Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm no Eddie Windass

But my blue cheese scones are pretty good. I can't do pastry though, my hands are too warm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Labour of Love

No, not another post about UB40, I think I'd rather forget about them for a while.

It seems to have taken over my life for the past couple of months but I've finally posted the last in the series 50 Years Of Corrie In 50 Days over on the Coronation Street blog, ready to go live the day before the Corrie's 50th birthday. It was first conceived as an idea on the train back from Manchester after the 50th anniversary press party held on the Coronation Street set back in September. I don't think I had an inkling of the amount of work involved at the time. In fact I seem to remember that I thought it would only take me a couple of weeks to write a blog post to cover every year of the Street. The excess of J W Lees Coronation Street Ale must have muddled my thinking somewhat.

There was a lot of reading involved, researching of storylines, collecting of dates and searching out of pictures. Credit must go to the works of Daran Little, Sean Egan and Tim Randall, without whose books none of it would have been possible, and to all at corrie.net for lots of info on characters and dates. It's been a lot of fun to produce such an epic (for me anyway) piece of work and I don't think I could have done it for anything other than Corrie which has a very special place in my life. Without it, I wouldn't be as happy a chap as I am.

I need another project now, let's hope that it involves packing up the house and moving to Sunderland.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Signing Off

To the Forum (T & C as was) in Kentish Town last night to see UB40. It's the 30th anniversary of the release of Signing Off and they're celebrating the milestone with a tour in which they play the album in full before coming back on and doing some of their hits. It's become a popular format lately and I've been to a few similar gigs in the recent past, including Dare, Architecture and Morality, and It's a Shame About Ray.

They've all been good and the format has really worked but I think that's largely down to the fact that the albums that have been performed have been excellent and full of crowd pleasers. Unfortunately I don't think Signing Off qualifies in this respect. It's only got a couple of hits on it and it showed as the crowd didn't really get going until they played Food for Thought and then it all went rather flat again. The second half was a bit better but I was left wanting to listen to some proper reggae. I never had high expectations of the gig but even then, I came away feeling disappointed.

There should really have been some poignancy to the gig as the album was first released as a Tory government was in the throes of implementing a hate-filled, anti working class, anti anybody unlucky enough to be poor or vulnerable agenda and dressing it up as essential medicine for an ailing economy while ensuring that big business and bankers felt none of the pain. Thirty years later and we're here again but you'd never have guessed it from the attitude of the band who didn't even bother to engage with the audience on the obvious parallels that could have been drawn, They didn't even play One in Ten. Maybe they're all Liberal Democrats now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kirsty Karaoke

To Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night to see A Concert for Kirsty MacColl. Kirsty would have been 50 yesterday if only she hadn’t been killed by some rich twat in a boat off the coast of Mexico nearly 10 years ago.
The first and last time I ever saw Kirsty MacColl play live was in the same venue  about 10 years ago. She herself declared it to be about the best gig she’d ever done, largely due to her lack of nerves which had blighted her all through her career but on this tour she had her partner on stage with her and that seemed to do the trick.
She’s influenced so many people over the years that there were queues of artist wanting to sing at this benefit gig for Kirsty’s favourite charity, Music Fund for Cuba. We’d been promised Johnny Marr and David Gray, who failed to show up and inevitably Shane McGowan was lost in the bottom of a glass somewhere in Dublin when he should have been singing 'Fairytale of New York'.
But it didn’t matter as most of the stars who turned up for a night of Kirsty Karaoke did a brilliant job. I say ‘most’ as I don’t understand why a Corr was allowed on stage to murder ‘They Don’t Know’. Fortunately the organisers redeemed themselves by bringing on Kim Wilde later on to show her how it should be done. Great performances too from Alison Moyet, Billy Bragg (doing a cover version of one of his own songs), Jackie Clune (who knew she could sing), Eddi Reader, Boo Hewerdine, James Walsh, Catherine Tate and even Phill Jupitus.
It was left to a couple of members of Kirsty’s band to sum the night up. They’d clearly had a fantastic time and had enjoyed playing songs that they’d not done for a long time. Here’s hoping they get to play them again soon.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Save The Wenlock

I found out tonight that one of my favourite pubs is threatened with closure. Steve & Will have run The Wenlock Arms since 1994 but have decided to call it a day and an offer has been received from a developer. The sale is far from complete but it would seem that should the place be sold to a developer then the chances of it remaining a pub will be slim to none. It's been a pub since 1835 so it would be a great shame if this were to end.

