Sunday, February 25, 2007

After a week of unending hefting and carrying heavy things in either the office or ex-shop I had the great joy of celebrating my first Saturday off in quite a few years... and I was absolutely stumped as to what I should do! So much to do.. so little enthusiasm to do anything.

The evening was much better however when I finally got round to seeing HOT FUZZ with Owen. I must admit it wasn't as immediately enjoyable as SHAUN OF THE DEAD but it wasn't long before I was laughing out loud - so rare in a film comedy these days.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a dedicated policeman whose arrest record is so staggeringly high that his superiors transfer him to the sleepy country town of
Sandford. There he finds it difficult to fit in to the lazy pace of the town and the lacklustre policing but when several leading citizens die in suspicious circustances Nick realises that country life can be just as violent as in town.

Edgar Wright mines the cop-out-of-water territory for all it's worth in the first hour
then goes all-out for the all-action finale with thudding machine guns, explosions, blood-splattered wounds and yes... the cops firing guns as they jump sideways in slo-mo! Simon Pegg is almost too good as the dour Angel making it hard to sympathise with him until he is 'humanised' by his friendship with his amiable well-meaning but oafish constable sidekick Danny - played of course by Nick Frost. Frost is wonderful, not over-playing the bumbling oafness and portraying Danny's wide-eyed admiration of Angel with touching sincerity.

Thanks to the success of SHAUN... Edgar Wright obviously has assembled the supporting cast of his dreams and all of them play it straight down the middle to excellent effect, a little too good in fact - I would love to have seen more of Billie Whitelaw (how good to see her on screen again!), Edward Woodward, Anne Reid, Kenneth Cranham, Peter Wight and Julia Deakin. Yep... I am making space on the shelf for the dvd already...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Owen pointed out this evening that my iPod had 3434 songs on it.

It seems a good excuse to let you know what t
he last 10 tracks played were:


TAKE ME - Donna Summer
FAMILY - "Dreamgirls" film soundtrack
I'M STILL HERE medley (live) - Barbra Streisand
IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT - The Neville Brothers
THE MONKEY - The Velvelettes

In case you're wondering where the usual suspects of Madonna, Kirsty MacColl, Dusty Springfield and Beverly Knight are... I am loading my cds backwards through my collection (
no, I don't know why either!) so far I have done from The Streets to Yazoo and my compilation cds.

I will do a more extensive iPod breakdown when it's a bit more representative of my collection!

Year Zero. Day Three.

Despite my deepest waking nightmares last week the actual get-in to the new office went very smoothly largely thanks to the expert Pickfords moving team headed by Rick who looked like Daniel Craig's uglier brother (steady Andrew...) and by the winning combination of myself and Martin at the office, quickly emptying the crates as they arrived and keeping plenty of walking space around the piles of stock. Even if we did manage to get ourselves locked out on the balcony when the fire exit door blew shut behind us! Luckily the sons of Pickford arrived about ten minutes later *note to self...*

So this is what the door and relevant corner looked like before Hurricaine Flashbacks hit...
Same corner after the end of Friday (aka Moving Day #1):
(clicky for biggy)
And this is how it looked at 12.30 Saturday afternoon after we had sorted the final delivery:

And here is me so you have an idea of the width of the poster pile:

Special thanks go to Owen for bringing Martin and I victuals at the end of the first day and Guy Thomas for helping with the last delivery although the hung-over eejit was actually supposed to have been at the shop helping Richard get the stuff to us about 2 and a half hours earlier!

Now comes the sorting, putting shelves up, watching shelves tumble down, getting phone line activated, getting the Broadband switched to the new address... you know, all the real FUN stuff. Oh and getting to know the neighbours... can't wait to meet them two doors down in the headquarters of Torture Garden!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Well it's over... I worked my last day at Flashbacks: The Shop today. What a strange experience.

We opened in 1986 - when Challenger and Chernobyl went bang, Phil Lynott and the Duchess of Windsor died, Boy George appeared on "The A-Team" and The Smiths released "The Queen Is Dead", Madonna released "True Blue" and the Pet Shop Boys released "West End Girls", Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson and Suzy Lamplugh went to meet a client.

Even taking into account the 5-odd years I worked with the actor's agent that's a lot of "Hello Can I Help You"s, making change, wondered if the customer would nick the pen after writing their cheques or drummed my fingers waiting for their credit card to be verified.

I have made some fine friends, had some great customers and gone cross-eyed with boredom with the ones who mistook the shop for a drop-in centre. My part-timers included Martin Taylor and occasionally Steve O'Connor, the two friends I blogged about recently who have died in the intervening years.

I don't deny it was a strange feeling to look back at it just one more time before I hit the lightswitch and could feel my eyes getting hot and prickly. I say again I believe that the past is always swirling around one and it has felt like that a lot today.

I had my last lunch at the Carlton with Yolanda and here is the nice waiter bringing me my omlette and chips...
Dear God I wonder how much I have spent in there over the years??? Ah the waitresses I have seen come and go... dumpy Maria, fiery Olga, moody Yvonne, big Maria, blonde Asha - never an English woman knowingly employed.

Luckily the shop looks an absolute disaster area now so that saw off any sentimentality swamping me... it's hard to get nostalgic about things when you are forever banging your knees on packing crates and screaming O FUCK IT as yet another bit of brown sellotape sticks to everything but what it's supposed to. Yes the shop was always a hymn of praise to Boss Richard's 1970s commune retail style but now it looks like Ground Zero.

Bizarrely the more we have packed the stock up, the less room we have had to move - how can that be?? Here I am in the basement - I had just heard something behind me start to shift....and just before leaving it all got to me... luckily Owen was on hand to chronicle my last seconds as a West End Boy.
So goodbye Silver Place. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

But what a time I had.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

As it was Owen's burpday we went to see Cirque De Soleil's ALEGRIA at the Royal Albert Hall. In their ten years of visiting London I can't say I had ever felt the urge to see them before, imagining it would be all mime and whimsy. I had a whale of a time! It's always nice to see a show that takes you by surprise. It was colourful, vibrant, imaginative and genuinely thrilling to watch.

My favourite acts were the female trapeze artist who despite the wire she had on still made me jumpy watching her swinging and spinning above our heads (maybe because I am so used to just looking across at the Albert Hall stage the use of all that space in the vault above was such a dizzying experience), the wincingly powerful handbalancing of Ukranian Denis Tolstov, the Russian Maria Silaeva who did some serious leaping and wibbling with the ol' stick and ribbon and metal hoops, Ken Futamura dizzying spins above the stage balancing a large metal cube and all the running, bouncing and pirouetting artists on the Power Track (2 intersecting bouncy runways), the gymnasts on the bendy Russian bars supported on the shoulders of others and finally the seven gravity-defying acrobats on the aerial high bar somersaulting off the metal rig high above the stage to be caught by the trapeze catchers beneath them. The only act that lost my attention were two Mongolian female contortionists which was a little too 'Freaks' for my liking.

I even enjoyed the clowns which is unheard of for me, the tall Brazilian one (who rode a farting hobby-horse at one point) and the chubby Spaniard he partnered had great fun with a paper airplane buzzed into the audience until one appeared with a massive one that nearly filed the stage and to close the first act was a puzzling though strangely poetic vignette featuring a Russian clown with John Lydon hair, a hung-up coat doubling as a lover, a railway track and snow... tons of snow! How this ends is an amazing coup-de-theatre (even if it's nicked from Slavka I think). The only downsides to the evening were the woeful bar arrangements at the RAH and the usual travel hell that invariably takes place when we go to that mausoleum. This time the Circle and Dictrict lines out of Kensington High Street were all up the muff.

Well done that Owen for having a birthday and wanting to see this show!

Friday, February 09, 2007

The obligatory "Oooo look at my road" shot after the snow!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I feel oddly sad at the news that Anna Nicole Smith has been found dead in Florida aged 39.

She seemed to be living out one of those all too familiar look-at-me lives that one suspected would end in tragedy.

I am remembering the exuberant Guess ads in which she first came to prominence in 1993, most of them loosely based on Jayne Mansfield images. She seemed a healthy antidote to the increasingly androgenous models who were appearing in print ads in the early 90s and I thought at the time "Ah we will hear a lot from her". Didn't we just.

