Monthly Archives: April 2010

+++NEWS POST+++ April 2010

*** Ah, springtime in Leicester. Could anything embody both hope and despair so poignantly as a sunny day on the Welford Road? Anyway, lots has been happening to tell ya. Most recent first, the St Georges Day celebrations. Leicester got its own walk of fame, a stall selling St George cupcakes or somesuch tat was placed strategically in front of the door of an “adult” club on Orton Square (Joe would have approved) and the Lord Mayor and his entourage inaugurated the whole shebang. Me, I enjoyed the day with friends: Maria, Keith and Damien. It was a grand day out.

*** Next day (Sunday) I was at a film showing by Starbase Leicester at the New Phoenix. It was Captain Sam’s birthday and the event was her treat. The films shown were Goonies and Dark City. I enjoyed one of these more than the other. Overall, though, another grand day out. Thanks, Sam!

*** Still on the subject of Starbase, their first print version of their fanzine (The Avatar) was launched to coincide with EasterCon. Yours truly has a couple of short stories in there, here’s the link to one of them.

 

*** The Speculators SF writers group has an incredibly talented membership. In the last few months Will Ellwood had founded the Kick school of creative writing, Catherine Digman has started hosting writer’s meditation days, Emma Matthews has had a story accepted for New Fairy Tales, Richard Barber has got himself on the Writing East Midlands mentoring scheme, Maria Smith is a competition winner, Jon Vagg and Damien Walter have sold stories hither and yon and Selina Lock and Jay Eales are still producing top-of-the-range comics at FactorFiction. Will and Catherine have recently read at Shortfuse too.You rock, dudes.

*** A Carrot Napper exclusive. Keith Large’s play Carrot Nappers will soon be available as a podcast. Keith is also taking his three-play combo Laughs From Leicestershire to the Buxton Fringe and then on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Yes THE EDINBURGH FRINGE!!! Amazing. There is even a website.

Carrot Napper Crew "Podcasting" in a beer garden.

*** The States Of Independence Independent Press Day saw the regions’ small publishers congregate at DMU (in the pouring rain) for the day – March 20th – A great little conference with lots of interesting stuff going on. On the 24th of March, a Jane Wenham-Jones night was hosted in Loughborough. Another top literary event.

*** Damien G Walter put on a show. Well, the Writers Industries Conference, anyway. It seems to have created a buzz around the creative industries. Graham Joyce gave a rip-roaring opening address and the panels were all interesting and thought provoking. Well done to one and all. I had a meeting with an agent who set me straight on a few things… I ponder his words as we speak.

Writing Industries Conference panel. All keeping their arms crossed

*** Bryan Talbot, subject of my first Comic Books post, is coming to Leicester in June. Hooray!!

*** The Alt.Fiction conference in Derby seems to be taking shape. Its curves are filling out, make up is being applied with taste and sassiness, it’s hairdo looks sensational. It will be clipping along in its high heels and making your heart jump in no time. 12th of June, babe, that’s when she’ll be ready for you.

*** I am now on Facebook. Haven’t tried twitter yet, but as soon as my soul plumbs the depths required, I will let you know.

*** Nicola J Vincent will be submitting my next guest-post. Won’t say much about it yet, but it promises to be a cracker.

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Top 100 Sixties Songs: The Return

 After posting my first top 100 sixties songs I was left with a feeling of incompleteness. There was just so much more to that decade than my little list. Perhaps it is down to the interweb thing that we have such unprecedented access to every kind of music now. It’s a paradox that today we can have a more holistic overview of this kind of music than the people who actually lived through the decade; constrained in their tastes by what was available in record shops or played on the radio or written in the music press. Did anyone in 1960s London have any idea what kind of music was being played in Saskatchewan or New South Wales? Did people in Sheffield know much about the music scene even in Leeds? Perhaps more than we imagine, but maybe less than we do now. What I do know now is that video streams are often withdrawn/expurgated. This seems to happening with Beatles stuff especially so I won’t be posting links for the Fab Four. You all know the songs anyway. One rule I’ve kept to: not more than one song per band.

An additional note: I’m posting this early to help publicise Independent Record Store Day (April 17th ).  For all the delights of music online, the browsing experience, meeting other music fans and having your ears and mind opened to new things by knowledgeable strangers is a pleasure that can’t easily be replicated elsewhere. We need these spaces to meet, learn and listen. I hope you will support the campaign.  Alternatively, you can look at my post about 70s music.

1 Screamin’ Jay Hawkins — I Put A Spell On You

One of the most innovative voices in popular music, Hawkins always knew how to put on a show. He gave soul music the goth aesthetic (before the goths were even thought of), wrote some of the wittiest songs ever recorded and came up with this classic. Covered endlessly by the mediocre, the bland and the forgettable, it shines when performed by its genius creator. I give you Screaming Jay: half George Clinton, half Salvador Dali 100% legend. 

2 The Human Beinz — Dance On Through 

I include this mainly as a tribute to the guy who made this video. If you are ever on Youtube and want to spend an hour or so finding great 60s tunes, head for Blacflag’s page. Some of the stuff he’s posted is truly inspired (and I’ve raided his archive mercilessly in these posts). On the other hand, it is a great wistful tune from a band that is famous for only one song (Nobody But Me). A great eye-opener of the range that the Human Beinz were capable of.

3 Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan — Girl From the North Country

American folks’ most honoured sons in a legendary duet. OK so Bob’s voice is less than perfect, but the song as a whole benefits from his raw vocal delivery. The overproduced, shiny, electronically neutered pap marketed as music these days could learn a thing or two from this.

4 Sons of Adam — Feathered Fish

Back in ’89, I was a student at Portsmouth Polytechnic and was billeted in halls with a guy called Michael Neden. Ned (as everyone called him) had a great collection of 60s garage records he’d brought all the way from Bury. I introduced him to Arthur Lee and Love, he repaid me with this truly original song (among others). Every time I listen it takes me back to those days… Magic.

5 Los Saicos — Demolición 

Only discovered this a couple of weeks ago as I scanned the latest Shindig! Magazine. Peruvian freakbeat, of all things. And it’s brilliant! It’s the best song I’ve ever heard about demolishing a railway station. Those cats in Lima really knew how to Rock. Saludos desde Inglaterra, compadres.

6 The Rolling Stones — Sympathy For The Devil 

Quality. That’s all I have to say about this particular song. One of those you could listen to all day and still find new things to delight in. Every time I play it, it gets better.

7 The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band — Mr Apollo 

A rallying cry against body fascism, a piss-take of Charles Atlas newspaper advertisements (A theme that the Bonzo’s would return to in Look Out There’s A Monster Coming). The message was simple: just be yourself. Don’t let charlatans tell you you’re not good enough and need to change. The medium used was humour. Jolly good English humour at that. Pip, pip! 

8 Country Joe & The Fish — I’m A-Fixin’ To Die 

The drollest anti Viet-Nam War song of them all. “Be the first one on the block to have your boy come home in a box.” Classic.

9 The Soul Benders — Hey Joe

Hey Joe is a song with a lot of history behind it. Originally written by Billy Roberts, there are a number of stories concerning its authorship. One is that Roberts sold the copyright to a fellow musician, Dino Valenti, to help him get back on his feet after a stint in jail. Valenti then published the song under the pseudonym, Chester Powers. What is clear is that in 1964 it came to the attention of west-coast musicians and popularised by ‘Love’ and ‘The Leaves’ (who had the original hit with the song). It soon became a standard (Blacflag has documented over 15 recorded versions of the song prior to its most famous incarnation; by the Jimi Hendrix Experience). The Soul Benders’ treatment is my own personal favourite.

10 The Soup Greens  — Like A Rolling Stone

The sleeve notes on the Pebbles compilation album where I first heard this song, asserted that 60s garage bands could take any tune you could think of and make it sound like Louie Louie. This version of a Bob Dylan masterpiece, proves their point beyond reasonable doubt.

