Category Archives: Music

Mean Mistreater – Blues For John

You’re a mean mistreater Johnny
Don’t got no place to live
You’re a wife beater Johnny
My wife beat so bad
She ain’t got no more to give

You’re a blot on the landscape
See your city from the Moon
A political date rape
My people beat so bad
They come looking for you soon

You wear a black hat John boy
You the villain of the piece
You use a black jack John boy
You need my life so bad
I’d like to give you peace

You just lying where you stand man
The truth ain’t got no use
Count the fingers on my hand man
When you shake it so bad
My only change is loose

You’re a mean mistreater Johnny
Nothing deader than your eyes
But you’re on the meter Johnny
It’s really not so bad
If nothing lives then nothing dies

Splat

 

 

 

The Sound of Music – 3 Short Stories

1
I can outrun them. They’ll never catch me.

After all, I’m driving the same car that Steve McQueen drives in ‘Bullitt’ – a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. In the same Highland Green colour.
So they’ll never catch me. What have they got than can do a quarter-mile in 13.8?

I’m wearing the dark blue roll neck jersey; the Lucky Strikes are on the passenger seat and the Colt Diamondback is in the glove compartment. The customised 8-track is blazing out its message to the countryside as we growl and hiss  along the highway.

Such a cool ride. The Mustang is a beast that I’ve tamed. Yeah! But, hey, where did the Dodge Charger come from? It’s alongside me. A black ’68. Two guys in it. Ramming the Mustang. Damn! Brakes. Brakes. No! No! Spinning. End-on-end. Roof crumpling. Steering wheel in my chest. Such searing pain. Blood. My blood. I see the sky. I’m outside of the car.

I cannot move. The 2 guys are standing over me. One looks like Lee Marvin, the other wears glasses. Looks like an accountant. They seem kind of concerned. They’re talking;

‘This ain’t a movie kid. The Charger does the quarter in 13.6. Faster than that Ford piece of shit.’
‘Tough as hell stereo though, Jerry. Still playing’
‘Yeah. And what is that shit? Should be Lalo Schifrin, huh?‘ He laughs dryly.
‘I know what it is, Jerry. It’s, uh, classical they call it. Tchaikovsky I think. Yeah. Tchaikovsky – that’s it.’
‘No shit? Kinda inappropriate wouldn’t ya say?

I saw his boot but I never felt it.

Splat
2
DINING OUT
Restaurant Review by Piers Norman

‘The Groomsman’ Falls at the Final Hurdle

‘The Groomsman’ licensed restaurant. 27-29 Waverley Street, Phone 829 2337
Hosts; Ralph & Gwen Carstairs
Chef; Clementini Arbiso
Michelin Rating; 2 stars (“Table excellente, mérite un détour”)
Open for dinner; Thursday Saturday, Lunch 7 days.
Fully licensed
Starters      $10-20
Mains         $25-40
Puddings   $10-20

Food: *****

Service: ****

Ambience: *

Wine list: ****

Sound System; *

I could go on about the caramelised onions , the bouillabaisse and the 2009 Pauillac but it would be a complete waste of time. When we were here in 2013, I had occasion to remonstrate with owner, Ralph Carstairs, about the hopeless sound system in the restaurant. So much so that I was bound over to keep the peace.
When we visited The Groomsman last week, sadly, things had deteriorated further –  to the point where Escoffier himself could not have retrieved the situation.  Whatever joy my palate may have experienced was crushed by the bottom-end racket emanating from the High Street rack system that brings disgrace to Waverley Street. No matter what disc is in the player, it all sounds like Sly and Robbie Maximum Dub. I was somewhat tired and distraught that night and so I do hope that the Magistrates take that into account at the hearing next week.

Splat

3
Sitting in my study, sipping on a Chivas Regal and listening to Diana Krall on the Bang & Olufsen felt good. It had been a hard week and I needed to feel right, feel hip. The interview with Bono hadn’t gone as well as I expected and he had put up all sorts of barriers when I asked him why he kept looking at his watch. Still, I could touch it up a little and it would make a fine second instalment of the ‘Irish Rock Legends’ series that Rolling Stone had commissioned. It would have been the third instalment if someone could have bothered to tell me that John Cale was Welsh.
The first interview had been with Van Morrison. I say interview; it was a phone call lasting 5 minutes or so and 4 of those were listening to Van arguing with an official outside the Irish Supreme Court where he’s contesting some land ownership or a paternity suit or such like. Still, I can touch it up a little, pad it out a bit – it’ll be fine. Then all I’ll need to do is find an actual third Irish Rock Legend. I wonder if Sam Smith is Irish?

 

Splat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of Disorder

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I’m that variety of mug known as ‘a collector’. I’ve mostly collected music, in the form of records, tapes , CDs and sheet music. There are thousands of these artefacts all around the apartment. The collecting started in my teens and has continued unabated for some 50 years. My golden period was the 90s when Wellington Record Shops owned by such people as Colin Morris and Dennis O’Brien had a large photograph of me in their shop window bearing the legend, ‘If you see this man, please usher him in.’
I like to own what I hear and like. That is, rather than just call it up on the PC. Why? Firstly because I have a fabulous, and hugely expensive so it needs justifying, 2-channel stereo. Secondly because I’m compelled to. Not by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Oh no. But by the gene pool. My parents were collectors. Of anything and everything. Making my way from one side of their living room to the other was like a game of Twister, such was the care needed with placement of limbs, lest I disturb a ten bob resin ashtray adorned by a macaw or a 100 squid oil of a Kentish sunset by someone from the Royal Academy.
There was, of course, music growing up in South London; Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Stan Freberg, Mahler, Beethoven, Pete Seeger. And The Goons. It was all there. Everything.  Everything except Rock and Roll. That I had to get for myself and listen to by myself. The first record I bought with my own money was ‘Hit and Miss’ by The John Barry Seven – the theme song for TV’s Juke Box Jury. The latest arrivals, today, are by BRMC and Tangerine Dream. The beat goes on – as Sonny and Cher once sang, although I do love Patricia Barber’s take on that song. Where was I?
Oh yes. So. Where to put all this stuff. And how to order it? You can go onto websites that will tell you. And I do mean tell, They’re quite didactic about things like sub-genres, chronology, alpha and artist order. When I read the monomaniacal ravings of the nutters that proliferate these places, I can get a little puckish. I like to ask if John Fahey’s ‘Blind Joe Death’ should be considered for filing under American Traditional, Folk, Folk Blues, Guitar or just, you know, John Fahey. ‘Ah. But under J or F?’ I hear you ask. Such fun. And I haven’t even started on Portuguese Fado and whether or not it still counts as Fado if a man is singing.
Then there’s always Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity character, Rob Fleming, who has his music collection arranged to reflect his romantic liaisons. I could do that and have, like, about 120 sections – which would be great to explain to visitors. Then when the visitors leave, rearrange them back into the original 3 sections
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So here’s how I do it. I have lots of wooden CD cases all around the place. Over the years, I’ve played at storing discs by genre/sub-genre/alpha or by amalgamating all the sub-genres into one homogenous lump. The trick is never to finish anything I’ve started. That way, there may be two or three partially organised cases where, say, a Muddy Waters disc may be located. The prospects of finding anything within 10 minutes or so are significantly diminished if I have utterly forgotten  exactly where the genres or amalgamations are in the apartment.  This lack of certainty is greatly compounded by not having bothered at all over the last three years to introduce any semblance of order to recent additions. New arrivals are left in piles on, or by, the stereo, on the bed in the spare room or in places that only The Dark One and his minions know about.
But this chaos is positive. Creating danger out of certainty meets a creative need. I am fatigued – bored by order and safety. The joy of finding something cherished but lost, far outweighs the smug, slight satisfaction of knowing where to find that same thing without let or hindrance. And the pleasure is doubled, maybe trebled, enhanced by relief, when the disc finally goes on the turntable or in the player. I am recreating the first time.
And so I spit on your filing system. It is prosaic. I thumb my nose at your indexing cards. They smack of grey ennui. I pour scorn on your efficiency. It has no soul. Leaving nothing to chance removes the element of surprise. Duplications are evidence of life.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

PERFORMANCE

Meet, discuss, rehearse
Meet, discuss, rehearse
Repetition
No margins
Keep it inside the box

Meet, discuss, rehearse
The sets
The line-up
The keys
The tempi

Meet, rehearse, discuss
The venue
The audience
The expectation
The performance

Meet, rehearse, discuss
The road trip
The gear
The timing
The outfits

Meet and rehearse
Again
Do it all
Again
So it will be all right on the night

Do it all again
Know the music
Listen to each other
Stay inside the box
So you can step outside on the night

Imagine yourself there
The venue
The audience
The expectation
The performance

Arrive in hope
Set up
Sound check
Set lists
Excitement

Be afraid
Remember your first time
Feel that way now
The audience
The expectation

The performance
The intro
House lights
Applause
1,2….1,2,3,4

This is how it’s meant to be
It wasn’t
Not for them
And so
Not for me

Historic Town Hall and Court House, Martinborough, Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand

1968

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The Wellington writer and critic, Simon Sweetman, recently asked his readers a couple of questions that inadvertently led to my recalling some scenes from the past. He asked if we’d ever seen a great busker. And he asked if we’d ever known anyone decent who went by the name of Travis.

In 1968, I was living in London and becoming hip. Not cool, you understand, but hip.  Mods had come and gone; Psychedelia, Hippiedom and Timothy Leary were the thing.  Except I could only embrace some of it. I dug the counter-culture stuff, some occasional weed and most of the West Coast Music (Specifically not The Beach Boys though, whose very name brings on horrific psychosomatic symptoms if spoken, written or seen. Imagine what it cost me to print it here) but the residual mod in me demanded some attention to sartorial sufficiency.

So here I am in a longish queue outside the Carlton Theatre in the Haymarket. I’m waiting to get in to see Lindsay Anderson’s If’. Grey leather shoes with patterned toe caps, by Raoul; sharply creased, black mohair trousers and a tailored, black leather jacket with a sewn-in half belt. My concessions to the zeitgeist are a button-down paisley shirt and a conservative afro. The Gauloises cigarettes are situated precisely halfway  between hip and cool.

And here’s Don Partridge, singing while we wait. Known as ‘The King of the Buskers’, he’s a familiar sight around the pubs, clubs and theatres of the West End and Soho. He sings some Dylan and his own ‘Rosie’ which he’s recorded and been on the tele with. It’s a pleasant, early summer evening and we’re pleased to have Don entertain us while we wait. The shrewdly chosen pretty young woman takes the hat round and I add some coins to the many notes. Don’s doing okay thanks.

The movie ‘If‘ is pure, anarchic counter-culture. It marked Malcolm McDowell’s  debut –  in the role of Mick Travis (Yes, a tenuous connection, I know. But sometimes any idea is a good idea) –  a role he was to reprise in two further films for Anderson; ‘O Lucky Man’ and ‘Britannia Hospital’. The structure and surreal nature of the film are much influenced by Jean Vigo’s  ‘Zéro de conduit‘ (1933) but the plot of a student revolution, led by Travis, in an English Public School is an expression of Anderson’s belief that the British cinema needed to put aside its fixation with class and be more representative of the broader community.
We discussed that in the pub later and I managed to upset a few friends with an observation that Anderson was perfectly placed to attack privilege in that way, having been educated at Cheltenham and Oxford.
What neither I nor my friends properly realised at that time though, was that I was about to resolve the vexed choice between cool and hip by moving into the more considered role of rugged left-wing intellectual. Already my frequent use of irony, a newly grown beard and the recent acquisition of a houndstooth flat cap  were pointing me toward a classless society and women called Cordelia and Vanessa.

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Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits

If you search for saccharine
It isn’t hard to find
I have enough you’ll need a sieve
But if you look for ruefulness
You might as well be blind
I’ve always found it really hard to give

Irony is such an obtuse word
It’s easier to just be blue
Irony is never never heard
Mostly ‘cos I haven’t got a clue

I can try to gull someone
To feel I harmonise
If I pretend to suffer as I grieve
But I haven’t got an honest face
And cannot hide the lies
And in the end it’s just best that I leave

Irony is such an obtuse word
It’s easier to just be blue
Irony is never never heard
Mostly ‘cos I haven’t got a clue

I tried to find a lyric
Tried hard not to offend
All I got was platitudes until the bitter end
Nobody can comfort me
With royalties again
I know I know

There’s nothing deep inside of me
But I’ve never been concerned
There’ll still be nothin’ when I’m gone
I tried to fake sincerity
It wasn’t hard to learn
And so I put it in this song

Irony is such an obtuse word
It’s easier to just be blue
Irony is never never heard
Mostly ‘cos I haven’t got a clue
Splat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Time Is Up – Lament For The Blues

You are beloved
You were ordained
To conjure sunshine
On days it rained

You are remembered
You are revered
Your locks are greying
Just like your beard

Now your days are numbered
And your hand is slow
The axe that thundered
The frets that glowed
The voice that rumbled
The riffs that flowed
Your time is coming
Pay up what’s owed

You trod the stage
Played for the crowd
Contained your rage
Sang soft, not loud

Now no one listens
No one hears
And through the silence
The faintest cheers

And in the distance
A sweet sustain
Held by the Marshall
The old refrain

Now your days are numbered
And your hand is slow
The axe that thundered
The frets that glowed
The voice that rumbled
The riffs that flowed
Your time is coming
Pay up what’s owed

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