Raleigh Racers Brochure 1983

Raleigh Royal 1983
I recently came upon this 1983 catalogue of Raleigh’s high-end bikes, built (as I understand it) at their Ilkeston ‘special products’ division. In those days Raleigh was walking a tightrope between high-end aspirations (successful racing team in Europe, and great hand-built racers and tourers) and the pile ’em high shoppers and Choppers. Nevertheless, they did get plaudits from the cycling press for these good-value quality models, which led to me buying a lovely Raleigh Royal that I rode from 1983 until this year (when I bought my gorgeous Paul Villiers Sportif).

Anyhow, I’m posting this PDF of the catalogue, mainly for its archival value, so for Google’s benefit, I’d better mention that it contains the following models:

Raleigh Team Replica, Raleigh Gran Sport, Raleigh Road Ace, Raleigh Competition, Raleigh Record Ace, Raleigh Royale, Raleigh Royal, Raleigh Clubman, Raleigh Rapide, Raleigh Record Sprint, Raleigh ZenithRaleigh Stratos, Raleigh Silhouette, Raleigh Europa, Raleigh Medale, Raleigh Supersport, Raleigh WispRaleigh Winner, Raleigh Ace, Raleigh Micron.

Phew. Finally, a link to a really good history of the Raleigh company.

Robert Millar – Tour de France 1983 Stage 10

I’ve spent the last week with my nose in Richard Moore’s book: In Search of Robert Millar. It’s a sad-making life story of the greatest British racing cyclist. I call him that despite a decade following his performances with increasing frustration and disappointment. Moore points out that daily Tour de France TV highlights, on the newcomer Channel 4, only began in 1985, the year after Millar’s greatest achievement: King of the Mountains and fourth place in the general classication of the 1984 Tour. After that it was mostly defeats outrageously clutched from the jaws of victory. The Vuelta (Tour of Spain) of 1985, which he utterly dominated, only to lose on the penultimate day through a multi-team conspiracy of Spanish riders and his own team manager’s tactical blunders. The 1988 Tour de France stage to Guzet-Neige when, with 500 metres to go, poised on the wheel of the leader and looking certain to sprint for stage victory, both riders misinterpreted a marshall’s signal and took a wrong turning.

In highlighting these disappointments, I overlook some oustanding success over 15 years of professional riding, but the truth is, with his massive talent, we longed for him to achieve more than he did. The Cycling Weekly hall of fame is symptomatic. Having published a their ‘all-time list of Britsh pro winners’, in which Millar was placed only 9th, they devised an alternative ranking scheme with an elaborate points system to place Millar first.

And the reason we feel so passionate about Millar’ Cavendish’s four stage wins from massed sprints in the 2008 Tour were amazing, but the mountains are where the heroes come out. There is no more glorious sight than a rider who can crack the will of cycling’s strongest men over four colossal climbs, then dance away to victory like a flea. Just watch this!

Go Down Easy, John Martyn

John Martyn created a music that was all his own: fitting his personality like a pair of worn-in shoes; slavishly-imitated but never matched. In the ramshackle recent years his physical deterioration was sad to watch but the passion in his music never dimmed. Tonight, I’ll remember when, with Danny Thompson, he transfixed us in a tent in a rainy field in Cambridge, and most of all this glorious clip. Stick with it for the last ten seconds. Sheer joy in music-making.

Appearing Now at the Underachievers Stage

KC rules OKThe WOMUD festival this year featured a new ‘Under a Tree’ stage. With my innate ability to mis-hear public announcements (does anyone else hear that message in Sainsbury’s: “cleaner to aisle 8 for a wet spinach”) this filtered through to me as the ‘Underachievers Stage’. This would make such a perfect venue for many of the great pleasures of our musical lives, we have mentally been booking artists ever since.

First to sign were Pooka, a storm at WOMAD 1993 in Carlyon Bay (a perfect beachside location now sadly lost to development), they signed a big record deal with WEA but never made any waves and folded a few years back. Their masterpiece second album Spinning is mostly available in Amazon’s ‘used and new’ listings.

We are keeping a slot open for Katell Keineg, also with a big WEA album under her belt, the wonderful Jet, and still plugging away but willfully reclusive now. Look out for occasional appearances in tiny London venues such as the 12 Bar Club.

