Back in the New York Groove!

Hello!
Remember them?
They were a fresh faced gaggle of British glam-rockers from the 1970’s who were on the cusp of Sweet-y campness and Status Quo denim laddishness, completely forgettable apart from one thing, their only major hit single. That was ‘New York Groove’, a Bo Diddley-ish vamp crossed with some vicious powerchords in the chorus that was goshdarn infectious, so infectious that it was even picked up across the broad Atlantic by those purveyors of comic book rock outrageousness, Kiss, and turned into a hit for them.
Ah, Kiss… during my tenure with Scottish band Close Action, who mutated (or should that be evolved? No, I’ll stick with mutated…) into Z-Rox and thence into The Cuban Heels, we had a roadie, Willie (The Worm) who loved Kiss. In fact, he was completely and utterly obsessed by them. Probably still is, for all I know. We even covered one of their tunes, ‘Do You Love Me’, in our live set. It was a dumb rock’n’roll song, but I actually kind of enjoyed performing it. There is nothing wrong with being dumb occasionally, especially in rock’n’roll. I also had a soft spot for the tune that went on about wanting to rock’n’roll all night and party every day, as of course that was a particular ambition of all of us cramped into our yellow Transit as we criss-crossed the country, and hang on, what about that other seminal classic ‘Crazy, Crazy Nights’.
What about it?
It sounded a little like a lobotomized Slade, that’s what. 
Back in the 70’s, I had a problem with Slade. That problem was that to the followers of the former Ambrose Slade I was one of ‘them’. You know, one of ‘those’ guys. The love that dare not speak its name… yes, a T.Rex fan! I envied someone like Steven Beaton who appeared able to like both Slade and T.Rex and get away with it, but then again he was built like a brick sh*thouse, so who was going to argue with him? As I matured (hah!) realization gradually dawned that actually yes, Slade were pretty good, and away from the hothouse of factional teenage angst that was Thurso High School you could actually celebrate diversity and individuality in equal measures – dammit yes, I’ll have a lager tops with a shot of blackcurrant and a dash of lime if you don’t mind please Sybil. Yes Billy, I will assist you in cleaning up my own vomit later… (those last two references will carry deep meaning for those frequenters of the legendary Sheiling Bar, Thurso, in the 70’s and 80’s…). Don’t get me started on vomit, or I may start dredging up memories of famous technicolour yawns of my Thurso past, such as the Marine Inn (‘no worries, it was only a mouthful.’ the classic comment from owner Roddy), the Central Bar (all over the bar… but it was a smaller bar in those days) and Jimmy Riddell’s Triumph TR7 (performed at approximately 100mph on Castlegreen Road both inside and outside the vehicle…sorry again Jimmy)…
Now that was a bit of a digression, wasn’t it? I guess what I really meant to say was ‘Hello’.
Again.
After a two year break (and a sideways step into another blog that didn’t last very long), I’ve come back to ‘Lost In Space’, and I will try to post more regularly about life here in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, and about the many things past and present, home and away, including (surprise!) a hefty dash of music, that make me smile, frown, get up and get down etc etc…
It’s nice to be back, and If I do wander off the subject from time to time, you will forgive me, won’t you…?
Won’t you?

(This post is dedicated to Mr. Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013, a genius of his craft.)

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Cassettes (and books)

Received an e-mail today which rolled back the years. It came from Mike Powell, who played guitar in a band with me 30 years ago. The band were called the Blonde Brothers, brainchild of myself and Raymond Henderson, and we really believed we were the powerpop songwriting saviours of Scottish music. For about 10 minutes we were, getting single of the week accolades in the music press for our ‘cassingle’ and attracting the attention of Led Zeppelin’s publishing agent who promptly Led us into oblivion…

A blast from the analogue past - the Blonde Brothers amongst friends...

The pic above comes from a bit of reminiscence about the BB’s courtesy of another Thurso expat, Mr. Kevin Williamson. His life took a turn for the unexpected when his publishing company took a chance on an unknown Scottish writer called Irvine Welsh…

Read Kevin’s original post.

Gotta lust for life….

Home Again

‘One is a lonely number…’
not, as you may be thinking, another half-baked philosophical statement from yours truly, but actually the title of the first track on the latest Edwyn Collins album ‘Home Again’. I purchased the aforesaid CD when I was back in the UK in the summer, and… no, lets save it for later. I promise we will return to Edwyn shortly, but let us first catch up on the second part of our summer holiday adventures. After the minor hell of our return journey to the UK we had a week or so more of enjoying the English summer. Prior to the U.S.A trip we had enjoyed some quintessentially English moments, visiting summer fetes, watching cricket on the green, feeding ducks in the mill pond, that sort of thing. As a Scotsman, and coming from a family who have its fair share of intensely patriotic members I do find it strange how I am inexorably drawn to a particular notion, or sense, of ‘Englishness’. I blame this on an inordinate fondness for the Kinks, early Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt and many others who jumped into the spaces created by those very significant footprints. Records on the Harvest label seemed to imbue this character almost naturally. I recall many a chilly northern night spent lying with my head between the speakers (my primitive version of headphones) of my portable stereo listening to ‘Grantchester Meadows’ off ‘Ummagumma’, or ‘Fat Old Sun’ from ‘Atom Heart Mother’, or ‘Whatevershebringswesing’ and immersing myself in the hazy warmth of the sounds emanating from the straining speaker cones…

