Olympic Cycling – Watch out for Kieron

Olympics – cycling. Lady BSM and I watched the Omnium(?) last night where cyclists seemed to have a race when they felt like it. I found it hard to believe that Mark Cavendish could ride his bicycle so very energetically while also calculating how many points the Danish and Italian riders were collecting on the seemingly random races in between the cruising around looking at each other. In the end the commentator got shouty (inevitably) and the Italian won, collapsing in a flood of tears, leaning on his mum and dad who were in the crowd. Mark Cavendish finished in silver medal position, which is good, but he seemed a little crestfallen.
Then, tonight, Master Johnny is watching another bike race. This one seems to involve a bloke called Kieron on a pizza delivery moped.

Kieron. Don't mess with him.

Kieron. Don’t mess with him.

Kieron must be a really hard bloke, because none of the cyclists, all finely tuned, testosterone fuelled athletes, are brave enough to overtake him. He holds up their race for ages before getting fed up and having a rest on the side. All the cyclists then have a good old burn up to decide who wins. Or something.
No doubt, somebody out there understands all of this. All I can say is I have no doubt that after the awards ceremony, Kieron is out the back flushing the cyclists’ heads down the toilet and nicking their medals.
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Age May Not Become You

Wordpretzels, earlier this year an organisation called OnePoll carried out some research for the website retiresavvy.com, obviously a digital world that will be closer to my heart sooner than i would wish for. 2000 people answered questions on when it was too old to do certain things. Based on the results, let’s see if I can give you some advice.

First of all, if you are over 38 years old, grow up. This is the key milestone for being a grown up, apparently. However, it would be perfectly respectable to wear slippers and own a cheeseboard.You’d also qualify for a sensible anorak (37).Anybody over the age of 38 should forget any idea of having a tattoo or a piercing. This one I can agree with. Ear rings are fine on people over 38, providing they are female. Men just look sad, desperately clinging on to their rapidly disappearing youth. Think David Essex, not in 1974 but 2016.

You could take a trip to the nightclub until 44, but I don’t know how. Anybody in a nightclub over the age of 35 always looks suspicious to me, being at least 10 years older than the majority of the clientele. Anybody over 50 wearing a Hawaiian shirt in a nightclub is likely to be on a list somewhere. In fact, the survey suggested that staying out after midnight should cease when you reach 52. I’d love to contest this one, but these days if I’m not leaving a dinner party by 11.30pm I’m likely to fall into a coma. I call this age related times – midnight for a 56 year old is technically 4am in ‘old grunter time’.

Fancy a holiday with the lads or lasses? Ibiza? Giving it large? Over 40? Give it a miss.

Do you know somebody who likes to show off in their car? Boy racers were judged to be too old at 33. If they lived that long, idiots.

It appears that we are becoming more childish. I know plenty of grown ups, some with grey hair and nearly paid mortgages, piles and loose teeth who go to see films like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Paddington Bear, Star Trek and Star Wars without a child. In fact, these days, they make grown up children’s programmes. I’m a grown up who enjoys watching The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (basically Lord of the Rings with profanity and tits). I like to play video games and keep up with current music, which apparently must stop after the age of 42. My defence for music (I don’t have one for video games) would be the same as John Peel’s. As you age, you don’t stop trying new foods, so why do that with music?

Most of my friends don’t see it that way. Anything released after 1980 is regarded as screaming or weird people banging dustbin lids together. If music were food, they’d still be eating Vesta Curries and Angel Delight. They also like to settle down on a Sunday night to watch Countryfile and The Antiques Roadshow, before dozing off with a nice wildlife programme narrated by Sir David Attenborough. They won’t mind me saying this. Well, they would, but they don’t use social media, so are unlikely to read this. By the way, you’re too old for twitter at 47, Facebook at 49 and text talk at 36.

But despite this, my generation are certainly less grown up than previous ones. Take my parents, for example. They were old parents (born 1920). By the time they were 26, they were employed, responsible, brylcreemed, suited and booted (well, the men at least). They’d given up games when they were 12, in a job at 14 and possibly married 5 years later. They had all their teeth taken out for a 21st birthday present and only danced on a Sturday night after half a mild. In my parents’ case, they’d also been involved in a world war, lost friends and family and seen things no young person should ever see. No wonder they put away childish things. Goodness knows what they would think of skinny jeans (47).

Of course, I decided to do some research of my own and try and get some examples of the worst excesses of age inappropriateness in public.

EXHIBIT A

IMG_3594

Classic specimen. On closer inspection, age determined at 55-60. In flip flops (socks required over 50)  Maori tattoos on both arms (at least he’ll be dead before thinking why did I do that) and the old favourite – a Superdry t shirt, age limit 30. So, an image which screams David Beckham meets Jona Lomu mixed in with a bit of young farmer. Oh, he also had an ear ring. To emphasise this oldager, he’s also getting several packets of chocolate buttons. Do you think they’re for the grandkids?

EXHIBIT B

IMG_3599

Truly terrifying. Oldagers completely out of control. Predicted age 70 plus. Pink hair. Hawaiian style shirt. Funky Will.i.am spectacles. White shoes. But the one article that sums it all up, three quarter length trousers. These shouldn’t have an age restriction, rather a short prison sentence and a public burning of the offending article.

What do you think? I suppose these people are doing no harm. As kids they were probably told to grow up and be sensible. Nowadays, people probably look back on these reproaches and realise they can do what they like. Heck, all those things I would have been shouted at for doing as a kid. Then they go out, buy outrageous clothes, eat an entire packet of bourbon biscuits in one sitting and play candy crush on an iPad, asking the local headteacher/banker/solicitor/GP for extra lives.

Thanks for reading. Must go. Robot Wars is on the telly…

Posted in age, age survey, blogging, blogs, david essex, freshly pressed, humor, humour, life observations, wordpress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pokenot

Hello. Two weeks ago my laptop took a large drink via its keyboard and died, like many rock stars of the 70s. Hence until I have a new laptop,  I can’t guarantee a regular flow of unconnected balderdash. In the  meantime, the Pokemon craze has taken off in the UK to distract the  populace from the realisation that many people on our little island have voted to become a tax haven where large corporations can perform experiments on us. Being the rural spaceman, thus is what my Pokemon Go Map looks like from Randall Towers. A Pokemon desert.

image

Hello? ANYBODY???

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Rural Spaceman’s Guide to the Referendumb

Wordpretzels, some of you may be aware that in the UK there is a referendum on June 23rd. This is to decide whether we want to stay in the European Union, the largest trading group in the world, or leave and try and go it alone.

This blog isn’t entirely about trying to convince everybody to vote the way I’m going to. Those of you that agree with me will no doubt nod all the way through this barely proofread stream of consciousness whilst those of you that don’t will raise your eyes skywards and decide to completely ignore my sentiments.

Those of you who will be voting but are undecided, hopefully my few words can help.

The Facts

Firstly, consider the facts. There is only one problem with this. Nobody knows what the facts are. People on both sides will quote lots of facts that they’ve read, but most of it is probably somebody’s opinion or forecasts by those who’ve always got things wrong. Some will spend their time reading newspapers, listening to news reports and trawling the internet to produce ‘facts’ as to why you should vote in /out. Good for them. It just means they’ve read lots of stuff that makes them feel better informed than others. They’re not. Most of them will be affected by confirmation bias: they only agree with those facts that reinforce their views or read them in a way that confirms their already held belief. For example, the smoker who reads that cigarettes will kill 7 out of 10 people, will explain how lucky they are to be in the healthy 3 out of 10. Representatives from both camps will start their sentences with ‘I believe’, ‘I think’ or ‘It’s a widely held view’.

The History

A simple promise in a Conservative Party manifesto to keep the grumbling anti- Common Marketeers happy has resulted in one of the most important decisions the electorate have made in modern times.

