#301 theoldmortuary ponders

Sunday, full disclosure, I didn’t write the main body of this blog. I am the ‘ old friend’ mentioned in the text. These blogs do all come out of somewhere, my daily interactions with people, this one comes from a real but email friendship. I love the writing style of my lovely friend Dai. We grew up in the same idylic village in North East Essex. We were awkward teenagers in the same location, young adults,medium adults and now older adults half a world apart. Our email contact mulls over all sorts of topics. We truly do not stick to reminiscing. I had no idea quite how to introduce this guest blog until a fact brought the 1970’s into sharp focus.

2022 is as far from 1970 as 1970 was from 1918. With that mind bending thought the blog is officially handed over to Dai. Not so much a blog more a Sunday Supplement.

It’s a modern trope often heard among the cohort of a certain age, that modern music isn’t a patch on the music of their day, which was without question the ‘golden age’ of popular music. Being a child of the 70s, I often find myself lapsing into this sort of diatribe in which the hopelessness and futility of the younger generation is laid bare by what passes as creative output in the form of the latest modern music. At such times I find myself sounding frighteningly similar to my own father who would bang on in the same vein whenever I cranked up the volume on the latest Slade single, or heaven forbid started playing that awful racket of an album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

As far as my father was concerned the zenith of popular music had already been reached by the likes of Mr Acker Bilk, Vera Lynn, Paul Robeson, and in all likelihood such heights would never be surpassed despite all the recent advances in recording technology.
So, what is it with popular music? Is it simply a generational thing, or is there more to it than that? George Bernard Shaw, observed that, “music is the brandy of the damned.” But then, again, he also promoted eugenics and opposed vaccination, so it could well be that when it came to popular music old Georgie boy was more of a conservative in his views than my father. Noel Coward, on the other hand claimed, “It is extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” And that is a statement with which we can agree because there is no doubting the power of music to uplift, to decrease anxiety and to invoke memories and emotions long locked away and all but forgotten. “Music has the charms to soothe the savage breast (yes, the correct quote is breast and not beast as is often quoted), to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve (dramatist of the 1600s). Music provides the soundtrack to our lives and in cases of individuals suffering even severe dementia, music has proven to possess the power to slice through the fog to release and retrieve old memories believed, lost forever, as well as restoring a sense of happiness and a lessening of depressive thoughts. Medical research, through the use of brain imaging technology has also demonstrated that listening to melodic music can stimulate the brain to produce increased amounts of dopamine and serotonin, the ‘feelgood’ hormones which may even result in the improvement of some disease symptoms without the need for pharmaceutical intervention.
Without too much effort we can all probably name a piece of music which can instantly transport us back to a specific time and place, complete with the attendant emotions and sensations we were experiencing that particular moment in time. In the case of an old school friend the trigger is the song by America, The Horse With No Name. The mere sound of the opening strummed chords and she is instantly teleported back 50 years in time and immediately becomes once again, despite all her subsequent achievements and success, that awkward, insecure lonely teenager trying to negotiate that most difficult of transitions from a small insular primary school to the overwhelming chaos of a large comprehensive secondary school. It isn’t just the music and the song she can recall so vividly but all of the associated emotions, passions and feelings. Music has the power to summon forth this episodic memory, often connected with a difficult or stressful period in life, which can lie dormant and suppressed until released by the strains of a familiar song. For me it’s Bachman Turner Overdrive belting out You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. The reason being this song was on high rotation at the time my family decided to emigrate to Australia, a decision with which I was not in total agreement as it meant being uprooted and removed from all that was familiar, including an only recently discovered love-interest, at a critical time in my life.
Hearing that song and I am immediately transported from the perpetually sunny climes of cosmopolitan Melbourne back to the damp overcast mediocrity and greyness of Northeast Essex. The reaction on hearing the music is a visceral one. Yes, it can be a painful experience but simultaneously an uplifting and joyful one as I morph once again into that wide-eyed 17-year-old ready to take on the world; and, as things turned, out more or less succeed.
We’ve probably all got a song that can performe a similar time-shifting trick, complete with stirring emotional resonances but does this prove that music of yesteryear is better than the contemporary efforts? Well, no, but there are further aspects to this argument which should be explored before we cast a final judgement. The thing about music in the 70s was that it was generally speaking new and fresh. When Jimi Hendrix burst onto the scene the things, he was doing with the electric guitar had never been done before, and I don’t just mean setting fire to it. It was like WOW! Did you hear that? What made Bowie so incredible was the originality and creativity of the man as he strode so confidently down a road absolutely no one had walked before him. Bob Dylan may not have been everyone’s cup of Lap sang su Chong but he was a pioneer in fusing popular music with older more traditional forms such as folk he may never win any prizes for his singing but he did win a prize for his lyric writing, a Nobel prize for literature no less. Which means that today’s music almost inevitably is saddled with a sense that it’s all been done before and let’s be honest usually much better. But I believe there’s more to it than that. The way the music was presented was also an integral part in the way it was consumed. The pop charts mattered, most of us listened to the same radio station and watched the same tv music show simply because there weren’t many options. This meant that when a song became popular it permeated and left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness.This was also the age of the long form content. In this time of Tick Tock and Twitter and SMS texts, the concept of the LP is probably a totally alien one for the present generation to grasp. But back in the day the album reigned supreme, The artist would put as much care and effort into sorting out the track listing as in the writing of the material. And the listener would devour the album as a complete entity not as individual pieces of music. The other aspect of albums was the cover artwork, many album covers of this period became as iconic as the music itself, think Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, the Beatles, Sgt Peppers. The list is extensive. The songs on an LP can’t be shuffled skipped or readily rearranged. The listener is forced to hear the work complete in the exactly way the artist intended. This requires a certain commitment and level of concentration on behalf of the listener, which would not come naturally to the fickle, more easily distracted youth of today. On the subject of albums when I was 17 there were three albums that were played constantly on the rickety old turn-table in the 6th form common room, namely
Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the centre of the Earth
Mike Old field’s Tubular Bells and
Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad surgery
These records were what was referred to as progressive rock, in fact they were quasi classical in style.
And not a hit single between them. They definitely required commitment and a certain intellectual response from the listener. Yet they were all highly successful both critically and commercially and would be played from start to finish over and over again. Each track, you could hardly call them ‘songs’. Would go on for 20 minutes or more. I would argue that our brains were obviously more highly developed than those of the present custodians of popular culture who are so easily satisfied by gorging themselves stupid on the output of Justin Beiber, Katy Perry and One Direction. And as problematic and contentious as it may be. I am happy to state for the record, no pun intended, that the both the music and the listening public of my youth, are in a completely different class when compared to the examples of today.

Or am I being too harsh? After all, no matter how dismissive and disparaging I am of the state of modern music it is the batch of contemporary artists who will create the soundtrack and music memories for the current generation, though, only time will tell whether this output will be as memorable and enduring as that of earlier eras. Then again, not all music generated in the 70s was fresh, innovative and ground-breaking, some examples were derivative, shallow, disposable bubble-gum pap, I’m looking at you Gary Glitter. Perhaps trying to decide whether one period of music is better than another is simply too subjective an exercise to be able to produce a really definitive answer. For example, if 20 people were asked to compile a list of the best albums of all time, the chances are no more than one or two albums would appear on multiple lists. Still, maybe thinking about constructing such a list might provide an interesting and equally contentious subject for a future blog.

#66 theoldmortuary ponders

Sunday evening found us going out, out! Just like the backdrop on the stage, going out, out is a tortuous path of Covid regulations now we have entered the age of Omicron.

Two pieces of Covid data.

Gave us access to the auditorium and bar. The bar had no seats but in these hygienic times there is no problem sitting on the floor as everything is cleaned to perfection.

Almost perfection, ordering at the bar had its humorous Omicron twist. You can buy bottled drinks but they can only be served with the lid removed. Nothing says hygiene more than a busy bartender twisting off the hygienically sealed lid with their hands and passing it to you to drink directly from the bottle.

Enough of Omicron, we were out, out to see National Treasure and multi talented musician, actor and comedian Bill Bailey.

©Twitter Bill Bailey

We had a fabulously entertaining evening out, how wonderful to laugh with hundreds of others rather than at home.

#27 theoldmortuary ponders

The reason for yesterdays late blog and slight discombobulation of the daily blog schedule was that I was scurrying around to get tasks done so I could be in a calm frame of mind to attend an on-line broadcast of a funeral. While such things are never easy this particular funeral had lovely and unexpected music. Ave Maria by Sarah Brightmam to start. Mr Brightside by the Killers to end.Proper wake up music for the soul . No one ever expects a gift from a funeral but hearing new music was exactly the gift from yesterday. New York by Riopy which calms the soul and may become a headphone favourite on my dog walks. Too good to not share!

Something lovely to just take some time out and enjoy.


Pandemic Pondering #465

Bobbing with bubbles is not a regular piece of behaviour at all but this had not been a normal bobbing week. Even more unusually we managed to use a Winston Churchill quote in the after swim nattering session. Friday bobbing is the most regular session and happens at about 10:30 each Friday morning.

This was our first Friday swim since moving house. Apparently we need to hurry up because the water is lovely once you get in!

Our first Wednesday day swim after moving featured a pod of Dolphins. Friday featured Pol Roger Champagne!

Bobbers getting giddy before noon is definitely not normal. New house owners getting giddy before more unpacking is surprisingly effective. Although not in all corners of a room.

A tidy sofa is essential for a little post-bob, post Pol Roger siesta. It is almost certain that Winston Churchill would not have needed a siesta after drinking Pol Roger in the morning. It was his favourite champagne and he drank it with a traditional Full-English breakfast often. Thankfully we don’t have his responsibilities or the budget for such a lifestyle. But just once with the lovely Bobbers after a sparkling swim was just perfect. Our bobbing friend Helen provided the Champagne. She also gave us the chance to hear her sharing her voice in a graffiti- decorated disused grain store not far from our Bobbing Zone.

Follow the link below to hear her voice paired with great acoustics and gorgeous Street Art.

Jenny of Oldstones performed by Helen Bobber.

A remarkable day in the Tamar Valley.

Pandemic Pondering #326

Friday- Remember Fridays!

6 years ago I was preparing for an exhibition in Brixton, London. At the time I was working in Central London and knew that in order to encourage my work colleagues and friends to an Art Gallery over a weekend I would need to advertise the areas proximity to a wide variety of places where people could mingle , drink and socialise into the small hours of the night. Somewhere culturally significant.

Electric Avenue*, Brixton.

By co-incidence, currently, I am helping to prepare for an exhibition. To encourage visitors to the exhibition I am advertising its safety, the fact that you can visit it alone and from the safety of your own home.


Fridays, they are not what they used to be…

* Electric Avenue. Built in 1800, the street was the first in the area to get electric street lights. The street is home to a famous multi- cultural street market and was made doubly famous by Eddie Grant, who wrote the song “Electric Avenue” in 1983 . At the time he was working as an actor at The Black Theatre in Brixton.

Fridays , not what they used to be but today I bet I have gifted you an earworm**

** An earworm, sometimes referred to as a brainworm, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, or, most commonly after earworms, Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI), is a catchy and/or memorable piece of music or saying that continuously occupies a person’s mind even after it is no longer being played or spoken about.

Have a Happy 2* Friday.

Pandemic Ponderings #155

Lyrics is the word for the Art Group prompt.

I created this image giving an almost identical value to the word and the picture.

Which is the most important?

The words or the music?

So many lyrics so little time was my first thought.

For this reason I sent myself down a rabbit hole , investigating the lyrics of one hit wonders. A genre of popular music that seems to suffer from less interesting lyrics, in my opinion. It was quite the rabbit hole and gave me an exception that proved the, self imagined, rule.

There is a curious transatlantic difference which muddied things a bit.Listed One Hit Wonders in the U.S are often from well established British bands that simply never made a prolonged success of music in the U.S. The lyrics of these One Hit Wonders are of a higher calibre.

The UK list has more solidly poor lyrics. Then a golden nugget of a One Hit Wonder landed at my fingertips.

One Hit Wonder on both sides of the Atlantic.

One Hit Wonder for the original writer.

One hit Wonder for the recording artist.

Poetry/Lyric crossover One Hit Wonder.

Surely in a Pandemic what the world needs is a re-release of Desiderata.

Max Ehrman was a lawyer and writer of Poetry. Desiderata was his only well known poem.

Les Crane was a spunky ex Air Force pilot who became a provocative and well respected TV presenter, quite what persuaded him to record a hippy new age recording of Max Ehrmans poem in 1971 is not making itself obvious to me. It’s more spoken word than lyric , but some of the words are sung, making it so much more lyrical.

It made him a One Hit Wonder

Lyrics, just words that take you places.

Serendipity Sunday

Detail from etched stained glass at The Bulls Head, Barnes.

Some days you get more time than is truly necessary for the task in hand. A trip to Barnes for a classical concert with some additional unexpected hours gave us time to explore the town and it’s excellent charity and coffee shops.The Thames shapes this northeast portion of the London Borough of Richmond- on- Thames. The Thames was our first destination. We were both gig rowers so we love a bit of paddle action. On a Sunday this portion of the river is busy with rowers, the boats seem impossibly flimsy compared to a sea- faring gig and the speeds impressive. The promenade alongside the river is raised up to give pedestrians a good view of the rowing. Crowds on this bank are a familiar sight on Boat Race Day. We walked for as long as the weather was good and then took shelter in The Bulls Head. I’ve wanted to visit this significant Jazz venue for a very long while. My dad loved Jazz, his desire to visit the jazz venues of his dreams and experience live jazz was thwarted, probably, by my arrival when he was only 27 and then by the realities of life. For a while when I was his adult child we shared some jazz experiences and since his death I’ve continued to, occasionally, dip into Jazz. I don’t give it enough attention,  every time I do I realise what I’m missing. The Bulls Head is a fabulous building for music, two Barnesian musicians have rooms named after them, Holst and Bolan. Not surprisingly the background music is brilliant, as was the food. Proper live Jazz in the back room will have to wait for another day. We were destined for a classical afternoon at St Michael and All Angels Church.


Barnes Concert Band gave a performance of Dixieland Jazz, ( so we did get some live jazz) Klezmer, classics and theme tunes. Over an hour of intriguing and different music played in a beautiful church with great acoustics was followed by an excellent afternoon tea also provided by the band.


theoldmortuary was there being supportive and proud of a brother and brother-in-law. He is the bands musical director. It was a really fabulous performance.



IMG_9963In our home we have to find space for ‘stuff’. The belongings or memorabilia from two sets of parents, now dead, and two previous individual homes. That’s a big ask of a small cottage. The sensible answer to this is that you can’t keep everything : recycling out to charity shops is not only the answer , it is also the right thing to do. If we don’t need it then a much better use is to generate money for a charity while getting it into the hands of someone else who can make use of it.

To achieve a  balance and have a home that is organically styled rather than superficially beautiful with no depth of character we have curated some collections.

Casually placed in a couple of rooms are small collections of old vinyl records. Pre dating bespoke covers they have cardboard sleeves advertising the shops that sold them. They take up very little space but give a big warm hug of remembrance every time they catch your eye.

Real Interior Design