Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, October 28, 2013

25 Answers

I must say I'm a little surprised by how few of my first lines were guessed this time: it's not as though they were especially obscure for the most part. Anyway, here are the solutions. Thanks to all who did submit answers.

1. You worked hard in school, did all the right things

I've Met Jesus, by Hot Leg



2. Hot sun beating down, burning my feet just walking around

I Can't Dance, by Genesis



3. Said Red Molly to James, “That’s a fine motorbike”

1952 Vincent Black Lightning, by Richard Thompson



4. Close the door, light the lights, we’re stayin’ home tonight

A World Of Our Own, by The Seekers



5. You could never know what it’s like

I'm Still Standing
, by Elton John



6. She keeps Moet and Chandon in her pretty cabinet

Killer Queen, by Queen



7. I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear

Englishman In New York, by Sting



8. Time goes by so slowly

Hung Up, by Madonna



9. I’m in the phone booth, it’s the one across the hall

Hanging On The Telephone, by Blondie



10. Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours?

Lazy Sunday Afternoon, by The Small Faces



11. High vibration go on to the sun

Awaken, by Yes



12. I like beer, and I like cheese

On Horseback, by Mike Oldfield



13. I thought about the feeling of without you

Sad Sing, by Tom Newman



14. You’ve got to be crazy, you’ve got to have a real need

Dogs, by Pink Floyd


Dogs Pink Floyd by chilcanix

15. I should have gone to Cambridge with Lionel

Beleeka Doodle Day, by Al Stewart

(And I had "should" where Al actually sings "could". Somehow I don't think that's what prevented you all from guessing the song.)



16. I think of tears, I think of rain on shingles

Roses Blue, by Joni Mitchell



17. Straight from the shoulder, I think like a soldier

The Minotaur's Song, by The Incredible String Band



18. I’ve seen you riding on the Wall of Death

You're A Hero, by Michael Moorcock and The Deep Fix (begins at 18:26 on this clip)



19. Well I’ve been talking to the weather man, it’s gonna rain on me today

Bar In My Car, by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band



20. The victim was a woman, a woman in her prime

The Case Continues, by Ute Lemper



21. Always alone, never with a herd

Chestnut Mare, by The Byrds



22. Gonna take that medicine, cold cold medicine

Rie's Wagon, by Gomez



23. As the dust settles, see our dreams all coming true

Aspirations, by Gentle Giant



24. Winter’s coming, we live a shorter day

Fire and Wine, by Steve Ashley



25. Take a look at my girlfriend, she’s the only one I got

Breakfast In America, by Supertramp

Sometimes it's hard to escape the conclusion that the USSR got it right in some ways

Not far from where I live there has been a wee spot of industrial relations bother recently, not that you'd know much about it from the English press. In short, a fairly minor dispute at a foreign-owned oil refinery and petrochemical plant (once publicly owned - ah, those halcyon days!) escalated when the company decided to suspend one of the main union organisers supposedly because he had been involved in a row (totally unrelated to his work) over the selection process for a local Labour Party election candidate. The dispute was due to become a strike, and when after much intervention from all kinds of outside agencies including the Scottish government the strike was called off, the company decided to lock out the workforce. They declared that unless the workers took massive cuts in pay and conditions, and agreed not to go on strike for the foreseeable future, they would close the plant down with the loss of 800 jobs, around 10% of the Scottish economy, and the effective destruction of a community. The trade union involved (Unite, of which - and of its forerunners - I have been a proud member for over 25 years) took the inevitable decision that preserving jobs was more important than preserving working conditions, and crawled to the plant management with the unsurprising result that the plant was miraculously saved. You can read all about it here, here, and most recently here. (And by way of balance, here is an decently-argued article more sympathetic to the management viewpoint.)