11 The Children Of Darkness — She’s Mine

12 The Troggs — Wild Thing

13 The Beatles — Twist & Shout

14 The Kinks — The Village Green Preservation Society

15 The Dantes — Connection

16 James Carr — The Dark End Of The Street

17 The Sonics — Psycho

18 Mouse & The Traps — Maid Of Sugar, Maid Of Spice

19 Led Zeppelin — Whole Lot Of Love

20 Tyrannosaurus Rex — Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles

21 Love — Seven And Seven Is

22 Simon & Garfunkel — Richard Cory

23 Tim Buckley — Happy Time

24 The Ju Jus — You Treat Me Bad

25 Duane Eddy — Boss Guitar

26 Hawkwind — Hurry On Sundown

27 Mary Hopkin — Those Were The Days

28 The Pretty Things — Midnight To Six Man

29 The Chocolate Watchband — She Weaves A Tender Trap

30 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band — Pachuco Cadaver

31 The Velvet Underground and Nico — I’ll Be Your Mirror

The Velvets, looking insouciant.

32 The Liverpool Set — 17 Years To The End

33 The Searchers — Needles And Pins

34 Booker T and the MGs — Green Onions

35 The Hollies — Carrie Anne

36 Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders — They Said No

37 The Electric Prunes — Kyrie Eleison Mardi Gras

38 The Righteous Brothers — Little Latin Lupe Lu

39 The McCoys — Hang On Sloopy

40 Dickey Lee — I Saw Linda Yesterday

41 The Byrds — Eight Miles High

The Byrds in a TV studio with swirly background

42 Arthur Alexander — Soldier Of Love

43 Dick Dale & The Deltones — Misirlou

44 Paul Revere & The Raiders — Let Me

45 The New Vaudeville Band — Winchester Cathedral

46 Otis Redding — Can’t Turn You Loose

47 Group 1850 — Mother No-Head

48 The Crystals–  Da Doo Ron Ron

49 The Grodes — Cry A Little Longer

50 Ralph Mc Tell — Streets Of London

51 The Trashmen — Surfing Bird

52 The Who — It’s Not True

53 The Specters — No Good Nowhere World

54 The Hep Stars — Speedy Gonzalez

55 Smith — The Weight

56 Golden Dawn — My Time

57 Traffic — Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

58 Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs — Poison Ivy

59 Love Affair — Everlasting Love

60 John Lee Hooker — No Shoes

61 David Bowie — The Laughing Gnome

62 Marie Laforet — Toi, Mon Amour Mon Ami

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Judy Huxtable and Peter Cook; the Posh and Becks of 1966

 

63 Blue Cheer — The Hunter

64 Mireille Matthieu — Je Ne Suis Rien Sans Toi

65 Status Quo — Pictures of Matchstick Men

66 Pink Floyd — Interstellar Overdrive

67 The American Breed — Bend Me, Shape Me

68 Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich — The Legend of Xanadu

69 The Calico Wall — I’m A Living Sickness

70 The Jimi Hendrix Experience — Red House

71 Hugo Montenegro — The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (Theme)

72 The Strawberry Alarm Clock — Incense And Peppermints

73 The Shangri-Las — The Dum Dum Ditty

74 Boyce & Hart — I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight

75 The Avengers — Be A Caveman

76 The Allisons — Are You Sure?

77 Del Shannon — Runaway

78 Dee Dee Sharp — Mashed Potato Time

79 Trini Lopez — If I Had A Hammer

80 Kyu Sakamoto — Sukiyaki

81 Fleur De Lys — Mud In Your Eye

82 Serge Gainsburg & Screamin’ Jay Hawkins — Constipation Blues

83 Cream — NSU

84 Donovan — Mellow Yellow

85 Fairport Convention — Crazy Man Michael

86 Merrel Fenkhauser & HMS Bounty — Things (Are Going Round in My Mind)

87 The Mammas & The Pappas — California Dreaming

88 The Nice — America

89 The 1910 Fruitgum Company — Simon Says

90 Gerry & The Pacemakers — It’s Gonna Be Alright

91 The Swinging Blue Jeans — You’re No Good

92 The Bluestars — Social End Product

93 The Brogues — I Ain’t No Miracle Worker

94 Kit & The Outlaws — Don’t Tread On Me

95 The Hombres — Let It All Hang Out

96 The Elastik Band — Spazz

97 The Ronettes — Be My Baby

98 The Everglades — Limbo Lucy

99 The Wyngates — See What’s Right

100 The Blues Magoos Pipe Dreams

Comic Book Classics # 5

 

 Mortadelo y Filemón

Mortadelo y Filemon. Or Mort and Phil to English readers, Clever & Smart in German. First appeared in 1958.

We’re going back in time for this one. It’s the mid Seventies and I’m still living in Spain. I’m about seven or eight. Mum and dad give me twenty five pesetas to spend every fortnight or so. Plenty of money. Root liquorice is a peseta for two sticks, a bag of salted sunflower seeds is twenty-five céntimos, a Chupa-Chups, the king among sweets (with the cachet of having its logo designed by Salvador Dali), five pesetas. If you saved your money, however, you could blow twenty pesetas on a comic: a Tio Vivo, Pumby, TBO, DDT or – my favourite – a SuperMortadelo.

Pepe Gotera and Otilio (same author), Spain's favourite cowboy builders. Here Pepe is inquiring where Otilio got his sand from...

 

The great thing about the SuperMortadelos, was the guarantee of a Mortadelo and Filemón story. They were far and away the most popular comic-book characters in Spain during the 60s and 70s and entertained an entire generation of kids with their peculiar brand of wit and storytelling.

 

Mortadelo and Filemón are two secret agents working in a Spanish city (obviously Barcelona, though this fact is not made explicit). Mortadelo is tall, thin, bald and wears thick glasses. He is named after a Mortadela sausage which he resembles. He is a master of disguise and can change into all kinds of surreal-looking costumes, swapping them from one panel to the next. His boss, the put-upon Filemón, has two hairs growing out of the top of his head. Together they go on missions as required by their boss; El Superintendente Vicente (Vincent the Superintendent) and are often helped – or more likely hindered – by the inventions of their resident mad scientist, the bearded Profesor Bacterio (Professor Bacteria).

 The two agents of the covert T.I.A. (an acronym which brings to mind the C.I.A. and reads as “aunt” in Spanish – as a spoof on the US TV series The Man From Uncle), go on missions to capture criminals, uncover plots and recover lost secrets. They usually fail – in spectacular fashion.

The humour is largely based good-natured slapstick. Unlike the US or UK comics (and their absurd rules regarding children’s comic-books), there is a liberal use of bombs, guns, dynamite, swords, spears, halberds, axes, knives, maces and other weapons to bash opponents (and each other) with gusto. Animals feature widely and are bashed about as much as the humans. Another element of the fun is the spoofing of Spy thrillers. Their one piece of high-tech spy gear is the ludicrous shoe-phone (the zapatófono), which rings – loudly – whenever they’re trying to tiptoe over a sleeping guard dog.

 

Many of the better stories were collected into BD-style albums. My particular favourite as a kid was Safari Callejero (Street Safari). The story is typically insane. A burglar breaks into Bacterio’s lab and releases ten lab animals that had been fed a particular experimental serum. These animals, when released, go on to rampage through the city. There is an elephant who can’t stop sneezing, a camel that’s always thirsty (and drinks swimming pools dry), a vampire bat that drinks only wine and a dog that’s become a master criminal. Mortadelo and Filemón are sent to retrieve these animals and stop them spreading chaos.

The artist, Francisco Ibañez Talavera (1936 – ), is a Spanish national treasure. Despite being influenced by other artists (most obviously Franquin), his style is unique. It involves the drawing of a lot of detail in places other artists gloss over. His hands all have four fingers (unlike the US convention of just three) with gnarled, swollen knuckles too. His depiction of animals (particularly elephants) is another delight. Apart from Mortadelo, his other classic strips include 13 Rue del Percebe (first appearing in 1961), Rompetechos (1964) and Pepe Gotera y Otilio (1966).

 

But Mortadelo is still Ibañez’s masterpiece. He is still writing the thing over fifty years after it first appeared. In that time it has covered major sporting events, become increasingly satirical (after the death of Franco) and has been adapted to film (Spain’s best ever box office receipts for a national film. Eat your heart out, Almodovar!). So, if ever I fancy a trip down memory lane, I get out the liquorice root and open my dog-eared 1975 copy of Safari Callejero and dive straight in. Sometimes I can even fool myself into believing the sun outside is shining…

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