Sunday, 21 February 2010

the birds

It's interesting to note that as numbers of many of our wildlife are dwindling, some creatures are being extremely successful.  I'm not talking about rats - they've risen in numbers since Britain opted for American Cultural Imperialism (fast food outlets).  No, I mean some of our indigenous creatures are successfully surviving despite it all.

Standing in a field by the River Stour yesterday we watched a Cormorant fly overhead.  Cormorants have been steadily increasing over recent years throughout Essex. There are some 7500 breeding pairs in Britain.  I have seen quite a few over the last few years on the Suffolk Coast (I mean at the bottom of the road I live in).  The fishermen are worried, of course.  They're not as nervous as the farmers around our way, though - the signs to try to petition against the reintroduction of Sea Eagles has started.  Personally, I can't wait to see them.

Anyway, just before we saw the Cormorant we saw a Heron by the river too.  Cormorants, Herons and last week or so, a Barn Owl - what a great ghostly trio. Some of our most mysterious birds.

There's something stirring out there in the countryside.

little things that matter

There are, as I've mentioned, certain small things that help make our lives easier - or, indeed, more pleasurable.  Recently starting a blog has helped me start making sense of the noises in my head - no, I'm no madder than anyone else, but it's good to have a reason to write, even if there's not really anyone much out there listening/reading.  At this point I should thank all those who do read and make comments - that's where the real pleasure comes in.  I do wonder how some people find these blogs without being told.  Maybe I'm just naive.

I consider writing like this an opportunity to write about things I care about and if fellow travellers join in, then all the better.  It also allows me to reach out and join discussions and try to join in with some of our more academically-minded (gifted?) friends.

Anyway, to the point of tonight's blog.  The photo is of three of my favourite small things.

The Moleskine notebook:

I was aware of Bruce Chatwin's penchant for these fellows and I'm so glad they were rescued by whoever bought up the name and products (an Italian company).  I use them extensively now as my notebook.  As a (very)amateur songmaker and (very, very) amateur sketcher I carry one of these around with me wherever I go.  It means that if I enter a pub or am out wandering around and need to sit down; if a passing fancy requires me to jot down a few words of doggerel or, indeed, scribble a quick sketch of a mountain I'm looking at, then I always have a notebook to hand.  If you have read a previous posting about songwriting then it is obviously important for me to have a notebook handy by the bed (and you if you're of that persuasion).  I use the black, hard-back edition with an elastic band bound in to hold it together.  I also have many of the thin ones in various pockets and in various amounts of usage - some are full of song ideas, others small sketches.  When I was off  "ill" the other year, I found it essential to carry one around with me to keep a note of my thoughts.

The Pocket-mod:

The little calender you can see is a "pocket-mod".  A wondrous invention - a sort of origami Action Man's diary.  It's a sheet of A4 that is printed off with essential notes/useful templates that act as a form of pocket organiser.  Mine includes a page of guitar tab (in case I come up with a killer riff) and various "To do" task pages.  I carry mine around as well as a Moleskine so I can record messages/ideas and contact details.  Oh, and killer riffs of course.  Find it on

Rotring Artpen:

For many years I have dithered about with Staedtler and Rotring pens (and pencils - another story for another time).  Usually I have used their cheaper pens as my ancient Rotring Rapidograph and I never got on.  Earlier this week we parted company as I managed to break the ink reservoir on it (it was over 30 years old).  However, the Fine-pointed Artpen is a magnificent beast.  Already it feels natural to hold and write/draw with.  Most of my sketches tend to be of mountains or trees. Maybe in a month or two I'll post a few sketches just to see how I'm getting on with it.

Then again, maybe not.


Call me a grumpy old man if you like but I would like to mention a little thing that annoys me.  I get really fed up with young lads that serve me in supermarkets and call me "mate".  "Alright mate?  Got a dividend card, mate?  Need a bag mate?  Can I be your mate, mate?"


Anyway just to pre-empt the forthcoming flood of comments about not shopping in supermarkets - living in a small town means that one has to use them.  For example, Tesco is the only place I can get Orecchiette pasta from.  Just because I can't pronounce it doesn't mean to say I can't enjoy it. Tesco is one of my least favourite supermarkets, too (after Asda and Lidl).  And they employ kids that call me mate, did I mention that?  Oh well.  Here's another Private Eye cartoon from the 70s:

Talking of little things - there are some little things that bring great joy into my life.  One of them is the Rotring Artpen that I finally bought recently.  Probably the best drawing pen I've ever owned.  More of that later.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

the ballad of cursed anna

A walk through the Stour Valley today.  It is also part of the St Edmund Way walk.  I can quite believe that the Vikings could have tied the poor guy to a tree and filled him with arrows until he was "bristled like a hedgehog" - a sort of English St Sebastian.  Some of the trees are quite weird. I did sign the petition a few years back to try to wrestle our Patron Sainthood away from a foreign (fictional) usurper to a genuine English Martyr.  Also to wrestle the idea of the flag back from the Nationalists (Steve Knightley's line about the St George's cross in Roots by Show of Hands is wonderful: "It's my flag too and I want it back").  By the way, for the uninitiated, St Edmund's flag is a white dragon on a red background.  Now wouldn't THAT look great at an English Rugby match?

Ironically, I have wandered from my path.  Mrs Dave and I bought each other new walking boots for our birthdays this year.  Now you may think that that doesn't sound like a great present but what do you buy the man who has everything (besides penicillin)? Boots, of course.

As we arrived at Flatford Mill car park to meet our new friends at the inaugural meeting of a new walking group stemming out of our involvement with the DofE - I jumped out of the car to put my new Brasher boots on for their first ever proper walk.  I did try them yesterday around our town -  a walk by the sea to check them.  Lovely; soft leather, very comfortable.  As I started to tie up the laces, a riveted eye-hole (technical term) pulled out of the boot!  "Oh dear!" quoth I, "That's annoying."  Or words to that effect.  A hundred+ quid and the first time to be used . . .

One of our new companions was watching.  "Where did you get them?" he asked.

"Blacks," I replied.

"Take them back, they'll exchange them," he informed me authoritatively.

"Well . . . shouldn't I get in touch with Brasher?"

"No take them back to Blacks," he said.

"Are you sure? You seem well informed."

"I'm the manager at Blacks, I'll sort it out."

Can you believe it?  The first time we've ever met and he witnesses boots his shop sold break before they've even been used?  Classic.

Hopefully, I'll have a new pair of Brashers by the end of the week.  Further detailed discussion suggests that now that the boots are manufactured in China, the quality has gone down.  Typical - I've waited donkey's years to afford to buy decent leather boots, and as soon as I can afford them, it's because the quality has sunk down to my level!

The tree is on the Suffolk/Essex border (By the way, yesterday's is from Winchester).  I can imagine being challenged crossing this footbridge - I wasn't, but as the rest of the group had gone on, I was alone for a few minutes there.  Jonathan Kelly's Ballad of Cursed Anna came to mind:

My path led to a woodland
Far behind a rusted gate
I knew it was a shortcut
If I kept my walking straight
But then like out of nowhere
This wizened old man appeared 
Holding high his one hand
While the other stroked his beard:

Beware the cursed Anna's stare
This warning do I bring
For no one makes it through this wood
Coming out as they went in . . .


We never went away
You always knew that we were here
Remember how to look for us
You'll see we were always here.

What I call the canon of the "new traditional" song includes some very haunting songs by our greatest English (song)writers.  I would include songs on Richard Thompson's first two albums, Mike and Lal Waterson's "Bright Phoebus", the early work of Steve Ashley and the "fake traddie" songs of Bill Caddick amongst that analysis. Unicorns is, arguably, Caddick's greatest - and he's written his fair share of wonderful songs.

I first heard it many moons ago on an album by Chris Foster - an excellent and long-forgotten English folk singer.  June Tabor recorded  almost the definitive version with Martin Simpson on A Cut Above.  It's a mournful song - I can't imagine an upbeat cajun version (although Michael Doucet and Beausoleil might be working on a version as we speak) - but uplifting too.  Foster's version was just him and his acoustic guitar.  June Tabor's version was stark but underpinned by Simpson's lush guitar arrangement with various synths and violins (never detracting from the song).

Bill Caddick - a gentleman if ever I've met one - re-recorded many of his songs a few years back.  Obviously Unicorns was one of them.  If you're not familiar with Caddick's ouevre then please avail yourself as soon as possible.  With just an acoustic guitar, Caddick sings this rather mystical song in a straightforward, unpretentious way.

