Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I like A Nice Cup Of Coffee In The Morning ……

I like tea more than coffee. There I’ve said it. It’s true. For an everyday drink that is refreshing you cannot beat starting the day with a nice cup of tea. (A mix of breakfast and earl grey with milk is just about perfect). But there is something about coffee that is really appealing. For a start I love the bewildering array of choice that you have just to begin the process. You can have Turkish, Cappuccino, Espresso, Latte, Mocha or Americano; and that’s before you start selecting the origin of the beans – Guatemala, Africa, Java, Hawaii ……… the list is almost endless. The actual process of grinding the beans and then producing the coffee is an art form. It becomes a comforting process in which the full ranges of auditory, olfactory and kinaesthetic senses are used. I love preparing, making (and of course tasting) coffee. It is the perfect way to end a meal and the ideal mid morning perk-me-up. If only I enjoyed drinking it as much as tea.

Blur – Coffee & TV
Squeeze – Black Coffee in Bed

Buy coffee here
Buy Squeeze here
Buy Blur here

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Theres Nothing on the TV, Nothing on the Radio

Went to Wales Rally GB at the weekend, and apart from getting wet and muddy had a great time. As usual the event was dominated
by the Scandinavian drivers and they took the majority of the top places. Now this got me thinking. Scandinavians have often been vilified for their lack of musical talent (Norwegians at Eurovision springs to mind), so what is around at the moment that is Scandinavian and good? After all, at all other levels of art the Nordic countries have produced the goods. Strindberg, Bergman, Ibsen, Hallstrom ......... the list is considerable with artists, writers, composers and filmmakers, but popular music? All right there was ABBA but they have never floated my boat. More recently of course, Gwen Stafani and Roxette - woooh! There is, however, a very positive side and my choices for today reflect this. There is no doubt (no pun intended) that there is thriving musical scene, in Sweden in particular, and long may it continue.


Shout out Louds - The Comeback

The Hives - Main Offender
Razorlight - America (alright a bit dodgy but ....)

Buy Shout Out Louds here
Buy Razorlight here
Buy The Hives here

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Favourite Artists (No. 3) - Fluke

Back in the early 1990's I sold my flat with the grand intention of swanning off to Australia. There I would drink copious amounts of beer, sunbathe and hopefully meet the girl of my dreams. In the end I moved 2 miles down the road into a rented house and met the girl of my dreams here in England. It was at this house that my housemate introduced me to Fluke (Jon Fluger, Mike Tournier, Mike Bryant). At the time his sister was going out with one of the guys in the band (which one I am unsure - I think it was one of the Mikes) and they had only one album released - 'The Techno Rose of Blighty'. In a country that had gone mad for all things 'baggy' or 'Acieeed' they seemed to take a very mature slant on techno. Certainly Alan McGee at Creation records was suitably impressed to give them a chance alongside all of his other indie acts. I also remember listening to Annie Nightingale who one evening said that 'Techno Rose .....' was an album that she returned to on repeated occasions because of its brilliance.

After a gap of a couple of years and a mini live album ('Out - In essence') they went on to release 'Six Wheels On My Wagon' which was their stab at the mainstream. The album had far more of a 'House' feel with some appropriate floor filling tracks in the early part of the album. Later still came 'Oto' and 'Risotto', both which realised some measure of critical acclaim. 'Risotto' especially, was well received by the music press and saw the release of their two most well known singles in 'Atom Bomb' and 'Absurd'. The band also saw a successful link into computer games with their part in the soundtrack to 'Wipeout 2097'. The group came to an effective end at the turn of the millenium with the departure of Tournier although they lived on with DJ appearances and 'Best of..' albums. There was even a comeback album in 'Puppy' but this could not live up to the early work.

Tracks (mp3)

Fluke - philly (Jamorphous mix)
Fluke - Electric Guitar (Humbucker)
World of Twist - She's A Rainbow (Fluke: Right Foot Yellow Mix)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Such a Shame

Two items of shame that I'd like to share with you:

Shame Number One: The Death of Robert Altman

Although I could never say that Altman was top of my lists of the greatest
directors, he was always in there somewhere. A true maverick, Altman was one of the original 'Hollywood Renaissance' filmmakers, along with Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and company. But amongst them all he was the one able to draw a stella all-star cast. I first watched M*A*S*H after having consumed many episodes of the TV series, immediately I loved its sense of authenticity (something that the TV series never really had). Later, of course, there were others I've seen - Nashville, Short Cuts, The Player, Gosford Park and others that I have disgracefully missed. As soon as my current Woody Allen fixation is satisfied I'll be instructing my DVD club to send me plenty of Altman.

