Thursday, 29 March 2007

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

I have just posted the following on the MySpace page of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band:

SAHB was the first band I ever saw, when you supported SLADE on their 1973 tour. I got your records on vinyl and then on CD when they were re-issued. I hope to see you again in December in London. I'll be the old bloke beside the bar with a tear in his eye.

I'll be there, all right. I can still remember seeing them, with Alex in his stripey shirt and Zal in full harlequin outfit. I think it's partly because of them that I'm so open to the theatricality and story-songs of the Dresden Dolls. If only for that, they deserve my thanks.

Alex, sadly, left us long ago, but the rest of the band are still rocking. I did a long blog about them last year so look that up if you want to. For now, I'm just a little bit thrilled.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

More Plastique

Maximo Park in at No. 9!

Me Geordie lads have entered the UK pop chart at No. 9 with 'Our Velocity' (which I call 'Wor Velocity', of course). This is their highest chart placing so far so well done to the lads! They've certainly put enough effort into it and they played a magnificent live version when I saw them a few weeks ago at the Astoria. I have a certain parental pride glowy-thing going on now - I am, after all, old enough to be their dad.

Their new album is due out on Monday 2 April so I don't have to wait long to glory in it. Some tracks are available on YouTube and elsewhere and the NME has the whole album on stream but I'm resisting listening to it through the poota in bits n pieces, I want to enjoy the whole thing the way it's meant to be listened to.

Public Notice: I'm busy on Monday evening - don't ring because the phone will be switched off.

'The Magic Position' by Patrick Wolf

All I knew about Patrick Wolf until this weekend was that there was a stupidly colourful poster of his new record at St James's Park tube station. How annoying, I thought, another one of *them*. I'm not sure what I meant by *them*, probably something to do with hyped nobodies that are supposed to be this week's 'next big thing'. His name's popped up a few times recently and I saw a couple of his videos on YouTube and thought, 'interesting...'.

My trains were up the creak tonight (that's a technical term for fucdup) so I went for a browse in the little HMV at Victoria Station and picked up his CD. Distressingly, the CD cover is the same as the annoying poster in St James's Park station but I am brave and can get beyond that.

I'm listening to the album at the moment and I like what I hear. I'm not sure how to describe it. There's a bit of Bowie/Nick Cave/Glitter stomp going on in some of the songs, even touches of Bjork, but he doesn't fit into any particular category, and I like that. He seems to be a bit of everything. Amazingly, this is his third album and he's only 23. Maybe this will be his break-through album? I need to listen to it some more but I think he can only be good for music in this country at the moment.

Mind you, he's too thin. He ought to eat more.

Last 10 iPod

To continue my astonishment at the iPod shuffle facility, here are the latest 10 tracks as of today:

Chinese Rocks - The Ramones
Mr Blue - Yazoo
Like A Virgin (Confessions Tour) - Madonna
What? - Soft Cell
David Watts - The Kinks
Hardly Gonna Miss Him - Michelle Shocked
Beautiful (Punk Version - Chile Session) - Moby
Mash It Up Harry - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Love Shack - The B-52s
Ballad Of Gracious Living - Raul Julia

Mary Poppins

I was sad to hear that 'Mary Poppins', the stage musical, will close later this year to make way for another musical while Poppins goes on tour. I *like* Poppins!

I saw it eons ago with Chris as a treat and I loved Poppins from start to finish. There were lots of special moments in it but, for me, two stand out in particular:
  • When Mary opens her brolly and flies out over the audience - a wow moment and I was a child again, and
  • When Mr Banks gives the Bird Lady a penny and asks her to do him the great personal honour of feeding the birds on his behalf.
Both were important moments for me. I'd quite like to see it again before it closes.

Monday, 26 March 2007


A bit of a bag for you this evening.

The N'Betweens

As all right thinking people know, SLADE started out as the N'Betweens in the '60s but here's a photo of them I'd never seen before (courtesy of 7digital and Gary's Glam Blog) advertising one of my favourite early songs, 'Delighted To See You'. It's a great track but, unfortunately it's not on any of the recent batch of re-issues. It would've made a great extra on 'The SLADE Box' or on 'Beginnings/Play It Loud'. The lads look so young but it's also nice to have some stability in this world of constant change - Dave still had daft hair even back then!

I still haven't heard anymore about the Wimbledon gig in July ... I might need to worry shortly.

Penis Extension

What's the old saying about men who buy flash cars? I've shamelessly copied this photo from Michael's blog to demonstrate the lengths men go to in LA to prove their virility - why else put some pendulous bollocks on the back of your car? Is the owner of that particular vehicle subtley saying he's well-endowned or sadly lacking? I couldn't help but chortle when I saw it. Go and read Michael's account on his blog.

Last 10 iPod

The last ten tracks played on my iPod were:

I Put A Spell On You - Nina Simone
Twisted - Annie Lenox
Betrayal Takes Two - Richard Hell & The Voidoids
Mighty Quinn - Lulu
Old Before I Die - Robbie Williams
Soul Limbo - Booker T & The MGs
Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Keep The Line Movin' - The Soundtrack Of Our Lives
Everyday People - Sly & The Family Stone
European Female - The Stranglers

What a strange and magnificent beast is the iPod shuffle. I wouldn't dream of putting those songs together ordinarily but it's nice to hand over control of the music I hear to my little white and silver machine every now and then.

Those Maximo Scalliwags

Well, there's certainly been some scalliwagishness going on! First of all I hear they played a secret gig at Popstarz on Friday night and then, last night, I find the 'B' sides to their new single on Napster when they're not available on iTunes. The Maximos have issued the new single in three formats - CD single and two different 7" vinyl versions whith different 'B' sides. There's no mention of where to download the 7" 'B' sides but an absent browse on Napster found 'em! I downloaded both tracks at 79p each but then received a bill from Napster for £11.04. Eeek. Needless to say, I've queried it! But at least I have the new songs by me Geordie lads.

They also played on C5's 'Transmission' on Friday night (although I assume that was pre-recorded). They were fabulous but the programme was a bit rubbish. Dodgy, shaking camera work (I thought those experiments were left behind with The Tube decades ago) inarticulate presenters that appeared to think taking too many drugs is a laugh (what message does that send?) and having the bands behind railings or whatever obscuring all views except close ups. Loada tosh! But it was nice to see the lads.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Itchy Feet

I'm getting the travel bug again. It's *so* long since I've been anywhere - nearly a year, last trip was to Mexico - and I can feel a need and a longing rising in me. Chums have recently been to San Francisco and New York, another is (even as I type) somewhere on a cruise-boat between Luxor and Aswan on the Nile and another has just booked a holiday to Cuba. Me? I've booked to see 'On The Town' at the Coliseum in May.

I like travelling and have seen and done some wonderful things around the world, including some special memories:

# snowballs in Central Park, New York, on my birthday,

# floating on the Ganges at dawn at Varanasi seeing the water turn orange as the sun rose and people came down to the riverbanks to worship and float candles out onto the water to lighten Mother Ganga,

# the wierdness and wonder of Gaudi in Barcelona, with the waterdragon and the Wibbley-Wobbley building,

# seeing the sun rise over the Himalayas and Kathmandu, gradually creeping across the city at dawn and seeing it come to life,

# the Eifel Tower lit up at night, all golden and glowing with grey rainclouds as a backdrop in the City of Light,

# Borobodur temple in Java with smoking volcanoes on the horizon, the massive structure rising up out of a jungle clearing, built with black magma from the volcanoes with hundreds of beheaded Buddha images on the walls,

# the oval tomb of Tuthmosis III in the Valley of the Kings, and the thrill of seeing a magnicent statue of him in Luxor museum, one of the most beautiful images in creation,

# not seeing a zebra a matter of yards away in the Tsavo game park in Kenya and being astonished at seeing lion cubs frisking in the parched grass with their mother a few yards away

# puja in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, one of my favourite places, with little old women pushing and shoving to get close to the sacred casket with their offerings of flowers and oil for the lamps, you can almost feel the belief as puja climaxes with drums rolling, cymbals clashing and the pipes wailing,

# seeing "42nd Street" on 42nd Street,

# getting blessed by an old Buddhist monk at Wat Chayamankalaram by being splashed with water and chanted over,

# getting lost in the souks of Marrakech and wondering if I'll ever see my home again,

# the huge and mysterious temples in the jungles of northern Cambodia and the strange smiling faces of gods or kings at Angkor Thom,

# orang-utan wandering round after food in Borneo, great lumbering creatures ignoring the tourists as they walk past looking for bananas and mash,

# shades dancing in the halls of Karnak and seeing it though someone else's eyes

# walking through snowy Belleville in Ontario after seeing Buffy Sainte-Marie in concert surrounded by multiphonic powwow and having the honour of meeting her

# walking on the floor of the Caribbean with fish swimming around me, walking in slow motion and itching to open the pirate treasure chest,

# greeting the Pig in Florence ...

... all this and more. I want to see it all. I want to see wonders.

I want to travel by train from Mumbai to Chenai (Bombay to Madras) by train, or do it the other way. Both are on opposite coasts in mid/southern India, so it would mean travelling a thousand miles or so (probably more) by train, stopping off everyday in a different town or city to explore their wonders and then getting back on a train a day or two later. Three weeks should do it, I think, but more would be better. Explore Hindu temples and cave grottos, Mughal palaces and Raj residences, formal gardens and mad markets, with all the sights, sounds and smells it's difficult to imagine if you haven't been there.

Temples in southern India are quite different to those in the north, more colourful and exuberant, exploding with the lives of the gods, shrines everywhere and gods perched on rooftops looking grand and gaudy, with the smell of incense everywhere. Northern temples seem more austere to me, despite their beauty as the houses of the gods.

I need to do some proper research and planning - and lose some weight (best to be fighting fit for travelling in India) - so, taking into account the heat and monsoons, it might not be this year. India can have very different climates/seasons on different coasts since it's such a vast country.

I ought to hunt out my photos of India when I went there in the '90s and scan some into my digital files. None of the photos above are of India, but a selection to illustrate some of my memories. Sigh.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

News from SLADE Central...

The latest news from SLADE Central is:

Greetings Slade people,

Lots to tell you about this time.

First of all, as you may be aware, we are re-releasing the movie Flame as a Collector's Edition DVD on April 2nd. It features a brand new print of the film transferred and digitally remastered from the original negative, a new documentary featurette including interviews with all four band members, co-star Tom Conti and director Richard Loncraine, a soundtrack CD and a 16 page colour booklet.

To promote the new DVD, here in the UK Noddy Holder will be appearing on Richard & Judy (commencing 5pm on channel 4) on the afternoon of Monday 26th March and on The Wright Stuff (commencing 9am on channel 5) on 27th March.

He will also be live as a guest on a number of UK radio shows: The Jonathan Ross Show on BBC Radio 2 (Saturday 24th March 12.30 - 13.00 pm), BBC West Midlands - Ed Doolan Show (Monday 26th March 12.00 noon), BBC Radio London - Robert Elms Show (Monday 26th March 2.30pm). There will be other radio appearances too, but we are not certain of the broadcast time at present. We will try to publish the dates/times of Noddy's other radio appearances/inteviews on our Slade microsite (www.unionsquaremusic/slade) as we receive them.

Secondly, our next batch of Slade reissues: Whatever Happened To Slade, We'll Bring The House Down, Till Deaf Do Us Part and a 2CD compilation called Rockers will hit the streets on April 16th.

So that's two dates for my diary.

2 April is going to be an expensive day. Not only is the magnificent 'SLADE in Flame' DVD released, but so is the 'Our Earthly Pleasures' CD by Maximo Park and the 'Stranger Than Fiction' DVD. All are, of course, must haves.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Wails of despair

You should thank your lord that you weren't in Streatham last night since the banshees were out in full force. I mentioned a while ago that my laptop was playing up, switching on but the screen staying black every now and then. Well, it happened again last night and nothing I did eased the problem. So I gave up. I'm back on tonight but I'm wondering whether to sacrifice a holiday for a new poota...

Luckily I had some new music to listen to last night to take my mind off the poota problem. I *had* to go to HMV to pick up the new Maximo Park single, 'Our Velocity'. Fans have responsibilities, y'know. One of the 'B' sides is excellent, 'Mary O'Brien'. Not an obvious Maximo track by any means, but excellent.

I also picked up a truly fab 'new wave' compilation of late '70s/early '80s songs, all of which I know and most of which I like but very few of which I actually have on CD for some reason. How has that happened? It's a 3-CD set and for a mere 8 quid, not bad at all. Take a look at the track listing on 'Greatest Ever! New Wave Hits'.

I also got The Kink's 'Village Green Preservation Society' album from 1968 for a fiver. Another good buy. I've always loved The Kinks but I've never heard this album all the way through before. There are some excellent songs on this album, very English and very Kinks. My first ever record was 'Lola' in 1970.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Retro Record Bag

It's been a while but tonight saw my return performance at the Retro Bar Record Bag DJ extravaganza. O yes, I was raring to go. Me and Chris got there especially early to bag a place on the running order and a seat only to find the place seemed to have been taken over with the over-spill from a party upstairs. Mildly annoying but I had no doubt that my setlist would empty the place slightly. Unfortunately, Don and Roberto arrived too late to get a place on the playlist.

Chris went first with a lovely '70s Supremes set which was slightly spoiled by a stuttering CD deck for the first track but he soon got back into the groove. It was nice to hear the Supremes above the chitter chatter of the Retro punters.

I was up next to play my carefully constructed set of:

'Our Velocity' - Maximo Park
'Perfect Girl' - Kim Wilde
'Yes, I'm A Witch' - Yoko Ono
'God Don't Hold a Grudge' - Boy George
'I Wanna Go Out In Style' - James Whild Lea

I'm very pleased with this set. It is guitar-based energetic pop/rock, building and building into wild guitar thrash, ending with Jim howling at the moon in guitar hero heaven. The lyrics are, to a degree, both complimentary and contrasting, with Kim singing about how she's not the perfect girl and Boy George singing about how he's not the man his family wanted, while Yoko sings about how she's going to 'stick around for quite a while' and Jim sings about 'going out in style'.

And I was offered the opportunity for a sixth track because everyone was coming in under-time so I played 'Funtime' by Boy George. It's another guitar track but I really played it because it doesn't have any quiet bits that would be lost in the noisey chatter of the Retro.

I'm pleased that I played the Maximos before the single is released and I'm the first (and probably only) to play Jim Lea at the Retro. A couple of people came up to me to ask about the Kim Wilde song, so that's a good thing. That's another Record Bag under my belt, so it's time to start working on my next...

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Mama Voisey's Medicinal

Mama Voisey is a medical practitioner of renown. Whatever the ailment, there is a cure.

This evening she sent, by special courier, a jar of Marmite Guinness to cure all my ills. How wise she is. Unfortunately, I've run out of bread and bread-like substances so tomorrow, after work, I will call in at Sainsbury's to purchase some bagels and then indulge myself.

Yumboscrumdidlly! Thank you Mama Voisey!

Just wondering...

... and yay! The M flashes! A flashing M makes all the difference...

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The Dresden Dolls True Colours

The Dresdens will hit the road again in June as part of the 'True Colours' tour with Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Debbie Harry and others. The tour is in aid of the UN Human Rights campaign for gay, lesbian and transgendered human rights.

It's only happening in America but, given that the Dolls are global and a new album isn't expected, might the tour coincide with the release of the Roundhouse DVD? I'm hopeful and have noted my diary.

SLADE in April

SLADE re-issues are coming thick and fast with the next batch being released on either 9 or 16 April (different sites have different dates so I'll wait for the 'official' email from Union Square before planning my next SLADE Day) .

The next is a batch of four albums:

Whatever Happened To SLADE?
We'll Bring The House Down

Till Deaf Do Us Part

'SLADE in Flame', the DVD + CD soundtrack is also due in April but I haven't seen anything about that yet.

'Whatever Happened To SLADE?' was the last SLADE record I bought in the week of its release and it was a loyalty purchase. It was 1977 and SLADE had been in America for most of the previous two years, punk had exploded and this was their 'return' album with a much heavier, hard-rock sound. I loved it! I played this alongside 'Never Mind The Bollocks' and was happy. There are some great tracks on 'Whatever' but I never saw them played live. I loved the cover as well, with skinhead SLADE contrasting with late '70s SLADE and Nod looking like a thug.

And then, to my everlasting shame, I fell from the true faith. I left home for college in Oxford and Cardiff and then moved to London. I only started buying SLADE albums again in the '90s when they were released on CD, and that was selectively. It was only in the last four years that I started exploring SLADE's catalogue after 'Whatever' and found music to love. They were always a powerful band and although I lost faith in them, they never lost faith in their fans and kept on delivering the goods that I eventually discovered 20-odd years later.

I'm not sure what the thinking behind the 'Rockers' album is, but it's a compilation double CD of some of SLADE's tracks from across their career. I wonder if it's based on their live sets over the years? None of the big singles are on it (except for a live version of 'Get Down And Get With It'). It'll be interesting to listen to it.

I am proud to declare myself a SLADE fan. They always were so much more than a glam rock flash in the pan - and what a glorious few years they had back then. Now that spring has arrived with warm weather and sunshine, I've transferred my SLADE badge from my coat to my jacket.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Plastique Bag


Can I be honest and say I don't understand MySpace?

I've had a profile for ages (how do you think I get my inside information on Amanda, Brian and the collective Dresden Dolls?) but I haven't really done anything with it other than to sign up to a few blogs. I don't like things that you've got to put some effort into. I sometimes get emails saying so-and-so in Philadelphia or Hong Kong or the moon wants to be my friend and I ignore them (ha! that says it all for friendship!). There's nothing on my profile so why on earth would they want to be my friend?

What are you supposed to do with it? Answers on a postcard, please...

Real Records

Don't know about you but I always prefer real records to downloads. I think that's quite odd in a way. I want to have all the artwork, and the booklet, and the lyrics and all that sort of stuff, but I don't look at them after I first buy the record. I like the physical presence of music in my hand. I'm not entirely sure what digital really is other than a form of witchcraft.

There's also the extended network of having something physical rather than digital. I love browsing round record shops - you never know what you might find and who you might meet. I accidentally saw the Buzzcocks play live last year when I went into HMV to fill in some time. Or even if you buy online there's always the trip to the post office to pick it up at the weekend, so it's still a (sort of) social experience. Downloading is so limiting in that respect.

It's like yesterday when I downloaded the Maximo's new single because I want it now (instant gratification is something we learned in the '80s) but I'll still buy the hard copy next Monday because I want the 'B' sides and artwork and whatever else comes in the package. Fans have responsibilities as well as privileges.

I do download stuff of course. I didn't want to buy a Status Quo CD, just wanted a few of the big hits from the '70s, so I downloaded four tracks from iTunes. I wanted the new Kim Wilde record so, rather than pay £16 for an import version I downloaded it for £8 (I'm listening to it at the moment actually). In any case, you need to 'back up' downloads in case the poota crashes.

Maybe it's an age thing, but I'd rather have hard copy.


I need new glasses. Badly.

Record Bag

I want to do the Record Bag thing at the Retro Bar on Thursday but I'm wrestling with myself as to what to play. I know that for most people this is easy - just grab five CDs as you leave home - but my DJ sets are all carefully thought through.

My first set was made up of songs from 1972, then 1973 and then from 1974. All carefully chosen and in theme. Then I did a Buffy Sainte-Marie set because I wanted to. Then I got over the ultimate hump of 1975 when music really wasn't going anywhere. Yearly themes are too limiting so I want to explore other areas. I've had a 'boredom' themed set ready for ages now but I'm wondering whether I ought to go for the 'I'm playing this record cos I like it today' theme so I can play me Geordie lads ...

O gosh, this is so difficult...

Regina Spektor

Regina seems to be someone you either love or hate - except me cos I can't quite make up my mind. Amanda Palmer is a big fan and I can understand that but I can't quite make up my mind about her. I'm listening to 'Soviet Kitsch' at the moment and I'm enjoying it but I can't quite see where she's going ... if you see what I mean.

I'd quite like to see Regina live - that would fill in the gaps for me - but I've just missed her at the Astoria so I don't know how long I'll have to wait for the next tour.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

New Musique Plastique

What a stressful time I've had tonight. For some reason my broadband connection decided I had changed my name and/or password and I'm sitting here thinking 'no, I haven't'. It's obviously just been having a moment to itself, decided that I was ok really and then let me on.

Crucial news is, of course ....

Our Velocity

As you might notice from the posts below, the new Maximo Park single is now available for download from their site and from iTunes. The hard copy version (with 'B' sides) will be available on 19 March. It's essential listening so you ought to buy it. You know, deep, deep in your hearts, that you should.

Young Kimmy

I have also fallen in love. The previous custodian of the honourific, 'Kimmy' was Kim Weston (she of the 'It Takes Two' duet with Marvin Gaye who played at the Jazz Cafe last year) but the title has now gone to Kim Wilde - or at least she's 'young Kimmy'. Isn't her single, 'Perfect Girl' (video below) just a perfect piece of power pop? I think so at least.

On the strength of that song I downloaded her latest album, 'Never Say Never'. It seems like it's only available in Germany for some reason (she's big over there) and the import version on Amazon is ridiculously expensive. So I downloaded it from iTunes for half the price. And it's worth it. She's back with a bang and looking good too!

How come these pop stars look so good and us ordinary mortals don't? Which of us was the pop star in the '80s and which of us the civil servant? Um... I was the latter in case you're not sure. She's 6 months younger than me so how come she looks a decade younger? It's just not fair. But she's gorgeous! There's a touch of Debbie Harry going on in the video but I don't care. I can't wait for the UK tour.....

There are some great tracks on the new album, which is a mixture of new material and re-takes on old hits. There's an outstanding verion of 'Kids In America' with Charlotte Hatherley that just reeks of energy and power - listen to it if you can.


Ok, so they're hardly new, but wasn't 'Sweet Dreams' a great record? I've had a Eurythmics 'best of' since it was issued on CD but haven't invested in the albums. Tonight I recorded the record onto my poota and then taped it onto digital CD (it's complicated) and heard some of the tracks for the first time in decades. And what a good album it is.

Some of the records I'm taping aren't available on CD, others are, but I'm hearing them for the first time in decades to decide whether I want to invest or not. I think I'll be investing in more Eurythmics...

Maximo Park - Our Velocity - TOTP2

Me Geordie Lads on TOTP2 on 10 March. Can't have too much Maximo Park!

Maximo Park - 'Our Velocity'

The Maximo's new single is now available for download and released in hard copy on 19 March. BUY IT NOW!

Friday, 9 March 2007

Dead Rock UK

I was meadering my way down the High Road and realised that I was delighted that SLADE are alive. I know that's an odd thing to say but so many of their contemporaries aren't and bands can't get back together because one or more are missing in action but all four original noize boize are still around. That makes me happy because, you never know, they still might get together again for one last blast. I wish they would.

I've already planned their reunion gig for them so all they need do is turn up and be wonderful (and think of the pension plan, lads). It's not a lot to ask, is it? It would be filmed for DVD posterity, of course. And the 'Ultimate SLADE Alive' live album. And TV appearances. And signings. They have an incredible legacy that's not really being managed. Where are the promotional activities around the current re-issues?

This thought popped up, in part, due to 'Dead Rock UK' by James Whild Lea (one of my favourite songs from his new album - it ought to be a single). It's about his heroes and friends who have died over the years from rock excess or illness or accidents. It starts with him singing the chorus before exploding into wild guitar thrash and rock godhood:

Jimi Hendrix, Beatle John
Mercury and Moon are gone
Mr Bolan, Brian Jones
What a shit you're dead and bones

And, as the guitar fades at the end, the last words bring a tear to my eye, 'See you later guys...'

Not for a long time I hope.

Jim has a thing for Marc Bolan and refers to him as Telegram Sam in 'Radio Wall Of Sound' (SLADE, 1991) and a photo of Marc flashes on the screen in the video. I like that he's refered to as 'Mr Bolan'. I like that nod of respect. They were rivals in 1972 and then SLADE wiped the floor with everyone in 1973. And Marc died in 1977 just as he was starting to get things together again. What would he be doing today if he hadn't made that last journey, I wonder...?

And Sweet? Andy Scott still tours (and I'd like to see him) but Brian died from excess many years ago and Mick died of cancer. Steve lives quietly in America. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band? Alex left us long ago but the Sensationals still play together under Zal's leadership (another band I'd love to see again). Mud lost Les Grey years ago and, sadly, Dave Mount before Christmas last year (Rob Davis co-wrote Kylie's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' a couple of years ago so it's good that he's still active and - I suspect - very rich!). And o so many others...

SLADE ALERT! Thursday 26 July at Wimbledon

The No. 57 bus better be on time. SLADE are alive in Wimbledon!

This isn't the original noize boize, of course, it's Dave and Don's SLADE. But I'll be there, o yes I will. I don't know where they're playing yet, this news is fresh off the SLADE wires. Please don't change it. I was distraught a couple of years back when they were scheduled to play Croydon and then switched the gig to Tunbridge Wells...

Dave Hill offered me a B&H cigarette back in 1981 and I mumbled a shy 'no thanks' - I smoked back then but how does one accept a tab from a god?

Thursday, 8 March 2007

More Plastique

It's been one of those work-hard/play-hard type of weeks, well, work-hard anyway... but I'm pleased that we've held the first meeting of the Ministerial Home Access Taskforce that was reported by the BBC (not entirely accurately) back in January so that's a good thing. You wouldn't really expect me to pass on details here would you? Suffice to say the meeting went well and now it's full steam ahead.

Flashbacks The Shop

It was very odd this evening, going shopping for some treats for myself from the giant HMV on Oxford Street (more of that later) and not being able to pop down Poland Street to Silver Place and the refuge of Flashbacks to show off my wares and acquisitions. It's odd in a way, since I've seen the shop slowly disintegrate over recent weeks as it moved into an office but this evening sort of brought it home to me. I've been going there for years and it's not there anymore. Goodbye Flashbacks, ye olde shoppe, and welcome Flashbacks the online space.

Vietnamese Food

I've eaten food from all over the world, often in the country of origin, but I've never had Vietnamese food. Until last night. And I'm not sure about it. I've only been in the one Vietnamese restaurant so it might just have been the chef there, but I thought it was largely bland. Filling, but bland. They liked using ginger but that's the only spice I noticed. I will have to try it again in a different restaurant and, luckliy, there are loads in Old Street!

Pan's Labyrinth

'Pan's Labyrinth' seems to have been around for ages, winning awards all over the place, but not a film I knew much about other than it was set at the end of the Spanish civil war and had a fantasy element. I didn't know what to expect and I'm still not sure about my reaction to the film.

It was gorgeously filmed with some powerful characters and a complex and symbolic plot. Mercedes, the young housekeeper, was your archetypal submissive woman with a backbone of steel and claws to match when roused. Tha Captain (who doesn't seem to have a first name) is the classic unthinking and almost puritanical sadist who is only concerned with winning and with carrying on the family name. Ofelia is the heroine of the film who explores the labyrinth and becomes a fairytale princess in the end (there are other views of the end but I prefer this version).

There are some harrowing scenes of cruel murders of wounded men and torture and Mercedes using her claw. I had to look away several times. I'm a wimp, sue me. The fascists lose, at least for a time in that small corner of Spain. And the Captain's baby son will never know his father's name.

I'm sure that different people take away different things from the film, and it's right and proper that they do so. I take hope. I take hope that the world can be better than it is. That it is worth believing in things. That it's ok to be different.

Ofelia is a princess and becomes a beloved queen, loved by her subjects, and she rules for many centuries. She does, y'know.

Seth Lakeman

I don't know much about Seth Lakeman but he's come up several times in discussions about folk music recently (he's the saviour of nu-folk) so I thought I'd try out his latest CD when I saw it on sale in HMV. I'm pleased I did. It's a good selection of songs, he has a good voice and sound and he neatly avoids most of the stereotypes around folk music. His voice reminded me of Marc Bolan in a couple of songs, the pre-glam folk-roots Marc of the early records.

I need to explore Seth a bit more (I think he has another CD available) before I make up my mind, but I like what I hear so far.

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff seems to be one of those lost heroes, overtaken by time and people more famous than him. But I *like* Jimmy Cliff. He was one of those late '60s/early '70s reggae singers that actually had hits, when the music was full of sun or full of message or both. There's something about that early '70s reaggae sound that is happy. It darkened in the mid to late '70s for many reasons, but I remember the sun.

Jimmy Cliff not only made some great records, but he wrote and produced them as well. I've had a great collection of his songs for years but I've wanted more for a while so I picked up another collection this evening that really shows his versatility and how ground-breaking he was.

Some songs will go down in history - 'The Harder They Come', 'Vietnam', 'You Can Get It If You Really Want It', 'Many Rivers To Cross' and 'Wonderful World, Beautiful People'. He was a musical pioneer and a half.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

'Rocket Cottage' by Steeleye Span

OK, this might not be the most obvious genre of music for me to blog about, but I do like a bit of the old Steeleye Span now and again.

One of the records I've rescued from my Dad's attic is 'Rocket Cottage', not one of their most popular recordings but one I like. Both as a series of individual songs and as a collection it works for me as 'electric folk'. Some of the songs seem very 18th Century and others are quite timeless.

Favourite songs include 'London' with the wonderful chorus of:

'London is a dainty place
A great and gallant city
All the streets are paved with gold
And all the folks are witty'

Of course, anyone who lives in London will recognise the truth behind those words.

'Fighting for Strangers' is a stark anti-war song from yesteryear when healthy young men are enticed to take the King's shilling, go off to war, become maimed and have to beg for an existence when they return home. It's odd that the latest adverts for the army seem to be stressing the 'keep fit' aspect to attract new recruits with no mention of Afghanistan or Iraq.

Another favourite (which doesn't seem to be available on CD compliations as far as I'm aware) is 'The Brown Girl' who is good enough for the young squire to play with but not good enough to marry. I like the chorus of,

'I'll dance upon your grave for twelve months and a day
I'll do as much for you as any maiden may
I'll make you rue the very day that you were born
I'm a bonny brown girl'

You tell 'im Maddy!

I'd love to see them live, or one of Maddy Prior's solo shows. I understand that Maddy's ill at the moment so I must see their/her next tour. They're quite a joyous band if you listen to them and Maddy has one of those distinctive and powerful voices that redefines what 'vocalist' means.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Oops I did it again...

Why do I let it happen to me? I'm generally an assertive person with sufficient self-confidence to speak to hundreds of people from platforms and (occasionally) to say 'no' to ministers (politely) but put me in a hospital and I'm cannon-fodder.

I went to see the back doctor today only to find he wasn't there or had got a new job. After waiting for 45 minutes after my appointment time I'm called in to the consulting room by a student doctor who kept yawning because she'd done so much revision over the weekend who proceeds to ask a lot of questions which I duly answer. What was the problem? why was I there? did I have problems with my waterworks? did anything hurt? what's a 'microdiscectomy'? was I alergic to anything? etc etc. I duly answered.

Then the consultant appears to tell me that they've lost all my records and he has no idea why I'm there. There's a mix-up and I should be in another clinic. Um, no there's not actually, I'm in the right place and your name (Mr Consultant) is on everything. Why am I made to feel like I'm an interloper, that I have no right to be there, that I'm a mistake, that I'm wasting their time? And why do I allow it? The fact that "they" lost my records doesn't invalidate my being there at all - I'm there because the previous doctor wanted a check-up after 3 months. This makes me so angry - not so much at them (although the arrogance and superiority is appalling) but at me.

So, it ends up with me taking my trousers off in front of his student (who is young enough to be my daughter), he checks my reflexes for all of 1 minute and then sends me off to get an appointment for an MRI scan to look inside my body and check my discs (I might 'need another operation', 'another disc might have slipped', oh so positive) after which I need see the consultant again. I offer to hunt out the old letters from the hospital so he can see what's been said previously. I don't say, what's the point in a scan when I'd feel it if the disc has slipped again. I think 'fuck this', I don't ask any questions, I don't offer any information.

There's nothing there to actually complain about (other than losing my file). It just annoys and angers me. I ought to be able to speak up but for some reason I can't. How must this be for many other people who might be bullied into treatment (or out of treatment) for various reasons when I, who I like to think am reasonably articulate, can't talk to the Great God Doctor. I feel so inadequate. Is that what they want, to make themselves feel so good?

This is obviosuly a failing in me that I need to put right. I couldn't challenge doctors and lazy nurses when my mother died in hospital although my brother could (he works in pharmaceuticals and is used to how hospitals operate). I've seen so many doctors and other medical 'professionals' in the last 8 months - in my GP surgery, in two different hospitals and in two different medical centres - but I don't seem to be able to talk to them. I rate none of them other than Aruna, the dietician, who actually seemed to listen to me and offer constructive suggestions. The patient does not come first, their own convenience comes first.

I'd love them to prove me wrong.