The song was written because Bill had a dream whilst travelling the land with Magic Lantern.  They were a puppet and folk song-based Musical Theatre in the seventies.  Obliquely, this period of his life is covered in The Wild West Show - a much later song.  However, during a long journey, Bill fell asleep and dreamt of unicorns.  The song may cover some very deep and meaningful moments in his life, but here Bill uses the song to suggest that those creatures that have disappeared from our modern lives have never gone away.  The past never goes away.  We may forget - some of us may never be aware of it.  But it's there still.

If you ever watched the TV version of Merlin from about 10 - 12 years ago, you may remember Nimue saying that the old gods only disappeared because people merely forgot about them.  They are still there.  Such is the case with the unicorn.  Within our culture, we still mention them - witness Blade Runner, for instance.  I was also reminded of a great cartoon from Private Eye about their alleged sexuality.  I'm no expert on unicorns but it still amuses me.

Anyway, there are many hidden things in our modern world.  Just walk around a few woods and keep an eye out whilst walking in hills and on mountains.  Take care around water, too.  Have you ever been to Dozymere Pool?   I rest my case.

And I wept for the wild and dirty world
To which this beauty now was lost
And cursed the hungry mind of men
That feeds the future at such cost

Sunday, 14 February 2010

turned out nice again

Okay, so while the fashion police question my "style", I'll move on.

I bet you wish you had one of these, eh?  Just in case you're not sure what exactly it is, let me explain . . .

Many years ago now - let us assume it was last Century - I was looking for a travel guitar.  Knowing that a) I couldn't afford a Martin Backpacker at some £500 (or, indeed anything like it) and b) Mrs Dave was not going to be impressed with filling the house with more shindogu* no matter what, I "shopped around".  In a guitar magazine a few weeks before we were due to go to Greece for a holiday, I noticed this intriguing advert.  It offered a Yamaha "travel guitar" at much less than 50 beer vouchers!  Bargain.  I had to have one.  It came in a padded gig bag (!) and had a pickup.  This was the aural equivilent of manna.

And then it arrived.

The Cyberman is about one foot tall.  I have included the "guitar's" older sibling, the Fylde, for comparison.  So, as you can tell, it is about two and a half foot long - a normal guitar such as the Fylde, is about 3 and a half foot long.   Obviously I opened the box excitedly.  "Is that it?" asked Mrs D, "it's a bit small, isn't it?  Is it a toy?"

"No, no," I replied.  "It's a travel guitar.  They're supposed to be small.  So you can, well, take them with you."

"Oh.   How much was it?"

As you can guess, it wasn't going to be easy to convince people that it was, indeed, a serious instrument.  Actually, I've stopped trying.  In fact, I stopped trying a long time ago.  It is a gut-strung small (understatement) guitar that is tuned as though you've got a capo on the fifth fret.  If only Yamaha were making them in the 1970s, Ian Anderson would obviously had one and no doubt used it on Aqualung and other major albums**. Having a pickup in it makes it easy to tune with an electronic tuner - I can't really imagine why it would need a pickup in for any other reason.  The instrument has fairly standard machine heads, so does tend to be rather unbalanced towards the neck end.  Made of a sort of balsa wood/lolly pop stick combo the instrument itself is very light.  So, totally unbalanced, then.  Rather like how people seem to view me whenever I take it on board a plane.

A few years ago I took it to France to a friend's house which was fine as it was in the boot of the car and nobody noticed.  However, when trying to walk on to a plane at Gatwick one year I was challenged by Security.  "Er, what's that sticking out of your rucksack?"

"It's a guitar," I said innocently.

Suppressing a snigger, the said Security Guard made me take it out of its padded gig bag to view it.  By his bemused smile I could almost tell what he was thinking.  "You can't take that on board."

"Why not?  It's a guitar."

For a few minutes it seemed that I was going to have to leave my pride and joy at the airport - the rest of the passengers were boarding.  My fellow travellers - kids, friends, wife were all looking a bit fed up by now.  A few choked back tears were the answer.  Did they really belive that in the aftermath of 9/11 I was going to try to attack the pilot?

Eventually, I was able to sit on the veranda of our Greek apartment - Corfu? Crete? - and strum away to my heart's content.  The sound, which I'm sure by now you are desperate to know, would make George Formby swoon.  The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed the label inside the soundhole bears the legend "Guitalele".  Yes, it's across between a guitar and George Harrison's second favourite instrument.  It's a six string ukelele!  Lush sounding chords echoed out across the bay on many a sultry Grecian evening.

Who else but the Japanese would come up with such a ridiculous, possibly useless instrument?  And sell it to the British as a "travel guitar"?  Who else would be mug enough to buy it but your's truly?  I must admit that I don't tend to play it very often - I don't even try to take it on foreign holidays and pass it off as a serious instrument anymore.  But.

But recently I went to see Newton Faulkner at the Ipswich Regent along with most of the chaps mentioned in the female singer CD business.  And during his one man band show, what else did he bring out and talk about?  He played a serious song on it and wowed the audience.  "I've got one of those," I mentioned later.

"Yes, you would have, wouldn't you?"

* a Japanese term for all the useless crap we fill our lives with.
** Many Jethro Tull songs were played on small parlour sized guitars usually with a capo on the 5th or 7th fret.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

ramble on

I had a rather bizarre moment earlier today. I was accosted in M&S by a little man* who wanted me to be greener with my emissions, so to speak. I agreed wholeheartedly as it involved a promise of less monthly outgoings, Hydro-electric power, keeping it all in Britain, greener energy etc, etc, ad nauseum . . . all well and good. However, as the conversation went on he started to be a little er, well, flattering. He claimed that I looked too young to have children of 25, 22 and 17 and that I dressed "much more funky than most people in their 50s"! He said that you can tell most people in their mid-50s because of the way they dress. As he then went on to say, that he didn't have to flatter me as he already had the sale, I'm still not sure what was meant, but I did find it a little odd. Perhaps I'm too middle class and English to accept comments like that innocently.

Apologies, Mr Man if it was all innocent but I went to a boy's Grammar School in the 60/70s. I'm not talking about homophobia just that we tend to keep things like that to ourselves, really. I don't think I've ever been described as "funky" before.

I spent most of the day buying walking boots and other walking gear.

Last night I went out with many of the chaps that were involved with the aforementioned Female singer album lark. It has promoted lots of discussion in our staff room and also means we've got some recommended music to add to our MP3 players. All well and good. The next one is based on Cover versions. Already the discussions have started in our house. I raised the issue of traditional songs - as far as I'm concerned, all traditional songs are cover versions. So, gentle readers, am I right? What's the consensus? I need your help to decide this issue.

By the way, if ever you're in Ipswich and need to eat some genuine Indian food, try the My Keralam in St Helen's Street. I guess I'm advertising here but what a brilliant menu. Loads of genuine Southern Indian food - including fish. I had a curried trout with a fish sauce and it was excellent. Really inexpensive, too. I hesitate to say "cheap" as that has connotations. It's near The Dove - a fine drinker's pub. We also found St Peter's ale on draught in The Fat Cat. A blog soon, perhaps on the aesthetics of St Peter's bottles (and the contents).

This last part sounded like a cheesy 1970's Curry House advert - "an hour from now, you'll wish you'd had one".

One more thing, a discussion evolved about punchlines to jokes. It transpired that people from different parts of the country know different jokes that end in the same punchline. The particular one that cropped up ended in "paint it blue and join the police force". I won't bore you with the joke, but suffice to say one of the versions was positively digusting. I also won't say which one was mine . . .

*At 6' 3" everyone's a "little man" to me. No slur intended.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

while my mandolin gently weeps

It's been a strange half term so far.  At least there is only one more get-up.  I won't be sorry to say goodbye to this last few weeks.  The snow seems to be on the retreat again, although driving around this morning was a bit dodgy. What with much illness amongst the staff (myself included) and the snow days at the start, it seems that we never really got to grips fully with settling in to teaching and learning.

Still, just for a change I thought I'd think about mandolins instead of guitars.  This one is a Crafter - it looks like an Ovation as it has a plastic bowl back.  I saw it in that funny little music shop in Cambridge behind Waterstones and fell in love with it.

I've owned three mandolins in my life.  The first was more like the type you'd bring home from an Italian holiday - practically unplayable.  A roundback Italianette one that was impossible to tune.  I think I gave it to one of my neices to play with! Quite a few years ago - last Century now - I bought a flatback Antoria which was tunable and, to be perfectly honest quite a reasonable one really.  Anyone after a cheap mando is welcome to it. 

