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.

 

 

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A word of appreciation for Poppy’s ”3.36 (Music to Sleep To)”

Poppy is one of those internet pop sensations that happen seemingly daily. The big difference is that the fact she’s a construct of the music industry and media is etched into her entire persona creating what is a rather wonderful post-modern publicity stunt mixed with an art project that’s funded by a major label in the shape of Island Records. Aside from her music she’s best known for stuff like this…

Masterminded by Titanic Sinclair, Poppy is his latest project after the vastly underrated Mars Argo, but in among all the vaguely ironic videos and pop songs is a work of genius which is Poppy and Sinclair’s ambient album 3.36 (Music to Sleep By).

Poppy clearly shares some DNA with the KLF, and this album is reminiscent of Space, while at the same time being very much its own thing, and oh, it will help you get sleep, or even comedown nicely from whatever high you’re on. Which ultimately is the test for a good ambient album and this is very much a good ambient album so stick the headphones in, relax and enjoy.

Ghosts of the past on Google Streetview

I’m a bit of a Suede fan so YouTube often throws Suede videos at me like a bored petulant schoolchild throwing paper at his teacher. This morning it coughed up Electricity at me, one of their songs from 1999.

The video was film by the sadly departed Astoria club on Tottenham Court Road, and in Falconberg Court, one of those wonderful old London alleyways, which near places like the Astoria used to reek of the history of the place through the smell of sex, urine and kebabs.

I thought I’d see what it looked like on Street View and got this.

The image is from October 2008 when the Astoria was being (in my view, disgracefully) ripped down to make way for Crossrail. This is no longer what this part of London looks like, but Streetview contains this ghost of what was once there and through that it provides an idea of what was lost.

In fact Google has thousands of such images from around the world sitting there reminding us of our mortality, what we’ve lost and how things are changing sometimes for the worst to be recorded in every gory digital detail. We can be reminded of pouring out onto a bust London street at 3am working out whether to make one’s way back to wherever you were sleeping that night, or to stumble into Soho, Camden or somewhere outwith Zone One or Two to carry on drinking and not caring about running the risk of a lengthy treatment of anti-biotics.

These shadows of the past will linger reminding us of better days. Google may have it’s issues, but I for one welcome these reminders of memories that twinge like phantom limbs upon viewing them. In fact you could even write a song about it…

RIP for the NME

After 66 years, the New Musical Express, the NME, is dead. Well, the print edition is finally dead but it will continue as a pretty awful online site that uses the name to maintain some level of brand recognition for something that to be honest should have been dragged round the back of the bins and shot in the early years of the 21st century. Though they did make Conor McNicholas editor and that kind of had the same effect.

Although McNicolas’s run as editor was to be as nice as possible, fucking awful as the paper descended into something that Heat readers would have found not to be intellectually challenging, he was fortunate to be around during what is now really a bright time for music with new American bands complementing European bands but the standard of writing in the NME by 2002 was teeth-grindingly poor. By 2005 it was unreadable and I stopped buying it after 20 years or so.

In 1985 I was 18 and was dabbling in buying the weekly music papers with a Sounds here and a Melody Maker there, but NME kept winning out over the other two because on the whole, it was better written & anyhow, I couldn’t be arsed with Heavy Metal which seemed to be the focus of the other papers. Plus the NME was openly political at a time when that was the only thing to be.

So began a habit that stretched two centuries as the NME helped develop my musical tastes as it alerted me of stuff I’d never otherwise have heard about. Which for folk born in the internet era must be a thing to try to grasp that knowledge of new music was so hard to come by as in those days it was the NME, John Peel, the odd local radio show, The Tube and whatever scraps leaked on TV.

In short, the NME was the Bible for many of us as it helped shape youth movements small and large for decades.

Everyone has a Golden Age of the paper, and for me, it’s the late 80’s spilling up to the Britpop years. Music, culture and politics all collided with the end of the 80’s giving us HIp Hop and Acid House, which gave us a well needed shot in the arm and pushed Indie music into doing wonderful, glorious things.

For a few years everything the NME showcased was turning to gold.

And in the early 90’s, the period tedious Britpop documentaries skim over as not being very interesting, the NME helped point out the fact it was an interesting time as multiple genres, and acts from anywhere could make it.

During all this time the one constant was the writing of Steven Wells who would regularly outshine colleagues who later went on to have very large mainstream success, but Wells would remain to show how a paper like NME needed someone like him who’d call something, or someone, exactly what he thought. However the paper was changing as it started jumping on the bandwagon of what came to be known as Britpop.

I cared little for the Blur versus Oasis fiasco of 1995. As it seemed false, as indeed it was a construct of record companies and the NME itself to essentially make money. Once that was over, Britpop died and a diverse vibrant UK music scene had been made dull in the NME’s image as it tried to remain relevant as it approached the 21st century and the looming threat of this new thingy called the ”internet”.

But I was reading the paper more so out of habit. Sure, sometimes it hit gold  but the sense was that the 21st century brought it decline as articles would be 300 or so words attached to big pictures.

Then around 2005, after that year’s Glastonbury, I bought the review issue. Read it. Put it in a box and I’ve never bought an issue since. Sure, I’ve read it be it on a train, or in a pub or club as a copy someone had left behind but five minutes reading at best. Back in the 80’s I’d take an hour, sometimes two or three if it was a Christmas double issue, to wade through it.

