Saturday, November 28, 2009

What would you tell your sixteen year old self?

Double post today but I thought you should all see this thread on the Word website, which is funny, moving and (for our younger readers) hugely instructional as well!

My response is somewhere about halfway down...

Just for the love of drilling!

Today's soundtrack:  Neil Young - Decade

A shorter week in Staines this week, I had a meeting arranged in Liverpool for Friday so had the pleasure of a relatively easy trip up the motorways on Thursday afternoon.  That said, still a few quiet nights to fill in the comfort of my Stainesian pied a terre.  I'm now a regular, of course, and the longer I've stayed in this hotel, the better the rooms have been.  This week, I was given a ground floor room, which I had some doubts about - until I saw the four poster bed!

A far cry from the first room they gave me, with the bathroom door that wouldn't shut properly and the noisy water pump that kept me awake half the night...

Still spurning the horrors of being the sad lonely bastard in the corner of the restaurant, my evening routine continues - nibbly bits to eat with cutlery purloined from the office, a smuggled drinkie or two and a DVD on the lappy.  I decided a bit of humour was in order this week so took the Eddie Izzard box down south with me.

Oh, I love that man.  Surreal, tangential, observational but above all funny.  And funny in an uncontrollably giggling, tearful kind of way.  Not nasty or shocking - just funny.  He also stands repeat viewing as well - the routines about cats and dogs, and the Death Star Canteen - I can watch them time and time again and laugh as much as the first time I saw them.

Eddie Izzard - definitely my favourite comedian.  And Son No 1 is off to see him in a week or so - lucky so-and-so!

Here's the Cats and Dogs routine - drilling just for the love of drilling!

Back home, after the obligatory dodgy Friday night film, I put BBC4 on, where it was 'Johnny Cash Night'.  I was only going to watch for a while but ended up there for hours.  It wasn't just the footage of Cash, excellent though that was (Jools Holland appearances around the time of the early American Recordings, the 'Hurt' video) but the extracts from his US TV show, when the cream of '60s and '70s rock guested on his show.  Successions of great performances, duets with Dylan and with Joni, Derek and the Dominos, Stevie Wonder and a brilliant performance of 'Ring of Fire' by Ray Charles, converting the original's rockabilly twang into something deep and slinky, straight out of Soulsville.

Hit it, Ray!

Another guest on the show was today's cover star, Neil Young, performing 'The Needle and the Damage Done' - his lament for the loss of Danny Whitten to the heroin addiction that eventually killed him.  A hugely powerful song that doesn't preach, but says more in just over two minutes than any 'Just Say No' campaign ever could.  Just as powerful on a cold, blustery Glastonbury evening earlier this year as it was back in the day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just when you think 2009 can't get any worse...

Today's soundtrack:  Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis does.*

Roll on 2010 - the sooner the better.

But since "a double dose of positive mental attitude" is the prescription, I'm not going to dwell on that topic, I'm going to stick to writing about the good, the positive.

Like Everton.

Oh wait...

Another trip to Old Trafford, another defeat.  You could argue that United's first goal was a once-a-season special, that the third was a lucky deflection and that the scoreline didn't reflect the play, but that would be to ignore the fact that, once again, Everton went to one of the Big Four with a game plan that put avoiding defeat ahead of anything else - a game plan that rapidly unravelled the minute Fletcher scored that goal.  It was only in the second half, when Moyes was forced to play 4-4-2, that we looked in any way threatening.

Again, roll on 2010.

A double dose of Memphis this week, with Dusty on the soundtrack (about which, more later) and with part of my hotel-based entertainment this week involving 'The Road to Memphis', one of the seven films making up 'The Blues', the Martin Scorsese-produced series about the real American folk music.  The Road To Memphis focuses on a number of performers coming together for a major performance in Memphis - long-established performers like BB King and Ike Turner, but also Bobby Rush, scratching out a living on the chitlin circuit, and the wonderful Rosco Gordon, who gave up the blues for twenty-odd years to work in a dry cleaners in Queens, and who sadly died just six weeks after his joy-filled performance on stage in Memphis with some of the greats.

How 'Blues' is that?

Here's A Little Bit of Magic from Rosco.

Memphis just might be my favourite American city.  We spent a few days there a couple of years ago, courtesy of our good friend Elaine, and did the tour.

Graceland - which is as gloriously tacky as you'd expect, but also deeply moving as well.  I did have a barely controllable urge to sing a 'ragga' Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis's grave ("Too much fackin' perspective!") but managed to resist the temptation.  I'd have probably had my lights punched out by Elaine if I'd been in any way disrespectful!

Sun Records - the place just oozes history.  The tiny studio, looking just as it must have fifty years ago, and still in use.

The Stax museum on McLemore Avenue - sadly the original Stax building was knocked down years ago, but has been lovingly rebuilt as a shrine to the home of Southern Soul.

