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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The High Llama’s – Gideon Gaye October 25, 2014

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Six or seven years of This Weekends and there’s still so many groups that haven’t been covered. Here’s an album I’ve long meant to discuss, The High Llama’s – that being Sean O’Hagan formerly of Microdisney with a group of friends, and their album Gideon Gaye from 1994. Emerging from the – at this remove – slow demise of Microdisney, a group who have been dealt with previously in this spot, O’Hagan took quite a while to get going (there was a solo album credited to O’Hagan which is now regarded as their first on e released in 1990 which would make Gideon Gaye their third release, though that seems like retrofitting) in contrast to his former Microdisney comrade Cathal Coughlan who had the Fatima Mansions seemingly ready to roll almost immediately.

And that contrast between them is only heightened by the different natures of their solo enterprises. Where Coughlan is all sturm und drang, nodding to punk, hardcore, and whatever in his bid to weld together a genuinely ferocious vehicle with which to express his worldview that of O’Hagan is almost the polar opposite, melodic, soft, an overt hommage to the Beach Boys of the Smile era.

If the intention is to offer us a sunny world where textures are as important, no, more important than melodies – for there’s little question but there’s an ambient drift here, it works perfectly. Checking In, Checking Out is west coast personified, but it’s better, shorn of all nonsense that accompanied that genre (and to my ears there’s an oddly krautrock inflection to the piano as it chugs past – and that makes sense given his work with and almost de facto membership of Stereolab during this period). Sure, it’s no stranger to the baroque, Track Goes By lavishes the listener with a not-entirely necessary, but far from unwelcome, ten minutes. The Goat Looks on is all lavish swoops and dips.

And yet, and yet.

Is that a hint of the Seeds “Up In Her Room” in the background of Giddy and Gay? And isn’t there something, well, just a little demented in those sweeping strings? Where exactly is O’Hagan taking the listener?

The effect can be both smooth and oddly claustrophobic – this is a seamless vision of the world and like all such personal visions it can exclude more than it intends to keep in.

And what of the lyrics? Is Checking In, Checking Out seems to be a reflection on LA…

if funny looks don’t get you down,
you could get on in this town.
the drivers crawl along the curb.
the thought of walking’s quite absurd,

But is it partly autobiographical? And what of this from Track Goes By?

now country music at this time of day
can make the future seem so far away.
though the trade was slow, the cabby knew more
than he let her know.

Granted, O’Hagan’s voice is an acquired taste. I like it but I’d be the first to admit that it can be a little weak. But the compositions are artfully crafted to conceal that for the most part – and the fact that vocals are few and far between with instrumentals predominating doesn’t hurt.

It’s worth saying that none of this is a huge step away from Microdisney. I always admired – actually, perhaps loved isn’t too strong a word – the way in which the anger of Coughlan’s vision was set against the Steely Dan/countryish inflected melodicism of O’Hagan’s guitars. The thing is that O’Hagan brought a punk/new wave economy that in its own way was as subversive of the music as was the vocal and lyrical content:

This from, Goodbye, It’s 1987 is a perfect example of same with it’s musical arrangement.

The High Llama’s next album, Hawaii is pretty damned impressive too, they toured as Arthur Lee’s backing band for some of the 1990s and they’re still going, last album released just three years ago. I like that.

Up in the Hills

Checking In, Checking Out

The Goat Looks On

The Goat Strings

Track Goes By

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Men They Couldn’t Hang October 18, 2014

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Its funny how you find bands that you presumed were long broken up are still on the go. The Men They Couldn’t Hang are one such band. I had a copy of their album “How Green is the Valley” many moons ago and played it to death. Their folk punk is more often than not about the lyrics as opposed to the actual music. Similar in a way to a lot of Billy Bragg material.
Included here are “The Ghosts of Cable Street” about the riots in Cable Street stopping Mosleys Blackshirts from entering London’s East End.  “Ironmasters” about The Industrial Revolution and the Miners Strike. They show how music can be an education , and with The Men They Couldn’t Hang  an education in Political and Social History.
From their Facebook I gather that they are currently recording an album of covers. …….. and it was a cover of Eric Bogles “The Green Fields of France” that was their first single. I still prefer the Fureys version of that though.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… A selection of tracks… October 11, 2014

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Arnaud Robotini The First Thirteen Minutes of Love

Been meaning to post this up for quite a while but never got the chance, this is from the last couple of years or so and his excellent Someone Gave Me Religion LP. Robotini is perhaps more famous for Black Strobe.

Aphex Twin XMAS_EVET10 [120][thanaton3 mix] (live version)

A very listenable album that doesn’t try to obscure its roots. Early Aphex Twin soundscapes? Check. Added percussion from later Aphex Twin. Check. More than a hint of Black Dog. Check. The piano like keyboard on this, all smeared slightly detuned sounds, is what makes this track for me. Almost none more 1995.

Comsat AngelsIndependence Day

There are two version of this, one on their first album form 1980, and then one on their later, more commercial (for which some will read ‘sell-out’) album, Land from 1983 or so. I’m a bad bad person, I know, for preferring the later one. But that said, the album from which it is drawn (and the next one after that) is unbelievable, and not really in a good way, to those of us who cherish Sleep No More or whatever. Clearly someone in the Angels camp put out the welcome mat to pop, and in some ways the most hackneyed pop at that (the Psychedelic Furs took a not dissimilar journey but did it better in my opinion). Pop took one look and ran as far and as fast as it could, result being no success and abandonment by their label some years later. They reformed subsequently and returned to their more usual approach. Which was a better plan.

Harvey Bainbridge Voyager 1 (The Voyage)

At one point a mainstay of Hawkwind, in 1993 Mr. Bainbridge released the most curious Interstellar Chaos album, which consisted entirely of instrumentals. Though instrumentals for the most part lacking percussion, or melody, or… er… anything much else except for synthesised swooshings and odd found sounds, so much so that it’s been described as being almost freeform jazz like. But that was okay, in fact that was better than alright, because it was space themed, something I think about a space freighter seeing the sights of the galaxy, and it sounded like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Too loud for most ambient at the time, too fragmented for anything else. I found it catalogued under the IDM label in Comet or somewhere like that a year or two later – which in retrospect seems optimistic.

If I say this is the most…erm… melodic track, you’ll get the idea.

Spratley Japs Sparrows

Another Cardiacs side project, spin-off, whatever, with a somewhat softer neo-psychedelic approach musically. Somewhat. Joanne Spratley’s occasional vocals, as on this track are great. I’d strongly recommend the track Vine as well.

Wizards of Firetop Mountain Sonic War

An Irish band, no less. Stoner/metal. I cannot but love a group that on their band camp page have the following ‘Wizards go forth with stone and weed To conduct sorcery and onerous deeds With heavy riff we will give birth To rock and roll and hell on earth…’ . Of course they do.

Spirit Caravan Dreamwheel

And here’s US outfit Spirit Caravan ploughing that metal, Sabbath, stoner furrow, to good effect.

Sonic Attack feat Brian Blessed

And here’s an oddity from Hawkwind. One cannot but feel that it reflects certain – ahem – tensions in the Hawkwind camp in that it is a reworking of the old Michael Moorcock led track from the 1970s. It ain’t better than the original, that’s for sure, even if Blessed does his thing.

Tangerine Dream Midnight in Tula

There was a time when Tangerine Dream’s name was mud, but I suspect that was due to the fact that most people had only heard their soundtracks, rather than some of the genuinely avant-garde early stuff and Berlin School/krautrock output. That said it’s a mixed bag, genuinely good stuff cheek by jowl with some… er… not so good stuff. This is kind of fascinating. As if Gary Numan was asked to score Miami Vice. Or DAF were forced to go commercial.

The Physics House Band Obeliskmonolith

If you like prog and krautrock, chances are you’ll like The Physics House Band. A lot.

Protomartyr Scum, Rise!

I’m always entertained by the way in which every seven or eight years groups appear whose sound is a little bit post-punk, a little bit goth, and immediately they are heralded, usually in the US, as treading in Joy Division’s footsteps. Yes, once you Interpol were the future. Though they had also been listening to a hefty dose of Chameleons in their spare time too. Here’s Protomartyr whose output does indeed include on occasion staccato JD guitars and doomy vocals and so on, but in a weird way it reminds me more of a cross between the Teardrop Explodes and the actually pretty good Girls Vs Boys. Oh yeah, and Interpol too.

Concrete Blonde Bloodletting

Seeing as goth was mentioned, granted indirectly, and Joy Division were never goth, this is a catchy little song from CB from many many years ago. Never warmed to them, so to speak, but kind of like the track.

Pale Sketcher Wash It All Away? Remix.

Mentioned Resonanz Therapie Musik before and this comes from a while before that, a remix version…

Katmandu I Can Make the Future

An Irish band from the early 1980s, as a kid I loved this, the synth in this track burned its way indelibly into my mind. In retrospect it’s obvious someone was listening to a lot of John Foxx, Ultravox, Roxy, Bowie etc. Almost needless to say it took until the internet until there was a sniff at getting hold of the track. I still think it holds up pretty well, albeit the sound is broadly speaking unlike most of everything else they did.

No Agenda feat Steve KIlbey

The indefatigable Mr. Kilbey is roped in to make up numbers on vocals for shoe-gaze outfit Hammock.

Niagara Currybox

This is kind of cool, from earlier in the year.

Clap!Clap! Elon Mentana feat. DJ Khalab (Black Acre)

And this is kind of cool too.

Mirror Lakes Gold in April

From another indefatigable character in reasonably contemporary music, Knut Schreiner of Turbonegro, and Euroboys, and well, other groups… this is Mirror Lakes, which perfectly recreates a sort of breathless 1970s west coast rock sound.

And finishing up with Robyn Hitchcock and given something appearing a little later, a version of his track, Gene Hackman.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh October 4, 2014

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There is something captivating about the fiddle/ hardanger playing of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Slow, meticulous, minimalist, a slow droning style. I’ve seen him a few times in different groups and on his own over the years and his style is captivating.
His website gives the best description…

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh plays traditional and contemporary folk music on Hardanger d’Amore and other fiddles.

In addition to being an established solo artist, he performs with two groups The Gloaming and This is How we Fly, in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien & Brendan Begley, a trio with Martin Hayes & Peadar Ó Riada, and as part of many other collaborative projects.

Caoimhín’s distinctive sound can be traced back to an early interest in both the sound of the flat-pitch uilleann pipes and a love for the traditional music of Kerry and Clare. A proclivity for tuning the fiddle below concert pitch and a tendency to play on two strings simultaneously had already given him a unique and distinctive sound when he first encountered the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, which has since become his chosen instrument. He plays an unusual 10-string instrument made by Salve Håkedal, which lies somewhere between a traditional hardanger and a viola d’amore. The bows he uses are equally beautiful: baroque and transitional bows made by French bowmaker, Michel Jamonneau.

Highlights of 2014 include performing at the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall & Union Chapel in London, the National Concert Hall in Dublin (thrice), a solo concert tour in Italy, a week-long residency in New York, and The Gloaming reaching No.1 in the Irish Album Charts.

He has released twelve CDs to date: two solo albums, Music for an Elliptical Orbit (2014) & Where the One-Eyed Man is King (2007); a duo album with Dan Trueman, Laghdú (2014); two eponymous albums with the groups The Gloaming (2014) & This is How we Fly (2013); Deadly Buzz (2011) & Kitty Lie Over (2003) with Mick O’Brien; A Moment of Madness (2010) with Brendan Begley; Triúr Omós (2013), Triúr Arís (2012) & Triúr sa Draighean (2010) with Martin Hayes and Peadar Ó Riada; and Comb Your Hair and Curl It (2010) with Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh and Catherine McEvoy.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… Girlschool September 27, 2014

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Some groups work best with albums, others with singles. Perhaps others still find EPs the best form. Girlschool, purveyors of – at least initially punk inflected – New Wave of British Heavy Metal seem to me to have done their best work on single. Kim McAuliffe (vocals/guitars), Kelly Johnson (guitar/vocals), Denise Dufort (drums who had some sort of a stint with the Au-Pairs according to some online sources) and Enid Williams (bassist) in many ways were reminiscent of the Runaways transplanted to Britain. There’s something in that, particularly in the vocals and the speedy charge of the drums/guitar/bass lineup. There’s a sense that they fitted as neatly into the more melodic end of punk as much as metal – and they weren’t afraid to see themselves as directly influenced by punk, at least on their earlier tracks. But that said there was a strong metallic foundation to their output. Sufficiently so that Lemmy from Motorhead sought their addition to the Bronze label which Motorhead were on having seen them live.

And later there was their eventual one-off merger with Motorhead as Headgirl, which produced that enduring classic, their cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates ‘Please Don’t Touch’. It’s worth noting that for both groups that release was their most successful chart appearance to that point.

Their early material was fantastic, a rabbit punch of hard-edged music but as time moved on they suffered from a move towards more US oriented rock sounds as well as line-up changes. But those early years and the singles and EPs that they released during that period are well worth a listen.

Taking some at random, ‘Take It All Away,’ one of their earliest tracks is rough and ready and clearly punk influenced. ‘Emergency’ again has that punky vigour (and there’s something about the phrasing of the guitars at the beginning which reminds me of the Pink Fairies). It is fair to say they riffed on certain sounds… Yeah Right is not a million miles from Emergency. ‘C’mon Let’s Go’ just perfect in its gonzoid glam stomp genius. ‘Nothing to Lose’ which surely shares some strands of DNA with the Runaways. And there’s many more and a special word for the rhythm section who power the tracks through.

As it happens I used to know someone who emigrated to the UK and who fell into their circle. He found them extremely friendly and welcoming, just genuinely nice people.

I don’t want to make any great claims about this music, and yet even today I find it oddly satisfying. In fact even more than the Runaways they remind me in their earliest years in some ways of the Ramones, that sense of rawness, of economy and the fact that well over a quarter of a century later they still work together – well, okay, that’s not the Ramones, but that was a process of attrition, was it not? (sadly Johnson died some years ago but McAuliffe, Dufort and Williams are still playing as Girlschool).

C’mon Let’s Go


Nothing to Lose

Watch Your Step

Take It All Away

Please Don’t Touch (as Headgirl, with Motorhead).

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Dougie MacLean September 20, 2014

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It had to be a Scottish artist this weekend, so I had a rummage , wondered how a Rod Stewart CD had ended up in the house, skipped The Proclaimers, Simple Minds, The Jesus and Mary Chain , Big Country , The Blue Nile, Trashcan Sinatras and others ….. and ended up with Dougie MacLean.
I gather his “Caledonia” was used by The ‘Yes’ side of the recent Scottish Referendum and many of you will be familiar with the Dolores Keane version from The best selling “A Woman’s Heart”. Many moons ago he was a member of The Tannahill Weavers and briefly Silly Wizard. There has been a Dougie MacLean Festival running in Perthshire since 2005. He has performed with different artists over the course of each Festival. The Fesival Website
He is not just a fine singer ,guitarist and composer but also a noted Traditional Scottish Fiddler, Indeed the first tune here is his composition “The Gael” which was used in the film “The Last of The Mohicans”.

This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Siouxsie and the Banshees. September 13, 2014

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Siouxsie and the Banshees, pop, goth, rock, new wave, more than a hint of dance, punk. All of those and more. Ploughing a deeply individual musical path from the late 1970s and as a solo artist effectively to the present day. Their/her roots firmly in punk but somehow managing to move on a very clear trajectory away from that while never in any way disowning that history.

And with that so much to choose from in that career. The early singles – for Siouxsie was very much a chart group? They’re great raw artefacts from post-punk, though the lyrics are on occasion… troubling. Later material which saw her move in what she might term pop, but few of the rest of us would? Fascinating and compelling in their own way.

But for my money the years 1983 through to 1986 were a particular high point. Here her/their sound was consolidated, moving beyond the simplicity and vital rigour of the early material into a more experimental, thoughtful area. A Kiss in The Dreamhouse from 1982 clearly reflects that dynamic, but Hyaena and Tinderbox, released in 1984 and 1986 respectively, are for me the quintessential Siouxsie releases. There the blend is just right, great singles such as ‘Dear Prudence’ and ‘Cities in Dust’ matched by equally strong album tracks such as ‘Belladonna’ (with a fabulous skittering percussion and almost early New Order bassline and oddly joyous chiming chorus) ‘Cannons’ and ’92 Degrees’ (note the sample taken from 50s SF film ‘It Came from Outer Space’ and it’s proto-Fields of the Nephilim guitars). And surely covering ‘Dear Prudence’ was a massive statement of intent (just to be absolutely clear, the single wasn’t on the vinyl version of Hyaena, but was added later in a CD age – to good effect).

Actually I tend to view these albums, albeit two years apart as being of a piece. This isn’t to say they’re identical, Hyaena is denser, more layered, more tricky – less immediate and arguably the better of the two. By contrast Tinderbox is sparser, poppier, more airy (and yet on tracks like ‘The Sweetest Chill’ there’s a hint of Cocteau Twin’s or a seductive moodiness as on ‘Land’s End’) though I’ll happily skip past ‘This Unrest’ any day. And yet there’s a definable aesthetic thread, something that nods to Goth while not being subsumed by it. I’ve often thought that they’d make a great double album with a little judicious editing, and that on the Tinderbox side.

Throughout there’s that unique pop element that Siouxsie (and the Cure, and a number of other post-punk groups) managed to make much their own transiting from that aforementioned stark rigour of their origins into something decidedly different while somehow retaining its essence. With Robert Smith it was, perhaps, the bleakness of vision even as the melodies spun and circled in ever more cheerful ways, for Siouxsie it was in that remarkable voice, stentorian at times – to the point that it sometimes wanders away from the melody entirely, at other times whisper soft. But always her voice.

It’s interesting that Smith’s name comes up, because he was in effect a member of the Banshees for Hyaena, and despite his – ahem – primary role as guitarist with them his influence is evident in the profusion of keyboards that fill in the background of this quite guitar oriented album – check out ‘Dazzle’, surely one of their greatest songs. But it is to do a disservice to Siouxsie and the rest of the group, Budgie on drums, Steve Severin on bass and John Valentine on guitars on Tinderbox, to see this as simply an artefact of his personality. His input may deepen the sound but no more so than the direction Siouxsie was taking it in anyway. He had long left by the time Tinderbox emerged and perhaps that explains the tauter sound. Worth noting that Steve Severin had begun to dabble in electronics in addition to bass on the latter album, something that can be heard in quite a number of tracks as a backing element.

I’ve already mentioned other projects of hers, and it’s remarkable to think of how she has so seemingly easily sustained a career that has spanned five, count ‘em, five decades.

Dazzle (video, with ad before it)

Dazzle (no video and no ad).

Blow the House Down


Bring Me the Head of the Preacher Man

Dear Prudence

Cities in Dust

92 Degrees


The Sweetest Chill

Land’s End

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Imagine Dragons September 6, 2014

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Children….. they take over car radios, car tape players, car CD players… Over the years I’ve been forced to listen to Nursery Ryhme tapes , Tapes with Nellie The Elephant and other classics like The Grand Old Duke Of York, Jack And Jill, Old McDonald and so on. In the early days with the tapes you’d have to constantly rewind a certain song too. The CD came in and they had to listen to the same song over and over again. Then you arrive somewhere and they wouldn’t leave the car until the song was finished!
From the nursery rhymes to stories on CD, then a fascination with musicals. “Annie”, “Bugsy Malone”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Oliver” and many more all played constantly.
Then they developed their own taste in music …… Much of it isn’t my cup of tea but a while back my son got Imagine Dragons ‘Night Visions’ CD and pretty soon it made its way to the car. Its quite good, maybe I’m skewed from years of listening to dross in the car , but its certainly the best of my Childrens current music tastes.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Helen Love – the Radio Hits August 30, 2014

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Long live the UK music scene Long live the UK music scene Long live the UK music scene
Each night I get down on my knees And say, hey God, I can’t believe We’re losing the UK music scene
Hey, all you kids, there’s a fab new sound So put your Nintendos and PlayStations down ‘Cos Chris Evans and Shed Seven will save the UK music scene
Hey, Johnny Cigarettes and Steven Wells Don’t get upset, your paper will still sell
Chris Evans and Shed Seven will save the UK music scene.

Cynical, humorous, clever… yep, that’ll be Helen Love, the almost all woman group from Wales (founder members being Helen, Sheena, Roxy and Mark), formed in the early 1990s, who seamlessly melded Ramones inflected punk and bubblegum pop into indie pop. And it is pop, speeding by in two and three minute increments, with great hook laden arrangements.

Conveniently, their first three albums were essentially compilations of EPs and so on, the Radio Hits Compilations. The title, is, as is the way with such things, a humorous reflection on the small fact that many of these never came near being radio hits, no, not one, though they should have in an ideal world. But that hasn’t stopped them having a long and fruitful and continuing career. Favourites of John Peel, they also played with Joey Ramone – subject of their early song (Sheena’s in Love With) Joey Ramone. He also sang on one of their records and Helen Love sang backing vocals on one track on his solo album.

Radio 1 pulls together their early EPs and singles. Check out Rollercoasting which is a love letter to music. Radio Hits 2 and 3 are no less brilliant, the latter including “Beat Him Up” which is feminist, ironic, deeply serious and utterly to the point about violence against women perpetrated by men. When they sing ‘Girl Power’ as a refrain in the opening bars of “Formula One Racing Girls” … it’s knowing and cynical, but it’s also somehow genuine. And if the instrumentation (and composition) is nowhere near as crude as some reviewers make out, well, that’s all for the good because however much they love the Ramones they aren’t the Ramones, but something different again – those tinny keyboards and choppy guitars notwithstanding.

Did they improve across the albums? Well, the production certainly toughened up, and so did the guitars, and there was an increasing dance/electronic tinge to keyboards (Jump Up and Down, Atomic Bea Boy, Big Pink Candyfloss Haircut and so on), but in essence it wasn’t so much an improvement – or that much of a real change – as a redefinition (and some, like myself, will find the dance remixes entertaining).

You might think that if you have Radio Hits, 1, 2 and 3 you have as much Helen Love as you might ever need. This though would be a mistake for they have released subsequent albums right up to the present day, all of which are well worth a listen. Indeed, I’m always struck by how many tunes they have managed to wrest from what seems like an incredibly constrained format. There’s the intro to Girl About Town, or listen to “Greatest Fan” and there’s a chunk of the Go! Club’s joyous melancholy, the tinny keyboards, the summery vocals, the muted guitars, the… well, it’s all there.


Beat Him Up

Punk Boy (with Joey Ramone – natch!)

Formula One Racing Girls

Girl About Town

Diet Coke Girl

Rockaway Beach For Me, Heartbreak Hotel For You

Jump and Down

Shifty Disco Girl

We Love You

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Music from ‘Grease’ August 23, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

A few weekends ago there was an Outdoor Cinema put on by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in Marlay Park. I was given a choice …….. “Dirty Dancing” on the Saturday night or “Grease” on the Sunday night. I opted for “Grease”.
I came home from The Limerick Kilkenny match in Croke Park, dried out a bit and off the family plus German exchange student went. The ground was sodden in places but armed with rain gear a groundsheet , an umbrella and some shopping bags , a flask and picnic we found a spot. I was surprised at the amount of equipment some people had brought along, fold up chairs, tents, tents open on one side, big thick plastic sheets to make bivouacs and lots more besides. The best one I saw was a crowd who on arrival each got into a big black bin bag, sat on the ground and then covered themselves in a tarpaulin.
I’d seen ‘Grease’ performed as a school musical before but as the movie came on I realised that I’d never seen the movie before. I would have been too young at the time and my older sister would have seen it in the Cinema or in the school hall where they showed year old films on Friday afternoons. I saw some great films in the school hall over the years …. and “Abba The Movie” !!
The music in ‘Grease’ was good and Travolta could really move. “Summer NIghts” and “You’re the one that I want” (which as 8 and 9 year olds myself and my brother though went ‘you’re the wibbleawong’ ) which was number 1 in the charts for an eternity. It was also one of the first videos on Top of The Pops.
I hadn’t realised either that Stockard Channing was in the movie.


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