Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Donkey ride to Hell

Robert Hartford-Davis.

Three little words that guarantee a cinematic fairground ride of swinging sleaze, exploitation and Madeline Hinde.

We’ve been here before (see tags for full horror) but now I think it’s time to backtrack to the starting point of my personal odyssey, the first time I ever saw his name on the credits and thought ‘beware of this man’, Mediterranean vampire travelogue ‘Incense For The Damned’.

This is a film of contrasts: it’s annoying and boring. As a yardstick of just how badly it all turned out, Hartford-Davis (the director of ‘Gonks Go Beat’, remember) actually tried to have his name removed from it. In the end, it was delayed for a couple of years, re-edited (seemingly with a bread knife in the dark) by the studio and stuck out for a couple of weeks in 1970 as a supporting feature before disappearing, only re-emerging in the 1990’s as a BBC1 Friday night film favourite (I have a theory that the regular showing of this film is a Corporation in-joke).

Based on the book ‘Doctors Wear Scarlet’ by bestselling pulp author Simon Raven, ‘Incense…(also known as ‘Bloodsuckers’) tells the story of a promising Oxford Classics student (Patrick Mower, the walking nostril) who has an illustrious academic career and a good marriage all mapped out for him by his mentor (Peter Cushing, wasted) until he embarks on a field trip to Crete where he becomes the mindless suck bag of a busty Mediterranean vampire, Chriesis (Imogen Hassal, slathered in so much fake tan that she looks like permanently dirty 'Playschool' doll Hamble).

Cushing sends two men to bring Mower home and, before you know it, there’s a whole lot of donkey riding, a papier mache rock slide and a near seven minute orgy scene with a freakbeat soundtrack that is probably the best part of the film but does not appear in all the versions. Ultimately, busty vampire dispatched, Mower is returned to Oxford, only to prove publicly and bloodily that vampirism is not cured by simply a good talking to and a change of scenery…

Not a good film by any standards, one can only hope that the cast and crew enjoyed their holiday.

So, here’s the aforementioned near seven minute orgy scene with a freakbeat soundtrack. I’ve never been able to find out the name of the group providing the music so, if you know, for Chriesis’ sake please contact me.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

British Statue Number Seven

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953),
Dylan Thomas Square,
Maritime Quarter, Swansea.
Statue by John Doubleday.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Dummies: The Professor

The Professor was a firm favourite on the now largely forgotten HTV kid's popular science show 'Well, What Do You Know?', providing comic relief between experiments with the help of his far less intelligent human 'assistant' Mr. Stanley.

Veteran ventriloquist Stanley (he was born in 1915) seemed unable to cope with even a modest level of fame, sadly, and, in 1979, suffered a complete nervous breakdown and was caught trying to push the dummy into the studio incinerator whilst shouting 'shut up, shut up, shut up'.

Tragically, Mr. Stanley died in a house fire in 1981. The Professor was found, intact and undamaged, amongst the debris. He now resides in the National Media Museum in Bradford. Why not pay a visit? He'd love to see you.

Scenes from American Nightmares: Blue Sunshine (1976)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Unmann's choice: Jones, Davis, Wonder

My musical partner and bestest friend Dick Unmann is an intermittent presence on this weblog, and occasionally drifts off in real life too.

An enigmatic polymath, Unmann-Wittering is but one of his many projects, which range from electronics to vintage guitars to tyromancy to writing angry letters to Watchdog about the absence of James Burke on modern TV. He's a funny bloke, to be honest.

One thing we have always been of one mind on, however, is Tom Jones. We first got a feel for his oeuvre as mere teenagers, working our way through the pound bins at Andy's Records and utilising the 'buy one, get one free' offer to stretch our meagre funds even farther. Our favourite Jones LP will always be 'Live At The Talk Of The Town'(a truly great record) but each and every Tom Jones up until the post-disco age has at least one track where, perhaps for only a few seconds, he either breaks your heart, moves your hips or springs a sonic surprise. We love him.

So, from a recent telex detailing some of Mr. Unmann's current viewing and listening favourites, please find attached for your perusal: Unmann's Choice -

- first up, here's the Jones boy with the incredibly talented Sammy Davis, Junior. They mess about and have a sing song and it's marvellous. The clip comes from Tom's hit US TV show 'This Is Tom Jones', which featured a mind boggling array of guest stars and Tom chucking himself about like a whirling dervish at a warehouse party.


Another day, another duet with a genius. I love the impromptu nature of this clip - it's not in the least bit slick but it's extremely entertaining and both TJ and SW are in typically fine voice.

Nexus: Sir Sammy Davis of Junior, on 'This Is Tom Jones', grooving and swinging a Stevie Wonder number. We don't just chuck this stuff together, you know. Only Sammy would think 'right, I'm about to sing and dance vigorously in front of millions of people, I think I'll light a fag'.

Here's an oddity: Tom Jones Rejected Image Number 1. Many years ago, Unmann's Mum said she could remember Tom Jones when he had a pony tail and, experts that we were, we assumed that she was actually thinking of P.J Proby. We were wrong, Mrs. U, apologies to you.

More Tom soon. He's a genius.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Shire Fact Number Twenty

'The English leader at the Battle of Maldon was Britnoth, a giant of 6 feet 9 inches who was over sixty but still a forceful general'.

From 'Discovering Battlefields Of England' by John Kinross, 1968.

That's your lot for now. Shire Facts will return one day, perhaps, but, in the mean time, Buy Shire.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Drive us all 'round the bend

I started collecting (rather than simply buying) records in 1984.

It was a very different world then.

There were plenty of record shops and masses of records, but no e-bay or, indeed, any internet at all. There were long photocopied lists, Record Collector ads, quarterly record fairs and trips up to London but, for the most part, your success in filling your collection was based on good luck or very hard work, not a couple of clicks and a credit card transaction.

The first artist I started seriously collecting was Scott Walker. The singles were easy, but the LP’s were hard going. His sixties solo albums had sold in great quantity (well, the first three had) but they didn’t seem to turn up very often, presumably still safe in the original purchasers home, or stacked up in shops in the North that I didn’t know existed. I got them eventually, of course, (though a ‘Scott 3’ eluded me for a ridiculously long period of time) and they meant, and still mean a lot to me today. A happy ending.

There were hundreds of frustrations and a thousand dark days along the way, however, and, in the absence of actual Scott Walker albums, I turned to buying Walker Brothers records instead. These were never quite as good (although they were occasionally great) but they were readily available, and I soon learned that a song credited to 'S. Engel' promised interesting things.

So, four such early gems, all showcasing Walker’s keynote style: overblown kitchen sink drama pop with heavy orchestration, psychedelic touches and bags of pretension. It sounds rubbish, I know, but it’s actually pretty incredible.

‘Archangel’ was the heavyweight b-side of fairly forgettable spy film theme tune ‘Deadlier Than The Male’ and features a church organ, swirling strings, sleigh bells and Scott standing in an echo chamber.

‘Mrs. Murphy’ continues Walker’s proto-Ballardian obsession with the erotic life of the tower block. This originally appeared as one of two tracks on an EP shared with his ‘brother’ John Maus called ‘Solo John / Solo Scott’, which not only sees into the near future (the band would split about nine months later) but perfectly encapsulate each artists style (John’s tracks are pleasant but forgettable standards; Scott is torn between creating moody masterpieces and banging out schmaltzy film theme covers).

‘Orpheus’ appeared on the final Walker Brothers album 'Images' but could quite easily have been on 'Scott One'. Reg Guest's orchestrations always have a touch of 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' about them, and this is no exception, sounding big and mystical from the Last Post intro to the sudden ending. I just wish I knew what it was about.

'Genevieve' (also from 'Images') betrays a very European influence and is, for Scott, almost romantic, despite the frequent insertion of a doleful spaghetti western bell and the wistful lyrics.

These superlative b-sides and album fillers are still available wherever records are sold or, if you prefer, with a couple of clicks and a credit card transaction. Let your conscience guide you.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Wobbly Oram

Good news for all Radiophonic / Daphne Oram enthusiasts, career spanning retrospective 'Oramics' is now available on vinyl, lots of vinyl.

Full details here.

Some of you might think that thirty quid is a lot of money to pay for this release, but let me put it this way: a. Daphne Oram is one of the most important figures in Electronic music ever and b. it works out at only £3.75 a side.

You won't regret it.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Occult bandwagon

Anything 'Toys & Techniques' can do, we can do later. I like 'Witchcraft 70' very much, but I'm very fond of the 1970 British documentary 'Legend Of The Witches', also featuring a frequently nude Alex and Maxine Sanders, who were always up for a bit of onscreen bare arsed ritual to help spread the wondrous word of Wicca.

