Thursday 30 July 2009

Cats, cars and crutches?

There is an old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." Hmmmm.....

This Tuesday my Mum was in hospital for a blood-transfusion. Sarah took her in that morning and I was supposed to pick her up in the evening, six units of the red stuff later. But somehow I managed to injure my leg at work ( not too badly ) and had to be taken to A&E. We both ended up in the same hospital at the same time, me hobbling around on crutches and her emerging with some colour in her cheeks for the first time in ages. A bit of a mad day :)

And that same day Sarah and James went to pick up the newest addition to our family, an eight-week old Tabby kitten we've named Jasper. He's probably the cutest thing in the history of cuteness and is pictured above in super lo-fi quality. No doubt there will be better pics to follow. After an initial Mexican stand-off he's getting along fairly well with Hero who so far hasn't packed his bags and left, luckily. Jasper is very affectionate and energetic, and will certainly keep Hero on his toes, or paws.....

I've now been off work for two days, the first time I've been off sick in 6 or 7 years, feeling like a total waster. The leg's a lot better so I plan to go back to work tomorrow, ready for the inevitable piss-taking from my considerate fellow-workers. I haven't been wasting my time, though. I've been today to put a deposit on a new car: a silver Toyota Avensis, 2003 diesel. My old Renault Laguna has been patched up enough and is now ready to be put out to pasture. The Avensis may not be the sexiest car going but is ideal for what we need and is a good price. Should pick it up next week and take it for a burn.....

Monday 27 July 2009

Hi Sam...

Welcome on board new Follower, Sam, from Cigarettes & Alcohol.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Things I haven't blogged about this week

1. The 11th Doctor's costume, history lecturer chic
2. The 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's "one small step"
3. Desperate Romantics on BBC2: art is sexy! ( Isn't it? )
4. Rescuing yet another fish from our patio ( Bloody cats! )
5. Rescuing Hero from a tree in the pissing rain ( Bloody cats! )
6. I love cats really!
7. How crap is local radio? Heart FM j'accuse!
8. How pretentious is it to put French phrases in italics?
9. San Diego Comic Con announcement: Marvel now own Miracleman! ( Or Marvelman)
10. Miracleman? What? I mean WHAT?

Soundtrack: In For The Kill by La Roux
My Delirium by Ladyhawke

Sunday 19 July 2009

Chinese Burn

Sarah and I went to see my mate Glenn's band, Chinese Burn, last night at the White Lion in Chepstow. ( That's Glenn on the far right of the photo - actually from the Guildhall, Gloucester, 2008. ) After a pretty awful week ( see previous post ) it was just what we needed: a chance to have a few drinks with friends and get our ears blasted by Punk rock!
First impressions of Chepstow: bloody Hell! At only 8 o'clock in the evening the high street was already packed with five police cars, one riot van, two ambulances and a coachload of chavs having "words" with the cops. We headed up the hill to find a crowd of multi-coloured mohicans and old-school skin'eads. This must be the place! The White Lion is a cramped, busy pub with a pool table you virtually have to climb over to get to the bar, the music venue being some kind of converted shed at the back.
Chinese Burn were good fun as ever, cranking out a fairly short set of their no-nonsense, tuneful Punk, with the occasional rythmn 'n' blues or garage influences creeping in. Lead singer Ben is a great frontman, his style a mixture of Iggy, Rotten and his own eccentric personality. He also writes some cracking lyrics!
The main band were The Sex Pistols Experience. I'm not normally interested in tribute bands but this lot are bloody good at what they do. In fact, I think they do a better job of "being" the Pistols than the real band do nowadays. At least "Johnny Rotter" remembers the lyrics! Definitely worth checking out, if only to see their frontman's take on John Lydon: spookily accurate and very funny.
So, a good night out, only slightly spoilt by some swastika-wearing (!!) twat and his mates throwing Nazi salutes and spoiling for a fight which never actually happened. We nearly took our Sophie and Glenn's daughter Millie, but were unsure about the age limit at the venue. It's a good job we didn't as the atmosphere would have been a little too intimidating.

Check Chinese Burn out at
This has been a public service announcement ( with guitar! )

Soundtrack: You Can Never Be Sure and Defending Stalingrad by Chinese Burn.

Saturday 18 July 2009

On blogging...

