Friday, 31 March 2006

The Avengers

I'm watching 'The Avengers' and Mrs Peel has only hit one big burly man so far. I feel cheated. Not even a karate chop in sight...

Lots of nice groovy '60s music and champagne but not enough violence - at least so far.

There are, of course, the other 'Avengers', the 'Mighty' sort! I like 'em too and have been following their adventure on and off for about 37 years. I think I got my first comic in 1969 at Haggerston Castle caravan park where the family was on holiday, somewhere on the Northumberland coat (I think). It wasn't an original Marvel comic, just a UK reprint along with a couple of other superhero tales. I think it was in a comic called 'Fantastic' or something like that. Ahhh, memories...

Now, what I'd really like is an 'Avengers' film. We've had the X-Men films (and another one on the way) and they're my other Marvel favourites (indeed, they surpassed the Avengers in the late 70s / easrly '80s with the Phoenix saga and all the stories leading to it). More Mighty Marvel is all I can say!

Top Ten iPod

And this week...

Panic In Detroit ~ David Bowie
Back To The Drive ~ Suzi Quatro
He's An Indian Cowboy In The Rodeo ~ Buffy Sainte-Marie
You Can Do Magic ~ Limmie And The Family Cooking
The Coast Is Always Changing ~ Maximo Park
A19 ~ Maximo Park
Glitter In Their Eyes ~ Patti Smith
Public Image ~ Public Image Limited
God Is A DJ ~ Pink
Anarchy In The UK ~ Sex Pistols

Now that's a more interesting selection than in recent weeks...

Wednesday, 29 March 2006


O yes! Unfortunately I'll be in a plane heading for Cancun on Easter Sunday, the traditional time for scoffing Easter eggs in quantity, so I've had to start early to make sure I get my legitimate share.

Yummy, yummy, yummy I've got choccy in my tummy!

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

The Weather

OK, I'm British and that means we talk about the weather. I don't write blogs about it though. Today is different since we've had some extremes:
  • started off quite warm, then poured with rain,
  • then went cold about lunchtime, then rained again,
  • then out of the blue big hailstones hailed down, bouncing off the patio outside my window at work,
  • followed by yet more rain, and then it warmed up again...
Who's to blame for all that then?

Monday, 27 March 2006


Um, have I mentioned Mexico? No? Oh dear, how remiss of me, please accept my apologies.

Three weeks today I'll be changing for dinner, probably with my skin a bit tingley after having been exposed all day to the relentless Carribean sun and turning pink. Or I'll have burned to a frazzle and be peeling. There are lots of options. This is a holiday to find a palm tree to slob underneath, maybe stroll as far as the sea to plodge and play 'jump the wave' or maybe stroll to the bar for a nice cool beer in the shade... again, there are many options so long as some dedicated slobbing is involved. Chris will be happy with his 'ammock outside the cottage (hotel rooms are in little cottages around the grounds).

There will, of course, be some Indiana Jones-type explorations deep in the rain forest during which I confidently expect to discover a Mayan pyramid or two (I usually discover something on my trips). The Yucatan is like that you see, glorious golden beaches and turquoise seas while inland it's all rain forest and ruins.

The last time I was there was in the '90s and so pre-digital so I've only got a few photos scanned onto the computer (and they're not very good either) so I must take lots and lots of nice sharp, clear digital photos on this trip. I really want to go to Uxmal (pronounced: ooshmal) to take pics of the Pyramid of the Magician which isn't actually a pyramid at all but that's just splitting hairs. And, of course, the glory that is Chichin Itza, a large archaeologic park full of Mayan ruins (it poured with rain the last time I was there so I'm hoping for clear blue skies this time and lots of photo opportunities). The photos in this post aren't mine - they're downloaded from the web to illustrate what I'll see in a few weeks time. My photos will, of course, be even more fabulous.

I am *s0* looking forward to this holiday - I haven't had a slobby beach holiday since Sri Lanka in 2004 before the tsunami. I can almost hear the palm trees rustling even as I type ...

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Retro Record Bag

I've been doing deep thinking about my next appearance at the Retro Record Bag evening. I could, of course, just turn up and play some favourite songs but that doesn't, well, seem right. It seems too easy. I need a theme, I need records in a sequence that works.

My last theme was "1972" and I was quite pleased with it, not playing the expected songs but songs that might actually make people think twice (and people seemed to like the songs). I've even thought about doing a secret theme, just playing songs with the words 'record' or 'bag' in the lyric (Pink says 'record bag' in one of her songs) but that might be going too far.

I think I might just make a stately progression through the years, so 1973 could be the basis for my next set list. Maybe just go all-out glam?

My new Sweet 'best of' arrived today and it is fab (naturally). It's got a couple of tracks that aren't on my 'greatest hits' or other Sweet albums and that is pushing me towards a 1973 theme - after all, it was their biggest year when they bestrode the world of pop like gods (slightly behind S L A D E but gods nonetheless).

I still haven't quite worked out how to play Buffy Sainte-Marie in the Record Bag though...

Friday, 24 March 2006

Top Ten iPod

Not much movement in the Top Ten this week which isn't really surprising since it takes a lot of repeat listenings to have enough individual 'plays' to get there. This week I've been listening mainly to playlists of songs I haven't heard for a while and none of those have sufficient plays to get anywhere near the top.

Suzi is still Number One and the only new entry is Kim Weston's 'You Hit Me Where It Hurt Me'.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Vambo Rules OK ~ SAHB

I've been watching my new DVD 'Inside the Sensational Alex Harvey Band', one of the 'Inside' series where people you've never heard of talk about the subject band between film and sound clips. This one actually has lots of interviews with the band and some excellent footage from the '70s, both live and on TV.

SAHB aren't a band I'd listen to every day but bung on a CD now and again and I go 'wow'. Hard, driving rhythms, Zal's wailing guitar and Alex's expressive Glaswegian vocals, all combined to make a unique and very recognisable and original sound. Very theatrical in their stage presence, the music they played and the lyrics Alex spat out, very much an early/mid '70s band that most people who remember them at all probably think of their hit with 'Delilah'. SAHB was the first band I ever saw live, back in 1973 when they supported SLADE, so I have a soft spot for them.

Alex Harvey was a great front man and band leader and it's quite sad that he never really made it big. He started playing in bands in the late '50s, was in 'Hair' in 1966 and so by the time SAHB was created in 1972 he was in his mid/late 30s. When I saw SAHB they'd issued 'Framed' and were promoting 'Next' on the SLADE tour, both a mix of driving rock and some dark and very unusual theatricality. An excellent live band and creative in the studio, who knows what they would have progressed to if they'd held it together.

Alex left in the late '70s and started a solo career and died in 1982 the day before his 47th birthday. Out of a long musical career, SAHB was his peak and most creative time, with 'Delilah' and 'Boston Tea Party' probably being SAHB's biggest and well known hits.

Some of my favourites are:

Sargeant Fury - a '30s pastiche with great honky tonk piano

Tomahawk Kid - based on 'Treasure Island' with the wonderful lines, "Yo Ho Ho, Lets be bold my Captain, And I'll hold your hairy hand, Let's forget the treasure, And we'll skip across the sand."

There's No Lights On The Christmas Tree Mama, They're Burning Big Louie Tonight ~ the title says it all!

Next ~ a tale of sex and gonorrhea and brothels and whores and the army and ... oh, just about everything sleazy...

Last of the Teenage Idols ~ autobiographical about Harvey himself, wonderful when he screams out the title as the chorus

Boston Tea Party ~ I loved this when it came out in the summer of 1976, so different from everything else in the chart at that time

So many great songs. There's a good compilation with samples from all the albums called 'Faith Healer - An Introduction to SAHB'. 'Faith Healer' is another favourite song, sinister and throbbing with menace - beware!