Here's the opening sequence that sets it all out for you.

A short sequence identifying everyday witchcraft...

And, finally, something that may send you to sleep and / or get you to act like a chicken.

Monday, 21 June 2010


It is a little known fact that, in 1983, Wombles composer and visionary gingernut Mike Batt actually invented The Future, then set it to music. As dystopian visions go, it's pretty horrific.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Dummies: Dumb Waiter

Johnny was whittled in 1980, and modelled on popular TV alcoholic Keith Floyd.

Purchased by 'blue' ventriloquist 'Naughty' Norman Smith, the half human / half lacquered wood duo worked steadily at the social clubs and caravan parks of the UK for over twenty years. In 1986, they came third out of four on the revived 'New Faces' TV talent show with a significantly watered down routine.

'Naughty' Norman died in 2002.

Now Johnny waits, he just waits.

Well-thumbed machine

‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ is a rather ephemeral David Bowie song, but he rated it enough to record it on three separate occasions and I‘m writing about it here, so it must have some merit.

Originally released as a single in September 1972, the song was the follow up to Bowie’s massive ‘Starman’ and, for the first time in his slightly haphazard career to date, provided him with a second hit in a row, which might explain why he liked it so much.

Widely thought to be about a gay man reassuring his boyfriend that he is simply socialising with his female dance partner, the ‘controversial’ subject matter (which is, on the evidence of the oblique lyrics alone, marginal) seems pretty daft these days, and could only really have been daring in the light of Bowie’s androgynous image at the time and earlier pronouncements about his bisexuality.

Amazingly, this tiny hint of deviance stopped the record being released at all in the United States, where Bowie was already regarded with suspicion (and quite rightly, he was always dodgy in any number of ways), although he performed it live on his 1972 US Tour. More comfortable with our sexuality in the UK, and well used to a bit of camp with our popular entertainment, the BBC confined themselves to only banning the promotional film which, as it featured Lindsay Kemp and his dancers, is completely understandable.

Version one is all pop whizz and rockabilly, rounded out with some crunching Mick Ronson guitar, squalling feedback, a murky lead vocal and some neat stereo effects.

The second version (recorded in early 1973 and released, confusingly, as a single in April, with the same catalogue number as the earlier version) is pretty similar but has a fuller, brighter and cleaner production and introduces some rasping saxophone from Ken Fordham (Bowie, could play sax himself, of course, but tended to honk).

The third version - titled ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)to distinguish it from its predecessors - was recorded during the US ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour of 1974, and is a radically reimagined version with new lyrics, a new verse structure and lyrics and a seven minute running time. It prefigures the ‘plastic soul’ style of ‘Young Americans’ by several months and although it features a great Gauloises induced vocal from Bowie, it goes on a bit and tries to hard to be every type of funky all at once - and the new verses sound a little too much like some of the incidental music from 'The Goodies' for my liking.

British Statue Number Six

George Formby, Jr. (1904-1961),
Ridgeway Street, Douglas,
Isle Of Man.
Statue by Amanda Barton.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Shire Fact Number Nineteen

'Action Man is an extrovert character, and can be supplied with all manner of different equipment, neatly packaged and sold separately, for such virile pursuits as fighting, space travel, polar exploration (complete with husky dogs), diving and mountaineering'.

From 'Discovering Toys and Toy Museums' by Pauline Flick, 1971.

When I first saw this advert as a kid, some wee came out.

Shire Fact Number Eighteen

'Hereditary surnames were not generally used in Wales until about 1600, and even then, some families refused to use them'.

From 'Discovering Surnames' by J.W Freeman, 1968.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Peas in a pod

When I was a kid I had a favourite book that recounted the world's greatest mysteries. Aside from the obvious Big Foots, Loch Ness Monsters and Tunguska Events there was a chapter on The Green Children Of Woolpit: a mysterious brother and sister who emerged from a hole in the ground in Suffolk in the Middle Ages and were, as you might guess, green.

The mass market paperback book was light on evidence, simply presenting the story as historical fact, before finally concluding that there were only two explanations for the children's sudden arrival, strange attire and skin tone, and their odd behaviour and impenetrable language: they were either from outside of this world, or from inside it, which blew my seven year old mind.

885 years on from their arrival, and 35 years from first reading about them, I was pleased to catch this short, meandering but extremely interesting programme about it on Radio 4. It reminded me that the BBC still make thought provoking and off-beat programmes and broadcast them on a regular basis, just not on TV.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Organ harvest

'Organ In Sanity & Madness' is an LP I picked up about a year ago in Rotherham. I was on the famous Very Good Plus Charity Challenge at the time, and I paid 50p for it.

It's a fascinating document of an evening of organ music recorded at the Albert Hall on September 24th, 1966. The whole event was in aid of the Royal College Of Organist's Centenary Appeal and features a varied programme of etude symphonies, tone poems, concertos from the repertoire and musique concrete pieces commissioned and composed specifically for the concert.

'L'orgue Concrete' was written by Alan Ridout, and features James Blades on percussion and Allan Wicks on organ in a musical battle for supremacy, punctuated by a boxing bell. To further 'punch home' the joke, the musicians traded in their black ties and formal wear for dressing gowns and boxing shorts, which seems to have tickled the audience somewhat.

'The Storm' was composed by Nicholas Jacques Lemmens in 1866. This is an edited version featuring the most dramatic passage, accompanied on the night by flashing lights and full sound effects and featuring Allan Wicks playing the Albert Hall's very own 9,999 pipe organ.

'Mini-concerto' by John McCabe takes audience participation to the next level, issuing them with 484 penny whistles and instructions when to join in. James Blades is making noises again, and a young Gillian Weir plays the organ. It's an interesting piece, rather menacing and sinister, yet quite jolly when punctuated by the noises people make when they're enjoying themselves.

Not a particularly favourite album (ironically, there's just far too much flipping organ on it) but the event sounds like it was a lot of fun and seems redolent of a more culturally diverse past where classical music had Happenings and 500 people went to the Albert Hall on a Saturday night to blow a recorder.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Coventry: Dream Destination

In 1974, German uber-prog group Tangerine Dream played a number of concerts in the cathedrals of Europe. Whilst in jolly olde England, they stopped at Coventry Cathedral, one of the greatest modernist buildings of all time. I don't particularly like TD, but you have to admire their sheer ambition, and their watches, which are really cool. The sound is apparently from another concert, and it cuts out rather abruptly but, as I've said, I don't love the group and they usually go on for ages anyway so I'm not that bothered.

Unlucky for some

Brilliant choreography, marvellous visuals, and very busy hands from Brian Auger, the Richard III of rock, who appears to be wearing a Process Church Of The Final Judgement noose style rope tie. Mmn, that's interesting...

Fuck the neighbours

Fuck the neighbours! Not literally, of course, Sun Ra may swing, but he doesn't swing, if you know what I mean. I love this fellow, it's a pleasure to watch him noodle.

British Statue Number Five

William Wallace (1272-1305)
Formerly at Abbey Craig,
North Stirling, Stirling.
Statue by Tom Church.

Popular with tourists, hated by Scots, this wildly inaccurate 'lump of crap' was subjected to several acts of vandalism until its removal in 2008.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

British Statue Number Four

Alan Turing (1912-1954),
Bletchley Park,
Statue by Stephen Kettle.

Go and stew

Whilst we're on The Stranglers, here's their bass player making an amazing noise and having some fun with likeminded pals. Right now, tired and slightly drunk, I wish to Christ I'd been in this band or, at the very least, had the keyboard player's phone number.

A hole where I'll find darkness

Why, after thirty years, have I started liking The Stranglers? Because in a time where everyone is afraid, and angry and fucked up they sound terribly contemporary all of a sudden? This clip has everything: incongruity, nihilism, facial hair, analogue electronics and Peter pissing Powell.

A live version of 'Down In The Sewer' where they lock into a groove that is part Can, part Status Quo.

They cheat on the clock, but this track could have been recorded yesterday, or tomorrow, although it was actually recorded in 1979.

The Stranglers are cool.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Got no money, got no friends

Punk chucked up a lot of chancers, incompetent musicians with nothing to say who jumped on the bandwagon and started spitting and flicking v signs at passers by.

Raped were one of the most pathetic of these groups: pretty awful musically, they made up for their mediocrity by courting controversy at every turn.

Whereas a record like ‘God Save The Queen’ becomes a cause celebre because its subject matter goes against the societal grain, an EP called ‘Pretty Paedophiles’ (Raped’s first record, released in 1977) is simply about shock: it cannot create a debate because there are no opposing opinions – paedophiles are not pretty, just deeply abhorrent.

