My Record Collection 71

Dexys Midnight Runners (Dexys) – another strange one, this band is simply the nom de plume for Kevin Rowland (see R), lead singer and songwriter.  They emerged in the late Seventies and went through complete band changes in their first flush of success and three albums.  Kevin is absolutely sincere and bonkers in equal measure; dedicated to a form of English Soul Music and refusing any degree of compromise.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  Big Hit ‘Gino’ was followed two years later by even bigger ‘Come on Eileen’, both peaking at number one in the UK charts.  Anyway – I have a greatest hits Let’s keep This Precious – which is a mixed bag; all the hit singles are there and are pretty good, but a lot of the songs seem boring really.

Anyway I also bought a far more recent album 2012’s One Day I’m Going To Soar – mostly on the rave reviews in Uncut magazine.  The band had broken up in the early Nineties but Kevin reformed it as a trio in 2011 and renamed it Dexys – this album was the result.  And it is really quite good; Kevin has a habit of speaking in the intros of songs and I find this both charming and naïve – there is no doubting his sincerity and honesty.  But this bunch of songs are really good, and I am tempted to buy the follow-up which features songs about his homeland Ireland.   Bets songs on this one are ‘She Got A Wiggle’ and ‘I’m Always Gonna Love You’.   A minor star but a great talent.

Neil Diamond – is a colossus in the ‘Pop’ industry, and when he started it was literally that. He worked in the Brill Building in New York writing hit songs along with Carole King (and Goffin) and Neil Sedaka and many others.  But like those other two he ventured out ion his own in the mid-Sixties and had huge hits with ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Cracklin Rosie’.  And right through the Seventies and Eighties with ‘Song Sung Blue’, ‘I am I said’ and many others.  A prestigious talent – who stayed mostly in the ‘Pop’ realm.  So I start with his Greatest Hits – one of many I suspect -but not a disappointment here among the twenty or so songs.  Just great and finishing with Sweet Caroline – so good you have to play it two or three more times.  I also have a press give-away – Hot August Night, which is a live record, 10 songs; not bad really I suppose – a few hits and one or two I didn’t know.  I am never sure if I should really include these give-away’s in my collection – are they truly valid.  Anyway – there it is.  Far more important are practically the last two records he made a few years ago with Rick Rubin.  Inspired no doubt by the fabulous records made with Johnny Cash, Neil put himself at the mercy of this producer – who stripped back a collection of 12 Songs into almost just a guitar, piano and voice.  And what a revelation, not only are the songs brilliant – but so is Neil. Gentle sometimes, a bit rocky sometimes, but always honest. Barely a poor song on this – but ‘Oh Mary’,’ Delirious Love’, and ‘Hell Yeah’ really stand out; Neil’s voice seems as good as ever, and at last he seems to have moved out of the centre of the road and into the left-hand lane.  He followed this up a couple of years later with Home Before Dark. And yet somehow the magic seems to have faded.  The songs don’t have quite that feeling of honesty.  And after this Neil and Rick Rubin parted company.  Actually it’s not such a bad record at all – just compared with it’s predecessor it lacks something.  Best songs – ‘Act Like A Man’ and ‘Pretty Amazing Grace’

Image result for images of neil diamond now

My Record Collection 70

The Dear Janes – I bought this CD Sometimes I on the strength of a couple of CD singles bought back in the Nineties.  It features two girls singing quite pleasantly really, but it is the content that intrigued me; quite a few of the songs are about sex and sexuality – with titles like ‘My Guilty Hand’ ‘Brides of the Cross’ and ‘Jesus take me down’ – repressed Catholics I presume.  An oddity, but I quite like it really.

