The Furtive Fifty

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Xmas '03 saw the last 'proper' Festive Fifty, and it was for me, a particularly hard-earned one.
Myself, my ex, my son and a couple of friends, planned to spend Xmas in a cottage in Pembrokeshire, and naturally my first thought was "How am I going to record the Festive 50 ?" What if they didn't have a decent tuner in the cottage ? Of course I'd have to take one with me, but my own, hailing from the glory days of Hi-Fi, was the size & weight of a well-packed trunk, and I just didn't fancy trying to shift the thing.

To save myself the driving, I was to be getting a lift with a mate, so I thought perhaps I could persuade him to take his, which after all, had originally been a gift from me. However, when I arrived at the house I soon realized he was in no mood for de-rigging the hi-fi, and there followed a furious row, which ended with me saying that I would drive there in my own car, fuck-you very much, and take my own sodding tuner.

Of course, it being the season of goodwill to all men, we eventually made up over a few bottles of red, and I managed to rig up the tuner & DAT in my quaint little Pembrokeshire bedroom and record the Fifty in all it's glory. Here's the first CD's worth, nos. 50 - 30.

By a strange coincidence, the cottage turned out to be in a little village where some 25 years earlier, I had spent a disastrous week trying to earn some money picking spuds. To cut a long & rather miserable story short; we crashed the car on the way there, had trouble finding work when we got there, earned piss-all when we did; crashed the car a again, got sacked for telling the farmer that we were working for that we'd witnessed his dog worrying sheep; the car broke down, we spent a week waiting for spares, living off nothing but potatoes; I pulled a muscle in my leg and had to limp for miles before managing to hitch a lift from a dodgy redneck, who offered to find me work, then took me to a pub where no-one spoke English, and I couldn't afford a drink, before taking me only as far as Swansea, where I hoped to borrow money off my girlfriend's junky sister, who of course had none, so I ended up jumping a train home, and was late signing on.

I have a strong suspicion that the only thing that kept me alive whilst waiting for the car bits to arrive, was listening to Peely on the radio.

If someone had told me then, that 25 years later I would be spending Christmas in a holiday cottage nearby, I would have laughed, or more likely wept bitter tears at the irony of it all; back then, holiday cottages were things you set fire to, not spent Christmas in - "Give the anarchist a cigarette", and all that....

FF03 CD1 pt.1
FF03 CD1 pt.2

...and here's disc 2

FF03 CD2 pt.1
FF03 CD2 pt.2

...followed, almost inevitably, as John would say, by disc 3

FF03 CD3

A word about the discs - they run in the proper order (ie. starting at no.50 and ending at that thrilling No.1 spot) and I've edited them so that as far as possible the tracks segue seamlessly, as John would have no doubt done himself; to appreciate the full artistry of the thing, burn the CD's with no gaps between tracks.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Does the world need another Peel sharing blog ? You bet your bum it does...
I'm going to be posting some Festive 50's here, of course, but first, Billy Bragg:

I first heard Billy on John's show, in a muddy field in Herefordshire, way back when. I was picking apples at the time. I can even remember the tune, it was A13, Gateway to the South, and I think it may well have been Billy's first session for Peel, which probably means his first radio appearence anywhere.
I can remember thinking, "Hmm, solo bloke playing an angry guitar & singing - excellent, but there can't be a lot of mileage in it". Of course I was completely wrong, and a couple of weeks ago, some twenty-something years after I first heard him, I found myself sitting in St. David's Hall, Cardiff, part of an adoring crowd watching Billy thrash his guitar in anger, and singing his heart out - and loving every minute of it.
But of course, that was the genius of Peel - he could spot something brilliant light years before the rest of us caught on. How I miss him...

Confession time (no1). I went to Peel's funeral.
I have never had any truck with the repulsive circus that is today's Cult of Celebrity (Big Brother lovers, leave NOW), and at the time of John's funeral, I was not a well man (OK, let's get this out of the way now - I have been suffering from ME/CFS for a little over four years; I'm a lot better now, but still not rudely healthy). So attending a funeral across the other side of the country (I live in S.Wales), was roughly the equivalent to a 'normal' person running a marathon up Everest, wearing wellies filled with cold treacle. I went with a friend who also has ME, and we queued for a couple of hours, and just as we got to the door of the cathedral, they stopped letting people in. I didn't care. They could have hung me from the rafters, I just had to be there.

There was a wonderful atmosphere, and an audience as eclectic as John's music itself, everyone swapping tales of what John had meant to them. I stood next to a guy who had raced in the TT, who found out during the course of the converstation with the complete stranger next to him, that he had raced with the guy's dad, (or somesthing like that). There was this incredible feeling of community there; folks who had no more in common than a love of Peel - and that's really all you needed. You know that feeling, like at the end of a rave, when everyone's all loved up and grinning like twats ? Like that but without the gurning and the cramps.

Confession 2: Billy Bragg makes me cry. Songs like Levi Stubbs Tears, World Turned Upside Down, Valentine's Day and Brickbat get me every time, I have to listen to them in private. Just listening to him talk (and God knows he loves to do that!) on a recording I have of a Joe Stummer tribute gig he did, has me reaching for the snot rag (you can get the recording at ).
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I went to see Billy at St. David's Hall, Cardiff with a minidisc recorder tucked down my pants, and here's the result. I know BB has a 'open-source' policy about recording his gigs, but I was worried the goons at St. Davids might not be quite so enlightened and confiscate the MD recorder, which I'd borrowed from work. Apologies for the quality - cheesy little stereo mic, big hall acoustics etc. And like a pillock, I only took one disc with me, so I didn't get the encore, which was an absolute stormer, but hey, it's better than nowt.
And, Billy - gutted to hear about the BNP getting in down in your neck of the woods mate, but we'll see the bastards off again, eh ? Hope, not Hate.