Thursday, April 23, 2009

White Train

Seven O'clock in the morning and I'm carrying bags under my eyes
Been awake all night, counting the hours to sunrise
Drawing patterns on the tabletop, I lift my eyes and my mouth just dropped

Actually, its nearer three am: in the moonlit sky overhead there is a single cloud traversing the liquid-still night air; lights are twinkling golden-yellow in the distance – a new dawn is somewhere out there beyond the black, beyond the horizon as, far away, a train rumbles headlong through the endless night as a song runs around and around my mind like a child’s Hornby double-O miniature steam-locomotive on a circular track.

On board, one of Elvis’ GI Blues buddies wonders out loud what the King’s doing with his nose pressed up against the compartment window as another black and white static station rushes past in the darkness:

Someone’s waving in the window at me and I say "Hey, what are you waving at?"
And he says "What do I have to lose, somebody might wave back"

Do you remember those times when you’d come across this or that piece of music and think… oh fxxk, that’s so bloody brilliant… I know, so-and-so would really like that…

Those particular lyrics are taken from the same record that spawned one of the more extraordinary three-song, second side of vinyl triptychs – The Big Music segued neatly into Red Army Blues / The Song Of The Steppes with the album closer being the title track itself, A Pagan Place – a jangling wall of twelve-string acoustic guitars that Phil Spector himself would have been proud of.

Back in the distant, a bloke who I’d first got to know as a writer for Ireland’s Hot Press – the world’s most fortnightly magazine – camped out at my cottage in Surrey; he came for a couple of weeks and stayed for a few months having moved over the water after landing himself a job working for MCA in London. One night he got back with a bagful of new releases all of which he was eager to play me. One (sorry to say) non entity followed another; most of it totally forgettable disco-twaddle.

After a bit, there was no hiding the fact that none of his twelve inch platters were floating the Storey boat.

Perhaps my friend would like to hear something from my own bag of tricks? Because that very day, the first test pressings of that particular Waterboys magnum opus had arrived in St Peters Square and so… the volume was adjusted to rather loud and the needle dropped in at the required position and we settled back.

I’d taken the precaution of not telling him what I was about to play him and, twenty minutes later, my friend opened his eyes in stunned silence, mouthing – Holy Mother, what on earth was that – its… I’ve never heard anything like it… it’s… Whereupon, adjectives deserted him like James Joyce with writer’s block at closing time.

Those…now, those really are the moments.

Because then… grinning wildly ‘cos someone has got off on something you’d play for them and all fired up with sharing-enthusiasm, one would hunt high and low to find a spare cassette or maybe even just sellotape up the snapped out tabs so’s the machine would actually record on it; link up your deck with your tape machine, press record and W amount of minutes later, you’d have a tape of album X or single Y or perhaps you’d even have made up compilation Z to give to your music loving pal.

Nothing much wrong with that… is there? Was there?

Nope… other than it was (is) technically illegal.

Remember when video was young and had its sharpened knives out, but… did it really kill the radio star? All those HMV’s, the Woolworths, the WH Smiths and Our Price’s with racked up banks of blank VHS cassettes – buy ten and get two more off the shelf for free.

What were they for – to record your own shows off of the TV; your favourite movies and videos when MTV transmitted something of worth during a time when music videos were like little movies in their own right.

Nothing wrong with that… was there? Wasn’t that long ago either.

Yet… here we are in the digital age and that thirty year-old Musicians Union fuelled ‘home taping is killing music’ mantra from way back then has reared its ugly head all over again.

Only, this time around – its serious. Very serious.

This time though, its as follows: illegal file sharing will, if current world-wild-west-like attitudes are allowed to persist, kill the creative industries. Note – that’s kill as in eliminate as opposed to cause a bit of damage and maim.

Plus, this current crisis isn’t just consigned to music any more; it now includes the movie industry as much as it does music.

Don’t believe me – then try this for size: according to a recent report from the TV & Film Industry Trust, during 2007, ninety-five million films were illegally downloaded in the UK alone compared with 158,000 legal downloads.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been following the responses to an article in The Guardian; a piece written by, without question, the most successful artist manager of modern times and, de facto, one of the wealthiest men in the western hemisphere.

Ladeeeeeeeeeeez and gentlemen, in the blue corner weighing in at two hundred and twenty-six pounds… from Dublin Ireland… Paul, ‘the bludger’, McGuinness.

And in the red corner… weighing in at seven pounds ninety-nine… from Pleasantville, New Jersey, the challenger… Pete, ‘the snitch’, Youngfella.

The tolling of the bell: Round One.

McGuinness opens with a fine jab to Youngfella’s solar plexus with reasoned and informed argument concerning piracy and the free-as-a-bird internet culture that has not only invaded today’s society but has become so pervasive as to actually cause real bodily harm whereby creators of content are not getting paid. Properly.

Youngfella reels back on the ropes but counters with a left hook to the chin: I know nothing of the machinations of superstar rock band management; however, I do know this. I was first exposed to U2 by way of a shared cassette version of Unforgettable Fire, loaned to me by my high school friend. Did he have the legal right to give me his cassette which I might have taken home and duped? No.

Did his gesture directly influence my subsequent purchases of every album in the U2 discography and cause U2 to be my first concert-going experience? Indubitably.

Before you take slapdash aim at the world's unpaid, viral messengers--the Gladwellian connectors, if you will--please be circumspect and consider how these folks have helped line your pockets and those of your clients. No doubt, your polarizing words will only weaken the fanciful bonds we fans feel for your clients. We'll see at last that all along we've not been paying witness to U2's life and times--but instead paying money towards your stolid bottom line.


Youngfella has a point.

I’m not about to agree with all that he says – certainly not the inherent bitterness contained within his (her) final paragraph but… there is a point in there. Because…

Part and parcel of the rise… and rise… and rise… of that little combo from Dublin was all about ‘passing the musical word along’. How do I know? Because, I was (for my sins or otherwise) one of the two – initial – prime-movers behind that entire process. The Island press office – and that was just Rob and self back in the day – spent inordinate amounts of time sending out tapes to the taste-makers, fans, friends, allies… in fact, pretty much anyone who we figured would help ‘spread the word’.

