Lockdown Joy: A Playlist for you to enjoy and help me to build


Back in the first lockdown in Scotland in April last year I asked a whole bunch of my pals to send me the ONE SONG that filled them with joy whenever they were feeling down.

Now that we are facing the short days and dark nights of January it seems only right to share this with a wider audience and make it collaborative. (That means anyone can add songs to it, so please do.)

So, if you have Spotify you can help me build this further, or just relax and enjoy it.

It’s deliberately eclectic. No-one’s joy is universal, but there should be something in here for everyone.

Please enjoy. Please share. Please contribute.

Please Please Me.

Here’s the link…

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/4ND0ofubq83v7pJDSTIGb7

Amazing Grace: Film review.


Amazing Grace [Official Trailer] - In Theaters April 5, 2019 - YouTube

The thing that marks out this spectacularly honest documentary is Aretha Franklin’s melancholia.

It’s as if she’s been transported there by another being. Her God? She is so in the moment. So devoid of ego, unlike her entourage, as to make it a truly ‘religious’ experience, not just for her but for the viewer too.

The melancholia manifests itself as a lost look. Separated from the action, the film making onluy there for one reason. To sing.

And there is zero theatrics. Zero showmanship. Zero bullshit.

just an honest to goodness outpouring of singing as best as she can muster and her best will just have to be good enough. Cos that’s all she’s got.

I’ve never seen a music documentary so compellingly believable about the motivations of its maker, that motivation appears to be the love of her God and her fellow humankind.

It’s quite remarkable.

2020: The year in retrospect.


Trump's demands for $2,000 stimulus checks, explained - Vox

I’m not even going to mention the obvious subject as it’s affected us all in different ways, other than to say my list of theatre and cinema highlights is extremely short and has been replaced by TV and podcasts.

One of the highlights was moving from self employed to employed status after 15 years.

Things were looking uncertain until an unlikely opportunity arose with Whitespace, a company I have been involved with, one way or another since its inception 25 or so years ago as a subsidiary of 1576. Finally I can wholly lay claim to the title of being a ‘Whitespacer’ as a Strategy Director. It’s been immense having worked on not one, but two, global cosmetics brands, a global pitch for a motor company and a series of successful pitches and client engagements including a huge Oil and Gas start up, a home builder, the new www.netzeronation.scot website, Business Gateway, the Port of Leith Housing Association rebrand, a University, an online learning business, a charity and a lovely tech start up in pharma. Stimulating, all of them.

Sadly my time with Front Page came to an end after a long and happy relationship, it still is. And I’ve worked throughout with another long term client in the wonderful Nexus 24.

The experiment with The Marketing Centre proved to be unsatisfying in the end but I gave it my best shot and they are good guys.

I’m grateful to them all for their support, friendship and income.

Two more relationships came to an end, after 10 years I stood down as Chair of FCT and simultaneously my nine years as Chair of Creative Edinburgh came to a happy conclusion. Both were my choice and I wish both of them well in the future.

But my role as Scottish Chair of NABS remained deeply satisfying and we ran a tremendous National Music Quiz and Art Auction plus the 15th Scottish music quiz, all going online for the first time, and resulting in a record year of income for NABS. A great result driven by an amazing voluntary team in Scotland. Special thanks has to go to Anna Kormos and to Marian in Manchester for their huge contributions.

My Mum’s dementia (Alzheimer’s) has worsened steadily and in August we took the inevitable decision to put her into a care home. It’s been a great decision because the staff at Northcare Suites (100 Telford Road) have been superb. It’s the lap of luxury and although she remains terribly confused, and visits have been strictly limited, she has settled in well and is in good overall health otherwise.

Amy continues to amaze us with her tenacity, creativity, drive and ambition and she started not one, but two, new businesses this year. One in Health and Nutrition (https://www.amygormanhealthnutrition.co.uk) which has seen her build a solid portfolio of clients and a part time role at The Foundry in London, the other as a freelance fundraiser where she has enjoyed great success with at least four clients this year. All the more incredible because she left CAFOD to go it alone in February just as the unmentionable struck. She is awesome.