Haven't posted anything for a few days as it's been a crap week and I haven't been able to get my head round it. We found out this week that my Mum is more seriously ill than we previously thought and will need both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Obviously we're all a bit shell-shocked at the moment to say the least.
So, on the subject of blogging ( which is obviously very low on my list of priorities ) - do I write about any of this or what? Would it be good therapy or is it too intensely personal for a blog which is normally fairly lightweight? Should I create a separate blog for family issues and reserve The Glass Walking-Stick for the usual nonsense? Or should I keep the blend of what Cameron Crowe calls "the sour and the sweet of life" at the risk of alienating people who just want to read about comics and music etc.? Do I have a responsibility to Followers or only to myself?
That's a lot of questions. At the moment I don't have any answers...

Monday 13 July 2009

Spider-Man 601

Another great example of John Romita Snr. artwork from an upcoming Spidey cover. Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot...

Sunday 12 July 2009

Scratchy old Punk 45s

First of all I have to admit that this is an idea I ripped-off from someone else's blog/website. Can't remember whose, so apologies etc. It's an attempt to whittle my dozens of old punk singles down to a definitive Top Ten: not an easy task. There are loads more I'd like to include, especially from later, less well-known bands. ( So there may be a Part 2, you have been warned.)

In this Nick Hornby-esque frenzy of list-making I decided there should be some rules, so I've limited this to one single from each band ( mostly to prevent the 10 singles being solely by the Pistols and The Clash ), and to give precedence for singles with b-sides that stand comparison with the a-sides ( sorry, Homicide by 999, you don't make the grade ), and for singles that have iconic Punk graphics on the sleeve or label. So, here's my Top Ten and, in the true spirit of Punk, if you don't agree, tough s**t :)

1. Holidays In The Sun / Satellite by The Sex Pistols
My fave Pistols song is Anarchy but as I don't own / can't afford that single, I'll go with Johnny sneering about the Berlin Wall ( Google it young 'uns! ) on one side and moaning about groupies on t'other. As well as Satellite pushing the Pistols' sound as far as they could go towards heavy metal, the single boasts quintessentially Punk, Jamie Reid-designed sleeve artwork.

2. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais / The Prisoner by The Clash.
White Man is probably the best Clash song ever, although Straight To Hell comes close. It starts off with Strummer singing about being intimidated at a reggae gig he went to with Don Letts, goes on to imagine Adolf Hitler being welcomed to a frighteningly racist 1970's England, and ends with some of Joe's most poetic lyrics about being a "drug-prowling wolf" who "looks so sick in the sun." All to the patented, Clash Punk-reggae beat. B-side The Prisoner is a great showcase for Mick Jones' vocals, and the record's label features a smoking gun on one side and a human target in the cross-hairs on the other side. "Ha! You think it's funny, turning rebellion into money..."

3. Television's Over / Back From The Dead by The Adverts.
The Adverts were a criminally underrated band with one of the most intelligent songwriters to come out of Punk in Tim "TV" Smith. Mostly known for their hit Gary Gilmore's Eyes and for Punk pin-up bassist Gaye Advert, they produced a flurry of exciting, energising singles and one great album, Crossing The Red Sea. They split after too many lineup changes and a badly-produced second album, but left behind some great songs like this single's Back From The Dead, co-written by Smith and Steve Strange, later of Visage.

4. Into The Valley / TV Stars by The Skids.
What a fantastic band! Again underrated, but they did have a few Top 20 hits to their name. With Richard Jobson's melodramatic vocals and pretentious lyrics and the late Stuart Adamson's unique guitar sound, The Skids were far removed from many of their 3-chord contemporaries. Into The Valley is their most well-known song with its often mis-heard lyrics ( who remembers that old Maxell tape advert? ) and shouty chorus. B-side TV Stars is a fun, drunken singalong recorded live at The Marquee Club. "Albert Tatlock!!!"

5. Staring At The Rudeboys / Love In Vain by The Ruts.
Rudeboys is one of Punk's greatest songs about one of the movement's biggest problems, violence at gigs. The Ruts' singer, the late Malcolm Owen, captures the feeling of being stuck in "a very small world in the middle of a crowd" where "there's no room to move 'cos the floor's packed tight." Claustrophobic and intense, the song builds to a crescendo of screams and broken glass: "someone hits the floor, someone takes a dive." It's almost a relief to flip the single for Love In Vain, a dub-reggae tale of broken hearts.

