Saturday 30 April 2011

Ian's playing at the Fulford Arms, York. Be there!

"Neil Young is almost impossible to book for an intimate pub gig so we have the next best thing. Ian Ravenscroft is the only man I know who is more crazy about Neil than me, and he sure sings like the great man.

Expect classics from Neil's back catalogue and some rarities - as well as some slightly off the wall Neil related tunes during this wonderful evening of acoustic entertainment."

Tonight's the night! (Well, Sunday, to be exact...)

The Fulford Arms, York
Sunday, May 1 · 8:30pm - 11:30pm

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Tonight's set list

At The Habit, York: -

Everybody's Talkin'
Sugar Mountain
I Don't Want To Talk About It

Strange night - almost empty to start with, absolutely packed later. Amazing variety of players inc. ukelele, cello and double bass - even drums!

Phoebe Snow

Phoebe Snow RIP

Phoebe Snow dies aged 58
Singer, guitarist and songwriter best known for 1970s hit Poetry Man dies of complications from stroke in 2010

Associated Press
The Guardian
Wednesday 27 April 2011

Phoebe Snow, a bluesy singer, guitarist and songwriter who had a defining hit of the 1970s with Poetry Man but then largely dropped out of the spotlight to care for her disabled daughter, has died.

Snow, who was nominated for best new artist at the 1975 Grammys, died on Tuesday morning in Edison, New Jersey, from complications of a brain haemorrhage she suffered in January 2010, said Rick Miramontez, her longtime friend and public relations representative. She was 58.

Snow's manager, Sue Cameron, said the singer had endured bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure since her stroke.

"The loss of this unique and untouchable voice is incalculable," Cameron said. "Phoebe was one of the brightest, funniest and most talented singer-songwriters of all time and, more importantly, a magnificent mother to her late brain-damaged daughter, Valerie, for 31 years. Phoebe felt that was her greatest accomplishment."

Known as a folk guitarist who made forays into jazz and blues, Snow put her stamp on soul classics such as Shakey Ground, Love Makes a Woman and Mercy, Mercy Mercy on over a half dozen albums.

Not long after Snow's Poetry Man reached the top five on the pop singles chart in 1975, her daughter, Valerie Rose, was born with severe brain damage, and Snow decided to look after her at home rather than place her in care.

"She was the only thing that was holding me together," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. "My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."

Valerie, who had been born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain cavity that inhibits brain development, was not expected to live more than a few years. She died in 2007,aged 31.

Over the years, Snow found time to sing on Paul Simon's song Gone at Last and tour with him, as well as perform at the Woodstock 25th anniversary festival in 1994, as part of a soul act that included Thelma Houston, Mavis Staples and CeCe Peniston.

Snow was also recruited by Steely Dan's Donald Fagen to participate in the New York Rock and Soul Revue, which took her, Charles Brown, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and others on tour and into New York's Beacon theatre to record a live album in 1991.

"Occasionally I put an album out, but I didn't like to tour, and they didn't get a lot of label support," she told the Chronicle. "But you know what? It didn't really matter because I got to stay home more with Valerie, and that time was precious."

She was born Phoebe Ann Laub to white Jewish parents in New York in 1950, and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey. Though many assumed she was black, Snow never claimed African-American ancestry.

She changed her name after seeing Phoebe Snow, an advertising character for a railroad, emblazoned on trains that passed through her hometown. Snow left college after two years to perform in amateur nights at Greenwich Village folk clubs.

Her first record, Phoebe Snow, came out in 1974, and showed off her songwriting chops on a selection of tunes that spanned blues, jazz and folk. Hit-bound Poetry Man took the record to No4 on the album charts, but her success was uneasy.

"There are turning points in everyone's life where you decide if you're going to sink or swim. My insecurity wasn't serving me well at all. It was really a stumbling block," she told Associated Press in 1989.

Rumours abounded that Jackson Browne was Poetry Man. "No, no. It's somebody you wouldn't know. People just thought Poetry Man was Browne because he was the first act I toured with," Snow told USA Today in 1989.

After 1976's gold-selling Second Childhood, Snow's subsequent albums found smaller audiences. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, Snow sang commercial jingles for companies including Michelob, Hallmark and AT&T and performed live here and there.

Inexperienced in the music business, she broke a number of contracts with record companies and others, and found herself embroiled in a number of lawsuits and severe financial problems. Snow's husband, musician Phil Kearns, left her while Valerie was still a baby.

She sang the theme for NBC's A Different World and the jingle Celebrate the Moments of Your Life for General Foods International Coffees. She also sang at radio host Howard Stern's wedding to Beth Ostrosky in 2008 and for Bill Clinton, who asked her to perform at Camp David during his presidency.

In 2003, she released the CD Natural Wonder, her first album of original material in 14 years. Her other albums include 1989's Something Real, and 1981's Rock Away. In 2008, she released a live album, and in 2001 a best-of CD.

Monday 25 April 2011

Ten Best Eastwood*

In no particular order, as usual...

*Which he directs and/or stars in.

Those just missing out: Dirty Harry, The Beguiled, Bird, Flags of Our Fathers, Tightrope, High Plains Drifter, Gran Torino. I have a huge soft spot for Kelly's Heroes too, though mainly because of Donald Sutherland's performance...

Sunday 24 April 2011

Tonight's set lists

At the Duke of Wellington, Newcastle: -

Long May You Run
Everybody's Talkin'
Mind Your Own Business
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Is It Only The Moonlight?
Love Song

Our host will maybe post the photographic record of the evening. But maybe not, who knows?

Desert Island Discs

Every castaway from 1942 to the present:

Saturday 23 April 2011

Read the book; buy the t-shirt!

Amaze your friends and colleagues by showing them you're literate!
Plenty to choose from here:


WTF, Mike?

Friday 22 April 2011

Another Fine Mess

The Legacy of Laurel and Hardy

by Richard W. Bann

In 1914 Hal Roach began his career as an independent producer, specializing in comedy. Memorable series were built around star names Harold Lloyd, Our Gang, Charley Chase, Will Rogers, Thelma Todd, Harry Langdon, and Laurel & Hardy. Anyone who has seen their work is likely to agree on the importance of preserving these films for future generations to discover, study and enjoy. Frustrated fans who know and care about saving and sharing the films have long asked how they can aid in this effort. Now there is a way everyone can get involved.

UCLA—as the story below will make clear—now has the best surviving nitrate on many Laurel & Hardy titles and is beginning a multi-year project to restore these films to their original glory. They are soliciting donations large and small from anyone and everyone all over the world who wants give something back and feel as though they have made a contribution to propagating the spirit and genius of Laurel & Hardy, so that the films will survive and continue to entertain as many future generations as possible. That this work is necessary is due to decades of benign neglect, when the only thing that mattered was to exploit the library, and preservation efforts have been sporadic or inaccessible.

Hal Roach Studios

Until his son bankrupted the organization in 1960, Hal Roach Studios had more by accident than by design saved certain original 35mm camera negatives, dupe negatives, fine grain master positives, as well as other prints, even while licensing footage to sub-distributors.

For example, in 1943, producer George Hirliman’s Film Classics contracted with Roach to re-release much of the studio’s post-1928 product. Obliged by contract to remove the MGM trademarks, the imaginative, original-design presentation titles sequences were thoughtlessly tossed.

Film Classics was also guilty of re-editing the pictures, a notable example being Pack Up Your Troubles (1932). Sometimes they added music where it did not belong, such as taking the titles music track from Busy Bodies (1933) and marrying it with the titles action sequence from Men o' War (1929). This muddy-looking version, like so many others which Film Classics tampered with, have remained in circulation for more than half-a-century because subsequent licensees inherited the material.

We know, generally, that even though they were important corporate assets, film materials at studios have seldom been the beneficiary of careful maintenance. Movies were regarded as disposable, perishable entertainment. The really tortured existence of the Laurel & Hardy library began as bankruptcy approached and the already greatly diminished pre-print material began to wear out from over-use and deterioration.

What has happened to all these thousands of film elements over the years? What have the results been, particularly with respect to Laurel & Hardy? And what can the rest of us do—if anything, at this late date—to help save what is left?

The Prints

Many successive licensees and sub-licensees in television were given lab access to reprint the Film Classics negatives, which in some cases were actually altered camera negatives! There was never any stipulation as to licensees being required to manufacture their own new printing materials to fulfill 16mm TV syndication sales around the country. With a tangled array of domestic licenses granted to Governor TV Attractions, Regal Television, Inter-State Television, Prime TV, National Telepix, Walter Reade-Sterling, and many others, the film library was kicked around through many more unsure hands. For foreign distribution, the original negatives had also been widely re-packaged, reissued, re-printed and over-printed.

In 1968 as the company reorganized, Hal Roach went to Wall Street in search of production funding. Buried in the prospectus was a declaration that $50,000 of the proceeds would be dedicated to transferring certain negatives from nitrate to safety stock. Instead, to save money, all the nitrate was deposited at the Library of Congress.

When the collection was in Library of Congress' custody, some of the negatives were printed onto 35mm safety stock as one-light or only partially-timed masters, but not on polyester-based safety stock. During the 1980s, Jim Harwood cared for this material, and remembers:

“I had to junk one of the reels of the original negative of Laurel & Hardy’s From Soup to Nuts (1928) due to heavy deterioration. It was a very painful thing to do, but the film was crumbling to powder.”

When I visited the Library of Congress in 1983, the indispensable David Parker of the curatorial staff explained:

“The Roach collection, although highly valued by me, personally, is the most intractable library and the worst mess we have, a real Chinese puzzle. Someone actually registered a complaint with the union over being assigned to work on the Roach collection.”

One TV licensee did invest in preparing new printing negatives. Saul Turell’s Janus Films made a conscientious attempt to reconstitute faithful, new 16mm Laurel & Hardy negatives for their own use. Their effort took two years. The results were mixed. In Way Out West (1937), e.g., sound levels varied, there were jump cuts, the stream-crossing finale was incomplete, and the original end title was replaced.

Popular Resurgence

From 1957 through 1970 filmmaker Robert Youngson mined the Roach library of silent comedies to produce a succession of compilation films, including The Golden Age of Comedy (1957) and When Comedy Was King (1960). Youngson’s success heralded a renaissance of interest in silent comedies, and Roach licensed many 8mm and 16mm non-theatrical distributors to serve the domestic market for college film societies, churches, libraries, civic groups, and home entertainment. Such small business operations included Official Films, Erko of Hollywood, Library Films, Film Classic Exchange, Entertainment Films, Select Film Library, Exclusive Movie Studios, many others. During the 1970s when I worked for Roach's principal non-theatrical licensee, Blackhawk Films, I learned that while the company mastered from Roach’s 35mm preprint material, it was only for a single pass to create either a reduction dupe negative or fine grain. Also, founder Kent D. Eastin was steadfast on the point of replacing all the artistic original title card designs, and replacing them with drab standardized Blackhawk Films titles.

After Hal Roach Studios emerged from bankruptcy, in 1971 the equity was split between Eastern and Western Hemispheres. In the latter, rights passed from Hal E. Roach, Sr., successively, to Earl Glick’s Portcomm Communications, Robert Halmi’s RHI, Hallmark Entertainment, then back to RHI. Overseas, the copyright proprietor has for the past forty years been CCA, a company originally controlled by the founders of what became the German KirchMedia GmbH & Co.

Restoration Begins

Working for CCA during the 1980s through 2002, I was able to supervise the rescue and preservation of the nitrate film elements in the Hal Roach library. We are the only company or institution or archive anywhere in the world which has ever undertaken to restore and preserve and distribute the surviving film materials that constitute the entire post-bankruptcy library of Hal Roach Studios.

