Thursday, 30 December 2010

Things i've learnt this year.

  • Tuborg Lager served at outdoor gigs and festivals is rubbish. It tastes like piss and you will be charged almost four quid for the privilege of drinking it. Gaymers cider is almost as bad but at least has some semblance of flavour about it.
  • Paul Weller has still got 'it', whatever 'it' is.
  • A coalition government in this country will never work. Not while the 'them and us' status-quo is perpetuated.
  • My life will NOT be any more complete with an iPad in it. It will not make me happier and it will not simplify things for me. It will however leave me £600 out of pocket for the dubious honour of being able to show off to my friends that I'm an Apple 'fan boy'. Although the wife and i have just ordered iPhones in a moment of weakness.
  • Edgar Wright is the greatest living film director bar none.
  • The 'organisation' that you work for care no more about you than they do for a lump of dog shit stuck to the bottom of their shoe. You are a drone, a number, a peon to them. Once you realise it's best to not bother offering opinions and idea's in your place of work because you'll inevitably be ignored, the better. Things may be different for you if you're willing to lie, cheat, back stab and crawl over your colleagues to further yourself.....but none of us want to be that 'person' do we? Turn up, do your bit, keep your trap shut, never ever walk out of the door at the end of the day carrying any stress with you and draw your wages once a month. There are FAR more important things in life than making money for people who couldn't give a shit about you.
  • Some people enjoy the drama and attention of being in a shitty, pox ridden, failing marriage with an abusive partner. No matter what advice you give them they will never listen.
  • Married life, if you give a little and take a little, is pretty damn good.
  • Chelsea FC will always bring as much pain as joy to it's supporters.
  • The Coral are the finest band in the UK today. Closely followed by The Bees, Doves and The Arctic Monkeys. Anyone who doesn't realise this is too 'cool' or 'arch' to understand what you mean.
  • Only good can come from the student riots.
  • Ed Milliband is quite obviously a feckless toad who has 'bum licked' his way into a position of power. He symbolises everything the working classes should hate, yet the dyed in the wool Labour voters seem to like him. Work that one out. Oh and did i mention i can't look at him without thinking of Ray Romano?
  • The Alistair Campbell stage managed farewell from Gordon Brown as he walked off into the sunset having washed his hands of thirteen years of running the country into the ground was probably the most nauseating thing witnessed this year.
  • Peter Mandelson is still a cunt.
  • Sky News should never be watched if it's real, unedited, propaganda free news you're searching for. Ditto the BBC.
  • My day is now incomplete if i miss the Radio 4 Afternoon Play.
  • Barack Obama was the greatest con-trick ever pulled. Impressive really.
  • It's okay to say that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ARE illegal.
  • Gazza will bring you chicken, lager and a fishing rod if you're in the middle of a gun siege with the Police.
  • The Kings Of Leon are actually a very very good band.
  • Facebook CAN be a force for good by connecting us all together, but it is still choc-full of people who can barely string a sentence together, which annoys me more than it probably should.
  • Ten minutes after the final Chilean miner was rescued i no longer gave a toss about them.
  • I still don't understand the 'vampire' thing.
  • Giving up smoking was a piece of piss. Anyone who says they can't do it is lying. You don't need patches, gum, injections or tablets that are foisted upon you by greedy, scaremongering pharmaceutical companies, all you need is to show some fortitude and say 'no' when you fancy a smoke. Easy.

And on that note, i wish you all a healthy, wealthy and prosperous 2011.

Rob H

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Reasons to be cheerful..

War, famine, racism, religious bigotry, terrorism, climate change, national debt, oil spills, corrupt banks, greedy faceless corporations an inept coalition government dragging us back into the late 70's, Simon Cowell, Eastenders....... Yes, we're living in very dark and dangerous times indeed and some people love nothing more than to revel in highlighting these things.

- "oh those greedy bastard bankers and their bonuses being funded by the Rothschild's and their Illuminati cohorts! We're all doomed!!"

- "i say Marjory! Grab the tinfoil hats and head for the garden shed! I've just heard on Sky News that Al Quaeda have been spotted in a Transit Van in Luton!"

- "Damn this snow! How dare the Tories not be able to control the weather! Is this what i pay my council tax for?!"

You know the drill. The kind of whiny scaremongering that after a while just becomes white noise to these ears. It's usually spouted non-stop by a certain type of person who is either too fond of the sound of their own opinions or just lacking any sense of Joie de vivre.

Yes, we know the world can be a very dark place.
Yes, we know there are extremely dubious forces at work.
Yes, we know our leaders in government fail us all the time.

So, knowing all this can you provide any credible solutions as to how we can change things?


Well shut the fuck up then, put the kettle on, plump your cushions and let's celebrate what's actually good about the world in 2010 shall we?

  • Music
Music is not dead in this country. Far from it in fact. Okay so the days of kids in bands signing mega deals are long gone, due mainly to record company greed coming home to roost (but that's a different discussion for a different day), but there are scores of sharp-as-fuck kids out there making and distributing their own stuff without having to bow down creatively to an Armani suit wearing paymaster. Bands like The Cornerstones, Sun Of Souls and The Lost Boys, to name but three, are producing mustard songs to ever growing fan bases because they actually care about their craft which is refreshing in this era of throwaway pop nonsense.

