Category Archives: Chewing the Fat

Weathervane: Notes from People Watching

Stood, looking half bewildered to the world surrounding his existence, a Pep Guardiola lookalike. Slightly dishevelled, thinner. His nervous twitch holds a thousand transactions with the bottle. Pep anxiously riffles through the loose change in his palm. People flow past him, and like me, are ignorant of his true story. He looks broken. 

I order tea. It is quickly dispensed into its disposal cardboard cup, the tea bag hoovers on the surface, “Say when”, the guy says as he pours the milk. “When,” I reply. He lifts his head. We capture one another’s eyes for a millisecond, and a distant sigh reverberates in our collective subconscious.

Stepping from the trailer and gripping the paper cup at its brim, I befriend an aluminium framed seat and its identical table where I place my tea and mobile phone.

25-years since I landed in Bristol. This is the place I have frequented, on and off, over those years. A tea/coffee trailer, adjacent to the Watershed, which also serves a delicious banana and chocolate crepe if you find yourself in the vicinity,

As then, and as now, it’s the perfect place to people watch. We mortals tend not to look up anymore, fixated by our devices. Connected to distance and not our immediate surroundings.

Groups of schoolchildren jostle, call each other names beyond my recognition and brag about things schoolchildren brag about. It’s all posturing, but there is the quiet one struggling to fit in and harvest a sense of belonging. An awkward shyness and sense of inadequacies. Seagulls hanker and cry for crumbs, and a wasp threatens occasionally. A guy in a leather motorcycle jacket on the next table sits back and stretches his legs out. Drawing deeply into his lungs, the cigarette smoke.  

A momentary break in the traffic, pedestrian crossing beeps announce a new flow of passer-by. A young lady, early 20s stops abruptly, combes long hair with fingers. Tilts her head slightly to the left, raises her mobile, sucks in her cheeks like a pouting trout and snaps a selfie and walks on. 

The Pep Guardiola lookalike is now loitering close to me, picking up random cigarette butts. A message appears on my iPhone 12, advising me to buy a new iPhone 13.  I sip my tea, gaze up at the Weathervane, and before I notice, the Pep Guardiola lookalike has vanished.

Open Memory Box

This website is simply quite beautiful in curation and content. The largest homemade collection of 8mm celluloid film captures both a time, but also people loving life from the defunct German Democratic Republic. Click on the anti-archive link and just get lost in individual stories. This is the link to the full website

Irregular Patterns

Ideas that lay dormant evaporate into the ether of well-meaning intentions (what-ifs). The constraints of the pandemic lockdown also freed up time and space to revisit and explore my long list of what-ifs. Hidden amongst them was the concept of Irregular Patterns, albeit the idea did not have that name. That came much later. I’ve been fortunate, very fortunate, to enjoy a life that has allowed me to work in the creative areas I love. Music and live performance.

Having experienced first-hand the struggles many of my musician mates were facing even before the onset of pandemic lockdowns, given the ongoing imbalance in revenue share from streaming. Even the more experienced musicians came with stories of being ripped off by various business interests from shifty managers, record companies and the constant ask to perform for nothing. The foundations to one of our greatest exports to the world, music, are increasingly threadbare, wallowing in exploitation.

A chance discussion with a local musician, Gavin McClafferty, brought the focus, vision and grit needed to move these ideas from concept to delivery. Irregular Patterns was born, not just a record label but a creative hub formed around the artist. In less than one year, we sit on the brink of IP issuing its first release, developing a roster and release schedule for the remainder of the year. The help, input and encouragement, so far, has been humbling, to say the least. Whatever this journey brings, I will be forever grateful.

I’m not going to repeat what you can access and read here. The manifesto for IP is the foundation. Being the change we want to see in the music industry is our essential, faltering first step. The journey has not been easy; in fact, some obstacles have needed to be knocked down. More importantly, it was the leap of faith, risk-taking, and realisation that we are in the happy business after all.

No.5: Bullitt

One of the cool things about being a year older than most of the kids on the street I was brought up in 1968, was the difference between wanting a replica Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the iconic Mustang drove by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Both films were released in 1968, I was 8, and very much appreciated that I got both. One for my birthday and one for Christmas, only the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang survives to this day in a well- battered form, but what of that Mustang!

By the 1970s a whole sway of films featured iconic cars. In 1972s blaxploitation film Super Fly we had the Cadillac Eldorado, grotesquely named ‘the pimp machine’. James Bond drove and spun over a river in his AMC Hornet, 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. in 1977 Burt Reynalds had kicked off his Smokey and the Bandit franchise, which often featured the Pontiac Trans Am. But nothing compared to McQueen’s Mustang, not even (sacrilege) James Bonds, Aston Martin DBS. which made an appearance in Sean Connery’s last great Bond film Diamonds are Forever.

McQueen always, to me, cut the cool maverick anti-hero in his Ford Mustang GT Fastback and before videos, DVD’s, satellite and cable this impatient youngster would endure the whole film just to watch the mesmerising car chase through San Francisco.

Plenty of people have lusted over that Highland Green Mustang, which has over-time achieved legendary status. Although it was not until much later that I fully appreciated Lao Schifrin’s original score that tracks the various moods and action of the film to perfection. It took until 2009 for the never-before-released original recording of the score, as heard on the movie, to be made available.

My tribute to McQueen’s Ford Mustang GT Fastback is the Shelby (Cobra) GT-350, built between 1965 and 1970 by the American the high-performance vehicle manufacturer founded by former racing driver Carroll Shelby. The most famed car in American cinema, sold for $3.4 million at auction in Florida during 2020.

 

 

No. 4: Cuts – SOLD

Cuts released their second album Unreal on the Village Green label towards the backend of last year, a progression from the 2018 A Gradual Decline, album.

Unreal brings texted vocals and beats to the mix.  As one observer suggests Cuts are, “The sound of a world collapsing and it is sublime.” I could not put it better myself. The person behind the Cuts project is Anthony Tombling Jr.

Anthony’s work also ventures into the world of the visual arts, film-making and contributing to film soundtracks. Unit 3, where his film output materialises is a treasure trove of creative collaborations with community and campaign groups, as well as the likes of Alan Moore, Michael Sheen, Beak> and Massive Attack. The sublime soundtrack to the film Ex-Machina on Invada Records features Cut’s goose pimple raising Bunsen Burner track. A track that also brought the TV series ‘Person of Interest’ to its finale.

The Dinky model I used in this piece is from around 1951/2 and is not for sale given it already has an owner. The real Trojan vans, by the way, were manufactured in Croydon, London. They used diesel and petrol engines, as well as a revolutionary electric-powered version in 1951 known as the ‘Electrojan’. It may be difficult to comprehend that 70 years ago our grandparents were ahead of their time when it comes to alternatives to fossil fuel but, they did.

No. 3: Pink Floyd

The third toy vehicle from the lockdown production line (under the stairs) is my attempt at replicating the original Pink Floyd tour van, a Bedford, from the mid-1960s.

Pink Floyd are one of those bands who been consistent throughout my musical journey, I bought my first Floyd album in the mid-70s, ‘Wish You Were Here.’ Legend has it that on the day the band were completing the mix for the albums opening track  “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” an overweight man with shaven head and eyebrows entered, carrying a plastic bag. Nobody recognised him until Gilmour identified him as Syd Barrett. The photograph (left) is from the Pink Floyd archive and contains the original Bedford van with Nick Mason loading his drum kit (not sure if this is copyright infringement?). The remainder of the band can be seen peering out of the house window. The model has been refurbished from an old 1960s Dinky Bedford van.

No. 2: Buena Vista Social Club – SOLD

The second vehicle off the lockdown production line (under the stairs) is dedicated to the ensemble of Cuban musicians known as the Buena Vista Social Club. A project directed by Juan de Marcos González and produced by Ry Cooder.

Capturing the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba the subsequent album was recorded in March 1996, released in September 1997 and featured several Cuban musicians, like, Compay Segundo, Rubén González, and Ibrahim Ferrer, all retired, in their twilight years and would all pass on between 2003 and 2005.

The toy car itself is a refurbished 1950s Dinky Studebaker, which is reminiscent of those old American cars found cruising the roads of Havana, Cuba today. Paint stripped, primed, repainted with rust and copied of authentic replica decals from the members’ club in the Buenavista quarter of Havana, a popular music venue in the 1940s.