Monday, February 24, 2014

Blog Break

After four years and 1,283 posts... I've decided to take a break. It's been fun, there's always stuff to write about (even when you think there isn't) and China has provided a good context for my musing. But it's also been increasingly hard to find the time, and priorities shift. Who knows, I may yet return to it, but for now, thanks for visiting. You know who you are! 

Friday, February 7, 2014


Two interesting emails in my inbox today. One from 'Lloyds Bank' asking me to check my account by re-entering my ID and password numbers into a mysterious website. The other from 'Inland Revenue' saying that I am entitled to a tax rebate of £367  and if I'd just fill in the details of account and card numbers, security code and estimated balance of my account... Both quite convincing, especially the latter with its dull Courier font, convincing layout and impenetrable civil service tone. I believe they're called phishing. I just call them scams.    


Thursday, February 6, 2014

China in Vogue

At an Embassy event back in October, I met Angelica Cheung, editor of Vogue China. She was talking about the rise of Chinese fashion and mentioned that their 100th issue would be a China special, shot by Mario Testino. 
And here it is: crammed full of Chinese models in Chinese locations (though the clothes are a mix of Chinese and western and of course the photographer is a London-based Peruvian). I have read elsewhere that the centennial issue is a powerful statement in the world of fashion and that Ms Cheung, daughter of a diplomat and married to a Brit, is now possibly more 'powerful' than Anna Wintour, whatever that means. I'm not sure what she'd say about that - she seemed very nice and down-to-earth. Anyway, that's it from your fashion correspondent today.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


From CBGB's to Canvey Island. Same era, same raw music, same rowdy audiences - just separated by 5,000 miles of water...
Four years after it was released, I just watched a cracking rockumentary of 70s pub rockers Dr Feelgood. I'm not a huge fan of Julien Temple or the Feelgoods, but Oil City Confidential is terrific.
Temple has made a lot of films about music, and even more music videos*, but I'd wager this is his best. 
It really captures the ordinariness and (yet) the energy of the Feelgoods: their Canvey Island background (where the houses are dwarfed by oil refineries), their incendiary gigs, at first in pubs then bigger venues as, by the mid 70s, they became short-lived stars, the drink & drugs, Lee Brilleux's blues-and-harmonica snarl, Wilko Johnson's machine-gun guitar and manic stare… it's all in there. The music was 'just' R&B, nothing innovative, but what they did, they did brilliantly - especially live.
What I liked most was the tiny detail: the hundreds of edits from old B&W noir & gangster films as well as blink-and-you-miss-them re-enactments which Temple must have shot specially, all of which somehow fit perfectly together; the maps of Canvey with tiny plaster models of the pubs they played in and the Dinky toy vans that took them there; the interview with Brilleux's elderly mum; Wilko with his guitar outside an amusement arcade at night just rabbiting on; and just so much detail. 
Johnson left under a cloud in '77, they lost it in the 80s, Brilleux died of cancer in '94, the band carried on (and is still going, with completely different members), and Johnson was diagnosed with terminal cancer himself a year ago. Rock and (indeed) Roll.
(*Given his penchant for rock, I was surprised to find out that Temple shot promos for Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and - incredibly - Jean-Michel Jarre)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Temple Fair

Public holiday tome, so off we went to Dongyue Temple to catch a traditional Chinese New Year temple fair. Full of the sorts of things children used to play with many moons ago (wholesome, wooden crafty things which don't require batteries or a USB cable), juggling juvenile acrobats on stage, a funny old peepshow, a man with trained mice… But boy it was cold!

Sunday, February 2, 2014


A PS to yesterday... Just noticed that Kraftwerk won a Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Kris Kristofferson, The Isley Brothers... (so far, so predictible)... Armando Manzanero (a Mexican romantic composer, now aged 78), Clifton Chenier (a cajun/zydeco musician who died 25 years ago), Maud Powell (a classical violinist who died nearly 100 years ago!), and... The Beatles. Imagine someone putting that list together. 'OK, we got country, soul, a Mexican, some zydeco - what the hell is zydeco anyway? - some classical and, er, how about something European and electronic? Oh, and we forgot pop. Hey, how about The Beatles?'

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sew Age

With all the attention on Daft Punk at the Grammy's a few days ago, it almost slipped my attention that Brian Eno just missed out on an award. Oddly it was for an album (Lux) which came out in 2012. Even odder was that it was in the New Age category. Luckily he didn't win.
Back in the late 80s when I was making weird music with Andrew as Pump and the term new age was being marketed by Windham Hill etc, we toyed with the idea of releasing some dirty, grimey ambient music which we were going to call Sew Age.