Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Guilty Pleasures (Part 17)


I saw Status Quo in Exmouth last Sunday. Or at least they purported to be Status Quo. They didn't fool me, however, because they looked nothing like them and even the name wasn't quite the same. They called themselves Quo-incidence, and they were playing at the Exmouth Cider Festival.
There are some things in life that go hand-in-hand, isn't there? Fish and chips, Morcambe and Wise, er... night and day, um... love and hate, ... er... Status Quo and cider! They were onto a winner straight away, really, playing this gig.

I was watching them and I was thinking 'If I was on drugs or pissed out of my brain then they'd be really good. I could tune-in to their 12-bar blues extended jams and groove away into infinity. I could circle the world and square the circle, turn reality back in on itself and turn cartwheels in the snow storm of my mind.'
Alas, as it was only 4 o'clock in the afternoon and not being a northern industrial imbiber, I was stone-cold sober, which meant rather than being 'really good' Status Quo were instead merely 'good'. Looking at the rest of the audience, they seemed to be treating the concert as a rather sedate affair with very little nodding of heads let alone full-on head-banging. On closer inspection I realized it was because they were all too wrecked to even move. On the outside they may have looked like strangely beautiful Easter Island statues but on the inside they were in the delirium of a cider-fuelled frenzy. You could see it in their eyes. They were in rapture and Status Quo were the heavenly choir.

It begged the question, actually: How come Status Quo aren't as revered as say, the Ramones? Both bands led long and distinguished careers, both being globally (and fabulously) famous. Both produced seminal and unquestionably classic songs and albums and both went equally astray over the years, producing some pretty ropey rubbish. Both stuck to an almost rigid formula and both laid down a gauntlet of examples to follow and to most definitely avoid.
So how come Status Quo lack the same critical respect as bestowed upon the Ramones? How come wearing a Status Quo t-shirt is decidedly uncool whilst wearing a Ramones t-shirt is moderately hip, even when purchased in Primark?
Such are the mysteries of the Universe.

For all that, I would have preferred a Ramones tribute band over a Status Quo one but such is life and you can't always get what you want though sometimes you might find - as someone once sang - you get what you need. Do the Ramones go hand-in-hand with cider? Is a Status Quo tribute band what we need? Are there even any Ramones tribute bands around nowadays?

And by the way, if anyone thinks Bristol and Somerset are good for cider then I should let you know that there are people down here in Devon whose whole lives are one big, never-ending cider festival with the soundtrack to their lives being Status Quo's Paper Plane. And there's nothing wrong with that in the slightest, I might add.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Whale Nation - Heathcote Williams


When Heathcote Williams passed away recently I was slightly perturbed at the scant recognition it received in the media. How could the death of one of England's greatest modern-day visionaries pass without some kind of national response? Should not all the clocks have been stopped? Dogs given bones to stop them barking? Pianos silenced? Should not planes have circled overhead, scribbling on the sky the message 'He is dead'?
Maybe it's just me, I thought? Maybe I'm just not in the loop or that I'm just not moving in the right circles? Maybe there was wide-spread mourning and an avalanche of accolades on TV, radio and social media and I just missed it all?

Heathcote's passing caused me to look back again at some of his works and it led to a confirmation that he was indeed a very great man. His was a true vision of Albion and the spirit of Englishness. Not the spirit of conservative politics or of myopia but of freedom, empathy, passion and - importantly - anarchy and Utopia.
It's not often I urge anyone to read a certain book or to listen to some specific music. I might proffer an opinion as in whether I think something is brilliant, mediocre or rubbish but I never (hardly) say something must be read or heard. For Heathcote Williams, however, I make an exception.
I would urge anyone to seek out his works and devour them because I guarantee that if approached without preconception or prejudice there will be a reward at the end. You will come away with something positive, life-affirming and precious.

Take Whale Nation, as an example. Published in 1988 it is an epic poem, a paean, a brilliantly rendered hymn to the glory of the whale countered by the miserable and pathetic attitude of man toward this most beautiful and astonishing of creatures.
'From space,' it begins 'the planet is blue. From space, the planet is the territory not of humans but of the whale. Blue seas cover seven tenths of the Earth's surface and are the domain of the largest brain ever created, with a fifteen million year-old smile.'

There are no words to convey how brilliant the whole piece is. I certainly don't have the words so won't even try. All that can be done is to read (or hear) it yourself. All I would say is that if it fails to move you then there is no more conversation to be had. If after reading it you show only indifference then so be it - but there is no further hope for you. If it fails to move you then - I'm sorry but - you're already dead.

As for Heathcote Williams, he may now have passed away but his spirit lives on. Bathing us all in its light like a heavenly star in the firmament, or rather, like one of Van Gogh's glowing and swirling stars, Heathcote's spirit shines on. 
Heathcote may now have passed away but his spirit and yes, his vision, remains undimmed and in all the works and all the art that he has left us, shines on as bright, as proud, as beautiful and as defiant as ever.

Thank you, Heathcote. RIP.

John Serpico

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Guilty Pleasures (Part 16)


I saw Oasis in Exmouth last Sunday. Or at least they purported to be Oasis. They called themselves Supersonic and purported to be an Oasis covers band but who knows? They might actually have been Oasis purporting to be a covers band called Supersonic purporting to be Oasis?
It gets so confusing sometimes, doesn't it? Trying to distinguish between fact and fiction, reality and illusion, truth and lies. And this is just down here at ground zero and as we cast our eyes beyond the horizon at national politics, global politics, mainstream media, the Internet, Facebook... it becomes intolerable. What exactly is going on? Who or what can you trust if you can't even trust yourself?

They were okay, actually, whoever they were. They played all their hits. Liam's put on a bit of weight since last time I saw him on television but he's entitled to. He's lost none of his attitude though, as evidenced by the remark he made about the last song the DJ played before they came on and plugged in: "Now for some proper music," he said "Not like that last song that was played."
That last song happened to be Wannabe by the Spice Girls. I wanted to call out to him "Haven't you had the ginger one, Liam?" but I thought I might be getting him mixed-up with Robbie Williams and I didn't want to cause upset before the concert had even started. It was a family event after all.

It was a boiling hot day and he was dressed in a coat. Again, I wanted to call out to him: "Liam! Take your coat off! Make yourself at home! This is Exmouth, man! Chill out!" But again, I didn't want to cause a scene so I let him suffer for his art. It can't be easy being a style icon, I thought. Especially on a hot day.
Liam's no stranger to these parts, actually. I saw him about a year ago in Budleigh Salterton when he was walking along with a couple of women and children and as I passed him I overheard him advising one of the women to invest in a pub down here. "You'll make a packet, man." he said. He had a big coat on then too though it wasn't such a hot day.
Robbie Williams is no stranger to these parts too come to think of it, as he owns an apartment down at the Exmouth marina (though he probably just rents it out). He's been seen in town once or twice though nobody's had to take out a restraining order against him yet.

"Yer, Fred, izzat Robbie Williams up there singing? He's put on a bit of weight, ain't he?"

But I digress. 'Supersonic' were entertaining in a slightly mind-bending kind of way. I particularly liked their version of Get It On by T-Rex. And as a review of a concert (which this purports to be), that's all that needs to be said, really. Next week we've got Status Quo playing along with a bunch of other bands all for free at the Exmouth Cider Festival. The week after that, we've got Neil Diamond back again, followed by Elvis Presley the week after. All for free! And in October we've got Pam Ayers coming!

Sometimes I can't tell if I'm living in one of the best coastal towns in England or if it's time for me to move?