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March 30, 2009

Please Call Home: Movie Review

Okay, what's the 'movie' about? Well, it's supposed to be about the Allman Brothers band, circa 1970-1972 when they used to hang out at 'The Big House' in Macon, Georgia...

And it is, mostly.

The movie's basically a series of interviews with some of the surviving band members, roadies, family and friends. At times the interviews are conducted to camera. At other times you're treated to a slideshow of band photos (and occasionally snippets of film) taken at around that time.

This one's definitely for the fan-boys. There are no explosions, no sex scenes... nothing garish to grab the attention. Much like the various books written about the history of the band, there are some stories that are told, some that are missed out. I can't say that I learned much more, but it was a pleasant trip down memory lane.

For obvious reasons, the bulk of the show concentrated on Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. I was surprised how little time was spent on Dickey Betts, who split from the band in 2000, but who was arguably as intrinsic to the Allman Brothers signature dual lead guitar sound as Duane was. About all that was said was that he was 'mean'! Hey ho...

I'm glad I watched it, but it's not going to be on weekly rotation in my DVD collection. Maybe once a year...

March 29, 2009

Watchmen: Movie Review


Really... not the best movie! Pretty to look at but ultimately, well, whatever!

March 26, 2009

Ow, Ow and Thrice OW!

More eye problems. Another trip to A&E. More time off work during a period I can ill afford it.

I'm used to the drill by now. Left eye starts feeling funny. Vision goes a bit squiffy. Start getting increasingly photo-phobic to the point where any bright lights make me want to run away screaming. Accident & Emergency doctors get ready! I'll be seeing you soon!

This time around the on-call doctor took more time with me, possibly because it was my 5th... 6th... trip to the hospital in under a year. Methinks they're getting tired of me. I KNOW I'm getting tired of the routine. After sucking in air over her teeth for a good 15 minutes and asking me to look up, down, left, right (fight, fight, fight) and scanning through the notes from my umpteen previous visits she said that she thinks the root cause of my issues is some corneal scarring which has dodgy edges and which might keep being lifted and then infected by the bacteria living on my eyelids.

Cue a few more minutes of air-sucking and she went in.

Now, I can actually believe her diagnosis! The problems are always with the same eye and the pattern of redness always seems to be the same, consistently starting off in the region she did her thang. Based on that, I'm happy she did what she did. I do, however, wish that she'd at least have warned me that I would be off work for a couple of days.

Pretty much, she said that the scarring on my cornea had dodgy, sticky-up edges. To 'correct' that, she attacked me with some foreceps (tweezers), stripping off bits of cornea around the problem area to smooth things out and to hopefully give me a nice flat scar instead of a jagged one, I guess.

What she waited to tell me was that the local anaesthetic she used would wear off in about an hour, at which time I'd be in a WORLD OF PAIN. I managed to go back to my office and stay there for about two hours before my thresholds were totally eclipsed and I headed back home to find some darkness for me to scream into. My journey home was almost comical. I could just about make out buses, so I took one. Taxis were far too small to register! Needless to say I didn't make it into the office yesterday.

I'm hoping that this will be the simple cure for all the problems I've been having... and not just the start of a saga of "oh, it still didn't heal right, let's have another go..." That would SUCK! I can't afford any more time off work right now. The perils of being contract scum.

I guess we'll just have to wait and... see... or not!

Oh, and do you want to know what really sucks? My DVD copy of "Please Call Home" arrived and I've not been able to watch it (for obvious reasons!)

March 20, 2009

Spring Sprung!

Spring is here! Spring is here!

Gorgeous weather here in London today (and for the past few). Looks like more of the same for the weekend!

First order of the day. Magic Ship gig in Brentford tonight. Right now it's not looking good for me making it, but I'm trying to figure that out! Anyone who wants a (free!) good rockin' time, get down to The Globe and support the band. Details on their website, here.

Did I mention it's free? What I didn't say is that they're doing 2 sets, including new material. Should be a good time with a few beers.

What else? Jamiroquai's made a new album. That came in under the radar.

Going to see Lyle Lovett tomorrow. I have no clue about his music so I'm going in blind! Fingers crossed, eh?

On the Rockschool front, we had a lesson yesterday and I told Teach that due to time constraints I was finding myself spending more time practicing the performance pieces than the techniques, which is a bad, bad thing! I'm not 100% sure that I'm even going to bother taking the exam, so really what I want out of school is to maximise my improvement. Teach suggested that maybe what I should do is switch to the Grade 4 pieces for the exam, which should free up practice time for the stuff that really interests me. I think I agree with him! I had a look at some of the Grade 4 pieces on YouTube and I reckon I could nail each of them in a matter of hours. They still contain all the techniques that I want to practice, but they're just a little less challenging. Ironically, I also think that some of the Grade 6 pieces are easier (for me) to play than the Grade 5 ones!

Anywho, that's about it. Looks set to be a beautiful weekend! Maybe I'll put in some 'garden strumming time'.

Oh, and here's some gratuitous guitar porn for y'all on a Friday. I'm not in the market for a new guitar, but if I were I'd definitely be checking one of these out: the D'Angelico New Yorker solidbody. You can get one with a Bigsby tremelo, but, y'know, I hate tremelos, so I think I'd save $100 and stick with the basic...

March 18, 2009

Demos, Demos, Demos...

I realised today that I don't really have any decent demos to point people towards as and when I post/respond to band-member ads.


Around a year ago I promised myself that I would record some stuff but then never got around to it. I was going to have another crack at some before I started my search again, but, well, I have the self-control of... someone without much self-control.

What to do... what to do...

I still have my book of 101 unfinished song ideas that I need to get back to... along with my head full of 101 unstarted song ideas. Need focus. Joining the band and attending Rockschool really took up all my spare time and creativity. Now that I'm band-free I guess I should force myself to get back on track.

Actually, what I need is a month off work, somewhere sunny, with a (metaphorical) tape recorder and my guitars... oh, and a beach (if I'm dreaming I might as well dream, eh?)

And a drum machine... and a bass.

I suppose I could download some backing tracks and just jam over them. That'd be a start, at least. I'd prefer to work up full songs of my own devising, but that takes time, which would be a luxury at the moment.

What's a boy to do, eh?

Don't answer that.

March 13, 2009

Bish Bash Bosh

Okay, considering I was going to take a break from blogging, I seem to have been posting rather a lot lately! I have 10 minutes, so I figured I'd grab myself a coffee and bash out a couple of things.

First off, news to me today was that Placebo have found themselves a new drummer and are in the studio recording a follow-up to the most-wonderful "Meds". They're playing loads of non-UK festivals, but fingers crossed for some tour dates in Blighty over the summer!

Next up, Wacko Jacko at the O2. We have tickets... along with a significant proportion of other Londoners. I wasn't going to go, but Tim insisted. I WILL HAVE FUN (I've been told!)

Thirdly, I was back at Rockschool last night. Just 4 of us in class. The focus of the lesson was on muting, both in terms of using left/right hands to mute non-struck strings to stop them from ringing out and also karate-chop muting with the right hand as part of a strumming pattern. I'm useless at the latter, so I need to practice. We had been told that there would be no Ritual Humiliation (ie performances of the songs we're supposed to be learning) but Teach pulled a 180 with half an hour to go and we had to stand up and do our thing. I have to say that in the three weeks I've not been to class, the other guys have really improved. I've definitely fallen behind. At this point I'm supposed to have 3 songs down and be working on a 4th. I reckon I have 3 half-songs down and no clue about another. Joy, joy!

What else? In 'product' news I've ordered myself some 'Fret Doctor'. Red's fingerboard is really drying out and needs some TLC. Damn high-end guitars! Apparently you just use your finger to smear on a dab here and there, wait, wipe off the excess and bingo! Fingerboard perfection! We'll see how well it works. I'm not one for using too many products like this, but I've heard good things about Fret Doctor and historically I've shied away from 'the other solution' of using lemon oil as I remember reading somewhere that the unfinished Les Paul necks don't like it... I may have misread that, but it stuck in my mind for some reason, freaking me out.

And finally, I ordered an amp cover for the Blackstar HT-5 Combo from Silverstone. Don't want to risk getting dust in my pots, do I?

Hmmm... must be coming up on concert season, too! Lyle Lovett next weekend, followed by Jason Mraz then the Derek Trucks band in both London and Man-chest-er! Good times!

March 12, 2009

What Am I Like!?!?

I told myself that I was going to wait a few months before looking for new bandmates... I was forming a plan. I was going to write out starter notes to give me direction and to get everyone aligned from the get-go. I was going to have everything mapped out.

I've already posted an ad!

I have absolutely no self-control these days, I tell ya.

Please Call Home - Update

I noticed recently that this site gets a lot of hits from people looking for the movie "Please Call Home".

"From 1970 to 1973, the Allman Brothers Band called the Tudor-style mansion on Vineville Avenue in Macon, GA, their home. “The Big House,” as it came to be known, quickly became the communal hub for the band, their family and friends, and that magical era is brought back to life in the long-awaited DVD release of Please Call Home: The Big House Years. This wonderful film, shot in stunning Hi-Def, captures all the joy and sorrow, triumphs and tragedies that the Allman Brothers Band experienced under the roof of the Big House."

Allman Brothers, new footage, me wantee! Until now I've had difficulty finding out what happened to the movie as it seemed to just drop off the face of the planet. Given the number of "Please Call Home" related hits I was getting I did some more digging and I just found out this morning that the film is available for purchase on region-free DVD.

For those interested, follow the "Buy DVD" link from the movie's website, here. I've placed my order already, so hopefully I'll get to finally see it soon!

March 10, 2009

For A Friend

Not meant to be lyrics. Not meant to be poetry. Just something that came as one, unformed lump into my brain when thinking about one of our friends, Andy.

"Southbound on the Westside Train"

Andy, where are you going to?
What treasure do you hope to find?
A long and lonely one way trip
Southbound on the Westside train

It's too, too late for an Uptown boy
You'll never find your way tonight
Lay back down and rest a while
Hold on for the morning light

Three warm days and three dark nights
A beggars banquet of desire
One last plea to hold on tight
One more time before the dawn

Andy, who fills up your dreams?
What memory is now most dear?
You hide your eyes and ride the rails
Southbound on the Westside train

State Of Play

This is where I'm at.

The band EXPLODED whilst we were away for Mardi Gras. I'm not too cut up about it as I really enjoyed playing with everyone, but I could feel each of us pulling in different direction. I knew, pretty much since before Xmas, that either we had to get our crap in a sock straight away or it just wasn't going to happen. Politics to one side I had a damn fine time. We didn't make it to the gigging stage, but that's okay. All round it was great experience.

I'm not going to actively look for another band right now. I'm also not going to be putting too much effort into Rockschool, though I still plan on attending. My guess is that sometime after the summer break this year I'll start looking at putting a band together again. In the interim there's lots going on at home and work to keep me fully engaged.

I actually feel like my playing has come together pretty well. The new amp, coupled with Red, is inspirational. It sounds so good. I feel optimistic about all things musical. I want to get back to basics and, when inspired, write new material that I can bring to a new band. Musically I have a direction. I know what makes my heart sing and why. I'm not planning on doing the 'solo project' thing, but I don't want to be constrained by other band members' input. I feel like a psychadelic seed pod that's ready to burst. I'm all 'texture and tone'.

I still want to write (words, that is), but this isn't the right place for such scribblings. My head is full of life and love. My mental boing-o-meter is vibrating on 'Spring'.

Does any of that make sense? Ach, it doesn't have to.

March 9, 2009

Almost Back... the land of the living.

I'm not actually certain whether I'm going to continue writing this blog. When we got back from New Orleans I'd decided not to. Why? I guess the 2009 Mardi Gras Madness got hold of me like a hurricane and tore the roof off my world. That's not a bad thing. Revisiting New Orleans gave me the slap in the face I needed to say, Ken, time for some changes! I'm still bewitched by the Crescent City and all its surreality. My head is spinning like the needle in a game of naked twister. Paradigms are still shifting.

I can't tell you 99% of what happened over Mardi Gras, not because I can't remember (!) but because, well, Mardi Gras is like Vegas... What happens there stays there. I will relate one story to you, though, to give you an idea of the weirdness that fills my world when I find myself South of I-10. In some ways it's relevant to the continuance (or not) of this site.

The scene: upstairs at a balcony bar. Fat Tuesday. Alcohol. It was getting on for midnight and all the good beads had changed hands. We expected the street cleaners to make their pilgrammage down Bourbon, lights flashing, brushes scraping the pavement. You know that when the street cleaners come, Mardi Gras is over. The drinking doesn't stop, but the MARDI GRAS drinking does. As it happened, this year the street cleaners never made it as far as Cafe Lafitte. A tradition broken in 2009.

So, it's getting on for midnight and I'm amongst friends, drinking, partying, having a damn fine time. Through the crowd I see a ragged looking black (African American) guy staring at me. I smile at him and he starts shuffling his way through the crowd towards me. No biggie, we're all having fun. I strike up a converation with him and he seems grateful of the attention. I'd have put the guy in his 80s, but as we talk he starts in with his story, letting me know that he was born and raised in New Orleans and had lived there for 46 years. 46? If he's 46 then it's been a rough road.

Needing to get back into the scene with our friends I wish him a happy Mardi Gras and give him a hug. He hugs back then deliberately presses what feels like a quarter into my palm. In a low voice he whispers, 'Keep this. Don't lose it. Don't give it away. It'll take you wherever you want to go.'

So, I thank him and give him another hug, pocketing 'the quarter'. You have to understand that this wasn't the strangest thing that had happened to me that day. If you're good I'll tell you about the naked spitting guy with the mouse up his butt... or not... I remember thinking that being given a quarter by a New Orleansean was pretty cool and that I shouldn't get it mixed it with my change so that I could put it in Red's case for good luck.

When I awoke the following morning(ish) I remembered what had happened and fished the thing out of my trouser pocket. It wasn't a quarter... it was a cool-looking transit token from the Westside Transit Company, with the letter W cut out from the centre. On one side it had the operator name and on the other were the words:

"Good For One Fare"

Now, I don't know what posessed the guy to single me out at midnight on Fat Tuesday. I don't know why he felt I deserved to be touched by this mojo but boy, to me the moment that he pressed the thing into my palm was 100% pure Mardi Gras Magic.