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Monday 22 June 2015

Only a couple.

Someone in a garden nearby is tuned into a radio station and the sound drifts easily on the air.
It crosses my mind that I don’t remember the last time I heard this.
I had forgotten about the existence of the radio disc jockey.
In the car we play music randomly.
The shuffle option is our friend.
And in work we have music that is piped in with no interruptions and often it just merges with the background noise and barely registers.
Now as I sit here and listen to the voice chattering between the songs it sounds like an echo from the past.
It’s a welcoming reminder that there was a time when life was less stressful.
A time when sitting in the garden and letting the heat of the sun warm my face wasn't a moment that I could snatch, but instead something that could be stretched to fill hours.

It’s nice.

As nice as the glass of wine that I have just finished.
I could have another, but there’s work in the morning and two might just lead to three and then there would be the morning ritual of asking myself why did I bother as drinking never really solves any of lives problems.

A muscle has a short spasm in my back as I stand up and reach for the glass.
It draws a groan from my lips and if anyone had heard me I would have followed it on by saying that old age doesn't come by itself.
It would be embarrassing to be honest and say that it is a result of an injury that required a visit to accident and emergency.
If I said that it would open the door to questions after question.
None of which I really care to answer.
Thankfully no one is within ear shot and no explanations are needed for the grimace that crosses my face.

With the glass rinsed out and resting next to the sink I scan the room to see if anything else needs done before heading to bed.
There’s nothing.
Or nothing that I can see that could be the catalyst for a one sided argument.
Not that anything really has to be out of place if an argument is going to be the culmination of another night out with colleagues.

It’s already over an hour later than the time casually dropped in as a rough estimate for when the couple of drinks was going to end.

There was a time that I would sit up and wait, but that seemed to inflame the situation and there would be accusations of a lack of trust regardless of my trying to say that it was only because I was worried.

Over time I've learnt all the little avoidance tricks.
The things that need to be done that will minimise the chances of a meltdown.
Don’t leave anything out that can catch the eye.
The slippers not tucked away correctly that could be tripped over.
The singular plate left unwashed in the sink.
Anything can really be the catalyst for a drunken tirade.
Little molehills all have the ability to become mountains in the heat of the moment.
A storm can literally rage from a teacup left in view.

Experience has led me to accept that it’s best to just retire for the night and on their return maybe pretend to be asleep and hope that my faux unconsciousness is enough to avoid all the trigger points.

Tonight my stomach is in knots though.

All the signs of the darkness were already in place as they left.
Barely anything said, hardly any eye contact, grunts used rather than words and then of course the sunshine comes out and the smile and easy laugh appears when their workmates arrive to pick them up.
The face is put on for the public and not one of them would guess at what it looks like in private after a couple of drinks too many.
The contorted rage that tightens it, the spittle flecked lips as they curse, the blankness in the eyes as they ultimately lash out.

Everything leading up to them all clambering into the back of a taxi ticks of the red boxes that scream danger to me, and yet here I am going to my bed and crossing my fingers in the hope that a pretence can avoid it all.


It’s dark outside and headlights have just swept across the bedroom wall.
The clock flashes that it’s after three so the couple of drinks have either led to a visit to a club or another quick one in the house of a friend.

The doors of a taxi open and laughter spills out and voices a little too loud for the time bid farewell and mix in with exchanges of promises to do it all again soon.

I close my eyes and try and relax into a believable sleep position.

The door opens downstairs and there’s some stumbling in the hallway, a muttered curse and the sound of keys being stabbed at the lock.
Every step taken is amplified in the house as there is barely any other sounds that are in competition with them.
The fridge door opens and closes.
There’s the sound of a bottle being taken out.
One more for the road about an hour too late I think.

And then there are the footsteps on the stairs.
The door opens and the light switch is slapped at.

When the light goes on there’s no point in pretending to be asleep so I blink bleary eyes and ask how the night was.

Swaying in the doorway they mutter something unintelligible.

It sounds like ‘I fuckin’ hate you’, but I pretend that I don’t hear it, or the ‘you make me sick’ that follows it, and try and calmly say ‘come to bed.’

There’s a slight stagger to the right and they rest against the door frame and then the bottle of beer is thrown at me.

There’s no warning, no slow build up.

My reactions are slow and it shatters off the metal bedpost.
Inches on either side and it wouldn't have broken, but it has and I can see the glass and beer explode on contact.

And then there is the pain.

On one side of my face there’s searing pain and I reach up to touch it and my palm pushes a shard of glass further into my eye and I scream.


This is what I tell the police officer who is sympathetically questioning me about ten minutes after a doctor in accident and emergency has explained to me that the damage is too severe and there is no realistic chance of saving my eye.

He blinks a few times and looks at what he has written.

When he looks up again he asks how many times this occurs and I tell him that I have lost count over the years.

I know he wants to ask me why I didn't leave, but I don’t have an answer for that.

A nurse arrives and tells me that procedure means that I have to be in a wheelchair to be taken to a ward.

I'm taken out and left in the corridor for a few minutes and I can see the police officer talking to the doctor and glancing back at me.

I feel ashamed.

When an orderly comes and gets me we pass the waiting area and I see my wife sitting there looking lost and terrified as the officer walks towards her.

She doesn't see me and I'm glad.

I just want to sleep.


This was written as over the last few weeks I've seen a few discussions about domestic abuse that have focussed on women as if it only really happens to them.
Of course figures show that in the main they are by and large the main victims, but I don’t feel that this means that male victims should be marginalised.
After all a victim of abuse is a victim of abuse.

Sadly - and I do understand why - when the subject is broached the women who have suffered are very reluctant to acknowledge any views offered by a male. 
We are the enemy.
There is a blanket condemnation of our gender regardless of how much empathy we have and how much we support any action that will oppose domestic violence.
On an emotional level this is, as said, understandable and all women who have been abused have the right to feel whatever way that they wish about it.
The anger, the resentment.
All of it is natural.

However to truly bring about an end to domestic violence I do believe that we should all stand together and oppose it. 
Creating factions slows the process down.
Closing the door on those who would wish to stand up and say this is all so wrong is counter productive.

So this fictional story is just to highlight that regardless of the gender abuse is wrong.
After all when tumbling down the stairs does it matter if it was a male or female hand that did the pushing?

None of the above is to claim that we do not have an issue with male dominance and how a patriarchal society addresses violence towards women as of course we do.
It's just to promote a view I hold that working together can bring change to the world faster.
A thousand voices in opposition cry louder than a solitary one.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey - Holy Holy play The Man Who Sold The World

Music is the air that I breathe.
It has been my constant companion for as long as I can recall.
In fact some of my earliest memories are linked to certain songs.
Pre school age I can clearly remember sitting with what seemed like giant headphones on and listening to everything from The Rolling Stones to Elvis Presley.
Credit for that has to go to my uncle though.
When visiting him with my parents he would provide a steady stream of albums for my listening pleasure and I am genuinely forever grateful to him for providing me with an introduction to so many wonderful acts and giving me such a broad foundation to build on.

It’s also actually factually accurate to say that in many ways my appreciation of music has enhanced my life in more ways than I could count.

I have made long lasting friendships, been educated by it, travelled, formed romantic relationships, spent quality time with my children at gigs, and as said so very much more with it all being positive.

However one man who deserves a tip of the hat for providing so many personal golden moments on my journey through life is the producer Tony Visconti.

While the majority fawn over full bands, and especially those with the golden tonsils there is sometimes an appreciation blind spot operating were the people exist who were the conduit for the hits and albums to keep rolling.

While the names of Bowie to Presley roll off the lips it is left to the critics and the more infatuated with music to proclaim the greatness of the producers who worked with the legends.

And if we want to talk about real legends then Visconti is your guy.

Consider this.
Eight albums with Bolan, from the early incarnation as Tyrannosaurus Rex through the T-Rex years, of which included the mighty ‘Electric Warrior’ album.
With that on a CV most people could retire and bask in the reflected glory till they shook off their mortal coil, but not Visconti.
So you can add Bowie to the artists he didn’t only produce, but play with to.
The Man Who Sold The World, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Low, Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters, Heathen, Reality and the come back of The Next Day.
Again you would think that would be enough, but it doesn't even come close to how many acts he has worked with and sprinkled his magic in the studio over.
Paul McCartney and Wings, Manic Street Preachers, The Seahorses, Hazel O’Connors Breaking Glass, Thin Lizzy, Iggy Pop.
I’m reeling these off by memory.
Then there are The Stranglers, Adam Ant, Anti-Flag, Strawbs, Ralph McTell and Morrissey.
If I was to go online and check the list of the acts he has been involved in and mention each and every one I would end up with a repetitive strain injury from typing.

Even with what is listed it is very obvious that this is a man that has been at the top of his game for decades.
While artist come and go he has been a constant, and for that reason alone Tony Visconti should be a household name.

In addition to his production and engineering work he has also as mentioned played with the greats and more recently been touring with Woody Woodmansey (Bowie drummer) as Holy Holy performing alongside Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) and Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet) and breathing new life into The Man Who Sold the World to great acclaim from fans and critics alike, and so successful was the mini tour that he is currently back on the road with it to impress all over again.

Undoubtedly this is a bucket list gig and it’s just waiting there to be ticked off.

In fact check out who else is in the band.

James Stevenson (Generation X, The Cult, Scott Walker), guitar
Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Bob Geldof), guitar
Terry Edwards (Gallon Drunk, PJ Harvey, The Blockheads, Yoko Ono), saxophones, 12-string guitar, percussion
Rod Melvin (Brian Eno, Ian Dury), piano
Berenice Scott (Heaven 17), synthesiser
Hannah Berridge Ronson (Colin Lloyd Tucker), keyboard, recorder, backing vocals
Lisa Ronson (The Secret History), vocals

On Thurday the 25th of June he is back in the ABC in Glasgow.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

The Sux Pastels - General Chaos EP.

When punk rock first reared its ugly head in the late seventies its flag bearers instinctively knew that the short sharp message had to maintain some appeal.
Go back and listen to them and there are hooks a plenty.
Crudely formed some of the material may be, but that was part of the attraction, and as long as the pioneers kept sight of the structure of the song being listenable then all was fine and dandy.
That is until the eighties started to bite in and the shouty shouty brigade took the baton and ran down a cul-de-sac with it screaming anarchy at no one in particular.

Unfortunately their influence cast a shadow over what most perceived punk rock to be and when the name is uttered in the present day a sizeable amount of people paint a picture in their heads of Mohican sporting cider swilling dog on a string individuals acting antisocially.

And while that stereotype certainly does exist it’s only a small part painted into a corner of a very large canvas.
A small part that very often has little to do with majority of musicians who shelter under the punk umbrella.
Bands like The Sux Pastels who originate from East Kilbride in Scotland.
With a credible amount of years under their belts, and participation in more projects than they would probably care to admit to, the four piece have banded together to share their cumulative experiences and see what they can rustle up, and what they managed to rustled up is a rather grand overview of punk rock and roll in its entirety.
With nods to SLF, Buzzcocks and many others who carved a trail the guys have created a solid skeleton to flesh out with their own talents.

From the opening chords to the last guitar string being plucked the whole ep is punk rock ear candy.

The cover of Adam Antz Christian D’Or is supremely well delivered, but it is to the bands credit that this well established, and much loved, fan favourite doesn't manage to overshadow their self penned material.

Instead it’s more the icing on an already impressive slice of punk rock and roll.

The EP is due for release within the next few weeks and pre-orders can be taken on their facebook page.
It will be a limited run for physical copies so consider the pre-order tip your chance to secure a copy. 

Tuesday 16 June 2015

The Godfathers - 30th Anniversary tour - Glasgow

Anniversary tours are coming around with alarming regularity at the moment.
Most are unwelcome reminders that our own drunken teenage glory days are no longer lurking in close proximity, but rather slowly becoming lost in the mists of time and if we want to revisit them then we have to buy a ticket for the nostalgia train.

For myself I will readily admit that each time I see a poster dubbed with the word anniversary I hear a clock ticking somewhere and ask myself where all the time has went.
And I’m assured that I am not alone in thinking that.

So is life really just birth, school, work, death?

See what I did there?

That’s right ‘The Godfathers’ are doing their thirtieth anniversary tour, and with a revamped line up and a freshly released single to promote there’s a welcome refusal on their part to turn the hands on the clock back, or even hold them still.
Instead it’s a celebration of what lies behind them, what is happening in the here and now, and an invitation to join the party for future tomorrows.

So if you want to wallow in nostalgia then expect to have some of your needs met, but don’t for one second think that the band are going to look to pander to your every halcyon memory.

They will leave that to the other acts that are looking to grab fumes from what is left in the tank.

The current positive state of play within the Godfathers camp is actually all the more impressive as it was only a year ago when founding members of Peter and Chris Coyne were thrown into the deep end and had to sink or swim when both Del Bartle and Grant Nicholas walked without much notice.
That they struck out for the side of the pool and recamped the band on dry land in such a short space of time, and with the forward momentum of the band and the quality maintained, is something that fans should applaud and applaud loudly.

Lesser acts would have crashed and burned, but the brothers instead knuckled down and kept going while barely missing a step.

Now with a tour already drawing critical praise from fans and journalists alike it would seem that in hindsight the shake up was the catalyst for them to ensure that they didn’t simply start treading water.
Rather they took it as a very short watershed moment in their careers and regrouped and set out to win hearts and minds again.

The proof of how successful they have been in doing that will be on display this Saturday in Glasgow as they bring their own brand of punky R&B to the ABC.

Old and new fans are not going to be disappointed.

Monday 8 June 2015

You talkin' to me.

Sometimes there's a rant building up and there's no real point in keeping it locked inside.
It's just going to fester there and take on a power of its own.
It will poison you from the inside out.
It's often better to just lance that boil and let it all out isn't it?.

So will all due respect I've got to say that I have been thinking about things and come to the conclusion  that everything is your fault.
Some of it is my fault as well, but mainly it’s yours.
It’s more your fault than mine because in many ways I try to make an effort while I don’t see any being made by you.
I often fall short of being a paragon of morality and there's no point lying about it, but at least I am out of the starting gate and speaking out while you are still in the stalls with your lips sewn shut.

It feels to me that too often I am horrified by the way someone has treated another and I try and do something about it.
I try and highlight the injustices I see, and the list of the companies that I will literally have nothing to do with just gets longer and longer by the day.
It’s not just companies either.
It’s also people to.

So what I guess I am openly saying is that I'm bloody trying. and you’re not.
Yeah, you.
I'm tired of you. 

Sorry to break it to you in such an abrupt manner.

Well maybe not you specifically as there are loads of good people out there, but even if it isn’t you I bet you know plenty of people that this fits like a glove.

If so then send them this.

Do it passively aggressively if you want.
Is they ask if it is about them just say you meant to send it to someone else and then mutter ‘but if the cap fits fucker’ and then make something up if they partially hear it and ask you to repeat yourself.

Anyway the bottom line is that as I've gotten older I have become increasingly more intolerant of shit, and at the same time others – and that’s maybe you – have become more tolerant of it all.
So tolerant of it that you have allowed it to build up so deep that we are all wading through rivers of it and I bloody resent that.
I really do.
I could scream ‘up your fuckin’ game’ out of the window right now.

Just a general lambaste at anyone walking by as the odds are pretty good that of them all this will be true of a good chunk of them.

Too many people are simply not giving enough of a shit about anything that important.
It’s all superficial crap.

For example when someone acts badly and hurts another for no other reason than they simply can, and they want to, then maybe I will extend a few chances as there may be some underlying issue, but if they aren't trying to incrementally change and curb that negative crap then I’m finished with them.
So there you go.
I'm doing something about it.

My withdrawing from them is highlighting that I disagree with their actions, and if they blatantly ask me why I'm not talking to them then I will happily tell them.
Maybe that will be the catalyst they need to change as not saying anything isn’t helping.
But you – well maybe not you, but I covered that – will give them a free pass wont you?
It’s too much hassle to say anything; it doesn’t impact on your life, it’s nothing to do with you really.
I've heard it all before.

Has it got nothing to do with you though?

There’s an old guy falling to the ground clutching his chest.
It must be a heart attack, quick…………………….look the other way.

The thing is that the free pass is really just tacit approval.
The silence is taken as permission to carry on.

So while there are a minority lining up to abuse us from dodgy political leaders to the dodgy promoter looking to exploit your kid as they’re wet behind the ears* the fault really lies with us as we are allowing this to go on unchecked.

Or more so you, as again I'm ranting about it and you’re not.

The guy kicking the dog at the bottom of the street, the woman, or man, whimpering through the wall as their partner has just took a belt to them, the company that just laid off one hundred people as they are looking to boost profits by cutting their wage bill, the lobbyist lining the pockets of a politician to ensure their paymaster gets a contract, the twat blaming immigrants for his piles as everyone knows that immigrants are at the root of fuckin everything that’s wrong with this country.

That’s your fault.
All of it.

It really is.

I probably don’t do enough to oppose it all either.
I'm not going to deny that.
I am aware of my own failings, very aware of them, but I am also not going to shoulder all the responsibility because while I have many friends who are equally raging at the ugliness of the world around them there are too many doing nothing about it.
My not saying anything to you about any of this would really be as bad as all the things you say nothing about to anyone ever.

We really do get the society we deserve.
I've said it before and I fully expect to say it again.

So look around us and ask yourself if this what we want?


Is this it?


There’s something good on the television tonight, I fancy a new car, I’ve just booked a holiday, and I've got a new mobile phone.
What’s the point of getting annoyed anyway?
No one ever really changes anything do they?
All this palaver only increases the blood pressure and with all the fast food burgers I eat that’s not a good idea.

I wonder what it’s like to not really bother about anything, or to suppress it all so deeply that it appears that nothing matters.

Jello said it best with Give me convenience or give me death.

Time for a song I suppose.

PS - No apologies for the language used.
If you can expend the energy to get upset about a few curse words, but can't to oppose injustices around the world then you are part of the problem and not the solution.

*It’s a pet issue. 

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Black and White Boy – The Avenue

Carefully looking to strike a balance between making music recognisably your own and not falling into a repetitive rut must be the curse of the musician, but Andrew Nicol - aka Black and White Boy - is still on that high wire and moving incrementally forward.
With his talents as a songwriter it could very well be an easy transition from doing what he wants to, to doing what the public apparently wants, but it’s to his credit that he refuses to write material by numbers and instead remains true to his melancholic heart.

On this outing there are still the strains of his Finn Brothers influences serving as a foundation, but with the addition of some Springsteen-esque flourishes the songs, while still not moving into party anthem territory, have a certain shading to them that brings in some lighter moments that contrasts well with the lyrical content.

It’s very mature fare and written to appeal to a more contemplative audience.

That being the case there is the possibility that some may miss out on the magic that lies therein if they are looking for a quick hit as it’s not a body of material that is looking to grab at the listener, but instead it’s more about forming a relationship with them.
Easing in and taking root and ultimately settling in for the long haul is probably how it could best be described.

It’s certainly difficult to commit to saying whether this is a brave or foolish approach in an era that seems keen to simply be guided towards a more consumerist take on music.
Undoubtedly much of what is on offer in the mainstream is largely deliberately disposable, but I for one will tip my hat to anyone who considers tilting at windmills as a worthy pursuit.

In short some things are really worth the effort of taking the time to explore and in this instance I would recommend that you set aside the time to get your head wrapped around ‘The Avenue.’

The Eden Festival - The Bucket List

With the countdown to Eden 2015 well and truly started it is time to give you the itsaxxxxthing/NHC Music top ten of acts to catch.

So in time honoured tradition it gives me great pleasure to announce in no particular order.

With a new material on the cards, and a groundswell of support growing rapidly, it seems very obvious that the band is on the cusp of greater things.
With a recent successful outing at Liverpool Sound City festival - and then the headlining of an event to support the reopening of the Clutha in Glasgow - the band has deservedly secured a place on the lips of everyone from garden variety music loving punters to the industry movers and shakers.

And with all the plaudits flying in their direction fuelling their desires it seems safe to say that right now is going to be the optimum moment to catch them.

Sometimes some of us can be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and in hindsight say ‘I was there’.
This is your opportunity to be that bar room bore lording it over lesser mortals whose only claim to fame was serving a failed x-factor wannabe star a burger as they went through the drive-through on their way to the bar mitzvah they are booked to play.
Don’t miss it.

I've said it time and time again, but if a mad scientist stitched together the perfect festival band then the end result would be Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5.

Terms like pioneer, legend, and icon don’t sit comfortably on the shoulders of many, but some people seem to have no problem at all in carrying the weight of them around.
Joseph Saddler aka Grandmaster Flash is one such person.
Just think about this for a moment.
When you wake up in the morning you’re not Grandmaster Flash and never will be, but he is and always will be.
A pretty depressing thought for everyone except him.
I'm not going to hold it against him though.

With a stomping foot and a harmonica he will change your life.
Or at the very least make you wonder why music channels on the television prefer to play wall to wall equivalents of acts modelled on the Stepford Wives rather than explore the fringes where genius wrestles with madness.

There was a period of time when I don’t think a month went past that I didn't see The Skints.
They could have been on tour with The King Blues, or belting out their skanking tunes in a basement club, but looking back I don’t recall ever losing the buzz through familiarity.
With every set the blasted through I left exhilarated and looking to spread the love.
It’s been a while, but their participation in the Eden line up is still something that sends a thrill running down my spine to my feet and lordy there go my feet to tapping.

5 - Mickey 9s
Along with Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 they are another of the many Yellow Movement bands who promote worshiping at the alter of the gods of Good Times.
You want the funk then they are bringing the funk.
Best bit is that they aren't looking to rip off the bands of yesteryear, but instead are striking forth to bring the funk into uncharted territories.
Once seen, never forgotten.

My one and only introduction to Papa Shandy was when I ventured out on my own to a rally in George Square and found myself feeling a tad discombobulated as they ran through a celtic tinged homage to Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I was the proverbial porker in the excrement.
Lost on the moment I swore that I would make it my mission in life to dance drunkenly with rum in hand at a festival they were appearing at.
My time has come.

Friends raved and I didn't listen.
They raved again and I partially listened.
When they raved for a third time I bought their ep and listened.
Then I raved about them and no one listened.
Then I raved about them again and some people listened.
Now I am raving about them and you better listen.
Even better was when I caught them playing two sets in the one day.
The first was an acoustic session, and then the second a full on electric experience.
Since then their CD has never been far from my stereo tray.

Scottish bands have never been reticent about getting down and dirty with the blues, and strangely enough can very often give their US counterparts a solid run for their money.
It must be something in the whisky.
Or maybe that’s just what Black Cat Bone would say.
None the less you couldn't argue that they aren't doing it in fine style.
Expect to hear more about them as the year progresses.

Say the name slowly.
Think about what it conjures up in your mind.
You got it.
The name encapsulates exactly what they are all about.
Drunken sea shanties, drunken dancing, drunken singalongs, drunken……..okay, you get the picture.

Rising phoenix like from the ashes of the manc brit pop sound Feet of Clay make you feel unashamed at owning an Oasis album as you grudgingly have to accept if it wasn't for the mono-browed plagiarists of the mop top four this magnificent band wouldn't have had a springboard to jump off from.

The lazy buggers don't have a video, but like the rest click on the name and check out their facebook page. 

The above ten acts are on 'my' Eden bucket list for this year, but they are not the only ones.
While going through the line up I was like a magpie snatching at the glittering diamonds of talent that are littered throughout.
It was hard enough whittling the list down to ten and if I was to start afresh I am sure that some would be dropped only to be replaced by other equally talented buggers that deserve a mention.

Alas my self imposed ten will have to stay as it is, but do feel free to drop in recommendations in the comments of what your top ten list currently is.