Find My Baby to Flag Day

SEVEN years ago, the UK general election took place without me taking an awful lot of notice. Not that much had changed five years later.

Not by choice, not by design. Had spent late nights working several of the previous ones as we raced to get as much of the available information in to our early newspaper editions as possible and always enjoyed it.

Just happened to be out of the country for both elections and more importantly, given how quickly any feeling of excitement felt by the news junkie in me is washed away by the sheer repetition and mud-slinging, the campaigns.

When David Cameron and Nick Clegg were being thrust in to their unholy alliance in 2010, was crossing the Pacific from China to Alaska – about as far as you can get from events back home.

Our cruise ship in Vladivostock harbour on the day of the 2010 election

Missed the entire campaign but watched most of the results roll in on a cruise ship with the advantage of not having to stay up all night to do it, although with a crossing of the International Date Line imminent, changing clocks pretty much nightly and going largely nocturnal, had no concept of time anyway.

Watching David Dimbleby in a cruise ship bar while explaining what on earth was going on to bemused Americans was one of those travel experiences you can’t really prepare for.

Two years ago saw nothing of the election but the result popped up on my phone in Zimbabwe which prompted excitement – not so much at the result but the fact that alert meant we were somewhere within range of Wi-fi.

That Wi-fi provided access to plenty of reaction from back home, much of it (as social media has a tendency to be) angry and bemoaning what a terrible state our country must be in to hand the Tories the keys unsupervised. Which made interesting reading in a country where people are too frightened to make any public comments on their leadership.

In between that, managed to witness another election from within a country as it took place – would have been two but Nigeria had the good grace to delay their vote until we had left, which was very nice of them given how long it took use to get across the border.

Bourbon Street

Watched most of the results for President Obama’s second election success in 2012 in a Bourbon Street bar in New Orleans at the end of a drive down the lower two-thirds of the Mississippi.

It was all rather low key and the locals seemed less than enthused at what was unfolding in front of them (that possibly had something to do with some of the competing attractions of Bourbon Street) while had drifted off in front of the TV back in my hotel room by the time the overall result was confirmed.

Right before the nightly false fire alarm went off, sparking the search for the one member of duty hotel staff who had the slightest clue about what to do without locking most of his guests and staff outside.

So what about this year, now that Theresa May has seen fit to bring us to the polls again?

Don’t buy the voter apathy line or the need to stick to the newly-imposed fixed terms – can think of at least one country that could be excused for wishing it was not saddled with four-year terms.

No fan of constant referendums (we’ve elected these people, let them sort out what we elected them for) but all for engaging people in politics at a time when plenty of people seem to have discovered some form of desire to have their say. Even if it is only in 140 characters.

But the plan is to complete the hat-trick of being out of the country. Just not sure where yet.

Purely by chance. Had long booked time off as my major break of the year and spent the night before the PM’s surprise announcement trying to whittle down a lengthy list of options of where to go. And failing miserably as kept stumbling across a few new ones.

It has been a bit unusual this year, normally have something sorted out long before this and have tried to put it out of my mind until in a position to sort it out.

But the intervention of the taxman has played havoc with the last few months, but finally that is all sorted and the necessary money paid – rather more than Monopoly would suggest – so know what the budget is for this year’s travels.

So where will it be once we get to payday at the end of the week and it is time to get booking?

You can forget a lot of the trips at the top of the travel bucket list – driving Route 66, London to Australia overland, another dose of West Africa, the remaining 11 states to complete the list… – as time and money do not allow.

After plenty of trips involving lots of travelling, there’s the option to just go to one place and relax. Not sure about that one, would probably get bored but not ruling it out. Especially if the place is somewhere like Cuba. Or Key West. With a drive from the mainland thrown in.

There’s staying nearer to home, be that a trip to the sun, a couple of city breaks in Europe or really going local, hiring a car and reliving family holidays in Cornwall or exploring Scotland.

Or there’s my old fall back of a trip to the States which – exchange rate notwithstanding – is sort of edging ahead. But where?

