Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

100 Records That Shook The World, #35

Very occasionally here on 100 Records,  I have reason to disagree with the inclusion of a certain record. I started posting this list and will not deviate from it, but now and again, a record crops up that I just can't stand.  Now, I like prog rock, just not all of it. To my mind a lot of it is just pure self-indulgence. I love Genesis, love Emerson Lake & Palmer, but Yes are one of those bands that I find to be totally up themselves. However, a lot of people would disagree, so...

Close To The Edge (LP)

All I have to say is that many other sources find this album to be utterly brilliant. In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came No. 3 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums". It is also listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. voted it the greatest progressive album of all time in 2006. Guitar World ranked it No. 67 in their (Reader's Choice) list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time. As of 17 December 2010, it is ranked as the 72nd greatest album of all time on Rate Your Music.

The story of the album is very tiresome indeed, talking about Jon Anderson and Bill Bruford's basing it on Siddhartha, which I once tried to read and my will to live grew significantly shorter. Blah blah spiritual awakening, blah blah symbolism, blah blah serial lifetimes of the soul, you get the idea. 

Anyhoo, I suppose I should let you listen to some of it and judge for yourself, but I gotta tell ya, give me Brain Salad Surgery any day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Puzzle On

Last time on the Puzzler I asked you to cast your minds back to the early 80's and a little charity gig known as The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. A chappie called Sting took the stage and did a couple of blistering acoustic renditions of Roxanne and Message In A Bottle,  and later on in the show he was joined on stage by a backing band for a version of Dylan's I Shall Be Released.  I asked you who was in that band. My good friend Ruprecht correctly answered that they were none other than Bob Geldof, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Donovan. What a line-up! Here's the vid, and you can see that the full band consists of many more than just those five. Midge Ure, for one!

Alright. New question. Phil Collins was a child actor before entering into music, and was in the London stage production of Oliver! at the tender age of fourteen. He also appeared in two films. Well, I say appeared, but his scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  was cut. What was the other movie in which he was an extra?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's The Deal?

A few years ago, when I lived in the good ole US of A, it came to pass that there was a serious drought in terms of good telly to watch. Somewhere in the middle of the '00s, just after we'd endured about a year of nothing but post-9/11 news updates, there seemed to be absolutely nothing but reality TV on, and of all those reality shows, the reality game shows were the worst. This is when I first encountered the ghastly Deal Or No Deal. On the face of it, it's not a groundbreaking concept. In fact it's just a rehash of older shows such as Take Your Pick or  Let's Make A Deal. But the fact that they can find people so deluded as to think that they have any sort of control over what's going to be in the boxes/suitcases frankly staggers me. I am no maths whiz but even I can remember covering probability in school.

 It was bad enough watching this show in the States, where Howie Mandel, a talented comic actor and stand-up comedian, is completely superfluous to the proceedings, which, if you've never seen Deal, is a debacle of epic proportions. 

He used to have a full head of flowing locks.

26 leggy airbrushed lovelies in matching outfit stand next to 26 identical  metal briefcases on some sort of tiered step affair which looks like it might have been used to help the celebs get to their seats in Hollywood/Celebrity Squares. (Sorry, but writing a blog with international followers requires that I keep everyone informed so that they don't lose the plot. You haven't lost the plot, have you? Good. Then I shall continue.) These Botox poster-children then stand with plastic grin affixed firmly to the front of their phizzogs awaiting instructions from the numpty who has been picked to play this ridiculously childish game, egged on by their family members and the baying mob in the studio. They are required to decide upon cases to open, each containing a number representing a monetary amount, from 1 cent up to a million dollars. Every so often they are interrupted by a phone call from the banker, who supposedly sits silhouetted in the gods and occasionally offers the contestants a sum of money in exchange for stopping the game. 

He usually sports a much more vivid shirt than this.
In the UK it is presented by Noel Edmonds, ex- DJ and presenter of such classic shows as Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and The Late Late Breakfast Show. The cases are red boxes, and there are only 22 of them. The leggy lovelies are replaced by a group of random people who are either people known to the contestant, people who've played before, or people who are waiting their turn to play. Or just people they pull in off the street, who knows really? The maximum prize is £250k, but other than those differences, the concept is the same.

The main issue I have watching this show is how addictive it is. You simply can't pull yourself away from it even if you hate it. I find myself talking aloud to the TV, telling the woman to take the deal. "He just offered you £11,500 missus! You're not going to get a better offer than that!" And predictably, she says NO DEAL, and 5 minutes later regrets it when there are only four amounts left on the board and they are 1p, 50p, £3,000 and £5,000, and the banker offers a paltry £600. Still she resolutely marches on, believing in the power of lucky numbers, "Ooh, my son's birthday is on the 14th, I'll take box number 14 please Noel." Brilliant idea. 

Trouble is, nobody really has a mind like a computer. And that's what you need in this game. You need to be able to instantaneously
  • Add the amounts left on the board; and
  • Divide that by the number of boxes left; and
  • Figure out if the banker's offer is better than that. 
If it is, I advise you to take it. But what with the host's incessant babble, the banker's constant interruptions, the audience and your family members yelling and carrying on, not to mention being on national telly and your lunatic belief in the power of luck, or clairvoyance, or divination of some sort, and that you have any control over inanimate objects, it's no wonder people make these dumb mistakes. You want my advice if you're thinking of going on Deal? First offer the banker makes you over £10 grand? Take it. Pay some bills with it or something. You're in debt already, aren't you? Why else would you agree to go on a stupid game show?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Is it just me? Or does anyone else find it odd that this man

Jezza himself, a man who has a well-documented gambling addiction which he is in recovery from, has a weekday talk show sponsored by several different online bingo websites? Anyone find that odd? Or is it just me?

Is it just me or does anyone else find it even odder that this guy

the Jezmeister, is now presenting his Maury-Dr.Phil style daytime trash TV talk show in the USA, where there are surely more than enough of his kind of show? Or is it just me?

Is it just me or does anyone find it truly bizarre that this man

the Sultan of JezzaVille, the man with not only a gambling addiction, is now presenting a game show entitled 'High Stakes'? Or is it just me?

Good on ya Jeremy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Feelin' Lucky, Punk?

I am going to do something I have yet to do in this blog. Don't worry, it's nothing dangerous or controversial.

I am going to write a gig review. Last time I wrote a gig review was in 1993 after seeing Depeche Mode at the Seattle Center Arena, and that was a helluva show. The support band was The The, which was a total surprise, and a very pleasant one at that. But I am not here to talk about The Mode or The The. I am here to talk about The Lucky Ones.
Haven't heard of The Lucky Ones yet? Where have you been?

The Lucky Ones are a self-described 'power trio', who take classic tunes from a variety of eras and genres and strip them down and rework them for unlikely instruments including melodica, ukulele, kazoo, guitar and 1950s-style cocktail drums. I first encountered them last year while perusing the musician pages on Myspace. After listening to some of the tracks on their page and taking in their eclectic styles of dress (Brad in plus-fours and golfers' flat cap as a country gent, or in 1940s B-movie suit and fedora, Adam in 1920s pinstripe with Homburg hat, Jayne with her array of 1950s polka dot cocktail dresses with the foofy underskirts) I decided I must see them.

Luckily for me, they're a local band, and I noticed they were due to be playing at The Woolpack in Tenterden and so on the appointed date, I dragged Laura along to see them. What a great gig. I discovered that not only were they as good if not better live than they were on record, but that drummer and vocalist Brad was that rare thing, a genuinely funny American, from Connecticut no less, whose off-the-wall comments between songs had me in stitches. At one point he was reading the pub's menu aloud and complaining about the way British people say 'Basil'.

At that gig we befriended The Lucky Ones and decided we must see them again as soon as humanly possible. To tide us over in the meantime we purchased their CD, 'Fruitcake', which was chock full of their brilliant musical eclecticism.

One cold day early in the year we cajoled my sister to take us down to Hastings, the band's birthplace, to see them at The Hastings Arms. It was cold and it was breezy but the band were on top form and had the tiny pub rocking. She was an instant fan.

We then saw them in March at The Swan in Wittersham which I have to say was an odd venue. The central bar has one side with pool table and jukebox, one might say the 'yoof' side, and the other side in which the band were to play was more of an older persons' side where there were restaurant tables. The people at the bar seemed almost oblivious to the band and Brad was struggling to get the attention he usually commands. The pub also did not turn off the jukebox while they were playing which I thought was a bit strange, not to say rude. A bizarre gig but enjoyable nonetheless. They are a well rehearsed combo and were as tight and in control as ever.

Time passed by and many opportunities to see TLO came and went. We just had too many other things going on and were unable to see them. Finally we saw that the Luckies were playing another local tavern, The Crown in St. Michaels, an afternoon show on the 9th (today). So it was that we showed up just after they'd started, and they were excited to see us. After they'd finished the song we'd walked in on, Brad mentioned our arrival over the PA and alluded to the fact that I am on the computer a lot (am I?).

Their set was bursting with old faves and newer ones... "Billie Jean", "Don't Get Me Wrong", "The Old Bazaar In Cairo", and one of my particular favourites, their mashup of "Funky Cold Medina/Honky Tonk Women". At the interval they came and talked with us (Brad and Jayne particularly, Adam's a bit quieter) and Brad even bought us a refill on our drinks (but keep mum about that one or he'll have every Tom, Dick and Harry angling for a pint), and he told us that they were playing an afternoon gig here and then zooming off to St. Leonards for another gig tonight. They're probably playing right now as I write this.

The reason The Lucky Ones are so entertaining is not just because of the brash Yankee drummer who is always ready with an off-the-cuff quip, able to make new lyrics up on the spot to suit the moment, location or mood, nor is it only due to his remarkable syncopative skills behind the kit. It is not just due to the superb guitar-and-ukulele picking and strumming techniques displayed by Adam, nor is it the singing, dancing and melodica-playing powerhouse Jayne. It is not due to their highly educated and educating choices of songs, betraying their vast archival musical knowledge (who'd have thought you could hear Althia and Donna's 'Up Town Top Ranking', Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue', Altered Images' 'Happy Birthday' and Doris Day's 'The Deadwood Stage' (from Calamity Jane) from the same band, let alone at the same show?). It is all those things and more, for The Lucky Ones are a band who personify the phrase the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They are my new favourite band. Ain't I lucky?

Check out some of their tuneage on their page at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Return Of The Musical Puzzler

So a while back I asked you on The Puzzler for the name of Stewart Copeland's punk rock alter ego. I sensed that not many of you knew, except for my sister, who knows pretty much everything.

Copeland released precisely four singles under the pseudonym of Klark Kent, with only one ("Don't Care") breaching the UK Top 50, peaking at 48. He released a 10-inch Kryptonite green vinyl Klark Kent EP in 1980, and a 1995 CD entitled Kollected Works  contains all the EP tracks and all the b-sides from the singles.

I actually rather like the Klark Kent stuff, I always liked The Police tracks that Stewart wrote and Klark's songs all were very similar.

Here's "Away From Home".

So what's the new Puzzler? Well you may ask.

Copeland's Police cohort Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, just turned 60. Does that not make you feel old? Boy, it does me. A tad over thirty years ago Sting performed solo for the first time at The Secret Policeman's Other Ball in London, where he sang 'Roxanne' and 'Message In A Bottle'. Later in the show he sang Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" with a backing band.

Who were the members of that band? (Hint: They're all rock luminaries.)

100 Records That Shook The World, #36

Catch A Fire (LP)

The Wailers

Not 'Bob Marley and The Wailers'. Just 'The Wailers'. Sure, Bob was the principal singer and songwriter, but it was still a triumvirate, with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh doing just as much as Bob. Bunny and Tosh would appear on just one more Wailers album, Burnin', the following year before both departing for solo careers. Catch A Fire was their first major-label release. The original master tapes were flown from Jamaica to England where Chris Blackwell twiddled some more knobs, added some more guitar and keyboard parts, released it and made a heap of money. After that, everyone knew the name of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, and Bob Marley and The Wailers.

The first 20,000 pressings of the LP came in a silver Zippo-lighter sleeve with just the band's name and title on it. The sleeve worked just like the lighter, with a hinge on its edge so the top half could be flipped back to reveal the record.

 However, these had to made by hand and it was just too expensive. So the more familiar sleeve with the portrait of Bob smoking a joint replaced it, and this actually said 'Bob Marley and The Wailers' on it.

The album itself is a classic, containing as it does the songs "Stop That Train" and "Stir It Up", which went on to become a worldwide smash for Johnny Nash. Catch A Fire was the album that turned Bob and The Wailers into international reggae superstars, and nothing would ever be the same again.


Hi, Brow (updated)

Over the last two or three years I have gradually become aware (or been made aware, one or the other) of the fact that my eyebrows contains unnaturally long individual hairs. I never really regarded this as a problem, but that was because generally speaking, they laid flat and all pointed in the same direction. But recently, over the last 18 months or so, they have begun to stick out at odd angles. When this first occurred I dismissed it as a one-off. But gradually I have come to accept that fact that they are going to keep doing this, at ever stranger angles, until my brows no longer look like brows but rather resemble an osprey's nest tucked into a craggy cliff face. I accept it, but it disturbs me somewhat. It does tend to mark me out as a geezer. At least I don't have ear hair. Yet.

However, something occurred yesterday that made me quite comfortable with the whole bushy eyebrows concept and in fact made me wonder why I'd been fighting it for so long. Just like napping. When you're a kid, grownups try to make you go down for a nap, and you fight it, because you don't want to miss out on all the excitement happening all around you. But when you're an adult, you start to realise the value of naps. A little mid-afternoon snooze for half an hour or so is good, just to recharge the old batteries.

It all started when Laura, like so many other people (usually women - mum, girlfriends, etc.) before, approached me with that glint in her eye (no, not that glint - get your mind out of the gutter, willya?), the one that says, "I'm going to do something painful to your face. You will not appreciate it, but it is for your own good. Squirm all you like, ain't nobody gonna help you!". Usually it's accompanied by the glint of something metallic in their hand - tweezers, scissors, straight razor - and the smile of someone who didn't  attend medical school.

Laura came towards me wielding tweezers, bent upon plucking some eyebrow hairs. I protested, and offered my usual way of avoiding the treatment by saying that if she were to give me the tweezers I would head to the salle de bains and do it myself. She was having none of it. I tried to reason with her, saying that self-inflicted pain was more tolerable than other-person-inflicted pain. In response to this, she set about me forcefully and removed some abnormally long hairs, and this is what truly disturbed me, because I myself had only recently plucked some eyebrow hairs, and the ones I left in were nowhere near that long. After she had finished with her attack I ran upstairs with the tweezers to look in the bathroom mirror and saw that there were more extremely lengthy barbs set in my brow. I removed some of the longer ones and then forgot the whole episode.

Until... about two hours later, when Laura, myself and my sis were in Sis's car, driving around and delivering things to various people. After one such delivery, I ran back to the car with a spring in my step, opened the door and promptly bashed my eyebrow ridge on the top of the door frame. I then realised how much more it hurt and throbbed than that sort of thing normally would, and then I had an epiphany. I realised that it was precisely for this reason that old geezers let their eyebrows get all tangled and bushy and overgrown. Protection. Cushioning. A built-in eyebrow pillow. So from now on, I resolve to never worry too much about all those long hairs in my eyebrow. They are there for a good reason.

However, don't expect me not to panic when the ear hair starts. That's just plain wrong.


It appears I spoke too soon. She approached me with the tweezers again today, and removed a sizeable hair from my right lug'ole. It is official. I am old. I am looking for online suppliers of bath chairs, ear trumpets, slippers and bedpans as we speak. I am also trying to put in for my bus pass early, to avoid the mad stampede.
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