I've been drinking in the place on and off since it was reopened in 1994, having worked nearby for much of the time. What intially drew me there was the great selection of well kept beer but it's more than a place just for real ale fans it is a true locals pub at the very heart of the community. For a several years I was a member of a works darts team that used the pub as its home venue and we were always made very welcome by the locals who felt that we were representing the pub as well as our office. Away teams loved the pub too, generally turning up early and staying on long after the match had finished to enjoy the excellent beer and atmosphere of the place.

The fight is on to Save The Wenlock and we can but hope that it is successful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unfunny observational comedy

A friend texted me last night. "Michael McIntyre, completely unfunny. How is he so popular?" I must admit to having hardly seen him on the telly despite his being so ubiquitous. So I flicked through the channels and found him. With hundreds of channels to choose from, it's a virtual certainty that he's on somewhere. He was doing a riff about hoovering. Apparently some people follow the hoover around the room and others stand in one place and move it backwards and forwards. This is funny?

I blame Peter Kay for making this kind of unfunny observational comedy popular. He's a great writer and Phoenix Nights is brilliant but when it comes to stand up (or sit down as it was on Paul O'Grady's new chat show on Friday night) I think he's lost it. Merely reciting the names of sweets and toys from the 70's is not comedy. If it was everybody could be a successful stand up comedian.

What about Top Trumps and Aztec bars, eh!

Now where's my Perrier award?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From A to Z

I've been making great progress spending more time with my music collection and less time with BBC 6 Music. I'm now down to just listening to the breakfast show and so largely avoid the repetitious hell of the playlist. This has been made a little easier with Lauren Laverne going off on maternity leave (good luck Auntie La La) though that situation may change when Huey Morgan from Fun Lovin' Criminals steps into the fray as her temporary replacement.

It's not as simple as it seems though. My music collection is fairly large despite being culled somewhat in the past couple of months, so the problem is what to listen to next. I can listen to all my favourite albums (and I have) but that doesn't do justice to all the other stuff that's there. Just because an album isn't on my ever-changing virtual all-time favourites list, doesn't mean it isn't worth listening to. There are some absolute gems in there that just never seem to fight their way into my attention. So how to go about picking what to put on the turntable or slide into the CD player?

Last week I worked my way through my vinyl albums using the alphabet as a method of selection, trying to pick things that I hadn't listened to for a while. All went well until I got to 'Q'. No Queen, Queens Of The Stone Age, Quintessence, Q-Tips or Quicksilver Messenger Service. So in the end it came down to a choice between an old dance single by DJ Quicksilver or searching out something by ? And The Mysterians, which I'm sure to have somewhere on a CD compilation. I went with the former as it was easy to find and it's on vinyl like everything else in the A to Z. See below for a list of the selections.

So, what next? After having a day or two of general browsing, I'm currently picking my way through eponymous albums on CD, for no better reason than there seem to be quite a few and I rather like the word 'eponymous'.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


It started about 4 years ago with Volver. We don’t go to the pictures that much but something about the film tempted us to walk to the end of the street, literally, to go and see it, despite it having subtitles. We loved it; the story, the performances, the comedy and probably most of all, the whole visual spectacle.
I needed more. As christmas approached, I spotted Pedro Almodovar Collection going cheap in HMV, so bought it as a ‘present’ for my lovely lady. We worked our way through those 5 films and then I spotted another collection I could buy as a ‘present’. In the meantime we’d also been to see Samuel Adamson’s wonderful stage version of All About My Mother at the Old Vic.

With 4 more great films watched the next collection was out in time for another ‘present’ buying opportunity. And then, eventually came another feature film, Broken Embraces. So that was 15 Almodovar films seen and though some of the early ones can be a bit rough and ready they’d all been worth watching and I certainly wasn’t tiring of his style. In fact the more I saw the more I loved them.

