Saturday, 30 June 2012

Have You Heard The Word?

Like most music obsessed teenagers I was a reader of Smash Hits.  I was also a regular reader of Number One (Smash Hits competitor), Roy Of The Rovers and Shoot.
1985 saw the launch of a new music magazine, The Hit.  Primarily a music magazine, it did touch on other subjects such as football and fashion.  Styling itself as a music & lifestyle magazine, I bought it and enjoyed it, but after a couple of months I returned to the comfort of Smash Hits.

Time moves on and my reading gravitates towards the inkies (NME, Sounds & Melody Maker), and then the glossy monthly magazines, usually Select or Vox, before finally settling (sort of) on a changeable diet of Q, Mojo or Uncut (I'd buy one title for 6 months or so, get bored and buy another title)

Word Magazine was launched in 2003 and offered a fourth way.
Whilst I confess that I didn't buy the first issue (so therefore cannot claim to be "there from the start") I did buy a couple of issues interspersed with the Q/Mojo/Uncut shenanigans.

I first read through a copy in a dentists waiting room, and the content just spoke to me immediately.  It was covering stuff I was interested in, stuff I din;t really know about but might be interested in and stuff that I had no real interest in, but read anyway because it was so brilliantly written.
The Review section didn't employ a star rating, leaving the reader to make up their own mind based on the review they had just read (again, which was really well written).
It also helped that two of the writers in that particular issue were Stuart Maconie and David Quantick, and I would happily read anything written by either of these two

And so in July 2006, I settled on one publication as my monthly cultural digest.
I also signed up as a member of the Word Massive (the blog on the Word website - a thoroughly decent, informative and sometimes irrelevant place to spend an evening).
In the past few years I have been involved discussions on the subject of:
  • What Makes A Perfect Album?
  • The Top 10 Beatles Tracks
  • Fray Bentos Pies
  • How To Solve The Euro Crisis
  • Tommy Cooper Style Jokes

in short, name a subject and the chances are it is being discussed (or has been) on the pages of the website.

The website has provided recommendations for music, films and books that I would ordinarily not know about (names at chosen at random: Len Price 3, Robin Hitchcock, Mumford & Sons, Duckworth Lewis Method, The Imagined Village, First Aid Kit, Parts & Labor, the film Almost Famous.  And most recently I have been introduced to The Mahavishnu Orchestra (I didn't say I like them, I just know who they are and what they sound like now)

Two by-products of being a member of The Massive:
  1. Local Mingles - an evening spent in a pub with other members of the Massive talking about music, films, books, anything.  Sounds boring? No - it's a great way to spend an evening and walk away with a pile a CDs, DVDs and Books (If you go to a London Mingle (which I haven't done yet) you can also get cake.
  2. Writing rubbish and (sometimes) relevant comments on the Word website has given me the confidence to start this Blog.  So if your reading this and are saying to yourself "whats this dullard whittering on about now" you can blame The Word
Also, take a look at the Blogroll links to the right - many of these links go to Blogs of other members of The Massive - some I have met, some I haven't, but all are worthy of reading.

And then yesterday I was just settling down for my usual evening in front of the PC talking about nothing really, making a list of the Top 5 Episodes of On The Buses, and posting YouTube clips of long forgotten bands from Oxfordshire, when I read the announcement that the August issue of the magazine will be its last.
Looks like it's back to finding a suitably august publication to provide me with my monthly cultural sustenance.

Through its website, its events and its podcasts, I have really felt part of the magazine.  I felt a strange chest-puffing pride when I had a letter published in Issue 100, and even more happiness when my review Paul Weller's Sonik Kicks published in Issue 111 and on the website.

The coincidence of the personnel involved in both Smash Hits (when I was reading it) and The Word may be  purely accidental, but there must be something that David Hepworth & Mark Ellen know something about what I want to read about.
Indeed, I also used to regularly watch Whistle Test when they were presenting it.

So, a message of thanks to David & Mark (and all others at Development Hell) for providing me with a highly articulate and readable magazine; an outlet for thoughts, musings and discussions on music & other subjects via your website; the chance to sit in a pub with a bunch of strangers talking rubbish; and for generally feeling part of the whole magazine. 
As the slogan says: "The Word - a magazine, a website, a podcast, a way of life", and I for one will miss you when you're gone.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Every Picture Tells A Story

Conventional wisdom suggests Rod Stewarts last great album was "Atlantic Crossing" in 1975.
All his previous albums were primarily solo albums in name, but still had The Faces backing him up.  "Atlantic Crossing" dispensed with The Faces, and ushered in the new commercial, slicker Rod.  To slightly disagree with generally accepted fact, I believe that the next album ("A Night On The Town") was his last hurrah, before descent into the glossy, commercial, insipid disco of 'Hot Legs' and 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy".
Although, in fairness he still had a sense of humour about him as this video illustrates:

(Kenny Everett Do Ya Think I'm Sexy parody - includes Spiderman sketch and interview/chat with Rod (from 1979))

Whilst "Atlantic Crossing" and "A Night On The Town" are both very competent, highly listenable albums, they do somewhat pale against his back catalogue, particularly his tenure as lead singer of The Faces (a band who, if they'd stayed sober enough and in tune could've been challenging The Stones for the position of Greatest Rock n Roll Band In The World).
The ultimate Rod Stewart album as far as I'm concerned is "Every Picture Tells A Story" - a potent mixture of Rock n Roll, R&B, soul, folk and country rock.
From the start of the first track right through to the end of the album, you can almost forgive Rod for the output of the 70s & 80s culminating in his interpretation of the American Songbook
The title track remains a permanent favourite - OK they may not be the most PC lyrics in some places.
Essentially an acoustic song with some telling electric washes from Ronnie Wood, a thumping bass and a cracking snare drum.  Add into the mix Maggie Bell's backing vocals (in the top 2 with Merry Clayton's contribution to "Gimme Shelter").

Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story

There just remains one thing:
A plea to Rod Stewart - do us a favour Rod, stop mucking about with the American Songbook and get back up on stage with Ronnie Wood, Ian MacLagen & Kenney Jones.
We (well, I) want The Faces back together 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

How Come?

  • When you're in a hurry, every traffic light is stuck on Red
  • When you turn the kitchen tap on, it will always direct it's jet of water onto the discarded tea spoon in the sink
  • Your wife will look at the Bank statement in the week you decide to spend money on Amazon
  • Does cutlery breed? - no matter how well you check before letting the water out, there will alwats be one knife and a spoon left in the sink
  • Why is the Helpline number for the IT Helpline only available on-line
  • How do birds know when you've just washed your car

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Man v Food Bingo

US TV Show 'Man v Food' is currently running on Dave, and I'm watching them all again after previously sitting through them on the Food Channel.
The premise of the show is the host visits a different US city each week, and indulges of the local "legendary food challenge".  These challenges include:
  • a 30-inch 11-pound Carnivore Challenge Pizza
  • a 12lb meal of which includes 5lb hamburger, 2lb of bacon and cheese, 5lb of fries, and a giant pickle
  • a 7lb Monster Breakfast Burrito
  • 36 dozen Oysters
and many more stomach-churning, waist-size-increasing, artery-clogging amounts of food.

All of these food challenges are done in the name of TV entertainment, and the chance that you might win a T-Shirt and get your photo posted on the Wall of Fame - in all probability, future visitors to the restaurants will see the photos, shake their heads slowly and mutter under their breath phrases that sound like "Clucking Bell" and "Greedy Mastheads"

Sounds like riveting TV doesn't it?  Well its like catnip, or a moth to a flame - you just can't help but watch it.

And to make it even more enjoyable/irreverent (delete as appropriate) you can play Man v Food Bingo.
There are common phrases used throughout all the shows.
I don't think I've ever yet had a full house, but have come close on occasion.

The common phrases heard are:

  • Pulled Pork
  • Ribs
  • Brisket
  • Pastrami
  • Deli Sandwich
  • Home Fries
  • Coleslaw (often abbreviated to just 'Slaw')
  • Barbecue (as above, often abbreviated to just 'cue' (obviously the fist syllable of these words just takes up too much time)
  • Dry Rub
  • Secret Spices
  • Swiss Cheese
  • American Cheese
Would this programme work in the UK?
I have rarely seen similar food challenges in the pubs, bars & bistros of the UK*, so perhaps not - but if a UK version is planned may I be the first to submit my application as host

* a pub local to me does have "the biggest plate of food in the local area" - a full 1kg of meat, plus chips & onion rings.  This is a 3lb Meal, and in all likelihood the makers of Man v Food would just laugh at the comparatively meagre portions on offer.

Eating the gargantuan amounts of food is one thing, but the consequences need to be considered.
Charlie Brooker considers the "what happened next":

"But what I'd really like to see is what happens the next morning, when the show presumably turns into Man V Poo, as Richman empties the dauntingly substantial, hopelessly compacted contents of his engorged colon, clenching the bathroom doorhandle between his teeth as he attempts to give birth to a leg-sized hunk of fecal sod without killing himself. Cue footage of him sweating, shaking and sobbing like a man impaled on a clay tree, before eventually squeezing out a log with the dimensions and weight of a dead gazelle in a greased sleeping bag. As he mops his brow (and backside), he smiles weakly with exhausted triumph, whispers farewell, and the credits roll. And we've all learned something about the price of excess."
Charlie Brooker's Screen Burn: Man v Food (The Guardian, Saturday 13 March 2010)

And to show just what the burgers an offer are like, this is the Eagles Challenge from the Eagles Deli in Boston (the burger element of the 12lb meal mentioned above:

Friday, 8 June 2012


I started to learn to play Guitar at school, but beyond a passable rendition of 'Apache' on an acoustic guitar, I never really got anywhere.

About 5 years ago, I received a Christmas present of a red Squire Strat (subsequently named 'Nigella') & Fender Amp.  I plugged it all in, strapped on the guitar - and then I remembered my capabilities (or lack thereof).  So I played 'Apache' and the 4 chords I knew (A,D, E & G).
And so (as the saying goes) I had all the gear, but no idea.

Fortunately, I had a mate who knew how to play properly.
He was a patient teacher who took me through the theory, scales and rhythmic playing.
Just as well when he was confronted with a musical idiot with no sense of tone, who just wanted to thrash away at the thing - but I calmed down and learned some valuable lessons - my playing and musical sense improved immeasurably in a relatively short space of time.
In addition, I got hold of a copy of Guitar Pro 5, which was really useful in showing the chords AND the rythym/strumming.

And so, 5 years on I sit here with Nigella on my lap just strumming away, piddling about with new riffs, making a (vaguely) tuneful noise and replaying favourites from my limited repertoire.  I consider myself to be a passable/average player - basically, I can do the chords and the rhythm, I just can't do the twiddly bits.

Being a decidedly average guitar player has not stopped me branching out musically into the Stylophone & the Harmonica as supplementary instruments.
I can now consider myself a one man band.  And according to those who've suffered the cacophony, I should be banned

Maybe I should get a book to further my abilities:

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Are You Happy With Your Energy Supplier?

Quite honestly - Yes!
I can't be bothered with all this chopping & changing of utilities suppliers in the hope of saving 9p.  And then having to do it all again in 12 months because the "special introductory reduction" offer has now lapsed.
Whilst I realise customer loyalty is not always rewarded (unless you count Nectar points which are handy for Amazon Vouchers), life is far easier to find a supplier and stick with them (unless of course the price differential in is the "stupidly different" bracket.)

And there is also no way I could change my energy supplier to one that uses a poo as its mascot.

Mr Hankey and the EDF mascot - separated at birth?

Saturday, 2 June 2012


... is not the best track on the Blur album "Parklife" - it's just a way of levering in a topical title for this post.