Sunday 20 January 2019

His Master's Voice silenced

My local HMV, in Gloucester's King's Walk, is on the verge of closing ( originally scheduled to close 19/01 but now delayed by a week ) so I got myself down there for probably the last time yesterday and picked up the musical beauties you can see above.

HMV was the last "record shop" standing in Gloucester after the demise of Virgin, Fopp and Our Price ( who remembers them? ) as well as a few indie shops that never lasted long. ( Well, we've still got a CEX but their stock is mostly games and DVDs with only a very few, second-hand CDs. ) It was only a matter of time, of course, with the onslaught from the internet destroying many high street shops over the last decade or so. The HMV chain itself had been in a similarly precarious position about six years ago but was streamlined and pulled through. But now I suspect this may be the last time, to misquote the Rolling Stones.

The closing of this store ( and possibly others, I'm not quite sure ) is a shame for old school collectors of music and movies. Sure, you can buy just about anything on the net, and certainly at a better price, but nothing beats wandering around a record shop, discovering interesting new stuff, spotting old favourites, getting advice from the staff, meeting up with friends... it's an experience that seems to be on the brink of extinction. For my final haul of music I went for a few faves I previously only owned on vinyl ( Metallica, Anthrax, Stevie Wonder... and who ever thought they'd be mentioned in the same breath? ), some albums I've always meant to buy but never got round to ( Small Faces, Kinks, Vangelis, NWA ), and a couple of jazz albums as a kind of mystery purchase ( Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane. ) Certain musical genres like Blues, Jazz and Folk will definitely be hard to find without actual record shops around to feature them. You won't find them in Tesco, that's for sure.

So, farewell then, HMV Gloucester, you'll be missed.

Soundtrack: Blade Runner Soundtrack by Vangelis

Thursday 17 January 2019

An Eerie Blog

For many years now, one of THE best comics blogs around was Bronze Age Babies, that wonderful repository of all things post-Silver Age and pre-Wizard / Image / Whatever Age. Promising us "Growing Up Goodness From The '70s And '80s", BAB more than delivered with a seemingly endless supply of entertaining, thoughtful and just plain fun posts on comics and pop culture of decades gone by. Unfortunately BAB is now in blog limbo, although its hosts, Karen & Doug, are still doing sterling work at the Planet 8 Podcast and Black & White and Bronze! respectively.

The latter is Doug's excellent new blog about the black and white comics of the Bronze Age, that long-lost time when Warren made a killing churning out the horrific likes of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and 1984, while the likes of Marvel, Skywald and even Atlas tried to follow suit. I was particularly fond of Marvel's B&W mags, from The Savage Sword Of Conan to Vampire Tales to Planet Of The Apes, and it's a treat to find a blog devoted to them and their monochromatic cousins.

So, I was very pleased, flattered and surprised when Doug asked me if I'd like to contribute a guest post to his blog. Of course, I said yes! After doing some thinking ( rare for me! ) about which mag to cover, I decided on an old issue of Eerie, #9 from 1967. Although my Warren collection is extremely limited and I know a lot more about Marvel's B&W mags, I picked this one because of the beautiful artwork inside, and because I thought I could tie the three pages I scanned into an overall theme.
But, anyway, please check out Doug's blog via the link above... and... don't have nightmares!

And the Brexit shambles keeps staggering along...

Yes, there is still beauty in the world...

which is good to remember in these absurd and worrying times...

Sunday 13 January 2019

Things I Didn't Blog About In 2018 Part One: Stones, Skids, Seaweed

Yes, it's that time of year when I look back at the previous 365+ days of my time on this planet and, without any apparent shame, post stuff that would have been more useful if actually posted during that year of which we speak. Or something. Starting with the invasion of these terrifying, tentacled creatures which brought a Cthulhu-like creeping dread to the inhabitants of the South-West of England last December...

