Saturday, 30 April 2011

A Royal Wedding Fishing Trip

I was actually doing the trading in the morning and was only able to see occasional minutes of the Royal Wedding, but actually quite enjoyed what I saw - all that pomp and pagentry, Britain is quite good at that kind of thing. The people of TV and radio all seemed to think that the dress was great (do such things matter?). I was particularly impressed by Pippa, the maid of honour, who also looked lovely.

But soon after lunch, Jerome is back on the trading having taken his kids to a street party for the wedding, and I can go fishing for the afternoon / evening. A new venue today, Barnes' Lake at Standlake, only a couple of miles from home and billed as a "sporting venue" - i.e. one in which you can't fish with lures. Nymphs and dry flies only. My neighbour, Roy, had mentioned this venue in the past, but today was my first trip. I must say I really like the fact that it is only two miles away.

I met the owner at the little lodge - a spritely 70 odd year old who spent most of the rest of the day riding round the lakes on his Quad bike. As we talked, several dozen fish either rose or jumped in the lake by the lodge. However this was also flat calm and I went off to the larger lake at the back where I was promised a bit of breeze.

The main problem at the venue was the very close proximity of bank side vegetation - various trees and bushes. This proved a little challenging for distance casting. Also for the first hour or two there were no fish showing in the bigger lake. But then a slight change prior to a tiny rain shower, and I caught a couple of fish in quick succession - really hard fighting fish of about 2lbs each. Then something rather strange - a really savage take that nearly ripped the line from my hand but resulted in the leader snapping. Not had that happen for years using 6lb fluorocarbon. But having set up a new leader, the same thing then happened again two casts later in the same spot. I would like to think it was a huge fish.

Before I could have another go for it, the wind picked up and I found casting directly into it to be pretty impossible, so a move round to the bay at the far end and some shelter. There is nothing like having a slight tail wind to improve one's casting. Half a dozen casts later I caught a small brown trout of maybe 3/4 lbs. Then with the wind dropping again, it was back to the windier spot where I managed to raise three fish to the dry hopper fly I was using and have another 3 takes on the nymph, yet couldn't hook any of them.

The evening produced a decent enough rise and I managed another another half dozen takes on either the nymph or the dry, yet hooked only one more fish, another rainbow. Lots of fish jumping during the evening, including some very nice sized fish that looked over 5 lbs. A final chat to the owner, who instructs me how to lock up the lodge and fasten the gate before leaving me to it for the last few casts. Very exciting fishing as it got darker, with plenty of fish moving, but not taking my flies.

I should think this venue will definitely see a fair few visits from me this year. It is so nice to have somewhere so good and so close.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

A River Runs Through It

It is now five days since Linda and Emma went to Spain. I heard from them on Sunday evening to confirm they had got there safely, but it has been quiet since. I thought they might have rung and told me how things are going. I have had a very quiet week, hardly seeing anyone, or speaking to anyone, alone with my thoughts . . . .

Some fishing tackle arrives in the post this morning - two new fly lines and some braided loops. I spend a little time at lunchtime setting up the new reels ready for tomorrow's planned trip. This week I have been dipping into some of the more philosophical writings on fishing; John Gierach's Trout Bum and some of his other writings, Tom McGuane's The Longest Silence, William Plummer's Wishing my Father well, Mark Browning's Haunted by Water. And finally, tonight I watched the movie A River Runs Through It for the first time in a long while.

It remains a tremendously powerful and moving film for us fishermen. The last few minutes always make me extremely sad, as he fishes "the big river" on his own, all his loved ones gone. I am left with many melancholic thoughts about life, the universe and everything . . . .

Perhaps due to the issues I had trying to tie flies onto my leader the other day, I am starting to feel a older and a little decrepid. Will I be still fly fishing in my 70s and 80s? And once again, I find myself missing my father . . . .

One of the last scenes - alone on "the big river"

Rarely has a film moved me so much - even on the fifth or sixth viewing

101 "Favourite" tracks, No 51-60

51. Happy Flowers, Charlie got a haircut


52. PJ Harvey, My Naked Cousin


53. Kristin Hersh, Pearls


54. Jarboe, Lavender


55. Jefferson Airplane, The House at Pooneil Corners


56. Eleni Karaindrou,


57. King Crimson,


58. Krishna Das, Devi Pura (Live)


59. Led Zeppelin, Babe, I'm gonna leave you


60. Loop, Afterglow


101 "favourite" tracks, No 41-50

41. Fania All Stars, Bemba Kora (live).

I first heard this track when I was a student living in a cramped hall of residence in Bloomsbury in 1981. I was studying one afternoon and someone was playing it down the hall from my room. I was so captivated by it that I went to investigate. The guy whose record it was told me all about the band and lent me the record that afternoon. It probably took me a further year to acquire my own copy, and I never found Volume 1.

There is a quite overwhelming joy to this track, as with much of their music I would later discover. Celia Cruz, the main vocalist on the track and a fine solo artist in her won right, is just great on this song. She died a year or two ago and I was quite saddened by her passing.

Alternates: pretty much anything else from this album

42. Fifth Dimension, Aquarius / Let the sun shine in

When I appeared in the Gang Show of 1977, we had a hippy music director and she selected this sequence as one of the songs she wanted to do. We were all dressed up in purple and green costumes and had a series of complex arm movements to produce a sort of psychedelic effect. I had no idea what the tracks were from of course, and was impressed by the radicalism of Hair when I did eventually see the movie. A revival was on in New York when we went there for Daughter's 21st birthday, but I was unable to persuade the family that we should see it.

This is not the Original Soundtrack version, but the far more commercial version that became the huge hit.

Alternates: None

43. Flaming Lips, Powerless

A band that I come back to frequently. I remember them from 20 years or so ago when they were a sort of psychedelic band rather like Loop or Spacemen 3. Now that is no band thing, but they have managed rather a dramatic career since then. They had hit singles in the distant past, but then seemed to disappear for some years, returning with the huge hit album, Yoshimi battles the pink robots, and one of the most bizarre stage shows, hugely suited to huge outdoor festivals.

This track is quite a recent one of theirs, as they seem to be moving a little away from the commercial sound of Yoshimi. On a couple of live recordings I have of them, this is a stupendous track, with the most amazing guitar solo. Who would have thought it was possible to produce a truly original guitar solo in this day and age?

Alternates: I could be a frog

44. Fripp and Eno, An Index of Metals

Forever linked in my mind to a Saturday evening in 1979 when my parents were away in the Lake District and I had the house to myself. Somehow it occured that a few friends came round that night, including the gorgeous Alison Griffith. Wine was drunk to excess, and by late evening, this track had become our preferred listening, with us playing it 6 times in a row. It was a "far out" evening and one I look back on with many fond memories!

All that apart, this is a quite stupendous piece of music, a far more intense work than the more-well-known No Pussyfooting tracks. Layer after layer of guitar, many wild climaxes of sound, and 28 minutes long - what more could you want from music?

Alternates: The Heavenly Music Corporation,

45. Rory Gallagher,


46. Gallon Drunk, Bear me away (the live version)


47. Grateful Dead, Wharf Rat

Alternates: Loser, Looks like rain

48. Lisa Gerrard, Salem's Lot


49. Beth Gibbons, Mysteries

Alternates: Her live version of Candy says

50. Hawkwind, Orgone Accumulator

Alternates: Prometheus,

101 "favourite" tracks, No 31 - 40

31. Dead Can Dance, Crescent

I first saw Dead Can Dance in early 1984, when they supported Cocteau Twins at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. Then twice more in April of that year, when I recorded their show at the Loughborough Hotel in Brixton. Since then, I have seen just about every show they have done within 50 miles of wherever I happened to me. All told, perhaps 35 shows. That so much of the live show music remained unrecorded was something their always gave their shows something unique. I worked out the other day that I have somewhere in the region of 150 bootleg recordings of them.

For me, one of the defining live music experiences has been to watch Lisa Gerrard. Her performances of Sanvean at the London Town and Country Club shows were breathtaking. Or Salem's Lot on the 2005 "reunion" tour. Yet in picking my favourite track of their's, I have actually gone for a Brendan track from the 2005 tour. For me, the almost perfect encapturlation of what the band overall was about.

Alternates: Perhaps 35 others!

