“Sonata for Jukebox” by Geoffrey O’Brien

April 5, 2014

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt guilty for paying more attention to the music around me than the people in front of me.

If you have too, you should read this book.

Geoffrey O’Brien looks back at his life, right from his earliest years through his memories of (mostly) recorded sound and songs.

It’s a bitter sweet book, and at times almost too moving to read.

Sometimes perhaps it’s too florid, over written. But how do you write about music anyway, except somehow “over” it?

Music is invisible, you can’t see it or hold it, although you can sometimes feel it. Whatever we say about music can never capture its’ essence. Does something so insubstantial, yet so powerful, have an essence?

So we write and write and talk and talk about music, turning over adjectives again and again that somehow never really fit. We make lists to try and capture it. But in the end music always eludes us. 

I’d like to thank my friend Simon Hopkins for giving this book to me.


“A drainage issue…”

March 23, 2014


If you’re a vegetarian look away now 2

March 16, 2014

A gigantic slab of pig…


Microgifts 2

February 24, 2014

So I’m parking my car in the supermarket car park and I’m standing by the ticket machine umming and ahhing.

I need 50ps worth of time. I have got got 50p in change but some of my change is 5p pieces. But the machine won’t take 5p pieces.

Just as I’m about to pay for more time than I actually need a stranger drives up and says “would you like a ticket? It’s until 2″.

“You’re a star!” I say.

The pound I would have spent on time I didn’t need is then spent on a pie, thereby stimulating the local economy.

A cashless world where all transactions are digital might be more efficient. But it would be harder for strangers to give each other gifts.

Random thought 3

February 23, 2014

New England. The Scarlet Letter. “Personal” testimony so full of cliche it could have been written by a machine. Same old tired ideas. Is this really a real human being?

Punishment comes from man not God. Not an act of will, not even an action, a reflex, a spasm, a lizard’s tongue flicking out to kill a fly.

An empty garden, empty of pity.

#nick@25: playlist

February 20, 2014
An evidence based judgement...

An evidence based judgement…

Last night I had a little drink to celebrate the strange fact that I’ve been working at the BBC for 25 years.

This was really just an excuse to gather some of my favourite people together, play some of my favourite music and indulge in some embarrassing Dad dancing.

If you came, thank you for making it a great evening. If you couldn’t come I hope to see you soon.

Most of all thanks to my wife and kids, from whom all good things flow!

Here’s the playlist:

“Always True (Alone in the cave)”
Breakable Material

“Arms Control Poseur”
The Fall

“Bad Motor Scooter”

“Ballroom Blitz”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Bass Down Low” [Edited Version]
Dev Feat. The Cataracs
Now That’s What I Call Music! 79 [Disc 2]

“Behind The Counter”
The Fall
Behind The Counter EP [Disc 1]

“Blank Generation”
Richard Hell & The Voidoids
Blank Generation

The Buzzcocks
Spiral Scratch

“A Boy Named Sue”
Johnny Cash
The Best Of Johnny Cash

“Breaking the Law”
Judas Priest
British Steel

“Bring The Noise”
Public Enemy
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

“Cab It Up!”
The Fall
I Am Kurious, Oranj

“Call Me”
(I suggest you give her a ring. She really does want you to call…)

“The Classical”
The Fall
Hex Enduction Hour

“Common People”
Different Class

“Container Drivers”
The Fall
The Rough Trade Singles Box

“Counting Backwards”
Throwing Muses
The Real Ramona

“Crescendo In Blue”
Duke Ellington
The Essential Duke Ellington (1928-1937)

Esbjörn Svensson Trio

“Did They Ever Tell Cousteau?”
Esbjörn Svensson Trio
Seven Days Of Falling

“Drive in Saturday”
David Bowie
Aladdin Sane

“Editions of You”
Roxy Music
For Your Pleasure

Alice Cooper
Billion Dollar Babies

“Free Ranger”
The Fall
Ed’s Babe

“Get Over You”
The Undertones
The Undertones

“Ghetto Mom”
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Jukebox Explosion

“Hound Dog”
Elvis Presley
Elvis 30 #1 Hits

“How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’”
The Fall
Palace of Swords Reversed

“Human Fly”
The Cramps
Off The Bone

“I Am the Fly”
Chairs Missing

“I Love It” [Clean Version]
Icona Pop
Now That’s What I Call Music! 85

“If I Can’t Change Your Mind”
Copper Blue

“I’m Bad”
LL Cool J
All World

“In Bloom”

“It’s a Miracle”
Barry Manilow
The Essential Barry Manilow

“It’s Tricky”
Raisin’ Hell

“Jazz, Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold”
The Bonzo Dog Band

“Kicker Conspiracy”
The Fall
Palace of Swords Reversed

“Last Orders”
The Fall
Early Fall

“Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul”
The Fall
Hip Priest And Kamerads

The Stooges
Fun House

“Love Your Money”
Daisy Chainsaw
Sick of Sex

“Lust For Life”
Iggy Pop
Lust For Life

“Makes No Sense At All”
Hüsker Dü
Flip Your Wig

“The Man Whose Head Expanded”
The Fall
Palace of Swords Reversed

“Master Hunter”
Laura Marling
Once I Was An Eagle

“Mr. Pharmacist”
The Fall
458489 A Sides

“My Old School”
Steely Dan
Countdown To Ecstasy

“Night And Day”
Frank Sinatra
All The Best

“No Fun”
The Stooges
The Stooges

“Nonalignment Pact”
Pere Ubu
The Modern Dance

“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”

“Oh, Pretty Woman”
Roy Orbison

Sex Pistols
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

“Prole Art Threat”
The Fall

“Raw Power”
The Stooges
Raw Power

“Rock ‘n’ Roll”
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin 4/4 symbols

“Rollin’ Dany”
The Fall
458489 A Sides

“Rowche Rumble”
The Fall
Early Fall

“Shop Lifting”
The Slits
The Peel Sessions

The Beatles

“That’s Not My Name”
The Ting Tings
We Started Nothing

“Totally Wired”
The Fall

“Waiting Room”
13 Songs

“Wake Me Up”

“Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”
Charles Mingus
Blues & Roots

“White Noise”
Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge
Now That’s What I Call Music! 84

“You Shook Me All Night Long”
Back In Black

Sonic Youth

1st Gossoms End Cub Scouts Perform David Bowie’s “Heroes” (with handbells)

February 17, 2014

1st Gossoms End Cubs

I’ve done some unusual things in my life connected to music.

Coaching a group of cubs (1st Gossoms End Monday Cubs) to peform “Heroes” has to be on the list somewhere.

The boys sang out and this recording of the dress rehersal can be heard on my SoundCloud account.

If you are trudging reluctantly towards work or even trudging through water perhaps their singing will put a spring in your step.

Thanks to all the cubs and Arkela.

Making badges for #nick@25

February 16, 2014


Netflix: destroying the White House in the palm of your hand

February 3, 2014

So I got a Netflix subscription.

And a Netflix app on my mobile phone.

And the app is nice and simple and personalised and remembers where you’ve got to in whatever you’re watching.

The trouble is there isn’t really anything I want to watch. The list of titles is narrow and mainly mainstream US movies and TV.

So I ended up watching “Olympus Has Fallen” as I couldn’t find anything else. Sometimes you just want to watch things being blown up.

This is very violent, macho, patriotic “shoot ‘em up”, one of those post 9/11 movies where the subtext (the US working through its trauma at those horrible shocking events) is so obvious its not really a subtext. The Washington Monument gets attacked and falls down in a very similar way to the Twin Towers.

The tone is set in the very first scene where the US President and his loyal secret service bodyguard are sparring i.e. beating each other up, in Camp David. Gerard Butler is the bodyguard, and he takes John Wayne role, the lone hero killing a very large number of evil Koreans who storm and destroy the Whitehouse. The body count is high. The brutality, unflinching. While it’s nice to see Melissa Leo (one of the stars of the first couple of series of Homicide) still getting work, it’s not particularly nice to see her getting beaten up by evil Koreans.

The film did take a strange kind of pleasure in reducing the White House to rubble. At one point Gerard kills an evil Korean by using a bust of Washington that happens to be handy. The violence is more important than the building (a theatre of war indeed).

One shouldn’t take this kind of thing too seriously. But I did wonder. What exactly am I doing carrying around this tiny black box watching in fits and starts this entertainment which endorses and celebrates a culture and country so far away, so different from the rain sogged English landscape? These tiny figures matchstick men and women, killing each other in the palm of my hand. Does that distance the violence and the patriotism and make it easier to swallow?

A little box, made in the US, pumping out the message that the United States is the best country in the world, but to keep it that way blood has to be spilt. I suspect I would like this film less in a big theatre…

Still, I watched it all. And I couldn’t work out how to turn the subtitles on.

If you’re a vegetarian look away now…

January 25, 2014


Corsican beef stew…


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