Monday, 30 August 2010

Your Plastic Giveaway – Blog Post 100

Everyone loves free stuff. Fact. And I’ve got two mystery bundles of sparkling free stuff I’d like to offer you dear readers for making it through 100 of these meandering posts with me.

Basically, I’ve been having a Bank Holiday clearout. As you can imagine, I have a habit of buying my favourite albums over and over again in repackaged multi-CD gatefold limited editions (with ‘extra tracks and a tacky badge’). So I thought now was the perfect time for some of my ‘doubles’ to find new homes.

Some of the albums you’ll have read about here (including the one that started it all: ‘Psychocandy’). Most will probably pop up in future posts (Pavement, Whiskeytown, Patti Smith). All can be put on eBay if you really don’t like them.

I’ve spilt the CDs into two themed bundles: Psycho and Candy. Just tell me in the comments which mystery bundle you’d like (one choice per person, folks) and I’ll get someone who isn’t me to pick two winners at random this weekend. Sometimes I think I’m too good to you all.

Best of luck!

Small print: This giveaway is only open to readers who I know and I can give the prize to in person – I’m not meeting up with random strangers or paying for postage on any of these prizes.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

‘Sun Arise’ – The Godfathers (1986)

“Sun arise,
Come every mornin’.
Bringin' back the warmth to the ground.”

“These guys have been tuning up forever. When’s the band coming on?” “They are the band! This is their best song.” Ah, the joys of Spaceman 3 on another soggy Friday afternoon at the Reading Festival in 1989.

My first Reading was back in 1987 when it was still the Reading Rock Festival, with the emphasis very much on ‘Rock’. The days of piss bottle fights, burning fields, and the general fear of getting your head kicked in if you looked at a New Model Army fan in the wrong way – which was in any way at all. My cousins and I were by far the youngest ones there. By about a decade. We’d been drawn in by the twin gothic majesty of The Mission and All About Eve. And, of course, The Fall – who popped up third on the bill every year in the 80s and gave 95% of the field a chance to head off to the beer tents.

Looking back through my diaries at old Melody Maker clippings of past line-ups, brings back memories of Harry Hill bottom of the bill in the comedy tent, bands possibly best lost in time (The Telescopes, An Emotional Fish, Tack>>Head) and the days when a special advance three-day season ticket was just £35.

The Godfathers played at my first Reading and I remember them being a great moshing band. Another dozen or so Readings followed – mainly due to the convenience of my parents living nearby, which meant I avoided the squalor of camping there. My last one (now transformed into the Carling Weekender or something *groans*) was six years back, with Moz and The White Stripes. I felt a decade too old and can’t imagine I’ll be back. I even gave a little farewell salute to the fields of my youth – by urinating in a bottle and lobbing it a Libertines fan. Only joking!

Spotify linky:
The Godfathers – Sun Arise

Saturday, 28 August 2010

‘Flaunt It’ – Sigue Sigue Sputnik (1986)

“Shoot it up.”

So we all agree 10-inch records were annoying (from last week’s post – keep up.) Yes? Now look at this: The debut album from Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Housed in a flimsy cardboard box. (Or ‘A 21st Century Toy’ as the Sputnik Corporation would have you believe.) Who needed this in their life? Well, apart from me, obviously.

Everyone loved to hate Sputnik in the mid-80s. With their mega-bucks record contract, Blade Runner posturings and one-note multi-format releases. I thought they were genius. And to my school friend Nick they were gods. Nick was one of those friends you had in the year above who got expelled from school for something that was never clearly defined (generally a combination of alcohol, knives and arson), but still hung round the gates at lunch-time.

Nick should have been in Sputnik. He had the look, the attitude, and the ability to play two notes on a keyboard. He looked like he’d seen and lived things well beyond his sixteen years (when he wasn’t hanging out at the park or the chippy with us younger kids). If you wanted your ears pierced or head shaved, he was your go-to guy. He wouldn’t do either of these things particularly well, but there was a definite kudos in saying it was Nick who had made your ears go green and puffy.

Nick was also one of those friends who quickly passes through your life – he was there one day (I only ever knew him after he’d been expelled, through my friend Stephen) and then he was gone only a few months later. Pretty much like this album. It was fun for a few listens that year. I probably remember the adverts between the tracks (yep, that’s right kids, it was the first album to feature ad breaks from L’OrĂ©al, i-D, etc. – how very Sputnik) as much as the songs themselves. Sadly the ads haven’t made it on to Spotify, but let’s go ride the Love Missile one more time ...

Spotify linky:
Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11

Saturday, 21 August 2010

‘Start Choppin’’ – Dinosaur Jr (1992)

“Oh, there’s no going back to that,
I’m so numb, can’t even react.”

10-inch singles. Another ridiculously inconvenient way to listen to music. No record player liked them. You always had to drop the needle manually. And then you could never remember if they played at 45rpm or 33rpm. Whichever choice you made it was always the wrong one and you’d have to get back up off your bed to flick the speed control.

And we get a double whammy with ‘Start Choppin’’ (limited edition number 1686, fact fans) as it’s also obviously a picture disc. Which meant the sound quality would be highly dubious. I’ve never actually listened to it though. That’s the golden rule of picture discs: you don’t actually play them. You wait to hear the song on the album and sacrifice ever hearing the b-sides.

With cover art that good though, it was well worth the £3.49 even if I never played it. I loved the Dinosaur Jr sleeves at that time. They were by a guy named Angry Johnny. Of course they were; Happy Johnny ain’t painting stuff like that. I had a T-shirt featuring the back cover below and I still miss it.

Spotify linky:
Dinosaur Jr. – Start Choppin'

On this day … 1992 (aged 21)

Scribblings from my diary …

“Nan and I go to see Alien 3.”

Saturday, 14 August 2010

‘Close (To The Edit)’ – Art Of Noise (1984)

“To be in England,
In the summertime,
With my love,
Close to the edge.”

Smoking. Usherettes. And Art of Noise videos. All three have now disappeared from our cinemas. Good riddance to the first. But I miss the other two.

People these days treat the cinema experience like they’re sitting in their living-rooms – continually chatting, checking texts and getting up for food. For a child of the 70s and 80s, it really was something extra special. Certainly before the rise of video recorders, this was your only chance to see new films. If you missed ‘The Black Hole’, you’d be waiting another four years before it was shown on ITV (and then you’d miss it because it’d be shown on Christmas Day and you’d be stuck round your auntie’s house and she only had a black and white TV in her bedroom and anyway we should be playing games as a family not watching futuristic visions of space exploration and robots fighting each other).

A trip to the cinema in those days would also throw up some surprises too. Which is why I so clearly remember the Kia-Ora and Butterkist adverts being followed by a random stream of animated images accompanied by the sound of a car stalling. It turned out to be the video to ‘(Close) To The Edit’. I went out to buy it immediately after. And thus began a teenage love of playing around with sound samples. And hiding behind masks (which spooked my grandparents on a couple of occasions – but that’s another post.)

Spotify linky:

YouTube video:

Now playing: ‘Orange Sky’ – Alexi Murdoch (2003)

“When I am alone,
When I’ve thrown off the weight of this crazy stone,
When I’ve lost all care for the things I own,
That’s when I miss you.”

(Not strictly a new release, so you could argue it doesn’t qualify for my ‘Now playing’ posts. But I picked this soundtrack up this week and have been playing it non-stop.)

Am I the only person who’s seen the film ‘Away We Go’? It’s a little gem. Boy and girl look for a place to raise their baby. That’s it. With funny bits. And sad bits. Co-written by the wonderful Dave Eggers (author of ‘A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius’). Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring John Krasinski (Jim Halpert in the US version of ‘The Office’). Why has no-one seen this film?

What’s more, it features an ace soundtrack. (Yes, I said ‘ace’.) This is mainly thanks to the many great songs by Alexi Murdoch. Why has no-one heard of this guy either? You need to hear ‘Orange Sky’ today. Right now. (The link’s below. Yep, there it is.) Funnily enough, this song actually reminds me of the first season of ‘Prison Break’, but it’s used here to great effect too. I’m sure one year it will be covered by some gurning fool on ‘X Factor’ and it will finally get the recognition it deserves

Spotify linky:

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

‘U-Mass’ – Pixies (1991)

“And stupid stuff,
it makes us shout”

ABBA at one in the morning. No-one should have to suffer that. (And if you disagree, you may well be reading the wrong blog.) And this wasn’t a one-off. This was a neighbour in the flat downstairs who seemed to be taking the philosophy of ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)’ far too literally.

You could bang on the floor and you’d get a torrent of abuse back. You could write a polite note and it would have no effect. So I tried another approach. When I got up for work at 6.30am, I’d move my old paint-splattered ghetto blaster (I’m guessing they’re not called that these days) into my bedroom, face the speakers towards the floor, and crank out ‘U-Mass’ by Pixies. Childish? Yes. Immensely satisfying? Absolutely.

This song seems perfectly engineered to wake your neighbours. It starts with a raw guitar riff and only gets louder – with the drums then pounding in, closely followed by the bass. And as it’s picking up speed to the first chorus, Black Francis drops in a wonderfully unnecessary sweary bit for added pleasure. Now, I don’t condone this kind of language. But, hey; stick your ‘Dancing Queen’.

After lots of typical Pixies yelping (“It’s EDUCATIONAAAAAL!!”), the song pulls a glorious false ending, before crashing back in on a final burst of full-on distorted guitar mayhem. Three minutes of perfection. And after that, you could hear my neighbours were up and moving about – job done. But not quite yet. As the final trick was always to let them settle down again and think the storm has passed, before coming back with an encore (something like the 17-minute version of ‘Sister Ray’ by the Velvet Underground). Reading this back it seems rather cruel. But remember this: ‘Mamma Mia’. 1am. Day after day. Yes? Exactly.

So, are they still around? Nah. Their landlord booted them out after two weeks and we all slept happily ever after.

Spotify linky:

Bonus linky (in case you need to annoy your neighbours too):

On this day … 1992 (aged 21)

Scribblings from my diary …

“I have an appointment with the dental hygienist – a Simply Red fan who thinks I’m reading Edgar Allan Poe for an exam!?”

Saturday, 7 August 2010

‘24’ – Red House Painters (1992)

“I thought at 15
that I'd have it down by 16.
But 24 keeps knocking at my door.”

Well, last Saturday’s Kristin Hersh double bill went down a storm. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing. (Though that may be a fault with the line – I really should get it checked out.) So we’re doing it all again. This week with Mark Kozelek. My favourite singer. Fact. Let’s rewind to the beginning with the lead song from the debut album by Red House Painters – basically a demo that 4AD loved so much they decided to release immediately.

The day this came out, I was in London for my first job interview. I was 21 and had been unemployed a year – for reasons I’ve talked about before (catch up here, newbies). The job was at a recruitment ad agency based around Farringdon way. I’d have to find lots of exciting ways to write ‘Now hiring IT professionals’. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t even get a second interview. This could be because the young lady interviewing me wasn’t so interested in the comics I’d just bought down ‘Forbidden Planet’. Her loss.

This song struck an immediate affinity with me when I got home and put the album on. 24 was still three years off and became a landmark year in my head because of this song. Should I have done more with my life already? Would I reach 24 and look back in disappointment? It turns out 24 is just like any other year. A mix of failing and successes; regrets and achievements; longings and rewards. It’s timeless quality is why this song still means as much to me today, as 40 knocks on my door.

Spotify linky:

Red House Painters – 24

Now playing: ‘Admiral Fell Promises’ – Sun Kil Moon (2010)

“And I know it’s better here,
Than anywhere I’ve been going.”

Mark Kozelek’s voice is my comfort blanket. It reminds me of late nights home alone. And walking through Boston parks on bitter cold days. And lazy afternoons in Hammersmith.

Sun Kil Moon is his latest band and this is their new album – though it’s pretty much stripped down to just Mark’s voice and guitar. It hasn’t popped up on Spotify yet, so you’re gonna have to trust me on this one and just go out and buy it. No? Fair enough.

You can listen to three tracks on their label Caldo Verde’s site here:

On this day … 1993 (aged 22)

Scribblings from my diary …

“Star Trek 2 on TV early evening. Lara’s friend Geoff walks through the living-room and seems to think it’s Star Trek 3! The younger generation, eh?.”

Thursday, 5 August 2010

‘Let’s Go Round There’ – The Darling Buds (1989)

“We don’t have to talk,
We don’t have to smile,
‘Cos we’ve only just met,
But please stay for a while”

(“What’s this?” Etched vinyl, kids. Yep, it made a whole side of your expensive record completely unplayable. Buy, hey, look at the pretty flower pattern.)

My Dad wins competitions that he doesn’t even enter. A crate of champagne will turn up at the door. Or tickets will arrive for a weekend away. Once he won a car (which he wanted to sell, but my mum nabbed it).

My winnings total a 12-inch by the La’s (whom I never liked, so that went to my friend Laura G) and a Darling Buds T-shirt. Impressive, eh? I snagged them both in the same competition. A Sunday night phone-in on Radio 210 – the local Reading station. The presenter, Sarah Jane, phoned me after the show to take my details and we got chatting about indie stuff.

The next week I got a name check and the new Buds single dedicated to me. And so began a weekly correspondence where I’d send in requests (The Wonder Stuff for my mum and some Pixies for my sister) and get my letters read out. This continued for about a year and I was mighty chuffed to get a shout out in the final show. The radio just hasn’t meant the same to me since – you never hear a good Darling Buds giveaway any more.

Spotify linky:

On this day … 1990 (aged 19)

Scribblings from my diary …

“I haven’t been out one evening this year.”

Sunday, 1 August 2010

‘Girl From The North Country’ – Bob Dylan (1963)

“If you’re travelin’ in the North Country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline.
Remember me to one who lives there,
For she once was a true love of mine.”

In 1993, I went to court for a crime I didn’t commit. That’s because I was on the jury. (See what I did there? I made you think one thing and then I … oh, never mind.)

I wasn’t surprised to find myself called up for jury service. It was my second year on the dole, so it made sense to make me useful – and I was the cheap option too, as they only had to pay my train fare. I was surprised I got picked for actual service though. Who’d want the shoegazing raggedy indie kid wearing the trench coat in the middle of a Spring heatwave? Well, it turned out the accused did as he looked exactly the same as me. Grrr …

I don’t think I’m allowed to write much about those two days I spent at Guildford Crown Court. Other than that at one point it looked like we were going to be re-enacting ‘Twelve Angry Men’, but I’m no Henry Fonda so we all got home in time for ‘Neighbours’. I can tell you what I did in my lunch hours though, and that was buy Bob Dylan albums from the HMV up the high street. I’d only just started listening to Dylan and ‘Girl From The North Country’ was the first song of his to make me a fan. It’s still my very favourite, for its beautifully poignant lyrics. You can’t hear this song and not yearn for someone who’s left your life. Seventeen years on, I still think of the same person. I’ll let you know if that changes.

Spotify linky:
(Turns out there's very litte Dylan on Spotify and I could only track down this version for you - as much as I love both Dylan and Cash, this really pales in comparison to the original.)

Diary doodles 1990 - The 9th and last

Rusty was my cousin's dog. He's no longer with us. Consider this a touching tribute. RIP.