Saturday, November 18, 2017

Janglecrunch! Beatcroft Social for 18 November - the Rickenbacker 12-string special!

As suggested by Mr Ali Wilson and confirmed by Mr Lindsay Hutton, this is a selection of some favourite songs featuring the Rickenbacker 360/12 electric guitar, or variants thereof (though I sneaked in some Voxes, a Baldwin and maybe a Burns and a Shergold).

Never having played a Rickenbacker, been close enough to a stage to see properly or even seen one in a shop, I did not know until right now that they're strung with the pairs of octave strings the other way round from an acoustic 12-string, of which I've owned far too many. You hit the thick strings first on the downward strum. All part of that distinctive twangle.

Oh, and if you fancy a brand new Rickenbacker 360/12, it will set you back a whopping £3980 if you pay the list price in the UK. Though I see Gear4 Music has it for £3280. Err...bargain!

You can play the whole show from here:

Or, if you can't stand my yakkin', here's the Spotify playlist:

Friday, November 17, 2017

It was 35 years ago...Rough Justice: Songs of Worship and Doubt. The lost Tom Morton cassette

1982. I was a worship leader, on occasion, kind of. A singer and guitar player. A songwriter. An evangelist. I'd been prayed over, blessed, sent forth with the laying on of hands and everything.  I spoke, or at least muttered, in tongues. I was a full-time worker for God, part of a mission team called Scotroc, which sounds now (and sounded then) like a form of cooking chocolate. For a year or so we (Anne, my wife, and Sandy, my son) had been living in a Charismatic community at Overtoun House near Dumbarton. With second son David on the way, we'd moved out, back to Glasgow, but things were moving - personally, spiritually, emotionally - towards utter meltdown.

Faith was falling apart. So was every other aspect of life. But it was happening in the context of having to play, perform, witness, preach and pray in order to live. It was a job. It was what I did. It was who I was. And I was getting to the point where I didn't believe in who I was anymore.

At this point, I'd recorded two previous 'Christian' albums, both released on vinyl, almost all sold at concerts. Now I was trying to write my way through the crisis in my life. The result was this cassette, full of songs which veer schizophrenically from the full-on worship anthems like I Am Empty to desperate, paranoid Costello-lite rants like Loose Talk Costs Lives. There are songs of guilt and depression, and increasingly stark portrayals of a God who seems to delight in inflicting suffering. Pain seems to be the only solution. Contrasted with an immersion in religion both fuzzily reassuring and apocalyptically crushing, bloody and cruel.

Amid all of this, watching my disintegration with no doubt some astonishment and discomfort (I never asked), were some amazing young musicians (and I was only 26). Jane Sidebottom, Ewen Vernal and Andy Brodie. I'm pretty sure Ewen was only 17. All were members of the Scotroc team. Both Andy and Ewen would become highly successful professional players. They have their own stories to tell, and I won't trespass on them here. It was a delight to meet Jane again last year - at an Aberdeen University ceremony. We both had children graduating.

Anyway, I was provoked into rummaging through various nooks and crannies, digging out my only copy of Rough Justice and transferring it into the digital realm, by a mention the other day on Facebook. The Lion Will Return (Narnia in open 'G') is apparently still worthy of inclusion in a sermon. I must admit I do wonder if any of the explicitly worshipful choruses ever surface in churches, or if my cheerfully backslidden state has rendered them unholy.

The tape was recorded over two  December days in 1982, almost exactly, as I say, 35 years ago. In the old Gospel Radio Fellowship two-track studio in Argyle Street, Glasgow, live. What you hear is not of the best quality. The only copy I have is a TDK D60 copy made from a cassette, which wasn't that great to start with. But listen hard and you'll hear some of the best fretless bass playing any Bishopbriggs 17-year-old has ever recorded. Some wonderful sax and piano. And, may I be forgiven, some guitar playing I had forgotten I was ever capable of.

Some of Rough Justice is hard going. Some is well, rough. Some is awful. Some is pretty good, I think.

 Anyway. Here it is.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Earthbase Unst


For launching rockets into space
Unst has to be the perfect place
It isn’t very far away
Just three ferries, and several days
From the Scottish mainland, or Norway
Which is slightly nearer anyway

And the weather will make launching easy
It’s calm, and dry, and never breezy
Except maybe for the odd occasion
When the wind destroys the radar station
But really, you need have no fear
That only happens twice a year

At other times, there’s not a peep
You’ll never see a flying sheep
A tumbling caravan, or boat
Or new-built house, suddenly afloat
Don’t credit what naysayers say
It beats Cape Canaveral any day

There’s wildlife, but not really a lot
Bonxies and puffins won’t give a jot
If their peace and quiet is to be shattered
A few burnt otters? They won’t matter
And when launching  you don’t have to shoot
At airliners on the polar route

Or worry about ships at sea
It’s not as if there’s going to be
Any more drilling for oil out there
And does anybody really care
About the noise, the raucous roaring?
The silence can get rather boring

So come, oh, spacemen and women too!
Unst surely welcomes all of you!
There’s local beer, and soup and gin
And a swimming pool to frolic in
And if you ever wonder where you are
You’re only  one small step from Mars

That’s what the vikings used to say
When they decided they would stay
Like them -  relax, eat, drink and be merry
Don’t worry if you miss the ferry
Or if the launch date is delayed
Shoot for the moon some other day

Copyright Tom Morton 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Play guitar, loudly and crunchily: The Beatcroft Social, 11 November 2017

Back in Shetland after all the Inverness shenanigans - some great eating at the likes of the Mustard Seed and the Royal Highland, and inspirational stuff at the Rural GPs conference (which is for doctors, but I was there as light relief). Particularly enjoyed making this. More wallowing in the classics, but you know why? Because these older tracks are just better...

