Friday, 28 December 2007

Seven Days In The Christmas Holidays


What is a blog , it's just like a daily diary, but most tend to get forgotten about , people do one or two , usually good entries then leave it to die (see the Ape of Wrath) , two years sing the last entry , thought the few that are there are excellent.

So though I've been on holiday and have pictures and that , I'm just doing this to get an entry in before the end of 2007.

One of my most impressive Christmas presents is the The Aki Kaurismaki Collection - Leningrad Cowboys 3 DVD set , which includes the awesome Total Balalaika Show from 1994 in front of 70,000 fans with the Red Army Choir backing . Their version of Gimme All My Loving is Youtubed here.




Absolutely mental , and well worth the experience.

Then another surprise , The Tain by Horslips (as well as Book Of Invasions and the rest) is now available on Emusic for easy digital download here.

That is in addition to the Half Man Half Biscuit back catalogue here

So essential I've had a few decent musical surprises before the year peters out.

Merry Christmas and New Year To All




Thursday, 23 August 2007

Seven Days in Woodstock (and Oxford)



What do you think of when you think of Woodstock . Jimi Hendrix , rock , debauchery , mud? You can find all that on the DVD , but I'm on about a small village near Oxford on the map here with it's own website here (doest everyone have one these days?).

We stayed there with friends earlier this year in a building that at some point had been a pub, but was now rented out to parties of hedonists such as ourselves.

Woodstock itself is very small and one of the few streets ends up at the gate to Blenheim Palace which is huge , impressive , and has grounds designed by Capability Brown , populated with killer geese ,

and a groundsman's cottage that seemed permanently flooded even before the latest biblical deluges.



They had a exhibition of Churchill (he was born there you know) , and for the first time in my life I noticed the amazing similarity between Churchill and Buddha!!. Why they had Buddha in a Churchill exhibition I'll never know.



At Churchill's request, he was buried in the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, not far from his birthplace. In the fields along the route, and at the stations through which the train passed, thousands stood in silence to pay their last respects. In 1998 his tombstone had to be replaced due to the large number of visitors over the years having eroded it and its surrounding area. A new stone was dedicated in a ceremony attended by members of the Spencer-Churchill family.

Bladon is quite small , and it must have been hell there for Churchill's funeral , but worth a visit as the Church is very pleasant , though the graveyard is right next to the primary school....which was nice.

The village itself has several pubs, The Punchbowl being the Charver Magnet. The Crown , opposite the punchbowl had a lot of big screens and was pleasant enough. They have a restaurant but it wasn't open while we were there. The rest are the pubs are safe enough as long as you can afford the prices. The Black Prince had great location next to a stream / marsh though the insect population seemed to be fairly active around there.

Opposite our domicile there was a chip shop, nothing strange about that, however the portions of chips would do about 3 people , so a good place if you're hungry.

Also theres a shop called Hampers , great for all your exotic foods and nibbly things , again , at a price but well worth it. Alternatively there is the Co-Op!!!

It's all very touristy, middle England , but none the worse for that. Parking's easy and your convenient for Oxford and surrounding villages.

Oxford itself is architecturally very pleasant but it's full of blood students. Still you can get a drink , see where Morse drove his jag , got drunk and solved the odd murder and theres a few churches with towers that all offer the "best view" of Oxford. It's worth putting in the effort to haul yourself to the top of one of these , even if your a total f@t b@st@rd like me!!! and you'll be rewarded with views like these!!!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Newcastle Observation #1

On the way into Newcastle today noticed a fairly hefty guy , complete with tabs and lighter and new version of the home shirt , obviously off to see the Newcastle vs Juventus match (2-0 to the Toon and Buffoon should have walked) . As the guy left the bus I noticed the name and number on the shirt was :

"Barton 666"

Very scary indeed.

I'm based in Newcastle , and came up here around 1985 after being conned by some agency, and ended up staying here full time. Even in this short time I've seen a lot of changes , some good some bad.

The demise of the Mayfair to make way for the awful Gate complex is one of the bad things , however the recent smoking ban means I can now really enjoy brilliant pubs like the Newcastle arms without getting effectively tear gassed by cigarette fumes.



