Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Our next door neighbour is everything that I'm not - young, fit and a DIY enthusiast. He's currently halfway through insulating his own roof and very kindly offered to do ours while he's at it, all we've had to do is pay for the scaffolding. It will save us an absolute fortune. Actually, it's very unlikely that we could ever have afforded to get this particular job done and we would've simply continued to put up with the draughts and leaks in our bedroom at the top of the house.

With the scaffolding in place, Mrs S & I realised that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to strip and repaint the fascia board of the gutter that runs off of the roof and along the length of the building. While our neighbour races up and down the ladder with roof tiles over his shoulder, a bag of tools in one hand and mug of coffee in the other, I ascend at a snails pace, sweating profusely, clinging on for dear life and, when I'm up there, have to fight the urge to faint. It's a three story house - the views across the marsh are spectacular, but it's a long way down. Eventually, I knuckled down to the task in hand, completing the first of three coats late on Monday afternoon (remembering not to step back and admire my work) and was rewarded with a glorious sunset for my efforts.

Holy - Rooftops

Monday, 17 October 2016

Viv, Rat and Brix

On Saturday, the Norwich Sound & Vision festival put on a series of interviews with three punk and post-punk legends. First up, Viv Albertine was quizzed by musician and journalist John Robb, who teased a fascinating series of anecdotes and memories from her. She talked frankly about The Slits, her 'lost' years, the cancer that so debilitated her and her artistic rebirth via the 'Vermilion Border' LP and essential memoir, 'Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys'.

Next, Rat Scabies was interrogated by close friend Christopher Dawes. Rat discussed his Damned (and pre-Damned) career, spoke very fondly of Marc Bolan ('...he would've produced the next Damned album...') and chillingly about how close he came to drumming for his friends the Eagles of Death Metal at Le Bataclan last November, hinting at the great trauma the band continues to struggle with following the tragic events at the concert. Dawes and Scabies also talked at some length about their other shared passion, as detailed in their co-authored book 'Rat Scabies and The Holy Grail'

Brix & the Extricated

Finally, Brix Smith took to the stage for a Q & A hosted by Adam Buxton. Brix has had quite a life - one minute living in a Prestwich mid-terrace with Mark E Smith in the creative eye of the chaotic storm of The Fall, the next hobnobbing with royalty and football millionaires on the arm of Nigel Kennedy. More recently she's suffered a breakdown, which happily seems to be behind her now. As the interview drew to a close, Buxton invited questions from the audience. I stuck my hand up and asked Brix to talk a little about The Adult Net, her on/off side project during the Fall period. The Adult Net lasted for the best part of five years, though produced relatively little music, one LP and a few singles, but I loved them then and still do. Brix appeared chuffed at my question and gave a proud rundown of the various line-ups, which at different times included members of The Fall, The Smiths and Blondie. She also took this opportunity to remind everyone that releases are imminent from her new band, Brix & The Extricated. The group (featuring fellow ex-Fall stalwarts Steve and Paul Hanley) recently played a blinding session for Marc Riley - I'm looking forward to the new material already. Meanwhile, here are a couple of Adult Net corkers.

Addendum.... I should also mention that Brix's recently published memoir, 'The Rise, The Fall, And The Rise', was warmly recommended by Buxton as a 'rollocking page-turner'. It's on my list.

The Adult Net - Take Me

The Adult Net - Spin This Web

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Red Gold & Green #9 - Karl Bryan & The Afrokats

We received our house insurance policy renewal details last week and had a pleasant surprise. This week marks the end of our 5th year in (what I still think of as) our new gaff and as we're right on the edge of an ancient floodplain, the premiums have always been pretty high. I assumed it would remain forever thus, but much to our delight, this year's premium has plummeted by £300! I still had a spring in my step from our good news when I dropped the car off for its MOT on Monday. It cost a small fortune to get it through last year, but since then it's run like a dream and given us no trouble, so I was optimistic of a cheaper result this time around. The small family run garage I use often takes 48 hours to do the MOT and carry out any bits and bobs of repair or renewal required, so I was somewhat taken aback when they called me at home just 40 minutes later. The news wasn't good. Not only was the car going to fail the MOT, chassis corrosion was so severe that it would have to be scrapped completely. Ouch.

Luckily we hadn't already made any plans for our unexpectedly spare £300. For a start, there's an original 1972 Jamaican pressing of Burning Spear's  'New Civilisation' 7" available online right now, which would set us back £260 if we were so inclined! (£260!!!) The flipside of the single, by Karl Bryan & the Afrokats, is far more appropriate to our particular circumstances at the moment though. A 'Money Generator' would certainly come in handy.

Karl Bryan & The Afrokats - Money Generator

Monday, 10 October 2016

Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation

A soupçon of psych, a hint of kosmische grooviness and a dollop of woozy pop. Anyone who knows me will appreciate just how far up my particular street the music of Sweden's Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation is. Their videos are far-out too. Here's a tune from their new LP 'Mirage' (out on Friday) and a couple from last years 'Horse Dance'. Listen to more here.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Denomination Blues

Between 1927 and 1929 Washington Phillips recorded the mere 18 songs that comprise his entire body of work - six of those were the first and second parts of three long songs, four were unreleased at the time and two are lost altogether. 'Denomination Blues' originally stretched to over five minutes in length, so was divided into two separate recordings issued across either side of a 78rpm single in 1928 and is, amongst other things, a plea for tolerance and respect across religious divides. 'Well denominations have no right to fight, they ought to just treat each other right, that's all.' Nearly 90 years on, the more things change the more they stay the same.

I first heard 'Denomination Blues' in the late 1980's, via Andy Kershaw's Radio 1 show, though it took me a few years to track down 'I Am Born to Preach the Gospel', a compilation of Phillips' recordings, released on the Yazoo label. A more recent Yazoo collection, 'The Key To The Kingdom', is the one to go for these days.

'Denomination Blues Part 1' - Washington Phillips 

'Denomination Blues Part 2' - Washington Phillips 

The song has been covered many times over the years, most notably in 1972 by Ry Cooder on 'Into the Purple Valley'. Sister Rosetta Tharpe used significant elements of 'Denomination Blues' in the two versions of 'That's All' she cut in 1938 and 1941. Here's a fantastic live performance of it from the 1940's.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Stewart Lee in Aldeburgh

'I'm post-laughter' says Stewart Lee. Expanding on this statement, he imagines an audience member's conversation the morning after the show. 'Did you see that Stewart Lee last night?' 'Yes I did.' 'What did you think of him?' 'Well, I didn't laugh much, but I agreed the fuck out of him.' In reality, on Saturday night in downtown Aldeburgh there was no shortage of laughter. He had the entire audience in stitches from his opening few lines, during the course of which he described the beautiful Suffolk coastal town, in typically deadpan style, as a 'white supremacist fishing village'. I laughed so hard that at one point I seriously thought I'd pulled a muscle in my chest. In the seat behind me, another man laughed equally loud and long. It was Alexi Sayle - and he knows a thing or two about stand-up comedy.

The performance was billed as a work in progress, which essentially gives Lee carte blanche to read freshly written material straight from the page when necessary, as he fine tunes his new touring show. He explained that trialling new material in the age of mobile phones and YouTube is usually a fraught process, but in Aldeburgh he was confident that being so far from civilisation, no word would ever reach the outside world. The new tour, 'Content Provider', begins in earnest in November and will continue throughout 2017 and into early 2018. On Saturday evening he talked (amongst other things) about Brexit, Game of Thrones, Bake Off and the differences between folk sex and jazz sex - some or none of these topics might make it to the finished show. I've already got my 'Content Provider' ticket booked for February, so I'll let you know.

Here's a recent Quietus interview with Stewart Lee, where he talks at length about writing, performing and being a music fan in the 21st Century. Even if you don't like his stand-up, he's a fascinating bloke and this is well worth a listen.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Lives Well Lived

My cousin's mother-in-law died back in January at the age of 83. In a full life she'd been a wife, mother, grandmother, college professor, business administrator, a long-time women’s rights activist and co-author of three books. She was also a force of nature. In her last 16 years alone she underwent 13 major surgeries for cancer of the lungs, neck and brain, eventually having one lung and part of the other removed altogether. Throughout this period of unimaginable suffering she remained positive, gregarious and very active.

Her husband, my cousin's father-in-law, passed away last week at the age of 94 after a long degenerative illness. In a life no less remarkable than that of his wife, he was decorated by his country with both the Flying Cross and a Purple Heart after being shot down twice in World War II, became an Emmy Award winning television producer for NBC, a successful CEO and co-author of a respected book on business. He was also a music lover and a very warm and funny man.

Several years ago, during one of my trips to New York, I spent a memorable long weekend with both of them while my cousin and her husband were otherwise engaged. They were the perfect hosts. We finished one particularly eventful day by watching a video of the 'Buena Vista Social Club' documentary together, into the wee small hours of the morning. When I crawled off to bed, they were still totally engrossed in the film. They loved Cuban music and whenever I've heard any since that night, I've thought of them.

The last time I saw them was in 2010 at a family celebration in New York, where, in spite of their physical frailties, they danced enthusiastically and joyfully hammed it up for my camera. They were on fine form that night, making the most of every single moment. That's how I'll remember them.

Rubén González - Chanchullo

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