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Beatcroft Social: Rock'n'Roll Never Forgets. 4 November 2017

Recorded last week, and a real classic rock wallow (with the exception of the excellent Blue Rose Code of course). Currently in Inverness, but should be back home on Sunday. It's been a blast here in Dolphinsludge, Queen of the Highland Fleshpots, and I may fit in a quick trip to Glasgow tomorrow (Saturday). But the northern isles (and Dexter) are calling!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tom Morton's Orcadian Dalliance, Tuesday 24 October, BBC Radio Orkney: The Vietnam War and its music

The Vietnam War was the first televised, image-mongering conflict, and visual portrayals of it possessed my TV-watching childhood and youth. Some remain imprinted not just on my memory, but on the watching world's: Eddie Adams' photograph of South Vietnamese police chief Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan killing a Viet Cong suspect; Nick Ut's astonishing, opinion-altering shot (and a BBC crew's film) of a napalm-burned child, Kim Phuc. many, many more.

It was a movie war, too: At least three classics - Apocalypse Now, The Deerhunter, Full Metal Jacket. And so Ken Burn's recent TV documentary series had a difficult job: to enliven and indeed remake those images in the minds of those who had seen them many times before. To find new ones. And to deal with the fact that it was also a war soundtracked by some of the best pop and rock music ever made, indeed, inspiring much of it.

It was the music that for me joined up the straight conflict reportage with the wider history of what was an incredibly turbulent time in world politics. Ken Burns used some of the best-known and lesser-remembered tracks of the time (with added original music from Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor) to weld together a masterful series which combined intensely moving interviews with participants from all sides with music, moving and still pictures. Brilliantly.

How powerful were these songs? How bleak and terrifying are the Stones on Gimme Shelter? How ragingly appalled John Fogerty on Fortunate Son? And contrast today's wearily cynical anthem from The Killers, The Man. It's a good song, smart; but it has no real anger, no social power.

Where are those songs that can change everything? Mean everything? And help us remember everything?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beatcroft Social 13 October 2017. A mere snippet of Susan Bowie's 60th Birthday bash playlist!

Only an hour long this week, as I'm running about organising food, drink and shenanigans for Susan's bash tonight. But if you have Spotify, enjoy four hours and 40 minutes of dance-party-soul-pop-rock and extend your listening!

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Beatcroft Social 7 October 2017 - Thomas Earl Petty special

Even the Losers
Get lucky sometimes...

Thomas Earl Petty. I think it was the fact he was such an evident fan, that the music he loved was so obviously in the music he made, yet forged into something very much his own. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds is alleged to have heard American Girl and puzzled over the notion that he couldn't remember writing and recording the song.

But the merging of that Rickenbacker 12-string jangle with the raunch of the Stones, the harmonies of the Beatles, the mordant lyrical wit of Dylan, classic US garage rock and southern soul, brought us this astonishingly powerful 40-year career. And let's not forget - it was Britain where he broke through first. There was an initial aversion in the US to his spindly, too-pretty androgyny. It was only later that he was adopted as 'heartland' and there was always a distance, a suspicion.

Tough guy, too, taking on the music industry to the extent of declaring himself bankrupt to regain control of his material and his life. On the side of the victims and the poor. And for a fan, to join the Travelling Willburys, to back Dylan on the road, to sing with a Beatle...

Those songs. From the soaring emotional power of The Waiting and the desperate obduracy of Refugee to the whimsical cynicism of Into The Great Wide Open ("under the sky so blue...a rebel without a clue") and his LA masterpiece, Free Falling, he had a mystery and a vision that seemed effortless, but was the product of determination and sheer hard work. Yet he made Springsteen seem bludgeoning and occasionally lumbering.

Floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee.

I could go on and on. Instead, watch Peter Bogdanovich's superb 4-hour documentary Runnin' Down A Dream, the best rock biopic ever. It's on Netflix. Listen to the music.

Listen to your heart.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, weekend of 30 September 2017: Spanish Dancers and Modern Ways of Letting Go

It's been a foul couple of days of weather since I got back from Glasgow - meaning I had to cancel a proposed trip to Unst to film an STV news story. It's all very well showing Shetland in bad weather, but impossible, really, if you can't keep the camera steady and your voice disappears in a buffeting of wind.