In the middle distance, the muffled murmuring of the traffic gave way to the sonorous clang of the church bells and the gentle rustling of the leaves in the honey-thick breeze. The world was revolving slowly and lazily in the sticky warmth of this sunny afternoon.
‘More tea, Vicar?’
“Oh, splendid, Miss Jones,a capital idea, I must say. My goodness, your muffins are extraordinary…’
‘Oh Vicar, you are such a card…’
Sorry. Drifting off again. Let me get back on track.

Yes, summer holiday memories. Many of them from this year involve the continually evolving wonder that is our son. Little O attempting to adapt his funky Khmer style of dance to the strains of a brass band performing Abba songs; his joy at visiting a country park …very wide open spaces where he could simply run and run and run with what must have seemed to him as no boundaries; feeding ducks and swans with O doing his ‘one for you, one for me’ routine; a miniature train journey, O and Granddad together – who was most excited by that…? I wonder…; blowing bubbles in the garden, sheer naked enjoyment, O running around and around in circles laughing gleefully; feeding times, characterised by the infinite patience of Nana, with accompaniment from Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy; a visit to Swindon Mela, with so many familiar colours, shapes, sounds, smells and tastes – and time for some more O-type dancing, this time to familiar rhythms…; having the time and space to see the wonderful bond between O and mummy growing every day…
These are just some of the memories I have of this summer, there are many, many others that will come to me in the future, to make the good times better and to help me to smile during the hard times… summers are wonderful, magical things that re-awaken the child within us all, and we should cherish each and every moment of them…

My goodness, that was a bit Sunday Post-ish, wasn’t it? What has happened to my tireless cynicism? I confess I really don’t know, I’m sure it was here a minute ago… I must have temporarily mislaid it…

The other night, performing the increasingly difficult wrestling match that is getting O into his ‘jammies’ at bedtime I got to thinking about how much the vintage cowboy print thereon reminded me of the old Postcard Records label design. Ah, ‘The Sound of Young Scotland’… memories swept into my synapses, of those mysterious cardboard boxes from Fast Distribution that would arrive in Thurso Music Shop on a Saturday afternoon or Monday morning and be eagerly ripped upon to reveal their contents… would the eagerly awaited ‘1 only cat no PC-80-6 Orange Juice ‘Simply Thrilled, Honey’ 7” single’ in its cowboy bedecked sleeve be in there? Yes!! In stock! Mine! Those were exciting times, and many of us (hello Messrs Gavin Duncan and Ian Begg – where are you now?) felt such musical affinity with Orange Juice in particular, as their melodic gifts were really, really strong but tempered with some willfully unkempt, ragged yet glorious performances. I only knew (and if truth be told, still do) three chords, and hadn’t really mastered any of that barré chord stuff, so it was a joy to have it reinforced that traditional skill wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite of making exciting, clamorous, glamorous music. The Fire Engines were another band who shared that rowdy charabanc to pop success, music that sounded all over the place, spiky and fuzzy, but absolutely imbued with a total sense of fun. ‘Candyskin’ comes on like a Scottish Salvation Army playgroup that has had just a wee drop too much acid in their Irn Bru… wonderful stuff which even now brings a smile to my face as I type this.

‘Englishness’, ‘Scottishness’… I’m not sure how I got here, but the moving fingers type, and having typed, move on… or rather back, back to Edwyn Collins. He’s grown up now, has Edwyn. Life has dealt him some pretty bad cards in the last couple of years – he’s suffered two strokes, but has fought back and has been on tour, performing again this summer in a few festivals. I finally got round to listening to ‘Home Again’ a few nights ago, and I am so happy to tell you that it is an absolutely magnificent album, his best since ‘Gorgeous George’. He’s still wry, still sonically adventurous, still making records that sound like ‘records’, but his recent brushes with the fragility of existence seem to permeate his music (although amazingly, given some of the lyrics, most of this was written before he suffered his successive strokes) and give it a strikingly unusual cast, that of the man-child facing the enormity of life and the natural and un-natural challenges it throws against us all. The title track is quite simply awesome, a meditation on the redemptive and healing power of music that is almost overwhelmingly emotional in its evocation of that feeling of being truly at ‘home’ that music can bring. The Bearsden Blues, no less. As the late, great, Stuart Henry would have said, ‘I can’t recommend this album highly enough, my friends.’

Oh well, I’m off now to slip into my sandals and fringed buckskin jacket and nip round to Roddy’s house to see if he can show me how to play that augmented 7th chord… you coming? No? OK, catch you later, man…

Next episode – the return to a post-election Phnom Penh and all that entailed.
This episode was brought to you borne on the angel wings of Edwyn Collins ‘Home Again’ on Heavenly Records, remembrances of Postcard Records – the Sound of Young Scotland, ‘ Long Way Down’ on BBC DVD (Ben, it’s the same two guys, McGregor and Boorman, biking from John ‘o’ Groats in Scotland to Capetown, South Africa. Let me know if you want me to get you a copy my friend), and is dedicated to all those who hung around on a Friday, Saturday or Monday in the Music Shop, Thurso, waiting for the boxes of new releases…’there’s only one copy… and it’s mine!!’

