Saturday, 29 November 2008

20,000 LastFM

On the right-hand side of this page you'll see my ever-changing LastFM quilt showing some of the records I've listened to recently. Or at least listened to digitally. Today I reached my 20,000th song and that was Stevie Wonder's 'Pastime Paradise'. My 20,001 song was Amanda Palmer's 'Leeds United'.

My most played artist is Buffy Sainte-Marie with 581 plays since I signed up to LastFM last year. Followed by Amanda and The Dresden Dolls, Maximo Park and the B-52's:







My top individual songs are:






Friday, 28 November 2008


I am known in certain circles for my taste in films. Films that aren't, generally speaking, often deemed to have much merit but which I'm happy to watch endlessly. Films like 'The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen', 'Van Helsing' and 'Serenity'. I even have (ahem) 'Aeonflux' on DVD and watched it the other night.

Now, I don't know what it is about those films that attracts me. Maybe it's the wild fantasy escapism, the special effects pushing CGI to the limit or maybe just the good old mad adventure film that litters the history of celluloid.

But even I have my limits. I wasted a couple of hours of my life last night watching 'Ultraviolet'. It was so bad I found myself doing work on my laptop while watching without actually noticing I'd started commenting on a draft paper... Most of it looked like a bad computer game with cheap graphics. Clearly the director was striving for a stylized vision of a future world but I'm afraid he failed. Just dreadful.

At least that suggests that I do have *some* taste when it comes to fillums. Phew!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Family Guy Coitus Interruptus

Did you see 'Family Guy' tonight? I don't normally blog about cartoons (unless I like them, of course) but I seem to be catching a lot of 'Family Guy' at the moment. And I'm pleased I am since I've just seen Buffy Sainte-Marie earn some more royalties.

While Stuey was trying to stop his Mom and Dad making a little brother for him (he miniaturised his spaceship to go sperm-hunting in his Dad's testicles) he decided he liked the sperm due to become his brother and they ended up singing 'Up Where We Belong' to make his Dad cry so the spaceship could exit his body. Not contived at all.

I like the philosphical episodes.


Sad news of the downfall of Woolworths, or Woolies as it's known everywhere. There's a large branch up the road from me on the High Road. Woolies doesn't pretend to be classy or upmarket, it knows it's market but that hasn't been enough to save it. It's very handy for little household goods - cheap glasses or bowls (both bought recently), things like christmas lights and sink plugs, and, of course, sweets (not bought recently). It seems like the epitome of 'stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap'.

One of my earliest memories is of a visit to Blaydon with my Grandma when I was about 5-6, and a trip to Woolies. I don't remember much, just that there were wooden counters everywhere (pre-self-service), goods stacked high and an overall impression of brown. The centre of Blaydon was completely demolished in the early 70s and a shopping centre was built, so the maze of little roads and streets vanished. I can't remember what Blaydon was like very well at all, but I still recall going into a dim and brown Woolies with my Grandma. The branch didn't re-open in the new shopping centre so it never returned to Blaydon.

Click on the picture to visit the virtual museum:

City Of Christmas Ghosts

Those nice boys over at Goldblade have done the world a favour and uploaded the mp3 of their new Christmas single to their MySpace site. This is important because the most wonderful Ms Poly Styrene gives it some big punky vocals and is, of course, fabulous (in a punk stylee, naturally).

It's got a gabba-gabba-hey riff and a Shadows solo but best of all is true, original punk vocals from Poly! "La, la la-la, Christmas Ghost!'. Ooooo, I wonder if there'll be a video? I excite myself too much sometimes.

Now, on the strict understanding that you buy it when it's properly released, scoot on over to Goldblade's MySpace page and have a bop to the best Christmas single in forever!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hands Fingers Eyes

The mystery deepens. Who killed Amanda Palmer and why the silence? Stranger and stranger.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Christmas Krishna Single

Due to be released on 8 December in 7" vinyl and download, 'City Of Christmas Ghosts' is the Christmas single to buy this year. Poly Styrene's name should be bigger on the sleeve - after all, she adds some Hare Krishna chants in a Christmas stylee. That's important.


As student of God's gift to man - the English language - I revel in the way we twist it and make it do what we want and say almost anything, creating words to express new thoughts. I like the different forms of English, the dialects and accents that make it a new experience in different mouths. Infinite variety.

So what, exactly, is wrong with the word 'arse'?

