Saturday, 18 January 2020

The Saturday list #248 - Ten classic albums whose musical legacy outlived all the artist

First of all, let me state that I've blatantly  nicked this  idea. The original compiler of the list is Darren Johnson. For those of you who don't know Darren, he is the Johnson who made his name in City Hall and is the Johnson who should be Prime Minister! He was the Green GLA Rep. I got to know Darren as he was (and still is) a keen supporter of the Save London Music campaign. Since his retirement from City Hall, he's reinvented himself as a music blogger and does it rather well, specialising in Heavy Rock, 60's Glam and Folk.

Darren only chose five albums, I am going for ten (as that is the magic number for Saturday lists). As Darren has picked five absolute crackers, which I fully endorse, I have the pleasant task of picking a different selection.

Image Copyright Island Records
1. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black. I could start at no other place. Amy changed the  music scene, she brought the art of singing great songs extremely well back into vogue. The fact that she was a studio customer and planning to record an album of acoustic tracks with us (Mill Hill Music Complex) when she passed away makes it hard for me to listen to this album without welling up.

The influence of Amy is still all around us. Every decent female vocalist to emerge since has given her a nod. Her delivery and  charisma set a new benchmark and as someone who saw her in action rehearsing and song writing it was clear to me just how special a talent she was

Copyright -  Harvest/EMI / Capitol Record
2. Syd Barrett - Barrett. Syd Barrett was perhaps the ultimate troubled genius. He was the force behind early Pink Floyd and as far as I was concerned, when he left so did any interest I had in the bands music. His own solo albums are fragile gems. The music is often weird, mostly wonderful and at times truly bonkers. I bought this album after Knox, the lead singer of the Vibrators released a solo version of one of the Tracks 'Gigolo Aunt'. I was a tad surprised and collared Knox, he advised me to buy the album. He also told me that any British artist who had ever written anything interesting had this in their collection.

If Knox said it, it must be true! If you want to be a truly great artist, you know what you need to do if you don't have a copy.

Copyright Motown Records
3. Marvin Gaye - Lets get it on. This is the album that reshaped Motown. Marvin Gaye had been going through a period of writers block. Following the success of Gaye's previous album, he'd been given a new contract and more artistic control. The result was Let's get it on. It was far more experimental than previous Motown offerings and lead the label to open up to new directions that it had previously been shy of. A whole generation of soul singers use this album as the starting point and reference for how to make soul music. The songs are overtly sexual and give a hint to the turmoil which drove Marvin Gaye. It is a masterpiece beyond peer.

Copyright - EMI records
4. X Ray Spex  - Germ Free Adolescence. When punk rock exploded on the scene, for the very first time female artists had a degree of equality and control. Poly Styrene of X Ray Spex was perhaps the most unique and influential of all. Neither Poly's looks or vocal style were what the music industry had previously thought commercial, yet the brilliance of the songs she wrote and the connection with her audience, shy, awkward, teenage misfits (like me at the time) was beyond parallel. Watching Poly on Top of the Pops was both liberating and empowering. Poly is the only music star who I shed a real for when she passed away. I saw her last  major London show at The Roundhouse and she was amazing. Her influence lives on.

Copyright - Track records
5. The Heartbreakers - L.A.M.F. The Heartbreakers were perhaps the most influential of all of the primal punk bands. When they turned up in the UK, they were a seasoned, well oiled band. They could deliver a set, work and audience and they rocked. On the darker side, they also brought  smack into the UK Punk scene, John Lydon has always held them responsible for the demise of Sid Vicious. L.A.M.F.  is an absolute classic, which has been rather overlooked by many, but for people around in 1977 it was a must have album. Whilst most of the tracks are full on rock and roll, Johnny Thunders rendition of "It's not enough" showed the depth and musicality of the band.  The UK  Punk scene would have been a very different beast without The Heartbreakers and LAMF. Only Walter Lure is still alive from the line up. Being a Heartbreaker was not a healthy occupation.

Copyright - Island Records
6.  Bob Marley and The Wailers - Live. I think everyone knows the influence of Bob Marley and The Wailers. Possibly the most recognisable artist on the planet. I thought long and hard about which of his albums was the most important and settled on the Live! album. For many, this was the album where we got to know Bob Marley. I was surprised to learn that it only reached no 38 in the UK charts, as everyone I knew seemed to have a copy. The liver version of No Woman No Cry from the album was a hit single. Like many young punks in 1977, the rallying cry of "Get up, Stand up" was something that resonated. Without Live! with its raw energy, I doubt that the young white punk audience that reshaped music in the late 70's would have got reggae when they did.

