Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Life Of Riley

Watching Ian Broudie on Sky's Songbook series I started thinking about what could have been, if only...

I wanted to learn the guitar in my middle teens. I got a cheap second hand semi-acoustic and my dad's mate from work (not the one who taught me to play tennis) out of the kindness of his heart gave me some lessons. He was a lovely bloke, small, slight of frame, with long red hair. He was into melodic rock and singer songwriters and played in a band which did covers of the hits of the day

I was at that age when I was very open to suggestion when it came to music. Yes were what my friends at school liked so I did, too. But there was no way I could play like Steve Howe, not in a million years.

So my guitar teacher showed me a few chords, basic strumming. And within a few weeks he got me a big notebook in which he wrote down the lyrics to some songs with the chord changes in the appropriate places. I could pretend I was Bob Dylan or James Taylor or Neil Young. We even did a duet doing Bad Company's Feel Like Making Love which was a bit strange as I wasn't ready for any of those shenanigans.

I enjoyed being taught but it wasn't much of a revelation to me. All I could do was strum and sing which got a bit boring after a while. I started writing my own songs which were rubbish. I knew they were but it was something to do to take my mind off the horrors of study.

Now, watching Ian Broudie and reading Rip It Up And Start Again I realise what could have been. If only I'd had an older brother or sister into cool music. If only I'd had some arty mates who wanted to make future music. If only I'd been brought up in Manchester or Liverpool or Sheffield or gone to art school in bloody Watford! I was in the wrong place at the right time.

Not that Ian Broudie ever wrote good songs. He just strums and writes rubbish, just like I did.

For Ian's tips on how to become a musician (including how to be in the right place at the right time, go here).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Full Circle

Yes, more digs, I'm afraid.

In this week's Socialist Worker there's an in-depth article on online social networking, saying how it is the antithesis of socialism and how the lack of actual real social interaction in today's society is part of a capitalist conspiracy designed to alienate the middle classes from the working classes, keeping them in their own cliques, making them less likely to fight the Nazis and the capitalists on the streets, less likely to hold Socialist Worker placards at protest marches, less likely to fight for the right to work of the common man or woman, placated by videos of cats being abused by their cruel owners and lost in a world of masturbatory self-centred blog posts about their sad unpolitical lives.

For some time I have been sick and tired of the reactionary and wooly liberal broadsheets taking a pop at my friends and our hobbies but now the Left's blustering bullies have their foot in the door I am beginning to find the whole thing a farce of Brian Rix proportions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Question Of Etiquette

When talking to friends and family about another man, I use the term "bloke". As in "There's a bloke on the train who gets right on my tits." Or "He's a nice bloke." Or "The bloke's a wanker."

But things are different in a work situation. I can't say "The bloke from the bank rang back about direct debits."

I can't say "guy" because I'm 47 and English.

I can't say "man" because I'd sound like a child.

So I end up saying "chap". I sound like a Royal.

I don't like it and I'd never say "He's a jolly nice chap," but what else do I call these people?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Bloke In MVC: An Apology

He's probably forgotten about it but the memory of it is haunting me.

A couple of years ago, CD and DVD shop MVC was closing down. All stock was for sale at knockdown prices. Of course, I filled my boots. You don't look a gift horse in the mouth (yes, I did buy some Joni Mitchell).

I was umming and aahing over the Jah Wobble anthology. I wasn't overly keen on him though I did enjoy a 12" he did with Holger Czukay and of course the Public Image stuff is fantastic.

So I thought "sod it" and took it to the counter.

The assistant looked at me with horror. "Good choice," he said, but didn't leave it at that.

"I honestly didn't think anybody was going to buy it," he said. "I'd made sure it wasn't easy to find. And I would never have believed in a million years that somebody in Bexleyheath would want to buy a Jah Wobble album."

He wanted it for himself. The shop was closing down, he was losing his job and I was taking his only compensation.

I felt awful. But I didn't stop him scanning the barcode, didn't stop him taking my card. My signature was unwavering and confident.

I played the CD when I got home. Apart from the Public Image stuff and the one track with Holger Czukay, it was shit.

I played it again last week. It was still shit. And I felt the guilt rise up in me. And it won't go away.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A BRIT of Alright

The winners of the BRIT Award For Outstanding Contribution To Road Safety, The Pet Shop Boys, were running through a medley of their songs, old and new.

"They're alright," I said to Betty. "But I prefer Suicide."

OK, I know it's not like comparing the Beatles and the Stones or the Pistols and The Clash, but I knew what I was getting at.

So glad to see Iron Maiden win Best British Live Band, not because I think they're any good or because they were the one band shortlisted I have seen live, but because the serious, heartfelt acts like The Verve, Coldplay and Elbow were beaten by votes from a devoted fanbase who follow their heroes purely to be entertained, not to feel at one with the singer onstage, having an intimate, sincere moment with Ashcroft or Martin or Garvey. Iron Maiden may be shit rock 'n' roll but at least they do rock.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Trouser Trouble

Middle aged spread creeps up on you. I thought I was fine wearing my 34 inch trousers. Then it was time to buy a new pair and I realised the old ones had stretched quite a bit.

