Miscellaneous

 WEST (ham) SIDE STORY

On Attending West Ham v Liverpool, Upton Park, 19/9/09

Ah, West Ham.  The family club.  Sir Bobby Moore.  Lovely brand of football.  Five managers in their first 100 years or so.  Jumpers for goalposts.  Trevor “Mr. Nice” Brooking.  1966 and all that.  Lovely jubbly.

Forget about it.  Ninety minutes sitting in their supporter’s midst (and mist) on Saturday night blew all these preconceptions out of the water.  Upton Park was a Theatre of Hate.  And the theatre-goers had a limited vocalbury.  Unheralded Scottish jangle-poppers The Nectarine No. 9 released an album yonks ago entitled “A Sea With Three Stars”.  Nice name.  Evokes calming nature images.  Look at it written this way – C***.
 
All around me were vitrolic thrash monkeys who used “c***” without let-up for the whole game.  Skrtel has the ball.  “Skrtel, you c***”.  He passes it to Carragher.  “Carragher, you c***”.  It just went on and on.  Relentless in it’s tedium.  Overpowering in it’s ignorance.  “We’re Forever Blowing Bubbles (of bile)”.  Now, I’m as partial to choice language as Malcolm Tucker or yr average fishwife but this was soul-destroying.  If Torres got on the ball the language changed.  The word ‘dago’ was added to the shouted spleen.  “Torres, you dago c***”.
 
Even when the Hammers scored there was some celebration but it soon gave way to insults aimed at the ‘Pool fans over 100 yards away.  Grown men standing on their seats giving the wanker sign to the opposing supporters.  It was so ludricous it was almost sad.  Here we were, a pleasant Saturday evening in the East End, a good game of football underway and this was the carry-on.  If this was a window into English life then English society is in a mess.  Hardly ground-breaking news, but sometimes coming face to face with ugly reality can be quite a shock.  Perversely, West Ham are managed by the nicest man in football – Gianfranco Zola.  God love the Italian when his own supporters turn on him and he’ll be marooned under a sea and three stars.
               
’til things are brighter,
Ralph Mexico

BEING BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN 

On Attending Bruce Springsteen gig, The Point 19/11/06 

You are Bruce. You are in your mid-50s. You’d feel foolish singing the anthems of youth like ‘Thunder Road’ and ‘Born To Run’ at your age. Equally you don’t want to sing the stuff from the 80s that made you millions but that you’re less than enamoured with now (‘Dancing In The Dark’, ‘Born In The USA’). And you certainly don’t want to sing your stuff from the 90s that your fans were less than enamoured with.
You still want to tour though. You still want to have fun. ‘The Seeger Sessions’ affords you the perfect chance to do this. You make an album in a style you’re comfortable with and the songs lend themselves perfectly for the singalong feel-good vibe your audience will love. You reinterpret a few old songs to suit the big band style and you hit the road. You bring the wife and kids. Your audience will appreciate this sentiment more than any of your previous audiences – they know how hard it is to get babysitters.
You watch ‘The Last Waltz’ a lot before you go on tour. You design your stage as an homage. You play Dublin. Your crowd is made up of 80% long-time fans, most of whom will have seen you before. These are the people who chant ‘Brooooce’ after every song and even before you come on stage. They lap up the shows, delighted that you’re still touring and that the music lends itself perfectly to the tapping of sensible shoes without any fear of getting sweat on their well-pressed shirts/blouses. They’ll have to listen to another boss tomorrow but tonight they head home happy and wait for Neil Diamond to play Croke Park again.
The other 20% of your audience are seeing you for the first time. They know the famous songs and like them a bit but are mainly going to see what all the fuss about ‘the Bruce live experience’ is. They’ll have listened to The Seeger Sessions album in preparation a few times. They thought it was ok. Live, they liked ‘Atlantic City’ at the start. They liked ‘Tom Joad’ in it’s stripped down form. They liked the vibe and swing of ‘John Henry’, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ and ‘Old Dan Tucker’. They thought the ‘Oaklahoma’ song was awful. They wanted to see the singer stretch himself a bit more and not appear to go through the motions at times. They walk away from the show and say ‘it was good, but….’
You are Bruce. Life is good. You don’t listen to ‘Doolittle’ of an evening, by the fire. Pity. 