Even the more established artists have been knocking them dead this year. Records from Weller, The Coral, Arcade Fire, Carl Barat, Gorrilaz, The Dead Weather, Cee Lo Green, Nero, Plan B, The Black Keys and Laura Marling have all been played to death at Haynes Towers this year.

I still get no bigger buzz than sticking a pile of my favourite tunes on shuffle and spazzing out around the house to them. You should try it, it's good fun.

  • Film / TV
I've been to the cinema more times during the past twelve months than probably the past five years combined. I've never been a massive fan of sitting in an uncomfortable seat whilst a gang of teenage girls behind you flick popcorn at your head or play Angry Birds on their iPhone's but that changed with just one film for me this year. 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World' just had to be seen on the big screen to be believed. It looked like no other film I'd ever seen, the soundtrack was ace and it was directed by the sharpest young director in the industry today, Edgar Wright. If you've not seen it i cannot recommend it highly enough. It'll blow your socks clean off. When i walked out of my local Odeon after watching it i said it was the greatest film I'd ever seen. I stand by that pronouncement.

As for TV, the following (in no particular order) have been absolutely top notch this year; Skins, Being Human, True Blood, Later..., Peep Show, Inbetweeners, The IT Crowd, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, Storyville documentaries on Ajax and Barcelona Football Clubs, Muhammed Ali, The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin and Motown and even the final series of Scrubs was still several notches above a hell of a lot of other American comedy.

The jewel in the crown this year though was the Professor Brian Cox series 'Wonders Of The Solar System' which was absolutely breathtaking in terms of visuals and narrative. Truly groundbreaking stuff.

  • Sport
It's been a vintage year as far as i'm concerned. My team won the double, we're in the middle of the most exciting Ashes series for years, the Formula One season went down to the last lap and AP McCoy won me a bundle with his first Grand National win.

Sport in general still has the ability to quicken the pulse and make the hairs on the neck tingle.

Football (national and international), Boxing, Formula One racing, Horse Racing, Tour-De-France, Athletics, Rugby, Darts, Cricket, Golf, Tennis.....blimey I'm sure even tiddlywinks manages to take the breath away from certain devotees of the game.

Is there any greater sight than two heavyweight boxers going toe to toe for twelve rounds or two European football heavyweights slugging it out for ninety minutes under the floodlights? The only one i can think of that tops both for me is the sight of the final horse in my Yankee romping across the line at Wolverhampton or Newmarket........but it's been a while since that happened so I'll settle for a balmy night at The Santiago Bernabau.

  • People
Amongst a gaggle of complete and utter bastards (yes Mandelson, Blatter, Griffin and Cowell I'm looking at you) a few people stood out as beacons of hope;

Julian Assange
Bradley Manning
Mark Zuckerberg
The Chilean Miners
Haile Gebrselassie
Lionel Messi
Aung San Suu Kyi
Brian Cox
Edgar Wright
Paul Weller
Ozwald Boateng
Lady GaGa

Okay so i lied about the last one but you get my drift. Not all hope is lost while the planet contains such excellence. This is just a minuscule list of people who have risen above the day to day drudgery and inspire people to better themselves in different ways. To any young teenage kid who can see no further than the dole or a dead end job i say to them take a look at these people and push yourself. You never know where you might end up.

So there you have it. Is all hope lost? Or do we still have the innate ability to step back from all the turmoil that surrounds us and and actually enjoy life? I'm of the firm belief that some of us still can. If we lose that escape route then what is left for us? I'd rather not dwell on it if I'm being totally honest. I'm happy to sit here, digest the dark stuff that the news throws at me on a daily basis but put that to one side and immerse myself in the things that make me happy. Surround yourselves with loved ones, sing, dance, drink fine wine, eat good food and go about your business with a dirty great smile on your face. You'll feel much better for it, trust me.

In the words of a certain Mr Ferris Bueller Esq...

"Life moves pretty fast. If You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Rob H

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Kids Are Alright.

Students. Don't you just love 'em?

Look at them, running around central London with their witty placards, fresh faces and baggy jeans, keeping the Police on their toes and making them earn their wages for once. Fair play to them for at least making an effort i say. It's been a long time since we've had proper sustained protesting on this scale in this country and it's impressive that they seem to have shattered the myth of the stereotypical slacker teenager who only cares about his or hers next spliff or game of Call Of Duty on the Xbox.

But are they doing it right? Because lets face it, rioting isn't what it used to be.

I have vague childhood recollections of the riots of the late 70's and early 80's. I seem to recall long hot summers where Brixton, Southall, Toxteth & Handsworth all went up in smoke fuelled by working class anger at a government that had left the poorest people on the poorest estates to rot and fester. These riots seemed to go on for days, with images of burning cars and shops or injured coppers being stretchered away on makeshift stretchers being bombarded into our front rooms, it seemed like this was history in the making and things would never be quite the same again. We even had the soundtrack to these riots with the likes of The Specials ,The Clash and The Jam all topping the charts while the inner city sink estates tore themselves apart. Even though much of it was race related it was enough to make even the mildest mannered working class Joe Bloggs want to chuck a Molotov cocktail at a line of riot coppers. Yep, lets face it kids, rioting used to be fun! Maybe that's why the usual suspects of a certain age from the S.W.P and the Anti Fash brigade have been spotted in the thick of the action whipping things up every week, these boys used to love nothing more than a good old fashioned tear up when the National Front marched through their towns.

And it's that self same working class spirit of dissatisfaction that appears to be missing from this current round of riots or 'direct action' as the media would rather label it. A good gauge of things such as this is my old man. After the first round of protests at Millbank he was all for them causing the Old Bill as much grief as possible. After last weeks pictures he had changed his viewpoint and was of the opinion that they should "fuck off back home to their Surrey mansions". Watching it myself as a complete outsider (University education? Moi? Pfffft) i feel myself lacking any lasting empathy for them because (and forgive me for over simplifying things here) it would appear on the face of it to be a very middle class protest and the last thing it should be about is class. The working classes should be learning from this and rising up off their backsides and getting involved. The cherry, on the icing on the cake of this particular point would be the pictures of a certain Mr Dave Gilmour's son Charlie swinging from a Union Flag on the cenotaph that were plastered across the media last week. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when i say I'm pretty sure this contemptuous little prick has never wanted for anything in his privileged twenty one years. Just how much do university fee hikes and funding cuts really affect the son of a multi-millionaire musician? I'd hazard a guess at absolutely fuck all.

His explanation for his actions was at best wishy-washy and at worst laughable..

‘I’ve got myself in a terrible scandal. I’m absolutely devastated by what I’ve done.I was just caught up in the excitement of the moment.’

Hang on a minute, isn't he supposed to be a young, thrusting University student who is enjoying the best education that (Daddy's) money can provide? Yet he appears to be so wrapped up in a bubble of upper class poncery that he decided that these actions were 'excitement'. He's meant to be the cream of this country, yet in one fell swoop he's dissipated every last shred of acceptance and empathy the working class man in the street had for his and his fellow protesters cause and all the long held suspicions held by the proletariat about their upper class masters come flooding out once again......and quite rightly so. The poster boy for the student protests has been outed as a disrespectful, idiot son of a millionaire rocker....good work everybody!

So where do they go now? Do they blindly turn up throw a few paint bombs, light a few half arsed bonfires, spray paint some 'edgy' graffiti and then moan about being 'kettled'? Or do they take a leaf out of the football casuals handbook of causing a spot of unrest and think on their feet by splitting into smaller groups and instead of concentrating on central London take their protests nationwide? Who knows, but without the backing of a large slice of the voting public ie; the working classes, their plea's for change will inevitably fall on deaf ears. If they played it smart and used the whole issue as a call to arms for the whole country to get off its arse and try and make a change then they would obviously garner far more widespread support in my opinion.

Whether they can put down their Kafka novels and their beginners guides to Bolshevism and realise this before the whole thing fizzles out is another matter. Let's hope they do get their act together because no matter what side of the political spectrum you come from every government needs to be told in no uncertain terms that the people are still here alive and kicking and still hold some form of power.

They may run the country but we'll riot if we want a very polite manner though.

Rob H

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Get Well Soon Candyman.

"English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestling in green nowhere, armoured and effete, bold flag-bearer, lotus-fed Miss Havishambling opsimath and eremite, feudal still, reactionary Rawlinson End.

Danny Baker, inventor of the football phone-in? Radio broadcast genius? A font of all knowledge on popular (and not so popular) culture? Punk rock pioneer? One of the greatest music journalist's this country has ever produced? Or as he would maybe put it 'Joe Shmoe from Kokomo' fighting cancer?

I'll go for all of the above if pressed.

His absence from our afternoon and Saturday morning airwaves had already suggested that something was amiss health-wise with Dan yet when the news broke on Monday via an extremely witty and moving message posted on his Star Garter Facebook page that Dan was fighting cancer, it still stopped me in my tracks.

Now don't get me wrong, i don't know Danny Baker at all personally, yet when I'm out and about most weekday afternoon's and Dan is weaving his spell on BBC London 94.9, i feel like i do. It's an odd sensation. It's almost like sitting in your local boozer chewing the fat with a mate you've known for years.

Some of the most astounding and genuinely funny shows have involved trying to tempt Bowie out of retirement via his 'The Dame At The Dome For A Dime' campaign, or listeners phoning in about burning 'off colour' magazines in a dustbin and the half burnt pages blowing across the neighbours gardens' or Dans tale of how his dad woke him with a cuppa the morning Marc Bolan died with the soothing refrain " 'ere boy, that popstar fella you liked? wossisname with the hair and the make up?" "Marc Bolan?" Dan replied, "yeah him he's planted! Gorn!". It was as if you were eavesdropping on a private moment between Dan and his old fella!

Then there's the music, oh that sweet sweet music. To slightly more snootier ears than your average Danny Baker listener his choices may seem absurd but to the listener it makes sense. Why not start with a spot of Danny La Rue then onto a spot of Tonto's Expanding Headband, then onto some classic Beatles segued into some Anthony Newly (singing Dan's 'Candyman' theme) and then back to a spot of Kenneth Williams or The Bonzo's. A magical assortment of tunes that more often than not hit the spot.

What most people outside of his daily group of London based listeners will know Danny Baker for are his long standing radio football phone-ins which are worth an article on their own and something i couldn't possibly do justice to in just a few hundred words. If you've never heard any of his stuff then i heartily recommend you head to where a lot of the early Radio 5 606 shows with Dan and Danny Kelly are archived and available to download. If you've got a spare ten minutes then i advise you to track down the show with the caller from Dundee who's father made him a massive plywood bow tie in Dundee colours for him to wear to matches. The tie was so heavy he had to take a broomstick to games with him to prop it up as he wore it! Fifteen or so years later and i still can't make it to the end of the call without tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks.

