Sunday 29 November 2009


This is the centrepiece of this year's Christmas festivities in Gloucester, the Belgian Spiegeltent. After the rather pathetic ice-rink we had last year, this is a definite improvement. It's part of a "Winter Wonderland" set up in the city's King's Square, featuring Santa's Grotto and a fake snow landscape.

The city council's website describes the Spiegeltent as "an ornate, early 20th Century travelling ballroom, complete with velvet-lined seating booths , mirrors and stained glass panels." The tent is set to host "Dickensian" feasts and cabaret dinners in the evenings. Bands are also lined up to play there, including up-and-coming indie rockers Stornoway, the bloody Wurzels ( God help us! ) and, tomorrow night, living-dead goth-punks The Damned - I'll be there!

We went in yesterday afternoon for coffee and Belgian waffles: very nice!

Soul Shakedown Party by Bob Marley & The Wailers
I'll Sing A Love Song To You by Candi Staton

William Blake's Great Red Dragon

Yesterday, November the 28th, was the birthday of the visionary artist and poet, William Blake.
Here are two of a series of watercolours Blake produced to illustrate the Bible, in this case specifically the Book Of Revelations. Just to confuse matters the painting above is titled The Great Red Dragon And The Woman Clothed In Sun, while the one below is called The Great Red Dragon And The Woman Clothed With The Sun ( italics mine ).
The paintings are referenced in Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon and its two film adaptations, the wonderful Manhunter and the totally superfluous remake Red Dragon.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Steranko Saturdays: More 4

Two Steranko covers from Fantastic Four no.s 130 and 131, Jan. / Feb. 1973, inked by one of the mainstays of the early FF style, Joltin' Joe Sinnott.
Last week the mighty Mark from Bad Librarianship Now commented that the Steranko-ness of these covers gets sublimated by the Sinnott-ness of the inks. He's got a point: Sinnott's Marvel "House-style" does overpower Steranko's idiosyncracies somewhat. But even a conformist Steranko is streets ahead of most anybody else, in my opinion.

NB: Note the tag-line for issue 130 is "The World's Greatest Comix Magazine!" I don't know if this misspelling was an attempt to appear hip and groovy to the Underground Comix readership, but it only lasted for 5 issues before reverting back to "Comics". How sad am I to notice that kind of thing?

Soundtrack: Where Is My Mind? by Pixies

Friday 27 November 2009

Favourite Gig Fridays: Primal Scream

January 2000, first gig of the new millennium, the Scream!

Amazingly, Primal Scream have been around since 1982. In that time they have changed and mutated from "C86" fey jangle-pop, to psychedelic revivalists, to indie-dance icons, to today's eclectic rock royalty. When I saw them in 2000 at the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall ( with my mate Glenn ) they were warming up for their Xtrmntr tour, the single Swastika Eyes having just hit the UK Top 40 and the album reaching number 3 in the charts.

As the band came on stage Bobby Gillespie warned us "We're Primal Scream and we're here to f**** your heads up....."
And that's what they proceeded to do. Most of the set was the new Xtrmntr material which, although strangely lacking in vowels, was bloody good stuff. Songs like Accelerator, Shoot Speed / Kill Light and Kill All Hippies were explosive and expansive epics, with extra guitar pyrotechnics courtesy of My Bloody Valentine man Kevin Shields, and held together by Mani's dirty, funky bass-lines. Bobby threw some classic rock 'n' roll shapes while revisiting Screamadelica-era standards like Movin' On Up and Come Together, and faux-Stones rockers like, er, Rocks. As usual, he looked to be at death's door but managed to survive until the end of the set.
A great night of rock, psychedelia, old skool rave-rock and even a shot of ( shh! ) jazz into the bargain. Strangest sight of the gig: "Mad" Richard Ashcroft of The Verve striding through the venue wearing a huge Afghan coat and aviator shades, followed by two minders. We're not worthy!

MBV Arkestra ( If They Move Kill 'Em ) by the Scream.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Blog Bicentennial

200th Blog Post! I had planned to post something a bit more special but real life got in the way as per usual. So we'll have to make do with a nice Jack Kirby FF cover, which was - I think - the last one published while Kirby was still alive.

Double the size! Double the action! Double the thrills!

Whiskey In The Jar by Thin Lizzy
Fisherman's Blues by The Waterboys

Shining II ?

It's been reported by Contactmusic, via Digital Spy, that Stephen King is writing a sequel to The Shining.
Er, why? Surely you don't need the money, Steve?

Monday 23 November 2009

Happy Birthday, Doctor!