The ‘Camps’

The Remain camp tell you that if we are voted out of the EU, we will all be poor as church mice, have no jobs and our arms and legs would fall off. Something like that. Their main argument is that, although everything isn’t perfect, there is time for things to improve. They see it as a long term relationship. Europe is a long term partner or spouse, who doesn’t always do what you want them to do but ultimately the compromises you have to make are worthwhile to maintain harmony. Leaving the EU would be akin to a divorce or splitting up and that rarely ends well. They explain the EU will turn cold, throw all our clothes out of the bedroom window onto the lawn and employ a bloody good lawyer to make sure you pay heavily for your mistake.

The Leave camp explain that the EU is just a huge group of lazy bureaucrats who take all our money and spend it on hotel rooms, hookers, wine, sausages and cheese. They also want to do away with our army, get rid of £5 notes, abolish royalty and make us eat straight bananas. The EU is going to allow billions of immigrants to surge onto our tiny island, take all our benefit money, fill up all the houses, overcrowd schools with their children and steal all the jobs. Their personification of the EU is a rather swarthy, suspicious looking spiv who’s waiting for you to leave the room to steal everything that isn’t screwed down before sending you the bill.

 

The ‘I believe’, ‘I think’ and ‘It’s a widely held view’ bit.

Those of you that know me well will already know which way I’m going to vote, so what follows is my explanation as to why. Most people that I know will also be voting my way, but that’s hardly a surprise, since you tend to have friends who share your outlook on life. Not all of them though; some are quite a surprise to me, others not so much. But that is all about the variety of life.

Take a quick look at those in favour of remaining in the EU. OK, we’ve got Mr Cameron, his mate George, who got us in this mess in the first place  along with Jeremy Hunt, Elizabeth Truss and bankers all of whom I would normally diametrically oppose. But there’s also Eddie Izzard, Bob Geldof, Jeremy Corbyn (ish) and that nice Mr Clegg. On top of this, most of my counterparts, faceache friends,work colleagues  those I follow on twitter and family members are definite Remainers.

Whereas the Leave side have some of the most objectionable, obnoxious politicians and public figures known to humankind. It’s like a who’s who of incredible shits: Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Neil and Christine Hamilton, John Redwood and (for political balance) George Galloway. In fact, there’s a great game you can play. Think of a celebrity, then guess which way they’re voting. For example: I typed ‘Katie Hopkins – Remain or Leave?’ guessing it would be out – and scored a point. Some are no brainers. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Rupert Murdoch David Icke and, errr, Keith Chegwin. Then there’s organisations: UKIP (derr), the BNP, Britain First and The English Defence League.

People that I consider kind, thoughtful people are lining up behind this lot to vote us out.

So what are they offering us? Well, that’s easy. Because nobody knows what would happen if we left the EU, they can promise you everything. It’s a bit like those dodgy ‘blind auctions’ that take place in a back room of a hotel. The auctioneer spends half an hour virtually giving away expensive electrical equipment for a fiver to the plants in the audience before producing a series of black bin liners, which he says contain some surprise electrical goods, all over £200, but he’ll take fifty. People clamour to purchase said bin liners, which are handed out as they leave. By the time they’ve opened it to find a broken generic Walkman and a brick, the auctioneer and his crew have left the building and jumped into their van, engine already running, disappearing into the distance.

Of course, I may be wrong. Do you want to look in the bin liner? Then, best vote leave on 23rd June. But remember, we all have to share your broken Walkman and house brick.

“I want my country back!” shout the most vociferous supporters of the Leave campaign. Back from what? Back to what? Look at this poster:

Warm beer! Cor blimey guv n no mistake, no fuzzy wuzzies 'ere...

Warm beer! Cor blimey guv n no mistake, no fuzzy wuzzies ‘ere…

It appears to be a nation where everybody lives in a sunny, green, pleasant land, with no funny looking foreigners, proper beer, Sunday roasts, bent bananas and working class folk who can be identified by their flat caps and mufflers, diffident nature and cheery disposition with a healthy respect for those in authority.

“That Mr Farage is a proper gent and no mistake. Salt of the earth, he is, calls a spade a spade – ‘course, before I got my country back, I couldn’t say spade. Bloody political correctness, that was. I’m off home to pat the wife on the head, collect my tea and watch ‘Mind Your Language’ on the telly.”

Back to a fantasy version of the mid 20th century, then.

But this is the 21st century, where globalisation means the fluid transportation of people from country to country; large corporations, not a sovereign or to a large extent, a government, decide how you live.

So, who are those that are keen to ‘get their country back’? Three academics from The University of Bristol took polling one step further, by analysing the voting intentions of 60 000 people as collected by YouGov, looking at age, location and qualification level. They then calculated the probability of those people voting Remain or Leave.

The results showed that younger people are more likely to vote Remain. Also, the higher your qualification, the less likely you are to vote Leave. Therefore, if you are young and qualified, living in an area where UKIP are not a force, it’s highly probable you’ll want to stay in Europe. If you’re older, with no or few qualifications in a UKIP friendly area, you’re going to vote out.

It sort of makes sense.

Let’s take it a step further. We could even duplicate the ‘guess the vote’ game. I would hazard a guess that those members of the UK population in a PAYE job that demands a higher level of education will be more socially conscious, more discerning in recognising tabloid propaganda and working alongside colleagues from different cultural backgrounds to vote to remain in the EU.

Those who are not employed in this way: the long term unemployed with lower qualifications; retired people; those with private incomes or are wealthy enough not to have to work for somebody else- will have less opportunity for such interaction and feel their position may be under threat and hence, vote Leave.

Don’t even get me started on the farmers where I live with Leave posters in their fields; living in a village means nothing is a secret and more than one of them receives more than £100 000 in EU subsidies. See whether Boris or Nigel is going to reimburse you, Mr Mcdonald. Then again, he may be Old McDonald, which means he’s voting Leave anyway, probably.

I know that the EU is a bit ropey, but whenever I visit the continent, I’m always glad I’m part of it, that we spent the good part of two decades trying to get in.

But being part of it stops the worst excesses of our politicians. I imagine the jolly old UK coming up with an idea that isn’t that great and the EU, sitting in the corner, Gauloise dangling from its bottom lip, taking a sip of wine and saying, “Non. Don’t be stupid”.

So, that’s my guidance for the EU referendum. You’re either applauding my wonderful insight or think that I’m referendumb. Confirmation bias is a wonderful thing.

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Take Your Chance While You’ve Still Got the Choice – AC/DC at The Etihad Stadium Manchester.

 

It all started with their appearance on Top of the Pops in the 70s.

It could have been Tony Blackburn or Kid Jensen who announced, “Now, from Australia, AC/DC with ‘Rock n’ Roll Damnation’… and there and then I became a fan. I was already into something known as ‘pub rock’ and this was as pub rock as you could get. Of course, these were the days when you had to remember what Kid Jensen or Noel Edmonds had told you, otherwise you had to wait until the song turned up on the radio and hope the DJ informed you who the band were; even then, you had to be very selective about which singles you bought, since things weren’t so readily available then, particularly money.

Then my dad arrived home from work one evening with a package under his arm.

“’Ere, this bloke was knocking out some records at work. Thought you would like this one,” he said, pulling an LP from a tatty carrier bag. There they were. A picture of five men, all crowding in behind the gurning one dressed as a schoolboy with devil horns, the eldest of the group leaning in and smiling approvingly, AC/DC in red emblazoned over their heads, ‘Highway to Hell’ spread across the bottom of the album sleeve. I played this over and over again in my bedroom, at times only vaguely aware of my dad at the foot of the stairs, hollering, “Oi! Do us a favour! Turn it daaaaaarn!!!”

I saved my pennies and bought more. Powerage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, High Voltage, Let There be Rock, If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It). I couldn’t get enough. I committed them all to cassette tape and took them to university with me when I moved out, deafening myself through my headphones.

Then Bon Scott, the lead singer died and it appeared to be over. I would never get to see AC/DC. But then, Brian Johnson, the bloke from Geordie who sang ‘All Because of You’ was announced as Bon’s replacement. There was uproar from the AC/DC fans, who believed nobody could replace Bon. I was more forgiving, being one of those people who had persuaded my sister to buy me the single ‘All Because of You’ when it came out several years before.

The ‘new’ AC/DC made an album called ‘Back in Black’, the title a tribute to Bon and finally I got to see the band at the Hammersmith Odeon, a small but popular venue. They were brilliant, appearing onstage with a gigantic bell. The love affair continued, even after meeting Lady Barton St Mary, who, although a fan of the rock music, wasn’t so keen on the volume. We were fortunate enough to see them again at the inaugural ‘Monsters of Rock’ Festival in Donnington, now called The Download Festival, I believe.

Then, as life moved on and we became parents, there were less opportunities. I still listened to music in my car, including AC/DC. This meant that both Miss Katherine and Master Johnny were subjected to my musical taste and just like me, Master Johnny was hooked, not by ‘Rock n’ Roll Damnation’ but ‘T.N.T.’. When he was 18 and had a part time job, he bought some new posters for his bedroom. One of them was the cover to ‘Highway to Hell’. Life had come full circle. There was talk of seeing AC/DC on their next tour.

Miss Katherine saw the tickets on sale. She contacted us. Before I knew it, the whole family were booked to see them at The Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Then, several weeks before the event, there was more alarming news. Brian Johnson, in danger of going deaf, was advised not to tour. It looked as if the family trip would be called off. But AC/DC looked for a replacement and found one in Axl Rose from Guns n Roses. Like 36 years earlier, AC/DC fans went into meltdown – many refused to attend. We decided we would, even though Axl had got some rather bad press in the last year or so. I vaguely recalled an article about him appearing at a festival (Reading?) extremely late, being booed, having the equipment turned off and still trying to command the stage after the lights had gone out and everybody had gone home.

So, with a little trepidation, we made our way to The Etihad Stadium on Manchester’s very fine tram system with thousands of other AC/DC fanatics, all singing ‘Cheer Up Sleepy Jean’ by The Monkees. A rather curious choice I thought, although I was more distracted by the number of people wearing the same t-shirt as me, a ‘retro’ Back in Black USA Tour shirt produced by ASDA, who’d been knocking them out  for a tenner back in February. I felt slightly ashamed, but only I, my fellow replica shirt wearing fans and my entire family knew. They took the trouble to point this out all evening. ‘Look dad, somebody else in an ASDA t-shirt.’

Of course, before entering the stadium, I stopped to buy some flashing devil horns for myself and the kids. Lady BSM refused, on the grounds that £5 a pair was a rip off. However, if you aren’t going to be ripped off at a rock concert, where would you be ripped off? We laughed at the other concert goers paying £10 for official AC/DC horns. Ours stopped working after 20 minutes.

Ready to Rrrrrrrock!!!

Ready to Rrrrrrrock!!!

We made our way into the stadium – a huge football arena, the pitch carefully covered. Thousands stood around waiting for the band. We took a seat in the lower stand with a good view of the stage. Just before the start of the show, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny left their seats and joined the standing throng on the pitch. I wavered with the idea of joining them, but decided to stay with the lovely Lady BSM to enjoy the experience.

Their introduction was incredible, huge screens, an introductory film of AC/DC emblazoned in flames on the moon and boom! There was Angus, pounding out the opening bars of ‘Rock or Bust’.

Not far behind him, Axl, his broken left leg encased in a plastic boot, screaming out the first line. Immediately you realised that Axl was more Bon than Brian, but for the first few songs, the mix wasn’t working and it was a struggle to hear him above the amazing, relentless, no nonsense rock n’ roll boogie. From our vantage point, staring at the big screens, he looked like a combination of Keith Lemon, the TV personality and Bobby George, the darts player (google it, non British wordpretzels).

One hundred and eighty!!

One hundred and eighty!!

But AC/DC were banging out one incredible song after another, the crowd on the pitch bouncing in unison: Shoot to Thrill, Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, Back in Black, Rock n Roll Thunder. The grin on my face got wider and wider, my head started nodding faster and faster. Would they play all the hits?

You bet, and some. We had Rock n Roll Damnation and TNT, the huge bell for Hell’s Bells; Sin City, Shot Down in Flames, Have a Drink on Me. To top it all, a huge inflatable woman in a basque appeared onstage for Whole Lotta Rosie.

Axl Rose? Well, he was fantastic, a brilliant voice – let’s just say, you really couldn’t have had a better replacement for Brain Johnson.

Angus was still full of energy, the 60 year old schoolboy who still does the duck walk and finishes with a flourish and a jump at the end of every song, although these days the jump is nowhere near as high as it used to be. The old habit of climbing on Bon/Brian’s shoulders, along with the obligatory mooning, has also disappeared. Brian’s shoulders probably wouldn’t take it and nobody ever really wanted to see Angus’s bottom at the best of times, let alone now he was nearly of a pensionable age.

With a storming version of ‘Let there be Rock’, including an amazing solo from Angus Young, appearing on top of the amp stack at one point, they said their goodbyes and left the stage. The crowd bayed for more:

“Angus! Angus!Angus!”

Angus Young. Only Billy Bunter and Just William beat him to the title 'oldest schoolboy'.

Angus Young. Only Billy Bunter and Just William beat him to the title ‘oldest schoolboy’.

They returned with ‘Highway to Hell’ – how did they get this far without me missing it? Then a real old favourite of mine, ‘Riff Raff’. Cannons began to appear behind the band (was that Malcolm on guitar? Another relative?) for the true finale – ‘For Those About to Rock –We Salute You’.

Boom! Boom!Boom!

The crowd roared, AC/DC and Axl took the ovation. Axl Rose had proved he was a great rock singer. Master Johnny declared that Angus Young was indeed the greatest guitarist he’d ever seen.

Maybe this is the last AC/DC tour, who knows. I’m so glad I saw them, even if it was sans Brian.

Whatever. All I want to say, in the words of Bon Scott in ‘Rock and Roll Damnation’, is:

“For everything that you’ve done for me – thanks a lot.”

 

Posted in AC/DC, age, Australia, blog, blogging, blogs, comedy, freshly pressed, humor, humour, Lady Barton St Mary, music, Uncategorized, wordpress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Even More Tales of TechNOlogy

It was digital training time at (almost) voluntary work. Here is a list of things I learned:

Don’t bother sending a list of training requirements formulated from a large cross section of work colleagues. It will be screwed into a tiny ball and thrown into the wastepaper basket so as not to interfere with a bog standard training programme.

Technology, like sex, is subjective. Almost everybody does it, with varying degrees of success. Some people are self appointed experts, but, when challenged, turn out not to be that good at all. A  small select group of people really are experts, knowing how to use their equipment to do amazing things, but unable to show those who can’t or don’t understand how to do it like they do.

Digital Trainers – don’t stand in front of the projector. It makes your trainees feel a bit rude, trying to read the words emblazoned on your front. Fortunately, wearing a black shirt helps to reduce this embarrassment as trainees attempt to read the few sentences on your neck and face. After starting the training with an explanation of why you shouldn’t get cross with learners or frustrated with the software, it’s best not to shout “Why are you still on that?” and exclaim “It doesn’t work on this bloody thing” later on.

Blended learning – where lessons are complemented with things on the inter web your learners could look at if they weren’t on faceache or Candy Crush. Or if they could afford a computer.

Woodwork teachers – never, ever, invite them on digital training.The only thing they hate more than computers is paperwork. Ditto anybody born before 1950.

People who loudly profess to embrace all technology and find it exciting – they’re lying and have obviously never really used it to any great depth.

Augmented Reality – a form of blended learning which involves pointing an iPhone at a picture of a cat and saying ,“It worked this morning.”

The Virtual Learning Environment is a mysterious and foreboding interweb place. Anybody who attempts to search this deadly portal is eventually trapped in a virtual maze that ultimately denies you access to all its enticing secrets. Like an extreme religious cult, it continues to exist due to the dedication of a handful of fanatics.

Quiz/Voting Websites -There is no such thing as too many quiz/voting websites.

If all the online aids have trouble working in a wi-fi enabled area, it will be a tad difficult to use it in a church hall in the middle of nowhere.

This emoticon means ‘triumphant’.

Yeah triumphant. It's obvious when you know, isn't it?

Yeah triumphant. It’s obvious when you know, isn’t it?

Who would have thought? Next time I’m triumphant I’m going to use it in the virtual world. In real life, I’m going to blow my nose without  a handkerchief, like a professional footballer does.

Technology will be great in about 5 years’ time, when it has caught up with all these bright ideas and I’m on the brink of retirement. Cheers, then.

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God Only Knows How He’s Lived for This Long – Brian Wilson at The Birmingham Symphony Hall

Yet another trip out for myself, Lady Barton St Mary and her brother Drew, this time a return to The Birmingham Symphony Hall to see another ‘legend’ in the world of popular music, Brian Wilson.

For those of you uninitiated in the history of popular music, Brian Wilson was the leader of iconic 1960s surfer band The Beach Boys. His personal history could take up an entire blog of 20 000 words, but fret not, Wordpretzels, I not subjecting you to that. Just take it from me that Brian is one of the most innovative, inventive and creative living musicians. How he’s still living, having reached the age of 73, with his history of chemical abuse and possibly connected mental health issues, is quite amazing.

Anyway, there we were, back in the circle of the symphony hall, awaiting Brian and his band. Our previous trip had been to see Burt Bacharach (88), so Brian was a mere stripling. The audience were very similar, giving all three of us some succour to know we would be at the younger end of the audience age bracket. However, it didn’t take long to figure out that, in fact, there were more than a few members of the crowd who brought down the average age more considerably than we did. People in their 20s, wearing Beatles/Byrds/Beach Boys/Doors t-shirts, clutching their ‘Pet Sounds’ programmes, looking genuinely excited at what they were about to witness. It was rather comforting to see these generationally newer music aficionados eschew a lot of the current blandness trafficked by the commercial radio stations; the sort of Cowellesque pap that makes Eurovision songs sound like everyday acceptable listening fodder. More power to these kids.

However, perhaps rather hypocritically, I admit that I don’t listen to a lot of Beach Boys’ stuff and absolutely no Brian Wilson solo projects, so I was intrigued to see how the evening went. The first half would be a smorgasbord of tunes, starting at 8.30 with an intermission at 9.15. I don’t know if all gigs are structured this way; perhaps it’s because I’ve mostly seen acts over the age of 60 for the past 5 years. Let’s just say that The Proclaimers and The Wombats managed to do the whole set in one go.

The second half was devoted to the iconic album Pet Sounds, a record celebrating its 50th anniversary, hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as a great and considered one of the first pop albums that needed to be ‘listened’ to rather than just dance about to, and containing what was regarded by Paul McCartney as his favourite pop song, ‘God Only Knows’. This part of the show would start at 9.30, completing at 10.30pm, allowing Brian to be back at the Hotel Du Vin, tucked up in bed with a cocoa, by 11.

IMG_3280

Bang on time, with his band safely ensconced on stage and singing the opening bars of ‘Our Prayer’, Brian appeared, seated at the grand piano. He was joined by another original Beach Boy, Al Jardine, with Al’s son Matt on vocals. In fact, Matt sang all the high register harmonies so characteristic of the Beach Boys. He was also called upon to sing the higher parts that Brian couldn’t reach, like a younger family member finishing grandad’s sentences.

It didn’t take long before the smile appeared on my face as they belted out hit after hit: ‘Heroes and Villains’, ‘California Girls’, ‘Dance Dance Dance’, ‘I Get Around’, ‘Little Honda’… one after the other. We jigged about in our seats, even the youngsters, who, influenced by the majority of the older participants, stayed seated out of courtesy for others and by the fact that it’s a bit tiring standing up these days.

It was all going swimmingly. Then Blondie Chaplin appeared. Who? I hear you ask. Precisely. Apparently, Blondie was a member of The Beach Boys. He also toured with the Rolling Stones, although this has seemed to have transmogrified into ‘being a former member of The Rolling Stones’. It reminded me of old school friends, who ‘had trials with West Ham United’, in the days when you just had to pitch up at the trial to have a go.

Blondie, to his credit, appears to use the same moisturiser as Keith Richards (Blue Circle cement) and has a head of curiously and luxuriously dark, short dreadlocks. He cavorted about the stage like an excited toddler, striking exaggerated guitar poses much like the ones I did as a teenager in my bedroom with a tennis racket, as the rest of Brian’s band played on, smiling benignly. Blondie was definitely there to show how fantastic he was. By the end of the first half, he’d more than persuaded himself that he was. By the time he’d finished, still buzzing around, Brian serenely observing his antics, like a discerning grandad who may tell him to sit down any minute soon. Drew, an accomplished musician himself, described Blondie as a character straight out of Withnail and I, due to Blondie’s raffish woollen scarf knotted around his neck.

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The second half, back to Brian and the whole of Pet Sounds, from ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’ through to ‘Caroline, No’.

Now, just to let you know. Brian’s vocals aren’t what they used to be, so when it came to ‘God Only Knows’, I expected a virtuoso performance from Matt Jardine, but no. Brian went for it. Let’s just say that this version sounded like a cross between Randy Newman and Rolf from The Muppets. I had a brief twinge of disappointment, until I reminded myself that this was Brian Wilson. Brian bloody Wilson. He wrote this song, so, if he wanted to sing it, he would. He was playing the Burt Bacharach card.

So, ‘Caroline, No’ ended and we gave tumultuous applause. But that wasn’t the end. He’d played ‘Pet Sounds’ in its entirety, but was back for more.

‘Good Vibrations’ got a lot of the crowd on their feet, dancing and clapping, jumping up and down. Like an avalanche of feel good tunes, they thundered through ‘All Summer Long’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘Fun Fun Fun’ – by this time, the younger members of the audience in their retro band t-shirts were learning how to jive, whilst the common or garden, first time around Brian Wilson fan was wishing they’d paced themselves, physically wilting with the effort.

Brian finished with ‘Love and Mercy’ before saying his final farewell; like his previous stage exits, this was a fascinating sight. Brian, having forewarned the crowd that he would be departing stage right on completing a song, would suddenly spring from a seated position and propel himself across the stage, forearms at right angles to his body, wrists limp, legs slightly ahead of his torso, like a stampeding Tyrannosaurus Rex, roadies either side of him waiting to pounce as if he were a spinning plate.The whole process was an obvious effort, which appeared to be more daunting than playing a two and a half hour set. Afterwards, I mentioned this to Drew, theorising that maybe many years of substance abuse leads to this particular form of perambulation, which I call ‘The Ozzy Osbourne’.

“Maybe,” mused Drew, “but he’s allowed to walk like that. He’s Brian Wilson.”

As we ambled out of the symphony hall, across the bridge spanning the canal, I turned to Lady BSM and Drew.

“That was brilliant,” I said. They concurred.

I thought about the acts we’d seen in the past 3 years. Burt, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Paul McCartney…

“Next time, shall we see somebody who released their first album after 1970?”

They both considered for a moment, exchanging a look.

“Nah,” they both said, in unison.

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