‘The Sensational Alex Harvey’ by John Neil Munro.

Alex Harvey / The Sensational Alex Harvey Band ranked (and still do) as one of my favourite bands back in the early – mid 70s. I was lucky enough to see them play ‘live’ on few occasions, including the infamous 1975 Christmas shows at Glasgow’s Apollo theatre.

I regularly play the various SAHB albums I own, but like so many things in our busy lives these days, it was very much a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ when it came to reading about the band. So, when I saw this on sale in a discount book shop, it was too good a bargain to miss.

And I’m glad I picked it up.

Initially I was disappointed to read within the first ten pages, the revelations by the author that he’d never seen the band play, and that guitarist Zal Cleminson (amongst others) would not talk to him about Alex. There were no reasons given, but it was obviously their prerogative.

I did think this would detract significantly from the impact a book like this could make.
But despite these early confessions, and even though there is very little real contribution from either drummer Ted McKenna or indeed, any as I recall, from bass player Chris Glen, the book still serves a purpose.

Using music paper / newspaper quotes as well as significant contributions from Alex’s second wife, Trudy and his friends / management, author John Neil Munro has managed to paint a sympathetic, yet ‘warts and all’ account of Alex Harvey’s quest to change the face of what he saw as a sterile and boring scene that had dropped down between Glam and Punk.

Indeed, Alex’s well worn path through the music industry started well before that period, and in many ways, the reader (even if unfamiliar with Alex and his work) is rooting for the wee Glasgow lad trying to make good against a backdrop of early social deprivation and a musical landscape so set in its ways.

But that some bloke about fifteen years older than the rest of his band can achieve such success, at least in a ‘live’ environment, lends hope to all us who have dreams to follow. They take some cultivating and an incredible amount of belief, but this book shows that dreams do come true.

I guess, though, the real trick is learning when to wake up.

I’ll not say any more for fear of spoiling the read. For it IS a good read. And one that will now lead me to read more about the band and the other members as well.)

‘Break Point,’ by Ollie Ollerton.

This is the third book in the batch recently produced by the DS group of TV’s ‘Who Dares Wins.’

Interestingly, each of the three is quite different in content, though I won’t say too much for fear of dropping some ‘spoilers.

Ollie’s book though, I’d say is a bit more ‘graphic” in detail, describing certain instances in depth. Like Foxy, Ollie is very open about his life and how he ended up where he has. And it’s been a real whirlwind of a journey (God – I hate using that expression!) But it is.

As I’ve said of both Ant and Foxy”s books, this is a riveting read and possibly more than the others, this gives a no holds barred view of life in the Special Forces – and what goes on when the action stops / they are waiting for the action to start.

I’m really glad these guys who served so well and have been through so much, have found another niche in life and, it would seem, contentment.

‘If You’d Just Let Me Finish …’ by Jeremy Clarkson.

This is the eighth book (I think) of Jeremy Clarkson’s that I have read. So, you could say I’m a bit of a fan.

Not so much of his other books that focus on the performance of various cars whose names consist of seemingly random letters and numbers, but these reproductions of his weekly articles for the Sunday Times.

The first thing to like, is the short, punchy, delivery, each chapter coming in around the one thousand word mark. For readers like me with only short windows of time to read, or indeed those with a short attention span, this is ideal. No need to continuously backtrack to pick up on any plot / character details. Just read; put down; pick up and repeat..

Then of course there’s the humour.

I know Jeremy Clarkson has his namby pamby detractors – but I find it difficult to believe that those who condemn him for being bullish and arrogant or whatever, do not privately think the same way in many situations. Oh, please God, I hope so – what a terribly boring world we would live in if everyone was so easily offended / outraged.

Personally, I find Jeremy Clarkson’s humour spot-on. He is one of a very few writers who can actually make me laugh out loud.

As this book did – frequently.

Uncovering My Tracks (Part #2)

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(Continuation of the serialization: UNCOVERING MY TRACKS)

In truth, it was the cartoon more than the music that commanded my attention of The Beatles and ‘Yellow Submarine.’

I was to remain blissfully unaffected by the hype surrounding the Fab Four for many more years. Indeed, even now, I don’t quite ‘get’ them. I know that amounts to something like heresy, but while I can appreciate their later work, I still have more time for each of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo efforts than that they produced together. In fact, ‘Back Off Boogaloo‘ would end up one of my favourite singles from 1972, the words being scrawled in an old-school Kolossal graffiti style across the cover of my English jotter.

Even at the age of ten, I railed against convention. Not for me, this accepting what was uniformly and blindly followed. Unimpressed with the biggest band on the planet, I was already showing a stubborn and ‘punk’ attitude.

I nailed my colours to the Ohio Express and The Scaffold masts in 1968.

1969 was another year more focused on football, Batman and Thunderbirds. I do, however, have vivid memories of returning from the annual Carnival with my Cub Scout Pack, on the top deck of a Glasgow Corporation bus, singing the latest big hit by The Archies. I’m not so sure that was evidence of a musical maturing, though.

Being only eleven / twelve years old in 1970, my scant pocket money stretched only to a copy of Shoot! magazine, a pack of football related bubblegum cards and a handful of gobstoppers. Any money I saved would go towards buying a trick / joke item from Tam Shepherd’s magic shop in Glasgow city centre.

Music and records would not become a priority until the following year when at the age of thirteen I developed the ‘cool’ gene.

OK – maybe ‘cool’ is stretching it. But I was the only kid in school who owned a copy of ‘Kongos’ the first album John Kongos released in his own name. This was the first album I bought and paid for on my own, and came a few months after my first single, ‘Co-Co,’ by The Sweet.

It’s fair to say I got a bit of stick at school for my choices. But hey – nineteen years later, The Happy Mondays covered John Kongos’s ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again.’ It was ‘cool’ then, wasn’t it?

One thing about the early Sweet singles was that while the ‘A’ side was of a pretty commercial, twee style, the ‘B” sides were infinitely more rocking. They had a harder edge, and I played them as much as the principal song.

My musical development was to take on a heavier bias.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Uncovering My Tracks (Part #1)

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Do you recall the precise moment you became aware of music? Not the nursery rhyme type stuff your exasperated parents would sing as you lay in your cot, determined to make them regret that rainy, alcohol infused weekend at the B&B in Rhyl some twenty-seven months previous. No – real music. The stuff that set you off on your personal musical odyssey. (See how I cleverly avoided using that dreadful ‘J’ word, just there?) I grew up in a household filled with the sound of marching military bands and film soundtracks. The Royal Marines Bands Service and South Pacific still come back to haunt me. In fact, having asked my Dad what was the music of choice to get me settled when I was a nipper, I was horrified to hear it was ‘I’m Getting Married in The Morning,’ from the musical, ‘My Fair Lady.’ Sheesh! 1958 – even Pat Boone or Dean Martin would have almost passed as ‘cool’ then. But no – I must have been the most uncool six year old in Glasgow when I first became aware of some combo called The Beatles.

1964 – The Swinging Sixties and all that were just around the corner and the only reason I became aware of the biggest music phenonemon until Wet Wet Wet came along (‘J’ for joke) some twenty-odd years later, was because my father had written a banner with the words ‘She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah Yeah’ to stick on my Uncle Robert’s Triumph Herald on the day of his wedding. And even that was a year after the release date. Unbelievably, it would be another five years before I eventually ‘got with it,’ as we would say. And I remember the precise moment. I was climbing the apple tree in our back garden with my pals, when one mentioned the cartoon he had seen on TV (yeah, I know – apple tree / garden / TV – we were terribly middle class, not that I’m at all ashamed of that) Cartoon? He said ‘cartoon?’ That was me – I was in. What was this ‘cartoon’ of which he spoke? TO BE CONTINUED …

Fall in New England (versus) Autumn in West of Scotland.

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I’ve never witnessed it first hand, but I believe New England is absolutely glorious in the Fall. It would certainly be hard to argue otherwise, given the images we here in Scotland see via television movies and the like.

Glasgow is some 13 degrees further north than Boston. It sits on roughly the same latitude as Novosibirsk Oblast (Russia) so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised by the contrasting perceptions of the year’s third season.

But it doesn’t stop me feeling a tad jealous.

Here’s how I see it:

New England - Fall - bridgeNew England: couples walk romantically hand in hand through the woods. They scatter the dry, brightly coloured leaves as they walk, kicking them into the air for the gentle autumnal breeze to cushion their fall back to earth.

West of Scotland: couples walk hand in hand through the woods. The word ‘romantically’ is omitted, for they are merely providing ballast to prevent the other from slipping on the soggy, rain-soaked leaves.

New England: on a bright, sunny day, a happy, smiling middle-aged man contentedly blows the brittle leaves into neat, uniform piles on his manicured, picket fence surrounded lawn. He then effortlessly lifts them into the appropriate refuse bin, which he places on the sidewalk for collection by the local  waste collection agency.

Houston - Autumn - drabWest of Scotland: on a dreicht, overcast and damp day, a miserable, brow-beaten middle-aged man loses the coin toss / argument / will to live and his wife sends him into the overgrown garden. He accidentally bends the leaf-rake on the second sweep of the heavy, sodden leaves. For the next hour he pushes the leaves into little manageable bundles with his feet, which he then stoops to lift into the appropriate refuse bin. He finally risks a hernia by dragging to the pavement for (eventual) collection by the local council.

New England: little mammals take advantage of the new, insulated and warm sanctuary created by the recent fall of leaves. They are pictured in various wildlife journals all cute, curled up and comfortable.

West of Scotland: little hedgehogs and other small mammals form an orderly queue at the local housing offices, citing the damp, cold and drab conditions they are expected to live in. They are pictured in various daily newspapers brandishing placards and threatening legal action.

FireworksNew England: having served notices of eviction to the adorable little mammalian tenants, happy and excited families from the street gather round the residual piles on Bonfire Night. A match is placed under the leaves. They ignite almost instantly, spreading a cozy glow across the garden that warms the feet of those attending the fireworks display, and now busy toasting marshmallows in the fire’s periphery.

Bonfire smokeWest of Scotland: a boxful of spent matches lie strewn on the ground beside the slimy, wet pile of leaves. That brow-beaten, middle-aged man again loses the the coin toss / argument / will to live, and is supervised by his impatient, irksome neighbour as he siphons a litre of petrol from his car into an empty bottle. Having splashed this over the sodden leaves, he flicks the flame of a disposable lighter onto the musty mound. It ignites. Eventually. But there is no immediate, spreading warmth.

There is smoke. Lots of smoke. It brings tears to the eyes of those trying to quickly retrieve their still cold potatoes from the base of the supposed fire, before the litre of ‘unleaded’ permeates the skin.

The  kids from the street have lost interest and are now indoors playing Xbox. The wives are now in the kitchen and on their third bottle of red. One of the husbands has gone home to check on the dog. Another excuses himself on the feeble excuse of having office work he should be doing.

The brow-beaten husband waits with the irksome neighbour for the smoking stack to extinguish. There is silence in the garden. A heavy, damp silence.

 

And the winner is …………

A.B.R. (Anti Bullying Rap.)

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(This  was written way back around 2003 / 2004 for the daughter of my boss at the time. It has been hidden amongst a pile of other unpublished nonsense at the back of my wardrobe ever since. Maybe it was for the best …..) 😀

A.B.R. (Anti Bullying Rap.)

I’m twelve years old and not so bold,

But not too blind to see;

I ain’t no mug – YOU’RE the thug,

But you’ll never bully me.

So:

You think you’re tough? Well, I’ve had enough.

What d’you hope to gain?

Look into my eyes, you’ll soon realise

You can’t cause any more pain.

Coz:

The one thing I seek, is the courage to speak –

To stand up for my rights.

You’re so wrong, and I’m so strong –

There will be no more fights.

Peace.

The Second Lord of Procrastination and Broken Promises.

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That’s me, that is: The Second Lord of Procrastination and Broken Promises.
(The First Lord met an untimely end when, on the eventual realization that Time waits for no man, he tried to catch up with it by removing the batteries from his clock. He consequently failed to notice the time of High Tide was fast approaching and rather sadly, he drowned.)

Some authors have learnt well from this little parable. But not all. Like me, for example. Right now, I feel I should be editing the first ten chapters of ‘Evhen & Uurth,’ (w/t) and not procrastinating until I’ve written some half-baked blog post.

Or should I?

What’s more important? Writing a potential best-seller  or, letting prospective readers know that you’re writing a potential best seller?

I’ve been pretty slow to the social media table, but five years after the release of my first (ok – only) book, I’m becoming more convinced of its value.

See, I figure that just about anyone who writes a book, writes a ‘potential’ bestseller. Take the ‘Fifty Shades’ series by E.L. James. The first of these, and I presume the others, was widely acknowledged as being, well, for want of a better description … crap.

Tell you what – I wish I could write books as crap as them! And indeed, I probably can. You probably can. We all can. The difference between our crap books not selling and Ms James’s making her a very rich and successful woman, is social media. The hype, and even in this case the negative comments, that surrounded the initial ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ book piqued the curiosity of a certain demographic who just had to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s really a case of establishing a market-place for your book and unashamedly promoting it. But in the right manner.

From my experience, there’s no point in spamming the book-buying public. Scattergun Tweets to a following of possibly thousands is unlikely to generate much in the way of sales, if any at all. And cold-calling messages sent on Facebook are about as effective as a telephone call from a PPI claims team. What’s required, is genuine interaction with people interested in the subject matter of your book – be that flying saucers, trolls, cozy romance or in my case, psychopathic rabbits.

