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What's on the Playlist

Also relates to Music

If it isn't enough that I subject the world, beyond these four walls, to my sporadic outbursts, this year I am going to inflict my eclectic taste in music on you as well! Ok, its not all bad. I confess that of the few live acts I have seen one was the teen sensation of the last decade. But then, I also got to see the Pixies and the Sisters of Mercy play Manchester and the NEC respectively in the early 90's - surf rock and gothic melancholy make the perfect match!?

Doolittle still features highly on my playlist but I tend to jump around a lot, through the decades and over different genres from Mahler to Mad-chester or Ozrics to Ziggy. Though I find beyond what I hear on Radio 2, I have little passion for contemporary music. New bands are emerging all the time with some interesting styles, but I find the originality and creativity that flavoured the music of years gone by is lacking. The phrase I have heard something like this before springs to mind.

Something I had most certainly not heard before was Argus which I was initiated to only last year. Where have Wishbone Ash been all my life? Argus is a superb album of medieval rock and roll with electric guitar playing to rival anyone - just plug in to Throw Down the Sword to hear 120 seconds of perfect harmony and synchronicity from Andy Powell and Ted Turner's dueling. This became my album of choice last year, carrying me through many long nights of urgency.

Early this year, I have slipped a little further back in time, dusting off some old Barclay James Harvest cassettes. Once referred to as the poor man's Moody Blues in the 70's, BJH have delivered many timeless harmonies from the inspiring and somewhat haunting Mocking Bird to rolling melodies like Song for the Dying and the 1968 debut Early Morning. Achieving a perfect balance of orchestral and rock, BJH were accompanied by a full orchestra on their tours in the early 1970's (the Harvest Years) even integrating Shostakovitch and Handle into their sets. The Poet/After the Day medley provides a fine example of the perfect juxtaposition of orchestra and rock ballad. Time Honoured Ghosts provided my first introduction to BJH in my teens, and it wasn't long before Medicine Man, Suicide and Dark Now My Sky were playing alongside Some Kind of Stranger (SOM), Hey (Pixies), Life On Mars, Made of Stone and other eternal favourites.

If you are reading this and Wishbone or BJH have not entered your life before, I strongly recommend a quick deviation.

Posted on Jan 29, 2005 at 05:49:14. [Comments for What's on the Playlist- 2]

All New ZX Spectrum

Also relates to Basic

I can once again say I own a speccy! The colourful front panel of the ZX Spectrum 48K with its noticeable rainbow logo In fact it is the first ZX Spectrum 48K I have ever owned. By the time I convinced my parents we needed to upgrade our ZX81 first time round (i was pre teen then!), the ZX Spectrum Plus was on the market. So the rare opportunity I had to caress those colourful rubber keys was on visits to my Grandad who had become quite pre-occupied with writing BASIC software for every game and quiz show he could think of. Sadly his early versions of Countdown, Trivial Pursuit and a precursor to the key thumping Daley Thompson's Decathlon called Greasy Poles never made it into the software houses, but they used to keep me and my brother very entertained on family trips.

Well my grandad's old computer has now been passed on to me, along with an entire shelf worth of Spectrum programming books, several megabytes worth of hard drive in the form of several box loads of cassettes, and, notebooks containing all his code snippets and full program listings - full being about 2 pages in some instances! At first the keyboard failed to respond, but a quick dive under the hood, and a little sticky tape later, I was tapping away at those auto-complete Sinclair BASIC programming keys. It is amazing to think that this machine, at only 22 years old, had a mighty 48KB of system RAM, a standard cassette deck as a hard drive, 8 colours and just plugged into the television aerial.

To quote the cover of a BASIC programming book from 1983

The incredible ZX Spectrum presents its user with virtually unlimited scope. It allows versatile use of colour, offers high and low resolution graphics and also adds sound. The result can mean some very effective and exciting programs from BASIC - if you just know how! The Art of Programming the ZX Spectrum by M. James

Indeed! By the time I had reached my teens, and with Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy under my belt, I was insisting that it was time to once again upgrade to the Commodore. Bring on Wizball…!

It may not be very productive for me to while my hours away plugging code onto my television screen, but the occasional minute can always be excused as a brush up on BASIC!? If this entry has made you nostalgic, read up on the early 1980s history of computers.

Posted on Nov 05, 2004 at 22:20:44. [Comments for All New ZX Spectrum- 0]

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