Monday, 19 October 2009


Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship – Blows Against The Empire

I have to mention Spotify because I think it might be a glimpse of the future. Suddenly I can listen to almost anything I want to on demand. This last week I've listened to Merle Travis, John Prine, Emily Smith, Paul Kantner, Rosanne Cash, Miguel Poveda, Tomatito, Gerardo Nunez and Marcelo Mercadante. Oh yes, and Neutral Milk Hotel. The artists get some cash, though not a lot by the sound of it. Still - preferable to being downloaded for free. I guess it's a bit like being played on the radio. I can imagine a future where we don't need to own stacks of cds and videos any more, but can just download the stuff as we want it onto some portable device.

Anyway, a remark by Stuart, who's been cutting my hair for about 20 years now, has been bugging me for a while. He's a DJ in his spare time and has an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music. He was recommending Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. He said listening to it made him feel 'clean and optimistic'. It doesn't make me feel that way, although there are a lot of good tracks on there. But I was seriously puzzled by the reviewers who have said that Midlake's Trials of Van Occupanther reminded them of Fleetwood Mac. Stuart agreed with this, but I still can't see it. On the other hand I think that Midlake and to a lesser degree Neutral Milk Hotel owe a lot to Paul Kantner's early Jefferson Starship albums. I had almost forgotten Blows Against the Empire until Spotify let me listen to it again this week. All that sixties optimism is just starting to go wrong and Kantner and Slick are planning a journey across the galaxy. Probably best listened to in conjunction with a reading of The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Lest we forget...

I was idly looking through some of the slides I've been scanning and I came across this! I guess it was 1996. Bonfire night was approaching and I had a sudden inspiration for the Guy. I know that many people can no longer remember John Major. Some are too young, some are beginning to lose their marbles, and some never really knew who he was in the first place. Well, folks, this is what a Conservative Prime Minister looks like - and I assure you, it is a very good likeness. You really don't want David Cameron to be Prime Minister, do you?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Orford Ness

I've been intending to visit Orford Ness for years. Orford is one of my favourite places on the Suffolk coast. It has a fine castle and a planned Norman town with the original street plan, even though it is now only a village. And from the quay you can take a ferry to the Ness where secret experiments were carried out for years on radar and ballistics and on the atom bomb. Yet for some reason I never managed to visit the Ness until yesterday, when Kate and I took the National Trust ferry and spent the afternoon wandering around what must be one of the eeriest and most beautiful places in Britain.
Various buildings dot the shingle banks, many of them having once been put to uses that remain unknown. Others have been restored to provide viewing platforms and information. The strangest place of all was Laboratory Number 1 where research was carried out on the bomb. The walls are coated in green mould and peeling paint and the rusting roof members creak in the wind. Half of the floor is taken up with a tank of black water.
Waders, gulls and harriers fly over the site and on top of the Bomb Ballistics building the railings vibrate in the wind and make a strange howling sound.
There are more photos here.