The work was performed in Los Angeles at Film Technology Company, by a knowledgeable and dedicated colleague from our days together at Blackhawk Films, Bill Lindholm. We decided against wet-gate printing, which hides more visible scratches and wear than does diffusion filter printing, but the image would not have been as steady or as sharp. Nor was any kind of digital cleanup performed, which is an option (albeit an expensive one) under consideration by UCLA Film & Television Archive. In any case, the preservation materials, as good as they are, are in Munich and inaccessible to American audiences (although our work has been used by domestic licensees Cabin Fever, Vivendi, and TCM—but, significantly, not for the less than stellar-looking Laurel & Hardy films on the recent TV festival). UCLA now houses the surviving nitrate materials from RHI in its state of the art vaults.

Laurel & Hardy are the greatest comedy team, who made the greatest comedies of all time, and we owe them and their legacy no less than the best effort we can make to preserve their work as best as is humanly possible—even if the memorable ending of Hog Wild (1930) was shot on campus at USC, and not at its cross-town rival, UCLA.

If 35mm exhibition prints from UCLA preservation efforts are made available for audiences throughout America, the Laurel & Hardy films will at last be shown again the way they were intended to be seen by their creators—restored, uncut, uninterrupted, on a theatre screen, in the dark, in front of a live audience. Where they come to life, where the love shows, where the magic happens, and where future generations yet unborn will be grateful beyond words, that we, all together, did this work, and just in time.

Now is the time.

A more detailed history of the physical inventory created by Hal Roach Studios, and its disposition up to the present, will be available soon at the Official Laurel & Hardy Website,

Richard W. Bann is the co-author with John McCabe and Al Kilgore of LAUREL & HARDY, and with Leonard Maltin of OUR GANG. He is consultant to the copyright proprietor of the Hal Roach library in the Eastern Hemisphere, and arranged to have the nitrate collection deposited at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Bernie Wrightson

Last night's set list

At The Habit,York: -

Love Song
I'm Just A Loser
Borrowed Tune
Heart Of Gold

The host dedicated the evening to an old codger who was retiring. How thoughtful.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

One for the road

How the world fell in love with whisky
Its soaring popularity has turned scotch into a multi-billion pound global phenonomenon

Jon Henley
The Guardian
Friday 15 April 2011

So one day not so long ago, says Neil Urquhart, a man walks into the shop. Gordon & MacPhail's on South Street in Elgin, in Moray, opened in 1895. A temple in the world of malt whisky. More than 1,000 varieties, pretty much every scotch currently available in Britain, plus some that aren't, at least not anywhere else.

Anyway, says Urquhart, who was working in the shop at the time, the fourth generation of his family to join the firm, this chap walked in, more or less off the street: "He knew what he wanted, mostly. A specific Ardbeg, an older Macallan. I steered him a wee bit for the others. He bought four bottles of whisky. For £20,000. He was Taiwanese."

Connoisseurs will come in here, says David, a third generation Urquhart, standing in said shop – a solid, reassuring sort of place in a solid, reassuring sort of town at the top of Speyside, home to half of Scotland's 100-plus whisky distilleries – and every month, some of them will drop £5,000. "Nothing," he says, "surprises me any more."

It would, I think, be hard not to spend money here, if you have it and you like whisky. There are your staples, naturally, your Glenfiddich 12-year-old (the best-selling single malt in the world), your Laphroaig 10, your Glenlivets (the biggest in America, and world number two) and Lagavulins, your Taliskers, Glenmorangies and Cardhus, mostly around the £25-50 mark.

There are more unusual whiskies, from distilleries you very probably have never heard of: Caol Ila, Mortlach, Auchentoshan, BenRiach, Pulteney. There are single-cask bottlings, taken from (as the name implies) one, rather than – as is customary – multiple casks from the same distillery, "vatted" together and married. There are powerful cask-strength bottlings. There are exotic finishes, when a whisky has spent a bit of time in a barrel that once held port, madeira, rum or Italian red wine.

There are bottles at £200, £350, £400. There's also a 55-year-old Dalmore, for £7,700. And on a pedestal in the middle of the room, with a price tag saying £13,000, there's a bottle of 1940 Gordon & MacPhail Glenlivet, one of only two 70-year-old Scotches on the market (the other was a Mortlach 70 the company launched last year; at just £10,000 a bottle, it sold out within a fortnight.)

There are, it seems, plenty of people who have money, and who like whisky. Not least outside Scotland: according to the Scotch Whisky Association, its members sold enough of the amber nectar last year to add a heartwarming £3.45bn to the value of UK exports – 10% more than 2009, and 60% more than a decade ago: every second, £109 of Scotch whisky is sold.

Scotch has become a multi-billion pound, global phenomenon. A whole world of its own, of books, magazines (Whisky Magazine, Whisky Passion, Malt Advocate), websites (dozens of them, from maltmadness to whisky- intelligence, spiritofislay to whiskywhiskywhisky), of festivals from Speyside to San Francisco, Stockholm to Singapore. Names such as Dramfest, Whiskygalore, Maltstock.

Its own experts, too: maltheads, whisky geeks. They rival anything the wine world has to offer by way of rarefied prose: the Malt Whisky Yearbook describes Ardbeg as "soft peat, carbolic soap and Arbroath smokies . . . with a touch of liquorice", and Glenlivet as "freshly chopped apple, rhubarb and gooseberries". Talisker is "grilled oily fish in lemon oil"; Benromach "wet grass, butter, ginger and brittle toffee" followed by "lemon custard creams, apricots and pine table polish".

And there are bars that specialise in nothing but. In Craigellachie, a few miles south of Elgin, Duncan Elphick, genial proprietor of the Highlander Inn, and his expert (if somewhat unlikely) whisky manager, Tatsuya Minagawa, offer 280 different whiskies by the nip, plus a menu of six-snort Tasting Trays with names such as Highland and Islands, The Balvenie Vertical Flight, Some Great 18-Year-Olds, Aperitif Malts and The Ultimate Tour of Scotland (at £136).

"People come here," says Minagawa, who himself came to Scotland from Japan years ago now, "from everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Aye." (He really does say "Aye".) "Scots, obviously, and English. Also Germans, Dutch, French. Scandinavians, hugely knowledgeable. Americans, lots; Canadians. Japanese. Taiwanese, now. And places you don't expect. There was a Czech guy in the other week, knew more about Scotch than most Scots."

All a long way, really, from the small stone cairn at Upper Drummin, in the hills above the valleys of the rivers Avon and Livet, which marks the spot where in 1824 one George Smith built the distillery that's now widely considered the cradle of the modern industry (though not by everybody. Age and tradition are valuable commodities in single malt-land; the longer and better your backstory, often, the bigger your sales).

At any rate, Smith, third of seven children, banged in an application to build a distillery within months of the 1823 Excise Act that made the whole business legal. "It's safe to assume he learned it from his farmer father and grandfather," says Ian Logan, an international brand ambassador for Glenlivet, now owned by French drinks giant Pernod-Ricard.

"Illegal stills and whisky smuggling were everywhere, had been since the 15th century, doubtless before. They earned cash in what was often a hard existence. It was quite sophisticated, organised networks, long-distance signals for when the soldiers were spotted, all that. Quite a game. People would tell Customs about an illegal still, but only when it was worn out. That way they could buy a new one with the reward."

We're standing by Smith's cairn, looking down the hill. Below is today's Glenlivet distillery, a monument even in a region where big distilleries are two a penny: rows of long warehouses holding tens of thousands of maturing barrels; a visitor's centre welcoming 45,000 people a year; a spectacular £10m glass-and-timber extension opened last year. With just 10 people involved in each actual production cycle, Glenlivet could now produce, should it so wish, 10m litres of whisky a year. ("Think of it," says Logan. "Those guys can go on holiday almost anywhere in the world, walk into almost any bar, and see something they've made. Amazing.")

Like many things, Logan says, making whisky isn't particularly difficult; making good whisky is – very. First, you malt your barley, soaking it in water and then drying it. (At Gordon & MacPhail's pretty little Benromach distillery in Forres, Speyside's smallest, Sandy Forsyth, 40 years in the business, explains that it's the peat used in the drying that gives some whiskies – from Islay, for example – their characteristic smokiness.

