“… the Gagrakackan ‘tzjin-anthony-ks’, which kill cows at a hundred paces…”

Gin (and its lethal potential) is a recurring motif in the writing of Douglas Adams.

This was the level of gin hangover I had last Saturday. Gagrakackan. It waited until about 10.30 then settled in, like a deceased bovine atop my skull.

It wasn’t an “enough’s enough” moment, particularly. I’ve had a lot of them and I know they don’t really mean anything. I kind of knew it was coming, though, and that it was a necessary precursor to a cheerio. Me and tzjin-anthony-ks. And all the other spellings and all the other variants.

This series of top-ups in the Mortal Bath is going to be about all that.

It had to happen. The last couple of years have seen the commencement of 20th anniversary celebrations that it was once easy to think were hundreds of years away from happening. The youth’s blithe ignorance of time. Pronounce that ‘ignore-ance’: it’s maybe not unawareness, just disregard.

Mainly this is misery. It’s manifesting in bands that once stood shirts open and lithe, pouted for cameras, smacked their pert bottoms insouciantly with microphones, made music to throw yourself about to, now become lumpen middle-aged leaden-footed parodies of themselves. Suede, Manic Street Preachers, I’m looking at you, but not too closely.

Apparently, (old man take a look at my life) watching chart shows and music pop tv, I’ve got this annoying trait of constantly referring to a pet theory of the circularity of culture, with conversational non sequiturs like “A pox on this cultural looking back… the 80s are now as the 60s were to us in the 80s,” or indeed the 90s, as it has now cycled on to. 20 years on, to use a phrase half as good as Alan Bennett’s. Bands sounding like older bands and the older bands coming out for a second or third crack at the whip.

In this scheme, nostalgia is exactly what it used to be. “Imagine how fans of the Stones in the 60s felt by the time Mick Jagger was gurning all over the 80s.”


Terrifying. I dunno. We are almost constantly being disappointed by our heroes ageing, and trying to avoid changing, yet changing, and becoming disappointing, and how it reflects back at us. Wordsworth got it in the neck from Browning, and so back and forth.

However! Sometimes backwards-looking doesn’t end in catastrophe. Dazed and Confused, I just discovered, one of my all time favourite movies of all time, just celebrated 20 years of existence. I missed the actual anniversary, last year, but, uh, yeah. Yet when I saw it had was been thenly, I took the opportunity to have a re-watch for the first time in ages.

I still love it. That messy mass of characters, wonderful conversational non sequiturs, moments, inconsequential events, that, in fact, surely, have whole life consequences.

Here is something I discovered also while riffing around on Linklater and DAC. Quite very much enjoyed the song, and I love the “Not back on it… still on it” tone of the accompanying video. Plus a fine lyric:

“For once, once in your life
won’t you do what feels right
instead of waiting for the next big compromise?”

That’s what I love about movie characters: I get older, they stay the same age.

’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.


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.


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.

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:


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.


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…


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:

While loath to send traffic towards the Daily Mail’s website – as if the Keyword Kings of Northcliffe House need the help – this article about “vintage” record bags was forwarded to me. It is worth a look, if you can bring yourself. I tried to find a tumblr account with similar images, but couldn’t, sorry.

Alors, it stirred some interesting thoughts about records. Actually, the first thing it made me do was turn around and look at this on the wall behind me:

Satisfaction guaranteed in Gothenburg

That’s a carrier bag from Satisfaction, which was a second-hand record emporium in Gothenburg, Sweden. The bag-in-frame is situated above my record collection, illustrating a decorative taste for the obvious that can be seen also on the other side of the room, where I have a bag from Gosh! comics, London, above the comics shelves.

So, bags. The Daily Heil article of course touches on the seeming demise of record shops over the last 10 years, as new means for the mass production and distribution of pop music are embraced. Regular readers of The Mortal Bath may recognise a theme relating to hard copies, in particular the superiority of vinyl/CD/cassette over many aspects of e-music, for want of a better all-encompassing term. I’ll not grumble too much about it: there’s a lot to commend the digital age, but a lot of ways in which It Just Ain’t The Same.

It doesn’t take much to make men of a certain age and demographic wax prolix and nostalgic about stuff in any case (or sleeve). I remember the colours of the WHSmiths bag shown in the article. The first single I remember buying myself came home in a WHSmiths bag just like it. I’d like to say it was one of the Adam and The Ants’ records, but I’m pretty certain it was Brown Sauce’s ‘I wanna be a winner’.

Written by B.A. Robertson (my childhood’s second-favourite B.A.) Brown Sauce was loveable Cheggers, the lovely Maggie Philbin, and N**l Ed****S, off Swap Shop. I think it safe to venture that my purchase proves the diabolic power of TV on impressionable young minds.

Smiths is probably not on many people’s list of go-to places for records now, although they do still stock a Top 40, I think. Further mental baggage includes leaving Our Price, Harrogate, with carriers containing They Might Be Giants (Lincoln on vinyl, an absurd £1.99 in the sale and one of the best spends ever)… singles by The Wedding Present (most of The Hit Parade as it came out) and Manic Street Preachers’s Motown Junk, which I heard on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session and was totally smitten with, HAD to have it, one of the rare occasions I have actually gone out the next day to buy a record I heard on the radio.

Our Price has closed too, along with pretty much every other record shop in Harrogate. I understand the relatively-recently-arrived HMV is still holding on by the skin of its teeth, although it’s probably only a matter of time before it and all its brethren and sistren are turned into earphones-and-mobile-phone-skins shops by the new owners. Mutter, bah, grumble.

I visited Satisfaction when holidaying in Sverige with pals. Ah, happy memories. The record in the bag was some version or other of Rarities Volume 1 by The Who.

I could have spent about 10m Kronor in there, but I only had 70 SEK spending monies spare. Discovering little troves like that and making a small deposit (“A MONETARY deposit!”) are part of the glory of wandering about in the real world, perhaps an increasingly rare experience in many places. Finding record shops, I mean. Discovering just now via the magic of the webs that Satisfaction has closed down, with the magic of the webs a possible contributing factor, gives me all sorts of contradictory feelings. Much like the Brown Sauce record, in fact.

Yet there are pockets of resistance to this march towards the Musical Singularity. Local-to-me shops in York, UK, such as the excellent Inkwell and Rebound Records (both on Gillygate) or Attic Records (near the market), to name the three I can think of right now, are troves similar in ethos and layout to Satisfaction. As I mentioned in a previous post about jukeboxes, charity shops here remain quite reliable sources for yer vinyl fix, although often they have fallen prey to using Record Collector to price their Fair or Good Copies at Near Mint prices. Hiss, crackle!

When I go a-browsing I tend mostly to have my own bag with me these days, but if I find a shop en passant that has an appealing design on their carrier, it might well end up decorating a wall. And you can’t do that with a zipped folder, kids.