Ria and Tom both worked at Amazon over the summer. The job from hell. But Tom, in particular, immersed himself in it so hard (60 hour night shift weeks) that he saved enough to escape the UK and move to Whistler in Canada for the next two years. It was brilliant having them and Keir with us all summer and we miss them terribly.

Of course Ria skooshed her first year in Dentistry at Dundee and is back there, living with Keir in Perth where he has an interesting job at a whisky auctioneers. She’s working like a trojan and filling us with pride. All three of them are.

This gave Jeana the opportunity to reignite her homemaking career which she revelled in (but I’ve/we’ve missed our steady procession of AirBnB guests, her second career, that we grew to love so much). Next year maybe.

She started a new career and excelled, as a baker! Brilliant lockdown sourdough and maybe even better fruit bread. Both to die for, and if we eat too much of either, or both, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Dangerous!

Of course, having finally succeeded (after five failed attempts) in the Glastonbury lottery it was cancelled, as was Primavera (who still haven’t refunded me by the way). That was a big blow and I missed the chance of escapades with the boys in Barca and Alan in Somerset. Next year? Hmmm, dunno.

No holidays at all, not even Perthshire in November. I desperately missed our annual pilgrimage to Italy in particular. Next Year? Hmmm, dunno, maybe.

The most exciting and preoccupying thing, for me, of the year was seeing the 45th President of The United States of American undone. He’s scum, and election night found me beside myself as it looked at one point as if he’d gone and done the impossible, but the good people of America proved they DO have a conscience and 80 million of them at least have a brain.

It puts the achievement and humanity of Obama onto an even greater pedestal and the man has become a beacon of brilliance for the world to see, if he wasn’t already.

Biden and Harris (the 46th and 47th Presidents) were not perhaps the most dynamic offering for the American electorate, but decency is back and soon I expect to see a woman in the White House Oval Office. She will be great once Biden passes the baton. He did what he had to do – carefully, graciously and in a dignified manner that befits the office. He’ll no doubt have to buy his own lightbulbs on movers day, but the fact that he knows his way around will not obligate the outgoing filth to show him round.

Sadly we, in the UK, are stuck with filth for now. The disgrace that has held office in Downing Street is there for all to see and no further comment is necessary.

Turning to the best bit.

My best of’s.

It wasn’t a vintage music year but I enjoyed, very much, the following:

Michael Kiwanuka rightly won the Mercury, although I backed Moses Boyd.

I also greatly enjoyed Songs for our Daughter by Laura Marling (even though she doesn’t have one) and she would also have been a deserved winner.

Taylor Swift’s two albums were excellent folksy releases.

I listened to a lot of Dub Reggae, mainly from the 70’s.

Sudan Archives’ Athena was excellent.

Big Thief and Dirty Projectors both brought smiles to my face.

Janelle Monae’s sole single release, Turntables, is awesome.

And I loved Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising (although I think that was a 2019 release).

What I can’t understand is the adulation Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters garnered. I tried, believe me.

Here’s a link to my Best of 2020 tunes on Spotify. (Too much old stuff on it for my liking.)

In cinema there was little to thrall about so Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series almost picks up the ‘best of’ gong by virtue of its feature length running times (particularly Lover’s Rock).

But the prize goes to another Adam Sandler masterpiece. The quite ridiculous Uncut Gems. Wow!

Parasite was a big disappointment to me, as was Fincher’s Mank.

True History of the Kelly Gang (pre you know what) was epic and wonderful.

I also saw and really liked Little Women before the shutdown and 1917 which is outstanding and a contender for my movie of the year.

I liked the Go Go’s documentary.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 was great Sorkin fare and gets there on merit, but hardly a classic.

