Music with moving pictures

For some reason or another, music videos and DVDs that I have owned across the years started to intrude into my consciousness. Perhaps it was listening to Suggs’s autobiography that did it. Anyway, not being someone to avoid the possibility of creating a list I decided to try and recall the artistes that I have invested in as regards to their visual output.

Fully aware that the biggest stumbling block in any enterprise like this is my indifferent memory. Maybe it is selective, exorcising the truly naff. I have tried to be comprehensive. The first, and most obvious, thing is just how small my list is. I have an extensive music collection. I can only assume that cost and a preference to listening rather than watching has driven my consumption.

The second thing is how devoid of punk and sixties guitar rock it is. No Beatles or Elvis either. This can, in part, be explained by my second-hand and bargain basement habits when it comes to actually opening my wallet. Also to be factored in is that I have had TV recording equipment for close to three decades, and so have taped music shows, MTV, rockumentaries, etc over the years. Waiting to be viewed at the moment are The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, two artistes that I have deigned to avoid spending money on when it comes to moving pictures.

So, here they are: musical acts that at one time or another I owned on video or DVD. This list does not include extended CDs, the trend nowadays to include bonus tracks and footage on an otherwise all-music medium (although it would be interesting to see that list – hmmm, maybe another day!)

Abba
Bananarama
Blondie
Britney Spears
The Jam
Kate Bush
Madness
Madonna
Metallica
Nirvana
Roxette
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Wham!

I almost included The Clash as I did at one point own a copy of Rude Boy, their rather indifferent 1980 film. I also had nagging doubts about Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols, as well as the Who – I just could not be sure I actually owned The Song Remains The Same, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle, Quadrophenia or Tommy.

Nothing by The Stranglers, who remain the only artiste that I actually joined a fan club of.

A night out with the TV

Eight Rounds Rapid

Eight Rounds Rapid

Eight Rounds Rapid supported T.V. Smith at The Railway last night, all for just £3. It was a chance to see two good acts and to catch up with some old mates.

Eight Rounds Rapid’s guitarist is Wilko Johnson’s son, and he certainly had many of his dad’s moves. Wilko was amongst the good sized audience – it was nice to still him out and about.

I never saw The Adverts live, although I very much enjoyed their studio work. However I did catch T.V. Smith in 1993 when he was supporting Tom Robinson at Newcastle Riverside. I got him to autograph March of the Giants that I had purchased from him.

I managed a brief chat with T.V. last night. I will have to dig out my copy of Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts for a play very soon.

T.V. Smith and me

T.V. Smith and me

Southend Soup and Warty Hubbard

Wayne Avrili and someone who should know better

Wayne Avrili and someone who should know better

A week ago I invited myself along to partake in Southend Soup’s latest happening at the Therapy Life Centre. It is described as Fun gatherings to share food, be inspired by Good Ideas, and vote for your favourite to be funded. #southendsoup. It was an opportunity to meet new people, try raw foods, and see me mates playing. On that subject, I think I have volunteered to play with Warty Hubbard in the near future.

Connecting. Homelessness, made with love, campaign organising, the bedroom tax

Me with India Witham

Me with India Witham

On Wednesday I went to my first meeting at The Forum, this was for #connectingmilton. This was organised by the Milton Community Partnership and was an opportunity for various people and groups in Milton to get together.

There was music laid on, and I did not initially notice that this was being provided by my long-standing friends Graham Burnett and Wayne Avrili (who, amongst other things, are members of The Stripey Zebras). It was good to catch up with them, and to jam with them too.

I had a long chat with someone who had spent many years on the streets. It was really interesting to hear firsthand about life for the homeless. Amongst the stories was that they had subsisted on wild rabbit for three months (just rabbit, no vegetables, no bulky carbohydrates, no drink). It was a fascinating and thought-provoking conversation. Homelessness is definitely on the rise in the town; I am told that there are between fifty and a hundred rough sleepers. As the winter nears and the weather turns one cannot but wonder how the homeless will deal with it. It certainly makes you think that being able to sleep somewhere warm and dry is a real treat for some people – and this is taken for granted by most. I mentioned to my once homeless conversationalist the number of long-term empty properties in the borough; they responded with the idea of the council purchasing a number and allowing these to be done-up and lived in by the homeless – an idea worthy of further consideration. One thing was evident from our chat and that was the good work being done by many of the churches and charities in the town – real life-savers for some of the most desperate in the community.

The Milton Ward Community First Panel have up to £2500 match funding available to fund a project in the ward. So, if you have an idea about a project to address one of local priorities get in touch. The MCP are also holding an Ideas Fair on Sunday, 8th December (3-5pm). There is £50 available for each person to develop their idea.

Last night I paid a visit to the opening launch of India Witham’s new shop: Made With Love. Fizz and nibbles were advertised – I stuck to orange juice and just a few of the nibbles. I had a quick chat with a couple of people there, and I hope that this venture is a success.

My stay at Made With Love was brief because I was had to leave to chair a Labour campaigns meeting at our headquarters in Sutton Road. I found this very useful, and I hope that my stewardship of the campaigning this year bears fruit come next May’s elections. We are cautiously optimistic.

