Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Bitter and Lemons

I've been watching those classic Coronation Street episodes that ITV3 are showing in the afternoon. I promised myself that I would only watch them until Hilda Ogden left but here I am thirteen months later (in Coronation Street repeats terms that is, in reality, with them showing two episodes a day, it's only about three months).
I view it as a kind of time capsule of the mid-late Eighties. I mean, who wouldn't be charmed/alarmed at Bros and Rick Astley being referred to as the latest thing the kiddywinks are going mad for? Or gasp as Kim Wilde's latest chart hit gets played on the jukebox in Jim's Cafe? Or gaze in wonderment at The Kabin selling long-defunct cancer stick brand Players No.6? Or smile when you see that The Kabin is also selling the Official 1989 Iron Maiden calendar?


But what I have noticed, above everything else, is how much bitter lemon is consumed in the Rovers. In fact, it seems the only drinks consumed in the Rovers are bitter, light ale, tomato juice and bitter lemon. Was bitter lemon  really this popular? We used to have it Christmas or Mum would sometimes get a bottle in because she might have fancied "something sharp to drink". Indeed, we sometimes still buy it but I could never imagine that people would go to a pub and order a bitter lemon. Here, take a look:








Dierdre and Emily throwing a curve ball here with a pair of orange juices. 






Curly's got a round in. Bitter lemons for everyone!




Monday, 19 March 2018

In Defence of Ed Sheeran

I was listening to our incredibly local local radio station when Ed Sheeran's Castle on the Hill was played. I listened to it and I thought to myself, do you know what? That's not a bad song. Yes, the lyrics are a bit on the Summer of '69 side but I like the way the record thumps along and it's about having a good time with your friends. What's wrong with that?
You see I've never understood the bile levelled at Sheeran. If you don't like his music then fair enough, I get that, but what is it that drives people to be incredibly rude about him? You can't say he hasn't paid his dues, he talks of train fares to get to gigs that were more expensive than the fee he was being paid. Indeed, a very good friend of mine would regularly go and see him in the pubs and clubs of the toilet circuit years ago and was incredibly affronted when he couldn't get tickets to his show at Nottingham Arena last year ("This is the first time we've ever missed him in Nottingham" he moaned).
Is it because he's clearly middle class? Funny how people don't mind that when it comes to Mick Jagger or Jimmy Page but hate it when Chris Martin or Sheeran are unashamedly middle class.
Is it because he's enormously successful? Granted, he's more likely to win the Queen's Prize for Export over the Brian Eno Award for Innovation but who cares? If he makes music that people like, and they clearly do, then is that so bad? If you listen to the right radio stations then it's quite easy to avoid his music and nobody's forcing you to buy or stream it.
Is it because he's ginger? And not only ginger but not exactly the most handsome of men? This anti-ginger, anti-unhandsome business seems to be particularly peculiar to the UK. I like to call it The Mick Hucknall Syndrome.
And you can't say he hasn't got a massive pair of balls; step out onstage at Wembley Stadium with no backing band with just an acoustic guitar and looping station for support? I hope he had his brown pants on.
I think I can put my finger on what it is: snobbery. People hate it that he's successful. Why should it be like that? And if you like something then you should feel no shame in admitting it and enjoying it. As this excellent fellow says, in his East Midlands' accent, "If you like it, stand up for it"
I'm not saying I love everything he's done. In my book for every Castle on the Hill there's an A Team. For every Shape of You there's a Lego House. For every Sing there's a Galway Girl.
Anyway, here's a very good friend of mine adding to Castle on the Hill exactly what it needs: a great big dollop of drums because Ed doesn't need the cash of somebody else adding to the 300m plus views the original's had on You Tube.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

My 80s Diary

I think I might start tweeting my 1980s diary, which appears to be all the rage at the minute. I've never kept a diary, of course, but they all follow the same pattern (the following is entirely fictional, by the way):

"12/04/85 Listened to Run DMC tape. I didn't like it much but Wayne says they're the future and that rock music is dead. Had Findus Crispy Pancakes for tea. Watched Top of the Pops and Blackadder. Bed ."

"14/05/85 Had a tin of Quatro. It's better than Lilt"
"18/06/85 Got an A for my geography homework. I think Miss Harris fancies me. Mum cooked my favourite tea - Bird's Eye potato waffles, beans with sausages in and a fried egg"
"19/07/85 Got off with Janine Smith at the end of term disco. We danced to Nik Kershaw, Bryan Adams, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran and Paul Young. We shared a tin of Quatro and had a finger of Twix each. Janine doesn't like Quatro much. She thinks Lilt is nicer. She's wrong but I didn't tell her. We've agreed to meet up in the library to do our summer geography project together, after she comes back from her family holiday in Lanzarote. I said "Lanzagrotty", she laughed"
"12/08/85 - Waited at the library for Janine. She never showed up. Oh well, she has BO anyway. Bought a U2 tape from Boots to cheer myself up. Salad, ham and chips for tea"

"03/09/85 - Back to school today. Got Mr Johnson for a form tutor, he's alright but his breath smells. Got told off for forgetting my football boots"

"19/09/85 - Thursday night means Top of the Pops night! That man Cameo was on wearing a bright red cricket box, I don't know what that was about. It wasn't as good as last week's when Marillion were on"

See? An absolute piece of piss. Of course, what these diaries fail to mention is how much wanking in bedrooms was going on.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Film '18

I've been having a discussion on Facebook, prompted by the Oscar nominations, about films. I have to say that the idea of sitting in a cinema is becoming less and less appealing as I get older. At risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, people in cinemas get on my wick.

First we have to pay nearly ten pounds a pop for the privilege of sitting in there with people who won't sit in their allocated seats (I was once given short shrift by a guy at a cinema in Nottingham when I informed him that he was sitting in my seat for a performance of far-fetched Brad Pitt WWII film Fury. Flaming pillock).
Then they have to bring in all manner of food. I mean, those nachos they insist on serving these days look horrific. What is that fluorescent orange gloop they have to smother them with? It looks radioactive. And that's before we've even got started on rattling sweet wrappers and bags. Then, when they're not pushing food into their hungry maws, they're talking. Or looking at mobile phones. It's only in the past decade that I've actually seen people being ejected from a cinema for bad behaviour (The Woman in Black in Birmingham). Is that because people no longer know how to sit quietly for a couple of hours?

Then there's the films themselves. That's when you can actually get to the main feature part. You can put another thirty minutes on the stated start time because first we have to sit through half an hour of adverts, which wouldn't be so bad if they were still like this. The main features are rubbish these days too. I went to the cinema five times last year, two of those films (Trainspotting 2, Dunkirk) were rubbish, one was okay-ish (Murder on the Orient Express), one was quite good (The Death of Stalin) and the other one was Dave Gilmour* at Pompeii, so I knew what I was getting with that. All films these days seem to be based on comics, and not the sort of comics I like either. If someone made a film based on The Tough of the Track (Alf Tupper), Braddock VC or Billy's Boots then I'd be well up for that. If they're not based on comics it has to be a historical drama where they get all the facts wrong. And if it's not those then it's some worthy old bollocks. Why does nobody make daft comedies any more? Police Academy, Trading Places, Groundhog Day, Rita Sue and Bob Too, those stupid-but-good films with John Candy, Chevy Chase or Dan Aykroyd?

I dunno, maybe I'm just more into television these days. Namely imported television. Deutschland 83, Witnesses, Modus, that silly Swedish Scooby Doo thing that BBC4 showed in the autumn. All much more deserving of my time, I think. I'm currently well into French law and order procedural Spiral. We've only discovered it on series 6 but it was my birthday last week and Mrs Ambassador gave me the first four series in a boxset. I can't wait to sink my teeth into all 4000+ minutes of that.
It's either that or I stick to the excellent television channel Talking Pictures TV.

*I say 'Dave' because he insists on being called 'David'

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Brum Brum.

Ah, 2018 then. How are you? Oh right, excellent. Anyway, enough about you, as it's a new year and a chance to set out some new life goals, I thought I'd go back to blogging. The micro-blogging of Twitter doesn't interest me at the moment so I thought I'd have a go at this again. See how it goes, and all that. Just a quick one to ease me in:

There is absolutely nothing I don't love about this photograph.



It's Rush outside the Holiday Inn in Birmingham in 1978. A very West Midlands' decade, were the 70s, think about it: ELO, Black Sabbath, Wizzard, Trevor Francis at Birmingham City, Spaghetti Junction, Jasper Carrott, Tiswas ATVLand Birmingham B1 2JP, John Swallow, Red Robbo, the Bull Ring, Crossroads etc. The Brutalism architecture in Brum is one of its great strengths, I find. What a pity theses days that the city seems intent on erasing every last piece of it. I mean, look at the concrete in that Holiday Inn. Also look at the Renault 16. They were everywhere then. I really hope that's the car which will transport the Canadian rockers to the Birmingham Odeon. A very Renault decade was the 70s. And look at Rush, a very Rush decade was the 70s, with their epic twenty minute songs, moustaches and Geddy Lee's boots...

Thursday, 21 January 2016

By Chance Two Separate Glances Meet

I've been listening to the 40 minute cover version of Echoes on Crippled Black Phoenix's new EP.  I think the CBP EP - which has a running time of an hour, so hardly an EP - has done more to restore my faith in the music of Pink Floyd than the miserbalism of The Final Cut, the Floyd-by-numbers of A Momentary Lapse of Reason and the borefest of The Endless River ever will. As I'm on a mid-period Floyd tip at the minute, I've been watching Pink Floyd in Pompeii. It's such a shame that this is the only proper visual live record of the Pink Floyd lineup of Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason. When you think about all the gigs they did in support of Dark Side of the Moon, Animals and The Wall and it's a wonder none of it was captured properly on film. I know that it is something that irks members of the band. Mind you, they had such difficulty around the cinema release of ...in Pompeii that they were probably put off. And who would have foreseen Imax or hi-def Blu-Ray with a 5.1 surround sound mix in the mid-70s?
Watching Pink Floyd in Pompeii also served to remind me how good Nick Mason was before he became the world's most bone idle drummer.



Any road, my I point you in the direction of Crippled Black Phoenix's version of Echoes? It has a total running time of about double the original and takes in some interview audio with the band (which I think is from the documentary footage of ...in Pompeii. The bit where Mason asks for apple pie with no crust being a highlight. "They've only got round apple pies left, Nick". Anyway, who wants apple pie with no crust? Bloody freak), a dollop of The Tornados' Telstar and finishing up with a version of Childhood's End from Floyd's most underrated LP, Obscured by Clouds. It really is a very good thing from a band who've had their ups and downs recently but who have come storming back with this.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Record Store Day

Any fans of record shops will know that this year's Record Store Day is just around the corner. Now I quite like the idea of RSD, unfortunately, like Emerson Lake and Palmer or the Sony Discman, the theory is much better than the reality.
I've only 'done' RSD once, two years ago. Unless you're wont to get out of bed at stupid o'clock in the morning on a Saturday then I really wouldn't bother going. I can guarantee that by the time you get there, whatever you've gone for will be gone. When I went to a participating RSD shop back in 2013 the only thing I went for had been sold out for ages. The handy thing was, that when I was standing in line, I had two studenty types behind me who couldn't wait to get in there and buy, ugh,'vinyls'. I got there at around midday and certainly didn't expect to queue to get in when I arrived. So what happens then? Well, you just buy something. Anything so that you don't feel that you've had a wasted journey. I came home with, amongst other things, a Frankie Goes to Hollywood picture single. It's a nice thing to have but it's hardly essential.
Last year I saw the author of Last Shop Standing, Graham Jones, give a talk on record shops. This came a few weeks after RSD 2014. When he took questions from the floor he was asked what could make RSD better. He came up with a number of ideas to improve the RSD experience for everyone. He suggested that the organisers were considering limiting official RSD releases to new music only. Or introducing a loyalty card scheme so that regular independent record shop customers could get first dibs on RSD by getting four stamps on their card over the previous year. None of these ideas have been implemented. So this year there are well over 500 official RSD releases. I've had a look at the list and there's absolutely nothing I'm desperate for. So yet again we will see people queueing outside Piccadilly Records in Manchester before it's even closed the day before. And for what? A few 7" singles that you didn't really want because the David Bowie picture disc you went in for sold out at 8:30, while you were still parking the car. I realise that RSD is important for independent record shops in their constant struggle to survive against downloads, online stores and supermarkets but against the backdrop of me supporting independent music stores throughout the rest of the year and tales of an unscrupulous retailer reserving stock for favoured customers means that on April 18th I'll stay snuggled in bed for as long as I please.