Elvis is everywhere – part 2

The fact that the blog is languishing has prompted me to do my bit, after a period away from broadband, at the Brighton Festival (more posts later mebbee)

Anyhow, you may have heard about the graffiti-fest at London’s Leake Street, with a grungy railway arch transformed by Banksy and frenz. The crowds early on were huge, but it’s settled down now, and will be there for another 5 months.

Given the recent interest in the King, I thought you might like this take on him.

If there’s any interest in the Leake Street thing, I’ll happily post some more of the pieces…

Postscript: I’ve added my shot of the wonderful image of a Council graffiti removal worker finally dealing with a graffito that’s been around a while…as mentioned in CB’s post

Have you had your plus sign today? FP’s exceedingly optimistic playlist

I wasn’t going to do one today but I’m away in the coming week and was away a lot last week so I thought I’d try and respect the usual rhythm. And anyway there were some great songs suggested over on the Mother Ship so I also wanted to pay tribute to that. I never NEVER thought I could like anyone else’s version of “Mr Blue Sky” and was astounded to discover how much I like the Delgado’s version. Extraordinary. This playlist throws up one question for me – I’m still in a ‘film’ mood having been steeped in that world for two weeks. There’s one song in this playlist which I cannot hear without seeing Jack Black whirling round John Cusack’s record shop like a spinning top on speed. You know which song I mean.
The question is therefore – which song that you already knew has subsequently come to be linked with a film in your mind, so much so that they have become inseperable….?

free music

There Is Always Hope

There Is Always Hope

It’s been very quiet on the ‘Spill recently – where is blimpy??? Are we all quizzed out? Have we had enough of reading other people’s rambling thoughts on life, the universe and everything, including (occasionally) music! I hope not, because it’s time to present my own five reasons to be cheerful (and, indeed, optimistic).

First up, it’s the fabulous Lindy Stevens with ‘Pennygold’. I know nothing about Ms Stevens – I discovered this song on one of those old Kent Northern Soul albums (which are full of hidden gems). I fell in love with it and still can’t get enough of it – at only two and a quarter minutes long it’s difficult to do so. I have one particular memory of listening to it while driving through the wooded hills of southern Germany (the beautiufl Pfalz for those who know it). Listen and enjoy.

Second up, is ‘Power Of Your Tenderness’ by Jad Far. Again, I don’t know too much about this and I only discovered it (and the wonderful album from which it’s taken) because my beloved Teenage Fanclub are the backing band. It’s a lovely song and it makes me laugh – a lot!

Donald Fagen’s ‘I.G.Y.’ is an intriguing take on optimism – it’s a sort of reverse approach, looking back at the (false?) optimism of youth. If The Nightfly did nothing else it showed that it was possible to make a concept album without mentioning Middle Earth!

Another interesting look at optimism comes from Death Cab For Cutie’s ‘Someday You Will Be Loved’. It’s about a man who is quite convinced that he’s not good enough for his former partner:
You’ll be loved you’ll be loved, like you never have known,
The memories of me, will seem more like bad dreams,
Just a series of blurs, like I never occurred,
Someday you will be loved.
Any excuse to hear Death Cab For Cutie…

Finally, Jonathan Richman’s ‘Morning Of Our Lives’. The song was recorded live at The Hammersmith Odeon in the summer of 1977 – Roadrunner was in the UK charts and that was about the only Jonathan Richman song that most people in Britain knew at the time. As the track starts Jonathan says that it’s going to be the last song and everyone starts screaming for Roadrunner. Now, although Roadrunner was a UK hit (and quite possibly the reason that most people were at The Odeon that night) it had originally been written at least seven years earlier and Jonathan was basically sick of it. And being the sort of man he was (and indeed still is) he wasn’t going to pander to the audience’s desires – he had already decided that he was going to play ‘Morning Of Our Lives’ and he wasn’t about to change his mind. Nevertheless, you can hear the uncertainty in his voice as he introduces it, as if he’s wavering slightly. The calls for Roadrunner continue – even as late as 1 minute 54 seconds into the track someone shouts it out but by the end the whole audience has been won over and when Jonathan says ‘We’re Young Now’ you can almost feel the whole building rising up as one – and the sustained applause at the end speaks volumes. “No need to fear, ‘cos now is the time for us to have faith in what we can do. Goodnight.”