So instead, it's check the central heating oil, make sure the wifi's working and play some music...
Spanish Dancer - Patti Scialfa
I'm Moving On - Taste
Heart On My Sleeve - Gallagher And Lyle
House Of A Thousand Guitars - Willie Nile
Coney Island Rain - The Legendary Hearts
Arms of Mary - Sutherland Brothers & Quiver
Fool To Cry -  The Rolling Stones
Life Will Never Be the Same Again - Black Doves
Let Me Rock - Flamin' Groovies
Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
Long As I Can See the Light - Janiva Magness
Mary's Prayer - Danny Wilson
A Modern Way Of Letting Go - Idlewild
Year of the Cat -  Al Stewart
Day I Die - The National
Powderfinger - Neil Young
Something to Change - Paul Brady
Everybody's Talkin' - Iggy Pop
I Wanna Be Your Dog - The Stooges
Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes - Kevin Ayers

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Ballad of Jeremy and Piers

They lived at Yew Tree Manor
An aristocratic name
So the Yew Tree Guesthouse
It became

David and Naomi 
Jeremy and Piers
Did bed and breakfast
For years and years

Bohemian and radical:
Naomi rode a scooter
And used old Guardians
As draft excluders

Piers became an expert
In meteorology
But the world of politics 
Called him and Jeremy

In the Labour Party
Jeremy had sympathy
For his brother, his friend Tariq
And other members of the IMG

That’s the International Marxist Group
By the way
Jeremy was never a member
Or so they say

Jeremy became an MP
For North Islington in London
Waitroses. Marxists.
There are both in abundance

Piers bet against
The Met Office. His predictions
Were sometimes accurate
Sometimes fiction

Skipping ahead: Now
Jeremy’s Labour leader
“Theresa May?” He snorts
“I will defeat her.” 

Climate change, meanwhile
Piers denies
All contra-indications
Are mistakes or lies

They were brought up believing
Evidence and proof
Are always deceiving 

So Piers and Jeremy
Still battle the class enemy
One predicts the weather

One predicts the future
One loves beards
And that would be Jeremy
Not Piers

Copyright Tom Morton 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Flybe versus Loganair: Turkish Delight, artisan gin, craft beer and a fight for monopoly

It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating," said the Queen presently. "What would you like best to eat?"
"Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty," said Edmund.

The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. 

I hitched a ride on Jadis’s sled and gobbled up the Turkish Delight. Or to be precise, drank the (got to be Gordon’s) Gin and Fever Tree tonic (a sky-high £6.30, though I had my choice of ‘artisan’ gins and ‘craft’ beers for similar money).

And of course I wasn’t travelling on a sled hauled by bedazzled white reindeer through the snowy wastes of Narnia, but aboard a Flybe/Eastern Airways Embraer 170 jet from Sumburgh in the Zetlandic Archipelago to Glasgow in Greater Scotia. Which took 52 minutes and cost £134 return - though only because the atrocious Flyby website fooled me into paying for ‘my choice of seat’. That’s with my Shetland resident’s Air Discount Scheme reduction of around a third.

Five minutes before we whooshed into the - for once - clear and calm Shetlandic skies, a turboprop, 50-seater Saab 2000 used by Loganair had taken off, also bound for Glasgow. It would take marginally longer, cost pretty much the same, and was more than half empty with maybe 20 passengers. The rather lovely Embraer 170 (two cabin crew, brand new leather upholstery) can take 76, and had 14 customers aboard. As I walked across the tarmac, I chatted to a fellow jetsetter, who grumbled that he would personally have much rather gone with Loganair, but hadn’t been given a choice by his company. 

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “Two half empty flights to the same place at the same time. I give Flybe six months,” he said. “And they’re dearer - because they charge for baggage.”

I muttered my support for his point of view, failing to point out that in fact the Embraer has big enough overhead lockers to accommodate proper, free, small-suitcase hand luggage, unlike Loganair’s compact and bijoux Saab 340s and their one bigger 2000. But the terrible truth is, I just wanted to go on a jet. In 39 years of travelling to and from Shetland, it had been nothing but propellers for me, from Viscounts and HS748 ‘Budgies’ through the horrendous Shorts 360 ‘Flying Skips’ and the made-in-Scotland Jetstreams. Plus the occasional Fokker Friendship and even a Twin Otter or two.

So I booked Flybe, not Loganair. The two airlines (Flybe backed by the muscle of Eastern) have been competing on the Scottish island routes since 1 September, after Loganair, who for a decade operated the services under the Flybe flag, decided they would take the job on themselves. Provoking Flybe to go into full commercial air war mode and provide alternative services, in Shetland’s case by using the aforementioned luxury jet (just one, which has to buzz about from Sumburgh to the various Scottish airports in a frenzy of fumes.  Three Aberdeen flights and one each to Edinburgh and Glasgow). Prices fell and were duly matched, almost pound for pound. Advertising campaigns were launched, including what I’d guess is the biggest-value single advert in the history of  The Shetland Times (a full four-page Flybe wraparound). There was a starry-eyed sensation among some Shetlanders that they had never had it so good, and among others that we were entering a mad race to monopoly which could see Loganair forced out of business. 

Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one's mouth full, but he soon forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive.

