Sunday, 25 December 2011

Simply Teesside!

Bad news about Prince Philip eh?  My thoughts go out to the Queen, Charles, Andrew et al at this difficult time. 

Only joking!  It's times like this I am reminded of the extremes of unfairness in the UK not to mention the merits of Britain becoming a republic.  I just don't buy this what the royal family do for the UK economy thing and as for life expectancy it is my guess that the immediate royal family can expect to live around the 100 mark whilst the average for the best area in Middlesbrough (Nunthorpe) was (assume still is) 82.  I won't even go the headline grabbing statistic that if you live in Middlehaven you will do well to get past 64 or 65.

Would like to think that if somebody in Middlesbrough turned up at casualty at James Cook they might get this treatment even if they were 90 but who knows (Mark?).  Then again I don't suppose there are many 90 year old's around Teesside to test it.

On a serious note though the local Teesside music scene has had an outstanding year.  Possibly the best I can remember.  The Chapman Family and The Young Rebel Set experience success on the national stage and I'm buggered if I know why Cattle and Cane haven't.

The quality of The Kids Are Solid Gold shows has continued to be astonishingly (really) high and  Rikki Doolan has relentlessly put on (mostly) quality shows at Dr Browns (every Thursday and Sunday) and The Crown (first Saturday every month).  He's also bravely, or more likely, recklessly took his roadshow out to the estates of East Middlesbrough to the "you're a foreigner" type pubs such as The Fountain in Ormesby and The Park End.  Thankfully Gary R and I lived to tell the tale of the night at the Park End.  Rikki even put Gary on a few times.  Looking forward to the album.

Hail Rikki Doolan, long may his magic touch continue.

Also must mention to Rock Garden Reunion people.  Steve Harland's shows have been well attended and he's been prolific in his pursuit of keeping the interest going on f*c****k.  Special thanks for putting on my old friend Richard's post punk band, Drop.

Amongst my favourite local bands this year have been The High Horses, Ginogs County and Rikki and The Porters.

  I finally got The Chapman Family up to and including Intro.  Sadly they weren't so impressive at Stockton Riveside Festival and their new line-up show at the Georgian Theatre in November but if they do nothing else from now on in at least they did Anxiety. Hail!

Dressed Like Wolves and By Toutatis  were impressive - looking forward to seeing much more of them in the new year and I'm hopefully going to see Pellethead next week.  All hail!

Dressed Like Wolves

But in a very tight race I'm going to give my local band of the year award to old-timers Shrug. Some of their vast recorded work doesn't always do them justice but this year they were immense live, both supporting John Otway at the Georgian Theatre (photo below) in October and at the history of Shrug exhibition (great in itself) just last week.  

Unsurprisingly I also think their latest ep is about as swish as anything they've ever done.

Almost last word for 2 great films I enthused about this year, the universally aclaimed Sound It Out and the (so far) not so recognized Cement Factory.

Finally, bringing it right up date - here's a vid I took of Vin Garbutt from The Normanby last Tuesday.  It's an oldie but more relevant today than ever. 


Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Music - 1979 - My greatest year.

1979 was a great year for music, probably my best.  The first 2 Fall albums, Joy Division, Echo And The Bunnymen, Metal Box, Swell Maps first album (I loved it anyway), The Raincoats first album, Cut by The Slits, Cabaret Voltaire, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (before they became shit), A Certain Ratio, Setting Sons by The Jam, Talking Heads, 154 by Wire, Futurama et seq, et seq et seq....

I remember doing a C90 tape of my favourite songs of the year and playing it for some friends at Christmas.  How good must that tape have been?  What great stuff must I have had to leave off?

Since then I've enjoyed listening to all types of music, some of it great (The Smiths, Steve Earle, various African albums spring to mind) but nothing has touched 1979. 

A lot of it is maybe down to Old Father Time.  I was 17/18 in 1979, full of youthful energy, excitement and optimism.  It was before I got married and had a family.  I hadn't been ground down by my mundane working life.  It was before I became cynical old man.

Some of that maybe true.  It was 32 years ago.  I battle on a daily basis with the mundanity of my work, I can be cynical (who could fail in this day and age) and youthful energy?  Ha ha!

