Saturday, 21 October 2017

Black Hole

I recently enrolled on a screenwriting course. Last Wednesday evening was week three of an eight week introduction to learning how to develop characters, fine tune stories, dialogue, plots & subplots and generally getting an insight into turning an idea into a fully formed, all singing all dancing, script.

We're looking at a lot of films (full length and shorts), covering a lot of genres and in so doing trying to bottle that elusive spark that will ultimately give birth to the complete package - something that can then
be pitched to film makers. That's the theory, anyway! Me and my other nine cohorts are under no illusions; whilst we all enjoy writing and are bristling with ideas, the chances of us getting a script picked up by Hollywood is as remote as a lottery win.

Some of the films we've looked at contain little or indeed no dialogue. The Black Hole is a case in point. This five minute gem is near perfect. It had a budget of less than $5,000 and is the real deal. Forget what I said about Hollywood earlier - if I came up with something this good, I'd be a happy man. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Every now and again Netflix throws up something so random, yet at the same time so utterly compelling and so bloody watchable, that you would never - for a minute - think of unsubscribing.
The Good Place is sublime. The concept is simple, yet throws in subtle twists just for fun. Imagine dying and going to the good place, only to find out there's been a glitch: you're not meant to be there. You were destined for the bad place. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in the afterlife gone awry. The script fizzes (as does Ms. Bell) and leaves you wondering what makes frozen yoghurt, clown paintings and sink holes so attractive. And, try like fork, it's impossible to swear. As you can probably gather, I love it.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Grass Man

My friend Adele feels the same way about gardening as I do: there's only one thing worse than gardening, and that's people talking about gardening.

However, a garden without grass is one thing, but a world without grass is unthinkable. Say hello to the Grass Man.

Whilst Adele was with us this weekend we went to see Dodgy in a little club in town. As usual they were on fine form. Unusually, however, they were without Matthew their drummer. He was moonlighting.

But they did play this. Obviously.

Dodgy: Grassman

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

I'm climbing up ladders, and sliding down snakes

Lat night night was choir night. We're getting there, slowly building our, ahem, repertoire: softly softly, catchee monkey.

So, alright, we're not quite match fit yet; not the finished article, but we're not far off. We could do with strengthening at the back - a couple of strategically placed flyers dotted around NG5 (I'll drop a few off in Doctor's Orders and Kraftwerks) should, with a bit of luck, yield an extra vox or two.

We're quite an eclectic bunch who are always on the look out for new material. We've already had a go at couple of my songs and, I think, this one suits our voices. We've sung it both a capella and with me on the guitar and everyone singing the chorus & harmonies. Both work well, but we'll get a definitive version nailed in the next week or two. In the meantime, here's my demo:

Sunday, 8 October 2017

M is for Macca

In a perfect world my house would be adorned with Morgan Howell's artwork. If you're not familiar with the name, I'm sure you've seen his Super Size Art all over the place. His depiction of vintage record sleeves is frighteningly  real - right down to every last tear, crease and crumple.

Back in January 2014 I asked Morgan if he wouldn't mind doing a quick Q&A for my blog. Four years later and I was knocking on his front door again. 'You know this Swedey McSwedeface craze that's sweeping the nation?' I asked...

Fair play to Morgan, he embraced the project both willingly and enthusiastically. I extend my warmest thanks to him. Again.

"I was a Beatles obsessive as a child and they had split by the time I was 5. So I reckon it would have been Wings Band on the Run. Not very cool, but hey. And yes I still have it."

Macca: Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five

Saturday, 7 October 2017

J is for Herbie

For the sake of today's post title, I was really hoping Hancock clocked in at 30 mins

Another day, another Swedey McSwedeface. It was only a matter of time till the Number One Son wanted in on the action. As he says himself, below, if this was 'My First CD', it would have thrown up something very different.


As I recall, this is meant to be the "first LP bought with your own money", and this is that. 

