The Eurovision Song Contest is here in the UK. The main events, semi-finals and final, plus the other shows, happen in mid-May.

Th UK did not win last year, we came second. The Ukraine song won, for many reasons, but putting on a show there has its problems right now, so UK stepped in to host by proxy. Let’s not forget though, it’s Ukraine’s show.

The last time UK won was Katrina and the Waves, 1997. This is still one of the great ESC songs.

The BBC’s attitude has always been, it’s stupid, silly, meaningless and rather nasty and expensive crap. UK entries have been poor, or worse. And oh those foreigners… how funny they are.

The commentators the Beeb employs have always taken this line. Terry Wogan and, more recently, Graham Norton will say nasty things about any song. They make rude remarks about performers, talk over the songs and play the ‘politics’ line when other countries don’t give UK full points. They will back UK even when it is dismal beyond belief, because UK is best full stop. Brexit has been alive and well here for so long…

But the ESC is the most watched non-sport show on tv. Only The Super Bowl gets more.

But there is a lot of enthusiasm for ESC here, genuine enthusiasm. The events are being held in Liverpool, home of such pop legends as The Beatles and Ken Dodd. The venue holds roughly 11,000 people, but reconfiguring the stage and pre-allocation of seats means it is down to 6,000 or so, less than the Royal Albert Hall.

Tickets were hard to get, well no, impossible, partly because there were so few, partly because the system was just overloaded, and mainly because of the touts. Had the venue been larger, say the O2 Arena or similar that can hold 20,000 easily, they would have sold out, made more money and given more people a chance to enjoy this event. But they didn’t…

Now they are suggesting you watch it at your local cinema, if they carry it, at a cost, of course. This is targeted at groups – individuals are discouraged and would feel very out of place anyway. Fancy dress is expected. At the time of writing, we see no rules about booze, but the guess is booze will be available at a cost, a high cost, but your own will be confiscated.

The bridge

One of my piercers once told me that the number one sexiest piercing is the bridge.

If you don’t know, this is at the top of the nose, through the fleshy skin.

Some people are lucky enough to have the anatomy for a double bridge piercing.

It’s the one piercing where people come up to me and ask ‘does it hurt?’ I don’t think they mean that – you wouldn’t spend your life wth something that constantly hurt. Did it hurt? No. My piercer, Roni, was measuring up and we were chatting and I asked when was she going to do it. She replied, it’s done.

And it was.

The Mellotron

Fans of prog rock of a certain vintage will know what a Mellotron is. It figures in music by The Moody Blues, King Crimson, PFM, Pavlov’s Dog, The Beatles, Barclay James Harvest, Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, Pink Floyd…

Look, there’s a huge list. Have a look at this fantastic site, Planet Mellotron, to see more.

Many people say the Mellotron is an early form of sampler. It works by having a rack of pre-recorded tapes of a real instrument (or group of instruments or voices), each tape with a specific note, activated by pressing a key on a keyboard.

In fact, each piece of tape can hold three different instruments and you can select between them, or combine them. Each tape lasts roughly 8 seconds. It’s a purely mechanical, analogue device.

As you can imagine, the Mellotron is a pretty large and rather heavy instrument. Later ones had one keyboard, early ones had two, for rhythm/accompaniment and one for the tune.

There are lots of clips of the Mellotron in action, but we like this original clip with magician David Nixon.

It has a sound all of its own, something even modern emulators don’t quite capture.


Larry Fast should be remembered as a pioneer of the synthesiser. Along with Tomita and Wendy Carlos, he used his Synergy platform to produce a number of albums that were grand in scale and orchestrally majestic.

His first album is Electronic Realisations For Rock Orchestra.

This is a great album. As well as original compositions, there’s a re-imagining of Slaughter On Tenth Avenue. After its release, the album was revised to add a stunning version of Mason Williams’ Classical Gas, which also appears on the second album, Sequencer.

There’s lots of analogue synthesiser, of course, plus Mellotron and, rather sneakily, no guitars (this is a nod to early Queen LPs).

Of all the Synergy albums, we love Cords, on clear white vinyl, from 1978:

and Games, from 1979. Many of the tracks are pretty heavy, with crazy tricks played with the beat and the key signatures:

It is not impossible to find these on physical media. There are also some compilation albums, and a ‘new’ (well, 2002) re-recording of some tracks on digital equipment.

All are enjoyable.


The first piercing I ever had done was my septum. If you don’t know, it’s the bit of skin at the bottom of the nose, between the nostrils.

I had it done at a place on Holloway Road, this being the nearest place to my home at the time, now long gone, and, i suppose, the least intimidating looking of places.

And it hurt. And it makes your eyes water. In fact, many nose piercings do.

The first jewellery was very thin and small, small enough to flip it up into your nose to hide it. I know some people do stretch their piercings, but I didn’t. The natural weight of the jewellery made it stretch and now it’s 5mm, and that is where it likes to be.

Having never had a piercing before, I was very self-conscious about it. The healing seemed to take a long time, and often I thought I had made mistake. It wasn’t how I wanted it. But getting a piercing teaches you patience, and it is definitely something you get used to.

Many piercings hurt, of course they do, someone is sticking a needle into your flesh. But it’s only for a second or two. Some piercings heal quickly, others take months.

And apparently, the septum piercing is the second sexiest piercing.