The Sixteen: An Immortal Legacy

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St. John’s Kirk, Perth
18th May 2019 


The Sixteen, under the direction of Harry Christophers, are in their fortieth year of bringing early choral music, as well as groundbreaking new works by the likes of James Macmillan, to an ever-growing audience. Their style combines technical perfection with a warmth of sound that has ensured the choir its place amongst the best in the world.

The Sixteen make a beautiful sound that soothes troubled souls. St John’s Kirk, in the centre of worship in Perth for nearly nine centuries, perhaps has seldom heard such sweet singing as this. “An Immortal Legacy” draws on five centuries of choral music from Tallis and Byrd to Tippett and Macmillan. Music for sacred occasions sits beautifully beside the secular in the programme, with the common thread being simple melodies wrought into complex interweaving sounds, whilst never losing brightness or clarity of expression. The Sixteen’s sound deserves the most careful listening.

The opening pieces, from Tallis’ ‘Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter’ are simple harmonies for whole choir, and recognisable to anyone instantly as the basis for Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia”. This was followed by a ‘Salvator Mundi’ from Tallis, with the choir drawing the variations from the simple plainsong with a rich, organic flow.

Changing tempo, three secular pieces followed, from Morley, Gibbons and Tallis’s great pupil Byrd, that celebrated country pleasures and springtime. Morley’s ‘April is in my Mistress’ Face’, a popular madrigal, leads with soprano, which is then taken up in the round by alto, tenor and bass until it reaches its satisfying harmonisation. The Sixteen sound tight on this brief piece.

James Macmillan’s ‘Sedebit Dominus Rex’ from The Strathclyde Motets introduces an icy blast of caledonian discord from the outset. The first few bars are reminiscent of Celtic or even Byzantine music, and make the hairs on the neck stand to attention. This motto gets repeated, finally finding resolution in the last cord.

Tippett’s five spirituals from ‘A Child of our Time’ demonstrate some superb solo singing from sopranos Jessica Cale and Katy Hill, tenor Jeremy Budd and bass James Birchall. Of particular note, ‘Steal Away’ and ‘Deep River’ are superbly sung. These spirituals were collected by Tippett into his great work at the outset of WWII, and speak de profundis of suffering and hope. The Sixteen perform them with simplicity and sincerity.

The second half of the performance was highlighted by a selection of Britten’s choral dances from his opera ‘Gloriana,’ composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and depicting (somewhat unsympathetically) the life of Elizabeth I and her relationship with the Earl of Essex. Although the opera is rarely performed, these dances, sung brightly and joyfully by the Sixteen, are a fine piece on their own. In particular, ’Time’ is a whimsical cascade for voices that lifts the spirits after the solemnity of the Tippett’s spirituals. ‘Country girls’ is so typically English in colour, evoking a midsummer floral bouquet held by a May queen.

I went to the concert expecting something good; expectations were surpassed by this excellent choir.

Mark Mackenzie

Fergus McCreadie Trio

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Perth Concert Hall
13th May 2019


A folk tune, like whisky, is fine straight-up. But it can take a good mixer too. The Fergus McCreadie Trio serve a knockout punch of traditionally-infused jazz that slips in your ear like a good malt goes over the thrapple, then sets your heart alight with the exquisite afterglow of places, times and moods. I could rave on about the awards and accolades that have been heaped on this young man and his group, but that’s all been said before. The point it, this guy is seriously good, like a favourite dram.

The Trio’s first number of the evening was perhaps fittingly titled ‘Ardbeg’, after the Islay Distillery. A simple piano melody from McCreadie drifts effortlessly over David Bowden’s understated bass, with Stephen Henderson’s percussion rolling and glinting throughout, like sea-shimmer. McCreadie has a gift for distilling the essence of landscapes into the mood of a composition. Most of the pieces from the Trio’s debut album, ‘Turas’ (Gaelic for ‘journey’ or ‘tour’) are inspired by places in Scotland that McCreadie has visited and drawn inspiration from. In particular, ‘Hillfoot Glen’ is a funk inflected hustle of a Scottish ‘Harlem River Drive’ with some lighting fast piano arpeggios over a driving snare drum rhythm. The trio are so tight on this one it’s thrilling.

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’The Set’ goes back to Trad reel rhythms mixed up in cool jazz. The confidence with which the trio dissect the rhythms then throw out fragments for the ear to catch onto was mesmerising to hear. A few as yet unnamed tracks show that there’s much more licks to come from this trio of precociously talented young men.

I found my personal favourite of the night was a track I’d not heard before – ‘An old friend’ – downtempo, meditative and achingly sincere (there’s a performance of ‘An Old Friend’ at BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 here). The deceptive simplicity of the piece reminds me of Zbigniew Preisner’s ‘Farewell’ from ’Ten Easy Pieces for Piano’. Both pieces make easy that hard task of expressing melancholy without being maudlin: sentiment minus the sentimentalism.

Horsecross Perth’s new Theatre complex was an excellent venue for the trio, with an intimate feel and first class sound engineering. I just hope it’s not too long before the trio return to Perth with what’s sure to be some excellent licks.

Mark Mackenzie

Tectonics

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City Halls, Glasgow

May 4 – 5, 2019


It was a nice day when my companion and I arrived at the City Halls for Day Two of the Tectonics Glasgow Festival, annual showcase for all kinds of new and experimental music performance. Stepping in to the Recital Room, we were confronted with a large wooden floor paved with drawings that somehow constituted a kind of path. The four artists performing Lucie Vitkova’s installation, were standing together using their voices for a perpetual sound that varied from whale noises to some kind of prayer incantation. It appeared to have no structure to it and we stayed for a few verses, only to wander off, taking with us the impression that this had been all about the quality of sound.

