So is the conclusion nobody in Tiptree has gas and you will all vote UKIP despite the fact no Gas Safe engineer in the area can either work out the technicality of their answering machine, in which case do not go near my gas, or they are all complacent Farquahars or am I Rhod Gilbert meets Victor Meldrew? Happy with the latter outcome but there is work to be done and nobody wants to do it.Don't blame me when the revolution comes, but you will because Jeremy Kyle must be taking up your time when not reading how Farage will cut the red tape and Bernie Ecclestone should run the country now that Clarkson is off emptying his bank vaults in Zurich of Top Gear memorabilia no doubt.
Choose a ham. Choose bread sauce. Choose sprouts. Choose pigs in blankets. Choose a fucking big turkey. Choose Quality Street, Doritos, battery chicken goujons and endless cans of Fosters. Choose bad health, high cholesterol, and dental ruination. Choose high salt content natural flavour replacements. Choose Iceland home delivery. Choose your guests you invite every year and they never bring a bottle. Choose leisurewear and matching Ugg boots. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase because the old one was scruffy. Choose Baileys and wondering who the fuck you are on Boxing Day morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing Christmas shows, sticking junk food into your mouth. Choose nibbling away at Thai prawns, fed from dragging weighted nets across the seabed destroying all marine life by trafficked labourers, nothing more than an embarrassment to the shelfish, fucked up food you eat to replace yourself, choose your food.
Choose fish pie.
An interesting article in The Daily Mail today
"Cristian Montano, 22, allegedly met woman in nightclub in Romford, Essex"
"Cristian Montano, an Oldham Athletic midfielder, allegedly took the woman to a flat in Romford, Essex and attacked her while she was passed out."
I attempted to correct the obvious error :
Hello,Romford has been part of the London Borough Of Havering for nearly 50 years. This factual error seems to come up in your newspaper on a weekly basis but it won't change the geography,Regards
Not unsurprisingly I got this response :
Dear Mr Burns
Thank you for your email.
It is always good to receive feedback from readers about our content. The contents of your email have been noted and I have passed your thoughts to the reporter. He has come back to say that you are correct that, administratively, Romford is part of the London Borough of Havering. However, the town was traditionally in Essex for centuries, and colloquially it is often referred to as being part of the county. He don’t consider it a factual error to say that Romford is in Essex.
I appreciate you taking the time to get in touch.
One of the greatest comedy films of all time, if you are British or love British humour, is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It stood out for me for its attempt to portray the reality of living in times when the king was the only person not covered in shit.
Like much of the Python work it also had a degree of educational value, we now know, for instance, that a European swallow differs from an African swallow in its physical characteristics. But along with the typical Python trait of showing off their wide knowledge of stuff there were also aspects of the film that appeared to be just plain silly and there's nothing wrong with that when done as well as they do silly. A prime example of just plain silly is The Knights Who Say Ni, or so it seemed at first...
It was a joke on the Swedes
A year after the film came out I abandoned my university French course after one particularly testing lesson when we spent 50 minutes translating a single sentence and ventured into the world of Swedish, guaranteed to break the ice at parties. The course involved learning Swedish from scratch so the usage of the equivalent of "you" soon arose. In the sixties Sweden underwent the du-reformen. Previously you would call close friends "du", but for people you didn't know, particularly of a higher social status the correct form of address was "Ni", pretty much the same as tu and vous in French. Because of the unease with the "you" word it was common to refer to people in the third person to avoid the issue e.g. "would one like a cup of tea", "does Mr Lundberg know where I left my glasses?" In time the usage of "du" as standard for addressing a single person spread throughout the country but there remained resistance in certain areas, particularly amongst rural elderly people who didn't want to change their ways.
So there we have it, case closed, a simple joke at the expense of those diehards in Sweden who wouldn't move with the times and continued to address all but their closest friends and family as "Ni". The Pythons had a track record of poking fun at Scandinavia, the song Finland, the Norwegian blue parrot, a massage from the Swedish prime minister and so it carried on.
Eric Idle cites The Goon Show
At some point in its life the Python commercial machine released a DVD with a commentary by Eric Idle in which he cited The Goons as the source of the word ni. Every few years another version of the film is released with new, improved extras, to be honest I'm not prepared to buy them all so feel free to verify this in whichever deluxe, executive, added 17 seconds or whatever version you have. Agreed the chief knight spoke in a Goonish voice but surely such a key scene would have a bit more meaning? I learned an entire thesaurus of cheese varieties from Python, the origin of the policeman's helmet and the drinking habits of key philosophers.
The girl with the pioneering anger management technique
Readers of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy will appreciate the sense of bereavement I felt when I finished the final book in the series. The only option was to read some background and what better than Stieg And Me written by Eva Gabrielsson who lived as his partner for the greater part of his life. Sadly Stieg died suddenly at the age of 50 from a heart attack, Eva didn't even get time to say goodbye, he died so quickly, and losing the man she loved made her very angry.
Then, sensing that I might find a way to grapple with my depression, I turned to mythology for a violent, raw, unflinching way to express all this, something that would measure up to my suffering. We had many books on the subject, and I found what I was looking for in The Elder Edda - a collection of poems in Old Norse, the ancestor of the modern Scandinavian languages - and in particular in the Hávamál (Sayings of The High One or The Words of the Most-High). I realized that my catharsis would pass through the writing of a níð (pronounced nee), a traditional curse which I would recite during a magic ceremony.
Whoa there boy! A curse, pronounced nee, sayings of The High One? The Knights who say ni were particularly tall. Grab the starting handle and fire up Google!
I have a theory and this theory is mine
In their proscriptions against various kinds of verbal and other insults, the thirteenth-century Icelandic law codes known as Grágás include, alongside the well-known category of níð, the more obscure term ýki.
Now there's another word to conjure with - ýki. At some point The Knights Who Say Ni wavered from their true destiny and became The Knights Who Say Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing. Alison was most gracious to answer my query and suggested that ýki rhymes with "leaky", not quite Ekke but Eaky is pretty damn close and I doubt Michael Palin has his Old Norse pronunciation down to a fine art.
I will leave you to be the judge. Maybe it was sheer Goonery making up silly words for a cheap laugh. Consider the evidence, Scandinavian curses, sayings of The High One, a film co-directed by Terry Jones the author of The Saga of Erik the Viking and Medieval Lives. I like to think these obscure words were planted in the film, their significance waiting to be found. Terry Jones, feel free to contact me!
We had those nice people at JessieJOnline who thought it was perfectly reasonable to rip my videos off YouTube then re-upload at a lower quality with no credit whatsoever.
Now we have LiveLeak's anglosaxonwarlord who likes to play a similar game. Yesterday I filmed the Bomber Command flypast over Green Park and posted my video to YouTube within ten minutes what with it being shot from the roof of my office.
This morning I got an email from my step-son :
so, here i am, doing my usual mid afternoon catchup on liveleak.
A few videos in, I get a little surpise... your voice!
So it had happened again, anglosaxonworld had decided to lift my complete video and re-post it to his personal greater glory with absolutely no credit to my original whatsoever. Why not just come round to my house and help yourself to everything else mate, feel free. But to add insult to injury he has supposedly given LiveLeak all sorts of rights to something he has no rights to give them :
4. Intellectual Property Rights
The content on the Website, including all User Submissions, including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos and interactive features ("Content") and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein ("Marks"), are owned by or licensed to Liveleak.
Further down it gets worse :
However, by submitting the User Submissions to Liveleak, you hereby grant Liveleak, in addition to any other rights which it has pursuant to any other program established by Liveleak, a worldwide, non-exclusive and transferable license to use, copy, prepare derivative works of (including without limitation, to rename, edit, shorten, split the videos into different segments, and use the entire video or segments as part of compilations), display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the Website and Liveleak's (and its successor's) business, including without limitation to grant access to the Website to third parties to view the User Submission (and derivative works thereof).
So LiveLeak believe they have all sorts of rights to something some toe rag submitted to which he had no right. We will see how long it takes them to remove the video, as the owner I do not consent to any of their terms of service.
## Update 30/06/2012 Video removed from LiveLeak ##
## Update 01/07/2012 anglosaxonwarlord didn't take it well ##
hope you die or arse cancer you fucking cry baby english fucktard and im going to grass you up for having pirated content on you channel at yt see how you like that ps hope some crack monkey in east landan fucks yer arse
|From Precious Things|
A very long time ago, the late 70s to be a bit more precise, I was a student of Linguistic And International Studies or Russian as I told women before utterly failing to impress them at parties. The University of Surrey way was to send people out on an industrial year, the problem with Russian was the lack of collective farm combine harvester placements available to foreign students from The West. Failing that a month of study in Moscow was available over the Easter holidays, so no holiday, no Easter eggs, sounds pretty crap...it wasn't.
Regular readers will know how long it took just to get there in 1978 and as promised this is a collection of tales from when we finally made it. I went again in 1979 and some of the adventures may have taken place then, forgive my vagueness.
