Saturday, 4 October 2008


I've just spent two unhealthy weeks searching for hidden pipework in our garden, the result of a blocked loo, only to find buried beneath the concrete floor of the downstairs lavatory a never previously emptied tank. As we moved here fifteen years ago, and the toilet was probably installed no later than the early eighties, when the house was a bar, I did consider calling in a team of archeologists rather than a bloke to empty it. Certainly Howard Carter had an easier time locating Tutankhamun's tomb than I did working out the logic of this curious approach to sanitary engineering. That's Showbiz.

Top of the Plops.

1. Sh*tstirrer - Peter and the Test Tube Babies
2. Waste Not Want Not - The Pretenders
3. Everytime I Go Around Here - Frank Black
4. Down In The Sewer - The Stranglers
5. She's So Loose - Supergrass
6. Houses in Motion - Talking Heads
7. Oh! Sh*t - Buzzcocks
8. Do It Clean - Echo and the Bunnymen
9. Ramrod- Duane Eddy
10.Paranoid Man In Cheap Sh*t Room - The Fall

Monday, 18 August 2008

Kicker Conspiracy

Not a late period George Best, but an unpublished photo of the boy Peel himself. He's in action during a Radio One versus ? match at Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers, circa 1982.
Other photos from the same event show a nearly full compliment of old school Radio One 'brutes' as John Peel himself styled them- Dave Lee Travis, Mike Read, Jimmy Saville ( in a mercifully non- playing role ) Mike Smith, Paul Burnett...

Wish you were ( still ) here, John. The world is colder and greyer without you. Walk on.

One wonders if any future members of Half Man Half Biscuit, hardcore Tranmere fans , we're present?

The photo appears courtesy of Miles Cork who was there, an avid collector, Liverpool fan, and expert on No1 singles. Copyright.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Stars of track and field you are beautiful people.

Musicians keep cropping up during the current Beijing Olympics.

So far there's been a bronze medal in the swimming for chain smoking '
Different for girls' singer Joe Jackson, and a strong contender in the 100 meters, now apparently residing in Trinidad and Tobago is Richard Thompson, formerly of Fairport Convention.

Has anybody else spotted a
Big Bopper in the super heavyweight division at the boxing arena, or perhaps Del Shannon will be a Runaway success in the track and field events. ( Boom, boom )
Del's real name? Charles Weedon Westover-Ross.

Belle and Sebastian - 'Stars of Track and field'

Friday, 15 August 2008

Everybody's Stalkin' *

Howdy Pop Pickers,
sorry to have left such a long silence,( as though anybody actually cares, ) however I've ' been away ' as the euphemism amongst former convicts goes.
The current advertising campaign for the big UK switch over to digital television transmissions features a man and his robot. They're seen out on the road spreading the enlightenment about binary based visual entertainment. That their quest to evangelise the British Iles is set to the Fred Neil song ' Everybody's Talkin' ' set off a few " echoes of my mind."

Fred Neil

The song is famous for its inclusion in the 1969 United Artists' film " Midnight Cowboy" directed by British director John Schlesinger and starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voigt,
- and so far the road movie element of the original has provided the theme for the ad.

Does this mean that one of these chaps has plied his trade as a male prostitute, and that the other will be seen in the final advert of the series , dead , propped against the window of the vehicle wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt ?

A man can have a dream.

There are also a couple of John Lennon connections on the soundtrack- The version of " Everybody's Talkin " is sung by Nilsson.
The Beatles in general had enthused about Harry Nilsson,who also wrote a few hits for the Monkees funnily enough, and Lennon produced the " Pussy Cats " album. He's best known otherwise for his version of the song by the ill fated Badfinger " Without you", a Welsh band signed to... Apple Records. If you want the full story click the link to the Wikipedia entry.
The other connection is with Elephants' Memory, they were a New York band who provided two tracks for the soundtrack and also did their own version of the 'Midnight Cowboy' theme. ( Composed by Yorkshireman John Barry. ) Later they hooked up as Lennon's backing band for the 'Sometime in New York City' album.

