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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Allow me to introduce you to one of the greatest records ever made

Guy Clark died  today.

He wrote some great songs and made two strong albums in the seventies.

You can get both of them for £2.99, which is plain ridiculous.

My favourite song of his was "Desperados Waiting For A Train".

 My favourite version of that was by Mallard, the group formed by former members of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band.

Here it is.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The year is 2016 and Jimmy Webb's at number one in the States.

Jimmy Webb played a showcase at his publishers tonight. A few score people gathered around his piano as he did half a dozen songs, which included obscure requests as well as the ones that made him famous.

I liked his patter. "People associate me with the 60s or the 70s if I'm lucky. But what you people don't know is I'm still relevant because one of my songs is at number one in the USA this week."

He was talking about the use of his song "Do What You Gotta Do" in Kanye's hit "Famous".

"It seems this record's about some beef that Kanye has against Taylor Swift. I didn't think that was very gentlemanly so I wanted to have it out with him, Okie to Okie. Then somebody said 'you know you're getting 35% of this record?' and I thought 'Taylor's a big girl - she can look after herself.'"

Two thoughts about Colin Hanks' Tower Records documentary

Two things struck me after last night's screening of the Tower Records documentary All Things Must Pass and the Q&A with its director Colin Hanks.

The first was just how sentimental the younger people in the audience were about the idea of record shop culture and how desperately some of them persuade themselves that the current fashion for pristine, newly-pressed Stooges albums at twenty quid a pop indicates anything more than the desire of a tiny handful of people to have something that makes them look both soulful and affluent. 

Hanks asserted that record shops would continue to hang on but was forced to admit that only this week Other Music, the New York store which was the hold-outs' last best hope, announced it was closing in June.

The second thing that struck me was how amazing it was that Tower Records hadn't closed years earlier than it did. I hadn't realised it had expanded in such an uncontrolled, haphazard way. The stores in Japan were opened before the one in New York, for instance. All this worldwide expansion was reliant on borrowed money, which meant that the company couldn't withstand the slightest downturn, let alone the one that arrived.

When the banks finally put their people in one of the first things they did was close down the Tower magazine Pulse! This was very upsetting for the people in the company. I  couldn't help being amazed that they had employed more people to do their free magazine than most British publishers would hire to do a paid one.

P.S. A third thing struck me. People say Hanks looks like his father. I think he looks more like Woody.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

If only you could put tweets on the covers of books

Lots of people have tweeted about my book. I couldn't bear to let them all go by.

As Father's Day approaches and the weather starts to suit reading in the great outdoors I look forward to seeing interesting pictures of people enjoying it.

The first email I got from somebody who'd read it was from a blind man whose Kindle had read it to him. "I listened when I was supposed to be working," he confessed. That aside, this one gets an award for speed reading.
Then there was this...
...and this...
...and then you see inside people's lives...
...and meet their loved ones.
Some of them are well-known.
Some are miffed.
Some are in a hurry.
I like this one.
It doesn't matter whether or not you were there in 1971.
As we were reminded only this morning.
And did I mention this?

Thursday, May 05, 2016

New Day failed because people don't try things any more

Trinity Mirror is canning its cheap newspaper New Day just two months after it launched. This is probably the right thing to do. You can lose fortunes and spend years of people's lives trying to prove that a hunch was right. Believe me. I know.

You can say it didn't live up to expectations, but that rather assumes that people are bothered enough to have expectations. You only have to see how the newspaper kiosks that used to be a feature of all London tube stations are now either closing or turning themselves over to selling confectionery to note that most people are not in a position to turn to a new newspaper because they long ago stopped buying an old one.

I noticed this in the world of magazines more than ten years ago. People stopped trying new things and they certainly stopped paying for new things. I bet New Day didn't fail because the publishers were disappointed how few people stuck with it. I bet it failed because not enough people tried it in the first place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I used to work for British Home Stores

In the early 70s I had a job as a courier at British Home Stores' head office. My job was to accompany Jim, who drove a van that ferried material between their main office on Marleybone Road and their smaller office in Dorset Square. In the afternoons, when Jim had been to the pub for his standard three pints, I took over the driving.

BHS were a slightly sleepy, old-fashioned company even then. My family had never shopped there and I couldn't really work out why people did. And now they seem to be joining HMV, C&A, Woolworths, Borders, Comet and many others that were formerly a part of somebody's regular routine and now aren't anymore. The papers are full of Monday Morning Quarterbacks talking about what they should have done to save it. I don't pretend to have a plan. I know how little I miss the ones that have already gone.

Who's next? Marks & Spencer?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Victoria Wood

Ken Sharp took this picture of me and Victoria Wood. It was in the late 80s and we were talking in the garden of a pub in Salisbury after she'd played a show at the City Hall.

I often mess up the "having a picture taken with the star" moment. It's not altogether surprising. You have one person who's utterly at home with having their picture taken. Then there's you, flushed and over-excited, your professional facade entirely lost.

It wasn't a bit like that with Victoria Wood. She was happy to share whatever limelight was going. Lovely person.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Whatever Emitt Rhodes's been doing for the last forty-three years, it clearly hasn't all been fun

I didn’t mention Emitt Rhodes in my book, though he’s on my extended 1971 playlist.

 Rhodes was one of those people who was being lined up as a Beatles substitute in 1971. He could write good tunes, he played all the instruments on his albums himself and - bonus ball - he was pretty.

His albums attracted support from everybody except the record-buying public and he was locked into a contract that required him to deliver two albums a year, which was hard enough for your standard road-hardened band but was nigh on impossible for an artist who had to over-dub every part himself.

He withdrew from making his own albums in the early seventies. Now he’s back, with a rather good record called Rainbow Ends. Whereas the early records glistened with the optimism of youth, his new one starts with a song about a woman who takes the car, the house and the kids. It’s called “Dog On A Chain”.

He looks different too.