As I said, it's hard to feel top bitter about the "betrayal" by the union when clearly their members' primary concern at the end was for their jobs to be protected at whatever cost. I may feel bitter at the abandonment of the workforce by the Labour Party which supposedly is the party of the working person (though that had ceased to be the case well before Blair turned it into a Thatcherite clone of the Tories). I may feel that the Scottish government could have done more to temper the rampant capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw of Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos. But I reserve most of my disgust for Eric Joyce. This piece of shit was sacked from the Labour Party for drunken brawling in the House of Commons bar, for which he was arrested - twice. As a result, the Labour Party in Falkirk (whose MP he is) had to select a replacement to stand in the next election (Joyce is currently a partyless independent, and may stand as such come the next election). It was for his participation in this process that the union convenor Stevie Deans was targeted by the Ineos mamagement, and this seems less surprising when one reads Mr Joyce's comments on the Grangemouth dispute. He whined that Labour party politicians had "proclaimed as evil the billionaire with a yacht and the lack of accountability of private companies". Remember this is someone who used to pretend to be a Labour politician himself: what in Hell's name is wrong with bemoaning that lack of accountability, which allowed the company to hold Scotland to ransom in order to worsen the pay and conditions of its workforce, simply because it could? What is wrong with criticising a tax exile (whose financial affairs are currently under investigation by the tax authorities) when his response to not getting all his own way in the past has been to move jobs overseas? Joyce described Ineos as following through on something Labour did not have the moral courage to do, and has used his own web site to take the employer's side against the union and the workers. My question, then, is: how much is Eric Joyce being paid by Ineos to act as its tame spokesrodent? I can't believe he bends over and assumes the position for them quite so brazenly with no quid pro quo: Joyce after all was the first MP whose cumulative expenses exceeded £1 million (and it isn't as though he has been an MP for very long), and who justified the spending of taxpayers' money on oil paintings for his several houses by pointing out that they "looked nice". When he is rightly binned by the electorate at the next election, will Joyce take up a cosy position on the Ineos board? Has he simply trousered some of the money Jim Ratcliffe neglects to pay to the UK taxman? Or will he find a Matisse or two in his Christmas stocking? No wonder Joyce is so delighted at the lack of accountability of foreign companies: we will never know.

For me, the whole affair shows how much better off we would all have been if (a) Scotland were an independent nation and (b) the Grangemouth plant had been renationalised. Because however laudable Unite's motives may have been in caving in to the management's demands, this is just the thin end of a very large wedge indeed. From her on, any company wishing to save a few quid by shafting its workforce, be it over pay, or pensions, or working hours, or safety provisions - any such employer need only close down the factory involved and refuse to reopen it until they get their way. It will be like the caricature of the 1960s and 1970s trade union militants (a caricature in which there was indeed some truth) who would go on strike at the drop of a hat with no regard to anyone's interest except their own: except now the militants are the foreign speculators who own our industries.

I hope that everyone who bought shares in British Petroleum (the original, majority state-owned, operators of the Grangemouth plant) when Margaret Thatcher sold it off in the 1980s is feeling suitably pleased with themselves at the way things have turned out. But of course they are: they will have turned a nice profit when they sold their stolen public property to Ineos.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The name's Avogadro. Amedeo Avogadro.



Happy Mole Day to all my readers!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tristan und Isolde (Edinburgh Players Opera Group, Portobello Town Hall, 29 September)

In case you were wondering what I'd been up to recently while I've been being lax about updating the blog, well, three weeks ago I was doing this. Regulars here will know that when it comes end of September it comes Wagner concert performance time, as it has done from time immemorial (OK, since September 2001). Edinburgh Players Opera Group is a bunch of amateurs in the best possible sense: we do it as a (considerable) labour of love. Over the years we've done two full Ring cycles, two Parsifals, and one each of Tristan and Meistersinger. 2013 saw (and heard) our second Tristan.

