Week from Monday 1st February 2016

The subject of CHARLIE DRAKE's 'prog' credentials came up again on the "Socials"... In the mid-seventies, the diminutive "'Ello My Darlin'" star released a single on Charisma Records called "You Never Know". It was [co]written by one PETER GABRIEL and featured a line-up of EVERYONE WHO WAS ANYONE in this scene we now call 'prog' - Phil Collins; Percy Jones; Gabriel himself, of course; Keith Tippett; Sandy Denny; quite possibly Robert Fripp and several others... I think it's rather good. It's only two minutes long, but you could definitely hear it as a Genesis song (a la "Willow Farm" or "Harold The Barrel"), if you take out the 'comedy' catchphrases. I just happen to have a recording of it on one of my "Hot Tickles" compilations, along with Gabriel's original demo version, which wouldn't sound out of place on HIS first album, given a bit of extra orchestration...

This afternoon, I'm giving "THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY" its annual airing. The music is, of course, as wonderful as it has ever been... if you can listen past the compression! The 1994 seedy mastering doesn't sound that great these days. It is definitely a candidate for the STEVEN WILSON treatment! Along with "TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS" (which sounds similarly mushy) a standalone, remastered release is long overdue (I'm led to believe it HAS come out in a big expensive box set along with all the other albums, but not on its own). It's also about time Esoteric or somebody bundled together both versions of SPLIT ENZ' "Mental Notes" album, but that's another story...

I'm making my usual Tuesday visit to Gosport, although I will have to return later in the week for further biz... I stopped by at the Art Gallery, as they have a nice little show of various 20th Century artists, borrowed from the Southampton City Gallery collection. It's a little 'TOKENISTIC', as each important art movement of the century is represented by just one or two paintings. Also, as the pieces are on loan from Southampton, I'd seen most of them 'in the flesh' before (including one of my favourite BRIDGET RILEYs, which I saw in the retrospective show of September 2010, and the painting by Penrose, which appeared in the "British Surrealists" show of a few years back). NICE THOUGH! I'll probably pay another visit when I have more time to stand and stare...

It's JAMES JOYCE's birthday today. That bugger's got a lot to answer for...

DREAM DIARY... A couple of heavies, dressed in what I take to be naval uniforms, stand menacingly and silently at my door, preventing me from "doing a runner"... The pop star Arthur Lee turns up, announcing that he has launched a new career as a director of black and white movies, and wishes therefore to be known as "Aaron Arunstern"...

It's become one of life's simple pleasures, really... watching how the TWITTERRIERS pounce every time that politicians, celebrities or, in this case, "journalists" say something STUPID. The DAILY MAIL printed a poisonous piece on its front page screaming "WHO WILL SPEAK FOR ENGLAND?". The good folks of Twitland (using the wildfire-spreading hashtag #whowillspeakforengland) were VERY quick to get satirically creative, providing a few answers of their own, thousands of 'em in fact! My favourite suggestions for a representative Voice Of Modern Britain were DEREK & CLIVE and PROFESSOR STANLEY UNWIN ("Wholly Spokit For Englode?").

Now then... what's the weather doing today? (looks out of window). It continues to be miserable, but... WALKIES!
SOME MORE OF THESE DAYS IN HISTORY: The 3rd of February brought shows by cheesy-listening funksmoothies SHAKATAK (1984) at Watford Bailey's, and shoegazy guitardronists MOGWAI and AERIAL-M (1998) at the Wedgewood Rooms... On the 4th in 1978, at the height of the 'power pop' craze, we saw THE STUKAS at Portsmouth Polytechnic... Nothing much happened on the 5th or the 6th... but the 7th marks the anniversary of seeing ARGENT and the JOHN VERITY BAND at Portsmouth Guildhall (in 1974) and a trip to Portsmouth Locarno in 1978, to see SPLIT ENZ for the second time...
ALSO... it was on the 6th February in 1985 that our chums JUMP performed (and recorded) their 'rock opera' "DIRTYSODRAPHENIA" at the Salutation in Portsmouth. On returning to the venue a few weeks later, the landlord told them to put a sock in the 'theatricals' bit, and stick to just playing music! (We didn't though... I think that was the time that I performed my "EUROVISION SONG" for a baffled public)... Just dug out the tape... Ah! and who else remembers our "RECRUITING SERGEANT MICHAEL THATCHER", "CHEESEMAN'S FENCING" and "UNDERWATER CABARET" sketches? Heady times!

