It's all over for another year, the days are short and dark and my mind has been wandering again, as have my hands, all over the Photoshop effects menu. Time for something pointless and ridiculous to fill the late gloomy hours when there is little else of value to be achieved apart from eating another chocolate liqueur and instantly regretting it.
If you've been here for a couple of past 'mystery lovechild' posts you'll know the premise: What might the secret offspring, born to a famous but unlikely set of musical parents, look like?
Previously we've had, for instance, John Lydon and Joni Mitchell, whose curious 'lovechild' turned out like this:
I gather that DNA testing kits were given as Christmas presents by millions of people this year. But why go to all the trouble of spitting into a test tube when you can see the evidence of the genes right here in black and white?
I'd love to know who you suspect might be responsible for the conception of the characters below. No rush - the results will be confirmed some time next year (i.e. next week!)
I love Andy Warhol's illustrations for Christmas cards that were commissioned by Tiffany & Co. during the late '50s up to 1962. Much like his gorgeous inky jazz album covers, I find their simplicity and freshness really charming.
You can’t keep a good song down, that’s what I used to
think. However, having heard a few ruined by having all the guts taken
out and incorporating a simpering female vocal to soundtrack an advert, I’ve changed my mind about
But this isn’t one of those songs.I haven’t yet heard a
bad version, and hope I never will.
Here are four renditions of 'Leaving Here' and, I hope you’ll
agree, they’re all excellent.
As it happens, I heard these four versions in the wrong order.The first time I came across 'Leaving Here' was on a mini-album of tracks by British r’n’b group The Birds released
on Edsel in the mid-80s.I'd never heard of the Birds before then (only the Byrds) and had been unaware that a certain Ronnie Wood played guitar for them before his time with the
Faces and the Stones. There's loads that can be said about Ronnie but I'll offer something a bit more random.... it's about a jacket. Whenever I think of Ronnie, I think of my friend H and how jealous I
am of an item of clothing she owns (and sometimes wears).It’s
a gorgeous slim-fitting, striped boating jacket that used to belong to Mr Wood
himself!It came into her possession
through a friend of hers who just happened to be married to Ron’s brother Art, and it looks a bit like this...
She lets me stroke it from time to time.
Alongside Ron Wood in the Birds line-up was vocalist Ali Mackenzie. Some years ago I was lucky enough to enjoy the brilliant Small Faces tribute band, The Small
Fakers, perform the whole of 'Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake' (complete with Stanley
Unwin’s nephew there, narrating the relevant bits) at the 100 Club. As the night drew to a close,Ali Mackenzie joined them on stage to give us a few extra numbers by the
Birds, including this song.It was as
close as we were going to get to the real thing (both Small Faces and Birds) and
I loved every minute.
Some time after discovering the Birds’ version and thinking it was their song, I must have heard it by Motorhead, although I’m not even sure I put two and
two together at the time and certainly didn't know of its true origin.
Motorhead transcended boundaries when it came to musical
genres, didn’t they? Research tells me they recorded this
in December 1976 and it was due to be released as a single by Stiff Records, but
they were still under contract to United Artists at the time who prevented its
release (in spite of UA’s refusal to issue Motorhead’s debut album).So it didn’t make it as single at the time,
although it did turn up on the eponymous Motorhead album on the Chiswick label the
I missed out on
seeing Motorhead in 1978 when they played our local venue; I was only 14 and they were far too hairy and scary. My sister went, though, and said it was
so loud she thought her ears were going to bleed. At least Mr SDS and I did once wave to Lemmy
across a street in Notting Hill (and he waved back, bless him!)
Eventually, I got to listen to the original! Eddie Holland released it in
1963. Eddie was of course one third of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song-writing and production team responsible for many Motown hits. A far better informed friend of mine who knows his '60s soul introduced me to it, and it's great to hear the purity and power of the song's first appearance complete with brass, having only heard others' versions first.
And finally, I heard a much more recent version when highly revered and incredibly young Irish band The Strypes, who had a penchant for the retro sound of bands such as the Yardbirds and Dr Feelgood, recorded it for their 2012 EP 'Young Gifted And Blue'. They were all still in their teens, but the song itself, by that time nearly forty years old, suits them perfectly. I found out in the course of writing this post that only a few weeks ago they announced that they were breaking up. I guess they just packed in so much at such a tender age and I'm not sure where else was left for them to go, so I can understand and respect them for that.
Before I finish here, an honourable mention should also go to the Who who recorded an excellent cover, just as you'd expect.
So, I just have to hope no-one comes along and spoils it now... I don't think a soft tinkly piano version with a withering sing-song vocal would really cut it.
Sometimes a seemingly simple walk down to the local shop can be more stressful than expected. I have a feeling that what I'm about to tell you is something both male and
female readers will identify with from time to time.This, of course, isn’t the first time it’s happened to me.
So, it wasn’t until I had got to what must have been exactly
half way there this afternoon that it started.The riding up.My knickers - you don't need detail, just know they're not a thong - had ridden up one cheek in a very irritating fashion, and then with
every further step it just continued to get worse, of course.Pinned against my skin by tight jeans there was no
way they were going to ride down again of their own accord and settle back against their assigned place just above the natural slope of cheek-base/thigh-top interface.
So, I did that thing I think we all do (please tell me you do.) I’ve got a thigh-length coat on so as I’m
walking I (very swiftly and surreptitiously) slip my hand under the hem and slide it around
behind, then nip down inside the back of my jeans to do a bit of high-speed furtive sortage,
having checked there are no pedestrians in my immediate vicinity, whilst
continuing to walk and appear as nonchalant as possible. Would anyone from a window, or any passing cars
notice?I’ve no idea what this little manoevre
looks like from the outside, as I've never tried it in front of a mirror. Possibly
like getting something out of a back pocket.Or possibly like someone actually putting their hand down inside the back of
their trousers whilst trying to appear not to.
Ah, that’s better, I think, as I reposition everything - snug
and sorted.For about three steps.Then the seam rebels once more.Up it goes.Up. Up again and I can’t think
about anything else.I try the sneaky
you-can’t-see-what’s-going-on-under-my-coat move again but this time it just
makes it worse and causes a bit of cutting in in a place you don’t want to know
about. It’s further to go home than to
continue; I’m going to have to get to the shop and linger around the vegetable
aisle like this.I persevere, crazily preoccupied
by what’s going on with my pants.
The point of me waffling on about this nonsense is simple – wouldn’t it just be
brilliant if we could treat our private underwear malfunctions just as we do a
stone in the shoe?You feel that little
piece of grit pressing into your foot and what do you do? – you stop, put your
bag down, stick your opposite arm out to balance, or preferably use it to prop
yourself against a wall, cock your leg and remove the shoe, shake it, express surprise at how
tiny the offending object was (it felt huge!), put your shoe back on, swivel your foot about a
bit on the pavement to check it’s stone-free and then continue on your way. It's all very public and nobody cares. Similarly with the slipping bra-strap. So I would like to
advocate the same tolerance of occasional open-air knicker adjustment. Only when absolutely necessary, of course. A quick drop of the trousers, sort yourself
out, do yourself back up and on your way, instead of all this secret faffing
about.I suspect that anyone who saw me
knew exactly what I was doing anyway...
I was very excited to order a new book: something particularly
special in these circles as it happens because it’s been created and compiled by one of our fellow
bloggers, Martin.Not only that but it
also contains a story written by him - and not
only that but it also includes a contribution from yet another talented writer in the blogging community, Rol.I’m full of admiration
and delighted for them both and
couldn’t wait to read their creative writing, as well as all the others. I do like a good short story, plus it’s for a
worthy cause, more info here.
So – book duly ordered from Amazon last week.Package was due to arrive next day by 8pm, said the email and the tracking info.Excellent!
It didn’t arrive when they said it would, I
don’t know why.But never mind, a little
message explained there’d been a problem and it should come later this week
But then when it did, there was
no-one in, so the postman had to take it back to the sorting office. A bit of a pain in the arse picking it up as I couldn't get up there straight away, but eventually Mr SDS managed to fit it in to another journey he was making and here it is at last.
Only the package didn't feel much like it had a book in it. I've opened it up to find….
...Two tubes of Bulgarian irritative dermatitis ointment, well of course!
Just one more reason why I don’t trust Amazon to take over
A friend of mine went to her school reunion recently.“You know it was so funny to see that
all the men with hair there had gone grey,” she said, “...but none of the women
They say that grey hair adds six years to
a woman’s age. Gee, thanks for that, just what we need for our confidence when we're already going through you know what.
Of course that's perpetuated when so many use artificial hair colour.Imagine if everyone who covers up their grey hair stopped doing so, then this ‘six
years older’ thing would be meaningless. It’d be no big deal as, by the time we reach our mid-fifties, most people have gone at least 50% grey anyway.
However, as every modern woman knows, it’s against the rules
to show your age.
For example, you rarely see a middle-aged female TV presenter with grey/white hair, compared to their many male counterparts for whom it doesn't seem to be a problem. (Gets me all feminist, this...) The pressure on women in the media to stay looking younger is colossal and, ridiculously, it seems their jobs can depend on it - but that's a whole topic for another time and place.
Although, seeing as I've brought it up...
See what I mean?
Anyway, in the meantime, I'm taking a stand.
White hair is nothing new to me; since late childhood I’ve had
one small patch of it – a ‘Mallen Streak'.*
The 'Mallen' Streak, as later sported by Dave Vanian
and more naturally by the Millibands
It's not that much but I hated it. I remember the time a couple of mean girls at school shouted, “Ugh! You’re going grey!” and, as a
sensitive 13-year old, this felt mortifying.So bleaching the whole of my hair and adding unrealistic colours through the punk/post-punk era conveniently disguised it as well and I loved what I
could do with all those nasty smelling chemicals. It's ages since I've used peroxide or Crazy Colour – but still I've spent years tinting that stubborn white stripe (I should call it Jack) to blend in with the rest.
