Short break there while our singer had a holiday. 

Back to it this evening, in the practice studio, which is working well for us soundwise. They have a good drum kit (the marque evades me, but I have the drummer’s assurances), a chunky vocal rig. I am playing through a Laney Linebacker head and Marshall cabinet, which combi offers a good deal of trebly reverberous hoof, with a lovely plummy sound in the middle also. Delighted when the singer called it plummy tonight, as I had been thinking that precise word. Syncety sync!

 We have no bassist, but this is prompting some positive rearrangements. We probably do need to get “something else” in: there are definite gaps in the sound, but with the singer getting room to manoeuvre our melodies have improved, and she’s started to pick out bass and other fill patterns on the piano in the room.

Tonight we rattled out the bones of a new song, a bit country-ish, some sort of First Aid Kit, Dr Hook and Dolly Parton jam, with a good deal of that trebly reverb of which I spake. 

Speaking of, this side of awesome came to my attention in the last week:

Great, though, isn’t it? So if we could siphon off just a soupçon of this soulful slink… Only, everything we’re doing has to clock in under three minutes, or we cut something out. That’s probably our most enjoyable bit at rehearsals right now. 

Treating the songs mean, keepin’ ’em keen.

Having received a cassette tape of 7″ singles through the post recently (“You got a what of what through the what?” – The Youth), I decided to set myself one of those implausible, fiddly personal projects that some people pitch to publishers and get paid money for.

You know the sort of thing: Are You Dave Gorman?, Yes Man, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, Round Ireland with a Fridge, Six Stickers, Flipping a World Record Stack of Beermats with Half-arsed Ideas for Travelogue Pot Boilers Written On, etc.

Flipping fiddling! Here’s a cassette box:

cassette-box

It’s chock full of tapes that I’ve never quite brought myself round to getting rid of. I hold on to them because… well, I’m of that age, y’know?

“I remember when all this were stuff you could hold, look at, skin up on, not just carry on a chip on your phone,” sort of grumbly dad dude duding thing. While I dig a great many innovations of the digital now, you can’t walk into a room full of mp3s and ebooks. Not yet, anyway, and I expect it won’t be the same when we can, somehow.

Additionally, I have a bit of an e-bee in the virtual bonnet about a culture that thinks it’s OK for people’s record collections to consist of 130 folders with a single track in each. (Without problematising the matter by questioning the notion of “record collections”, obvs). The devil take them, and your stereo.

drmiskillingmusic

I’m of that age. Nostalgia… I was born and mostly grew up in the 20th century, where we had hopes for the tabula rasa of the 21st. Well, I did. Look what they’ve done to my dream, as Freddie Mercury once implored. This century currently frequently gives me a headache with its shallowness. Faux personal contact touchscreen ‘likes’, bland entreaties to ‘join the debate on twitter’, po-mo e-capitalism gone berserk, a blithe continuing acceptance of perpetual war and the arms trade…

Perhaps it is a headache from unvented fuming. >kaff!<

Yeah, yeah, and they were saying all this in 1913 as well, I’m sure, and 1813, and so on. Looking through the tapes, it becomes clear that, far more than semi-articulated vaguely socio-political motivations, it is basic personal attachment. I am hoarding ageing media because many of them were gifted compilations. The mix tape was a thing of beauty fair. This box contains examples from friends, family, former lovers…

cassettes-closer

Here are tapes as intriguing time capsules, telling stories with music and pictures about simple (and not-so-simple) lives intertwining. [beat] As well as being relics to sustain a sentimental soul as the world gallops forth.

Thus, in short, do I commit to working my way through said box of cassette tapes, sharing what goodies and possible baddies I might find therein!

But first, this:

Following my Grimshaw horror of yesterday – which sounds pleasingly suggestive of an H.P. Lovecraft excerpt, The Grimshaw Horror,

‘Running from the room with my nerves jangling, all my senses in appalled revolt, I had but one phrase worming through the synapses of my shattered mind. That thing… IT HAD NO EARS.’

and so on. It’s ok, it’s ok. I’m over it. It does disturb me, but I’ll rise above it. Actually, between changing CDs this morning (Outgoing: Purple Rain) I was partly pleased to note that Grimly commences his ‘Wakey wakey People of Britain’ 7am segment with a spoiled Pharaohe Monch jingle (“G-G-Get Up!”). ‘Partly pleased’ and ‘spoiled’ in that although reminding me of a great tune it was a radio Bowdlerisation, a coy approximation of a daring choice, and in that it was about to be followed by Kelly Clarkson, which is kind of semi-proof of something, I ah-ha’d at the radio, as if proof or indeed semis are needed at such a time in the morning on one’s way to work in the car.

Look, I have to put up with this stream of bollocks all the time. Listen to the babble, bobbing pink and playful across the pebbles.

– a more subtle flow of musical consequence insinuates itself today. As I wound the car through Ryedale, I was listening to the CD I’d changed to: MC Solaar, the Prose Combat album.

Prose Combat was one of my lost Golden Age collection, part of a batch of CDs stolen from a flat in Partick, Glasgow late last century, along with everything else from L to Z, a consequence of partly-shelved alphabetisation and hurried thieves. About a couple of months ago I found a copy, incongruously, among the Kelly Clarkson and Steps albums in the ‘three for a pound’ CD section at the St. Leonard’s Hospice shop in Acomb. Le result! Delighted.

Solaar, Claude M’Barali, is a Senegalese/French rapper, born in Dakar, brought up in France and a Francophone rapper. He’s still recording, according to the online, so I shall be pleased to chasse down some of his later works, of which I have been ignorant.

Prose Combat is nearly 20 years old but it still sounds very fresh, some era-specific early ’90s soul jazz warbling on quelques tracks notwithstanding. The rapping in particular is funny and articulate, offering a welcome contrast to some contemporary commercial rap – such as the new 50 Cent single, My Life, which I have observed on radio and video a charmless three times this week. Fiddy’s tune also features Eminem, who is in typically vituperative form, and quite cheesily, Adam Levine, the singer from Maroon 5, who in his refrain adds unwelcome notes of Jamiroquai where you were already hoping for less as more.

awful-fame-triumvirate

I mean, not to get too sidetracked here – and I do not pretend to any kind of authority in matters rapular, incidentally, it’s just mes pensées, in’tit? – but, as an aside, the appeal of 50 Cent kind of baffles me. With regard to this particular record, you have self-consciously stagey ‘like a movie’ references indicating a degree of sophistication, distance, and the ‘who hunts the hunted?’ helicopter chase motif in the video adds some sort of sense of a commentary on fame/artistic drive paranoia. Yet these jostle for attention with a humourless and aggressive street “sewer entrepreneur” persona, literally a peddler of shit, that spends its time bullying the listener into ‘accepting and respecting’ the unpleasant content. A kind of witless and insistent hustling. In fact, if this IS a persona, added to the knowing asides about ‘confusion’ and ‘illusion’, the whole is actually quite contemptuous of its audience.

My Life, as well as sounding like the score to a movie that would just make you sigh with despair at the protagonist’s relentless will to consume (as distinct from hunger), with a video that does everything possible to amplify this, has lyrics that are resoundingly, epically angry, the sound of their fury as a consequence signifying nothing. They seem to be offering a glimpse into the mood of a colossally wealthy writer, rapper and producer, who, as he drives around in a big, expensive car, contemplates how, since he became successful a decade ago, is now, mysteriously, being snubbed by former protégés and overlooked by the public, despite – perhaps, paradoxically, because of! – having sold 40million records, furthermore threatening to flip out and go ‘Michael Myers’ on those opposing, as if all this doesn’t make him sound like a sort of irate attention-seeking Ronald McDonald of rap, armed and up a water tower on the brink of psychotic carnage because someone said his burgers taste awful.

This response is not intended to be ‘full of hate’, per the lyrics, and I am certainly not threatening to kill anyone because they might disagree, but seeing as 50 Cent seems to be addressing by extension all critics in My Life, I think it pertinent to enquire by return why one might be expected to, never mind respect, actually give a fuck about such monotone posturing.

More bollocks! Bob-bob-bobollocking along, pink and floaty, clacking in the foam, shining in the sun.

Anyway, back in the car, the sun, mais oui, was shining off the snow in the valleys and warming my face as I drove along the long and winding road, motoring through the villages of Yorkshire en route to work, digging the beats. MC Solaar juggles his themes mellifluously, with wit and dexterity. At one point I was actually giggling at the facility, the lightness of touch with which MC Solaar delivers lines like these:

Oh! Belle, elle est belle, elle est bonne, elle a du bol la demoiselle,
Elle se trouvait des défauts, je trouvais qu’elle était belle.
J’en garde des séquelles mais je sais qu’elle sait
Que le silence est d’or, et dort, alors, je me tais.

–From the song Séquelles

(My cack-handed translation:
Oh, she is beautiful, she is fine, she’s lucky, this girl,
she finds faults with me, I find her beautiful.
I keep the aftermath in mind, but I know that she knows that
silence is golden, and she’s sleeping, so I just shut it.)

Something like that? It’s also all in the delivery. In fact, here’s a nifty video from the YouTubes, with further traduction of the paroles, Ms Gainsbourg playing the Belle, and MC Solaar’s voice, all of which are a far better use of your temps.

MC Solaar, Séquelles:

Driving to work this morning up the B1363, lots of twists and turns, long hills, a light dusting of snow on the ground, I had Radio 1 on. Nick Grimshaw is the current Breakfast Show DJ. Here’s “Grimmers” from his twitterfeed.

"Grimmers"

He was doing the usual Breakfast Show DJ nonsense, this was all fine. Couple of not bad tunes in there. Then he introduced a segment about sport, using Soul Limbo by Booker T. and the MGs. He said, during it, that he loved it from growing up and had been disappointed to learn that it wasn’t an actual pop record. He only knew it, as generations of British kids who watched any kind of sport on telly ever would also be familiar, as the music from Test Match Special. The “cricket theme”. Oh, you KNOW:

“Grimmers” then starts having a five-minute discussion with the studio extra, who pointed out that it was, in fact, quite well known as a separate entity, “back in the day”. He sounded a bit embarrassed, to be fair. The piece about sport ensued. Meanwhile I am having an increasingly shrill imaginary conversational Q&A with “Grimmers”. It is one of those rhetorical rounds where a series of statements of fact are ended with an interrogative because you CANNOT BELIEVE that the person with whom you are speaking is unaware of this information:

‘It’s called Soul Limbo. By Booker T. and the MGs? Booker T. and the MGs, you know?’

‘They were the house band at Stax? Responsible for most of those classic soul/R&B sounds?’

‘They did a really famous song called Green Onions?

‘They were the backing band in The Blues Brothers?’

‘You are telling me that you got to be nearly 30 YEARS OLD, and a DJ on national radio, and you DO NOT KNOW the name or performing artist of one of the most iconic pieces of music in recent British media history?’

In my fever’d mind, Grimshaw, who has been nodding at me open-mouthed, responds:
‘We be, uh, jammin?’

GAH!

David Bowie, or Derek, (“I suppose it’s another quotation from Derek Bowie, is it?”) has released a new song. It made the news today – oh boy! You can see it at his website.

Is it any good? Well, that’s up to you. I like it. It occurred to me that I could blether on at length offering my opinion on the tune, Bowie’s importance and cultural context, perhaps making some pithy remarks on the music media commentariat in the UK, but it occurred further that there’s no point. This is David freakin’ Bowie we’re talking about! “If you have to ask…” …as the Red Hot Chili Peppers once suggested.

I’ve liked Dame David for a long time. I had a couple of teachers at school who used to obsess about Bob Dylan and David Bowie, getting me into them and a bunch of other ‘cultural touchstone’ bands through careful pointers. One of them created a memorable tape compilation for when I was leaving sixth form, called ‘I remember when all this were fields’. I sometimes say that when looking at the YouTubes, “I remember when all this were compilation tapes”.

These were the two Bowie songs on that compilation:

You betcha! And a version of this, which makes me wish we’d had the YouTubes back then:

Given his near half century of professional superness, I think it doesn’t really matter if David Bowie’s new song could maybe be more awesome. He’s still moving, doing it. On the rare occasions people have tried to argue with me regarding Bob Dylan’s continuing relevance, while I’m on the DB/BDs, I’ve said that anyone who managed to come out with Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, in the space of 18 months, is allowed to do what they like as far as I’m concerned. The same goes for Bowie.

Hunky Dory, 1971. …Ziggy Stardust, 1972. Aladdin Sane, 1973. Shush.”

History will show that Coldplay performed at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, but everyone was more bothered that Bowie did not. That is all. You betcha!

Alt title: “…but we need the eggs.”

Thanks to the numbercrunchery provided by WordPress, I am able to get granular with my viewing stats. Nitty gritty, fine details about who’s turning up and looking at what when. By far the greatest number of views I get each day is an article what I wrote about Iron Maiden.

I quite like it… it’s one of my more sincere pieces, and they’re almost always the most effective. I’d like to think that my unique combination of wit and waffle has endeared this post and further writings to the clickers of the world… Seriously tho! I get Slovenians, Colombians, Russians, South Koreans, Americans, people from all over. One might consider the global reach of this technology and feel a small tear issue from the corner of one’s eye… something something that’ll be the granularity something see the world in a grain of sand, something.

However, I strongly suspect that the high number of clicks for that post in particular is actually due to me having used an absurdly large image of an Iron Maiden album cover in it.

You find me on the horns of a dilemma as to whether to get rid of the massive image of Derek Riggs’ lovely artwork and replace it with something smaller that may give a more reliable, but less satisfying, view/visitor ratio… or not. I mean, am I that shallow that I’m even thinking about this? Who gives a fuck, right? Well, why bother writing in a public forum then? It’s all about the clicks, innit? Not the false clicks! Hmmm, band name… This process of finger chewing of course triggers wider artistic and existential concerns, such as subjects, style, justification for turning your fingers to the keyboard, getting out of bed… and wasn’t there some shopping you were supposed to do? And hang on a minute, why are you referring to yourself in the third person? Rapidly whistling up to a boiled kettle shriek of WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

Et bleedin’ cetera. Indecisions, indecisions! Hypnotised by this rope trick plait entanglement of self-esteem and clickcount… I shall listen to this:

…and give the matter further consideration. While going to the shops for more loaf.

“25 albums that changed your life” (5×5 Part 9):
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Live at Winterland

  • This was Number 9 (‘…number 9…number 9…’) on a chronologicalish list of ’25 albums that changed your life’. THAT was a thread some people were doing on Facebook “back in the day”.
  • A full explanation of all this is submerged elsewhere in the Mortal Bath.
  • If you get bored or disagree, substitute the word ‘arse’ for a word of your choice in the album title.

This piece has been kicking around for ages in search of a theme, if any theme other than the cosmic awesomeness of Jimi Hendrix is necessary. Then Jo Greenway at 10 minutes hate read my mind as usual and posted about the assault on the intellect that libraries have been undergoing in the UK, and it all came together.

JCG says:

The things we discover when we believe we are looking for something else entirely are often the most valuable.

This needs no further amplification. It is all about riffing (whatever “it” is, as Faith No More suggested), as far as I am concerned, and I am at my happiest digressing (no shit!). Riffing on what has gone before is essential for people to develop whatever happened, have fun with it, come up with something new.

Right, so, this Jimi Hendrix live album. Around the same sort of time that I was into Iron Maiden, Guns n Roses, etc, the medium of maximum profit for record companies was CDs. Lord how “they” miss it, as I type, attempting to convince digital natives, using electronic beads, that there is a better value proposition than free. I might as well note now that in typing CDs I had a sudden flash of future – possibly present day – readers of this rushing to a glossary, in the way that readers of Shakespeare have for at least three hundred years. There was a great joke about someone ‘of a certain age’ mentioning to a child that “Prince has released his new CD free with a newspaper,” to receive the response “Who did what with a what?”

CDs, anyway, had only been around a few years and were (as they remain) quite pricey. In the days prior to everything being available virtually immediately, if you didn’t want to buy something we had TV shows, radio, dial-a-song services, copied tapes and that was it. But what lovely it! Personal contact, whispered secrets, did-you-see?s, slow voices on waves of phase, hand-drawn packages passed from person to person in class, in the schoolyard, from siblings, teachers, mates.

In addition, there were the communal joys of the public library. I got into a fair number of bands through the library in Harrogate, where I grew up, and which at that time had a very well stocked record/CD library. Books as well, of course, but it was a great place to seek out new sounds, new civilisations. With my library card and at 80p per item, I got to take home and listen to (and tape at home, thus killing music) luminaries such as Pixies’ Surfer-Rosa-and-Come-On-Pilgrim, Pink Floyd, Prefab Sprout, Syd Barrett, Kinks, Roxy Music, Led Zep… and this CD by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Live at Winterland.

You do still get CDs and you do still get libraries, and they are often found together, but it is a matter of sadness, or, fuck knows what it is, nostalgia, bio-sentimentalism, sehnsucht, that the corporeality seems to be dwindling, and along with it the opportunity to “stumble upon” something tangible. This rush to GET RID of half the books in favour of computer terminals, no music and a fucking coffee bar, because that’s what will SAVE MONEY; stupid, needless cuts in the name of faith-based economics, one market under God… combined with the vogueish rush to have everything clickably instant and monetised into an app and flattened out into neat lines of 1s and 0s. Uncle Ray Kurzweil and all that immanentizing the e-schaton rag… Do we wish our physical lives away? Probably not really, not yet. Anyway, back in ‘consensual reality’ (that place with all the trees and birds)… as any geocacher might tell you, there’s something to be said for trove finding.

Actually finding a magic lamp, or even just something hidden under a rock. Time and memory mix up the exact sequence of events through which I discovered James Marshall Hendrix. I thought it might have been through a CD from the library called The Marquee: 30 Legendary Years. This had Purple Haze on it, among other standards of the guitar rock canon. Bands I came to love, like T. Rex, Thin Lizzy, The Who… all the Ts… That is also perhaps an album that could be on a Top 25 list, but – alas! – it has Genesis’s Turn it on again on it, and I’ve never understood their work. Too artsy, too intellectual.

Also, according to AllMusic, the Marquee CD came out in 1993, which is too late for the timeline in my head. Considering this crucial and vexed issue further, I am pretty much sure that First Contact with Jimi was made through the BBC Arena documentary on Heavy Metal, which first broadcast in 1989. Thanks to the super Real Gone blog and the other super blog Heavy rock – the playlist I have been able to confirm this. And thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The internet has replaced virtually all of this wearying, hand-tooled, questing on foot, organic education scenario. Bah, now I’m conflicted. It’s a double-edged thing – not a sword, though… probably an axe?

Arena, TV shows like The Rock n Roll Years, provided a vital supplement to my education. Cultural context, innit? TRNRY was a seminal (spunky and original!) series, featuring historical clip montages, accompanied by music. A crucial detail from the Wikipedia entry on it: “no presenters or voice-overs”. Definitely not one of the interminable sort of “100 Greatest Minutes of Rentaquote No-marks Being Facetious About Things They Didn’t Really See At The Time And Don’t Really Get”. Rock n Roll Years provided an in-depth education about (pop) culture.

With Arena, I don’t think it was a case of watching the documentary and the scales falling from my eyes, because I’d got hold of a few Hendrix records, and had been sent a few Band of Gypsies tracks on an extensive compilation mailed in a sock by a repatriated American best mate from primary school. Yet, it definitely had a big effect. It was all the meta-context, if that’s the right term. Seeing this exotic footage of Greenwich Village cafes, the British support cast – not only the Experience, but manager Chas Chandler, Alan Price, foils Clapton/Cream and The Who, etc… imagining the Beatles turning up to the hotly-ticketed gig and watching open mouthed as the Experience zip through a cheeky cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the day after it came out…

…these little scenes captured on grainy film, like flashes off a gold plate on the side of a deep space probe, remnants of an age of exploration. I found it compelling and fascinating.

At that time, 1988-89ish, rock music was shoring itself up culturally against the encroaching tides of dance music, the continued growth of hip hop, etc. The advent of CDs was carrying all the young dudes’ youths back into their living rooms, remastered, digitally convenient, but also reaching a new audience of heritage seekers like me, whose parents had grown up with it. I’m sure there are hundreds of words to be written about cultural legitimation/confirmation processes.

I do still find it fascinating, despite the attempted ruination of a lot of rock culcha by what I like to call the Uncut Mojo tendency, with all the connotations of belligerent academic white maleness that title might summon. It was a vital, LSD-binge exploration time for some, of course, but a money’s too tight, time down t’pits for others. A country struggling to loose the tie and hat legacy of wartime austerity and do something for and with itself, yet constrained (as now) by all the spare money being pushed up the noses of pop stars. Although now pop stars are all old grey whistle clean, it goes into trust funds, and it seems like no one is trying to kiss this guy.

Just watch the whole Arena documentary, because we can… the minute or so from 15.30 fried my little brains. I was fascinated by the history of the “baby boomers”, born as the second world war ended and by the 1960s ready for excitement, colour, music, clothes. So alien. In later years, other associations come into play. There is the closing theme to the decade, Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’, which needs to be seen with the wrecking ball clip from perhaps the ultimate ‘escape from the 1960s’ theatrical masque Withnail and I.

That would be followed most appropriately by the National Anthem. Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock is a performance about which millions of words have been written and muttered, none of which add anything. Good luck finding a version of it that doesn’t impinge on someone’s copyright. It should be compulsory viewing!

Back to the CD that was in hand, to the inappropriately sequenced end of track 2/start of track 3, ‘a kind of instrumental jam thing’, Sunshine of Your Love, by some real groovy cats, the Cream. Hendrix introduces the band again by detailing the equipment they’ve managed to destroy, with the fuzzy inexactitude of the has-to-be-just-a-teeny-bit baked, before uttering what is my favourite ever count-off, “And Mitch over here is on his third pair of arms… Fuck it, hell, I don’t give a damn,” and off they go.

In the absence of the Live at Winterland versh, here’s one off the Old Grey Whistle Test, noted for Hendrix’s comment as they abandon ‘Hey Joe’ that they are going to “stop playing this rubbish”… That and Sergeant Pepper and guitar music gone bonkers is what made me love Jimi Hendrix. Good new stuff is created when people have fun with old stuff.

And I would have maybe never come to it if wasn’t for our local library. Hands off the bibliotheques, you heathens, you’re getting in the way of some convoluted journeys of discovery.