Monday, 31 December 2018

They disturbed my natural emotions

My first 7" single, no pic sleeve and, unfathomably,
now housed in Pye sleeve
I had to drive to Birmingham to pick up my mum just before Christmas. Rather than my usual BBC6 I chose some CDs to listen to on the journey.  These have been overlooked somewhat with my return to vinyl and use of streaming services, and most are now in the loft, but  a number have been kept to hand, primarily 'best ofs' and early Rough Trade album club editions. I happened upon 'Singles Going Steady' something I didn't realise I had on CD - I had played tracks off the vinyl version on the day I heard the terrible news of the passing of Pete Shelley, but must have picked up a CD copy at some point aswell. Playing it on the drive brought back lots of memories. First and foremost what a singles band they were, and with some fabulous b-sides too, and there were some superlative singles bands in those days. The CD edition had the bonus of eight extra tracks too including the 4 post Harmony in My Head singles. I had had a great day on 6th December with a successful music themed lunchtime event at work and was in positive mood when the news that Pete Shelley had died came through and deflated me. I turned straight away to my records and some of the outpouring of love online and on the radio made it as little easier but behind it all was the feeling that a part of my childhood had died. Revisiting Singles Going Steady in full on this journey brought back some memories.

buzzcocks could, and perhaps should, have been my first gig. The first single I bought with my own money was 'Ever Fallen in Love' and each perfect pop single that followed in quick succession was snapped up. Not long after my mum spotted that 'The Buzzcocks' were playing the Birmingham Odeon and did I want to go. With her. I was 12 at the time she asked me and I guess this may even have been intended as a birthday present as it appears it took place about a month after I became a teenager. I unfortunately turned down this kind offer, during my burgeoning interest in the music press and by delving into back catalogue I had picked up on songs such as 'Orgasm addict' and 'Oh Shit', as well as being broadly aware of the moral panic around punk/post punk and felt I could not face the embarrassment of going along with my mother. My loss of course, and testament to what a caring and lovely person my mum was and is. It also appears this was my one chance to see Joy Division who I have since found out were supporting them that night. I am actually really proud of my first gig (XTC, The Members and Last Touch some 15 months later) but with hindsight this would have eclipsed it.

At School buzzcocks even permeated my art lessons, when learning to screen print what better way to test this out than with a re-imagining of buzzcocks' logo, and even english when studying romantic poetry, later to be further developed by The Jam's Sound Affects.  Later on other bands took primacy in my affections, but at my core was a love of buzzcocks, the songwriting of Pete Shelley, and all they and he inspired and that could not have happened in their absence. The day after he died a story came to light of how during a student occupation at the Regent Street headquarters of my workplace, he arrived in the middle of the night with an acoustic guitar to provide some entertainment for the student occupiers. As if I couldn't love him more. 



Friday, 29 June 2018

End of the group stages psychosis blues (reprise)

At exactly the same stage in 2014 I blogged about the end of the group stages psychosis blues, a knowing nod to That Petrol Emotion that readers may have picked up upon. The essence of the blog was an acknowledgement of that empty feeling when the group stages with at least three games a day have finished. It was also a paean to my attempts at World Cup cooking. I've been quiet on the blogging front but rest assured I have still pushed back culinary boundaries for the Russian edition of world cup. The idea is to try and create an evening meal that echoes in some way a team or teams playing in that day's group matches. An added factor is the fact that I am vegetarian so many national dishes have to be adapted and countries such as Iceland prove a challenge, and also the non qualification of Italy deprived me of my usual open goal.

Whilst not as prolific due to trips away from home and other commitments I again boldly attempted to subvert the traditional. Egypt/Saudi Arabia was an early highlight with Saudi Arabia taking centre stage with a Ruz Bukhari, accompanied by some falafel based on a recipe from the marvellous British pulse producer Hodmedod's and using their split fava beans as a base which was a loose take on Egypt, a country I was to return to later (see below).
Falafel

Bukhari Rice (Saudi Arabia)
Whilst I am a man of savoury leanings, my odyssey is not constrained by such predilections. The qualification of Iran allowed me to try out a pistachio based chocolate torte that was delicious although the less said about my Uruguayan cauliflower fritters and Peruvian potatoes the better - i didn't even take any photos.

Chocolate and pistachio torte (Iran)
I had ambitions for many other creations, including delving into Moroccan cookbooks in more depth than I have previously and having a barbeque whilst watching Australia, but it was not to be. I did manage during the final round to return to Egypt more authentically with a well known national dish, Koshari, pictured here with extra tomato sauce and fried onion garnish. It is however with the knock out stages that the fun can really start, with a series of mash ups and fusions becoming possible, already Belgium/Japan looks intriguing and Brazil/Mexico looks like a Latin bean bonanza. The joy is that this is a game you can play too and you have 24 hours without football to consult your cookbooks and let your creative juices flow. France v Argentina tomorrow might be a good place to start, but world cup cooking is coming home.

 
Koshari (Egypt)

Thursday, 22 March 2018

I used the NME


I picked up my last copy of the NME (pictured) at Oxford Street tubestation. Ironic really, as back in the day I used to make a trip to the tube station most tuesdays during my lunchbreak to pick up the NME. One of the best things about moving to London in the 1980s was that you were able to pick up the music papers a day early - invaluable, particularly as this was my main source of gig listings and tour announcements and you could steal a march on less savvy punters armed with this knowledge.

Whilst I had some memorable trips to the shadow of IPC towers to pick up the papers, my usual port of call was outside Tottenham Court Road tube station. It was always a delight that it was not only me getting there early, but sometimes the subject matter of the paper too. More than once Ian MacNab was in the queue in front of me. Memorably you could also pick up a bootleg cassette nearby whilst you were about it too, daringly set up close to the Virgin Megastore and often sold by the late, lamented Liam Maher out of a wooden case which he would fold up and run with at the first sighting of the police.

Of course, the last issue of the NME was terrible. It had been awful and pretty pointless for years but I still would pick a copy up and think wistfully back to the days when it really meant something, not just to me but to a whole swathe of people like me. It was a gateway to a wider world and an acknowledgement that writing about so called low culture did not mean that you resorted to facile comments and lacklustre reviews.  I remember showing my dad one of the reviews once, I think it was an review of Joy Division's Closer but I would need to do a bit more detective work to ascertain this for sure,  but I recall being staggered by the quality of the writing, the depth of the analysis and an awareness of context that I had not been subject to up to that point via my English literature lessons. Not sure it persuaded my dad to listen to Atrocity Exhibition though.

I recall being terrified that i would miss an issue containing a free 7 EP  and making a special trip to Leeds Railway station when other stockists had all sold out. I remember happy days at Doggets on the Southbank with Christmas bumper issues of all of the music papers trawling through over a beer or two with my partner in crime. But more than anything I remember the excitement,
and anticipation of my trips to buy it and the joy of reading it. RIP

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

What Difference Does it Make (Part 2)?


Terence Stamp, from 'The Collector'
Next week sees the second Difference Festival hosted by the University of Westminster. There are some absolute treats there and the team have done a brilliant job devising an eclectic mix of events focussed on Soho. I blogged last year trying to give some context to what difference means to us under the banner 'What Difference does it Make?', hence the 'Part 2' addition to this post. All the events are free, the festival starts on Monday 26th February and its open to all so please come along.
Last week I appeared on Pete Paphides' Soho Radio show to talk about the festival, the show is available here. In tandem with this Pete put out a call for 'Songs about Soho' so we might make a playlist. As with his wonderful Station to Station feature, we got some brilliant Soho songs, which I have put together on this spotify playlist. I won't explain all of the references and links, some can be found by looking at Pete's twitter timeline and others explained in the show itself, but whilst it includes the obvious, yet still brilliant, it also celebrates the tangential and often personal takes of listeners to Soho Radio. Pete may well put together a more beautifully curated and crafted one in due course, but I wanted to put this one out there before the festival starts.

What you get to hear is Soho with a Difference you might say.