If you want to know about pubs in Newcastle check out the Burglar's Dog , you can't do better. Amazingly they also have a book!!! Click the picture on the left to find out more about it.



Saturday, 28 July 2007

Seven Days In Dublin #1


The real reason for setting up this blog was the mad things you tend to see when you're away from home on holiday.

In January 2007 I spent a week in Dublin , near a place called Dún Laoghaire.
It's pronounced Dun Leery !!

It was at the station there I saw a great example of the dual language type fun , not exactly Samuel L Jackson , but funny .

Dublin is an excellent place to go , but has become very cosmopolitan and wealthy over the past few years. If you're travelling a lot by public transport it's worth getting a DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) that does you for the buses & trains.

Going in one night I was on a bus surrounded by Italians and Poles , and remember thinking "Kinell , It's like I'm in a foreign country!!!" . I then remembered that I actually was . Doh!!!



We were in a hotel outside Dalkey which is a pleasant seaside village. In one of the pubs , I went to the loo and saw this, thinking that's an accident waiting to happen . Chewing Gum , Jelly Beans and Condoms in the same machine after ten pints. Though after ten pints the condoms wouldn't be much use to most blokes anyway.


There's a rather good pub called The Druid's Chair that serves excellent Guinness , and has some excellent views out over the Irish Sea. Like this:


In Dalkey itself , we found an excellent Italian restaurant called Benitos!! . The war pictures on the wall should have alerted us to the inspiration behind the name. The food and service were great , so it's well worth tracking down if you're in that nck of the woods.

Back in Dun Leery we went to a restaurant , and this was the menu. Fine but the cost of two courses separately was 2 Euros cheaper than buying them together. I asked the waitress about it but no explanation was forthcoming.


Another amazing site in Dublin the the 600 Foot (or is it metres) Spike in the main street. It's lit up at night and looks mental.



The name of this place tickled me, not that I'm likely to frequent such a place with my excellent taste in food. Though I think they're a chain as I started to see a lot more of them (It wasnt the Guinness, honest)

Another fun thing was this old French Beer advertisement , which I'm sure would go down well these days , well with most of the punters I know!


If you're drinking or looking for night life in Dublin , Temple Bar is the place to head for , However the main pub seems to be Gogerty's Bar ,and while if you're looking for "company" it's fine , but the Guinness was atrocious. We started a Musical Pub Crawl there and the band drank water . Subsequently they were on the Black Stuff , but obviously had the same opinion of Gogerty's that I did. The musical Pub Crawl was well worth doing, Apparently the do a literary one as well , but we didnt get a chance to sample that.

I'll add to this as I remember stuff . Comments welcome

Monday, 19 February 2007

Seven Days In Krautrockland

At the end of the sixties many bands had dabbled with non standard music, such as the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd who were not averse to producing extended soundscapes based on the actual sounds rather than standard song progressions.

Tracks like “Echoes” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” by the Floyd and “Dark Star” by the Dead were prime examples of this.

For one reason or another, this seemed to sow the seeds of musical revolution, in, of all places Germany, resulting a plethora of superb, totally original music which took elements from certain western bands a stretched them way beyond anything that had been heard before, bar maybe Jimi Hendrix. The generic term for this became, and now I’m going to use it, was “Krautrock”. The term became one of endearment and respect as some of the effects of the music produced is still with us today. That is also the title of an excellent Julian Cope reference book on the subject, which is worth tracking down if you would like to know more.

Any what I’m going to do is list, in no particular order some of the most influential and interesting bands in the genre , and albums worth listening to…..as well as an essential single album for each band listed

Amon Düül II:

Formed in 1968 in Munich from the Amon Düül commune, released their first album “Phallus Dei” in 1969 on Liberty records. Essentially guitar based using unusual, but accessible chord changes , featuring both standard rock formats such as “Archangels Thunderbird” from “Yeti”, and extended improvisational sound collages such as “Syntelmans March of The Roaring Seventies” from “Dance of The Lemmings”. However their next two albums (“Carnival In Babylon” and “Wolf City”) featured shorter pieces possibly in search of a wider audiences. Such innovation could not last an “Vive La Trance” saw the band drift into standard westernised bland rock. I believe they are still around today, but all the albums mentioned above are essential listening bar “the first and last ones.

