Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lovesong: The Beatles: Frank Zappa: Stairway to Heaven

These seem to have ruffled some feathers.
The moptops version makes perfect sense.
Frank's barking version is worth enduring for the end solo...
Sacrilege or giggle worthy?
You the listener decide.
PS: Thanks again Phil Duncan

Cassidy's Care: The Recordings: I Love You, Goodbye

'A cure for Flu?
Lemsip and masturbation; one of them's bound to make you feel better..."
Old English Wisdom

Despite lashings of 'man flu' (and a kitchen cupboard full of 'Lemsips'), Marcus is beavering away manfully on the new MM recordings.
He described the yield of yesterday's labour on 'I Love You, Goodbye' as sounding like "Richard Hawley, meets John Barry meets... Bread". 
That'll be all music bases (and breakfast) covered then.
I was optimistic about The Scientist's proclamation that he was trying to make things sound "a little bit different" until I came across this picture of the maestro, seemingly laying down a 'smoking' solo on the... what is that thing?

I Love You, Goodbye   

So this is how valour turns mindful
Distilled to a cold compromise
What were once hollered hearty and hopeful
Are now whispered words from the wise

Does anyone listen past forty?
When the spaces between us are vast
I keep whispering into the silence
Like some revenant voice from the past

Once my heart ruled my head
But my heart was never in it
I tried to get lucky instead
Russian roulette; I’d surely win it

Thought I was a dragon slayer
But the years they drip you dry
Now I’m just a bit part player
Singing ‘I love you, goodbye’
 ‘I love you, goodbye’

So I will retreat to the shadows
From where you’ll not be hearing my voice
And yes I will stay in the shadows,
As if I ever had a choice

Once my heart ruled my head
But my heart was never in it
I tried to get lucky instead
Russian roulette; I’d surely win it

Thought I was a dragon slayer
But the years they drip you dry
Now I’m just a bit part player
Singing ‘I love you, goodbye’
 ‘I love you, goodbye’

So much for dignity
So little pain
So much for hope
Are we happy again?
So much for sorrow
So much for joy
You wanted a girl
I wanted a boy
See I liked the vinegar
You favoured the frocks
I watched from the water
While you waved from the rocks
And as we moved from good to bad
I got lazy, you got sad
And said the words we can’t deny
I love you, goodbye

Monday, 27 February 2012

My Top 5: Gregg Etches

Gregg Etches is one of our very best friends and the lovely man who, along with Suzi his wife, helped us to make our Corsican home firstly habitable and then, into a much loved home. 
Here he is (right) eating what he thinks is a sea urchin ('oursin', a local delicacy'). 
Whisper it, but he's actually scraping out the innards of a wild boar's testicle.... sea urchins are not meant to be that chewy and tough.
Still, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...
As you can see, he later took the bitter taste away by coiffing copious cups of the local grog; impressive, as he seems to have lost the use of his lips...
Here's Gregg:

Tim & Eric,
What a challenge, I had to almost close my eyes and point at the albums as MM & Jones are the only albums I have listened to and love every song and never get bored.
So I started a list of songs which have special links for me; because I couldn't choose only five. 

I got to thinking maybe I could bend the rules a little. 
I could have 5 lists of 5: 
1. memories 
2. meaning 
3. uplifting 
4. lyrical 
5 genius

I'm still finding it difficult so just have 2 at the moment. 

You know a man has to eat, a man has to work...

List one: 'Memories'
1. Hopeland: 

Because Katie (my daughter of 4yrs old) sings along and says I love uncle Trevor. She makes my heavy days feel lighter
2. Pickle:

Katie's first realisation that she was a MM fan. But she was only 6 months old at the time
3. Harry's Hands:

This has special meaning to the start of a dear friendship.
4. Coffee and Stars:

A gift of extraordinary connection.
5. Lights of Home:

The whole album has great memories of our wedding time and the whole process; from choosing everything, to the beauty of the day; the whole weekend really, which was at a refurbished country home used by the military in WW 2;  ideal as we had a 1950s feel/theme to our wedding, based around music, outstanding food, friends and family and the people who shared it with us. In particular two people who gave part of their heart and soul to make our wedding an incredible one; that would be Trevor and Di. 
They are a force of creative beauty. 
'Lights of Home' is my time machine to that moment.

