RIP Nick Kamen

Well, it’s not been a good few weeks for losing musical acts who I actually like… We lost Jim Steinman a few weeks ago, and I found out today that we’ve also lost Nick Kamen, who wrote and performed one of my favourite songs “I Promised Myself”.. I first picked up the record when I was in Garmany back in 2007, and I had this to say at the time…

“Another stall sold 7” singles, by far my audio format favourite. I picked “I promised Myself” by Nick Kamen – a song which I’d heard originally in the Hartlepool shopping centre, at about 8AM in the morning before the shops even opened. But that’s a story for another day. I also bought two others which aren’t really worth mentioning, as they were simply ro replace scratched copies of records I already had.”

It just occurred to me that I never told the story of how I heard this song. Right, so I’m going on memories that are *at least* 15 years old, but I remember the main gist of it. As you know, if you’ve followed this blog for over 9 years (well done if you have), that I used to work nights, 3 days on, 3 days off. At rhe end of the 3 days on, it was not unusual for me to have a couple of pints with my fellow work colleagues, and seeing as the local Wetherspoons (which is no longer owned by them), didn’t open at 9, I’d have 45 minutes or so to kill. the shopping centre was next to the afore-mentioned establishment, so this would often see me walk around aimlessly, especially as none of the shops would be open.

One thing that was noticeable, is that the tannoy system was actually audible. It plays the entire time that the shopping centre is open, but it’s normally barely audible by the sound of screaming children, dismayed parents, and all of the other sounds that a shopping centre in a deprived area of the North-East would emit.

Thankfully, as mentioned, it was audible, and I heard this particular song. I’d not heard it before, and insteantly fell in love with it. This was long before the days of Shazam, or even Android (I was probably rocking the world with a (a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Ericsson_K800i”>K800i back then), but I somehow got enough lyrics for me to google it, and find out the artist.

And… ero, that’s pretty much it. As mentioned, I tracked down the single in Berlin. At some point, I picked up the album on CD, and on 20th February 2016, I picked up the 12″ version. It still amazes me that this song wasn’t a bigger hit than it was, at least here anyway, reaching a measly #50.

In other news, it’s now under a week until I get my second COVID jab. Hopefully things will return to some type of normality, and I can start typing about the crap I’ve found in charity shops again. I bet you all can’t wait for that!

More Amiga stuff… Some Gravity Power Levels!

One thing I loved about the Amiga was the creative aspect of it. In fact, I’m sure the first program I loaded up on that fateful Xmas day in 1993, was Deluxe Paint IV. Being able to create your own “stuff” is what set it aside from the 8-bit machines. My main computer of choice during my childhood was the ZX Spectrum. Sure, I could do stuff with it, like write programs and all of that, but loading and saving stuff to tape was a nightmare. It certainly wasn’t convenient, and tape, to me back then, was a commodity not to be wasted. It was precious, and in short supply, and my creations would often get overwritten with other junk, or stuff from the radio.

When my amiga arrived, it opened up a whole new world of possibility and wonderment. No longer did I have to rely on tapes. Disks were faster, (barely) more reliable, larger storage capacity and more plentiful than the much maligned cassette tape.

Of course, fast forward a year, and up pops the hard drive! even faster, definitely more reliable than floppy disks, and I could store almost 300 floppies onto the drive. The posibilities really were endless. I created quite a bit of “stuff” – pictures, music, level designs, and that’s what the below video is about…

Gravity Power was a “covergame” – a free game that came sellotaped to the 50th edition of Amiga Power. I loved playing it with my friend Wayne back in the day. Several months later, an editor got released for it, and myself and Wayne would spend many an afternoon blasting levels out for it. Due to the fact I was at college at the time and had access to the internet, I rounded all of these up and put them on Aminet. Now, thanks to modern technology, I travel back in time to play these levels…. or at least view them in the editor!