Our base was the Hotel Tsentralnaya on Gorky Street, about half a mile up from Red Square, a comfortable old fashioned hotel staffed by an army of women of equal height and waist measurement with Dairylea blonde hair and expressionless faces. The daily routine was lectures in the morning either in the hotel or at an institute followed by an intended afternoon's research in The Lenin Library for my dissertation, yeh yeh! So I did the mornings as required. If it was an external venue there would be a speaker at the front with the inevitable sinister person at the back, usually taking copious notes and wearing a raincoat and dark glasses, unlikely to be a student. One morning we went to The House Of Culture where various groups treated us to scenes from Chekhov or Pushkin's poems, unfortunately they asked us if we could perform something in return. In this instance I took the initiative and it was agreed we all knew the lyrics to Jilted John. On to the stage we went and launched into "I've been going out with a girl, her name is Julie" rather more football terrace than a capella. In my role as artistic director sticking it up to Brezhnev with the tail end of punk I felt it went rather well. I had my eyes fixed on a particularly attractive girl in the front row so, from the stage, asked her what she and her comrades thought of the song only to get the reply "we're from Leeds!" Oh bollocks.
As for the afternoons researching my dissertation, OK I went to the library once but as I didn't even start my dissertation proper until two years later about a fortnight before the deadline using what appeared to be a pre-revolutionary Cyrillic typewriter on Banda stencils during a heatwave with a desk facing the sun my heart wasn't really in it. Instead I would dress up in the dourest possible clothes and walk the streets trying not to look like a westerner lapping up Soviet austerity and boy was it austere. There was no branding anywhere, shops did exactly what they said on the sign, chemist, bookshop, repair of watches and not a western brand or product to be seen anywhere beyond the European butter mountain going for extortionate prices in Gastronom #1. The bookshops were good however, apart from Shakespeare, Robert Burns and Jack London it was all local authors but they did a cracking line in political posters that would take up an entire wall in the hall of residence. An enormous one of Lenin with the slogan "Lenin Lived, Lenin Lives, Lenin Will Live" was a must to impress the cleaning lady with when I got back. They also had lifesize and handily doorsize Lenin posters with Pravda poking out from his jacket pocket, only to be replaced with The Sun back in Blighty.
In GUM, literally state universal shop, there was a record shop selling the state-controlled Melodiya (as in the record shop in Clockwork Orange) works but crucially Beatles and Rolling Stones EPs. They had picture sleeves but no cheeky mop tops, certainly no Mick Jagger, just various trees in full blossom. Either way I bought every one I could find though the real bargain was a 12" single of the Soviet national anthem at 2p. The biggest problem with shopping was that you had to pay in advance, get a receipt then take it to the counter in the hope the item hadn't sold out by the time you had negotiated the two long queues. They were very quick at adding the prices up on an abacus then punching the total into a very modern Sweda till to produce the receipt. They could have used the till but that wasn't the Soviet way. Other purchases were a Communist Party membership card holder which looked very impressive when brandished and endless badges of a political or sporting nature. I trust my set of 21 badges for each of the 1980 Moscow Olympics events in a cardboard presentation folder will recoup me a fortune on eBay one day.
The alternative to walking the streets was going on various trips arranged by Intourist to monasteries, castles and other dostoprimechatelnosti (places of interest to tourists apparently!) Unfortunately they smiled when I asked the price in roubles, it was pounds or dollars only. Roubles I had a long position in but not sterling. I took 5 punk EPs with picture sleeves bought from the reduced bins at home for around 10p each and sold to a black marketeer stood literally in front of the armed guards at Lenin's tomb for £15 but in roubles of course. Spare jeans again attracted £50-60 having been bought from Dickie Dirt's for a fiver, but again in roubles. So I wasn't short of cash, just the right kind of cash.
The first period in Moscow I was picked to join a group of other students either learning Russian on a one year crash course diploma or doing a 4-year degree, both from zero knowledge of Russian whatsoever. This seemed a bit odd as I had been studying Russian for 6 years at school and was now refining it in my second year at university, but they said they were making a film so why not hey? The concept was to enhance learning by giving people scripts and audio tapes of a play for us to learn then improvise around, the improvisation supposedly removed formality and we would learn quicker. We went on regular trips to a top floor penthouse at the Hotel Rossiya with an amazing view of The Kremlin and Red Square where they would film us acting out the scenario of the day. Unfortunately I wasn't too keen on the morning shave and they refused to film me whenever I had stubble! On a couple of occasions we were taken to MosFilm up in the Lenin Hills overlooking Moscow. Around us we saw uncharacteristically beautiful, well dressed people in the studios, these were big stars we were told. This may have been the Soviet equivalent of Hollywood but in the toilets they used cut up sheets of Pravda in place of toilet roll, I kid you not! The finale was an event in front of an audience of academics, again filmed, at the main Moscow TV studios. They were impressed with our progress considering we knew so little Russian when we started, I was a complete fraud but it was fun. A couple of years later some friends went to see a popular film in a cinema in Moscow on their study trip and were astonished to see my picture in the adverts outside for the scientific-educational B-movie. They said they laughed throughout, I have no idea why!
