The Passenger

There was an interesting piece the other day in the Leicester Mercury about punks in the city in the late 70’s at a Damned gig at the De Montfort Hall. Now I wasn’t living in Leicester then, I wasn’t even a teenager back in Glasgow, and didn’t got a gig til Blondie at the Apollo in the early 80’s then I was off banging round the city seeing gigs in places like Rooftops, The Mayfair (where I first saw The Fall) and of course Strathclyde and Glasgow Uni not to mention the Barrowlands which has barely changed in the decades.

But in 1988 I moved to Leicester, experienced the joys the De Montfort Hall, the Princess Charlotte (still one of the best pub venues I’ve ever been in and now sadly gone as a venue) and of course the bus trips to Nottingham for whatever was on at Rock City. Leicester’s close location to London meant that I’d often vanish into the gaudy neon lit streets of London, specifically Camden and Kentish Town, though it’d not be unrealistic to end up in a pub or club in Soho to bide the time before waking up the next day in bed/on the floor depending on how lucky one got.

Then Bristol became somewhere I’d go to and again I’d experience the nitelife there, so my teenage and formative years up to my mid 20’s was scattered across the UK like precious  Infinity Stones as I didn’t just belong in one place, but many but at the same time I didn’t really centre myself in one scene but many.

Now, the point of all this nostalgia is this. Since my stroke and cancer, and in particular, since moving to Glasgow I’ve essentially become rooted in one place considering what I’m actually going to do for however many years I’ve got left but I’ve been doing my best to avoid making any actual decision by getting a job that vaguely pays or generally devolving any serious thought as much as possible. Well, tomorrow I go to the hospital for my 6-month cancer checkup and should, barring incident, be told only to come see the hospital once a year which means I can’t put off decisions or hide much longer. See I don’t want all my futures to be sitting wallowing in nostalgia, fun though that may be, but I want to create new moments and fashion new gems of memory to collect as time goes on that is beyond just existing and doing alright.

Tomorrow I may have to finally move on from the holding pattern I’m in and finally grasp the steering wheel of my life to guide myself to whatever is next. We shall see what happens…

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A word of appreciation for Absolute Beginners

Back in 1986 the director Julien Temple directed the film adaptation of Absolute Beginners; originally a book about life in London one summer in 1958.  It helped bankrupt one British studio, Goldcrest, and was instantly declared such a bomb that it’s rarely spoken about apart from ‘5 worst films ever’ type clickbait articles online., however the theme song by David Bowie is the only thing to really survive.

Part of the hate the film produced was the decision to turn the book into a musical, not to mention the charisma-free relationship between the two miscast leads (Patsy Kensit and Eddie O’Connell) and the fact the book was toned down. The film also has little sense of pace & the tone flits from weird British comedy to intense racial politics on a penny, plus those musical numbers stop the film dead even if some (like the Ray Davis one) are actually superb.

In short it deserves the reputation for being a mess and in places it is pretty awful, but, there’s one of the best opening shots you’ll see in a film as Temple guides the camera in one shot giving us a guided tour of the recreation of 50’s Soho.  There’s the production design which stands up as being part faithful, part idealised and of course some of the musical numbers are great. When the film clicks, I get what the filmmakers were trying to do and sure, the sometimes clunking acting, or the black hole of the central relationship comes back to punch you in the face in regards the bad side but something comes along shortly after to make you pine as to what it could have been, especially at the end during the Notting Hill race riots.

As a film it doesn’t deserve the hate its built up as there’s clearly far, far worse out there, but certain films become punching bags and Absolute Beginners is one of them. The film’s one big positive legacy though remains the theme song which is one of the greatest themes a film could have, which seeing as it came at a time in the 80’s when David Bowie wasn’t exactly at the top of his game (to say the least) for him to pull out a song which seriously gets better every time it’s heard is nothing short of genius.

When I saw Bowie perform the song at Glastonbury in 2000, it was nothing short of perfect. Standing there in a crowd of people transfixed hearing and seeing people moved by a song from a film that’s a third shit, a third weird genius and third all over the place and is now mainly forgotten is not an experience ever to be forgot.

So give the film another chance, or if you’ve never seen it watch it for what it is which is an ambitious, weird oddity with a brilliant opening, some great moments and one of the best songs of all time.

Have a look…

About the Guardian’s horribly sneery HMV article

The other day The Guardian printed an opinion piece by Penny Anderson about the death of HMV; an event which is going to cost over 2000 people their job. Anderson, a writer and artist (nope, not heard of her either til now) makes the case that the death of HMV means that smaller record shops can serve ‘true’ music fans as if the death of HMV means all those ‘real’ music fans can stop being held back.

This sneering pish can be summed up as well, sneering pish. Yes, HMV made huge mistakes and yes, they’ve failed to deal with the changing times, but to claim HMV was never about ‘true’ music fans speaks more about Anderson’s desperate urge to paint themselves as a hip, edgy outsider than a requiem for a business which in fact has been helping new music develop over the years.

I used to spent lots of time in HMV over the years and ever dabbled with the idea of applying to work there at one point in the 80’s.

HMV helped nurture me. Without it I’d have had the sketchier Virgin or the masses of indie shops which were great but utterly unforgiving in terms of customer service. I shopped there for decades til around four or five years ago I got a high speed internet connection and found I could stick all those DVD’s on external hard drives the size of a boxset DVD. Sure, I buy BluRay’s but physical media is something I buy less and less but I’ll miss the deals or the collectors items HMV used to produce and of course, I’m sorry for the thousands being laid off in uncertain times. I’m not going to be essentially a cunt celebrating it as a good thing for ‘real’ music fans.

But this is the Guardian of the 21st century where clickbait bullshit from wankers is their business model…

The Faiytale of New York outrage sums 2018 up in a sad, pathetic nutshell

In 1987, The Pogues and KIrsty MacColl release the classic Fairytale of New York; a song about Irish immigrants in old New York City. In particular Irish immigrants who had fallen on hard times and become alcoholics and drug addicts. It’s a story and lead singer Shane McGowan and MacColl play characters. This is something that for years has been seen as, well, obvious.

But we now live in 2018. Nuance and understanding has been replaced by an urge to outrage, even censor and I speak of the use of the word ‘faggot’ in the song. It has caused predictable, if depressing internet outrage with the usual cries of the word being changed, or even banning the song.

However context, and knowledge, is everything. If seen through a purely American cultural eye, the word ‘faggot’ means one thing and is a horrible, dreadful word. In the context of the song, it’s an old Irish word for a lazy bastard. If you listen to the actual song you can get that from the context of the song even if you’re utterly unaware of the Irish language. Yet the word is going to be clearly offensive to casual listeners as it does leap out with glorious spite so it’s a good thing that back in the day McGowan and MacColl listened to the same argument and made an edited version.

in a recording for the TV programme ‘Top of the Pops’ in the UK (with Shane McGowan), Kirsty changed the lyrics slightly to ‘You scumbag, you maggot, you’re cheap and your haggard’ – wording which was later used by Maire Brennan in Ronan Keating’s cover version.

That’s right, there’s an approved edited version out there because kids, we had this debate and a compromise was reached. Radio stations and TV programmes had a choice of what version to play prior to the watershed, with both versions being played for years before most of the time the original version of the song was played.  Words have meanings beyond whatever the mainstream context think it does, in America at least, and this isn’t the first time an American company have cried foul over the word after Facebook banned Mr Brain’s faggots, which in context was discussing the pork based dish famous in the north of England.

If I was being a dick, I’d be moaning about how American culture and language overrules all others and how some of those complaining can’t see their cultural imperialism in action. I won’t though.

Unfortunately what we have now are people screaming ‘BAN IT’ and another group arguing for the use of the word regardless of context or to try to actually just use it to offend those screaming ‘BAN IT’ and the snake eats its tail. The fact is the song exists. Words have different meanings depending on the context and what language you’re speaking in, and before jerking one’s knee perhaps search to see if the OUTRAGE you’re feeling now about something from the past, possibly before you were born, has had a debate and even a compromise delivered.

Art of any kind can be appreciated for the time it was made, the intent of the creators and the standards of the day. Sometimes that art will offend today’s sensibilities. Hiding from it doesn’t make it go away and censoring it without the consent of the creators is a dangerous path in whitewashing the past. In this case it’s a situation where the word doesn’t mean what many think but, the creators gave us a compromise. We now live in a world where this sort of thing happens far too often and this isn’t a good thing for society which is becoming insular and censorious.

The new song from Creosote Heart

Yes, this is a blatant plug for a mate and this is allowed.

Creosote Heart is a friends performing name, or what they’re going under today. They’ve got a new song out on the 15th October titled Your Sound Will Be The Sizzling Night and you can get it at Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, and all major music sites out there on the interwebs.

Facebook, Twitter and website; should you want to direct anything like praise, money or drugs to the band. Go download it when you can. It’s less the price a cup of coffee so you know it’ll do you good!

RIP Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin has passed away at age 76 from cancer on the same day of the month that Elvis Presley died in 1977. Franklin as a singer, star and icon easily matches, if not surpasses Elvis because that’s how important she was.

Like a number of my generation I only discovered her thanks to The Blues Brothers; a film that seemed to give a second wind to amazing artists of the 1960s who by the late 70s/early 80s were on various degrees of a career slump, but after this were introduced to a whole new audience.

Also Scritti Politti’s Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) was another point that flashed her named up to people unfamiliar with who she was.

Once discovered, few could forget Franklin’s music which will live on hopefully for as long as there’s people, or creatures, who can appreciate her music.

And dear me, there’s so much in her catalogue that is just perfect.

I could go on for hours and hours but there’s never going to be the like again. She’ll be missed but fuck me, what a legacy she leaves.

Return to Glastonbury’s past

Glastonbury Festival in 1993 was one of the very first I went to and lives in the memory as it was in the last years before the TV cameras and celebrities poured onsite often like cold sick, and the festival lost the chaotic element where one could literally turn a corner to walk into any sort of show you could imagine. Or possibly get mugged if you took a wrong turn after dark. It was that type of place back then. This does mean that it is incredibly hard to get footage of bands let alone anything else from these years but stuff does come up and here’s a load of footage of bands including Porno for Pyros who seems to be filmed near from where I was standing.

In fact the same channel is a bit of a goldmine with footage of the Beastie Boys from Glastonbury in 1994.

And that quite glorious Pretenders set from the NME Stage in 1994 also.

I love old footage like this as although it is rough, it manages to capture something and this is needed as we all get older. However the absolute discovery is Tao Jones, at the 1997 Phoenix Festival. Never heard of them? That’s because it was David Bowie performing under another name and yeah, it’d catch people out. People like myself who didn’t realise he was playing the dance tent so like hundreds of other legged it across site in order to try to get in what was by now, a pretty crammed tent.

So enjoy, and do so before these videos get possibly taken down.