Festivals always have their own character, and this one, though small, also had its own atmosphere of welcome and anticipation, not to say a slight feeling that we were at some kind of science convention! We stepped out to enjoy a chat between performances and readied ourselves for a performance at the Old Fruitmarket. It turned out to be a free-form improvisation of recorded and live breathing exercises that lasted about 45 min and was performed by Angela Sawyer, Alex South and Nicola Scrutton. With its focus firmly held on the crowd who were sitting together it proceeded into a lot of people making a lot of what I can only call farm noises.

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Dave Smith, Chris Hobbs, Catherine Laws and Paul Kean in ‘Diabolus Apocalypsis’ by Dave Smith at the Old Fruitmarket

For the next part of our festival journey it fell to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to perform for an hour in the Grand Hall. We were treated to two orchestra pieces by Juliana Hodkinson (All Around) and Mauro Lanza (Experiments in the Revival of Organisms). This was followed by the world premiere of The Gay Goshawk by Martin Arnold which had Martin himself on melodica and Angharad Davies and Sharron Kraus on highly sensual, traditional and beautiful vocals about the trappings of love and life.

By this point we were both very relaxed and in a mood to continue absorbing everything we could. We found ourselves back at the Fruit market, that famous old market hall with a large, high space for the Symphony Orchestra to perform Sarah Davachi’s Oscen, a large scale work all about textures and harmonies. The place was transformed as the music took us along a slow melodic journey telling a story of Consort and Disunion.

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Nichola Scrutton and Alex South in ‘Rough Breathing’ by Alex South & Nichola Scrutton at the Old Fruitmarket

My impression was of a day full of the tonality of music, the experience of being human, what is important and what perhaps is not.  A day showcasing theory itself, turning it into a solid phenomenon that can take you to marvellous places that are there for all of us if we would but listen. An experience uniquely offered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra over a very enjoyable and successful weekend.

Review: Daniel Donnolly

Photography : Alex Woodward

The Divine Toyah

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Photo: Liam Rudden


The Thunder In The Highlands Tour

Edinburgh Liquid Room 25.04.19


Back in the olden days, when I were a lad. Music was everything to me it was a natural progression of my inner Superhero and I held my first musical inspirations in the same light. It was the costume that I loved and Toyah matched that in real life. Bringing fantasy to life through theatre, Rock N Roll, make up and style. I loved Toyahs first three albums. Sheep Farming in Barnett, Anthem and The Changeling. The Changeling was my fave, a Pixie concept Album that brought Miss Wilcox’s magical creativity to life.

I was 14 at the time and best mates with Jengerisers, my partner in crime and musical sparing companion. At that point in my life “1982” I had only ever been to WMC Gigs. Toyah was coming to town, to Bradford St Georges Hall, I saved up my dinner money and bought a ticket. Jengerisers did the same. As you can guess I was very very excited as this was my first proper gig ever and I was about to see Toyah in real life. It was fantastic performance art that still resonates with me 38 years on. The Changeling brought to life while visiting all her earlier hits. I fell in love with the big gig experience that night. The morning after the gig, Me and Jengerisers bunked off school and headed down to the Norfolk Gardens Hotel to see if we could meet Toyah and her band. Our mission was successful Toyah was Lovely and we got autographs from all of the band, It was then that I became a fan for life.

This was when the evolution of Makeup began for me too Toyah set the benchmark for looking brilliant. I soon learned that looking that good took a lot of time and effort to achieve. It was The Its A Mystery EP and Toyahs makeup on the cover that was what I was aiming for. Both Toyah and Steve Strange enthralled me for the same reasons. Where faces became canvases for rich expression of Temporary Art. The style that easily transcended gender and looking as good as possible was an evolving process.

Bradford, back in the early 80’s was a pretty grim place, still held in the fear of The Yorkshire Ripper, 3 day weeks, unemployment and being in the hell hole of a school called Grange. Toyah, Gary Numan Bowie and Visage gave me the escape that I needed. I never adhered to be a rock star. But I did adhere to looking that good. That was the key inspiration. It didn’t come easy, the makeup I mean, it took many years and countless hours of practice, I even did a beauty therapy course to perfect the look. Dressing up became a full-time occupation. A big colourful fuck you to Thatchers Britain and an education system that failed me. , Dance, Style, Makeup, Music and making love, were my reasons for living and escaping in equal measure.

As I write this preview and look back at the photographs of Toyah that I fell in love with as a kid, I can still feel the inspiration to be creative that gripped me 38 years ago and completely understand why I was so excited and inspired. Its been a lifelong inspiration, even now at 52 years old I put just as much effort into doing my makeup as I did when pushing the boundaries of Northern Working Class Culture, Back in the early 80’s Homophobia was rife and this was one of the reasons that made my school life hell. This all started before I began wearing makeup, I never have been Gay, men and cock never has done it for me so I would have made a crap puff. However, I found the strength and courage to start a personal transformation that would indeed give people cause to think that I might have been Gay. The funny thing was that the more makeup I wore, the more girls wanted to get off with me. This turned my tormentors blue with fury. And the echos of “Calvert ya Queer” echoed around my consciousness for the best part of a decade. It certainly opened my eyes at a young age that being Gay was not a bad thing. I always felt safe in Gay Clubs and Bars. The torment and abuse did have an effect on me, I knew I might have looked femme but I knew I wasnae gay, so I set about proving that I wasn’t and that involved getting off with as many beautiful Ladies as I could, I guess to prove to the world that I wasnae gay. I loved sex and there was a lot of it. When one looks that fabulous it goes hand in hand with having a Good Time ❤ Toyah shaped my life. I love her. ❤