Del Amitri – another 80’s Scottish band; I first heard through their catchy singles.  I have only bought sporadically their albums starting with 1992’s Change Everything, which was their third album.   And a nice mix of songs it is too, I love lead singer Justin Currie’s voice.  I believe he wrote most of the songs too.  Best songs – ‘Just Like A Man’, ‘Be My Downfall’ and ‘The Last To know’.  Although there is a similarity about most of the songs on the record, not always a bad thing I suppose.  I seem to recall that I picked up the three studio albums of theirs in second-hand shops; I used to spend far too many lunchtimes browsing the racks in Soho record shops – Sister Ray and Reckless Records being my favourites.  Next up is Twisted from 1995.  Another excellent batch of songs – slightly rockier if anything.  Part of the trouble for Del Amitri was that they were categorized early on as a ‘Pop’ group and struggled to establish their credentials as a serious rock band.  Best songs – big hit ‘Roll With Me’, ‘It Might As Well Be You’ and best of all ‘Driving With The Brakes On’. My last original album was their last real record Can You Do Me Good. (2002), and it seems almost a last desperate throw of the dice.  It is practically a solo album – and no surprise Justin Currie went solo after this, though apparently the group is still going in some form.  A couple of good songs however – ‘I’m just A Drunk In A Band’ rocks along and ‘Cash and Prizes’ is pretty good.  It seems that bands in the Nineties and after don’t seem to be able to sustain themselves for that long.  Maybe it has always been that way except for a very few – the Stones limp on, as do the Who.  The Floyd are no more, and U2 barely exist at all these days.  Maybe money and age take their toll – though some artists like Neil Young and McCartney still seem to have an appetite.  I also have an excellent greatest hits Hatful of Rain, and it’s sister CD of B sides Lousy with Love.  And in a way these are all you need, all the hits and some great B sides are here; ‘Kiss This Thing Goodbye’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, ‘Spit in the Rain’, ‘Tell her This’ and of course the great Scottish world cup song ‘Don’t Come Home Too Soon’.

Sandy Denny – Ah, just one more rock casualty really.  A singer-songwriter she was in the Folk vein and never quite broke through to the mainstream.  Though back in the Sixties there was quite a bit of cross-over.  She was lead singer in Fairport Convention and a lesser known band Fotheringay before going solo.  She died of drink related problems in the late 70’s.   For some reason I bought her debut The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971) (probably because the cover took my eye).  It was quite different from my usual batch of West Coast inspired artists; very English, very low-key and sparse – in some ways she reminded me of Nick Drake (see D).  Listening again now and with the passing of time I realise it was quite a mixture of an album – some songs like ‘Late November’ and the title track are very folky – but she ventured into blues on a cover of Dylan’s ‘Down in the Flood’.  For whatever reason I didn’t buy any of her other three solo records – but a few years back I discovered a retrospective No More Sad Refrains which covers her entire career.  This is a double album; and aptly named, it really is quite dirgy – and this from a Leonard Cohen fan – but I must confess I don’t really like this at all.  This CD may well join a very small pile of rejects….oh dear.  Now I know why I never liked ‘folk’ that much.  Oh Well.

 

 

Five Go Mad In Brexitland

Little Nigel was playing with himself.  No, I mean really on his own, when he suddenly had an idea.  “I will invite my chums Boris, Liam and Michael to go on a trip to Brexitland”.  Now Nigel knew all along that Brexitland didn’t really exist, it was just an illusion, a dream that some mad kids in the private school down the road at Eton had dreamed up one day – but he thought it might be fun anyway.  Liam was keen right away as he had friends in America who told him Brexitland was THE place to be.  Boris had to be persuaded because he feared that Brexitland might be full of Bongo-bongos or slit-eyes – and Michael slithered along behind as he knew it might make him Leader of the gang one day.

Well, on their way they decided to allow little Theresa to join them, she had to wear an ill-fitting trouser suit or people might realise she was a girl after all.  Along the yellow brick road they danced.  One had no brains, one no courage and…oh, sorry that’s a different story -but true none the less,

They asked the man on the way how to get to Brexitland.  His name was Michel and he spoke in a funny accent like all foreigners.  He told them that all the wonderful things they had heard existed in Brexitland were here already, but they were still convinced that something better was just over there on the other side of that fence.  Arriving at the gate called Parliament, which they had to go through to get to Brexitland our five intrepid adventurers were stumped.  The bar of Parliament was too high.  It had a label on it which they could just read, it said.  “Common Sense”.  Try as they might they just couldn’t get through Parliament to Brexitland.  Looking round Theresa discovered she was on her own.  Nigel and Boris had run away, telling her she was on the wrong path to Brexitland.  Michael was playing games and plotting to be leader of the gang himself one day and Liam was in a world of his own trying to swap conkers and old toys with anyone – but no-one wanted them.

