Thursday, 26 November 2015

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Make You Feel My Love
Just My Imagination
Sylvia's Mother

Da Elderly: -
Through My Sails
Into The Light
You've Got A Friend

The Elderly Brothers: -
Walk Right Back
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
When A Man Loves A Woman
Medley: Sweet Caroline/Hi Ho Silver Lining

A lively evening at the open mic with several new players including a young lad (Life On Mars? and Blowing In The Wind) and a more seasoned campaigner (Winter Song). Ron debuted a song by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show and the Elderlys dug out a Percy Sledge classic from 1966 which was well received by The Habit crowd.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Philip Larkin behind (and in front of) the camera

Larkin book jacket
Larkin with his camera. He used photography to sharpen his connection with ‘that fuller and more sensitive response to life as it appears from day to day’ towards which he was also striving in his poetry. In photography, as in poetry, his aim was, ‘to construct a ... device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it.’

The photography of Philip Larkin - in pictures
Best known as a poet and librarian, Larkin was also a dedicated photographer, whose pictures kept a deadpan, erotic and mischievous record of his life. A new book gives the inside story

Philip Larkin aged 14, with his sister Kitty, during one of the family’s trips to Germany, in 1936. Larkin didn’t say much about the political situation they would have encountered there, but he wrote that their father, Sydney, “liked jolly singing in beer cellars, three-four times to accordians…”

Eva Larkin

Larkin’s mother Eva. The poet wrote to Monica in 1954: “you must never come back ... till she is dead and gone if you want a quiet life, which suggests that some morbidly humorous intent went into his carefully posed photograph in a museum of wartime memorabilia near Loughborough.

Hilly Kilmarnock, sunbathing in Swansea, at the time when she was married to Kingsley Amis. She wrote to Larkin in 1950: “I’m sick to death of all the men I love and admire going off with other women, usually much better looking than me. There’s Kingsley with Barbara and Terry … I’ve got a weekend off in April, when I shall be going to London. I dream that I’m meeting you there, and that we’ll have loads to drink and then go to bed together, but alas, only a dream.”

Monica in the bedroom of Larkin’s Pearson Park in Hull, in 1957. References to her clothes feature habitually in his letters to her. He revelled in her willingness to play the role of sex-object, to become as much the figure of his fantasies as the individual with whom he talked about literature and architecture. She too enjoyed shifting between these roles and was happy, often flattered, to pose for the many mildly erotic photographs he took of her.

Larkin shaving

This self-portrait is one of four taken on the same day in 1957, as if to record a day in Larkin’s life. The others show him reading the newspaper over breakfast in his dressing gown, smartly dressed for work, and back at his flat in the early evening in casual clothes.

Larkin with the Amises and Anthony Powell
Larkin (right) with Hilly and Kingsley Amis and Anthony Powell (left) after a lunch at the Ivy in London in 1958. Though Powell came from a different era and class, he admired the new generation’s apparent commitment to elegant readability. Larkin wrote of Powell, that he was charming and funny, “at least he never says anything really funny, but he’s full of droll anecdotes and laughs a lot, so one imagines he’s funny. He dresses in a country style and has a big red spotty handkerchief to wipe the tears of laughter away with.”

Maeve Brennan

The writer Maeve Brennan at breakfast in a hotel in Hornsea where she had spent the night with Larkin in 1963. Brennan was the subject of his unfinished poem The Dance, about a university social evening she had persuaded him to attend against his will at Hull. He wrote: “Chuckles from the drains/ decide me suddenly: Ring for a car right now. But doing so// Needs pennies, and in making for the bar/ for change I see your lot are waving, till/ I have to cross and smile and stay and share/ Instead of walking out.’

Larkin and Betjeman
When The Whitsun Weddings was published in 1964, John Betjeman wrote in The Listener that Larkin had become ‘the John Clare of the estates’. Here Betjeman chalks up he final stanza of Larkin’s poem, Here, for a BBC film portraying the poet in the industrialised landscape north of Hull: ‘Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands /Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,/ Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken...Here is unfenced existence:/ Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.’

