Little Operation

I have just lit an untipped Gitanes cigarette. Every moment I'm typing will add 5 minutes to my life- it smells like the house is on fire, and that the house is made of dried cow dung. I probably do live in a house full of eccentrics, there are 8 smoke alarms here. Nicotine 1.1 mg- I presume that is a very high content.

In my last blog (or thereabouts) I wrote a piece on Cliff Richard, who, my older brother once told me, although he denies it now, was well known as Alice on the gay scene. Cliff Richard, that is. Any man who wears clogs with a chiffon scarf has to be a little bit funny. Get you, dear! Anyway, I must confess I was a little embarrassed to appear to be quite such a big Cliff fan as that blog portrayed me as being. The truth is, I wrote a carefully circuitous piece on Cliff, critical yet cautiously appreciative. I thought, that will be OK, it does make plain my reservations and doesn't portray me as being one of his blue rinse, handbag waving fans. But then, my manager augmented the piece with a sort of John Denver type picture of Cliff and, a link to 'Cliff and The Shadows 2009 reunion interview', completely blowing my carefully constructed cool, by making me appear like a handbag waving, blue rinse fan! Mortified, I decided to ring him, to ask him to remove the offending material forthwith. However, I came upon an article this evening by non other than Guardian and Mojo journalist Bob Stanley, respected pop aesthete, proclaiming Cliff's virtues, albeit with some reservation. One of Bob's points is that, it is necessary to dig somewhat to find the good Cliff records. This is something I have been considering myself, and I don't know what the good Cliff obscurities and hidden hits sound like, but I am still keen to find out. In The Country and Blue Turns To Grey are so good, that there must have been more. Cliff always reflected the times with a certain informed commercial instinct. This may or may not be a good thing, according to how good the music of the times was. Interesting that coming out as a Christian is now a more problematic move than coming out as being gay, Cliff came out unashamedly as the former ofcourse, while maintaining not exactly a denial but a stoical refusal to disclose, on the latter issue. My wife feels really sorry for them...

Now, what have I got to tell you? Well, my record has been on the Mark Lamarr show again, and on Radio 6. And, Pete Mitchell, the first man to play Oasis on British radio, has sent me a message saying how much he likes Psychodrama, my single. Village Green Machine is of course me, but I didn't want to use my name, as I felt I would be lumped in in people's perceptions with the latest troup of acoustic guitar strumming singer- songwriters. So I call myself Village Green Machine.
My drums have been up the shoot for some while so I've been recording without them, latest is Valentine Rd which has a great Dylan sound on the acoustic, with overdubbed jangly electric bringing in more Monkees influence. I feel the song needs an accordion or squeeze box. I have been looking at these on ebay, there are gorgeous art deco accordions for sale. I want to find out a bit more before buying, ie are they in the right key. I asked an American lady about the marble white Italian 30's accordion she had for sale, a particularly splendid example. I asked her if she thought it would get to England in one piece, to which she graciously replied that although the postal service was not always reliable, her husband had often been complemented on his packaging.

Quite what that has to do with buying an accordion I don't know, but I am keen to get my hands on one really soon. An accordion, you filthy minded brutes.

Do you know, the temptation to imbibe a couple of my mother's prescription chill pills, which contain opium, is growing by the minute. In 20 minutes I'd be really gone. I suppose, very reluctantly, I'd better behave myself.

A recent highpoint was the Marrakesh Express gig at Bilston's Robin 2. A Byrds/Crosby Stills Nash & Young tribute. Superb renditions of the Byrds singles catalogue, as well as more obscure material reminded me, with an emotional punch, who my favourite band are. Detail was carefully observed, without slavish adherence to detail heard in a certain other tribute. There is a fine line between playing it like it was, and obsessively overdoing the small print, overemphasising the music's characteristics. Marrakesh Express did not cross that line, delivering the compressed 12 string Rickenbacker sounds much as they were originally recorded. Excellent harmonies and Tambourine Man style bass sounds featured throughout, the bassist being in fact one of the very best players I have ever seen. This dandified fellow was perhaps allowed freer reign on the latter part of the show, devoted to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. His mastery of dynamics, timing and melody, combined with soul to make Marrakesh Express a must see for serious musicians and fans of The Byrds and CSN&Y. The band's harmonies and general delivery made this latter half of the show a pleasure for me, someone who owns a gorgeous original heavyweight vinyl copy of Deja Vu, but who is not an aficionado of the band. I once had a very interesting discussion with Bobby Elliot of The Hollies about Nash's metamorphosis from Hollies pop harmonist to equal footer in one of America's very biggest late 60 's bands, but that's another article. Suffice to say for now that Marrakesh Express present CSN&Y's music with a joyous delivery, and who could possibly ask for more than that, except that Marrakesh Express could also be Diesel Park West. Well, they are.

Here's some of the film stuff I've been into recently...

The Servant, a film starring Dirk Bogarde, Edward Fox, Wendy Craig and Sarah Miles, is a powerful sixties black and white which emanates a certain compelling darkness, even on a small screen. What an incredible cast! Set in early 60s London, it documents the demise of a young upper class man who succumbs to the manipulative charms of his house manservant, played by Bogarde. This manservant ingratiates himself by advising on decor, much to the chagrin of Fox's girlfriend played by Wendy Craig. He brings his supposed sister (Sarah Miles) in to help with domestic duties, however on returning from an evening at a chic beatnik club Edward and Wendy discover Bogarde frolicking in his bedroom, with the woman he claimed was his sister. Wendy glowers as Edward confronts the manservant with an accusation of incest, at which point the manservant turns on Fox and accuses him of being in a compromised position himself, which he is since he has a) been having sex with the manservant's sister (actually his fiance) himself, and b) he has actually been having it off with the manservant too! Randy things. The whole scenario degenerates into drunken dissolution of their lives, and eventually apparent is the fact that the superior Wendy has also been at it with the manservant, and actually what point this film is trying to make rather eludes me. Maybe it is just about the drama of such occurrences. The working class people in the film are only interested in exploiting the drunk, youthfully weak and alcoholic figure played by Fox, who would be quite generally likeable were it not for the fact he refers to his servant by his surname only. (PS some shit tried that trick on my grandfather!!!!) Wendy Craig is a remarkable actress, who played the part of an upper class young woman superbly. An obstreperous, aloof, upper class, frankly bitch. How incredibly versatile she has been as demonstrated in various roles over the decades. National treasure for sure. No likeable characters really in this film though, directed by Harold Pinter who played a cameo role appearing in the restaurant scene. Yet it does posess a compelling power which has drawn me back for repeated DVD viewings. I never go to the cinema, but I imagine it must have projected its dark magnetism in an extraordinary way on the wide screen. Rated 4 stars in Haliwell's film guide I believe. The film certainly documents a shift in power balance from upper class to working class, with most unsavoury results for all concerned.

I have been watching On The Buses again. In this episode, Olive finally wins a divorce from that rat Arthur. As fans of 70's comedy will know, Arthur had had a 'little operation', which rendered his marriage barren. Eventually, it ended up in the divorce courts, although we learn from this episode that Arthur's problem was in fact inflicted by Olive. He asked her to bite him, but her teeth kept falling out. In the end she got her teeth together, but her glasses fell off and she bit him in the wrong place. So now we know what really happened to Arthur.

Bye for now,

Mark



Reading Village Green Machine's ezine. Little Operation
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