Not surprisingly, the larger department stores refused to stock the record on title alone, which gave Raped an opportunity to gleefully proclaim on the sleeve that the record is 'not available WH Smiths, Boots or Woolies' giving their crappy stuff the cachet of being 'banned' and raising their profile above and beyond what they could ever have earned on musical merit alone.

Their second single ‘Cheap Night Out’ came with a free comic that parodied teen publications like ‘My Guy’ and ‘Jackie’, complete with agony column, profiles of the band members and a competition where ‘you can win a free concert from Raped at your school – with or without the Head’s permission!’. Phew, smash the system.

I don’t know if anyone ever won the competition, or if Raped hit a career peak and played an unauthorised gig in a school playground, but I know they split up shortly after the release of this record, only to return very quickly as proto-Goth Bowie freaks The Cuddly Toys.

So, after all the posturing and the minor outrage, what we’re left with is the music and, actually, flip me, you know what, it doesn’t sound half bad in 2010 - rather like something you’d play a visiting Alien who wanted an overview of what punk mostly sounded like, or a track from a budget Top of The Pops LP where session musicians are trying to emulate the sound of The Stranglers after a heavy liquid lunch.

So, here's the 'Pretty Paedophiles' EP in full, all ten minutes of it.

‘Moving Target' has a melody that could have been quite sharp in other hands but is let down by poor time keeping, yobbish vocals and by being nearly four minutes long. 'Raped' is not as you might expect their manifesto but rather a song about wanting to be raped (which seems a contradiction in terms). ‘Escalator Hater’ sounds like it could have been a Ballardian tale of alienation in a featureless shopping centre but it isn’t, the narrator just doesn’t like escalators: in fact, he hates them. Finally, 'Normal' is the song most obviously in thrall to The Sex Pistols and has an awful guitar solo and a memorable refrain, 'normal you're not normal, normal, so informal...'

Those were the days, my friends...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Shire Fact Number Seventeen

'The bible refers to the 'salt of the earth' and today in certain African countries the highest compliment payable is to say one is loved more than salt'.

From 'Discovering London's Guilds & Liveries' by John Kennedy Malling, 1973.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The satanic rites of Jeff Lynne

I’ve loved the Electric Light Orchestra since their 1970’s heyday. At their best, they were a preposterous juggernaut of pop: pompous, ridiculous, brilliant. What I didn’t realise is just how evil they were.

In 1981, Christian DJ Mike Mills threw his best Sunday hat into the debate on so called ‘backmasking’ in rock records (hidden subliminal messages only revealed by playing the records backwards) by providing a comprehensive list of bands actively seeking to corrupt young minds with studio trickery and Satanism. Unbelievably, ELO were on it.

Up until the moment I heard this extract from Hidden and Satanic Messages in Rock Music’, I honestly and genuinely thought that there were only two disturbing things about ELO: their hair, and the fact that prolific serial killer Denis Nilsen strangled one of his victims to death with a headphones cord as the unfortunate man listened to ‘A New World Record’. How could I have been so stupid?

In actual fact, Mills makes a rather pathetic case, as his limited examples are either completely innocuous or quite clearly satirical responses to the debate itself. ELO even called one of their albums ‘Secret Messages’ to extract the piss, which may be sublime, but is hardly subliminal. Ultimately, Mills is reduced to listing song titles that he thinks sound vaguely sinister in order to pad out his wafer thin case. It's rather sad, best summed up by Jeff Lynne’s comment on the controversy: ‘skcollob’.

Even so, beware, casual listener, this is through the looking glass stuff so take care, especially if you’re listening to it on headphones in the flat of a man you’ve just met.

As a bonus, please find attached the Orchestra's mental version of 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King', which almost makes me think Mills might have a point.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Yummy Brummy

'The Diary Of Horace Wimp' is one of the Electric Light Orchestra's lesser known, and odder, hits. Features extensive vocoder use and lots of hair, but, strangely, no Saturday.

Ice Pole

Talking of hairy people, here's Polish legend Czeslaw Niemen. Everything about this clip is cool (including the title, which translates as 'Native Flowers'), and it just gets better and better as it goes along. Incredible stuff.

Run for your life

We've looked at City Boy's awful / brilliant oeuvre before, but never as up close and personal as this. Here they serve as harbingers of the end of the world, six horsemen of the apocalypse in their mirror shades, scarves, beards, tucked in trousers and tidy beards. The section where they take it in turns to sing 'run' had me wishing that my ears would catch fire.

