Tuesday 31 January 2023

That's What I Want

And so, farewell, then, Mr Barrett Strong. Who? I hear you ask...

In a long, long writing partnership with the late Norman Whitfield, Mr Strong was a powerhouse songwriter for Motown Records, and many of his creations remain beloved classics to this day. Including these:

The Northern Soul dancefloor in Fabulon is filling to the brim as we speak...

RIP, Barrett Strong (5th February 1941 - 29th January 2023)

Monday 30 January 2023

Plumas de pavo real!

Back to the commute...

Despite the "old ennui" that always envelops Monday mornings, I rejoice in the thought that there are only five days of this shit left to deal with before we fly off to our very much-needed week in the sunshine of the Costa del Sol...

...so on this Tacky Music Monday let's flamenco-handclap our way into that very countdown, shall we?, in the company of an old favourite - now digitally restored*:

Have a good week, dear reader.

[* click on the label for Maria Jimenez at the foot of this post to see previous occasions where I featured this video; it was pixellated to say the least!]

Sunday 29 January 2023

Having the time of your life

"Whatever sorcery this is, it works – and then some." - NME

Wow. There are few words that can adequately sum up the spectacle that is ABBA Voyage...

Housed in its own (flat-pack; easily transportable to another location) purpose-built 3000-capacity arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, it has sold out to full capacity practically every night since opening in May 2022. And for very good reason.

Despite the band officially splitting up forty years beforehand, the popularity of ABBA continued unabated in the intervening decades - boosted by their songs being featured in films such as Muriel's Wedding, the continued strong sales for their Greatest Hits album, and (of course) the popularity of the Mamma Mia behemoth. I've said many times, love 'em or loathe 'em, everyone knows the words to all of their hits! And hits galore there were on Friday night, when John-John, Madam Arcati and I went along to see the show.

The air crackled with excitement around the arena (tiered seating and "dancefloor" standing-room alike), as (after one of several animated sequences that serve to break up the evening's "live" segments) the unmistakably dramatic opening bars of The Visitors boomed from the 291 speakers - and rising through the floor came the "Fab Four" themselves!

At this point, my heart almost stopped - there they were indeed, hair swishing, costumes sparkling, youthful and at the peak of their powers. Suspension of disbelief is an oft-used cliché, but in this case it truly fits. Everything is believable; the band's interactions, the dancing, the smiles, the hugs, the flirting, their sheer charm (even the hairs on Benny's arms) are all there to see, clear as day. Yet these are merely the product of an amazing trompe-l'œil, courtesy of the brilliance of CGI specialists Industrial Light and Magic (the brains behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe) - the result of a painstaking process of motion capture photography using 120 cameras and hours of dedication from Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida (each of them now in their 70s) - to convince us all that we had been transported back to 1979, watching them perform on stage.

"I was left with no idea what was real and what was not. This bears overstating: I literally could not believe my eyes." - The Standard

And what a performance! They crammed in hit after hit - "performing" SOS, Chiquitita, Fernando, Mamma Mia, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) "live", accompanied by their excellent real-life backing band (who had their own chance to shine, with an energetic rendition of Does Your Mother Know?). Knowing Me, Knowing You and Lay All Your Love on Me were projected, video-style, on the 65ft-tall screens that stretched as a panorama all around the walls (and on opaque giant discs suspended over the audience), and Eagle and Voulez Vous served as backing music for the continuing animated segments - hilariously explained away by "Bjorn" as "breaks for costume changes". [Each member of the band had a turn at addressing the audience, segments that just added to the hyper-realism of the experience.]

Adding to the theatrics, of course, was the extravagant and brilliant light-show - from hundreds of pin-spotlights dancing across the audience, to the spinning mirrors reflecting laser-beams, to the neon-lit stage and the climactic multi-coloured dancing rope-lights over our heads and across the entire room.

"...the most enduring pleasure of the whole endeavour is exactly how uncheesy Voyage is; how it is not a Madame Tussauds with go-faster stripes." - The Guardian

It wouldn't be an "ABBA concert" if they didn't take time to slow things down a little, and they cleverly segued the classic When All Is Said And Done into the two hits from their "reunion" album from last year (also called Voyage), Don't Shut Me Down and I Still Have Faith in You - which was in itself a bit of a mindfuck, for here was the "1979 ABBA" singing songs from decades later - before having a bit of a laugh and a joke about their 1974 Eurovision Song Contest winning appearance [at which, notoriously, the UK jury gave them nul points], with a projection of that very performance of Waterloo on opaque screens above the stage.

The audience, including us, was unanimously on its feet by this stage (of course) and, with a rousing sing-along on Thank You For The Music, it was inevitable that the finale would be that eternal crowd-pleaser Dancing Queen!

Of course, with the audience in a state of near hysteria, and the deafening applause, there had to be an encore - The Winner Takes It All. Then, as the youthful ABBA departed the stage came the biggest surprise of all - as the Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid of today took to the stage to thank the audience and take a bow!! Or did they..? [Nope. They, too, were CGI "ABBA-tars".]

It was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, indeed...


[click any pic to embiggen - for the full-size versions right-click and "open image in new tab"]

Saturday 28 January 2023

Give it a rest, lard-arse

Your cat would make rude comments about your weight if it were capable of human speech, it has been confirmed.

Four-year-old tabby cat Wayne Hayes is limited to expressing his disdain for your body through scratches and tail flicks, but clearly thinks you could stand to lose a pound or seven.

Cat whisperer Mary Fisher said: “See how he arches his back and coughs up a fur ball when you open a packet of crisps? That’s his way of saying: ‘Give it a rest, lard-arse.’

“And the way he does an exaggerated bounce when you sit on the sofa? It speaks for itself but that’s him calling you a fat fuck. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what your cat and everyone else is thinking.

“Wayne isn’t exactly slender himself though, so maybe he’s projecting his internalised fatphobia onto you. That sounds like hypocritical dickhead behaviour, but remember it’s a cat we’re dealing with here.

“Either that or it’s the barrel-shaped bastard’s petty revenge for that one evening when you fed him five minutes later than usual. Cats never forgive their owners for that shit.”

The Daily Mash

Of course.

Friday 27 January 2023

A sense of expectation hangin' in the air

The weekend is just around the corner - and we're off tonight (thanks to joint birthday/Xmas gifts from the Swedish super-group's #1 fan John-John) to see the much-vaunted ABBA Voyage virtual concert in its glittering purpose-built arena in Stratford.

Can't wait!!

Here's a fave number from the (real) legends themselves; a perfect way to celebrate the end of another tedious week - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a great weekend, dear reader!

Thursday 26 January 2023

Fun and sunshine, there's enough for everyone

Heavens. You know you're getting old when you discover...

...that Andrew Ridgeley - the prettier half of Wham! - blows out sixty candles on his cake today!

With our much-needed sojourn to Spain looming (just a week-and-a-bit to go), what's more appropriate to play by way of a tribute than this?

That's Madam Acarti and I in Benalmadena.

We wish.

Many happy returns, Andrew John Ridgeley (born 26 January 1963)

Wednesday 25 January 2023

It's all about the pipes

Och Aye-yi-yi! Happy Burns Night, dear reader. Don't forget to pipe in your haggis...

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours...

...and these are some of ours!

From an article By Xenia Taliotis in (bizarrely) The Telegraph two years ago:

"I’m finding rhinestones in places where the sun definitely doesn’t shine. It’s one of the hazards of being Fantasy, but I think the one I found last night doesn’t belong to her.” Fantasy is Tony’s drag queen creation, a gorgeous confection of candyfloss-pink hair, six-inch sequinned skirts, seven-inch spangled heels, and perilously plunging tops. But this particular rhinestone has nothing to do with her.

It’s from a costume belonging to Tony’s brother, Kevin – or more accurately, to his alter ego, Veronica Green, recently seen on television sashaying away from RuPaul’s Drag Race following a positive Covid diagnosis.

Sibling relationships can be fraught at the best of times, but do Tony and Kevin’s dual brother/sister personalities bring twice the strife? “We certainly interact differently when we are in drag than when we’re not,” says Kevin.

“As brothers, we are really similar and while that can be bonding, it can also, at times, put us in situations where we try to outdo one another, even if it’s over something silly like gaming. Veronica and Fantasy are very different – plus they met as adults – so there’s none of the history of competing for parental attention or of being in the same school.”

Kevin says he can sometimes feel intimidated by Fantasy’s audaciousness, while Tony admits to being more deferential to Veronica than he is to Kevin. “She commands – or is that demands – respect. I can be quite snappy with my brother, but when Veronica walks into the room, there’s none of that. I wouldn’t dare.”

Yes! One of our neighbours is indeed Tony aka Fantasy Qween, and as Madam Arcati recently got talking to him/her (thanks to another old gossipy queen who lives in in our road), we received an invitation to go to his/her Quiz Night Cabaret on Saturday!

And so it was we hopped on the bus, ten minutes up the road, to the unlikeliest of environs for a drag show, the rather twee suburb of Southgate [famous for its marvellous Art Deco Tube station, for being built on what was the entrance to the vast Medieval royal hunting-ground of Enfield Chase, for the presence of one of the oldest (and once one of the largest) surviving oak trees in London, for being the birthplace of David Puttnam, Simon Mayo, Rachel Stevens and Amy Winehouse, and, er, that's it], to the venue - what would have been deemed anywhere else as a "workmen's club", but not here; far too middle-class for that - for what turned out to be a fun night!

We didn't win the camp-as-old-tits quiz [but then again, we weren't looking the answers up our phones], and loved the atmosphere that Fantasy managed to conjure up for the packed house; a mix of obvious regulars and "friends-of-the-family"...

...however, as might have been predicted, it was unquestionably Veronica Green who stole the show!

[click any pic to embiggen]

Here's a snippet of her perfomance, taken by the Madam:

Also on stage, not performing but doing the visuals, was the other neighbour, Tony/Fantasy's boyfriend Vangelis - who, it turns out, was a contestant on The Voice in 2016 and was hand-picked by Boy George to become his regular backing vocalist!

Here's Vangelis in full campery, in a video that features all our neighbours:

Wow. What a neighbourhood this is turning out to be! I'm waiting for the invitation to the barbecue this summer when we might meet Boy George...

Monday 23 January 2023

Better get rid of your accent!

Monday looms again...

After an eventful weekend - we went to a drag show in, of all unlikely places, the leafy and affluent suburb of Southgate (actually a stone's throw from here), on Saturday [more on that later, no doubt]; and yesterday I finally got a fully-functional set of venetian blinds up in our living-room, after a bit of a disaster with previous attempts.

Now it's time to go back to the grind, unfortunately. We need something completely OTT to wake us up on this Tacky Music Monday, and who better to fit the bill than not one, but two Patron Saints - last week's birthday girl [slap on the wrist for missing that!] Charo... and Cher!!

Campness abounds.

Have a good week, dear reader.

Sunday 22 January 2023

Gong hei fat choy!

...it's The Year of the Rabbit!

Time for a bit of Chas and Dave, methinks:

Chinese New Year 2023

Saturday 21 January 2023

Her name was Lola

Just two weeks to go, and we will be in Spain...

How opportune it is that today marks the centenary of the birth of one of Andalusia's greatest purveyors of the Flamenco tradition, "La Faraona" Señorita Lola Flores!

Here, by way of a tribute, is a mere sample of the great lady's repertoire...

¡Ella es maravillosa!

María Dolores "Lola" Flores Ruiz (21st January 1923 – 16th May 1995)

[click any pic to embiggen]

Friday 20 January 2023

Party like it's 1978

Zut alors! Our fave Gallic Patron Saint of Sparkly Frocks and Big Hair Dalida would have been 90 years old this week!

She's perfect on any occasion, of course, but for a pick-me-up at the end of another cold, drawn-out and tiring week, there's nothing like an all-wiggling all-posing performance by the grand dame and her safety gay (singular) Bruno Guillain to start the party - and Merci Disco c'est vendredi!

Dalida (born Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti, 17th January 1933 – 3rd May 1987)

Have a great weekend, dear reader!

Thursday 19 January 2023

Beano, bashed

RIP David Sutherland, illustrator for children's favourite comic The Beano for more than 60 years. Another piece of my childhood gone.

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Turned by fancy Southern ways

A man from Batley has been given a substantial fine for cutting his bacon butty in a manner unbecoming of a Yorkshireman.

Plumber Norman Steele, 46, was today ordered to pay £600 with 120 hours of community service by a court in Halifax, with the judge describing it as "the worst case of a Yorkshireman getting funny ideas I have ever seen".

Steele’s crime was discovered by his wife when she found him in the kitchen, not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, delicately slicing a sandwich from corner to corner.

Wife Barbara said: “I felt sick. His normal butty is a huge doorstep drowned in ketchup and eaten whole, but this was poncey wholemeal bread arranged neatly on a plate. I could tell it wasn’t the first diagonal sandwich he’d made.

“In all our years of marriage he’s been hiding a creative, sensitive side. I should have realised his head had been turned by fancy Southern ways when he wanted mayonnaise on his chips instead of gravy.

“I feel like such a fool. I’ve moved in with my parents while the divorce goes through.”

Judge Mary Fisher said: “Mr. Steele exhibited a blatant disregard for the bluff, tiresome ways of God’s Own County.

“However I rejected a custodial sentence because I believe Mr Steele was genuine in his desire to make a fresh start in life and not move on to more serious crimes such as focaccia with olives.”

The Daily Mash

Of course.

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Now, Baby, Now!

What else would the British weather throw at us after a few days of rain... than sub-zero temperatures, guaranteed to kill the last few remaining plants in the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers that had mistakenly thought winter was over?!

Deep joy.

Let's have little "lounge-music-a-go-go interlude" to warm us up, shall we? - courtesy of the genius of Soft Tempo Lounge:

Ah. That's better.

[Music: The Pandora Orchestra - Running Free]

Monday 16 January 2023

You're broken-hearted, but you go on

Monday has come around again. Too soon. Too soon!

Never mind, eh? Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of one of our greatest Patron Saints, The Merm - and what better wake-up call on a Tacky Music Monday could one ever have than she..?!

Ethel Merman (born Ethel Agnes Zimmermann, 16th January 1908 – 15th February 1984)

Sunday 15 January 2023

My personal philosophy is kill or be killed

"I don't bury hatchets. I sharpen them."

“I enjoy funerals. I’ve been crashing them since I was old enough to read the obituary section.”

"You know the old saying: never bring a knife to a sword fight. Unless it's concealed"

"Use the words 'little' and 'girl' to address me again and I can't guarantee your safety."

"I see the world as a place that must be endured, and my personal philosophy is kill or be killed."

"I know I’m stubborn, single-minded and obsessive. But those are all traits of great writers. Yes, and serial killers."

“For the record I don’t believe that I’m better than everyone else. Just that I’m better than you.”

At our latest "binge-watch" yesterday, John-John and I not only completed watching the She-Hulk series, and watched two further Marvel specials Werewolf By Night and the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special [Bah Humbug], but managed to also watch back-to-back all eight episodes of the cult Netflix hit series Wednesday, which places The Addams Family's sepulchral daughter front and centre of the action. I'd heard good things about it, and wasn't disappointed.

The show is firmly marketed at a "Young Adult" audience, so has all the expected tropes of the genre - fumbling teenage relationships, angst, "believing in yourself", rivalries, a smattering of "socially aware" issues around societal stigma, identity, sexuality, climate; the usual shebang that goes with the territory - but with Tim Burton on board, you just know it rises above all that into something very quirky indeed.

The sinister nature of Addams Family lore pervades everything here, from the Gothic architecture of the Nevermore Academy (described by one reviewer as "Hogwarts for Goths") and its cobwebby secret passageways and hidden libraries, to the dark inversion of bad=good, and the campery that goes with it [it features many tributes to the 1960s TV series, too: the entry call for the secret doorway is its trademark "double-finger-snap"; an arcane book is hidden behind a dusty oil painting of Cousin Itt]. And as the most chilling of all the Addams the eponymous "Wednesday", Jenna Ortega is an absolute sensation! From the moment she exacts revenge on the water polo team that had been bullying her brother "Pugsley" at her most recent school - with piranhas! - she is utterly convincing as everyone's favourite cold-hearted junior psychopath. I loved her!

Her singular blooody-mindedness and lack of any concern what anyone thinks of her cleverly subverts the schmaltziness that American-high-school-based dramas tend to offer, and as Wednesday cruelly undermines everybody in her path - her candyfloss-coloured werewolf roommate "Enid" (Emma Myers), school top dog (and siren) "Bianca" (Joy Sunday), fellow pupils, prospective boyfriends ("Xavier" (Percy Hynes White ) and "Tyler" (Hunter Doohan ), both gorgeous), teachers (including "Miss Thornhill", played by Miss Ortega's predecessor in the role Christina Ricci) her therapist and the local townsfolk, as well as her battles of wits with the magnificent Nevermore headmistress Larissa Weems (a superb performance by Gwendoline Christie) and the local Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane) - we still rooted for the malevolent little monster!

Speaking of monsters, the thread of the plot revolves around a series of gory murders in the area by a mysterious beast, and its potential link to the grim and supernatural history of the town and its environs; all of which Wednesday takes as a direct challenge that she (and her sidekick, the ever reliable disembodied hand "Thing") must investigate and solve. There are multiple twists and turns (of course), and some standalone interruptions to the ongoing story - not least the appearance of the Addams clan (with Catherine Zita-Jones as the imperious "Morticia"), and a hilarious "Uncle Fester" (Fred Armisen) - before the inevitable, action-packed denouément in which all the loose ends are tied up. Or are they? [There is a second series in the offing]

There is one scene in particular that has gone viral amonst the show's many fans - and here it is!

And, by way of a further taster, "a featurette"...

I highly recommend it!

Wednesday official Netflix page

Saturday 14 January 2023

Friday 13 January 2023

Enjoy your nightmares, Honey, when you're resting your head


It might be the (very, very, very) welcome end of another stressful week, but it's also the day when everyone is supposed to beware ladders, opening umbrellas indoors and shoes upon the table, and look for that lucky black cat...

...Thank Disco (and Basement Jaxx) It's Friday (the Thirteenth)!

Have a good weekend, dear reader - don't smash any mirrors!

Thursday 12 January 2023

Against my window

The weather's grim out there. The garden's looking like a pile of soggy rags. Bleurgh!

Time to dig out some suitable clothing for the commute to work...

...like Precious Wilson and her boys!

Keep dry, dear reader.

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Tuesday 10 January 2023

The man who designed the Seventies

What connects these iconic and familiar items, each intrinsically associated with the 1970s?

...they were all the brainchild of one person - the frighteningly prodigious designer Tom Karen, whose death was recently announced.

What a remarkable man.