Over the coming weeks, I intend to dig a little deeper into what went through my creative mind as a teenager, and just see how embarrassing / awesome it all is. At the end, I tease about some “Worms Directors Cut” levels… that might just be my next video once I get round to filming it!

My Amiga drive! It lives!

Today is a joyous day. well, yes, technically, it was yesterday now, but quite unbelieveably, my Amiga drive survived, and I’m over the moon to confirm that it actually works.

I know, over the last few days, I’ve promised some type of fanfare, or some type of great reveal about it. I decided that it would just be the worst thing, that I spent the time setting up a live stream, getting all excited, and finding that the drive didn’t work, or not spin up, or anything like that. Obviously, I’m typing this now, so I can confirm none of this actually happened. But still, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

On the off-chance, anyone is here to find out how to convert an A1200 hard drive to a machine readable format, let me give you a quick run-down. Now, unfortunately, despite me slamming the “PrtScr” button for all its worth, I totally forgot that UAE and Dropbox don’t play nicely when it comes to taking screenshots, so sadly, I didn’t get any of the procedure, but it was unbelieveably painless. The one thing to remember is that you *must* run WinUAE as administrator, otherwise the drive will appear with [ACCESS DENIED] next to it.

I initially had a panic about having to set the amount of heads and cylinders, but thankfully, this never materialised. Despite the drive’s age, it still had an automatic config, and WinUAE picked it up correctly. It’s then just a case of creating the image fine, and sitting back while it chugs though.

I was almost certain there was one bad sector on the drive, so I watched with baited breath, as the bar chugged its way across the disk, and evetually to the end. Nothing reported, we were all good to go. I hoped.

I mounted the image, held my breath, and pressed “Start”…

It’s a picture of a street light. I have no idea where this streetlight was (EDIT: See the end of the post). It caused me mto let out the biggest yelp of excitement in a very, very long time. This was the image I chose to display, way back in 1996ish, while my amiga went through its “startup-sequence”. It looks low-quality now, compared to the megapixels of 2021, but back in the day, to have a full colour image showing on your TV was quite a sight to behold. The image is slightly broken, as it turned out I was using the standard non-Commodore / Cloanto ROM that comes with WinUAE. It proved, at least, the drive image worked.

A quick switch over to a better ROM, and oh-my, away we went. This is where I would have left it so many years ago.

Turns out I was slightly wrong in my years, about the last time it booted up. Turns out the last time it was properly used was December 2000 – in one of the first posts I ever did on this site, I slapped this image up… (EDIT: Hopefully I’ll remember to fix this at some point, oops)

I’d forgotten about this, and was surprised to see a webcam image (oddly not mine, an image I saved of a mate and his ex from back in the day), with a timestamp of 2000, then yes, I had flashbacks of connecting a modem to my Amiga’s serial port, then transferring data using the two landline numbers we had back in the day. While this allowed SOME data to come off, the speed, and technical issues meant that I was only able to pull off a few megs of info, nothing close to the funn contents of the drive.

There was also a brief connect of the computer back in the mid 2000s, but this was only for a few minutes, as I’d discovered the graphics failure my Amiga had suffered had got considerably worse. From what I’ve seen, this could be leaky capacitors, but to me, at least, at the time of typing, the value of keeping my Amiga, all lived in the data stored on this drive. My worry about never being able to power it on again, all came from the worry about not seeing what was on here.

Amiga emulaton has came on leaps and bounds since I first heard about UAE – back when its name stood for “Unusable Amiga Emulator” because all it would display is a black screen. It’s 2021 and it’ll play everything I’ve thrown at it, but most importaly, I’ve got my hard drive. I can access everything that was on it. I’ve already got several security copies of the image on servers all around the world (y’know, just in case I was to listen to some .mods during the apocalypse), and the whole thing just feels like the end of a 25-year chapter.

Saying that, it also opens a new one. Granted, now, 240Mb is barely any information at all, but it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts. The next few days will be just exploring the drive, and seeing just exactly what has survived over the years

EDIT: Naaaah. You won’t have believe that I’ve just found, because I can’t believe it either. That image above…. STILL EXISTS on the internet. Now, all I have to go ff was the name, SUNSET.JPG. Not really very descriptive. Tonight, for some unknown reason that’s not even coming to mind, I started doing a Google Maps wander around Los Angeles. I noticed, concidentally, that the lighting columns looked very similar to what was on my Amiga’s startup screen. Just for giggles, I typed into Google Image search “Los Angeles Sunset 1996”. I incremented down the years, and sure enough, when I reached 1992, up came the original image…

So, I feel I absolutely must give credit to the fine folks at the City of Los Angeles Public Works – Bereau of Street Lighting for this almost 30-year-old image, and I hope you don’t mind me using this image for what is, essentially, one man’s lonely deep-dive into his own braincells during a desparately lonely lockdown period. Thank you for keeping it alive.

Cable’s arrived…

Not much of an update on my previous post, but just to say I now have the cable, Mr Amazons dropped it off at my door this morning….

I was going to do the big plugin tonight, but I’d slept like cack last night (can’t deny that part of it was excitement about this bloody cable arriving), so I went to bed straight after work, and went on my weekly lockdown Teams call with The Winnits (my only social interaction this week – I even considered asking Mr Amazons if he wants to talk for a bit, but he’d left the package outside, and he was already halfway down the gravel driveway of Mercuryvapour Towers by the time I got to the massive oak front door).

Therefore, I’ll likely get this all sorted tomorrow (Saturday). Don’t know how I’m going to go about this, whether it’s worthwhile doing any type of livstream for it, after all, the only person that’s going to have any interest on what’s on this bloody drive is me. I don’t know. Naturally, I’ll post my findings on here….

Bricking it, in case I brick it….

Right, let’s start with a post I wrote a couple of nights ago….

Here’s something I never thought would be possible. A blog entry entirely typed on an Amiga. Well, sort of. As you know, I’m a massive fan of the humble Amiga. A love that has never died, despite Amiga being locked away in a cupboard for the past 20 years, and only seeing the light of day several years ago to stop the battery from leaking. It’s always been at the back of my mind that I should do something with it, and I’m so much more closer it’s untrue.

Now you notice above, that although I said that I typed this on an Amiga? Well, it’s a half-truth. I’m typing it on an emulator, but still, everything is there. This is genuine Amigta software, being saved onto a floppy disk (image), which, if this works, will be copied over to a network drive and uploaded to MV. If you’re reading this, I managed to do it. If not, then… erm. wasn’t this a waste of a Tuesday night?

So, anyway, I bet you’re wondering why the sudden interest in the Amiga again after all of these years? I’m sure I’ve mentioned along the years that one of my favourite games was “Arcade Pool” by Team 17. A cracking little top-down pool game, and definitely one of my most played games, especially seeing as it was one of the few games I actually bought from a shop.

Anyway, I was bored on Sunday afternoon. The “Snooker Shootout” had finished, and I fancied something to eat. I popped downstairs, and Daddykins happened to be watching a train video. The background music just happened to be that exact same music used in Arcade Pool! I always thought it was an original composition used especially for the game, but apparently not! It turns out the music used is the “Fig Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin. Huh!

Well, all of those memories just came flooding back. I just had to play it again. Off I pop to download UAE, I dig out my A1200’s ROM dump which I created back in 1996, and also a disc image of Arcade pool, and I was in AGA enhanced, ball clacking heaven once again.

The fun didn’t stop there, however, as one thing I remembered, was that a while ago, I’d downloaded some disk images, from some old machines that, coincidentally, Team 17 had left over from their Worms development days. If I remember, I’ll insert a link here to where you can find them – there’s a whole video on YouTube. I was surprised to find that the one I tried (an image from an A1200’s hard drive) actually worked! It loaded up, booted, and I could use the machine just like it had been, when it was switched off for the last time some time in the 1990s. In fact, one of the pieces of software stated that it was something like 8,000 days over its 30 day trial period. Ooops.

I played with it for a bit, got bored, and seeing that it was only a copy of the image, I decided to just “wipe” it, and install Workbench 3.1 on it. Something I hadn’t done since I got my Amiga hard drive some time around 1994, early 1995.

You know, this has got me in one of those memory rabbit holes. It must have been after Christmas 1994, but can’t have been much after. Daddykins and I had been down to a shop in Leeds to get the drive. I’ve got conflicting memories of having my CB radio in the car with me, something I got for Xmas 1994, but I also remember getting this HDD for my birthday that year, which is before Xmas. It was also the first time I heard “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” by Bryan Adams. I remember it being months before I’d heard it again, and apparently it was on general release in April of 1995, so it must have been before then. Dunno. If only Google was tracking my every move back then. I might have still had a record of it!

Anyhoo, that was almost a post on its own. Back to my experimenting. It turns out that I couldn’t properly format this disk image. Amusingly, the disk image was damaged, so it wouldn’t format properly. It’s the first time I’ve had a physically damaged disk image that couldn’t be fixed by a format!

Yeeeeah, well it went on for a couple of more paragraphs without not really saying anything else, and I’m back typing this into lowly old WordPress. Such a come-down. I’m happy it worked though. There were a couple of keymap challenges on the way – despite installing the GB keymaps, it still gave me all of the settings for the US, and I had to change them manually. I forgot that was a thing. Also, the # key seems to have vanished. Anyway, onto the main part of the post…. the HARD DRIVE!

Yes, I mentioned that my Amiga’s been sat in a dusty cupboard for many years now. Tonight, I pulled it out of its cupboard, and ripped the plattery goodness from its deep underbelly.

There’s a date code of April 94 which would coincide with what I thought. The next step is wiring it up The drive is a Conner CFN250A, though I’m sure you can work that out from the pic above. Apparently it’s just IDE, so I’ve literally just ordered a cable set from Amazon. Could it be money down the kermit, or am I going to spend the weekend wallowing in so much nostalgia, the grey hairs in my beard will retract? You’ll have to wait and see…

2020. Oh. (Part 1 maybe)

“The year in review” is a post that I’d write anually, going through some of the highlights of the particular year that we’re about to leave behind, and maybe pick up on some of the highlights that weren’t covered by the blog. Many, many people would quite happily sit down and write this off as the worst year on record, me included, so just for fun, I’m going to go through this year with the palest rose-tinted spectacles imaginable, sift through the excrement and see if I canpick out a golden nugget of sweetcorn that makes me think, and you, my dear reader, that 2020 wasn’t all bad.

JANUARY

Yep, so there it is. Exactly midnight. I can confirm I brought in the new year filming my watch on my phone. I think this was about as rock and roll as it got. January 2nd saw our bin not getting emptied because someone had dumped a black sack into our recycling bin. But wait! January 3rd made me discover a culinary delight…

Roasties Butty Day… the day where I went to Fast Snacks for a chip butty, only to find out they didn’t have any chips. What? Turns out that roasties in a bun, plus a bit of curry sauce over them is actually pretty awesome. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of them so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

January 11th saw a trip to Betterzade, the record shop in Northallerton. I think I managed to get there twice this year, maybe three times? Other shops were involved too, of course. And I con’t care how old I get, doing this is still funny, and always will be…

Turns out I was predicting the future there, and it turns out 2020 was an absolute BF H of a year.

January 18th appears to be the day I started playing Pokemon Go again, thanks to the new phone. This has genuinely been the only thing keeping me sane in the last 12 months. I didn’t realise it’d been that long.

January 25th saw one of only two music gigs in the entire year, at Newcastle for Insomnium.   Really enjoyed this night. I think, by this time, rumours of the pandemic had just started to circle No concern at this point, obviously.

Insomnium, at the Riverside, Newcastle, 25th January 2020
Conjurer supporting.

FEBRUARY 2020

So far, my one and only trip to PLAY BREW in Middlesbrough, barring a brief stop during the easing of lockdown. A nice little “micro brewery” in the middle of an industrial estate in Middlesbrough.

This was a good night out, which ultimately ended in Loons, which is standard for a night out. Little did I know this was the only time I’d be in this establishment this year. 

The weather was a little stormy around this time, with Storm Ciara whipping the sea up and keeping me awake. No sooner had Storm Ciara dissipated, Storm Dennis moved in.

Storm Dennis

I bought a motherboard from Jamie o allow me to upgrade the Mean Green Ripping machine. It’s not mean and it’s not green, but at least it’s got a new motherboard. I also stuck an SSD up its grundle, and it runs like an absolute dream. Its a shame that I’ve hardly had chance to use it. I typed this on 25th February…

In other news, the mean green ripping machine is complete. I might have to pick up a wireless dongle for it though as it’s a bit of a pain dragging that 15 metre cable through the house. Probably should have got one when I was at Falcon [Cmputers, in Sunderland], but then I didn’t know that the one I had for it was complete rot.

Talking about complete rot, my foot flared up again, Turns out there was another infection on it which required different antibiotics to what I’d had in the past

My foot wasn’t the only thing getting infected, as the “entire world” was starting to get infected with COVID-19. The news of this bloody virus spread throughout the world, and cases began to rise. It was clear that a lockdown was inevitable. Thankfully, this didn’t happen quite yet, and I was able to attend one final gig in Newcastle. It became clear, however, that having so many people in such a small area is something that was not going to happen anymore


The month ended with the only Hartlepool record fair, where I ended up smashing a record 30 seconds after getting it home. Unbelieveable. This was on the leap day.

It was a particularly windy day too as I found out to my cost too. I picked up a particularly cheesy single for 66p. I got it home, took it out the back to take a photo of it, and it blew off the wheely bin, blew across the garden and snapped in half on a chair. Wounded.

MARCH

Word had began to circulate that we might have to start working from home. It was only a rumour, however, and for at least, for the beginning of the month, the world continued as normal, except that the paranoia started to kick in, especially when on the bus. The sound of every cough and sneeze being amplified. The grime etched into the stop buttons becoming even more noticeable.

The most exciting time of the year so far happened when the fluorescent “circline” tube in the front room died. It became mercury starved… for environmental reasons, the amount of mercury vapour in fluorescent tubes has been reduced. Over time, the mercury vapour that is in the tube seeps into the glass, meaning that over time, there’s no ultraviolet light formed to excite the phosphor on the inside of the tube, meaning the tube essentially dies by lighting a very dull pink. This had happened over the period of a few weeks, until the light output “fell off a cliff” so I’d already ordered a new tube in preparation. Surprisingly the first time I’ve fitted one of those tubes.

March 7th saw the last day out before lockdown, as i got the bus to Durham. I discovered there was more than one record stall in the indoor market. This would be my last record purchase until the summer, which is just as well, as it contained The Krankies’ “Fan Dabi Dozi”.

March 17 saw the beginning of the end. Shops were starting to run out of the essentials… even Iceland had ran out of eggs.

March 18 was the last time I’d be in the office, and March 19 was my first full day working from home. Initally, I didn’t like it….

It’s pretty lonely sat here. I’ve had Talk Sport blasting for most of the day just for the sound of someone else’s voice. Daddykins was downstairs for most of the day, so I could at least say stuff to him, but even then, he’s buggered off upstairs, so I’m left with this laptop. I’m getting sick of talk sport, so I can’t even listen to it anymore.

And that’s where I’m going to leave Part 1. We’re deep into lockdown by this point, and I’m going to need to do some proper research if I’m going to pad it out enough for a Part 2…

The Unknown Song II

Ok, I’m cheating a little, I typed about this one a few years ago, but since then, the link to the song stopped working, I didn’t put much detail as I could have, and really, there was very little effort on my part. Now, that the real unknown song has been put to bed forever (mainly though the actions and eventual death of DJ Tom Davies), I tought I’d drag this one out of the archives and give it another airing.. I have a feeling this one is a lot simpler to get, as I know it was released commercially at least once, even if it was on the front of a magazine.

