Thursday, 20 June 2013

Bucket & Spade...

So that's sorted then: Charlton will start and end their season with trips to the seaside. The travelling Addicks will be pleased. Coincidentally (or perhaps not, as the case may be) this will be the 3rd time we've met Bournemouth in our opening day fixture in the last 4 years. The previous two games were at the Valley, whereas this time around we'll tie knots in our handkerchief and head to the balmy hot south coast where the sun shines for a solid 14 hours a day in August. As much as I'd love to dust off my bucket and spade, I may struggle to get to that game as it's 'er Indoors birthday celebrations that night. Apparently I need to give the impression I'm excited. Why grown adults feel the need to celebrate their birthday is beyond me.

By the grace of Him upstairs, the fixtures have fallen very kindly around my family holiday and a few other social dates, which is always a bonus. There's nothing worse than falling out with the missus before a ball's even been kicked!

Assuming I don't make any pre-season friendlies (I typically don't) and Bournemouth, my first game of the new season will be alongside the 5,000 or so hardy souls stupid loyal enough to commit to Oxford United in the cup on August 7th. For obvious reasons it's not one I'm looking forward to, if I'm honest. Even the novelty of viewing the game from a different stand for a change has worn thin with us likely to be crammed into the Lower West to save on steward bills.

The stand-out league fixtures for me are Watford away on the 14th of Sept with Millwall visiting the Valley a week later. Nottingham Forest at home on Oct 1st looks to be our only evening game for the remainder of this year (cup games aside), which is rather disappointing. I'll look forward to heading west to QPR in late November. On Boxing day we will enjoy the company of our friends from Brighton in SE7 with the unbelievably massive Sheffield Wednesday turning up just 3 days later (heaven only knows how the club will produce a match day programme between those two fixtures). To disrupt any hopes my missus may have of arranging pleasant family get-togethers over the Christmas break, there's the small mater of a trip out to East Anglia on New Years Day to face Ipswich, where, traditionally, we have a good record. The return fixture with Millwall in mid-March next year could potentially come at a very crucial time with an astonishing 8 games in that month alone.

Let's hope that by the time the Addickted head up to Blackpool next May for our final match we're either safe or heading up in another sense! You never know - Come on you Addicks! 

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Return of 'Proper' News...

I've wrote on this blog before about my dislike for football speculation and rumours and there's certainly an abundance of that floating around at present. For me, the closed season is a time to take a break and enjoy a few months without the stresses of worrying about the fortunes of the Addicks. During the season I find it impossible to switch off, but once the final game is over I'll go out of my way to avoid football until late July.

This week ahead should prove a little more reliable in its delivery of 'proper' Charlton news, though. Already this morning we have learnt that Oxford United of League Two will beat play us at The Valley in the first round of the Capital One Cup (most likely on Tuesday August 6th) and later today the club will reveal details of the new home and away kit (I'm praying we'll ditch the black away in favour of a return to white or yellow). The club announced last week that Andrews Sykes will retain their sponsorship of the Addicks jersey for another season. They might not be glamorous in name, but they have shown their commitment once again at a difficult economic time.

On Wednesday we can all look forward to the release of the Championship fixture list for the 2013/14 campaign, which, if you're like me, will also finally allow us to plan social events from August onwards safe in the knowledge it won't conflict with a game. Although it's always nice being at The Valley on the first day of the new season (August 3rd), I'm personally hoping we'll be away as I'll have less chance of missing a home game later in the month as a result of my family holiday.

I'm hoping to do a few more away days next season, particularly up north. The club will do well to better last years away record; with some amazing results on the road, there can't have been a better year to follow the Addicks away.

We'll all be hoping the club will announce the signings of a few new faces soon. I can accept and appreciate that our budget is very tight - and most likely relies on player sales as well - but we'd all agree a few additions are needed to strengthen what remains a largely League One squad. To match or better our final Championship position of last term is asking a lot, in my opinion. I won't be holding my breath for any marque signings and instead we can expect out-of-contract players and a few 'gambles' from the lower leagues at best.

I'd love nothing more than to be wrong, but it would appear outside investment will be required to allow us to dream a little...

Monday, 10 June 2013

This Is The One...

When my mate Bolts called me last year to ask whether I fancied watching The Roses if he could get tickets I never needed to be convinced, but I also remember thinking that the chances were so slim I wouldn't get my hopes up. We were the lucky ones. Finally, Saturday the 8th June arrived...

The day started off with a spot of lunch and a couple of beers in The Earl of Essex in Islington before we headed over to the Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington to meet Marco and Crispy for a couple more. Pleasantly jolly, we took the short bus journey to a sun-soaked Finsbury Park. Perhaps my bucket hat gave it away, but some bloke on the bus said with a degree of envy "you lot off to the Roses?" before lamenting how he had failed to get a ticket. We were indeed the lucky ones.

The scenes outside the park were reminiscent of a big football match with the air crackling with excitement and anticipation, but all without tension and sinister undertones. If this was a football match it would have been our World Cup final! Swathes of mostly middle aged men wore huge grins and casual attire just as they would have over two decades ago.

Every step closer to the entrance gates took us all a sizable step backwards towards the late '80's and early '90's. Every step closer to something few thought we would ever see happen...

Crispy, Marco, me and Bolts - very happy chaps!

The warm-up acts came and went. As good as they were in isolation we were all wishing the time away until Brown & Co. graced us with their presence.

And then they arrived with all their typical swagger. There was no nonsense, no great exchange of pleasantries between band and adoring public. No, they just got straight on with 'I Wanna Be Adored' just like they always did to kick things off. Classic tune after classic tune followed, every single one evoking memories of a time when life seemed much simpler and responsibilities seemed less weighty. It is an understatement to call some of these tracks anthems - they are so much bigger than that. 45,000 people sang along to every word in every song. Marco notes the full tracklisting on his own brilliant summary of the day.

I get a fair amount of stick in my social circle whenever I make an attempt at cutting shapes on the dance floor, but my moves have been influenced by the likes of Brown and Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and for once it fitted in perfectly. I've never danced as much.

Perhaps it was because I was savouring every last remaining second, but my tune of the night was the Roses tradition closing track 'I Am The Resurrection', which followed a great drum solo from Reni. At the end The Roses had a group huddle on the stage as if one of them had nodded home a late winner and we celebrated the moment with them.

We all floated home; full to the brim of that euphoric feeling that would make you billions if you could bottle it. 

Days like that do not come around too often and hardened Roses fans have had to wait far too long for this. I was particularly chuffed to bits for my pal, Bolts, who is a proper Roses fan from the very earliest days. I've never seen him so happy, particularly during Made Of Stone. Music is such an evocative thing and it helps me define so many stages of my life; that's why I love it so much.

Thank you Ian, Mani, Reni and John. Another day to be filed alongside Wembley in '98 and the birth of my two kids. Simply brilliant!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Musical Heritage...

Earlier this week I tried in vain to educate my kids to the wonders of Ian Brown (above) and The Stone Roses. Granted, it was over breakfast and even after throwing in the Ian Brown Harry Potter link it's not too hard to see why a 6 & 9 year old would prefer the tunes played on Capital Radio rather than the awesome 'I Wanna Be Adored'! I'm off to see the mighty Stone Roses at Finsbury Park this Saturday and quite frankly I cannot wait.

I told my son (he's the 6 year old) that even if he doesn't get it now he will later in his life. I confused him, of course, but it did get me thinking about how my musical tastes have evolved down the years.
I guess I could trace the real start of my musical history to around 1986 when I was just 12 years old. It was at this youthful age that I began rejecting the mainstream and made up my own mind about what I listened to. Run DMC had released 'Raising Hell' that year and I found myself exposed to a whole new music genre. In '87 I was introduced to Eric B & Rakim's classic LP 'Paid In Full' via an old graffiti artist acquaintance and in the same year DJ Scott La Rock and KRS One released 'Criminal Minded'. It's those albums that made me fall deep into the whole hip-hop scene; Kangol hat, spray cans, bright red Adidas trainers, tracksuits and all! Within a few years my good mate Scott and me would spend most Saturdays trawling independent record shops in London seeking out rare imports direct from the states and before long we both had enviable record collections that would have stood up against anyone's in the UK at the time, I'm certain of that. I favoured more of an East Coast sound rather than the gangster stuff emanating from the West Coast, which, I suppose because of the anti-police and gun theme I never really felt I could relate to. By the early 90's, Scott and me were dabbling in a bit of rapping ourselves under the band name 'Breakdown Massive'. For the record, here's my all time favorite hip-hop tune...
MC Shan 'I Pioneered This' - Hip Hop doesn't get better... 
For me, the essence of good hip-hop is in it's raw simplicity and that has never changed to this day. I have always shunned the over-produced, over-engineered, crisp sounding stuff, and in fact it was the evolution and popularity of hip hop that ultimately lead to me broadening my musical horizons.
By the late '80's and early 90's most young teenagers either went one of three ways; Rock, Indie or Dance. I went the way of dance and to some degree missed the first coming of the Stone Roses and the Charlatans, two bands I would later list amongst my favorites. Acid House and rave was the order of the day (with a healthy drop of proper soul  music here and there to contrast - in particular Maze Feat. Frankie Beverly) and I fondly recall those memorable nights with my mates at the legendary Camden Palace and Berwick Manor which was located somewhere deep in Essex (anyone else remember that rave venue?). I never quite got my head around drum and base, but I cannot put my finger on why, especially given my love of the drum.   
Before long I was surrounded by a green haze and slipped gently into the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley (musically not the same, but fitted where I was at the time). I floated around that scene for a good few years before I realised my social skills were suffering (through no fault of the music) and I moved on (and found my first serious girlfriend, I might add). At this point I revisited some of the indie stuff I'd not paid enough attention to earlier in my life!
By the late 90's I had discovered Latin jazz and world music generally through Gilles Peterson's late night 'Worldwide' Radio 1 show. From there I've gone all over the place whether it be Afrobeat or strange mystical sounds from other far flung corners of the globe. At the moment I seem to have taken a liking to Japanese spiritual jazz and in particular, this obscure LP.    
I'm grateful my tastes have evolved in such an eclectic way. The question is, what music form will I discover next?