EPOG is the brainchild of Philip Taylor (who used to lead the orchestra but now sits quietly and watches) and Mike Thorne, who still somehow finds the energy to prepare and conduct these massive scores. The singers are mostly professionals who give up their time for next to nothing, providing themselves (I suppose) with experience singing roles they might not usually be cast in, while providing us with the great experience of working with great singers. Isolde this year was sung by Elaine McKrill, who has furnished our lead soprano roles since her Brünnhilde in 2002, pausing only while actually having babies. Tristan was the almost equally regular Jonathan Finney (he first sang with us the last time we did Tristan back in 2005). Nicholas Fowler, another regular visitor, sang Kurwenal, while local singers Colin Heggie and Walter Thomson were King Marke and Melot. Brangäne was Miriam Sharrad, and the brief but terribly exposed Steersman and Shepherd roles were taken by Stuart Macbeth Mitchell.

The orchestra was transformed by the establishment of scholarships to pay for talented young string players from around Britain to travel to Edinburgh and play. No longer did we see violin sections with three or four players: we had seven or eight desks per section. It was great to have a proper body of sound.

So after a couple of frenzied days of rehearsal we put on the performance (strictly an "open rehearsal" with donations invited rather than a performance with tickets sold: take a look at Breitkopf & Hartel's music hire price bands and you'll understand why), and it was a triumph. The two title roles were given especially fine performances by Jonathan and Elaine. Every time we do Tristan I grumble that it's my least favourite Wagner opera, and so it is when I listen to it or go to the theatre to watch it. But playing it is another matter altogether: more than most pieces, more than most Wagner even, Tristan comes alive as you play it. The erotic throb of the second act bedroom scene feels quite different when you're one of the people doing the throbbing (as it were).



Next year will be our second Meistersinger, if it happens. The administration of these weekends is considerable, and made harder by the distances (and different communication styles) involved. Several of the people involved this year have expressed a desire to let someone else have a go, hence the uncertainty. Still, I have little doubt the 2014 show will go on. Beyond that, I have my doubts: we'll have done two complete sets of Wagner's seven music dramas, and that would seem like a good place to call a halt. Still, as Niels Bohr is supposed to have said, prediction is hard, especially about the future.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Time for some hints, it seems

Well, a much lower uptake than usual for my first line quiz, with Phil (who normally guesses about half of them all by himself) absent and Persephone flummoxed. At least Joe and Fried Mahooga have had a shot at it.

OK then. Here are the unguessed lyrics with some hints for guidance. Those correctly guessed noted here and fully updated in original post.

1. You worked hard in school, did all the right things

So there was this sort of "glam metal" band whose lead singer was into catsuits in a big way. They broke up, then reformed, but in between times Mr Catsuit indulged in some side projects, one of which was this CD. The lyrics are guaranteed to annoy the religious right: that's exactly what they're designed to do.

3. Said Red Molly to James, “That’s a fine motorbike”

One of England's great singer-songwriters here, with a trad-style ballad celebrating an outlaw, though in this case a British one on a motorbike which features in the title. This was the guy's most requested song at live performances until he wrote an even sadder one about lost love.

7. I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear

Fried Mahooga was so irritated by being close to this that she Googled it in the end. For the rest of you, it's from the second solo album (which went double platinum) by a very famous singer who used to play with an equally famous group. For his last album with them he wrote one of the ten highest grossing songs of all time. This song is supposedly about Quentin Crisp. Guessed by Persephone.

8. Time goes by so slowly

A very very famous lady made this single, which features a sample from a very very famous group. The group (famously) never let people sample their material, but the clever lady went ahead and made the record, sending a pretty-much-finished version to the group's writers along with her request to use the material. They were so impressed they agreed.

9. I’m in the phone booth, it’s the one across the hall

A band from the New York punk scene, though they crossed into the mainstream pretty early on. This song is from when they'd just about made the transition and still had rough edges. Guessed by Lisa.

10.Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours?

Lazy Sunday Afternoon, guessed by Fried Mahooga, who however got the band wrong. No, not the Kinks, but another very influential Mod band of the 1960s. When their lead singer/guitarist left, they dropped half the name of the band, and got a new singer and a new lead guitarist, both of whom went on to global fame (and both of whom are still performing to massive crowds, in Vegas or in football stadiums). Band guessed by Lisa.

