Rodrigo Y Gabriela @ Nottingham Rock City, 31st May 2007
How many acoustic duos could you name that list their key influences as being Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and Overkill? How many gigs featuring only two acoustic guitarists would attract a substantial number of heavy metal fans? (I'm pretty sure that not all that many classical music fans go to metal gigs, but I suppose I could be wrong).
I have Statue John to thank for hearing about this band - he's been raving about them pretty solidly for about a year and has been to see them several times. I was resistant to the idea of them for a while, but in the end my resistance was futile. I only had to listen to "Tamacun" and I was a goner. It was then only a matter of time before I was out buying the album and buying the tickets to this gig. I like the heavy metal angle (and their cover of Metallica's "Orion" is an absolute joy), but C. is a classical guitarist, and she loves them too for the virtuosity and sheer exuberance of their playing. Sadly, C. is in Switzerland at the moment and wasn't able to make the gig. Luckily Sarah was more than happy to step into the breach, and we were also lucky enough to bump into Mike, at the gig for both business and pleasure (his review should be appearing in the Nottingham Evening Post tomorrow....)
The album is great, but live these two are just superb. Rodrigo is an outstanding guitarist in his own right, but Gabriela is just something else. She may be a delicate looking thing, but my God she's a force of nature: she plays the guitar like a whirlwind, often forsaking her pick to attack the strings with a blur of fingers, all the while hammering her guitar with the heel of her hand as though it were a drumkit. She produces sounds that I have never heard coming from an acoustic guitar before, and her duelling exchanges with Rodrigo are just out of this world. As well as looking a touch like a hispanic Chris Cornell, Rodrigo looks like a rather more orthodox guitar player to my untrained eyes, but he is clearly also a frustrated rock star: he embraces all those big metal riffs (and tonight, as well as lots of Metallica, we hear some White Stripes, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and...er... Dave Brubeck) and he positively rejoices in all those intricate, fiddly-widdly solos. Superb, and the crowd absolutely lapped it up. We also get an extended crowd singalong to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, which almost brings the house down.
R&G are quite interesting enough, but they are also the first band I have seen performing at Rock City who have big screens up showing close-ups of their fretwork. I've seen people play the Arena without screens, and this acoustic two-piece from Mexico via Ireland turn up at Rock City with the full works. It's a good effort. Their light show wasn't too shabby either, and I particularly enjoyed the bit where they used strobe lighting during their cover of "One" at exactly the same time in the song as Metallica do when they play it. A nice touch, I thought.
They play for a good 90 minutes - and they are spell-binding throughout - but I think it's only fair to report that Rock City was not quite sold out, and some sections of the audience seemed to think that the gig was a great opportunity to have a chat with their mates, raising their voices as the music inconvenienced them. It annoyed me, and I think on occasion it might even have prompted R&G to crank up the volume a touch. It didn't manage to ruin the concert for me, but it was certainly an irritating background presence. Sometimes they would interrupt their conversation to applaud the band for the song they had just been trying to play. Why do these people come to gigs?
What a great show. I really hope they are on the bill at Glastonbury because I think C. would absolutely love to see them live.... they're actually supporting Muse at Wembley later on in June, and they definitely won't look at all out of place on a stage that big.
Catch them if you can. In the meantime, here are some YouTube links:
If you were to ask C what has been occupying her time the most in the planning of this wedding, then I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you how she’s been busy with things like making sure that we have the right paperwork, that the registrar is booked and that the venue is sorted is booked, that we send out travel information and details of various hotels and things to our guests….
Meanwhile, I’ve been focusing on the really important stuff… like making sure that we have some decent music played at the reception. This process started when we invited our guests to nominate two songs on their RSVP, it continued as we made the important decision of what our first dance should be ("Fell in Love With A Girl" by the White Stripes), and then moved on into an active discussion with the two DJs about what music should be played at what stage of the evening. At one point, and at the request of one of the DJs, I even spent a ridiculous amount of time carefully thinking up a list of the ten (-ish) songs that I wanted to be used as a sample of my taste in music and as a guide for the kind of songs that I would want played.
Now that’s an almost impossible task? That changes minute by minute. How would you sum up your music taste in ten songs? What can you get away with at a wedding? Is anything fair game?
> "Apply Some Pressure" / "Our Velocity" - Maximo Park > "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" - The Arctic Monkeys > "Son of a Preacher Man" - Dusty Springfield > "This Charming Man" - The Smiths > "Blister in the Sun" - Violent Femmes > "Substitute" - The Who > "Feel Good Inc" - Gorillaz > "Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley > "Nutbush City Limits" - Ike & Tina Turner > "My Sharona" - The Knack > "Mr E's Beautiful Blues" - Eels > "And She Was" - Talking Heads > "Twist and Shout" / "Daytripper" / "Back in the USSR" - The Beatles
C. also came up with a list of ten songs.
> “Shout” - The Alex Harvey Soul Band > “Crazy in Love” - Beyonce > “Tamacun” / “Diablo Rojo” - Rodrigo and Gabriella > “Hey Ya!” - Outcast > “Fun, fun, fun” - Beach Boys > “Don't Stop” - S Club 7 > “Uptown girl” - Billy Joel > “Spitting Games” - Snow Patrol > “A little less conversation” - JXL Radio Edit Remix/Elvis > “Jolene" - Dolly Parton
Not a bad list from my girl there, I think you’ll agree.
Of that lot, the only song that the DJs were struggling to get hold of was the Alex Harvey Soul Band version of the Isley Brothers song “Shout” (yes, the same one that was later made famous by Lulu). When we were in Birmingham, I popped into a big record shop to see if I could find the elusive song and make my fiancée very happy indeed. After a bit of searching, I found what I was looking for on a 2 CD retrospective of Harvey’s career. It was £10… but to be honest, I’ve spent a lot more than that on other things for this wedding, so I wasn’t really in the mood to quibble too much. Besides, I quite like the Sensational Alex Harvey Band - their demented, thickly accented cover of Brel’s “Next” is the best version of the song that I’ve heard by far (better even than the Scott Walker version!).