So to add to the avalanche of get well soon wishes that have been sent Dan's way i'd like to send my own and hope Dan beats this 'mouldy diagnosis' and is back on the radio soon with a rainbow round his shoulder and his hat on the side of his head delivering a Pip and a Dandy of a show for us faithful listeners. If positive vibes were a cure for cancer then he'd have it licked already.

Get well soon Candyman.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Falling out of love with football. A 37 year old curmudgeon speaks.

Football has always been the thing that has defined me. From a young kid running around with an old plastic ball pretending to be Clive Walker to an adult standing in The Shed at Chelsea it has always been an all-consuming passion of mine. Through football i formed friendships, ended friendships, sculpted my outlook on music, fashion, politics and life in general and for that I'll always be grateful.

But something has changed over the past few years....

Sky Sports and it's incessant, overblown, lights flashing, headline grabbing trumpeting of our national game. I understand it's big business and i understand there's subscriptions to be sold but Jesus Wept do you have to make out that Wigan vs Wolves on a freezing cold Monday night in January will be a game to rival anything the Brazil 1970 squad threw up all those years ago? We know it's going to be a dour, soulless, achingly shit 0-0 draw, Sky know this too so who are they trying to convince? Certainly not anyone with the slightest slither of knowledge about the game. The money pumped into the game at first was seen as long overdue and the 'product' (a term that doesn't sit well with me) improved beyond all recognition with an influx of world class foreign talent. Without that money i would never have been treated to the balletic, gliding, imperious skills of Ruud Gullit or the 'blood twisting' dribbling of Gianfranco Zola. Yet to me that all seems like a hell of a long time ago and vastly different to the bloated, stale, ego and money driven 'product' served up today.

Football on telly used to be a mystical beast. Match Of The Day on a Saturday night with Jimmy Hill, David Icke and Bob Wilson and The Big Match on a Sunday lunchtime with Brian Moore were magical when i was a kid. Even when they started showing the odd live league or cup game in the mid 80's televised football never suffered from being so far up it's own arse and overblown.....unlike nowadays. Watching football back then was a treat to be savoured. Now we're force fed a daily diet of football and we've all become fat and sickly from it.

I often feel as though I'm being screamed at in my own front room by an unwelcome visitor. It irritates me to the point where i no longer watch any build-up or reaction before and after games and now prefer to switch the game on as soon as it kicks off and switch off at the final whistle to save me from having to face the simpering Richard Keys and his astonishing lack of insight, Jamie 'Literally' Redknapp and his uncanny ability to talk himself into a metaphorical cul-de-sac. And the less said about Andy 'Take A Booooo Son!" Gray and his sickening love-in with Liverpool and Man Utd or his undeniable hatred of Chelsea, the better. This is the man who after 6 years still calls Paulo Ferreira ...... wait for it......Paulo Farrrrarrrrerrrr. What price partiality?

Ticket prices have also become unsustainable for your average working man. No longer can a working bloke and his son decide on a Saturday lunchtime to go to a Premiership game. Now you have to plan a trip to a game 3 months in advance like you're Rommel organising his Afrika Corps and for that privilege you can expect to be charged the best part of £60 (after booking fees) at Chelsea. Take your kids, feed them, buy them programmes, fill your car with petrol to get there and you won't see much change out of £200 for a day out. Okay stadiums are safer than they ever were in my day and they have to be paid for somehow but it can't be only me who finds these new plastic pleasure-domes soulless, vacuous, atmosphere free theme parks? Call me a Luddite but give me an evening under the floodlights on freezing cold terraces any day.

Even international football is rotten these days. The national side is choc-full of supposedly world class players who just by looking at their body language, you can tell don't want to be within a thousand miles of the FA and Wembley. And why would they? When home internationals are played at a stadium full of parochial know-nothings from provincial towns who seem happy to pay £80 just for the chance to boo John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. It 's everything wrong with this country, not just football, wrapped up in a neat and tidy £700m white elephant. It's come to the point now where i refuse to watch England internationals and I'd rather Chelsea won the League Cup than England win a major trophy. To all those Scousers and Mancs i've belittled down the years for taking this view of the England team......i apologise unreservedly.

So, will i cancel my Sky Sports subscription? In a word no. For every goalless draw at Wigan played in front of a third filled stadium or every two footed lunge from a flash foreign import or every imaginary yellow card being waved you still get a majestic game thrown up every now and again. Unfortunately it usually involves Sky's La Liga coverage of Barca or Real or if you're that way inclined ESPN coverage of Serie A which is usually available live on less than reputable foreign websites. If Liverpool were playing Man City in my back garden I'd draw the curtains.

For me the party is over, I'll still go to the odd game at Chelsea, more out of a deep rooted habit and I'll still watch them when they are on the box but my sense of connection with the game that shaped me has long since vapourised. Football and all it's shiny plastic glitz and glamour can go poke itself as far as I'm concerned, I'll stick to watching grainy YouTube clips of Mike Fillery's free kick against Spurs in the FA Cup Quarter Final in 1982.

Shame really, because the love affair was good while it lasted.

Rob H

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

So cheer us on through the sun and rain.

Basking in the afterglow of another Premiership title i thought I'd rattle off just a few reasons why i love Chelsea. It might not gain me many friends but in the words of the song...."Fuck 'em all! Fuck 'em all! United, West Ham, Liverpool......".

  • My old man and my older brother. I had no choice did i? I was brought up on tales of Ossie and his goals, Hutch and his mammoth throw-ins, Chopper and his bone crunching tackles and Charlie Cooke and his mind bending dribbles. The way they described this gang of piss heads, dandy's and hard men was enough for me. After hearing that i was never going to follow a team as ordinary and small time as QPR or Fulham was i?
  • The kit. The first one i ever had bought for me was the 1978 home kit resplendent in royal blue with white Umbro diamonds down it's long sleeves and long white pointy collars. I looked a million dollars amongst the other kids on the Heathcote Way estate in Yiewsley in their scratchy Liverpool and Arsenal shirts. I used to love donning that shirt, going over the green with my red and white League Cup leather ball and pretending to be Clive Walker smashing the ball in from all angles and getting caked in mud practising bicycle kicks on my own in the pouring rain.
  • Fulham Broadway. When i was six or seven i started to go to games with my older brother. My first game was a meaningless end of season affair in 1980 against Bolton but as far as i was concerned it could have been the world cup final! I still remember the sights and smells that hit me as we crossed the North End Rd traffic lights from Dawes Rd where we'd parked the car. It was a mixture of petrol fumes, sweaty old burgers that used to sit in brine until the next ravenous piss head came along to play Russian Roulette with listeria and the stench of horseshit. Then there was the supporters. Maybe time has clouded my memory but I'm pretty sure every bloke who went to Chelsea in those days sported a number one crop, a Fred Perry underneath a green flight jacket, red braces hanging round his backside and a pair of oxblood DM's. To a young aspiring skinhead who had been brought up on his older brothers reggae and ska collection this was it. I'd arrived!
  • 1983/84. Niedzwiecki, Lee, Pates, McLaughlin, Jones, Bumstead, Spackman, Speedie, Dixon, Thomas, Nevin and honorable mentions to Cannoville, Hollins, Jasper, McNeil and Neal. If you're a Chelsea supporter and didn't witness this season then you don't know what you missed. If you were there......has it ever really been bettered since?
  • Fashion. My interest in clothes was sparked by those early visits to Chelsea. In my early days of following Chelsea it was DM's or Tassled Loafers with a green Alpha flight jacket and a pair of bleached jeans or even Adidas boxing boots and i was even known once or twice to wear a pair of suede moccasins to football! It then evolved into Sergio Tachini tracksuits, Diadora Borg Elites or Adidas Gazelles, sky blue chunky Lois Cords (frayed at the hem and split at the seams), Pringle or Lyle and Scott golf sweaters with a Pierre Cardin roll neck underneath all topped off with a chunky gold belcher chain worn on the outside. For the classier amongst us an Aquascutum mac topped off the look just right.
    Then it progressed for me into flared Chipie and NafNaf jeans (and even dungarees YES DUNGAREES!), Chevignon sweatshirts, Clarks suede Wallabies and long hair as every man and his dog seemed to discover Ecstasy and house music at the same time. It did nothing for the atmosphere on the terraces either. At an age where we should have been kicking lumps out of eachother most blokes were too off their tits or on friendly terms from clubbing together to be bothered with all that. After that we progressed onto Stone Island, CP Clothing, Burberry, Armani, Paul & Shark and a fair few lads are still subscribing to this particular style bible to this day. Me? I'm happy pinching a bit from everything that has gone before and I'll be found in a pair of Adidas Forest Hills or Desert Boots, Fred Perry polo or Ben Sherman underneath a Harrington jacket these days. As they say clothes maketh the man and i have Chelsea to thank for that.
  • Stamford Bridge. Yes, it was a shit hole, but it was our shit hole. From the decrepit ramshackle old Shed, to the concrete Benches in front of the West Stand that would cause piles in the winter, to the dog track around the edge of the pitch, to the white elephant of the brand new East Stand that nearly crippled the club, i don't think there's another ground quite like it. Call me nostalgic but i actually preferred the old girl in those days as opposed to the fairly dull and soulless uniform stadium they redeveloped her into. Chelsea fans loved the fact that it was intimidating to visit and away fans hated coming there. To this day if i close my eyes i can still picture a younger version of me sitting on the crash barrier above the Bovril Gate at the Shed End watching Pat Nevin terrorising visiting defenders.
  • Mates. I don't go as much as i used to these days, probably only half a dozen or so games a season now but massive kudos to those blokes that do still go home and away every week. I've grown up and have other responsibilities but even so i still enjoy the day out and everything that goes with it when i do manage to score myself a (overpriced) ticket. The dozen or so of us from West Drayton that used to go home and away every week have slowly dwindled away for different reasons including emigration to Australia, marriage, kids, work etc.. but i know still that every single one of us from those days still loves Chelsea just as much and are still as passionate about their club even after all this time. One day there'll be a reunion and the stories and banter will still be the same then as it was all those years ago. I think my favourite thing about growing up following Chelsea is the fact that the bonds formed with your like minded mates are more or less everlasting. Ask any of them about the trips on Gary's coaches to the far flung corners of this country or a certain 24 hours in Stockholm or a certain someone getting a kick in the balls outside Filbert St and i reckon you could write a book from the stories that would be told.......oh, hang on a minute! I've just had an idea!
  • We're not.....(and i thank God every day for this) Yids, Leeds, Utd, West Ham, Arsenal, Scousers, QPR (who barely deserve a mention) or Fulham. Because as the song goes...... "We are the Chelsea and we are the best, we are the Chelsea so fuck all the rest!"


Friday, 30 April 2010

Why my my sixteen year old nephew loves The Smiths...

It would seem there's not a lot left to be written about The Smiths, and certainly nothing of note that this writer could add that would shed any light on just why they were so important.

So I've given my sixteen (YES SIXTEEN!) year old nephew Jack Haynes the chance to share with you exactly why he loves The Smiths even though he was born some seven years after they split.......

Those Charming Men

Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll…..Not always.

For some (or more like one) it was Celibacy and Veggies and College Rock.

Who else could I be talking about other than Morrissey, a man who defied the typical musician persona of the eighties to become more than a much loved artist, but more a musical genius. I was not around in the good old days when this man first started popping up on the screens of the nation sporting a huge fluffy quiff, wearing large women’s clothing, a hearing aid, and swinging a bunch of Chrysanthemums around in the air, but I reckon I could guess what people’s reactions were. They were either shaking their heads in disbelief or nodding them in approval and wondering why there had never been anybody like this before?

Only one other person should also receive such praise in this article, Johnny Marr. The man who seemed the only person capable of co-writing with Morrissey. Marr’s amazing riffs and chord progressions, laced with that distinctive wavy 'jingle-jangle' Byrds style effect, were the frames for which Morrissey could lay upon his forever original and inspirational lyrics. In my opinion, songs that sum up the way in which Marr thought about them and how to get the best sound from them would have to be;

Girl Afraid, Hand in Glove, How Soon is Now and not to forget the all time classic This Charming Man.

All of these songs, no matter how equally good any other Smiths track is, for me could pretty much give anyone an all round idea on what Marr’s musical range was and in my opinion it was massive.

I also have to mention the two band members that never quite got the praise and gratification they deserved, for no matter how much it seemed they were just session musicians, they were also responsible for piecing together some of the greatest songs ever written.

Mike Joyce, the man who tried to sue Morrissey and Marr for money that was theirs despite there being no contract to say otherwise, did provide the songs with just the right amount of rhythm. Banging away on the drums in The Queen is Dead, Joyce showed that he could provide a hard, heavy and fast paced beat that went a long way to making the song what it was. But he wasn't good for just banging away on the bongos; he could also give songs like 'Back to the Old House' a nice bit of rim tapping, to provide just the correct amount of rhythm without destroying the songs soft tempo.

Alongside Joyce was Andy Rourke. The bassist who managed to take 'Barbarism Begins At Home' with its funky riff and Morrissey induced barks and turn it in to something much more complex and sophisticated, with an incredible thundering bass line. The same thing could be said for pretty much any Smiths song, for this was not another bassist who would settle for playing the exact same thing as the guitarist, but a bassist who could write what seemed like his own song and play it over the top of the rest to make yet another great and perfectly crafted masterpiece.

During their five year career, The Smiths had released four studio albums and nineteen singles, which as more than a lot of bands ever dream of. But just like the music business almost always does, it started to tear them apart and they were to split in 1987. Fans were devastated and to this day, with there being no chance of a reunion, still are. But in 1992 they released their last charting single 'There is a Light That Never Goes Out'. Originally a much loved album track, this for me was the song that defined The Smiths in a four minute show of extravagance that still makes me smile, close my eyes and sing along until my hearts content every time I listen to it. It was the first Smith’s song I ever heard and I hope it will be the last song I ever hear whilst on my deathbed. The iconic opening followed by emotional verses, a powerful chorus finished off with an epic climax along with Morrissey, for once, beautifully singing the amazing and unique lyrics is just the best arrangement ever.

Even though The Smiths are dead, Morrissey’s amazing and creative solo career always has and always will fill people with so much joy and inspiration. So much so that I couldn't believe the reaction when at the end of a gig at Alexandra Palace, Morrissey threw his t-shirt into the audience and people went berserk. I did manage to come away with a tiny shred that night, but more importantly it just showed me how much he has affected peoples lives, which couldn't have ever been achieved without the other three Manchester lads who helped to start it all off for him, the four men that became of the most inspirational bands ever.

'With loves…' we loved them, 'with hates…', we hated to see them split up '…and passions just like mine.' Well it’s fair to say the passion for The Smiths will remain forever. So long live The Smiths and long live Morrissey; I hope he keeps providing us with inspirational music for years to come.

"I don’t mind how I’m remembered so long as they’re precious recollections. I don’t want to be remembered for being a silly, prancing, nonsensical village idiot. But I really do want to be remembered. I want some grain of immortality. I think it’s been deserved. It’s been earned"Moz

Jack Haynes

Friday, 23 April 2010

The time’s on the way, my love......

The press release was fairly standard...

"Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years. We still love each other but, cliché notwithstanding, musical differences have led to us moving on and of course we all wish each other well in the future."

The usual clinical and soulless record company contrived statement regarding a band splitting. A statement so understated that the news flew under the radar when it was announced last week.

Supergrass are to split.

After digesting the press release it got me thinking back to a time fifteen years ago when we were young, we were free and we kept our teeth nice and clean. A summer when it seemed to be constantly gloriously hot, i had my first real love hanging from my arm and Chelsea had just signed Ruud Gullit! How could life get any better? Well my life was certainly improved when a debut album by the name of 'I Should Coco' landed on my turntable. A debut album that, in my humble opinion, stands up against almost any other debut album you care to mention.