This is 5 years or so into my record buying/acquiring life, but all of those were CDs, and the majority were birthday presents or pocket money purchases. A mix of peer influence and your advice had worked me through the likes of Blink-182, NOFX, Sabbath, and Zeppelin up to then, all on small shiny discs. 

By the time I was 16 I was studying Monday to Friday in the city, and working there at weekends too. As a borderline pretentious literature-reading, arthouse-viewing teen, I bought a turntable and made the most of the jazz exposure I'd received through both you and my piano mentor, Steve, and fully embraced the world of fusion with this epic. Bass clarinet, Fender Rhodes, and a funny time signature or two set me on the road to the kind of musical madness I take for granted to this day. 


Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi (1971)

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

R is for Slade

Sladey McSladeface

Full bodied
Riggsby and I go back a long way: a very long way. We met at school in, I'm guessing, 1973 and were friends right from the get go. We discovered a lot of stuff for the first time together - you know the sort of things - sex and drugs and rock and roll, to name but three. Even though he now resides in Southern California, we still keep in regular contact. And I know he reads my blog.

Cue today's email from him; I actually read it first this morning whilst simultaneously wiping the sleep from my eyes and cursing the alarm. If you're familiar with Swedey McSwedeface, it will all make perfect sense. If not... where have you been?!"

Hi John,

This is a fun idea. "Slade Alive" was (one of) the first album(s) I bought, and one I listened to many times. Their version of 'Born to be Wild' was my favourite track. In the early days of record buying, I also bought Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" I am embarrassed to say. Happily, I did not hold onto that one. I got in the music paper Sounds with Electric Ladyland because I bought a copy that was warped, but the record store closed down and I was unable to exchange it. A very nice person at Sounds arranged for a flat copy to be sent to me.

Of the original albums I still have, I treasure the DAMNED particularly.

All taken in the kitchen, as requested. How's that?

Now with tongues

How's that? It's bloody marvellous, that's what it is. Thank you Riggsby - this one's for you:

The Damned - New Rose (1977) 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

C is for Clash

I received a lovely email earlier today from C over at Sun Dried Sparrows. I'm sure she won't mind me reprinting it here - though I have taken her full name off the bottom!

Hi John 

Hope all is good with you! It was a lovely idea you had to gather some more 'Swedey McSwedeface'* shots from fellow bloggers recently. If you're still on the lookout for some, then here's mine! I finally managed to track down a vinyl copy of this, the first album I ever bought 40 years ago. Sadly I got rid of the original a long time ago to replace with a CD, kinda wish I'd kept it now, just for posterity. This one's not the same issue - I distinctly remember 'The Clash' being printed in a vibrant orange, practically fluorescent, whereas it's red here - but I paid under a tenner for it and it was lovely to be reminded of it full-size. If only it wasn't so tatty (mine was well-loved but well-kept too) and didn't smell like a damp cellar, where it's probably been for the last 40 years. I'll never forget hearing Janie Jones for the first time when I asked them to put Side One on in my local record shop, Startime. I'd saved up my pocket money for months. I just had to have it.

Thanks and all the best 


Here's a version of Janie Jones that caught my eye recently. I hope it meets with C's approval.

Pris - Janie Jones

* In case anyone doesn't know what a Swedey McSwedeface is.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Ex Pistol

Steve Jones, one time Sex Pistol and perennial tearaway has, as they say, burned the candle at both ends for much of his adult life. These days he can be found at KLOS 95.5 on the FM dial in Los Angeles, where he presents Jonesy's Jukebox. It's a simple format: every weekday lunchtime, for two hours, he plays the records he wants to play, and invites guests on to the show he wants to talk to. Past alumni have included Jack Black, Johnny Depp, Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne, John Lydon, Brian May, Courtenay Love and many many more.

The tunes are imperious, the conversation is relaxed and you can see that his rough edges have ever so slightly been smoothed out: he's mellowed. That's what moving from Shepherd's Bush to LA does to you; though he still doesn't suffer fools.

