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Below are the 25 most recent journal entries.

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  2006.04.13  23.19
Are "friends" electric?

Been neglecting this thing for awhile. I wonder why? I guess it's partly because I've recently succumbed to social pressures ha ha & opened a myspace account. Now that it's a year past it being perceived as cool (and now that it's controlled by a scumbag media mogul), I think it's safe for me to do such things.

Funny old thing, myspace, innit? I never thought I'd take to livejournal, but I've been here for two-and-a-half years on & off, & check friends entries most days. I wouldn't want to base my life around it, but I've met some great people here & I'm glad it's around. Myspace, though....it's a funny old thing. Sorry if this sounds hopelessy quaint or out-of-touch but does it somehow devalue the concept of "friendship"? I'm quite glad I don't have 5224 friends, and I don't think my life would be any more complete than if I had 5223 or, say, 25. I guess one has to divide one's friends & one's life between the online world and the offline world (or "real life" as it's known), but even so it just seems kind of scary. Using friendship as merely a points scoring thing; as a bar graph of one's popularity. I guess there's plenty of people who have always viewed friendship as just that.

Still, 68 and counting!! And where else could you find The Mayfields and The Haywains? Jeez, *everyone* has one of these things...

In other news: is anyone going to the Arts Club on saturday for the "let's pretend it's the good old days down the Arts Club" day w/Tender Trap et al?

 
 


 
  2006.02.27  09.20
I'd rather be with you than flying through space.

Jean Marie Perier is a remarkable photographer, possibly my favourite portrait photographer ever. So when I heard about this exhibition in a gallery in Birmingham, I couldn't resist. I suggest you all do the same. The prints are a trifle overpriced, but to spend half-an-hour with these (I don't want to use this word but it seems unavoidable) iconic images, and the very charming gallery director (who I now owe a Sylvie Vartan comp) was a treat indeed. They even played "Polnareff's" for me! Aahhh.
Having said that, I've always thought it was impossible to take a bad portrait in the 1960s. I guess that people knew how to look great then, whether you were Matt Monro or Michel Polnareff. It's not simply the clothes & the haircuts either; it's all about their faces. In them you can sense the excitement & expectation of the era. In a nutshell: people looked more alive.
We thought we'd make a weekend of the Birmingham jaunt, so after a swift breeze round the Custard Factory and the city centre, stopping once again to look at the architectural marvel of the Selfridge building, and bizarrely running into Matt outside Swordfish, we set off for Hay-On-Wye. Second-hand bookshop capital of Britain, apparently. I'd never been before, but phew, what a trip. Over thirty bookshops crammed into a small village on the Wales border, including what claims to be the largest second hand bookshop in the World (I guess Strand doesn't count). I came away with quite a haul, and could happily have spent the rest of the week there. Just as well the record shop was shut.
Couple of great archaeological sites nearby too, yet another Arthur's Stone and the four stones of old Radnor, both lacking in atmos a little due to the proximity of roads, but at least we didn't have to wade through mud & slurry to find them. And as if things couldn't get better, a drive around Hergest Ridge. Man, I couldn't get "On Horseback" out of my head the whole time.

 
 


 
  2006.01.19  17.41
It was twenty years ago today (perhaps)*

Primal Scream's Peel session from January 1986. Titles: Aftermath, I Love You, Crystal Crescent, Subterranean.
*"In Session Tonight" has a date of December 1985, I guess I recorded the re-broadcast. Either way, a fantastic session, and Subterranean -in spite of being the greatest song ever- has yet to be issued officially in any form. I've kept the session in one lump for download; each song is under 2'30", and they're all terrific, so you might as well have 'em all.
This may be the first of a few Peel Session uploads I do. I'm attempting to get an overview on the era, after Bob Stanley announced that he was preparing a "20 years after c86" film/exhibition/series of shows for later this year. I can't believe how good much of the music still sounds. This session pretty much defines 1986 for me. Next (maybe): June Brides 29/1/86...

 
 


 
  2006.01.10  17.06
Films, art, music.

Remember how much we all enjoyed the Bob-curated vintage pop telly season at the Barbican last summer? Well, he's doing another one, this time themed around fictional portrayals of pop life. I suggest booking yr tickets with all haste, I think each screening in the last season pretty much sold out.
As for the films themselves; of all of them I'm only familiar with "Jumping Bean Bag", though the Fabulous Stains film is pretty legendary as -amongst other things- the inspiration for The White Stripes. With a cast list including Ray Winstone, Laura Dern, Steve Jones, Paul Cook & Paul Simonon, it's difficult to see how it can go wrong.
It's a-gonna be great.

I also recommend you visit the current Richard Long exhibition at the Haunch Of Venison (possibly my favourite gallery name ever). It's hard not to say "more of the same", but his work is so unique (give or take Hamish Fulton), and...I dunno, the image in my head of this guy trekking round the most remote places in the world (and west Penwith) in the name of art & beauty is so utterly perfect. The fact that the photos, texts and constructions are so evocative is really just a bonus.

In other news, I recently picked up one of those 8-ban micro record players that I've been looking for. Not the ideal colour combination, but better than nothing I guess, and thankfully it just about plays my collection of hip-pocket 45s too. Anyone know where I can pick up any of the associated 45 releases?

 
 


 
  2006.01.03  12.56
I'm not afraid to move on

First day back at work & the festive season already seems like an aeon ago. So it's probably time to update the ol' lj.
Christmas week was spent in the company of good friends in a seventeenth century cottage in Avebury. While I've visited Avebury so many times before, there's nothing quite like walking out the front door & 50 yards up the lane to be confronted with the stones. It did actually achieve some of the -ahem- emotional resonance I was looking for, particularly during a blustery walk atop Windmill Hill on the 27th. Loads of food, wood burning stove, sloe gin, *two* (count' em!) christmas trees, low-beamed ceilings, good conversation, no telly. Super.

Similarly refined -honed almost to the point of non-existence, in fact- birthday. Thanks all for yr good wishes though. Turning 40 is a lorra laffs, believe me. And New Year's Eve was spent round Clare's getting to know her new boyfriend, playing popquiz on the playstation and despairing at Clare Balding's desperate fireworks ramalama, as everyone seems to have done. And -inevitably it seems when Clare's around-, playing "I'm Not Afraid To Move On" by Jostein Hasselgard. Not that I have any complaints with that.

Happy new year all. Hope it treats you well.

 
 


 
  2005.12.31  15.35
Now is the time....life begins.

40th birthday yesterday. Had a quiet night in.

 
 


 
  2005.12.14  14.44
Who's that little old man?

Met Paul McCartney.



Mood: euphoric
 
 


 
  2005.11.20  21.56
Sorry to moan, but it's what I do best.

Djed for the first time in yonks at How Does It Feel To be Loved on friday. Not sure entirely how successful it was: the amount of grief I received from punters with unfulfilled requests for Belle and Sebastian/The Killers/Kaiser Chiefs would tend to indicate it was a total waste of time (I can't believe how mainstream the clientele of that club has become...). But a Kiwi girl came up to me after I played Heavenly Pop Hit to ask if I had any more Flying Nun stuff as hearing The Chills had made her night. Which kind of made *my* night. approx playlist under hereCollapse )
Given the club's remit, this seems like a pretty mainstream set to me. Yet the dance floor remained sparsely populated throughout (except Rupert & his girlfriend, who danced to pretty much everything. Thanks, people). Oh well, it was nice to be asked, but I don't suppose it'll happen again in a hurry.

On an unrelated -and very obscure- note, does anyone know how many Edward VIII pillar boxes there are in London/England? I saw one today, and it seemed so unlikely. But what a beautiful thing it was...

 
 


 
  2005.11.16  11.52
how does it feel to be the last resort?

It comes as something of a surprise to me, but I appear to be playing records at this friday's how does it feel to be loved?. Apparently The Legend was scheduled to guest dj, but he's pulled out at the last minute, so Ian has asked me at ultra short notice. I thought I might as well say yeah, even though I've been to the club maybe once in the past year, and not djed there since the heady days when the clubnight was held on thursdays. Ah, them were t'days. Anyway, please all come along as I have no idea who goes to the club these days & I probably won't know anyone. Any requests? (excepte for "please don't play a half-hour's worth of 60s Bee Gees records like you did last time." Hmm..That'll be why it's taken this long to be asked back, I guess...)

Oh yeah, it's at the Phoenix on Cavendish Square.

 
 


 
  2005.11.07  16.05
ps: buy my records

more ebay rubbish

 
 


 
  2005.11.07  15.26


Saw Roddy Frame at the Bloomsbury Theatre last week, and was so impressed that sarah & I decided to catch his show in the North West on Saturday night. Not in Liverpool or Manchester. Oh no. He wasn't playing Liverpool or Manchester. He was playing Holmfirth; the quaint, charming Peak District town whose main claim to fame is being the location of Last of The Summer Wine. Still, The Picturedrome is a splendid venue; a turn-of-the-last-century cinema, converted to a multi-purpose venue-cum-bar-cum-..er..it's-still-a-cinema-too. You have to buy your tickets from the tourist information bureau, and they look like this. Beat that, ticketweb.
The show, naturally, was wonderful, with plenty of the bonhomie and playfulness that was missing from the London date. Provincial shows y'see: the pressure's off.

During the journey up we decided to make a detour to see Antony Gormley's Another Place. A quite breathtaking piece it is too, and even though every Liverpudlian seemed to be walking their dog across the huge expanse (nearly two miles) of beach that Another Place inhabits, the feelings of solitude & of the passage of time (marked by the tidal change while we were there) were all-enveloping. Photos under hereCollapse )

 
 


 
  2005.10.24  14.55
Difficult Listening Week, part 2: Stockhausen at Billingsgate

Before I rediscovered pop music circa 1984, I really dug Karlheinz Stockhausen. Ralf & Florian were always banging on about his music & theories, and Holger Can was a student of his, so as I was a fan of both it followed that I'd be a fan of Stockhausen. And while I found it a little tricky getting my head around some of his more fruity pieces, there was enough going on in there to make me realise there's more to music than what is actually heard.
Until I heard The Smiths, of course. At which point the tune & the lyric became king once more. Even so, hearing Gesang Der Junglinge for the first time is something I'll never forget.
So it was off to Billingsgate Market on saturday for a "performance" (read "playback") of another of his early pieces of pure electronic music, "Kontakte", plus a more recent work, "Oktophonie". I was a little disappointed that the market had been renovated as a generic conference-centre-style space, but hey, with the lights out, who's to know? Making our way to the front of the auditorium, we realised that...ah.. there's no stage. Joni looked around & mentioned that perhaps we might prefer to sit near the mixing board, where yr man was preparing...

Karlheinz Stockhausen

Oh. I get it. It was like seeing Paul McCartney sitting there. Unbelievable.
The lights were dimmed a little, and after a brief intro spiel from Karlheinz, we were plunged into almost total darkness. And Stockhausen pressed "play" on his tape recorder. Hmm. He had encouraged us to close our eyes, to lose contact with our surroundings, to get enveloped in the sound. Which it was very easy to do. The pieces were presented in surround sound: Kontakte in quadrophonic, and Oktophonie in mind-blowing eight-channel sound. It was akin to sitting in a -ahem- "sound cube", sound coming from every corner: top to bottom, back & forward, left to right, and diagonally. Phew.
As for the music itself, Kontakte is a work I'm vaguely familiar with, and am rather fond of its Radiophonic/Joe-Meek-esque bleeps & bloops. In terms of sheer work, the sound generation & editing must have taken months (checks sleeve notes: yep...), which is all well & good but that's like admiring Eddie van Halen for being able to play 20 notes a second. What's most impressive is the way it makes you *feel*. Which is... out there. Man.
The second piece, while technically even more impressive, was a little anti-climactic. It's odd: I've always felt that avant-garde musicians are at their best when they're striving to create music with tools that are incapable of realising their vision. Thus they have to use their creativity to manipulate the instruments they *do* have to get the desired results. As soon as anyone could sound weird just by hitting a preset, all the fun went out of it (see also The Residents, Laurie Anderson...). This was also the case with Oktophonie, from 1991, which basically sounded like a horror soundtrack. After 15 minutes I was bored. After 45 minutes I was hoping it would end really soon. I got back into it after an hour or so by entering total sensory deprivation mode, covering my eyes and curling up in a ball (such activity was encouraged), but I was glad when it was over. If "Kontakte" was a Miro painting or a Man Ray film, Oktophonie was a Roger-Dean album cover come to life. Urgh. Still, again, it took me somewhere. Not sure I'd want to live there, mind you...

tekno_alice Did you go in the end? Any thoughts?

 
 


 
  2005.10.19  16.05
Difficult listening week, Part 1: Jandek in London

In the days leading up to last night's Jandek show, his first ever in London, I'd been giving his work a little serious thought. What's it for? Why does he do it? Is the character portrayed in the music an extension of himself or merely a persona? And if the latter, how in Heaven's name can he switch that persona off & become Mr Normal with a white-collar job in the city? Last night answered precisely none of these questions, and threw up a good few more new ones.

I'd never really noticed St Giles Church -tonight's venue- before: it was just that building in between Denmark Street and The Angel. While the building itself is a little austere, it's quite substantial inside, and frustratingly inappropriate for tonight's performance. On entering, we were greeted by the organisers; former neighbours of mine, who were beaming with pride (as well they should) at actually pulling this thing off. Taking our pews next to another unexpected & familiar face (hi chiff_chaff!! What a small world it is...) we absorbed the atmosphere & ..ah.. prepared for the onslaught.

Opening act -a viola and harp improvisation duo- was a little dull, but they didn't outstay their welcome, and their sound -mostly clunks & drones- was far from abhorrent (a serious pre-show concern of mine, believe me). But it was all just marking time while we waited for Janky.

