November 20th, 2013
Originally posted January 2008
A lot of you probably recognize the blond bird in the middle of this photo as Britt Ekland: actress, sex symbol, Bond girl and former main squeeze of Peter Sellers and Rod Stewart. Some of you might know that the guy on the left is actor/director Lionel Jeffries, best known for his roles in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Railway Children. But who’s the bloke on the right grinning like he’s the happiest person in the world at that moment? That’s my old man, that is.
The picture was taken in 1972 on the set of a movie called “Baxter!” that Jeffries was directing and my old man had a bit part in it. In the 60s and early 70s Dad was a London taxi driver with dreams of being an actor, and one day he picked up Jeffries in his cab. The two got chatting and my old man told him he was an aspiring actor so Jeffries offered him a part in his new film — playing a taxi driver. If you’ve never heard of “Baxter!” that’s because it was a flop and sank without trace when it came out, it’s never even been out on video far as I know. I’ve only ever seen it once and if you blink you’ll miss my Dad and his one line of dialogue (he picks up Britt in his cab and says something like “Cheers, love” when she tells him to keep the change.) It wasn’t much but still, he was in a movie with Britt Ekland — not bad for a cab driver from Shepherd’s Bush. Unlike me he preferred blonds which partly explains his huge grin in the photo.
After this brush with fame Dad bought himself an old Rover P4 which he called Baxter. It was a beautiful car, tan exterior with cream leather seats and an 8-track player which was the latest in high-fidelity mod cons back then. Of all the albums my Dad had on 8-track the one that most reminds me of that car is Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, especially the track “Joy Inside My Tears.” It was never my favourite on the album, it followed the ridiculously catchy “Isn’t She Lovely” and always seemed such a downer after that — it sounds like it was recorded at the wrong speed and sort of plods along like it’s all woozy on cough medicine. But there’s something hypnotic about it and when I hear it now it’s that foggy and muggy warmth which reminds me of sitting in that car on a cold day with the windows misted up, having a day out with my Dad which usually involved a lunch of egg and chips with a banana milkshake and going to the pictures.
Download: Joy Inside My Tears – Stevie Wonder (mp3)
The acting thing didn’t work out for my Dad, after the movie he had small parts in television commercials for The Sun newspaper and Slimcea bread but that was all far as I remember. He did far better behind the scenes though and became a Stage Manager at the National Theatre in London where he had a very successful career — his first boss was Lawrence Olivier and he counted many famous actors and writers among his friends. He even got to meet the Queen, not too shabby.
November 18th, 2013
Thought I’d do another repeat post from the archives to make up for the lack of new stuff I don’t have time to write. I chose this one because this album still hasn’t been reissued since I first wrote it back in 2007 and these tracks are too great to remain expensive cult collectibles.
Most Saturday afternoons in 1977 you’d find me in my bedroom listening to the Kenny Everett show on Capital Radio which was the perfect way to fill some of that dead time between getting back from the shops with my Mum and the football results coming on Grandstand. It wasn’t just the adventures of Captain Kremmen (which you can listen to here) that kept me listening, like myself Kenny had a major ELO obsession and was constantly playing their then-new Out Of The Blue album. He must have played the entire double album (parts of it several times over) and this was before I got my own copy so I was glued to the radio. Kenny’s musical tastes leaned heavily toward the polished and elaborate like ELO, he was the sort who thought “Sgt. Pepper” was the pinnacle of western civilization and that snotty punk stuff was just horrible. I thought so too at the time, it just sounded like a moronic racket to my ears and whenever my sister played the first Clash album I’d take the piss by singing “White Riot” in a retarded D.P. Gumby voice.
Another album that got heavy play on his show was Looking Over My Shoulder by Scottish singer/songwriter Chris Rainbow. If anybody has heard of him these days it’s as lead singer of The Alan Parsons Project in the 1980s (I’m so glad to say I never knew he was) but in the 70s he recorded three solo albums which are to The Beach Boys what ELO’s were to The Beatles — full of sunny, intricately-arranged pop symphonies with heavily multi-tracked vocals. While a lot of the album now sounds as dated and cheesy as the shirt he’s wearing on the sleeve, some of it still quite gorgeous.
“Dear Brian” is a fan letter to Brian Wilson who at that time was still a recluse, drugged out of his head in a sandpit somewhere. Over it’s sublime six minutes he laments the destroyed tapes and lost outtakes that ended up on a studio floor and implores Brian to “step in the sandbox” and make music again. The ghostly “In And Out And Round About” washes in like a mist coming off the North Sea and gets a bit Proggy (but in a very pretty way) with some highly pretentious lyrics and a grand church organ arrangement. Kenny played this a lot and would get all wobbly over the whispery ending.
Download: Dear Brian – Chris Rainbow (mp3)
Download: In And Out And Round About – Chris Rainbow (mp3)
All of Rainbow’s albums are out of print now and go for rather large amounts of money as he’s something of a minor cult amongst fans of 70s soft pop.
November 15th, 2013
It’s a Battle of the Bands between Hawkwind and The James Last Orchestra.
November 8th, 2013
Marshall Hain‘s singer Kit Hain left a comment on this blog once many moons ago. I’d posted a track from their only album and she asked me if I could repost it as she didn’t have a copy of the album herself. Sadly the comment was lost (along with a gazillion others – those were the days!) when I moved from Blogger to WordPress.
So if you’re still out there Kit, pop in and say hello again sometime and I hope you have a copy of the album by now.
November 1st, 2013
My grandparents were big James Last fans, no idea what they would have made of this though.
October 31st, 2013
I’m teaching my son to swim at the moment. I might have to show him this very informative film from my youth so he realizes that aquatic ability is just as important as good hair and a motorbike when it comes to impressing the ladies.
Download: Ha Ha I’m Drowning – The Teardrop Explodes (mp3)
October 29th, 2013
The famous “Tennis Girl” poster sold two million copies in the UK in the 1970s and 80s, becoming as iconic a bedroom-wall hanging of the era as Farah Fawcett-Majors’ red swimsuit poster (though that sold 12 million), and has been much parodied and imitated, including by another well-known bum.
Tennis Girl did for naked bottoms what Farah did for nipples, providing a respectable way for teenage boys to get rude bits on their bedroom walls without being embarrassed in front of their mums. And while the Farah poster is all-American — bursting at the seams with teeth, hair, and have-a-nice-day vitality — Tennis Girl couldn’t be more British: It’s saucy rather than than dirty (cheeky, even!) and is really just a naughty seaside postcard given the soft-focus and gauzy lighting of upmarket “artistic” erotica like the movie Emmanuelle which was also a big mainstream success back then.
I didn’t have one on my wall (or Farah either) because even back then I thought it was a bit naff. Marilyn and Kate Bush were my choice of bedroom-wall totty, and I kept the naked bums hidden in my closet where my mum couldn’t find them.
Download: Pictures Of Lily – The Who (mp3)
October 25th, 2013
Kate’s voice falters a bit during this performance but I think I can forgive her as it’s otherwise wonderful (except for the video quality.)