Week from Monday 8th February 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT, MONDAY MORNING... Yet another massive storm has hit the coast. (Or is it just the same one coming back again? I dunno!) Bits of Southampton have blown over and some roads in Dorset are now under the surf. They've called this meteorological event IMOGEN. They must be getting desperate for names, now that storms get 'em, as well as full-blown HURKINS. But all's I knows is... it's definitely NOT weather for walking in (I could always have a go at flying instead?)

BUT... There is a lull in the storm later in the day (the wind drops a tad and the sun actually shows itself!), so I saddle up for a quick yomp around the block. Otherwise today, I'm mostly doing PREPARATORY work for tomorrow, when I hope to get the HAIR EMPORIUM's webpage up and running. All they require is a single page which acts as a PORTAL to where all the REAL human interaction gets done (Their FACEBOOK and a new ONLINE BOOKING doobry, both of which are handled on other 'CLOUDS' somewhere...)

I'm trying out a new SEARCH ENGINE called Oscobo. It's another one that claims it protects you from tracking. So far, I'm a lot more impressed with this one than I was with DuckDuckGo, which admittedly does do the job of keeping you private, but is a little short on useful search features... Okay, let's just have one last one of these for a while...
YET MORE OF THESE DAYS IN HISTORY: On the 8th February 1976, I went with my dad to see the WOODY HERMAN big band at the Portsmouth Guildhall (Their arrangement of "America Drinks And Goes Home" is still definitive, in my humble opinion)... Also on the 8th (in 1979) I saw ROD ARGENT and a stellar line-up of mostly Brand-Xers at Victoria's THE VENUE venue... On the 9th of February 1977, we donned our finest "Songs From The Wood" tour tweeds to see JETHRO TULL at Southampton Gaumont... The 10th of February brought shows by the red-spandexed rockpoodle SAMMY HAGAR at the Hammy'O' (1982) and the troubadour's troubadour ROY HARPER at the Hornpipe in Portsmouth (1985)... In 1988, on the 11th February, there was an office outing to the Salisbury Arts Centre, to catch the befezzed Balkan funsters 3 MUSTAPHAS 3...
THE HORROR... I spent a pleasant enough day at the HAIR EMPORIUM, setting up the web domain and hosting account. I had to content with a slow and not terribly 'BROAD' band connection, but we got there in the end. I decided that I'd wait until I'd got back to my own workstation before I set up the FTP connection and then upload the pages. Which I did... and everything worked. It was only at this point that I noticed... that there was a typo in the domain name!!! We'd set up the whole thing, got it working, and the name was misspelled! So I had to start over, deactivating the 'wrong' one and buying a new 'right' one, going through the whole tedious process all over again...

I think we are now back where we should be, but this morning, to add insult to injury, those pesky monthly "PATCH TUESDAY" Windoze Updates have slowed me down to a grinding standstill.

Sometime in the mid-eighties, we were at GOLLY's in Zummerzet, enjoying plentiful quantities of Mudgeley's finest, when the subject of ELECTRONIC MUSIC came up. I was just starting to dabble with the synthetic arts myself at the time. Says Golly, "You've got to hear this then!", and he sticks a pair of headphones on my bonce and cranked 'em up. What I heard was JEAN-MICHEL JARRE's then newly released Fairlight-based album "ZOOLOOK". Fuelled by goodly scrumpy and much else besides, I listened to the whole astonishing thing!

