Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Search of The Glastonbury Roar

Every year towards the end of June I head off on my annual pilgrimage to witness, experience, hear, and enjoy the Glastonbury Roar. It’s a roar of an audience like you hear nowhere else in the world. It very organic and natural and it comes from nowhere other than a crowd of mostly non-partisans reacting to an excellent performance by artists at the peak of their art.

My adventure starts at Paddington Railway Station where the train company seems to be working on the infamous cattle market approach BA perfected in the good old days at their LHR Gate 49 for the Belfast shuttle. At Paddington anyone carrying a rucksack, tent and wellies were herded into a compound (literally) and then crammed onto special festival trains, leaving the scheduled trains free for the humans. I manage to avoid this zoo by booking a seat on a train to Taunton, the stop after Castle Cary. Castle Cary is the official station for the festival from where there is a free shuttle bus service into the site. This year I moved accommodation to The Wookey Hole Hotel just outside of Wells and my room is in the infamous Witch’s Hat-shaped tower of the hotel - I kid you not - certainly a good way to pick up the local vibe if not the festival vibe. The Hotel is attached to famous caves (where the aforementioned witch was turned to stone - something to do with unrequited love) and a paper mill museum, which I had intended to visit all over the weekend but never got around to.

Friday morning I make my way over to the site, secure the necessary passes and head straight to The Acoustic Stage, which I have programmed for Michael Eavis since 1993. The state of our field when I arrive testifies to the fact that it had rained for 9 out of the 11 days the team have been on site for the set-up and the resultant mud is already ankle-deep. If it rains when the festival plant is being moved on site it’s a disaster; if it doesn’t start to rain until the festival starts then that’s much more manageable. To the seasoned festival goers it’s water (and a bit more) off a duck’s back and they have all their personal favourite mud-free hang outs (like the cosy Acoustic Stage backstage Bar) while, for the festival virgins, there’s so much energy flying around and between the lay-lines they hardy even notice the mud on their boots is getting dangerously close to their knees.

At the Acoustic Stage the first act on, the Secret Sisters, do us proud with their heart-warming old-fashion styled, American Country Music approach. Their first album received great reviews and they most certainly lived up to expectations but the surprise of the day, maybe even the weekend, is Rainy Boy Sleep. No one knew a thing about him, yet he held the Secret Sisters large audience and even added to it with his charm, arresting lyrics and magic melodies.

The afternoon flew by all the more quickly due to John Ottway’s madcap performance including 7 death defying summersaults (while simultaneously playing the guitar) and a box of Brownies. The home-baked brown squares are pure, simple and (even though it’s Glastonbury) restricted to classic brownie mix. They’re amazing, probably the best ever and left as a present in the Asgard site office. The Ottway performance needs to be seen to be believed.

There’s lots of sound spillage from the main stage and the rain continues to bombard us, but with Michael Eavis one-man-vibing campaign it’s impossible for anyone to feel down for too long. It’s also impossible to keep anyplace tidy with all the mud. Everyone is sitting around waiting for the sun. Down on the main field regular festival attenders have long ago learnt that performing mud-dancing for the cameras (TV and Press)is a very quick route for national attention. I am fascinated by the way people walk through the mud. They have the arms outstretched liked wings and look like they are tip-toeing past a sleeping dog fearful of waking it. As I vainly search the skies for that breakthrough ray of sunshine I think of the classic George Harrison, song called Here Comes The Sun (which Sunday artist Paul Simon sometimes performs) and I remember Michael Eavis admitting to me a few weeks previous that his biggest Glastonbury regret was the year he was offered George Harrison but he couldn’t accommodate the former Beatle because he’d already confirmed his headliners for that year and Michael is too honourable a man to go back on his word.

This year he has a great reason to celebrate the name George because two weeks before the festival Emily (Michael’s daughter) and her husband, Nick, (who are both very involved with Michael in organising the festival) celebrated the birth of their first child, George.