11. High vibration go on to the sun

A British prog-rock band, famous for their rather impenetrable lyrics. This track is from their first album for many years not to have a cover designed by the same artist. The album contained their only chart hit, and a reformed version of the band is currently on tour performing the whole of it. Which must be odd with neither the singer nor the keyboardist, both very distinctive and both major contributors to this song.

12. I like beer, and I like cheese

I actually set this for a previous first lines quiz, when it was guessed. By a famous bass player and guitarist, best known for albums. This song (on which he - unusually - sings) was a filler on his third album as well as the B side of a single. The A-side remains a popular Christmas number to this day, and we're talking thirty-eight years on.

13. I thought about the feeling of without you

One of the few obscure numbers in the set this time. From the first album by a man who was better known as a record producer, most famously as the producer of the first two albums by the singer of #12. (Who, in turn, provides guitar on this track.)

14. You’ve got to be crazy, you’ve got to have a real need

The other huge English prog-rock band (along with the guys from #11). Just as famous for their (rather more iconic) album covers, their lyrics were perfectly comprehensible. Gotta Be Crazy was the working title of this song, but was eventually changed to fit in with the album's overall concept.

15. I should have gone to Cambridge with Lionel

From the (nowadays almost forgotten) first album by a British singer-songwriter (Scots born, English raised). This track features uncredited backing from a folk-rock band who were then up and coming but would go on to great fame, not least because of the guitar work of the singer of #3. The singer of #15, though, would achieve fame writing songs about historical events (as well as a whole album about wine). Singer guessed by Persephone.

17. Straight from the shoulder, I think like a soldier

Funnily enough, the gentlemen heard here are name-checked in the lyrics to #16. Discovered by the same record producer who discovered the backing band on #16, they were the darlings of the vaguely hippyish fringe of the folk scene for years. Their girlfriends had joined the band by the time they made this album: one was a pretty decent bass player who went on to become Lady Mayoress of Aberystwth. This song is a music-hall-style romp based on Greek mythology.

18. I’ve seen you riding on the Wall of Death

You're allowed not to know this one. By a renowned English SF author (Nebula prizewinner, indeed) who had sometimes appeared on stage with Hawkwind before recording this one-off oddity. I remember listening to side one of this album in a listening booth in a record shop as a student. I didn't buy it then, but it continued to bug me until I got the CD issue many years later. A strange album.

19. Well I’ve been talking to the weather man, it’s gonna rain on me today

Now this is interesting. This song was on the first album by an American country rock band best known for their all-star collaborations (three albums' worth, and all amazing). Except that if you look at their Wikipedia discography, the first album has changed its title (it's now just the name of the band) and this track is on a later one. I can't even blame it on vinyl/CD inconsistency as my own CD has the original title. Oh well. The title leads into a glorious pun.

20. The victim was a woman, a woman in her prime

From a year 2000 collaboration between a singer best known for her interpretations of Kurt Weill songs and a Northern Irish indie band whose leader wrote this song. he also wrote music for The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy film, and the theme music for Father Ted. The singer here, in whose name the album was released, also appeared in a Robert Altman film while heavily pregnant. In the film's final scene she wears only a bridal veil and a bouquet of flowers clutched to her bosom.

21. Always alone, never with a herd

Very surprised nobody got this, a chart hit (I think it was their last) by probably the most famous American folk-rock band of all time. The lyrics were inspired by Peer's dream in Ibsen's Peer Gynt, not that you need to know that to enjoy the song.

22. Gonna take that medicine, cold cold medicine

Southport's most famous sons here, with a song about drug addiction from their debut album.

23. As the dust settles see our dreams all coming true

Another British prog-rock band, less famous than those in #11 and #14 but whose music was famed for its complexity. Their line-up contained two brothers. Oh, and this song is from a concept album all about power and corruption.