This year the long, sunny Summer bleached my dishwater blonde and the freaky white bit didn’t show up as much so I left it. But now, as my Winter coat grows, it's more obvious, and suddenly so are plenty of other new white hairs joining it. I'm going grey. Just as you'd expect at my age.
So I could reach for some Nice'n'Easy now and be ruled by an endless regime of dyeing and touching up roots. Or I could just think, you know what, fuck it. Doesn’t mean I've given up caring about appearance - just that I’m still me, whatever. If it's against the rules to show your age, what are rules for if not to be challenged and rebelled against? Why should visible signs of maturity be so negative for women? (I think men still look great with grey hair... or no hair... and all stages between!)
I may cave in, especially if I get talked down to like a little old lady, whereupon I'll be tempted to do all manner of unspeakable things with the pointy end of an umbrella, and then reach for the bottle (of 103A Medium Blonde). For now, though, I'm finding it oddly liberating and have decided, in defiance of both sexism and ageism, to embrace it. So there!
* Apparently it's 'Poliosis', a genetic condition where there is an absence of melanin in head hair, eyebrows or eyelashes.
You like your music edgy, raucous, fast and pounding, verging
on the anarchic? With crashing percussion, some reverb, overloaded and slightly off-key guitars? A freshness and rawness
to it with a screaming vocal that stretches almost to ripping point at times, the music’s driving, chaotic energy taking you with it before ending in the glorious
sound of feedback?
“Surely not the Beatles?”, I
hear you say.
You know the official version of ‘Helter Skelter’
from the White album; it’s already considered a bit wild - the Beatles’ ‘heavy metal’ moment - but
if you like it even wilder (as I do) please take three and a half minutes to listen to this previously unreleased session rendition,which is more visceral than ever and about as
punk/grunge as a 50-year old recording gets.
I can't embed through Blogger so here's the youtube link:
The sunlight was so bright yesterday morning that I had to pull the blind down to be able to work. But I was unexpectedly distracted and mesmerised by the scene it created - the flying and flitting silhouettes of sparrows (there's a birdfeeder on the other side of the window.) It's often the simplest things that I find the most charming - couldn't resist a clumsy attempt to capture their movements in a video.
I took myself off to a very rainy London the other week to
meet a friend at the British Library, where we wandered around an eerily lit
gallery to view some beautiful art, literature and treasures from 1300 years
There in the semi-darkness I half expected to bump into
Lance and Andy from ‘Detectorists’, for there was indeed Anglo-Saxon gold on
Exquisitely shiny, tiny coins,
brooches and intricate heavy-looking belt buckles almost glowed from behind
their glass cases.The exhibition was
well-attended – with white hair and glasses the look of the day - but no-one
spoke, or if they did it seemed only in hushed, reverential tones. It felt terribly straight and subdued in
there, but I was excited by what I saw to a degree I hadn’t expected, and found
myself having to stifle little gasps of inappropriate enthusiasm.
What always gets me about the sort of artifacts on show here
is when I can make that human connection.When I think about the real person who wore that buckle and the fingers
that looped the belt through its clasp – that kind of thing.And, as an illustrator, I wanted to see the marks
of the artist’s hand on the manuscripts, the strokes of ink and the
characterful features, and imagine the creator’s mind at work,just like mine. I was more than rewarded by what I saw –
astounded at the brightness of the inks in particular – I had no idea that the
vivid oranges and greens so frequently used in the illuminations would shout
out so much, not unlike the shades and strength of the felt tip pens I used as
a kid.Almost garish.I’m convinced too that people had better eyesight
1000 years ago than we do now, and nimbler fingers too, for the minute scale of
the details in the decorations was quite mind-blowing.
In the dumbed-down world we live in I’d come to hate the way
labels on products often refer to them in the first person.I’m usually irked by a pack of carrots and
its patronizing instruction to “keep me in the fridge!”, etc.But after this exhibition I realised this is
nothing new and it’s softened my attitude. The anthropomorphism of inanimate
objects was very evident in Anglo-Saxon times – the books that introduced
themselves: “(Name) wrote me”, and the brooch which threatens any thief with an
inscription: “May the Lord curse him who
takes me from (owner)”, etc.Books
of riddles too, a huge literary genre 1000 years ago - more proof that really
we’re still the same people at our core, and that’s what I want to believe.
Even an early version of a word search, with a palindrome...
I love the figure at the base. (British Library postcard)
Plus, I love books.I
love the physicality of books, the feel and look of them as objects, their
construction and their role.Huge books
of manuscripts with metalwork bindings reflected their importance and I was
amazed by the sheer outrageous size of a giant bible (the ‘Codex Amiatinus’), measuring
2ft long by 1ft wide and an incredible 1ft thick, weighing in at 75lb (over 5
stone for those like me who still think in Imperial).
