Week 39 – TBT 2017 – Let’s stay together

This one is just for Dee. It’s “our song”, and I love her very much. 

I guess Ive been a bit of a blues and soul mood recently, and this song just oozes quality. Such wonderful lyrics and so well sung. And the lyrics are just how I feel about Dee. It’s awesome, just like my lady, 

Al Green – Let’s stay together


Week 38 – TBT 2017 – Boom Boom

How are you doing this week? Still on a high from listening to Aretha last week? Let’s keep the flying going with this track, also seen in The Blues Brothers. John Lee Hooker gives a great performance here, and the crowd help illustrate the passion and joy in the music. 

This song appears to be all about a youngster who is having problems at home because all he wants to do is play music. His parents finally relent and the youngster is elated. The structure of the song is very simple, as most blues is, but from that simplicity it draws great power. 

Oh, and it helps that I think that John Lee Hooker has a great voice, perfectly suited to his songs. 

John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom


Sober for October

I’m fundraising again, this time for Macmillan Cancer Support. My challenge is to get through the 31 days of October without having any alcohol, and I’m very confident I can do it. Last year I managed 31 days without caffeine which I think was much harder. 

I know that a lot of people are doing a lot of fundraising, but I hope you can find a couple of pounds to spare to sponsor me too. Just go to https://www.gosober.org.uk/users/steve-mair and give a little, please. 

Thank you in advance, you’re helping change the world. 

Shame on who?

Earlier this week I finished reading Jon Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. It was a really fascinating read, which traced public shaming back a couple of centuries to the use of floggings and pillories, then quickly brought it right up to date with a number of cases, some of which I’d heard of and some I hadn’t.

I’ve not exeperienced anything like the “sport” which some people seem to enjoy, but I have been on the receiving end of some unpleasant comments / posts online recently. Nothing that’s upset me and certainly nothing that would be called shaming, but there was an amount of personal invective involved.

Dee and I have both had reason to ask people recently why they are being so nasty, so unkind, or to ask for evidence to back up statements they’ve made – some of which have been quite appalling.  We’ve had a lot of unpleasantness directed at us as a result. We’ve also started reporting racist, bigoted, homophobic and other abusive comments / behaviour to the organisations that run the sites where we’ve seen comments, because we’ve decided that standing by and doing nothing is no longer an option.

The press here in the UK seem to have developed a version of this over the last 20 years or so, where they build someone up and up, saying how great they are, then seem to take delight in tearing them to bits in a matter of hours and days.  In my opinion it’s part of the same problem.

The point I was going to make, and which Ronson makes very well, is that the internet affords a certain amount of anonymity and freedom for most people, and it seems that more and more are using it to collude with each other – not necessarily overtly, but tacitly, by joining in – to “have a go” at some unfortunate individual. Even those who try to question the facts or in some way protect the victim often find themselves the target of these trolls.

It seems to me that this is all a disturbing trend. It’s bullying, plain and simple, yet I’m willing to bet that the majority of people who join in would never think of themselves as bullies. It’s also apparent that a lot of people are unwilling / unable to admit when their words or actions are not appropriate, and abrogate their responsibilities as a person. It seems that they would much rather turn their wrath on you than to say “Actually, you have a point, my behaviour was out of order. I’m sorry.” Don’t get mad, get even seems to be the order of the day, but it’s really unhelpful.

My question for you is, what action do you take if you see an online “attack” on an individual?  Do you ignore it (which means you tacitly approve of it), do you join in (which means you actually approve of it) or do you tackle it? In my opinion, only by doing the third option can we make the world a better place, once person at a time.

And a second question: how do you react if someone calls you out on your behaviour? Are you kind? Are you honest? Are you helpful?  Do you hold your hands up and apologise, or do you go on the attack?

Week 37 – TBT 2017 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T

After years of listening to not much more than punk and goth music, my formative years were massively improved when I saw The Blues Brothers. The combination of great music and comedy combined to making it my favourite film of all time.  Listening to all those quality musicians playing timeless classics – who could fail but be moved by them. 

I’d hate to try to grade them in terms of which song / act is my favourite, but this track by Aretha Franklin is just awesome. She makes singing with such power, such passion, seem effortless. She doesn’t shout, but just seems to generate so much feeling in her delivery. 

Don’t we all need to show – and receive – a little respect, especially in these days of online shaming and what seems to be a lot of hate and distrust.  Enjoy this:  the original was 1967, hence there’s no video! 

