2011 and Beyond

So this is what 2011 looks like. I had always wondered. In fact, I had hoped for flying cars, self-cleaning houses and robot policemen, but that still appears to be no more than a pipedream… Oh well, maybe in 2012.

steady jobs and flying cars

As for me, the last time I updated here, I bemoaned the fact that I’d been neglecting this blog for far too long and promised to remedy it. Granted, that was back in June of last year, but I don’t recall issuing a time limit, so no matter how long it’s been… I still win.

The reasons for the paltry activity levels of this blog are manifold, but due mostly to the fact I’ve been so busy. An influx of copywriting work has kept me on my toes and a roof above my head and takes up the daylight hours of most weeks. I have also been busy with Head Full of Snow, ensuring regular updates over at my psychedelic, prog and folk rock review website. My intention is to give that a new lick of paint sometime in 2011. Whether I find the time is a different matter entirely.

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What Ray Harryhausen taught me

While we’re on the subject of stop-motion animation, today just happens to be the birthday of the granddaddy of them all (well, after Willis O’Brien that is).

7th voyage of sinbad poster

Yes, Ray Harryhausen, the man who gave us the wonderful creatures that inhabit films such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, the original Clash of the Titans, and, of course, Jason and the Argonauts, is 90 of the Queen’s years old.

Long before the shiny and sparkly CGI was used to divert the attention from a lack of character development and plot, Harryhausen was providing the special effects that brought to life mechanical Minotaurs, giant Cyclops, towering Krakens and an army of skeletons.

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Imperial Walkies

Right then, I’ve neglected this bastard for too long now. Like a ginger-haired stepchild it has been left to rot in the non-existent attic that resides in our non-existent pitched roof.

I’d like to say I’ve been travelling, harvesting inspiration and generally living the life of the well-paid writer and gadabout town, financially freed from the shackles that bind and able to write whatever the hell I want.

I’d like to say all of that but I can’t. And if I did, I’d be lying.

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Not one to blow my own trumpet…

Things have been quiet of late in these parts. Jeffman shows willing but must try harder…

record collector magazine banner

A combination of HFoS, research, various other writing projects and a shouty daughter have conspired to keep me from filling you in on all the tedious details of my life. However, a brief respite from the unforgiving schedule of staring blankly at a laptop screen between bouts of nappy wrestling gives me the opportunity to share a spot of news regarding the old writing thing.

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“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…”

Whilst knocking out a post for Head Full of Snow the other day, I had cause to invoke the name of Steve Austin, or The Six Million Dollar Man to give him his more familiar moniker.

six million dollar man vs bigfootJustin Lee Collins persuades Lee Majors to appear on ‘Bring Back… The Bionic Man’

I remember watching the TV series as a nipper and I’m sure we always referred to it simply as ‘The Bionic Man’ – in fact I’d have wagered that this was the UK title (in much the same way that Top Cat was renamed Boss Cat) but I appear to be wrong on that count. Couldn’t find any evidence to back it up, anyway.

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Assuming you have visited here before, you may have noticed that I’ve implemented some of the changes in layout first hinted at just prior to Christmas.

the three doctors - william hartnell, jon pertwee, patrick troughton

We now have a homepage, a portfolio (of sorts), and this blog has shifted to its own parent page.

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Mentioned in the same breath as NME

It’s not often I find myself mentioned in the same breath as NME and Uncut (and to a lesser extent The Sunday Telegraph), but if one were to suck in a big gulp of air and read down this page on the ATIC Records website, it is just possible.

what the critics are saying about twatr

My psych and prog website, Head Full of Snow, gets quoted following a review of one of the label’s acts, The Witch and the Robot.

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Cliff Richard Looks at Birmingham

Not to be outdone by Telly Savalas, Cliff Richard gets in on the Birmingham love, six years prior to everyone’s preferred shiny scalped, lollipop-loving tough guy.

As in the case of Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham, this clip from 1973’s Take Me High serves as a mini-travelogue of the city following the 1960’s slum clearances and redevelopment scheme. Albeit one featuring Cliff-(insert your own favourite expletive)-Richard. Ar kid wouldn’t approve.

Horror of horrors, he even sings, so you may wish to mute your screen.

Give me the “liquid tones” of Telly Savalas’s ‘Who Loves Ya, Baby’ anyday.

Edit Bugger! It appears Cliff doesn’t wish to appear on Have Pen, Won’t Travel. Ah well, if the prospect of his asinine cat-strangling hasn’t put you off, you’ll just have to click on over to Youtube to watch.

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So long Birmingham… Here’s lookin’ atcha!

There’s every chance that during his 72 years on the planet, Telly Savalas never once set foot in Birmingham. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop him recording the voiceover for this wonderful little Quota Quickie, Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham, which ran in cinemas as a supplement to the main feature in the early 80s.

Filmed in 1979, the city shown has changed a great deal in the intervening years and would probably be unrecognisable nowadays to those who’d not known it through the 70s, 80s and for the greater part of the 90s. Despite the cheesiness of Kojak’s dialogue, it’s still a rare treat to see the old town as it once was. An artefact of a time long passed.

So long Birmingham, indeed.

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Near-hysteria of Impending Apocalypse Proportions

It’s still snowing.

silence in the snow

This time last week I dismissed the snow as little more than a light dusting; a passing sprinkle that despite bringing a woefully unprepared country to a grinding halt, was NOT like the stuff we had in the late 70s and 80s when I was a lad.

Well, I stand corrected… to a certain extent.

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Snow News is Bad News (For the UK, at least)

Woke up this morning and found we’d been gifted with a light dusting of snow, rekindling the strange fascination that the British have with the fluffy white stuff.

snow in great barr, birminghamGreat Barr – Where the snow lay roundabout, deep and crisp and even

It’s has become somewhat the cliché to state that with the first sign of snow, the country grinds to a halt. Even so, to employ yet another tired cliché, there’s no smoke without fire, and it’s been proved time and again that the slightest dusting does indeed bring things to a standstill.

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Badwill to all Men – The Spaghetti Western Reviews

As mentioned previously, last week was given over to watching my favourite genre of film, the Spaghetti Western, and posting reviews over at LateMag.

klaus kinski as loco in the great silence

Despite an almost overwhelming sentiment of badwill to all men, for me the Spaghetti Western makes perfect Chrimbo viewing. Not entirely sure why. Possibly because the first one I ever saw was A Fistful of Dollars, one Yuletide, a very long time ago. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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A wintry day in Stratford

You may have heard of Bill Shakespeare, commonly known as the Bard. He wrote a few overrated plays 400-or-so years ago, did very little in the intervening years, then appeared on Doctor Who in 2007.

Last Friday we paid a wintry visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Bard’s birthplace, and here be a few of the photos. The delay in posting isn’t because I’m still using film and had to get the photographs developed. No, I originally wrote several paragraphs of nonsense to frame them, but then realised I had very little to say. So here they be, minus the nonsense.

A few notes. The shop all lit up like a dog’s dinner, with the abandoned pushchair containing the shouty daughter outside, is the Nutcracker Christmas Shop. Step inside and with one breath of the cinnamon-scented air you’ll think it’s Christmas all year round.  Which it is. In this shop anyways.

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Spaghetti Western Week

In my infinite wisdom, I have deemed this week “Spaghetti Western Week”.

spaghetti western week - django poster

Beginning Sunday 13th December, I shall be watching at least one Spaghetti Western a day and then posting a review at LateMag.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs Proportions

When not meeting the constant demands of the shouty daughter, or writing various bits and pieces for this and that, or penning yet another slice of award-worthy prose for Head Full of Snow, I’m rewarded with the occasional moment to myself. I generally put these to good use by doing a spot of writing.

the gods of mars by edgar rice burroughs cover

On Sunday I began the novel which will see me set-up for life once it’s written and published. Can’t give too much away, for obvious reasons, but it’s set to be a rip-roaring adventure of Edgar Rice Burroughs proportions, with a tongue that remains firmly in the cheek.

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Useless Information* – Seeking Roy Wood pt. 2

Finally, following on from my Desperately Seeking Roy Wood post, some headway has been made.

roy wood self portrait from cover of boulders

The web wizzard in charge of Roy Wood’s official website has been in touch and a copy of my article, as it stands at the moment, is now in the hands of Birmingham’s finest, and beardiest, bard.

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Don’t Go into the Woods Alone… Again

Following on from my previous aborted attempt at locating Great Barr Hall – a decent view to photograph, anyway – I decided to take another look. This time I was prepared, having consulted both Google Maps and a mate of mine who’s known to walk his Staffie around there.

So off I ventured onto the half-built estate that’s sprung up on the grounds of the old St. Margaret’s Mental Hospital and, more importantly, into the woods that surround it.

The research I undertook (all 30 seconds of it) prior to my expedition paid dividends, as instead of the tangled jungle of undergrowth I encountered last time, the woods quickly opened onto a steep, makeshift drive, lined by trees and the ruins of outbuildings, which inclined down to Great Barr Hall… or what remained of it

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Dancing the PR Tango

Those of you aware of my Head Full of Snow site, will already know it’s my haven for reviewing psychedelic rock, prog rock, acid-folk and many other magical variations thereon. If you don’t, get yourselves over there immediately after you’ve read this, not a second before, mind.

The thing is, I mostly pay for the stuff I review myself, therefore giving a completely unbiased view from the perspective of a man who, like the punter who’s reading it, has weighed in with the appropriate sum and lightened the load on his pocket.

30 pieces of silver

However, nowadays I’m getting sent more and more stuff from artists, record labels and PRs for review, which, as long as it fits in with my own remit for Head Full of Snow, I’m more than happy to do.  But it beggars the question, now that I’ve thumbed a ride upon the corporate gravy train, so to speak, can my words still be trusted?

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Desperately Seeking Roy Wood

So I’ve recently written this article for a music magazine chronicling the musical career of Roy Wood. Trouble is, it’s lacking a touch of colour that can only be injected by a spot of input from the bearded Brummie himself.

desperately seeking roy woodImage ©EMI/Harvest

You’d think it would be a problem easily remedied. But oh no, not this time.

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Hammond Organ Dance Party

Four words that could bring even the strongest-willed man to his knees. Hammond. Organ.  Dance. Party.

hammond organ dance party

Big Jim “H” certainly knew what he was doing when he set foot in the studio to lay this beast down.

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