As for Fred Neil, he was a folk singer and songwriter who wrote, amongst many others, the song " Dolphins ". At the start of the Seventies he pretty much turned his back on the music world, and went to work with... Dolphins. He died in 2001.

* apologies to Badly Drawn Boy for nicking his title.

Nilsson singing 'Everybody's Talkin' ' in 1969 on Beat Club, West German tv.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

indoor fireworks can still burn your fingers...

No money, and a long way from major bus routes?
There is no longer any need for you to miss out on the festival experience. Do as I did during the recent Glastonbury Festival, and follow my step by step guide to festival bliss :
  • Pitch a tent in your living room in front of the telly, there are several stages available to view on the BBC if you have a satellite dish and the 'red button ' facility. ( no not the one that unleashes Armageddeon Time.. ) if you feel you're too close to the action, try looking the wrong way through some binoculars.
  • To add to the ambience, don't empty your lavatory all day, and when you do- try using a hoover instead of flushing.
  • Don't leave the car outside the house, park it several miles away, preferably across some fields.
  • Lose your money/insulin/ ventolin inhaler, the panic and oxygen starved highs that can be achieved far out stretch any illegal drug 'trip'.
  • The lack of mud indoors can be a drawback, but a few hours heavy gardening between transmissions can soon restore the organic feel to your clothes , hair and general attire.
  • Eat badly and drink too much.

By the way I thought Elbow were on top form. Good to see 'friends' of my blog ( ha, ha ) The Ting Tings celebrating their meteoric rise on the John Peel Stage.

Something of the night ...

Robert Mitchum in 'Night of the Hunter'

  1. The Night has a Thousand Eyes –Bobby Vee
  2. The Night of the Lotus Eaters– Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  3. Bremen Nacht – The Fall
  4. Hard Days Night – The Beatles
  5. Friday Night, Saturday Morning – the Specials
  6. Saturday Night, Sunday Morning – Madness
  7. All day and All of the Night – The Kinks
  8. The Night that Minnie Timperley Died – Pulp
  9. Last Night I Nearly Died ( But I Woke Up Just In Time ) – Duke Special
  10. Night Vision – Super Furry Animals
original concept and suggestions by 'Pyrenees' Dave.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Night

"the night begins to turn your head around "- what like Linda Blair's head in The Exorcist ? Another Motown classic / curiosity, from Frankie Valli's sojourn at the label, and another flop in the States that did better business in the UK. I presume that the backing is provided by Motown house band The Funk Brothers, with James Jamerson on bass. Connection to the last track ( "I Gotta See Jane " by R. Dean Taylor ) ? Well he did " There's a Ghost In My House " whilst on Motown, which was covered by The Fall ( and their equally initial flaunting leader Mark E. Smith, ) who, legend has it, nearly signed a contract with Motown in the U.K. ... Which is another story.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Rambling Sid Presley

Listening to Nico's 1967 album ' Chelsea Girl' and the track 'These Days', I was struck by the lyric " I've been out walking..." and later " I've stopped my rambling.." -which seemed to suggest everybody's favourite Teutonic Misery guts and Heroin addict, had actually been a bit of a hiker on the quiet. I can see her now heading out with her 1 : 50 000 scale Ordnance Survey Landranger map, for a romp round Snowdonia with John Cale.
Do they do Kagouls in black?
She did die falling off her bicycle, so perhaps I should revise my opinion.

Rambling Ten(t)

  1. The Manchester Rambler - Ewan MacColl
  2. Walking to New Orleans - Fats Domino
  3. Walk Don't Run - The Ventures
  4. Rambling Robin - Mike Harding ( or Christy Moore )
  5. They Walked in Line - Joy Division
  6. Walk Away Renee - The Left Banke
  7. Midnight Rambler - The Rolling Stones
  8. Walk On By - The Stranglers
  9. Fast Cars - Buzzcocks (" I HATE Fast Cars " )
  10. Sleepwalk - John Cooper Clarke

"This Kendal Mint Cake tastes bloody peculiar..."

Perverted by Language

How about typing all your future correspondance in the near illegible scrawl of R.Totale XVII himself? You can now download a font called Mark E Smith from the excellent Fall Website.
For more Fall stuff there is a new webzine from the former writers of the old Fall fanzine the Pseud Mag - Reformation Post TPM

Monday, 14 April 2008

Stately Xanadu

The Mayflower Club Manchester, where I spent many a strange afternoon at the dawn of the eighties, watching punk bands, like Discharge, Vice Squad ( ah, Beki! ), Anti Pasti, and even The Damned. This is another photograph from the excellent Manchester District Music archive. The former Corona cinema, was opposite the entrance to Belle Vue, and apart from Punk bands also gave a venue for a lot of Reggae. Joy Division played here, too. The place was black as pitch inside with overflowing toilets and dodgy electricity. I loved it.

Happy Mondays

My photo of the Happy Mondays at the Manchester Show, an agricultural kind of affair, hence the bloke in tweeds, circa 1984/85. It rained most of the day. There were no more than 30 to 50 people in front of the stage.
There's much more of this kind of thing at the Manchester District Music Archive, an excellent collection of things.

photo: Alastair Price

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Jeux sans Frontiers

Whilst in Manchester for a lightning visit I met up for food and drink in the Cornerhouse with some old friends. Bruno, once the bass player in my French band, Dynamos, now resident in Salford, and even older friend Otto Smart.

Otto had just returned from a ten date tour of Spain as part of Roger Quigley's other project At Swim Two Birds. Otto also plays with Roger and Mark Trainer in Montgolfier Brothers, Mark is otherwise known as Gnac. Not to be left out Otto is also part of Curvilinear. All fine and dandy, but what Otto really should be known for is his solo work under the nom de plume - The Otto Show.

His songs are beautifully intimate, intelligent, eccentric and English. Subjects range from the observationally humorous ' Frowning Baby' to ancient mythology- 'Furies,Come', there's even a rendition of RL Stevenson's ' Good and Bad Children'.

So far The Otto Show, sharing its name with an episode of the Simpsons, has produced two albums. The first, self titled, released on Spanish label Annika in 2004, was actually recorded several years earlier in Brittany. With the assistance of me and my band, and particularly les fréres Goujon, Nicolas and Francois, the whole thing was recorded in about three days. Most of Otto's contributions were memorably first takes.

Francois would later be part of duo Octet, signed to Diamond Traxx / Discograph. The people at his label were so taken with Otto's recordings that they invited Otto to play at an Octet gig in Paris. A scratch version of the band on the album was hastily rehearsed for the concert at La Maroquinerie.

The second album, 2005's 'The Very Spit of...', on Manchester's Vespertine and Son, was an even more remarkable affair. Otto had been making home recordings on to a Fostex X15 cassette four track recorder since the 1980's and Richard and Roger ( Vespertine ) decided to compile a collection of the best of these songs, unembellished and as I'd first heard them as far back as 1984.

Otto has a mass of excellent new songs, and despite a positive review of 'The very spit of...' in the Daily Telegraph of all places ( and a couple of return trips to Spain ) - he seems to have as much trouble as ever getting anyone to release them. He's contributed a vocal and lyric to Francois' latest project ( Pyjaman ) - ' Queen Mary ' ( is real fun ) ' and you can hear it on his Myspace. I play a few notes on the track myself , how incestuous can you get?
photos and cornerhouse drawing : Caroline Johnson

Sunday, 9 March 2008


Currently grooving to :

Footsteps - Bricolage. So Orange juicy it must be ... Bricolage are from Glasgow, and signed Memphis Industries.

Grounds for Divorce - Elbow. Enormous tune from Guy Garvey and co.

Witchfinder General

Only half awake yesterday morning, I heard the newsreader announce : "Last night Lady Thatcher was driven from her home in Belgravia..." happy thoughts of the baying mob, torches blazing, played upon my mind for the rest of the day.

Five Odes to Joy.

