Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Life, Life By Keith Christmas.

It is another golden autumn day today. I was sitting in the yard enjoying the sunshine when there was a knock on the door. The post lady handed me a package which contained the new album by Keith Christmas called Life, Life. “That was quick”, I thought to myself because I had only ordered it on Sunday. The first impression I had was that I liked the attractive artwork on the sleeve by David Alderslade. I wonder if he is related to John Alderslade of Village Pump Folk Club fame? It was at the Village Pump in Trowbridge about eight years ago that I first saw Keith Christmas perform. He made a live album that night which I bought, and I have been a fan ever since.

When I put the CD in the machine, I immediately loved the opening song Round The Stones which is about the Stonehenge Festival of 1979. For a person like me who lives in Wiltshire and has been to Stonehenge for the solstice this song is a bit special. I have shared a video of Keith singing the song below if you would like to hear it. I would love to see Keith perform this song actually at the stones or Avebury or even at the stone circle on the Glastonbury Festival site. That would make a great video. The eponymous title track Life Life is next. It is a life affirming song about how we have minor misfortunes but soon get over it and can even use it to our advantage. I like how the lyrics are reflected in the artwork with the open window and the litter of hedgehogs. Love In The Gold is a very touching love song about ageing and how love doesn’t care about a few grey hairs and being forgetful. Wonderful Ride is another optimistic song which makes you feel grateful to be alive.
Keith recently at Beckenham Bandstand.

A Gun In His Hand by contrast is a much darker angry anti-war song which warns that people who experience the horrors of war never get over it. The sentiment of the lyrics reminded me of Dylan’s Masters Of War. I think Travelling Blues is a quasi-autobiographical song about life on the road for a musician. Trouble Trouble  might be a warning about pride coming before a fall and some pompous people who think the laws of karma don’t apply to them should learn some humility. You only have to watch the news to think that. I haven’t mentioned what a great guitarist Keith is. I don’t play the guitar so I can’t really comment on his technical virtuosity. I just know what I like, and I don’t think there are many acoustic guitar players these days more skillful than Keith. His great guitar playing is amply demonstrated on Who’s Going To Save You?
Glastonbury 1970 (Keith in afghan jacket)

The Love That Surrounds You is a wonderful emotive song which I think might be about giving advice to a friend who could be suffering with depression. As well as Keith’s guitar playing the other thing I like about him is his very distinctive singing voice. Keith conveys emotion in his voice very well and you believe that he means every word. Ruled By The Tide is a story of a nostalgic trip down memory lane to the seaside town when he was born. In the lyrics it mentions a Nottage Institute which I had never heard of, so I looked it up. It is a maritime charity named after Captain Charles G. Nottage. It is a great song.
Born Of God takes its inspiration from the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. It is a song that I think is very relevant to this country today. I like the line ‘For We’ll never follow a leader with no honour, it will come to no good in the end’, so, listen up Boris Johnson! The final song is Book Of Magic which is a charming song about having an idea for a book, being rejected but still persevering. I think the answer is to self-publish. It is a very nice song with which to end this most enjoyable album.
Captain Charles G. Nottage.

Keith Christmas played on David Bowie’s Space Oddity album and recently played in Beckenham for the 50th anniversary of a concert where he played on the same bill as Bowie in 1969. It was the gig that Bowie immortalised in Memory Of a Free Festival. He also played at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970 and I think Michael Eavis should book him for the 50th anniversary festival next year. If you want to learn more about Keith Christmas you can visit his website here- https://www.becn.co.uk

Keith Christmas: ROUND THE STONES, Live In Frome 2019

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Dogrel By Fontaines D.C.

We seem to be having a bit of an Indian summer at the moment. It was so nice on Friday I thought I’d go over to Warminster and meet a friend in ‘Spoons. That is the name we give to Wetherspoons. I don’t really like going in there because the owner is a big Brexiteer and is always gobbing off about it on the telly. She likes it though and it has a garden out the back where we sat in the sunshine. Also, you can get a bottle of chardonnay in an ice bucket for less than ten quid, which isn’t bad.
I thought I would treat myself to a new CD and nipped across the road to Raves From The Grave. We are lucky to have a music shop in a little town like Warminster, so I like to support them. I didn’t know what to buy though. In the new releases I was surprised to see a new album by The Subhumans. They are a local band who we used to follow about 35 years ago. They had a huge cult following at the time. It is good to see they are still going, but I don’t think I could listen to it at home these days. I had a good mooch through all the folky type music which is what I mainly listen to these days, but I couldn’t find anything that took my fancy.
Me in Spoons with Dogrel.

Then I remembered a band that I discovered recently called Fontaines D.C. and found their debut album in the section devoted to the Mercury Prize nominees. The album is called Dogrel which is a play on words of doggerel, a type of poetry with irregular rhythms. The band come from Dublin and I think they are the best new Irish band to emerge in years. I don’t listen to many groups these days. If you look back through my blogs you will see that it is nearly all singer-songwriters and solo artists. I think the last Irish band I really followed and bought several albums by were the Saw Doctors and that was a long time ago now. I could have seen Fontaines D.C. this year at Glastonbury when they played the John Peel Stage but I hadn’t heard of them then. It was only when a friend mentioned that they saw them on the BBC coverage that I looked them up on Youtube. If you are wondering about their name, they originally called themselves The Fontaines after a character in The Godfather, but then discovered there was an American band of the same name, so added D.C. meaning Dublin City.

When I got home, I put the CD in the machine and I haven’t stopped playing it since. As soon as I heard the first track Big I thought of another Irish singer I like called Damien Dempsey. That is probably because of the Dublin accent. The singer Grian Chatten should be complimented for keeping his accent and not singing in a mock-American voice which a lot of singers do. This helps the band to have their distinctive sound. He has a great speaking voice as well as on such tracks as Hurricane Laughter. The twin guitar sound is great as well. There are several songs that would have been hits in the old days. I particularly like Roy’s Song which did actually remind me a bit of the Saw Doctors. Every track on the album is worthy but the last three songs are outstanding. Liberty Belle is a tribute to the area of Dublin where they lived called The Liberties. Boys In The Better Land is a post-punk classic which must send the audience wild when performed live. Dublin City Sky is like a cross between The Velvet Underground and The Pogues. I think the great Shane Macgowan would be proud of this song if he had written it. I have shared a video of the band performing this song below if you want to hear it. I think you should.

I think Fontaines D.C. are going to be huge and I will follow their future career with interest. The Mercury Prize is announced this week and I hope they win it.

Fontaines D.C. - Dublin City Sky

Monday, September 09, 2019

Rainy Monday Ramblings.

The Fall
It is Monday afternoon and I gaze out of the kitchen window at the grey sky and the rain. It is a far cry from Sunday when it was a golden Autumn day. My tiny garden still has quite a bit of colour in it although it is September now and there is a nip in the air in the mornings. My dahlias still look quite nice, and the fuchsias. I didn’t go out of the front door once all day. I sat in my little yard all afternoon basking in the sunshine and reading. I have been reading The Fall by Albert Camus. It is a brilliant book, one of those books which make you question your own life. There is a lot of very dark humour in it as well. On the back of the book it says, ‘Masterful in style and form, the narrative of The Fall is at once elegant, mordant, brilliant with aphorism and paradox’. (I had to look up the meaning of mordant and aphorism, but I absolutely agree). You have to concentrate quite hard when you are reading it to understand the points he is making about the human condition. I got quite tired after a while and had to stop reading because my mind was wandering off. I haven’t quite finished it yet.

I also listened to my new CD which arrived the other day called Together At The Bluebird CafĂ© by Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt & Guy Clark. It’s a nice album. They are all good but of the three I think I liked Steve Earle the best, especially  Mercenary Song, I ain't Ever Satisfied & Copperhead Road. After I played that album I put on I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive which I enjoyed even more. I like the sound of Steve Earle with a band behind him.

I got another book in the post on Saturday. It is called It’s Too Late To Stop Now By Jon Landau. It was published in 1972 in the USA. I saw it on eBay and bought it on a whim because I thought with a title like that it must have lots of Van Morrison content and insights that I could dazzle my Van fan buddies with, or at least some rare photos. I was disappointed though to find it only had one little review of Tupelo Honey. I think I made a bit of a mistake buying that book. Never mind, we live and learn.

Anyway, the rain seems to be easing off. I need to go to the post office and the supermarket. See you later.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The Only Blonde In The World

It is quite educational doing this blogging thing. A couple of days ago when I was researching (looking on Wikipedia) about Adrian Mitchell I read that he and his wife had adopted a child who was the daughter of their friends the artist Pauline Boty and Clive Goodwin. This aroused my curiosity because I hadn’t heard of Pauline Boty before, so I looked her up as well.
What I found was quite fascinating for me because I have always been interested in people who had a brief flirtation with fame and then disappeared into obscurity or made an important contribution to the arts and have been unfairly overlooked. Pauline was one of the founders of the British Pop Art movement along with the likes of David Hockney and Peter Blake. They went on to be world famous, but Pauline has been largely forgotten. Another thing I have noticed about Pauline is that she was a very beautiful woman. This might have been to her detriment because she might have only been noticed for her looks and not for her work.

Pauline was born in 1938 and after attending art school in Wimbledon where her classmates called her ‘The Wimbledon Bardot’ because of her looks she studied stained glass design at the Royal College Of Art. She wanted to study painting but couldn’t because admissions for women to that course were limited due to the institutionalised sexism of the times. That didn’t stop her painting in her spare time though. She was a bit of a polymath. As well as painting, Pauline also published poetry, acted, and also was a leading light in a group called the Anti-Uglies who protested against the brutalism of post-war British architecture. Pauline was one of the artists featured in a TV programme directed by Ken Russell in 1962 called Pop Goes The Easel. She acted at the Royal Court Theatre, appeared in Armchair Theatre on the telly, danced on Ready Steady Go and was one of Michael Caine’s girlfriends in the film Alfie. When Bob Dylan first visited Britain in 1963 it was Pauline who showed him around London.
Colour Her Gone.

It should be for her art that Pauline is remembered. I have looked at her work on the internet and am most impressed. Her paintings are bright and exuberant, erotic and sensual. There are two pictures featuring Marilyn Monroe called The Only Blonde In The World and Colour Her Gone which particularly caught my eye. There is another one as well called ironically, It’s A Man’s World which celebrates her femininity. I also liked a picture called 5 4 3 2 1 which took its title from a song by Manfred Mann. If there was an exhibition of her work near me, I would certainly go along and see it.
Pauline’s life ended tragically young. After a whirlwind romance she married Clive Goodwin. In 1965 she became pregnant. During a pre-natal test it was discovered that she had leukemia. She refused chemotherapy because it would harm her child and she died at the age of only 28 just a few months after the birth of her daughter.  Her daughter also died tragically from a heroin overdose in 1995.

After she died Pauline’s paintings were stored away in a barn on her brother’s farm where they remained, gathering dust for over thirty years. Pauline’s place in British art was largely forgotten until recent years. In 2013 a retrospective exhibition of her work was finally held in Wolverhampton and later Chichester. It is due to the sexism in British art that she has been overlooked for so long. The same applies to literature. The leading figures in British writing in the 50’s were called The Angry Young Men, what about the angry young women?. Also, the other day I looked in a poetry anthology I have called Children Of Albion published in 1969 which features 65 poets of the era. There are only five female poets in it, what a disgrace.
 In the 1960’s, because of her looks everyone was in love with Pauline Boty. I read this by Sabine Durrant who said in 1993, “Even now, grown men with grey hair in dark houses in Notting Hill cry at the sound of Pauline Boty’s name.”

The Only Blonde In The World.

Monday, September 02, 2019

If You See Me Comin'

I had a bit of a frustrating morning, but it all ended ok in the end. I had sold a couple of books over the weekend, but I had no jiffy bags to post them off in. I went uptown and no shop had any jiffy bags. I like to send off my books as quickly as possible so in the end I caught the bus over to Trowbridge. I managed to find what I needed in Poundland. I had a look around the charity shops while I was there. I found a nice book about Jimi Hendrix, but even better than that, I found a book by Adrian Mitchell.
It is a hardback first edition of the first book he ever published called If You See Me Comin’ from 1962. I was pleased to find this book because I like that era of the late 50’s & pre Beatles 60’s. It was the era of the Beatniks and protest and the beginnings of Pop Art and all that sort of thing. One thing I like about Adrian Mitchell is his poem To Whom It May Concern with the famous line Tell Me Lies About Vietnam which he performed live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965 which you can see below if you want. Allen Ginsberg was also there on that memorable evening. Later in his career he wrote a poem about Victor Jara who was murdered by the Pinochet regime in Chile. It was set to music by Arlo Guthrie and has become a favourite song of mine, especially the version by Christy Moore.
Adrian died in 2008 aged 76. I looked him up on Wikipedia and found this tribute, "Adrian, said fellow poet Michael Rosen, "was a socialist and a pacifist who believed, like William Blake, that everything human was holy. That's to say he celebrated a love of life with the same fervour that he attacked those who crushed life. He did this through his poetry, his plays, his song lyrics and his own performances. Through this huge body of work, he was able to raise the spirits of his audiences, in turn exciting, inspiring, saddening and enthusing them.... He has sung, chanted, whispered and shouted his poems in every kind of place imaginable, urging us to love our lives, love our minds and bodies and to fight against tyranny, oppression and exploitation”.

I think in these days of Brexit & Trump, with the rain forests burning and shifts to the right all over the world and people forgetting the lessons of history and the dangers of fascism we need more people like Adrian Mitchell who weren’t afraid to stand up and be counted.

Life, Life By Keith Christmas.

It is another golden autumn day today. I was sitting in the yard enjoying the sunshine when there was a knock on the door. The post ...