Friday, 25 February 2011

Top 5 White Stripes songs

Hot on the heals of John Barry's passing was the news that The White Stripes had decided to officially split up. Not quite such earth shattering news but The White Stripes meant quite a lot to me for a few years. The announcement seemed a bit of an odd thing to do. They hadn't put an album out for four years (hadn't put a good album out for even longer), they haven't fallen out (there's only two in the band) and Jack's already involved in all sorts of other projects. Either way it seemed like an opportunity for me to revisit the bands back catalogue and remind myself why I loved them in the first place.

1. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (from White Blood Cells)

2. Fell In Love With A Girl (from White Blood Cells)

3. Seven Nation Army (from Elephant)

4. Hello Operator (from De Stijl)

5. You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl) (from De Stijl)


Friday, 18 February 2011

Top 5 John Barry compositions

I was very sad to hear the news that John Barry had passed away. His music played a huge part in the films I enjoyed growing up, and so many of those themes bring back wonderful images of some of my favourite movies. Bond gave me my first taste of John Barry and I have already done a Bond Theme top five, but his collection of work is much greater than just soundtracking our favourite British Spy.

If you want to pick up a complete collection of his very best work I can highly recommend Themeology. That is an album I've played an awful lot and at £3.99 is a bit of a bargain. If you've got more cash to spare then try Thempendium which is a fairly exhaustive four CD box set.

It's really tough to put the five tracks I've selected into order and I really think any one of these could be in top position and I'd still be happy. Have to stick to my own rules though so this is what I think right now.

1. Theme from The Persuaders - Spine tingling intro to the seventies crime series starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis.

2. The James Bond Theme - A monster of a tune that whatever Barry's role in its creation (Officially a Monty Norman composition arranged by JB) defined the sound of nearly all the Bond music that followed.

3. Midnight Cowboy - Haunting harmonica driven tune that provides the melancholy backing to the latter part of the film.

4. Main Title Theme from The Ipcress File - Intertwines perfectly with the sounds of Harry Palmer in the kitchen as he makes coffe and gets ready for the day.

5. We Have All The Time In The World - One of my all time favourite songs.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Guest Top 5: Dan Whaley's Top 5 Dutch Artists

One of my New Year resolutions was to spend less time on the PC. That means getting a weekly top five out is going to be a little harder. So, as a way to fill in the gaps and also freshen up the blog a bit I thought I'd invite a few friends (and top five followers) to contribute the occasional guest top five. There's an open invite in fact. If you read the blog and fancy sharing your own top five (the more obscure the better) drop me a line and let me know. Also if you have you own opinion about any of the top fives I've published feel free to share this with me via the comments.

The inaugral guest top five is a suitably provided by the person who is largely responsible for me "coming out" as a listaholic. Dan Whaley was one of the founding members of the Charles Napiers (my favourite Mondo Wray instrumental band) and currently plays guitar, bass or ukelele in at least six different bands. As co-ordinator of the PRS focus group he gave me my first break in competitive top fiving. Here's Dan's list of favourite Dutch artists.

1) Piet Mondriaan

It was the Mondriaan-styled drumkit and shirt Alec Palao bashed and sported in The Sting Rays that first introduced me to this fantastic artist. His series of black line/primary colour square paintings from the 1920s are so incredibly visually powerful (and years ahead of their time). When I lived in Amsterdam, there was a Mondriaan-styled houseboat moored round the corner from my flat - Really, who wouldn't want to live in this?

2) M.C. Escher

As a child I used to spend most of December recreating this Escher self portrait with a bauble.

3) Theo van Doesburg

Not a million miles from Mondriaan...

