when great singers grow old ( bob dylan at the royal albert hall )

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of all musicians on a stage, the ones who’ll have the trickiest time in later years are singers. it can be fairly uncomfortable watching a creature over sixty who had spunky hit records forty years ago trying to pull it off all over again night after night. the songs they once sang with ease, now bully them on high notes. it’s a tough one.

then again there’s a handful who face their new craggy limitations head on. it’s possible johnny cash and bob dylan caught sight of themselves naked in a mirror one morning with their saggy old nut sacks swingin down by their knees and thought maybe this could be a good look.. maybe this saggy old skin is new raw material for an audience who’ve also got breasts hanging like spaniels ears. [male and female]

everyone was shocked when johnny cash in his final hours made such a powerful record. his version of nine inch nails ‘hurt’ is maybe the most truthful compelling thing my ear will ever hear. it’s the sound of a man working within extreme limitations. he is free of every last inch of denial, and we the listener relate without even trying. we’re not being lied to.

i was lucky enough to see bob dylan at the royal albert hall the other night. sometimes i dread seeing old performers cause i’m faced with folk my own age who i fear will stink of boiled cabbage, however while i sat like a little fruit in a box above the stage, i found myself loving the view of dylan’s audience. the ones in the front row by the stage were discreetly grooving away like little pussycats, and during intermission the ones in a neighbouring box eves dropped on my conversation with thomas and joined in with praise for what we were witnessing. dylan’s audience is real nice.

never let it be said that old curly chops can’t sing. he’s always had a mindful approach to it. this year he’s confounding everyone by singing sinatra in a mood of softness that someone like tony bennett would enjoy.. he walked back and forth from a piano like he’d been riding a donkey all day, or come fresh off an operating table from hip replacement surgery. it was the most human yet theatrical stroll i’d ever seen…cutting a dash in winkle picker cowboy boots and hat that he never once removed, he looked like an old sheriff who no one dared mess with. he hardly spoke, yet radiated warm regard for his audience, and we returned it. he’s got a gifted pedal steel player in his band as well, and how i love that dreamy sound.dear reader, have you ever been to the albert hall?… i hope if you haven’t,that you one day will. as you walk towards that jewel of a spaceship early in the evening, you just know you’re headed somewhere special. right away on walking through one of her many doors it’s a charmed experience. even the toilets smell nice. i can force myself  to enjoy the rude stench of strong stale urine at the hammersmith odeon by pretending it’s all part of some rock and roll ritual, but it sure is nice to occasionally visit a music venue where the toilets smell of roses and respect for the human race. if i’m not mistaken, the curvy corridors have had a fresh lick of paint as well.

i wonder where dylan stayed while he was in london. i like to think it was a low key house in hampstead instead of some big hotel on park lane. i like to think he had supper at the troubadour in earls court where he once dated marrianne faithful in the 1960’s. i see judy collins is in town at the same time, and i like to dream that he maybe took her there since they’ve known each other since they were young… paul simon also used to hang out and play at the troubadour when he lived here in the sixties…..have you noticed how paul simon in his 70’s now looks like mel brooks?!…Pelosi+Reid+Join+Paul+Simon+Children+Health+lVUsP4JHJXdlPA-14735134

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vinyl records

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i’m thinking of buying a duffle coat. i want to walk around my local area wearing a duffle coat with a copy of ‘bridge over troubled water’ tucked under my arm in the pouring rain. maybe then, if i can get this vinyl nonsense out of my system, there’ll be a chance to finally move on.

anyway, i only bought a turntable cause it makes for nice furniture.. spinning away there.

a few years ago i started rebuilding a vinyl collection. it was fun for a while, but that second honeymoon’s over now. it’s getting unwieldly. as a teenager i was fine kneeling down on cold floors with a crooked neck fingering long rows of L.P’s to find a few songs to play, but i’m now feeling nostalgic for the convenience of mp3’s and iTunes playlists.

it’s fun to think of those record shops around soho whose good fortune is being close to places where one might drink strong nancy cocktails, for there is no trap like drifting out of a bar feeling high, and then into a record shop. one will surely buy clutter one doesn’t need. just watch for queens with a little bit of disposable income. many who surgically remove themselves from a cocktail lounge, suffer a second ordeal of walking past a record emporium… meanwhile over in new york.. at the top banana waldorf astoria hotel….boys love box sets, and the new spendy david bowie box set will be extremely tempting … it’s all about those big chunky boxes furnishing our ikea manshelves. girls, from what i can tell aren’t so stupid, but boys have been proudly displaying trophies on shelf space ever since collecting dinky toy cars as toddlers, and we’ve never stopped ..

i see they’ve done a deluxe vinyl re-issue of the rolling stones ‘sticky fingers’. being over fifty, all i desire is that andy warhol cover art… i could frame and hang it on the stairway wall..the record inside is superfluous to my needs. they can re-master the music till they’re blue in the face and still ‘brown sugar’ will never ever sound as good as it did back in 1971 in that school assembly hall disco, on that shitty record player when i was twelve years old with young ears clear as bells where everything rang shiny and new.

perhaps the best thing is walking through town or waiting on a train with good headphones attached to a smartphone…the music turns dreary station platforms into a time of great reflection. it turns a trudge up regent street into a movie scene of sheer romance. you may laugh, but to hear cilla black sing ‘alfie’ privately in your ear as you glide up regent street, can be a deeply moving experience. that sly little mobile gadget might even nudge an oldster like me towards listening for something new.

dear reader.. it’s friday…..happy weekend  … mary fairy liquid.

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live recording of comedy on bbc radio4

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have you ever been to a live recording of a radio show at the bbc?.. if you haven’t, and if you’re ever around london you could give it a go. it’s free and a lot of fun. you just sign up on their website http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/  then tick the types of programs you’d be interested in. sooner or later you’ll get invited along.IMG_5018 - Version 2
one of the neat things is the beautiful building itself.. on arrival you wait in a cafe where a soundproof glass wall overlooks that big room you see on the ten o’clock news…you get a birds eye view of the bees beavering away before they usher you into the very theatre where kenneth williams and peter sellers recorded all those great radio shows. most of all it’s just a gas witnessing performers nail it to the wall for future broadcast.

IMG_5024 - Version 2the thing we went to see being recorded was a radio4 comedy called ‘hangups’.  apparently it comes on just before the archers, so i guess it gets a fairly large listenership. it’s about a son living in london calling home to sheffield on the phone to his parents and grandmother. the script was brimming with proper punchlines.

you’re given the full nine yards.. a warm up performance that lubricates a live audience into a laughing mood.. then the recording of the actual shows, and finally a rerecording of the few little bits where they’ve buggered things up.

the fella who wrote the scrip, taking central character comes from sheffield. he looks a lot like frank zappa and was a real sweetheart. he performed the warm up too, all keen for his work to go good. his name is tom wrigglesworth.

proof of what a sweetheart he is comes in a story i found on the dolly-net of how one day he was riding a train from manchester headed to london, where an old lady was being challenged by a heartless ticket inspector who attempted to make her buy a new full price ticket…tom intervened and got other willing passengers to do a whip round to pay for her new ticket,but the jobsworth ticket inspector then arranged for tom to be arrested on arrival at euston on the grounds of begging. the other passengers became embroiled and stood firm on the side of good, so all ended well….the whole experience became material for one of his first comedy shows.

tom now lives in london where i’m guessing is a full time employee of the bbc…i liked his northern yorkshire sheffield barnsley manchester accent…it’s heartwarming to hear those kind of voices peppered among the spectrum of accents around london town.

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after a dander round the galleries, thomas suddenly wonders aloud if it’s possible to take high tea at claridges without having previously booked a table. we’d never been before and i in jeans, t-shirt, and canary yellow rolling stones overcoat, wondered if you had to wear collar and tie. i’d had high tea at the savoy many moons ago with a record producer, and when i removed my jacket a waiter gently requested i put it back on again.. so y’know.

we took a deep breath and just headed in…lovely smiley cor blimey eastender men at the front door wearing top hats to welcome us …we sniffed our way towards the room serving high tea, and no worries..we we’re duly parked at a table with masses of flowers looming over us while a piano and double bass player quietly performed jazz standards close by.

i could waffle on about how funny it is to eat crustless fresh sandwiches with tiny knives and forks,and how the crockery cuts a seriously nice dash, but the thing that i found most interesting was the eighteen year old waiter who enthusiastically educated us regarding the huge tea selection on the menu….this kid was so into it, he even persuaded me to forget about the milk…there are thirty different types of tea on that menu, and he was happy to talk about the flipping lot.

so we’re sitting there getting stuck in, and when the young waiter returns to refill, i’m asking him where he sees himself in ten years…my curiosity was born out of his obvious passion… i was glad i asked.. it turns out he was taken as a treat to claridges when he was fourteen, and was so spellbound by the experience, a member of staff picked up on it, and gave him a flying tour of the hotel. by the time he was fifteen he was working there during   school holidays, and then at sixteen he was there full time, so now at eighteen, he’s got three years experience working in one of the most glamorous gaffs in london town..by the time he’s in his middle years he’ll surely know every nook and cranny of that hotel.. future manager material. he was erudite and savvy. i’d never seen such roundedness in someone so young.

what really got me thinking was how the spirit of that young chap was so high and intact. a key thing in his story was how he was ever taken to claridges in the first place. i’m thinking his parents were at least able to afford those occasional treats..so his good fortune begins right there. his potential is unlocked and encouraged…just as it should be…..but then i’m thinking about all those other kids who may never know such access.. the human spirit is often a fragile thing…some blossom against the roughest odds,while others brimming with talent just get crushed by the lack of so many things…parents who are already crushed themselves..crap schools..no money.. then again,we’ve all met those silver spooned kids who go into their own strange free fall as well.

i used to have blind contempt for money..a really reductive view on it…maybe that view enabled me to be a freewheeling youngster who fearlessly garnered life experience, but i was one of the lucky ones who even on pennies somehow found a way to glean joy from my days… i guess i’ve got music to thank for that..it’s scary to think what a powerful emotional spiritual influence money has over us. at 56 years of age, if i had one shred of insight to pass on to young ones,it would be to earnestly search for the one thing you’d do regardless of cash and hang on to it for dear life, cause if you end up getting up in the morning only for money, the roof on your spirit could get very very leaky,yet if there’s no money at all, it’s just crushing…money’s an emotional/spiritual issue, and i never thought i’d say that.

having stuffed ourselves on the softest sandwiches ever, we couldn’t eat our pastries, so the young waiter boxed them beautifully along with complimentary chocolates. before we left the room he caught me eyeing big sweetie jars full of lemon sherbets and colourful candy canes by the door. he handed me two strong paper bags and told me to take as much as i liked. we then wondered back out into the art deco foyer ablaze with the smell of freshly cut flowers to soak up the rarefied atmosphere of privilege before finally heading home.

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derek boshier

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the other day we went into london to see a derek boshier exhibition. do you know him?..he’s the one who designed that great sleeve for bowie’s lodger. his peers are people like peter blake who did the sgt peppers album sleeve and allen jones who inspired those sexy sculptures in clockwork orange. during the punk period derek boshier curated an important event where he displayed folk working in graphic design, photography and comics alongside accepted artists, in order to press home the idea that the term artist should be perceived beyond those standing by an easel holding paintbrushes. derek believes all human beings have artistic potential. one of the talented people he shone a light on was barney bubbles who did strong record sleeves for folk like ian dury, devo and hawkwind…barney bubbles also did that neat music video for the specials ‘ghost town’… poor fella wrestled with bipolar disorder and gassed himself.

one of the lovely things about our recent resurge in vinyl records is many of the sleeves are finally being reassessed as legitimate works of art in themselves. at the time many fine ones were just passed off as decent record covers, but lots of it was spectacular, even if the music inside them was sometimes less so.
i love this picture of the day they shot david bowie’s lodger album cover..he’s raised on some very uncomfortable scaffolding, and then has a slab of glass laid over him to bring about a disfigured effect. the aesthetic of it conspires to keep bowie relevant during those harsh punky seasons without literally turning him into a punk..it really is top banana…he’s not trying to look cute or pretty…he isn’t suffering from what i call ‘cuteness disease’ where artists become slaves to their own vanity rather than serving the greater good.Z_1614_04

there’s a couple of things on lodger that i love…a ballad called fantastic voyage….it’s so heartfelt…the other one is ‘boys keep swinging’ the track sounds very raw and brian eno got that feeling by getting the slick session players to swap and play unfamiliar instruments,thereby giving it a youth club amateurish feel…no established star in recording studios during the 1970’s would have dared think like that.

y’know a funny thing is how many folk fear that art galleries might be a bit bourgeois,but in my own limited experience,it’s rarely the case. after we left the gallery showing derek boshier,we nipped into another one i love called the halcyon ..they represent bob dylan, and right now they’re showing these joyous blow up photographs of pele the footballer in his prime. some of them are treated with glitter,while others are atmospheric night shots of him on playing fields in super fit condition..they’re showing in both galleries which face each other on conduit street… everytime we go in, someone who works there casually gets a conversation going and then lavishes us with entertaining information about the art on the walls and floor…a lovely scottish girl enthusiastically gave up a good half hour of her time…she even encouraged me to take photos..it was anything but bourgeois.

high end clothes stores are far more intimidating, [if you allow them to be] … in fact, further down the road from the halcyon gallery, we walked past a shop selling patek philippe watches, and when i attempted to take a photo of the window, a security man told me it wasn’t allowed… silly old bouncer.

planned_accidents_zps6cf8f169aside from all the other great things about this bowie shot, i love that he’s wearing a string vest…isn’t that a snazzy touch to an already great picture?

after the galleries, thomas blew my mind by wondering if on the spur of the moment we could have high tea at claridges without booking, and we did.. i’ll surely write about that later.

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tom hardy … james dean

we went to see that new kray twins movie last night where tom hardy plays both brothers. in my mind, he’s easily the most watchable and compelling english actor to hit the screen in decades. i first encountered him in these clips, which for me are at once hilarious and very very horny. something in the style echoes clockwork orange, and even though these scenes are mighty enough, tom’s talent has developed ten fold since then

at around twenty years of age,tom battled addiction to crack cocaine, but the counter story to that is him honing his craft in live theatre. i can’t help wondering if there’s something in the combination of those two experiences that enables him to unhinge so completely in front of a camera. he’s not born out of mere industry..you can smell experience in the way he carries things off, but then people who know addiction are always worth watching..sometimes i think the ones who are all neat and tidy early on in life,end up flatlining later on, while the messy ones who try things out early on, go somewhere interesting on the grounds of their daring impulsive nature. the insight they gain renders them convincing with whatever bone they decide to chew on in this life. maybe these are the things that make tom hardy such a gripping watchable actor, but he wasn’t always so confident. there was a time he had to have his beloved dog with him during all acting classes cause of low self esteem. he needed a companion present who depended on him in order to maintain some self worth. dear reader, how human and heartbreaking is that?

it was a treat to see the kray twins movie[legend] at the old mayfair curzon. even though a biggish room with an exceptional sound system,it doesn’t have that awful blockbuster feel that so many cinemas have. to sit in the middle, close to the front in those deep plush velvet seats evokes a proper cinema feeling. please excuse me for harping on about going to nice cinemas…i only rediscovered them over these last years.. from around the 1980’s i hardly ever went to the movies. i loathed those huge cineplexes that surfaced around that time. all those action man type blockbusterish movies do nothing for me…people drinking coca cola out of beakers the size of rattling ice buckets. the one and only good experience i ever had in a generic 1980’s cineplex was an afternoon in leicester square to see prince’s purple rain, where i cried like a baby during the title song at the end on a near empty screening..it was bliss. i was a river of tears.tom hardy legend

another film we went to see last week was a special preview of ‘life’..the final six months of james deans life while he wasn’t completely famous. it’s a beautiful thing to watch…very subtle and completely different to the tom hardy one. the fella who plays james dean is cute as buttons and captures the character in a canny gentle personable way.

after the movie the director anton corbijn took to the stage and gave one of those question/answer things for half an hour. he’s a lovely understated man, and was the main reason i came. you may already know that his career started out as a photographer for bands like joy division and depeche mode…i loved the visuals he did for those groups, so it was great to encounter him more closely,as he winds down his career as a photographer to become a fully fledged movie director.y’know it must be great to grow up in london…that’s what i came away thinking after seeing tom hardy in ‘legend’..tom was raised in hammersmith,and i’m thinking to grow up in that urban setting surely must arm a young person with serious street smarts.. country boys and girls have a lot of catching up when they come to a city.

here’s a picture of the much loved curzon in soho in the late 1950’s..the exterior hasn’t changed much at all…let’s hope it doesn’t get knocked down next year as they forge ahead with the new cross rail thing…why why why can’t they just plough through that hideous angus steakhouse further down the road instead…….kiss kiss readers ..mary fairy liquid.columbia-cinema-curzon-soho-1958-00o-2hc

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child in time

i’d like to show you my lady garden … isn’t it good.IMG_3175

in my mind those figurines are the three degrees singing ‘when will i see you again’.  y’know gardening’s a pure and sure sign of age. when i was younger living in ireland, thomas would come over on visits despairing how i never cut the grass. in summer it grew four foot high, but i was fine with that.spiky thistles would appear, and i’d perceive it as a natural meadow. how i loved smoking joints out there in the summertime. these days i’m drug free, hoovering carpets, dead heading flowers, and it’s freaking me out. in turn it’s making me freak the garden out by rendering the scene devoid of any good taste. it’s full of ghosts peeping out from behind flowers. when a dear german friend of thomas’s was over, he didn’t like it at all, but i wonder if the worst taste is what aspires to be good taste itself.IMG_3169IMG_4616 - Version 2

here’s another sign of age.. this is a picture of the coarse thick one inch long hair i pulled out of my nostril this morning…please kill me now.IMG_4602

another sign of age is corduroy..it’s a blue blanket for those who were teenagers in the early 1970’s..little levi corduroy jackets and jeans..suede chelsea boots. let’s not forget those t-shirts that folk my age just love to wear.i have em all. lou reed..cockney rebel…ones with record labels on them..clockwork orange.. extinct recording studios. my clothes yell david cassidy and the partridge family, and i’m 56 years old, but does it really matter?IMG_2898

the most awful sign of ageing happened to me a while back … i was wanking furiously at four in the morning in the hope of getting some sleep…mid-stroke i found myself fumbling around in the dark for my asthma inhaler.. so i gave up and just glowered at the ceiling.IMG_3153

all i can say is thank heavens for modern technology. computers and the dolly-net plunge us into the 21st century weather we like it or not.. we get to hear all the new music for free. i for one love lots of it , but it won’t stop me singing the bee gees in the kitchen ..oh god no.

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