Saturday, 30 July 2011


The Funk Brothers were the brilliant but largely anonymous studio band responsible for the instrumental backing on countless Motown records from 1959 up to the company's move to Los Angeles in 1972. Indeed, The Funk Brothers were dismissed in 1972, when Berry Gordy Jr. moved the entire Motown label to Los Angeles — an arrangement some of the musicians discovered only from a notice on the studio door. A few members, including James Jamerson (bass 1959-72), followed to the West Coast, but found the environment uncomfortable. Woefully underappreciated as architects of the fabled "Motown sound," the individual musicians were rarely credited on the records that relied upon their performances, which downplayed their importance to the label. Motown's sophisticated, urbane brand of R&B certainly would have been difficult to achieve without the extensive jazz training that many of the Funk Brothers brought to the table. In order to keep that sound a distinctive brand name, Motown signed most of the group to exclusive, highly restrictive contracts during their tenure, although a few peripheral members were able to moonlight on sessions for other companies from time to time. In more recent years, the Funk Brothers' legacy has begun to receive proper attention and belated recognition, most notably in Allen Slutsky's 1989 book Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which focused on bass genius James Jamerson and the 2002 documentary film of the same name, which covered the group as a whole.

In addition to the songwriting prowess of the writers and producers, one of the major factors in the widespread appeal of Motown's music was Gordy's practice of using a highly select and tight-knit group of studio musicians, to record the instrumental or "band" tracks of a majority of Motown recordings. Among the studio musicians responsible for the "Motown Sound" were keyboardists Earl Van Dyke, Johnny Griffith, and Joe Hunter; guitarists Joe Messina, Robert White, and Eddie Willis; percussionists Eddie "Bongo" Brown and Jack Ashford; drummers Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones, and Richard "Pistol" Allen; and bassists James Jamerson and Bob Babbitt. When the band's career and work was chronicled in the 2002 documentary film it publicised the fact that these musicians "played on more number-one records than The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined."

Much of the Motown Sound came from the use of overdubbed and duplicated instrumentation. Motown songs regularly featured two drummers instead of one (either overdubbed or in unison), as well as three or four guitar lines. Bassist James Jamerson often played his instrument with only his index finger, and created many of the basslines apparent on Motown songs such as "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes.

Of the recognized members, Benny Benjamin died in 1969, Jamerson in 1983, Eddie “Bongo”Brown in 1984, Earl Van Dyke in 1992, Robert White in 1994, Richard “Pistol”Allen and Johnny Griffith in 2002, Joe Hunter in 2007 and Uriel Jones in 2009. Eddie Willis, Joe Messina, Jack Ashford and Bob Babbitt are still with us, thankfully. - Joan Osborne performs in the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown

The Isaac Wilson
61 Wilson Street
Tel: 01642 247708

Thursday, 28 July 2011


As Jim Eastwood would say from The Apprentice (see blog #22) – the Vista Mar is what it says on the tin... a view of the sea!
But not only views of the North Sea, but also the pier at Saltburn – which extends for 1250ft and is horizontal in nature. You can walk out to the sea and you can walk back... without climbing a step!

More pier verbiage I’m afraid as the blog concerning the vertical pier at nearby Redcar caused quite a stir (see blog #23). Seems some people are in favour and some very much against, from the feedback gained the other day.

What is a pier? Here is one definition:-      

A pier is a raised structure, including bridge and building supports and walkways, over water, typically supported by widely spread piles or pillars. The lighter structure of a pier allows tides and currents to flow almost unhindered, whereas the more solid foundations of a quay or the closely-spaced piles of a wharf can act as a breakwater, and are consequently more liable to silting. Piers can range in size and complexity from a simple lightweight wooden frame to major structures extended over a mile out to sea -

The definition speaks for itself, surely? What the local authority of Redcar and Cleveland are proposing doesn’t sound very much like a pier (still to be named – what about The Phallus? - – rather it is something quite different. I’m traditional, so if I’m ever minded to promenade pier-wise locally, I’m going to Saltburn! How can you go fishing off a pier when you are stuck 80ft aloft? That's an almighty fishing line you'll need!

Saltburn was voted National Piers Society 'Pier of the Year' in 2009. Good for them! The pier is also serviced by one of the few remaining funiculars in the world - only a handful now exist.

A summary review of other piers globally – the Shorncliffe Pier in Brisbane, the Urangan Pier in Queensland, Pier #39 in San Francisco and De Pier in Blankenberge, Belgium are proudly associated with their communities and boringly horizontal in design.     

Build it and they will come?” Remains to be seen...

