Sunday, September 29, 2013

Reunited after all these years, though sadly not with the girl, but the song which consoled me

It was 1983 or 1984 (almost 30 years ago I realise to my horror as I write this), and I had just moved into my own house, a small two-bedroom house in a small close of 33 houses in Kings Heath, Birmingham, and was coming to terms with splitting up with my girlfriend (Sian, Pete, though I’m sure you already guessed), the first I should have married. I was living alone in the sparsely furnished house and generally feeling down in the dumps, smoking quite a bit of dope (though I now realise that as I wasn’t officially ‘a smoker’, I was regularly lighting up joints as much if not more for the nicotine rush as anything else) and drinking quite a bit of cider.

Every Sunday I used to tune in to Robbie Vincent’s soul show on Radio 1 as he was the only DJ on Radio 1 playing the kind of music I liked, and that’s where I heard for the first time a lot of the singers and bands I came to like: The S.O.S band, Cameo, Freddie Jackson and a lot of others. One night, I heard a song which was just great, which hooked me immediately. I didn’t hear the title but just caught that it was by someone (or as I first thought some band) called J Blackfoot. And I heard if only once. But once was enough. Years later when we got the internet and you could look up such things, I tried to track it down by googling one or two of the lines I remembered from the song but got nowhere.

Once, a few years ago going through a bin of old cassettes in Trago Mills, near Liskeard, I came across City Slickers by J Blackfoot, bought it and found out it wasn’t a band but he was a guy, though not a singer who also played guitar, but just a singer. One of the songs on it was his hit Taxi, but that elusive song wasn’t on it. Damn. Two days ago, I found it, and as I had got through the best part of a bottle of port (horribly moreish, is port), I can’t even remember how. But we were reunited after all those years. And here it is, a great, great song.


Then there’s Taxi, J Blackfoot’s hit. See if you like it.

Around about the same time I got to hear Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and bought several of his albums. He did a lot of touring in Europe, but I don’t think he was well-known in Britain. But he should have been. He is one of the best unknown guitar players I know. He also has a wicked sense of humour and a great voice and died in some style: suffered a heart attack on stage in Japan (so up yours, John Lennon).

I might well have heard him for the first time on Robbie Vincent show, but I really can’t remember (too much dope and cider?) But like him I did. I had about four or five of his albums but they got lost over the years and I have no idea where they are. You can still get one or two of them on CD, but not all. See if you like this track. And listen to the guitar at the end of the song: it’s not for nothing that this guy’s reckoned to be one of the great guitarists. Blues or straight pop guitar it ain’t.

Telephone Bill

 First Timothy Six

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who wants to buy a new motor? Not me, though I might well have done by now when I tot up the dough my cars have cost me in just under a month

It is a standing joke in my family that I have a fatal attraction for duff motors (as in cars). There is a some truth in that, but I would like to plead mitigation. Admittedly I don’t have much of a track record with cars, and, as I shall soon reveal, the little escapade of a several weeks ago when the starter motor on my ‘good’ car failed while I was in Germany and I was trapped for several days in a Bierkeller (or something like that) is not, in fact the end of the story.

Perhaps it would soften the rather critical view you might have of my facility with cars if I tell you that the world is firmly divided into two camps: those who will mortgage themselves up to the hilt, then borrow some more just to be able to buy the latest flash motor and cut a dash in town; and those who regard a car as merely a means to get from A to B in reasonable comfort, who always buy secondhand (which usually means fourth hand, of course) and who regard those in the first camp as living proof that fools and their money are always parted at the first opportunity.

Yes, I know the rationale that a brand-new motor, or one that is only a year of two old is less likely to break down, but I am certain that if one were to analyse the breakdown figures (assuming, of course, that you are bored shitless and really have nothing better to do), you’ll find that just as many new or nearly new cars break down as do the kind of jalopies I prefer to buy. OK, my kind of motor is perhaps more likely to suffer from the effects of old age, but how many times has a friend bought at top dollar, then been hit with some ongoing niggle or other which sees his car ‘in the garage being sorted out’ for longer than he or she has had the joy of driving it. But what I am about to relate does rather undermine my argument.

At present I have three cars. My own, a V –reg (1999/2000) Rover 45 bought for £800 from Rob Gibbons of Davidstow (and at the time a bargain – he could have got a lot more for it); the car my wife drives, a 2005 Chevrolet Matiz which cost £1,600 and was paid for with ‘Ken’s money’ (and the tale of ‘Ken’s money’ can be told another time); and my ‘good car’, Ken’s old car, an automatic Vauxhall Astra Club, which might be a 1998 model, but which only had 38,000 on the clock when I took it over – and still only has 47,000 on the clock – but, more to the point, was ‘tidy’ as the good folk of South Wales say. It is in remarkably good condition, that duff starter motor notwithstanding. Ken had left it to my brother when he died and as my brother lives in deepest London and decided he had no use for it, he gave it to me. Nice brother.

The ‘good’ car is my back-up and will be my ‘first car’ when the Rover – already more than 150,000 miles on the clock – finally gives up the ghost. But that moment is, as you will agree in a minute or two, I hope still a while off. About six weeks ago it was obvious she needed attention (cars, like ships, are always she. Why, I don’t know). Starting was becoming difficult and for the first four or five miles of any journey one cylinder was not firing.

It was off to the garage with her (though not Rob Gibbons, I have to say, because the last time he did something to her, he or one of his men, didn’t tighten the nuts on the nearside rear wheel enough so that when I was driving at 60mph down the M3 the wheel came off. It was partly my fault in that it had been making a hell of a racket but I assumed it was simply a

duff bearing and postponed having it seen to. It wasn’t a duff bearing.) Time was once when replacing spark plugs and possibly the coil was a simple matter which could be undertaken by most idiots in an afternoon, usually a Saturday. But no longer. Now cars are so fucking ‘sophisticated’ that such simple tasks are impossible.

So it was off to the garage, Atlantic Motors in Camelford, who did the job while I waited, which rather impressed me, but which set me back £172. While I was there, Alan, the proprietor and the guy who did the job – replacing all four spark plugs and installing the new-fangled coils the Rover 45 uses – told me that it was high time the cambelt was replaced. It should really be replaced every 50,000: mine hadn’t been replaced for 100,000 and was showing signs of fraying. And if it did break, it was curtains for the car. So I had it replaced. It cost the best part of almost £300.

When a few days later I again broke down, checked the cooling system and found I was out of water, I knew, though I dared not admit it to myself at the time, that I had blown my head gasket. An expensive job, getting a head gasket done. But after spending more or less £450 in a matter of days and for one other reason I shan’t go into here, I decided to go ahead and have the work done. In for a penny, in for a pound. All I’ll say is that the car is back on the road, but getting it there has cost me more than I paid for the car in the first place.

So you might now understand what the phrase ‘fools and their money are soon parted’ doesn’t necessarily just apply to folk who get into goddam awful deep debt to cut a dash in the latest model. It might also apply to dicks like me. Only time will tell whether or not it does.