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Mott’s CD review
by Lang Reid
Modern Chinese Scholar’s Rock
detest Xmas! An abomination of what was once a period with deep Christian
religious significance, now debased to become a commercial ploy, complete
with nauseating Xmas music. Even my local Bookazine was playing Bing
Crosby’s “Jingle Bells” which the staff were singing along with as “Singha
Belles”! I grabbed any book and left as soon as possible.
Returning to my reading room, I found I had grabbed a book called Modern
Chinese Scholar’s Rocks (ISBN 1891640-34-8, Floating World Editions, 2006)
written by a Kemin Hu. A very brief perusal showed that this was not a book
about modern musical choices of young Chinese undergraduates, but rather a
collector’s guide and catalogue of Chinese scholar’s rock. As in lumps of
In the introduction, author Kemin Hu (whose credentials are not given, by
the way, just believe) states that, “Although there are some well known
treatises on traditional Chinese stones, such as ‘Du Wan’s Catalogue of
Cloudy Forest’ written in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and the illustrated
‘Plain Garden Stone Catalogue’ by Lin Yulin of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),
great changes have naturally taken place since those ancient times in the
appreciation, audience and availability of stone types.” On the face of it,
it certainly looks as if a slightly more up to date catalogue might be
Further perusal showed that author Kemin would introduce the reader to 38
types of rocks, and also states that “selection of stone position is of
primary importance for stone appearance.” In fact this is so important,
several pages are devoted to this and advice that the position in which the
stone is presented should be a matter of group discussion!
Each rock is illustrated, complete with mineral composition, stone colors,
hardness on the Moh scale and where each is found or quarried. According to
the back cover, “This modest and informative volume will engage readers in
the exciting world of appreciating and collecting these brilliant natural
Some of the rocks in the catalogue are known in the western world, such as
‘stalactites’ formed when calcium carbide in the water drips from the roof
of a cave accumulates and hardens (aide memoire: the mites run up when the
tites come down). Others that are reasonably well known include malachite,
corals, fossils and marble.
For me, the most interesting were the grotesque shaped stones such as the
Ying stones and the Xuan stones, but I am afraid I was not moved enough to
go looking. Sorry.
However, if you need to get your rocks off, then this slim little book will
set you back B. 1,130. That makes me feel that the Chinese rocks would be
commensurately even more expensive, though author Kemin Hu does not mention
prices in the catalogue anywhere!
Since I have never been a collector of pet rocks, and have rather spent my
life throwing them at predatory puppies or barking bulldogs, I finished this
book just as much in the dark about Chinese scholar’s stones as I was
before. What is worse, I have to endure Singha Belles again to return it!
Bah and humbug!
Mott's CD Reviews:
Mott the Dog
and Meow the Cat
5 Stars *****
First of all, Merry Christmas from Mott the Dog and Meow the Cat. Christmas
is always such a good time of the year. Happiness to all humans and animals.
Associated with Christmas is always Christmas music, giving everybody a bit
of cheer as they wander round buying presents for family and near ones,
eating way too much food, and imbibing on the odd ale. (Old Speckled Hen
seeming to be the drink of choice this year.)
Christmas music does come in two distinct categories. The traditional
Christmas music, as in Carols ‘Good King Wenceslas’, ‘Silent Night’, and of
course the obligatory ‘Jingle Bells’. All excluding bonhomie, and making you
feel goodwill to all.
Then of course there are the newer Christmas tunes that have roared up the
charts over the last half decade or so. Some of these can become extremely
tiresome if heard over and over again, especially if by some cheap covers
band on dubious compilations albums, played from late October to early
February in supermarkets, hotel lobbies, or even worse, elevators where
there really is no escape. But there are plenty of classics that have sprung
up over the years, and here is Mott’s top ten Christmas crackers to liven up
your Christmas shindig.
At Number Ten we have ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ which was written by Bob
Geldof (of course now Sir Bob) and Midge Ure. It was number one all over the
world at Christmas in 1984, raising money for children in need, and
featuring just about every top pop artist from the United Kingdom from
‘Status Quo’ to ‘Bananarama’. It may not have been the greatest song ever
written, but it was certainly the one with the biggest heart and the best
intentions. Over the years it has raised over fifty million pounds for
worthy children’s causes. A song that warms your heart when you hear it.
