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.