As I mentioned previously, around the time of 1989-1990, my record collection was pretty much zero. I had to make do with tapes that my dad picked up from the petrol station, and hand-me-downs and C90s from the likes of Chad. Therefore, it was always nice to find new music from somewhere different. In this situation, it was sellotaped to the front of a magazine. In a change to my usual copy of “Your Sinclair”, at some point I decided to buy a music magazine.

And, this is where this song came in. Now, unlike the other “unknown” song, I can bring it to you in its entirety…. “So, why are you looking for it, then?” I hear you ask. Well, as  you can hear, it’s pretty much had all of the bass stripped out of it… This was a copy on a c90 which I duplicated using high speed dubbing, which had the downside of reducing sound quality. 

Both the original tape and the magazine are long gone, naturally , otherwise this would have been quite a bit easier to identify. 

Without further adieu, here is the song itself…

And here’s the link to it…

In the off-chance you can recognise it from the lyrics, here they are… And this is how I’m hearing them. I can 100% confirm they’re totally incorrect, and put here just for reference…

Oooooh, oooh, (yeah), etc

Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance (dance dance)
Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance (dance dance)
Mother, Father dance, Grandma dance, sister dance, everybody come along and dance
Mother, Father dance, Grandma dance, son dance, everybody come along and dance

Chubby Checker make a dance and the world start dance, now everybody take a chance
Chubby Checker make a dance and the world start dance, now everybody take a chance, two three four

[instrumental section]

Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the and dance (dance dance)
Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the and dance (dance dance)

London dance, it’s a dance, New York Dance, it’s a Dance, Japan Dance
Amsterdam(?) a dance, it’s a dance [??? ???] dance, it’s a dance, Africa dance
[Bla Flaya] make a dance and the world start dance, now everybody come and take a chance
{Maggie Chair*] make a dance and the world start dance, now everybody come and take a chance (TWO THREE FOUR!)

{indeschipherable stuff for about 10 seconds]

It’s so funny how I twist [on a tin can] send the whole world crazy
It can-a really move ya, or captivate ya, My soul and a-body

So Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance (dance dance)
Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance (dance dance)
Mother Father dance, Grandma dance, son dance, everybody come along and dance
Mother Father dance, Grandma dance, sister dance, everybody come along and dance
Chubby Checker make a dance and the world start dance, now everybody take a chance
Chubby Checker make a dance and the world start dance, now everybody come and do the dance, two three four

{instrumental bridge}

(Long time) Me no dance, me no dance
(Long Time) Take a chance with the dance
(Long time) Me no dance, me no dance
(Long Time) Take a chance with the dance

Oooooh, everybody dance, oooh, now everybody dance (come on you beautiful [shoe] and er…
Come to the dance a {brisser} dance
A [rippable} skin, let be {no idea}

{CUE START OF RAP BIT, SOME WOMAN SINGING]

So, we come into the the place not to watch nobody, 
But to do our own style, yeah [inaudible]
You ever hear about the [places] That I played it
[Watch all the Monday Makoona led leeeeee]

Now, Mama told me ’bout the scat 
But the didn’t show me how
She said get this move
Cos it’s a [lick] right now
Blibbdly blop bleep
B-Blibbdly blop bleep
[something] time in
[something] climb in, awhoooo….

Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance
Mother Father dance, Grandma dance, son dance, everybody come along and dance
Mother Father dance, Grandma dance, son dance, everybody come along and dance
Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance
Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance

[Last instrumental section]

Long time me no dance, it’s a dance in the dance hall, everybody come and do the dance (cold ending)

Well, isn’t that a corker? If, by some amazing amount of luck, or a knowledge of music that outstrips mine, please leave a comment below.