I nearly missed it, but yesterday was George Harrison’s 80th birthday. He passed away just over twenty years ago, but he’s still out there somewhere, he’s George Harrison. I love George Harrison. I’m a massive Beatles nerd; Paul was always my favourite, massive fan of John, I adore Ringo, but I always had a huge love for quiet George and his dark eyes, even if one of my earliest memories of George was when Nick Cotton off Eastenders played him in Birth of the Beatles. So last night to celebrate, I rewatched the Scorsese documentary “Living in the Material World” (my wife couldn’t believe his brother was called ‘Harry Harrison’; I tried to convince her that John had a brother called Lenny Lennon, and that Mike McCartney’s middle name was ‘Arnie’), played some ukulele, and listened to the All Things Must Pass triple album while drawing my old copy of the All Things Must Pass triple album. I must admit, I listened to it streamed on my iPod rather than on the record player, because it would mean getting the record player out of the cupboard and I was too tired to deal with that. It tends to play the records a bit too fast anyway. But I love this old album. I don’t love all of it (really not into “Johnny’s Birthday”, although ironically tomorrow is my brother’s birthday and his name is Johnny) but the whole thing is a slide guitar soundscape, and listening to it on streaming means I didn’t have to keep getting up to change the record over (triple albums, really?). It was nice drawing this while I listened to it. I love the songs “All Things Must Pass” and “Isn’t it a Pity”. I wanted to get this posted though in tribute. Happy Birthday George, wherever you are in the cosmos.
shake it up baby
Time for some more Beatles story. This is an old EP (“extended play” for you modern kids, not an album or “LP” – long play – and not a single, but it’s the size of a single, and it has four songs on it instead of two. A bit like you would get on a CD single in the 90s) from 1963, “Twist and Shout”. It’s an original copy, with the yellow-lettered Parlophone, and I’ve had it since about 1989, when I would go around second-hand shops and car-boot sales looking for old Beatles records to add to the collection that my uncle Billy started me off with. As you can see it still has the little two quid sticker on it. I forgot I still had this, sitting in my cupboard, so when I came across it again I thought that would be a good opening page for my new Moleskine sketchbook. A sketchbook that I have now closed, and started a new one (I’m very far behind posting). Still, with the rekindling of my life long Beatles obsession with the release of both the “Get Back” film and Paul McCartney’s “The Lyrics” book at the end of 2021, now’s a good time to post this. Macca just turned 80 over a week ago, so I’ve been gorging on Paul’s songs lately, but Twist and Shout – perhaps the Beatles’ most famous cover song, recorded in a single take and an absolute belter musically – is very much about John and his ripped-to-shreds voice. I bloody love it, I love the “aaaah….aaaah…aaaah” harmonies, the call and response with George and Paul, I love the leather-jacketed guitar riff which feels it has bounced straight off the sweaty walls of the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, I love Ringo’s excited drumming, I love that this is the sound of a band that absolutely loved playing music and gave it their all. It’s also got “A Taste of Honey”, “Do You Want To Know A Secret” (I quite like that one) and “There’s A Place” on it, but after the raw energy of Twist and Shout, these are like cups of tea to help you calm down.
I still have most of my old Beatles records, the ones I either got my uncle when I was 12 or 13, or ones I picked up in second hand shops and car boot sales around the same time, a mixture of originals, imports or old reissues, or new (new for 1988) reissues given to me as Christmas presents, like my beloved and much-played copy of the White Album. I never had a big record collection, but it was decent and full of personal memories. I don’t even play records any more; I have a small record player here now that my wife got me ages ago, but it plays records a bit too fast, and the sound comes out of a little built-in speaker on the back, not out of two big speakers in wooden boxes perched on top of my wardrobe like in the olden days. The sound of records couldn’t be beaten, that crackle of the vinyl, the realness of it. Sure CDs came along and suddenly we could hear it all, but the vinyl experience was something special. In Beatles albums especially there was usually a distinct side 1 and side 2 feel that is lost in modern albums which are – or were? – one-side constructions for CDs, now for download albums. There was a reason the ‘Ringo song’ was sometimes track 1 of side 2, it made it easier to skip it when you flipped the disc over, now it’s in the middle of the album and catches you out. Ah, I’ve learned not to mind “What Goes On”.
I’ve got a million things to say about the Beatles and they’ll always be my comfort blanket to escape back into, same as for many people, but right now I’m just enjoying the post-Get Back world and spending time with the guitar again, which I’d not done in years, even messing around on the keyboard, and of course the ukulele. I recently bought my first new guitar in 16 years, and last week got my son his first ever guitar, so there’s a bit more music back in the Scully household again.
track 1, side 1 of album 12
Page 1 of Moleskine 12. I wanted it to look impactful, and so I wrote ‘Davis CA on the page and the next day I went downtown at lunchtime to sketch a typical street, maybe 2nd St. It’s so sunny these days though and the shade was too great so I moved into F st and drew Armadillo Music. I drew the whole thing, except for some detailing on the tree, in my lunchtime, and added the colour at home. Armadillo is an independent record store in downtown Davis, I exhibited there a couple of years ago at the Art About, famous local singer Rita Hosking performed, lots of people came and it was a great experience. Always nice to have independent stores like this, but especially records stores. So, first page of a new sketchbook, let’s see where this particular illustrated journey takes us!
see me at the record shop
Here’s an exciting piece of news: next Friday, January 14, I will be exhibiting some of my sketchbooks (including the fire hydrants book and the Davis accordion moleskine) and prints of my work, as well as giving a live sketching demo, as part of the monthly Davis 2nd Friday ArtAbout event. It will be at Armadillo Music, a small independent record store on F St (near 2nd St). This should be a lot of fun! The artist reception will be between 7-9pm, preceded by live music from 6-7 by a surprise special guest (I don’t know who it is!). I’ll have a selection of prints up in the store for about a month, available to buy, mostly Davis urban sketches.
