writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Tag Archives: musical advent calendar

Musical Advent Calendar Day 24: Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town/Mariah Carey – All I want for Christmas

I’m not a great fan of the modern, non-geographical, use – or over-use – of the word ‘journey,’ to describe a period of personal development of some kind. So I’m going to call this month’s musical advent calendar a trip instead.

It’s not been without its dilemmas (and one discovery has been how to spell that word). Each piece of music carries with it some sort of freight: I haven’t consciously tried to be unduly ‘cool’ in my choices, but, for example, there’s not been any Abba, when there clearly could have been.

Beyond that, though, the songs and the act of choosing them have stirred up memories, almost all good, of various things: events and periods in my life I associate them with; gigs I’ve been to; but most of all, the familial and other relationships they evoke.

Frozen Spider’s Web in Fife, earlier this year

I write this morning from our flat in Edinburgh, where we’re spending Christmas with Daughter and Heiress. It’s the first time we’ve done that: and yet, even though we still live full time in Fife, coming here still feels like coming home. Who knows, this could be the start of a new Christmas tradition for us…

…and as daylight slowly breaks over stormy, red-edged skies, I know that the rest of my small but perfectly formed family are gathering together elsewhere. In Canberra, my brother and his wife will be preparing for their two sons coming round, along with my younger nephew’s girlfriend; my sister’s in London with her Son Number 2 and his girlfriend; my older nephew will be with his wife, his own daughter and heiress, and his in-laws near Stirling. And wherever we are, I know two things: we’ll be raising a glass to those missing, and there will be music of some kind going on.

I’ve always considered myself the least musical of my siblings: I mean, they’ve both got Grade 107 or whatever in proper instruments like piano, violin and viola, and sing in choirs. I’ll never be much more than an average guitar player, and my singing’s not really up to much. But music, this month has taught me if I hadn’t known before, is a part of me. It’s been the soundtrack to my happiest moments; it’s kept me going through the most laborious of workaday chores; and in my darkest times, it’s been my salvation.

Grandpa Anderson’s Christmas Rose Pics: Alison Ferguson

So of whatever religion or none, celebrating the winter solstice or the longest summer day south of the Equator, I hope Bruce, Clarence and the rest of the band soundtrack a great day for you all, and thanks for listening!

I could have left it there. But Mariah Carey is a guilty pleasure. Yeah I know it’s cheesy, and she’s a total diva etc etc, but that joy in her voice when she hits the final top note: you can’t tell me that was a chore for her. You can act all cool and say, huffily, ‘well, I was going to give him Springsteen, but Mariah Carey! ‘ sake…’ all you like. I bet you click on the vid when no-one’s watching.

Last chance to donate to the Myanmar Red Cross Appeal




























They’ll be selling you stuff down here. Why not wait and see what’s under the tree for you


Musical Advent Calendar Day 21: Randy Newman – Political Science

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Winterval in Waterford.

As we inch (so it seems this year) ever closer to the Big Day, I keep thinking, I should really start doing something a bit more festive. And I have done – well, sort of. There was the Prince track last Friday to get you gee’d up for your office parties. And … errr … Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ had the word ‘red’ in it, and that’s a Christmas colour?

Anyway, here’s a song I’ve loved for decades about the US blowing up the rest of the world, so suck it up!

Seriously, Randy Newman is an under-appreciated songwriter. I don’t think he minds too much, as he has a side line scoring major Hollywood movies, which presumably keeps the wolf from the door: since you ask, Wikipedia tells me –

“His film scores include Ragtime, Awakenings, The Natural, Leatherheads, Cats Don’t Dance, Meet the Parents, Cold Turkey, and Seabiscuit. He has scored eight DisneyPixar animated films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, Monsters University, and Cars 3, as well as Disney’s The Princess and the Frog and James and the Giant Peach.

Newman has received twenty Academy Award nominations in the Best Original Score and Best Original Song categories and has won twice in the latter category. He has also won three Emmys, six Grammy Awards, and the Governor’s Award from the Recording Academy.[3]”

He wrote this, by the way, in 1972. Thank goodness it’s lost its topicality.

What? Oh really? Still a thing? Sorry, American chums. I know you’re on the side of the angels.


Yeah, I know, I say this every time. But really, these guys the military regime have kicked out of Myanmar who are living in refugee camps could use some help.



































































Adverts below here. Buy stuff before America drops the big one!


Musical Advent Calendar Day 20: Nick Cave – Red Right Hand

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Another Nick Cave song? How can I justify it? Well, Daughter and Heiress decided the other night to add a touch of ginger to her blonde locks. There was hair dye all over the bathroom, although to be fair she cleaned most of it up. You know what though? Just as well she wore gloves, because by the end she had a Red Right Hand.




Still time to give to the Red Cross Myanmar Appeal and help those Rohingya refugees out.
































































Rampant commercialism below here. Possibly.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 19: LCD Soundsystem – How Do You Sleep

Roland SH-2000 Image Bonetech3D Conceptart Scifi ConceptsBonetech3D Conceptart Scifi Concepts

I do like to confound Daughter and Heiress’s expectations of my musical tastes. As young folks will know, LCD Soundsystem were big in the early years of this century, then disbanded, then came back together with everyone expecting they would just do, like, a greatest hits package. However, instead they produced the critically acclaimed ‘American Dream,’ which has just topped Uncut’s list of albums of the year.

My nephew Jonny, who’s in his thirties (is that Generation X, as opposed to D & H’s Millenial? Who knows… or cares…) sent me as my birthday present in September Mogwai’s latest, and ‘American Dream.’ I didn’t expect to like it. I mean, synths?

However, I did and I do. This is one of my favourites, with an insistent, vaguely Celtic, drumbeat starting things off, and then things slowly building and building until, several minutes in, there’s this big slab of synth kicks in…

Probably back to something guitar-based tomorrow.



Think of giving to the Myanmar refugees. You’ll sleep easier. See what I did there?

















The American Dream couldn’t exist without commercials. But you can.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 17: Lucinda Williams – Everything But the Truth

I reviewed the album this comes from, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, back when it came out a couple of years ago, so I won’t chunter on. However, this particular track is probably my favourite – it’s just straight-down-the-line stuff, with lyrics that get the message through on channel one and a fantastic backing band. I particularly liked the electric guitar sounds on this album, and the way the guitarists blend in different textures and riffs without necessarily anything flashy.

Instead of the entire video showing the album cover, I decided to go for this Youtube hyperlapse thing. If it gets too dizzying, you can always switch back to the album cover!


I hoped you enjoyed stopping by today. If I’ve put you in a charitable mood, my favoured cause at the moment is the Red Cross Appeal for the Myanmar refugees.























Below this line, people may try to sell you things. But you look like you’ve got your head screwed on.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 15: Prince – Kiss

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Although the music in this advent calendar is fairly resolutely not Christmassy, it’s impossible not to notice certain events in the lead up to the big day. And whether today is Christmas Jumper Day, or Dark Grey Friday, or whatever, one thing’s for sure – the way the days fall around the weekends, tonight will see one whole lot of works nights out. Including ours.

So, in the incredibly unlikely event of anyone wanting me to ‘bust some moves’ on the dance floor tonight (aka Dad Dancing), here’s a track that will get me up there every time. Also a karaoke favourite of mine, so be warned!

What a great video, incidentally. Not a lot of stars that size would send themselves up that way, now or then. Sadly missed.

I don’t do hard sell, but if I did I’d push the idea of giving money to the Rohingya refugees as hard as I could.




















Down here are WordPress adverts camping out on my page. You know what they can kiss?

Musical Advent Calendar Day 14 – Camille O’Sullivan: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

I got up today with every intention of giving you more Nick Cave, in the shape of ‘Red Right Hand,’ or maybe ‘God is in the House,’ but as covered by Camille. Then I fired up Youtube and came across her version of Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’ and thought, that’s going in. I’ve seen her do it live, although that was a couple of times ago. It starts conventionally enough, just her and the guitar, and then it builds. And builds…

I didn’t realise, until I started doing this advent calendar, how many gigs I’ve been to this year, and that includes seeing Camille at the Fringe. The venue and sound wasn’t great, but she still was. If you’re looking for someone that can interpret Cave, Cohen, Dylan, Brel and Bowie, and make them her own, then she’s your woman.

I must admit to having a huge crush on Camille. Well, who wouldn’t? She’s half-French, half-Irish, and she sings like a fallen angel.

I have heard on reliable authority she’s a bit of a diva off-stage. Well, I should damned well hope so.



This blog isn’t sponsored by anyone, but you might want to sponsor some of the refugees living in camps on the Bangladeshi border, driven from their homes by ethnic and religious cleansing. If so, go here for the Red Cross Appeal.























Adverts down here for fuck knows what. I don’t.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 13: Kula Shaker – Hush

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I’ve got warm memories of Kula Shaker from last year, when I saw them live twice: once in February, when they were launching K2.0, a good-in-parts new album, and then around this time in December. Again, I’ve blogged about both gigs before, so I won’t go into too much detail about them.

I love their own stuff, but having posted some of that up too in the past, here’s a Deep Purple cover they do a truly excellent version of live.


You know the drill by now: here’s where I appeal to your better nature to support the Myanmar refugees.























I’m afraid it’s against my nature to endorse stuff i don’t know about. So anything below here isn’t endorsed by me.

Musical Advent Calendar Day 5: Ashes to Ashes – or, Grousebeating to Bowie

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I always had a somewhat complicated relationship with David Bowie, and I blame my childhood best mate Nick Clarke, who was such a fan he put me off him. I suspect I did the same for him with Dylan.

However, it wasn’t all Nick’s fault: I’ve always at heart been a bit of a meat n’ potatoes rock bloke, although I do like a meaningful lyric, as you may have noticed. Bowie was always a bit too arty for my taste, a bit too experimental. However, I’ve chosen this track partly to honour the Thin White Duke, and partly to recall a memory it triggers.

August, 1980. I was about to turn 18, and go into first year at Uni. First, though, there was a late summer job to be had grousebeating in Aberdeenshire. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, let me outline the task in hand.

Red Grouse, or to get the species right, Lagopus lagopus scoticus, are a game bird popular amongst the huntin’ and shootin’ fraternity in the Highlands. The big estates manage populations of them to provide ‘sport’ for the toffs who like to pop at them from gun butts on remote Highland hillsides. The grouse live amongst the heather on the hill, and if left to themselves would probably scuttle about in there eating their mainly vegetarian diet as happy as Larry. They’re dumpy wee things that aren’t the best at flying, to say the least.

Which is where the beaters come in. I and my fellow students performed that function, at least back then. You were furnished with a big stick with a fertiliser sack on it, and directed to walk in a line, waving your stick in such a way that the stiff plastic snapped and scared up the grouse who, gamely, attempted to fly away from the strange noises and scruffy students in the direction of the gun butts.

It’s fair to say that, radical republican firebrand that I was, the concept of yomping through three-foot high heather up a hill just so that a bunch of posh English twats could blast some defenceless creatures out of the sky did give me some ethical dilemmas (as did the spelling of that word, by the way). It’s probably just as well Braveheart hadn’t come out by then, as I might have been tempted to inspire my fellow students into a short re-enactment of the battle of Bannockburn. Given that we were always downhill from the toffs, they were the ones with the guns, and we were armed only with fertiliser sacks tied to sticks, it would have been a pretty short and inaccurate re-enactment.

Whatever, the pay was good, there was a great camaraderie amongst us casual labour, and the gamekeeper’s wife cooked us hare stew – you even got, with your evening meal, a can of McEwan’s Export! Some of the guys couldn’t hack the physicality of the job and left, but most of us stayed just about the full four weeks, until, three days before the end, we were told by the gamekeeper we were going back out in the pissing rain for an afternoon shift when he’d told us earlier we wouldn’t have to.

‘Right then, we’re on strike,’ we said.

‘Right then, you’re fired,’ said the gamekeeper. An early experience of unsuccessful labour relations. Needless to say, grousebeaters weren’t unionised. We were taken off the hill and put on the next train south: to be fair, they were very civilised about it all.

What has all this got to do with Ashes to Ashes? Just that it had been released as a single that August, and was an immediate hit – Bowie, emerging from his Berlin period, had decided to write a more commercial record. Part of its success was the video, ground-breaking for the time: but that odd guitar synth figure that runs through it stood out just as much for me. I never knew it was guitar synth until I looked up Wikipedia just now, by the way.

That and the lyrics, of course.

If you’ve got some to spare this month, you might want to spare it on the Red Cross Myanmar Appeal.





























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Musical Advent Calendar Day 2: Filthy Tongues

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It’s not all going to be Dylan and Springsteen, this advent calendar! Not even Cave and Cohen, though they’ll no doubt put in an appearance. Today, I thought I might as well mention the band I’m going to see tonight: the Filthy Tongues, playing at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms.

I’m going with my guide and mentor in all things indie music-related, Mr Manic Pop Thrills, and I first saw the FTs and one of Mike’s gigs in Dundee. If you like the music, you can read a lot more about them in his interview with their front man, Martin Metcalfe, who has some interesting things to say about life with his current band compared with his days with Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Better still, I’ll see you at the gig tonight!

If this leaves you feeling charitable, you might want to think about donating to the Red Cross appeal for the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.















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