Embracing The Fear

I love music. Granted, if you’ve ever listened to any with me you’d think otherwise based on the number of times I announce “This is shit!”, but I do. Like a cobweb on a winter’s morning, a good song is a thing of beauty strong enough to ensnare, but yet so delicate that, if the wind were to change direction, it vanishes.

If music were a lady, I would have sent her many drunken late night texts confessing my undying devotion. But the Better Half gets those instead.

I’ve played the guitar since I was 16 and I’m surprisingly bad for somebody who has played an instrument for almost 20 years. I’ve jammed and played in a handful of bands across the decades (Best band name? Gaylord Mink and his Lonesome Cowboy Bill Band featuring Raoul), but most of my output has been drunken stabs at ‘Day Tripper’ in order to impress girls at parties.

They were never impressed.

I’ll admit that there is some regret that I never did more musically when I was younger. So my new year’s resolution is a simple one. Write a song and perform it solo in public. I am allowing myself an acoustic guitar and harmonica. I’ve been listening to the album ‘Nebraska’ a lot (There is no concept of “too much Bruce Springsteen”) and that’s all he used.

Let’s get things straight. I am under no illusions here. I am no Bruce Springsteen. And I have no dreams of rock’n’roll stardom. For one thing, I need my sleep these days.

So why am I doing this? Maybe I want to test myself. Maybe it’s the onset of a mid-life crisis. Maybe I’m just a massive show off who, deep down, wants a room full of people to stare at him. Maybe, these days, I don’t like being a passive consumer when it comes to art I like. Or something less wanky.

And why am I telling you this? Because if you tell yourself you’re going to do something you can always find ways to get out of it. If you tell a few hundred people that you’re going to do something, you’re going to have to go through with it or they’ll call you a dick.

This is so far out of my comfort zone I’m in a whole new district of terror. I’ve never written a song before. And I can’t sing. That’s an issue I’m trying to address. The only time I’ve ever sung on my own in public (or, more accurately, shouted words to a tune) has been karaoke. And “karaoke” is Japanese for “drunk arsehole attempting ‘Sweet Caroline’”.

But you’ve got to try something that scares you once in a while, haven’t you?

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Hair – A Warning From History

I’m getting older. More and more, I find myself loading up Google and not remembering why. Which is the geek equivalent of walking around the kitchen wondering why you went in there in the first place.

Another sign of the encroaching hand of the Grim Reaper is my receding hairline. In my youth, I had a quite frightening amount of hair. Do you want to see it?

I should point out that these were the days of Grunge, before hair straighteners became acceptable tools for the modern man. Not that I would have used them anyway. For I was Keeping It Real.

Then I re-discovered my Punk Roots.

In fact, you can see my roots in this photograph:

My hair is extremely curly and it took all kinds of hair product in order to stop me from looking like a Shirley Temple drag act. And then I began to notice that the distance between the spikes was growing greater and greater each day.

Thus I made the sober decision that I should embrace my baldness.

I say ‘sober’. The decision actually involved a sunny afternoon, several  cans of Guinness, some clippers and my friend Dan. I’ve never looked back.

There. That’s much better, isn’t it? Relatively speaking.

In the past, I feared the barber in the same way that people fear dentists. The social awkwardness, the stilted conversation, the clumsy tipping. Everything that goes against my naturally misanthropic nature.

Now, every two weeks, I reach for the clippers and do it myself. (Though I wouldn’t advise the same solution if you fear the dentist).

To be honest, every now and again I do wonder if it’s all a little dull. Then I look at the photographs above and remember that I shouldn’t ever have been trusted with hair.

The answer?

Hats.

If you want to make your head a little more interesting, just pop on a hat. There’s something for every occasion.

One of the great things about having a young daughter who insists on dressing you is that you no longer have to concern yourself with such concepts as ‘dignity’.

So if you find yourself looking in the mirror and the word ‘slaphead’ is getting louder and louder in your mind, don’t fight it. Feel it.

(This was inspired by Stephen Baxter’s ‘Going Bald Was a Revelation’)

2010 – A Year In Mediocrity

Ah! The traditional introspective New Year’s Eve blog post! I hope you all had a more than adequate Christmas with well-supervised corporate fun and are looking forward to a decent New Year.

I have been slack recently.

Well, slacker than normal.

For this I apologise, but you will be glad to know that I am in the traditional end of year organisational fervour that normally lasts until the 2nd January.

2010 saw me fail to complete any new writing ‘product’. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that’s going to hinder a writing career. I’ve started several projects but they all crashed into a wall of self-doubt and neurosis.

I sat myself down in a darkened room and had a long conversation with myself. I wasn’t really listening, so I took myself out for a drink and I was a lot more receptive to what I had to say.

So, I’m writing another project and it feels good. 2011 will see me blogging properly once more and some posts may even have a point. I’d considered setting up a whole new site, but Army of Dave has a lot of good will attached to it. And then I remembered that I’d paid for this domain name and I can’t be bothered to design MORE business cards.

This year, the Army of Dave blog has appeared on the sites of the BBC, Guardian, Times and Telegraph. All of which I have failed to capitalise on.

So the next 12 months are going to see me have a massive push to get some kind of recognition. Don’t get me wrong. I love all of you in a special way and am awfully grateful that you subscribe to this blog in your RSS feed and email or make a daily browser trip to see if my brain has vomited up any poor quality gags. But I’d like even more people to hear/read what I write. And maybe have some of those people give me money for it.

I’ve even bought a personal organiser because I want to put lots of meetings into the diary section.

Yeah. Dave means business. He’s got his game face on. Grrrrr.

Maybe I’ll even start The Novel that I constantly bang on about to everyone.

In the meantime, here are the year’s ten most popular blog posts (Actually, some were written in 2009 but 2010 has been the Year of Velma Dinkley). Enjoy.

10. Something Important Happened Here Today

9. Time Travel – A Beginner’s Guide

8. An Email To Sky

7. The Army of Dave Guide To Voting Etiquette

6. Oh No! It’s An All Time Top 5! Part 5!

5. The Daily Mail Embraces The Internet

4. The Election Night Drinking Game

3. All Time Top 5! Part 3!

2. Am I Really Writing A Blog Post About This?

1. The Leaders’ Debate Drinking Game

John Peel – A Memory

Today marks the sixth anniversary of John Peel’s untimely passing away.

I’d guess the increased Cowell-ification of the charts in that time would have John spinning in his grave – possibly at the wrong speed – but I wanted to c&v part of a previous blog post originally about 6 Music:

“Do you remember the band Bennet?

No, of course not. You’re all young hip cats who’s worlds are made up of iPods and MP3s and have no truck with obscure Britpop bands from the mid-to-late nineties.

If you do remember them, you may recall their minor hit “Mum’s Gone To Iceland”. Not their finest hour.

But “Someone Always Gets There First” WAS their finest hour. I heard it on a Peel Session many years ago and I instantly fell in love. As a doomed romantic, it spoke to me.  In these days before the internet, I managed to track down a copy and order it from a local record store.

That song is a stone cold Dave’s Desert Island Disc. It’s made me smile, shake my booty and – in all honesty – it’s got me through some tough times. Hell, it was the first track on a mixtape that I made for the Better Half for reasons too complicated to go into here.

I’ve never heard it on the radio before or since that John Peel broadcast. If I’d not been sat by my radio for precisely those three minutes, my life would not have been enriched by that power-pop number in the way that it has been.”

And that, in a badly written nutshell, is what made John Peel great for me.

Thanks John.

My Favourite Film Credit Ever

‘Full Metal Jacket’.

A cold harrowing examination of the brutality of warfare.

As the credits roll, you are numb. The chilling chorus of the children’s song the Marines sing in the final scene catches in your memory as you process the horrors Kubrick has made you witness to.

Then this Bad Boy pops up on screen:

Hair. By Leonard.

And you start to giggle.

Hang on. This is ‘Full Metal Jacket’. For the first half of the film, set in a military boot camp, everyone has a shaven head. And in the second half, in Vietnam, they’re all wearing helmets.

Leonard (if that is his real name) certainly phoned that fucking gig in.

I’m In The Money!!!

You’ll all understand how excited I was when I received this email:
“RE: YOUR FUNDS HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR IMMEDIATE PAYMENT
We are delighted to inform you that after critical examinations of the whole process, that the UNITED NATIONS BENIN Commission have finally give the authority and approved the Atlantis Asset Recovery Group Plc to settle your due over payment, the sum of Five Million Pounds (Ј5,000,000GBP) in a swift action and unconditionally.
Presently, I am mandated to inform you once again that the authorities are ready to pay all the people who were victimized by those corrupt officials according to the order of the human right commision. So, be notified that your names are among the 25 Names in the first batch who are to receive the first payment, but it is left for you as the beneficairy to show your interest on the fund.
As a matter of fact, this office will not entertain your further dealings with any third party to avoid duplication of effort on your payment process in other to serve you better otherwise your payment will be cancelled. We are out to correct the wrong done in the past by your representative but all we want from you is your utmost co-operation and kind understanding by adhering to the lay down instruction.
It is our concern that you should discontinue any other further communications with any person/persons claiming to be working with any other department / Security company henceforth as they have been stopped any official assignment on behalf of the affiliated bank to avoid any duplication of efforts in diverting your funds to a wrong account.
Please, We hereby once again express our sympathy with you over the whole situation that had culminated in the whole delay in the payment of your funds as we want you to comply with the us even as we assure you of a quickest remittance of your funds into your account, as officials of the (ASRG) are currently reaching out to all awaiting foreign beneficiaries for their payment after due process.
In view of the above instructions,you have to indicate your preferred mode of payment. The options available to you are as follows:
1) WIRE TRANFER THROUGH OUR BANK TO YOUR BANK ACCOUNT.
2) THROUGH CASH PAYMENT,IT WILL BE DELIVER TO YOUR HOME ADDRESS.
3) BY ATM VISA CARD,IT WILL ALSO BE DELIVER TO YOUR HOME ADDRESS.
Please advise us as soon as possible to enable us start the processing and we shall let you know the cost for processing any method you choose from above.
We await your urgent acknowledgement of this letter before the enforced deadline.For official status and security reason reconfirms your details as it is stated below only to Dr Fabrice Oliver, Direct via e-mail: globalatlantis-argp@katamail.com

Your Full name:……………….
Banking coordinates:………..
Telephone number:…………..
Physical address:……………..
Yours Sincerely in Service.
Mr.Neil Grant
Secretary: Atlantis Asset Recovery Group Plc.”

So I thought it only polite that I reply:

Dear Mr. Grant

Many thanks for your email regarding the £5,000,000 owed to me by the Benin government. I normally disregard this sort of thing, but – well – baby needs new shoes!

I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I don’t remember ever visiting Benin, or having any dealings with their corrupt officials, but – to be honest – I spent most of my twenties drunk so anything is possible. I have a vague memory of my mate Dan ending up as president of Burkina Faso after a card game. Maybe I popped over the border? It was a pretty mad weekend.

I’m disappointed to read that I only have one human right. If this is the case, do I get to choose which human right I have?

If so, I’d like to have the “human right to dance like nobody’s watching”. I tried this once but Yates’s apparently have a very strict policy on people doing “The Willy Dance” in their establishments.

I always giggle when I see the phrase “Physical Address” as it reminds of the song “Lola” by the Kinks. In the narrative Ray Davies is “not the world’s most physical guy” because ‘Lola’ (a man in a dress. A dress. Address. Geddit?) “almost breaks his spine” when giving him a cuddle. Ray Davies comes from a tradition of oral storytelling, much like the Benin culture.

Yes. I’ve been reading Wikipedia.

Anyway, as requested, my Full Name is Pisscock Partridge (Please, let’s not be formal, call me Pisscock) and – having checked Google Maps – my bank coordinates are 51Deg 49’ N. 0Deg -48’ E.

I know! I didn’t realise I was so close to the Greenwich Meridian either! And I was equally unaware that lawyers were so into geocaching. Geekotronic!

What day will you be visiting? I shall keep my eyes out for a bemused lawyer walking around the Home Counties with a GPS receiver.

Be Lucky

Mr. Pisscock Partridge.  

Ker-Ching!

15 Albums I’ve Played To Death

It’s been a while since I’ve taken part in a meme and I saw this one over on Anton Vowl’s blog.

The rules are simple. Scribble down, stream of consciousness-style, fifteen albums that you’ve played to death.

Appetite For Destruction – Guns’n’Roses

The first album I can really recall playing to death. I was 12. Loud guitars! Swearing! Sex noises! “This is what music should be about!” I thought.

Nevermind – Nirvana

Luckily, I hit puberty soon after the Guns’n’Roses incident. I opened the NME one day and saw a picture of Nirvana. They looked fucked up. If these guys sounded half as good as they looked, I was in.

Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

For “Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me” please read “Fuck You I Won’t Do My Homework”.

Definitely Maybe – Oasis

Before Oasis became a coked-up, bloated, over-produced behemoth, the first album was awesome. I can still remember putting my worn out tape into my Walkman and strutting to the pub in time to “Rock’n’Roll Star” for some underage drinking.

The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground

Lying drunk on school friends’ floors, listening to ‘Heroin’ and imagining the artistic bohemian future that stretched before me like a big stretchy thing… I am writing this on my lunch break from my IT job. Hold onto your dreams, kids.

August & Everything After – Counting Crows

One of the few albums from this period of my life that I still regularly listen to. ‘Anna Begins’ is the greatest love song ever written. Fact.

In My Tribe – 10,000 Maniacs

I borrowed this from a girl in the year above me after an all night party. I went home at 7 in the morning, played “Verdi Cries” and immediately burst into tears. Sheer bloody poetry.

Document – REM

I obsessed over all the available REM albums in my teens, but this one more than most I remember listening to, pushing the headphones onto my ears in a vain attempt to work out WHAT THE BLOODY HELL MICHAEL STIPE WAS SINGING.

Dookie – Green Day

Back when I actually gave a shit what the NME thought, they had a free tape on the cover and one of the tracks was “Basket Case”. I went out and bought the album.

Like a couple who have drifted apart, I still have not forgiven them for “21st Century Breakdown” and influencing Fall Out Boy.  

Modern Life Is Rubbish – Blur

Learning the guitar is very important to a teenage boy who is not good at sports. You imagine a whole new world of sexual possibilities because you can play the riff to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Blur were very helpful in this respect because they used to print the guitar chords along with the lyrics on the in-sleeve.

Did it work? Let’s just say, nobody ever slept with anyone because they could strum “Star Shaped” badly.

The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers

When the Better Half and I went on our first holiday together, we foolishly only took two albums with us. One was Gem. This was the less shit option so was played until the CD virtually wore out.

The Bends – Radiohead

Listened to death when I was working in London. My iPod acting as a sonic cocoon during the commute.

Boys And Girls In America – The Hold Steady

The Better Half and I were in the car when ‘Chips Ahoy’ came on the radio. The “Woah!” backing vocals annoyed the Better Half as she just deems this as a get out clause for songwriters when they can’t think of any lyrics.

I immediately went to HMV and bought the whole album. So lyrically dense, with a cast of recurring characters, they stop being songs and become short stories with backing music. And at points, they out-Springsteen Bruce Springsteen.

The 59 Sounds – The Gaslight Anthem

Whereas the Gaslight Anthem out-Springsteen the Hold Steady by simply borrowing lyrics directly from the Boss.

Love, Ire and Song – Frank Turner

This one has appeared on my radar at just the right time in my life. The death of the idealism of youth. And a very nice song about snogging French girls.