Sunday 25 December 2022

Sunday shorts: Hark!

I posted this as part of my online Advent calendar back in 2015 but hardly anyone read the blog back then, so I feel okay about repeating myself. Plus at only 1m 42, it qualifies as a Sunday short!

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals. See you on the other side.

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Bands won't play no more

RIP Terry Hall, a relatable yet groundbreaking star, who seldom put a foot wrong. Taken so young, this feels sad indeed.

Here's one of the first songs, if not the first, that I taped from the radio.

Saturday 17 December 2022

All that you can do is watch them play

Happy birthday to my oldest, best mate, The Man of Cheese. If my records are correct (and they are - of course they are), the first gig we went to together was, unbelievably, Blur, in October 1991. I seem to recall us drinking rather a lot of snakebite and black, made with unhealthily strong K cider. That might explain falling into a ditch on the way back to my student digs after the gig, and it may also explain later trying to eat frozen bread when it transpired that was the only food I had in the house...

Of course we weren't the only ones who had a bit to drink that night. Blur were in their post-Leisure, pre-Popscene phase, and things were not going brilliantly for them. This might explain why they were quite so well lubricated on stage, with Damon introducing their biggest hit to date with the memorable phrase, "You're going to think this is shit." He had, at least, moved on from the haircut he sported in the video for it, but the band as a whole had yet to reinvent themselves.

Blur got better, of course, a lot better; we saw them again just two and a half years later, by which time they were headlining the Shepherd's Bush Empire, with a nascent Sleeper supporting. Damon et al. had recently gone top five with Girls and Boys, and topped the album chart with Parklife; they were almost like a different band. Another top, top night, that was, though with no K cider or frozen bread...

It seems impossible to me, mate, that first tipsy gig being 31 years ago. Equally impossible, that we were dropped into the same class at school on the sole but fortuitous basis of surname alphabetical order, some forty years ago. Essentially, impossible that our youth is such a distant thing. Still, no-one can say we didn't give it a good go, can they? And still are! Happy birthday, my cheese-eating friend.

Wednesday 14 December 2022

That Was The Year That Was: 2022

This is the twelfth time I've recapped a year like this (for completists, here are the others); I nearly didn't bother, on the grounds that I consume so little new material, and no-one cares about my opinion. So I was going to give it a swerve...

...but then had an attackers of blogger's guilt. So here we are ... if "here" is realising that what I "consume" these days is, more than ever, driven by my notional roles of father and partner than by my own individual, personal taste. Especially what I watch, as will become apparent.

But enough prevarication; let's crack on with this load of old balls and see how little new stuff I've tried this year.

Best album

Suede, Autofiction
When I wrote about Autofiction by Suede earlier in the year I described it as "a faster, heavier sound than most of the output from their Indian summer" and that it "might just be their best Bernard-less album". I stand by all that; here's a band, 30+ years after they started and with no small amount of drama in their history, still sounding exciting, still sounding like they're trying. Highly recommended and my album of the year. Honourable mentions: Johnny Marr for Fever Dreams Pts 1-4; The Smile for A Light For Attracting Attention.

Best song

I though Suede were going to have this stitched up too, with the excellent She Still Leads Me On but no, the nod goes to Graham Coxon's new project Waeve, for the sheer brilliance and audacious ear-wormery that is Something Pretty - once heard, never forgotten. Reformation nostalgia enormo-gigs might be his pension plan, but he's still the most interesting quarter of Blur.

Best gig

Morrissey live, Brighton Centre, 14 Oct 2022
It's been a quiet year, gig-wise. So, excellent (in very different ways) though Crowded House and Half Man Half Biscuit were, this is a toss-up between two old men: Paul Weller at the local uni, early in the year, and Morrissey, in Brighton, as autumn got up and running. There's nothing in it, they were both excellent. I ought to give Paul the nod, it's the socially acceptable answer, but I'm going for SPM, the deciding factor being that I had The Man Of Cheese for company in Brighton, and a gig shared is almost always better than a lone gig.

Best book

I've read a few books this year, but not many of them are new for 2022. In fact, I think Fairy Tale by Stephen King is the only book published this year that I've read so far. So that ought to win, but it won't. The best book I've read this year, by some distance, is Fallout by Sadie Jones; I summarised it at the time as a "supremely well-written tale of love, lust, lies and liaisons, set against a beautifully-realised evocation of early 70s theatreland," and if that doesn't whet your appetite, nothing will. Jones also has a new book out, Amy & Lan, that I haven't read yet but already predict will be in the running for this accolade, if you can call it that, next year. Oh, and I should also give a mention to Headhunters by Jo Nesbo, as that would have got the nod if not for Sadie.

Best film

I am somewhat embarrassed by the paucity of films I've been to see this year. Indeed, most of the films I've seen have been for the benefit of Amusements Minor. So whilst I'm sure there have been plenty of good films out there, the pick of what I've seen in 2022 is Spiderman: No Way Home, which is an indecent amount of fun and even managed to prise some grudging admiration for Tobey Maguire's Peter from the boy. I should also give honourable mentions to Netflix's Don't Look Up, the biting climate-change analogy that everyone should watch, and, for sheer ludicrous spectacle, Top Gun: Maverick. Blimey: remember when I used to watch real films?

Best television

Even if not up to the dazzling standards of earlier series, Ghosts has continued to be a joy - there's a Christmas Day special coming too, if you're interested. And I've watched the Alex Rider series on Amazon Prime's annoyingly-named Freevee channel, and that has been a hoot, real whole-family-watching-together television (decent theme song too). But other that that it's been a slow year for TV, at Amusements Towers, at least. I'll edit this later if I suddenly remember something but at the moment I can't think of a standout highlight. Sorry!

Best sport

Leah Williamson at Euro 2022
Easy to forget, in the aftermath of Qatar and the inevitable disappointment of losing as soon as we come up against a top-tier team, that actually England won a major football trophy this year. And were quite brilliant doing it, so much so that the Lionesses scooping the Euros is my sporting highlight of the year, not just for the achievement but hopefully for the permanent change they have triggered in football in this country. I'll give an honourable mention to my individual sports personality of the year too, pro cyclist Imogen Cotter, who suffered a potentially career-ending (life-ending!) injury in training at the start of the year and has been nothing short of inspirational fighting back from it ever since. Just, wow.

Person of the year

Paul McCartney with Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury 2022
For a long time, it looked like money-saving expert Martin Lewis had this in the bag, championing the poor of the nation and speaking truth to power too. It seems impossible for me to fathom that so many are so poor, struggling so badly, in what is still the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. But we are where we are. So well done, Martin, your efforts have helped so many. But my person of the year is Paul McCartney, headlining Glastonbury at 80 years of age, and doing an excellent job of it. He's basically a very few years younger than my old man who, on occasion, struggles a bit to headline the armchair. So well done Paul - I hope you tour at least once more, so I can finally see you live.