Yours Is No Disgrace

(WARNING – THIS BLOG CONTAINS REFERENCES TO PROGRESSIVE ROCK-READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED)

Warily yet wearily the four bedraggled little students made their way down the steep and leafy incline of Paterson’s Lane, their spirits lifting as they spied the multi-coloured brickwork of John’s house in the middle distance. John was John Farquhar, or as pronounced in the ‘ness, ‘Fracher’, and within that house was a wondrous loud stereophonic record player, upon which he would soon place his new-bought hallowed treasure. He would carefully place the dust bug in its required position, switch on electrical power to the unit then rotate the ivory bakelite dial to indicate 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, before carefully lifting the playhead into position, lowering the compatible stereo cartridge (perchance a Goldring G800?) onto the shellac disc rotating on the Garrard SP25 MkII record deck. Then the four would agree, yes, this will be worth skipping school for, before lying back in the semi-darkness of that room, deep within the bowels of that quaint split-level house, and allowing the music to flood over them in waves of sonic bliss, signals arcing from speaker to speaker, a mélange of guitars (lap steel! Stratocasters!) of bass, of keyboard washes, pounding tom-tom rolls, human heartbeats, Moog synthesizers, found voices and finally the eerie, weary, ennui filled tones of David Gilmour… “Breathe, breathe in the air…”

It really was like that. Today’s pop kids will never experience anything similar, oh no. There really was (still is, I fervently hope) a John Farquhar. And a Donald (Danny) Farquhar (his cousin, I think…). And a Donald McIntosh (‘Tosh, where are you now?). And a me. And we had skipped off school because John had bought ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, and his mum and dad were out, and they had a really good stereo system, and…

Guess what? I love music. For much of my life, child and adult, I have lived, eaten, slept and breathed music. I have even tormented countless thousands over the years with my attempts to perform music. To you, I now apologize unreservedly. However, the strongest attraction for me is still the recorded medium. Even now, a man who is over a half-century old, I become obsessed with particular bands or artists, labels or even sleeve artists. Ani bought me an I –Pod for Christmas. She jokingly (I hope) remarked the other night that it was the worst thing she could have bought me. Probably as I was completely immersed at that point in trawling the internet (do you think that’s why we say ‘trawling’, because it’s a ‘net’? I wonder…) to find jpegs of artists and record sleeves to upload to my pod (behold! I have the jargon!) for those tricky one-off or compilation things. Music is pretty much everywhere now, and is used to sell everything under the sun. I’ve now given up getting enormously annoyed at the hijacking of a classic track to sell soap powder or whatever, so it is good for me to reminisce about a time when that wasn’t quite the case, and ‘the man’ had not, like, completely turned us into, like, breadheads or worse…

The Famous Four music appreciation saga unfolded in the opening paragraph was by no means an isolated occurrence. Oh no. Group appreciation was one if the joys of being into music. Informal record clubs of all sorts proliferated amongst the wet flagstone streets of slumbery Thurso in the early part of the 1970’s. Occasionally these were simply evenings where one took it in turns to host a friend (or friends) to play them your choice of music, along with a guest spot for the album they would have brought with them. Much snobbery around the type of record deck/speakers/cartridges/stylus/dust removing paraphernalia used would take place (‘Oh. A Calotherm cloth. Hmmm. Personally I find that it can sometimes cause surface marking…’) Techniques for removing records from paper (or, god forbid, poly-lined – simply encourages static build up and therefore dust attraction!) sleeves without touching the playing surface would be appraised. The sleeves would themselves be studied as if ancient dusty tomes from the bowels of the National Library, carefully scrutinized for the meaning of the cover art, and how it linked to the music locked in the grooves… and then the music… protocol dictated listening in silence for at least one side, no matter how jarring or boring the experience was, before passing measured judgement upon the piece and its performers.