Who eventually appeared. Painfully thin, he slowly, deliberately, set up his guitar and mics, and placed his notes on the stand. For the first few moments it appeared that he was actually playing melodies; straight rhythms, even. I got quite excited: "This'll fox 'em!" But it soon became apparent that this wouldn't be the case. Indeed, having been told "anything could happen", I was rather disappointed at how similar to the records it all sounded. A uniform depths-of-despair death-bed-blues. I began looking round at the building, its architecture and its current occupants. This wasn't really what I wanted. I couldn't concentrate on what was happening onstage, or perhaps I didn't want to. The fellows sitting in the pews in front were recording the show on ProTools, and I kept finding myself following their monitor's display thinking, "hmm, that's a nice waveform". I looked across at Joni, who appeared similarly nonplussed, whereupon we both cracked up & started giggling. And, y'know, it's a church. There was plenty of stuff to distract one's attention. I would have preferred a bare black room with a solitary spot on Jandek. We were in the 2nd row; God knows what the people at the back would have got out of the performance.

Anyway, he continued making this ultra-miserable generic clanky racket for an hour or so, and then he walked off. Again, it wasn't so unpleasant that I felt I had to leave, but it was disappointingly unchallenging. Maybe I should go see Whitehouse.

 
 


 
  2005.09.29  12.55
Mad House

When I tell people where I work & what I do for a living, they generally respond either with, "ooh, I have a friend who works at the BBC, they're in News Online perhaps you know them?", or "why on Earth did you erase all those Pete & Dud shows/Syd Barrett on Top Of The Pops/Madhouse On Castle Street...?" To which I respond with:
"Well, tv fulfilled a very different purpose in the 50s and 60s: it was ephemeral. It was never intended to be archived and mulled over 40 years hence. Yet it was also progressive. Why bother keeping something when next week's edition was going to be even better? Film recording & videotape were expensive and bulky back then (a 60-minute 2" tape is about the size of a small suitcase), there's no point in wasting money and space on something which people may or may not care about in the future." Which may sound like I'm toeing the party line, but isn't that far from how I actually feel (no matter how much I'd like to see "See Emily Play" on TOTP). And at least it's a good ice-breaker. Even so, the Beeb had a chance to partially redeem itself last night by showing a programme about the making of "Madhouse On Castle Street" (some background).
It was a big disappointment. Endless interminable stock shots of snow, snow and more frickin' snow (I don't know if this was a metaphor -snow is the name sometimes given to the picture produced by blank or erased videotape- or whether the winter of 1962 really was that cold) with occasional interruptions given over to directionless, non-chronological pieces to camera from "those who were there". The one huge revelation in the show, the discovery of a high-quality recording of the four songs Bob sang in the play, was tacked onto the end, together with a 30-second snippet from one song. Thirty seconds!!!???!!! People have been searching for this for years!! the BBC admit themselves that it's "the holy grail of missing Bob archive" (actually they call him "Dylan", but I can't, I just can't....). The least that could be done is to broadcast the whole frickin' recording.

And I don't even like Bob Dylan. Though having watched No Direction Home earlier in the week, I'm warming to the idea. I can't really argue with those live songs in Newcastle, can I? They truly are the most powerful, most ferocious, most purposeful performances I've ever seen.

In other news, here's a song to cheer you up from the forthcoming Fugu LP (thanks to Mehdi for allowing me to put these up):
fugu: you pick me up
and something a little more reflective:
fugu: a bigger splash

 
 


 
  2005.09.24  19.13
Fugu Fugu Fugu Fugu

This morning I received an advance of the new CD from Fugu. This fella will need no introduction to chiff_chaff (I hope things are well with you in Houston right now, but I imagine you have more pressing issues than reading livejournal. Hope all friends & family are safe and coping well), but in a nutshell: a series of 45s from the early-to-late-90s released on a variety of indies & self-financed labels, all of which sounded unique and none of which sounded like the prior release. And yet there was a unity of feel; a desire to push things forward a little, but in an ultra-melodic, super-harmonic yet willfully uncommercial way. They sounded like how you wish those awful Elephant-6 bands would sound. An LP finally emerged in 2001 to what the press term "little fanfare"; perhaps it was held back by a slightly-too-obvious Stereolab influence.
This new record though...ohmygod it's just super. A little more pop-structured than the previous records (ie it has VERSES! and CHORUSES!), but whew, all those arrangements and hooks from his past are all in place and all over the place, and Mehdi's super-smooth soft-rock falsetto harmonies just ooze over everything. Reaching for comparisons, I suppose it's a bit like Air if they wrote pop songs, or Phoenix if they weren't so worried about being cool.
Yeah, he's French.
Favourite record this year? Well I've not bought the new Sigur Ros yet, but..hmm.. quite possibly...

In the oddest move in an career full of odd moves, Brian Wilson (or melinda, or whoever) has stumbled upon a great fund raising idea for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The premise is this: you send a donation of $100 or more to Brian's manager (to pass on to the Hurricane victims), and Brian will match your donation and (here's the thing) GIVE YOU A CALL AND ALLOW YOU TO ASK HIM A QUESTION!
While the intent is admirable (and the fundraising seems to be going moderately well up to now), I can't help feeling that this is belittling both Brian's talent and the issue itself, and not dissimilar to the auctioning of tickets to the meet-and-greets on the US tour (and how scummy was that?). Don't forget, Brian, you're an artist, you're not a call-centre monkey (apologies to all who work in call centres).
Actually $6000 is a pretty meagre sum: that's, what, thirty takers max? Well, don't look at me...

 
 


 
  2005.09.19  15.50
We do the Surfer Stomp, it's the latest dance craze.

Of all my guilty pleasures, attending the Beach Boys Stomp annual fanclub convention is one of my guiltiest. This year's event took place -as it always does every damn year- on the same day as open house, the third saturday of september. The unlikely venue -a parish hall in Greenford- is off-the-wall enough, but the day's host is a true one-off. A real stickler for punctuality (interrupting the guest speaker on a few occasions to "move the day along") and rules & regs eg NO PHOTOGRAPHY!!!(every year he makes some threatening remark regarding some guy who took some photos which were later published in Q, after which the photographer mysteriously disappeared), and let's not get him started on mobile phones.... Yet Roy Gudge (for it is he), in spite of his faults, always puts together a tip-top day. Roy, we love you.
Fewer bootleg-and-rarity stalls than ever and the lack of quiz made the day drag a little (I know, I know), but hey, a guest the quality of Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford (Brian's ex-wife, and vocalist on the Honeys & Spring recordings) more than made up for these shortcomings. Over the day, she must have spent two-hours-plus on stage talking about her life, her relationship with Brian and the rest of the band, the Spring LP & the Honeys 45s, her currrent life as a real estate agent and so much more. Always gracious, even to the most trainspotter-y probing ("no, I think you'll find that..."), it was a pleasure to meet & talk to her.
the author with marilyn
Always good to see the same familiar faces too (hi Jonathan, Neil, Kingsley, Val, Alex, Andrew, Chris, John). Such good company. Why should I feel guilty about enjoying this?

 
 


 
  2005.09.13  20.07
Let! Me! Tell you about Sweden! On! Ly! Country where the clouds are interesting.

I've just returned from a -I believe they're called- "City Break" in Stockholm. My diet had been going quite well up till this point, but gosh you forget how delicious beer is, don't you? Particularly when it costs £6 a pint.
Won't bore you all with the details of "and then we did this...", but if you happen to visit Stockholm anytime, I can heartily recommend the following:

Staying at the Nordic Sea Hotel. The Ice Bar is a bit of a rip-off at £15 for a Vodka cocktail, but what an atmosphere.

Eating at Bakfickan, round the back of the Opera House. The Biff Rydberg is easily the most beautiful meal I've eaten this year. Simple, yet...I dunno, the taste just exploded in my mouth.

Stopping off for coffee & apple crumble at Konditori ValandCollapse ) an achingly authentic (er...because they've never bothered redecorating) coffee house in the north of the city. The owner was the only person I encountered during the weekend who didn't speak English (she spoke German), but phew that decor.

Walking around a lot (goes for any holiday).

Comparing the shades of orange/brown/tan/rust with which *every single building* is painted. Such beautiful uniformity-yet-diversity.

Taking a day-trip to the archipelago. The advantage of building a city on a bunch of islands is that it's possible to incorporate so many different environments into quite a small area. In the city itself, it's almost as if each island has a role: Sodermalm for studes & trendies, Gamla Stan for olde-worlde tourist vibe, Norrmalm for shopping & business.... but just a short ferry-ride gets you out into the Baltic for a different experience again. It felt like the Isles Of Scilly.

Shopping at Nostalgiepalatset on St Eriksgatan. The most well-stocked record shop I've visited outside the USA; and not only for records, but for vintage hi-fi, books, mags, '60s ephemera, the lot. If you're looking for that elusive Shanes LP or The Hep Stars' "We And Our Cadillac", this is the place to find it, and at a bargain price too.

Wondering if you'll see a member of Abba, and then ACTUALLY SEEING ONE (Benny, just nipping downstairs in the otherwise disappointing Prinsen restaurant).

Visiting Skansen; on the face of it a not-very-inspiring combination of theme-park-and-zoo, but the 15th-16th century buildings were a revelation (no, they were!!), and come on: bears, bison, owls, wolverines are more entertaining than most people I know.

Not flying BA. No food (obviously), but a frickin' 2 hour delay on a 3 hour flight is a disgrace.

 
 


 
  2005.08.17  00.34
Ooh! Another music me-me!

I think I did one of these not so long ago, but at the request of steviecat, here's my Pick seven songs that you're into right now. List them. Pick seven friends who have to repeat this process. List them.

Carlos Mendes: Penina. In late 1968, Paul McCartney spent some time on holiday in Portugal. One night he returned to his hotel somewhat the worse for wear to find a band playing in the hotel bar. Being Mister Music, Macca joined them for a few numbers, improvising this number which he later gave to local Portugese singer Carlos Mendes. The song itself is *exactly* the kind of thing you'd expect Macca to write in 1968 if he were drunk and carried away on the thrill of the moment. Melodic and meaningless, but casual genius written all over it. "Let's go home...thank you all...love from Paul."

Merry-Go-Round: Pardon Me. From RevOla's new comp.

The Nerve: It Is. Somewhat obscure Van Dyke Parks composition for UK freakbeat-sters, produced by Reg Presley. Van Dyke Parks: Reg Presley. Two names that rarely occur in the same sentence.

Tan Sleeve: Maria Bartiromo. Ultra-shiny Fanclub power pop, from a stack of CDs just sent to me by Brian at Bus Stop. Brian's great, so is this. A hymn to (google tells me) the stock market reporter at CNBC. Thus, it's the song I always hoped Josh Gennet would write.
(searches google a little more...) Hey! She's kinda hot!

William Campbell & Kevin MacNeil: Local Man Ruins Everything. Fantastic bit of spoken-word thing about growing up in the middle of nowhere (Stornoway in this case). "Failure is like nostalgia, just insincere. It happened there. It brings us here. There is nothing but: we're here, we're here." Ivor Cutler if he were signed to Sarah Records.

Matt Monro: We're Gonna Change The World. Early Bowie-as-Tony-Newley-style heavy protest statement from the English Frank Sinatra. "Come With Us! Run With Us!" How can you resist?! The sound of Radio 2 playing in the kitchen in my pre-school years.

Ricardo Montalban: La Campanilla. Another spoken word thing, this one's about remote Chilean villages, church bells and children getting lost in the hills. What makes this one outstanding is the incredible orchestration (an early Randy Newman job: he wrote it too), a homage to Charles Ives and the Hollywood composers of the 40s and 50s. Effortlessly evocative, it basically indicates that Newman's progress between this (1968) and ...I dunno, Toy Story 2 has been precisely nil.

C'mon, let's here from Augstone, Backtomono, Bubblegumpurism, catbo, fatsothewombat, my_name_is_anna, teknoalice. You're it!

In other news, I guess we're all up for the Stockhausen at Billingsgate concert. Anyone found any tickets yet?

 
 


 
  2005.08.09  16.46


Wandered around London doing chores yesterday, and in St James's Park I had my first encounter with armed police. I say "encounter". I mean "I saw two policemen armed to the gills with AK47s (I'm guessing)".

Went to Fopp for the Magic Numbers single launch. There are some photos behind hereCollapse )
Delighted to read this on the BBC's website, regarding TMN's non-appearance on Top Of The Pops over the weekend. "Rock band The Magic Numbers walked out of an appearance on TV show Top of the Pops because they thought the presenter made a joke about their weight."

Walked over to The Rosemary Branch via the Gainsborough Studios building which looked simply beautiful this evening:




Came third in the pop quiz, in spite of the return of Ben Clancy to the team. I dunno, we're falling apart.



Mood: Innit sunny?
 
 


 
  2005.08.08  09.48
Jandek In London

I first encountered Jandek back in the mid-90s at one of Kieron's musical evenings. I remember him removing this huge stack of LPs from his shelves and saying "take a look at these & tell me what you think." Well...hmmm..these are interesting looking records...great titles...."Six And Six"..."Telegraph Melts".."Ready For The House"...wow...he's kinda scary looking though. Who is this guy? Can we hear some of this? "Oh, you wouldn't want to listen to any of it" he replied, but filled me in on Jandek's schtick (check the link). It didn't really sound like my kind of thing, so I quietly forgot about him. Until a few years later when I played a session for WFMU in NJ, and found myself flicking through their house magazine which included a feature on our hero, penned by Irwin Chusid. It included one of my favourite musical descriptions of anyone ever:

"Did someone say 'rock and roll'? Jandek's neither 'rock' nor 'roll'.
He's not even 'and'."

My interest was piqued again. Irwin's feature was later republished in his Outsider Music tome "Songs In the Key Of Z", which accompanied a CD containing...gasp..at last, an opportunity to hear some Jandek.
It was pretty much as I expected: depths-of-hopelessness sub-blues; tuneless, formless, meandering, barely-there...a repellent dirge. As Irwin implies, his music honestly can't be compared to any other, but if pressed I'd say Palace Brothers extrapolated to the nth degree. Well, I guess I was warned. And yet...there was still something strangely attractive about it. Just the idea of one guy hiding at home in this darkened room, churning out these unlistenable LPs two, three times a year and sending them out into the void to be heard by...basically no-one. C'mon, who wouldn't be intrigued?