This is Armadillo Music on F St, in case you’re wondering. I sketched it today (in the cold).
Here’s the flier for the ArtAbout event (pdf). So, if you are in Davis next Friday evening, please pop down to Armadillo and say hi!
he’s had a dream for a year or two
#20 in a series of 30. The cobalt copic fineliner pens are still holding out!
So this one is very appropriate, because right now Spurs are sitting at the top of the English Premier League, albeit after only two games. This new season has been very unusual – so far we have had no draws at all, and all of the London teams have been winning. But Spurs are top, and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts (that’ll be Saturday, then). It’s a nice change after last year, when we had to wait nine matches for our first win – and had to sack the manager to get it. Interestingly enough, the last time we won our first two matches was in 1994, when of all people Ossie Ardiles was manager! And he was sacked by November. Well, that’s Tottenham Hotspur for you.
Or “Tottingham” as Ossie used to call it. I was dumbstruck when I met him, outside the old Spurs training ground in Mill Hill, shortly before those two victories in ’94. I had met Klinsmann too of course, who had just arrived at the club, plus Sheringham, Anderton, Barmby, Mabbutt, all of those guys. After getting their autographs on a Spurs shirt (which I still have) and a few polaroids, I sat on the hood of a car to pack up my bag. And then Osvaldo CésarArdiles comes up and opens the car door! He was really nice, posed for a photo, said hello to my little sister, shook my shaking hand, and we left. He drove past as we walked down Bunn’s Lane, and actually waved. I know, it is incredible that a World-Cup winning footballer can actually say a few civil words and wave from a moving vehicle, but when you were the kid who wanted to actually be Ossie Ardiles, that is in fact a big deal. My knees were even trembly.
Year 2, Week 75: The Vinyl Frontier
After living here for nearly a year an a half, I’ve finally found something about my neighbour metropolis of Sacramento that I like. I know I’ve never really given that sprawling urban splat much of a chance, the way it just squats in the distance across a vast flat swamp, thick with suffocating Valley air and the sound of gunfire on every news broadcast, utterly lacking the grand charm of New York or the dramatic slopes and vistas of San Francisco. Getting the bus through West Sacramento is hardly inspiring, miles of rotten industrial grounds, trailer parks and the sort of motels you only ever see in films with a high death count. I warmed to grubby old Charleroi, years ago, but I think you’d have to be pretty cold to find anything to warm to here.
But recently I’ve been going up to Midtown, where the leafy boulevards are lined with charming old wooden houses, and there are shops and cafes and people walking because they want to, and yet because it’s still Sacramento there’s still some grit, and none of the urban snobbery you find in the more affluent areas. I guess that’s why it’s called Midtown, because it’s between downtown and Uptown, I’d not really thought of it like that. But that’s not what brings me there. There’s this really cool record shop called The Beat, and it’s my new favourite place. My wife first took me up there in January, after I got my new record player, so I could buy my first vinyl LP in many years and add to the ones I’d just lugged back from London (you know, vinyl’s a lot heavier than you think, isn’t it). I was so impressed – the place was so well-stocked, but still airy and spacious, not crazy like Amoeba Records, and they had a phenomenal collection of Beatles stuff, both British and American versions, most of which I have, some of which I salivated over but couldn’t really justify spending on. I spent most of my time in the Who section, trawling through rare European imports, but finally settling on the old compilation favorite Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, because it was the first Who record I ever heard back at my uncle Billy’s years ago, and because if you are going to listen to the old stuff, you can’t do it on CD, it has to be vinyl. I went home, put the needle in the groove, and rocked out; it was like being thirteen again.
I’ve gone back up there a few times to trawl through their CDs, new and used, and have been generally impressed with the large stock, particularly as I seem to find a lot of British stuff you’d never expect to see in a shop deep in Sacramento. No David Devant, however, but you can’t have it all. Nearby though there is a British pub called the Streets of London, which I’d known about since we moved here but have always resisted going to for the following reasons: it’s in Sacramento, it has a name which indicates it’s probably nothing like a London pub, and because we met a slightly weird couple once that said they go out there and I had no inclination of bumping into them. Well I finally decided to pop in and check it out (and to find a table to add some paints to the sketches I’d made around town), after all they might be showing Spurs on the TV. They weren’t, but I bought a pint of London Pride and had an utterly new sensation. It was actually cold, and tasted really good. I like Pride, I used to drink it a lot, but back at the Haverstock in Belsize Park it would always be edging room temperature. Here it was damn cold, and damn good. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, so I left, passing by The Beat on the way back to the bus-stop. Or I would have passed by if I’d not heard them playing ‘Boredom’ by the Buzzcocks, one of my all-time favourite tracks (and one I never hear blaring from a shop doorway). I popped back in and sure enough they had the Spiral Scratch EP. I’d never even seen it before! But I resisted, for now, giving myself an excuse to come back down, and I will too. I don’t yet like Sacramento, and I’m not about to move there or anything, but after all this time I’ve found I don’t hate crossing the Causeway quite as much.