But that was then and this is now and I certainly never saw it coming. Although not as good as 1979 I award 2011 the silver medal in my best musical years. Way ahead of other vintage years (1980, 1977 and 1978 (I think in that order).  I have documented much (but not all) of it and posted lots of photos here and LJ, it's been a blast. I honestly can't remember enjoying music and associated (especially local) culture as much as this year, possibly even 1979 included.  Old man's appreciation?  Who cares and the best thing is, health permitting I'm going to do it all again next year (tickets already bagged for Explosions In The Sky, The Leisure Society, Fanfarlo, No Direction Home, Wagner and EOTR).

So, over the few remaining days of this year I'm going to look back over the year and document what has been inspirational, what has been great and what has simply been good in 2011 or maybe I should just do a compilation tape? 

Mmmm.... tempting.
Shopping done and if I've forgotten anything I'll have to do without because I'm not going out to the shops again ever! I'll certainly be keeping well clear tomorrow - Shamila and I are going out for our 50th and almost certainly final walk of the year. We'll have a look at the weather before we decide where. 

Had a few offers for Christmas Day but I've decided to have a bah humbug Christmas on my own. Only joking, about the bah humbug bit anyway .  I’ll be dropping Shamila at her parents around  noon before heading off home.  I’ve arranged to meet up with one of my neighbours, Mark (not to be confused with Marks G and H) at 12.30 to go to The Eagle for a couple of pints.  The Eagle was of course my Dad’s second home so I’ll have a spiritual drink with him as well.   

For Christmas lunch I’ve bought a nice piece of fillet steak which I’ll cook as rare as I dare.  I’m going to have it with a  potato bake (courtesy of Shamila), mushrooms, peas and sweetcorn washed down with a bottle of Gran Reserva.   

After an afternoon kip I’m going to entertain myself with an 89 song iPod playlist (concept copyright owned by Gary R) and then maybe a film.   

Don’t be feeling sorry for me, I’m expecting it to be personal heaven.

Monday, 19 December 2011

You Are My Boro!

I'm absolutely knackered.  Didn't sleep great and had a long hard day at work.  Only doing a short day tomorrow, followed by a team Christmas meal/drink in Stockton and then I've got to grab a taxi to get over to The Normanby for 7pm forVin Garbutt's annual concert.

Must put better/a system in place for socialising next year after several clashes/cock-ups in the last 12 months. Most Notably
  • January - Bought ticket for I Am Kloot in York and had arranged to go to Shamila's mates 50th Birthday party.
  • May - Got ticket for Frank Turner at Arc and then realised Curtis Eller was playing at The Westgarth the same night.  At least I got to see him when he played at The Sun in November.
  • November - Steve Earle - The Sage/Our Lives - Westgarth.
Must do better or maybe I should just commit to less?

One thing I've hardly mentioned much year is my beloved team.  For all my contempt and disillusionment for professional football in general they are never far from my thoughts.  As most of you will be aware we are third in the league, punching way above our weight which is great but if only the league was based on the last calendar year? 

We are and always will be........!
Don't know about you but I feel like I hurtling towards 2012 at break neck speed.  My life has definitely sped up since I cut my working week to 4 days.  Don't know whether any of my old friends remember but back in the early eighties when unemployment was rampant, I suggested that everybody should work 4 days a week instead of 5 as an antidote to unemployment.  I argued that as well as sharing the work available it would mean we all would have more leisure time which in my simplistic mind would create more jobs etc. etc.

Most people loved the idea of only working 4 days but of course we'd have to take a pay cut which they didn't like.  I didn't mind I was still living with my mam, I could afford to take the hit.  Needless to say my idea was generally poo pooed.

But guess what, writing in The Times yesterday, billionaire tax dodger Richard Branson thinks "a "Four-day week could help to solve our unemployment problem".  He's going to have a word with Cam as well so watch this space.  Unfortunately can't link to the article (I read the paper copy) because of Murdoch's subscription regime but you can get the drift here.

It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.  30 years on from my original suggestion it's great for me.  I'm by no means wealthy, on the contrary, but I live an inexpensive lifestyle and once again I find myself in the fortunate position that I can afford the hit.  A lot of people can't get by on what they earn now though so although it might help the unemployment situation I can't see it helping pay their bills.