A year or two ago I walked into the Cambridge shop - where incidently, I'd bought an Ozark Resonator the year before - and decided there and then that I had to have it.  It has a nice little Crafter PR-40 pickup as it's an electro-acoustic jobby. I'm sure that the pickup is made by some other firm that supplies loads of companies, but it is quite good - useful for di-ing when recording.  On the top side there's a volume and tone control.  Unfortunately there isn't a tuner, unlike on my electro-acoustic 12-string (okay, so I've got a fetish about buying guitars) but it does tune well.  This is in stark contrast with some instruments I've owned - my first guitar was totally untunable!  The neck is a nice rosewood (of course) but very narrow.  As I have quite big hands (all the better to play the Fylde with, my dear) it can be a little difficult to crowd one's fingers around the very rudimentary chords I play.

There's no prize in guessing what the first song I learnt to play on it was?  No, not Lady Eleanore or Maggie May - When I'm Dead And Gone, of course!  3 chords.  Actually, I don't think I've gone beyond that but I'm still working on Old Fashioned Girl - see previous blog posting.  It might be a crap song but it's MY crap song.

And finally, I haven't mentioned the colour.  Yes, it's green.  It's a nice instrument to play - I recommend Ernie Ball mandolin strings.  In the photo you can see a Hard Rock Cafe/Fender plectrum - quite nice and flexible.  I don't like those tiny teardrop shaped ones - too easy to lose.  A future posting will be about plectra, thumbpicks and the joy of playing bareback.  Another one will be about my fine collection of bottlenecks and slides.

Guitars and me
We go back a good few years
There's nothing better
Than sitting there,
Guitar in hand, and a few cold beers
Going back over the tears

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

fire and wine

Now is the time for fire and wine.

It seems to be snowing again, what a winter this is turning out to be. I moved away from Stevenage some 27 or so years ago and I've lived in Suffolk for about 21 years.  In all that time we've had little really bad weather - living by the sea tends to keep the climate mild.  However, for the first time, we're experiencing really "bad" weather.  By that I mean snow. I went out in the car earlier ( to get some, er, mushrooms - obviously I didn't need any beer) and the damned car froze up in the 5 minutes that I was in the Supermarket and was covered in snow!  As I drove back down our road, it looked just like the photos I posted of our street in January.  As I am currently driving a Toyota, gentle reader, you may be concerned for my safety, but fear not - the pedals are holding out but what is going on?  At this time of year I'm expecting Spring to be, well, springing out.

Obviously, we're not going to get any snow days but we do seem to be stuck in a poor weather syndrome here.  I could do with a few  days off - it's not going to happen.  Ah well, I'm listening to the great Steve Ashley:

Now is the time for fire and wine
fire for body and wine for mind
we will sing and play till break of day 
and we will sing the frost away

I'm sipping a fine single malt (they may have contacted me but haven't forwarded any more - see a previous posting, if you're keeping up) and about to go to bed - tired after all the celebrations from yesterday (!) or maybe just tired from what life throws at us.

I haven't quite got round to lighting the burner but wine is certainly playing a part in our daily lives.  However, tomorrow is another day.

Spring like the tide coming in
you ride on the tail of the wind
when winter has broken us
you put new hope in us
I call your name in the wind

Another Steve Ashley song.  Why didn't the guy reach the heights he should have?  I guess each generation needs its secret truth-tellers. I know a fair few friends that know of Steve's stuff - none of us are embarrassed that we listen to him and haven't exiled him to some sort of "could've been a contender" oblivion.

I could tell some stories . . . maybe I will one day.  A great bloke.  One of our greatest songwriters.

the bitter withy

As it fell out on a Winter's Day . . .

Here's another spooky Suffolk tree taken a few minutes after the one in the last blog.  There's very little that I would want to thank the Duke of Edinburgh for but I'm managing to start a fine collection of pictures of odd and spooky trees because of him.

Anyway, although it's obviously not a Willow tree (the bitter withy) it still looks impressive to me - I'm not sure if it's rotting from the inside or not.  Check out John Tams' version of The Bitter Withy if you're not sure what I'm rambling on about.  Interestingly, I said to our County English Advisor today - in a discussion about writing blogs - that "I love to ramble".  We both immediately realised that it sounded like a traditional English song title.  Of course it isn't.  Perhaps I should write a fake traddy song by that very title. See, I'm beginning to link some of these postings together. 

