24 February, 2008

Say the Word - and Be Like Me

Nick Cave on the cover of The Word magazineI've been a reader of The Word magazine ever since it first launched and my flatmate bought a copy to read on a long train journey. Back then it used to promote itself with the phrase 'At last - something to read', which was a marketing idea I stole for my related links section over there > and was as wonderfully reassuring as The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy's 'Don't Panic'. I like this mag, partly because of the people who write it - all ex-Smash Hits, Old Grey Whistle Test and NME (back when it had something to, um, read in it). I also like the mix of people the mag thinks I might want to know more about. I don't think I'd actively look to know more about broadcaster Mark Lawson, but I enjoyed their interview with him and every now and again they mention a band or a song that I never knew I'd always liked.

One such ditty is the them from the 1968 drama Take Three Girls - a mad folk song with an irregular time sig that rejoices under the name of 'Light Flight' and comes from a band called Pentangle. Now, it just so happens that Pentangle or a major obsession of The Word's editor, Mark Ellen, so it's strange to discover such a random song and then open a mag that week and discover an article about its creators.

Recently - well, I say 'recently', but as I've lost track of time, this could have been a year ago - I started to listen to the magazine's podcasts, where Mark Ellen, David Hepworth and one or two of the other writers chat for about 40 minutes about whatever comes to mind. The podcasts went weekly a while back, so thanks to iTunes, I get a new chat-track delivered to me each Wednesday or Thursday.

I'm not a huge rock fan, but I enjoy hearing people talk about stuff knowledgeably and with passion and wit. Hearing last week's edition, where Mark Ellen described the time he interviewed country singer Lucinda Williams, ended up going for dinner with her and only when it was too late did they realise they were out at a restaurant on Valentine's Day. This was the latest of the HORA - the 'hoary old rock anecdote' that closes each show and must surely skirt incredibly closely to libel on many occasions.

This particular podcast also has the power to enrich our vocabulary in hitherto unimagined directions. Where else could I have heard a room described as being so quiet 'you could hear a mouse piss on velvet' or hear someone exclaim that they are so hungry they could 'eat the arse off a low-flying duck'.

You can subscribe to The Word podcast via the website link at the top of this entry, via Facebook or through iTunes. Go on, what are you waiting for? New edition - world safe!

Da dah da, dadada da da

After nearly two months, nothing comes to mind here. Actually - not true! Except I'm about to start blogging as part of my job, so a lot of my thoughts are focused on that there weekly panic instead of an occasional free-form Jazz brain-dump on here.

This week, I accompanied a work colleague to visit a lady who once worked at the BBC and had accumulated an attic full of old scripts and paperwork, which we offered to take off her hands. Some of it's quite dry and of very limited interest to be honest, but the scripts of Z Cars episodes now lost from the archives are a real treat. Best thing she gave us though was a prop walkie talkie - complete with pop-up aerial - that had once served the good men of Newtown prison about 30 years ago. Either that, or the tomahawk that had somehow featured in an adaptation of Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask. We might take that along to meetings from now on, as a means of persuasion...

One other fun thing about this woman's collection is, she seems to have been an unstoppable hoarder, so she's kept some amazing scraps of paper. One Z Cars folder contained little notes about various crimes - a theft from a scrapyard, a house burglary resulting in the loss of £3000-worth of silver - which I couldn't at first work out. Then I had the idea of reading the script and there they were: these little slips of paper were prop telexes that the police officer would have read from to brief his superior officer about recent cases that have been opened, along with the character's scripted asides, like 'I bet he did it himself for the insurance'. So if you've ever wondered if there's actually anything written on those pieces of paper actors shuffle in drama, well, there is. Their script, usually.