That could well be dictated by the need to do it on a bit of a budget and the cheaper air fares to the big cities of the east – you know, Boston and New York. Familiar ground.

So that’s looking the favourite, fly in to somewhere familiar for a few days and then head out on the road for a week. Possibly with some Red Sox thrown in.

There’s a fair bit more planning to go and once that is sorted it is on to that trip essential – a playlist.

REM have featured heavily on past US road trips (think a return to Athens, Georgia is pushing the mileage a bit in a week) and they popped up three times in the latest section of the A-Z from Moby to The Housemartins.

Fireplace is the most likely of their trio tracks to make any playlist, far more so than Finest Worksong or Find The River.

I Am Kloot popped up with Fingerprints which, as with all their Sky At Night album, reminds me of heading home from travels as listened to it for the first time on the bus from downtown New York to JFK airport after seven months on the road (and, given the start of this article, at sea).

We went past 3,500 with Radiohead’s Fitter Happier, dipped in to the repertoire of The Mighty Badger with James Taylor’s original Fire And Rain, returned to NYC (twice) with Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan, took in a drop of Half Man Half Biscuit (Fix It So She Dreams Of Me) and courtesy of a technical issue which seems to have reimported multiple versions of some tracks from a change of laptop, five versions (four live and identical) of Firecracker by Ryan Adams.

May moan about that technical issue when it happens with a song which is not as great.

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Ferris Wheel to Find Me, Ruben Olivares

Everyone claims that the times are a changing as theirs pass them by
And everyones’s right
Filthy and Fried – Drive-By Truckers

IT has been a bit nostalgic wandering through the latest batch of tracks on the A-Z trawl through my i Pod.

Wish that nostalgia had been for something historically or at least culturally significant, like the hip-hop wars which raged throughout the 1980s (at least they did if you spent the decade washing the ink off your fingers from reading the NME).

The warring factions in the weekly music paper’s office drew battle lines between their traditional white  boys with guitars and the upstarts from the streets of some American conurbation with their new-fangled rapping et al.

No, can’t spend too much time reminiscing about all of that as was far too ensconced in my indie guitar ghetto to consider listening to any of that stuff. Was definitely on the jingly jangly guitar side of the argument.

It took a while for the message to get through and make it in to the collection. Public Enemy popped up twice in this section. Although pretty sure Fight The Power was not written to soundtrack a walk to Sainsbury’s.

Some hip-hop did get through back then, mainly because it had some guitars in it (and it didn’t hurt they were going on about porn, parties and parental disapproval of haircuts).

But Fight For Your Right by The Beastie Boys mainly brings back memories of it being on the video jukebox while we were playing pool in the pub at lunchtimes when we should really have been in school, helped by knowing how to get at the button to keep playing for free.

Gilbert

Nope, the main memory from those teenage years of the 1980s was a green, rubber alien puppet with a penchant for slightly subversive comments in celebrity interviews and snot dribbling from his nose (once, infamously, in to a pop star of the day’s cleavage).

Actually had to check with Wikipedia and friends of a similar vintage that it was not a product of too many drinks during those pool session and, no, it was not my imagination.

Gilbert the Alien did exist and is fondly remembered by all those who have any recollection of him.

Gilbert first appeared on our screens on a Saturday morning TV show (Get Fresh, Wikipedia reliably informs me – bar Gilbert, have no other memory of it other than it was co-presented by perma-irritant Gaz Top).

At an age when Saturday mornings were first bearing the effects of the night before, the irreverent green thing on our screens was just what sixth formers lapped up amid the rest of the customary primetime fare for children.

Voiced with pretty much free rein by comedian Phil Cornwell, we didn’t always understand what he was going on about (particularly in the background like when he, allegedly, asked the drummer from Aswad to skin up) but he became must-see TV .

And then he was given his own series.

Gilbert’s Fridge had no right to be on children’s TV (there was, evidently, a later, adult version which nobody seems to remember) and lasted just one series, but we lapped it.

If we’d had water coolers in our school, we’d have gathered around it to discuss the previous evening’s programme.

If featured special guests (for some reason, Gilbert became Kim Wilde’s agent and worked in a typing pool with Wendy James from Transvision Vamp – another reason for teenage boys to watch) and regular sections such as the black and white World War II PoW camp series How Far To Hitchin? and Sunny Jolly Hols.

It is this bit – in which Gilbert heads off to Benidorm on his holidays with Get Fresh co-presenter Charlotte Hindle and a suitcase full of dead fish, who spent the entire time in the bath – which came rushing back as it used Fiesta by The Pogues as its theme tune.

Joyous music for joyous memories.

There has been more nostalgia in the last couple of weeks with a trip to London to meet up with a couple of old friends. Two people from different chunks of my life with little, maybe nothing, in common bar spending many years living in the capital. And knowing me.

Right up until they met in a Walthamstow pub and discovered one of them had spent the week working on an upgrade for the computer system at the company where the other worked (or something  like that, went straight over my head).

Mind you, he knows a few things about techie stuff – he was the man who set up this site on the back of a late-night conversation and it all sits on his work server.

Back when we were at school, however, he was not known for his musical taste. Yes we shared a penchant for Billy Bragg – who we once ambushed round the back of some benefit gig on Hackney Town Hall steps and made another of his regular appearances on the latest section from Kevin Morby to Mark Kozelek with The Few – but he needed some music therapy. Paul Young anyone?

So when he moved to London and got married (providing my first shot at a best man’s speech, totally improvised), the cost of me popping up to stay on a regular basis was a C90 compilation each trip designed to entertain and educate.

What became known as The Bollocks Tapes (the first  one, ever so wittily, was title Never Mind The Sex Pistol’s, Here’s Rob’s Bollocks…) built in to a catalogue of early-90s indie, although visiting too regularly meant they became filled with less than glorious album tracks.

And stirring somewhere in the house were some musical genes.

His eldest son played bass in indie wannabes Let’s Wrestle – still going, although with a new man in the rhythm section – and his youngest is the guitarist/singer/songwriter of the rapidly-emerging Girl Ray.

They are getting a fair amount of deserved attention, regular airplay on 6Music and have released a video which features my mate’s ex-wife. Which was a slightly odd watch.

We’ll get to both Let’s Wrestle and, hopefully, a lot more Girl Ray as the A-Z heads on, but there was more nostalgia from the latest batch – Fields of Athenry by The Dropkick Murphys who have the ability to remind me of any number of Irish, American, even African moments, and Final Day by Young Marble Giants.

Fighting In A Sack by The Shins bridges a fair few years and serves as reminder that their new album sits newly installed on the iPod and in need of a listen.

And, almost, right up to date there’s  Fill In The Blank by Car Seat Headrest (one of the discoveries this whole project was designed to find) and the wonderful Filthy And Fried by The Drive-By Truckers (‘Feeling lucky that 27’s the hardest thing she’ll have to survive’), my most recent obsession – particularly after an awesome two-hour set in Bristol.

And with that we’ll say adios until we see Almeria once again.

 

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Faust Arp to Feral

ENOUGH messing about, time to switch the emphasis a bit. This A-Z Challenge is, after all, supposed to be a blog largely about music.

So rather than rattle on about whatever has been grinding my gears in the days before and sticking a few paragraphs on the end about what soundtracked it, about time you joined the journey through the latest section as we meander our way through F from Radiohead to, well, some more Radiohead.

This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with a quiet few days that has not thrown too much ammunition for a good old rant (although pretty sure could make something from the overhead bus conversations which involved the phrases “I tried to stab him, yeah, but I had a reason… I don’t like him” and “She’s from the Forest. She’s incest”).

So here, with accompanying notes, are the 51 tracks it took to get from one Radiohead song to another.

  • Faust Arp – Radiohead
    Have a mixed relationship with Radiohead. Can argue they are wonderful and have disappeared up their own behinds in the same conversation and will always put them among the best live bands around.
    Very rarely, if ever, revisit any of the albums after OK Computer, they are just a little bit too much like hard work unless you are in the right mood.
    But this, like so many of the tracks of those albums, are always welcome when they pop up on the A-Z journey through my iPod.
  • Favorite Star – Rival Schools
  • Favourite Son – Drenge
  • Fazon – Jonathan Wilson
  • The Fear – Ben Howard
  • Fear City – Elliott Smith
  • Fear No Pain – Willy Mason
  • Fear Of A Black Planet – Public Enemy
  • Fear Of Flying – Teenage Fanclub
  • Fear Of The Knife – Skaters
  • Feasting – Young Fathers
  • Feather Man – Woods
  • Feed Me WIth Your Kiss – My Bloody Valentine
  • Feed Of Man – Billy Bragg & Wilco
  • Feed The Light – Joan As Police Woman
    This list of songs was the soundtrack for a bus journey to work – the one with that waterproof defence for an attempted stabbing. All very nice and enjoyable, but a lot of songs which have failed to grab my attention (although turning My Bloody Valentine up to full volume will do that).
    Much better to come, starting with…

  • Feed The Tree – Belly
    One of the reporters in the office celebrated his birthday today, having been born the month one of his colleagues retired from playing rugby, partly through injury and partly because that same newspaper (which would employ him again years later) wanted their new rugby writer to work on a Saturday – although did manage to sit on the bench for several games with a notebook in hand.
    Just before that, my previous employers shipped me off to Yate (the sort of place where referees come from) and after spending many lunchtimes in the local record shop, managed to convince them to lend me albums for reviews.
    Belly’s debut Star was the first of those and remember describing it as “the year’s first essential purchase”. Stand by that. Still listen to it and this track sounds as good as it always did.
    And one of the few songs to mention squirrels.
  • Feel – Bombay Bicycle Club
  • Feel – House of Love
  • Feel – Teenage Fanclub
  • Feel Better (FRANK) – The Family Rain
    A brief respite – never got a friend’s obsession with House of Love, not one of Teenage Fanclub’s finest and the other two largely unmemorable.
    But just when you started to drift off…

  • Feel Good Hit Of The Summer – Queens Of The Stone Age
  • Feel Good Hit Of The Summer – Queens Of The Stone Age
  • Feel Good Hit Of The Summer (Reprise) – Queens Of The Stone Age
    ‘Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol…’
    It’s pretty simple. Repetitive lyrics, driving basslines, a touch of menace and highly likely to leave you singing it to yourself all day. Maybe not always in the most suitable situations.
    First heard it on a BBC early evening music show. Not sure they quite knew what they were getting.
    ‘Co-co-co-co-co-cocaine’
  • Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz
    Band which seems to improve with each listen and, bizarrely given their cartoon heritage, rather more dimensional than you initially think.
    And one of those tracks which provided a title – possibly a tad obvious – for a blog post.
  • Feel The Pain – Dinosaur Jr
    Always loved this song (great video too) and it brings back some wonderful memories, although not perhaps ones which go with the song.
    We had spent the day in the beautiful Badlands of South Dakota and scrambled up to a rocky viewing point to watch a spectacular sunset before heading back to our bus which, with a few tweaks, doubled up as our bed for the night.
    Before crawling in to my customary cubby hole to sleep, sat up front to catch the last of the views and bonded with our newly-arrived driver Charlie over his choice of Dinosaur Jr to guide him through our long overnight journey to a strange encounter with some cheese,
  • Feel To Believe – Beth Orton
  • Feel To Follow – The Maccabees
  • Feel You – Julia Holter
    The next album is likely to take my iPod over the 13,000 track mark. Part of the idea of this A-Z journey through them was to unearth a few hidden gems.
    Nothing to see here.
  • Feelgood By Numbers – The Go! Team
    One of those bands who burst from nowhere and largely vanished just as quickly. They deserve to be remembered, if only due to one tale from office days gone by.
    A former colleague (then a reporter, now a senior figure in a large local newspaper group, editor and Dave Gorman lookalike) declined the customary drink after work because he was off to watch The Go! Team.
    Talk the next day, however, was not about the gig but the night in casualty caused by a stagediving bass player landing on top of him.
    And the fact his friend and erstwhile colleague was more concerned about chatting to the female paramedic.
  • Feeling A Moment – Feeder
  • Feeling Alright – Warpaint
  • Feeling Better – Sugar
  • Feeling Called Love – Wire
    Good little run this from some fine bands, although none of them at their best.
    Not sure what it says about me that my main reaction looking at that list is that Warpaint need a sub for their song titles.

  • Feeling Gravitys Pull – REM
    There’s some fantastic songs in this little section and this just about tops the lot.
    From a time when they seemed incapable of writing a bad song, this is one of their best and another that gave its name to a blog post title from a lengthy journey it played a key part in soundtracking.
    Those opening guitar notes take me back to arriving at Newport Centre to discover they had gone on stage rather earlier than expected and running (it was a long time ago) to catch a contender for my favourite gig just before they got too big to play places that small.
  • Feeling Oblivion – Turin Brakes
    Largely ignored Turin Brakes for too long, dismissing their fine debut LP as little more than part of the short-lived, largely forgotten quiet is the new loud movement.
    Almost stumbled in to seeing them live by accident and remembered how good they can be. Don’t discount them so easily.
  • Feeling So Strange Again – The Wolfhounds
  • Feeling The Strain – Lee Griffiths
    No, have no idea either. Unearthed some real gems on free CDs from magazines, Uncut in particular. But there’s an awful lot on my iPod that have me scratching my head about how it got there.
  • Feeling This – Blink 182
    Not a guilty pleasure, no reason to feel guilty. But like a fair few of their songs and this one brings back memories of  bouncing around in the back of a big yellow truck around Africa.
  • Feeling Yourself Disintegrate – The Flaming Lips
    Another of those bands which never quite made my mind up about. When they are good, they are well worth a listen. But don’t quite get the awe in which some people hold them.
  • Feels Like Fire – Ryan Adams
    Chances are on this journey through my iPod, you are never too far away from a Ryan Adams track. Without wading through the whole of my collection, pretty confident he appears more than any other artist – certainly tops the 300 track mark.
    There’s an argument that he (and we) would be better off being a bit more selective and this comes from one of those albums which never quite lived up to the early promise. Still good mind.
    Good odds on a Wedding Present track being not that far away…
  • Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala
  • (Feels Like) Heaven – Fiction Factory
  • Feet For Hands – Everything Everything
    It’s all getting a bit eclectic isn’t it? Fun though.
  • Feet Of Clay – Vashti Bunyan
    All very nice and there courtesy of a raid on a former housemate’s CD collection but, to quote the great philosopher Nigel Blackwell, I want a sun tan, not Vashti Bunyan

  • Felicity – The Wedding Present
  • Felicity – The Wedding Present
    Told you… two versions of an early track that had completely forgotten was a cover of an Orange Juice track. Quite surprising as have the original somewhere.
    In a musical dictionary somewhere, there’s a picture of Dave Gedge as the definition of jingly-jangly indie guitar music. Which was basically my life for many years.
  • Fell In Love With A Girl – The White Stripes
    Another one of those bands that pop up pretty often on this trip, but haven’t always convinced me. This is a pretty good place to start.
  • Felt Good To Burn – The Flaming Lips
  • Feltham Is Singing Out – Hard-Fi
    What was that about? Have an excuse with stuff from free sampler CDS, but actually spent money on this.
  • Femme Fatale – The Velvet Underground
  • Feral – Radiohead
    And so, as the headphones come out on the door through the office, we reach our destination. For now at least.
    Sure we’ll be back to the usual ramblings pretty soon.

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