Perhaps I should just get on with it and make dinner.  By the way, it's St Scholastica's Day today. She was St Benedict's sister and she had power over the weather.  Perhaps it's just me, but doesn't that sound a little, well, pagan? Which brings us back to the tree.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

happy birthday

After the excesses of yesterday's blog we have the reality of thinking very carefully  about all the tracks that weren't put on to the CD.  I must admit that whilst cooking this evening, Christine Collister came on along with several other rather good "female singer" tracks. Hmmm . . . okay,  I guess that further volumes are required.  Perhaps that won't be permissable.  I think the next imaginary CD may be based on 1) duets 2) colours or 3) cover versions.  Time for a thinking hat.

In the meantime, here's a picture of an interesting tree from Sunday's stroll (D of E).  Perhaps The Witches Elm from The Albion Band's "Lark Rise To Candleford" would have been useful here.

Okay, so what are your favourite tracks?  Answers please in the comment box . . .

Oh, by the way - it's my birthday.

Monday, 8 February 2010

fallen angels

Good day one and all. . . I've been involved with the Duke of Edinburgh for the last few weeks.  Hold the front page!  Actually, I was in Snowdonia last weekend and around the mountainous areas of Suffolk this weekend.  Well, we actually found a hill to check our map reading skills with.  Anyway, more of that another time.

A few months ago I was involved in choosing 12 tracks that would make up the final Beatles' album had they stayed together - it involved choosing your 12 favourite tracks by them in their solo years.  As an English teacher, that last sentence contained not just one, but two repetitions. We'll let it pass.  This month, we're choosing our 12 favourite tracks by Female Singers.  Okay, to be quite honest, I haven't necessarily gone with my favourite tracks by them but tracks I most want others to listen to.  This all sounds easy.

Until you come to actually choose them and pass a CD you've burned on to your associates.  All of a sudden, as Neil Young was wont to say, it all comes real.  People will judge you by the choices made!  Ah well.  This posting serves as the sleeve notes for the album.  If you don't have all the tracks suggested several of you know where to contact me and get a free CD of some great music (Andy, Brendan and Mike take note) so you can listen along and make up your own minds.

I titled it "Fallen Angels" after some deliberation - I was going to call it "Songs We Taught The Angels".  Which, I'm sure you'll agree, is a completely crap title.  I went for an Edward Burne-Jones painting as the cover illustration because I could.  Burne-Jones - isn't he great?  A future posting, perhaps.

I knew all along, as soon as it was discussed and agreed what the subject matter would be - female singers (stay awake at the back) - that I would open the album with Bridget St John's Fly High.  I'm probably not her greatest fan (I understand she's touring again nowadays) but this song blew me away when I was a kid (14 or so).  It's a beautifully evocative summery-sounding song.  Oh and the late, great John Martyn is playing electric guitar on it. This song was released in 1972 - her quavering voice matched with Martyn's effected guitar over her own fingerpicked acoustic guitar all underpinned by a lovely resonant bass just reminds me of endless summer days. Wasn't summer great when you were a kid?  Still is, actually.  But then, I'm speaking as a teacher.  You know, those people Hitler got rid of first, who you  think only work for about 3 weeks a year and train your kids to hate you.  Spot on.

Next up is Shelby Lynn.  The Look of Love is from an album released in 2008 which is a total re-recording - in homage - of "Dusty In Memphis".  Okay, so you like Dusty.  I like Shelby. I love the simplicity and heartfelt take on the track. I've enjoyed all of her albums and she is fast becoming one of those great lost treasures music throws up every so often. Then, Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.  What a great voice.  I really struggled here in deciding what to include - Drunken Angel was the other track.  She's got such a world-weary voice with a fantastic Southern twang.  The guitarist goes by the unlikely name of Gurf Morlix (I love America!) and this is the title track from her 1998 album.

I saw Aimee Mann a few years ago on the same bill as Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Paul Brady (and, er, The Undertones - including Shergal Farkey).  I was willing to stand in the pouring rain all day to witness NY and CH - Brendan turned round as they played Cortez The Killer and said, "You could die happily now, couldn't you?"  However, Aimee Mann had also been on and was every bit as good as I'd hoped she'd be.  Beautiful voice, beautiful songs, beautiful woman.  What more can be said?  It was released in 1993 on "Whatever".   Stupid Thing is a great song, but just after I'd burned the CD, several Aimee Mann songs came on Radio Dave (my iPod) and each one made me think I'd made the wrong choice.  I stuck with it.  The guitarist/producer is her husband Jon Brion.  Look out for "Lost In Space", it features a graphic novel as the cover. Anyway . . .

