Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Day Of Another Year

And here I am sitting listening to "Happy" by William Bell and overall feeling like I agree with him. A most unusual state of mind to find myself in.

2007 bought it's fair share of surprises, chief among them Jim dropping out of University. He didn't like it so I'm not gonna make the kid stick it out just for the sake of finishing it. He immediately found himself a job, he's going to continue with his degree through the OU and he is learning to fly, which is something he has always wanted to do.

Work still sucks (Hey! That's what it's for isn't it ?) although I shall be discussing moving into a new department in a couple of days which will at least relieve me of being answerable to the complete numbnuts I now find is my line "manager". So things may get different if not guaranteed to be better.

And much as I would like to sit here chatting all day, I've just been told I can leave ;-) So here's wishing you all whatever you wish yourselves for 2008 and I hope I'll be seeing you all real soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Like Losing A Sense

On Sunday I was checking out iPod dock speaker systems in a national retailers store in Brum. I slotted my iPod into an Hitachi radio alarm setup, pressed play...and nothing happened. I took my iPod out of the dock and watched in dismay as the screen melted away into blank nothingness.

All the button combinations in the world wouldn't bring it back to life. I ran across the road to the Apple shop to see if they could revive it. 2 or 3 Apple "genii" poked and prodded and plugged and pressed at it for a while and then told me "sorry mate, it's dead".

Apparently the speakers in the shop I had been in had shorted my iPod and killed it. There was nothing that could be done for it. It was an ex-iPod. And if I wanted to swap it for a new one (they don't repair iPods) then it would cost me £109.99 as mine was out of guarantee.

I had to go away and think about that.

The upshot is that all this week I have been iPod-less on my daily train commute to and from work. That trip takes about 1 hour 20 minutes door to door and being without my little black jukebox has exposed me to the horror that is other people's conversations !

My god the general public talk some drivel and I am close to standing up in the middle of a packed commuter train and screaming "WILL YOU PEOPLE PLEASE SHUT UP, YOU ARE DRIVING ME INSANE" as loud as humanly possible.

Some people appear to have a great need to vocalise every single waking thought. What's for tea, who's suffering from what ailment, which friend is wasting their time on a no good fella. I even heard one woman say to another "What's your favourite, spaghetti or pasta" !!!

I am planning to buy a new iPod at the can't come soon enough.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Country BeerEx

Don't ask me what a BeerEx is (BeerExpress, BeerExcursion ?) but apparently I was on one on Saturday. And a wonderful afternoon was spent on it.

Steve had got hold of a bus, invited around 25 people to get on it and to thence tour around some of the Black Country's well know watering holes, 6 of them in all.

Me and my unquestionably better half arrived in Wolverhampton at 11.30 desperate for breakfast. If you are ever in Wolverhampton requiring breakfast I can now confidently recommend the Express Cafe opposite Spar at the bus station. Their Bacon, Egg and Sausage sandwich was a sight to see but Deb's Bacon, Egg, Sausage and Tomato triple decker was such a gargantuan feat of culinary engineering that photo's were taken.

The bus duly arrived and off we sallied to the Vine, or is it called the Bull and Bladder (Here it is). Whatever, they brew Bathams there. Jules informed us that he was determined to drink nothing but Mild all day and we agreed this was an admirable ambition and joined in his quest. So the first thing that happened at The Vine was that Mild was purchased. The second, and much more surprising thing that happened at the Vine was that I played a game of darts (possibly for the first time in around 15 years) and won!

Onwards and upwards. Back onto the bus we went and headed off toward Netherton to visit The Old Swan or as it is more commonly known, Ma Pardoes (It's here). The big stove in the middle of the bar with no guard around it would have sent a conscientious Health & Safety type into a fit. I also have to say that I've never before been excited by the thought of Vitreous Enamel but can I point you towards the bar's ceiling as a wonderful example of such, the Institute of Vitreous Enamellers fully agree. They brew their own at Ma Pardoes too and Deb was advised to try a brew called Entire by a very friendly chap at the bar. Or at least that's what we thought he was saying as he had a Black Country accent so thick we could very possibly have been having two completely different conversations.

Next on the list was the Lamp Tavern in Dudley (Here you go) where Jim was to join us. Except, he got one of those taxi drivers that didn't know where he was going ! Tell me, really, what is the point of becoming a taxi driver if you don't know where to go in your local area ? You arrive in a strange town (and frankly there are none much more strange than Wolverhampton) wanting to go to somewhere you've never been before so you jump in a cab...and then the driver admits he doesn't know where you want to go either. Anyway Jim arrived just in time to get the bus to our next port of call...
Quick note to say The Lamp was where our plan to drink Mild all day fell apart, we drank all their Mild and had to have Bitter.

...which was The Britannia. A very small and cosy place with lots of interesting "stuff" on the walls. While I was at the bar Deb shouted over that there was a back room with a TV showing the Darts, so ale was purchased and off we trundled to the back room. It soon became evident there was a problem in the back room. For those of you that have ever seen the film Blazing Saddles you will know what I mean when I refer to the campfire scene with the beans (for those of you that haven't seen Blazing Saddles think about the major side effect of eating too many baked beans...that's right, wind). This back room was small, and very full, full of men who'd been drinking Mild for quite some time now. Not having a gas mask to hand I collected up my wife and child and ran for the door, gulping down the fresh air available in the bar...phew that was a close one.

The Park Inn, Holdens brewery tap was our next destination. They had table football. I like table football...A LOT ! I think I may have been a little noisy while playing and upset one of the locals who was out for a quiet pint. Either that or he was just loooking for a row and got very confused when I apologised and offered to buy him a pint instead of offering to step outside with him.

Our intrepid travellers were then returned to their chariot (well we all got back on the bus anyway) and were transported to their final destination, The Great Western in Wolverhampton. A cracking pub tucked up against the railway lines next to the station. I'd love to tell witty tales of high jinks and much merriment there but honestly, after 7 hours of boozing all I really remember was people playing with their mobile phones and being really hungry. Thanks to Steve, Jules, Sally, Simon, Phil and everyone was real, when can we do it again !

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Enemy...Grrrrrr!

From an article on about the enemy playing a gig for inmates at Pentonville Prison:

"But by halfway through the second chorus, heads are bobbing and feet are tapping, and at the end of the hit single Away from Here, there are whoops, yells and applause.

That song was written on the shop floor of the Co-op where Clarke worked as a TV salesman, and its wantaway sentiments strike a chord.

Wantaway ??? WANTAWAY. Have you seen the lyrics to "Away From Here" ? If not I shall quote for you:

"I want to wake up in the afternoon
With daytime TV and my favourite tune
Cos it is much easier for me see
To stay at home with Richard and Judy

Wantaway lyrics ??? Those sound like the bleatings of a lazy Chav to me. Ironic that in the same piece The Enemy are again likened to The Jam, Paul Weller and The Specials ! I can't imagine Weller EVER writing anything as negative as that.

Also ironic that in the same piece singer Tom Clarke bemoans the fact that there is no work in Coventry for his mates. What's good for the goose eh Tom ?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Favourite Album(s)

Prompted by a MySpace bulletin a friend recently posted.

He wanted me to name my favourite album. What ? Just one ? Not possible.

So in order to get this into the public domain I present the 5 albums that have had the most effect on me.

David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars
I'd love to be able to claim that as a hip 10 year old I remember seeing Bowie perform "Starman" on TOTP and persuaded my parents to get me a copy of "Ziggy..." and have been in it's thrall ever since.

The truth is I didn't really "discover" Bowie until the early 80's. But since I first heard this record I have indeed been in it's thrall.

From the opening faded in drum intro to "Five Years" introducing us to crying newsmen, soldiers, cops, priests and violent young girls at the end of the world; through the psych-out that is "Moonage Daydream" where Bowie lets Mick Ronson off the leash; into the proto-Punk of "Suffragette City", "Ohhh, wham bam thank you maam!" indeed; and ending with the doomed inevitabilty of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" this album presents you with everything that was good about early 70's rock (i.e it wasn't Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin), introduced a wider audience to arguably the most important solo artist of the 1970's and, even though he lifted great chunks of it from the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, Bowie laid the foundations for what was to come towards the end of the decade.

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
I used to work for a professional audio/visual equipment suppliers. There, I worked with a guy called Rob who introduced me to a lot of music I'd never otherwise have heard. I got my first ever tax rebate while I was working there and said to Rob one afternoon I fancied something different to listen to and did he have anything to recommend ? "Born To Run" is what he suggested and I don't think in the ensuing 27 years I've ever thanked him for that, so, THANKS ROB !

This is music on a grand scale. The lyrics conjure up images that for an 18 year old who'd never been to America described some of it's less well known attractions vividly.

"The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves,
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays,
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely,
Hey that's me and I want you only"
Thunder Road

"Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge,
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain,
The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants,
Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane"

Hell you can see it right there in front of you.

The characters that inhabit these songs have become like old friends: Mary, Terri, Wendy, the Rangers and the The Magic Rat, Scooter and the Big Man, Eddie and his friend heading for a meeting across the river that's gonna solve all their problems this time while Cherry waits at home, it feels like I know them all.

Add into the mix the hardest rockin', funkiest bar band on the planet (that's the E-Street Band to you and me) and, as I said, this is music on a grand, cinematic scale.

Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols
I remember vividly the first time I heard "God Save The Queen". I was in my Nan's living room where my brother and I were using our Uncle's Phillips music centre (it had a smoked perspex lid) to play some singles we'd bought after reading about this Punk Rock stuff in the music papers (Sounds probably, I don't think we'd progressed to the NME at that point). One of the singles was the Stranglers "Peaches/Go Buddy Go" combination and the other was the Pistols "God Save the Queen".

We dropped the needle on the groove felt like I was physically hurled across the room and pinned against the opposite wall for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. When it had finished I think I was in shock. It was like nothing I had ever heard before.

Did I really just hear that ?
People don't make records that sound like that.
Do they ?
They do ?

So I played it again....and again...and get the picture...just to reassure myself that I had heard it right. And I think I knew then that some things were never going to seem quite the same ever again.

When they finally released "Never Mind The Bollocks..." friends of ours went to ridiculous lengths to keep the record out of sight of their parents. Thankfully we had somewhat more enlightened parents who bought the record for us. One of our mates had it in brown paper bags under his bed and we had to wait until his folks had gone out before we could go round and hear it.

But what a sound they made. I know many will disagree with me but I think the way the Pistols sounded was as, if not more, important than what they were saying. You couldn't understand most of what Johnny Rotten was singing anyway but the sounded like fear and rage and loathing and desperation and something slightly evil. "Holidays In The Sun" has to be one of the scariest sounding pieces of music I've ever heard. We didn't know what Anarchy was but we could hear in this music some of the way we felt about things.

To this day if I have a bad day at work, when I leave I play "God Save The Queen" on my iPod VERY LOUD and 3 minutes and 20 seconds later I remember that someone else feels that way too and it's OK.

The Jam - All Mod Cons
This is MY band and this is their finest moment. I'm not saying they went downhill from here but this is the point where The Jam stepped up from new wave also rans to the most important band in the UK. The point at which Paul Weller introduced himself as our generations Ray Davis (they even covered The Kinks "David Watts" for this album), a sharp interpreter of ordinary peoples lives, hopes and fears.

It's another record full of great characters. The rock star on the slide, Mr Clean, Billy Hunt, the guy and his girlfriend in trouble at the Vortex, Saturdays kids who "drink lots of beer and wait for half time results" and the tragic hero of Weller's first truly magnificent moment, "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" (a song every bit as vivid as anything on "Born To Run" but maybe in a 22" black and white TV way rather than Springsteen's cinematic scope) waiting to get back to his wife with a curry and a bottle of plonk but having his life smashed by drunk right-wing thugs.

They even threw in 2 ballads ("English Rose" and "Fly") something unheard of in these angry young man post-77 days.

