Friday, September 30, 2005

I wish you would - Billy Boy Arnold - a forgotten classic
This year sees the anniversary of many great records - 1955 was one of the best. A reissue of the classic Bo Diddley/I'm a Man had been done by Chess but I thought it might be interesting to look at another unsung masterpiece of 55 'I wish You would'.
Billy Boy Arnold was part of the wave of 2nd generation Chicago bluesmen although Billy Boy picked up his harp style not only from records but also from the great John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson. Billy Boy played with Bo on the streets of Chicago perfecting their distinctive 'African' style sound - complete with maraccas and a repetitive hypnotic riff. An early dub of Bo Diddley caught the ear of Chess records and an audition was set up. Billy Boy was told by Bo after the session that Leonard Chess thougth his style too dirivative of Sonny Boy's and so Billy Boy took his self to Chess's rival VeeJay. The result was 'I Wish You Would' - reputably the first use of electric bass on record in Chicago. Unfortunately Chess considered this competition for 'Bo Diddley' and had strings pulled to keep the record off the air, and so the record wasnt as much of a smash as it should be. Listen to Billy Boy classic 45 here

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lobositz 1756
Well the anniversary of the Seven Years War moves into the European phase with next year a reenactment of this, the opener between Austria and Prussia. This battle is being reenacted in 2006 on the dates, 29th September to the 1st October - groups of the period who might be interested contact
David Griffiths,
Zamec Borec,
41002 BOREC 1,
Information and links to groups reenacting the 7 years war at
Info and pictures of this battle

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

No Direction Home - Dylan documentary
This was an amazing piece of telly. Dylan, usually reticent, tackles the difficult years of his turning his back on the folk scene and embracing poetry against the 'topical' song. Loads of clips keep the pace going and some really good versions of some of his classic works appear - some of it live, some in the studio. I had forgotten what a true original Dylan was/is and this work showed him in his prime; besuited in beatle boots, getting booed by the northern lads and lasses who in little glimpses seem like children compared to the godlike Bob. The looseness of the sound created by Bob and the Band is well demonstrated with unusual by contextually correct versions of the songs if you know what I mean. Other folk and Blues performers get a mention - there is even a 5 second burst of the Wolf doing Spoonful at the Newport Folk Festival.
While in the mood here's my top 5 Dylan songs at this second in time
Obviously Five Believers
From a Buick 6
Visions of Johanna
Watching the River Flow
Highway 61
Giant squid Photographed in its natural habitat

Monday, September 26, 2005

New York Dolls on 'Don Kirschner's Rock Concert'
I have only just seen this performance - another of the web's joys... a tv show from 1975 - it is just brilliant. It knocks into a cocked hat any theory that the NYD's weren't the best band of the 70s - the energy and passion present alone make them the best rock thing America had produced up til that time. Thunders' doing Chatterbox is phenomenal especially compared to the later renditions and Johansen pouts and preens himself throughout. Jerry Nolan fans get to see him drumming centre stage behind the singer and he is all arms - a veritable squiddley diddley.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

No Direction Home
I admit to being a Dylan fan - at least the classic period which this documentary covers - 1961-66. I'm looking forward to it immensely actually - does that make me really unfashionable? as my kids tell me Dylan is about as unfashionable as it comes due to him not being dead and all that. Anyway

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Powell & Pressburger
This week a couple of classics have been screened - a Matter of Life and Death' and 'Life and Death of Colonel Blimp' - both featuring the excellent Roger Livesey. It's hard to put the appeal of these films into words - their high production values show what might have been if Britain had been blessed with a Hollywood system - these films are essentially British but also first class - something that few British films can be. This site has a lot of good stuff on these best of British filmmakers.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Haitian history
one anniversary that slipped by me was the anniversary of the Republic of Haiti in 1804 - an amazing tale well worth reading about - check out for a start. I've always thought the story of Toussaint L'Ouverture could make a good movie and one that could bring positive light on the history of this brave endeavour. A shortened version of key events are here
An article on Dessalines is here

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Jean Lafitte
I was talking to Dave Allen about my New Orleans battle idea and it wasn't going to well until I mentioned there were French pirates there...but it was Talk Like a Pirate Day which seems to have really got this country going . Here's a piece on Jean Lafitte