With my desire to relate to the illustrators involved in
particular, I was really gratified to see a lovely 11th Century book called
‘Marvels of The East’.Written in Old
English, it’s like a mythological travel guide, describing the weird and
wonderful creatures that can be found in some faraway Eastern place, such as
the “men who are born fifteen feet tall and ten feet broad.They have big heads and ears like fans”. I'm thinking Martin Clunes. Nooo!
how about this:
"Lertices, a small creature with donkey’s ears, sheep’s wool
and the feet of a bird."
(British Library postcard)
"The Blemmya, a man 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide with his head
in his chest."
(British Library postcard)
I lingered long over this image, studying those fingers wrapped around the
frame in an imaginative graphic touch, the benign expression on that faceand that lovely inky outline and, never mind those hundreds of years that have
passed, at that moment I’m inside the artist’s head.What a great commission that must have been!
The thing is, I was absolutely shit at History in school. Bored out of my mind I would concentrate on trying different handwriting styles and experiment with coloured inks as Miss Jones drearily dictated facts about Acts and... well, stuff I simply can't remember for that very reason. It's the human relatability that makes it come alive for me and when that comes via two of my favourite subjects, art and language, as it did in this exhibition - I'm in. And seeing that Anglo-Saxon gold, well, to paraphrase Lance, it's surely "... the closest you'll get to time travel". Definitely worth a trip to a very rainy London.
'Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War' at the British Library, until 19 February 2019
Time for another one of these! I was shocked to find the last time I posted one was nearly two years ago; it feels like about three months...
Anyway, this is another one of those songs which sounds absolutely brilliant every single time I hear it and never loses its status or appeal (which is the point of this series!) but in particular it takes me back to an exciting period when I was discovering new old music. As I was working in the record shop it was easier to order all sorts of obscure items from all sorts of obscure labels, plus get a staff discount - suffice to say it seemed I was bringing home a new album just about every week.
Up until that point I'd always most enjoyed music that was current at the time of listening, so it was quite an adventure to explore an unfamiliar genre from the past. I first heard this particular song around 1985 I think, by which time it was nearly 20 years old. To my 22-year old self, that meant it was bloody ancient. Now, of course if I spool back 20 years, a mere blink of an eyelid ago, I realise it's me who's bloody ancient.
But never mind all that, because this is timeless. My first awareness of its existence in the '80s was thanks to a brilliant compilation album: 'Perfumed Garden Vol 1' , put out by the Psycho label. It grabbed me right from the off with its dirty, grungy, overdriven guitar intro. The vocals are nicely rough too, and that insistent riff just keeps on going. I had no idea until then that anything in the sixties could sound quite this punk; I thought the Stones and the Kinks were about as hard as it gets, so it came as a revelation.
'You're Too Much' was originally put out as a B-side in May 1966 (the A-side, 'Man With Money' still sounds fine to my ears but is not a patch on this).
As for the band - I wrote a piece about them in a fanzine in 1986 (shocking to think that is now longer ago than the original gap between the record's release and my hearing it). So my research has already been done and I'll just reproduce it here...
The Eyes were a young band from Ealing who picked up a culty mod following in the mid sixties. They supported such bands as The Action, The Kinks and The Move. Their 'gimmick' was to wear colourful, amusing clothes - stripey Rugby shirts, bleached jeans, pink parkas with tyre tracks inked on the backs and red or yellow boots. (Also for added decoration - big eyes sewn onto their tops!) After 4 singles (the last one of which was a flop), an EP, and a disguised album, the band split up, and vocalist Terry was the only member to pursue a serious musical career. He joined 'Andromeda' for a while but never recorded with them, then became vocalist for 'The Entire Sioux Nation' with Larry Wallis (who later became a Pink Fairy), Jim Taylor and Paul Nichols.
Anyway - onto the song. It would be an understatement to say I just fucking love it.
The Eyes: You're Too Much (originally released May 1966)
The Eyes in rugby shirts and bleached jeans (1966)
Everyone else is better at everything else than I am. I know this because I’ve just been looking at
some random Pinterest and Instagram pages in the course of some research and all my
fears were confirmed. Everyone has
beautiful homes, beautiful children, beautiful gardens, makes beautiful things,
has beautiful pets, beautiful clothes, beautiful hobbies, bakes beautiful cakes and, although there’s no visual confirmation, I think we can safely say
they probably have beautiful bowels capable of excreting the most perfectly formed faeces.
has become apparent that I’m just not up to scratch. A snapshot of the desk I'm sitting at now would reveal an old birdfood catalogue tucked into a notebook, a scrunched up tissue, a blunt pencil and a chipped plastic ruler, a random postcard from Madrid and a flash drive still in its torn cardboard packaging. I am sitting here in my bobbly old jumper and
slippers with worn-out soles, contemplating whether or not to defrost the
freezer which has an ice monster growing in it so big that it could no doubt
restore the melting polar ice caps single-handedly. Only it’s full of crumbs too. Beautiful pets? Could you count my newly-acquired composting
worms? I’ve got some nicely rotting
vegetable peelings to feed them in a moment.
