Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hidden Gems: Obscure 45s – No. 1 (Angelo & Eighteen)


I don’t know if this will be a regular feature, but I thought it’d be fun to post cool over-looked tunes.

This single, from Angelo & Eighteen, was released in 1972 on the RAK label. Both sides of the record were produced by Mickie Most, famous for being Donovan‘s producer (among others) in the late 1960s.

No-one seems to know much about the duo, except that they were part of this Canadian band in the late 60s. “Angelo” is Angelo Finaldi and “Eighteen” is Richard Tate. Finaldi has a MySpace page, but it appears he’s not updated it in quite a while. How they hooked up with Most and RAK, I’ve no clue. The A-side is called “Midnight Flight” and it’s a pretty cracking pop tune – funky bass, great guitar hook and sunshine-y vocal.

The B-side, however, mutates into a crazed, post-psych boogie-fest. Dig the screamed vocal and the two-note guitar’s almost a completely different band. The tune has gained notoriety of late by being played on Jarvis Cocker’s 6Music show and name-checked by Noel Gallagher in an issue of MOJO magazine. I saw a copy of the record go for over £120.00 on eBay a few months ago.

You can hear the A-side at this blog: Pure Pop “Angelo & Eighteen” post

The B-side is here:

Marvellous stuff – shoulda been a massive hit. Amazing that it was released in 1972.

Cultural Vampirism, Genuine World Fusion, or Both? 25 Years of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”


I was half-asleep the other night, when the teevee blared out an ad for a deluxe edition of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album – celebrating twenty-five years since it’s release. Though, if I may be Sgt. Pedantic for a minute, it’s actually 26 years old now – having been first released in 1986. The ad got me thinking about that time. I used to own the cassette of “Graceland” and listened to it quite a bit back then.

Growing up where I did, you were pretty much stuck with the local radio stations for your musical discoveries. Unless you had a cool older brother or sister, which I didn’t. The local radio stations consisted of a couple of “Top 40” ones…and then further down the FM dial, the AOR/MOR ones. That was it – not counting the local college stations, which I hadn’t started listening to that year. From what I remembered (initially), 1986 seemed pretty dire, at least from a ‘mainstream’ U.S radio perspective. The Billboard List of ‘Top 100 songs’ shows I’m not too far off. Sure, there were some decent records – Peter Gabriel‘s So showed he could make the charts and be intelligent at the same time. “Sledgehammer“, surprisingly, for a tune about bonking, was played everywhere – very sneaky, Pete! Yuppie prog? Maybe, but at least he made clever videos.

Elsewhere on the list, though, it’s all Madonna and her various clones, 70s R&B singers still hangin’ on with watered-down soul and ‘rock’ bands that don’t really rock much. Yes, I did buy Genesis‘s “Invisible Touch” LP and Stevie Nicks‘s “Rock A Little” – both pretty much nadirs of their respective catalogues. In fact, I disliked “Rock A Little” so much that I didn’t buy any of Nicks’s records after that…sadly, I did buy the follow-up to “Invisible Touch”, hoping with a new decade that they’d have ditched some of the 1980s gloss. Nope. “Invisible Touch” does have one cool moment – the closing instrumental, “The Brazilian“. It’s never been verified if the title refers to a native of the country, or a waxing technique.

I digress – Simon was having problems of his own in the 80s. His cache as “singer-songwriter” seemed to have been usurped by James Taylor and a thousand other ex-folkies, brandishing acoustic git-tars and singin’ about women and stuff. His 1980 film, One Trick Pony, was largely a flop – as was his 1983 album, Hearts And Bones, which in part chronicled his (ultimately doomed) marriage to Carrie Fisher.

He hears a South African instrumental – builds a song around that…then decides to de-camp to South Africa and record with local musicians. So far, so good, right? Well, not so much. The apartheid regime was being scrutinised and there were calls, particularly among musicians, to boycott the country. Simon picked the wrong time to do his musical exploring. Was it his fault? Maybe and maybe not. Surely, he could have been aware of what was happening there. Soon after the album was released, the charges of exploitation were being levelled and while I strongly suspect that wasn’t Simon’s intent, his position didn’t look good. Particularly as Queen had caught a lot of flak for playing the Sun City resort in 1984.

