Wednesday, December 17, 2008


It's a wonderful song and has been performed by many fantastic artists. The current UK obsession with the version released by a competition winner being none of them.

I'm pleased it looks like it will be a hit if only because Leonard Cohen, who wrote the song, claims he was fraudulently relieved of his retirement fund in 2005 and he probably needs the royalties right now.

What would be fantastic is if the British record buying public decided to purchase versions of the song that would not benefit those that visit the abomination known as the X Factor upon us.

You can download Leonard Cohen's original version Here


You can download Jeff Buckley's stunning cover of the song Here

Thursday, December 11, 2008

26 Years Ago Today...

...The Jam played their last ever gig.

I remember where I was and what I did that night, I may well do the same thing again tonight

"And as it was in the beginning, So shall it be in the end
That bullshit is bullshit, It just goes by different names

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Let me be the first to impose upon you a best of's 2008 list. I know these generally wait until later in the month but I feel the need to get this off my chest right now.

1. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
Definitely the find of the year. It took me about 6 months after first reading about them to get round to buying this but within another month I'd bought the 2 previous albums and seen one of the best live show's I've seen in years.

The original article I read about them in Uncut described them as "reminiscent of the Velvets, Modern Lovers and Neutral Milk Hotel" (whoever the hell Neutral Milk Hotel are !). I can see where they were coming from but they're much more than that. I'd put them in a similar space to Wilco and the Drive-By Truckers. I guess this is what is known as Americana.

The songs are very instant particularly the single "Loast Coastlines" and "Calling And Not Calling My Ex". The centrepiece of the record is the epic "Blue Tulip", now there's a man pouring his soul into a song. You can hear previews of the songs at Amazon at the link above, do yourself a favour.

2. Paul Weller - 22 Dreams
How many times has Weller produced a real return to form according to various critics ? Well this isn't a return to form, it is in many places something completely new!

Spoken word poetry pieces, instrumentals, wailing along in the verse like a demented David Bowie on "Push It Along", Weller really made an effort with this record, and it shows. Now if he'd just ditch the annoying guitar player from Ocean Duller Scene all would be well.

3. Damien Dempsey - The Rocky Road
Damo makes the record I suspect he has wanted to make for a very long time. This is a collection of traditional Irish songs along with some more contemporary things (The Pogues "A Rainy Night In Soho").

It's was worth it for me to have a recording of Damo singing "The Rocky Road To Dublin" which I've heard him play live many times.

I do understand that the mighty Damo is something of an acquired taste, one I have enthsiastically acquired and one which I evangelically recommend to all.

4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig !!! Lazarus Dig !!!
I've been going through a bit of a Nick Cave phase over the past year. I've gone from owning 2 or 3 of his albums to all of them (that count currently stands at 16). So I guess that's something more than a phase !

He's very good at what he does and keeps on doing it, which to some puts them off what he does. But when you do something as well as this why take a detour. He did that with Grinderman which to my mind was a little lacking.

The title track, "More News From Nowhere" and "We Call Upon The Author" are as good as anything from the previous 15 Bad Seeds albums.

5. Amsterdam - Arm In Arm
Ian Prowse could probably pass wind and it would be worth hearing. Saying the man has a way with a tune is like saying Pele was quite good at football or that Einstein guy was a bit clever, get my drift. Hey! He wrote John Peel's second favourite song so there's something going on here.

"Arm In Arm" is another collection of fabulous songs that was recently voted the 14th best album released by a Liverpool band...ever, by the readers of magazine. And when you consider the competition up there that's pretty impressive stuff.

Prowsey's favourite here is the title track, mine is "Lonely Boy". If you admire melody and great songs you really can't go wrong here.

(A special mention for The Blessing's album "All Is Yes" which came in at a very close number 6)

As for books, movies etc.

Movies...I don't really have the attention span but here's what I recall.

Batman: The Dark Knight - The best Batman movie yet. If Heath Ledger doesn't get a posthumous Oscar for his performance as the Joker then I don't know who should ever get an Oscar.

Control - I was really looking forward to seeing this but came away feeling like I'd just watched a 2 hour episode of Coronation Street in black & white. Dissapointed doesn't even get close.

Books...I've spent the year re-reading a lot of things I've read before (Emmett Grogan's "Ringolevio: A Life Played For Keeps", Orwell's "1984" etc) but I can heartily recommend John Robb's "Punk Rock: An Oral History", something like a UK "Please Kill Me".

Errr....that's it really

Monday, December 01, 2008

Not So Black Country Beer Ex 2008

9 men, 1 lovely lady, a selection of WM Travel Daysavers, 1 train and 7 pubs to visit…let’s get down to it boppers!

You may recall the corresponding fixture from last year if not, go here. This was completed on a private bus. This year the plan was to use public transport, starting in Willenhall and ending up in Moseley in Brum.

Leaving the house at 10am, it was cold, very cold, bone numbingly cold in fact. So I could have lived without the first train of the day being late. An open train station platform is not the most hospitable of places in that kind of temperature. So it was iPod on (Kings Of Leon “Only By The Night” for those that are interested) and hunker down for the train.

I stopped off briefly in Wolverhampton for a cash machine and a newspaper and jumped the bus to Walsall via Willenhall. The advanced raiding party of our group met me on the bus and we tipped up in Walsall ready for the bus out to Daw End (pronounced Dow End I was to be informed later). Hot beverages were required at this stage and off we set in search of, except for one of our number who decided that the nearest ‘spoons for an early morning stiffener was needed (not before the sun passes the yardarm in my book).

Outside our chosen tea stop in Walsall we discovered the first entertainment of the day, a group of “young christians” shouting stuff like “Have you disobeyed your mother and father ? Then you have broken the commandments of god”. We were not the only ones to find them amusing, “for god’s sake get him a pint and calm him down” shouted one passing wag.

Back to the bus station to collect more of our gang and 8 of us set off for the Manor Arms.

This pubs unique feature is that it doesn’t have a bar ! The beer is served from the back of the low ceilinged timber beamed main room, basically a hatch in the wall in the main corridor through the pub.

identities have been masked to protect the innocent

What they did have was a splendid drop of Banks’s Original and a very cosy side room with an open coal fire.

identities masked to protect the innocent

Given the rapidly plummeting outside temperature, when the time came it was a very difficult place to leave.

But leave we did for we were due in Aldridge. Now the less I say about our destination there the better. I will say that whoever wrote the entry in the Good Beer Guide may well have been very, very drunk at the time. It will be remembered, not least for the locals putting pints of Carlsberg Extra Cold in hot water to warm it up a bit !

We had time for a chippy and Morrisons facilities stop before our next bus and we met up with the lovely lady section of our party. The next bus I am reliably and admiringly informed by those in the know amongst us was a Metro ! And many nice things were being said about the smell of diesel and oil emanating from within it…hmmmmm!

Outside it was getting foggier and colder and one more bus hop found us in a very gloomy Sutton Coldfield where we descended upon the Three Tuns. Here we were joined by the 10th member of our party and managed to watch England pitifully capitulate to the All Blacks.

But now it was time for a bit of luxury…a train to Bourneville. Not only would we have heating but a toilet too, very important at this stage of such a cold day. The ticket machine at Sutton station informed us that 10 first class returns to Thirsk would cost us £4,480 and some pence…BARGAIN !!!

On arriving in Bourneville we wandered down to the Pershore Road to find the British Oak

Now, again, I can only imagine that whoever wrote the Good Beer Guide entry for this place had been smoking lots of what it looked like the fellows huddled around the front door were selling! My request of the barmaid for “10 pints of Purity Gold” was met with “are you serious?”. Yes dear I am. In defence of a place where I thought I was gonna get mugged, the beer was excellent but it’s not anywhere I shall be rushing back to.

We just made it to the right bus stop for our ride to Kings Heath from where we would head down into Moseley for the last 3 pubs. I had been looking forward all day to revisiting the Fighting Cocks, somewhere I hadn’t been since the mid 1980’s. I saw a lot of gigs there and played one or two myself. I even wrote my only letter to the music press after seeing a gig at the Fighting Cocks. A right pokey little dump it used to be.

WOW, talk about the ugly duckling turning into a Swan. It is now about 10 times the size it used to be, was absolutely packed and they now serve food like falafel with tzatziki (you’d have been lucky to get a packet of Golden Wonder in the 80’s) and you can get a bottle of Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir!

I’d love to have gone up to the old venue upstairs but couldn’t find a way in. Ale wise this probably produced the finest pint of the day, Nethergate Lemonhead, which was just what I needed right then. A mental note has been made to look out for this in future.

A quick hop down the road found us in the Prince of Wales. There had been a discussion in the Fighting Cocks about should we stay there or move on. Oh how I wished we’d have stayed put. To say the Prince of Wales was a bit smelly would have been a real insult to some astonishingly smelly stuff with a very good reason for being smelly. It stunk of anarcho-punks and sweaty feet, of people yet to discover deodorant and stale beer, I curse the smoking ban. The ale wasn’t much better either.

I think this was the little straw for me. I have to admit to not feeling on top of my game all day and this place just made up my mind for me, my day was over, 1 pub short of a full house. Our intrepid leader did his best to tempt me with the promise of Ginger Beer but I’d made up my mind. The call of the Chinese take away in Marston Green and the world’s finest Beef Chow Mein was to loud to ignore.

Once again thanks to our leader for arranging it all and I look forward to next year.