This is very unusual.

I was sitting having a coffee in Cafe Nero when I had an overwhelming desire to put pen to paper in a metaphorical sense.

My laptop however is at home charging – I think I may have overtaxed it at some point.Not one to be deterred I picked up my Kindle, turned it on it’s side and started tapping away.

It is really infuriating. My fingers are too big. The keyboard is too sensitive. I can’t bash out my thoughts. I have to tickle them out. And that’s no fun.

When I write I like to put a bit of emotion into my keystrokes. Maybe that’s why some of my writing can be aggressive. But this! This is killing my flow.

So fuck it. Looks like I will have to carry my laptop with me at all times.

 

From Karaoke to croaky.

Over the weekend it was my big brother’s birthday, so I went up to Yorkshire to help him celebrate.

For 3 nights at varying venues we sang, screeched and even mumbled through a plethora of musical styles.

All was going well until foolishly I attempted a version of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. That’s when the trouble started.

Afterwards I walked back to my hotel, a little drunk and not really feeling the bitter cold. The next morning I ate a heart stopping breakfast met a friend and the next night we did the same thing again.

3 nights of singing songs I wasn’t used to, my throat gave up. It informed me I had abused it too much and was now going to shut me up.

For the last 4 days I have been growling deeper than Lee Marvin singing ‘I was born under a wandering star’.

But it doesn’t end there. I’ve been going to interviews and talking about me, my work and what I can bring to their company.

All maybe sounding a bit too deep, nasally and at odd times I break out into a squeak as my vocal chords tighten up again – it’s like going through puberty but without the sudden flood of hormones and sea of greasy spots.

How do you fight this? Lashings of fresh lemon, honey, ginger and coconut oil in hot water. The relief drinking this concoction is wonderful.

But when you stop you lapse back into the growling, squeaking fellow who doesn’t have much control of his voice anymore.

I would say that when I’m over this I will be more careful because I ain’t getting any younger.

But next week I have my leaving do from work. And they’re talking  about having a karaoke.

 

Live music lives on.

Forget all those over produced albums, if you want to hear music properly it has to be live.

Beautiful as those carefully crafted songs are they are too perfect. Note-perfect. Pitch-perfect. Timing- perfect.

They’re just a little too homogenised for my liking. Lacking in human error. Hearing Phil Mogg of UFO go slightly out of tune on a song is a rarity that stamps a concert with it’s own individuality.

(On the other end of the spectrum you get Dave Lee Roth of Van Halen; if he happens to hit the right note anywhere then you have a rare piece of history.)

Metallica have created a website of recordings from their concerts. You can now buy the concert you went to and download it directly to your device.

It’s not a new idea. The Grateful Dead have literally hundreds of performances on vinyl, cd and now digital, all ready to buy.

It’s a fantastic money-making idea as well. At every concert the sound engineer records the gig to play back later to make sure his engineering is up to scratch.

Some clever fellow or lady must have said ‘we have all these recordings and an audience, why not sell them? Not top dollar obviously, but a small profit’.

Going digital has made it all possible.

It’s great for the music fan. Concerts they couldn’t go to because they were too far away, or weren’t even born when they played are now available.

So the Tokyo broadcast in 1988 of Guns n Roses is now in my arsenal. AC\DC live at Towson State College in 1979 is within easy reach.

Sadly, David Lee Roth is now easy to get hold of, but once you’ve played a live album with him on you’ll never want to download anymore from the fellow.

 

 

 

 

I don’t love my guitar, I need it.

This weekend, I’m in my hometown of Barnsley. I stay in a hotel because my father’s house is full to bursting with assorted piles of clothes and rubbish.

I really can’t stay at my brother’s house either because there simply isn’t the room. And the settee seems to have loose springs that could jump out at anytime and slash your jugular.

So I stay in the Premier Inn at the Gateway Plaza, which, at the moment is a wind tunnel that could knock a fully grown man off his feet. Or send his hat towards heaven if it wasn’t screwed on properly.

One thing I always miss on these little excursions is a guitar. It’s silly to drag a guitar all this way on the train and all the way back again but I really miss it.

Over the last 20 years I’ve come to rely on it. It’s my crutch. I used to smoke and that kept my hands occupied. Now I’m tapping away on my laptop because these crazy flipper fingers need something to do.

‘Watch some television’ I hear some of you cry. But I can’t. Even watching telly I have to have a guitar in my hand working out chord progressions or a solo to something.

My brain fascinates me. It’s tried to kill me with its moods before. It has kept me awake for nights on end with its machinations. And sent me into dark corners of thought which I only narrowly escaped.

But it needs to be doing something. Hence, here I am talking about it behind its back. I’m sure at bedtime it will remind me of my indiscretions and want to talk.

I’m going to have to buy a guitar and leave it at my brother’s house when I next visit. I can’t do another weekend without my six-string therapy,

 

Which part of ‘Fuck Off’ do you not understand?

I know I should be more sociable but there are times when you just ‘want to be alone’.

I don’t fill my day randomly talking to strangers. That’s insane. As a kid I was told not to talk to them and on a whole I agree. Strangers are a bit sinister in my book.

The other night I was on my way home and I thought ‘I’ll stop in the local boozer and see if any of the people I like are in there’.

Sadly they weren’t. There were a few familiar faces but not ones I would engage in conversation. So I ordered my Guinness and sat down. I put my earphones on, listened to some Allman Brothers Band and read my kindle.

You’d have thought with all these signs: sitting on my own, reading, earphones on, it was obvious I was content to be left alone.

No! Some random Yahoo sits next to me and starts talking to me about how he does work on the side. He’s employed but he does a little bit of extra work to get a bit of extra cash.

Did I ask him a question? Did I lean over and say ‘tell me about your work, I may be reading a book and listening to music but let’s see how much I can multi-task by you talking to me and me answering.

Despite my obvious stand-offishness, he continues to talk to me. I say ‘excuse me I’m reading’. He then asks if I like reading?

I should have said ‘I prefer reading to talking to random people in the pub who won’t shut up and fuck off. But I didn’t.

Luckily my friend Thor came in (sans hammer) and I almost pounced on the poor fellow with delight.

We went outside, as Thor is a smoker, and had the most pleasant conversation. When I went inside to buy a round the fellow was talking to the fellow I tried to ignore the previous week.

Which sort of beggars the question? Is it me being antisocial? Or are these people so lonely that they will talk bullshit to anyone and everyone?

Either that or I have an invisible sign above my head that says talk to me, I love nutters.

Greatest hits albums; not that great

Another bugbear of mine which has probably contributed to my title as ‘music snob’ is this record company shit about putting out a greatest hits album.

Yes, I can imagine sales go through the roof when they come out and it encourages people to buy other albums, but it just seems all wrong to me.

Quite recently I listened to a Frank Sinatra greatest hits and they were all there. Toe-tappers, sing-a-longs and knicker-looseners.

It felt like an auditory onslaught. Track after track of Sinatra at his peak but where were the less well-known tracks? The ones that make the others shine.

It’s like the white space in a design. The pause in a poem. The hole in a doughnut (or a polo). What makes great albums is the variation.

After my best of Sinatra I listened to ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers’ and ‘A Swinging affair’. Genius. Diverse. Varied. Like ‘The Matrix’ we need imperfections to thoroughly believe in it.

This isn’t confined to Sinatra, Motorhead’s No Remorse is a best of stacked with bombastic rockers but where is the eloquence of ‘God was never on your side’?

I listened to my Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues and I hung over every track with a reverence I could scarcely remember. But after that I spoiled it all by playing my Essential Talking Heads. Big mistake.

Every now and then I fall into the trap of getting a greatest hits, essential, best of.. or ultimate collection and end up regretting it.

What I should do is stick to buying individual albums with the track order selected by the group. It’s their music, they know best how to present it.

Rather than some tone deaf record company executive who just hears the sound of the cash register from music that just happened to ‘sell well’.

 

Good God!

Think of the holiest and most self-sacrificing people in history and on that list you’ll find Mother Theresa.

She was an inspiration to millions around the world for her work with the poor and needy.

But she didn’t believe in God.

At first she did and went about her work with a goodness that bordered on sainthood. Yet after years of helping the poor and destitute her faith wavered.

Despite her constant prayers God left her charges in squalor. Many who died in her care.

Sadly, she lost her faith but carried on her work. So, why wasn’t it ever mentioned?

Well, they needed donations. And as a figurehead she inspired people to dig deep. It wouldn’t be as powerful if they found out she didn’t believe anymore.

She lied to the world. But it was a good lie. One that saved many lives. But you can imagine that some Christian zealot will say she belongs in hell for her untruths. Go figure.

 

Laking about.

At my last place of work there were 3 of us who hung around together – we all liked a drink and liked good company.

We also talked about doing something away from work. We went to see Roger Waters’ The Wall together at the O2. One of the greatest concerts I have ever seen but we talked about doing something more.

Ross Keenleyside came up with the idea that we should all go to the Lake District together. Matt Williams and myself thought it was a ‘fuck of a good idea’ so a hotel was booked and train tickets were purchased.

One sunny Friday afternoon we met at a pub by Euston and began our boys’ adventure.

The first fail was that the train, rather than being 8 carriages was now a very miniscule 4. The other problem being that it was a Bank Holiday Weekend.

Matt had tried to book seats but we were well and truly fucked. We spent most of the journey standing and there was no buffet car, so no beer – the horror.