This year the first Glastonbury Roar (that I experience) happened during Newton Faulkner’s set. He’s been an Acoustic Stage regular since before he broke big and he’s a big favourite with both the Acoustic Stage audience and crew. He’s been hanging around the tent all day (and most of the weekend) listening to the other acts and generally enjoying himself. He completely filled the tent himself later in the (Friday) afternoon and went down incredibly well with the audience. Towards the end of his set he performed his version of Bohemian Rhapsody using the audience as his backing band to cover all of the complex harmonies – note perfect - and when they get to the end of the song the Roar emerges from deep in the heart of the tent and erupts to fill the tent and the field beyond. The Roar really is a wondrous experience.

What rain and mud indeed?

Hothouse Flowers gain a Roar from the crammed Acoustic Stage tent for their unique blend of infectious Celtic Soul music. They just love to perform and it seems to matter little to them how small or how large the audience is. Size has nothing to do with music. Brit Floyd close the night for us and several of the crew where seen and heard wandering around muttering variations on, “it sounds just like the record.”

Back to my spooky room in the witch’s hat and by the time I get there it’s the early hours of the morning and the BBC are winding down their coverage of the first day of the festival. Glastonbury on TV doesn’t really work for me. The screen is much, much too small to catch even a millionth of what’s going on at the festival at any one moment, which we’ll discuss later in more detail. My worry is that people watching Glastonbury in TV-land will think what they see is all there is and never have a real idea of what’s occurring down on Worthy Farm. I’d hate people to think that one of two couples of “radio” presenters sitting around in clean wellies, talking a load of absolute rubbish, is all there is to Glastonbury. The BBC would be much better served with a set of different presenters each year who might inject some freshness and enthusiasm. And while we’re on the subject of telly, why on earth would U2 (and Coldplay on Saturday Night) agree to come straight from the stage to the BBC studio to do an interview? Can’t they see all they are doing is damaging their mystique? They came, they conquered; end of story. Napoleon certainly didn’t do interviews after his victories; no, he kept his box of tricks up his sleeve for his next battle.

My Saturday starts with an early morning adventure in Wells and a visit to the stunning Bishops Palace and Gardens, which I’ve earmarked for a return visit to investigate the amazing buildings closer. I then pottered around the market being greatly amused by a stall owner’s dog who’d been tied to the foot of a bench and obviously had been ordered to sit and keep quiet. The dog’s tail betrayed exactly how hyper the poor dog was and he’d cleared a spotless arc on the very dusty footpath in order to vent his pent up enthusiasm.

One of the big highlights of Saturday afternoon at the Acoustic Stage is Thea Gilmour, a very heavily pregnant Thea in fact. Her new album is her version of Dylan’s classic, John Wesley Harding (in its entirety). Thea’s version is adventurous and vital and I’d really been looking forward to her promise to perform the album live. Thea and her excellent band are in fine form and the adventurous project works just as well live as it does on her CD. She gets to the end of her set, singing her heart out and our Stage manager breathes a sign of relief as she safely sets foot on the earth without needing to visit her doctor.

Nick Lowe and his fine band have a new sense of purpose about them. Could it be due to the fact that they were playing with new found confidence now that they have what’s certainly their best ever album, The Old Magic, under their belt and due for a release this September. As they leave the stage and head to their makeshift dressing room, Alan Yentob, still buzzing from the show, nearly knocks me over in his enthusiasm to tell Nick how much he really loved the performance.

Next up is Pentangle and even with their (the 5 musicians) combined age of 350 years, they still raise a Roar with a truly virtuoso performance of their unique first class music.

Saturday’s closer Deacon Blue, led by major music fan Rickie Ross, pack the tent to the rafters with their loyal followers, and it isn’t long before we all experience another mighty Celtic Roar.

Sunday morning I bum a lift onto site in Don McLean’s pure luxury-on-wheels tour bus, which costs the entire budget of a small nation to rent. As we arrived on site the Fisherman’s Friends are making a strong connection with the growing audience at the Pyramid Stage, which is where Don will also be appearing. A whole different set of passes are required for this area of the site but it’s well worth the additional wrist bands and laminates if only because of the amazing spicy bean burgers in catering. The main stage area is packed for Don with fans keen for his world famous song but surprising the Glastonbury Roar happened long before he performed American Pie, during a spine tingling version of Crying. Don’s stripped down set-up with no frills and absolutely everything going into the power of the performance. And the performance is so emotionally charged that before very long every single member of the 100,000 audience is glued to the stage, lost in the song and in the performance of the song. As it ends 100,000 people from 9 years old to 90 years old, overcome by a communal lump-in-the-throat and tear-in-the-eye, react spontaneously to create a genuine Glastonbury Roar. But Don Mclean doesn’t play to the showbusines tradition and use that momentum of his second Roar, for American Pie, to go in for the kill. No, his band leaves the stage and he, accompanying himself only on guitar, does a show-stopping, heart-wrenching, version of Seaman, another of his own songs, and the amazing thing is that each and everyone one of the audience who had being going ape at the end of American Pie stay exactly where they are, magnetised to the layline and genuinely moved by the power of music – truly an amazing experience to behold. You see that’s part of the magic of Glastonbury; artists like U2, Elbow, Don McLean, Beyonce, Radiohead, Plan B, Primal Scream, Fisherman’s Friends, etc., can share the same stage and gain the same attention, respect and devotion from the audience.

That’s all down to Michael Eavis’ vision for Glastonbury.
If an artist is great Michael wants to try to find a spot for them at Glastonbury.

With an audience of 140,000 (plus performers, crew, staff, traders, stewards, security etc.,) it is officially the 3rd largest village in the SW of England over that weekend; bigger even than Bath!

This year was the 41st anniversary of first festival and the 30th actual festival and Michael had 1939 acts playing on 51 stages!

On top of that there was a Cinema, (Pilton Pavilion); the Kidz field; Circus tents; healing fields; dance tents; spaces for poetry, cabaret, comedy, talks and workshops. There are regular festival goers who never visit a single music stage over the course of the entire weekend. Still even for them there’s just so much going on they never get a chance to do all the things they wish to do.

Me, I’m happy just to wander around knowing there is the chance I’ll be able to experience the unique and soulful Glastonbury Roar.

And now the bit before I go...

This time I’ve seen:

Larry Crowe
X Men
Senna (amazing!)
Water For Elephants.
Wallander – the first 2 Swedish series. (Consistently incredible, the best TV detective series since Morse)
Life – the first 2 series – I’m still trying to work out why this got cancelled after the 2nd series.

And read:

Hans Fallada – Alone in Berlin

And heard:

Live Taste – Taste CD – very exciting and shows the band at their peak. I was disappointed though to see that the sleeve notes I did for the original vinyl album (1972) haven’t survived. This was my first professional engagement as it were. Well… it wasn’t really professional in the true sense of the word in that I didn’t get paid for my work. Eddie Kennedy, the Taste manager, said at the time he commissioned me that I could either receive a payment or a credit on the sleeve for my work, but not both. Vanity won out.
Dylan at Finsbury Park – a legendary performance.
Christy Moore & Declan Sinnott at Finsbury Park – working men in their prime.
Ray Davies his band, Choir & Orchestra @ The Meltdown Festival – a major treat.
Alan Price Set @ The Meltdown Festival – his between song chat is hilarious but didn’t distract from his perfect performance. He was in fine voice and he did all the songs and hits you long for.
Michael Eavis @ The Meltdown Festival – enlightening and inspiring.
Several Glastonbury Roars

Until the next time…



Monday, June 6, 2011

A Question of Balance

Okay, Ireland as a nation has, over the years, produced fine artists such as:

Billy Brown

Christy Moore

Dave Lewis

Damien Rice


Gary Moore

Gilbert O’Sullivan

Glen Hansard

Henry McCullough

Hothouse Flowers

Johnny McEvoy

Joseph Locke

Juliet Turner

Liam O’Maonlai

Lisa Hannigan

Luka Bloom

Mary Black

Mary Coughlan

Rory Gallagher

Séamus Ennis

Sinead Lohan

Sinead O’Connor

Skid Row



The Chieftains

The Clancy Bros With Tommy Makem

The Cranberries

The Dubliners

The Frames

The Interns

The Undertones

Thin Lizzy

Paul Brady

Paul DiVito

Phil Lynott



Van Morrison

So could anyone please tell me why when the President of The United States of America recently visited these shores our musical representatives were:

Jedward and Westlife?

I’m just asking the question and not meaning any offence.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

An adventure in wonderland.

“Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” so wrote Mr James Hendrix and surely an extremely weird thing to want to do but, at the same time, he still showed what a gentleman he really was by asking to be excused before he attempted his indulgence. The imagery did however set me to thinking about what might have been the weirdest thing I ever did in my Adventures in Wonderland – the music business.

I was working with a gentleman by the name of Eddie Kennedy. I was publicist for two of his groups, Taste and Anno Domini. Now the thing I need to admit to you here is that I was hopelessly out of my depth. It is my belief that he only gave me the Taste account because he was losing them and he hoped/thought it would be a carrot for me to work on his smaller (and soon to be only) group, Anno Domini. Taste (Rory Gallagher, guitar, sax and vocals, John Wilson, drums and Charlie McCracken, bass guitar) at that stage were quite possibly the best live band in the world and Rory Gallagher’s talent and natural stage presence was one of the most effective publicity generating machines in existence. Even John Lennon raved enthusiastically about Rory in an interview the Beatle did for Disc and Music Echo a weekly music paper.

Anno Domini was another matter altogether. They enjoyed a very pleasing Crosby Stills & Nash type of sound and approach to song-writing and Tiger Taylor, their guitarist, was, in his own right, also a force to be reckoned with. I’d spotted him in an earlier incarnation with his own band - Tiger’s Tale - and the reason he stood out in my mind was because the night I first saw him (in Belfast) he and his fine band had performed, note perfect mind you, Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album from beginning to end. His two fellow band members in Anno Domini were Terry Scott - vocals and percussion - and David Mercer - vocals and guitar. David had the gift of delivering beautiful melodies and could craft his lyrics with the best of them. Anno Domini supported Taste everywhere, it seems that they couldn’t get any other gigs. That was their main problem. Taste’s audience just weren’t really interested in Anno Domini and if they’d supported more suitable artists perhaps they’d still be on the radar today.

Anyway I digress. One day I’m in my room in Eddie’s suite of offices at Command Studios (currently the home of Waterstones in Piccadilly) and I’m on the telephone to a journalist. The journalist was most likely a true gentleman by the name of Roy Hollingsworth. Roy was famous due to the fact that during a legendary interview with Leonard Cohen, they both, disillusioned by the music business and, no doubt inspired by a fine claret, made a pact to give it all up and retire to the country to get it together… as was very in vogue in those halcyon days. As I say I was, most likely, on the phone with Roy. I’m quite confident about this fact simply because he was one of the few, if not the only, journalist who would always take my calls, on top of which he frequently gave Anno Domini the requested, “wee mention” in the Melody Maker when ever he could, which I seem to remember was probably quite frequent and was also most likely the reason why I kept the job.

So as I was saying, I’m on the phone to Roy, and Eddie is loitering around my door with intent. I’m stringing the call out with Roy as long as humanly possible in the hope that Eddie would take a wee dander elsewhere and leave me alone to work out the finer points of my world domination plan. I mean just because he employed me surely didn’t mean I had to be at his beck and call all the time? When I eventually got off the phone - as in the second I set my heavy bakelite handset back in the saddle of the phone - Eddie saunters into my room and he says something like…

“So Paul, what are your plans for tomorrow?”

“I was hoping to hop on a flight to LA…” I began and waited for the delayed effect of him nearly choking on his milky coffee, before continuing, “…but the petty cash tin is pretty low.”

He flashed me one of those I-didn’t-think-that-was-funny-but-I’m-going-to-remain-good-humoured-because-I’m-going-to-ask/order-you-to-do-something-you-won’t-want-to-do kind of looks.

“Of course I’m going to be in here bound to my desk and the phone,” I conceded.

“Ah good, because I’ve got a wee job for you.”

I’m thinking, ‘please don’t have another new group you need press for,’ knowing my friendship with Roy Hollingsworth was stretched to the limit as it was.

Then I think I hear Eddie say something that sounded like, “And ah… what will you be wearing?”

“Sorry?” I ask immediately knowing he couldn’t possibly have said what I thought he said.

He says, “I mean will you be wearing your current outfit?” as he looks at my dark blue loon pants, lavender granddad shirt and tan desert boots?”

I make a fuss over checking my diary and respond with, “The Royal Variety Performance is not on for a few weeks yet so I suspect I, most likely, will be in my normal attire.”

“Great,” he said, mentally rubbing his hands, “and ah, will you be washing you hair,” he continued looking over his glasses at my mop-top, which was more Italian Monk than the Beatles’ Rubber Soul look I’d been trying for.

A hundred scenarios flashed through my mind and none of them pleasant but none of them quite as uncomfortable as what he actually had in mind.

Eddie encouraged some of his artists and their friends to use down-time in the studio to work on songs, record demos (demonstration tapes) as they pursued the song-writing side of their careers. One such session with a co-operative of musicians from various groups had in fact produced quite a passable master recording, and Eddie had secured a record deal for the song with Deram Records (an off-shoot of Decca Records). He’d been duly paid for the recordings and then didn’t Deram only go and want to release the track as a single.

Which was good normally; in fact a release on a hip label (the home of Procol Harum amongst others) was what most artists gave their eye-teeth for. But not in this case; the main problem being that the artists in question were all contracted to other record labels and bands, so the group on the tape Deram had accepted quite simply just didn’t exist. So Eddie urgently needed to form a fictitious group and do photographs for press and artwork. This was apparently where I came in. I was to be (at least on camera) one of the members of his group. The next day we did the photo shoot on a building site in the west end. I don’t remember any of my fellow band members but we were a rag-tag and bobtail mob, which was in fact my suggestion for the group name by the way. Anyway we each got paid a fiver, signed a release (so we could be willingly exploited) and two months later an advert with our moody photo appeared in an advert in the Disc and Music Echo. There was talk about Top of The Pops and a world tour… but… well you know, I’ve always thought that Eddie held the group back just so I would have to stick around and do the press for Anno Domini.

This time I’ve read.

Damage by John Lescroart – one of the most consistent and enjoyable authors around.

A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun – the autobiography of a career criminal by Noel Razor Smith – he most definitely takes you there, an incredible read!

First Frost by – Henry James.

Chaplin by David Robinson - the read, not the book, inspired by the BBC Radio 4 series. The book is a major, not to mention wonderful, work by Mr. Robinson.

No Angel – The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone by Tom Bower - very unputdownable but you have to keep reminding yourself that you are not, in fact, reading a work of fiction.

And saw:

Brighton Rock – not in the same league as the good old Portrush Rock

Chaplin – excellent biopic

The Kid


Secretariat – Seabiscuit wins by several lengths.

Animal Kingdom

Half Nelson

The Killing (BBC 4 TV series)– totally amazing, by far the best series on the telly at the moment.

And listened to:

Magic by Sean Rowe – a 100% classic.

Until the next time…



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pictures With Words In Deep Shades of Blue

The Art of The Singer Songwriter.

According to my spellcheck the word “songwriter” doesn’t exist, well at least not as a single word. Folksinger, as a single word, is acceptable, which says a lot because Singer Songwriter became the hipper name for Folksingers when record companies and managers wanted to distance their charges from the bushy beards, bulging beerbellies and sweaty caps of the minority and (apart from Mr. Zimmerman) waning folk genre for their own newer wave of charges who were not considered part of the blossoming rock market but who were very keen to become recording and performing artists.

It would appear that the singer songwriter term was first used to help James Taylor shed his Apple Records skin for his brand new Warner Bros. coat of many colours. But because of the obvious Beatle connection I bought Mr. Taylor’s Warner Bros. Debut, Sweet Baby James, and added it to my fledging collection, which in hindsight could be classed, either directly or indirectly, as being biased towards singer songwriters.

As a reference point here is my all time

Top 20 Classic Singer Songwriter Albums.

(Listed alphabetically)

Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)

Jackson Browne - Late For The Sky (1974)

JJ Cale - Troubadour (1977)

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills and Nash (1969)

Neil Diamond - Hot August Nights (1972)

Nick Drake - Bryer Layer (1970)

Lesley Duncan - Sing Children Sing (1971)

Bob Dylan - Time Out Of Mind (1997)

Carole King - Tapestry (1971)

Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman (1970)

Van Morrison - Moondance (1970)

Don McLean - American Pie (1971)

Gilbert O’Sullivan - Himself (1971)

Paul Simon - SongBook (1965)

James Taylor - Sweet Baby James (1970)

Loudon Wainwright III - More Love Songs (1986)

Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombone (1984)

Hank Williams - The Best of (1998)

Neil Young - Everyone Knows This is Nowhere. (1969)

How did I amass this collection? Well mostly by word of mouth. In those pre Amazon days, way, way before their, “if you like this, you might also want to try this,” approach, the key was really self-discovery. Graham Nash was a member of the Hollies and I enjoyed their singles and distinctive vocal approach and I was intrigued by the fact he’d gone to America to form Crosby, Stills & Nash. David Crosby I knew was a member of the Bryds. I’d been introduced to their music because they’d successfully covered a few Dylan songs, not to mention the fact that they’d openly praised the Beatles. Stephen Stills I only knew of his work through the Supper Session album (1968), which I’d bought because the other two key musicians on the album, Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield, has done some recording with Dylan. Anyway the CSN combination was enough to tempt me to part with my hard earned cash. I bought the CSN album the day it was released and I loved it, still do. Then there was some CSN connection to Neil Young so I bought his then current album, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) and loved it so I also purchased his other album, Neil Young. Then David Crosby produced Joni Mitchell’s first album and I bought that, then I read somewhere – probably Rolling Stone, that David Crosby and Graham Nash sang on an album by another new artist called Jackson Browne, and what a reward his album Jackson Browne (nicknamed Saturate Before Use due to the sleeve artwork) turned out to be.

With Nick Drake I bought Bryer Layer because it was on Island Records, that was enough in those days, and I couldn’t believe the absolute heart-wrenching gem I discovered within. Tom Waits was also an Island artist, yes he started on Asylum Records but with his first release on Island (Swordfishtrombone) he totally re-invented the singer-songwriter genre using colours no one had ever dreamed of using before. Around the time of Elton John’s first album, I went to see him and his (then) band Hookfoot record a BBC Radio “In Concert” and during the performance he mentioned Lesley Duncan as being the writer of the hypnotic Love Song, one of the great songs in his set. I scouted out her album, Sing Children Sing, shortly thereafter, probably in Musicland in Dean Street. I was absolutely convinced she was going to become a major artist and perhaps if she’d been based in USA and on Warner Bros. or Asylum, she would have. I was hooked on Gilbert O’Sullivan’s head-turning, gobsmacking, classic single, Nothing Rhymed, but I still wasn’t prepared for how strong his debut album would be; absolutely every track turned out to be a perfectly crafted song. Don McLean was a similar process for me, the singles (American Pie & Vincent) hooked me and the album reeled me in the whole way. Simon and Garfunkel were another matter. I quite liked some of their songs, liked them a lot in fact but I found the production somewhat unsympathetic to the songs. Then I discovered The Paul Simon Songbook and all was fine because I’d another lifelong friend in an album. On and on I worked my way building up my record collection, some – mostly the ones on the above list became life-long friends – while others are tied to memories of a time or a face.

But these were the writers who preferred to do their own songs. At the same time other talented artists like, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, The Carpenters, Jennifer Warnes, Otis Redding, Don Williams and Christy Moore where doing great work interpreting some of the great songwriters of the day and perhaps those albums are for a future top 20.

I apologise in advance if anyone is offended by the fact that I’ve included a few artists I was lucky enough to go on to work with, but… I would also like to point out that in all cases it was the artist’s work, that sooooo made me want to work with them in the first place. Apart from Abbey Road I have not included any bands on the list. The Beatles: okay, okay, I hear you say; it’s PC so the Beatles can’t be very far away… but… in my defense I’ll say by the time of Abbey Road they were not so much a band but more a collective of the finest English songwriters this side of Ray Davies. So what I’m saying is not that Abbey Road is my favorite Beatle album but it is my favorite Beatle album in the singer songwriter category. I’ve also not included more than one album by any artist. It was hard enough to squeeze in all I wanted to include, so several Dylans, or Jackson Brownes, no matter the temptation, was just out of the question. I opted for Van’s Moondance rather than the classic Astral Weeks for this list only because the tracks on Moondance work better as stand alone songs. I’ve also tried to resist including in the above list amazing yet obscure albums; you know, some incredible album, where no one but myself, and literally a few others are aware of said album. So, with this in mind I’ve tried to stick to albums that have enjoyed at least some degree of critical and commercial success.