The other members of SAHB still get together now and then to play live. I can't quite imagine them without Alex. I'm listening to 'Anthem' at the moment, drums and bagpipes, a song that I think was played at his funeral.

It's only a bullet point...

It's only a bullet point but it's my bullet point! And I'm so pleased it's there.

Take a look at the Budget Report 2006 and scroll down to parapgraph 6.60 and it's the second bullet point . It's not a lot of money but it'll make so much difference to the children and families involved.

All the evidence tells us that the more disadvantaged families lag far behind in taking up ICT. In social grade AB households with children of school age computer ownership goes virtually hand in hand with Internet access (93% have a computer and 92% have Internet connectivity) but in DE households it's much different (60% have a computer and only 43% have connectivity).

This funding isn't enough to deliver a level playing field for these children and families without a computer and access to the Internet at home but it'll be a great help.

Sunday, 19 March 2006

First step...

I took a first step into a more colourful world this afternoon by going to Homebase down by Streatham Common station (dragging Chris along as a potential beast of burden). I want to re-decorate my flat from top to bottom - the last time I did that I earned myself a slipped disc that still flares up so, obviously, I intend to be careful. The first step was to get an idea of what's on the market these days by way of colour, equipment and related stuff.

I want colour, but maybe a bit more muted than I have at the moment (Tibetan gold skirting boards and aztec golden doors in the hall might be a bit much for some people). I picked up some paint brochures to get an idea of the range of colours.

I've been meaning to paint a bookcase in my hall for ages and never quite got round to it. I've painted bookcases before in plain (or plainish colours) but the aim this time is to paint it white and then use that as the base for painting a design of some sort on it. I even bought some acrylic paints a while ago, thinking they would be the right thing to use but then Cressida Bell said it was best to use emulsion paint (using 'tester' pots) and then varnish it. She should know. I've got white emulsion and brushes but no colours, so I got primary colours - bright yellow, red and blue, but couldn't find a green enough green (all the greens were very pastel). Never mind, I can make green from blue and yellow. It's been ages since I painted so I'll use this as my trial.

When we got back from Florence last year after being immersed in classic art for a week I wanted to enroll in a life drawing class but couldn't find anything that fitted my hours or wants (most of them were during the day). The CityLit does, I think, do a termly evening class but it gets very over-subscribed. I'll need to look into it again.

Friday, 17 March 2006

Top Ten iPod

It's that time of the week again:

Back to the Drive - Suzi Quatro
Apply Some Pressure - Maximo Park
Public Image - Public Image Limited
You Boyz Make Big Noize - SLADE
Grafitti - Maximo Park
God is a DJ - Pink
Anarchy in the UK - Sex Pistols
I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen - SLADE
Do You Believe In Miracles - SLADE
Buick MacKane - T.Rex

I haven't listened to iPey much this week since I've been off work but there are a couple of new entries and, sadly, Buffy's dropped out of the top ten entirely (although she's at Number 11 and 12 and then Number 25). And of course, Suzi is Number 1 with the title track from her new album!

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Packing crates and emails

I made it into work around mid-morning to find my desk surrounded by big plastic packing crates and my computer (a nice new Dell) full of emails. And, o joy, I was half an hour late for a budget meeting to discuss how to split up 'our' millions (yours really, tax-payers money). I stayed at work till 7.40pm so I could start unpacking and sorting myself out in my new workspace.

Aren't I just the dedicated one?

ooh ow just a little bit, ooh ow just a little bit more

... or not as the case might be.

If you've been waiting with baited breath for the continuation of my open-plan office adventure then you'll be distraught to hear that I haven't actually been into the office yet this week. My back (the disc of infinitate slippage) has been playing up for the past couple of weeks and I think the packing on Friday was the final straw and it went on strike.

I could feel it coming on all day on Saturday, gradually getting stiffer, more painful and more awkward. On Sunday and Monday I was waking up at unGodly hours and hobbling into the kitchen for tablets before eventually heading back to bed to try to sleep before waking up a few hours later for more tablets. It's just so annoying not being able to stand up straight and having to hold onto furniture to move round the flat. And painful. Ouch. Paracetamol and codeine are a great help once they kick in.

It feels a lot better this evening and my back 'opened up' quicker this afternoon, enabling me to stand up straight without holding onto something. I should be able to make it to work tomorrow. I'll travel late to miss the rush hour (I'm not that stupid) but getting up and about should be good for me. I'll miss the Record Bag at the Retro Bar tomorrow night (Thursday) but I think that trying to do that as well might be pushing it a bit too far.

Friday, 10 March 2006

Moving Office - Purple Walls 2

Well, the deed has been done. All my workly goods packed up in crates to be moved over the weekend. And here's the purple wall I'll be facing (it's darker than it looks), beside a window that overlooks our 3rd floor garden. The desk will look very different on Monday once my stuff's been moved over there.

And where is my stuff now? Well, here's my office as it was and as it currently is...

And here it is with crates full of research reports and suchlike on the table...

Top Ten iPod

OK, it's that time of the week again, time to plug little ipey into the back of my laptop and see what I've been listening to this week.

>drum roll<

Apply Some Pressure - Maximo Park
You Boyz Make Big Noize - SLADE
Back To The Drive - Suzi Quatro
Graffiti - Maximo Park
Public Image - Public Image Limited
I Won't Let It 'Appen - SLADE
Buick MacKane - T.Rex
I Been Down - Buffy Sainte-Marie
Darling Don't Cry - Buffy Sainte-Marie
Rock and Roll (Part 2) - Gary Glitter

There's some change there, with Suzi Q and PiL slamming into the top ten with a vengence but Buffy is slipping down and GG is hanging on by his fingernails. Maximo are in the Numero Uno slot once again. What will it take to dislodge the lads?

Don't The War Come Easy...

"Don't the war come easy, but don't the peace come hard" - a quote from a Buffy Sainte-Marie song. Buffy also said, in Belleville Ontario, when playing the mouth bow, "If we can make music with a weapon then we've still got some hope."

To quote the Control Arms website:

Lack of controls on the arms trade is fuelling conflict, poverty and human rights abuses worldwide. Every government is responsible. The Control Arms campaign is asking governments to toughen up controls on the arms trade.

Our Million Faces petition is collecting photos and self portraits from around the world to reach our goal of one million faces by June 2006. We will use these faces to send a powerful, global message of support to the world's governments for an International Arms Trade Treaty.

Be one in a million. Join us today.

Sign up, eh?

I have, and sent the delightful photo of me in a Florentine square avoiding the pidgeons.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

Purple Walls

This weekend sees our big move at work and I'll lose my office since we're all going open-plan. My office will be turned into a meeting room and I'm moving onto the other side of the floor with my team. I'm not too bothered really except that I realised today I'll be sitting in front of a big purple wall.

Our colour scheme seems to be purple and cream. We've had great debates this week (they started re-decorating last weekend) about what the colours actually are and I think the consensus is that the colours are lilac and ivory... I still maintain purple and cream!

Very '70s!

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Glycerine Queen

Leather Forever is the glorious DVD of Suzi Quatro's 2003 tour, subtitled 'The Wild One Live'.

It was filmed at the end of the tour so her voice struggles to hit the note a few times but she's an energetic stage performer. It's in a huge stadium in Germany, Suzi on a big stage with her six-piece band plus two backing singers. She stalks the stage in leathers and works the audience into a frenzy despite there being a definite age thing going on. The film flicks between colour and black and white and often the black and white portions are the younger Suzi of yesteryear singing the same song - the lip-sync doesn't always work but it's a nice effect.

At the end of Glycerine Queen Suzi does a bass solo before taking over the drums for the intro to Can The Can. 48 Crash and Devil Gate Drive are also in there as well as If You Can't Give Me Love and a host of other well remembered songs, but they're the big hits so are the obvious highlights. It's quite short at only 47 minutes but I don't mind - it's great to see her on stage!

The DVD ends with a a phone call from Suzi in which she talks about Mickey Most who died in 2003 and thanked him for his belief in her. That's a nice touch.

She puts on a good show - I need to see her live now... and, of course, she has all the new songs from the excellent new album, Back To The Drive!

Monday, 6 March 2006

Catalogue and other events

Had a slightly eventful weekend (well, sort of). I decided I needed to catalogue all my CDs so I know what songs I already have and by whom and when - so I don't download then from iTunes...

I was given Access 2003 when I visited a Microsoft project a few weeks ago so thought I'd experiment with it. It took hours to go through the CDs in the various towers in the living room and the bookcase in the hall - around 400 or so. But now I've got to add track listings for each as well. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but I discovered CDs by Sting and Alanis Morrisette that I didn't even know I had - eBay here I come!

The next step is to re-order them in alphabetical order. I'm a bit worried about that. I might still have to have a pile of CDs next to the CD player so I've got my recent favourites to hand. It looks a lot better having a pile CDs as well!

Um, more exciting is that I received an email from Buffy Sainte-Marie - I sent her a 'happy birthday' email and she replied - I'm overjoyed! And no, I'm not going to repeat what she says or give you her address. I'm quietly glowing...

Saturday, 4 March 2006

Top Ten iPod

Apply Some Pressure ~ Maximo Park
Graffiti ~ Maximo Park
I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen ~ SLADE
I Been Down - Buffy Sainte-Marie
Darling Don't Cry ~ Buffy Sainte-Marie
Rock and Roll (Part 2) ~ Gary Glitter
Postwar Glamour Girls ~ John Cooper Clarke
Getting A Drag ~ Lynsey de Paul
My Life In Reverse ~ Maximo Park
Buick MacKane ~ T.Rex

The top ten doesn't really change that much, does it? Kim Weston drops out of the chart and in comes some Glam Rock (I think this is due to preparing for another Record Bag DJ session).

When there're over 1,000 songs on the iPod it takes a while to play the same song more than a few times. I'm loading Suzi Quatro's new album onto my iPod now, so let's see if little Suzi can make a dent in the charts... I hope so!

Friday, 3 March 2006

The Kings of Glam ... and Queen

I've been watching an excellent programme on BBC1 tonight - The Kings of Glam! Short biographies of some of the Kings of glamrock in the early '70s and (at the risk of leaving myself open to obvious comments) one Queen - Suzi Quatro.

Very conveniently I got Suzi's new album this afternoon - Back to the Drive - which I'm listening to for the first tme now and it is excellent so far. Rocky and loud, the title track starts off with 'Devil Gate Drive' playing in the background before exploding into the new song which is also written by Mike Chapman who wrote the hit song 30-odd years ago. What a woman! I want to see her live. I do I do I do. Teeny weeny Suzi dressed in leathers with a huge bass guitar - a classic rock image from my youth. Who could possibly forget?

Anyway, back to The Kings of Glam...

It started with a biog of Marc Bolan, the bopping elf himself, through Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Elton John ... and a lovely biog of Noddy Holder, the Lord of Noize himself! He came across as a really nice bloke, everybody's favourite uncle. It was also nice to see Dave Hill share some memories as well. If only ... a reunion will never happen (I tell myself firmly to avoid getting my hopes up). There was some great archive footage of the Kings and Queen, none of it looked new to me but it's great to see it again. There should be more about glam rock on telly! No mention of Sweet or Glitter but I don't suppose you can have everyone on (and, given the news today about GG perhaps not the best day to put him in the spotlight).

And, of course, Suzi. Listening to her heavy version of Neil Young's 'Rockin' In The Free World' on her new album. And, of course, I've inadvertently found Suzi's website which has lots of interesting nooks and crannies - and tour dates...