List two: 'Uplifting' (these just make me feel good)
1. Weatherwise
2. Hopeland
3. Way Back When
4. Starwatching
5. Glow

I have now run out of time so hope there is enough info. 

I look forward to see what others choose.
Kind Regards,
Gregg Etches

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mighbrow: Keepers

My Uncle Milke retired from the RAF in his early forties and trained to become a math teacher, he always loved to be by water and he ended up in Felixstowe where he developed a passion for sailing. He became a leading light at the local sailing club and introduced many a wayward youth to the pleasures of sea and sail. After reluctant retirement he entered his seventies in fine health. We stayed in touch and met up occasionally; no worries, Brian Mike Tehan ‘Biscuits’ would always be there. 
He was bulletproof.

The phone rang one evening in our Corsican dining room. 
It was my dad.
“Bad news, Trev.”
Mike had been diagnosed with cancer. It was well developed.
At first the treatments didn’t affect him much, but as the chemo became more invasive he chose to give up all therapy and opted for quality of life over discomfort, he couldn’t be bothered with medication, doctors and cold corridors. His faith was strong and he was happy to trust in ‘the man upstairs’. 
The specialists gave him two months. 
Eight weeks. 
A few months later it appeared that his charmed life would continue, he seemed impervious to pain.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” I asked him.
“Just the odd bit of tummy ache. Nothing much to moan about.”
I spoke to a doctor who said that without morphine ‘the pain should be excruciating’. Gradually the disease took its toll; Mike lost his appetite, couldn’t drink his beloved ‘Adnams’ Bitter and reluctantly turned to cheap red wine. “It all tastes the same to me now” he said on my final visit to his house. He had lost too much weight and sat like a bag of bones, beneath a blanket while I poured us a glass, wincing at the vinegar bouquet.
“Do you remember the first meal I ever cooked? It was a fish curry. How sophisticated was I?”
“Nope. Wrong. It was ‘Cod a la Romana’. The recipe’s right there”, Mike looked beyond me to his bookshelf and pointed to a row of tiny white books “go and find me the one with the fish recipes.”
As I reached for the book a flash of guilty memory struck me; forty years ago I had spilt sauce on an open page.
“It’s near the back”, said Mike “easy to find as the pages are stuck together. I suspect a nervous chef…”
Later we drove around Felixstowe in my convertible, roof down; Mike in an ancient anorak, hood up, wearing gardening gloves. He was always cold these days. We stopped at the sailing club for a swift half and were immediately surrounded by salty sea dogs and students. We returned home much later, a couple of pints over the limit. Mike made himself comfortable with The Telegraph crossword in front of his two bar electric fire, while I repaired to the kitchen.
I softened my onions with red peppers and garlic and then, substituting the ‘Baccala’ with plain cod fillets, gently stewed the fish in milk and chicken stock. It all seemed a little bland to me but I diligently followed a recipe which I had revealed with great care and a little steam from the kettle. I scattered the obligatory parsley and dished up with some wild rice, taking two trays into the living room. 
Mike had fallen asleep in his chair to the sound of a Beethoven sonata. 
I looked at his crossword, all done. 
I sat opposite Mike in the threadbare chair that I’d made mine all of those years ago and stuck a fork into my ‘Cod a la Romana’.
It was disgusting.
I ate both portions.

Two weeks later I got a call from my sister Katy.
She was in Felixstowe.
Mike had been taken into a hospice and was struggling.
“They say that he hasn’t got long. He keeps drifting in and out. The last time he was lucid he asked for you.”
I got there just in time to look him in the eye and whisper a promise or two.