24. Winter’s coming, we live a shorter day

The first track on the first album by an English singer-songwriter who never made it as big as #3 or #15 despite being described by Karl Dallas in Melody Maker as “one of the finest singer-songwriters in Britain, if not the entire English-speaking world”. The best of his songs are full of a wistful nostalgia for a vanishing or vanished England. The most famous song on this album is a performance (with a very starry line-up of backing musicians, including the rhythm guitarist from #15) of a quite extraordinary traditional ballad (which contains my favourite line from any such ballad, describing the protagonist's haste to get down to his castle gate: "He quickly ran all down the stair/Of fifteen steps he has made but three"). The present song is one of his own, a celebration of winter.

25. Take a look at my girlfriend, she’s the only one I got

This band had a few biggish hits back in the last seventies: I used one of the others in a previous quiz. This one is the title track from their best-selling album (it reached #3 in the UK and #1 in the USA and Canada). The cover shows a waitress from an American diner posing as the Statue of Liberty. Guessed by Lisa.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

All human life is (potentially) here. So you're nicked, sunshine.

Inspired by some of the posts in the Barrister's Wife blog I referred to in my own last post, I am linking this piece which may provide amusement of an instructive kind for those interested in mathematics, IT, the law or all three.

Gleanings

Visiting Phil's blog for the first time for a while, I found a few good posts (well, duh, of course I found a few good posts, it's Phil after all): one on the legal aspects of military intervention in Syria, one (for September 11th) on Victor Jara (of whose songs I am shamefully almost ignorant) and a lovely piece on Pete Bellamy. Here is my personal favourite recording of the latter.



Bellamy ran a sort of one-man campaign for the rehabilitation of Rudyard Kipling, and the restoration of his work to the centre of English culture. He certainly inspired me to go off and read the man's works, and I think he was right. Hell's teeth, Kipling got the Nobel Prize for Literature, and you don't get those by sending in box-tops even today. He was the first writer in English to get it, and to this day remains its youngest recipient (he was 42).

As for Victor Jara, apart from his own songs his greatest epitaph is surely Adrian Mitchell's poem, set to music (as it surely should be) by Arlo Guthrie.



Oh - nearly forgot - Phil also linked to what seems an excellent new blog on (UK) legal matters. I hope it doesn't vanish once the immediate concern which brought it into being (over the government's proposals for radical change to the legal aid system) is alleviated (which seems likely, I'm glad to say).

Feeding Non-Frenzy

Only five and a half guessed out of twenty-five first lines? Where are my stalwart first-liners Phil, Lisa (happy birthday BTW) and Persephone? Come on guys.....

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

We Need To Read About Kevin

I have no idea how I managed to miss the death of Kevin Ayers back in February, but miss it I did. Here, then, is a belated tribute:







And finally...



Kevin Ayers (1944 - 2013) R.I.P.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Let's play "Fantasy Fruitcake" with Bonni the Bayside Nazi

Here's our favourite Holocaust-denying antisemite asking "Is Geico’s popular ‘Hump Day’ commercial offensive to Muslims?"

Er, no. Why would it be? Do you imagine that Muslims share your own bizarre obsession about sex with camels? (I wonder what Mr Intall the "retired Marine" with organised crime connections thinks about that? Maybe you should ask if he feels offended.)

And in the comments under this post (which attempts to whip up some kind of anti-Muslim hysteria over a prank by Saudi teenagers such as happens all the time in the USA) a commenter called revereridesagain indulges his own fantasy by claiming that "There were nearly 60 people who lost limbs when two muslim savages set off bombs at the Boston Marathon in April." That would be the sixteen who actually lost limbs in the bombing, and the forty-four he wishes had done so to indulge his love of blood and gore.

Houses of the Holy

The people who whine whenever a new mosque is planned should take a look at some of these. I'd love to have any of them in my neighbourhood.

Of course, these morons normally respond that "Christian churches aren't allowed in Islamic countries". Quite apart from demonstrating that they don't know where Bethlehem is (and the only vandalism the Church of the Nativity suffers is from Jewish settler terrorists) that statement is howlingly funny on just about every level. Look at this video if you don't believe me.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Another 25 First Lines

I've been a bit lax about blogging lately, so here to make up for it are 25 first lines for you to guess. All by different artists, none of the lines contains the title, the usual mix of obvious and obscure. Put your answers in the comment box and I'll update the post as they're guessed. Good luck!