That was our job – magnified to the power of X because we loved the band and their music – equals, it wasn’t much of a hardship, if anything it was totally the reverse… nothing but a pleasure. The (our) reward – which came when they started breaking big, was… well – that just equated to… job’s a good ‘un. No more, no less.

We’d actively encourage the emerging little cells of fans… after all, we were the keepers of the keys to show-tickets / pre-release tapes etc and those who spread the word were never, ever ignored. This is where the likes of Tony the Greek – the John the Baptist of Manchester, enters the equation… he too fought the good fight in his Mancunian corner and spread the musical word from earliest days that played a part in the snowball effect – ‘cos that was really all it was.

Fans – and we all were – spreading the word to other fans of good music.

The tastemakers in America – just as one example – reacted (not least ‘cos they were prodded and cajoled somewhat by us) but also because they were reading about what those – who we’d earlier prodded / nudged – were writing about… this therefore, ultimately, became a bigger, more global, snowball. Naturally, nothing would have worked if the music had been crap – and, thankfully, it wasn’t.

The (overall) point is… this was all about scattering the seeds… and, part of how it was done – as emphasized by the comments above – was via a bit of home-taping… whereby, musician X or artist Y or band Z do not reap the physical rewards for their endeavours – the rewards (in this particular instance) came, over time, in other shapes and guises.

We’d no idea – at the time – that we were working with a band who were destined to become as gigantic as they have over the years.

So… here’s the rub.

Near enough every single response to McGuinness’ article – that first appeared in France Le Figaro before transforming itself as a Guardian piece, have been unequivocally critical of his stance – and, the vast majority from the base that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. While the underlying cynicism of McGuinness’ own prose and arguments come from the quarter populated by people who believe he (and his band) are rich enough as it is.

So what that he and his band are multi-zillionarires? I’d have thought that was to be applauded as a yardstick of (generally) great music and extremely clever management and not riled against since Paul – from day one – always emphasized that he wasn’t in the music business. Nope… he was in a different game altogether, the U2 business.

And yet the voice that he has – a very senior voice at that – that is calling for change and applauding change that could protect creators (not just his wards but future creators) is being lambasted.

The irony is that, this week in New York, a real-life sea-bandit is about to go on trial; the whole world is up in arms that piracy on the high seas is a reality in the 21st century and not just a figment of Errol Flynn’s Hollywood imagination. Meantime and in the same timeframe, a wad (was ever there a more apposite collective noun) of bankers – who are responsible for the disintegration of a once-great industry – are appearing in front of a cross-bench selection of Parliamentarians to finally answer for their (mis)deeds.

Music / movie / banking piracy via the internet is precisely the same kind of thievery; the playing field isn’t the rolling seas but the ether.

Nor is there any longer an excuse of… well, everyone’s doing it so why not me.

Further to which, this is a far cry from copying a few tracks of vinyl onto tape and giving it to your mate for his / her musical pleasure.

That kind of ‘file-sharing’ will continue until hell freezes over – and so it should; that kind of exchange of music, the turning onto something one to another is nothing other than healthy and I cannot imagine a single creative person being against that.

However… wholesale piracy, whereby creators of content (musical or filmic) simply don’t get paid their just dues for creating the content that’s being shared willy nilly is another matter entirely.

Everyone is right in arguing that the internet shouldn’t be policed – after all, we live in enough of an invasive nanny-state (wherever in the world) as it is… and more of that sort of stuff is, so far as I’m concerned, to be resisted at all costs.

So… is there a solution – whereby the ‘creatives’ are paid a fair whack?

The short-term – well… maybe… Thankfully, the Swedish Pirate Bay blokes are now – despite lodging appeals – behind bars and on the receiving end of a hefty fine… and rightly so. The IFPI, who led the charge on that particular issue have come down heavy… and about time to.

Yet, for every one put away and heavily financially sanctioned, another will spring up… remember Napster, they didn’t think they were doing anything ‘wrong’… did they? And what about Kazaa or Grotsker? Pretty much the same business model as Pirate Bay used. Very lucrative, thanks awfully.

Lets look at it another way.

You want a nice new iPhone? Doesn’t really matter in which country you live – you toddle off to shop X and sidle up to the counter as eager as a beaver in sight of a nice juicy tree and engage the sales-person in a bit of small talk. There in the background, on the shelf behind him / her is an array of gleaming iPhones… oh yummy… soon one will be in my hands.

But not before you sign up on the dotted line; and not just for the lovely, oh so lovely iPhone… oh no. Your billing details are required, credit card has to be swiped and… you’re locked into a service provider (such as O2 or AT&T) – at rates they specify – for X amount of years.

Reality is that that gleamingly lovely, oh so lovely iPhone has cost the equivalent of a half-decent second hand car.

OK – so it does everything bar make toast – but, (and it’s the same for all of the new must-have gadgets), there is a price to pay.

So, whats the difference between that and this – perhaps its these cultural times we live in: meaning that so much and for so long that’s available on the internet has been, by and large, available for free that the (new) culture has built up to accept and – more worryingly – expect that.

Music… movies… I don’t need to pay for that anymore… do I? After all, I can pretty much get any kind of news I want for free so why not a bit of entertainment too?

Two things, in my view, have to change.

First, the internet has to start looking after itself – it’s a vast shop window (as some form of analogy) and… until it appropriately realizes that and actually starts to properly charge for its services – and, yes, I know that’s a very simplistic view – but, until it stops giving itself (content) away for free, then the culture will continue to grow; the culture that has learned to expect this magical thing to offer up itself for nothing.

Second, there is a long-term solution and that is… education. The education of not this generation of children or tweens, but the next. This generation is already too far gone – the real work has to start with the very young.

Within that, is the culture of dissent – as determined by the respondents to McGuinness’ article in the Guardian; the how dare you brigade who, for reasons that I cannot fathom out, took it upon themselves to liberally lash out at a man who – by and large – hasn’t made a bad fist of looking after his clients through the years. And maybe, that was where the problem lies – the so-called fat-cats are easy targets; they’ve made a lot of money so why should they worry.

But, that missed McGuinness point entirely; he was arguing for the next, aspirational, generation – there will be no creators of content (the knitters of the angora sweaters) in time to come IF their work (the jerseys) are given away for free.

For this generation, though, the ship has already sailed.

This impasse that is now confronting the law-makers and law-enforcers is a real wake-up call for one and all. On the one hand, there are moves afoot to digitize the globe by creating broadband infrastructures that are akin to a new industrial revolution that coud open the floodgates for new business; on the other, that same infrastructure could – unless properly figured out – enable a bull-rush of illegality. Governments around the world are in that difficult position of having to face front and back at the same time; they have to placate broken-down or breaking industries while, at precisely the same time, encouraging and supporting the innovations that are killing them

And so, as much as they may not like it, a lot of this is going to be down to the ISP’s – the Internet Service Providers. Because, whether they like it or not, they're also the prime-educators of the next generation too.

Which all begs the question… on which train are the real Pirates of Penzance travelling?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bumpers West

Phew... two days of being more or less cough-drop-free; perhaps those doses in moderation of the gargle-ghastly orange liqueur have had something to do with that?

In any event, it’s a blessed relief not walking around, bent double as yet another hacking-fit dive-bombs my chest like a WW2 Stukka; howling and whining from afar before clattering my sides until all the energy has been soundly thrashed from my very being.

Then again, I did learn that there are other things that could well have contributed to that recent bout of not being terribly well – for instance and here’s a little known fact; bread and mushrooms could well have conspired as a possible root cause.

Really… since, apparently, both contain some kind of fungoid that, unless eaten in moderation, can lead to… the shite build up internally and… you know the rest.

So… that’s one lesson learned; cut down on the mushroom omelettes.

Better that though, than lending one’s chest out to become a practice (g)round for apprentice panel-beaters – but… better still than being an apprentice Celebrity I suppose; or did I read that wrong and should it have been Celebrity apprentice?

In any event, a bit more than one could learn from celebrity apprenticeship (or whichever way round its meant to be)… I mean, what on earth is that all about or… is it simply symptomatic of the very depths that television makers are nowadays prepared to plumb? I guess it has to be; after all – sooner or later ratings will show that viewers have voted with their remote controls; if I could find it, I’d rather watch professional bull riding. At least you learn a couple of things from that.

One is, you’d have to be clinically insane to even attempt it and the second is, chances are you’re unlikely to father many children after a few encounters with a two-ton bull that’s going to demonstrate just how much it’d prefer you not to be straddling its back.

But perhaps, just perhaps there would be a way to do it… for instance – by getting as trolleyed as one can via visiting one of Amsterdam’s notorious coffee shops. You know the places, where not a lot of coffee is drunk but a great deal of high quality ganja is ingested.

Of course, I’ve only ever walked past such places… oh – ok, maybe I peeked inside a couple of times… yeah, ok… but I only did it like Monica Lewinsky was told to say… honest injun.

Anyhow… it seems that the city fathers of Holland’s second city have rather screwed up of late; they’ve declared Amsterdam a no-smoking zone… in much the same way that most of the world has become… so no real surprises there but… that edict has been fxxxxd up, big-time, by the coffee-shops.

There has been, so I’ve discovered, a bit of a revolt and the city elders have relented a bit whereby the coffee shops – alledgedly – are now subdivided or partitioned by large sheets of glass. (I wouldn’t really know, would I, ‘cos that's not the sort of place I’d ever go in… is it?)

So… on the one side you have the smokers and tokers… on the other, the coffee drinkers are to be found. Why they can’t do that in pubs in Britain and Ireland and elsewhere is beyond me but, I guess it’d do the healthy-living gestapo out of a job.

Anyway, from what I gather, while the dividing glass partitions are all in place, only one half of these emporiums is much used… and its not the caffeine intake side. Well, now… what a big surprise that is.

Almost as big a surprise to discover who was actually short-listed as being the most influential recording executive of the last fifty years and as presented at last week’s Music Week awards.

The winner – by a country mile was, of course, Chris Blackwell – according to my mole inside the judging operation, pretty much a one-vote race. However… shortlisted against the legend that is CB were the likes of Sir George Martin and others of that major-league ilk (and quite rightly) but… in amongst those true achievers was… Simon Cowell.

Can you understand that..? No, nor can I. I mean – sure, he doubtless has been frightfully (frighteningly) successful with the Factor X show and Celebrity Squares – that was him wasn’t it… I get frightfully muddled with all these Celebrity this and that things… But, anyhow, here’s the rub…

While the high-wa(i)sted one may have signed up various non-entity warbling Poodles with a career lifespan of five minutes… I don’t believe he signed and nurtured the late, great John Martyn… or Steve Winwood… nor Bob Marley… and Jess Roden… or Nick Drake… and Robert Palmer… along with the myriad of other greats that came under his extraordinary wing over the years.

Then again, I could be much mistaken.

Is it just me or are we still all living in the Theatre of the Absurd?

'cos I've also noticed... on the one hand... there are the likes of the those who’re claiming that the recession is gradually becoming a thing of the past… oh yea, really…?

And, on the other – and to compound that obscene felony – there are the people at Goldmine Sacks who’re about to snaffle colossal pay hikes?

When will someone somewhere say enough is enough for these Merchant (B)ankers and actually stand up, be properly counted and say NO… you bloody well cannot.

Its enough to make the blood boil.

However, a perfect remedy to all of that has reared its little head in the last forty-eight hours or so; one that absolutely guaranteed to reduce the Storey blood pressure – oh, hell… why oh why do I get so worked up about all of this?

Via winged e-note oodles of music has found its way through the ether; music that I’ve been without in my digital life for frankly far too long.

Lately, I’ve stumbled across a couple of what I believe to be ‘blogs’ that have been loosely centered around the musical disappearance of the Kidderminster Kid – Jess Roden; possessor of one of the finest sets of lungs this side of Orleans, new or otherwise.

And, its on one of these 'blogs' that I've encountered my newest best-friend.

