Thoughts on the songs in tonight’s Eurovision semi-final

Apologies for missing a couple – they all merged into one after a while.

Denmark would be my top pick.

Norway – very energetic with excellent superimposed musical instruments. I liked it very much.

Netherlands – a classic Nashville country music rock song. It shouldn’t even be in the contest.

Denmark – very powerful and popular. The imagery of the four big blokes with beards is very strong. Great song.

France. OK. Didn’t really grab me but that may be because it is in French.

Italy – horrible captions on screen – like a news broadcast. Visually appalling. Threatening vocals.

Germany – Poor man’s Ed Sheeran. He has a bouncy castle behind him, onto which are projected some fantastically good graphics and old black and white photos. Very strong.

Moldova. White boxes and singer doubles. 1970s trick. Very old hat.

Georgia. Nice harmonies. Rather dreary.

Malta – Animals. Strong. Back projection is a little distracting.

Serbia – certainly sounds very Serbian but not riveting.

San Morino – lively and catchy. Deserves to get through to the final.

Hungary – assume the brace position before listening. Singer just shouts, but doesn’t shout very well. Ludicrous. Makes you realise how Led Zeppelin, Muse, Biffy Clyro etc make so much money. There has to be some musicality in the singing.

Russia. Nice song. Nothing special.

Romania -not sure what the tailor’s dummies are doing in the background.

Slovenia – quite good but the false music failure is just crazy and rather deceitful.

Ukraine – very strong.

Sweden – too dark. You need a torch to see the singer. They’ve used lots of fluorescent light strips so the whole thing has to be performed in darkness which looks awful. Song is an average Michael Jackson track circa 1980

Poland. Strong and bouncy. Nice hats.

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Fleetwood Mac – a band of two halves?

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I have recently been building a large personal playlist on a well-known music streaming service.

I have more tunes on there from Fleetwood Mac than any other band.

I have sixteen tunes from the Rumours and post-Rumours (post-1974) era.

I have eight tunes from the Green/McVie/Spencer/Fleetwood/Welch/Weston era from 1967 to 1974.

Fair enough. But I see Fleetwood Mac as two bands really. You only have to listen to their version of the standard “Everyday I have the Blues” from 1969 and compare it to “You make lovin fun” (both below on YouTube) to realise that.

Fleetwood Mac1 was very earthy and bluesy. Fleetwood Mac2 has folk and rocks roots but is very pop-orientated. Both of the Fleetwood Macs are excellent in their own way, but it really is a stretch to reconcile the two sharply juxtaposed styles.

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The outlandish glory of Professor Longhair

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It’s funny how convoluted routes can lead one to the most glorious music.

Walking around Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently (as you do) I overheard the phrase “working for the Yankee Dollar” being sung over the PA system of a local attraction. I noted it to add to my streaming playlist when I got home. It turns out the song was “Rum and Coca Cola” being sung by the Andrews Sisters. It is a wonderful rendition and will forever, now, remind me of our glorious trip to Malaysia.

When you search a song on a certain streaming service, it brings up several versions of that song. Anyway, once the Andrews Sisters’ version of “Rum and Coca Cola” played, my ears were assaulted by the most outlandish cacophony. It was the version of “Rum and Coca Cola” by Professor Longhair.

Until that moment, I had not heard of Professor Longhair. It turns out he was a New Orleans Blues pianist and singer, who lived from 1918 to 1980.

Anyway, on closer listen, the great blues man’s version of “Rum and Coca Cola” is absolutely brilliant! Yes, it sounds a bit out of tune at first, but taken as a whole it is absolutely gorgeous. It was recorded live February 3 or 4, 1978 at Tipitina Club, New Orleans. Here it is on YouTube:

The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars remember the Battle of Katia

I stand out on the left at the annual Battle of Katia memorial service at the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars memorial just outside Gloucester Cathedral yesterday, Sunday 22nd April. My grandfather, Charles Henry “Harry” Walter, was a volunteer in “D” Squadron with his horse, Susie from August 1914 to April 1918.

Two days after this report (below) in the Western Daily Press, my grandfather went to the recruiting station in Bristol and signed up.

He’s obviously not recorded on any war memorials, because he was lucky enough to survive the war and live to a ripe old age.

As is often said, you don’t get your name recorded in wartime unless you are dead, bad or get commended for an astonishingly brave act.

When Harry volunteered, his first port of call was Newbury Racecourse, where his regiment were training with their horses on Greenham Common.

After months of training on horseback, the regiment shipped off to Egypt. They left their horses there and fought as infrantrymen in Gallipoli. It seems a bit daft after all that training with horses, but perhaps that was one of the many “cock-ups” of the Dardanelles Campaign – I don’t know. I learnt yesterday that the Hussars insisted on continuing to wear their spurs on their boots during the Gallipoli campaign, even though they were on foot, to remind everyone that they were really cavalrymen!

Brexit: No cake, but let’s welcome the prospect of a nice big bit of fudge!

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Along, I’m sure, with many LDV readers, I’ve read hundreds of articles on the subject of Brexit over the last couple of years.

But one piece of writing has finally encapsulated a precise sensible solution to the whole sordid, messy business.

David Shariatmadari is a writer and editor for the Guardian in London. In a post yesterday entitled “On Brexit, the views of the 48% must be respected too. That’s democracy”, he argued that:

Given that the UK is split, it’s only fair if the government delivers ‘Brexit in name only’, as is looking increasingly likely.

After explaining that the Irish impasse will probably lead to the UK “both in a customs union and closely, if not entirely, aligned with the single market”, he concludes: Continue reading

We’ve given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations

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As Lib Dems we have campaigned long and hard for curbs on the government’s power to snoop on our internet data.

Yet, most of us (not all) have personally given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations – namely Facebook and Google.

I know, I have checked on my data held by Facebook and Google. You can do it too. Facebook had all my photos, posts, friends etc etc going back to February 2007. The data was 354 megabytes in size. That’s equivalent to 71 copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Continue reading

Radio 210’s Golden Days January 16th 1983

It’s taken me a while to get round to putting this up.

Apart from a broken cassette, it is the only record I have of part-time working at Radio 210 in Reading in the late 70s/early 80s.

I am very grateful to the folks at Radio 210 for letting me have a lot of fun and get the radio “bug” out of my system. The experience left me with a love of radio, an enhanced knowledge and appreciation of music (which I enjoy to this day) and, believe it or not, a very acute sense of timing. When hitting the news on the dot of the hour is the very highest priority, you tend to develop a skill for precise backward-calculation of timings!

This is a very good example of my programmes at 210. I loved doing “Golden Days” which was a great show for four hours on Sunday evenings, 9pm – 1pm.

I particularly loved doing competitions about music facts. There are plenty of those here. These days most of them would be impossible, because people would easily google the answers in a couple of seconds. In those days, if you didn’t know the answer, you had to schedule a visit to your local library to look it up.

I cannot believe that colour photo, which is the one I used to send out to listeners who asked for a photo of me. It displayed considerable brass neck on two fronts: a) for opening up my shirt like that and b) having my photo taken in front of that large house and grounds with the implication that it was my house, when in fact I simply rented a room in it!

Of course, in those days being a radio dee-jay was quite a physical task – I had a mini-van to carry boxes of records to and from the studio – then there was the job of sorting them out and playing them, putting themback in their sleeves etc. Then there was the task of getting out the adverts/jingles on big DAB cartridges.

Nowadays you more or less sit at a screen and click.

What was wonderful about the job then was being able to choose the records, including chopping and changing during the programme.

I did do one programme playing mostly 78 rpm records on shellac!

But at the other end of the scale, we did have the start of the digital revolution through a digital delay system which allowed phone-ins to be conducted seven seconds prior to broadcast. Then if someone swore or said something potentially defamatory, you just flicked a switch to ditch the most recent seconds of speech and go back to “live”.

I had to do this once when some silly fool swore on a phone-in. He apologised afterwards, thinking the offending word had been broadcast, but I took great pleasure in deflating his balloon by telling him that it didn’t go out on air!