Wednesday, 28 February 2007

One Two


I had one significant work worry today - a reminder that the deadline for a major piece of work is Friday this week. I've known about the work for two weeks now but it's never quite made it through my neural pathways to register as urgent because other things have been more urgent. A big bit of work was completed today so I can now focus on the next big task. Don't try to speak to me tomorrow because I won't be listening.


I've had two surprises today:

1. Childnet emailed me at work to say they'd seen my blog from yesterday. I responded to say that I hoped they'd also read my Poly and Jim Lea entries since I'll be asking questions later. Nice to see my readership expand.

2. I was kindly given a copy of the 'Hot Fuzz' soundtrack CD by Chris after it was signed by Simon Pegg (he scrawled over the front of the leaflet at a signing in Virgin). It's a good soundtrack with suitably glamtastic tracks from the Sweet, T.Rex and Cozy Powell and an interesting re-working of 'Solid Gold Easy Action' by The Fratellis. It's got clips of dialogue between the tracks which makes for an interesting listen. Of course, Chris has this ongoing relationship with Edgar Wright (the director) where Edgar buys film posters and promises to supply posters of his films ... friend to the stars indeed. My only complaint is that The Fratellis singer doesn't ad lib 'stroll on' after the chorus like Marc does. It doesn't sound quite right without 'stroll on'...

Tuesday, 27 February 2007


Poly needed a blog of her own but I've got a few other things to log as well as the delightful 'Translucence'.

Hot Fuzz

Went to see 'Hot Fuzz' at the Ritzy in Brixton at the weekend and, like 'Shaun of the Dead', it's laugh-out-loud funny. Mainly at the rude bits but it would be churlish to accuse it of schoolboy humour when it tickled my funny-bone so well. It also has it's own exciting web presence for the addict.

I didn't feel it was as immediate as 'Shaun', with Simon Pegg playing it a bit too straight in the first half of the film, but the second half more than makes up for it. Violence and mayhem rule - in a comic way, of course. I loved the shoot-out at the supermarket where the entire riot-clad police force (oops, not supposed to call them 'force') was held at bay by two men behind the cold meat counter and when the supermarket secretary was wallopped round the head with a sign by the token police-woman (oops, police officer, don't want to be sexist) who then says, 'everyone likes to see some girl on girl action'.... Is my inner school-boy appearing?

Timothy Dalton was excellent as the ultra-smarmy supermarket manager (how hateful are people like that?) and Nick Frost was endearing in his childlike adoration of the big-city cop Nickerless Angel (sic). The cast was stellar in a sort of '70s British way with real, proper Actors (capital A) doing their cameos to a T.

A good film? O yes! Go and see it!

'Know IT All for Parents' by Childnet

I went to a 'charity do' this evening to support Childnet International and its soft launch of the new version of 'Know IT All for Parents', a CD resource I commissioned last year to let parents know the basics about computers and the Internet. I don't usually do 'dos' - if I wanted to schmooze with industry I'd be in industry. But Childnet is doing good stuff and one of our ministers was speaking at it, so I thought I'd go and I'm pleased I did. It's an excellent product.

The CD includes a lot of material about safe uses of the Internet, most of it is in video format and is translated into various languages and British Sign Language. Some of the new material to be available from April is done by kids - or 'young people' as I must remember to call them - and they were the focus of tonight. Simon Mayo interviewed the kids on stage this evening and let them have their say about their involvement in the CD and this went down really well. They were very fluent and obviously well-practiced but that shouldn't detract from the power of having kids up there telling us about the Internet.

One of our ministers was also speaking at the event, Parmjit Dhanda MP, and he came across very well indeed, telling the audience about his father's first emails and the importance of being safe online. Unfortunately he was called back to the House for a vote so he had to cut his speech back but his attendance was appreciated by the people there (or at least the ones I spoke to afterwards). He's very tall so he better not go to any Maximo Park gigs!

'Therapy' by James Whild Lea

My 'Therapy' CD finally arrived at the weekend (my previous version was downloaded from Jim's website but I wanted the physical version with the lyrics booklet). It really is an excellent album but marketing it to existing SLADE fans isn't going to take it very far and it deserves a much wider audience. 'Dead Rock UK' and 'Big Family' should be singles.

I was listening to Suzi Quatro's latest album, 'Back To The Drive', on the way home this evening and I couldn't help but think about Jim's album - it's good but it's not promoted so it stays within the same (relatively) small community, just as Suzi's did. I don't know what the answer is but it's part of my duty as a SLADE fan to want Jim's music to be heard and for him to be successful.

'Translucence' by Poly Styrene

It was, to be honest, with some trepidation that I put 'Translucence' on the turntable and pressed 'play'.

'Translucence' is Poly Styrene's solo album from 1980, a hard to find gem that I bought through eBay. Poly had come through the punk years, X-Ray Spex had split and what does she do next? She goes in a very different direction to the Spex and delivers 'Translucence', an album of 12 songs including a new, more relaxed take on the Spex song 'Age'.

My first impression was that it was reminiscent of calypso music, very Carribean sounding with slight hints of reggae, a flute replacing the saxophone on most tracks giving them a very different sound. A much gentler record than 'Germfree Adolescents', some songs almost hint at the ambient music she recorded in the '90s. Until you listen to the lyrics and realise that with a different arrangement, a rawer sound and a blaring sax, then most of these songs could've been the Spex's second album. Poly is still there but she's moved on.

The single from the album, 'Talk In Toytown', seemingly about media speculation about her in post-Spex days, stands out as going into early-'80s electronic territory and 'Age', with it's blatant sax, seems to hark back to the Spex. Other than those two tracks the rest of the album experiments with her new sound. And I like it. It may just be the newness of the music but some of these songs are gems.

