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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I used to work for British Home Stores

In the early 70s I had a job as a courier at British Home Stores' head office. My job was to accompany Jim, who drove a van that ferried material between their main office on Marleybone Road and their smaller office in Dorset Square. In the afternoons, when Jim had been to the pub for his standard three pints, I took over the driving.

BHS were a slightly sleepy, old-fashioned company even then. My family had never shopped there and I couldn't really work out why people did. And now they seem to be joining HMV, C&A, Woolworths, Borders, Comet and many others that were formerly a part of somebody's regular routine and now aren't anymore. The papers are full of Monday Morning Quarterbacks talking about what they should have done to save it. I don't pretend to have a plan. I know how little I miss the ones that have already gone.

Who's next? Marks & Spencer?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Victoria Wood

Ken Sharp took this picture of me and Victoria Wood. It was in the late 80s and we were talking in the garden of a pub in Salisbury after she'd played a show at the City Hall.

I often mess up the "having a picture taken with the star" moment. It's not altogether surprising. You have one person who's utterly at home with having their picture taken. Then there's you, flushed and over-excited, your professional facade entirely lost.

It wasn't a bit like that with Victoria Wood. She was happy to share whatever limelight was going. Lovely person.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Whatever Emitt Rhodes's been doing for the last forty-three years, it clearly hasn't all been fun

I didn’t mention Emitt Rhodes in my book, though he’s on my extended 1971 playlist.

 Rhodes was one of those people who was being lined up as a Beatles substitute in 1971. He could write good tunes, he played all the instruments on his albums himself and - bonus ball - he was pretty.

His albums attracted support from everybody except the record-buying public and he was locked into a contract that required him to deliver two albums a year, which was hard enough for your standard road-hardened band but was nigh on impossible for an artist who had to over-dub every part himself.

He withdrew from making his own albums in the early seventies. Now he’s back, with a rather good record called Rainbow Ends. Whereas the early records glistened with the optimism of youth, his new one starts with a song about a woman who takes the car, the house and the kids. It’s called “Dog On A Chain”.

He looks different too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nobody knows anything. Didn't then. Still don't.

Finishing Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time" I was interested to see that at the end of the war the American proposal to turn Germany into an agrarian economy that could no longer threaten Europe and the Russian proposal to exclude the French from the post-war settlement on the grounds that they didn't have an army were both resisted and pushed back by Churchill.

On mornings like this, when the airwaves are alive with politicians talking about what will or will not happen in Europe in some unspecified future it's a good idea to ponder close run things like the above and remember the wise words of William Goldman.

Nobody knows anything.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Links to the 1971: Never A Dull Moment playlists in one place

Here they are:

A link to the full 1971: Never A Dull Moment playlist, which is made up of 265 songs, one from every significant album that came out that year.

Then links to a Spotify version of each of the monthly playlists that come at the end of each chapter. If the odd track's missing that's because it wasn't on Spotify when I looked.

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The cheap and cheerful charm of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

We were watching "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" on Netflix the other day.

In the 70s this was the acme of high end film making. The whole nation stopped and watched when it was finally shown on BBC TV.

You watch it now and the first thing that strikes you is how cheap it was. The modesty of the whole enterprise makes it seem as far distant as the silent era. There are no big set pieces or special effects. All the money must have gone to Newman and Redford, who are, it's fair to say, almost hurtfully beautiful.

When the action moves from the West to South America it's done via a montage of stills. And we don't see the big ending. They come out shooting and the frame freezes. They would never do that now, I said to a young person. No, he said, because for a start they would already be shooting a sequel.

Friday, March 25, 2016

I went to see Batman v Superman. Here's my one-sentence review

I know nothing about comics but I've seen enough action films to know that two and a half hours in which you have not been made to feel: a few moments of genuine curiosity about what's going to happen; that familiar tightening in the pit of the stomach when the hero is about to encounter a danger we can see but he can't; the satisfying feeling when a puzzle planted early in the film is solved; the welcome expulsion of nervous laughter when the jeopardy turns out to be harmless and the growl of assent in the back of the throat when the baddie gets his just desserts, then it either means that the film maker has stumbled on a new way of doing things or he simply doesn't realise just how much he has failed to do.