Colin Morrison, where are you now? Visits to Colin’s house were always interesting. He wasn’t really into pop music, he was much more cerebral. I had an extremely catholic taste in music, but sometimes Colin’s choices would stretch my tolerance level more than a little… Jukka Tolonen, anyone? However, thank you Colin for making me listen to Back Door. In these post-Morphine days I can appreciate much more a pre-punk instrumental Jazz-rock trio of bass, drums and saxophone. And his mum made a nice cup of tea. As did Eric Law’s. Nothing like a hot strong cuppa to help the synapses adjust to Aamon Duul, Tangerine Dream, Kevin Coyne, Van der Graaf Generator, Hatfield and the North… that sort of thing. You get the picture.. Eric was also probably the first person in the world to own a copy of Tubular Bells. I find it amazing now to reflect on how cutting edge we all (The navy greatcoat and mumbling brigade that is… not my skinhead friends, I have to say.) thought it was. His dad was an incredibly nice man who would often pop his head cheerily round the door to enquire after my health during the particularly grim passages of ‘dance of the lemmings’ or some such thing. Alan McPherson has previously received credit in this blog for his impact upon my life, but there’s no harm in another mention, is there Perce? Thank you for introducing me to Creedence and the 70’s Who, in particular. Then there were those who shared a particular obsession. Steven Beaton, David Moore and I were the three T.Rex fans in our High School class. That was a very dangerous thing to be in the early formative years of Glam Rock, as most chaps favoured the uncouth laddish glam of Slade. Kenny Cameron, a meenisters son, no less, used to give me an incredibly hard time about my obsession with hermaphrodite-hot-pants Bolan (©Record Mirror and Disc). Steven also favoured Welsh weed gobblers Man, for some truly unfathomable reason, and seemed to be the only person in Thurso with a John Kongos album.David and I would regularly quake in fear of being found by his dad using his incredibly state-of-the-art gramophone unit to play Tyrannosaurus Rex records on. It apparently was only designed to accept and play real music, i.e. classical. What untold damage did we cause to the valves and tubes by placing the woodland warbles of the bopping elf on its hallowed turntable…? David went on to have one of the coolest jobs in the entire world, senior lighting engineer for Top of the Pops…

Mr. Leon Volwerk was a history teacher who ran the Record Club at Thurso High school. Once a week we would gather in the upstairs music room to hear the chosen ones, the albums he had selected from those proffered by the spotty male longhairs who were the majority of attendees. Being able to only afford maybe one album a month at most, this was the opportunity to actually hear those things that one had read about and could only imagine in the days before decent radio signals reached Thurso. Black Sabbath ‘Master of Reality’, Deep Purple ‘In Rock’ (so exciting I actually ordered it from my mum’s clubbie book!) and the collected works of Jethro Tull, as Leon Volwerk, bless him, not only looked uncannily like Ian Anderson but also obsessed over him in much the same way I did over Marc Bolan. He never really liked my Pink Fairies ‘What a Bunch of Sweeties’ album much, ‘though…

It’s good for me to reminisce about what the world was like before punk, because to be honest the music that gets pigeon-holed into that pre-punk era of the 1970’s is often very unfairly done by. Every era has its bores (dare I say… no, I’d better whisper… Coldplay?) , but much of it was just as wild, wacky, out-there and funny as the tidal wave that swept through British music in the late 70’s. Its confession time now. Bless me Father, for I have sinned, it’s been a long time since I last confessed to this sin, Father…

Last night, a DJ saved my life. Ha Ha. Only joking. I’m afraid it’s worse than that.

Last night, I listened again to Yes.

Those of you who haven’t logged off in utter disgust by now, thank you for your continued support. I could blame the I-Pod (‘oh, you know it’s that shuffle feature. One never knows what will come up from that obscure compilation one downloaded months ago!’), but the sad truth is that I downloaded four tracks in the full knowledge that they were by Yes, and with the deliberate intention of listening to them. Which I did, last night.
The truth? I really, really enjoyed them, as I had done in the early 70’s. But where I (and John Farquhar, Perce, Steven… I’m not going down alone, you know…) had once scoured each subsequent Yes release for the cosmic portent invariably locked within, I now realized that that had been only part of the appeal of this much maligned band. They were so good because they were simply completely and utterly bonkers, out of their trees, tripping on Vishnu and vegetarianism, so far round the proverbial bend or corner that they were meeting themselves. Why play one note when you can fit ten in? Why should a guitar sound like a guitar? Why shouldn’t you sing lyrics that only a gnome that had received a serious blow to the medulla oblongata could decipher in a voice that suggested your favourite pastime was inhaling helium? Why not play your bass through a broken speaker so it sounds like a large over-amplified rubber band? Why bother with 4/4 time? Four technically staggering musicians and a crazy lad from Accrington invented this complex sound universe that does sound like they had been blindfolded and thrown into a big bag full of instruments and told to play as fast and as complex as they could because not only their lives, but the entire fate of the universe depended upon then achieving cosmic Nirvana. And by heck, they nearly made it. I truly believe that some Yes moments do stand alongside such wonders as the glacial distance of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, the sound and fury of the Pistols in their prime, the eerie otherworldliness of the Only Ones, the righteous fire of the Clash…

The earphones hurt my tired ears, but by closing my eyes I can drift back into the last century, the years sliding away, ten, twenty, thirty… more… and I am back in John Farquhar’s house, in the curtained semi-darkness of the listening room, marveling at the sound of Steve Howe flicking his guitar pick against the strings behind the bridge of his Gibson, and how the sound hops through the air from speaker to speaker… track one of the Yes Album, ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’… then to end side one, the incredible build up to the closing part of ‘Starship Trooper’, ‘Wurm’ , an unfolding behemoth of sound that gets louder and louder before exploding into stereo tripping, guitar again leaping from left to right… to ‘Fragile’, and the architectural precision of ‘ Long Distance Runaround’, complex patterns fire off against each other with the rubberband bass of Chris Squire pulling the disparate components together… and finally… ‘Roundabout’. All hands on deck in dazzling form, and containing one of, if not the greatest, Hammond organ solos of all time. Rick Wakeman’s finest three minutes, pausing briefly to spar with the guitar before dancing to a conclusion where it almost sounds like he is cascading across the keys like a dazzling beer-blonde waterfall…

Pseuds corner may beckon, but dammit I still like Yes. And I’m glad I do. I will no longer hide how I feel about them, I now know that really I have nothing to be ashamed of.
Some wit once wrote a review of a Yes album which said, in its entirety,
‘Yes. No.’