By the time we reached the hotel in the Lake District we were 3 very thirsty chaps. The landlady kept the bar open for us and we slaked our thirst with much welcome cold beverages.

Now this is where I made my mistake. I started talking to the landlady ‘Debs’ and introduced myself as ‘Mark’. We had a conversation while Matt and Ross were talking to some of the locals.

That night we retired to bed and I thought nothing of it.

The next morning Ross was the victim of another mistake. He was sharing a room with Matt. What we didn’t realise was that Matt snored liked a warthog with sinus problems.

The result was Ross had been kept awake most of the night by these nocturnal snortings and looked like he’d been beaten up. While Matt skipped down to breakfast fresh-faced and smiling.

We ordered breakfast and ‘Debs’ who seemed to do everything brought us our plates. Now this is where my problems began.

In Ross’s words ‘Debs’ practically ‘threw their breakfasts at them’. When she brought mine, it was all ‘and here’s your breakfast, Mark, I hope you enjoy it.’

I assured her I would and turned to see Ross and Matt looking at me in shock.

“Mark! Since when has anyone called you Mark? I thought we were with our mate, Taf. Not this’ Mark’, character.

Despite this little bit of favouritism we set off for a 7 mile romp round the lakes. In the first half-mile I twisted my ankle so spent the next 6 and a half miles hobbling like an old man while the two fellas marched on.

It was a great walk, great scenery, beautiful lakes and warm sunny skies. There was a peace I hadn’t felt for so long. Just staring out over all this natural beauty was soothing to the soul. What made it all the better was that I was with 2 great friends too.

At the end of the walk we ended up in a pub for a few sharpeners then it was back to the hotel for dinner.

After seeing so many young lambs frolicking free and healthy in the pastures it was only natural that each of us chose the lamb for dinner.

Then we hit the bar again with one of the topics of conversation being that I must have banged Debs last night to get such preferential treatment.

Many beers later at well past bedtime we each took our leave. I went upstairs first and climbed into bed as the room swirled around.

The next thing I hear is a soft knock on the door. “Mark, Mark? It’s ‘Debs’, will you let me in?”

Now if Debs was a 40 year old bloke there was no way that was her voice. The main thing that gave it away was Ross laughing so hard that it sounded like he was falling down the stairs.

“Mark, will you let me in?” The sound came again accompanied by the howling laughter of a big geordie bloke in fits of apoplectic laughter.

The rest of the weekend was a laugh with 2 of my greatest mates but I will never forget Matt and Ross outside my door, pissed out of their heads pretending to be an amorous landlady.

I would have opened the door if me and ‘Debs’ weren’t pissing ourselves on the other side.

 

 

There are 11 million deaths attributed to Hitler. Does that make Uncle Sam 10 times more evil?

The home of the free and the land of the brave is by comparison only a young country but has notched up quite a kill rate.

Over 100 million Indians are claimed to have been murdered by the early settlers and their descendants. In simple terms the United States of America was founded  on genocide – and has continued killing in wars across Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Iran

Of course there have been apologies, so that must make it alright then?

Not in my book. Every flag-waving American ought to feel a deep sense of shame for what their forefathers did.

Some of the early settlers were British and even I feel the shame at what my countrymen contributed to.

But that’s in the past you might say. It happened a long time ago. What irks me the most is that this country will start wars and ship armies across the world in the name of freedom and democracy. And oil, of course.

All their past ‘misdemeanours’ have been swept under the carpet.  Their evil history is wiped clean in the books written and the movies Hollywood produces.

The heroic cowboy kills the heathen savage and we root for the men with the square jaw and the six gun.

Today, America is held up as the bastion of democracy, yet all I see is the hypocrisy of a nation that bullies and murders the people who stand against it.

These ‘terrorists’ aren’t the good guys. But then neither are the countries who crush them with ‘peace-keeping’ forces.

Now I see children fighting in the playground and when the teacher asks them who started it, they both say ‘it wasn’t me.’

Maybe, we need a teacher to step in.

 

 

 

Gay, lesbian, straight. It’s all perfectly simple

Some people would have you believe that sexual orientation is a choice. Well it’s been proved that it’s no more a choice than being born male or female.

In the womb we all start as female embryos. That is until a blast of male androgens turns the embryo into a male.

Because the foetus’ brain develops later another blast of male androgens creates a male brain.

No male androgens at all and we get bouncing baby girls.

But being the human body, some things don’t always go to the plan. If the foetus gets it’s first blast of male androgens but not the second, we get a male body with a female brain. So the baby is born gay.

If the embryo misses it’s first blast of androgens but gets the second we have a female with a male brain. So we get lesbians.

All this talk of discrimination and rubbish is a result of hormones doing what they do. It’s as stupid as disliking someone for the colour of their skin.

Oh shit, we do that too.