So I bought it.
We popped the CD on in the car to give it a listen as we drove home. “Shout” is the opening track on the first CD, and it’s a great record. I’m sure you know it, but it’s sure to get more or less any party moving. The rest of the songs on that first CD are all pretty good, but I was keen to get onto the second disc and to listen to some of the later Sensational Alex Harvey band stuff that I was a bit more familiar with…. So I ejected the CD.
Or at least, I tried to eject the CD, but the button appears to have broken. The CD works fine, there just appears to be no simple way of getting the disc back out again.
So there we are… with about a week to go before we leave for Vienna, and the CD containing the last song that we need for the wedding reception is now stuck in C’s car.
When it comes to the world of fashion, I have - in the main - lived a life of blissful ignorance. Of course, I can't claim to be entirely label blind. Who can? Since I first left university and got myself a job, I have gradually spent more and more money on what I wear. I've never spent all that much, but the more money I had, the more likely I was to spend that cash on clothes. I used to get my jeans from Marks & Spencer, then I moved on to Gap and now I buy from Diesel... there's no question that I have started to buy labels, although I like to think that as a result I look better. I hope it will be a cold day in hell before I buy something with a label just because it has a label. Versace jeans? Hmmm. I don't think so.
Perhaps I shouldn't be so definitive. After all, until today, I still bought my pants from M&S or John Lewis.
So what changed today?
Today I went to the first fitting of my wedding suit. This is where I get to try it on for the first time and the tailor gets to work out what tweaks he still needs to make to get the suit just so. It looks brilliant, but as I pulled on the trousers in the fitting room, I experienced something for the first time, something that has never happened to me in the past. I'm sure this sounds ridiculous -- and ladies, please feel free to snigger at this point -- but normally when I step into a pair of trousers, it's a simple matter of pulling them up and doing them up. Job done. Apparently it's different with tailored trousers, and I found that I needed to sort of wiggle my hips into them before I could do them up. Once over my hips, they fit fine and looked fantastic..... except for one detail..... I appeared to have developed VPL.
Now. I don't really have a general theory about different types of underwear, but I do know that I've always liked boxer shorts. They're nice and airy and comfortable. Unfortunately, they also have a lot of surplus material. Under normal circumstances, and in my normal everyday trousers, this has never been a problem. Apparently, in more closely fitting tailored trousers, this results in a visible panty line.
The tailor was very polite about it, but the bottom line was that I was required to go out and buy some more styled pants.
Underground railways look the same everywhere in the world.
How different can they be? They have trains, they have tunnels, they have stations and they have passengers. Even the hot wind that heralds the arrival of the next train is the same. What else is there?
Every single one is different.
Even if everything else about them was the same; if they had the same trains, the same tunnels and the same platforms, then the passengers would still mark each one out as unique. Our cities are so full of people and yet they remain so impersonal, so faceless. It's much the same underground, of course. It's the same, and yet subtly different rules apply and the bubble of isolation that you so carefully maintain above ground is here rendered smaller and more vulnerable to the pressing mass of humanity squeezed all about you.
All of this struck me as I travelled on the Paris Metro this afternoon. I climbed onto the train in a quiet suburban station and rode it all the way through the centre of town and out again as far as the airport. Initially the train was quiet and flew past other sleepy stations on the approach to the city. Once in the city itself though, the train drew to a halt at every station and the doors opened to allow the ebb and flow of the human tide. I don't travel on the undergound in London very often, but enough to notice that things were not the same here.
The most obvious difference was in the way people looked. The underground in London is packed with people from many different walks of life and from many different countries. The Metro in Paris is no different, of course, and yet the people here looked different - alien almost. Superficially they are the same: they come and go, chatting and laughing, listening to their iPods and reading their trashy novels...but look more closely and things are not the same: their clothes looked different, they wore different types of glasses, ate different snacks and lazily tapped text messages into different kinds of mobile phone. Just as in London, there was an enormous ethnic mixture on the train and a wide palate of different skin colours, yet here they somehow seemed to be in a variety of subtly different shades.
Sitting in my seat watching people come and go over the 65 minute journey, it struck me that although this was a very familiar scene, in other ways it was quite alien. People may well be the same everywhere, but we are also incredibly different in all kinds of tiny ways.
It even smelt different.
As I stepped off the train and walked away towards my flight home, I looked back over my shoulder. As the carriage pulled away and continued on down the tunnel, I wondered if anyone in there had been watching and wondering about me too.
I’ve been doing this slot on and off now for a while, but I’ve a very special edition for you this week. One of the key characters in the ongoing tragi-comic melodrama of my life is about to make her very first personal appearance on this blog. I’ve talked about her here many times, of course, and posted up loads more photos of her than she’s probably comfortable with. To be honest, it feels a little bit strange describing the person I have lived with for the best part of 8 years as a “Guest”, but there you go. Her writing debut here comes some 2 weeks and one day before we get married and on the occasion of her birthday (I’m far too much of a gentleman to tell you her age. Oh alright then. She’s 33 – but in my view there’s no need for the Protect & Perfect just yet).
Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure…. The birthday girl herself, my bride-to-be…
Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #66 - C.
I feel like I’ve crossed an invisible line. I’m no longer a reflection. I have a voice. I’m petrified.
OK, maybe I’m overplaying it a bit, but it is a big step. You will occasionally have seen glimpses of me on this blog, but don’t be fooled. That’s not me, it’s just a blurred view through a distorted lens. I feel like a fictional character who has suddenly crossed over into reality. Hence the fear. The picture of me that ST has sketched over the years is so flattering, so loving that I feel I can only disappoint.
To make matters worse, my musical repertoire is really ropey. But here goes…
> 'Strutter' by Kiss
For those who have been keeping up with the latest instalments of this blog, you will know that a certain playstation game has recently taken over our lives. I never used to understand the appeal of a playstation, always thought it was a boy thing. Now I sneak home from work early itching to plug it in, only to find ST has already beaten me to it. Curse the evil genius at Sony who came up with the idea.
> 'Die Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen' by Mozart
Picture a fairly routine morning in the ST household. ST is surgically attached to his mac, I’m making us a cup of tea. I find myself humming a tune. “What’s that?!” interrupts ST. Quizzical look from C. “You’re singing… that’s an earworm. Put it on your list” he barks. “But it’s by Mozart, I didn’t realise I was allowed classical music.” Apparently it is a valid earworm. It’s the Queen of the Night’s main aria from the Magic Flute and it has been a recurring earworm of mine ever since it was used in an advert for tapioca on French telly in the 80s.
> 'Before I fall to pieces' by Razorlight
I’ve really got on ST’s nerves this week. The tune may be stuck in my brain, but I have a mental block when it comes to the song title. I’ve asked him about six times to remind me what it’s called. You should have been a fly on the wall when I sang it to him in bed to get him to identify the song. I can’t hold a tune. It was humiliating, and I’m amazed ST actually recognised it.
> 'Bouge de la' by MC Solaar
Not the whole song, just the bit that goes “bbbbbouge de la” and “j’tachete tes rap en dinars, non je veux des dollars car on m’appelle Solaar”. I had meant to get this added to the play list at our wedding, but forgot. I have fond memories of dancing to this track with my friend Iwan when I was about 16.
> 'Don’t marry her' by the Beautiful South
I won’t elaborate on this one. Maybe it’s an indicator of some deep-seated insecurity. It’s also just a cool song.
[ST's note - are we talking the full-on, unexpuragated version of this? Cool!]
> 'Message in a bottle' by The Police
I’ve practiced and I’m actually getting quite good at this one. I can play it on Medium at normal speed and get 90% note accuracy. Poor long suffering Mr Perrault who taught me the classical guitar for 7 years would be proud.
> 'Three steps to Heaven' by Eddie Cochran
I have no idea why, but I fell asleep last night with “steps 1 2 and 3” going around my head on a loop. It works a bit like counting sheep.
> 'Stand' by REM
It’s not so much that this is an earworm, it’s more that my iPod seems to like it a lot. I can’t go for a run without hearing it.
> 'Give it away' by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
This one is also from running with my iPod. Whenever it plays on my shuffle I run just that little bit harder. Sometimes I even jump up mid-run, thrusting my right arm in the air. In my mind’s eye I look like a rock goddess. To passers-by I probably look like I’ve injured myself.
> 'All Day and All of the Night' by the Kinks
I’m back at my parents’ house this weekend. On the train from Paris to Orléans last night this popped into my head. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Orléans only used to have one night club called Le Balcon. It was a horrible place, full of predatory middle-aged men. It had two redeeming features. One was that they had band nights on a Sunday, and that they booked my brother’s band more than once. The other was that they always played this song before the bands came on. It came to represent the epitome of cool to me.
There you go. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Perhaps it’s just a little unfortunate that you make your debut here a week or so after you became addicted to Guitar Hero. Kiss are one thing, but I you should probably thank your lucky stars that you’re not earworming Motley Crue or Primus or Alice in Chains or something else like that from the game. Actually, perhaps one of the reasons that I like the game so much is that I secretly like bands like that. I think I rather appalled everyone when playing the game the other week that I knew the words to “John The Fisherman” by Primus, a song by a band no one else in the room had even heard of.
Altogether now: “When I grow up I long to be one of the harvesters of the sea”
I’m flying out to France this afternoon and I’m looking forward to spending the long weekend with my girl.
Millions and millions of words have been cast into the void on this subject already, so I'll try to keep this short:
When I went to the gym for a swim last night, there was a poster propped up on the main reception desk. The poster had a picture of a little girl and was an appeal for people to call Crimestoppers with any information that they might have on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann whilst on holiday with her family in Portugal.
I saw the same poster today in the gents toilet of a service station just outside Oxford. I keep stumbling across comments on various blogs imploring people to call Crimestoppers with any information they might have. Although I haven't yet received one (perhaps it's in my spam folder), I hear that millions of emails have been passed around asking the same thing. The McCann's website is up and running (85,000 support messages so far and £294, 758.65 in donations and counting). And you can upload your holiday snaps here just in case they provide any clues.
I feel for the McCann's, of course I do. I really hope that their little girl is found alive and well and is returned to her family as soon as possible.
I understand that all of this publicity probably increases the chances that a key piece of information will find its way to the police... but why Madeleine? Why this case? Why is all this attention and compassion being focused on this one missing person? Are there no other missing people in the world? Are there no other families out there equally devastated by a loss like this? If she isn't found and the posters start to come down, does she remain any less lost? Is it any less of a tragedy for her parents? Also in the news today was a desperate appeal for funds from the Disasters Emergency Committee for the crisis hit Darfur region of the Sudan and surrounding areas.
The BBC have more details, but 200,000 people have died in Darfur since the rebellion in 2003. Pro-government militias have been accused of mass killings, rape and looting. Two-thirds of the population of Darfur are utterly dependent upon aid, and the rainy season is looming, threatening to bring further deaths through disease and malnutrition.
"More than 4.5 million people have been affected by conflict in the region and the looming rainy season has the potential to cause huge loss of life. With malnutrition levels already rising, we need to bolster life-saving food and medicine stocks before the downpours hit."
Comparisons are odious, but in this case I find them irresistible.
The reward for information leading to the return of Madeleine McCann to her family stands at something like £2.5m. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been donated by ordinary members of the public to her appeal.
That's a lot of money.
Meanwhile, in Darfur,
£25 could buy plastic sheeting to shelter an entire family. £80 could feed five critically malnourished children for a month. £200 could buy a tap stand to provide one and a half thousand people with water – every day.
How can we not have enough compassion to think about the thousands of people dying in Africa? Or Iraq? Or anywhere else in the world?
I'm not a parent, it's true. Perhaps if I had a child of my own I would see things more clearly. But then again, I'm not black either. Or African. A human life is still worth the same everywhere, right? Just how much is your compassion worth? A couple of quid for Maddie and a fiver for Darfur?
To donate to the Darfur and Chad Crisis Appeal call 0870 60 60 900 or visit www.dec.org.uk.
