I had Neil Young to keep me company throughout 800kms of driving about the lovely Irish countryside this week. Neil sustained a remarkable 11 year creative streak – matched only by David Bowie – between 1968′s eponymous debut and 1979′s Rust Never Sleeps. His music moves me in a way that Bob Dylan’s never could and I always keep coming back to the fourth track on that first album, the brilliant I’ve Been Waiting For You. I was lucky enough to see him perform it live twice, at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park in 2001 and at Malahide Castle in 2008.
John Lawton’s Then We Take Berlin is out at the beginning of December. it will be his first novel without the wonderful Inspector Troy. In the following video he gives some of the background to what will be one of the most eagerly awaited historical crime novels of the year.
I’m always tempted to put the near-Beatlemania that Cheap Trick experienced in Tokyo in 1978 down to front man Robin Zander being such a handsome bastard, but the music is just too good to ignore and I’ve met a few Japanese women who have very good taste in music. So maybe it’s not improbable that all those screeching school girls really were digging Rick Nielsen’s wonderful songwriting and guitar playing.
Sound Opinions, Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis’s wonderful weekly music magazine, celebrated the 35th anniversary of At Budokan last month. They had the band in studio as guests, and in between playing a few tracks off the album they discussed the freak nature of it becoming one of the most celebrated live recordings of all time. It really is the dog’s bollocks and I suppose what I’m actually trying to say is that if you’re going to get tinnitus you may as well get it listening to At Budokan rather than listening to rubbish like Coldplay.
Sunday’s Dublin City Triathlon was a super occasion. It was great to be involved with some of the organisation on the run in to the race, and it goes without saying that the Piranha club has few equals! Whoever takes over as race director from Johnny Wallnutt next year is going to have very big boots to fill.
How worrying was the story that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger published last night about GCHQ agents destroying hard drives in the Guardian basement last month? I’m not going to draw parallels between David Cameron and John Hurt’s Adam Sutler character in the film V for Vendetta, but he’s off to a good start down that track.
And there was I thinking that nobody else could really out do Neil Young when it comes to 30 minute plus walls of sound. The Swans performance last night at the Button Factory was probably one of the more unusual experiences I’ve had at a gig in eons. Think Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, throw in a big dollop of Captain Beefheart, along with Voivod and you’re probably only half way there.
And what an unusual looking bunch too! Slide/pedal steel guitarist Christoph Hahn looks like a cross between Samuel Beckett and Willem Defoe, whereas percussionist Thor Harris could have been in one of those dreadful 80s hair metal bands. Front man Michael Gira is as imposing as they come but a pretty gracious and agreeable character in between songs. Throughout the gig I kept on thinking about how they would fit in to The Wickerman or the seedier scenes in Eyes Wide Shut. I hadn’t a rashers what I was looking at for most of the night but what a powerful performance and a very enjoyable one at that.
It’s obvious to say that they could be interesting collaborators with Neil Young but I’m looking deeper and would love to see what the modern day and utterly inaccessible Scott Walker could do with them.
In 1999 I was lucky enough to attend two matches at the old Wembley before they knocked it. The first match was Wales v Ireland in the then Five Nations Championship. Wales were playing their home games at Wembley while they were building the Millennium Stadium. The other was the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final between Leeds and the London Broncos.
I’d watched the Challenge Cup as a ritual on BBC as I was growing up and always found myself moved by the hymn “Abide with Me” which is always sung pre-kick off. I had never warmed to Leeds under Doug Laughton as they seemed to be a bunch of flash Harrys who were “all hat and no cattle.” That changed when Graham Murray arrived and he forged a team that were difficult to admire but also very difficult to beat. They were as tough as nails up front and quite functional. They hammered the London Broncos that day 52-16. Murray went home to Australia after that and went on to coach the Sydney Roosters and led the North Queensland Cowboys to their first NRL Grand Final in 2005. He reached the pinnacle of his coaching career when he took the reins for New South Wales for the 2006 and 2007 State of Origin series.
They turned off Graham’s life support machine this morning and he died a few hours later. He was 58 and had suffered two heart attacks in the last few months, the most recent coming on the day of this year’s State of Origin decider. God rest him…Go well Graham.