Hour of the Wolf

It may be just my age, but new music is mainly rubbish these days, isn't it?

To every stupid sweeping statement from an out of touch middle aged man there are exceptions, of course, with Wolf People being one of the most notable to this one.

Wolf People are a proper rock group, with guitars and flutes and beards and tunes and interesting time signatures, that call to mind the very best of sixties and seventies prog, folk, jazz, psych and rock. Yet, despite their obvious love of all things musty and past, they never pastiche or parody: to them an influence is just that, not a blueprint to rip off and cheapen. I think they're great.

Their debut LP 'Tidings' gathered together some brilliant singles and early tracks; their first full studio album is imminent. Look out for it.

By the way, the band themselves are pretty hairy, but are baby faces in comparison to the gentleman pictured. I'd like to meet his Tailor.

British Statue Number Three

Bobby Robson
Portman Road,
Ipswich, Suffolk.
Statue by Sean Hedges-Quinn.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Mounds and circles

A discarded musical loop from the U-W files + some found footage + half an hour in which I should have been doing something more important = 'Mounds and Circles', a short, repetitive film for programming interludes and unplanned breaks in transmission.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Melted into air, into thin air

Ralph Vaughan Williams
is my favourite classical composer. He’s also British, very British, and that both makes me happy (I’m not a racist, I just like to relate) and is absolutely integral to his life and work.

Often derided by contemporary critics for a lack of edge, Vaughan Williams is probably best known for his beautiful pastoral music but, from 1924, he was experimenting with harmonics and, with his fourth symphony in 1935, presented a dissonant and dramatic work that startled the critics.

As he grew older, Vaughan Williams continued to push the boundaries of his work and, although he could never be called avant garde, his appetite for the new and unusual continued up until his death in 1958 at the age of 86.

Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony was written in the immediate post war years and premiered in 1948. It would be an astonishing work by anyone, let alone a 76 year old who was Britain’s most successful and most respected composer since Elgar.

The symphony contrasts high drama and blank horror, wistful pastoral folk and aggressive martial marches, and is most obviously a reaction to the carnage of the second world war, although Vaughan Williams (characteristically) would not be drawn on his inspiration (his stock response to questions about his influences and themes was “it never seems to occur to people that a man just might want to write a piece of music”).

The first allegro has a startling (and very loud) opening in which the music seems to climb and then fall from a precipice before moving into an urgent and slightly chaotic section which, in turn, introduces one of the most evocative folk melodies Vaughan Williams ever wrote, a short, stirring passage of harp and strings that is gradually overwhelmed by a reprise of the strident drama of the opening bars. It is a stunning climax to an incredible piece of music.

The closing epilogue is a remarkable fugue that is played extremely softly and, occasionally, imperceptibly, drifting in and out of hearing. Much has been made of it as a musical illustration of the aftermath of an atomic blast, the soundtrack to a dead world. Listening to it with that in mind, it’s hard not to picture the slow fluttering of radioactive dust onto a ruined city, although Vaughan Williams hinted that he was thinking more of Prospero’s famous lines from ‘The Tempest’: ‘we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little lives are rounded with a sleep’.

The interpretations here are relatively recent, and were conducted by Bernard Haitink in 2004.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Shire Fact Number Sixteen

'Stump Cross Caverns hit the headlines in 1963 when Geoff Workman established a new record by staying underground for 105 days'.

From 'Discovering Caves' by Tony and Anne Oldham, 1972.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

How many digits of Pi can you remember?

Do you know what the most bizarre thing about this clip is? It's completely genuine.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Punk on demand

I've never believed in God, but I have quite often bought Library LP's from the nineteen eighties, which requires just as much faith and a similar disregard for rationality.

They're almost always awful, either sounding like incidental music for a Paul Nicolas sitcom or a crappy synth suite for a training video on how to navigate the toll bridges of Belgium.

'Hunk Of Punk' by Graham Preskett is from a 1981 KPM Library called 'Sunburst'. The rest of the album is terrible but there's something about this funny little track that makes me smile. Described as 'heavy, aggressive punk' on the sleeve, it's absolutely nothing of the sort, of course, but it is fast and loud and better than 75% of yer actual punk bands.

Hard to imagine what this could soundtrack, apart from a kid's game show with lots of gunging or perhaps a manic interlude followed by a complete nervous breakdown.

Bizarrely, I played this to a roomful of children a few weeks ago and they spontaneously started to pogo.