New Year, Old Me

Sometime around the beginning of January, Plain Or Pan celebrates its birthday. This year I celebrate completing 11 years of writing. No mean feat, as anyone who blogs will tell you. Were it not for this small corner of the internet I doubt I’d have been able to muster up the necessary clout to meet and interview some of my heroes and favourite artists.

A blog that began as an outlet for me to share all manner of what I thought was great music/alternate takes/demos and general trainspottery flim flam now has a powerful reach. On any given day there will be visitors from around the world; Buenos Airies, Brisbane, Bolton…. I used to be obsessed by stats and internet traffic figures. If I wrote a new article, how many people would read it? Would anybody read it? Nowadays it’s less of an issue. As I go boldly into year 12 I’ve realised that my best articles endure. There are things I wrote in 2007 that turn up via a Google search and still prove popular today. There are articles that I thought were fantastic when published that proved to be slow burners but have now been read, reTweeted and shared on social media thousands of times. It’s very humbling. And satisfying.

Up until a couple of years ago I always shared an annual compilation for download, a ragbag collection of the most popular tracks from the previous year. Problem was, Plain Or Pan started to become a bit too popular and the internet police metaphorically popped round a couple of times and asked me (politely at first) if I wouldn’t mind removing the download link. In order to keep the wolf from the door, I no longer do this. Instead, this year I’m going to share a few links. For anyone who’s a recent visitor to the blog you might find something of interest. To any long-time readers, there might be something here that you missed first-time round. As always, feel free to link/share anything that piques your interest. Thanks for popping round, leaving comments and generally giving me the green light to keep writing. And that thing I mentioned about stats and internet traffic? Bollocks! I want as many hits on here as possible.

  • Ian Rankin picks six of his favourite songs. From 4 and a half years ago, this is the most-read article ever on Plain Or Pan.
  • Here‘s an article on the enduring appeal of The Beatles It’s All Too Much. This article was Plain Or Pan’s biggest hitter in 2014.
  • It occured to me that I haven’t featured The Fall nearly as much as I should’ve. Here‘s one I wrote earlier. 2011, to be precise.
  • I once rather proudly wrote an entire piece on Kraftwerk in German. It never got the kudos it deserved, sadly. Either that or my pidgin German was really bad. There’s a similar one on Sly Stone that’s written in French. Et pourquois-pas?
  • The flawed genuius of Chuck Berry. This article appeared again, pratically word-for-word when Chuck passed away.
  • It’s not all music round here, y’know. Here‘s my piece on Alex Higgins, written in my head as I drove home from holiday.
  • Here‘s one of my Andy Murray articles. This fairly fired around Twitter, getting picked up by the sports networks and syndicates, garnering all manner of nice comments and dozens of new followers.
  • And here‘s one on the London Olympics. Remember them?
  • Mainly though, it’s about the music. Johnny Marr has long been my hero, so it was something of a thrill to secure a 20 minute phone interview with him (it ended up being almost an hour and a half) where, amongst other things, he chatted about the records he was most-proud of having played on.
  • Likewise, just short of a year ago Mike Joyce was good enough to play the same game. As someone who generally doesn’t get involved in Smiths articles, what followed was a brilliant interview and, dare I say it, article.
  • While we’re on The Smiths, the article I wrote about Morrissey nicking huge chunks of lyrics from Victoria Wood went yer actual viral on that there Twitter. I came home from work to find my phone lit up like a Christmas tree with social media notifications. More of that, please.

Lastly, unlike your favourite bands, much of my earlier work is far from my best, although this line from the end of an article on the imminent release of Radiohead’s game-changing name your price In Rainbows made me laugh…..


If you’re a guitar geek, here’s how Thom set up his gear in 1997…….


Of course, these days he plays a bit of piano, some Apple Mac and a smattering of Fair Trade wooden spoon.

(And I wouldn’t want it any different)


Fairytale of New York

It happened. It had to happen eventually. Poor Andy Murray carried both the weight of the world on his shoulders, or at the very least, the heavy expectations of a nation terminally shite at sport upon them, and a monkey on his back that many thought he would never shake. Late last night/very early this morning, somewhere above the Arthur Ashe Stadium, high above the Manhattan skyline, the stars aligned, the Gods conspired and It happened. In a thrilling contest with individual rallies lasting longer than entire Ramones sets, and in five full sets featuring more ebbs and flows than the tide at Saltcoats beach, Andy Murray, our Andy Murray, bagged his first Grand Slam. But by now, you’ll know all that already.

How he did it is, I think, all down to psychology. Having had his early lead pegged back by an angry, fired-up opponent who’d suddenly awoken and found himself two sets down must’ve been agony. It was for me. With work in the morning, I was desperate for my bed, yet I had vowed I would watch the match to the end. “It’ll be over by midnight,” I told myself, unaware that one of the longest Grand Slams ever was about to unfurl. The 3rd set was a wash-out for Murray, and there can be no doubt that, by the 4th set, the match was Djokovic’s to lose. He had the momentum, and he was serving first in the final set. Get your nose in front and stay there, that’s the tennis players’ mantra.

But from somewhere, Murray dug deep. The spring in his heels that had so abandoned him along with his first serve in sets 3 and 4 returned. The fist pumping re-appeared. The crowd, sensing Murray’s positive mental mood-swing changed allegiance. Buzzing by this point, he went for the strictly unthinkable and the seemingly unplayable. He could’ve taken the easier option by ensuring he got the ball over the net, anywhere, just over, in the hope that Djokovic might be forced into a stupid error. But, no. In the eye of the storm, he pulled out all the hard shots and went for it.  Long, deep, top-spin shots fizzed to within a hair’s breadth of the baseline. First to one corner, then the other. And back again. “East Coast to West Coast,” as my American commentator helpfully explained. “That’s how he’s gotta play it!” surmised his sidekick. “Make Novak work!” Murray chose to play them all. The back-hand slices. The cute drop-shots. The disguised cross-court passes. And they all came off, every one of them. Positive mental attitude. Self-belief. Call it what you will, but from somewhere, Murray found the charge. He broke the Djokovic serve. Then, after holding his own, he broke the Djokvic serve again. This was unbelievable. By the time he was serving for the match, I was shaking with excitement, playing every shot with him, right up until the end when a spent Djokovic returned the ball just on the wrong side of in and Andy finally cracked a smile.

Craig Levein, if you’re reading, go and speak to Murray. Get him to rub his white ‘fro onto your frightened,  negative head and see if you can’t pick up some of his bristling positivity. Go out and play like you want to win. Play the hard shots and take chances. Play with a swagger. Play with belief.  Play like you owe us, big time. Who knows, you might even get us back in to the Grand Slam that’ll be Rio 2014. Though, sadly, maybe that’s pushing it a wee bit.

The Music:

The Artist who cannot be named in the blogging community for fears of hefty DMCA notices and men in shades appearing at your door in the wee small hours has a song called Glam Slam. Here‘s the none-more-80s remix. To paraphrase: Glam Slam, thank you man. You really made my day.

Get This!, New! Now!

Lightning Bolts ‘n Jessicarennis ‘n Andy Murray wins at Tennis

I’ll admit it. The Olympics have got me hook, line and sinker. From the opening ceremony onwards, via Wiggins’ magical time trial ride and the Scottish fella Jamieson who very nearly gubbed them all in the 200m breast stroke, until this weekend when Team GB have been picking up gold medals with all the carefree ease of Gladys and Agnes on a Tuesday morning at the pick ‘m mix in Woolies, I’ve sat, shouting sweary words of encouragement from the comfort of my sofa to people I had no idea existed a week ago. I was as cynical as many up here. Greatest Show On Earth? I don’t think so, pal. The Greatest Show On Earth is the World Cup. Everyone knows that. In no small part, my cynicism was due to Stuart Pearce’s (cough) Team GB football squad selection. A squad made up of numerous young Englishmen and a smattering of token Welshmen, with nary a Scot or Northern Irishman in sight. But more about them later. Yesterday was the opening game of the season for my team, Kilmarnock. It was a decent enough game, end-to-end, even, even if the BBC reported otherwise (their usual reporters have probably been deployed around the East End of London, I’d wager, and they’d been using some junior hack or other, not yet acquainted with the football normally played in the top league) yet I found my mind drifting back to events down south and couldn’t wait until half time in order to check the @TeamGB Twitter feed to see what I’d been missing. Good! My girl Jessicarennis was still burning the competition in the Women’s heptathlon.

It wasn’t long until I was home and catching up properly. Saturday night’s telly was sensational. But you knew that already. If you were watching ITV, silly you. If you were out, silly you. If, like me you whooped, hollered and punched the couch and the air and your wife with joyful abandon, you’ll know just how thrilling it was. When Jessicarennis lead from the front and came back strong and determined around that final bend; When the far-too-full-of-himself long jumper who’s name I’ve forgotten already messed up his last jump and bowed theatrically to the stadium; When Mo Farah, looking like someone Bob Geldof might be inclined to start an appeal for kicked his heels and dug out the strength to carry himself to victory; It was clear – that most dreaded of things, a feel good factor was suddenly everywhere. A ginger, a Muslim and a women of mixed race go into a pub. Everyone buys them a drink. I stole that from Richard Bacon. It’s a good one, eh?

Here in Scotland, following the manner in which oor ain Andy Murray casually disposed of Roger ‘The Greatest Ever‘ Federer, that feel good factor was multiplied ten-fold. Down south, people had a problem with Andy. He didn’t smile. He was dour in interviews. He battered his racquet around the court when things weren’t going his way. Good old stiff upper lip Tiger Tim Henman would never have displayed such vulgarities. Then, a month ago, the boy Murray blubbered like a big baby on the Centre Court and, well, some kind of thaw took place. It seems the public at large took him to heart. Today, when he climbed down from the Players’ Guests box and onto the scoreboard that declared his greatest ever victory, the wee boy who pushed his way to the front and shouted Andy back for a hug showed just how that feel good factor affects us all. That hug, as well as physical, was a metaphorical hug from all of Britain (but especially Scotland) to our own man.


The coverage on the BBC has been exceptional. This is what you pay your licence fee for. Handball over breakfast? Don’t mind if I do! Beach Volley ball at 10 in the morning? Oh aye! Easy on the eye! Beach Volleyball at 10 in the evening? Oh aye! Easy on the…but..hang on…they’re all wrapped up in, like, long lycra and jumpers and stuff. Damn that cold wind and British ‘summer’. Every sport is catered for and it’s all wrapped up and repeated if you happen to miss it first time round. One wee gripe? The commentators. Excellent and knowledgeable they undoubtedly are, they can also display an ignorance that cuts deep. It was that jumped up kids presenter Jake Humphries who did it first, during Team GB’s first women’s football match. “England this…England that….England the next thing“, and that’s a team that did have players from nations other than England in the starting 11. He said it about a dozen times. Then the normally reliable, likeable Lineker last night, “Well. So often before. And we’ve done it again. Out on penalties.” We, Gary? We? This is the first time we’ve ever entered a Team GB into any competition. We? You couldn’t possibly be referring to England, could we? The England who’s bottle crashes spectacularly at the merest whiff of a penalty shoot out? Did you not notice token Welshman and over-age player Ryan Giggs scoring there? Tut tut tut.  I’ll admit it, that’s why I took a tiny wee bit of satisfaction in seeing (cough) Team GB crash out of the football.

Anyway. This is supposed to be a music blog. The aptly-named Usain Bolt was pretty terrific in the 100m semi-final. The fastest man on Earth practically jogged over the line once he knew he’d qualified. Then the BBC ramped it up somewhat, with clocks counting down until the final itself. Re-runs of races from all angles. Slo-mo shots of Bolt goofing off to camera. And a 2 minute mini movie of the Best of Bolt for the majority of viewers who somehow knew that Bolt was The Man, yet were oblivious to his achievements to date. All sound-tracked by this. Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg. One of my favourite singles of the year, it sounds like Bringing It All Back Home-era Dylan rattling his way through Bad Moon Rising, all nasal vocals and cow punk skiffle guitar. Like Bolt in the 100m final, it’s supremely self-assured, a blur, over before it’s begun, leaving the rest in its wake. Get it quick – I’ve a feeling the internet police won’t like it. But you will.

Beach bum.