It's that thing at the bottom of your back and top of your legs at the back. We all have one. Pert ones, big ones, all shapes and sizes - if I'm honest I'd have to admit to mine being rather flabby at the moment. It's a nice Anglo-Saxon derived word and a natural part of British English.

So why have some people started to call the venerable arse an 'ass'? As every right thinking person knows, an ass on this side of the Atlantic is a kind of donkey.

I was listening to my iPod on the way to work this morning and up popped, 'Revolution In The Head' by Girls Aloud and the chorus goes, "Revolution in the head don't count for nothing, You gotta, you gotta move that ass". I can forgive the poor syntax but why say 'ass'? Is it because it's not as rude as 'arse', so they can be a little bit daring without going too far? Or is it because it's American and a bit hippity hoppity and therefore cool? No! No it's not cool. It's stupid and sounds wrong in any British accent. Say 'arse' Girls or shut up! It touched my annoyance bone (some people have funny bones, I have annoyance bones) and I must insist that they re-record that song and use the right word.

'Ass' in song lyrics just makes me think of hibbidy hoppity videos of exploited women shaking their arses very quickly and the camera focusing in on them. Extreme sexism and objectification.

Pah! There's nothing wrong with a nice arse. So come on Girls, get back into that studio tomorrow and get the words right!

PS: um, that's not a photo of my posterior up there, mine would fill the whole screen...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Yoko Ono at The Baltic

Yoko Ono will have a major exhibition at The Baltic Gallery in Gateshead over the winter. It starts with a one hour talk by Yoko on 14 December followed by a happening in Baltic Square with the audience joining in sending a light message with her ONOCHORD which will be installed in the Castle Keep in Newcastle. I forgot that tickets for the talk went on sale on Friday and they're sold out (poo! but good for Yoko and good for art in the North East).

The exhibition, Yoko Ono: Between The Sky And My Head runs from 14 December until 15 March 2009, with art in both The Baltic itself and dotted around Newcastle-Gateshead, including some of Yoko's wishtrees.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Little Nell

I suspect that everyone reading this blog knows of Little Nell who played Columbia in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show', the tap dancing mad person in the gold top hat. Nell was also in other things, of course, including the marvellous 'Rock Follies' and the film, 'Jubilee'. Many of you will probably also know Little Nell as a pop goddess.

I bought the single 'Do The Swim' back in the day (1977?), Nell on the cover of the single frolicking in a kids paddling pool and looking mighty fine. The record was, I think, on cherry red vinyl. It ran the strapline 'Aquatic teenage sex and squalor', perfect for the punk generation. 'Do The Swim' was backed with 'Dance That Cocktail Latin Way' and 'Stilettos and Lipstick'.

Nell's excellent version of 'Fever' along with 'See You Round Like A Record' and 'Beauty Queen' are available on a Rocky Horror CD but did you know there are other versions of those songs, including a long version of 'Fever'? Scoot on over to Nell's World to listen to and download the songs. You can even watch the original video for 'Do The Swim' (no, not the LWT video with the wardrobe malfunction, the proper one). There's also an mp3 of the 'Kids Good' song Nell sang with Beth Porter on Rock Follies. I've just downloaded them and made myself a new CD - 'Little Nell's Fabulous Pool Party!' Scoot on over there and make your own now!

Nell's sound is so infectious and universally happy. Spread the word. We all need some Little Nell in our lives.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Sugababes - 'No Can Do'

Here's the new video from those delicious Sugababies (watch what you do with that petrol nozzle, Heidi...).

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Alan Price at The Bull's Head

Last night we took a trip into the unknown and went to The Bull's Head pub in Barnes to see Alan Price. The pub runs a jazz club - I wasn't sure what to expect but it turned out to just be the back room of the pub with a small bar staffed by a bloke wearing the wrong glasses who must've been in his 70s. The event was more popular than anticipated so loads of us had to stand at the back beside the bar which, from the look of the chairs, was probably just as well for me.

With no fuss or fanfare, Alan walked onto the small stage, sat down and started playing the piano - wow, that's Alan Price up there! As he played, he was gradually joined on stage by a drummer, bassist, guitarist and finally by Zoot Money on more keyboards. Alan was dressed for comfort, not style. After the first song he looked at the London Jazz Festival banner and said, "Jazz festival .... hmmm... well, we do a lot of improvisation so I suppose we qualify..." and went into another song. He's not jazz but I don't know what he is, what category to put him in, so I won't try. He's Alan Price, enough said.

