Friday, 31 October 2014

Hallowe'en and all that....

When exactly did Hallowe'en become a thing in the UK? When did trick-or-treating begin in earnest? As a kid in the 1960s, my memory is of returning to school in early September, after the summer holidays, and moving pretty seamlessly into standing on street corners next to a pile of old rags in a pushchair, with a saucepan for a head, shouting 'penny for the guy mister?' at passing strangers. I was aware of the existence of Hallowe'en from cartoons and American TV programmes, but the day was never celebrated or recognised round our way - Fireworks Night was infinitely more important. When did the change occur? It must've been in the 1980s when I wasn't looking. Nowadays, at this time of the year, you can't move for costumes and decorations hanging from shop displays and pumpkins rolling around all over the place. I don't think I even knew what a pumpkin was until I was in my 20s!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the harvest from our own allotment is currently taking up every available space in the house - I love 'em now! Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Here's Charles 'Packy' Axton, in his guise as The Pac-Keys, with 'Greasy Pumpkin' from 1967. Axton's story is a fascinating one and this tune can be found on a terrific compilation of his work entitled 'Late, Late Party 1965-67'. Find out more about the man and his music here.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Brazilia 70 & the Chico Lopez All-Stars

Just a few hours ago, in a charity shop some 40 miles from here, I speculatively handed over 50 of my hard earned pennies in exchange for an LP entitled 'South of the Border', by Brazilia 70 & the Chico Lopez All-Stars. In spite of the long-winded moniker, it's a rather anonymous affair, containing precious little additional information regarding the personnel involved. After listening to the first few tracks, however, it quickly became clear that both the quality of the playing and the production values are far superior to what you'd expect from a 1970 release on a budget record label.

The groovy, guitar drenched 'Trouble Spot' is worth the price of admission alone. Hold on to your hat!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Nobby and Rover

My Great-Aunt Maud was quite unwell and confined to her bed, so to keep her company, and her mind occupied, Mum and I sat with her and sorted through all her old photos. The year was 1969 and Mum knew only a few of the faces staring out of the ancient images, I of course, knew none at all. One by one, we showed them to Aunt Maud and asked her to put names to the anonymous faces, Mum then wrote the details on the back of each photo. Looking back, I'm sure Mum was worried that we might lose Aunt Maud at the time, but happily, not only did she recover from that bout of ill health, she actually lived until 1983, by which time she was in her late 80's.

In the four years since Mum herself passed away, I've often recalled that day sitting at Aunt Maud's bedside. The reason? If I'm ever looking through a box of old photos and wonder who on Earth the subject of a particular snap is, how they relate to my family or where the shot was taken, I turn it over and invariably Mum has provided me with some or all of the required information, written on the reverse. You might think that this isn't unusual, it's something many of us have done with old photos, but Mum took the idea a stage further. I've found that she also added hidden handwritten notations to several of her most treasured possessions. To aid her own memory, or as information for me to find later? I don't know.

Here are two examples. Meet Nobby and Rover, frail mantelpiece ornaments discovered packed away in Mum's loft, who've apparently been in the family since 1955, possibly given as wedding gifts to my Parents.


Friday, 24 October 2014

Fire Engines

I know that I'm over the worst of a bout of the lurgy when the act of listening to music begins to become more comfortable - and right now this old favourite by Fire Engines sounds just about perfect.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Nic and Joe Jones - In Concert

As the house lights dim, Nic Jones appears from the side curtain, puts down his walking stick and makes his way unsteadily across the stage, pausing to wave and bow to the cheering and already emotional audience. Behind him, Joe, rake thin, jet black hair, steps to the microphone to affectionately address his Dad. 'What are you bowing for? You haven't done anything yet!' Later, Nic introduces Bill Worsfold's, 'I Only Spoke Portuguese', by explaining that it's the true story of a couple, neither of whom spoke the other's language, who were therefore unable to speak directly to each other throughout their long marriage. Joe, busy re-tuning his guitar, looks up for long enough to mutter, 'Yes, I expect Mum would've quite liked that...' Badum tish!

The set, beautifully paced, is weighted towards the classic 'Penguin Eggs' LP and for the latter part of the concert Nic and Joe are joined on stage by the original melodeon player on that record, East Anglian native, Tony Hall. The significance of this reunion isn't lost on Joe who stands strumming gently, grinning from ear to ear, between the two men, as they delicately rekindle their musical relationship. Not for the first time this evening, high emotion threatens to overshadow the moment and it's skillfully diffused by Tony Hall's quip after Joe introduces 'The Little Pot Stove'. 'What are we playing now?' he asks, pretending not to have caught Joe's announcement, 'The Little Pot Noodle?'

Joe, an astounding player, prompts approving smiles and warm paternal applause several times during the concert, Father and Son lightheartedly disagreeing about just how much guitar know-how Nic has passed on to Joe. 'Three chords' says Joe, 'No - I just told you how to hit the thing!' counters Nic. Though he's understandably frail, Nic's voice is strong, his phrasing undiminished. A towering presence, thought lost to us forever, but, against all odds, here he is, performing again. Long may he continue. An unforgettable evening.

(Nic and Joe in 2011)
(More Nic Jones here)

Friday, 17 October 2014

By the Sea

Trying to keep any residual coughing and spluttering to myself, we took my visiting Aunt out to the coast for lunch yesterday. A hearty and delicious chick pea, mixed bean & vegetable cassoulet soothed my fevered brow enough to face a bracing walk along the pier, which certainly helped to clear the away the cobwebs.

Pick of the Pops...