I’m Set Free

“Without Lou there is no Bowie as we know him. Me? I’d probably be a maths teacher” – Lloyd Cole

Brian Eno’s famous line about the first Velvet Underground album only selling 30,000 copies but “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band” may have been a very quotable exaggeration but was a tidy way of expressing their oversized influence. I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess at what British music would have sounded like for the past 40 years if it hadn’t been for the Velvets and the literate, envelope-pushing songs Lou Reed wrote for them and in his solo career — from Glam Rock, Punk, Post-Punk, and Goth through to jangly-guitar Indie, his fingerprints are all over it.

But only seeing him through the lens of his influence on other people does him a little disservice when his own records were often – and with the Velvets, nearly 100% – brilliant in their own right, no matter who formed a group because of them.

Download: Sad Song – Lou Reed (mp3)

The Voice

Very, very sad to hear about the death of Bobby Bland. I’m not a huge Blues fan, but his voice is one of my favourite sounds in all of popular music. That mixture of gravel and honey and the way he would suddenly, dynamically, shift from a tender whisper to a full-throated, lion-esque roar could give you goose pimples. I didn’t really consider him a Blues singer anyway, to me he was up there with the great Soul growlers like Otis, Wilson Pickett, and James Carr.

Download: That Did It – Bobby Bland (mp3)
Buy: The Voice: Duke Recordings 1959-1969 (album)

Monster Man

Another childhood icon bites the dust: Ray Harryhausen.

I know it’s a cliche to talk about hiding behind the couch in terror when you were a kid but I remember literally doing that during the skeleton fight scene in Jason & The Argonauts when it was on the telly at my Gran’s house one Christmas.

But the giant statue was my favourite bit, and I still think it’s impressive.

Something for the Weekend

At least they said “please” which was very nice of them.

She’s Gone

I suppose a lot of people will be posting Elvis Costello’s “Tramp The Dirt Down” today but not me. Even back in the 80s at the height of my Maggie hating I thought that was a stupid, over the top song. No matter how wrong, divisive, and damaging she was, and how many lives and communities she destroyed on the altar of her beliefs I could never take pleasure in her death. I wanted her gone, and maybe even locked up for crimes against the working class, but it was her ideology I wanted to die, and sadly “Thatcherism” is still very much alive today, even in the Labour Party.

So I’m not sure how I feel today. Very mindful of the passing years because such a major figure from my youth has now exited and gone into the history books, and a bit surprised that she actually died which proves she was human after all.

Take it away, Arthur.

Download: Strike – The Enemy Within (mp3)


I only just heard the sad news that Cecil Womack died last week. Apart from being part of a legendary soul family (and being married to the daughter of another soul legend) him and his missus were responsible for two of my favourite soul records of the 1980s.

“Teardrops” is great but I think I’d give the edge to this one. The albums they come from are both excellent too.

Thunderbirds are gone

Returned home after Christmas to hear the sad news about Gerry Anderson. I don’t know a lot about the man but I get the impression he would have rather been making movies with real people than working with puppets, but he did amazing things with those lumps of wood and string and created whole worlds as brilliantly realized as any in children’s entertainment or literature. I can’t think of anyone who is responsible for as many icons of my childhood as him, or whose creations inhabited such a large part of my imagination. My toy collection would have been a hell of a lot smaller too.

Download: Thunderbirds Are Go – The Rezillos (mp3)

Being Blue

I was very sad to hear about the death of former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton who will always be the real “special one” to Chelsea fans my age. Before the club became the plaything of a Russian gazillionaire and started racking up the trophies, the “glory years” had been way back in the early 70s when Sexton was manager and the team contained names — nay, legends! — like Osgood, Bonetti, Harris, Cooke, and Hudson.

Chelsea and Fulham were my two local sides growing up but the latter seemed like the team of Brylcreemed old men going on about Johnny Haynes — the first player to make £100 a week! — while Chelsea were all King’s Road flash, sideburns, and Raquel Welch. No contest really, especially when they won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup (beating the mighty Leeds and Real Madrid in the process) which made them all heroes in my young eyes. Little was I to know they wouldn’t win another trophy for nearly 30 years.

Like those kids in the picture above I used to hang around outside Stamford Bridge waiting for the players to come out from training in the hopes of getting an autograph. A lot of them would just walk out of the ground on foot so it was easy to get an autograph, these days they’d probably zoom right past in their Bentleys and Ferraris, knocking over old ladies on their way to shag a Page Three girl or meet with their accountant. But player’s lives were less opulent then, I used to see Chelsea players in local pubs and our silky winger Charlie Cooke lived down the road from us in a regular terraced house. When they retired a player’s biggest dream was to have enough money saved to buy a pub.

The one autograph I still have is of Ray “Butch” Wilkins who was the golden boy of the team at the time, having been made captain when he was only 18 and being a bit of a handsome pin-up star (hard to believe when you see him now), so it was a real thrill getting him to sign my 1975-76 Fixture Card, like being a teenybopper and having David Cassidy sign your boob.

Thrilled though I was, I remember being a little disappointed that he signed his name Ray and not Butch which was his nickname back then. Who was this Ray fella? No one called him that!

1975 was a crap year for Chelsea (and there were many more crap years to come), Sexton had been sacked the season before and we were in the Second Division. Sexton’s replacement Eddie McCreadie eventually quit himself because the Chairman wouldn’t get him a company car (this after he had got Chelsea back to the First Division) so it seems like our owners have always been arseholes. But whenever friends talk to me now about how the money we have is destroying the game, the bad behaviour of our players, our owner changing managers like socks etc. etc., I always reply “Sure, it’s terrible. But what am I supposed to do, start supporting another club?”

Download: Pass, Shoot, Goal! – Gracie Fields (mp3)

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com




Follow me!

For Hire