White Lion english pub

If there was an endangered species act for national icons, the British pub (or public house) might be on it.

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, since 1982 the number of pubs across the United Kingdom has declined from 68,000 to fewer than 50,000 in 2012, and about 25-30 pubs close every week.

What has brought the venerable British pub low?

The reasons are varied and include sky high real estate prices, which make it more profitable to sell a valuable pub property than continue its operation.

The corporate wheeling and dealing of “pubcos” (corporate pub companies) have also contributed hugely to the diminishing number of pubs. First, pubcos have sold many pubs to pay off corporate debt. Second, they impose restrictive agreements on licensees who manage their pubs which narrow both the range of beers the latter can sell and the profits they can enjoy.

A third problem is that supermarkets can now significantly undercut the price of pub beer.

The good news is that public awareness has been raised by the looming crisis of the disappearing pub and efforts are under way to arrest it. And craft breweries in the UK are booming.

So fear not. Buying good ale in most towns or cities in Britain (and a decent cider too for that matter) remains almost as easy as it is in, well, the thriving Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, home to many craft beer lovers, several fine craft breweries, and, not coincidentally, to some of the contributors to this blog.

I have made fun of Dr. Charles Krauthammer on these pages in the past, but nobody does it like Stephen Colbert. Here’s the segment from last night’s show where Stephen skewers Krauthammer for his interview on the Hugh Hewitt show where he gave his unofficial, “layman’s” diagnosis of President Obama’s mental state: “Obama is clearly a narcissist”.

Enjoy.

Operation Market Garden

On the morning of 17 September 1944 amid the droning sound of hundreds of aircraft, the clear skies over southern Holland were suddenly filled with what resembled a myriad of snowflakes. Operation Market Garden had begun.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, commanding the British/Canadian 21st Army Group, planned to leap the Lower Rhine River (the Nederrijn in the Netherlands) and outflank the German Siegfried Line on Germany’s borders with France and Belgium for a concentrated thrust into the North German Plain.

The US 82nd and 101st and 1st British Airborne Divisions would provide an airborne carpet along a sixty mile route from Eindhoven via Nijmegen to Arnhem capturing bridges over several major waterways. The paratroopers would then await relief by the ground forces of the British 2nd Army’s XXX Corps led by General Sir Brian Horrocks attacking north along a single road.

The 1st Airborne had the most dangerous assignment since their objective, the road bridge at Arnhem, was the farthest from XXX Corps; however, the two US divisions had the complicated task of both securing a number of vital bridges, and defending the road against German counterattacks from both flanks (which in the event they did, heroically).

The success of the plan was jeopardized by the presence of two battered yet powerful German SS panzer divisions that were refitting near Arnhem. Ultimately, these units and German proficiency at improvisation would determine the outcome of Market Garden.

The two American airborne divisions achieved most of their initial objectives but the 82nd Airborne, which had secured key bridges over the Maas River and Maas-Waal Canal, and vital high ground needed to block German counterattacks from the Reichswald Forest, lacked the manpower to move immediately on the road and rail bridges over the Waal River at Nijmegen. By the time they did, it was too late – German SS troops had arrived from Arnhem to strongly fortify the approaches to both bridges.

The 1st British Airborne whose drop zones were 6-8km from Arnhem, encountered strong German opposition and only managed to get an understrength battalion, perhaps 700 men, under Lieutenant Colonel John Frost to the north end of the bridge. The rest of the division was unable to break through and soon found itself in a fight for its life against ad hoc German battle groups, as did Frost.

Meanwhile the ground offensive by XXX Corps encountered strong German resistance in its attack from the Meuse-Escaut Canal.

Already behind schedule when they reached Nijmegen, the British joined the 82nd in attacking the road and rail bridges but made little progress. So confident were the Germans that they decided not to demolish the bridges but to defend them for use in future operations.

On the fourth day with time running out for Frost’s gallant band, a battalion of the 82nd launched a daring assault in daylight across the 250-metre wide Waal downriver from Nijmegen in flimsy British canvas and plywood boats. Under intense German fire, about half of the craft managed to reach the north bank. The surviving paratroopers stormed ashore and charged towards the north end of the bridges where they met tanks of the Guards Armoured Division who, along with other American paratroopers, had finally cracked the German defences south of the bridges. German attempts to demolish the latter failed. The Nijmegen bridges were in allied hands.

By then, however, Frost’s band had been overwhelmed. And to the fury of the American paratroopers who had sacrificed so much to capture the Nijmegen bridges, XXX Corps did not attack north for 18 hours while they regrouped. By then the Germans had blocked the way to Arnhem.

The British reached the Nederrijn but could not reinforce the 1st Airborne across the river. Two thousand survivors of the 10,000 who landed were evacuated on the night of 25/26 September. Market Garden had failed.

The 82nd and 101st suffered 3,500 casualties but had performed brilliantly, solidifying their reputations as two of the finest divisions fielded by any army in World War II. That Market Garden achieved 90% of its objectives, as Montgomery later put it, was due in no small measure to their efforts. Unfortunately, the other 10% was the difference between success and failure.

For the cinematic version of this story, watch Richard Attenborough’s 1977 film, A Bridge Too Far, starring Anthony Hopkins as Lieutenant Colonel Frost, Edward Fox as Lieutenant General Horrocks, plus Sean Connery as Major General Urquhart.

During lunch today I went to Easy Street Records in West Seattle and bought the new tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 album, Born in the USA, titled Dead Man’s Town (more about this in a future post). When I got back to my computer I went to Pitchfork to look for a review of the album. They didn’t have one up yet, so I clicked on their review for U2’s new free album, Songs of Innocence and read this:

Time was, the recipe for a superstar artist to create a Big Event Album was well known—a few teaser ads in the music mags, a lead single for radio, some late-night talk show appearances, then sit back and watch the fans line up at the record store on release day. But now that basically every entity in that sentence has been culturally marginalized, and the propeller churn of social media refuses to tolerate slow-burn marketing, the best—and, perhaps, only—way to get everyone talking about your record at once is to release it with no warning. U2 being U2, they’ve taken that strategy one step over the line into indisputably queasy territory, aligning with their old friends Apple to insert their new album, Songs of Innocence, into all of our libraries without consent. By updating the old Columbia House Record Club scam to the digital age, U2 and their Cupertino buddies have created a new avenue of opt-out cultural transmission, removing even the miniscule effort it takes to go to a website and click “Download.”

Huh?

I immediately picked up my iPhone and opened iTunes to see if the new U2 album was there. It was.

Apple and U2 pushed the album to my iTunes and didn’t even bother to ask if I wanted it? They can do that? Well of course they can, but they actually thought about it and decided it was a good thing to push albums on to everyone’s devices with no opt out?

I hardly ever listen to music on my phone because I haven’t heard an MP3 file yet that was worthy of listening. The sound quality is terrible, and I can only stand listening to them in a pinch like when I’m on an airplane, on a bus, or stuck in a snowstorm somewhere without access to quality music. (Read all about it in this Guardian article if you are interested). But I digress…

The point is I don’t put very much music on my iPhone. I think I might have around 30 albums on it, but they are 30 very carefully chosen albums that I know I would enjoy listening to at any time anywhere. My 30 desert-island discs. But now there’s an album on my phone that I’ve never even listened to. I’ve only heard part of one song on a TV ad for the new album. I might not ever listen to it on my phone because MP3. Why would I? The Pitchfork review wasn’t very good – they gave it a numerical rating of 4.2 out of 10.

I think U2 and Apple have crossed a line with their brash decision to force an album onto users of Apple devices without notice and without an option to decline. Most people aren’t going to like this move no matter how much they might like their Apple products or U2.

KEXP is gearing up for it’s fall pledge drive, and this time it’s asking listeners to vote on their top twelve artists of all time. They will be counting down through the list of top artists during their pledge drive that begins September 26th.

These listener polls never turn out the way I would like them to, and sometimes they are so far off the mark I wonder if all the other listeners are even listening to the same radio station.

That said, here is my list of top twelve for you all to review and critique at your leisure.

The top six that should be on everyone’s list:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Patti Smith

Tom Waits

Johnny Cash

P.J. Harvey

The Clash

The next tier of six

Bob Dylan

Bruce Springsteen

The Rolling Stones

Nirvana

X

Bob Marley

That makes twelve, but if I could vote for more, I’d choose:

Neil Young

Prince

Jimi Hendrix

Mark Lanegan

Public Enemy

Hank Williams, Sr.

Elvis Costello

Sonic Youth

That’s twenty. I could go on, but I won’t.

So keep these artists in mind (especially the top 6, because they belong at the top) when you go to KEXP to cast your votes.

You have until 6:00 p.m. this Friday, so don’t delay. Vote now!
Check back when the pledge drive ends on October 3rd to see who the listeners picked.

Valerie June played Bumbershoot today and told the audience some things about the songs she played. Here she is telling us about the title track to her 2013 album, Pushin’ Against a Stone.

Valerie June - Pushin'

And here are some more shots of her performance at the Mural Amphitheater.

Valerie June Mural 1

Valerie June full shot

Valerie June Mural 2

All photos take with a Sony NEX-5 with using a 55mm – 210mm zoom, loaded here as 50% of actual size. Click on photos to embiggen.

Replacements Bumbershoot 2014

The Replacements were my favorite band back in the eighties. Paul Westerberg wrote great rock ‘n roll lyrics, and the band was loose and wild. You never knew what to expect from them. They could be sloppy drunk, they could decide to shave their eyebrows… Buy one thing you knew was they would be playing at deafening volumes. I blame them for much of my hearing loss.

They recently reformed with original members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson on bass. They’ve added Dave Minehan on guitar taking over Slim Dunlap’s role, and Josh Freese on drums taking over Chris Mars’ role.

They don’t do a lot of shows, so we in Seattle should consider ourselves lucky to have performed at Bumbershoot yesterday. I’ve been to hundreds of shows at Bumbershoot, and I have to say that their performance yesterday was the best Bumbershoot show I’ve ever seen.

Here are the photos – all taken with a Sony NEX-5 using a 55mm – 210mm zoom. (50% resolution for this post. Click on them to embiggen)

Paul Westerberg and Josh Freese

Tommy Stinson

Paul Westerberg

Paul Westerberg up front

Dave Minehan

Paul the Blues Harp Player

Westerberg and Minehan - encore

And here is the setlist via When You Motor Away.

Favorite Thing
Takin a Ride
I’m in Trouble
Don’t Ask Why
I’ll Be You
Valentine
Waitress in the Sky
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Third Stone From the Sun
Take Me Down to the Hospital
I Want You Back
Nowhere Is My Home
Color Me Impressed
Achin’ To Be
Kiss Me on the Bus
Androgynous
I Will Dare
Love You in the Fall (Westerberg solo song)
White and Lazy
Love You Till Friday/Maybellene
Can’t Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
Encore:
Left Of The Dial
Alex Chilton