On the last ever Bing Crosby Christmas show there was a wonderful duet
between the man himself and David Bowie singing ‘Little Drummer Boy’, which
comes in at number nine. The two stars’ voices compliment each other
superbly, and the spectacle of them standing at the fireplace together is
heartwarming, although it is quite apparent that Bing Crosby is not actually
sure who the young skinny chap with the bad teeth is that is singing with
To give the Christmas chart a bit of street cred is the Boss himself Bruce
Springsteen, who with the E Street Band gives us a raucous live version of
‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’. The band have a very festive time blowing
the cobwebs off this old chestnut, with solos from all the musicians
blasting out all over, whilst Springsteen himself roars out the vocals.
Worthy of a Christmas number eight placing.
At number seven is the Father Christmas of Pop Elton John with ‘Step Into
Christmas’ from 1995. A typical Elton John rocker, it is the perfect vehicle
for Elton to make his mark on Christmas, and of course give him one more
chance to dress up. For all the charity work that he has done over the years
who could possibly begrudge Reginald Dwight a place in the Christmas top
Number six, probably the most unusual entry, is the Christmas smash hit from
1975 with Greg Lake and ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’. Who would have
thought that the voice and bass guitar from heavy progressive rock giants
King Crimson and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer would have come up with a
Yuletide hit? This is not some novelty song, but a great song, with a
wonderful tune, brilliantly executed musically, particularly showing off
Greg Lake’s rock throat.
As we move into the top five, Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ may not exactly be
very rock ‘n’ roll, but you cannot deny that it is very Christmassy, and a
real toe tapper to boot. What exactly Andrew Ridgley did on this song I am
not sure, but these days I am sure he is glad of the royalties. George
Michael turns in one of his vocal performances, which showed why he remains
to this day one of the pop world’s leading superstars.
Glam Rock in the early Seventies produced many a fine Christmas tune, and at
number four I have put Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’ from 1974. Not, I will
admit, the most cheerful of ditties, as Christmas is certainly not the time
of year to be on your own. But Les Grey’s wonderful Elvis Presley
impersonation on vocals is simply irresistible, and perhaps this song adds a
bit of balance to the gaiety of all the others of its time.
After being a member of both The Move and The Electric Light Orchestra, Roy
Wood blew into Glam Rock with a vengeance when he formed his own band
Wizzard. Like a multi-colored Santa Claus, Roy Wood led the band through
many hits, the best of which was probably ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas
Every Day’ with its fantastic chorus and Phil Spectrish wall of sound. Even
though it was a massive hit the single was still supposed to have lost money
and split up the band, such was Roy Wood’s insistence on perfection and
multi-layering the sound time and time again. But in the end it was
certainly worth it, and would definitely have been a number one had it not
been released in 1973 along with another record.
A Christmas song that was released from the heart, and certainly plucks a
few strings, is John Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’. At any time of
year this song would have been a huge hit, and delivered a very strong
message. You cannot help feeling that John Lennon threw all his musical
ability and strong personality into this song; the fact that it is regarded
as one of the all time classic songs is a great testament to its writer. The
message of ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ is as relevant now as it was when it
That certain other song that kept Wizzard off the top spot in 1973 was of
course Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’. It has since been released
almost every year, and always makes it towards the top of the charts. In
1973 Slade were probably the biggest pop band in the British Isles, and the
fact that they wrote the all time Christmas party record only enhanced their
status. With Noddy Holder’s infectious loud hailer vocals, the screaming
guitar of Dave Hill, and the thundering rhythm section of Jimmy Lea on bass
and Don Powell on drums, it is guaranteed to bring any party up on its feet
and dancing. Whenever Slade play these days, even on a mid Summer day in
July, they have to bring along their own snow machine so they can have a
quick run through their most famous song.
There are of course plenty of other jolly good Christmas songs; this is
merely a selection of Mott’s favorites. One song that should be in there, at
the top of the tree is Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ but I just could not
make up my mind which category to put it in.
Once again, as Noddy Holder finishes off, “Merry Christmas Everybody”.
Christmas Top Ten
1. Merry Christmas Everybody / Slade
2. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) / John Lennon
3. I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day / Wizzard
4. Lonely This Christmas / Mud
5. Last Christmas / Wham
6. I Believe In Father Christmas / Greg Lake
7. Step Into Christmas / Elton John
8. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town / Bruce Springsteen
9. Little Drummer Boy / Bing Crosby and David Bowie
10. Do They Know It’s Christmas / Various
To contact Mott the Dog
email: [email protected]
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