He played two sets - or one set of two halves - with a half hour break when he walked through the crowd (brushing past me as I silently wowed) and into the pub to stand at the bar and chat to his mates and the band. He lives in the area after all, so this was his local. Each band member had their moment in the sun, either singing a song or doing a solo, which was very egalitatian, and Alan has a nice line in patter inbetween songs. Mainly about how rich he is and how poor Zoot Money is. Talking about the woes of the modern world with a glum face, and then breaking into a sly smile. At least now I know how useful swimming pools can be. He reminded me of my uncles a bit. He'd be great on 'Grumpy Old Men'.

And the music was great, well tight with the band feeding off each other. My first big grin coincided with the wonderful, 'Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear' (but I couldn't see the bear, maybe the stage wasn't big enough?). He did a medley of songs from 'O Lucky Man' and told us he was never that keen on the film. The set list included 'O Lucky Man', 'Poor People', 'Sell Sell', 'Hi Lilli, Hi Lo', 'I Put A Spell On You' and 'Don't Stop The Carnival'. The final song was a nod of the head to The Animals with 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place', an extended powerful version that ended with him telling us to go so he could pack up. It was a bit odd since he couldn't just leave the stage without walking through the audience - it's that kind of place.

It was a delight to see and hear him, the great Alan Price, one of the original '60s icons. Wow. I'd love to see him again, but next time in a proper venue with proper stage and stuff. It might not be rock'n'roll but I'd rather a nice seat and a good view. The only thing that would've made the night even better would've been for him to sing 'Jarrow Song'... maybe next time?

Amanda Palmer - 'Leeds United'

At last, we have the wonderful video for Amanda's 'Leeds United' and it looks fab! This is the video I could've been in when it was taped back in August and I'm kicking myself that I didn't get out of bed in time! I would've just been part of the crowd but who cares? I regret being a lazy thing.

Watch this and laugh out loud when Amanda gets a lip on at the end - I *love* this video!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Amanda Uberdyke?

Amanda Palmer is featured as one of 'out' magazine's 'hot 100' and she wonders whether she's now an uberdyke following her makeover as one of the cast of the Outsiders.

And here's a YouTube clip about the shoot with a short interview with Amanda (I like that she's referred to as a 'rock goddess').

Incidentally, I mentioned a few weeks back that there was a new Dresden Dolls song available on the Johnny Cash tribute record, 'All Aboard' - a cover of 'Ballad Of A Teenage Queen'. Well, I still haven't found anywhere to download it properly but scoot on over to the Doll's MySpace page to listen to it...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'Running For The Drum'

Buffy came a-calling this morning in the shape of a USPS envelope with a record inside. Not just any record, it was 'Running For The Drum', Buffy's first all-new record since 1992's 'Coincidence & Likely Stories'. I've heard some of the tracks before - some via net radio from Hawai'i last year, some when I saw Buffy play in New York in March and one song, 'Cho Cho Fire' on the Oxfam charity CD released this spring. But I now have the full album all the way from Canadaford to l'il ole Londontown and all for me. Yum!

It's a great record and I love it. It's a melange of styles to fit all tastes, from euphoric rave beats to rock'n'roll, from night-club jazz to acoustic, liberally sprinkled with powwow vocals and drums, all underpinned by Buffy's beautiful words and voice. Try pidgeon-holing this as "folk" and you'll fail.

The packaging is excellent as well, a tri-fold eco-friendly cardboard cover containing a CD and a DVD with a booklet including lyrics, a sentence about each song and lots of photos. The CD is the new album and it comes with a documentary DVD about Buffy, 'A Multimedia Life'. The interior artwork is based around Buffy's digital painting, 'Elder Brothers', and a new portrait of Buffy.

No No Keshagesh

The album opens with 'No No Keshagesh' and the sounds of a crowd gathering as drums start and get louder and we're off and running. 'Keshagesh' was called 'AIM Elijah' when Buffy played it in New York but I like the Keshagesh title - he's a greedy puppy devouring the world's resources without a care. A fast song with wild powwow singing at the chorus and it sounds great live.

Cho Cho Fire

An invitation to join the powwow and step into a larger world, wild powwow rock sending us running for the drum and all it symbolises - 'Ooo you better wake up, man it's like you're dead and gone...'. Guitar riffs and powwow vocals, an excellent live song I heard Buffy play in New York with Ulali providing backing powwow vocals.