Philip Larkin

Larkin in Scotland, photographed by Monica, whose reflection is visible in the window pane. Although the barn-like church in the background with its strident cross is unlike the gently decaying buildings that informed his poem, Church Going, this carefully composed image reiterates Larkin and Monica’s interest in the vestiges of faith.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Ally May - Love is a serious business

Love is a serious business

It is a freezing afternoon
and I'm walking down
the full length of Shields Road, Byker.

I have no appetite
too much wine last night maybe?
Me and cash never stay
friends for long.

Later it rains long and heavily.


Monday, 23 November 2015

Bill Murray at The Baltic, Gateshead

‘I’m interested in his Murrayness': Bill Murray exhibition opens in Gateshead
Artist Brian Griffiths says it was Hollywood star’s attitude that inspired him to create the show at the Baltic centre for contemporary art

Mark Brown
Thursday 19 November 2015

A20-metre image of Bill Murray looks out over the river Tyne; inside the Baltic centre for contemporary art the actor is everywhere for an exhibition he probably knows little about.

“I’m interested in his Murrayness,” explains Brian Griffiths, responsible for the show, Bill Murray: A Story of Distance, Size and Sincerity, which imagines the pastimes of the Hollywood actor.

Using Murray as his muse, the artist has created a sculptural show with objects scaled both up and down as a way of exploring how we experience and measure things.

Outside the Gateshead gallery is the Murray banner; inside Griffiths has created a Murray-inspired fantasy landscape of model houses and imagined Murray activities involving a miniature whisky bar, a helicopter and a grand piano.

“He is very good material,” says Griffiths who is known for using found objects, among which Murray could be counted.

Griffiths says it was Murray’s attitude that inspired the show. It is “Bill the global superstar, the guy-next-door, the anti-brand brand, the irrepressible Lothario, the lovable gruff, the wise cracker, the emotionally brittle, the lost man, the free-wheeling guy, the uncle you-never-had, the dignified clown, the droll philosopher and the hopeful.”

It opens to the public on Friday, although the huge photograph of Murray taking a photograph of photographers at the Cannes film festival was placed on the riverside front of the Baltic on Monday and has been a popular selfie background all week.

Inside there are pictures of both a smiling and a serious Murray everywhere you look, along with nine model houses installed on tables, including a Los Angeles beach house, a faded art deco mansion and an ocean adventure dome.

If visitors put their ear close to one window they might hear classical music coming out of the clock radio. “It is a fantasy landscape,” says Griffiths. “I would call it a metaphysical adventure story with Bill. For me, Bill is an object in the show and an image in the show... we all know Bill. He has to some extent become my leading man.”
The show is also an exploration of scales and sizes, so it is a huge room with a big star and small houses into which visitors can peer as if they were giants. On the mezzanine level, people can look through a graphoscope at the ant-like visitors down below.

Similarly Murray is a big, Hollywood star who is very unlike a big star. He is known for his films - among them Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation - and for his eccentricities. He reportedly has no agent or manager which makes it tricky for people to send him scripts.

Griffiths says: “The ambition is that scales, points of view and sizes are all in flux. In the end you have to measure up to the works. I’m fascinated by how scale and size works generally.”

He has tried to make contact with Murray but does not know if he was successful. “He is difficult to get hold of ... he seems to live a very particular life.”

The actor’s eccentricities have inspired a website that documents incidences of him just turning up to things. Whether he makes it to Gateshead remains to be seen.

• Bill Murray: A Story of Distance, Size and Sincerity is at the Baltic centre for contemporary art from 20 November to 28 February 2016

BILL MURRAY: a story of distance, size and sincerity20 November 2015 – 28 February 2016

In BILL MURRAY: a story of distance, size and sincerity, artist Brian Griffiths presents an ambitious new commission that takes in BALTIC’s vast Level 4 gallery with a contrastingly small-scale production. A series of nine different style buildings, including a lavish LA beach house, a historic Scottish mansion and an ocean adventure dome, imagine Hollywood actor Bill Murray’s activities and pastimes.

A complex assemblage of these architectural models, light, everyday objects and a documented performance of Bill Murray creates a metaphysical adventure story and a fantasy caricature complete with whisky minibar, grand piano and helicopter.

BILL MURRAY: a story of distance, size and sincerity is an exhibition that enjoys and considers the effects of small, miniature, big, gigantic, the scaled up and scaled down, detail and overview. It is an exhibition that questions how one experiences and measures things. It encourages comparisons and differences, instabilities and slipperiness and attempts to use exaggeration as a means of revelation. This exhibition strives for both intimacy and grandeur, to present production and consumption and hopes for imaginative flight from humble objects.

Griffiths has also reproduced an image of Bill Murray at Cannes Film Festival as a 20 metre-long banner, which will appear on BALTIC’s north facade for the duration of the exhibition, playing once more with degrees of scale.

Since the early 1990s Brian Griffiths has been making sculptures and installations with overblown theatricality and pathos. He uses found and made objects to consider our complex relationships with the material and social world; how we use objects to make meaning, to make and re-make ourselves, to organise our anxieties and affections, to sublimate our fears and shape our fantasies.

Bill Murray is always authentic. He is consistently ‘BILL MURRAY’. His singularity breaks into irreducible ambiguities and contradictions – Bill the global superstar, the guy-next-door, anti-brand brand, irrepressible lothario, dignified clown and droll philosopher. This exhibition takes these and many other characteristics as an approach, turning them into a fantasy caricature and a poetic tableau of scaled down architecture and collections.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Dion and Paul Simon - New York Is My Home

Dion and Paul Simon record a duet together
The track will appear on Dion's forthcoming album, New York Is My Home.

Michael Bonner
November 10, 2015

Dion is set to release a new studio album next February.

The album, New York Is My Home, is due for release via Instant Records through The Orchard.

The title track is a duet recorded with Paul Simon, which is set for release as a single this Friday (November 13, 2015).

Paul Simon, Dion

Dion said: “It’s my ‘street rock ’n’ roll song, my love song to the city and my girl.

“To my eyes the city is pure; it lifts me to a higher reality. I experience the fullness of life in New York. It’s all here.”

The video for the track features Dion and Simon and was filmed on the streets of New York in late October.

Dion said: “Early on, I knew I had to sing it (the title track) with Paul Simon. I knew Paul would ‘get’ this song. And he did.

“Soon after I sent it to him (Paul Simon) called and said he’d become obsessed with it and added his own distinct touches to the production. This was a labor of love for us.”

Dion and Simon have previously played together, performing Dion’s “The Wanderer” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when Dion was inducted by Lou Reed in 1989.*

*Those of us with a better grasp of these two gentlemen's work will remember that Simon guested on Written On The Subway Wall/Little Star, one of two standout tracks on Dion's Yo Frankie album - and, as if by magic, here it is:

Friday, 20 November 2015

David Bowie at the Neon Social Club, Jarrow

A Jarrow working men's club has launched a recruitment drive - backed by a VIP member.

The Neon Social Club on the Scotch Estate wants fewer cloth caps and more bright circus clothes in the lounge and bar.

Rock icon David Bowie, a committee member, agreed to take part in a promotional video.

He said: "I love to fly in from LA for the meat draw and the bingo of a Sunday.

"But the numbers have been dropping off, so I thought I'd get me best claes on and give the lads a boost."

Catch the Neon promo below

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Autumn Leaves
The Way You Look Tonight
Can't Help Falling In Love

Da Elderly: -
In The Morning Light
I'm Just A Loser
Into The Light (new song)

The Elderly Brothers: -
You Really Got A Hold On Me
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
When Will I Be Loved
Love Hurts
Bye Bye Love

Another busy night at The Habit open mic, players outnumbering punters at one point. There was the usual eclectic mix on offer including a young lass debuting on uke and a chap with a loop machine who started off on guitar and changed (mid loop) to mandolin! Yours truly played 3 originals including a debut for Into The Light, written last Sunday and favourably received. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Importance of Elsewhere: Philip Larkin's Photographs - review

 Philip Larkin
One of a series of self-portraits taken by Philip Larkin on the same day in 1957

The Importance of Elsewhere: Philip Larkin’s Photographs by Richard Bradford – review
Philip Larkin’s astute pictures make a tantalising companion to his verse

Sean O'Hagan
Sunday 15 November 2015

In October 1947, Philip Larkin wrote to his friend Jim Sutton about a recent “act of madness” – he had spent £7 on a camera. The British-made Purma Special had cost him more than a week’s wages, but it was state of the art compared with his previous model, a box camera that had been given to him by his father in 1937, when Larkin was 15.
Philip Larkin
“I am so far awaiting my first roll of results,” Larkin told Sutton in the same letter. “If they are bad, I shall feel I have been rather a fool.”

The results were in fact good, despite the fact that the Purma was, as Larkin put it, “a ‘fast’ camera, that is, best suited to swift scenes in bright sun” and: “I like poor light the best and I don’t think it will do any good in that line.” It seems somehow apt that Larkin, who once said “deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth”, should be drawn aesthetically to “poor light” – all the better to see some essence of England by, perhaps? Larkin later graduated to the altogether more classic Rolleiflex, on which he made many of his pensive self-portraits. Throughout, his visual style, like his poetic one, tended towards what the literary critic John Bayley called “a glum accuracy about places and emotions”… and people.
Philip Larkin
The photographs collected chronologically in The Importance of Elsewhere are culled from some 5,000 prints and negatives in the archives of the Hull History Centre. They are not, in the main, groundbreaking. They do, though, trace Larkin’s progress from an amateur enthusiast to a formally astute photographer with a keen eye for composition, whether making portraits of his friends, family, lovers and coterie of literary friends or casting his cold eye over the English countryside. There are moments of peculiar beauty here, mostly to do with his cool observation of English vernacular architecture: an austere Wesleyan chapel in East Yorkshire caught in stark monochrome; tall obelisks casting long shadows in a country graveyard in Oban.

The most Larkinesque series, apart from the many studied self-portraits, centres on the names of Yorkshire villages – Laxton, Faxfleet, Kiplin, Yokefleet. The poetry of place names, familiar from his verse, is here rendered in stark black and white, the silhouettes of buildings looming in the background behind these functional, yet lyrical, signs that nestle on well-tended grassy verges.
Philip Larkin's photograph of Monica Jones
Of Larkin’s lovers, Ruth Bowman, Monica Jones, Patsy Strang and Maeve Brennan are each given a chapter, but it is Monica who emerges most strongly as a forceful presence in his portraits. Whether staring down the lens while curled up on an armchair, wearing horn-rims, jumper and vertically striped tights, or gazing in profile out of the window of her flat in Leicester in the early 1960s, she seems utterly at ease before Larkin’s camera. In contrast, there is a striking portrait of Maeve Brennan, looking up from a book, melancholy and almost Victorian in a high-necked, long-sleeved dress. It was taken shortly after they had agreed to end their relationship and seems to carry all the weight of that decision in its sombreness.
A photograph belonging to Philip Larkin
Larkin also photographed the world around him wherever he went: his chum, Kingsley Amis, at Oxford and beyond, portraits of friends who had been conscripted during the second world war, Orange marches in Belfast in the early 50s, shipyard cranes and shopfronts in Hull a few years later. Here and there, the images and the poems seem to chime: a vibrant street scene in Dublin captures a crowd of children and adults watching a passing parade or funeral. Only one young girl stares suspiciously at Larkin’s camera and you can almost see him though her eyes, a nerdish outsider observing. One wonders if the image was echoed in his late poem, Dublinesque, in which he described how “Down stucco sidestreets,/ Where light is pewter/ And afternoon mist/ Brings lights on in shops/ Above race-guides and rosaries,/ A funeral passes”.
Hilly Amis
A fascinating and tantalising book, then, and one that sheds light on a great poet and tricky human being, who seems to have found, in photography, another altogether less fretful – and perhaps kinder – way of preserving what he experienced.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Warren Mitchell RIP

Remembering Warren Mitchell: one of Arthur Miller's favourite actors
Martin Chilton pays tribute to the fine actor, who had mixed feelings about playing one of the most notorious bigots on TV

Martin Chilton,
14 Nov 2015

Actor Warren Mitchell, who has died aged 89, will forever be associated with Alf Garnett, the vile old bigot he portrayed on television, stage and film from 1965 to 1998.

