One More time with feeling; Review of Nick Cave documentary
September 9, 2016, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Arts, bbc, creativity, family, gigs, movies, music, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Don’t get me wrong I was willing, urging this film to be magnificent.  But will as I did, it isn’t.

In fact it’s like the ultimate home movie utilising the finest cinematographers money can buy (Benoit Debie and Alwin H Kuchler – I suspect one was on 2D duty, one on 3D – I saw it in 2D).

The back story is important here.  The documentary was commissioned to film the making of Cave’s brilliant new album, Skeleton Tree, (I know it’s brilliant because it was played in full on its release 11 hours ago on the BBC 6 Music Mary Anne Hobbs Show).  What nobody predicted was that it would become a film about grief because, as I understand the timing, no sooner had filming started than Cave’s 15 year old son, Arthur, died in a climbing accident.  The chronology of this is not clear in the film’s narrative.

When I read of Arthur’s death I was devastated for Nick Cave (I truly love the man) and so I expected the film to be an emotional roller coaster.

It isn’t.

Instead what we get is a strung out self indulgence piece.  And I don’t mean Nick Cave’s self indulgence, I mean Andrew Dominik’s. (Director of Cave-soundtracked, and awesome, movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.)

It is sumptuously photographed and of course the music is stellar but the glue that binds it, the storyline, is fragmented, dull and seemingly endless.  OK, I accept Cave is a private man and he doesn’t want to spill his grief out on camera, his wife too, but when he describes breaking down in the arms of a virtual stranger on the High Street in Brighton we get a glimpse of what he is going through.

But that’s it.

My companion fell asleep several times.  Thanks partly to the heat in The Filmhouse, Edinburgh where we saw this.  Extremely uncomfortable.  Did they not know they had a sell out audience?

I don’t like being negative about a film of this nature but if Dominik had an Executive Producer with a firmer hand we might have seen a more pared down and rewarding experience.

If you want to see Nick Cave at his very best on film watch the far superior 20,000 Days on Earth, directed by Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth.  It’s magnificent.


My Glastonbury 2014


My third, and best, Glastonbury Festival of the Performing Arts.

It’s the festival that just keeps giving, as with each trip you discover areas that you’ve not been to before.  The moving of Arcadia to the hill was not a complete success as it took it away from the action and the Disclosure DJ set that we went too was just stupidly busy.  It’s the first time I’ve seen strong drugs quite so openly peddled by dealers at Glastonbury, and this too was a negative.

salutes you

And of course, it rained.  When I say rained I mean it really, really rained.

Like, biblical man.

The thunder and lightning storm that hit us on Friday at 5.30 was truly spectacular and resulted in the site being shut down for an hour after a lightning strike on the Pyramid Stage.  This meant that Rudimental had to cut their set short.  Shame as it was just bubbling up (they were far better last year at T in the Park).


Anyway that’s enough of the negativity, the rest of it was awesome and these are my picks.

It was a close call for my favourite act between John Grant, who put in an epic performance that nearly went nuclear when his extended take on Pale Green Ghosts kicked in and Massive Attack who put on a show of such perfection that it just drew your breath.  Both Horace Andy and Martina Topley-Bird were incredible (and, I think, Shara Nelson) in a stunning politically charged set that they refused the BBC to film.  The ground actually vibrated, so powerful was the bass.  One of the greatest musical experiences of my life.  Both these gigs were straight 10/10’s.


Not far behind, if indeed they were, were remarkable sets by Midlake who really rocked towards the end of their set and Robert Plant whose smattering of Zep songs made a hugely eclectic set unforgettable.  His treatment of Whole Lotta Love was wondrous.

Also on the same glorious level was Dolly Parton, who was billed as something of a novelty act, but she carried off her set effortlessly with brilliant stories between her numbers.  Apparently it may have been Glastonbury’s biggest ever crowd with estimates of over 100,000 at her gig.  To hear 100,000 people sing 9 to 5 was something close to miraculous.


On the 8/9 out of 10 level were Lily Allen (Is my Camel toe too prominent in this dress, she asked, and she called Sepp Blatter a c***)  Paulo Nuttini pulled off a mega performance.  Nick Mulvey fell into this category and was a new find for me.  His performance of Cucurucu was superb.  As was an early morning slot for Argentinian/Uruguayan Gypsy type tango/jazz from Bajofondo – sheer brilliance on The Other Stage and looking like their lives depended on it being great.  Mogwai rocked the Park Stage as headliners with probably the loudest noise of the weekend.

Everywhere is open to art.

Everywhere is open to art.

My other finds of the weekend were back to back acts on the wonderful West Holts Stage  Firstly The Internet, a soul act that sounds like Jill Scott and looks a bit like Janelle Monae and the wonderfully named The Daptone Super Soul Review from New York featuring the unique (apart from James Brown) Charles Bradley.  See them if you can.

Even the Glastonbury police horses are cool.

Even the Glastonbury police horses are cool.

And last, but no means least was Blondie.  At 68 She hadn’t lost any of her panache and it was a great set with a mix of new and old material.  It’s a bit scary to think that three of the best sets we saw (Blondie, Dolly Parton and Robet Plant) were by pensioners.

My patented Cider cup holder came in handy.

My patented Cider cup holder came in handy.

I wish I’d seen all of Arcade Fire’s set – we only saw the encores (although Regine Chassagny can’t really sing; either well, or in tune).  It was brilliant on the BBC  iPlayer recording, but we were at Skrillex first.  (Not good).

Other notable performances (all 7/10) were Interpol, The Jezebels, Kaiser Chiefs, Danny and the Champions of the World, New Build, Hozier, Nitin Sawney, Goldfrapp (although a bit one-paced), Rudimental and The Black Keys.

Very few acts were actually bad but those that didn’t float my boat very much were The 1975, Caro Emerald, Toumani and Sidiki and Michael Kiwanuka (who put on an ill-advised set).

Skrillex was just bad.

Other great things were the Classic Rock night at The Chameleon Bar and the Beat Hotel’s many cramped DJ sets including one we saw by FourTet and and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip B2B  (which means back to back apparently).



Here’s to Glasto 2015!





David Bowie. Life on Mars
April 28, 2013, 9:45 am
Filed under: Arts, bbc, creativity, music | Tags: , , ,

This video, shot in 1973 by Mick Rock, is as good as anything you’ll see today.  I hadn’t seen it myself until I watched the superb David Bowie documentary of Bowie on the BBC last week.

The song’s even better.  Immense.

Britishisms in America
October 25, 2012, 11:11 am
Filed under: bbc, creativity, humour, life | Tags: , , , ,

I found this amusing piece on Britishisms that have been adopted in North America in the BBC News Magazine website and it got me thinking what Americanisms we have adopted in return.  Any suggestions?

I don’t see “sidewalk” coming along anytime soon (although “Anytime soon” has crept in) in place of pavement. But “cab” sits comfortably alongside “taxi”in our daily vernacular.

We’ll always “queue” rather “stand in a line”.

I just can’t see” pants” replacing “trousers”. (“Strides” even.)

But “have a nice day” is increasingly common; “hell yeah” (see what I did there?)

“Bullshit” is now commonplace  as is “MF” over here.   But from what I can see our love of the C word has not crossed the Atlantic particularly readily.

“Wassup” remains resolutely American despite Budweiser’s best attempts to globalise it.

And if “later” or “laters” does take root in the UK I will have to kill myself.

Anyway.  Let’s share our thoughts on this one so that I can create an article as good as the one below…

Autumn, n. The season between summer and winter. “‘Autumn’ is being used a lot more now instead of ‘fall’.” Alan, New York, US

Bloody, adj. and adv. An intensifier: absolute, downright, utter. Sometimes in a negative sense. “There have been several instances where I’ve heard the term ‘bloody’ in regular conversation. I understand the urge to say it in certain situations, but I react with a jolt when I hear it. It just seems so… indecent. The use of ‘bloody’, in my view, is iconically British. When Americans try to use it, I think they’re trying to sound like Michael Caine. I feel it’s a deliberate contrivance to associate themselves with some perceived prestige in sounding British. Some Americans think that by saying ‘bloody’ everybody will assume that they have four more IQ points than everyone else. It’s understandable. And completely true.” Marshall McCorcle, Dallas, Texas, US

Bum, n. The buttocks or posteriors (slang). “I have seen an increasing use of ‘bum’ for a person’s backside here, both from local friends and from Americans on the web. While I am still perfectly fine with sitting on my butt, everyone else is getting all fancy talking about their bums.” Jim Boyd, Des Moines, Iowa, US

Chav, n. Pejorative term to express young person who displays loutish behaviour, sometimes with connotations of low social status. “The word ‘chav’ is starting to catch on in the US, thanks to YouTube videos. I overheard someone say, ‘Nah I’m not buying those sneakers man, they are so chavvy’ at a sports retailer.” Jeff Bagshaw, US

“Chav is becoming rather noticeable as a few Americans understand that not ‘all British people are posh’. Boston/Cambridge is rife with international college students, so it may just be a blip, but I’ve heard it in a suburban grocery store in reference to some hooligans outside the store.” Elaine Ashton, Lexington, Massachusetts, US

Cheeky, adj. Insolent or audacious in address; coolly impudent or presuming. “I have loved using the word cheeky for about 10 years now.” Daniel Greene, Phoenix, Arizona, US

“Sometimes the British expression just says it better. I particularly like ‘cheeky monkey’.” G Griffin, Wethersfield, Connecticut, US

Cheers, sentence substitute. A drinking toast, goodbye, or thanks. “I am hearing people say goodbye to each other with the British ‘cheers’. Since I have always had a fondness for the Brits and things British, I enjoy hearing it instead of the worn out ‘later’ or ‘see ya later’. Like it or not, the Yanks and the Brits are cousins, and that’s that. Cheers!” Paul Phillips, Marblehead, US

“Use of the word ‘cheers’ in place of ‘thank you’ is on the rise, perhaps among young people who have spent time with British people.” Roddy McCalley, Joshua Tree, California, US

Fancy, v. With reference to fondness or liking. “Our US friends really enjoyed fancied, as in ‘she fancied him’, and an item, as in ‘are you two an item?’.” David Fryer, Muscat, Oman

“Fancy, as in I really fancy a pint.” Paul W, New York City, US

Flat, n. An apartment on one floor of a building. “Just as British people are increasingly calling (particularly posh) flats ‘apartments’, my American friends report that property developers are now selling ‘flats’ in order to make them sound grander than they are.” Beth, London

Frock, n. A girl’s or woman’s dress. “Until very recently, ‘frock’ only appeared in North America in British books. I first read it in the Narnia series. No-one ever said it, and no-one ever used it in print. No-one outside of readers of British literature would even have known what it meant. Now I see it in print media about fashion all the time. This just started happening in perhaps the past five years, certainly no more than 10 years.” Lee Boal, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Gap year, n. A year’s break taken by a student between leaving school and starting further education. “We didn’t do gap years much until recently, so we didn’t have our own term for it other than ‘year off’. The point of language is to communicate. If a new word or term fills a – sorry – gap, then it doesn’t matter where it’s from.” Alden O’Brien, Washington DC, US

Gobsmacked, adj. flabbergasted: struck dumb with awe or amazement. “I left the UK for the US more than 40 years ago. I first heard the word ‘gobsmacked’ about 10 years ago while visiting the UK. Perhaps because of the popularity of the programme Top Gear in the US, I now hear this used in the US.” Duncan Connall, Rhode Island, US

“I heard President Obama use the word ‘gobsmacked’. How’s that for a Britishism?” Stuart Hamilton, North Vancouver, Canada

Holiday, n. A period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation. “As a child I read Enid Blyton, and as an adult I was pleased to notice, at least in advertising, the use of the word ‘holiday’ to replace the less preferable, in my opinion, ‘vacation’.” Vicki Siska, Fort Collins, Colorado, US

Innit, adv. A contraction of isn’t it? Used to invite agreement with a statement. “I can’t stop saying ‘innit’ – it’s the perfect sort of (‘sort of’ in this usage is also a popular Britishism) ending to an informal declarative statement.” Carolyn, Las Vegas, US

Kit, n. A collection of personal effects or necessities. “I’ve noticed the adoption of the British term ‘kit’ for what athletes wear, in the place of what we Americans would generally call a ‘uniform’ or ‘gear’. I notice it among those who follow tennis closely. People will refer to a player’s ‘kit’, which often changes several times a year depending on the surface.” Ana Mitric, Richmond, Virginia, US

Knickers, n. An undergarment for women covering the lower trunk and sometimes the thighs and having separate legs or leg-holes. “My American friend just recently said ‘I got my knickers in quite a twist’. I was amazed she didn’t say ‘panties’.” Nadine, Seattle, Washington, US

Loo, n. An informal word for lavatory. “Many of my friends now call the restroom ‘the loo’, although they haven’t converted to saying ‘loo-roll’ – it’s still toilet paper. Funny, since most of us won’t say ‘toilet’ for the American ‘bathroom’.” Heather Revanna, Colorado, US

Mate, n. A friend, usually of the same sex: often used between males in direct address. “It seems that Yanks enjoy English swear words but I don’t believe British people are using typical Americanisms. I’ve never heard a Englishman say ‘dude’ but I am hearing Americans say ‘mate’. I also don’t believe British people are so overtly conscious of foreign influence as much as Americans care to be, especially in the Midwest.” Paul Knight-Kirby, Rockford, Illinois, US

Mobile, n. Short for mobile phone; a portable telephone that works by means of a cellular radio system (‘cellphone’ or ‘cell’ in standard American English). “I think the use of ‘mobile’ is a consequence of more international travel and wanting to be understood. I use mobile while elsewhere and it is creeping into my US-based language as well.” Stuart Friedman, Middlesex, Vermont, US

Muppet, n. A stupid person; from the name for the puppets used in the TV programme The Muppet Show. “I am a Brit living in Idaho. One of the biggest Britishisms I see, and have helped perpetuate, is the term ‘muppets’ to refer to brainless individuals. I love this term as it conjures images of the loveable Muppets but in reference to a person it definitely conveys a lack of intelligence or substandard education. In this state there are plenty of ‘muppets’.” George Hemmings, Idaho, US

Numpty, n. A stupid person. “I have heard ‘numpty’ many times in the last few years. I get the impression that our American interpretation is more good-natured than it might be in the UK. It’s used when calling a friend a numpty when he does or says something silly. Perhaps this is because there is a ‘cuteness’ to the pronunciation of the word.” Jeffrey Timmons, Mayville, Wisconsin, US

Pop over, v. Come by for a visit. “Recently, I’ve heard the phrase ‘pop over’ used by several different people. (‘Why don’t I just pop over and pick them up?’).” Susan Moore, Indio, California, US

Proper, adj. Appropriate or suited for some purpose. “I picked up the British use of ‘proper’ (as in ‘a proper breakfast’) while completing graduate work at Oxford in the mid-2000s. I hadn’t realised just how prevalent it was in my own speech until a coworker asked me this year if it was a North Dakota thing, as that is the state where I grew up. It’s definitely not a North Dakota thing.” Jacquelyn Bengfort, Washington, DC, US

Queue, n. and v. A line of people, vehicles, etc, waiting for something. “In the ‘queue’. More online forms and automated voice responses to banking transactions say ‘queue’ instead of ‘line’. I’m guessing that it makes more sense to use it because people aren’t actually standing in a line if they’re on the phone.” Guy Hait, Chesterfield, Michigan, US

“When I was in New York and waiting with an American friend to get into a bar, I called it a queue. She told me that in the US it was called a line. However, she commented that ‘queue’ was becoming more common because of the use of the term ‘printer queue’ in computing.” David, Worcester

Roundabout, n. A road junction in which traffic streams circulate around a central island. “‘Roundabout’ is the official word used to describe the traffic circle that was recently completed in our rather small city. Many feel that this sounds pretentious. I am originally from California where we used the term ‘traffic circle’.” Beth, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, US

Row, n. and v. A noisy or violent argument, a quarrel with someone.My husband and I often use the word ‘row’, most likely because we’ve heard it so often on public television. We think of it as a very common word among the Brits (like ‘bloody’) and we both assumed that most other people would recognise both the word and its meaning. Recently, my husband (who is very Southern and not bookish at all) used ‘row’ in a conversation with a buddy, only to learn that the friend had never even heard the word. We were astonished.” Catherine Graves, Georgia, US

Shag, v. To copulate with. “You guys missed the best one. ‘Shag’ is such a brilliant word and Brits cringe because of the vulgarity of it, while Americans don’t realise exactly how rude it is and run around saying it like a toddler repeating Daddy’s accidental swear word slip. I love it when you guys cringe over us picking up your words.” Leona, Oxford

“Thanks to Austin Powers, many Americans are familiar with the word ‘shag’, but don’t seem to realise how truly coarse it is. It’s used in polite society, and used to shock me, but now I accept the fact that usage differs in UK/US.” Linda Michelini, Port Orange, Florida, US

Skint, adj. Penniless, broke. “To hear terms like ‘skint’ for being broke, ‘agony aunt’ for opinion columnists, or ‘yobbo’ for upstart children has surprised me. Such words would never have been heard in this part of the world until only two or three years ago. There are only minor UK and Irish ex-pat communities over here, so to have this sudden and growing use of Britishisms is a linguist’s delight.” Anthony Hughes, Omaha, US

Sussed, v. To work or figure out; to investigate, to discover the truth about (a person or thing). “My favourite Britishism has to be ‘sussed’ – ‘I finally sussed out what he was talking about’, ‘leave them alone, they’ll suss it out on their own’. I use it a lot and I always seem to have to explain it to people, then a few days on, I’ll hear them using it and explaining it. It’s a word/phrase that gets used often in my close circle of friends now.” Bonnie Lee, Portland, Oregon, US

Twit, n. A fool; a stupid or ineffectual person. “It seems to me the word ‘twit’ – a Britishism heard on Monty Python – is being used more frequently here in the US.” Rachel Newstead, Appleton, Wisconsin, US

Wonky, adj. Shaky or unsteady. “Some Britishisms that I have used include ‘wonky’, ‘bung’, and ‘snarky’. They’re fun, innit? It’s hard for me to notice hearing these words in the US, because I talk to so many Brits online, so they sound normal now.” Anne E, Pittsburgh, US


Has BBC 5 live completely lost the plot?

We listened to 5 Live all day yesterday as their presenters time and time and time again vented their spleen at the LOCOG for the empty seats that were evident at a number of Olympic events.  Five Live has been on  amission for months to undermine the event and despite an explanation, a very clear one, that the empty seats were those of the “Olympic Family” ie athletes and officials who are mostly in training at this early stage of the event and therefore unable to attend events.  Despite this they attempted to whip their listeners up into a frenzy of dissent.

This typifies the bad side of Britishness, amidst everything that is wonderful about these games we have an innate need to find fault.  I’m sick of it.  Aren’t you?

Later in the day it appeared the tide had turned against them and they turned 180 degrees into arse licking support.  Presumably the tweets and emails of listeners like me eventually wore them down.

David Ogilvy. The Original Mad Man on BBC radio Scotland.

Next Monday myself and Graeme Atha will be in conversation with Victor Brierley in a special one off documentary investigating the legend that was David Ogilvy.

Here’s a link to the 30 minute programme that goes out on Monday afternoon at 2.05.

The Crimson Petal and the White

I love Michel Faber’s writing and it’s  a toss up between this and Under The Skin for his greatest work.  The two could be no more different; Under the Skin is a taught contemporary sci fi horror set in Scotland and this; an 800 page monstrous take on Dickensian Victorian London.

Both are really great books and consequently both run the risk of taking a good pasting when put on screen.

There has been many year’s of talk that TCPATW would be Hollywood-made and for a while rumour had it that Kirsten Dunst was to be the heroine, Sugar.  However it fell eventually to the BBC to make this near epic adaptation.  I say near epic because big and bold as it was I think it had even greater potential.

The previews did not make great reading; the panel on Newsnight Review, with the honourable exception of Maureen Lipman, annihilated it, so I approached fearing the worst.

I needn’t have worried.

The, at times, over tricksy focus pulling in the camera work was a bit heavy handed but this was overcome on balance because otherwise it was excellent (moody, creepy, almost surreal in places and beautifully emphasised by a particularly odd (in a good way) score written by newcomer Cristobal Tapai de Veer).

The set and costumes are astounding and the acting of the entire cast, but Particularly Chris O’Dowd (the IT team) and Romola Garai were of BAFTA winning standards, and had to be to pull it off.

In particular O’Dowd’s tortured portrayal of sappy rich boy William Rackham is magnificent.  It’s as if he can’t decide how to play the role, but that’s just how Faber wrote it.  In the end he comes across as merely a weak sap who is  only in it for himself.  Perhaps he cannot help it as we frequently see when he is led astray by his particularly vulgar “friends”.

Romola Garai, by contrast, is nailed to the tracks in the conviction of her character, as the upwardly mobile Sugar; pulling herself out of the stench thanks to the interest of Rackham who gradually exalts her social profile in a London where status was everything (and boy did she have status in the underworld, starting off as the top prostitute in London).  Her gritty but sometimes tender performance is the beating heart of the book and this ultimately excellent adaptation.

It’s still on iplayer but I’d wait for the DVD and splash out.

For me it would play out better as an epic four hour movie rather than a four part TV series.

Wonderful.  Bring on the BAFTAs. (And the Emmys).