Essential Single Album: “Dance of the Lemmings”

Tangerine Dream:

Formed in Berlin 1967 by art student Edgar Froese who got the name from the lyrics of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Froese was invited to play some classical improvisations by Salvador Dali at his Spanish Villa, Froese went through numerous musicians before teaming up with Klause Schulze, who worked on the bands debut “Electronic Meditation” released in 1969 on the Ohr label, home of many excellent German bands.. This was followed up by “Atem” , “Zeit” and “Alpha Centauri” the music being gothic, challenging and rhythmic. Through much airplay on John Peel’s show the band signed to Virgin and released their commercial breakthrough “Phaedra” featuring three pieces of music , produced entirely by electronic instruments (remember this was the seventies). Their music became more and more hypnotic and rhythmic, these avenues explored on “Rubycon”. However as with Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream’s music drifted off into MOR vacuity. All albums listed are worth listening to.

Essential Single Album: “Phaedra”

Can:

Probably the most influential of all the German bands from this era, namechecked by anybody who is anybody on the dance and ambient scene. Formed in 1968 in Cologne , originally as “Inner Space” by Holger Czukay and Irmin Scmidt, who soon recruited bassist Jaki Leibezeit and guitarist Michael Karoli, all of whom , I believe are still active, individually and collectively today. Can are extremely rhythmic based music, influenced originally by the likes of the Velvet Underground, Terry Riley. Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. Their first album “Monster Movie” featured black American singer Malcolm Mooney on vocals, featuring total improvisation such as the 20 minute “You Doo Right”. After this album Mooney suffered a breakdown and was replaced by Damo Suzuki for their next album “Soundtracks”. These line produced three superb albums “Tago Mago”, “Ege Bamyasi” and “Future Days”, before Suzuki went back to Japan to become a Jehovahs witness. Karoli and Schmidt took over vocal duties and released “Soon Over Babbaluma” in 1974. In 1976 they even scored a top 30 British single with “I Want More”, and continued to release albums up til 1989’s “Rite Time” which lacked their earlier inspiration. In 1997 a double CD compilation of dance remixes called “Sacrilege” was issued on the bands Spoon label.

Essential Single Album: “Anthology” (compilation)

Kraftwerk:

Formed in Dusseldorf 1969 by Ralf Hutter and Florian Scneider as Organisation, their music has come to reflect their industrial background although on their first album “Ralf and Florian” they used traditional musical instruments (as exemplified by the flute led “Ruczuck”). Their commercial an influential breakthrough when they ditched traditional instruments, for the all electronic “Autobahn” the 22 minute title track being edited down to three minutes to spawn a hit single. Kraftwerk have been a huge influence on dance music and the electronic scene produce several almost mechanical an soulless yet fascinating albums such as “Radioactivity”, “Trans Europe Express” and “Computer World”. There is also an excellent remix album called “The Mix”.

Essential Single Album: “Autobahn”

Faust:

Formed in Hamburg 1970 by producer Uwe Nettlebeck, probably the most avant garde and least accessible of the bands I’ve mentioned. Their eponymous first album featured samples of Rolling Stones and Beatles songs on a clear vinyl album in a clear plastic sleeve featuring an X-Ray of a human hand. Their third album “The Faust Tapes” was a collage of sound cuttings featuring some beautiful music, and is highly recommended.

Essential Single Album: “The Faust Tapes”

While I’ve only scratched the surface of this excellent musical genre and not delved into the likes of “Popol Vuh”, “Ash Ra Tempel” and probably a million others, hopefully this piece has whetted your appetite to at least investigate some of the most startling and innovative music ever made

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Hello

This is just a start. Everyone seems to be blogging , so its just to set down some thoughts and observations.

The aim of the blog is to
  1. Tell you about my website
  2. Post articles on things
  3. Make comments on stuff theat I've seen and heard


    Mike