Friday, January 27, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 8

A box of records, earlier

This is my box of records, but it could be anyone's - maybe yours.

It's not all of them of course; there's a load on a shelf in the cupboard upstairs - a load less than there used to be, mind (because children there once was a dark time when it seemed the Silvery Discs had triumphed and the things we also had on LP wouldn't be played, and in that dark time some of us were persuaded - oh fools! - to give 'duplicate' records away....dark days, as I say).

These are the select few, the special ones, these ones in the box; the ones that will come out on a Sunday when the potatoes are roasting and I have cracked a pre-lunch Pride; the ones I'd take with me in the event of the housefire of popular imagining; precious mint things I bought decades ago in Ray's Jazz, the old mono and stereo Sinatras with their wonderful sleeves and even more wonderful sleevenotes ('It had begun like the World Soft Championships...') Glen Campbell's 20 Golden Greats (a Sunday staple) Frankie Laine (ditto - for Mum), La Variete by Weekend, Peggy Lee, a load of old soul, Nuggets, some more recent finds I've written about here.

When I open the box there's a whiff of good plastic. Don't put too many in, that's the key - it'll cramp your flicking; you need space and the little puff of air as one falls forward to another, and to pull one out without squeezing and read something on the back, fascinated, or admire (once more) the front cover and put it back again, with a smile.

And to make your selection - lift the needle, pop it on.

'I am a lineman for the County...'

This is my box of records, but it could be anyone's - maybe yours.

Young Marble Giants - 'Wurlitzer Jukebox!' (1980) [vinyl rip]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 7

Clementines and satsumas.

They arrive in the dead of winter, in the slough of November, when the days are dark and everything's drained of colour, little bright juicy balls of Spanish sunshine, and they get even better as the days get still darker then peak at Christmastime and in early Jan when all the choc and booze and rich food leaves you craving their clean-sweet citrussy tang even more. Super-sealed by Mamma Nature for freshness, handy-sized for lunchboxes, easy peel and easy split, those bijou juice-packed segments. I'm having one right now with my cup of tea and all this blethering, Yum.

Prince Buster - 'Shaking Up Orange Street' (1964)

(Er....I haven't got an mp3 of 'My Darling Clementine').

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Etta James (25th Jan 1938 – 20th Jan 2012)

I'd already posted when I heard the news on Friday: but in any case this belongs better here today. 

What a voice.


Etta James - 'A Sunday Kind Of Love' (1961)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Smiling Hour

A smooth little number like this may be all I'm up to ce soir.

I was kindly invited by an old friend to a 'function' last night and am feeling rather delicate today. Also my leg hurts from where I twisted my ankle and knee and fell on the dancefloor, and my pride, from being at one point forcibly ejected from the venue by a very large security man (it was a 'misunderstanding'; he let me back in). I am getting too old for such japery.

Gretchen Parlato is very 'happening' in 'jazz circles' 'Stateside'. I found out about her thanks to NPR Music and their very good list of the best jazz albums of 2011.

I may rouse myself for a Guinness later on.

Gretchen Parlato - 'Skylark' (2005)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 6

In Stargazing Live Brian Cox explains that there are more than 350 billion galaxies in the visible universe. On Radio 4 Extra they're re-running the radio recordings of 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads' from 1975. Since the summer when our dishwasher died Desert Island Disc downloads from a thirty year archive have helped me scrub the pans with brio. Danny Baker has me laughing out loud in the car in a traffic jam on the Upper Richmond Road in the pissing rain, on my own.

Sherlock set Twitter on fire.

And John Peel's in my iTunes (and my head).

My reason to be cheerful # 6 is, gawd bless it, the bloody, bloody beautiful BBC.

Round The Horne - 'Backroom Boys Of The BBC: Personnel'  (1965)

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Smiling Hour

*tries positive drinking*

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 5

We've lived in this house for 17 years now. It's longer than I've lived in any other place. When we moved here we were an unmarried couple with one witch's cat, no kids and no furniture: we spent our first night under a duvet on the floor in an empty bedroom.

Since then we've done the usual things families do - knocked down walls and slapped up paint - but the single best thing we ever did was take the whitewashed brick hole beneath the blocked up old chimney and turn it back into a real fireplace again.

The house came alive.

We had coal fires in our front and back rooms when I was little (and no central heating) - a real coal bunker behind the house that the coalman filled every week, great logs too sometimes that probably came from the woods - I don't remember anyone ever buying them.

The smell of coal-tar on sharp cold days was the scent (with St Bruno ready-rubbed in the old man's pipe) of my childhood.

So the fire here connected Back, but was also about Now and what we were making here: it said This Is Home; and Let's Not Go Out Tonight, There's A Fire; and Pour Yourself A Whisky DavyH And Watch The Flames. Watching the flames dance like I'd do at my grandad's while the grown-ups blethered on about the government and the cost of living and the Capitalists.

Watching our twelve year old daughter lying on her front last week with her head resting in her hands watching the flames dance while the grown-ups blethered on about the government and the cost of living and the Capitalists.

Logs cracking down.

Scott Walker - 'Angels Of Ashes' (1969)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 4


An example, today:

I hear a terrific (old) record for the first time on an (old) Desert Island Discs from the archive I'm trawling and search the web to see if I can find it.

Excellent! It's been uploaded by a blogger!
Amazing! It's one of us! (and I missed it at the time!)

Even better! It was three years ago, but the file's still live!


The record - Dory Previn's 'The Lady With The Braid'

The Desert Island Discs - Jarvis Cocker's.

The blogger - Beth at Lonesome Music.

Thank you BBC archive, thank you Jarvis, thank you lovely Beth x

Dory Previn - 'The Lady With The Braid' (1971)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 3

Unexpected smiles from strangers. Rare as hens' teeth in a big city, where the default mode is the avoidance of eye contact and intently scrolling your smartphone on the train is the human equivalent of a cat stopping to wash itself in the middle of the room (it makes you look Important and Purposeful when you're really just at a loss for something to do). But, lucky me, last week I received two - one in the supermarket (fruit & veg) and one, even less expectedly, on a busy station platform as the 07:39 disgorged its passengers into the morning rush - and both brightened my day out of all proportion to the simplicity of the act itself.

Did the smile-givers have any inkling of how that bold moment of breaking through the invisible but tacitly consensual wall between us would make me feel better for the rest of day?

Or were they just amused by my funny little face?

Well thank you smile-givers, either way: I promise to be less Britishly buttoned-up and to Give as well as Receive in the dark and drizzly winter weeks ahead.

Dusty Springfield - 'Just One Smile' (1967)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Robert Dickey (2nd Sept 1939 - 29th Dec 2011)

Until today when I read the news in, of all places, the freebie newspaper on the train, I honestly couldn't have told you who Robert Lee Dickey was.

But I sure knew 'Bobby Purify' - from wonderful records like 'I'm Your Puppet' and this further, splendid Reason To Be Cheerful...

James & Bobby Purify - 'Shake A Tail Feather' (1967)

A stomper for your Friday.

May he RIP.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 2

Buses. Big red London double-deckers, please. Here's me aged about 3 with one you could literally sit on the top of. You might think it doesn't get much better than that, and you'd be right - it didn't.

I love double-decker buses. I always have. From the green (!) ones I used to get in Devon (aged 6!) from right in front of that house in the picture down the hill to the town and my school, to the ones at college that ferried me to and fro' Saaf East London and The Strand (the last of the real old Routemasters - yellow curvy roofs with the soft tungsten lights and the tartan seats, smoking upstairs and a bubble of chat - '68 bus our battle cry, 68 bus will never die', oh how we laughed) to the n-n-n-n-night buses that got us home from Trafalgar Square or The Goose & Firkin at Elephant And Castle all singing and japery and (sorry) occasionally vomit and the ones now that get me and my girlies to the shops and Portobello and me through town for work whilst crazy people choke on the tube or to my mate's in Wimbledon and back when he says 'Get a cab' and I laugh, laugh, laugh at his folly.

I think that one of the best places in the world you can be is at the very front (left-hand side) at the top of a double decker bus with the world moving past you below and other people's silly, annoying, inconsequential, banal, hilarious, fascinating and quirky chat all around you (no-one talks on the tube) or, if it really is too annoying - or quiet - your iPo on and groovy sounds shuffling a soundtrack.

Here's to buses.

*ting ting*

The Who - 'Magic Bus' (1968)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 1

So, January.

A depressing month, as I'm sure we can all agree. And it's looking especially depressing for me since I am self-employed and have chuff-all work in the diary; this after a December in which paid employ was also, as is traditional in the run-up to Christmas, thin on the ground.

So it was that yesterday, contemplating these and other weighty matters, I fell to making a sandwich using the tiddly bit of leftover cooked salmon I'd salvaged from the girlies' tea the night before and stuck in the fridge

Buttered the bread. Spread - nay flaked - the salmon on top. Ground some pepper.
And then thought - ooh, mayonnaise...  


God I love mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise on the sandwich = a transformation effected.

Mayonnaise is A Reason To Be Cheerful.

Mayonnaise is the sort of thing you need to Get You Through Jan.
So - a 'series' ! Oh lawdy!

With music I expect, yes - and lots of other things besides. Probably. I mean, we'll have to see how it goes.

The small things that keep you going.

My 'reality-altering' January thing.

Starting with mayonnaise.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads - 'Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt.3' (1979)