Shame Number Two: The Lack of Knowledge About Ken Loach

I talked to my year 13 students on Monday and said that I had seen
'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' over the weekend. Shamefully, nobody had heard of the film and even more shameful had they heard of Ken Loach. I was gobsmacked by this lack of knowledge of the most important English director of the last 40 years. I mean the film itself had won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and he had won a fellowship of BAFTA the previous year. Nobody has made more humanistic films about the lot of the working class in Britain. This emptyheadiness by these students has got to change. I'm going to have a Ken Loach season at school and they will have their eyes opened.

Mp3 track of the day:

PJ Harvey -
Shame (Peel Session)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Girls, Girls, Girls

The five best songs with girls names in the song title. I would have had 'Charlotte Sometimes' but that was in an earlier post so discounted for the rules of this particular conundrum. The Beatles alone seemed to have quite a few but I've only allowed myself one. So anyway ......

Jimi Hendrix - The Wind cries Mary
Elvis Costello - Alison
The Beatles - Michelle
The Ramones - Sheena is a Punk Rocker
10cc - I'm Mandy, Fly Me

And just for the record five more that definitely would not have made the list .......

Chris de Burgh - Patricia the Stripper
Barry Manilow - Mandy
The Knack - My Sharona
Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
Marillion - Kayleigh

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Songs and Images of a Lifetime - 1966

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows (mp3)

In music terms probably the easiest choice I'll have to make. I know in many ways this is cop out and that this song features in many 'top this' and 'top that' lists but ultimately 'God Only Knows' is just a classic pop tune. Featuring sublime vocal harmonies, and a technical ability that other bands and songwriters could only marvel at before going back to the drawing board to try and catch up. Sublime.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly - Dir. Sergio Leone

I have always been a great fan of the western genre, and I grew up watching John Wayne and Henry Fonda movies on a sunday afternoon. When I first watched this film I was entranced. It seemed so different to the other westerns I had been reared on and I couldn't get enough of the spaghetti variety. Most Leone fans would argue that Once Upon a Time in the West was his best effort, but I disagree. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is a better balanced and better acted film altogether.

Buy Beach Boys here

Friday, October 27, 2006

Favourite Artists (No.2) - The Beloved

I was recently reading Dylan Jones rather interesting account of his re-discovery of his record collection in 'iPod, Therefore I Am'. In it Jones insists there are very few albums that have more than three or four tracks worth keeping on an mp3 player. Although not exactly revolutionary, it is a point well made and one I largely agree with. There are exceptions however, and 'Happiness' by The Beloved is a case in point.

The band began life in the early to mid-eighties and were a favourite of John Peel, performing a session for him in early 1985. There are obvious comparisons to be made to New Order, and this probably explains my early fondness for their efforts; but despite the indie sound they never featured too highly in my listening habits. That is until 1990 and the release of 'Happiness'. For a couple of years this was my saturday night record and an anthem for the time. I still cannot understand why it never makes these lists of 'best albums' that make the rounds of the music press. The band (by this time only Marsh and Waddington) had adopted the dance flavours of the time, and the poppy sound was an instant hit.

After 'Happiness' and the accompanying mix album 'Blissed out', Jon Marsh and Steve Waddington parted company. Marsh and his wife Helena then continued to DJ, write songs and release a couple of further albums but with only patchy success. So the story of The Beloved is only a brief one, but when their star shone it burned very brightly.

Tracks to savour:

This Means War (mp3)

The Sun Rising (mp3)
A Hundred Words (mp3)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Songs and Images of a Lifetime - 1965

Hmmm, a difficult decision with the choice of music, and an easy one with the film. I think that this is going to get harder and harder as I go on.

Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone (mp3)

I know this is two in a row for the folk meister. I also know this was the year of 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'. I further know that this was the year of one of my favourite fab four records in 'Girl'. But this record is simply too huge to miss out. The speculation of who the song is about fuels the mythology that surrounds it. Rolling Stone magazine ranks it as the finest single ever produced, and although I'm not in agreement I can see why they, and many others, rate it so highly. Fantastic.

'Repulsion' - Dir. Roman Polanski

Not my favourite Polanski film, but this effort stands out in a rather bland year for cinema. I have also got to have at least one film starring Catherine Deneuve.

Buy Bob Dylan here

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Everybody Move to Prove the Groove

When I was 17 I went on an economics fieldtrip (yes they did exist) to Sheffield. It seemed like going to a musical Mecca with the well documented rise of the Sheffield synth sound in full swing. I had been an avid follower of The Human League for a couple of years and now disastrously they had just split. My thoughts at the time were that the split would herald the end of this revolution that was going to destroy rock. In fact, of course, it led to the birth of both Heaven 17 and the new Human League and rather than destroy rock and pop the synth sound embraced them wholeheartedly. Both Caberet Voltaire and Comsat Angels were already in place, and then came ABC later that year with 'Tears are not Enough'. It was an extraordinary time for this smallish city and I just loved the place. Looking back now it was all so short lived and of course Sheffeld has since produced other great bands - Pulp and Arctic Monkeys for starters anybody - but the late seventies / early eighties was just inspirational.


