February 24, 2009
Every time I go up to London (I’m exaggerating here -I mean the last two times) I’ve seen Glen Matlock standing on the tube platform at Oxford Circus.
This can only mean one of two things.
Either my destiny and Glen’s are inextricably linked by some quantum web of co-incidence.
Or that Glen spends all day hanging out on a tube platform at Oxford Circus.
February 22, 2009
Hey finally a list.
Every blog has to have a list doesn’t it? After all aren’t the majority of bloggers Aspergerish men?
Well here’s a list of 10 (sort of) music books that are worth reading (and a couple that aren’t). And I’ve even included the publisher’s details – how anal is that!
1. Young and Foolish – Alastair Fitchett (Stride 1998)
A fellow traveller in the indie underworld. Reads like a blog before we’d heard of blogs. Musings on the sound of young Scotland and much, much more. Essential
2. 45 – Bill Drummond (Little Brown 2000)
“As I entered my 45th year, I decided to write a book that contained snapshots of the world from where I was standing”. Bit like me and my blog. Bill’s ramblings on fame, life and tea. Lots of tea.
3. Paradoxia – Lydia Lunch (Creation 1997)
Lydia was writing the sexual confessional years before the tepid “I was a middle class hooker in Hampstead” genre. Raw, visceral, brutal and compelling.
4. The Complete Lyrics – Nick Cave (Penguin 2007)
Ought to be a GCSE set text.
5. Altered States – Matthew Collin (Serpent’s Tail 1997)
The best book ever written about Ecstasy and dance music.
6. Wreckers of Civilisation – Simon Ford (Black Dog 1999)
‘the story of Coum Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle’ follows the journey of those lovable monkees Gen, Chris, Cosey and Pete. Not for the squeamish.
7. Joy Division Piece by Piece – Paul Morley (Plexus 2008)
Paul Morley writes the same article about Joy Division 5000 times. It’s a good article though.
8. Rip It Up and Start Again – Simon Reynolds (Faber 2005)
Reading this made me realise I wasn’t the alone in thinking ‘this music is important’.
9. Renegade – Mark E Smith (Penguin 2008).
The Hip Priest in his own words. Well not quite. The Hip Priest with the help of a ghost-writer. Interesting to read about his childhood – I’d imagined Mark emerging snarling and fully formed from the womb. All the band members were wrong – of course.
10. Gig – Simon Armitage (Penguin 2008)
The poet who wanted to be a rock star all along. We both grew up in Yorkshire at the same time, listening to the same music, seeing the same gigs. And he’s obsessed with Iceland. We could be brothers. Actually he’s a bit annoying when he keeps referring to his wife as ‘Speedy Sue (of Sue and the Speedy Bears fame)’ and his daughter as ‘the Tudge’. His editor really should have said “you may think that’s cute Simon, but actually it’s just nauseating.
Worth mentioning in dispatches:
Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail – Christopher Dawes. Not a music book at all, but a book about the Rat man’s obsession with the mystery of Berenger Sauniere and Rennes le Chateau. Actually, one of the best books about Rennes le Chateau.
Bad Wisdom – Bill Drummond and Mark Manning. Bill and Z’s road trip to plant a bust of Elvis at the North Pole. Crazy.
Waking Up in Iceland – Paul Sullivan. Probably for Iceland obsessives only
24 Hour Party People – Tony Wilson. The Factory story told by the man himself. Worth reading for the hilarious Keith Joseph anecdote.
And a couple definitely to avoid:
Who Killed Martin Hannett? – Colin Sharp.This is a truly awful book. The blurb on the back describes the author as “Martin’s best friend” – but he hadn’t seen him since 1982 (Hannett died in 1991). The publisher (Aurum) ought to be ashamed.
Torn Apart: the Life of Ian Curtis– Mick Middles. With no access to members of New Order the book becomes the memoirs of a roadie with a grudge. Watch Grant Gee’s excellent Joy Division documentary instead.
February 16, 2009
Lazy music journalists, who really should know better, continue to trot out the lie that Chrissie Hynde and Neil Tennant were, are , will always be, the only music writers capable of crossing from critic to creator.
I’ve given up screaming “what about Cath Carroll”
Hardly are those words out and I’m in France, endlessly rewinding a free Factory sampler cassette, listening again and again and again to Moves Like You.
Angel, I’ll walk you home
Cath Carroll. Anyone but Factory would have made her a star. Maybe it was Tony’s revenge for City Fun’s endless sniping.
Miaow made perfect pop. If you don’t believe me listen to “When it all comes down” and call me a liar if you dare.
Her first solo album, England Made Me, is flawless, mixing Manchester with Sao Paulo. Factory blew the budget on Mapplethorpe snaps. A free gig at Ronnie Scott’s, which I almost missed because it was stupidly early, was the only London promotion.
Moves Like You was remixed, improved – if perfection can be improved – and video’d on grainy super8 in an old asylum by the Douglas Brothers (I think). Watch it on Cath’s MySpace page.
It didn’t sell. But occasionally I meet people who love this song. Really love it. Instant friendship almost always follows.
But don’t just listen to me. Unrest were so smitten with Cath they recorded a tribute to her, called, funnily enough, Cath Carroll. The video is on YouTube. It’s good. So is the song. But not as good as Cath
Cath decamped to the States. Continues to make good records. Dark, moody, complex. Ploughing her own furrow.
February 12, 2009
I used to fancy myself as a DJ. Still do. I went to a PTA disco the other night and couldn’t help but sneer at the guy on the decks from the safety of the bar. The crowd didn’t seem to mind his questionable musical taste or the fact he couldn’t mix for shit though. It is the easiest thing in the world to get a bunch of pissed 40-something parents, desperate to have a great time in the two hours before they have to get back for the babysitter, dancing.
I couldn’t mix for shit either, but I did have a great bag of tunes, could throw in some curveballs, and I knew how to fill a floor. And keep it filled. I used to play at ULU (when Ricky Gervaise was ENTS officer – but that’s another tale). I did a few sets at the Borderline and one at the Highbury Garage. I loved it. For a wannabbe musician this was easy.
Then it all came tumbling down. Horribly, horribly so. I’ve never been able to return to the wheels of steel. And it’s all Siouxsie Sioux’s fault.
A guy who had heard one of my triumphant sets (guys stripped to the waist dancing on the speakers) called me and asked if I was interested in being resident DJ at an after gig night he was setting up at the Shepherds Bush Empire. The first night would be after a Siouxsie and the Banshees gig (this was about 1994 when they were still hauling their sorry asses out on tour). The idea was that I’d play after the band had finished, keeping the punters drinking (and hopefully dancing). If it was a success it would be a regular slot.
I had a few reservation about playing to a load of old goths, but I couldn’t turn it down. Especially as he was offering me a share of the bar takings.
The place was (surprisingly packed). The plan was I’d set up in the mixing booth after the band had finished their set. I settled myself in the VIP lounge taking advantage of the free drink, easing myself into the superstar DJ life. This was quickly cut short by the promoter suddenly appearing to tell me there had been a change of plan. The Banshee’s road crew were behaving like tossers and wouldn’t let them set the decks up anywhere near the mixing desk. So my set was cancelled. No worries though, I’d still get paid and I could help myself to the rider.
So I cracked open another beer and wandered out to watch the Banshee’s (dull) set.
Just as they were building to a crescendo, I saw the promoter run into the bar looking rather panicked, eyes wildly scanning the room. They met mine. My stomach lurched. He ran towards me and grabbed my arm. “Get your records you’re on in five minutes”.
I followed him into the bowels of the building. He quickly explained they were going to set the decks up in the wings of the stage and I’d play from behind the curtains. I picked up my box of records, arranged in set order, and followed him up a flight of stairs.
The band passed me on their way down off the stage, a brief glimpse of the ice-maiden. I could hear the crowd baying for an encore. Up another flight of stair and then the stage where my decks would be waiting for me in the wings.
Except they weren’t in the wings. They were bang in the centre of the stage, just behind the curtain.
I could still hear the crowd shouting for more. I fumbled for my first record – a techno remix of the Sisters of Mercy’s Floorshow which I thought the goths would like. AND THE CURTAINS OPENED.
I stared out at 2000 expectant faces. 2000 Banshees fans waiting for the object of their adulation to come back. But what they saw was me, trembling behind a set of decks. For a split second they were bemused, this quickly turned to anger. The booing started. Then the rain of plastic glasses.