Then a year or so back Jandek On Corwood appeared, a film which attempted to tell his story. Given that no-one really knows who he is or why he does what he does, it was a remarkably compelling film, even though it basically consisted of a bunch of record collectors theorising about a load of really bad music (yes, very cinematic). The most surprising aspect of the film was that some of Jandek's music was actually astonishingly good. "Nancy Sings", for example, is easily the equal of any UK "acid folk" (pih!), and there are some other remarkable atmospheric pieces in there. Time to dig a little deeper, I think...

Then over the weekend, news of a live apperance in London seeped out. The story of Jandek's odd relationship with the live arena can be found in the link above; one unannounced show in glasgow in 2004, followed by a couple more earlier this year. Suffice to say it's unique. I'm still not sure about this, but I couldn't resist buying a ticket.

C'mon, it can't be any worse than the TVPs...



Mood: Curtains drawn, Jandek hour...
 
 


 
  2005.08.03  11.00
The worst gig I've ever seen.

To the 100 Club last night for "the first Television Personalities headline show since 1997" (even though they played one in 2004). That return to the stage last year was pretty bad; actually, I had to leave the room it was such an unlistenable mess. But hey! that one actually *was* their first show for eight years, and Dan Treacy's first public appearance since his release from prison, so I guess a bit of roughness is to be expected, especially from a band so ramshackle as the TVPs.

However, nothing could have prepared me for last night's performance. It started promisingly enough with...er... is this "Silly Girl"?... but by the end of the second chorus Dan had given up playing his guitar and by the second verse he'd given up singing too (at least into the mic), content to hit the occasional open stringed chord and ramble lyrically, trying -and failing- to harmonise with Ed Ball (current TVPs bassist & struggling manfully to keep up with Dan's waywardness) and Victoria, their new chanteuse. A few minutes later it ground to an awkward, clumsy halt. Cheers! This pretty much set the pattern for *every single song* that they played. It wasn't good. I looked across to Greg of Sportique, with whom I was watching this spectacle. "It's a freak show", he said, hitting the nail on the head. "Car crash tv", I agreed.
Then midway through, Dan stumbled across to the 100 Club's piano, which I'd noticed -with some concern- had been mic'ed up. At which point he tried to play "A Picture Of Dorian Gray" and ...er...something else...I..er..think, without -apparently- telling any of the band members (standard behaviour for Dan, I gather). It was all so sad. So, so sad.
This is not even mentioning the endless between-song rambling and the I-can't-be-bothered-to-finish-this-one mid-song terminations. But what disturbed me most was the apparent enthusiasm with which it was all received by the audience. They ..ah.. "lapped it up". Even though they didn't necessarily know when to cheer.
Back in the 1990s I saw the TVPs more times than I care to remember (now I think about it, they might have been the first band I saw when I moved to London, supported by The Bachelor Pad at the Falcon, yeah? Can that be right?). They were always a hit-and-miss proposition, but in amongst the dregs there would generally be a moment of shining purity to remind you why you loved them so. Dan's obviously had a hard time since then, but it seems like his troubles are far from over.

I kept thinking of the other "troubled genii" I've seen perform of late: Brian Wilson, Arthur Lee, Alex Chilton. All wonderful gigs. The difference here is that, while the musical power has been taken from the hands of the nominal leader by their back-up musicians (Wondermints, Baby Lemonade, Posies), Dan is still in charge, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Hey, catsgomiaow, can you have a word with Tap? While the idea of a new TVPs album does still excite me, maybe it's more trouble than it's worth...

Last night's Mastermind included a specialist subject round on The Go-Betweens. Another step down the rocky road.. blah..blah..dumbing down...society... Or is it? Why should a knowledge of the Go-Betweens be any less valid than a knowledge of, say, Elgar or Cubism? Why is popular culture (I'm not even sure that The Go-Betweens could be classified as "popular" culture) so frowned upon in this context? Hey, it's the only opportunity I get to show how er brainy I am.
Having said that, one of the other "contenders" chose as his specialist subject "the films of Bruce Willis", and basically admitted to John Humphreys during that uncomfortable mid-show banter that the films are "terrible, aren't they?" (I paraphrase). Thanks for that.

 
 


 
  2005.07.26  15.58
They vacuum up, your mum and dad.

My parents have been visiting London for a few days, so they've been showing me what to do in this marvellous city. Whenever they come to town, they make me seem like a part-timer. Thus, in the past four days, they've seen three plays, one Prom concert and lord knows how many exhibitions. It's great that they're still enthusiastic about London & what it has to offer, but ferchrissakes, slow down, you'll do yourself an injury at your age. To be honest, given the events of the past few weeks, I'm impressed that they had the courage to visit, but it seems they know no fear.
So on Saturday I took them to see Death Of A Salesman, probably the best play I've ever seen; Brian Dennehy's performance was just so moving, though there were moments in the plot that felt a little too close to home. Then on Sunday -after a grim meal at the Albert Hall's brasserie- we all went to the performance of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius at the Proms. I don't get out to classical concerts too often (normally coinciding with parental visits), and there's really no excuse, cos there were moments in this that were as moving as any live music I've heard this year. It's mainly the massed voice stuff that gets me...and there were loads of dramatic choral crescendos (-di?) in sunday's performance. Wonderful stuff, though I still have trouble with solo sopranos. Or as I still prefer to call them, horrible screetching women. Vibrato: who needs it?

hospitalsoup, is it time for another educational comp?

 
 


 
  2005.07.07  11.56
Checking in

Is everyone OK?

I'm going for a walk in Acton Park.



Mood: worried
 
 


 
  2005.06.20  12.54
Another music Me!-Me!

Ooh, it's hot, innit?

At the request of tekno_alice
List 5 songs that you are currently digging. It doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, along with your 5 songs.
I've done six (sorry) but i've also uploaded MP3s for y'all to listen to. I'll take 'em down after a week, or sooner if anyone has any problems with them being here.

The La's: Feelin' (Mike Hedges recording) From the great unreleased La's LP. This version uses Coral Sitars instead of yr standard six-string. The moment when the solo starts (on yet another sitar) is the most explosive moment in pop ever.

The Pipettes:ABC Brand new 45 from top Brighton Girl Group. Er...total pop. "He's the kind of guy who...OH-OH! AH WO-OH-OH-OH!!!"

Go-Kart Mozart: On A Building Site Lawrence's new record. One for the kids.

American Spring: Shying Away Finally made a CDr of all the Spring recordings for Tim Hopkins over the weekend. Could not prise this one off the record player no matter how I tried. "I know what I want, and I really don't want to. But I have to. So I'm shyin' away." Yep, genius.

The Gosdin Brothers: Try & Catch The Wind The sound of the sun streaming through the leaves in the park yesterday.

The Magic Numbers: Don't Give Up The Fight

 
 


 
  2005.06.18  00.18
See one, feel one, win an award.

And then on Thursday Sarah & I went to the Mojo Awards ceremony. A couple of months back we won tickets for the bash at an HMV instore featuring Teenage Fanclub & The Magic Numbers; a thrilling enough evening without the bonus of being prizewinners. But here we were a few weeks later hanging round a bar in Bayswater waiting for some media types to arrive & chaperone us through the evening.
Once we were in the hall the fun really started. As prize winners, we were stuck at the rear of the hall with people who'd won tickets in online auctions & folks from the printers & designers of Mojo. Sat around for a bit going through the goodie bag (Chuck Berry & Bo Diddley 45s, a Chess Records badge ...er.. that's it) & making chit chat with Gillian & Jo (our chaperones), and our fellow prizewinners -wide-eyed provincials visiting the big smoke for a couple of days. Then eventually the ceremony got underway.
The first award was for best new band, which The Magic Numbers were nominated for (even though their debut LP had only been released two days previously). Bizarrely, Rufus Wainwright was also in the running (even though he's now on his fourth LP). Thankfully, The Numbers trounced all comers, and later sarah & I ran up to Romeo and Angela to hug & congratulate them, squealing like excitable kids (which I like to think I still am, given the right occasion).
The rest of the ceremony passed like a birrova blur (checks photos...yeah...blurry), but I can vaguely remember Chris Hillman, Ray Davies, Robert Wyatt, Gang Of Four, Siouxsie Sioux, Dr John, Mike Figgis, Mark E Smith, Steve Earle, Roy Harper, Paul Weller, Jeff Beck, Dave Gilmour, Billy Bragg, Madness, Jimmy Page...er... I can mock all I like, but that's quite an impressive line up. Most of the awards themselves were completely interchangeable: what's the difference between the "inspiration" award, the "icon" award, the "merit" award and the "hall of fame" award? The "maverick" award and the "hero" award? By & large, any of the above musicians could have won any of the categories (bring back "best bassist"!!). Even so, it was an entertaining ceremony.
Midway through the dinner, Gillian rushed up to us shouting "Do you want to have your picture taken with Sinead O'Connor?". Sarah & I looked at each other, I giggled a little, "er...no, not really." "But she's asked to have her picture taken with the prizewinners!" Yeah, course she has. "No, it's really OK." At which point Gillian stomped off, perhaps a little angry & disappointed that we weren't utterly overwhelmed at the prospect of mingling a little with celebrity. She was a bit stand-offish towards us for the rest of the evening. Oops.
Then to the aftershow, where we plonked ourselves down on a sofa and just watched people for an hour or so. Jeff from Heavenly stopped by briefly, but there weren't too many other familiar faces, and even fewer celebs. Just more scummy self-congratulatory media back slapping (although that Nardia woman seemed very nice...)
I'm being unnecessarily cruel. It was a fantastic evening, memorable in so many ways. But to think only a few years ago I wanted to be part of this world; to mix in these circles, to be like these people, it was quite a shock to realise how far I'd come.
It's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

 
 


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