Friday, 26 January 2018

Play loud

For no other reason than to have something good, really good for my 600th blog post (don't clap, just throw money), play this as loud as your speakers/headphones/tinnitus/neighbours will bear.

Great moments in music video history #1 - Living On The Edge

The first in what may become a very occasional series. With the emphasis on may and very occasional...

Today's great moment in music video history comes from the promo to accompany Aerosmith's 1993 single Living On The Edge. I'm not an Aerosmith fan, but this track is okay, I think, for what it is. The video got an awful lot of airtime on MTV at the time, and since I was working in a TV and hi-fi shop (low paid but a lot of fun, lots of tech to play with, and a great friend made) where MTV was our default satellite demo channel, I got to watch this video a lot.

According to Wikipedia, this video is "notable for a number of things, including depicting vandalism, theft, joyriding, airbag crashing, unprotected sex, violence among school-aged youth, cross-dressing teachers, a naked Steven Tyler holding a zipper by his crotch ... and lead guitarist Joe Perry playing a lead guitar solo in front of an oncoming train." It also features Edward Furlong - you known, John Connor in Terminator 2.

Memorable though the "lead guitar solo in front of an oncoming train" is, the great moment in this video comes in early, just 40 seconds in. I won't spoil it for you, but you'll know it when you see it. Here you go.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Blog mirror?

If our social media timelines reflect ourselves, presenting only views that we agree with and hiding us from dissenters, do blogs do the same? Are the people that I read, and that read me, all the same? Are we just mirroring each other?

Here's a fatuous quiz to prove nothing.

Friday, 19 January 2018

The book what I wrote

I try to keep this kind of blog cross-pollination to an absolute minimum, but given Rol's kind review of my novel and the Venn diagram overlap between his blog readership and mine, it seems an appropriate moment. So here goes.

I wrote a book. Yes, really. It took me the best part of six and a half years, off and on: five years to write, ten months to edit, and nine months to tout it around agents and publishers. The last two stages are probably about right, but the five years writing was way too long. The great philosopher Harold Bishop once said, "Prevarication is the enemy of achievement." I prevaricated. Anyway, unable to tempt agents or publishers with the marketability, or otherwise, of a downbeat debut novel, I bit the bullet and published it myself. The results are here.

What's it all about, I hear you ask? Well, the short answer is: "Thirtysomething wage slave struggles with grief, guilt, girls and going nowhere." The long answer is... well, here's the back cover blurb:

How low can you go?

For some people, the death of one parent and the incremental loss to dementia of the other would be bad enough. Or perhaps the risk of losing their job, even a dead-end, mindless job, with witless colleagues and an objectionable boss. But for Peter, these concerns are underscored by grief for his fiancée, Emma, and the guilt he feels for his part in her suicide. Having put everything on hold for three years trying to deal with Emma's death, Peter has become a passenger in his own life, spiralling into an increasingly destructive cycle of behaviour that can only have one outcome. Or can it?

Drawn To The Deep End is an honest and, at times, darkly comic portrayal of what it is to be a young man alone and adrift in 21st Century Britain.

No, wait, come back! Downbeat, yes, but not as grim as it sounds. Don't just take my word for it - as Rol said, "It's also very funny - shot through with dark observational humour that makes you wince and nod and wish you'd written it yourself." I promise I did not pay him to write that.

Interested? Why not take a look then. It's not perfect, in that some of the format is a little out of whack (why oh why does this display the first paragraph of a chapter with a hanging indent, for example?), but Amazon offer an embeddable preview of the e-books they sell. So ... here's an embedded preview of Drawn To The Deep End. Enjoy. Maybe buy? Perhaps then review, like Rol? Hey, it doesn't hurt to ask, right?

Thanks for indulging me. Clandestine Classics, the Underappreciated and Fantasy Cover Versions will return soon, honest.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ode to her family

Dolores O'Riordan

Since Christmas, I'd been mulling over a new blog series. Well, I say that like I'd had an original idea, but it was more "inspired by" than original, as they say these days. Basically, inspired by Rol's excellent Records I Bought Because I Fancied The Singer series, I was mulling over something I had given the working title of "Records By Women Of Nineties Indie That I Fancied". I know, snappy, eh?

As you can see, this idea hadn't made it past the mulling stage, partly because the draft text in my head seemed crass, partly because I thought it might embarrass me even more than the normal nonsense I write, and mostly because I had stalled at seven women and really wanted to do a top ten run-down, TOTP-style (or, indeed, Rol-style).

And then yesterday, one of those Women Of Nineties Indie That I Fancied died suddenly and unexpectedly, at the ridiculous age of 46, and I'm not mulling any more.

I saw The Cranberries live once, 30th July 1995, in the enormity of the Milton Keynes Bowl, where they were supporting R.E.M. on their Monster tour. It was quite a line-up that day, with Sleeper and Radiohead also on the bill. The Cranberries were at the height of their popularity then, with the excellent resource Setlist.fm suggesting they played 118 gigs that year. They played nine songs that day, including Linger, I Can't Be With You, Zombie and Dreams. And, with no disrespect to the rest of the band, it was Dolores who held the audience captive that afternoon, even those who were far, far back in the crowd, like me, sweltering (suncream-less) on the hottest day of the year.

I know that there are some for whom Dolores's distinctive vocal style grated, but not me. I loved it, and still do. And I know there were some, back in those days before the Good Friday Agreement, who felt the lyrics to Zombie were, at best, naïve and, at worst, well, a lot worse. But there was a lot of love for that song and those lyrics on social media last night.