Jones has grown into, whether he likes it or not, an elder statesman of the punk generation. He's come a long way from the awkward spotty oik who swore openly at Bill Grundy on live tea time TV in Britain in the late seventies.

Here he is playing some beautiful Spanish guitar, jamming with Phil Collen from Def Leppard (please don't let that put you off) and making a lovely sound - fast forward to 9:40 if you don't want the preamble.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Be Careful, There's a Baby in the House

Uncle John

T minus 7
Little Sailor
Thomas Freddie George was born on 6 September at quarter past seven in the morning. The little fella weighed in at 7 lb. - 11.5 oz. and is everything proud parents Emma and Adrain could have wished for. And then some.

Today I made my first return visit to Yorkshire since emigrating four months ago to go and see him. And, as you can see, he's absolutely adorable. Emma passed him to me for a cuddle and he fell asleep in my arms almost immediately. I have this effect on people.

No caption required

This is for Emma and Adrian:
Loudon Wainwright - Be Careful, There's a Baby in the House


Sunday, 24 September 2017

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Prompted by a couple of Phill Jupitus tweets last night, I've been carrying a whole bunch of XTC tunes in my head since I woke up at the crack of sparrows this morning.

I can't remember a time when XTC haven't featured on a mixtape/CD compilation/playlist at sometime or other in the forty years I've been knocking these things out. Beginning with Statue of Liberty🗽 back in 1977, the bunch of cheeky misfits from Swindon have written and produced some of the most intoxicating, quintessentially English, pop music spanning nearly four decades. The fact that Andy Partridge called time on their live career in 1982 due to crippling stage fright, never stopped them from hunkering down in the studio and consistently churning out magical album after magical album.

I'm sure everyone has their favourite favourite XTChoon they can't live without; with so many to chose from, it can only ever be a transient trio. I told Mr. Jupitus that Dear God, Grass and I'd Like That would be my first three out of the starting blocks. @FurryCanary commented that they formed a pleasing narrative arc; I never saw them like that, but I guess they do. I then remembered I'd nearly forgot The Meeting Place. Written by Colin Moulding it's probably the band's finest hour - from what is certainly their finest album.

I absolutely adore this quirky instrumental cover*. In fact it would be well at home in the little Folk club I belong to. Can you have a sea shanty without words. Or sea? An XTC shanty, perhaps.

Or if that doesn't float your sea vessel, how about this cracking lounge version of Senses Working Overtime?  It looks like it was recorded at a Route 66 roadside diner somewhere in Southern California. Further from Swindon and the miserable M4 I'd say it's impossible to get. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...

* After having listened to it again several times over breakfast, it puts me in mind of the Camberwick Green/Trumpton/Chigley soundtracks. I'll get my coat...

Saturday, 23 September 2017

I think I needed it just a little bit more than you

I mentioned the gig at the Bodega a couple of weeks back with Ryan McMullan. As good as he was, and he was, I think the young lad supporting him matched him punch for punch. Ryan probably shaved it on points; but he didn't have a song in his set half as good as this.

Travis sang 'Needed It' a cappella that night from the front of the stage, totally unplugged. And such was the respect shown to all the musicians on the bill that night, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop when he played this.

Travis is a Tourist: Needed It

Monday, 18 September 2017

Get Lucky

The Daftness

You're an English rock band from the East Midlands: Derby, to be precise. You release an album and get a bit of interest, but gigs dry up and the record company lose interest; you can't get arrested. What to do?
Move to LA, of course! Put out a catchy single, get it played on every FM station from the Eastern Seaboard to the West Coast and perform it on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to a TV audience of kajillions. Then watch the offers pour in to open for the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Foo Fighters...

And, what won't do any harm, record a tasty (very tasty) cover and shoot a stylish promo film for it in black and white. In a pub. In Derby.

The Struts: Get Lucky

They say their influences are Queen, The Darkness, Aerosmith and the Stones. No shit, Sherlock.