Friday, 26 June 2020

T-shirt Friday 27!

We don’t need no education... or apples?

Many teachers are into rock. For proof of this you only have to look at the 2003 film 'School Of Rock' starring Jack Black. On the flip side many rock stars have started out on the path of rock ‘n’ roll glory by originally being teachers. Brian May famously left his PHD in Astrophysics to play guitar for Queen, only to come back full circle and complete it in 2007, going on to author a number of books on the subject and to work with NASA. Sting was an English Teacher and football coach, Mark Knopfler was a lecturer at Epping Forest College. Sheryl Crow before lending her backing vocal skills to stars like Don Henley, Belinda Carlisle and Stevie Wonder, taught elementry school music. Gene Simmons of Kiss hilariously decided that he would change the syllabus of reading the works of Shakespeare for the primary school children he was teaching to studying Spider man comics instead. It got him fired but he thought they would gain more out of reading the comics!
The 'Apple' is a constant reappearing symbol in the music industry; Fiona Apple, Apple Music, Apple the 1968 psychedelic Welsh rock band...there is even a giant apple on the cover of Jeff Beck's classic 1969 Beck-Ola LP and on Whitesnake's 1981 'Come An' Get It' album, all be it with a snake inside it!

The humble apple is traditionally given from student to teacher at the end of each term as a way of saying thank you. After all a great teacher can change a student's life forever. But wait, is there more of a subtext? Sub-conciously does apple gifting trigger teacher's minds, sending messages to their brains that 'The Beatles' back catalogue is always on re-issue and could be their listening pleasure for the next six weeks of school summer holidays..?. are ‘Apples’ the music industry's own ‘Catcher In The Rye’...? likely? Hmmm not really. In fact, about as likely as the 1966 ‘Paul McCartney is dead’ conspiracy theory. But it’s nice to go off on a tangent now and again. In 1939 Bing Crosby recorded the song 'An Apple For The Teacher' which helped to perpetuate the idea of the fruit as gifts for teacher. The giving of apples actually has it’s roots in a number of theories, The biblical 'Garden Of Eden' and the 'Apple of Knowledge' could be one of them or perhaps that In 1700’s Denmark and Sweden, if you were poor often a basket of apples would be given as payment for your child's education. Or maybe it was the upsurge in public health and hygiene with the slogan ‘An Apple A Day’ at the end of the 19th century... quite frankly, though why bother with apples at all these days, leave them in your fruit bowl! Lion Rock Art are offering this much better alternative, a superb t-shirt celebrating Teachers and the wonderful work they do, it’s the perfect end of year gift, a great way to show your Teacher just how much they rock and no pips!

With a wonderful homage to James Hetfield’s Metallica logo (did Hetfield ever give his teacher an Apple?) ‘The My Teacher Rocks’ t-shirt is a real winner with a fantastic design by Lion Rock Art ‘s top Creative designer Nikkie Amouyal, Lion Rock Art are offering some superb gift ideas for the holiday period.

Anyway lets leave the final word to the legendary Alice Cooper, also known to work as a substitute religious studies teacher from time to time, who once said “Schools Out For Summer!” Rock on!

Links to Lion Rock Art's fantastic website:

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

T-Shirt (not quite) Friday 26!

An alternate gardening history of The 'Who'

Is gardening the new rock 'n' roll or in fact has rock 'n' roll been secretly infatuated with gardening for many years? This fantastic new t-shirt from Lion Rock Art! suggests that one of Rock’s greatest iconic bands may have been into cultivating the earth way ahead of the curve and no, this one isn't for you Deadheads out there... This one is for all you 'Who' fans hiding in your allotments or potato patches air guitar-ing with your pitch forks and drumming on the flower pots!!! However it's almost strange to think that no one has made the connection before, the hints are all there in the Who’s history, so let us dig deep and cast a botanical eye over the mysterious gardening history of the Who...