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The 9eme legere
Those of you who are reenactors may despair at the lack of progress of your unit but take heart - it wasn't that long ago that this unit were just a core of two or three people - now look at them. It goes to show that if you stick with something and get it right then it will all fall into place. This group are on a bicentennial scheme following the changes in uniform as it goes.
Blowing the Blues: A History of Blues Harmonica by Various Artists
this is a fantastic 3 cd set on the history of blues harmonica - tracklisting and samples here
the first 2 cds are absolute gems with the legends of pre war harp such as Noah Lewis, Jaybird Coleman and Jazz Gillum. The 2nd cd deals with the golden age if you like - the Sonny Boys, Little Walter, Big Walter - you know them - includes some great harp work. Cd 3 is a little less indespensible but who knows - maybe it'll grow on me.
Howl's Moving Castle
This week sees the release at the cinema in the UK of this new title from Studio Ghibli - the people who brought you 'Spirited Away' and many other superior family animation classics. Set in a Victorian world the trailer may be seen here
Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones it has been redubbed with many Hollywood biggies lending their vocal talents.
Official website
To learn more about the work of the creator Hayao Miyazaki go to

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Slim Harpo
Occasionally I'm going to feature some of the greats of Louisiana's musical heritage which is so rich and diverse as to have produced so many good records and artists in the 20th century.
The region's influence is everywhere - even in music like Slim Harpo's electric blues. On paper Slim, aka James Moore, from Baton Rouge was an imitator; most of his material is a take on the Jimmy Reed style from Chicago - lazy guitar boogies over racked harp and even lazier singing but Slim Harpo brought something else with him - the tonality and rhythms of Louisiana.
His repertoire of r&b hits encompasses some of the most covered of all blues songs 'I'm a King Bee', 'Got Love If you want it', 'Shake Your Hips', all with their original echoey recording sound and their sparse, unusual percussion. Moore's nasal vocal style is infectious as is his style of songwriting - minimalistic and somehow desolate. Witness the great swamp pop of 'Raining in my heart' or 'Baby Scratch My Back'. Anyway - listen to some clips on amazon - you might like it - you might even grow to love it. 'Wondering' and Worrying' is a personal favourite with probably the best intro I've ever heard.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Lake George French and Indian war tactical - keeping it real
Can you imagine reenacting the French and Indian war in the historic backdrop where it took place, away from the public in a 'wargame' situation - scouting, ambushing and so on for a good few days? Well that's what the Lake George tactical is all about. Read about it here I was lucky enough thanks to Dubois to attend this event in 99 and it is a real eye-opener and worth attending. I'd love to take a party over from Europe - just the experience of living on jerky and lake water waiting for a possible Ranger ambush is amazing. It's usually in October so flights aren't expensive and there's nothing to spend money on once you're on the the expansive Lake and its environs. Highlights for me were a night scout when we canoed around the myriad islands under the northern lights and the various treks when we outscouted the Brits and took their flag. The weather's pretty mild in comparison to the UK at this time and it is certain you'll never be quite the same again. Read the journals and so on at the webpage above and maybe make a date for 2006?
250th anniversary redcoats - the 44th Foot
As mentioned elsewhere on this blog this year is the 250th anniversary of 1755 - a year in which the world war known as the Seven Years War kicked off. There seems to be some confusion among reenactors as to what British redcoats looked like in the American theatre and in Europe so I thought it interesting to feature the 44th regiment of foot, from the US. who were originally participants in the great Braddock disaster at Monogahela. Their wesbite is here - the image left is from their website and is their webdesigner Ryan Gale.
If you are a francophile and want to see the French side of this picturesque conflict you won't have long to wait for more features.
Is this the best 18th century reenactment group in the world?
This Milan-based group recreating the Garde Francoises of the Seven Years War are in my opinion the best 18thc society. Their leader and tailor Gabriele Mendella is certainly one of those rare people in reenactment - someone who knows what they're talking about - he's inspected and handled pretty much all the existing uniforms and painstakingly recreates them. They may have a webpage of their own by now but in the meantime check out for more

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

my children got to meet their tv chef idol Gary Rhodes in Bath today promoting his new book 'Keeping it Simple' - the usual Rhodes' mixture of common-sense cooking and ingenuity. He must win an award for being the least annoying tv chef ... so far

Review; Italeri 1/72 indian warriors (American Independence war)

I have always liked small plastic figures. I like them for a number of reasons, some of them nostalgic - the opening of a new box is a pleasure that goes right back to way back in my childhood, but I also like the sculpting, animation and availability of them too. Recently many new companies have increased the depth of subjects covered and the overall accuracy of the figures has improved incredibly. Leaders in the market include eastern European manufacturer Zvezda whose Samurai warriors have raised the boom in quality and accuracy and companies like Emhar and HaT industries have brought new ideas and useful poses into the frame.
A site that is so valuable in taking the guesswork out of buying these figures by reviewing the figures and categorising them by time period and manufacturer is the Plastic Soldier Review - visit this site and be amazed at the range of figures now available to the modeller or wargamer.
Indian Warriors
As someone interested in the frontier period in American history I was looking forward to these woodland indians from Italeri and whilst they aren't perfect they certainly do the job of recreating the allies of the British in the American Revolution. OK so the sculptor doesnt really know anything about ballheaded clubs - that much is eveident - and the gunstock clubs are a little too prevalent showing the influence of the 'Mohicans' movie on the choice of weapons. A lot of the poses are kind of strange - one holding a scalp aloft being one and some very odd waving stances being some that come to mind. None of the warriors look like they know how to fire a musket which would be erroneous in that most woodland indians were expert marksmen and none are using the bow or woodland spear. It is another case of the box art being so much better than the contents but they are worth a paintjob and coupled with the other Revolution or Seven Years war figures enable people to recreate battles of the French and Indian wars pretty cheaply. Imex are planning releases of Mohawks and Rogers Rangers to add to their already impressive range of settlers, wagons and stagecoaches in their American History series - one set includes wigwams and camp equipment for 'Eastern Friendly Natives'.
So there you have it - the future is plastic - check out the Plastic soldier Review for the all-important 'sprue shots'
Cossacks 2 looks good
check out the gallery for this new Napoleonic realtime strategy pc game - looks good but then I'm a fan of Cossacks and American Conquest the predecessors - also watch out for the American civil war version of the latter

Testard de Montigny
This is a French group recreating the Compagnie franches de la marine in North America. These were colonial soldiers garrisoning the forts up and down the various rivers and lakes in Canada and beyond
If you thought this was all cavalry, this war of 1920 had a fascinating armoured car column made of converted Model T Fords - go to this site to read about it and see pictures of the vehicles

Battle of Komarów 1920
As a cavalry fan I was pleased to have an account of this battle come through the post today. It's the last big decisive cavalry battle in history and it could be credited as being the battle that saved the rest of Europe from the Bolshevik peril. It certainly was bad for the hitherto invincible Budenny and his cavalry army - but Polish cavalry have never been a push over - they could be credited as having saved Europe in 1685 relieving the siege of Vienna but that's another story - to read about the miracle on the Vistula go here
or hereów
Crimean war period drum
Occasionally I will put up 'things I would buy if I was rich' which appear on ebay. This drum is one here
Some Russian military drums of this period were made in England by Potters of London.
More military drums, some made by Potters are for sale here

Sunday, September 11, 2005

this site is hilarious. It's a collection of unintentionally funny comic covers - mostly DC showing how stupid some of the stories and so on were from these so-called classics
subjects are categorized and its well worth spending some time in this amusing world

Friday, September 09, 2005

September 8th 1798
This date saw the surrender of the French forces under Humbert in Ireland. There's a chronology here

Waterloo 1705
What is it about this village in Belgium that makes it the centre of a major battle every hundred years or so. Obviously we have the one in 1815 and it was fought over in 1914 but there was also conflict there in the Marlborough period - in 1705 to be precise - check out these great photos -
this one features the UK's Lord Orkneys regiment - other groups featured include Holcroft Bloods and Sans Pareil and the Dutch Blue Guards
Battle of New Orleans - the story of a random hit record
While reading up on the historical battle which is pretty fascinating in itself I naturally came across the random hit of the same name - anyway the story is here and the lyrics here
It mentions a time when historical themes were popular in hit songs and sites this one on the Battle of Waterloo - read the lyrics and try to understand what he is talking about
Thanks to Eric for spotting this excellent video - from a Russian band called Gluk'oza, the song Shvanie (Russian for pig) shows animated pig-Nazis in all manner of amusing scenarios. Brilliant

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Looking for information on the Battle of New Orleans I came across this site - the Gallery of Illustration

that had this paiting by Ronald Embleton

Battle of New Orleans?
This maybe another off-the-wall idea but that's why its my blog - so I can say what I want. How about this? We organise a one-off charity benefit reenactment of the Battle of New Orleans? It could involve lots of groups and could be the sort of thing that would generate a good response. Why not approach a host site for an event? I can think of one place at least?

250th anniversary of 1755

This year is pretty significant in the form of anniversaries and the like - it is the 250th of the year 1755 - the year when everything kicked off with the French and Indian war - or the Seven years war. Events of 1755 are here
This is a period much favoured by filmmakers, novelists and the like most notably 'Lsst of the Mohicans' 'Northwest Passage' (about Rogers Rangers rather than the passage of the title which only comes in the end when they set off to find it!) and soon the already mentioned 'Nouvelle France'.
The early battles of this war being celebrated this year in and around upstate New York and so on are pretty spectacular affairs so if you're in the states go to
In the UK check out

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The History of the World - in movies
I just thought of this concept - why I don't know, but perhaps Sky's Hollywood versus History season sparked it off, but anyway here it is. A comprehensive list of feature films chronologically depicting the history of the world - say from prehistory to 2000. It could be subdivided into periods. Once assembled it could provide quite an interesting resource if only to find out the gaps when moviemakers just can't be bothered.
My Doorbell White Stripes This is a pleasant slice of Americana with naked 'Basement tapes' piano over the usual heaven and hell drumming you get with the Striped ones. The video is a treat showing them playing an infants school in retro black and white.
Rough Crossings - Simon Schama hits the bigtime
This book
is picking up good reviews. Basically it concerns slaves during the American Revolution and Britain's involvement in their fate. It's part of a huge deal worth £3 million - the largest advance given to a tv historian as there will be two BBC series scheduled on Anglo-American migration and relations to follow.
There's a review here as I'm not going to shell out 20 quid - I'll wait for it in the library, but it does look an interesting subject.
An interview with the UK's most popular historian is here

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Two autumn historical blockbusters
Two big pictures this year deal with aspects of America's past - one 'New World' directed by Terence Malick stars Colin Farrell as John Smith
The website has some interstng features sucj as the choreographing of Native extras and building the Jamestown Fort. Also stars Wes (Magua) Studi
Also this autumn is Nouvelle France -
set in 1750s Canada starring Gerard Depardieu this Canadian made movie has looked interesting from the trailer but other reports suggest it may be disappointing

Napoleon III's camp at Chalons photos from 1857
This website is a must if you like me have an interest in military history. These photos show a series of military maneuvres in 1857 - done at the height of the military fame of the French army it depicts Zouaves in camp as well as a series of sculptures done by the units in their semi permanent bivouac.

Monday, September 05, 2005

'George Bush doesn't care about Black People'
watch Kanye West - see below - lets rip on live tv - worth watching someone telling it like it is. Respect
Kanye West Golddigger
Do you like hip hop? I have to admit to liking it above most of what counts as 'pop' music these days. This is one single that we all liked. It features Jamie Foxx (he who played Ray Charles in the recent biopic) singing a hacked-about sample of the vocal line of Brother Ray's 'I got a Woman'. Of course I immediately tried to seem hip and interest those about by playing the original but noone cared
The hook line is
Now I aint sayin she a gold digger
But she aint messin wit no broke niggaz
Nod your head slowly to the beat, if you like it.
See the glamour-heavy video here
lyrics here
Love In A Trashcan Video - Raveonettes
Danish countryfied rockers the Raveonettes have made a great video for this track which I think is the highlight of the album 'Pretty in Black'. I said 'bet they do a version in pink vinyl' and guess what? - they do. But 16 other versions are available - see

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fats Domino news
To me, someone who will always be the embodiment of New Orleans - Fats Domino - is safe and well according to the online page
A photo showing him being rescued gives all music fans a boost but it has to be said that the world must be in mourning for one of the most important cultural centres in the world which is currently in a state of disaster. Share some time to feel compassion for the people still suffering and let's hope they get some aid fast. New Orleans, famous for its jazz has given the world some of the finest rock and roll, r'n'b and soul music too - try and help where you can.
Learn more about New Orleans by following the NO links on Fats' homepage above

Friday, September 02, 2005

CBGBS to close?
is the legendary club about to close - does this mean another ambition to remain unfulfilled?
Wrong again Robin
This is Alex - a Robin and regular visitor to our garden - in fact he lands on us sometimes. This photo was taken without zoom - he was within a few feet. Now as I know it Robins are friendly only in the UK where they have a special status related to the martyrdom of Christ - and were therefore not captured or killed. Can anyone verify this fact? Pic by Bea

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I have to mention my old band, Animals and men got a good review from Ed Zed at Rockbottom - a skateboarder magazine! yes indeed - go to