Friday, 22 July 2011

Freed From Dreams

No getting away from it, Scot is fast approaching middle age . . . today I once again found myself in HMV, loitering with neither means or intent in IndieWorldJazzBlues’n’Soul all the while throwing covetous little bitch glances at the middle aged guys in Rock/Pop. Pastel sweatered, nonchalantly flicking through the back catalogues of Dire Straits, Eagles, E.L.O and Queen how I envied their insouciance, their easy manner and how they appeared to have given up trying to make their trousers fit around their waists. I imagined their conversations; moob maintenance and reduction, how to tell if a Blue Nun has corked and their delight in discovering M&S’s Blue Harbour range of elasticated waist banded slacks. I thought of them meeting up on Sundays to scour car boots for Haynes manuals; Allegros, Viva’s, Marina’s and Cortina’s and afterwards taking their blonde, salon tanned, hair straightened, big boned wives and sullen only child ‘dahn the Dog’ for a carvary. And all the while I’m fingering Caro Emerald’s admittedly fine new CD and wondering what the ‘dahn’ payment on a Norton might be.

Except it’s not really like that anymore. The guys who once drove Vauxhall Viva’s and Capri’s (did all car names end in vowels?) are now late middle aged, getting a second wind on the golf course before pushing on through into retirement, avoiding, like their Grand Fathers, the bunkers and the trenches and aiming, like their fathers before them to go a round in par.

These guys are no aural explorers. What do they play when they have guests; Hotel California, Queens Greatest Hits (Volume 2) or Brothers in Arms. Brothers in indifference and yet here I am envying them. Music, once a notch on the bed post of cool but since revered as a tool with which to engineer birdies into the sack. Music, once essential but now an albatross to be filed away below stairs along with the children’s car seat and the still boxed boules set. In the same way that a newly married chap can relax into his new surroundings, put on a few pounds and hey, if you’re going to lose a few hairs then why not go hog wild. So the next time you overtake a fat bottomed girl whilst cruising dahn the A38 with the window open and the breeze rustling the last remnants of a half forgotten mullet remember the golden Boticelli youth and his summer soundtrack; James Dean, The Sultans of Swing, Mr Blue Sky and The Boys of Summer. Turn it up a notch and drink a toast to me stuck indoors somewhere cultivating a studio tan and getting lowdown and dirty with the latest Joy Division reissue.    

And to be honest, I’m really not that cool.  Various might be and even Pit has his moments but I, most certainly and sadly am not.

The reason I relate all this to you is because Various has been asked to contribute an LP cover for a show in Antwerp later next year. He couldn’t remember the name of the band, obscure of course, or at least they are outside of Antwerp. Anyway, he’s excited and I am excited for him. And if you want to discover more check out Leo's excellent Cloudknitters website. Unable to provide the whole address but there can't be too many Coudknitters out there in the er, cloud.  He (Various) has also been asked by J.R via Pit to co curate ‘Albrecht’s Birthday’, the formers show in Madrid this autumn. Exciting?

YAY” yelped Darling Number 1. 

PS After writng this I went for a soul cleansing meander on youtube. As I wandered from Mary Love to Ronnie Spector  singing You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory via Springsteen and Gary U.S Bonds duetting on Jole Blon and ontoThe Chiffons before Rockin' Dopsie and some wonderful cajun and Zydeco music made by people whose names I'd love to bring to you except that they all appeared to be in French.

A Bientot.  

Monday, 11 July 2011

Gloom, With A Vue

Last night Uncle Samm and myself flew the coop and fetched up at the Brewery in Cheltenham to watch a movie called Transformers. If you’re reading this and you’re not on a promise then do yourselves a favour and give it a rain check. Prior to Transformers the last film Mr Samm and myself saw was the A Team and we spent last nights short walk back to the car park trying to decide which one was worse. Uncle Samm thought it was the A Team and he might well be right . . . but I’m not so sure although my judgement may have been impaired somewhat by sleeping through the first hour of Transformers. Whilst the special effects are awesome the acting isn’t. Not their fault of course since there isn’t a script as such, more a succession of toe curdling sound bites that only serve to interrupt the flow of CGI. There is even, in true Independence Day stylee a montage of scenes from around the World suggesting that whilst this takes place in Chicago we are, nonetheless all in this together. Fatrick has seen it twice and is still unsure of the relevance of a scene set in Chernobyl. I said I’d look out for it but it must have been in the first hour.

Perhaps the most appealing/appalling fact about this movie is that it ‘stars’ Frances McDormand and John Malkevich, the latter taking time out from being John Malkevich. Was he a drone, a ‘droid, a Tonka toy? Who knew, but it was good to see those Steppenwolf years not getting lost in the methodology. And it was co produced by Mr Spielberg; Duel must seem a very long time ago now eh Steven? Bit like Terrence Mallick producing Pirates of the Caribbean 5

It made a change to go see a movie in a big modern cinema though; carpets, comfortable seats, surround sound, sound even. My cinema viewing normally takes place in my local Odeon, not quite a fleapit although it does boast some challenging seating arrangements. No Golden Ratio here though, in one screen room the seats are 25 wide (with two aisles) but only three rows deep; the crick in the neck suffered during the Brighton Rock re-make may prove permanent. But perhaps the biggest difference comes at the pre movie Sugar Snack Shack. At Orange Odeon on geriatric Wednesday you get a cup of coffee, a digestive and something to make you go tsch. In the other hand, at Vue there’s a whole smorgasbord of E numbers to flirt with.

Talking of flirting, for a while now Uncle Samm and diabetes have been making big spaniel eyes at each other, but in that time Uncle has developed a rather interesting approach to dealing with it. In the same way that some therapists might encourage their clients to conquer their fear of something through confrontation; for instance handling a spider in order to overcome a phobia of spiders, so Uncle Samm seems determined to batter his insulin levels into submission with a barrage of chocolate biscuits, chocolate covered raisins/peanuts, chocolate cakes and chocolate. One time we were in Poundstretcher and Uncle Samm picked up two packets of compressed E Numbers. Upon reminding him of his underlying health issues Uncle replied ‘Bog off'. Well, quite.  

All this reminds me of my time in Birmingham with Various Artist in the early days of the century. Whilst neither of us at the time had diabetes we were both volunteers at the Electric, a tiny cinema tucked away behind New Street Station. I served fresh coffee and Guinness cake whilst Various punched tickets and afterwards we’d slip in undetected at the back and watch films for free. A hugely interesting place; out front a fa├žade of carved carney characters and, littering up the lobby a motley crew of misfits who on any given night would outnumber the paying punters by two to one. One chap, Simon, even lived there, sleeping on a battered sofa in the upstairs office. I recall the time he took us down into the basement where we found a treasure trove of old posters, broken seats and general memorabilia from a lifetime spent as a cinema; from a pre WWI picture house in the days without sound to finding form as a sleaze box in the 1970’s before developing into the bijou art house that greets you today, with sofas that yield and a phone with which to order drinks from the same bar where I once sold Guinness cake.

‘Now that is what I call a transformation!’ quipped Various Artist.   

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Barney the Bi-Polar Bear

Joel (from Cheek by Joel) has sent me the following idea for a children’s book. If Various doesn’t mind I’d like to share it with you all.

Barney the Bi-Polar Bear

. . . is a heart-warming tale about a Polar bear called Barney. We see him at home, relaxing on his floating Arctic ice cube where he is in his element; cool, content and urbane. But when his iceberg heads south and begins to deteriorate in the heat Barney becomes irritable, sullen and hot under his collar!

Heart warming NOT planet warming is the theme!

This story (with beautiful illustrations of Barney and his faithful companion Sally the Seagull by the artist 3B) brings together important issues around mental health and Global warming in a way that makes its message accessible both to older children and some adults.

Available in both Coffee and Kitchen table formats.
Also available in Braille (Coffee table format only). 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Last Retort

Today I stopped postponing that which could no longer be put off and gave in. Call it what you will, nostalgia, a momentary lapse of reason, whatever, but today I finally threw in the towel. To what you may well ask: tidying up the garden, filling last year’s tax return or summoning up a proposal for Darling Number 1? No, I succumbed at last and bought the Eagles Greatest Hits. You weren’t even close were you?

Desperado, One of these Nights, On the Border, even the pomp, pomp and yet more pomp that plumps up Hotel California – and there are those who will argue that it is a carefully honed allegory for the transition from 60’s idealism into 70’s decadence but to be honest it’s all hippie bollocks. It’s why we needed punk. Seventies symphonies to hedonistic grandeur brought to you by Bacchanalian Bachelors of questionable virtue and impeccable facial furniture. Or is it the other way round. Men who, unaccustomed to anything other than the slow lane life of the mid tempo ballad would, when confronted by anything approximating a pulse, shuffle uncomfortably from one foot to the other, usually, but not always completing the journey. And didn’t Joe Walsh once play for Luton Town? No shame there but then that’s just me, preferring the ditch to the fast lane; New York Hustle to West Coat Muscle, Brill Building pop over Laurel Canyon schlock.

Meanwhile back in the Shire Darling Number 1 wanted to go to Primark, tk Maxx or some such in order to buy a belt with which to rein in a new frock.  Off duty I’d crept into H.M.V to see if I could pick up a Paloma Faith cd and was happy to find it in the two for a tenner pile.  Fighting off a late bid from a T.Rex collection that included Metal Guru, Jeepster, Telegram Sam and The Groover but not Solid Gold Easy Action, the Doolin’ Dalton gang got the nod as checkout companions. Also got the hot new disc from Noah and the Whale whom I’d seen at Glastonbury and liked. Sharp boys in smart suits and the whole caboodle gave me three pounds change from my crisp £20 note.

Incidentally is everyone aware that in France HMV is pronounced Ash. Em. Vay? No, really . . .

And does anyone else agree with me that in music shops there should be, along with sections for Rock, Pop, Jazz etc one for Shit. It could be called Shit and in it would go all the shit bands, shit singers and their shit music. And before anyone begins the pointless argument of subjective versus objective, please note that my judgement is beyond question so just shut up and enjoy the ride. And furthermore, before anyone else says ‘agree to differ’ I have to say that I cannot and will not compromise.

“Excuse me, do you have the latest release by The Rolling Stones?”
“Yes Sir, it’s filed under Shit, in between R&B and Techno”
“Thank you. Have you listened to it?”

So, leaving aside such soft targets as Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Whitesnake and the entire ELP back catalogue, begs the question, who’s next?

Neil Diamond, Shakatak, The Electric Light Orchestra, Blow Monkeys, 80’s-present day Stones, 90’s Bowie, Led Zeppelin 5, Fine Young Cannibals, Hot Space by Queen, Tygers of Pan Tang, Dylan’s Empire Burlesque, Level 42, Sham 69, Creedence (without John), post Coughlin/Lancaster Quo, the Quireboys and Darling Number 1’s suggestion The Edible String Band (with or without Liquorice). Ok, maybe not all of the above but they go well beyond being the acceptable guilty pleasures. Of the flesh in the case of the FYC's.

All this might come across as a somewhat cynical exercise on my part. To back this up only this week I was in a bar with Various, Pit and JR (Albrecht Durer’s nemesis) when it was pointed out that Pit and the Nemesis would, as parents end their days being quietly shunted by their offspring into The Last Resort, a ‘retirement and beyond’ home only to fetch up quietly dribbling in dark corners whilst past art fairs flash before their eyes.  No everlasting peaceful, easy feeling for them then. Various and myself, being barren of womb and short on ideas respectively will, somewhat inevitably fall down the stairs of our Victorian terraced homes, at the foot of which we will suffocate beneath a fortnight’s junk mail advertising amongst other things Stannard stair lifts.