Stuck Indoors; Stuck Not In The Past

Books and music, music and books,

of all the arts these are the two that I’ve lost myself the most in since childhood. And sometimes, of course, I combine the two.

One Train Later is the autobiography of The Police guitarist Andy Summers. I read this book in the last few leisurely days.

I was already familiar with the group’s hits, staple fare of the airwaves since I was growing up, and now this lockdown had afforded me some time to work my way through their albums. Acquainting myself with their less well known tracks, I made my way through their material in chronological order, allowing me to chart their development in a way that their fans at the time would have experienced them.

It further cemented the belief that my musical taste is fixed, mostly, on this side of the millennium.

Of course, there are a few exceptions, (and I don’t think it healthy for anyone to live solely in the past), and nothing can beat stumbling upon a great busker on the streets of Manchester when loaded down with bags in the wake of your wife’s shopping trail.

But that is a luxury currently denied to us, and so in the meanwhile it’s this:

books and music, music and books,

with hopefully good weather and copious amounts of coffee.

R.I.P Astrid Kirchherr

I’ve just heard of the death, at 81, of Astrid Kirchherr, the woman who helped define the early Beatles look when the then unknown Liverpool group were in Hamburg in the early sixties.

She took some of their early photographs, iconic photographs in a style that were ahead of everyone else at the time.

After these she also gave the (then) Fab Five their distinctive Beatle haircuts, the fifth being the talented but doomed artist Stuart Sutcliffe who she fell in love with. Later, reduced to four, and with Best replaced by Starr, they went on to conquer the world, as she proudly and sadly looked on.

Fifty eight years apart, I’d like to think that they’ve found each other again. R.I.P

Sunday Morning Check-In

It’s a pleasant start to Sunday, sitting in the back garden reading Raban’s Old Glory.

Continuing the Southern theme, I’ve got Bobbie Gentry playing in the background.

Not in person, of course, for as far as I know she’s still holed up somewhere over the Pond in happy seclusion.

I’m not sure what’s prompted this Southern theme. Maybe it’s the sunshine.

And, speaking of being holed up, I hope you guys are all okay in whatever part of this currently crazy world these lines find you.

Out of curiosity, where are you all? And yes, even you, Bobbie.

33 Crows

My morning observations so far:

crow bullies jackdaw;

jackdaw bullies magpie;

magpie takes it out on any living thing in sight.

This lovely weather allows me to sit outside and watch all of this, but nobody takes it in better than my dog, Bryn, who stands on his rear haunches like one of those meerkats that grabs his attention on the tv. I think this position adds to his delusion that he can somehow reach them, that they are just extra toys with which he can play.

Watching all of these corvid shenanigans has put me in mind of 33 Crows by Kula Shaker. I was a fan of them in all their 90’s psychedelic pomp, but this is a more stripped back track, though, from their 2016 album K2.0.

You can skip the ad, if you want to, of course. Now I’m off to placate Bryn.

Lockdown And Play

I’m hoping you guys can view this via Twitter. In Sicily, under lockdown, people coming together to make music. Check out some of the videos in the comments too.

Brilliant.

Sounds Like A Plan, Or At Least A Blueprint

Recently I came across this extract from Australian composer Baz Luhrmann’s iconic 1999 song “Wear Sunscreen”, and thought it sounded like the perfect attitude to stick with as I enter this new decade and my middle years:

“Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind….the race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the Funky Chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either, your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Be nice to your siblings, they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand your friends come and go but for the precious few you should hold on to. 

Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do you’ll fantasise that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.”

That Damn Shalamar

It was a simple cafe, one of those we call, in all innocence, a ‘greasy spoon’. You know the sort, all-day breakfasts, exercise thwarting ‘gut busters.’

In fact, when I was a postman, I used to deliver to one such cafe that was actually named Gut Busters. “They’ve got your name wrong again,” I said one morning, waving the letter before depositing it on their counter.

“Who are we now?” the proprietor asked.

“Ghostbusters! You could complain, but who you gonna call?”

Anyway, this was a similar cafe to that one, but located in the heart of Manchester rather than one of its northern suburbs. Being early morning, there were only three customers in the place, myself and two other guys who were sat at a table against the far wall. I don’t think they were homeless, but they looked like they’d seen better days. A bit dishevelled, maybe coming off a five day bender.

I was drinking coffee as they tucked into a fry-up each, and first became aware of them when one called to the waitress who was cleaning the counter.

“Hey love, who sings this song, d’ya know?”

She cocked an ear to the song coming from the radio. “Erm, . . . oh, I do know this one . . . who is it now?”

I couldn’t place the singer, but knew the song: A Night To Remember.

“Is it Diana Ross?” the man asked.

“Is it bleedin’ hell,” his mate replied for her. “It’s a man.”

“You can’t tell the difference with some of those funky singers. Is it Luther Vandross?” he persisted.

Get ready,” the waitress sang along as she searched her memory, “tonight!”

Outside the window, in the dirty grey light, my fellow Mancunians were falling into their daily routines. I bet most of them could navigate their route blindfolded, scattering the pigeons and beggars as they go.

The waitress brought my plate over, now humming along to a new and easily identifiable song. Abba, that Swedish superpower of airplay.

As I picked up my knife and fork I caught the eye of the man who’d asked the question. “That song, it was Shalamar.”

“Shalamar!” they both exclaimed.

“And friends!” the one that had posed the question, added.

“Yes,” his accomplice agreed, “Shalamar and friends.”

“You’ll sleep tonight now,” I said. But then felt the need for confession. I held up my phone. “I cheated.”

“You didn’t know it either!” they grinned.

Brought briefly together by a thirty-odd year-old song, we then retreated back to our respective worlds, those two sketching vague plans for the day and I catching last night’s match report.

I was draining the last of my coffee by the time they’d finished and paid their bill. I nodded to them as they made their way to the door, and the guy leading the way shook his head reflectively. “That damn Shalamar,” he said, before joining the parade on the Manchester streets.