Thursday, June 30, 2011

TOTP 17/06/1976

Dave Lee Travis is our host tonight, and he is wearing a medallion. The Wurzels are still at #1 too, incredibly. How on Earth did Britain survive the 1970s?

T.Rex - I love to boogie
Sort of rockabilly number by Marc Bolan. I like his earlier glam rock stuff though this just reminds me too much of Shakin' Stevens.

Gallagher & Lyle - heart on my sleeve
We have an accordion, chilled out bluesy guitar notes and a laid-back yet irresistible chorus. This is as close as you will get to pop heaven in the mid-1970s. Best song of the night, though some competition tonight for a change. DLT agrees, there is a lot of great music on the show tonight. Does he include the Wurzels in that? I bet he does.

Peter Frampton - show me the way
Some concert footage, i dig the massive "FRAMPTON" written in neon red letters in the background. Now that is cool. Its a great rock song too and there is plenty of long hair. Peter does an odd thing with a pipe tied to the microphone and his mouth to generate some strange but interesting noises. This is his talk box, it looks like something you use to do a stomach pump though when someone takes too many drugs.

Brotherhood of Man - my sweet Rosalie
Hot on the heels of their Eurovision success of "Save your kisses for me" they come up with a song that tries to be as close as possible to that #1 hit but at the same time tries to be different. Its just a cheesy mess though they do bring a cute dog onstage.

Mud - shake it down
Mud look like they have played this song a billion times and thus are totally bored with it. We have massive green collars and some bum bumping on stage. Those are the highlights.

Murray Head - somebody's rocking my dreamboat
You have to love the eclectic mix you get on TOTP, here we have some nice brass jazz though it does end up sounding a bit boozy and cabaret-esque.

Ruby Flipper turn up to express Candi Staton's "young hearts break free"  through the medium of dance dressed as 1930s washerwomen and Alf Garnett.

Liverpool Express - you are my love
Soft-prog/rock. This is apparently one of Paul McCartney's favourite songs, it must be true as i read it on Wikipedia. It is quite a good song indeed. The producer obviously likes it too, you can always tell when the producer does as he pulls out all the stops with special fx and special camera angles.

The Wurzels - i've got a brand new combine harvester
As they are still at #1 they are back to present their damning enditement of the agro-industry one more time.

DLT ends the show by doing the worst Tommy Cooper impression ever. See you next week!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tame Valley Canal 28/06/11

I went a walking and a snapping (as in photos - do you still take snaps on a digital camera?) along the Tame Valley Canal in Perry Barr today. Familiar territory to start with but i then went on further than i can usually make in a work lunch hour (as i'm not at work today) and made it as far as the Walsall Road. In doing so i climbed up the amazing lock flight high over Perry Barr. Here you can see the photos.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Project 018

My latest model project, number 18, is a Supermarine Spitfire. This is the third Spitfire i have done though will be the first in what i would call the classic RAF WW2 colour scheme of green and brown as the plane is a Mark Ia and will be finished as it looked during the Battle of Britain. My other 2 Spitfires have been later models, one in desert camouflage and the other in a post-war scheme. Construction has just about finished and painting will soon begin in earnest. I have a Mark Vb Spitfire on my pending list too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My graduation

Finally i have attended an awards or graduation ceremony! I had 2 chances while i was a student at UCE but missed it both times (the first time by choice, the second time an error) so i was determined to make it third time lucky at the awards ceremony for the BA Honours in History i got last December with the Open University.

I've had to wait awhile for all the gowning business to take place but it all went smoothly. Now i await the start of my MA in October, maybe i will be back at Birmingham's Symphony Hall for another awards ceremony in a few years time...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TOTP 10/06/1976

Noel Edmonds, looking amazingly similar to how he does these days, is our host for this week's slice of late 70s pop action. The Wurzels are at #1, teh horror!

The Surprise Sisters - get you into my life

This is actually quite strange, 4 women dressed in pink and black dresses (which look like they were made in the dark) gyrate totally out of rhythm with a bog standard 70s pop song. I think the "surprise" element comes from the fact the 4 of them are so awkward on stage its like they've only just met.

The Real Thing - you to me are everything

Still the same great song and the singer wears the same wide brimmed hat he wore last time they played this song. I like the fact he also has the title of the song written with sequins on his top. Now that is class.

Dion - the wanderer

To save money the BBC have just 1 dancer this week instead of a whole troupe, and a gorgeous dancer she is too though she tries far too hard in trying to emote some meaning in this retro rock and roll track. Her choreography just doesn't make sense whatsoever, its like they originally filmed her dancing a totally different song and had some audio problems so changed the audio.