The album itself ? Well, I must admit that the South African crew that Simon gathered around him were top-notch. Some pretty tasty bass-lines and guitar licks. Lyrically, he could still catch a phrase here and there, like “cartoon in a cartoon graveyard“, from the earworm single, “You Can Call Me Al“. The video for that song featured Simon and Chevy Chase (still sorta fresh from his “Fletch” and “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” success) goofing around in a single small room. Chase mimes the lyrics, leaving Simon to try and grab attention from Chase. Amazing – no phalanx of dancers or costumes or crowds of people jumping around.

The album opener, “The Boy In The Bubble“, begins with a lone accordian riff – it then mutates into a kind-of slowed-down, psychedelic zydeco tune. There’s some funky fretless bass lines and a drum beat that should be more up-front in the mix. Simon sings in a somewhat wary tone about technology, but somehow when he gets to the line “these are the days of miracle and wonder“, you almost believe him. I dunno, perhaps he was trying to reassure himself, along with his listeners, that despite the Reagan/Thatcher axis of trickle-down bullshit, things were getting better. It also had a pretty nifty, stop-motion animated video – though, it must be said, not as cool as Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” one.

“The Boy In the Bubble”, to me, seems one of the best tunes on the record – I’ll hand it to him, he knew how to sequence the album. The rest varies. While the title track has a lovely melody and some nice guitar work, Simon’s forlorn baby-boomer-discovering-time-has-passed-him-by lyrics seem forced and desparate. He’s taking his kid to Elvis’s mansion, see….everything’s gonna be alright, after all! It’s all about everyone taking a journey and at the end of it, you feel like you’ve done something, dammit! Some great turns of phrase again, like “The Mississippi delta was shining like a National guitar…” and “She said “losing love is like a window in your heart”…‘ For all that, though, Simon feels sadly out of touch, especially when, a couple of years later, Public Enemy would proclaim “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me, a straight-up racist that sucker was, motherfuck him and John Wayne.

This sentiment also informs some of the other songs, like “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes“. The music’s nice and breezy and Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s acapella intro is pretty impressive. The lyrics, again, let it down a bit. They center on a “rich girl” who “don’t try to hide” that she’s rich. This chick’s so loaded that, dig this, she has actual fucking diamonds on the soles of her shoes – y’know, to “beat those walking blues”. That’s madness! It occurs to me, though, that if she’s that rich, perhaps she’d be in a chauffeur-driven vehicle? Sometimes I think Morrissey wrote “Panic” for just this kind of tune – it definitely says nothing to me about my life. “I Know What I Know” seems in a similar vein – Simon meets dazzling women at various parties and such. We get it, Paul, you’re famous….you get to converse (and maybe more) with hawt chicks wherever you go. I realise he may have been writing fictional accounts, but the man did marry Carrie Fisher, so I suspect the lyrics aren’t that fictional. Again, the music’s infectious and so catchy that you can almost overlook the lyrics.

He gets a bit more reflective on the album’s second side, apart from “That Was Your Mother“, an up-tempo zydeco stomp. “Homeless” has another Ladysmith Black Mambazo acapella performance that seems even better than their intro to “Diamonds….”. “Under African Skies” is another contender for best song on the record. The closer, “All Around The World, Or The Myth Of Fingerprints” closes ‘Graceland’ on a somewhat low-key note – though I never realised there was a dispute by Los Lobos, the L.A. band who appear on the track, over a co-writing credit. They claim Simon never bothered to ask if they wanted one and that he outright stole one of their songs for the album. That, coupled with the exploitation charges, didn’t do him any favours.

Twenty-six years later, how does it stack up? To me, comparing it with other American mainstream music of the time – it definitely seems bold, considering the ‘roots-rock’ efforts of Springsteen, Mellencamp and even Bob Seger (who had a radio hit with the title track to his Like A Rock album). “Graceland” also defies the dance-y pop of the time and the last gasps of new wave. Some of it holds up pretty well – some of it not-so-much, especially when removed from the context of the 1980s.

For all of Simon’s conceits and fumbles with crediting – he did make audiences more aware of South African music. Well, at least American audiences – dragging them a step closer to the ‘global village’. That not really a bad thing, in my view. He even made some of us Nawthenahs aware of zydeco – no small feat. It’s still arguably the man’s best solo album (for me, he has yet to top the 1968 Simon & Garfunkel LP, “Bookends“). Tellingly, he tried to repeat the process in 1991, swapping South Africa for Brazil, for “The Rhythm Of The Saints“, with diminished results.

It’s made a lot of “Best Albums Of The 80s” lists and the inevitable position on Rolling Stone’s “Best Albums Of All-Time….Ever…Ever” list. Deserving? I suppose so. There are, to me, better albums from that time – namely The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead“, Gabriel’s “So” and Cocteau Twins‘ “Victorialand”. Even Kate Bush‘s “best-of” collection, “The Whole Story“, delivers far more brilliant moments. He does get points for staging an amazing comeback, which carried him well into the 1990s. He duly turned up with his old sparring chum Art Garfunkel for some shows and the less said about that Capeman project, probably the better. Undeniably, “Graceland” was Simon’s high-water mark – he was at the right place at the right time.

Will I buy the new edition? Not so sure – maybe when the price bounces down a bit, eh “Human Trampoline”?

Take one flock of pigeons, apply cat and retreat.


We have recently witnessed the unedifying spectacle of a famous and fabulous wealthy footballer of some ill-repute being taken to court for allegedly hurling vile racist abuse at another footballer of slightly lesser fame and ill-repute, who is blessed with a relatively thinner bank account: a pretty sad reflection of modern day Britain but also a small storm in a small cup of tea. Should the case have ever come to court? I really don’t think so. Of course, racial abuse is unacceptable and the idiots that indulge in it are beneath contempt but I doubt this was a good use of court time. It did, however, at least ensure the debate about racism in British society is kept high on the agenda, for which we should all be grateful. In the fall-out from all of this, following the collapse of the case against the alleged abuser, we now find that someone has called another footballer who was a witness at the trial, a ‘choc ice’.

There are a lot of things I would want to call this, again fabulously wealthy and publicly lauded, player: ‘choc ice’ isn’t one that would immediately spring to mind but that’s hardly the point. ‘Choc ice’, we have to assume, is a term meant to denote ‘black on the outside and white on the inside’ and is akin to the already commonly used epithet, ‘coconut’. Again, this isn’t a very nice thing to say about someone  but should it be enough for the police to start snooping around? Surely not? Hang on, though, because the Derbyshire Constabulary think differently. A foolish man used Twitter to compare said player to a chocolate covered vanilla treat and the police are called in. Over the years I have lost count of the number of times that I have phoned the police to tell them that gangs of youths are vandalizing our local park, verbally abusing members of the public, dealing in drugs, partaking of underage drinking and just generally making damned nuisances of themselves: what has been the response of our local boys in blue? Not very much. If they do turn up it’s usually hours after the events have come and gone. How many times do we hear of old people being beaten up in their own homes, women attacked on the streets and burglars and thieves just generally doing as they wish? Far too often these days. Now, without wanting to sound like Richard Littlejohn, it has to be said that someone is getting all their priorities wrong here. You just cannot start prosecuting people for saying things you don’t like, even if their views hurt someone’ s feelings. The only way to defeat racism is to hold it up to the light and reveal it for the rank madness that it is. Make these people look like sad losers, fools, nutters or whatever but using the courts to ensure we all think the ‘right way’ has dangers all of its own. Besides, do you really think that calling a rich footballer a ‘choc ice’ on an internet forum is a real crime? Time for a reality check.

Paint The White House Cream


After weeks of trying, constant delays and rain, I have at last completed the painting of our house exterior. I think this is about the fifth time I have done this job since we moved in about 16 years ago, which may seem a little over the top but we get quite a lashing here from the Welsh winds and weather. I hope I won’t have to take it on again for at least another three years. It’s not as if it’s a straight-forward job: there’s the actual back wall of the house, part of which is very tricky to get to, even with a long ladder, due to the awkward positioning of a satellite dish (thanks, Sky); then there’s the kitchen extension bit, the bathroom (downstairs, I know) and, finally the bloody shed (breeze block) and a large wall that drops down to the (ahem) ‘lower patio’ (don’t that sound posh?). In brief, it takes forever (which is not brief at all). On top of that, what with my dad breaking his collar bone, my mum needing very regular care and the kids, the dog and Uncle Tom Cobbley, it’s dragged on and on this time around. Anyway, I finished that little job this morning. Now for the next twenty million other things.

I bet you really wanted to know this, didn’t you? Okay, it’s not inspired stuff but it’s what we all have to deal with. Now, how do we find a way to turn the mundane into some kind of magic? If we can’t find it there, where can we find it? It must all be in our spiritual/mental attitude, I suppose. My next big DIY task is to entirely redecorate the living room, which is a long, long overdue project. I’d put it off indefinitely if I could but I can’t, so I have to find a way to take it on with the correct mental approach. It’s not just papering and paint, either: there’s a bit of plastering, some skirting needs replacing and the ceiling will need attention – and I don’t even enjoy this kind of work. Okay, some folk love it all but I feel I have better things to do with my time – listen to music, read books, walk the hound etc. I must meditate on all this. If you have any tips, let me know.

I had hoped to entertain you with a clip of Mr. George Clinton at this point but I can’t work out how to embed a video on this here blog site, which is a tad problematic.

Reality-Tunnels and Ideological Dogma


I was on Twitter yesterday, when a row broke out over a joke that Richard Herring (who, you’ll recall, I saw live recently) made. The joke went something like (directed to a woman): “You’re the only person that a guy would use Rohypnol on and then leave you in the pub.” Now, the joke may seem to be in poor taste to you – but whether or not that “is” the case, a puritanical reaction of “You should NEVER make jokes like that” seems over-the-top hysteria to me.

Herring was immediately chided and scolded for making the joke, with the rationale that “it’s about rape and rape IS NEVER funny”. While I agree with that statement for the most part – why “is” that subject taboo for humour when others like cancer and racism ‘are’? Herring explained that it was about the woman talking too much, not about date-rape – but that didn’t satisfy the witch-hunters. To be fair, on the same day, a story broke about American stand-up Daniel Tosh joking about how it would be funny if some of the male audience members gang-raped a woman for heckling him. I don’t particularly like Tosh and find his comedy a bit lame and unfunny – however, calls for censoring his act and the witch-hunt mentality seem puritanical and moral-mongering of the worst sort.

Yes, the act of rape “is” not funny and the victim endures an astronomical physical and psychological trauma, even if the perpetrator does get convicted and jailed. Psychological authorities have often repeated that rape isn’t really about sex, but power and control. It seems to be about forcing your will (and physical being) onto another without consent.

Unfortunately, in the “dominator cultures”, as Terence McKenna called them (the ‘civilized’ cultures that sprang up thousands of years ago, continuing up to today) – rape has been an aspect. I do not intend that statement as an excuse for such behaviour, merely stating that “rape culture” “is” not a new thing in the U.S. or UK or any of the countries existing now. It didn’t spring up after 1960 or anything. It does inform the reality-tunnels of almost everyone in these societies, on some level.

Getting back to Herring – a fairly well-known UK ‘left-wing’ columnist had joined in on the chiding on Twitter. Another person I follow defended Herring, asking when it started becoming the job of “the left” to act in a censurious manner. I chimed in that most of those calling for jokes they didn’t like to be stopped, didn’t seem to be part of the left at all – but centre-rightists. Herring had quipped, in jest (as least that’s how it appeared to me), that it was O.K. because his wife “is” a feminist and that he himself “is” one as well.

Well, that set it off – the columnist scolded Herring for using “feminism” as a shield, to which Herring replied that it wasn’t. A few of us then got into a debate about some (but not all) feminists having fascistic tendencies. I argued that Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan and Catherine MacKinnon have shown misdandrist attitudes in their writing and quotes. The columinst seemed to get risible that I would even suggest that such cornerstones of the feminist movement could even have such thoughts in their brains. After all, they’re “Feminists” – they would never be fascistic in the slightest! They’d never lump all men into the same group of despised brutes. Never!

It seems to me that this person blindly follows ideology, without ever questioning some of their choice’s tenets. If feminism “is” good, to this person, then all of it “is” good, no matter what. It’s that lack of discerning that I can’t understand. I’m a supporter of feminism, but I won’t support androphobes or those who want to blanket-statement entire genders. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in support of Sun readers who bang on about “the politically-correct brigade” all the time, either. I like some political-correctness – I prefer calling native Americans “Native Americans”, not “Indians”. I think “African-American” just sounds better than ‘negro’ or even ‘black’. However, I don’t care how un-p.c. I sound – Andrea Dworkin and Robin Morgan seem sexist and misandrist to me, so kick me out of your little ideological/p.c. club if you want. I’m not automatically inferior and a brute because I wasn’t born with a vagina.

To sum up – yes, what Tosh said seemed pretty vile and, maybe Herring’s joke wasn’t ‘appropriate’, depending on your own sensibilities. I’m for free speech, though and I’m not for censoring or calls for either to clean up their acts. Who gets to decide what “is” taboo for humour? I’m also guessing that none of these people ever chuckled at a “don’t drop the soap“/prison line in a film or comedy show, or chuckled at someone being called another’s ‘bitch’–with all that that line implies. Or chuckled at a priest/altar-boy joke. Of course, of course. They’ll probably say “Oh, well, rape in prison is different than rape in open society.” Really? How so? Still seems to be about power and control to me. Ah, ideological pretzel-twisting.

Anyway – peep this brill column from my teacher, the late Robert Anton Wilson. Says it all far better than I could.

Paul Is Really Dead?


I was on Twitter last week, when the Guardian Music posted a link to a site that claims (in all seriousness) that The Beatles were actually made up of several different members – all appearing in different countries for different photo-shoots. Yes, you read that correctly. There were a couple of different Johns, a couple of Ringos, etc.

The person who provides the most “evidence” for the site managers, however, is one James Paul McCartney. Yep, the ol’ Paul rumours have been stoked once again.

One of the longest-running, and often the most outrageous conspiracy theories in the music world is that Paul McCartney died in a car accident in November, 1966. He was then replaced with either: a) a look-alike who had many plastic surgeries to look even more like J.P.M. or b) some sort of robotic creation. Now, it does seem much easier to believe a) over b), I admit, though they both sound loopy. The theorists often refer to ‘the impostor’ as “Faul” (‘Fake Paul’, geddit?)

As with any conspiracy, all of the answers to any questions are easily supplied. The reason to keep the band together, after Paul’s untimely demise? Well, it was for the revenue generated by the group, which went to the UK. Why the band would give out clues as to what happened? They were ‘hidden’, so only those in-the-know would decipher them. And on and on…

 Allegedly, if you look  at photos of Paul in 1967, you can “tell” it’s ‘Faul’ because the ears and chin appear different to photos of Paul in 1965/early 1966. The theorists point to a myseterious height difference, too. Some say he grew taller, some that he was suddenly shorter. See, that should maybe put a damper on the theory right there – they can’t even decide on the physical features of ‘Faul’.

The reason they all grew moustaches in early 1967? Well, ‘Faul’ had some lip surgery and needed to cover the scars, of the others made it look as if they had all planned to do it.

There are probably hundreds of internet sites all about the ‘clues’ on the album covers and in some of the songs. The “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover allegedly contains the most. The flower arrangement shaped like a (left-handed – Paul ‘was’ a leftie, remember?) guitar spells out “Paul?”. The doll that says “Welcome The Rolling Stones, Good Guys” has a toy Austin-Healey car on it’s lap, as well as a blood-red driving glove – Macca was driving an Austin-Healey when he ‘died’. The four wax figures of the “old” Beatles are looking mournfully down at Paul’s ‘grave’, which is in front of the drum. Paul is standing in front of the cutout with a hand over his head, which is the sign of death in some Eastern countries. There are other ‘clues’, which you can read about on one of the sites.

Has anyone seen Paul?

There’s one ‘clue’ that does seem fairly creepy, though. If you hold a mirror to the drum head – it spells out “I ONE I X HE DIE” with what looks like a small arrow pointing up to Paul, between the “E” and “D”. The “IX” refers to the 9th of November, supposedly the day Paul died. It doesn’t ‘prove’ anything, of course – but still a bit spooky.

Mirrored Sgt. Pepper drum head

Some of the songs, too. “Fixing A Hole” becomes a tune about the band continuing on with “Faul”. The character “Billy Shears” is a nod to the impostor’s real name. “Lovely Rita” is a meter maid that Paul saw just before the accident. John references the same in the line from “Good Morning, Good Morning“: “Watching a skirt, you start to flirt, now you’re in gear…” There’s also the “he blew his mind out in a car” line from “A Day In The Life” – which John explained was about Tara Browne, the Guinness heir who also died in a car accident – but we all know it’s really about Paul (wink, wink).

Magical Mystery Tour” and The “White Album” contain more clues. The title track with it’s “dying to take you away” line. “Fool On The Hill” describes yet another version of Paul’s death – where he went to France and was pushed (or fell?) from a cliff onto a beach. “I Am The Walrus” – another animal as a symbol of death. In the M.M.T. film, during the “Your Mother Should Know” dance sequence – John, George & Ringo are all wearing red carnations on their tuxedos, Paul is wearing a black carnation. In the fade-out of “I Am The Walrus” – it sounds like a voice is saying “Paul is really dead.”

The White Album has the famous “turn me on, dead man” backwards bit in Revolution 9. There’s also another bit where Lennon is talking, saying something about a man needing a surgeon, but going to a dentist instead. The link between “I’m So Tired” and “Blackbird” is Lennon mumbling something. When this is played backward, Lennon is heard saying “Paul’s dead, man, miss him, miss him.” “Blackbird”s first lyrics are “Blackbird singing in the dead of night…”

Is this Billy Shears?

On the poster that came with the 2-LP set, there’s a small black-and-white photo of Paul, tucked into a lower corner. The theorists are claiming is “Billy Shears”, or “Faul” or whatever you want to call him. I dunno, it looks like Paul to me, but maybe I’m a part of the conspiracy too????!!!

I don’t really need to go into the Abbey Road LP cover, do I? Y’know – Paul’s barefoot, the rest are wearing shoes. There’s the order of them, John’s the preacher, Ringo’s the mourner, Paul’s the stiff and George, the grave-digger. the Volkswagen ‘beetle’ in the background has a licence plate that reads “LMW 28IF”. “LMW” allegedly means “Linda McCartney Weeps”, which doesn’t really make sense if Macca died in ’66 – he would not have met her at all. The “28IF” means that he would have been 28, if he lived – which isn’t true either, seeing as he was born in 1942 – he would have been 27.

The back cover shows a crack in the wall, that runs through the “S” in Beatles, meaning the group were not whole. I think there’s a few other ones (Something about the indents in the wall – some are in light, one is not). As for the songs, the abrupt ending of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is supposed to represent the abrupt ending of Paul’s life. In “Come Together“, John sings “One and one and one makes three“, meaning the remaining Beatles. The “Maxell” in “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is allegedly about the MI5 agent used by the UK government to keep everything hush-hush about Paul’s demise.

Finally, the Let It Be cover shows bearded Paul’s mouth obscured by a microphone, while the others’ mouths are not covered….and Paul’s in front of a red background, while the others are against a white background. Hmmm….what does this all mean??

To me, nothing. I don’t really believe the conspiracy theory. Ultimately, The Beatles were a great rock band–if the ‘establishment’ were using them, it backfired, as The Fabs became avatars for the psychedelic counter-culture. They used their music for peace, not fomenting militarism. As far as keeping the band going – John seemed to want to leave around 1967 anyway and George was feeling dis-satisfied during the White Album sessions. Even Ringo quit the group in 1968, only to be persuaded to come back. It seems to me that ‘Faul’ would’ve wanted it to end as quickly as possible, so he wouldn’t have to keep acting like Paul McCartney – take the money and run, so to speak.

That doesn’t stop the theorists, though. It seems to be a “Thinker Thinks, Prover Proves” situation. They’re convinced Macca died and was replaced, or there were several different Paul McCartneys, for different occasions. If you dare to brave the murky waters of the “Paul Is Dead” rumours, here’s a couple of links:

This person not only thinks Paul is dead – they think that the same guy who stepped in for Paul, stepped in for Vivian Stanshall of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band as well!!!???!!! Vivian Stanshall died in ’66, too?????!!!! I’m not even sure how that dual role thing would physically work, seeing as the guy (whom he calls “Phil Ackrill”) had to perform in Beatles sessions and record and sing with the Bonzos. The site is here.

This site is a handy guide to the visual and audio ‘clues’ to the “Paul Is Dead” rumour: Paul Is Dead Hoax

Here’s the site the Guardian linked to – which inspired me to write this post. Ladies and Gents, I give you: The Beatles Never Existed! You just need to read it – it doesn’t even bear me explaining it to you. To me, the title of the site is a misnomer, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

This blog page goes into a bit more detail about Paul ‘dying’ in France in 1966 – allegedly spoken (or written) by George Harrison in 1992: Paul died in France

There’s also P.I.D. stuff on conspiracy-meister David Icke‘s site – but a lot of that is already covered in many other sites. You’re welcome!

“…the man with the foolish grin is talking perfectly loud…”

Q. Where have you been, my blue eyed son? A. Been in the front room playing a ukulele.


Sorry I haven’t been around Rick’s Cape much of late but my life has been hyper hectic, which has meant I just haven’t had the time for any kind of considered post. I shall resist boring you with all the details of what’s been happening as I’m sure you don’t want to hear all my woes. Suffice to say, it’s ‘life and life only’ and we just have to press on. Isn’t it so for everyone? 

By way of a quick catch up before I attempt something of a more interesting nature, I’d just like to share with you all the news that I have taken to strumming a little soprano ukulele. The cubs were kind enough to present one to me on Father’s Day (should the apostrophe indicate singular father or multiple dads?) even though they now tell me they can’t stand the sound it makes and Mrs. Bear is positively against the thing. Serves them all right.


An illustration of ukulele skills in action

Thus far, I’ve only learnt about six chords and haven’t advanced to anything fancy but I have found that this is enough to get me through most country or American folk type things. Thus, my Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams fetishes are easily transferable to the uke; though I am, perhaps, not the one to judge the results. I’ve also been working on some old Bluegrass gems of the gospel variety which really go down a storm with the family (I don’t think). I have, thus far, resisted the temptation to find out how much of the works of Black Sabbath or The Ramones are set fair for ukulele treatments but it won’t be long, I’m sure. More ukulele updates soon.

Philip Jose Farmer’s “Riverworld”


I used to be a pretty rabid sci-fi & fantasy reader in my teens and early 20s. I read a fair bit of the staples: Frank Herbert‘s Dune series (well, up to Chapterhouse: Dune), Tolkien‘s The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings (I started on “The Silmarillion”, but only got about a third of the way through), Philip K. Dick‘s Ubik and A Scanner Darkly, Heinlein‘s Stranger In A Strange Land, etc. etc.

I didn’t have time to read everything, natch – so there’s some I still haven’t checked out. Issac Asimov‘s Foundation series is one I keep meaning to delve into. Ray Bradbury‘s (who sadly passed away a short while ago) The Martian Chronicles is said to be very good as well. Some of my friends really dig Kim Stanley Robinson and Ben Bova, too. I’ve never read any of their books. I want to read more of Michael Moorcock‘s sci-fi as well – I’ve only read the Dancers At The End Of Time series and a couple of others.

I had heard of Philip Jose Farmer, but he was only on the periphery of my sci-fi knowledge. Around four years ago, Pixie and I visited Hidecote Gardens. There’s a used bookshop near the entrance to the gardens–in which I found three of the four main Riverworld novels, along with a short-story collection called “Riverworld & Other Stories”. I liked the cover art and decided to purchase all four books. On a side note, I found a copy of Camel‘s A Live Record LP in really good condition, so I bought that as well.

I’d recommend the book, as an introduction to Farmer’s writing. It covers a smattering of stories published in the 1960s and 70s. Besides the “Riverworld” story – there’s a great pastiche of William S. Burroughs, writing a Tarzan tale. Y’see, it’s supposed to be written by W.S., instead of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Very clever, or I thought so, anyway. It’s called “The Jungle Rot Kid On The Nod“. “The Henry Miller Dawn Patrol” sees the titular character having amourous adventures in a nursing home, which he describes in terms of World War I dogfights, as he is a former pilot. “Monologue” is a creepy story, told in the first person by an ill boy, lying in his bed. There’s more, but I won’t list them all. Find a copy of the book – it’s worth it.

The “Riverworld” story features Tom Mix, the American actor who starred in several “Western” films in the 1910s to 1930s. The main premise of “Riverworld” is that every human who ever lived on Earth, suddenly is resurrected on a strange planet. Running along the circumference of the planet, is a mile-wide (or thereabouts) river. There are plains that extend back from the banks for a few miles, then foothills, then steep mountains, made of black, smooth rock. The mountains are impossible to scale, as their faces rise up 10,000 feet at a sheer angle.

All of the humans are ‘resurrected’ at the same time and all wake up on the planet at the same time. Farmer initially called this the “Day Of The Great Shout”, as no-one was prepared and the disillusionment and utter confusion caused chaos and dread, until everyone began to adjust to the new world. No-one know why they are there, but most religionists are in agreement that it is nothing like what they were promised on Earth. This causes loss of faith, though many still cling to their beliefs.

The short story happens some time after “The Day Of The Great Shout”, as Mix is sailing on a boat, with a crew of disparate resurrectees. City-states have been established along the banks of the river and Mix and co. are fleeing from one of them. One of Mix’s crew is a mysterious Palestinian who lived 2,000 years before Mix. It turns out this character was quite famous. Mix and his crew are captured by a German Protestant zealot, who was living during the 16th century. I won’t reveal too much more detail, but you peice together who the mysterious Palestinian was by the end.

The first proper book in the series, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go”, concerns explorer Sir Richard Burton and his awakening and journey through Riverworld. The book starts as Burton dies – then he suddenly ‘wakes up’ in a massive dark space, which is filled with millions of other human bodies, somehow floating, but held in stasis. He is able to move his hands and momentraily breaks free of whatever force is holding him. As he does this, a strange floating canoe-like craft approaches him and he falls unconcious again – only to wake up again on the Riverworld. Like Mix – he gathers a disparate crew around him. They build a boat and travel up the river. Burton is joined by Alice Liddell, the model for the heroine in the “Alice In Wonderland” stories, by Lewis Carroll. A Neanderthal called “Kazz” and a 20th century American called “Peter Janus Frigate” (check the initials, heh heh), are also part of the group. They are captured by a surprisingly philosophical Hermann Goring, but escape from his territory. Goring is killed in an ensuing battle, but as happens in Riverworld, he is ‘resurrected’ in another spot along the river and meets up with Burton again. This happens a few times – Burton and Goring are killed (or kill themselves) and then resurrect near each other. There’s much more to the story, but I don’t want to include any more spoilers in this post.

The second book in the series, “The Fabulous Riverboat”, swaps Burton for ‘Mark Twain’ (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens), as a lead character and concerns his quest for iron deposits to build a grand riverboat, like the ones he used to pilot on the Mississippi River on Earth. He gets help from a mysterious stranger, one of the so-called “Ethicals”, who are the beings over-seeing the Riverworld planet. Clemens gets his iron in the form of a meteorite, but has to deal with the machinations of neighbouring states, as well as King John Of England. Clemens reluctantly co-rules his state with John, after John’s army defeats other invaders looking to get the iron for themselves. Clemens’s Earthly wife, Olivia, also turns up with Cyrano de Bergerac – causing him much grief.

There’s many plot twists and you can almost lose track of all the double and triple-crosses going on. In the end, Clemens does get his riverboat and loses it quickly. You almost feel his frustration, but he vows to build another boat and capture it.

There are two more books in the original series. “The Dark Design” is the third, which I’ve only just started reading, followed by “The Magic Labyrinth”. Farmer also published “Gods Of Riverworld”, which seems to be sort-of a postscript to the series. Seriously, if you dig your sci-fi – you really can’t go wrong with “Riverworld”. It’s epic, in a good way and Farmer had a knack for dialogue, even between historical characters. He doesn’t over-do the detail in his imaginary planet either, so you don’t get bogged-down in miniutae. The series (so far) gets a big thumbs-up from me!