Wrapping the tape measure round my waist is dispiriting. It's one of those metal measures you use for measuring your living room or your dick. "12 inches but I don't use it as a rule!"

38 inches, though! I don't look it. To look at me you might say 34 or 35. But 38?

So I shop for some 38" trousers. Short leg. Fucking hell, I'm like Danny DeVito!

But 38's too loose. I try on a pair of 36s. I have to breath in and they're too tight around my bulging, muscular thighs and my perfectly proportioned arse. So I buy the 38s with a belt.

Trouble is, the holes in the belt are in the wrong places. Either too tight or too loose. So I make a hole with a screwdriver and a pair of scissors.

Not bad. But with my light blue shirts, if I walk any distance my trousers start to fall down. It's fucking embarrassing to keep pulling them up when I'm walking. You see, the light blue shirts are made of thinner material than the others. There's not enough bulk around my middle. Either I need to feed myself more or I need to get some braces. I can't wear braces! This is not fucking Gordon Gecko or Mork and Mindy, this is 21st century business!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Twitter Ye Not!

I'm having a bit of a blogging break, just getting into the Twitter thing that's sweeping the nation because everybody wants to arselick celebrities like Fry and Ross.

Well, I wouldn't recommend any of the celebrity ones. They're deadly dull. Except for Calvin Harris (oh come on, you know Calvin Harris!), who makes me laugh. Musicians have always been more entertaining than so-called comedians.

Anyway, I'm over here and Betty's over here if you want a peek. If you haven't joined yet, come and join us (as the Salvation Army officer said to the actress).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Too Much Too Young

There is an outcry amongst good-thinking people about the 4ft tall 13 year old father who got his 15 year old girlfriend pregnant "during a night of unprotected sex". A whole night? A 13 year old whose voice hasn't broken? That's pretty good going. I bet he was a sensitive lover, too. And I bet he needed some deep-voiced Barry White soul to set the mood.

Then I read that he's from Eastbourne. And it all kicks into place.

Say you're a young boy on your first walk to the front at your seaside home town. What should be an exciting fun-filled day is totally spoiled by the sight that greets you on the prom. Thousands of motorised wheelchairs, driven by 95 year old 1 m.p.h. maniacs and stationary contraptions containing what my mother kindly describes as "the waxworks", staring into nothing but God's endless gullet.

A young boy experiencing this would vow to never get old, to get the stuff of life over as quickly as possible, become a grandfather at 26 and leave a young, good-looking corpse!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Plutonium Blondes

There's a battle going on in my head. Two songs I heard this week, each song just once, one on the tv, one on the radio. One I hate, one I love.

I wake up with the one I hate going round my head. I try to force the one I love to come to the fore. But the one I hate is always there, gnawing away.

The eighties.

So much to answer for.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Football Is The Loser

It was a sad day for English football when Peter Shilton took Bobby Moore's record for the most number of England caps. But he WAS a goalkeeper and DID play into his late fifties and Ray Clemence WAS shit so I wasn't completely surprised.

But yesterday was an even sadder day as David Beckham equalled Bobby's record for an outfield player.

Bobby was a footballing god. The coolest, calmest footballer ever to put on an England shirt. He could read forwards' intentions so quickly he knew what they were going to do before they did.

Beckham is a one trick pony. He has a sweet right foot. He can cross a ball in open play and he is very good at set pieces. But he is no Brooking, Hoddle or Gascoigne. He doesn't take your breath away with his dribbling or quick thinking defence splitting passes. He is good at what he does but what he does is very limited.

He prostitutes himself in the media. He bores us senseless with his family pictures and his meat and two veg bulging in his girly white pants like gobstoppers in a greedy boy's cheeks. His tattoos and hairstyles have been laughable. His boots are like ballet pumps. In fact he wear a tutu on the pitch. He prances up and down the touchline, lifting his skirt when an opponent comes near him, pulling his girly pants up as high as he can. As he prepares to take a free kick or a penalty he lifts his skirt in front of the opposition's wall or goalkeeper, pulls his pants up over his manhood, lifts his penis and displays his clean shaven golden balls, freshly painted along with his finger and toenails in the changing room before the match. It is blatant gamesmanship, which namby pamby referees nowadays ignore as it is all part of the "modern" game.

Beckham is not fit to lace Bobby's boots.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brain Food

From today's Metro...

The Mediterranean diet may be good for the brain as well as the body. Eating the way people do in southern Italy can help reduce the risk of an elderly person's mental decline turning into Alzheimer's disease.

High consumption of white bread, ham, cheese, pizza, tiramisu and ice cream, plenty of strong coffee and forty cigarettes a day could cut the risk of developing the ailment by half, according to researchers at New York's Columbia University Medical Centre.

"Well, fuck me," said sufferer Arthur Grinley, 87 from Haywards Heath. "If I'd known about this fifty years ago I wouldn't have been a bleedin' brown ricer for most of me adult life."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lay, Lay, Delay

How bloody naive am I? Watching The Doors live from 1968 on Sky Arts the other night I was wondering where the bass player was. Was he hidden backstage? It took me ages to work out that Ray Manzarek was playing the bass lines on his keyboard.

Of all the sixties bands, only the Beatles outdid The Doors in the classic albums stakes. Six great albums with Jim at the helm. That's some going in only five years.

Sky Arts are also giving us the Classic Albums series. The Band's The Band was one. Not a classic album, really (you could maybe cobble one together with its best songs and the best from Music From Big Pink). But me and Betty both like The Band and whenever they're mentioned we always seem to get onto the Bob Dylan question.

You see, Betty doesn't really *get* Bob Dylan. She likes a few songs and liked his drug addled performance from the 1966 tour. But that's about it. I almost *get* him. I don't understand the lyrics but love the songs and what he does with them.

Which makes me think that there are lots of different ways that people react to Bob Dylan. You can like his songs, but only done by other people. You can like his lyrics but not his songs, in the same way I like Leonard Cohen. You can like his acoustic stuff but not his electric stuff like the bloke who shouted "Judas!" Or you can like his electric stuff but not his acoustic stuff like I did up 'til last year. You can like everything he's ever done, including the latter strangled voice stuff. Or you can just like his 60s and early 70s stuff, like me. Of course, he could give you the absolute creeps and you'd rather stick knitting needles in your ears or listen to Trout Mask Replica on repeat for 48 hours. You could think the young Bob Dylan was sexy. Or you might prefer the young John Taylor from Duran Duran.

Only in the last case would I question your sanity.

So what about it? Where do we stand on the Bob?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bollocks To Them All

Claire Rayner on Comment Is Free, demanding her mates a say on Thought For The Day.

Just a few points, Claire.

1. "Yet the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, representing the 46% of the British population who belong to no religion..." No you do not. You represent yourselves. Don't bring me into it.

2. "The BBC can't claim it is offering what most people want. The secular society points out that its 46% of the population is more than all the minority faiths put together." If the BBC just offered what most people want, imagine how shit its programmes would be. One of the good things about the BBC is that they cater for minorities.

3. "Among Today's 6.6 million listeners there could be considerable interest in secular humanism. They need to know about groups where they could feel at home." For heaven's sake, Claire, do you really think people listening to Radio 4 who have an unnatural obsession with not believing have never heard of the BHA?

By the way, Claire. When Thought For The Day is broadcast, at 7.45 a.m. I'm either just about to board a train or taking a couple of paracetamol in bed. I couldn't give a toss what's on the radio. But I'd rather listen to Thought For The Day than the presumably secular Chris Moyles Show. Just.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Revenge Of The One-Eyed Scotsmen

Clarkson, I'm watching you.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dead Of Night

At 2 o'clock this morning, Lord Tebbit rose from his coffin and spoke into his dictaphone, accusing the BBC of double standards after the corporation had sacked Carol Thatcher from The One Show after she had referred to a tennis player as a "golliwog" in the green room.

"It seems very odd that (Jonathan) Ross can be back broadcasting having made obscene insulting remarks on the air, and Carol Thatcher, who said something which is ALLEGEDLY highly offensive BUT WHICH I RATHER DOUBT WAS MEANT TO BE SO, in private, should be banned. It is probably a bit of a way for the BBC to get back at Carol's mother."

Speaking as a licence payer, Norm (as I'm sure you'd want me to start), now the annoying bitch has proved herself to be racist I never want to see or hear her on the BBC ever again. If the BBC had wanted to get back at Carol's mother they would hardly have employed the twat in the first place. And no, I don't like cricket, but if I did I'd support the West Indies just to spite you, you small-minded little Englander prick of a man.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Highlights Of A Weather-Enforced Day Off Work

1. Loose Women. Geoffrey Hughes advertising the two-hander he's in at the Oldham Coliseum. Yes, a two-hander at the Oldham Coliseum, missus! Carol McGiffin, 48, (from Maidstone, like Chicory Tip) showing off her engagement ring like a stupid teenager. Carol was previously married to Chris Evans so let's hope she's developed taste in men over the years.

2. The BBC News and the commuter who was angry at the authorities' lack of response to the snow. "There are no gritters! It's like a third world country!" Would any of you like to suggest which third world country the South East of England resembles?

3. A search on my blog for "Lennie Peters and The Krays". "Sounds like a band," said Betty. Probably one that would play the Dirty Water Club.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Lederhosen Ones

Maidstone's finest, Chicory Tip are the Christmas regulars at the village hall my mum and stepdad occasionally frequent. On Saturday, though, it was the turn of a "German" oompah band.

One of my dad's favourite old phrases was "Oompah! Oompah! Stick it up your joompah!" Which is what I'd say if I were invited to such an event.

The oompah night started off well with cold meats and apple strudel for afters, but degenerated into audience participation and the wearing of silly hats. Six people on my mum's table were really getting into it, loudly banging their licked-clean spoons in time with the music, downing the brandy and cokes like there was no tomorrow.