Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Student Bangers

Would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our stereos? – Braveheart

As students continue to be consigned to house arrest, they’ll only get through this with the staples of Uni, drugs and rock’n’roll.

No sex please, we’re British!

And so in a nod to our future parliamentarians, pioneers and care providers.

Here are some old bangers which got me through my young days.

And the places it took me too.

Tennessee waltz

With WC Handy in Memphis, Tennessee on my Deep South journey

On highway number 19 the people keep the city clean – Tina Turner, Nutbush City Limits

Nutbush City Limits and Tennessee (Ike and Tina Turner): And Nutbush was one to get everyone on their feet in the students’ union (alas no longer there).

I little thought then that I’d be bombing along highway number 19 on my Deep South American Odyssey 30 odd years later… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Mine’s a 99

Ninety nine dreams I have had, In every one a red balloon, it’s all over and I’m standing pretty, In this dust that was a city – Nena, 99 Ref Balloons

99 Red Balloons and Germany (Nena): You couldn’t qualify as a student when I were a lad if you didn’t march for the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nuclear Disarmament or to Free Nelson Mandela.

And this anti-Communism clarion call by this German ball of energy played endlessly out of the window of the girls in the next flat.

The wall came down five tears ago and while I have still to make my mark on today’s wall, I have since visited behind the old Curtain.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

To see the revival of Dresden, the Venice of the Elbe, and learn about the Prague Spring and a nuclear bunker.

Mandela days

With my friend Siseko in Port Elizabeth

Are you so blind that you cannot see? Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea? Free Nelson Mandela, I’m begging you, Free Nelson Mandela – The Specials

Nelson Mandela and South Africa: And, no, Free Nelson Mandela wouldn’t be one for the dance floor although maybe we pogoed to it.

It really came into its own on protest marches, demonstrations and the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley.

Where me and my old pal from Cardiff student days clung onto our old undergrad days for just one more summer.

And while I never got to meet The Great Man I did get out to his home province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And stood in his Voting Line.

So, for every student in the land, turn your boom boxes up loud and channel your Labi Siffre

Your light will shine so brightly it will blind them.

Tell me what your University bangers and we’ll share

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Chicago

Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go. Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go, Back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago – The Blues Brothers

It was Frank Sinatra’s kinda town and one I’m going to have to wait for the pleasure of seeing people who, smile at you. It’s Chicago.

Which has inspired a whole host of artists to wax lyrical about its charms.

Jim Croce sang about bad, bad Leroy Brown, the baddest man in the whole damn town (no, me neither and I think Frank’s version is the best).

You better think: Aretha Franklin. www.imdb.com

Me (and Barack Obama) love Sweet Home Chicago from The Blues Brothers which was released 40 years ago this year.

Blues bus

I’d first been inducted into the Blues Brothers Brotherhood.

On my storied booze, Blues bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich back in the day.

The closest I’ll get to Chicago which was on the schedule is the Chicago Blues Brothers tour around the UK.

But it has had to reschedule its dates.

Let me see you shake your tail feather: The boys and Ray Charles

Once we get out to Chicago we can get around the old landmarks (Preach the Lord!) with the official Chicago site.

Bring it home James

Now some of them, alas, have been razed, perhaps the damage done by that infamous car chase.

But the Triple Rock church where James Brown asked Jake and Elwood ‘Do you see the light?’ Is there.

Or at least the exterior which is the Pilgrim Baptist on 9114 S. Burley Avenue although it’s been rebuilt since a fire.

The interior is Hollywood.

That bridge where the boys drive the Nazis into the water?

Well, that’s Jackson Park in the Chicago Park District.

On the right track: Chicago’s L rail network

The finale? The Richard J. Daley Plaza and City Hall.

Who is that clerk?

Where Steven Spielberg plays a cameo appearance as a clerk cashing the cheque for the orphanage.

Of course, as belting as the city is, it is of course the Blues which is at the heart of the movie.

With its stellar cast including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles among others.

The Godfather of Soul

So check out the Blues when you get out there.

Hey Buddy!

And Buddy Guy‘s is as good a place to start.

And until you do, run the movie again, get out the soundtrack, and dress for the occasion…

That’s pin-sharp black suits, fedora hats and shades.

You know you still have them in your wardrobe from fancy-dress parties.

And if you love, love, love the Blues then join me as I visit the Birthplace of the Blues.

Adventure, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

The real Queen of Barbados

There can only ever be one queen in Barbados so I’m not surprised Elizabeth is getting the push for… my queens.

Dee-Dee The First

‘Don’t come too close you’ll smudge my make-up’, Dee-Dee, the Purple Queen of the Foreday Morning, drolled.

To be fair I had purple paint and mud in my beardie and hair. And enough rum to sink a Johhny Depp ship.

Walk this way, Geraldine

And just like a royal corgi I and my new Virginian friend Patsy would get walked every day from Club Barbados around the Platinum Coast.

By Geraldine who would give us her generational view of her island, political correctness and its colonial past.

But also loved her Soca and burned me a Crop Over CD which when I play it here always brings me back to Bim’s West Coast..

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

In the British vernacular a Ruby is a curry… in my Barbados my Ruby is my cooking instructor.

Ruby at Club Barbados taught me how to make Bajan Cou Cou…

And already a bit Cou Cou, myself, from my morning rum punches she had to pull me into line.

The Saintly Donna

Jimmy, Jevan and Donna

Donna would always bring a friend with her because she needed to be mob-handed for Jevan at Foreday Morning.

And this year they had me to contend with too!

Donna drove us home at about 4am, hosed the paint and mud off us and gave het a Bajan cooked breakfast.

Donna is an angel… and is now looking down on her great love Jevan. Her spirit lives on.

Ri-Ri rah-rah

Where’s that hand?

I spent two trips to Barbados in search of Barbados’s other superstar Rihanna.

I checked out Oiston’s market (that was always too touristy), Bridgetown, the Platinum Coast and the Grand Kadooment, the climax to Crop Over.

But I finally did get my Kiss from Rihanna.

Bajan women rule

Mia my-oh: Mia Mottley

And Mia Mottley rules supreme as Jevan predicted she would when he took me to her rally… and yes, there was rum and soca, my kind of political party.

The head honcho of the Barbados Tourist Board is the redoubtable Cheryl ‘Mrs’ Carter who kept an eagle’s eye on me when I went off piste. Legend!

In the frame: With Cheryl

And Crystal who wouldn’t let the lurgie slow her up, stop her dressing up, getting her nails done (and the Bajans do that in style).

And showed me how to do up a bandana… now look at me.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Sweet Caroline, so good!

Hands, touching hands/Reaching out, touching me, touching you – Sweet Caroline/Neil Diamond

And this’ll have you bopping on land or sea… Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh, good times never felt so good (so good, so good, so good).

Reaching out: Neil Diamond

You always know you’re onto a rousing stadium song and party favourite when the crowd know their cues.

And so randomly here are some of the places where those good times with Neil Diamond have never felt so good.

The duel in the crown

I don’t know what you’re having

Pat O’Brien’s duelling pianos, Universal Orlando: And you’ll need to bring a fistful of dollars with you (no, not the film though I dare say they’d play that soundtrack too).

Somebody will almost certainly ask for Sweet Caroline, and Piano Man, so that leaves the field open for your other faves.

Randomly I asked for (and got) Barry Manilow’s Mandy… ‘And I came and I gave without taking, and you sent me away, I’m Murty.’

Summer in New York

Holding hands… well, almost

The Beast, The Hudson River, New York: And on the hottest day of the summer with no space on the sidewalk (remember that) then the best place to go is the Hudson.

You’ll want to take the 70ft powerboat The Beast building up to 45mph around the Statue of Liberty.