And now in 2018 it dies as a print publication. The website is dreadful, and there’s dozens of great sites that cover new music, but this all said there’s something terribly sad about the NME finally ending. If it’d been done right it could have still been here to lead new generations, but it becomes history and memories and that I suppose is all we have left in the end.

The Old Grey Whistle Test revival was a remider as to why Punk needed to happen

Last Friday BBC Four broadcast a live Old Grey Whistle Test one-off revival show with Bob Harris presenting. Within five minutes I remembered why I hated the programme til it dropped endless sessions with Santana or Yes and started to bring on new Punk or early electronic music to give the programme a jolt of life because to be blunt, the show was mainly fucking tedious for much of it’s life, and when it did have something with a bit of balls it was sneered at.

When growing up the sound of Bob Harris used to fill me with dread because he may introduce Bowie or Marley (and lets not talk about how little the programme supported black artists) one minute.

We might even be luck and get a bit of Roxy Music weirdness.

But most of the time it was endless plains of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Emerson Lake and Palmer and endless Bob Harris whispering at you like that weird guy you’d later meet at Glastonbury in 1992 talking about that time he saw Lindisfarne in 1973.

Then at some point the BBC realised the programme needed dragged into the present, brought in Annie Nightingale and started giving more and more Punk and new bands a chance.

Most of all the programme on the whole stopped speaking down to kids like me who gave zero fucks about how long it took to record one guitar solo when I wanted to hear stuff that was exciting and felt alive. By the mid 80’s it was essential telly for things like this wonderful Jesus and Mary Chain performance

For a generation the show wasn’t tired old men talking earnestly about rock music but it returns with this version of the show that reminds me of being bored, annoyed and fed up wishing something exciting would happen but it’s time has past and it should remain locked in the cupboard.

So please don’t bring it back. The last thing we want to do is expose a new generation to Bob Harris talking about Dire Straits.

 

 

 

From Earthsea to Manchester

Yesterday saw the deaths of writer Ursula Le Guin and musician Mark E. Smith. Both were much, much more than just a writer and a musician and both were complicated people which has made some of the reactions to their deaths highlight just how polarised, and even simplistic some people can be.

Le Guin wrote science fiction and fantasy. She defended what she wrote as SF, and didn’t take the easy option of classing her work as something the middle class literati would accept without turning their nose up as something as ‘common’ as SF. She threw out SF stories which challenged you as a reader to think about ideas that were human and alien. Her fantasy tales of Earthsea were liberally ‘borrowed’ by writers lesser than her (I expect J.K Rowling’s cheque got lost in the post…) and she built utopia’s that seemed functional. I soundly recommend The Dispossessed as it is one of the finest books ever written and you need to search out her essay The Stalin in the Soul if you’ve ever slaved in a job wishing you’d quit to become an artist.

Had the left in the UK adopted her as much as the hippies in the 1970’s did, then things might be very different. Her vision of utopia, equality & sane, evidence driven policy mixed with frankly, a Punk aesthetic which brings me nicely to Mark E. Smith. Smith was The Fall; a post-Punk band which was more than a band. Drawing from a massive amount of influences Smith recreated himself as something we don’t do much anymore as he became an original. One of his big influences is H.PLovecraft (you can hear The Fall as a Lovecraftian band very easily) which brings me to this wonderful bit of telly as Smith reads Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space.

It will be the music & the thought behind it that Smith should be remembered for. My favourite period are the Brix Smith years. Partly because the material appeals more to my pop-punk sensibilities, but also because Smith seemed settled and at a creative, not to mention, commercial, high.

Even having a genuine hit and everything in the charts! This is also the video that made me fall for Brix Smith. Sigh…

And Smith even tried to sing.

But go back and listen to his early stuff. It is simply amazing to hear how mature it is in the sense that Smith had a clear vision of what he wanted to sound like.

And of course the English national anthem they never had.

The Fall live of course was a lottery. Some times like a gig in Leicester in the early 90’s, or at the Astoria in London in the late 90’s, or at Strathclyde Uni in the 80’s, they were astonishing. Sometimes like Reading Festival in 1999 they were a shambles. As for Smith he could be a prick. He was often someone who came over as dislikeable at times, but then he was also as good as gold. I once saw him hanging around after a gig in London chatting to folk. Fact is, he, like any of us, was a complex person.

Yesterday took from us two original thinkers and creators. Both were complex, often uncompromising human beings who always to be there it seemed. Both were amazingly prolific. Both seemed to be invulnerable. Both are gone and from Earthsea to Manchester we’re all a little bit diminished for their passing.

Lets all play Whamageddon

This year’s Christmas thing is ”Whamageddon”.  Here’s the rules…

The Rules

The 1st Rule
The objective is to go as long as possible without hearing WHAM’s Christmas classic; “Last Christmas”.
The 2nd Rule
The game starts on December 1st, and ends at midnight on December 24th.
(Yes, we’re European heathens)
The 3rd Rule
Only the original version applies. Enjoy the fuck out of remixes and covers.
The 4th Rule
You’re out as soon as you recognise the song.
Bonus Rule
Post on social media with the #whamageddon hashtag when you get hit.

This is of course a fun way to try to avoid the audio festive spam that is Wham’s Christmas song.

So seeing as every year that Christmas song gets played everywhere from train stations, to supermarkets, to toilets, operating theatres, lifts, phone boxes, bus stops or anywhere here’s a chance to see how you do before it gets you.

Me? It’s the 5th of December and I’ve not heard it yet. I don’t expect this to last long though…