1.  You worked hard in school, did all the right things

2.  Hot sun beating down, burning my feet just walking around
I Can't Dance (Genesis) guessed by Fried Mahooga

3.  Said Red Molly to James, “That’s a fine motorbike”

4.  Close the door, light the lights, we’re stayin’ home tonight
A World Of Our Own (The Seekers), guessed by Joe

5.  You could never know what it’s like
I'm Still Standing (Elton John), guessed by Fried Mahooga

6.  She keeps Moet and Chandon in her pretty cabinet
Killer Queen (Queen), guessed by Fried Mahooga

7.  I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear
Englishman In New York (Sting), guessed by Persephone

8.  Time goes by so slowly

9.  I’m in the phone booth, it’s the one across the hall
Hanging On The Telephone (Blondie), guessed by Lisa

10. Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours?
Lazy Sunday Afternoon (Small Faces), guessed by Fried Mahooga, band guessed by Lisa

11. High vibration go on to the sun

12. I like beer, and I like cheese

13. I thought about the feeling of without you

14. You’ve got to be crazy, you’ve got to have a real need

15. I should have gone to Cambridge with Lionel
(Al Stewart), singer guessed by Persephone

16. I think of tears, I think of rain on shingles
Roses Blue (Joni Mitchell), guessed by Joe

17. Straight from the shoulder, I think like a soldier

18. I’ve seen you riding on the Wall of Death

19. Well I’ve been talking to the weather man, it’s gonna rain on me today

20. The victim was a woman, a woman in her prime

21. Always alone, never with a herd

22. Gonna take that medicine, cold cold medicine

23. As the dust settles, see our dreams all coming true

24. Winter’s coming, we live a shorter day

25. Take a look at my girlfriend, she’s the only one I got
Breakfast In America (Supertramp), guessed by Lisa

Buggered If I Know

Not sure what called it to mind, but a few days ago I remembered a marvellous alternative version of Mike Oldfield's Sailors' Hornpipe. Readers of a certain age will remember Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, Side Two of which (on vinyl) ended with a crazily multilayered and utterly frantic performance of the traditional Sailors' Hornpipe. Side One of the same vinyl release was of course the "Young Person's Guide to the Rock Orchestra" section of TB, which starts with an infectious riff that gets used as the bass line for the piece's main theme, played by a succession of instruments beginning with grand piano and culminating (of course) in the eponymous bells. Most people I know jumped pretty much out of their skin the first time they heard Viv Stanshall's voice suddenly announcing "Grand Piano" over the riff.



Stanshall was well-known in Britain as leader of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (they later dropped the "Doo-Dah"), purveyors of a very English kind of musical anarcho-parody. They used to make regular appearances of children's TV on a cult show called Do Not Adjust Your Set which also provided TV viewers with their first sightings of several future members of the Monty Python team (Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin). Here is a typical example of the Bonzos, showcasing Viv Stanshall's talents:



But surely it's this one that inspired Mike Oldfield to employ Stanshall to introduce his instrumental line-up:



After releasing three albums (TB, Hergest Ridge and - my favourite - Ommadawn), Mike Oldfield then issued all three as a boxed set with a fourth bonus album of various smaller things, many of them collaborations with David Bedford. (Bedford and Oldfield had both formerly been members of Kevin Ayers' band The Whole World.) I linked to one of these when we crossed the Rio Grande on Route 66. Another of the short items was an alternative take of the Sailors' Hornpipe, prefaced by an amazing monologue recorded by a rather drunk Stanshall as he staggered around The Manor (the country house turned state-of-the-art studio where most of Oldfield's albums were laid down) with a guitar-wielding Oldfield and a few others, doing a kind of warped impression of Sir Kenneth Clark (whose Civilisation series had recently been shown on TV). Enjoy: