Heaven, Sittin Down to Heroin

Have set myself the challenge to write a blog post a day throughout May. Probably going to regret it, but here we go.

THERE are a few habits which have developed when it comes to writing blog posts on this A-Z journey through my iPod. It adds up to the following routine.

  • Listen to a load of songs on my iPod.
  • List the tracks worth mentioning in the next post.
  • Try to find some theme for the next post among those tracks or work out how to shoehorn them into the subject matter already worked out.
  • Find loads of other things to do rather than actually write.
  • Decide it is time to stop putting it off.
  • Spend too much time looking through YouTube videos to drop into the post.
  • Watch TV.
  • Finally get round to writing – largely ignore what you worked out, head out on some tangent, realise you have overwritten and then cram in mention of the music at the end.

Managed to follow the first two of these through the latest section from track 4,701 past 4,800 (at least at the time, there’s been a few additions) and the second threw up a longer than normal list of tracks.

So rather than try to knit them together into some form of coherent narrative (or squeeze a few of them on the end of something else), let’s try something new and rattle through that list. Not every song, just the ones which somehow seemed worthy of note when drawing up that list.

Heaven, Sittin Down – Phosphorescent
We are doing some catching up here, the lack of posts in recent weeks means there has been a bit of a backlog. To the point that this was track 4,701 when listened to but has dropped to 4,724, courtesy of new arrivals on the iPod.

Phosphorescent fall firmly in the ranks of Americana acquired when staying at a friend’s with no TV, no WiFi and only his music collection to keep me entertained when getting a job after my first bout of prolonged travelling had just ended.

This is their take on an old blues standard.

Heavy Metal Drummer – Wilco
Two outings for this one from a band which took me a while, all while they were being eulogised by one major influence on this journey.

Their more muso moments still pass me by a little bit, but when they are good, they are very good. And this is one of their best.

Hell Is Around The Corner – Portishead & Tricky
This loop was pretty much everywhere for a while as Portishead started to mean more than a place where we somehow got taken for an unlikely day out near the seaside on the edge of my Dad’s patch as a rep for a builders’ merchant. Great song.

Hell Is Chrome – Wilco
Wilco sort of took over one trip to the gym with two versions of this as well. There’s a lot of bad drumming on the weight machines.

Hello, Goodbye – The Beatles
This whole journey started with A Day In The Life and opened with a wall of The Beatles in the first 100 or so songs. It would appear they wrote an awful lot of songs beginning with H as well. Three versions of this while on the treadmill in the gym.

Help Save The Youth Of America – Billy Bragg
Frequent visitor on this journey and always a very welcome one. Bragg has been a constant in my music collection for more than 30 years and this is not that far below the rarefied air of his very best.

Two versions, one from the first Bragg album in my collection and one live recording from Russia. Which is up there on that video.

Help! – The Beatles
Told you they were popping up a lot. Three times again, plus a version by The Damned which is preferable purely for ditching the exclamation mark.

Helpless – Ryan Adams with Gillian Welch
Think (can’t be sure, went through a stage of getting pretty much anything by him) this was in Adams’ post-Whiskeytown days when he was fighting a difficult reputation.

As opposed to… oh.

Helpless – Sugar
To go with those rules on the process of posts for this blog, a few others have emerged over the last 4,700+ songs.

One of them is pretty simple – anything off Sugar’s Copper Blue album gets a mention.

At The Drive-In come close with Relationship of Command, but it remains the choice when you want to blast away the cobwebs with some loud guitar and you don’t carry the metal gene. Not sure how a spoonful of Sugar did not damage my hearing.

Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
Something a bit quieter. Twice. Another in the category of bands which are always welcome visitors, but rarely leave a major impression.

Helter Skelter – The Beatles
It’s not just The Beatles, there are also the cover versions which somehow have worked their way into my collection. Siouxsie and the Banshees and, surprise surprise, Oasis this time.

Her Majesty – The Beatles
This is getting silly.

