sabbath cover "Bits And Pieces". It would be the perfect fit.

So what do you reckon? A very good argument, I reckon. And how surprised am I to have featured some Chopin on New Amusements? (Answer: not as much as I am to have featured Black Sabbath...)

Think you can suggest a fantasy cover version this good? Then please, try your luck and remember - the more you make the case, the better! The list of past submissions may inspire you.