Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Embarassment at traffic lights & great summer songs: I'm black and I'm proud

THERE are fewer things more embarassing than getting caught mid air guitar or its singing equivalent, getting caught reciting lyrics that have no relevance to you or your life.
Typically that can mean being found rapping about the thug life and pimpin' bitches in the hood when you are a 35-year-old white man living in a British or Irish suburb and commuting to and from a well paid job in the banking sector.(If such a position exists anymore.)
My version of getting caught like this happened today on the way into work and features heavily the music of the Chicagoan consciousness poet of black power Curtis Mayfield.
Those of you au fait with the great man's work will be aware of the now famous refrain from the live version of Mighty, Mighty (Spade and Whitey) where he incants four times "I gotta say it loud," before being joined by his band in a gutsy, dramatic and defiant chorus of "I'm black and I'm proud."
At this juncture it is apposite to note that I could not be more removed from either Curtis Mayfield or the 1970s Chicago/ Black Rights movement he represents. I am a rapidly expanding, white Irish man with a shocking singing voice much too poor or deep to affect that beautiful, pure Mayfield falsetto. I also have absolutely no sense of rhythm, so am utterly unqualified to replicate any soulfullness of Curtis's classic songs.
Well, it was at the end of my very loud second round of "I'm black and I'm proud," that I opened my eyes, ceased my authentic polyrhythmic clapping/ air bongo combination and glanced to the car also stopped at traffic lights to the right of me.(All windows open, sun dappled Stanley Road, Bootle, near Hugh Baird College if you want to complete the picture.)
The driver, archetypical Scouse mum - magenta hair with massive knock-off D&G shades stuck in said barnet - was in bulk laughing at me, pointing out the spectacle to a barely responsive toddler, who was also laughing his wee huggies off.
The lights went to green, I sped off towards the quirky exoticism of Kirkdale and the Eldonian Basin and Curtis launched into We People Who are Darker than Blue.
Now is there a better summer trio of songs in a playlist than Move on Up followed by Mighty, Mighty (Spade and Whitey)followed by We People...?
What are the strong summery songs with positive messages that can make you feel better or make you look a big eejit at traffic lights?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Die dog or shite the licence: Sport's greatest documentary

AS MANY a rhino and fully packed-up army regiment are 'tapering' for the London Marathon, my attention turns not to Brendan 'Bren' Foster or Steve 'Crammy' Cram's commentary but towards Northern France, Flanders, Holland and the Ardennes.
Because, it is at this time of the year where the real hard men of world endurance sport are crowned and where real sporting drama can become an art form.
In the cycling races Paris Roubaix and Tour of Flanders et al, the hardest professional riders brave strong winds and terrible conditions in a series of one day, eyeballs out, muck-and-gutters, die-dog-or-shite-the-licence endurance drags to prove who is the daddy.
Paris Roubaix, from Compeigne 60k North of Paris to the velodrome in eponymous town of the race's title, is the truest test of the biggest, hardest most powerful 'rouleurs' in the peloton.
Amid 166 miles of racing there are 20 sections of pavement, no longer used by normal traffic. The riders fight over broken cobbles either blinded by dust thrown up by support vehicles on dry days or through mud and gutters after spring downpours.
They are supported by huge crowds, glugging beer and chips, who throng the roads where once WWI raged. The race was given the savage soubriquet 'The Hell of the North' in 1919, and this race is a different kind of hell for today's riders.
It is cycling as far removed from the glamour of les Grands Tours and the sportives of modern times as can be and closest to the sport's late 19th Century roots.
Some the greats have won it several times: Eddy Merckx won it three times (once by the record margin of more than 5 minutes), Francesco Moser three times in a row (1978-80), Bernard Hinault won it once and vowed never to go near it again while my hero Sean Kelly, (below) took the trophy twice.

But the undisputed master thus far is Roger De Vlaeminck who won it four times in the 1970s.
Last week's winner, Belgian Tom Boonen claimed his third cobbles trophy and could challenge De Vlaeminck over the next couple of years. His win this year was a triumph of hard man riding, pushing the tempo over the last sections of cobble and making everyone else either fall or fall by the wayside.

