Eclectic Blue

Outside, I’m Masquerading

0 Comments 21 November 2017

Very sad to hear about the death of Pete Moore, one of Smokey Robinson’s miracles. Pete sang bass for the Miracles as well as contributing to the songwriting. For Tracks of my Tears, which I believe to be one of the truly great Motown tunes, he wrote this line:

“Outside, I’m masquerading.
Inside, my hope is fading.
Just a clown, since you put me down…”

If the man had done nothing else in his life, that would surely have been enough, but it wasn’t. He also wrote songs for Linda Ronstadt, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, The Rolling Stones, Ramsey Lewis, Tom Jones, Luther Vandross, The Temptations, The Four Tops and Debby Boone.

I suspect when the news of his passing was announced, many people reacted with a “Who?” and that’s fair enough because of the sheer greatness of Smokey Robinson himself. Warren ‘Pete’ Moore was one of the giants of soul music, even though his name was not always in lights.

Another one gone.

Eclectic Blue

Ashes to Ashes

0 Comments 21 November 2017

Listening to BBC Radio Five Live, you could be forgiven for thinking that the excitement surrounding the forthcoming Ashes series had gripped the nation. Well, with the exception of the declining number of cricket followers in England for whom this represents the finest sporting spectacle of their lives, the presenters are talking to themselves. Cricket has never been further from the public psyche.

It is not because the series is only being televised by a minority subscription broadcaster that apathy rules because overseas test cricket has never been on the roster of mainstream television. But it is a lot to do with the decision of the cricketing authorities to take the money from Sky and remove all cricket from terrestrial television.

I do not need to repeat the arguments, do I? Up to 2005, when Channel Four held the TV rights, test cricketers were household names. Now, we take a team to Australia where half the squad are not household names in their own households. Until they were selected for the squad, I had no idea who Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Mark Stoneman and James Vince actually were and even now I would not recognise any of them in the street. This is very different from pre Sky when the likes of Flintoff, Pietersen, Vaughan and co were instantly recognisable.

Surely the point about this is the narrowing of interest in Our Summer Game? We know that with the exception of the large behemoth local clubs, village cricket is in serious decline with participation levels tumbling rapidly, particularly amongst the working classes. Cricket was always a mainly middle class game and now it is becoming overwhelmingly a middle class game. At the elite level, players are more likely than ever to come from the top private schools as state schools barely play the game.

Somewhat belatedly, the top bods have worked out what we all know: that if cricket is inaccessible to a large group of people, they will lose interest in it, always assuming they had any interest in the first place. I have a relatively wide social group and I certainly do have friends who are interested in the Ashes and are affluent enough to afford the TV subscriptions. I know far more who, for a variety of reasons, will not be watching this series or any other series in the future.

It’s very sad that a world class player like Joe Root is a virtual unknown to the rest of the country and that Ben Stokes has only attracted public interest following an early morning fracas outside a Bristol nightclub. James Anderson becoming England’s most prolific wicket taker was less interesting to the sporting public than the most boring Premier League game you could ever imagine. Whilst Sky and BT hog most of the live football, there is still football on proper TV. And we have Match of the Day. Cricket remains absent until 2020 when the BBC will broadcast a handful of T20 games. Too little, too late.

The media will be talking to itself in the coming days, telling us about events in Australia that hardly anyone will watch. The only good news is that the tiresome Barmy Army, cricket’s version of the England Football Band, will not be the plague of our airwaves. Small mercies and all that.

Eclectic Blue

Nowhere to turn

0 Comments 20 November 2017

That’s me absolutely finished with the Labour Party, the Labour Party I have supported and been a member of for most of my adult life. I stuck with it in the recent general election because I have always supported Labour, because I wanted to unseat our useless local MP Jack “Shagger” Lopresti and because I wanted some kind of fight against a hard Brexit. Tonight, Labour has whipped its MPs to oppose keeping EEA membership and the Customs Union on the table and we had the unedifying sight of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell marching happily through the lobbies alongside David Davis to support a hard Brexit.

If we didn’t know before – and we should have known – Corbyn and the comrades are more pro-Brexit than Theresa May. They have always hated the EU, just like their hero Tony Benn used to do. They see the EU as an obstacle to building socialism in one country. They want to see us like the Venezuela they believe it to be, or Cuba. It’s not my party anymore.

It is my view that the comrades are quite happy to allow the economy to tank and even implode in order to bring about the socialist ideal they so desire. For all I know, they may be secretly praying that we do indeed crash out of the EU and the country falls into chaos, with Jeremy Corbyn stepping forward to pick up the pieces. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable.

Corbyn, as we know, has little experience of leadership. His only other major role in politics was as chair of the Haringey Council’s Housing Committee in the 1970s. If you have seen the movie Being There – and you most surely must – Corbyn is Chauncey Gardner. Despite his significant cult following, this is no political giant. His Glastonbury hipster following have plainly not heard about how Bennism failed, with a hard right Tory government under Margaret Thatcher. But that doesn’t matter to the comrades, many of whom are part of the chattering classes who don’t need a Labour government. They just fancy one and it doesn’t matter a toss to them if the Tories go on forever. What a socialist standpoint.

And now we stand over the abyss where a hard left Labour Party supports a shambolic Tory government which faces several ways at the same time. Where Theresa May pretends to be a hard Brexiter and Corbyn pretends to be a remainer. What a time to be alive.

Millions of people voted tactically in the general election to deny May her majority in order to prevent a hard Brexit and millions of those votes were loaned to Labour. I am not interested in political tactics and all the rest of it. We are talking about the future of the country and more importantly the future of our children. The Tory headbangers want the hardest of all Brexits and tonight Corbyn’s Labour went into the lobbies to try and ensure it happens.

The Lib Dems still have a lot to do to convince me to support them. They aided and abetted David Cameron’s austerity-first government, made the poor poorer and the rich richer. They were the enablers. As things stand, I have nowhere to go. But Labour? Forget it. I’m finished with them. Tony Benn helped give us Thatcher and the likes of Corbyn are his pound shop successors. What a terrible day for the People’s Party who may never recover from this and certainly don’t deserve to.

Eclectic Blue

Sacked in the morning

0 Comments 20 November 2017

One of my long held football theories is about to be put to the test in the next six months: sacking the manager doesn’t usually work! I qualify my theory with the word “usually” because sometimes it does work, albeit often only temporarily. And it only works if the manager you are bringing in is better than the one you are getting rid of. Will West Bromwich Albion get anyone better than Tony Pulis?

For one thing, I couldn’t care less. The Premier League is a million miles from the kind of football I watch, which is a combination of lower league professional football and shamateur football. WBA are a yo-yo club who do not have the resources to compete at the top end of the table and whose raison detre is purely to survive. Every so often, they will fail to survive and get relegated. The WBA owners have today acted to protect their investment – known as “acting in the best interests of the football club” – by sacking the manager who they have lost faith in.

WBA’s record is dismal. They’ve lost a shed load of games and they are more than flirting with relegation. Looking at their squad, it is clear that they are where they are supposed to be. There were no guarantees that Pulis would turn things around. But then, there are no guarantees his successor will do any better. He will have the same average players until the transfer window opens whereupon panic buying may begin. And panic buying is undoubtedly what it is. Almost all the serious transfer business is done in the summer. Almost all the business in January is to try to buy one’s self out of a crisis. In any event, the best players are rarely available in January. WBA may end up spending an arm and a leg and still go down.

The next manager is likely to be someone who is currently out of work, a foreign manager or a manager from somewhere outside the championship, perhaps a journeyman. Or worse still, Sam Allardyce, the name that always springs to mind when a club needs a manager who won’t relegate the team. One of the reasons WBA fans lost faith in Pulis was his style of football. Allardyce offers more of the exact same.

We know a thing or two about sacking managers at Bristol Rovers. The former owner Nick Higgs appeared to have built a revolving door at the manager’s office and sacking managers was such a good strategy we ended up in non league football. No one is suggesting WBA will end up in non league football, but sacking an experienced manager with a track record of survival is a massive gamble. At the Rovers, manager Darrell Clarke is under pressure following a run of eight losses in nine games and some are questioning whether he should be sacked. Which is ridiculous. Clarke inherited a basket case of a football club and following a relegation to the Conference which wasn’t his fault, he achieved two back to back promotions. In Gas terms, he is one of the best managers we have had in a generation. It would be madness to get rid of him. However, this is football, a result based business as opposed to a common sense based business.

It can take years to build a football club, sometimes many of them, by expanding the infrastructure and making the club sustainable. Yet we only give a manager 18 months or so in order to excrete miracles. My initial reaction is that WBA have cocked up by sacking Pulis and my next one is that Rovers should not even think about taking the axe to Clarke. The likelihood is that things won’t get better and might even get worse. What would be the point of that? Things can only get better may well have worked in politics but it might not in football.

Eclectic Blue

The stars are going out

0 Comments 19 November 2017

The sexes certainly divided at my school when it came to music. Many of us pre-adolescent boys were into either T Rex or Slade. The girls were into something very different: The Osmonds or David Cassidy. So far as I was aware, there was nothing too sexual about the boys’ taste, although I did have a lot of man love for Marc Bolan. Slade were unquestionably male. There was clearly a sexual aspect to some girls and their love of Donny Osmond and David Cassidy.

Cassidy, it seemed to me, had the lot. He could act, he could sing and with his baby-faced good looks he could break the hearts of a million girls. And so he did. When he arrived in the UK, Heathrow Airport would grind to a halt. When he played a concert, you could barely hear the music above the screaming girls. His music was not Lennon and McCartney quality but the reaction of the fans certainly rivalled the Fab Four. And actually, for a few short years, Cassidy made some decent records.

I think of his acceptable cover of the Association’s Cherish, for example, as well as covers of Bruce Johnson’s I Write the Songs and the Beach Boys’ Darlin’. And the original songs weren’t bad either. Could It Be Forever, How Can I Be Sure? and the double A side I Am a Clown/Some Kind of A Summer were some of the best songs of the time. And I even bought I Think I Love You, the smash hit single from when he was in the Partridge Family. I did not own up to the fact at the time since many of my friends were already listening to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Santana and I would have been opened up to ridicule. It was bad enough preferring T Rex to Slade.

David Cassidy was never going to remain a superstar forever and by the mid 1970s, his star had dimmed. He moved on to the cabaret and nostalgia circuit and made a decent living, very occasionally returning to the charts. Sadly, he also developed a problem with alcohol. His media appearances became ever more chaotic until in early 2017 he announced publicly that he was suffering from dementia.

Now we learn that Cassidy’s kidneys are failing and he needs a liver transplant. Setting aside the ethics about offering someone a new liver after he ruined the first one with alcohol and also that his dementia will not get any better, I still feel nothing but sadness. I remember well his cuddly boy next door image and the slight pangs of jealousy as he was adored by millions of girls and I couldn’t attract one! And now, hardly in old age, it looks as though his time is coming to an end.

We have been here before and we will be here again. And soon it will be you and me in his position, in some way, form or other. Worse for big stars, they grow old under the lights in full public view and somehow we find it difficult to understand why someone who once looked so young now looks so old.

I can only wish him well as he likely approaches his final journey. He was a small part of my growing up but he was there all right. So many of the stars of my youth are dying and it only makes me sad.

Eclectic Blue

Don’t worry about a thing

0 Comments 19 November 2017

An almost perfect Saturday was partly spoiled only by the very occasion it was based around, a League One football match between Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon. That’s often the way with me these days. Having unintentionally lost much of the obsession with, and a fair bit of passion for, my team, sometimes, like yesterday, football gets in the way of a great day with friends.

Many Gasheads are aware that something is rotten at the centre of the club, which may, or may not, have a negative effect on the team. The players certainly didn’t appear to be the same ones who had taken the club from non league football to League One in just a couple of years. How could this be?

In my experience, professional footballers are only unsettled by two things: their wages or their contracts. If there is anything happening away from the pitch, players might have a slight level of interest, but that’s all. You need a great deal of mental strength to be a pro and it is unlikely that a player will be in any way disconcerted by negative comments in the media or social networks. Those who believe players will not play as well because of what is said on social networks and forums don’t get it. An anonymous forum handle will not unsettle anyone.

Similarly, whatever is going on “behind the scenes” will have a minimal effect in the sense that they will be twice removed from it. It is only when things cross to the money and contracts angle when players might be affected and who wouldn’t be? If you worked for an employer and your wages didn’t appear in your bank account or your contract was coming to an end an no one wanted to talk to you about it, think how you might feel if it happened on your watch. No one is saying that either of these things are happening at our club and I use the examples purely for illustrative purposes.

AFC Wimbledon were a very poor team who played Rovers off the park, a team who would have been third from bottom of League One had they lost. At times Rovers made them look high class which was a nonsense. I didn’t sense a lack of effort from Rovers, more a complete lack of confidence and belief. When you are on a losing run, that’s what happens. A flukey win with the winning goal off someone’s rear end can change everything. It never looked like happening yesterday.

Who came out of it well in Rovers colours? Honestly? Young Ellis Harrison ran his proverbials off, Danny Leadbitter recovered from a shaky start to perform well and after that? Poor Tom Lockyer was a rabbit in the headlights, Tom Nichols still looks burdened by the enormous transfer fee that brought him here and the talents of Chris Lines can surely be better utilised by giving him a role much further forward?

One thing we Gasheads should not do is panic. There is nothing any of us can do to changed whatever it is happening off the pitch and anyway we have shown many times in the last few decades that collective action is something we don’t really believe in. And if you do “get involved” there runs the risk of burn out and losing the reason you went to the game in the first place. My advice is simple: just go along and support the team. Call it what you like – burying your head in the sand or whatever – but it’s better than wasting your time trying to effect change.

In a couple of weeks we’ll most of us be back in BS7 again. This is not the first crisis we have known at the Rovers and it won’t be the last. Don’t worry about what you can’t change and enjoy the football instead. Even if the football is crap, the social side is always there, like it was yesterday. As the great Bob Marley put it: “Don’t worry about a thing,’cause every little thing gonna be all right.” Possibly.

Eclectic Blue

A brighter day

0 Comments 18 November 2017

Self praise, we know, is no praise at all. And I am the sort of person who when rare praise comes my way doesn’t deal very well with it. Emerging from my latest hell hole of depression and anxiety has taken an awful lot out of me and I hope it has all been worth it.

I have often said that I have been able to manage my own illness with a combination of drugs, therapy and my experience of what went before. Also, I recognised when low mood was arriving which helped me deal with it. This time, it crept up on me and I wasn’t ready.

Other than to say my recent depression and the accompanying breakdown that accompanied it – my first for a very long time – was work-related. I will say no more about the specifics just now because – and I am sometimes an optimist – some people may have the honesty to apologise to me for the pain they caused and compensate me accordingly. I do not tell lies, I am an honest man. I know what happened, when it happened, but not quite why. I doubt that I shall ever understand the latter.

In recent weeks, I have been bumping along the bottom and, for once, I have tried the age-old concept of positive thinking. This does not come naturally to me given a lifetime of failure in almost every department you could imagine. However, in the absence of any NHS treatment and the absence of money to afford private treatment, I have become my own physician, trying to heal myself.

This has not been easy following the best part of a year’s sleep deprivation. Tiredness is a sturdy ally of mental illness and he can always be guaranteed to turn a crisis into a deeper crisis. One makes the other worse and then the other makes the one worse. It’s hard to stop.

I have taken the huge step of becoming unemployed for Christmas to preserve my mental health, or what’s left of it, and, at a stroke, a dark cloud has been lifted from over me. Now, when I wake up at Stupid O Clock, I am no longer the prisoner of those who sought to do me down.

Today, a murky late autumnal Saturday, is the first day of the rest of my life. I’ve made some good decisions this week, helped my family and friends. I don’t hate those who made me ill, I pity them. I won’t forget them, though, even though they are no longer part of my life but equally I won’t allow them to slowly kill me.

The black dog is still here all right, he always will be. I know exactly who he is, once more, and with any luck I can keep him on the leash this time. I am watching him very closely.

Eclectic Blue

Papering over the cracks

0 Comments 18 November 2017

I suppose I really lost interest in the Children In Need telethon went it emerged that its legendary host Terry Wogan received over £9000 per show for hosting the event. I was not interested when Wogan said he never asked for a fee and anyway gave the money to charity or that he was the only celebrity to get paid for being on the show. To me, the show was tainted forever more. Last night’s show raised over £50 million for children who society decrees are not worthy of being supported collectively through taxes. Good news for them, of course, but I can’t help thinking that we are papering over cracks.

Let me be clear in that I am not against charities. I’ve worked for one and start work with another soon. If we the people want to run our country to be run on the basis that charities carry out frontline services, then let’s make the best of it. And, boy, don’t we ever?

An incredible £7.5 million of last night’s total was raised by Chris Evans’ annual car fest shows and by auctions for very rich people to win what is not affordable to the lower orders, whose fivers and tenners are given for no reason other than to help children. The latter makes me absolutely sick, if I am being honest, when people bid for prizes well into six figures and then get praised for their generosity. You can bet that is someone bids £100k for something, they will not be down to their last few pence afterwards. It’s less charity-giving and more seriously rich people buying what for the rest of us is unaffordable.

And then there is Lewis Hamilton. Britain’s most boring car driver (I hesitate to call F1 a sport) has avoided taxes for many years by choosing to live in Switzerland and now Monaco and recently he avoided VAT of some £3 million via a simple, and I should add totally legal, tax loophole. Hamilton is not the only tax dodger in the land but as world champion racing car driver, he is among the most prominent. Given that he is down to his last £170 million, I suppose we should sympathise with his efforts to save himself £3 million in VAT but don’t then, please, have him on Children In Need, waving his Pudsey bear around asking for the rest of us to part with money that most people actually notice in their wallets and purses, unlike him. I do not doubt his sincerity in supporting the appeal: it’s his rank hypocrisy I can’t stand.

It’s not the ranks of TV soap stars dancing around Albert Square and Holby City hospital, or special Strictlys I can’t stand. In their little ways, these actors and celebrities (and Anthea Turner) genuinely want to help. In our austerity stricken country, it’s becoming more like a begging bowl. I don’t want to turn this into a political rant because with the exception of the Blair government from 1997, little has changed in our lifetimes. Things are getting much worse now. We might not see that in our nice new townhouse in Happy Valley but at the lower end of the income scale things are getting tough. I have seen at first hand the inadequacies of the system for young people with needs. I have been to food banks and can report that whilst the people who run them are inspirational, seeing the people being forced to use them is thoroughly depressing. Above all, I hate seeing children suffer. Each generation is supposed to be better off than the last. However, we live in an age where we are steadily regressing to the way things used to be in the bad old days.

Children In Need can’t end. It papers over a lot of very deep cracks, it makes some lives better, it makes others less worse. But voters have chosen the system they want, systems which do not cover everyone and everything and allow some of the most vulnerable people to slip through the net.

I didn’t give anything to Children In Need this year. Instead I support other charities, especially children’s charities, because of the specific areas they cover, like abuse. I am not urging anyone to stop giving money to the BBC’s annual fundraiser. But it would be great if we could tell the politicians that we don’t want some of the most vulnerable kids in the land being wholly reliant on charitable giving, where there will always be relative winners and losers.

Eclectic Blue

When Black Friday comes

Comments Off on When Black Friday comes 17 November 2017

If you are gullible and slightly dim, I have just the thing for you. Next Friday will be Black Friday. It’s that big day of the year where people are tempted by what aren’t really bargains and buying things they don’t really need at a slight discount or perhaps no discount at all.

The history is really not history at all. In the US of A, business folk decided they would be able to fleece huge numbers of shoppers by introducing Black Friday right after Thanksgiving. From 1952, Shops would open early, hype the thing to death and sell loads of stuff. We are not always quite so quick on the uptake but our tradition began, oh way back, in 2013. Within two years, Black Friday became the biggest day in shopping all year. This year, stores up and down the land are preparing to break more records. Is the world going completely mad? Yes.

When people tell you they don’t fall for all that media hype, they may be telling you the truth, but many won’t be. It reminds me so much of Monty Python’s Mrs Nickerbater who wanders by “her” friends with a large diesel engine. When asked why she bought it, she replies because it was cheap. And that, in a nutshell, is Black Friday.

Do you remember the scenes of fighting among customers as they attempted to get their hands on a widescreen TV that enjoyed a £10 discount? The police were forced to intervene all across the land to stop people killing themselves in the name of rampant consumerism. It is fortunate indeed that the police obviously have little else to do these days.

My advice, as someone who loathes shopping, is quite simple: work out what it is that you need and then surf the net and visit a few shops. The former will cost you nothing in terms of travel or stress and the latter you can visit if, by some miracle, something is actually cheaper in a shop than it is online. I am not some kind of Money Saving Expert or anything like that. I will wager, though, that you will save just as much money, if not more, via some gentle surfing than by risking a blitz on your blood pressure by fretting about the biggest con since – well, Christmas.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (17/11)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (17/11) 17 November 2017

It’s Friday, I am about to be unemployed for the first Christmas since 1973 but starting a new job early in the New Year and I am, in the immortal word of Pharrell Williams, happy.

Added to that:

My New European just arrived
So did Private Eye
And Mojo
Not to mention tickets to see Field Music early next year
Oh and my rubbing alcohol (don’t ask)
I’m going out with she who must be obeyed and son number two for his birthday meal tonight (even though his birthday was in May)
I’m going to the football tomorrow with some of the best people on the planet, especially the non-comedy duo Wise and Wise
We’re going to see Roy Wood next week in Weston
I still haven’t started reading today’s Grauniad
It’s a perfect autumnal day, with the sun blazing through unbroken blue skies

There’s more, but I can’t be arsed with that right now. Instead, it’s time to set loose my elderly iPod to shuffle its music at random and see what happens next.

Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends. Live from my Man Cave. Let’s rock!

1. Close Your Eyes by the Chemical Brothers. This is the tune that gets us going for a Friday morning. From the splendid Push The Button long player. Well lush, this, and nothing like their usual electronic style.

2. Dear Jessie by Madonna. Still love Madge and own almost every record she ever made. And not many albums are better than Like A Prayer from which this little beauty comes from.

3. Soul Elevator by Deep Forest. Some gorgeous left field music from France’s finest, here, from the superb Music Detected album.

4. Knock Knock by Matt Berry. Some weirdly psychedelic folk music here from the excellent actor chap Matt Berry taken from his LP Kill The Wolf. Kind of gushes over you in a nice way.

5. All We Need Is An Island by Sammy Hagar. Here, Sammy duets with Heart’s Nancy Wilson in a very un-Sammy way, with more Hawaii than hard rock. It feels like summer again.

6. Too Much In Your Life by the Delays. One of my very favourite bands and a track from You See Colours. Frontman Greg Gilbert suffers now from stage four bowel cancer and secondary lung cancer. I hope he keeps fighting and wins that fight. So talented.

7. Heartbeat by Bad Company. Run the mill album filler from Paul Rodgers and the lads, redeemed by one of the great voices in rock.

8. Starshine by Gorillaz. Young Damon’s little side gig, typically eclectic and brave.

9. Love is Cold by Jay Ferguson. The great man, who was formerly in Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, with a beaut from his solo album Thunder Island.

10. Good Vibrations (Concert Rehearsal) by the Beach Boys. From their wonderful bits and pieces album Hawthorne CA: Birthplace Of A Musical Legacy comes this absolute gem. Very fitting final track given my mood today.

That’s all, folks! Aye thang you!

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