(Incidentally, the best thing I have read on the media reaction to this subject is here.)
I'm not a massive fan of flip-flops generally, to be honest. I can see how they're practical when you are in the showers at the gym or on the beach or something, but beyond that I haven't really got any use for them.
So why have men started wearing them around town? Perhaps it's just Nottingham, but I see it all the time: guys wandering around town with over-sized sunglasses, gelled hair, fitted t-shirts, designer jeans and wearing flip-flops.
It's not as though Nottingham is the sunniest city in the world or anything, but the weather doesn't seem to make a jot of difference. It can be pissing with rain and still you see these people, flaunting their dirty feet to the world.
I just don't get it.
They're not that comfortable, they're not that practical and -- let's be honest -- most men simply don't have feet that should be seen in public.
Anyway. Having established that we all already know what I think about Scott Walker, I'm going to ramble on about him again.
For why? Because there was a programme on BBC1 this evening all about the great man.
As the blurb on their website says:
"For a time in the 60s Scott Walker was more popular than the Beatles. Then, one of the all time great voices of pop, he disappeared. Imagine... tells the story of one of music's greatest enigmas with insights from people such as Jarvis Cocker, Radiohead and David Bowie, and rare interviews with the man himself."
Even a re-tread of Scott's career is going to be worth watching if it is illustrated with some clips from 1960s TV shows and filled with clips of that beautiful music.... and this programme certainly was that. We saw one priceless clip from Walker's primetime TV show: the show was given to him by the BBC at a time when he was at the very peak of his fame but was already moving into songs about existentialism and death and refused to sing any of his hits. In the clip shown this evening, Walker shuffles up to a microphone and mumbles that "This is a song about a sado-masochistic relationship" before launching into a joyful version of Jacques Brel's "Mathilde". You don't get that on "Any Dream Will Do".
The show was more than just a retread though, and what made it must-see television for me was that it featured an interview with the great man himself. Walker talked about his career, he talked about how he was terrified by fame and he talked about what he has been trying to achieve with his most recent records (we're not to take them so seriously, apparently... and when you actually see footage of his percussionist punching a side of pork for a track on "The Drift", you almost believe him... until you remember that it's a song about seeing Mussolini's body strung up on a meat hook next to the body of his mistress in Milan).
I nearly missed that this was on, but luckily Mark and Lord B were both thoughtful enough to send me a message to remind me that it was on. What nice friends I have.
It was a very, very interesting programme. The man is a legend. It's a word that's bandied about a lot, but for once here's someone who genuinely deserves the accolade. The talking heads on the programme (Brian Eno, Radiohead, Jarvis Cocker, Marc Almond etc.) were all suitably reverential, although it was nice to hear David Bowie listening to "Big Louise" and chuckling at one of the lyrics, which he declared "wasn't one of his best". He's not a God. As Walker himself said, he was sure he was failing more than he was succeeding, but at least he was trying. Amen to that.
If you haven't heard any Scott Walker records, let me implore you once again to go and seek some out. The obvious places to start are with those 4 magnificent albums from the 1960s: Scott, Scott II, Scott III and Scott IV.
And what did Lulu have to say about this great artist? "Is he still cute?"
No wonder he became a recluse.
I now really need to go and see 30 Century Man. I also really want a good Scott Walker t-shirt, but I somehow don't fancy my chances of finding one.
There is some concern that exposure to all of this non-ionising radiation can damage our chromosomes or DNA or something. There's a Panorama on it and everything, and it was all over the news when I was listening to the radio this morning.
Here's the thing though: the levels of radiation emitted by wireless networks are 600 times less than the Government's recommended safety limits. Not 6 times less. Not 60 times less. 600 times less. The radiation emitted by a microwave oven is 100,000 times more potent. You could sit in a WiFi hotspot for a whole year and you would only absorb as much radiation as you do in a 20 minute call on a mobile phone.
Is it just me, or should they just revise the guidelines or just shut up?
Honestly, haven't we got more pressing things to be worrying about? Global warming, perhaps? War? Famine? Natural disasters? Man's continuing inhumanity to man? The identity of the next Joseph on the West End stage...?
Then again, they used to think that smoking might help clear up persistent coughs and that mercury was good for stiffening hats*.... so I suppose you can't be too careful eh? *I suppose that technically mercury actually was good at stiffening hats, it just wasn't such a great idea for the hatters**.
** well, I suppose that from a business point of view the hatters probably thought it was a great idea.... who wants a limp hat?
...and Lord B kept being asked by the crowd to play encores (even if he had never heard "Tonight We're Going To Rock You Tonight" before. I really must sit him down in front of Spinal Tap)
Hen instinctively understood the crucial role of the "rock face" as the solo reaches its climax.
...whilst C. preferred a more "classical" style.
Guitar Hero is a very, very silly game indeed (do you think anyone under the age of 30 actually buys this?).
And as a direct and somewhat unfortunate consequence of the game soundtrack, I am now also earworming some of the most ridiculous heavy metal: "Strutter" by Kiss. "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas. "Woman" by Wolfmother. "Them Bones" by Alice In Chains.... Excellent!
What's not to like? Photos taken by Hen and Sarah and available here and here. An excellent evening.
I'm a generous man. I don't hold this week's Guest Editor in any way responsible for my broken finger. Oh no. The fact that I would not have been playing basketball in a million years if he hadn't asked me if I would, is neither here nor there....
I don't blame him at all.
I'm over that now.
Ladies and gentleworms, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure, my good friend....
How could you not instantly fall in love with a song containing the line: "Thou shalt not judge a book by its cover, thou shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover."? Someone broke Metafilter's golden rule and posted this as a one-YouTube-link front page post, but fortunately they got away with it. It's been popping in and out of my head (and my iPod) ever since and this morning most likely arrived courtesy of the chav on the bus who reacted to everything being said to her with a grunted, incredulous "Is it?"
