Monday, 31 March 2014

hand drawn long player

Here's a cool idea - hand drawn long players. @danblahblahblah is collecting hand drawn album covers and publishing them at  If you have five minutes to spare maybe you could sketch one and send it to him (instructions at

This is Happening, thecornpoppy

Once upon a time, when I was young, an LP was a big deal.  First of all you needed to have some cash to buy it.  When you're 11 or twelve that is tricky,  You had to save up the half crowns that Christmas and birthdays brought.  As time went by it got a little easier - a paper round helped.  As did some trading of bootlegs. 

The Velvet Underground & Nico, Abi

Here's a little aside regarding bootlegging.  The music industry (deliberately) confuses bootlegging with piracy.  As an historian I am often asked the difference between piracy and  privateering. Well, students, "pirates" were seamen who attacked other vessels and took their cargoes, whereas "privateers" were seamen who attacked other vessels and took their cargoes - but had a letter from the king saying it was ok so long as the cargoes taken were French. Or Spanish. Or Dutch. Or otherwise furrin. A "free trader" is a holder of the political point of view that government regulation should be minimised - in commerce, trade and usually everything else.

In modern terms, intellectual copyright and all that, the following applies:
Making illegal copies of legitimately released music/film/etc to sell:     piracy
Making illegal copies of legitimately released music/film/etc to share:    viral marketing
Making copies of non-commercial recordings to sell: piracy
Making copies of non-commercial recordings to trade/share: free trade
Utilising free download sites: free trade
Record companies selling music downloads instead of hard copy:    privateering
Record companies selling the same cd with a few extra tracks, a few months after the original album came out: grand theft audio.

I was never in the business of making illegal copies of legitimately released music to sell.  That's just wrong.  But making available product that was hard to get . . . it was a service.  The only people who buy audience recordings of gigs by their favourite bands are people who already have all the commercially released stuff.  Not only that but all the money I ever made from selling stuff to my schoolmates went back to the music business - I bought records and went to gigs with the proceeds.

Pendulum In Silico, James
Back to album covers.  Having acquired the funds to purchase a record it was time to go off to a record shop.  For younger readers, these were like the physical embodiment of iChoons where all of the mp3 files were printed onto slabs of vinyl, some 7", some 12" and wrapped in artworks.   You could lose youself for a Saturday afternoon looking through the racks.  Maybe you went with a specific record in mind, maybe the choice would be made as you looked through the racks..  Maybe you'd been through the racks every Saturday afternoon for the last month and now you had amassed the cash.  Now you could buy something.
Some records were more special than others.
Dark Side of the Moon, thecornpoppy
When you arrived home with a copy of, say, Dark Side of the Moon you were about to embark on a journey.  The gatefold cover was an important part of that journey.  The cover set the scene.  If the cover of DSOTM had looked like Tales of Topographic Oceans, or even Wish You Were Here, it would have sounded like a different album.  The cover was just right.  The cover, the lyrics, the credits, it was all part of the experience.  The pyramid poster was on my wall all through the Punk Wars, increasingly covered with (punky) stickers. 
There was a golden age of record cover design which passed when cds superceded vinyl.  There is no need for sleeve design for mp3s so the craft of the sleeve designer will go the way of the wagon wheelwright and the lamplighter.  Maybe there'll be a section for them at Country Fayres, close to the coppice workers and charcoal burners.
Help keep this dying art alive by celebrating long players and hand drawing an album sleeve.  Don't forget to send it to

Sunday, 30 March 2014

100% British Potatoes

Beatles pastiches are as old as the hills.  Whether they are musical or visual the reason they usually fail (and fail they usually do) is that the pastiche totally lacks the inspiration and execution of the original. 
This ad for McCain's chips works.  It has subtlety and wit; it has some of the detail of the original - Paul's bare feet, the Beetle replaced by a cart, the broken white line of Abbey Road is echoed in the rows of potato plants. 

What I like though is the idea . . . what if?  What if the Beatles hadn't got wasted on LSD and holed up in Abbey Road but had gone and spent a summer at Big Pink and found a more mellow vibe.  What if the Beatles had taken their lead from Bob Dylan and the Band and wandered down an English country lane.  Maybe they would have sounded like Fairport Convention.

McCain is releasing an outdoor and print campaign that spoofs one of the most iconic images in British music history. The ads, created by BMB, show four farmers striding across a potato field in a scene reminiscent of The Beatles’ Abbey Road cover. The work stresses that McCain uses only British potatoes. It was written by Tom Sillars, art directed by Dani Asensio and photographed by Erik Almas through Trayler & Trayler. Media was handled by PHD.

McCain's have also used John Cooper Clarke in their ads (not to mention Pam Ayres.  Seriously, please don't mention Pam Ayres).  Kudos.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

People, be dood

With a film, tv and theatre career encompassing Dickens (Mr Bumble in Oliver), Ealing Comedies (A Crooked Smile, a Top Hat and a Shovel, Confessions of an Undertaker, I was Sid James Batman), The Bill (Grumpy Neighbour), Nora Batty's husband in Last of the Summer Wine and much more, Bogart is now available for panto this December.  Further information from his agent Frankside & Bottom, Timperley, The North.

An NVQ in Care, a Top Hat and a Shovel: Bogart, by Olga

People, be dood. If you are dood, Dod will love you. If you are not dood, Dod won't love you. People, be dood.
First sermon, John Ruskin

A thing of beauty.
A joy forever
(and its price in the market)
John Ruskin 1880

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Two hundred thousand Euros

With €200,000 (that's $278,000) you could pay for 100,000 school dinners for disadvantaged children . . .

. . . or you could fund ten nurses for a year . . .
 . . . vaccinate 1500 children with meningitis B vaccine . . .
. . . run a soup kitchen for two years . . .

. . . provide clean water for 50,000 people in Malawi . . .

Or you could charter this superyacht, Sunseeker Blush, for one week. 

ONE week.

may you well blush

Friday, 21 March 2014

Elvis has left the building

 Lord, you gave me a mountain

When Elvis Presley died in 1977, it's estimated there were about 170 people impersonating him.

This number grew and grew and in the year 2000 it was estimated there were about 85,000 Elvis impersonators.

With this rate of growth by 2043 we will all be Elvis impersonators.

Dale Fontaine at QE2 Activity Centre
The Elvis Paradox from Murderous Maths

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ziggy Pop

Bowie in Berlin, Mme Akriche

Berlin - I remember Iggy, and of course Bowie. Someone told me the name of the street where David lived, so I spent the day walking up and down (it was a very long street) looking at all the name plates but never found his name ...

Lifted from an email from my sister.  Can you just imagine a 17 year old Scouse girl in 1977, exploring Berlin, looking for Bowie?  Expecting to find a name plate reading "Bowie, D."  Sis, for your information the address was Hauptstra├če 155. And now you can do a Bowie Berlin street tour.

Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood in the 1970s

Every now and again I think to myself . . . I wonder what are the top five gigs I've been to. Near the top of the list is the Thin White Duke's 70's buddy Iggy Pop.   Over the years I've been to a lot of gigs. Some of them great, some of them average, some of them dire. Forget most, remember some (but don't take none away).  And after all this time I've forgotten a lot of the good ones. I really have forgotten more than these whippersnappers'll ever know.  I was listening to Mink deVille the other day and thought oh, yeah, I saw them in 1978. I'm sure it was good but I don't remember it at all.

My advancing years don't mean I've forgotten all of them - here's a few . . . Peter Gabriel's Genesis (Lamb Lies Down in Liverpool), Tangerine Dream in a cathedral, Five Live Stiffs, early Teardrop and the Bunnymen, the Clash at an ice rink, the Specials at a riot; with twelve people at a Cabaret Voltaire gig and 80,000 for The Who at Wembley Stadium.  Pere Ubu, Suicide, Red Crayola.