Alex Harvey Band - Boston tea party

Great lyrics which rhyme coffee with tea and a guitarist who looks a bit like the Baseball Furies in The Warriors. Overall though its a bit odd even for TOTP.

Archie Bell & The Drells - soul city walk

The BBC are saving money by showing the same film footage they showed a couple of weeks ago. Oddly uncoordinated dancing by 4 men in velvet suits, like the worst family party ever. Decent song though.

Flintlock - dawn

Its Flintlock's first appearance on TOTP, its not a bad song though the bass player has an odd stance that looks like he is constipated. Its maybe a bit anemic but passable and certainly better than the Surprise Sisters or the Wurzels.

Bryan Ferry - lets stick together

Some more film footage and this one is brilliant, top song by Mr Ferry and it includes a girl dressed as a tiger too. Bryan Ferry is dressed in the white suit of cool. The whole performance is just sex.

Osibisa - dance the body music

This is a bit of a soul and world music funk mix complete with plenty of bongo drums and some far out fashions. Its... OK.

The Wurzels - combine harvester

He wants to get his hands on her land. A thought so unpleasant as to render me a broken man and with that we have traveled through another 30 minutes slice of some of the best of the charts in June 1976. And somehow the Wurzels are the best of the lot. Amazing.

Walrus done

Project 019 the Supermarine Walrus has now been completed, my first seaplane though i bought a Grumman Gosling kit in Stratford yesterday so it will be joined by another amphibian before very long. Next up is Project 018 a Supermarine Spitfire Ia which i did plan to do next though when the Walrus arrived i knew i had to do the flying boat first!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pink rose

Another rose from my garden, this one is a smasher!

Stratford and the Avon

As i have said before Stratford-upon-Avon is one of my favourite places and so i went there again today, this time not me so i could get some hardcore exploring in. I walked along the opposite bank of the Avon to the old town centre, took the foot ferry across the beautiful river and also revisited the Stratford-upon-Avon canal. I took a lot of photos of course, just over 200 in fact!

So many boats, so many geese. Luckily the geese in Stratford don't attack me on sight like the ones in Perry Barr do otherwise i wouldn't have lasted long!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roses in the garden

Please find attached a photo i took in my garden yesterday. I have a number of rose bushes and they are currently in bloom. I can't take any credit for them though as the rose bushes were here when i bought the house. A lot of the rest of the garden is my own work though the previous occupants would probably find it quite recognisable. I harvested 2 carrots yesterday, only little but their heads had appeared above the soil line and if you don't pull them up then the bugs will have first dobs!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Open day!

Its a Summer Saturday with sunshine and showers, why it must be the university's open day! I hate to think how many open days i have done over now in my 10 years at the university apart from it being too many obviously. This one wasn't to bad as i was making sure presentations went smoothly and also taking some pictures around the campus. Including this one. Update : i've now uploaded the photos to the University's Flickr account.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Just a progress report on Project 019 the Supermarine Walrus. Painting is now well underway but is taking a while as do all biplanes (double the number of wings see). Also reaching some of the nooks and cannies on this beast is tricky and requires sinister dexterity, thats me lost then!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

You wait ages for one...

I walk along the Tame Valley Canal near to where i work most weekday lunchtimes, usually its not the busiest of canals and i've gone for months without seeing a canal boat but this week i have seen a boat every lunchtime this week so far. Infact today i saw 2 boats, though one was being towed by the other. Getting through the lock with a towed boat was quite interesting and looked fairly long-winded. Yesterday i helped some people with the lock (well i opened one of the gates for them) which was fun. I would like to go on a canal holiday one day...

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

I haven't been to a proper gig for years, being old and all that. I did intend getting back into the "scene" last year but my usual procrastination won through as usual. However when my current favourite band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (which i'll shorten to POBPAH here after as i am lazy) came to town i decided to see them. I knew i would regret it if i didn't, just as i regret not going down to London to see The Orchids earlier in the year.

I've never actually seen my "favourite band" live before, obviously that could never happen now with Nirvana and Brighter for various reasons, and as i said above i regret now not going to see The Orchids so the fact i was going to see POBPAH added to my anticipation. The build up in my mind grew out of control. What if it sucked? (Or more likely didn't quite live up to expectations.) What if i was the only old person there in a sea of hipsters?

Why did i worry? POBPAH exceeded any expectations, they are just brilliant in every way. There were quite a few people there my age and even a few old punks... and plenty of hipsters too natch.