Copyright Brunswick Records
7. Buddy Holly - The Chirping Crickets. The tragic death of Buddy Holly in 1959 robbed us of one of the greatest stars of Rock and Roll. Buddy Holly is another artist I must thank Knox for getting me into. He did a solo version of Well Alright and on hearing this, I realised what a great song it was. I procured the three studio albums, soon settling on the first as my favourite. Songs like Not Fade Away and That'll be the day are works of genius and have been covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones and Ringo Starr. The influence of Buddy Holly seeps through the pores of all good Rock and Roll. If you have never listened to this album, make the effort as it is absolutely brilliant.

Copyright Casablanca Records
8. Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby. When I first heard the single of this track, I was completely unprepared for it. It is perhaps the sexiest piece of music ever recorded. It took me a long time to realise what an influential piece of music Georgio Moroder had made. This song defined the sound of electronic dance music. It also broke barriers with its overt sexiness.  The A side was a 16 minute version of Love to love you. The B side had rather provocative songs such as Pandora's Box and Virgin Mary. If you want to know how to make great electronic dance music, which will last for a very long time there really is no better place to start than by deconstructing this album. As a young punk I sniffily dismissed it, but in around 1981 I actually listened to it properly and realised it is a masterpiece.

Copyright Columbia Records
9. Johnny Cash - At  Folsom Prison. Yep, I know this isn't the cover, this is the single, but I love this picture far more than the album cover, so forgive me the indulgence (click here to see the real cover). The influence of Johnny Cash is far too great for a couple of sentences here, but this album's legacy is something else. A hit album recorded live in a prison really was something else. In the USA the populace take a dim view of offenders and state prisons are harsh places, where punishment rather than rehabilitation is generally the order of the day. Johnny Cash took popular music out of its comfort zone and explored the dark side in a way few ever can pull off successfully. Everything about Johnny Cash has been borrowed. The look, the vocal style, the songs. The one thing that hasn't is the authenticity.

Copyright RCA Records
10 . David Bowie - Station to Station. I have to admit I was mildly surprised when I saw Darrens list missed Bowie. I then realised perhaps why he didn't choose a Bowie album. Which one? There are so many and they are so varied and so many are influential. I settled on Station to Station for a number of reasons. It is the album that sounds least dated. It signalled the end of his coke addled rock star phase. He'd moved on from Glam rock with Young Americans. Low saw him move to Berlin and get his head together. Station to Station is glorious. I think the reason it is so influential is that it demostrated that Bowie could reinvent himself and take his audience with him. It is musically far more interesting than any of his previous albums. It took chances and changed our perception of  Bowie. That is a message that many successful artists took on board. Brian Eno called it one of the greatest records of all time. Who am I to argue.

I made a playlist of my ten picks from these albums. Enjoy

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 17 January 2020

The Friday Joke - The dodgy album launch

Pic courtesy of
It's Friday so here's a joke for you to start the weekend. A true and rather amusing tail from our archive.

As many people who read the blog know, I run a music studio. This is one of my favourite tales.

A local Mill Hill band decided to release their own album. The album was a rather interesting collection of rock numbers that sounded a bit like out takes from Electric by The Cult, circa 1983. The sort of stuff that hardened Cult fans buy on bootleg CD's and only ever play to other hardened Cult fans to show off, whilst secretly knowing it isn't the best.

The band did all of the things that one might think a band should consider. This included setting up a rather impressive website to promote the band and making the perfunctory video to promote the band. They conducted a social media blitz, setting up dozens of spammy accounts to promote the album and following all sorts of shady individuals in the hope of a plug or a mention.

Sadly for them, their efforts started to attract derision from other bands in the locality, who thought it all a tad contrived. In response, the spammy accounts started to spread all manner of dodgy rumours about other Mill Hill associated bands. This only attracted more derision. The bands nemesis was a Troll named 'Bumfluff' who took great pleasure in winding the poor individuals up, posting all manner of sarcastic comments.

Eventually this campaign of harassment reached the point where the bassplayer in the band could take it no more. At a gig in a Barnet hostelry, he announced from his microphone to the assembled rather bemused fans"I have a big problem with Bumfluff , if anyone has any information about Bumfluff, please tell me after the gig". As almost nobody in the pub had actually seen any of the social media shenanigans, because most rock fans have better things to do, the announcement was met first with bemusement and then hilarity. Sadly it all proved too much for the bassplayer, who left the band shortly after.