Working For The Government

Euphoric dance-beats and a looped tape of a drum and powwow sample, Buffy's words about all the mysterious people who work for a shadowy, three-initial parts of governments the world over, Mr Invisible. Multi-tracked powwow vocals and drum beats make up the backing track, and I'm not sure if there are any other instruments there at all. Buffy was experimenting like this back in the late '60s so it's nice to hear her still pushing the boundaries. This track should be picked up by remixers and clubs.

Little Wheel Spin And Spin

Buffy's song from 1966 updated into a hypnotic and moody song, just guitar and some subtle percussion and ambient sounds. I think I prefer this version to the original. The feel is very different and more intense knowing that Buffy wrote and sang this 40 years ago and it's still relevant.

Too Much Is Never Enough

A mid-tempo song that reminds me of 'Up Where We Belong' for some reason, with the refrain of, 'too much is never enough when it comes to loving you'. There's a nice guitar solo from Chris Birkett (who plays on most of the songs as well as co-produced the record).

To The Ends Of The World

Another mid-tempo song but this time with an early-60s rock feel to it with a big string sound in the background which is really keyboards. A song in praise of love and how someone, somewhere must have found true love, the thing that's worth looking for to the ends of the world.

When I Had You

A song about how things were so much better when I had you. It sounds like Buffy is in a dark, smokey night club playing piano with slow, moody guitar riffs, a drink on top of the piano while she sings of the old days before splitting up with her lover. Very atmospheric.

I Bet My Heart On You

A total change in tempo as Buffy rocks out as a 50s rock'n'roll queen, strutting her stuff with early rock piano riffs as if she's in a dance hall with the audience dancing and jiving around her. She duets on piano with Taj Mahal and sounds like she's having great fun.

Blue Sunday

In a similar rock'n'roll vein but with a double-bass throbbing away, 'Blue Sunday' is a rockabilly song celebrating the sound of early Elvis and opening with the line, 'Since my baby left me', fast paced with dramatic breaks. I defy your foot not to tap along to this one. I first heard this song three year ago when I saw Buffy play in Belleville, Ontario. 'Saturday night ain't nothing to me, just a memory of blue'.

Easy Like The Snow Falls Down

Another change of pace to mid-tempo again. A song about being there for someone you love who's having a hard time and dedicated to hospice caregivers. Buffy invites us to go to her when the heart's too big and the world's too small - she's our angel. Reach out for help, it's easy, just do it. A simple song but emotionally laden.

America The Beautiful

Buffy's version of the American anthem with added verses. Her notes say she first sang this at the NASA launch of the first Native American Astonaut, Commander John Herrington. Buffy strumming her guitar with gentle powwow drums and percussion in the background.

Still This Love Goes On

I already love this song, a simple song with Buffy on guitar spinning her tale of love, love of the land and love of the people. It conjours up images of sitting by a camp fire in a valley at dawn, with snow lying around and ice crackling over a lake. It's lovely. I want to go to that valley.

Buffy's in great voice throughout the record, supplying all lead and backing vocals. She and Chris Birkett play the majority of the instruments on the album, occasionally adding someone else, and it's a partnership that works well.

I don't know when this album will be generally available - or why it isn't generally available already - but I got it from ShopEmi in Canada, so click on over and buy a copy now. You won't regret it. I'm off to find that drum now - heya ha!

The Ggrrr Tyger

I went to London Zoo today for a works awayday kind of thing. I don't think I've ever been to London Zoo before but I decided I'd have a quick sprint round at lunchtime to see what a zoo looks like these days. Of course, it was damp and cold, gloomy grey sky and a light drizzle in the air, a day not to be wandering round outside. Unless you're a fabled Sumatran Tiger or Bearded Wild Pig.

In that last photo the tiger was pacing back and forth, back and forth, restlessly, endlessly moving. What a magnificent creature.

'The Tyger' by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Boy George at The Shaw Theatre

On Saturday night we went to see Boy George at The Shaw Theatre for the third time this year and Mr O'Dowd was on top form.

On he bounded with his band, all decked out in B-Rude clothes, almost as if he was returning for the second half of a show rather than starting from scratch. No need to warm up the audience, we were ready and waiting to be entertained and to sing along to songs we all knew well. The set was broadly the same as at his October gig but he'd decided to kick off with the slow songs and build up pace, including songs like 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' and 'Victims' right up front rather than later in the show.