My sympathies were with wee, tartan-clad, Scottish-owned Loganair. To quote Neil Riddell at The Shetland News - "Loganair employs 40 staff locally and also provides a host of services essential to maintaining island life, including newspaper and Royal Mail deliveries, transporting pharmaceutical and medical supplies and NHS patient travel." Though all of that would presumably transfer to the victor should the current air war end in oblivion for Loganair. Unlikely? Well, it’s worth looking at Eastern Airways' and Flybe's history in achieving monopoly in services to local communities at the other end of the UK. A company called Air SouthWest took Flybe to the Office of Fair Trading, alleging 'predatory' pricing on key routes to and from south-west England. Air SouthWest was eventually taken over by Eastern and closed. Plymouth Airport then had to shut too. There's a disturbing legal assessment of what Flybe did here:

It would be daft to lionise Loganair, however. No-one really knows what led up to their decision to pull out of the Flybe franchise deal, and sheer greed may, as usual, have played a considerable part. Listen, they even gave me a free plastic luggage tag. And they have this 'code sharing' deal which means you can book a route straight through involving British Airways. The wee plaid Paisley buddies are putting a brave face on things for the moment, claiming a year-on-year rise in passenger numbers since the start of September. Flybe is more cautious, stating that it is ‘generally pleased’ with how things were going. You can read both sides of the ‘we’re winning’ story at The Shetland News, here: . There have been problems in both camps with delays; The Embraer is not quite as wind-friendly as the venerable Saabs, and Loganair have long been cursed with ‘tech’ issues on what is an ageing fleet.

As for me, I have not, like Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, been seduced into the Flybe camp for ever. I do worry that their tactics represent monopoly-seeking capitalism, red in tooth and  claw, and are either purely gestural or a serious attempt to stretch Loganair’s finances until they snap.

But on the other hand, as we smoothly and almost silently skooshed through the skies towards Glasgow, as I sipped my G and T and the sun streamed into the almost-deserted cabin, I thought: 

Do they serve Turkish Delight on board? I'll ask on the way back home.

At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking, for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves. But she did not offer him any more.

(All quotes in italics from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, Saturday 16 September 2017. For Hugh Docherty; remembering Colin and Pearl

Och, it's seven or so years since that picture was taken, at a lay-by on the A77, just before the Kilmarnock turn-off. Hugh had met me and Rob Allanson (we were on borrowed Triumph Street Triples; I nearly totalled mine at the Bushmills Distillery, but that's another story) near Carrbridge and accompanied us south. We were heading for Wigtown, but everything went a bit pear-shaped near Stirling, with Rob zooming off by accident towards Edinburgh, and the weather turning frightful. Hugh had been planning to come to Wigtown with us (Rob and me were heading off to Ireland afterwards) but went off to his hometown of Kilmarnock instead. This is where we said goodbye.

And now we have to say goodbye to Hugh forever. He was an extraordinary character, absolute stalwart supporter of the Tom Morton afternoon and evening shows on Radio Scotland, organiser of FOTTOMERS (Friends of the Tom Morton Evening Radio Show). I talk a bit about him on this week's Beatcroft but there was so much more to say: his tales of offshore engineering, his musical adventures, motorcycling and stewarding at East Fortune, the cars, the crack, the characters. Those fantastic tales of derring-do in Volvo P1800s and Ford Mustangs. Incredible antics on helicopters over the North Sea. What happened at the Isle of Man. The guitars, the gigs.

Hugh was kind, wild, thoughtful, generous, extreme, cautious, careful, completely over the top. There were shows he single-handedly rescued from tedium. Entertainment was his middle name. I twice nearly bought a bike from him, latterly a Honda Hornet which was all set to go on the boat north until there was a serious problem loading it onto a trailer at Hugh's home. In retrospect, I wondered whether it was the first sign of the illness that would lead to where we are now. Once, he nearly bought a bike from me. He frequently tried to interest me in buying one of his campervans.

I'll miss him. His zest for life, his taste in music, his spirit of adventure. I've been trying to find pictures of the FOTTOMERS Malt and Barley Revue gig at Eurocentral, but perhaps this one sums up the spirit of the man. Much missed. Ride on.

This week's Beatcroft Social playlist - Spotify playlist is further down

Call Mother a Lonely Field - Jackie Leven
Don't Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll - Long John Baldry
Ancient Jules - Steve Gunn
Heavy Heartless - Neon Waltz
Laundromat - Rory Gallagher
Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
Walkin' My Cat Named Dog - Norma Tanega
People Get Ready - The Chambers Brothers
I Just Don't Have The Time - Randall Bramblett
Theme For An Imaginary Western - Jack Bruce
Avenging Annie - Andy Pratt
Indianapolis - The Bottle Rockets
Back In The Night - Dr. Feelgood
Ain't Wastin' Time No More - The Allman Brothers Band
This Ain't New York - Mercy John
Travelling Riverside Blues -  Led Zeppelin
Come On In My Kitchen - Robert Johnson
Divine Intervention - Matthew Sweet
God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind) - Etta James
Wandering Boy - Randy Newman
Excuse Me Mister - John Martyn
Diamonds On the Inside - Ben Harper
Whenever You're On My Mind - Marshall Crenshaw
Vagabond Moon - Willie Nile
Turtleneck - The National
Into My Arms - Shelby Lynne

Red Right Hand -  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 9 September: Remembering Walter Becker via Steely Dan's earliest days, celebrating the rhythm guitar and more...