1 Miles ‘perfect world’ pure German pop with handclaps…

2 the Real Tuesday Weld ‘I love the rain’ old time 78 samples with crackles “wash away the stink of this pain and suffering.. I love the rain”

3 / 8 Departure Lounge/ 6 Tim Keegan ‘What you have is good’ ‘be good to yourself’’ ‘on a good day’ ummm- couldn’t spilt them so fill your boots with all three and stop being so bloody miserable Shane!

4 MGMT ‘time to pretend’ drug habits, models and music- future perfect.

5 Seeed ‘Respectness’ Catch them live at a festie and see the sun shin all day. German reggae.. fun eh?

7 Pony Club ‘I still feel the same’ this is beautifully written -chinos, sing along to liteFM, people carrier! But still got the dreams, sex on the brain, still feel the same..genius.

9 I Am Kloot ‘Avenue of hope’ morbid optimism- far more me!

10 Spearmint ‘sweeping the nation’ stick to what you believe in and everything will come to you.

Prog Lyrics Quiz – The Answers

You’ve had a whole week, and nobody’s posted any guesses for a while, so I figure it’s time to post the answers.

1. And don’t forget my dog, fixed and consequent
“Astronomy” by Blue Öyster Cult (you are free to debate whether this one is really prog or not) Nobody guessed it anyway.

2. The note he left was signed “Old Father Thames”, it seems he’s drowned
“Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, Genesis. Guessed by Toffeeboy

3. A man who thinks he owns the future will sell your vacuum with his prose
Porcupine Tree, “Four Chords that Made a Million”. Where were all the Porcupine Tree fans this week?

4. At paranoia’s poison door
DarceysDad got this one – King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”

5. And God and his accountants drove away
Fish’s “Big Wedge” from his first solo album “Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors”.

6. No-one dared call it a boat
Post-Fish Marillion; “Out of This World” from Afraid of Sunlight. Now we know who doesn’t read the ‘Spill, don’t we?

7. No his mind is not for rent to any god or government.
DarceysDad got this one too – Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”

8. If every time we tell a lie, a little fairy dies, they must be building death-camps in the garden.
“Human Being” by Twelfth Night. The token really obscure one; included because there’s at least one other fan of theirs who posts to RR on Fridays.

9. Dreamer easy in the chair that really fits you
Yes, “Heart of the Sunrise”. You can’t have a prog lyric quiz without some of Jon Anderson’s surreal stream-of-consciousness gibberish. But still nobody guessed it.

10. The bad blood slows and turns to stone
Pink Floyd, “Dogs”, guessed by Proudfoot.

4/10. Must try harder :)

Forget Eurovision, let’s go to a gig!

While everyone else was glued to the telly watching Terry Wogan talking all the way though a lot of Eurocheese, I was at a gig.

I’ve been to some funny places for gigs this year. Last time I saw support act Mermaid Kiss was supporting Panic Room in a village hall in Gloucestershire. This time it was a working mens club in Nottinghamshire, walls covered in posters for dodgy Black Sabbath tribute bands.

Support band Mermaid Kiss play atmospheric keyboard-driven music with female lead vocals; they’re recorded two full-length albums plus an EP to date, of which the most recent “Etarlis” is the best. Live, they’re currently gigging with a semi-acoustic lineup, a five-piece consisting of vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, keys and woodwinds; no electric guitars or drums. This means they can’t really play the more rocky songs in their repertoire, but the more atmospheric stuff still comes over well.

Seeing the low ceiling in the venue I feared the worst for the sound quality, but once Mermaid Kiss took the stage my fears proved unfounded; the sound was pretty-near perfect. Much of the set was similar to to the last time I saw them in April, with several new songs from their as-yet unrecorded next album. High spot was an absolutely mesmerising “Seattle”, sung totally solo by vocalist Evelyn Downing.

Headliners Breathing Space are an offshoot of York’s finest band Mostly Autumn. They started out as a side project by Mostly Autumn’s keyboard player Iain Jennings and backing singer Olivia Sparnenn, and developed into a band in their own right after Iain left The Mostlies at the end of 2005. Although he rejoined his former band at the beginning of this year (and Olivia never left), Breathing Space continue as a going concern. They’ve pared back the prog-rock influences of Iain’s past, and have now play a mix of rockier numbers with an 80s feel and big soaring ballads that give Olivia Sparnenn’s great voice a place to shine.

Tonight they played an absolute blinder, certainly the best headline set I’ve ever seen them play, helped by the same crystal-clear sound. Something like a two-hour set, playing practically all of their superb “Coming Up for Air”, several songs from the first album, and three Iain Jennings-penned Mostly Autumn favourites. I have to say it was strange hearing Breathing Space playing “Distant Train” the night after hearing the Mostlies playing the same song at Bury Met (And I’m not going to get into arguments over which version was the best!). “Hollow” was lovely; Olivia Sparnenn has made that song her own now. So was the encore “The Gap is Too Wide”; in both cases they had to be the best live versions of those songs I’ve heard. The latter was very poignant on this occasion; Iain Jennings wrote the song back in 2001 to commemorate the death of mother; Olivia’s father Howard (who I had the great privilege of knowing) passed away a few weeks back.

Their own songs came over at wonderfully well too; with some interesting takes on arrangements in places, such as John Hart’s wind synth replacing the slide guitar on “Don’t Turn a Blind Eye” and the extended jazzy instrumental section in “Head Above The Water”. It’s difficult to find anything to say about Livvy Sparnenn and Iain Jennings I haven’t said before, they were both on great form tonight. But I do have to say I’m finding myself liking Mark Rowan’s guitar playing more and more. He’s not flash, but his playing is always exactly what the songs require, never playing a note more than is needed, whether it’s the fluid soloing on the title song of “Coming Up for Air” or his really simple but amazingly effective solos on the big soaring ballads.

Two great bands, nearly three hours of great music. It’s a crying shame that they played to such a tiny audience, something like fifty people. Surely this beats watching the Eurovision Song Contest on the telly?

PS, if you want to hear what they sound like (Blimpy, I’m looking at you!), Breathing Space have several songs on their myspace site, as do Mermaid Kiss

Death on the Croisette – Wenders gets my Palme

The famous seaside walkway in Cannes – the Croisette – has been stampeded this year by the horses of the apocalypse. We’ve had famine, disease, war and rape in a very high quality but rather grim selection of subject matter dealt with by the films in the official competition. The Palermo Shooting – the film by Wim Wenders I’ve just seen this evening is no different. Death is once again a central theme. And yet the way in which Wenders deals with the subject matter is so totally different that it feels as though a fresh wind has just blown through Cannes. Wenders’ film tells the story of forty year-old photographer – Finn – who is smacked in the face by the mother of all mid life crises. Amidst glitzy photo shoots with Milla Jovovitch (playing herself), vintage cars and a bona fide rock n’ roll lifestyle, Finn, played by Die Toten Hosen’s Campino (one of the most outrageously attractive men I’ve ever lusted after on screen) starts dreaming of clocks marking the time passing in his superficial existance. He can no longer see beneath the surface of his glitzy lifestyle. His life is tranformed by a near miss car accident in which he logically should have ended up pasted all over the tarmac. This brush with death enhances his existential angst and, after one last minimalistic photo shoot with Milla in Palermo, he decides to stay on in Sicily, increasingly drawn by the mysterious and somehow calming atmosphere of the city in which death is an everyday part of life. The strange dreams continue and Finn’s problems get worse when a mysterious bowman starts taking pot shots at him, shooting arrows which at first just miss their target but then hit him square in the chest. Or do they? He meets a guardian angel (Wenders is big on angels) in the form of Flavia, an Italian artist who restores the magnificent old frescos in Palermo’s crumbling buildings. He decides to confront the mysterious bowman head on and finds himself face to face with Death himself played by no other then Dennis Hopper. And Death is not happy. In the central set piece scene of the film, Death explains to Finn that he is not to be feared, but is part of life, part of each and every one of us. He simply suffers from, as Hopper delicately puts it “an image problem” and asks Finn if he can photograph him in an attempt to put this right.

The film is aesthetically gorgeous – the first part dealing with the designer, chrome and glass lifestyle of a fashion photographer contrasting beautifully with the muted terracottas of the scenes in Palermo. One can’t help thinking of Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’ in the sense that the main character travels to Italy to confront death – albeit with very different outcomes. Finns’ dream sequences are nicely surreal with a kind of Magritte-esque anxiety to them. Campino’s portayal of Finn is beautifully judged with wry self-awareness and flashes of dry humour. And although Finn’s brush with Death is a salutory experience, we come out of the film having witnesses a celebration of life. Live each day as though it were your last and cherish your mortality is the message here. The film also features one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. So although I have little hope that Wim Wenders will walk away with the big prize, he gets MY Palme d’Or for a barmstorming return to form.

Any love out there for Wim Wenders? Who’s a fan?

Letter from Cannes

Just dropping in quickly to say hi from Cannes. It was lovely to see the messages on the Mother Ship – thank you very much for that – particularly Steenbeck. I’ll try to give a few very brief impressions of the Festival this year. I have to say that the GU’s coverage of the Festival has been pretty spot on – they tell it like it is. First of all, the weather has been pretty miserable with some brief respite yesterday. This actually resulted in people at one point dodging round pools of water to get up the red carpet. It looks breezy and a bit sunny today so I might get out for a brisk sea-air walk on the Croisette. As for the films – and that is after all why were are here – the high standard continues. Everything I have seen has had its rightful place in the prestigious line-up, whether for reasons of superlative story-telling, bold cinematographic language or wonderful script and directing. Each film has had something to offer and you could see why it caught the eye of the selectors. My favourite so far has been Argentinian film Leonera by Pablo Trapero which tells the story of a young women imprisoned for murder and pregnant to boot. She raises her baby in prison and the film uses brilliant visual contrasts between the candy pink fluffy world of babies and the barbed wire around the walls. The highlight for me was getting in to see Madonna’s Malawi documentary in the presence of Her Madgeness and Guy Ritchie with Sharon Stone there for moral support. Read the GU’s article in today’s edition. The film is absolutely heartbreaking and left no one indifferent. She was unbelievably touching. This film really really mattered to her and you could see how seriously she took the whole thing when she presented it with her director. She’s one of my heros and it was incredible to be a metre away from her. She’s actually very very tiny and slim but in no way fragile. I would have broken my ankle after two minutes in the beautiful high heels she was wearing but she negociated the steps with the grace of a dancer. Other highlights include seeing one of the stars of the Hungarian film – Delta – Felix Lajko – playing the violin at the Hungarian party. I have never seen as much passion, energy and horse hair flying! Have to be off so I’ll leave you with my FP tip for the Palm – Waltz for Bashir which I didn’t see but which seems to have created great excitement. Bisous from the Riviera. FP.

Tearing at the Faerytale, and other songs.

When I reviewed Mostly Autumn’s new album a few days back, someone (I think it was Blimpy) said “where can we hear the music”. But as yet, the band haven’t put any sound samples on their official website.

However, they have been playing several songs from the album live; and here are a couple of them.

Both of these are audience recordings from The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh, last weekend. They suffer from bootleg-quality sound and some seriously dodgy camerawork, but this does give an impression of what they sound and look like live.

Tearing at the Faerytale

Flowers for Guns

The band are most of the way through their tour, but there are still a few sporadic dates up to mid-June. Next gig is The Met Theatre in Bury tomorrow (Friday) Night. The last one at Sheffield on June 13th. I’ll definitely be at the first of those two, and quite likely the Sheffield one as well.

Jazz Album Cover Quiz

The jazz quiz you don’t have to listen to! Just name the 12 covers, artists or the catalogue number. I bought at least three of these because of the cover art alone ( I won’t tell you what I thought of the contents).

Purist alert! Some jazz albums have zillions of different covers so these are the ones I know, or that were the cheapest available. There may be some ‘fusion’ in here too but let’s not split hairs.

Right then…headphones optional but double espresso and neatnik beard stroking de rigeur. I’d count you in but this one’s in a tricky time signature…

Musical memories

I was thinking about how songs bring back very specific memories. In particular, I was listening to Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey album at work today and it brought back strong memories of when I was a student living in Clapham and we (that is my housemates and me) used to hang around on the Common in that long hot, dry Summer of 1976, getting slowly wasted in the heat and then we would grab a kebab from the Shalimar takeaway on Clapham Common North Side before heading off to the pub for the evening.

That got me drifting off to ever earlier memories. One that really sticks out was when I was still at school, I was 17 at the time, and we used to go to the London Hospital Tavern on Friday evenings, all glammed up. The music there was a mixture of proggy stuff like Nektar (yes, I was and still am a fan), SAHB, Bowie, Mott etc plus all the standards like Zep, Free, Hawkwind. I am remembering sparkly glitter on my cheeks, silver eyeshadow, cheesecloth blouses, bias cut satin panelled skirts and suede boots with platform soles now. The SAHB song The Faith Healer is a major memory aid here.

Anyone got other ancient evocative musical memories.


Here is a very short lyrics quiz designed to be irresistible to Blimpy McFlah, because it seems like ages since we’ve heard from him…

For careers you say you went to be remembered for your art
Your obsessions get you known throughout the school for being strange
Making life-size models of the velvet underground in clay

Oh, oh, I think you should go.
Make a cup of tea, and put a record on.

She’s in a bad mood
But I won’t fall for it
I believe all her lies
But I can’t fall for it

He walked down a busy street
Staring solely at his feet
Clutching pictures of past lovers at his side

the King – lyrics quiz

10 Lyrics featuring Elvis Presley (dead or alive) – See if you can identify them (warning: one of them is from a Dutch “artist”):

1. I saw Elvis Presley walk out of a 7-Eleven
And a woman gave birth to a baby and then bowled 257

2. She was humming Suspicion, that’s the song she liked best
She had Elvis I Love You tattooed on her breast
When they landed in Memphis, well her heart beat so fast

3. Hey Andy, are you goofing on Elvis?

4. That be tellin’ Julio Iglesias what to sing, now.
Now, whoever said that Sidney Poitier was a blind man,
Knew the same of Elvis Presley, too.

5. I don’t believe that Elvis is dead
I don’t believe that Elvis is dead

6. Elvis are you out there somewhere
Looking like a happy man?
In the snow with Rosebud

7. Elvis is in everybody out there.
Everybody’s got Elvis in them!
Everybody except one person that is…
Yeah, one person!
The evil opposite of Elvis.
The Anti-Elvis
Anti-Elvis got no Elvis in ‘em,
lemme tell ya.
Michael J. Fox has no Elvis in him.

8. I remember the disc-jockey was playing “Jailhouse Rock”
When I had my first date with a beautiful girl
and since that evening you’ve been my friend
Elvis !

9. Picture a zombie Elvis
In a tacky white jump suit
Just imagine a rotting Elvis
Shopping for fresh fruit

10. Man I was beat, I was driven by the heat
Down to Elvis Presley Blvd. in a one-way dead end street

You Couldn’t Make It Up …

I just HAD to share the conversation I overheard today, because if I’d heard it from, say, The Two Ronnies or even Harry Enfield & Kathy Burke I’d have been rolling in the aisles.

Somehow in a bank queue that wouldn’t have felt like appropriate behaviour … anyway:

You know how you suddenly hear a word spoken in the background hubbub and find yourself tuning into a particular conversation? The two old dears behind me were complaining about how they had to stand for so long on a hot day waiting to be served, and the bloke behind them suddenly chipped in that last week someone had had an “epp-electric” fit in the queue.

Well I bit my lip and ignored that, but it set Sissy & Ada off on the inevitable conversation about friends with increasingly serious diseases, which included the following glorious piece of linguistic ignorance about the unavoidable consequence of motor-neurone disease (apols to anyone with suffering relatives).

Sissy: “Well she was told she wouldn’t even be able to swallow, and she couldn’t bear that, so she got ‘er ‘usband to take ‘er for that, y’know … Euronasia.

Ada: “Euthanasia?” [Obviously the brains of the outfit here]

Sissy: “No, she was old and they went to Switzerland”

I almost had to feign an epp-electric fit of my own to avoid wetting myself …