The sound is quite 'thin', not the walls of sound we're used to these days, so it doesn't really work on my iPod since it's drowned out by background noise, but Poly is in there and she has a good voice in gentler mode. Favourite tracks at the moment are the electronic 'Talk In Toytown', the funky 'Skydive' with the '80s sax, the ambient calypso of 'Essence' (which has a vocal lilt that Boy George inherited), the reggae of 'Hip City Hip' and the magnificent mellowed-out 'Age' (which is also available on 'Let's Submerge', the latest Spex compilation).

I like this record but I want a properly re-mastered version on CD please.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Chola at The Royal Academy

A civilised Friday evening was spent at the Chola exhibition at The Royal Academy. As the blurb says:

This exhibition of approximately forty bronze sculptures explored the artistic and cultural riches of the Chola dynasty of southern India between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. Throughout their rule the Chola were great patrons of the arts and oversaw an extensive programme of temple construction. Portable bronze sculptures, revered as physical manifestations of the Hindu gods, were produced to fulfil public functions and preside over specific festivities. Chola bronzes are widely considered to be among the finest works of Indian sculptural art.

It's at times like this that I have to dredge up what I can remember being told about Hindu deities on my travels out East and I love it. I've been a guest in Hindu temples in lots of places across India, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and in England. Some information sticks but most doesn't. Many of the gods are different incarnations or aspects of the same godhead. It is a fascinating exhibition, not many statues but they're of very high quality and covered in delicate details.

A majority of the statues were of Lord Shiv in his various aspects and there was an excellent statue of him as Shiva the Destroyer dancing the world to destruction, dancing in a flaming ring with his dreadlocks flying and the lord in a transcendent, ecstatic state, four arms flailing and legs daintily posed. It would have been about three feet across. I can't find a photo online and I'm too lazy to scan it in from the catalogue so here's a poor photo I took with my phone.

Another favourite was an ornate statue of Kali with lots of fine detail in her clothes and jewelery and, if you look closely, the impression of two fangs overhanging her lower lip. I took Kali's photo once in a temple in Khajuraho in the middle of nowhere in northern India and she sent her bats to chase me out of her temple. Her temple was dark but I could see the outlines of a statue so thought I'd take a photo and the bats objected to the flash. When I eventually got the film developed back home I saw the statue for the first time and it was covered in stains, some of which looked like reasonably fresh blood. I've been more respectful whenever I've met her since then.

The final statue in the exhibition is a lovely dancing Krishna, looking young, confident and ever so slightly sensuous with his full lips and serene face. Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu who appears each time the world is in danger (the Vishnu aspect seems to be symbolised by the crown he wears). Again, the detail in a bronze statue is wonderful and delicate and it's debateable whether the statue is still or in full flow of the dance.

There was also a lovely statue of Lord Ganesha, very poised and still, at rest, his trunk in the palm of one of his four hands. I went back to that statue a few times to look for the mouse, a motif of Ganesha's that artists hid in different places in his images. I couldn't see it though.

I was pleased I saw the exhibition before it closes at the weekend at Christopher's prompting. I'd meant to see it as a birthday treat to myself but didn't make it. As you'd expect, the statues were all very stylised but that's part of their beauty in my eyes. And it was fun to point out details and generally show off to Chris. Since the statues were all in glass cases and you could walk round them, one thing I couldn't help but notice was the prominence of virtally all their bums, buttocks firm and daintily parted and, on the women, incredibly voluptuous breasts (and this was in the days before surgical enhancement).

There were also extracts from devotional poems and hymns written on the walls of the exhibition rooms, written by the Shaivite saints. Here's one by Saint Manikkavachakar:

O Lord Shiva
on that day when you looked at me
you enslaved me
in grace entered me
and out of love melted my mind

Thursday, 22 February 2007

New Music

I've been investing in some new music recently so I thought I'd share it.

Ono - Yes, I'm A Witch

On principle I've always liked Yoko Ono. She's an artist, she believes in what she does, she's always been the future not the past and she's been vilified for most of my life (and hers) for daring to love John Lennon. Most of her free-form stuff in the early '70s was too much for me but I do have a Yoko vinyl album in my Dad's attic from way back then.

I read about her new album in 'Mojo' and was intrigued. So I got it. I'm listening to it now and I like it. 'Yes, I'm A Witch' is a celebration of her songs over the years, retaining her vocals but the music and production is farmed out to others to experiment with. The collaborations are with a wide range of people, such as Peaches, The Flaming Lips and the Polyphonic Spree. My favourites so far are 'Everyman, Everywoman' with Blow Up, 'Sisters O Sisters' (from 'Sometime in New York City') with Le Tigre, 'Yes, I'm A Witch' with The Brothers Brothers and 'Cambridge' with the Flaming Lips.

I like it. Click on 'Yes I'm A Witch' to hear the songs streamed. A second collection is due out later this year.

!!! (chk chk chk)

I saw !!! (chk chk chk) last night supporting the Maximos and quite liked what I heard. They were loud and wierd and all in the jeans+teeshirt uniform, doing the free-form 'I'm gonna bang some drums now' thing but it sort of worked for me. Their roots are definitely in the late '80s baggy E thing but I could help but groove my funky stuff to the density of sound emating from the stage.

When I got home I checked them out online and found their MySpace site with their new single, 'Heart to Heart' and decided it sounded so much better live, with the wierd audio scribblings on the keyboard, the bloke doing something on the floor with his guitar and odd members of the band joining in on bits of percussion. Give 'em a listen.

Various - I'm In The Mood For Love

I'm loving this collection of lovers rock, the luv-dup version of reggae I saw a few weeks back at the 'Queens of Lovers Rock' show at the Barbican with Janet Kay and Caroll Thompson. It sounds so right. A nice mix of old and new, originals and covers, and all with that same lovers rock groove, enticing you in, soft and warm. Oooer!

Reggae is so much more than Bob Marley. He's pivotal in bringing reggae to a wider audience in the mid '70s but reggae was around before and after Bob. The almost-pop of Desmond Dekker and Bob and Marcia, the scary rebel of Linton Kwesi Johnson and the lurve of Janet Kay and others. This is a good selection so please go and buy it. Reggae and sunshine go together like, well, reggae and sunshine, and we all need some sunshine.

Alan Price - Geordie Boy

As a Geordie I must be at the very least sympathetic to Alan Price's work. I remember him from those late '60s/early '70s variety shows with him plonking away at the piano, occasionally with Georgie Fame in a duet thing. For some reason, the 'Jarrow Song' has popped up on my iPod several times recently and that made me want to explore his music more fully. So I got his double CD anthology.

I haven't heard both CDs yet, but I like what I hear. It's got the hits on it of 'Simon Smith', 'Rosetta', 'Jarrow Song' and others you'll recognise and I love hearing these again. But there are also gems like 'Tickle Me', 'Shame' and 'The House That Jack Built'. It's all very keyboard and voice dominated but that's nice for a change. It's a late night album.

He's not going to be to everyone's taste but he works for me and I like the quality of his voice. And I always like a Geordie boy to do well on principle. Mmmm maybe the Maximos should cover 'Jarrow Song'?

Maximo Park at The Astoria

Maximo Park headlined the NME Poll Winners tour this evening at the Astoria. "We are Maxeemo Park" was the rallying cry and the lads did themselves proud. They played half a dozen or so songs from the new album (I approved of the way Paul kept referring to it as the new 'record') as well as favourites and classics.

The lads couldn't keep still for a second, bouncing around the stage, jumping from amps, pogoing, dashing from side to side - so much energy. They seem to be going for a 'corporate' image with all of them dressed in black and looking good but Paul wore a bowler hat throughout which meant his face was obscured most of the time. They played for about 1.10 hours which isn't very long, but, what with the preceeding acts on the tour needing their time, the Maximo's left the stage at 11.00pm so that's not too bad really.

They played most of my favourites so I was happy - 'The Coast Is Always Changing', 'Apply Some Pressure', 'Graffiti', a wild version of 'Limassol' as the first encore song and finished with the marvellous 'Going Missing'. A distinct highlight was the fast and furious 'Our Velocity', the new single due out next month - that song works so well on stage it's an instant favourite.

I see the lads again in three months time and by then I'll be familiar with the new songs so watch this space for more Maximo!

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Buffy Day

Today I have been listening only to Buffy on my iPod - on the way to work, at work, on the way home and now while I'm typing. I have 184 tracks on iPey, some are duplicates (such as different versions of songs like 'Soldier Blue'). She has an incredible back-catalogue and a wide range of material.

The last ten songs are:
  • He's An Indian Cowboy At The Rodeo [Album: Up Where We Belong]
  • Disinformation [Album: Coincidence And Likely Stories]
  • Little Boy Dark Eyes [Album: Fire& Fleet & Candlelight]
  • She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina [Album: She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina]
  • Native North American Child [Album: Native North American Child - An Oddysey]
  • The Jewels of Hanalei [Album: Quiet Places]
  • Nobody Will Ever Know It's Real But You [Album: Changing Woman]
  • Cod'ine [Album: Newport Folk 1964]
  • I Can't Take It No More [Album: Buffy]
  • A Soulful Shade Of Blue [Album: Best Of The Vanguard Years]
I like the fact that Buffy has different versions of her songs to reflect different times. I like the two reggae versions of 'Fallen Angels'. I'm currently listening to 'The Flower And The Apple Tree', a single 'b' side from the '60s that's not on any of the albums.

I'm looking forward to the new album due later this year - some new Buffy songs to learn and cherish and, hopefully, to bop around to!

Happy Birthday Buffy!

I had the distinct honour of meeting Buffy Sainte-Marie two years ago after her concert in the little town of Belleville in Canada on my birthday. She signed one of the concert posters for me after the concert wishing me 'Happy Birthdays' (plural). That poster is framed and on my living room wall for all to see. I have a lovely photo of Buffy and me that will never be shown on here - it's my photo and I'm not sharing it.

Buffy is such an admirable woman as well as a consumate artist (in all senses of the word). She has standards and convictions and she sticks to them. She hasn't mellowed with age, she's still the radical she was in her 20s. She is still Buffy. I admire that in my heroes. Wouldn't a collaboration between Buffy, John Lydon, Poly Styrene and Noddy Holder be something to behold? And let's throw Amanda DD into the pot and stir it gently...

When we spoke she mentioned that she'd been invited to play at Morrissey's 'Meltdown' at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004 but had been too busy to attend. She's more than a revered musician, she's an artist and an educator, a lobbyist and a UN representative. And she wears the most delightful platform moccasins. But I want Buffy to play London so I can be in the front row (selfish, I know).

I'd like to wish Buffy a happy birthday, wherever she happens to be and whatever she's doing.

Today I'm playing nothing but Buffy on my iPod. And thinking happy thoughts about two years ago with Buffy and multiphonic powwow and snow...

Monday, 19 February 2007

Bit of a Bag


After being worried about Amanda Dresden Doll I've now decided she's fine. She's been par-taying in New York for a couple of weeks and is now off for a yoga retreat in the woods somewhere. When she returns to civilisation in two-three weeks time she's straight into the studio to work on her solo album, all refreshed and raring to go. Brian is off doing drum-clinics in various New England academic institutions (how posh) and I think they get back together for a June tour across America. But when will I see my punk cabaret ragamuffins again, I wonder?

Um, and don't forget about the Roundhouse DVD please ...

Poly Styrene

I am an excited thing. I bid for and won Poly's 1980 solo album, 'Transluscence,' on eBay. I think the version of 'Age' on the 'Let's Submerge' compilation is from that album and, if so, I'm going to enjoy it. Well, enjoy it after I've transferred vinyl to digital stuff and burned it...

Maximos and the Minister

O dear. I have a diary clash. I'm off to see me Geordie lads - the delightful Maximo Park - at the Astoria on Wednesday but I've also got a meeting with one of our ministers on Wednesday afternoon for a demonstration of a new digital resource for parents. That creates something of a dilemma - suit or no suit? change at work? traipse all the way home to change and head back into town? or, could I fake it with black jeans, jacket and tie (and then discard the tie)? Decisions, decisions.

Last 10 iPey

The last 10 tracks played on my iPod were:

'Boogie Oogie Oogie' - A Taste of Honey
'Take On Me' - a-Ha
'Emergency' - 999
'Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In' - The 5th Dimension
'Wake Up Little Sister' - Lindisfarne
'Daydreaming' - Dusty Springfield
'Stay With Me' - Rod Stewart & The Faces
'The Other Man's Grass (Is Always Greener)' - Petula Clark
'Eagle' - ABBA
'Carnation' - The Jam

Don't you just lurve an iPod on shuffle? Who knows what's going to turn up next? 'Aquarius' is one of my latest downloads and, unfortunately, has already acquired a less than flattering nickname, but I like it anyway.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Indigo Girls at Shepherds Bush

I had the pleasure of seeing the Indigo Girls - Amy and Emily - at Shepherds Bush this evening. It was a first for me, never having seen them before and it was quite a thrill to have them standing up there on the stage in front of me. They played for about 1.40 hours and then came back on for an encore. The show was all accoustic, just the two of them plus occasional augmentation by a woman playing an accordion. The set was a mix of classics and tracks from the new album, 'Despite Our Differences'.

When I arrived at Shepherds Bush it was full to capacity (which is a good thing) but I've never seen so many women with short hair in the same space before, it was quite strange until I noticed that I wasn't the only man there. Naturally, I find a space behind the tallest lads there... and just beside the women that want to talk throughout the gig... so I moved behind the central bar and not only had an excellent view of the lasses but I had Guinness on tap in front of me.

I've never seen the lasses before so wasn't sure what to expect but they came on to do an accoustic set and they sounded fine. Very simple and very effective. Amy in anti-Bush tee-shirt and red tartan trews and Emily in Soviet star tee-shirt and faded jeans, taking turns at vocal duties and changing guitars after almost every song with a simple light show going on around them.

The highlights for me were 'Closer To Fine', their first hit and a song that will forever evoke walking across Clapham Common to get a bus from Clapham Junction in the summer of 1989. It was excellent and everyone joined in singing it. I also loved the accoustic version of 'Go' (a really powerful song) and 'Chickenman' which I couldn't imagine without Budgie's mad drumming but it worked well. 'Power of Two' and 'Ghost' were quite touching as were 'Three Hits' and 'Little Perrennials' from the new album.

All in all, it was a good night out and I'd definitely see them again.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

A Crushed Rosebud

What a sad thing to see on Valentines Day, a crushed rose on the pavement. That's what we saw on Lower Regent Street this evening after a delightful meal, cheeky wine and a charming host at the Val Taro behind Trafalgar Square. It was Chris's penultimate evening working in the West End before moving to the wilds of Old Street so we went out to celebrate. The shop is full of packing crates and the counter and till have mysteriously vanished - bye bye shop/hello office. I await the mammoth moving blog with interest.

My iPod has grown over the last week and I now have 9,192 tracks on it. The ten last played tracks are:

You Must Love Me - Madonna
Sarah's Song - Madness
Poptones - Public Image Ltd
Camel Crossing - Kirsty MacColl
Age (John Peel Session) - X-Ray Spex
Mary Jane - Alanis Morissette
Get Down And Get With It - SLADE
Sunlight - Natalie Imbruglia
Go - Indigo Girls
Hey Ya! - Outkast

My ten most played tracks are:

Sing - The Dresden Dolls
Party - X-Ray Spex
Remember Me - Beverley Knight
Nobody's Fool - SLADE
Mandy Goes To Med School - The Dresden Dolls
Going Missing - Maximo Park
All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! - Sufjan Stevens
Junk Food Junkie - X-Ray Spex
Hole In Your Soul - Abba
The Look Of Love - ABC

I'm listening to my latest record at the moment, 'I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight' by Richard and Linda Thompson. Julie Covington also recorded that song, of course, but the Thompson's original version is quite different. I'm also enjoying my new lovers rock reggae double album, 'I'm In The Mood For Love', inspired by seeing Janet Kay at the Barbican a week and a bit ago. It's a great selection of songs, both old and new. It's a shame none of Janet's records seem to be generally available.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

The Shame

I realised, to my shame, that I don't have 'Boredom' by the Buzzcocks on CD. I don't quite know how I've managed that (I had the vinyl back in the day). I assumed it was on my Buzzcock's singles collection but it isn't. So I've downloaded it. I can't live with the shame of not having it.