I cued the first song, hoping the music would calm the goth beast. I got the next record out, set it up on the deck. And nothing happened. THE SECOND DECK WASN’T WORKING. I looked around wildly for the promoter. He’d disappeared. The first record ended. Like a school disco, I had to lift it off the turntable and fumble to put the next record on. The booing subsided into laughter. The torrent of plastic and lager continued. One bounced off the deck, making the record jump off the grooves. I scrambled in my bag for another.
This pantomime continued or a while. The goths gradually got bored of aiming their beer at me. Realising there was going to be no encore they slouched towards the exits. I was finally put out of my misery when the curtains closed and the house lights went up.
I gathered my records and headed backstage. I found the promoter at the after gig party. “How’d it go?” I didn’t even bother to explain. He said he’d be in touch about the next gig and send me my money.
I never played again. I still break into a cold sweat when I think about those baying fucking goths. And I hate Siouxsie fucking Sioux
February 7, 2009
For a hopeless nostalgic like me, YouTube is a deadly drug. I once read about a lab rat wired up to a button that gave him an orgasm every time he pressed it. So he pressed it, and pressed it and kept on pressing it and eventually orgasmed himself to death.
That’s me and YouTube. Once I’m started there’s no stopping.
Take last night.
It started with Frazier Chorus. For some reason their song Cloud 8 popped into my head. Rather than dig out the vinyl I thought I’d have a quick peep to see if the video was on YouTube. That was it. From Frazier Chorus I went to ACR – I won’t stop loving you; then to Happy Mondays and Wrote For Luck; I then jumped (somehow) to Comsat Angels‘ Independence Day; from there to In Shreds by The Chameleons and on to Better Scream By Wah! Heat. So far so logical.
Then for some reason I moved onto to a new electro remix of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. Bizarrely this led to watching Psychic TV’s Enjoy Your Body. The next twist in the labyrinth took me to Daryl Pandy performing Love Can’t Turn Around on TOTP. I liked that so much I watched it again. For some reason this lead me to Bill Nelson’s great video for Do You Dream in Colour . The masks in that must have reminded me of my favourite video ever – Kansas by the Wolfgang Press – a video that shows what you can do with a a bit of imagination and some great masks. If you’ve never seen this video please do. The song’s good too.
Next to the Cool Thing dance from Hal Hartley’s Simple Men. That’s one of the other great things about YouTube – being able to watch your favourite snippets from films. Then I had a bit of a yearning for early 90’s tunes so I watched the New Fast Automatic Daffodils’ classic Stockholm; Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm by the Wedding Present and Lazarus by the Boo Radleys. Finished off with the Inspiral Carpets and Mark E Smith and I Want You.
Then I needed some Nick Cave, and boy is there a lot of Nick Cave on YouTube. I wanted the Stagger Lee video, couldn’t find it so watched New Morning live instead. Then onto Nick, Kylie and Shane singing Death Is Not the End. After that the video for More News From Nowhere, which is splendidly sordid – I didn’t know pole dancers could do that !- and has a cameo from Will Self. I finished off the Nick session with Breathless.
Where next? Well I though I’d check out Bob Dylan’s original version of Death is Not the End. Which, rather predictably led me on to Neil Young. I watched him perform a kickin’ version of Rocking in the Freeworld with Pearl Jam. This triggered a memory that Neil Young had also teamed up with Devo, so I just had to watch the classic Come Back Jonee video. Devo led me to Blondie and Sunday Girl from Dutch TV.
It was getting late now, which may have been the reason for moving on to 3AM Eternal by the KLF. Then I had to watch It’s Grim Up North (just for the thrill of hearing Barnsley mentioned in song).
I was nearly done, but I still needed one more song to finish the session, just one more. Then I could go to bed satiated. I had it – Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros. I watched them play it live on Later , then I watched the video with the old folk acting like children (Hoppipolla means ‘jumping in puddles’). Then I noticed there was a cover version by We Are Scientists. So I watched that as well, and I finished with some home video of a fat bloke playing along to it on his drum kit.
That was what I needed to drive me to bed.
I really need to get out more
February 5, 2009
It’s difficult to say for certain what the best gig you ever went to was. There are so many variables. Who you were with; were you pissed/on drugs/both. Did you snog somebody. Its especially hard when, like I did, you went to so damn many.