The Borat sequel only makes it onto the list because of the lack of competition and the brilliant expose of Giulliani.

And so to TV. The year of TV.

It kicked off with something I thought wouldn’t be bettered, Normal People, but it just got better and better.

I Will Not Destroy You.

The Crown.

We Are Who We Are.

The aforementioned Small Axe.

Unorthodox (a little gem).

The Queen’s Gambit.

Song Exploder. (A Podcast conversion to Netflix)

Homecoming (another podcast convert – especially Season 2 with Janelle Monae)

The Plot Against America.

Educating Greater Manchester.

Des.

Dracula (on BBC).

Quiz (it was a good year for ITV drama).

Dirty John.

The Third Day on C4.

Industry (a late contender for series of the year. Please bring it back. Filthy and brilliantly performed).

And another was the excellent Criminal. A franchise that extended across Europe using the same police interview room (with different casts for different countries) to create unusual very cleverly plotted procedurals that were anything but procedures.

But, at the end of it all I’m going to give it to The Comey Rule for the remarkable performance of Jeff Daniels.

In podcasts, my new found love, there was so much it was ridiculous:

Shout outs for Adam Buxton and Louis Theroux.

Steve Richard and Matt Forde made politics lovable.

5:38, Hacks on Tap, Left Right and Centre and Pod Save America enthralled me through the American election.

In drama podcasts, Tunnel 42 was magic, as were both seasons of The Horror of Dolores Roach.

Slow Burn is brilliant but Season Four (David Duke) wasn’t its best. For that you need to listen to the Clinton and Watergate series’.

Hunting Ghislaine was also brilliantly horrifying and it was great to hear yesterday that the bitch is not being bailed.

In music Soul Music (BBC Radio 4) and Song Exploder were both joys to behold. As was The Clash Story.

But my Podcast of the Year is a toss up between 13 Minutes to the Moon (Season Two about Apollo 13), Transmissions (the story of Joe Division and New Order) and Wind of Change, the conspiracy story about the CIA writing The Scorpions’ classic song of the same name.

And then there’s Desert Island Discs of course.

Turkey of the year was Phoebe Reads a Mystery. Appalling schmuck.

I had a terrific reading year too, finally joining a Book Club:

Feck Perfunction by James Victoire is a great business read.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

One Two Three Four about the Beatles by Craig Brown is superb. And Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany was another great musical read. A musical trilogy was made up with The Eavis’ Glastonbury 50. An event I never made. Naeb’dy did.

Pine by Francis Toon is a good Scottish book. Not as good as Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (but I still don’t think it should have won the Booker – far better were last year’s TWO winners Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evagelisto and The Testaments by the incomparable Margaret Atwood – not her best but still fantastic).

I really enjoyed Ian McEwan’s rewriting of history in Machines Like Us, a real return to form.

I read two McEwan’s this year. Solar was the other, but it was shit.

The Testament of Gideon Mack is a great wee Scottish story by James Robertson and I’m also enjoying his 365 Stories as my bog book this year.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney wasn’t as good as Normal People (the TV series).

Worth Dying For – The Power and politics of flags was good fun.

I finally read Small Island and loved it. As I did in reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Hilarious.

Tender is the Flesh: by Agustina Bazterrica is a tremendous, undiscovered, Brazilian novel about post apocalyptic times where humans are grown as food.

But my two books of the year were epic masterpieces, each of them. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Both dealt with American discrimination, the former of women, the latter of Black lives. Both are beyond excellent.

My walk of the year was Glen Etive, with Ria, all 26 miles of it.

Oh, one last thing. I lost weight.

Small Axe Episode 2: (Lover’s Rock) Movie Review.


