Week from Monday 6th August 2012

Last week, Alfred Hitchcock's "VERTIGO" was voted the Greatest Movie of All Time by the BFI and its chums, finally beating the long-time holder of that dubious honour, "CITIZEN KANE". They even played a big chunk of Bernard Herrmann's superb score on Radio 3 to announce the fact!

So I thought I'd watch it again to see what all the fuss was about! There's no denying, it IS a fine piece of cinema and no mistake.

But my enjoyment was somewhat marred by the fact that ITV are in possession of a rather duff 'print' of the movie. It has been transferred from the 1996 'restored' 64mm version, but it is horribly underlit. The first few reels are fine. Then, during the scene in the book store, the picture gets darker, as if the director has instructed 'fade to black', but far too early. The dialogue continues, even though what you are seeing suggests that the scene is ending. Surely even Hitchcock wasn't THAT 'avant garde'? It looks like the projection bulb is failing.

It's never the same from then on - even daylight scenes look grey and underexposed. Watching the film in daylight, it was often difficult to see what was going on. I will have to get a DVD and watch it after dark some time...

"LA MUSICA CHE È SIA BELLA E POTENTE"... Having a bit of a PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI theme this week... Listening to a couple of their fine discs, by way of OFFICE AMBIENCE, prompted me to trawl the YouTubes to see what else is "OUT THERE", being in need of something to fill some TV-free evenings. I found I was able to WATCH the whole (two-and-a-quarter hours!) of their "Live In Japan 2002" video and LISTEN to an entire live album from 1974, not to mention several interesting shorter clips, thanks to some well-meaning 'fans'. Naughty but nice - I wonder what the Italian is for "STREAMING CONTENT OF DUBIOUS ORIGIN"?

Oooh! must go, that long overdue "KING CRIMSON LIVE AT THE MARQUEE 1971" has just plonked on the doormat...

IS IT JUST ME, OR HAS IT GONE VERY QUIET? I can't help noticing that, instead of being the promised 'BOOST TO THE ECONOMY' that this country needed, the Olympics have killed it stone dead (By the way, am I even allowed to SAY the "O" word now, without written permission, signed in triplicate, by both Sebastian Coe and whoever the Home Secretary is this week?). Our city centres - and not only London - are like ghost towns at the moment. I swear that, earlier in the week, in Southampton Above Bar, there was just me and a crowd of visiting exchange students and their handler. For someone like me who hates crowds, this is A GOOD THING... but it is not so for anyone trying to run a retail business. You need a steady flow of customers for that. Presumably they are all staying at home and gawping at the telly.

Okay, so... PFM, then... It's probably true to say that PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI were one of my favourite bands of the nineteen-seventies. But I knew absolutely nothing about what they'd been up to since their "MANTICORE YEARS" heyday. All that YouTubely poking-about gave me a clearer idea.

As their career continued into the 'eighties and 'nineties, their songs appear to have become far less "PROGRESSIVE" and a lot more "COMMERCIAL", with simpler chord progressions and drum parts increasingly anchored in 4:4. Their line-up was whittled down by circumstance, arriving at a basic trio of the original keyboard player, guitarist and drummer, who did everything between themselves in the studio, but were augmented by additional players when they performed live. The drummer became more and more confident as a lead singer and front man and so stepped down from his riser into the spotlight... STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE!

Week from Monday 13th August 2012

ON THIS WEEKEND IN 1979... I went to see LED ZEPPELIN at the Knebworth Festival, along with (if the 'official' numbers are to be believed) approximately 149,999 other people.

Just to clarify for anyone who DOESN'T carry this sort of trivia around in their heads, there were two Knebworth shows that year (on two consecutive Saturdays in August, the 4th and the 11th). I went to the second show. RECORDED EVIDENCE reveals that the first show was the better Zep performance. Huh! Also on a packed bill that day, in order of appearance, were CHAS & DAVE(!), THE NEW COMMANDER CODY BAND, SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY & THE ASBURY JUKES, TODD RUNDGREN's UTOPIA and THE NEW BARBARIANS (Keef and Ronnie of the Stones and their chums).

I recall there being SOME rain that weekend (although not as much as the previous year's GENESIS Knebfest). I was a little more prepared for the 'sleeping arrangements' that year and brought my own tent. During the show, we made rain-hats out of green VICTORIA WINE STORES carrier bags. I have photographic evidence somewhere of me sitting on the railway station WEARING A BASEBALL CAP (shudder!) over my dark curly locks, although I would deny it under torture today.

MEMORIES OF THE MUSIC... I have the benefit of hindsight, as I've subsequently heard b***leg recordings of several of the sets that day. TODD was superb, of course. Noo Joysey's own SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY & THE ASBURY JUKES were the big surprise of the day; We enjoyed them so much that we went and saw them again a few weeks later at the Brighton Dome (supporting act on that occasion: JOHN HYATT!). Hard to believe now, but CHAS & DAVE were a damn good rocking boogie pub combo before they went all 'professional cockney'. I don't remember much about COMMANDER CODY or indeed any of his erstwhile Lost Planet Airmen. I probably wouldn't have thought much of them at the time, but I've heard them since and they're great fun. THE NEW BARBARIANS were shambolic, but they seemed to please all the Stones fans in the audience, some of whom, having come along JUST to see Keef and Ronnie, left en-mass before LED ZEPPELIN were done (Hello Gold Lamé!). As I said, I have the benefit of recorded evidence where the ZEP are concerned. The SENSE OF OCCASION at the time, coupled with the dazzling stage show (and a WHOLE LOTTA musical ignorance on my part), probably blinded me to the fact that the music was VERY ragged around the edges. At times it was a frightful mess. The previous week's set was MUCH better, I found out several decades later. BUT I LOVED IT!

HERE COMES THE 'TRIVIA' BIT... This is what things cost in 1979: The ticket for The Event was a staggering £7.50; the train fare from Kings Cross to Stevenage was £1.93 single (I can't remember the fare from Fareham to Waterloo, but I bet it wasn't much more than a fiver); the cost of fish and chips (bought on site) was 80p and a cup of coffee was 20p. The souvenir programme was 90p (which is where I'm getting much of this information from) and a t-shirt (which I later gave away to my French girlfriend of the time) cost me £3.50 (They're changing hands on eBay for three-figure sums now!)

Week from Monday 20th August 2012

It is one of life's little ironies, that the busier I am 'in real life', the less time I can spare for keeping THIS HERE JOURNAL up to date, thus giving the impression that NOTHING IS HAPPENING AT ALL. If this gives a misleading picture, I sincerely apologise... but if I DID currently devote any attention to DIARYBLOGPOSTING, I would only have to bore you (and myself) with tediously detailed descriptions of day-to-day routines... like producing things in CorelDraw and turning them into PDFs and WMFs to make Powerpoint slides for a presentation on Digital Cinema Frame Rates... or cropping (and optimising for web use) thousands of close-up photographs depicting items of jewellery... or trying to figure out why my CSS doesn't always produce the desired effect on certain eCommerce sites...


Week from Monday 27th August 2012

"...AU-GUST BANK SQUALLOR-DAAAAAYYYYYY!" - I tuned into the READING FESTIVAL coverage and stayed up to watch the whole of THE CURE's Friday headlining set... and rather splendid they were too, after all these years.

But that was it for me. I am OLD, so Rock Festivals are nowadays populated by bands who fall into two neat categories: By far the larger of the two is (a) I'VE NEVER HEARD OF THEM... leaving just (b) I might VAGUELY have heard of them somewhere and have therefore already made my mind up that they are noisy young miseryguts who are not for the likes of me.

With that in mind, off I go to Southampton's RECORD FAIR to search for music that THEY might not have heard of... Having been civically kicked out of the Guildhall a couple of years ago, the Record Fair has now established itself in various rooms scattered around The Star Hotel, a short walk down the road from Bargate. This was my first visit to the 'new' venue. A little more bijou than other venues, perhaps, but entry is free and there's still plenty to browse through, even if, like me, you habitually walk past all the boxes of vinyl these days.

I found myself LAURIE ANDERSON's "Mister Heartbreak" (the one where she collaborated with PETER GABRIEL and brought ADRIAN BELEW into the fold to provide INTERESTING NOISES); a two-fer of GREENSLADE's first two albums (now I'll have to find the NEXT two! curses!); JIMMY PAGE's first 'solo' album "Outrider" (All of my 'ROCKIST' friends will already be familiar with this work from LONG ago, but to these 'fresh' ears, it sounds a very 'mixed' album. Too much of it sounds like awful, generic, eighties heavy metal with nothing going for it. It does however have a few moments that recall the splendour of THE ZEP ITSELF. In the end, I decided I wanted it for 'completism' sake, plus it was CHEAP!).

After a great deal of misunderstanding and online kerfuffle (a story for another day, perhaps), I am entitled to a £5 discount on my next visit to HMV, so I also went for a shufti around Britain's Last Surviving "Record" Store while I was in town. I must discipline my expenditure, as I've just splashed out on the latest version of SERIF WEBPLUS almost against my better judgement (a story for another day, perhaps). I do a lot of 'JUST LOOKING' and settle for a surprise reissue of IRENE PAPAS & VANGELIS PAPATHANASSIOU's "Rapsodies" album. This was the follow-up to their "Odes" album, which I had on a much treasured Greek cassette, a souvenir of my island-hopping days. This is ALMOST but not quite as good as that first album; it's sort of let down by an overlong talky track at the end, in which the divine Ms Papas really hams it up (in Greek) reciting a huge chunk of the 'Song of Solomon' over a minimal Vangelish backing. Aha! so it's a Greek version of CC:PP then! hahaha!

NEW TOYS!!! - The latest version of WEBPLUS (16, or X6 if you will) arrived from the SERIF concern. Just at the time when UNCLE WILLY's WEBSITE is desperately in need of some updates and some new features. I hope to be able to add some SOCIAL MEDIA buttons (Facer & Twitbook, GooglePlus) and, at some stage, do versions of all the pages for those mobile thingies that everyone uses but me. On the other hand, I can't help noticing that Serif have REMOVED some features as well, like the ability to do scrolling MARQUEES at the touch of a button. These are presumably no longer FASHIONABLE or desirable, so the Serif Concern have dropped this feature in favour of some that are. It IS still possible, for those of us who don't mind all that tedious mucking about in cyberspace, to do this "THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY", pasting in a fragment of yer actual HTML.

I've also made the website a LITTLE bit wider than it was and added a background texture, as I couldn't help noticing that, when viewed on Uncle Willy's big high-rez monitor, it looks a bit lost and surrounded by empty white space (I originally designed the pages so that they would fit on an 800 pixel window - you KNOW how I hate horizontal scrolling!).

Adding the SOCIAL MEDIA buttons was ridiculously easy - now I need someone with Facer & Twitbook to try them out (the GooglePlus buttons work fine!). Doing 'mobile' versions of EVERY SINGLE PAGE might take a little more planning though, so that's "A PROJECT" for later.

Blimey! The "release channel" FIREFOX has now reached VERSION 15 already! Hooray! There are no ANOMALOUS NASTINESSES to report and all previous extensions and plug-ins are either still supported or can be updated to match. The Adobe Flash Player plug-in, that which caused all that KOMPATIBILITY KERFUFFLE earlier in the year (mainly on 32-bit systems), has now been fixed(?).

It's FRIDAY... and it suddenly struck me that I hadn't really walked away from the keyboard since TUESDAY, what with one thing and another. Well, I can't have that... Call myself a PEDESTRIAN?! The sun is shining, the phone's gone quiet, so I must grab the opportunity while I can. I made my way back from Gosport via "THE COUNTRY ROUTE": this means across the Alver Valley Wildgrounds (Riddle me this, why can't I ever say "Alver Valley" out loud without using a Welsh accent?)... up the lane by the airfield... across the field from Crofton School... That's a solid two hours' yomping! Plenty of scope for WATCHING THE DICKYBIRDS this morning (buzzards; a sparrowhawk; a kestrel; a jay or two; numerous canada geese on the fishing lakes; families of mallards on the river itself. Not counting the ubiquitous indigenous crows and magpies)

DREAM DIARY... In the 'studio' with ABSOLUTE ZERO... not just one, but TWO drummers hammering away behind strategically-placed mattresses... endless amounts of guitar overdubbage - a real 'wall of sound' job! Not bad considering we only have a four-track tape machine at our disposal... now I just have to translate all the lyrics into French...