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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dave Clemo's Family Tree

I've been doing some internet research on my family history. It may only be of interest to a tiny few, so I've created a separate blog.
Here is the link

And here's the picture that started the quest

Friday, December 24, 2010

Time to end the bias at the Met Office

It's been very cold in the UK in the last few weeks. Indeed it could be argued that as Winter didn't officially begin until Dec 21st, we have witnessed the coldest Autumn since records began.
And it's not just the Northern hemishere. Australia has just had snowfall during their summer!
OK, it's weather. And they keep telling me that weather is not climate.
Europeans have climate. The British have weather.

We're an island off the coast of mainland Europe that is washed by the Gulf Stream, which means our climate is generally warmer and wetter than mainland Europe. It also means that our weather is more variable than the mainland.
Being variable, it gives us British something to talk about.

So why does a few inches at most of snow cause the UK to grind to a halt, (although the BBC insists on using centimetres despite the UK official measurements being in miles, feet and inches)?
Why is it that we are as unprepared today for bad weather as we were three years ago?
Why is it that local authorities have bought less salt and grit than they did last year?
Why is it that Heathrow Airport closed because they didn't have enough snow-clearing and de-icing machinery?

Where do they get the information to base their buying requirements?

The Met Office.

Compare and contrast with London's Transport system. They've had little disruption, apart from re-routing some buses away from hillier routes.
They didn't use the Met Office predictions.

Can you see a picture emerging?

Here's a link to an interesting article

Here's some of the text
"The Global Warming Policy Foundation has called on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the winter advice it received by the Met Office and the renewed failure to prepare the UK for the third severe winter in a row.
"The current winter fiasco is no longer a joke as the economic damage to the British economy as a result of the country's ill-preparedness is running at £1bn a day and could reach more than £15 billion," said Dr Benny Peiser, the GWPF's Director.
"It would appear that the Met Office provided government with rather poor if not misleading advice and we need to find out what went wrong. Lessons have to be learned well in advance of the start of next year's winter so that we are much better prepared if it is severe again," Dr Peiser said.

And here's a few of the questions the GWPF would like answered

1. Why did the Met Office publish estimates in late October showing a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter? What was the scientific basis of this probabilistic estimate?

2. Has the October prediction by the Met Office that this winter would be mild affected planning for this winter? If so, what is the best estimate of how much this has cost the country?

3. Last year, the Met Office predicted a 65% chance that winter will be milder than normal. Has the Met Office subsequently explained what went wrong with its computer modelling?

8. Although the Met Office stopped sending its 3-month forecasts to the media, it would appear that this service is still available to paying customers, the Government and Local Authorities for winter planning. What was their advice, in September/October, for the start of winter 2010?

10. Is it appropriate that the chairman of the Met Office is a member, or a former member of climate pressure groups or carbon trading groups?

And finally-

13. What plans has the government to privatise the Met Office?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Influencing modern music 1950-1985

This is my list of the top ten people who most influenced popular music from its birth in 1950 until machines took over in around 1985. It's entirely subjective, and you're free to add your own comments

1. Les Paul.
Les Paul has to be at number 1. As well as being the link bewteen the old and the new (he jammed with Django and Charlie Christian in the early 40s, had his own radio show, became Bing Crosby's musical director before singlehandedly inventing every aspect of recording that we take for granted today.
Multi track recording- Les Paul
Vari-speed recording- Les Paul
Sound on sound recording- Les Paul
Mixing desks- Les Paul
The solid electric guitar- Les Paul
You get the idea.

2. Ahmed Ertegun
He founded Atlantic records in 1950. He was there at the beginning of Rhythm & Blues. His achievements are too great to be listed, but he signed Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Led Zepellin and was a major player throughout his long career. He died after falling at a Rolling Stones show in 2006. A giant.

3. Sam Phillips.
Owned Sun Records. Recorded Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Say no more.

4. Jac Holzman
Founded Elektra Records in 1950. Discovered Judy Collins. Elektra Records had the best roster of artists in the mid- late 60s including Love, The Doors, Tim Buckley and the Incredible String band. He went on to sign The Stooges and Harry Chapin. When I was a teenager in the late 60s, most of my record collection comprised LPs on the Elektra label.
His protege Judy Collins discovered Leonard Cohen and gave him his first gig. Judy became Steven Stills lover and was the inspiration for "Suite- Judy Blue Eyes".

5. George Martin
Not just the fifth Beatle, but a brilliant composer and arranger. He also produced Jeff Beck's album "Blow by Blow", which was the first instrumental album to sell more than a million copies.

6. Joe Boyd
Started off by inviting long forgotten blues artists like Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker to play at his college in the early 60s. Became European tour manager for US blues and jazz musicians. Was stage manager at the 1965 Newport Folk festival when Dylan went electric and changed folk music forever. Became UK A&R man for Elektra Records and signed the Incredible String Band. Opened the first underground music venue UFO where the house band was Pink Floyd. Produced Pink Floyd's first single. Discovered Fairport Convention and Richard Thompson. Single handedly created English Folk Rock. Discovered Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan. Went into films and produced the soundtrack to "Deliverance". "Duelling banjos" is his only number 1, but he hated it so much he refused to have his name on the credits. And on and on.

7. Andrew Loog Oldham
Created the Rolling Stones. Created the cult of the pop music manager. Created Immediate Records. Created the idea of living your life as if you were in a film, with a music soundtrack playing constantly (he wanted to be Laurence Harvey). Disowned by the Stones who have tried to erase him from their official history, but love him or hate him, you can't ignore him.

8. Joe Meek
Created the most amazing sounding records using home made equipment in a flat above a shop in North London. Openly homosexual at a time when it was still against the law, he broke every "rule" of music recording. His records still sound great today, while his distractors are long forgotten.

9. Quincy Jones
Musician, composer, arranger and record producer (and all round good guy). His first band was with high school chum Ray Charles on piano while played trumpet.
His arrangements include the swing version of "Fly me to the moon" as recorded by Frank Sinatra (the original was a waltz from the 1920s)
Film scores, hit songs, you name it- he's done it. He has been nominated for a Grammy Award no less than 79 times, winning an astonishing 29 times.
He's produced for Frank Sinatra but is best known for producing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album, which has sold 110 million copies worldwide. If anyone deserved the title of legend, it's Quincy Jones.

10. Cass Elliot
Last but not least, we have Cass Elliot. Her life was cut short just as she was entering a new phase of her life. She had a great voice and sold a lot of records both as a solo artist and as a member of the Mamas and the Papas.
She's in my list because of her gift of hospitality. She was a great hostess, and her house in Laurel Canyon was a magnet for musicians. Legend had it that David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash met at Cass Elliot's and sang together for the first time. Neil Young was always there. Joni Mitchell met Graham Nash at Cass's place. It can be argued that the whole West Coast music scene had its roots in Cass's home. It may have taken David Geffen's Asylum Records to bring the music to a worldwide audience, but it all began at Cass's.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

How I lost £800GBP through Paypal

This is a true story.
About six weeks ago I put a pair of JBL bass bins on Ebay. We'd bought them for a PA rig, but hadn't enough funds or work to complete the project. Chris' VAT was due, so we reluctantly put them up for sale on a "Buy it now" for £800.

Tuesday Nov 2nd was an eventful day for me. First of all I got the all clear from the Haematology Clinic and decided to go back to work the next day. Later that evening I had a call from someone called Barry to tell me that he'd just bought my speakers.
These are big bulky items. I purposely advertised that they were "buyer collect" only. When I checked my emails I saw that I'd received an email from Paypal saying that they'd received £800. The email text says quite clearly that I could send the items. I arranged with ny buyer that he would send a courier to collect the speakers the next day, and sure enough I had a call to say they were on their way, so I left work and met the courier at home.
No problems so far. Everything was exactly as I'd experienced many times before. There was one slight niggle. The speakers were to be delivered to Greenwich rather than Slough (where "Barry" lived). I only knew this because the postcode that he gave to the courier wasn't recognised by her satnav. As luck would have it, he rang me and I was able to give my phone to the courier and she took the full address.
She drove off and I went back to work.
Two days later I had an email from Paypal advising me that my payment had been frozen while they investigated a complaint from the real Barry, who said that someone had hacked his Paypal account and used it to buy a number of items including my speakers.

I'd like to say that Paypal were most helpful, but I'd be lying.
Their useless automated system doesn't allow for any deviation from the script.
I had to supply proof of postage. How could I? The item was collected.
I contacted the person whose account was hacked. He was adamant he hadn't bought the item.
I contacted Ebay and told them. Their useless automated system lurched into action.
A couple of days later and I had discovered that my buyer had registered about four hours before buying my speakers. He'd used a false name, incomplete address and spurious telephone number.
He hacked into Paypal to pay for my speakers and got away with it. There is no address for the guy, his phone number is false and Ebay protection only applies when you buy goods, not when you sell them.
Paypal tried to tell me that the email saying that I'd received £800 didn't come from them. So how can they explain the £800 in my Paypal account?
No reply.
They refused to accept any blame. They have returned the money to the real Barry, but I'm out of pocket to the tune of £800 plus my Ebay listing and selling fees.
Both the real Barry and myself are victims. He got his money back but I didn't.

It appears that sellers on Ebay and Paypal have no protection from thieves who steal your goods.

My Paypal account is overdrawn and I can't buy or sell on Ebay until that's rectified.

My advice to anyone selling on Ebay is to insist on cash only.
I may never use it again.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Dead Horse Strategy

This has been around the internet for a while, but I think it's good, as worth passing on.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

However, in modern business, because of the heavy investment factors to be taken into consideration, often other strategies have to be tried with dead horses, including the following:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Threatening the horse with termination.
4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
7. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
8. Change the form so that it reads: “This horse is not dead”.
9. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
10. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
11. Donate the dead horse to a recognized charity, thereby deducting its full original cost.
12. Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
13. Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.
14. Declare that a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better.
15. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position

Monday, November 29, 2010


Some time ago I was asked if I would sing a few songs at a local church. Having received the all-clear from the hospital I was anxious to get out and about playing my songs again. Who knows? I may have already played my last ever show, so each invite puts off the inevitable last show into the future.

To say the arrangements were haphazard is something of an understatement. My contact neglected to tell me where to turn up until I prompted him several times, and I was never really sure what the evening was in aid of until I arrived on the night. I was also told that the sound check would be between 5 and 5.30 (but wasn't told what time the concert would start).

Anyway I was late arriving. We pulled up at about 5.45 and parked in a side street. I saw a light and rang a bell. Someone came and opened the door. I asked where the concert was being held and I was given directions. When I arrived the soundman was busy wiring mikes. I'd met him before but a long time ago. It was a bit disconcerting that I had to shout to attract his attention- his wife said it was social deafness but I'm not so sure.
As I was the only act there I did my soundcheck. I'm very low maintenance. My mike and guitar settings are very straightforward. I'm so used to doing my own sound that I just set the kit up and leave it. I move in and out of the mike as required and control my guitar volume from the guitar. It should be so easy.

But no.

Then my friend turned up with his guitar. Silly me, I allowed him to use my DI box and therefore my guitar settings. Normally it would not be a problem, except that he keeps his guitar settings flat and relies on the soundman to eq the sound. No wonder my guitar (which sounded great in the soundcheck) sounded so awful and tinny during my spot. All my settings had been changed.

Then a woman who was so obviously a music teacher turned up with about ten teenage girls. This choir was to open the show. It was now about 6.30 and the show was to start at 7.00. She wafted in, said that the electric piano had to be moved as she couldn't direct her girls where it was and then disappeared. The soundman was on the balcony. Apparently there was a powerpoint presentation that he hadn't been told about. I enlisted some help and we moved the piano on to the stage, and I plugged it in and managed to attract the soundman's attention by shouting through the PA. I don't play piano so I pressed the "demo" key and made sure that I could hear it while sitting at the piano. I then went looking for the schoolmarm to ask her to soundcheck the piano. I found her out the back. She was warming up the singer's voices and said she'd check it afterwards. She never did.
She did however, try to commandeer my music stand and walked off with my guitar lead. It was only the intervention of my wife that saved the day.

Meanwhile I was introduced to a man who was to be the MC for the evening. He insisted on calling me David and introduced me to the audience as such. The only time I've been called David was when I was in trouble with my mother.I was past caring by now. He was given a radio lapel mike (but not soundchecked).

The audience were mostly in their seats and the first we knew the show was about to start was when we heard a burst of feedback and a muffled tinny voice calling us to order. I looked around for the source of the noise. It was the MC. Eventually the MC's mike was sorted and he introduced the choir.
Schoolmarm and her gels walked on to the stage, trampling the guitar DI box underfoot. She sat at the piano, not having touched it since she arrived. My wife and I looked at each other. What if it were too loud? Too quiet? The wrong setting?
Schoolmarm had no such worries as she kit the keys and led the choir through a selection of vaguely spiritual songs, including "Hallelujah", "Let it be", "Lean on me" and o joy of joys- "You lift me up"

O bliss.

Eventually it finished and the MC came on stage to introduce me as David Clemo- singer songwriter. It was by now 7.30 and I normally haven't left the house at this time, let alone started playing. In fact, the only places where the doors open this early are theatres and churches.
I started my first song. Now I admit I made a mistake by putting my music stand (which I keep very low down so as not to obstruct the view) on my right instead of on my left. I know all my own songs by heart, but I still have the words there just in case. I'm not alone in this. Perry Como was a huge star back in the 50s and 60s. He was renowned for his easy going and relaxed style. What wasn't common knowledge was that he had all the words to his songs written out on huge boards just out of shot. These days the stars use an autocue, a kind of celebrity karaoke but with a live band.
The first song was OK. And the second. I'd not sung the third song before. I'd been practising it all week, but I had a problem with the middle8, specifically the second line. That's when the words would have come in handy, but they weren't in my line of sight. From then on it was downhill, as far as I was concerned. I fluffed the lyrics to my final song as well, and I was glad to get off stage. Not my favourite performance. I struggled to get into the zone, and Sue said that my mike volume kept changing. I suspect that the soundman was fiddling, trying to anticipate me and constantly adjust the settings. Please- just don't OK?

I don't remember much more. My friend came on and played guitar while some people sang. The first song was apparently a reworking of an old hymn. I didn't know it, and neither did my friend the guitarist. The second song was apparently a new one. I couldn't tell you anything about it, except that it was a bit too long.
Then the speaker came on to the platform. I've done dozens of these type of event before. If you add in church services then it's hundreds.
Even so I was gobsmacked when the "speaker" started to sing to a backing track. And not just any backing track, but a real "Frank Sidebottom" effort, with drum machine and casio keyboard sounds.

I let out an audible groan. Sorry. Just- couldn't help it.

Anyway, we sat through the presentation. Then we were all invited to have a cup of tea and some refreshments. I packed away my guitar and followed the throng into another room. I was buttonholed by someone who insisted that if I sang with a couple of people that he knew it'd be really good. If you say so mate.

Sue and I exchanged glances and sneaked out and away when we thought no-one was looking.

I've played a lot of churches in my time. It probably wasn't the worst organised event we've been involved in, but it was pretty close.

Maybe I'll write about the worst gigs I've ever played.

Or maybe not. I'll probably get nightmares or die of embarrassment or both.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Islam and the West- my Facebook thread

I found this video recently courtesy of Cranmer

Cranmer begins his article like this ""When you're asked an awkward question, you can either distract and deflect as the politician does; you can ruminate and reflect as the philosopher does; you can equivocate and obfuscate as the diplomat does.Or you can answer the question explicitly and directly, as the soldier does."

A comment on Cranmer said "There are moderate Muslims but there is no such thing as moderate Islam".

