Saturday, March 14, 2009

Being an adult and moderately shameless, I haven't felt embarrassed in a shop for years. I could quite merrily barge into a particularly eclectic retail emporium and request sex toys, hardcore pornography and a Richard Clayderman LP without a second's hesitation. Yesterday, however, I came as close to being abashed as I've ever been.

The record-cleaning fluid that came with my Knosti Disco-Antistat (see Cheeseford passim) is getting a bit dirty, as you might expect. However, I resent paying £15 for a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, de-ionised water and washing-up liquid. So, I did the rounds of Lowestoft's pharmacies, asking whether they sold isopropyl alcohol. A couple said they could order it, but one responded to my query with a very firm "no". Unless I'm very much mistaken, from the steely look in her eye, the woman behind the counter wanted to add "I know your type and it disgusts me". I did think of adding cheerfully that it was for cleaning records and tape heads, but I thought that would only make matters worse.

I slunk off and thought I'd try Superdrug before I gave up. There the pharmacist was unable to oblige with the goods, but incredibly helpful. He asked if it was for record cleaning, and explained that if he stocked it, he'd have to have flame-retardent cabinets all over the place. He also seemed to recall that he'd seen it in B&Q once. No joy there, either, so I ended up ordering it on eBay. Make mine a large one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I knew Kecske Bak was a man of taste and distinction, and his response to yesterday's Nick Lowe posting merely underlines the fact. I responded by citing 'All Men Are Liars' from 1990's Party of One album as an example of Basher's greatness, and, in a spirit of show, don't tell, here it is. There's also a full band version on the 'Tube with Paul Carrack, Bobby Irwin and (I think) Steve Donnelly, but I find this unplugged version oxymoronically electrifying. I now have a sudden urge to dig out Jesus of Cool, if only to hear 'Nutted by Reality'. "Well I heard they castrated Castro, they cut off everything he had..." is one of the great opening lines of the last 50 years. Incidentally, the guitar in the clip is a Gibson J180 Everly Brothers model. When I bought my acoustic in 1994, I went for the cheaper Epiphone version, purely because Lowe and Costello had the Gibson. That's the power of Lowe.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Nearly 15 years of bafflement and anxiety have just come to an end. That's the length of time I've been familiar with 'Love Gets Strange' by Nick Lowe on his 1988 album Pinker and Prouder than Previous, and the length of time I've been trying to work out the chords on guitar. I assumed that it was beyond my meagre skills, but as most of Basher's excellent back catalogue can be expressed in four chords at most, I thought it unlikely. I worked out a set of chords that sort of got me through the song unaccompanied (G E Am D on the verses, G F C and one I couldn't quite get on the chorus), but were at noticeable variance with the pitch of the record. The one thing that never occurred to me until just now was that they might have speeded up the master tape. So, I twiddled the pitch control on the turntable until my chords fitted, and once the spot had been found, guess what, Basher's voice sounded more natural and, well, Nick Lowe-ish. It's a subtle difference, but it's been like taking off a pair of tight shoes. And, as the icing on the cake, I've just located the long-lost jewel case for Two Against Nature for Steely Dan, which had fallen down behind a bookshelf. Call it low-effort spring cleaning.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

My Saturday mornings usually consist of dozing lightly with Brian Matthew on in the background, but yesterday, I was out of the house at 8.35am with a purposeful stride. Unfortunately, my purpose was to reach Lowestoft station by 8.42am, a journey I know to take 10 minutes. The plan was to catch the train to London, spend the afternoon researching at Colindale, then head off to see a much-loved band of my formative years in concert. Amazingly, with a bit of light running, I made it to the station just in time to see my train pull out. As it was an advance ticket, tied to the service I'd missed, there was no point in hanging around and catching a later train. My emotions were mixed. I was moderately annoyed to be missing the show, although I have seen the band in question enough times not to mope about not making it. I was fairly annoyed to have spent £30 on a concert ticket for no good reason. Most of all, though, I was cheesed off at the waste of £32 on the rail fare. However, as sticking to the plan would have involved even more expenditure - another bloody ticket to Colchester at the very least, plus a Travelcard at the other end, not to mention nosh and drinks - I decided that cutting my losses and going back home was the best option.

As the day wore on, I occasionally thought about where I'd have been at that given moment, had I caught the train. Oddly, instead of gnashing my teeth and cursing my tardiness, I started to feel relieved that I hadn't gone anywhere. Instead of sitting in a venue I know to be horrible simply to hear music that I know backwards forwards and sideways, paying through the nose for beer I wouldn't touch under any other circumstances, and then struggling to get back to my mother's house for a few hours' kip, I was at home, listening to Paul Barnes on the wireless, making a curry and sharing a bottle of Albanian burgundy with the GLW. I started to feel that, had the concert ticket and travel been free, I'd have paid £62 willingly not to have to go anywhere. I'm getting old. And, you know what? I love it. I'll just have to wait for the tour DVD.