Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Much has been said over the last few days in the press and elsewhere about the very sad demise of Humphrey Lyttelton. Being a Radio 4 addict since the age of 5 he has long been an idol of mine with the way he delivered some of the funniest lines on radio in a complete dead-pan manner. By far the biggest laughter from I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue was reserved for his comments at the end of the show about the "delightful Samantha", the show's scorer. Perfectly innocent comments that somehow the audience always managed to interpret differently. This selection was printed in the Sunday Times at the weekend.

"Samantha’s just started keeping bees and already has three dozen or so. She says she’s got an expert handler coming round to give a demonstration. He’ll carefully take out her 38 bees and soon have them flying round his head"

"Samantha has to nip off to the National Opera, where she’s been giving private tuition to the singers. Having seen what she did to the baritone, the director is keen to see what she might do for a tenor"

"Samantha has to nip off to a Welsh Conservative Association dinner for their most senior MP, whose name is said to be almost impossible to pronounce. She’s certainly found the longest standing Welsh member a bit of a mouthful"

"Samantha has to go now as she’s off to meet her Italian gentleman friend who’s taking her out for an ice-cream. She says she likes to spend the evening licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan"

"Samantha does a few chores for an elderly gentleman who lives nearby. She shows him how to use the washing machine and then prunes his fruit trees. Later he’ll hang out his pyjamas as he watches her beaver away up the ladder"

"After tasting the meat pies, Samantha said she liked Mr Dewhurst’s beef in ale; although she preferred his tongue in cider"

Monday, April 28, 2008

It’s 11.30pm on a Saturday night at the Windmill in Brixton, South London and the place is packed. On stage is a band from Belfast called the Panama Kings and the audience is singing along to their songs. Every so often you stumble across a rare commodity in the music world - something that is different that sets a band out from all of its peers. Back in 81 I first saw U2 and was immediately struck by the different sound they had and they way that they immediately captivated an audience, of whom the vast majority had probably never ever heard of them.

It’s taken a while for a band from across the Irish Sea (and in this case Northern Ireland) to capture my attention quite the way U2 did back then but Panama Kings seem to fit the bill. They are young, have their own particular style and don’t simply sound like every other band, writing some exceedingly good songs. The danger is that all the hype they are receiving across the water could ultimately prove to be their downfall if expectations fail to be met. But this is a band whose feet are solidly on the ground and seem to shun the attention of A&R men. They have a management team that will not push them too fast too soon and is happy to just let them get on with making and playing good music.

I chatted with Niall and Ricardo before they played. The last time we met they had just played a JD Unsigned gig and I gave them a lift back to Brick Lane after the show. Belfast is clearly a small place as people they mix with and know back home are familiar names to me via Greenbelt. Standing just to our left was a member of the Amazing Pilots, whilst back home they have duetted with Iain Archer and seem to know Steve Stockman quite well (although I suspect so does half of Belfast!). We talked about their rapid rise to success in Northern Ireland and how they coped with the accolades being given them, and the gig they had played the night before supporting the Undertones in Belfast. Ricardo had even heard of Michael McDermott and was aware he had just been on tour over here so clearly went up in my estimation!

We also talked about Greenbelt which they had heard about from friends back home. They presumed that it was too late to be considered for this year’s festival - so I said never presume anything - all things are possible. So I shall be making some hasty enquiries with the Greenbelt office to see if they might be interested in Belfast’s finest - I just hope they don’t immediately think I mean Snow Patrol (although Gary Lightfoot is another man to have sung with the band live).

And if you live in London, there’s a chance to see them again on Tuesday night at the Dublin Castle - should be on stage a bit earlier this time - probably 9pm.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This is a great video of recent session by Dodgy in Manchester. I've been trying to work out how much they would cost to book - I'd forgotten they had added horns and keyboards for the live shows, so a bit more than I had bargained for. Great to see Andy in his best Lou Reed look - looks years younger than when playing in Hey Gravity! If you have time, sit back relax and watch/listen and see how many songs you suddenly find yourself knowing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Michael McDermott is currently somewhere in Italy, playing shows over the next 5 days, including one for Sky TV. You may be wondering how things currently stand between us given my comments in an earlier blog.

We had a chat after the Borderline show to discuss some of the issues that had arisen on the UK leg of the tour. We also discussed the future to try and understand what Michael really wants to do over the next 12 months.

I wouldn’t say things are perfect – but then they never are and with Michael you never quite know what he is going to do next. The tour as a whole was mixed – including audience numbers as the Barfly gigs were all badly promoted with only the Borderline having a good turnout. Other locally promoted venues faired much better. Michael was clearly distracted most of the time from the reason why he was supposed to be there in the first place – first for his old love and then for his new love – not sure if somewhere in between there was a current love that I missed! For the moment I feel Michael is going through an infatuation process – it may lead to real love, or it may end in tears – only time will tell.

I have a number of ideas up my sleeve in terms of what I would like to try and do next with him but until things settle down there is only so much that is worth pursuing. Bringing him over to the UK is not cheap and I don’t want see the people who back these trips being let down. He needs to work out for himself what it is he really wants and if that means discovering real love then I’ll be backing him all the way. For all I know the next 12 months could see wedding bells and the pitter patter of tiny McDermott feet – yikes!

And finally, on a positive note we now have a UK tour manager AKA
Steve who fed, drove, housed, listened, and all those other things a tour manager does – even to the point of fixing him up with a girl although not sure that bit was planned! The boy did good.

The Panama Kings are playing the Windmill in Brixton on 26 April. If you're in London be sure to check them out. In the meantime, you can catch a glimpse of them live at http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/atl/atltv4_sessions.shtml - just click on panama kings.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Michael McDermott Live at the Borderline in London 9 April 2008

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I was chatting to good friend Andrew earlier - had planned to be at McDermott gig tonight but is somewhere in Wales running the Thomas the Tank Engine tour (you may laugh - as I did originally - but it is playing to sold out major venues. He mentioned an article in yesterday's Guardian that I should read. So Thomas for Greenbelt this year?

The link is here

No doubting Thomas
A children's story about friendly tank engines has become something of a religious experience

Giles Foden The Guardian,
Tuesday April 8 2008

Easter being so early has caused many children either to be at home when they should be at school or, depending on the institution and region, at school when they should be at home. Such havoc would not please Sir Topham Hatt, of Thomas the Tank Engine fame, confusion being one of "his least favourite things". So Sir Topham, aka the Fat Controller, tells us in the current touring production of Thomas and Friends, a live stage performance already more or less sold out across the country. In the show, Thomas and his friends, James, Percy and Gordon, share a story that encourages life lessons such as discovery, friendship and cooperation.

Along with thousands of other children, as my enemies might put it, I attended a recent performance of Thomas and Friends at London's Hammersmith Apollo. The experience was a salutary lesson in strong branding and the pulling power of Thomas, whose name was with terrifying fervour chanted by the waiting audience. No wonder. The deep structure of the stage narrative reveals Thomas to be nothing less than the new incarnation of our Blessed Master.

The characterisation of Thomas as Christ is focused in an advent song: "He's the one, he's the one, he's the really useful engine we adore, he's the one, he's the one, he's the number one, Thomas the Tank Engine!" It's also demonstrated in the pattern of the story itself. Thomas is the saviour. Banishing the confusion and delay abhorred by the Fat Controller he saves the day.

Fellow engine Percy is stuck in a quarry, subject to the snide comments of a Troublesome Truck. He is due on the other side of the island of Sodor (the site, roughly based on the Isle of Man, of the Reverend Thomas Awdry's original tales dating from 1945). His belatedness, along with the failure of the lighthouse that will guide overseas visitors, mean that Sodor's annual Festival of the Magic Lanterns may not occur. Then along comes Thomas to rescue Percy, overcoming adversity and the negativity of the Troublesome Truck.

As a bonus Thomas and Percy discover an old diamond mine, from where they secure a boulder-sized diamond, with which to replace the lighthouse's missing bulb (the idea being that the diamond will reflect the lights of incoming ships). Light is restored and time is redeemed, pleasing the Fat Controller. All in all it proves "the coming of para-religion" as David McKie termed it in these pages, in a 1997 piece referring to the surge of quasi-Marian idolatry which followed Princess Diana's death. A decade later, enviromentalism might be seen as another example.

For all its holistic, boundary-crossing appeal, the green movement could borrow some of the brand extending qualities of Thomas. Over the years he has appeared in Meccano, Lego, and various wooden models, as a Commodore, Nintendo, and Playstation game, and many other forms of merchandise, some of which is for sale in the Apollo's foyer. It is a remarkable apotheosis for a character who was just one of many engines in Awdry's original Railway Series.

Like God's being, Thomas is a sign of contradiction: a cross, as it were. As the brand has extended horizontally across categories and integrated vertically between media (the stage show borrowing techniques from the computer game), Thomas himself has become singular, more special than ever. He is risen, he is real, witnessed by wondrous crowds. They are gazing into the sky above Hammersmith after the show. The object of their reverence, a helium-filled Thomas. Released, he floats defiantly, if a little uncertainly, above the howling flyover.

· Giles Foden is the author of The Last King of Scotland and professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Couple of videos from last night's gig in a crypt by Michael McDermott in London town.

Still Ain't Over You Yet - a song written about an ex

And this amazing take on of Purple Rain

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I remembered today one of the reasons why I don't miss working in the City. For reasons I won't go into, we have a stockbroker based in Canada who manages some money for us. No matter how early I email him he always seems to respond straight away. I can only guess he sleeps with a Blackberry under his pillow.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Every so often you want the world to just swallow you up - last night being applicable for me. I decided to go out for dinner with M, his latest tour attachment and a couple who were friends of M, visiting from the States. There is nothing worse than being sat at a table where you are the only single person and the rest of the people sat around it spend their entire time sitting gooey eyed at each other. Excuse me whilst I go and vomit.

Yesterday was supposed to be about doing a short set at a busy bar/restaurant that books some good names - basically about getting kudos. But when the text came to say too tired, need to rest the voice etc I decided to be kind and scrap the plan. What I didn't expect was this to be an excuse so that the day could be spent out on the town touring bars etc - that's not my definition of resting. People have put a lot of time and effort into making the current tour happen, and maybe I've got it all wrong, but I believe that opportunities like this are rare and that you have to give 100% all of the time, not just when standing up on a stage. Time to make some big decisions.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Not sure what happens if you click here but if you are lucky you go to a movie download of Michael McDermott:


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Michael McDermott

Arm Yourself - Barfly Brighton 27 March 2008

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