But I've never heard it again since. Until now.

A pal on 'That Twitter They Have Now' posted a link to a YouTube clip of the longest, opening track, and the 1980s all came flooding back. Long story slightly shorter, I've just treated myself to the "30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION" while I was in Southampton. It's ruddy marvelous. File alongside THE ART OF NOISE, YELLO, or BILL LASWELL and HERBIE HANCOCK's scratchy period. Gated drums that sound like wardrobes falling downstairs, slappy bass and vocal samples that go "Doom da boom da doom!"! It's definitely from the EIGHTIES alright! Oh! and I now realise it's got LAURIE ANDERSON and ADRIAN BELEW on it, amidst all the other crazinesses... nuff said!

Early start... Down to GOZZY again today, to get some printing underway... then, in the afternoon, a bath followed by a short SIESTA. Today's 'OFFICE AMBIENCE' is therefore exactly that, favouring music that sort of STAYS OUT OF MY WAY (Eno, Churchscapes, Max Richter, you get the 'drift').
THIS JUST IN FROM SHELFY... End of another era. The car was scrapped yesterday. I need a new home for my pickaxe and purple rubber monster (and cassette player... Ed.) RIP Citroen Xsara 2003-2016. Gone and, by this arfty, thankfully forgotten.
Week from Monday 15th February 2015

"Bah da bah da da da MUNDANE MONDAY..." Walked into town to drop my prescription in the box at the Health Centre; Bought some toothpaste and some pens in the 'pound' shop; Had a quick poke around a couple of charity shops; Bought an R.E.M. album I didn't know existed, and a 'new' shoulder bag... zZzZzZzZz

This morning, I thought I'd check my BANDCAMP stats. I know, I know, I'm a fool to myself! It would appear that on the 4th February, someone downloaded "TALES FROM THE WINGED EYEBALL". In an ideal world that wouldn't even be worth mentioning. After all, all that stuff on Bandcamp, people are downloading it all the time, right? Except that this was the first time ANYONE has downloaded ANYTHING from MY Bandcamp site since September of 2014! The CC:PP albums have 'sold' an average of one copy each. Nobody at all has downloaded the most recent one. As for streamed plays, well, I think I'm mostly responsible for those myself, every time I choose what to 'share' next on the TWITTER. But no one else is listening.

I hopped on a train to Cosham, to deliver some leaflets to OOR WULLIE (while he is away). I ran the gauntlet of Cosham High Street's many CHARITY SHOPS, mainly looking for some powered computer speakers that will plug into my Mum's telly to replace the fast failing internal sound (Think of it as a low budget 'sound bar'!)

Plenty of opportunity - nay! necessity for walking this week. More visits than normal to GOZZY, several errands to be run... Today, I went for a jaunt to the health centre, and to hang around the pharmacy, waiting for my prescription to be filled for another month...

The SOCIAL NET is WORKING for me, if introducing me to 'new' music is part of the appeal! It's almost like hanging out in the school lunchroom again, swapping recommendations and sharing enthusiasms with a BUNCH OF LIKE-MINDED INDIVIDUALS! I almost feel like getting the greatcoat out! After last week's JEAN-MICHEL JARRE revelation, this week I was introduced to early CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY. Apart from a couple of their more 'famous' singles, I had NO idea they sounded like THAT! I'd only heard CHICAGO (in their rather naff, FM-friendly, power-balladeer incarnation) in the 1980s, and I was not at all keen. But it turns out they used to be a ruddy 'JAM BAND', for flip's sake! They played sets that were sometimes longer than the Dead's, with E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D improvisational passages, featuring a jazzy horn section, Winwood-like bloozy vocals and Hammond work, and a guitarist that came highly recommended by Jimi!

TOPICS FOR TODAY: The fact that it is forty-five years to the day since "THE YES ALBUM" came out, and this:-
What if BRIAN & MICHAEL had written 'that'
song about HIERONYMUS BOSCH instead?

And he painted bagpipe heads
That grew on the backs of dogs,
Egg-shaped pods filled with
Blokes that looked like frogs.

Each night old Boschy waits
Outside them hellish gates,
To paint his mad dwarf men
And malformed bats and gods.
Week from Monday 22nd February 2016

A quick flurry of DOING OTHER PEOPLE'S JOBS FOR THEM for very little recompense... then it's off to the CASH & CARRY, hopefully to stock up on printable labels. (Ah! but it was not to be!)

The good news: On Sunday, the "FREAK ZONE" broadcast three 'tunes' from THE POP GROUP's dub noise set at the Bristol 6 MUSIC FESTIVAL, with GEOFF BARROW out of Portishead at the controls. Quite a fabulous racket it was too! The disappointing news: On Friday, the "LIVE MUSIC HOUR" broadcast exactly the SAME three tracks, rather than further selections. I don't know, perhaps that was all they played on the night...?

Week from Monday 29th February 2016

This week, we kick off PHASE I of the annual "GOD ON A PUSHBIKE" charity-bike-ride-print-n-collate-o-post-a-thon. It should be fairly stress-free, just a repeat of what I did this time last year (and pretty much the year before that... and so on). Only... I went for a morning walk to the edge-of-town branch of STAPLES, to get a box of labels for addressing purposes, only to find that they were SLIGHTLY different to the ones I used in previous years. So I had to create some alternative templates in LibreOffice before I could update and print them. This meant that a 'five minute job' took most of an afternoon... but it was a good training exercise, as I discovered some of LibreOffice 5's newer features that I'd never knew I needed before.

DREAM DIARY... I'm in Las Vegas for some reason, possibly for the annual Grateful Dead bash (I can't think of any other reason I'd be in that horrible place!)... Some mysterious symbols are appearing everywhere... a series of overlapping wavy lines, they look a bit like abstract 'sails' or flags... someone says something about "having to cancel a one-point-three billion dollar project"...

Our little community is in all of a tizz, on account of there (very suddenly) being an all-new KING CRIMSON COLLECTORS' CLUB 'OFFICIAL BOOTLEG' coming out! One of last year's gigs in Toronto, it is considered by those involved as being a highlight of the tour. The concert is already available as a download from the DGM concern, but I shall patiently await the 'proper' 2-CD release later in the month. I'm practicing "ADMIRABLE RESTRAINT", if you will... I have, however, availed myself of the free "HOT TICKLE" to whet my appetite (the "EVERY BIT AS GOOD AS REMEMBER IT" version of "Easy Money"). Since the news was announced at about 3.30 on LEAP DAY, I'll wager the Burning Shed servers have been running a little bit warmer than usual (to say nothing of the DGM download site*), as eager punters have rushed to be first on their block! An even more comprehensive multi-disc set is expected later in the year. (*As it happens, the DGM e-commerce site DID suffer something of a meltdown yesterday!)

Tuesday... Took some stuff down to the PRINTERS; Chatted about website ins'n'outs at the EMPORIUM OF HAIR; Bumped into the HUMAN NAIL at the bus station and spoke of THE POP GROUP and PERE UBU. As yer do!

(Don't tell anyone, but this afternoon I'm listening to one of those naughty K*** C***SON bootlegs that have been mentioned in dispatches. Makes me wish they'd done more of the "SCARCITY OF MIRACLES" stuff on last year's tour.)

I spent the early hours of Wednesday morning downloading several gigabytes-worth of HAIRDRESSING pictures, for assembly onto a handy 'resource' DVD-ROM. Google Analytics ("We Put The Anal In Analysis") tells me that the HAIR PEOPLE's website is not yet "MOBILE-FRIENDLY", so I've been teaching myself how to do all that today. Thank hebbum the website is a simple, single page affair, so all I had to do is create an alternate 'mobile' version of the page, to which one gets redirected if your screen is less than a specific number of pixels wide.