Respect – Aretha Franklin

Week 36 – TBT 2017 – When you’re gone

OK, so this is another guilty secret of mine. I really like Melanie Chisholm’s voice (she’s better known as Mel C aka Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls). In this track I think it complements Bryan Adam’s rougher vocals and the contrast works really well.  Someday I’d like to cover this in a band, as I think it’s just a great rock song which a lot of people probably don’t know they know, and will dance to it anyway! 

Oh, and by the way, don’t read anything into the lyrics. I just love the song and thought Id share it with you this week! 

Bryan Adams featuring Mel C – When you’re gone

Leading from the front

Back in March I posted about how long it takes to recover from being at the front at a punk gig. I’m thinking now that maybe it was a one off, and here’s why.

Last weekend, the same band – Stiff Little Fingers – played a homecoming gig in Belfast, Northern Ireland as part of their 40th Anniversary celebrations.  The venue was outdoors, in Custom House Square, and the capacity was around 5000. When tickets went on sale, over 3000 were snapped up in the first 48 hours – I got two, one for me and one for my friend S – and all 5000 were sold out long before the event.  Dee came for the weekend but had decided that she didn’t want to join us at the gig.

The support acts were not too shabby: Belfast’s very own The Outcasts, Ruts DC (best known for Babylon’s Burning) and The Stranglers, who had their 40th Anniversary a couple of years back.  I hadn’t seen the first two before, so I was looking forward to hearing them: I wasn’t disappointed.

S and I met up around lunchtime and took in some of the sights (pubs) in Belfast. It seemed like everyone in the city was wearing a tshirt or something related to one of the four bands, and the atmosphere was brilliant. We moved to the pub nearest the venue a couple of hours before the gates were due to open and joined the throng of cheerful fans.

For the last couple of years Jake Burns, SLF’s lead singer and only ever present in the band, has worn a black shirt with white polka dots when gigging.  Someone on the SLF forum on Facebook thought it might be fun if fans turned up wearing something similar. Eventually it was decided that we’d all meet up near the gig venue an hour before gates opened for a polka dot photo.  There were 50 – 60 people in polka dot shirts (S and myself included) who congregated at The Big Fish (officially called The Salmon of Knowledge) on the banks of the river Lagan, and everyone was in a happy and excitable mood.

Once photos had been taken, people either went back to the pub or, as S and I did, started queuing to get in to the venue.  Once we got in, we headed straight for the merchandise stall and each bought a tshirt which had been specially produced for the gig: as it turns out, they were sold out very early on, such was the demand (more are being printed now, for a limited time only).

We then turned the corner and saw that there were hardly any people in ahead of us, so managed to secure a spot against the barrier at the very front, right in the middle of the stage.  This was a prime position and we were very surprised to have captured it.

As the various bands came and went, the venue filled up and the press from behind grew stronger and stronger – but we didn’t lose our spot. Cue SLF, and the place went wild: there was a general frenzy of singing, pogoing, chanting – everyone totally blessed out on the music and the fact that we were there, in Belfast, where it all began for our favourite band. What could be better?  What could ever top that?

From a music perspective, possibly nothing. But, the whole experience was enhanced by a couple of things.  First off, at the end of the gig, I managed to get a hold of Jake’s set list, which is now framed and on my wall. Second, it turns out that the Ruts were staying at our hotel, and I managed to grab a few words with their bassist and got a couple of photos with him.  Third, I found the exact spot – not far from the hotel as it happens – where the photo for SLF’s latest album, No Going Back, was taken: I of course had to get a photo of me taken there.  And fourth, we found Hope Street, which is the title of a song and album by SLF.

Me in the front row, 5000 fans behind me. I’m the one with big spots on my shirt!

At the end of the gig, the crowd dispersed, still on a high and in very good humour.  Since then, my Facebook feed has been full of praise for the city of Belfast, for the welcome the fans received, and plaudits for how good the gig was.  Just imagine that: a punk gig with 5000 people and no trouble, no fighting, no bad temperedness. Everyone was just glad to be there.

I described in my article in March how I’d been battered and bruised by being in the second row at the gig at the Barras, so how do you think I fared being in the front row at a gig that had more than double the attendance?  I was absolutely fine. Other than temporary deafness which went after a day or so – and which would have happened even if I was further back – I had no ill effects. My legs were fine, elbows weren’t damaged and there were no bumps or bruises to speak of.

So, this begs the question – when I next go to an SLF gig, will be at the front again? You bet!