Wednesday, January 30, 2008

US War of 1812 unit

Been looking around the web at the various War of 1812 sites and seeing what looks good - this group took my eye - it has a great look to its webpage and the overall impression is excellent. This is possibly what is needed in the UK - which isn't so far-fetched if you take on board the number of American civil war enthusiasts coupled with the number of Napoleonic enthusiasts in this country.
Have a browse of the First Regiment Volunteers website - this pic is from their section on the hunting shirt or rifle frock. A scetion on primary source documents for the militia of the period gives a useful insight into the colourful attire of the new Republic's citizen soldiers.

War of 1812 petition

Image from Canadian military heritage gateway
Canadian historians are fanatical about the War of 1812. Rightly so. Looking around the web I found this petition on the War of 1812 website for all Canadians to lobby their Prime Minister. We've all seen on this blog the excellent bicentennial celebrations that have marked things like the Battle of Austerlitz, Friedland, the bombardment of Copenhagen - let's see something spectacular in the Americas...
Dear Prime Minister Harper,I am writing to ask for a national strategy to be established for commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812.With heroes like Sir Isaac Brock, Laura Secord, Tecumseh, and Charles Michel de Salaberry, the War of 1812 has become a great source of patriotic pride for all Canadians. Because of this, the bicentennial offers an ideal opportunity for the federal government to take a leadership role both nationally and internationally in the war's commemoration. It is about remembering the sacrifice of veterans, no longer with us, who fought for Canada on Canadian soil.In the United States, the Senate gave unanimous consent last year to the Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission Act and it is now in the House of Representatives for approval. In representing a society expert in commemoration, US legislators realize action must happen NOW in order to produce meaningful results.A similar effort is needed from Ottawa that encompasses all federal organizations including Parks Canada, the Canadian Museum of Civilization,the Canadian War Museum, Library and Archives Canada, and the Department of National Defence. Pooling resources in a unified effort will allow Canada to properly show its respect and gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives defending this nation in the War of 1812.In conclusion, the War of 1812 is extremely important to Canadians and taking action NOW by this government is necessary in order for the 200th Anniversary to be done properly. I sincerely hope you will recognize this issue's value and put forth a coordinated, results-driven process that will generate a commemoration that will make Canadians proud.Yours truly,Your name.Your Postal Code or City,Province

Charlie Patton and Bertha Lee 'Oh Death'

Susan made this short film of where we live and asked me to put some music to it - I chose the song that has been on our turntable recently - Charlie Patton and Bertha Lee's 'Oh Death'. It's a brilliant song - a spiritual based on the Delta Big Four's 'I know My Time Ain't Long'. I hope you listen to it as it is one the most catchiest songs I've heard for a while. Bertha Lee was Patton's common law wife and half his age and they recorded several outstanding tracks together which are worth buying the Complete recordings box set for. It was recorded February 1st 1934 in New York City. Lyrics here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

His Majesty's Indian Allies

Last night in my current interest in the War of 1812 and its bicentennial I picked up and read this book by Robert Allen - the full title is 'His Majesty's Indian Allies - British Indian Policy in the Defence of Canada 1774-1815' -it's a really good book on the subject of the relation between the British Crown and the Indian nations and from my English perspective is a useful slant on the usual whites v indians theme as often found in Hollywood.
Checking out the web for reenactors of this era there are some great Indian living history groups in the US like the Woodland Confederacy Trekking is popular in the US - but we don't have the weather or the scenery do we?
Check out the Eastern Woodland Trekkers for something of interest in that department.
Pic Ottawa chiefs c1814 at Michilimackinac.

Battle to save Green Springs Battlefield

Interesting little movie about the efforts to raise awareness and save the site of the Revolutionary War battlefield. Lionheart films have made some excellent historical shorts - check out their Youtube page to see more.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Alamo - arrival of Santa Anna's army

Of course my interest in American history probably comes from watching John Wayne's Alamo at the cinema as a small boy - it's a great film and this is one of its most visually exciting scenes - the music by Dmitri Tiomkin is stirring too.

Wargaming the War of 1812 blog!

I found this new blog created with the view to creating sets of rules for doing this conflict in miniature in 2012. Good on him. I'd probably do it in 1/72 scale though with Imex doing some useful figures. I've been looking around the web for this era in history and I don't think the Yanks are switched onto the potential for the bicentennial of this pivotal and colourful conflict. Yet. I think I've said this before on this blog but the fact there are no major Hollywood movies dealing with this war between Britain, Canada and the US means that its profile suffers. If you can think of any let me know...

Remembering the Raisin

Napoleonic reenactment takes place all over the world - here's a news article about the Battle of the River Raisin reenacted recently in America. The battle was fought between British and their native allies and American troops. I'd love to do a War of 1812 reenactment - not sure what side I'd be on though - probably a native ally if I'm still about. Maybe I ought to go over for the bicentennial. Found this quote on the British Indian allies at the Raisin
Of the militia there are only four killed, and I dare say not more of the Indians, who behaved with the utmost bravery. It was them who took the General, and is said to have killed some hundred who took to flight; indeed very few escaped. You may rely on it that without the Indians we never could keep this country, and that with them the Americans never will take the upper posts, for let them send forward as many men as they will, if we employ the foreign Indians we can have equal numbers, which is more than is wanted, for in the woods where the Americans must pass one Indian is equal to three white men, let the nation be what it will. Source
Anyone in Britain interested in the War of 1812? I suppose I know the answer to that question from when I used to do the French and Indian war - there are people interested but of course we're none of us getting any younger. Off the top of my head I suppose the best thing would be to aim to have a big get-together in Europe in 2012 that doesn't clash with any big American events so people could go to both. A register of people interested in Militia, Indian or Regular could enable people to gradually get kitted out and keep in touch. Maybe I'll set up an internet forum - or maybe I'll have an attack of sanity and not bother...
More on the Raisin and another set of photos here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Radstock Jig

Here's a short little movie Susan made this afternoon - of our home town in North Somerset - the music is by John Kirkpatrick and is his rendition of the Radstock Jig - a locally sourced reel noted down in the Shepton Mallet Union (workhouse) from the playing of fiddler James Higgins (1819 -c.1910) by Cecil Sharp . The film shows off the centre well I think - see if you can spot where the Somerset and Dorset railway used to run and where we buy our groceries. The obelisk is a memorial to the coal-mining heritage - the subject of an excellent museum depicted too in what was once a covered market.

The sacking of St Augustine 1668

If I was a globetrotting reenactor I'd go to this event in March in Florida recreating the sacking of St Augustine in 1668. Maybe some British 17th century enthusiasts might be interested - the novelty of doing an event in March where the weather isn't terrible might make it worth the flying.

Man With the Movie Camera (1929)

Some kind soul has uploaded this Soviet masterpiece of experimental cinema up in 9 pieces. To try and explain this movie is not easy - it's a whole day in Moscow recorded by director Vertov...I'm not really able to give it justice in a few flip phrases - maybe it's the forerunner of films like -koyaanisqatsi - if that's any help - but anyway I recommend you give it a try - it's a fascinating piece of art that is unique and artistically up there with the great films of cinema - try it - but at least watch a few reels as it is really a film like no other. By the way if anyone from our band is reading this have a look - Susan and I think this would make a great projection at a gig. See what you think...

Sing Beast Sing

Here's something really special -an animated short from 1980 by Marv Newland I loved to bits when I first saw it - I'm sorry but I am going to have to insist you watch it - it has at its heart a performance of Chicago piano bluesman Willie Mabon's 'I'm Mad' but there's more to it than that - you will just have to watch it - I think there is a Robert Crumb influence in there - I don't know - you watch it and see... there's a slow build up but it's worth persevering honestly - do I ever give you bum steers?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

R. Crumb draws the Blues

Cartoonist Robert Crumb's work is now part and parcel of the landscape of the blues from a modern perspective and love him or hate him it's hard to approach the subject without considering his contribution. I find his work entertaining and useful - let's face it - rural blues is not the most accessible form of music and any attempt to interpret the lives of the greats is worthwhile - this book brings together all of Crumb's blues pictures amd strips and is a must for comic and music fans. R Crumb wiki
Why not visit the Official website where you can get t-shirts and so forth.

Booker White 'The Jelly Roll Blues'

While I'm having a bit of a blues phase I thought I'd better put up this clip of Booker - sometimes called Bukka - White - one of the great primitive delta bluesmen and certainly someone who was influenced by Charley Patton in the gravelly voice department. Another former inmate of the famous Parchman prison farm Booker White was rediscovered in the early 60s by John Fahey by simply addressing a letter to him care of Aberdeen Mississippi - one of the towns immortalised in song by him. Watch him play that very song here. You know I'd quite like to visit the places immortalised by the great blues singers - don't suppose I ever will though.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sam Chatmon

Here's a clip that is a joy to behold - Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks a family based band who were huge in the 30s playing like he's still a young man - I wish I could play like that, but then I'm not the half-brother of Charley Patton and I haven't been featured on Robert Crumb's heroes of the blues cards.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Great Northern War blog!

Last night - I kid you not - I had a vivid dream that I went to a museum in Sweden dedicated to the Great Northern War - and bought this huge poster of a battle and looked around at the various uniforms and so on - my parents were with me and I visited the gift shop before I was chucked out due to it being closing time. Of course it was just a dream but perhaps it represented some repressed desire or other - anyway I found this new blog - mostly about wargaming the period - maybe it will inspire me to do something positive other than occasionally writing about it.

Front Rank 40mm figures

At £2.45 each these lovely figures covering the American Revolution look well worth investing in. So far only Redcoats and Militia available - ideal if you want to recreate the Patriot but as a 'Revwar' fan I do hope they get round to producing Indians, Loyalists, French and cavalry, artillery etc as what they have produced so far looks very high quality indeed - and that is what 40mm is all about - collectible quality.
Of course if they were to send me some freebies I would be able to properly review them but from what I have seen on the website they are some of the best 40mms around and I hope they do well.

WW2 Italian 1/6th scale figures

I don't really like covering ww2 subjects - partly because there is simply too much out there and I am not interested apart from 4 exceptions - the Italian, French, Japanese and Russian armies - these nations tend to be ignored and overlooked in the rush to sell the more lucrative German and American ww2 stuff so I am pretty pleased to see someone producing 1/6th scale action figures of the Italian army. I don't agree with the politics of Italy at the time but I have a great deal of respect for the army and what it did in the circumstances and saddened to see them so often maligned in the mainstream media.

Sad death of Heath Ledger

I am going to go all sentimental on you and post this collection of scenes from the Patriot featuring a great actor who has tragically passed away.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Robert Nighthawk Live on Maxwell Street

This clip says it all really when it comes to understanding the blues. Maxwell street in Chicago was the place for musicians to play during the day and this is a fine example of electric blues from 1964. I love the lyrics; 'I went down to Eli's - to get my pistol out of pawn - when I got back home my woman had gone... Yeah I'm gonna murder my babe - if she don't stop cheatin' and lyin' - I'd rather be in penitentiary than to be worried outta my mind'. We've all been there haven't we? Actually there is a serious point to me posting this clip - apart from the music - watch the people dancing - that's what blues was essentially - dance music - forget earnest white people sitting spellbound - blues was about people having a drink and a dance in the juke joints, in the streets wherever - never forget that and we'll get along just fine... watch footage of Maxwell Street in its prime here

Little Walter; musical genius

So Little Walter is about to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March in the 'sideman' category. What!? Sideman? Talk about an anti harmonica bias. Little Walter was the first musician to use amplified distortion for its own sake and his song Juke was the first and only harmonica instrumental to hit number 1 on the Billboard R and B charts. Apart from his ground-breaking harp work Little Walter was a talented vocalist - John Lee Hooker placed him as his favourite singer. He wasn't a nice man - his life was shortened by his tendency to get into brawls - but surely it's time to give this man some respect for being more than a session man on Muddy's records - he outsold Muddy Waters frequently with his solo stuff - this man was a genius - up there with Charlie Parker and Hendrix for pushing the boundaries of his instrument to new levels - practically single-handedly creating a genre. He didn't leave much in the way of film footage sadly - but his records are some of the highest quality Chicago blues put onto vinyl and every music lover should own at least one compilation - if they want to be called a music lover, that is. Check out the webpage where this photo comes from - from the section on his amplifiers. A book on this great man is available called 'Blues with a feeling' by Tony Glover (yes THE Tony Glover who wrote those great harp tutorial books) ... well worth tracking down.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Plastic swords