6. California Uber Alles / Man With The Dogs by The Dead Kennedys.
America's greatest ever Punk band, the mischief-making, piss-taking Kennedys with their caustic, sarcastic frontman Jello Biafra. If you only ever listen to two DK songs, make sure they're California Uber Alles and Holidays In Cambodia. Two savage attacks on the American middle-classes with biting lyrics and surging tunes. The band charged off down a Hardcore blind alley in later years, playing faster but less tuneful songs, but this was the good stuff: "Zen fascists will control you, 100% natural, you will jog for the master race and always wear the happy face." Scary!

7. Oh Bondage Up Yours! / I Am A Cliche by X-Ray Spex.
One thing Punk started which previous rock movements ignored was to break down gender roles. From Patti Smith and Debbie Harry to The Slits and the Poison Girls, women began to take their place as equals in the scene, but it was a long struggle. Frontrunners in this were X-Ray Spex, fronted by the irrepressible Poly Styrene. This single was their manifesto with Poly chuckling and shrieking: "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think... Oh Bondage Up Yours!!!"

8. Suspect Device / Wasted Life by Stiff Little Fingers.
While English Punk bands were fantasising about police oppression and sten-guns in Knightsbridge, kids in Northern Ireland were experiencing it for real. SLF chronicled these hard times in 3-minute howls of anger torn from the rasping throat of Jake Burns. Suspect Device is the clarion call for people stuck between ideologies, politics and violence: "They take away our freedom in the name of liberty. Why can't they all just clear off, why can't they let us be?"

9. The Friday 13th e.p. by The Damned.
Cartoon Goth-Punk at its finest. Probably the best of The Damned's many lineups, with some of their finest songs, and a Rolling Stones cover thrown in too. Disco Man is always an excuse for mad moshing and pogo-ing when played live. See you down the front!

10. Public Image / The Cowboy Song by Public Image Ltd.
The Sex Pistols' madman/frontman splits the band that could never have contained him, reclaims his real name and forms an arty, experimental group to wind up his old fans. John Lydon in the days before reality shows and butter adverts, what a star! From its booming bass-line, courtesy of Jah Wobble ( one of the best noms de rock ), through Lydon's "allo, allo, allo" intro and into the propulsive lead guitar, this song grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go, a serious statement of intent. Goodbye Punk, hello Post-Punk...

That'll do for now...
Soundtrack: All of the above.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Hi man...

Welcome to new Follower and old mate, Edward.
( That's not him, by the way, it's Frank Zappa. Edward's a major fan. )
Check out Edward's blog, Lost In Barnwood: some great stuff there about Glasto, Jacko and more-o :)

Tuesday 7 July 2009

7/7 ( Never Forget )

The new memorial in Hyde Park to commemorate the 52 people who died in the London suicide bombings four years ago today.

Monday 6 July 2009

60's Flashback, yeah baby!

Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Volume 2.
Bought this yesterday for £3.99 in the local Homesense, of all places. Bargain! As they say on the cover, "Over 500 pages of comics." Great artwork by Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Jim Aparo and more. Groovy 60's dialogue and mad/mod stories by Bob Haney and Steve Skeates. And cover artwork of Robin getting punched out by a righteously angry Aqualad. What more could a Silver/Bronze Age fan want?
"Don't sweat it, chick! I'm in my own groove at last! Doing my thing!"
They don't write dialogue like that any more!

Soundtrack: Juanita - Kiteless - To Dream Of Love by Underworld.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Bruce Week Part 4: Where The Bands Are

Springsteen is an artist who has sold millions of albums, won Grammys and other awards, performed for the incoming US President and once had his face on the covers of both Time and Newsweek simultaneously. But... to really understand The Boss's appeal you have to see him play live.
Bruce Springsteen is an absolutely electrifying performer, and that's as true today as it was 30-odd years ago on the Jersey Shore. He never gives less than the best performance he possibly can, and he also expects that from the well-drilled E Street Band. Known for their 3 hour-plus sets, Bruce and the Band built a reputation for playing exhilarating, dynamic gigs, expertly blending upbeat rockers, intense mood-pieces, theatrical stage moves and Bruce's monologues on adolescence and growing up. Today they might be slightly less energetic ( with at least two band members having had major surgery in the last few years ) but still totally committed to rock 'n' roll and to giving each audience their money's worth. This ain't the nostalgia/necrophilia of a Rolling Stones or Eagles, it's the real thing...
The first time I saw Bruce live was on the 1999 Reunion Tour at the Birmingham NEC. The E Street Band were back together and playing live for the first time in 14 years, and the buzz of anticipation was intense. Could they still cut it at the turn of the millenium or were they burnt out? What do you think? They kicked off with My Love Will Not Let You Down ( a dusted-down rarity from the Tracks box-set ) and then powered through some Greatest Hits-style rockers, an intense take on The River, a country-fied Factory and a band intro during a fantastic Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. Just as we were reeling from the 1-2-3 tempo, Bruce took the stage alone to give us spine-tingling acoustic versions of Born In The USA and The Ghost Of Tom Joad. Then the power level jumped another notch as guest Edwin Starr came on for a storming version of his masterpiece War, followed by classic after classic, into the encores. Backstreets was epic, Hungry Heart a mass singalong, huge lights dazzled us during Born To Run, and all the E Street vocalists took turns on a beautiful If I Should Fall Behind. The gig ended with Land Of Hope And Dreams, the only new song in the set. Bruce went into full-on preacher mode to rededicate the band's commitment to "the majesty, the mystery and the ministry of rock 'n' roll." An amazing gig but the outstanding question was "what next?" Would Bruce get his recording groove back or would the E Street Band remain on the nostalgia circuit? After the terrible events of 9/11 we had our answer: The Rising album and accompanying tour showed us an artist who wanted to help the world rise above its problems and celebrate life, love and good times, while never forgetting the bad. That may sound corny but, as they say, it's a dirty job but someone has to do it...

And, courtesy of the ever-wonderful, here's the set-list from that gig:
MAY 16 / Birmingham, England
Notes: The first show back after a two week break. The tour debut of "War" includes special guest Edwin Starr.
Setlist: My Love Will Not Let You Down/Prove It All Night/Two Hearts/Darlington County/Factory/The River/Youngstown/Murder Inc./Badlands/Out in the Street/Tenth Avenue Freeze-out/Where the Bands Are/Working on the Highway/The Ghost of Tom Joad/Born In the U.S.A./War/The Promised Land/Backstreets/Light of Day
First Encore: Streets of Philadelphia/Hungry Heart/Born to Run
Second Encore: Thunder Road/If I Should Fall Behind/Land of Hope and Dreams

OK, I promise: that's enough Springsteen for now. Although there may be more posts further down the line - The Boss turns 60 (!) later this year and it would be rude to miss it...

Saturday 4 July 2009

Bruce Week Part 3: Happy Fourth Of July

Best wishes to all our friends across the Pond...

Soundtrack: my father-in-law playing old Shadows songs (!) on my new acoustic guitar.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Bruce Week Part 2: Secret Origins Of A Springsteen Fan

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don't know where it's flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going
Everybody's got a hungry heart

I think the first Springsteen song I was ever really aware of was Hungry Heart from The River. It stood out at the time when the big trends in UK pop music were the remnants of the New Wave, the Ska revival and the New Romantic scene. Hungry Heart was almost like a lost garage track from the '60s with its big chorus and keyboard motif, not to mention the full-throated roar of the singer. I thought this guy might be worth checking out in the future.
An older friend leant me a stack of old vinyl LPs ( Hawkwind, Eno, King Crimson, mostly hippy stuff ) amongst which was Greetings From Asbury Park NJ. But this Bruce Springsteen seemed like a totally different artist: the vocals seemed to be at the wrong speed, the songs were overly wordy and the band sounded half-hearted. Ho hum. So I moved on to the works of Adam Ant and forgot about Bruce.
A few years later Springsteen's popularity hit its mega-platinum sales peak with the Born In The USA album. I quite liked the songs but was turned off by the all-American, headband-wearing image. As a cocky, wannabe teen punk I had developed an irrational anti-American bias, regardless of the fact that most of my favourite films, authors and comics were American. ( Kids, eh?..... I got over it. )
Another few years later and I heard Jungleland from Born To Run on Radio One, late one night. It sent shivers down my spine: the drama, the doomed romanticism, the awesome sax solo. I tried my luck with a second-hand vinyl copy of BTR and was hooked. I went out and got all the Bruce albums I could get my hands on, even Greetings... which didn't turn out to be that bad after all. It took me about 12 years to become a card-carrying Bruce fanatic and, unlike some more instant but superficial musical obsessions, this is one that's here to stay.

Soundtrack: The River ( album ) by guess who?


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