I won’t claim to be a big fan of the Alan Bown! (yes the exclamation mark is deliberate as that’s how the band’s name was way back when). That was the group that Jess joined after he quit his own, first group, The Shakedown Sound.

It was only after he left – replaced by none other than former Mister Mandrake himself, Robert Palmer, did Jess cross the Storey radar. The group – Bronco.

Not by any stretch of imagination, the greatest band name – although, just maybe its reference to a well known brand of lavatory paper was neatly tongue-in-cheek. Be that as it may, they and I came into contact via the first Island double album sampler; the truly magnificent Bumpers – of which a fair bit was written about last November on this little Voltaire out on its grassy knoll in the windswept prairie.

Their four minutes, forty-odd seconds was called Love and it was bookended by a track from Traffic (Every Mother’s Son) that was, in fact, going to be one of the cuts off of the long awaited Winwood solo album before it became part of the masterpiece that was John Barley Corn Must Die and Spooky Tooth’s epic reading of I Am The Walrus; top-end grunge before Kurt Cobain had even been born. The fourth track off that side of the double set was by Quintessence and, if I’m honest, that never got played a great deal.

The first three tracks wore out more needles (than Cobain ever did) on more than enough gramophones though – sublime music; yes just a bit. Mind you, I’d no idea who this Bronco were, but… whoever they were, the sounded bloody fantastic. And, as often is the case, the job of the compilation as a marketing device worked – the very day that Country Home, Bronco’s first album hit the stores, I was there with my 32 hard earned shillings and six pence to nail it and bring it on home.

That too got more than a bashing on the embryonic stereo of the time. I would sit listening away, trying to work out just who might be who on the grainy inner sleeve – a bunch of people hanging out by a hippy camp fire. Dreams were dreamed ‘cos, to my little underdeveloped teenage mind this was what it was all about… make great music, hang out in the woods with girls in long dresses. The days when summer never became autumn.

How the next bit came about I really can’t remember – there were a bunch of us at school, a bloke called Roger Williams, myself and a chap called Mike Brown (nowadays a lay preacher in Australia) and… somehow or other, we either persuaded – it must’ve been like that – or cajoled in some way or other those in charge of us (the masters) at school to book Bronco to perform. Not a clue what the fee would have been; maybe a hundred quid or so..?

Bradfield – which I was at, boasted a proper Greek Theatre in the depths of Berkshire and so, one summer’s evening – I would have been seventeen at the time – the band and their support act, Gracious! (and yes, again, the exclamation mark is intended), bowled up in a couple of white transit vans. A proper band in amongst us acne'd teenagers... the excitement was pure and unbridled.

I don’t believe the entire school turned out but there must have been a good three to four hundred in the audience down in the Greek Theatre and we – the quasi-organisers – were roped in to help unload the gear and generally get in the way of the ‘roadies’s. God, but it was exciting… they had a road crew, they all had really long hair and it was loud, very loud – this was real (to us) rock ‘n roll right in our midsts.

And, for me, only the second band I’d ever seen play live – the first being the Fairports debut their classic Liege and Lief line-up at the South Bank; a night when Nick Drake played support but, being of the uber-cool persuasion, I never bothered to show for his set, deeming it un-cool to see the support act – oh, how very very wrong one can be.

Gracious! featured a huge mellotron and were pretty impressive – indeed, one of their members was Alan Cowderoy who later went on to work at Stiff – but that’s another story. But… Bronco were it… for me, anyway. They played most if not all of their debut album and, I think a fair smattering of what would become their next.

As over-enthusiastic teenagers, we all hung around afterwards – doubtless asking a shed load of stupid, asenine questions and generally getting in the way as gear and equipment was loaded away; one of those most magical evenings when you know, you just know that your life is changing before your very eyes.

But, this week in particular, being seventeen has all been brought back into sharp focus as someone of truly kind disposition has taken pity on my not having any of his music on my i-Pod and has been firing across email attachments containing five or six cuts at a time.

Illegal file sharing – yeah, maybe but… you know what, this exchange of music (and I’ve been firing back like for like) has been nothing other than music fans sharing great music.

As a consequence, I’ve now got both Bronco albums to play to my heart’s content together with much but not all (yet) of the solo years and, of course, there’s the Jess Roden Band material to conjure with too – first time I’ve ever had this as digital and, having not listened to it in absolutely aeons, much of it… not all by any stretch of the imagination… but a big proportion sounds just as good as it did the very first day the needle dropped down onto the Dansette.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Losing Game

Over the past few days, its become quite clear that the disgusting tasting herbal remedies haven’t been working… at all; this edition of man-flu has become absolutely rampant and is showing no sign of dissipating whatsoever.

Not only has the Peruvian boa-constrictor’s grip on my chest extended to become vice-like but I’ve also exhausted bulk supplies of conventional Kleenex – the maximum strength variety with the accompanying blurb on the box that ‘claims’ said paper-hankies won’t dissolve into a soggy mass when tissue x comes into close contact with gummed-up nose y.

Wrong – I’ve become proof positive that Kleenex’s marketing department’s packaging hype is total bollox.

The only thing that works, the single item strong enough to deal with this level of nasal purging is conventional, two-ply kitchen roll.

However, while that works a treat, there is a downside – in that my nose and surrounding has started to peel and shred. If I carry on like this for much longer, I’ll be able to role-model for one of Michael Jackson’s new noses.

Time to seek out an alternative to the alternative cure.

Now, I admit that I’m not entirely certain of my facts here but… allegedly… in times past – and this could be Victorian or… maybe Mediaeval… or possibly sometime further back in the Dark Ages – doctors, be they of the witch-variant or those who’d taken some form of the Hippocratic oath, would hang their patients upside down in the belief that the build-up of mucus, phlegm and other shite that makes up man-flu would be cured by gravity.

While I’m a bit of a fan of many things Mediaeval, that doesn’t much appeal… so, I have a squint elsewhere to discover… the writings of Sri Swami Sivananda.

And, according to this bloke – doubtless from the Indian sub-continent – my Kundalini can only be released if… One should become perfectly desireless and should be full of Vairagya before attempting to awaken Kundalini. It can be awakened only when a man rises above Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and other impurities. Kundalini can be awakened through rising above desires of the senses. The Yogi, who has got a pure heart and a mind free from passions and desires will be benefited by awakening Kundalini.

There is, it appears, a bit of a downside here as well, because – even if I am able to raise my own bar of Loha or Moha – the loin-clothed one claims… if a man with a lot of impurities in the mind awakens the Sakti by sheer force through Asanas, Pranayamas and Mudras, he will break his legs and stumble down.

That’s altogether a bit too Buddha for me plus my mind’s not exactly as pure as the driven…

Indeed, Buddha’s own physician was – reputedly – an Ayurvedic; essentially that’s a bloke who practises the ‘science of life’ and who believes that there are four basic humours of the body (phlegm, black bile, yellow bile, blood – yukky, eh?). Factor in four basic qualities of sensory experience (hot, cold, wet, dry) as well as four basic ingredients of things going in and out of one's body (fire, air, water, earth) and you get the picture, more or less. The fire bit I get as that’s a little like the before and after of a very hot vindaloo down Southall way… but… anyhow…

Apparently, this all translates into health meaning harmony but it suggests that fine-tuning is also possible. Personally, I’m of the belief that my body is long past fine-tuning because, the way I feel right now, any cure – quirky or otherwise – that actually works will get the Storey thumbs-up.

Anyway and according to blokes who know about these things, the human body contains juices and fluids whose ratios regulate health. Time to read on… don't you think so?

So… when there is an excess of some humoural sap, the body heats up, reduces substance, separates the boiled from the unboiled parts and… evacuates the stewed remains. Stewed remains – yes, that’s what it says. Crikey…

Matron… please... no more figs for Mr…

Therefore, the aim of humoural doctor-blokey-bloke is to assist this natural culinary process with warmers and coolers and to facilitate the evacuation process with purges, emetics and bleedings. This isn’t looking to hopeful. But, wait… there is more.

I learn that it is from this belief that the ‘you are what you eat’ phrase comes from… as does, ‘you are also what you excrete’.

Hell – am I staring an enema straight in the face… because, the prospect is… ummm… a bit unsettling.

Remember that sketch within one of the Alan Partridge series when he emerges from the bathroom having been ensconced for the better part of twenty minutes and suggests to the young lady who he’s intent on seducing… I wouldn’t go in there for at least half an hour if I was you.

Thankfully neither the dribbling out method of relief, the awakening of my Kundalini system of mucus control or humourous (sic) doctors who prescribe purges and diuretics hold much sway in Sister Busty’s voluminous medical chest.

The practicality of being this unwell equals doctor equals doctor’s surgery equals get treated equals less chance of it raining phlegm in Taunton, given the way that the Storey chest has been misbehaving of late; Loha or no Doha.

Further to which and given that both my lack of need for the services of a doctor for the past however many years combined with my current suitcase existence means I don’t have an allegiance to any particular surgery, equals – the nearest one will bloody well have to do.

Its half a mile away which means a half-hour amble; somewhat longer than it’d take to trudge that kind of a distance but then the very act of trudging is interrupted every few yards by strangulating coughing sessions that alarm passers-by as I dry-heave while supporting my wheezing self against walls and shop-windows, fluttering lengths of kitchen roll in the balmy breeze.

However, since I don’t much fancy being collared for blocking up most of Somerset, I force myself through the creaky door, attempt to not infect the receptionist as I explain my need to see a doctor… any doctor will do… before settling back to await my fate.

I’m in a sterile waiting room surrounded by out-of-date copies of Hello magazine and Country Life and ring-fenced by a hair-dresser who’s own hair-do went out of fashion in the late seventies; a Village People cast-off sporting a moustache the size of a small hedge and a huge black man reclining in the nonchalant position directly opposite, legs akimbo, mouth wide open and snoring loudly.

After two hours of gazing at out-of-focus pictures (yes, I’d forgotten my glasses), I’m admitted to the inner-sanctum. There is a couch covered, reassuringly, with what looks like fresh kitchen-roll; a computer with an ever-changing cityscape screen-saver; while an abandoned stethoscope lays gleamingly idle among sundry other gadgets of medical persuasion.

Doctor Mabuse marches in, takes one glance at his newest patient and suggests I sit on the kitchen roll.

I wonder what kind of doctor he is?

He doesn’t look like a bloke whose about to prescribe an enema but then… you never know, do you?

Fifteen minutes later I’m heading in to the pharmacy that’s conveniently situated next door with a prescription to hand over. Despite the fact that its illegible, not one word even resembles a word that might suggest a length of hosepipe be shoved up the Storey posterior. Phew… ‘cos I had started to fret a bit. I stand in line, waiting my turn while trying not to cough my relief all over the counter.

Five minutes later I’ve a packet of antibiotics and a couple of plastic bottles filled with an orange liquid – the pills are to be taken one per day for the next however long; the gloop – that resembles some sort of liqueur – is to be taken in 5 milligram doses every four hours. They’ve helpfully included a measuring device that looks a bit like a baby’s spoon.

Twenty minutes later and I’ve taken the first pill, the size of which would be more suited to a Hippo suffering from gout and swallowed the first 5 milligram dose of orange liqueur.

After an hour, nothing has happened. Absolutely zilch – I’m now coughing to Olympic qualifying levels and I feel like shit. This is bollox, I should be feeling a bit better by now… shouldn’t I?

Time for remedial action and I decide that I’d better take a bit more gloop to hurry the healing process along a bit and dispense with the spoon. One third of bottle #1… hmmm, that should do the trick.

It did, I woke up twenty-two hours later.

This, I admit, is where I have a bit of previous… fast backwards quite a few summers.

Many years ago, while ensconced in a small Hampshire village, I had a girlfriend who lived in America. She was where she was; I was where I lived – equals, we didn’t see each other that often. Nevertheless, she was due over in about a week when, one day at my office the surfeit of caffeine intake caught up with my bladder in the way in which it does and so, I proceed upstairs to the smallest room, shut the door, undo the buttons and pee away contentedly. Until…

Oh hell… what on earth is that..? I’ve glanced down – as one does – and spotted that something… an indeterminate something – is moving within the Storey nether regions. Bloody hell… what is it? Was that a trick of the light or did something just move down there?

Needless to say, I’m somewhat longer in the lavatory than intended as I embark on a minute examination…after diligent searching, it appears that there is life on mars. Oh fxxk.

At this juncture in my life, I am actually registered with a doctor and an appointment is made for the very same afternoon. I bowl up and wander into the reception area.

Ah yes, Mr Storey… says the blonde receptionist, her ample cleavage leaving precious little to the imagination – no wonder the surgery was full. You’re here to see Doctor…?

I am.

Right… and this is concerning…? She looks up, smiling helpfully.

Umm… yes… well… you see… it’s a little delicate… I can feel myself starting to blush.


Ah… well… you see… its… ummmm… I think I might have… and here I whisper what I imagine to be the problem.

Could you speak up a bit?

Oh hell… I explain my own prognosis in something a little above a whisper while she smiles encouragingly before saying in a voice that I’d suggest was a tad louder than necessary, Right… that’s fine, I undertsand… genital lice, I’ll make sure the doctor knows. Now, would you take a seat over there please? I walk over to my allotted chair as the child who’d been sitting next to where I’d been placed is gathered rapidly up in the arm’s of her worried mother. Bxxxxr, is this contagious?

Half an hour of pure embarrassment later and I’m bidden forth. I stride manfully away from the waiting room and am met by this particular Doctor Mabuse. Right Mr Storey, if you’d just undo your trousers and… on here please… I do as I’m told as he picks up a magnifying glass.

He prods and pokes and examines in a thorough manner. Yes… well… you do indeed have genital lice. After which damning diagnosis I groan as he proceeds to ask a series of deeply personal questions about my recent sexual activities… clearly he’s of the opinion that I’ve been indulging in a lot of horizontal jogging when, in fact, the precise opposite is true.

(Just in case the impression has been given that I'd been fooling about - this isn't the case... it's not my style - I'd actually contracted these little blighters from unchanged bed-linen from an Irish B&B whilst working on the bike race, the Nissan Classic. And, that's fact).

Here’s your prescription… he hands over the requisite piece of paper on which he’s scribbled illegibly in the time honoured fashion of all doctors. And I have to advise you that you mustn’t indulge in any sexual activity for at least ten days.

That’s impossible… I squeal. My girlfriend is arriving in less than a week and… we haven’t seen each other in about two months and… I tail off, hoping he’ll understand this man-talk. He doesn’t.

I’m sorry… there is no alternative… should you do so, there is a strong likelihood that she will catch what you have. He says that in a very ‘umble voice that suggests… wriggle out of that if you can. Damnation, I’m guilty of a crime I’ve not committed.

I walk out via the pharmacy clutching a bottle of white liquid that I’m told I have to apply twice daily… there might be a little discomfort… I should bathe thirty minutes after each application and the all clear will be in ten days. Even with my limited mathematical skills, girlfriend’s arrival date and my all clear aren’t one and the same. Bxxxxr.

Home I go with the aim of starting the process as quick as I can. Then, I think… if this liquid works its magic by degrees over a period of days, what’ll happen if I up the dose just a bit… maybe that way I can clear up this nastiness in half the time? Logically that should work… shouldn’t it?

But then… what about if I just applied the whole darned lot in one go… wouldn’t that get rid of the little blighters who – by now – must be making hay where the sun doesn’t get to shine too often?

I strip behind closed doors and liberally splosh all of the white liquid over my entire body, leaving no nook, cranny or other orifice untouched. This'll put paid to these suckers... Stark naked and covered in this stuff I re-read the label and se that I have to wait thirty minutes before showering. That’s fine… settle back, pour a stiff drink and reach for the paper to aid the waiting process. Nothing happens for about ten minutes but then…

Oh fxxk… it said minor discomfort… this feels like.. hell, my bollox are on fire… The burning sensation is… excruciating…

After fifteen minutes, I’m tearing up and down the stairs in an attempt to create some form of cooling breeze to fan my rapidly incinerating genitals and other equally sensitive parts of the Storey anatomy.

A further quarter of an hour of inexplicable agony and I’m under the shower, washing the gloop off. The pain gradually recedes and… careful inspection shows that not a living creature resides where it shouldn’t. Whew – it worked…

Anyhow… I’ve learned my lesson with the orange liqueur; I’ve been significantly less liberal with it over the past few days and I’ve obeyed instructions with regard to the timing of the antibiotics and… finally… finally… I’m ok again. The cough has pretty much gone away and the nasal purging is down to less than three monumental excretions a day now.

At last – 'cos I’m bloody pants at being unwell.

Still… in the back ground a degree of progress has been made. The beginnings of the new AlphaBetaMusica web site are now up and working; le guru d’internet has, indeed, weaved his magic – it looks fantastic and just what I was hoping for – and, while all of that has been going on, one web click after another has thrown up an altogether most welcome gem… or rather real diamonds in the rough have been uncovered.

The first of the what appears to be a sequence of major features on Island has popped its head up in The Word Magazine. I’ve yet to get a hold of the finished article but, it looks like a pretty serious expose but, I’ll retain judgement on that until its been read and digested.

In any event… within their web site a little snippet caught they eye… one click led to another and… low and behold someone out there in www-land has started a thread on Jess Roden.

Jess who..?

OK – you’re excused for not knowing… Jess, for my money (and so it seems from very recent twirls around the www dance-floor, many others are in agreement here) is (was) one of the truly great British singers over the last forty and more years.

Someone who really should’ve but never quite did.

A potted history of the Kidderminster Kid would include spells with The Alan Bown! before forming Bronco with among others Robbie Blunt (who’d go on to make is name with Robert Plant) and recording two exemplary albums, Country Home and Ace Of Sunlight prior to teaming up with the Doors founders, Krieger, Densmore et al to form the Butts Band and record one album with them before launching into a solo carer that saw him cut his debut with Allen Toussaint and others before founding his own, Jess Roden Band – a combo that cut the serious mustard up and down Britain’s motorways as a live act yet who never (sadly) achieved the commercial success that their live shows warranted. Jess then relocated to America releasing a further series of solo records – one of which contains the absolute gem-like reading of The Quiet Sound Of You And I – interspersed with an outing with The Rivits, essentially a collaboration between him and Pete Woods (co-writer of Al Stewart's Year Of The Cat) before... eventually, slowly sliding off the scale and… quietly disappearing to concentrate of graphic design while leaving a legacy of music that is… well… judge for yourself.

For too long I’ve been without a great deal of Jess’ music on the dear old i-Pod but… well… suffice to say, that’s pretty much rectified now and… my rediscovery of his musical nuggets has been more than rewarding these last 48 hours or so as the man-flu has gradually consigned itself to the past.

And then... just as this was getting finished up pops a truly unexpected e-mail... oh joy, oh true joy..!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Swordfish Trombones

Those few moments between befuddled sleep and the reality of a new day’s duvet-push-back; when dreamscapes conspire to create the improbable.

Over there, in amongst a sea of people gathered in the Grosvenor Hotel’s capacious ballroom, I can see a bewildered Tina. She should be walking toward the stage but she can’t get there because of the manacles around her ankles. No one is shouting, everyone is curiously calm; they’re distracted by what is being projected onto the big screen.

Its two weeks early but, I look around anyway… Ah, good… there is the posthumous award that she’s going to pick up on Rob’s behalf… oh and great, Music Week’s editor did like my idea of gift-wrapping it up in a QPR scarf; Billy Bragg is standing by, wearing a suit that’s one size too small and glancing down every few moments at a sheet of paper he’s holding – his hand-over speech. He’s patiently waiting for all of the talking head interviews to run their course.

But… why on the big screen are there background BBC HD images of brown bears standing in rocky pools as salmon leap upriver, right into their eager mouths and end-of-winter-hungry bellies? Its all being relayed in ultra-slow motion, every silver-white droplet of water is visible.

One salmon makes the leap and one of the brown bears stretches out its huge paw. It’s nails are fearsomely long; this Rupert Bear is clearly related to Edward Scissor-Hands. He can’t reach and just cuffs in annoyance at the passing salmon.

Only, its not a salmon… that’s my face; I’ve become the One Who Got Away.

And I can see myself three-dimensionally wriggling in High Definition, trying to get over the toothless razor-wire that I know is just below the water-line. I can feel it… its in my throat. It’ll catch me if I’m not careful… breathe in… breathe out… ouch… its got me, like a Peruvian boa-constrictor; wrapped around my chest – oh, mistress mine.

I try to swallow but the pain is excruciating; every inbound gulp of saliva is akin to being rigorously rogered with barbed wire without the benefit of lubricant. The anaconda’s vice like grip on my chest isn’t easing up either. The early warning signs of a large cough ease up through my esophagus… oh no, this is going to be nasty. It was… one big racking cough that – were my teeth not cemented into my gums – would have deposited said nashers six feet hence.

Bxxxxr, today of all days, I’ve come down with man-flu.

And… I absolutely loathe being unwell. But wait… c’mon, Storey… be sensible… what would Nurse Lusty prescribe? Oh… I know… its that truly ghastly tasting concoction that comprises Elder Flower, Elder Berry, Leaf of Olive, Onion, Maple Syrup, Cayenne Pepper, Bitter Orange, Yarrow, Pleurisy Root, Goldseal and Lobelia Seed – so bloody organic that there should be a warning on the small brown bottle from the Ministry of Horrible Tasting Substances that actually do the trick.

Gargling with Listerine, this isn’t… so, the four required drops of that go into a glass of Tangerine Juice – in a vain effort to disguise the taste (which, needless to say, doesn’t work) and, give it half an hour or so and I can set about enjoying the day… sort of.

Because, today’s the day that Project-X was finally pronounced dead; long live… AlphaBetaMusica.

The new name’s been there or thereabouts for a bit now, I’ve tested it out both within meetings as much as I have with close friends and acquaintances – explaining that Project-X and the original web-holding-name were simply treading water-type names… and that it was a case of being patient and letting the proper name come.

And arrive it did… as often these things do… whilst bathing the body beautiful fairly recently. OK, employment of that last adjective might be a bit gung-ho but… hey… who’s counting.

Anyhow, after a lot of dithering and wondering whether this was the one, the web site has finally been registered and the relevant sent over to M’sieur le guru d’ internet and all stations to Crewe for him to weave his not inconsiderable magic.

He may even play about a bit with the typographic logo – loosely based on Russian poster art lettering. That’s also been completed; its retro as much as its 21st century… although I’m still debating about reversing the ‘s’ which may (conceivably it may not) give the whole a bit of extra oomph. Ohhh baby, squeeze that lemon.

As much as Obama was (apparently) as excited as a young schoolboy at meeting the big lady during his G-20 stint this week, similarly I am with this… it feels like a big step forward; its not as if it wasn’t real before – just that it feels considerably more real now.

And… I wasn’t even late for the meeting earlier this week either although, true to form, I did encounter Manuel’s first cousin, half-removed.

Wicker-weave shopping basket, sexy sexy boots and bat-wing flapping coat approach the reception desk in the building to which I’ve been summoned. I explain that I’m expected by so and so and…

Yes… he says cautiously… and your name is…? I can feel myself ahead of the game immediately, this bloke speaks English.

I repeat it slowly and Manuel’s first cousin starts tapping away at a computer.

He glances up. No… there is no one of that name workin’ ‘ere.

I consult the book of words – my diary. I’m in the right place at the right time and… I give him the name of the man I’m due to be meeting. Again.

Oh… so you’re not meeting Mr. Storey? He looks at me quizzically.

No… that’s my name and I’m meeting… and the first two letters of his name also begin with ‘s’ and ‘t’… just like mine. He starts tapping away again and… we both let out a sigh of relief as contact is made and I’m waved toward the lift.

An hour or so later and I’m back out in the Spring sunlight – excellent progress has been made and ABM (as it now should be) has garnered further support. The man whose name begins with the first two letters of my own surname requests various documents of me and so the next thirty-six hours pass by in a blur of writing, checking and double-checking, more writing and revising of budgets, phone calls to legal eagles and number crunchers until… Late in the evening, lengthy document-X is complete, exported as a big PDF file that eventually wings its way through the ether to be ready and waiting for him in his corporate lair the next again morning.

And, while that’s been on my mind, Obama and Gordon Brand have been cuddling up to one another in a truly worrying take on Puppy Love – the newspaper pictures and tv footage showing Brown all gooey and doe-eyed, reveling in the pomp and circumstance of the Man Who’d Be King coming out to play – the ceremonial circus that wasn’t accorded when he, Brown, flew of to Washington but a few weeks back. Its much more fun having your own sand-pit to play in, isn't it Gordon?

While my favourite image of them all has been the one of Obama walking away from one of the innumerable press conferences with his arm firmly around Brown’s shoulders – the image stating unequivocally just who is in charge; I’ve also started to wonder what they really make of each other and… what is said when Barrack and Michelle are alone in their room. Indeed, what Gordon and Sarah talk about in bed when the lights are turned down low. I expect the latter read novels... the former.. hmmm, methinks perhaps other things occupy their bed times.

Further to which, what on earth is the point of this G-20? With the world reeling within financial meltdown, was this little extravaganza truly cost-effective? The US is in turmoil in pretty much the same way as all of Europe and the rest are so… most especially given Obama’s stance on the fat-cats of Wall Street and their diabolical bonus payments, how justifiable is the cost – in this instance – to the US tax payer, the man, woman on the street – when he travelled in the manner in which he did? How many cars was it..? The helicopter… though, I suppose that was a necessity given where he landed.

Good day, Mr President… welcome to England. This is called… Stansted. Your helicopter is this way. Damn site better that than the dear old M10 / M25 crawl into central London. I used to take the bus out that way on those rare occasions flying in and out of France back in the day… from the Finchley Road tube and all the way up through Golders Green and so forth… nose to tail crawling traffic. No wonder the helicopter came in handy. Memo to self – when ABM achieves big-success nab a helicopter off the shelf, nothing to ostentatious… just a decent sized run around and one that’ll transport self from ‘a’ to ‘b’ fairly seamlessly. Whirlybirds could be go I reckon.

They whizz about almost as rapidly as the Formula One circus that, this weekend, sees itself in Malaysia. And… it seems it wasn’t just me who found that time-change as per the elf Ecclestone to suit Euro-tv viewers objectionable – the drivers did too with The Guardian quoting Nico Rosberg commenting on the glare of the low-setting sun earlier this week and saying: In Melbourne it was obvious that it just increases the danger so much. The visibility is so difficult you can't even see the edges of the track in some corners. I was driving into the sun and that's not what racing is about. So I really hope they reconsider that. Even moving it forward by one hour or something will help us massively.

Ah well… monsoons are forecast so, presumably it’ll rain a bit on Bernie’s parade… rather like it has of late in terms of sleeze and the incumbent government. Actually, I suppose I should re-phrase that bit as it appears that there are rather a lot who aren’t so governable in Central London as has been demonstrated during the last few days. Not so sure I totally agree with the trashing of the Royal Bank but… one has to have a modicum of sympathy for their actions – not least because of the G-20 Cirque and its overpowering display of wealth that has been so prevalent.

So, a true sporting weekend lays ahead… the Grand National – and thank the Lord that the organizers didn’t bend it like Beckham and alter their rules (Ecclestone like) to allow the Sun newspaper (can it really be termed that - its debatable isn't it) to purchase and re-name Parson’s Legacy (one of the nags that’s taking part) as… Jade’s Legacy. In any event the steeplechase is on the same day as the funeral… or should their be a new synonym for funeral in this instance – circus? Stiil, thank the Lord once again, all of that will be past history soon.

Besides the blokes who’ll be hurtling around the steamy Malaysian tarmac, league football is back on the agenda - although Southampton FC might not bother turning up having just been liquidated in the blender of professional soccer - as is… the Tour of Flanders. Oh to be there, my all time very very favourite race; reading the previews and looking at the www pictures of the bergs – the short, sharp and improbably steep cobbled hills that all come in the latter half of the race and serve to shape it whereby only the really strong survive. Oh to be there.

I've a strange kind of nostalgia for that particular part of Belgium at this time of the year; its as if half the country comes out onto the by-ways and highways to watch and, to be part of that – festival – is to have the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand up on end. There’s the scent of frites everywhere, beer abounds, the noise of the crowds all jostling for position for a quick glimpse of the gladiators on wheels as they hurtle by; the rushing from one viewing point to another with the idea of seeing the race as many times as possible… but, its back to the search for the internet feed.

I wonder if beleagured Secretary of State Jaqui Smith’s husband will be watching on pay-per-view or if he’s had enough of that after the recent revelations of his hand-shandying to late-night movies that display a somewhat dubious subject matter. Well, that’s according to the Daily Stale – Britain’s ethically correct (sic) guardian.

I mean… its probably highly unlikely that he (Richard Timney, husband of lying about her living conditions etc etc Secretary of State Jaqui Smith) saw anything too… ummm… hardcore via that medium – not, I hasten to add that I’ve actually looked on those ‘channels’… honest injun.

All he’d have had to do was turn on his computer and fire up – if that’s what gets you going, then its all there… its whatever takes your fancy. is, incidentally, a more visited www site than Tescos – amazing thing, research, isn’t it?

But… wasn’t it just brilliant how the guardian of all our morals – the Daily Stale – got so worked up about a bloke playing Rosie Palmer with the five sisters in front of the telly? So what that was a bit of solo fun for him... Oh… and couples don’t use that form of entertainment as a method of adding a bit of ‘spice’ to a normal relationship? The hypocrisy is quite incredible.

Its time for more medicine. I suppose if I’d become an aficionado of Twitter, I’d emit a tweet that simply said I’m ill.

Well... I really am.

Not content with being laid low by man-flu, I think I may well have contracted the plague too as I've just noticed a rather unpleasant 'thing' where there shouldn't be a rather unpleasant 'thing'. Hmmmm.