Week from Monday 6th April 2015

It's a BANK HOLIDAY, so that can only mean one thing... get up early and DO A CAR-BOOT! I went to the 'big' one in Bridgmary... not a bad turn-out, about half-a-field's-worth. In the event, I spent all my money on just one stall, finding one gentlemen who, I would hazard a guess, is no stranger to the record fairs! I found seedydisk 'upgrades' for the first SOFT MACHINE album and the second PETER GABRIEL one, as well as a DONALD FAGEN album I'd not come across before.

I did the first 'TEST PRESSING' of the difficult fourth CC:PP album... we're certainly NOT 'there' yet, it still requires a wee bit of work! Some tracks are ridiculously louder than others - I think that, in some cases, I overdid it a bit with the COMPRESSION, in search of that elusive "You Have To Hear The Words" balance (the bane of my musical existence - I'm sticking to instrumentals from now on!). I will reacquaint myself with some of the tracks via the WAV editor and lower the overall volume considerably. In addition, I still have to do something about that popping saxophone track on "Hotel Pandora", which will also need indexing separately from its accompanying poem... oh! and I also should put some extra space between the 'end' of the album and the 'secret bonus' track... and so on and so forth... all in all, I think we might be aiming for the traditional release date of sometime in July...?

DREAM DIARY... Ken "Blockhead" Dead is singing a 'folk' song of his own composition (Sorry, I don't remember it now!)... I am accompanying him on some sort of mandola/bouzouki/hybrid eight-stringed guitar-like instrument... As is so often the case in dreams, I instinctively know how to play it straightaway and don't put a note wrong...

I just realised that at least one of the LEVIN BROTHERS' tunes ("Brookline Boyz") bears a striking resemblance to the stylings of the BBC's late-lamented "Light Entertainment Musical Director" RONNIE HAZLEHURST, particularly his music for the game show "BLANKETY BLANK"... that's THAT ruined, then...
Of course, the really exciting news of the week is that the eclectic progfolk medievalists GRYPHON are touring next month!
When I was at school they were My Top Fave Band, equal in stature only to the Dutch yodelrockers Focus.
I Was An Odd Boy (Who Doesn't Like Sport).
None of my peers 'got' what Gryphon were about, so they were somehow something that was exclusively mine! Bear in mind that the average fifteen-year-old secondary modern schoolboy in 1973 would have favoured the stomping stylings of Slade or T-Rex. The more adventurously 'progressive' amongst the fifth form went for Cream or Hendrix, Free or Zep, Uriah Heep or Hawkwind, or (gawdelpus!) Ten Years bloody After. I was only just discovering Yes and Genesis for the first time.
But along came a band that ditched the loud guitars in favour of wheezing harmoniums, recorders and bassoons, not to mention those funny looking instruments that resembled upturned walking sticks. They had a lot of hair and wore colourful renaissance frock-coats. This particular spotty teenager was smitten. However, my compadrés stared in befuddlement.
Over a three-year period in the seventies, I travelled to see Gryphon play in various venues, some as small as folk clubs and some as large as stadia (with Guildhalls and Cathedrals in between). I bought all the albums on vinyl (still have them!) and then, much later, again on CD. Some of them twice. I was there at their 2009 reunion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and I haven't shut up about it since... On Wednesday 20th May, I'll be going to Southampton's Portswood Road nightery 'Talking Heads' to enjoy the rare opportunity of seeing and hearing them once more. Yarroo!
Week from Monday 13th April 2015

This fine Monday morning, I'm listening to HARRY SHEARER's tribute to STAN FREBERG and filling in my 'self-assessment' TAX FORM online... I've got FUNNY EARS...

In light of the exciting news about GRYPHON, I'm revisiting the YouTube clips of the 2009 reunion and embedding them in a fresh blogspotpage. There's a couple of 'new' excerpts which have only recently appeared on the band's own YT channel. Just that one fixed camera angle, covering the whole stage as seen from next to the sound desk, makes it a bit dull to WATCH repeatedly... but the music is fabulous (hmmm... Surely something in the nature of an 'official bootleg' recording of this historic occasion COULD have been released by now?)

DREAM DIARY... I spent a lovely weekend, with STEVE HILLAGE and others, playing a 'real-life board game' called "GOSUN! THE KNIFE EDITION"... We had to make our way around London, following clues and looking for signs (they were actual signs like school crossing wardens' 'lollipops')... When we found a sign we all had to shout "Thus has the artist spoken!" five times... I got to know Mr Hillage quite well during the course of the weekend (I learnt a lot about his apparent 'missing years') and we agreed to keep in touch via email...