Negotiations are underway for a surprise Friday headliner slot. I can’t say too much, but babysitters have been arranged for Harriett Wheeler and David Gavurin.

But I feel we have found our Saturday night headliner for the Underachievers Stage. We spent Friday night auditioning him at the Joiners in Southampton, and I don’t think we could ever hope to find a better fit for the ethos we are cultivating: sheer talent held back by unwillingness to conform. For almost twenty years he has been home-producing CDs from a base in the little seaside town of Anstruther, Fife, at the same time nurturing an enviable roster of local artists; the Fence Collective. As befits the monarch of Fence, he is King Creosote. Like a shy hedgehog coming out of cover for a plate of food, he is getting out a little more these days. In 2005 he cut KC Rules OK a kind of Greatest Hits album of songs from his notebook, better recorded and better promoted, it’s gorgeous. There are sad songs and very sad songs and some with a modest hint of optimism, all sung in his warbly, tenor, honest, beautiful Fife accent. My favourite is an unrequited ditty that goes like this:

i invested it all; you threw in a dime. it’s not good enough. it’s not good enough.
i ran half marathons and you ran a mile. it’s not good enough. it’s not good enough.
you gave up on easter for your vegan chums. it’s not good enough.
you gave up on cigars and still you smoke like a lum. it’s not good enough. it’s not good enough.
i gave up on my liver trying to keep up. it’s not good enough. it’s not good enough.
i gave up half of my heart and you gave a half-hearted shrug. it’s not good enough. it’s not good enough.

King Creosote’s new album Bombshell came out last week, and it promises to be a breakthrough of sorts. As the boys boasted on Friday, it entered the charts at number 71. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy, having obsessed over KC Rules OK for the whole weekend. I wish KC every success in the world, while hoping that he doesn’t get too big for the Underachievers. His song 6-7-8 could be our anthem:

no i never was going to be first out of the stalls
no i never was going to be 6-7-8 feet tall
no i never was going to be signed up big
no i never was going to be dressing up slick
but at the back of my mind i was always hoping i might just get by.

Fruits of our labours

Tom's room
Spent the half-term holiday decorating. Painting from morning till night. However the end result was quite nice. This is before the clutter was reintroduced.
Clara's room

The Perfumed Garden

I’ve alluded previously to my great debt to John Peel. For several years in my teens I listened with religious devotion to Peel’s show. Finger poised on the pause button of my reel-to-reel, I recorded anything that piqued my interest. These were the days when brilliant new singles from likes of The Cure, Buzzcocks, Jam, Undertones and Specials seemed to emerge each week. Typically though, it was the mavericks who inspired me. Obsessions with Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder, Van Morrison, Loudon Wainwright, Black Uhuru and Misty in Roots were initiated by Peel’s shows. I was infected with Peel’s affection for great soul singers: Millie Jackson, Bettye Lavette, and ‘Starting All Over Again’ by Mel & Tim, which JP played on his 40th birthday show. I was first exposed to African music, via Pablo’s ‘Bo M’banda’; in our ignorance we were satisfied with the generic description, African, years before we learned the subtleties of Malian, Zimbabwean or, in this case, Zairean pop.

Now I find a contingent of Peel obsessives are blogging the praises of the great man. The John Peel Tape & File Project, and right place, right time, wrong speed are both publishing whole shows from private collections. The Perfumed Garden runs a complete Peel session each week.

Perhaps it’s time to dust off the reel-to-reel.

"Gotta get through January, gotta get through February…"

January is bitter. It sometimes feels as if you spend the month locked in a darkened room. 3 foot square. Fed on nothing but white bread. Nothing ever happens. The exception is when something bad happens.

Perhaps it was the imminent end of the month, but a chink of light entered the room on my long drive north yesterday. Something reminded me of Woody Allen’s famous soliloquy in Manhattan. In his own pit of despair, Woody reminds himself of all the reasons why life is worth living:

“Groucho Marx; Willie Mays; the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony; Louis Armstrong’s recording of Potato-head Blues; Swedish movies; Sentimental Education by Flaubert; Marlon Brando; Frank Sinatra; those incredible apples and pears by C’zanne; the crabs at Sam Wo’s”

As I drove, my own list took shape:

A live recording by Van Morrison with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra; a brisk walk on a cold clear day in Dorset; the Glastonbury sauna; a play by Stephen Poliakoff; sunshine on my skin on a secret beach; old friendships renewed; establishing clarity from confusion at work; a goal scored in front of the Chapel stand at St. Mary’s; Clara’s smile when I return from working away; Tom’s joy at seeing a bittern; making lists; the kindness in my lover’s eyes and the touch of her cheek.

February’s a little brighter.

2005 Music Awards

With two four-hour drives a week during the latter part of this year, I’ve had plenty of time to listen to music. 5 am at Sutton Scotney can be a surprisingly evocative time and place, and some of the most engrossing listens have with been older material that seems to suit the dark, early mornings. Laura Nyro’s 1970 Christmas and the Beads of Sweat springs to mind (Caroline doesn’t allow me to listen to that one in the house) and lately some vintage Van Morrison live recordings courtesy of EzTorrent. But, to ward off accusations of old fart-dom, it seems more appropriate to restrict the annual recommendations to music from the present millennium.


Eliza Carthy Rough Music.

On a first listen this is less attention-grabbing than Eliza’s previous release, Anglicana. But having seen several of The Ratcatcher’s flabbergasting virtuoso live performances this year, you realise that it captures a band at the peak of ensemble playing. Eliza, Jon Boden and Ben Ivitsky’s fiddles combine in almost Bach-like counterpoint at times. And Maid On The Shore has been the J-M.org car journey singalong anthem of 2005.

Rough Music

Nick Cave Abbatoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus.

Nick released this prodigious double in 2004, but I only discovered it early this year. Abbatoir Blues is a triumph of full-blooded rock’n’poetry, with Cave haranguing about Nabokov, Larkin and Johnny Thunders on There She Goes, My Beautiful World to a backing of guitars, drums and electric bouzouki. Channel 4 showed a late-night excerpt from his show at Brixton Academy, where he was equal parts menace and sex, striding the stage while the girls in the front row slavered. The Lyre of Orpheus is quieter and marginally less interesting, but still makes up a quality double set.

Abbatoir Blues

Chris Wood The Lark Descending.

Many enjoyable albums emerged this year, but a single great one. Chris Wood is dour, weighty and morose, with a warm heart, slowly yielded. In other words perfectly English. The eight songs — a mix of trad. and original — are expertly crafted, yet at the same time, seem to emerge from nature, like fine sculpted oak. One In A Million is a modern-day folk song that could last as long as Lord Bateman. “She was shapely as a mermaid and her lips were red and wet, and her eyes as bright as herrings flashing in the net.”

The Lark Ascending

Thione Seck Orientation.

Thione Seck is the Senegalese former vocalist of Orchestra Baobab, and has always stood in the shadow of his immensely more successful compatriot Youssou N’dour. The fates seemed to conspire against him again, when this masterful tribute to Sufism — a branch of Islam that celebrates music and love, rather than subjugation and ordeal — sat, unreleased, on the shelf for three years while Youssou released the very similar Egypt. I’m delighted that this one is now receiving the acclaim it deserves, with a nomination for the Radio 3 World Music Album of the Year. It’s elaborately arranged by Frenchman, Fran’ois Br’ant (who produced Salif Keita’s breakthrough Soro), with copious strings and occasional vocal guests, to fuse the best of Bollywood, Egypt and West Africa.

Orientation

Chango Spasiuk Tarafero De Mis Pagos.

You’d not be wrong to suspect I enjoy recommending obscurities, so this Argentinian accordionist with a Ukranian Jewish heritage is right up my street! Late one evening at WOMAD this year, tired and engaged in conversation with friends, his performance gradually seeped into my consciousness and drew me in. Checking out this CD, I found it delightful. Not the tango you might expect, but a more fruity laid-back jazzy klezmer feel.

Tarafero De Mis Pagos

A turn-up for the books

Yesterday morning, while holding a meeting in the light and airy atrium of my client’s office, I glanced towards the floor, and spotted a small bulldog clip in my trouser turn-up.

Yesterday evening, while changing into warm clothes in preparation for a trip to Anfield to watch Liverpool’s valiant but goal-less draw with Real Betis, I found a large bulldog clip attached to my trainers.

On arriving home this evening, I discovered a small bulldog clip attached to the draw-string of my coat.

Have I woken up in some enigmatic, Twin Peaks-style, drama, or is there a prankster at large’