Open Your Eyes, from the album Eyes Open. I'm sure there's tautology in there somewhere, but I can't quite place it. Hadn't a clue where this one came from until I listened to it just now and realised it's the music the BBC use for Football Focus. I'm not sure whether it's worse that Snow Patrol have ripped off U2's chorus sound from Beautiful Day or that the BBC have ripped off ITV's use of that song as their football music. One way or another, there's a lot of ripping off going on and someone ought to at least wag a finger.
> Sidney Bechet - Lay Your Racket
Sidney Bechet would be 110 years old if he were still alive. He isn't, but his music lives on in my iPod and in my head. When I was a kid, my parents had an old 12" diameter piece of vinyl ("Dear Norris McWhirter, is this a record?") entitled "Live at Bechet's" that I would play endlessly on what old people like to refer to as a gramophone. This particular 12" diameter piece of vinyl featured recordings of Bob Wilbur playing Bechet songs in Bechet's Jazz Club in New York. You could hear the audience between (and sometimes during) songs and I would picture them sitting at white linen tableclothed tables waiting for barmen called Al to mix them a Tom Collins. Except really I was too young to know that barmen tend to be called Al or what a Tom Collins was so I was imagining all that without even knowing what I was imagining. I was a smart kid. I think I peaked at six.
> Nina Simone - Mood Indigo
All morning, from the moment I got up, this hurtled round my head. I couldn't figure out where it had come from until I pressed play on my iPod and realise it was the last thing it had shuffled to the day before. Obviously a slow-growing worm that needed a night to gestate.
I went back to Northern Ireland last weekend. This song was on the radio as I drove through the streets of Belfast on a beautiful sunny day for the first time in I have no idea how long. It has haunted me ever since. This morning, to get rid of Nina Simone, I turned on my laptop, opened iTunes, and for the princely sum of 79 new pence downloaded this song. It's pretty simple, it's very Muse, but it's clearly quite catchy too.
Whilst in Ireland, I was playing golf with some old friends from the university golf team. Through the various machinations of Glaswegian rhyming slang (mixed with the kind of personal language that evolves between close friends and that can never be successfully translated) a certain type of terrible golf shot (a shank) has come to be known as "a ruby". This week, I've been putting together some of the movie clips and photographs from the trip and had to use the Kaiser Chiefs' incredibly annoying song as the soundtrack.
> The menu music from Pro Evo Soccer 4
I've been a bit under the weather this week. When I haven't been battling whatever gastric calamity it was that attacked my feeble frame, I've been lying on the sofa and playing far too much xBox. The result has been this music stuck in a loop in my head, largely to the exclusion of all else.
Heavy Metal Musack at its finest.
> Jean-Claude Petit – Jean de Florette (from the Jean de Florette OST)
I watched Jean de Florette the other day and had the music in my head for the rest of the night - not sure what it's called, but it's the same music as is used in the Stella Artois adverts.
*looks it up*
In fact, it seems to be called 'Jean de Florette'
Ah, Mr. Olympian, with these earworms you are really spoiling us. And do you know what, dear reader? For once, I can absolutely guarantee to you that these are genuinely the songs that floated across our Guest Editor's head during the course of the week. How do I know this? I know this because he emailed them to me one at a time as they occurred. I don't think they get any fresher than that...
The Kaiser Chiefs though? For real? We need to talk.....
(Incidentally, I've also just discovered a flaw in bloggers new "save now" functionality.... I just accidentally deleted this whole post, only to discover that my draft copy had been instantaneously overwritten by a copy of the deleted version. Grrrrr! And as if that wasn't bad enough, I've just discovered that Simply Red are on Later.... FFS!)
I've never really thought of him as being all that talented: he's not that great an actor and he's certainly not much of a singer ("Under the Boardwalk" anyone?).... and yet have a look at some of the films he's been in: Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, Twelve Monkeys, The Fifth Element, the Die Hard films.....there are some pretty bloody good films in there. Yeah, he's been in a few stinkers, but what actor hasn't? There are too many good choices in there for me to be comfortable with writing him off as someone who got very, very lucky.
I was very amused to read this though. Willis is currently gearing himself up for the release of Die Hard 4.0 and apparently he is curious enough to want to know what people really think of the project to go and hang around on the forums at Ain't It Cool News. Walter Bruce Willis appeared on the forums as "Walter B" and tried to convince people that he had worked on the production, had seen an early cut and that he thought that this was a damn fine film - better than the first one. Naturally, lots of people thought this was nonsense, and in the end he revealed who he really was.
"I am John Mafuckin'Clane"
Of course, no one believed him. Why would you? He tried a bit of a question and answer session, but the final straw was when one guy asked him to prove he was for real by naming the hotel he stayed in when he was promoting "The Fifth Element" at the 50th Cannes Film Festival.....and he couldn't remember the answer.
Aha! Then you can't really be Bruce Willis!
"That fact that I do not remember being at Cannes for 5th Element fucks that test up....and how would you know what Bruce Willis would remember or not remember?"
But at the end of the day, how do you prove that you really are Bruce Willis on an internet chat forum?
Answer: you give out your iChat ID and get someone to call you up.
- I spent an interesting couple of hours at the fracture clinic in the hospital this morning. I had a 09:30 appointment, and because QMC is something of a labyrinth, I turned up nice and early to leave plenty of time for getting lost. I've been in here more often than I would like in the last few months, and I know from bitter experience that it is a deeply confusing building, made worse by the fact that it's built into a hill, and what looks like ground level on one side is the first floor on the other side. When I was looking for the exit after seeing my neurologist a few months ago, I was stopped by some medical students and asked if I knew the way to the dissection room. Er, no. Thank God. Don't you?
I parked my car in the multi-storey and then wandered around the edge of the building to the main reception. I once made the mistake of taking a short cut through the side entrance opposite the car park and I then spent about half an hour trying to find reception, never mind finding my original destination. It's that kind of a hospital. After a bit of fruitless wandering and staring hopelessly at the map, I asked for directions and was sent down some stairs, round a few corners and then into a clinic that was directly opposite the car park. Hey ho.