I would have to disagree, with a double affirmative, on the rock – ‘Yes. YES!’

‘On a sailing ship to nowhere, leaving anyplace, if the summer turn to winter, yours is no, yours is no disgrace…’

Come on over to my house, I’ve a Gnidrolog album I really think you ought to hear…

MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY!

I just wouldn’t let it lie, would I… having said all my Christmas-greetings-peace-on earth-goodwill-to all-ho-ho-ho-happy-Christmas-Tiny-Tim-gawd-bless-you-Mr-Scrooge-etc etc in the last blog I return once more to briefly interfere with the smooth passage of your lives in the run up to the portly bearded gent coming down your chimney. Yes, the late Peter Grant, former manager of Led Zeppelin, is coming to YOUR house to personally collect YOUR Zep bootleg CD collection and smash it to bits before your very eyes, and he will come down your chimney wearing a bright red suit to do so on Christmas Eve… you have been warned…!

‘I is the N-M-E!’

In the newsagents today my eyes alighted upon something claiming to be the bumper Xmas edition of the New Musical Express. Gazing at the garishly glossy cover I initially thought it was those cheeky folks at Smash Hits (does it still exist?) foisting a merry Christmas jape upon us, but no, the comic before me was indeed the once mighty NME, now seemingly a refuge for mass advertising with the occasional one or two lines about music breaking up the eye-straining blocks of fluorescent frenzy about this phone or those trainers… this grumpy old man of course began to reminisce about the good old days of the 1970’s, when the NME Christmas and New Year bumper edition was indeed a thing of wonder and joy to behold, guaranteed to smear your hands with copious quantities of newsprint and generate intense debate in the pub over a Christmas special of a pint and a cheese toastie for a pound…we cannot bring back those glory days, but in the spirit of the great NME Christmas pop quizzes of yore, here follows my pathetic attempt to enliven your miserable existences with my very own Christmas pop and entertainment quiz, part mystic, part cryptic, part unfathomable, part narcissistic. Because that’s the way my mind works, the answers to some of these may be informed or hinted at by the previous answer. Or maybe not. Some answers may even be the same as other answers! (Please do not complain to OFSTED about this.) You work it out for yourselves (That’s the trouble with young people nowadays, they expect everything on a plate.)You may also find that only those of a certain age, gender, nationality and mindset will be able to complete it, as I now grudgingly admit that I know little or nothing (and pretty much care little or nothing) of what has happened in popular music or entertainment over the last twenty years. Who cares anyway, just award yourself one point for every answer you believe is correct, and when you have reached three points drink a double of your favourite spirit and mixer, or two cans of beer. Or, if you are in that 70’s mindframe anyway, have a snakebite. Or a lager tops. Or a lager and blackcurrant. Mine’s a Moscow Mule. Continue until you are very happy indeed. I’ll give you the answers according to me (and my decision is final, absolute and unswerving…) in a future blog (no cheating please, Hiro…). Alright… are we ready? Then off we go…

Section One – Waxing lyrical

(Go on go on go on – have one point for each part of the following questions, and don’t skimp on the measures…!)

1)‘does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say ‘we just haven’t got a clue WHAT to do’…’. Band and song, please.
2) ‘ …who would think a boy and bear would be well accepted everywhere, it’s just amazing how fair people can be.’ . A cover song! A great cover song – original writer/artist, cover artist and name of song this time, please. Then you can have a drink! (clue to the writer – ‘to infinity and beyond!)
3) ‘ I saw two shooting stars last night – I wished on them, but they were only satellites…’ A cover song again – same as above, then another drink!
4) Really difficult unless you are British, this one. What connects the above answers? (cryptic clue: Track 1 side 1 of ‘the Third Roxy Music Album’ may point you in the right direction…)

Section Two – cryptic and just plain ornery…

5) What connects Mr. Pitiful, a certain mighty Eskimo, Michael Jackson’s rat of a friend and those who were born of frustration? Only certain persons reading this may get this one… they should have a Tequila slammer if they do…
6)Who was moody blue, but had the balls to go off and fight for his country before growing wings? Please say you don’t mind me asking his name…
7) What is the point of U2?*
*this may not be cryptic

Section Three – Who are you?

