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.

Spotify linky:

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 ...