4) Hieronymus Bosch

"You can take them flowers and shove 'em up your arse"

5) Herman Brood

Not that I knew it at the time, but apparently the night before Brood committed suicide he was sitting next to me and my mate Pete in a bar in Amsterdam. Could our inane conversation have been the last straw that led to him jumping off the roof of the Hilton? I do sincerely hope not.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Top 5 Events of 2010

One final post to wrap up my review of 2010. Another year bites the dust and I feel I didn't quite manage to do all that I ought to. One of those things was writing a meaningful message in our Christmas Cards to those friends and family we don't see very often. Mrs Chopper is always very efficient with the card writing and this year (partly due to being off with a poorly child) had them done before the close of November. I was left with the few cards she felt I needed to write but faced with a blank card and the pressure of a large pile of seasonal stamps resorted, as usual, to the standard platitudes. I considered doing a late family newsletter but as the weeks went by that seemed a bit irrelevant too. Best stick to what I do best then a write a Top five instead. If you know me and I haven't seen you for a while this is what we've been up to. I hope all is well with your family too!

1. Fulham in Hamburg (May) - The early part of the year was undoubtedly dominated by European football. Fulham don't have a great history of this sort of thing so I was determined to make the most of our moment. I'd been to Rome in November 2009 and was happy to see my team play in a major European stadium (even if we did lose). I wasn't expecting another opportunity but a remarkable run of results (beating defacto cup holders Shaktar Donetsk, Italian giants Juventus, German champs Wolfsberg and host side Hamburg) saw us reach the final. This was the biggest game the club have played since the '75 F.A. Cup Final and I am lucky enough to have a very understanding wife. My friend Mark and I arrived in Hamburg around 8:00, had a good morning doing the tourist thing, then an even better afternoon getting drunk with Fulham fans in Hans Albertz Plaz (a small square just off the Reeperbahn). The game was a blur, we played valiantly but lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid. We flew home the same night, it was a long and slightly sad journey but with hindsight a brilliant day and the highpoint of my football supporting life.

2. Ben wins at the Sunbury Regatta (August) - My eldest son has been rowing since he was seven. He's quite tall for his age (something he clearly doesn't get from me) and really loves the sport. He's been entering the Sunbury Junior regatta every year since he started. The first year he won a trophy for being the youngest competitor. The second year he won the Sportsman's trophy for being enthusiastic and helping the organiser's out with getting the boats ready. Last year he didn't win anything and was a bit upset about it. They had an Olympic Rower present the prizes and she made a speech about how she had competed at the Regatta and been upset about not winning, so she worked really hard and trained a lot and came back the following year and won. Ben was very determined this year and although he lost out in the early rounds of the singles events he finally won his first Sunbury Pot claiming the trophy for the Junior Double Sculls with his partner Zak. Very proud Dad moment.

3. Holiday in Cornwall (June) - As a family we're definitely creatures of habit. We've been going down to Cornwall for our annual holiday for the best part of 10 years now. There are so many new places I'd love to see but timing and money tend to get in the way. Going to Cornwall is easy and we love it. This year was particularly good as the weather held out all week and we were able to spend most of it on the beach near Rock. Met up with our friends from Shepperton, so the boys had people to play with. Managed to cycle part of the Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Padstow (i.e the flat bit), so that we felt we'd done our active bit. I even fitted in a visit to the Sharp's Brewery to pick up some cheap Doombar. Perfect.

4. George at Beaver's camp (November) - George finally started Beaver's in September after what seemed like a very long wait. He isn't as active as Ben (definitely taking after me there) but was keen to go and has really enjoyed it ever since. In November they had their first overnight camp since he started and despite the fact he'd never stayed away from home before really wanted to go. Your kids never fail to surprise you in what they can do. He had a brilliant time and it was lovely to see him happy and mucking about with his friends when we collected him the next day.

5. Lahori Curry (Jan - April) - Work played a fairly big role in my year. I was involved in two fairly lengthy periods of system upgrading, learnt a lot as we did them and made some new friends. Works a bit boring to include in a top five though so the lasting legacy of all this effort was the discovery of the Lahori Karahi restaurant in Feltham. Absolutely the best curry I have eaten anywhere and a popular lunch time venue when we were working our hardest.

In other news we bought a car, survived the secondary school selection process, Jane started running and generally getting fit, I made a bit of a break through with my achilles injury, and we all had a couple of very pleasant days out at Leeds Castle and Whipsnade Zoo.