Teardrops



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)

Alice Through The Test Card



Last week would have been the 43rd birthday of Trish Keenan, the lead singer of Broadcast who died in 2011. James Cargill, her partner in the band and in life, has posted a couple of personal recordings of Trish singing and reading on the band’s website which are lovely but incredibly sad under the circumstances. Much as I want Cargill to put out whatever unreleased recordings he has I’d perfectly understand if he decided he couldn’t bear to listen to them ever again.

(The title of this post comes from this tribute. I thought it was about the most perfect way of describing Trish that I’d ever heard.)

Starman


Childhood heroes are usually pop stars and footballers, but growing up in the late 60s and early 70s we also had the Apollo astronauts to idolize, actual heroes who performed amazing, courageous feats that really mattered — unlike Marc Bolan and Peter Osgood. To us they were real-life versions of Captain Kirk, Scott Tracy, and our Major Matt toys. They looked so cool in those white spacesuits, blasting into space (space! outer space!) aboard the gigantic, beautiful Saturn V rocket (which I had an Airfix model of). When I lived in Florida I visited Kennedy Space Centre and seeing things like the Lunar Module made me feel like a thrilled little kid again. Great though it was, seeing the Space Shuttle never excited me like that.

The death of Neil Armstrong has brought a lot of those memories back and reminded me what a big deal it all was at the time. I watched all the Apollo missions on TV from lift-off to splashdown (with James Burke and Patrick Moore on the BBC), seeing the first moon landing in my pajamas as Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at four in the morning our time. I think I went to bed for a few hours and my mum set her alarm to wake us up for the big moment.

To us kids the Apollo missions seemed to promise that the future might be like the one we saw in Gerry Anderson TV shows, and that by the time we were adults we’d be living on the moon. Little did we know that when Apollo 17 left the moon in 1972 we wouldn’t go back again, so the moonbase we dreamt about never happened — not to mention the jetpacks and flying cars.

All the obituaries will use the word “immortal” to describe Armstrong’s place in history and I think some part of me thought he literally was, because even though he was getting on a bit his death still shocked me, as if I was surprised that such a legend would just kick the bucket like the rest of us boringly do and not ascend to Valhalla on the back of a giant, flaming bird or something. Seven-year-old me would have expected nothing less.

Download: Enchanted Sky Machines – Judee Sill (mp3)

Don’t Forget To Remember Me


The Grim Reaper continues his May sweep through the pop world, now he’s taken Robin Gibb.

Though I think the Bee Gees have gained some appreciation and even cred in recent years, some people still regard them as being a bit naff. I saw them live in the late 1980s and it was a terrific concert, they really were excellent, but the other week I told someone that and he said “You saw the Bee Gees???” with the tone of someone who thought I was a bit soft in the head. It makes you wonder how many great hit songs a band has to write to be considered serious artists, I certainly don’t have a problem saying that the Gibbs are up there with Lennon & McCartney as the best pop songwriters that England has ever produced.

Though Barry’s falsetto was the sound most people associate with them, Robin’s voice was no less distinctive. His quivering tone often sounded like a fragile little boy on the verge of tears which added an intense, melodramatic sadness to early ballads like the ones below. As Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne says in his tribute here, his voice “sounded like no one else before or since.”

And spare a thought for Barry, that’s all his brothers gone now.

Download: My World – Bee Gees (mp3)
Download: I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You – Bee Gees (mp3)

Something for the Weekend



Donna Summer has gone to The Great Disco In The Sky.

I think the “Queen of Disco” tag and all the baggage that goes with that genre tends to make people overlook what a terrific voice she had, and was anyone ever better at faking an orgasm on record?

Let The Wild Rumpus End


RIP Maurice Sendak.

If you’re of my generation (which I think most of you are), then Where The Wild Things Are was one of the books you grew up with. It certainly fired up my childhood imagination in a big way and I still remember trying to copy Sendak’s beautiful drawings, especially those fabulous monsters. Even today when I draw a monster for my kids they look like the ones in that book with pointy teeth, shaggy hair, and horns.

Download: Storybook Children – Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood (mp3)

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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

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