Monday, 28 December 2009

Grave Shades

These Epitaphs are from one of my favourite poetry books of all time Verse and Worse by Arnold Silcock. I was given my copy as a teenager and read it so much it fell apart. I have a new copy now. Well, it was from a second hand book shop. But you know what I mean. All genuine and all by Anon.

Epitaph on a Dyer: At Lincoln

Here lies John Hyde;
He first liv’d, and then he died;
He dyed to live, and liv’d to dye,
And hopes to live eternally.

John Bun

Here lies John Bun
He was killed by a gun,
His name was not Bun, but Wood,
But Wood would not rhyme with Gun,
But Bun would.

The Artful Dodger

Here lies Bill Dodge
Who dodged all good
And dodged a deal of evil
But after dodging all he could
He could not dodge the Devil.

Passport to Paradise

He passed the bobby without any fuss,
And he passed the cart of hay,
He tried to pass a swerving bus,
And then he passed away.

aNOtHEr dIp INtO ThE midGEpoT mEMOrY pOOoL.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Bob Dylan style

Only one man would dare to do this....

The unbelievable Bob Dylan who still has that wonderful 'Don't give a damn' attitude.

My favourite Christmas song this year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Sunday, 20 December 2009

'The Bard of Liverpool' - an appreciation by Roger Stevens

Roger McGough is my favourite poet. There. I've said it. I have lots of favourite poets but he is my favouritist. Ever since I discovered him way back in the Summer of Love I've followed his career, laughed, cried, sighed and had my flabber ghasted at just how clever his poetry is. For me the best poetry must be easy to read but at the same time have something else – it must be clever or have some kind of emotional punch. And this is exactly what his poetry is all about. It’s also great fun.
In the mid 60s, in Liverpool, Roger McGough formed Scaffold along with Mike McGear - Paul McCartney’s brother, and John Gorman (the masked poet – if my memory serves me right). They played at the Edinburgh Festival and were given a recording contract by Parlophone in 1966. They had several minor chart hits but reached number one in the UK with Lily the Pink. Around that time he also wrote some of the dialogue (uncredited) for the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine (one of my all-time favourite films).
I discovered him when, along with Liverpool poets Brian Patten and Adrian Henri, his poems appeared in The Penguin Modern Poets, a series of slim volumes published through the 60s highlighting the best of contemporary poetry. Each issue had three compatible poets and this edition, The Mersey Sound, was the only one to be given its own name. It went on to sell over half a million copies. An amazing achievement for a book of poems.
Now he is probably the best known poet around. Many people thought he should have been the new poet laureate. He writes great books for children, writes plays, pops up on TV, and hosts BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please. He still performs around the country and he is great to see live. If he ever appears in your area I suggest you buy tickets and go.
What more can I say? I’m not allowed to post his poems here or I’d follow this with twenty or thirty of my favourites. For example A Potato Clock (a wonderful poem for children) and the eponymous The Way Things Are.
For more info, and to read one of his poems, check out this link


Friday, 18 December 2009

Max Wall

Another "one off" british comedian and eccentric dancer who was always a treat to see back in the early days of television. A real throw back to the days of music hall and variety.

Wikipedia says-

"Wall was a son of the successful music-hall entertainer Jack (Jock) Lorimer, a Scottish comedy actor, known for his songs and dancing, and his wife Stella (born Maud Clara Mitchison). He was born near The Oval, at 37 Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton Road, Brixton, London SW9. In 1916, during a First World War air raid, Max and his older brother Alex, were saved from death by a cast iron bed frame, but his younger brother Bunty and their Aunt Betty, who was looking after them, were killed by a bomb dropped from a German Zeppelin which also destroyed their house.

Max and Alex went to live with their father and his family, whilst their mother went to live with Harry Wallace, who she had met on tour. When their father died of consumption in 1920, aged 37, their mother married Harry Wallace, and they all moved to a pub in Essex."

These are for Richard who was looking for some Max Wall and it reminded me of another comedy genius who is greatly missed.


Todays word as discovered by one of Hazel's chums on the Mary Gregg blog. Yorkshire slang for - odds and ends of little value - the contents of a little boys pockets.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Frank Sidebottom

I thought I had uploaded this here already but it seems I haven't . An oversight on my part as Frank Sidebottom is a oddity that needs more airing. Here we have-

Side one of Frank's 10" LP "Medium Play" on the In Tape label. 1990.

Some great versions of old rockers done in that strange northern nasal whine of his. It makes me laugh every time! The perfect anti-dote to Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra!

Find out more about Frank HERE.

Shirley Bassey

As any members of the punk generation will tell you, even aging reptiles like meself, we are not meant to like people such as Dame Shirley, in fact we are supposed to spit vitriol and abuse at such highly vaunted middle of the road vamps but...I am useless at spitting and have no idea where to get vitriol from.

I have liked the woman ever since she walked into the joint looking like a girl of distinction, a class act without suspenders but oozing sex appeal with a voice that roared with a clarity and passion that only someone from Wales could muster. And she sure had/has a nice set of lungs on her. Her songs for the Bond movies are the pinnacle of that franchise themes

Her latest album, with songs by a range of modern luminaries, (Richard Hawley and The Manic Street Preachers to name but two) is fantastic, unbelievable, incredible with more superlatives than you can throw at a sitting pensioner from Splot.

Shirley Bassey is a Dame of distinction, a real big singer.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Some Velvet Morning by Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra

Being the daughter of one of the world's biggest singers never seemed to bother or be a burden to Nancy Sinatra who carved her own way in life with a series of fabulous songs.
This one was writen by Lee Hazelwood but was performed by the couple as a duet on Nancy's first album.
Together they produced a string of memorable songs but this one, with its strange lyrics has to be the one that I liked the best.
Nancy still records and most recently released a cover of a Morrisey song 'Let me kiss you'. Still an attractive woman and still with a pure golden voice.

Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
I'm gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
And how she gave me life
And how she made it end
Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight

Flowers growing on a hill, dragonflies and daffodils
Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch
Phaedra is my name

Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
I'm gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
And how she gave me life
And how she made it end
Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight

Flowers are the things we know, secrets are the things we grow
Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch
Phaedra is my name

Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
Flowers growing on a hill
I'm gonna open up your gate
dragonflies and daffodils
And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
Learn from us very much
And how she gave me life
look at us but do not touch
And how she made it end


Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Mersey Sound

At secondary school we studied Chaucer, Wordsworth and Byron. I enjoyed poetry – and we had a brilliant English teacher – Mr Nichols. (His nickname was Old Nick and he did have a whiff of sulphur about him.) And then, in 1967, this book came out and it changed my life. I know – that’s a cliché and a bit glib. But it’s true. I was in a band, and a massive Beatles fan. This was the poetic equivalent of the Beatles. Funny, serious, melancholic, relevant – about girlfriends, supermarkets, fish and chips and the nuclear holocaust that we all felt sure was on the way – accessible and with none of the pretentiousness of other modern poetry. No wonder it went on to sell over half a million copies and became one of the best-selling poetry anthologies of all time. It also made the name of the three poets involved – Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri.

The poems owe much to the Beat Poets and to Pop Art. But this was our British equivalent. The poems still hold up and the poets went on to continuing success although Adrian Henri, is alas, no longer with us. More about them in further dispatches. Meanwhile, if you don’t have a copy, buy the book now. You can find it in second-hand bookshops. And most likely in one of the bigger bookshops. (Although most shops hold a derisory amount of poetry on their shelves.)
Last words to Roger McGough.

There's the moon trying to look romantic
Moon's too old that's her trouble
Aren't we all?


Sunday, 6 December 2009

UK Comics part seven (Frank Bellamy)

Frank Bellamy (1917 - 1976)

Frank Bellamy was born in Kettering, Northampton in 1917. As a youngster his early artistic influences came from all the juvenile comics that he read in his childhood, Rainbow and Chips, but it was the old American Sunday comic sections that really provoked an interest in adventure strips. He loved the Tarzan strips of Hal Foster and much preffered these rather than the static picture stories that were found in British comics in the 1920s and ‘30s. He was also a big fan of of the American ‘jungle strips’ where the depiction of African fauna was a large influence. Bellamy loved the big cats and other animals that were to be found in Africa.

After leaving school Frank went to work in an art studio but, with the secnd World War looming, it was not long before he got his call up papers and the war put paid to his artistic dreams. But only for the duration of the war.

When the war ended, Bellamy moved to London, where he began work his way round every studio until he found himself a job. Eventually Norfolk Studios recognised his talent and he was offered a job with them.

He started work doing spot illustrations for magazines like Everybody’s Weekly and Outspan Magazine but it wasn't until he moved full time into comic illustration that his legend he would eventually become began to be realised.

By 1952 his illustrations were appearing fairly regularly in the Lutterworth publication. The issue for March, 1952, contains a superb scraperboard illustration of two otters that make one wish that he had used more of this medium in his work. More atmospheric, and closer in both style and subject matter to his later classic work, are full-page two-tone illustrations that appeared in the Boys Own Paper in August and September of 1952.

As luck would have it the first strip work he did was far less impressive: a short series of single bank advertisements for Gibbs toothpaste but then again we all have mortgages and bills to pay don't we?

Frank's big break as a comic strip artist came when he went to work on Mickey Mouse Weekly, the prestigious photogravure comic published by Odhams. He parted company with Norfolk Studios and went freelance. His main contribution to the comic was Monty Carstairs. Kind of an upper-crust adventurer whose was a curious meld of Lord Peter Whimsy and Paul Temple. An immaculately dressed, cool- headed and debonair individual wth bags full of cash. Bellamy’s first work on the strip appeared in the issue dated 25 July, 1953.

From this piint on Bellamy blossomed as an artist and demand for him grew. Throughout the fifties and well into the sixties he beacme involved in a selection of comic book creations that included Monty Carstairs, The Swiss Family Robinson, King Arthur and his Knights, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. His eye for detail and perfection was even then something to marvel at. The way that he breated life and realism into his strips was incredible and an utter joy to read. He managed to capture the mythic spirit of life in the greenwood: glistening leaves, the sunlight falling through the branches and the gnarled boughs of giant oak trees. As with the King Arthur strip there were battles-a-plenty for action-minded youngsters and the strip possessed the cinematic qualities of movement, depth and excitingly-varied viewpoints.

However, no matter how good his work was it was apparent to anyone with halfpence of common sense that his talent wasn't really meant for any of this and then Marcus Morris came onto his radar.

Marcus Morris, editor of Eagle, offered him the opportunity to work on the comic’s prestigious back page, Bellamy was very keen to start. Initially he worked on a strip entitled The Happy Warrior which was a story about Winston Churchill.

Bellamy was less than happy himself with this task but, being the true pro that he was still managed to produce some incredible work. The Happy Warrior ended in September 1958, Bellamy had developed his style to such an extent that he had firmly established himself as one of the foremost strip artists in the country.

Bellamy’s next subject for Eagle was another biography, this time an historical Biblical epic based on the life of David and entitled The Shepherd King. Which he then followed with another back page biography The Travels of Marco Polo, which began in Eagle in April, 1959. He never got to complete this series as he was moved onto bigger and better stuff.

Early in 1959, with Dan Dare going into decline, Frank Bellamy was asked to take over the job of illustrating the UK's premier strip. At first, due to his huge regard for its previous writer and artist, Frank Hampson, Bellamy was unsure but was assured that his tenure would only be for one year. He agreed and took over the legend that was and still is Dan Dare.

Dan Dare occupied the first two pages of Eagle and, to help him with the work, he had the assistance of Don Harley and Keith Watson who had both been members of Frank Hampson’s team of Dan Dare artists. Bellamy was very much a lone wolf when it came to his work and the idea of working with a team of artists was anathema to him. To resolve the problem of sharing the two Dan Dare pages, it was arranged that Harley and Watson would work on one page in London while he completed the other page in his studio at home.

Even with all the inherent problems Bellamy manfully continued and managed to give a new credibility and authenticity to the already well established character.

After his time on Dan Dare was up, Bellamy moved onto what some people think was his greatest achievement Fraser Of Africa.

His his use of colours on this strip was inspired. He managed, by using soft brown tones and sepia, to capture perfectly the African landscape and with his wonderous eye for detail to give depth and life to the African animals that he drew.

The Fraser trilogy was reprinted by Hawk Books Ltd. in 1990 with an extensive appraisal of the artist’s work by one of the present writers. Copies of this large format, card-wrapped volume are still relatively plentiful and can usually be found for around nine pounds or so.

Heros The Spartan, followed and Bellamy drew four series of Heros adventures, the last coming to an end in July, 1965. Many collectors consider the series to be his finest work and, more than any other of his strips, it is perhaps the one most closely associated with the artist. It is certainly a high-water mark in the history of fantasy adventure strips.

After this, now 1966, Bellamy drew a succession of well illustrated stories including Rider Haggard’s African romance, King Solomon’s Mines (something he never concluded, Thunderbirds, Doctor Who, and then, in 1971, Bellamy took over the artistic reins of Garth for The Daily Mirror. Perhaps the most famous of his illustrative works and a job which he worked on until his untimely death in 1976.

"Frank Bellamy was a perfectionist who created some of the best colour work ever to appear in British comics. His meticulously-drawn strips were always vibrant and full of life and action. His artwork rarely showed any signs of changes or alterations: he would discard a piece of work and start again rather than resort to process white and paste on patches. His legacy is a wealth of superbly-drawn and painted strips that are amongst the very best of their kind. He would captivate his audience from the moment their eyes encountered the first frame of one of his strips and hold them spellbound until the last panel had been savoured. His work is highly regarded amongst an ever-growing group of enthusiasts both here and abroad."

Amen to that!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Still from "Westworld"

"He's doin' his best, Debbie!" 

'Twas the night before Christmas . .

. . and Santa had just knocked off from charging around the Midnight Sky and getting stuck in chimneys.  (Raymond Briggs wrote a lovely story about him, remember?)  Anyway, there he was with his feet in a bowl of Something For The Weekend which would bring 'em up smelling of roses. He sighed, settled back in his old arm chair, reached for his glass of mulled wine and plate of mince pies, and was looking forward to the usual 364 day holiday when a knock came at the door.  "Who the f*****g h**l can that be at this time of night?" quoth the kindly old gentleman.  He heaved himself to his feet and lumbered to the door and opened it, whereupon the snow and the icy blasts of winter further diminished his bonhommie.  On the threshold stood one of his Little Helpers, a fairy, no less, dragging behind her a huge Christmas Tree.  "Oh, sorry to bother you, Santa.  You know you asked me to deliver the trees to the poor folk?  Well, I've done that.  Except when I ran out of poor folk, there was this tree left over.  Where do you want me to put it?"

Well, folks . . . now you know why there's a fairy on top of your Christmas Tree.