So Theresa had to ask that nasty Jeremy to help her get to Brexitland.  But try as they might they couldn’t find a way either.  You see children – Brexitland was always a silly idea.  The lesson we should learn is that things are never quite what they seem, and sometimes you have to ask the grown-ups like Yvette and Hilary and Oliver to help you see sense.

My Record Collection 69

Deacon Blue – a Scottish band from the mid-eighties.  There was quite a revival around this time, with Prefab Sprout (see P) and Everything But the Girl (see E) and Deacon Blue in the forefront.  These bands were kids when The Beatles were in their prime and that influence has carried through, gorgeous melodies, accomplished playing and sensous soul-infused vocals.  After all the madness of glam and punk and new wave this quieter, more eloquent sound emerged.  I used to have their forst album Raintown on vinyl, but my first CD of theirs is their second and commercially most successful record When The World Knows Your Name (1989).  I simply love lead singer Ricky Ross’s voice, almost pleading, sexy and yearning.  Best songs  – the big single ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Love and Regret’ and ‘Feregus Sings The Blues’.  A very good record. They followed this in 1991 with Fellow Hoodlums which for me was their very best.  Opener ‘James Joyce Soles’, the gorgeous ‘Your Swaying Arms’, ‘Cover From The Sky’ and ‘Closing Time’ – just beautiful.  A lovely record.   Two years later and they released Whatever You say, Say Nothing – which was not quite so successful.  The sound had changed, a bit more mellow, a bit less edgy -though there were still some very good songs; ‘Your Town’ and ‘Hang Your Head’ – they had lost impetus somehow. Many groups go through the same thing; six or seven years of success and then a decline and inevitable break-up.  Maybe the treadmill of albums, promoting singles and tours takes it’s toll.  And then someone leaves and it is never the same.  But worse still sometimes is the just as inevitable re-union.  But before that of course comes the greatest Hits Compilation Our Town, which is really a great place to start (or end) if you quite liked a couple of the singles. It does contain a handful of new songs too – but somehow they don’t quite excite me.

Anyway the band did reform on a part-time bases in 1999 and have released a couple of new albums – which I haven’t bought.  To tell the truth I barely noticed the reforming at all, the band is now quietly treading water somewhere…

Fellow Hoodlums

A Most Amazing Experience – A True Story

Well, let me begin by saying that all stories are true – it’s just that some of them haven’t actually happened – so, if you don’t mind. I will leave you guessing.

The first time that anything happens is usually pretty amazing – and not always for the right reasons, but new experiences seldom fail to leave their mark.  That first hesitant kiss, the soft almost not-there touch of her lips, the guilty look in your eyes, you glance sideways to see if she has read your thoughts – but no, her eyes are closed in blissful anticipation so you move in and let the gliding edge of your tongue slide over her gorgeous plump lips.

Ah, enough of this mundane stuff – we have all kissed – but I suspect none of you can quite remember that first time.  Anyway, not in the graphic detail I can.

And that of course has always been my problem.  I remember everything.  Each falling leaf as it begins its downward spiral to earth is captured in my memory.  Each handful of silvery sand I let slip through my fingers – just like the women I discarded; so many fallen petals, faded flowers, wilting and clogging up the drains after rain.  All there – my memories; lined up in their little white boxes, sublime treasure-chests of remembrance, just waiting for the lid to be prised open and re-lived.

Just like the first time I killed a woman.  Oh, I had no intention before it happened.  This was not pre-meditated.  Honestly.  Thoughts of death had never crossed my mind.  Seduction, persuasion, a little light tussle maybe – but not killing.  Besides this was my first time; my very own virgin murder and I was hardly prepared.   For anything, I might add.

The blood – of course.  And how could anything, any degree of premeditation prepare you for the blood, that metallic aroma that fills your nostrils, the bright red pulsing colour of it, the stickiness – no matter how you try to wipe it away it clings to your fingers; you glance in the mirror and there are spots on your face, your glasses splattered, it even gets in your hair.  Your clothes are ruined, of course; they will have to be burned – and if you are stupid enough to kill her in your own rooms you have to use gallons of bleach to eradicate the stains that seem to lurk, like shadowy reminders of the woman she once was.  And the screams, those piercing high-pitched screams go right through you, yet in a way they simply encourage you to keep on stabbing, to stifle, to silence her, to extinguish the very air in her lungs.  And then the body limp and collapsing around you; as you reach for an arm her leg flops out of your grasp.  The weight of them too, who would have thought something so light on its toes, so sprightly, so energetic one moment – could be so unresponsive, so inert, so – well, dead, to put it bluntly.  And the disposal of the now completely distasteful body presents a whole new set of problems.  And I mean it when I say distasteful.  Please do not mistake me for some sort of pervert.  A dead thing is simply that, there is no sexual attraction in a corpse, even less than in a living being I might add.

But like everything in life, I have found, the first time is always the hardest.  After a while you develop strategies for dealing with these issues.

But the first time was I must admit quite an amazing experience.  As I said I had no idea of killing the woman at all.  It had all started so innocently; a date – innocuous in itself, though I am sure a suspicion must have been lurking somewhere in her consciousness.  Surely, she must have known that my intentions were not exactly honourable.  Possibly she knew all along that we would end up entwined in a passionate embrace.  Isn’t that what the game is about, after all?

Anyway. Let us not preach semantics.  How we got there is unimportant suffice to say – there we are wrapped in each other’s arms and kissing, quite torridly as I recall.  Then, all of a sudden she pushes me away saying “No.  I really shouldn’t be doing this.  I have a boyfriend already.  I have to leave.”

How irrational, I can’t help but think.  I feel like saying “My dear, if you were already committed to someone else what the hell were you doing with your tongue halfway down my throat?”   But of course, you only think of these witticisms after the event – never at the time.  In fact, as well as being completely taken by surprise I am actually quite annoyed.  I had not forced her to come back to my squalid little bedsit, I had not even plied her with drink, my usual desperate ploy.  She had seemed quite keen.  And yet, unbelievably here she is protesting some sort of innocence.  I couldn’t quite believe how stupid she must think me.  Stupid enough to just smile and order her a cab I suppose.  No – my lovely, no cab for you tonight, you are going nowhere.

I push her back on the sofa and grab both her wrists in my left hand while my right undoes my belt.  She is kicking quite furiously now and screaming at me.  This only serves to make me angry – and yet, even despite the initial rage, a strange calmness descends on me. I tie her hands and reach for her cardigan (discarded, just like her morals, on the floor).  I manage to get her legs tied too, and then a tea-towel wrapped over her obscene mouth.  I can barely believe the filthy words spilling out of her. “Shut up woman.”  I command, but she stupidly continues, her body bucking under my strong grip.  Suddenly I feel I have had enough of this nonsense.  You see, I simply want her to stop screaming and shouting at me.  If she had stopped her foul-mouthed abuse none of what followed would have been necessary.

It was in every way an amazing experience.  Looking down at her, I can picture her now, writhing like some captured beast, or a fish hauled out of the river and squirming on the bank.  I was disgusted both at her and at my own ridiculous desire.  How could I have ever found her attractive.

Suddenly I know I have to kill her, to bring both of us out of this ridiculous situation.  I mean, I can hardly simply untie her, apologise, and let her go.  Things will not end there; no doubt she will involve the Police, or worse still her boyfriend, if indeed he exists (she may well have made him up just to satisfy her own guilty conscience). I can see no alternative but to kill her.

I grab a cushion and try to suffocate her, but no matter now hard I press against it she still manages to turn her face away, and despite the gag to gasp for air.  This was taking far too long, so I reach for a kitchen knife.  There is a little resistance I must admit, though that may be the layers of fabric around her chest, but eventually the knife sinks in all the way to the hilt.  She stops her writhing and stares at me, as if in disbelief.  I will never forget that look, pleading and helpless, and yet defiant at the same time.  I pull the knife out and am covered in huge spurts of blood.  She is gushing like a fountain.  So, I stab her again a few more times and the flow of blood slows to a trickle and then a slow ooze.  But oh, how good I feel, how completely in control at last.  ‘That will teach you a lesson you little minx’, I think, ‘You won’t be teasing another man like that for a while, will you?  In fact, you won’t be teasing anyone ever again.’

 

Okay, so now I had to get rid of the body.  But a second-hand rug and a tarpaulin and she is stuffed at three in the morning into the boot of my car, then down to the coast and off the end of the pier.  And no-one ever suspected me.  It had been a blind date, she hadn’t told any of her friends.  It was a couple of weeks before her body was washed up.  Another unsolved murder I am afraid.

An amazing experience – to have killed someone, to have felt the life seep out of them. And best of all to have gotten away with it.  It felt like a drug, and I must admit I had dabbled with those too in my dubious past.  And just like drugs it is so amazing you want to try it – again and again.

 

As I said at the beginning all stories are true – it is just that some haven’t actually happened.  I should have completed the sentence though.  All stories are true – it is just that some simply haven’t actually happened…. yet.

My Record Collection 68

Curved Air – were just one of many early seventies prog-rock bands who attempted, and succeeded in combining Classical and Rock instruments and songs.  The incredible voice of Sonja Kristina meant that they kept bubbling under in the charts.  I only have their first two albums – I sort of lost interest, and besides there were so many other incredible albums in the early Seventies. Air Conditioning was their debut in 1970. The opener ‘It Happened Today’ was a minor hit single; apart from that the album is rather overblown with ridiculously fast violins racing to…well, nowhere special.  Better was the follow-up Second Album, maybe because the vocals were higher in the mix and the violins reined back a bit – and for me, the best thing about Curved Air was Sonja’s remarkable voice.  Just a word about this (continuing) attempt to mix rock and classical – the mistake is to imagine that there is any difference at all; it is all music – but the best at combining two different streams were Barclay James Harvest (see B). Anyway, this record was pretty good – best rracks ‘Young Mother’ and the big hit ‘Backstreet Love’ – a few other tracks hit the mark too; ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Bright Summer Day’ are all great too.  A delightful record.  And now I ask myself why I stopped at record number two?  But all decisions, especially which album to buy with limited resources, are arbitrary in the end.

Daddy G – I may have mentioned it before, but my daughter Laura is just as obsessed with music as I am (well almost).  But she loves Dance Music – the disease started with her with Madonna (who I have never really got).  Anyway, she regularly buys me CDs of her favourite artists (trying to convert me no doubt).  Some I really love but some not so.  This one is DJ Kicks – and it is a reggae dub album, quite reminiscent of Bob Marley (see M) and it is pretty good really.  The thing about Reggae is the infectious beat; it just takes you over.  But as you know I am really a wordsman, and unfortunately most ‘Dance Music’ pretty well dispenses with words, or they are so unimportant and repetitious. Anyway, unfamiliar as I am with the genre – I didn’t understand that this was a ‘remix’ album.  Daddy G has taken tracks from Tricky, Massive Attack and a few others and has changed them by remixing and adding beats or whatever.   The whole thing hangs together quite well really, though it does get a bit boring over time.  The thing about music is that so much of it is about the time and place when you first heard it, when you were receptive to it, when you felt part of the culture of it all.  This album is quite pleasant to listen to now and then, but only now and then really.

Roger Daltrey – only the one album, self-titled.  I never had this on CD, but did manage to copy it (poorly) from the album.  I remember it was quite good, lots of Leo Sayer (who was then unknown) written songs on it.  Actually, I fell in love with the cover photo of Roger with full afro curly hair.  I had mine permed because of it.  I never looked as good….hahaha.

Alun Davies – Now this is a real rarity.  As far as I can ascertain he only made the one record on his own; Daydo – but what a record.  Alun was Cat Stevens (see S) guitarist on all those early Seventies albums of his. He came form a folk background and Daydo is very folky – not a bad thing. The record has a charm all of its own; a pleasant voice, great playing and a good choice of songs.  I have always loved it.  Best songs – the first three; ‘Market Place’, ‘Old Bourbon Street’ and ‘Portobello Road’ but ‘Vale of Tears’ is excellent too.  A lovely rarity – not easily available – in fact I’ve just bought it as a German import on CD.  My record was a scratchy copy from record to LP – so nice to have it properly, even if – like most of them -it will only be played rarely.

Ray Davis – the Kinks front man.  An undoubted great songwriter and singer – and I did love the Kinks as a teenager – but somehow in my buying choices they have always slipped through my greedy little fingers.  Just one from Ray; Working Mans Café – a free CD with Daily Mail I think, from early this Century.  And it is good – in places, and yet it still fails to really grab me.  A shame as re-playing it I like the lyrics and the arrangements and his voice.  Oh Well.

CD-Alun-Davis-daydo-2626

 

The Duty Of An Artist

A real artist I mean – not some dilettante, dabbling and decorating – why, you might as well still be doing ‘Colour by Numbers’.  No, a real artist is always striving for something, some elusive emotion, some new way of portraying beauty, of making a mark.  But life makes us all complacent.  We are constantly reward for conforming.  It begins at school when you get gold stars for the right answers.  As you get older you begin (at least some of us do) to understand that there are no right answers.  We should be rewarding kids for originality, for ripping up the text-books, for questioning all accepted wisdom, for thinking for themselves rather than for the teachers (or Ofsted).

And it is the same as you get older.  At work, if you keep your head down and do as you are told you get promoted.  If you ask awkward questions you get the sack.  No-one likes a smart-arse.  But really, we should.  It is those who break down the barriers who are the real progressives.

And in Art – be it music, drama, or the visual arts – we are taught how to see things.  The way they always have been seen.  But all the great artists saw things differently; the Impressionists saw photography as a threat – they realised that they had to paint in a different way, literally creating an impression of reality rather than a photograph of real life.  Every real Artist, be they Musician, Actor or Writer, has a duty to strive for something unattainable.  Each new creation must attempt (and almost every attempt will fail) to create something new.  I’ve just been re-reading a book about Joni, and how she turned her back on the mainstream in order to pursue her muse, how she was always striving to create something different.  Her record company begging her for another ‘Blue’, for another ‘Court and Spark’ – and yet she refused, she was a real Artist, always trying to discover that elusive yet vital spark of originality.

And so, as I continue my sporadic and sometimes half-hearted career as a writer, I try to write a different thing every time.  I too am striving to show in my inadequate way – a different way of seeing.   And it isn’t a choice – it is a duty, a necessity, to break all the rules, to do it differently, to try to show beauty in a different light.

 

 

My Record Collection 67

Crowded House – let me ask you…do you believe in love at first sight?  Because this was a case of exactly that.  Or not really.  Because Crowded House grew out of Split Enz (see S) who were one of my favourite bands in the late Seventies.  Neil Finn had joined his big brother Tim’s band and wrote their biggest hits.  But along came the Eighties and the band struggled and eventually Tim went to Hollywood to be a solo star (see F).  Neil joined forces with Guitarist Nick Seymour and Drummer Paul Hester, who sadly killed himself after album number 3.  They were instantly famous and had over a decade of success before splitting only to reform over a decade later.  But it was the first 11 years and four great albums that were by far the best.  In fact their debut Crowded House was possibly their finest; it simply brims over with enthusiasm and joie de vivre, rare indeed in 1986.   There isn’t a weak track on it, in fact they never recorded any weak tracks at all.  From opener ‘Mean To Me’ to riotous closer ‘That’s What I Call Love’ they just sound wonderful.  Everyone’s favourite is ‘(hey Now) Don’t Dream it’s Over’, which has become a staple of radio-play and has been recorded by many.  This album too is short, just 39 minutes long, in an era of 70 minute dole-fulls of boredom.  I managed to see them quite a few times and it was always a joyful sing-along.  Two years late and Temple Of Low Men came out.  Another good record, though it sold less well (the title incidentally being a reference to the place men tend to worship at).  The album itself seems a bit more introspective, less ecstatic – but with great songs nevertheless; ‘Into Temptation’, ‘Sister madly’ and ‘Better Be Home Soon’ are probably my very favourites.

Three years later and Neil Finn, the songwriter, wasn’t too happy with his next batch of Crowded House songs.  He had recorded an album with brother Tim called Finn (see F) and invited Tim to help him write some new songs.  The collaboration was so good that Tim temporarily joined the band for the album Woodface and subsequent tour.   This was their most successful record and for a couple of years the band were on top of the world and could do no wrong.  And the album is a joy, from the opener ‘Chocolate Cake’ to closer ‘How Will You Go’ it is splendid – so many great songs – most famously ‘Weather With You’, ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ and ‘Italian Plastic’.  And then – disaster struck, just after recording their follow-up, the drummer Paul Hester left the band, depressed he later killed himself.   Writing in 2010 Neil Finn said, “When we lost Paul it was like someone pulled the rug out from underneath everything, a terrible jolt out of the dark blue. He was the best drummer I had ever played with and for many years, my closest friend.”      The band carried on and recruited a new drummer and keyboardist Mark Hart, who had helped in recording Together Alone (1993).  Tim had by now moved on but the album was another triumph.   Best songs  – ‘Private Universe’, ‘Distant Sun’ and ‘Catherine Wheels’ – but really hard to make a choice form such a great selection.

And that was that really – at least for a few years.  A few weeks after Together Alone came out and I saw them at The Fleadh in Finsbury Park with my daughter Lydia.  I later saw and couldn’t resist buying the bootleg CD of the concert – one of their best, and listening now to the exuberance of the crowd and I am saddened by memories and hearing Tim Finn slightly ridiculing drummer Paul Hester for leaving the band at the last minute.  He was to commit suicide a few years later.

Then came the obligatory double greatest Hits album Recurring Dream, which as well as re-enforcing what a brilliant band they were contained tow new songs; ‘Instinct’ and ‘Not The Girl You think You Are’ – both pretty good.  (side 2 was mostly live, but excellent too).  A year or so later came ‘Farewell to the World – a live double, recorded mostly in Australia.  Then Neil, never the most comfortable of men, decided to go solo (see F).  Maybe he thought he could present his songs better on his own; there was always some friction with Nick Seymour, his guitar player.  Anyway, Neil broke up the band.   One more album slipped out Afterglow; which was a bunch of ‘b’ sides and album rejects.   I really like them, often little more than demos, especially ‘Recurring Dream’ and ‘I Am In Love’.  A nice addition to the pretty small catalogue.  As a sidenote, I have quite a collection of CD singles of Crowded House – and if I live long enough to get there I will include them and the hundreds of others at the end….hahaha

The band officially broke up in 1996.   But, as so often happens, they reassembled with a new drummer.  The tracks that Neil had recorded for a third solo album with old partner Nick Seymour (and four new ones) were released under the Crowded House name as Time On Earth.  Well, of course I haven’t listened to this half or even a quarter as much as their earlier albums – but somehow the songs seem to wash over me without settling anywhere near my brain.  I am sure they are perfectly good, but somehow all the excitement has gone.  There is a momentum when a band is young, a vibrancy, an excitement – but when they are well-established and making the occasional album and tour, they may still be great live but somehow it is just treading water.  Anyway, just one other album so far – 2009’s Intriguer.  I am not even sure if the band is still together as Neil occasionally knocks out a solo album and they don’t appear to be touring now.  The album itself is very quiet, in fact it is really a Neil Finn solo album with the members of Crowded House playing in the background.  A lovely record and it is growing on me slowly; best songs ‘Elephant’ and ‘Twice If You’re Lucky’.

For a while there Crowded House were my favourite band; in fact they are probably the last of my favourite bands as none this century have grabbed my attention that much.

Image result for images of crowded house

 

Letter to Theresa

Dear Theresa….oh no, in my wildest dreams I cannot begin with that.

Listen.  Please listen, where you have refused to listen to, well – practically everyone over the last two or three years.  How to begin what even you must in your heart of hearts know is the truth.  You have taken us, the whole country, all 70 million of us, whether we ever voted for you, or Brexit, or were too young to vote, or chose to vote for others or even those too disillusioned to vote at all – down a very dangerous road which you must have known long ago was a cul-de-sac, a wrong turning, a decidedly bad deal -however it turns out.

And yet you had it all, an election for Leader of your party which must have surprised even you.  Either you bought off Boris or possibly ha had more sense than you, and then the surprise second choice of M.P.s, the lightweight Mrs. Leadsom, took fright and left you the only candidate standing.  And instead of trying to unite our deeply divided country by trying to reassure both Remainers and Leavers that you would seek the best compromise that most of us might be able to live with – you came out with the nonsense that “Brexit Means Brexit, and we are going to make a success of it.”

Surely you had read your own Government’s analyses; you must have been in meetings when the Governor of the Bank of England warned of the disaster ahead; you must have known that Brexit was a delusion cooked up by foreign owners of Newspapers, Billionaires and Con-men.  Why, you even declared yourself a Remainer.

Admittedly it was a poisoned chalice that dropped into your hands but did you have to drink so greedily, bathed in the (somewhat dubious) glory of being the Prime Minister who took us out of Europe.  Your first mistake was not to consult widely, not to take your time, not to be so damned righteous and zealous a convert.  Your second was to appoint Boris as Foreign Secretary, (and of course to refuse to sack him as he blundered around the globe); and then in spite you sacked Osborne and even the few half-sensible ministers and replace them with Gove the Snake, smiley-face but dumber than dumb David Davis, and serial idiot Fox.  You sold your soul early on to the Hard Brexiteers, neglecting to understand that whatever red meat you tossed them they would bay for even more, until in the end they wanted yours too.

You lost two Brexit Secretaries through your intransigence; it must have been blindingly obvious back then when you forced your Cabinet to swallow what became known as Chequers that you were on to a loser – but you still drove your wretched ‘deal’ forward.  As resignation followed resignation you simply dug your leopard-skin high-heels in ever deeper.  From the start you tried to deny parliament any say in affairs, you lost court case after court case in your desperation to have it your own way.

And now we are in the sorry state of it all spiralling out of control; defeated twice by huge majorities you still insist it is your deal (even if the Speaker allows it) or no-deal.  And even the EU, who despite the Newspapers cries of Betrayal, have bent over backwards to save your miserable skin have had enough of you.  Seven days to go before the Iceberg hits us; I feel it is almost certain that now we will leave with no deal and all the chaos that will follow.  And all you can bleat is that it all those nasty M.P.s faults.  Oh, the Opposition who had the audacity to oppose you; the Scots who voted overwhelmingly to Remain, the Liberals who always wanted to Stay, the dirty dancing DUP who, despite having cash shovelled down their greedy throats, still hate you.  But of course, the ones you must hate most are the ones you tried so desperately to indulge – your very own Mad Brexiteers.  And you bleat that the M.P.s must tell you what they want…..

Whisper the words quietly, because shouting them has failed.  They want you to go away Theresa.  In fact we all want you to go away.  Just slink out the back door. And ask Mrs. Windsor to relieve you of the burden you have mostly created for yourself.  You have failed us, abysmally – so just pack up your few grubby ornaments and leave.  You won’t be missed.  Let someone else, in fact almost anyone else, clear up your mess.

Yours Sincerely – the whole country

The Recalcitrant Teaspoon

I have been meaning to write this for ages and am reminded of it a few times a day when I do the washing up.   Because I find it amazing that inanimate objects can appear to have a mind of their own; cups that you place firmly on the shelf somehow manage to launch themselves into the air and have the knack of avoiding your grasping fingers trying to catch them; keys that you always place on the shelf by the front door somehow contrive to wriggle off and hide themselves in a coat pocket; your mobile phone, as well as turning itself on to silent so that you miss calls, has a habit of hiding itself (along with your spectacles) in the most absurd of places.  Now, you may argue that in fact some, or indeed all, of these movements by inanimate objects are somehow my own responsibility – or that I may have somehow encouraged them in their errant behaviour.  There is no excuse however for the recalcitrant teaspoon.

I do a lot washing up, both at home and in the Café. And there is a certain satisfaction in finishing, reaching for the tea-towel, wiping up and putting away.  But how come, almost every time, despite a thorough search, when you tip away the bowl and as the dirty water swirls on its spiral journey to the plughole – there, yes there it is, the recalcitrant, the disobedient teaspoon, which has been lurking beneath the suds, cleverly avoiding your hand as it searches for it, knowing it must be there somewhere, but resisting contact – until it appears smiling back at you in the sink.

And, so it is with life.  We all make lists, some on lavender scented notepaper (for all you older readers) and like me, some in your head.  And you tick them off as the day wends on, (some may of course be relegated to tomorrow’s list – and some will remain on the back burner until they fade from the list completely) – but there is a certain satisfaction in having ticked them all off.  And then just as you sit down to watch telly, tea in hand, you realise that the recalcitrant teaspoon of life has struck again, – and you have forgotten something, usually very obvious too.  There it is, smiling away like a Cheshire cat in your brain – the ever-present recalcitrant teaspoon of life.