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Cult Sights & Sounds, Bristol, Spain & South America

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Look at the Fool: Jake Thackray, the Frank Zappa of Folk

Jake Thackray divides opinion. There are those who, with some justification, regard him as a male chauvinist (partly true) and as a poor, Anglophone substitute for Georges Brassens, the great French chanteur (undoubtedly true, but also irrelevant if you don’t speak French and you want to get the jokes).  But the jokes aren’t even funny, Jake’s detractors cry. And he’s a male chauvinist. But the rest of us – at least, that portion of the public who are aware of his former existence  – see in Jake Thackray the classic tortured genius wrapped in comedian’s clothing, the Frank Zappa of folk, the Fool who dares to tell it like it is (men are dirty bastards; women talk too much; don’t be a sheep and follow the herd). Of course, a lot of people think there’s no place for humour in music and pour scorn on those – like Zappa – who wear their brilliance lightly. So let’s look at the fool, warts and all. But first a Tim Buckley song:

Continue reading “Look at the Fool: Jake Thackray, the Frank Zappa of Folk”

On Brandon Hill: Popular Culture in Bristol since WW2

Yes! It’s finally hit the shelves of Smashwords as a FREE (free!) e-book! On Brandon Hill is the FIRST EVER comprehensive history of post-war Bristolian culture, spanning the years 1945 to 2020 (or thereabouts) and covering all the major art forms for which the city is famous – music, TV, animation, street art – as well as its less celebrated contributions to film, theatre, literature, fine art etc. Continue reading “On Brandon Hill: Popular Culture in Bristol since WW2”

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In Extremadura, now ILLUSTRATED!

My second book first came out in 2017 and, while those of you lucky enough to get a hard copy would have enjoyed the plethora of pictures therein, downloaders had to make do with a text-only version. Until now! Finally, I have bowed to pressure and added the photos you’ve all been missing. And it still won’t cost you a penny!

In Extremadura is a radical deconstruction of the Brit Abroad genre (see, for example, A Year In Provence)  (on second thoughts, don’t!)  Spanish/South American travelogue, potted history and treatise on the nature of mortality rolled into one, it includes predictable digressions on cinema (Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel)  literature (Javier Cercas, Tintin) peregrination,  wild swimming in Scotland, celebrity speed freaks and the death of David Bowie.  Continue reading “In Extremadura, now ILLUSTRATED!”

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David Bowie, The Man Who Fooled The Earth

I know you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but there I was watching the David Bowie Five Years doc from 2013 on BBC4 the other night and I found myself thinking (for the umpteenth time in my life) what’s all the fuss about? I mean, this was by common consent Bowie’s purple patch, from 1975 to 1980 or thereabouts, when he recorded a clutch of albums (Young Americans, Station To Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters) that even I concede are pretty humungus, yet all the documentary served to do was remind me of the myriad reasons why Bowie and his followers annoy me, while pointedly ignoring his cocaine-fuelled flirtation with fascism. Continue reading “David Bowie, The Man Who Fooled The Earth”

Archaeology Corner: Restoration Ruin and “Outsider” Music  

An album I can’t stop playing right now is jazz pianist Keith Jarrett’s Restoration Ruin. No, stop, come back… don’t let the words “jazz pianist” put you off, just because this man made a record in Cologne (the legendary “Koln Concert”) which comprises of nothing but solo piano for eight and a half hours, or summat. Restoration Ruin is a very different beast. There’s  very little piano, for one thing. But Jarrett does, like Stevie Wonder and Todd Rundgren and Prince, play every instrument, including guitar, bass and (on two tracks) drums. And it’s the only album he ever sang on. Some might say that’s a good thing, but I don’t. I’d like him to sing on all his albums. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Restoration Ruin and “Outsider” Music  “

Unidentified: Soundtrack To An Imaginary Movie

Sadly, I‘ve now abandoned my Charles Manson musical as being in questionable taste and – since it relied on the music of the Beatles, specifically the entire White Album – financially and legally prohibitive. But every cloud has a silver lining (except for Brexit – can’t see any silver linings in that particular notebook). So I’m directing my waning energies towards the intriguing story of singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan, and the potential his disappearance in 1975 offers for the Weird Scenes In The Desert movie to end all Weird Scenes In The Desert movies, Grand Theft Parsons, Vanishing Point and Electra Glide in Blue notwithstanding. Continue reading “Unidentified: Soundtrack To An Imaginary Movie”

Every Album I Own: Z is for Zappa (& the Mothers)

“Oh, Jeanne, to reach you at last, what a path I had to take,” Michel tells the object of his desire at the end of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket. He’s seen his best friend Jacques steal her away (although, being French, he doesn’t seem that bothered); he’s taken her to his mother’s funeral; fled to Rome to avoid the authorities, and from there to England (he won’t be doing that post-Brexit) where he plies his trade, blowing his pickpocketed gains on other women and drink. But the pull of the Motherland is strong, and Michel returns to France, only to find that Jeanne has a child by Jacques, who has abandoned her. Michel is finally caught at the race-track by a plainclothes policeman and sent down. Only in prison can he finally tell Jeanne how he really feels. Continue reading “Every Album I Own: Z is for Zappa (& the Mothers)”

Every Album I Own: Y is for Neil Young

Forever Young huh? My first brush with Neil was a copy of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young classic, Déjà Vu, which my cousin Marc and I inherited as part of a job lot from a kindly neighbour circa 1978. We were fourteen (fifteen in Marc’s case) and keen to expand our record collection beyond Led Zeppelin IV and a couple of Hawkwind albums, and Darrell was keen to oblige. Years later, we discovered he was a paedophile, but he never hit on us, so who am I to judge? Darrell, if you’re reading this in prison, thanks for the introduction to Neil Young, though maybe not so much Barclay James Harvest. Continue reading “Every Album I Own: Y is for Neil Young”

Bristol Fashion: Where’s My Money?

Mike Manson’s Where’s My Money (2008) is set in Bristol in 1976, and fairly reflects the strange, paralysed, but not unpleasant atmosphere of the mid-1970s. I guess it depends how old you were or what you were into at the time. This was the golden age of free festivals, for example – only the year before, enlightened Home Secretary Roy Jenkins (pre-SDP) had given his blessings to a government-sponsored festival at Watchfield, where Hawkwind played, and bad acid left dozens of people curled up in panic-stricken balls around the festival site. Continue reading “Bristol Fashion: Where’s My Money?”

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