Thursday, September 30, 2004

Brighton Web Awards

I've hauled this post up the top, where it can stay a while, because the shortlist for the Brighton and Hove Web Awards has been announced, and Assistant Blog is represented in the Personal / Blog catagory. And all of a sudden my latent competetive streak (dormant for 27 years) has emerged and I want to win! If you've time to vote for the blog, it would be much appreciated. Go here to vote. Apologies if you're reading this for the millionth time; posts are continuing as normal below...

Monday, September 27, 2004

coupla new songs

Two new solo demos for your amusement here; a full version of my most recent track, penned in pieces over the last month or so and named, appropriately, 'August Song' (yes, I've fallen into the Damon Albarn-esque trap of not giving songs decent titles and just appending the word 'song' to the first word of the chorus). It's quite a sweet song, I think - composed on my computer (you can hear the exclusively electronic version in instrumental form here) but with live guitar and vocals added, it's about the idea of contacting your first - idealised - love and being disappointed with what you find. I like the lyric, 'and suddenly I find that I've exaggerated you'. It's a bit simple, maybe, but reminds me of a run of songs I wrote a year or two ago; from John Wyndham through to Sleepwalk.

The second song I really did write a couple of years ago, and promptly binned because it sounded like Muse. I can't remember if I ever even distributed the demo to the rest of the band, but if I did they never mentioned it and wisely so. But it's been rattling around in my head for ages, not so much for it's tune but because I always rather liked the (admittedly silly) lyrics, which were originally conceived as a yarn about witchery and starvation, but which boiled down to a couple of short verses in the end. "And then came the drought. All the crops dried up then all the horses disappeared', it goes, rather inexplicably.

This version was borne more out of a desire to test myself than resurrect a bad song; I've been listening to lots of garage, dub reggae and stuff of that excellent Junior Boys LP, and have been wondering if there's a way to make guitar music with gaps and spaces; not the same relentless, endless strum. So this is an attempt to use a more creative sound; although in truth it boils down to a big bassline and a drum beat. Well, anyway - 'Fishes In The Water'.

Friday, September 24, 2004

mint condition...

Apple appear to have been outdone. Witness, via New Links and ebay, the world's first ever super mini iPod. No reserve.

eBay item 5722079366 (Ends 29-Sep-04 12:37:14 BST)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Blur x4

Now, although everyone got very upset when Graham Coxon left Blur, me included, I think they subsequently went on to make the album of their career with Think Tank. Given that, and Damon's irritating, near-goading insistence that Graham would return, it never actually occurred to me that he would. Well, he probably won't, but the following, quoted wholesale from New York London Paris Munich still makes me feel tremendously cheerful:

"Last night, your NYLPM correspondent was happily drinking cocktails in a bar in London's trendy London when who should walk in but BLUR. And when I say BLUR I mean real actual classic BLUR, with reformed COXON! All four original members were laughing and joking and drinking in a way that can only be adequately described as reminiscent of the last ten minutes of Spinal Tap, when Nigel Tuffnell returns to the fold. For a 90s indie-boy such as myself, it was a heart-warming sight I can tell you..."

Too right.

Meanwhile, I just noticed that the MP3 of 'Easy to Leave' on the site has got a splintering, spluttering glitch half way through, so I've just updated it with a clean version. Just right click here and download, as usual.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

break the door down with your sister's flat iron

Although news on Assistant has been a bit thin on the ground, recently, we are gearing up for an autumnal purple patch, including a spate of new recordings and a determined effort to get a whole load of new songs ready for the next gigs. In the meantime, we've updated our downloads pages over on the band website, and you can now download MP3s of pretty much everything we've ever recorded, from sharp, pointy demos and buzzy live tracks to a bunch of scrrrrrratchy, itchy demos and works in progress which we've hidden away in a dark corner of the site. Should this appeal but you don't want to spend ages downloading stuff, I'm offering a free, inexpertly packaged CD to anyone who signs up to the mailing list. This doesn't mean you get twenty messages a day, nor have to listen to us gossiping, it just means that you get a short email every month or so which tells you about our latest gigs and news, as well as a bit of information about the blog. There's now a nice, shiny, easy-to-use form to join up on the right there, just underneath my profile, and although for a moment it looks like you're about to surrender yourself to a lifetime of unrelated spam, it's all very secure and we won't hand out your email address. As for free CDs, I reserve the right, obviously, should demand prove excessive or postage unduly expensive, to prevaricate on sending your CD out until you forget about it, but I'll try to get it to you, whether you're in Brighton or Brisbane.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

We were bored, had no money and sick of it

I was quite a fan of Captain America in their day, although I'm not sure I'd stand by that now; would need to hear their records again. I never heard The Vaselines, their singer Eugene Kelly's former band, but am not quite sure how, seeing as during the era of Kurt Cobain one could hardly pick up a paper without finding a mention of them. Anyway, Jack over at Submit Response is a fan, and has just written an article about them, and posted their 'Son of a Gun' MP3 on his blog (later covered by Nirvana, of course). Go here to give it a listen.

Elsewhere, the Guardian published an article about Daniel Johnston the other day, another Cobain favourite.

The only thing about pursuing this line of linking is that, as anyone who has read Kurt Cobain's list of the 100 greatest ever albums will attest, he had bloody rotten taste in music...

he waved his hands and rolled his eyes

A while ago I compiled a short list of blogging politicians on my feed, and noticed in the process that - one councillor aside - the conservative party, usually so willing to embrace new ideas, had not yet contributed a blogging MP to the pot. Now, thinking about it, there was only ever going to be one Tory likely to throw his hat in the ring first, and, now, he has. So Boris Johnson can finally join my list. Apart from the fact that his constituents must surely be concerned that he already spends most of his time writing for the Spectator and The Torygraph and has even found time away from the set of Have I Got News For You, sorry, the House of Commons, to write a novel, this must be a Good Thing. It remains to be seen, of course, whether his eloquence and frankness will mean he writes with candour or hesitancy.

My list of Blogging politicians (now a bit out of date*).

The Boris Blog.

* postscript: the list should now be up to date; thanks to this excellent summing-up by Robin Grant over at

Monday, September 20, 2004

Unpleasant questions and no answers required

"Is the world today safer than before the overthrow of the appalling Saddam? Is global terrorism in retreat? Are we closer to building bridges between Islam and the west? Is the world's only super-power more widely respected? Have the citizens in our democracies been treated in a way that will encourage them to give governments the benefit of the doubt next time they are told that force needs to be used pre-emptively to deal with an imminent threat? I simply pose the questions. The answers are well known".

Chris Patten, European Parliamen, Sept. 15.

Brian Clough dies, aged sixty nine

"We talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right."

I feel peculiarly sorry to hear this; it's hard to have not come across Cloughie at some time or other and not felt pleased that he existed. His achievements in football were unbelievable, but he succeeded in transcending all that and became one of the most interesting and quotable characters in the country. He was a proper socialist, too, saying "Everybody should have a book, everybody should have a nice classroom and everybody should have the same opportunity".

He also said, "I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed - I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me.''


Suffering from the summer and delusional, I wrote a rather wistful post about The Stone Roses a month or so ago, prompted by the fact that Ian Brown played a load of old Roses songs live with a tribute band playing back up. Remembering how good Fools Gold was I promised I'd seek out the first album and give it another play. Well, ugh. I wish I hadn't. What a load of meek, jangly, weak retro fair. So I guess I should exercise some degree of caution when I say that I got a little tingle of intrigue when I saw these photos; which clearly show Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler back in the studio together again, and wondered whether it's worth me digging out the first few Suede singles and Dog Man Star again. Well, I might do. Nevetherless, I'm interested to hear how their new stuff works out...

heading the winner

Recovering dreams is really difficult, and I wish I could do it more often. I know that lots of people seem to read lots into them, but I don't think Andrew BB does, although he does end his latest post, 'Funny Dream' with the rhetorical question, 'what does it mean?'. If he agrees with me then he probably reckons that dreams are kind of the product of unsifted, un-moderated drifts of thought hung over from the day. And where in our conscious state we are able to pick between the threads of possibilities to ensure that our thoughts are relatively sensible and follow a logical scheme, while we asleep we pursue trains of thought freely, no matter how odd they may seem. (In other words, while I wile away my train journey thinking about Tottenham's performance against Chelsea yesterday, my childhood dream of myself in the beloved lily-white kit rarely occurs. In a dream, I am invariably off the bench and heading the winner.) Elsewhere, I am transformed into one of the cast of Eastenders. I can't follow it either.

That said, Andrew's dream, as recounted on his blog, is surely to be treasured. Strange Hartnoll brother / Adam Ant hybrids? Newly invented musical instruments? Rummaging miscreants? It's all there.

"When looking out onto Vic's balcony I discovered a plump young man wearing a red and white horizontally striped jumper, smoking nonchalantly. When I looked again, he was gone."

Andrew has, thus far, avoided putting any voices on his music. It seems to me, however, that the scene he sketches here is dying for poetic translation, and should he wish to set his sights high, I think there's a song in this :-)

Elsewhere, Victoria draws my attention to the range of Jesus Inspirational Sport Statues offered here. For once, I am speechless.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

you're all copying Vic

According to Playlouder, Polly Harvey is going to take some time off to go back to university. Except that isn't exactly what she said, obviously, but it makes for an interesting story, it seems...

a rather well-named article, this: Polly-technic

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

an unsavoury trick

"Surely, now that he was dead, the newspaper's undisguised homophobia and hostility might be tempered, if not balanced, in some reflection of the understanding that I had attempted to reach in my book."

John Coldstream, author of a recent biography of the secretive Dirk Bogarde, writes a vehement criticism of the appalling if sadly predictable treatment he suffered at the hands of the Daily Mail, who recently 'serialised' his work over four salacious and misleading 'Dirk The Deceiver' features.

"On the Thursday at about midday my agent forwarded the text to me. I read five paragraphs with incredulity and mounting horror. This was no extract. It was a grotesque re-write. I skimmed the remainder, and realised that instead of a serialisation in the accepted sense I was confronted by a tawdry travesty from someone unknown to me who had trekked through my 600 pages with a salacity-detector, and strung together a "life story" based almost entirely on material from the book that showed Dirk in an unfavourable light."

There's a lesson there. Never underestimate the sheer nastiness of the Daily Mail.

Full story here...
Coldstream on the Mail's distortion of his biography of Bogarde

“In a year's time, he's a year older.”

Football 365 has provided a compendium of classic quotes by Sir Bobby Robson. Apologies for just reeling off a list, but some of these are wonderful:

“They can’t be monks - we don’t want them to be monks, we want them to be football players because a monk doesn’t play football at this level”

“Some of the goals were good, some of the goals were sceptical.”

“What can I say about Peter Shilton? Peter Shilton is Peter Shilton, and he has been Peter Shilton since the year dot.”

67 other crackers here...

Monday, September 13, 2004


Listening to the Today programme this morning I heard a debate about the fact that a rising number of British GPs are refusing to prescribe the pill, believing that, because in some rare cases eggs can become fertilised fractionally before the pill takes effect, it is in fact a kind of abortion, and they have taken upon their shoulders the mantle of deciding what is or is not 'morally' best for their patients. This raises a whole new host of questions, quite apart from their frankly laughable conjecture. At present, for example, we have a system of assessing the practical, medical abilities of a prospective doctor to ensure that he or she is capable of being a good general practictioner. If, however, we are to believe that GPs are also entitled to make ethical decisions too, even if they are profoundly dangerous, intrusive and backward, do we not need a way to ensure that doctors are ethically and morally safe as well as knowledgeable in the field of medicine? That they do not pose a threat to their patients? It seems to me that we need to find a way, quickly, of ensuring that people with socially conservative, moralistic and downright dangerous positions are unable to force their nasty moral judgements upon the rest of us. Or else just make it clear that no doctor, religious or otherwise, has the right to withhold safe and needed medical treatment or contraception.

Monday, September 06, 2004

leeds, amsterdam and the costa geriatrica

The first of a couple of trips away starts tomorrow; I'm going up to Leeds for a work conference. Am kind of looking forward to it, because last time I went I didn't have a particularly good time - spent lots of time fruitlessly walking around the city centre looking for a record shop, or a branch of waterstones, or a pub, or a restaurant. Not that Leeds doesn't have all those things, obviously, but I always seemed to find myself at the furthest geographical point from such a place whenever I needed it, or else instead managed to locate the most roundabout and misleading route. That thing of being in a new city and being compelled to pound the streets - it's a mentality I find hard to shake.

On Saturday myself and Vic jumped on the train and went to Eastbourne for the day. It's not really what I expected; smaller and grander along the seafront, and quieter - and somehow ghostlier. Not because it was a ghost town or anything, there were plenty of people about, but because it didn't seem to fit together in the way that Brighton does; walking down to the sea from the station I was reminded of pretty much any biggish-town outside of London; moderately pedestrianised streets lined with the kind of shops one can briskly stroll past without finding any reason to stop or slow down, a shopping centre which was filled with regulation, icy oxygen-starved air. The kids looked suburban and not much bothered with fashion. There was a notable lack of nightlife; clubs, theatres and cinemas hidden away or absent.

Then you turn down from the commercial area into a short road to the sea, and everything suddenly changes. Shops which minutes earlier were replicated exactly in high streets up and down the country were replaced with queer, old-fashioned boutiques and cafes, shops selling pensioner-ware and terrible trinkets and gifts (a china horse's head which seems to be bursting through the table top? Only eight quid) and the usual, open fronted shops where there were lines of sun visors, little beach-windmills and postcards of cats and dogs with somnolent expressions. Not a single shop betrayed the slightest sign of being built, fitted out and stocked later than the early 1960s.

Running parallel with the sea-front, and even stranger, was a wide road adorned with arty banners which read


Or something similar. And yet it only took moments to ascertain that the shops on this road were even odder. I wish I had taken more time to note what they were, but all evinced a somehow quaint, hallucinatory atmosphere, as if one could turn a corner and find oneself amidst a hall of mirrors at any moment. One shop was the 'World of Hair'. What a vision. Beautiful victorian B&Bs, connecting this street to the seafront, boasted of 'hot and cold water in every room'. One even had a 'Colour TV Lounge'.

The seafront is lovely, though. Old fashioned and picturesque - if you ignore the large numbers of very bored looking, very foul-mouthed teenagers crowded around the promenade - and, on this incredibly sunny day, a picture of summer. We sat on the beach for twenty minutes and watched an elderly woman swimming gracefully in the shallow, still water. Out on the pier, we saw that kids had paddled out over a hundred yards on lilos and inflatable rafts. There was a sense of peacefulness which one rarely detects in Brighton.

Having seen on this and tired ourselves out, we began to stroll back to the station. But here that predictable flaw crept back into our habits and we decided to find the Meads - the town's more arty and genteel district - despite having read that they were a considerable distance out of the centre. So we ended up drifting aimlessly westward, unable to find the area and becoming increasingly tired and irritable along the way. Just as when I was in Leeds and every logical instinct told me to do the city bit by bit and I ended up storming angrily around, we were unable to resist that extra ten minute walk which so predictably turns from ten minutes to twenty to half an hour and onwards. Never mind. Eastbourne is perhaps best explored at the pace of its residents (the youngsters mooch, the pensioners shuffle), but we had a nice day. Doubtless I shall return from Leeds with aching legs.

The second trip comes in two weeks - we've booked a weekend away in Amsterdam. Vic has been before but I've not, and I'm really looking forward to it. It took us about three days to decide on a hotel, but we did it in the end. And I'm relying on Vic's background knowledge to ensure that we don't end up walking, walking, walking....

if you wanna fight we can go to the car park

Graeme Souness has just resigned as manager of Blackburn Rovers and will take over at Newcastle after a week's gardening leave (because the two clubs play each-other on Saturday). I don't think it's a bad appointment at all, although if I were a Utd fan I'd probably just about prefer Steve Bruce. But on the other hand, if my club had players like Dyer, Bellamy, Kluivert etc I'd probably want the firmest possible hand in charge, and one can accuse Souness of many things but being a light touch is not one of them.

His buying record is patchy, with a habit of paying over the odds (Ferguson, Emerton, Reid etc) but occasionally he spots a real bargain (700k for Dickov is a steal, and Jon Stead was a shrewd and brilliant transfer). At Newcastle he won't be buying too many players I don't expect - a centre back aside - so he can concentrate on making the side a bit more rugged. I hope he does well.

In the meantime, for those pleased to see a rare foray into football blogging, I should direct you over to Black and White and Read all Over, where Ben from Silent Words Speaks Loudest will doubtless shortly have something to say, it being his Newcastle United blog.

try bleep

Adactio: Journal - more on downloading...

"Waiter, there's music in my DRM"

Another interesting post on the whole iTunes / Microsoft digital rights management question over at Jeremy's Adactio blog. He writes

"If music services are serious about stopping piracy, they need to meet music fans like myself halfway. I want to give these services my money. All I ask in return is to be treated as a customer, not a potential thief."

He really needs to go and have a look at, who boast

"The impressive uptake and acceptance of download sites such as Apple’s iTunes shows that there is a demand for high quality ‘legally’ downloaded digital music - fans that do not want to buy a CD just to rip onto their iPod, or fans unwilling to pay full CD price for a new artist are now able to get a low price high quality downloaded album direct from a clearly accessible recognised source without having to rummage around P2P servers for a week.

At the moment labels have skirted around the whole issue of making their catalogue available, often introducing various poorly-supported formats and DRM (digital rights management) complications in the process.

Bleep has two distinct advantages over other stores and P2P services which we hope will see warp fans downloading directly from Bleep. We are at present the only store to offer very high quality MP3 files. The tracks are encoded with LAME using the ‘--alt-preset standard’ VBR setting - widely acknowledged to currently give the best trade-off between transparency and file size, but with the emphasis more on sound quality than file size. Bleep MP3s have an average bit rate of around 205kbps VBR, while the majority of MP3s found on the internet are 128kbps. Secondly, Bleep music has no DRM or copy protection built in. We believe that most people like to be treated as customers and not potential criminals - DRM is easily circumvented and just puts obstacles in the way of enjoying music. Apple has even privately stated that they decided to use a weak form of DRM solely to get major labels onboard."

In addition, although Bleep was originally conceived as a way of selling material by Warp records artists only, you can now download music by artists on Domino, One Little Indian, Big Dada, Ninja Tune and others. Which means you can download (or just listen to) tracks by Bjork (whose new album is remarkable, if heavy going), the Junior Boys, Franz Ferdinand, Pavement, Roots Manuva and Mouse On Mars. So perhaps it's understandable that I haven't got to iTunes yet...

downloading our tracks

OK, need a bit of feedback now... Has anyone out there tried to download any Assistant tracks from either this blog, the downloads page of the Assistant site, or our page at Vitaminic? I get statistics of how many tracks have been downloaded, etc, and every day I find that around 75% of the downloads are listed as 'incomplete'; in other words people started downloading and didn't finish. Is this because there's some glitch with the site? I know that for some people on Macs a bit of tampering is necessary (basically you need to change the filename so that it ends in .mp3) but it should work OK for others. Am guessing that the most likely reason is that people are still on dial-up and get sick of waiting. Still, if you've downloaded and encountered any problems, could you let me know? May have to move the MP3s elsewhere if there are problems with the hosting.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

in the tin drum

Spent the afternoon in the Tin Drum in Hove with Vic and Andrew, shielded from the sun, which is not as bright as it was yesterday, when the sky was blue and cloudless, but which is incredibly hot. OK, there’s my meaningless comment of the day. The sun is hot. Well, it’s mostly gone in now and it’s still too warm; so much so that since we’ve got back we’ve mostly lain on the sofa or the floor, groaning, and watching Bill Murray in What About Bob? on the telly. It’s not Lost in Translation, but…

Now it’s evening but it’s too hot to cook, too hot to think. Never mind. I’ll draw your attention, in the absence of anything else to say, to a letter in the New Statesman this week, which, gasping, I shall type out as printed.

How Bush Galvanises the Left
I agree with those quoted in John Pilger’s article (‘The Warlords of America’, 23 Aug) who say that a Bush re-election is the lesser of two-evils. At least with Bush and his cronies in power, we know what to expect – warmongering, cuts in social spending. John Kerry would carry out similar policies but, like Bill Clinton, have the intelligence and subtlety to deceive a mass audience that he is somehow a progressive. With a Kerry win, the cultural and political climate of the second half of this decade would be like that of the second half of the 1990s – callous and complacent as regards the state of the world. With Bush in power, we have a galvanising figure of hate for the left/centre. He will provoke the masses and lead to great debates like that of the prelude to the second Gulf war.
Daniel Kelly
Dublin, Ireland.

Thought provoking, but not much else. What good does a great debate do if it’s completely ignored? And the implications of a second term Bush government are too great, no matter what its effects on the leftist movement. All the same, I take Daniel’s point. The appalling policies of the current American administration have provoked more heated political discussion amongst people young and old on the left and right than any other in my memory – since Thatcher, probably. Should Kerry win the election (please god), we need to make sure that our understanding and interest in global politics does not retreat accordingly.

george and sam

Nancy Banks-Smith's short television review in the paper yesterday was a typical example of the brilliance of her writing, which is always economical, direct and insightful. But she can't take the credit for the most charming extract, as follows.

"Nowadays candles suggest birth, not death. In Charlotte Moore's book George and Sam, her autistic son, seeing candles in a church, runs down the aisle shouting "Cake!" and blows them all out. Giving God a much-needed laugh".

Saturday, September 04, 2004

affiliate network

Tim's Rambler Blog has an interesting post about the iTunes Affiliate Program, and it's encouraging of a kind of legal MP3 blog network.

"This looks in part like a bid to encourage legit MP3 blogs. Link to an iTunes song, write a bit about it - ask your readers to pay 79 pence/99 cents - make a bit of money. Hmm. That seems to run far too contrary to the MP3 blog ethos in every way possible to really work."

Tim's post, like the recent posts on iTunes by Andrew, make me wonder why I've not yet gone and explored the iTunes website. I must do so. Especially as they seem to differ on what is available. Andrew criticises its rivals for lacking product, and yet Tim says:

In my and milady's experience, it's sort of useful for catching up on back catalogue items - like HMV Christmas sales are - but nine times out of ten what you actually want isn't listed, and you end up leaving, or spending your money on something way down your wanted list (again, like HMV Christmas sales)"

That said, that's exactly what I want online music stores to offer. I can find out about new music elsewhere; it's tracking down those old PiL or New Order albums I've never bought that I'd do online (exactly, as Tim says, as I would in an HMV sale). All the same, none of this actually inspires me to go and investigate further. Perhaps I should. Tim, Andrew, which of you is right?

Friday, September 03, 2004

e-book reader alert

There's always a lot of talk about e-books at work, seeing as, as a publisher we are either 'under-threat' or 'poised to take advantage' of electronic publishing, depending how seriously you take the idea of copyright infringement (and some of our authors take it very seriously indeed). Personally, I find it as hard to believe that paper is under threat as I do CDs or records. Equally, I can't see why anyone would want to read a book on screen, especially as the idea of everyone reading from an electronic gadget hasn't really led anywhere yet. Unless I'm just behind the times, which the following product would suggest.

I read about the SONY Librie in the Guardian a few months ago and was interested by what they said, but this, via, is the first time I've seen it. It's a reasonably handsome object, I guess, and, apparently, better than you'd think:

"The quality of the display will come as quite a shock to any seasoned user of mobile devices; it looks more like paper than the computer screen it is. The closest comparison is to think of old-fashioned ink on pulp you're likely holding now, unless you're reading this online, in which case the Librie looks far better." is less impressed with the copyright side of things, though:

"All in all, the device itself is a marvel, but unfortunately it's crippled by an unclever proprietary copyright protection scheme—let's call it "copywrong." (Sony calls it Open MG.) The scheme basically puts the rights of the publisher ahead of the convenience of the user. Only 1,139 titles are available for downloading from the electronic library, mostly books in Japanese, with a few hoary tomes in English like Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. Currently there are no newspapers or magazines on the virtual shelves."

I'm not surprised. But I've not quite given up on e-books yet*; things will improve. Who wants an Apple, i-pod style reader, then?

*as an idea, at least. But the idea of doing away with my paperback book, scuffed at the edges and tearing away from the spine? No thanks.

ballads and reading

So Pete Doherty avoided prison...

Libertine Doherty remains at liberty:

"Doherty, a gangling, charismatic frontman, arrived at Thames magistrates court in east London in characteristic style: wearing a pork-pie hat, leaning precariously out of the sunroof of a battered Rover, flashing a victory sign, and strumming an expensive Gibson acoustic guitar. "

Over on Andrew's excellent Bedsit Bomber blog, between posts on inheritance tax, the Microsoft Music Store, burburry clothing and the illiberal Democrats ("I know, let's abolish the NHS"), he's found time to compile a list of the 2o funniest britons, after the fairless hopeless effort by the Reader's Digest earlier in the month.

Leaving aside the fact that, billed as a list of the funniest brits, it is confined exclusively to comedians (thus ensuring that PG Wodehouse, Kingsley Amis, Malcolm Bradbury, Will Self and Gordon Strachan - all funnier than most of the people on the list - are excluded), it's notable not for the fact that he has somehow found space for Les Dawson (?) and Jasper Carrot (???) but because he (arguably rightly) puts Tony Hancock up at the top. He was left off the BBC list!

The Original Tony Hancock Website

Now, having come under fire from Libertines fans for criticising them previously, I seem to do a lot of writing about them for someone who isn't a fan. Which almost makes me wonder if I'm not falling under the spell of Pete Doherty myself (how about all these people who get interviewed in the music press keen to present him as their idol; how strange to be so happy to be identified in such a way, he's just a pop-star; though that's probably where we'd disagree). The article in the Guardian from which I cribbed the above quote plays on his popularity, too. And he does come accross well, I thought, reading it and admiring the picture (he looks great).

"Asked how he felt, he replied "innocent" before waving his arms and adding: "What about Magna Carta? Did she die in vain?""

That's good, you see, I thought. But then I remembered, that's a line of Hancock's...

"I shall not go through the facts of this case again, save to suggest to you there is some element of doubt in this boy's guilt. As Shakespeare said in 'The Merchant Of Vienna', when Portion accused Shylock Holmes of pinching a pound of meat: "The quality of mercy is not strain'd, it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd, twice bless'd, the sign of good - no - it blesseth him that gives, and him that takes."

Take the case of Doubting Thomas, who was sent to Coventry for looking through a keyhole at Lady Godiva. Can anybody prove he was looking at her? Can anybody prove it was he who shouted out: "get your hair cut"? Of course not, this is sheer supposition! Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain? Brave Hungarian peasant girl who forced King John to sign the pledge at Runnymede and close the boozers at half past ten! Is all this to be forgotton? My friends, it is not John Harrison Peabody who is on trial here today but the fair name of British justice, and I ask you to send that poor boy back to the loving arms of his poor white-haired old mother a free man! I thank you!"

Looking around for the quote, I note from the always entertaining No Rock and Roll Fun that the Guardian kindly sub-edited Doherty's quote; he said 'What about the Magna Carta?', which doesn't work quite so well.

Still, at Assistant Blog we like our pop stars Hancock-literate.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Some excellent news: I've decided on my new local newsagent. I don't know why I'm so proprietorial, like a cat staking its claim to its favourite spots (when me and Vic went back to London we noticed my mum's cat, Millie, only sits in three locations in the garden; all others have been sounded out and declared imperfect). We already knew all the pubs round here when we moved (we are, after all, just up the road and make it our business to know about these things) so the fun of locating a new local was denied to us, so I've been making do with working out which paper shop to give my patronage - the one at the bottom of the road or the one further down Edward Street.

Well, it's no contest. The nearest is a horrid, dark little place - the door lets out a intimidating bleep when you open it, which perhaps is meant to wake the staff, not that it works. They stare, near catatonic, perhaps shocked, as I edge in and inch over to the counter, where chocolate bars are piled in their original cardboard boxes. I resist the urge to lean in and try to locate one of those newfangled Marathon bars and grab at a Dairy Milk. The box is empty, but still on the shelf. I make do with a bag of crisps, probably past their sell by date. Does the woman know I am here, I wonder, as I hold out a coin. Yes, she grabs at it! I feel like I am buying a pornographic magazine, somehow ashamed. She looks at me with disgust. I retreat.

Down the road it is heaven. I skid down the hill and look! - new magazines in the window, nicely lined up! Sweets in jars! The chap behind the counter greets me as if I am the man he wants to marry his daughter. This is my shop. The climb up the hill afterwards might even get me fit, who knows.

Actually, I like it so much that I feel suddenly nervous about whether I should still wait 'til I get to the station in the morning before I buy my newspaper or make the switch entirely. I worry about the man, who has such hopes for me and his daughter. But thus far he has not yet addressed me as 'boss', as my man by the station does, so I shan't commit myself for definite quite yet. We underpaid Assistants have to take deference wherever we get it, you know.

fix up look sharp

A funny, wiry little chap from Comet came round to fix the oven today; once again I was astounded by some peoples’ incredible ease with inanimate objects; of course he is trained to know how to fix cookers, and it would be a pretty sorry affair if he didn’t know how to bang in a few screws, but all the same he set about the appliance with incredible speed and dexterity, like watching a brilliant guitarist who seems to bend the guitar into whatever shape suits. I was minded to ask him to take a look at our wobbly bed, put up some shelves and fix the banisters. He was extremely charming, too. I rarely get the chance to do something practically useful for someone at work (well, except raise a cheque), and it was heartening to see someone actually seem to enjoy doing so. When he was finished he said ‘There. Get some lovely dinners out of that’! He’s probably fixed ten other kitchen appliances by now. And right now I can smell food cooking in our kitchen, and he can take the credit.

In the meantime, I can work at home today; but I keep forgetting, my mind swinging about from work to holiday, work to holiday. I thought working from home would be great, actually, but it’s rubbish; I want someone to talk to.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


And you people got excited about a Pixies reunion! Just read this:


"We were playing faster and more strummy' he told PlayLouder, 'so I just thought, 'I may as well reform the Wedding Present''

Which is exactly what David Gedge has just done. Reminds me of an evening in the Walmer Castle with a very drunk Andy a year or so ago. We were sitting have a quiet drink when Andy began asking a chap behind us, in an increasingly persistent manner, "Excuse me mate. Are you David Gedge? You are, aren't you! You are!". Needless to say, the chap looked nothing like my indie-rock hereo circa 1989. Nor did he share his wonderful accent. In fact, in retrospect I believe it was a moment of pure randomness from Andy, but it was - as you can imagine - much appreciated.

Tony Wilson Says

Writing in the Sunday Herald, Tony Wilson (Factory head-honcho and all round good bloke / tosser - delete as applicable) thinks the Libertines are crap, too. But he does have some interesting things to say about drugs in music, although - for the record - his brand of drug mythologising is every bit as dull for me as the NME's. Nonetheless, this is a man who managed the Happy Mondays, goddammit, so he knows his stuff. "Drugs and music", he says, (wrongly)

"are deeply interesting: Sergeant Pepper was not made on acid, it was made on speedballs; heroin, meeting soul music at the centre of Sly Stone’s cranium, created funk and modern dance music, and on and on.

But The Libertines. Try the album and not the press; if you get it, good luck. If, like me, you don’t, then run to the new sounds of British black youth finding an authentic, non-American voice in the wonderful world of post-grime."

Ah, there we agree. Read the rest of his article here....

Tony Wilson: The Libertines Crack Up - [Sunday Herald]

And take his advice... Dizzee is on tour in October.

party crashers

Me and Vic went to see Radio 4 at The Beach on Monday night. It's a nice venue for a gig; cordoned off in the middle to create a stage, it's smaller than usual, but the effect is good; a loud and crisp PA helps, as does seeing a band as good as R4. That said, the support act, The Infadels (sic) were really bad, or at least they started with a great song and then went swiftly downhill. They were, however, aware that they were in possession of a pretty amazing drummer, and as such started their set with a crashing great house beat, adding sharp bursts of guitar and throbbing bass to create a big, punk-funk monster of a first track. Everything after that was rubbish, punctuated by faux-stadium banter from their singer. Hmm. But sounding like the Clash gone acid house - if you can do it right - is a good move at the moment, as Radio 4 themselves might attest, were it not for the fact that their new record, unlike their debut, Gotham!, has been received poorly by some sections of the press.

In a way it's understandable. Gotham!, like the early records by Liars and the Rapture didn't quite escape the trap of sounding tinny and jagged, despite the invention stemming from the rhythm section. So, seemingly trying to solve this, the new LP goes for all out, technicolour sound - big, beefy bass, super-precise funk beats and plenty of shimmering keyboards. And whereas the Rapture album, say, was over-produced and short on decent songs (despite all the good reviews) this one contains several genius tracks. Yet, in part, it suffers from the same malaise; which is to say that it all sounds a bit glossy and over-cooked.

Live, however, the contrasting styles of the two albums meet perfectly in the middle. Like Blur on their astonishing Think Tank tour, Radio 4 live sound like a pop group plus; all the usual sounds you'd expect (brittle guitars, superb, heavy dub basslines and keyboard swooshes, Anthony's keen Anglophile vocals) augmented by a frenzy of percussion; cowbells, congas and a willingness to create pounding soundscapes brimming with energy. Crucially, they completely transcend the limitations of rock music, creating long dubby house work-outs where other bands wind meekly down. The set closer, and still their best track, Dance to the Underground was dance music in its purest form, every bit as anthemic and hip-jerking as Daft Punk, and totally brilliant.

Me and Vic walked back along the seafront, trying hard to avoid the odd veering lout (the seafront on a bank holiday undulates like the sea, or so it seems when you watch the staggering kids, lurching homewards) and expressing our enthusiasm. !!! are playing in October, which should be even better. It was only when we arrived home that it hit me that the last day of my holiday had just ended. I write this, then, seething with bitterness, and back at work.