Whilst on my last blogging break George Monibot wrote an article about in 7 November's Guardian about the top 1% of earners being wealth destroyers (just been reminded about it by Louder Than War).  I particularly like the reference to studies of  Nobel economics prize winner, Daniel Kahnerman who confirmed what we all knew anyway that stockbrokers earn huge bonuses on the back of results that anybody could achieve by rolling dice (I bloody knew it, Luke Rhineheart was right all along!).

He quotes some interesting stats about unfairness and inequality.

"Between 1947 and 1979, productivity in the US rose by 119%, while the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by 122%. But from 1979 to 2009, productivity rose by 80%, while the income of the bottom fifth fell by 4%. In roughly the same period, the income of the top 1% rose by 270%.

In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country from 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009."

Will be interesting to see how this one pans out as well.

Apologies for anybody who is waiting for my end of year run through (ha ha, only joking).  More tomorrow.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Been wasting time tonight leaving me not enough time to do a proper post.  Just to say first bands named for End Of The Road 2012 have been announced and having bought my early bird ticket (smug bastard, I hear you say) I can just sit back and watch the line-up fall into place.

Grizzly Bear, Tindersticks, First Aid Kit and the mighty Justin Townes Earle already.  Happy days! 

Also looking forward to first No Direction Home Festival announcement. Will keep you posted or you can check for yourself - whatever.

Here's one of my favourites from EOTR 2011.  Don't be put off by 14.27, it's only 10.40.

PS - Viewing stats back to normal.  Today - 26 UK, 13 US and 2 Germany = 41.

Thanks for taking the time.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I feel I've posted less this year but I've just had a count up of my 2011 posts (Livejournal and Blogspot) and I'm up to 106 for the year which is worthwhile enough to keep the fun burning into my 7th year (always count LJ and BS as continuing).  If I can get up to about 120 for the year it will average out at about a post ever 3 days.  A very respectable performance I'm sure you will agree..

God knows why I started and I shudder to think how much time I've wasted over the years.  I sometimes feel like I'm just writing it for my own benefit but as Steve McLaren used to say "we move on".

Going to do an end of year thing which is customary amongst us bloggers.  Not sure what yet but might start tomorrow.

In Praise Of Johnny Seven

Who remembers Johnny Seven One Man Army?  I only knew it as Johnny Seven but my research today put me right.  It was the ultimate toy.  Playing war games was a familiar pastime for boys back in the late sixties and the Johnny Seven was light years of any other toy or pretend weapon.  I dreamt of having one but knew realistically I'd never own one. The only person I knew who had one was Gary Harrison, who lived over the road from us. He was the envy of all the other kids in our road.

Those days are obviously long gone but my memory has been jogged a couple of times over the years.  I remember a great Vic and Bob sketch from the mid-nineties where Bob posing as Lovejoy name checks the great gun as well as talking about going "oggy raiding" - simply Teesside!
And I was reminded again at Friday night's latest Rock Garden re-union show.  The Rezillos supported by a local "back in the day" band, strangely called Johnny Seven at The Georgian Theatre.  I don't remember them to be honest although my memory is not what it was.

In truth I didn't have high expectations. Ste fancied going and we bought our tickets back in August.  It seemed like an ok idea with 3 months to go before the concert and when it sold out in September I wondered if it was going to be Acne Rabble all over again, only this time I had a ticket.  I suggested to Ste that we should try and cash them in.  Probably best we didn't, I'm not sure I would have been comfortable being outed on the local scene as a ticket tout.  Anyway, probably like the Sex Pistols show I think anybody who really wanted to see The Rezillos managed to get there

Johnny Seven, kitted themselves out for the occasion in suits and ties, (ala cup final stylee?) and played an extremely tight (can't believe they could have been that proficient "back in the day") set of what I presume were their songs back in the day.  "Where Have All The Skinheads Gone" referring to them (I think) as "those naughty skinheads!" and "Fashion" which of course pre-dated the Bowie song of the same name.  I think I heard something about "you bought your clothes in '73".  Ouch, brought it home how old most of us there had grown.  They finished with a rousing version of Folsom Prison Blues.  I doubt if they would have got away with it at The Teessider even if they'd been capable to play it.  They won me over, it was very good fun. 

Looking good for "around" 50 year olds I'm sure you will agree?