Buffy Sainte-Marie Albums

Imagine my joy at receiving a small package this morning from Holland - three Buffy Sainte-Marie CDs of albums that have never been released on CD:

Buffy / Changing Woman / Sweet America

I've got them all on vinyl but not on CD. Pieter who runs the excellent Buffy tribute site offered burnies and I jumped at the chance. I already had a CD of 'Buffy' (courtesy of Chris for Christmas 2004). I've been listening to the other two albums in turn all night since getting home from the Retro Bar where I failed to live up to my reputation as an international superstar DJ since all the DJ slots were taken - drat! Double drat since I was going to play a Buffy track as song four.

But I've got Buffy albums to keep me happy!

Now I've just got to track down all the singles and 'B' sides that aren't on the albums and get them digitised too... it's a never ending quest ...

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Shopping Bag

A few things to record for the worthy readers:

First of all, the lights on the fine old tree at the top of Mitcham Lane, beside Streatham Green, have finally gone out. I suspect vandalism. They made such a difference to that area in the few weeks they were allowed to sparkle and shine.

Secondly, my back's partially gone again ... by that I mean my slipped disc hasn't exactly slipped but it's making itself known. I don't know how I did it this time - I can usually pin it down to the exact moment and what I did at that moment, but this time it just went when I stood up after a late lunch in Da Pietro on Streatham High Road on Sunday afternoon. All I did was stand up. Well, I didn't quite stand up fully coz me back started playing up so I hobbled home. Ouch and the pills aren't really helping.

The mornings are the worst, taking a long time for my back to 'open up' and let me stand up straight and walk without too much of a limp. Most annoying. It was really 'tight' this morning so I stayed at home and did what work I could via email - I get far more done at home than in the office. My back finally started 'opening' around 3pm by which time it's too late to try going into work.

This evening went to the theatre to see 'The Exonerated' at the Riverside Studios at Hammersmith courtesy of Chris (who will, no doubt, draft a much better review because he's good at those things, y'know, words...). I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but I enjoyed the experience (if 'enjoyed' is the right word). 10 actors, 6 of whom portray ex-prisoners on death row in America, all wrongly convicted, telling their stories, no excessive emotion, all the text lifted from court transcripts, statements or letters. All terribly sad and scary. At one point in the latter half of the play one of the ex-prisoners comments that it could happen to anyone. And if the examples in this play are anything to go by, then yes it could happen to anyone. That's the scary thing about it.

There were a few threads that connected all the stories - consistent police laziness or falsification, the ex-prisoners all trusting 'the system' because they were innocent, deliberate brutality, physical or mental. I was particularly taken by the story of the woman prisoner (played by Stockard Channing), played as a very calm hippy-type, a love-child of the '60s who ended up on death row in the mid '70s for a murder she wasn't involved in, she trusted 'the system' and so did her parents so they didn't get a proper lawyer. The killer confessed in 1979 but she was only released in 1992, and this was sadly after her husband had already been executed for the murder... So sad. After the play we were invited to give donations for the six ex-prisoners who spent years on death row since none of them received any compensation for rotting unjustly in jail. Part of me was angry about what happened, part sad, part thoughtful.

It's not just about six ex-prisoners, of course. It's about all oppression, all corrupt systems, all minorities, the life most of us don't experience (to our relief) but some do. It could happen to anyone in the 'wrong' circumstances. You or me. That's what's scary.

It resonates with where I am in my Simone de Beauvoir biography at the moment, moving from the struggle for Algerian liberation to the student riots in Paris and Simone's increasing politicisation as she grows older, taking the French Army to court in order to justify the actions of one of her former students. She shows the lie to the young radicals growing soft as they age - she discovered her radical side as she aged and she lived it to the full. There's a line in the book when, in the late '50s-'60s, she was being dropped by the Communists and others for her criticism of the USSR and other 'causes' because of their abuses of human rights when she states that her primary responsibility is to her own intellect rather than to any particular cause. Her purity of thought and seering vision wasn't about to kowtow to any trendy cause - if it's right it's right and if it's wrong she'll tell you about it in incredible detail. I like what I'm reading about Simone. Integrity counts after all.