One day a friend of mine asked if I would like to go along and have a drink with some Russians, he had been approached in the street as an obvious foreigner and asked discretely if he could post a letter when he got home. I was in there, Adventuresville, USSR. That was when I met Yura, Tolya and Zhenya. In the weeks that followed we met up every night and again the following year...well apart from Yura who had been called up to the military, didn't fancy it so disappeared into the background. It was a great symbiosis, they knew places we didn't know but equally they knew that only by being associated with our passports would they get in. There was an unlikely looking underground club called Sinyaya Ptitsa where our passports got us through the long queue to discover a den of spoiled Politburo kids drinking Soviet Champagne and dancing to Boney M. Next up was The House Of Actors which stayed open beyond the standard 11pm curfew, OK so we were making a film but again it was their blag and our passports that got us in. Slightly less exclusive was the beer hut in Gorky Park they took a few of us to. The beer was very cheap, the locals very drunk, every now and then a fight would break out and police would appear from behind the trees and escort the pugilists away. A particularly memorable evening was when they took us what seemed like miles across Moscow to see a film they insisted we would love. It was in black and white and around 5 minutes in I realised it was the same film I saw four years previously when the school took me to Leningrad, except it was in colour then. But I laughed along as the lion ran across the square outside The Winter Palace, hilarious no doubt.
One Sunday Zhenya invited a group of us out to his flat where he lived with his parents. At the time there was, I believe, a 30 kilometre limit beyond which foreigners were not allowed to go. This seemed much further. We asked about train tickets but Tolya just laughed and pulled me away from the machine, nobody in their right minds buys train tickets, OK. If somebody asked us where we were from we were to say Lithuania as their version of Russian was roughly equivalent to ours and the accents similar, or so we were told. There were signs everywhere on the train for no smoking and no drinking of alcohol, Zhenya cracked open the first bottle of beer and insisted I share a cigarette with him. There then followed a series of Russian jokes which I followed well until, every time, the punchline. One I recall which he had to explain involved what would they do when Leonid Brezhnev died? They would paint two dots over the E on Lenin's tomb and place him there. OK so this would change the pronunciation to Leonin and apparently that was a popular diminutive used for Leonid in certain rural areas, it was the way he told them! A couple of beers later my bladder was troubling me, unfortunately this suburban train had no facilities so I was directed to the area between the carriages. Having left an obvious trail up the wall and lighting a cigarette a policeman approached me. "Have you got a light mate" or words to that effect and we stood there smoking together, me on the point of needing a more robust toilet facility, fortunately he wasn't an inquisitive man.
We made it to the local station where Zhenya lived and were asked to speak nothing but Russian and speak to nobody who approached us. We walked through an apparent wasteland, very unlike the immaculate streets of central Moscow, in between high rise blocks that all looked exactly the same. Approaching the entrance to Zhenya's block we were asked to say nothing whatsoever until we got up to the flat, neighbours got jealous if people had foreign visitors and reported them to the police or the local party officials. As soon as the door closed, a very thick door, things changed and the party started. Considering the food supplies and the cost of anything decent what we were offered was the equivalent of a Soviet banquet. Zhenya's mum and dad made us very welcome despite the risks they ran having us round and we talked into the late evening about England, Soviet bureaucracy, music, the war and the price of fish. Zhenya pointed out a lump in the snow below, it was where his car was parked under a tarpaulin from around October to April when the snow cleared. He had no job but his black market activities appeared to stretch to a car. As we left we were all presented with elaborate lacquered wooden spoons, such wonderful people.
One evening Zhenya turned up with a surprise. My room was particularly large and I had a full sized reel to reel tape recorder for the tapes we used as part of the film making. Zhenya had gotten hold of reel to reel tapes of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma along with some Rolling Stones and Bad Company. For the rest of the month my room became Party Tsentral. Gastronom #1 was just up the road and had a particularly well stocked off licence by Soviet standards i.e. not much and no alcohol could be sold beyond 6.30pm. So once the tapes had arrived I would head up the road every teatime with my room mate carrying a couple of sports bags to stock up on the evening's wine and beer. Some nights there would be no wine or very little beer but we always got enough for ourselves at least and selected friends. But as the cut off point arrived and the other customers saw our bags filling up with precious stocks shouting would start from those unfortunate enough to be behind in the queue facing an alcohol free evening. Oh those Moscow nights, as the month went on less and less of us seemed to make breakfast the next morning and lectures were missed but our heads were filled with Interstellar Overdrive and bad Georgian red.
Late obe evening my friend Jackie and I decided to treat ourselves to two finest Havana cigars. My one day of library research had turned up the fact that the USSR's exports in military and agricultural equipment to Cuba were almost exclusively paid for by sugar and cigars and the cigars were resold at a very attractive price. As we walked down the street in the snow an old lady clocked us and shouted "young lady" to Jackie "don't smoke cigars in the street!" We carried on regardless but people were not averse to stating their opinions in public. Whistling in public places was equally likely to attract denunciation. The military and police kept their uniforms on off duty and being a military centre it was very common to see generals on the underground. All tube trains had bench seats and the passengers had no adverts to distract them so they would stare straight ahead, it was rather disconcerting to have a general staring straight into my face for the entire journey. Had I committed another breach of social etiquette?
One particularly interesting fellow student was a mature man by the name of Paul. He had been banged up prior to taking the one year diploma in Russian, supposedly over drugs. He told tales of traffickers who went in transit through Moscow, were forced to go through customs and ended up in gulags. In another tale he had been part of a fake Tour De France team travelling from Morocco through France to Britain with bicycles on the roof and the kind of drugs even the competitors would have turned their noses up at. One night he told me how he managed Pink Floyd in the early days, being a bit anal on the subject I mentioned Peter Jenner "oh yeah, I worked alongside Peter" but copious research through my Floydian literature back home never turned up his name. But back to the subject and Paul had a large sum of roubles with just one day to go before we returned home and they could only be changed back to sterling with official receipts from the Soviet banks for an earlier exchange into roubles. Paul had been selling his sterling at 4-6 times the official rate but bizarrely had also got a job when he was out there, or so he said, translating for the English language Moscow News. His Russian was poor but when he said he would host the mother of all leaving parties in my room I didn't question it.
The plan was hatched. On each floor of the hotel the floor keepers (dejournayas) had samovars which were used for heating up warm water to pour onto Balkan tea leaves. We sourced four of them along with a catering bag of dried fruit and several bottles of vodka. All that was needed for the final kick to this Moscow Mule was around 30 bottles of red wine, 30 bottles of white and beer for the lightweights. Up we went to Gastronom #1, Paul with his fistful of roubles and me with two extra large Adidas sports bags. The staff, to say nothing of the queue behind, were highly pissed off with us for cleaning out their wine supplies but they didn't dare refuse to sell to people with foreign passports. As we walked back to the hotel an apparently sensible looking man looked into my bag and said "I didn't know there was a shortage of wine" and rushed off to the Gastronom, everything my economics teacher told me about Soviet panic buying was completely true it seemed!
It was one hell of a party, memorable even to those incapable of remembering it. The next morning one of my lecturers told me I had spoken my best Russian ever that night in my drunken state, rather disproving the film makers' theory that improvisation was the way to develop linguistic skills, the only way was alcohol. As I returned to semi-sobriety one of the Leeds students with sideboards like Mungo Jerry and Engelbert Humperdinck combined with well rotted manure was unconscious on the floor of my room. Six of us took a limb each and a couple of other bits and carried him up to his room. he was very heavy and we stopped for a breather in front of one of the floor keepers. Next thing she was on the phone to somebody saying there were some English with a body on her floor and the Dawn French Lookalike Society appeared from all other floors to investigate. I think the warm urine over his jeans convinced them he was not a statistic. We got him back to the room, I nipped back for my rarely used shaving kit, returned and removed those awful sideboards. On the coach next day a well shaven man was heard muttering "bastards" repeatedly while nursing a banging headache.
One last surprise was a visit by Zhenya with a large bag. He knew I wanted a proper leather Soviet Army belt rather than the cheaper linoleum type they sold at Voentorg (Army & Navy). He apologised for his lack of success but proceeded to give me an officer's hat, shirt with two pips on the epaulets, a beautiful pair of leather jackboots and a full length First Leningrad Rocket Regiment greatcoat complete with badges and shiny buttons. Thank God I wasn't one of those searched leaving the country. Back at Heathrow I got changed at baggage retrieval and walked through customs looking like a one-man Soviet invasion. I was not stopped.
|From Precious Things|
|From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012|
Dexys, where do we start? I take you back to somewhere around autumn 1976 when my brother-in-law Andy was in a band called Uncle Po who were quite big on the Bristol band scene at the time. Andy the saxophone player, "Spike" the violinist and me the groupie set off around Bristol in a big van with a sliding side door. We would find a handy hoarding, paste up a poster, open the door, stick it up and be off again within the minute. Golden days, but more of that later.
On to 1980 when I was in the twilight zone between the neverending debauchery of university and the forthcoming prospect of doing a proper day's work 48 weeks a year for the rest of my life, year off, no chance. But there was a new sound that grabbed me as it did so many others, Geno by Dexys Midnight Runners. My sister used to play It's Funky But It's Live by Geno Washington from the sanctuary of her bedroom, I knew those opening chants from my childhood. Interest captured I bought the single and most of what followed. I read their advertisements in the NME, they wouldn't do interviews because they never felt they were being taken seriously or their ideas were misinterpreted. Instead we got the thoughts, poetic or terse, of Kevin Rowland and they toured as The Intense Emotion Revue, all very serious but great music. The look seemed to be either merchant seaman or that episode in Dad's Army when they all had to dress up as fifth columnists.
Early 1982 Radio 1 broadcast a concert, which I had a C120 for, recorded in Newcastle. Kevin introduced it "welcome to the in a tent emotion revue", hey, the curtains were down, this was fun. A much warmer, soulful sound emerged mixed with a violin and a beautiful cover of T.S.O.P. I listened to my tape repeatedly, the album Too-Rye-Ay didn't come out for several months. If you listen to the later CD release of the live concert, T.S.O.P. at 3:42 when the violin comes back in always gives me goose pimples. After the album finally hit the stores along with related singles I was watching Top Of The Pops, up popped Dexys performing Come On Eileen...hang on a minute, that woman looks familiar. I rang up my sister "did you just see Spike on Top Of The Pops in Dexys Midnight Runners?" Of course Marian was far too cool to be watching it by then but we compared notes the following week and Spike it surely was. The clothes had changed, dungarees, raggle taggle gypsy cum David Essex gear, but again the music was different, passionate, special.
The years passed, gradually Dexys faded away, at long last the reissues emerged, first with the odd B-side then finally with entire radio sessions and even a recording of a Projected Passion Revue show. But there were reports Kevin was in a bad place and I would never get to see them, as it were, in the flesh.
Late February 2012 I'm running through my RSS feeds in Google Reader when I spot an O2 Priority "coming soon" for Dexys at Shepherds Bush...whoa! I checked everywhere I could, no other mention of tickets on the web but a new album was in the pipeline, so it wasn't some American band stealing our heritage by reusing a great British name. I checked and checked and then the "Get Your Priority Tickets Now" popped up in Google Reader. Click, book, confirm - Row A, seats 12 and 13...Row A, I never get Row A, nobody gets Row A. "Vicky, you won't believe this!" The weeks went by and the regular message from Dexys was to dress up
This is tricky, yes Vicky and I dressed up as nuns for the final Faithless show but this time some style is required, we're in the front row and can't let the boys (and girls) down. Finally I decided on a double-breasted grey suit with a plain white shirt and snazzy tie, shoes to suit. The night before the show I grabbed the jacket then spotted a lack of trouser facilities. Several hangers along I found the matching trousers but it didn't take me long to discover some difficulties in the crotch region. Plan B, a rather louche cream jacket, a shirt of many colours, some brown trousers in case the nerves of being opposite Kevin Rowland got to me and sadly some M&S boat shoes. My house has never been a vault for Cotton Club era clothing, just as well as moths love that kind of thing. Vicky, of course, had a much more suitable attire, informed by the support act, a burlesque dancer!
The great day arrived, I took a lot of stick but attracted even more compliments for turning up at work in some semi-decent clothing for a change. I may work half way between The Queen and Prince Charles' London gaffs but my style is strictly down at heel most of the time. Arriving at Shepherds Bush Empire stopping only for a couple of mini wine bottles each in a pint glass we headed down the front and yes, we were centre front row. I had never been there before, unlike Brixton Academy it's a tough place to reach and we usually end up by the side bars stood behind visiting basketball teams.