I checked in at the clinic's reception and took my seat in the waiting room. Here I was a bit confused by a sign on the wall: "Patients are seen in appointment order but are not necessarily called in that order". I wasn't quite sure what they were driving at. I didn't know anyone else's appointment time, I only knew my own. People don't arrive neatly in appointment order. Some people arrive early, some people arrive late. Anyway, after about 20 minutes, it became a bit clearer when I was summoned through to the nurses' station and then promptly dumped in a secondary waiting room. Another 30 minutes passed before I was called up and taken to a cubicle and left for another 10 minutes to contemplate my x-rays on the wall. I don't know what time the clinic started, but they were already running an hour late by 10:30... although to be fair, I hope that all the doctors were working on really serious cases instead. I'd hate to think that NHS waiting time statistics meant that people like me get seen instead of a real emergency. They probably do though, don't they?
Soon enough, a consultant breezed in and kept me for about 3 minutes before very pleasantly discharging me. The long and the short of it is that my finger is broken and I have damaged the capsule surrounding the joint. Apparently I am lucky that I appear to have a full range of movement and that my finger is still relatively straight, but the joint will be swollen and painful for some time - perhaps as long as 2 years. There's nothing much else that they can do. Thanks for coming in, etc.
Ghosts / Tiny Dancer @ The Social, Nottingham - 15th May 2007
I’ve heard lots of good things about Piccolino’s restaurant in Nottingham, but last night was the first time that I have actually eaten there. And it was very nice indeed… I had an absolutely splendid spaghetti carbonara, some tasty cheesy garlic bread and a couple of nice glasses of red wine. Of course, it was the company that really made it a special meal. Welcome back Hen.
But enough about my tea.
The main purpose of my foray into Nottingham town centre on a school night was to watch a double-header of Ghosts and Tiny Dancer at the Social. The ticket cost me the princely sum of £6.60, so I was expecting great things. I’ve vaguely heard of both bands, but I wasn’t sure that I had actually heard any of their material (apart from the little snippet of Ghosts you can hear in the background to that lovely clip of Maddie dancing to their instore appearance at Fopp a couple of months back). Not to worry though, I’ve read good reports of Ghosts in particular, and it’s always nice to go to a gig at the Social. It’s a small venue, with a capacity of perhaps a couple of hundred people, and even when it’s full you can almost reach out and touch the stage from anywhere in the room. Well, almost anywhere.
We arrived at perhaps 20:45 and the bar was pretty far from full. We duly wandered up to the front and admired the stage decorations. The stage is (of course) pretty small, but Tiny Dancer had crammed it full of flowers, fairy lights, stuffed toys, loads and loads of effects pedals and a picture of Alan Partridge pinned to the drumkit. Lord B had warned me that the band might not be entirely my cup of tea, but as we stood and waited for them to emerge, Faith No More’s cover of “War Pigs” was playing over the PA, followed by a bit of Muse. I hoped that was a good omen and wondered if I could get away with doing “War Pigs” at karaoke sometime. When Tiny Dancer picked their way onto the stage at a little after nine, I admired the guitarists vintage 1986 Dave Lee Roth tour t-shirt, noted that the singer appeared to be wearing my wedding shoes and settled back to enjoy the ride. They’re quite a hard band to pigeonhole. They’re not very heavy, but they use quite a lot of guitar. I honestly couldn’t tell you who they sound like, which is probably a good thing, isn’t it? The singer looks a tiny bit like Luke Haines but plays a funny little acoustic guitar. The drummer has full-on 1970s hippy hair and a groovy moustache. The bassist just looks like a bassist, albeit one in pointy shoes.
As you can see, the singer has a rather unique fashion sense. As well as my wedding shoes, tonight he was wearing the skinniest of skinny jeans, a rather odd t-shirt from Arizona with a tribal design on it, and he had some glitter stuck to his cheek. I saw him later on as the band were packing up (I love it when a band tidies up after themselves) and he had a load of masking tape stuck to his face.
He told us how he had been quite excited to be offered a gig in York, but had been forced to turn it down when he realised that they would be on the bill with an Oasis tribute act and that the headliner would be Pete from Big Brother. Oh, the giddy heights of fame, eh? They released a lot of balloons, and threw themselves about the stage with as much giddy abandon as they could in the space available (i.e. not much).
I liked them.
Ghosts came on at about 22:15 – apparently this was their second gig of the night, and they had just made their way back over from opening for Thirteen Senses at the Rescue Rooms (this news appeared to annoy Lord B a touch as he had been forced into a difficult decision by two bands he really wanted to see playing in the same town on the same night in different venues. Groove Armada were also playing at Rock City, but whether he fancied or not, he didn’t say). What can I say? Their singer looks like a cast off from the Charlatans, but they have quite a nice line in melodic and tuneful soft(-ish) rock music. They were also very drunk. Much to the singer’s annoyance, the comedy drummer kept interrupting him and moaning about his kick pedal being shit. In the ensuing pause as he tried to fix it, we were treated to renditions of “King of the Swingers” from Jungle Book and the theme tune to Neighbours. Kick pedal issues resolved, the band then played their single, “Stay the Night”, which sounded really good. They don’t seem quite as edgy as Tiny Dancer, but they have got some tunes and I think with a bit of luck they could easily get a bit of success. The banter between songs was pretty good too, with the drummer rambling on, moaning about this and that and asking the bassist to pass him a beer from behind the speaker stack, and the singer grumbling at the drummer and telling us how he wasn’t sure that six vodka red bulls were the ideal preparation for a gig. It was a touch shambolic, but it was the last night of their tour and they didn’t fluff any of their songs.
It was a good night, and they’re both bands to look out for (even if Tiny Dancer have now given me a chronic Elton John earworm problem).
6.5 / 10, and thanks to Lord B and to Hen for sharing their evening with me. Well, that bit anyway.
OK. Bear with me here. I've been meaning to do this for ages..... I was going to bury it in my archives somewhere, but I thought that would be silly. This is probably ridiculously conceited of me, but there you go.
Anything else you think I should add? -- Frequently Asked Questions(November 2009)
Good Question. The quick answer is because it’s a pseudonym I chose in haste when I originally set up this blog (which I had no idea would last this long), and now I’m kind of stuck with it. I’ve used the name on and off as an internet alter-ego since about 2000 when I was inspired by the Fast Show character of the same name and the comedy moustache I was wearing in my profile pic at the time.
And no, I don’t have any connections with Switzerland and my name isn’t Toni.
I sometimes answer to the name “Tim”, but you can call me ST if you like.
-> What are the WTs?
Well, not to beat around the bush, but the WT's is what I like to call my Multiple Sclerosis.
The WT’s are the “Weirdy Tingles” and refers to the symptoms of numbness and loss of sensation that I have had (to varying degrees) across my body since June 2005. Since then I have been seeing a couple of neurologists and trying to get some kind of definitive diagnosis. Initially they thought it was something called Transverse Myelitis – I had a lesion (or sclerosis) on the lining of my cervical spinal cord. This lesion has damaged the surface of the myelin sheath that protects my spinal cord. This damage is disrupting the passage of nerve signals down my body, resulting in numbness, pins & needles, and a loss of power across my shoulders and down my arms.
As of April 2009, this diagnosis changed when my neurologist decided that my symptoms had moved on, and another MRI scan subsequently revealed that I have another couple of lesions, tipping me into a new diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Unlike TM, this is something that most people have heard of, and something that has a number of preconceptions. For me, it is what it is, and there's not a whole lot I can do about it. I'm about to start something called "disease modifying treatment", which means I'm likely to start injecting myself once a week with some drugs that are hopefully going to slow down the progression of my condition. Well, there is no cure, so we might as well do what we can, eh?
Still, I don’t really like to dwell on what might happen to me in the future - every single case of MS is different, apparently, and it does not automatically follow that I'm going to end up in wheelchair, and so I try to focus instead on where I am today. My physical capacity has been a little reduced and I am forced to do some specific exercises three times a week to stop the muscles of my upper body from wasting… but basically I can still do all of the things that I used to do: I run, I swim, I cycle, I play football.... I was training for the London Triathlon in 2005 when I first started experiencing symptoms, and I'm hoping to start doing triathlons again some time soon.
It’s not so bad. I just like to whine about it from time to time.
Click here for all the most recent posts tagged for "WTs".
And that's more than enough about that.
-> What’s with the song lyrics thing?
You mean why are all my post headers song lyrics? I don’t know really. I think it’s because I’m really bad at thinking up interesting and original headers of my own. I always try to pick a lyric that is relevant to the post, and I try not to use the same lyric more than once.
I like it and it amuses me, anyway.
-> What’s an Earworm?
Sadly they are not an invention of mine, although they are very much a feature of my life. "Earworm" is the literal translation of the German phrase “ohrwurm” and is a very descriptive term for a tune that gets lodged on your mental jukebox. You know when you catch yourself singing a song and you have no idea why? That’s an earworm. Apparently some people are more susceptible to these than others. I’m very susceptible.
Every Friday I publish a list of the “Earworms of the Week”. Originally this was a countdown of the top ten tunes that had been buzzing around my head in the last week, but now it has been expanded to include lists by other bloggers too (“Guest Editors”).
The only rule really is that every list of earworms should be tunes that have been genuinely stuck in your head in the last week. I’m not interested in lists of the really cool music that you currently dig because that’s not what earworms are about. Part of the joy / madness of an earworm is that you have pretty much no say what songs stick or how they get into your head. You might be listening to Mozart all week but can’t stop earworming Crazy Frog or Westlife. That’s just the way it goes. I don’t care if you list songs, ringtones, jingles or whatever… the only qualifying requirement is that they have been stuck on your internal jukebox.
-> How do I get to be a Guest Editor?
That’s easy. Just email me at swisslet AT gmail dot com and ask me. I’m not precious. The more the merrier.
-> What’s the Earworm Podcast then?
The podcast is an occasionally downloadable file of as many of the songs in the current Earworms list as can possibly be found. You can get it here. I don’t actually have very much to do with it at all. It’s put together by a Mexico based friend and blogger. You can subscribe to it through google or iTunes if you like, and it generally makes a really interesting 35 minute listen. I’m not entirely sure how legal it is to distribute music like this, but the intention is only to introduce you to new and interesting music. If you hear anything you like, I imagine that you will want to buy it, right?
-> Who’s C?
C is my beautiful and long-suffering partner of some 10 years or so. As of June 9th 2007, she became my wife too. Lucky girl!
-> What do you do for a living?
I spend a good proportion of my life working in a reasonably well paid but eternally frustrating job as an IT Consultant. I don’t really like to talk about it much as, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not very important to me. And no, I’m not that kind of IT geek. I have a Masters degree in Medieval History, dammit! You’d be surprised how relevant the deposition of Henry VI in 1461 really is in the modern retail environment…
-> Do you write anywhere else?
Yes, from time to time I contribute to the following blogs:
I had my last set of MRI scans on 3rd April. The way the private healthcare system works over here (it’s a long story, but basically my health cover is -- more or less -- paid for by my work) is that I report to the hospital for my scans, but then I am forced to wait whilst they send my scans on to my consultant neurologist. My neurologist then looks at the scans and lets me know what’s going on and what he plans to do about it.
I’ve recently changed neurologists and so I had no real idea how long this process would take. I was keen to know what was going on, of course, but I also knew that I was just going to have to be patient. It’s hard knowing that the guys operating the scanner have been looking at the inside of my head and drawing their own initial conclusions as I lay there, knowing that I was possibly some weeks from hearing for myself what was going on in Brian. The last time I had some MRI scans done, in August 2005, it took a little over a week before my consultant gave me a ring to let me know what he was thinking. That week’s wait was especially difficult as the whole thing was new to me, and I didn’t yet have any real idea what was wrong with me.
It was a worrying time.
In some ways, I don’t feel as though I’m much better off now. I know that I have Transverse Myelitis, and I know that I have one big lesion on my cervical spinal cord that was caused a loss of power and nerve sensation throughout my body, and a couple of indistinct markers in my brian that might or might not be lesions. What I don’t know is if this situation has changed in the last 20 months, or if I have developed any new lesions and if this would affect both my diagnosis and my prognosis. Another lesion (or sclerosis) would by definition mean that I would have Multiple Sclerosis.
You can see why I wanted to know if anything had changed.
On 24th April, three weeks after the scans were done, my health insurance company wrote to me confirming that they had paid the £900 charge from the hospital for that scan on 24th April. Still no word from my neurologist. I chased his office. Yes, he had been away over Easter but he would look at them very soon and get back to me. Another week went by with nothing. I chased again. Oh, apparently my neurologist was now on a conference in Boston and because he’s a professor at a teaching hospital, he was involved in the whole conference and not just a couple of sessions. Apparently he would need to be there for the full ten days. I wasn’t very happy, but what could I do? He was apparently back on Tuesday last week and his secretary assured me that my scans were on the top of his desk. When I had nothing in the post this morning, I chased again. Apparently my letter was posted to me this morning. There have been no changes and he doesn’t need to see me.
And that’s it.
Is it just me, or should I be expecting more than this? Now, don’t get me wrong. Whilst it might be slightly frustrating news, it’s also probably the best news that I could have got. I have not got any worse. My condition has not “developed”. That’s great. What has annoyed me is quite how long it has taken for him to get round to telling me this. I understand that he is one of the leading experts in neurology in the country. I understand that he heads up a well-renowned research department. I get that he is a teaching professor. He’s busy. I get that.
At what point did he forget that I’m the patient here? That I might have needs and worries? That I might be looking to him to help me understand what has been happening to my body? As my doctor I think we have a contract of trust, and I think he has an obligation to me. Actually, bollocks to all that: he took me on as a private patient. He’s been charging me for his bloody time. I think that means he is doubly obligated to me.
Still. I know now, eh? Except I still don't know really, and I’m still playing the waiting game.
In other news, I’m off to the fracture clinic to have my broken ring finger examined on Wednesday. The good news is that we picked up the rings on Saturday, and mine fits on my right hand. No need for the Frodo Baggins chain then…
I’m almost disappointed by that. I feel as though some comic possibilities have been lost.
I've just spent much of the afternoon swinging around New York, climbing skyscrapers and fighting crime.... all the while juggling the demands of my studies, my part-time jobs at a pizza parlour and as a photographer for the local paper and dealing with my heartache over my apparently unrequited crush on the girl next door.
I'm 33 years old. That's not too old to be playing Spider-Man 2 on my Playstation is it?
Is it really?
Is it so bad I got a bit excited when I saw that in the new game you get to wear the black costume?
When this week's Guest Editor first appeared in this slot (in July 2005), England had just been beaten by Australia in the first test of the summer, and the Ashes felt almost as far away then as they do now.... almost.... I don't think our guest was feeling too downbeat about the fortunes of England's cricket team though, and her list included gems by people like Eurythmics, Patsy Cline, Simon & Garfunkel, Bowie, The Dixie Chicks, REM and the Eagles. A pretty reasonable mixture.
She's back again not quite two years later, and she's got another decent mix-up for us.... a bit of rock, a bit of country, a bit swearing.... perfect.
Anyway. She's one of the longest standing readers of this blog, and she's an absolute treasure. Without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce for your earworming pleasure....
Thanks for inviting me back, ST. It's a pleasure and an honor. Here they are, and welcome to them! *G*
1. True Colors- Cyndi Lauper.
I've seen her interviewed lately because of her work with the Human Rights Campaign and the GLBT community. I've always liked this song, and its message. But I think it was the first line: "You with the sad eyes/don't be discouraged..." It's been a difficult couple of weeks, and it was good just to hear that snippet alone.
2. Coward of the County- Kenny Rogers
Well, I did warn you ST. Sadly, this has been a recurring earworm all week. But no worries, my therapist is on the case. I don't think I pay her enough.
3. That Day- Natalie Imbruglia
I just love the tumbling flow of the words. This song speaks to me of acceptance of self and others.
4. Welcome to the Jungle- Guns N' Roses
Popped into my head on the third day of weeding a stupidly long flower bed. 'Nuff said.
5. Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck)- David Ford
Great song. Period.
6. This Side- Nickel Creek
"Your first dawn blinded you/left you cursing the day/entrance is crucial but it's not without pain/there's no path to follow once you here/climb up the slide and then you'll slide down the stairs" Yeah, life doesn't come with a map and directions; you have to figure your own way through. "...but I don't think I'm scared."
7. Dream On- Aerosmith
I heard it. It stuck.
8. Fortunate Son- Creedence Clearwater Revival
With all of the presidential campaigning gearing up, and with our current political mess, this song keeps popping up. It's a good song, so why fight it?
9. White Rabbit- Jefferson Airplane
I've been reading "The Looking Glass Wars" by Frank Beddor, and the two kind of go together. Not so much in a druggie way. It's the whole Alice thing, and I just read this version's meeting between Alice and the Caterpillar council. 5 or 6 hookah-smoking caterpillars later, this song was in my head.
10. Sundown- Gordon Lightfoot
It was a toss up between this and The Smiths (Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me), but the latter was too depressing, so I listed the more groovy, kicked-back song. I saw him recently. Funny, he looks older than he did in the 70's. But he can still sing.That's it.
That was a glimpse into the inner workings of my brain this week.
So sorry. ;0)Aravis
Guns N' Roses (for the second week running), Aerosmith, Creedance Clearwater Revival....and Kenny Rogers? Nice list! I also have to take my hat off to David Ford for one of the best song titles I have ever seen. Say what you see David, say what you see.
When it comes to the Podcast of this, am I right in thinking that it would be okay to slip that magnificent track by The Smiths on as a bonus track at the end? Ah, you know you want to...
The podcast of this will be available here in due course.
Thanks for playing Aravis. Did you know that you picked a Nickel Creek song last time too? I think you were busy in your garden then too. Some things never change, eh? Time and tide (and weeds) wait for no man....
Now if you'll excuse me, I just have to pop out and have pizza for the third night in a row. (mmmm pizza).
Oh, and any mention of Kenny Rogers now just makes me think of this. Sorry Kenny, but it's true. God bless the internet, eh?