Punk’s Not Dead – More Toy Stories

A few old figurines, a “punk” decor and a punky toy story.

Smurf Punk

Robot Punk

Smurf  ‘n’ Bimbo Guitar duo

Meet the band

Meet all the band – we got ourselves a Brainy bassist

In B&W and mono

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Road Movie Biker Wanderlust and Swedish Furniture

Unstructured ramblings on over 50’s wanderlust, Swedish furniture and sympathies for all you poor bastards with hybrid cars who accelerate at the speed of a dead snail. Enjoy

If life was a road movie at the moment, I’d be cruising sedately through those areas of commercial space known as “edge lands”, where the first ragged remnants of countryside, rubbish dumps, car washes and junkyards meet the last drab dregs of urban sprawl – rubbish dumps, car washes and junkyards

I’d be cruising along an endless highway, lined with supermarkets, DIY stores, car dealerships, fast food outlets and discount shops.

No 67 Chevrolet Impala convertible for me – I’d be driving a modest, white, four-door-family saloon ; possibly of Japanese manufacture with a hybrid petrol/electric motor.

On the radio, nothing as dangerous as Rock and Roll, but perhaps an adult « AOR » or «  easy listening » station with just a hint of Rod Stewart or Elton John wafting out the speakers

Nothing too dangerous in this road movie comfort zone and nothing magical, mysterious, subversive or even vaguely interesting about my destination – I’m probably just driving to a Swedish furniture store to pick up a beige sofa or a set of shelves. I’m not even going to get out the car and go in the shop to look, I’ve done a click and collect

I’m not looking for a Thelma and Louise Blues Brothers Fast and Furious Grand Theft Auto adventure – that’s all just a little too much. I think I’m like all those in-between late middle aged early retiree guys of my generation – I’ve got a kind of wanderlust but I don’t want to wander too far in case I miss my dinner and my favourite early evening TV shows.

It started on Sunday, when I nipped out to buy a newspaper. The lady at the counter handed me a « new » magazine for « young seniors » or « the active over-fifties » – the latter written in an exciting red typeface and screaming me at me from the front page.

No way am I a young senior
Yes I’m over fifty

Yes I am active BUT I have a mental age of nineteen and I am a singer in a rock and roll band (with three other guys who are all over fifty) and that actually sounds pretty sad. I shouldn’t be out gigging of a night, I should be home wearing a tracksuit and slumped in a sofa with a beer in one hand and a remote control in the other.

So, it was my Sunday morning newspaper buying mission and I declined that kind offer of a special offer on the new young/oldie magazine. As my eyes scanned the shlves in search or reading matter though, I was attracted by wo magazines that might just quench my wanderlust – a monthly review of camper vans (or recreational vehicles as our transatlantic readers refer to them) – second a motorbike magazine with a special supplement on « biker dads » – all those “adulescents” like me who wanted a motorbike and never had one – I’m flicking thought the pages and – I’d love a Suzuki Van Van – a 125cc dune bike, with thick tyres and youthful looks – and just oozing biker dad attitude. Safe but mildly subversive

I wanna buy a motorbike and have sedate easy rider Sundays in the country. I wanna cruise down the Swedish furniture store in my leather jacket and have saunter round before I do the click and collect. I just wanna hop on my bike and go places that aren’t so far that I can’t be back home in time for dinner.

Bikes though, dangerous things. What if I fall off or got too fast or … Camper vans far better. I love camper vans. I’m always amazed how van designers manage to cram a luxury bijoux residence into such a small space – all fold out Formica lifestyle. I need a van. I want to drive to the sea, park up by a long deserted sandy beach, brew up a strong cup of tea and then stare out across the ocean, wondering what lies beyond.

Bike, or van, or both. The wife can drive the van as I ride the bike, and when I get tired, I can strap the bike on the back of the van.

Here’s the dream, to use the above combination for a great Tour De France of all the places I’ve lived or visited since I ever started coming to France as a kid in the seventies. What wondrous wanderlust.

Dreaming is great, but instead of writing about great travel plans, I should start by getting on the web abd booking a summer holiday.

Goodbye Chuck

A few thoughts on the passing of the great (now late) Chuck Berry. Is it too much to cal him the father of Rock and Roll?  I was listening back to some of his old hits on a deliciously crackly old vinyl record this afternoon – they all seemed so simple, stripped and basic compared to today’s many layered, complicated and over mixed songs. Just one man, a guitar and his talent and genius.

