Tuesday, 12 November 2019

I want you...

...to attend Flying Vinyl no.5.
Our next Flying Vinyl session on November 24th will feature, just after the time of its 50th birthday, the final LP The Beatles recorded, Abbey Road. Produced at a time when personal and business relationships within the band were coming under strain, musically they were never stronger and more collaborative (all four band members feature on lead vocals and writing credits) which resulted in one of their very finest albums. We'd love it if you could join us and celebrate a significant anniversary of a milestone LP.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Newark Thrill Pt.2

I'll be doing my vinyl thing in Newark again this Sunday, Newark folk. It would be great to see you there.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Bright Ambassador Adoring

Well now, I received some very welcome news today - one of my favourite bands of the last fifteen years are getting back together after having been on a break since 2011. Pure Reason Revolution were my band from about 2005 onwards. This band were pivotal in getting me back into music after other concerns (mortgages, decorating, DIY, idiotic in-laws, my dad's death and life in general) had led me away from it in any meaningful sense in the previous decade. At the time I was with a long term partner, she was the kind of person who would ask "Haven't you got enough records now?". She was a teacher who had an arty disposition so I would never have dreamt of saying to her "Haven't you got enough pens now?"

Go back fourteen years, I was bored working the late shift one night. This was the time when Mark Radcliffe had a late night show on Radio 2 that ran from 10pm to midnight. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love Radcliffe as a broadcaster and I think his shows are always worth listening to. This night he just happened to say "I'm going to play a record now by a band called Pure Reason Revolution. This record has got echoes of Pink Floyd all over it. In fact they studied at what used to be called Regent Street Polytechnic which is where the members of Floyd met each other. I'm going to play an edited version of their new single, which lasts for over nine minutes, which is why I'm editing it. It's called The Bright Ambassadors of Morning". He was right about being influenced by Pink Floyd, the title even riffs off a line in Floyd's Echoes. I vividly remember how Radcliffe introduced the record because in the early days of catch-up radio, I revisited that part of the show over and over again during the following week just so I could hear this music which I felt had been written specifically for me. It pushed all of my buttons. I just loved everything about it: the different sections, the harmonies, the drums, the huge riff, even the length of it. This record changed my life. I just had to have this record as soon as possible. I knew that no record shop around here was going to stock such a niche thing so I tentatively made my first purchase from Amazon (sorry, I knew not what I was doing). A few days later a CD single of The Bright Ambassadors of Morning fell onto the doormat. I couldn't believe I now actually owned this piece of music and wouldn't have to listen to it over the internet (how times have changed, eh?). This record became my obsession, I needed to know everything about this band and find whatever else they had out there. This being 2005, MySpace was all the rage, so I set up a profile and found PRR. Turns out that PRR consisted of some friends from Reading (some of whom had been to the old Regent Street Poly) and one of them had been a member of a band made up of schoolgirls called Period Pains who got a bit of press coverage in 1997 when John Peel made their anti-Spice-Girls single his record of the week. And guess what, through MySpace, I found that other people out there liked this band too. Who knew? That was my first foray onto any kind of social media.
So what now? I had to have whatever else this band had out on release. So the CD of their one-off single for Alan Magee's post-Creation label Poptones, which was called Apprentice of the Universe arrived. And what do you know, that track and all the 'b-sides' were great too. This band were hitting the spot for me. A few months later, when they were getting ready to release their debut album The Dark Third, they were out on the road supporting Manchester prog-metallers Oceansize, so I just thought, sod it, I'm going to see this band (she didn't want to come, of course). So I did. On my own. My first time at Nottingham's Rock City in what felt like donkey's years. And they were great. And I got to the front. And I bought everything else they did after that (two more albums) and saw them twice more. One of those times was on their farewell tour, sadly. But I didn't need to ask permission to go because by that time I'd split with the teacher and was living on my own in a flat and had met the woman who was to become my wife who means everything to me and who shares my passion for music and performance. Which kind of felt like a natural end for the band from my point of view - they'd shown me another way, I followed it, was all the better for it and made a massive change. The power of music had pulled me back in. I had left a relationship that was going nowhere because if you love music as much as this, why would you be with someone who asks if you have enough records? Or be with someone who has absolutely zero interest in the things you're interested in? Besides, I was fed-up of being on my own all the time, at home (both her job and her hobby trumped everything) and at gigs.

Anyway, The Bright Ambassadors of Morning, then. I know it's not everyone's cup o' tea but surely if you love music then you know how it feels to totally connect with something (at the risk of sounding wanky). Here's the video for it, which was on the "Enhanced CD" (remember them?) single. There's a scene in Gregory's Girl where Gregory's sister orders this fluorescent green milkshake thing in Wimpy and she explains that the best bit is just before it hits your tongue, in short, the anticipation. Waiting for that moment. That moment for me hits at about 8m 30s in this video. You're just waiting for it - the headbanging section. The anticipation is better than the moment. You know its coming and that feeling is better than anything else. And that's music for me.

And here they are performing it on the German TV show Rockpalast:

So that's it, they're back together. I can't wait to hear what they have in store.

And now you know why I'm Bright Ambassador.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

New(ark) Thrill!

People of Newark, I start a new listening experience in the town this coming Sunday. Why not come along, full details below.

Monday, 6 May 2019

He's gawn completely Radio Rental

So here I am watching coverage of the 1979 general election coverage on the BBC Parliament channel (which includes the news read by Richard Baker right at the start, which is worth the price of admission alone), and the complete Eighventiesness of it reminded me of this ghost sign that I noticed in town on Saturday. A more recent shop has closed, removed their signage and uncovered this. Funny how there are a certain subset of high street shops that have now completely disappeared. Did you rent a television? My parents did right up until the beginning of the 1990s. There were all the big hitters here in Newark: Granada (where ours came from. The televisions were always modelled as Granada Finlandia. As the name suggests they were manufactured in Finland, I think possibly by a name that would become ubiquitous in the 90s and 2000s, Nokia), DER and the above mentioned Radio Rentals. I also think that electrical retailers Wigfalls (where you could also buy records) and Rumbelows rented TV sets. We had them all here, long gone now of course. Even Dixons/Currys no longer have a presence in the town centre.
Renting electrical items hasn't gone away though. I was watching television the other night (a Panasonic 32" HD smart TV purchased from, ahem, Sainbury's, if you're interested, most definitely not rented) that the online electrical retailer AO are now offering rentals for low-income households on washing machines with a view to rolling the service out to other electrical goods. As it happens Mrs Ambassador found a receipt yesterday for her grandparents' television which was purchased in 1990 for £300, about the same amount you'd pay today for an equivalent set. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Air bridge

When I was a kiddywink, this picture of a Jaguar being loaded on to an aeroplane fascinated me. The thought that you could load up a car on a plane and go on holiday somewhere overseas was just mind-blowing, especially when the memory of a Hillman Super Minx estate (it wasn't particularly 'super') constantly overheating on the way to Cornwall burned bright in your mind. I doubt the Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair with its piston engines would have spluttered its way much further than Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam - and Dad was NEVER going to take US to France* - but the thought of it was rather nice.

Inside the book the same aircraft shares its page with the Vulcan. Which is perfectly correct.

* The last  holiday he ever had was actually in Paris, Dad fans.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Radio, radio

I don't know if you recall but last August some damn fool gave me an hour to play some records that I'd bought from charity shops on the radio. Well that was an experience that I really enjoyed and what do you know, the radio station in question run training days for complete and utter wannabes like me to produce and broadcast an hour of a radio over a six hour course. So when the inevitable question came from family members at the back end of November "Whaddya want for Crimbo?" (well what does a man in his mid-late forties want? Socks? Hankies? No thanks) I asked if they could chip in for this training day so I knew that I was going to get something I really wanted.

After emails back and forth with the guy who runs the station, a date was decided for March 1st. The day came and I find myself in the Levenshulme area of Manchester ringing the doorbell of a former library which is home to the station. Inside I met Jason*, our trainer for the day, along with my fellow trainees Freya and Luisa. A tour of the studio while the station was playing a mid-morning automated playlist was followed by us recording our own voices and learning about operating a fader on a training laptop. Then came the production part of the day where we had to decide what kind of two hour show we wanted to produce. So we decided on each of us having our own thirty minutes followed by thirty minutes of what some would call, ugh, "chat 'n' choons". Luisa decided she wanted to make a show with music related to fashion as that was her bag. Freya, an Aussie, was there for radio experience because she had been working in TV and wanted to transition to the wireless so she decided to theme her show on Australian music that might be unknown to a UK audience. I decided that mine should feature music from Manchester, basically because I'd taken two hours' worth of music and was looking for a label to hang on it.
To cut a long story short, zero hour of 5pm arrived and we were on air. Only having one studio Nicky,
who was on air before us with her regular show, very kindly played a long final track to give us all time to get in the studio to set up and sort ourselves out. We decided to let Luisa and Freya go first as Luisa, in particular, was quite nervous, so she could get her solo segment out of the way.

6pm arrived and I was on. Well, I had a blast and you can hear the results in the link below. Stick around because after thirty minutes you can hear me pontificate on subjects ranging from fast fashion (of which I'm an expert...NOT! Ho-ho!), Australia's participation in Eurovision (I chose that topic) and, as it was a Friday night, is British pub culture on its knees? After only knowing each other for six hours or so beforehand there was much camaraderie and willing each other on because we all kind of clicked.
It's a bit of a cliche but the two hours flew by and we were saying our goodbyes and going home. I'd recommend it to anyone, it put a real spring in my step for the next couple of weeks and, if they were offering it to paying punters, I'd participate on All FM's thirty hour radio training course which goes more in depth into stuff like Ofcom regulations, legal stuff etc. If only I'd taken up the chance to do hospital radio when I was at school...oh well.

*Jason is also a regular presenter of Charity Shop Classics so it was nice to finally meet a voice I'd got used to hearing coming out of a radio. And he was brilliant.