Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy

And so it is back to me waffling on about my favourite tunes, once again. This time I'm looking at a song from the lighter end of my record collection. It is a pop song, and this particular song is as good as a pop song gets. No ifs, no buts. It has all the right ingredients.

It's called Gypsy. It's by Fleetwood Mac. I've always had a soft spot for Fleetwood Mac, regardless of the lineup, though it has to be said the band in my eyes was at its best when it had Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks at the forefront of the group. Peter Green's lineup is blues orientated and there is so much good stuff there. But for me it's the aforementioned "Rumours" line up that is my Fleetwood Mac of choice, and certainly the most commercially successful.

The song I've chosen here is an overlooked single (it reached no. 46 in the UK charts) taken from the 1982 album Mirage. Mirage, which is probably their weakest effort, came after the more experimental album Tusk, which alas didn't sell in the same quantities as Rumours so was instantly branded a flop (I'd love a flop that sold in excess of five million copies, thankyou very much). So Mirage saw the band revert back to a more rock / pop sound.

Gypsy was written by Stevie Nicks back in 1979 during the height of her fame and was initially going to be included on her debut solo album Bella Donna. However, it was held back for Fleetwood Mac. To understand the song itself, if you are so inclined, we need to understand the inspiration behind it. Put simply, it took Stevie back to a time before the height of success and fame. In fact, back to a time when Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham were still a couple with no money, just an apartment with a king size mattress on the floor. According to Stevie in an interview in 2009:
"To this day, when I'm feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp".

Add to this the name of the shop where she bought her clothes (as did Janis Joplin, incidentally) and you have the opening lyrics of the song -

"So I'm back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy... that I was".

The lyrics were pretty much complete back in 1979. However a small section of lyric including the line at the end "I still see your bright eyes" was added on as a dedication to Stevie's best friend Robin who died of leukaemia.

If, however, you really aren't that bothered by the lyrical content of this song (and if not, why not?) then all you have to do is focus on the musical part of the song. It has a melody you'll be whsitling or singing to yourself for weeks. The wonderful lead vocals by Stevie are helped by some excellent harmonies from Christine (McVie) and Lindsey. Mick Fleetwood plays a steady but rock solid drum beat throughout and John McVie plays a reliable bass line that bounces along and compliments Mick's drumming. But the real icing on the cake for me is Lindsey Buckingham's guitar work. Understated throughout the song, there is nothing that isn't needed. The last part of the song features a melodic guitar break that finishes the song perfectly to the fade-out. Lindsey must be one of the most overlooked guitarists in the business. He knows what to play, when to play it. 

You can find Gypsy on Mirage or any of the hits compilations. Which versions are my favourites? The original and also the live performance from 1997 DVD "The Dance". If you can find a copy of this concert, get it. In the mean time, watch the promo video for Gypsy:

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 16v Easytronic Roadtest

Oh my, it has come to this. I am reduced to road testing the wife's car. Well, I suppose that must mean I need to get into it and actually drive it. Fabulous. Can I not walk? Oh, ok I'll have a go. Firstly, to waste some time and space I shall include a photo of the front. No, that really hasn't made me want to drive the car any more than I did before.

Whilst the picture of the car is loading, I shall talk about the styling. Well, it has some wheels, four of them on the exterior in fact. One notable fact about it is the designers used the same shape on the left hand side as they did the right hand side. What is clever, however, is there are apertures with opening panels that allow you to gain access into the car. Even better, these panels have cut outs with glass in them so you can see out of them. That really shows the forward thinking and intelligence of the Vauxhall design team that were working on the Corsa.

However, once inside the car is where the problem starts. Mainly when sat in the drivers seat as this implies that one must drive the car. There are many different shades of grey which liven up the dark grey dashboard. You do get some standard equipment within the car which include seats, steering wheel, engine, suspension, glovebox and a dashboard. There are some windows that are operated by electricity. There is also a novel locking system whereby you turn the key and sometimes some of the other doors unlock as well. This is an ideal security device and again marks out Vauxhall engineers as geniuses. It means when the other three doors are unlocked, the fourth door won't fall off because it's locked no matter how hard you crash into a pillar with it.

Now it's time to drive this car. It is powered by a 1.2 16 valve engine that develops a whopping 74 bhp. However, it fails to deliver about 67 of those 74 horses due to the set up of the gearbox. You see, it is equipped with a manual gearbox with an electronic clutch system, thus the car being classed as an automatic. Vauxhall call this system "Easytronic" which is a clever mix of words. I would explain to those that don't know how clever it is but I really can't be bothered. With this automatic gearbox you can drive it in auto mode or sequential manual gearbox. Automatic doesn't really work sequentially as it can select 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th but not necessarily in that order. In automatic mode the gear changes take 6-10 working days. Things do work a little better in manual mode. For example, if you are thinking of taking a trip from Penzance to Gloucester you'll be in 2nd gear by the time you get to Exeter. This again shows the foresight of the Vauxhall engineering team as the gear change time has reduced from 6-10 working days to precisely a few hours.

This is the back of the car, in case you hadn't realised

The ride is most excellent if you cannot feel anything. However, if you do have senses of pain and feeling, be prepared to pick your spine up at the end of every journey as it will be in kit form in the foot well. Cornering ability is pretty good actually. If you go on a road with no corners. Performance wise? I'm not sure as I'd lost interest and the will to live by the time the gearbox changed up to fifth. As for acceleration, it is quicker accelerating at 27 mph as a Ford Fiesta is at 25mph.

Practicality wise, there are ups and downs. It is not advisable to put anything in the door pockets as they are made from the same plastics and compact disc cases and disintegrate with a passing breath. The boot is vast compared with an insect and cleverly, credit once again to Vauxhall's boffins, right up at the front beyond the cabin there is storage for an engine and gearbox, should you wish to carry them around with you.

So, a verdict then? Well, it's a car.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The pitter patter of tiny feet - A happy blog!!!!

That's it, for one blog entry it's going to be happy! No ranting, no sarcasm, no swearing and no satirical meanderings. No, this time it is personal, which is unusual as I'm a pretty private person. Something happened today that really effected me, and I've gotten quite emotional about it to be perfectly honest. Today, I heard my baby's heartbeat. Let me tell you, it's the best thing I've heard all year and it's an awesome experience.

Jayne is 24 weeks pregnant and today was one of her appointments with her midwife. I've been with Jayne to three scans so far which have seen the baby develop from a jellybean sized fetus right up to a wriggling, kicking little so and so. I liked the scans dearly, especially when I learned of the gender of our child. But none of it compared to when I heard the heartbeat today with the midwife's fancy gizmo thing. Hearing the heartbeat galvanises the whole thing, makes it very real.

Whereas before I'd get excited over spending hours in record shops looking for, well, records I suppose, I now get excited going into places like Mothercare. Just browsing the fantastic clothing and stuff that is available now for babies. I'm looking forward to getting our Silvercross travel pram system in a near-as-makes-no-difference Ferrari colour scheme. Not like in our day, when all we 'ad were a shoe box in t'garden and a handful of cold gravel for breakfast. I'm in awe at the support of friends and family and the generosity that is bestowed upon us. And the baby isn't even here yet!

Five or so years ago I never really wanted children and I know that upset Jayne more than a little. However, three years ago we kind of started trying, even though I still wasn't particularly sure. To be honest, the idea of having a baby scared the shit out of me. There was a turning point though. Read on.

Basically to cut a long story short our close friends Alec and Kat had a lovely baby boy back in August 2009, and as well as spending rather a lot of time with Alec and Kat, we've spent a lot of time with their son. We were chosen as supporting adults for his naming ceremony. He is a wonderful lad and a joy to be around. This is probably the most important and influential factor in changing my thoughts on having children. Added to which Alec and Kat brought in the New Year this year with another wonderful addition to their family - another baby boy. If this one is anything like his brother, he's going to be an absolute corker. The fact that the two boys have a truly great and loving pair of parents and a fine pair of grandparents are important factors. The added bonus for us is we get to see them all regularly.

This has all brought the excitement and intrigue to the foreground for me. It has also armed me with a Haynes Workshop Manual service and repair book for Babies, so look out. 2011 may have started with a bang, but it's all going to get better. May is our due date, and trust me on this - I'm counting the minutes! It may well have been a bit of a journey for us to get to the stage we are at now, but the important thing for me is we are at that stage. Jayne has passed the halfway mark in her pregnancy and everything, touch wood, is as it should be. Our baby boy is doing fine. Importantly, Jayne is doing fine.

Start as we mean to go on though, as my lad already seems to be grooving to music, much to my amusement but I'm sure not to Jayne's! He reacts well to ZZ Top, The Who, Tom Petty and heavier Beatles stuff. That's my boy!

Another heartwarming thing to consider for me is it's ironic that as we trace the dates back, the date of conception coincides with our wedding anniversary. The downside to that is we conceived our child in Devon... poor sod.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Bono rant number... oh does it really fucking matter, I've lost count...

Oh fuckbuckets, I need to rant. This particular post is not meant to be funny (if it is, that's a welcome side effect). It's just a rant. I am going to rant as I feel the need to rant, rant and rant some more. In between which I would like to rant. And when I've finished I'd perhaps also like to have a go at ranting.

So what is to be the subject of it now? You mean you had to ask? Who the fuck do you think it is? Yes, correct, it is fucking Bonio. The second rate singist, fifth rate song writist but first rate egomentalist and NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER not only wears stupid fucking glasses that look like bad fitting eye protection goggles coloured in by an infant with a crayon, but he's earned some money. Oh yes!

The aforementioned NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER is already a TAX EXILE from his own country of origin. But once upon a time, he decided to buy a share in Facetubemybookspace. You see, the Oirish NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER is a managing director of a company called Elevation Partners. Quite how he is a managing director of anything is beyond me as he can't manage that HUGE FUCKING EGO. Twat. Elevation Partners bought 1.5 per cent of the company wot runs Facebook, innit, for $195 million last year. So Facebook is currently rated at $50 billion which means, fuck me, that NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER's share is worth $728 million. YES, $728 FUCKING MILLION. I mean, fucking hell, you could get someone killed for that. I also have a target in mind. I'll give you three guesses. And yes, I realise just how many times I've typed fuck, and really, I don't give a fuck how many times I've typed fuck. It's a fucking rant so I have a fuck quota I need to fill and it's no where near full. Fuck it. Fuck fuckety fuck fuck.

Now, for once I won't waffle on about the world debt that NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER could solve with that large windfall. I won't go on about previously mentioned tax exile stuff. Or the current debt problem in NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER's homeland. Oh, no. Now NAUSEATING FUCKING WANKER has a bit of money, he can at least go out and buy a pair of shades that fucking fit and don't look they were coloured in with a crayon by and infant. Prick. No, woops, they're useful. I think we can all live with a little less Bono in our lives.

I'd like to end with a quote:
"Make poverty quieter, Make Bono history" - Michael Barnes