Eclectic Blue

Kevin McFadden – the soundtrack of my life

0 Comments 15 July 2018

In 1980, the first biography of Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, was published. It was entitled ‘No one gets out of here alive’. I was attracted by that title because it rather sums up my philosophy of life. I am reminded of its truth every time someone dies. Yesterday, I learned of the death of someone I greatly admired, a wonderfully talented man who, for a giddy period back in the 1980s, gave me the musically soundtrack of my life.

Kevin McFadden, who died on 1 July 2018, was that man. Not, I know, a name that many people have heard of. He was the leader of a Bristol based band called Misdemeanor. McFadden wrote the songs, sang the songs and played lead guitar. Granted there were a few covers in the Misdemeanor set list, including Bruce Springsteen’s Cadillac Ranch, U2’s I Will Follow and and Star Jets’ War Stories, but the bulk of the songs, and the ones we all liked best, were from McFadden’s personal song book.

Misdemeanor had a unique sound, albeit with the influences of those mentioned above. And they really rocked. Once I saw them play, I wanted to watch them play over and over again. Every club and venue in Bristol and surrounding areas, I went along. I not only knew the songs, I knew the words. Incredibly, for a local band, they became my favourite band. The charismatic spiky haired singer, pounding away on his electric guitar, leading this tight, powerful rocking band, playing some of the best music I had ever heard.

I was desperate to get a record of this band in action. I once had a cassette of Misdemeanor performing Indian Times, one of their classics, but I wanted an album. Then, they disappeared and I thought those days were gone. In the intervening years, the earworms would remain. I’d be driving somewhere and singing Shadows of Love or Radio Radio or Stereo Heartbreak and, my absolute favourite, Walking Through The Turnstiles. I would never forget Kevin McFadden.

Then, many years later, I got an email from Mike Darby from Sugar Shack records who told me that he had managed to – what’s the word? – remaster the original tapes of some Misdemeanor songs and was putting them on iTunes. He did and suddenly, wonderfully, the songs of my twenties were alive and well, as was, I was thrilled to discover, Kevin McFadden.

I corresponded with him from time to time. He lived in California and was still making music. Hope springs eternal, as they say, and the thought that, after all this time, I might be able to listen to new material from the man who game me Misdemeanor. Then, that email.

It turned out that McFadden had returned to the UK earlier this year. I knew nothing about the circumstances, like where he lived and what he was now doing. I now wish I had. I had emailed him to tell him what his music meant to me and I would love to have told him in person. Now, I will never be able to.

The funeral will be at Canford Lane on 24th July. I don’t know the time yet but I aim to be there, even though I haven’t seen him since the 1980s, never really knew him ‘properly’, know nothing of his life. His family want everyone who knew him, who loved his music, to come along.

What I do know is that Kevin McFadden and his band Misdemeanor made my life better through the great music he wrote and performed. It will always be a musical crime to me that he never really made it when so many with little or no talent did make it. Sadly, that is life, how it was, how it is, how it will always be.

I will be there at Canford Lane to say goodbye, to show my respects and say my thanks. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. If I am sad about his loss, I can only imagine the devastation they are feeling.

Eclectic Blue

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

0 Comments 14 July 2018

I am not at my best in large crowds, which is probably why I have always supported etc etc, but today I was, in general, happy to be part of a large crowd. It was Bristol’s annual PRIDE celebration.

I grew up at a time when no one was gay. Everyone was straight until the bloody liberal society turned half the country gay. Or possibly not. The reality is that being gay is not a new thing, it’s just that those of us who aren’t gay – well, most of us, anyway – aren’t bothered about it. But hang on: that’s not true either. I am bothered about it. I want everyone, regardless of colour, sex, sexuality and all the other stuff to be treated and regarded as equal. Which is why I got a bit involved in a police arrest today.

This may still be sub judice so I have to be careful what I say but suffice to say that a serious homophobic incident took place on Bristol City Centre and I stayed with the arresting (off duty) police officer and alleged miscreants until uniformed officers turned up. I know that I am not the world’s strongest man, and I am certainly not brave, but I didn’t have any fear as things kicked off. If he wanted to attack me, then he could have done. Christ – he was probably young enough to be my grandson. But you have to do what’s right, don’t you, otherwise, what’s the point in having principles in the first place?

The police were magnificent, as to my mind they usually are. They dealt with an unpleasant incident swiftly, compassionately and above all professionally.

I shouldn’t have mentioned this one minor incident really because I saw little else that offended me. A couple of idiots behaving like, well, idiots, compared with thousands of people celebrating being themselves, including me. And I am SO straight, oh yes. Don’t worry about that.

At least I am consistent. Yesterday, I was in the same area with my son and launched into a volley of abuse towards a newspaper seller from the rape-apologists of the SWP. Again, they were young, oh-so-middle class and could have punched my lights out in an instant but again I wasn’t scared of them, even though perhaps I should have been. I suspect I am getting more intolerant to intolerance as I get older.

Above all, I hate extremists. Far left, far right, homophobic, racist – I can’t stand any of you. Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage, Ken Loach, Paul Golding and Mark Serwotka – two sides of the same coin.

I’m proud tonight because I stood up for what I believe to be right. I don’t deserve extra respect and I am not angling for compliments because I didn’t do anything that required pre-thought. For all I know, you might hate me for opposing homophobia or revolutionary socialism. You’re probably younger, fitter and stronger than I am and I’d surely lose in a fist fight. But I’ll keep arguing, retaining that few principles I have left and that’s not enough, then do your worst. I’m not compromising.

Eclectic Blue

Third and fourth is nowhere

0 Comments 14 July 2018

Call me unpatriotic – I’m not, by the way – but I shall not be watching today’s third/fourth place World Cup play off between England and Belgium. There is one simple reason: I couldn’t care less.

The point, for me, is that we are actually out of the tournament, having lost to Croatia on Wednesday night. Despite my disappointment, I had no issues with the result. The best team won. As the team that lost, what on earth is the point of us playing another game? Third place, fourth place: so what? If we win, it still means we won’t have won anything. No one here or abroad will be talking about this game in the years, or even days, to come.

If I watch it, I will only be thinking the usual ‘what if?’ questions. Or, perhaps, we’ll get a thumping and it will reinforce the reasons why we lost in the semi finals. The players will be as ‘up for it’ as they can be, but come on: a part of them will still be devastated and upset about losing out on the chance of making The Big One this Sunday.

I’m afraid for me, football remains about winning and nothing else. Competing to finish third or fourth doesn’t do it for me and it shouldn’t for you, either.

Eclectic Blue

It’s all the same

0 Comments 13 July 2018

Possibly the best tweet I have ever seen came today from the food writer Jay Rayner: “For decades I have, as a Jew, wondered how totalitarian, bigoted regimes rise to power. How does a population of ordinary, decent people allow it? Then I watch someone like @piersmorgan once a great liberal campaigning journalist, suck up to Trump and I think ‘oh. That’s how.” I agree with almost all of this, with the exception that Morgan was ever, somehow, a “great liberal campaigning journalist”; which is a bit like saying Vinnie Jones was a great footballer. But that’s a matter of pedantry. The point is that Rayner has hit the nail firmly on the head.

In many ways, Rayner’s comment is not much different from that of the anti-Nazi Pastor Martin Niemoller who said this:

“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.”

This is, indeed, “how totalitarian, bigoted regimes rise to power”. Good people doing nothing.

Rayner tweeted about the terrifying rise to power of Donald Trump but there are familiar echoes from the past. History shows that when people are confronted by fascism, they must stand up to it and resist. Appeasement does not work.

Much more will eventually be revealed about Trump and it will not make pleasant reading. It is becoming ever clearer that Trump has serious connections with Russia in general and Vladimir Putin in particular, another hard man of the right. Trump is supported by the so called Alt Right throughout the world, from the hard line conservatives in the US to the useful idiots in our own country, like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.

At first, I saw Trump’s election as a source of what I expected to be temporary amusement. What an error of judgement that turned out to be. I then heard warnings from wise counsel, including old friends and acquaintances, that Trump’s presidency was far more dangerous than that. An unstable egocentric, narcissist, populist, racist, misogyist, power-mad lunatic is the man with his finger on the button.

The vote for Brexit in the UK is the other side of the same coin, a hard right campaign, supported by all the people who supported Trump, plus added British Labour Party, of course, feeding off ugly nationalism. That is not to say that every Brexit supporter is a card-carrying fascist, of course it isn’t, because the 52% had different motives in wanting to leave Europe. However, it everyone who voted leave wasn’t a racist, every racist voted leave.

The world is in a terrible mess now, with a far right nationalist in the White House, a former KGB thug in the Kremlin and at the most unstable moment in our post war history we decide to become even more unstable. If nothing else, all of us need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Our leaders in the UK are weak and incompetent. May must surely know what a dangerous man Trump is but her desperation for a trade deal so we can import chlorinated chicken, hormone injected beef and genetically modified goods has blurred what’s left of her vision. So she holds his hand, blows smoke up his arse and prays he will be nice to her. So much for “taking back control”.

It is right that people are demonstrating in London tonight. If our leaders are hell-bent in appeasing a dangerous demagogue, then the people must say that we aren’t. Trump, Putin, Brexit – it’s all the same.

Eclectic Blue

Appeasement won’t impress Trump

0 Comments 13 July 2018

The sight of our prime minister – our prime minister! – being led up the red carpet, holding hands with Donald Trump, looking like a three year old being accompanied to the toilet brings not just shame but deep embarrassment to our country. You know our country: the one that is in the process of raising the drawbridge to our friends in Europe in order to be subservient to the leader of the Alt Right movement, assisted by useful idiots like Farage and Johnson, all at the beck and call of Mr Novichok himself, Bad Vlad Putin.

Remember a few years ago when a decent US president, one Barack Obama, made it clear it was in Britain’s best interests to remain in Europe? Well, he was right about that, as we are all surely beginning to realise now. Obama was told to shut up and mind his own business by the hard right, the establishment and much of the media. Yet when Trump arrives, shouting his mouth off that unless we have a hard Brexit there will be no trade deal with the US, we are merely supposed to doff our caps and swallow our pride? That’s what May is doing.

May’s fawning will not impress America’s blowhard president. Trump likes “strong” leaders, which is to say anti-democratic murderers and ruthless crooks. May’s handholding will not impress him. He was see her as weak and subservient, which of course she is, with knobs on.

Surely you can see what is going on here? It is not a coincidence that Trump loves Putin and it is clear that there has been some high level activities between the two leaders. Both have vested interests in a weak and divided Europe, geographical, political and economic and that is precisely what they are working towards.

Later today, you can imagine Trump changing his tune about deals with Britain. Today’s threats will turn into tomorrow’s “great trade deals” which will of course mean absolutely nothing to a protectionist president who, pathetically, wants more than anything to be loved. Instead of kowtowing, Mrs May should show some strength. Stand up to the orange-faced wank puffin, make it clear that we can’t push us around, that if are really the proud, independent state we are told, he should show us a little respect.

And while she’s at it, cut a deal with the EU that retains our access to the single market and customs union, free movement (that means for us too, as well as those awful foreigners) and ensure that we do not go off a cliff next March when, if we must, leave the EU.

Grovelling in front of right wing dictators never works and it won’t work with Trump. Theresa May needs to learn this and fast. It’s only the future of the country that depends on it.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (13/7)

0 Comments 13 July 2018

A little earlier than usual, here is my weekly music shuffle; that time of the week when I attach my elderly, obsolete iPod to a bank of Marshall speakers here in my Man Cave and allow it to choose a bunch of songs at random from a list of over 14,000.

I know you can wait for this but I am not going to let you.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

1. ‘Cause I’m a Man by Tame Impala. I happen to regard Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker as near to genius when it comes to music. This from the wonderful Currents record.

2. Perfect Situation by Weezer. Classic stuff from Rivers et all, from the Make Believe album.

3. Fanny (Be tender with my love) by the Bee Gees. As Eric Morecambe used to say, there’s no answer to that!

4. The World Turns All Around Her by the Byrds. More jingle-jangle from McGuinn’s Rickenbacker.

5. The Price You Pay by Bruce Springsteen. Magnificent from the Boss’s The River.

6. My Generation by Chickenfoot. Live cover of the Who classic. Absolutely love it.

7. A Month of Sundays by Don Henley. From Building the Perfect Beast, top stuff from the Eagle.

8. Supposed to be by Jack Johnson. Some lovely doubt-tracking from Mr J.

9. South Australia by Fisherman’s Friends. Glorious sea shanty from the Port Isaac boys.

10. Nice, Nice, Very Nice by Ambrosia. Of course, I like this All American rock band. Shades of Yes, mind!

That’s all, folks!

Eclectic Blue

Watching the river flow

0 Comments 12 July 2018

It is good to read that the 12 year old Warmley boy, Rio Smith, who went swimming in the river at Saltford is recovering from a condition his mother believes may have been caused by sewage. She doesn’t know this for sure, of course, but there’s a fair chance she could be right. My question is this: what on earth was a 12 year old child doing swimming in the river in the first place?

The reports I have read so far do not appear to give us a full picture. Was young Rio all on his own at Saltford? Were his friends with him? Were there any adults present? If there were, why the hell didn’t they tell the children how dangerous it is to swim in the river in Saltford? And if there weren’t, what kind of parent allows their child to wander off for miles not knowing what they are doing?

I did some pretty stupid things when I was 12, but swimming in a river like the one at Saltford was not one of them. I am pretty sure my mother would have been aware of where I was when I went out and would have told me to not dive into the river as it was entirely possible I might drown or catch some kind of disease from human waste or the large number of rodents who are known to live near rivers. And here’s another thing: the river at Saltford is not regarded by the authorities as a safe place in which to swim. There are large signs up reminding people saying just that.

I do not blame the children for doing stupid things because without the advice and guidance of mature parents stupid things are what they will do. But what about parents who are stupid, too?

Well done for Rio’s mum for warning other children of the dangers that can be lurking in a river. Perhaps whilst she’s at it, she might have a look in the mirror?

Eclectic Blue

Experts

0 Comments 12 July 2018

Oh God, the football ‘experts’ are all over the media again, dissecting England’s defeat to Croatia. You see, they know better than the manager, his team and of course the players. They have all the answers. What a shame they didn’t mention it all to Gareth Southgate before the game.

The best one I have read so far concerns our tactics and how they weren’t changed as the match wore on. As Croatia began to dominate, Southgate did nothing. If only he had changed things, they might have turned out different. Yes, of course they would.

Opinions are like arseholes: everyone’s got one. And here’s mine. England were as good as they could have been. The manager did the best he could possibly have done with the available resources. Looking at our bench, there was no midfield game-changer. When the admirable Jordan Henderson tired, his replacement Eric Dier was more or less identical. With Ashley Young out on his feet and so much Croatia play coming down his side, the appearance of Danny Rose was obvious. We could, perhaps, query the substitution of Raheem Sterling who, I felt, ran Croatia ragged in the first half but we don’t know for sure whether anything would have turned out better.

This debate about tactics by people who know little about football is baffling. It is not a simple matter of having a quick word with, say, Jesse Lingard and telling him to be as good as Luka Modrich. It is a simple matter of doing the best with what’s available to you. We know that Southgate could have switched to 4-4-2, or brought on someone else instead of Vardy but the idea that tactics cost us the game is nonsense.

The truth is that Croatia had more top players than we did. We had, and have, no one like Modric who is a world class midfield performer. Rakatic, too, is world class, or close to it. Only Kane in the England squad is world class and if his supply line is from players who aren’t, through no fault of their own, there is only one likely outcome.

Generally, I am in favour of experts, only real ones, not self-proclaimed media experts. To say that Southgate somehow declined to change tactics is, as we say in football, absolute bollocks. Like his players, Southgate left nothing out there.

Eclectic Blue

It’s coming home

Comments Off on It’s coming home 11 July 2018

I am not some kind of nationalist. I loathe the jingoist, populist faux “patriotism” AKA xenophobia and racism of the likes of Nigel Farage and Stephen Laxley Lennon, but I do love my country most of the time. My bloodlines are more foreign than English but I was born here at the BMH. Despite my heritage and my dodgy foreign surname (Johansen) I have never felt anything other than 100% English. Today, I feel more English than ever.

I can’t stop thinking about tonight’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia. I kept waking up thinking about it last night and – I know some of you might think this a little odd – from time to time I am even getting a little tearful. This is not a result of my mental health. It’s my emotions playing havoc. Of course, football is only a game but it sure feels a lot more than that this morning.

And here’s the confessional: I have completely lost my sense of perspective. Somehow, all the horrible things that are happening in this world have been relegated in my thoughts and feelings. Part of me feels a twang of guilt, most of me accepts this as, perhaps, a minor aberration. There remain only three teams on the planet who can possibly win the World Cup in 2018 and England is one of them.

I feel confident, which isn’t like me. I believe we can do it, despite the stellar names in the opposition team. I am even coming up with reasons why we should win. We have a world class striker, Raheem Sterling is bound to score an important goal soon, our team has steadily improved throughout the tournament – oh Christ, I’m making this stuff up. I have no idea really. But something has made me believe.

Please, tonight, let the story about England winning, or losing, having given everything. Let the story not be drunken cretins fighting on our streets. Let the story be a group of young men who have challenged our view of the modern footballer, young men who by and large have come from basic working class stock who have dared to dream, led by a manager of compassion and vision.

Who really believed we would be a game away from reaching the final, two games away from being world champions? Dare to dream, my friends. Send all those good vibrations and excitations to our boys in Russia. It could all come to an end tonight, but our dreams might just come true.

I am very lucky at my age to still have some hair left and even luckier than it’s not too grey. Many more days like these and I’ll have neither.

Come on England.