It’s also most definitely worth noting that the sleeves of all of the above, maybe because of the stature of the albums or maybe because of the physical size of the artwork – 12 inches square - also became iconic.

And finally a special mention in the best-songwriter-never-to-make-an-album section: I’m talking about one of the all time great songwriters, Mr. Bob McDill. He’s had over 30 (and still counting) No. 1 hit singles on Bilboard’s US Country Charts. He’s been covered by everyone from Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Perry Como, Jerry Lee Lewis to Bobby Bare, who recorded an entire album of his songs called Me and McDill. And a very fine album it was too, but, in my humble opinion his songs are at their best when showcased by Don Williams who always included 2 or 3 Bob McDill songs on his excellent collection of successful albums. When I was in Nashville once I tried to track down Bob McDill if only to see if he’d ever made an album. I ended up speaking on the phone to someone from JMI, the publishing company Bob McDill was signed to. The gentleman I was speaking to turned out to be none other than Cowboy Jack Clements and we’d a great long chat. Mr. Clements originally worked as a producer and engineer on sessions with the likes of Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash for Sam Philips at Sun Records. Word has it, it was he who ‘discovered’ and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis when Sam Philips was outta town. Anyway Jack Clements said he’d never been able to persuade Bob McDill to make a serious attempt at a recording career of his own. The writer was more than happy spending his time writing songs and lecturing English classes at a local University. Just as I was giving up hope and feeling I was in danger of overstaying his hospitable welcome, Cowboy Jack Clements mentioned in passing that Bob had recorded several of his songs, just with a few good friends you understand, and mainly for a demonstration disc to be sent out to producers who were considering recording some of the songs for artists they were working on.

“Oh, any chance of buying one of those?” I said with all the subtly of an X Factor contestant.

He laughed (as you do).

I got the picture (as you do).

We chatted some more and as he was closing he did throw me a scrap by saying he’d have a wander around the office, next time he’s a moment to spare and see if he could find a copy of the McDill demo album lying about ... before adding something like, “…but that was ages ago and we didn’t press up very many copies.”

I got back to London, forgot all about it until one day a month or so later a mint copy of Bob McDill’s extremely rare album turned up in the mail. The album was called Short Stories, It escaped (the opposite to having a proper release) in 1972, self-produced, front-room sounding, and contained 10 beautiful songs Bob McDill had written or co-written in 1971 and 1972. The, ‘some of his friends’ who played on the album turned out to be musicians who became regulars on Don Williams albums and tours. The album was in a classy sleeve, complete with lyrics on the back and made from the very stiff American cardboard, which protected the album and the art. Which is probably why I still have it today, and why it’s still in such good condition. Now the reason for the tale is not so much to show lucky I was, because I most certainly was, but more to demonstrate – with his courtesy and eye for detail - how Cowboy Jack Clements ended up being so successful. These things don’t happen by accident.

Maybe more about collecting in the future, but in the meantime...

This time I’ve seen in the cinema:

Black Swan
Get Low
True Grit
The Fighter
Harry Potter Seven Part 1.
Fair Game
The American
Little Forkers
Rabbit Hole
King’s Speech
Blue Valentine
Love and Other Drugs
Season of The Witch
Next Three Days
Never Let Me Go
The Company Men
Barney’s Version
Inside Job
All Good Things
How Do You Know
Country Strong

What can I tell you? I was on holiday and it rained a lot! If it were up to me all the Oscars would go to Hereafter, Low, Fair Game and Inside Job with a special mention for the best trailer to Blue Valentine.

And on the small screen:

The 5th series of Bones
The Apostle

And listened to all of the above albums, which is where we came in, so, until next time…