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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Their Satanic Majesties

I recently rediscovered how good the Rolling Stones ‘Their Satanic Majesty’s Request’ is.  I was on the treadmill at the time, ‘The Citadel’ booming in my ears on shuffle. Mind you, anything sounds good on the Treadmill, apart from, perhaps, Hildegarde de Bingen.

What’s fascinating is the initial reaction to it from some critics, pontificating as though they had tablets of stone up their backside and the voice of God on their tongue. Rolling Stone (the magazine) saw it as a sad aberration from what the Stones did best – combining the ‘lack of pretension and sentimentality of the blues with the rawness and toughness of hard rock.’  I love that aspect of the Stones but abhor an ‘orthodoxy’ that suggests they should do nothing but that. Have you ever listened to ‘The Best of Chuck Berry’ where after twenty minutes you realise every track is essentially the same? How on earth could you sustain a fifty-four year career on that?

 Fifty-four years.

Other critics seek to make excuses, like social workers, or lawyers for the defence trying to ‘get off’ a dodgy client. They point out that 1967 was a very bad year for the Stones, citing their drug busts, Mars bars, the increasingly unstable Brian Jones and interpersonal rivalries made worse, no doubt, after Keith Richards seduced Jones’ girlfriend Anita Pallenberg.  Jagger later claimed the stones went wild on Satanic Majesties: ‘to piss Andrew off, because he was such a pain in the neck. Because he didn’t understand it. The more we wanted to unload him, we decided to go on this path to alienate him.’ Jagger was referring to their manager Andrew Loog Oldham. One suspects there were more than musical differences involved. Jagger would not have been unaware that Oldham was making five times as much money than he was – as good a reason as any to offload him.  Satanic Majesties was the means. Their contract with Oldham stipulated that he paid all recording costs and studio time. Is it merely coincidence that the recording of Satanic Majesties stretched from February to November (admittedly with drug busts in between)? It also explains the appalling ‘Gomper,’ which must have convinced Oldham to pack up and run.

But enough of the excuses. Satanic Majesties doesn’t need any. Charlie Watts’s drumming as much as anything else, gives it a groove contemporary psychedelia lacked. It’s what you get when you combine the power rhythms of R&B with the more ornate textures of ‘Flower Power’ sound. In this respect it is very much an artefact of its time and at the same time  unique. In contrast, Sergeant Pepper is trapped in its time, its very success and memories evoked untranslatable to the present. This is not so true of Satanic Majesties.

Stand out tracks for me are: ‘Citadel’ where Richards punches and thunders on guitar and provides, perhaps a foretaste of Jumping Jack Flash
The Lantern with its snappy drum and acoustic guitar

The acoustic guitar driven 2000 Man, where Jagger anticipates aspects of the present day:
'Well my wife still respects me
I really misuse her
I'm having an affair with a random computer
Don't you know I'm a 2000 man'

She's a Rainbow with Nicky Hopkin's beautiful ascending motif on piano and strings arranged by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones.

And last but not least In Another Land, sung and composed by Bill Whyman. The snore may be his too.

The eulogy is over, though mercifully the Stones are not yet dead. 

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Waitrose will have milk come the Apocalypse. Tesco, I’m not so sure about.

I love shopping, a disturbing admission for a man. Let me clarify, I’m not talking about clothes. That I abhor. I’m happy with what I’ve got until my wife points out they’ve largely disintegrated. Then it’s a brief foray out and then home.

No, I’m talking about food-shopping, the last residual shadow of man, the primitive hunter – or in my case, man with an appetite.  What adds piquancy to the twice weekly event is the nearly two mile walk into Monmouth – the same walk but one that changes with the seasons.

Summer, a view from Osbaston Road

Autumn. Vauxhall Field and a glimpse of the River Monnow

Autumn, the Monnow and a glimpse of Vauxhall field.

Winter, Vauxhall Field and St Mary's Church

Winter, Vauxhall Field and St Mary's Church touched by God.

Uh, uh. Something's brewing. (My Turner moment) 

Snow, however, is the big event, and its effect on people is weird. People walk for starters, they have to, and greet each other like comrades in arms, as though we’ve just weathered another night of the blitz.  Earnest conversations ensue as to whether there is still milk in Waitrose. If only Napoleon’s soldiers had it so good on their retreat from Moscow. And yes there was milk in Waitrose. There’s always milk in Waitrose. Waitrose will have milk come the Apocalypse. Tesco, I’m not so sure about.
Osbaston Road. The trudge into town

A cold looking River Monnow

Crossing the Monnow.

Vauxhall Field and St Mary's

No People

But then comes the thaw and the ‘walkers’ vanish, and a new season begins.

Soon be spring.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Where is a good pheasant when you need one?


Life is so uncertain and short. One moment you’re flying without a care in the world, the next minute you’re dead. The thought came to mind when I read about a pheasant that flew into the helmet of a biker at a combined speed of 60mph.  The six-pound bird shot from over a hedge and crashed through the man’s helmet. Both died on the instant.

It is important to note that both were sober, for it leads on to another story in the same newspaper.

A lawyer’s widow caught drink driving argued in court that she should not be banned from driving as her driveway was too long to walk down.

She had been driving a £79,000 Mercedes G –class 4x4 and was three times over the legal limit, but her lawyer (whom managed to keep a straight face) argued that since her drive was a quarter of a mile long, she would have to make significant lifestyle changes should a driving ban come into effect.  The good lady also asked not to do Community Work. She claimed it would ‘put her in an alien surrounding,’ as she had never worked.

She was banned from driving for two years, fined £560 with £750 costs but was spared from working with the great unwashed.  It seems, on the whole, a fair judgement, though the judge, no doubt coming from a similar background, shared her view that a ‘lady’ shouldn’t be expected to work. He replaced ‘Community work’ with a ‘rehabilitation course’ (whatever that is) instead.

Where is a good pheasant when you need one?

* Courtesy of Wiki / Gary Noone Flikr

Friday, 23 February 2018

I'll drop a line to Mick Jagger, see what he says

I began my twice-weekly gym and swim session two years ago. Since then, I’ve discovered muscles I never knew I had, and apart from the stiff legs after each session, feel much better for it. I may well continue this into my eighties – using Mick Jagger as my benchmark – though if he dies before then I won’t feel obliged to follow suit.

There is though one recurring problem that won't go away.

My stomach.

It’s not a huge stomach, as stomachs go, but it’s there, and it remains. It resembles a medium sized ball of proven bread dough. It would be nice if it could be pressed or kneaded down like dough, but biology does not work like that, and the man or woman who discovers the way to circumvent the impossible will make a small fortune. Still, as I say to my wife, beneath that surface flab lurks a philosophical six-pack just waiting to surface – like that lump of marble waiting for Michaelangelo waiting to finish.

Doubts however have surfaced.

It began on the internet, like most things nowadays. There I discovered the mysterious properties of a catabolic hormone called cortisols. Catabolic hormone. Lovely phrase. Anyway, this catabolic hormone is produced by the adrenal glands and is the body’s response to stress. Muscle protein is broken down into amino acids that are dumped in the bloodstream, stored in the liver and the stomach area and then formed into glucose for instant relief and/or energy.

The problem seems to lie in in ‘over-training.’ The longer you work out, the more cortisol is released. After one hour the ‘gains’ are negated by an increase of cortisol stored in the abdominal area. Not just weights, cardio-work also raises cortisol levels. Putting it crudely, rather than burning off fat, that 90 minute session on the treadmill or bike or elliptical trainer will cause you to produce more fat and hang on to the fat you already have.

You can see where I’m going with this . . . perhaps my two sessions of 90 minutes gyming and swimming is too much for a man of my advanced age. More couch-surfing and ‘Reality TV’ perhaps. This new train of thought beomes more compelling (if not attractive) when I read the latest ‘science’ in popular tabloids:

‘Want to live to you 90’s? Drink a couple of glasses a wine or beer each night and put on a few pounds.’

Suddenly my small stomach becomes a small asset. Perhaps time to expand it, as the article said: ‘human biology is geared to adding weight later in life. The best mortality experience is to gain between five and ten pounds a decade.’

‘The best mortality experience’ – that’s another fine phrase.

Maybe more time spent in the Murenger and less in the gym.

I’ll drop a line to Mick Jagger and see what he says.