Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sister, lemme tell you about a vision I saw (#1)

Visions that encapsulate London – #1: Sick Pigeons

I hope that this will become a regular feature of my blog. I will be showcasing life in London through small moments that people see and often forget. I hope that these will be relevant to those who live in London and also to those who only know the UK capital as a tourist destination.

Today while taking a fag break at work, I saw a disgusting sight. A pigeon was happily eating away at a pile of mouldy vomit that someone had kindly left on the pavement for someone else to clean-up. It was a vision that encapsulates two problems with London. Firstly, the pigeon population. They are evil vermin and flying rats and should be killed to stop the spread of disease. They also abuse children, as the photo shows. Secondly, our binge drinking problem. How many piles of sick do you regularly see in the street on the way home from a nice Saturday night down the pub? It's a frigtening thought, I wonder how many piles (or litres) of vomit are cleaned up on London's streets every year? I don't know the answer but it's probably loads.

Precious Angel

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stayin' in a big hotel

Hell is waking up hungover in a hotel room after drinking copious amounts of alcohol. At 5am. When you’ve got to be up in a couple of hours. For an important meeting.

With an unquenchable thirst due to sleeping in an air conditioned room, I stumble and fumble my way toward the en-suite bathroom, cursing the decision to leave the light off (why didn’t I just flip the switch?). I came to what I thought was the entrance, stubbed my toe into the skirting board and banged my knee against the doorframe.

Hobbling into the bathroom, I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror, and nearly die of shock, realising that I do indeed look like the living dead. Blood shot eyes and the deep black bags around them only remind me of last night’s excesses. Eventually large gulps of water relieve the thirst, once I’ve realised how to get the tap water to come out cold. Which takes me about five minutes in this luxury bathroom.

It’s time to get into bed, but now I’m awake in a foreign bed, in a foreign hotel room. I can’t sleep and all I can think about is tomorrow morning’s (well this morning's, really) meeting and the reason why I’m in a hotel room in the first place. Of course it feels like hours since I woke-up but it’s probably only been about five minutes.

I wake up a few hours later, after sporadic short naps. The bed was almost too comfortable for me and my middle class ways, perhaps next time they should put me up in a hotel more attuned to my style of living. I kept feeling like a phoney for having a massive double bed, thousands of pillows and a proper duvet.

The hangover is now in full-on mode reaching it’s peak and pounding my brain like an American soldier a detainee in Guantanamo Bay. I stumble into the shower, spend far too long in there, then get out. The room is silent, and I decide to turn on the TV. Desperately still trying to sober up before this morning’s meeting, I drink copious amounts of tea, coffee and water and whatever else is in the complimentary basket.

Out comes BBC Breakfast news, the headline story is about how the government want to encourage schools to organise trips for their pupils. All I can think about is my headache and the fact that there is civil war in Iraq and Russian spies (allegedly) roaming the streets executing the Kremlin’s unwanted, yet the BBC bypassed these stories to focus on kids trips and included a live link-up to a group of 12 year olds going out canoeing. Breaking news indeed.

They should have recreated a school trip gone wrong, now that would indeed be news: "The kids screamed as they plunged hundreds of feet to their death after the bus driver, drunk on Absinthe and who was being pleasured by their teacher at the time, careered off the mountain pass. All 80 children, the bus driver, and an illegal immigrant who crept into the luggage hold are dead. Back to you in the studio Dick."

So the only thing left to do is to put the channel on one of the hotel’s pre-set radio stations. The trouble is that the only one that is working is BBC Radio Two, Britain’s most popular radio station. Popular almost always = annoying, brainless and dull. And BBC Radio Two is no exception. The breakfast presenter is a certain Terry Wogan, but before I get his pleasantries, I get a the joys of Emma Bunton’s (previously known as Baby Spice) version of ‘Downtown’. And it’s fucking pitiful. Terry Wogan then cracks some piss-poor jokes and starts reading out listener's lymrics and poems. I felt the violent urge to go round to the BBC straight away to slap the four hundred year old presenter senseless. Other musical joys of this wise and sage DJ include ‘That’s the Way I like it’ by Casey & the Sunshine Band, and ‘Club at the End of the Street’ by Elton John. My tether is nearly at an end, and I almost burst into tears at the horror.

Regaining composure, I decide to iron my shirt, which has, of course, become crumpled in my bag on the way to this regional UK city. Thankfully, the good people at the hotel have thought of everything and provided me with an iron and board. However, after I’ve set it all up, it spits hot water at me, I rush to the ensuite to get some cold water on my hands, and trip over the ironing board and send the iron flying, when it lands it starts to slowly burn a hole in the carpet. It’s at this moment that Linda Rondstadt comes over the radio with ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ singing those very words and I feel like shouting ‘I AM TRYING TO, YOU STUPID COW’. I feel like I’m living my very own ‘Fear and Lothing’ moment.

Of course, I eventually made myself presentable, wondered downstairs, checked-out. The meeting went fine and the trip home is a breeze. And by the evening I was begining to wonder what all the fuss was about. But in those short few hours from 5am to 9am, the whole world was crumbling around me and I wondered how on earth I was going to get away with it.

Note to self: contact large international hotel chain proposing a new drunk-proof room.

Went to see the Gypsy

Monday, November 27, 2006

And every one of them words rang true

For the one person who inspired me to write this editorial at Rockbeatstone, who may or may not be reading this, I want to tell you that this means nothing, there is no hidden agenda or anything. It’s not a statement, and I don’t want you to feel bad. I wrote this a few weeks ago, I just needed to do it to help me through tough times.

There are times in life when you wish you could express how you’re feeling in song, word or rhyme. Then for those who have no talent in this area whatsoever (i.e. me) there are other people’s songs which come as close as is possible to explain how you’re feeling.

Tangled Up in Blue

Friday, November 24, 2006

Poor boy 'neath the stars that shine

I saw another celebrity in the street this lunchtime, the one and only Griff Rhys Jones who used to do 'Smith & Jones' with Mel Smith on BBC television. Classic 70s/80s/90s/00s comedy (I think they keep doing xmas specials and stuff)

This now adds to my other celebrity sightings: Liz Hurley (amazingly beautiful in real life – it’s not just the photographers making her look good) standing outside a hotel before attending her launch party for a new shoe range she was designing. Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream walking around Holborn. Edith Bowman (BBC radio presenter and TV presenter of BBC’s coverage of festivals like Glastonbury) who is very short at the end of an Arctic Monkeys concert in Brixton Academy. Peaches Geldof at another gig in Brixton being refused a drink at the bar. Finally, and perhaps my best spot, someone who looked very much like Salman Rushdie at Dylan’s concert in Cardiff in 2006, although he probably wouldn't want me to publicise where he was.

I could have been a paparazzi in another life.

I haven’t seen these guys in the street yet, but I bet Kasabian would walk down the street with confidence, swagger and style. Read a review of their recent album, Empire.

Po' Boy

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

But, oh, what a wonderful feeling

The Big Lebowski is my favourite film in the whole wide universe. It’s amazingly clever, funny and brilliantly directed and scripted. It is the perfect comedy film, no other film even comes close, and I’ve watched it perhaps thirty times and never tired of it. And I’m not the only one. In the States people meet at various bowling alleys around the country and go dressed as their favourite characters from the film at things called Lebowskifests. They even get bands to play there like Jon Spencer and My Morning Jacket. You know, typical music that the Dude might listen to if he really existed.

You still don’t know what I’m talking about? – here you can see a YouTube video of a short version but don’t worry it includes all of the ‘f*%@s’ said in the film. And you can read some Lebowski Haiku's here.

So I was really excited when my good friend Janne sent me a link to a website of a new religion called Dudeism. You can get yourself ordained as a Dudeist Priest, read the Tao of the Dude, find out about the great Dudes of History, read self-help books Dudeist style, read (and follow!) the Duderonomy: Rules to live by.

Here’s what they have to say about a certain Jeffrey Lebowski, also known simply as, ‘The Dude’:

“The uber-dude. Helped to bring Dudeism to the forefront of modern consciousness. If not for him, we'd still be stuck in the dude dark-ages. He's Dude Vinci, Isaac Dudeton, and Charles Dudewin all rolled into one. Or just, His Dudeness, if you're into that whole brevity thing.”

The Man in Me

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yet every distance is not near

This morning it took me two and a half hours to get into work. Yesterday it took me just over two and a half hours to get from Paris to London. Hmm... How is this possible? It's only about five miles between work and where I am currently living. Yet the distance between Paris and London is 213 miles (or 343 km, if you're European).

Last week, I saw the Charlatans play a free gig at HMV in Oxford Street, read about it here.

I shall be released

Friday, November 17, 2006

To quote a phrase...

Some of my favourite quotes for the weekend, sorry I can’t be bothered doing a proper update, I was up half the night playing the Simpsons edition of the board game Monopoly. Also accept my apologies that some of these are in French, I guess the language just sounds better than English for this kind of thing.

“Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaĆ®t point” - Blaise Pascal. Roughly translated it means, “the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of”.

“Sex is a lot like bridge. If you don't have a good partner, then you'd better have a good hand" - Woody Allen.

“If you tell the truth about how you're feeling, it becomes funny” – from my favourite comedian, Larry David and so true.

“Un bon mot ne prouve rien” – Voltaire. Roughly translated it means, “A witty saying proves nothing", probably the best quote here...

You're a Big Girl Now

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The treasure can't be found by men who search

This week I bought Jeff Tweedy’s solo DVD called Sunken Treasure – Jeff Tweedy in the Pacific Northwest. It is a really great concert film, with the Wilco front man playing his songs solo acoustic it reveals a whole new level of beauty to these wonderful songs. I wrote a review of it on Music for Grown Ups, read it now.

Not that I want to overuse YouTube in my blog after the Zidane gag yesterday but you can see the trailer below:

Abandoned Love

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

About the TV, God and all the pain that it invokes

Family Guy is one of the best cartoons out there. It takes the piss out of almost any subject matter - many find this offensive I find it hilarious. It features, among other characters, a talking dog and a baby who is hell-bent on world domination and a little camp at the same time. Here's them taking the michael out of Zinedine Zidane. Just click the play button in the middle.

I've also written a review of the Fratelli's album, Costello Music. I didn't like it very much. Thanks to whoever uploaded that clip from Family Guy Season 6, which isn't out in Europe yet.

TV Talkin' Song

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On anyone that lives in a vault

Bill Graham is perhaps the West Coast’s most famous concert/band promoter/manager. He basically built up the 'West Coast' music scene in the states single handily. He was born in Berlin and came to America during the war alone, sent by his family, many of whom were sent to Auschwitz. He was a great man who loved music and unfortunately died in a helicopter crash in 1991.

There’s this excellent book called Hotel California which is the story of this 'West Coast' music scene. Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Eagles, Gram Parsons, Tom Waits, Randy Newman are all the major actors in this great event where popular music’s power centre shifted from New York City to the sunny suburbs of LA and a place called Laurel Canyon (name-checked in a few of Neil Young’s songs). It's a riveting read and a great book on this period of music which is sometimes neglected by most musical writers.

As with almost everything in music it all ended in too much sex and drugs and rock 'n roll and the once idealistic hippy singer-songwriters became bloated druggies and drifted away. But Bill Graham stayed on and continued to promote bands.

Anyway the reason I am telling you this is because he kept souvenirs from every single show he ever worked on. He had a massive collection of tickets, posters, T-shirts, audio and video recordings which can be bought online at Wolfgang’s vault, a website set up to sell this stuff.

They’ve just started something called Vault Radio where they have over 300 concerts which can be audio-streamed through the internet to your computer, and for free! (you do need to register though) Namecheck a 1960s and 1970s band and they will be on there, the complete alphabetical list can be seen here. Some random highlights include:

Bruce Springsteen at Winterland, 12 November 1978.
Bob Marley & the Wailers at Oakland auditorium, 30 November 1974.
Crosby Stills Nash and Young at Filmore East, 6 June 1970.
Led Zeppelin at Filmore West, 10 January 1969.
The Band at Boston Garden, 14 January 1974.

Check out Vault Radio now, and thanks to my friend Paolo and his blog for alerting me to this, this is something all classic rock music fans should check out. You see, this is why the internet is great.

It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

Monday, November 13, 2006

But he ain't no criminal

This weekend I went to see Bruce Springsteen play with his Seeger Sessions Band at Wembley Arena. Last night I had one of the worst concert experiences ever despite the band playing probably the best live musical performance I will ever witness.

Having warmed up on Saturday with seated ticket, my friend Janne and I decided that we should go early to get to the front of the gig. We got there at 5pm, secured our exclusive orange wristband which allowed us to get to the front section and decided to visit some local pubs. This being Wembley we ended up at the lovely hotel bars in the Hilton and the Hotel Ibis. The sacrifices one makes for Bruce!

So we turn up at 6.30pm and get to the front, we are about eight people back from the front of the crowd and Bruce is on fire, he’s so close you can see the sweat on his forehead and all the action from the amazing seventeen piece band. I decide that this is too good not to share and decide to ring a friend so they can witness some of the magic, albeit through the speaker of a mobile phone. After about 10 seconds two security guards come rushing through the crowd, yank my phone from my hands and push me up against the wall. They examine my phone for a while, rip the wristband from my arm and threaten to throw me out. It’s only when they realise that my phone is a piece of shit that can’t take decent photos that they decide to let me back into the crowd, albeit at the back of 8,000 people. I’ve missed two songs by now and I’m so pissed off. What should have been the most amazing concert experience ruined by security nazis.

What pisses me off the most is the fact that I spent the following on these concerts:
£60 x 2 for the tickets = £120.
£35 on merchandise.
£60 on overpriced beer.
£12 on his CD.

Which is a total of £227. Plus add to that all of my other Springsteen CD purchases and it comes to an even more hefty sum. All of that to be treated like scum of the earth. If it was any other industry then you would expect someone to get fired for that kind of service. I would have thought that they could have told me to put the phone away as a first warning. And as far as I could tell, there is nothing written on the tickets or the venue’s website about calling someone from the concert. Just the usual thing about not being allowed to take photos.

However, just to show how much of a sucker I am, I’ll probably still be going back next time the Boss hits town, I’ll just remember to keep my phone well hidden. As for the music at these shows, i'll be doing a proper review for rockbeatstone soon, so look out for that.

Percy's Song

Friday, November 10, 2006

In the bathroom

Apparently, according to this BBC News report around 4 million Brits have a phobia of toilets. It was this story that sparked an amazing tale of life in the 21st century.

A female friend of one of my workmates who is American went to meet her then boyfriend’s parents for the first time (now they are engaged). She was very nervous and asked where the ‘bathroom’ was. Being American, she of course meant ‘toilet’, but the parents thought she meant the bathroom (as in the room where the bath is).

Of course she goes up and there’s no toilet, but is too embarrassed to go back downstairs to ask where the lavatory is, so decides to pee in the sink. As she climbs to the sink, dropping her trousers and underwear, the sink comes away from the wall and she falls and knocks herself unconscious on the bath.

The family then hear this enormous noise and have to knock the door to the bathroom down only to find this young American girl sprawled on the floor unconscious with her knickers and trousers around her ankles and broken china from the sink covered in piss.

But this embarrassing episode didn't stop them getting engaged, I wonder if this story will come up in the speeches during the wedding?

Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hear ya got a brother named James

While travelling back from Leyton FC’s abysmal 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Metropolitan Police’s football team (fuckin’ pigs!) my mate Steve came up with the perfect idea for television.

Get the Big Brother house, insert all of the guys from Jackass and Dirty Sanchez and let it rip for eight weeks by giving them cheap cider. Guaranteed entertainment. Far better than putting celebrities in there who ultimately do nothing but sulk and bitch or ‘normal’ people who are so socially dysfunctional that it’s uncomfortable to watch. Just let the Jackass/Sanchez dudes be themselves for eight weeks in a confined environment. It's got hit written all over it.

Foot of Pride

Monday, November 06, 2006

To tell about my troubled mind

Some things that have troubled my mind this weekend...

How is it that Bruce Springsteen can write such amazing songs about New Jersey? He turns this industrial wasteland into a romantic, beautiful world inhabited by the most amazing misfits and characters. Now essentially the UK equivalent would be Teesside. Anyone who’s been to Teesside will know how impossible it would be to turn it into a romantic place and the only characters you'd find there would be heroin addicts, prostitutes and fat unemployed chavs.

Who in the hell would want to buy a Baywatch series one boxset for £49.99? I mean the only reason you would want it is for the boobies, and you can get Pamela Anderson’s sex tape over the internet if you look hard enough. And for free!

Is there a more beautiful guitar solo than at the end of Ashes of American Flags on Wilco’s live CD Kicking Television ? It is a lingering, melodic beautiful, restrained solo which you never want to end and fits the song perfectly. I could listen to that solo all day long.

Walkin' Down the Line

Friday, November 03, 2006

So the radio didn't work so well

For the thousands of henotbusybeingbornisbusydying readers out there in Berkshire, Heartfordshire and Bedfordshire, I was on BBC Three Counties radio for my work today. Had a five minute or so interview with the presenter at lunch time.

Other media appearances in my life include being on the news on television when they built a by-pass around my village in East Sussex. I was also part of a close-up in a television debate for William Hague when he was trying to get his message across that he wasn’t a joke (they applied make-up to his head, so the bright lights did not reflect on TV). This was before the 2001 election. I also have had my head appear in the crowd behind an action shot of Bono and The Edge. It was part of an Observer Music Monthly piece and I happened to be in the crowd in one of the photos of their London gigs.

But this is the first time that I have been the only focus. Next step is television, maybe Big Brother will take me next time?

Talkin' World War III Blues

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All he wanted was to be free

I went to see Roger McGuinn at the UCL Bloomsbury Theatre on Tuesday night. Read what I thought about this amazing gig here. (You'll have to scroll down to the November 2nd update).

Before you ask, why the non-Dylan related title? the lyrics of 'Ballad of Easy Rider' were written by Dylan on a napkin in a restaurant in about five minutes who then told Peter Fonda to, "give them to McGuinn and he'll know what to do with them." So i'm not cheating. The song plays over the credits of the film Easy Rider.

Ballad of Easy Rider

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