Posted in SHOFT on Tuesday 26th October 2004 at 10:55pm

Today I have a button on my radio I won't need to press any more.

Many years ago, I had a book. I used to write down the names of records, the obscure labels and just about every detail I could glean about the records John Peel played. Later, when I discovered Neil at Bubblegum, and then made direct contact with labels in the US I managed to finally track down most of them. I spent huge amounts of money on many obscure records, and I still own quite a collection of strange and wonderful music.

Occasionally, even now I will stumble across something from the book which I didn't managed to find back then. The record is eleven years to finally find an Ed's Redeeming Qualities cassette called 'More Bad Things'. Nowadays, in this remarkable internet age, I've even got a recording of the very night John Peel played the track, back in 1991. Times change. I probably wouldn't have a book nowadays, just a good connection and file sharing software...

And so farewell then John Peel, groundbreaking DJ, consummate family man and antidote to banal radio. The news arrived in the office late this afternoon. Didn't quite believe it at first - he is one of those people who has always been around, and seemed like he always would be. The few of us still around later talked a bit about his shows and the music he played. We're a diverse bunch, and perhaps the most remarkable thing was that everyone from 18-50 had a memory, an opinion, or some music which somehow was related to him. Some mentioned his unashamed pride and love for his family, which he expressed so strongly and frankly during his 'Home Truths' programmes, an unusual trait in these cynically detached days.

Thanks John, for opening my ears to lots of things I'd never have otherwise heard, and for one brief mention of a certain tape label a long time ago.


Posted in SHOFT on Monday 4th October 2004 at 11:59pm

I remember, a good few years back having to sprint across Bristol following a gig at the Louisiana by Dawn of the Replicants. Quite a pleasant night all in all. Too much to drink, a late start and the prospect of a taxi home if we missed the last train. A last gasp at teenage silliness perhaps.

So for tonight, there was no excuse. Staying a little too long to try to watch the Delgados' last song. Drinking far more than is strictly good for me, and experiencing the long awaited but nevertheless difficult final moment of an ancient crush as the band played on. Ten years ago it would have made a good song, a great sixth-form poem. Today it just reminds me how old I have become so soon, and in a rather cold-hearted way how much of the last decade I wasted on something futile.

But the Delgados have sort of grown up with me - producing album after album of epic, widescreen pop music. The most recent 'Universal Audio' is wonderfully free of pretension. A cheery romp by Delgado standards, and tonight some of the most spirited performances are from the new record. By the band's own admission, they are still finding their feet on this tour, but there are occasionally stellar moments where this seems unimportant. I remind myself that the band are in the unique position of having two songs on the 'Mike would dance in public to this' list. I manage to avoid embarassment thanks to an almost dangerously overcrowded venue.

The simple fact is that tonight, indeed over the years, nobody has hurt me or depressed me any more than I could have done. Enter the Delgados. A bruised, stumbling but curiously joyous tumble through a range of emotions. At one point I can understand how they end up on Radio 2, at others its all quite new and unexplored. Lots of noise and lots of melody. The new Bay City Rollers?

I must also mention Sons and Daughters - a deranged and discordant Glaswegian blues band, who made a big racket and kept me guessing whilst my fate was decided! Thanks folks. Buy their album - I know I plan to...

Overall, despite my ramblings a good night. I think I left a gentleman, even if my instincts made me feel an insufferable blackguard.

Movebook Link

Posted in SHOFT on Saturday 17th July 2004 at 11:58pm

A quick dash across Bloomsbury from Senate House, down Kingsway, over Aldwych and to Somerset House in time to join the queue and obtain an additional ticket. Wonderful and strange to be able to walk to a concert, rather than the usual effort of arranging trains or persuading someone to drive. An incredible venue, the majority of the square being devoted to the show. The weather, which had been rather threatening, turned pleasant, and even the plague of flying ants which seemed to be roving the banks of the Thames gave up once we were inside the compound. Noticed Professor Sandhu (the final keynote speaker from the conference) arriving too - excellent taste, these academics!

Purchased vastly overpriced beer (even by London standards) and settled in for the music. The Shins were up first - pretty, clever power-pop stuff. I have one of their records, and like it a lot. They were a bit lost out here, but they had a great time and the audience seemed to like it.

Having seen Belle and Sebastian back in December I sort of knew what to expect, but they confounded me entirely with a strange set! Kicking off with the first four songs from 'Tigermilk', they confessed they only stopped because no-one remembered 'Electronic Renaissance'. Quite a bit of the most recent album, along with the usual surprises - including 'I Know Where The Summer Goes' and Stevie Jackson's take on 'Blue Suede Shoes' (after which he apologised to Elvis Presley).

A complete string quartet helped the sound to fill the venue, and was used to excellent effect on 'Lord Anthony' and 'If You Find Yourself Caught In Love' among others. As always I've completely forgotten the set-list, but another high point has to be 'Piazza, New York Catcher' with just acoustic guitar and Stuart's voice.

Somehow, the band wasn't quite as sharp as the Bath show, but a longer set with some unusual song choices, lots of banter from the stage, and an incredible setting more than made up for this. Left Somerset House happy, for a pleasant meandering walk home just as most of London seemed to be coming out to party - I must be getting old...


Posted in SHOFT on Monday 19th April 2004 at 11:59pm

Out of work unusually early, after a weirdly elating day where a meeting goes less painfully than expected, I get a message to say two of tomorrow's appeal cases are withdrawn, and the school which went over number last week is magically back down to its Admission Level because a child is emigrating to Australia!

Set off for Bath on the slow stopping train in rather warm sunshine. Amusing fare-dodging incident on board, which I must say the Wessex guard handled professionally and calmly. On arriving, wandered up Manvers Street and decided to try the 'Wife of Bath' restaurant. I've passed this little semi-underground place many many times, and always liked the 'homegrown' look of its signs outside. Turned out to be a friendly, reasonable and very tasty option. Steaks were very good indeed. I'll be going back for sure!

And so to the Pavillion for Lambchop... Arrived to find the huge dancefloor seated for a lecture! In my last 'review' of a Lambchop show I commented on the diversity of the audience, and that was even more in evidence tonight. The usual stubbly young alt-country guys rubbing shoulders with the respectable 'fifty-quid' men.

Support act, The Clientele were treated respectfully. I like their records, which are lush and moody, but in a big hall they were a bit lost and very sparse sounding. Some nice moments (including a cover of 'Tracy had a hard day Sunday').

The ever-increasing orchestra which is Lambchop wasted no time in taking the stage, starting with a quiet and fragile 'My Blue Wave'. One thing that always strikes me is that this huge group of multi-instrumentalists manages to make producing a wonderful noise look so effortless. A few songs from the new records, a few old favourites, even some rock-outs! Deanna played the saxophone a little, and Kurt was in fine voice condsidering this is the tail-end of a longish tour.

Noticed a churchlike reverence in the audience, which felt rather odd. Particularly towards the end, when the bulk of the audience spontaneously left their seats and crowded around the stage - which clearly surprised the band into commenting. An odd gig in that respect. A very much truncated but much requested encore of 'Up With People' and a couple of others, and it was regretably all over.

Weird set-changing shenanigans at Temple Meads on the way home, on the variably timed and always late 1C92! Overall, a rather magical day.

Movebook Link


I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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