A small white room
We wait like empty vessels
Breathing with you
Our spirits rise and fall in random rhythm
Breathing with you
The body of a bird
Hollow boned and glory bound

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep

We all take a turn
In the seat by the bed
A somber charade
Of musical chairs
Each of us wondering
Will it be me?

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep

Mumblings of honour
No privilege here
This is as ugly as truth
As intimate as a kiss
Hand in hand
Eye to eye
A glimmer of recognition
A glimpse of oblivion

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep
Breathing for you
The body of a bird
Bound for the ground or glory

Yes I will carry
Yes I will keep
Yes I will carry
And yes I will keep

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Sprout Shout: Halloween, Alaska: Telling Me

Reading your missives; there seems to be a common love of all things Nile and Sprout.
I'm really missing Paddy Mac's swoon-some voice and songs.
In his absence (and while we hold our breath in the hope that all is well) I'm hoping that some of you might guide me towards similar stuff.
MM often got the 'Sounds Like Prefab Sprout' nod (maybe not so now) and I know that there are a lot of folk who have been inspired by the Sprouts.
I'll be posting the ones that I like (or that you turn me onto) here.
I won't 'biog' the bands; let's hope that you're inspired to do some sprout searching for yourself.
First up is the brilliantly monikered 'Halloween, Alaska'.
This 'video' for 'Telling Me' is just a still, but have a listen and tell me that Paddy's not in the room...

There's a thing that PM does when he sings; it's as if he's searching for the most beautiful way to phrase a line; he'll repeat it with a slightly different lilt, a minuscule change in melody or emphasis; then when you know he's nailed it, he'll repeat it again, just to confirm to you that... he knows that you know.
For me, the listener, there's a strange alchemy to those moments; and there's such a moment towards the end of 'The Four Corners', a song from Halloween, Alaska's self titled debut, where the singer seems to be testing the air with a lyric "I found the one to keep" producing one of those golden 'Sprout Shout' moments. Is it just me?
Have a listen, it's about 5 minutes in...

Friday, 24 February 2012

Vulture: I Sleep on Books: Book to Movie Challenge

David Ashley and I were chatting yesterday (see below) and it led to a brief discussion about films that are better than the books which inspired them.
Not original I know, but interesting stuff.
Any thoughts?

TJ: "You turned me on to 'One Day' a while back; once I engaged I really liked the characters; thought she was very funny.
Sad to report that I watched the film last night and (for me) it was... pants! I felt nothing for the two protagonists and can't remember laughing once. Anne Hathaway's northern accent was almost as bad as Russell Crowe's in Robin Hood; Dick Van Dyke's got a lot to answer for. The denouement is as shocking as in the book; but not as heartbreaking because at that point... you don't really care. 

The film also lingers too long (like the book) after the... incident. I thought that it was a strangely extended epilogue at the time of reading. 
Any thoughts on the Oscars? 

I haven't seen The Artist or Hugo yet; but am surprised that 'Drive' doesn't feature..."

DA: I'll probably end up watching 'One Day' but haven't heard a good word said about it especially from people who love the book.
I've not seen 'The Artist' yet but like you thought it a shame that 'Drive' didn't get more of a mention especially as 'Extremely Loud' got a nod but i havent seen a good review of that yet either.
I really hope Gary Oldman wins although I think The Artist will clean up.
The whole film /book thing is a funny one the book is almost always better (I can only think of Betty Blue where the opposite is true for me) and so I try and read the book before seeing the film. Also once you've seen the film when you read the book it is difficult to put that actor out of your mind. This really hit home when I read Get Shorty recently. I've not seen the film and yet such is the power that everytime Chilli Palmer appears I couldnt shake John Travoltas cheesy grin out of my head!
If you can it is worth tracking down the book that 'Hugo' is based on. 

It is a beautiful hardback with minimal words and a story told through fantastic drawings with one image per page.

TJ: I'll take a look at the literal Hugo. 
Currently salivating over the luxury edition of 'The Hare with Amber Eyes'.
Back to film; I've heard that Oldman's sustained (yet subtle) performance is the thread that holds the film together. Sounds like it's not 'grandstanding' enough to catch the Academy's eye. 
Surely not Hanks?

So, 'Film Better than Book'?
Sounds like the subject for a blog (or a pub fight)...
I'll kick things off by nabbing all of the obvious ones:
The Godfather (classic atmospheric cinema; my word/book inspired imagination couldn't come close to those visuals.)
American Physco (easier to digest and the soundtrack's a hoot.) 
Once Upon a Time in America (originally a so so novel 'The Hoods'; Ennio's masterly score and De Niro's melancholic detachment clinch it.)
Winter's Bone (close call, as the book is great too.)
No Country For Old Men (I love Cormac McCarthy, but lived with the fleshy characters of the film.)
LA Confidential: I watched this again recently and the convolutions all started to make sense; Ellroy always bombards with names and riffy verbiage that I initially loved (Blue Dahlia) but eventually got a bit weary of...
Blade Runner (Betters Dick's, 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by making real that dystopian vision. And I love Rutger Hauer's 'Tears in the Rain' speech at the end; guarantees a wobble.)
The Shining (scarier than the book)
Jaws ("we need a bigger boat")
And... (maybe controversial) 
Where the Wild Things Are
The Iron Man

DA: Good call on 'The Godfather'.
I've not read 'Winter's Bone' but loved the film so the book whould have to go some to top it.
'La Confidential' I'd make that a tie
I'm going to seatch the bookshelves when I get home now
Thinking about it I like 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' better as a film, and 'The Commitments'.
Although both of these the films were better than great books, whereas with 'Betty Blue' i just thought the book was a bit crap.

TJ: See, once you start...
I googled 'Films Better than Books' and the different offerings seem to note the usual suspects (the cliche, not the film); seems that I don't have a singular pallet...
'Children of Men' is an interesting one that oft appears; haven't read the book but I loved the film (that also appears in some 'Worst adaptations ever' lists)  found it profoundly moving. 
I even gulped a bit when Michael Caine got his bloody doors blown off...  

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My Top 5: Rob Marsh

Toronto Tim issued a challenge: 
Name your top 5 Miracle Mile/Jones songs.
Why not email me here with your own top 5.

Rob Marsh is a long time 'friend' of MM.
It's great getting these shots and finally putting faces to the folk on my mailing lists; none of you look like you're meant to...
In fact Rob looks strangely like my brother Gareth. 
He too has a magic wand...
Here's Rob's list:

It's REALLY difficult to pick 5 songs from all the great ones that you've recorded AND to put them in the order (even for someone like me who loves making lists- I could have been in High Fidelity). To be honest I think my favorite five songs probably change pretty often but as they stand now here we go:

Quite simply; staggeringly beautiful; wonderful lyrics. It is genuinely one of those songs that will last the test of time and could have been recorded anytime during the last... 30 or so years!

Slow fade was the first MM album that I bought and Starwatching was the first MM song that I fell in love with. I know that it sounds like a real cliché but this is a song to get reflective to, late at night, glass of something alcohol in hand, staring out of the window....thinking about what went right, what went wrong, the ones that stayed, the ones that got away... that sort of thing!

Malkovitch (Anywhere But Here)
This is a personal one for me and probably sounds strange. I brought the album "Alaska" just after my daughter Ellen was born in 2005. One of my big regrets in life is that my mum died two years previously and never saw her.  This song always reminds me of the joy of Ellen being born and the sadness of my mum not being here. It's an amazing song that can capture that mix of emotions.

Walking John Wayne
And talking of cliché's where MM are concerned (and something that I'm sure you're tired of hearing!), there is a world where you've sold a shedload of records and where this was a massive hit record or least played to death by Radio 2!!!!

I Showed You the River
Again another stunning song, lyrically and musically beautiful. I remember Keepers arriving through the post earlier than planned on my 46th Birthday (Yes I really am that old). The kids and wife had gone to bed and I put the album on (Life is great with two small kids but finding the time to sit and just absorb music  can be tricky!). I remember thinking "Can this be as good as Hopeland?". Then I thought "This is good". Then this came on and absolutely blew me away.
There are so many more I could have added. 
Ask me again in a week and they probably will have changed. 

Oh no, I left out Way Back When...

I actually first discovered Miracle Mile when I read a review of Slow Fade in one of the Music monthlies (not sure which one) and thought "Like the sound of that" and took a punt on it (These were the days before you could go on line and here songs... well the days that I discovered that you could!!!). 
It was a gamble I never regretted.
More than happy to be connected to the rest of the MM community. 
My e-mail address is marshy@turfmoor.wanadoo.co.uk
And attached is a picture, please don't scream! It's 3 years old, the expression looks manic and apologies for the pyrotechnics!
It has been great fun doing this and given me an excuse to spend an evening listening to MM/Trevor Jones, (not that I need one).

Rob Marsh

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Hundred Homing Pigeons: Les Nemes: Bass Master Class Part 1

Les Nemes is best known as a founder member of Haircut 100 and played bass with Miracle Mile in the early days.
He's just launched his 'Bass Master Class' on YouTube (see below) and is currently detailing his life story on his website.
Here's a snippet of the boy's story when he first encounters Nick Heyward:

"So, the weekend came and I shoved all my gear into the back of my VW Beetle, (the old 6 volt model which meant if you put the wipers on at night, the lights went off!) and headed for central London. 
I walked into the board room in the Skiclub Of Great Britain, Eton Square where Nick lived in the basement flat as his parents ran the bar. 
The boardroom was huge and the club was empty at the weekends so a great place to set up and play. That was to be where we rehearsed as a full blown band. We set up the gear, me, Tim on guitar, Rob on drums and Nick on guitar and singing. He went through a few ideas and then said, "Shall we try one?" I think I am right in saying the first song we played was "Spanish", pure Nick and pure genius.
I had no idea what to play, I wanted to be melodic, I wanted to play something that added to the song so I just trusted it would come and let go. I didn't really know the chords but we just went for it and by the end of the first verse, it all felt so good I knew this was right, I knew this was a major turning point in my life. One of the most important things I felt was that I was in a room with three other guys who didn't really know what they were doing, they were none of them musically educated, they didn't know about scales, they just played what felt and sounded good and we all worked so well together.

I was instantly, but really instantly in the right place. I also knew that this man was an amazing songwriter that would go on to pen some of the most important songs in musical history. When we finished the song, we looked at each other and laughed. This was the first time Haircut One Hundred played together. I had at last found a purpose, a group of lovely guys that I had something in common with and a future to head for. In a way, I had found my Rod Stewart and the Faces.
I think I am right when I say that Nick noticed my playing was adding a lot more to the songs and the band then just a bass line. I in turn was so inspired by his songs all of these bass lines came out of me like someone had just released a hundred homing pigeons from a cage. Next we needed to get a set list together and start playing a few gigs. A new world was about to open ..."

I wonder if I'll feature in the future?
If so, I hope that he doesn't mention that unfortunate incident with a halibut and the tube of toothpaste...
Btw, best bit of the video below is when Les takes his glasses off and his nose comes with it...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Limbo Diaries. 16. Hever Castle, a diversion


TJ: Marcus and I did out first gig in ten years on Saturday! Marcus has been playing bass with a group called Bliss, and they asked if we'd like to guest at Saturday's show. The question came while I was out of the country, Marcus accepted in my absence, so we were booked! I had visions of our return being a gentle reintroduction at smokey little club in London, but no, Marcus comes up with a sell out audience (500 folk) and... a castle! Hever Castle in Kent, to be exact, Anne Bolynn's home. There's a theatre in the spectacular grounds, overlooking a lake. It was a beautiful night. Instead of competing with chit chat and smoke, we had sunshine and raucous bird song. We played 4 songs: 'Beads Without a Chain' & 'Heels for Dust’ with two acoustics, then Marcus moving to a beautiful Steinway Grand piano to play 'Alaska' and 'Five Points of Light'. It all went well, and has given me the bug again! (Maybe 2016!)  It was a fine night, for a worthy cause, a children's charity, Demelza House. It was nice to then sit back and watch Marcus play with Bliss, as if I needed reminding what a player he is.
'Limbo' in limbo and needs some finishing touches...will keep you posted.

MC: Hever was indeed a wonderful day and a fitting return to gigging for Trev and I. It was all a bit last minute though and by the time we went on stage my fingers were completely raw from our intense rehearsal period starting at midnight the night before. The gig went very well and we sold out of Cd's, but more importantly it showed that Miracle mile, even in its most cut down state were now a 'live' act...

TJ: Footnote from 2012: the lead singer of Bliss was a certain Lucinda Drayton to whom Marcus is now engaged. That night at Hever was (kind of) the start of a fine romance...

Monday, 20 February 2012

My Top 5: Dippy Di

Toronto Tim issued a challenge: 
Name your top 5 Miracle Mile/Jones songs.
Why not email me here with your own top 5.

Di Holmes is my girlfriend of 25 years.
She's a photographer and fashion consultant.
See her work here.

As you can see she recently had a bathing 'incident' with some super glue and my favourite guitar... regardless of the impediment, she still manages to live a fairly normal life.

She's a little biased as you'll see.
Her math isn't too good either; asked for her top 5 she's delivered... 13.
Hence her nick name.
Here's Dippy:

Hi, I'm Trev's lady, Di.
When asked to name my top 5 favourite Miracle Mile/Jones songs I thought I'd never manage it... there are so many and so many brilliant songs, how could I possibly narrow it down to 5? 
That's when I decided to cheat a little... 
I'd do my top 5 favourite songs of the songs that were written with (I think) me in mind... cool!
Be prepared; this may get a bit saccharine...

First up... 
Girl on a Bridge... I'm pretty sure this one's about me. 
Trev & I met in 1986 at the squash club fancy dress party in Muswell Hill where Trev worked as an assistant manager. I was a dancer in those days and a little while after the 'pow wow' moment, I jetted off to Holland to do an 8 week TV series. I was gutted to be flitting off so soon but loved my job, who wouldn't?  After 2 weeks of pining and endless phone calls I couldn't wait to see him, so as a surprise I flew back to the Uk and went straight to the club. I rang to tell him to go out into the car park. Meanwhile, I was hiding at the top end. I whistled his every step as he came towards me. I can still see the delight on his face now as I, hands on hips danced for him.
Just for the record... love at first sight definitely does exist!

Guggenheim... I'd whisked Trev away to New York for a surprise 40th birthday celebration. 
A few days after we got back I walked in through the front door from a days work to be greeted by Trev sitting on the sofa, guitar in hand. I stood in hat, scarf and gloves  and listened to this beautiful song. 
As he strummed his last note, I stood there quite speechless, (doesn't happen often), and neither of us had a dry eye. 
A very special memory, making this a very precious song.

Pigeon Pair... After living together in a small one bedroom flat for near on 12 years, we moved to a quaint cottage in a country village and instead of overlooking a car park our bedroom looked onto a water meadow full of horses, rising up to woods that stood majestically like mountains. We couldn't believe our luck. I still sing the lovely line about sitting in our "own square of moonlight" as the moon shines through the window.

I Showed You the River... Being an absolute lover of mountains we bought a house in one of the most stunning places on earth, Corsica. Trev has penned many songs there, this being one of them. It's not about me but the lyrics describe a fabulous walk that we went on. Whenever I hear it I'm transported back. "Bread and cheese and kisses waited for us there"... and... "The kisses, oh the kisses, I couldn't get my fill". 

Papillon... The lyrics are spot on in this poignant song. Written whilst spending Christmas on the beautiful isle. Trev had secretly practised with friends Gregg and Suzi so that they were familiar with the chorus. Christmas morning arrived and the three of them serenaded me... it was the best Christmas present ever! 
Favourite line from this one, makes me go all goosey... "I don't place her in my songs but she's always there, you'll always find her there". Aaaaaah!

As a secret bonus track... oh sorry am I bending the rules a little? 
There's a song that brings a tear to my eye. 
It hasn't t been recorded and only a handful of folks would know it. 
It's called Dippy Di and the lyrics go something like this...

Dippy Di, Dippy Di,
She's got big ears, she's got big thighs.
Oh Dippy Di.
Dippy Di, Dippy Di,
She's got big ears, she's got big thighs.
Oh Dippy Di,
Oh Dippy, Dippy, Dippy Di, 
Oh Dippy, Dippy, Dippy Di.

One of his masterpieces, I'm sure you'll agree.

So, there you have it. 
However, if you're annoyed that I've cheated, here are my all time favourites... not including any of the above.

Star Watching.
Boo Said.
Under my tongue.
Five points of light.

Sorry, I'm about to cheat again... I have to add another two. They are blasts from the past, but this post wouldn't be right without them being mentioned... Whiskey Kisses and Walking John Wayne.
And just one more... Probably the most beautiful, sad and heartfelt song is The Falling Man, written after 9/11. If you've never heard it then you must... click here to download the song.
I mostly have the privilege of being around when the songs are born so it's always interesting to hear the end result. 
Hats off also to Trev's partner in crime, the very brilliant Marcus Cliffe, who's musical talents are endless. He's also one of the nicest's blokes and would do anything for anybody... a real gem and we're lucky that he's our friend.
I'm proud of my darling and am excited about all the songs that have yet to be written... just need to make sure I get at least another one in the bag.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 14. In The Village

We waited for the villagers to reveal themselves and gradually they emerged. I would be lying if I waxed lyrical about open arms and embraces; there was a reticence that was initially unsettling, but we came to sense a proud and private nature, which made the eventual connections more profound. We mirrored their discretion, stepping lightly but hoping to be liked. Titin and Lucie, our elderly neighbours, were ever present and friendly, but their Corsican brogue and hearing difficulties made chitchat difficult, so we gestured and smiled. Robert and Marie-Lucie became our touchstones in the village, introducing us to the now familiar faces whenever our paths crossed. There were only two public places in the village, a mill where the locals brought their olives to be pressed and converted to oil, and a small bar. Francois owned the bar and we made it our habit to nip in for a drink with him whenever we returned from our daily trips. Each visit would inevitably produce a new introduction; this seemed an exclusively male environment; the women would poke their noses around Francois’ door but seldom enter. Di was always politely offered a chair in the corner but insisted on sitting at the bar. I think that they liked her for that. We met many of the villagers there, characters whose proud and private nature prevent me from detailing too much of that character. The first evening spent Chez Francios ended with a tasting session of the local eau de vie, firewater flavoured with local berries and herbs. We set Di’s camera on ‘auto’ and took a photo of us all with seaside smiles, leaning heavily on the bar like a bunch of old friends. We still have that picture stuck to our Corsican fridge. Also on that fridge is a picture of Victor Savelli who ran the village mill. We had met him by chance in his wife’s charcuterie shop in nearby Lumio. A local producer (two trees) had made an appointment for the next day and Victor invited us to witness the pressing process. There was nothing modern about the moulin; an ancient pile, its grand design was a combination of ingenuity and necessity blended with the benefits of the application of gravity and brute strength. Olives were placed between large granite presses that were threaded in turn on a thick metal corkscrew. A bewildering series of cogs, wheels and gears were ultimately connected to a donkey that, upon encouragement, plodded in circles, turning the screw until the presses had squeezed every drop from the fruit. The oil ran luxuriantly into a collecting stone basin, where it was filtered and decanted into emerald green bottles. Two small trees had produced a dozen liters of lemony liquid gold. The happy owner of the fresh oil proudly gifted us a tiny bottle ‘not for the pot’. It should be reserved, he said, exclusively for salads and cold preparations. The raw peppery flavour was an initial shock but we learned to love it. It works well with salads and pasta, but never fry an egg in it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

My Top 5: Phil Hogarth

Toronto Tim issued a challenge: 
Name your top 5 Miracle Mile/Jones songs.
Why not email me here with your own top 5.

Phil Hogarth lives in Israel and is a long term 'friend' of Miracle Mile.

Alright Trev, I love this sort of thing. 
I spend far too many hours making up all kinds of 'favourites' and 'best ofs', but cutting your total output down to just 5 tracks I found a mite difficult. Firstly let me say, I've been hooked by your music since buying 'Candids' back in 98 after seeing a few adverts for it in my monthly Q magazine, comparing it to Prefab Sprout and, if I remember correctly, Aztec Camera who are two of my favourite bands. I loved it on first listen and so tried to get hold of a copy of 'Bicycle Thieves', which I remember was really difficult from over here in Israel. Eventually I got in touch with you and you told me you had some copies for a tenner, and I still remember the CD arriving before I'd managed to send the cash off! 
Anyway, to get on with my top 5:

I have to start with the opening track from 'Bicycle Thieves', 'Walking John Wayne.
There's something so simple about the song , but it just stands out as something rather special, and even today 14 years after first hearing it, I find it still just jumps into my head every so often. I liken it to Aztec Cameras best (in my opinion) song 'Killermont Street'. Mainly acoustic, simple and class!

Now from an oldie to a fairly new favourite' 'Folding Sheets'. I love a song that just gives me a strong image of something and I can see the mother and daughter doing the 'folding sheets 'dance on their rooftop. I don't know why but I picture a dusty Mexican shanty town! and both the mother and daughter are sultry latinos (think Salma Hayek!)

Next up, the opening track to 'Limbo', Lights of Home'. 
Again a strong image , this time of my childhood home, a big old farmhouse on the outskirts of Whitby in North Yorkshire. As the road leads to the village the farmhouse lights are the first you see and also the last as you leave.

Next up, from my favourite album 'Glow', comes 'What Kate Did Next'. This was a hard one to choose. I had to pick a song from 'Glow' but I love the whole album. I remember when I first got hold of my copy. I spent a good hour just reading to booklets before I listened to the album.
I remember how I listened to the whole album and then played it again and for a third time and I knew this was the best album I'd ever heard. I played it every night for weeks washing it down with vintage Glenfidich! Wonderful times indeed!

Now, to finish off, my favourite track by MM, 'Milk Moustache'. 
This song takes me back to my childhood From the opening bars that remind me of a kids TV program from the 60's that I can't for the life of me name! I picture my family round the kitchen table. Me as a young kid and my older brother and sister and my younger sister sitting between my Mum and Dad.
Happy, simpler times.
So there you have it!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Lovesong: John Prine: Lake Marie

I watched Elvis Costello's excellent 'Spectacles' show last night featuring Ray LaMontagne, Lyle Lovett and John Prine. Prine sang a song 'Lake Marie' which was pretty amazing. It had a narrative that flitted between mythology and mundanity; murder and sausages... all of which added to give the song a strange potency.
Although I have what is probably the best Prine Anthology 'Great Days', it didn't contain the song; the only recorded versions I could find were from 'Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings' and 'Live on Tour'; both band versions which are great but don't have the same kick as when he sings it solo.
This first take is the 'smallest' version I could find (from a while back), and man, it's sizzling...
Beneath it I've posted the three songs from the 'Spectacles' show.
Prine is heartbreakingly decrepit but nails the song (even if his guitar seems to have been tuned by me).
If you only have time for one song, please listen to that version (2nd one down).
Great turns too from Lyle Lovett and grumpy Ray ("I love mankind, I just hate assholes") LaMontagne...