Tuesday, 28 April 2009

100 Not Out!

It wasn't something I was keeping a check on, but I was just about to start drafting a new post a few minutes ago, when I caught a glimpse of my 'blog archive' over on the right there...

2007 - 19 posts
2008 - 59 posts
2009 - 21 posts

So this is my 100th post! Not much of a feat I know, especially when compared to some of my bloggin buddies (Furtheron has almost chalked up 100 THIS YEAR ALONE for example!), but y'know I was never going to be able to bang out dozens of posts a month, and when I started bloggin I was only a month away from becoming a dad, which has kept me rather busy! So in my own way, I'm pleased that I've at least been able to keep a fairly regular bloggery going.

Right, I'll carry on with that post now! See you in a bit!


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Ink Spots

It's not something I was really aware of at the time, but one of the real bonuses I got from having 'older' parents was the music that I was brought up with. At school, many of my friends had mums and dads who were into the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who etc etc. But mine were fans of music from decades earlier, and I was brought up on a heavy diet of easy listening... Sinatra, Crosby, Mathis, Nat Cole etc etc. I don't think I appreciated that much of it at the time, but it was the soundtrack to my early years, and as I've got older, I've noticed that much of it has matured in my brain, and I now genuinely enjoy most of the artists that my parents liked. I see this as a complete 'Brucey Bonus' as this is in addition to all the music I've discovered on my own. It works like a dream, and the combination of the two gives me an interest in music spanning from the 30's right up to today, and I'm pleased to be able to appreciate such a wide variety of music. And I really don't care if it's cool or not, if I like it, that's good enough for me!

The Ink Spots... even the name is iffy. But I guess the 1930's were pretty unenlightened times, leading to four black guys from Indianapolis (Orville "Hoppy" Jones, Ivory "Deek" Watson, Jerry Daniels and Charlie Fuqua) being given the name 'The Four Ink Spots'. Formed in the early 30's, they were one of the pioneers of a new style of music called 'Jump'. In time, Jump would lead into Rhythm and Blues, and ultimately, Rock n Roll.

In 1936, Jerry Daniels was replaced with a ballad singer called Bill Kenny, and their style changed to a more laid back croonin' sound. Success finally came for them in 1939, when they released the single If I Didn't Care, which would turn out to be their biggest hit. Believe it or not, If I Didn't Care, is STILL number 10 in the list all time biggest selling singles - Worldwide! It shifted 19 million copies, which is impressive enough in itself, but it's even more so when you compare it to what else is up there with it (and what else ISN'T):

Elton John - Candle in the Wind - 37 Million
Bing Crosby - White Christmas - 30 Million
Elvis Presley - It's Now or Never - 28 Million
Bill Haley - Rock Around the Clock - 25 Million
USA for Africa - We Are the World - 20 Million

The Ink Spots - If I Didn't Care - 19 Million

Beatles - I Want To Hold Your Hand - 12 Million (the biggest selling Beatles single)
Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas - 10 Million

There is something about the sound of the Ink Spots that sends me back... bizarrely, it's back to an era that I don't even know, but it's a cozy, simpler time. There is something dreamy and comforting about Bill Kenny's incredible tenor voice and the way it contrasts beautifully with Orville Jones' deep bass vocals. Listening to them also reminds me of 'old skool' Sundays, when nothing was open, sitting around the house listening to programmes like Family Favourites on BBC Radio 2!

The Ink Spots toured England a number of times, first making the trip in 1934. My father has vivid recollections of seeing them at the London Palladium in September 1949, although by this time, they were certainly past their peak, and had had numerous changes in line-up (but Kenny was still on lead vocals when my dad saw them).

It's pretty twee sounding stuff today, but in their own way, they must have been pretty revolutionary at the time. They may not have known it, but they certainly did their bit to pave the way for the pioneers of Rhythm and Blues in the late 40's.
Other than their recordings, very little remains of the original Ink Spots (officially, they continue to perform to this day, with a 'conveyor belt' approach to the line up). Not the original line up, but here is a clip of one of the later line ups (still with Bill Kenny on vocals) performing Do I Worry as a musical interlude in the 1942 Abbott and Costello film Pardon My Sarong. Orville Jones has gone by this time, and his replacement is awful! A horrible rasping voice that is quite unnerving!

Sit back with a cup of cocoa, and listen to 'I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire'

The 19 Million seller 'If I Didn't Care'


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Drumming Up A Bit Of Business??

The fallout from the G20 riots in London earlier this month, continues to, well, fallout I guess. I don't want to get involved in the rights n wrongs of it all, there are many others much more qualified to do so... But whilst perusing the many thousands of photos that have appeared on-line, this one in particular caught my eye. Anyone else spot the irony??!


Monday, 13 April 2009

Grave Words...

If you are one of those with limited time on your hands, and think this looks like some boring history lesson, PLEASE just fast forward to the pictures at the bottom of the post, I wouldn't want anyone missing the weirdest gravestone I've ever seen!!

Pitsea, Essex... the unofficial capital of all things 'Chav'. It's not a place particularly known for its heritage, culture and art... there's a McDonalds AND a KFC (both drive-thrus!), a LIDL, Aldi AND a Farmfoods, there's several burger shops and kebab huts.... But hidden away in this concrete jungle is quite an interesting piece of history. Perched on top of a steep hill ('Pitsea Mount' to give it it's proper name), are the remnants of St Michael's church, which is mentioned in the Doomsday book... These days it looks rather like a low rent, scruffy, run-down version of Glastonbury Tor, but Pitsea Mount must once have been the focal point for miles around. Today it is mostly 'lost' by the town that has risen around it, in particular the flyover that now obscures it from any decent view.

The church was originally built in the 13th century, although much of it was rebuilt over the years. All that remains now is the tower, which is believed to have been built in the 16th century. The 'outline' of where the rest of the church once was is still visible, and incredibly, the font and alter are still standing (now out in the open of course) - you can see the outline and the alter in the picture above. In theory it's a nice interesting place to visit, and could be an lovely spot to sit and contemplate the world for a while... but every time I've tried to have a good look (most recently last week) it always seems to be over run with Vicky Pollard types with unruly, unleashed Alsatians, drunks, druggies or hoodies. There are a number of crumbling graves surrounding the church remains, and one in particular really took my eye....
Just behind the church tower is a family grave for the Freeman family... What looks to be like a Mother, Father and two daughters, nothing out of the ordinary for 3 of them, yet one of the daughters, Ann Freeman (born March 1837, died March 1879) has the following inscription:
Here lies a weak and sinful worm,
the vilest of her race,
saved through God's electing love,
his free and sovereign grace
Which even today seems a bit harsh!

Apparently the grave has intrigued people for many years, and nobody has been able to fathom out why she should have been given such a hateful gravestone. Original schoolboy rumours that she was a witch are all unfounded, and recently, someone even managed to trace her in the 1851 census, which showed her at the age of 14 working as a servant for a piano maker in Paddington. She remained a servant until her death from heart disease at the age of 42.
I've never seen anything like this before, and I guess it will always remain a mystery as to why it was felt she deserved such a disrespectful epitaph.

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Thing 2009!

I've mentioned in previous posts (like HERE for example!) that collecting\reading comics can have a pretty bad 'rep' in some places. Yet the medium is so diverse these days, I'm convinced that there is a comic book\graphic novel out there for everyone, if only people would give them a go.

Well if collecting comics has a bad rep, imagine the stigma associated with attending comic conventions!! Yet the other week, Mrs P and I attended the coolest comic convention I've ever been to... The UK Web and Mini Comix Thing is a yearly event held in Mile End, London. It's a chance for independent artists to get out there and ply their wares, and for once, not be overshadowed by the Marvels, DCs, Dark Horses etc etc, that dominate the comic world.

The event didn't have the feel of your usual comic convention, and you couldn't help but be impressed with the effort and passion that had gone into every single stall-holders products. This is truly a labour of love thing, many of the artists looked very bleary eyed, due to staying up all night putting the finishing touches to their comics... Of course, some had been able to obtain professional print runs for their titles, but many others had printed, bound, and on some occasions even 'coloured' their treasures all by hand... which I must say were the ones I was particularly interested in.

Amongst the large number of stall holders were a few of artists in attendance who produced strips for the much missed DFC, and it was particularly interesting to see what else these people had to offer... quite a bit as it turned out!

The person I was most keen to visit was Sarah McIntyre, who we first became aware of via her wonderful 'Vern and Lettuce' strip in The DFC. In recent months I've also become a regular reader of her very lively blog, where I have been able to get a glimpse of some of her other amazing work. Her style of drawing really appeals to me, and I was eager to pick up more of her handy work... and on finding her stall I picked up one of just about everything she had for sale! Sarah was an absolute pleasure to meet, and her enthusiasm was extremely infectious. She chatted away as though we were old friends, and she happily signed all the items I bought. She even personalised a beautiful art-print for our son, which is now framed and proudly hanging on his wall!

But that's not to say the other artists were not friendly, everyone we stopped and chatted to was very pleasant, and keen to talk about their work and how it came about. All of the titles I bought were signed by the artists, and some even did a sketch inside them too. Here are the little gems I came home with.

On return I've been delighted with the quality of just about everything I purchased at 'The Thing'... But I must just give a special mention to the fab "This year I Will Write More Letters..." that I bought from Sarah, which is a mini comic book in the form of a letter. The 'cover' is an envelope, and the 'title' is the address on the front. The content is a 5 page (drawn) letter, in which Sarah recalls a special book that she made for a friends young son in Connecticut... It's a joy to read, and I just love the whole quirky idea to publish it in this way.
All in all a great day out, and I will be sure to make it a regular in my calender.

You can see more reviews of this years event (with photos too!), plus more photos of some of the goodies that were on offer at the following pages:

See what Sarah McIntyre made of the event on her blog post. She has some great photos too!

Artist Jim Tyson gives his verdict, plus more pics!

Shug gives an in depth review of his day behind a stall, plus loads of photos.

Stephen Betts wrote a great review over on Comix Influx

And yet another fab review and photos over on Mondoagogo


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

19 Questions: Barrie Masters

Eddie and the Hot Rods are one of the biggest and most successful Pub Rock bands in British music history... but in MY part of the country, they are nothing short of legends!

Formed in 1973 just up the road from me (in Southend, Essex), their original name was Buckshee, but was changed to Eddie and the Hot Rods in late 1975. Their blend of R&B, 60's\70's Britpop and rock, mixed with a truly mesmerising stage performance, ensured they went down a storm on the emerging pub rock circuit... They were 'punk' before the word had even been invented... in fact, Eddie and the Hot Rods were the 'missing link' between British pub-rock and British punk-rock (Just check out their debut album Teenage Depression if you don't believe me!). During a residency at the Marquee club in 1976, they were even supported by The Sex Pistols.

Eddie and the Hot Rods hit the charts on a number of occasions in 76 and 77 ('Do Anything You Wanna Do' reaching the top 10 in August 77). After a few changes in the line up, they eventually called it quits in 1981. Since then there have been periodic re-forms, but the success of a get together back in 2000, has kept them busy and together ever since! They continue to perform to packed houses all over the world, and this month see them off for a 16 date tour of the USA. On their return from the States, it's a scoot round Great Britain (local readers note, there is a chance to see the boys in action at Club Riga on 20th June), followed by a tour of Poland and Germany at the end of the year... like I said, they are being kept very busy!

Despite the changes in the line-up over the years, there is one man who's been there throughout, lead singer Barrie Masters. Barrie has been kind enough to put the USA tour preparations on hold for a bit to answer my 19 questions, so without further ado, lets here from 'His Masters Voice'!

(photo taken in Southend by Wolfie - www.coronium.co.uk)

1. How are you?
I'm well thank you.

2. Where are you at the moment?
I'm still in Southend.

3. Who inspired you as a child?
didn't really have 1 person but it was mainly boxing champs, that's what i was into at school.

4. What was the first record you ever bought?
Cant remember probably a Rolling Stones record.

5. What's your all time favourite song(s) or album(s)?
That's a hard one i have many favourite songs.

6. What was the first gig you ever attended?
Rod Stewart and the Faces.

7. What was your 'biggest break' or 'luckiest moment' in establishing your career?
Biggest break was meeting and getting signed by Island records.

8. How would you describe the music you make?
Loud exciting music that makes you feel young.

9. What's your most 'Rock n Roll' moment?
Appearing in the sun as the page 7 fella and having a beer with Keith Moon.

10. Worst moment of your career?

11. What are you most proud of?
People from all over the world still tell me that our music changed their lives.

12. One bit of advice you'd like to be able to give the 17 year old you?
Don't do hard drugs, don't trust your manager.

13. If you could perform with any artist (dead or alive), who would it be?
Jim Morrison.

14. Name one artist you really think I should check out?
Prima Donna from the USA.

15. What's currently on your iPod\CD player?
I don't have one!

16. What's the last album you bought?
Employment - Kaiser Chiefs.

17. Which song do you enjoy performing the most?
I enjoy all the songs we play.

18. What are you working on at the moment?
Working on writing a new album for a USA record company release/ USA tour dates and promo.

19. How can people find out more about you?


Thanks Barrie for a cracking 19 answers!

Whilst over at the official website, be sure to check out the merchandise, where you can get a reproduction of the classic black and white Teenage Depression t-shirt. I remember when I was at school, they used to have this shirt for sale in the small ads of NME, Melody Maker etc etc. I thought it was the coolest punk t-shirt ever!


Do Anything You Wanna Do - Performed on the last ever episode of Marc Bolans' MARC TV show - Recorded on 7th September 1977 (9 days later, Bolan was dead). This is the same show that included the Bowie\Bolan jam at the end of the programme, where Bolan falls off the stage!

The quality of the footage is poor, but the quality of the performance is dynamite! 96 Tears:

And just to show they have lost none of that spark, here's some clips of Barrie and the boys performing in 2005: