Wednesday 24 December 2008

The Brian Setzer Orchestra: Boogie Woogie Christmas

Well so far I've covered the good, the bad and the Cheesy! But the final part (for this year anyway!) of this rummage through my Christmas albums is a genuine, sure-fire winner.

The king of rockabilly swing Brian Setzer has released two of the finest Christmas albums to ever grace my collection. I've picked 2002's Boogie Woogie Christmas to review here (but that doesn't mean 2005's Dig That Crazy Christmas is any less of an album). It's got everything you could ever want from a Christmas album, all wrapped up in a plastic jewel case. There's rockabilly, there's blues, there's a big band, there's croonin' and there's Setzer's incredible guitar playing. And even though it's a Christmas album, there's not a hint of cheesiness about it.

The diversity of the tracks included on here is incredible... from classic Christmas numbers to Hymns, from brand new Setzer songs to swingin' takes on winter themed classical music, it's all here.

There is more than a nod to the classic Elvis Presley Christmas album here too, as Brian just about out-Kings the King with his renditions of Blue Christmas and Santa Claus is Back in Town. He even manages a duet with Ann-Margaret, one time girlfriend of the burger King, and co-star of Viva Las Vegas.

Setzer breathes a breath of fresh air into his versions of Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland and Sleigh Ride, all brought bang up to date with his brand of rockin' guitar led swing.... they can't fail to get you in the Christmas mood! His reworked 'highlights' medley of The Nutcracker Suite is also a revelation! Half Glen Miller half Stray Cats! It's really shouldn't work, but it really does! The new Setzer tracks slot into this album a treat, each one is an instant classic and sit perfectly next to the standards. The album finishes with a genuinely moving version of O Holy Night followed by The Amens. Both of which could sit proudly on any of Presley's gospel albums.

If you're tempted, this year Brian has released a 'best of' his Christmas albums 'Christmas Rock', which also includes a couple of previously unreleased gems. But if you're feeling flush, for a few measly quid extra you can get the deluxe version which comes with a full length Christmas concert DVD - an STILL get change from a tenner! You can buy in on Amazon HERE.

To finish, here's a couple of samplers from Boogie Woogie Christmas. Just try an stop those toes a-tappin!



Well that's the last of my Christmas album reviews.... not even had time to touch on yuletide offerings from the likes of Twisted Sister, the Wurlitzer Organ or even my favourite Bluegrass version! Always next year though eh?! Normal service will now be resumed!



Saturday 20 December 2008

Christmas Perversions No. 3: Richard Cheese - Silent Nightclub

So little time, so many dodgy Christmas albums to share with you!!

I did a post some time back on the genius of Richard Cheese... So it's only right that I include him in my perverted Christmas album collection. The thing I love most about his Christmas album is, well, it's not all that Christmassy! A first glance at the track listing usually brings a "WTF?" type response, but after a closer inspection of the chosen songs you 'get it'. I mean, some of the classic Christmas toons you'll find on Silent Nightclub include Live a Virgin, Ice Ice Baby, I Melt With You, Holiday in Cambodia,
Personal Jesus, Naughty Girl.... You get the idea!

But there is a vague smattering of yuletide songs on here too, including 'Silent Night', 'Christmastime is Here' (from the classic 1966 Charlie Brown\Peanuts cartoon!), the self penned 'Christmas in Las Vegas' and the oddest version of 'Jingle Bells' you're ever likely to hear! Richard Cheese has released 7 albums of his lounge-i-fied cover versions, and always states on the album who the original was by. However I was a tad confused when he gave an original artist for 'Jingle Bells', I mean, nobody has cornered the market on this track have they? Surely there is no need to mention any one artist? But once I played it, the whole thing made sense! It's genius! and it's below for you to listen to right now... no, don't thank me, just think of it as an early Christmas present!


If this has got you going, and you want more Sinatra-fied cover version madness (and who in their right mind wouldn't?!) check out my previous Dick Cheese post HERE, where as well as his festive version of Holiday in Cambodia (!), you can also here his take on Radiohead and Slipknot!


Wednesday 17 December 2008

The X (Mas) Factor!

I've already resigned myself to the fact that the X-Factor has now cornered the market for Christmas number ones (believe it or not, this year will be the 4th year in a row), but it's getting even more serious now.... If today's mid-week chart is anything to go by, it looks like the whole of the Christmas top 5 could be (in one way or another) X-Factor related:

1. HALLELUJAH - ALEXANDRA BURKE (This one goes without saying)

2. RUN - LEONA LEWIS (2006 X-Factor winner)

3. HALLELUJAH - JEFF BUCKLEY (yeah, I KNOW what you're thinking, but would it have been shifting these sort of units if it wasn't for the exposure the song has had via X-Factor?)

4. IF I WERE A BOY - BEYONCE (the song Beyonce performed on the X-Factor final at the weekend)

5. LISTEN - BEYONCE (re-entry for this song that Beyonce and Alexandra Burke performed as a duet on the X-Factor final at the weekend)

and there's more!!!

14. HERO - X-FACTOR FINALISTS (obviously!)

35. HALLELUJAH - LEONARD COHEN (see 3 above!)

Apparently if Jeff Buckley's version sells another 10,000 or so by the weekend, he could snatch the Christmas number two slot. I don't think there has ever been a time when numbers 1 and 2 in the chart were the same song.

So how did we get to a point where the X-Factor is such a big influence on the charts? Y'know what, I think the answer is actually pretty easy... Like it or not, The X-Factor is now the only mainstream, prime-time music show on TV. Sure there are some great music shows tucked away in the schedules for us more discerning customers... none more so that our very own Rockmother and her tip-top From The Basement. But there is a (worryingly) large army of people out there for whom music does not play all that big a part in their lives, and they are happy to listen to whatever is put under their nose. They like what they see on TV and hear on the radio, and by and large - that's what they buy. So, if the X-Factor is the only music show these people see, it's not surprising how it is influencing so many sales\downloads. Perhaps the loss of shows like Top of the Pops is finally starting to show. I mean it was never great, but it did always show a cross section of music and styles, from The Smiths to the Spice Girls, The Sisters of Mercy to Cleopatra (commin at 'cha!), they were all on there. Towards the end of it's life it even gave 'new releases' an airing too. Much better than having a show limited to what Simon Cowell wants you to watch\listen to\buy. But what do I know??!

Incredibly, over 170 people have covered Hallelujah in the last 20 odd years. So who's version is the best? (where's Harry Hill when you need him??!) Personally, I couldn't give a flying fuck! but here's the 3 versions 'of the moment'.





Monday 15 December 2008

Christmas Perversions No. 2: Slade - Crackers

Continuing the delve into the stranger side of my iffy Christmas record collection..... Slade's 'Crackers' album was originally released over 20 years ago in 1985, and it's one of the few 'LPs' that I still regularly dig out and give an airing to (only at Christmas tho... i'm not THAT much of a Christmas pervert!). If you can get by the naff cover, this album is actually a right 'ol rocker! But then, Slade always did rock didn't they? Hugely underrated by the music snobs... (yet Oasis were trying to be Slade during much of the 90's and everybody loved that!!).

Not really a Christmas album in the traditional sense, this is more 'party' fodder, mixing cover versions, Christmas songs and Slade originals. But by and large it does the job well, and is worth the money just for the rousing covers of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' 'Let's Have a Party' and 'Lets Dance' (the Chris Montez track, not the Bowie one). Slade always did have the knack of injecting some atmosphere and fun into their recordings (I mean Merry X-Mas Everybody still does the trick 35 years on doesn't it?!), and on the whole they succeeded in fueling this album with plenty of that party spirit, full of crunchin' guitars and Noddy Holder's shouty vocals!

Whilst wandering round Tesco's a couple of weeks ago I was gobsmacked to see a CD copy sitting in the racks, and with a much better 70's style cover to boot. A snip too at just three of four quid, and I snapped it up.... but buyer beware, it isn't quite a straight copy of the original release. There are no less that FIVE tracks missing (We'll Bring the House Down, All Join Hands, Do You Believe in Miracles, My Oh My and Run Runaway). I'm guessing here, but as this album was a mish-mash of specially recorded tracks plus recent (at that time) Slade singles, my bet is the licencing for the singles was owned by someone else, and it was probably easier just to remove them rather than get involved in multi-licencing. Still for the pocket money price, you can't go wrong with this one. The low point is an ill-advised cover of 'Do They Know It's Christmas (Feed the World)'. I guess you can forgive them for trying, and it was probably quite an 'up to the minute' track at the time. But it sticks out like a sore thumb now, and although it is the most recent song on the album, bizarrely, it is the one song that makes the album look dated.

Here are a couple of tasters from 'Crackers', one Christmas-y the other not so:




Friday 12 December 2008

Bettie Page - 1923 - 2008

I heard that she had suffered a heart attack last week, and had been in a coma ever since, so I was kinda expecting the worst. Yet the news that she died this morning still came as a bit of a shock. Weird really, as for 30 odd years everyone thought she was dead anyway! I'd only just got used to the idea of her actually being around again, and now she's gone. For good this time.

The legendary 1950's model has been a cult figure for over 50 years, loved by millions, yet completely unknown by millions, all at the same time. Someone at work today asked me about her, and the best I could do in one sentence was say she was like an underground Marilyn Monroe (since then I've heard that Page will be burried at Westwood Cemetary in California next week, the same place where Monroe is burried).

I discovered Bettie in the mid-80's and have been infactuated with her ever since. You know how you get into stuff, really buzz about it for a bit then lose interest? well it's never been like that with Bettie, and I've remained completely fascinated with her throughout... hell, I even have her tattooed on me! (yes, really!). When she resurfaced in the 1990's she signed up with CMG Worldwide agency, and to earn herself some money, she agreed to autograph photographs for them to sell. Apparently it took her about 10 minutes to sign each autograph, she ended up not doing that many, and the asking price was extortionate.... it's still the best thing i ever bought....

I've been meaning to do a Bettie Page post since I started this blog, and I will do a proper one at some point. But for now, RIP Bettie Page.


Wednesday 10 December 2008

Carry On Christmas!

OK, I admit it... I'm a Christmas album pervert!! You hear these rock 'n roll stories where bands are living in such debauchery, that 'normal' sex just don't do it any more... So they have to 'up the ante', and of course, this becomes the norm and boring too. So the bar is continually raised until they are officially 24 carat pervs! Well that's me... but on Christmas albums (honest!).

I did a post last year about my weakness for Christmas albums... Y'know there was a time when a straight 'crooner' album of all the traditional classics would hit the spot for me every time. But there's only so many similar versions of 'Chestnuts Roastin On an Open Fire' you can buy before you start to lust after forbidden fruit, and for the last two or three years, that's what I've been pretty much exclusively buying... mad Christmas albums!

This 'Swingin Christmas' album is a good example. The cover has been designed to make you think it's a 50's album, but although there are no dates included in the sleeve notes, these tracks are much more likely to be from the 70's (maybe even early 80's), so are much cheesier on the ear than you might have expected!

Most of the tracks on this album sound like the closing credits to a 1970's Carry On film! (yes, really!), rather than 50's Sinatra cool swing (as they are trying to make you think), BUT as a Christmas album pervert, that suits me down to the ground! (I've got way too many 50's swingin type Christmas albums anyway).

I also love the cheekiness (some would call it pure fuckin laziness!) of including what I was fully expecting to be a new, undiscovered Christmas tune... Mr Santa. I've got a pretty good knowledge of Christmas songs (even the pretty obscure ones), but this one had me intrigued, I'd never heard of it or seen it listed on any other album before. So imagine my disappointment when on playing it I discovered it was actually that well know Christmas favourite 'Mr Sandman'!! If there had been some vocals it might have been something, but seeing this is a strictly instrumental album, I can't help but feel its inclusion was a bit of a rip off!! I mean, what next??? 'I Wanna Whole Lotta Christmas'? 'Ride a White Christmas'??!

Here's a taster from this album, which I can't listen to without picturing a cartoon caricature of Sid James cackling maniacally whilst givin the 'ol thumbs up!


More Christmas perversions comin soon... maybe!


Thursday 4 December 2008

(Cr) Appy Christmas??

What's the deal with these Bavarian\German\French markets that seem to pop up in the High Streets in November and December? The one that appeared in Southend High Street last month (Bavarian\German) is, as was largely predicted, pants! When you hear a Bavarian market is headed your way, your mind conjures up wonderful images of snowy alps, lederhosen, Beer Kellers, Oompah bands, maybe even a bit of yuletide bear baiting... but transfer the lot to a chavy seaside town, and somehow the whole thing goes a bit naff!
I don't think I've spotted a single thing for sale that you can't buy in one of the normal shops in the High Street. I mean, one 'ol fella has lumped a few ton of 'pick n mix' over (that classic Bavarian delicacy!)... yeah, thanks for that mate, we've only ever dreamed of jelly strawberries and gobstoppers in Southend! I swear it's the same 'pick n mix' that you get in the cinema! And of course, this poor chump has paid to have it all carted over, and is no doubt having to pay for digs every night for a month to boot... and if he's sold more than a quids worth I'll be shocked!

And has anyone ever bought one of those hideous orange 'rock lights'? I use the word 'light' in the loosest term, as those things are so dim that I'd imagine the room gets darker when you switch it on! Again, you see the same rock lights in exactly the same position day after day, week after week... Who on earth persuades these poor people that Southend is the Mecca for 'pick n mix' and rock lights??

However, I was delighted to see that an open air yuletide bar had been set up at the top of the High Street, selling German beers and various mulled wines... Now that DID appeal! The only thing is, they've set the whole thing up right next to the permanent High Street sign warning you can be fined £500 for drinking alcohol there! That's gotta affect business!

The other thing of course is that because the overheads are so huge, most of the prices throughout the market are extortionate! £6 for a small gingerbread heart anyone? Toffee apple for £3? a manky bag of roasted peanuts for a fiver? Just what people are looking for in a credit crunch Christmas!

Other delights on sale right now in Southend High Street include
  • A "big meat stick" made from "Turky"

  • How about a "big knuckle" for six pound? or if you're feeling flush, why not add "cabbage and noodles" for an extra quid?? Yum!

  • Biltong Droewors (I tried some, and yes they taste ever bit as nice as they look! See pic below)

Hey! an open air Bavarian bar! That looks tempting....

Hey! A £500 fine for drinking at the open air Bavarian bar? Not so tempting!

But Piley likes to live dangerously, and risks a pint anyway....

Biltong Droewors anyone?

Surely you can't resist a big knuckle? Someone should have told them that knuckle sandwiches are already common (and free!) in Southend High Street, especially after closing time...

Meat on a stick? Come on mum, give the kids a treat!

Traditional Bavarian white and pink chocolate mice...

Froehliche Weihnachten!


Friday 28 November 2008

Transport For London - Building a Bypass for Music

I was gutted to hear that THREE of my favourite venues all got a cyanide pill in the post today. Transport For London have issued The Astoria, The Astoria 2 and The Blow Up Metro Club with compulsory purchase orders, and all three must cease trading on 20th January (Oh and a Merry Christmas to you too TFL).

It's hard enough as it is to find 'proper' music venues these days, without three being trashed in one fail swoop. But there must be a good reason for it surely? Oh there is... Soon Tottenham Court Road tube station will have a much bigger and nicer entrance. Great.

I've been a big fan of the Metro Club since it was brought out of moth balls by Blow Up in 2001. Since then it's become one of the most important, independent 'grass roots' venues on the circuit (honest to goodness original new acts for a few measly quid), giving some of today's biggest indie names a foot on the ladder in the process.... The Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, I Like Trains, New Young Pony Club, The Zutons, Babyshambles, The Killers, Black Mountain, The Pigeon Detectives, Bloc Party, The Kings of Leon, Mika, The Bravery, The Darkness, The Duke Spirit, The Editors, The Feeling, The Scissor Sisters, Futureheads and many more all played early gigs there.

It would have been easy to turn the Metro into a lazy 'tribute act' venue, filling it night after night with Abba, Bowie and Blondie-alikes. But the people behind the Metro are real music fans, and have been promoting new acts just about every night of the week for the last 7 years. Time Out magazine even voted it their 'Venue of the Year' in 2003.

The Astoria is also a great size venue, it's 2000 capacity just right for those bands who are breaking through. Built on the site of a pickle factory, the Astoria cinema was opened in 1927. In 1976 it was converted for theatrical use and has remained one of London's best 'middle-sized' venues to this day.

The sweaty, atmospheric, dark and dingy venue is an endangered species, and if we are not careful, our ONLY options will soon be plastic, soul-less corporate hell holes like the O2 and Wembley, constantly regurgitating Elton John, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. And what venues will be left for new talent to cut their teeth? Like they always say, you don't miss it till it's gone.

Good luck to everyone involved at these 3 venues, especially those at the Metro, you will be sorely missed. I look forward to seeing you create an even better venue in the future.

Read the Metro Clubs statement on their closure here


There has been a lot of press reaction to the forced closure of these venues. Particularly interesting is the article published on Music Week. Check out the 'comments' section where someone has implies that Transport for London are using the Crossrail Act without actually having the funding in place for Crossrail. Read the full Music Week article here

Links to other press reaction here

Monday 24 November 2008

When Rock Stars Go Bad

My first proper blog post was a piece titled 'When Bands Go Bad', about the heartache an embarrassment that can happen when a band you follow inexplicably go crap! I also did a post a while back on the music of Charles Manson and the guilt trip that goes with listening to any of his material. Re-reading these two posts the other day got me thinking about the whole protocol of following an artist, and exactly where the 'cut-off' point should lie.

Over the years, all sorts of music artist have fallen foul of the law (yup, Bowie, Kid Rock, Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, Sinatra, Jack White, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Sid Vicious, Axl Rose, Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby and many more have all found themselves pissing in a bucket for a night or two), anything from drunk and disorderly (which only seems to increase their popularity in the eyes of the fan), brawling and punching photographers, right down to under age sex. Some of them rise to much bigger stars after the event, whereas other (Johnathan King anyone??) can never return. But there is no guide for us poor fans, on how we should react to these misdemeanors. Let me elaborate...

As a kid I was a big fan of Gary Glitter, in fact the first record I ever bough was one of his. Then when I got to my early 20's the 'ol nostalgia buzz kicked in, and I started going to his shows and playing his music again. Everyone knew I was a fan, and I even organised a coach trip at work one Christmas for most of the office to go see him live. Then in 1999 he got caught with a load of child porn on his PC, when he took it into PC World for repair... but it was me left picking up the pieces!!! The accusing looks over the desk the next morning at work almost had me down as his accomplice!!! The opening bars of 'Rock n Roll Pt I' used to send shivers down my spine (admittedly I was usually well tanked up on lager and Mad Dog at the time), but now on the rare occasion I hear it, it makes me feel physically sick.

So when one of your favourite artists fucks up, what do you do? Immediately dump all the CDs, books etc? Hang on to them all but never play them again? or stick it out and carry on regardless? It's a moral dilemma with no hard and fast rules. But if you're struggling with one at the moment, with tongue firmly in cheek, and in the best tradition of all the worst Sunday tabloids, here's my hastily lumped together decision chart (coz people cant make their own minds up anymore apparently)....

You may need to click on the chart if a magnifying glass is not handy!

Finally, here are a few of those rock star Police 'Mug-shots'...


Saturday 15 November 2008

Men In Coats!

I'd forgotten all about these guys until earlier today, when I was searching YouTube for something completely different and this clip came up as a possible answer.

Mick Dow and Maddy Sparham are 'Men in Coats' and I bumped into one of their shows a few years back at the Edinburgh festival, and was left with tears in my eyes and a very painful stomach! Their visual humour is inspired by Tommy Cooper, Jacques Tati and Loony Toons cartoons. This video of them is a treat, and is jam packed with clever visual gags. Be sure to see it through to the end though, as it just gets better and better!


Tuesday 11 November 2008

Charley's War

Armistice day seems like a very appropriate day to write about a series of books I've been completely immersed in these last few weeks...

Charley's War was the most successful story ever to appear in British comic 'Battle'. It debuted in the 200th issue (6th Jan 1979) and ran until 1986. Battle was one of those 'serious' comics that I used to flirt with as a child. If I'm honest, at that time I used to prefer the lightheartedness of titles such as Whizzer and Chips, Buster, Krazy, Monster Fun, Whoopee, Cheeky etc etc. My dad used to bring me home the odd copy of Battle from time to time, but as many of the stories used to continue week-on-week, it wasn't really the sort of title you could really dip in and out off. So although I was aware of Charley's War, I never really got into it at the time. To be honest, I wasn't that crazy about war comics anyway, particularly those small 'Commando' comics... they all seemed so one dimensional with fearless Brits up against Johnny Foreigner, and at least 5 "Gott in Himmell" speech bubbles per issue! But here's the twist, hidden away in the pages of Battle, Charley's War was the ultimate 'anti-war' story, full of scared shitless 'Tommies', men and boys caught up in the terror of World War I.

Written by Pat Mills (creator and editor of 2000AD) and incredibly drawn by Joe Colquhoun, Charley's War is nothing short of a masterpiece, in fact it has been described as "the greatest British comic strip ever created". The attention to detail is stunning, and Mills went to great lengths to ensure the factual accuracy of the script, and although the tales that unfold did not happen to any one person, they DID all happen. Yes, 100% of what you read in this harrowing 'kids' comic strip actually took place, and that is perhaps the most powerful thing about it. Unlike the gung-ho attitude of Commando and other war comics, Charley's War deals with many of the cold realities of WWI such as fear, death, mutiny, execution, pacifism, class struggle and the appalling treatment of fellow human beings.

In 1916, sixteen year old Charley Bourne lies about his age and signs up for King and country. Within days he finds himself in the French trenches, just weeks before the Battle of the Somme. Charley becomes a rather unusual comic 'hero', no macho bullshit here, just a frightened boy, with no idea what he had signed himself up for. Mills never pulls his punches, as Charley goes through just about every battle of WWI.

These books should be mandatory reading for every schoolchild, as a factual, social document on the horrors of war, and it's in a format that is likely to appeal too. The irony of it is of course, the graphic, and horrific nature of this story would not even be allowed to be published in a comic for our delicate little kids these days.

If you get the chance, I can't recommend them enough.



Charley's War is currently being re-printed in full, in beautiful hardback books by Titan. Volume 5 was released last month. You can buy them all at Amazon here

Neil Emery has built an excellent website devoted to Charley's War here

Thursday 6 November 2008

Now HE is One!

If you're a regular, then you know I very rarely throw in a 'self centred' post. So i'm hoping you'll let me get away with one just this week??!

Following close on the heels of the blog, my wee fella Tommy was one year old last week. I know everyone always says it, but it seems impossible that a year has gone by this quickly. The oddest thing is that i can't really say that I noticed him change from a chubby faced baby into the little lad you see on the left! it just kinda happened day by day!

What also freaks me out is the incredible development that has gone on in such a short space of time. When I think how we (well ME anyway..) bumble around from year to year, not realing feeling any more inteligent than last year, just maybe a bit more haggard and tired... this chap has gone from a helpless tot to a little lad with a smattering of teeth, who can crawl at almost the speed of light, feed himself snacks, happily hold and drink his own bottle and waves like a good un! Throw in the odd 'dad-dad-dad-dad' and 'daisy' when the cat walks in (to be fair, when ANY of the cats walk in!) and that's some progress in twelve months. I'm also vaguely annoyed that in this short time he's also managed to become a hit with the ladies, and has set himself up with at least two girlfriends.

To think he may well be toddling by Christmas, and be a fully fledged 'little boy' by this time next year blows my mind! Happy Birthday Son!

Normal service will be resumed next week!


Monday 27 October 2008

@rsehole @lert

So there I was, late last Wednesday evening, bashing out a post about wee Johnny Rotten's crappy adverts. By 9am the following morning I've had 100+ hits and 7 comments... great I thinks, until I read em... Looks like my post may have hit a raw nerve with a die hard JR fan, refusing to believe their hero could possibly sell out. Whoever it was, they had taken umbrage with Start The Revolution Without Me! and the word must have been out on some forum to bombard me with comments (there was also some jiggery-pokery going on, that meant the website that the link was coming from was masked in my stats information). I mean, it's not that the comments were rude or anything like that, they were just rubbish! Random rubbish! Then I spots that some of my older posts have had random rubbish added to their comments too!

At lunchtime I can access the site, and promptly delete all these outpourings of a imbecile, I change my comments settings so that I have to approve them before they go live, and that's that. Despite this, the hard of thinking still waste much of their valuable time submitting more random rubbish throughout the day! I take great delight in reviewing and deleting each one!

By the end of Thursday I'm delighted to see my hits counter top 500 for one day! (and close on 1000 page views!) I mean fair play to whoever it was who did this, I've pimped and hawked some of my posts on all sorts of websites and forums over the last year, but never to the success of 500 hits in a day! I start to think if I can employ this genius in the PR department here at Piley Towers. I turn in on Thursday evening a happy man, moderating the comments section is a small price to pay for such an increase in traffic! Friday again brings brisk business, although not as busy as Thursday, and the weekend stats too were well above average.

So, to whom it may concern, a sincere thank you for all your efforts in helping to promote this blog and all who sail in her, it's much appreciated. Fresh from the success of last weeks post, I'll shortly be starting a new feature where I knock other celebs with a hardcore following.

Next week: David Bowie, what a c%£$!


PS - Sorry to all regular comment providers, the 'moderating comments' setting will remain for the time being. Do please stick with it.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

I Can't Believe It's Not Punk...

I can't believe it! Just about my all time hero has gone and pissed me off not once, but twice in little more than a month! If you are a regular reader, then you'll already know that I was less than impressed with the Sex Pistols when I saw em last month (full review here). Reason? One Mr J Lydon. Now he's gone and made two of the worst adverts I think I've ever seen, and what product has he put his once credible arse on?? Country Life Butter!

Over the years, many have been tempted by the sell out, but Lydon always seemed to rise above it all. There was something about the man that always seemed to embody the true spirit of punk, and whilst the fire faded in many, Lydon maintained the rage that he had back in 76. I even forgave him in 2004 when he went on 'I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here'. Once I got over the initial shock, he actually became compulsive viewing, as he ranted, snarled and swore his way through camp, giving airheads like Jordan and Kerry Katona a few home truths in the process.

One of the things that annoyed me when I saw the Pistols live the other month, was Lydon continually going on about how 'great' Great Britain was. It was so insincere, especially from a man who has lived in LA since the 80's. Yet once again in these adverts he's banging on about all things British.. Has 'ol Johnny got an eye on the vacancy left by the Queen Mum a few years back?

These new ads really are embarrassing, I mean you can't even pass them off as an ironic, tongue-in-cheek kinda thing. Johnny Rotten is the ultimate iconic image of Punk, and the 70's, and right through the 80's and 90's he never sold out. The man has obviously done the adverts solely for the money, and good luck to him if that's what he wants (although I doubt he's short of a bob or two with his property business and millionairess wife), but it's a shame to see him sell off his credibility so cheaply, watering down his image more and more in the process, with each ill-advised move.

If you've not seen them, my advise is don't click on the videos below, and keep the memory of Johnny Rotten alive! Mind you, if you DO risk it, the second ad is followed by a pretty funny video by Mick Jones and Tony James' new band Carbon Silicon - The Whole Truth.

To help erase the memory, here's the man again performing my all time favourite record, in what is still one of the most mesmerising videos ever:


Tuesday 14 October 2008

Posh Nosh..

You can forget yer Langan's, and your poncy squirrel meat, Crayfish tails and Smoked Trout Frikkadels with Charred Limes.... The posh nosh stakes were raised yesterday morning when I found the most extravagent vending machine ever!!! Had I not already dined on Frosties, a yoghurt and a slice of toast some 30 minutes earlier, I could have breakfasted in real style on the platform at Leigh-on-Sea train station.

Passing the time whilst waiting for my train, I gazed gormlessly into the window of the vending machine, and was presented with pure decadence... forget Walkers crisps, only McCoys and Doritos are good enough for your Leigh customers. Can of Coke? forget it, only trendy cartons of juice and cans of health drinks that I've never heard of available here. Fancy a pack of Maltesers or M&Ms? well only cinema size bags are worthy enough... it was like the credit crunch never happened! But hey, what the fuck is that, sitting in the top right hand corner, number 18?? a pack of 4 Ferrero Rocher!! "Why Ambassador, you're really spoiling us now"!! I fully expected to see fresh caviar hanging from one of the sections, but alas it was not to be (although I was on a late train, so maybe it had already sold out).

Apologies for the naff pictures, once I was safely on the train, it dawned on me that my mobile was set to take the lowest quality pictures... still ya gets the idea right?!

So whats the oddest item you've ever seen in a vending machine??

UPDATE: Thanks to John who e-mailed me this link to a website choc full of vending machine madness!! Thanks John, although you really coulda just posted it as a comment and taken all the glory!!! Genius!!

Mad Vending Machines!

Monday 6 October 2008

Tickets Please!

Can anyone pinpoint the time when concert ticket prices went bonkers? My guess is around the year 2000.

I've been a regular gig-goer for over 25 years, and although prices have always been going up, between the early 80's and mid to late 90's, the increases always seemed to be fairly negligible... the odd 50p here or a pound there. But the last few years has seen prices going up by five and ten pounds a go. Today, tickets for any 'established' acts will now easy set ya back £50, £60 or £70.. which is outrageous for a couple of hours entertainment. Someone in my office was looking at tickets for Elton John, and was told they were over £100 each... face value! Oh and don't get me started on booking fees, handling fees AND postage fees!! (I remember when it was a 50p charge no matter how many tickets you bought!). Yet the 'entry level' gigs - and often my favourite shows... new bands in dark, dingy, small clubs - have changed very little, and it's still easy to have a cracking night out for a fiver.

For quite a while I remember that a fairly big gig was equal in price to an LP (about a fiver in the 80's and about £10-12 in the 90's). I remember this particularly in the 80's, as I was on very limited funds, and often had to chose between the two.

My theory for the incredible price hikes is that artists just ain't making the money out of releasing albums anymore. Live shows are probably the only way they can make money these days, so are fleecing the fans for as much as they can get. The arrival of e-bay has also not helped. Now every fucker is a ticket tout, buying up tickets for hot shows they have no interest in, and making the gig sell out quicker in the process. They then offer the tickets up on e-bay within minutes of buying them ("genuine reason for sale"... yeah, you are genuinely a greedy fucker!) for a bargain quadruple the face value. The trouble is, people by 'em. Once artists find out their tickets have been selling for double, treble or more, they are certainly going to think carefully about the ticket prices the next time they play. At some point, I'm convinced that some greedy promoter will cut out the middle man and put every single ticket for a show up for auction only... ensuring they can claw the maximum amount out of the poor old fans.

My mates have always taken the piss out of me for keeping my old ticket stubs, But these days they actually make quite interesting reading. Unfortunately I tend not to keep new ones these days, but I've just pulled a few old ones at random and the results were quite surprising.... Particularly when bands moved up to the bigger venue. These days that means double the ticket price, but the examples below show hardly any change.
Soft Cell (final show) - Hammersmith Palais - £4.90 (and it's a hand-written ticket too! how honest were we back then??!)

The Fall - Pink Toothbrush - £3

Erasure - Westminster City Hall - £6

Mission - Astoria - £7
Mission - Wembley - £8
Pogues - Town and Country - £7.50
Pogues - Wembley - £8
one day ticket for reading festival (inc wonderstuff, Ramones and Iggy Pop) - £12.50
Bowie - Wembley - £16
Psychic TV - Pink Toothbrush - £4
My Bloody Valentine - Pink Toothbrush - £3
Boys Wonder and My Life Story - Pink Toothbrush - £3

Frank Sinatra - Docklands Arena - £75!!!
Bowie - Docklands Arena - £25
Bowie - Milton Keynes Bowl - £20
Teenage Fan-Club - Pink Toothbrush - £3.50

Tin Machine - Brixton - £11.50!
Marc Almond - Royal Albert Hall - £12.50
Barbara Streisand - Wembley - £48.50 (yeah pricey, but wasn't she charging £200 last year?)

Marc Almond - Shepherds Bush Empire - £10
Blur (plus the likes of The Boo Radleys, Sparks, John Shuttleworth, Dodgy, The Cardiacs and more) - Mile End Stadium - £18.50
Day ticket for V Festival - £25
Sex Pistols (plus Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers + 6 other bands) - Finsbury Park - £22.50
Oasis - Earls Court - £19
The Monkees (all 4 original members) - Wembley - £20

I once worked with someone who told me that in 1980 he was forced to go see a local band, and was outraged at having to pay 75p to get in... Depeche Mode was their name. Anyone remember any 'bargain basements' gigs they went to?


Saturday 27 September 2008

Cheesy Choonsday: Shirley Bassey and John Keating

Not dropped a 'Cheesy Choonsday' in for a while, so I'm bringing it back with two of my all time personal favourites from the archives here at Piley Towers.

The late sixties early 70s was a funny old time for your 'traditional' artists. Having breezed through the 50's and 60's with their tried and tested act, many easy listening stars suddenly found themselves looking a bit 'square' (dad-io!). In an incredible attempt to make them look hip and trendy, many started recording up-tempo modern covers, to try and appeal to a new generation of music fans. I'm not sure how well these albums were received at the time, I'm assuming the 'kids' didn't go for it, and it's likely they also didn't go down well with their older generation fans. However, time is a wonderful thing, and if they didn't hit the spot at the time, many of these albums, rich in Hammond organs and funky guitars, sound really cool now....
The 1970 Shirley Bassey album 'Something' is a real gem from that time, famed for her classic 'Light My Fire' cover. But for me, her cover of 'Spinning Wheel' will always be the highlight.

John Keating's funk-tastic cover of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (from his 1972 Moog 'Space Experience' album), is probably the track I associate most with the mid 90's cheesy listening scene. I still snigger a bit now, to think that this was one of the 'big guns' to pull out when the evening was in full swing! A guaranteed floor filler, but brave is the DJ who queues this record from the start... although i really like the atmospheric intro, one minute in was the usual spot to unleash this baby, so don't turn it off too early!