As they played through the songs i love like "Come Saturday" i was overcome with a feeling of happiness and contentment, and left with joy... and tinnitus. Yes it a bit loud but i decided to refrain from asking them to turn it down a bit. A cool moment was when i was going to the toilet in between the support acts. As i approached the door it opened and a nice young man let me go through. It took me a few seconds to realise why the guy looked so familiar... OMG it was the singer!!

So they rock and they are kind to the elderly. POBPAH rock my world!

Monday, June 13, 2011

TOTP 03/06/1976

Slightly delayed this week but here is Top Of The Pops from 3rd June 1976. This week hosted by Tony Blackboard! Woo! And JJ Barrie is at number 1! WOO!

The G Band - don't make promises you can't keep

Don't worry Gary Glitter has already retired so this is just his old backing band, thus he unwittingly solved the BBC a knotty problem some 35 years down the line. This is nice enough catchy guitar pop, actually not a bad song at all with a lovely chorus. There are totem poles and other strange figures at the back of the stage for some reason. Luckily no children.

Dolly Parton - Jolene

Well this song by Dolly has always been a true classic. Dolly has massive hair and of course a massive... voice.

Tony harasses two young ladies from the New Edition who appear to be a 70s version of Glee.

The New Edition - sunshine Saturday

A bunch of pretty fit young guys and girls sing (badly) and dance onstage in very tight t-shirts and then by the magic of film are dancing in a fair ground. Some clowns also wave. Obviously this bit is scary. For some reason which probably only made sense in 1976 we get some film of speedboats too. Ah apparently this is the theme tune to a TV show. Which no doubt features clowns and speedboats. Be afraid.

Ruby Flipper are here to do some bad dancing to Gallagher & Lyle's "heart on my sleeve". Two couples dancing on the cheapest desert island set ever basically. Lets have the actual band instead:

Thin Lizzy - the boys are back in town

Wow classic! They are playing in another studio somewhere so the TOTP audience can't be seen looking lost. One of the band is dressed like Carl Douglas in a kung fu shirt. Words can't express how cool this actually is.

Our Kid - you might just see me cry

Four kids in matching suits singing a sentimental ballad with their squeeky voices. That is as bad as it sounds. In a way this was the kind of thing that infests shows like Britain's Got Talent nowadays so nothing really changes in the world of popular music. Their Mums were probably really proud but everyone else died a little inside.

The Rolling Stones - fool to cry

Whoever wrote up the line-up for this edition of TOTP was obviously taking the piss. From a bunch of 12 year olds to the oldest band in rock. Well of course back then the Stones were just a little bit elderly not as ancient as they are now. This is typical of later 70s Stones, laid back and funky. I think its great personally but then again i played my copy of Emotional Rescue so many times it literally exploded.

JJ Barrie - no charge

And ABBA have been replaced at #1 by a sentimental spoken country & western novelty tune. As novelty songs go its not that bad but i hope it fades away quickly. Only in Britain could you have a music show with the Stones followed by this. And for this we should be eternally grateful.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Whitehouse Common

Another nice day so i thought i would take advantage of it (especially as Sunday's forecast isn't too hot) and do some walking and photographing. I went to Whitehouse Common on the edge of Sutton Coldfield, a place i have been a couple of times before but i walked some different paths to before. The crops in the field look a bit parched, tomorrow's rain (if it comes) will be sure welcome on this field at least! The photographs can be seen here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I am the walrus

I started my latest kit last night, project 019 which is a Supermarine Walrus. Its my first flying boat since i restarted making model kits in 2009. I think i may have made a Shorts Sunderland when i was a kid but i'm not sure. Well it was a long time ago. As its a biplane of course i had trouble getting the second wing on but its on reasonably well now, probably wouldn't pass an inspection by the top brass but c'est la vie.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10 more fascinating facts about Erdington

  1. Mothers was a famous rock club that ran from 1968 until 1971, it located on Erdington High Street opposite St Barnabas church. Pink Floyd recorded part of their Ummagumma live album there. Other bands that played there included Black Sabbath, The Who and Free. Not a bad line-up!
  2. Rookery House in Rookery Park was originally called Birches Green however it was renamed in the early 20th century because it was bought by someone who owned another house just down Kingsbury Road also called Birches Green.
  3. In 1960 a Mr T.Haywood, who was a lorry driver from Erdington, became the first person to walk from Edinburgh to London in less than 7 days when he beat the time set by Dr Barbara Moore.
  4. In 1880 the landlords of the Roebuck and the Red Lion pubs were questioned by the police for allegedly allowing illegal gambling on their premises.
  5. Erdington Safeway was one of a number of the firm's stores which were targetted by an extortioner who deliberately contaminated jars of food in 1981. A ransom demand was sent to the company's headquarters for £500,000. Jars of gherkins at the Erdington store were found contaminated with paraquat. 
  6. The orphanage set up by Josiah Mason cost £60,000 back in 1870 and was given an endowment valued at £200,000
  7. A notable horse race in the 1870s, often mentioned in the same breath as the Grand National, was the Erdington Plate. The race was often held at Sutton Coldfield race track.
  8. The Bagot Arms pub is named after the Bagot family who owned Pype Hayes Hall during the 19th century. The house was sold to the wire making industrialist James Rollason in 1906, who now has a road named after him in Erdington?
  9. In the early part of the 20th century Erdington had an ice rink which was on the site of the current fire station.
  10. Spring Lane Primary School was the new site of the school that was once on the High Street but moved after WW2, during the war the Spring Lane site was a barracks and armoury.
Sources : various including The Times Digital Archive and old Ordinance Survey Maps.
This is a sequel to the first set of fascinating facts from Erdington.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Apple now and then

    The Apple keynote by iSteve and friends at WWDC was very exciting and interesting and my Macbook will be running OSX Lion and my iPad iOS 5 within the next few months i am sure. iCloud might be something i use though i do prefer to "spread my bets" when it comes to technology and data a bit (for example all my photos get uploaded nowadays to Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and burned to a DVD!) Anyway all this modern Apple mayhem is all very exciting but what about something a little more retro?

    I bought a new bookcase yesterday and placed it at the top of the stairs, in doing do it displaced the Mac 512K which had been an "object d'art" atop the stairs for the last few years. This is real Apple archaeology, whilst OSX Lion will work on my Macbook it won't on the 512K which was the second ever model of Apple Macintosh released back in September 1984.

    It had a whole 512K of RAM and an 8MHz M68000 processor. I'm not sure what to do with the 512K, i shall likely clean it up a bit (its been used as a plant stand for a few years and is a bit grimy) and place it elsewhere in the house to provide a bit of retro street cred. Incidentally the last time i did try this Mac it did work though it needs a special power adapter as its a US model and thus needs 120 volts not 240. I guess it would explode if plugged into the mains, especially after a few plant pot water overflows...

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Birmingham & Fazeley in Curdworth

    I enjoyed my farm trail around Curdworth so much i headed along the canal into the village itself. I have been this way once before, its a very nice spot and also has a cool short tunnel (52m). I wonder why they built the tunnel instead of cutting through like they did elsewhere, it doesn't seem like there was anything built on top of the tunnel, or maybe there was once but now its gone? Anyway photos are here.

    Farm fields near Curdworth

    Its a lovely day so why not head out and walk under the beautiful blue Warwickshire sky? Well i did, along footpaths and through farm fields near Curdworth. Such a beautiful spot and only about 10 minutes drive from where i live. On a day like today this is one of the most lovely spots on Earth i think, well its where my heart is and thats why i love it so. I took photographs of course and you can see them here.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    TOTP 27/05/1976

    Since the BBC began repeating Top Of The Pops from 1976 i have thought about writing a weekly review and here is the first, finally got around to it. Its kind of like in the style of a live blog though written after its actually shown as writing it "live" would mean writing it on my iPad and i'd rather microwave my own head than have to write blog posts on a virtual keyboard...

    Anyway first review, and its late May 1976 and tonight's host is Jimmy Saville in a horrific yellow vest with sequins. What i liked about TOTP back then was the no-nonsense approach to the chart... as in they listed the top 30 in the opening credits. So ABBA are still #1 anyway.

    Heavy Metal Kids - shes no angel
    We have some rock to start proceedings, they are called the Heavy Metal Kids though this song is about as heavy as a helium balloon. The singer prances around the stage with a black umbrella wearing a fur vest and a bow tie. You will find i mention the fashions a lot, i don't think you can really write about 70s pop culture without mentioning the styles... such as they are. Anyway "Shes no angel" is not a bad song but the singer is creeping the Hell out of me.

    JJ Barrie - no charge
    And from lite metal to hardcore country cheese. "No charge" is a pure novelty hit as was so often popular in the charts back then. JJ Barrie narrates (as in speaks) an ultra cheesy mortality tale over a country & western backing. Its awful but strangely compelling i think mainly because JJ Barrie looks like your uncle after he gets a bit drunk at a party and tries to sing.

    Pausing only to let Jimmy harass a cute young girl from Birmingham with a hilarious trick where he makes her vanish we move onto...

    The Wurzels - combine harvester
    I feel sorry for the kids in the audience, they must have queued up for hours and have to suffer back-to-back novelty cheese. Mr Wurzel sings about some girl he fancies and wants to marry, pity its his sister and they won't allow him. There is a green tractor in the studio though which is cool. Jimmy makes the Wurzels vanish too but unfortunately not until after the song.

    Archie Bell & The Drells - soul city walk
    Apparently this is at #30 in the charts. Its a passable but rather generic bit of soul by 4 men in matching velvet suits. They try some dancing though it has a strange passage when they all bend down in unison like they've all lost their contact lenses.

    Mac & Katie Kissoon - the two of us
    Next up a brother and sister duo (i admit i read that on Wikipedia). Its more soul but not a bad song, actually the first half decent song of the night so far as it races along with plenty of pop sensibility. Mac has awesome sideboards and dresses in a black & white checkerboard outfit a bit like the aliens in Star Trek's "let this be your last battlefield" (yes i am so geek).

    Jim meets American visitor Hank Mizzel who ends up bemused when Jimmy starts talking about Blackpool.

    We haven't had the dancing yet, well lets fix that. I can't remember what this mixed-gender troupe are called but they perform some acrobatic moves to David Bowie's "TVC 15" in what looks to be a typical 70s living room except for the wall of TVs which all show the same girl. One of the dancers is dressed as a jockey, just thought you'd like to know that. For sure the music in the second half of the show is a lot better than the first and it continues with...

    The Bellamy Brothers - let your love flow
    They can't be in the studio tonight, would you want to be on the same bill as The Wurzels? Here is some handy film of them performing.

    The Real Thing - you to me are everything
    But we are back in the studio for this, another good song, see it was worth suffering the novelty crap earlier on wasn't it? The singer wears a wide white brimmed hat which he of course wears with a tan open to the chest tunic. Well it is 1976. He also has a thick metal choker rather like the exploding ones in Battle Royale. Luckily his head isn't blown off, but that hat would fly for miles if it did.

    ABBA are still at #1 with "Fernando" so the same film thats been shown for a few weeks gets another airing. It isn't played for long as i guess everyone is bored with the song now. Roll the credits, and so ends 30 minutes of "classic performances" so the BBC claim. Actually it was 30 minutes of sometimes horrific cheese and the odd nugget of genius. At least you get the latter with TOTP compared to say, Britain's Got Talent. Apart from when the dogs are on, obviously.

    (Reposted from my music blog)

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Google +1

    Google +1 is the search engine giant's latest attempt to own the social media space and aims to compete with the likes (pardon the pun) of Facebook's Like functionality. Well using this handy tool i have added a +1 button to this blog and you should see it on the right (as with the QR code post earlier if its not there then you are living in the future and things changed but as of 22:17 on June 1st 2011 it is there!)

    Are these sort of social media tools actually useful? Apparently +1ing this blog will help it rise in the search results so please feel free to click it!

    Update : it looks like its appearing automatically on my Blogger blogs anyway. Whoop!

    The latest electronic toy

    What is it with me and electronic gizmos this year, first the iPad then the Kindle and then the calculator but this is no normal calculator. This calculator is a Hewlett Packard HP-12C, an icon of calculator design. A calculator that first went on sale in 1981 and continues in production to the present day, to put that in context i was about half-way through my time at primary school the year HP began making this.

    Looks wise its just... fantastic. Classic tech retroism i'd call it and i love it. Its not cheap though but i don't mind because i needed a decent calculator anyway (can't stand using ones on the computer, its all wrong keying in numbers with a mouse, like making coffee in a microwave). It looks and feels... quality. It has that old skool solidity about it (i hope it doesn't break tomorrow now i've said that!)

    Although the HP-12C looks the same as it always has internally it has changed completely and now has an ARM microprocessor. It uses Reverse Polish Notation which i've never used before but i've done some basic calculations with it and all seems fine. The keys are lovely and clicky by the way. I wonder what i'll get next, i did plan to get an iPhone but i think i'll just wait to see what happens with that as a new version is apparently due soon...

    QR code crazy

    I've added a QR code to this blog as you may notice on the right (of course if i later change the design and remove the code then people who read this post sometime in the future may become slightly bemused but just assume it was there once!) Now if you don't know what a QR code is then basically its a small barcode that can be read with a smartphone and is a quick and easy way to jump to a website. So people can scan the code on this page and... er... go to this page.

    Of course you may wonder why bother? Well i have been playing around with QR codes a lot for the university i work at, pioneering their use at our open days last year and we'll be using them on a much bigger scale this year so why not deploy them for myself too? Perhaps someone will print out the page and then may find it useful to use the code to return here. Or it just looks a bit cool. That will suffice.

    Actually the QR code ties into a custom link i set up for this blog which is which is probably a little more useful. I've also set up for my music blog.