An amateur dramatic group are told to lock their plastic swords away - article here. Totally pathetic - what a country.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Johnny West tv commercial

Why don't they make decent toys anymore? This is a commercial for a cowboy action figure series from the 60s that I didn't have but I knew a few people who did - I did have one of the Marx knights though not one of their horses which used to have wheels for jousting. Apparently there are reissues available - when you have got one how about asking me round to play with it?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Reenactment nostalgia

I don't know - maybe it's the weather but I have been getting nostalgic for my reenactment days - this pic is of me demonstrating a tumpline at an event I did for the National Trust at Box Hill Surrey. I got lost in the woods when it got dark there and spent about 5 hours trying to find my way back to camp - some scout!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wanna see some puppies?

Our next door neighbour's dog has had ten puppies - they're delightful. All taken so don't ask...

Bo Diddley 'Bo Diddley'

Great clip from Hollywood a Go Go - why aren't there any decent music programmes on tv anymore?

Iron Man theme song

Everyone is no doubt going to go Iron Man crazy this year but let's not forget this lovely theme song from the 60s.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

10,000 BC trailer

Official site. This big film for March looks interesting. An epic from Roland Emmerich featuring Mammoths and sabre-toothed cats. Wiki on the movie

City of Vice

I don't normally watch tv history - it usually annoys rather than entertains but this new Channel 4 series set in London in the mid 18th century got me tuning in to see whether it was any good and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. Based around the Fielding brothers' attempts to bring the rule of law to the capital and using computer images to recreate Georgian London it was both educational and entertaining this first episode using the infamous Harris's list as its centrepiece. (Harris was a man who called himself 'Pimp General of All England' and published a gazeteer of prostitutes recently republished in an accessable format). Each of the ten episodes will be an hour long but it didn't seem to be at all boring - I was almost ready to watch it again on 4 plus 1 so much did I enjoy it. Check out the micro site and watch the video clips to see if it's your cup of tea - some of the subject matter - bathing houses, prostitution and so forth - is pretty near the knuckle for its 9pm transmission time but on the whole I think the gamble has paid off and some worthwhile television has been created. Times review

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stranded in the Jungle radio

Susan has taken to DJing like a duck to water and is getting really good at this easier-than-it-looks skill. She's on nightly 6-8 monday to friday GMT - if you want to contact on air use MSN Messenger Strandedinthejungle. I am acting as producer and planning a Blues Soul and Rock and Roll show. She's already got features on local bands having done the Cortinas, Bad Detectives, and Kill Van Helsing and generally heavily features old school punk bands like Penetration, the Lurkers and the Models.

'Charge of the Light Brigade' opening titles

This animation by Richard Williams for the 1968 movie is a real treat and I encourage all of you history fans to watch it - it's a work of genius. Using the style of line drawing popular in the 19th century it manages to show the diplomatic scene as well as showing Victorian England in all its industrial glory. My ancestors all started work as carting boys underground and this is depicted alongside all the other hellish ways of earning a crust in Imperial Britain. Is there a better opening title sequence ever? Ich don't think so...

The Four Pennies 'Black Girl'

What was the first band you ever saw live? For many years I always thought it was Wings on their Red Rose Speedway tour at the Hippodrome but seeing this clip reminded me that it was the Four Pennies - they played in Radstock - outside at a shop opening or something - anyone out there remember that? I also saw the Bachelors in pantomime too. Anyway this is a pretty good version of Leadbelly's original most famously covered by Nirvana as 'My Girl'.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

March of the Emperors

I am sure you will find this funny - unless you don't think a long column of Napoleons getting attacked by a seal not it and see of you are amused.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Our radio show 'Stranded in the Jungle'

This went well - a few technical hitches but we're back on tonight 6-8 GMT.

Bath's blues festivals

I'm not much a festival fan - but in my current Canned Heat phase I was caused to read up on some classic festivals and it's quite an interesting subject. Bath's Blues festival of 1969 was, if you like, Britain's Monterey with Led Zeppelin and the Nice stealing the show. This took place in Bath with the Pavillion acting as a backstage area with bands setting up in front of where the sport centre now stands. This was followed up the next year with a bigger festival at the Bath and West show ground Shepton Mallet and was the precursor of the concept that became Glastonbury showing movies like King Kong and having giant projections of the bands. Bath's 1970 festival had Zappa, Canned Heat, Floyd, Zep and many others but a log jam with band's equipment threw the schedule into chaos with Canned Heat playing 6.00 am Sunday morning instead of headlining. This festival even had its own Hell's Angel security and of course John Peel was present at both events. The fame of these key music festivals has suffered over the years as there is no one film record of it unlike the Isle of Wight, Hyde Park etc but if you want to see some great festival footage the weekend before the second Bath was the huge Dutch festival Kralingen which has the reputation of being Europe's Woodstock - there is a great film of it 'Stamping Ground' up in parts on Youtube featuring Canned Heat and an early Mickey Finn T Rex. The crowd scenes are what make these festival films - seeing people frollicking on a lake in what looked like giant plastic pyramid tea bags is a good antidote to this wet wintry weather.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stranded In the Jungle

OK tomcats! We're going into the world of selfcast radio. It's going to be called 'Stranded in the Jungle' and it's going to be a mix of all sorts of music that is pushing our buttons old and new. We'll manage some chat too and hopefully get some guests dropping in. It's going to be 6-7 pm GMT nightly for a trial period.

Butterfield Blues Band at Monterey 'Driftin' Blues'

While revisiting the great blues bands of history we have to post a Butterfield clip. An authentic rendition of contemporary Chicago blues. This is of course the seminal Monterey festival - worth watching for its eye candy-like visual clarity even if you don't like the blues. There's some great Monterey footage on youtube - watch out for an alumni of 60s legends. Brian Jones was supposedly 'King' of the festival with Nico as his companion wandering serenely smiling among the crowd. Heady days.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

George Macdonald Fraser dies

The German trailer is all I can find for this, the only movie adaptation of George Macdonald Fraser's classic creation Harry Flashman posted here as a tribute to the great author. Starring Malcolm Mcdowell Royal Flash is a colourful comedy that should be recognised as a classic. Oliver Reed as Bismarck - come on - directed by the great Richard Lester... loads of great cameos - what's not to like? Royal Flash wiki

Monday, January 07, 2008

Canned Heat 'Turpentine moan' 'On the Road Again'

I am having a big Canned Heat revival at the moment. I reckon they are the world's greatest blues band - and I kind of hate saying that them being Americans and all but credit where credit's due. I was definitely big on them when I was about 13 and their version of 'Help Me' was the song that probably got me into playing the 'Mississippi saxophone'. They were blessed by having 2 great singers, one singing deep and grittily a bit like Jim Morrison and the other higher and sad-sounding - and this clip shows them off to perfection doing one song each. It's a tv show from 69 and there's a nice interview section in the middle where they ask the Bear about collecting 78 records and the like.
Watch them play 'Human Condition' at a Dutch festival in 1970 here. Watch this clip to the end - it's lovely... 'You people have a beautiful country' . Studio and live session history

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Canned Heat 'On the Road Again'

My music history pieces are not all about black guys from the old days - some white musicians are worthy of respect - the great Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson is someone from the 60s who has never received due acclaim. A musicologist who had hit records and played at the big festivals - retaught Son House to play guitar - all in the deeply unpopular blues genre at the height of the 60s. And an ecologist. Anyway if you haven't heard this song - I guarantee you'll love it Also watch them play it here
Blind Owl Net

Captain America theme

'When Captain America throws his mighty shield. All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield'. What lyrics! I am going to post some comic themed songs...hopefully they will get stuck in your head all day like this one...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mick Farren's blog

I associate Mick Farren with the book 'Watch Out Kids' but you might know him for his sci-fi writing or his work with the London counter culture but anyway he has a blog. Very readable - I think he's a US resident now but it all seems pretty good writing. Deviants wiki

Revolution (1985)

Time for the great Revolution revival.
I have been waiting for someone to post clips of this on Youtube but there's the trailer on Amazon - that'll have to do. This was made by the same British company Goldcrest that did Chariots of Fire and they lost heavily with this film and its star Pacino didn't work for 4 years in movies afterwards. Which is a shame as I reckon it's a good historical film. OK some of the locations are obviously Britain (Exmoor and King's Lynn among others) and it is a dark and grimy take on the 18th century but I think it's a realistic take on it - I think 18th century American cities were like that - it might not look like the myth - for that check out The Patriot but I well recommend you rent or buy this movie for its unique take on the War of Independence. It isn't a great movie like Barry Lyndon but I maintain its the best movie about the American Revolution after Drums Along the Mohawk. It's very 1980s right down to having Annie Lennox and Robbie Coltrane and the bald guy from the Crystal Maze is in it - he does a great foppish officer type. Not to mention Donald Sutherland. By the way one of my reenacting mates lived in King's Lynn and had quite a few stories about it - his brother was an extra who actually got a speaking part with Natassia Kinski but it was cut. Shame. Preview on Amazon here
NY Times review 'what revolution is this?'

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sweet Home Chicago Johnny Shines

I asked Susan what she wanted to read on my blog this year and she said 'music history' so here goes. 1930s Blues legend Robert Johnson. Probably the most influential musician of the 20th century(I changed my mind from Charley Patton) despite dying young - why was he so influential? Well he popularised a certain style of playing that underpinned most of the best Chicago blues - a kind of walking bass figure and a rhythmic style that was actually quite rigid but allowed the band style to develop. He was also the patron saint of the British blues boom and his demonic imagery provided a blueprint for the rock songwriters of Britain. What's that got to do with Johnny Shines? Well Johnny played with Robert Johnson and was an exponent of a similar style. Here he plays Johnson's 'Sweet Home Chicago' check it out - maybe you have to be a guitar nerd to enjoy it but I'm hoping you might find it an interesting link to a legend.


I am probably the least Christmassy person I know - well someone has to try and balance things out but Wassailing - as that predates Christmas - that's another thing. Read the wiki on this great Somerset and elsewhere tradition and see if you can revive it in your area. Armed response units might result but it should be easy enough to explain.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

TV theme covers

Henry of the Bad Detectives has a Blog! Read it here. All music, trash culture and humour - great stuff - latest posting has the Dickies doing the Banana Splits theme song (also covered by the BDs) which is quite a coincidence as we were going through all the old 60s tv theme songs last night wondering what would make a good cover song - obviously I am inclined to the Flashing Blade theme - is Marine Boy too obscure? Susan being a girl was enjoying 'White Horses' and likes the Belle and Sebastian theme we both liked Champion the Wonder Horse and Casey Jones but how about this one? -Here comes the Double Deckers? Pure bubblegum. If you dont know the Double Deckers it was this awful series trying to sell itself to the Yanks about a bunch of kid cliches including obligatory American getting all sorts of typically British japes like staying in haunted stately homes and so forth - awful but the credit sequence is worth a look, honestly.

Singles of the year

We thought we'd pick our singles of 2007. Susan picked 'Charmer' by the Kings of Leon - watch it here. I don't know. She played it a helluva lot - too much some folks might say - I think she thinks of the Kings of Leon as some sort of Waltons type setup as they come from Tennessee they wear check shirts and they're all related and all. Maybe they are. It caused me to create my own Somerset version 'she's always looking at I' (belch).
My choice is a B-side - it's Brooklyn's Effie Briest and their version of Jim Pepper's the Newly-wed song - off the flip of their Mirror Rim single. Watch them performing it here. I wish I had thought of covering that song.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Horse Soldiers trailer

I wanted something good to start the year off with for my blog so I thought long and hard and came up with this - it's a great little chunk of Americana that makes me think of watching movies on television over the holiday period. When is someone going to make a compilation album of all the songs featured in John Ford movies?