the Parts of Ten

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Okay, I confess, an idea pinched from the IDG "Dummies Books", being sections I always love - because they're quick and easy to read

Choose from:


the Desert Island Dustbin - 10 records that, if they were washed ashore and I had no others, would still be thrown straight back in the sea ...
  1. Bohemian Rhapsody - by Queen
    A band that did make a few good records - but this ain't one of them. Sorry, but I don't like "rock operas" or tedious incomprehensible Euro-Garbage like this. 
  2. Stairway to Heaven - by Led Zeppelin
    God, this track just plods on and on and is what - a cynical jibe at someone that Robert Plant fell out with. I did like Plant's solo stuff especially "Burning down one Side" from the album Pictures at Eleven. Zeppelin were best playing blues or at least syncopated rock (music that boogies or swings).
  3. (I can't live - if living is) Without You - by anybody
    This song was written by Badfinger members Pete Ham and Tommy Evans and, bearing in mind that it is one of the most "covered" songs ever written, they were undoubtedly ripped off regarding the royalties.
    But sorry, that's no excuse for throwing away the "gift of life" by suicide - which they both did. There are many people who have achieved greatness after far worse setbacks than stolen belongings or money - a prime example being the "Mouth & Foot Painters" who, having lost the use of their arms, create stunningly beautiful pictures that are used on the Xmas cards that I buy from them every year. Try sending them donations and you'll receive the stern reply "we don't want or accept charity ... but thanks for buying the cards".
    In any event, I find the turgid music of this song depressing and, as for the lyrics, a far better idea is:
    "If you can't be with the one you love - Love the One You're With" (by Steve Stills) - a notion that helped my broken heart on many occasions. So I may be shallow - but I'm still here !
  4. Do you Love Me - by Brian Poole & the Tremeloes
    The original, by the Contours was a fantastic 60s dance record which made me want to dance (a rare event) and deserved a far better "cover" than this.
    Brian Poole sounds like a cross between a double glazing salesman and a "Radio Local" DJ - he has utterly no "soul" whatsoever. And the backing is "lame" - which is surprising for a band who, after they split up from their "lord and master", went on to play some incredibly heavy, good quality music. So this rubbish must have been Poole's fault !
  5. the Dark Side of the Moon - by Pink Floyd
    I would, and did, go out of my way to see the 60s incarnation of this band, whose 1967 album "Piper at the Gates of Dawn"  was driving, freaky, psychedelic but for all that light-hearted (to quote AMG). The trouble was that singer, songwriter and frontman Syd Barrett got too light-headed (on "substances") and either left the band or was sacked.
    The next reincarnation, with David Gilmour produced a succession of incredibly successful albums in the 70s some of which, on first hearing, had interesting sounds. But when the initial gloss (quickly) wore off all you were left with was plodding dirges.
    I didn't like the "Dark Side" on first hearing and I like it even less now. This track has no blues or afro roots at all, and thus leaves me absolutely cold - I guess I just don't like "Euro-Rock" hence my next disposal:
  6. Puppet on a String - Sandie Shaw
    Let's face it - this 1967 winner of the Eurovision Song Contest is only one of a succession of absolutely appalling songs that have been entered into, or won, this dreadful annual celebration of Euro-Sewage.
    But what makes this track particularly sad is the fact that the singer was conned into performing it. Her first hit single "There's Always Something There to Remind Me", in 1964, was a delightful, original, cover of the Dionne Warwick masterpiece which should have been the start of a wonderful career.
    But then the record companies (with usual cesspit mentality) and manager Chris Andrews managed to snooker the whole thing and it wasn't until her collaboration with the Smiths in the 80s on the single "Hand in Glove" that her true talent began to surface again.
    Don't take my word for it, read her autobiography in which she herself confirms that this song wrecked her career.
  7. When I'm 64 - the Beatles
    Yes, as well as well as producing a whole heap of excellent tracks on the "Sergeant Pepper" album they included this monstrosity - which, to me, would fit nicely into an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical. I just don't like "singalong" stuff like this - or "The Sound of Music" - or most of the individuals' post-Beatles efforts, the major exceptions being George Harrison's production of the Billy Preston track "That's the way God Planned it" and Paul McCartney's 1999 rock and roll covers album "Run Devil Run" (with ex-Pirates guitarist Mick Green)
    But, like the whole of the "dustbin" collection, this is simply my opinion - and I do appreciate that myself and virtually the rest of the world are at loggerheads here.
  8. Satisfaction - the Rolling Stones
    A blues band who were, at first, interesting when they started writing their own material ...  until this 1965 abomination !
    Intricacies of rhythm - none. Subtleties of lyrics - none. Dynamics - none. A complete, money making sell-out !! On this track ex jazz-drummer Charlie Watts became the first human drum machine and started a depressing trend which has continued to this day.
    This, at the time, would have been OK from the Dave Clark Five - it was right up their moronic street. But from our own "chart blues band" - shock, horror, the establishment had finally won - but this time by producing "out of your heads" disco records rather than 50s schmultz.
    So I was a musical snob at the time - I admit it. I am much less of a snob now - but I still I don't like this track ... into the sea with it.
  9. Show me the Meaning of Being Lonely - the Backstreet Boys
    Just one of a complete dustbin full of such records by pretty, twirling "boy bands".
    I had the misfortune, in January, of having to travel for about 8 hours in a 12 seater bus to attend my son Kit's Thai wedding in Sukothai, North Thailand (don't be silly - the "bus" took us from Bangkok - not London). For the whole of the trip, and the few days we were up there, all I heard was drivel like this - whining reincarnations of "Without You" (see above).
    I had hopes for "teen-pop" in the 90s when rap and hip hop became trendy. Here was an ethnic, afro street influence that produced some fine records (and a lot of drivel - but what's new). Then Oasis came along and we were back to the basic "guitar band" format with no drum machines and some good, memorable songs. The future of pop looked good !
    And then along came "boy bands" and pop music was back in the cesspit it has inhabited for most of the time since the year dot.
  10. the theme from Eastenders
    I could say that the reason I have never watched more than 5 minutes of this dreadful TV progamme is that I couldn't stand to have to listen to this dirge at the beginning. 
    But on the odd occasions I have tuned in by mistake, I have to admit that the music fits the show. This is described as a "real life" drama. If that's real life I can, at last, understand suicide. Like all soaps, if any character ever smiles they'll be murdered or struck by a bus within the next 5 minutes, then their whole family will say what wonderful, happy people they were. Who killed Phil? ... pity they didn't make a better job of it.
    Neighbours, Coronation Street, Emerdale, there's a whole heap of this manure. First prize has to go to the defunct "Crossroads" which was broadcast "live" and regularly had rubber bricks bouncing off plexiglass windows which shattered 5 minutes later - Brummy TV at its best.
    But all of these programmes had appalling "theme-dirges", most of which were written by Tony Hatch. Just think, I could have had a career singing this guy's songs - where's the sleeping pills?
the Movie Review - or 10 of the best films I can remember watching. Visit the superb internet movie database website for more information on all of these films - and a million others. As with everywhere in this sight - all thumbnails link to full size pictures or websites
  1. Dogma (1999)dogma2.jpg (51944 bytes)
    A film by Kevin Smith in which he has a go at organised religion while expressing the view that God (if there is one) is probably a nice being. Ben Afflek and Matt Damon play a couple of disenchanted angels who try to use Roman Catholic dogma to get back into heaven - having been banned for a few thousand years. Alan Rickman (alias the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood epic) plays the voice of God and the almighty herself is played by Alanis Morisette who also sings the superb closing title song "Still". A memorable, irreverent, hilarious and, to me, thought provoking film
  2. Basic Instinct (1992)
    Yes, I know what you're thinking, but it's more than the "tits & bums" that attract me to this film. OK, the story is full of holes but Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas's acting and throwaway lines like "So what are you going to do, charge me with smoking?" are superb.
    However many times you watch, it has an aura and atmosphere that hold you (or me anyway) until the final scene with the toothpick icepick under the bed.
  3. the Firm (1993)
    Based on the excellent John Grisham book about a young lawyer (Tom Cruise) who graduates into a posh law firm - only to find out that his "tax clients" are in fact the Mafia (know it, been there, got the t-shirt).
    He then, of course, discovers that "getting out" won't be that easy. The movie has a whole bunch of other, believable, characters including a wonderful Elvis Impersonator.
    But the music soundtrack is superb, especially the main title track with Don Grusin on powerful, unaccompanied, stomping accoustic piano.
    So who was the actress who played the "innocent" in this and Basic Instinct ? - find out from
  4. Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind (1977)
    It's amazing how many people have never seen this tale of a telephone lineman (Richard Dreyfuss - not from Wichita) who bumps into a flying saucer and then gets obsessive images of a mountain that he "has to visit" but doesn't know where or what it is. This Steven Spielberg film is captivating from the first moment when "strange world occurrences" start taking place. His imagery is enhanced 10-fold by his timing which literally takes your breath away as the utterly enormous "mothership" appears over the mountain in the finale.
    The US authorities' takeover and military intervention into this momentous occasion are (as in "ET") totally bombastic and totally realistic..
    There are several independent photos of a real-life "set of lights" which, when triangulated showed the witnessed "UFO" to be 2 miles wide. The US government, of course, dismissed it as a weather balloon but we can all trust politicians can't we ?!
  5. the Great Escape (1963)
    This time a  war film that I have watched a hundred times and will watch again - next time it's on. Based on a true story of the greatest Allied escape attempt from a Geerman POW camp in world war 2. Steve McQueen p[ayed memorable characters in a host of good films but this is simply classic, from start to finish, making it impossible to single out any "memorable moment" - except the motorbike. Also stars Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Garner, Charles Bronson, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson,  Richard Attenborough, Nigel Stock  and was directed by John Sturges.

  6.  the Wrong Arm of the Law (1962)
    A brilliant 1950s Peter Sellers portrayal of a gangland "hood" - who first appears in the film as a gay hairdresser in his "day job". If you ever watch the "out-takes" of any Sellers film you will realize that he didn't need scriptwriters - he was a natural genius of comedy.
    This film is a wonderfully silly romp which features John LeMesurier, Bernard Cribbins, Arthur Mullard, Michael Caine, John Junkin, Gerald Sim, Lionel Jeffries and a host of "Great British Actors" whose names escape me. The crooks in London know how it works. No one carries guns and no one resists the police. Then a new gang appears that go one better. They dress as police and steal from the crooks. This upset's the natural order of the police/criminal relationship and the police and the crooks join forces to catch the IPOs (Impersonating Police Officers), including an armored car robbery in which the police must help the gangs to set a trap.
  7. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
    A low budget, underground movie that has become a legend.tap2.jpg (20036 bytes)
    Who has ever played in a band, not met one of these guys, and not listened to the description of the "mega amp" with a "volume control that goes up to eleven ... man"
    To quote a line from their insane website

    "Rock and roll is here to stay and no one has done more staying than Spinal Tap! From their origin in the London music scene of the ‘60s -- playing in bands like the Originals (later renamed the New Originals) and the Thamesmen -- to their current role as Legends of Hair Metal, Spinal Tap, the world’s loudest band, has left a mark on rock that may never be erased."
    God help us
  8. Harry's Game (1982)
    Was in fact a 3-part TV movie thriller in the 80s which brilliantly portrayed the "Northern Island conflict" and the personal and public reactions of everybody involved in it. Excellent performances from Derek Thompson (who now plays the lead role in "Casualty") and Linda Robson ("Tracey" from the TV sitcom "Birds of a Feather"). They played very different parts here.
    The whole thing had murky English and Irish realism and you ended up, against your wishes, feeling sorry for the bomber when he was hunted down and finally executed by Ray Lonnen, as the "hero".
    The gentle but haunting Irish theme music by Clannad simply heightened the tension of this superb British TV drama.
  9. the Commitments(1991)commitments.jpg (66465 bytes)
    What must be one of the great rock music films of all time. Alan Parker directs the story of a bunch of Dublin kids who had nothing and were prepared to risk it all when they set out to form a true 60s soul band in the late 80s. The film has the feel, smell and atmosphere of Dublin. The music is superb and was the basis of a couple of deservedly best-selling albums and a long overdue soul music revival. And again - if you've ever played in a band, a lot of the goings-on will be familiar. One of the rare movies for which I bought the video and watch it regularly (every couple of years).
  10. The Godfather (1972)
    Before I first saw this film, I thought it would be just another Mafia movie with blood and guts all over the place. And it was - but the characters made their mark on you, with ace performances by Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and Al Pacino.
    And it's amazing, over the last 30 years, how many little catch-phrases still stay in your head - "don't ever ask me about my business", the closing dialogue of the film, being a prime example.
    This film (part 1) had the remarkable effect of surprising me by my developing sympathy with the characters. However, by the end of part 3 I hated them all, even though they were all dead. If this was the effect the trilogy was supposed to have then well done Francis Ford Coppola.
    If not, then perhaps "follow ups" (most of which are garbage) should be avoided.
my 10 favourite books - for the minute
  1. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - by Hunter S Thompson
    The lively illustrated tale of a journalist and his lawyer who fill a red convertible with extremely illegal substances and head off to Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. They then get re-assigned to cover a Police Drugs Seminar. Need I say more?
    This classic book was written (regurgitated might be a better description) in 1970 and finally made into a movie in 1998. Trouble is, the book is so outrageous that no film production could do it justice. Knowing the author, a lot of this tale could be true.
  2. Sarum - by Edward Rutherfurd
    Set on Salisbury plain, this is in fact the turbulent story of the entire course of English history from the Ice Age to present day. One thousand three hundred and forty four very "readable" pages which, despite the "timing" problems does manage to maintain continuity over the 22,000 years covered.
  3. The Complete Yes Prime Minister - by Jonathon Lynn & Anthony Jay
    This book, to me, is better than the TV series in that it's even funnier and manages to give a greater insight into the lives of the principal characters before and after the "saga" that emerges.
    But nobody could take this nonsense seriously - could they?
  4. The Dummies' Guide to Windows - by Andy Rathbone
    I first accepted the "3.1" version of this enormous book, grudgingly, in 1994 when I was obliged, because of my profession, to learn about this wretched, boring, "utility" programme so that I could oversee the installation of a 12 computer network (with W3.1 front end) in my accountancy practice.
    At the end of 3 evenings I had read, digested, understood it and now used the "boring utility" with fascination.
    Rathbone's style is hilariously funny, which is how the "Dummies" books, in general, manage to fulfill their task of educating you to a remarkably high level.
    If I ever get around to installing "Windows ME" I will immediately buy the book, rather than wasting days trying to "figure it out for myself". That also applies to any other software utility - I already have a "Dummies" library.
  5. The Ramses "quilogy" - by Christian Jacques
    This is the biography of an Egyptian  Pharaoh, written by a Frenchman, which I, an Englishman, bought in a Bangkok bookstore.
    Well I acquired the first book with mild interest and was then forced by addiction to buy the other four. If a series of 3 books is a "trilogy" what are two, four and five books called - anybody know?
    Until I am enlightened it's "quilogy" for now ...
    But, as well as a good tale, there are a lot of fascinating insights in this book. If you'd asked me when "beer" was invented I'd have said about four hundred, not four thousand, years ago.
  6. Contact - by Carl Sagan (Professor, no less) 1934-1996
    To quote Richard Dawkins of the Times:
    "My candidate for planetary ambassador can be none other than Carl Sagan himself. He was wise, humane, witty, well read, and incapable of composing a dull sentence."
    This story of the first contact between  the human race and aliens was recently released as an excellent film which I watched umpteen times having already read the book umpteen times.
    But, to me,  Sagan's magic was his ability to write about complex scientific concepts and make them seem perfectly natural, demonstrating his real skill as a teacher. His last non-fiction work "Billions & Billions" (thoughts on life & death at the brink of the millenium) is worth a few hours of anybody's time.
  7. Holidays in Hell - by P J O'Rourke
    Featuring "a ramble through Lebanon" and "3rd world driving hints and tips" amongst others.
    A set of magazine articles combined into a great book - one of those that you can read again and again and still find something new.
    Not a god book to take to a doctor's surgery waiting room - unless you want an excuse to get thrown out ...
  8. As the Crow Flies - by Jeffrey Archer
    Well I'm sorry - he may be a bit of a Pratt but he writes excellent books, in my humble opinion. The best are his short stories but all of my copies are in Thailand and I can't remember the titles.
    This novel is another "ramble" through English history - following the life of an Cockney barrow boy from the turn of the century right through until the barrow has grown into a a department store.
    A corny idea but a gripping tale whose characters fascinated me until the last page 
  9. Blast from the Past - by Ben Elton
    I suppose it's because he's a comedian that stopped me taking the author seriously - until I read this book. And I read it in the serenity of the New Forest - not on the beach.
    The tale of a US politician who returns to the UK to look up a girl he met some years before. Trouble is that he was an army security agent and she was a cruise missile protester.
    This is a comedy, a thriller, and a love story all skillfully rolled into one.
  10. Bring on the Empty Horses - by David Niven
    Now personally I always thought Niven to be the archetypal English gentleman - until I read this book !
    An autobiography with great recollections of Hollywood and it's inhabitants - the most noteworthy being producer Sam Goldwyn whose "classic quotes" include the title and:
    "a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on".
my 10 favourite Websites

... are all on the Links page- go and find them there (pick 10 of the 30 for yourself)

1mbb website by Tim James