If you like musical jokes, checkout

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Why local blogs are necessary to keep an eye on the council in Barnet

Thursday is the day we do our local news round up. Today I am using the opportunity to talk about our local blog scene.

If you are viewing this blog on the web version. rather than the mobile version, you will see some quite interesting information in the right hand side bar. The first is that you will see that the most read blog in the last 30 days is the blog we published on Tuesday detailing plans for a power station on a green belt site in Mill Hill. This blog has had thousands of views and as a result over 35 people have objected to the proposals, which means that the plans must go before the planning committee rather than simply being rubber stamped by planning officers employed by Capita. That means that local people will have a chance to have their say and hold the council to account. When I first found the proposal on Sunday, there were zero objections and none of the neighbours were even aware of the proposal.

You will also see a link to some articles by some of our favourite bloggers. I would draw your attention to the blog by Mr Reasonable, which details the overdevelopment of the Borough, which is one of the driving forces for the new power station. If you build more flats, more energy is needed. John Dix has spent the last ten years holding the council to account and doing his very best to ensure that there is a degree of scrutiny, which sadly is lacking from our local councillors. One of the best examples of John's work is his recent blog detailing how spending on Agency staffing is out of control in Barnet.

Another active blogger who regularly holds Barnet Council to account is Mr Mustard, AKA Derek Dishman. Derek specialises in parking issues. His recent blog about enforcement of pavement parking in Pullen Road, in Barnet is fascinating. It shows how the council is enforcing parking policies in and unfair and discriminatory fashion, designed to make money but not address the real problems. Derek has helped hundreds of local residents with appeals against parking fines and has an over 90% success rate in getting people their money back. All he asks for in return, is that if the appeal is successful a donation is made to a local charity.

A big ally in this process is the local Facebook pages for the various areas around Barnet. Perhaps the largest of these is the I'm a Borough of Barnet Bod, that has over 9,000 followers. There are some other great sites, such as Inside Mill Hill, Mill Hill Families, Colindale Voice  and Cricklewood is Brilliant. These kindly allow postings of items of local interest that means a far wider audience is reached.

There is still a local paper. The Barnet Times is still published and can be picked up at local libraries and there is also a dispenser in Station Road Mill Hill, by the entrance to the Bus station. It also publishes on line, but sadly is a shadow of its former self, without the resources to provide in depth coverage of the Borough. It is now entirely funded by advertising, much of which is from large national companies and property developers.

The only way that we, as residents of the London Borough of Barnet, will maintain the good things in our Borough and ensure that rich and greedy vested interests, who have deep pockets and PR departments are kept at bay is to work together to make our voices heard. Some local organisations are happy to take large amounts of cash from developers, in return for favourable coverage and positive spin. They generally do not publicise the fact that these large amounts of cash play a big factor in the editorial stance. The Barnet Eye fully accepts that in a Capitalist society, bloggers and tweeters should be able to profit from their actions, but this should be transparent, honest and open. The Barnet Eye uses the Google adwords platform to generate income. This is used to subsidise local businesses, mostly the Mill Hill Tandoori, where I take Mrs T out for the odd slap up meal with the proceeds as a thank you for putting up with me when I write these blogs. For the record, the Adwords payment is usually somewhere between £60-£200 per year and just about covers my broadband. costs. The actual ads you see are not selected by me, but generated by the Google application.

I would caution everyone to be wary of people who are not open and transparent about cash they receive in return for online content. The Barnet Eye has never published 'paid for' content. That is not what local blogs are about. We believe that micro sites such as this are all about local information. You may or may not agree with how I describe myself in my Twitter profile, but at least it is honest and you know who I am and what I stand for- A Guardian Top London Blogger… Harmless old duffer, who writes blogs for therapy! Things Barnet, music, football, the False Dots

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Environment Monday - Power station to be built in Mill Hill on Green belt land.

First of all, let me apologise for publishing this on a Tuesday. Research was required that delayed it, but it is an important issue, so I did not want to leave it until next week.

One of the things I do on a monthly basis is check all planning applications for Mill Hill. On Sunday I was doing this and was flabbergasted  to find a proposal for a gas fired power station in Mill Hill, located on Partingdale Lane in the Green Belt.  The map shows where this is located
Click for link to document on Council website

This is a large installation that will provide nearly 50 megawatts an hour in peak performance. It will look a bit like this.
Click for link to document on Council website

Whilst my first reaction was to be horrified that a power station was being built in Mill Hill and nobody was aware, I realised that this was a serious subject and required more than a kneejerk response.

The applicant says in their application

The Proposed Development is intended to be used to provide cost effective flexibility services to the electricity network by adding electricity to the system to maintain the network’s operation when required. National Grid, the System Operator, is responsible for ensuring a stable and secure supply of electricity to UK homes, businesses and industry. To do this, it procures such services from distributed energy systems, existing connected customers or specialist service providers (such as the Applicant). The flexibility they can provide is critical to maintaining a stable supply of electricity at least
cost to consumers, as well as enabling intermittent renewable technologies to come online and herefore, to achieving national decarbonisation targets.
The Proposed Development would function as a gas peaking plant and would operate when there are high levels of demand for electricity, otherwise known as peaking demand, or where there is a shortfall in the supply of electricity. The need for the flexibility that gas peaking plants provide is especially critical as more conventional power stations come off line, replaced by a higher penetration of renewable energy technologies. The Proposed Development would help to ensure that National Grid
is able to ‘keep the lights on’ in the UK as the electricity system strives to maintain the balance between supply and demand while rapidly decarbonising.
Ultimately, the Proposed Development, as well as other technologies, offer a valuable contribution to the UK’s secure, low carbon and affordable electricity system, at least cost to consumers.
The logic is simple. The UK historically has had massive, highly polluting carbon fuelled power stations. These would pump out CO2 24 x7 for 365 days a year. The UK has been moving away from these towards renewable energy, but sources such as solar and wind power are unpredictable and not always available. If we wish to maintain our current, energy intensive lifestyles, we need to have some sort of backup system to kick in when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Small, localised power stations that can be brought on line when required will produce far less CO2 than the traditional mega  producers. Far less energy is lost in transmission over miles of wires and the CO2 is only produced when required. Sounds sensible?

Like everything in the modern world, you need to look behind the words of the PR companies engaged to make this sound like the most marvellous thing since sliced bread. Firstly, there is location. This is in the GREEN BELT. It seems that the first solution for every crisis in London is to build on the Green belt. Developers and planners see it as dead space. The irony is not lost on me that we are replacing green space, where CO2 is converted to Oxygen by plants into a huge industrial facility. The fact that the applicant is trying to say this will improve the environment shows just how little they care for the environment. None of the paperwork I could see explains why we need a station of this size. I did some calculations, at home we installed a solar energy system a couple of years ago. This allows me to track our energy consumption. This tells me that on an average winter day, we use around 25 KW/H a day

Our daily peak usage is between 1.5 - 2KW/H (the highest was when we were cooking the Xmas dinner. We have a large five bedroom house and had six people in it over Xmas). Based on this usage, the "top up facility" would exclusively power 25,000 homes of my size (which is 1908 built and not energy efficient) cooking their Xmas Turkey, without any energy from anywhere else. As this is allegedly a top up, to operate largely in peak hours, it is around 750 watts/hour, which means this will be topping up 66,000 homes. This equates to Mill Hill, Finchley, Totteridge and Whetstone. The application states that as this is next  to existing national power facilities, it is well placed and due to lack of neighbours, it will cause less disturbance. Does this mitigate the damage to the green belt?

My view is that it does not. Developers of such schemes will always take the view that residents will fight less hard to fight something that isn't on their doorstep, even if it massively degrades the environment. The Totteridge valley is a totally unique habitat. It is already under extreme pressure due to the NIMR development by Barratts. We should look for other sites in less enviromnentally important place.

Then there is the bigger question as to whether gas turbines really are the solution to 'short term peak requirement'. The holy grail of green energy is energy storage systems. It seems that Europe's largest battery powered storage system is only 4.2mw. This is a tenth of the size of the Mill Hill Power station. I was talking to a friend who is an electrical engineer. He told me that the UK already has enough batteries in cars to provide peak capacity cover, if all cars were linked to the national grid when parked. He suggested that an intelligent management system could be fitted, enabling the car batteries to be used, which would cut out when the battery was down to 75% charge and would recharge when there was spare capacity in the network. Sadly as with many innovative solutions, this technology does not exist in the real world, but is an example of the type of solutions we should be considering. He also stated that if all new homes were fitted with solar panels and storage batteries, then with insulation etc, they could be net contributors to the national grid and get all of their electricity for free. This technology does exist. Why is it not compulsory in Building regs?

There have been suggestions that the new power station is required for the new housing in Mill Hill. There is nothing to suggest this in the planning applications but given the thousands of new dwellings, it seems entirely reasonable. Had the council insisted on solar power, wind turbines and powerwall batteries as standard, would this still be required? It would certainly have provided some mitigation.

We can't take a heads in the sand approach to electricity generation. We need a proper, London wide strategy to address this. Could we use the Thames Barrier as tidal barrage to generate power? Could  a Mayor backed plan to insulate older homes cut requirements? Could we manage better our peaks, by changing TV schedules? The whole issue of power generation is something that needs a far better solution than a hot potch of small generating stations on the Green Belt.

I have read all of the papers on the planning application. There is nothing I can see that specifically says why Barnet needs a 50 MW/H generating station. This should be the first document on the website and have the need spelled out in big letters. I worry that this is a Trojan horse and once the plant is established it will be ramped up ever more. We need to see where this power is destined for, whether it is being driven by new development and if so, whether there are better mitigations.

I was also shocked that Barnet did not require an Environmental Impact Assessment in such a site. This is a clear failure by the local authority. With all the disruption at Barretts NIMR site, this should not be putting more pressure on the local eco system at this time. Barnet Council needs to demonstrate that it cares about the environment and that this sort of development is only passed if there really is no better option.

If you object or support this proposal, you can comment by following this link

Monday, 13 January 2020

Who will be the defining faces of the new decade?

With each new decade, the public seem to have a different obsession. When we think of each decade, it occurred to me that the faces of the decade are very much driven by how technology and society has developed. On Saturday I compiled a list of my top ten 70's TV icons. To me, the 1970's was the decade of the 'televison personality'. Although television had been around for a good few decades, the 1970's was the decade when ownership and colour television became pretty much universal. There was little competition with other media forms, the prevailing view was that TV would banish cinema and probably everything else. I got to thinking about these faces. The first decade I was really aware of was the 1950's, I wasn't born, but most of the films we watched on TV as kids were from the 50's. The 50's film icons seemed impossibly glamorous, in a way that would be unimaginable in our current social media dominated era. It occurred to me that each decade had its own unique set of faces.

50's - Film stars. The likes of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Marlon Brnado etc were at their absolute peak. Hollywood seemed incredibly glamourous. A 'night out at the pictures' was the way we entertained ourselves.

60's - Pop stars. The 60's saw a shift from film to music. The faces we really associate with the 60's are those of music. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, the stars of Motown and the crooners such as Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdink were just some of the faces of the 60's that we were all aware of. This was largely driven by Radio initially and then TV. Every house would have a turntable and a radio. Large factories had their own radio stations, the DJ's who played the tunes also became stars. The 60's really was the decade of the Pop star.

70's - TV Personalities. The 70's saw TV become the mass medium of choice. Newsreaders, weathermen and cooks became household names. There were three channels in the UK and the TV companies welded huge power. An appearance on Top of The Pops would launch music careers. An appearance on the Parkinson show would guarantee a sell out book. To be doorstopper by Eamonn Andrews for this is your life was a greater accolade than a peerage. Names such as Reginald Bosenquet, Fanny Craddock, Bill Grundy and Hilda Ogden were household names. Perhaps it is interesting to note that as screens became smaller, fame became more transient.

80's - Politicians.  As our screens shrunk and we started to stay in more, the politicians moved to centre stage. There have always been charismatic politicians, such as JFK, but it seemed that in the 1980's their profile was raised as never before. This was partly due to Ronald Reagan becoming President at the start of the decade. Reagan was an actor and understood the power of the media. He was a communicator. The UK had Thatcher, who due to high profile clashes with the miners and Arthur Scargill, the banishing of Argentinian dictators and Spitting Image was a politician who we knew in a way we'd never known anyone before. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR we finally had a man who was not lurking in the shadows. Any history of the 80's will always start with these figures.

90's - Sports Stars. Of course there were always sports stars, but the 1990's was the decade when the became more than just people we watched playing for our favourite team. Remember Paul Gascoigne, Frank Bruno and David Beckham? The 90's was the decade when stars stepped off the sports field and into our lives. Even people with no interest in sports seemed to develop an interest in the lives of the stars. People with no interest in horse racing knew who Frankie Dettori was, Tim Henman became an icon for not getting beaten in the first round of Wimbledon. We saw the birth of Wag culture and footballers moved off the back page. Of course top sports people will always be of interest, but the 90's was the decade where they stepped off the tracks and pitches and onto the chat shows. Perhaps the most tragic figure of the 1990's was George Best. He stopped playing in the 1980's, but tales of his alcoholic excess were a staple of the 1990's tabloids. It seemed that he was laying the path that Gascoigne was sure to sadly follow, a cautionary tale, but stilll a great guest on Parkinson. This interview on his 50th birthday in 1996, shows just how much our interest in Sports stars had changed and how we were fascinated with their personal life. Tragic.