  1. Stand Down Margaret - The Beat
  2. Tramp the Dirt Down - Elvis Costello
  3. How Does it Feel ( to be the mother of a thousand dead? ) - Crass
  4. Margaret on the Guillotine - Morrissey
  5. Blue - Fine Young Cannibals
Honourable mention : the last 45 seconds of 'A Country Practice' - Half Man Half Biscuit

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Monday, 3 March 2008

Plat du Jour

May I recommend the rather wonderful The Ting Tings, whose Great DJ single is available today, albeit probably in download form
only, their vinyl and cd releases so far have been as rare as hens' teeth.
Having caught them first on Channel M, Manchester's local telly / satellite station, I had the good fortune to meet Katie and Jules whilst providing comedy Englishman translations for the kind people of French radio station Le Mouv' -at the Transmusicales festival in Rennes last December. After their storming set- a contender for 'La Revelation du Trans '- I had a chat with Katie. She originates from Leigh, in Lancashire, which I was very happy about, being a Lancastrian in a strange land myself. They'd also spent some time in Brittany, trying some early recordings, and so could share that " where is everyone? " sensation that you get in rural France.
The pair have been based at the Islington Mill in Salford, a sort of 21st Century bohemian artists' dwelling, recording and playing in its own venue. The group released a first single ' That's not my Name ' through Manchester's Switchflicker Records.
As members of the defunct Dear Eskimo they had already been swallowed up and spit out by major label Mercury Records, without releasing a note of music. However, when we spoke Katie had only been playing her guitar for seven months, and knew just five chords. This adds to their garage pop charm, although the duo's stripped down arrangements are anything but naive, having a sort of Toni Basil immediacy. I discovered that they had a liking for the Talking Heads / Tom Tom Club which makes sense. They seemed to have avoided becoming cynical and battle hardened despite their previous experiences, honing their songwriting down to the essentials. Good, memorable tunes. Expect hits.
An album on Columbia Records is due later in the year.

( photo from : Le Mouv' )

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Stomping in Pop

The unfortunate death of Mike Smith, lead singer with the Dave Clark Five led me to ponder on an overlooked sub-genre of Stamping, Stomping and generally percussive use of the feet in the history of Popular music. The DC5 apparently pounded out the rythmn to their May 1964 number 2 UK hit ( number 4 US ) "Bits and Pieces" by stamping on an up turned door on the studio floor.
A recent documentary on the girl groups, for BBC Radio 4 - gave us an interesting revelation from ex-mod and PWL svengali Pete Waterman, now a showbiz pal of one of Motown writing team Holland, Dozier or Holland ( I can't remember which ). Barely credible it may seem, but the stamping which starts the Supremes 1964 classic ' Baby Love', ( credited elsewhere to teenager Mike Valvano ) relied for its uneven quality on the fact that the stompers drafted in to bolster the sound included the janitor, who had a wooden-leg!
Blondie's reworking of Randy and the Rainbows 'Denise'- Denis,Denis also features some welcome 'footsteps', as Debbie Harry politely describes them in her excellent book with Chris Stein 'Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie'.
More recently Londoners ' The Flaming Stars ' appeared to employ a healthy smattering of stamping on their excellent " Spilled Your Pint " single ( Vinyl Japan 2004 ), and merit a mention on the strength of the cover which features a picture of the Stack-heeled silver platform boot of Sweet guitarist Andy Scott.
After this I'm afraid that the trail goes cold. Does Toe Rag Studios, home to all things analogue, own an old door for stamping on, or have we heard the last of the stompers?

  • Bits and Pieces also sticks in the mind as the flanged-drum ( another genre? ) theme for the sonically confusing Radio One Roadshow competition of the 1970's, wherein contestants would have to guess the hits of the day from montage of short sound clips. Listened to on a medium wave transistor radio, this baffling 30 second burst of cut-up noise must surely have inspired some future laptop musician?

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Hello Playmates.

Friends and family have grown weary of my fund of 'rock trivia', for want of a better description. As my Dad once said:
If you could remember as much about your maths homework as you do about pop music...
so after some bullying, here it is, welcome to my unhealthy, obsessive world.