Scott Walker RIP

Back in the long hot summer of 1995 I went down to Glastonbury for a weekend of fun and games, with a couple of friends, Denise and Joe who were driving down. We were travelling in a battered old car which groaned with our stuff but spirits were high as we left Leicester to hit the M69 to head to the South West. As we approached Coventry Joe stuck on the one tape we had for the trip which was a copy of the Best of Scott Walker and as he stuck it in, and pressed play the first chinks of sunrise broke as this played.

It was the sign it was going to be a good weekend.

By this point in the mid 90’s, Walker had gained an appreciation among the Indie kids who weren’t having the dull boot heel of Britpop kicking them in the head, though folks like myself grew up with Walker’s music. Basically if you grew up in the 70’s and your family had taste you’d normally head one Walker tune all the time. Mine was Jackie.

But the king was this one.

No Regrets was my drunken pulling song along with Blondie’s Atomic for years in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Those were the days.

What I’m basically saying is that Scott Walker is dead but his music won’t die. Walker has been with me musically for more or less my entire life. His music was there during some amazingly memorable times and still will because just listen to the man sing on songs like this…

I mean, just fuck, listen to it! If that song doesn’t move you a bit then you have no soul.

But the sun won’t shine anymore for him and it’s only fitting to close this with this performance of a Jacques Brel song…

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Keith Flint RIP

Keith Flint of The Prodigy took his own life at the age of 49 and it is an utter tragedy for so, so many reasons. If one assumes he was suffering from depression then he’s another victim of how men especially find it hard to nearly impossible to speak about something that can be crippling or worse. 49 is no age these days and Flint had decades ahead of him.

And it can’t be said often enough that The Prodigy emerged from a scene in the early 90’s where rave bands were ten a penny and novelty dance tunes were chart fodder, which brings me my first encounter with the band in the form of Charly.

In these early days Flint was a dancer. Basically he was there to dance to LIam Howlett’s tunes as The Prodigy was purely a vehicle for Howlett back then but then came Music For A Jilted Generation and fuck me, it was like an entirely different band.

I first saw them sometime in 93/4 at the Astoria in London and it was clear the band wasn’t just actually becoming a band, but Flint was developing a presence onstage, and not just that the band were getting harder. Sometimes even moving away from the rave sound which by the mid 90s was becoming increasingly commercialised and well, shite.

Then Firestarter came out in 96 at the height of Britpop when British bands were supposed to be inspired by The Kinks and writing songs about going to the seaside or getting drunk, The Prodigy turned out something that sounded nothing like any other mainstream band at the time.

Sure, others had blended dance with Punk before, Sheep on Drugs for example, but nobody really made a success of it til Keith Flint decided to have a serious makeover which ended up scaring the shite out of people’s mid-90’s complacency when the video first appeared on Top of the Pops.

Summer 96 saw The Prodigy tear up the Phoenix festival, but it was 1997 at Glastonbury when they landed fully formed as something extraordinary.

It was Friday night. It’d been raining so hard in the run-up that stages were sinking into the mud. Conditions were miserable. Everywhere had this sucking, sticky mud that clung to everything, and if you stayed still for too long you either locked into place or sank. People were fucked off and waiting for something to kick the festival’s arse into gear. A lot has been said about Radiohead’s set on the Saturday over the years, but without the Prodigy kicking off the Friday night  and giving people a spark, then the crowd wouldn’t have been so up for it. We’d have given in.

By now at the scabby dogend of Britpop bands were dropping off fast, but The Prodigy sailed through the storms, not to mention controversies like the argument with the Beastie Boys about Smack My Bitch Up.

After 98 I sort of took the Prodigy for granted. Subsequent albums never hit the heights of Fat of the Land, and a decent headliner spot in Reading in 2002 was the last time I saw them live, and now I’ll never see them again and that is nothing compared to the tragedy of Flint leaving us at such a relatively young age.

The welcome return of Suede

I missed this a few months ago when it came out partly as I was busy, partly because I love Suede so much I feared it’d be the more enormous shite. Today I’ve been recovering from comic related graft, I’ve been reading some stuff I picked up and listening to songs on YouTube when Life is Golden came on and happily proved me wrong. It feels like a logical extension of where the band were in the 2000’s before they just fizzled out.I always felt it was wrong for them to just go as they did as there was one more great song sitting in them and here it is.

Enjoy.

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…

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.