But Paris Roubaix has thrown up the single greatest sports film of all time, A Sunday in Hell (1976), by the Danish director Jørgen Leth, an underestimated classic of the documentary genre. It is, in my opinion, rivalled only by the Canal+ TV film about the France 1998 World Cup winners Les yeux dans les Bleus by Stéphane Meunier.
Both films are given unlimited access to the most hallowed sanctums of professional sport: team meetings, hotel rooms, meal times and technical conflabs and, in both cases (particularly A Sunday), the showers.
But A Sunday in Hell, really captures the physical brutality of Spring Classics cycling and the often complicated machinations of how a team works in the sport.
It is spare in its use of music (a choir chanting Paris Roubaix at times), it has a sober and unintrusive commentary and its 20 camera and one helicopter shoot must have been revolutionary at the time. Its beautiful opening scene of a mechanic from Moser's Sansom team cleaning and lovingly assembling a bike is as articulate a scene as anywhere else in cinema.
As Nick Fraser, the BBC commissioning editor who showed it on BBC4 in 2005 says: "You can see every bead of sweat on the cyclists and every smashed-up ankle. It really makes you never want to get on a bike again. But it is an amazing film."

Friday, 17 April 2009

Take the Google Earth Tour of The Wire

GET out on them Hamsterdam corners, in the low rises or in the towers and see the hoppers slinging Death Row, WMD, Plymouth Rock or the fearsome Pandemic.
Have a smoke out the back of the Baltimore Sun office with Haynes or keep it real tight outside the rim shop with Marlo Stanfield.
Where would you rather be people? Am I taking this too far?

Have a smoke with Haynes, what would it be like to work on a proper newspaper?

Rims courtesy of Marlo?

Prez could show anyone to play dice (Series 4)

I went to Hamsterdam and all I got
was this lousy white T

Bodymore Murdaland alley
from opening credits

Bodie and Little
Kevin's Corner (Series 4)

Barksdale Towers, burning cop car has
been towed and the scene cleaned

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Thick of It: A Tribute to Malcolm Tucker

Malcolm Tucker: Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off.

[to Ollie] If you don't go get me some cheese, I'll rip your head off, and give you a spinedectomy.

Ben Swain: Where does it leave me?
Malcolm: I guess it leaves you standing in a chamber in the House of Commons with your big flaccid dick hanging out, with a "vote for me" sticking on the end.

Malcolm: How much fucking shit is there on the menu and what fucking flavor is it?

Malcolm: [to Nick] You know what I call "semantics"? Wank!

Malcolm: Cliff fucking Lawton. Hey, nice. Was the Cillit Bang guy not available?

Lubricated horse cock in your perview

PETER Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the foul mouthed Glaswegian government spin doctor is one of the great British or Irish comedy characters of the last 20 years and he's back in his big screen debut, In the Loop. (And he's not, repeat not, anything to do with Alistair Campbell, so either come the fuck in or fuck the fuck out.)
And just as the Miscellany has been bigging up US satirist Jon Stewart and lamenting the pitiful, rictus grinning husks of light entertainment that masquerade as cutting edge comedy in Britain (Brigstocke, Rufus Hound, Mock the Week et al) we have to salute Armando Iannucci for the finest political satire of our times, by all reports.
The Thick of It, upon which In the Loop is based, was superb television and got to the media obssessed dark control freak heart of the New Labour dream, but to transfer it to the world stage and have the Brit liberals overwhelmed by the hard hitting Yanks as we plunge headlong to war is genius.
The oft-cited cliched measure of how good a comedy really is, is how many times you see the truth in any given routine or show. Given the current Smeargate controversy which is beseiging New Labour and its blogging spinners, The Thick of It must be very, very good as it flagged it up two years ago.

