Sunday, November 22, 2015

STEWART CRUICKSHANK - I salute you sir!

This time last week I was totally unaware that Stewart had been admitted to hospital. And even when I did find out, I figured that I’d likely be visiting him this weekend. But for some inexplicable reason, this was not to be and he passed away in the wee hours of Monday 16th October.

The soonest I could arrange to go over there and see Lorraine was Wednesday. It was odd getting off the train at Queen Street and heading for Hillhead with the prospect of not meeting up with Stewart. Coming out of the subway beside the Starbucks that used to be the fabled John Smith’s Bookshop, scene of many a good time – it was like some twisted play on “It’s A Wonderful Life” with our guy getting the George Bailey treatment. The west end is littered with markers and walking up the lane on such a driech night it felt like NY maybe did when Joey passed away. There was just something missing. There's a Waterstones where Roots and Fruits should have been for fucks sake.

But anyway, I made my way to their place and Lorraine was dealing with everything in that classic, stoic West of Scotland manner. I’m sure the enormity hasn’t hit her yet, nor has it dawned on most of us. We know he’s gone but we’re hoping it’s actually just a nuclear Cruickshank wheeze.

If you ever tried to leave a show, pub or restaurant with Stewart, you were in for a long wait. He had to say goodbye to everybody he knew. And that meant he had to say goodbye to everybody. It was the same on the Byres Road or indeed everywhere else in town. The landscape of Scottish Music would be entirely different were it not for him. Pure and simple. He struck all manner of blows against the BBC Empire to keep programming at BBC Radio Scotland at the forefront. He was responsible for successful show after show. That included his most recent stint with Iain Anderson and he should have been on points commission for coining the term Celtic Connections.

In terms of people skills, this guy was the master. His attention to detail is unsurpassed and he forgot more about music than any of us ever knew. No one ever came away from an encounter with Stewart unaffected by his enthusiasm. There’s not one person that would tell you otherwise. And even if they did, then they’d be lying.

So many adventures, too many recount but a friend reminded me of the time we dj’d together at The Nomads 20th Anniversary show in Stockholm. Segueing” Donald Whaurs Yer Troosers” with “The Faith Healer” was a masterstroke. The night we got back from that trip was when Joey died and we swapped stories and played Ramones records all through the night.

He was also obsessed with trains and well, heavy machinery in general. I recall there being an open day in the then BP oil refinery here and we took he and Lorraine along there. It was like a kid wandering into Disneyland. Much of it has been demolished now but in those days it was like a Blade Runner set. Just this morning, I went for a walk along to the Railway Preservation place in Bo’ness. Last time we stopped by there on our way to a screening of "The Party", he was reciting the histories of the steam trains that passed below us and it went on. And on some more. I was rolling my eyes but that says more about me than it does him. Sometimes I think he did that for devilment. Our trip to Madrid was something that really fired him up. I thought he was actually dead the day after the Dahlmanns show at Wurli because I couldn't get him to bloody answer the door of his room or the phone. I think he finally surfaced around 4pm. Which when I think about it was actually the time zone he operated in anyway but I was frantic.

One of the most excited I ever saw him (and anyone who has been with Stewart knows that atomic Duracell bunny mode all too well) was meeting Pirate Radio pioneer Ronan o’ Rahilly after the MC5 film premiere where he interrogated the guy as only he could. Another cool memory is when Amy Rigby was playing Glasgow and she brought her daughter Hazel with her on this particular trip. They stayed with Stewart and Lorraine and Hazel was so taken with Stewart that she wrote a short story titled “Crookshank” about him. If I ever find it and it's OK with Hazel then I'll post it. Those Rigby women are sharp.

Kathryn Ross, the lady that performed the Humanist service did a great job with material supplied by Lorraine, Richard (Bull) and Stewart’s oldest friend, the one and only Brian Hogg. Ian Anderson did a recitation of “Remember” by Christina Rossetti. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. The place was rammed. In the car back to the “aftershow” we posed the question, is there a fire limit in a crematorium? I still don’t know if everyone got in there. I sure hope they did.

So his crew shared stories while songs were sung and tunes were played. Phil Cunningham’s “On the Edge of the White Rock” air hushed the house. Someone has to record that. The moment I really lost it was when Amy’s “Don’t Ever Change” came on. That one reduces me to rubble in any normal situation but here it was too much and I went into full plotz.

There are plans and schemes taking shape for when the dust settles. That could take some time but there will be much celebration of the old bugger in 2016 and beyond. This was a wake-up call to each and every one of us who ever came into contact with him. Though we’ll never get the hang of the concept of “Cruickshank Time”, I think that everyone is resigned to try and carry on a little of what we thought would be around forever but for some reason was snatched away way too prematurely. I am genuinely sorry for those of you that never went under the thunder of Stewart Cruickshank.

Photos - Top to Bottom

Crunch's Half Century Blaw Oot (Stewart, Lorraine, Jim Bloomfield in background)

Busting moves to the Ben Vaughn McCombo in Maryhill Arts Centre

Beat Patrol HQ with Avy Carroll, Eva Vahlberg and Nick Vahlberg (1996 I think?)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Funeral Details for Kaptain Krunch

Stewart’s funeral will be held at 10:30am on Saturday (21st) at Glasgow Crematorium, Tresta Rd, Glasgow G23 5AA. The service will be followed by a gathering at the Grosvenor Hotel, Grosvenor Terrace G12 0TA.

If you're heading to the Crematorium from out of town can take an Anniesland train from Queen Street to Gilshochill. Google maps claims its a 5 minute walk from there.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It is with great sadness that I have to report the loss of my dear friend, selfless enthusiast and musicology colossus, Stewart (Kaptain Krunch) Cruickshank.

It's all somewhat raw, and utterly unexpected. My sincere condolences go to Lorraine and immediate family, not to mention the extended global family that he gathered over the years. Nobody who ever met this guy will ever forget him, of that I'm damn sure. More in a while, if I can ever process this. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


... and also to some of the more discerning stores and mail order outlets one would hope. Sporting a new Gigantor-esque logo, the first new song from the band finally sees the light of day. The 7", on the Otis Premium Recordings imprint could well sell out at the shows so the best way to score one would be to attend. Already having notched up an “Underground Garage Coolest Song in the World”, it deals with the origin of the band as it stands here on the cusp of November 2015. In some ways it’s their “Do You Remember That?” 

It’s just a shame that Jack Kirby isn’t around to supply a comic book to wrap around it. Like the New York Dolls comeback, "SaD" flies out of the traps with some of them licks that only Ross is capable of. It's no coincidence that the song shares an abbreviation with "Search and Destroy", Richard came up with the lyrics with some input from his son Jake Koufax Manitoba and the song will fit their set like a glove. It’s a statement of intent - produced by bass fella Dean Rispler - that they’re in this for the long haul and I wish the flip was a new tune too but it’s a live version of “Kick Out The Jams”. Expect to see a YouTube clip for "SaD" from every show on the upcoming tour on that very medium soon.

Hear it and buy the digital version from the DNYC bandcamp page.

Score the 45...

Sunday, October 25, 2015


It hardly seems possible that it’s been more than a year since “Nobody’s Baby” but it bloody is. Time is shooting in at a rate of knots and Brother Colin Duff brought back copies of “Down Today” from Ponderosa Stomp, the second instalment of rock’n’roll greatness from MIRIAM and Sam Elwitt. It can’t possibly be as good as that first record I hear you say? Well, like any great episodic series then it seems that these kids are just gaining momentum.

First time out I think that people were simply knocked sideways by the way MIRIAM steeped out front. This semester there’s an assured confidence that suggests that the lady is now very comfortable in her role as a bona fide pop singer. Anyone that knows her is more than aware that they broke the mould after she came along. Everything she does is 150% genuine and once again, the choice of songs and their realisation is what I believe to be perfect.

