Wednesday 22 June 2016


I rarely get political on social media. I don't think it's a good place to do so, especially when I've worked so hard to make my corner of it into a silly, joyous, ranting and musical place. Besides, you lot are my friends — not people I feel the need to hector with my half-hearted party opinions most of the time: the converted — or at least, the accepting. Consequently I'm not going to get unnecessarily bogged down in political details but with one more day of decision left to go, something needs to be said.

I’m voting REMAIN. There has never been any doubt in my mind otherwise.

Furthermore, I'll give you my reasons. Monetary ones? Nope, I hate counting and maths is grown-up and dull. Negotiating trade agreements? Boring. They did too much of that in The Phantom Menace and we all remember how exciting that was. Immigration? I was born in England and by blood I’m 50% Irish, 50% Italian — that's a whole 100% Can't Be Arsed. Politics? Cah. No matter who you vote for, as Viv Stanshall once said, the Government always gets in.

However since this referendum gained momentum it hasn't, to my eyes, ever been about the nuts and bolts of international politics and commerce so much as it's been a platform for people to air their discontent with the world around them — and more to the point, how they think the referendum result, in their favour, is going to make the country, its place in the world — and by logical extension the world itself — a better place to be.

Well, with that in mind, call me a loony, but somehow I don’t think Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Bobby Moore, Winston Churchill, John Bull, Princess Diana, fish’n’chips, The Beatles, misquoting William Shakespeare, ‘saying it like it is’ (whatever that actually means), ‘putting the Great back into Britain’ (whatever that means), ‘taking our country back’ (whatever etc etc), the Dunkirk Spirit, Spirit of the Blitz or even the bloody Spirit of Ecstasy are realistically going to get this country out of recession quite as effectively as hard work, courage, civic duty, openness to ideas, willingness to share, intelligent discussion, cultural respect, tolerance, generosity, compassion and inclusivity will.

This is the 'magic', such as may be, of the referendum. You don’t really have to understand the paperwork, much as you don’t have to understand it on a daily basis already. The values that come with remaining in the EU are the kind that encourage people to roll their sleeves up, muck in, work a problem, be kind to mistakes and remain undaunted should they happen.

I have heard several lucid, intelligent arguments for Brexit, but frankly not many, and certainly not enough of them. They confine themselves to either the cold, inhuman facts of finance or the profoundly speculative nature of future trade agreements — and the rest of the Brexiters reside in infantile whimsy, misguided anarchy, a simple, bitter, resentful and cowardly defeatism — and at worst, the bleakly sinister pall of outright ignorance, low self-esteem, fear, racism, hostility and belligerence.

These are not qualities I see in the act of remaining within the EU.

Therefore, I will choose to Remain.


Tuesday 8 December 2015

A poem: The Visit.

The Visit.

Again! The question made and answered same
tho' answer, provèd true, was heard in vain.
And more! O words unvary'd, yet shot anew with pain.
Should dotage be, shall I not wish myself remain.


Saturday 5 December 2015

Future Boy: an open letter from Paul A Murphy (aged 44) to Paul A Murphy (aged 19).

Some of you may remember that I recently found a letter I wrote to myself in 1991, the content of which was to be read on the evidently monumental day in 2011 that I turned forty. You can see it if you click HERE. 

I reread recently it with a small degree of rue and chagrin (lovely, flowery French terms for turbulent emotions that come in anything but pastel shades) and wondered what it would be like were I able to pop a note back through the temporal post box and address this well-meaning, but callow youth. Not that he'd listen to a guy my age. So, with that up-front appreciation of the manifest futility and obvious vain self-regard of this exercise (feel free to leave now), here we are:
Saturday, December 5th 2015

Hello Paulie,

From the distant future, I salute you, dear boy. Nice letter, you’re a good chap — you get a certain sense of your personality across. 

Yes, I call people ‘dear boy’ and use words like ‘chap’ these days. I don’t mean to sound patronising — it started off as affectation and became habit. Isn’t that how it all starts? You’ll be pleased to know no-one uses ‘wicked’ as a superlative anymore in 2015. Although everyone overuses ‘legend’ to tedious effect — you’ll find out.

I’d love to tell you all sorts of things about what has happened in the intervening near-quarter-century, but to be perfectly honest, the surprise is part of finding stuff out, isn’t it? Furthermore, you’ve seen Back To The Future enough times recently to understand what it is to know too much (although the celebrations we had when we actually got to October 21st 2015 will warm the cockles of your heart, I assure you). However, I can’t resist throwing a few bones your way, though. So, remember these words, as you’re gonna hear them a lot over the next twenty-five years: 

Cobain. Corbyn. Father Ted. Alan Partridge. Internet. iPod. Yewtree. YouTube. Koresh. Daesh. Ebola. Nigella. Nine-Eleven. Seven-Seven. Twenty-Twelve. Phantom, Attack, Revenge. McGann, Hurt, Eccleston, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi.

That should be enough to be getting on with. Oh, and everyone will remember what they were doing the day they heard Cliff Richard was shot, right!?   

Take some advice from an old man: you’re a more tactful chap than you give yourself credit for. Yes, you have a reputation — you know this already — for having a motormouth. It’s quite all right. In fact, never let anyone persuade you to change in this regard. You talk a lot, but are at your best when you are talking things out, because if the alternative is shouting, you will find that you have a dark talent for that too. Be reasonable. Pride yourself on that. You’re already quite good at knowing when to talk and when to shut the fuck up. Keep it up.

The Nineteen-Nineties. Oh, you’re gonna love them. You’ll see. Dance at every opportunity. Drink like a fish. Try not to smoke, it's pointless. Be sociable. Check out new music and new bands. Be bold and courageous. Actually, take that advice to heart beyond the next decade. 

Don’t live with secrets. You think that keeping certain, possibly hurtful things from people is kind and compassionate, but you underestimate their resilience and the resultant repression will eat away at you and leave you bitter and regretful. So be straight-dealing and expect others to be the same — and make sure you take no nonsense should anyone fail you in this fashion.

Be kinder to your father. Life was unkind to him in ways you know, but will fully  appreciate only as you get older, so trust me on this: you know he has his moments of being blustering and unsubtle. You also know he’s unlikely to change. Remember he loves you and it’s all done from concern, however clumsily displayed, so please show patience and forgiveness. Don’t be angry, be compassionate, willing to talk and try to understand — and do not let the sun set on an unresolved argument. This is really important.  

You were absolutely right — there is still time to change. In fact, changing happens every day — but don’t underestimate yourself. Self-deprecation is a cool pose, but recognise that you will be loved, and that’s because you are worth loving. There will be times when this doesn’t feel like it’s the case, but that’s only because you do not choose to see it. Doesn’t matter; the love is still there.

Oh and married? Yeah, like I’d tell you that. You don’t need a letter from the future to tell you that the path of love is not always straightforward. Just make sure you tell the one you really love that you love her, regardless of your situation — and hers — and don’t tell anyone else that if you don’t mean it and only want to keep them happy. This is also very important. Remember what I said about secrets?

You’re doing all right. So get a life, kiddo, as we used to say in 1991. But thankfully no longer in 2015. 

Paul Aloysius Cainnech Murphy

(don’t use the confirmation name all that often anymore though, it doesn’t fly.)

PS: Oh, and don’t leave it until you’re 27 before you watch The Godfather. It’s a genuine classic, so stop dicking about and step to it.

PPS: you don’t even know what a National Lottery is, yet, so let’s not go there.

PPPS: yes, people say “let’s not go there” a lot in the nineties.


Tuesday 30 June 2015

A poem: Three Early Memories, 1974. Also, a dream.

Three Early Memories, 1974.