Walking On A Wire by Richard and Linda Thompson. Well, I was never going to be able to produce an album of songs without LT on it, was I?  This is a different take from the "Shoot Out The Lights" version. This version is available on "Dreams Fly Away" - a compilation of LT's best performances.  This is from the classic "Rafferty's Folly" album.  For those who don't know, it was the original version of "Shoot Out The Lights" produced by a more sober Gerry Rafferty sometime in 1982. Yes, I have the bootleg of it. This has a fantastic Richard Thompson solo.  It also prompted my eldest daughter to accuse me of making a CD by stealth - one of featuring favourite guitarists rather than female vocalists.  The very idea!

Gay and Terry Woods are next up with The Reward from their 1978 album "Tender Hooks".  This song has haunted me for years and I don't know why - I just love the quiet grace of it.  Ray Davies' nephew Phil Palmer is on electric guitar.  And then . . . Kate Bush with The Trio Bulgarka singing Rocket's Tail.  I went through all sorts of decisions about which Kate Bush track to include, for there had to be one.  Eventually I decided this because it sends shivers through my spine every time I hear it.  Okay, first born, yes it does include some great guitar by Dave Gilmour, but it is still an essential track (1989 - and I thought I hated the '80s).  I also had to include Joni Mitchell.  Again, which one?  I wanted to steer away from the obvious really.  So, I put The Jungle Line from The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (back to the '70s here).  I love the Burundi drummers crashing away with Joni's vocal fighting over their insistent beat.  Otherwise, it was going to be Edith And The King Pin.  Volume 2, maybe?

I also knew that there was no way I was making a compilation that wouldn't include A Smiling Shore by June Tabor.  Written by the rather wonderful Andrew Cronshaw.  It's the only song (as far as I know) that he has ever written.  If you're going to only ever write one song, you might as well make it an absolute cracker.  He also produced the album this came from.This is about a guy who lived through the Second World War and it's absolutely heartbreaking.  I tell you what, listen to it late at night with a glass of single malt in hand and I defy you not to shed a slight tear.  Mournful piano and cello lead us through one of June's tearjerkers (try her version of Bill Caddick's She Moves Amongst Men too, if you're downloading it).  Bonnie Raitt's Nobody's Girl is an absolute favourite of mine.  It may not be her most well-known track - but just listen to her playing the slide. I was introduced to Raitt's music many year's ago by a lovely Stevenage girl (they did exist) called Debbie Brady.  This was back in the early '70s.  I don't know whatever happened to Debbie but Bonnie's still providing me with pleasure.  A single acoustic guitar with an electric slide guitar (Fender Strat, of course).  Great voice. Such simple pleasures in life.

I will have to one day give a whole posting over to Sandy Denny's Who Knows Where The Time Goes - this is Fairport from 1969, of course.  I still can't listen to it without welling up.  I played it at my mother's funeral and it'll be played at mine.  Richard Thompson's guitar throughout is probably the most melodically inventive you'll ever hear.  Sheer tone. I want everyone in the World to hear it.  It drives grown men to tears.  It's one of the most evocative, sad but uplifting songs ever recorded.  If you can't see it, you have a heart of stone.  Have a good life, fellow traveller, there's nothing for you here.

And finally . . . it was to be Who Knows but I decided to really go out on a limb here.  Shelagh MacDonald's Stargazer.  She is one of the great lost 1970's artists.  Evidently, she turned up a few years ago - an acid casualty, I believe. This one has an orchestra, a Welsh male Voice Choir and (can't quite hear it, though) RT himself on guitar!  Shelagh MacDonald made one or two albums, was ignored and then disappeared.  A good one for the avid collectors perhaps but not necessarily a good career plan. This is from the compilation CD "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" but I still have the original vinyl album.  Another slow one but it's my choice, after all.

Well, there we go, the sleeve notes to a non-existent CD.  Let the fireworks begin - I know you don't agree because music is so personal.  But that's why we keep listening, isn't it?