It is well documented that The Rock Garden was a fearsome venue to play.  Ste told a story about a support band once getting a table thrown at them and I've talked about the violence from time to time at Goffa's, both  here and in my previous life at Livejournal.   Times change though and Teesside's musical fraternity is extremely easy to please nowadays. The worst response a band ever gets is  polite applause.  Steve Harland, the co-promoter told me that The Rezillos received a dreadful response at a punk festival in Durham a couple of months ago.   That was never going to happen at Stockton

The crowd lapped it up and the band loved it. The band looked fit and well playing pretty much all the songs off their only proper album, Can't Stand The Rezillos, including my favourite, It Gets Me (give it a go, it really is very good).

There's no point me giving my opinion on The Rezillos music because it just isn't really my thing circa 2011, although being from Teesside I offered my polite applause.  That said, I enjoyed the night, Ste and the Bells were very good company.  We reminisced about "the faces" of the Rock Garden "dead and alive" although modesty forbid me putting myself forward.  Of course I jest but I wonder how many people attending on Friday had performed 3 times at The Rock Garden?  Have I mentioned before?

What was I on about?  Oh yeah, Johnny Seven. - It was an expensive toy and how rich was Gary Harrison that he could afford one?  So as you do, I google it.

Sadly I couldn't find out how much they were "back in the day" but Jeez!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  How much today?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

In a bit of a rush tonight.  Going out to see Forest Fire at Westgarth.  Should be a top show.  In an effort to keep the fun going here's a quick joke that Mark G shared with me a couple of weeks ago.

In the last 10 years we have lost

Johnny Cash,
Steve Jobs,
Bob Hope and
Jimmy Saville.

So now we have no cash, no jobs, no hope and no fucker to fix it.

No?  Well it tickled my fancy.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Today's activities and more

Only good news today.  Really enjoyed Mary Dejevsky's uplifting (to me anyway) article in today's Independent about the UK's obsession with growth as a measure of "our" success.  Her comment about the effect of the economic boom of the Blair years on the living standards acrooss the board particularly resonates with me.

I've been off work since Wednesday which has been bloody marvellous and I've been living the dream of the domestic god.  You know, going to Morrisons, housework, ironing, pottering around the house and all that.  Received a call at the door this morning from a couple Jehovah's Witnesses who shared with me their joy at the current woes of the world.  They appeared to  be genuinely at peace as they predicted the impending disasters resulting in the end of the world as we know it as they showed me drawings of how idyllic life will be for the survivors.  I almost want to believe them as long as me, my family and my friends are amongst the survivors.

Could have been there some time (I'm rubbish at ending conversations) but my next door but one neighbour Edie (aged 80) saw us talking and took it upon herself to rescue me by ringing my telephone.  My (not entirely) unwelcome visitors took their cue thanking me for my time and left. I'd like to think I was about to send them packing anyway but they saved me the bother.  Great sport!

Shamila and I are walking tomorrow, our 49th walk of the year.  We're going to walk from her house to Compen Bewley, onto Greatham (a suburb of Hartlepool) and basically back, about 8 miles in total.  Hopefully we'll make it to 50 walks sometime over the next week or so and then a few weeks rest before doing it all again next year.

Tomorrow night - going to the final Kids Are Solid Gold show of the year at The Westgarth, Forest Fire from Brooklyn.  I've been listening to some snippits from their new album and it should be a splendid evening.

And on that cheery note all that remains for me to say is's a picture of me and The Monk (actually the one in the link is the Horseman but I'm sure  you get the drift)  taken by Shamila last week.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

So what's the word then?  I'm back after taking November off to grow a moustache.

I admit it's not pretty but it was in aid of a good cause.  Don't worry I'm not hankering after any sponsor money or anything.  It was all done through work and as you all know I don't mix business with pleasure.

Been up to loads actually.  Keswick, Bilbao.  Curtis Eller, Billy Bragg, Siskiyou, King Creosote, Chapman Family and yesterday I was on strike.

Totally depressing times in the real world though eh?   Polly Toynbee calls it "class war, generation war, war against women, war between the regions".  I haven't got much to add as the Tories divide and conquer machine moves into overdrive.  

I could go on but for once but I'm not going to nor am I for the forseeable future.  Fuck it, until further notice it's going to be fun fun fun all the way!

Here's a few photos I've taken over the last week.