Al Fresco album browsing

Ambling through Edinburgh’s Old Town on a Saturday afternoon recently with a friend we noticed a stall set up on Middle Meadow Walk with second hand albums, CDs and DVDs. I used to go to second hand record shops regularly when I first moved here years ago, but prices for CDs and DVDs in places like Fopp or online have dropped so much over the years that the second hand places are often not worth it, although I do find myself still going for wanders through second hand and charity bookstores (and I certainly don’t really need more books, but it doesn’t stop me!).

al fresco album browsing 01

al fresco album browsing 02

It’s funny though, as soon as my fingertips started flicking through the racks, especially the plastic-wrapped albums, it was like the fingers remembered this exercise from many years of browsing and I felt a curious satisfaction, half memories of browsing through old albums with pals in Glasgow or Edinburgh of a weekend in our late teens and 20s. An enjoyable way to spend some time; raking through boxes of second hand comics has a similarly satisfying feeling. And I think the fact you can come away with some purchases but only spend a small amount is kind of nice, especially with things so tight – the feeling of having bought something cool but not having made a hole in the wallet to do it. I think I came away with second hand White Stripes album and a jazz one by Courtney Pine, plus a DVD of The Goonies for the princely sum of about 7 quid. Then we wandered over the road to Sandy Bell’s for a few pints and listen to some live folk music.

folk music in Sandy Bells 02

folk music in Sandy Bells 01

Fuck me, Ray Bradbury

Love this very rude but very funny (and very NSFW) pop video by Rachel Bloom paying rather sexy homage to the great Ray Bradbury and a bit of book humping. Very naughty, but then what do you expect from a song by a huge-chested singer with a title like “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury”? Some good use of Ray’s book titles in the lyrics, bet he never expected them to be used in quite this manner, although I daresay the late Philip Jose Farmer would have loved someone to do this with his books. (via Christopher Cooksey on Facebook):

The Doctor is in…

Brian Rimmer presents a time-travelling musical slide through more than forty years of theme music and opening sequences to the world’s longest running science fiction show, Doctor Who. I confess my favourite remains the Tom Baker era ‘time tunnel opening (the main Who era for me growing up), with the same ‘slit-scan’ technique used in the stargate sequence for 2001, but it’s fun to see them all back to back like this, from the early Hartnell era of 1963 (and the logo that looks like ‘Doctor Oho’ for a second before becoming ‘Who’) through to 2010′s revamped opening and music for Matt Smith’s Doctor. And through it all that immortal, iconic bass line, duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh, that’s been reworked endlessly across the decades by various arrangers for the show and by other musicians like Orbital and Pink Floyd; those bass lines were the signal to generations of kids that it was Saturday, tea-time and that meant marvellous adventures and scary monsters (and jelly babies). How lovely that it still means exactly that to a new generation of kids watching the new show and still loving it. (via BoingBoing)

Sax on the streets

Several times walking home I’ve heard some wonderful saxophone music drifting up from below the bridge that takes Johnstone Terrace (the road which curves up and around the back of Edinburgh Castle) over King’s Stables Road. Each time I think I must go down the steep stairs and get a photo of this player, but usually I am on my way somewhere and don’t have time. Guardian Edinburgh‘s blogger Tom Allan followed those lovely notes – amplified with a lovely tone by the arch of the stone bridge overhead – to shoot some video of Gordon Jones playing his soprano sax.

City notes – Gordon Jones plays Soprano Sax on Kings Stables Road from Tom Allan on Vimeo.

Bugs and Opera

There’s a long and very fine tradition of animation matched to music and some of the best came out of that glorious period in the 1940s and 50s; its not really a coincidence that one artform which requires close attention to timing and rhythm would work so well with another. And back in the day when studios could afford the much more lush, detailed animation (unlike later eras where budget constraints mean much less flowing animation) and the studio would just happen to have an orchestra on staff too they made some of the finest, with one of Hollywood’s greatest ever stars (and a personal role model for me growing up), Mr Bugs Bunny being in not one but two of the best ever made, The Rabbit of Seville and What’s Opera, Doc?, probably both of which would be my earliest introduction to the world of classica music, not too mention a lifelong appreciation for the skill and imagination of animators.


A Glorious Dawn

I see that this fab remix of the late and much missed Carl Sagan’s word from Cosmos that has proved popular on YouTube is getting a release as a traditional 7 inch vinyl. Funnily enough a friend sent me some music tracks he came across recently, from Cosmos, which we both remembered watching; it was instant nostalgia for me. As a boy I adored the series; I was already fascinated by astronomy and the exploration of space and this fueled it, as well as introducing me for the first time to Sagan. Years later I’d admire him for speaking out for the importance of scientific research for the sake of research and not simply for commerce, for the value of knowledge over susperstition and the need to take care of our own remarkable world, so different from the other planets we were exploring – he even publicly berated Margaret Thatcher once when she was Prime Minister, scolding her for her lack of support for pure research and environmental awareness, telling her it was shocking that someone who actually had proper scientific training could be so foolish.

Apparently the B side of the single looks like the cover of the famous gold record disc which was placed in the Voyager spacecraft, so that long after they had completed their mission of exploration (which they did so magnificently) and headed out of our solar system and into the deep, cold depths of interstellar space, should they by some remote chance be found by another civilisation they could play them and hear sounds from Planet Earth – greetings in many languages, poetry and snatches of music, which Sagan helped oversee. Carl’s been gone a while now, sadly, but that gold disc is now travelling still, further than any man made object in the entire history of the world has ever travelled, waiting for the day when someone – something,perhaps – finds it and plays it. (via Third Man Records)


And while we’re at it, here’s a short video, the Pale Blue Dot, by Carl. As the aging Voyager reached towards the edge of our solar system he argued for NASA to turn it to face back towards us – no easy task when the vast distance meant even radio signal commands travelling at the speed of light would take some time to reach the craft, then longer for returns, assuming it even worked. But he argued and they did it and the result was ‘the family portrait’, a view of the worlds of our solar system as no-one else in the history of our species had ever seen it, a shot taken from the edge of what we know from a little machine about to cross that boundary, a parting gift from one of the great missions of exploration. And in that picture a tiny dot, a blue dot taking up even less than one pixel. That dot being the Earth. Everything we’ve ever known, every person who has ever loved and lived, every cat, every dog, every Triceratops, every dolphin, every fern, every bush, every fish, every work of art, all contained inside that tiny, tiny dot… Sagan had that wonderful gift of enthusiasm and the ability to communicate the sense of wonder to all, a great spokesman for science.

electric ukulele land

electric ukulele land 2

A couple of buskers on the Royal Mile doing the rock thing but with ukuleles instead of electric guitar, but doing the full guitar heroes movements; as I listened to them rocking out on their ukes I realised they were giving big licks to Queens of the Stone Age! First time I’ve heard QOTSA on ukuleles – I had to shoot a brief vid clip so I could share the sound as well as grabbing a photo: