Friday, March 31, 2017

(rest on letter)


something more for friends and family, look you see, but the more general or if you like causal observer of this blog from time to time is most welcome to have a gander.

an exceptionally important friend of many years standing - perhaps the longest to have stayed in touch with me across time and years - was going through some papers and documents. this, quite seriously, might have been to find something related to our ambitions for deep space exploration, for this friend happens to be to science and technology what Spiros is to law. yes, i am aware that most of my friends outstrip and shame me with their immense talents; that just makes me all the prouder to know them.

during the act of going through these papers, he found these items. ones which i am most flattered to find that he has kept for just slightly south of thirty five years.

wowee, some correspondence from me from the then other side of the world. as there was no internet and no mobiles, and phone calls cost a fortune, writing was the only way one could remain in contact with friends. and, indeed, yes, i confess that the above shows my handwriting as good as it ever got to be, and it's never been as good as it was in the above. although that looks like Mum kindly added the instruction to the post people to send this via air mail.

a really interesting thing would be the photographs. as one only had a limited number you could take with a reel of camera film, and reprints from the negatives were expensive, i would suggest that the above are the only copies of these particular pictures. as such, i would not have seen them since, you would think, 9th July 1982 or thereabouts, and so i am most happy to see them once more.

you know who you are - thank you very much indeed for saving these and letting me share them once again!

and yes, i do stand by my review of Condorman. excellent, it is, although our boys get bored after a few minutes and insist i switch it off. kids these days.

be fair dinkum to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


hi there

yes, sorry, i know, look you see, that this look back (rather than glance forward) at a match of association football i went to is rather late in respect of a worthwhile match report. i've just not gotten around to doing it until now. and now is here where we are, so since i've got the pictures let us have a look.

besides, there are images of James, who is one of the 75% of my family that you all like more than you like me. although do be warned, for some pictures of me do indeed crop up here, but no not at first.

Middlesbrough, my most beloved team who i have supported no matter where i have found myself in the world, are presently a going concern in what many consider the pinnacle of the game, the English Premier League. it might well be that we are not this for quite so much longer, but whilst we are a consequence is that you get to play a match against the rather famous Manchester United. how famous? just ask the Pope, but that's a song for another time.

whilst i have encouraged James that supporting Middlesbrough is a most wise, astute and class thing to do it is the case that for a number of reasons he has a proclivity for all things Manchester United. reasons? well, the behemoth marketing machine behind Manchester United means that their brand and products really do dominate the international market. in spending so many of his formulate years overseas, it was inevitable that the young mind of James would fall prey to the push of promotion for this team.

a break from that briefly to bring you a picture of James outside the ground, proudly holding two copies of the match day programme. how much does such a magazine cost? £3 to buy, and then just slightly north of £5 to post one to the other side of the world, which is what has happened with one of them (happy reading, Dad).


another reason for James having an interest in Manchester United might have something to do with me. a very dear friend of mine supports the team with some passion (he has fought in defence of the team in places such as Johannesburg, Israel and Leeds). he also happens to have a daughter around the same age as James. as part of the agreement to united our two great families through our children getting married it was decided that James should embrace Manchester United as his team. in truth i wasn't quite sure how i was going to do this, so when it naturally started to happen i just stood aside and didn't complain too much.

if you can see where this match was, the question now is perhaps one of when it was. Sunday 19 March, no less, with a 12pm or if you like noon kick off set for the match for the benefit of television audiences around the world.

a picture of James and i sat in the ground? sure, why not.

this was the first ever Premier League game which James had attended. up until now we had just gone to see the Boro and their quest to get on in the Championship - where we could well be featuring again soon - and of course in the FA Cup, in which we shall feature again next season as we've now exited it this.

on the first instance of us going to a match James was most eager for us to be in our seats more than an hour before kick off, in case he missed something. since then he has learned that there is no rush and so we don't have to be there quite so early.

but still, it was a lovely day (if a little bit chilly), and so we went to our seats before many do, so that we could watch the relevant stars of the starting line up of each team warm up in preparation for the match ahead.

he must surely be one of the most photographed men in modern football, but if for some reason a long distance, zoomed image i took is of interest to you, sort of in the centre there in that above picture is indeed one Jose Mourinho, the incumbent manager of Manchester United. and, you suspect, the manager for a bit no matter how their season ends, for it's unlikely a manager of similar capabilities would be available to replace him.

speaking of replace, this match was the first since we parted ways with our manager, Aitor Karanka. whilst he had done a good - no, excellent - job for us for some three years, he had badly lost his way in the last few months, with the club going nowhere but down and fast as a consequence.

Mr Mourinho happens to be a good friend of Mr Karanka, so of course he used the instance of his interviews before and after this game to bad mouth us, saying how his friend should have gone to a "much bigger" club. well, we've never proclaimed to be anything but a small team (we're a town, not a city) capable of punching above our weight. for Mourinho to take the time to bad mouth us puts us in the same bracket as the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal. i am very happy to be in this company.

another look at James appreciating and enjoying watching some of his footballing heroes live, in the flesh and up close for the first time? sure, why not.

in terms of seeing the stars of Manchester United, not to be in some cases. the man everyone wished to see, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was alas banned for this game due to an incident with an elbow. Wayne Rooney, who whatever flaws he has as a person and must surely have a question mark over "legend" status since he's asked to leave Manchester United at least twice is still a big name, was missing, presumed injured.

but still, there were enough players for James to be interested. everyone, after all, appreciates and respects the gent who is Juan Mata. Marouanne Fellaini is worth seeing for the novelty factor alone, and one suspects that Marcus Rashford has a long and successful career ahead of him.

plus, as i pointed out to James, he was also getting to see some Boro greats. with Karanka gone the local hero Stewart Downing was restored to the team, featuring alongside fellow hometown talent Ben Gibson. and then of course there was the matter of Negredo still being our player.

what exactly happens in a warm up, for those of you who have only seen matches on television and not been at a game? mostly a lot of practice at shooting. here's a short video clip for those of you able to play back video.

the result of the match? 3-1, as i would suspect if not assume is widely known by this time. it was a match that few gave us any chance of winning, but all the same it is a result which has left us deep inside the relegation zone. in order to survive in the Premier League we must effectively win more games in the next two months than we have managed to in the last seven, and hope that the teams around us suffer a dramatic drop in their own form.

but that said, there was promise in this performance. you may think that us getting 1 goal isn't much, but that's the first league goal we have scored since the last week of January. of this, hope, i suppose. to be realistic about it, for me the result suggests that we are to go down fighting at the least, rather than simply just sulk off with the whimper that we seemed to be about to do.

as you may have worked out already, James and i were sat behind the goal again, as was the case for the FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday. once again, as was the case then, we featured on Match Of The Day on the BBC, as you can kind of make us out in the footage of Fellaini's opening goal and then th eone Gestede got for us.

sorry, no screen shots or video editing of it this time, alas. to do so would take quite some time, and delay this even further. you are, however, very welcome to have a picture of James and i at half time.

indeed my hair is getting somewhat long, and a trifle wild as a consequence. some friends have speculated that i might soon well require to do a ponytail or "man bun"; something that i have historically accused gents who do that of being absolute wankers. well, times change. perhaps a focal point of my mid-life crisis, for if the years i have achieved now are half of my existence then i will have done well, will be doing something like that with my hair.