ABC - Poison Arrow (mp3)
Human League - Crow and a Baby (mp3)
Comsat Angels - It's History (mp3)
Heaven 17 - (We Dont Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (mp3)
Caberet Voltaire - Don't Argue (mp3)

Buy ABC right here
Buy Human League here
Come on buy Comsat Angels here
Buy Caberet Voltaire here
Buy Heaven 17 here

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Week in Politics ........

I share a lift into work most mornings with a friend of mine. We tend to talk about a range of topics and this morning it was politics. 'Why buy British?' was the central point at issue, and we threw around a number of points in our journey in what turned out to be quite a stimulating discussion about socialism. Anyway, to cut a 30 minute discussion short, we also started to think about politics in the media. Or in other words politics in music and film. So here are my top five political films and five of my favourite political songs (there are lots in this catagory but these five came to mind immediatly).


1. Battleship Potemkin (1925) Dir. Sergei Eisenstein
2. Bob Roberts (1992) Dir. Tim Robbins
3. Reds (1981) Dir. Warren Beatty
4. All The Presidents Men (1976) Dir. Alan J. Pakula
5. Salvador (1986) Dir. Oliver Stone


1. Gang of Four -
At Home He's A Tourist (mp3)
2. U2 -
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (mp3)
3. Paul Hardcastle -
19 (mp3)
4. Stiff Little Fingers -
Alternative Ulster (mp3)
5. The Jam -
A Town Called Malice (mp3)

Buy Gang of Four
Buy U2
Buy Paul Hardcastle
Buy SLF here
Buy The Jam

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Favourite Artists (No. 1 of ???) - Kate Bush

I remember a poster my brother had on his bedroom wall of a rather buxom Kate looking the viewer directly in the eye. I still think of it even now. Heaven knows what I must have been thinking at the time as a testosterone fueled 14 year old. I also remember having The Man with the Child in his Eyes as my number one single of the year at a time when anything not 'New Wave' was frowned upon by all my friends. Yes, she's as mad as a badger but what a talent. Here are my top ten tracks:

1. The Man with the Child in his Eyes
Cloudbusting (mp3)
3. This Womans Work
4. Running Up That Hill
5. Wuthering Heights
6. There goes a Tenner
7. Wow
Night of the Swallow (MP3)
9. Breathing
10. The Big Sky

Go ahead and buy Kate

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Back to Basics

Watched 'Double Indemnity' again yesterday and this confirmed what I had always suspected. Namely, what a great film and what a shame they cannot do these any more. Double Indemnity works on a number of levels for me:

1. That studios today just cannot seem to risk any kind of budget on a character driven narrative, free from the bells and whistles of CGI.
2. What fantastic femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck makes.
3. You cannot get away with saying 'baby' to the object of your affections. (It just makes them want to shoot you).
4. That Billy Wilder should rightly be regarded as one of the directing greats.

Musical choices for today are:

The Cure - A Forest (mp3)
The Cure - Charlotte Sometimes (mp3)

You can go right ahead and buy more of The Cure

Monday, October 16, 2006

Songs and Images of a lifetime - 1964

Well the start of something that will last much longer than I would really like it to. The top songs and films of each year of my humble existence. I hope you like some of the choices. I'm sure I will have great fun thinking up excuses to think of these than do my job properly.

Bob Dylan - The Times they are a-changin' (MP3)

I always think that 1964 was a great year for music (Baby Love, Hard Day's Night, I Get Around - just for starters) but this takes the biscuit. I just loved the album when I started listening to Dylan in the late 70's, and this seemed to sum up the mood of a generation with Vietnam just around the corner.

Buy Bob Dylan Here

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Dir. Stanley Kubrick)

My favourite director has always been Kubrick. No list can start without an immediate reference to the master.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thunder and Lightning

Woke up this morning to the sounds of a violent electrical storm. Got me in mind to think of my favourite storm related songs:

1. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
2. Concerto for a Rainy day - ELO
3. Wild is the Wind - David Bowie
4. Here Comes the Rain Again - Eurythmics

I'm sure there is plenty more. Still, gave me inspiration for humming practice on the way to work ...............

Saturday, March 18, 2006

My favourite picture of Charlotte. Taken in Dawley in the Autumn of 2005 Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 17, 2006

Richard on the Stiperstones last weekend. We had fun making snowmen and looking over to the very white welsh mountains. Beautiful! Posted by Picasa
Well not a lot to say really. I guess a lot more will come on here in the nest few weeks when I plan out what this is all about.