Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year...another one??

Yup, well here it is, New Years Eve, and its raining!
Good old UK weather!!

I sincerely wish all of my readers a very peaceful and happy new year, those who I helped out with the Tijuana Christmas mp3s I hope it helped make your Christmas a little brighter, that I was able to help you out made me feel good too.

Take care

Monday, December 25, 2006

Films at Christmas

Well just lying here digesting 100cwt of turkey, enjoying "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger"
one of those great films they drag out at Christmas. This one, a little like "The Great Escape" always seems to be on at some point, but this is a really good old yarn.

Much better enjoyed as a kid I'm sure with Ray Harryhausen's stop motion characters, but there's also a more adult angle with the stunning Jane Seymour there to provide all the sweetness and light a man could desire.

Typically this one is a Boxing day early afternoon film, one to watch just before you set out for late afternoon tea and evening fun and games with the whole extended family. Kind of makes me feel warm and cosy inside...or is that just the sprouts????

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year

Thank you to those of you who have visited here, please keep coming back.
Have a very calm and peaceful Christmas, and a wonderful New Year.
Warm Regards
Your Host

and here as a special treat, in keeping with the music posts of late, probably the funniest thing I've seen all year....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Great records (I had) for Christmas

*Not "Christmas" records, but records I had for Christmas.

Ok so the first truly great record I had for Christmas was Queens "Night at the Opera", an album I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog. It was my first EVER album record, and as such it holds a very special place in my heart, sending me on to a lifetime of musical joy and discovery. I must have played it until the grooves wore through straight to the other side. The moment the rolling piano lines of "Death On Two Legs..." roll into view my spine still tingles. A monumental moment in my musical history.

There are a few others too...

I got my first record player (yup RECORD player) in I think '77 or '78. I was twelve or thirteen, and that Christmas I had a number of singles: Blondie "Hangin' on the Telephone", Ian Dury "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick", and an Electric Light Orchestra EP featuring "Ma Ma Belle", "Strange Magic", "Evil Woman", and "Can't Get it Out of My Head". That was the year I discovered Punk music in a strange tandem with The Eagles and ELO?? I also had that year The Eagles' "On The Border", and ELO's "On The Third Day".

I have always had a fairly broad taste in swings and sways wildly practically bank balance proves that. The Rolling Stones always featured big in my Christmas record lists, "Tattoo You" and "Goats Head Soup" being notable ones, and The Eagles always appeared big on the scene in the late 70's and early 80's, "The Long Run" and "Eagles Live" being the two that stand out as of particular importance to me. Later again it was Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet". Coming to the 90's and I was all Frank Zappa'd up, and I was into "Shut Up and Play Your Guitar" and "Broadway The Hard Way".

Other years, In no chronological order I've also been high on:-
Calexico, Santana, Weather Report, The Who's "Quadrophenia", U2's "War", Townes Van Zandt, Ten Years After, the absolutley awesome never to be beaten Joe Walsh (my hero), Siouxsie and the Banshees, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, The Hellecasters, The Clash, Springsteen, Metallica, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, Jethro Tull...last year the wonderful Sigur Rós, this year Bjórk...but I'm proud to say absolutely NEVER..EVER Bob Dylan or The Beatles!!! (shudders) Every one reflected a stage of my musical development (I play a mean guitar too)

Funny how these albums are ones that always seem to appear in my CD player or iPod (now I'm a true man of the 21st century) this time of year. Incidentally...and I'm no audiophile, but most of these albums REALLY DO sound better on vinyl. I'm sure there are more, but they escape me at the moment. Anyone have any of they're own to share??

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!

White Christmases a thing of the past?? Well it makes you wonder doesn't it. Sitting here in my centrally heated home, looking out onto the foggy chill of recent days put me in mind of a search for winters past. I always enjoyed winters, Oct-Dec 'cos Christmas is coming, and January 'cos my birthday was coming. I had a little look on the net and found this neat site: The history of British winters and this one: British Winter Snowfall Events 1875-2004. Just to prove to myself that yes it did snow in the winter when I was a kid.

I used to live in a house that looked over a place we called The Quarry, but which was playing fields (I remember when all this was fields!!!), but not flat, more like a hillside. My bedroom, a box-room, was at the front of the house, and my view over the Quarry was almost a full 180. We had storage heaters in the house, but not in my room, so there would often be frost inside the window when I woke up on winter mornings. It was bitterly cold in there, the nightly routine of hot drink and hot water bottle will be familiar to some. I would then curl up at the bottom of the bed, head tucked in, and warm that little area with my breath, before extending my legs a little until I slowly moved up to full stretch and a fully warmed bed.

Anyway, when it snowed I would stare out of the window from my bed and watch as the world turned from green to white, watch the world suddenly start to look neat and unsullied, watch the smoke rise from the chimneys and look at the warm heated glow of the coal fire-lit windows of the houses around. It was lovely.