wrong and strange it seems to find myself saying this, but it happens to be true - despite the defeat, this was one of the best matches of football i have ever been at. with Boro all of a sudden being focused on driving attacks and trying to score goals (ostensibly the purpose of football), this really was an exciting match. the reality is we were outclassed by an understrength Manchester United team, but my word did the team give it all that they could.

it did at one point look like we were going to force a 2-2 draw, but in pushing for it they caught us on the break and Jesse Lingard slotted in the third for Manchester United. much to the delight of the very vocal and passionate travelling Manchester United fans.

other than the defeat, any blemishes on the day? nothing worth grumbling over. Chris Smalling wasting time by trying to work out how to tie his own shoelaces killed the pace for a bit, and he did seem to be at the centre of tensions bubbling over towards the end. but hey, it was Smalling's mistake that helped us score.

also, language. this wasn't really a problem, but as we were unable to secure seats in the family stand we got to hear some rather colourful and expressive things being shouted at the Manchester United fans and playing staff. this is part and parcel of football, and it must be stressed that James had absolutely no problem in listening to it. he, in truth, found much of what was said entertaining and educational, if not insightful.

a blemish for me, and many others, is the cost of going to the match. i appreciate supply and demand dictates the price, but still it was just ever so slightly south of £60 for me to take James. we would go to a lot more games if it was more affordable, but then i suppose if they made it any cheaper there would be no tickets left to buy, what with demand high.

so, a brilliant match, a result one of us was happy with, and all around a fantastic day out.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


howy pop pickers

yes, another post relating to the charts. that is the charts of popular music, look you see. but also no, for two weeks of looking at the mess, or if you prefer abomination, that has become of the singles chart is enough. for a variety of reasons we shall all just simply have to accept that the nearest, closest thing in the modern world to a British singles chart came to an end the week prior to Ed Sheeran's Divide album was released, and that's more a reflection of how badly those in control of it managed the chart rather than a dig at the plucky songwriter.

the album chart, then. although all of this "streaming" stuff seems to count for it too thus far it would seem that mostly it remains based on sales in its composition and ranking. to that end, it is the best of times and the worst of times for those plucky Basildon socialists known as Depeche Mode.

there was, as i probably mused in my review linked above, little or no chance of Depeche Mode getting the number one spot with their Spirit album. not when Ed Sheeran is selling truckloads of CDs and vinyl, with the former being somewhat suspiciously discounted across supermarkets. also, i just don't know if the Depeche Mode record is streaming and that.

an interesting week in the charts, then, with 3 new records (or 2 and 1 collection) shifting enough to be top five. Vera Lynn 100 by Vera Lynn, you would imagine, is a CD which many a mother, grandmother and maybe even great-grandmother took custodianship of on Mother's Day, which was this most recent Sunday passed.

Drake, who i assumed was some form of duck and is thus probably a tribute act to Disco Duck or maybe Keith Harris and Orville, has got to number two by making the full album available on them "streaming" services which qualify for the chart. this i know for a fact because that thing that used to be the singles chart now has as many Drake songs in the top forty as Ed Sheeran does, which is to say a lot. the single chart does not really reflect singles sold, then, but rather the preference for album songs by certain artists.

so no, then. the new single off of Kasabian did not even make the top forty. could be the "surprise" nature of the release, could be that it was made available by "streaming" services which do not count for the chart, perhaps i am just one of the few who bought it or, simply, the people at large do not like it.

returning to Depeche Mode, and the number five position in the chart means that this is one of their best performing albums in terms of chart rankings. considering how few sales are required these days, however, i suspect it's also the cheapest top five album they have ever clocked. hey ho, a week and a bit later and i am still not bored of the record.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

just a lovely coffee

hello there

like everyone else i am always ready, keen and indeed eager to mouth off, look you see, when something displeases me. it's important, then, to be sure, to balance that out a bit by giving some positive comments out when along comes a thing that pleases. and a new brand, range or if you like blend of coffee has pleased me, and indeed my (considerably) better half, a great deal.

L'or, it would seem to be called. yes, i suppose that is a bit French, but please don't let that put you off. it is a lovely cup of coffee one gets off of this stuff.

provenance? i bought it at Tesco, where it currently retails for £2.50 a bag. that price seems not fixed, and later on we will see how this could be problematic, but as later on suggests we shall get to that.

indeed my reason or if you like rationale for purchase was that it had a relatively low price. that said, i was reluctant at first, for it had a "5" on it as a strength indicator, or if you prefer indicator of strength. usually 5 + 6 are crazy psycho insane strength black tar coffee, so i would tend to hover more around the 2 - 4 bracket.

the above image is indeed some splendid coffee on the go, presented as i and it must be certain all of you prefer in the format of Commodore 64 mode. interestingly the above image is one i took for a record cover, but it got sent back to me, saying it was the wrong size. hey ho, i tried.

back to this L'or business, then. as far as i can ascertain it is made by them Douwe Egberts people, the one with the name i cannot work out how you pronounce so i simply call it Doogie Howser coffee. i suspect Doogie Howser was some sort of television show, perhaps involving a medical thing, but anyway they probably drank coffee in it.

a point of interest about the manufacturer, however you say their name, is that their instant coffee is usually somewhere between tolerable and awful. it is most splendid, then, and to an extent impressive, that they have mastered some filter coffee taste of note.

will i be drinking L'or filter coffee on a progressive, regular basis going forward? ha ha, no. other than the fact that it seems only to be stocked by Tesco, a store i seldom frequent, what little information about the coffee i have found suggests that the £2.50 price will not be with us for long, and the standard price will be £4.99 per bag.

to put that pricing in context, the "posh brand" Taylor's of Harrogate usually sells for £3 a go, whereas the Tesco and Morrisons own brand (which is fairly decent) goes for little north of £2. L'or is splendid, but it will be splendid only as and when it is on special. thus, there is no way that i am paying close to Fortnum & Mason prices for it, for it is not quite so splendid a thing as what Fortnum & Mason would sell.

right, then, let me go and enjoy a cup of it whilst i have it.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

in my imagination there is no complication


it is highly likely that the question of just which brand is considered the quintessential American cigarette is one which is inconsequential. with advertising long since banned and packaging becoming some sort of bland standardised thing few would care for such a question today, and no one of the generations to come will think to ask it.

what would i think it is? instinct probably tells all Marlboro, but deeper thought says no. Marlboro had cultivated an image of sophistication, class and luxury that was not indelibly tied to one particular country. Camel is another contender, perhaps, but then again they branded themselves as the cigarette of choice for the man of adventure, or if you like man of action.

the quintessential American cigarette, then, is likely to be one which is well known across the American market, but has perhaps not managed to flourish in other lands to a point of instant recognition or association. like, for instance, Lucky Strike.

yes. actually no, hang on, but yes. i have recently come into the ownership of some packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes, or if you like some Luckies. that would be the purpose, if not point, of this post and the semi literate start, so if you have no interest in the subject i would suggest you find another corner of the internet and i shall bid you a very good day.

how is it that i came into the ownership or if you like became the custodian of some Luckies? Spiros. as part of his efforts in being the greatest legal mind of his generation he frequently needs to visit other sovereign states to conduct his affairs. he said he got bored of just getting me my beloved Marlboro, and thus elected to procure for me some Luckies.

to this i say nice one, for as much as i love Marlboro, any fags are a blessing and a delight to receive when one considers the frightening prices on them here these days. also, it is lovely to get some cigarettes with the traditional, proper packaging still allowed.

this is, strangely. not the first time i have had the pleasure of having some Luckies. it is, however, probably the first time on this northern side of the equator. down in South Africa i am sure i had a packet or two of these, and indeed the non-filtered, rum roasted Texan ones, too. hair on your chest cigarettes was my abiding memory of both.

how are they, as in what are they like to smoke? most decidedly bronchial, dear reader. they are reasonably pleasant at first but my word do they have one heck of an after kick. how i imagine waterboarding is, right, is what i imagine one does to their body - in particular lungs, other chest elements and throat - with these, but only with nicotine laced smoke rather than water.

surely that sensation would be enough to insist to yourself to stop smoking, no? but of course. absolutely everyone instantly stops doing absolutely everything that is bad for them the moment their attention is drawn to this fact. that's why no one smokes, drinks, eats, exercises, etc, any more in this world, and why we are now all destined for a very real immortality.

the above is so very clear in Commodore 64 mode that you do not need a single word from me, but for the sake of completeness yes, the above indeed are Great Barrier Reef branded cigarette lighters that i got off of Poundland, with the packet costing me £1. i did indeed buy them specifically for the commencement of use with them in lighting up the Luckies. in my imagination Luckies would have been a popular brand in Australia, right before the country went for some inexplicable reason all fanny and effectively banned cigarettes all together. funny things happen when you are so far away from the rest of the world.

i don't remember the specifics of where i heard this, or if it was in any way accurate, but i have memories of either reading or being told that Lucky Strike were called so because, presumably as part of branding, they came with matches and one of them strips that you could ignite a match on. if that's true then they don't do that any more, at least not with the packets i got.

but still, since they are allowed to do some branding on these cigarettes, they do for now keep true to the Luckies branding name on the bottom of the packet. and beyond, as we shall see. 

if these are the quintessential American cigarettes, then who might be the quintessential American smoker? it's a tough one. in terms of Luckies, not New York. from what i can work out off of television documentaries, New York is roughly 30% Jewish, 20% Irish, 10% Italian and 40% 'African American', give or take. this may well be incidentally or if you like passively presumptuous and stereotypical of me, but none of those groups particularly strike me as Luckies types of smokers.

no. i think the home of the Luckies smoker is Texas. and Utah. and Denver. and sorry of any of them are actually all one in the same; alas i do not have an atlas to hand.

the Lucky smoker, then, has a defined chin, a pronounced nose and them subtle yet striking eyebrows which are juxtaposition to elegantly understate the features. the skin is not so much bronzed by the sun as it is tanned to the point of leathery by it, with the cracks upon the face being from the ferocious heat of being out in it. they smoke Luckies because they hurt, just as they swig red eye and other forms of harsh liquor because they hurt. they embrace the hurt and the hardship so that all may know who they are.

effectively, then, the Luckies smoker is pretty much this one bloke Spiros and i saw in a quite revealing documentary called Bronco Johnny Hard On, sometimes broadcast under the name California Cowgirls. although very little of the documentary seemed to show off California. Bronco Johnny Hard On is something of a personal hero of mine.

that's a quite clever use of space, that is, to be sure, above. whilst it is obviously crystal clear in the Commodore 64 mode picture i have taken, for the benefit of those of you who are hard of hearing what they've done is made the legally obligatory barcode in the shape of a bin, and had the cartoon character putting some rubbish in it. a nice way of meeting all requirements for packaging and making the notices more interesting to look at.

one thing which will have struck you is that these packets of Lucky Strike seem a good deal bigger, as in wider, than regular ones. that would be because they are. no, it's not that they are "fat" American cigarettes, it's just that you get 25 in a packet rather than the conventional 20.

i remember the days of packs of 30. i think you could get Chesterfield in them. they were smart, man. came in a lovely presentation tray, and made smoking them feel all the more luxurious, ambassadorial and sophisticated.

that really is a lovely touch on the cigarette itself - having the slang name for the cigarettes printed on them, and in quite the attractive font too. now, in England, of course all you get is the type of cigarette it is stencilled on it with the blandest font in the shop being used. it's like they don't care about smokers any more.

once there was a TV show here called Strike It Lucky. the host, whose name i failed to catch, was a popular and funny bloke, but there was some sort of problem with his passion for swimming pools as i recall. anyway, they changed the name of the show to Strike It Rich at some point. not sure why; perhaps it had something to do with accidentally promoting Lucky Strike cigarettes in a country where they were not readily available.

oh sure, a tobacconist in London could probably get you them, but they can get you anything, man.

and so, quite, that is perhaps all that i have to say on the subject of these fags, as such. once again i would like to declare how indebted and grateful i am to Spiros for his generosity in getting these and sending them my way. most highly appreciated, amigo.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

random bowie - aladdin sane


Well this is something I’ve been thinking just maybe could have been avoided. It of course could not, look you see. What, precisely? In this attempt to do a post on a random David Bowie album each month it is necessary for me, look you see, to do a 70s record.

On the one side I don’t particularly care if people do not like what they read here. I mean, obviously it’s nice when people find it interesting, funny or entertaining in some way, but I can’t make anyone like it. If they don’t, well, they should have stopped and gone on to read something else. The other side of this is when something happens like you try to write about a 1970s David Bowie album. Beyond so very much already being written about them all (except, weirdly, Lodger) already, the exalted position they were held in prior to January 2016 has gotten all very much exalted. One feels almost compelled to write in the same kind of uber-wank way journalists did when The Next Day came out, for doing anything but celebrating their genius and greatness is likely to see calls for you to be arrested.

Let me be brave, then, and try this. And why not go in close to the deep end with a listen and a look at the Bowie record with arguably the most iconic cover, Aladdin Sane from 1973. A significant year, I am led to believe.

Some quick facts about it? Surely. Recording took place from late 72 to early 73, with sessions “happening” around an ever expanding tour of America and other locations with the growing success of Ziggy Stardust. Depending on what records you count, this was Bowie’s 5th or 6th studio album and the first to come out – despite an earlier number one single – with David as a confirmed, bona fide pop star. As a result, it sold by the absolute shed load. This last bit basically vindicated the decision to in some ways “rush” to get this album recorded and released as soon as was possible to both gain momentum and stockpile coins of money whilst the going was good.

It’s an album that has grown in stature over the years. Which is to say that it wasn’t particularly well received at the time, looking at some reviews. Further, Bowie himself seemed not to bothered about it at the time, as we shall see as we go with some quotes attributed to him, taken from the 30th anniversary edition of the album..

Speaking of quotes, here’s Martin Amis on the subject of David Bowie in 1973 –

“Among certain more affluent hippies Bowie is apparently they symbol of a kind of thrilling extremism, a life-style (the word is for once permissible) characterised by sexual omnivorousness, lavish use of stimulants – particularly cocaine, very much an elitist drug, being both expensive and galvanising – self-parodied narcissim, and a glamorously early death. To dignify this unhappy outlook with such a term as nihilist would, of course, be absurd….[Bowie] is unlikely to last long as a cult.”.

Attribution is important, kids – the above quote was taken from the book Scorn, a collection of quotes compiled by Matthew Parris, published by Profile Books Ltd, ISBN 9781781257296.

Getting to the quote, it’s easy in retrospect to, well, pour scorn on it, and laugh at how hopelessly wrong Martin Amis got that. In context, though, in 1973 this was accurate. After styling himself mostly as a Dylanesque folk artist of ambivalent sexuality – bar a dabble with quasi-Led Zeppelin sounds on The Man Who Sold The World – he hit pay dirt with Ziggy Stardust. To follow that up with Aladdin Sane – ostensibly and at surface value another character created and another glam rock sounding record – was neither innovative nor likely to lead to a sustained career.

The above isn’t so much me saying that as it is reading what Bowie himself said of the Aladdin Sane album. Here, as promised above, are some quotes from the man himself on the record.

"I knew I didn't have much more to say about rock n roll. I mean Ziggy really said as much as I meant to say all along.".

"It was almost like a treading-water album, but funnily enough, in retrospect, for mem it's the more successful album, because it's more informed about rock n roll than Ziggy was.". 

So, Bowie himself was somewhat dismissive of the record, the critics were hardly rushing to praise it at the time and, as I will get to, the initial re-releases of the album suggested that no one was all that fond of it at all. And yet the fans revere it. Just how does the record hold up, 44 years later (blimey) Let’s do a track by track thing.

Watch That Man – A bit of a throwaway, effortless bit of glam that’s more glam rock than it is pop. The opening sounds of the song remain great, and make sure that the record has your attention. In truth, it’s a song that sounds like it was more fun to play than it was to listen – it feels really, really long and drawn out.

Bowie’s vocal being mixed down is somewhat distracting, but it is not like the higher prominence given to his voice on live recordings makes it any better.

Aladdin Sane (1913 – 1938 – 197?) – Inspired by reading Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, the title track (yes, a play on words, “a lad insane”) is a bit of a stab at a ‘pop opera’ thing. It’s a whimsical look at how, in the first two years of the title, societies simply didn’t contemplate or consider the very real catastrophes the world would be plunged in to, and with the final suggested year indicating that maybe we were on the verge of it yet again.

Whether deliberate or accidental, it at times sounds like Bowie is struggling to conceal a giggle as he sings – in particular the line “Paris, or maybe Hell”. As with Watch That Man, the music seems to take preference over the vocal, in particular Mike Garson’s celebrated piano.

Drive-In Saturday – Not content with suggesting society on the brink of collapse with the song before, Bowie leaps into the future. This song is a vision of a post apocalyptic world where society is in ruins. People barely know how to communicate any more, and have to rely on “video films” to learn how to love, and indeed make love. All this to a very doo wop / she bop early 50s prototype rock sound.

Mott The Hoople famously (or if you like infamously) rejected this song when offered it by Bowie, despite the huge hit they scored with All The Young Dudes which he gifted them. Most happy day that they did. This song is one of Bowie’s finest ever vocal performances, showing off his incredible range and distinct sound.

Panic In Detroit – One of my all time favourite David Bowie songs of all time. One of the last times Mick Ronson played guitar on a Bowie record (if not the last), and what an epic job he does. His guitar drives a brooding, brilliant piece of music that seemingly fuses the rhythm of Motown with the sensibilities of British rock.

Again, Bowie’s vocal range gets a really good work out. Lyrically this is genius, telling a story that you are better off listening to rather than reading my description. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Cracked Actor – In which David Bowie gets down and dirty with a hard rock edge, doing so in a way that he perhaps would not do again until Heaven’s In Here with Tin Machine. A fast, hard hitting, grinding gruelling travel into the debauched world of the excesses of sex and drugs fame brings one.

It’s as heavy metal as it is foot stomping glam rock, and it’s glorious.

Time – Wow. The theatrics and drama attempted on Aladdin Sane (1913 – 1938 – 197?) returns, only this time absolutely bang on the money. A beautiful, poetical lament of longing and loss. It is widely known that Bowie started off, artistically, as an actor prior to becoming a singer. This is where he brings drama and music together perfectly.

Another reason for this one being a big favourite is that one of the more controversial lines from the song was quoted by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in, I think, series one of A Bit Of Fry & Laurie, during the headmaster / poetry competition sketch.

The Prettiest Star – Hinting at the fast, or if you like slap-dash way this record came together, this is a re-recording of a 1970 single. Mick Ronson does the guitar on the album version, whereas a certain Marc Bolan can be heard playing it on the original.

Legend holds that David wrote this as part of his smooth seduction moves on one Angela Barnett, who would later become known as Angie Bowie. It’s that link which is probably why it seldom got played live, and never at all after the end of the 70s. Still, a wonderful, lovely glam pop single. Don’t worry so much about who it was for or what the intention was, just enjoy it.

Let’s Spend The Night Together – Including one cover version on an album was pretty much standard for Bowie. This one stands out somewhat as it’s a cover of a rather well known song.

Does it work? Yes and no. I mean, I love the Stones, I love the original. This is mostly the same song, just different. It’s transformed from a straight solid rock song into a futuristic, prototype synthpop sound, with Bowie electing to add some new lyrics too. If you accept that there’s little point in doing a cover version just for it to sound identical to the original, then it can be said that this brings a new, non-disgracing dimension to a well loved song.

The Jean Genie – The big, big, hit off the album, and arguably if not unavoidably the most enduring song to come from the Aladdin Sane record. I think this is the only single from the album which consistently featured on tours and greatest hits / best of packages.

Much like Panic In Detroit, thing song merges a Motown influence picked up whilst touring the States with the staunch, solid sound of British rock at its best. It is highly likely you have heard this song, so there’s not much point in saying much more. Yes, true, Jim Kerr did say that Simple Minds took their name off of the lyrics.

Lady Grinning Soul – The final track, seemingly one which The Jean Genie segues into. When playing the album I often forget this is a song on its own. A ballad to finish off the record with, and one which many have interpreted as being “hello, this is David Bowie. I’ve just done a song that sounds a bit James Bond-ish, how about you let me do a song for a James Bond film please.”. An interpretation not harmed by Bowie’s high profile attendance of the premiere of Live And Let Die later on in 1973.

Was Bowie ever invited to do a Bond song? Not as far as I know. He famously turned down the role of baddie in A View To A Kill, but I do not remember musings that he was in line to do the song. I think it's only recently they have invited people; in days gone by you had to audition and, well, yeah, sure you could have asked David Bowie to audition for something, but no.

My abiding thoughts on the song are – to use the term correctly for a change – that it foreshadowed the style he would use on other, rare forays into the world of the ballad. Mostly this feels like a dry run for the cover of Wild Is The Wind that would feature on the Station To Station album.

Phew. Looking back at what I have just written (but not to edit it, I don’t do that), it seems that the record has a little of an iffy start then goes on to deliver some of the finest songs Bowie created. Yes, this is positively absolutely an essential David Bowie album to at least listen to, and perhaps own.

And owning the record became an interesting thing. The sense that no one in particular cared for the album prevailed across the releases. The 1990 Ryko CD contained no extra tracks. This was unusual, as all other reissues did and there was a stack of material which could have been included – All The Young Dudes, the Love Aladdin Vein and Zion demos, etc. Further, the edition did not even bother to list the full name for the song Aladdin Sane, dropping the years from the title. Eventually a 30th Anniversary Edition came along, featuring a whole extra disc (of less than 30 mins that could have gone on 1 CD with the album) with 10 tracks on. David’s originally and previously unreleased All The Young Dudes was included, but other than that it was just some single edits and some live tracks, three of which had already been released on the original version of the Sound&Vision box set.

Once, every now and then, Noel Gallagher used to say things which were interesting and insightful. One such instance was when he said that the first Oasis album, Definitely Maybe, was about wanting to be a big rock back, and that the second, Morning Glory, was the sound of a big rock band. This happens to be spot on for looking at the movement from The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars to Aladdin Sane. As per the quotes from Bowie in the 30th Anniversary Edition, he might well have said “all that he wanted to” about rock on the Ziggy record, but Aladdin Sane is him saying it as an actual big rock star. As with the Oasis scenario, both records are brilliant. Unlike Oasis, Bowie continued to go on delivering greatness.

Aladdin Sane would be the last time for a decade that Bowie made an overtly pop sounding and appealing record in a way calculated to capitalise financially on his talents. Whilst obviously wanting and hoping everything done would be embraced, this would be that for giving the audience what they wanted rather than what he wanted to do until Let’s Dance in 1983. This isn’t meant to be dismissive, for great songs live on, irrespective of their intention leaning more towards commercial or artistic.

Should for some reason you not own Aladdin Sane, or have read this without ever hearing it, then the unequivocal sign off here is yes, absolutely, you really should be considering going off from here to obtain it. Preferably a physical copy, as some things were just never meant to be streamed. Own it, hold it and fall in love with it.

Which Bowie album next? That’s one from the 90s, 80s and now 70s covered. Not at all sure I am ready to do one of the two 10s yet, or look at the 60s. Perhaps a 00s one, then, we will see. Or I will, but I hope you come back and have a look too.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

the rumination of st patrick


to those of you who say that this is a little late for St Patrick's Day, i would encourage you to do some blue sky thinking outside of the box. this, look you see, could easily be some advance post for the next day this marked event comes around on the calendar. or, alternatively, maybe i am celebrating the orthodox St Patrick's Day rather than the commercialised one.

also, it is even within reason to suggest that it was only some time after the one, true St Patrick's Day that i was enabled to get an image of the remnants of celebrations of this day recently.

yes, there you go - what the marketing people of the world have convinced many is a traditional Irish hat laid abandoned in a hedge after some celebrations. a brief inspection of the cans laid around the hat suggest, if not indicate, that non-Irish styled alcohol was consumed as part of the celebrations. but, time and again we are told that the Irish are not prejudicial, so surely there can be nothing at all wrong with this.

as to why St Patrick's Day is celebrated and the days of others are not, that would be our friends the Americans. many of them can lay claim to Irish ancestry, and as they are permitted only to celebrate secular days of significance in any sort of public way, they jumped all over this, along with July 4, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.

should you have been one of t many around the world who celebrated St Patrick's Day i trust that it was most splendid, that you tidied up a bit better than the above, and that you are now somewhat recovered from the ale.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

for crying out loud

howdy pop pickers

and so the year thus far might not have been so awesome or so dramatic in terms of vibes as 2016 was. things are, however, picking up. we've had Depeche Mode release or if you like "drop" a most splendid new album on us. that Ed Sheeran bloke has, whether you like his music or not, shown that people will go and buy an actual record or CD of music if you make what they like. Liam Gallagher, for better or worse, is going to be letting us hear his solo album soon.

but first, Kasabian. the ever lovable rogues out of Leicester were widely believed to be just about ready to release a new album this year. nothing was confirmed to this extent, which makes it something of a surprise that they've gone right ahead and announced a new album will be with us towards the end of April. it is called For Crying Out Loud, and it also seems they are referencing it as "Episode 6", what with it being their sixth album.

some traditions do not die, they just change. releasing a single or two before your new album is a tradition, and Kasabian have steadfastly stuck to that in releasing You're In Love With A Psycho, as of Friday March 17. this year.

the above is indeed the "single" artwork, presented in the preferred mode of Commodore 64 style with the scan lines most determinedly on. this cover would, of course, look smart on a 7" single or even one of them CD singles, but this has been taken off the screen as the digital format played away on my computer.

what's the single like, then? quite smart. no, Kasabian have not gone full on Spinal Tap yet, so there's no "hope you enjoy the new direction". it's all the guitar of the 70s and synth of the 80s they so dearly love, melded together to make something obviously reminiscent and familiar yet, at times, quite their own thing.

as the title somewhat alludes to you being encouraged to assume, this is indeed a witty ditty, so to speak. it's a song which Serge has assured everyone is not "meant to be dark at all", but it is a playful romp through the world of the stalkers and the obsessed. no in depth look at such a subject, of course.

yes, the above is indeed how i "bought" the single. i have had a look around, and there's no physical release of this single. the official website does not have it for sale as anything but a download, and none of the usual retailers have it listed. as per this blog post,  i accept that these "digital downloads" are the only way to actually buy a single as such, and even then few do. we need to be careful, though, as to how we measure and value all this "streaming" business, but we will get to that.

those readers of this blog that i speak to suggest that it is seldom, if ever, that they are able to play back the videos that i post here from time to time. invariably the problem comes in for those who use so-called "mobile" devices. if you are looking at this on a computer or laptop then you should be able to play the below snippet, if you're on a tablet or smartphone then, alas, probably not.

a question to be asked about Kasabian releasing a single is whether or not it will chart. the answer is perhaps, possibly not, probably not. it should, and probably would, if there was a level playing field. however, there isn't one. the system has been corrupted.

in the post i linked to above, and again here if it's easier, i looked at the inevitable happening with "streaming" counting as "sales". it was a system wide open to being corrupted, and by releasing his album on key streaming platforms Ed Sheeran was able to claim virtually all of the top twenty places in the singles chart, despite only two tracks from his album actually being put out as singles.

the non-single dominance of the singles chart has carried on for a second week, then. as you can see below, all that's happened in the top ten is that the Ed Sheeran non-singles have swapped around a bit within the chart, and this one band called Chainsmokers seem to stand alone in preventing him having the whole thing to himself.

i have absolutely no idea whether or not Kasabian have released the You're In Love With A Psycho album on the two streaming services which count for the charts, which as far as i know are Apple Music and Spotify. even if they have, though, it will take some doing to get it into the top twenty. it's possible it could scrape into the top forty.
i am not implying or saying that Ed Sheeran has "rigged" the chart, for i have absolutely no evidence that they have. that said, the chart company has no evidence that they have not. there is a bit of a maths lesson coming up, for those interested, but first a history lesson in "plugging" and corrupting the charts.

back in the 60s, 70s, 80s and indeed 90s labels "rigged" the charts. not often, but sometimes. to do this took work, dedication and money. basically, the labels would send people off - with record label money - to buy a couple of copies of the single they wished to boost from stores that they knew or at least had educated suspicions counted their sales towards the chart. a couple of thousand bought could see you get it into the top forty, after which hopefully the track caught on and others went out to buy it.

this you had to do carefully. these things were monitored, and if you got over zealous buying too many copies at once from the same store then the stats showed it, and all sales from that contributing store were disqualified. in exceptional cases, the single itself got disqualified all together. this safety check is not in place with streaming, but more in a bit.

what did the record store do with all the copies they bought up? let the people who bought them keep them, gave them away to people, bunged them at people to sell off of market stalls, or had them melted down so they could use the vinyl again.

for a bit of a break, a  peculiar anomaly in the album charts. here, look at what has re-entered the charts at the lofty position of number 21.

yes, that is indeed Abbey Road by The Beatles. the penultimate album by the band, and one which whilst not bad is not one that is routinely or regularly celebrated.

as we are nowhere near an anniversary of anything related to the band or this record, why has it all of a sudden re-entered the charts? i believe i know. DeAgostni, the masters of "collection" magazines, have recently launched The Beatles Vinyl Collection, with Abbey Road as the first release at a special price of £9.99. future single albums will be £16.99, with double albums coming in at £24.99. the standard prices are actually really rather good for what new vinyl sells for these days, and i suppose many have found the idea of owning a Beatles vinyl for south of £10 irresistible. as they have for decades. so, then, this album has effectively re-charted off magazine sales.

i think that's wonderful. and i wonder if there's not a way to re-chart certain 7" singles by selling them with magazines too. it can be no worse than the way they currently work them out.

right, maths. and a lesson in why streaming is corrupting the system. it turns out, in the interests of being "fair", that they have elected to count 150 streams as being equal to 1 sale. not unreasonable, if admittedly arbitrary. sadly, no one has put a safeguard in to check that they are all unique and different streams. so yes, you could set it up to cheat the system. how? let me show you....

but first the full chart from Friday 17 March 2017 for those of you who want to see how Ed Sheeran continues to dominate it.

right, here's how you, never mind a record label, can manipulate the singles chart. and, if we take as a given that you already have the devices and internet connection, it won't cost a penny in terms of coins of money, but the price in sanity might be another matter.

let's assume that you have at least 5 devices capable of handling the two main streaming services that count for the charts, Spotify and Apple Music. examples of devices are smartphone, tablet, pc, laptop, space invaders computer games machines, Smart TV sets, Google Chrome, Apple TV, Amazon Stick, etc.

on this basis, set up five different accounts, linked to five different email addresses, on whatever streaming service works on the device.pick a pop song that you want to get into the top forty.

if we assume that the average pop single is no longer than 4 minutes you can play that song 15 times in 1 hour. so far as i know Spotify and Apple Music have a "repeat" function, so it's not like you even have to go to the effort of pressing a button or touching a screen more than once to do this. your 5 devices are playing the same song 75 times per hour.

let's take into account that your internet connection might get disrupted, and the fact that Spotify from time to time will play an advert. let's shave 6 hours off of a 24 hour day, then, and say that you do the above for 18 hours each day. that means you have streamed the song 1350 times in one day, give or take.

the chart works on a 7 day cycle. so, multiply that 1350 by 7 and you get 9450. "sales" are calculated at a rate of 150 streams equalling 1 sale, so in 7 days you have contributed 63 "sales".

admittedly that does not sound like much. although it fluctuates, bear in mind that it only takes some 8,000 sales to get a single into the UK top forty. you "only" need 127 people with 5 devices doing this for a week to get any song they pick to get in the chart, then. as you would suspect that record labels have far more people and devices at their disposal, the mind boggles as to why the singles chart isn't rigged beyond any rational recognition.

this could be prevented by limiting it to 150 srteams from one source or ISP counting. after all, if we are going to say that every time someone plays a record then that playing of it contributes to the charts then i would have single handedly been responsible for Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Crockett's Theme by Jan Hammer being in the chart every week for the last 30 or so years.

so yes, anyway - the new Kasabian single is really smart, and if we lived in a decent era of how charts were calculated then it would place in the top forty, easily where it belongs. check it out!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

the matches of mumbai

hey there

one must always be mindful, look you see, of knowing that when looking back on something and recalling how wonderful it was whether you care to admit it or not you're doing so with rose tinted glasses on. that said, the level of tint is variable, with every now and then it being that you are right to remember the way things once were, even if they will never be again, was better.

the two such instances which show off this the most, to be sure, are hotels and airline travel. to start with the latter, for the former is the main thrust of this post, how sad it is that airline travel, or if you like going on a commercial aeroplane, has come to be one of the most miserable, despairing, depressing and horrible experiences of your life. where once going on a flight was all prestige, class and an unmistakable sense of glamour, now it's a way in which you pay to be treated with humiliation and contempt. one cannot even say you are herded onto these planes like cattle any more, for the work of animal rights activists means that cattle generally tend to get treated a lot better than people on a plane.

a similar thing with hotels, really. except in Mumbai, it would seem. and now is as good a point as any to break up the text with an image.

yes, the above is what the title of this post suggests they are - some matches off of Mumbai. in retrospect i probably should have called this the massive matches of Mumbai, for they are huge. but i did not. so we move on.

so anyway, once staying in a big name, brand proud and well known hotel that forms part of a chain of hotels was the pinnacle of absolute pleasure. everything was focused on what could be done for you, with every wish or proclivity (within reason) being provided and attended to. now, no. staying in a hotel is all focused on what you cannot do, what you are not allowed to do, what you should not do.

in days gone by hotels and airlines made you feel as though it was their privilege to have your patronage, and showed that with kindness, attentiveness and making you feel like you and your money was of value. now they just hold you in utter, utter contempt, and you really rather get the idea that they believe that people should be just giving them money and not bothering to use the service at all. the, if you will, Sony model for how to treat clients and customers.

isn't that nice? see, that's what i am talking about. what a lovely, lovely touch that is off of the InterContinental Hotel in Mumbai to have an inspirational message on the box of matches which they have given you. you're all excluded from my above complaints, hotel in Mumbai - you still clearly value the slightest touches which give the greatest sense of perfection to your guests.

if you went into a hotel in any so-called First World country - here, the USA, some areas of mainland Europe and so on - and asked for matches at best you'd get a horrified look. at works, and at the most likely, you would be requested to vacate the hotel at once, and when you did you'd find some "anti-terror" police waiting for you, wanting to rendition you to waterboard you in order to find out what massive menacing and harmful plans you had that involved matches.

depressing is the only way i can think of to describe how we have let the world become this way. due to ineffective and ill-prepared leadership, particularly in the "west" but in fairness around the globe, we now live in a perpetual state of fear. things which are simple are no longer tolerated, and perfectly normal things - like a request for some matches - are responded to with fear, suspicion, scorn, contempt and horror.

allowing extreme, out of proportion reactions to be accepted as valid - especially on things like that Twitter - has seen many feel marginalised, bad and prejudiced against when there is no good reason for them to be. it is little wonder, when so many normal things are portrayed as "wrong" or bad, that people react with extreme ways. a reflection of this is seen in things like election results, i suppose.

but anyway, focus on the positive, to be sure. it is splendid, and most reassuring, to see that there are places in the world where normality and common sense prevail. bravo you, InterContinental in Mumbai, for seeing it as a pleasure and delight to happily give one of your guests a box of matches if that is what they have asked of you.

provenance of my smart boxes of matches off of Mumbai? Spiros. certain parties there had a rather delicate matter which required only the best for resolution on, and so they naturally consulted with the greatest legal mind of this generation. as the parties, who wish to remain anonymous, happened to be exceptionally wealthy, they were able to afford the fee which the services of Spiros naturally command, and so off he went.

will it ever be that hotels and air travel will be pleasurable once again? i doubt it. the generation now has no idea that once before it was all rather wonderful. hotel chains and airline companies accept that people are stupid, and will pay for the services no matter how bad they are if they can be convinced that it is really what they want. they are, they do.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

the hand that wrote this letter

hello there

i shall be honest about it, look you see. when it was first announced that David Bowie was going to be on a special set (or special sets as it turned out) of stamps off of Royal Mail, my reaction was "hang on, i thought the rule was that it was only members of the Royal Family who could be on stamps, or people who had di....oh". as anonymous and private as he was for much of the last decade of his life, it's still hard to accept that he's gone.

but that's not for here. we have lamented before and will lament again, but now is the time to celebrate this most splendid gesture of appreciation for him. yes, of course, my second thought after the news was "let me go and buy the stamps, then", and so i did. and now they have arrived.

the above are what i suppose you would call the "main" set of stamps released. six of his albums celebrated, going from the first really celebrated and accomplished album (Hunky Dory) through to his final work (Blackstar). yes, i know there were two albums prior to Hunky Dory, but let's be honest - those had moments, this was a work of art from start to finish.

should you need a guide to the albums featured, at the top from left to right is Hunky Dory, followed by Aladdin Sane (which is probably to be my next 'random Bowie' post) and "heroes". at the bottom in the same order we have the set him up financially for life pop magnificence of Let's Dance, the out of all options curious choice of "i am so down with the kids on this drum and bass malarkey", the little wonder of Earthling and then of course Blackstar, the farewell to the fans.

will i be using these stamps to send letters with? ha ha, no. rather like my Star Wars ones from a couple of years ago, and many others, these are to be kept safe. for what end or purpose i know not, but just safe. it did, however, strike me as a shame not to send some Bowie stamps out there into the realm of the postal service, so i bought some extras.

well i did say 'some'. these are two fairly standard booklets of 6 1st class stamps off of Royal Mail, only with two of the ones of HM The Queen being replaced by two of the Bowie album covers, apparently selected at random. i just bought two books, so four people somewhere will get 1 Bowie album cover stamp.

my thoughts on the selection of album covers? so long as one did not use Never Let Me Down you could not go far wrong. i would, however, have suggested that something like Scary Monsters, or if they wanted a 90s record Black Tie White Noise, might have been a bit more iconic and recognizable than Earthling, a poor selling album and you just see the back of him, but there you go.

why no Ziggy Stardust, you ask? because, and i presume this to be the reason, Royal Mail had previously used it in a set of stamps celebrating classic British albums. i've got that set too, thanks to Auntie. no, yes, that one. from what i remember Screamadelica features in the collection too.

the other set of stamps? it might have been better for Royal Mail to have just done 10 album covers, but no, they elected to use four images of him live and on stage.

and which iconic concerts are these off of? well, if we start with the four stamps proper, at the top is Ziggy Stardust from 72 - 73, and next to that is a shot from the Stage tour, 1978. at the bottom we have poptastic money making with Serious Moonlight from 1983, and the final picture is from the last tour, the early 2000s Reality tour. the big massive image on the sheet, frustratingly, is from the Glass Spider shenanigans of 1987.

there's absolutely nothing wrong with the selection of images used for the stamps as such, but i can't help but think they have missed a trick. yes, he was a great live artist too, but why not use these other four to cover that other area of art he contributed to - cinema? they could have done a set featuring an image of him off any number of roles - The Man Who Fell To Earth, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners, The Hunger and The Prestige all come to mind. hey ho, perhaps another time.

what will i be using the David Bowie stamps that i bought to actually use on? some of these, i would imagine.

postcards off or Royal Mail which have on them the images of the stamps, with one card also, i believe, having the full set of live stamps on, for good measure. bought purely to send off to people, so as to spread the wonder and love for Bowie.

who shall i send them to? not sure. a few people come to mind, but maybe i will open it up, offering to send one or two to random strangers who would like such a thing of beauty in the mail. but it would be randomly selected cards if i did.

how much has all of this cost me? just slightly south of £25, since for some reason quite a few of the stamps are expensive £1.52 ones rather than standard 1st class 66p (or whatever) ones. do i feel that expenditure was all worth it? well i would not have argued with it all being a bit cheaper, but there you go, it's done now, isn't it.

i appreciate that much better images of these David Bowie stamps are to be found across the internet, but all the same it would be ace if this has all been of interest to someone somewhere!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

determined day of release

howdy pop pickers

well, i did it. at last, some several weeks if not months into 2017 i managed to get to HMV and buy a smart new pop record on the veritable day of release, look you see. this took some doing to, erm, well, do, really, but we shall go through this tale together, should you select or if you like elect to continue reading.

and what record was it that i have hinted at going to so much effort for in order to purchase in an actual music shop on its day of release? that would be Spirit, with it being (i think) the 14th studio album by the band with the diminishing membership. no, seriously - they are now a trio, i think it was 5 if not 6 members they started off with.

actually looking at the cover i would be pretty sure, then, that when they started off there were five of the Depechies, or maybe 5 Moders sounds better. that would, would it not, explain why the cover shows what seems to be five people marching with flags? 3 are prominent, 2 are somewhat "back". makes sense to me.

if you are in a rush and just want a quick review of it, i'm just about done with my first listen to the album and it's good. as in, really good. better than the lead single, Where's The Revolution, suggested at, and better than the last two albums (Sounds Of The Universe and Delta Machine) indicated. my efforts in getting a legal, physical copy from an actual proper music store were then vindicated.

right, for those of you with a bit more time and/or patience, and for some reason either enjoy my waffle or quite like my adventures and shall tolerate said waffle to read of them, here we go with the adventure, of sorts, i had in getting this.

but first a picture for all you visual fans. yes indeed, in a refreshing change HMV had a display up for an album in the window. two, actually, and no i did not but the second one. now that i think, and excuse me but it was a real fast visit, i didn't even see the second on the shelf.

in days gone by my getting to HMV on the day a record was released was no biggie. i could wander up in relative leisure during lunch and get it. it is no longer the case that those days are here. my day is formidable and chocker and, whilst all good, works at a different pace. one that does not have an hour for lunch.

i was partially resigned, then, to not ever being able to get to HMV on the day of release for a record again. this did not sit well with my determined way of doing what i wish to make the world how i want it to be - even in simplistic things such as buying vibes - and so i made a plan. as traffic was relatively on my side i was able, on my way to verk, to park in the parking area of the shopping centre where HMV is, dash in, buy the record, dash back to the car, pay for parking (that bit is tres important), park where i normally would when going to verk, dash for coffee and then engage in meaningful employment. this was all done in, say, 10 to 15 minutes. phew.

this exercise was costly. no, not the cost of the record (which was high as we will see), but the cost of parking the car. although i was in the car park for less than 10 minutes i was charged the "per hour" rate, which means i paid £1.50 to be able to achieve what i wanted. that might seem trivial, but every penny counts. and it is not like i could not have got the record online, delivered or bought at a later, more convenient time.

the two versions of Spirit by Depeche Mode on display inside HMV? surely. 

no, i did not purchase the Dame Vera Lynn recording either. i was there for Depeche Mode, and Depeche Mode alone, and thus that is all that i bought. well, that and a 5p bag for no apparent reason.

across four decades and in at least three different countries i have been told by unrelated and unconnected people that one of the most admirable and respected qualities of moi is that, when i am of a mind to do so, i will go and do what i am determined to do or achieve, and i will say what i believe is right. this is highly flattering, but i am not sure how far from correct it actually is - a little, some or a lot, perhaps. for a start i am aware of my own failings and perhaps people are just polite not to mention them when they are aware of them. also, sometimes, as illustrated here in my determination come what may to buy a CD in a store on its day of release, as much as some things make me happy to do perhaps i am doing them for pointless reasons.

which version, to give us a break from moi, of the new Depeche Mode album did i purchase? i hesitated for a bit, but in the end it was "go big or go home", and i figured there was little point doing all which i had done to get to the store to do this if i wasn't going to get the so-called "special edition".

yeah, sorry for the lack of warning that a picture of me was going to feature in this blog. for some reason certain readers like to see me from time to time, which is nice, and so the odd selfie does tend to crop up at times like this.

just why is going into a store and buying music - in particular on the day it is released - so important to me? nostalgia, i suppose, and a preference for how the world was when this was the only practical way of getting music, bar taping it off of a mate's record. it's not rose tinted glasses, either - although yes, oh yes, the world was all so much simpler in my youth when you got a (cheap, reliable and regular) bus into town with your mates to buy a 7" single, or maybe the 12" if it looked decent.

the social, interactive side of buying music in a store dedicated to music staffed by people who loved music serving patrons who loved music. the physical bond you make with music when you can hold it, touch it, and all that. all this downloading and streaming stuff, whether stolen or bought, is wonderfully convenient, but i do fear the heavy price for getting music cheaper is that it's lost so very much of the magic.

but hey, the genie isn't going back in the bottle any time soon. a recent increase in physical format sales (one of the few positives of the current Ed Sheeran chart debacle) isn't likely to be sustained. when the kids can hear songs free, or have access to millions of records from a subscription service, there's no way they are going to turn around and say "actually i would like to go and spend some or all of what i spend on streaming on just one record". fair enough, but i will be continuing with taking in music the way i did which had me fall in love with it in the first place.

how about an actual review of the record Spirit by Depeche Mode, then, since ostensibly that's why you are all here, and specifically that's what this post should always have been about. certainly.

when a band has a formidable discography to their name it is sometimes nice to see where the latest record slots in. i am loathe to compare different artists with or against each other, but i have no hesitation at all in comparing the works of one artist in such a way. what else would you compare it to?

in this regard, should a survey ever be done it would be a shock, never mind surprise, if Violator was not fairly unilaterally declared to be their greatest album. Songs Of Faith And Devotion would not be at all far behind that, and i suspect an earlier, more pop-friendly focused record such as Construction Time Again (referenced in this record with numerous images of the band with sledgehammers) would be high up too. my all time favourite Depeche Mode album, however, would be the brooding, dark unrelenting genius of Ultra. with Playing The Angel not being far behind.

Spirit is closer to the above albums than it is the not quite so celebrated other ones i didn't mention. it is also miles (and miles and miles) better than the last two they put out, as referenced at the start for those in a rush. i mean, seriously, when i first heard Delta Machine i thought "their time is up and this must be some sort of contractual obligation release". it is a joy to hear them motivated into doing the finer work they were always associated with, rather than simply getting away with something that sounds vaguely familiar.

the above is one page out of the 28 page booklet what i got as the "deluxe edition". for £8 more than the standard version, then, i got some images of the band not shying away from the fact that they look old, and a 27 minute bonus disc featuring remixes of five of the tracks on the album - with not one of them being a remix of the lead single Where's The Revolution. as in i gambled on spending more on some nice pictures and remixes of five songs that i might not like in any format.

and indeed yes, that is one of several pictures of the band apparently referencing Construction Time Again by holding sledgehammers. who knows, maybe quite deliberate, acknowledging that some reinvention and rediscovery was required after the last two records. do pay attention, Primal Scream - don't let Chaosmosis be a sorry end to your days. and you too, Duran Duran, whose last album - the name of which i failed to catch - was so bad that i could not get through it.

tone of the album? i am comfortable saying "passive aggressive", since that's quite a buzz term. it feels strange speaking of it in negatives, but it does not have the desolate despair of Ultra and it does not have the biting, vicious ferocious approach of, say, Playing The Angel. and yet substantial parts of the record echoes both at once. and, by jove, it works.

a really, really pleasant thing here is the fact that, all of a sudden, Where's The Revolution sounds good. damned good. i was not too taken with it at first - that's the dangers of listening to music on a PC or tablet as an mp3 rather than on a proper CD or slab of vinyl.

i could be mistaken, but i am used to Martin L Gore doing vocals on just one track on a Depeche Mode. here he does two, although one's fairly short. not really a dramatic change to things, as Dave Gahan's voice is the one that dominates proceedings. and dominates it does.

stand out, or if you like outstanding moments? pretty much all of it. opening track Going Backwards starts with an excellent hook - musically and lyrically - and the thing just does not let go.You Move is all bass city, so that's going to be a favourite of mine. and So Much Love has "single" all over it, if only we lived in a time when singles were still relevant. the remix on the disc of it is boss, too. and n terms of my "passive aggressive" review, this one is most decidedly aggressive.

weak spots? probably Poorman. well intentioned and not bad (but not great) musically, it does that rather misguided thing when fabulous rock and pop stars recall their early struggles and show their solidarity and plight with the less well off of the present day.

the remix disc and the special edition entire, then. the reality is that if i had bought the standard edition of Spirit i would be sat here wishing i got the special edition. as it stands, i am thinking that maybe the standard edition would have done the job. the remixes are OK but will seldom get played in preference to the album. as for the book, well, nice pictures but i am no longer a teenager and they are no longer teenage pin-ups. there are only so many more pictures of Depeche Mode that i need in my life.

so, then, for me Spirit is the best album of the year that is 2017. thus far. Piano Portraits was great, but this is a new album proper. it will be interesting to see next week how many agree with me. with the "cheat" in place to secure Ed Sheeran as number one in the album chart for the rest of the year and all of the singles chart for as long as possible i doubt this will crack the top spot, but i hope it does well. it deserves to, and it's a record that's worth your time and money.

thanks, as ever, for taking the time to read all of this. and if you give Spirit a shot, i really hope it works for you. it does, at the least, for me.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!