My halcyon gig-going days were 1980-1990 – from when I was old enough to when I discovered dance music. In those ten years I must have seen hundreds of bands. And had so many memorable nights. New Order in Heaven; The Birthday Party at the Electric Ballroom; The Bhundu Boys at the Sir George Robey; That Petrol Emotion at the Sir George Robey: Crass in a garage in Camden; James at the Town and Country Club – the night everyone took to the stage; A Certain Ratio at Middlesex Poly; New Order (again) at PCL; New Order (again) at the Royal Festival Hall; Psychic TV at Dingwalls; The Dead Kennedys at Brixton Ace; Pulp at the Garage; Pavement and Sonic Youth at the Academy; One Dove at the Camden Castle. Bjork, Nick Cave, The Fall, PIL, Primal Scream, The Woodentops, Stump, Age of Chance, Cath Carroll, Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Sisters of Mercy, Underworld, Orbital. So many great, great nights.
BUT, if I had to choose the one that sticks in the memory most, the one which still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up at the thought of it. The one that if I could have just one of those many many nights again, it would be the one I’d choose. It would have to be THE GUN CLUB at Dingwalls, winter 1984.
Why. Maybe because of the surprise. I’d seen them a few months before at the Lyceum and they were awful – finishing with a version of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme that seemed to last for days.
Why. Because The Fire of Love still has to be the most exciting debut album ever. Sex Beat, She’s Like Heroin to Me; For the Love of Ivy; Ghost on the Highway; Jack on Fire. They played them all that night like a band possessed.
Why. Maybe because they knew this was going to be their last ever gig.
Why. Because Jeffrey Lee Pierce was the coolest and most beautiful frontman alive – the bastard son of Marlon Brando and Debbie Harry
It was one of those rare nights when the audience and band commune as one. We were wild. They were wild – I’m sure I didn’t imagine seeing Kid Congo hanging upside down from the rafters still playing his guitar.
I think I bought the bootleg tape – desperate to relive the experience. I never played it – frightened I would break the voodoo spell the night cast. I can’t, even now, bring myself to watch them on YouTube. For once I’d prefer to leave the memory intact.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce – R.I.P.
February 4, 2009
I was in a club in the early 1990s. Andrew Weatherall was DJing. In the middle of a techno set he dropped in Coup by 23 Skidoo. Most of the luvved up clubbers hadn’t a clue what it was, but it had the place bouncing.
A great dance record, like Le Freak or Family Affair, Coup could get any party (block)rocking with its beats.
Back in 1983 it was the “fuck you GI” intro sampled from Apocalypse Now that made it seem so radical. OK sampling wasn’t exactly new – CV and TG had been doing it for years, but this was so hip. They were just the coolest band around for a while (I remember seeing them at ULU and feeling such a hipster because I had the same top on as Sketch – not that anyone noticed). The Neville Brody record sleeves added to the mystique.
The two- base sound also made them the most danceable band in town . Last Words, IY , Kundalini and Coup in its various formats were explosive.
Then they just lost the plot, or decided to turn their backs on commercialism, whichever way you want to see it. The Culling is Coming was challenging to say the least – sounding like they’d given all their instruments away and started again with tin cans. I can’t imagine anyone, bar the odd buddhist monk, ever even sitting through one side of this. Urban Gamelan was no better to these non-Indonesian ears.
If ever a band intentionally dropped the baton then 23 Skidoo did in spectacular fashion. It wouldn’t have been such a surprise if their early records hadn’t been so damn funky. The point seemed to be a rejection of any Western musical tradition.
In 1986 they made a comeback of sorts with Assassin, which was a return to form embracing the hip-hip beats of NY. Then they disappeared again until 2000 when they released the eponymous 23 Skidoo. Sadly the world was no longer listening.
February 3, 2009
There was one glaring omission from the Rough Trade canon on the C81 – The Pop Group. This meant I didn’t discover them until years later. I’d seen the t-shirt of course – every punk and his dog was wearing Thatcher giving the v-sign on their chest, and the legend – We Are All Prostitutes. But somehow I never got to hear them until it was too late and they’d gone. I saw some of the splinter bands – Rip Rig and Panic, Maximum Joy – but I just wish I’d have been able to catch the delirium of The Pop Group Live. Just watching this performance of their explosive, abrasive debut She Is Beyond Good and Evil makes me realise what I missed. Look at those kids go. It might have kept me off the Joy Division. These guys looked to be having fun.
Now sitting in my cupboard under the stairs (not quite the floorboards yet) where I’m sent to listen to ‘unlistenable music’ on old scratchy vinyl, listening to their last album We Are Time (funnily enough not available on i-tunes) I realise how revolutionary in every sense The Pop Group were. A mash up of punk/funk/jazz/dub/discord/dance/angst. 30 years too early.
I rediscovered Mark Stewart on On-U Sound in the late 80s making some anguished, abrasive sounds with Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith LeBlanc. Stranger Than Love is his most haunting piece – melding Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere with Eric Satie to devastating effect. If Last FM is anything to go by Mark has been sadly forgotten these days. Shame. A real shame.
STOP PRESS – it looks like there is a new documentary about Mark called ON/OFF Mark Stewart from The Pop Group to the Mafia due to be screened ‘in selective cinemas’ ie The Watershed in Bristol. Maybe the world hasn’t forgotten him after all
February 2, 2009
Another door opens. A post-punk primer. I’d heard some of the bands before – Buzzcocks of course and Subway Sect. Most of them I’d heard of , caught snatches on Peel, but C81 bought a cash strapped school kid a lot of music (and some real gems) for £1.50.
- “The “Sweetest Girl”” – Scritti Politti (6:09)
- “Twist and Crawl Dub” – The Beat (4:58)
- “Misery Goats” – Pere Ubu (2:26)
- “7,000 Names of Wah!” – Wah! Heat (3:57)
- “Blue Boy” – Orange Juice (2:52)
- “Raising the Count” – Cabaret Voltaire (3:32)
- “Kebab Traume (Live)” – D.A.F (3:50)
- “Bare Pork” – Furious Pig (1:28)
- “Raquel” – The Specials (1:51)
- “I Look Alone” – Buzzcocks (3:00)
- “Fanfare in the Garden” – Essential Logic (3:00)
- “Born Again Cretin” – Robert Wyatt (3:07)
- “Shouting Out Loud” – The Raincoats (3:19)
- “Endless Soul” – Josef K (2:27)
- “Low Profile” – Blue Orchids (3:47)
- “Red Nettle” – Virgin Prunes (2:13)
- “We Could Send Letters” – Aztec Camera (4:57)
- “Milkmaid” – Red Crayola (2:01)
- “Don’t Get in My Way” – Linx (5:15)
- “The Day My Pad Went Mad” – The Massed Carnaby St John Cooper Clarkes (1:46)
- “Jazz Is the Teacher, Funk Is the Preacher” – James Blood Ulmer (4:03)
- “Close to Home” – Ian Dury (4:13)
- “Greener Grass” – Gist (2:32)
- “Parallel Lines” – Subway Sect (2:38)
- “81 Minutes” – John Cooper Clarke (0:13)
The Postcard bands I loved already, Cabaret Voltaire were already essential listening, but Pere Ubu and D.A.F and the Virgin Prunes were a revelation. The track that blew me away most was Low Profile from ex-Fall-sters Martin Bramah and Una Baines’ new band, Blue Orchids. The version on the link below is from the Money Mountain LP but the version on C81 is better – less polished more powerful. Awesome.
February 1, 2009
Falling in love with the Fall was a slower process than it had been with Joy Division. I was intrigued by a reviewer who said they made him want to go out and kick a cat, and by a guy I’d seen with “Rowch Rumble” painted on the back of his leather jacket. I went out and bought “How I Wrote Elastic Man”.
The first play left me confused. I didn’t really have a musical language for this, Discord hadn’t featured highly in my listening at 15. I persevered and after a few listens realised this was really exciting. I turned it over and played City Hobgoblins. I needed more. I managed to get hold of a copy of Grotesque. Container Drivers had me bouncing around my bedroom. It took me a bit longer to appreciate New Face in Hell.
A few months later Sheffield City Council put on a series of gigs for the unemployed. I was still at school but borrowed my uncle’s UB40. The line-up was- Scanlon, Hanley, Riley and Smith. I went expecting to hear my favourite songs (by now I’d bought up everything I could find – Rowch Rumble, Fiery Jack,Slates) but discovered that Fall gigs could be frustrating affairs. We were treated to tracks from the forthcoming album, Hex Enduction Hour. Hip Priest seemed to go on for hours. The audience were restless. “Speed it up Mark” someone shouted. They didn’t.