Here Comes A City – The Go-Betweens
It’s a bit slicker, a touch more polished in the production than some of their early stuff, which perhaps explains why The Go-Betweens’ second coming got sort of shunted aside in my mind towards Radio 2 territory.

Right up to the point when another listen reveals something missed along the way. It’s not in the same league as the wonderful Cattle & Cane, but better than first thought.

And Robert Forster’s new solo stuff well worth a listen.

Here Comes A Regular – The Replacements
A bit of research (or timewasting) on YouTube reveals this was used to soundtrack the death of a character on One Tree Hill played by Sheryl Lee. So maybe The Replacements killed Laura Palmer.

Mixing the cultural references, the school in the film Heathers (Westerberg High) was named after Replacements singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg as they were star Winona Ryder’s favourite band.

One of those great songs this A-Z journey has rediscovered.

Here Comes The Blackout – Stornoway
Pretty sure agreed to see Stornoway live without hearing anything by them – not the first and one of the great advantages of review tickets. And well worth the visit it was.

Shared fondness with a fellow traveller soundtracked a couple of mellow evenings sat on the beach in Togo watching the sun go down over the incoming oil tankers on the horizon.

Here Comes The Summer – The Undertones
Yeah, yeah… Peel loved them, Derry boys and all that. But for nine-year-old me still largely unexposed to anything beyond my parents’ music (even then was fairly sure The Band of the Royal Marines and Glenn Miller was not the way forward) and whatever was on the radio (Junior Choice?), The Undertones were just fun.

Remember loving this and then they released My Perfect Cousin – the first song I knew all the words to, still remembered in my first attempt at karaoke. Many years and quite a few pints later.

Here Comes The Sun – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
Oh yeah, The Beatles as well. Again. Twice.

Here Comes Your Man – Pixies
Two things popped up in recent weeks about the Pixies (one fewer than appearances by pretty much their poppiest track).

First a Facebook music group was discussing a gig at Gloucester Leisure Centre which has cropped up on YouTube and a live bootleg. Was tagged in it as someone who was there and if there is anything to promote some form of cool among younger people with any concept of good music, having seen the Pixies live is pretty much there.

Remember it being very loud. Or rather quiet, loud, quiet, very loud. Leisure centre closed as a live venue due to structural issues not long after. Wonder why.

Secondly, Doolittle came out 30 years ago last month. Was still in my teens for Christ’s sake. It’s still brilliant.

Here Today – The Chameleons
In studio was track 4,800, accompanied by a live version. Beyond that, not much too add. Think this got loaded onto my iPod in a bout of, ahem, borrowing ahead of travelling.

Here, There And Everywhere – The Beatles
Look, this is really silly now.

Here’s Where The Story Ends – The Sundays
For about five minutes, they were the future of slightly introspective, jingly indie guitar music. Best viewed through a fringe. Can’t Be Sure still on several playlists.

Heroes – David Bowie
Confession time. Was never a massive Bowie fan when younger. Certainly not compared to many.

But have sort of revisited and re-evaluated over the last few years, especially a bout of downloading focused on filling in the gaps in my knowledge most serious music fans are not supposed to have.

And you can’t really knock this, can you?

Heroin – Velvet Underground
Think this is on my iPod from the same bout of musical education. Bowie had more of an impact than his old mate Lou Reed and co.

Heroin (Live) – Echo and the Bunnymen
Somehow fitting the Bunnymen, albeit with someone else’s song, round off the first blog since the loss of Steve Tucker – a shared musical passion.

He’d have been appalled at my less than glowing reviews of Bowie and Velvet Underground though, pointing out the error of my ways over a few pints in The City Arms.

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A Good Man Is Easy To Kill to Great

THERE are certain key questions in life you can use to age most people. Favourite Bond, favourite Doctor Who, favourite children’s programmes.

Anything that depends largely on what you grew up with.

And for those of us with a music obsession, particularly anything involving vaguely miserable young men peering through their fringes and teasing jingly-jangly or feedback-ridden noise out of guitars, you can add favourite era of the NME.