2000's - Reality TV celebrities. The decade of Big Brother, Britains got talent, I'm a Celebrity, and Essex Wives andThe Osbournes unleashed a torrent of new 'Stars' up on. Whereas the previous decades stars all had talent, this was no longer a pre-requisite. Jade Goody became a star because she was the antithesis of everything a 50's film icon would be. She did however connect with people and showed herself to be an astute businesswoman. Her end was as tragic as her fame was unpredictable. The other reality TV stars of note such as Simon Cowell, Sharon Osborne, Ant and Dec became household names not for any great talent of their own, but as they were extremely good at gurning at just the right time and being able to say what most of us were thinking, but would generally be too nice to say.

2010's - Businessmen. As we start the new decade, no one could have predicted ten years ago that businessmen would be the faces of the decade. Whilst some of these have been around for decades, such as Steve Jobs of Apple and Richard Branson, the decade was one where we suddenly became obsessed with their exploits. If someone had told me that there would be a Hollywood blockbuster about the CEO of a social media company in 2009, I'd have thought you were bonkers, but The Social Network was released a year later and was a hit. The decade brought Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos out from the shadows. In the UK, we see Tim Martin of Wetherspoons, James Dyson, Richard Branson and Alan Sugar become ever more public figures. The ascension of Donald Trump to US president has helped this process in no small measure. As the internet has changed our lives, it is perhaps unsurprising that the likes of Gates and Zuckerberg are so well known, Elon Musk is clearly a fascinating character and I suspect the one that will be remembered longest, should his rocket schemes ever materialise. The success of series such as the Apprentice make stars of people with often very limited business acumen. I wonder what the Daddy of business TV reality shows, Sir John Harvey Jones would make of it all?

It will be interesting to see who will be the faces of the new decade, I doubt any of us will be able to predict it right now. 

Sunday, 12 January 2020

The Tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 12/01/2020

This is our most popular regular feature. Sometimes it writes  itself, sometimes it's a chore and sometimes its a whole lot of fun. This week its........

1. We got to know our good friend Mark Amies through his campaign to protect the Railway pub in Edgware. It seems he's got his sights set on another much loved and neglected Edgware pub. What is wrong with the people who care nothing for local community?

2. We've been promoting the excellent Barnet Libraries local photography competition. We are delighted that another of our friends won it.

3. In a week of disappearing local landmarks, this was a sad moment

4. Burnt Oak was where it was all happening in the 1960's

5. And in the 1980's even Freddie Mercury was hanging out in Cricklewood!

6. Did you know a Bond girl came from Edgware? You do now!

7. Fancy doing something for our community next Saturday?

8. Fancy some songs about football and love? Sounds good to us!

9. And on the subject of our local football history....

10. Two Tweets of the price of one! A nice little video about last years Grange Open Day

Don't forget to follow any tweeters who tickle your fancy, or anything else!
That's all folks!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

The Saturday #247 - My top ten favourite 1970's TV icons

Why this list today?  I awoke with the 1970's firmly in my mind. I had a weird dream I was on the Marquee in 1979 watching the Vibrators and suddenly realised the reason it was so busy was because it was full of time travelling tourists from the future wanting to see what the place was like. I said to someone it was weird no one ever noticed and he replied ‘why do you think 5,000 turned up for Jesus giving the sermon on the mount?” As I ate my breakfast, this rather bizarre thought was buzzing around my head. It  got me to thinking about the 1970's. It was a decade of really strong icons. Bowie, Bolan, Rotten, Strummer in the music scene. Then I started to think about the TV personalities. So I thought I'd compile a little list of my favourite of these. I really enjoyed putting this selection together. The clips are well worth a view. They really don't make telly like this any more.

1. Jack Regan. The Sweeney was the best TV show of the 70's and Jack Regan was the man. I've been told that in later years Police training included the invocation to not "think you are Jack Regan". What was great about the Sweeney was it had a degree of realism. Sometimes they fitted villains up, sometimes they bent the rules and sometimes they didn't get their man. Regan was morally ambiguous, but you knew that he was the guy you wanted out there hunting the bad guys. You felt that Regan understood the dark side of human nature and was prepared to fight fire with fire. I once met John Thaw and was quite surprised that he was in no way a bit of a dodgy thug. He was however, a very fine actor.

2.  Bet Lynch. Coronation Street was the unchallenged no 1 show in the UK in the 1970's. The show was full of amazing characters, but for me the best of all was Bet Lynch. She was the barmaid you wanted at your local pub. Bold, brassy and blond. Sassy and feisty. The interesting thing about the Rovers return was that it was a matriarchal business in the 70's. Landlady Annie Walker was like the Queen. Betty Turpin  kept things on track, Hilda Ogden kept the floor clean but Bet Lynch was the face of the pub. My mum being from Oldham loved the program. She took it very seriously, later in the mid 1980's I worked with an old West Indian called Israel Watts, who educated me and made me realise it was all comedy. Most of the best comedy moments involved Bet Lynch. When Eastenders was first broadcast, they nicked the idea of the pub. Try as they may, they never recreated the dynamic of Bet, Annie, Hilda and Betty. Den Watts and Angie ran an institution that you'd walk a mile to avoid. Anyone who likes a beer and is of my age, secretly wants Bet Lynch to pull your pint for you. This clip is Bet at her very best

3. Michael Parkinson. Parky was the king of the TV chat show. He got the best people on his show and if you were invited on to Parky's show, then you'd made it. The likes of Muhammed Ali, Bette Davis and Tony Curtis would be guests. The A list of A listers. Sadly I think the interview that will be most remembered was the one with Rod Hull and Emu. Somehow Parky was never the same again. There is no comparable chat show these days. Graham Norton is perhaps the closest thing, but it  is not quite the event that the big Parky interviews were. This is probably the greatest clip of all from Parkies show

4. Tony Blackburn. Top of the Pops was the no 1 music show, probably in the world, in terms of influence. There were many Radio 1 DJ's that fronted it, but Blackburn was always the king of them. Unlike the rather repulsive Jimmy Saville, Tony always recognised that it was the bands and not him that were the stars. For Tony, it was clear that there was a love of the music. He was the only one of the big Radio 1 DJ's that wasn't a narcissistic, irritating berk when they presented the show. That is probably why he's still presenting a great music show on BBC Radio London to this day. Here's Tony doing what he does best

5. Jacques Cousteau. I doubt anyone under 45 will have a clue who Jacques Cousteau was. He made amazing films about the aquatic world. These days David Attenborough has taken on the mantle, but Cousteau was the first. Until he came along, no one had seen coral reefs or sharks in their natural habitat. He was in some ways the man who first made us aware of the environment. His films were perhaps the first to fully exploit the potential of colour television, as they just wouldn't work in black and white. Cousteau was a serious bloke who was someone many of us aspired to be like. My only problem was I couldn't swim.

6. Wolfie Smith. "Power to the People". The leader of the Tooting Popular front. I think anyone seeking to understand the current predicament of the Labour Party would be well advised to watch the series. Wolfie was the antithesis of Jack Regan. A deluded dreamer, who achieved nothing, but who's heart was always in the right place.The real tragedy of Wolfie was that he was too nice for anyone to tell him he was completely clueless. As a teenanger, I desperately wanted Wolfie to win. As a cynical 57 year old, I now know why he never had a chance.

7. Hughie Green. Opportunity knocks was the iconic talent show, responsible for all manner of new personalities. Hughie Green was the charismatic front man. I don't think any talent show since has been as much fun or as honest as Opportunity knocks. There was the clapometer which measured the audience response, but that meant nothing. The audience voted on who'd be in next week. We didn't have to listen to the banal pronouncements of the likes of Simon Cowell, so sometimes you'd get bizarre acts winning for weeks on end. How it should be.

8. Benny. While Coronation Street was the no 1 show, Crossroads was a rather bizarre show based on a motel in the Midlands. Perhaps somewhat interestingly, this was also a Matriarchal business, run by Meg Richardson. I never got Crossroads, there never seemed to be any customers or any action, until Benny came along. Benny was a bit of a village idiot character, famous for his hat. At FCHS, to be labelled "Benny" was a terrible insult, but he actually made the show vaguely watchable.
9. Fanny Craddock. These days TV chefs are sophisticated and the shows are taken very seriously. The first of these was the rather bizarre Fanny Craddock.  My Mum would watch the show and get very cross as she thought Fanny Craddock was a fraud and couldn't cook. I asked her why she watched it and she said "Oh. she's entertaining and it gives me ideas for recipies". Generally though, we'd still get egg on toast for tea.

10. Angela Rippon. Angela Rippon was the first female BBC news reader. She was seen as a rather stern and sensible figure. This all changed when she appeared on the Morecombe and Wise show. When this was shown, my Dad spat out his Guinness in surprise and exclaimed "She's got legs!". My Mum called him an idiot and asked what he thought she'd had. But I think Dad's response was mirrored by just about every man in the country.  This clip is worth a watch! -

Click here to watch on the BBC iPlayer
.Who were your favourite 70's icons?


Friday, 10 January 2020

The Friday Joke - Manchester United Special

This week we saw the worst performance by a Manchester United team for many a moon in the Carling Cup semi final first leg. Last night, I had the pleasure of having a nice drink with three Manchester United FC fans after our five a side game.  We adjourned to the Three Hammers. I've never heard so much whinging in all my life. You'd think they'd be pleased that the club has £65 million to spend on talents such as Fred. Surely the lesson Guardiola and the boys gave them, in how to play football will stand them in good stead for the rest of the season?

Anyway, to cheer them up. I promised a Man Utd Joke. This is my favourite. 

A man goes into a bar with an alligator under his arm.

"Do you serve Manchester United fans in here?" he asks.

"Certainly Sir, no problem at all," replies the barman, nervously staring at the alligator.

"Okay," says the man, "a stein of Heineken for me and 2 Manchester United fans for the alligator."

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Why Boris Johnson is wrong to withdraw the UK from the ERASMUS scheme

It didn't take long for the regime of Boris Johnson to show just how wrong headed and stupid it is. Yesterday the government blocked a motion that called for continuing participation in the ERASMUS scheme to be a priority in the UK's Brexit negotiations. The scheme allows members of participating nations to study in other countries in the scheme, encouraging student exchanges and mobility. I know all about the scheme as my daughter spent a year studying in Italy as part of the programme.

Whatever you think of Brexit, ditching ERASMUS is nothing to do with the concept of leaving the EU. The programme is clearly good for our students and it is also good for our educational establishments. The UK has some of the worlds leading Universities and colleges and these make a lot of money from the ERASMUS programme. I don't think that anyone voted to restrict the opportunities of British young people or to damage our educational sector. The sane and rational way to approach any business negotiation is to work out areas of mutual benefit and ensure that these are not damaged. My guess is that around 80% of the benefits we receive from the EU membership could easily be agreed as the basis for a new trade agreement. Of course there is the 20% that is more difficult and complicated, but surely sowing up a deal on the things which are clearly positive and beneficial should be the top priority. No one wants to see a scaling back on things like co-operation on terrorism and crime. No one wants to return to tourists needing to buy Visa's to travel to Spain, etc for holidays. Negotiating by holding a gun to one's own head is ridiculous. The things which seemed to me to be of concern to the UK voters were issues such as Brussels making law for the UK. People also wanted the UK to be able to negotiate  trade deals and the biggest of these will be with the EU, but that is nothing to do with education. Why the Conservative party have decided that the ERASMUS scheme is not a priority is beyond me. Boris said that it is time for us to come together and get Brexit done. The only way he'll achieve this aspiration is to make the case for keeping the relationships with the EU that benefit us. We always hear about the 52%, but only 37% voted for Brexit. 35% voted to remain and 28% didn't cast a vote at all. You don't have to be a mathematical genius to see that the country really was not sure. I don't blame those that didn't vote, many knew both sides were lying.

Boris Johnson has a large parliamentary majority and the opportunity to force whatever he likes through Parliament. Pushing things through that are bad for our young people is not a great way to send the message that he wants to bring us together. I urge Boris to think again and start reaching out to those who didn't back him, to say "look, I am serious about doing a good deal for everyone". Things like this affect young people, who largely gave Boris a wide berth at the election. It seems like Boris is not too bothered about trying to get them on the Boris bus.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

The Wednesday Poem and local music and culture round up

We'll start with congratulations to Mark Warren for winning the Barnet Libraries local photography competition with this absolutely amazing picture of the Totteridge Valley. We've been supporting this competition and are pleased that it got such a great response.


Reality Ballroom

Don't know faces, out of place
Iraqi's killing their own race
The atmosphere of war is soaring
Dimly lit, reality Ballroom

Copyright 1979 & 2020 Pete Conway/Roger Tichborne

This is the second verse of a song I co wrote with Pete Conway in 1979, which I have slightly updated. The song is about awaking from a nightmare, to find that reality is even worse. I never dreamed that when we wrote it, we'd have a situation 40 years later, where a President of the USA would threaten cultural heritage sites. It is depressing beyond belief. I always used to believe that sane rational people would always seek to leave the world a better place after they've gone. What will Trumps legacy be? I hope it is not the same as the Taliban smashing ancient treasures in Afghanistan.


Local Gigs

A bit of a dry time of year, but here are a few to note. Starting with tonight!

This Sunday in Finchley


And coming up

And coming up at The Arts Depot