Strange how the ghost of Mansfield seemed to never be too far away from her.
Tonight Owen and I went to see Boy George again, this time in the posh surroundings of Koko {aka The Camden Palace, The Music Machine, Camden Hippodrome etc} Somehow this was my first time going there and what a nice building it is.

Boy George was, I suspect, feeling no pain tonight. He was fine while singing but he was all over the place during the links, garbling his sentences so quickly that only he I suspect knew why he was laughing. The band - including longtime song-writing collaborators Kevin Frost and JohnThemis - was loud and good, his new found dancehall style still gives old numbers like KARMA CHAMELEON a thorough shake-up and the set-list included all the ones I liked from last October at the Pigalle. There was also a good one I think called HUMAN NATURE about Asylum Seekers. Oddly despite backing singer Lucy having a fair old hefty belt to her voice - she certainly nailed Helen Terry's lines from CHURCH OF THE POISONED MIND - his recently 'released' aka downloadable single TIME MACHINE with the thankfully-absent Amanda Ghost was not featured.

By and large I enjoyed it although it was marred by George's jittery mood, the deliberately obscure and back-of-the-stage lighting - is he still obsessed about his double-chin? - and the lack of spatial awareness of several vile females.
This has not been a good week for a serious Motown fan...

Last Friday Billy Henderson of The Detroit Spinners (as they were known in this country) died aged 67 from *gulp* complications arising from diabetes and

Joe Hunter who was the first keyboard player in the Motown session band known as The Funk Brothers (and immortalised in the documentary STANDING IN THE SHADOW OF MOTOWN) died aged 79

while on Sunday the impossibly glamorous singer/actress Barbara McNair died aged 72 of throat cancer.

I'm off to play IT'S A SHAME, YOU'VE REALLY GOT A HOLD ON ME and I KNOW BETTER as a tribute to them respectively.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Over the weekend Owen and I went to the Barbican Hall to see one of the tie-in concerts with the new BBC series on UK soul called SOUL BRITANNIA, this one billed as the Soul Britannia All-Stars and what an odd night it was. As the years being covered were the 70s suffice to say the audience was nearly all our age and as usual was predominantly white.
The evening started on a high with a segment celebrating The Queens of Lovers Rock namely Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson who were joined onstage by actor/singer Victor Romero Evans for back-up vocals. They sung about 3 songs each, Evans sang his "At The Club" and they exited on a Bob Marley cover to an audience on their feet and dancing. It actually made me want to investigate these artists further. And yep, Janet can still (just) hit those skyscraper notes on "Silly Games".

After a chance to catch up with the old married couple Angoose and Clive in the interval, the show recommenced with Pauline Black - and her cut-glass diction - introducing Carol Grimes. Imagine Hazel Blears' mother as a pub jazz/soul singer and you're nearly there. Actually she was very good, I'd vaguely heard of her before but had never actually heard her singing to the best of my knowledge. After her the mc for the evening - the frankly awful Root Jackson of unknown funk band FBI - called up a member of Gonzalez to do a number - sadly not "Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet" then it was time for four songs from Hamish Stuart of the Average White Band - all of them worthy but seemingly endless. Despite finishing with "Pick Up The Pieces" the evening seemed strangely becalmed.

The much-awaited appearance of Madeline Bell promised to kick-start the evening back to life but after a few ok songs from her "This Is One Girl" album, which I used to have on cd before passing it down the eBay chain, she was taking her bow and was gone. No Blue Mink? Even more puzzling was no mention of her long association with Dusty Springfield - surely a candidate for some kind of mention in an evening dedicated to UK soul.

No time for reflection though as Linda Lewis came on next. It was great to finally see one of my favourite performers from the mid-70s but again no sooner was she there than she was waving goodbye! She deserved more time but gave us "Rock A Doodle Doo", "Sideway Shuffle" and "Reach For The Truth" and O and I have deceided to definately see her the next time she headlines a show on her own. The final act of the evening was two members of the Brixton collective Cymande joining the onstage band for a couple of numbers which were ok but not all that.

So all in all it was a real curate's egg of an evening which sadly didn't succeed in pressing the claims that UK soul from this period has been unfairly neglected.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Feedback score is 500 to 999
The purple star means I have now 500+ positive feedbags on eBay.
I'll try to not let it change me.