Steely Dan were always for the more cerebral among us, which kinda left me behind with my Uriah Heep,  Steeleye Span (easy ordering mistake to make, maw) and Led Zep albums. The truth is, I always loved the very early stuff, from hearing 'Dallas' (still very difficult to find on CD and vinyl) the first single, on a Probe Records sampler which I still have. Don't get me wrong, I later grew to love Donald Fagen's voice, but David Palmer on 'Dallas' and 'Dirty Work' is fantastic. He went on to co-write with Carole King after Fagen's voice 'grew strong enough' for live work. And he's still around.

Becker of course, departed the planet this week. While I've always found some of the Dan's work cold and, with its self-conscious virtuosity, alienating, I loved chunks of it and I will always remember a first family trip to Florida when we hired a massive SUV and headed from Miami to Orlando, a CD of Steely Dan's Greatest Hits providing the perfect accompaniment to freeway driving.

Meanwhile, this week has seen Shetland beginning the withering into winter with the first equinoctial gales. As you can see below, I did manage a splendid trip out on the electric bike, the ideal mode of travel for gentlemen of a certain age. Though it's coming up for end-of-motorbike season, which means there could be an MZ or BMW GS going cheap. Keeping an eye out anyway.

This week's playlist follows. 'Dallas' isn't on Spotify.

Dallas - Steely Dan
Biloxi - Hiss Golden Messenger
Biloxi - Ian Matthews
Biloxi Parish - The Gaslight Anthem
Never Been a Captain - The Barr Brothers
Jersey Girl - Hell Blues Choir
Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Help You Ann - Lyres
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window - Wilko Johnson
Midnight Train - David Rawlings
Johannesburg - Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson
Sabrina - The Stray Birds
Beautiful Scars - Blackie & The Rodeo Kings
If You Want Blood (You've Got It) - AC/DC
Crossroads - Gurf Morlix
The Hook - Stephen Malkmus
A Life Of Illusion - Joe Walsh
Dirty Work - Steely Dan
Time to Pretend - MGMT
Iron Sky - Paolo Nutini
Survival Car - Fountains Of Wayne
Who's Got A Match? - Biffy Clyro
Hedy Lamarr - Findlay Napier
Standing Over Elvis - Paul Brand
Rescue - The Legendary Hearts
Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson
Living For The City - Stevie Wonder

There She Goes, My Beautiful World - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Not run-of-the-mill: A wee electrobike jaunt to Eshaness and secret Tangwick

A bright, beautiful, slightly windy day and so it was off on the hill-smoothing, gust-busting electrobike up to Eshaness, where I was distracted by the usual dreadlocked ponies. With the lighthouse and cliffs looking a tad too tourist-tastic I diverted down the Tangwick road...
Get lost. I know you have no carrots

...There to see, as I had done many times previously, the tiny sign 'to watermill'. I'd always thought it signified the usual clutter of stones along a burn where grain had been milled in the past on quernstones, but feeling more curious than usual, I trundled along the track until a  line of posts led into what seemed like remotest bog...

Walk from here. Bike is great - limited to 15.5 mph on batteries but freewheeled to 36 mph going downhill
....then there appeared two carefully-constructed wooden walkways and a bridge, plus a stone, turf-roofed building. There was the sound of rushing water. After yesterday's torrential downpour, no surprise. A notice explained that, a decade previously, with grant aid from some of the usual suspects (who had money for this sort of thing, back then) the Hillswick and Eshaness Area Regeneration and Development Association had restored (and essentially reconstructed) the watermill to full functionality.
The daily grind
                                ...though the millstones weren't actually going round and round,  because the horizontal mill wheel was jammed, either deliberately or through rustiness. Was I tempted to crawl in there and see if I could get it (and the stones) turning? Momentarily. The sensation passed.
If only I'd had some WD40...
.and so it was back on the bike for the return trip. Alas, the Braewick Café was shut, but Martha had left some of her excellent espresso chocolate cupcakes in the fridge at home. Of which, relatively guilt-free, I duly partook.

View from Braewick towards the Drongs

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Beatcroft Social - Shawn, Mark, Angela and Neil - Special Shetland Visitors' Edition

It's been quite a week - Shawn and Mark from Virginia, Neil from Crieff and Angela from Auchtermuchty came to visit - long-term friends of the various TM radio shows, and I thought it'd be good to get some song choices from them for the show. Actually, Mark and Shawn put together their own celebratory show for the visit which you can find on last week's posting here - every song themed to 'radio'.
Oh, and I can't resist pointing out to the powers that think they know about promotion that Angela, Mark and Shawn have all considered moving to Shetland - and only because they discovered the place through the radio shows and the Promote Shetland webcams.

 Shawn, as you will hear, chose several songs, which is fine, and I think you'll enjoy this "visitors' selection", along with my own. I can't get Richard Thompson's 'Guns Are The Tongues' out of my head at the moment'. And the new David Rawlings album, Poor David's Almanack, is marvellous.
Just a quick word for two of the 'Fottomers' team who haven't been well recently - the founder of it all, Hugh Docherty, and Edward Johnson-Ott over in Indianapolis. Thinking about them. And in a week when most media attention has been on the awful flooding in Texas and now Louisiana, the last track - Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood - is also a call to remember the thousands who have died and the hundreds of thousands affected by terrible flooding in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Beatcroft Social for 26 August 2017: Tom Morton's weekly musical meditation on Sheffield synth-pop, crunchy Modern-Lovers-influenced indie sarcasm, arty detours, earnest hollers, much twanging in the Shetland peat bogs, and loud thumping noises to boot...

Summer slipped away this week. Shetland had two gloriously warm, sunny and ferociously midgey days, and then, as the nights began to make their darkness felt properly for the first time, the clouds descended, the rain started falling and then the wind began to blow.

Anyway, here's the show. The Spotify playlist is at the bottom of the page,  just after the lyric which in fact marked the last BBC late-night show I did, more than two years ago now. I'm still thrilled by so much music, new and old, and was thoroughly inspired by reading this Quietus piece by Joe Thompson of the band Hey Colossus.

Enjoy. Next week I hope to include some chat with longstanding listeners and visitors to Shetland Mark Buff and Shawn Morton, who have come all the way from Virginia. They have their own radio show on Mixcloud, available here: Remember you can get in touch via Twitter @thebeatcroft or on Facebook

That Sound

Seven inches of plastic
Or 12 if I have the time
10 inches of shellac
Never eight or nine
45 or 33 and a third
78 rpm
Even if you don’t like numbers
Remember them

Watch the needle dropping down
Watch the record going round 
Everything you’ve ever lost 
Everything you’ve ever found
Is in that sound

People say I’m stuck in a  groove
I don’t care
Everything I need to hear
Is there

Talk about jumping, pops and clicks and hiss
Those are the things I always miss
I remember every scratch, every listening lover
Every joint that was rolled  on the cover
Take a sapphire or a diamond
You need a precious stone
To get the music from the holy

Watch the needle dropping down
Watch the record going round 
Everything you’ve ever lost 
Everything you’ve ever found
Is in that sound

Friday, August 18, 2017

New Beatcroft Social Show now streaming via Mixcloud. Oh, and a poem about bogies

One of those weird weeks that start slowly with nothing much happening, then gradually accelerates until, on Thursday and Friday, you're running about like a mad thing trying to finish promised pieces of my case, articles about Lumpfish and polytunnels. Such is the cutting edge investigative journalism that pays (at least some of the) bills.

The weekly Beatcroft Social is always a pleasure, and here it is. Spotify playlist (scroll right, further)  can be used if you wish to avoid my verbal rumblings. But I should say there is a great story about abandoning drummers in Texas on the Mixcloud stream. But hey, uh, nothing ever happens, does it?

By way of added value, here's a poem from my so far unpublished children's book called 'Disgusting Songs for All Occasions'


I love breakfast
When I wake up
I drink tea
From a big white cup
I like cornflakes and I like toast
But there one thing I love the most

They come from out our noses
they taste like Cadbury’s Roses
If you don’t believe you should do a scientific test
You’ll find that bogies are best

I like dinner
In the middle of the day
Some call it lunch
Why I just couldn’t say
If there’s not enough I know what do
I just blow my nose and have a chew

Teatime I have juice
And that’s all right
Supper just before
I go to sleep for the night
If I wake up with a need to munch
I’ve got some dried in a matchbox - they make a LOVELY crunch!

They come from out our noses
they taste like Cadbury’s Roses
If you don’t believe you should do a scientific test
You’ll find that bogies are best

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 12 August 2017 - From Glen Campbell to Superchunk, via The Saints and Greta Van Fleet. And Led Zeppelin of course...

It's been a hard but satisfying week, writing 30,000 words of a food book I'm collaborating on with my son James. Morning until night, writing in the same way I wrote Spirit of Adventure, Going Home and Red Guitars in Heaven. Is it any good? Time, James and our editors will tell. I think I get better the faster I go and the more I do, but that's the old hack in me talking.

So I haven't been out much, or taking in much new music or media. It was impossible to miss though, the outpouring of affection and sense of loss that accompanied the death of Glen Campbell. The Rolling Stone obituary was insightful, I thought, in quoting Tom Petty to the effect that Campbell was never cool, and you had to work a bit to get beyond the mom'n'pop right wing appeal - a point raised by my friend Audrey Gillan on social media. This after all, was the guy who, when he first met his lifelong friend and songwriting inspiration Jimmy Webb, said sternly: "Get your hair cut!"

Anyway, here's this week's Beatcroft Social. Thanks for the feedback last week re Patreon, and the offers of support. I think I'll just bash on in my amateurish way for the moment, until I run out money. There will be more stuff for sale via The Last Bookshop and this site, though, and of course there are always the books on Amazon, Etsy and at The Shetland Times. Cheers! That's about the size of it for this week...see you next week! and of course on Twitter @thebeatcroft or

Here's the playlist. If you have Spotify, you can of course listen without hearing me talk...