While I was hunting through my iPod I also noticed another significant omission. Status Quo. The Quo have probably featured on a few thousand compilation albums so how come I only have two tracks? The Quo aren't one of my favourite bands by any means but they're friends to SLADE and they made a big contribution to rock-pop in the '70s and beyond, therefore I must be sympathetic to them. So I've downloaded 'Down Down', 'Roll Over Lay Down' and 'Whatever You Want'. I *had* to.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Shiney Toaster

I got a brand new toaster at the weekend and it is fabulous. It toasts up a treat.

It has 6 different browning settings and a different setting for bagels (most important). My only sorrow is that I'm not allowed cream-cheese on my bagels, so I have to make do with marmite (which I'm also not allowed, but hey...).
Yummity yum yum.

Flame, Fools and B-Sides

The first SLADE Day of 2007 dawned grey, gloomy and damp. But who gives a stuff? It's SLADE Day and more re-mastered re-issues are available! And, of course, this will be even more interesting since I haven't played any of my old SLADE CDs (and they're not on iPod) since I first heard they were all being re-issued, so I'm hearing them afresh in re-mastered form.

The obligatory trip to HMV took place, like a pilgrimage, first to the new release shelves and there they are, all three CDs. Then over to inspect the SLADE rack to make sure they're there and then to the re-issues display and once again, HMV have done the lads proud. Now, they just need to sell in droves. I clearly wasn't the first one to buy them today since a number were already missing - that's a good thing.

First on the digital turntable was 'SLADE in Flame', the soudtrack to their 1974 film. No bonus tracks on this CD, just re-mastered beauty. There are some nice photos from the film in the booklet and a large photo in the disc tray of Nod in his 'Stoker'/vampire get-up from early on in the film before he joined Flame.

The album opens with the majesty of 'How Does It Feel?' and its nice, crisp sound before descending into the rock mayhem of 'Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing' with Dave's mad slide guitar work and the pop of 'So Far So Good'. Excellent sound on all of them and throughout the album. It's great to hear it all the way through for the first time in what seems like ages - some tracks are on 'The SLADE Box' so have already been enjoyed in re-mastered form, but it's different to hear the album all the way through. One thing that jumps out at me is the use of horns on a number of the songs, something new for SLADE, and they all sound so clear on the different tracks. It makes for an interesting mix of the guitar-base of the songs overlaid by horns.

Highlights for me are 'How Does It Feel?', 'Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing', 'Far Far Away', 'Lay It Down' and 'Standin' On The Corner'. 'Lay It Down' is an excellent track that came as a complete surprise when the echo-y vocal and psychedelic drumming kicked in, and this was exactly the feeling I'd hoped for by deliberately not listening to the albums.

Big tick for 'SLADE in Flame', now I just need the DVD to be re-issued (I think that happens at Easter).

Next up is 'Nobody's Fools', an album only SLADE fans have probably heard of (it didn't do too well in the chart). It was after the glory years, recorded while they were based in America and it sounds it, lots of different styles, trans-atlantic and even has girl backing singers (a first for SLADE). It has four bonus tracks, non-album singles and 'b' sides from the same period, the best of which are already on 'The SLADE Box'.

I've never really known what to think of 'Nobody's Fools', a sort of inbetweeny album, after the glory years but before they resurrected their hard rock style, trying a bit of funk and almost stadium rock in places. The cover photo of them with red noses probably confuses me a bit as well. It has some killer tracks on it such as 'Do The Dirty' and 'Get On Up' and I've always loved 'All The World's A Stage', their most psychedelic track. I always wondered whether this was meant to be their 'Revolver', lots of things going on musically throughout the album and ending with the most psychedelic sweet in the bag. Unfortunately for SLADE, punk happened and, to mark their arrival, they returned with the hard rock of 'Whatever Happened To SLADE'.

The third re-issue is 'B-Sides', a 40 track double CD of the b-sides from 1969-1991. If nothing else, this album reminds you what a versatile band SLADE were, being more experimental on the 'b' sides of their singles. The first disc contains the 'b' sides from the early-mid '70s, most of which have already been released on the re-issued albums to date but two tracks were totally new to me - 'C'mon C'mon' from 1970 and 'Forest Full of Needles' from 1977. The booklet includes a short paragraph of each of the tracks and I like the final sentence describing 'Don't Blame Me' which states,' ...Holder's voice sounds less like a tool of singing and more like a weapon of mass destruction.' The song is from, 'Old, New, Borrowed and Blue' and Nod's voice is totally over the top - mad, wild and heavy artillery.

The second disc has songs I've never heard before, songs from singles I never knew as singles in the late '70s and the '80s and I feel such a traitor for not knowing them. Some are from the albums, of course. On the other hand, all the better to enjoy them now. I particularly enjoy the inside photo of SLADE growing out their skinhead look and Noddy in a flat cap.

Favourites so far include 'It's Alright Buy Me', a magnificent, relentless driving song I first heard on 'The SLADE Box', SLADE at their best, 'Funk Punk And Junk' which has it all thrown in, 'Mama Nature Is A Rocker', the swing version of 'My Oh My' (a daft thing I wish I'd seen them do live), the hard-rock wall-of-sound of 'Wild Wild Party' and 'Red Hot' credited as the last SLADE song as the 'b' side to 'Universe'.

All in all, a very favourable day. Familiar tracks to be delighted by in their new re-mastered versions and a lot of new tracks to learn to appreciate. Go on, I dare you, try one of the new CDs... you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, 11 February 2007


I've just been browsing on eBay and out of the 360 items for sale that come up in a search for "Maximo Park" a total of 273 are for tickets to see the band. Why do people buy tickets simply to sell them on eBay, denying them to fans? Money of course. The tickets only went on sale last week and sold out really quickly (as ever). It's good for the band, I suppose, that touts think they're bankable but it's not as if they get the money from inflated ticket sales. Part of me would love no-one to buy the tickets so the touts are out-of-pocket, but I wouldn't want the lads to play to half-full audiences, that wouldn't be right at all.

