My favourite albums of all time

Three years ago I thought about my Desert Island Discs. Now, in the post-Christmas, pre-Funeral lull, I turn my thoughts to the whole album which has meant so much to me, the LPs which I would wade into the surf to rescue…

You can tell a lot about people from their all-time top albums: not least how old they are.

The most important thing to remember as you draw judgement on my crass and sentimental list of favourite albums is that these are not the best albums ever made in my life, but the five that meant the most to me – records which got me through it all, which provided the soundtrack to my life and which were worn out my incessant playing (because all of these were vinyl, with the notable exception of One Trick Pony which was on cassette tape). It might have easily been just Bowie albums, but I have limited it to one per artist and with a couple of notable exceptions none are compilations (the Stevie Wonder album was made up of older hits, but he re-recorded them so wonderfully, it is a work of art in its own right). When I starting thinking about this list, it was a top 5, but I couldn’t stop there…

In (as they say) no particular order, the soundtrack of my life:

David Bowie – “Heroes”

Why this and no other? Why not the sublime Low or Lodger? Could I not have all three as an indivisible trilogy? No. This was the best of the Berlin albums made by Bowie/Eno. From the anthemic title track (in full, in English, for many years he started at the second verse, and it missed a lot of the melancholy as a result), to the bleak Neukoln or Sense of Doubt to my all-time favourite – the Secret Life of Arabia, this album was the quintessential Bowie. Reduced to tears in the rain one night listening to the bleak second side whilst waiting for my girlfriend, this incredible piece of music summed up being 17. My Bowie obsession was cemented with this album and it continues to this day. The fact that The Next Day features that iconic photo all but blocked out makes me very happy indeed. Bowie is back. Hail Bowie.

Update: Bowie never went away. His death in 2016 was momentous, and following what would possibly be his best album ever: Blackstar was just awesome, and made me revisit every album, every single, every bootleg I own (and believe me, that’s a lot.) but no, Heroes it is. Heroes it shall ever be. My absolute favourite album of all time, of all artists.


Paul Simon – One Trick Pony 

You probably weren’t expecting this from me… surely something hipper, something more seminal or important; well, to me, this beautifully written, wonderfully played soundtrack album is unhesitatingly in this list. Its slightly wistful air and chokey rhythms moved me so at the time and still do. Late in the Evening still gets my heart racing with its latin beat and the best ever song to finish the day with is the closer It’s been a long, long day. You can look down on me if you want to, but we all have to look up to the best American poet, ever.

Led Zeppelin – II 

Riffs forged on tour, stolen from great bluesmen from the past (and even stealing their writing credits), laid down with maximum effect. Yes, we all know Whole Lotta Love, but it is Ramble On, What is and what should never be and of course my favourite, the obscene Lemon Song which makes this album. Played late at night on rubbish headphones to maximise the very rudimentary stereo, this is my early music obsession. There were better, later albums from Led Zep, but this one was the breakthrough for me – about the second or third album I ever bought and I still love it. If I could peep through the bedroom door now, and spy on the 12 year old, standing in front of the mirror pretending to be (alternately) Jimmy Page or Robert Plant (or in his own mind a strange hybrid multitalented version of the two), I wonder what I would think: embarrassed? proud? bemused? Probably all three – bless ‘im, if only he realised he’d only ever learn 4 chords on a real guitar.

Various Artists – Pillows and Prayers

“Pay no more than 99p” this sampler from Indie label (when Indie labels were real labels making music independently and not just self-indulgent fronts for big business) did what it said on the tin and introduced me to bands and artists I had never heard of, to music which enthralled me and many of whom subsequently sank without trace. Yes, Everything but the Girl were there as well as Ben and Tracy in solo form, a wonderful bon mot from Quentin Crisp and a poem by Attila the Stockbroker that even now I can recite by heart (which shows that Slam Poetry is fundamentally a punk thing). It was balanced, it was beautiful and I must have snogged a dozen girls with this playing in the background. Best 99p ever spent, I reckon.