8) ‘ Happy Christmas my arse, I hope it’s your last!’ How often have we thought that when we’ve been stuck in that queue in HMV for ¾ of an hour… but who said that to whom and in which song?
9) Who produced the Clash album ‘Give ‘em enough rope’?
10) And what was the biggest hit achieved by the band that he managed for his day job?
11) By what names did the following achieve fame (actors also included in this one, so make those doubles triples…!) a) Mark Feld b) David Jones c) Archibald Leach d) Marion Morrison e) William Broad f) William Pratt g) Vincent Furnier
12) What kind of animal was ‘Happy Jack’? (By now you should be very happy also…)
13) Who was the space cowboy, gangster of love and Maurice? (clue: this question has nowt to do with the Bee Gees)
14) Who is the arguably more famous other half of incredible guitar picker Dave Rawlings?
15) Who had a dog called Strider, immortalized in song on the third album from the band that started life as the New Yardbirds? And what was the song? And why do the birds keep on singing? Why does the sea rush to shore? Don’t they know it’s the end of the world…??

Section Four – What’s the point of sections anyway? Trivia, its all trivia

16) On which Morrissey album does the amplified sound of a power drill stand in for the sound of a motorcycle revving?
17) …and on which Roxy Music track did they actually record a motorcycle speeding down Basing St. in London to add authenticity to the rebellious nature of the lyric?
18) How many deadly Finns were encountered by Brian Eno?
19) Who was Blank Frank?
20) Which group rode the equestrian statue to the edge of the popular music charts, then were shocked to find a doughnut in granny’s greenhouse? And what exactly was the doughnut anyway….? You might need your Mr. Hanky for this one…
21) ‘the path was deep and wide from footsteps leading to our cabin, above the door there burned a scarlet lamp…’ ooo-er missus – the son of whom was singing this, and what was he better known as to the world of 60’s soul?
22) Which animal links the legendary Goodies with the band who gave us ‘Cheap Sunglasses’?
23) My son Otis currently sports a hairstyle inspired by which of these seminal 80’s bands a) Modern Romance b) the Thompson Twins or c) A Flock of Seagulls? (I currently sport a hairstyle influenced by Alf Garnett)
24) They had a friend called Stan from far, far away (he was a banging man) and this time of year wouldn’t be the same without them – who were they?
25) In which Carry On film did The Great Kenneth Williams utter these immortal words ‘infamy, infamy! They’ve all got it infamy!’?
26) …and whose first album included a lengthy musical workout about a woman named Suzi Q?
27) What was the name of the South African born record producer who was the mastermind behind feisty little Suzi Quatro?
28) which band, favourites of the Old Grey Whistle Test and the darlings of many 1970’s music critics exhorted quarreling lovers to ‘turn up the Eagles, the neighbours are listening’ and advised us that ‘showbusiness kids, making movies of themselves, you know they don’t give a f*** about anybody else…’?
29) Which famously eccentric American studio wunderkind released an acclaimed solo double album in the 1970’s featuring a pop operetta taking up one side entitled ‘baby needs a new pair of snakeskin boots’? And what was his far from flattering nickname?
30) Which 1970’s Frank Zappa album tells the sad tale of Billy the Mountain, Ethel the Tree (growing off of his shoulder) and FBI agent Studebaker Hawke? (completely useless clue: it’s the only Frank Zappa album I own).
31) Which former NME writer and soon to be famous female rock star played rhythm guitar briefly with Johnny Moped in 1978?
32) …and which legendary NME writer (clue: no friend of Sid Vicious) gave up his day job briefly to front the short-lived Subterraneans?
33) On which 70’s Rolling Stones song does Mick Jagger sign off by whispering ‘good night – sleep tight…’?
34) Where in Scotland would you find the John Lennon Memorial Garden. And why?
35) Which of these apocryphal stories is actually true – a) TV quizmaster Bob Holness played the sax solo on Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, b) Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath has metal fingers, or c) Rod Stewart played harmonica on ‘My Boy Lollipop’ by Millie

Section Five – ‘That’s Entertainment’

36) who was famously described thus at his first screen test – ‘balding, can’t act, can’t sing, can dance a little.’?
37) which 50’s and 60’s British star appeared in a dreadful movie based on his hit song about an albino baby bull. Have another drink if you can name the movie and the song, because that makes you as much a saddo as I am.
38) catchphrases…. what would we do without them, eh? Which legends provided the English language with the following gems…? a) ‘stop messing abaht!’ b) ‘shut that door!’ c) ‘hello playmates!’ d) ‘wakey-wakey!’
39) comedians making records… what would we do without them, eh? Which mirth-inducers tickled our fancies with these shellac curiosities from the 1960’s…?
a) ‘Gossip Calypso’ b) ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ c) ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’ and d) ‘Right Said Fred’
40) Elvis had an old one and John Noakes had one that always appeared to be up when it shouldn’t have been – ooo-er missus, to what am I referring?

Section Six – ‘You know my name, look up the number.’

41) ‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’ Which actor said this, in which TV series? And what was his number?
42) How many Screaming Dizbusters did the Blue Oyster Cult warn us about?
43) Add the number of ?’s tears to the Yardbirds Little Indians and Traffic’s Headmen and what number do you get?
44) What was the number plate of Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend’s car at the time of the first Roxy Music album (this is not as obscure as you think, folks…!)?
45) Which LP record sported the catalogue number K50008, although this was impossible to find anywhere on the cover or inner sleeve (much to the annoyance of the woman in Clark’s Electrical in Thurso when I tried to buy this album in the 70’s. )

Section Seven – ‘and when I am in Camelot, I like to push the pram a lot’.

The source of the following lyrical gems, please!

46) ‘ I saw a lion he was standing alone, with a tadpole in a jar’
47) ‘dancing in the nude and feeling such a dude, it’s a rip-off!’
48) ‘ where do we go from here – is it down to the lake, I fear?’
49) ‘ he went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun – in case of accidents he always took his mum.’

And finally! Question 50! ‘what WERE you thinking?’

50) which bands took their names from the following sources…?
a) a giant metal pleasure device in the William Burroughs novel ‘Naked Lunch’?
b) the victim of a fatal shooting by student Gavrilo Princep?
c) the part conjoined names of two Mississippi bluesmen?
d) an acronym of their family stage name?
e) a character from the movie ‘Barbarella’?
f) a beer and a desire to get back to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll?
g) a palindrome of their first initials?
h) a superstitious fear amongst US building contractors?

If you did, thank you so much for taking part, however by now you should be very drunk and more than a little bored, so why don’t we just switch off our computers and go and do something less boring instead? After all, in the immortal words of Enid Blyton…

‘ IT’S CHRI-I-I-STMAS!’

Sorry, that should have read ‘the immortal words of Noddy…’

Nid Nod

Goodnight All, mind how you go… and remember ‘Save the cheerleader, save the world…’

(extra question which has just occurred to me– whatever happened to the BBC’s flagship Christmas day programme ‘ A Merry Morning’? That Noel Edmonds, oooh, he was ever such a nice lad…)

Generals and Majors

Otis and I went for a long walk on Sunday morning. I suppose that technically I walked and he was pushed. He adopted the slumped relaxed position that he favours in the McClaren (Yes, how awful. We are a two-buggy family…) and away we went down the bumpy dusty backstreets of Chamkarmon en route to the green oasis of the park. The rainy season seems to be over now. The temperature has dropped a few degrees and a pleasant breeze rustled and whispered through the leaves of the trees lining Hun Sen Park. The park was relatively empty; a handful of people sitting or lying on the stone benches dotted around the perimeter, a stocky unsmiling man in a green uniform passing a metal detector in slow sweeps over the prickly grass…

A metal detector? As we strolled down toward the Independence Monument my mind was slowly mulling over the possibilities, soundtracked by Otis’s unrelenting stream of what the parenting books call ‘baby jargon’, a form of communication I actually do understand as it has real parallels to the kind of language that used to come out of me at three o’ clock in the morning as I stumbled out of whatever Thurso hostelry (usually the Central or the Sheiling) I was frequenting in my teenage years … a metal detector…Cambodian currency has no coinage, so he’s not going to be looking for those… I’m not aware of a serious landmine or UXO problem in downtown Phnom Penh… what could it be?

Then I noticed that there were police about. Lots of them. And a great deal of activity in and around the Monument. They were checking the area, prodding and poking in bushes and bins, accompanied by surreptitious puffs at cigarettes hidden in curled hands. So, that meant that there was something about to happen. Something important. Best not to get in the way then, methought. We turned around and headed away from the area. Metal detector man shouted after us ‘– aren’t you hot?’ It was not, thank goodness, a statement of lustful intent, merely an enquiry seeking an answer to that famous assertion of Noel Coward’s. Noel should have spread his geographical wings a little further – mad dogs, Englishmen, Scotsmen and their baby sons, they all go out in the mid-day sun. I really didn’t think it was that hot. I hadn’t even worn the new hat that A had bought me, which either makes me look a little like Michael Stipe or a wizened Cambodian farmer (or more accurately a combination of both), so I cheerily shouted back ‘no problem, bong, crazy Scot!’ which he chortled at and carried on sweeping.

The O and I walked past the Vietnamese monument, which has been restored very impressively since it was bombed a couple of months ago, then on down to ‘Pencils Supercentre’, a supermarket-come-shopping mall nearby, accompanied partly by some small boys who were carrying large pieces of polystyrene and cardboard boxes. I presumed that they were off to build some kind of den with these, and both Otis and I kind of wished we could join them… however we had some serious shopping to do! ‘Pencils’ is a relatively large complex, which always appears to be almost completely deserted of shoppers yet full of staff who either sprawl across the checkouts or slumber in the aisles waiting for… what? The arrival of His Majesty Otis in his Royal Buggy however means that the mostly female staff immediately come alive and get into some serious ‘baby baby baby!’ attention. We can barely walk two or three metres without another young Cambodian woman leaping out from behind a shelving unit, fawning over the O, making clicking noises with her tongue, playing a big-doe-eyed version of peek-a-boo, grabbing his arms and legs, pinching his cheek, comparing skin colour, in fact generally behaving as if Lord Buddha himself had reincarnated in the form of the Golden Boy in the Blue Buggy before them. This certainly keeps him amused, and it has to be said that he is an OUTRAGEOUS flirt when it comes to the attentions of Cambodian (and Thai and Vietnamese…) women. God, he is going to be a handful when he grows up…

So we bought the necessary, and as this is man shopping, the completely unnecessary, then headed back out across the square and through a couple of side streets and emerged… right into the middle of massed ranks of the Army, Airforce, Navy and Police. Erk. It appears that all the activity around the monument is because the King is due to arrive to snuff out the flame that has been burning for the last few days to honour independence. All the surrounding streets have been closed to people and traffic in a major security operation. And the dynamic duo of Dad and O has emerged blinking into the sunlight on the red carpet no less, surrounded by Generals and Majors and a sea of military personnel of every rank and file… A three (or maybe four or five or six) star General in a dazzling white uniform standing next to someone who must be the Chief of Police for the Kingdom, to judge from the amount of gold braid he is encumbered with, barked an order to a lackey who rushed over and indicated we should immediately go to these two top brass. Visions of impending incarceration or worse swam before me as we passed the serried rows of uniforms standing to attention and went up to the Chief and the General, who were glowering and bushy browed under their peaked caps… the lackey whispered to me ‘he says come closer…’ so I nervously did so… Otis had by now fallen deeply asleep and was blithely unaware of the situation we were in. The Chief stepped forward, stared at me for a moment, then bent forward and peered into the buggy…

“baby baby baby!’ he barked, and tickled the O’s dangling tootsies whilst a huge gap toothed grin broke out across his formerly sullen visage…

Yes, it certainly does pay to have a baby in tow sometimes, I thought that evening as I watched TV footage of the King arriving (on our red carpet!), and our new best friends, the General and the Chief of Police flanking him during the Ceremony …

tons of sobs

Free were a truly great band, were they not? In the field of contemporary rock music (sound of large plug of partially-chewed tobacco being expectorated into highly resonant spitoon) we have become so used to digital sound and production with its exaggerated top end frequencies and the tendency of producers to strive for the totally polished and unreal sound that we have forgotten that the best music is often made from several people in a room playing off one another, circling each other like predatory cats planning the kill… and when it comes together… yes!
Free were the masters of space – not space the final frontier, but space the… well, space the space between us all. Absolute epitome of the oft quoted dictum, it’s not what ya play, it’s what ya don’t play, they knew when to lean back and simply let the atoms and molecules hum along. When in the yUK I bought the soundtrack to ‘Life on Mars’, which contains a more than fair smattering of classic 70’s tracks. Of course they are remastered, which means that every cymbal ping slices the eardrum like a Mach 3 Turbo Extra Plus Superglide or-whatever-the-hell-it-is slashes through the morning stubble (legs or face, whatever fits the bill, ladies or gents), but the sheer quality of the source material transcends the modern Frankenstein studio mangling. Sitting in amongst the many gems (Lindisfarne – ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ – more genuine warmth than your grannie’s hotplate when she was making griddle (or, as we used to say in Caithness, girdle) scones) is ‘Little Bit of Love’ by Free. Critics say that Free were past their best by then, but Pshaw! What do critics know? Get a hold of it (preferably on vinyl) and listen… listen to the sound of mastery of space – every note counts, every note in its right place… and Andy Fraser… he’s up there with the Jack Bruce’s, Paul McCartney’s and Raymond Henderson’s of this world – what a bass player! Most of the track HE DOES NOT EVEN PLAY! I’m even inclined to forgive Paul Rogers for hanging out with Queen and Paul Kossof for dying young. Simon Kirke’s drumming has that lazy 60’s just behind the beat feel down pat (and this was the 70’s, natch!), someone (probably Rabbit) remembers to occasionally hit a piano in the same key and the whole earmelting liquid gold that oozes from the speakers just wants to make me rush out into the street wearing an ‘I’m with Stupid’ T-shirt and a pair of frayed 28-inch bottom loon pants. Yeah!

(but what would the monks say…)

I’m going through a re-evaluation of who and where I am musically (don’t worry world, this is only taking place inside my own head) – I was astonished the other night when Otis (7 months and crawling/standing now – look out civilisation, your end is nigh!) and I were watching the Cream reunion DVD – what an exciting life we expats lead! – he sat absolutely transfixed by 7 minutes or so of Ginger Baker’s drum solo… something I confess I find slightly hard to do even now… but sometimes, as the Byrds say, it’s really worth Goin’ Back…
regular readers can probably expect to find more of this ‘pointless nostalgia’ in the weeks and months to come, but for now, well, you’ll have to excuse me for a few minutes (or one side of an LP) for I feel a psychedelic twelve-bar improvisation coming on…

Things to set the scene:

Cheesecloth Shirt
denim loons
army/navy greatcoat
patchouli oil
pewter pendant
t-shirt with scoop neck and bell sleeves, with mushroom print
afghan jacket

all the above could be purchased at Lorna Humphries wee hippy shop, next to George Downie’s, High street, Thurso… but only in the 70’s…

soundtrack… Bodie and Leo and Paranoya (those who know will know…)

more next time, maybe…