Bam Bam and the Calling and The Gweedore

 

Way, way back in September 2015  an impressive response to a benefit gig for Syrian refugees provide a one-night-only chance to see the best of Derry’s musical community play live. So I made my first journey to Northern Ireland & what a night it was. The clincher was a rare appearance by Bam Bam & the Calling, the same 4 guys I had worked & played out with 30 years ago. They were good people to know & their band rocked, always had & still did. This week they reassembled to celebrate the Gweedore Bar, a touchstone for the city’s musicians, fans & drinkers who came of age in the 1980’s. It was Xmas, I had places to go, people to see, all of them a long way from Derry. These clips, from the set at the well-appointed Nerve Centre, show that I sure missed something.

 

Derry, indeed all of Northern Ireland in the 1980’s, was a different deal to mainland Britain. Those Troubles, troops & bombs & the shame-faced manoeuvres of political leaders who lacked the will to find a solution, were part of an everyday experience that needed somewhere to go to do good things like play & listen to music. I asked Joe Brown, bass player of Bam Bam & the Calling, for his memories of the Gweedore & an appreciation of its importance to the musically minded youth of his generation

 

 

 

For many of us The Gweedore Bar in the 1980’s was a safe zone. Back then Derry’s city centre  was a different place, other establishments  were  bombed out, burned out, under surveillance (from various factions involved in the conflict) or worse, transforming into a dodgy wine bar attracting people in pastel colours, home perms, no socks and linen jackets rolled up to the elbows…and that was just the blokes!!

 

The Gweedore itself back then was a dingy, dull hole, the faded decor untouched since the “glory days” of the early 70’s. The place was held together with beauty board, flock wallpaper,and the strong aroma of a new smell of something burning other than war. For all its dull outward appearance it was the most colourful, vibrant, comical, open minded, free thinking joint in the town, indicative of its patrons and staff and at the helm was its Captain.

 

Willie Barrett…everything flowed through Willie…he championed everything, from awaydays to see Derry City’s games, quizzes, darts tournaments and his influential starring role as “entertainments manager”. He took it on and became a mentor to every musician who played a note in that bar. The upstairs “lounge” became our very own CBGB’s/100 Club… Any list of the bands that played there would be a very long one & there would still be hundreds of faces & noises that we have forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Image result for the gweedore bar derryNational music magazines, record companies, A&R people, braved the “Troubles” to get a piece of what was becoming the most talked about live venue in the north..and still, the flock wall paper played a starring role…to this day people remember careers being launched/ended and launched again there… Bands came and went, emigrated, recorded, wrote songs, released records, helped one another out and became part of a scene that proved to be both innovative and inspiring.

 

In the new decade the music continued with new faces, longer hair, and t-shirts over baseball tops. There were new owners, redevelopment & wall paper strippers which cleaned up the joint & it was time to find somewhere else that would have us. The impact of those years still reverberates around Derry & further afield. It was a creative explosion of a different kind. In a city where life could be difficult the dirty Gweedore was a place where things could be said, arguments could be had & new music was created & appreciated. The Gweedore and its ethos will live forever…. SEE THE LOSERS IN THE BEST BARS, MEET THE WINNERS IN THE DIVES….(Neil Young “Sail Away”)



 

 

 

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage, people playing musical instruments, night and concert

photo © Lorcan Doherty Photography

OK Joe, “where the people are the real stars” yeah. Thanks Joe for remembering that & thanks too to Jim Cunningham for remembering to take his camera to the Nerve Centre. Jim’s clips capture a band of brothers with an undimmed passion to play the music they like & like they mean it. It’s great to see the award-winning animator John McCloskey onstage. John unfortunately missed the gig I attended, he knows how these songs go, his guitar adds muscle to the dynamic tension of the band. Bam Bam & the Calling keep the flame of big guitar music, Derry music, burning. This great photo of singer Paul Pj McCartney, a man of individual preference in shirts & immaculate taste in music, turning it up & leaving it on, makes me wish I’d been there for the reunion. Next time for sure.