There's no cause of death given in any of the press coverage yet. Gigs last year were cancelled due to back problems, which some might question now. Others will mutter darkly and without substantiation about her recent bipolar diagnosis, putting two and two together in a desperate attempt to make five. A pox on those others, frankly. All that matters is that a talented individual, whose musical gifts brought joy and happiness to countless thousands around the world, has gone, tragically early and, worse still, leaves three children behind.

I don't do R.I.P. obits often but, to paraphrase, everybody else is doing it, so why can't I? Rest easy, Dolores.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The living spit

I am fortunate enough to have an exhibition of the work of acclaimed sculptor and ceramicist Roger Law right on my doorstep at the moment. I had to go. His ceramics, including incredible vases of hand-carved porcelain that are nearly as tall as me, are beautiful works of art.

But... (and maybe that name is ringing a bell with you already...)

...the main reason I went along, with all due respect to those ceramics, was to see his works of satire, from the 1960s to the present day...

...and if the bell still hasn't rung, I was mostly drawn in by his work in latex from the 1980s... with all apologies for the poorly lit camera-phone photography:

Not for turning

For yes, Roger Law was once half of Fluck and Law, the visual creatives behind Spitting Image. We're all about the same age, right, so I'm guessing Spitting Image was as much a part of your teenage or student life as it was mine. That's why I had to go along. And why I couldn't stop taking pictures.

[Click images to embiggen - definitely worth it for the Last Supper pic, and Trump's atlas of the world]

L-R: Norman Tebbit, Leon Brittan, Douglas Hurd, Cecil Parkinson, Denis Thatcher
L-R: Michael Heseltine, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norman Lamont, The Queen Mother, Ted Heath
Mental sorbet required! Thatcher as Monroe
Sylvester required! Ken Livingstone as Tweety-Pie
The Last Supper - L-R: Norman Lamont, Kenneth Clarke, Kenneth Baker, David Mellor, Douglas Hurd, John Major, Virginia Bottomley, the head of Neil Kinnock (on a platter), Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson, Cecil Parkinson, Geoffrey Howe, Norman Tebbit, Michael Heseltine and Chris Patten. Oh, and Denis Thatcher, under the table.
"Pass the peas, Norma."
Ian Hislop, some-time writer for Spitting Image
Ian Hislop, some-time writer for Spitting Image
Note Law's innate skills as a caricaturist. Here he has drawn a war criminal.
A more recent commission, for the 2010 general election. Note Mandelson wearing all the rosettes...
The Assassins was an earlier political work (1969), showing the "designated killers" Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan.
Murdoch Pissing On England - sadly, as relevant now as it was in 1981
It wasn't all political though. Here's Jack Nicholson in "The Shining".
Law also developed the artwork for albums in the 60s, notably for Hendrix and, here, The Who.
Still at it - a recent figure of old Wotsit-face Tinyhands
Law also had a hand in this slice of brilliance

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A hand reaching down to me

Not that I have any intention of so-doing, but I reckon that if I dropped down dead tomorrow just six or perhaps seven people would genuinely miss me. I'm not talking about people feeling sad that I had gone, or having the occasional moment of wondering what I might have said/done in a certain situation, or even having a wistful second of just being sad that I wasn't there any more. Perhaps feeling it unjust that I had gone so (relatively) young. No. Because none of those things are the same as actively missing someone. When it comes down to that, I think there would just be six or seven people dabbing their eyes over me.

So imagine what sort of life you must have led to have thousands of people, hundreds of thousands maybe, all around the world, grieving for you?

Two years gone today.

And because this has all been about death so far, and the ultimate futility of life, here's something lighter but still Bowie-related, from Adam Buxton:

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Amusecast - episode 6

Haven't done one of these for ages, and yes, I do need to digitise some more CDs before I do another. Also, yes, I deliberately paired Morrissey and Marr together. And finally yes, I deliberately put a song entitled Absolute Beginners at the end. Anyway, you know the drill - one side of a C90...

Tracklisting:

  1. Belle and Sebastian - Simple Things
  2. Strangelove - Another Night In
  3. Dubstar - Stars
  4. The Who - I'm One
  5. The Clash - Stay Free
  6. Inspiral Carpets - She Comes In The Fall
  7. New Model Army - Brave New World
  8. Marion - Time
  9. Johnny Marr - Playland
  10. Morrissey - The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
  11. David Bowie - Absolute Beginners

If you like the sound of that lot, here's the download.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Two new / new two

One of the joys of driving lots over Christmas and the New Year is the chance to listen to different radio stations. I spent five hours in the car last night, part of which was skimming off one corner of the M25, and so of course I tuned into Radio X for a bit. An aversion to commercial station adverts means I don't usually listen to it at home, where I'd have to tune in on DAB, but occasionally, when it's in FM range, why not?

And I heard two new songs that I enjoyed enough to memorise the artists and titles. These are they.

The first was a track entitled The Liar by The Fernweh, a band about whom I know nothing other that you can find them here on Soundcloud and here on Twitter. The Liar is their debut single and is released on 26th January... so I can't find anywhere (yet) to embed the whole thing. There is a 30-second snippet here though. I love this sound. It's sounds like... 1969, I think. When the single is released and there's a full embeddable version somewhere, I fully expect to darken your door with this again.

The other standout track from last night's FM adventure was What For by The Sea Girls. It reminds me a bit of Pompeii by Bastille. See what you think.