Monday, 25 May 2009

Roxy Music

Was over at a friend's place on Saturday and we were listening to a compilation of tracks from '73; there were many good tunes on there but the stand out track of the night for me was Street Life by Roxy Music.

They burst onto the UK musical scene in '72 and achieved a fair degree of success but their legacy is the influence that their unique musical style had on bands who came after them. With Bryan Ferry on vocals and writing most of the songs they had a natural leader, but the other musicians more than matched his talents; Phil Manzanera on guitar, Andy Makay on oboes and saxaphone, Paul Thompson on drums and the legendary Brian Eno on synthesiser and knob twiddling.

A pretty interesting dress sense as you might expect from an “Art College” band, here they are playing their first single.

Here is a more experimental piece (also from the first album) Ladytron.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Island Records

This year marks the 50th birthday of Island Records, set up and run as an independent label by Chris Blackwell for the first 30 years it introduced a wide variety of Jamaican acts to the UK audience.

Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, Third World, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Toots & The Maytals to name but a few.

The label also had a roster of UK rock acts that can only be described as eclectic; from Traffic, King Crimson, Spencer Davies Group, Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople, Free, Jethro Tull, Kevin Ayers, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and U2 make for an interesting line up.

On the acoustic side there were Fairport Convention, The Chieftains, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake and Cat Stevens.

Makes for pretty impressive reading – and listening – and I probably own more records from this label than any other.

This link is to an audio slide show with some of the music and brief interviews – this is one birthday that is well worth celebrating.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Operation Chastise

Yesterday marked the 66th anniversary of this wartime bombing raid which is better known by the title of the film that was made about it in the fifties – The Dam Busters. I had never made the connection myself but Stephen Fry informed us that the Death Star bombing sequence in Star Wars is practically a remake of the bombing runs from this film.

The movie did a pretty good job of telling the tale of this raid outlining some of the technical problems which had to be overcome but at the time it was made some of the details were still not in the public domain due to the Official Secrets Act.

You can read a detailed description of the operation at this site.

Heard the great Stephen Fry on the radio a couple of weeks ago and he has been commissioned to write the script for a remake of the film which is being produced by Peter Jackson. He made a really good point when he said that people were concerned that the film would contain present day references to feelings that were not appropriate 66 years ago.

He had met the commander of the raids lover who told him that while they were training they would go out for long drives, park up and that he would sob for ages behind the steering wheel while she stroked his hair.

However the thing which will give the makers the most angst is what to do about the commander's dogs name (which was used as the call sign for the successful demolition of the first dam) – while acceptable all those years ago it is now deemed to be beyond the pale for white folks to use the “N” word now.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Pigs Having It Rough

As if the swine flu thing was not enough the papers over here have been filled with stories of “snouts in the trough” as the full extent of the double standards of Members of Parliament's allowances/expenses system have been revealed over the last couple of weeks.

Not only are these people paid what any normal person would consider a pretty fine salary this gets topped up by tax free expense payments that add up (on average) to £144,000 per year.

The key word here is tax free – unlike every other tax payer in the country who would be liable to pay tax these scumbags pay no tax on their “allowances” and get very creative with the definition of their main home.

Under the “rules” they are entitled to relief if they have to pay for a second home to live in while attending parliament (and it is not just mortgage, council tax and utilities – they can claim £400 per month for food for fecks sake) and they bend the rules to line their trouser pockets.

Let's take Hazel Blears as an example, she was claiming a second home allowance for a flat in London and then shortly before selling it nominated it as her main residence. This meant that she was not liable to the 40% capital gains tax on the £45,000 that she made when selling it - “I acted within the rules” was her initial response but she has since written a cheque for £13,332 to the Inland Revenue.

Now 40% of 45,000 works out at £18,000 so what is going on here?

Her initial response has been typical of all those outed by the Daily Telegraph for things as diverse as having the moat cleaned, repairing water pipes under the tennis court, replacing toilet seats, bath plugs, televisions, helipad maintenance, swimming pool maintenance and repairs, £115 plus VAT for the replacement of 25 light bulbs (WTF?) the list is endless.

The only good thing to come out of this affair is the genuine level of anger being felt across the country at the shenanigans of MPs from all parties

There is only one answer to this and that is for all MPs to live in a single apartment block in central London supplied and maintained by the civil service. Any additional expense claims to be transparent (put them online) and audited by an independent group of auditors and any transgressions to be prosecuted under the laws which apply to everyone else living and working here.

For some classic mealy mouthed “explaining” watch this clip from last week's Question Time.

Meanwhile pigs get a bad press when the reality is that they are highly intelligent animals who by coincidence happen to taste fantastic when the various cuts they provide are prepared and cooked – I am now off for a bacon sandwich and a vat of coffee to take away the taste of corruption from my mouth.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Ian Dury & The Blockheads

Despite suffering from polio in his school years Ian Dury overcame this and managed to carve out a niche for himself and his band during the late seventies. He was one of the finest English song lyricists of his generation (and I am in good company here as this view is endorsed by Suggs of Madness) where his wicked sense of humour came in handy; it also helped that the Blockheads were a bunch of great musicians best experienced live which I was lucky enough to do on a couple of occassions.

He passed in 2000 but his songs remain to be enjoyed today.

To close here is the number he wrote for his musical hero while growing up Sweet Gene Vincent.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Interesting Video

A good friend sent me the link to this video and it makes for a thought provoking watch – helped along by a Fat Boy Slim track as the background music.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Car Park Shuffle

Every week day morning (during term time) at around 07:30 the car park at small town station becomes a hive of activity with cars entering to drop off their school kids. Most of them appear to feel that making their children walk more than 10 feet to the platform to be cruel and unusual treatment and stop in the first third of the small car park to unload their passenger(s).

This results in a “waltz” like shuffle as cars attempt to get into a parking space while others are trying to leave the car park or get into it – have yet to witness a collision but have seen some near misses; after 5 minutes all the kids have been deposited and an air of tranquillity falls over the car park.

All in all it makes for an entertaining start to my day and I did find myself missing the spectacle during the Easter break – not so the loudly chattering children on the train, though truth be told they were pretty quiet by their standards last week.