The Peabody Hotel, Rendezvous Ribs (yummy!), the Lorraine Motel, Schwab's department store, the Gibson guitar factory - all there and all fascinating.

And Beale Street - yes, it's a tourist location now, and all the old bluesmen in the film bemoaned the loss of the 'old' Beale Street - but it's still the best night out around.  Bands playing for change in the street and on the square - bands who would knock the socks off some of the biggest names around.  Playing for the joy of playing and for the love of the Blues.

And yes - Dusty recorded in Memphis - the incongruous blend of Soulsville and this slightly prim English rose managing to produce one of the best albums of the sixties.  Great songs, great musicians and a great soulful singer with a real feel for the music.  Apparently she was almost rendered incapable by nerves, and recorded most of her vocals one line at a time - but the end product was seamless.

*if you want to know what I'm talking about - have a read of this.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One Summer, this winter

Today's soundtrack:  Beck, Bogert & Appice

Another week in Staines, with the routine pretty firmly established now.  Early start on a Monday, lunchtime dart on a Friday, a night out with Simon and a DVD series in the evenings.

This week I watched One Summer, a drama I last watched when it was broadcast back in the mid-eighties.  For a host of reasons, the series didn't find its way onto DVD for many years - but did eventually come out a couple of years ago.

Essentially the story of two Liverpool scallies - Billy and Icky - who leave the city to start a new life in Wales, near the site of a school trip Billy had enjoyed some years earlier.  The boys hook up with Kidder, an ex-schoolteacher who lives in a semi-derelict cottage.  The story is essentially about the relationship between the two boys, and between the boys and Kidder.  Unfortunately there are no happy endings although one of the boys, at least, comes out of the story a stronger, more mature person.

The series was as affecting and moving as I remember it being all those years ago, although there were many details I'd forgotten - or failed to pick up on at the time.  If you chance upon a copy of the DVD - going for a song on Amazon - then it's definitely worth a few hours of your time.

You can find out more about the series here, if you're interested.

Back even further for today's soundtrack, to 1973, when the peripatetic Jeff Beck hooked up with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice in the shortlived supergroup, the imaginatively-named Beck, Bogert & Appice.  The album's ok, but not really a stone classic, despite the pedigree of the participants.  Sometimes the whole does not equal the sum of the parts, unfortunately!

Here's some grainy footage of the boys playing Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' - not as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan, and certainly not as well as Steveland himself.  But it still has a smidgen of charm, and demonstrates exactly where Nigel Tufnel got his haircut from!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

"So don't you like football then?"

Today's soundtrack:  Rockpile - A Mess of Blues Live 1977

My, but they're a strange lot, darn sarf.

Spent all week in Staines, getting my feet well and truly under the table.  I've been there long enough now to start getting to know people, and to enjoy a bit of old chat (as I believe they say down there.)

A bit of old chat with people like Jacqui, for instance.  Our conversation went something like this:

J:  Where you from then?
P:  Oh, up north, about halfway between Manchester and Liverpool.
J:  So who d'you support then?  ManYoo?
P:  God, No!
J:  Liverpool?
P:  What?  You must be joking!
J:  So don't you like football then?

Wrong, Jacqui, but at the same time, so very, very right as well.  Especially after Thursday night, when the unwinning sequence continued against Benfica.  Luckily, Simon was over again, so I was able to forget about the match as we put the world to rights over yet another Roshni's curry.  0-0 at half time was respectable, 0-2 at full time...not so much.

Still, we should still qualify for the knockout stages, when no doubt we will be humiliated by a half decent team of European veterans at the first time of asking.

At least we are not Liverpool, though.

I ventured out of Staines this week to visit the new shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, Westfield.

What a bloody silly place to put a shopping centre!  Probably not a good idea to drive there, though.

Still, once there, I had a good old meander, sorted out Mrs W's birthday stuff and copped a bite to eat - a very acceptable burrito from one of the varied concessions, since you ask.  It's quite an impressive place, if you like that sort of thing, but ultimately not as varied or comprehensive as I thought it would be.  Give me the Trafford Centre any day.

Another top tip for the weekend - if you buy the new version of Football Manager with the intention of whiling away the long, lonely hotel nights with a bit of computer-based escapism - then be sure not to take an empty box away with you.  Take the disc as well.

So I whiled away the long, lonely hotel nights with another DVD box set - this time going back in time to watch The Singing Detective, which was every bit as good as I remembered it - especially Joanne Whalley's eyes.  Oh yes.

Watching it again, would something like The Singing Detective ever get commissioned nowadays?  Imagine the pitch:

"It's about this writer, who is in hospital with a nasty skin disease.  While in hospital, he daydreams about a detective story, in which he also plays the main character - and sings as well.  "The Singing Detective", see?  He also has a series of flashbacks to a Vale of Dean-based childhood where everyone speaks in an impenetrable burr.  Oh, and at random points in the series, the actors will launch into improbable song and dance routines to break up the action a bit."

I don't think so, Mr Potter.
"Oh, and there's a bit of tit in it for the dads.  And Joanne Whalley is going to play a young nurse with big brown eyes."

Where do I sign up?


All with a bit of Rockpile in the background.  A Mess of Blues is - I think - a bootleg of a BBC radio performance from back in the '70s.  The cover says 1977, but I suspect that's a bit early.  Anyway, a decent performance it is, a young(ish) Nick Lowe performing with Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner (not that one) and Terry Williams.  Lots of stuff from Nick's first album, some decent covers and the glorious 'I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll).  Basic, no-nonsense pub rock, and there's nowt wrong with that at all.

Here are the boys, looking incredibly fresh faced, with the aforementioned bride.  Rock on!

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Today's soundtrack: Scientist v. Prince Jammy - Big Showdown at King Tubby's

Ah well.

Preston was not to be, then.  After a very strange interview that focused heavily on a role I had twelve years ago, I came out of the company's offices knowing full well that it wasn't going to happen.  Sadly it seems that, although the first two guys who interviewed me had thought I was perfect for the role, their understanding of what the role required was completely different to that of the Chief Exec!

So the company is back to the drawing board and, it would seem, so am I.  But not quite - the response down in Staines to the outcome was firstly sympathy...but quickly followed by a pleased 'so we can keep hold of you for a bit longer, then!'

Indeed they can.  Yes, the journey is a nightmare, and staying away from home for most of the week is a drag, the work is good and the people I'm working with are friendly and helpful.  Oh, and the money's alright, too!

Although not normally the shy and retiring type, I'm having a real problem motivating myself to go out and eat in public of an evening, so it was nice to spend one evening last week out with Simon, who lives not a million miles away from Staines.  After a couple of pints in the Slug & Lettuce, we agreed a curry was in order and wandered over to Roshni's, just next to the bridge over the Thames.  Roshni's had been recommended to me by one of the directors' secretaries, so we thought we'd give it a go.  'Fine Indian Cuisine', it said on the door - no back street curry house this!

Oh, it was fab.  I started with some Murg Kathi rolls - a new one on me, chicken tandoori wrapped in a very thin chapati-type wrap, with a delicate sauce on the side...quite possibly the nicest starter I've ever had in an Indian restaurant.  followed by Gosht Xacutii - Lamb cooked with coconut and masala spices.  Accompanied of course by a selection of rices, breads and veggy dishes as well.  Far too much, even for two stout lads like us.

We'll go there again, I feel!

The rest of the week, I was happy to pick up some stuff from the supermarket and graze in my hotel room (a much better room this week) watching DVDs on the laptop.  This week, it was Tutti Frutti, the '80s series with Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson about The Majestics, failed Scottish Rock 'n' Roll band on their silver jubilee tour.  I really enjoyed this series years ago when it was first on the box, and was pleased to see it  finally released on DVD a while ago.  Watching it now, whilst the '80s fashions have dated horrendously, the show is still really enjoyable with great supporting characters.  The series is completely stolen by Richard Wilson as dodgy manager Eddie Clocherty - the interaction with 'Miss Toner', his 'assistant' is an absolute joy.

Back home then, to a joyous welcome from cat and wife, to a Chinese takeaway and to a dozy evening that ended up with me falling asleep in the chair until three in the morning.  Takes it out of you, this working malarkey!

Off to Goodison to watch the injury-depleted Blues battle with the Villa on Saturday.  I wasn't expecting a great deal, but first half at least, we began to play like we can, missing players notwithstanding, and took a well-deserved lead just on the stroke of half time.  But of course, this is Everton, so we came out for the second half completely flat and had conceded within a minute of the restart.  I don't know what Moyes says to the team at half time, but the number of times we get caught sleeping within minutes of the restart is deeply worrying.

After the equaliser, things went flat for a while, sparking into life with a couple of sendings off near the end of the game, for the scorer (Bilyaletdinov) and one of theirs for a bad tackle on the Yak, who was looking to be close to back to form.  Indeed, overall the team seem to be getting things back together with some decent performances and although it was disappointing not to win, there were some signs that things might be turning around.

Just in time for Benfica on Thursday, a game I'll sadly miss being stuck down in Staines.

An obscure bit of dub on the soundtrack today, from a couple of King Tubby proteges.  Scientist and Prince Jammy share the album with five tracks each, the ten tracks being labelled 'Round 1' through to 'Round 10'.  Who wins?  It doesn't matter when the dub is as heavy as this.

Great cover art too!

Here's Round 5 - is there anything that isn't lurking somewhere on YouTube?