Part 23 of our tour of Europe brings us to Romania. I had a few days in Bucharest once - part work, part sightseeing - and liked it very much. At one point I had plans to visit Timisoara with a side trip over the border to Belgrade but it never came off. I may try again next year when it is the official European City of Culture.
The bizarre highlight of the Bucharest trip was a breakfast meeting at my hotel with a local MEP who bore a striking resemblance to Pitbull (the rapper not the dog). He turned up on a pair of crutches, and most of the meeting was spent with me getting him refills from the breakfast buffet or him explaining in great detail the plot of a film that was the Romanian equivalent of "Green Card".
Enough of my rambling. Let's get on with the show.
I have been stocking up on random purchases in charity shops since the Great Reopening. The sheer relief at being able to do so has resulted in me showing even less taste and discrimination than usual. If there is a 'Three for £1' offer on, I'm having three whether I like them or not.
One CD acquired in such circumstances that has definitely exceeded my expectations is "Outer Bongolia" (2007) by a gentleman known as The Bongolian (possibly not his real name). Lots of bongos, as you would have guessed, and lots of Hammond organ too. It is really rather good.
It has been a fair while since we had any country music on here. We are putting that right today and doing it in style.
Nobody has caused more tears to be shed into beers than these three gents - listening to any one of them will dilute even the strongest ale until it is weaker than the weediest lager shandy - and they have shed a fair few themselves.
The lead singer Jose Cid went on to have successful solo career, the highlight of which was perhaps his 1978 rock opera "10,000 Anos Depois Entre Venus e Marte" (10,000 Years Later Between Venus and Mars).
Well it was either that or his appearance at Eurovision two years later.
Part 22 of the Grand Tour brings us to Portugal, and for the second time in the series we have recruited a local guide to show us the sights (and sounds).
Way back in Denmark our guide was Asthmatic Harp, who incidentally has a excellent new single called "Limbo" that you should be buying a.s.a.p. On this occasion it is a mysterious gentleman known only as Jorge. As far as I am aware no Jorge recordings are currently available for purchase.
Over to Jorge...
Ernie suggested I write a piece for his epic “The Long
Goodbye” series for the Portugal edition. Which was very nice of him. This is
written with absolutely no knowledge of his own article about Portugal. [Spoiler alert: There will be no article from me on Portugal. How on earth could I top this? There will be a short feature on a particular Portuguese act, but that's all. Ernie]
The very first Portuguese album I bought was from a small
cafe in Baixo Alentejo, it had a
small display of CDs behind the counter,
I had drunk a few beers, I had money to burn, so I pointed to the
one I wanted. It’s an example of pimba music, which is I think Portuguese
home-grown pop. It’s an acquired taste.
One of the most famous bands in Portugal are Xutos e Pontapés. They’ve been making
records since the late 1970s. Such is their fame here that when original band
member Zé Pedro died (in 2017), Prime Minister António Costa wrote a tribute;
and Metallica played a song in his honour when they played a concert in Lisbon
in 2018. This is one of their best known songs:
Even more famous here is Quim Barreiros, who has been releasing “pimba” albums of double
entendres/hidden meanings since the time of the Carnation Revolution.
EVERYONE has heard of him: my friend Miguel met him once,
and said that he’s a really nice bloke, he came over to Miguel’s table, had a
beer and a chat. Quim’s latest album is
“Será porca ou parafuso”, which translates as “Will it be nut or bolt”. I
suspect Sr. Barreiros is not really talking about items you can buy at B&Q
(unless they have radically amended their range since we left the UK). There’s
also an album that translates as “My bread fell out of the pot”, and I really
have no idea what that alludes to. And here’s Quim not singing about little goats.
This video has the lyrics, so you’ve got hours of fun working out what he’s
I’m a big fan of his cheery music.
The music of Portugal is not all fado or pimba (or that young man who won Eurovison a couple
of years ago), there really are some excellent bands here.
Muito obrigado, Ernie. [Tem sido um prazer, Jorge]
If any of you thought the title of the post implied we were starting a musical tour of the Caribbean - apologies, we are not. We haven't even finished the trip round the EU yet and I'm going to need to rest after that (but while on the subject, make sure you tune in on Friday for a very special treat).
The more musically astute among you will have worked out that where we actually wanna take yer is Kokomo. Oh Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty Mama (and other readers).
We are now three-quarters of the way through our Grand Tour of all EU countries and we find ourselves in Poland, the country responsible for over 80% of the world's usage of the letter Z.
I've been lucky enough to visit a number of times, taking in the delights of Sopot on the Baltic coast, Przemysl near the border with Ukraine and various places in between. All of them were thoroughly groovy, as are today's tunes.
Brian Hyland did some terrible things in his youth - "Itsy Witsy Tennie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" to name but one - and then spent the rest of his career trying to atone for them.
In 1970 he took Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman" to Number 3 in the US charts with a bit of help from Del Shannon, and then in 1977 he teamed up with Allen Toussaint for an album called "In A State Of Bayou". Very nice it is too, with a sort of Johnny Rivers feel (which is always a good thing as far as I am concerned).
Our Grand Tour brings us to The Netherlands, land of tulips, cheese, total football and flood controls, and many other delights too numerous to mention. I first visited more than 35 years ago and it is always a treat to go back. This post is dedicated to my friends Charlotte and Eveline and to the great Dennis Bergkamp.
I have a fair amount of Dutch music in my collection, including this little gem which I picked up on my first visit to Amsterdam.
In his day Rudi was the cocktail cabaret king of Old Amsterdam. The cover is better than the contents - the other side has a photo of the Great Man and a pencil drawing of the exceptionally ugly Apollo Hotel - but I've included a short extract as a treat for our Caledonian readers.
As for the rest of the selection, I could have spent days agonising over which artists to choose. But I'm off on holiday for a week tomorrow so instead I have picked five tracks more or less off the top of my head, all of them pretty groovy in their own way.
Longstanding readers may recall that I always feature the same video when I go off on my summer holidays, and as it happens its by a Dutch duo (it is almost as if this planned). We'll follow the ring-rang-a-dong with some ding-a-dong and then slowly descend into gibberish.