32. Sandy Denny,

33. Dinosaur Jr

34. Anna Domino

35. The Doors, Roadhouse Blues

Alternates, Light my fire (the long version)

36. Echo and the Bunnymen, Villiers Terrace


37. Ella Guru,


38. Brian Eno, Sparrowfall


39. John Fahay,


40. The Fall, Smile


101 "favourite" tracks - No 21-30

21. Captain Beefheart, Sheriff of Hong Kong

I had assumed that I would only have one entry per artist / band, but here is the one exception. With Big-eyed beans from Venus already chosen, I have found it impossible to put this track just as an alternate. Everything the Magic band was about is in this track, clearly focused on the various crossing rythmns. Quite breathtaking in my view

Alternates: Any one of 20 others

22. Cat Powers, Wild is the Wind

I first came across Cat Power about five or six years ago when the album What would the Community think? came out. I was hugely impressed by this as I was by the earlier albums that I picked up soon after. Then there were all the stories about wierd concert performances, which I was able to see for myself on the tour promoting You are free. I am actually not that big a fan of the two Covers records, yet my all time favorite Cat Power track is from the first covers cd, a version of an old Nina Simone song. That she has removed almost all the notes and slowed it down to a fraction of the original speed, is what makes it so special.

I am also a big fan of her ultra-rare DVD, Speaking for Trees. This has a couple of great videos of early tracks. I was not keen on the recent Memphis Blues albums (except for Love and Communication), but maybe there are hints in the most recent performances of a move back to the stripped down shows of old.

Alternates: Evolution, Love and Communication, You are free, Nude as the news, Keep on runnin', etc.

23. Charalambides, Naked on our Deathskins

A band about whom I know virtually nothing, other than that Christina Carter is on a Thurston Moore solo cd. This track comes from a compilation Cd called Harmony of the Spheres, that also features the great guitarist, Loren Mazzacane Connors. I always like tracks that open with long instrumental sections, and this features around 10 minutes of a beautiful guitar solo before the brief verse of vocals and the long drone that ends it the track after 19:40

This is not the longest single track in this list though

24. Cinerama, London

A mark of a great cover version is that, firstly, it stands on its own and expands the original, and, second, that it makes you hear the original in some new way. Both these features apply to this track, a cover of a track by The Smiths, by David Gedge of The Wedding Present. It was the B-side of the Manhattan single and I totally love the radio interference that features through the middle break of the track.

The rare event - a cover version that is better than the original

25. Les Claypool, Rumble of the Diesel

Someone I mainly picked up on from live concert downloads, I really loved the version of Claypool's Fancy Band with Gabby La La on sitar. Many of the tracks that I had come to love before her appearance were dramatically improved by her contributions. But she seems to not be in the current version of the band, which is rather disappointing. What has happened to her?

Some years back, I bought a ticket to the Bonaroo festival in the USA in part because of Claypool being on the bill. I still have plans to go to an American festival, just not sure which one and not sure when.

26: Cocteau Twins, Musette and Drums

For a brief period in 1983 and 1984 I thought that Cocteau Twins were the peak of what it would ever be possible to achieve in music. The two stupendous Peel Sessions of 1983 were my most-listened to cassettes, Garlands was a great debut while Head over Heels was my favourite cd of all time for a couple of years. I saw them a dozen times in concert with time they totally blew away OMD at Hammersmith, the Sadlers' Wells residency and the Royal Festival Hall as obvious highpoints. I even drove back twice from a work job in Windsor so I could see all the Sadlers Wells shows

But then it all went so wrong. Treasure was ok, but after that they moved into this fluffy, lullaby sort of sound which I really hated. They should have stuck to their Siouxsie and the Banshee roots in my view. Indeed I don't even knwo anything about releases after Victorialand. And clearly Musette and Drums is not fluffy at all

Alternates: Tinderbox of the Heart, Dear Heart, Hearsay Please

27: Loren Mazzacone Connors, In cushman's row

Someone I know through Wire Magazine and whose guitar work has continued to marvel me for the last few years. And for some while I thought he was female! This track comes from the cd,9th Avenue, and is a semi-live recording. If I could play guitar, I would like to be able to play like this

Alternates: More or less anything!

28: The Cure, All cats are grey

From my depressed late-teenager years, released when I was 18 and a firm favourite among the more alternative music people at school. Why listen to Judas Priest or The Scorpions, when there was this available. Of course you eventually grow out of this phase, though it stayed a while I must say. The follow up, Pornography, was also one of my favourites for some while and I loved the show from that tour that I saw at Hammersmith Odeon - the show when the support was the film, Carnage Visors, which the superb track that you got on the cassette version of the Faith album.

I hated the "whimsical" Cure that came soon after, but clearly Bloodflower and Disintegration from years later are stupendous records.

Alternates: Cold, Siamese Twins, The same deep water as you

29: Current 93, Neimandswasser

I was surprised to discover the other week that I have over 20 Current 93 cds. Yet I would guess that virtually no one has heard of them. A prime example of a musician (David Tibet) who has been able to create a large body of fine work with basically little or no media exposure. My favourite cd is Sleep has its house, which is actually quite distinct from the usual material, based around arrangements for the harmonium, and from which this track comes.

I'm always keen to find out what he does next and have just purchased Nature Unveiled and Honeysuckle aons, neither of which I know anything about, but which I am already excited to here.

One of my most listened to recordings this last year has been a relatively poor quality bookleg of the Current 93 at the Forum in London. Extremely simple song arrangements, gradually building in intensity for each of the 14 tracks. A fine performance, if not a great recording.

30: Danielle Dax, Pariah

I saw Danielle Dax perform in the band The lemon Kittens just after I came to London and it was pretty odd. A friend of mine that I used to exchange bootleg tapes with was the drummer in Shockheaded Peters, formed by one of the members of Lemon Kittens after the breakup, and of whom John Peel once said their first single had "no redeeming qualities whatsoever".

Pariah is from Danielle Dax's very odd album, Jesus egg that wept. The video is really low quality, but that somehow makes it so good - see youtube for details

From the extraordinary video for Pariah

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

101 "favourite" tracks - Nos 11-20

More accurately, 101 tracks by my favourite bands

11. Blonde Redhead, U.F.O.

I first came across Blonde Redhead via the website where they were listed as being similar to early Sonic Youth. This is true, or at least it was then, the band having adopted a far more melodic sound for the last three albums. And while it is true that they did sound virtually identical to early Sonic Youth, I don't see this as a bad thing. As always, I am very taken by the idea of Japanese female vocalists in rocks bands

U.F.O is from the album La Mia Vita Violenta and is one of the albums I got from Soon after, a new album, Misery is a Butterfly, saw a radical departure from the earlier sound. That said, I thought the track Melody was exceptional and I nearly picked that. I do quite like the new style of the band, but I really love the raw, older sound.

I saw Blonde Redhead in concert at the tiny club next door to the Astoria in London on their tour for the Misery album - and very good it was too. Recent bootleg recordings have also contained a track called (We are a real team) Harry and I which I don't think has been recorded and which features a long droning last few minutes which I really like

Alternates: Melody, (We are a real team) Harry and I

12. Boards of Canada, Amo Bishop Roden

I know relatively little about Boards of Canada, other than that they are Scottish duo and there were stories of them living on some sort of commune, or is that someone else.

I have most of their cds, but this is the one outstanding track for me, from their e.p In a beautiful place out in the country. It is a repeating electronic melody made from a really dense sound, coupled with a light rythmn track. No doubt it is the repetition that attracted me - 6:16 of the same repeating loops. Quite beautiful

Years ago, a female radio one DJ (Mary Ann Hobbs perhaps) played a track that she said was called Poppy fields by Boards of Canada. This was quite breathtaking, but I have never been able to find it as a recording. So maybe it wasn't them at all

Alternate: Poppy Fields (if it is by them)

13. Bongwater, Celebrity Compass

What is there to not like about Bongwater - postmodernism meets music. Their crowning glory is their last album before they broke up in acrimony. Strange stories from Ann Magnusson, weird music from Kramer, the overriding obsession with celebrity and fame. And a photo of Ann Magnusson's cleavage on the back of the cd which John Peel famously described as being ok because it was being done in an ironic way.

There are four or five other Bongwater CDs, all of which I have and which also have many fine moments, but none have the internal coherance of this entire cd. I was quite upset when they broke up feeling there was still something great to come from them.

And who can resist a track that starts "Someone gave me a celebrity compass / its just like a regular compass but instead of pointing north, it points the direction of the nearest celebrity / a friend and I used it to find the way to the Zeppelin party".

I saw them once in concert, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. A very odd show I remember.

Alternates: The Big Sell Out, and perhaps two dozen others from their various albums

14. Boris, Feedbacker

Boris have been the band I have listened to most over the last few years. An amazing body of work, summarized in some sense by the way my ipod describes their tracks as either alternate, metal, drone, doom, ambient, noise, sludge, experimental, stoner rock, metal rock or psychedelic rock - that does just about sum them up I suppose.

Feedbacker has just about all of these in one glorious 35 minute long track. Part 2 is the crux of the piece, Wata's superb wah-wah guitar track getting more and more out of control as the volume is cranked up, but remaining a quite beautiful piece.

Part 4 is just feedback and I once read a comment on it that it was not needed, but without Part 4, Part 5 wouldn't make sense.

I have a DVD of them performing Feedbacker at a concert in New York. Stupendous.

The band I most want to see live

Alternates: Just abandoned, Untitled (from Smile)

15. Bulgarian Voices, Pilentze sings

Another Peel show find after 4AD release Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares. What an odd release that was - something you could not even imagine would exist. Of course you never really know what they are singing about and there is always the suspicion that it might be something really silly rather than the deep and profound spiritual truths that the sound seems to communicate. As Peel said, for all we know, it could be "I am yearning for you, dancing pool, my arms, my arms" But it probably isn't this

Alternates: The Wedding

16. Kate Bush, Get out of my House

From her "mad" cd, The Dreaming, comes this strange, wild and totally out of control track. A huge rythmn pounds away throughout (the joys of the Fairlight?), odd lyrics and an ending featuring donkey noises.

I have always considered this CD her best, though I once read that it only sold about 60,000 copies compared to the 1m+ of the previous albums. That is very possible. I have a vinyl copy signed "To Jonathan, Lots of love, Kate x x x" Why I have this is a secret!

Alternates: A Coral Room, Mrs Bartolozzi, Hello Earth, The Kick Inside, Symphony in Blue, The Infant Kiss, Breathing, The Sensual World, etc

17. Cabaret Voltaire, Three Mantras

I was never a great fan of Cabaret Voltaire, but this is exceptional in my view. A pounding electronic beat, fuzzy amped keyboards, a repeating main motive, indistinct vocals. I first heard it when my friend Jude played it to me at her house one summers day at extreme volume when her parents were out.

I did go and see them a few times in concert as I rather liked the backing films and light show. Best show was at the time of Just Fascination - a more commercial cd and not bad in my view.

18. Calexico, Gero Canelo

Another band I first heard on Peel. Though I have most of their CDs, I have tended to mostly listen to Calexico via live recordings, for which there are a lot in existence. Linda and me saw them at the Zodiac in Oxford a couple of years ago and there were everything I had hoped for.

I just love the Mariachi themes they have incorporated into their music. A few years ago they toured with a full Mariachi band (as per the video of them at the London Barbican).

There are loads of great version of this track live, in contrast to the rather low-key version of it on the Feast of Wire CD. My favourite is from a German radio show where they have several guests including some Maricahi musicians and an amazing female vocalist. It is the final track from the show and is just wonderful

Alternates: Minas de Cobre

19. Can, Oh Yeah

I also tend to listen to Can via live recordings, especially those featuring long improvisations. But Tago Mago, from which this track comes, is perhaps the most improvised of their albums. It is the sort of record that if I don't hear it for a while, I am really stunned by when I do hear it again.

I started listening to Can when I lived in Leytonstone and one of my friends nearby had half a dozen of their records - Steve Cleary had very good taste, also liking The Fall and John Cale's solo albums. But he wasn't keen on this record for some reason, instead prefering Soon over Babaluma, and it was some years later before I heard it.

My favourite live recordings of Can contain some tracks which are long improvisations based on tiny bits of other tracks. I remember one that was about 15 minutes long and based on just 10 or 15 seconds of the track Quantum Physics. Amazing virtuosity.

Alternates: Quantum Physics

20. Captain Beefheart, Big eyed beans from Venus

Another Peel favourite - the only artist who Peel has ever played an album of one track a night for several weeks (Trout Mask replica, of course). A track that often featured in Peel's all-time festive fifty (when he did them) and I always used to think that perhaps he cheated to include it each time, especially when it came 14th one time. But it is most remarkable track

I saw the Magic Band play in Oxford a few years ago - not bad I thought. Their version of this was extremely good (as their live cd showed). I shook Gary Lucas's hand at the end of the set as they finished this track. Never thought I'd ever do that.

Alternate: Moonlight on Vermont