Friday, 27 January 2012

Musical Eccentricities 2

Time for another set of musical eccentricities, this time with a colour theme.

Rush – Red Barchetta A great rock song from Moving Pictures about the joy of freedom and one man’s defiance of overbearing government, having the temerity to drive a private car from “a better, vanished time” in the face of a total ban on doing so, even to the extent of engaging the forces of authority in a high speed chase. Now there’s a true NMFT who would definitely merit his place in Hatred, Ridicule & Contempt . The Rush “Time Machine” Tour from 2011 featured the whole of Moving Pictures and brought back many memories from previous tours when this song and its visual backdrop had been a highlight.

Doobie Brothers – Black Water Why choose this one rather than the more familiar Without Love or Listen To The Music? Well, partly because the song’s atmosphere of a Mississippi journey really came alive when visiting the Deep South for the first time last summer. And partly because of the rarity value, in rock music terms, of its harmonised acapella section “I’d like to hear some funky Dixieland/Pretty mama come and take me by the hand…” Ingenious.

Procol Harum: A Whiter Shade Of Pale I could refer to its unmistakeable Bach introduction on the Hammond organ, or its unfathomable lyrics. Or even to the recent legal dispute, many years since the song topped the charts. But here and now, remembering a light hearted radio quiz from 19 years ago where celebrities were invited to sing well known songs to different – indeed markedly different – tunes, I will refer to the fact that the late Willie Rushton achieved this for AWSOP to the tune of My Old Man’s A Dustman. No kidding. And it works just as well in reverse with the lyrics of MOMAD…

Blue Oyster Cult – Black Blade A touch of the Michael Moorcock influenced science fiction here – or might it have been Ray Bradbury’s The Scythe and its sinister message Who Wields Me, Wields The World? - as the bearer of a deadly weapon wonders out loud who’s in charge (“Keeps calling me its master/But I feel like its slave/Hauling me faster, faster to an early, early grave”) amid the background of a hard driving rock beat. No doubt the band could never have imagined, when the Cultosaurus Erectus album was released thirty years ago, the computer models that seem to enslave their writers and the population at large these days, just like the mythical Black Blade. Think of how and why governments react as they do to foot and mouth outbreaks, Icelandic volcanoes, scares about allegedly harmful man made global warming…

Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi Classic folk song, all about the loss of sources of pleasure in the face of progress comprising parking lots, tree museums, DDT and so on. Which here and now lends itself to a paradox parody, in the face of the wanton destruction of the English countryside by those monuments of extravagant uselessness – wind turbines. Let’s just put down the last verse of my own rewrite for now: -

“Late last night
I dreamt the Commons door went boom
And the men in white coats
Came and took away Chris Huhne
Don't it always seem to go
That they raise tax you ain’t got
‘Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a turbine plot…”

Friday, 20 January 2012

Sackcloth, Ashes and Penance

No, that’s not the title to the follow up to Hatred, Ridicule and Contempt (then again, there’s an idea…). It’s simply a reflection of the dismay I felt when I reviewed my Kindle version and found that “rogue italics” had inexplicably crept into the text in a few places. Not enough to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the book, I hope, but enough to annoy me for not picking it up before.

So by way of contrition on my part after correcting the error, for this weekend, I am making Hatred, Ridicule and Contempt available for a free download. Yes, that’s right, a free download. Just hit the Amazon link: Amazon UK, Amazon USA.

Another salutary lesson hit home when I realised that my use of an auto-correct function in relation to an item of computer periphery had also produced the word “diskomfort”, no doubt a description of the physical unease felt when overwhelmed by technology. Oh dear. At least it’s a happy reminder of that old urban myth of the newspaper subeditor who was led to understand that Princess Diana’s former lover James Hewitt never in fact achieved the rank of Major, inspiring him to set about the task of an electronic demotion. Which accidentally led, in the same edition, to the then Prime Minister being renamed John Captain.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

"Watermelons" by James Delingpole: A Review

“Watermelons” is not, of course, a book about fruit. It seeks to explain how the issue of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has come to prominence in recent years, and whether in the author’s opinion – notably in view of some serious concern about emails and data that came to light via what has been described as Climategate – it is a sensible use of time and resources to fight the proclaimed harmful nature of AGW, rather than adapt to it or to dismiss it as an exaggerated scare.

One development not touched upon by the author, space no doubt being limited, was the Grainger v Nicholson UK employment tribunal case from 2009, where it was held that the claimant’s asserted belief that CO2 emissions must be cut to avoid catastrophic climate change was capable of amounting to a philosophical belief [my emphasis] protected from discriminatory treatment under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Interestingly, this is at first sight inconsistent with the frequent assertion of AGW theory advocates that “the science is settled”, illustrated in this book with the example of one such advocate calling for the null hypothesis on AGW to be reversed, in other words to require “deniers” to prove that AGW does not exist. OK then, which one is AGW - belief or fact?

A genuinely open minded reader, looking to find out more about the other side of the AGW argument and prepared to accept the occasionally forceful nature in which the author presents his case, would do well from reading this book as well as Nigel Lawson’s “An Appeal To Reason”. Which explains why I’m giving it 5 out of 5.

So why “Watermelons”? Well, let’s just say that the author is making a point about the likely ulterior motives of some in the AGW lobby by drawing attention to the difference in colour between the fruit’s outside and its inside...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Veto Ale: Cheers, JD Wetherspoon and Tim Martin

Today let’s salute a great NMFT in the form of Tim Martin, founder of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain, following his “Veto Ale” initiative which has seen an exclusive new beer introduced to the Wetherspoon outlets to commemorate David Cameron standing up to Merkozy and the rest of the EU bullies.

I first discovered the Wetherspoon chain in the late eighties on a weekend trip to London (OK then, a weekend pub crawl in London). At that time they were not that well known in the Midlands. But the formula discovered that night in the Neasden pub – decent real ale, spacious surroundings and no noise – was instantly appealing and made it plain that the formula ought to be rolled out on a nationwide basis. And so it was, with justified success for investors and pleasure for beer drinkers right up to the present day.

Tim Martin has certainly had the courage of his convictions in many ways. He founded the first Wetherspoon pub, as legend has it, because of the lack of scope for him to enjoy a quiet decent pint on a local night out, taking the issue firmly into his own hands. He named the chain after a former schoolmaster and pursued a policy of eccentric pub names often linked to the former use of the newly acquired premises. He has never sought to toady up to government but has regularly slated the anti-pub trade policies, both direct and indirect, of both parties. And he is an unashamed Eurosceptic. (There, I didn’t need to mention the mullet.)

So if my court battle in Hatred, Ridicule & Contempt had featured a pub company rather than a newspaper, I’d be in little doubt as to who the captain of industry would be based upon. In the meantime, here’s to a pint of Veto Ale before long.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Paradox Parodies

I have always been an admirer, consistently with NMFT principles, of the art of song parodies. I can even cast my mind back to the work of the Barron Knights (anyone remember them?) in my pre-teens, and in modern times the Bob Rivers team and the occasional gem from Richard Littlejohn in the Mail have ensured that the interest is still fuelled.

When tempted to write my own in recent years, almost inevitably involving anonymous political satire, my main goal was to preserve as much of the original sound, flow and structure – and indeed lyrics - as possible, rather than simply treat the primary song as a loose template. In the days when Gordon Brown was Public Enemy No.1, the inspiration to turn “The Wanderer” into “The Squanderer” and “Lily The Pink” into “Gordie The Gink” certainly abided by those principles.

One accidental, but interesting, outcome of those two parodies was the reversal of the original song sentiments. Lily, the fictitious healer of all ills, became a political bull in a china shop, and Dion’s hero with the Midas touch in his own joybringing life became a villain with a Sadim touch (think about it) inflicting misery on all. But rather than republish those here now, let’s leave politics for a moment and write a new one. Having seen a TV competition where viewers were invited to guess a missing word from an upbeat, positive Katrina & The Waves song, and where one of the three alternatives was an exact opposite (how many viewers dialled their premium rate phone numbers to pick that one?), it was too tempting to let the song go by, especially when the original could be largely preserved: -

“I used to think maybe you loathed me, now baby I'm sure
And I just can't wait till the day when you walk out my door
Now every time I go for the mailbox, gotta hold myself down
Cause I just can't wait till you write me you're leavin' this town

Now I'm walking on eggshells (whoa oh)
I'm walking on eggshells (whoa oh)
I'm walking on eggshells (whoa oh)
It sure don't feel good

I used to think maybe you loathed me, now I know that it's true
And I don't wanna spend my whole life just a waitin' on you
Now I don't want you back for the weekend, not back for a day (no no no)
I said baby I just want you out and I want you away

OK then, back to the politics. The close of the uninspiring Ed Miliband’s first year as Leader of the Opposition reminds me of how, shortly after his election to the post, I took a well known song about lifelong fraternal love, affection and respect and twisted it into the exact opposite. It’s almost a tale of deeply held hatred, ridicule and contempt between siblings: -

“Two little boys had two little toys
A hammer, and a sickle too
Gaily they played each summer's day
Socialists through and through

One little chap then had a mishap
Off came his hammer's head
Wept for his tool - naive young fool
As his older brother said

"Did you think I would start you crying
With one swing of my sickle true
Don't you stammer, it's just a hammer
I'm much more sly than you

When we grow up we'll both be MPs
And we'll rise up above the noise
Just remember that you're the younger
Though we're just two little boys"

Long years passed, Brown quit at last
Burnham's hopes fade away
Abbott too loud
Balls mad and proud
Surely a brother's day

Up rang a shout, result's finally out
Out from the ranks so red
David's bid's crashed, all hopes are dashed
Then came the voice of Ed -

"Did you think I would leave you dying
When I can stick the knife in too
Cry your tears, bro, the unions picked me
Though the membership wanted you

You just took the result for granted
One banana skin's wrecked your poise
Never once thought that I'd remember
When we were two little boys.”