Vista Mar      
Saltburn Bank
North Yorkshire
TS12 1HH
Tel: 01287 623771

Sunday, 24 July 2011


The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” - Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) better known by his pen name Mark Twain.

All this blogging about piers previously has brought memories to mind. If you recall from Blog #1 – for those of you staying the distance – that is one of the characteristics of episodic memory.  

And of course, the UK is not the sole preserve of the pier. Whilst preparing the earlier blog I was reminded of my visit to the Eagle Café, Pier #39, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco – Friday 25/01/2008. Sheltering there during one of the worst Pacific storms over that part of California – like a drowned rat I was!

It’s a day I won’t forget – I’d only arrived in California the night before. The downpour and storms started late morning – and went on for most of the afternoon. There was me, alone, on a bar stool surrounded by puddles and some unfortunate souls (4, I think) who were celebrating a birthday, I believe – what a day to pick? No-one else all day except attentive bar staff who had little to do in all honesty. They took pity on me and offered me a couple of bowls of sourdough bread and white clam chowder to warm me up. I needed it.... I was 6000 miles from home! Although bereft of people, I can confirm that the pier was horizontal, thankfully (see Blog #23).

I believe the sea lions left pier 39, where they had been resident for many years, some time after the storms - I don't know if they ever came back?

The beer wasn’t bad that day as I seem to recall – goodness knows how many bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6% abv) I consumed - just for company. I didn’t realise until this morning how strong that beer was? It does explain a few things now! The flagship beer of the brewery I’m told ( It was my best friend that day...
San Francisco's weather is as changeable as the seas. Surrounded on all sides (save one) by ocean and bay, San Francisco's weather is also one of the hardest to forecast and changes drastically from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Over the four seasons, not one of which corresponds to its climatic expectations, San Francisco's weather can be difficult for visitors to predict, save that Fog City delivers majestic skies, trademark plumes of white fog and brilliant sunsets, occasionally you can even see the Golden Gate Bridge.

California, here I'm gone!

Interesting fact - In 1996, 12 people in Britain were rushed to hospital after a paper clip accident. Nasty!

Eagle Café
39 Pier, #103,
Tel; (415) 433-3689

Saturday, 23 July 2011


The National Piers Society ( lists 58 piers in the UK currently surviving – some are in better condition than others. Most piers are predominantly on the English coastline. Undoubtedly at one time a stroll along the pier was a part of the Great British holiday: as traditional as fish and chips (lashings of salt and vinegar), sandcastles and candy floss. Maybe it still is. If I’m totally honest with you I’m not a big fan of piers; I have always considered them to be somewhat tacky and dated with their amusements and stalls. One exception comes to mind – that is the modern pier at Southwold on the Suffolk coast. Re-built after many years of campaigning in 2001, it’s a nice place to mooch around after visiting the Lord Nelson ( on East Street which is above the pier and has wonderful coastal views and cracking beers. I’ve spent many a day out there when I used to live in the region - in all seasons mind – and usually on a Saturday afternoon. But I digress...

The seaside resort of Redcar on the North East coast has recently announced plans to re-introduce a pier as part of its ambitious redevelopment plans. The original pier was breached in WWII to prevent its use by invasion forces and further damage was caused by the east coast floods in 1953. It was eventually deemed unsafe in 1980 after subsequent storm damage and demolished a year later.  
Redcar was used as one of the locations for the film Atonement (2007) – depicting scenes from the Dunkirk landings.   

Redcar and Cleveland local authority announced plans to introduce an 80ft vertical pier as part of its £75m regeneration programme. Vertical? What have I been drinking, this afternoon? It’s true however... Not so much a stroll along the pier but full scale alpinism, no less. What fun! Presumably ice-axes will be issued in winter. Health and Safety and all that...

The pier is described as a stunning architectural design and new iconic feature for Redcar seafront. There will be a public viewing platform at the top with dramatic sea views.

Where’s that wind coming from, Elsie?”

Not sure, Bert – but I know where it’s going to!”

The pier is a £1.6m partnership investment by the local authority, ONE North East and the European Regional Development Fund and construction starts imminently.

Unsurprisingly the vertical pier: no name yet, that is to be suggested by members of the public ( – why not give it a go!: has not been received favourably by some. The public’s response to the Redcar and Cleveland local authority “Love it, Hate it” consultation was overwhelmingly in favour of a traditional seafront with a proper pier. The council’s response was to produce a plan that disregarded the much-loved wooden seafront shelters and introduced the 80ft vertical pier.

The pier is the brainchild of Harrogate-based landscape architects Smeeden Foreman, who won an open design competition led by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects). Plans for the structure were approved by the council’s planning committee in November 2010.

Interesting fact - in Britain in 1993, three people required hospital treatment after accidents with their tea-cosies.

The Plimsoll Line
138-142 High Street East
North Yorkshire
TS10 3DH
Tel: 01642 495250     

Friday, 22 July 2011


"Artifical intelligence is no match for natural stupidity" - Ferdinand Magellan (1480 - 1521) - Portuguese explorer, born in Billericay, Essex

Be honest – when was the last time you saw a Jet Provost trainer jet in the pub garden of your favourite local, just next to the barbeque area? And if you have, drink something a little less stronger, I suggest! The Standard  has such a jet in it's back garden!

Almost time to leave The Apprentice UK – Series #7 for this year – but not without one final contribution to the BitA blog... and it’s a cracker!

Jim Eastwood; he didn’t so much kiss the Blarney Stone – but swallowed it whole! Jim made it through to the final four interview stage, where candidates were asked to present their business plans for consideration by the man himself - Lord Sugar. At stake a £250,000 business partnership. And it was here that Jim met up with the formidable Margaret Mountford. Nick Hewer’s former side-kick and a woman who can smell BS at a hundred paces!. Impervious to the Irishman’s charm and guile – she asked Jim to describe himself without cliché? Not a chance, Maggie! 

His plan to create an e-learning package for schools in Northern Ireland is commendable – and one Jim feels obviously passionate about. To call it AMSmart – in the style of AMStrad  (Lord Sugar’s trading name) – was pretty AMStupid  in all honesty. His strategy to sweeten Sugar was never going to work! He was the first to go in last Sunday’s final. Oh, well back to the drawing board, eh Jim?

And the winner and recipient of the quarter million pounds and partnership with the bearded-one? No less than über-geek Tom Pellereau – a man given to rewriting swathes of history and confusing the nationalities of the world’s most famous explorers and navigators. William Drake (sic) – eat your heart out... and Sir Walter Raleigh – inventor of the two-wheeled, pedal-powered machine that bears his name - on yer bike! Make way for the main man and one of Britain’s own - Cristoforo Colombo! The patron saint of Spud-u-Like!

Here are some more clips from recent episodes, including last Sunday's final:-

The Standard
24 High Street
Tel: 01609 772719

Saturday, 16 July 2011


After 125 years in the motor car industry, German manufacturer Mercedes-Benz announced their partnership with INCC Group for the release of a Mercedes-Benz fragrance line. This isn't a fragrance first however: Ferrari and Jaguar have already licensed scents. 

What to call such a fragrance from Mercedes-Benz? Diesel, perhaps? Nope ‘fraid not, that name’s already firmly established with the non-car manufacturer of the same name in 2007.

Eau du Pétrole Moteur? Might work – nothing lost in translation there, that’s for certain! What about Siège Auto de Cuir – the fragrance redolent of leather car seats….hmmmm, I'd wear that! 

Commenting on the license deal, INCC Group President and CEO Rémy Deslandes said: “Nothing great has ever been accomplished without passion; 125 years after the creation of their first automobile, Mercedes-Benz will enter the fragrance world. I am thrilled and excited by this responsibility and it is with passion that I will meet our business partners at the TFWA in Cannes this September to witness together the birth of a perfume star.

Seems we won’t have to wait too long. Perfume star, no less!

The fragrance is set to launch in 2012.

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today".
Henry Ford. 1916. Chicago Tribune

Well when history is re-written it makes fascinating copy...
The Apprentice (UK )...very educational this programme lately  - certainly taught me a lesson! Sad to learn that one of this country's greatest explorers and colonisers was in fact born in Italy - we are talking about Christopher Columbus: a very British name that, don't you think? Sir Walter Raleigh indeed invented the bicycle and Lord Byron was a vegetarian. Great stuff! Capt. James Cook? - never heard of him!

Here's the link to the episode:-

The Grainstore Brewery,       
Station Approach,
Leicestershire & Rutland,
LE15 6RE


For the first time in the company’s 35 years of trading, managers and tenants at Castle Rock Brewery pubs in the East Midlands and Yorkshire are being told which newspapers they can and cannot buy for customers to read in their public houses.

Chairman of the popular Nottingham-based brewery, Chris Holmes, banned the News of the World  last weekend in its 22 outlets after allegations that a private investigator was hired to listen to messages on the 'phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the 7/7 bomb victims and other people in high profile news stories. Almost daily it seems new revelations are emerging of other alleged 'phone hacking activity by the UK's biggest selling newspaper.

This won’t break Rupert Murdoch’s bank balance,”  says Mr. Holmes, “but I think it’s important we make a gesture. How long we keep the ban depends on our customers. This weekend we’ll conduct a poll across all our pubs to ask whether we should delist the News of the World  and whether or not they want to make the ban more permanent.

I'd like to buy that man a drink! - 'cept when I've seen him in his pubs he's been drinking tea or coffee! Not sure which...

The 22 pubs in the Castle Rock  pub-group make around five newspapers available each Sunday.

Post-script - this blog was prepared before the announcement that the News of the World will publish its last edition on Sunday (10th July) - thus ending 168 years of circulation. 200 employees are expected to be made redundant. Seems that the title is shouldering the blame here, rather than the individuals concerned. Is that fair?

Canalhouse Bar and Restaurant
48-52 Canal Street,
Tel: 0115 955 5060

Monday, 11 July 2011


Samuel Osborne Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. In his mid-twenties he composed his defining work; Adagio for Strings* is his most popular composition and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music.

Barber never achieved the same recognition for his subsequent work which some critics derided as uncharacteristically weak and unoriginal. The critical rejection of music that Barber considered to be among his best sent him into a deep depression.

Barber spent many years in isolation (eventually diagnosed with clinical depression) after the harsh rejection of his third opera Antony and Cleopatra. The opera was written for and premiered at the opening of the new
Metropolitan Opera House in New York on 16 September 1966. After this setback, Barber continued to write music until he was almost 70 years old. Barber's music in his later years would be lauded as reflective and contemplative – but this was after his death at the age of 70. Barber spent most of his professional life striving to achieve the same level of success that he had with Adagio for Strings  in 1936. 

*Adagio for Strings can be heard on many film, TV, and video game soundtracks, including Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning film
Platoon (1986), David Lynch's 1980 Oscar-nominated film The Elephant Man, Michael Moore's documentary Sicko (2007), Swimming Upstream (2003), Lorenzo's Oil (1992), A Very Natural Thing (1974), Reconstruction (2003), and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Oscar-nominated 2001 rom-com Amélie.
The Adagio was broadcast over the radio at the announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in 1945. It was also played at the funeral of Albert Einstein and at the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco in 1982. It was performed in 2001 at the Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks, replacing the traditional upbeat patriotic songs.

Adagio for Strings, op.11  -

The Black Bull
High Street
YARM, Tees Valley  
TS15 9BH
Tel: 01642 791251

Sunday, 3 July 2011


The ego has landed!

At one time the UK version of The Apprentice  was seen as a serious insight into the young entrepreneurs and emerging business-winning talent competing to secure a place in Alan Sugar’s multi-million pound empire. These days - let’s face it - it’s less a vehicle for unearthing such talent and more a platform for the man himself. A forum for his prejudices and put-downs. He’s the star of this show. ’S’walan ’ as he once was - now Baron Sugar of Clapton - reminds us week after week how he started out at the age of 16 (or was it 18?, maybe he was only 9!) knocking out car aerials from the back of his van. Beatification beckons – doubt it though – he’s Jewish...

Another aspect - slightly more disturbing - to emerge in more recent series (this is the 7th) is the downright wacky nature and absolute barminess of some of the contestants who are in the “process”. None more so than Susan Ma - still only 21 years of age – her first ever job was working on a market stall selling skin care products which she has now turned into a lucrative business. On that front she is to be admired. But it is her apparent naiveté - bordering on the stupid - that sets her apart from the other candidates. On a task to sell English designed products to the French, Susan admitted she knew little about France and the French people, but this did not stop her from asking the most bizarre questions concerning our neighbours across the Channel. Questions such as:-

Are the French very fond of their children?”

Are the French eco-friendly?” and

Do a lot of people drive in France?”

When the stunned silence yielded no answers to her questions – she again affirmed she knew nothing about the French, France or its culture by way of explanation. Clearly!

Let’s consider her last question!

France has a proud history in motor car manufacture at least since 1919 with companies such as Citroën, Renault and Peugeot. The country is the home to the 24 Heures du Mans race, the Grand Prix in Monaco (not strictly speaking in France – but pedantry isn’t my suit!) and the Paris Motor Show. You can’t get across the L’Arc de Triomphe roundabout intersection on the same tank of petrol – it’s that damned busy! The French like to drive too much – Susan!

Here is the link to Miss Ma’s bizarre thoughts on those mythical French (The Apprentice – series #7):


Interesting fact - The Jack Russell is a breed of dog associated with the Rev. John Russell in the 19th century and not the England cricketer of the same name.

Saltburn Cricket, Bowls and Tennis Club                    
Marske Mill Lane          
North Yorkshire
TS12 1HJ
Tel: 01287 622761