Friday 28 December 2018

The mystery lovechild is back...

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!)











Sweet dreams, now!

Sunday 23 December 2018

A Merry Andy Warhol Christmas to you...

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.

Here are just a few.

Delightful, aren't they?

Have a good one - and thank you for everything! x

Saturday 15 December 2018

Hey, fellas, have you heard the news...

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 that statement.

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 following year.  

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.

Monday 10 December 2018

The wrong knickers

Not the actual knickers

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...

Thursday 6 December 2018

Abstract moment of the week #10

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 instead. 

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 the world.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Grey area

Soapbox time!

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 had!”  

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...

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

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!

Exhibit C

* Apparently it's 'Poliosis', a genetic condition where there is an absence of melanin in head hair, eyebrows or eyelashes.

Sunday 18 November 2018

"Keep that one; mark it fab"

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:

Helter Skelter (second version, take 17)

(Available as part of the 50th anniversary super-deluxe 6CD/blu-ray box set thingy that's just been released this month)

Wednesday 14 November 2018

But is it art? VI

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.


Friday 9 November 2018

An Anglo-Saxon education

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 ago. 

There in the semi-darkness I half expected to bump into Lance and Andy from ‘Detectorists’, for there was indeed Anglo-Saxon gold on display...

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!

Or how about this:

"Lertices, a small creature with donkey’s ears, sheep’s wool and the feet of a bird."
 (British Library postcard)

Or this:

"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 face and 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

Saturday 27 October 2018

My bestest most favouritest songs ever ever - part 5

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)

The whole piece from the fanzine (1986)

Wednesday 24 October 2018


It’s official.  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.  

It 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!

Thursday 18 October 2018

Shout out to my unsung heroes #1

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 felt if 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 myself.

Wire: Our Swimmer

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Name that tune

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.

Take a look here.....

Saturday 6 October 2018

More dancing boys for your delectation

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 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.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Anniversary Snapshots: 24th September 1993

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 flew.

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 flight.

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 Manhattan.

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.

Really 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.



Central Park

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

Beyond Hip and Unhip, There's the China Club

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.

Friday 21 September 2018

Tigers and nightcrawlers

The box arrived a couple of weeks ago:


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 me.

David Bowie: Subterraneans

Tuesday 4 September 2018


"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. 

40 years!

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?!
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