Stevie Wonder – Original Musicquarium

The best songs he ever wrote (before all that schmaltzy rubbish about calling to say he loved you and happy birthday and so on). This is how a Greatest Hits should be – a complete re-recording of your hits, with new insights, new orchestrations, latest production values, and wonderful songs: Boogie On Reggae WomanLiving in the City and many many more. Sublime.

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

I have a particular weakness for albums and songs which are coiled tight with emotion: Led Zep’s Lemon Song, Alanis Morrisette’s You Oughta Know and Van Morrison’s Sweet Thing are classic examples of these. This whole album is tighter than my son’s wallet, with beautiful songs of love and loss which could go on forever. Indeed, once I was listening to a CD of it and during the exqusite Madam George it kept skipping, but here’s the thing – I didn’t notice! The same riff and line kept playing over and over again, and I was still happily listening to it about 20 mins later. I will always love this record.

Rolf Harris – Sun Arise 

Rolf Harris LP


Yeah, I know. Operation Yewtree and all that… Well, firstly innocent until proven guilty and secondly, what I thought as a five-year-old in 1972 was very different to now. This is a wonderful 1962 comedy album, with songs which I still perform at Church cabaret evenings. Simply and cheaply made, this is mid-60s musical comedy at its best. It makes me laugh and both I and my children know every single word on it. Nick O’Teen and Al K. Hall is a masterpiece. People seem to conveniently forget what Eric Gill was like and concentrate on his fonts and engravings, maybe we should do that for Rolf…

UPDATE: This was written in 2013, before his conviction. I have had to drop performances from my cabaret routine. However, I’m not deleting my comments or my inclusion of this album because, like Eric Gill, a person is more complex than that. I don’t listen to it anymore, but it was at the time very important to me.

Delirious? – King of Fools

The only clearly Christian album in this list, and without doubt the best from Delirious? They were desperate to make the mainstream and never quite did, tried to be a bit too hip when they were a bit too old, but this album catches them at their zenith: beautiful songs, catchy rhythms and at its heart the articulation of one who has come to know Jesus. It spoke to me so loudly when I first heard it.

Magazine – Secondhand Daylight

Overplayed. Over-obscure. Rhythm of your Cruelty is possibly the best song ever written. Ever. The sparse production reminded me of Bowie. The fact you could play it to girls who’d never heard of it and then spend hours trying to understand what on earth Howard Devoto was trying to mean… I loved it. Whenever this comes round around on the random playlist I am filled with nostalgia and excitement. I will never be 16 again, but this whole album brings me right back to the Permafrost

What? No Joy Division? No Paddy Roberts? No REM? No … thing after 1997? Yeah, there are lots of great albums out there, lots of things worth listening to, lots of better songs and better production values. However, these are the ones that I loved and like the purpose of Desert Island Discs, aren’t there to show how hip or connected you are, but what has had a musical impact on your life. I am currently playing to death the latest Lorde album Pure Heroine, and keep coming back to Bowie’s 2013 comeback The Next Day but these (even Bowie tbh) will never make the classic canon of music which moved my soul: from one place to another.

This list isn’t hip… it’s just me.

This is my thousandth post on WordPress…

I have something that I really want to post on my blog, a worksheet for Remembrance Sunday for Children who might get a little bored with bits of the service. On one level, that’s a really, really important thing, perhaps representing the DNA of my ministry, and yet, I wanted to mark the 1000th post with a little bit of reflection. The worksheet will be my 1001th!

Looking at WordPress’s stats, I realise that I have been blogging here since 2006 ! As usual, these things start small and start to grow. This will never be a massively popular blog, but if people still keep finding useful stuff on it, then I am happy. The search terms can often be quite revealing and the way some people’s minds clearly work is astounding…

Blogging as an activity has moved from the core creative activity of many people into a standard or even secondary form of web activity: there isn’t as much diarising as people used to do, but it is the main tool of accessing resources. This is what I use this blog to do: to post stuff I have created rather than to pontificate on matters of the day. If I need to do that, I like many people do that on Facebook or Twitter: as though less (140 characters) was more.


Of course, back in 2005, Blogging got me into a serious amount of trouble in my former parish, where I learnt not for the first time that there are some truths that should never be said out loud, even if they are true. That was on another blogging platform and in a different age: when people understood the role of blogs differently, and definitely felt differently about the Internet. I stand by what I wrote then as it was the truth, and I accept that as a priest there are some ugly truths that should remain internalised, but we live and learn, and I certainly hope that is true of this site now. I seldom rant now and use this as a platform for the (almost) saccharinised spin on parishLife. Seriously though, if you haven’t got something positive to say, you have to ask yourself whether you need to say it. Having said that, that minor crisis was the turning point of that parish and the making of it: the telling of that truth moved them and the parish on in wonderful and bountiful ways and on reflection, I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t God’s will all along…

Of course, some things I still say on this blog does prove unpopular in some circles: my commitment to Inclusivity on gender and sexuality does not make me popular with some, but I have lived with the label of “unsound” for so long, it is a part of me. I am committed to a sacramental view of mission and I despise the Prosperity Gospel and those narrow trite expressions of Church which make the Bible an idolatrous object. I will continue to call it as I see it, because my Ordination charge calls me to both encourage and to admonish. The latter not often,  but when needed.

So, raise a glass to the 1000th post on WordPress and the strange mixture of liturgy and creativity that makes up parishLife, and here’s to more of the same (I hope).

Hands-only CPR from Vinnie Jones

My clinical speciality was ITU and Coronary Care, but it was now so long ago that the daily-honed skills I had on someone’s chest are now as rusty as the next person’s, but I welcome this move to make CPR far more widely known. I am also pleased that they have insisted on the use of the phrase “cardiac arrest” rather than “heart attack” because a heart attack is a Myocardial Infarction: a reduction in blood supply to the heart causing pain and dysrhythmia which is not the same as the sudden cessation of heartbeat which kills. CPR is for use when someone’s heart stops.

You can make a difference with CPR. Hands-only CPR is an effective way of maintaining circulation and it might just save a life with minimal risk to yourself. The current thinking is that in an un-monitored (ie outside of an ITU/CCU) arrest, the action of compression does some air exchange, and the continued circulation even at lowered oxygen levels maintains the vital organs. If they do die (and survival rates are very very low), it was probably because they were going to anyway. If they survive, then you have made a real difference: DO THE CPR!

If more people were prepared to help, then rates would improve. It’s never going to always work but you should try.

  1. Call 999
  2. Hands only CPR until the ambulance arrives
  3. Twice a second (ie to the rhythm of “Staying Alive”)


Back to…

The Diamond Geezer writes largely about the London I love, and I love the sentiment and the colour of this…

» back to work
» back to school
» back to routine
» back to busy trains
» back to a nip in the air
» back to artificial sodium glare
» back to oranges, browns & yellows
» back to leaves clogging up your gutter
» back to being awake in time to see the dawn
» back to no more Big Brother, like, ever, probably
» back to a decent selection of non-imported apples in the shops
» back to prematurely-purchased fireworks exploding somewhere in the dark
» back to politicians returning to their desks and cutting things with a vengeance
» back to Christmas puddings and Advent calendars creeping onto the shelves in your local supermarket
» back to the nation’s tabloids (and 9 year-olds) getting over-excited about a gaggle of karaoke non-entities on the X Factor
» back to being able to take a day off work and go out to a museum somewhere and without finding lots of kids running around inbetween the exhibits
» back to having students in the flat nextdoor again, and them having loud mates round and staying up until all hours playing their Pendulum or Biffy Clyro or some other such pretentious rubbish
» back to the first conkers falling to the pavement from the big horse chestnut outside Bow Road station
» back to being able to see what’s on the other side of a row of trees for the first time in six months
» back to putting a jacket on, and making sure your winter coat’s been to the dry cleaners
» back to hiding away your tattoos under a long-sleeved shirt or full-length trousers
» back to switching on the lights before seven, before six, hell even before five
» back to decent telly (blimey there’s some good stuff on this week)
» back to mulling over locations for next year’s summer holiday
» back to wondering whether the central heating still works
» back to deciding there’s more to life than salad
» back to letting the garden water itself again
» back to staying in for the evening
» back to porridge, soup & cocoa
» back to blackberrying
» back to misty fog
» back to frost
» back to life
» back to reality
» back to the here and now yeah

It's the 35% who did not vote who are to blame

Credit to Diamond Geezer for displaying these stats

Vote2010Election stats

1a) 2010 election: votes cast

Con 36% Lab 29% LD 23% Oth

1b) 2010 election: seats won

Con 306 Lab 258 LD 57 Oth

2) 2010 government: to be confirmed

Con 306 [363 LD 57 or Lab 258 [315+ LD 57 O

3a) 2005 election: votes cast

Lab 35% Con 32% LD 22% Oth

3b) 2005 election: seats won

Lab 356 Con 197 LD 62 Oth

4) Election turnout: average by decade

1920s 74%
1930s 74%
1940s 73%
1950s 80%
1960s 76%
1970s 75%
1980s 74%
1990s 75%
2000s 60%
2010 65%

5) 2010 election: national support for each party

Con 24% Lab 19% LD 15% Oth did not vote 35%

The problem with this hung parliament is the 35% of you that did not vote. In less than six month’s time, I predict we’ll have to do it all over again, with or without PR. Your apathy has paralysed this country and you should be ashamed for yourself. I heard from friends about their colleagues who wouldn’t vote because “they didn’t understand the issues” (answer=find out – there are lots of websites, the radio and the TV to explain them to you, although steer clear of the nation’s abysmally biased newspapers) or “they didn’t know what to do when they got there” (answer=the nice ladies will explain it to you). No excuse next time, just vote please.

Voter turnout remains embarrassingly small – it’s almost as if we don’t think this matters. 65% turnout for a supposedly sophisticated democracy is pathetic really, and the relationship

Theatre Review: Othello, Trafalgar Rooms 1, London

westend poster

Passing the theatre on the bus, I spot Othello at the Trafalgar Rooms 1, a small theatre off Trafalgar Square. I jump off on the off chance, and find that the cheapest available seat is actually ON the stage.

During the course of this play, I find myself inches from the action, a recipient of Lenny Henry’s spittle.

The setting is quasi-modern,  not Elizabethan but perhaps a little Edwardian, but the text is faithful and the verse delivered with style, northern accents (a conceit perhaps or a happy accident) prevailing. Reflecting on this on the way home, I conclude that the accents are Leeds. I lookup at home the Independent’s Review now, and see that it is a West Yorkshire Playhouse (ie Leeds) Production. Funny that. I think their review was a little harsh, and/or it has settled down, for Henry’s performance was well paced.

The text is astonishingly sexual, vividly racist and very very funny. I had forgotten quite how sexual, racist and humourous it really is.  Still, it is 25 years since I studied it for A Level and sa Ben Kingsley play the Moor.  It is a play like this reminds you of Shakespere’s genius, his skill with words, his dramatic constructions. On the page, the good text is there, but it belongs on stage, performed; a bit like St Paul’s letters, perhaps.

Lenny Henry plays the Moor with gravitas and dignity, so different from the standup I have seen from him in the past. Of course: the man can act! This is I understand, his first Shakespeare. His breakdown at the hands of Iago (excellently played by Conrad Nelson)  – possibly the best villain character in theatre ever is clear, Henry’s passion is visible: his breathing firey threats (and spittle) of murder most impressive.

The simple staging places all the emphasis on the drama: using the stairs and the central entrance to good effect. At the end, after 3 hours, it did not feel like it- it is such a powerful story that it flew past. It was a brilliant evening and one of the best choices I have made in the theatre. You can’t hold back a good story!

Prayer Request

Next week, on Weds my 14-year old daughter, Emma is undergoing surgery to remove a sizable Ovarian mass/cyst/tumour.

We don’t really know what the implications of it (and subsequent treatment) will be until they have examined it under the microscope, but it is likely that she will lose the ovary at the very least.

[caption id=”attachment_724″ align=”alignleft” width=”200″ caption=”Emma and those boots…”Emma and those boots...[/caption

So, my dear friends, if you are offering the holy sacrifice on Wednesday, could I ask you to add her as an Intention for that mass; and/or pray for her (and Lou and myself in our anxiety), her surgery at the hands of the St. Mary’s Portsmouth gynae team and all those who care for her.

It is strange, but in my ministry, I spend a lot of time praying for the sick, and for those who care for them. I offer Masses for Healing, spend a lot of time in the Ministry of Annointing, and I am always saying seriously to people that they are in my prayers. I see how people are affected, lifted, buoyed and yes, even healed by such a ministry.

And yet, until recently, I have only peripherally been the beneficiary of it. As this has unfolded, only now have I become aware of what it means to have people praying for us, to feel supported in prayer, and knowing that the Mass is being offered everywhere for Emma, and supporting us in this.

The producer has only latterly become the consumer, and I have to say, it is wonderful. Thank you for all your prayers so far, and please keep praying for Emma over the next week. It matters. It really does. And for once in my ministry, I can attest to the benefit we are all getting from prayer.

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Hospital: St Mary’s, Portsmouth /Surgeon: Mr Ian Golland. Surgery Date: Weds 7th Jan 2009. Please pray for Emma Rundell, aged 14.

Emma – update

I want to thank everyone for the prayers, masses and good wishes they have offered for Emma, our daughter.

[caption id=”attachment_595″ align=”alignnone” width=”480″ caption=”Ah! That moody teenager look they all try and compose for their cool and groovy Facebook entries”Ah! That moody teenager look they all try and compose for their cool and groovy Facebook entries[/caption

Anyone who reads Facebook will know that she is back at school and active, and that she made The Mighty Boosh live show in Portsmouth. She is still getting pain but this is managed by painkillers.

It wasn’t Appendicitis. Hmmm. It is still under investigation. More ultrasounds, more MRIs, more probing. The concern level has gone down at least a couple of gears, but it still isn’t right, so please keep her in your prayers.

Thanks, they are really appreciated.

[caption id=”attachment_596″ align=”alignnone” width=”480″ caption=”I know this is Emma, because she has her mouth open”I know this is Emma, because she has her mouth open[/caption


for Emma, middle daughter, currently in hospital awaiting more tests.


There are somethings can can only be satisfactorily handled by The Mighty Boosh  DVDs, all of them, one after the other. We will know more after the MRI. Pray for Emma, and for us all.

I had to cancel Mass this morning in order to be with her for the scan. I hope the congregation will understand.

…and exactly when is the Diocese of Sydney going to be excluded from the Anglican Communion?

If there is any strong argument for a Covenant (and there isn’t) then it should be to ensure Anglican Polity and Identity.

The issue of Lay Presidency, authorised by the Diocese of Sydney in Australia, is more of a challenge to Scripture, Tradition and Reason (the key tenets of Anglicanism) than anything to do with where Bishops place their genitals, or whether indeed they have any external genitalia at all.

I think we need a Conference in Jerusalem and a STRONG series of resolutions to ensure that they are appropriately censured and if they remain unrepentant (which I am sure they arrogantly will), be disbarred from the Communion.

If you live by the sword, you should be prepared to die by that sword also.

(made all the more grumpy by a missed connection at Salisbury and an enforced hour’s wait on a cold platform, now late for Exeter. Grrrr)