Investigating Toyah has been a rich experience in understanding what makes a person be themselves in the face of absurdity. Indeed looking amazing seems to go hand in hand with healing the inner child. Beginning her life with a physical disability and a lisp. Both of which Toyah overcame to become a fully formed successful artist and pioneer. How Toyah has the healing power of the Divine. and Spirituality came to her at the age of 4 with the realisation that we are all just a speck of dust in relation to the vast infinity of the Universe. What an inspiration she is. ❤ Make up, Divinity, Creativity and Performance Art. My first inspiration and the longest lasting. It is only just now that I realise why. Toyah had the answer. Toyah is a Spiritual Healer too. Make Up and fruity coloured hair has Powers. beyond being Punk As Fuck.

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I got to The Liquid Rooms in time to see the support band Gothzilla. A local Edinburgh Goth Band that got me boogying straight away, Gothzilla are like a Veteran Sisters Of Mercy, Three guitars and a drum machine. Aye they really rocked tonight the perfect warm up for Toyah. I was having such a Good Time. Once the support band had finished, the place was rammed in anticipation of The High Priestess Of Punks return to Aulde Reekie. She looked marvellous and I was much closer to the front of the stage than I was at St Georges Hall, back in the olden days. Toyah looked Marvelous with a tight-fitting mirror ball dress, she looked strong and majestic. The penny really dropped tonight, Toyah set the benchmark for my ideal Woman back in 1982. and she still has it, fit as fuck, with Punk Rock attitude.

She performed a balanced set of classics and songs from her new Release. In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, perfect for live performance and taking its lead from classic Led Zepplin. There were a few first-night gremlins and on the whole I think the performance was too big for the club, The Sound even cut out completely on Good Morning Universe, apart from the vocals and only briefly, as you can guess Toyah was more than a little miffed.

She really wrestled with the sound all night. Not that it hampered our enjoyment the sound was perfect for the audience. My favourite moment was Brave New World. Indeed it was Brave New Worlds art that I fell in love with as a kid, as she sang I could see the picture disc that I had when I was 14. I think I lived that song more than any of the others. Aye Awesome Stuff.

Toyah still held the same beauty tonight as she did back then. She was just as sassy and sexy. Robert Fripp is one lucky man. Toyah eventually got over her sound issues and ripped into the classic singles. Ieya, Its A Mystery, I Want To Be Free, she did a marvellous rendition of Martha And Muffins Echo Beach and some really nice album tracks like Danced and Angel And Me from The Changeling. It was fantastic, Toyah had me completely, I couldn’t stop singing it was really really good fun.

Slipping in a new song called Come, Toyah got all sexy and I fell in love with her that little bit more. the last time I saw her live was 38 years ago and Toyah thrilled me tonight just as much as she did back in the olden days. My guess is that the sound glitches will have been worked out over the rest of The Thunder In The Highlands Tour. If you get the chance go and see Toyah. A True Divine Nemesis.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Paris Street Rebels: Kings of Balado

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First-class Fife band, Paris Street Rebels, have just released their new single – Kings of Balado


Where are you all from and where are you all at geographically speaking?
Grant: Myself, Jazz and Kev all grew up together in a discarded, derided and forgotten ex-mining town in Fife, Scotland. Ballingry brought us up mean and showed us the best and worst life has to offer dangerously young. Cammy was different he found us after years of growing up in a slightly less violent village just 10 minutes from us. He always maintains that place was no good for him. Nowhere near enough trouble he says haha. The truth is all 4 of us have always been outsiders, even in our own communities. All hung up on Little Richard when everyone else was busy fitting in.

Hello Kevin, so where does your love of music come from?
Kevin: My love of music comes from a generation of music lovers. A lot of my family members have always had music on around me and you could say it stemmed from there. I really got to know music when I started writing and understanding that it doesn’t just come from the radio or the beautiful people on tv, it comes from depths of the heart.

How did the band’s line-up come together?
Cameron: The band’s line up as it is now took some time to come together. We were initially a six-piece group which after three months quickly turned to five. Around six months later, after weeks of discussion, we made the decision that being a four piece band would be the best line up for Paris Street Rebels. We’ve never looked back since.

Can you tell us about the earlier incarnations of the band?
Kevin: The band at its earliest stage looked and sounded completely different from what you would see and hear today. Having started as a 6 piece we found ourselves building a sound to satisfy the various members as opposed to focusing on one singular vision. After becoming a 4 piece we watched ourselves become a far more single minded, focused, dangerous rock’n’roll group. With a united ethos and hell bent on changing the world, the four of us have become something else entirely.

What would you say are the band’s biggest influences?
Jazz: It’s very hard to pin down influences for us I’d say, I suppose most people would compare us with the punk scene, The Clash etc but we take influence from so much more than that. What makes us different is that if you asked any member his top 5 bands they’d all be totally different. That’s what makes us unique I think.

Which singers and styles have influenced your own voice?
Grant: When I think of the singers who have directly influenced me throughout the years it’s clear I’ve always connected more with vocalists who had their own unique voice. The type of singers who you could instantly recognise and identify in any setting. That authenticity of expression has always been important to me. To name but a few Ray Davis, Joey Ramone, Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer, Patti Smith, Jam era Paul Weller, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen. These artists could not be confused with any over-manufactured, mass produced, reality tv talent show fodder of today and that in and of itself proves their worth.

Do the band members socialise outwith the music?
Jazz: Constantly, probably too much to be honest. Me, Kev and Grant all grew up together, same village, went through school together and have been through a lot together. Cammy was the missing cog and although in the grand scheme of things he’s relatively new in the social circle. He’s just made everything click. He’s the glue needed to hold the other three maniacs together.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Kevin: My perfect Sunday afternoon could look like a day in the rarity of the sun playing guitar drinking beer or even a ‘black out blind’ day listening to the rain with no worry at all.

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In 20 seconds sell the Paris Street Rebels speed dating style.
Grant: Well Cilla I think people should listen to our little rock’n’roll band Paris Street Rebels. Deranged? Yes. Professional? Debatable. Legendary? We soon will be sister.

You’ve got three famous bass players from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Jazz: James Jamerson (Motown), Paul Simonon (The Clash) and Mani (The Stone Roses). Beer starter, Gin and Tonic main, Sambuca for desert.

You’ve just been deserted on an island with a solar-powered DVD-TV combo – which 3 films would you have with you?
Grant: I could’ have chosen 3 pretentious Italian arthouse films by the way… and on another day I may well have…but on this occasion I thought it best to tell you it like it is. Cinema has always been the real Rock’n’Roll and its not to be trifled with. Apocalypse Now. Its long as fuck and has Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando among others playing out the tragedy and comedy of the Vietnam War. All whilst one of the greatest soundtracks in cinematic history makes the death filled jungle’s of North Vietnam…. almost funky. Trainspotting. Hard to avoid really. Would seem cliche if not for the fact that even in 2019 it is still undoubtedly that good. It told the story of heroin addicts of course but also of working class Scottish culture trapped in a cage of its own design. Iconic then, iconic now. The names Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh will forever be etched on my heart. Pulp Fiction. For a pre-teen in the late 90s seeing this for the first time its effect can not be understated. The strange world of Tarantino’s LA might as well have been Alpha Centauri for all I knew. The way the thing was structured, crafted, shot and the way Pulp Fiction was built around dialogue and its characters strange interpersonal relationships within this mythical 50’s American dreamland knocked me dead. It still does.

Can you describe the band’s sound?
Cameron: We take inspiration from all sorts of different bands and music. We like to fuse a blend of The Clash, The Libertines sort of angst along with the glam rock of 70’s Stones and T-Rex, with some David Bowie in there for good measure. Having said that ask me another day and all those would be different again. Schizophrenia runs wild in this group.

Is the band focused more on recording or gigging?
Kevin: As we plan our years we tend to take one year foccused solely on writing and recording and preparing for a new year full of gigs to showcase our recordings which helps us hold our fans gaze.

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Jordan Mclean: ‘Jazz,’ Bass / Cameron Gaudin: ‘Cammy,’ Drums / Grant Malcolm: ‘G,’ Vocals & Guitar / Kevin Murphy Jnr: ‘Trev,’ Vocals & Guitar

Can you describe the dynamics of the band’s musicianship?
Cameron: We put the song first. Whatever we create as independent musicians within the group is to serve the song we’re working on. Paris Street Rebels aren’t a group that allow pretentious 10 minute guitar solos. It’s all about the story we’re trying to tell at that time.

Where do the band’s songs come from?
Jazz: Our songs are all about what’s happening around us, growing up in a place like we did you seen a lot of shit. They’re about our experiences and what we’ve seen other people go through, as well as all the shit that’s happening in the world today. Bands have always been social speakers, the times were living in now we need to speak up more than ever.

Can you tell us about the new single – what its about, where it came from?
Cameron: Kings Of Balado is the story of two perfect strangers spending a night lost in the festival campsite of Balado which was the long-term site of Scotlands legendary T in the Park. It pulls directly from our own lives and experiences and explores the importance of music festivals in general but also the spiritual connections we can all feel for each other in mass gatherings of these types. A unity. A temporary lifestyle lived briefly throughout the summer months. Festivals and other outdoor, hedonistic events like them serve as a blueprint for alternative society for young and old dis-satisfied with day-time TV and uneventful barbecues.

Can you describe the writing process of Kings of Balado?
Grant: When we were first writing ‘Kings Of Balado’ it started to sound like some ancient, pagan chant or incantation of some kind. There seemed to be something primal about that pounding, maddening mantra building to a crescendo like that. That mystical aspect really influenced the lyrical content of the tune. I immediately made a connection between that and a strange night I had spent years ago, one night when the Scottish weather was uncharacteristically sublime. Perfectly lost in the campsite of the T In Park festival held at Balado, ten minutes from my front door. I spent the whole night walking and talking with a complete stranger who I felt like I’d known forever. We talked about hopes, love, fears, politics, Stanley Kubrick and revelled in the human carnival going on all around us. It sure was a trip.

Can you tell us about the recording process?
Jazz: The track itself was a piece of piss to record. Once we locked into the feel of it we rattled the thing off without much fuss. Shout out to Chris Marshall & Johnny Madden of &West Studios who smashed it out of the park once again on production duties. The Wizards we call them…. magicians man.

What does the rest of 2019 have in store for the band?
Cameron: At the moment we are currently working on our next single release for our track ‘Kings of Balado’ which will be released April 12th along with a steady stream of gigs around Scotland. We also have several other singles set to be released steadily throughout the rest of 2019 which we cannot wait for you all to hear. Stay tuned.


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www.facebook.com/ParisStreetRebelsUK

Teenage Funkland 6: On the Road

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“I’m quintessentially English. I’m quintessentially French. When we go to Germany I’ll be quintessentially Kraut.” Jarvis Cocker


Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop; with a trip back to Burnley for his 18th birthday (11-06-94), on which occasion Oasis had kindly obliged to play a free concert in Preston for all his pals…


After being surrounded by so many familiar accents, suddenly we felt a little homesick. I then realised I was just about to turn eighteen – June 11th – & mentioned to Nick going back up North for a few days. We had been in Wales for a month, half of our free-rent-time, & so far we had done some pretty mad stuff. We had some proper tales to tell. Besides, there wasn’t a decent chippy for miles around Ynyssdu & Nick was growing sick of fish finger butties.

“Reyt idea!”

One of those stories was of course I meeting with The Stone Roses, a garbled account of which was now leaking out into the world – or perhaps the Geffen boys actually thought we were members of the band.

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1994 was a very different place – the height of the analogue age, but on the cusp of the digital revolution. In 1994, for example, there were 67 mobile phones for every 1,000 people in Britain. By 2004, there were more mobiles than people. Back in 94 the metrosexual revolution was in fill swing with Oddbins making wine-tasting available to anyone via 200 wines being quaff’d by the ‘less civilised’ members of society, leading to a serious surge in street-mooning & gutter-puking.

Meanwhile, out in the world of golf, the 19-year-old Tiger Woods was hurtling around gossipy player circles as ‘that brilliant black kid.’ Tiger, real-names Eldrick (his nick-name came from his dad’s Vietnam War buddy) was from Cypress, California, & at the age of 3 was shooting his dad’s 9-hole course in 48 shots.

I’ve never been materialistic at all. I just want to be the best golfer around. And I don’t mean the greatest black golfer around, I mean the best, period. Tiger Woods

Unfortunately Tiger was living in the same era as Kim Jung-Il, whose biography tells us he first picked up a golf club in 1994, at North Korea’s only golf course, and shot a 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he reportedly immediately declared his retirement from the sport.

Before we headed north, we had to back to Wales first to sign on, so we decided to break up the train-jump with our first visit to Stonehenge. We got off the train at Salisbury, dominated by her cathedral’s massive spire, then caught a bus up to the stones. It was nice enough, but fenced off so we couldn’t get stoned among those ancient monoliths, & like kiss ’em or summat. Instead we skinned up a couple of spliffs & spent a nice hour on a little rise not far away from the circle, the wide sweep of Salisbury plain all around us. In our reefer-haze we even wrote a new tune, called Blowin’ a Reefer on Salisbury Plain – tho’ lacking Weed’s classic status, we thought it would make a perfect b-side.

Meanwhile, in the world of philandering royalty, we were all still trying to get our heads around the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In June, Charles finally admitted his extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. He’d been secretly seeing her for years, but had been forced by higher powers to create heirs with Diana Spencer, some crazy Zionistic shit most likely.

After signing our souls away to the Man, we set off for Lancashire, knowing there would be couple of fat giros waiting for us when we got back. On the way up we heard that the Scottish MP Gordon Brown had pulled out of the Labour leadership race, leaving the door wide open for Tony Blair. They had decided to share the power, Blair getting first ‘dibs’ on the premiership, while Brown got the house next door.With hindsight, if Brown had realised he would have to play understudy for well over a decade, he might have changed his mind. But to two young lads in the middle of a Teenage Funkland, the news might as well have been in French. One bit of news did catch my attention, however.

“Yo Nick, Oasis are doing a free gig on my birthday in Preston.”

“That’s lucky Damo,”

“Aye, it is innit!”

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Jane Holdsworth

So we set off, me & Nick, plus a few friends in tow, including Jane – the girl I was seeing before I set off to Skegness. She was a bonny blonde & suffice it to say I woke up on the first full morning of my nineteenth year with her beside me. It was in the attic bedroom of her mum’s house in Brierfield, which is no longer standing. It was not far from a bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, & a year or so later, when we split up, I remember after one last night of farewell lovemaking, I took a ‘couple-photo’ from her room & threw it symbolically into the canal from the bridge – where it might be to this day!

Back in 1994, on the morning of my 18th birthday we had all bobbed along the East Lancashire train-line the 20 miles to Preston, where I quickly realised that train-jumping with 8 people was a lot trickier than with two. In the confusion half of us got there without paying, & we were soon approaching Preston’s  Avernam Park. It was a free festival in the old Castlemorton tradition, sponsored by Heineken Festival – a huge inflatable beer-can of whose over-shadowed the site. It was a Saturday & the third day out of four – The Charlatans had played on the Friday. This was also the first Heineken Festival of the summer, they’d be up & down the country for months.

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It was interesting to see that in a matter of a month or so since Newport, the Oasis crowd was getting bigger & more boisterous. When they took to the stage, a deep mooing footie chant kick’d off, the first time I had heard the now famous “O-A-SIS, O-A-SIS!” terrace-song. One prat chucked a beer at the stage, with Liam throwing a wobbler; “we’re not fuckin’ ‘aving that – were not playing,” he spurted out, but of course they played. kicking off with Shaker Maker.

Altho’ we were too young & bouncy to notice, the tent was also full of critics from ‘That London,‘ all finding themselves tapping their feet to the cultural phenomenon exploding before their eyes. The fact that none of them could understand Liam’s incoherent ramblings between numbers made them like the band even more. By the end everyone was buzzing, including a guy who climbed 50 feet to damce precariously on a metal strut on the roof of the marquee, before being chased Beny-Hill style by two security men off the park.

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I feel a real twat with Oasis, because the’re the first other band I’ve really loved since I joined a band myself. We’ve played with them a lot lately & I love hanging around with ’em, but I can’t talk to ’em properly cos I keep thinking ‘You bunch are fucking ace!”  Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys)

After another barnstorming, intoxicating, belligerent, blistering, mouth-full-of-chips-AND-gravy gig, me & Nick got the Gallagher brother’s autographs on the back of the same sheet of paper that the Stone Roses had signed, like proper starry-eyed fans. After Oasis came the Boo Radleys, who were alright. As Avenham Park began to empty me at the end, Jane & I said our goodbyes as Nick toddled off to Barlick with Ezy Ste, while my other mates went back to Burnley.

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Jane & my Grandma Joan

So I was off on a romantic birthday surprise trip to Blackpool, to where we caught a train at Preston.. As it was so packed after the free festy, the conductor never came & soon we were soon searching for a B&B in the English Vegas. As it was so packed the conductor never came & soon we were searching for a B&B in the English Vegas. Finding a suitably cheap & cheery one, we rushed to the Pleasure Beach for a birthday go on the recently opened Big One. It had put the Pleasure Beach back on the map after a decade of Alton Towers’ supremacy & was – for a while – the tallest roller-coaster in the world. It was also a good place to splice a wee snog with your girlfriend with innuendos about big ones – teenage foreplay at its most effective.

The Big One

Back at the B&B & indulging in some drunken pillow-talk,  Jane she mentioned she was going to Newquay with six other girls for a weeks holiday at the beginning of July.

“Wanna come?”

“Is the Pope polish?”

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The day after the day after my birthday, Oasis released their second single – the cocky superior sonic sneer of the copelling & addictive Shakermaker – & the Pyramid Stage burnt fireball-down at Glastonbury. The former, recorded & mixed in only 8 hours, would reach #11, while the latter was gone forever. Also released on June 13th was Shed Seven’s second single, Dolphin, two months before their debut ‘Change Giver’ album. I love Shed Seven me – the city of York’s wicked wee, pimp-rolling contribution to the 90’s soundscape -; Rick Witter was an oddball, dusky pixie with a stunning voice, whose Dolphin is a well funky track & A Maximum High (1996) is a fantastic album. Brit Pop at it most pearliest – beautifully posed, epic music  that brought the movement’s ethos to a true perfection.

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Not having a TV in Ynyssdu, I watched a bit of telly while up in Lancashire, including Chris Evans’  Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Between his stints fronting The Big Breakfast and the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, Chris Evans had devised and began hosting a Saturday night gameshow that bundled winning contestants off on holiday directly at the end of the show. It was a conceit that generated unprecedented levels of hysteria in the studio, not least on the occasion when they revealed they were sending the entire audience on a coach trip to EuroDisney. Suddenly the atmosphere was something akin to the away end when your team’s just scored a last minute winner. The only person not going completely wild was the somewhat perplexed studio guest, Barry White. Only in 1994.

Me & Nick were now buzzin’ about another gig that had rolled onto the horizon, like they do in the seemingly endless roll of parties that is the English Summer. Both Bjork & Oasis were playing the Saturday night at Glastonbury. We had never been to a proper festival before, but the time seemed right, especially with Jane & the Girls being a only a short train jump away in Cornwall just afterwards. We were young & at liberty to enjoy the keenly-felt experiences which were piling rapid-fire into our lives.

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After a week or so we borrowed Ezy Ste’s tent & set off South. We spent a couple of nights in Stratford-Upon-Avon en route, calling on an old mate of mine from Accy Road, Mark Hancock. We found him in this candlelit park where a load of actors were having a rather la-de-da party. He was raving about Prozac, popping open a blister pack of green-and-white capsules and declaring he had seen the light. We declined – we preferred pills that made us dance, preferably to Techno. But we had some beers & it was reyt enough to see him – I had just turned eighteen after all, & felt like a proper adult talking about Shakespeare & all that stuff. So Mark got us tickets to see a play called Peer Gynt at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.


It would be hard to imagine a face less likely to stoop to gloating than the noble wreckage of Barton’s countenance. Prodded about the entirely negative critical response to Ninagawa’s mammoth god, though, he admits: ‘Of course it was heartening if one was taking the opposite approach. But one also felt for the actors and for the main fellow (Michael Sheen) who was so valiant and good. I mean, you can’t do international casting as Peter Brook does unless you can really communicate with everyone and work together. It looked like a Great Dictator production – you know, ‘I’ve got my lighting; I’ve got my design; I’ve got my concept; I’ve got my film of onions. And in between there are some scenes.’

Paul Taylor (The Independent Newspaper, May 1994)


 

It was a curious experience, watching high-brow theatre proper stoned like. In later years I would develop a definitive appreciation for the dramatical arts – I’m a theatre critic for example – but for the 18-year-old Damo watching Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece found no amplification, no guitars & no catchy choruses. It was time to get to Glasto.

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TEENAGE FUNKLAND

———

1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

Victor Pope’s Mardi Gras

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It is currently impossible to cross the road for an indeterminable distant due to lots of things like this. Happy fuckin’ Mardis gras bitches!


Edinburgh’s most majestic songwriter loves a bit of jazz. He also likes to write witty & exciting three-part travelogues in America


 

PART 1: HAPPY LANDINGS

 

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I arrived in New Orleans to a stifling heat and no rain, despite what the forecast had predicted. Retiring to the smoking area for a wee snout I discovered a discarded packet of Marlboro Lights. Initial signs were good. After a long wait the bus came to pick us up. The sign telling us which stop we were at wasn’t working and the bus driver hadn’t heard of my destination, but with a little help from a friendly Cuban lady I managed to get to the apartment. The room was very clean and it was late by the time I arrived so I decided to get an early night and in so doing beat the Jet Lag.

I woke early on Saturday and headed straight into town. After a decidedly suspect breakfast of fried oysters and grits (a disgusting porridgy substance) I made a beeline to Bourban street. The parade was in full swing, the French facades and balconies teeming with revelers in bright clothes, and occasionally not so much clothes, flinging long strings of cheap plastic beads at each other, which seems to be the done thing. Music poured out of every doorway and it wasn’t long before I was chilling in a bar with a cold beer listening to some hard rocking blues played by a way wood looking rabble of rogues begging us for tips so they could keep their kids in beer and cigarettes. From there I made my way down to the Mississippi where a gigantic steamboat greeted me. They apparently did tours but I was more interested in the airboats. Yes – you can go down the Mississippi on an airboat after all. You shall go to the ball! Gentle Ben bitches!! I booked the trip for Thursday, by which time my Mardis Gras hangover should have mellowed.

I inquired with a local busker if there were any open mic nights and he told me there was one at a bar called Check Point Charlies. He warned me it was rough but when I told him I was from Leith where trainspotting was based he said I’d be fine. After a little more music I headed west with the aid of a tourist map I’d picked up to hit Lafayette cemetery where easy Rider was partly filmed. It was a long walk through hoards of revelers, crossing the road practically impossible with all the garish floats laden with elaborately costumed dancers pumping out obnoxiously loud rhythms. But hell, this was what I’d signed up for.

By the time I got to the cemetery it was closed, so I’m going there today instead. The parade finally died down and I managed to cross the road and hit a live jazz bar where I enjoyed the greatest burger I’ve had in my entire life. Hickory sauce with crispy bacon and a melt in the mouth patty cooked to perfection. From there I headed back to the French Quarter only to be trapped once again by a second wave of floats. All I wanted to do was get the bus but this was impossible. No access due to party. And it never ended! I followed the whole procession all the way up the main drag – Canal street – until I was pretty much home by the time I could cross the road. Approximately 3 miles later! So I cut my losses and decided I might as well hit the hay.

Yesterday I headed straight for Check Point Charlie and the area where I’d been told the best music was to be heard. Sure enough it was hipster paradise with boutique coffee shops, gay and lesbian bookshops, real ale bars. But it had a good feel so I spent most of the day there going from bar to bar to keep out of the rain which had started in earnest. I was told that the sign in time for the open mic was seven o’clock. By which time I was told there was no open mics while Mardis gras was happening. So I guess I’d shot myself in the foot there. Oh well. The bar was cool at least. A regular Bukowski dive full of the shadiest dregs of society. A sign on the bar read “Danger – Men drinking”. I felt right at home and soon got chatting to a couple of the local ladies who kept me in drinks all night. They said they liked me but they didn’t trust me. I guess you’ve just got to take what you can get. The night dissolved into an alcoholic blur and I can’t remember much after the sambucas. Needless to say I’m not at my best this morning and so apologize if my writing is a bit sloppy. But I’m ready for another day. A nice breakfast and a walk to the Easy Rider cemetery should sort me out. As far as the food goes. Keeping it simple seems to be the way forward. Until next time – happy fuckin’ Mardis Gras bitches!

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My palatial obode for the next ten days. Currently having oyster holondaise with grits for breakfast. Wish me luck!


 

PART 2: MARDI GRAS

 

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You’re never far from home – this is literally the next street along from mine!

After finishing up in the library I headed back to the cemetery only to find it closed again. And apparently for the whole of Mardis Gras. So I guess I wouldn’t be spending it taking acid there like in easy rider. I was hungover and desperate for some scram so I got myself a tuna sandwich and a bucket of cola. Still didn’t feel right as I crawled my way back to the French quarter. Coffee didn’t work, hair of the dog didn’t work, and by this point I felt so full of liquid I would burst if I took another drop. So I opted for one of my own unique hangover cures – a nice feelgood film at the cinema. It was another long walk and the film wasn’t on for another hour but I could wait. The film I saw was Fighting with my Family – an unlikely collaboration between Stephen Merchant and Dwain “The Rock” Johnson about a female wrestler from Norwich who makes it big in WWE. A very inspiring, life affirming and funny true story. Just what I needed. I decided to get the taxi back into the city, I’d had enough of walking. Ann Macintosh had recommended a club back on Frenchmen that was apparently good. After some fish I went in and was greeted by the sounds of dixieland swing. Played more than competently by a mixed bag of lively musos of all ages. It was OK, but it still wasn’t the magic I was looking for and it wasn’t quite enough to lift me entirely out of my delicate state and start dancing. So I caught a bus home and decided to live to fight another day. And fight I would have to. It was Mardis Gras!

After a long wait on the bus mixing with a little of the local color I arrived back on Canal Street – New Orlean’s main drag. And the carnival was in full swing. Garish floats crowded with the kind of black and white make up that made Robinson’s jam so controversial and tossing out endless plastic beads, plastic cups and occasionally foam footballs to the greedy, eager hands of the punters below. As it was Mardis Gras I felt I had no choice but to instantly start work on my next hangover. My first beer came at 11am with a delicious roast beef po-boy and from there I had no choice but to follow the parade wherever it took me. Crossing the road was out of the question. Imagine a kind of massive game of snake only more colorful and a bit more drunk. So I snaked my way from bar to bar realizing it was impossible to get back to the French Quarter. I was almost back at the cemetery when the crowd finally relented and I was able to cross the street. Now, more than a little buzzed off the beer and jack Daniels and coke slushy. About half an hour later I was back in the French Quarter where I found a smoking bar. No beer. Just smoking. And the infamous Coyote Ugly bar from off of that film. Complete with slender, scantily clad glitter bunnies bopping on the bar. Like the port of Leith on steroids. I chose not to enter. It scared me a little. Instead I opted for another bar back on Frenchmen where there was some decidedly mediocre blues playing. I was starting to get a little disillusioned with this town. So I took my slightly drunk self up a few buildings and wham! Dixie land in overdrive. Smells like Teen spirit was being blasted out on horns by an all dancing, all rapping gang of eager young ne’er do wells. Energy and vibrancy buzzed off the stage and put all the other acts I’d seen up to that point to shame. And yes I felt my foot tapping, my hips swaying, my arms flailing and before I knew where I was I was dancing. Music this good is so infectious you have no choice. And it just got better! The next band mixed up popular melodies with wild improvisations that always landed perfectly on harmonies so tight there was barely air between them. All delivered with such effortless joy and what can only be described as psychic communication it kind of made me just want to smash up my guitar and give up the whole sorry show. But instead I decided to dance. The saxophonist particularly impressed me. Not that he was the best player. That was definitely the man mountain of the bastard bellows trumpet player. But the saxophonist just looked so crazy.

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The last bastion of civilization…

He was on the stage before anyone else bouncing about like a kid on too much orange juice and candy. A tiny guy but with muscles so well defined he’d put Bruce Lee to shame. In his little white wife beater. He spent the first few minutes of the gig staring angrily at the crowd while periodically glaring at his phone. But pretty soon he was bouncing and glowing like the rest of his merry gang of renegades. A star in the making mark my words. The music kept going but I couldn’t. Drinking since 11 had took it’s tole and 12 hours later I was ready for my taxi home. But New Orleans had finally delivered – and it was contemporary – who’d have thunk it?
Today it’s ash Wednesday and things apparently get a bit religious. Holy water for beer then I guess…?


PART 3: ALIGATORS

 

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Praise Jebus! I’ve found my religion!!

Ash Wednesday turned out to be a bit of a non event and besides a few church goers with a dirty cross daubed on there foreheads there was nothing much to report. I spent much of the day just eating and drinking and wondering around the city. Only this time I had my bearings a little better and wasn’t spending quite as much time asking people for directions. I wound up back on Frenchmen eating a burger, enjoying a couple of beverages and listening to some sweet gypsy jazz. All very pleasant. The only thing that tarnished the experience was the constant tipping that is required of you. It seems the whole country is built on tips. I haven’t checked my bank account since I got here but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be pretty. I decided to turn in early as I had a big day planned for Thursday and wanted to be at full power. Riding the bus home I noticed that not many white folks take the bus outside of Mardis Gras. And there you go Mira – that’s my comment on race!

Thursday I started out early with a shower then headed to Canal for an Ihop breakfast of bacon omelette. Not bad. They really do like cream and cheese here though. I had a couple of hours to kill before my air-boat tour so I went for dessert at Pinkberry. I heartily recommend their cookie cream ice-cream. Perfect comfort food. A little wonder down the river front later it was time to catch my bus out to the swamp. It was a little late in coming but we got there. The buildings thinning out as we crossed the river, a couple of the dilapidated houses looking like they came straight out of a horror film or maybe To Kill a Mocking Bird. Coupled with the anonymous stores and retail complexes ubiquitous to the American landscape. When we got the docks I was in hog heaven. Gentle Ben in full effect! Air-boats everywhere. I was on 15 so I made my way and boarded. A seat right at the front. The guide was an incredibly lively fellow, dancing on the spot as he rapped out the names of fishes and plants and Louisiana delicacies. There was no room for shyness apparently so I tried to chip my awe in. Although my comment on the cemetery being closed ‘cus people were pissing on the graves didn’t go down as well as I’d hoped. As we hit the open water he opened up the engine and pretty soon we were flying along just like in that beloved 80s children show, barely skimming the shore. We slowed down as we entered the narrow bayous. Trees I can’t remember the name of looking like they were dripping furn from their branches. You know the ones. You see them on TV all the time.

Then we slowed and right in front of us 2 alligators. A big one lazing on the shore and a smaller one in the water. Why was the smaller one in the water? Because he was stupid according to our all knowing guide who was merrily screaming at him and chucking marshmallows for him to eat. It seems most marshland beasts are fond of marshmallows. This being the preferred bait for every creature we came across. A thoroughly delightful couple of hours marred only by the fact that my face was now burning due to the deceptively strong sun. Our tour guide seemed to enjoy himself the most though. His enthusiasm was infectious. I would say he was only doing it for the tips but he never even asked for any. I gave him one anyway.

Back in the city I decided to celebrate my new found knowledge of Gators by eating some. Gator poppers. Deep fried balls of alligator very popular with the locals apparently. Tasted like chicken. I also tried another local delicacy – red beans and rice. Not bad at all if a little filling. Then I was off to the cinema to see Captain Marvel. The latest in the Marvel film franchise. Purely for the sake of me being able to say I’d seen it first. I won’t say too much about in case there are any Marvel fans in the audience. Suffice to say it does most of the things expected of a Marvel film.

This morning I got the laundry done and my delightful host gave me a lift to the shop for some well needed travel equipment and to a well known seafood restaurant for the still elusive boiled craw-fish. They were no longer elusive and quite delicious. All I had left on my food checklist now was the famous fried shrimp po-boy. Which I think I’ll have tonight. I’m afraid this will be the last entry as tomorrow I’m on a steamboat and Sunday I head home. So, for those of you who have bothered to read them, I hope you have enjoyed my little adventures and see you back in blighty!

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Alligators eat marshmallows, rabbit, fish, other alligators but not humans. They can live for up to 300 years, they can survive without food for more than 2 years, predate dinosaurs and now I’m eating one – alligators bitches!