"The nose and the taste will actually change depending on where you cut your peat from," Forsyth says. "Peat from down near the shoreline will produce notes like iodine, TCP. Laphroaig's character, that's from the seaweed in the peat. Speyside whiskies are fruitier. Unpeated.")

Next you crush the malted barley in a mill: "Like taking the wrapper off a candy," says Glenlivet's Logan. Then you mash the grist, adding hot water and stirring until the starches turn to sugar. Then you pump the resulting liquid, called wort, into a large vat called a washback, and add yeast. Sugar turns to alcohol.

Last come the stills, shapely affairs of shining copper. The new still room at Glenlivet is a soaring, almost church-like space, all lofty ceiling and plate- glass windows overlooking the valley. ("It does," agrees Logan, "feel a bit religious. In fact, the production manager's daughter got married here.") Stills work in pairs. In the first, you heat what comes out of the washback until the alcohol rises as vapour (or the whole lot can simply froth over, ruining everything. "Do that once," says Forsyth at Benromach, "and you might survive. Twice, and you'll be rolling casks in the warehouse.")

In the second, or spirit still, you reheat what comes out of the first. The early product, known as foreshots or heads, is no good. Nor is the stuff that comes out towards the end, known as feints or tails. What you're after is the heart or middle cut, and where you take it will determine the character of the whisky as surely as the cask it's matured in. Forsyth splashes a little on to the palms of my hands: rub and it smells of pure alcohol; let it dry and it's woodsmoke and fresh-cut flowers and, well, whisky.

"It's like doing a jigsaw," says Ian Chapman, an associate director at Gordon & MacPhail, which reopened Benromach in 1998, some 15 years after it was closed by the previous owner during an industry-wide slump in the 1980s. "When you're putting together a whisky, every tiny little thing counts. The barley, the water, the yeast. The timing. Wooden or steel washbacks. How you heat the stills. And, of course, the cask."

Whiskymen love their casks. To be called Scotch whisky, the spirit must be matured in oak casks for at least three years. A whisky's quality is determined by the quality and type of that cask. The quality and character of the spirit and the time spent in the cask count too, but less so. Used and re-used, every barrel (Scotch distillers use mainly charred American bourbon casks, plus some Spanish sherry casks) affects a whisky differently, adding and subtracting and intermingling flavours, aromas, colours.

At this point, it has to be said, the overwhelming majority of whisky distilled in Scotland will be mixed, either with other single malts or – much cheaper – with whisky made from grain. These are blends, your White & Mackays, Dewars, Ballantine's, Johnny Walkers, Chivas Regals and the rest. Some are very high quality, aged drinks, others less so. But in any case, 90% of the Scotch whisky sold around the world is blended.

Single malt, virtually unknown outside Scotland until the early 1960s, when it was floated almost as a gimmick, may be sacred among connoisseurs in mature whisky markets, and status-seekers in newer ones, but the real volume in whisky is blends. "They'll be around for a long time to come," says Campbell Evans of the Scotch Whisky Association. "The economics of the distilleries rely on them, and they're the way people get into Scotch, often mixed, with cola in Spain, green tea in China."

So why has Scotch exploded, to an extent no other spirit has? It got a kick start when the phylloxera pest hit cognac and the Victorians had to find a substitute for brandy. Empire, then the Commonwealth, helped it along. But the biggest consumers, in value and volume, have long been the Americans, worth nearly £500m, and the French, who get through about 180m bottles a year. And these days the fastest-growing markets – and those, says Evans, with "huge potential" to sell more – are Brazil, Russia, China and India. Last year they imported an average 35% more than the year before; India is now the world's biggest whisky market, but most of it is locally distilled, and import duties on the genuine article, though falling, are still prohibitive.

For Logan, Scotch is, along with champagne, "one of the most aspirational drinks in the world. In lots of countries, it's a sign that you've made it, and you want to share that, and show it." Michael Urquhart, joint managing director of Gordon & MacPhail – whose independent bottling business, which has matured and bottled whisky from some 70 distillers for more than a century, saw exports soar by nearly 60% last year – says increased affluence is obviously a driver. "But it's also a quality product, let's not forget. It tastes great. And it has a great heritage; that's increasingly important to people, the story of a product, its provenance."

And once you've started drinking it, he adds, Scotch is a rich seam: "Each distillery is like a different grape variety. If you're looking for different tastes, different sensations, Scotch can really give you that experience. All the distilleries, the expressions, the ages, bottlings, finishes – there's real discovery out there."

Mostly, though, I think the distillers (and the drinks multinationals, the Diageos and Pernod-Ricards who now own many of them) have been canny. Slowly and steadily, they've "premiumised" their product, getting more for a single bottle by raising the quality of their blended whiskies, and making every single malt more distinctive, more boutique than the last (Benromach, for example, now produces the world's first fully certified organic whisky).

But whisky's real secret is that in a world where the quick buck rules, its makers are forced, by the very nature of their business, to think long, long term. Their decisions now will determine what they can sell in 15, 25, 50, 70 years' time. "It's the foresight of my great-grandfather, grandfather and father that means we can now sell a 70-year-old malt," says Neil Urquhart, 35. "At the time, everyone else thought it was absurd. But it does feel odd to think that some of what we're doing now may not see the light of day until after I've retired."

Before I leave the Glenlivet, Logan takes me to the calm of the library for a so-called vertical tasting: the 12 (spicy, nutty, sweet); the Nadurra 16-year-old (apple pie, cream, cinnamon); the 18 (toffee, milk chocolate, ripe pears) and the 25 (Christmas pudding, almost chewy). Then he nips out. "I can't give you a bottle of this," he says, returning, "because it's worth £2,000. But have a nose. Have a sip. Think about what was happening when it was distilled, what's happened since. It's a 1959. That's when it gets really interesting, drinking a Scotch that's older than you are."

Hugo Williams reading...

J. D. Salinger on the move

The London Magazine

Terry has a review in the new London Magazine!

Terry Kelly - Long Day’s Journey into Night. The subject matter has nothing to do with his relationship with his brother (allegedly).

Elisabeth Sladen RIP

Doctor Who actress dies

Wed Apr 20 09:40AM
by Paul Johnston

Elisabeth Sladen, best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in 'Doctor Who', has died at the age of 63.

The BBC confirmed that the actress died yesterday following a battle with cancer.

Elisabeth first appeared in the popular sci-fi series with third Doctor Jon Pertwee back in 1973. She went on to appear alongside Tom Baker's Doctor and years later reprised the role of Sarah Jane Smith when the series was revived by Russell T Davies.

In 2007 she was given her own spin-off show, 'The Sarah Jane Adventures', which ran for four series.

Speaking about the news, Russell T Davies said: "I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful."

Current 'Doctor Who' executive producer Steven Moffat praised her as a "ferociously talented actress". He added: "'Never meet your heroes', wise people say. They weren't thinking of Lis Sladen. Sarah Jane Smith was everybody's hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories.

"But many years later when I met the real Sarah Jane - Lis Sladen herself - she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be. Kind and gentle and clever and a ferociously talented actress, of course, but in that perfectly English unassuming way."

CBBC controller Damian Kavanagh said: "I'm deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lis's untimely death. Lis brought joy, excitement and a sense of wonder to her many fans in her role as Sarah Jane Smith. She was adored by our young audience and I know all of them will miss her as much as I will."

Michael Sarrazin RIP

Michael Sarrazin: Actor best known for playing opposite Jane Fonda in ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’

By Tom Vallance
Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A tall, Canadian actor with distinctively wide, sunken eyes, Michael Sarrazin had a long career as a leading man to such actresses as Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand without ever attaining superstar status. His off-beat personality and predilection for quirky movies that failed to attract large audiences limited his profile, though he won praise for such portrayals as the intense drifter coerced into a doomed relationship in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), and his outstanding multi-layered portrayal of the monster in an epic television movie Frankenstein: The True Story (1973).

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