Tara was Keith Moon's family house which had a roof that peaked into five pyramids, the house had an extensive lawn and a large wood. Lawns often feature quite heavily in the many legendary stories of Keith Moon and Oliver Reed too. One of the most famous has it that Keith tried to land his helicopter on Mr Reed’s lawn, while Ollie tried to shoot him down with a fully loaded shotgun! Sometimes gardens are homes to rabbits, guinea pigs and tortoises... Keith and Ollie had a pet tortoise of which travelled everywhere with them, the tortoise was used as a way of transporting a pint glass or whiskey bottle between the two of them thus helping to slow down their drinking. Keith was a lifelong fan of The Beach Boys of which Brian Wilson ran the vegetable shop 'The Radiant Radish'.

In 1971 Roger Daltrey purchased a 17th century farm Holmhurst Manor, of which he built a fishery and was often found to be riding around in a tractor.

Pete Townshend held a solo gig back at Max Yasgur's Farm in 1998 after The Who's superb 1969 Woodstock performance, known as ‘A Day In The Garden,’ he also owns part of a National trust property in Oxfordshire and has a daughter that is a gardening columnist...

And so finally ‘The Ox’ John Entwhistle, known as the Ox for his cultivation of farm land... perhaps that is going too far, known as the Ox for his fantastic bass playing; he was the most mysterious and secretive of the group, he owned a rhenish gothic family home in the Costswolds which has 42 acres of land with formal gardens, terraces and a croquet lawn, a true 'rockers retreat’... At the end of 1969 the Who's live performances had become legendary and most had been recorded for the US market. There was a push to put together a compilation album of these recordings but Pete Townshend was having none of it and he and Bob Pridden (Sound Engineer) burnt the tapes in Townshend’s back Garden. Out of this though came the phoenix that is the incredible Live At Leeds album...

And now we have this superb t-shirt that celebrates all of this and does it just in time for Fathers’s day. Of course another bond between The Who is that they were not only out there, on the front line rockin' our socks off but they are all Dads too.

The T-shirt pays homage to the classic Brian Pike 'Who' logo and puts a great playful spin on it. Designed by Nikkie Amouyal who not only designs all of the t-shirts for Lion Rock Art but along with her cousin Cedric runs the business too, Nikkie has had an incredible career in the music industry designing for loads of iconic bands, it's great to see Her turn Her considerable creative talents towards t-shirt and merchandise design and with lots of great quirky and off kilter slogans and designs, Lion Art Rock are offering some truly superb gifts for Father’s Day and beyond...

Links to Lion Rock Art's fantastic website:

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Note Book One

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Friday, 17 October 2014

T-Shirt Friday 25 !

The Car Boot Caper! (Part One)
Well... we have made it! T-Shirt Friday is now officially 25! Like a fine mature cheese T-Shirt Friday has grown from a sparkle of a cotton field in some ones eye to a fully blown piece of well crafted apparel! Happy 25th Anniversary T-Shirt Friday!
...and now on with the show and so to the T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum! which was: What is the title of the famously unreleased 1977 Neil Young album? it's quite a tricky one, as 'ole Neil has actually made a follow up to the unreleased album and just as only Neil can do confused us all in the process but the 'unreleased' album is 'Chrome Dreams' it's said that a lot of the tracks on the album have been dispersed onto many of Neil's other albums, there are however apparently some very different takes of the songs we have all come to know and if you own 1993's 'Unplugged' and ever wondered where the beautiful track 'Stringman' came from... it would have been on 'Chrome Dreams'. If you got it right, how will you celebrate? You could shake things up a bit by taking some polish to any chrome surface that you might have around the house... some Cif in the bathroom, some AGA to your fireplace surrounds, a bit of Vitasol on the chrome exhaust tail pipe maybe...

Today's T-Shirt was originally from here:
Sadly they don't seem to do the tee anymore but they do have some other great shirts!