Alternatively I could finally remove the last traces of blue polish from
the tips of the nails on my big toes because it has been on them since… August?
Or was it July?
I was thinking of opening up one of those photo-sharing accounts
to share some images of my beautifully imperfect life. Would anyone like to see it? I could show you the inside of my oven!
Late afternoon, high Summer, sunshine, warm water.I was elated; I had just managed to propel
myself across from one end to the other – only the shortest distance, but still
-my first width! With no armbands!
Do you remember that feeling when you learned to swim?The moment of transition, I mean. Much like
learning to ride a bike - the first time you manage it unaided comes as a big surprise.There’s a sense of disbelief.In your head:Are you sure no-one's pushing
me?Are you sure there’s nobody helping?
And then, it sinks in: there’s no turning back,
you won’t lose it, you’ve got the knack, you’ve got it!and you’re away. There are still things to learn, but the
biggest block of all – the lack of confidence to try – has been conquered.
Mine happened in Mrs E’s back garden.There was a small group of us, we were about
nine or ten years old.The school trips
to the local indoor pool had been awful for us.We were the inferiors in this scenario; we couldn’t
join the main activities because we hadn’t yet learned to swim.So the teacher cordoned us off in a tiny
secton of the shallow end, gave us armbands and (pretty useless) polystyrene
floats, shouted out a few instructions which made
us feel worse (it wasn’t instructions we needed, it was understanding) and
treated us as a major inconvenience to their proceedings.Fellow classmates dived and jumped in at the
deep end and we just tiptoed about nervously, never daring to venture beyond
where our feet could touch the floor, not believing our clumsy little bodies
were ever designed to float.I already hated
Rounders, I dreaded Sports Day and now Swimming was another thing I couldn't do properly. You know, it still irks me today that
my school experience in general (both primary and secondary) didn’t place as much
value in the ability to draw pictures as it did in running or hitting a ball.How different things might have feltif it had.
However, Mrs E came to the rescue, and here I am writing
about her because I started thinking about the unsung heroes in my life –
nothing grand or dramatic, nobody saved me from sinking in quicksand or from
falling down a well, but there are people I think of whose inspiration in one
form or other made a huge personal difference.
She had this little pool in her back garden and had come to
some arrangement with my school to start teaching the non-swimmers in small private
groups each week. No more trips to the local indoor baths with their stench of chlorine and fiddly lockers. That Summer in her garden she nurtured
my confidence with great patience, kindness and individual attention, until
after a number of lessons everything just fell into place. I'll never forget that moment, just as I'll never forget the cycling one either. Anyway, it was just something she did and enjoyed,
and once I’d learned there was no need to go back and I was off to secondary
school and I hardly ever saw her again, nor had much reason to think of her. But all these years on I realise what a simple
difference she made - not that I do a lot of swimming these days but the point
is: I know I can.Any time I’ve ever lowered
myself into a pool, fooled around in a lake, or let the salty waves of the sea support
me as they rise and fall and tangle seaweed round my feet, I should thank Mrs E for teaching me to trust in
A very quick lazy post today, but this clever and original
music-related artwork really appeals.As
someone who thinks visually (often to my detriment), loves nature and who has difficulty remembering lyrics, I think I’d like every one of my favourite songs to be illustrated by graphic
artist Katrina McHugh.
Some may call it kinky.It certainly is a little perverse.Maybe you share my thing; and if so, it’s okay, you’re safe to admit it
here and we can wallow in our weird taste together:
The strangely compelling fascination for the unconventional
footwork(and hipwork and armwork and
more)of certain musical men.
I indulged in this personal fixation here a few years ago, and
treated you (I hope) to the tantalizing delights of the one and only mind-bendingly
raunchy Jim Dandy...
Quite possibly my favourite pic of all time
...closely followed by Samuel T Herring from Future Islands, a goody-goody tambourine-wielding tootsie-pie from the 1910 Fruitgum Company and those Fine
Young elastic-legged Cannibals. Take another peek here at the clips if you like. But this is the
gift that keeps on giving and I have more…
…like Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods.The first time I really, really took proper notice
of Sleaford Mods was when I watched this performance.It’s utterly compelling, in so many ways – but
it’s Jason’s feet and hands which give me that extra tingly feeling, the one which
leads me to press Rewind and Play over and over again.The more he says no….. the more I think
yes.Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
So Mr Williamson, what have you done to find gainful employment?
Q. What’s the opposite of a Sleaford Mod?A. A
Moody Blue, I’d say - I do like these random contrasts.Yet, still they have something in common,
something so subtle and sublime that you really have to see it to believe it…. if you have a look at this performance by the Moody Blues of ‘Ride My
See Saw’ from 1968, keep your eyes on the moustachioed maitre d’ in the
dickie bow, otherwise known as Ray
Thomas.In the first 35 seconds his
legs/feet positively shimmer.By the time
we get to 1m 42 seconds he starts to slowly wind up his arms with the tiny
remote control secreted in his left hand and then goes for it with a very brief
but oh so perfect peak – the elbow flourish. Stay with the song for another
minute or so for a further glimpse of his slippery soles and whisking wrists.
I'll ride your see saw, baby.
Are you into it? Oh go on, say you are, do.
If you're a similar age to me (but perhaps only in the UK) maybe you also remember Music And Movement sessions at school from
when you were maybe around five or six?You could be anything, a tree blowing in the wind, a train trundling
down the tracks, in a parquet-floored hall which smelt of Mr Sheen, in your
vest and pants and your little black plimsolls.Just like Thom Yorke, I think. Well, not the vest and pants. Never mind the momentary moves just posted above, so fleeting
and so teasing - we want more.
So let me leave you with Radiohead and the very memorable video for Lotus Flower. A full five minutes of frolicsome free-form - I just can't look away!
I would so love to see people dance like this at a wedding.
I should’ve posted this a couple of days ago really, but never mind,
it’s still a 25th anniversary, give or take a few days! The anniversary of the very first time I
I had the chance to travel through my work on a
complimentary trip.Free flight, free
hotel and free entertainment laid on - I know, pretty good.Destination New York! Just for the weekend.Never been
on a ‘plane before and my first flight was to be 3500 miles across the Atlantic
– talk about nervous / thrilled / overwhelmed, all at once.
I recorded the experience in real time through a few scribbled notes. It’s strange when
you look back on things like that and try to recapture the memories, not just of where, but
also of who, you were at the
time.I loved the feeling of flying, I remember that. So enthralled by the beauty and
stillness of the world from above that I recall thinking, “if we crash and I die, I don’t
care, it’s worth it.”Must say, I don’t
feel the same way now, but it probably wasn’t a bad way to get through my first
So that bit was good before we'd even landed. Then, the excitement of my first glimpse of America.
I made notes as we came into land:
There are just loads of
huge lakes and woodland.Now more
built-up – also lots of boats and light aircraft. Getting ready to land, can
see the cars on the roads. We’re in the US and I
can’t take it in!
A ride in a fancy stretch limo took us out of JFK and into
Some of it looks like
London… until you look upwards!Impressive NY skyline.Little old
houses in amongst blocks, I scrawled in my small spiral-bound notepad.
I was with a group of strangers, all in similar roles,
travelling for their work.It’s one of
those situations where you’re with people, but you feel quite alone really
too.We were taken to a jazz club the
first night to eat, the ‘Red Blazer Too’.
Jazz, sautéed mushrooms
was all I had to say about that.
Later, I added briefly and clearly suffering from jetlag:
Yellow cab back to hotel.
No – look at TV and video in cabinet.
Nirvana news item on WNYW! “Morality in the media”.Knocking the lyrics.Kmart not selling. “Rape Me”.News item: Wildman of 96th Street... a long-term resident, mental inst., murderer!! Then dozed off, but not before noticing and being bewildered by there being a phone in the loo.
Next morning, some sight-seeing.
interesting.Harlem. Famous places –
Madonna’s house, etc. . Central Park beautiful. Upper East
Side – rich.Upper West Side, saw 96th
Street… (No 'Wildman', at least I don't think so.)
I took photos.
We did a bit of walking about and I quickly jotted down other things of note, as an aide memoire:
So many yellow cabs.
Jewellery/watches, bartering. People seem nice – not aggressive. Good
atmosphere in Chinatown. Turtles for sale.“Have a pleasant Sunday”
(I’m not sure who said that and when, it was Saturday.)
I remember it was weird, though, seeing a policeman with a gun.
That night we had a late dinner at somewhere called China Grill
…Left there gone
midnight.Back to hotel for change of
clothes.Off to ‘China Club’, back
3.50am! Bit of a dive but pics of famous people who’ve been there on walls.
Keith Richard, Rod Stewart, etc. and guitars on walls.Mostly club/soul music. V American in feel.
No hassle, no bad atmos, just people enjoying themselves. 2 Buds then cab back
and off to bed.
I clearly didn't realise at the time, though, quite how cool that club was according to this feature
Back when the China Club started, Reagan was president and Adam Ant was a major musical figure. After fifteen years as one of the hottest rock clubs in history, it's as strong as ever. (Where do you think the Yankees party?) The secret? No attitude.
I suppose I was just not with the people I'd have chosen to go there with!
The following morning, I walked to Tower Records, just round
the corner. Felt I couldn’t go to New York
and not buy something in a record shop and I seem to remember that in the UK in 1993, Tower Records seemed a bit of a novelty.