Dexys being Dexys the support couldn't be the usual singer songwriter saying hi to his brother and mum in the balcony, step forward Luna Rosa. The crowd loved her, the cameramen crouched in front of us (thanks chaps) were grinning and I was not indifferent to her charms to say the least.
|From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012|
She was on and off, as were the significant part of her clothes in a breathless three minutes, appetiser enjoyed now for the main course. The band walked on as if they had never left, reshaped, split, reinvented themselves. First thrill was to see Mick Talbot who gave The Style Council their special sound then on came the man himself. Enormous cheers, grown men welling up, now could they get the fire burning again? Straight into the new album One Day I'm Going To Soar in its entirety. We were a mature audience, we came pre-warned, we were not disappointed. I discretely got my camera out with the intention of filming every second while looking at the stage, not the viewfinder.
Two songs in one of the security guards had different ideas and informed me I was not allowed to film the concert. Oh well, just enjoy the new songs and sing along to the couple of old ones we were likely to hear at the end. As promised it was very theatrical. Running throughout was the theme acted or rather sung and facially expressed with Madeleine Hyland. Whatever it was Kevin had done Madeleine was determined to make him suffer no matter how many times Kevin held his hands up and tried to appear contrite. Eventually he appeared to get away with "it", whatever "it" was.
|From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012|
Pete Williams appeared to know.
|From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012|
As a piece it worked superbly well, quite probably because of the seated audience rather than the usual crush common to the venue. The music never stopped but you felt you had seen a play into the bargain. Sustained applause, cries of "brilliant", the audience loved it and the band looked best pleased. The media whores at Latitude will love it if they finish their full English round at Emma and Richard's in time.
So what else will we get? Quite a bit in fact. Old, Until I Believe In My Soul, Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and, despite Rowland being such a cantankerous old git, even Come On Eileen though no Spike.
In all the excitement I forgot to avoid singing along, having decided to chance my arm with a few more home movies, so apologies if my voice spoils your listening pleasure. The whooping is Vicky, she spent much of her teens in California so that's only to be expected.
Of course they had to come back on again, it was still early and they had the crowd eating out of their hands. I Couldn't Help It If I Tried, Liars A To E (I was in row A and I tell the truth matey boy) and finally the wonderful This Is What She's Like which filled my body with pleasure.
Yes it was one of those very special nights, a small venue, a band visibly beaming with the joy of their music and a crowd who would text, tweet and generally piss off their long-suffering friends for many days to come. If they were ever better than this...no, they just couldn't have been.
|From Dexys Shepherds Bush Empire 08/05/2012|
|From OneFest 14 April 2012|
My neverending quest to stalk Damon Albarn last Saturday took Vicky and me to Rockley in Wiltshire. Mid-April is not the most popular time of the year for a festival for reasons that became obvious later. We rolled up in the coach from The Barge Inn at Honey Street about 20 minutes before the gates were due to open, a formidable queue of around 20 people had beaten us to it. Perfect timing, we could hear Damon Albarn sound-checking The Marvelous Dream on the main stage a couple of hundred yards away. The minute the gates opened we legged it for the stage, but it was too late!
Plan B was the beer tent, after all it was noon already. Bath Ales Bounders Cider was the survivable option at 4%, the alternative cider was 6.8% and therefore not viable for a long day stood on our feet. Next up there were food options to explore and the Bath Pig chorizo stew looked good but we got sidetracked by a woman selling some amazing miniature guitars kerching kerching. Then I spotted a welly tossing competition, get both wellies to land on the target and you win a free pair, a pound a go for charity. They had only just opened up and I bagged a £35 Joules pair for Vicky on my second attempt!
Excellent chorizo stew necked, laden with miniature guitars and prize wellies, cider refilled we headed into the Tumuli Stage in time to catch Old Colours. Being old they looked like a bunch of kids to me but they certainly knew how to play. They are one of those bands where it appears any mate who can play an instrument will get in the band and they will adapt their music accordingly. Usual guitars and drums, a violin, a xylophone, a trumpet - but then I got into a band in the seventies purely down to my jew's harp skills that worked well for Bird On A Wire. In summary the bunch of spawny kids went down a well deserved storm.
Back out into the bright, overcast outdoors and Kidnap Alice did a very fine line in Bluegrass despite a couple of yummy mummies stood in front of the stage, backs to the band talking about their kids through the greater part of the set
The crowd were very different from the usual during the afternoon, loads of kids oblivious to the acts on stage, people with dogs, it was a kind of alternative afternoon out for the local Marlborough set. At some point in the afternoon the dogs and the kids disappeared leaving the site to the hardcore more conventional festival types.
Nick Harper followed on the main stage. We saw him last year playing Me And My Woman with the godlike genius of his old man Roy. Could he cut it on his own? Yes.