And as you pass by New Jersey on the other side there’s a nod to that state’s favourite sons Bon Jovi and Livin’ On A Prayer.

Check it out as part of your New York CityPASS.

A gran old time in Austria

And that’s Ehrwald Presley there on the keyboards

Ehrwald, Austria: And what do you give a group of Irish senior walkers for musical entertainment?

The octogenarian oompah-oompah man laid on by Top Flight for Schools had tried some Austrian music and some Elvis.

But one of our group pointed out that we were an Irish group and ran off a list of Irish Wedding Songs… and obviously Sweet Caroline.

Booze cruise

And wait till the party gets started

Royal Caribbean, the English Channel: And we’re in the main shopping and entertainment area, of the Independence of the Seas rockin’ on our final night.

We’ve had the DJ belt out Hi Ho Silver Lining, 500 Miles, Delilah and It’s Not Unusual.

But the one that really rocks the boat is… you guessed it Sweet Caroline. So good, so good, so good.

Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Happy 75th, you grumpy old Van

There are some people who are born old and just grow into their faces… like Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Van Morrison.

And so the only surprise with Van Morrison turning 75 today is that I thought he was that age when he was 25.

On the plus side these wise young men sang as if they had already lived a life.

When he was young: Van the lad. www.irishrocknrollmuseum.com

Which may have had something to do with The Swinging Sixties.

But while Bob and Keef were off getting high nobody thought of giving Belfast boy Van the happy pills.

Because as well as making a name for himself as a musical innovator with his Celtic soul music he also became noted fot being the grumpiest man in pop.

Van in a hurry

Storied for cutting concerts short, and I can testify to this having been short-changed an hour in Aberdeen.

Sway to go, Van

Though that was just time. Spare a thought for the Dublin taxi driver who dropped Van off at a hotel to meet Bono.

And was surprised when he disappeared into the hotel never to be seen again.

Thankfully though he had nowhere to escape to when he played a jazz set with Joey DeFrancesco to a Cabaret audience at Europa Hotel.

The Godfather

Van is though by any standard a genius and the Godfather of Irish music, even without that trilby hat.

Another golden oldie: Bob Geldof

So it is only right that 75 of the Great and Good of Ireland’s music scene have come together with our friends at Hot Press to mark the occasion.

With the broadcasts going out through YouTube throughout August and September.

My generation

You want Hozier, Sinéad O’Connor, Imelda May, Bob Geldof, Gary Lightbody, Andrea Corr, Glen Hansard, Paul Brady and Damien Dempsey (take a breath)

And the incomparable Sinead O’Connor

Una Healy of The Saturdays, Damien Rice, Gavin James, The Academic, Moya Ní Bhraonáin of Clannad, rising young Dublin rapper Malaki and many more.

Tourism Ireland is also sharing it with their followers around the world.

While you can also check out all the places he mentions in those classics… https://www.vanmorrison.com/about/van-morrison-trail.

And best of all you can make him last for ever.

Do you remember when we used to sing… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UfmkgQRmmeE.?

Countries, Culture, Music, UK

Britannia? Yacht to try these UK sites instead

You know when you live somewhere but never visit that famous site, like me and the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh.

It can’t be because I take a stand against lavish palaces or ostentatious wealth… I love Rome and the Vatican.

Comfort is the watchword

So, I’ll need to get myself along and see how the other half live.

One would like tea for two

Heck, who am I kidding? It’s how I like to live when our killjoy leaders aren’t closing down all the borders.

But for now, and in the spirit of the Which survey of the best of the top 50 most-visited attraction I give you…

My entirely scientific and undeniably definitive five UK attractions.

Cottage industry

Anyone know a poem? Burns Cottage

Alloway, Ayrshire: Well, if it was good enough for Wordsworth and Shelley and Muhammad Ali to visit!

Robert Burns’ home village in Ayrshire, the centre point of which is the cottage in which he was born in the 18th century, is a truly spiritual place.

Check out the statues of Tam O Shanter, Souter Johnny, Burns’ father’s grave, the statue of a mouse and Brig o’ Doon.

Robin reliant

Boy and the Hood: Nottingham

The Robin Hood Experience, Nottingham: It takes an outlaw to know an outlaw.

You’ll immerse yourself in Sherwood Forest in an un prepossessing building near Nottingham Castle and get a chance too to twang your arrow.

While actors dressed in costumes of those heroes of legend interact with you.

Chocs away

The best bar none for chocolates

Cadbury World, Birmingham: And you thought Willie Wonka was an invention, you Willie Wonka.

You can take a cart through the history of cocoa in this chocolate heaven in Bournville (yes, really), Birmingham.

On your tour, you’ll see how chocolate is made and best of all are sent away with a handful of bars.

Daddy’s Little Girl took two handfuls.

Churchillian speech

Mapping out a day out… in the War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms, London: And deep within the vaults in Whitehall in the heart of London, Winston and his pals waged the Second World War.

You can see his bedroom, the map room, the decoders.

And when we found all the other sites were closing up for the day they let us in. Well, we were on the right side!

Get back!

Fab Four in Liverpool

The Beatles Story, Liverpool: If The Beatles had been American then they’d have turned their home city into a visitors’ attraction.

Which may seem like a step too far although it does work in Graceland because it is outside of Memphis.

Yes, it’s great to have the museum down by Albert Dock in Liverpool, the bus tour, Penny Lane and the Eleanor Rigby statue.

But the idea that the Cavern Club should be in danger of closure because of financial troubles is a local and national disgrace.

Over to you Paul McCartney… don’t let it be!

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Music, UK

Cuba – Viva La Evolucion

Were the Vandals and the Pariahs really as bad as we’ve turned them into?

The Vandals, who hailed from the Danube area of Central Europe have been blackened by history.

But were these well-dressed military men really any more destructive than the others who invaded Classic Rome?

Outcasts or misunderstood?

While the Pariahs used to beat the drum from which they got their name and had magical powers before things turned.

All of which ramblings brings me onto how modern outcast states can be pilloried by being tagged a pariah state.

Mind you, while a country can be rubbished with this mantle there can also be retribution.

In the pink: Cuba

And in these crazy days the British Government has given the thumbs-up to Cuba in its latest national profiling exercise.

Otherwise known as the exempt list.

And so more of my favourites, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Jamaica are outah here and Cuba are in.

Music everywhere

Now like us all I have my preconceptions of Cuba, their Fifties classic cars, rumba, cigars and Castro.

And my friends have been urged by all I know who tell me I must continue my Caribbean education there.

Unmistakably Havana

And with my projected next destinations, the Czech Republic and Switzerland (doncha just know it?) now made pariah states by the UK it’s time for a rethink.

I’m reminded too that I have got close to Havana in that I visited San Cristobal de La Laguna in Tenerife on which Havana was based.

And check out these guys for best deals… https://www.audleytravel.com/cuba?

So Cuba, I’m swaying my hips here… quiero bailar la salsa.

Now are you listening out there?

America, Countries, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Aloe Washington

And if you share with me your dollar I will share my story with you – Aloe Blacc

Cheap at the price too.

Aloe Black has been omnipresent across my American Travel fares.

The cool dude in the pork pie hat was there to greet us on the National Mall in Washington DC on our evening and sing us his standard I Need A Dollar.

We’re down there somewhere… on the National Mall

Only the best for us as they closed it off for the IPW international delegation to parteeee.

And how we did inside the Smithsonian National Space and Air Museum.

So much so, and I blame my old friend Michael from Irish Travel Trade Network for leading me astray, that we all but missed the act.

I’m flyin’ high: The National Space and Air Museum

Thankfully Aloe was back to wow us with another set at one of the lunches between our hall meetings with the states.

And busy boy that he is he had also managed to compose a video and the power of music.

Which he had put together on a whistlestop tour of the US and which the IPW fare in Washington showed us on the big screen.

Aloe there

Great idea and great memories and they all came flooding back as I listened to BBC Radio 2 last week.

Who were featuring him as their artist of the week.

An uplifting message in these times and as Aloe would say and indeed sang to us in Washington… Wake Me Up When It’s All Over.

Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Elvis food

The King was taken from us 43 years ago this week so were he alive today he would have been 85. So what would he have looked like?

I prefer to imagine him hair dyed, squeezed into a jumpsuit and taking himself off.

As in his send-up version of Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Because for everything that’s been said about Elvis it is always worth remembering that he was a born entertainer.

And so had an enormous appetite for fun, life. Yes, and food.

See, it’s got fruit

It’s early in the morning and I’ve had something of the meat sweats on me.

From the good ol’ Southern food on Beale Street in Memphis the night before.

When my Southern host tempts me with a favourite from the menu at Elvis’s top diner, The Arcade.

When he was young

It is the legendary peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.

I could bluff it here and say I had it but the grits had left me with a heavy tummy.

Instead I sat at his favourite table and imagined instead.

After all I’d channeled my inner Elvis already at Sun Studio where I stood at the very spot where he had sung That’s All Right Mamma.

Where The King sat… and Elvis!!!

And roared like a lion in the Jungle Room in Graceland.

Graceland is smaller than you imagine, probably because you expect everything to be larger than life in Elvisland.

Certainly the hangars that contain his motorbikes and cars and another with all his jumpsuits point to that.

Full of grace: Graceland

As does the aircraft outside dedicated to his daughter Lisa Marie, one of a few he owned.

But in truth Elvis’s world was small, his father Vernon, mother Gladys, wife Priscilla, Lisa Marie and family and friends he grew up with.

Elvis and his peers would divebomb the swimming pool, play racquetball (he had a game the day he died) and whizz downtown in their golf buggies.

Hear me roar

And the locals who had known him since he was a kid would just say: ‘Aw, Elvis how are you.’

While the folks at The Arcade would chat to him like they would any patron, easy-going Southern hospitality.., ‘how’s your family.’

Only Elvis was different… after all, nobody else had as sweet a tooth or ordered a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.

Ah, yes, the Jungle Room

How to make it:

Spread the peanut butter on one side of one slice of bread.

Top with slices of fried banana and slices of cooked banana.

Cover with the other slice of bread.

Spread butter on the outside of the sandwich.

Asia, Countries, Flying, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays Alice and Maldives Wonderland

I can’t remember what I sang, it was probably Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel, and I recollect going back up a couple of times.

In my excuse I was on my umpteenth Strawberry Daiquiri.

I do remember though our host Brian McCarthy owning the small stage with a kickass version of My Own Personal Jesus.

Barry (left), an effing legend

But what I remember most about our karaoke night in the Maldives was the contribution of someone who didn’t even take the stage.

A round with Alice

Barry Coughlan (that’s pronounced like the punctuation mark he would remind us) always had something to say.

Usually with an ‘f’ in it.

Island of refuge: The Maldives

Thankfully for Barry there was a song made just for him… Smokie’s Living Next Door to Alice.

Or more precisely he preferred the version by Dutch novelty act Gonpie.

With the Scary One not there and me on my worst behaviour I didn’t hesitate joining in with Barry on the chorus.

Seaplanes over Asia

It is a bit of a hike to get there… three planes, two continents, but an adventure all the same.

Any excuse

That’ll be a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul and then onto Male, the main hub for the teardrop islands.

Before you take a seaplane with a barefoot pilot to Kuramathi where your Atoll adventure really begins.

And lots of bubbles too

I had to check a couple of times on the UK’ exempt list and Ireland’s green list to see that we’re not allowed to go there yet.

I’m sure Barry will have a thing or two to say about that!