All that early rock and roll sounds so simple, but in music, simple is never simple. As any musician will tell you – it’s easy to churn out mediocre versions of complicated songs, but it’s real hard to do the simple stuff with the same rhythm and shine as the original – Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly – well-written, catchy, simple songs that are actually very difficult to play – and I mean play in the sense of giving them life and feeling.

Imagine Mr Berry’s life as a rock and roll road trip, his was the simple car – no modern gadgetry – just get in, crank her up and go – an old classic, a pleasure to drive because you had the real sensation and thrill of driving – and now a lot of music is like the modern, electric and soon-to-be, driverless car.

There are still legendary rock stars, but all that “rock and roll” thing is no longer an ethos, or an attitude, it has become a fashion statement, and in modern rock, I get the thinking that there is no rock and there are no legends – the world has become a succession of one hit wonders – if a band makes it to a third album, they attain legend status.

So, another living legend has now become the stuff of legend and  as for rock and roll legend itself, that is becoming a marketing strategy – creating heroes out of TV talent show winners. It’s like electric cars, electronic cigarettes, alcohol free beer and political correctness – there is nothing vaguely dangerous or edgy anymore in rock and roll.

RIP Mr Berry

 

SO, YOU WANNA BE A SINGER IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND or ELECTRIC LAZYLAND

« I had a teenage dream

On moonage days,

I’d be a freak out far out

In a purple haze,

Cruising electric Ladyland

I’d be silver surfin’

In a rock and roll band. »

« Teenage Moonage » by the Stone Purple Haze Band

SO YOU WANNA BE A SINGER IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND?

First, find a band, or find a band that needs a singer or find a band that needs a singer and plays the kind of stuff that you want to sing. This narrows down the choice immensely, so first, just find a band, any band.

How do you find a band?

It started with an ad in the local paper

« ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? » read the title at the top of the ad

Sounds like Hendrix cover band. Can I sing Hendrix? Do I want to sing Hendrix covers? I’ve got to start somewhere.

« Hi, I’m ringing about your ad ….

« Can you sing? » asks the laid-back, deep-sleep voice on the other end. A voice thick with phlegmy nonchalance nurtured on years of cigarettes and alcohol. The voice reels off a long list of Hendrix numbers to learn for the audition and once the « dictation » is over I hit the local record shop looking for a Hendrix « greatest hits » compilation.

CASTING OFF

So, you have got as far as the audition phase. This is the point where you physically meet your possible, future band mates, who are not yet mates and might never become your mates. Banding is not bonding. This is about music and not friendship. The band needs a singer and not a soul mate.

It hasn’t occurred to me, but I might actually need a mike and I haven’t got one. I ring the voice again.

« I’ve got a mike » it says flatly. « I’ll see you later »

Later is late. Nine o’clock on a Sunday night, when normal folks have long finished dinner and are settled down ready to snooze off in front of the TV.

The voice lives only a few streets away. I can walk. I get to the « house » and – I’m walking down a tree lined street of neat two up, two down houses all with well tended gardens, then at the end almost out on a limb, almost in another universe is this run down, shuttered up pile of bricks set in an overgrown patch of waste ground. Surely this can’t be the place. I knock on the front door and after an eternity there is the creaking and clanking as the metal shutters are pushed slowly open. A skeletal hand appears beckoning me to the window, a gaunt and ghostly face framed by long lank strands greasy hair, emerges from the sombre depths. « Side door » rasps the voice

« Do you always rehearse this late? » I ask, entering through the kitchen and into the «rehearsal room ».

ELECTRIC LADYLAND

The place is a mess. It’s a f***ing mess with a huge capital F. It’s a health hazard. Already from the outside, the house only looks fit for demolition, inside … the sink piled high with dishes, the walls thick with grease and yellow with nicotine, discarded empty dog food tins lie strewn across the floor, and stomach churning stench

The place stinks of wet dog, urine and shit – like proper shit, like faeces, like someone’s had diarreah, bowel cancer or lives on a heavy vegetarian diet and they’ve systematically crapped away their insides over days and never flushed the toilet.

Can I make it through this audition without catching something? Can I survive more than five minutes in this house without some kind of independent breathing apparatus?

So, I finally meet the voice who tells me his name is Patrick though people call him Jimmy and he bids me welcome to « Electric Ladyland » I want to laugh, but Patrick is so into Hendrix that he’s painted the name of Hendrix’s third and final studio album in big purple letters on his front door.

This is possibly the worst place that I have ever auditioned for a band, lord knows I’ve has some strange auditions. I once had to prove my vocal prowess over the phone, and another time I auditioned in a car, singing along to Highway to Hell, on a cassette player, the AC/DC classic doing it’s best to struggle out of the crappy car speakers.

NAKED WITH STRANGERS

Auditions are all the same. There you are in a room with four or five other guys you’ve never met before. You are finally all plugged in, miked up and ready to go, the drummer counts us in and you sing, but you’re not just singing, in a way you are baring your artistic soul. You are fragile, you are naked. You are stripping off in front of strangers. Try it some time, invite four of five complete strangers round to your house and stand naked in front of them. You don’t feel ridicule, you just feel vulnerable.

You sing or try to sing those three or four songs that the voice on the end of the phone has told you to « learn » and after twenty minutes … the verdict

RETURN TO ELECTRIC LADYLAND

There’s a limp, quivering, emaciated dog lying in a basket in the corner. There’s a fresh patch of (is that dog vomit?)

Patrick (AKA Jimmy) tells me that the dog is ill and for the moment he can’t afford to take him to the vet.

Patrick has red sunken eyes and a gaunt haggard face that has been ravaged by years of … Rock and Roll. (In comparison, Keith Richards is a picture of health.) He limps around the room, all quivering like his dog. He’s all lank greasy hair, torn jeans and a threadbare sweater held together more by the food stains down the front than any of the threads. He introduces me to three « clones » in similar degrees of frail decomposition. There’s Jean Paul the guitarist (AKA Mick) because he’s a Rolling Stones fan; Fabrice (AKA Chris) the drummer

« Chris? »

« Yeah he’s a big Magma fan » explains « Jimmy » so we call him Chris after the Magma drummer Christian Vander »

The last « clone » is Christophe, the keyboard player who logically should be AKA Chris but calls himself John, after his hero John Lord.

No need to ask the musical influences of this band of early fiftysomething, seventies survivors.

« What are you called? »

« Eh? » expressed by the three clones in collective grunt

« What’s the band name? »

A BAND WITH NO NAME

There are no hard and fast rules for choosing a band name, save that it should be, catchy, evocative, easy to remember easy to say and short enough to print on a T shirt. A band name doesn’t always need to reflect your musical style but it helps.

I am at present auditioning for a band with no name because at the moment there is no band.

To be continued

THOU SHALL HAVE FUN (but without fireworks) OR “Making the Party Playlist”

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Thou Shall Have Fun

New Year’s Eve – party time – « Thou shall have fun » resounds the First New Year Commandment. No matter how awful you feel – you shall have fun, and as the clock strikes 12 and the new year begins, all your fears, troubles and problems will melt away like an ice cream in a micro wave oven ;

Ice Cream in the micro wave

Hey that is a rotten metaphor, who the F*** puts their ice cream in a micro wave ? Well I do folks – those small individual pots of Haggen Daz or Ben and Jerrys that I like to scoff in front of the TV – straight out of the freezer they are just too cold and I haven’t got the patience to leave them out long enough to melt just a little – so one minute on « defrost » in the microwave, just to thaw them out a little.

So, here am I trying to enter into the spirit of things for this, the last big festive hurdle of the year.

No Fireworks

Off to the « party » shop to buy few fireworks and bangers for tonight – I know it is still thick fog outside, but I had this dream of setting of huge rockets into the night sky – make a wish on a rocket, light the blue touch paper and then send it skywards before it explodes into a mass of mulitcoloured stars that fall back to earth – each star is part of my wish or my dream that I want to share with the world.

« Sorry » says the gum-chewing trainee down the party shop. We’re not allowed the sell fireworks this year. »

« Why ? » I ask

« It’s ‘cos it’s the law » she limply explains and chews

The manager comes over and explains that due to the current state of emergency in France, the sale of fireworks has been forbidden and under the state of emergency it is forbidden to let fireworks off from 26th December to 2nd January.

“I don’t want to blow anyone up” I persist.

We had all this last year – gangs of youths buying massive rockets and firing them at the police.

New Year’s Playlist

No matter, my contribution to the party will be musical – my new year’s playlist.

Something old

Something new

Something borrowed

Something blue

Looking for « old » songs with a new year’s theme. That U2 classic « New Year’s Day » , so when the adults are all drunk in the wee small hours, they can cavort around again pretending they are teenagers – much to the embarassment and disgust of their kids. I know there was also an ABBA song entitled « Happy New Year » – Oh dear, I’m not doing very well on this am I. What about a few tracks from those we have lost ? Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen … why not a blast of Debbie Reynolds ?

« Good morning, good morning – we’ve drunk the whole night through, good morning hangover to you…. » (revised lyrics)

Nostalgia – something else I have resolved to give up – Living in the past. (Jethro Tull ?) I had a nostalgia-driven pre-Christmas trip to London. I had promised myself to visit all those places from my past that had some kind of meaning. Too depressing, the past is dead and those places will never be the same. Talking about old times makes me acutely aware that I have more life behind me than I do in front of me. This year will be living in the present and the future. Go on, let’s have one nostalgia-driven track, that Bruce Springsteen classic « Glory Days. »

Something new ????? I’l leave that for the kids. I can’t think of any one single song this year that has made a lasting impression on me – come to think of it, I can’t really remeber any of this year’s songs. The first signs of dementia ? Well here’s one that got in the charts and I sing with the band – « Counting Stars » by One Republic .

Something borowed ? Guess I can find a decent cover version of an old song that is suitable for a New Year’s party  (I’ can’t think of anything for the moment)

Forget the « blues » – I swore that this would be the year I stopped singing the blues. Yeah, one or two blues tunes in the band répertoire, but no more. The blues is just so boring to listen to. I defy anyone to listen to more than three Robert Johnson songs without wanting to slit their wrists. I supose at relaunched the blues for my generation was when Eric Clapton went unplugged in 1992 and of course there was always the nostalgia around the Blues Brothers. I guess we all need somone to love, so I’ll at least have that one.

I would like to add some songs of hope to this. « Stairway to Heaven » is just too cheesy now, so I’ll opt for a song by Oasis entitled « Stay Young »

Hey! stay young and invincible

Cos we know just what we are

And come what may we’re unstoppable

Cos we know just what we are

Even at 51, I’ve got to stay young. Strange though, as I get older, I feel younger and it’s all those younger than me who tell me what to do. So to this play list I will also add. « My Generation » by the Who.

Of course we need fireworks, (even if they are against the law this year ) – so we’ll have some courtesy of Katie Perry – the lyrics are what I would wish for you all next year

« Ignite the light and let it shine. »

So, here is my playlist

New Year’s day                        U2

Happy New Year                     Abba

« Good Morning »                    Debbie Reynolds (from Singing in the Rain)

Diamond Dogs                        David Bowie

Glory Days                              Bruce Springsteen

Counting Stars                        One Republic

Somebody to Love                 Blues Brothers Version

Stay Young                             Oasis

My Generation                        The Who

Firework                                 Katy Perry

And finally

« Auld Lang syne » – and I don’t know what the words mean, but it is traditional.

Happy new year folks.

The Fate of Dictators and Revolutionaries

 

Is this the fate that befalls all dead dictators and revolutionaries ? – to become a fashion statement – to have their image emblazoned on T shirts and worn the world over by teenagers who probably have little or idea of whose face they are wearing.

Ernest Che Guevara – aka – El Che, he was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, a physician, an author, a guerrilla leader and  major figure of the Cuban Revolution. To quote one well known website ; « his stylized visage has become an ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture. » I guess that means his face is on a lot of T shirts and posters.

A « ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion » – long time back, only leftward-leaning, politically aware students would have worn a Che T shirt, then a few years ago, teenagers everywhere were wearing them – It left me wondering who was picking up the royalties ? Wich enterprising soul had bought the rights ? Or quite simply had Mr Guevara’s iconic béret-coiffed and rugged bearded countenance fallen into the public domain ?

There was also a craze for Mao T shirts, a while before Mr Guevara’s face became a popular T shirt design, kids were wearing he who inspired the Cultural Revolution as – well I suppose it was a fashion statement.

Of course no one in their right mind would walk about wearing an Adolf Hitler T shirt. Why wear Mao Zedong ? – Numerically he might not have wiped out so many people as Hitler and his Nazi régime, but there were still an estimated 2.95 million people who died during the Cultural Revolution.

If I follow my logic to its conclusion, walking round with Ché across your chest is okay because he is on record as only having executed 300 people.

So here I am, trawling the Internet, looking for fashion statements of defunct dictators who have been responsible for the deaths of millions.

One website offers up some « cool » Stalin tees for as little as 23€. I continue my browse and, hey ! Pol Pot T shirts and fridge magnets. They’re going to make good Christmas presents.

red-fidel-castro-cuba-revolution-men-men-s-premium-t-shirt

Now that Castro is no more, is this how he will finally be remembered ? A cigar smoking face on a tee ? – I’ve just come across one website offering up to 50 different Castro tees.

So it’s « cool » to have a revolutionary emblazoned across your chest – The Che, Lenin, Trotsky or Marx, you can even have a dictator like Mao, Pol Pot or Castro – why then aren’t youngsters walking down the street wearing Hitler or Pinochet or Mussolini ? Guess these guys just aren’t as fashionable.

womens_light_tshirt

Personally, I’ve never worn a T shirt to make a political statement, and you get to that age (my age) where you should never wear tees with logos – the plainer the better – which of course will never stop me, depsite advancing years and an advancing waistline, wearing my old Rock and Roll T shirts arund the house, much to the amusement of my family who just say I look ridiculous – well ridicule never killed anyone

Vital Vinyl

It is that time of year when the good folks in France clear out their attics, cupboards or spare bedrooms and get out into the street and sell their unwanted junk to free up storage space and, hopefully make a few Euros into the bargain.

Garage sales, yard sales, car boot sales … In France we call them “Brocantes” – Every town, village or neighbourhood has its own annual “Brocante” – for a few Euros, anyone can hire a few metres of space, set up a table and just sell (or not)

So, the same principle the world over, just a different name, depending on time and place. When I was a kid growing up in south east London, we had “Jumble Sales” or “Bring and Buy” – however at these particular occasions there was (as I remember) no personal profit. All sales were held for good causes – you’d donate your crap and then the organisers would sell it with all proceeds going to their good cause, organization or charity; the local church, the local Scout troop, the local school.

A couple of weeks back, I rented a space at a local “brocante” and set up stall with my better half and a few friends, selling our old crap – of course this was of course for personal profit, so you try to sell those half-decent, unwanted possessions that you hope someone else might want, whilst giving all your other real rubbish to the local charity shop, so they can sell it or (as is often the case) – feed it to a dumpster or a recycling bin).

No matter the name, or the cause – potential clients remind you quite vociferously that what you are selling is second hand and as such you should be almost giving it away – and so it is the case with clothes, crockery and such like. There are however two classes of “goods” in the second hand market, where people are quite willing to pay the price you are charging – kids’ toys and vinyl records (both 33 and 45 rpm)

I sold off around a quarter of my album collection and made some good money, considering that I had originally bought most of the albums second hand when I was a teenager. I warned all buyers of this fact and … well I learned that you never actually own a vinyl record, you are merely the custodian of a slice of musical history. I was not actually selling my record collection, I was symbolically passing on a small part of musical heritage to another custodian (though obviously not free of charge) though, the exchange of money (as one customer told me) was a necessary part of this exchange. “I am not buying this record from you, I am paying you by way of thanks for taking such good care of it.” In this frame of mind, I knew that my pampered records were going to a good home.

Pampered!!! Yes. New, or second hand – most of my vinyl LPs were put on cassette immediately after purchase, so I could listen to them on that nifty little, new-fangled invention of the time – The Walkman – the first real music on the go – the precursor of all our modern pods and players. I have of course kept a great part of my vital vinyl, which I listen to regularly on a record player that I purchased a couple of years ago – not a cranky old 70s or 80s record deck from a second hand store, but a brand new one that will (if I download the correct software) transform my discs into MP3 format.

Sure I was surprised at the comeback of vinyl and was absolutely stupefied when I saw that the humble record deck had once again become a desirable consumer durable. Just a few weeks back, I saw teenagers down our local record store (yes we still have one of those where I live) actually buying LPs – good old slices of vital vinyl in their wonderful gatefold sleeves.

Purists will of course tell you that today’s vinyl is not as good as it used to be, way back when vinyl records were platters almost as thick as Frisbees and all recordings were analog.

“I’m glad vinyl is back” said one of my customers/custodians of musical heritage, however he did t rather disparagingly remark that modern music on modern vinyl was not the same. “It’s all digital” he remarked. “You can’t have digital vinyl. Vinyl’s for analog.”

My speakers are not of that quality that I can tell the difference between an analog and a digital recording reproduced on vinyl – neither do I have an expensive set of “cans” (as us oldies used to call headphones) of the Bose variety that allow me to distinguish analog from digital on my vinyl, but the analog Vs digital debate doesn’t actually apply in my case; since the last time I bought an album, we were pretty much at the dawn of the digital age.

Digital of course means CD, which by all accounts is in it death throes. Who buys CDs nowadays? Who buys albums nowadays? Consummers will download the “hit” and perhaps a couple of tunes from the album, but not ten or eleven songs by the same artist. It was the CD download that killed the CD single, however the good old 45”single” is making a comeback. And what about the good old EP??? Same size as a 45rpm single but with three or four songs. At my “Brocante” I sold quite a few singles. I sold all my LPs, but I sold hardly any CDs.

I am wondering, in 20 year’s time if those teenagers of today’s download generation will be buying CDs in some kind of nostalgia-driven CD revival?

Just as it pays to pamper your vinyls, so must you be kind to your CDs. Who knows, in a few years, they might just be worth a fortune at a car boot sale.