Saturday, 3 November 2012

'Anaconda' - The Sisters Of Mercy (1983)

"She will, she will, she will, she will,
Let it take her breath away."

The garden’s on fire. From an exploding rocket far too big for a milk bottle. It immediately toppled over and shot the firework along the ground. And there goes the rhubarb patch. That was the first and last firework night my dad hosted at home. The very reason they recommend organised displays.

Our annual local display up at the park by the shops had recently been cancelled though from a complete lack of organisation in previous years. I’m not sure who even was supposed to be in charge of it. Or how it lasted so long. I clearly remember rockets raining in to the audience one year – though fortunately no-one was hurt. And the highlight was always the perilously huge bonfire. This was basically an excuse for the local estates to clear out their houses and save money on a skip.   

For weeks, the bonfire would build and build. Anything and everything was thrown on to it. From mattresses to gas canisters. And it towered over the park. You could imagine Richard Dreyfuss making mashed potato sculptures of it at the dinner table. By the time November 5th rolled round, this beast of a bonfire was so volatile that there was no need for an elaborate lighting ceremony. Basically anyone within a mile of it with a sparkler was likely to set it off. And the heat and roar of the flames was intense. It was no wonder the park had so few trees and so little grass left.       

The unbridled fun and total disregard for safety didn’t end there. For days after, the bonfire would be left unattended and smoldering away in the park. And then the games began. ‘Jump The Bonfire’. ‘Walk Through The Bonfire Without Melting Your School Shoes’. ‘Throw Your Friend’s New Gym Bag In The Bonfire’. Happy days.

About a month later you’d see a couple of men in suits slowly circumnavigating the enormous burnt patch in the middle of the park and looking mighty miffed. As if they could clearly remember their council department disallowing any bonfire event to take place here, and they weren’t ready to believe that these were the markings left by an alien spacecraft. Meanwhile, the locals would already have begun hoarding petrol cans and asbestos ceiling tiles to fuel next year’s bonfire.   

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Saturday, 20 October 2012

'Gimme Shelter' - The Rolling Stones (1969)

"War, children,
It’s just a shot away."

No-one needs to buy a Rolling Stones record. That’s what I used to think. Their poppy hits were played non-stop on Radio One when I was growing up. To the point that the songs were drained of any resonance. And then I heard The Sisters Of Mercy’s version of ‘Gimme Shelter’. A maelstrom of apocalyptic visions and pounding rhythms. I expected this from The Sisters of Mercy. But from the Stones? How little did I know.

My parents record collection was light on Stones albums, so it was off to Our Price for any album they had with ‘Gimme Shelter’ on. Which was this Greatest Hits double set. Here my love of the Stones began. In their hands, ‘Gimme Shelter’ was something else again. It simply reverberated with unbridled emotion. This is what Steve Wright should have been playing on the Radio One Roadshow. And to think I still had to discover ‘Sticky Fingers’, ‘Exile On Main Street’, and so very many more.

I think we’ve all learnt something here about misconceptions. I’m now ready to hear The Sisters Of Mercy cover something by Genesis.  

Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie and Bill introduce last week's
world premiere of 'Crossfire Hurricane' at the London Film Festival. 

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Friday, 12 October 2012

'Ants Invasion' - Adam And The Ants (1980)

"10.35 and I hope I’ve made the right decision.
Heart is beating;
I’m alive,
But I don’t call this living."

"Don’t go in the bamboo!" These were the chilling words of warning I’d hear endless times as a kid. From my parents. From my teachers. Everyone seemed spooked by bamboo. These days it’s all pubescent vampires and post-apocalyptic zombies. Back in the Seventies it was giant grass.

There were tales. Told by flickering candlelight on cruel October nights. Well, some of them. Others were told under the flickering school hall strip lights in morning assembly. Of children being shredded alive by running through the bamboo patch on the school playing field. "Hold it there! What?!" Yes, exactly. I’m not sure who the school thought they were fooling with this. How come these grisly deaths by menacing perennial evergreens never appeared in the local paper? And why didn’t they just chop the bamboo patch down? I’m pretty sure our Head Master was cribbing his assembly notes from a Stephen King book.

And then there was the Bamboo Man. Who lived in the woods near our house. Apparently. "Stay away from the Bamboo Man!" "Is he made of bamboo then?" "Er, no. He lives in the bamboo." "Well, the name needs some work." Of course, the tales of a Bamboo Man just made you want to play in the woods even more. Would we see him? What did he eat? Did he steal those Micronauts I hid in the silver birch last week?

It would seem Bamboo Man was only visible to adults though, as none of us kids ever spotted him. Despite continually throwing rocks and assorted masonry in to the bamboo to flush him out. Kids, eh?

Three decades later though, I hear he’s still dwelling there. Well, that’s what my eleven-year-old nephew has been told. Surely this must be Son Of Bamboo Man by now though? And why is all this bamboo still around? Is someone panda farming in the area? Don’t people own scythes anymore?
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P.S. It's always a delight when I open an album sleeve and some forgotten treasure spills out. Today it was this 12-page catalogue...

Monday, 8 October 2012

'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' - John Williams (1981)


Was anyone here at my 10th birthday? I’m thinking of holding a reunion. It’s a long shot, I know. Especially as I think I only invited about three friends. Who I haven't seen for three decades. Can you guess what we saw? (Though the film actually has a different official title now. ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ Mr Lucas just loves to tinker.)   

This was my last birthday party. I peaked at 10. There would be no coming-of-age-type-events as I turned 18 and 21. No need. I’d seen Harrison Ford escape a giant rolling boulder. What was going to top that?

Only one other party comes to mind when I was younger. A dinosaur and pirates themed event in a local school church when I was about six. Shared with another boy in my class who had a birthday that week. I liked dinosaurs. He liked pirates. I wish I’d gone as a dinosaur pirate now. That would have been spectacular. Perhaps it’s not too late. I need to roll these parties together. A screening of ‘Raiders’ with everyone dressed as dinosaur pirates. And there’ll be warm Kia-Ora and a box of stale Revels for all. Who’s in?     

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Saturday, 6 October 2012

'Boys Don't Cry (New Voice)' - The Cure (1986)

"I try and laugh about it,
Hiding the tears in my eyes."

The Eighties in one image. Well, my Eighties. I can’t speak for the striking coal miners or those that fought in the Falklands War. I’m thinking they’d probably choose something less frivolous.

My Sixth Form days would begin and end with this poster of Robert Smith hanging over my bed. My black school folders had this silhouette drawn on them in silver pen. My friend Toni had a Boys Don’t Cry T-shirt she wore one summer day we were walking her dogs over the fuel allotments. It was on badges I found in Kensington Market and postcards bought on the Isle of Wight. I’m surprised I didn’t get it as a tattoo. (Well, not that surprised, actually.)  

And, of course, I’d painstakingly copy that look. Plumes of distressed hair, over-sized suit jackets, high-tops with multiple sets of laces, and a guitar slung nonchalantly over my shoulder (the guitar was one fashion accessory too far, to be honest - especially when out shopping or visiting the dentist). It would be a long time until another sleeve had that impact on me again. Probably ‘Life Is A Rollercoaster’ by Ronan Keating. Ho ho ho.  

Saturday, 22 September 2012

'Weightless Again' - The Handsome Family (1998)

"We stopped for coffee in the Redwood forest;
Giant dripping leaves,
Spoons of powdered cream.
I wanted to kiss you, but wasn’t sure how."

There’s a note waiting for me in the hallway. Must be from my new neighbours welcoming me to the building. Yes, it’s from the girl next door. But she seems to have skipped straight over the welcoming part and launched straight in to ‘Please don’t play any music between 11pm and 8am’. That’s friendly. Especially as I haven’t even played a single song yet. Guess she must have noticed that the dozen crates I moved in yesterday were all labelled ‘Records’.  

She needn’t have worried. My tinnitus means I can never play anything loud anyway. And over the next couple of years, I often thought I’m the one who should be writing letters as she seemed to be continually throwing Proclaimers-themed parties.

Fourteen years later, she’s moved on. And I’m still here. Nesting. Moving again seems too much of an ordeal. Far easier to just buy every flat on this floor and knock through. That’s the plan. At least that was the plan, until my friend pointed out that when I’m older I’ll be stuck three floors up with no lift. Hmm.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

'(Hey You) Rock Steady Crew' - Rock Steady Crew (1983)

"Bodies in expression of music inspiration,
Tell us when you feel it,
‘Cause we’re gonna rock the nation."

Hip hop was my life. For one weekend in 1983. Think I got carried away by a trip to Croydon. It always seemed like Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One when I was a kid. With its towering concrete edifices, block wars, Umpty-baggers, chump dumping and Stookie glanding. (Ok, I may have over-stretched that analogy a little.). The big difference was that Croydon seemed more lawless. (Yeah, yeah, only joking. Or am I? Yes, I am.)  

Mega-City One illustrated by Gary Erskine.
Weekend shopping trips to Croydon with my grandparents meant I got gifts. Which is how I found myself in Our Price buying this 12-inch. My one connection to a scene that had nothing to do with my life. I wasn’t about to start popping and locking any time soon. But I’d seen someone breakdancing on a bit of cardboard outside Bejams earlier. Next to a wall covered in amateurish graffiti. So this seemed like a suitable souvenir.      

How different my life could have been if I’d let a little more electric boogaloo in to my world. Instead, the enchanting sirens of gothdom were beckoning me.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

'Where's Me Jumper?' - Sultans Of Ping F.C. (1991)

"It’s alright to say things can only get better;
You haven’t lost your brand new sweater."

"We’re on the cover of Melody Maker, Michael."

"Really, Chris? Because I’ve got it right here and I can’t see us. There’s four mud-caked lads staring at me."

"Ignore them. Look between the middle two guys at the crowd in the background. And to the right. That’s your giant parka and the back of your head."

"Hmmm. Perhaps."

"And that’s me next to you, Michael."

"Hmmm. I won’t be getting it framed."

The year we all spent three days up to our knees in mud
and folk went home with trench foot.

Fourth on the bill in the Session Tent...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

"Strangeways, Here We Come" - The Smiths (1987)

"I travelled to a mystical time zone,
But I missed my bed,
And I soon came home."

Is the Summer over? Can I come out of hibernation now? What did I miss?

So… we were talking about The Smiths. "Oh no, Michael. Let’s move on  to something else." Ah, but we can’t. We need to wallow in the 25th anniversary of "Strangeways…" and The Smiths splitting. The news that Johnny Marr had left the group had broken in the NME a month back. It almost ruined my week on holiday in Swanage with my grandparents and cousins. Above the Mary Chain on the cover was a big ‘Why I Quit’ headline. Oh, here it is…       

My copy of this is in the loft somewhere, so thank you
Come on, you know you’ve missed these stupidly detailed musings. Heartbroken by the seaside, there was at least one final studio album on the way. Though the cloying absurdity of their current single ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ didn’t bode well.

Morrissey has often claimed ‘Strangeways…’ is his favourite album. Marr too. I can’t agree as ‘The Queen Is Dead’ remains their glistening pinnacle for me. But they bowed out in their own inimitable style with some wonderfully intuitive paeans to the loveless, witless and, er, spleenless. And no-one rolls an ‘r’ quite like Morrissey.
Let’s hope they never reunite.

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

'Ask' - The Smiths (1986)

"Spending warm Summer days indoors,
Writing frightening verse,
To a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg."

Morrissey wants you to hang out of a car door. Speeding down a motorway. With a video camera. Sounds like a dream job. This was the brief given to an old work colleague of mine called Chris. (No, not that Chris. Or this Chris. There are too many people called Chris in my life.)  

In 1986, The Smiths commissioned a short film from director Derek Jarman to support the release of ‘The Queen Is Dead’. The agreement seems to have been ‘you can do what you like, just don’t expect the band to appear’. Chris was the cameraman on the wildly expressionistic results  – and he appears briefly in the background to the playful video for ‘Ask’ that was recorded the same year.

When I met Chris, nearly a decade had passed and he was a salesman at the video production company where I got my first job. You could tell his heart was elsewhere. And most days his body was elsewhere too, as he continually called in with increasingly inventive excuses as to why he wouldn’t be coming in to the office. Two favourites were…
"I slept in a graveyard."
"I’m chained to a bed and haven’t got the key."

But I think he topped both of these the day he sent us a fax from his local library:
"Can’t make calls today. Lost my voice."

And he never returned.

Friday, 27 July 2012

'Perfect' - The The (1983)

"What is there to fear from such a regular world?"

No-one can beat me at the 100 metres. Think that’s still true – can’t be bothered to Google it. But I hear the London Olympics is coming up, so I’m sure someone will give it a go. We’ll see.

My nickname at school should have been ‘The Flash’. Popular consensus chose ‘Goth!!’ instead. But my PE teacher could see beyond the petty labels to the raw talent sprinting towards him. So I was asked to join the school sports team and take part in the District Championships. Hmmm… Joining teams? Competing in events? It doesn't sound very much like me. And it wasn’t.

Which is why my school Sports Days were spent sitting in the shade at the back of the field with my sister’s Walkman, whilst reading interviews with The The and Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the NME. And with three ‘Breaking Bad’ DVD box sets in front of me, I’m all ready for this year’s Games.  

Saturday, 14 July 2012

'Dry' - P J Harvey (1992)

"You can love her.
And you can love me at the same time."

They say never meet your heroes. Nonsense. I say always meet your heroes. And apply for jobs with them.

In the Winter of 1991, I’d been unemployed about six months and my Job Centre Careers Advisor insisted I look for opportunities beyond writing. So I wrote to John Peel, as he’d recently said he needed help managing his record collection. This didn’t exactly appease my Careers Advisor. And I didn’t really expect a reply. But six months later I got one. Handwritten. Apologising for the delay and wishing me luck in my job search. It remains my favourite rejection letter ever.

Flash forward three years. I’m watching Electrafixion (Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant’s short-lived Bunnymen diversion) in a tent at the Reading Festival. And there’s John Peel hovering on the outskirts of the crowd. As the set ended, I got a chance to go over and thank him in person for the encouraging letter and let him know I’d since found a job as a scriptwriter. His handshake made my year.

This numbered first edition (4214) comes with a superb extra LP of early album recordings called 'Demonstration' - yet to be reissued.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

'Ghostbusters' - Ray Parker Jr. (1984)

"If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighbourhood,
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!"

This seems misguided advice. There’s always something strange going on down my street. There’s a guy who walks around covered in birds. Another they call The Wizard – you can probably guess what he looks like. I don’t think the Ghostbusters would be best qualified in those cases. We need to define their services better.   

"If there’s somethin’ weird and it don’t look good,
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!"

Ok, this isn’t helping. It’s quite a specialised offering we have here. Shouldn’t we be mentioning spirits right up front? Paranormal activity? Floating librarians, at least. 

"I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost."

That’s pretty much the minimum job requirement I’d say. Just as I’d expect a milkman not to be afraid of milk. Or something. (Make up your own analogy.) Is this really their Unique Selling Point? 

"If you’re seein’ things runnin’ through your head,
Who can you call? Ghostbusters!"

Well, yes,you can. But perhaps after you’ve seen a psychiatrist.

"An invisible man sleepin’ in your bed.
Oh, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!"

In some ways, we’re finally getting a better understanding of their business model. In many other ways, you’re just creeping us out.

"If you’re all alone, pick up the phone,
And call… Ghostbusters!"

This just sounds like a different service altogether.

"I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost,
I hear it likes the girls."

Scare tactics. A big no-no in modern marketing. Please amend.  

"Mmm, if you’ve had a dose,
Of a freaky ghost, baby.
You better call… Ghostbusters!"

Not sure this portrays our young urban female demographic in the best light. And could we stop calling them ‘baby’, please.

"Let me tell you somethin’…
Bustin’ makes me feel good!"

Spot on. I can see this as the strapline for the campaign. 

"Oh, who you gonna call?

Ends on a strong call to action. But we need to add the phone number in there, guys. And perhaps a hashtag?

Now, I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done with the launch campaign for Club Tropicana. Woah… what do you mean drinks are free?!!? We’re trying to run a business here.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

'Martha's Harbour' - All About Eve (1988)

"You are an ocean wave, my love,
Crashing at the bow."

Sixth form summer art project. Sketch the places you go and the people you see. Well, I’m not really one for summer. Or going places. Or seeing people. So I decided to spend a day freeze-framing the ‘Martha’s Harbour’ video and drawing that instead.

Which resulted in a pad bursting with images of a mournful Pre-Raphaelite-style woman standing around a windswept harbour. Oh, and lighthouses. Lots of lighthouses. Surely that’s everyone’s idea of a great summer. 

My art teacher seemed typically bemused (this was before he finally lost all patience with me on seeing my volcanic-melting-men masterpiece). And I decided this was brilliant fun and immediately began a series of charcoals based on The Sisters of Mercy’s ’Dominion’ video.    

Unfortunately, the original video for 'Martha's Harbour' doesn't appear to be on YouTube, so the above is a live performance from TOTP. I resisted the cruel temptation to include All About Eve's appearance from the week before when they couldn't hear the backing track and thus sat lifeless on stage for half the song. Yes, go have a look for it.

'Dominion' is the greatest music video ever made. Fact. We'll come back to it again in another post.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

'Anthology of American Folk Music' - Edited by Harry Smith (1952)

"The girl you have in that merry green land,
Still waits for your return."

Crank calls. Twice a week. For three years. No, I wasn’t making them. I was the innocent victim. Well, not really a victim as such. I could have changed my number a lot earlier to stop them. But it was always intriguing to see who it was going to be on the other end and I quite enjoyed the banter.

It seemed everyone had my number. There was the man who wanted me to donate to a charity he had very clearly just invented. And the children who wanted to sell me a sports car that was also a boat. And the most memorable was from an irate middle-aged sounding woman. It went something like this…

"Hey, you promised me you‘d call and we could get together. Don’t pretend you don’t know who I am. You gave me this number on Friday night in the club. Stop messing me around. I’m going to get my husband on the phone…"       

Yep, that's right: her husband!??! Well, she was quite obviously deluded if she thinks I’ve ever spent any time hanging out in a club. I can only imagine that the old woman who lived here before me must have fallen out with someone and they had cruelly plastered her number in phone boxes around town.

Somewhat inevitably, Mr Heavy Breather finally made an appearance very late one night. Thought he’d be disappointed to have got me, but he sounded excited enough. Hanging up didn't do the trick this time. He kept on ringing in to the early hours. They say blow a whistle down the line. But who has a whistle these days? "Referees, Michael." Except referees. So I eventually had to pull the plug out. And the next day I changed my number, as I had a feeling he’d be back. Since that day it’s just been autobots telling me I must press 5 immediately to make a PPI claim. The modern world really is rubbish.

Nick and PJ's 1996 cover ...

Saturday, 30 June 2012

'Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father' - Various (1988)

"A crowd of people turned away.
But I just had to look,
Having read the book."

Cult bands covering classic albums. It seems MOJO magazine glues one of these to their covers every month now – most recently ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’. But back in 1988, the NME’s ‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’ was the first of its kind. (Or was it? Perhaps not. Let me know if I’m wrong.)

Released to celebrate 21 years of the original ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ album and to raise some cash for the charity Childline, this tribute is probably most remembered for its chart-topping cover of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ by Wet Wet Wet.   

Now here’s a revelation for you: I’ve never really cared for Wet Wet Wet. Shocked? Well, here’s another: I’ve never much liked The Beatles either. Beyond one or two songs. The rest just sound like nursery rhymes to me. So the appeal of this album was primarily The Fall’s cover of ‘A Day In The Life’. Every second a marvel. I’d never heard it before, so this became the definitive version for me. (Yes, I’m quite sure that’s some kind of sacrilege and I’ve lost all you Beatles fans from today.) Cracking covers by the Weddoes, Bragg, Sonics and Frank Sidebottom were all bonuses.

Although the shine of novelty has lost its luster, I still find these cover albums inordinately compelling. I’m really hoping MOJO is now working on a tribute to The Thompson Twins’ ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’.    

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Saturday, 23 June 2012

'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' - David Bowie (1972)

"You’re not alone,
Gimme your hands.
You’re wonderful,
Gimme your hands."

Happy 40th, Ziggy! My memories on the release of this seminal album? Well, I was just a year old, so everything’s a bit hazy. And I wasn’t even in my home country. I was about as far away as you could posibly be, in Australia.

In those days, you were actively encouraged to emigrate to Oz on a ten pound ticket. So my Dad found a job in Sydney and hopped on a plane a few months after I was born to set up our new home. My mum and I followed by ship. A three-month journey that called at every port on the way. The one photo of me on our travels is from a ‘Beautiful Baby’ competition they ran onboard (I'll scan it in if I find it again). I won, apparently. (I suspect there were very few babies on this long haul expedition.) Pushy mums, eh?

By the time we arrived, my Dad was already disillusioned with his new job and home. So I blew out the candles on my first birthday cake (all my presents from home were stolen in the overseas post) and plans were hatched to return to Blighty. My Dad then flew off again. And I think you can guess how my Mum and I journeyed back.   

Of course, I have no true recollection of any of these events. Even though it feels like I have some memories from the world’s shortest antipodean migration, I know those are just afterimages from our family cinĂ© films. I sometimes wonder about the person I’d be now if we’d stayed. As a sun-dodging aquaphobic, I can only assume I’d be very different indeed. Would the Goth in me have blossomed in all that heat? We’ll never know.

Grab your best jumpsuit and you can recreate this pose
 in London's Heddon St (just off Regent St).
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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

'Material Girl' - Madonna (1985)

"Boys may come and boys may go,
And that’s all right you see.
Experience has made me rich,
And now they’re after me."

They were hearing only bad news from Radio Africa. While the pop masses could only tune in to Radio Ga Ga, Radio Goo Goo and Radio Blah Blah. But on Frimley Park Hospital Radio in the mid-Eighties, they were listening to my homemade 17-minute Madonna megamix.

Disc Jockey was one of my dream jobs growing up. (The others included designing T-shirts with giant slogans on and filming the further adventures of Princess Leia.) My school friend Mike beat me to it on the DJ front, landing a  job on local hospital radio. Mike was one of those guys that looked five years older than anyone else in our year. And he was obssessed with Fern Britton (who presented the regional news at the time).

Mike invited me down to the hospital one Sunday afternoon to watch him at work. Which I translated as ‘co-present’. So I came loaded with TDK C90 tapes full of endless remixes that I’d made. Blame Jive Bunny. Throw a few songs together and get to number one. You just needed a good memory for drum breaks and a fast finger on the pause button. Yep, Jive Bunny and I were leading today’s mash-up generation.   

Somehow I convinced Mike to play my Madonna megamix towards the end of the show. Kinda forgetting to mention that all my mixes were ridiculously long. If you liked Madonna, that was a great afternoon to be in hospital. It got cut off about two thirds of the way through though, as we risked crashing in to the next show. And on future visits, it was thought best that I leave the remixes at home.

Mike went on to his dream job the next year: providing Tannoy announcements at the local football club. And I’m still working on that Princess Leia screenplay.
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Call this a remix 'Jellybean'? Only 6 minutes long! 

Monday, 18 June 2012

'Car Wash Hair' - Mercury Rev (1991)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

'Elephant Stone' - The Stone Roses (1988)

"It seems like there’s a hole,
In my dreams."

As the eldritch embers of the Great Goth War began to dim and cool, a new fiefdom rose in the North. The times of Baggy were upon us, and the twin dynasties of The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were in ascendance.    

The legions of the Baggyhood quickly spilled forth from the misty moors of Madchester to exalt their anointed kings across the great lands of Britannia. From the gilded tower of Blackpool to the fervent isle of Spike, the rallying cry rang out and the masses did rave on.

Many pale pretenders to the throne were to follow in their wake. (Yes, I’m looking at you Candy Flip.) And the eventual self-destruction of both dynasties would birth myriad myths and legends. But in their stead remains a venerated chalice of canticles to a fallen empire that is testament to their impassioned ideology.

"It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at" – Ian Brown, 1989.

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Produced by Peter Hook, fact fans.

Found this Smash Hits sticker tucked in the sleeve.
Yes, I really do hoard too much.

A big thanks...

The completist in me is now very happy indeed. 

Met up with my old school friend Chris this week for the first time in many years, and as a wonderful surprise gift he’d found me the remaining Wedding Present singles from 1992 that I needed for my collection

They are a delight to behold and a glory to hear on vinyl for the first time. Super chuffed and immensely thankful.  

Thursday, 14 June 2012

'Mercy Seat' - Ultra Vivid Scene (1988)

"Apply the heat that gently turns,
My sickness in to health."

Not all goths are created equal. According to Howard. Picture Howard as the Elder Goth. One who sires other fledgling goths. Like in those vampire shows. Howard was always talked about in revered tones by kids in the years above me at school. And teachers would say to me, "Oh you must know Howard, he’s a goth too".

Can’t remember how or where I finally met him. But in the summer of 1988, Howard used to turn up at my front door every couple of weeks. Under cover of darkness, of course. Head to toe in black. And always with a tape for me. Usually something by Clan of Xymox or Cindytalk. Fully approved goth bands to his ears.

On Howard’s sliding scale of gothdom, I was a mere demi-goth. I had made the cardinal sin of listening to Fields of the Nephilim, which knocked off loads of goth points, apparently. But I clawed some back by owning most everything on 4AD at the time – though I never quite understood what was so ‘goth’ about that label, as the majority of their bands seemed more influenced by the Velvet Underground and Tim Buckley.

We quickly fell out of touch after that summer. Finding Belinda Carlisle in my record collection was probably the final insult to Howard's pure-bred gothic sensibilities. I like to think he’s still sitting on his throne of molten Nephilim albums, seeding plans for the next gothic uprising. If he’s been reading this blog, somehow I don’t think I’ll be invited.   

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Monday, 11 June 2012

'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' - John Williams (1982)

'How do you explain school to higher intelligence?'

"Hang on, Michael. Didn’t we do E.T. two months back?" Well, um, yes. But today we’re celebrating the film’s 30th birthday. Kind of. "Oh, this is going well." In the UK, the film wasn’t actually released until December 1982. Imagine that today. Having to wait six months for a Spielberg blockbuster. It would be illegally streaming half an hour after the first US screening. And even back then, it played a huge part in boosting the bootleg video market.

Eleven years old and very much a child of the Star Wars generation, I was a supernova of excitement for any and all sci-fi films. My mum was taking my sister and I to see it at the Empire Leicester Square on the first Saturday of release – this would be my first trip to a West End cinema. But calamity loomed. A boy in my year had got hold of a dodgy Betamax copy and brought it in to school on the Friday. And, for some unknown reason, one of the teachers decided it would be perfectly ok to hold a special assembly that afternoon and screen it for the whole school!? Not quite sure of either the educational value or moral lesson there.

Yes, it was certainly a welcome change from the ‘Way We Used To Live’ low budget dramas we were usually shown. But this wasn’t how I wanted to experience ‘E.T’ for the first time. Or any time. Poorly recorded and projected. Daylight streaming through the ill-fitting hall curtains. Russell trying to impress the row of girls in front with his remarkably poor "phoooone hoooome" impressions. So for two hours I sat with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears to avoid spoliers. And it just about worked. None of the magic of the London screening the next day was tarnished and it remains much loved. Happy birthday, E.T. !

Spotify linky:

Saturday, 9 June 2012

'Lazybone' - Shonen Knife (1992)

"You don’t need to be serious,
You don’t need to be a walrus.
You don’t need to be nervous,
You don’t need to be an eggman."

If you were reading Melody Maker in 1992, chances are you own a Shonen Knife record. This gloriously kooky Japanese buzzpop trio were on every page. Everett True would be eulogising about the Knife from the mosh pit of some pub gig in Camden. While Kurt Cobain would be going giddy over them in a centre page spread. And so it was off to Rough Trade to dig through the import section to finally hear what they actually sounded like.

Melody Maker was always great at making you feel connected to a musical ‘scene’ – from ‘Eskimos’ and ‘blonde’, to the ‘new wave of new wave’ and 'alt-country'. Even if those scenes were primarily limited to its readership, lasted about two months, and you only knew one other other person who had even heard of them in your day-to-day life.  

Yes, for this reason alone, we need Melody Maker back. Right now. Who knows how many other wonderful Japanese buzzpop trios we’re missing out on in its absence.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012