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Friday, July 31, 2009

Nominations For God XC

Herman Mellville

Silly Billy

We didn't come away from IKEA entirely emptied handed the other day. Following my discovery that they'd stopped doing the CD inserts that fitted into the Billy bookcase, I've had to adopt another system to address the storage crisis that has been raging in the yellow room of late.

Fortunately Tom isn't adverse to whipping out his Allen Key...

Joe enters the room briefly but decides that discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to shelf building in the yellow room...

Tom carries on regardless...

And in no time at all two Benno CD have joined the Billy Bookcase ensemble to make sweet music...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Morning Reading V

Normally on these occasions I try to travel into Newcastle with Lesley on her way to work. I get to pretend to be a commuter which after not being one for several years now, is something of a novelty.

However, I had to abandon my usual rendezvous with Lesley in order to deal with several emails that had arrived overnight. That meant I didn’t step onto the platform until after 9.30 a.m.

That hour or so made a difference and reminded why I don’t really miss commuting to work anymore.

The young man, who didn’t so much sit down as crash land onto the seat beside me, began talking almost immediately. Not to me, and so far as I could see, not to anyone else within the spectrum of human vision.

As he interrogated the air about him, his personal hygiene - think ripe shellsuit mottled with historical sprayjobs of over-used deodorant - also began an intensive barrage of eye-watering nasal karate.

His conversation with himself for the most part was good natured though it was impossible to determine what the subject matter was.

The best thing to have done would have been to get up and change seats. Being British this would appear to be impolite and so I stayed put taking an even closer interest in my book for the remaining fifteen minutes of my journey.

Once the metro arrived at Monument Station we parted company and I escaped into the bright morning air.

Without thinking about where I was going my feet took me down Grey Street (the left hand fork in the photo above). Half way down at the point where Grey Street is bisected by High Bridge I paused. Looking back up Grey Street...

And then down towards a rollercoaster view that tumbles down toward the junction with Mosley Street, tipping into Dean Street before sharply ascending to the railway viaduct and above it, on the other side of the river Gateshead.

Down into Dean Street...

The viaduct in use...

Above that, the 60s structure of Gateshead’s multi-story carpark which famously had a bit part in Get Carter and clutter of suburban rooftops beyond.

Then I turned right into High Bridge...

Squeezed in behind High Bridge is this little court yard...

It's in between the cracks like this where you find little shards and fragments which have somehow resisted or escaped modernisation and improvements...

In a space that is a car park for the offices in Grey Street and other business, 19th Century bricks are piled directly onto much older stones...

Then into an alleyway leading onto the Cloth Market...

Out in Cloth Market the little red shop used to sell one main product. It was here somewhere around 1979 or 1980 that I bought my first typewriter. A little green plastic Remington. I think it cost around £25. A shop selling typewriters. Imagine that.

A few yards further down Cloth Market there’s White Hart Yard. Padlocked and gated, it’s as if they want to keep this aberrant bit of the past from buckling out to escape and infect the modernity that surrounds it.

The view on the other side of the street...

The past is a different country. They keep the rubbish there.

The contagion spreads if it's not properly contained. You can see the grime of older times seeping through facades and facelifts...

Crossing Mosley Street, here's a fine example of our town planners in the 60s in their pursuit of their "Brasillia of the North" dreams...

Then onto Collingwood Street, once the financial heart of the city...

And here's the same view (almost) circa 1900...

From here I ended up at the Lit & Phil.

It was busy today and there was even a queue at the little hatch from which tea and biscuits are obtained.

My associative reading today took me from poetry, music, and the flu pandemic of 1918 via parapsychology. Another example of the past catching up with the present...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Wash Out

A trip to IKEA is always enough to have one reaching into the very depths of the meaning of the word regret.

When Lesley rang to say she'd be happy to take Tom and I up to the store in search of a new bed for the lad it was accompanied by the words "providing it doesn't lash down". Within in minutes of us setting out the heavens opened and downloaded biblical proportions of the wet stuff.

Why is it that it rains every time we make this journey?

Is it the gods shedding tears at another car full of hapless mortals who have failed to learn that no amount of Delicato Punschrulle can compensate for discovering that the item the helpful IKEA staff-person told you was in stock, isn't?

By the time we arrived the rain had stopped and play was about to begin. As you can see Tom was relishing the prospect of getting a new bed.

And of course, despite being told that the item was in stock when we tried to find the damn thing, it wasn't.

Back home Tom and I went online and tried to buy the bed frame and matttress. Great - they had both. But wait. What about those bed slats which expressly do not come with the bedframe? Surely they sell those online? No. However, they are in stock at the shop.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Nice Fillmore East 1969

Live And Unleashed...
Fillmore East 1969
The Nice

Out of all of EMI's new reissues of The Nice's Charisma label back catalogue, this two-disc set totaling over 90 minutes is likely to be of most interest to fans of The Nice.

Whilst a couple of tracks from this gig have been previously bulked up albums such as The Nice (1969) and Elegy (1971), this is the first time the complete concert at New York's legendary Fillmore East has been released.

Whilst the studio albums were often a little too variable for their own good, hearing the set flow from start to finish gives us a greater appreciation of how powerful and cohesive a unit The Nice were in concert.

Whilst Keith Emerson's off-the-cuff quotes of Bach and other popular classics may sound a touch arch by today's standards, it's easy to forget how hard-edged and radical this was to audiences largely fed on a diet of bluesy guitar jams.

This, coupled with his theatrical mauling of the Hammond organ, added not only an arresting visual dimension but the resulting ear-bleeding atonality of such pre-meditated destruction gave the group something of an avant-garde frisson as well.

Though Lee Jackson's sandpaper-rasp of a voice suited the rockier repertoire, his limitations are spotlighted in the quieter parts such as their imaginative reading of Tim Hardin's sublime Hang On To A Dream.

Nevertheless, Jackson's bass playing was entirely dependable and together with drummer Brian Davison's always elegant but always robust sense of swing, the pair provided an unswerving rhythm section that was in effect the safety net to Emerson's high-wire act and what made the band such an exciting proposition.

When this show was recorded The Nice were only weeks away from breaking up. Yet the risk-taking that went from Dylan to Dvorak remains exhilarating, edgy and largely underrated.

This review first appeared here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No-Man On DVD

Last night I watched a preview copy of a forthcoming documentary about no-man which director Richard Smith had very kindly sent me.

Smith has nailed that deep centre on which no-man's music rests: melancholy, loss, possibility, hope. None of these topics are easy to convey without coming over as precious or obvious but the measured narrative which the documentary constructs really brings these elements out with sensitivity and respect for the subject matter.

Resisting the temptation to cover the screen in "arty" shots, jump cuts and all the other tosh one sees in so many documentaries these days also contributed to reasons why this was so watchable.

So often the director’s own artistic vision takes precedence over the subject matter and get in the way (don't get me started about Alan Yentob!!!). What I like about what Richard Smith has done is to relate the tale slowly and allow the participants ian unmediated space in which to talk and take time to express themselves and make their point.

It's more like a discussion rather than a trussed-up, trimmed series of soundbites.

Being a relative newcomer to no-man, it was fascinating getting the backstory on the early days with Ben Coleman, battle of the band competitions, the tensions which caused Bowness and Wilson to go it alone as a duo, and their “odd couple” working methods.

The bottom line is it made me want to play the albums and immerse myself in that world they painstakingly create.

Schoolyard Ghosts review
All The Blue Changes review

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Here And There

Debbie, Sam and Al left today for their annual visit to Wales to see Deb's father Bill and his wife, Kath. I always hate it when they make this journey, worrying that some terrible accident may befall them.

Sam said "Come on, my driving's not that bad." Of course it's not Sam's driving that I'm worried about. It's the driving of the others that always makes me nervous about this most precious of cargoes.

After they'd left I checked what Tom and Joe were up to and we quickly planned a menu for the next few days. Happily for me, the boys went up into town to do the shopping.

Living at the coast we often get coastguards going up and down en route somewhere. This afternoon though the rooftiles themselves were rattling as the big helicopter from RAF Boulmer swung into view.

I could also see coastguards moving up and down sea front. After twenty minutes or so, Joe emerged to tell me that according to his pals on MSN / texting, they were looking for a couple of swimmers who'd been reported as being in trouble.

Not long after that the regular police helicopter joined in the search. The noise from the two machines was truly deafening.

I could see a small crowd gathering at the seafront. I decided we should stay where we were indoors.

As I received texts from Debra updating me hourly on their progress to Wales, Tom, Joe and myself went about the daily routine of cooking, talking, gaming, reading, listening to music.

The noise from the helicopters came and went across the rest of the afternoon and again late at night.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nominations For God LXXXIX

Derek Bailey

Morning Reading IV

Another enjoyable commute to Newcastle with my sister Lesley. Arriving in town a little after 8.30 a.m. we had time to have a cup of tea at the Central library and catch-up on family matters, T. Dan Smith (no relation), and er, the nature of corruption.

After walking Lesley along to her place of work I realised that I'd stupidly forgot to charge the battery for the camera. So instead of the planned photo essay about the majestic sweep of municipal architecture or some such nonsense, I only had enough for power for half a dozen shots. This despite having not one but two batteries following the recent demise of the FZ-18.

En route to the Lit & Phil, I ended up on St. Nicholas Street looking back up towards Newcastle’s cathedral.

And here's the same view (almost) circa 1900...

Then onto my favourite port of call...

The Lit & Phil was fairly quiet today. Several regulars were in. I checked out to see if they had any more titles by Cormac McCarthy. I'd recently read The Road after being prompted to do so by blog pal Steven.

I read The Road sitting and came away emotionally exhausted and drained by the experience. The only other title they had was the second part of a trilogy which didn't seem like the best place to begin. So it was into the local history section in search of T Dan.

T Dan's autobiography was out on loan and after several associative browsings I found myself almost back where I began in the arts and recreation section. Next to these shelves there's a vestibule leading towards the fire exit...

which has to be one of the most impressive fire exits I've ever seen...

Let’s here it for The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers!


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