The True Story Behind 'Lovers Rock' and Steve McQueen's Family History of  Blues Parties | Esquire

The first part of Steve McQueens ‘quintology’ of race related British films was the excellent Mangrove, about life amid (police) racism in 1971’s West London and concerned the trial of the Mangrove Nine. A group of Carribean immigrants who largely chose to defend themselves in the face of cooked up (no pun intended) charges. It’s a fine courtroom drama and is highly recommended.

Part two, in my view, is even better.

Lover’s Rock is built on a simple premise.

Init starts with the preparations for a ‘Blues Party’ in somewhere like Notting Hill in 1980’s London before easing gently into the party itself.

It holds little real narrative thread but, instead, somehow manages to convey a feeling of actually being at the party, scripted in Jamaican vernacular that’s often hard to follow (for me a white Jock) but it doesn’t really matter because, between the combined talents of McQueen and his astounding cinematographer Shabier Kirchner and editor Chris Dickens, we are drawn into an atmosphere that is truly immersive.

You know all those shit dance floor scenes you’ve seen in a million low budget productions? Well, this has none of them despite the fact that maybe 50% of the action takes place in the wooden-floored front room of a London detached house, with a Sound System crumbling its faded grandeur.

It’s monumental, as is the epic (largely) dub reggae soundtrack that suffuses it from the start.

The highlight is the central action around two songs, Janet Kaye’s Silly Games and one I confess I don’t know that brought the males on the dance floor to a Babylonian moshpit of sorts. (So good they play it twice).

Special mention must also be made for the Carl Douglas’, Kung Fu Fighting sequence.

All of this is epic because of the way McQueen’s direction oozes through the cramped flesh of the highly tactile dancefloor, sweating out ganja and suffocating in its smoke throughout.

It’s a breathtaking and wondrous achievement that will bear repeat viewing.

Hunting Ghislaine with John Sweeney: Podcast review.


Image

The fact that Sweeney, best known for his work on the BBC’s Panorama and Newsnight, felt the need to include his name in the title of this tells you something.

He’s a man on a mission and, until the last episode, it felt that mission was being delivered with a cool disdain that nevertheless erred on the side of balance. He wraps the production with a rather more pointed conclusion that undoes a little of the, earlier, brilliant work.

But that’s a minor gripe, because this is a beast of a production in so many ways.

Firstly the music chills you to the core, right from the off.

Secondly, Sweeney himself is a class act. A formidable presenter with an intellect to match.

And thirdly, the content and its protagonist(s), are, indeed, beasts. And not the cuddly sort.

By the closing credits Sweeney has annihilated Maxwell and, jury aside (we’ll have to wait till July for that decision), he has good reason, if not proof.

She’s a piece of work is Ghislaine Maxwell.

Brought up by a monster and in a long term relationship with another (both dead, maybe both by suicide) she inherited an attitude of princessly, entitlement from her, probably sociopathic, criminal of a father, whom Sweeney further paints as a narcissistic sadist.

She’s a daddy’s girl extraordinaire, spoilt but not spared the lash (which Sweeney conjects she may have developed a taste for) she treats others around her as expendable trash on her rise to the top.

But the top of what? The top of nothing, frankly. OK, the top of a society invitation list, maybe. But this woman has not contributed an iota of ANYTHING to the furtherment of any aspect of the human race.

Her lover, Jeffery Epstein, needs no introduction, and although we nevertheless get plenty of that from Sweeney it’s really her role as his handmaiden and chief pimp that constitutes this story.

And the story is brilliantly, quite lasciviously told, in tones of barely concealed glee as Sweeney hacks her legacy to pieces and feeds it to the listener in bite sized pieces.

She is devoid of goodness.

She’s a coward (running away into hiding the second Epstein’s protective layer peeled away).

And she’s a rapist. So entwined with Epstein’s actions, sometimes joining in after hunting down and luring his prey that she can only be seen as conjoined with the filth that his (stolen) money facilitated him.

It’s gripping, frightening and disgusting.

It’s no wonder Sweeney seems so emotionally involved.

He’s a man on a mission and I , for one, sincerely hope his target rots in a jail cell for the rest of her entitled days.

Bravo John. Bravo.

Tunnel 29: Podcast Review.


Wow. What a cracker from the BBC.

Part of its ‘Intrigue’ series of 15 minute documentaries. Over ten episodes (2.5 hours) it tells the story of an almost unbelievable tunnel break from East Berlin to West, tunnelling under the wall from the West for over 400 metres to a domestic cellar in the East, a year or so after it was suddenly constructed.

Each episode concludes with the haunting and glorious tones of Tom Rosenthal’s “How This Came To Be “and “Keep Me Warm” played alternately (I was utterly convinced these were undiscovered Alt J songs but my research proved me wrong).

Helena Merriman is the light touch presenter and delivers the story with dignity and no shortage of empathy.

And what a story.

A bunch of engineering students in West Berlin set out to rescue loved ones from the East but then extend the invitation to others. They, “Great Escape” style fight all sorts of challenges, including floods and discovery thanks to Stazi informants, to head steadily towards their goal.

The stakes are raised even higher when an NBS (US) news station gets involved to film their efforts and to essentially fund the project. Their efforts can be viewed in the resultant full length documentary here. (although having watched the first 15 minutes it’s not as gaping as the Beeb’s audio version.

There are twists and turns aplenty as their fortunes wax and wane and I’ll not spoil the outcome here but, like in all good yarns, in many ways the journey is every bit as important as the destination.

It’s intoxicating stuff and deeply involving, so that you develop a real empathy for main tunnellers, each and every one a hero.

A classic.

Soul Music BBC4: Bring Him Home (from Les Miserables)


Soul Music is a riff off of Desert Island Discs, in that it is about the story behind music. In this case one song per episode.

No presenters, no title music even.

But it’s often, like DID, a tear jerker.

This one is no different.

But what elevates this particular episode, apart from the quality of the song, is the description of its creation.

It’s truly illuminating and fascinating as a result.

Highly recommended.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075pxfx

Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany by Uwe Schütte: Book Review.


Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany: Amazon.co.uk: Schütte, Uwe ...

Geek alert!

Do not read this book unless you are; in descending order of relevance:

A lifelong Kraftwerk fan (like me).

A serious Krautrock aficionado (like me).

An electronica fanboy (like me).

A general music enthusiast with a taste for the obscure (like me).

A music geek (like me).

A techno/hip hop/detroit house fan looking into that genre’s roots.

(Or all of the above.)

It’s a love affair with Kraftwerk by a true beleiver and a forensic researcher who has thoroughly investigated all of Kraftwerk’s music in chronological order with neat insights into the inspiration for each record (and tour) and the influence they had.

But more than that, it’s a psychological analysis of the minds of Florian Schneider (RIP) and Ralf Hütter – the main creative driving forces of the band from the late 60’s until now.

It argues very strongly that Kraftwerk are by no means simply a pop (or even music) group, they are an art form that started in industrialle Volksmusik before creating their own zeitgeist or Gesamtkunsterwerk.

In places it’s heavy on the cod philosophy and would be a mighty slog were it not for the 14 point type that makes pages easily consumable.

It’s light on humour, indeed it’s light on most stuff other than information and philosophy, and a heavy dose of ‘Man Machine’ talk but I, for one, found it a right riveting read.

Glory glory to the Krafties.

Mercury Prize nomination 2020. The year of the women. (But probably a male winner.)


I’m grateful to BBC News for the graphics below. Please don’t throw me into prison for using them.

Indeed you can read the BBC’s view on this link

It’s not the greatest list, is it? And why isn’t Nadine Shah on it? Crazy.

Anna Meredith – Fibs

Anna Meredith album artwork

She’s amazing but the album is too patchy. I love her, and I’d love her to win, but her contemporary masterpiece has not, as yet been recorded.

Short presentational grey line

Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Charli XCX album artwork

I have little to say about this. Not a fan. A surprising nomination in my view.

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa album artwork

This reviewed well but I am too old. No, sorry.

Short presentational grey line

Georgia – Seeking Thrills

Georgia album artwork

She’s the guy from Leftfeild’s daughter. That’s where the greatness ends. Absolutely not the winner.

Short presentational grey line

Kano – Hoodies All Summer

Kano album artwork

Grime. I don’t listen to Grime.

I mean, I saw Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, but he’s pish. No thanks.

Short presentational grey line

Lanterns On The Lake – Spook The Herd

Lanterns on the Lake album artwork

I don’t know this at all so I can’t comment.

Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

Laura Marling album artwork

Her fourth nomination, and rightly so. Laura Marling is a queen of UK indy folk and this one, whilst not immediately her best, is a grower. A certain contender in my view.

Short presentational grey line

Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka album artwork

His third nomination (already?)

He may be too ‘popular’ now to be the favourite but this is a very good record indeed. A soul classic steeped in 70’s funky ooze. It’s a lovely joyous record with much in common with Marvin Gaye at his best.

A contender in my view.

Short presentational grey line

Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

Moses Boyd album artwork

The token Jazz record. He’s a drummer and his album is decent, extremely decent, as was Sons of Kemet’s last year and I put my fiver on them. Misguidedly as it turned out. However jazz records never win. Even in this new age of jazz.

(He’ll win then.)

Short presentational grey line

Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Porridge Radio album artwork

Too bad a name to consider. But my pals like her.

Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

Sports Team album artwork

I liked the singles from this but they are highly derivative. They couldn’t lace IDLES shoes.

Short presentational grey line

Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head

Stormzy album artwork

Heavy is the Head is a truly wonderful song but I didn’t really like his Glastonbury set and this genre is winning too much, so it’s a no from me.

So, that means it’s a shoot out between Moses Boyd, Laura Marling and Michael Kiwanuka.

I initially predicted Marling would win, but having listened to Moses Boyd a lot now I’m coming round to that.

Homecoming Seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime: TV Review.


Watch Homecoming - Season 1 | Prime Video

Prime’s finest moment to date. IMHO.

They’ve taken Gimlet Media’s astounding podcast and adapted not one, but two, TV series from it.

In the first, Julia Roberts not only allegedly bought the rights but assumes the title role of Heidi Bergman, a case worker at a mysterious ‘facility’ in which homecoming American war veterans are treated for PTSD. Why? You’ll have to watch to find out.

I’m no Roberts fan and although her performance is good I’d like to have seen Catherine Keener take her aural role on-screen. Likewise, I think both Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer might have made better jobs of their roles than the TV replacements.

But that’s actually a quibble, because what we get is an excellent rendering of the story with outstanding direction, music and camerawork.

It’s an oddity, especially at its 20 minute length (echoing the podcast).

What the TV does, that adds value, is add the aforementioned production values to the already high quality that Gimlet achieved. The design, overall, is stunning; with a touch of the Kubricks.

But I’m left thinking, good as it is, a little was lost in the translation.

The same cannot be said of Season 2.

It’s now a significant diversion from the podcast.

We meet a new lead in Janelle Monae who plays Jackie (or is it Alex?) an employee of Geist (or is she), the company that administered (shadily) the ‘Homecoming’ initiative in Season 1.

She is almost literally lost at sea as the series opens. We have no idea who she is or how she got there, what’s more, neither does she.

This is a big ask for Monae who takes on her first lead role, to my knowledge, and has to rise to the challenge of carrying the series. I felt she was on the brink of failing the task at a few points, after all she’s a singer not an actor, but at each tipping point she just gets over the bar so that by the end I believe we enjoy a fine performance.

Steven James raises his game as Walter Cruz and his character gets much more rounded, but the real ‘find’ is Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the mill owner gone rogue, feeling overwhelmed by his own bastard creation.

Show-stealing, on an epic scale, is the filthy performance of Joan Cusack as (Officer) Bunda.

Season 2 shifts a gear. It’s even darker, it’s less familiar to us ‘Poddies’ and it’s found its TV voice. It just gets better and better.

The circular plot device means that nothing is clear until the very end of the final episode and that’s one of the reasons, the excellent Monae aside, that it makes such gripping viewing.

I loved it. More, more, more. Please.

Dolly Parton’s America: Podcast review.


Dolly Parton's America : NPR

After my last two journeys into the dark side of the human condition this is the flip side.

Dolly Parton, sorry Saint Dolly Parton, is such an American dream and institution that it’s about time a tribute as glorious as this was created, whilst she’s still alive, fighting fit and full of vim and vigour.

This extended interview series with the queen of country charts her life and songbook but places it all in the context of an America that exists around her.

We hear much about American politics, religion and culture and how Dolly and her extensive business empire and philanthropy fits into the broader cultural mix.

It’s delightfully presented by fanboy Jad Abumrad and reported and produced by Shima Oliaee at WNYC Studios and OSM (awesome, get it?) Audio.

It’s a sheer delight from start to finish but touches on the darker side of Dolly’s life: her women’s rights attitude that has been in evidence since her earliest, surprisingly bleak output through to her refusal to air a view on Trump (half my fans are Republicans why would I state an opinion on this?)

I’ll predict now that Dolly WILL come out with a view on Trump, before the election, and it WILL NOT aid his cause. Because Dolly is a Bellwether. Her view can influence American opinion – nothing she says is ill-considered or trivial – apart from maybe her own self-deprecating boob gags.

This is uplifting entertainment with a serious undertow.

I highly recommend losing 8 or more hours in Dolly Parton’s America.

You will thank me.

Dicktionary pic of the day #26.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 26

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 25

Dicktionary pic of the day #25.


Apologies for the few days missing. I was in a private hell.

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 25

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 24

One Two Three Four by Craig Brown: Book Review.


One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time: The Sunday Times ...

This story of the Beatles, from origin to split, by Craig Brown, a regular contributor to Private Eye, is a hoot.

He clearly has no time for Yoko who is constantly represented as a dolt and his suffrage of 21st Beatles tour guides in their native Liverpool brings tears to the eyes.

It’s a collection of observations told roughly chronologically, but often spinning and yawing from topic to topic with effortless ease, and touching on the lives of the band, their entourage, critics, their fans and The Queen.

A decent knowledge of the Beatles catalogue is helpful and a healthy respect for their genius and contribution to musical history will certainly enhance your enjoyment of this sturdy tome, weighing in at over 600 pages. Despite its length though it’s a breeze as chapters (over 150) are short, snappy and often delightful.

I’m no Beatles completist, so to those that are many of the anecdotes will be familiar; a lot of the tales are drawn from previous anthologies and biographies in a well researched journey that happily shares conflicting accounts of some of the more tawdry tales of their shenanigans. Did you know, for example, that Lennon finally gave into Epstein’s homosexual advances and allegedly relented to a bit of man on man action?

It’s bitingly satirical in places but clearly flows from the pen of a man much taken by the Fab Four’s legacy.

A fine read, highly recommended to all.

Enjoy. I sure did.

Dicktionary pic of the day #24.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 24

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 23

Dicktionary pic of the day #24.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 24

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 22

Dicktionary pic of the day #23


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 23

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 22

Dicktionary pic of the day #22.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 22

What classic album cover is this? 

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 21

Dicktionary Pic of the day #19.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 19

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 18

Dicktionary pic of the day #18


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 18

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.49

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 17

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.13.01

Dicktionary Pic of the Day #17.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 17

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.27

Dicktionary Pic of the day #16.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 16

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 15

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.21

Dicktionary pic of the day #15.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 15

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 14

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.22.56

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.14

Dicktionary pic of the day #14.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 14

What classic album cover is this?Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.22.56

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 13

Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 19.37.51

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.07

Wind of change: Podcast review.


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Patrick Radden Keefe of the New Yorker wrote and presents the latest odyssey by Pineapple Street , Crooked Media and Spotify. it’s produced by Pineapple Street’s Henry Molofsky and it’s enthralling.

It’s a conspiracy theory story with unexpected depth and more rabbit holes than the disused railway line that sits across from my house.

The idea stems from a rumour that Radden Keefe heard from his friend, Michael, an ex-CIA undercover agent that The Scorpion’s global blockbuster hit, Wind of Change, was, wait for it, written by the CIA.

Follow The Moskwa down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change intones Klaus Meine the frontman of The Scorpions, better known for classics like “Another piece of meat’.

But Meine is not normally the songwriter, those duties are taken by the bands guitarist, so it’s surprising that their biggest hit is from their equivalent of Ringo.  It was huge, I mean mahoosive, all over the Easter Bloc.

It’s a beautiful ballad about change running through post Berlin Wall communist states (but written two months before its fall).

What this leads us on is a journey through CIA intervention in popular culture (Dr Zhivago, Satchmo, Nina Simone, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Argo) and sets up the hypothesis that the song, is, not for the first time, propaganda intended to foment insidious cultural unrest in the Eastern Bloc towards the end of the Cold War.

It brings in drug running and secret plea bargains.

(Even the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles get a namecheck.)

It’s fascinating.

It’s brilliantly scripted, narrated and produced.

It’s bonkers.

But is it true?

You’ll need to tune in to find out.

I’d recommend that you do just that.

 

Dictionary Pic of the day #13.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 13

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 19.37.51

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 12

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 21.00.56

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 21.01.07

Dictionary pic of the day #12.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 12

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 21.00.56

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 11

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 14.00.10

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 14.00.20

Homecoming: Podcast review.


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I’m late to this but given that less than 1% of the population probably listen to podcasts I’m betting you are too.

I’m increasingly drawn to the medium of the podcast because they are so absorbing and allow you to do other things while you are listening.

So far this year I have enjoyed:

  • Athletico Mince (for some time now in fact)
  • Desert Island discs (of course – and also for years)
  • Soul Music (from Radio 4)
  • The Media Show (from Radio 4)
  • More or Less (the wonderfully nerdy stats programme from Radio 4)
  • The CoronaCast (from the BBC)
  • Stay Free: The Story of the Clash
  • Slow Burn (the Watergate series – brilliant)
  • Slow Burn (the Lewinski series – Brilliant)
  • Slow Burn (the Tupac series – nah)
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon  (Apollo 11)
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon (Apollo 13)

But I’m saving the best for last (unless Wind of Change continues as brilliantly as it has started).  That’s the electrifying Homecoming in which Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer set fire to your earphones.

It’s been adapted (unsurprisingly as it is so great) for TV by and starring Julia Roberts in Catherine Keener’s role as a ‘caseworker’ in a mysterious military establishment who looks after ‘homecoming’ ex military who are suffering from PTSD.

But the motives of the mysterious organisation that runs the facility in collaboration with the DoD  (Department of Defence) is, at best, questionable.

So sets in motion a 12 part, 20 minute game of cat and mouse (and dog) that is full of twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the, admittedly slightly disappointing, finale.

To say any more would be to stray into spoiler territory, so just suffice it to say, it’s as good as any movie you will watch this year.

It’s gold.

Love it with your ears, then thank me.

 

Dicktionary Pic of the day #10


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 10

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-26 at 15.10.22

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 9

Screenshot 2020-05-25 at 19.48.49

Screenshot 2020-05-25 at 19.49.01

Dicktionary pic of the day #9.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 9

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-25 at 19.48.49

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 8

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 18.11.50

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 18.12.08