Artists and Groups (in random order):
Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel, The Kinks, The Who, The Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Oasis, Moby, Texas, The Lightning Seeds, Aretha Franklin, Booker T and the MGs, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Shakira, Train, Blur, Guns 'n' Roses, The Crystal Method, The Prodigy.
Songs (in random order):
Mr Tambourine Man (as performed by the Byrds): Beautiful Rickenbacker guitar intro, angelic harmonies and one of the best Dylan tunes make this one of the most uplifting 1960s tracks.
Mystery Train Elvis Presley): No, not the Bon Jovi song, but one of Elvis Presley's earliest singles. Elvis' voice at its most plaintive. Wild, earthly and ethereal at the same time. Songwriter Doc Pomus once said he was blown away by the song, noting "It sounding like somebody just came out of the swamp". It still does.
Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel): Paul Simon's genius for words and music make this brilliant. Its stark contrast to the duos other songs make it even more memorable. Also worth a listen to are the songs: Bridge over Troubled Water, The Boxer, Cathy's Song and some of Paul Simon's solo work, notably the Graceland LP and the songs Slip, Sliding Away, 50 Ways to leave your lover and Loves me like a rock.
Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix Experience): The world's most brilliant guitarist produce some great tracks, including Voodoo Chile, Crosstown Traffic, Red Wing and Purple Haze to name but very few. this is my favourite.
Peace Train (Cat Stevens): Sad to see that Cat Stevens (now Yussuf Islam) has disassociated himself from some of the best music of the 1960s and 1970s, including this track, Father and Son, Matthew and Son, Morning has broken, Where do the children play? and so many more beautiful songs.
Lola (The Kinks): One of only two songs I know about transvestism ( the other being the almost equally brilliant Walk on the Wild Side, by Lou Reed). I saw the Kinks live in 1994 at University.
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks): For anyone who's ever gazed at the sunset and for anyone who's ever been to London
Silver Thunderbird (Marc Cohn): Makes me want to go out and buy one. His original version of Walking in Memphis, later covered by Cher, is on the same album.
Man of the World (Fleetwood Mac): When they were still a bunch of guys playing the blues, they came up with this, plaintive cry of despair. Shortly afterwards the got married and started singing happy pop songs.
God only knows (Beach Boys): One of the most beautiful songs you'll ever hear. Tony Asher's lyrics are poetic, Brian Wilson proves himself a genius (again) and even Mike Love's droning bass vocals ( ba-ba-ba-ba-ba baa baa bababa etc) can't spoil it. For more Wilson fuelled genius, listen to Good Vibrations, Heroes and Villains and a whole catalogue of songs about girls, cars and, of course, surfing.
Vincent (Don McLean): Not just because it's a very beautiful song about a brilliant man, but also because I saw McLean perform it live in London. From the album American Pie.
Strawberry Fields (The Beatles): Released as part of a double A side single along with Paul McCartney's whimsical and lovely Penny Lane, this was one of the most complex tracks the Beatles ever recorded. It's a beautiful song, and John Lennon's lyrics ('the first verse after the chorus begins with 'living is easy with eyes closed') are amongst the most evocative of any song.
Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan): 'How does it feel' shouts Dylan in the chorus. He's angry, but who is he singing to: a woman he knew or a whole generation boxed in by the trappings of society. Loud and angry, though less typical of Dylan's style, it is his most powerful and memorable track, in my mind better even than Blowing in the Wind. My second favourite Dylan track is actually the little known song The Drifter's Escape, from the John Wesley Harding album.
Breathe (The Prodigy): Pity the incredible malice in the voice of Keith Flint, the Prodigy's mad-looking lead singer, doesn't feature on their latest album, which after 7 years of waiting is, alas, disappointing. This, though, is the Prodigy at their peak. Arguably as much of a rock song as it is a rave track. Mindblowing.
The Private Psychedelic Reel (The Chemical Brothers): Nine minutes of uplifting, Beatles inspired, drug induced techno psychedelia. As the Small Faces would have sang in Itchycoo Park, 'It's all too beautiful'!.
Paradise City (Guns 'n' Roses): The riff, the banging drums...Axl Rose sounds like he's about to cry...and then screams like he's about to rip your heart out in the verse. Unbelievable stuff.
Headhunter (Herbie Hancock): Jazz-funk masterpiece
American Pie (Don McLean): Quick, listen to the album before Madonna destroys any more of his songs.
Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young and Crazy horse): Half acoustic, half electric, primordial grunge masterpiece of the 1970s.
The Velvet Underground (aka Peel Slowly and See) (The Velvet Underground): An eye-opener, in musical terms
Trasformer (Lou Reed): And if your eyes weren't open enough, there's always this
Are You Experienced (The Jimi Hendrix Experience): An experience worth listening to
Honourable mentions: Morrison
Hotel (The Doors), What's the story-Morning Glory (Oasis), Revolver (The
Beatles), Appetite for Destruction (Guns 'n' Roses)
Barcelona: Home to Gaudi's weird and beautiful architecture, including the Sagrada Familia, a giant dripping sand sculpture dedicated to the Holy Family and still unfinished, FC Barcelona, one of the world's favourite football clubs, lapped by the Mediterranean, blessed with warm weather, close to the mountains. Barcelona has friendly, easygoing but warm people and, the world's most beautiful architecture, some of the world's finest football, excellent food and lively entertainment.
Brussels: Forget the EU. One should visit Brussels for the beer, the food, if not for the wonderful architecture and an insight into the truly confusing situation that you find in Belgium- Brussels airport is in Flemish speaking Flanders. Driving from it to any city you will alternately cross Flanders and French speaking Wallonia (note the changes in roadsign styles and language and even in the road surface). Brussels, however is in neither region. The people of Belgium don't all speak the same language and, even in this paragon of European spirit don't all get along all the time. Their are discussions as to which region produces the finest art, food, beer or women. You decide, via a whirlwind tour, the go to Brussels and have a break from it all.
Food and drink:
Alcoholic drinks and cocktails:
Zivania (or raki) is a strong aquavit found in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ouzo is an aniseed based drink from Greece that is similar to araq and pastis. The name pastis, of which Pernod and Ricard are two famous examples, comes from the word pastiche signifying an imitation or reconceptualisation of a classic, in this case of the classic drink absinthe (Czech: absinth, Spanish: absento), the notorious drink favoured by artist and poets such as van Gogh and Rimbaud. Absinthe is banned in France, but is available in the UK, the Czech Republic and Spain. I like it, but prefer to dull its bitterness by mixing it into cocktails or adding caramelised sugar and ice cold water.
My other favourite spirits are vodka, gin, rum and tequila (in fact practically anything but whisky). All four can be taken straight or mixed. Rum is the basis for the cocktails Cuba Libre and Daiquiri. Tequila is the basis for my favourite cocktail, the frozen margarita.
The world's worst spirit is probably Aftershock, a liqueur that tastes of industrial strength mouthwash. If you're feeling brave, drink it ice cold and swill it in your mouth for as long as you can, then swallow.
I also like beer. My favourites include Grolsch (Holland), Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe (from Belgium), Budvar (Czech Republic), Warsteiner (Germany) and Peroni Nastro Azzuro (Italy). Oher decent beers include Carlsberg (Denmark), Franziskaner and Becks (Germany), Moretti (Italy), KEO (Cyprus), Tsing Tao (China), Tiger (Singapore) and Fosters Ice (Australia). The worst beer I have ever tried is the sickly sweet Samiclaus (Switzerland, 14% ABV, sadly no longer in production). One reviewer describes it as tasting "excruciatingly bad, like an alcoholic soy sauce".
At this moment in time my favourite dishes are Dolmadakia Avgolemono (cabbage leaves stuffed with minced lamb and cooked in an egg and lemon sauce), Calamari (fried cuttlefish). That might change tomorrow. My favourite types of food are Chinese, sushi and Italian. I am a great fan of pasta and of rice, cooked in a variety of ways, which is why I really appreciate a good porcini risotto, some spaghetti served al dente and coated with a glistening and aromatic pesto, freshly hand-rolled sushi and dim sum. I'm also partial to a decent tapas. I had a very good seafood tapas at a very good but quite expensive restaurant in London called Fino's. One of the most intriguing dishes was a plate of percebes (barnacles to you and me), apparently a Galician favourite. I have also had some very good food in Barcelona, including a pretty good seafood paella by the sea.
I have also eaten very well in Belgium (seafood waterzooi and moules marinieres go well with a good Belgian beer), Malta, the US (some of the food is quite exquisite, even in chain restaurants like Red Lobster and Appleby's), England (particularly in London- there are some excellent restaurants, and I have sampled excellent seafood at Livebait and the Portobello Gold ), Italy, France and of, course, my home country, Cyprus.
Many of Cyprus' signature dishes are actually either Greek, Turkish or Middle Eastern, but most of these are cooked slightly differently in Cyprus. The best ones include Koupepia (stuffed vine leaves), Makaronia tou Fournou (baked macaroni with minced beef or lamb, bechamel sauce and cheese), Sheftalia (minced lamb sausages, chargrilled then served in pita bread). Kolokassi ( a root vegetable also known as wild taro, dasheen or Colocasia esculenta, usually cooked with meat and potatoes in tomato sauce) and afelia (lamb cooked with red wine and crushed coriander seeds) are two of the dishes that Cyprus can truly claim its own.
In Cyprus we also eat plenty of fresh fruit (including the tangy and bitter-sweet pomelo, figs and watermelon), vegetables (roquette salad is popular, as are tomatoes, and many dishes contain marrows and courgettes or zucchini). We tend to use a lot of lemon in our recipes, plus plenty of mint, garlic, parsley and coriander. Coffee is taken throughout the day and most people drink beer or cola at mealtime, especially in the summer. The most popular spirit is the aforementioned zivania, a strong spirit made with grape skins and pips (like the Italian grappa), with Cyprus brandy (koniaki) hot on its heels and other spirits catching up (whisky, in particular, but also vodka and alcopops with younger people.
Apart from zivania, or zivana as it is also called, the other characteristic Cypriot alchoholic drink is the fortified wine commandaria, based on a very old recipe. Legend has it that Richard the Lionheart was somewhat of a fan of both Kolokassi and Commandaria. Whether or not he had a point, I' m still undecided. Perhaps one day you will come to Cyprus and let me know what you think.
Until then, thanks for visiting.