Thursday, 30 September 2010

Alfred E Neuman: It's A Gas!

I am indebted to my esteemed former colleague The Great Devereaux who has reminded me of this classic recording from 1963 by The Usual Bunch of Idiots at MAD magazine (by the time it reached the antipodes the clock had ticked on to 1965). The official site for MAD is here, but there's loads of fansites worth looking at, and more Mad recordings at You Tube.

Monday, 27 September 2010

100 Club

Old farts and musos in general will be alarmed and depressed to learn that the 100 Club in Oxford Street is scheduled to close at the end of the year. The owner says the club has been losing £100K per year for the last three years mainly because of a 45% rent increase in 2007, and increases in taxes and business rates meanwhile.
The 100 Club is really quite grotty, run down and squalid. But it has atmosphere (and not just the one you can smell). The owner's policy has always been to encourage originality and not to aim for the 'corporate market' i.e. the over-fed executives on expenses who can afford to pay £40 smackers for a bottle of wine and £25 quid on burger and chips. Admission prices are kept low and the place is fairly relaxed in matters of dress and decorum. So I guess you don't make much money that way, even though the venue is successful, well-attended and musicians want to play there.
The roll-call of luminaries to have played the 100 Club is impressive. Not only has our Phil played there with his former band Hanzo, but so too have Humphrey Lyttleton, The Rolling Stones, B B King, Eric Clapton, The Clash, and many more. It'll be a shame if it closes down and the world loses such a prestigious and independent venue. But so it goes. Maybe Mick Jagger could shell out some of his spare cash and buy a share in the business. £100K a year is not much to him - he probably spends more on having his hair done.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Earl Hooker

Older readers may recall me droning on once before about Old Blues Men being ripped off by various herberts who then go on to make millions whilst the rippee dies an early death. One such is  Earl Hooker who recorded a tune called 'Blue Guitar' in May 1961 - he was messing around in the studio without knowing the tape was running and his astute record boss subsequently issued it as a single. It was a 'hit' on yer Chicago blues scene and so Muddy Waters over-dubbed vocals on to it, lyrics by Willie Dixon, and it became 'You Shook Me' which was then covered by Led Zeppelin; who strangled it to death with Robert Plant's singing and got generally pompous about it.
The intriguing aspect of all this ripping offage is that for the Muddy Waters record and Led Zeppelin, songwriting credit is given to Willie Dixon - and he is the bloke who spearheaded the campaign to get yer Old Blues Men credited (and paid) when they were ripped off by the music biz in general. A case of the rippee ripping? Any road up, here's Earl Hooker's original:

Earl Hooker died from TB aged 41 in a sanatorium, a year after Led Zeppelin's first LP was released.
Earl Hooker used a twin-necked guitar.
Robert Plant now does country & western.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Not Long Left Now...

Ho hum.
According to some anonymous forecaster at The Latter Rain, the World is going to be destroyed by God on 21 October 2011. He reckons this will be preceded by 'The Rapture' on 21 May 2011, so if you want to be saved you'd better get your skates on. (The Rapture is when, he claims, all those who are to be saved will be transported to Heaven. Any road up, only 240 days to go!)
This chap is not the first to predict The End, but you'd think he'd have figured by the experience of previous doom merchants that it's always a bit dodgy to actually put a date on it because when nothing happens, you'll look a bit daft. As well as sounding daft, as at present. I have attempted to read some of this piffle but I've given up. Phew - it beats me why a God would make all this business so darn complicated.
As I understand it, 'The Latter Rain' movement is a kind of unstructured extremist Pentecostal agglomeration, and it overlaps with the Mormons in some way although separate from them. The movement seems to have occasional flurries of activity when adherents take it up, but then it seems to fade away. Late 19th century, mid-20th century, and now early 21st century.
I wonder if they've checked this out with Paul The Octopus?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Pope Has Landed

Herr Obergruppenfuhrer Der Benedict von Pontif has arrived and, so far, has not excommunicated anyone so that's a relief. He says he's a bit worried by 'aggressive secularism' but then some of us are a bit worried by 'agressive religion' so maybe we can agree on a kind of uneasy truce at least, and avoid any unpleasantness. I appreciate Herr Pope acknowledging British tolerance of differing beliefs and the fact that Britain did a fair bit in opposing the Nazis. It's a shame we can't say the same about The Vatican whose record of religious tolerance is not a good one, whose status as an independent state was established by the fascist government of Mussolini, and whose former leader Pius the Nth negotiated a 'Concordat', or non-agression treaty, with Adolf Hitler.


“Anyway, poetry is not the most important thing in life, is it? Frankly, I'd much rather lie in a hot bath sucking boiled sweets and reading Agatha Christie, which is just exactly what I intend to do as soon as I get home.” -- Dylan Thomas
I've never really got into poetry either, Dylan me old china. I've made a couple of attempts and I do sometimes come across the odd poem that strikes me, but it's not something I sit and read very much for very long. I've got a handout somewhere here from a tutorial a while back which might be useful so perhaps I'll get round to it shortly.
Meanwhile, at the moment I'm reading two books concurrently:
'The Big Knockover and Other Stories' by Dashiell Hammett
A collection of short stories, written in the 1920s,  from the author of The Maltese Falcon, which likewise feature hard-boiled, flawed but basically decent private detectives outwitting the low-life and the police.
'The Essential Tales of Chekhov' by Anton Chekhov
Yer man Chekhov wrote over two hundred short stories and this book contains twenty of them, selected by some dude called Richard Ford. Written in the 1880s and 1890s. Chekhov was amongst the writers who defined the modern short story, and a particular feature of his stuff is that they do not necessarily have a resolution and they often end in misery for all the protagonists. The narrative kind of generates a feeling or oblique reflection on life or moral values rather than a plot.
Otherwise, I'm all in favour of soaking in the bath although I'm not all that keen on boiled sweets. I'm more of a whisky and soda person.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Another of Life's Great Imponderables

Most houses, flats, condominiums, and even air-raid shelters, come equipped with coat hooks and cupboards. Why is it then that so many people, particularly associates of the Xorg Collective, never hang their coats up or put their shoes way? Some even litter their clothing all over the floor in apparent disarray, regardless of its relative state of cleanliness or otherwise. It's a mystery to me. All outer clothing such as coats and jackets, moreover, comes with a little loop sown into the collar to facillitate the hanging up thereof on the aforementioned hook - of which there are eight in Xorg HQ's hallway, vestibule, foyer, call-it-what-you-will. One does not object to the temporary and occasional deposit of a jumper or cardigan on the back of a chair. But after three days, I reckon you're taking the mickey. Likewise the layers of clothing detritus on the banister at the foot of the stairs - the coat hooks are less than two metres away, ferchris'sakes! Of particular annoyance is the practice of leaving shoes in the doorway or at the bottom of the stairs where they will provide optimal obstruction potential. Is this deliberate? The shoe cupboard is easily accessible, just by the coat hooks.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Nothing can be a bit of a difficult concept. Nothing really matters, according to Mr Mercury, and according to Mr Lennon, Nothing Is Real. And not everyone can even agree on what to call it. If you're playing cricket you can be out for naught or, alternatively, a duck. Nothing is Love in tennis, but in football it is Nil. If you happen to be a shepherd but you have no sheep, would you still be a shepherd? Which brings us to the problem of counting nothing. Headaches all round, because there has to something between +1 and -1, doesn't there? (We know that there is such a thing as a negative number in the so-called real world because the banks, amongst others, tell us so. If you draw out more money than you pay in, then you are in debt).
So we have established the concept of Zero, Nothing, Nil etc.
Meanwhile, if you divide 1 by 1, you get 1. One goes into one once. So how many times does nothing go into nothing? Once. So 1 = 1. No problem there. So 1 over 1 equals, and 0 over 0 equals 1. Therefore, 0 = 1.
Hold up! That can't be right...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Shadow Move

In 1963, when The Beatles were making their big breakthrough, The Shadows actually sold more records than the Fab Four. But by 1965, things were different and The Shads were being left behind a bit by not only The Fabs but also The Stones, The Yardbirds and so forth. So The Shadows figured they'd better get with it and ventured into slightly more dangerous territory (for them). 'Don't Make My Baby Blue' was part of the results; vocals, and note the distorted lead guitar as opposed to Hank's previously clean sound and an almost-bluesey lead break. Not a bad record but sadly The Shadows remained forever tainted by association with Sir Clifford of Richard and none of us were convinced that they could hack it alongside the likes of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. And, indeed, they couldn't. But I still like them for being The Shadows.

The Move subsequently covered this song on their album 'Shazam', showing how to get heavy with a decent pop song. This version fulfils the criteria for cover versions as set out in The Xorg Collective Concordat Concerning Covers.

What A Waste of Money

That perpetrator of various misdeeds, His Unholiness The Pope Himself, is shortly to visit the UK. It is not clear why he is visiting other than to carry out some mumbo-jumbo beatifying the corpse of a long-dead Anglican convert of dubious sexuality, but it seems that the British taxpayer is paying for the visit to the tune of £10 million smackers plus policing costs. The Catholic Church in the UK is paying a similar amount which they are raising by selling souvenirs and charging Believers to attend the events. The Vatican doesn't look like it is short of cash so it makes you wonder, especially when not many people seem all that bothered about His Presence Being Among Us. A poll conducted by ComRes for the Theos theology 'Thinktank' indicates most of us are generally apathetic about the visit and object to paying for it. Another poll by Ipsos MORI, on behalf of the Catholic magazine The Tablet,  confirms the general level of apathy although Catholics, unsurprisingly, seem to be in favour. 
I presume the justification is that the visit is being treated as an 'Official State Occasion' rather than a Pastoral visit but I fail to see what benefit the taxpayer will get from shelling out £10 million quids at a time when public services are being cut back somewhat arbitrarily and ruthlessly.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Spontaneous God

Stephen Hawking has set the cat among the pigeons by theorising in his new book that 'God' was not necessary and that the Universe would have created itself anyway. He doesn't actually say that 'God' doesn't exist but no doubt religious types will interpret it that way. Expect a fatwah any day now from either or both The Ayatollah or The Pope.
Notwithstanding that the concept of 'God' gives the Universe (and humanity in particular) purpose beyond itself, God by definition can't have been created by someone or something else. So, either 'God' created himself and the Universe from nothing or the Universe created itself from nothing. Either belief seems paradoxical to me; I suspect nothing was created.