Over the past couple of years, I have read some really excellent books by authors I greatly admire, especially so regards the other members of the Goodreads CLOG group. (I distinguish them simply because their humorous writing is more the style I aspire to.) These books, regardless of how many have been sold, deserve to be read by many, many more people. Some, and I’ll spare the blushes of those to whom I refer, should in my opinion, have prominent display positions in national book stores.

The fact that they don’t, is down to a lack of self promotion. I know this to be true in the majority of cases to which I refer.

It doesn’t come easy. Most people, authors or not, worry about being perceived as boastful; being considered arrogant. As a Scot, it’s just not in my nature, for example, to tell anyone that I’m any good at anything. Self-deprecation is viewed as a valuable safety net up here:

“Ah – it’s just something I knocked up on a few rainy Tuesday afternoons. It was either that or clean out the cupboard under the stairs. Its not a serious effort to become an ‘author’ as such. If it sells a few copies, I’ll be happy.”

That’s the way do it. Glass half-empty. If the book sells well, then that’s a bonus. If it bombs, then we were prepared for it.

But with that attitude, which is the more likely?

I’ve learnt that with ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee,’ if I go quiet on it, and don’t undertake some targeted campaign or other, then it may sell the odd one or two copies a month. It will perhaps be read a couple more times on Kindle Unlimited.

But if I do some work on it, tell dog / pet lovers about what a darned good read it is, then sales can be increased ten fold. And this is two years down the line from publication.

So, my point is this: not all procrastination of a work in progress is bad. Proactive and targeted use of social media is just as valuable a use of time as writing that book.

Getting your name known through interaction with potential readers of your particular genre is key.

Right, there you go. That should just about do it.

Now, let me just check the time of the next high tide.

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A Goan Adventure?

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THIS WAS WRITTEN ON RETURN FROM HOLIDAY IN JANUARY 2018.

So, another adventure in Goa, India draws  to a close.

‘Adventure?’ Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. The word prompts thoughts of conquering the unknown; of searching out new experiences, or even perhaps legging it with an ancient relic tucked under your sweaty armpit whilst evading a multitude of jaggy-edged booby- traps, set by the Guardians of the Dead to a previously unknown civilisation.

In actual fact, the most exciting and adventurous thing I did, was bare my arse to a hitherto unknown Indian chap who promptly thrust an anti-biotic laden needle into the muscle mass of my glutes.

Being unwell on holiday is … well, a complete bummer.

Never-the-less, if you are going to be ravaged by a mucus-soaked chest infection, Goa is the place to be. You may well feel like shit, but you certainly won’t feel out of place since it seems every taxi driver you hire is partial to the odd roar of gargling phlegm.

And, on the plus side, should you fall victim to ill health, appropriate medication is easily had in the local village at the the rather decrepit looking pharmacy. And for a mere fraction of the price you’d pay in England, too.

Of course, with free prescriptions in Scotland, us Scots are outraged at having to pay 325/- (@ £4.22) for enough amoxicillin, levobalt, paracetamol, & cough syrup to undercut a chain-smoking Venezuelan drugs baron.

But needs must.

Most Goans speak English as well as their native Konkan, but the most effective means of conveying your illness to the dispenser, is to demonstrate your ailments. A simple cough, protruding your tongue or tearing slices of dead skin from you sunburnt forehead usually results in the grumpy, wizened old pharmacist scampering up an unstable ladder to reach the outer limits of his stock.

I will never fathom how he knows where to find a specific unbranded white box of drugs, incidentally each of whose name comprises a minimum sixteen letters and sounds like a Polish shot putter’s under arm deodorant . But he does, & that’s all that matters.

A word of caution though: active demonstration of Delhi Belly is to be discouraged. It’s considered rude and unnecessary in these parts, and rather than meds, you are only likely to be handed a shovel.

BUT THAT’S ALL BY THE BY.

Goa is a colourful and magical place. The Heritage Village Club at Arossim, its staff and guests, even more so. Nothing is too much trouble, and even though I effectively lost over half my fortnight holiday through feeling unwell, it was heartening to see how concerned and attentive the staff ( & fellow guests) were.

I thank you all. It’s been a pleasure spending the past two weeks with you. I will, of course, completely understand you not reciprocating the sentiment if come Tuesday, your wheezing lungs are similarly filled with green, sticky stuff.

So that’s it – I’m home in Scotland now. And still coughing.

Right now, though, I’m going to get some shut-eye. For tomorrow morning means an early start as I’ll be straight off down to Boots the Chemist, dropping my kecks and demanding a free jag in the bum.

Wish me luck.

 

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