Friday, 25 December 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Merry Christmas High Wallers,

Christmas as a bairn was a great time. Up at the crack o' dawn to get tore in aboot the presents. Subbuteo, Oor Wullie annuals, Aurora Monster kits, Johnny West. One year I mind I got a metal "Robin Hood" crossbow with a fair powerful elastic band that fired wooden arrows wi suckers on the end. Once the suckers were off and the arrows given a healthy sharpening on the pavement it was good to go.

By aboot 4pm the auld boy would be snoring in his chair. yer Ma would be fussing aboot, doing dishes and offering you mair food. We of course had ate oor body weights in Selection Boxes, knelt on Charlie George (permanenlty reducing Arsenal to 10 men) and lost the rat from the Forgotten Prisoner of Castel Mare.

The telly in the evening was always a good way to round off a happy day. Mike Yarwood was pish but the "Two Ronnies" were aye a class act.

This year it is all Ipods and high tec stuff for my bairns, who think it is funny to make wee films of me snorin' in my chair so that they can put them on their Facebook for aw their mates to laugh at.

Nae Two Ronnies but at least we've got The Royle Family.

I'm off for a Yuletide log !!!

Have a guid yin.

Without a word of a lie, I was looking after the wife's shop last weekend and a woman came in and bought 4 candles. I admit I was tempted.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The night Joe Strummer came to town

It was 16th November '78. The boys of the High wall had left behind their innocent carefree days and embarked on the world of work. Factory worker, bank monkey and trainee squaddie.

Despite growing up in the shadow of various world renouned seats of learning, there was no University route mapped out for the High Wall lads. Yer auld boy might have printed text books or worked as a Jannie at the Uni, yer Ma might have been a cleaner in the place, but it was not for the likes o' us.

University is a load of pish anyway as Arkos later discovered. Daft young laddies are better off in the real world, you learn more that will help you oot in the long run.

Anyway I digress.

There is a great wee Johnny Cash song called "The night Hank Williams came to Town" It's all about that moment of enlightenment you get as a young man when really great music comes to your wee corner of the world. The important thing about the sentiment of the song is that it is not about going to your first "T in the Park", it is a much more personal than that. It is about the great artist coming to where the real people are and how the music touches their lives.

As kids in Edinburgh you refer to your home/home area as your "bit" i.e "Come roond tae ma bit aboot 7 ish and we'll head oot"

On 16th November 1978 Joe came roond tae oor bit. Not only that he brought the rest of the Clash with him.

I'm not going to wax lyrical about the gig other than to say I have never seen another band come even close to the energy and passion. I now realise what a privilege it was to have seen the Clash at their height. To have just turned 17 and witness that, left it's mark. The Clash politicised you, gave you a real sense of equality and social justice, and also made you skank like a Mofo.

In June 1999 Arkos and I saw Joe and the Mescaleros play their 4th ever gig at King Tuts and as Arkos said on the night "it was like they had wheeled him out of a Clash storage cupboard and back onto the stage". Joe was a few pounds heavier (I'm a fine one tae talk) but still rocking good style. Grown men were close to tears hearing "White Man in the Hammersmith Palais" and other Clash standards sung by the man himself. It was the stuff we thought we would never hear again, and whilst it was not the Clash, it was more real than a money driven nostalgia circuit reunion. Joe still wanted to create new stuff and celebrate the old stuff. He had the spirit of punk.

His Mescaleros catalogue stands up against any volume of work. Over the next few years Arkos and I caught Joe whenever he came to Scotland, usually the Barrowlands. The shows just got better and better. It was our wee winter night oot and it fair lifted the gloom.

On 11th November 2002, almost 24 years since we first saw him, Joe came back tae "oor bit". After all the Liquid Rooms is an easy enough daunder from the High Wall. It was a fine night of music.

6 weeks later, Joe sat down at his kitchen table after walking his dogs and left us forever.

Joe Strummer

21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002