Sat fast, high-chaired
as shattered shell
scattered, fell, then lay beyond grasp. Scared;
they couldn't hear me yell.

The screaming, unreasoning.
Faceted yet unreadable,
gliding and sliding without hurry,
in single-file, silvery
(both hunter and quarry).

One last show, then it's time to sleep.
Tired boy, tries his best to keep
awake, can barely raise his head.
No matter; carried easily off to bed.
Lights out on the Christmas tree.
Oh, what happened to you?
Whatever happened to me?

A dream.

The date on the discarded local newspaper was Thursday, October 17th 1974, but the paper was damp and had been trodden on several times. Furthermore, the lack of traffic at what I guessed from the twilight to be about 6pm suggested a day of closed shops and no work. Sunday, the 20th October, 1974, then. 

I walked down the hill, marvelling at the old buildings that were standing, soon to be demolished — and the newness of the ones that I grew up only to know as old seventies constructions. The fields in the gaps between the houses looked identical to how they would appear to me when I’d smoke on the benches there as a lad in my twenties. 

Finally, as the dark enclosed me, I stood outside my home. I looked admiringly at my father’s cherry red Daimler in the garage, its length rendering the garage doors uncloseable. Through the leaded glass in the front door, I saw the kindly light on in the hall, heard my father’s voice, clear and confident from somewhere within. 

I was afraid to knock on the door. Somehow I felt he would know who I was and be frightened by it. 


Sunday 1 February 2015

Sound & Vision

They say a picture paints a thousand words. Here's my War & Peace. Enjoy.

First up, a title sequence for this 'ere blog.

Next, the song I wrote for last Christmas:

And finally, the one I wrote for benighted times, to bring comfort and solace whenever it's needed.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Music: the miraculous instances.

Those of you who know me and have ever discussed music with me will know that — as one friend delightfully put it — I ‘sleep around’. That is, I’m the kind of person who discovers a musician, band or composer and subsequently pursues their creative output with a dogged ardour: days spent out in the world collecting albums in some of the few remaining record shops; the nights spent at home absorbing every drop of sound though headphones; evenings researching clips on YouTube or ordering things online — and all the time reading, reading, reading up on them. Everything in an attempt to grok the subject in fullness, as they no doubt said in the Seventies. I let the music and musicians bewitch me. And then, weeks or even months later —  a considerable while at least — then, well, I move on and find something else to fascinate me. The objects of my melodic obsessions are not callously discarded in my ongoing quest to seek new distractions; rather, they are assimilated warmly into my preexisting musical cognitive framework, elevated to my imagined Pantheon of sonic greatness to join those other ecstatic heartbeats of harmony and invention that have been judged worthy before them.

Pomposity aside, there’s a danger of making this process sound like a fickle, casual process but I assure you if there’s anything I do in my life with devoted dedication, assiduous application and ever-loving loyalty, it is to appreciate music. As Frank Zappa once said, with a laudable lack of needless overstatement: it’s the best. Lovers (and I can barely use the term in plural, let’s face it) have come and gone in my life. My observations on visual arts are plain, unremarkable and hold no revelations for the world at large. I have a weirdly moody, on-off affair with films, television and books with few, highly noteworthy exceptions. However, my relationship with music has and ever holds fast, runs deep, improves with age and is all-consuming.

Truly with music, one can create a kingdom, a realm of sound that reflects, refracts, justifies, challenges and crystallises oneself. To enjoy a piece of music, to really enjoy it, not merely hear or perceive it, but to listen, engage with it, let it take you somewhere until you feel your understanding of it is so close, so deeply personal and heartfelt, that an exchange occurs and it becomes part of you — well, that’s the closest we get to godliness in this mortal existence. It’s love. Conversely, there are few purer, more excoriating sensations of condemnation and abhorrence in normal life than the ones felt when experiencing a piece of music that one despises for whatever reasons; be they down to an ear sensitised to irritable cacophony, compositional laziness or a prosaic triteness of structure — or worse still, powerful and emotive negative memory associations.

I’ve needed music more than ever before lately, not only for its delicious contradiction of calmative yet stimulating effects, but also for either the escape it has afforded, or for its joyous affirmation of the here and now, as circumstances have dictated. Those exponents of the music that has transported me thus this past year have been clasped very firmly to my bosom indeed. Here are three examples:

Nikolai Kapustin’s music for solo piano. A classicist who spent much time in jazz bands, Kapustin’s genius lies in his ability to write music that sounds like pure improvisation, but his questing mind sought to express it as solid, on-paper composition — and so it proves: a deliriously rhythmic, yet almost mathematical jazz-classical fusion, with wit and soul allied to intellect. Pleasingly, Kapustin’s still alive at time of writing, a querulous, bespectacled septagenarian, whose suave, vandyked facial features congregate around the lower portion of his head, the better to accentuate his cranium. More often than not, he’s photographed with a ciggie on the go. Well, of course

Speaking of pianistic wit and soul, I was reacquainted last spring with the artistry of Martha Argerich. As an overconfident and ultimately callow young man in my twenties, working in the classical department of the then all-powerful Virgin empire, I was peripherally appreciative of the popularity of Ms Argerich, her face on a dozen Deutsche Grammophon CD albums, either smiling with warm, glamorous, middle-aged serenity in full colour, or in sultry black and white shots from the Sixties, pouting in moody communion with her Muse; a deeply sexy young woman. Clearly her musical qualities were lost on me at my age then. Now in her early seventies, Martha Argerich is the finest pianist alive on this planet, no question in my mind. She remains a bewitching presence in the concert hall, not least for a devastating technique that combines speed and precision with panache and a profoundly tasteful understanding of the requirements of the music that flows from her ageless fingertips. In a parallel universe without music, Argerich would have been a highly successful brain surgeon — or a prolific sniper. 

Quite frequently, an understanding for certain music creeps up on you, don’t you find? Things you were already aware of — but indifferent to — often take time to come into focus and occupy one’s attention, but once there, they’re inside of you forever. Such was the case this time last year with the ‘cult’ rock band Family. I had owned their 1968 debut Music In A Doll’s House, their 1969 sophomore release Family Entertainment and a compilation album for a couple of years and found them curious, but somewhat chilly and offbeat. Picture me: late January weather, feeling miserable with my lot, my change of circumstances, tooling somewhat aimlessly around my local Tesco for want of anywhere better to shop (so it seemed) when ‘Burlesque’ popped onto the iPod Shuffle. Vocalist Roger Chapman’s voice varies from an acquired-taste tremelo in certain registers (described once and quoted for evermore as like an ‘electric goat’), through to an engaging, alleycat growl which sits fine and dandy on top of the band’s more blokey, meat-and-potatoes-style numbers. There was Chappo — both vocal iterations loud and proud on ‘Burlesque’, perhaps Family’s best-known song — and something snapped inside me in a good way. I ‘got’ Family. They were an amiable arm round my shoulder, a — dare-I-say — soundtrack to my perceived down-at-heel situation…and it worked. For the most part Family are quirky, steeped as much in folk tunings as they are the blues-rock stylings that mark them as a band from the late Sixties. They manage that clever trick of never sounding quite the same from one song to another, while forging an overall identity that is distinctive as their own. It’s an experimental, communal outlook that allies them closely in my mind to British groups such as Traffic and Jethro Tull, and American ones like Spirit and The Band. Not long after my Finchley Road To Damascus moment in Tesco (great sentence, never writing that one ever again) I acquired a second-hand copy of their final studio album, 1973’s It’s Only A Movie, with its striking cover image of a sullen, silent-movie-era actor dressed as a cowboy. The title song, its daft structure and knowing, fourth-wall-breaking lyric just maintained my hangdog mood, but now I had a reason to like it. 

Right, I'm off. Thank you for your indulgence.