Sunday, February 26, 2006

Oh Gawd... I tried, I really tried.

I told myself that by doing it I would bring myself down to the level of the great unwashed. That strange amorphous lump of grey people, no doubt bedecked in their best Elizabeth Duke jewelry and pret-a-porter off-the-market-stall tracksuits who one need never worry about voting in a general election as they will be too busy voting in one of the many celebrity challenge shows.

You know the ones I mean.. take a newsreader, weather-forcaster, a smattering of tv presenters, soapy actors etc. and turn them into dancers, roller-skaters, abortionists etc. when paired with a professional in that field.

Well, Constant Reader, I tried... I really tried. But I am only a poor weak man. And I have had a very poor week. I have found myself watching

I hasten to add I was only watching it as one of the professionals is Beverley Knight, my favourite r'n'b singer. Bev is a singer of rare passion and soul... but sadly has an agent that books her into more primetime tv than is strictly neccessary. And to make things worse she is paired with Nicky Campbell, someone who I usually would happily walk a mile in tight shoes to avoid.

Of course now I am finding myself not only watching.. but caring what happens to them.

In the process I have to also watch gurning Vernon Kaye and slack-boobed wife Tess Daly.

Beverley better give me some serious grooving when I see her at Shepherds Bush Empire in May - I have a reputation to repair.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Today being the Coates' birthday we joined her for a glug at the safety haven that is the Retro Bar. The added bonus was that tonight was "What's In Your Record Bag?" night wherein the dj booth is open to anyone who wants to play 5 of their own choons or play fewer up to 20 minutes. I had been tempted in the past to go along but it being ooor Dawn's b-day n all was a good opportunity. I hit upon my tracks quite easily last week but then came the putting them into a workable order, putting them on iPod playlist so I could listen to them on the train, working out the exact moment to bring in the next track as the last one fades.... O and enjoy the experience too!

My criteria was simple, tracks I wanted to hear loud on the Retro speakers!
My five were:
  • ESTELLE - Dance Bitch
  • MADONNA - Superpop
  • KIRSTY MacCOLL - London Bridge Is Falling Down
  • CHRIS CLARK - Everything's Right, Everything's Wrong
  • KANYE WEST - Touch The Sky

Estelle is a British hip-hop singer with a great way with lyrics, the Madonna track was available only through the fan club to celebrate the release of the CONFESSIONS... album, Kirsty's calypso was recorded around the time of MY AFFAIR, Chris Clark's track is one of the many great unreleased tracks she recorded while at Motown and Kanye... well y'all know about him.

I had a whale of a time! I was shocked by my forgetting where all the buttons were on the decks from when I djed the Madonna Pop Quiz but apart from that the tracks all sounded great being played 'bigly' and I was happy with the response.

Then it was time to enjoy the debut of Owen the dj! The boy did good. So thank you to Dawn, Wendy, Rob, Tall Paul, Gerald and Stephen for a very enjoyable night

*scampers off to see what he can play next time*

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Everyone else is having a go at the Brit Awards so I thought I'd add my pen'worth.

Thank God for the following:

and of course:

Apart from them... Amateur Night in Dixie.

The jaw-dropping display of musical media whoredom that is James Blunt, KT Tunstall and The Kaiser Chiefs. Have any of these oxygen-thieves EVER turned down a television opportunity? The first two are understandable I guess being light entertainment at best but the KC are truly frightening. Not forgetting the almighty strop they pitched at being beaten for the Mercury Prize by Antony And The Johnsons, their wallowing at the Brits was quite astonishing. Oh for just ONE band these days *not* to run to any award ceremony going (tho' The Arctic Monkeys won snaps for non-appearance). According to Popbitch, the KC's performance of "I Predict A Predictable Song" was the cue for the waiting staff in the platinum corporate section to come round with the stilton and oatcakes. How appropriate.

Also what a win-double... James Blunt and Jack Johnson on the same stage. I am loving the reports that everytime Blunt was mentioned when the nominations were read out the crowd booed! Cue that slappable sanctimonious tosser Chris Martin starting an onstage whinge about how we should support our English talent. THEN he did that big dramatic statement about "You won't see us for a while". Then said it again. And again. Would you believe on the basis of that statement EMI's share-rating dropped this morning? Says it all I guess.

Shall I push this a bit more? SURE! Didn't you love the way when they read out the nominations for Best Album it was all about how many units were shifted, how many platinum discs they had etc. etc. - well all except the Kate Bush one.

Added to which there were the humour-free zones that were the presenters... Harry Hill with the jaw-dropping comment "Good news: Madonna and Guy are here. Bad news: they're fighting". Charmed. Oh and the humour-bypass that was the bloke supposedly billed by The Brits as "Chris O'Dowd (from The IT Crowd)". As the Guardian blogger said, at an event like this it must be particularly embarrissing to have your name followed by parenthesis.

Apart from the three Americans shown above, as La Golden would say "A new high in lows".

Friday, February 17, 2006

On Thursday I had a great time with Owen (my own Northern Soul) at the Jazz Cafe seeing Motown diva KIM WESTON. She was one of several solo female singers - Brenda Holloway and Chris Clark also - who despite being signed to Motown during it's golden period in the 60s never quite managed to attain the status she deserved.

While charting Stateside with such 4-to-the-floor stompers as TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS (ROCK ME A LITTLE WHILE) and HELPLESS as well as her classic duet with Marvin Gaye IT TAKES TWO, Kim never managed to consistently achieve chart success as well as being hampered by Motown never releasing a solo album in the 5 years she was there. She was also in the tricky situation of being married to one of the company's leading producer/songwriters and A&R man Mickey Stevenson. A shoe-in for success one would have thought, but it caused resentment in some quarters and eventually they both left the company in 1967.

Her rich powerful voice, so effective in the
ballads she preferred singing, has weathered the test of time and she certainly put all she had into the performance... maybe a little too much as she seemed to be totally spent at the end of her set! She gave us the afore-mentioned chart hits as well as favourites like A THRILL A MOMENT, LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT GUY, DANCING IN THE STREET (which she complained had been taken from her and assigned to Martha & The Vandellas), blues standards PLEASE SEND ME SOMEONE TO LOVE and STORMY MONDAY and even a rocking gospel song which she sang while standing playing the keyboards. She would have sat on the stool like she did in rehearsal but then she "wasn't wearing this tight-ass dress" - she certainly has a way with the words!

Owen and I had deceided to sit this one out in the restaurant, seated facing the stage so we were rewarded with Kim coming along behind us to go down to the ground floor.... got a nice smile from her as I clapped her walking past first time and shook hands with her as she headed to the dressing room. She signed autographs after the show so got her to sign my 2 cds and a nice 10"x8" she had with her.

I would love to see her again... and hopefully word will get back to Brenda Holloway and Chris Clark that this is one room they should definately get booked into!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It had to happen...

after telling Suzanne when she was over here last that Broadway really should see a production of Lorca's THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA, low and behold...

BERNARDA ALBA - A MUSICAL at Lincoln Center!

Go figure!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

This evening I had a most enjoyable 45 minutes in the Olivier Theatre. Christopher Bigsby who edited the book REMEMBERING ARTHUR MILLER published last October was in conversation with Vanessa Redgrave and Patrick Stewart about the great American playwright.
Vanessa can sometimes be a little stumbling in these sorts of things but tonight she was in very good form. How lucky I am to have seen her, my favourite actress, on stage and in conversation so often.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK! Have just watched M's latest video for upcoming single SORRY. Colour, whizzing, glittery boots, lads getting clothes pulled off 'em, some excellent krunk dancing.... I so want to see this live!!!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Last night O and I managed to catch the final performance of the National Theatre's acclaimed production of Ibsen's PILLARS OF THE COMMUNITY at the Lyttleton - and what an actory audience, with Adrian Scarborough, Iain Glen, Phil Davis and Lindsey Duncan spotted in the throng.

Andrew came through with staff tickets for this excellent production directed by Marianne Elliott with a new version of the text by Samuel Adamson. As with the production of THE WILD DUCK I saw last month, it hit a definate topical chord, namely the lengths a man will go to when his favoured standing in the community is threatened with the disclosure that it's all built on a lie.

Karsten Bernick is a leader of his remote harbour hometown in Norway mainly thanks to his family's shipbuilding company. The 'good' people of the town are a closeted bunch, disparaging to anyone who is seen to be different from them and anxious over the news that a railway line will soon be built past the town. The chance of undesirables arriving has not stopped Bernick, who once hated the idea, from now backing the scheme. Unknown to anyone he has bought up large areas of the land the line would pass through. His life is shaken however when his wife's half-brother and sister arrive unexpectedly in town from America. Both had left the town years before under suspicion: the brother Johan was accused of having an affair with an actress whose daughter has been raised by Karsten's sister as well as stealing a large sum of money from Karsten's business, the half-sister Lona disgraced herself by physically attacking Carsten after he proposed to her sister.

The truth of course is different. The money was never stolen, it had been squandered by Karsten's mother and it was easier to fuel the rumour that it was stolen by Johan, he had also been courting Lona and then proposed to her sister Bette when he realised she would inherit her father's wealth. When Johan and Lona threaten to expose him it appears Karsten will willingly send someone to their death rather than be exposed.

The damp squip performance of Damian Lewis as Karsten was easily eclipsed by the feisty performance of Lesley Manville as Lona. It was a delight to see her in this role, Elliot could have cast one of the usual faces one sees but casting Manville paid off in spades. She was matched by the performance of the always dependable Brid Brennan as Karsten's sister Marta, always ready to sacrifice her needs for others. It's always difficult to play selfless characters but Brennan pulled it off great aplomb.

Friday, February 03, 2006

There I was, Constant Reader, poking about the rather wonderful MADONNALICIOUS website when I noticed the downloads link. Why had I never noticed this before? I now have the 1990 Omnibus documentary (albeit in 4 segments) and her sensational appearance at the 1991 Academy Awards singing Sondheim's SOONER OR LATER from "Dick Tracy".

I hasten to add M has appeared twice at the Academy Awards singing nominated songs in the Best Song category, the afore-mentioned from "Dick Tracy" and YOU MUST LOVE ME from "Evita". Both won the award. So songwriters... you want an Oscar? Then get Madonna to sing your song in a film. It was also announced last night that she is going to be appearing with The Gorillaz at the upcoming Grammy Awards... can't Wait to see that!!

In other news today the once essential SMASH HITS magazine is to close after 28 years of publication. How's that for a telling comment on the music of today? When even SH can't maintain interest in the shiny pop people de jour? It came at a good time for me... just as I was beginning to tire of the NME's increasing ponciness - there was the bright and irreverant SMASH HITS. I must rifle through my shedloads/shitloads of old cuttings... I am bound to have some of Debbie, Siouxsie and Kate from this august journal.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gordon Alexander Pritchard probably always wanted to be famous for something. And now he is, the 100th soldier to be killed in Iraq since the invasion.

It does rather pale in comparison to the 2,245 American dead but it is still a grim statistic which I still believe should never have been allowed to happen.