when he plays guitar
I’m caught in the wave
as if all he ever needs to say
is in that moment,
as he paints the sky
Diving back into Elvis Costello. I’m a fan. I’ve collected most of what he has released even though I know you are supposed to only like his late-70s and very early-80s work. After that its diminishing returns, right? Well – I’m not so sure.
You see I listened to When I Was Cruel a few weeks back. For the first time in a while. I reckon it’s a really decent album – nothing close to a dud track on it, it flows well, the songwriting and performances are strong. I’m not saying it holds a candle to This Year’s Model or Armed Forces but it’s pretty good. It was released in 2002, which is, depending on where you get off the Costello bus, either 22 years, 20 years or at least 16 years too late. Read More »
We couldn’t go out for a while. So we didn’t. And then we could. So we did. We walked out and about and we looked like we were taking it all with us, big strutting. Everything that is but the kitchen sink. Oh, and also, any stink or trace of when we said that we’d change. We weren’t about to change anything but our underwear. We once again don’t really care for change. We just want the walls and columns of our social media pages to suggest that we do. That’s good enough. That’s the job done. And now it’s off to buy more things we do not need. To complain about the smallest things. Since the smallest things are now back in vogue. Read More »
A few years back I reviewed a Kindle Single, a keen drummer’s list of his Top 30 Drummers. Keen drummers don’t always make the best writers and this book – well it’s a sliver of a book (as is the point of Kindle Singles – seems wrong in this instance to bestow a title like essay) – is very poorly written. But, hey, points for trying, I guess. In this brave new world we can all be writers if we want. And we can all be reviewers too. And so on.
So good on Ian Worrall for having his say – but his list is riddled with typos, lurches along with little in the way of punctuation and then, most shockingly – well, it’s not a shock as such but certainly most disappointingly – the list finishes with his #1 pick being Neil Peart. Read More »
The 2018 Writers-Readers Festival was a busy one for me, I committed to going to about a dozen talks and writing something about each one. This included two talks by the writer, critic and photographer Teju Cole. I’m a big fan and particularly loved his book Blind Spot which was part of the focus for his visit.
As I said here when I wrote the review this was a brilliant but infuriating talk. I really felt for the organiser/s and tech-support people. Cole announced at the start that he hadn’t been interested in attending the tech soundcheck and figured they’d just plug in and get started. Read More »
Street Fighter II was the one
to beat – and I could do it
on just a couple of coins.
It took a while, but I got
good – rode my bike into
town, put my coins in
the slot, put my hat on
backwards – so I could see
better, plus there was no
sun inside the arcade. It
was always best when people
didn’t gather – because then
you could practice at getting
good but it was also pretty
great when you had a crowd
watching, provided you didn’t
tank out. A couple of hours
playing beat-em-ups and then
we’d bike out to my mate’s place
on the orchard and dodge the rotten
apples hurled from the back
of quad-bikes, then park up
on huge old sofas and watch
horror films or those comedies
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor
made together. A glass of coke
was a really big treat, some
Fat Boys on the stereo and
a big bounce on the trampoline.
Another day in paradise,
and thankfully none of the
older kids had turned up to buy-in
and knock you on your arse.
It should have been called Hot Mess! Amiright? Or amiright?
Most Queen fans hate Hot Space, rate it as the one to not rate – its saving grace being the final track, the duet with David Bowie – Under Pressure. Apart from that? What’s there? Messy, meaningless, disco-tinged pop-crap that has none of the pomp or rock-opera glory of the band’s mid-70s peak, nor the urgency of their early-70s prog-meets-punk energy. And doesn’t come close to the pop-hook crafting that arrived on the albums in immediate follow up to Hot Space; nor even the one that directly proceeds it. Read More »
I always love having a chat about music on RNZ – I look forward to the chance every month or so to have a natter and for this feature I got to talk about Curtis Mayfield, one of my all-time favourites.
I’d been spending a lot of time with Mayfield’s music recently and wanted to tell some of the story of how he moved from his own vocal group (The Impressions) through his own solo albums and to scoring movies – for himself and others. There’s so much more to say about his music but I enjoyed presenting this snapshot. Read More »
As soon as I saw the advertising for The Monkees I was very keen to see them; sure it was just two of them – but in a way it’s the two that mattered most. And anyway you can’t bring people back from the dead, you either go and see the remaining members and make the most of it – and hope they do as well – or you don’t go.
I was lucky to get review comps and luckier still to find myself in the front row! I took my good mate Jon along – he’s a big Monkees fan – and we loved the show. I mean it was messy, for sure. There were notes missed and fluffed and so on – sure. But there was also a brilliant setlist, far more interesting than I might have picked ahead of seeing it. The big hits, of course. But more rewarding was the choice of deeper cuts. Read More »
It was a Friday afternoon and
I was on the roof drinking a beer
listening to the Beastie Boys – either
because all the jobs were done for the
day, or most certainly because there
was no better place to be, with no
And then my friend turned up to remind
me I’d offered to drive him to the airport
to pick up his mother, visiting from Auckland.
On the way he warned me that she was
a person with rather high standards – I forget
how he phrased it exactly, but it seemed to run
on straight after his criticism of my decision to
not put on any shoes.
I was wearing pants. And a t-shirt. And I had
the car-keys. Those were the crucial things.
(There was a Faith No More CD in the car’s
stereo too – speaking of crucial things)
We got to the airport and waited. And then she
arrived – and my mate’s whole tone shifted, like
he was meeting the queen. He straightened up
and told me to just lurk – to not make a scene, to
stand back. And I did – since that had been my
plan all along.
She stared down at my feet and I caught the end
of a massive roll of the eyes when she looked back
As soon as we got in the car she instinctively switched
the car stereo off. I flicked it back on and lowered
The silence around the rest of the car was now drowning
out the music anyway.
She small-talked us about Auckland’s weather and the
gala event she was in town for and asked me a few things
about the state of my future. She made some cheap swipe
about me not wearing shoes and I replied that I was in such
a rush to be on time – to meet this most important person,
to not be late.
Another eye-roll and I could feel my mate sweating in the
back seat. He kept trying to break the tension by laughing this
loud, fake-Eddie Murphy laugh. He would over-compensate by
saying to his mum that I was hilarious and talented and so
busy with so many things.
She questioned me about the many things and I said that I
was playing in a band and doing a bit of writing
And there was this pause. And then she said – in 5pm Friday
traffic; we were sat with nowhere to go for quite some time –
“Are you a motivated person, Simon?”
And the question hung there – and then she added that on
her initial impression it didn’t seem like it.
And I replied as quick as I’ve ever been that I was motivated
enough to get off the roof and turn down another beer to
pick her up since she was saving the coins on taxi-fare or even
on paying the parking for me.
Suddenly we could hear every word Mike Patton was barking:
“It would be wrong to ask you why”
I think about this scene a lot.
It’s true. Not a word is a lie.
But even as it was happening
and forever after
it has felt like a scene from a film
– a short film, granted. Low budget
too – but a film, or maybe a TV
show; some webisode these days
When I’m wondering what I’m going to do
which is often, still, I hear her voice – this
impossibly awful person that I only met
once – I hear her asking
“are you a motivated person, Simon?”
I’ve never been able to answer that.
At least not correctly. Not with any
My spin is to see that as a good thing.
My reality is she had me pegged
in that instant. She got me good and
Her question is hanging there still.
This play really knocked me for six. The acting was brilliant. The writing was superb. The real hook of it though I think – as a performance – was the role played by Lisa Harrow; both the writing of it and her capturing.
I was lucky to get to meet her and chat with her during the play’s run. What a life. And story. And a thrill to hear some of her stories.
A year or so later I found the script to read and loved it and wanted to talk to playwright Victor Rodger. When he was in town with a new show I got that chance and took it.
I think about this play a lot – it was an amazing experience to view it. And to read it. And to speak to the two people most important in the creation and presentation of it. Read More »