The songs were mainly from Culture Club but he included his 'spiritual' section with 'This Little Light Of Mine' and 'Down By The Riverside' and a couple of acoustic breaks that included 'If I Could Fly', 'Unfinished Business' and 'Summertime'. New songs, 'Vote For Love' and 'American Heart' went down very well as did stonking versions of 'Get It On' and 'Starman'. My favourites were an acoustic 'Generations Of Love', a mad electric 'Church Of the Poison Mind' (with earsplitted roars from Lizzie Dean), a euphoric 'Yes We Can' and finishing with a massive 'Bow Down Mister' with flowers thrown into the audience (Hare Rama, Hare Krishna).

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Mr Sulu For King Of The Jungle

I accidentally caught the opening programme of this years' 'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here' and have decided that Mr Sulu must win it. I started watching this show when John Lydon was on and I think George Takei will be the gentleman this year.

I've just seen Mr Sulu take a piss in a bush - I'm watching the 'aftershow' show thing on ITV2 which shows clips not on the main programme - so I'm sure we'll learn a lot about our celebs. Of course, whenever anyone mentions George they've got to add that he's gay - that'll get boring very quickly.

The other hero so far is Martina Navratilova. Both George and Martina seem relaxed and gracious, seem to be looking forward to it as a fun rather than a serious thing (well, it's not really going to do much for their careers) and seem genuinely nice people. How long will they keep their halo, I wonder?

Some of the others hold no interest for me at all but let's see what happens over the next few weeks, shall we?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Waterstone's Gagging Order

When I think of fundamentalist religion (which isn't that often, I must admit) I think of the American christian right or middle eastern muslims, I don't think of the valleys of south Wales. News is filtering round the net that Waterstones bookshop in Cardiff cancelled a book signing by poet and playwrite Patrick Jones due to threats from christian voice, the same organisation that took the BBC to court for daring to screen 'Jerry Springer the Opera' and lost.

This debacle has been picked up and reported by the BBC, The Guardian and even commented on in the Welsh Assembly which has now invited Patrick Jones to do a reading at the Assembly in December. The coincidence of Patrick Jones being gay and the christian voice people turning to disrupt pride events in London and Brighton is interesting. Out of the thousands of books challenging religion why pick on a slim volume of poetry?

The argument is really about freedom of speech. christian voice is free to follow it's peculiar brand of Christianity but won't allow others to follow or debate other views. And how dares one of the country's largest book stores to cave in to whatever threats made against it? Why didn't it report these to the police, particularly in Cardiff when Patrick Jones was included in the Welsh National Library's 100 Welsh Heroes along with Aneurin Bevan, David Lloyd George, Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas and Bertrand Russell.

Waterstone's says it isn't censoring Patrick Jones since his book is still available in their stores which is plainly a silly argument. We should not allow gagging orders like this to go unchallenged and I'm pleased it's being commented on so widely, even with its own Facebook group.

The book of poety in question is 'Darkness Is Where The Stars Are' and is published by Cinnamon Press. Thanks to this ridiculous situation with Waterstone's, the book has received far more publicity than it would otherwise have had. I quite like the strap-line on the Cinnamon page - 'Buy a book - annoy a bigot'. I think I will. But not from Waterstone's - it's lost any claim on my patronage with this sad debacle. Waterstone's is, unfortunately, part of the HMV Group so I'll need to think about this - it would be a shame if one of the last record chain stores suffered economically at the moment from the stupid thinking of one of it's constituents, particularly when record shops are closing all over the place.

Go on people, buy the book - annoy a bigot and support freedom of speech.

A Poly Styrene New Year

I mentioned last week that Poly Styrene has got together with Goldblade to release their Christmas single on 1 December, 'City Of Christmas Ghosts'. There's a nice interview in The Quietus about the new record in which Poly goes on to mention releasing a DVD and live album of the X-Ray Spex Roundhouse gig next year and, possibly, a book. This is exciting news.

The single sounds well fab with a Spectorish sound and some Poly Krishna chanting at the end. I'm looking forward to hearing this!

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Kinks - 'Picture Book'

It's odd to think that The Kinks, one of the great bands of the '60s have never had a box set. So I'm pleased to report that the first Kinks box set will be released on 8 December. It contains 138 tracks spread across six CDs and includes unreleased tracks, alternative takes and demos as well as all of the Kinks classics. It'll include an official biography and discography and sounds very completist.

I didn't know anything about this new release, but with the re-awakening of my Kinky side through Ray's wonderful musical, 'Come Dancing', I think I know what I'll be asking Santa for ...