From the early '80s there was a long break when I wasn't really interested anymore - with just a few old warhorses (Elvis Costello and David Byrne) dragging me into concert halls.  From 2000 onwards there was a resurgence but these were a different sort of gig, usually some itinerant troubadour, who would travel around the country, by car or train, with a guitar, a bag of songs and a weary countenance.  And some of those have been Best Gig Ever.  For example, Kelly Joe Phelps on Southsea Pier. Jackie Leven and David Thomas at the Grey's. Jason Ringenberg sliding along the bar at the RMA. 

young punks at Eric's 1979, Italian tv
Back to the 70s though for Iggy.  Two gigs on the same night.  Iggy Pop at Eric's matinee show and then a few hours later at an evening show.  Eric's had this policy of having shows for under 18s in the afternoon.  The Clash would be playing a regular evening gig - but they'd also do one at 5:00 for da kidz.  Here's a gig that makes me glad I was alive that glorious day: 

Saturday 12th August 1978: The Rezillos and the Gang of Four under 18s matinee 5:00 - 7:30 £1.

But back to Iggy.  Iggy Pop.  Yoof of today know him as a weird longhair advertising car insurance.  Yoof of 1969 in Detroit knew him as the king (or clown) of some form of shock rock. Here's a thing:  you tell me about the most obscure, most hip, most out there performer on the planet today and with the aid of google and youtube I'll be watching him/her in a couple of minutes.  What was hot at SXSW? Seen it already.  But in the 1970s it was a different story.  Legends were truly legendary: their exploits passed down by word of mouth.  I knew someone who saw Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight, someone else who saw the Doors at the Roundhouse - in a different age.  Iggy Pop was a legend.  A legend gone bad (all part of the legend), drink, drugs, loose cars and fast women.  And then, courtesy of David Bowie, there was a comeback.  Bowie even played keyboards for Iggy on some gigs.  These were the days of The Idiot and Lust for Life. Iggy at the top of his game.  And in April 1979 Iggy toured the UK  and played these two gigs at Eric's.  It was a week after my 18th birthday.

New Values, Iggy Pop

I went to both sets.  With a different group of friends each time.  Unfortunately for them they went the wrong way round.  For the afternoon gig I was with a younger group of punks who knew the legend and wanted to see him bleed all over the stage.  He didn't.  He had an incredibly tight band (with real live Ex Pistol, Glen Matlock on bass), played an absolute blinder of a set.  The young punks were disappointed.  I loved it. 

Later on that evening I was back with some college mates who liked proper music.  Not to worry, I thought, Iggy has the tightest band.  He'll play a blinder.  However, at some point between the two sets Iggy and band had partaken of something to help them relax.  After all it was his 32nd birthday.  Possibly just alcohol, possibly not.  They were no longer the tight little band.  They were way out there.  Iggy was bleeding all over the stage (this is Eric's stage, 18 inches high, two foot away from where we're standing).  It was manic, it was crazy, it was all over the shop.  It was that (godbless) bomb going off on stage right there in front of us.  My muso friends weren't impressed.  I loved it.

To get to and from the stage at Eric's performers had to walk from the dressing room through the mob before stepping up onto the stage. Can you imagine how that went?  Everyone was there. Everyone that was in a band in Liverpool in 1979, yer Teardrops, Bunnymen, Pink Military, Naughty Lumps, Wylie, Pete Burns, 051. Quite a lot of people suffered from that aloofness that plagued the Liverpool scene at that time. From some (the Zoo circle) there was a collective air of "whatever". Their loss. Iggy was incredible. 

I touched Iggy Pop's jacket. 

Iggy Pop's Jacket, Those Naughty Lumps
Iggy Pop on Australian tv 1979

21-04-1979 Liverpool, Eric's (matinee)
1 Intro
2 Kill City
3 Sister Midnight
4 I`m Bored
5 Happy Birthday To Iggy
6 Fortune Teller
7 Loose
8 Five Foot One
9 Little Doll
10 Endless Sea
11 Cock In My Pocket
12 Shake Appeal
13 New Values
14 Girls
15 Dirt
16 Don't Look Down
17 I Wanna Be Your Dog
21-04-1979 Liverpool, Eric's (evening set)
1 Intro
2 60 Seconds To What
3 Kill City
4 Sister Midnight
5 I`m Bored
6 Fortune Teller
7 Loose
8 Five Foot One
9 Little Doll
10 Endless Sea
11 Cock In My Pocket
12 Shake Appeal
13 New Values
14 Girls
15 Dirt
16 Don't Look Down
17 I Wanna Be Your Dog

Iggy Pop: Vocals
Scott Thurston: Keyboard
Glen Matlock: Bass
Jackie Clark: Guitar
Klaus Kruger: Drums

Friday, 14 March 2014

Sky, interrupted.

the view from a ferris wheel

fifty shades of blue

seven seas (detail)

These three fine oak trees are close to the River Hamble.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
Joyce Kilmer said that. She put it down to the fact that poems were merely written by poets and trees were created by god. Personally, I think some poems are lovelier than some trees.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Bill Drummond - gang warily

It's springtime.
  Forty bunches of daffodils, Bill Drummond

There are few artists who continue to produce work which is surprising, witty, interesting and challenging throughout their career.  Bill Drummond's work is not designed to shock; not designed to say "I'm cleverer than you".  It does make you think.  There are things we take for granted that Bill Drummond doesn't.

Cindy and the Barbi Dolls, Big in Japan
Bill Drummond on guitar, grooving with Dave Balfe on bass
Jayne Cassey on squeaky vocals with Ian Broudie on vocals and guitar
Budgie bashing the drums
The first time I saw Big Bill Drummond was in the Eagle pub in Lime Street Liverpool in 1976. He may have been with Roger Eagle (music promoter and legend) talking to Roger Chapman (once of Family, then of Streetwalkers, another legend) who was playing at the Empire that evening. 
The first time I saw a piece of performance art by Big Bill Drummond was when he was with the band Big in Japan.  I thought I was watching someone playing guitar in a band; I didn't realise I was watching someone who was playing the part of someone playing in a band.  He was that good.
At the time I sometimes played the part of someone watching a band.
Bill Drummond launches a raft and an exhibition tomorrow, March 13th 2014, at noon under Spaghetti Junction.  It is the start of a touring exhibition that will last until 2025.  Spend some time looking around Penkiln Burn to find out more about the world and work of Big Bill Drummond.  If you can, make your way to Birmingham before the 20th June 2014.

Bill Drummond

WORLD TOUR: 2014 -2025

Drummond is still concerned there may not be enough time to get everything done before he dies



Monday, 10 March 2014

Bonne anniversaire Mme. Akriche

By Joe Bennett from Melbourne, Australia (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Above: Paris graffiti from Melbourne, Australia
Below: Paris graffiti from Paris, France
Love is chaotic
Wonder wall
Happy birthday sis, remember seeing this at the ABC in Liscard?

Friday, 7 March 2014

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

 Brunel, Great Britain, Bristol
Something different, something new, everyone's a winner
Shipshape and Bristol fashion

Bristol fashion and shapely ankles

on the clippered seas
 another sailor's dream

 three chimneys

my little deckhand, my duck, my whaler,

Give 'em enough rope

Thursday, 6 March 2014

World Book Day

Hey, it's World Book Day!

Aw, does that mean I gotta read a book?

No, you just have to go to school in a onesie.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dark end of the street

Why not tonight?

I'm a man of action
(and very few words)
Neighbour, neighbour

It was nice

It's a good thing

I worship the ground you walk on

Steal away

There is something on your mind

I tried to tell you

I stand accused