Anyone who suggests anything from this century is downright wrong as it increasingly veered towards glossy Smash Hits territory. Nope, you definitely have to go back to the days when the ink from that week’s Morrissey cover came off on your fingers.

Will listen to arguments that the hip young gunslingers of the late ’70s was some form of golden age – it did give us Danny Baker after all – but you have to go about a decade later for my era of choice.

Had started to dabble in getting my fingers inky every Wednesday – will argue journalism has never been the same since the days of picking a copy fresh off a press on the premises and half of it coating your hand – in the early to mid-’80s as my NME-reading formative years.

But my weekly habit took hold in the second half of the decade, a golden age reading the musings of Stuart Maconie (who still colours my musical education on 6Music, given the chance off work), Andrew Collins, and Steve Lamacq among others, under the editorship of Danny Kelly.

Those golden years lasted into the 1990s until Steve Sutherland took over the editor’s chair and there was a large turnover of writers.

Stuck with it for a good few years – there weren’t many other options to read or find out about this sort of music – but it was not the same.

If memory serves, gave up buying it (Christmas issues and its best of the year lists apart) when working in Newport, opting to it on the health reporter’s desk and read his copy every Wednesday.

Bizarrely, the person on the next desk would end up working on the NME news desk. Around the time they were pushing Starsailor as the future of guitar music. Not sure we can blame him for that.

The golden age was well and truly over. By the time they had bestowed almost God-like status on The Libertines, it was time to sever all ties.

Have picked up a couple of the free editions it became, but quickly worked out why it was normally left on the piles outside HMV.

But it was still a sad – if inevitable – day when news came through that it would no longer exist in print. Both for music fans and anyone with any sort of affection for the printed word that cannot just be scrolled up and down.

Apart from the writing, arrived at the NME at a good time musically. They were still in thrall to The Smiths (largely understandable, frequently overkill), but it was also in the wake of the C86 collection and the heyday of the indie guitar music which has soundtracked much of my last three decades and coloured large chunks of this A-Z journey through my iPod.

Could be wrong – it was so long ago, remember it largely in black and white – but pretty sure The Wedding Present’s classic George Best album was bought on the back of reading all about them on a train to and from a university open day.

Maybe less time reading the NME and listening to the music, more time reading and writing stuff for my school work and one of those open days might have turned into an actual place at university.

Although suggest most of my time would have been spent  doing exactly the stuff which stopped me going in the first place – Cardiff was my first choice, largely because it had the best line-up of gigs on a visit.

The fortunes of print journalism and indie guitar music have suffered in the intervening years, bludgeoned by the dual rise of the internet and any number of interchangeable landfill guitar bands who… there really is no way of finishing this thought without drifting off completely into things were better when I was a lad territory.

Inevitably there were various generations of indie guitar bands as we careered closer to the end of G in the alphabetical journey through my iPod from Beulah to They Might Be Giants.

There was, equally inevitably, Wedding Present (Granadaland, live and studio) from the golden age to Starsailor (the passable Good Souls), who have possibly unfairly become slightly the poster boys of the indie decline.

And we had some possibly surprising frequent visitors with four tracks from Thee Oh Sees, three from Iron & Wine and two apiece for The Beatles (remember them?), The Mark Lanegan Band, Speedy Ortiz and The National (so nearly, and unfairly, lost among the pile of The… bands showing the lack of originality which dogged guitar bands for a while).

Ryan Adams, as inevitable as The Wedding Present, joined the frequent visitors with Goodnight Rose, Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard and, with The Cardinals, Gracie, representing the drift towards Americana that replaced the reliance on NME-approved guitar fare.

Rival Schools barely fitted that mould, off somewhere to the flanks with Good Things, while Paul Simon is a classification of his own. By rights, he has always been probably a bit Radio 2 friendly to fit in with the standard NME reader, but some people rise above such prejudices and Graceland was a very welcome visitor.

Pixies hardly fit the four white boys with guitar template for an indie band, but hark back to that golden age with Gouge Away, as do Prefab Sprout.

Steve McQueen remains one of the era’s great albums, Goodbye Lucille #1 (or Johnny Johnny if you prefer) the sole survivor of Paddy McAloon’s supposed attempt to write an entire album of songs with the same title.

Sure the NME would have approved.

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Seven Day Challenge

WAS nominated recently to take part in the Facebook Seven-Day Musical Challenge – picking a song each day for a week that means something to me.

Opting to steer well away from any sort of ‘best of…’ list, my choices were a sort of musical journey through my life, both personal and my musical life (although the two are pretty much entwined.

The A-Z blog is on a bit of a pre-Christmas hiatus (of which more in a couple of catch-up posts before a few changes – on and offline – in the year), so to fill a bit of a gap, here’s a version of those seven days…

Day 1

Once had to do a top 10 for my old newspaper to fill a hole just before a Christmas deadline. One of our celebrity columnists failed to deliver, so it fell to a distinctly non-celebrity columnist – albeit the column in the weekly sports result paper or the stand-in when someone was on holiday – and my entire music collection went out of my head.

Doubt if too many of that 10 would make any such list now, but this one would.

Echo & The Bunnymen were my band, my first gig (well, sort of) and my fashion gurus (hence me stealing my grandad’s old, long overcoat, which had very deep pockets to hide pint glasses in for the walk home from the pub). Accelerated my NME-inspired descent into an 80s indie ghetto.

Will gladly argue (and have, many times) that the second half of Ocean Rain is the most perfect run of songs on any album. This is oft-overlooked amid the other classics, but it’s my favourite…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zbdy8eidI0

Day 2

Second one sort of surprised even me, but part of a key role in my musical development when the teenage me was listening to a solid diet of British indie.

My sister started going out with some bloke (who she later married) who made me a C90 that threw in plenty of domestic indie, but also opened the door to American guitar bands, which I ran through gladly – The Replacements, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Red Guitars, Husker Du and some lot from Athens, Georgia, among others.

Could have picked almost any of the tracks (still have that tape somewhere), but stayed nearer to home.

A few years later, used to make my own C90s for a mate and his wife for each of my regular trips to London. On one of them was this and lead singer Pete Astor, who years later ended up as a friend of my mate with their sons in a band together (Let’s Wrestle). Also fulfils my jingly jangly quotient.

Day 3

This one sort of links on from the previous day when my indie ghetto started to be stormed by American guitars (red or otherwise).

Last track on that C90 was Superman by REM, a band I’d heard of but knew nothing about – hearing Superman, thought you could decipher all their lyrics.

They went on to be the biggest band of my late teens and beyond (pretty much till Bill Berry left when it all went a bit awry) and they produced, from Murmur to Green, possibly the greatest run of albums of any band.

Also pointed me in the direction of many other bands and an American road trip just had to stop off in Athens.

Could have chosen any number of tracks, but Life’s Rich Pageant was first up for me and, hey, I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract…

Day 4

As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, school was finally behind me, university drifted out of reach (something to do with spending a bit too much of the previous couple of years in the pub or listening to loud music, rather than doing any work) and, eventually, my career in journalism got off to a start just before my teens ended.

Music was still centred around jingly jangly indie and American guitars and the regular Banana Club live nights at the Gloucester Guildhall (at one of which they shot the video for EMF’s Unbelievable), before the real onset of grunge (take it or leave it) and the largely forgettable onslaught of Britpop.

And there was this lot. Still one of the finest albums, still one of my loudest gigs (quiet, loud, quiet, loud, very loud – second only to Sugar, who so nearly made the list) and soundtrack to an awful lot of memories.

Day 5

The bit when it gets a bit emotional. We’ve done musical education and the 80s, time for the only entry from the 90s. But this one is timeless.

There had to be a bit of Billy Bragg in there, a constant since the mid-80s – trying to work out if seen him live in three or four different decades.

My favourite song of his changes, The Saturday Boy, Levi Stubbs’ Tears, The Short Answer… the list goes on. Even some of the stuff he did with Wilco. But none matches the emotional punch and resonance of this one.

Have written a few times about the background to jacking in a good job (twice) to go travelling because you never know what might happen if you put off living. Get paid to organise words into a meaningful order, but never managed to put some of those personal feelings as well and as powerfully as this.

Day 6

Having hung around in the ’80s for a while, it’s straight from the early ’90s into the new millennium and the discovery of a new obsession.

First stumbled across Ryan Adams on an Uncut magazine free CD and tracked down a copy of Heartbreaker – spent an entire afternoon reorganising and cleaning a kitchen in a shared house, just so I could listen to it over and over again. I

t was not only discovering Adams, it took me on a road that saw indie replaced by (to quote a friend after he’d been listening to my iPod) ‘melancholic Americana’ as a mainstay of my collection.

Day 7

Final part brings us not quite up to date, but a song which formed a huge part of the soundtrack of the last year or so.

The last song always had to be one that soundtracked my travelling years as we head into time to settle down and concentrate on the career (and bank balance) for a while.

There’ll still be travelling, but shorter trips more often rather than long adventures around much of the globe or Africa.

Those trips have largely been soundtracked by playlists set up before and could have provided any number of nominations.

But Sufjan Stevens wins out (just edging Carissa by Sun Kil Moon) as he soundtracked two trips, this one the most played of 10 months on the road in Africa. Who said travelling had to be happy?

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Date With The Night to Deado

BACK in the early days of this blog, an appearance by Echo and the Bunnymen prompted a recollection of my first proper gig (excluding, on musical grounds, being taken to watch Culture Club a few years earlier).

As well as triggering my teenage obsession with the Bunnymen (which still surfaces reasonably regularly and had me wallowing in the peerless B side of Ocean Rain just a few days ago), their Songs to Learn and Sing tour stop-off at Gloucester Leisure Centre was also the first live experience for actor Simon Pegg.

That confession also came with a recollection that those of us who were likely to don long black overcoats and spend hours dissecting music and lyrics by, to quote John Peel, ‘white boys with guitars’ were not overly well-served with live music on our doorstep in Gloucester.

SongsToLearnAndSingWhich is what prompted a bit of a telling off.

Still stick by that assertion, but a long-time friend who appears to be a relatively loyal reader (which rather narrows it down somewhat) was at a lot of those same gigs and remembers it rather differently.

She reeled off a list of gigs she had been to at the same venue – several of which had totally passed me by, either through lack of attention or some musical snobbery – and it was fairly impressive.

It was just compiled over the best part of a decade when those of us compiling a soundtrack to our teenage lives could have done with far more regular live outings and somewhere to see smaller, newer bands we had read about in the NME but were never going to fill the large box which was the sports hall at the Leisure Centre.

We eventually got one in the shape of Gloucester Guildhall – the old Mayor’s Parlour where generations of city children had assembled for their one invite to the annual Christmas Party, converted into an arts centre – which provided regular Friday night live music as my teens rolled towards an end and beyond (there’s a story about EMF and their video for Unbelievable, but we’ll get to that at some point, never mind an argument with the keyboard player of a minor indie band during their set).

And the Guildhall still offers an eclectic mix of live music and somewhere which needs frequenting a bit more often.

It also offers something the Leisure Centre never could – decent sound.

Far from flawless (but who needs Carnegie Hall at small live venues), but certainly much better than that echoey box – built for badminton and five-a-side football, not music – with the sound bouncing back off the walls end echoing around the walkways above.

Had no idea of this at first (certainly not as the Bunnymen were luring me into their web -warren?), but as my musical knowledge (and, let’s be honest, snobbery) took hold, it became ever more noticeable.

Didn’t stop me enjoying some great gigs there, mind.

Pixies
Pixies

And very near the top of the list of gigs there lie the Pixies. Suggest only The Smiths and the Bunnymen are alongside them in the top echelon (Radiohead took their place among my top gigs at later outings, not supporting James).

Pixies stand alone, however, as they got round the sound problems by being just so bleeding loud. And the word bleeding is used advisedly.

The only bands that can compete on volume are the Red Hot Chili Peppers (seen rather accidentally and who had to be loud in the vastness of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium) and Sugar, who seemed much louder but it was in a much smaller venue. Basically rather like being upstairs in a pub.

In an interesting take on their trademark, much-aped sound (which is what Kurt Cobain was trying to do when he wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit), they were quiet, loud, quiet, incredibly loud.

And they were fantastic.

Apart from the volume, the fact Frank Black (or whatever name he was using at the time) came across fairly unhinged and Kim Deal was… well, Kim Deal, two things stick in my mind from that night.

Firstly, the band opened behind a curtain which dropped at the end of the first song (Cecilia Ann?) into a thunderous Allison and, secondly, one of our group lost his watch and only recovered it after my full-blooded rugby tackle on half of the mosh pit.

All this – as any regular reader knows, if they are not too busy disagreeing with any of the above – acts as a preamble to working round to mentioning the latest batch of songs on the journey from A-Z on my iPod, which is sort of the whole point.

The latest section took us from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (one of those bands which many other people seem to rate much higher) to Stephen Malkmus (who deserves to be rated much higher by many other people), via plenty of Day and Dead songs.

Among them, of course, was Pixies’ Dead (the video at the top may have tipped you off on that one) from their classic Doolittle album (which may well pop up again in the next entry, as anyone with a working knowledge of its track listing should be able to work out).

They Might Be Giants pre-show coffee
They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants popped up with a, rather different, song of the same name, while there were some more interesting Dead songs, notably Dead Letter Office from King’s Daughter & Sons (ensuring the Americana quotient was sustained) and Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.

Not just The White Stripes’ version, but also a lovely acoustic rendering from a young singer songwriter, Juliana Richer Daily.

We’ve stumbled across her before on this trip, the regular videos she used to post on YouTube having popped up on my screen when looking for a version of Arcade Fire’s Wake Up (used in the trailer for Where The Wild Things Are) to use as background music in a video and getting diverted to hers.

More established artists popped up –  The Jam’s David Watts, the Guildhall-bound Wedding Present (twice) with Davni Chasy from their Ukrainian period, The Beatles, three times, with Day Tripper, which also (minus the space) reappeared by Otis Redding, and Billy Bragg’s Days Like These and its American version.

All together now… “Wearing badges is not enough, on days like these”.

 

 

 

 

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Contact On The World Love Jam to The Crane Wife 3

In the kingdom of the blind
It’s said the one-eyed man is king
And in the kingdom of the bland
It’s nine o’clock on ITV
Corgi Registered Friends – Half Man Half Biscuit

TRAVELLING souvenirs come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of tackiness.

Barring the odd bottle of ouzo or Metaxa brought back from Mediterranean beach holidays – which never taste quite the same after spending months or years in a suburban sideboard – not many of them have resurfaced at the back of a cupboard during a clean-out before moving out of a flat.

But one of the more memorable keepsakes of my London to New York overland trip popped up in just those circumstances (the others being a surprisingly large collection of shot glasses from a cruise liner and a selection of T-shirts providing a guide to our progress across the USA – and where we were running low on clean laundry).

Three-plus years past its sell-by date may be, but it was still tempting to use it while cooking, such were the memories it brought back and the impact it had on a succession of meals.

Certainly far more than we thought likely when it was thrown, almost as an afterthought, into a Latvian supermarket trolley.

c3242bc3-8057-42d2-9f75-f0b087f593c6
Multi-Purpose – The pepper which made any number of train meals palatable

And while most of what we brought that day has been forgotten – not all, some of it evokes some less than tasty memories – that magical bottle of pepper has gone down as one of the stars of the trip.

The magic pepper bottle fell into our hands in a scamper around a Riga supermarket on the lookout for food during our upcoming stint on the Trans-Siberian Express.

And… nope, absolutely no idea where this was going.

Written more than 10 months ago, those first few paragraphs were supposed to start the final entry in the A-Z Challenge before heading off on my travels around Africa but time sort of got away from me.

As tempting as it was, listening to loads of music and writing an article about it could never really take precedence over packing, jabs, the chance to buy shiny new things (which, in one case, had broken in the first couple of months) and the need to move out of my flat, unearthing the magical Latvian pepper in the process.

Think the intention, given the opening Half Man Half Biscuit quote and the mere fact a picture of the pepper was taken on my phone, was to recite a few tales of the meals we rustled up on the Trans-Siberian – essentially, anything we could make by just adding hot water to (lots of Smash, noodles and soup, often combined) and spray pepper all over.

It sort of worked, especially when washed down by a fair amount of vodka.

Thankfully, the food our revolving cook groups created during the past 10 months on the road was, mainly, better. Surprisingly so, given the limited budget to feed up to 22 people with three meals a day over an open fire in whatever the elements could throw at us at whichever remote bush camp we had pitched up in.

A lot of eggs, a lot of veg (leaving meat out altogether can be easier and cheaper when you have to do a veggie alternative anyway), a lot of potatoes (especially from our cook group, even for breakfast), a lot of stir fries (anything thrown in a wok and stirred about a bit), a lot of stews (anything thrown in a pot and stirred about a bit) and a fair amount of curries (anything thrown in a wok or a pot with some spices and stirred about a bit).

There was only one truly inedible meal – and that merely down to too much (way too much) spice – and a few that failed to deliver, mainly down to personal taste (one which had peanut sauce sticking my tongue to the roof of my mouth for much of the night).

Everything Everything
Everything Everything

But any complaints about to the food were mainly down to our shortcomings as cooks and, on the whole, my diet was much better than back home (even without the magic pepper) as it finally featured breakfast on a daily basis, regular ingestion of green, healthy stuff and much less snacking – courtesy of a self-imposed rule not to stockpile food on the truck.

Admittedly, my consumption of fizzy drinks crammed full of sugar rose – some achievement given how high it already was – but the outcome of all this is the need for a new wardrobe, particularly trousers, as all my clothes are now too big.

The jeans bought this week are four inches smaller than the ones which went round Africa and needed holding up well before the end and that flat clearout just before the off included throwing out any clothes which were deemed too small and never likely to be much use again.

D’oh!

One thing which has not shrunk – nor, until a mass catch-up of stuff missed over the last few months, grown – has been my iPod collection, which remains at 11,638 tracks.

And until today, the trek through those tracks from A-Z had not progressed any further after the decision to put it on hold while away, given the difficulties in keeping up with one blog while away, let alone a second subject.

Before the off, Public Enemy kicked off this latest section which also rattled through Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road, a couple from Half Man Half Biscuit (Corgi Registered Friends and The Coroner’s Footnote) and rounded off with Cough Cough by Everything Everything – owners of possibly the poshest and most-inept moshpit in history.

The Decemberists, Cambridge. 03/10/07
The Decemberists

In the unrealistic hope of actually finishing the C tracks before departure, there was a catch-up on the then newly-installed ABC tracks which had joined the collection, mainly from Johnny Marr, more HMHB, Weezer and some Gaslight Anthem.

And then it stopped… until a couple of bus rides (still to replace the car scrapped before departing) got things up and running again through the 1900 mark with Cousins by Vampire Weekend, followed by the excellent Jason Isbell – whose latest is high on the list of catch-up albums – with Cover Me Up.

The Decemberists then took over. Totally. Their three-part The Crane Wife opus – based on an old Japanese folk tale and forming the backbone of the album of the same name – goes on for a fair amount of time in its own right.

Throw in the live version of all three parts and it will take you all the way from Cheltenham to Gloucester and beyond.

But after 40 weeks around Africa and with close to 10,000 tracks still to go, that’s not really very long.

And at least there will be no trying to remember what I was going on about.

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