A Message From Whoopie

I received a most interesting message on behalf of Whoopie Goldberg this afternoon. I've always had a soft spot for Whoopie (yes, even in that cop film she did in the '80s, oh and the one where she's a burglar, and the one with Ted Danson, and...) and generally approve of her - the world needs a Whoopie. So, it's nice that she's thinking of us in l'il ole London.

The message reads:

Of all the movies I've worked on, my role in Sister Act is one of my favourites and for a long time it's been a dream of mine to bring it to the stage. Well, the dream has come true and I'm thrilled to tell you that I'm producing this major new musical from May next year, when it opens at the London Palladium.

Sister Act has a terrific story which is hilarious and uplifting plus a brilliant new score, written by the genius that is Alan Menken. Many of you will know Alan's work as the eight-time Oscar winning writer of songs for Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Enchanted....not bad hey?!

The global search for the diva who has a voice that will raise the roof at this historic theatre in your beautiful capital has begun! We'll see in 09!

O yes, I think I'll be there!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Monkey: Journey To The West

'Monkey' is the tale of a band of heroes and their adventures as they journey west from China to India to seek enlightenment from Lord Buddha. Through seas and volcano plains, battling demons and princesses, our heroes eventually achieve Buddhahood. It was all very familiar to me and closely mirrored by own journey to India many years ago - except I journeyed to the east, of course. Unfortunately, I did not achieve enlightenment. Or fight demons. But I was attacked by bats in a temple to Kali so that sort of counts...

Yes, I went to see 'Monkey: Journey To The West' at the O2 last night and thoroughly enjoyed the show as it tried to match the original telly series for daftness. Monkey flying through the clouds, being trapped under Lord Buddha's blue hand for 500 years and escorting Tripitaka on his pilgrimage. The staging was excellent, lots of people flying on wires and Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy, Queen of Heaven) flying to the stage from the audience. The music was rather variable but worked well with the visuals and the singing was all in Mandarin. It's great fun and a great spectacle! But that Monkey's a bit of a scoundrel and not to be trusted unless you're trussed up by the Spider Princess and need your virginity saving.

It's a nicely paced show but a bit odd in a way since there weren't really any spaces for applause without clapping over the start of the next scene. The audience made up for the lack of clapping at the end with the mass bowing of all the actors, joined at the end by the writers and designers, including Damon Albarn. And that was the downside of the night - it was press night. Not only was it press night, but there was a charity benefit as well.

Call me a grumpy old sod (you'd have every right to) but no-one said anything about it being press or charity night when we booked tickets and neither did they say anything about the restaurant being closed to mere paying customers while the liggers - at least some of them - got slightly sloshed on free booze. Take a look at the website and it says the restaurant opens at 6pm on 12 November, yet it was closed to non-liggers. So why was I sent 3 emails asking me to upgrade my ticket to include a meal in their lovely (but closed) restaurant?

And the place isn't easy to find if anything else is happening at the O2 - last night Kanye West was playing and the place was packed. The only signs directing you to Monkey were on the ground which, rather inconsiderately in my view, were covered by peoples' feet. And when I got there my first impression was that it had been done by someone off that old 'Changing Rooms' programme with black crepe tacked up everywhere to make it look stylish but you know the toilets are just portaloos with black crepe tacked to the outside and you're walking on black boards. The make-believe starts to fail at that point.

Ok, I admit I'm being churlish and they're trying to make it a seemless experience and I can forgive lots, but not the plastic seats covered in black cloth to make them look stylish like the portaloos. Yes, ok, I *am* being churlish. And it's a shame the powerpoint projection of the words in English broke down at one point (and why project to the side of the stage rather than to the top of the stage? it means you're looking away from the action if you read what the songs are about).

O dear. Churlish and a 'arf. Was it meant to be a rock'n'roll experience, man, that I mistook for theatre? Or am I just not getting their vision for it? No, I don't think it's anything like that. The show was great, the setting wasn't. I admit to being put off by arriving and being treated as a second class punter because I didn't have the right wrist-band and I'm sure that coloured the rest of my evening.

Go and see the show - it's great fun. You can even have a traditional foot massage that lasts for 15 minutes if you want. And there's loads of merch including "Buddha beads" for a fiver.

Scissorhands Champion

Tonight was the grand final of Celebrity Scissorhands, my *must-see* telly of the moment, all in support of Children in Need. The drama and glamour is now over for another year but it's been a fun watch. Steve Strange mysteriously left the show last week (boo!) and the three finalists were selected over the past week - Jeff Leach, Sabrina Washington and Scott Robinson - and Stedman Pearson was selected to manage the final night catwalk show.

In a last minute twist, one of the finalists - Scott Robinson - was ejected and he was gutted, man, real gutted. While Jeff and Sabrina went away to recreate their signature cuts, Stedman's catwalk show happened. Each of the celebs had a model who they'd cut and dressed in a makeover special and they looked good. Zammo was actually smart, so good on ya, mate! Winner of the catwalk must be Stedman - he has the moves and showed them off bigly. Well done stedman!

Nerves and tension mounting, on came Jeff and Sabrina with their models to show off and describe their signauture cuts, both looking good. But who would win? Who would be Scissorhands 2008? Nicky Clarke was head judge and he kept us waiting... and waiting... and waiting... until he announced Sabrina and the studio erupted into sparkly-shiny stuff blasting from the ceiling and falling all over as she was hugged and kissed by everyone and she was well-chuffed. Well done Sabrina, you earned it!

Phew! That's it all over now (wonder if there'll be a highlights DVD?). Considering that I don't really know who many of them are and have no interest in hairdressing and glamour stuff, I quite like 'em as a bunch - some of them are downright nice people. They've been good sports and put some long days in, and it's been fun being a fly on the wall watching them as they learn a new skill, have a gossip and entertain us all. I've really enjoyed it for some odd reason - it's a hairdressers life for me! In the olden days one used to run away to sea to become a pirate or run to the hills to join the circus. Now, one becomes a hairdresser. More power to your scissors and trimmers!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

90 Years

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 was the time of the Armistice, the end of the war to end all wars. As ever, there are telly and radio programmes about war to coincide with the day and this year there seem to be more than usual because it's the 90th anniversary. Programmes about personal stories of the war, tales of regiments and tales of death.

One thing that keeps being mentioned is that survivors tended not to talk about their experiences when they returned home. This was certainly the case with my Granda who never spoke about the war until the years before his death - he told me more about the war (which wasn't much) than he ever told his own children, including my mother. The horror of it all was too much, the horror of what happened to those young men in the trenches and the horror - probably - of what they did. My Granda lost his left arm from the elbow and nearly lost his life. He used to strap a false arm to the raw bone at the elbow with a strap over his shoulder to keep it in place. He was always conscious of it and tried to disguise it, angling his body away from the camera in photos.

When I was looking through the papers at my Dad's house over the summer I found a photo of a handsome young soldier proudly looking into the camera lens and into the future. After a moment I realised it was my Granda and the amazing thing was that he had two arms. Maybe it was his joining up photo? I'd never seen it before and, obviously, had never seen him with both arms intact.

It's strange to think that today there are only three men alive who were in the war. They're pretty old, of course, and it's hardly surprising that only three men are still alive. But what is history to many, and taught as history in schools, is part of my life as well, through my Granda, the old codger who kept cans of beer under his bed in case he got thirsty during the night (he was sensible, my Granda) and who just had to look at a slot machine to win the price of a round. He was also an award winning gardener. He was many things, my Granda.

Mr Lea

Do you remember how excited I got last year when I discovered that Jim Lea had released his 'Therapy' album online, the first new music from him I'd heard since 1991. Well, it seems like he's doing it again, as reported on SLADE40YEARS.

James Whild Lea (his full name), has been in the studio making a new album called 'String Theory'. This was reported in March 2008 but I've just heard about it. No idea when it'll be released, but it's excellent news that there'll be another album.

Now, what about a few live gigs...?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Geordie Boy Alan Price

I've been listening to Alan Price over the last week or so, enjoying his songs, his voice and his interpretations of other people's songs. He's not someone I listen to a lot, but every now and then, generally late in the evening, a bit of Alan is good for winding down. I have his 'Geordie Boy' anthology (two CDs) and there are some great songs on there. People will know him as the keyboard player with The Animals in the early '60s and later as a solo artist who hooked up with Georgie Fame for some records. That sent me off on a hunt to find out what he's doing now.

Try Googling Alan Price and you get an odd variety of sites popping up including a site with lots of old information that doesn't appear to have anything to do with Alan. Following internet trails leads to the Alan Price Fans Forum and, after browsing on there, I found what seems to be Alan's real site. It's an oddly constructed site but it includes some new music from the man, some information on what he's been doing over the last couple of years and also refers to his regular appearances in a jazz club in Barnes! The site tells us that:

Alan Price has been working for the last two years on a stage-musical with the working title 'The Nearly Lucky Man' with the writer Paul Sirett. He continues with his monthly appearance at the Yamaha Room at The Bull's Head, Lonsdale Road, Barnes, London SW13 9PY. A successful workshop of "The Lucky Man' was performed at the Garrick Theatre on 22nd June 2007 Directed by Braham Murray, Musical Assistant David Rose,Sound Engineer Paul MacCallum together with a cast that included Derek Griffiths, Matthew Kelly, Elizabeth Price, Philip Stewart and Emma Williams.

That's in the 'news' section so it isn't entirely up to date but the tours page refers to his current tour with The Manfreds (drat, missed the show in October in Croydon) and his next gig at The Bulls Head in Barnes on 19 November as part of the London Jazz Festival. I think I might pop over to Barnes to see the great man himself.

And here's a little something for all the Geordies out there:

You don't mess with a Geordie lass - burn them down indeed!

Poly's Christmas Present

It's too soon to start talking about Christmas but you need to get excited about a new Poly Styrene single - a Christmas single!

Well, it's not really a Poly single, apparently she's adding her voice to the new Goldblade single, 'City Of Christmas Ghosts' due to drop on 1 December. I haven't heard it yet but assume it's a re-worked version of their existing song, 'City Of Ghosts'. Goldblade were the support act at the X-Ray Spex gig at the Roundhouse back in September.

Poly's last outing was a duet with Brian James on 'Eye Witness' from his last album a year or two ago. Here's hoping for more from Poly but I'll gratefully accept the upcoming Christmas present.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


I've got a thing about 'Celebrity Scissorhands' - it's this month's *must see* telly and I've got no idea why. Anyone that's ever seen me wouldn't confuse me with someone who spends a lot of time on my appearance, so why am I fascinated by a hair-do show?

It's one of the shows paving the way for Children In Need, three weeks worth of a group of celebs being trained to do haircuts, make-overs, waxing and all that salon stuff on people donating to Children In Need. I don't know who most of the celebs are but they're really working - 7-8 hour days, five days a week. The only celeb I'd stand a chance of recognising in the street is Steve Strange (and that would probably be because of what he was wearing than anything else) but I've at least of heard of Stedman from Five Star and Lucinda from 'The Apprentice'. The other celebs are a mix of TV presenters and various singers and the bloke who was Zammo in 'Grange Hill' 20 years ago.

It's good fun seeing them trying to be cool and trendy, offering advice to people about what they should do to their hair and then watching them slowly, ever so slowly, do the cut. An hour or two later it's finished and so many of them look the same. What's with the endless long-at-the-front/short-at-the-back cuts? Copy cat or what. And, of course, Steve Strange is the image and make-over consultant and some of his, erm, creations are quite truly, um... what's the word I'm looking for ....?

Anyway, I'm enjoying it and, if I had hair, I'd quite fancy being a customer myself (so long as they don't touch the beard). Take a look at it - it's on a few times each evening at different times on BBC3 for the next couple of weeks. Let your creative juices flow.

Monday, 3 November 2008

'Running For The Drum' Ordered

I'm one step closer to getting Buffy Sainte-Marie's new album, 'Running For The Drum'. Buffy's site has a link to buy the album and DVD through her agent but they seem to be having problems and referred me to ShopEmi in Canada to buy it, which I dutifuly did. So, at some point in between 1-3 weeks time, I should have a new album from Buffy.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Rock Follies

Those of you of a certain age will, no doubt, remember the 'Rock Follies' telly series in 1976 and 1977 with Julie Covington, Charlotte Cornwall and Rula Lenska as The Little Ladies band. Songs were written by Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay (of Roxy Music). The first series was done on the cheap until it really took off and production values improved in the last few shows. Then 'Rock Follies of 77' emerged, a lot slicker but still studio-bound. It was a great series and such a shame it all got bogged down later in legal wrangling. I bought the albums at the time and now, of course, the CDs.

Look what I found on YouTube - bring back memories, anyone?

'Rock Follies'

'Biba Nova'

We're all gonna live forever!

'The Things You Have To Do' - Julie Covington

I might have to hunt out the DVDs...

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Novice Theory on Jools

If you didn't catch 'Later... with Jools Holland' last night you can see it on the iPlayer for the next week and, if you scroll in to 40:10 you can see and hear Novice Theory sing his mysterious 'About the Dream'. This is the song (and performance) he delivers at Justin Bond's 'Lustre'. The song is available to download at iTunes along with the rest of his album.

If you'd like to hear more, just click on over to his MySpace site.


And here's the performance courtesy of YouTube: