Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Don't feel this isn't for you if you've not heard the album, as with his previous albums, Martins' songs are all comments on society and real-life happenings in the 21st Century, and his insights are very interesting (oh and of course down right hilarious too!)
Elephantasy – What on earth inspired this one? Do you really ‘like em like that’??
Oh yes. The Fatherland is the land of sausages and potatoes, as you know. A friend had to be craned out of bed recently; he was so enormous that the ambulance couldn’t get him down the stairs. Wassup, you don’t like fat people? Gotta love’em, really. And, as noted somewhere else, they can always watch your things on the beach, cos they ain’t going anywhere, are they… A friend of mine from an earlier time, who used to play bass for the Records, would only ever shag fat girls. But then he married a dwarf, I believe – there’s probably a salutary lesson in there somewhere.
(NOTE: You can have a listen to Elephantasy in all its glory in our 4th Podcast - 'Animals')
Houston We’ve Got a Drinking Problem – I googled it, and it really did happen! A couple of years back the crew of the Challenger were found to be drunk in charge of a Space Shuttle!! What was it that made you pick it for the subject of one of your songs?
Sweetie, it all happened, I don’t make any of this stuff up, do I! Every single thing on this record (and, by the way, on all the others as well) can be found out there in the ‘real’ world, if you choose to look.
I keep a notebook in which I note down interesting stories that I come across, in green ink using a quill pen, and this was one of them. I heard it on the BBC World Service. I think I came up with the title first, and then expanded the song around it. Can you believe that the flight controller who made that announcement was so out of it?
On and On – Who did you have in mind when you wrote this song about a woman with verbal diarrea??!
Oh, it’s generic, isn’t it? There is indeed a local focus to this one, but it’s pathological. Sometimes they never stop, and at all other times they just go on and on and on and on. I quote myself – ‘it’s got to stop soon, we need Ban Ki-Moon to stem this verbal tsunami’.
On a related note, my good pal Tee ‘Trevor’ White, once with the Sharks band, imagined that the name of the newly elected leader of the free world was ‘Wanky Woo’. He was most put out when I disabused him, and disabused me right back.
21st Century Blues – This slower number finally allows us to draw breath. It’s a thought-provoking song, and the first use of the ukulele on the album too, which really adds to the sound. What are your thoughts on this one?
One of my best compositions, I would say if asked. It’s a calling card. If someone asked for an example of my tune-smithery, I would play them this. And then run away.
I’m a big fan of ukulele, and of double bass. In fact, I used a double bass sample on the demo of this tune, and then tried bass guitar and then acoustic bass guitar on the recording, but neither worked as well. So I got myself an upright bass, learned how to play it again (after not having touched one for about 30 years) and then recorded it. We did this live recently in Berlin, to an audience of three storm troopers and a Rottweiler, and it seemed to go down quite well. The recording also has a brass section – mainly trombone, but so what – and this is a new colour in the sonic palette. It’s even got a flute solo, fer Chrissakes.
The sentiments are… well, germane, I feel. That’s germane, by the way, not German. For German sentiments, or perhaps more accurately anti-German, you will have to check out ‘Only One Dream Per Person’ from Der Baboon in Der Basement.
Come Out Come Out Whoever You Are – A rather scathing song about God. It’s funny, but makes you think too.... Not a fan then??!
Not a big fan, no. But I am a big fan of Senator Ernie Chambers, who attempted to sue God in the Californian court as a terrorist, due to His threats of plagues, storms, floods, pestilence, famine, war, disco and such. A key point was the debate over whether the writ had actually been served on the defendant (namely, God).
Senator Chambers noted that he had on a number of occasions shouted out ‘Come out, come out, wherever You are’ and, as God is both omniscient and omnipotent, that should have done the trick, assuming He exists. The court accepted his reasoning, but the defendant didn’t bother showing up. Probably off somewhere smiting unbelievers.
But as I say – God… has He ever had a hit record? You see?
I Feel Fine – Is a fabulous cover version, and you’ve somehow managed to remove the Beatles feel and replace it with the Martin Gordon ‘stamp’. It must be hard to completely redesign a classic song that everyone knows?
Yes, I would like to stamp out the Beatles completely, forever. As Adrian Belew remarked to me when I interviewed him for my Zappa all-nighter on the local radio station, the Beatles completely spoiled it for everyone by being better than anyone else, either before or after. Bastards. Bastard selfish bastard Beatle bastards, if you ask me, and you did.
I tried to create an antithetical version of the tune, and I think I achieved it, in that it is completely miserable. That will teach the protagonist to piss about with females.
Oh yes, I meant to say – don’t get me confused with the protagonist in all this stuff. Just because the singer declares that he likes fat girls, it doesn’t mean that I like fat girls, in fact far from it. I just write the stuff, dear.
You’ve put at least one cover version on all of your solo albums. What others were in contention for Time Gentlemen Please?
Well, there was ‘Something in the Air’ by Thunderclap Newman, and ‘Ascension Day’ by Third World War. This last we tried, actually, but it fell at the first nuclear onslaught. I also played about a bit with ‘Walk On By’, but will say no more about it.
Did you ever hear ‘Every Little Thing She Does’ by Yes? Well groovy, daddy-o. The reasons for doing a cover, as far as I see it, is to stamp heavily upon the identity of the original artist with your own artistic boot, preferably on the throat, and then twist and grind down with the heel with a simultaneous rotating movement.
Have you ever considered a whole album of ‘Gordon-ified’ covers at all??!
If I was to imagine for a single second that anyone would be remotely interested, I might well do such a thing. But I don’t kid myself.
If Boys Could Talk and Girls Could Think – Is this your own theory on how to crack the battle of the sexes?
It’s actually more a critique of self-help books and gender stereotypes than a timely plea for peace to break out in the battle of the sexes. Frankly I couldn’t care less whether they slaughtered each other or not, to be honest, so long as they leave me out of it.
It was originally inspired by a discussion which pointed out that if people said the inane things about women that they are allowed to say about men, at least in the context of crapulous popular literature, some women would get rather upset. It seems to be acceptable to say things like ‘oh, if only men could talk’, but the reverse is a bit more difficult. Hence the title. Personally, I don’t care either way, as I said. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, and that applies to both sides of the gender debate.
It has a small upright bass solo at the end, for those who care for this sort of thing. (It is the solo that is small, not the upright bass, which is 3/4 size, should you be concerned).
Talulah Does The Hula From Hawaii – I think this one is the most insanely catchy track on the album. Is that a guest spot from your son at the beginning? How did that come about? Is Talulah anyone in particular?
As before, this is a true story, and you can find the details in the Guardian. My efforts are commentary rather than invention.
Talulah is from New Zealand, of Hawaiian extraction. She sounds like a brave and forthright little girl. Maybe there is some German in her heritage. She took her parents to court and won, just as the chorus tells you. I heard the story on the BBC, jotted down some notes and left the apartment. By the time I got to the end of the street, the whole thing had sprung fully-formed into my brain, so I turned round and went back home and captured it.
The Small Boy Chesta Gordon introduces the tune, and gives his comment at the end. I used to sing this to him before it was recorded, while trudging up and down the cliff at Frinton-on-Sea in Essex with him on my back, and he approved it for inclusion in the album.
Shoot the Women First – I’m hoping this isn’t a follow up if track 7 doesn’t work?! Quite a confrontational title this one!
Once again – I believe you might begin to see a bit of a picture here – this is based on a book of the same title, by the British writer Eileen MacDonald. She interviewed female terrorists about what made them tick, so to speak, and the title is quoted from the standing orders issued to governmental security services, namely their instructions to shoot female terrorists before their male counterparts. It’s a good read – she spoke to Leila Khaled, to the very spooky Astrid Proll and more.
The female of the species is more deadly than the male, suggested the Victorian DJ/rapper Rudyard Kipling. Perhaps he was not entirely wrong. I think, on the whole and after due consideration, I tend to agree with the sentiments of this song. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I.
On a personal note, the Small Boy Chesta and I were recently travelling in the UK. Sitting on a train, and rocking out to my mp3 player, he suddenly burst into a loud acappella chorus of ‘Shoot the women first, shoot the women first, shoot shoot shoot bang bang!’ much to the bemusement of our fellow travellers. ‘He’s German’, I offered feebly in explanation, moving to the other side of the carriage.
Panama – This is about ‘canoe man’ John Darwin right? Great idea for a song. What’s your take on this bizarre story?
This is one of those ‘glorious failure’ things that the British are so good at (I speak as one of them). Imagine faking your own death but forgetting that changing your name would obviously be part of the bigger picture. Your name, John, you’ve got to change your name as well! And then he put a picture of himself and his wife on the Internet identified with real names and their location. Clearly he hadn’t really thought it through.
But at least Mr Darwin was consistent – he went into a British police station at the end of this disastrous adventure and asked them if they had seen his memory, as he had lost it somewhere. They weren’t having any of it, of course.
He concealed himself in his wife’s house for a number of years before setting off to Panama. Evidently, during these ‘Hiding Years’, he would get into a cupboard whenever his children came round to see their mother. There is certainly a dark side to this silly tale. I can feel a Part II coming on…
Incognito Ergo Sum – Right up there as one of my favourite tracks you’ve ever done. Once again the tempo slows for another thought provoking song. This is all about the ‘dumbed down’ celebrity culture we have these days (certainly here in the UK). Is it like that in Germany too now? There was a time when you needed some sort of talent to become famous, but it’s really not a requirement any more… almost a hindrance. Were you thinking of anyone in particular in this song?
I think it’s the same all over the world, not that I have been everywhere in the world but the Afghani version of ‘Pop Idol’ gives you the general feeling that the clock is ticking. Karaoke for the masses disguised as real life – it’s acting, of course, but the manner in which both the contestants and the consumers willingly suspend their disbelief makes me wonder if there is any point in carrying on the Campaign for Real Reality, as most people clearly prefer the pretend version.
The song’s not aimed at anyone in particular but at everyone in general – how many pico-celebrities does the world need, for crying out loud? I’m a bit of a post-theist on this issue, in that I believe the human race can now support itself perfectly well without the need for celebrities, but I realise I am in a moribund minority.
As for the title –Latin hasn’t had much of a look in lately, so I thought I’d chuck a bit in. The tune also quotes Julia Phillips – if you’re stuck for something to read, you could try her indictment of celebrity which she called ‘You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us Again’, or something along those lines.
What does intrigue about celebrity is the way in which the currency is domain-transferable, at least here in Germany. Thus you find winners of non-talent shows turning up as celebrity cooks, you find leading reality-TV house-decorators delivering their opinions about forthcoming elections on prime-time chat-shows, you see celebrity dentists interviewing American film stars. The domain is irrelevant, the currency retains its value regardless of location.
I Have A Chav – Possibly the most ‘Music Hall’ influences on this album, and again a very British subject. As someone who has lived in Berlin for a number of years, you obviously manage to keep abreast of the changes in British culture? I’m assuming there are no Burberry clad oiks in Berlin??
No, they wear different clothes here, but here they certainly are. In Berlin there are a few varieties – often Turkish, often East German. But here the oiks tend to be of all ages, rather than strictly a youth movement. The average Berliner would last about 15 minutes on an average British high street before being smashed to the floor and kicked to death, such is the level of his rudeness and hostility.
Yes, music hall indeed. Music hall was chock full of social commentary disguised as a knees-up, and I find this double level of meaning rather interesting, personally. Who knows, perhaps I even attain it in my work, or egg.
I manage to keep abreast of British culture, if that is the correct expression, via the BBC World Service. There’s nothing like a good shout at the radio on a Sunday morning to get the heart started, or indeed any other morning. Chav-dom is one of my favourite manifestations of British culture, and I dealt with the Boy Calum Best earlier on, in ‘He Was the Best’. Calum delivered a heartfelt self-composed ‘pome’ on the sad occasion of the death, or dearth, of his father the foot-balling alcoholic George of that ilk. It was one of the most memorable moments of televisual (for it was broadcast worldwide) history. There will, no doubt, be more, but they will not have the impact of the Boy Calum’s unforgettable moment. Not on me, at any rate.
Interesting Times – Another interesting take on society. Tell us more about what sparked this one?
When I commented apologetically to Pelle Almgren, who sings all this stuff, that here was a tune which was a bit of a rant about someone in particular, he said ‘What do you mean, they all are….’, which rather surprised me, until I realized that he was right. I do love those people who are always right, don’t you? They have no conception that anything outside their consciousness even exists. Stick it up yer Gantt Chart, I always say. Well, often. So whereas ‘Shoot the Women’ might be construed as generalisation, I don’t think there any risk of that happening here.
Passionate About Your Elevator – A guy in love with an elevator??! Where did that come from?? As an aside, have you notice how many lifts are made by the company Schindler? You don’t think they misheard when making that film do you???
Once again, a true story, although the love angle features someone who is in love with his own linguistic abilities rather than with a lift shaft. A good pal of mine, who had better remain nameless (although eagle-eared listeners will doubtless be able to unravel the mystery) told me the story. It features a leading and well-known lift company and it’s local German MD who decided that he was suddenly possessed of the ability to compose advertising slogans in English, along with all his other skills. This was the title of the (fortunately aborted) ad campaign. I kid you not.
But he was not named Schindler. Ron Vibbentrop, perhaps?
I’m Budgie – A rant about budget airlines. I’m assuming you’ve had your fair share of problems with them?!
Yes, I love the way you are bellowed at, treated as an imbecile, forced to stand, forced to pay to pee and all the rest of the ritual humiliation. It took Stan Budney a whole day to even begin to comprehend the experience when we flew from London to Berlin for the drum recordings. Poor boy – his nerves were shattered, and he went off to Los Angeles with a porn model, never to be heard of again.
You can hear I'm Budgie right here:
You Can’t See Me – Is an epic finale. Wonderfully moody and atmospheric (the guitar solo is very Pink Floyd-ish). It’s very different from anything on the album, and a great choice to finish with. Is it based on anyone in particular?
Well, you can hear the Small Boy Chesta at the beginning and end, once again, in a cameo appearance, and he is rather small, so that perhaps is a clue. I am reluctant to incur any more legal bills, so I will leave it at that. The children’s playground noises come from Stockholm, while we were doing the vocal in a house next to a school.
I am quite partial to a bit of Pink Floyd, meself, especially the combination of whimsy and grandeur, but they tend to do less of the former and more of the latter these days, or decades. So I thought I would attempt to create an idealised version.
Pelle made some very astute comments about the arrangement, and his views were noted. It follows his suggestions almost exactly, in fact. I’ve never done an epic, as you know – my stuff usually tends towards the short and succinct. But I crammed all the verses and choruses at the beginning, and then let the ‘epic-ness’ have it’s head. In fact, I agonised over whether the guitar solo should be acoustic or electric, after having recorded both. Eventually, I followed Chris Townson’s earlier advice – ‘it’s your record, you can do what you like!’, he wisely said - and so I used then both. But not at the same time.
So there you have it pop-pickers! I hope you enjoyed these two interview posts.... Many thanks to Martin for being such a good sport and taking considerable time out to answer all my inane questions!
If this interview has whetted your appitite for a bit more MG, then why not pop down to the legendary 100 club in London on 22nd January, where Martin is making a rare British appearence with his reformed 70's pop-punkers The Radio Stars... a few tunes from the Martin Gordon solo albums are also promised!
Listen to audio extract from ALL 5 of Martins albums here
The Official Martin Gordon website.
Martin Gordon on MySpace.
The 100 Club.
Buy Martin Gordon CDs at Amazon!
My 2008 interview with Martin on his 30+ year career is here and here.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
I've been a fan for many years, and all of the previous 4 albums are real gems that still get regular airings at Piley Towers... surely Martin couldn't match them again this time around... I was right, he couldn't... he actually topped them!! The final part of the jigsaw is without doubt the best of the five.
I make them fight each other to the death. The losers are taken outside and shot in the back of the neck with a small-bore pistol, and are buried beneath the latrines, which are then demolished and concreted over. Larch trees are planted upon the spot and a Latvian farmer and his family installed, who will swear that they have been there for the last fifteen years if asked.
Chris also did the album artwork for the previous 4 albums. Who did you get to do the new album cover and what input did you have??
The Official Martin Gordon website
Martin Gordon on MySpace
Buy Martin Gordon CDs at Amazon!
My previous interview with Martin Gordon (which covers his varied and eventful career from Sparks, Jet, Radio Stars, Rolling Stones, Blue Meanies etc etc right up to his solo work) can be found here and here
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Listen in on a Christmas Cracker consumer test, talk of disappointing and\or inappropriate gifts, worst festive toons and much more. Oh and there's yet another outing for the feature that just won't die (no matter how hard we try!) Wood-Watch! And in between all that old waffle you'll find 10 Christmas Crackers for you to listen to, and not a turkey in sight!
The sound quality is perhaps a little rougher round the edges than usual, due to the party going on in the background at Mondo Manor, and the fact that 4 of us were sharing 2 microphones! But I hope you enjoy it none the less.
Now here's an extra quiz to keep you quiet... there's 8 celeb messages throughout the podcast, can you identify who all of them are??!!
Finally, a MASSIVE thank you to Paul Oddsock for the amazing artwork that he created especially for this podcast - (do please 'double-click' it, to view in all its glory!) cheers Paul!
Or Download Here:
Podrophenia 7 - Christmas Podding
Oh and don't forget we're also available via iTunes these days too... gawd knows how or why!
Friday, 11 December 2009
It's hard now to remember a time before the internet - and information wasn't at your fingertips - but in the 80's you either stumbled on stuff randomly or otherwise remained completely unaware. Regular readers will probably know that I'm something of a comic fan. In the 80's I used to make specials trips to London to visit all the lovely specialist independent comic shops tucked away down many a West End side street (and much like those lovely little independent record shops, they are all but gone now). Comic shops have always had a healthy sideline of other 'miscellaneous' goodies to tempt their punters with... resin models, T-Shirts, trading cards, mugs.... and fanzines. I guess the fanzine is another thing that is just about extinct these days too, the modern day equivalent is now probably a fan web-site.
Anyway, in 1988 on one of my semi-regular visits to Forbidden Planet (this is back in the day when Forbidden Planet was actually a shop worth going in!) I happened to spot a small A5 fanzine titled 'The Betty Pages' (sic). It was issue number 3 of a title dedicated to some pin-up model from days gone by, and I clearly remember being transfixed by the cheesecake photo on the cover of the lady with the most incredible hair! I gave it a quick flick and thought I'd give it a go... little did I know then that it was to be the start of a life-long obsession! I soon managed to track down the first two issues of Greg Theakston's magazine, and put in an order for future issues. I became hooked and intrigued on the incredible story of this lady....
Born in Nashville, Tennessee on the 22nd of April 1923, Bettie Mae Page was brought up in a strict Christian family. Her parents divorced when she was 10, and for a few years, Bettie and her sisters had to live in an orphanage when her father was put in prison for stealing a car. At the age of twenty she married her childhood sweetheart Billy Neal, but they were divorced within four years.
Bettie did a little amature modelling during the 40's, and dreamed of being an actress. In 1945 she went to Hollywood where she had been called for a screen test. The story goes that she was asked to join an executive on the 'casting couch', which she refused, after which she was never given another shot by Hollywood. By 1950 she was living in New York and working as a secretary, but still hoping to get a break as an actress. One day whilst out walking along Coney Island beach, she got chatting to policeman Jerry Tibbs, who was also an keen amature photographer. He asked if she would be interested in modelling for him and she agreed. It was Tibbs who gave her some historic modelling advise too... "wear your hair in bangs" her told her, she did, and Bettie Page was born!
In 1957, at the age of 34 and at the height of her popularity, Bettie abruptly ended her modeling and disappeared. Some said she had been killed by the mob, whilst others said she became a born-again Christian (some even said she had become a nun) and was now ashamed of her modeling career....
And this is where I came in, because in 1988, Bettie was still missing, presumed by many at this point, dead.
The 60's and 70's had been a quiet time, and Page was all but forgotten. But it would be an unsuspecting comic book that would reignite interest in her once again. In the early 80's, Bettie Page fanatic Dave Stevens released his comic book entitled 'The Rocketeer'. He based the hero's girlfriend 'Betty' completely on Bettie Page, and it sparked an interest. The interest continued to grow, culminating in Greg Theakston starting 'The Betty Pages' fanzine in 1987, and it was this magazine which really started the revival.... and I'm sure the mysterious disappearance all added to the appeal and helped to fuel the cult status that was now growing fast. By the late 80's\early 90's, a number of companies had now picked up on the underground phenomenon and were starting to produce Bettie merchandise - an industry that continue to grow and grow to this day.Then in 1993 the unthinkable happened! Bettie resurfaced!! She gave a few interviews but was adamant that no photos of her should be taken - she wanted fans to remember her as she was. Nobody can say for sure, but I can't help but think the resurface may in part have been forced on her. A year earlier a 'fan' (Richard Foster) somehow tracked her down and wrote to her. He asked all kinds of questions and Bettie kindly wrote back with a long letter containing all manner of answers. Foster used the details she gave (locations she had been, times etc etc) to start investigating her missing years, and alas he dug up a very sorry story, which he promptly published as "The Real Bettie Page". Bettie was distraught that Foster had published his findings, and must have felt very betrayed that being polite and answering a fan letter directly lead to all her dirty laundry being aired to the world. I think she probably felt as though she had to come out of hiding in order to stand up for herself.
I don't want to dwell too much on the poor misfortunes of Bettie in her 'missing years', but briefly they consisted of 2 more failed marriages (one of which was to her original first husband), various religious work (including working for Billy Graham), running through a motel with a gun preaching about the "retribution of God", paranoia, a breakdown, acute schizophrenia, being declared insane, pulling a knife on ex-husband Harry Lear and finally being arrested for the attempted murder of her landlady.... all interspersed with several stays in asylums and hospitals... the last of which was for almost ten years. Bettie disputed much of Fosters findings, but his evidence (including police 'mug-shots') is pretty convincing.
But by the 90's Bettie was finally free of the demons within, and felt strong enough to face the world once more... and boy what a surprise she got! She had absolutely no idea of the resurgence in her modelling work that had been going on for the last 12-15 years. It must be quite a revelation to discover you are a genuine underground superstar! It soon became clear that everyone except herself was making a lot of money out of her images, so she signed up with an agent to look after her interests.... unfortunately he ripped her off too, and she didn't receive a penny for the three years she was on his books. After that she went straight to the top, the most legendary agents in America - Curtis Management Group (who are still in control of the images of icons such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean).Despite being in her 70's and 80's, Bettie got involved in a number of projects over the next decade, she co-wrote her autobiography - Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend (although unsurprisingly, much of the 'missing years' remained as such), helped with the creation of a number of TV programmes and two films about her, got involved with the creation of officially licenced products, made DVD commentaries for re-releases of her surviving 8mm and 16mm film reels, did countless interviews, and as I mentioned in my RIP post - sold signed 8x10 photographs to her fans. The signed pictures turned out to be a short lived affair. Apparently it was taking her quite some time to sign her name, and the idea soon came to an end. I've no idea how much they originally intended to sell these items for, but I'm fairly sure that because there were so few of them, the price went even higher. I decided to go for one, safe in the knowledge that it really wasn't worth the money they were asking, and convinced I'd regret it... but I never have. In fact, as the years go by I become more and more grateful that I took that reckless plunge! Sure e-Bay often lists a signed Bettie picture (for less than I paid too), but I have little confidence that they are genuine. The fact she signed so few is at odds with the regularity that they still continue to appear. I am safe in the knowledge that mine is 100% legit - complete with all sorts of documentation and certification from her agent. Here's a picture of my signed Bettie photo:
2003 was also the year I finally had my Bettie tattoo done! Having wanted one since the mid 90's I decided it probably wasn't a passing fad and went ahead (4 hours in one sitting... ouch!). Oddly the picture I had done ended up being the very same one that I chose 8 years previously!
By 2004 Bettie had all but withdraw from her new found limelight... the interviews ceased, and the involvement in upcoming ideas stopped. I don't know why for sure, but I'm guessing the day to day challenges of being in her 80's was probably more than enough for her to be getting on with.
In early December 2008 she had a heart attack and went into a coma. She died at the age of 85 on 11th December 2008, after her family allowed her life support machine to be switched off.
To me, Bettie will always be the ultimate pin-up girl, and I've been infatuated with her for over 20 years. She was such a natural in front of the camera, and could switch from the fresh faced 'girl next door' look, to the bitch from hell in the click of the shutter.
How my Bettie tattoo is looking today... (quite literally!):
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Y'know, there's nothing like a nice relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy your evening out.... and this was indeed, nothing like it. The place is (unsurprisingly) full of skinheads, 'rude boys' and general 40-50 year old 'geezers'. There's the great smell of testosterone in the air, and a lovely oppressive overtone of violence. This is complimented beautifully by huge amounts of police strategically placed throughout the venue (I've been coming to this venue since I was a child, and NEVER have I witnessed police attendance at a show here)... They are everywhere... in the foyer, in the bar, in the auditorium, even upstairs in the seats.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
You may remember back in August me banging on about my love for the dear old sadly departed (and much missed) Odeon in Southend, and I've been on the local nostalgia buzz ever since. Well blow me, a local photographer from the 60's, Derek Cross, has just found a stack of old negatives in his archives... out of curiosity he starts to develop one or two, and he's only got professional press photos of just about every legendary act from the early 60's, all taken whilst they were performing at the Southend Odeon! 'Unseen 1963' is a fab little exhibition in Leigh-on-Sea, displaying a selection of these recently uncovered photos.
(Image © Derek Cross)
There are a mixture of both posed and candid photos on display, and whilst the posed ones are great, I couldn't help but be drawn to the candid ones. Each one spoke a thousand words... There is a wonderful one of the Beatles presenting a girl with a competition prize (which was a crude wooden toy of themselves!). The prize winner is quite young, and as such all 4 Beatles are bent in two to hand over the prize! You hardly even see their faces, just the 4 mop-tops and a very excited little girl!
Another great candid shot shows the Beatles kicking around the auditorium, whilst the stage area is being prepared for the show. In the background is a piano with the name of the legendary local music shop of the 60's and 70's emblazoned across it - Hodges and Johnson.As well as a good dozen or so Beatles shots, amongst others included in this exhibition are Rolling Stones (group shots and solo), Cliff Richard, Everley Brothers, Roy Orbison, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Helen Shapiro, The Hollies, The Shirells, Bo Diddley, Freddie and the Dreamers, Joe Brown, Adam Faith, Duane Eddy and The Searchers.... and rather oddly amongst all that lot... Alistair Simm!! There are also a couple of great shots showing the crowd entering the Odeon for one of these shows. I also found the photos of bands that hadn't made it interesting too... one is simply labelled "four men sitting on steps (unknown)".
Image © Derek Cross
I spoke to the gallery owner (John Lister) about the display, and asked him if what was on display was the complete collection. I was shocked when he said there were more... even more so when he disappeared off and came back with a box full of undisplayed gems!! Oddly enough, my favourite picture of the whole lot ended up being one from the box!! A brilliant shot of Ringo Starr, fag hanging out the corner of his mouth, sitting in a dressing room chair. On both arms of the chair were tall piles of autograph books, all open on the page requiring a signature. Head down, he was busy working his way through the lot! Just in the corner of the picture, almost out of shot, was George Harrison reading a fan letter! What great times eh? Would we have any faith in a band of their popularity actually receiving (let alone reading!) a fan letter handed in at the venue today??
Alas this exhibition closes this coming weekend (last day Sunday 29th November). John told me that there had been some interest from the odd London gallery, but other than that, the future for these photos seems a little unclear. A lovely, overpriced coffee table book would do these pictures a real justice, and I think it's important to keep them together as a set, rather than splitting them up for Beatles books, Stones books etc. It captures an exciting time in both the history of Southend, and the British music scene in the early 60's.
Image © Derek Cross
In the unlikely event that you find yourself in the area between now and then, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. I'm certainly hoping to get back for another peep before it goes.
Atelier Gallery (almost opposite The Grand pub).
96 The Broadway
Monday, 23 November 2009
Can it really be that time again already??! I'm afraid so!! Mondo and I are back with our 6th Podrophenia Podcast, which this time round has the theme of 'Size'. As well as 10 'gigantically compact' tracks, there's all the usual old unscripted 'small' talk inbetween... including a few 'huge' stories, 'tall' tales a 'big' competition and some 'tiny' oddities.... and somehow all of the people in this montage are intrinsically linked in the next 60 minutes!!
The next show will be an end of year, Christmas special, so do please drop us a line if you have any Christmas stories from years gone by... awful prezzies, thongs going wrong etc etc
This podcast is now only available as an iTunes download. You can grab this and every other Podrophenia show for free here: Podrophenia on iTunes
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Ron was a joy to chat to, and by the end of the evening I felt as though I'd known him for years! I couldn't let this meeting go without a quick interview to capture this wonderful piece of local history, and Ron was more than happy to oblige.....
It's Sunday 3rd August 1952, and you now have Stan and Ida Laurel and Ollie and Lucille Hardy in your cab!! How did it come about?
It was about lunchtime at Southend Victoria Station, and word was going round that Laurel and Hardy were about to arrive there and would require a taxi to take them to the Palace Hotel. Someone from the Odeon was there in advance, checking to make sure that there would be a cab in the rank when the train arrived. It just so happened that I was at the front of the rank when they stepped out from the station!!
Were you already a fan of Laurel and Hardy at this point?
Not really, I remember before the War, my brother John and I, frequented the Kursaal Cinema every Saturday morning. We laughed at many of the Laurel & Hardy short films shown as second films to the feature film. But we were more interested in the serialization of Flash Gordon & his Trip to Mars! or The Lone Ranger, these serials always enticed us to go back every week… Happy days!
Can you remember who sat where in the cab?
Ollie, being the largest of the group, got in the front passenger seat, Stan and the two wives shared the back seat.
It must have felt very surreal to have two of the biggest film stars in the world sat in your cab! What were you thinking at the time?
At 26 years of age, I was completely in awe having famous people in my cab, the very short journey did not really help me to fully absorb this very special occasion.
Were you able to have any conversation with them?
They were a little reserved. They had traveled to Southend from Bradford that day, so it’s likely that the journey had taken its toll. They were only in the cab for a matter of minutes, but I did have some casual chat with them. It was mainly limited to “welcome to Southend” “pleased to meet you” and “hope you have a pleasant stay, and have an enjoyable week playing at the Odeon”. Oliver Hardy thanked me and asked how far it was to the hotel. By this time I had gone round the corner at the end of the High Street so I said “there it is!”.
Were you able to get a photo and\or autograph from the boys?
Like I said earlier, I was over awed at meeting them and it never crossed my mind. I do regret not asking for their autographs.
Can you remember how much the fair was??! Who paid for it, and did they give you a tip??!!!
I was instructed not to take any fare or tip from them, and to collect the fee from The Odeon. The charge came to 3 shillings and sixpence (17.5 pence), and I was given a tip of 1 shilling and sixpence (7.5 pence). So a grand total of 5 shillings (25 pence), which in those days was a good result for me, considering the Palace Hotel was just half a mile from the taxi rank!
Did you go and see the show whilst they were in Southend?
I didn't see the whole show at the Odeon, but while I was working - bearing in mind that evening’s are the most lucrative time for taxi’s - I did look in at the theatre between taxi fares, the taxi rank was just yards away from the venue. I recall that they did a funny sketch involving a railway station platform.
Did you bump into them again at all during their week in Southend?
No, as a cab driver I would not have approached them, unless they ordered a taxi.
Do you have any particular favourite Laurel and Hardy films?
No order of preference really, like everyone else, I can laugh and appreciate the skill and timing of all the predictable antics they display in their films – no one will ever do it better than the boys.
Here's Ron with the very cab that Laurel and Hardy rode in!
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
The rules seem simple enough....
1. You have to post a song that makes you happy.
2. You then tag another blogger... as many people as you want, but I'm guessing it has to be at least one!
3. You say at least one thing about each blog that you tag, that will make them smile, something nice about their blog that makes you smile when you read it!
So here goes...
1. I've not taken this lightly! I've been thinking long and hard about songs that actually do make me smile, and no matter what I think of, it keeps coming back to this one. One of my Top 3 all time favourite films is Swingers. It has everything for me, it's beautifully written, was made on a shoestring budget and sheer determination, has a wonderful cast (although all complete 'unknowns' at the time), AMAZING dialogue, and is genuinely funny and heartwarming. It's one of those films that you never want to end. There is a beautiful final scene that never fails to leave me with the biggest smile on my face, and as the picture fades this tune kicks in...
Bobby Darin - I'm Beginning To See The Light
So, on the face of it, not a particularly 'funny' song, but I'm always happy and smiley when I hit the point in the film where it starts... and because of those fond memories, I find myself smiling anytime I hear it around... I mean, look.. I'm smiling right now!
2 & 3. I'm tagging Dan over at The Blog of Eternal Disappointment and I Should Be Working over at, erm, I Should Be Working!
I'm cheating slightly, and using the same reason for both... I just love the use of the English language that these two have, and their ability to make the most ordinary story into the most funny, riveting and enjoyable reads.... (Dan also knows a thing or two about bacon.... ). Gawd bless 'em both!