If you were to think of a place you would like to visit for a day trip it you might consider Windsor, Greenwich perhaps or maybe Canterbury... what about Taplow? Taplow?? yes near Maidenhead??? Well... Taplow near Maidenhead boasts (if nothing else) one of the biggest car boot sales you can go to, in fact it's termed as "Giant" and "Berks & Bucks Busiest & Best Late Start Car Boot"and while we were still living in Paddington we had a gateway to the stars that sparkle from the rear view mirrors of the unloading cars. One fairly sunny (for a bank holiday) Monday Miss Russell was away and so I took the opportunity to go and see what was going on in Taplow, originally I'd been looking to go to a record fair but this seemed like a very exciting prospect and there is always a possibility of picking up some vinyl at a car boot, expectations were high and Taplow met them ten fold and then some... it really is a 'huge' car boot with loads to offer, a lot of bargain vinyl, a lot of everything and some great food stalls for lunch too... Miss Russell called me on the mobile while I was munching through a German bratwurst hot dog that was the size of an OTRAG rocket!
It was a wonderful day, some great boot bargains, very friendly people, it's a family originated event for all! The train station is right near by, it's a direct line from Paddington with no changes, a low price train ticket and about a 45min journey, the ease of travel was mind blowing or so I thought...

The following week while recounting all of this to my Mum and Dad on the phone, we thought it would be great to all go for a family day out. Unfortunately though there were no more bank holidays coming up... Do not fear Taplow is on Sundays too!!! Similar to the stars doing it - the front car tyres had aligned with the back ones! Sadly Miss Russell was again away (is there a pattern emerging)  but Mum and Dad could make it... the plan was for them to stay at the flat on the Saturday night for ease of travel in the morning, when they arrived they presented me with the below t-shirt, it seemed very apt and has since been dubbed 'the car boot t-shirt'. After watching 'The Black Hole' on DVD and a fish finger sandwich or two we all headed off for a good nights sleep and awoke at the designated time of 7am ready for the car boot ahead, you could feel the atmosphere crackle with anticipation, I popped on 'the car boot tee' and off we all went to Paddington station to re-tread the steps to Taplow... something was amiss... this time there was no direct train to the station, after a little confusion though it emerged that we could go to Slough and take a bus that would drop us at the foot of the boot... The train started to slowly leave the station and we were off! Mum and Dad both looking forward to some bargains... The trip to Slough was very quick and we made our way off the train and towards where we thought the pick up point for the bus was... we checked with a station member and were pointed in a slightly different direction but eventually found the stop... we waited... actually not all that long... a bus pulled up... we almost all got on but something made my Mum just check with the driver "Ah sorry... this bus doesn't stop at Taplow" "the next bus might go there". It came across like he wasn't too sure, we had our doubts, we exited the bus, as we did a jolly station member was passing: "In all the years that I've worked here and that is over 25 years mind, I've never heard of a bus going from this station or any on this line, to Taplow on a Sunday" We all had the same group thought... Hmmm...

To Be Continued...

There we are, stranded in Slough! ...and so until next week for the final finale of 'The Car Boot Caper!' but before that here is the T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum! Which this week is: Which famous musician and pioneer of electronic music went to school in Slough?

More info on Taplow Car Boot Sale? -
More info Pioneers of electronic music?
The OTRAG rocket
Disney's The Black Hole
How to make a great fishfinger sandwich

Friday, 19 September 2014

T-Shirt Friday 23 !

A  'Chopping Wood' T-Shirt!
T-Shirt Friday 23? - I hear you ask, but should it not be 25??? Ah well, here is the missing '23'! Admittedly it has been some time since there has been any T-Shirt Friday's at all!!! do not fear though, there is and will be a 25, however just for this week lets go back into the 'Bad Fog of Loneiness' and bring forth out of the mists this one from the vaults... 
So... where did we leave off... the T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum question! which was... 'Cosmic Egg' was an album released by which Australian heavy rock band? The answer is of course Wolfmother! - did you get it right? How will you celebrate? maybe with your pet Wolf if you have one, or cook your Mother dinner, however you decide to celebrate just enjoy! it's Friday and the weekend is coming after all!

A version of today's T-Shirt can be found here:
Mine is an older version and sadly doesn't seem to be available any more.

"I was chopping down a palm tree, When a friend dropped by to ask, If I would feel less lonely, If he helped me swing the axe. I said: No, it's not a case of being lonely, We have here, I've been working on this palm tree, For eighty seven years, I said: No, it's not a case of being lonely, We have here, I've been working on this palm tree, For eighty seven years, He said: Go get lost! And walked towards his Cadillac. I chopped down the palm tree. And it landed on his back."

'Last Trip To Tulsa' - Neil Young

It's seems fitting almost to publish T-Shirt 23 after having already released T-Shirt 24, it's the kind of thing that Neil might do, in fact has done... like recording albums and then releasing them many years later or never releasing them at all!

'Harvest' on it's release in 1972, divided both critics and fans opinions. Even Neil himself in retrospect has described the album (almost in the same breath) as an 'MOR aberration' and his 'finest album'. Neil's most famous quote from that time, is about the song 'Heart Of Gold' "This song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I met more interesting people there."
Often though 'Harvest' along with it's counterpart 'After The Gold Rush' released in 1970 are an accessible way in to a sometimes uncompromising but brilliant artist.
This is true of myself, 'After The Gold Rush' was my first Neil Young album and from that moment I was captivated. Once you have heard Neil and you 'get him' you kind of sign up to be a life long fan, no matter what direction he wants to take you in. However I was a bit confused... 'Heart Of Gold' was the first Neil song I'd actually ever heard, (they often played it at Walthamstow Dog Stadium along with some other classics between races) but it didn't appear to be on the cassette tape of 'After The Gold Rush' that I'd just purchased. Some more digging was necessary. Of course at that point I was very naive and had no idea of how vast Neil's output and back catalogue was. Somehow though the cassette tape that greeted me when I walked back into Woolworth's at Chingford Mount was 'Harvest'.

Collecting and cutting up wood have both become a bit of a fixture for my Dad. Fairly recently Mum and Dad decided to get a wood burning stove, it really suits the house, keeps it lovely and warm and just looks so romantic. Wood in abundance is of course needed though, Dad has collected a number of tools in readiness to prepare old planks, logs and trees! And it's at a tree where this story really begins... Whilst staying back at my Parents, my Dad mentioned that he might need some help with a tree that had fallen down at my Brother-In-Laws, Mum's house, it needed to be cleared and there was an opening over the upcoming weekend to do it, I did very little in preparation, until that is last minute on the Saturday morning, we needed to be up early... Still half asleep I dressed myself adding two odd socks to the mix and went downstairs, we had some breakfast and off we went. The tree was already down although there was a stump which Dad had to cut through and we began to clear the chunks of wood, noticeably there was a lot of amber sap seeping out through the bark which I'd managed to get down my t-shirt, I looked down not even taking into account before that moment the tee that I had on... it's OK I thought it's only that old worn out 'Neil Young - Harvest' t-shirt and then it hit me... that old Neil Young shirt... the lyrics of the last verse of 'Last Trip To Tulsa' filled my head. Without even knowing it or putting any thought into it I was wearing the right t-shirt for the chop! 
Incidentally 'Chopping Wood' is a way of playing drums where the drummer plays a strong rim-click on the two and four beats, often Ken Buttrey's drum's on 'Heart Of Gold' are described as 'cutting wood' or 'chopping wood drum style'.

Walking back from Woolworth's I slid the tape in my Walkman and popped on the headphones, from that day onwards I played 'Harvest' over and over again, to the point of when you could no longer read any of the text on the body of the cassette tape and the tape itself was getting worn, the case was scratched and you could barley see the beautiful typography of Tom Wilkes cover design through it. I loved that album so much and I wanted to tell the world, I found a way to do so... the below t-shirt! 
In somewhat a similar way to the tape, I wore it so much, (taking it everywhere with me) that the print soon became very faint, it gained holes and started wearing very thin, soon it became apparent that with much sadness it would have to be retired and put away into the bottom of the chest of drawers at my Mum and Dad's... and there it stayed, only to be rediscovered quite by mistake many years later while in a dozy rush to get down the stairs to have breakfast and help my Dad chop up a tree!

Well here we are again it's time for the T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum! which this week is: What is the title of the famously unreleased 1977 Neil Young album?

More info on Neil Young? -

Neil's website -
Wood Burning Stoves -
Tom Wilkes (One of my favourite all time album cover designers / art directors) -

Detail of the 'Harvest' T-Shirt with tree sap!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Year Of The Horse - Side 2

Horseshoe man!
Sometime ago now my great friend and colleague James McAllister, Creative Director at Karmablue Studios: very kindly asked if I would be interested in working on a re-design of the DVD artwork for the Neil Young and Crazy Horse release 'Year Of The Horse' I jumped at the chance! 

You may remember that we came up with some original visuals but then the whole project took a slightly different direction...

Here is how the final artwork turned out...

Music Listened to while working on Neil Young, Year Of The Horse final DVD artwork:
Volume 4 by Black Sabbath
Little Feat by Little Feat
Decade by Neil Young
Hounds Of Love by Kate Bush
Volcanic Rock by Buffalo
Fragile by Yes

DVD full front / back cover sleeve and inside

DVD Booklet front and back
DVD onbody

Friday, 4 July 2014

Argus - An Appreciation

Wishbone Ash, 'Argus' - An appreciation

In a dusty red all in one moulded plastic cassette tape box, a bit like the ones that people kept in there cars back in the 1980's to house music, before things thinned down again... sits a rather battered and scratched up plastic tape case... not as it happens, an all clear one with the slimline look and shiny curved edges we may all remember from the 90's, but rather a boxed square shape with the black acrylic back and clear front, giving away somewhat the origin of it's age...  Through the clouded, finger marked scuffed surface of the tape case you can still just about make out the Hipgnosis cover artwork for the album hiding inside, it's Wishbone Ash's 1972 magnum opus 'Argus'...

The red dusty tape box with all it's contents is a part of a time travelling experience back at my parents and my old bedroom. We are currently in-between moving from our flat to a house and so my Mum and Dad have been invaded by us, we will be with them for the next two months. Going back to where you grow up opens up so many great memories. It's funny because we are a close family and so visit all the time, but now living back with Mum and Dad has allowed for a bit more exploration of old books, comics and albums...

There are so many classic albums that came out in the seventies, in fact when I first considered writing this piece it seemed more obvious to cover something on 'Wish You Were Here', 'Rust Never Sleeps' or perhaps 'Volume 4' but Argus is a bit more forgotten about and it really is time that it made it back into every music fans record collection. As with everything, albums come and go, some stick around for a while starting at the top of your CD pile and slowly moving down giving way to all new replacements. Others just get stored away, forgotten, waiting to be re-discovered building up layers of dust over the years. Some however keep coming back, like a kind of musical magnet and that is the relationship that I share with Argus, it's timeless in it's sound and song cycle, it's also extremely profound and ultimately gives back (as all truly great music does) so many special memories.

Wishbone Ash began life as a collection of other bands (including 'Tanglewood') and line-ups but by 1970 they released their first album known simply as 'Wishbone Ash' - the album employed the twin guitar interplay of Andy Powell and Ted Turner. Although there was nothing new as such with the idea of two lead guitars in a band (It had been done  before namely The Allman Brothers and to some extent with Neil Young and Stephen Stills) Wishbone Ash brought in a sound and dynamic that was very much their own. Taking in blues, hard rock, prog rock, classical music, acoustic and folk. They built upon their reputation as a superb live act as well and even included a live track, the 10:23 minute long 'Where Were You Tomorrow' on their second album - 1971's 'Pilgrimage' which focuses more on the folk, acoustic and jazz side of the Wishbone sound. They also began bringing in vocal flourishes, especially a four part harmony on the track 'Valediction' a hint perhaps at a CSN&Y influence and also towards what they would go on do next with their third offering...

Argus opens with the epic 9:46 minute long track 'Time Was'. It's a statement of intent, sending a message out that you're about to hear something very special. With it's gentle acoustic beginning, the melody flows around your head in it's mellowness, then out of nowhere just when you think that you have a soft gentle ride on your hands a great up tempo riff comes in and with a time change similar to something that Stephen Stills or David Crosby might have done on 'Déjà Vu', it's off we go! It's a progressive track taking you on a trip, a lament on life itself, both uplifting and thought provoking at the same time! The follow on track 'Sometime World' has a similar feel with a beautiful haunting guitar refrain. Then it's bang! - a fantastic production technique, where your emotions are left behind with the gentleness and at the same time fired forwards on a rocking rollercoaster into the next track... 'Blowin' Free' which is probably the closest track to being radio friendly but it fits perfectly into the space it's given on the album - Wishbone Ash take influences from Southern Rock here, but blend them with their own sound and in doing so create something quite unique, it's a piece that gets your head and your heart thumping! in the same way that Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird' does. To go through each song on the album might just be giving to much away, in fact there may already be too many spoilers within this text, the album as with all albums needs to be heard and the individual to be surprised by what they hear... If you will allow me though, I would like to talk about one final track, It's my favourite song on the album, if a favourite on this album is possible... all the songs are so good and they should be viewed as a whole, but 'The King Will Come' is mind blowing! - with a riff that lasts way after the track has finished. It's impossible to get it out of your brain, the song builds from a kind of marching drum to some truly exceptional intertwined guitar work, it's biblical in it's size, stature and lyric! - it will rock you to your very core! & then there is Leaf and Stream with it's pastoral... Oh so sorry I'll stop there, it's just so difficult to not keep talking about it all...

Recorded at De Lane Lea Studios in London, Argus was produced by Derek Lawrence noted for working on Deep Purple's first three albums, he also produced Wishbone Ash's first three as well, Martin Birch was the sound engineer, he later worked with Black Sabbath and other hard rock bands... Depending on if you own a vinyl or the CD version of the album you may notice discrepancies with the artwork. The vinyl gatefold contains an extra part of the story in that it depicts the warrior on the cover (as with the CD) but also that the warrior is looking upon a flying saucer in the sky... as to why the UFO is missing on the CD artwork, it still remains a mystery...
Hipgnosis created and designed the alluring artwork, the photograph was taken by Barry Wentzell (famous for taking many classic shots of rock musicians) it's a very powerful composition of the warrior overlooking the Gorge of Verdun with a sunburst outlining him. Argus isn't depicted as such, or at least the Greek 100 eyed sentinel isn't, which is where Steve Upton took his inspiration for the name of the album from but Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell as with many of their classic album covers capture the mood of the music perfectly. I've spent hours just looking at the cover wondering where the warrior might be travelling to, who might be coming to meet him, is he surprised by the UFO.... so many questions, the artwork tells a story just like the music does...

There are many debates as to what Argus is... is it progressive music, is it art rock, is it classic rock... these discussions will go on for ever and ever and really the truth is that it doesn't matter, Argus is an album that has and will continue to stand the test of time... Wishbone Ash made 'Wishbone Ash' music in much the same way that Pink Floyd made 'Pink Floyd' music and to try and label it to any one genre seems pointless and takes away the mystery and the art of what those great bands did. Argus is an album for both the heart and the mind as if someone were baring their very soul and reflecting on all the happiness and sadness that life brings, all emotions are weaved within the timeless music that Wishbone Ash created... 

So if you have an old dusty cassette box or a shelf full off vinyl that you can't remember the last time you looked at, double check to make sure you don't have a copy of 'Argus' tucked away in a dark corner. It really is an album that needs the cobwebs blown off it and it's epic twin guitar, medieval, pastoral, mythological, romantic, fantasy, hard rockin', thoughtful, ethereal, Arthurian, heroic, escapism to be let out and rediscovered!

Wishbone Ash - Argus line-up

Andy Powell - Guitar Vocals

Ted Turner - Guitar Vocals
Martin Turner - Vocals, Bass
Steve Upton - Drums
Jon Tout - Organ on 'Throw Down The Sword'

Wishbone Ash:

Wishbone Ash went on to create many other great albums and also to influence bands such as Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy...