Saturday, February 26, 2022

The sweetest victory of all - Rovers v QPR

That was the sweetest victory of all. A victory for the true believers. For all those who kept the faith through the toughest of times.

For the best of times this season previous wins have been grafted on that defence, granted, but it has been the intelligence of John Buckley, Joe Rothwell’s ability to spring a surprise, and of course the goals of Ben Brereton Diaz that have propelled this side to the unimaginable heights. A recent barren patch has missed, in particular, those goals of Diaz, though frankly a bounce off Scott Wharton’s backside would suffice.

So to win against a fellow contender with those key elements missing, on the back of a head messing week for Reda Khadra, is what had me reaching for my professional lexicon of memorable great political acceptance speeches of the twentieth century, and why it was so so sweet.

Not only did Khadra have better chances to score today, he won’t have needed reminding by Sky TV, but he was anyway, that he’d also missed a penalty in front of their cursed cameras on Wednesday night at Bramhall Lane; whilst only picking himself out of the blood and spit of a potential career-ending assault from a flashing Blade.

I can't claim to understand the psychology of a substitution, but when I saw Ryan Hedges stripping off I assumed that was the Brighton loanee done for the day. I suspect, so did he. When he saw Sam Gallagher's number up, he must have thought, cheers gaffer, I won't let you down. 

Given my early judgements on players in this squad, after Fulham I said Jean Paul van Hecke should be sent straight back to Brighton, what I have to say about the two new Ryans probably doesn't count for much. It's not their fault that they bring to my mind a couple of tricky players in the first team of a post-92 university, with distracting thoughts of a stretched deadline on an economics essay.  

On 55 minutes, with Ryan Nyambe on a stretcher, I thought it was another curse of our club. A season going to pot. We all hope it isn't as serious as it looks. 

It seems trite, with careers at stake, to think so immediately of the qualities of his replacement, but I may have to admit I was as wrong about Zeefuik as I was about our other flying Dutchman. He plays like one of life's true eccentrics, a tackling style and a quickness of thought that must make him a nightmare to play against.

Which brings me to the one player in this side who I would absolutely despise if he played for any other team. Lewis Travis brings true grit and devilment. I have zero confidence in his ability to not get that painful ninth booking which will trigger a ban but his pulling of the strings today was a thing to behold. 

Finally, a word on the deserved Man of the Match. I don't know what it is about this kid, but Tyrhys Dolan brings a lump to my throat. His pointing to the sky for his friend, his willingness to get stuck in, his bag of tricks, his zest to play. We are very lucky to have him.  

I said on Twitter on Wednesday after the lamentation at the lane that I hate football. There are other things going on in the world right now more worthy of such emotions, so I was so quickly over it. But for everything Tony Mowbray has been saying about this rather special set of players, I fell right back in love. Fickle, I know, but how sweet it is.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Belfast, Branagh and the power of a great movie soundtrack

Last week on our radio show I properly overdosed on Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar-nominated film Belfast.  There are legions of reasons why I loved it.

There were the heart-warming moments of innocence as a grim time in our recent history was told through the eyes of Buddy, a really sound 9-year old kid, played with such grace by Jude Hill. 

It reminded me of Hope and Glory, John Boorman’s 1987 film about the home front of the second world war, and Empire of the Sun, another child’s eye view of the fall of Shanghai. 

Belfast created a similar vibe, through the black and white styling in Branagh’s directing, and in the peerless acting performances from young and old alike. Dame Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds deservedly have Oscar nominations.

Then there was the music. Most of the atmosphere was created through clever inclusions of a clutch of fantastic Van Morrison songs throughout the film.

But there are also songs which tell a story all of their own about Buddy’s favourite shows on the small television he watched space films and westerns, notably Tex Ritter’s High Noon and Real Love by Ruby Murray, who I had forgotten was a significant musical presence as well as being rhyming slang for a curry.   

One scene, in particular, captured the deep love within the family, when Pa (the ludicrously handsome Jamie Dornan) sings the sixties banger Everlasting Love to Ma (the outrageously striking Caitriona Balfe).

That song has been used in a film before, Jamie Cullum’s version popped up in Bridget Jones Diary. Let’s just say it didn’t have the same impact as the original version used in Belfast by yet another of those sixties British pop music underachievers, Love Affair.

On our show recently we were discussing the best film soundtracks of all time.

Quentin Tarantino routinely pulls together amazing collections which always went down in the 1990s in the golden age of CDs. Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Jackie Brown soundtracks are amongst the best. 

Similarly, David Lynch films are as much about aura as what your eyes see before you. Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway are incredibly rich in a powerful musical. 

Neil is clear there is no film with a better Official Soundtrack than Martin Scorcese's 1998 epic Casino. Spanning generations it places the audience slap bang in the decadent seventies of Roxy Music, Fleetwood Mac and the Moody Blues, but also with a rhythmic nod to the greats of jazz, blues and soul. 

To ram home the point, this weekend’s show will open with a tune from the very best film music composer of all time was Enrico Morricone, who became best known for the musical score to spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but who’s long life achieved hit after hit and legendary status. In 2007, a tribute album We All Love Ennio Morricone featured performances by artists as diverse as Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Bruce Springsteen and Metallica.

After that I’ve also got Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come to share with you, a song so closely associated with a film it’s not clear which came first.

(column from the Tameside Reporter and Glossop Chronicle).


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

I've never been to a music festival


Do you want to know a secret? I’ve never been to a festival. 

I’ve been to mega raves, super clubs, dingy gigs in smoky rooms, stadiums, arenas and even the Witchwood in Ashton.

But never to a festival. The closest was a very muddy Milton Keynes Bowl in 1985 to see U2 headline a mega day of music that included REM, The Ramones, Spear of Destiny and Billy Bragg. It was great, but very, very wet and featured the one thing that has put me off ever going to a festival - awful toilets, and then the inevitable consequence of that, flying bottles of wee.

Ever since, whenever I’ve looked at the line-ups of a festival I think of what  the facilities and food will be like. I used to think that the handy festival guides in weekend newspapers should have had a graphic icon with a flying bottle of urine on, to denote whether it was somewhere that this was likely to happen. I understand why festival organisers wouldn’t support that. 

I didn’t even go to a festival I could literally walk home to, the annual Moovin Festival in Compstall which to be fair looks very good.

Lots of people my age say they want to try and get to Glastonbury at least once. Good luck with that. The waiting list is enormous and the scramble for tickets is an absolute bunfight. But if you’re nice to Thomas in Brenda Warrington’s office at the Town Hall in Dukinfield, he always seems to get a sniff of tickets. 

So this summer, I’ve found two absolute corkers to lose my festival cherry at. 

One, Kite Festival in Oxfordshire is billed as a festival of music and ideas. As much as I’m looking forward to dancing to Saint Etienne and Grace Jones, I’m also quite excited about talks by David Miliband and Delia Smith (let’s be having you!).

It will certainly be a new experience sleeping in a hired camper van for a couple of nights and obviously a lot depends on the English weather.

The other, Bluedot Festival, is closer to home, just down the road at the atmospheric setting of Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire on the third weekend in July. 

It’s literally the Music Therapy set list in live form. Headlining Sunday evening with a UK Festival Exclusive and uniquely commissioned performance alongside Manchester’s famed Halle Orchestra is international superstar Bj√∂rk.

Legendary Scottish post-rockers Mogwai will headline Saturday night alongside Indie-electro giants, Metronomy whilst one of the best-loved dance acts, Groove Armada will close Friday night.

The stellar line-up also sees Spiritualized, Yard Act, Working Mens Club, A Certain Ratio, Tim Burgess, Squarepusher and Anna Meredith amongst many more acts.

There’s even an appearance in the spoken word tent of so-called comedian Stewart Lee, talking about his music documentary film King Rocker.

I’ve really had my love of music rekindled over the last couple of years, since we’ve been producing Music Therapy for you, and so the efforts of people in the music business to put on very special shows like this is more welcome than ever. 

And it’s just a hunch, but I don’t think I’ll need to worry about flying bottles with this crowd. 

(column from the Tameside Reporter / Glossop Chronicle, 11 February 2022)