In the Loop's clip of government minister Tom Hollander trying not to justify war with a series of ever more ridiculous and cryptic metaphors will probably be worth the entrance price alone.
Pete Bradshaw, a notoriously difficult critic to please, gave it 5 stars in the Guardian and even the good Doctor Kermode says its hugely clever if not funny all the way through.
Anyway until the GM review next week, make do with the above trailer and (below) the funniest expose of the bullying nature of spin doctor culture in Whitehall. I think this lad loves Jolson.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Crusty Whore's paean to Ruby Walsh

THE world's best busker, Crusty Whore, Christy Moore has released another in the long line of Lisdoonvarna-style songs. And, as usual, it's brilliant. We're honoured to have the old boy rockin still.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The Clash lose out to Bowie. WTF dude?

Mrmgrid2009 - Christie's Picks Mrmgrid2009 - Christie's Picks Slay Belle

This US radio station's battle of the bands is highly contentious in Miscellany Towers. Whaddya reckon, cobbers? What no Wah Heat? No Proper, No Rain, No Real People or Smaller. Merseysidist bastards?

You can download the page as a PDF by clicking on the More button on the tool bar or read it in full screen by using the toggle full screen button in top right hand corner. Any comments on this document and how it performs with your browser please post them below.

This is the end, I promise: The best quotes from the Wire

gm wire best quotes_layout 1 gm wire best quotes_layout 1 Paddy
You can download the page as a PDF by clicking on the More button on the tool bar or read it in full screen by using the toggle full screen button in top right hand corner. Any comments on this document and how it performs with your browser please post them below.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Print out and keep guide to writing Van Morrison

how to how to Paddy

If you are struggling to be a singer songwriter like Van Morrison, use this handy print out and keep guide to getting started. This template has stood him in good stead for 41 years.

You can download the page as a PDF by clicking on the More button on the tool bar or read it in full screen by using the toggle full screen button in top right hand corner. Any comments on this document and how it performs with your browser please post them below.

Kick it (harmonica solo).

Friday, 3 April 2009

Newspapers: A keypin in democracy

Please read this piece on what newspapers mean to the essential democratic structure of civil society. And silence your guffaws when you go on to read about the treatment of weekly journalists by the Guardian's own group.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

What are the new busking classics?

IN LIVERPOOL, on Saturday, in the heart of the Cavern Quarter (where it all began, folks!) I saw a brilliant, insanely good looking lad busking Kings of Leon's Sex on Fire, note perfectly.
I didn't have camera capable of high quality video footage, but it was a great scene. He was surrounded by a load of Geordie stag trip drunks all tunelessly and enthusiastically joining in.
Allied to the fact that Liverpool now has its own version of kora genius Toumani Diabate (above film) and the blind lad who does Shadows-style instrumentals of YNWA (among others), maybe one of our Capital of Culture dividends is an increase in quality in the busking community.
But it has got me thinking, what are the new busking classics?
An old Q magazine (probably in the Du Noyer editorship era, 1990ish) did a round-up of old busking classics, Cavatina, Streets of London et al.
But what are the songs that have become the new busking classics and what are the songs that could never become busking songs, within reason obviously.

£13 haircut and what it tells you about music

FIRSTLY, when did a barbershop haircut get to being the £13 I paid yesterday in downtown Liverpool? However that might just have been worth it given the music that I listened to on the shop's iPod dock.
The hairdresser, early 20s, (looked a bit new Romantic-like), had a fantastic iPod on shuffle, reggae, bit of good hippity hoppity and then a load of Depeche Mode.
And here's the thing that threw me - it was hers. I asked said (less than talkative)hairdresser if it was an iPod owned by a boy, she replied I was a cheeky sod and that it was hers.
I made the sweeping generalisation because I have always associated reggae and the hard core hippity hoppity as essentially boyish, fan boy, male pursuits, along with elements of soul and prog, and just as hi NRG and torch songs, Eurovision, some singer songwriters and modern indie were essentially straight female and sometime gay pursuits.
How wrong I was.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Stevie Wonder's Superstition broken down

What a brilliant video, but one for the completists, Mrs Miscellany was left somewhat cold with it. Thanks to the wonderful Word magazine blog for this.