Tool of the year

I need a bigger toolbox ... where shall we start? Johnson, Truss, Kwarteng, Sunak, Patel, Braverman, Rees-Mogg, Shapps, Hancock, Dorries. We need shot of them all from public life, from public service, because they do us all a dis-service, to say the least. Further afield? Man-child Putin, throwing missiles and young Russians onto the bonfire of his own vanity, a possible comeback from Trump, the dollar-enabled kid-in-a-candy-store that is Elon Musk, the Oscars implosion of Will Smith, the angsty proclamations of minor royals enjoying major privilege, the perma-tanned barrel-scraping and down-dumbed miasma of reality television, those who are famous for being famous, anyone who applauds themselves on television, oh Jesus, I could go on. I'm not going to pick one person... I'm just begging, hoping beyond hope that 2023 is better.

Well, blogger's guilt, I hope that was worth it. But reader ... how was it for you?

Tuesday 6 December 2022

The Loneliest Time of Year

The Wedding Present are concluding 24 Songs, their 30th anniversary "twelve singles in a year" effort, with a suitably maudlin festive tune. To quote from an interview Gedge has just given Uncut magazine:

"Ah, the old 'Christmas song'," writes bandleader David Gedge. "To be honest, I've kind of been one of those 'bah, humbug' types ever since I realised that the only thing we're really celebrating on 25th December is capitalism! 'Thanks for the list of stuff you want me to buy for you, here's a list of stuff I want you to buy for me.' There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but, for me, one of the most appealing things about the festive season is the way pop songs always seem more poignant when they're also Christmas songs. It's all about heightened expectation and disappointment, perhaps.

"I've had a go myself a couple of times over the years, of course, and it seemed fitting to have another crack at it for the grand finale of '24 Songs'. Hence, 'The Loneliest Time Of Year' has a huge, melancholy chorus, sleigh bells, and an appropriately surreal video.

You won't hear this on Bland FM but I think it's rather lovely. If you agree, well, The Loneliest Time Of Year will be released on Friday December 16th. You can bag the 7" – either individually or as part of the complete box set of all twelve 24 Songs singles – right here. Why not give in to that pesky capitalism and treat yourself to an early Christmas present...?

Thursday 1 December 2022

Twenty-two in '22: Fairy Tale

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

12/22: Fairy Tale by Stephen King

The blurb: Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was seven, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself - and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her ageing master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.

Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.

King's storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale about another world than ours, in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy - and his dog - must lead the battle.

The review: The dedication at the start of this book reads "Thinking of REH, ERB, and, of course, HPL" and that tells you all you really need to know about what follows. For this is King's homage to the books he consumed in his youth, and the writing of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and especially H.P. Lovecraft. Indeed, you could say that Fairy Tale is King's take on Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu. Of course, King being King there are plenty of other fictional touchstones woven in too, from conventional fairytales like Rumpelstiltskin and The Three Little Pigs, to more recent fairytale allegories like Star Wars and The Hunger Games. He even throws in a subtle reference to his own Dark Tower series, for the Constant Readers among us to spot.

Also, King being King, the author has great fun with the fact that all the best fairytales have gruesome aspects. And we know he can do gruesome!

Anyway, I'd better write a review, hadn't I? This is King's umpteenth book, and he's racked up a pajillion sales, so he can write, we all know that. This is no exception: it's an enjoyable page-turner, that I rattled through quicker than anything I've read since ... well, since the last King novel I read. It won't win him many new fans but if you already like his work, you'll like this too. And that ought to be the end of the review, hadn't it? Well, it is, really, except for one observation. Like many of King's novels, Billy Summers being the most recent obvious comparator, this book pivots on a single moment about 30% of the way in; it's in the blurb, so there's no spoiler in me saying that moment is the point at which our hero Charlie goes through the portal in Howard's shed into another world. The world of make-believe, if you like - the land of fairytales. And the simple opinion I want to offer here is that, although the whole book is good, I preferred the section before that pivot, with Charlie rooted in normality, dealing with familial issues, high school issues, helping an old neighbour. It's got to the point, I think, where King is just a better prose fiction novelist than he is a horror/fantasy/supernatural writer. There. I said it. Don't @ me, as the influencers of the world might still say. But do comment, below.

The bottom line: King's take on a modern, yet traditional, fairytale, bears all his hallmarks, whilst also being an homage to those that came before him. Fans will lap it up - I did.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★★☆

Monday 14 November 2022

New to NA ... somehow

I went to a party on Saturday, a friend's 50th. They had a DJ, which was a nice surprise, and early in the evening he was playing mostly soul and reggae at a pretty modest volume. Later he would up the ante, playing floor-fillers specifically aimed at the age of the attendees, but early on he was playing what he liked. And it was good.

At some point he played this, and I had to go up and ask him what it was. I was surprised at the answer, not because it's atypical but because I couldn't believe I hadn't heard it before. But there you go, that's what happened. So I'm sure you'll all know and love this slice of rootsy, ska-inflected rocksteady brilliance already, but I'm still getting used to it. And on this utterly shit Monday morning, I need something good. Maybe you do too, so here's Funky Kingston by Toots & The Maytals.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Twenty-two in '22: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie

11/22: Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North by Stuart Maconie

The blurb: A Northerner in exile, Stuart Maconie goes on a journey in search of the North, attempting to discover where the clichés end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier to Blackpool Tower and Newcastle's Bigg Market to the Lake District to find his own Northern Soul, encountering along the way an exotic cast of chippy Scousers, pie-eating woollybacks, topless Geordies, mad-for-it Mancs, Yorkshire nationalists and brothers in southern exile.

The bestselling Pies and Prejudice is a hugely enjoyable journey around the north of England.

The review: Of all the many books I've read in recent years, one I've felt most connected to is The Nanny State Made Me, Maconie's paean to the public sector - I wrote about it last year. Add to that Maconie's relaxed, conversational style and my predisposition towards him based on his 6 Music output, and I was ready to enjoy this book. And I did ... just not as much as I had hoped and expected. Let me explain why.

All the Maconie staples are here - the aforementioned conversational tone, the anecdotes, the great dollops of nostalgic recollection and the occasional light dusting of political opinion. And the subject matter - essentially an Englishman abroad, if abroad means everywhere north of the Watford Gap (which, as it turns out, is not where you might think) - is a rich vein for Maconie to mine. The book is successful on many levels, mostly making me want to visit places I haven't been and love places I already love even more. And isn't that the primary aim of this kind of book. Oh, and I even learnt stuff too, always a bonus.

So what's the problem?

Well, it's this. At times Pies and Prejudice feels like a history book. It was only written in 2006 but, given the many social and political upheavals there have been since then, it feels like not just the North but the UK of then was a different country. A better country, for that matter. And this feeling increasingly coloured my enjoyment of the book. That's not Maconie's fault, of course - he couldn't have foreseen the spectacular nosedive pretty much everything in the UK has taken since then, no-one could. But it is a fact for a reader in 2022 - this reader, at least. At one point, Maconie quotes an article a certain B. Johnson wrote in The Spectator, and dismisses it as damaging, inflammatory and ultimately ignorant fluff written by an entitled Southern buffoon. All of which is true, of course, but it made me grind my teeth to read it; I had to set the book aside for a bit, and wonder how we had let things to come to this. Where did it all go wrong?

I'm conscious this isn't much of a review, so I will add that Maconie's prose keeps the pages turning, the subject matter is genuinely interesting, and it's all told in an engaging, often humourous style. It's just that it made me think it should be subtitled "In Search of Albion" instead.

