IMG_20160525_211741Here’s to Douglas Adams. It’s Towel Day today, which I chose to celebrate by not finding out about it until slightly less than four of our Earth minutes ago.

Here is a link to a list article, many of which might be adopted as a life guide only by the terminally misguided (something something the one about airports).

Still – hey hey hey! – it was the DNA. So, yes, EFF IT.

 

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6 Music, the BBC’s slightly left of centre radio channel, has been dedicating this weekend’s schedule to commemorating David Bowie. Long noted as a Bowie superfan (not a prophet or a stone age man), Adam Buxton has been back on the airwaves as part of the programming with this two hour ‘take on the great man’.

It’s well worth seeking out and giving some attention to, as it has many very funny bits in (Cobbler Bob…) and some intriguing lyrical exegesis from the late Dame David as well.

Bowie’s clarification of the intent behind Space Oddity – that Major Tom is not victim to mechanical failure, but deliberately cutting himself adrift – was a major (Tom) perspective shift for me. As happens from time to time, your world view can be altered by something you’d never considered. Purely on a ‘song itself’ basis, it’s such an important detail. The mournful ending is still there, it’s still sad, but for different reasons. In that light, of course, Ashes to Ashes holds even more resonance.

Anyway, as I write this I’m listening to Brian Eno recounting his and Bowie’s devotion to Derek and Clive during the recording of Low.

image

Derek Bowie… Of course! Suddenly it *all* makes sense.

Really enjoyed this article about the Sherlock Christmas Special, from Maureen Kincaid Speller at Paper Knife.

I agree with a lot of it. Yet, yet, for some reason, however improbable, I still like Moffat and Gatiss’s version of Sherlock… even despite the ‘little Christmas trinket’ (my New Year notes) that was The Abominable Bride.

It may be that I explore this in more depth at some point.

For now, however, you must excuse me. I’ve been drawn into reading multiple Sherlock considerations across multiple blogs. Quite a three pipe problem, and I pray I am left undisturbed for the next 24 hours.

Source: ‘he had a remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women’ – the Sherlock Christmas special

Half term holidays! Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through.

On the radio mainly we have BBC 6 Music, which normally does OK for itself. This week Radio 6 has been celebrating the “20th anniversary of Britpop”… It had me scratching my head a bit.

Time might have been that I would have pounced on such a one-sided 7″ flexidisc single of an idea and torn it a new centre hole. Not only would I have questioned the arbitrariness of the timing, and the wisdom of giving Damon Allbran further opportunity to wreak his adenoidal miseries upon the populace, but also given detailed Mr Agreeable-styled rebuttals for each of the artists featured:

“Gene. Gene?! F***ing dreary knock-off Smiths b*******s – and that’s taking dreary to depths unknown to the hardiest of miners. Couldn’t carry a tune in a f***ing bucket, no-good sh***hawks. Gene. Dear sweet c***ing Christ deliver us.”

Must have been terrific fun writing the Agreeable columns. But for this grand Britpoppish retrospective, I just couldn’t generate enough spleen. Seriously, My Life Story?

Still, something made me want to contribute my experience in some way. “Maybe I could knock out a list of British artists that I was also listening to in 1994 that weren’t really Britpop.” I thought.

“It would have had The Divine Comedy (Promenade album) on it (despite a later Neil Hannon work managing to squeak an entry on the 6 Music countdown), or Portishead, Dummy… Therapy?…? Er…”

I kind of ran out of ideas. Bands I wasn’t listening to in 1994? Spend holiday time writing about M People? Gah!

Well, OK, “Britpop”, then. Seriously, how hard can this be?

I really liked Suede. Metal Mickey in particular. I saw them live at Leeds T&C… the musical shark was sighted when Bernard Butler left, but look, listen (as politicians and footballers often begin their sentences):

Oh dad, she’s driving me mad!

Oasis… I remember very well the day I chose to wade through the hype and buy the Live Forever CD single (from Fopp in Byres Road, Glasgow). Me and me bezzer Jack sat listening to it, roundly unimpressed with the first three tracks, and then just falling instantly for the live version of Supersonic.

Mind you, it was easy to officially lose interest shortly after hearing the perfection of ‘Acquiesce’. What else can a band say? “Roll with it”? Get off.

Supergrass were awesome. If you do not know Caught by the Fuzz, why, reader, you must.

Yes!

But weren’t they supposed to be part of the New Wave of New Wave or something? Was 1994 simply the year someone thought up “Britpop” to describe everything made by a guitar band in Britain? There were all sorts of things that seemed quite acceptable at the time, that with hindsight look tarnished, horribly insincere. Echobelly. Why, even Parklife, which accompanies some happy memories of driving round Glasgow in a friend’s knackered car, singing along with ‘To The End’. That record had been interesting in sequence, because Blur seemed like a band getting better with each album, constantly prompting the question “wherever next”? The answer to that, of course, was “to a very big house in the c**try and Fat f***ing Les.”

See, that’s how it starts. One could go on. The terrible rest of it, the Sleeper, the Menswe@r… It was actually starting to give me a headache trying to remember them.

There’s that old saying that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there. This morning, as we breakfasted with the strains of poll-topping track (and a bona fide classic “Well done, listeners of Britain!” moment of delight hearing it) Common People by Pulp playing in the background – a song I saw Jarvis Cocker introduce at the inaugural T in the Park, 1994, as “A national anthem for the Netto generation.” – I suggested to J that perhaps we need an equivalent phrase for the 1990s. “Such as ‘If you feel like celebrating Britpop then you weren’t really listening to it.'”
J said “That’s… a bit contrived.”

Contrived! Of course! I seized on the notion. Contrivance seemed to sum up both the original Britpop tag – and, in fact, much of the music, which was sloppy second-hand shop versions of better bands or styles – and the need to celebrate any anniversary for it. And certainly this meta-response.

THEN I remembered that Kieron Gillen, Jamie McElvie and Matt Wilson have already inked the definitive look back, not-in-anger-but-a-bit, on Britpop, in 2006, in fact.

phonogramtpb

It is an excellent comic. If you are of A Certain Age, or interested in pursuing research on this matter, I urge you to the publication. Phonogram Vol.1, “Rue Britannia”. It’s equal parts tender-hearted and unsympathetic, and right. Except about Kenickie. They were f***ing s***-awful.

’25 albums that changed your life’, a list pastime that occurred on popular social networking site Facebook a few years ago when I was still on it. Self-explanatory, really. I thought it would be a good blog project (‘5×5’)to expand on them and add some personal, cultural context to each one on the list, rather than just throw out a sequence of signifiers.

“King Crimson, Kraftwerk and Kula Shaker?”

How thoroughly depressing. I never liked King Crimson. Here is the full sequence:

1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Born in the USA
2. Status Quo – 12 Gold Bars (Vol 1)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – Greatest hits
4. Beastie Boys – Licensed to ill
5. Meatloaf – Bat out of hell

Yet having dashed off the first five – bosh, lunchy – I then became increasingly concerned to communicate something – oh puh-lease – about them, rather than what seemed to me mere impressionistic tossings. The next few – DKs excepted – are full double album sprawls of memory trawl.

6. Paul Simon – Graceland
7. Guns & Roses – Appetite for destruction
8. Iron Maiden – Powerslave
iron-maiden-powerarse (My most viewed post ever! The astonishing powers of inserting a humongous image.)
9. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live at Winterland
10. Dead Kennedys – Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables

And, as for numbers 6 and 7, a panting cosmos awaits the remainder.
11. Nirvana – Nevermind
12. Shawn Colvin – Fat City
13. The Stone Roses
14. Jellyfish – Bellybutton
15. Neil Young – Decade
16. The Wedding Present – Watusi
17. Pixies – Surfer Rosa/come on pilgrim
18. Belle & Sebastian – Tigermilk
19. Upsetters – Eastwood rides again
20. The Who – The kids are alright
21. Guided by Voices – Alien Lanes
22. Bob Dylan – Bringing it all back home
23. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of silver
24. Count Basie Orchestra & Jimmy Rushing – Blues I love to sing
25. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

I think you’ll find there’re some solid gold easy action classics on that list… but that’s just my ears. You’d be better fixed just going and getting the albums, TBH. At some point, it might be construed as a threat to assure you, the full nonsensical joy of the ’25 Albums That Changed Your Life Deluxe Edition Box Set’ will be complete. Doubtless it will run to 37 albums, such is the wont of the continuing vogue for super-completism.

“C’mon, c’mon, space to fill, content to create. Pick that up off the floor and give it a wipe, stick it on the special edition. It’s WHAT THEY WOULD HAVE WANTED.’

Is it though, is it? Is it?

Anyway. More recently, I began another bloggy project – ‘got a tape…’, a dredge through a large box of cassettes, a paddle-with-net in the rockpool of nostalgia.

The first tape to hand was in fact number 8, Jimi Hendrix.

live-at-winterland-tape

Sort of synchronicitously, there was this documentary about him on BBC4 or something, Hear My Train A Comin’, which at time of writing has 17 days left on the iPlayer, and is well worth 90 minutes of your life. So in total, 180 minutes of my life was spent getting all Jimi’d up the other night. I had the tape playing through a little pair of Saisho speakers, for the optimal trebly hiss of youth ambience.

BUT! Lordy, how good this tape still sounds.

As previously mentioned, the live album is fierce in places, 90-miles-an-hour versions of hits bookending some spacey explorations and kit skills from the Experience. There are some choice bits of spoken Jimi too, and I’d forgotten the intro music was Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, which sets a late 1960s vibe shimmering nicely.

live-at-winterland-tape-tracks

Ah, Tippex. I forget also what terrible cheap vinyl knockoff the remaining tracks were sourced from, but I do love a 90-miles-an-hour drive through Johnny B. Goode. The version of Machine Gun is quite standout.

There we go then: ‘got a tape’ and ‘5×5’ projects continued, Dr Who anniversary extras cued up to watch, oven on. Bosh, lunchy.

In a bid to shift a bunch of assorted notebook writings that look like they should be doing something more coherent, this November The Mortal Bath is undertaking National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month is also called NaNoWriMo, for brevity and hashtags’ sake, I suppose. There’s #NaBloPoMo from and for BlogHer writers as well. This wordcrush phenomenon is a bit Teletubbies, in some ways, and I can’t stop thinking of Chief Wiggum and the hounds.

Oh, you know. NaNoWriMo is sort of a writer support group raising money for charitable writing projects, which is fair enough, although it could be seen, uncharitably, as another of a growing number of ‘something to do for the month’ forced jolly charity annoyances. One might bristle at the thought of doing Movember simultaneously.

Also, while I’m carping, I could happily go through life never having to receive an email purporting to be from “Your Novel” suggesting it has a hot date for “Us” on a Saturday.

It looks like you're trying to be a serious writer for once. Shall I introduce some personification to make it e a s i e r for you?

It looks like you’re trying to be a serious writer for once. Shall I introduce some personification to make it e a s i e r for you?

Just like that. Still! There’s nothing like a deadline. I recall reading that Anthony Burgess, at the age of 41, thought he had a terminal illness, so set himself a target of about 2,000 words a day of ‘good copy’, to get out a million words, 10 100,000-word novels, in a year.

“I was not able to achieve more than five and a half novels of very moderate size.”

And I may be misrecalling, but I think one of them was A Clockwork Orange. Almost certainly I’m unlikely to manage that, but I can at least state that the exercise beats playing Civ2 ’til 3am on a school night.

The Book seems to be actually going quite well, so far, although (in the grand tradition of distraction reading) I just saw this PD James BBC advice article thing about writing books, so, following Point 9:

I never talk about a book before it is finished and I never show it to anybody until it is finished and I don’t show it to anybody even then, except for my publisher and my agent. Then there is this awful time until they phone.

…that’s all I propose to say on the matter for now. Apart from me meh ma mo, me mu mah may.

About nearly 10 years ago, probably, I, the author of this piece, was editor of a zine called Thingy.

One of the reasons Thingy came grinding to a halt as a means of expression was because it seemed an inadequate and facile means to address the Great Problem of that time – “post-9/11”, the Coalition of the Willing’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, post-modern colonialism, post, and so on. Cutting and pasting pictures of bands, making sarcastic comments about Leonardo DiCaprio, just didn’t seem to have any sort of bearing on the intolerable wrongness of “Blair’s Britain”.

Maybe my perspective was just off. Actually, there were a couple of anti-war edition Thingys in 2003, but these were just brief pamphlets, really. Certainly, later zines never approached anything like the 50-odd page splurge of stoned readers’ digest for the pop-loving word hound that Thingy was in its rather uncomfortably worn pomp.

Another reason Thingy came grinding to a halt was an unfinished, and unfinishable, somewhat tendentious, article regarding Franz Ferdinand. In an almost – nay! actual – comical fashion, after Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, unable to come to terms with the Warren Commission, I could not understand or accept the band’s massive success.

Franz_Ferdinand

How I hated them! Blast! Their ubiquity, their absurd self-reflexivity, their paint-by-numbers scenemusic and annoying use of German!

My reactionary flailing at their unfathomable triumph led to a series of closely-read, reworked and increasingly ill-tempered versions of an anti-Franz Ferdinand diatribe, each pouring distaste upon disgust upon dislike to form an EU lake of surplus bile and semi-digested ranting.

One particularly splenetic draft ran to 270,000 words and, in a parallel dimension, has become the seminal text of an all-controlling crypto fascist cabal, at war with this world for allowing the four horse students of the Franz Ferdinand apocalypse to have rent the cawl and grown to wreak their pop-funk-punk atrocities upon the populace of the multiverse.

“Bring me four pairs of handcuffs, a teleportation device, a laser scalpel… and a raspberry Danish.”

Of course, I got over it. I recognised eventually that, in fact, it was not them, it was me. I was not in love with pop music any more. Well, not the radio, pop industrial, chart show thing I had grown up with and adored. I had lost my faith, simply: that moment kneeling at the altar when you realise it’s also just some bits of wood and a guy mumbling.

I’ve kind of got my poplove back, a bit, but you can imagine my untrammelled joy, I am sure, on hearing that after a not-lengthy-enough hiatus Franz are back – BACK! – with a New Single. ‘Right Action’ is enjoying endless and apparently compulsory rotation on BBC 6 Music, who today have even accorded them “Album of the Day Plus!” status, as if “Album of the Day” was not sufficient an accolade.

‘Right Action’ continues the band’s remorseless exploration of contrivance.

‘Right Thoughts
Right Wor-ords
Right Action!’

With a boingy bass line. Where to even continue? It sounds like the theme to a semi-educational programme for kids, one where the presenter will later turn out to have roundly abused his position and a succession of teenage girls. Designed to fit breakfast shows – Good morning! – Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, and anywhere else it can be shoehorned in before it’s used to advertise mobile phones, while wafting at a higher spiritual truth several bubillion miles from being approached, ‘Right shower Action’ is an awful set of checked boxes, none of them mine.

I mean, I wouldn’t mind if they were making cock-twangling, panty moistening POP I could hate-but-love for its insouciance, its casual throwaway joy, but they’re not. They’re making horrid, gloopy, ‘Would you like to see, and buy, some puppies?’ jingles. Waitrose rock.

It is a cacaphony – a shitracket – in every sense of the term racket – catchy as Hep C, and as welcome. The only thing to have momentarily dislodged the viral annoyance from my brain has been writing this bollocks.

Do we owe them a living? Of course we fucking don’t.