Eclectic Blue

My dad and me

Comments Off on My dad and me 10 July 2018

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad just recently. It’s been seven and a half years since he died yet surprising for me, who is not someone who spends time fretting over past bereavements, but that’s what I have done. It all started after I saw my latest mental health therapist. In the first few sessions, we have once again been raking over the past and it so often comes back to my dad. If I can work out why, then maybe I will finally achieve something and get out of this chewed-up, mental mess.

I wonder if this thinking about my dad is because of the sense of loss. Not just the loss we have all suffered following his death, but the loss of what went before. Or rather what didn’t. Allow me to explain.

My father was a sailor and I have very few recollections of seeing much of him as a child. My mother brought me up pretty well single-handedly, albeit with much support, financial and otherwise, by my dad who lived in Canada. My mother was a simple Dutch woman with little by way of social interaction with others and very few skills in bringing up a child, other than what she brought to the table through the school of life. This is not criticism, far from it. Despite her background, she still guided me through school and life to the extent that in late middle age, I am still here. But I now know how much I missed my dad and miss him still.

I am not one to visit gravestones of family members who have died. Speaking personally, it would achieve nothing for me. I accept death as the end of life. Why risk further upset by visiting the ashes or decomposed bones of loved ones? I would expect that when I die, people would react in the same way to me. Yet with my dad, it is slightly different.

I realised only late on, in his retirement years, how much I loved him and how much he loved me. I recall attending his 75th and 80th birthdays in Ottawa and suddenly it was all there. In his environment, he was proudly showing me off as his son. It had probably happened in years gone by, too, and I am guessing he said as much to Canadian friends and family. But now, as I was in middle age and he was long into retirement, this was the life, the love, I felt I had missed. Late on, I was in a close, physically close, environment with this amazing man and I loved him like I had never loved him before.

And like most good things in life, you want them to last forever. After his 80th birthday in 2009, I hoped I would visit him much more and that I would be able to take him on what might be his final UK tour. On 28 February 2011, that dream ended when he died after a short illness against which he fought all the way. Of course he did. He was a tough, stubborn old bugger. So my final visit to Ottawa was for his funeral, or rather the celebration of his life. Way over 100 other folk turned up.

I had a massive mental meltdown in the months that followed, in a way that never happened when my mum died in 1999. She had been in terribly poor health and, if I am being brutally honest, it was a blessing when she died, as it was when my stepfather died of Parkinsons and dementia. I understand how people feel when they say they missed those who have died every day and would love to see them for just one more minute. Many years of suffering and agonising pain perhaps steeled me for the end. I got no pleasure from their suffering. And it reinforced my atheism and humanism. The nonsense that they would somehow survive their own deaths and somehow turn up in some absurd spiritual world, cured of terrible diseases, convinced me, if I could possibly need anymore convincing, that the sad fact their lives were over also meant their pain and suffering was over, too. You, my loyal reader, may have felt different about the passing of others. I am only telling the story from my side.

My dad’s death hit me hard because, I believe, there was a considerable amount of unfinished business. There was so much I could have learned at all stages of my life that might have enabled me to do better, to achieve more, to not have my life regularly crushed by poor mental health.

Yes, I do think of the good times we spent together. The campaign expedition of 1975 when we drove and camped all over Prince Edward Island and drove the Cabot trail in Nova Scotia. A wonderful weekend in Sidmouth a few years before he died. Going to see John Fogerty in concert in Ottawa in 2009 and seeing this 80 year old singing and clapping along with the genius who created Creedence Clearwater Revival. And my last memory of my dad when he was playing one of his favourite vinyl albums All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. A day or so later, I was boarding the Air Canada Boeing 767 to London, never to see him again.

I am very tired from yesterday’s operation which is making me very tearful about bringing back these memories, memories are becoming better with each passing day. My dad’s ashes, as were his father’s, were scattered at Battery Point, Portishead and I may visit that special place sometime later this week. I won’t go there and imagine that somehow these ashes haven’t long been blown away and that some part of them was still there. No. It’s where my dad used to sail past many years ago. And that is undoubtedly the nearest I will ever get to him again, a vision created by my own imagination, not some spiritual experience.

Perhaps, even at this late stage I will still somehow achieve my dreams. These will almost certainly centre around writing. I am still trying to learn how to write better, which is not easy with my threadbare understanding of grammar. I have written one far from perfect book and now I want to write a far better one. I don’t just want to, I need to.

My dad said he loved my writing and plenty of other people have said, sincerely I believe, that they like it too. If he had been around in my teenage years, who knows where I might have ended up, although I must make full disclosure here that I did not always respond with the par avion correspondence he sent me regularly at the time. My failure was not a one way street. And even, at this late stage, I still want to succeed at something. But is there a way, is there the time? That’s something I would love to ask my dad but I can’t.

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