Rumours, Motorhomes and the Red Carpet Treatment

Motorhomes.

As you read this I will hopefully be making my way to France via the channel tunnel in Liz’s tidy little motorhome. This is not -as you might be thinking- my summer holiday. In fact its my pre-summer holiday! Yes, we are off to a wedding in the Alsace region of France and have decided to make the trip in the motorhome and make things into a mini holiday, a nice precursor to our main holiday also in France later in the year.

We have already had a trip to Scotland in the motorhome but this trip to France is one I’m really looking forward to. I really do love driving through France, exploring sleepy french villages, antique shops and of course, restaurants. If no restaurants appear on the horizon, which I seriously doubt very much, we can always park up and slap some sausages into the frying pan. Things taste so much better when cooked out on the road.

The forecast in France is not looking that great for the first few days which might come as something of a shock to our system as for the last few weeks the UK has been in the middle of a major heat wave. Garden hoses and sprinklers will soon be banned I’m sure and apart from having some trouble sleeping in the warm nights things have been very nice in the UK. We’ve had plenty of barbecues and for most of the time I have been wandering about in the same pair of shorts and an old vest, occasionally interchanged with a smart pair of shorts and a smart polo shirt when I have ventured out into town.

The weather has had quite an impact on our laundry as I have given up wearing socks for the duration of the heat wave. Shoes have been replaced by sandals and jeans have been pushed firmly to the back of the wardrobe. When the washer has been taken for a spin it’s so hot that the washing is dry in no time at all.

Many people have mocked me in the past for buying a convertible motor car. ‘When is he going to use that in rainy UK’ they may have thought? Yet how I laugh when I motor serenely by, roof down, sunglasses firmly fixed in place as I offer a cool wave to my friends, boiling in their conventional motor vehicles. I have heard some talk of ‘air con’ but what on earth is that? Must be bad for you and it really can’t compare to having the roof off your car and being bathed in fresh, warm, natural air, can it?

The Red Carpet Treatment.

Last week our friend Veli who runs the Anotolia Turkish Restaurant in St Annes invited us to the launch of his new venture the Anatolia Sea View Restaurant down on the seafront. Veli must have some good contacts because also in attendance were the local mayor, the local MP and various minor celebrities from the north-west, including Bobby Ball whom UK readers may remember from the comedy duo Cannon and Ball back in the 80s. Anyway, it was nice to step along the red carpet and be handed a glass of bubbly by our favourite waiter Zoltan and nibble at various Turkish delicacies from the buffet.

Rumours.

I never used to be a great album buyer, in fact back in the 70’s and 80’s I was always a singles man but I do have a few vinyl albums in my collection. In the CD age I have built up quite a substantial CD album collection and it’s always nice to pick up a CD version of a classic vinyl album and I did plan at one time to gradually update my album collection from vinyl to CD like that, record by record. Then again, by the time I’ve finished I can imagine the CD will probably be defunct and some new technology will have replaced it.

What is interesting these days though is how bands tend to update their work and issue new versions of their classic stuff. We can now get classic albums ‘re-mastered‘ and with other versions of the original tracks. That is all very well but what it really means is that the record company can now add on a few extra quid to the price tag.

On the BBC a while ago I watched that late night show about classic albums and the subject happened to be Rumours, the hit Fleetwood Mac album. Rumours, in case you didn’t know, was released in 1977 and reached the top of both the US and UK charts. Four tracks from the album were released as singles and all did well in the charts. The BBC show revealed how the album was made and the personal relationship issues that fuelled the creative song writing. Following on from that I decided to do a search on Ebay for Rumours and spotted a ‘new’ version of the album for sale.

The version I saw on Ebay was remastered and claimed to be a deluxe and special version but after further searches and examinations, I now see that for a few quid you can get, quite cheaply, the basic CD version of the original album. Also available, a little pricier, is the ‘re-mastered’ version. For a little more money the remastered 2 disc version can be bought and for even more money, a remastered special 3 disc version. The 3 disc version was too pricey for me but after a few Ebay bidding excursions I managed to get hold of a reasonably priced 2 disc version. Now I had planned to save it for our journeys in France however, in France, as much as I enjoy driving there I do have to concentrate on what I’m doing because it involves driving on the wrong side of the road. In the UK I feel I’m something of an ‘automatic’ driver because I rarely think about my driving, I’m just on my personal auto pilot and my inner driver takes over. Not something that’s a good idea in France.

So, on my last block of night shifts before journeying away, I cranked up the old motor, slipped CD1 into the player and set off for work. It was good. Not quite as good as my Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits CD but good all the same. CD2 was similar but was mostly alternative versions of the same tracks. Verdict: It was an OK album but not head over heels brilliant. Glad I didn’t fork out for the  3 disc version!

Anyway, here’s one of my favourite tracks.


Steve Higgins is the author of Floating in Space set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

The Soundtrack to my Life (Part 2)

stmlstePart 1 of the Soundtrack To My Life, which you can read by clicking here began by me trolling through my old albums. These days I buy a lot of  CD albums but back in my younger days I was a singles man. Yes, those vinyl discs spinning at 45 rpm sent me into a spin too from the very first single I bought in 1973, well it was two together actually, Banks of the Ohio and What is Life, sung by my seventies heart throb, Olivia Newton John.

In a previous post I compiled my all-time top 100 singles. You might think it was hard, well it wasn’t but my original task, that of compiling my all-time top 12 was, which is why I ended up with 100 records, all vying to get into the top 12 slot.
In an idle moment, well, a few hours actually when I had some free time on my hands, I made a rather nerdy spreadsheet of my top 100 which you can download. 100besttracks. Here are a few of my favourite tracks in detail.

The oldest track in my top 100 is Moon River from Andy Williams. I’ve always liked Andy and used to look forward to his TV show when I was a child and there was a rather memorable moment when the song was used in Sex and the City, one of my favourite TV shows, when Mr Big decides to leave New York for his vineyard somewhere in the country.

Olivia Newton-John doesn’t feature in my top 100 but she did do a pretty good version of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ but I think its only fair to have the original in my top 100.

I do rather like acoustic guitar music and so Peter Sarstedt, James Taylor, Carole King and Bob Dylan are entries from the late sixties. On one of my very first dates I took a girl called Beryl to see the movie Pat Garret and Billy the Kid. I always thought that it featured the Dylan song ‘Lay Lady Lay‘ but it was actually Knocking on Heaven’s Door which was another great Dylan track, anyway, despite the movie mix up on my part, Lay Lady Lay always reminds me of that date.

Two other sixties tracks are Burt Bacharach songs: ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’ and Dusty Springfield with The Look of Love. As a child in the 1960s, I wasn’t really aware of pop music, and all the sixties tracks mentioned here came into my record collection retrospectively but I came to know Burt’s music through the many films that benefited from his songs.

When I first started work in Manchester as a fresh youth of sixteen in 1973, a new colleague told me she was into soul music and I remember wondering what soul music was. I eventually asked her and she couldn’t define the genre except to say that it was dance music which doesn’t really go far enough to explain soul. Anyway, the first soul track I bought was Stevie Wonder’s ‘Boogie on Reggae Woman’. Later I added ‘Superstition’ to my collection.  The Chi Lites and ‘Have You Seen Her’ was another great soul track and  I’ve always loved ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ by Gladys Knight and the Pips.

In the mid-seventies I used to frequent a bar in Manchester called the Playground and the DJ in the evening, his name was Steve also, used Loves Theme by Barry White’s backing band, Love Unlimited, as his theme song. I can’t hear that single today without remembering that bar with its dance floor sunk low in the floor where drinkers could look down at the dancers and where on weekday lunchtimes, office workers like myself could watch the topless dancer who appeared at 1 pm to entertain the patrons. No wonder I always used to get stuck with the 12 o clock lunch slot!

Angie Baby by Helen Reddy was one of those haunting tracks with clever lyrics. It was released in 1974, the most popular year in my top 100 with nine records from that year. The Hustle by Van McCoy was a disco classic from 1974 but another record I love from that time was ‘How Long’ by a now long defunct group called Ace. The writer and lead singer was Paul Carrack who went on to greater fame with Mike and the Mechanics and as a solo performer. That song  always reminds me of the Salisbury, a pub just by Oxford Rd Station where my colleagues and I used to congregate at lunchtimes or after work.

Young Americans was a track from rock legend David Bowie which made the soul charts in the USA and David Essex sang Rock On looking incredibly cool in his white suit.

Walking in Rhythm was a track I used to dance to in Manchester in the dark and packed night clubs of the seventies.  I also boogied away to Can you Feel the Force, (The Real Thing) September, (Earth Wind and Fire) and Night Fever (The Bee Gees) but another quirky favourite was the Pino Colado song with its wonderful engaging lyrics. While on the subject of Manchester, I must mention that great Manchester band 10cc and their classic 1975 hit, I’m Not In Love, recorded in Stockport’s Strawberry studios.

I’m not a great Cliff Richard fan but in the 80’s he came out with some fabulous songs like Wired for Sound, again with wonderful lyrics.

Billie Jean was my favourite of Michael Jackson’s work and I much prefer it to the overhyped Thriller.

I was still liking the acoustic guitar in the mid-eighties with songs like Marlene on the Wall by Suzanne Vega but a ground breaking record was that of Nineteen by Paul Hardcastle that introduced computers and sampling into music making.

Two songs that were from movies were Into the Groove by Madonna from the film Desperately Seeking Susan and The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News featured in Back to the future.

I must stop to mention Bruce Hornsby and the Range from 1986 and ‘The Way it is’. What a great track that is, a major contender for my all-time top 10.

In the late seventies I was a great fan of Elton John, buying all his early albums but my interest in his work fizzled out in the 1980’s. Made in England was a single by Elton that re-acquainted me with his music after twenty or so years.

The newest tracks on my list were from 2002 and 2003. Vanessa Carlton released A Thousand Miles in 2002 and sang backing vocals on a version of Big Yellow taxi in 2003 by Counting Crows. Neither were ever heard from again.

I’m sure there must have been great singles released between 2003 and now but nowadays I don’t rely on radio stations to tell me what to listen to. Radio channels and adverts just don’t go together for me so I tend to favour the BBC and Radio 2 but I must admit to liking Smooth FM and its playlist of non stop classic pop.

After having written this post about my top 100 list compiled a few years ago I reckon it’s time for a 2017 update. The thing is, that might just mean my top 100 is going to become my top 150!

Before I sign off, I think it’s only fair to leave a link to an outstanding post from fellow blogger Dave Kingsbury that inspired me to write this one: https://davekingsbury.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/a-life-in-music/


Hope you liked this post. If you want to read more of my work why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

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Music and the Fifty Year old Teenager

800px-nadelaufplatteMany years ago in my mid-teens I was in Manchester doing pretty much what I have always done, then and now, whenever I have free time on a Saturday, either looking at records in a music store or looking at books in a book shop.

In 2014 there are not many record stores left; the whole culture of buying records is a different ball game these days, downloading instead of taking home a hard physical copy. You might be thinking hey: haven’t we had this blog already? Yes but the other day I went on to talk about James Dean, today I want to carry on with music.

As a teenager Saturday afternoons meant one thing to me, going into town, probably Manchester, and flipping through records and books. I was a big music fan and back in the seventies and eighties singles were marked down in price as soon as they dropped out of the charts and vultures like me were there to buy up cheap records. I started buying singles in 1973 and the last one I bought must have been in the late eighties. I wish I knew which record it was. In the eighties I started buying picture singles which were singles in clear vinyl with a picture running through. My favourite is probably Alexi Sayle singing ‘Hello John, got a new motor’ which comes in the shape of a Ford Cortina With Alexi Sayle on the bonnet.

The day came, probably sometime in the nineties, when the pop charts had become a mystery to me, singers and bands were in there that I’d never heard of with records I had no interest in buying. Just then, almost like a thief in the night, vinyl disapeared and the CD era began.

In the box room at my Mum’s house are four or five boxes of my singles, another box of LP’s and a two boxes of 12 inch singles which started out in the eighties as a single but with a longer or different mix or sometimes with an extra track. The strange thing is, my teenage counterparts in 2014 probably have a similar size collection only without the physicality. A huge stack of music kept on a hard disc or MP3 device, kept forever in cyberspace. I like my vinyl records, I like the smoothness of the plastic, the static electricity, the album covers, the sleeve notes (can anyone really read the sleeve notes on CDs written in that tiny writing?) and the inserts. I still have all the booklets that came with Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and I so wish I’d written the lyrics to that Cliff Richard song, ‘Wired for Sound’; power from the needle to the plastic.

I’m not much of a downloader but I do have a shed load of CD’s I’ve picked up over the years and I’ve gradually started to use my MP3 player, especially on holiday and I even have fun making up playlists just like in the old days when I’d copy my vinyl singles onto cassette tapes.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve really changed at all from the teenager I used to be. .


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