Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Four Seasons In One Day (Considering a Move to Shetland)

I wore a mask in Glasgow, and nobody said thanks
Just stood and stared like I was going to rob a bank 
I tried to get tested, nobody wanted to know
I remembered the nice nurses on that Island Medics show

I got on my Goldwing and drove to Aberdeen
Boarded the ferry, everything was nice and clean
I thought I’d be in Shetland soon and things would be all right
Then they told me it was fourteen hours and we’d sail overnight

Islands in the sun 
Islands in the rain
Islands in the snow
Still 23 hours to go
Don’t ask me why
It’s snowing in July 
Apparently it’s always been this way
Four seasons in one day

The voyage was so rough I was amazed we stayed afloat
They had to call a doctor just to get me off the boat
I rode to see some cliffs and then a seagull hit my head
If I hadn’t worn my helmet then I’m sure that I’d be dead

A killer whale attacked me as I walked along the beach
And ate a baby seal as  I scrambled out of reach
I had mutton soup and bannocks, drank 12 red tins of beer
And instantly decided I would like to move up here

Now I’m a Shetland crofter and I can’t believe my luck
I wear a Dickies boiler suit, I drive a pick up truck
I smoke the stuff I grow myself, I love to count my sheep
I’ve met a girl called Bo who says her second name is Peep

Copyright Tom Morton 2020. All rights reserved. Social media sharing encouraged.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

This is the end, beautiful friend. Has the music industry had its day?

Del Amitri, Florida, August 1986

The music ‘industry’ as we’ve known it is, and has been for a long time, a stuttering, crumbling, lumbering behemoth, a decaying piece of machinery monetising technical processes established at the start of the 20th century and earlier: live performance, songs printed and sold as sheet music, recorded discs, radio. Colossal, sometimes lunatic amounts of cash have been made by those involved at every level and in every aspect. And been lost. Or stolen.

Appalling behaviour has been tolerated and encouraged, because the sums being earned were so vast, often by people who, like footballers, combined wondrous artistry with the brains, morals and maturity of cockroaches. A recent read of Patti Boyd’s deeply upsetting autobiography reveals an Eric Clapton who would jealously store away cheques “to stop the bank from getting them”. If only that was the worst or stupidest  or most downright evil thing he did while one of the world’s biggest, richest, most addicted rock stars.

The past few years have seen the music industry flailing hopelessly against technology. Artists, apart from the few heritage and superstar acts still bitcoining it in, have railed and still do against the streaming services. Buy our vinyl, they plead, like desperate hucksters crouched in the street trying to sell CB radios to smartphone users, Fray Bentos pies to the queue at Paesano. Look, it’s a nice colour! I have signed it in felt tip! I have children and a Nissan Leaf to support! It’s in a COLOUR SLEEVE!

Listen, vinyl is shit. It sounds terrible, deteriorates with every needle-gouging spin (not that anyone ever really plays these modern12-inches) and is unutterably and unsustainably filthy to produce. It’s a souvenir, a memento, an icon, a memory, an artefact, and yes, objects which evoke such emotions are important. But there are better, cleaner ways to support and memorialize your band, to be a fan. Surely.

And even as we speak, on the island of Eigg, Johnny Lynch and his pals at Lost Map Records are probably working on it, and making it out of sustainable sheeps wool, deer horn and bits of old fishing boat.

The plague has shut down venues and killed the cattlemarket events which have become - oh yes - the cash cows of the music industry. The reluctance to cancel gigs, tours and festivals, and the fear and anger of those forced to do so, was indicative: Make no mistake, this is the end for many of the big corporate horrorshow promoters and, alas, many of the freelances who depend on the trickledown from their events.  Refunds for cancelled gigs are slow or non-existent for a very good reason, the same reason airlines aren’t handing out the money for cancelled flights: If they did so, all at once, they’d go bust instantly.

As it is Live Nation’s (and parent Ticketmaster’s) share price crash saw the companies write off a colossal amount of their value, and  no return to proper touring and major, fully attended gigs is predicted until July 2021. It could mean the end for such corporate monstrosities or, as some financial analysts are predicting, an opportunity for them to retrench, reinvent and bounce back. Thinner, meaner, tougher, nastier. Rock’n’ roll. The hedge funds are already circling.

One  forthright friend, a music professional of decades standing has an apocalyptic vision of the immediate future:

“Anyone who thinks there’ll be large scale touring this year (or even next year) is delusional. It can’t happen until there’s a vaccine. Same goes for festivals. All the big commercially operated venues will go bust, if they haven’t already, and even if they don’t, there won’t be anyone to staff them.  All we’ll be left with are council run venues, because that’s where all the support money will go. Those with connections to Government will hoover up all the available money and use it line their own filthy pockets and produce nothing of value, so it’ll be business as usual. Freelancers won’t get a penny, so they will be gone, so even if touring does start up, there’ll be nobody to crew it. And there won’t be any service companies left to provide sound, lights, video, buses, trucking, catering etc. They’re going bust at an alarming rate right now. PA equipment suppliers are flogging gear as fast they can, and a lot is going abroad due to the weak Pound. If and when things restart, there will be a major shortage of equipment. Large scale touring is dead in the water and will be for a long time. The biggest players were in serious difficulty before all this happened.”

And yet and yet….

“I’ve actually got quite a positive view of the future for the music industry. I’m predicting a proper grass roots resurgence in small venues once it’s safe to do so. 

I believe there will be a huge opportunity to reinvent the music industry when the dust settles, and it won’t be the old dinosaurs that currently have a stranglehold on it doing the reinventing, so there’s hope yet.”

The announcement of  £2.2 million in Holyrood money to support “Grassroots Music Venues” in Scotland (now being acronymed as GMVs, which is a very bad sign) until October may provide a lifeline for the 74 members in Scotland of the Music Venue Trust (MVT? Oh, please...). Equally divided, that’s what?  About £30K each? The hows and the whys and the who gets what (decided by whom?) will be illuminating. It won’t save anyone long term unless they move and change fast.

Agile companies big and small, those with enough financial backing to keep going, are moving into streaming and ‘hybrid’ gigs (high-price, socially distanced live premium audience plus paid-for streaming). At least seven or eight of the big production companies now have fully equipped sound stages in the UK specifically for streaming, but monetising the online aspect is, as ever, a problem. The Plague phenomenon of Facebook Live and Zoom gigs with Paypal.me, Kofi,  Patreon and other embarrassing begging bowl or online busking options in place was interesting, but an emergency measure trading on sympathy. To make that work long term, you need to offer something else. 

Stuff. Lots of stuff. Good stuff. Quality. People want things. To express support, belonging, love.Swag. T-shirts, postcards, handwritten lyrics, backyard personal gigs, and even the horrific offerings on the Cameo site, where some big names will do you a phone message or a personal greeting for anything up to several hundred quid. Mike Scott from the Waterboys was one early adopter there. And may God have mercy on his soul.

Here’s a thing: Musicians are not going to stop making music because they’re not getting paid or paid enough for it. Those who don’t do it for love are not worth bothering about anyway, so their loss won’t be mourned by those who love music and want to support the musicians who make it. 

What will or should those transactions be?

Streaming is like radio, and no musician makes a living wage from MCPS payments, or very few. Forget all this moaning about Spotify and (slightly more lucrative) Tidal. It’s advertising. If you’re good, I’ll want to own something you've made. Make me an offer, Show me some of your good stuff, your knitwear, your art, your shirts, your dishtowels. Come to my garden and do a gig. You can stay in that specially cleaned caravan. We’ll feed you through the catflap. Show us your art.

Forget the mansion in Kent, the Caribbean yacht, the no-black-Smarties rider. The 360 deal, the free Adidas, sync, the dreams of being in Spinal Tap, the VIP lounge, the reunion tour to top up the pension fund. It’s over. You’re entitled to nothing.

But you’re an artist. Use your imagination. Be inspired. Inspire me.

Maybe you’re worth some of the cash I don’t actually have at the moment. Maybe not. Prove it.

Copyright Tom Morton, 2020. No reproduction without written permission. Sharing on Facebook and Twitter fine.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

I'm Going to Stay at Home (No Half-Price Takeaways)

I don't want to drink in a pub full of plague
Have dinner half price in a shed
I've got my Brewdog subscription
I'll eat Kentucky Fried in bed
I  don't want to stand in some sweaty club
Nursing  Tennents in a plastic glass
When I can watch Glastonbury on TV
For as long as I need it to last

I'm going to stay at home I have no doubt
It's nice in here, there's no need to go out
I've got Uber Eats and Deliveroo
And I don't have to talk to the likes of you
I like being alone
I'm just going to stay at home

Some old singer said he and the band
Just want to have a little fun
They recorded an album in lockdown
They need to top up their pension funds
And all of those actors with their acting stuff
Darlings,  theatre's had its day
I need fast forward and I need live pause
If I'm going to watch a play

 I'm sorry for those backstage dealers
With their Es and hash and speed
But I have my sourdough starter
And it's all I'll ever need

I won't commute to an office
I don't care what anybody thinks
Won't stand for hours on a train that smells
Of Costa, sweat and Lynx
I can run this helpline from bed
Telling people how to use 5G
And if idiots want to keep blowing up masts
Well that's all the more work for me

Copyright Tom Morton 2020.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Following the Science (Pint of Stella and a Packet of Quavers)

Following the science
That's OK
But the science seems to change
From day to day
You used to be a fool if you wore a mask
Now it's one of the main things the Government asks

Nicola's the mistress of communication
She’s got empathy,  good explanations
We don't believe a thing the fools in London may say
But we end up following their rules anyway

Following the science

We're doing what we can
We're doing what we should
We're trying to understand
We wish we could
A prime minister who thinks he's funny 
Forget the disease, we need the money

We love our beer and we love our sport
I've played golf pished on a tennis court
But do our great leaders really think
I'd kill my grandmother just for a drink?

Following the science

And you have to admit it's a real disgrace
When somebody says they won't cover their face
And they tell you they heard some scientist say
That if they didn't they would be OK

Tourists are coming, we told them no
But they found another cottage where they could  go
They want to research their local ancestors
They say they'll find a way to sneak out of Leicester

Following the science

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Come to our Gigs (Let the Music Play)

Come to our Gigs (Let the Music Play)

We've got  hand sanitizer made  with love
Security will all be wearing organic rubber gloves
Go ahead and organise your baby sitters
We got luxury portable shitters
And they'll be disinfected after every shite
We guarantee you'll have a wonderful night

We've got bills that we need to pay
Important ideas to communicate
We've got egos we deserve to nourish
Creativity that has to flourish
Our priority's obviously your health
And the creation of a little wealth

Come to our gigs
Get your tickets, get your money spent
Come to our gigs
Nothing beats the live experience
Come to our gigs
No social distancing will save your soul
Take a little risk for the sake of rock'n'roll

Cancelling the tour never had my vote
We've got an album we need to promote
All that merch that we commissioned
We've taken advice and we have permission
You should see the t shirts we've had produced
You can wear our special masks - they've been reduced

And don't worry about the perspex screen
Between you and the stage, we can still be seen
And the PA's guaranteed to be really loud
Though nothing can beat the sound of a crowd
That sense of community is just the best
And all payments will be contactless

So come to our gigs
Even millionaires still need to play
Come to our gigs
We've got dealers and ex-wives to pay
Come to our gigs
Our industry is on its knees
Percentage-wise, those are tiny booking fees...

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Six Metres Away (Locked-down, Mutually-Masked Love, Doomed by Zoom)

I liked the Oscar Marzaroli photographs in her room

That I saw when we first had that meeting on Zoom

There was Rankin, McDermid and Banks on her shelves

Though oddly, a few Barbara Cartlands as well

It seemed almost a meeting of minds

I sent her a message online

And after some Facetime and Whatsapping we both agreed

That it might be time for us

safely distanced to meet

She said there is just one thing I have to ask

I never go out without wearing a mask

Rubber gloves and usually a hat

Are you comfortable with that?

I said I will see you in Kelvingrove Park

By the statue of Thomas Carlyle

I model my fashion on the late Alistair Gray

And I dress for both safety and style

And I am quite sure that you'll understand

If I make no attempt to to reach out for your hand

I promise you that I will stay

Six feet away

I stood there for hours but she never arrived

She messaged me finally and fulsomely apologised

She said our relationship had better stay

On a digital platform, it was better that way

And to an extent I agreed

Well, virtually

And so we never wandered through Kelvingrove

At the Stewart memorial fountain

We never drove to Loch Lomond

Or gazed at the hills and the mountains

When lockdown was eased I saw her I think

In the Oran Mor beer garden having a drink

Really there was nothing to say

I stayed six metres away

From the Northern New Zealand to Infection Park

So what's it like down here? Everyone behaving?
Well, on the hottest day of the year I was aghast to read of a young female acquaintance, walking through a packed Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow (evacuated on police orders later in the day) who was hassled, cuddled and breathily harangued by sweaty groups of drunk youths. Albeit "good naturedly".
Unacceptable in any circumstances - yeah, even at football matches - but in the middle of a pandemic?
I've been given grief by teenagers for wearing a mask in the street (it's simply not possible to maintain a constant two-metre separation in an urban setting) though interestingly, I do (in the west end of Glasgow) see a good number of young (under 30) folk committedly face-covered. In supermarkets (I've only been to three, Big Tesco in Dundee, Wee Tesco in Glasgow, Medium Co-op in Ayr) I'd very roughly say the day starts with serious shoppers, about 50 per cent wearing face coverings, and that figure drops as time passes. One-way systems, hand sanitising and plastic screens for cashiers are not universal but usual (especially at Tesco). The only shop where I've seen any (not all) staff masked was the Co-op at Greenan in Ayr, which has been a lifeline for my elderly dad and stepmother. Who are doing OK, thank you, after some fairly major hassles.
Coffee shops and restaurants have been adapting at speed. On my single walk through Kelvingrove, it looked at one point as if every picnic group was eating takeaway pizza from Paesano. One top restaurant has turned itself into a street bakery, and flat whites with fresh pasteis de nata are available if you (socially distanced) queue at various hatches. And oh, are those tables and chairs on the pavement for sitting at? Goodness knows who put them there. Nothing to do with the cafe owners...don't mind if I do...DON'T PAT MY DOG!
From what I've seen, there's a significant, younger, dumber element who couldn't give a rat's arse about the pandemic (and to be honest, it's the same in Shetland with these 'secret' house parties and the like) who know they're unlikely to be badly affected and who are desparate to socialise exuberantly and carelessly. The old and the vulnerable, as ever, don't figure in their thoughts. There are older people clearly operating on either bravado or a resigned 'come-and-get-me' attitude.
In Shetland, in the Highlands and Islands generally, there's space to be apart. In the cities...well, frankly it's a miracle lockdown and social distancing has lasted and been effective thus far.
And there's a sense that everything is moving towards a fatalistic Belfast-in-the-70s, 1952-Farnborough-Air-Show attitude: Shrug, take precautions if you want, take the risk, get on with it. Second spike? Roll with it. If the over-60s have to die, well. Pass me a Capstan Full Strength and a large Grouse.
Or in my case, large amounts of vitamins C, D and omega three fatty acids, probably in vain. Don't forget the aspirin and Clopidogrel. Oh, and I'll have a double Respro activated charcoal cheery Bowie fishing boat mask as well. Possibly goggles.
I'm heading back north, if possible, at the end of next week. It will be a sorrow to leave loved ones but I know the tension of constant vigilance will lessen (and even in Shetland, I haven't been in public indoor spaces without a mask since the beginning of March). I'll be taking full safety measures and isolating for a fortnight after coming home. You won't see me on the boat. I'll be in my cabin, eating sour cream Pringles (it's a rule for sailing north).
By the time I get home, the tourists will have arrived.
𝘊𝘰𝘱𝘺𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘛𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘰𝘯, 2020. 𝘕𝘰 𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘹𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘚𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘍𝘉 𝘖𝘒.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Beatcroft Social 6 June, with full playlist

Here's the Mixcloud stream for Saturday's (6 June) Beatcroft Social. You can also find it at the 60 North Radio archive.

From the Holy Modal Rounders to Little Feat isn't that circuitous a route...

Johnny and Mary -Robert Palmer
Rock'n'Roll Disgrace - Sweet
Take Me To the River - Syl Johnson
Suddenly - Solomon Burke
You have to be Chased- Rupert Hine
Happiness - Blue Nile
Fine Lines - John Martyn

Davie's Delightful Asides:
Satisfaction- Otis Redding
Tumbling Dice - Linda Ronstadt
Sympathy for the Devil - Bryan Ferry

Elvis Presley Blues - Gillian Welch
The Older I Get - Primevals
You're gonna Miss Me - Thirteenth Floor Elevators
Psycho - Sonics
Manic Monday - Kate Rusby

Drew's Dodgy Doodles
Knockando - Michael Hurley
Euphoria - Holy Modal Rounders
The Belle of Avenue A - The Fugs

Going Down - Freddie King
Going Down Slow - Long John Baldry

Clive's Collection
Mercenary Territory - Little Feat
These Dreams of You - Van Morrison
(I don't Want To) Hang Up My Rock'n'Roll Shoes - The Band

Record Player - Teddy Thomson
Buckfast - Nadine Shah
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness - Alabama Three
Time to Pretend - MGMT
When You're Falling - Afro Celt Sound System

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Lockdown Love in the Alcohol Aisle

Lockdown Love in the Alcohol Aisle

I saw her in the Tesco queue she said don't try to kiss me
I'd love  to talk to you and I know that you've missed me
But this is much bigger than us, think of the community
I don't believe all of this bullshit about herd immunity
And I didn't get a chance to ask
As she adjusted her designer mask
Which she wore with insouciant style
Who it was she'd been holding hands with
By the alcohol aisle

Her trolley was heavily loaded and tricky to steer
It was full of Moet et Chandon and  Mexican beer
A bottle of Grey Goose vodka, some Isle of Harris gin
I didn't like the look of the relationship she'd found herself in
I'd believed her when she would say
How she loved single malts and craft IPA
But clearly I had been in denial
And the truth had been revealed during lockdown in the alcohol aisle

I saw them in the car park heading for a Toyota hybrid
And I had to admit, he looked much better than I did
He had the aura of a personal trainer or a tennis coach
I was filled with inferiority and self reproach
But I knew I'd be having more fun
With my Talisker, my Innes and Gunn
My resemblance to Bobby Carlyle
I went back in to buy some Buckfast
In the alcohol aisle...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Sympathy for The Dominic

I imagine a really unhappy, difficult few years at school for Dominic Cummings.

A sportless nerd with no social skills, bad clothes, poor taste in music. A narrow, unshared range of interests which he gradually, over university and beyond, developed both an encyclopaedic knowledge of and brutal passion for. Pilloried and bullied by the cool kids. Privileged, unpopular family. Odd accent he veered between defiantly maintaining and desperately gentrifying. A carapace of contempt growing as his highly focussed intelligence was brought to bear on issues which suddenly, in the socially mediated age, became politically crucial.

Not so much tough as beyond caring: Here I am. This is my bus. Get on board, pay the fare or get out of my way. And once you're on, you obey my rules. Listen to my choice of Abba tunes. These are my skills. This is my price.

Do you know what? I bet he's a really kind dad. A loving husband. And I bet he panicked, completely, when Mary Wakefield phoned to to tell him she thought she had the virus.

And I bet they had no friends in London they could ask for help.

Now, well, he has the Tory party in the palm of his hand. They are a useless conglomerate of the inept, the corrupt, the weak and the slavishly compromised. He's not that clever, but he's committed. He's certain. He's in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and he is Hubertus Bigend. And his agenda fits with the bad billionaires, though he thinks he's way above and beyond these grasping cretins. Money doesn't interest him. It's all about being right. It's all about vengeance. There's a kind of febrile purity there.

The London media are hopeless. They have nothing but ambition to fuel them, nothing but a really horrible vanity. Even those without need of his patronage, who clearly dislike him, fire their weapons like empty tins of Harp against a a Saracen armoured car (copyright Lionel Shriver, sorry. Currently reading the marvellous Ordinary Decent Criminals).

His weakness? Love for family. It could have undone someone with less of a brass neck, more sensitivity to the opinions of others. But not now. Not with this bunch of buffoons in Government. Dominic Cummings is their only hope. And what they don't realise is that he has as much hatred for them as he does the press. You can see it in every choice of Decathlon trackie bottoms, every used Discovery Sport.

Every trip to Durham.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The end of indiscriminate hugging

The end of indiscriminate hugging

The casual hug? That French embrace?
I’m keener now on track and trace
Luvvies! Please do not peck my cheek
The elastic on my mask is weak
I’m listening for that twanging sound
Protection can quickly rebound
While droplets fill our mutual air
Some things we do not need to share
Handshakes performed in rubber gloves
Are sticky when push comes to shove
My Marigolds conjoined with yours
I’m sure the sentiment is pure
But frankly a brisk, manly bow
Is quite enough, I think, for now
Please, no caress. That would be a blunder
Six feet apart or six feet under
Intimidating intimacy
Is no longer a curse for me
No stranger’s touch, that’s my belief

And frankly, it comes as a relief.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Good Omens (Neil's a Runrig Guy)

Good Omens (He's a Runrig Guy)

She captured his soul, she captured his heart
With some very strange performance art
Eventually the light of love grew dim
She was thirty years younger than him
He knew he had to get away
Couldn't stand the tantric yoga one more day
He had a place, and no-one would know
In the mystic realm of Donnie Munro

Over the sea, over the sea
Over the sea to Skye
I’m sure there’s a Waitrose in Kyle of Lochalsh
I should be all right for supplies
Over the sea, over the sea 
Over the sea to Skye
I do the like the view
Of a Cuillin or two
If you want to know why
I'm a Runrig  guy

I flew  out from New Zealand, but I wore a mask
The seats fully recline if you upgrade to first class
And it's 12000 miles from Auckland to Portree
I drove up from London listening to Dougie's CDs
The Big Wheel, Searchlight, The Cutter and the Clan
Play Gaelic, the Highland Connection, Heartland
I am filled with longing for my fourth or fifth home
And the plaintive guitar playing of Malcolm Jones

Copyright Tom Morton 2020

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Beatcroft Social, Saturday 16 May

As broadcast from Shetland on 60 North Radio. Hosted by me, with guests Drew Ratter, Clive Munro and Davie Gardner.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Mavis Grind and the Fitful Heads - This Is Not A Motorhome

No need to  stay inside any more
That Nigel Farage he knows the score
After all, he fought in the Second World War
Says the Mail on Sunday
Thought I’d drive up to Scotland to go for a walk
Employ my mum as a nanny just so we can talk
Try and stop her drinking so much Aftershock
At least on a Monday

Now I'm staying alert on the M6 Motorway
I know Scotland won't turn me away
I can't leave the old dear to suffer alone
Don't tell me I'm driving a motorhome
This is a campervan

Well I phoned my mother in Milngavie
She said she was OK for supplies
She was quite prepared to die
With deliveries from Waitrose
She was having no bother filling her time
Sewing masks from old bras and selling them 
And Zoom parties nightly with jagermeister red wine 
A few proseccos


I might sneak up Loch Lomondside
Down to Argyll
Jump on a ferry to one of the isles
I've had some masks made in an artisan style
They give immunity
I'm sure the locals will welcome us there
Just  up from London to get some fresh air
I was born Bearsden where people really care
About community