Earlier in the week I managed to get to a Southend Against The Cuts organising meeting – albeit that I was late and it was nearly finished by the time I had negotiated the traffic. The one thing I can report is that there will be a public meeting on the Bedroom Tax in the near future.

The greatest albums of all time

Here is a list of the thirty-six greatest albums of all time, in my less than humble opinion. It is somewhat biased by what is in my record collection, and probably gives away my age.

If forced to pick one from the list as the best ever I would plump for The Sex Pistols’ debut.

Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill
Au Pairs playing with a different sex
Beat, The I Just Can’t Stop It
Beatles, The A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles, The Abbey Road
Beatles, The Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles, The Revolver
Beatles, The Rubber Soul
Beatles, The Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Bjork Debut
Clash, The The Clash
Cure, The Seventeen Seconds
David Bowie Aladdin Sane
David Bowie The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Electric Light Orchestra A New World Record
Fall, The Live At The Witch Trials
Fall, The ‘Totale’s Turns’ (‘It’s Now or Never’)
Hole Live Through This
Jam, The All Mod Cons
Joy Division Closer
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures
Kate Bush Never for Ever
Kate Bush The Kick Inside
Nirvana In Utero
Nirvana Nevermind
Nirvana Unplugged In New York
Norah Jones come away with me
Patti Smith Horses
Public Image Ltd Second Edition
Rolling Stones, The Let It Bleed
Sex Pistols, The Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols
Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman
Who, The Live At Leeds
Who, The Quadrophenia
XTC drums and wires
Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth

The Stripey Zebras reunion at The Railway

On stage

On stage

After the gig; unknown person, Graham Burnett, Stephen Dobson, Wayne Avrili, Julian Ware-Lane

After the gig; unknown person, Graham Burnett, Stephen Dobson, Wayne Avrili, Julian Ware-Lane

The musical collective of my youth included The Stripey Zebras, whose reunion I witnessed at The Railway pub last night.

Last night’s line-up was diminished by the absence of a charismatic Martin Fulton, one of two former members now deceased. However, Graham Burnett, Stephen Dobson, Martin Hardy and Wayne Avrili put on a fine shown, with Wayne and Stephen sharing vocal responsibilities.

I saw a number of old friends there and had many fine conversations, with a particularly nostalgic one with Wayne who was trying to persuade me to reform Introduction To British Economics, a threesome that also included Chris Kemp. I would like to do something musical again, but finding free time nowadays is a real challenge. Back in the day I played and wrote almost every day, these days I picked up a guitar about once in a month, if that.

The reunion was a celebration of Graham’s successful fight against cancer. I recall bumping into Graham on the pier the day before he started his course of treatment and am delighted to be able to see him today looking fit and healthy.

Wilko!!!

Today, at the Village Green

Today, at the Village Green

He ended with Johnny B. Goode. Its refrain of “bye bye Johnny” had some poignancy, especially considering that Wilko Johnson’s real name is John Wilkinson.

I only saw Dr Feelgood once – remarkable considering the number of gigs I saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was at the Shrimpers club at Roots Hall (my favourite local venue – I was there most Sundays). John Mayo had replaced Wilko by that time. I was right at the front, almost crushed against a barrier. They were brilliant. Around the same time I saw the Solid Senders at the Zero 6 one Monday evening.

I once called at Wilko’s home, canvassing for the Labour Party. His riposte: “I ain’t gonna vote for that war monger Blair”. He then closed the door on me. Such was my brush with someone whose music I had admired.

Timeless? I am not so sure. Pub rock, the genre that Dr Feelgood led, has changed an awful lot in thirty plus years. Today’s crowd was a cross section with the middle aged like me for whom Dr Feelgood injected some excitement into our teenage years, and a younger set who must have sought out the Thames delta bluesman by reputation alone.

I moved to Canvey about the time Wilko shifted out of Dr Feelgood. Was it something that I said? Whatever, it may have been a thirty-four year year gap between my first and second Wilko gig, but it was worth the wait.

Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy

On Sunday evening I went with Petrina to see The Who play Quadrophenia at the O2 arena. It was my first visit to the arena, although I did see The Buzzcocks at the IndigO2 some years ago. I was impressed with the arena which had good seats and sound even at the lofty height where our seats were (level 4).

It was a last minute decision to see whether tickets were available, and I am pleased to be able to last say I have seen a band that I have been a fan of for forty plus years.

Recently I finished reading a biography of Keith Moon (Dear Boy : The Life Of Keith Moon) which I found oddly moving and am listening to Pete Townshend narrate his autobiography in the car (Who I Am). This Quadrophenia tour is therefore neatly timed for me.

Born at the tail-end of the fifties my musical memories of the sixties largely revolve around lighter stuff like The Beatles and The Monkees and the light entertainment that the BBC carried. It wasn’t until I joined senior school in 1971 that my tastes broadened to include rock. I soon became a fan of The Rolling stones, Elton John and The Who. Not initially owning a record-player, my musical horizons were mostly defined by my school friends and their collections.

I cannot recall whether it was mum or me who bought Meaty, Beaty Big And Bouncy at some point in the mid-1970s, but I do recall it was the first elpee that I liked to think of as mine. Looking back it does seem incongruous for my parents, who were largely conservative in their musical tastes, to latch onto The Who; I can only imagine it was one of those rare occasions when they were content to indulge my likes.

It would be a toss-up between Live At Leeds and Quadrophenia as to which is my favourite of their albums, and both still give me great joy. I now wish I had found the resources to see them when the four originals were still alive; The Who is diminished by the absence of Keith and John. Nonetheless, Roger and Pete were in fine form and their supporting band did pretty well. They performed all of the double album that is Quadrophenia, in order, then followed this with selected highlights from their lengthy career. It was a great night.

Thank you Roger and Pete (and Keith and John).

Gettitude – The Get and friends at The Railway Hotel

Sinister Chuckles

Sinister Chuckles

Luis Drayton

Luis Drayton

The Get

The Get

The one thing that the punk explosion did for me was to make me realise that I, too, could realise my musical aspirations. It allowed me, and many friends, a creative outlet. From approximately 1978 to the 1985 almost every friend I had was in a band, sometimes in more than one. Those heady days we wrote and played our own songs, wrote and appeared in fanzines, recorded and distributed our own music. It was amateurish, it was tremendous fun, it was hard work at times too, and for me it was many lonely hours writing words and mastering as many unusual chords as my fingers could wrap themselves around. There was a real sense of discovering. Ours was an embryonic indie scene, then called ‘alternative’, and we often arranged our own gigs in order to play.

Last night I want to The Gettitude Album Launch Party at the Railway Hotel, in Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea. I have known The Get since the very early 1980s (I even guested on stage with them at one gig), although I have not seen much of them in the intervening years. I went to many of their early gigs, and a number of their rehearsals too. I bought their tapes and the flexi-disc.

So, what of the gig? I turned up halfway through the first support act’s set. Crying Queerwolf is actually a very old and dear friend Stephen Dobson. Steve is someone I played in a band with for a while (Dr Pretorius and the Lazy Sluts) – I vaguely recall a musi-cassette and gig way back in either 1981 or 1982. Anyway, I hope it won’t offend Steve when I describe his stage presence today as being far camper than thirty years ago. His stuff is definitely an acquired taste, and certainly original. I was reminded of a cross between Quentin Crisp, William S. Burroughs, with a touch of electro-pop thrown in.

I enjoyed Sinister Chuckles very much. Their guitar work reminded me a lot of The Stooges. The sound was not good enough for me to make out the lyrics (my dodgy hearing doesn’t help either), but there was obvious humour. They were the best act on the night.

Luis Drayton was certainly unusual, and not really to my taste. His act was the most controversial I have ever seen, and in many ways it gave me the impression that this was a cover for little in the way of real artistic skill. I took a perverse interest in his performance, which left me wondering if the audience were voyeurs in his exhibitionist masturbatory act. Certainly Jim Morrison was arrested for far less. I am sure there is an audience for his output, and I am sure that this audience does not include me.

The main act, as I have already stated, are one that I have seen many times. However, there is easily a quarter of a century between the last time I caught The Get and last night. There has been a line-up change; they have a new bass-player, Stephen Dobson quitting to pursue solo work. This is their second line-up change in more than thirty years – they originally had a second guitarist. The Get certainly have longevity and consistency on their side.

They, much like the Stripey Zebras in their time, revelled in their amateurishness. I guess they had The Mekons as role models here, with a large slice of The Fall too. (They also used to claim Gary Glitter as an influence, something that for obvious reasons has been conveniently forgotten.) To be honest it was a mixed set. It was all new material, except for one number, and some of it could have done with a bit more practice. That being said, Bruce’s voice has held up over the years and Gary’s guitar-work is getting better. Jon makes a virtue out of not practising his drumming, and whilst there is a certain charm in this it definitely needed to be tighter in some places. I liked the new material enough to purchase the CD. I hope they perform again soon.

I turned up to pay a flying visit and ended staying for over three hours. It was as much an exercise in catching up with old friends as it was to see and hear new music. The Railway Hotel reminds me of the Top Alex at the end of the 1980s in many ways.

My thanks to Bruce, Audie, Steve, Steve, Graham, and Jon for a good evening.

Before and after the midnight of life

Abba loved

Abba loved

Thirty years earlier, Julian and Gary, 86-Mix

Thirty years earlier, Julian and Gary, 86-Mix


A couple of weekends ago I got dragged onto stage at one of the Mayor’s Charity events. This was a Mammia Mia Concert and Film event at the Park Inn Palace. My brief stage appearance was with Abba Love, I joined in on a version of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), managing a few off-key mumbles at the chorus.

My performance contrasts with a gig I did at the Grand Hotel in Leigh-on-Sea in 1982. I was reminded of this when my foster mother-in-law framed an old photograph from this gig. My singing was never good, but despite this I did sing. When 86-Mix, the band I was playing with in the photo, split up I was asked to be lead singer for another band. I declined – I just could not believe my voice was anywhere near good enough. Those that heard me at the charity would, nay must, agree.

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