Were there any more?

A quick google and it transpired that there were only 2 more and as luck would have it another birthday was on the horizon so I ordered High Heels. With that watched, only Labyrinth Of Passion remained and it was on Amazon so I ordered it last week and it arrived today. I’ve no doubt it’ll get watched this weekend sometime. Or maybe as there’s no Corrie on Friday it will serve as a suitable alternative to some, probably, dire football.
So that’s it, after this weekend it will all be over until The Skin I Live In is released next year. I guess I’m going to have to watch them all again. In fact it’s probably worth watching them all again twice. As I don’t speak Spanish the one annoyance with watching Almodovar films is that I miss some of the visual feast as my eyes keep flicking to the bottom of the screen to read the subtitles. As to the other question that’s left hanging, anybody got any good present ideas?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I've just finished reading Good Morning Nantwich, Adventures in Breakfast Radio by Phill Jupitus. Mainly about his time as the inaugural presenter of the 6 Music breakfast show, it chronicles his love of radio from using the old radiogram at home to make weird noises through to him chucking in his dream job of chatting to people while playing records. It's a great read and I recommend it to anyone with a love of radio, especially anyone who, like me, was wont to talk out loud to an imaginary audience while changing singles on their old Dansette, alone in their bedroom as a youngster.

It highlighted a problem with many music stations which has been annoying me for a while. Why do radio stations employ people as DJs who have a deep love and knowledge of music and then foist a playlist on them? As I'm currently 'between jobs' I've been spending a lot of time recently listening to 6Music. I love the diversity of music you get, even during the daytime but it bugs the hell out of me that several times an hour I get to hear something that I just heard 3 hours ago on another program. Every single day. I couldn't count the number of times I've heard Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz in the past month. It's not a particularly great record, neither do I think it's a bad one either. Now I just think that it's an intensely irritating one due to its ubiquity on the country's premier radio station. It got so bad I was ready to throw the DAB out of the window.

I know I'm not the only one that gets irritated by this as shown by the 6 Music message boards but things do seem to be improving acccording to this recent Guardian article. Let's hope TPTB at 6 Music will listen to their, er, listeners and keep the variety. At least I can console myself with the fact that I don't have to put up with the monotony (and adverts) that constitute XFM nowadays. Leaving the music selection of every program completely up to the presenter is probably an ideal that can never be achieved in a controlling environment like the BBC (even less so at a commercial station) but a less heavy-handed approach to the playlist would be an improvement.

I've now decided to limit my listening to 6 Music a bit and will spend more time with my extensive record & CD collection and accept that 6 Music has made me a bit lazy. Since coming to that decision this morning I've already listened to some absolute gems: Belly, The Breeders, Ultravox (the John Foxx version), Talking Heads, Jimi Hendrix, Faithless and The Fall. I just hope I don't get too lonely without somebody talking to me every few minutes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Deep Dark Recesses

Let's start with some records. Here are the deepest darkest recesses of my record collection. Things may end up here for many reasons. 'The Boy With The Arab Strap', for instance, is here because I only like the title track and I hear it often enough on the radio that I don't need to play it myself. There's the worthy but dull and stuff I've just forgotten about and will require a frantic search when something jogs my memory and I need to listen to it.

I recently had a sort out and several unfortunate individuals have been culled because I think they're rubbish and will honestly never want to listen to again, ever. Some have been sold on ebay, attracting varying sums from 99p upwards. Others will end up at Oxfam. 'Spilt Milk' by Jellyfish was an album that I'd listened to a few times when I first bought it but didn't really 'get' and have tried again in the intervening years but it always struck me as rubbish. Fortunately others think different and it's just been sold for £60. If somebody had offered me 5 quid for it last week, I'd have bitten their hand off.

As more room has appeared elsewhere due to sales/disposal, it's probably about time I went through this lot again and extracted the goodies that have slipped out of view.

Also here are some very unfortunate souls. They're the old 12" dance singles I've been trying to sell but nobody wants to buy. There's nothing wrong with most of them, it's just that I'm probably never going to listen to them again and if I do, I've got it already on an album somewhere or I've got something similar that will fulfil the need.