Ralph Mexico

LOST IN MIDDLE ENGLAND

On Trying to Pay Respects @ Nick Drake’s Graveside, March 2009

So, Dan and I landed in Birmingham last Friday.  The plan had been to first visit Tamworth – the birthplace and final resting place of Nick Drake (the venerable English folkie from the 70s) and then Stratford-on-Avon.  Stay in Shakespeare’s place Friday night and hit Oxford Saturday then fly back from Brum on Sunday.  Tamworth is north of Birmingham but we ended up heading south on the motorway when we left the airport, so we decided to head straight for Stratford and leave the Drake pilgrimage until Sunday.  Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford went great and we got up at 9am Sunday to pay our respects to Mr Drake.  Tamworth was our destination and finally after a soul-destroying journey, using only a 1978 map of England as a guide – which saw us guessing of what exit to take at each and every one of the 876 roundabouts we met (not good fun with both of us as sick as the plane to Lourdes) – we got to Tamworth.  We had Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ playing on the stereo.  We were in the mood to see his grave.  We’d both read biographies of Nick Drake and had always seen his home place referred to as a sleepy hamlet.  Tamworth has really changed!!  There was an ALDI, an indoor ski centre, a 24 hour tesco and (of course) a zillion roundabouts before the town centre.  I exclaimed “it’s no wonder he topped himself, this place is an awful kip”.  We stopped at the local police station.  I walked in and asked the fiftyish lady behind the desk if she knew where Nick Drake was buried.  I gave the details and she said she’d enquire.  Another PC Plod came in the door and I asked him did he know.  He was in his late 20s and sported a serious black-eye.  He replied to me – “Mate, I was born in 1980.  I know I’m good but how am I to know about a singer who died years before I was born.  By the way, there’s a PC Drake who works in a station nearby.  Maybe he’s related?”.  Had I been a better boxer I’d have given him a shiner in the other eye, the smarmy w@nker.  I left.  Just another Irishman failing to get justice in a British cop shop.  Time was running out.  We found a church.  And a graveyard.  No Drake.  Asked at a taxi rank and a few cool looking passer-bys.  “Never heard of him, mate.  Mick Drake is it”?  Tamworth’s most famous offspring and no-one had heard of him.  In Kanturk, we’ve all heard of Edel Quinn.  Dan had a brainwave and decided to google on his phone where Drake is buried.  As we sat in the car in the carpark near the cemetery down the road from the police station close to the ice-rink in Tamworth we discovered that Nick Drake is buried in Tanworth.  Right country.  Wrong town.  Great laugh.  There was nothing left to do but drive back to Brum airport and head home.  Which we did.  End of story.   

Ralph Mexico

RANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

On Attending Zenit-Rangers UEFA Cup Final, Manchester 2008

‘Now I know how Joan of Arc felt, as the flames rose around her nose and her hearing aid started to melt’.

There were only a couple of Rangers fans on the flight over from Cork.  Tony’s flight from Dublin was choc-a-bloc with bluenoses.  Train in from airport had a few Zenith fans as well and they sang a bit but the Rangers singing of a song ‘Why don’t you go home’ drowned them out.  I thought it was an anti-Russian song they’d written especially – how naïve I was.  Of course it was an anti-Irish song – ‘Why don’t you go home, The famine’s over, Why don’t you go home’.  Walking to The Ox pub (above where we stayed) the city was covered in blue and union jacks.  They were all carrying loads of cans but I have to say I saw no absolutely drunk fans.  Apart from the colours it could have been all-Ireland day.  Then you listened to the words of the songs and the bitterness was evident.  There were no songs celebrating their players; only anti-Irish and anti-Celtic songs.  Even their singing of ‘Rangers ‘til I die’ was punctuated by ‘Protestant ‘til I die’.  And they look so twisted and mean-spirited.  Bitterness seeped from every pore.  They didn’t seem to be in celebratory mood at all – it was all rancour and bile.

I met Tony at the pub and we opted against sitting outside as there was a sing-song going and his ears were bleeding from exposure to the hate-fuelled choons.  All the boozers on the main streets were black – in every sense so, we got into The Bridge and had a few pints.  We didn’t really talk to any other punters.  As I came back from the bar with 2 pints a Rangers fan stood aside and when I said ‘thanks’ he did a double-take when he heard the accent. 

We walked through Picadilly gardens where all the fans were congregated.  It was bedlamic enough.  Cans of beer everywhere and rubbish all over the ground.  Walked to the ground and went into the pub nearest it.  Hun central.  Lot of vicious looking women singing their sectarian songs.  A few people tried to engage us in chat but again we kept our counsel.  Just outside the ground a hun gave me a can of Kronenborg.  I drank it.  Bless you child…

Into the stadium.  2nd row of 2nd tier at the corner flag where the Zenit left-back was in the first half.   Some hun was in my seat and he moved after a few seconds – telling me ‘I don’t even have a ticket’.  Settled down to watch the poor enough fare on the pitch.  Absolutley everybody in the ground apart from the 10,000 Zenit at the other end were huns.  We had to stand up when they stood up.  We didn’t go ‘bouncy, bouncy’ when they did.  Half-way through the first half the lad beside Tony asked him where he was from.  I nearly fell out of the stand laughing when I heard the reply – ‘Manchester’.  He was a nordie.  The dude to my left was a young fella with a Norn Iron scarf as well.  The singing was just constant bitter songs – anti-Pope; about marching in Dublin; up to our necks in Fenian blood.  Real classy stuff.

Still only seemed a matter of time before Zenit scored.  Rangers were utter muck.  And then it happened.  ‘The Sash’ was in full flow when Zenit got their just deserts.  The silence was utterly, utterly priceless.  You could have got £1,000.00 for the ticket but no money would ever pay for the sweetness of seeing 30,000 hun hearts break at one time.  Not quite ‘Alonso scoring in Istanbul’ but definitely a Kodak moment.  We started moving at the 90th minute and were on the steps when the 2nd goal was walked into the net.  There was a spring in our step as we hit town – passing various supporters bemoaning the fact ‘we couldae wahn’…

Straight to the Roundhouse and to Caribou gig.  When they’d finished an announcer came on stage to warn about going outside but that the doors were locked and people were being let out the back.  Some dude told us 2 people had been killed and then we found out about the screen not working.  We left the club around 1 and met a few pumped up riot police on the way home.  We could hear the chanting and met a few stragglers singing at various points.  They wanted to make friends.  We walked on. Into The Ox for a few nightcaps and slept the sleep of the just.

Visit to Salford Lads Club and the Smiths room.  Shown around the place and saw the rehearsal room that ex-Smiths O’Rourke and Joyce still use.  Took the photo on the corner of the original Coronation St. just like on ‘The Queen Is Dead’.  Few more pints in various boozers including a bar where there was the most insane transsexual you’re ever likely to see.  Manchester – so much to answer for, indeed….

Ralph Mexico

 

HAVING A BLASTO @ GLASTO

On Attending Galstonbury 2008

Our trio meet in Bristol Airport at 16.00 hours Thursday.  When they return at 12.00 hours Monday they will have survived Glastonbury 2008.  How much can happen in 92 hours?  Well…

Bus to Bristol city centre.  Two trains.  Killian buys a slab of warm Tetleys Bitter for a ludricous amount of queen heads.  Stop at Castle Cary station.  6 miles from site.  Queues for shuttle buses.  Jovial station announcer counts in buses as they arrive.  We cheer.  Sniffer dog moves amongst the queues.  No arrests.  Dog must have a cold.  Board bus.  Make friends.  Drink cans.  Many roadside toilet stops.  Killian explains ‘Gallas’ (a Kerry saying) to Bournemouth Boy and Sarf Lahndahn girls.  Everyone looks bemused.  We try to get bus to sing ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’  Everyone looks bewildered.  We land at Glasto.  Everyone gets busy.  It’s raining cats and hounds.  Through entrance as easy as blinking.  Pitch tents in first field.  Close to cinema.  10.30pm.  Job well done.  Let’s have another drink.  Here’s mud in your eye.  And your ear.  And your nose….

Quick look at “Kill Bill Vol. 1” in cinema.  Brave the rain.  Try to find out did Spain beat Russia.  Look uncool.  Forget about match.  Eat some deep-fried hog roast.  Tastes like Mr. T’s jockstrap.  More beer.  Have a chat with a fire-log seller.  Get warm.  Get told to sling our hook.  Get wet again.  Join crowd chanting ‘Rock The Dancefloor’ along to The Clash being played on a stall stereo.  Head towards stone circle.  Meet students in Cardiff of various nationalities.  Explain ‘Gallas’ to them.  Not sure if it’s rain or tears flowing down their cheeks.  Stone Circle.  Hippies banging on empty barrel around a fire.  Risk assessors 51 weeks of the year.  ‘Find themselves’ for Glasto.  Don’t give up the day-job.  Hang around.  Nobody gets naked.  Drumming continues.  Traipse back down the hill.  End up in a tent where the Buddha of Suburbia serves us volcanic cider.  We sit cross-legged on the carpet.  Have a laugh.  Leave tent.  Rain lightening.  Dawn breaking.  Find campsite.  Everyone sleeping.  Have a few more cans.  Everyone rises.  It’s 9am.  Time to get some sleep.  ZZZzzzzz

11am.  Dry morning.  Trio have breakfast of champions.  Gin and bitter lemon from a 2 litre plastic bottle.  Meet the neighbours.  Ex-paratrooper who served in Afghanistan.  Now a performing clown.  Does a handstand to prove it.  The revolving tie and canoe shoes kinda’ gave it away.  Liquid breakfast over, we wander into arena.  End up in Green Fields.  Storytelling tent.  Welsh lady telling mystical yarns.  To an audience of one.  We sit down and chat.  Rain outside.  A handful of curious punters enter.  Killian tells tent story of the Legend of The Red Kerry Hare.  Applause.  Story from Welsh lady.  We like her.  Killian goes out to drum up a bit more business.  Aidan sits on chair.  Killian introduces him as a man from the wilds of Kanturk.  Tells Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Nightingale & The Rose’.  Applause.  Killian wants more of the limelight.  Sings a sean-nos song.  Eyes closed.  Emoting.  Bualadh bos.  Tony offers a toast of great depth and feeling as part of the Welsh lady’s next story.  A home-boy walks in with a stuffed chicken head on his bonce.  The storyteller requests everyone to sit down.  Our latest arrival stays standing.  A roar of ‘Sit down Chicken-Head-Boy’ comes barrelling across the tent.  He sits.  We own the tent.  After 3 hours we leave.  Hugs.  Thank Yous.  Promises to return tomorrow.  A girl is spotted trying to get out of a pair of wellies.  Tony and Killian chivilarously  help her.  She laughs when she’s called ‘Big Foot’.  We’re bullet-proof.  Every stall in the place is visited.  Blacksmiths.  Wood-whittlers.  Abalone-jewellers.  We talk to them all.  Did I mention we were drinking?  Land in a tent where didgeridoos are being sold.  2 hours later we’re still there.  A pilgrim is selling his home-brew cider for a pound from an old pram at the front of the stall.  We’re good customers.  The didgeridoo salesmen are sound heads.  They finally ask the cider seller to leave.  We go too.  We visit Ye Olde Englishe Pub.  Sit in the garden.  Play intense fussball in the cockpit of a plane.  Tony hands Aidan his ass on a plate.  More games of fussball in a bar with 50s rock ‘n’ roll playing.  More guest players than the Jimmy Magee All-Stars.  We meet a native of Rathmore.  More drink.  We sit at the corner of the Jazz World stage.  Food is bought but very little is eaten.  Talk to a group of Croats and Aussies.  Next up are a gang of Liverpool girls.  Aidan ends up marrying one of them.  Tony is the stylist for the wedding.  Killian is the priest.  Her friends are the bridesmaids.  There’s speeches.  A ring.  A bouquet is thrown.  There’s a first dance to Estelle.  The brides name?  Technicalities.  There are no tears at the leaving of Liverpool ladies.  We try to find Acoustic Stage for Sinead O’Connor.  We give up when we find another bar.  Back to Jazz World for Jimmy Cliff at 11pm.  First real music of Glasto.  His voice is shot to rags.  ‘Many Rivers To Cross’ is still the greatest song there will ever be.  ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, ‘The Rivers Of Babylon’.  Jimmy Cliff!!  The One & Only!!  The one and only act we saw on Friday….

The night is still young.  Dancing takes place under a circle of flags.  Aidan talks to Jean and Tallulah from Nottingham.  They watch Killian empty-reach against a flagpole.  He saunters over.  They ask ‘did you see any music today?’  He replies ‘Wycleff’.  They look perplexed.  They don’t make any excuses, just leave.  An hour is spent in Shangri-La watching the madness unfold.  Next up, the trio are in a tent talking to Roxy and a ‘part-time adventurer’ who lived in Hungary ‘til he was 10.  The only drink they’ve left is some concoction that has brandy as an ingredient.  Tony orders this.  And tells them to leave out everything except the brandy.  When leaving there’s an incident with a ladder.  So it goes.  Almost home, the trio are invited to a party at the back of a stall.  Majority rules, so no party.  The longest (and greatest) day is nearly over.  We can hear the birds singing.  Barely.  The hills are alive with the sound of dry-reaching.  It was one of those had to be there days.  Three were there.  Thank you for the daze.  

Day 3 in The Glasto Brothers House.  Restless night for Killian.  Empty reaching vociferously on many occasions.  English neighbours could be heard complaining about uncouth, ruffian antics.  Next morning, same neighbours sympathetically claim ‘Our hearts went out to you’.  800 years and still they lie to us.  Tony is requesting a new pancreas.  Aidan is philosophical and saying ‘You can’t have the rainbow without the rain’.  Killian is declaring it all ‘Gallasness upon Gallasness’.  Lot more sedate than madness of yesterday morning.  Then, bumps were given to an Aussie girl for her birthday.  Now, talk is a hardship.  Make Pyramid stage in time for Seasick Steve.  ‘Woke up this morning with a Mariachi band playing in my head’.  As sick as the plane to Lourdes.  Lie on the grass.  Crowded House.  Perfect pop.  ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’.  ‘Distant Sun’.  Flawless songs.  Meet Killian’s friend Joe Kidd and his girlfriend.  Very little chat.  Agree to meet later.  Still ill.  Two of the crew go for a toilet stop against a hedge.  Spotted by the Pee Police.  Whistles blow.  Trumpets sound.  The police expect an apology.  They get a lesson in flora and fauna.  Uneasy truce.  Lose our bearings.  Take sun at back of field where The Wombats are laying claim to being the worst band ever.  Some sleep.  Some beer.  Some Duffy.  She’s a hottie.  Meet Welsh girl Pixie in a random tent.  She’s the 437th person to think Aidan says Ian when he gives his name.  As she leaves Aidan asks her for a hug.  Lost in translation.  He asks again.  She says ‘I work in a cinema’.  Hilarity.  Great hugs for all three though.  Some Raconteurs.  Take up position by Somerset Cider bus.  No sign of Joe Kidd.  Stroll to see Manu Chao.  Good festival music.  People watch.  Tony sees some of Amy Winehouse.  Battles.  Choose Ethiopiques ahead of Jay-Z.  Bit too downbeat.  And white.  Massive Attack.  ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.  Aidan meets Brit who says it was good to hear them play ‘Bittersweet Symphony’.  Aidan agrees.  Brit laughingly points out that’s a Verve song.  Aidan’s brain is somewhere in a field in Hampshire.  He feels as small as this.  Check out Squarepusher.  Sounds like roadworks, fingernails on a blackboard, a hyena giving birth.  Mixed in the engine of a jumbo jet.  We don’t hang around.  Some kitsch 80s hits in The Queens Head pub.  We let the night drift by.  The cider is dry.  The Carlsberg is warm.  The tents are a-calling.  Jay-ZZZZZzzzzzzz

Sunday.  Anti-Irish sentiments aired in Killian’s direction throughout the night.  Decide to move our tents to avoid an incident.  End up beside Croatians we’d met on Friday night.  Eau De Glasto is strong from all of us.  Decide we’ll up the quotient of bands we’ll see.  Eating Welsh Oggies sitting at back of Other Stage.  Black Cherry giving it loads.  ‘Remember my name Man, ‘cos we’re going places’ says female singer.  A lot.  They’re crap.  Hoodoo Gurus are a blast.  ‘I Want You Back’ is a terrific highlight.  End up in tent where Musical Bingo is about to start.  We play.  Tony is first to get a line.  Bingo!  He wins a pair of inflatable eyeballs.  Result!  Have beer during okayish Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Killian goes back to tent for a nap.  Tony and Aidan stroll to pastures new.  Billy Bragg walks past.  Watch Marcus Brigstocke be politically correct.  And funny.   Tremendous anti-war speech from Tony Benn.  Huge applause.  Neil Diamond on Pyramid Stage.  In the sun.  Life is good.  Sound not so good.  ‘Sweet Caroline’ is ‘a moment’.  Next up Goldfrapp.  Open with ‘Human’.  Girls in bikinis cavort on-stage.  Nice.  They’ve cat whiskers painted on their faces.  Not so nice.  Sir Leonard of Cohen ambles on.  A true star.  Unlike in Dublin he plays ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’.  Makes an arse of it.  What’s a harmonica solo doing in the middle of it?  ‘So Long, Marianne’ is tops.  ‘Hallelujah’ is spine-tingling.  Cohen is the king.  Meet the brainless hordes heading to see The Verve.  Sneer at the idiocy.  Lovely relaxing beers as news comes through of Spain’s Euro triumph.  UNKLE are fantastic in one dance tent.  Derrick May is Detroit Techno godhead in the other.  Hit the John Peel Stage for The National.  No consensus on their merits.  Tony is anxious for more music.  Lightweights are thinking of the morning ahead.  Hello tent for the last time.  Agree to get moving at 4am. 

Killian wakes other pair at 3am.  Dozy spanner thinks it’s time to be leaving.  He’s impolitely told to do one.  Rolling Stones can be heard blasting out ‘Brown Sugar’.  Crowd are going mental.  Aidan tries to work out would the old boys really be here at this time.  Tries to work out will he get up.  ‘Tumbling Dice’ is played.  The Rolling Stones are playing a field away!  ‘Paint It Black’ is cut short by an interview.  It’s a film.  Back to sleep.  Up at 4.  Pack tents.  Take place in queue for bus.  Lovely morning in the Vale of Avalon.  At castle Cary Train Station in double-quick time.  Unlucky not to get on first train.  Have tea and rolls sitting on platform.  Train to Bristol.  Heart-attack on a plate in greasy spoon.  Bus to Bristol Airport.  Join Glasto hordes lying on the grass outside terminal.  Emotional goodbyes.  Tony meets Manu Chao at the airport and returns to Dublin to the arms of Elaine.  Aidan meets Massive Attack on the flight to Cork and returns to see Neil Young play 15 minute geetar solos in The Marquee that night.  Killian returns to Shannon and gets to spend a few days docked in the Port of Waterford.  The trio have survived Glastonbury 2008.  Hallelujah.

Ralph Mexico

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Responses

  1. Read you loud and clear!!!

    • Nice work Ralph Mexico, you C***!!!

  2. Should have gone to see the Orient, mate.

  3. I await spurs pool rematch at anfield and see how the c***’s do then!!

  4. Forever blowing bubbles!! Ye were lucky this time! Keep us updated.

  5. Great stuff…..


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