Feb 022014

On Saturday we went on a rather splending guided walk around Whitechapel with “old map man” Ken – the premise is we walk around a modern city using ancient maps to help us find a relationship with the past. It’s a wonderful idea which involves you more than just being talked at, and Ken was knowledgeable and engaging… which is just as well because for (most of) this walk we were his only customers!

German church

18th century German church in Alie Street

Eastern Dispensary

The Eastern Dispensary in Leman Street

Wiltons Music Hall

Wiltons Music Hall


St Paul’s Mission Room on Wellclose Square and on its last legs


Pigeons on a warehouse built upon a plague pit

Proof House

Somewhere to go to prove your guns are working

Bell Foundry

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry – the oldest manufacturing company in Great Britain (sounds of making)

Feb 012014

Walking around Whitechapel this afternoon we came across this plaque commemorating The Battle of Cable Street (1936)
They shall not pass
Which means I get to do a post with The Men They Couldn’t Hang for the second time in a week

Feb 012014

Still life with cat
My mum’s taste over the years ran from classic country (Jim Reeves, Tammy Wynette, Don Williams) through Lee & Nancy, Nana Mouskouri and on to Daniel O’Donnell <shudder>. But these loves came in waves, so there was a preiod in the mid 70s where Nana Mouskouri ruled and Passport was the Nana album I remember most. It was a 1976 compilation of mostly English language tracks with Nana’s outstanding voice and some beautiful (and sometimes syrupy or cheesy) arrangements. The songs are mostly wise choices although Seasons in the Sun is a step to far. The album is a treat, and astonishingly familiar, almost to the point where I felt more attachment to her version of Bridge Over Troubled Water than to Simon & Garfunkel’s.

Continue reading »

Jan 312014

Backside Michael Jackson - Off The Wall
A few years ago a work friend asked me for my opinion of Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” – two remarkable things about this are…
1/ He assumed I had an opinion
2/ I didn’t have an opinion
Both of which go to show that while I liked to pretend I was musically mature, and possibly even gave that impression, there were some areas that I was oblivious to.

The problem of course was that 1979, when Off The Wall was released, was also the year that I became musically independent, and that independence took the form of being vehemently anti the pop establishment, and Michael Jackson was a part of the establishment. BBC4 is showing Top of the Pops from 1979 now and I suspect as the year progresses the high-placing chart hits will start to stir up confused feelings of resentment mixed with the nostalgia.

Of course the album is quite astounding, it is remarkable that even the songs I don’t know that well, make me feel like I do. It’s not an album I can go back to often, because it’s still from that other world – the one where people dance – but I’m pleased that I can now appreciate it for the beautifully crafted and highly polished piece of art that it is.

50 films and 50 albums

Jan 302014

I saw A Private Function when it was released in 1984 – I wasn’t a vegetarian then, that happened five or six years later. I haven’t seen it since, it seems odd that a film I’m sure I enjoyed didn’t ever inspire me to re-watch. We watched it on Wednesday night and I thoroughly enjoyed it – it was sweet, and subtly funny, and wonderfully acted by a fine cast of heavyweights. It was, however a film about butchering a pig, and (spoiler after the clip)…

… it doesn’t have a happy ending for Betty, the pig.

50 films and 50 albums

Jan 292014

RIP Pete Seeger

I never slept well last night, and the passing of Pete Seeger kept drifting in and out of my head, the following thoughts occurred to me.

If there’s an afterlife it’s going to have a lot more singing in it now – I love the way Pete always made the song the star of a performance, and encouraged everyone to sing along.

When someone has a full life and dies at a ripe old age I’m inclined to feel that rather than mourning, we should be celebrating… but that doesn’t apply for Pete Seeger – a world without Pete Seeger is a very much diminished one, we should be mourning for a world that has to get on without him.

We should all rest a little less peacefully without Pete Seeger to be a champion of song and people.

This afternoon I read the transcript of Pete’s appearance before the HUAC in 1955 – in which he deals with incredible dignity an outrageous grilling – this made me smile… I assume he actually sang the last line – which makes it beautiful and funny and remarkable.

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same as before. Of course, I would be curious to know what you think of a song like this very great Negro spiritual, “I’m Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield, Down by the Riverside.”

MR. TAVENNER: That is not at all responsive to my question.

Jan 282014

Dean Wareham has a new Tumblr where he’s posting a “song of the week”, this weeks song is Eric Bolgle’s And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda as performed by The Bushwackers.

This song has been covered by Shane McGowan, Joan Baez, and many others but the Bushwackers do the definitive version.

It may be definitive, but I’d take The Pogues version over it. The Bushwacker’s version is beautiful and sad but The Pogues version adds a healthy dose of anger and it certainly affects me more because of it – although maybe the familiarity affects me.

The Pogues – And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

I saw The Pogues a stack of times in the mid/late 80s and live it was even more moving, and not in any way made less powerful by the drunken rowdiness of crowd and band

Continue reading »

Jan 282014

Before Anton went disco and I went heavy metal there was some common ground, it was mostly me picking up his leftovers, he was my big brother after all. He had lots of Slade albums, most of them were good, and a couple were great. Slade’s first live album Alive! is a wonderful and charming document of a band at their height. I never knew of the existence of a second volume of Alive until earlier in the week. Wikipedia has a rather non-NPOV claim that the album is in fact

a heavy rock tour de force that captured the band at what many fans now regard as their peak

That is utter nonsense, the album is a chunky and unsubtle and has no feeling of authenticity. Shame. I never saw Slade until their post-Reading ’80 re-birth and even then they were a fun live act… you wouldn’t know it from Alive Vol, 2.

Also, the album sleeve was awful, which is why I chose not to use it above!

Here’s Slade in 1971

50 films and 50 albums