Tuesday 31 January 2017


I've got some time off at the moment while I wait for my next project to start, so another post already and some more art.   This time in the form of a lovely old original sheet music book from 1923 which I bought for just a few quid last week.  I only wanted it for the front cover as I love the typography and the very simple graphic image.  Also, there's something about it being nearly 100 years old.

Maybe you remember seeing clips of ancient Felix The Cat cartoons on The Old Grey Whistle Test?  My big sister used to watch it at its peak in the '70s, eager for appearances by Focus, Rory Gallagher and the like and, although I was too young to stay up with her, I'm sure there were times when I couldn't sleep and may have been allowed to watch a little too; my memories of it seem inextricably linked to that era.  But even in later versions of the programme I'm sure this was still a device they used.  I can’t specifically recall any of the songs they did it with, but there was always some element of them that worked with the animation, like Felix hammering a nail into a plank to the rhythms of Bob Marley & The Wailers or something.  Seem to remember they also used scenes from the 1902 film A Trip To The Moon / Le Voyage Dans Le Lune....

This is one of the Felix cartoons (but without the addition of OGWT's choice of music), only the first five minutes unfortunately, but it gives the idea as it’s chock full of great visual tricks and deceptive surrealism  –  so simple and so clever at the same time.   I love this kind of thing...  and again, the fact that it's nearly 100 years old.

Kind of appropriate for this cold weather too, barely a day has gone by lately when I'm not having to don my parka to go in the garden to break the ice on the birdbath.

The inside of the music booklet is very endearing visually too (if you skip past the overtly racist reference/word in one verse, I know it's just an unfortunate reflection of the attitudes of the time.  Although... well...what kind of horrendous prejudiced times are we living in now?)

One other thing caught my eye - an ad in the back for another title, which is apparently:

  “a lesson in song.  The truest story ever told.  An appealing musical sermon that has won the commendation of press and pulpit throughout the nation…”   

You just don't see straplines like that for Little Mix, do you?

Lyrics reproduced here:

Just A Girl That Men Forget
Dear little girl, they call you a flirt,
A flapper with up-to-date ways,
You may shine brightly, but just like a lamp,
You’ll burn out one of these days.
The your old-fashioned sister will come into view,
With a husband and kiddies, but what about you?

Wallflower girl, now dry all those tears,
For you won’t be left all alone.
Some day you’ll find yourself up on a throne
Queen of a sweet little home,
And you, gay little flapper, you’ll live and you’ll learn
When you’ve gone down the pathway that has no return.

A flapper with up-to-date ways.

Sunday 29 January 2017

The Artist

He reminded me of someone from a different era – like that early ‘70s art scene that permeated my childhood, the one with bearded men and batik throws.   It was as if he had been plucked from that setting and that time and placed in the present without having traversed the interim years.   Wild black hair, second-hand velvet jacket, the huge rubber plant in the flat, chipped stoneware bowls, Leonard Cohen and Frank Zappa on C90s.  Thirty years' worth or more of magazines, mostly already cut-up ready for use, on every available surface. The smell of paint mingling with the smell of mildew and recently baked herring.  And his art everywhere, on every wall and piled up on the floor: works in progress, finished pieces, huge canvasses, boxed constructions from reclaimed household objects, book-like collaged miniatures, pertinent words scrawled in inky black spidery script.  He taught me about the artists he loved and who inspired him - Kurt Schwitters and Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Duchamp – well, so much Art.  He always spelled Art with a capital A.  He said it with one too.  I'll be honest - he frustrated me at times, his life was messy, his choices often unwise, but friendship endured.

Well, it would have been his 58th birthday today.  Sadly he was the second of two of my friends who died last year, and his death was most unexpected, so it still feels a little unreal.

But I don’t want this to be a sad post, there is enough misery in the world and I need to keep myself upbeat. 

Instead I’ll celebrate his birthday by sharing some of his work, now hanging on new walls in different homes.  Isn't this the lovely thing about Art? -  it lives on.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Reading matter

Books and toilets.  Do they go together?

I’m kind of thinking they do, judging by the amount of books I get to half-read while other parts of my body do different things.  If it’s not too much information, it’s through having a healthy digestive system that lately I’ve managed to cover whole chunks of the Morrissey Autobiography,  Bill Bryson’s ‘Little Dribbling’ and ‘Going To Sea In A Sieve’ by Danny Baker.  All out of sequence, though – ends before beginnings, forewords halfway through and simultaneous middle chapters – I’ll never be able to enter Mastermind with any of the above as a chosen specialist subject because I’d get all muddled up.  Fortunately Mastermind isn’t on my bucket list but I still fantasise about specialist subjects – don’t we all?  Anyway, like a disjointed dream, somewhere in the back of my mind Bill Bryson and Morrissey have morphed into one and are travelling around Britain writing a fanzine.  

Our books tend to migrate to the bathroom (where our only toilet is) in almost ghostly ways. I’m not sure quite how they end up there, on the windowsill, on the little wobbly stool or tucked in among the towels – some books that I hardly remember even owning in the first place.  I thought we’d got rid of the Doctor Who hardback ages ago; I’d forgotten all about Kraals and Mechonoids - now I’m up to speed.   

So visiting our loo is like visiting a library with random shuffle.  One week The Doctor, next week The Haynes Manual for the Fender Stratocaster.  That one didn’t hold my interest so much but for a while Mr SDS could regularly leave the smallest room with some new nugget of info about the floating tremolo or whatever.   I’m afraid I could only give a Gallic shrug in response, still, at least he was happy.

Anyway, I wonder how widespread the books and toilet combo is.  I grew up in a house full of books, although they weren’t upstairs in the bathroom where the pink suite was grounded by deep purple carpet tiles - deep purple! carpet tiles! - and we had goldfish to entertain us instead.   (The goldfish must’ve found us entertaining too - what a view they had from their thigh-level tank at the end of the bath.)  However, the downstairs loo (or 'cloakroom' as it was politely called)  - little more than a cupboard really - provided plenty of light reading including this:

and this:

and sometimes my Mum's John Noble mail order catalogue.  

That was a little too heavy and floppy to handle easily, especially when otherwise occupied, but my Mum’s logic could be questionable at the best of times.  (She once cast a replica of my Dad’s head in bronze,  actual size and complete with his short-lived beard, and displayed it on the sideboard.  All I can say is thank god it wasn't in the loo).

Not my Dad's head

When clearing out my Aunt and Uncle’s house last year I was happy just to browse the spines of the old paperbacks on their own designated shelf in the loo – poetry books, classics, Penguins – the tiny room had become a place of learning and escape, a tranquil retreat, even if the seating choice was limited. It was nice to think of them being avid loo-readers, and she a retired GP too.  Which leads me to wondering if there is ever a question of hygiene?  According to the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, there is what you might call a ‘theoretical’  risk but it’s not very big -  just don’t forget to wash your hands.  And so I've concluded: yes, it’s okay to read books in the loo. 

 But probably not okay to take a dump in the library.

Monday 16 January 2017

Andy, Madge and Sonic Youth too

I try to cover some diverse topics on here where I can: art, music, creepy crawly creatures, toffee apples, etc.  But I don't think I've ever written about Andy Warhol

nor Madonna

nor Sonic Youth

So I set myself a challenge.

When I think of Andy Warhol – and I suppose it’s inevitable – but one of the first things I think of is a big yellow banana.

And there is even a picture out there of Madonna with a big yellow banana so that’s two out of the above three in one go.

(While I’m on the subject of Andy Warhol I'd just like to use this opportunity to show a couple of lesser known album covers of his in which I find his pen and ink illustrations really fresh and charming.  Being early pieces from 1958 these are quite different to the boldly coloured screen print imagery perhaps most associated with him now.

Lovely, aren't they?  But I digress...)

Now, Sonic Youth..... When I think of Sonic Youth I think of New York.

There is even a French album called '(Les Inrockuptibles prĂ©sentent) Le New York d'Andy Warhol' (if you say it out loud, it sounds great!) and Sonic Youth feature on it, so that’s also two out of the above three in one go.

Great cover pic too  (love Edie Sedgwick).

Madonna....?   When I think of Madonna, I think not only of pointy bras but also of  Into The Groove, which was a big hit in 1985, right in the middle of my stint working in a record shop, and I’m sure many dozens of copies must have passed through my hands in exchange for half a crown (or whatever it was they cost in those days, I honestly can't remember - I'd take a stab at about £1.20 but could be completely out...?)

There is even a cover version of Into The Groove, by a Sonic Youth side project, with Andy Warhol art on the sleeve.


Three out of three!
In 1986, Sonic Youth borrowed  Madonna’s surname to form Ciccone Youth with Mike Watt of the Minutemen/fIREHOSE, and they released one single and one album.  I think they had a bit of an obsession going on with Madonna and the letter y because they featured the former on the cover of their album (an enlarged, tone-reduced Xerox of her face which apparently she was fine about), and then titled it The Whitey Album, whilst their version of Into the Groove became Into The Groovey.

Ciccone Youth: The Whitey Album sleeve. 

The 12” single artwork, which I’m not sure was officially sanctioned by Andy Warhol, nevertheless used the same imagery/headline from a New York Post front page which he’d worked on as a graffitied screenprint in collaboration with fellow artist Keith Haring.  And so it seems to be pretty much credited to him.

Ciccone Youth: 12" single cover

The original newspaper page
(Credit: Flashbak.com) 

Andy and Keith with screenprints
(Credit: Flashbak.com)

The 12” includes two other tracks, Tuff Titty Rap and their take on another Madonna song, ‘Burnin’ Up’.  But Into The Groovey is the one that does it for me – fast-moving and quite stripped-back with its electronic rhythm and treated vocals, still recognisable but at the same time completely, utterly different.  I like that about a cover version – when you know the song, and you know it really well, but it’s moved so far away from the original that there’s only the merest familiarity.

So here it is….  

Ciccone Youth:  Into The Groovey

I got there in the end.

The Ciccone Youth sleeve gets photobombed

Monday 9 January 2017

The January greys

I’m not a fan of January; it doesn’t have a lot going for it, does it?   It’s no May.   May is a favourite; a month full of promise and the knowledge that weeks and weeks of longer, warmer days stretch out way ahead.  May reassures me with its carefree message of, “Don’t worry, we’ll do it in the Summer, there’s loads of time yet! Relax!” and its multiple sneak previews of what’s to come – new leaves on trees, new leaves to be turned over.  Yes, loooaaaaads of time yet. 

Nor does January have the sweetness of wistful goodbye kisses like my other favourite month, October. October paints over the faded greens with juicy reds and lurid yellows and delivers surprise presents every now and then: those mild, sunny days when you exclaim, “I can’t believe it’s October!”  I think of it like a lover reluctant to end our Summer fling.  Oh, October, you tease!

January is none of those things, it’s just shades of grey interspersed with, well, other shades of grey.  This year I’m finding it harder than ever too.  To be honest, I'm feeling a wee bit down.  It's impossible to disassociate some things: January is the month in which two of my good friends had their birthdays, and last year it was also the month in which one of them died, the week after Bowie.  The other friend’s unexpected death followed just a few months later (I may write about him again soon too).  They were both only 57.  I miss them hugely and there’s a big part of me which still can’t quite believe they’ve both left - and of course all of me that wishes they hadn’t.

Anyway, in Januarys (Januaries?) past  I would have sent A a customary email on his celebratory date, saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY (nothing if not original), each character in a different colour and font, kind of like rainbow-coloured Never Mind The Bollocks lettering, which he would have completely got.  And he would have replied with a little note of thanks and surprise that I’d remembered.   “Must pop over for a cup of tea soon,” one of us would have said (it was always me going over to his house, he had the bigger kitchen), and in the meantime more messages would bounce across the ether, exchanging snippets and opinions, video clips, what was in the news, our latest wildlife updates, random notes on art, music and books, little bits of gossip about what was going on in the village, sometimes a bit of rockbiz goss too from his own/sibling connections.

In January three years ago the closest we got to rockbiz goss was that someone new was due to be moving into the big (and very expensive) historic house just down the street from us both.  “I’ve been told he’s a ‘punk rock musician’”, A told me.

Well, of course, we went through the list of possibilities.  Who would we like it to be?

“I wish it could be Mark E Smith but I think he’s too attached to the North”, A emailed.

"It has to be someone with some wonga, doesn't it, so that rules out a few I'm sure... but not someone with enough that they'd move to California, so that rules out a few too.  (I've been thinking... maybe Captain Sensible?  He's already fairly local I believe???)  Haha, I can't wait to find out!" I replied. 

 (Yes, I still have the emails...these are verbatim.)

News soon followed that our new 'punk rock musician' neighbour was called Jimmy.

Jimmy Pursey?  we both mused, somewhat incredulously.

Then an update arrived from A that it wasn't a Jimmy after all, but a Tommy.

Tommy...  Tommy....nope, drawing a blank here.

Then another update, "No, scrub that, it's not Tommy, it's Terry!"

Cue further email exchanges about Terry Chimes, who is apparently now a Chiropractor.

But by the time I popped over for a cuppa tea and a real-life chat, it transpired that the new resident was neither Chiropractor nor punk rock musician, instead someone neither of us had heard of and whose connection to the music biz was not to either of our tastes at all…  a session keyboard musician who composes music for TV....  A long way from Mark E Smith, that's for sure.

Life is full of disappointments!

Not my new neighbour

And well, like disappointment, you just have to accept death, don't you?  There's nothing we can do to change things and we're only going to experience more of them because, if it's not our own trip into oblivion, it will be that of others we know and love (sorry).  So I hold onto the memories and the fondness, the hopeful Mays and the sunny Octobers, and the little snatches of chat about non-punk rock musicians, amongst other things.

If A had lived to see this birthday I’m sure we’d have been sharing more similar conversations, both in email and real life, and this January would not be quite so grey.

The Fall:  It's A Curse
For A
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