The bottom line: another well-pitched domestic travelogue from Maconie, but feels like a historical document now.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★☆☆

Monday 7 November 2022

Monday long song(s): two for the price of one

TLDR: I'm about to ramble some complete old guff about two songs that I think could soundtrack death and the afterlife, respectively. For the record, I'm in no hurry for one and don't really believe in the other ... but not everyone will want to read that so if you don't want to read my twaddle, skip the text, just play the songs. They are both excellent, for certain moods. Okay? Okay.

I keep some old magazine cover-mount CDs in the car, sort of like an emergency stash of music. I don't play them very often. That's how I came to forget today's not one but two long songs. They have found their way into my collection (and consciousness) via a CD distributed with MOJO magazine in August 2016, entitled How Soon Is Now? Yes, they really called it that, although they did have the good sense to subtitle it Mojo Presents 15 Tracks Of Modern Independent Music... But I digress. I found myself listening to the CD on a recent longish drive to see my parents. I don't know if it was the mood I was in at the time, or my general state of mind, but these two tracks really struck a chord.

The first is by Ian William Craig, about whom I know nothing. Wikipedia tells me he is a "Canadian musician known for using broken tape machines" and that Rolling Stone described him as "the most exciting experimental composer of 2016". So there's that. All I know is that this is called A Single Hope and is from his 2016 album Centres. It starts with what sounds like radio static through distorted speakers, before a plaintive choral lament starts up, giving the song a definite hymnal quality. Some sparse percussion is added to the mix, and soon enough the whole thing sounds like a symphony in slow shoegaze. But here's the thing; the thought that struck me, chugging down the motorway in perfect isolation, is that this would be a good song to die to; here comes the end but don't be afraid because it's okay, maybe even a release for some. It's a thing of absolute beauty, I think, and I'm amazed it hasn't been scooped up for a soundtrack or two - you know the scene, the hero has just died and his loved ones are distraught but it's okay because he saved the world, that sort of glib nonsense.

So there I was, in the car, having a little bit of a moment to myself, and then the very next track on the CD was this: Logic of a Dream by Explosions in the Sky. Again, I know nothing about them other than what Wikipedia tells me, i.e. that they're a quartet from Texas, playing almost exclusively instrumentals that they describe as "cathartic mini-symphonies", and that this track comes from their 2016 (and final, to date) album Wilderness. And again, here's the thing: the thought that struck me on hearing this is that it would soundtrack an introduction to the afterlife rather well. I should say, at this point, that personally I don't believe in any kind of afterlife, sadly; I'm a rational humanist on that score. It just struck me that Logic of a Dream is the perfect track to follow A Single Hope, and if that's the sound of a "good" death (is there such a thing?) then naturally what follows should be the sound of whatever comes next. At various times, this track sounds like that would be Valhalla, at others heaven, before ending with nirvana.

Sorry, maybe I should just stick to embedding songs, and forget the words. Retrospective apologies.

Monday 31 October 2022

Still here, just

To show that I haven't completely dropped off the planet, here's a 22-minute YouTube playlist of six vaguely Halloween-y songs, some obvious, some less so. Which carves your pumpkin? And which leaves you ... cold? Mwah-hah-ha-ha, et cetera...

Tuesday 11 October 2022

None The Wiser

I am willing to bet this is the best song you'll hear today. It's eight years old now, but sadly more relevant than ever... in a world where the country dashes head-first into self-inflicted economic chaos, small mad dictators throw missiles at their neighbours, teenagers drown themselves in a morass of algorithm-led anti-social media, and we all quietly avert our gaze from the inevitable climate disaster. All aboard the handcart - hell ahead!

Be careful, I fall into playing this on a loop - you may do the same.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Most of the time

I'm no Bob aficianado. I have no acoustic/electric axe to grind. Indeed, most of the Dylan albums I have are compilations. What I can tell you is that those compilations, even those released this century, don't have a great deal on them from after the 1970s. Whilst he might have had a lot of critical acclaim since then, I think it's safe to say that his days of troubling the singles chart are over.

He has still got it right on later occasions, though. This like, Most of the Time, from the 1989 album Oh Mercy. It didn't chart, of course, but for me it's as good as anything he ever did.

Most of the time
I'm clear focused all around
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path
I can read the signs
Stay right with it
When the road unwinds
I can handle whatever
I stumble upon
I don't even notice
She's gone
Most of the time

Most of the time
It's well understood
Most of the time
I wouldn't change it if I could
I can't make it all match up
I can hold my own
I can deal with the situation
Right down to the bone
I can survive
And I can endure
And I don't even think
About her
Most of the time

Most of the time
My head is on straight
Most of the time
I'm strong enough not to hate
I don't build up illusion
'Till it makes me sick
I ain't afraid of confusion
No matter how thick
I can smile in the face
Of mankind
Don't even remember
What her lips felt like on mine
Most of the time

Most of the time
She ain't even in my mind
I wouldn't know her if I saw her
She's that far behind
Most of the time
I can't even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was ever with her

Most of the time
I'm halfway content
Most of the time
I know exactly where it all went
I don't cheat on myself
I don't run and hide
Hide from the feelings
That are buried inside
I don't compromise
And I don't pretend
I don't even care
If I ever see her again
Most of the time

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Recycled earworms

Suede have a new album out, Autofiction. They describe it as their punk album, which I think it stretching things a little but it is a faster, heavier sound than most of the output from their Indian summer. What I can tell you is that it continues their strong run of new albums and, for my money, might just be their best Bernard-less album. But that's not what I want to talk about.

Instead, let's focus on track one, side one, the excellent She Still Leads Me On; in my view, this is the best song on the album, helped in no small part by an invasive earworm of a guitar part, a deceptively simple motif that grabs you and doesn't let go - see what you think.

Of course, that guitar line is so catchy, it's almost like I've known it for ever. And in a way, I have - well, for 40-odd years anyway. Because whilst it's not exactly the same, there's certainly enough there to remind me of this...

What do you think? Or am I hearing things that aren't there? Either way, two bustin' songs, as Amusements Minor would say.

Friday 23 September 2022

Twenty-two in '22: Ramble Book

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

Ramble Book by Adam Buxton

10/22: Ramble Book by Adam Buxton

The blurb: The long-awaited, rambling, tender, and very funny memoir from Adam Buxton


  1. walk for pleasure in the countryside.
    'Dr Buckles and Rosie the dog love rambling in the countryside.'
  2. talk or write at length in a confused or inconsequential way.
    'Adam rambles on about lots of consequential, compelling and personal matters in his tender, insightful, hilarious and totally unconfused memoir, Ramble Book.'
Ramble Book is about parenthood, boarding school trauma, arguing with your partner, bad parties, confrontations on trains, friendship, wanting to fit in, growing up in the 80s, dead dads, teenage sexual anxiety, failed artistic endeavours, being a David Bowie fan; and how everything you read, watch and listen to as a child forms a part of the adult you become. It’s also a book about the joys of going off topic and letting your mind wander.

The review: I've started a lot of past book reviews by saying that I'm predisposed to liking X or Y because I am a long-time fan of the author and have enjoyed their other work. Well, that's not the case here. It's not that I'm not a fan of Buxton, its just that I haven't really consumed much, if anything, of his previous output - not TV, not podcasts, nothing, save for his Cobbler Bob YouTube video. I don't know how I've got to this point in my life without The Adam and Joe Show, for example - thinking back, I think it struck a chord with people just a couple of years younger than me - and I was very slow to embrace podcasts. Anyway, for whatever reason I was not up to speed on Buxton or anything he's done previously. So why did I feel the need to pick up this book?

Well, on the simplest level it was the tagline: "Musings on childhood, friendship, family and 80s pop culture." Buxton would have been two years above me at school, age-wise, and so I figured his musings on all those things might be close enough to mine to make for an interesting read. And I was right.

Sure, there are plenty of differences between Adam's life and mine that might have made his nostalgic ramblings of less interest: he went to public school, and fixated on Bowie and Star Wars, for starters, all different to me. But he captures the essential experience of growing up in the 70s and 80s very well, and of course that's relatable.

What this book's blurb doesn't make enough of, though, is the family aspect of Buxton's rambles. There are very entertaining diversions into the mechanics of his married life, framed as lists of things he and his wife have argued about. That's relatable too, of course, even if, like me, you're not actually married. But the real heart of this book, beyond detailing the author's reaction to each new Bowie album or the relative merits of The Empire Strikes Back, is Adam's complicated relationship with his father. This is gently explored throughout the book, from recollections of an austere, slightly remote figure in the author's childhood who was, unbeknownst to Buxton at the time, crippling himself financially to educate the kids privately, to the subsequent integration of "BaadDad" into Adam and Joe's TV work, right through to his father moving in with Adam's family in his last months, waiting to die. Its all there, sometimes between the lines, but all there. It's the most affecting aspect of the book.

A note on the format - it's not called Ramble Book for nothing. Buxton breaks his narrative flow at the drop of a hat to go off on tangential rambles, preferring these to be in boxes within the main text rather than in footnotes. That might sound potentially annoying but it works, and lends the book a conversational air.

I can't say this has turned me into an Adam Buxton fan - I don't feel the need to suddenly subscribe to everything he does, or scour YouTube to take in his back catalogue - but I did enjoy this book. I think anyone of a broadly similar age would too, as would anyone who has made the transition from child to parent, and whose own parent is now in the child role. That probably sounds a bit deep, a bit serious for what is a fairly light-hearted, entertaining book... but it's true.

The bottom line: nostalgia-fest for readers of a certain vintage, with some pathos peaking out from between the rambles.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★★☆

Friday 9 September 2022

Blue Friday: Disappointed

So many of my posts this year have just been one or two lines of perfunctory introduction followed by an embedded YouTube video ... much like this one. It's almost like I've run out of words, and in doing so become everything I once railed against. You would have every right to feel disappointed with New Amusements this year - I certainly have been.

Anyway, here's an appropriate song. I know that he is persona non grata around much (most) of the blogosphere these days but oh, when he was good...

All change

I had a different post scheduled for this morning, specifically a Blue Friday entry that built on the last eight days' posts. But the tone of it doesn't suit events at Balmoral, so I've deferred that post for a few hours.

Whether you're a monarchist or a republican or, like me, somewhere in-between, I think we can probably all agree that in an unimaginable role that she neither wanted nor chose, Elizabeth did pretty well. And even in the last year, in grief and frailty, and whilst others were partying, she reminded us all what a true leader looks like.


Thursday 8 September 2022

Beat Surrender

Paul looks lost without a guitar, but happy, no doubt with one eye on the future. Rick and Bruce probably also have their eyes on a different future, which may be why both look miserable as sin. "And as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end..."

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Not new to NA: Gene

I don't have the stats to hand to back this up, but I think the band I have featured most on this blog over the years is this lot of handsome devils (just shading The Jam, The Smiths, The Wedding Present and R.E.M.). And with good cause. Mind you, I say "this lot", but it's not like you see them in this video. Oh well - Gene: they could have been kings, you know. To me, they were.

Tuesday 6 September 2022

About Colin

I'm not sure that Colin Moulding gets the credit he deserves. Sure, XTC bandmate Andy Partridge is the more prolific, and better known, songwriter, but bassist Colin wrote the band's first three charting UK singles, Life Begins at the Hop, Making Plans for Nigel and Generals and Majors. He also wrote this slice of excellence, Dying, from the 1986 album Skylarking.

Monday 5 September 2022

Monday long song: Moments of Pleasure

Kate had a bit of a resurgence earlier in the year, thanks to Stranger Things. Odd that parts of this video look like they were filmed in the Upside Down.

Sunday 4 September 2022

Sunday shorts: For Tim Collins

Okay, I know that technically this song is about eight seconds too long to qualify, as it drifts just over the two minute mark. But since this is the song I started the Sunday shorts theme for in the first place I suppose I really ought to feature it - if not now, when? So here's some instrumental Blue Aeroplanes.

Saturday 3 September 2022

Great moments in music video history #9: Some Better Day

John Simm gets a surprise around the 1:54 mark, and we all get something in our eyes. The subject matter of Some Better Day could make for a depressing song but it becomes borderline uplifting in I Am Kloot's hands.

Friday 2 September 2022

Blue Friday: Lost Cause

A YouTube commenter nailed it best when they said, "I love Hip-Hop Beck, Electronic Beck, Funk Beck and Rock Beck, but Folk Beck is his ultimate form."

Thursday 1 September 2022

Wednesday 31 August 2022

Bonus CarFest post: Foxy Lady

One more picture from CarFest that I forgot to post yesterday:

Film fans of a certain age may recognise this as the Mirth Mobile from Wayne's World, or at least an AMC Pacer of the right vintage, given a paint job. The drivers took this round the track as Wayne and Garth, complete with wigs and hats, blasting Foxy Lady by The Jimi Hendrix Experience from the speaker you can see mounted below the number plate. Obviously Amusements Minor has never seen Wayne's World, so I tried to explain; I may even have performed a low-key re-enactment of Garth's dance, but the boy died of embarrassment, so I stopped. I should have just shown him this:

Two things: one, this track still absolutely burns, 55 years after release. And two, Tia Carrere: schwing!

Tuesday 30 August 2022

About CarFest

I didn't go to my nearest big festival, Latitude, this year, not even for a day. Nothing on the line-up equated to the expense of a ticket, for me. Instead, the whole Amusements clan decamped to CarFest South instead, and not for a day but for the whole shebang. The Chris Evans-powered festival has grown over the years, and is now a similar size to Latitude, and for the first time was adding prominent book and wellbeing content, billing itself as "seven festivals in one". The obvious preconception for CarFest is that you probably need to have an interest in cars to enjoy it, and watching various exotic, historic and unusual four-wheeled vehicles parade around the track is certainly a focus. But there's a lot more fun to be had, I would say. It also turned out to be the most family-friendly large festival I've ever been to, which might persuade people put off by the petrolhead content. But anyway... in the style of my old Latitude diaries, here's a very brief précis of what we got up to. All photos can be embiggened with a click.


  • The campsite opens a day early to allow people to arrive and pitch at leisure if they wish. We did, and got an excellent pitch for our tent right on the perimeter, close to the car park, far from the noise of the main arena, close enough without being too close to the loos. Perfect, in other words.
  • Drove into nearby Overton for dinner in a pleasant Italian restaurant, then back to the festival site for...
  • Silent Disco : The Big Early. A little stage was set up between the camping area and the entrance to the arenas proper, and a silent disco filled a happy hour. There were three channels of music to choose from, so we donned headsets and got stuck in. Of course this wasn't really a silent disco, since most people were singing along. The headsets had LED lighting, colour-coded to the channel of choice, so you could tell from a cursory glance of the field how popular each channel was by the colour of the listener's headphones. All three channels ended with Bohemian Rhapsody, leading to the biggest and most enjoyable singalong of the lot.


  • Show 1 : The Track. Yes, we started with the obvious, it being the CarFest USP. Lots of exotic and historic cars whizzing round a purpose built track. I know this sort of thing isn't for everyone, so I won't include too many pictures, but here are a couple: a lovely Audi Quattro rally car and my personal favourite from the event, a sumptuous Aston Martin DBS.
  • Audi Quattro, CarFest South, 2022 Aston Martin DBS, CarFest South, 2022
  • Esther Rantzen in conversation with Adrian Mills : StarFest stage. Caught the tail-end of this, which seemed to be mostly anecdotes about That's Life, although conversation also turned to Childline and Silverline, and how hard it was to fundraise for charities that focus on the elderly. But we only really went along to be early and ensure a good seat for the next session, which was...
  • Rob Brydon and Philip Glenister in conversation with Linda Barker : StarFest stage. A slightly odd pairing, and an even odder choice of host (yes, it was that Linda Barker who used to be one of the designers on Changing Rooms) but Rob Brydon can't help but be entertaining, and this was a very enjoyable way to pass three quarters of an hour. Then we headed back to the tent for an early tea, via the Cinch paddock to have a look at some more exotic cars, in good time for our return to the action, specifically...
  • Philip Glenister, Rob Brydon and Linda Barker, CarFest South, 2022
  • James Blunt : Main stage. No, I know. Not my usual cup of tea, but worth a listen, as it turned out. Big CarFest learning - everyone (except us) took folding chairs and, as soon as the gates opened, charged to the Main stage, set up their chairs and claimed their patch for the day. In other words, we were sat a long way back. Blunt ran through his hits, we all recognised more than we expected, and even Amusements Minor proclaimed to like one or two.
  • Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Kitchen Disco : Main stage. The breeze picked up a bit during Sophie's set, which played havoc with the sound for those of us sat a long way from the stage. But again, we all recognised more of her back-catalogue than we were expecting, which was nice. Sophie threw in a few covers too, in a nod to the "kitchen disco" she made her own during lockdown, and proved that she can probably do Madonna better than Madonna... Another big CarFest learning - the Main stage actually has two adjacent stages, so there is no waiting around between acts. One act literally follows directly on from the next, which is brilliant. When later asked about this, Chris Evans said the inspiration for it was DJing, and having two decks. Why don't all festivals do this? Anyway, here's a photo of the lovely Sophie E-B.
  • Sophie Ellis-Bextor, CarFest South, 2022
  • Faithless : Main stage. After a bit of a wander, since none of us fancied Tom Walker, it was back to the Main stage for the biggest musical surprise of the whole festival, the surprise being just how much I enjoyed the Faithless set. I was expecting Insomnia and God Is A DJ but I found myself recognising a lot more besides, even if I couldn't name the tracks. I guess I hadn't realised Faithless had been so prolific. Whatever, I found myself enjoying this way more than I had expected. Amazing light show too. Ironically, we headed to bed after set-closer Insomnia... but none of us had any trouble sleeping.


  • Chris Evans : everywhere. Saturday began at 8.30am with Chris Evans leading a convoy of golf buggies around the campsite, horns tooting, Virgin radio blaring, waking everyone up. Whatever you think of the bloke, you've got to admire his energy levels - he was involved in so many aspects of the whole festival, popping up at different stages throughout the weekend, plus introducing all the acts on the Main stage, plus driving some of his own exotic cars around the track, plus, plus, plus...
  • Show 2 : The Track. Started the day with a leisurely breakfast at the tent, before heading to the arenas and then going our separate ways for a bit, Mrs Amusements to the SpaFest stage and Inspiration Hub for some wellbeing sessions, Amusements Minor and I to play crazy golf and then take in another session of dream cars blatting around the track. Particularly impressive was the sight of ex-Formula 1 world champion Jody Scheckter barrelling around the track in a 6.3-litre V8 bi-turbo Mercedes AMG, proving that a fast car is one thing but a fast driver is something else altogether.
  • The Joy Journal for Grown-Ups - Laura Brand in conversation with Russell Brand : StarFest stage. Ostensibly there to talk about her new book, Laura found herself in conversation with ... her husband. Who, inevitably, upstaged her somewhat. There was a huge crowd for this, and we couldn't get very close to see much, but we could hear just fine. Russell, not always everyone's cup of tea, was on fine form.
  • Minnie Driver signing : Waterstone's. Mrs Amusements re-appeared and spirited the boy off somewhere, leaving me free to wander. I found myself in the pop-up on-site Waterstone's, and noticed a sign advertising an imminent appearance by Minnie Driver. I quickly purchased her memoir and got in the queue. What do you say to someone famous at a book signing? Especially someone you've liked for thirty years? Well, I was quite near the front of the queue, so I didn't have long to think. Everyone ahead of me had post-it notes with their name on, stuck to the signing page, but I didn't, so I figured that would be my route in to saying more than just "hello" and "thanks". "Hi," said a fresh-faced and smiley Minnie. "Hello," I managed, proffering my copy of her book, open at the obligatory page. "It's to Martin," I said, "but could you sign it to Martin Blank, in an admittedly quite obvious reference to Grosse Point Blank?" "Aaah," said Minnie, "I see. Then I should probably sign it like this." Whereupon she signed it twice, once as Minnie and then, in brackets, as Debi, her character in GPB. "That's perfect," I said, "thank you." Minnie smiled some more, and that was my meeting with her over (if you can even call that meeting). And in case I didn't love her enough already, she was wearing a Nora Ephron t-shirt. And more was to come.
  • Minnie Driver and Russell Brand in conversation with Chris Evan : StarFest Xtra. Each day, the last StarFest session would be someone in conversation with Chris Evans, not at the StarFest stage but sat on hay-bales in front of the Main stage. This was billed as Minnie Driver but Russell Brand sort of added himself to the bill. I got a great seat for this, and enjoyed nearly an hour of chat - this is what Chris does best, I think. Minnie talked more about her memoir, and Chris even got her to talk about her break-up from Matt Damon, without either of them mentioning the words "Matt" or "Damon". This led to quite an exchange between Russell and Chris, in which the former anticipated a Katy Perry question and pre-emptively replied by bringing up Billie Piper! All of which was made more interesting by the sudden and expected arrival, and addition to the hay-bales, of Russell's wife, Laura. This session was supposed to end at 3.45pm so that Chris could do an interview with Formula 1 driver Lando Norris on the big screen, but a quick audience vote led to that being cancelled and having an extra ten minutes of Minnie and Russell. A real highlight.
  • Chris Evans interviewing Minnie Driver and Russell Brand, CarFest South, 2022
  • Jack Savoretti : Main stage. After a bit of R&R back at the tent, and a bolognese-based dinner poorly cooked by yours truly, we headed back down to the Main stage to take in some of Jack Savoretti. The gravel-throated crooner wasn't really to any of our tastes though, and we listened well enough whilst wandering around the paddock some more, taking in a close-up of some of the cars we'd seen on the track earlier in the day. He's alright, Savoretti, I suppose, but I can't imagine myself ever buying a record of his. Sorry Jack.
  • Judge Jules : Main stage. We needed hot chocolate (or tea, in my case) to get through this. As unexpectedly brilliant as Faithless had been the day before, Judge Jules was, perhaps expectedly (by me, anyway), nothing to write home about. Lots of people seemed to go for their supper during his set. Many families, small kids in tow, just packed up completely. He let off a few fireworks near the end, at least.
  • The Kaiser Chiefs : Main stage. No packing up for us though, the Amusements crew are clearly made of sterner stuff and we made it through to the evening's headliners, though only after I'd played Amusements Minor a couple of tracks on YouTube to maintain his interest. To be honest, the Kaisers were alright, but not much more. Sure, Ricky is an animated and engaging front man but so many of the songs just sound very ... similar. I Predict A Riot and Ruby aside, everything just seemed to merge together. Somewhere, in a field in Hampshire, is a giant tent containing all the chords The Kaiser Chiefs didn't use. Anyway, here's a picture of them in action, taken at the full extent of my old camera's zoom.
The Kaiser Chiefs, CarFest South, 2022


  • The day began in two strands again, as Mrs Amusements took herself off to the Inspiration hub for some more wellbeing sessions whilst the boy and I played crazy golf again (I topped the leaderboard, nine holes in sixteen shots) and did some paintball target-shooting. It's that kind of festival. Then we had a relatively early lunch, because I was very keen to get to...
  • Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram, Victoria Pendleton and Matty Lee in conversation with Vassos Alexander : StarFest stage. This was very, very popular, drawing one of the largest non-music crowds of the entire festival. And rightly so, considering the sporting achievements of those on-stage. Matty Lee, in case you were wondering, was Tom Daly's dive partner when they won gold at last year's Olympics. Perhaps the recent nature of his acheivement warranted his inclusion with the others, all of whom have been retired for some time. Anyway, as a keen amateur cyclist, I was particularly keen to see and hear Victoria Pendleton, though Crammie was perhaps the most relaxed, natural speaker. Really interesting to hear a difference of opinion from the panel about what sets them, as the elite, apart from us, as amateurs. Nothing, was one view, we could all do if sufficiently motivated. Not so, said Cram, identifying that ultra competitiveness is important, and that you either have that or you don't. I tend to agree. Anyway, my photos of this were spoiled by the couple who, having chosen to sit near the front but behind a family with a push-chair, then stood up throughout. When someone tapped the man on the shoulder and asked him to sit down, he shrugged and said, "Then I wouldn't be able to see," pointing to the pushchair. What a bell-end. So these are the best pictures I managed - sorry Matty.
  • Vassos Alexander interviewing Paula Radcliffe and Steve Cram, CarFest South, 2022 Victoria Pendleton, CarFest South, 2022
  • Rob Brydon and Jimmy Carr in conversation with Chris Evans : StarFest Xtra. Another chat-show performance from Chris on the hay-bales in front of the main stage, this time with Rob Brydon who, with his family, had been at the entire festival, and car-enthusiast Jimmy Carr. This was another very funny and very popular session that, as the previous day's had, ran over time, but nobody was complaining. As you can see from the photograph below, Chris had to drape a hastily-provided sweatshirt over his lap, for fear of exposing himself, as he was wearing quite loose and short running shorts, having taken part in the CarFest fun-run earlier in the day.
  • Chris Evans interviewing Rob Brydon and Jimmy Carr, CarFest South, 2022
  • Natalie Imbruglia : Main stage. The rest of Team Amusements went off to find the F1 simulator, whilst I stayed at the Main stage to watch what turned out, for me, to be the absolute musical highlight of the whole festival. There's a temptation to think that, just because Natalie made her name in Neighbours, that she was just another soap-star who jumped on the Minogue/Donovan bandwagon. But by god, she can really sing! Okay, so some of the new material might be a little too MOR for my taste generally, but she has enough of a recognisable back-catalogue for the set to be very entertaining. And as she bounced around the stage in what could be described as an over-emphasised jog as much as a dance, it was easy to cast my mind back to the late 90s and remember that she actually established a bit of street-cred for herself back then, far removed from the SAW-beginnings of her soap-mates. I went into this thinking, okay, it'll be nice to hear Torn live, but came away feeling that Natalie was the highpoint of the weekend's musical offerings. Here she is.
Natalie Imbruglia, CarFest South, 2022 Natalie Imbruglia, CarFest South, 2022

And that's where we left it. We didn't hang around for The Horne Section, or Sunday headliner Paloma Faith, because we were all knackered and I had a long drive to do. What do I think of CarFest, then? Well, I think it still needs to strengthen its programme a little, if it is truly going to bill itself as "seven festivals in one", but it does have something for everyone, plus exotic cars the likes of which you'd never see elsewhere. As I mentioned earlier, it's the most family-friendly festival I've ever been too: I saw no "casualties" of over-indulgence anywhere, there were hardly any herbal aromas floating over the Main stage crowd to explain to the boy, and there were plenty of things we could all see or do together. Even the camping field was pretty quiet from about midnight on. It might not have the strongest music programme but yes, I'd recommend it, and the consensus amongst the family was a solid eight out of ten... which is probably a shade higher than I would have rated my day at Latitude last year. Make of that what you will.

Saturday 27 August 2022

Great moments in music video history #7: Just

I was reminded of this video recently by a post at the always-excellent No Badger Required, which described the video thus (I hope it's okay to quote verbatim):

"You of course will all recall the marvellous video to ‘Just’. A man can be seen lying on the ground in a street (actually shot behind Liverpool Street Station in London town). Slowly a bunch of people start talking to the man who lying on the pavement. Subtitles appear on the screen displaying the conversation that is taking place between the chap on the ground and the people around him. He refuses to tell them why he is lying on the ground. Meanwhile the band watch the proceedings out of a nearby window.

Eventually the man does explain, but cheekily the subtitles vanish at the same time, but what we do know is that all the other people all suddenly lie down on the ground with the original man and we never find out what was said and the band have never revealed it, in a Guardian interview about six years later, a journalist actually asked them and Thom Yorke said that if he told him “We would all have to lie down on the floor” with a smile and so the debate raged on (the real answer is of course that Piers Morgan was just around the corner, giving away free tickets for his telly programme and most people would rather be pretend to be dead that be on that)."

I can't describe it any better (or even as well) as that. What's your theory on what makes everyone lie down?

Tuesday 23 August 2022

More new to NA: The Mountain Goats

Another fortuitous Bandcamp find, this is Training Montage by The Mountain Goats, from their new album Bleed Out:

Listen to the lyrics and it's pretty clear what sort of training montage the band have in mind...

Monday 22 August 2022

Monday long song: The Return of the Giant Hogweed

I was listening to Radcliffe and Maconie's excellent 6 Music show over the weekend and they played a show ident of some deliciously smooth Radio 4-esque voice (Charlotte Green, maybe) saying, "Radcliffe and Maconie - immune to all your herbicidal batterings." This made me smile, a lot, because it's a reference to this slice of eccentric brilliance from Gabriel-era Genesis.

Sunday 21 August 2022

Sunday shorts: Pop Art Poem

Technically this is six or seven seconds too long to qualify as a Sunday Short, but sod it, my gaff, my rules.

I remember the first time I heard this so vivdly. It was given away as a bright yellow cover-mounted flexi-disc with the short-lived Flexipop magazine back in February 1981. My brother bought that (I wonder if he still has it?) and played it repeatedly on the big old wood-veneer music centre that sat in one corner of the living room. Me, not yet eleven, was gobsmacked. I taped it, of course (home taping didn't kill music after all), together with the second track (a rough demo of Boy About Town) and in the years that followed I put it on so many mix-tapes, whenever and wherever I had a gap to fill at the end of a side that was too short for a "normal" song. I think I also liked having a rare track to hand, maybe something that my mates hadn't heard.

Of course Pop Art Poem would eventually surface on mop-up collection Extras in April 1992, and then my rarity trump card was gone. To me, though, this still sounds great.

Saturday 20 August 2022

Great moments in music video history #6: Sun Hits The Sky

When this was released, keyboardist and brother-of-Gaz Rob Coombes hadn't officially joined the band, though he had been recording with them. The first half of the video for Sun Hits The Sky sees Rob travelling across a parched landscape in a Messerschmitt bubble car, hoping to arrive at the desert where the band are playing in time for his keyboard solo. Will he make it, viewers? What tension!

As an aside, I've been re-evaluating my thoughts on Supergrass lately. Back in the day, they didn't quite hit the mark for me... but I'm starting to think I gave them short shrift.

Anyway, here's the video.

Friday 19 August 2022

Too new to be named

You've probably seen this before, being the articulate, well-read, well-versed consumers of all things pop-cultural that you are. But I'm going to post it anyway, because I love it. This is the first TV appearance anywhere, ever, for R.E.M. on Letterman, all the way back in October 1983.

They run through Radio Free Europe first, then, after a brief interview by Dave in which Peter and Mike do all the answering whilst Michael sits out of shot, they run through a new song, as yet untitled. "Too new to be named," quips Dave. It turns out to be So. Central Rain and is so new that Peter fluffs a chord change about 70 seconds into it.

Anyway, the picture quality isn't great but I love this. The sound has been cleaned up, at least. I think what I like most about the clip though is the interview section in the middle. Peter and Mike seem bright and alert, quick to answer, innocent and keen ... at this stage they have not already been asked every question you can possibly imagine a thousand times over. Oh to be young and excited and looking forwards...

Thursday 18 August 2022

Twenty-two in '22: I, Partridge

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

I, Partridge by Alan Partridge

9/22: I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge

The blurb:

Journalist, presenter, broadcaster, husband, father, vigorous all-rounder: Alan Partridge. Star of action blockbuster Alpha Papa; a man with a fascinating past and an amazing future.

Gregarious and popular, yet Alan’s never happier than when relaxing in his own five-bedroom, south-built house with three acres of land and access to a private stream. But who is this mysterious enigma?

Alan Gordon Partridge is the best – and best-loved – radio presenter in the region. Born into a changing world of rationing, Teddy Boys, apes in space and the launch of ITV, Alan’s broadcasting career began as chief DJ of Radio Smile at St. Luke’s Hospital in Norwich. After replacing Peter Flint as the presenter of Scout About, he entered the top 8 of BBC sports presenters.

But Alan’s big break came with his primetime BBC chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You. Sadly, the show battled against poor scheduling, having been put up against News at Ten, then in its heyday. Due to declining ratings, a single catastrophic hitch (the killing of a guest on air) and the dumbing down of network TV, Alan’s show was cancelled. Not to be dissuaded, he embraced this opportunity to wind up his production company, leave London and fulfil a lifelong ambition to return to his roots in local radio.

Now single, Alan is an intensely private man but he opens up, for the second time, in this candid, entertaining, often deeply emotional – and of course compelling – memoir, written entirely in his own words. (Alan quickly dispelled the idea of using a ghost writer. With a grade B English Language O-Level, he knew he was up to the task.)

He speaks touchingly about his tragic Toblerone addiction, and the painful moment when unsold copies of his first autobiography, Bouncing Back, were pulped like ‘word porridge’. He reveals all about his relationship with his ex-Ukrainian girlfriend, Sonja, with whom he had sex at least twice a day, and the truth about the thick people who make key decisions at the BBC.

A literary tour de force, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan charts the incredible journey of one of our greatest broadcasters.

The review: first things first, this isn't actually written by Alan Partridge, what with him being - spoiler alert - a fictional construct. Rather, this has been penned by long-time Partridge writers Neil and Rob Gibbons, with Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan. So you're in safe hands.

Next, of course, is the fact that this is a parody of a memoir, in the same way that Partridge himself is a parody of ... well, so many failed media types, and latterly/inadvertently Richard Madeley. The book is basically a comedic pastiche of awful celebrity memoirs, the sort that flood the shelves of Waterstone's and W H Smith in the run-up to Christmas. And the writing is good enough that it works on that level, as you would expect from these authors. But - and it's a reasonably sized but - it only really works if the reader is sufficiently well versed in Alan's backstory.

This is because, as you would imagine, Alan is a terrifically unreliable narrator. There is much humour to be had, then, from Alan's self-serving recollections of events with the version of those same events that you are already familiar with from On The Hour, The Day Today, KMKY, I'm Alan Partridge, and so on. The comedy comes, not from the events themselves, but from Alan's after-the-event reinterpretations that, coincidentally always paint him in a good light ... needless to say, in his version Alan nearly always has the last laugh.

Another fine source of humour is delivered by Alan's repeated attempts to show how little certain past events have upset or stayed with him, only for the subtext to reveal otherwise.

I would say it's all here but it isn't: the events of Alpha Papa are not covered (despite what the blurb suggests), and it's not up-to-date enough to cover This Time either. That said, pretty much everything else that has seen Coogan as Partridge, on radio or TV, gets woven neatly into the story; there's a fine line to be trodden here between touching on past output and rehashing too much, so I'm pleased to report that the authors get the balance pretty much bang on throughout.

Of course, riffing on past output is both the book's greatest strength and biggest weakness. Fans will delight in the details, congratulate themselves on picking up references and laugh again as favourite moments from Alan's past get the memoir treatment. However, if you are not a consumer of all things Partridge, well, you're going to struggle a bit, aren't you? For you, it's just made-up nonsense about a made-up person.

The bottom line: a well-constructed and genuinely funny read for existing Partridge aficionados, but understandably unlikely to win over any new fans.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★☆☆

Wednesday 17 August 2022


Finally, enough rain to top up the water butts, if not to get excited about. Here's an of-its-time (1991) nearly-hit from Rain: Lemonstone Desired.

Next, a song superficially about rain, from contemporaries of Rain (although this was from some time later): When It Rains by The Real People.

And I've posted it before but finally, Rain - a song that would be many bands' highpoint but that this lot could throw out as a B-side.

Enjoy the rain. Avoid areas that flood. And at the risk of, ahem, raining on anyone's parade, remember this year's messed-up weather, the hot and the wet, is all down to anthropogenic climate change.

You just don't like people

A wee while ago, after I had offered up a harsh but (in my view) justified opinion of someone, Mrs Amusements, perhaps feeling that I had been unkind, frustratedly declared, "Well, you just don't like people."

This stung a bit, at the time, but on reflection I think she may be right. I have always been colossally intolerant; indeed, The Man Of Cheese and I used to light-heartedly call ourselves The Intolerance Twins. But I think it goes beyond that; maybe I am just not very nice.

Yesterday I was not very nice, and to someone who deserves all the niceness in the world. To compound it all, I'm now going to upset the blogosphere by embedding a track by SPM. I would say sorry but, as I think we have already established, I'm not very nice.

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Film '82: The Thing

Saw this on Twitter and it made me smile, and marvel at the talent of people. Obviously I retweeted it, but I'm not what you'd call an influencer, and I don't have a great number of engaged followers. Whatever. I thought I'd post it here, only in part so I can always find it again...

Saturday 13 August 2022

Great moments in music video history #5: Come Into My World

This is from 2002, around the time I used to refer to Kylie as "the future wife". As well as delusional, this didn't go down too well with my partner at the time, now ex. Anyway, here are multiple Kylies - just what we need in these unbearably hot and indescribably grim days.

It's not just Kylie that multiplies, of course. Half the fun of this video is seeing everything in the background replicate too. As such it bears repeat viewing - that's what I told the ex anyway...

Friday 12 August 2022

Blue Friday: Benson, Arizona

From the title sequence of John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon's budget debut, Dark Star:

A million suns shine down but I see only one
When I think I'm over you I find I've just begun
The years move faster than the days, there's no warmth in the light
How I miss those desert skies, your cool touch in the night...

Wednesday 10 August 2022

...and away

Fundació Joan Miró

I've been away. I'm back for a while, maybe not for long. So here's a time-based photograph from my spell away.

Police Municipale building

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Separated at birth X - Gaten Matarazzo and Micky Dolenz

Gaten MatarazzoGaten MatarazzoHaven't done one of these for an absolute age, but it struck me recently that Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo, left, would be a shoo-in to play the young Micky Dolenz, right, should anyone ever get around to making a Monkees biopic... got to happen eventually, right? I'd watch it.

Speaking of Monkees biopics, if you haven't seen the B&W video on YouTube of Davy, Peter, Micky and Mike's pre-casting screen tests, you really should (stick with it, it's not all silent).

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Twenty-two in '22: Boy About Town

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher

8/22: Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher

The blurb:

As a boy, Tony Fletcher frequently felt out of place. Yet somehow he secured a ringside seat for one of the most creative periods in British cultural history.

Boy About Town tells the story of the bestselling author’s formative years in the pre- and post-punk music scenes of London, counting down, from fifty to number one: attendance at seminal gigs and encounters with musical heroes; schoolboy projects that became national success stories; the style culture of punks, mods and skinheads and the tribal violence that enveloped them; life as a latchkey kid in a single-parent household; weekends on the football terraces in a quest for street credibility; and the teenage boy’s unending obsession with losing his virginity.

Featuring a vibrant cast of supporting characters (from school friends to rock stars), and built up from notebooks, diaries, interviews, letters, and issues of his now legendary fanzine Jamming!, Boy About Town is an evocative, bittersweet, amusing and wholly original account of growing up and coming of age in the glory days of the 1970s.

The review: this book was passed to me by The Man Of Cheese; he attached a note that observed "Some parts of this struck a chord with out younger (and finer!) years." And that's all the review really needs to say, for whilst this is Tony Fletcher's memoir, the joy in reading it comes from recognition and identification. Okay, Tony is six or so years older than TMOC and myself, so the bands and scenes discussed in Boy About Town don't align exactly with those that we enjoyed in our youth but the feelings, the interests, the passions - they are pretty much identical. Reading this book, then, gives Proustian rush after Proustian rush.

For someone more famed for writing highly regarded rock biographies, Fletcher still hits the mark writing about himself. There is a blunt honesty in his recollections of youth and teenage years - no sugar-coating, no sanitising. This book is all the better for it. And of course we can all identify with falling in love with bands - The Who first, for Tony, and then The Jam. That feeling of them being your band - we've all been there, haven't we? (Who am I kidding - I'm still there).

What distinguishes Fletcher's memoir, indeed sets it apart from other "my youth in fandom" books, is the turn his young life took when he decided to start a fanzine. It's easy, now, to think of fanzines as little more than A4 photocopied blogs, but they were so much more important then, when the music press was so narrow, and other exposure (TV and radio) narrower still. Tony started Jamming! at 13, running off a hundred copies on a school mimeograph. By the time it wound up, Jamming! sold 30,000 copies a month. Incredible.

What's even more incredible is the access the young Fletcher got to his heroes. He met Keith Moon, interviewed Pete Townshend. And then there was Paul - an exchange of letters led to friendship with Weller, and the sort of access to the band that saw Fletcher and his mates hanging out at the recording studio with the band, even hearing new material before the mainstream music press. And as a thirteen year old fanzine editor, routinely finding his way backstage at all manner of gigs, in all manner of venues - again, incredible. An astonishing time to be a music fan. Oh, and a parallel thread tells of the author's aspirations with his own band - he was a very busy young man.

For all the amazing experiences Fletcher has growing up in the seventies, the more mundane or regular aspects of his teen life are also captured - football, school, girls, parties, drinking and smoking, fighting, all of it. I rather suspect this will appeal to male readers more than female, but it's all relatable, and harkens back to a simpler, happier time. I loved reading it, even though it also made me feel old, stale and well past my prime.

As I hinted earlier, Fletcher went on from his fanzine beginnings to establish a career writing, including pretty much definitive works on Keith Moon and REM. He also (eventually) had minor success with his band, Apocalypse, enough to warrant a "best of" from Cherry Red some years later. My only real criticism of this book then is that it leaves unfinished business, ending as it does with Fletcher playing a valedictory gig at his school as he finishes the fifth form, and then finally getting laid at a party. But there's more I want to know - how did Jamming! go on to get so big, for starters? What happened with the independent record label he set up and ran with/for Paul Weller? And how did Apocalypse go from playing pubs and a school hall to releasing singles? All that and more. I guess what I'm saying is, I enjoyed Boy About Town so much, I'm ready for volume two.

The bottom line: a very enjoyable read that is equal parts nostalgia-inducing memoir and first-hand account of a fascinating time in modern music - bring on the next instalment!

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★★☆

Footnote: you can read more about Tony, his books and the history of Jamming! at plus, after not quite breaking through with Apocalypse, he's making music again, as part of The Dear Boys. Yes, he remains that much of a Moon fan...