RIP Pete Seeger and the Foolish Frog

As a tribute to Pete Seeger the American folk musician and activist who passed away yestersday at the age of 94 here’s one of his lesser known songs The Foolish Frog, a comic number which shows the great man’s lighter side. Enjoy…


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REM head for the Great Beyond

I was going to call this blog post blog “REM RIP: It’s the end of the world as they know it”, but today’s Times has more or less the same headline on its front page.  A rock band breaking up rarely makes the headlines in either the quality papers or the main TV or radio news, a fact which demonstrates how influential Mr Stipe and co were. 

Even though they’ve been around for over 30 years  I have to say I was surprised when I heard the news as I thought REM were one of those bands that go on and on forever, like U2, the Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, AD/DC, Jethro Tull, Rush and (dare I say it) Marillion.  But to be fair they were a bit past their sell-by date and their last couple of albums were fairly substandard.

Their lead singer certainly won’t be short of a buck (no pun intended), as the royalties from his work will no doubt earn him a regular stipend (pun very much intended).

 So what now?  As they’re now finally out of time will they retire to the great beyond and have an orange crush or two with the man on the moon and other shiny happy people while reminiscing on maps and legends or will they go nightswimming?

The Genesis of Civilization

Peter Gabriel

Niall Ferguson

I’ve just been watching Civilization, the new Channel 4 series in which eminent historian Niall Ferguson explores how the western powers came to replace China in the middle ages as the dominant world culture. Certainly an interesting topic, even though I don’t agree with many of Ferguson’s views.
I couldn’t help noticing though that he seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to the recording artist and former Genesis vocalist Peter Gabriel (or at least what to Gabriel looked like in the mid-1980s).

Or is that just me?

Lady Gaga and the media pseuds: easy meat

Anyone familiar with the magazine Private Eye may have see the regular column “Pseuds Corner” in which readers are invited to send in examples of pompous quotations from the media.

I came across an article in The Observer on Lady Gaga by Polly Vernon which would take pride of place in Pseuds Corner.
It has to be the most pretentious, self-indulgent, meaningless pile of pseudo-intellectual crap I’ve read in a long time (apart from my own blog posts that is), as this extract below demonstrates:

“Lady Gaga’s video version of sexuality is extraordinary from an aesthetic perspective. She makes fashion statements out of gimp masks and gaffer tape, and orgies of vast synchronised dance segments. She turns sex into camp theatre and the end result is challenging and alarming and powerful and exciting. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been revisited by so many other singers.

Gaga owns this version of sex and she’s not asking you to approve it. She’s a complete pop icon – but she’s no pin-up. She hasn’t bothered constructing a version of herself designed to please a straight male audience. Lady Gaga doesn’t do pretty, or available, or submissive, or obviously glamorous. Instead she does scary, she does theatrical, she does brave. Her costume choices – though often revealing, and sometimes not entirely complete; she famously chose to go on stage at Glastonbury in 2009 without any pants – are too fiercely directional to appeal to most men. There is something Bowie, something early Madonna-esque about the way Lady Gaga wields her sexuality. Something unapologetic, unflinching, and shameless in the very best sense.”

Incidentally when Lady Gaga chose to court controversy and be the centre of attention (something she seems to enjoy doing – following in the footsteps of Madonna who she has shamelessley ripped off – and also has a similarly gigantic ego) by wearing a dress made of meat at a recent award ceremony she wasn’t being particularly original. The cover of an album by the Undertones (arguably the greatest band ever to come of Derry – but then that wouldn’t be too difficult) from the early 1980s depicts a similar image.

So not content with copying Madonna she chooses to copy the Undertones as well. Talk about scraping the barrel. The pork barrel in this case.
Spot the difference:

Apologies to all vegetarians out there. No doubt to make amends she’ll wear a nut roast and tofu dress at her next outing.

Camille Paglia, writng in the Sunday Times by contrast is unlke Vernon, no grovellor. She hits the nail on the head with this observation:

Every public appearance, even absurdly at airports where most celebrities want to pass incognito, has been lavishly scripted in advance with a flamboyant outfit and bizarre hairdo assembled by an invisible company of elves.
Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation?
Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video-Alejandro) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft?

Perfectly put.

Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter

Another inglorious end to England’s overinflated World Cup dreams and the post mortems go on.  Was it due to discord in the camp?  Did Capello get the tactics wrong?  Was it the disallowed goal that disrupted the flow of play?  Were the players just worn out after a hectic Premiere League and Champions League schedule?  Did manager and players just not connect?

At the end of the day it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for a bunch of overpaid, overrated, overindulged bunch of tattooed philandering underachievers who earn more in a week than most of their supporters earn in five years.  The fans who travelled several thousand miles and spent several thousand miles deserve better.  If Never has there been a stronger argument for the introduction of performance-related pay in football.

But whether England win or lose, the tabloid press always have a field day.  The punning headlines never fail to impress,  The front page of the Mirror screamed “ROUT OF AFRICA” (rather than the less politically correct KRAUT ROUT) on its front page and TORN TO FRITZ on its second page, while its back page responded with the line FABIGO.  Even the more subtle Times got in on the act with EIN ZWEI DREI…YOUR TEARS.

 But the possibilities are endless.  We could also have had:





 Or if an England fan had put money at the bookies on England to win the World Cup the headline could have read:


 If German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been at the match and a bad decision had gone against Germany she might have invaded the pitch to angrily remonstrate with the referee:


 And finally anyone who says the Germans have no sense of humour should check out this marvellously satirical and self-deprecatory song from the mid-‘80s by Udo Lindenberg, Lindenberg,a well known and respected rock musician in his own country plays on the stereotypical images of his compatriots – ie a highly efficient and hardworking, but ultimately dull and humourless people.  But Lindenberg can hardly be described as dull or humourless.

The blond german Fräuleins are pretty, but vain
You say ‘Guten Tag’ and they say ‘Auf wiedersehen’
They’re very hard workers, from Monday to Friday
Make love on the weekends, and yodel like Heidi
  [This line followed by some very impressive yodelling]

Classic stuff.

Never a frown with Gordon Brown

Back in 1981 Pseudo-punk band the Stranglers recorded a song about the future British prime minister.  The classic line from the song (allegedly about heroin) is “never a frown with Gordon Brown”.  That is unless he’s being questioned about immigration policies by pensionersin Rochdale.  He may well have a frown on his face come Thursday when the posh boy is forced to enter into a coalition with the LibDems.

“A ghost of a mist…”

 There are many Christmas songs, some cheesy and forgettable, some worth a listen.  But so few Easter songs.  In fact the only one I can think of is this one from 1990 by the perenially unfashionable, yet remarkably resilient prog rock survivors Marillion

OK, the lyrics – alluding to the then fashionable subject of the Northern Irish conflict – are a little tacky in places (there are even subtle literary nods to WB Yeats and Sean O’Casey in there), but the photography (filmed at the Giants Causeway) is noteworthy. 

And it’s a decent song, one of the band’s rare forays into the folkie stuff.  And appropriate to the time of year.  Very fittingly it comes from an album entitled Seasons End (deliberate non-use of apostrophe).  Marillion’s season may have ended a long time ago, but fair play to them (and their legions of anoraky fans – present author included) for refusing to go away! 

What you might call a guilty pleasure.

Anoraks, Curved Air & Lazy Blogging

The quality of blogs varies greatly, although it’s safe to say that about 99% are sheer unadulterated crap.  But some of you might find that to be rich coming from me. 

 Blogging takes a variety of forms, but what I really take a dim view of  are those bloggers who just post a link to a clip on Youtube of an amusing incident or a music video without even commenting on it.  They fancy themselves as online DJs, but without the personality.   It doesn’t require any thought or creativity, just copy and paste.  And what also pisses me off are those cheap jokes showing side by side pictures of celebrities who look like each other.  You wouldn’t catch The Dreaming Arm doing that of course.  After a bizarre weekend of Sherlock Holmes (the pub, the film and the ale), inhaling grape-flavoured smoke through a hookah pipe in a Turkish bar, mud on the tracks I need some respite.

In times of economic hardship and cold grey winter days we often look nostalgically to the past for inspiration.  I have a thing about the early ’70s in particular.  So here’s the psychedelic sounds and visions of Curved Air from 1971, featuring the delectable Sonja Kristina on vocals with “Backstreet Luv”. Despite the tacky title it is a fantastic song. It has a hypnotic psychotropic quality about it – the sort of music Sherlock Holmes would have listened to had he been around on those days. Look out for the drummer who bears a passing resemblance to Jimi Hendrix.

“It’s a little secret, just the Robinsons’ affair…”

As a general rule The Dreaming Arm tends to avoid commenting on that storm (or should that be Stormont?)-in-a-teacup  style primary school playground bunfight known as Northern Ireland politics.  There are other blogs better equipped to do that, such as Snailer McCoole (or whatever his name is) or that Russian bloke who likes football and David Cameron.  Nevertheless, I just couldn’t resist commenting on this particular incident!

Mrs Robinson and Benjamin in "The Graduate"

“Here’s to you Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know”
So sang Simon & Garfunkel in the soundtrack to the film The Graduate.
In a fascinating case of life imitating art the film was about an affair between Mrs Robinso,n a married middle-aged woman (Anne Bancroft) and Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman), a young university graduate.  Now it’s been reported that a real life Mrs Robinson, Iris Robinson MP and wife of Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has had an extra-marital affair with a lad almost young enough to be her grandson.  As a bible-thumping self-proclaimed Christian and noted homophobe Iris may feel that true to the song, Jesus (being a forgiving sort of chap) does indeed love her.  Whether young Kirk feels the same remains to be seen, but unlike the former (to quote from The Life of Brian) he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.
 And to further spice things up there’s also a tale of alleged financial impropriety tied to the whole affair.  Tabloid journalists (and bloggers with too much time on their hands) are no doubt having a field day.
Peter not surprisingly denies the allegations of his wife’s financial wrongdoing.  But then he would.  A bearded politician from the opposite side of the sectarian fence is also prone to issuing denials – which are greeted with howls of laughter from the dogs in the street.
Robinson is known as “Peter the Punt” after leading a violent incursion across the border into Co. Monaghan with a baying mob in the 1980s and subsequently escaping jail by paying a court-imposed fine.  But experts in rhyming slang have claimed that he always was a bit of a punt anyway – in much the same way as Bernie Madoff was a banker.
Iris has made her bed, she can lie in it –as I’m sure she did once or twice with Kirk!  
To drown his sorrows the Punt may well down several cans of strong beer such as Stella (or “Wifebeater” as I believe it’s colloquially known for some reason) – or whatever his preferred tipple is.  (Other alcoholic drinks are available).
And isn’t it doubly ironic that Robbo’s deputy in the NI Assembly bears an uncanny resemblance to Art Garfunkel who co-sang the above song?

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Popular recording artist Art Garfunkel

We’ve come full circle…as the actress said to the bishop.