Friday, August 04, 2017

The return of The Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud - two hours of music and inconsequential chat on Mixcloud and Spotify (without the wittering)

Posting a bit earlier than usual, here's The Beatcroft Social, fresh in after a two-week break. If you enjoy the show and want to support it, please buy a book or a lump of artiness via Etsy, Amazon or eBay - see the links on the right. There will be more artefacts up for sale in the course of the week from The Last Bookshop.

I've been pondering the use of Patreon to support the show - it creates a kind of membership-by-subscription thing with added benefits for subscribers which I suppose might include special one-off shows, gigs, postcards, limited edition books and the like.  I've always been averse to the whole crowdfunding culture, but Patreon is close to the way public radio is funded in the USA. Any thoughts welcome.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I won't be writing for iScot again

 iScot Magazine is a Scottish-independence-supporting online and print magazine, for which I’ve written extensively over the past two years, including a monthly whisky column. Its August edition sports a cover based on the 17th Century Rubens painting The Three Graces, with the heads of Ruth Davidson, Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster superimposed.

The original’s famous portrayal of nakedness has been modified with Photoshopped ‘modesty’ bands. This is a change from the much-trailed-on-social-media version of the cover, which featured crudely drawn-in ‘bikini’ patches.

That first version, which was evidently aimed at creating controversy and attention - and succeeded in doing so - was condemned by a number of people associated with the independence movement, including Women For Indy board member and owner of Glasgow’s Yes Bar, Suzanne McLaughlin, as ‘misogynist and puerile’.

I can only concur. The ‘modesty’ version which has ended up being published is in some ways worse, in that it references the controversy and demeans a piece of great art, reducing it to mere prurience. 

I put my point of view to Ken McDonald, owner and editor of iScot, before publication and it became evident that we disagreed. As he put it, many women ‘did not find the cover sexist.’ My argument would be that not only is the cover sexist, in that it demeans, is prejudiced against and attacks women for being women, but it is misogynist in that it shows a deep contempt for women. As one appalled (female) observer said: ‘The power of that cover comes only from the fact that naked female bodies are displayed. It would never be contemplated with male nakedness and male politicians. It attacks the people concerned simply for being female.”

Ken has committed his savings, indeed his life to the magazine and has been a delightful and supportive person to work with over the past years. My own tentative move towards support for independence was narrated in the magazine, and while there were always issues with some of the less professional and occasionally peculiar contributions, the publication’s sheer existence against considerable odds has been extraordinary, and a real tribute to Ken’s commitment and energy.

Over the past week, and indeed fuelled by the trailing of the August cover, a slow fund-raising and subscription campaign has accelerated and - heavily endorsed by the blog Wings Over Scotland - taken off, and it now seems the future of the magazine for the next year is secure. 

I, however, will not be writing for iScot in the future. It is ironic that my piece in the August edition reviews Rachel McCormack’s new book Chasing the Dram - a thoroughly feminist look at Scotland’s relationship with whisky.

It would be easy to point to the extreme corners of the independence movement and identify lurking elements of sexism, homophobia and, as Neil Mackay, editor of the Sunday Herald said on (and about) Twitter this week, ‘dumb toxic bile’. You can find the same sentiments among unionists.

But neither nationalism nor unionism is more important than respect for human beings. Than simple decency.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Beatcroft Social, 15 July 2017: The world of Mickey Jupp, and much more. Full text playlist and Spotify playlist too

Regular listeners will know I'm a big and longstanding fan of the enigmatic Mickey Jupp, and I'm currently reading an excellent biography by Mike Wade called Hole in my Pocket: The True Legend of Mickey Jupp, the Rock'n'Roll Genius Who Declined to Be A Star. That includes a list of Mickey's favourite tracks by other artists, and a couple of those are included here, along with something incredibly powerful by his band Legend and a cover version of one of his greatest songs by Dave Edmunds. Then there's a whole heap of other stuff...accompanied in this instance by a glass of mysterious, unlabelled whisky. Which was quite nice.

  • Legend - I Feel Like Sleeping
  • Dave Edmunds - Standing at the Crossroads
  • Elmore James - Standing At The Crossroads
  • Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys - 2020 Vision
  • Margie Hendrix - Don't Destroy Me

Saturday, July 08, 2017

A turbulent week with two hours of music at the end to look forward to...

Well, it's been a bit of a week. All the fuss about the health board exploded all over the local media, mainly because I was determined to have my say, and not go quietly. I'll publish my full, 1000-word article about why I resigned as a non-executive board member next week, as it's only fair that The Shetland Times has it exclusively first. Look there and on the Shetland News site for news of how Shetland Wool Week has been saved by Loganair sponsorship, and other island matters.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Beatcroft Social on Mixcloud, 1st July 2017. Complete with not very subtle book plugging!

Welcome back!

Well, here we go again. No Saturday night drives to Lerwick, enjoyable badinage with Iain, Andy and Bo, or fabulous webcam coverage from around Shetland's wondrous coastline. It's an audio-only Beatcroft Social from Quidawick in Ramnavine. Great music, slightly less interactivity. And some photographs from the Attic of Obscurities here at The Last Bookshop. Have a browse if you like. See you - or to be precise, hear me - next week. Same time, same place.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Signed copies of In Shetland, and all the online options...

OK, I have a couple of boxes of books now, and so you can get signed and personally dedicated copies direct from me here. The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick has signed copies too.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

Monday, June 05, 2017

In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop. Signed copies available. 'A Present from Ramnavine' pack SOLD OUT

Please read the next post, the one below. But if you just want to buy In Shetland: Tales from the Last Bookshop, here are the various online options:

 The limited edition 'Present from Ramnavine' pack is now SOLD OUT. All orders will be sent out on Tuesday of NEXT WEEK (waiting for delivery of books). If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here. Again, waiting for books, so it'll be Tuesday before I can send anything. I'll be delighted to write a dedication to you or someone else if it's a gift.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

Book making: 'In Shetland' has escaped into the world...

A Present From Ramnavine...
I wanted to make a book about my relationship with Shetland. A love story, really. Truthful, factual, fictional. Tender and brutal, caring and funny and capturing the place, the people, the sheep, goats and boats as best I could. I wanted to delve into 20 years and more of writing about being here, and make something of all those words, tens of thousands of words, some published, some not. And I focussed on the Last Bookshop idea because I did, in fact, run our old croft Gateside as an actual, come-in-and-have-a-coffee second-hand bookshop for a year or so. Have ever since dabbled with selling books and art online, and recently taken the whole thing a bit more seriously (£179, the other day, for a rare whisky book which cost me nothing; more than I've earned from actually writing books for...a long time.

Front cover. That's Muckle Ossa in the simmer dim
I began editing, then rewriting, and writing afresh. Monthly blogs from Promote Shetland turned into essays, began twisting in my hands into something else. I made some pieces of -  let's say art, from beach finds, seaglass, wood, stone. Sold them. I left the BBC, blogged, broadcast locally but also to the world on 60 North Radio/TV, and about Shetland. And I wondered: could I put this together? A blog, a bookshop, a book about a bookshop, broadcasting, the artwork? Be a small, remote, connected self-contained creative unit? Tell some stories, make some noise, make some things to put on people's walls? Sell stuff?

I don't like the crowdfunding concept, and sites like Patreon still less. I don't want to beg for support, or ask for help in writing a book, or making music which could, in the end, be rubbish. I particularly dislike the 'tipping' notion that Patreon thrives on. It's like busking, only you're asking people to give you cash on the basis of what you might be like if you only had a chance to work on your act. Truth is, many years ago, in another life as an evangelical 'living by faith' musician, that's what I did. I had a 'prayer letter'. I cultivated support. I begged. (And gigged and made records, it must be said). It felt weird and wrong then. It feels weird and wrong now. When there's no praying for money.

Religion aside (and I look back on my Brethren past a little in the book), I've been writing and talking professionally for over 30 years. I believe in what I do. I'd rather make something and offer it for sale. Sure, there's an act of faith (small 'f') involved. The excerpts online or that you leaf through in a  shop may not be representative. There's luck. But anyway, I've made this stuff, paid for it. Here it is. If you like, you can weigh up the idea, sample it online and pay me for it, see how you get on. I like the notion of a transaction. For a long time, I was a typewriter for hire. For cash money. Hitting deadlines, wordcounts, timings. Was I any good? Good enough to get paid. Maybe I've written enough. Who knows? Soon find out!

At least the stuff is out there. And as far as In Shetland is concerned, I think it contains some of my best writing.

What I've decided to do is produce something new about Shetland (pictures, writing, videos, poems) at least weekly here, online, for free. And I'll offer some stuff for sale, too: My writing, art, second-hand books. Check out the side panel for links to my eBay and Etsy shops. And if you're in Shetland yourself, drop in and browse. At the actual Last Bookshop. Because it does exist. All you have to do is find it.

What's it like? Have a read at the first chapter on Amazon. You don't have to own a Kindle or register with Amazon. Just click on 'Look Inside' here.

The limited edition 'Present from Ramnavine' pack is now SOLD OUT. All orders will be sent out on Tuesday of NEXT WEEK (waiting for delivery of books). If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here. Again, waiting for books, so it'll be Tuesday before I can send anything. I'll be delighted to write a dedication to you or someone else if it's a gift.  If you just want a signed copy, for £9.99 plus postage, go here.

Otherwise, here's how to get the book. In paper and cardboard, it's available from The Shetland Times Bookshop in Lerwick; You can order it through ANY bookshop quoting the ISBN number  (tell them it's distributed by Ingrams). It's cheap online via Lulu, and roughly the same in paperback if you have Amazon Prime, as that includes postage. Amazon also have it as a Kindle download and this is REALLY CHEAP - less than a third of the paper price (bit of a Morton obsession, Kindle pricing).

I'm enjoying the process of being a book maker. I hope you enjoy the end result and maybe some of the associated attachments. I'm betting you will.