In an apparent nod to Damon Albarn's presence he slipped a few lines of Out Of Time into Love Is Music but further research indicates he has done this before. Despite trying to come across like a cantankerous bugger on the stage when we had a brief chat afterwards he was a genuinely warm man, a pleasure to meet.
Meanwhile, backstage, Damon was having a cheeky one.
|From OneFest 14 April 2012|
Back to the tent and Gaz Brookfield was showing an equal passion denouncing Simon Cowell and the X Factor in song. So impressed were we that we bought his CD afterwards. Just as I got to the front to ask him to sign it "For Simon and Louis" his pen ran out, ach well.
More cider, more consequential trips to the loo and a very nice set from Rae Morris
|From OneFest 14 April 2012|
She still had the chattering classes to contend with but her strong songs and vocals overcame them.
From nowhere a video camera on a tripod appeared, I gently enquired if they were early for Dr Dee but no, it was The UK Asian and their man Raghu Dixit and his band were due on next. Bizarrely they had been playing in Goa just the night before in 38C heat, caught a flight to Heathrow and came straight to OneFest. Despite the temperature being approximately thirty degrees lower they appeared on stage in bare feet, sarongs and T shirts just as they were in Goa. Whatever they feed kids on in Bangalore I think we all need it. A great set followed despite Raghu having contracted laryngitis somewhere along the way.
Yet more cider, yet more trips to the loo, some sweets and Dry The River appeared. We had seen them previously supporting Ed Sheeran, along with Damon and Graham Coxon (yes, that's why I went though Ed is great). I had them filed under psychedelic ZZ Top. Since then they had been to "The States" and it got mentioned, between every song I believe. One particularly handsome band member had acquired a beard and the highly refreshed girls behind referred to him loudly as "The Jesus Bloke" when not flicking things at my head. The increased volume rather tested my camera's sound capabilities but here goes anyway.
A quick trip to the loo while one of the refreshed girls let Vicky know people over the age of 30 shouldn't be at festivals (I look forward to her telling the old farmer who hangs around Glastonbury that), a change of camera to one with no darkness challenged auto-focus and it was Dee Time. The sun had gone down as had the temperature and the large band wandered onto the stage. I saw Dr Dee last year in Manchester with the full ENO production but there would be no room for this on such a small stage. I had expected Damon to perform a solo set but it was far from that. The three opera singers were warmly wrapped, Christopher Robson in a particularly thick overcoat and high scarf, having heard his marvellous falsetto previously I could see why in view of the dropping temperature.
So off we kicked with Damon striking a large bell as per Pink Floyd's Division Bell and on he proceeded into a run through of the opera. There were some very quiet, subtle moments slightly spoiled by the initial sound issues but it settled down and the three singers Christopher Robson, Victoria Couper and Melanie Oppenheim came to the fore in between Damon's soft, pastoral songs.
Progressively the cold began to bite, the high opera seriousness turned into a bit of fun and Damon began to interact with the audience (size unknown as I was on the barrier eyes forward). Watching The Fire That Waltzed Away even merited a reprise as it seemed to warm the crowd up a bit. One true gem was Cathedrals which was stirring in its beauty.
The opera came to a close but few realised as the work is still relatively unknown. Damon moved to centre stage, wound up an old gramophone record and struggled with the lid and a 78 finally placing the tone arm in the groove, a Piaf style voice sang out and the ensemble took the applause from a cold but fabulously entertained crowd. Beats by Dr Dee indeed.
In conclusion the day has to be considered a true success. Very friendly, well chosen food and drink and some superb music. Having the performers around enjoying the festival talking to their fans made it all the more special. That's all we want and it doesn't need a media company to suck the artistic blood out of it, just guys like Stephen Budd who cut the crap and please.
This coming Sunday marks the final ever edition of The News Of The World. Surprisingly, they are including a free CD for their readers and all the more surprising there is some great music on it. See the track-listing below :
R.E.M. - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Simply Red - Sad Old Red
The Undertones - You've Got My Number
Captain Sensible - Stop The World
Donna Summer - Enough Is Enough (No More Tears)
Blondie - Call Me/Hanging On The Telephone (Live)
Simon And Garfunkel - Why Don't You Write Me
Rolf Harris - Sun Arise
Gordon Lightfoot - If You Could Read My Mind
Grandmaster Flash - The Message
The Jam - News Of The World (Andy Coulson Edit)
Toy Dolls - Rupert The Bear
If you feel something else should have been included please leave suggestions in the comments.