Barry Cole 1926-2014

July 30th, 2014

Barry at desk

My friend, the poet and novelist, Barry Cole, died at the end of last month and I wrote an obituary for The Independent. It was only in the paper this week or I’d have posted earlier. Those of you with long memories may recall that I spent a day with Barry five years ago, culminating in a visit to the BFI where there was a showing of rare films by BS Johnson, Barry’s close friend, including one that Barry appeared in. The photo above is of Barry at home, signing a first edition of his finest novel, Joseph Winter’s Patronage, which he gave to me that day (I’d just read the new Shoestring edition, which is still available). Although he was very ill for the last few years of his life, Barry retained his sharpness, acerbic wit and acute editing skills. Indeed, after I gave him a copy of my last Bone and Cane novel, What You Don’t Know, he sent me back a handful of corrections and even pointed out a messy paragraph that I was able to correct in the Kindle edition.

Shoestring is run by our mutual friend, John Lucas, who I mention in my obituary and who effectively conducted Barry’s funeral service, talking about Barry, then reading a selection of his poems. John has written about Barry in The Guardian.

Here’s the song that was played at the end of the funeral. An appropriate choice, for reasons you’ll see if you read my obituary. Condolences to Barry’s widow, Rita, three daughters and four grandchildren. RIP.



Hall and Oates, Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, July 6

July 8th, 2014



The following review adds a few extra ruminations to the one in today’s Nottingham Post.

‘It’s been a very long time but it’s good to be back,’ says Daryl Hall. He and John Oates last played the RCH back in 1990, at the end of a decade in which they’d were the quintessential AOR band in the US.

But which band is back? There have been at least five Hall and Oates. A blue-eyed soul band whose second album featured a soul classic, She’s Gone (though it only become a US hit when rereleased in 1976). I bought Abandoned Luncheonette from a cut-out bin at Burnley Boots in 1974, for 69p, and was hooked.

They flirted with rock in the Todd Rundgren produced War Babies, which is great but more a Rundgren album than a Hall and Oates’ one. It did nothing, but then they went gold with their fourth, the eponymous ‘silver’ album, Hall and Oates. Superb follow-up, Bigger Than Both Of Us, gave them their first US number one, Rich Girl, which was memorably covered by Nina Simone. They then went back to rock for a couple of unsuccessful albums, Beauty On A Backstreet and the more mixed Along The Red Ledge before finding the blatantly commercial formula that made them into superstars.

In the 1980′s they released five consecutive platinum albums. 70′s fans weren’t as keen on this disco/pop direction, but you can’t argue with success like that. Later, they also had a soul revue. Eleven years have passed since their last album of new material. A 2009 box set showcased their strengths.

The duo haven’t troubled the UK top 20 since 1982. Daryl Hall devotes much of his time to monthly webcast Live From Daryl’s House. This might explain why they’re selling out concert halls rather than arenas. Our gain. Anticipation for this opening night of a short tour (leading up to the Latitude festival) is high, the concert hall packed.

The band come on and tear into Maneater, the duo’s biggest UK hit. It’s followed by their strongest 80′s cut, the storming Out of Touch. This shows that Hall, 67, can hit all the notes as well as ever. The less distinguished Say It Isn’t So turns out to be the newest song of the evening. It came out in 1983.

They tease us about losing the setlist and play a number only rabid fans will know, Uncanny, a flop single from a ragbag collection. Then they draw out the heavy guns. Back Together Again, from their best album Bigger Than Both Of Us, hasn’t been played live since the 70′s. It still sounds sensational.

Abandoned Luncheonette‘s Las Vegas Turnaround is another sweet, deep cut that shows John Oates, 65, in fine vocal form. The evening really takes light. She’s Gone is as good as it ever was, with great saxophone from long time accompanist Charlie DeChant, star of their six piece band.

Their first big hit, Sara Smile, is about ‘the way things should be as opposed to the way they are,’ Daryl tells us from behind his shades and black leather bike jacket. Then Daryl’s at his keyboard for signature ballad Do What You Want, Be What You Are. This segues into I Can’t Do That (No Can Do). Their second biggest UK hit gets the crowd to their feet. However, half of its nine minutes is a saxophone solo, spoiling the momentum of the show closer.

Never mind. Encores of Rich Girl, You Make My Dreams, Kiss On My List and Private Eyes bring the 95 minutes to a more than satisfying close. A class act. Just a pity the brittle sound, lacking in range, didn’t do them full justice. We were behind the soundboard, where it wasn’t great but I’ve heard worse at the RCH, which can be hard to get right. However, according to an email sent to the Post, the sound was much worse in some areas, with many people walking out of the stalls and at least fifty complaints from the top tier. If you were there and didn’t stay for the encores, this is the best song you missed.



Pete Doherty, Bodega Social, Nottingham July 1st 2014

July 3rd, 2014


A modified version of this review appears in today’s Nottingham Post.

It’s four days before The Libertines’ huge Hyde Park reunion gig, which is rumoured to be making Pete Doherty and Carl Barat a cool half a million each. So what does Pete Doherty do? He announces a trio of tiny solo gigs, kicking off in Nottingham.

The Libertines have form at the Bodega Social. They supported The Vines here in their early days, and headlined just before the release of their first single, the fantastic ‘What A Waster’. So punters can be forgiven for thinking tonight could be a low-key, final set of tune-ups for the big money show.

But no. There’s a single mike stand on the stage, picked out by two green spots. The question, standing positions carved out, is how long we will have to wait for Doherty, notorious for making his audience hang around. Starting time comes. We wait. And wait.

He’s only fifty minutes late. In grey fedora and sports jacket, he accepts cake from someone at the front, then begins to throw it at the audience. ‘Catch it in your mouth and you get another piece.’ It’s a chaotic start, but then he launches into Libertines’ classic ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ to a mass crowd sing along. And it’s great.

As is the rest of the show. Debut single What A Waster is a hundred times better than the post-Pete version I saw at Glasto exactly eleven years ago. Yes, you can see reunion shows in huge venues, but here their charismatic front man is, singing his heart out, with an unannounced fifty something drummer and an out of tune guitar. If it works for the White Stripes…

The setlist mixes Libertines classics with the best stuff from Doherty’s subsequent career. Delivery is particularly good. So is Last Of The English Roses. Less so, the song he improvises about QPR.

Love On The Dole prompts crowd ecstasy, as does Time For Heroes. A mass sing along of ‘shoop shoop de lang lang’ precedes What Katy Did. After 48 minutes, he says ‘that’s your lot’, but then plays Babyshambles’ Salome in response to a note from the front, and stays another twenty minutes. After Stranger In My Skin, the floor turns into a thronging moshpit for a finale of Death On The Stairs, Baddies Boogie and F*ck Forever. You’ll get a feel for the show with Stencilboy’s video, which doesn’t show the stage invasion that, as always happened at Libertines shows, ended the evening.

Who knows why he chose to play this tiny gig at this time, but it was top stuff. Next stop for many here, Hyde Park.

Photo by Laura Patterson, from the Nottingham Post.

Bobby Womack RIP

June 28th, 2014

I just heard that Bobby Womack died yesterday. So sorry to hear this and so glad that I finally got to see him perform, at Liverpool Philharmonic earlier this year. A wonderful show that had me in tears by the end. On Tuesday night, my oldest friend Mike and I had a late night session after the Elton John gig. At about 2AM, I played ‘I Can Understand It’ and remarked that Liverpool was still my gig of the year. ‘Even better than Prince?” Mike asked, before choosing ‘I’m Through Trying To Prove My Love To You’. Yes, better than Prince. This was the show closer, as filmed a year earlier at the Forum in London, with Damon Albarn (who produced his terrific final album) watching in the wings. He went out on a high, in every sense. RIP, Bobby.

Bobby Womack – I’m Through Trying To Prove My Love To You

Tindersticks at Nottingham Contemporary, June 6th, 2014

June 7th, 2014

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It’s 11 years, almost to the day, since Tindersticks last played Nottingham, their home town. The band formed in 1991. Their second slimmed down line-up, going since 2007, has never performed here. Until tonight.

They’ve never had a hit single, nor courted one. Their unique music is hard to describe: a lugubrious, Leonard Cohen meets Bryan Ferry voice sings melancholy lyrics over a band who sound anything but British. A hint of Australia’s The Triffids is blended with a jazzy French lounge band and a few spoonfuls of Philadelphia soul.

Tonight’s semi-acoustic, instantly sold-out show at Nottingham Contemporary accompanies ‘A year in small paintings – Singing Skies, September 2010 – September 2011′ a fine, brief exhibition of Turnereque sky paintings by Suzanne Osborne which work in tandem with lyrics by Tindersticks’ singer Stuart A. Staples, who happens to be her husband.

The band begin with three songs from their debut: ‘Patchwork’ (“written in front of the Victoria Centre”), Her and a beautiful, virtually solo ‘City Sickness’. ‘She’s Gone’ is terrific, ‘Bear Suit’ remarkably good.

It becomes apparent that the five piece band are working through their albums chronologically. Keyboard player Dave Boulter swaps instruments adroitly. Guitar player Neil Fraser mounts a chair on occasion. Dan McKinna plays lovely double bass and Earl Harvin’s drums are effective while unobtrusive. Stuart even provides handclaps on a joyous ‘Can We Start Again’. ‘Dying Slowly’, which follows, is as powerful as ever.

“We’re into a new century now”, Stuart points out with ‘Sometimes It Hurts’, dedicated to the late Lhasa De Sela, who duetted on the recorded version. The set concludes with a song written in Nottingham quite recently, ‘This Fire Of Autumn’.

They tear up the scheduled encores and play two requests. “Yes, it’s got to be that one,” says Stuart to my request for ‘Tiny Tears’, so the set concludes with their best known song, used in the first series of The Sopranos and, Stuart tells us, written in Laurie Avenue, Forest Fields. A moving ending to a superb 85 minute set, with a full, rich sound, that did the Contemporary proud.

No photographer was available so I agreed, despite my limited skills, to take a few snaps. Above you can see the beautiful Singing Skies backdrop (designed, I think, by director Claire Denis) and the Wolfgang Buttress installation that contains the pictures, lyrics and a typewriter (we weren’t allowed inside last night, sadly, and it’s being dismantled as I type). I was in the middle of the front row and didn’t use flash, so couldn’t focus close-ups, but I was able to grab a copy of the setlist that Stuart kept glancing down at throughout. When I looked at it on the way out, I saw why. To some extent, the set was made up as they went along. There are plenty of alternatives (in brackets), some of which were played (e.g. CWSA) while others weren’t (e.g. the encores). Some songs towards the end that aren’t in brackets were dropped, too. An interesting insight for Tindersticks fanatics, some of whom were sat next to me, so I include it below, along with the song that turned me onto the band in the first place, which I hadn’t heard live since the first time I saw them, in Sheffield City Hall’s dingy underground ballroom, back in the 90′s.

Last night’s was as good a Tindersticks gig as any fan could hope for, and well worth the long wait. Now I’m off to open my copy of the book Singing Skies.


Tindersticks – City Sickness


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Barry Cole 1926-2014
My friend, the poet and novelist, Barry Cole, died at the end of last month and I wrote an obituary for The Independent. It was only in the paper this week ...

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