Garnett, created by writer Johnny Speight for the television show Till Death Us Do Part, was one of the most influential TV characters of the 20th century and tended to overshadow Mitchell's other acting accomplishments. How many people will know, for example, that Mitchell was one of playwright Arthur Miller's favourite actors?

It's not surprising, however, that Mitchell will be remembered for his portrayal of Alf Garnett, because he was a remarkably splenetic character, perhaps TV's most memorably miserable old git.

Mitchell wasn't even first choice for the role – it had been turned down by Peter Sellers, Leo McKern and Lionel Jeffries – but he made it his own, bringing out the full warped power of a racist, sexist homophobe, whose only loyalties were to the Queen, the Conservative Party and West Ham United. Alf, an East End dock worker, was constantly at war with his "silly old moo" of a wife, his left-wing daughter and his layabout son-in-law, the "Scouse git". The actor won a BAFTA for his portrayal of Garnett.

Writer Speight had originally written the character for a Comedy Playhouse pilot and it was inspired by the racist and sexist characters that he had known around London's Canning Town as a child. Mitchell played the role so well that it was soon clear that part of the audience was actually laughing along to Alf's rants about blacks, immigration and the welfare state. Rather than being a figure of fun, he was increasingly being seen as a voice of reason (his catchphrase was "It stands to reason").

Mitchell knew he was just acting out a role (not least in that he was an ardent Spurs fan in real life) and even though he recognised the subversive intention of Speight's foul-mouthed creation – the fact that Mitchell was Jewish was part of the satire of his anti-Semitic character – not everyone got the joke. "There have been times when I've felt ashamed. When I've been doing Alf to a live audience and he says something like 'Enoch Powell had the right idea' or 'Adolf Hitler had his moments,' and somebody in the audience cheers," Mitchell once lamented.

There's no way a programme with such offensive dialogue would be made today but Mitchell remained convinced that Speight was a writer of the highest order. "I've been lucky, I've worked with all the greatest writers: Shakespeare, Pinter, Speight. Johnny deserves his place with them," Mitchell said.

Mitchell was born Warren Misell on 14 January 1926 and changed his name when he went into acting because nobody could ever pronounce his name correctly. He was partly inspired to become an actor by meeting Richard Burton when they were both RAF cadets at Oxford in the war. He even did a Welsh character for his Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) audition. "I always thought if you could be Welsh and Jewish you really couldn't miss," Mitchell joked. Until his forties, when Alf came along, Mitchell was a jobbing actor appearing in minor TV roles and on radio in shows such as Hancock's Half Hour.

Although Mitchell is identified almost exclusively with Garnett, he was a very fine theatrical actor. On stage he received extensive critical acclaim for his performances in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker and The Homecoming.

In his theatrical work, Mitchell is most closely associated with Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman. Mitchell played Willy Loman four times, including a stage version in Australia where he acted with a young Mel Gibson. In 1979, he won an Olivier Award for Actor of the Year for playing Miller's complex character.

Mitchell once recalled the playwright coming to talk to the Salesman cast at the National. "Arthur Miller said to us, 'You know when we went on tour with the play, the management wanted to change the title. They said, it's death, it really is death to have the word death in the title. They came up with all sorts of other suggestions.' Then he asked us, 'What would you think would be an alternative title?' And somebody in the cast said, 'What about Till Death Us Do Part?' Miller didn't know why everyone was laughing."

Mitchell suffered a stroke in August 2004 but was back on stage a week later, performing in Miller's The Price. To the end, he was an indefatigable old trouper and remained sanguine about having made a success out of such an unpleasant character as Garnett. "I live in the house that Alf built and paid for – so I can't grumble," he said.

Asked recently to sign an autograph of a picture of him as Garnett, the actor obliged saying, "Oh, it's that old sod!"