Breeders and Buffalo
Tom, good prices, I wrote (and bought 'Last Splash' and 'Big Red Letter Day'.)Weird mag called Nose – brutal pics! But I wasn’t that impressed with the store, overall:
Not much, weird selection, ‘Rock + Soul’ together!
After that it was a boat trip. I found some photos earlier
that I’d taken from the deck, shots of the Twin Towers, and it feels a little strange to look at them now. I didn’t get as far as climbing up the Statue of Liberty,
but I bought a mug in Macy’s, with a pictorial map of New York on it (I do like
a good map) and some Hershey’s bars in a little deli in a side street where I
suddenly felt as if I’d walked into a film set, all those plumes of steam
rising from the manhole covers.... it all felt quite surreal. Actually, the whole place felt like a film set. What a a brilliant city to visit, though, on my first ever flight.
I wonder if the place has changed all
that much in 25 years? Perhaps in some ways yes, but not in others - much like us.
‘FRAGILE - CONTAINS LIVING CREATURES - OPEN IMMEDIATELY’.
I sometimes wonder what couriers make of these packages when
they load them onto their vans.I’d be
curious, inclined to press an ear against the taped up cardboard in the hope
of hearing something –a clue - scratching
or yawning or purring perhaps.Checking
the corners for a protruding claw or the tip of a scaly tail.Or smells.Seepage, even.
Inside this box was a small bag, filled with something
soft.I thought it might wriggle but it
didn’t move, and it didn’t make a noise, or smell or seep.I was very excited….
…My Tigers and European Nightcrawlers had arrived!
I didn’t know before I bought them that worms could have
such exotic names.It’s not just me, is
it, for whom‘European
Nightcrawler’evokes images of neon
cities under black skies, of mysterious women smoking long cigarettes and trains
rumbling hypnotically through a dark forest landscape to the soundtrack of
Bowie’s‘ Low’ album?
So I’m now the proud owner of wonderfully titled wild tigers (Tiger Worms, aka Brandlings and Red Wigglers!) and nightcrawlers,
all 500grams of them.Did you know worms
have five hearts? They are also of course eyeless, toothless (ah, imagine a worm with teeth),
hermaphrodites, who breed prolifically, and I’ve become the custodian of a small
colony making their home inside a special Wormery bin.
I’m already getting disproportionately fond of them, giving them all
names – there’s Mavis, and Fluffy, and Tinkerbell…. No, it’s
okay, don’t worry, I’m just sticking to Worm, it’s easier that way…What I didn’t know before researching the
whole Wormery thing, though, was that they’re quite sensitive creatures and do require
some care and attention – they need time
to settle in and adjust to their new surroundings (often trying to escape on
their first few nights, I eased them in by leaving a solar light on to start
with) and it’s important not to overfeed them, let them get too cold or hot, etc.So you know, I’ve been like a protective
parent these last couple of weeks, checking up on them regularly, chopping their
food into tiny pieces, making sure they’ve plenty of bedding to snuggle down
into, bless ‘em. They seem to be doing well so far.
And then the point of it all – they get to devour all our
kitchen scraps, and turn it into top quality compost.So basically, in return for decent food and lodgings, they pay us in shit.Strangely, it sounds like a good deal to
"D'ya wanna know something really scary?" I said to Mr SDS as I went up the stairs to bed last night.
"Fucking hell, no! Why would you tell me something scary when I'm going to be trying to sleep soon?"
I think he was imagining the worst, that maybe I was going to tell him that the narrow crack in the bedroom wall had opened up and was letting in giant bloodsucking moths and rabid rats. I wasn't, it hadn't, they weren't.
It was just my slightly horrified realisation that this year it is 40 years since I went to my first ever gig.
1978. I went with my dear schoolfriends that January, and we got photographed by the local paper before the show, posing defiantly in our home-made punk gear, me with food colouring in my hair, one of us sticking her tongue out, all of us 14 years old (and a half) and a little tipsy on cider and excitement. Siouxsie & the Banshees were fantastic - and they hadn't even been signed up by Polydor yet.
As for the three of us - well, we're still alive, and we're still well, and we're still friends, albeit now divided by a few miles, and it seems fitting that we're going to experience some very special live music again 40 years on, later this week.
D'y wanna know what we're doing? We're off to Birmingham's heartland - on Friday, this is the day, this is the night! - and we'll head out to the venue at dusk; I know I'll be infected by enthusiasm. It's no uncertain smile I'm wearing on my face right now. Enough clues?!
I recently finished reading Brett Anderson's autobiography 'Coal Black Mornings'. Lucky me, I was given it for my birthday, back in July. I loved it.
"I now feel an urgent need to impart," Brett writes of his decision to finally put something out there. "I suppose I have come to a stage in my life where I want to come to terms with who I am, and exploring my past on my own terms like this is a way to achieve that".
And that's just how it comes across. Brett writes so engagingly, it's rather like reading a lovely, personal blog - very real, very natural - in touch with his feelings, free flowing, idiosyncratic.
He also makes it clear from the outset that this was never intended to be a Suede memoir. "I've limited this strictly to the early years," he explains, "before anyone really knew, or really cared..."
At the time of writing it he had no book deal and this, I think, lends great validity to his words and motive. He isn't relaying clichéd rock'n'roll stories of drugs and debauchery to satisfy the appetites of editors or journalists or even fans; he writes this, the story of growing up and his life pre-fame, honestly and tenderly, for his son.
Even aesthetically the book doesn't seem like a traditional musician/artist autobiography. There are no old photos from his childhood or college days and, whilst they would have been interesting to see, that might somehow have changed the tone. Whereas the resultant product, with its broad white margins and spacious type, lacking the stereotypical orange-brown Polaroids of the 8-year old author on a Spacehopper, is tastefully, perfectly understated.
This understated visual approach complements one of the main things that struck me as I raced through the pages (it was hard to put down) - Brett's modesty. There's no ego. Another thing that really stood out to his credit is the great respect he shows towards other people mentioned within. It's easy to think of Brett in relation to Justine, to Bernard - and then naturally to the things we've read in the past - the sensationalist stuff, the conflicts. But there's no bitchiness, no cynical slagging off or melodrama, instead yes, the lovely and very endearing qualities of modesty and respect. He writes with warmth and dignity.
Brett's early life and family was not what you might call 'ordinary', but the longer I live the more I question what 'ordinary' actually is and whether it exists. It doesn't matter whether you end up in a famous band or not. Most of us, I'm sure, could tell tales about our upbringings, our families or friends and our youthful exploits which might challenge the definition of 'ordinary' to the listener, purely because it's different to theirs.
I also found it to be tremendously relatable. Anyone born in the '60s, growing up in Britain with an interest in the music scene a little outside of the mainstream is bound to find themselves smiling and nodding on reading the many references to records bought, clothes worn and those teenage feelings that preoccupied us. Talking of his friend Simon Holdbrook, Brett writes, "Simon....with whom I felt the thrill of mutual outsiderdom; two small-town dreamers, trapped in a dreary suburban cell, yearning for the thrill and promise beyond. Like a thousand other dreamers in a thousand other suburban towns we were convinced that our experience was unique, but it made it no less special that it wasn't."
I could go on - I keep flicking back through the pages and finding sentences I want to share - so many moments that struck a chord, feelings expressed that demonstrate so beautifully a character with whom I find a surprising affinity - but that would only be my experience of this book. If you're remotely interested in the man and not just the band, I'd really urge you to make it yours too.
With special thanks also to Monkey at Monkey Picks blog who first brought this book to my attention.
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language
of children. They disappeared so quietly
that at first almost no-one noticed….”
So begins a beautiful book called ‘The Lost
Words’, written by Robert MacFarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris.
I treated myself to it, as a lover of language and nature
and illustration – a large, heavy hardback, tinted liberally with gold, flooded
with watercolour washes on some spreads and unafraid of the boldness of white
space on others - a work of art in the truest sense. Birds and letters of the alphabet flit and fly
through its pages as the author casts magic spells to reinvoke the ‘lost words’ of
the title. What lost words are these? Words like rapscallion and farthingale? Erm, no - but tell you in a minute.
Although categorised as a children’s book, it’s far more than
that - not a story book but poetic and playful, written to be read aloud - like incantations. But the story behind the book’s existence is also really worth telling.
Once upon a time (in 2007), the editors of the latest version
of the Oxford Junior Dictionary faced a dilemma when they needed to find room
for contemporary words like ‘analogue’,
‘broadband’ and ‘celebrity’, meaning that several others previously included would
have to go.
I’ve no idea how I'd make decisions about which words to
replace, and I realise it’d need a lot of thought, but I’d have difficulty culling
any connected to nature, I know that.The natural world is under threat from so many different corners and yet
so vital to our well-being, I feel its vocabulary is at least one thing we can
easily protect and ensure it stays alive in the minds of its future inheritors.
Still, unfortunately, several words I was
really surprised about lost their place in the new edition. Nature words, like these ones….
That's just a small example. Maybe I'm being sentimental and old-fashioned, but I feel quite sad about this - I don't ever want a celebrity to have priority over a conker, in any form.
If you feel the same, at least know we’re not
alone - when news of these changes came to
light, there was quite an outcry.(Read more here if you’re interested...)
And what better motivation could there be than that to create a sumptuous
tribute to these newly 'lost' words, something thought-provoking and exquisite, both literally and visually, to
be lingered over and treasured? Indeed, the depth of feeling led to a collaboration between this hugely talented author and
illustrator, and then to this remarkable book. Not only that, but a proportion of the profits is also being donated to the Action For Conservation charity. I guess that must be our happy ending.