 

 

 

 

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Getting Down With Joe Brown (2017)

Joe Brown, bass player of the Gatefolds, is a founding member of the Loosehandlebars karass & our original guest selector. This is the sixth time Joe has thrown his cat into the ring (?) & he has never steered us wrong. In 2017 I received great hospitality as a guest of the Brown family. It’s a house that buzzes with good humour & as all sound systems have the Bass turned up to 11, shakes with the fine, fine music.

 

This time last year too much time was spent listening to the music of those who had left us. For me 2017 sounds like a fresh new year with many contenders for a “best of” list. Before I get to my chosen 3 I must check for great albums by King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard  (all 4 or 5) of them, Sleaford Mods, Moon Duo (2 more), Derry’s own Invaderband and a great and uplifting double act that is Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett.

 

 

 

Image result for flatworms bandThis year it’s been a quieter house as our 3 sons have gone off to see the world. The noisier bands have filled some of the silence & replaced some of the energy. The buzzsaw punk of Los Angeles based Flatworms absolutely fits the bill. The trio have top ranking credentials having played with enough bands to fill the bill at the September Liverpool Psych Fest. “Motorbike” (click above), from their debut album is as short & sharp as something from the late 1970’s while the feedback drenched closing track “Red Hot Sand” is a most agreeable racket, Turn up your headphones for this one, your ears are meant to be ringing after listening to Flatworms.

 

 

 

Image result for idles bandBack on the proper side of the Atlantic it’s another loud bunch that have caught my ears. Idles are from Bristol & their LP “Brutalism” opens with the instantly arresting “Heel” & the declaration “No Surrender”, a phrase hollered by many an imbecile in this part of the world. Idles have their tongue in their cheeks & rammed down your throat at the same time. Post-Brexit Britain, the celebration of puritanism & philistinism, the effect of austerity in the inner cities, are no laughing matter & these jokers are direct, serious & angry. I’ve seen Punk purists knock Idles as “mock rock” but I’m not buying that. It’s affirming to hear the Spirit of 77 applied in such a modern, effective way. “The best way to scare a Tory is to read & get rich”…Well Done !

 

 

Related imageFinally a band I have loved for a long time, who have musically morphed on occasions but only when necessary and each manoeuvre has been masterful. Queens of the Stone Age have been in everyone’s sin bin after the deplorable onstage antics  of front man Josh Homme (for which he has deeply apologised and I’ll leave that for now). “Villains” is the first LP for 4 years, it’s a diverse collection spread over 3 sides of a double album, yes they included some ornate artwork on the fourth just to show off. Produced by Mark Ronson the riffs  & Homme’s searing vocal range are familiar. The menacing swagger of the Queens is spritzed with, dare I say it, a little glitz & glam. Certainly the feelgood hit of the Summer.

 

This Xmas Joe’s original band, Bam Bam & the Calling, are coming together for the first time in 2 years as part of a 1980’s reunion gig in Derry. I would love to be there but…it’s Xmas. If you are in the area of the Nerve Centre on the 27th of December you will be in for a treat & will hear just why the group deserve their legendary status in the city.

Danny Remembers Some Nights In 2017

Danny McCahon, the noted Scottish playwright & an authority on Glam Rock, is another of our end-of-year regulars. It’s always a pleasure to hear from him & I do sometimes canvass more regular contributions but our Danny is a busy man. This year he was very excited to meet one of his musical heroes & that memorable evening was sure to be top of his list.

 

Before the Clash was the only band that mattered, there was Mott The Hoople. And while a young Mick Jones was following the hardest working band in the land up and down the country, my mates and I were passing around the lead singer’s book, “Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. Written on the road during the band’s tour of the United States in November and December 1972, Ian Hunter’s witty expose stripped away any notion of glamour and laid bare all the warts of a band the appeared destined to always be on the up but never make it. But at the end of the tour, as Hunter headed back to his London flat thinking about cleaning up the cat dirt from the kitchen floor he knew the band was bigger than the last time he’d set foot in Blighty.

 

 

Image result for ian hunter rant band southamptonWithin a couple of hit-filled years, Mott The Hoople was finished, but Hunter never put down his guitar and almost 44 years after I first saw him on stage at Glasgow Apollo, Ian Hunter gave me the best show I saw in 2017. A 78 years of age he and his assembly of great players, The Rant Band, held the audience at Southampton’s Engine Rooms in thrall for more than two hours. And to make the night even more of a thrill, I had a few beers with the great man afterwards. Whoever said you should never meet your heroes obviously hadn’t had a chat with Ian Hunter. A true gent, he listened to me gush about that first show at The Apollo and added his own memories of the night. We both agreed that the Apollo bouncers were a breed apart.

 

The show had many highlights but I had goosebumps when The Rant Band backed their leader on this hit released by Hunter and his band a few months after their return from that US tour and reflecting the mood of the classic book. Absolutely joyous. I walked back to my hotel that night, a bit drunk on beer supplied by Ian Hunter, convinced I had just met The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.

 

In Year Zero when the Clash did matter, one of the most interesting guys on the Glasgow music scene went by the name of Jimmy Loser. Jimmy knew stuff, about books and films and especially about music. He played guitar and wrote songs and he and I became mates. During quiet drinking sessions in anonymous Glasgow pubs, Jimmy and a few others filled me in on what had been happening before I looked beyond Glam Rock. One band we did share a love of was Mott The Hoople.

 

Long after Sid had died and Malcolm had got bored, Jimmy was still writing songs and, to paraphrase his own lyric, the Loser became King and put together a band that, after another sensational combo, for me is the best band ever to come out of Glasgow.

 

 

Image result for james king and the lonewolves mcchuillsJames King and the Lonewolves did things their way. Always. And the use of a cussword on the BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” slowed their rise. But not forever. James brought the band back together and released an album in 2014. I’ve seen them quite a few times since that reunion and this year they gave me one of my favourite nights out. In November they took the stage at Glasgow’s finest live music pub, McChuill’s. (Free gigs in 2017!)

 

Jimmy is still writing good tunes and a new album is planned but in a set that filled McChuill’s with more power than I’ve heard anyone else ever do, the live reinterpretation of the song that had upset the Beeb was a highlight.

 

 

Image result for barry adamson king tut'sAnother famous Glasgow venue provided a third live highlight. We all like Magazine and The Bad Seeds, but it’s his solo work that has made bassist Barry Adamson a big favourite of mine. He showed up alone on the stage at King Tut’s and played a full band show. The set was, as the young folks might say, all killer but Big Bad Barry threw in a few surprises including this hit from his first band.

 

 

 

 

I do more than nostalgia and don’t only listen to old tunes resurrected by men of a certain vintage. And here’s a record from Jane Weaver, who I saw play last week, to prove it. If a single is still a thing, this was my single of the year. (Peter Perrett’s was my album of the year.)

Fergal’s Box Of Delights (2017)

These days I’m a light, irregular consumer of alcohol so Fergal Corscaddon gets to drink my share as well as his own. My friend Fergs, guitarist with that fine band from Derry The Gatefoldsis a regular contributor to our end-of-year blogs. This year’s missive arrived through the mojo wire at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. From the opening sentence I knew that anything could happen & it probably did…

 

I’m definitely a bit more than pissed…here’s my pence worth & I thank you for giving me this rope.

 

 

No. 1 Deerhoof – “Mountain Moves” (2017)
Image result for deerhoofTheir 14th studio album and what a sound. Right from the start….celebrate! No, words. A beautiful, luxuriously divine album…cannot do this album/sounds any justice…with words, or, justice. So, I’ll rest my piece. Peace! Beautiful is the adjective that I can get to, without sounding too pretentious. Or, is it sublime? Two weeks ahead of its planned release, Deerhoof have shared their new album Mountain Moves. It’s available as a pay-what-you-want download on their Bandcamp

 

 

Dos. Four Tet – “New Energy ”
Being a fan is not enough…that, substance…though…! Oh, sound, and listening. Here’s a wee clue, listening.

 

 

3. The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody
Okay, I’m guilty of having the luxury of; listening to music on a daily basis…luckily…this album and its influence…I’d say, big equation right there. Strings to the heart, pulled…if and when and who knows why…oh, I do…that I cry, it’s because I am lucky to have the capacity to do so…so, fuck me. And, lucky me/you, too.

 

 

 

4 King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: “Polygondwanaland”
Related imageCheck, you guys, eh? The most psyche of the four released, thus far. The best thing, pour moi, is, that, my eldest brovver went to see them at Glasto…under my embargo…happiest man on the planet after thon gig for sure. Evidenced, I dare say via a snippet, from the live footage, (crowd shot), where Tony, had the best and happiest face I’ve seen on him share – for a lifetime…go figure.
soz Mal, I got my 3-1 back to front….it;s flaming lips who are/is no. 1…and, so read the list, backwards that way…
no. 2 – deerhoof
ah.forfucksakes..

there is no hierarchy with music…ok, I already know this…

In fact, I’d go as far to say that “Oczy Mlody”, is one of MY favourite albums for a very, very long time.

 

on a side. what they do is is they capture . heart.
Yes ! A perfect snapshot of a late night/early morning discourse on music you love. I asked Fergal for 3 selections, 3 tracks, I got his best 4 & almost 4 hours of music. You are busy people but if there is not enough Modern Psychedelia in your life then keep this post close because Doctor Corscaddon will steer you straight to the good stuff.

Steve Pittaway’s Gigs Of The Year (2017)

The days fly by & another year is almost done with. It’s time for a hand-picked selection of friends of the blog to look back on their highlights of 2017. First up it’s Steve Pittaway, a long-standing e-acquaintance who attends more gigs in a month that I do in a year. This year Steve & I’s paths crossed briefly but memorably in Real Life (remember that ?). I like it when that happens.  

 

So, the 3 best gigs of the year, that’s not an easy one. 2017 started with the Blue Aeroplanes & was rounded off by current Blockheads saxophonist Gilad Atzmon with many & varied musical experiences in between. It’s almost impossible but here are three of the most memorable ones of the year.

 

 

 

The first that came to mind was The Comet is Coming gig at The Tin Arts in Coventry (City of Culture 2021…fancy !) on the 6th of May. The band came to my attention via a small write up in The Guardian Guide in early 2016. Described as the sons of Sun Ra, a combination of Jazz, Afrobeat & Electronica, I went to the Google to hear just what this mix-up sounded like. Impressed I immediately ordered the “Channel the Spirits” album. Last year, as a support act I saw them play a very lively short set so I was happy to see a headline show announced just down the road from my house.

 

Image result for the comet is comingThat night The Tin Arts was packed with people half my age, unusual as most gigs I attend tend to attract an audience of more advanced years. The Comet Is Coming hit the ground running with pulsing keyboards, dance beats & the wondrous sax interspersions of Shabaka Hutchings. As the show progressed you were hypnotically drawn in by the band &, though a confirmed non-dancer, I found myself moving with the rest of the room.
The intensity of the set was only broken by a split snare drum skin but the 90 minutes the band were on stage flew by. If the joy in that room could be bottled it would cure all ills. Like so many bands the album does not do justice to their live performance. It’s one of the reasons I still attend so many live shows, when the band & audience connect it makes for a special evening. The Comet Is Coming…it’s Jazz but not as we know it.

 

 

 

Manchester Orchestra are neither from Manchester nor an orchestra. They’ve been around since 2004 & I was hipped to them by a friend in 2012. He burned me the album “Simple Math”, I was an instant fan & purchased their previous records. There are 5 albums now & the band, from Atlanta Georgia, have built a cult following. If labels are your thing then it’s college/Indie/alternative rock. It’s the lyrical intelligence of singer-songwriter Andy Hull which sets MO apart.
Image result for manchester orchestra o2 birminghamThe gig at the 02 Institute in Birmingham on the 24th October would be my third time of seeing the band live. We arrived half way through the support band’s set and found ourselves stuck at the back of the room under a low ceiling, surrounded by people who would rather talk loudly than listen. At the interval my friend suggested we should move forward, which I was more than happy to do.  Before I knew it we were at the front right up against the railing and just a tad too close to the PA for my liking. It has been years since I have been right at the front of a sold out gig. I was frightened for my hearing or what little there is left of it.
The new record, “A Black Mile to the Surface” is more stripped-back & subtle than previous releases but from the opening track “The Maze” we got the more heavily layered sound we know & love. There was plenty of new material with little audience interaction but the intensity built until, at the final crescendo of “The River”, the crowd went nuts. The encore seemed calmer but “The Silence” with its parting “let me open my eyes & be glad that I got here” left me glad that they had & buzzing for days. It may have been such proximity to the PA but I think it was the music.

 

 

 

I’m sceptical about bands that reform with half the original members and generally steer well clear from them. However after hearing that the Ruts or RUTS DC as they are now had reformed a couple of years ago I was intrigued enough to keep an eye on their activities. Back in the late 70’s their album “The Crack” made a big impression but I missed seeing them play. A local gig in May 1980 was cancelled due to singer Malcolm Owen’s increasing drug dependency & sadly in the July of that year Malcolm passed away. The band carried on as Ruts DC for a couple of years before finally calling it a day in 1983.
Image result for ruts dc 2017In 2007 the band reformed for what was to be a one off benefit performance for guitarist Paul Fox who had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Henry Rollins stepped in to fill Malcolm’s shoes and did a fine job. Shortly after the gig Paul passed away. Having been revved up by their performance drummer Dave Ruffy and Bassist John Segs” Jennings decided that they would create new music together under the banner of Ruts DC. Fast forward a few years and there are two albums,one a very heavily reggae influenced dub album and last year’s return to a more rock orientated release Music Must Destroy”.
Any scepticism I had is blown away by the first two numbers, the band are not content to live off former glories and just go through the motions. Blasting out quick new song Vox Teardrop” with the energy of a band half their age and then straight into S.U.S” the old Ruts number where guitarist Leigh Heggarty proves he is more than up to the job of filling Paul Fox’s shoes. What ensues is a set of old and new songs that are played with enthusiasm and passion. Segs might not be the best vocalist in the world but he delivers the lyrics with zeal and devotion that any deficiencies are forgiven.
Ruffy and Jennings prove throughout the night that they were one of the best rhythm sections from the punk” era and one of the best exponents of white reggae as proved on the night with great versions of Jah War” and Love in Vain”. The night was nicely finished off with a rousing Staring at the Rude Boys” and a blistering “Psychic Attack”. Sometimes bands do get back together for the right reasons, the joy of making new music and keeping a legacy alive.

Bacharach & David & Dionne Warwick

Related imageYoung Dionne Warwick from New Jersey had a pretty good year in 1963. In January her first solo single for Scepter Records,  “Don’t Make Me Over” hit the US Top 20. Songwriting duo Burt Bacharach & Hal David had hired Dionne to provide vocals on the demos of their songs. They had previous success separately & together but still needed to hawk their wares around New York. Ms Warwick did such a great job for the team that she was signed for their production company & they committed to recording the new songs with her. In December 1963 her new single “Anyone Who Had A Heart” was on the charts with a bullet, heading towards the Top 10. The same morning session had also produced “Walk On By” & well, we all know how that goes.

 

 

This wonderful 30 minute clip captures a performance by the new 23 year old hit maker. After her first success Dionne had left her studies at Hartt College of Music in Connecticut to travel to France. The Bacharach connection found Marlene Dietrich (Burt had been her arranger/accompanist) introducing her at the Olympia, Paris & she was a sensation. On Dionne’s return to Europe in 1964 she was filmed at the small 27 Club in Knokke, a Belgian seaside resort. Simply shot & choreographed the director accentuates the talent & she delivers. This is no supper club schmaltz (though I’m not a big fan of “People who need people”) it’s just the demure Dionne, her songs, her voice & that’s enough. It’s a surprise when she loosens up for Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” & I love it.

 

Image result for searchers dionne warwick1964 was a peak of the UK music package tour. The Beatles & Mary Wells, the Stones with Inez & Charlie Foxx, Billy J Kramer headlining with the Ronettes & the Yardbirds in support. Dionne shared her October/November bill with the Searchers, the Zombies & the Isley Brothers. Now that sounds like a value-for- money night out. (The “comedy comperes” Syd & Eddie later became fixtures in our tellies as Little & Large. For any international readers, don’t bother, really.) It was during this tour that she joined her producers at Pye Recording Studios to make “The Sensitive Sound of…” album. One of the singles selected from the record is “You Can Have Him” , a stunning remodel of a 1961 Roy Hamilton hit. It has always surprised me that the most R&B of Dionne’s Sixties output, driven by staccato drums & impassioned backing vocals, was recorded with London sessioneers & not the usual New York crew.

 

 

Sometime near the end of the 20th century I was working in Putney, South London & across the road was a second hand record shop. It was the perfect place for a music freak like me to spend a lunch hour buying too many albums. There was a chance that the copies of “Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits Part 1 & 2”, released in 1967 & 69 respectively, could be a little scratchy but they were US copies, on the Scepter label, & were a complete collection of those great singles. I was on a “easy listening” tip at the time, inspired by an old beaten-up Bacharach album I had found on the local market. These records, which turned out to be unplayed, turned our house into warmer but cooler home.

 

Image result for dionne warwick paris“You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)” was the 1964 follow up to “Walk On By”. That year Dionne was Cashbox’s Best Selling Female Artist & this song was a bigger hit in the UK than in the US. The clip is taken from 1966, part of her 5 week engagement back at the Olympia as a guest on the Sacha Distel Show. Two years on & she is an international star, a confident, sophisticated talent recognised as the premier interpreter of Bacharach & David’s songs. She’s assured enough to add her own flourishes to this song, one of my favourites, & her perfectly pitched performance can still give me goosebumps.

 

 

Burt Bacharach’s compositions employed unusual time changes to surround & support Hal David’s mature lyrics. As an arranger, he sat pianist Paul Griffin next to drummer Gary Chester in the studio & together they found the fluid, graceful interior logic of the music. This was not the usual “moon in June” Brill Building teen-pop knock off. This was a refined, urbane progression for the popular song & in Dionne Warwick the pair found the perfect foil. Dionne emotional Gospel roots were smoothed by an almost Jazz, almost cabaret feel. She became a modern Pop star making a new, a little more experienced, Pop music.

 

Image result for dionne warwick bacharach davidThere’s not room here for all of the classic records that kept Ms Warwick on the charts through the decade & became the foundation of such an enduring & successful career. “Walk On By”, “I Say A Little Prayer” & “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” all deserve attention. I shock myself that I have the front to leave out the perfect “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?”. It’s another personal favourite that makes the cut, another clip recorded in France where they really got her. Dionne delivers the charming “Are You There (With Another Girl)” (1965) casual in sweater & slacks, the epitome of chic which is, I believe, a French word. “Je ne sais quoi”, that’s more French but I think we knew exactly what Dionne Warwick had.

Random Notes (November 2017)

Hold The Front Page ! November ended with birthday cake for breakfast, the memory of the Rebel Girls, Marissa (10) & Mika (6), singing “Happy Birthday” still making me smile. As I reflected on the best things about the past 4 weeks the first day of the new month marked the unveiling of a wonderful addition to the Interwebs. It’s been some time since a new website has seemed to be so thorough, comprehensive & genuinely exciting.

 

 

Image result for neil young 1973I’ve been listening to Neil Young’s music for over 50 years now, initially with Buffalo Springfield then as a solo artist & a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash &… Some of his music ranks up there with anything produced in that time period. The albums that are less fully realised, with less appeal to me, still feature tracks that are good & worthy of my time & consideration. There are 39 studio albums, many live sets, compilations, collaborations &  soundtracks. Plenty of them have been on my shelves over the years. The guy who “borrowed” my copies of “Hawks & Doves” & “Journey Through the Past” is welcome round to mine any time for a warm beverage & to discuss why he never brought the flipping things back. Now here comes www.neilyoungarchives.com & what a lovely e-thing it is.

 

Neil has been talking about curating his extensive assortment of unreleased material for almost 30 years. The first “Archive” release came around in 2006 & “Live at the Fillmore East”, recorded in 1970 with Crazy Horse, was hotter than Georgia asphalt, raw, raucous Rock & Roll power. There have been 7 more subsequent releases, some of which I have missed through my own penury or because I’m still listening to those great nights in New York (see above). The website has got it all, official, unreleased, the films. Everything from the last 55 years, Blimey ! It’s a well-designed, attractive place & Shakey himself guides you though the controls. I’m being tempted by the classic records & I’ll be re-visiting neglected ones like “Old Ways” & “Everybody’s Rockin'” for the first time in a while.

 

I’ve been told that this resource will be free for the next 7 months when a “modest” subscription will be introduced in June 2018. I’m getting the feeling that that the current, produced by algorithm, one size fits all, Netflix Original fare (have you seen the “War Machine” movie ? A missed opportunity.), is not giving enough bang for my buck. When asked to commit my hard-earned to an artist whose body of work has given so much pleasure & inspiration & will continue to do so then I’ll be joining that queue.

 

 

Image result for the only onesThis year’s Peter Perrett LP, “How the West Was Won” continues to give up its many charms & November has had me flipping through the back of the stack for the 3 fine records by his old group The Only Ones. A little Y-tube investigation yields 3 radio sessions for John Peel from 1977-80, some of the performances eclipsing the recorded versions. Back then we also had a bootleg of the band playing live in 1979 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, they really did pump it up onstage.

 

Now Peter & his new band are back on the road & back, 38 years later, at the Paradiso. He’s got some outstanding new material but it would be impossible & unreasonable to neglect his back catalogue. The clip of the month is this capture of the monumental “The Big Sleep” from “Baby’s Got A Gun” (1980). The acerbic Rock & Roll sleaze of his best songs resonated then & it still does. It’s great to see him working again after such long absences & while a prior commitment kept me away from this tour I really do hope that there is more to come.

 

 

So this month I went to the pictures to see “Thor:Ragnarok”, #17 of the billion dollar merchandising tent poles from the Walt Disney conglomerate (© Movie Bob). The first Thor movie reminded me of just how much of the Asgard, Loki, Rainbow Bridge, big hammer stuff I had absorbed as a kid spending too much time with Marvel comics. This one, the third one, is directed by Taika Waititi whose last 2 films “What We Did in the Shadows” & “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” are essential viewing. It was his name rather than the chance to see a shirtless Hemsworth that got me to the multiplex. The film was fun, it was funny & er…that’s it. Candy floss would have been more appropriate than popcorn. Asgardians of the Galaxy. Next up for Waititi is a starring role in “Corpse Tub”, a comedy about the ritualistic suicides of a deranged cult. Count me in.

 

Of much more viewing resonance was the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary “The Vietnam War”, a 12 part epic shown by PBS in the US & the BBC in the UK. This ill-judged & wrong-headed American incursion into South East Asia was a major influence on my own political viewpoint. I knew about the failure of 3 Presidents to bring order to the chaos, about the massacre at My Lai, I read Michael Herr’s “Dispatches”, had seen “Apocalypse Now”. But I was a kid in the UK when this thing started, other things to preoccupy me, no nightly news bulletins, no draft to dodge. Burns’ film covers all the bases, is even-handed, blends current interviews with contemporary footage brilliantly. You know that “the next episode will begin in X seconds” nonsense ? This was too serious, too affecting for that. The thoughts it provoked deserving of consideration rather than a binge watch. The whole series can be found on the Y-tube, it’s an achievement.