"Down In the Tube Station At Midnight" and "A Bomb In Wardour Street" describe what a scary and violent place Britain could be back then, but to temper that Weller gives us the daydreamer "Billy Hunt" and the ever hopeful "The Place I Love" where he's "making a stand against the world" in the imaginary place he goes where everything is right with the world. "In The Crowd" addresses rampant consumerism and "Mr Clean" is a sharp pointed stick jabbed at the British class system.

Then there was the artwork. Sta-prest, monkey boots, targets, scooters and that title which Weller has admitted was just an excuse to get the word Mod on an album cover.

Mod ?
What's that ?

And because of what Paul Weller gave us on this record, which was much more than just the music in the grooves, I discovered soul music and The Small Faces and 501's with 1" turn ups and Ska/Blue Beat and the thrilling sound of a Hammond B3. So there is much, much more that I owe to this band than just this record...but just the record itself would have been fine.

The Clash - London Calling
We couldn't believe it when we heard. A double album ! Isn't that what rock dinosaurs do ? But then they sold it to us for the price of a single album and when we heard it...oh man...that band were having such a good time exploring where they could go you couldn't help but get caught up in it.

"Sing Michael sing
On the roof of a 19 bus"

The Clash's previous album had been none too popular after their debut's punk rush so there was an almost "have they lost it" feeling in the air. But the title track put us right on that score and the rest of the album took us on a musical journey through rock 'n' roll, jazz, soul, reggae and a huuuge big piano ballad. All of it had great tunes, you could feel the low slung rebel guitar poses they were pulling and there were lyrics you could quote forever:

"London calling to the faraway towns, Now war is declared - and battle come down"

"I wasn't born so much as I fell out, Nobody seemed to notice me"

"What are we gonna do now?
Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?'
Cause they're working for the clampdown
They put up a poster saying we earn more than you!"

"But I believe in this and it's been tested by research, He, who fucks nuns, will later join the church"

"I've been beat up, I've been thrown out, But I'm not down, I'm not down"

I could go on and on quoting them. Needless to say if you've never heard this album you need to, NOW. And if you haven't listened to it in a while, then go do it, NOW!

My brother and I were fortunate enough to meet Joe Strummer a few months before he tragically left us. That short meeting has left an impression on me that I'll never forget and now I know why I love that man's music so much. We lost one of the greats when Joe went.

Thanks for indulging me this far x

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Libertines...

Noooooooo...not that talentless bunch of junkie no marks we see splashed across our favourite tabloid day after day.

I speak of the band I used to be in in the late '80's. You remember, made one single that didn't sell. Man I've got a houseful of the beggaring things and I can't give 'em away.

Anyway in a bizarre series of MySpace postings and phone calls this morning it appears that myself, the drummer and the guitar player will be in the same rehearsal room in darkest Wolverhampton this very evening.

Watch this space as they say...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Garry O Is A Bluenose

Just realised how long it has been since I posted anything here. That must indicate that I am a completely happy and contented bunny right now...right ?

Well of course not but then I figured you might not always want to hear me whining on.

Things I am sure that I know:

Damien Dempsey's new album "To Hell Or Barbados" is another winner. Go on, treat yourself.
The second series of "Rome" currently showing on the BBC is fantastically gory and nuts.
I love my new alarm clock.
Summer without football is very dull (Cricket and Tennis I hear you say...pah !)

That's all for now folks. Normal whinging will resume as soon as something suitable raises my ire.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Small Victory

A couple of months ago I filled in a template letter I got from in order to try and claim back some of those nasty excessive bank charges you hear so many consumer type peeps getting very hot under the collar about currently.

Well this morning I got a letter from my bank agreeing to refund 75% of what I claimed. It feels like a small victory, me getting one over on "the man".

It will pay for the decking I want to put in my back garden so I can lay out there in the summer without a care. That made me smile today.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's Monday...

"It's Monday,
Slither down the greasy pipe,
So far so good no one saw you...

David Bowie "Joe The Lion"

Which is kinda how I feel about today. Every 2nd Monday here at my place of work we have to involve ourselves in a departmental conference call during which we have to report what we have been doing for the past 2 weeks and what we think we will be doing for the next 2. This call starts at 3pm and is supposed to last for an hour but generally meanders on over an hour and a half, which for someone like myself who's working day ends at 4pm is something of a drag. Especially as it usually takes me the requested 2 minutes to deliver my summary and everyone else drones on forever.

Anyway the reason for the above quoted lyric is that if you know said song by Mr Bowie you will know he delivers the first of those lines in a very resigned, bored sort of "oh god not again" manner, which is how I generally tend to feel about every 2nd Monday.


This particular 2nd Monday the conference call has been cancelled which feels just like slithering down said greasy pipe with no one noticing...Huzzah !!! 

Consequently you find me in something of a jolly mood (suprising I know). The weekend was good, bit of DIY to finish off the decoration of our main bathroom (it feels very bourgeoise admitting to having 2 bathrooms but on a practical level it's a godsend) and I can see light at the end of the tunnel called "MP3ing all my vinyl" (I think I'm actually down to the last box of albums). Oh, and the Blues won !

That last box of albums contains my Flesh For Lulu albums, a band who I haven't listened to in a fair old while and am really looking forward to hearing again. Last night I was making a start on Bow Wow Wow's album "See Jungle! See Jungle...etcetc...blahblahblah" which is actually a whole lot better than I thought it would be. I was actually a little embarrased when I came across it yesterday but, Malcolm McLaren style manipulation aside, they were a damn good band.

Can't really think of much else to relate. If there is actually anyone out there reading this, hope to see some of you at Milo & Erica's forthcoming show's. Ta Ta for now...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Modernism Part 2...

 "Mod is just another word for young, beautiful and stupid...we've all been there"

Pete Townshend

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion (Random Annoyances Re-Visited)

I'm a Mod, I'll always be a Mod,
My coat is a Crombie, My shirt's a Ben Sherman,
The shoes on my feet were made by a German...

That comes from something that used to get shown on MTV (back in the days when the majority of MTV's programming actually centred around music !). To be honest the guy delivering it was more of a well dressed skinhead than a Mod (Crombie's and DM's were always more skinhead fashion in my world) but that little rhyme stuck in my head for some reason.

I have recently finished reading a book about Scooter Boys, as is my want in finding out more about Mod related "stuff". I have a fascination with all things Mod, and Scooter Boys, or Scooterists as some prefer to be known, developed in the UK out of the Mods fascination with that particular mode of transport. Said book was written by a fella who claimed to be (well on the back of the copy I had anyway) a graduate in Social Sciences and a sometime lecturer on the subject of youth culture. You'd think with all that academia, knowledge and experience behind him the guy would be able to SPELL !

I read a lot and you expect to find the odd spelling/grammar mistake in a book. Even your average 500 page best seller will feature 1 or maybe two. But Scooter Boys had something like 6 or 8 and it's only 150 pages or so long...and 30-40 of those are just photographs ! I suppose some blame should lie with the proof readers but hey, we're all human and it's possible to miss things. I'm sure the proof readers weren't inserting spelling errors (unless they were closet greasers...hmmmmm...never considered that before) so that leaves the blame squarely with our graduate/lecturer. None of them really stick in my mind just that I kept tutting to myself while reading as I came across another one thinking "how do you graduate from University while not being able to spell ?".

It's just another example of the wider malaise bought about by "text speak". Hell's teeth I even put punctuation in my text messages ! Have you noticed how the word "of" is slowly replacing the word "have" ? As in "he should of been here by now" instead of "he should have been here by now". I was reading something my niece had submitted as homework recently and although the teacher had quite rightly highlighted a number of spelling mistakes in good old red pen, not once had the teacher highlighted the incorrect use of "of" instead of "have" (confusing isn't it). If the teachers in schools aren't correcting kids what chance have they got ?

Ahhhh...just call me a whinging old git...

(DISCLAIMER: Any spelling mistakes found in this post are obviously the wok of the small army of retired greasers who proof read these submissions !!!)