I did one or two UNCLE WILLY updates... and now, following the latest tweaks (and allowing for a reasonable amount of "WALK AWAY FROM IT" time to elapse), I'm having another listen-through of the CC:PP album, judging it for CONSISTENCY. So far, so good...
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY (Ooh! we haven't had one of those for a while!)... FRANK ZAPPA last toured with a (rather large and, it has to be said, fantastic) band in 1988. "THE FRENZY SOCIETY" organised an outing to go to see the show at Brighton Centre on the 16th April of that year. We had a splendid time, as the heavily-circulated 'naughty tape' will attest - it's not so much a recording of the concert as it is a living document of WE HAPPY BAND OF FRENZIERS reacting to the show, joshing each other and singing along with the falsetto parts! Zappa encored with a medley of songs "by an English group", re-worded to reflect his ongoing obsession with the disgraced TV evangelist JIMMY SWAGGART. They were never officially released at the time, due to a tiff with Michael Jackson, who owned the publishing rights to The B***les' catalogue. Sadly, Frank is no longer with us, nor is Jacko... but, equally sadly, Swaggart's SonLife TV company is somehow still going about its loathsome bizniz in 2015. As Frank famously said, "There is more STUPIDITY than HYDROGEN in the universe and it has a longer shelf life..."
THE SUMMER IS HERE (probably for a few days only, but still!) I went for a bus ride into Portsmouth and wandered aimlessly around Sunny Southsea (pronounced 'ZAYZEE') for an hour or two. It was also vital that I stopped off at the Gunwharf branch of HMV to get the new GAVIN HARRISON album...

When I was suddenly plunged into the situation of having to 'build' a new WINDOZE PEECEE a couple of months back, I always knew that the installation was a temporary one. I had only a smallish hard drive on which to put my 'stuff' and I was stuck for the short term with the 32-bit version of the operating system, which meant that my graphics capabilities and the amount of RAM available to me were limited to say the least. It had always been my intention to do a completely clean install of the 64-bit Windoze on a bigger hard drive, once I could work out HOW (and had a free couple of days in which to do it!)... Well now that day has dawned. Someone on That Internet They Have Now provided me with clear instructions on how to get around M!¢r0$ØfT's archaic policy of NOT letting you ('legally') do a clean install using an "UPGRADE" edition of Windoze (Don't worry, they now concede that it's perfectly 'legal' to do this after all!). Yesterday was spent reinstalling absolutely everything(?) and then organising my 'START' menu. This morning, I will be putting FIREFOX back exactly the way I like it...

Of course, whenever you install a 'new' M!¢r0$ØfT operating system, be prepared to spend HOURS'N'HOURS waiting for MONTHS'N'MONTHS-worth of WINDOWS UPDATES to download and install... Thousands of the buggers! Just when you think they're all done, another lot appear in the Notifications Tray. I'm catching up on a whole week's telly while it just gets on with it! Oh look, there's some more...

Week from Monday 20th April 2015

Seeing as I'm on their mailing list and all, yesterday the German software concern ASHAMPOO 'gave' me a birthday present... the opportunity to purchase the newest version of their MUSIC STUDIO program for under a fiver. It's not bad at all. For anyone who wants an ALL-IN-ONE suite that organises their music collection, has a (simple) WAV editor, converts audio files across formats, rips and burns CDs and even lets you design covers for your disks, all from within a snazzy 'modern' user interface, it does the business. It works, but it's not as good as having separate, dedicated applications with which to do all those important little tasks. I already have Audacity (on both Windows and Linux), WinAMP, Magix, several specialised audio and video conversion tools, a version of the Nero burning suite that came with my DVD drive (as well as a choice of disk burning options on the Linux laptop)... and lots of proper graphic design software from the Serif concern. I don't really see me REPLACING all those tools that I've used for years with Ashampoo's baby. But it's handy to have another option available and I'm giving it a go to see what it can do. Thank you, Ashampoo...

On Monday morning, I had to go out bright and early to make a NINE O'CLOCK appointment for a BLOOD TEST. In the event, I was in and out of the nurse's treatment room by A QUARTER TO NINE... and so I found myself standing outside of a BANK which hadn't opened yet, so I could deposit some cheques when it did. Nice day for standing around outside of banks, anyway...

Okay... having waited a reasonable amount of "WALK AWAY FROM IT" time, today I'm giving the second 'test pressing' of THE DIFFICULT FOURTH CC:PP ALBUM a listen and taking more notes. Actually, the more I mention it, the more I think I'll end up officially calling it "The Difficult Fourth CC:PP Album", whaddya think?

In all honesty, it's probably as good as it's ever going to get - and you can take THAT either way! Maybe I shouldn't have used Dubbly? Between now and July, I can concentrate on coming up with some groundbreaking artwork to accompany it, or at least, assemble a lyric booklet of some sort.

Oooh, I just found the "FOODO OWNER'S HANDBOOK" on the bookshelf while I was looking something else up... now that's a distraction and no mistake!

On the second listening of the second 'test pressing' of the difficult fourth CC:PP album... I decided that one track in particular was TERRIBLE (it just happens to have been the most recently recorded piece, "OJÁNCANA"). Sometimes my 'COLLAGE' approach to composition pays off, other times it results in a MESS, the same old ideas heaped on top of one another, only in a slightly different order. This is one such occasion. So now I'm replacing that track's music altogether with something a little simpler.

I have an old GENIUS COLORPAGE-VIVID SCANNER that I've had for years - it originally ran on Windows 98 and then XP. I thought I'd see if was still usable. I haven't really had any use for it for ages, but it's nice to know that it's 'there' if I need it.

Long story short: I spent a whole morning FAILING to get it to work with WINDOZE 7, trying all sorts of tricks like running various versions of the drivers in 'COMPATIBILITY' mode. NO CAN DO. If you haven't realised this already, M!¢r0$ØfT stuff is NOT backwards-compatible.

However, as soon as I went down the LINUX road (searching the web forums for handy hints on how to get it to run on an UBUNTU-based setup), I hit the proverbial PAYDIRT! With some downloaded drivers and a bit of crafty 'terminal' bashing and file copying, I was able to get the scanner working again in under half-an-hour, with a graphical front-end and all! It's a little bit slow, but it WORKS. Feeling kinda smug... I need to write a blog about it! I think I'll have a go at configuring the GRAPHICS TABLET* next - I haven't been able to use that for years either, even though it's SUPPOSED to work with W7! (*That's a 'tablet' in the old stylus sense, by the way, nothing to do with these newfangled touch-screens...)

Week from Monday 27th April 2015

DREAM DIARY... I'm starting college in Watford on Monday, and it suddenly dawns on me that I haven't got anywhere to live yet... so I go on a train journey with the purpose of sorting things out. The early morning trip takes ages (I even have time for a nap), but when we reach the destination, we have only got as far as "Cosham", a station that resembles the 'real life' one in no way whatsoever... I obviously have to wait for a connection, but all of the trains (some of them steam engines) are going to weird places that aren't even on the network, places I haven't heard of... I wander around the many platforms looking for the right one... there is an outdoor market, run by someone called "Peter Binn's Of Guadaloupe", with a sign that says something like "Traders: Please Do Not Exploit The Tourists"... I eventually get to Watford, but the map 'they' have given me is useless. I think it shows the southern part of Scandinavia...

I am rudely awoken at dawn by a rather noisy PIGEON, reminding me that I have to get up early to go for a DOCTOR's appointment... Last week's blood test didn't reveal anything untoward. I'm still highly HYPERTENSIVE then, still taking the pills... The doctor keeps nagging me to buy my own BP monitor. I tell him that I'd seen them on sale in Boots and thought about it, but then I usually think of something else I'd rather spend my money on! While I was waiting to collect my prescription, a fellow STEVEN WILSON fan (who was delivering a parcel to the pharmacy) recognised my tour garment and struck up a conversation. Helped pass the waiting time! Back home for bath and breakfast...

This morning's background noise - sorry! OFFICE AMBIENCE - is a recording of TANGERINE DREAM playing in a cathedral in 1975. As They So Often Did At The Time. On this occasion it was York Minster. Now, quite a lot of the Tangs' music makes very good listening on long car journeys, and it has soundtracked many a "COSMIC RAMBLE" to the West Country. But I wouldn't recommend anyone tries driving to THIS one. It's extremely SWIRLY WHIRLY and sleep-inducing...
ON YET ANOTHER DAY IN HISTORY... On Saturday 30th April 1994, ABSOLUTE ZERO (the pub-based, 'EAVY ROCK cover-versions arm of the Mervyn Purviss empire) somehow got the support slot at The Wedgewood Rooms, opening for MAN, the legendary West Coast jam-band from Wales. An historic occasion, still memorialized by the fading flyer stuck to the side of my bookshelf. But although I'm rather keen on the Manband myself, if truth be told, I don't remember an awful lot about the evening. What with packing up the AZ gear while the Welsh wizards were already doing their thing, and the fact that Merv and the boys were keen to get back for 'last orders', I probably didn't get to hear much of their unique brand of psychedelic boogie noodling at all, something I regret to this day... It was also around this time of the year (28th April 1979) that I heard the crusty spacepunks HEAR & NOW play at Sussex University. Judging by the 'one star' rating I gave them, I didn't like them that much at the time and didn't stay the distance (something else on which I might have changed my opinion since!?!)
The new KING CRIMSON t-shirt has arrived. Thankfully, they've gone for the "BREAKING BAD"-influenced 'table of the elements' theme of the American tour, rather than that bloody awful 'CYCLOPS IN HIS SUNDAY BEST' picture that's on the European posters...

DREAM DIARY... The TV channels have changed again... number eleven is now a 24-hour 'meditation' channel, showing nothing but pictures of mountains, accompanied by Buddhist chanting... (Hmmm... I'd probably watch that - it beats the crap out of ITVbe or That's Solent)
We're in the midst of the dullest general election I can remember in my lifetime, with no credible government on offer... and worse still, no credible opposition either. Not to worry, plebs, 'cause here's a nice Royal baby story to distract you for a few months (probably not for as long as the last one though, 'cause this one's only a girl)... and every fibre of my body screams SO WHAT!?!?!