Tuesday, May 30, 2006

CD gets radio play!

Way-hay! On top of Lindsay Hutton of Next Big Thing's brilliant (and approving)assertion that bits of the new CD sound "like Alan Vega sung by Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor", and the playing of That's Braw by Robbie Shepherd, comes Rob Ellen's lovely comments on his excellent LochBroom FM/ Scottish Internet Radio programme The Medicine Show which you can check out here (needs RealPLayer).
The CD is still available to listen to and buy on line...here!

Rob Newman's History of Oil

I interviewed Rob (Robert) Newman, oh, 12 years ago, when his first, critically acclaimed and very short novel, Dependence Day, came out. Then, he was in the immediate aftermath of the Baddiel/Newman pioneering of superstar mega-comedy, to which I was largely immune. Much later, I hosted an STV programme from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and one of the items was a film about impressionists (comedians not painters) presented by mainstream comic Phil Cool. I've never forgotten Newman's deconstruction of his approach to impersonating then-Tory leader William Hague: He doesn't speak, he told Phil C, he sings. Several attempts at singing a la Hague later, I realised how phenomenally accurate that was...go on. Have a shot yourself.
Anyway, Newman was then in the early stages of his overt political activism, and a TV documentary called Scribbling about the writing of his anti-globalisation novel The Fountain At the Centre of the World, portrayed him as a shambling wreck on the verge of homelessness and, it seemed, mental and phsyical disintegration. This is what happens when comics try to get above themselves, I thought. Just because you went to Cambridge don't mean you're an intellectual, sonny. Do William Hague again! eat some meat!
Still, bought the book, an exasperating read, spasmodically brilliant but fatally weighed down by its didacticism. That was that, I thought. Small scale tours of what seemed like political lectures popped up on the edges of my radar (Lemon Tree etc). He was still alive and functioning. And then, late last night, I was scrolling through Metafilter and found this. Rob Newman's History of Oil. It's a 45- minute film of a live appearance by Newman in London, and it seems at last Newman has melded his talents as a mimic and verbal comic with his political agenda. It is scintillating, stimulating, brilliantly hilarious stuff. And edgy in a way Rory Bremner can only dream of: The Blair-as-Goebbels routine is breathtaking.
Check it out at Google Video. Newman's own website is here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eshaness rocks!

Last night (Friday) saw the Eshaness CATS appeal musical evening, and I think it's fair to say it went really well. Over £500 was raised for the CT scanner fund (over £100,000 raised so far in total) and I think everyone had a good time. A million thanks to everyone who came along, took part and helped, especially all those responsible for baking, sandwich making, bannocks, serving tea, clearing and setting up. Special thanks to the Eshaness Hall Committee for being so helpful
The evening kicked off with the last performance (before they revert to their official title of the Tom Morton 2)of Johnnie and the Notions, which was enlivened by a broken string, forgotten words and forgotten tunes. Apart from that it all went fine! The 'Vinyl Choice' of the evening ( a kind of live jukebox, where folk brought along their long-unplayed vinyl singles and LPs) was unexpectedly successful,and will bear repeating I think on another occasion. Who would have thought the same person would ask for T Rex's Jeepster and Dorothy Moore's Misty Blue?
Da Peerie Lasses of Hillswick (Martha, Alison and Julie) played a blinder in my opinion, a lovely selection of fiddle tunes, and headliner Malachy Tallack, who lives in Fair Isle and is thus the UK's and possibly the world's most remote singer songwriter, was great. As was Stephen Laurenson on guitar.
The raffle was an epic, even by Shetland's raffletastic standards. Prizes included a Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling of Strathisla Speyside malt, a DVD player, meals at the excellent Braewick Cafe, loads of wine and beer, chocolates, toys and much else.
On a personal note, I was pleased that the wee collection of PA and disco gear I've acquired over the years worked - the Shure SM57 and SM58 microphones were bought from Kenny Johnson 20 years ago and were secondhand then - the new Phonic Powerpod mixer amp is really astonishing for the money, and even the two Soundlab direct drive turntables (a disastrous eBay purchase - both were seriously damaged when they arrived, having fallen through an inadequate box and been repacked upside down)worked fine. In fact, they made me realise how absolutely wonderful a 7-inch single can sound at high volume through stonking great 15-inch speakers: Reach Out I'll Be There has never been as good.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The glory that was Tutti Frutti ('how come they're speakin' funny? It's for weans...')

Having obtained the unobtainable, thanks to eBay, I have been completely gobsmacked on reacquainting myself with John Byrne's truly astonishing 1980s TV series Tutti Frutti. The fact that anyone who wants to see it (and hear the phenomenal, cracklingly funny dialogue) has to watch a fuzzy DVD copy of an off-air VHS is a disgrace, though I understand that the failure of producers at the time to obtain music clearance may mean it will never see the light of day again, officially at least.
It's by a long shot the best Scottish-made TV series ever, and for me just edges Spinal Tap as the funniest filmic depiction of on-the-road band life (that rehearsal with nappy-damped drums, the Farleys rusk/corkscrew/dummy teat interface...). Ensemble acting is great too: Coltrane is fantastic, Richard Wilson splendid but this is Emma Thompson's finest six hours and Ron Donachie comes close to stealing the whole thing. The recreations of 60s Ready Steady Go footage are exacting.It's inconceivable that something like this (shot on film, or at least until the money ran out in the later stages)could be produced today. It's, like, art, man. Though I recall producer Andy Park was incredibly patronising, not to say rude to me when I tried to interview him about it back in the day.
I was working for the Beeb at QM Drive when Tutti Frutti was being made, and I recall a memo being sent round the building demanding that "in future, no 35mm equipment is to be hired or film stock purchased for any purpose without express permission of senior management." It turned out the Tutti Frutti title sequence had been shot on 35 mil at truly extraordinary expense.
Still, it is a wonderful piece of work. How come people like John Byrne and Alasdair Gray get to be great writers AND painters? Plus one of them marries Tilda Swinton to boot. It's no' fair!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cold sores, tea, whisky and more music

Cold sores are NOT healed by the regular application of cold tea bags to the affected area, by the way. Just thought I'd mention it. Whisky seems to work well (cask strength preferably) both internally and externally.
Meanwhile, we're all getting geared up for the gig next Friday at Eshaness Hall, the cosiest in Shetland, (go on, fly in for it; there's space to land several helicopters) with JOHNNIE AND THE NOTIONS, MALACHY TALLACK, THE PEERIE HILLSWICK LASSES and the experimental VINYL CHOICE, in which folk will be able to have their long-unheard LPs and 45s played for a small donation.
It's all in aid of the CATS ct scanner appeal, which you can find out more about HERE.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where's Shetland?

I would truly and honestly like to apologise to the operator and supervisor at the Scottish Ambulance Service in Inverness, at whom I have just shouted angrily. But good grief, if sending emergency ambulances out to parts of Shetland is your job, some basic knowledge of the islands' geography might be a good idea. And if I can find a postcode by going to 192.com, surely, dear hearts, you can too.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

View from the Radiocroft!


It's Wednesday, it's one of those high-pressure Shetland days (weird radio reception, banks of fog, searing blue skies). Cycled to the Radiocroft, where I'll be broadcasting with the window open...on this. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Shetland Folk Festival flashbacks...

Phew, it's all over. Well, apart from tonight's trip sooth aboard the ferry for those visiting artistes who have survived with their sea legs intact.
I'm already in Aberdeen (where I worked out overnight that I've stayed in over 20 different hotels in the past five years)but the flashbacks from the festival just keep on coming. Particular highlights for me were, obviously, playing for the first time in 17 years (David, James and Andrew did wonderfully well as part of Johnnie and the Notions) at Tingwall; Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan's stunning and hilarious approach to the blues; Wrygrass's display of local instrumental brilliance and the truly amazing shoes of Elena James. Her music, and her band The Continental Two, was pretty wonderful too.
Inspiring stuff. Just to remind you that The Tom Morton Two have a CD which you can buy HERE. As well as in the following fine establishments: The Hillswick Shop, The Ollaberry Shop, Clive's, The Brae Garage, the Brae Stores and Tangwick Haa. At £7.99, it's a steal!