Sunday, 18 March 2018


Martina & Alfons - Prague 2018

On my last night in Prague I met Martina. And Alfons. Martina wanted to take my photograph. Not an issue; though I can count the number of times that's ever happened to me in a bar on the fingers of one hand.

Alfons, her adorable 12 month old black labrador, Martina told me, is named after Alphonse Mucha, the celebrated (and much copied) Czech Art Nouveau painter.

I then, of course, had to take her photograph. Unfortunately we didn't exchange contact details, so she'll probably never see this.

The footage below is quite amusing, if only for the presenter's suit and waxed moustache. But it gives you an idea of Mucha's place in art history - even his 'throwaway' advertising posters command silly money.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Very Fabric

Liberty Bridge (taken from Buda) 
It will come as no surprise to you that more than a few beers were consumed on my recent Eastern European jaunt. They like their lagers over there - which, personally, I can take or leave* - but coming up on the inside rail is a burgeoning craft beer scene that is certainly giving Euro-fizz a run for its money. That coupled with the fact that Budapest, our first stopover, is, officially, the cheapest place in Europe to drink beer and, all of a sudden, it's Game On!

Budapest is a tale of two cities, quite literally: a city divided by the Danube: conservative and classical Buda on the East Bank bank and, over the water, Pest (where we were staying) - busy, buzzing and bourgeois (as one of the guides I picked up described it).

Basic Bár (aptly named) was a smashing little find tucked away in the Jewish Quarter. Selling locally brewed Hungarian beers (a great range of IPAs, cherry beers & dark beers) with luxuriant electronica (they love house music as much as they love lager, seemingly) booming out to its Bohemian clientele - not a tourist in sight, it really was the perfect spot.

In his broken English** the barman was able to tell me in words of one syllable just how good his beers were (and they were) and that he piped in John Digweed's "Transitions" (his London radio show/podcast) every week for his discerning punters. This was the one playing when we were in.

It took me back to the plethora of Fabric CDs I own - many with Digweed remixes - and Saturday nights in particular back at Medd Towers in the early noughties when I took charge of the decks and cooking (knobs and hobs) with Digweed, Sasha et al creating the perfect soundtrack to the best homemade pizzas in town, bar none.  Ask anybody.

* With the exception of Pilsner Urquell Dark which hit the spot later in the week in Prague
** Still way better than my Hungarian

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Trains and Boats and Planes

Budapest 47.4979° N, 19.0402° E 
Sat, Sun, Mon

The bags are packed. The taxi to the airport's booked. The cat's sulking1. Yep, time for a few days away.

Three nights in Budapest, a train journey on Tuesday across the Hungarian border to Prague: three further nights in the Czech Republic, and fly home next Friday. Should be good.

Tues, Weds, Thurs

No itinerary to speak of; nowhere to be at any set time - just a few nice beers to be drunk, an eastern European goulash or two and a bit of culture thrown in for good measure. I know there's a terrific  floating jazz bar2 on the Danube everyone raves about, so a couple of hours on board a boat listening to live music, with a drink in my hand - should tick all the boxes.

And, can I just say, I'm getting really excited about the six hour train journey - I absolutely love foreign train travel - the drinks trolley, a good book3 and just gazing out of the window; what's not to like?

I'm sure there'll be pictures and stories when I get back, but that's it for a few days.

Hamarosan találkozunk4

Burt Bacharach - Trains and Boats and Planes (1965)

1 Doris hates it when we go away; she'll be OK
2 Columbus Pub
3 The Chalk Man
4 See you soon

Friday, 9 March 2018

Johnny's always running around

Johnny & Mary Antonia*
As the excellent Mad Men slowly begins to exit stage left in front of my very eyes (86 episodes down, only six to go), I've been forced to seek solace in another Netflix boxset: Lovesick, starring the ever charismatic Johnny Flynn, is my kind of show. It's funny. It's sad. And it is, for the most part, believable; pretty much. All the characters and their back stories are interwoven perfectly - making it a real ensemble piece. The writing is slick and it's always on the button. So much writing these days, especially comedy writing, is a bit like tuning in an old radio - sometimes the reception is good, other times not so. Lovesick is consistently 'locked on'.

I won't give away any plot spoilers, but if you watch the 45 second trailer below it will, I'm hoping, pull you in. And please don't think it's in anyway akin to the Richard Curtis school of lazy, tepid Rom Com - it's way, way, better than anything Curtis could ever conjure up (with the exception of About a Boy, and, in any event, that was Nick Hornby). No, Lovesick is a genuinely very funny and moving show that will definitely keep you out of mischief for a while. I'm on Series 3 so will be a few lengths ahead of you if you do decide to jump in.

Oh, and did I tell you that the soundtrack is none too shabby either? Take a look.
The episode I've just watched had a quirky take on Robert Palmer's Johnny & Mary. It's by Todd Terje with guest vocals by Bryan Ferry. I know what you're thinking but, believe me, it does actually work really well. Palmer's quirky 1980 single has been slowed down somewhat and been given a slightly sinister coat of menace.

Bryan Ferry & Todd Terje - Johnny & Mary

* Johnny Flynn plays Dylan, Antonia Thomas plays Evie

Sunday, 4 March 2018

If you should pass by, be sure to drop right in

The first, and the best
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, about this piece of film I don't like. Every moment of its five minutes and 20 seconds warms my heart. Laundromat is taken from Rory Gallagher's eponymous  solo album released in May 1971. And this performance from Beat Club (a sort of German Whistle Test) was recorded shortly thereafter. As with most overseas performances by UK bands in the seventies, we never saw them; it's only recently, all these years later, that we've discovered what our idols were getting up to in Europe and America thanks to YouTube and the like.

Rather than frame a 250 words review of it, here are the headlines:

* Curly guitar leads, *so* 1971

* Rory wears double denim, and gets away with it

* His drummer wears his girlfriend's top, and he too, sort of, gets away with it. Just

* Rory's guitar looks like it's just been pulled from a burning building

* Tarot card backdrop

* Stack of orange amplifiers (though not Orange, but Stramp)

* He never looked better than he did in 1971; he would soon *fill out*

* Laundromat sits at the top table of the Side One, Track One Club

Rory Gallagher would have been 70 last Friday. He never even saw his 50th.

I'd like to dedicate this to Frank Johnson. It was he who pointed me in the direction of this album all those years ago. Cheers Frank!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs

Quite stylish
Frasier, the iconic hit TV show spin-off from Cheers, was first broadcast on NBC 25 years ago. It ran for 11 seasons and a staggering 264 episodes. And I loved every single one of them - it was certainly appointment TV at Medd Towers on Friday nights till it bowed out in 2004. That the show's main protagonist Frasier Crane was outshone every week by his younger, more pompous, brother, Niles (even after he got it on with Daphne) only added another layer to one of the most genuinely funny sitcoms ever to come out of America; or anywhere else for that matter.

Kelsey Grammer - Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs

Friday, 2 March 2018


All Medd Cons
Paul Weller was in town this week. For some reason I didn't fancy it; I'm kicking myself now.

I wonder if he played anything off All Mod Cons? You're probably aware that this year marks its ruby anniversary. Christ, where did the last 40 years go? (I can remember clearly the day I bought my copy) - the worrying thing being that 40 years prior the Second World War hadn't yet broken out. Stop the world I want to get off.

Anyway, you can keep Down in the Tube Station at Midnight and 'A' Bomb in Wardour Street - if I'd been at the Arena on Tuesday night I'd have asked him, politely, to "play that silly little poem you wrote when you didn't know any better." The words are naff, obviously, but it has a certain 1978 charm nonetheless. Chances are he'd have probably pretended not to hear me, but I think Fly would make any Weller Top 10 (there he goes with the lists again), don't you?

Paul Weller - Fly

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Let it Snow

It's snowing. But not just any old snow. Oh no - this snow has got a name. And a pretty scary name at that. They're calling it the Beast from the East. It's a Snowmageddon. This Siberian icy blast could be the death of us. Hell, it must be serious - we're being told to wrap our letterboxes with clingfilm. Man Alive.

So while the BBC goes into meltdown and bellows out warnings telling us all to stay indoors for the next six months, wear every garment of clothing we possess and wrap ourselves in electric blankets whilst licking our radiators, my friend Sharon stuck two fingers up to the weather today.

It may well have been minus 10 degrees today, but what the hell.

Windchill. What windchill?

                                  ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Altogether Now - AnthologEP

Altogether Now
The Web is awash with lists. Some might say saturated. Music websites, and blogs in particular, crave the condensing; the diluting and editing of anything and everything (and anybody) into a Top 10 - usually an artist or band's entire output boiled down to a rag tag bunch of songs that then has the word 'definitive' accredited to them. As if.

And none more so than the Beatles. To be fair they had a couple of stabs at it themselves. Once (A Collection of Beatles Oldies) while they were still kicking a ball, and two more (the Red & Blue double albums) when Macca realised that the revenue from Wings was hardly likely to keep a roof (or roofs, to be more precise) over his head. Then we had Anthology, of course, followed a number of years later by the unimaginative 1, before the joyous Love (take a bow Giles Martin) became, for many, the last word in Greatest Hits: the ultimate Beatles list, the Top 26, if you will.

But what of the Beatles solo material? Sure, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr have all been victims of record company hastily prepared compilations - individually. But nobody has put out the combined Greatest Hit compilation with all four of them sharing centre stage. Is such an eight-legged monster even capable of walking, let alone running into a record store and jumping up onto the counter?

And, to be fair, as big a Beatles fan as I am (have you seen just how many namechecks they get around here?), even I would doubt the validity of such a piece of nonsense.

Which is precisely why I am more than prepared to commit heresy and offer up before you not a Best Of album, but a Greatest Hits EP - four songs that capture the very being of the post-Beatles recorded output. And that was my only guiding principle - it had to have just four recordings on there; not even one of each. Any four. Any.

It's at this point that it dawns on me, not for the first time, that John Lennon didn't care much for being an ex-Beatle (George even less so). But John really struggled to achieve anywhere near the PB he set himself while he was with the Fab 4. He peaked creatively in 1966 and, with the exception of a couple of White Album pearls (you know the ones I'm talking about), Lennon was pretty much a spent force. And no, Imagine is not the Holy Grail everyone thinks it is: it's crass and it's insensitive. If I ever hear it again it'll be too soon. Lennon, for me, very nearly missed the cut altogether - George was going to have two on there, but thoughts of the subsequent hate mail, and the fact that Working Class Hero probably defines Lennon, means it kicks off proceedings on Side 1, Track 1.

Next up is the biggest slice of glam ever to come out of 1972. And it had some real competition too; Bowie, Sweet, Glitter. Not to mention Bolan whose fingerprints are all over Ringo's Back off Boogaloo. A great way to round Side 1 off with.

Flip our little EP over and you'll be met by George's greatest ever song. Better than Something. Better than that one about his weeping guitar; better, even, than Taxman. When George realised, quite early on, that the Beatles wouldn't even last until the seventies (let alone forever), he began stockpiling lyrics and melodies in his personal song bank. When he came to make a withdrawal in 1971 he had a perfectly formed triple album's worth. A real dark horse, wouldn't you agree? I so very nearly chose the title track, All Things Must Pass, but then came to my senses. I'd Have You Anytime is perfect. It knocks the other three songs on this fantasy project into an old brown shoe.

Macca will be furious he's been left till last. Good. I'd love to tell him that he's not all that. I'd love to tell him that every time I hear him sing Hey Jude I want to stab myself in the eyes with knitting needles. I'd also like to tell him that how he talks about John Lennon is mean spirited and churlish. Someone once asked 'Is it me, or are the Beatles dying in the wrong order?' I knew what he meant.
So, what's it to be then? What one song written and performed by James Paul McCartney will fade out into the run-off grooves?

Damn you Macca. How the hell did you come to write something so bloody perfect as Maybe I'm Amazed? I've gotta give it to you, it's genius.

So, there you go, four musicians' (well, three and a drummer) entire solo canon reduced to less than a quarter of an hour. Let's clap it in:


Side 1

1. John Lennon - Working Class Hero
2. Ringo Starr - Back off Boogaloo

Side 2

1. George Harrison - I'd Have You Anytime
2. Paul McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Never Going Back

It's been a very interesting week so far, and we're still only on Wednesday. My midweek bulletin board this week is threefold. I hope it doesn't come across too angry; the Post Office won't be letting me put any more notices in their window at this rate.

⚠️ M: I'm stubborn, always have been. And the older I get the more stubborn I become.
I won't reply to your email. I've already told you: I'm not coming back.

⚠️ To the nitwit trying to score a few cheap points questioning who bloggers write for. I can't speak for anyone else, but I write for me.

⚠️ I was home alone this weekend - Jenny went back to Pickering. Someone asked me if I was planning on going back anytime soon. Never.

Fleetwood Mac - Never Going Back Again

Friday, 16 February 2018

Maybe the next one is yours

Standing on a freezing cold platform the other night waiting for my train home, I found myself singing Pete Morton's beautiful song to myself; I'd had a drink, so can't vouch for whether I sang it in my head, or I really sang it. It could explain why nobody sat next to me in coach. I stayed awake anyway, that's the main thing. One of these nights/mornings I suspect I'll wake up in sidings in Sheffield. Or Leeds.

I know I've written about this song before, but, hey, my bat, my ball, my wicket. I've met Pete on a couple of occasions and he's one of the nicest fellas around. His songs move me (and I'd be surprised if I hadn't told him that on at least one occasion), none more so than this:

Pete Morton - Another Train

As a footnote, and after recently finding this bit of film, I may have to start a mini-series of singers who wear shirts to match their backdrop. What possessed Pete to wear a brown stripey shirt in the first place is one thing, but then to stand in front of a brown curtain for two hours...

This is for anyone who doesn't know where they're going at the moment - get on the next train. You know you want to.

Monday, 12 February 2018


Anna and Marie. Marie and Anna. Best friends. For Life. They met when they were both nine. That's gotta be 25 years in anyone's language.

They looked out for each other then, and they look out for each other now. I love them both.

They told me on Friday they're going to Ibiza. Fueled by gin, and both in charge of heels higher than your average skyscraper, it could get messy. I think they may need a chaperone - my rates are very competitive.

Dave Edmunds - Girls Talk

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Cry for Help

Karen Carpenter died 35 years ago this month. Her unique vocal stylings made the Carpenters one of the biggest selling acts of the 70s. There just aren't enough zeros on your calculator to comprehend how many kajillion records they shifted when they were at their peak. But Karen couldn't understand what all the fuss was about when their fans, and critics alike, would go into raptures about her phrasing, her timing and that sense of warmth and assurance you got every time she opened her mouth. "I'm just a drummer who sings" she once famously said. Yeah, right.

But the Carpenters were never hip; never a bedroom poster band. Your mum and dad liked them, for God's sake; that's how uncool they were. But, so what? It may have taken some of us a little longer than others to realise just how bloody good they were, but I think we're all on the same page now.

It's doubtful that they ever trashed any hotel rooms whilst on tour, even more doubtful that they will ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But their body of work has stood the test of time, nonetheless. Massive hits like Close to You, We've Only Just Begun and Yesterday Once More are revered; as is their interpretation of the Lennon and McCartney song book: Nowhere Man, Ticket to Ride and Help never sounded so lush.

Karen Carpenter's premature demise - she was only 32 when she lost her battle with Bulimia - has only magnified just what a unique gift she had. Hers is a tragic story interspersed with blinding moments of joy.

The Carpenters - Help!

I still can't get my head around singing drummers. It just looks so...wrong.

Karen Carpenter (1950-1983)