In The City? - Check
The Stone Roses? - Check
Definitely Maybe? - Check
Whatever People Say I Am....? - Check
The Smiths? - Check

An album of such preposterous youthful excuberence that it should be passed as law that all new bands are forced to listen to it before they get as far as the recording studio. A blueprint on how to put a little joy into an album and how to not take yourself too seriously. Bands like The Enemy and Kasabian should take note because after a while watching these po-faced, plastic hardmen take to the stage with sour faces looking like they've just sucked a pre-gig lemon becomes tedious. - Maybe 'moody' sells?

"But music is a serious business!"
i can almost hear some people shout. Well no it's not really is it? It's about enjoyment and escapism and listening to a band or artist who sound like they've actually enjoyed producing a record. For me Supergrass were that band and 'I Should Coco' was that album.

The three opening tracks of 'I'd Like To Know', 'Caught By The Fuzz' and 'Mansize Rooster' are a triumvirate of pop songs that any band worth their salt would kill for. The first time i played the album i sat there with a stupid grin on my face, blown away by what I'd just heard. I just knew i was onto a winner with this one!

Then you've got 'Alright'. A song that took on a life of it's own over the years and almost became an albatross around the neck of Supergrass as they were trying to grow up and move on as a band. But just take a minute to listen to it. It's pure 'Lazy Sunday' by The Small Faces crossed with 'My Brother Jake' by Free. To these ears it still sounds just as good fifteen years later.

Moving on it beautifully criss-crosses punk, psychedelia and pure pop with songs like 'Lenny', 'She's So Loose' and 'We're Not Supposed To'. Then three tracks from the end comes what i think is it's defining moment and a glimpse as to where Supergrass were heading for in years to come. An almost prog-like, bluesy psychedelia tinged anthem called 'Time'. For me it is the albums 'curve ball' as it appears almost out of nowhere in a puff of smoke. The Creation described their music as 'Red With Purple Flashes' well this particular track was turquoise leopard print with streaks of lime green with yellow spots and a weird fuzzy blur round the edges. There aren't many songs that blow me away to such an extent that i simply have to listen to it at least once a day but 'Time' is definitely one of them. In fact even to this day I'm so attached to it that when i watched Supergrass play it live through an alcohol induced haze on my stag do at Ascot Racecourse (i know, i know) last summer i swear i had a little speck of dust in my eye as the opening chords chimed out. It's one of maybe only a dozen or so songs that can transport me back in time instantly and stir up all those emotions from the summer of '95.

By the time 'I Should Coco' draws to a close with another big kaleidoscopic number 'Sofa Of My Lethargy' which could almost be the moody older brother of 'Time', which rumbles nicely into the melancholy comedown album closer of 'Time To Go' you know you've heard a truly brilliant album. The 'cognoscenti' may not agree but for me it's almost impossible to listen to it without a stupid toothy smile spreading across your face.

So as sad as it is that one of this country's truly great bands have gone their separate ways we can console ourselves with the fact that they left behind a truly magnificent slice of music and for that we should all be grateful. So tonight when i get home from the drudgery of my day job, I'm going to stick 'I Should Coco' on the stereo and raise a can to Supergrass and bellow along to this...

Gaz, Danny, Mick & Rob.....we salute you.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hillsborough - 21 Years On.

Before i go any further let me make one thing clear. I am not a great lover of anything to do with Liverpool FC. In fact most of the mawkish sentimentality that is showered on the club by it's own supporters and the media alike leaves me cold. I would even go as far to say that 99% of football supporters across the nation feel much the same.

From TV commentators mentioning The Kop as a "12th man" on European nights at Anfield, to their supporters constant harking back to a time (long long gone might i add) when they were a major force and won trophies here and in Europe with regularity, Liverpool annoy me more than any other football club in the country.

I'm almost duty bound to mention the events that occured at the Heysel Stadium, Brussels in May 1985 too, when Liverpool supporters charging across a decrepit old terrace caused the death of 38 Juventus supporters before the European Cup Final. In the aftermath of that game it was suggested by certain Liverpool supporters and media outlets that it wasn't in fact Liverpool supporters that caused the tragedy but rather Chelsea supporters and random National Front headcases who had somehow infiltrated their ranks and caused the trouble to break out that night. This was never substantiated in any way and still irks many Chelsea supporters to this day when the subject is touched upon. Although i think it's more or less universally agreed that the events that evening were due more to the disgusting state of a crumbling stadium rather than the actions of a few hundred pissed up idiots causing trouble inside the ground.

Having said all this, i must make it clear that we are talking about the football club and not the city or it's people in general. I've been to Liverpool a few times following Chelsea and i know a few Scousers through work etc and they've always seemed fairly amiable, decent people who are fiercely proud of their roots. Although there was one particular Liverpudlian who thought it would be hilarious to stab a mate of mine in the shoulder blade with a fork whilst he was sitting in a cafe near Lime St having a pre-match fry up. I suppose every city and every football club contains it's fair share of nutters and sociopaths though and Chelsea are certainly not blameless when it comes to things like that.

Yet whatever dislike i have for Liverpool FC as a football club is tempered by the events of April 15th 1989. A normal, warm, spring afternoon where 96 of their supporters were killed watching their team play an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground. An afternoon i remember pretty vividly all these years later.

It was on a coach coming back from seeing Chelsea get beaten at Leicester City that rumours of trouble at Hillsborough started being bandied about. It was mostly dismissed as run-of-the-mill 'aggro' until the full details emerged when we got back to London.
We needed to win that afternoon to gain promotion back to the old Division One. As it turned out we were beaten and the champagne was put on ice for a week until we dispatched Leeds at home the following Saturday and clinched the title, but that's an insignificant footnote to that particular afternoon.
We took the best part of six or seven thousand supporters up to Filbert Street that day and aside from the vast amounts of trouble inside and outside the ground the one thing i remember is just how overcrowded the away terrace seemed that afternoon. Every time Chelsea attacked the crowd would surge and you could almost feel the breath being forced out of you as you were forced forward towards the crash barriers.

I was fifteen years old and enjoying every single minute of being part of a mass of humanity that was so noisy, so passionate and struck fear into almost every town we travelled to in those days. The thought that i might actually be killed or injured never crossed my mind. I was fifteen years old and invincible!

Little did i know that just 50 odd miles up the M1 at that very moment kids my age were being crushed to death watching their football team.

What happened that day at Hillsborough has been the subject of massive conjecture ever since. Without wanting to pick over the bones of it in too much depth (I'll save that for the real experts) it seems to me that it was a combination of inept, incompetent and downright useless policing outside the stadium by the South Yorkshire Police Force and thousands of ticketless Liverpool fans trying to gain access to an already overcrowded fenced pen behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.

It seems a fairly trite and hackneyed thing to say but the old cliche 'there but for the grace of God go i' has never rung truer to me. It could have been any one of us that day. It was a tragedy waiting to happen for many years previously. It could have happened to any club, any supporter or any ground that day.

Football supporters back then were treated as second class citizens and herded and controlled like cattle by heavy handed police forces. Our glorious leader at the time Margaret Thatcher with her midget Minister of Sport henchman Colin Moynihan even created a 'War Cabinet' to deal with hooliganism. Did this war cabinet deal with the problem? In a word, no. It was absolutely no thanks to her and her heavy handed police forces across the country that football changed in any way, shape or form in this country. It took the death of 96 innocent people for the authorities to be given a wake up call and realise that things needed to change and that supporters needed to be treated properly.

Skip forward 21 years and the Hillsborough tragedy is still a topic of discussion country-wide. Many people i know see what happened that day as an act of 'karma' for what happened at Heysel. Other people go that one step further and still sing the '96 not enough' and 'Murderers' songs and will have no hesitation in spouting the opinion that 'the Scousers deserved it'. Unpalatable yes, but that's how the brains of some football supporters work. Sadly tribal loyalties do not extend to showing a shred of compassion towards innocent dead teenagers. Some people are too busy being wrapped up in their very own ball of hatred.

I can't begin to comprehend the horror of having to travel to a morgue in a city miles away from your home town to identify the crushed corpse of a loved one who had been killed watching their football team play. That sort of thing transcends football loyalties and without any argument you would have to be some sort of inhumane animal to draw any sort of pleasure or schadenfreude from such an event. Yet i have been in the presence of people who think this way. It's not worth trying to reason with them sensibly. They just don't get it. It's not even worth trying to shake sense into them. These people are so set in their ways and detached from the realities of a world outside football that they'll never grasp just how distasteful their views are.

It's best just to ignore them.

On a personal level it was this post on a Liverpool forum from an Everton fan who lost his brother at Hillsborough that moved me more than anything else I'd read on the matter. It is one of those pieces of writing that leaves you feeling like you've been punched in the guts. A piece so powerful that i needed to get up and go for a walk after I'd read it. I suggest people who are of the opinion that anyone who died there that day somehow ''deserved it', read that article in it's entirety.

The families of the dead have been treated abysmally by the government over the years. We'd all like to see the truth exposed as to what really happened that day and that those families gain some sense of closure and justice. Knowing the establishment in this country and how it works I'd be very surprised if they did.


Friday, 9 April 2010

So i've finally succumbed.

"Blog. Blogs. Blogging. Journal. Diary."

Words that conjure up all kinds of strange imagery. From the Emo kid sat in their bedroom writing doom laden prose about boys in eyeliner, to the spiky haired Hoxton metrosexual writing about his "oi oi!banter!" fuelled Saturday night on the tiles getting smashed on bottles of blue WKD or even the techno nerd almost orgasmic with gushing praise about his Macbook or latest iPhone app.

None of the above particularly appeal to me in any way but i've recently had an epiphany.

Let me explain...

The older i get (i'm 36 now) the grumpier and more opinionated i become and the more i feel the need to have my say.
It's not an earth shattering discovery i'll grant you, but one that has got me thinking more and more over recent months. Now this may sound a bit 'soft' to certain people but it really is cathartic to rant and rave on the internet. It's nice to be able to spout forth your opinions on things you hold dear to you. It's comforting to be able to get things off your chest and be able to let others see what makes you tick and maybe chew the fat about what you've written.

Hopefully i'll update this blog regularly when i've got some 'good shit' to get off my chest. I'll be pontificating on things i'm into such as music and football but there will be the odd curve ball thrown in for good measure to keep people on their toes. Some of it may be of interest, some of it may fly right over people's heads and i'm almost certain some of it may just provoke people to make 'wanker' signs at their monitors and dissolve into fits of laughter.

So there you have it. My reasoning for succumbing to the blogging phenomonen. Lets hoist the main sail and head for the high seas!