I have always loved snow, not just for the sheer childish joy of the fun and games, but because of the beautiful whitewash it gives the world around. For a few days each year the world looked clean and new and untouched.

Here are some details of my winters past ('65-'85 the years I mainly cover here) from the above named site:

1965-66: The second half of November saw snow in most areas. The next lot came a bit later, late January, in Eastern parts. February, the turn of the North East. April was surprising though, as heavy falls were recorded, exceptionally heavy in parts of Northern England, where up to 1 foot was found! Mid April saw more snow, with 5 inches in the South. Quite remarkable late falls, but other than that, not a spectacular winter as that of 62-63! Still regarded as snowy though I would say.

1968-70: The first of these 2 winters saw snow in late December, around the New Year, in Eastern Scotland and England. Eastern Yorkshire saw a massive 16 inches! Mid February saw more snow, this time more to the West, with England and Wales seeing the most. Mid March saw more in the Pennines, and a TV mast fell down. 69-70 saw snow for Northern England, North Wales, and Scotland in mid November. Mid December saw snow for the North again. Mid February, most parts, and early March, snow in Wales and England, with the Midlands getting 12 inches.

1970-76: Little snow for 6 winters! Ring any bells?! Very similar pattern to the 90s-early 00s, ending the snow drought with a hot summer (76 / 03!) when the snow returned for 1976...

1976-77: Heavy wet snow fell in early December, mid December, and mid January. Mid January also saw some good coverings though, up to 6 inches lying at times.

1977-78: Mid January, 6 foot drifts! A week later, and 4 inches fell. Mid February saw 4 inches also. Late January, heavy snow in Scotland, drifting, 28 inches falling in parts! Mid February (see above) was very snowy in the North East, East and South West. February 11th had 1 ft in Durham and Edinburgh. Feb. 15-16th South West England, blizzard with huge drifts, sounds like my cup of tea!

1978-79: Late December falls of 6-7n inches in Southern Scotland and the North East started it off. It was very cold in parts. Mid February saw drifts of 6-7 feet on the East coast of England. Mid March had severe blizzards and drifting, in North Eastern England drifts reached a staggering 15 feet! Very snowy.

1981-82: Mid December, South West and Southern England seeing 12 inches. North East England getting 7 inches, with 6 foot drifts. 2 days later (20th December) Northern England got 7 inches, and 6 foot drifts. Mid January, there was general snow, with a cover of 1-2 feet in parts. Snowy, and very cold.

1984-85: Very cold and snowy, especially in Southern England. It was a very cold winter. Early January, there was snow in Eastern England. Mid January, East Anglia and Kent getting the goods, with 6 inches falling here. Mid January, South West England and South Wales (yippee!). Late January seeing snow in Scotland, and the prone spots, such as Aviemore, getting 2ft of level snow, Northern Britain as a whole affected though. Mid February, Southern England, 6-12 inches, substantial drifting taking place. 29th March gave Scotland snow. A memorable year. Snowy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tijuana Christmas - A seasonal offer (repeat post)

Just to repost this little item as its getting pushed off the page by newer things...

If you contact me by my e mail address, (see side bar) and leave a nice comment, I'll let you know how you can get your own copy. Be quick tho' as I won't be around forever...and please don't forget to leave a comment.

Update: I've had about a dozen takers so far, but there are only 24 hrs left of this special offer because as of tomorrow at about 9.00pm this pc is shutting down for a few days of merriment

Gulity pleasures - The Christmas edition

Ok, so now we've established that Christmas is a time when we let ourselves go a bit. Here then, are some of my guilty Christmas musical pleasures.

Firstly, Wham - "Last Christmas", why?...I'm not sure really, but it brings back memories of my late teens or early twenties, not sure on the date this was released, should research it really shouldnt I?? (waits...) Ok this came out in 1984,* I'd be 19! Just left school, In University trying desperately to "find myself"..not sure this would have helped. Anyway, this would have been a very drunken Christmas, and also the Christmas I discovered Bruce Springsteen...what a contrast then!

Anyway, so here's the video:

Secondly, and this one, if possible is even more painful...Chris de Burgh "A Spacemen Came Travelling"..which research tells me came out in '88. This one...well no excuses really, I just like it. There is no proper video on YouTube (sigh of relief) but there is this neat little animation made by someone with far too much time on their hands, but to whom I must be grateful for allowing this film to be posted:

...and just to get the credibility back somewhat, here's good old Bill Bailey taking the piss!

* According to a very reliable source (see comments) it was actually first released in '75

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Great Christmas music from the 70's & 80's

I've had a small trawl through YouTube for some of the better Christmas songs that I haven't already mentioned, so I give you Wizzard (Two "Z's" I looked it up), Slade, The Pogues and Jona Lewie, all of which have a special little place in my heart at Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

White Christmas

Global warming!!! What's the chance that I'll ever get to see one of these now...a White Christmas???

This is another of those must see Christmas movies, one that's more steeped in family tradition than any other film in my personal history. I think I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, about my Dad recording the soundtrack songs on our new and groovy "cassette recorder", the microphone resting against the tv stand to get the best sound, the family condemned to silence for the duration of the taping. I had the tape for years, and on it you could hear along with Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Vear Ellen - the sound of the occasional sniff, cough and plate being scraped and we finished our dinner. It must have been an important occasion for us to be watching TV while we at our tea (Tea is what us Welsh call dinner!!) for we always ate at the table in the kitchen in our house. How many can say that happens these days???

In my opinion this one knocks "Holiday Inn" into a cocked hat when it comes to Christmas musicals, though they are both similar in many respects, but the shear size and colour of the production makes this one the one for me, and itys also good for a few weepy moments after a few glasses of the Bristol Cream.

By the way, if your looking for a top tipple for santa this Christmas, you cant go wrong with my old favourite, Stone's Ginger tot to wash down a mince pie for a cold and hungry St Nick. My sister and I always put a glass of this out for Santa before we slipped off to bed, far too excited to sleep, and it always seemed to do the trick for in the morning we got our rewards. Later on I found its an excellent mixer for Jack Daniels, never had a problem with sleep after a few of those!!!!

It's a Wonderful Life

"...every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings"
I am not really sure when or where I saw this film first, but it has become part and parcel of my nostalgia for Christmas, as no doubt, it is for many many people. Regularly voted in the polls in the top 10 movies of all time, it is quite simply the quintessential Christmas feel good movie. I'm sure that a major part of its appeal is the fact that it harks back to a time when life did actually seem to have some meaning, family, work, communities of people working together, knowing each other, rather than today' world of ASBO's and binge drinking...welcome to the 21st century eh???

Anyway, if you get the chance and its on this year, sit down with a nice cup of tea, some mince pies and a hankie, and enjoy the feel good factor, it might be all you get this year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


"He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.

When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tijuana Christmas - A seasonal offer.

There has been a fair amount of interest in this album on this site, and the post I made about it. It's a wonder it hasn't been re-released. However I have made up a digital copy, mp3 to wav thingy. If you contact me by my e mail address, (see side bar) and leave a nice comment, I'll let you know how you can get your own CD copy. Be quick tho' as I won't be around forever...and please don't forget to leave a comment.

The Christmas we get we deserve...

Christmas songs....its the rock and pop ones i'm referring to here. I have a theory that the last great era for Christmas songs was the early eighties. I was in the sixth form in 81, '82, '83, and seem to remember a vast influx of yuletide tunes, Wham, Jona Lewie, Shaking Stevens, Band Aid, Chris de Burgh...added to the usual John and Yoko, Slade and Wizzard. Some of them still stand the test of time. Sure, they are a little "twee" but they are part of my history, and when they come on the radio, or I slip on the Christmas Hits cds, the memories come flooding back, of late teenage Christmas's: broken hearts, drunken family parties and even some good old snow. They are good memories. Memories of the last vestiges of innocence before the true nature of the world revealed itself in all its murkiness.

Not for me are all Christmas songs actual festive compositions, Eagles' "Heartache Tonight"and Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", Ian Dury's "Hit me with your Rhythm Stick" and ELO's "Cant Get it out of my Head" are all songs that hit my tender spot in the festive season and they still hold true today as "Christmas" songs too.

A really good Christmas song, however, can carry memories and last forever.

My first really great Christmas song was "Ring Out Solstice Bells", which I bought as a 7" EP, (which apparently goes for a few bob now...I saw one copy for £30!!) That one has stayed as a favourite, and is definitely in my top 2, nipping and tucking with Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas" which strangely I never bought, until a few years ago.

It's nice to look at this old Top of the Pops video, another part of my youth now dead and gone, somehow it goes so well, so typically seventies....

"...Solstice Bells" exudes a quintessential English folk feel that Tull will ever be known for, undoubtedly seasonal without the traditional clichés except for a few bells at the finale. Check out this animated movie set to the song, which puts into mind the whole atmosphere of the song.

"Now is the solstice of the year.
winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together 'neath the mistletoe,
by the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out."

The other top Christmas song is Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas" which for me recalls many personal memories of childhood Christmases: finding out there's no Santa after all, seeing a world around that continues to blindly maim and murder despite all the promises of the seasonal goodwill, and of course, the fact that it just keeps on raining and it never bloody snows! All this wrapped in a beautifully arranged version of Prokofiev's Troika from Lieutenant Kije, again seasonal without the clichés, and wonderfully atmospheric. Strangely for some people the video was a composite of desert scene and real life war film footage, but nothing better than to present the viewer with the hypocrisy of the modern Christmas.

The audio is quiet on the above version so check this one out with the different visuals:

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgins birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve

And How it was conceived:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Stille Nacht

Ok, so here's one that's always had a bit of a strange feeling about it for me.
In primary school, we had a headmaster...Mr Myers, he was the one who gave me the cane on my first day, in standard I was 7 years old, because I threw some spilled salt over my shoulder, the way my mum always did because she said it was unlucky to spill salt, and buy throwing it over your shoulder you banished the bad luck. Anyway, I was seven, I knew no different, and he slapped my arse...what a bastard.

Anyway, I digress. At Christmas, the self same headmaster taught all us Welsh school kids how to sing Silent Night in German. This would have been about 1972-73. He I guess would have been about 50 when he was teaching us this stuff...see where I am going?
I still remember us all in the hall, the whole school, around 250, 300 kids I expect, all learning this carol in German....I still think its a little weird.

Anyway, I have just found a download of an album of German Christmas songs, (go here to find said download) : Will Glahe & His Orchestra - Christmas Greetings From Germany in my search this year for as many weird and wonderful and possibly cheesy Christmas albums as possible, and some are sung by children so listening to it brought back this strangely creepy memory...that's all.

1. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab' im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

2. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

3. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn,
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt sehn,
Jesum in Menschengestalt!

4. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß,
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
Jesus die Völker der Welt!

5. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß!

6. Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
"Jesus der Retter ist da!"

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rainbow Bridge

I dedicate one post every year to the memory of a very special part of my life, which is lost but never forgotten. Three years ago on Dec 15th the most wonderful little chap in the world, my dog Cal left us. I hope one day to be with him again. He was a very good dog, I miss you fella, sleep well, see you in the morning.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together ...

We have a secret, you and I,
That no one else shall know,
For who, but I can see you lie,
Each night, in fireglow?
And who but I can reach my hand
Before we go to bed,
And feel the living warmth of you
And touch your silken head?
And only I walk woodland paths,
And see, ahead of me,
Your small form racing wit the wind,
So young again, and free.
And only I can see you swim
In every brook I pass.
And, when I call, no one but I
Can see the bending grass.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christmas posts #2

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING! is as evocative of Christmas for me than Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." It sums up for me everything that childhood meant and that it felt like. When i'm able to capture those ghosts of my past, this is what it feels like the most, friends, family, tradition, innocence, fun, warmth and a sense of home.

I had a tape of a tv adaptation that we'd recorded (Dad I mean) off the television using the new found technological revolution...the cassette recorder! With microphone pointing to the tv speaker, no-one must speak, but you could hear the stifled winter sniffs and coughs in the background, and the scraping of knives on plates as we ate our tea (evening meals are called "tea" where I come from)

Every year starting about halfway through November, Christmas really began when I brought out the tape..which also had snippets of the movie "White Christmas" preceding Dylan's story. It was a ritual and every night I'd stir my excitement listening to the tape in bed before sleep...back when there were wolves in Wales......

I no longer have that tape, it's long since disappeared into the mists of time, but oh what i'd give to hear it again. I've got Dylan reading the tale himself, but that isn't quite as evocative as my taped tv version, wish I had it again...if anyone reads this and knows how to get it please e mail me!

"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now, out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen...."

mp3 download here

Friday, November 17, 2006

First album...thats 33rpm...12" size!!

I'm lying on my back laptop on my stomach, earphones plugged in listening to Queen Live in Rio, a bootleg I just downloaded off the 'net, and low and behold it's made me look back to my first ever album. Now that's VINYL folks, you know the stuff that used to come in big 12" slipcases with artwork you noticed, and sleeve notes you bothered to read. I swear I could have recited by heart the names of the songs, the band, the producer, engineer and tea lady on all my vinyl stuff. Now I couldn't even tell you the titles of the tracks on my favourite cds. Last Sunday I went to see Muse at the Cardiff International Arena, fucking amazing show..but me and my mate Gaz...about 5,000+ cds between us couldn't name half the titles of the songs, and I bleeding love their stuff....its never off the car stereo.

Anyway I digress, Its Christmas 1975 and my first ever album is "Night at the Opera" by Queen, and what a great start it was on my musical journey. Must have cost about £3 and I seem to remeber it coming from Woolworths on Queens Street in Cardiff, a shop long since gone. I posed and played air guitar to this for about 3 years before it inspired me (along with a few others) to pick up a guitar and try it all for real. Of course 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is the one everyone drools over, but seek out great tracks like 'I'm in Love with my Car', 'Sweet Lady' and the awesome 'Prophet's Song' which outranks its more famous counterpart in all respects. It still stands the test of time, not dated much, and funnily enough Muse's latest Cd contains enough trace elements of that Queen sound that if they were nuts would make it carry a health warning. However its not quite the same on cd as on vinyl, not sure why, I'm no audio geek, but this one only REALLY cuts it when is big and black!....I'm sure Freddie would agree!

Here's the Amazon review of Queen's magnum opus, cos I'm too tired to type any more:

" One of the most preposterous albums ever made, A Night at the Opera also remains one of the most popular. While it is difficult to completely dislike a record that successfully introduced the phrase "Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Will you do the fandango?" into the popular lexicon, it is harder still to understand quite what Queen were thinking of when they made this. Whether or not Queen were fully aware of their own absurdity remains a moot point. However, if one can find the hefty psychic hooks and pulleys necessary to suspend this much disbelief, A Night at the Opera is a perversely enjoyable record. The awesomely daft and supremely catchy "Bohemian Rhapsody" aside, it contains the almost equally risible excursions "The Prophet's Song" and "39", a couple of the irresistibly amusing headbanger numbers that Queen could write in their sleep ("Death On Two Legs") and the very possibly heartfelt pop ballad "You're My Best Friend". Immortally baffling, like the pyramids. Yet also enjoyably compelling."

And the artwork is brilliant too!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Terra Nova

Carrying on from the last but one post, I found this exceptional song and neat video by Leeds band iLiKETRAiNS (that's the way they like it written) : "Terra Nova"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Christmas posts #1

OK, so it's getting close, has been since August in Sainsbury's, yes its that old Christmas magic and its starting to cause a tingle in this old man's stomach. Starbucks has the eggnog latte's on the menu, and I've been tracking down my Christmas music cd's ready for the run up to the big prepared!!

I've got a few favourites, my "grown up" favourite I think has to be Tony Bennett's "Snowfall - The Christmas Album" which I bought first on vinyl the first time me and my wife to be spent bits of the Christmas holidays together, we had our very own turkey dinner in my old bedsit, before she had to go home to be with her mum for the big day. Close second comes Harry Connick Jr's "When My Heart Finds Christmas"

However I am without doubt that my all time favourite is Tijuana Christmas by the Torero Brass Band, the cheesiest and most seventies record you could imagine. I have it still on vinyl, and managed to get a digital copy via a very kind chap, whose website will be linked to here.

"Christmas is the most joyful festival of the Christian year, when we celebrate at the same time the turning point of the winter and the new hope that was brought to men with the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time when we make up for the bleakness of the weather outside with the warmth of our spirits, and it is no coincidence that the songs which have come to be particularly associated with Christmas should be carols, which have always been the most cheerful and often the most secular of Christian songs. On this record you find your favourite carols in an unfamiliar guise--we've called the album 'Tijuana Christmas', but you will find the mariachi sound taking on a richer and more varied flavour as the Torero Band bring out the charms of our most beautiful carol tunes in imaginative brand new arrangements. 'The Holly and the Ivy' sets the pace with a bright, sparkling beat that even adds to the gaiety of one of our oldest and liveliest carols; 'Silent Night' a much more recent and a more devout carol, is given a quite contrasting treatment, slow and tender. 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' sets off again at a brisk, bouncy pace--and if you feel like dancing, why not? It may come as a surprise to you that our oldest carols used to be dances, and that the word itself described a form of circular dance.
In the preface to the Oxford book of carols you will find carols described as songs with a religious impulse that are simple, joyful, popular and modern. You'll never have heard them sounding more joyful, popular or modern than they do on this exciting and original L.P."

Why this one?...well its the one that figured most prominently in my childhood obviously. Mum and dad would put it on the old Phillips "stereogram" on christmas day as we opened the presents, so it was their christmas album too. Funnily enough my cousin also had a copy in his house, and they were really into it as well. It brings back the feeling of warmth that only childhood christmases can bring, lots of happy memories of a time when the family was a big deal, now we're all splintered over the country...indeed the world, its all a bit of a damp squib in the end, but then I guess that's what growing old is all about.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A hero

I have a few odd memories of a book which my dad had in his bookcase stirred recently by my reading Ranulph Fiennes' excellent "Captain Scott". I must check to see if he still has it. I am thinking it's "Scott's Last Expedition" the book of the diary from Captain Robert Falcon Scott's 1911 -12 Antarctic trip to reach the South Pole. I remember it as having some amazing and quite chilling photo's in it of terribly frostbitten hands and the cairn that marked Scott's final resting place. It made a definite impression on me as a lad, going back to revisit the pictures over and over again with that morbid childhood interest that boys have (or is it just me??)

Now I'm a "grown up" and reading the story it is an astonishing, tragic yet immensely inspiring tale, one that has enraptured me for the last week. Project Gutenberg, an online library has a copy of Scott's diaries to download and read, I'm dipping into it as a means of highlighting the Fiennes book. I heartily recommend you take a look, and read in awe, the exploits of some of the most truly courageous men.

"March 29, 1912. We had fuel to make 2 cups of tea and food for 2 days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker...and the end cannot be far. For God's sake look after our people."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

James May, Action Man

Found this article on the Top Gear site, about the wonderful programme James May put together last Christmas: James May's Top Toys which has since been repeated at least once. Keep an eye out for a repeat this year.

"For several weeks now, I've been beavering away at my desk working on a project completely unrelated to Top Gear. I've been asked by the BBC to make Gear a one-hour Christmas special about toys, and I have to admit that I'm enjoying myself immensely. Toys are nostalgic, evocative and, above all, still great fun. Scalextric, for example, is really nothing more than an elaborate way of connecting the terminals of a 12-volt transformer to an electric motor.

If sir had pointed out that this phenomenon was the basis of all domestic motor racing, the physics lab would have been a happier place. Likewise the train set, which works in exactly the same way. I love a good train set, and a collection of Dinkies, a Mamod steam engine and a really big box of Meccano or Lego.

These things are magical and offer an immediate and welcome respite from the tedium of adulthood. The downside of all this, however, is that I'm reminded of some truly tedious toys that I'd rightly forgotten."

Friday, October 20, 2006


Ok, strange one this. I make this post because my mum reminded me yesterday that it was on the day of the Aberfan disaster - 21st October 1966 that Mum and Dad moved us from Pontypool to Cardiff, with myself a baby in a pram, and my four year old sister.

It's a shocking story - Aberfan, especially for those of us in Wales close to the event. My grandfather drove there on the day with blankets to help.

Please take some time to visit this site or one of the many others that cover the tragic story, and learn about the greed of the mine managers and the appalling attitude that the government has had to the victims of the Aberfan disaster ever since.

Aberfan: how it happened :-BBC animated graphic
"At 9.15 am on Friday, October 21, 1966 a waste tip slid down a mountainside into the mining village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. It first destroyed a farm cottage in its path, killing all the occupants. At Pantglas Junior School, just below, the children had just returned to their classes after singing All Things Bright and Beautiful at their assembly. It was sunny on the mountain but foggy in the village, with visibility about 50 yards. The tipping gang up the mountain had seen the slide start, but could not raise the alarm because their telephone cable had been repeatedly stolen. (The Tribunal of Inquiry later established that the disaster happened so quickly that a telephone warning would not have saved lives.) Down in the village, nobody saw anything, but everybody heard the noise. Gaynor Minett, an eight-year-old at the school, remembered four years later: It was a tremendous rumbling sound and all the school went dead. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone just froze in their seats. I just managed to get up and I reached the end of my desk when the sound got louder and nearer, until I could see the black out of the window. I can't remember any more but I woke up to find that a horrible nightmare had just begun in front of my eyes. The slide engulfed the school and about 20 houses in the village before coming to rest. Then there was total silence. George Williams, who was trapped in the wreckage, remembered that 'In that silence you couldn't hear a bird or a child'.

144 people died in the Aberfan disaster: 116 of them were school children. About half of the children at Pantglas Junior School, and five of their teachers, were killed. So horrifying was the disaster that everybody wanted to do something. Hundreds of people stopped what they were doing, threw a shovel in the car, and drove to Aberfan to try and help with the rescue. It was futile; the untrained rescuers merely got in the way of the trained rescue teams. Nobody was rescued alive after 11am on the day of the disaster, but it was nearly a week before all the bodies were recovered. "

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Summer days

This is where I spent 80% of my childhood. Summers were hot, winters were cold. Remember when the climate did what it was supposed to do? Wish it was like that now, seems like it's just rain, rain, rain these days, and hard to tell one season from the other.

The rocks here were where I learned to climb, and scrape my knees and test my courage trying to tackle the "witches nose" a sticky out rock bit that was really tricky, you proved yourself by climbing across onto it then sitting there. I did it once, I was 8 years old. Life was so much simpler then

They called it the Quarry, not sure if there ever was a quarry site here, but roads got named after it. I lived along this road til I was 14, and bought my first house near there 20 years later.

I had wonderful memories of it as a kid, but when I was older and walked my dog here it had all changed, teenage kids sat on the new swings installed (cos kids cant make their own games these days) and smoked and drank cider and smashed bottles on the path.

The people had changed, gone were the wonderful neighbourly types, replaced by antisocial arseholes with superiority complexes. I hated living there as a grown up, and was never happier than the day we moved away. Sad really.

Summers were filled with 8 hour football games, played out on sloping pictures kicking plastic footballs kicked through t shirt goalposts. I also remember orange squash, my Man utd shirt, hayfever, sunburnt legs & calomine lotion, making grass blades whistle between your thumbs, sliding on cardboard boxes on the dried grass slopes, bazooka joe gum, cola bottles, dandelion and burdock, sardines on toast for dinner (lunch)
I also remember laughing and being happy.

Winter of '82

I was 17 when we had this great snowfall in Cardiff. These photos I stole of the BBC website, sorry if its a problem, but I doubt anyone is going to read this from there!

I should have been revising for my lower sixth January exams when this snowfall hit just around new years if I remember correctly. I think it was probably the last great snowfall of my youth. I had discovered wine, women and song, lots of the former, plenty of the latter and very little of the middle one considering I'd just been introduced to the delights of "Dumpsville", my innocent age was nearly over.
I remember the cars on Newport Rd being brought to a standstill, I remember cleaning the drive for my mum and dad, and there are somewhere pictures of me taken with mums Polaroid camera, her gift from Dad for xmas that year.


Aha!!! At last found this little beauty on e Bay: Payday!!!!

Now this was one of the best, Xmas oooh well I'd reckon on '75 but info I found says this is a 1979 edition, but I'd have been 14 then, and into rock music and guitars, so i'd have been past the board game playing age. I distinctly remember being up about 6 in the morning dark outside, presents open, and mum and dad going back to bed, while me and sis played this one, whilst chomping my way through the first of many selection boxes! Like an idiots version of monopoloy, but much more fun. They still make it it seems, but this is the version I had and loved. Bidding for this baby, suprise my sister on boxing day this year with it!


Oh boy, just came across this old chestnut: Masterpiece

Yup, you can still buy it it seems, even if it's second hand. This was a family favourite in our household, well me and my sister anyway, one year around about 1975-6 I'd reckon. We never really "got" the rules, but thoroughly enjoyed holding our own little auctions, smugly grinning when we managed to palm off a fake to one another during a frantic bidding session! Not up there with Monopoly or Scrabble or Cluedo, but a definite blast from the past.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

They call me Baby Driver ...Vroom Vroom part 2

Just found a pic of one of the cars, they were Ford Shadows, the colour on this one is close to how mine was, as I said earlier one was blue and one was red, so just visualise this one in red for the complete rose tinted picture.

Oh how I dreamed of the 6 wheeled Tyrrel, the black JPS or even the glorious red ferrari...long before the days of Schumacher and co, this was just post Graham Hill, and into the James Hunt/Nikki Lauder era. Back when Formula 1 was still a life or death game.

They call me Baby Driver ...Vroom Vroom

Every boys dream toy when I was a kid was Scalextric, slot car racing. I had this set but I cant find a picture of the cars yet. I had this one sometime around about 75-76 I think. I had one blue car and one red, as on the box. It came with this scale speed calculator thing that was my first experience of "Mind Fuck"

Anyway...with this set you could have a "figure of 8" or standard "oval" layout, complete with high speed banking which apparently made it marginally easier to keeop the cars on while going around corners. I still recall spending most of the time fetching the cars from under the sofa.

I later expanded my set by buying some extra track from Grimwades, a second hand shop in the Canton area of Cardiff. I bought extra straights, including a chicane and some barrier pieces which didn't really help keep the cars on but made the crashes a little more spectacular. After months of mindless "figure of 8ing"(funny how you could do repetitive stuff without losing your temper in those childhood days) I found that if you fixed all the straights together in one long line you could 'shoot' the cars off the end at the front room wall, the first stages of teenage rebellion??

Well the one thing that stands out the most is that the same Christmas that I got this, my sister got Simon and Garfunkels "Brudge Over Troubled Water" and I always hung around for Baby Driver to come on the Stereogram so I could wind the cars up along with the race car rev sound at the end of the track....sad???...Fuck I was only a kid!


The probable cause of my high dental bills now I'm a "grown-up", ladies and gentlemen I give you...Toffo's.

They came in original Toffee flavour, and then they also did a mixed one with flavours like banana and strawberry and mint.

Ooooh the cavaties!

Album war

Mild nostalgia here just seeing some of those album covers...Boston, Joe Jackson!!

First single 45rpm

The Sweet - Teenage Rampage! (no2 Feb 1974)

What a great record, and cost me about 75p (???) and wa maybe bought from Woolworths in Cardiff's Queen Street. (where my Dad used to but those shocking Top of the Pops records from)

Though I'm not 100% sure about the cost for sure or the shop, I am sure that it taught me a lesson. That is that B sides are often better, and this in turn probably turned me on to being an album person rather than a singles person.

The B side was called "Own Up, Take A Look At Yourself". I've recently downloaded said B side, and then went on to buy the album, which I've yet to listen to, but its there for the rainy days or winter!

We want Sweet, we want Sweet ...

All over the land
The kids are finally startin' to get the upper hand
They're out in the streets, they turn on the heat
And soon they could be completely in command
Imagine the sensation of teenage occupation
At thirteen they'll be learning
But at fourteen they'll be burnin'
But there's something in the air
Of which we all will be aware
But they don't care, no, no, no, no... so
Come join the revolution, get yourself a constitution
Come join the revolution now
And recognise your age it's a teenage rampage
Turn another page on the teenage rampage now
So recognise your age it's a teenage rampage
Turn another page on the teenage rampage now!
They're getting it on, ain't doing it wrong
And they're gonna do it, it won't be long
They gotta be heard, they got the word that really belongs
And now they're coming on strong
Imagine the formation of teenage legislation
At thirteen they were fooling
But at sixteen they'll be rulin'
And there's something in the air
of which we all will be aware
But they don't care, no, no, no, no... so
Come join the revolution, get yourself a constitution
Come join the revolution now
And recognise your age it's a teenage rampage
Turn another page on the teenage rampage now
So recognise your age it's a teenage rampage
Turn another page on the teenage rampage now!
There's something in the air
Of which we all will be aware, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah... so
Come join the revolution, get yourself a constitution
Come join the revolution now
And recognise your age it's a teenage rampage
Turn another page on the teenage rampage now
So recognise your age it's a teenage rampage
Turn another page on the teenage rampage now!

Push to kick


Wow, another one of those Christmas memories. My overriding memory of this one was finding it under my parents bed when I went hunting for pressies in the run up to Christmas 9 (This must have been about '74-75)

They usually kept the pressies in the top right hand cupboard in the wardrobe above my dads clothes, but obviously this one was too big for there and made its way under the bed. Didnt fool old Sherlock for long tho'. I was able to pull the box out, and ease the lid up and sneak a peak at those wonderfull richly coloured blue and red players. I was a big Man Utd fan in those days (dont even watch football any more) and I swear one of the red team was the spitting image of Lou Macari. Unlike many toys and games, this one did live up to expectations, and I found it absorbing to be able to choreagraph these little men, and allow Man Utd (red) to regularly thrash Everton (blue) on a thrice daily basis.

They also made Super Striker, where the goal keepers actually dived. My mate Tim (who always seemed to out do me) had Super Striker, and tho' it looked amazing on the adverts in reality it was pretty shit, and my working class version where the goalkeeper just threw the ball from his frozen arm. One up for me there then!!!

It's long since the days where I could play striker for hours on end lost in my own innocent little world, but I've got a bid up for Striker on e bay at the moment, hopefully another little piece of the nostalgia jigsaw will droip into place in the next week or so.

Where it all started

My nostalgia kick started for real last year when I was 40. E bay was the cause of much of my joy because I was able to take a look at lots of toys from my childhood, ones that had particular and poignant memories.

The one toy that seemed to hang high in my memory was this one...the Space 1999 Eagle transporter.

It must have been about 1974-5, and I had it for Christmas (lots of stuff here will have associations with christmas memories) and I remember going to buy it with my Nan in Whitchurch village here in Cardiff. There was a toy shop there which had these wonderful looking die cast models everywhere, but it was the Eagle that had caught my eye. We didnt get to see Space 1999 to often here in Wales, because for some reason the Tv channels neglected to show it very often. I think it was in a magazine called "Look In" that they showed the TV schedules of kids TV and it always seemed to be on in Anglia or Thames or some other region other than Wales. So it was a bit of a holy grail for me, a rarity. I recall looking forward to getting this toy more than anything else at christmas that year. I think my main present that year was Striker (more of which later) but I held this metal toy in some sort of awe for the moths leading up to Dec 25th that year, imagining all the great (imaginary) scenes I could play out with it.
When I got it I have to say I was a little disappointed, it didnt fly, no smoke came out, no sounds. Juts a little switchy thing on the top to let the Pod drop and the doors on the pod opened. Even the colour was wrong, the cabin was green and in the series it was all white.

I did have some fun with it, I remember winding my sister up with it during a boxing day showing of Dr Zhivago as she gawped at Omar Sharif, but it was a bit of a damp squib.

However that didnt stop me buying a new one last year on ebay....£30 this time, for a new model, bigger, better and whiter than before, and now taking pride of place in my nostalgia collection. This was also my first taste of nostalgia being a let down. I waited for delivery, tramped down to the sorting office cos it wouldnt fit through the letter box, ripped open the package in the car and held it there in my hands...childhood revisited! Funny, still had all the worries of mortgages and work weighing me down.

Whats it all about

This is an idea i've been kicking around for a while. As the world spirals out of control into a quagmire of religious confrontation, environmental catastrophe, media control and American domination I like to harken back to a previous time when things seemed simpler and happier. I think its mainly to do with being a kid, when you're a kid things like war and politics dont seem to matter, at least they didnt when i was a kid. All that mattered was 'what's the weather like', can i go out, can I go to so and so's house to play subbuteo/scalectrix/top trumps etc.

I know there are a few sites about that cover this stuff, but this is mine, and if you want to contribute, please e mail me at and I'll see what I can do.

I hope you have fun, and lose yourself in some memories, please leave comments just to cheer me along or correct facts.

Back to the 70's.....