I'm looking forward to seeing them later in February and again in May.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

'Sweet mystery of life ..'

'... at last I've found you' sang Richard Tauber - or was it Mario Lanza? - o those many years ago.

That's what came to mind when I saw this article on the BBC about two neolithic skeletons hugging. Of course, we don't actually know what happened, what the circumstances of their death and burial might have been or what it all means. It's a nice image, two young people in love and being buried together, sleeping peacefully for 5,000 years only to be disturbed by us (we're noisey, nosey critters, aren't we?).

That's a long cuddle.

Alegria - Cirque du Soleil

My treat this evening was to see 'Alegria' by the Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall. Every time they come to London I think I must see them but I never do. Until tonight. We were royally entertained by the majesty of circus and spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil.

Spectacular circus acts, acrobats, gymnastics, trapeze, fire-eating, dancing, contortionists, clowns, songs and music, astonishing costumes... roll it all together and you get close to what we witnessed tonight. I loved the hula-hoop girl, particularly how she just flung them away from her; cube-boy doing aerial acrobatics inside and out of a large metal cube; the courtier-elves bouncing high on the thin Russian bars; the trampoline maniacs shooting all over the stage in a non-stop feast for the eyes, threatening violence and disaster; fire-eaters and jugglers; the high-wire swinging, gasping as they fly through the air to be caught, twist and launch themsleves back to the bars.

I'm not altogether certain what it was all about and I don't think I want to know. The grotesques wandering round admiring their breasts and flirting with the youngsters, the strange ring-master, the elves and Mayans, the swan-like nymphs... all of this is a world in and of itself, with its own hierarchies and history. The message around all this seems to be to let your imagination soar, so I will. I even enjoyed the wierdness of the clowns and I don't usually like clowns.

I was very pleased to catch this show and I'll be watching out for the Soleil people on their next visit to London. Excitement and thrills aplenty, stylish and stylised, I loved it.

The only downside was the nearly two hours it took to get home... sigh.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Snow Boy at the Diabeatnik Club

Keeping the theme going here's me in the grounds of St George's Hospital this morning on my way to the Diabeatnik Club. What a huge nose and manic grin but I don't care. I *like* snow and I was being snowed on, so that's a good thing.

It was lovely to wake up this morning and know, from the glow behind the curtains, that the ground was white. The promised snow had arrived. And it was still falling as I sat here in the bay window nursing a cuppa and watching the big fat flakes drift down into the garden. I actually got ready to leave the house sooner than I needed to in case transport was up the spout due to the snow ... but really it was in case the snow stopped falling before I went outside. I take my opportunities to be snowed on very seriously.

Went to the Diabeatnik Club this morning because I've been having problems with one of my feet which my doctor said was nerve damage but the nice chiropodist at the Club said it wasn't, it's related to my back problems and she's referred me to a bio- mechanist (I kid you not). It sounds a bit sci-fi but it's all about how the body works and she thinks I've been compensating for my back by positioning my foot slightly differently when I stand and walk. Oooer. It's all so complicated, but I'd rather it was related to my back than to nerve damage - one can be put right but the other can't.

I got the tube to work and then decided to have a quick detour to St James's Park to see it in the snow. A bit disappointing that a lot of the snow had vanished by mid-day but here are a few photos anyway, including Buckingham Palace at the end of the lake and a cheeky little squirrel that came asking for nuts.

After work I decided I needed to go shopping for a new shirt for my evening out tomorrow. I wanted something I wouldn't normally wear, a sort of 'posh night out' shirt. I headed to John Lewis on Oxford Street only to find it's being refurbished and the menswear department is about one quarter of it's normal size. I found a lovely cream shirt with little blue/turquoise floral boquets scattered hither and thither over the cloth for an extortionate amount of money but thought, 'I *like* that'. Of course, they didn't have my size. My size is (ahem) chunky. Why do they produce these things in ultra-skinny-fit sizes only? It was a nice shirt too.

I remember having a lovely short-sleeved floral shirt in the '80s when I went to Egypt (it sticks in my memory because of taking photos from the roof of the Rameses Hilton in Cairo with the Pyramids in the distance). I loved that shirt. You tend not to get many floral shirts for men so they're memorable.

So I went along to Debenhams to see what they had and made a purchase. A Jasper Conran thing I wouldn't normally wear but it's got some stripey brightness going on and was cheaper than the floral shirt. Watch out for my new stylishness. On the other hand, I might just stick to a plain old checked shirt ...

Maximo Park: Our Velocity (from Our Earthly Pleasures)

The new single due in March!

Boy George at Koko

Went to see Boy George at Koko tonight, a venue I've never been in in any of its guises and I quite liked it. I'd happily go there again.

The show had a few support acts - by the time we got there QBoy was on stage doing his white-boy-wrap-hibbidy-hop-thang, sounding and looking so unoriginal that yawning would've been too much effort. O yes, I was in full slagging-off mode - that name for a start is enough to wind me up, especially when he later said he was 28... why would anyone call themselves 'boy' at that age (Mr George clearly isn't a boy)? Just wind me up and set me off ...

And then he started talking to the semi-rowdy audience about racism and homophobia in schools and how something needed to be done about bullying and how we can all support kids in schools. A lot of it was platitudes but he seemed to be involved in some campaign or other and he said it during his set in a proper music show that wasn't a little promo appearance where he takes his top off. Now, I'm not saying I liked his music (I didn't), all I'm saying is that I'm not slagging him off. He's earned another chance in my book. But please drop the name!
Next up was The Rum Circus who I assume are goths. That's about it really. I jigged to a couple of songs, another couple just passed over me while I was admiring the ceiling at Koko and, well, then they were off.

A seeming age later, on bounded Boy George looking slimmer than when we saw him in the autumn, full of smiles and buoying over with energy. Whatever he'd had for his tea tonight, I want some of it! On the other hand, maybe there just a teensy bit too much spare energy, with not being able to stand still, moving and prowling the stage. O dear.

He did a nice set, lots of his reggae songs but the highlight for me was a punked-up version of 'Church of the Poison Mind' which was always one of my favourite Culture Club songs. Fast and loud was good. He did 'Do you really want to hurt me' and 'Karma Chameleon' in his encore but they didn't have the same kind of buzz about them. Maybe his tea was wearing off? A documentary about 'Taboo' was projected onto a screen behind the stage which was a bit interesting (it's probably on the DVD).

It wasn't the best gig. The sound wasn't too good, drowning out the vocals most of the time, but maybe that's because of where we stood? More annoying were the lights. The stage was largely back-lit so we didn't actually get to see much of him. What was that about? Rarely did any light shine on him from the front so, although there were lots of lights we didn't really see much. And they all wore black except the guitarist so that didn't exactly provide a visual feast.

I'm pleased I went. I'm pleased I saw him. But it won't linger in my mind (except for the wrong reasons).

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Ragamuffin Stew

My favourite Brechtian punk cabaret ragamuffins, The Dresden Dolls, have been updating the photos on their MySpace site which I drop in on every now and then (they're the only reason I'm on MySpace - I just don't 'get' it). So here, for your delight and delectation, are two lovely photos:

This first one was shot in Barcelona (therefore it must be good) with Miss Palmer striking an interesting pose.

This one is called 'the dolls in hell' and is by Amanda (it's dated 2005). It's quite eerie and Edwardian, as they walk, bowed, towards the exit sign, but hand in hand.

Both Dolls now have their own MySpace sites as well as the joint one and have been firing off blogs recently about what they're getting up to now that 'The Onion Cellar' is over. Brian is up, up and away with him doing drum surgeries, getting involved in stuff at Harvard, playing with other bands and generally enjoying himself. Amanda seems to have gone the other way, missing their togetherness, having accidents, drinking and generally seems a bit on the dark side. I worry about her. On the other hand, she seems to be working on an album of 'Fuck The Back Row' material so that's a good thing. But I'm still waiting for the DVD of the Roundhouse shows... [drums fingers on the table].

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Isn't It Funny?

Isn't it funny how we interpret things differently, not just like/dislike something but hear or see things differently.

I read a good and thoughtful review of Buffy Sainte-Marie's 'Sweet America' on another blog and, in some ways, I so agree with it, but my overall picture of it is entirely different. The blogger sees it as a 'bittersweet goodbye to her adoptive homeland ...she gave us this album of reluctant heartbreak'. I hear none of that in the album.

There's no disputing the lyrics but I hear pride and challenge, a joyousness that refuses to be subdued. I also hear a mature woman singing to her child and, in another mood, a sensuous mood, seducing a lover.

Perhaps it's the context in which I heard it in mid-70s Newcastle with me in teenage rebel mode? I loved playing it loudly in my bedroom even after punk arrived to take over my record purchasing, and it went with me to college and again when I moved to London. It only went into my Dad's attic when the record player was dumped, I was on the move and didn't want to lug around records I couldn't listen to.

I've loved 'Sweet America' since I first got it and it's still special to me, possibly because it's one of my first Buffy records and the last of her albums I got digitised so I can hear it in the 21st Century. The thrill of hearing the proud powwow calls on some of the songs after years of silence was great indeed.

Pray up your medicine song!

Monday, 5 February 2007

What's the world coming to?

Once you reach a certain age you're allowed to say this on a regular basis. I don't think I've ever said it yet but, really, what is the world coming to when a child is shot dead outside an ice-rink and other children are arrested?

The details seem to be a bit sketchy and there are lots of questions to ask about what was going on but the simple story of children apparently shooting children is appalling. Where do you get a gun from and why carry it round (and loaded) on a Saturday night? I would have no idea where to even start looking. Leafy Streatham hasn't been suburbia for a long time but neither is it inner city. Violence can happen anywhere.

I came across more violence today with the letter bomb sent to Capita on Victoria Street. I was crossing Victoria Street this morning on my way to a meeting when a chunk of the road was blocked by police directing people to use other roads and paths. I didn't really think twice about it since roads are sometimes closed around my work area for things like royal visits, parliamentary affairs and such like. It was only when I got back to my building and saw the email from our security people that I realised what had happened.

It must have been awful for the woman involved but I couldn't help wondering about the communications skills of our security people. The email said to contact them if anything suspicious was delivered to our offices but didn't tell us how to contact security people trained to deal with a potential bomb - no phone number and no monitored email address. It also didn't reassure me about the effectiveness of security measures in our postroom. Good job I'd already opened my post that morning or I would've worried - three invoices, just like getting nothing but bills at home...

I worked in the area when the garden of No. 10 was bombed in 1991 and the windows of my office all shuddered with the sudden change of air pressure (they weren't shatter-proof back then). I worked in St James's Square during the Libyan Embassy siege in 1984. It just goes on, doesn't it?

Hope you weren't looking for any deep insights in this entry. I have none.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Soul Britannia Allstars

Despite my weakened state, I *had* to go to the Soul Britannia Allstars concert at the Barbican last night, if only to see the lovely Linda Lewis and Madeline Bell share a stage. I didn't realise it, but it was being recorded for BBC4 and will screen on 23 February.

The bit I wasn't expecting was that it was hosted by Pauline Black (formerly of The Selector way back when) which was a bit of a thrill. Even more of a thrill was seeing Janet Kay on stage in the first section and she sang 'Silly Games'! Now I won't pretend that Janet is one of my favourite singers or anything but seeing her sing that song from 1979 was pretty special, and she hit the high notes. Cor! She was doing a show called 'Queens of Lovers Rock' with Carroll Thompson for another BBC4 programme.

After the interval we moved on to Soul Britannia and short sets from various people such as Carol Grimes, Hamish Stuart of the Average White Band, Cymande and others, none of whom I'd really heard of before (ok, I've heard of the AWB but they never really rocked my boat). Then on came Madeline Bell, looking good in black leather trousers and black sparkly top, looking like she was having the time of her life and with the confidence of a grand dame of music. She only did three songs (including an old Blue Mink song I didn't recognise) but she was in fine voice considering she's been belting it out since the '60s.

Linda Lewis was on next next and opened with 'Rockadoodledoo', hitting all the high notes as well as the low, throaty ones. That's one of everyone's favourite Linda tracks and was, I think, her first hit. She only did three tracks as well but it was great to finally see her on stage. I got into Linda in the mid '70s, bought a few albums and then punk exploded. I've never really thought of her as 'soul', she's more in the singer-songwriter tradition along with contemporaries Labi Siffre and Cat Stevens.

It was great to see Linda and Madeline but how come they only got three songs each and Hamish AWB got four? And his were long songs too. That's hardly fair. They all came back on for an encore to close the show - that's Linda and Madeline holding hands just off-centre to the left in the rather poor photo below.

Two Fingers

Well, that teaches me, all right. Don't stick two fingers up to bugs and such creatures since it only makes them try all the harder.

I had a flu jab back in November to protect me from the nasties and guess what? One of the critters got through my microscopic defenses. Bugger.

Mind you, while I was half asleep, shivering and feverish yesterday afternoon, listening to the glorious new album by James Whild Lea, I planned out SLADE's one-off reunion gig at Earls Court which would be recorded for DVD and CD. I even planned the enchore where they came out in full glam regalia for a final time with Suzi Quatro and Andy Scott as special guests (Suzi supported SLADE on their 1972 tour). The DVD and CD were called 'SLADE Alive 2007' so they'd better get planning to make sure it all happens this year. I'm available for consultation and I'll waive my usual fees.

Friday, 2 February 2007

I do not do judgement. I don't take judgement.

So sayeth Mr Lydon when referring to his role as judge on Bodog's Battle of the Bands.

I realised that it was John Lydon's birthday two days ago, so this is a belated happy birthday blog to a great hero. He's 51 now - where have the years gone? And he's still someone you love or hate for some reason despite his sojourn on 'I'm a Celebrity' a couple of years ago. He's an individual and much to be admired. My favourite photo of the young John - as Johnny Rotten - is screwed to the wall on the staircase of the Retro Bar but here's a version I've found floating round the interweb.

If I was ever to make a 'top 10 songs of all time' list (which I wouldn't do) then in all likelihood he'd feature twice: 'Anarchy In The UK' and 'Public Image'. Both are perfect slices of 7" singledom, challenging and immediate. That's not to say I don't rate any of his later works - I do and there's a great selection on his compilation, 'The Best Of British £1 Notes'.

As John says in the biography bit of his website, "You don't get an EX Sex Pistol, there's NO such thing." He hasn't changed. He still speaks his mind and makes people sit up and listen. He hasn't mellowed with age and that's a good thing. Neither has Buffy Sainte-Marie - I wonder if they've ever met (now that would be an interesting meeting!)?

And as he says on his site... Enjoy or Die!

Thursday, 1 February 2007

London Life

London means lots of different things to different people, it certainly does to me. The stretch of river between Westminster and Tower Bridge is full of great sights - standing on Hungerford Bridge looking towards St Paul's is a thrill at any time of year. One of the great cities of the world and I live here.

I'm sometimes pleased to work where I do despite it being a tourist trap throughout the year and occasionally a security nightmare. I exit my building, turn left and there's Westminster Abbey in all its glory, steeped in history and tradition. A few steps towards it and I walk beside Methodist Central Hall and the QEII Centre towards Parliament Square and there's the Palace of Westminster.

Tonight was one of those times when I thought, 'wow, I work here'. I walked into Parliament Square to get a bus from Whitehall and there was a bright full moon (with the rabbit looking down on us) riding over Big Ben, the Square lit with the headlights of cars and taxis and buses with the Millennium Wheel in the background lit with red lights for a change. It looked grand indeed. My photos really don't do it justice but there's a limit to what one can achieve with a camera phone.

Of course, the moment soon passed as people got in my way as I walked to the bus stop and they wandered all over the shop in no particular direction, etc etc etc. Still, it was a nice feeling while it lasted...

M Park in May

Take that you touts! I bought tickets to see Maximo Park before they go on general release tomorrow so I don't have to pay your inflated prices and line your pockets while you take the joy and pleasure out of the lives of fans who only want to see their heroes.

There was a link in the latest email missive from the Maximos to an advance-buy site. The downside is that they're selling through SEE and (as ever) the tickets will be sent by special delivery and a signature is required. Why do they do that?

Maximo Park in May at Shepherds Bush and at the Forum - yes, twice. I'm sure I have a pleased smirk on my face. It meant I was late for work again but, actually, there's so few of us these days that they should be pleased I went in at all.