Okay, it's actually a load of seaweed washed up at Portmellon Cove in Cornwall... but it looks pretty Lovecraftian to me. Sarah and I had a long weekend down in the nearby fishing village of Mevagissey, during which we came across all this weed which had washed up right over the sea-wall at Portmellon and onto the road. ( We also had a very good roast dinner in the local pub. Seaweed wasn't on the menu. Or the floor. )
Although the weather was mostly grim ( well, it was December! ) we had a great time down in our beloved Cornwall, in a lovely little old-school B&B, and this was the gorgeous view from the terrace outside our bedroom:

Beyond Mevagissey we took a long walk through some fields to get to the idyllic Chapel Cove, where we spent some time watching seals basking on a nearby beach. ( I didn't get any pics of this since my phone's camera wouldn't have done it justice, but I did get some nice shots of the cove itself, chapel and all. )

It was a short but sweet visit to Cornwall, book-ended by a couple of adventures on Bodmin Moor. Here's what a traffic-jam looks like near Colliford Lake:

"Get off my mmmmoooorrr!"

Elsewhere in December, things got rather loud...

The mighty Skids were playing in Bristol again, this time in a venue new to me  -  Fiddler's, a former prison (!) just outside the city centre in Bedminster. Since this was only a 20-minute walk from Sophie's house she came along with me for a night of punk rock 'n' roll. I'm not sure she really knew what she was in for...

First up were those Borrowed Time boys, bringing their distinctive brand of metalpunk to the good people of Bedminster. They've been gigging almost constantly lately and, as a result, seem to get tighter ( and louder! ) each time I see them. They played a short, punchy set which was great fun but, like the whole gig, was unfortunately over-shadowed by the death of the great Pete Shelley the previous week. BT singer Rob gave a brief but heartfelt speech about Shelley which encapsulated everyone's sadness at this great singer's untimely demise. Borrowed Time were followed by the awful, Oi!-ful Knock Off, shouting at us about beer and football in their turgid, sub-Cockney Rejects manner, which at least gave me and Sophie the chance to go and have a chat with a few friends at the BT merch stall. And then one of the best live bands around came and saved us...

The Skids are definitely on a roll after playing many, many well-received gigs up and down the country and releasing the fine new album Burning Cities. Although, apparently, they will soon be going on hiatus again as a full band and just performing acoustic sets??? No idea why. Anyway, they tore the roof off Fiddler's with a muscular, anthemic set... maybe not as jaw-dropping as when I saw them at the late, lamented Bristol Bierkeller, but damn good all the same. All the faves were there  -  Into The Valley ( of course! ), Animation, Woman In Winter, Masquerade and even a brief stab at early single Sweet Suburbia. Richard Jobson was, as usual, the focal point: whirling, shadow-boxing, singing his lungs out and telling outrageous stories between the songs. ( But, Richard... please don't attempt that Forest Of Dean accent again. It really didn't work. ) The band were on fine form, tight, enthusiastic and as loud as a jet engine. In fact, this sheer volume, coupled with the extremely boisterous crowd proved too much for Sophie ( who's more used to the more genteel surroundings of musical theatre ) and we had to sit out the end of the set, including a poignant cover of Buzzcock's What Do I Get and ( for some reason ) an impromptu cover of Pretty Vacant. Still, it had been a great gig and a chance to catch up with some mates, and Sophie and I had a good time, walking and chatting to and from the venue. ( And a nice meal earlier that night in a cool, American-style diner. )
Borrowed Time will be supporting The Skids again next month at the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall. I'll be there! Can't wait!

In other December news I turned ( New ) 52. Yep, it was time to celebrate another 12 months in this crazy old universe and we headed to darkest Wiltshire to commune with the spirits in the stones at myth-shrouded Avebury. ( How's that for purple prose? ) Here's James standing next to an ancient, craggy, weather-beaten monument. And one of the Avebury stones. ( Of course, Sarah was here too but behind the camera. )

By sheer coincidence you can see a might fine comic strip over at the multi-talented Pete Doree's Kids From Rec. Road blog which uses some of my photos from a previous visit to Avebury.
( Actually it's not a coincidence at all... ) You might want to head over there to enjoy Pete's reminiscences of the sheer terror of that legendary '70s kids' TV serial Children Of The Stones  -  you know... the one that traumatised an entire generation. Just don't blame me if you have nightmares after recalling that slice of kid-unfriendly Folk Horror. Happy Day...


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