Sam Elwitt’s knack for the way he makes Mim’s voice shimmer amongst the arrangements is nowt short of heart-stopping. Be assured that this is no exercise in any sort of retro box ticking. Sonically, it’s a bold celebration of exactly where popular music needs to be in order to make it exciting again. I can only imagine how this will sound while sipping a gin tonic in Weirdo or Wurlitzer but I sure look forward to finding out...

Until then, I’ll just keep spinning it to all and sundry. If you’re looking for a gift for someone with ears then this my friend is most definitely a good shout. You can gift it to yourself too. We’re all in the same boat and musical kicks do not ever come any better than this. Gregor Kitzis’ strings make the whole thing soar and it all just clicks. How the heck do these people do that?

There is no smoke nor are there mirrors, just the most honest, smouldering sound that one could conceivably wish for. “Down Today” will raise you up like you perhaps never thought recorded music could do anymore. 

Here’s to Season 3!

Get yours at NORTON HQ... it’s also available on vinyl and CD from Soundflat, Strange Vice and similar mail order emporiums. 

It can also be consumed in digital format from the usual suspects. I don’t actually care how you listen just so long as you do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015


As stated earlier, the tireless documentary set filming of FDC by Mr Steven Tagg-randall... 

Fill yer boots!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I saw something on a facebook post recently than someone made to Gene Taylor. It went along the lines of “it’s all about the hang”. And with regards to the Funtastic Dracula Carnival that is entirely the case. Of course there’s a lot of music too but as a social event goes that I have ever attended, this is the greatest gathering of any given calendar year. If only we could have taken the Wurli crew en mass then I could quite happily have keeled over in the KU disco. I realise that could be problematic for everyone else but I’m deadly serious.

Funtastic X marked 10 years of throwing the biggest party on earth. There was something very poignant about The Sonics headlining too. Being that their music is a total cornerstone of this rock’n’roll malarkey. The fact that they existed to appear was something the cosmos was surely working toward this past decade. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. I’ll hopefully soon be able to post a link to every set so you can make up your own mind as to who was good or not. I’ll deal with my favourites and try to explain a little about the Funtastic phenomenon.

It was earlier than usual during what were school holidays across Europe. This meant that we had to co-exist with beered-up Britons . Many of these individuals are less than attractive and appear to require at least 5 pints to even get on the plane. And that’s just the women... ha ha. Wee joke (kinda).

My billet for the first night in town was right down on the beach, next to the old town. Some of the sights I saw soaking up the sun were verging on the nasty but let’s live and let live I suppose. This would later be put into further perspective on the flipside of the opening festivities.

After some aimless wandering and an attempt at a siesta, it was time to saunter up to the UFO. The revellers were beginning to gather and I met a few familiar faces. This is what I mean about the social aspect. Although in many ways this is a wild, wild weekend – there’s an affinity with the attendees that is truly rare these days. Now I could live up to my curmudgeon status here and suggest that people wearing Pixies or Str*nglers t-shirts not be allowed in. Maybe like a high class restaurant, the punk rock maitre de could offer something more suitable... ha ha. More than one person extolled the virtue of it being important not to bring a shirt that anyone else may be wearing. In that case, it seems the same as any outfit for an auspicious occasion.

Once inside, it’s time to change Euros to Draculin, the FDC bar currency allows you to score a tipple of choice. In no time, the venue was packed and the action kicked off with The Lie Detectors.

The fundamental beauty of Funtastic is that you can dip in and out of the acts. As I’m keen to point out, bumping into old friends and meeting new like-minded crazies is really what this is all about. For three days we get aboard the ship for the closest thing to a weekend on mars that I’m likely to experience in my lifetime. And if a band comes along that you never expected to blow you away then that’s a bonus. Last year it was Autoramas, this time out it was Gino and the Goons from Fla. They just battered through a selection that brought to mind a perfect melding of The Oblivians and The Heartbreakers via a Ramonic rush. I bought all their records, that’s how much I dug them.

Bloodshot Bill and The Masonics with Ms Ludella Black were next. The Medwaytastic latter closing with a rousing version of "New Rose" that approximated the closest there is likely ever be to a Milkshakes reunion. 

The crowd was suitably energised. Interspersed with the bands and in several locations, there are Funtastic DJs. Lutz Soundflat and Iñigo Munster both hit the throngs with hit after hit. That’s hit as in floor filler. The dancing never stops. After Inigo was done, I toddled off back to my billet. It was a blessing and a curse to not be staying directly across the street this year. My liver is likely breathing a sigh of relief though. There was hardly anyone on the street. The throngs of loud, pished Brits (and other nationalities) had disappeared. The schlep along the deserted boardwalk was magical and I stopped for a minute to watch the waves roll in before disturbing the hotel porter guy to let me in.

The really big adventure would start the next day when the kids from Madrid and Barcelona arrived.

A couple, maybe three hours later I was back out on the pavie. Once again the hordes had descended upon the beach and just as well one wasn’t about to eat for a bit. Letting it all hang out is one thing but c’mon... nobody should have to see so many varieties of beached whale.

We met at a restaurant called La Familia that we’d tried to get into last year but it was closed. My predilection with not eating seafood is problematic and a nuisance I’m sure but the paella that Francisco had them concoct has made me want to adapt the recipe at home. Note to self also... get some Pacharan.

From there we went to our digs along the coast in Finestrat. This place looked fancy in the photos but I’ll be darned if it didn’t look even better in real life. I don’t recall having have stayed in such a swanky spot ever before. A bar right next to the apartment too that served gin tonics like those in WEIRDO! BAR. In these big goldfish bowl style glasses and those set the scene just nicely.

We just missed The Monsieurs and much time was spent just bumping into folks that you just don’t see often enough. Nikki Corvette and the Romeos included Sir Morten of Henriksen or Morton Yum Yum as he signed in “The Billy Book” and they just flew out of the traps. A nugget of pure pop amidst a sea of gritty punk rock. The Pagans had to follow them and it didn’t really work for me. Reminded me of the last time I saw The Saints. A bit lumpy. But the party was raging out on the terrace with some fine DJ action. At one point I heard “Johnny and Dee Dee” blasting forth, then The Records “Starry Eyes”. Bliss. No “Glad to See You Go” though.

Nikki Corvette

Listening to records in this environment is like having a few hundred friends over for a record party and Russ Wilkins even spun discs that he had custom-cut himself specifically for this auspicious occasion.

Sunday saw a return visit to Villajoyosa and a bustling restaurant (Hogar del Pescador)for lunch then back for another attempt at a siesta that never manifested itself. We never caught Los Ass Draggers sadly but Muck and the Mires were pretty good in a jangly kinda way. It made me think how amazing them Young Fresh Fellows would be in this setting. Lo-Lite didn’t hold my attention and I don’t get Les Grys-Grys at all. Estella reprimanded me for this but I call it as I see and hear it. They’re the Paisley dress-up Jim Jones Revue for my money. I dig the fact that that kids seem to like them and that they do good business for mi amigos that pilot Dirty Water Records but I never need to see or hear them ever again. This old git is not for turning.

Yummy Punk Rock Girls - Maite, Maria and Ruth plus an old git.

Flat Duo Jets on the other hand just effortlessly emoted cool. It was just Dex and “Crash” but this was one two-man combo that really hit the spot. Rousing instro-mental stylings and skewered Americana was served up and I really thought that they might have played a bit longer. My hit pick for Day 2.

It was then time for The Sonics, as mentioned before, this is the very bedrock of the Funtastic aesthetic and nobody can deny the anthem status of their catalogue.  As you can imagine, the place went totally bananas.

The Sonics at full tilt!

A relatively early flight meant that there was no wee hours action for me. A cab would be coming to collect me all too soon that would take me to the bus stop. When I got there I planked myself on the bench and watched some of my fellow Funtastic attendees file down the Avenida de Europa into the 24 hour cafes. I was jealous. As the bus rolled out toward Alicante, I passed yet more revellers and wished I could have joined them. Hanging on to every last second.

I have no idea what or how Paloma and Sr Varo get this thing together but may they never EVER lose the will to serve up this annual helping of the beat that just can't be beat. They’ve cut and shut quite the hot rod monster and they’re just gonna keep on souping it on up. As curates, they deserve some kind of rock’n’roll canonisation. They do incredible work, year after year. A tireless and passionate example to us all.

The honour and privilege of being able to attend and be a tiny part of the celebration is something that I am never about to take for granted. And, as I sit here in the bunker kitchen, contemplating that I need to go out and tidy the drive, the dates for next year are anxiously awaited. Stand by for set links, coming your way just as soon as they appear.

 All Funtastic Photos by Ms Ruth López-Diéguez except the paella and 
yonder sunset by Francisco (Fran the Man) Santelices 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

In search of Telemech!

Weekend 2 and Barrence Whitfield and them Savages made a pit stop at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus, supported by The No-Things. We managed to make a quick call to Sir Billy of Miller before it was time for them to play. The band came right down on top of Auld Reekie as only they can with that patented Greenberg guitar volley. I had to cut out of there shortly after the gig because it was to be an early start the next AM.

The first of two weekends in a beach resort saw me take a train to “Ebberdeen” to catch Matt and Kim open for Fall Out Boy at the AICC enormodrome. The kids done good and the opportunity to catch something of that scale was an eye-opener. I knew that when the audience sang along with "Stacey's Mom" during the interval that everything was going to be alright.

In the afternoon KP and I daundered down to the esplanade. We found a greasy spoon that had a copy of The Tornados The Ice Cream Man 45 on the wall. We’d just been talking about Joe Meek earlier. 

I showed him where one of the best record shops, an electrical/discs hybrid like they used to be was. It was called Telemech. I couldn't recall the name of the place where I scored "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Leap Up and Down" by St Cecilia.

I got a lift down the road in a proper tour bus too and left the team at a Shell Station in South Queensferry a little after midnight. It was all a wee bit surreal at that juncture.

Four days at the salt mine seemed like a small penance to pay and I would be heading for yet another beach. Double the temperature in the daytime and scorchio punk rock action in the night time...  the Funtastic report is coming up next!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Euphoric Haze of Wurlipalooza IX

September 25th... I left a driech, wet Edinburgh and arrived in a bright, hot Madrid pretty much ship shape and Bristol fashion by noon and raring to go. The taxi trip in was quite humbling. How many times have I been here and I can barely communicate with the taxi driver, an old guy who was excitedly pointing out landmarks while his radio played some Spanish station. It’s usually FM rock bombast but this just seemed much more right. Quite the welcome!

First stop was to meet Brother Marco Padin and pick up the long-awaited Dahlmanns 45s. He took me to a 50s style diner modelled someplace between American Graffiti and Cry Baby called Tommy Mel’s. The colour scheme reminded me of this video by The Pantones. Ghost Highway Recordings flies the flag for proper rock’n’roll. Creating desirable vinyl artefacts for the discerning listener and “He’s A Drag” in black and yellow wax versions is definitely one of those.

The jaunt back on the Metro was an adventure. 150 45s is a weighty proposition but the exercise likely did me good. Then, Marco figured there weren't enough copies to fulfil the pre-orders so I had to give him some back. Not a bad problem to have.

From there to my pop-up office in the illustrious La Fiambrera for the first Mahou of the day, it went down nicely. It hardly seems possible that it was just a year since the ladies secured the property and they’ve scrubbed it up real nice like. It’s a sweet spot.

There was record-bagging to do so I returned to the hotel and saw to that. Seth Gordon and Robbie Rist were playing at a new place – Phantom – just around the corner. It must have been called something else before but I’d never clocked it before.

Sara and Ramôn joined me for a cheeky wee pre-show sherry at La Venencia. I love to hang out with these kids. The show was very entertaining and how crazy is it that you have to travel to Spain to hear a little Edison Lighthouse? Trochled up to Wurlitzer from there and met Álvaro and Helena outside. It was nice just to take the air and blab. No more drink was taken and I think that was probably a good thing.

This meant that I was able to swing around to Munster early then LF for a smashin’ wee pastie breakfast. Dropped by Wurli where an American girl was trying to communicate with the Ukranian cleaning lady. It was not going well. She’d lost her purse (and her mind) the night before and was about to leave town. I told her that if it was in there then she would definitely get it back and gave her 20 euros to tide her over. The Dahlmann entourage arrived and then things began to move into gear.

Showtime and I liked Grupo Sub 1. They knocked out a version of The Avengers “We Are The One” that really did the original proud. At that point, I had to nip out and pick up a surprise guest from MRC and that was when the party really kicked off. The gang was all present and correct. Marcela came too, despite her recent crushing workload. We never made it to El Sol this time around. Got back to Wurli to catch the end of Kurt Baker's set and then it was time for The Primitives. The evening, or night rather, was in full swing at that point. A wee wander up to WEIRDO! BAR with the kids for a cheeky wee gin and tonic where I met the new proprietress, Susana. Here’s to the place continuing its unique twist on the Mad-Toon night circuit.

I believe we also stopped off at Mongo - a new joint - but it was closed so we made our way back to base camp (Wurlitzer)
It was Saturday already, hell it was well into Saturday when we called it a night. A 1pm date had been made with The Royal Roosters (look out for their single on Soundflat) at LF. A swingin’ way to spend a lunch time to be sure and excellent to experience the basement speakeasy in all its bricktastic glory first hand.

Time just barrelled in from there... Managed to get down to La Alegria where Gry took a picture of herself in the exact same place as Line sits on the Drag 45 cover. Ms Blanca, who shot that very image also came out to play. Great to meet the exquisitely-monikered Aretha Croqueta too. Talking of that delicacy, many were consumed across this all too short visit.

Managed to catch FAST FOOD. I never realised that The Ant was once a member until Javi gave me a CD. Zipping through the opening set, they really set the scene for the D’s perfectly. What they do might seem simple but I know it’s not and they really pulled off that Ramone splendour.

And then it was time for Los Dahlmanns. Line told me that this was her best experience on stage ever and you could tell that from the get go. The anticipation of this for all concerned was up a notch even from usual and they just fucking nailed it perfectly. The length of set – the sequence – and even a late addition of “I Want You Around” for The Manges just pummelled the crowd with what is quite probably the greatest pop and roll ever delivered anywhere. As ever, I admit my bias but if you were there then you know.

The inclusion of “Girl Band” and “Tear Me Apart” (the latter to appear on the next WFMU Superhits of the Seventies comp that Michael Shelley is preparing now) was just the proverbial icing on a particularly groovy cake. The sense of utter joy at the front of the stage will be hard to ever replicate. I outright plotzed several times and this was up there with The Ramones at Glasgow Barrowlands in June 1985. I swear to Joe.

One of the Manges geezers said to Line when she came off – “You expect us to follow that?” And I think you pretty much get the gist. And they made an admirable (screamin’) fist of doing so. They were also big fun to hang out with at the pub down the Cruces, I hope to make their acquaintance again. The bass player, Mass reminded me of my old pal Lou Whitney. T'was a night that I certainly never wanted to end and I think we gave it a good go. One of the all time great times.

Yours truly was like a burst ball after all of that but I was determined to show Gry more of my favourite city. Then it was time to eat at Calle 30 and then to make for the airport where it all came unstuck due to a mix of fluster and stupidity on my part. The perfect, pleasant end to the weekend was cruelly dispatched. The MRC contingent was travelling from another terminal and fate dealt me a cruel blow that Sunday evening. I can see Andre now reciting the word “idiot” to our fellow crew and I plead guilty as charged. So that was it, the very bestest of times ended pretty sourly and a hard lesson was learned. It was for all the world like some twisted season finale.

But here’s to the next time. Wurlipalooza 2016 will be the 10th Anniversary. Pencil that in for the last weekend in next September and come join in.