A view I heartily endorse, so I posted it on Facebook. The replies came back over the next day or so, so here's the thread:

Mike started with
"Watching this video prompted me to consider the similarity between the Koran, Mein Kampf and Das Kapital. The authors of at least two of these were probably madmen, and all three authors presented a totalitarian system that can only exist i...n its own enviroment, making it an imperative to destroy any opposing system. The concept "hate the sin but love the sinner" is incomprehensible to such a system, which can only understand "hate the sin and destroy the sinner". The old adage "kill or be killed" presents a dilemma to the Christian, since if we choose to "love the sinner", the sinner will still try to kill us, so we are presented with a choice that challenges our ethics: do we pray or fight, or even do both? This calls for a great deal of wisdom and faith, and total trust in God. Is the cry of Jehoshaphat enough "we don't know what to do but our eyes are on You" ?"

My reply "Islam cannot exist without the West. Where else would the arabs go when they want to get drunk and go whoring? And they do, oh yes they do!"

Mike: "I know they go to Mecca every year, do you reckon they do more than just play bingo there, then?"

Richard chipped in with "Where's morality in the Bible though?!"

I replied "I'd be happy to sit and go through the Bible with you any day. I'm happy to point out all the inconsistencies and bits I don't agree with. I will however, also show you all the consistenies, the continuous narrative, the fulfilled prophesie...s, the bits I can't argue against, and the undeniable (to me) fact that it has the ring of truth.
Morality is an absolute. If it's not, if morality changes to suit the conditions, then it's not absolute, and it's not morality.
Which makes me a sinner in need of grace and salvation. Over to you."

Mike came back with "You could start with the 10 Commandments, Richard. And could I ask you where the immorality is in the Bible?"

Richard came back later with "I suppose you could start with "Stone disobedient children" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) and go from there really...Leviticus makes interesting reading as well. I'm no expect in these texts but I certainly don't consider the Koran to be any more immoral than the Bible."

Good point. Worthy of a response. Here it is.

"Touche. These laws belong to a different age, like "Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together" Deut 22:11. Everyone and anyone can point to the book of rules to justify their actions- look at council jobsworths for example. My beef with Islam is that there is no peace, no love, no forgiveness, and because Mohammed said so, no chance of ever changing it. The Old Testament pointed to the New- and you must study Isaiah to see where and how and why. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Jews believe that he wasn't, and the Messiah is still to come, but Islam gives no hope, because Mohammed is the final revelation, and therefore there is no hope, only chaos and violence.
When your book of laws allows you to keep slaves, to deny women any rights and to kill all unbelievers, it pretty much gives you carte blanche to do anything you like. It sickens me.
However, I will add that all organised religion sickens me, not because of the truth they claim for themselves, but on their insistence that everyone must live according to rules they set. The unassailable fact is that the first duty of any organisation is to ensure its own survival, and the first casualty will ever and always be truth.
Politicians lie to ensure the survival of their party, church leaders lie to ensure the survival of their denomination or faith. It's what they do. It's genetically inbred.
Jesus never set up any organisation. He never founded a church. He lives his life as an example to us all. He was arrested on a trumped up charge because he was seen as a threat to the established religion and the rulers of the day. And they murdered him. Everyone who accepts the corrupt practices of religion, or thinks that any evil thought word or deed that keeps an organisation in power is OK are guilty by association.
The difference between Islam and Jesus teaching is that under Islam we must all die, because there is no forgiveness, but Jesus promised that all who believe in him can be forgiven, because when he was murdered on the cross, all the sins of the world were paid for in a way that I don't understand, or have to, because all I have to do is to say I'm sorry and accept that Jesus death paid for my sins, and follow him.

It's when the church and state gets involved that it all goes wrong.
But back to your point. Because Mohammed "married" his 9 year old cousin and had sex with her, does that mean that paedos can claim that they were only following his teachings?"

I expect there will be more.....But for now, the fact that we are able to have this conversation speaks volumes about the freedom we currently enjoy. I suspect it will not last for long. We are rushing headlong towards a totalitarian society (wrong word, try world) where children are encouraged to spy on their parents, where everything is illegal unless it is permitted, and people like me will have the knock on the door in the middle of the night to look forward to.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Playing again

Last week I dragged myself out of my lethargy and went to one of the local Open Mike nights in nearby Rothwell. My friends Stevie Jones and Mark Gill run the evening, and they very kindly let me go on first. I wasn't sure how strong my voice would be after a long lay off, so my first song may have been a bit tentative. I sang one of my old songs "Another Crazy Day", which I wrote back in 1993, in the midst of the last recession. Somehow the words seemed appropriate.

Another Crazy Day,
The TV blares its message;
Anger and despair;
Recession and dismay.
A hurting world where
No one ever seems to care.
Feeling so empty;
Starving in a world of plenty.

Another weary day;
It’s rush around and hustle bustle,
Get nowhere.
No time to stop and say
The tender word that shows
Somebody that they care.
Tears fill our eyes;
Another day in paradise.

I’m standing on a precipice;
Staring into the abyss;
Hanging on to nothingness.
There’s got to be much more than this.
The pointlessness, the hopelessness,
Can someone tell me what it is?

Another lonely day.
How many million people
Live outside my door?
They all shrink away.
Too scared to love or
Build a friendship anymore.
We’re wasting away,
Starved of the one thing that can save us
© Dave Clemo 1993

I followed that with my version of "Hurt", as sung by Johnny Cash, and finished with "When you say nothing at all". Back in the summer Nicki Gillis played the Americana Festival in Newark. We were on during the afternoon, and the main evening act was Paul Overstreet. You may not know his name, but you've heard his songs, which include "Love will build a bridge" and "When you say nothing at all". It was lovely to sit in the evening sun, listening to Paul singing to a simple guitar accompaniment.

After I finished, I went into the bar and got chatting to some people. One asked me if I fancied rehearisng for an occasional country/rockabilly/americana band? So on Thursday I was out again, this time in Desborough, where I met Chris and his bass player and drummer. It's a bit early to say if it'll work out, but I'll go back again this week. I was asked if I could sing a song, and chose the Mavericks' "There goes my heart". I've never sung it in public before, and I changed the key to suit my voice. I'm definitely NOT Raul Malo!

Friday's work was a killer. It's not the work, but the walk around the town with the post, followed by traipsing around Morrison's to get the shopping. By the time I got home I was finished.

Saturday came around, and with it came my first proper advertised concert in over a year. I was supporting my good friend Paul Wheater at a local church. Chris came with me and sorted out the PA.

The great thing about playing churches is that they tend to start two hours before secular gigs. The doors opened at seven and we started at 7.30. (We were packed up and out by ten o'clock).

I opened with "Another Crazy Day" and also included "Hurt" in my set, along with several of my own songs. They seemed to go down well, and many friends commented that my voice has changed for the better. maybe I'm taking more care of it, or maybe the enforced rest has something to do with it, I don't know, but all compliments are graciously accepted.

Paul Wheater played his customary fine set. I love his voice and Paul is never lost for something to say! It would be great if we could put together a tour some time before we get too old. (Any bookers reading this?)

We finished off with "Amazing Grace". Paul started, I took over in the middle and we finished with everyone in the audience singing acapella. All too soon it was over. We packed up the kit and I drove Chris into town, as Chris wanted to watch the Haye v Harrison fight in a local pub. Alas, the van's battery is on its last legs, and we didn't arrive until the beginning of the fourth round. Except that there wasn't a fourth round. Haye stopped his opponent in the 3rd! Ah well.

I must make the effort to get out at least once a week and play a few songs. trouble is, the nights are cold and dark, and the house is warm and cosy. I must get motivated......

Friday, November 05, 2010

I ent bin nowhere by

Geoff Mack wrote "I've been everywhere" back in the 50s and it's been covered and adapted by almost everyone. Johnny Cash sang it, and I remember hearing it on BBC Saturday night TV back in the 60s by, I think, The Mudlarks.

Here's my take on it. It's in the local Northants dialect, now sadly dissappearing into Estuary English.

"I ent bin nowhere by"

I ent bin nowhere by
I ent bin nowhere by
Never had no care by
Never had the fare by
Just sat here in this chair by
I ent bin nowhere

I ent bin:
Cogenhoe, Wadenhoe, Flecknoe, Farthinghoe,
Scaldwell, Maidwell, Hollowell, or Sywell,
Walgrave, Hargrave, Sulgrave or Creaton,
Hinwick, Winwick, Blatherwyke, or Teeton,
Glapthorn. Tansor, Cotterstock, or Ashton
Lamport, Draughton, Loddington or Faxton!

I ent bin nowhere by

I ent bin:
Kings Cliffe, Bulwick, Blatherwyke, or Laxton,
Seaton, Lyddington, Barrowden, or Glaston,
Rushton, Newton, Geddington, or Stanion,
Dodford, Hackleton, Piddington, or Denton,
Knuston, Duston, Wollaston or Whiston,
Overstone, Boughton, Hanging Houghton,

I ent bin:
Brixworth, Holdenby, Chapel Brampton,
Norton, Horton, Flore or Weedon
Pytchley, Isham, Orlingbury, Harrowden,
Chelveston or Raunds or Keyston
Finedon, Addington, Woodford, Slipton,
Desbra, Rowell or N’thampton!

I ent bin nowhere by
I ent bin nowhere by
Never had no care by
Never had the fare by
Just sat here in this chair by
I ent bin nowhere

© Dave Clemo 2007 with apologies to Geoff Mack

UPDATE. I posted some of these lyrics on Facebook tonight and my friend and fellow musician Bob Howe posted a picture of him and Geoff Mack, now in his eighties and still going strong.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to reduce government spending at a stroke

I saw this over at Burningourmoney and read it through. I encourage you to click on this link and read it yourself

Then tell me that government spending can't be reined in. I've been in despair for such a long time about how this country is being systematically strangled whilst being simultaeneously raped and looted.
How can we kill the beast that sucks the very life out of the country?
The petty regulations that prevent jobs being created, that stifle creativity and enterprise, that make it easier to stay and home rather than earn self respect as well as money?

I didn't know the answer. But now I have read something that shows us the way.
It's so simple that it just needed spelling out.
The very principles that enabled business to adapt and change over the last thirty years just need to be applied.
Why does the government do the things it does?
Has anyone ever asked that question?
If the answer is "because we've always done it", then it's time to take a long hard look.
I recall a story about an ordinary business. An ordinary worker used to file certain documents. She'd done it for years. She'd been told to do it on her first day at work. No-one asked her what happened to the documents once they'd been filed.
Had anyone ever asked for them? No.
Had anyone ever looked at them? No.
Had anyone ever gone through the files and thrown them away? No.

She did the same meaningless task day in, day out, because no-one ever told her not to. It filled up her day, but it was meaningless, futile, unproductive and expensive. So why do it?

Apply that to government. Can you now see where to start cutting?
It all starts with a simple one word question- "Why?"

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite-

"What about regulations? The regulatory power is customarily delegated to non-elected officials who then constrain the people’s liberties with little or no accountability. These regulations are extremely difficult to eliminate once they are in place. But we found a way: We simply rewrote the statutes on which they were based. For instance, we rewrote the environmental laws, transforming them into the Resource Management Act—reducing a law that was 25 inches thick to 348 pages. We rewrote the tax code, all of the farm acts, and the occupational safety and health acts. To do this, we brought our brightest brains together and told them to pretend that there was no pre-existing law and that they should create for us the best possible environment for industry to thrive. We then marketed it in terms of what it would save in taxes. These new laws, in effect, repealed the old, which meant that all existing regulations died—the whole lot, every single one.

You see? There is hope.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Songwriting (part 2 of many)

There must be millions of songs written,and yet the raw material is quite limited. The Western musical scale is made up of twelve notes (semitones) which repeat over about five octaves. (any more than that and the human ear can't hear them)
Without going into too much detail, these notes are organised into scales using various combinations of the twelve notes. The standard DoReMi scale uses eight notes, while the blues can be played using a mere five notes. Play a run of single notes and you have a melody, add other notes to be played and sung at the same time and you have harmony (or discord- depending on the choice of note)
Play three notes and you make a chord.
Almost all music produced in the last fifty years uses a repeating pattern of chords. Rock and roll and blues songs use three chords repeating every twelve bars. Other song structures use 8, 16 or 24 bar structures.
(That's enough music theory I think. Any more and I'll show up my ignorance).

So you have a melody played over chords. The other variables are tempo (how fast you play or sing it) and sycopation/rhythm. These few elements are used to create almost all the music in the western tradition.
(Eastern music doesn't use the same rules).

Despite this limited array of elements, it's surprising what variety of songs can be produced. If you sometimes wonder why a tune sounds like another, now you know why.

This is a video by Axis of Awesome that shows how many songs share the same chord sequence. It's very clever, very funny, and some of the language is fruity. It's still worth a listen though.

So you have the music and melody. What are you going to sing about?
That's the beauty of music. You can sing about absolutely every aspect of the human condition. It can be factual, funny, sad, sexy....

There are so many ways to write a song. There are so many things to sing about. There are so many ways to express oneself...
And yet we still hear bad songs, cliches, naff rhymes, lines that don't scan. Songs that make absolutely no sense. And that's just some of the hits....

Going back to the video. Each of those 65 or so songs was a hit, even though they all used the same chord progression. They all managed to sound slightly different, and each one had something that made you remember it, that made it stand out from the millions of similar sounding songs, that all said the same thing albeit in a different way.

So what is it that makes you remember one song among millions?
It's called a hook.

Someone once said that you need three things to make a hit song:
A hook, a hook, and a hook.
I'll have a look around the internet and come back to this again

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Songwriting part one (of many)

I'm a songwriter. I've had a few (about 60)accepted by the PRS/MCPS, but no hits to date. They say everyone has at least one song in them. Irving Berlin had aver 1000 "hits", Johnny Mercer had more than 800, while Lennon and Mccartney had over 300 together with countless others as solo songwriters. A few years ago, when Sony moved from being a manufacturer of tape recorders to a complete media organisation that manufactured the equipment, owned the songs, and then released the music though its own company, they bought the rights to over a million songs.

A million songs. How can they all be heard? And thousands if not millions added to the number of published works every year.

That goes some way to explain why the X Factor always uses an old song to launch the recording career of their talent show winner. I've not checked, but the chances are that the song is published by Sony and released through Syco (a division of Sony records).

I read "The Hobbit" by Tolkein a couple of times. Tolkein based his books on a traditional way of life that was dying out in 1930s England. As radio, cinema and phonographs became more popular, the old oral tradition of songs being passed down from generation was dying out, and collectors like Cecil Sharpe in the UK, and Alan Lomax in the US began to collect the old songs to save them for posterity. Those old songs served a valuable purpose.

I've read and studied the Bible. I'm told that the old testament prophets would enter a town, go into the market place and sing their prophesy. If you look at the different books of the Bible where prophesy plays a part, the actual prophesies are written as verse rather than prose. So songs can be used as prophesy.
Songs are also a way of remembering stories, of remembering past events, of history. Facts are easier to remember if they can be learned as rhyme. Take, for instance, how to remember how many days to each month.
This rhyme dates back to the sixteenth century, and is a perfect example of the use of song/rhyme as an aid to memory.

30 days hath September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have 31,
Excepting February alone.
Which only has but 28 days clear
And 29 in each leap year

In Tolkein's book the travellers spent the night with some people they meet along the way. The evening was spent singing songs to each other. This was a way of describing their culture to the other people and may account for why some songs turn up in different parts of the country (and as far away as the US, each with slight variations. The travelling musician brought the news in the form of ballads, and one reason why traditional ballads were so long may be due in part to the need to string the listener along (Authors like Dickens and H G Wells were first published in the Saturday newspapers and were paid by the column inch, hence the long descriptions in the narrative).

Indeed, the reason we now have songs that are limited to about three minute duration is a result of the technology available about a century ago. Wax cylinders could only record and store about three minutes of music, so songs were edited to fit the new medium. Eventually, three minutes became the norm, and I for one have become so accustomed to this that when I, for instance, sat in with a folk band playing jigs and reels whilst on holiday a year or two ago, found that tunes often went on and on beyond the "normal" three minutes. That's because the tunes were arranged for a set dance, which takes as long as it takes. Other traditional tunes like "The Masons Apron" or "Sally Goodin" have a basis tune structure which is them embellished by the performer. The prowess of the player is set by the number of different variations he/she can introduce into the basic tune.
Here's Hulda Quebe of the Quebe Sisters Band playing a traditional fiddle tune when she was about 15. I love the sponteneity of it all. A couple of players back stage amid the trucks and amplifiers just jamming. Notice how the bass player comes in after the Hulda and Joey start playing.

And while we're on the subject of traditional tunes, here's two versions of a fiddle tune called the Mason's Apron. The first is by the Chieftains, with Matt Molloy on wooden flute,a notoriously difficult instrument to play

And another, by Canadian band the Mudmen

Great tunes are not dependent on gadgets or gimmicks. But great songs need great tunes and hooks,and I hope to write about that on the next post.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Pretenders- an appreciation

I am a big fan of Chrissie Hynde. Anyone who can make music that still sounds fresh and relevant after 35 years in the business must have something going for her. When she burst on the scene with her band The Pretenders in the late 70s she was already "too old" to make it, according to today's pop music wisdom .
She was also smart and nobody's fool. I can't imagine Simon Cowell or Simon Fuller wanting to take her on today.
Born in Akron, Ohio, she is one of those people who was there or thereabouts during many of the events that shaped rock music history. For example, she was at Kent University in 1970 when the National Guard opened fire on the students (which inspired the CSNY song "Ohio"). Later in the decade she worked at Mclaren & Westwood's shop "Sex" and auditioned for many of the early punk bands. She was very much an intergal part of the early punk rock scene.
When she finally formed her band "The Pretenders" it was far more than just a punk band. For a start, she wrote great songs, the band were great musicians and she had a style all her own, even if she sometimes reminded me of a cross between 60s singers like Francoise Hardy, and Cathy McGowan with the backcombed hair and eye makeup.

Her first single was a cover of a Kinks song "Sobbing". I must admit I heard it and wasn't that impressed, dismissing her as just another wannabee one hit wonder. I was wrong. Two things happened to change my opinion. Firstly, our drummer's sister Karla started singing with a local teenage band, and aged 16 auditioned and joined our band as keyboard/vocalist. We started playing Pretenders songs.
Secondly, The Pretenders released their first album and had a smash hit with "Brass in Pocket". Everybody started to cover her songs. Grace Jones did a stunning version of "Private Lives".
It's one thing to write hit songs for your own band, but when other artistes start covering your songs, then you are something special.
I was lead guitarist in our band Conspiracy, and I had to learn how to play the many and various hit singles that the Pretenders had in the late 70s/early 80s.
They were very clever and well put together songs. I particularly like this song "Kid"

I love that guitar solo. I'll come back to this song later.
The original band consisted of Martin Chambers on drums (who left for a while and is back again), plus Pete Farndon on bass, and James Honeyman-Scott on lead guitar, with Chrissie taking lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Boy could they rock. Here's some footage from an ABC tv show "Fridays" where they played live in the studio, and boy, they looked great and could really kick ass.

No lipsynch to backing tracks for Chrissie and her band!

I saw the Pretenders play live at the DeMontfort Hall, Leicester in the early 80s. At around this time she was involved with Kinks songwriter Ray Davies, and had a huge hit with his song "I go to sleep" (yet another song I had to learn how to play- by lifting the stylus on and off the record and playing each phrase over and over.)
This tour would be the final tour for this lineup of the band. Two members, Pete (bass) and James (guitar) had serious drug habits and Pete was sacked from the band in 1982. Two days later James died of heart failure associated with cocaine use.
Here's a radio broadcast of a live performance of "I go to sleep" recorded in LA in 1984

Thirty years on,and Chrissie and the Pretenders are still going strong. She'll be 60 next year, and she still rocks. She is one hell of a talented lady, fronting her band through highs and lows, and writing some great tunes. Here's the song she released soon after James Honeyman-Scott's death (and just a few months before Pete Farndon od'd on heroin and drowned in his bath)

Back on the chain gang. Keep on rocking Chrissie!

There's a score of great songs I could have included, and there's some great video of the band out there, so why not check her out for yourself? As she once sang
"I'm special, so special, I'm gonna have some of your attention baby, give it to me!"

In closing, I believe that the mark of a truly great song is whether it be played with minimal instruments.
Here's Chrissie and her guitarist playing "Kid" on acoustic guitars a couple of years. This is a great song, a great performance by a great artist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rulers and leaders part two

My first post was a bit of a ramble that tried to tie in the threads of top-down vanity projects and ruling by consent. I just re-read it and, like many of my blogs, starts as one thing and becomes a stream of consciousness that goes where it will.

So I'll try again to pull together all the different thoughts going through my mind these past few days.

Question- how do you know if you're a leader?
Answer- people follow you. If they don't follow you then you're not a leader.

Which is why our rulers have to resort to the law or the threat of force in order to get us to go where they want us to go. But then they're not leading us, they're driving us. Or they may appeal to some concept like tradition, respect, allegiance to a flag or organisation. So instead of following the man, you follow the flag, or the party. (I use the term "man" in a non-gender way)

We've just endured the Party political conference season, a bunch of staged events put on for the media's benefit. I don't know how many people are actually members of these parties. The Conservatives refuse to disclose the numbers, so it must be pretty low. I expect that Manchester United fan clubs have more members than any of the political parties, and some church denominations would probably have more as well. These conferences are so boring and predictable that many MPs don't bother to attend, unless there's a chance of appearing on TV. It's a bit like professional cycling. Every now and then a no-hoper goes to the front of the field, not that he has any chance of winning, but just so that his sponsors can see their logo on TV. Meaningless apart from showing the face/brand/logo. An MP gets his face on TV and it gives the impression to his constituency that he is "getting the job done" or "representing his voters". All windowdressing and meaningless.

There were only two newsworthy items in all the three weeks of conferences. The first one of note was the speech by a deputy head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh. Here it is:

The second was the interminably boring election of a new Labour leader.
The reason it was boring was because of:
the quality (or lack thereof)of candidates;
the length of time from nomination to the result;
and the sheer irrelevance of it all.

I read a lot of books and one of my favourite authors is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. About forty years ago he gave an interview that was published in a magazine which was subsequently republished in a book called "Wampeters, Foma and Grandfalloons".
He was asked why a particular candidate lost a presidential election and his answer was simple and to the point.

"People vote for winners and he was a loser"

The reason the Labour leadership election was so boring was that it was electing a bunch of losers to lead a party of losers.

The second reason is was so underwhelming was that although the contest was about electing a "leader", none of the candidates could in any way be described as natural leaders. This country has had very few natural leaders in the recent past. Churchill was one, and so was Thatcher. Bliar was more concerned about his "legacy" and how good he looked on TV, and the least said about Brown the better. There are plenty of natual leaders in industry and commerce, but so few in politics. Why is that?

The third reason for the lack of interest in the Labour leadership election was to do with the voting arrangements. As Vonnegut famously said, people vote for winners, not losers, but the top losing candidate (the one who came second) was declared to have won.

So a party of political losers ended up with a loser as a leader.

Except of course, he is an unproven leader. He has no identifiable leadership skills. He has no charisma, no spark of whatever it is that makes other people want to follow him, to risk everything if necessary. All he has at his disposal is patronage. And as any newly poor person will tell you, you don't need those kind of friends, those who befriend you for what they can get.

Rulers and leaders part one.

It’s been a week or more since my last post. I’ve had other things to do.

The Commonwealth Games has been on the TV and I haven’t bothered to watch any of it, and I’m an athletics fan. It’s all to depressing to read about to actually want to watch it. Vanity projects almost always fail. Look at the Millennium Dome. When Labour to power in 1997, they could have scrapped it. It was by then already running late and over budget, but Bliar was always more interested in his legacy, so he gave the order to continue with it.

(As an aside- the Dome concept was identical to Wonderworld, which was to be built in an old quarry at Corby. For years the only evidence to any progress was a fading sign alongside the A43.)

There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. The same with vanity projects. The same with any top-down decision. Just because our rulers want a big circus to show off how great they are, doesn’t always translate into willing bums on seats.
Look at the sites of the last two Olympic Games. Athens is deserted and ruined, and some of the arenas in Beijing have already been demolished.
In Delhi they didn’t even complete the damn eyesore. The stars of track and field have planned their programmes through to 2012 and Delhi was not part of their plan. No amount of money would persuade them to change their minds, so it was always going to be second rate.
Then there’s the audience, or lack of it. When you displace thousands of people to build your vanity project, you can hardly expect them to spend their own money coming to support it can you? When you factor in the publicity about the filth and bridges falling down and bits falling off buildings, the real risk of a terrorist attack…. It’s no wonder that people stay home.

A few thousand miles North West, in Afghanistan (another vanity project, this time costing lives and broken bodies as well), our soldiers, fighting an unwinnable war with outdated equipment against an invisible enemy, see the local population making themselves scarce, and they know that an attack is imminent. Was I the only one who looked at the empty arenas and made the same connection?

We may be witnessing the final Commonwealth Games. Our Queen is now in her eighties and commands respect and receives love from all of the world’s people. Her son does not. Australia has made it clear that they are happy to have the Queen as the monarch, but less happy about having Charles/George succeed her. I expect the Republicans to win the day there, closely followed by Canada and New Zealand. Once they become republics, the Commonwealth is no more.

Charliegeorge is not a popular man. He blew it when he dumped Diana for Camilla. I recall the headline in Bristol’s main newspaper on the day his wedding was announced. It said “Tetbury man to wed”. In any other age that would be tantamount to treason, but no-one objected. No-one.

Rulers aren’t always leaders. There’s a great scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail that sums it up nicely. It’s the first two minutes of this clip.

Rulers may rule, but only with the consent of the powerful.
More to come on this.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I woke up this morning to find that someone has tagged my front wall.
 So today's task is to buy some remover and clean it off.

We live in a quiet residential area of town and what graffiti that can be found is usually in the alleyways or down by the shops. I'm pissed off basically.

We'll email the police as it's a waste of time to phone them. They won't want to know because graffitti is somehow beneath them, when they've got charts and forms to fill in, and diversity awareness courses to attend. I discovered long ago that's it's so easy to fill your working day with busyness, and be worn out at the end of it, but without actually having accomplished anything. Whole careers in the NHS and "public service" have been built on this principle. I tried working in the public sector once when I was temping. I can't believe how much time these people waste....

But that's another story.

A few years ago I watched a docusoap on TV about the police trying to identify a persistent "tagger" who would cover anything that was bolted down with his unique identifying design. That's the whole point of tagging isn't it? You place your mark on the environment, so that people know that you've been there.

The police identified that culprit and prosecuted him. He got off, because the court decided that the man's unique tag wasn't unique enough, that is to say- they couldn't prove that the accused was the perpetrator. As no-one had actually seen him at work, they couldn't prove he did it.

It's nonsense of course. It's not beyond those that make our laws to rule that a graffitti tag is as good as a signature, as DNA. If the testimony of handwriting experts can be relied upon in court, why not that of a graffitti expert.

But no, we shrug our shoulders and clean it off. No-one gets prosecuted, no-one gets punished. Some even get lauded. I for one never understand what people see in Banksy's "art". All successful art spawns imitations, so by legitimising his graffitti, all you have done is make it socially acceptable, and it can be debated, raise the "quality" of the vandalism.

It's my wall. I paid for it to be built. I do not want any yob with a spray can cocking his leg up my wall and leaving his spraint thank you.

A few days later a plastic bobby knocked on the door. He was investigating the graffitti attack. (My neighbour had rung the police after they sprayed a line of white along his wooden fence) He commended us on the good job we'd made of cleaning the paint off, but wondered if we'd taken a photo?
As it happened, we had , so I printed on off for him. The PCSO said that the vandals had caused some damage along a neighbouring street, and one of the houses had CCTV, so there is a chance that they could be identified from the footage. (Once the video had been converted to a format that the police could use, that is...)
I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Non religious Christianity

Faith is defined as believing in something that you can't see.
Everyone has faith. You can't see radio signals, but you believe that by plugging a radio into the mains and switching the electricity on (something else that you can't see), you will hear music or speech. We believe that a red light will stop the traffic, although it has no actual power to do so.
People will tell me that science can explain all these things and avowed atheists will also tell me how the world began- with a big bang apparently, but without explaining who pressed the button or flipped the switch to start it off.
Some people will say that science has done away with the need for a god, a creator. Knowing how something works somehow relegates god to the margins, to the unknown. As someone said, he has become the god of the gaps (in our knowledge).

As I write this, a survey has found that over 70% of the population would consider themselves to be christian (with a small c.)
Anti-christians seize on the fact that as less than 10% attend a church regularly, the Christian faith should somehow be marginalised or even discriminated against. People no longer join organisations. They don't join trade unions or political parties. Some still belong to clubs and societies based on a particular pasttime, but on the whole we in the UK are not joiners of anything. Churches will always remind us that more people attend church on a Sunday than go to football matches on a Saturday by the way.

I used to attend church regularly. Not any more. My Christian friends wonder why, and it's hard to tell them without sounding anti-christian. I'm not anti-Christian, just anti-church. I don't enjoy doing churchy things anymore.

I've pondered this for a few years. People tell me that being in a church gives you a sense of belonging, of community.

But what if you're a loner by nature? Or a recluse? Someone who doesn't enjoy being in a crowd?

When Jesus needed spiritual refreshment he went off by himself. Yes, he went to the Temple to fulfil a religious obligation, but on arrival he chased the money lenders out. What was his opinion of church?

St Francis of Assisi was a loner, yet they made him a saint and a whole religious order was named after him.

So what is it that requires Christians to attend a church or to belong in one?

I've been a member of a church, several in fact. It was the great Victorian preacher Charles Henry Hadden Spurgeon who said "If you find the perfect church, don't join it because you'll only spoil it".

So I won't be joining any church any time soon. Joining a church won't make me a good person, so will not joining a church make me a bad person?

And what if I were to look for a church? Which one? It's not that simple. At the last count there were over 40,000 denominations worldwide. Each one claims to be THE true church. Each one claims that the others have it all wrong. So how does one choose? Do you have to go down the lists of theological points and tick the ones you like? I know of churches in the UK that draw people from upwards of fifty miles away. What does that tell me? That they serve great coffee?

Or that people will travel miles in order to have their religious prejudices legitimised?

What does God say? In one famous Old Testament passage he speaks through the prophet Amos (Amos 5:21-24)

21 The Lord says, "I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! 22 When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. 23 Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. 24 Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry. (Good News version)

That's pretty clear I'd say.

I grew up in Cornwall in the 1950s. It was still a Christian country. We ate fish every Friday and my parents packed us off to Sunday school, partly, I suspect, to have the house to themselves for a while. The chapel was just down the road next to a short terrace of victorian houses. Before our estate was built, it must have looked a solitary sight, next to the old main road that ran up the high ground from Penzance to Camborne and beyond. When they built the causeway and opened up the road from Penpol to Copperhouse, thus creating the town of Hayle, it became ever more isolated. I always wondered why they built such a large chapel for such a small settlement, but then I realised that it was built to serve the tin mines that were everywhere. Once they failed, the population emigrated to Canada, the US, Mexico and Australia, and the dwellings fell down or were demolished, leaving an isolated and decaying chapel.

The chapel was built by the Bible Christians, and it's worth studying this aspect in order to understand why we have so many denominations.

It all goes back to the mid 18th century, when John & Charles Wesley visited Cornwall and Methodism was born. While Wesley was alive, he considered himself to be an Anglican, but on his death his followers adopted the nickname that was given them by their detractors and became Methodists in 1795. By 1811, it had become bogged down with building churches, employing full time professional ministers, pension schemes, foreign missions, etc etc, and many believe it had deserted the poor and illiterate. In short, it had become middle class and conservative.
The Methodists split over this, and the Primitive Methodists were formed, adding to the other post-Wesley Methodist denominations like the Wesleyans and the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion.
You see how complicated it has become?
Within 20 years of Wesley's death there were different denominations, each with their fiercely protected emphases. As well as the Primitive Methodists, the Bible Christians were formed in 1815, and were to be found mostly in North Cornwall, Kent and on the Isle of Wight. Their membership was drawn mainly from farm labourers and miners, and was distinctive in that they allowed female preachers, which the Methodists had condemned/banned in 1803.
So my old chapel was built on or around 1850 by a breakaway group of Methodists, who themselves had broken away from the Anglican church just over half a century earlier.

Is it any wonder that people get confused?

So no, I won't be joining a church anytime soon thank you. If I found one that ticked all my boxes, it'd have a congregation of

And I'd only attend ever now and then.

I think this sums it up nicely...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dusty- an appreciation

The older I get, the more I appreciate the talent of the rock/pop pioneers. Not for them carefully stage managed events where the "stars" lip synched to their records.
No, the early stars played live. Every night. They learned their craft. They earned their acclaim.
As I write this in the third week of September the producers of the "X factor" have no doubt selected the song that will be this year's Christmas number one. Now all they have to do is choose the person who will sing it. And the winner will have no choice in it. They will do as they are told.
Whoever wins this sorry spectacle of a TV show, you can be sure of one thing. They won't have played many live shows. A handful at most. Ten years ago I read that the average UK chart topping band will have played about 100 shows before they hit the charts, whereas in the US the equivalent act will have played closer to ten times that number. It shows. Boy how it shows.
I grew up with Dusty Springfield. She was an ever present in the charts, from her time with the folk trio The Springfields, to turning solo and taking the pop world by storm with her first solo release.
I watched a programme about her last night. It was broadcast on Sky Arts and as I watched it it brought home to me just how talented she was. As I grew up my tastes changed and I discovered The Stones, then The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and on into rock and folk music (Fairport Convention remain my all time no1 group).
As my tastes became more eclectic, Dusty stayed in the mainstream and so our paths drifted apart.
Looking back over 40 or more years at these clips, I'm amazed at just how good she was. In this first clip of the Springfields singing "Island of Dreams" the band are singing live into one mike with the studio orchestra in the wings. No miming, although the fake American accents are a bit much. The guitarist at the back struggles to play a Bb chord at one part. Still awesome though.

Dusty could sing anything. On this clip she's singing one of her later hits "Son of a preacher man", the original of which was recorded in Memphis with Steve Cropper and the Muscle Shoals session players. This version, once again sung live on TV,is slighty slower than the original, but still brilliant.

There are a couple of clips of her performing at the NME Pollwinners concerts. The Empire Pool at Wembley was an enormous cavern of a place, and from the look of these clips was devoid of a decent PA and lighting as well. However, that didn't matter as Dusty ripped into Inez & Charlie Foxx's "Mockingbird". Note her bass player with his Vox teardrop bass guitar, singing Charlie's part. She knew her soul music, did Dusty, and she could sing as well as any of the US originals. The song is in F, by the way

The following year she was back at Wembley. The bass player has a new Gibson EB2 guitar, and Madeleine Bell is singing backup. This performance of "In the middle of nowhere" is just brilliant. She's having fun and it shows. She has all the vocal chops. Excellent
UPDATE- I've been looking at the clip in more detail. The bass is not a Gibson. I believe it's a Vox Cougar or Lynx bass.I've not seen a picture of a Lynx bass, but the escutcheon plate is identical to that on the Lynx guitar.

Dusty had a primetime TV show in 1967. In it she had a chance to sing some different syles of songs. I'm sorry Cheryl and the rest of you wannabees, but you don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Dusty.
As you know, Mary O'Brien (Dusty) was Irish, and like all Irish artists was not embarrassed about her musical heritage. My all time favourite female folk vocalist is Sandy Denny, but on this clip, Dusty runs her very close. This was broadcast in September 1967 and is beautiful

To traditional folk music you can add jazz! Here she sings "Peel me a grape", since covered by Diana Krall, and then "If you go away", sung partly in french!

There are a few artists that are known by their first name alone. I don't mean those artistes who have only one stage name like Beyonce or Rihanna, but artists with two names but who are universally known by just one.
Diana Ross? No. Shirley Bassey? No. Karen Carpenter? No. Dusty? I rest my case.

She was quite simply one of the best, if not the best singer this country has ever produced. She chose her own songs and took charge of her recording sessions. The producer sat back and let her get on with it. She knew what she wanted and her judgement and taste were impeccable.
Unless there's a seismic change in the music industry, there will never be another like her.
To finish with, here's Dusty predating the Blues Brothers by almost fifteen years.

Simply the best.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guilt and Fear

Guilt and Fear. The two main weapons used to keep the people under control.
Guilt- make people feel bad
Fear- make people afraid.

It works every time. Choose which one you want to emphasise and the ratio of one to the other and off you go.

Advertising. Mostly fear based. Prey on the consumer's fear that their washing isn't as white as it could be, their kitchen isn't as clean as it could be, that their breath may smell, or they may have body odour. Add in the guilt factor that by choosing brandX you are somehow depriving your loved ones of the very best.
No-one wants to be out of step (except me), so advertising is a great way to get people to conform.

The Environment/recycling. Guilt and fear again. You drive a car so you're a filthy polluter. It matters not that it's impossible to get anywhere and back in a day without one. You use a car. You're guilty of harming the planet.
You're made/forced to recycle your rubbish. If you don't you get fined. So you comply out of fear. It doesn't matter that your local council isn't interested in recycling commercial waste. They just dump that in landfill.
You use electricity? The power stations are polluters, so you're aiding and abetting them.
You smoke? You're an evil polluter. It doesn't matter that cigarette ends are biodegradable. They will make you feel guilty by saying that cigarette filters contain every harmful chemical known to man and therefore they're harmful to the environment. Oh Yeah? If they're so harmful why do you allow people to put them in their mouths?

Law and order. People have a wrong impression of how dangerous our streets are. The Police do nothing to change that perception. If people are safely in their homes watching TV adverts then we know where they are and they're no threat.
Terrorism is another area where the fear factor is played up. Conspiracy theorists subscribe to the idea that some attacks are "false flag", that is, carried out by our own side in order to heighten the perception of danger. The government is then able to pass laws "for our protection" that stifle our liberty, all based on a lie.

Governments rule by a mixture of guilt and fear.
Organised religion is based on a mixture of guilt and fear.
Whether it be Islam or Roman Catholicism, the adherents are kept in line through a mixture of guilt and fear. Everything we do is a sin. It's wrong. We're made to feel guily. If we step out of line we are punished, so the fear of punishment keeps the people in line. Whether it be excommunication (the Pope claims that he alone holds the keys to heaven and if he withdraws his blessing and prevents you from attending Mass (excommunication), he condemns you to purgatory)
Islam claims that anyone who kills an infidel in Allah's name will have a special place in heaven, waited on by countless virgins. It's the threat of death for apostacy and the promise of heaven for anyone who kills unbelievers that aids the spread of this religion. Guilt and Fear.

I've read the Bible from cover to cover. The first thing that Jesus said to his disciples when they saw him perform a miracle or following his resurrection was this "Do not fear".
These words are repeated throughout the Bible. Trust me. Do not fear.
To the woman caught in adultery and under sentence of death by stoning he said " go and sin no more. Your sins are forgiven." Another time he assures those listening that he has the power to forgive sin.

So why feel guilty?
And why be fearful?

Organised religion can't save you.
Government can't save you.
Buying the right product can't save you.
Wearing the latest fashion can't save you
Recycling your drinks cans can't save you.

So I won't be afraid, though I have much to fear.
And I won't feel guilty, though I have much to ask forgiveness for.

Guilt and Fear? No thanks.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vested Interests

Vested Interests

What do Islington Council and the Church of Rome have in common? What do the University of East Anglia HADCRUT Unit and HMRC have in common? This answer is simple. They are all organisations who have been involved in controversy in the recent past. More than that, they all employ the standard tactic when one or more of their number comes under public scrutiny. They close ranks to protect the organisation.
It’s what organisations do.
MPs close ranks when some of their members fiddle their expenses. Banks and financial dealers close ranks when accused of sharp practice, and yes, doctors close ranks when one of their number is accused of malpractice. It’s what they do.

All organisations put their reputation before the truth- even churches. And not just the Catholics, because Protestant Evangelical Christian churches also have their share of scandals that they try to suppress. My mother used to say to me “Be sure your sins will find you out” and she’s not wrong.

I’m a Christian- a follower of Jesus, and yet I don’t attend church for many reasons.

The three main world religions portray God as one who requires that everyone should pay for the things they’ve done wrong. Each religion interprets this differently. Moslems have a strict regime of praying and fasting, plus pilgrimage to atone for their sins while the Jews require a sacrifice of an unblemished lamb to appease a god who required that blood be spilt. About six centuries BC, Jewish prophets began to forecast the coming of a Saviour, one who would take the place of the sacrificial lambs. This Messiah would also save the Jews from oppression and lead them to victory.
The Jews believe that their Messiah’s arrival is still awaited, while Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah that was foretold in ancient writings.

That doesn’t seem enough to make people go to war against each other does it?

Most, if not all mainstream Trinitarian Churches have a core set of beliefs that all Christians can accept. These are very few: Jesus is the Son of God, was born to a virgin in fulfilment of earlier prophesies, was crucified, died and rose from the dead. They all agree that his death was atonement for our sins.
But each Christian sect, denomination or sub-division has other beliefs that mark them out as different from the others. I won’t bore you with all the differences, or why they matter, but once again they are enough to make people go to war with one another. Islam also has different strains that regularly go to war against one another. No wonder unbelievers despair!

And yet many of these unbelievers support a football team and swear allegiance to them. These teams all play the same game, to the same set of rules and yet their followers are willing to fight each other. In one famous incident, two South American countries declared war following a game of football, so wanting to fight for one’s beliefs isn’t so strange.
People want to believe in something. How else can you explain horoscopes or crystal healing?

For many years I travelled the UK as a worship leader/preacher and my wife and I were invited into churches of every denomination to minister. I was welcomed into one Catholic church as a member of another faith (which made me smile), and I met and spoke with ministers from every denomination. It was an eye opener to hear these professional Christians assert that what they each believed was the truth, and that what all the others believed wasn’t.

I thought long and hard about this. Which of these different versions of the faith was correct? They couldn’t all be right, could they? Not when their beliefs were so different?
This coincided with a period of illness and unemployment. I spiralled into depression that found expression in cynicism.

They couldn’t all be right- but they could all be wrong.

The church that I was attending (when not out visiting other churches) split into different factions. In despair, I returned to the church where I’d come to faith. I was older, wiser, with a lot of experience and a lot to offer. That made me a threat to the established leadership and his followers. My offers of help were received warmly, but never taken up. I was reduced to sitting in the pew, listening to bad preaching and lousy musicianship. The reason there are so many denominations is because people line up behind personalities. They get frustrated over points of theology, emphasis, leadership and so they leave and form a new church.
All too often the Gospel gets pushed to the background while personalities struggle for power (in the name of God, of course).
I wasn’t going to cause this church to split by stomping off with my circle of fans, so I just stopped going.
And my depression lifted.

These days I’m happy not to attend a church. I won’t bore you with my many experiences- of indoctrination verging on brainwashing in one church I attended briefly; of “heavy shepherding” in another, where any and every life decision had to be brought to the leadership for their approval; of sitting in pews while lies were told in the name of Jesus; and so on.

I read that Ghandi almost became a Christian. The only thing that stopped him following Jesus was the behaviour of his followers. I’m with him on that. The Christian faith is easy to understand but hard to live out. Churches are human organisations with all too human failings. Ambitions, jealousies, personalities all cloud the fundamental purpose of what church should be about.

When church becomes yet another human organisation that is more concerned with perpetuating itself, then it has lost all relevance. Watching wall-to-wall coverage of the Pope and other religious leaders in all their splendour is about as far from the Gospel as it could be.
Mother Teresa worked single handed in the slums of India for over 30 years without coming to the world’s notice. Her selfless devotion to duty away from the glare of the world’s media was closer to Jesus’ intentions than any stage managed showbiz spectacle that we’ve witnessed this week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No deposit, no return

Back in the mid 60s I worked in an off-licence in London's Harrow Road. My job was to keep the shelves stocked and to take care of the empties. When a customer bought a bottle of beer he was charged 3d (a nominal but significant sum, probably equivalent to 50p today)for the bottle. When he brought the bottle back, he got his money back.
It was workable and there were no bottles or cans littering our streets.

I have a confession to make. When I was about 10 or 11 my friend and I would sneak over the wall of one of the pubs in our seaside town and steal empty pop bottles and then take them to a local shop and claim the deposit. I made a few bob and put it in a Post Office savings book. Of course I got caught. The pub landlord had seen me and waited until my next visit, catching me red-handed. I don't know which was worse, being caught, being handed over to my mum who beat me and then being told to wait until my dad got home...
He was working in London and didn't get home for almost a month. I lived in dreadful anticipation of the knock on the door from the police, and my father's return. It was a big deal. Don't steal.
Fast forward a few years and Schweppes became the first company to market "no deposit, no return" bottles, followed soon after by "Long Life" the first beer brewed specially for the can.
It was the Swinging 60s, a time of innovation and sweeping away the old. Yes it had its good side, but there were a few casualties along the way. The old breweries like Fremlins, Courage Barclays & Simmonds, Trumans and countless others were taken over and merged into a few conglomerates selling identikit fizzy beer.

Watneys Red Barrel. Ugh! I still recoil at the name.

Along with the innovation that was the Party Seven we had supermarkets selling beer, and they weren't interested in bottles with a deposit, so it all came to an end.
Over the years beer and soft drinks have become cheaper and cheaper in real terms, and the aluminium can and plastic bottle have become the preferred means of delivery.
The manufacturer used to have a vested interest in getting the bottles back. Like the old fashioned doorstep milk delivery, it was cheaper to take the bottles back, wash and reuse them than to keep buying new ones. However, that idea has gone the way of the doorstop milk delivery- consigned to history.
Single use bottles and cans can be found almost anywhere on the earth's surface. They are an eyesore and a menace to the environment. You can read about the soup-like sludge of plastic that is displacing the plankton in our oceans, and threatening the ecosystem, and you can also read about initiatives to ban the use of single-use plastic shopping bags. All good and commendable. I hardly ever take a supermarket plastic bag these days.
It didn't take long to educate me.

But what about the plastic bottles and aluminium cans that litter our streets and blight the landscape?

In today's Telegraph I read that Bill Bryson, author and honorary Englishman (and President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England) has proposed a return to the "1980s bottle deposit scheme". You can read all about it here:

About time too. Those of us who are old enough to remember the scheme are also old enough to remember when our streets were free from litter. However, while it's a nice idea and one that will have widespread approval, the manufacturers, distributers and retailers of these products will have something to say about it.

While I've been writing this blog I've been thinking about how a scheme like this could be made workable. Here's my suggestion, based upon my experiences.

First of all, you can't expect the retailers to take the empties back. I worked in retail for many years and it's hard enough dealing with one way traffic of goods into the stores without having empties cluttering the place up. There isn't the room, the time or the infrastructure. There has to be another way.
I'm a fan of small government so state control has to be kept to a minimum, so it has to be private enterprise. At the moment local councils collect domestic bottles and cans (but not from commercial premises). Each council negotiates their own contracts with recycling firms, which is why it's so hit and miss.
What's needed is some private enterprise (and a financial incentive from local and central government)
The government would charge a recycling levy on each bottle or can produced. The income from this would be used to buy the empties back. If someone can earn a few pence from picking up and returning an empty can to a central point (maybe one of the thousands of empty retail units that blight our towns)
The incentive is that the money is only paid on production of the empty bottle or can. Each collector can be given a swipe card where his cans are credited.
Instant job creation. Instant incentive to clean up the towns and cities.

OK loads of flaws. But's an idea.
And most of the people who claim to lead us have no idea.