46 years ago today this mysterious, cantankerous old man first appeared on British TV screens in flickering black and white. At first an untrustworthy and selfish character ( he more-or-less kidnapped his granddaughter's school teachers and plunged them all back into the Stone Age ), the Doctor soon mellowed into a charming and mischievous old rogue, who could still hold his own against Daleks and Cybermen, kings and emperors.

The Doctor has come a long way since those humble beginnings in 1963 and we will soon see him change again when David Tennant makes way for another tenant ( sorry! ) in the Tardis. But it's worth remembering that it all started with this strange old man and his Police Box, hiding in a junkyard in London, waiting to take us on adventures in time and space.....

So, here's to all the hundreds of people who have worked on the show over the decades, and especially the late, great William Hartnell who first brought the character so vividly to life.

"Have you ever thought what it's like to be wanderers in the fourth dimension? Have you? To be exiles? Susan and I are cut off from our own planet, without friends or protection. But one day we shall get back. Yes, one day, one day....."
The Doctor - An Unearthly Child, November 23rd 1963.

Sunday 22 November 2009


It's Scarlett Johansson's birthday today ( born 1984 )

Like I need a reason to post that picture.....

Soundtrack: Just Like Honey by The Jesus & Mary Chain

Saturday 21 November 2009

Steranko Saturdays: Marvel Comics Index to the FF

Today's illustration is the cover to issue 4 of George Olshevsky's Marvel Comics Index. This was an ambitious series that aimed to catalogue all the Marvel superhero stories from FF no. 1 up to the time of publication ( 1976 / 7 ) - a major reference tool in those pre-internet days. So, effectively a lower-budget precursor to the Gerber Photo-Journals of the early '90s. ( Steranko also did the cover of the Captain America issue, to be posted at a later date. )

Steranko here tackles Marvel's First Family, in his best Pop Art style ( if somewhat dated in the '70s ) with some lovely colour work and eye-catching design. I'd personally like to see The Thing in a bit more detail, something Mr. S managed on the cover of FF no. 130 - yep, another future post.....

Thursday 19 November 2009


Welcome to new Follower Carmen Burguess, who I think is in a band called Mueran Humanos.
( Sorry if I've got that wrong, but my Spanish is non-existent. )
Thought you might appreciate a little Cthulhu, in cute and non-cute modes :-)

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Warhol lotta shaking going on

Yeah, I know: posting a YouTube video is the height of laziness. But it's the first time I've done it in a year of blogging. Throw me a frikkin' bone here.....

Monday 16 November 2009

Edward Woodward

Sad to hear of the passing of the great Edward Woodward, an actor with a long and distinguished career in TV and films and on the stage. He was probably best known for playing tough guys in Callan and The Equalizer, but his greatest role was as Sergeant Howie in the classic Wicker Man.

RIP Edward Woodward: 1930 - 2009

Soundtrack: Winter Winds by Mumford & Sons.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Life and death on Mars

"We're not just fighting the Flood - we're fighting Time itself! And I'm gonna win!!"
The Doctor: getting too big for his spaceboots?

Saturday 14 November 2009

They're coming...

Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars, BBC One, tomorrow night. Be afraid, be very afraid.....

( That's the worst case of chapped lips I've ever seen. No amount of Lipsil could cure that. )

Steranko Saturdays: X-Men 49

This week, Steranko's take on the ( original ) X-Men from October 1968. A great example of his superhero work, even though some of the anatomy is suspect: Marvel Girl seems to be running in 3 different directions at once!

I first came across this image in an old British Marvel comic, in black and white of course. I tore it out, coloured it and stuck it on my bedroom wall, next to the Star Wars posters, the Rodney Matthews posters, and my own ( cough! ) masterpieces. I got through some Blu-Tack in those days, I can tell you!

Friday 13 November 2009

Favourite Gig Fridays: Friday the 13th Edition

My Official Worst Gig Ever: The Screaming Ameebas / Death Planet Commandos, July 1988.

Not just your average bad gig - you know, boring band, arrogant frontman, grotty venue - but the Seventh Circle of Hell itself.
We ( that is, the semi-legendary Death Planet Commandos ) were supporting the Screaming Ameebas at a black hole of a venue called the Night Owl. We'd seen the Ameebas around the local scene and enjoyed their grubby, grebo rock ( anyone remember Zodiac Mindwarp? They did... ) - and their crazy spelling of the word "amoeba". Their singer/guitarist Martin seemed a nice enough bloke and I arranged a support slot with them in their home town of Cheltenham.

( OK, the poster above is for a different venue, the late, lamented Malt 'n' Hops, but you get the idea. )

Now, we didn't play the sleazy, fuzzed-up Motorhead / PWEI / Crazyhead metal that the headliners churned out: we were a barely-serious hardcore band, influenced by The Ramones, The Adolescents, Agent Orange, Husker Du, and lots of other bands nobody had heard of, especially the Ameebas' home crowd. But we thought that, as we all made a big ol' rock 'n' roll racket, we'd get along fine. Right? Wrong.

After lugging our gear up 50 flights of stairs ( approximately ) we waited around seemingly forever while the Ameebas soundchecked. And soundchecked. It went on and on, mostly consisting of miking-up the drumkit to within an inch of its life. Our drummer, Paul the stick-insect, was allowed the grand total of one mike. We finally went on stage in front of a catatonic audience of stoners who barely lifted their heads to look at us. Just for a laugh we started with a punked-up cover of one of the Ameeba's own songs, only they weren't laughing. Not even slightly. Then the sound problems kicked in: we could barely hear each other play through the monitors, my guitar went seriously out of tune, I borrowed another one, all it produced was feedback. And while we were on stage, banging our heads against a musical brick wall, some kid called Tony was getting my17-year old girlfriend ( now my wife ) extremely pissed on vodka.....

After finishing our set, to mass indifference, we waited for the Ameebas to do their thing, which they did to almost the same level of apathy from the audience. Their audience. Christ, what a useless bunch of dopers! We asked Martin Ameeba for our money. He told us to see the club's owner. He told us to see the Ameebas. The upshot was we didn't get paid. We were none too impressed, but I have heard accounts of baseball bats being pulled on bands who demand their payment, so it could have been worse. I lugged my guitar, amp and extremely pissed girlfriend back down those 50 flights of stairs ( approximately ) and headed for home, vowing never to return to Cheltenham. After all that I caught major flak from Sarah's parents for getting her so drunk, even though I'd been on stage at the time and had been totally oblivious. ( This also had other repercussions that I won't go into here but they were not good. ) What a night.....

The next gig we played was at the afore-mentioned Malt 'n' Hops and was one of the best nights of my life. Rock 'n' Roll, eh?

Martin Ameeba now goes by the name of Ace and plays guitar for Skunk Anansie. ( Greatest Hits cd in the shops now! Get it for Christmas! )

Soundtrack: Automatic For The People by REM.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Jerusalem by William Blake

I quoted a couple of lines from "Jerusalem" in an earlier post but here's a fuller version, illustrated by Breughel. Today, it is sung as a hymn in British churches ( even at our wedding! ) but it was originally a bitter attack on repression and a plea for deliverance from outdated thinking.

For those who don't know of William Blake, he was a poet, painter, engraver, visionary ( literally - he saw angels at the bottom of his garden ), and religious iconoclast. And for an eighteenth-century Englishman his politics were amazingly progressive: he spoke out in favour of equality of the sexes, he opposed slavery and, although religious, he attacked organised religion ie the Church Of England. He also supported the French and American revolutions, a dangerous stance at the time.

I read Blake's Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience at A-Level, and his work made a lasting impression on me. His was a unique talent which, as usual, was barely appreciated in his own lifetime.

( This one's for Mickey Glitter. )

Saturday 7 November 2009

A year on the blog

Ah, here's my cake.....

So, I've been doing this blogging thing for exactly one year now. Doesn't time fly? When I started this I didn't know what to expect from it or what I was doing ( things haven't changed much! ) but it seemed a fun idea. Here are a few memories of Year One:

Taking a while to figure out that you can put titles on these things.
Upsetting a fellow blogger by calling a certain comic creator's dialogue "atrocious".
Taking a while to figure out how to change layouts, gadgets etc.
Being shortlisted for a blogger job for a famous sf magazine's website.
And not getting it.
Meeting new virtual friends in New York, Barcelona, Australia and some desolate, icy tundra...
Taking a while to figure out the difference between the words "blog" and "post".
I think I've got that straight now.
Sitting up until the early hours, bleary-eyed, swigging coffee, and still not posting anything.
Talking comics, films, music etc. with other enthusiasts: I love it!
Mentioning The Glass Walking-Stick to a friend who looked at me as if I'd just tracked dogs**t into his kitchen.
Blogging from work when my home PC was ill, feeling like a spy.
Er, I mean I was feeling like a spy, not the PC...
Following and being Followed, like a kind of mutual stalking, but in a good way.
( Seriously, a big thanx to all my Followers! You make it all worthwhile. )

Anyway, that's enough gibberish for now - the real world beckons!
( But not for long... )

Steranko Saturdays: Steranko Goes West

A couple of Steranko's painted covers for the Western series Wildcat by author Jeff Clinton
( a pseudonym of Jack M. Bickham ).....

And a Marvel cover featuring some of their second-string cowboys, Western Gunfighters 14, March 1973.
Saddle up!!

Friday 6 November 2009

Bands That Time Forgot: Cud

Some bands just don't get the breaks. Cud were minor players in the so-called "baggy" scene of the late '80s / early '90s, when the Roses and the Mondays were monkey-dancing to the top. A Leeds-based band who'd caught John Peel's attention, they played an idiosyncratic, funky indie-rock with some wilfully odd lyrics. They had barely scraped into the charts with a handful of albums and singles before record company antagonism, broken bones and that old chestnut, "musical differences", put paid to their career.

And, as the above pic shows, being one of the least sexy bands ever couldn't have helped.

Which is a shame, 'cos they were a fine live band who knew how to connect with an audience and get people up on their feet to strut their funky stuff. They had a charismatic frontman in Carl Puttnam who came across as the bastard lovechild of Jim Morrison and Meatloaf, and they laid down some infectious grooves amongst all the mad lyrics about prawns, boots and Robinson Crusoe.

Sarah and I saw them a couple of times in 1990 at the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall. The first time we'd just heard some bad news about a family friend being killed in a motorbike accident, so we weren't in the best frame of mind for a gig, but thought we'd go to take our minds off things. Cud were the living definition of music therapy, their good-time vibes and irreverence lifting our spirits. Wherever you are guys, thanks.....

Soundtrack: Strange Kind Of Love by Cud

Thursday 5 November 2009

Jim Steranko

No, it's not another Steranko Saturday ( 'cos it's only Thursday ) but it is the great man's birthday, 71 today.

So for your delight and delectation here are Nick and Cap fighting some of the Yellow Claw's goons in tunnels under New York, from "The Second Doom", Strange Tales 161, October '67.

( And, yeah, I was gonna go with the Guy Fawkes / V For Vendetta post today, but it seems like everyone else on t'internet beat me to it. Anyway, Happy Bonfire Night! )

Soundtrack: Fireworks crackling outside.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Spooks and Vamps

In the endless televisual abyss of talent shows, soaps, games shows and chat shows the occasional ray of light shines through. OK, it's a dark sort of light (?), but bear with me.....

Channel 4's ( well, HBO's ) True Blood series one has reached episode five, Sparks Fly Out. All the usual sex, violence, bad language and drug-taking are present and correct, and the main character's relationships continue to twist and turn like a twisty-turny thing. With fangs. Sarah usually complains that the show is slow-moving but this episode picks up the pace with flashbacks to Bill's vampire origins, more lunacy with Sookie's idiot brother, and a shocking cliffhanger. Steamy, sordid and often very funny, True Blood immerses you in the swamps of Southern Gothic.

And back in grey old England, on BBC1, Spooks is back! Amazingly, this is the eighth series of the spy drama, with no signs of it slowing down yet. The team rush to save Harry whose past dealings with corrupt American and Indian spooks have caught up with him. The lineup changes yet again with tired old Malcolm retiring and Ruth returning from her enforced disappearance. Lots of clandestine meetings, tapping into surveillance systems, YouTube execution videos, striding down corridors, last minute rescues etc. etc. As they say, MI5 not 9 to 5.

Soundtrack: Empire State Of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
99 Problems by Jay-Z

Green and pleasant land

And did those feet in ancient times
Walk upon England's mountains green?

Monday 2 November 2009

Steve Ditko

Happy Birthday to Sturdy Steve Ditko, 82 today.

For anyone who's just beamed down from Mars, Ditko is the creator or co-creator of such comic book characters as Doctor Strange, Captain Atom, The Hawk and The Dove, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, Mr. A, and many more.

But, of course, his most famous and important character is your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.....

These two issues of Amazing Spider-Man are not only the two oldest issues I own but also two of my fave Ditko covers.

And here's the artist himself, in a self-portrait, with a certain Master of the Mystic Arts.

( The importance and magic of Steve Ditko's work deserves a much more in-depth examination, so maybe I'll post some more at a later date. Stay tuned..... )

Sunday 1 November 2009

For Elektra Luxx...

After much messing about I've managed to scan an article from this month's Empire magazine concerning the movie Women In Trouble which should be of interest to fellow blogger Elektra.
Hope this is OK :-)


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