I was made in the 1980s.
Of course, I am much older than that, really. I was born in the 1960s, survived the 1970s largely intact, and I've been through a few decades after that. I am really, really old. But many of the thoughts in my head, much of the way that I view the world, can be traced back to the 1980s.
The 1980s were a terrible, terrible time. I had acne, I didn't have a girlfriend, I was rubbish at sports. The government was dismantling the remains of the economy of large parts of the country, forming the basis of the social devastation that persists to this day. Satire was brilliant, largely as a result. And music was fantastic.
This was the birth of the video age, after all. Where split screen techniques were something new, something exciting, and not something that appears on every news bulletin. Where Frankie Goes to Hollywood videos were worth staying up for. And music meant Pop. The 80s brought us the effervescence of Kylie Minogue, back when she had two names, and also the cynical material girl. The 80s would never have dared to give us BritPop, but would have recognised the Bread and Circuses of the X Factor as its own bastard offspring.
There's nothing automatically cheap about Pop, that's the thing to remember. Yes, there are superficial Pop songs, but the same can be said of Love Songs, Protest Songs, and even the painfully earnest Punk.
In 1984, Eurythmics gave the world their oddest record ever. 1984: For The Love of Big Brother.
Almost excised from the history books, this is a sumptuous suite of tracks. They - mainly - work as songs in their own right, although one or two are more tone poems than songs. The arrangements are Electronic, the lyrics simple, the delivery haunting. Together, the songs form the soundtrack to a movie that was never made (well, the movie was made, but the songs weren't used on the soundtrack). The movie that would have been made around these songs is Apple Adverts. It's Brazil. It's immersive, grey, immense.
1984: For the Love of Big Brother is of its time. It sounds like 1984. I know where I was when I bought it, where I listened to it, how it made me feel. It's in my head at the moment. Complex, heart-wrenching pop, purely of its period.
And I feel like I'm seventeen again.
You've probably not heard of Ulysses' Boat. It's a little story. It goes like this.
Ulysses goes on a long journey, and as he goes, he replaces part of his boat. Upgrades, if you like. At the end of the journey, none of his boat is the original boat. However, a canny Scotsman on his crew has been keeping all the discarded bits of boat and uses them to recreate the original boat. Which boat is Ulysses' Boat?
As with boats, so with Sugababes.
I read today that Mutya Buena is applying for the trademark of the name Sugababes. Possibly, the original three members might re-form. But the rights to the name currently sit with Universal.
There are real examples of this sort of thing going on all the time. Companies change staff and change ownership. Football teams evolve over time. People die, people are born - the population of the Earth changes from one moment to the next. The cells of your body die and are replaced. Only ideas really have continuity, perhaps.
This case isn't just about the name, though. It's about the rights to merchandising, to back catalogue. It's about intangible things like money and expertise (money, by the way, is intangible - really). It's not purely sentimental. It's intrinsic to what makes the Sugababes what they are. So perhaps the courts might view the Brand almost like a member of the group... and all it has done is changed its back-up singers...
One thing about increasing age is that it brings with it an increasing lack of acceptance of the etiquette of "gigs".
Example: "Doors at 7.15."
Doors do what? Open? Sit slightly ajar? Rotate in five dimensions? When is the support on? When is the actual event? Are they just trying to screw up your entire evening?
These questions were high in our mind as we queued outside the venue on Saturday night. The people behind us in the queue milled around, unconcerned with the world. Gradually, they became the people next to us in the queue. And then slightly ahead of us in the queue. Completely unaware of the world around them, or of the curious pressure I was feeling. Fortunately, the queue started moving, and they were no longer in front of us. Indeed, much of the queue moved past them...
Many people there knew the venue. We didn't. They knew where to stand and mill around to stand a good chance of getting seats. We didn't. We were, however, early enough in there to get a stonking place to stand - just next to the sound desk, handy for the bar, and with a fantastic view of the stage.
But was it any good?
Why yes. It was simply sublime. The support act, Heidi Talbot opened for Eddi, and performed six or seven songs from her album In Love and Light, accompanied by the always excellent Boo Hewerdine on guitar. I believe it's her first tour as a solo act, and she was a pleasure - a slightly nervous stage presence, but when she sang it was clear and confident - a faintly ethereal quality to her voice without it being contrived in any way.
Eddi Reader took to the stage about 9. And for a shade over 2 hours, she filled the room with a mixture of material from her new album ("Buy the bootleg because I need a new Dyson"), her Burns album, and the occasional song from the very early 90s. Funny, approachable, stunning, and a pleasure to listen to - the highlights would be when she performed a song with just her and drums, and when she dragged Brian Kennedy on to the stage to join her for an encore.
That said, it was the first gig I've been to that I can remember where they skipped that business where the band go off, and the audience clap, and the band go back on again. It turned out they were tight for time - at 11.30, the venue had to become a night club, people had to pay to get in, so the band had to clear out. A shame, because you really felt that they wanted to play on for hours. And I'd have been happy to watch them.
The Beatles have a lot to answer for.
Without The Beatles, we'd never have had Sowing the Seeds of Love, The Frog Chorus or the entire Oasis songbook.
We'd also never have had this gem. Lyrically it's not the most complex truffle in the box, but musically it's a big production number with hints of musical theatre but a huge dollop of the bits of Sergeant Pepper that were written when McCartney was in danger of being able to focus on the real world. That's a compliment.
Like most homosexualists of my age, I appreciated Take That in their early days mainly for their dancing, for speculation about their sexuality and for their unashamed pandering to their gay audience. As such I watched their reinvention as besuited respectable faces of Marks and Spencer with interest, wondering if it would be a spectacularly misjudged effort, degenerating into a whiny bitchfest. Instead we're presented with four respectable figures not making tits of themselves by prannying around like teenagers, still sharing the vocals so they're not Gary Barlow plus a backing group.
The reason is not just the sheer exuberance, not just the production, not just the quirkiness of having such an upbeat song that's basically about trying to cheer someone up, but it's the line in the break in the middle of the song. It's a simple enough line - "You're all that matters to me", but it always brings a lump to my jaded cynical throat. Because it's such a simple declaration of love, and always makes me think of Mr Twinky (my evil sidekick cat) and it's teamed with cunningly manipulative music.
It's also because although it's simple, it's almost more powerful than "I love you", After all, lots of other things matter to most people. Their health, their family, cake. That line is effectively saying that none of these matter at all - which is bordering on psychotic, really.
Fortunately, it's not overplayed, and it's coupled with an upbeat song. And it gives me goosebumps. Every time.
I've got you under my skin where the rain can't get in.
I discovered The The, ruined by google way back in 1986. I think it was down to Thatcher, actually. In the midst of miner's strikes, I went off to University and met a generation of mullets, jackets with sleeves rolled up, cheap Bulgarian wine and 80p pints in the late night bar that closed earlier than the bars did back home. It was the era of the mix tape, of Enya recording Orinoco Flow for the very first time, of discovering the social value of owning a record player, and of Sainsbury's Bramley Apple Swiss Rolls.
Soul Mining came out in 1983, although I didn't come across it until late 1986. It was the music that was listened to by the guy with the beard who was quiet and understood politics and had deep thoughts.
We were 18.
So, I thought he had deep thoughts and understood politics. In practice that would usually mean knowing a few sound bites and latching on to nursery rhymes that claim to be political comment.
Uncertain Smile is my favourite track on the album - possibly my favourite track of all time - a good place to start, I think.
What makes it for me isn't the lyrics, which were undoubtedly deep when I was 15, but the lengthy piano solo at the end. At the time, I hadn't heard of Jools Holland, but this was the point where I fell in love with his music.
I have been accused of being obtuse. This is not a new thing. I am obtuse. It is - I am reliably informed - part of my charm. It is also something which I suspect my nephew will inherit, along with the over-active imagination and the being rubbish at sports.
There are worse things to suffer from.
So, today's excuse for totty is singer/songwriter "Just Jack". He's one of those artists that you come across and think "oh, that sounds interesting" and then promptly forget all about. And then you hear the next single and you think "oh, that sounds interesting" and actually do something about it. And then you discover that you've known about him, and forgotten about him, and then you think "I must trust my own judgement more". You know the kind of thing? No? Just me, then.
His new single is out. It's not getting any airplay, here in Foreign. Because he's not from here, I suspect. And he's not Take That.
Which brings me to the obtuse connection. The excellent Writer's Block is not to be confused with the recoring by "Peter Bjorn and John", which includes the song "Young Folks". If you've not heard it as a song, you'll have heard it in adverts. It's the one with the annoying whistling. I suspect it's about how old people (by which they mean people my age) don't understand them. Here I am, hurtling towards 40 at the same rate that I have been since I was born, and I'm gradually starting to realise that there's a generation out there that looks at me as an old git. Bring it on.
Obtuse enough? Oh, and if you've watched the original "Just Jack" then it's hard to say those words without using Jazz Hands.
Why do I even know what "Jazz Hands" means?
Allowing the Sycorax to enter the Eurovision Song Contest was always going to be controversial.
At first, it seemed that the recently-introduced geographic block-voting would not favour the horned warriors from another galaxy, given that their nearest neighbours were "The Pilot Fish", a comical group of people who thought that an appropriate christmas wheeze was to dress up as Santa Claus and shoot people in Cardiff. However, their catchy tune, combined with their threats to annihilate a third of the population of any country that didn't vote for them, helped them on their way to a landslide victory.
Talking from their orbiting asteroidal spaceship, Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk all-high leader of Sycorax Death Squad and Minister for Culture said, over a cup of tea that this was a proud day for the entire Sycoraxic nation. However, the Sycorax spaceship was then destroyed in what the British Rocket Group described as "a routine laser accident".
As a result, next year's eurovision will be held in Finland. However, it did seem, for one brief moment, that the Sycorax did indeed rock the world.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my Dad's Bruce Lee. He drives me round in his JCB.
If you haven't yet seen the music video for the JCB Song, I recommend that you do. It's one of the sweetest and most amusing pieces of animation I've ever seen on the web, and I've seen strindberg and helium and stuff with kids falling out of bed and everything.
Being a music video, there's a song with it. It's a simple song, falling very much in to the school of songwriting about how it's great not to be in school and hanging out with your dad. It's possibly a bit on the sentimental side, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's an innocence about it that's matched beautifully by the video.
I love it to bits.
Singing about Politics is like Dancing about Architecture.
Saturday, we watched some of "Live 8". There's only so much one can take of Fearne Cotton asking what the atmosphere is like in the crowd (typical answers "electric", "exciting", "who are you?", "I've lost my wallet"). So we went and watched it in a field.
Seriously, the best way to watch Live 8 was sitting in plastic chairs looking at it on giant screens in a horse showground. Not quite as good as being there oneself, you might think, but on the other hand it was only five minutes walk to go and get a hot dog, and there was no chance of being interviewed by Fearne Cotton, and we could go to the loo when Bob Geldof came on.
It wasn't all Live 8 though. They turned the music down for a bit, and out came James Blunt. I'd never heard of James Blunt, although I knew every song he played. Or I thought I did. Or it felt that way. And after he'd gone, I got to watch Annie Lennox, so that was nice. Next support act was Rufus Wainwright, who the girl in the row behind us loved, then a bit more Live 8.
And then on to the stage walked a fat gay bloke in his late 50s. Famously irascible, but a professional showman, he held our attention for two hours, helping us cope with the strange bloke sat next to Mr Twinky who was definitely on something, the rain, and the fact that the fifty-something women in front of us kept standing up and dancing to "Are You Ready For Love?" He didn't do any of my favourites, but he didn't need to. I was up there, dancing my hangover away.
Back home in time to miss Pink Floyd and catch a rousing chorus of Hey Jude.
And now, here's the political bit. You knew there would be, didn't you?
Live 8, in and of itself, does nothing. That's it's charm, it's secret. That's why it stands more chance of making a difference than Live Aid did twenty years ago. The secret of Live 8 is in the interest and hype it generates.
Imagine you're a newspaper editor - there's only so much that you can say about the acts that will be on. "Joss Stone will be on. She'll sing a song or two. There will be some surprises. Madonna will look fabulous, and will swear inappropriately in front of children." There you go. That's your entire story. Indeed, that's what The Sun has run all week. That and "Saskia must go". But I digress.
The media is full of Africa. The media is full of the G8 summit. G8 summits happen all the time, but rarely have they had this coverage. Africa hasn't been out of the news, but it's not often the subject of a series of programmes on the BBC. They don't send Rolf Harris there often.
And the simplistic war-cry of "make poverty history", the one that I was heartily sick of by 2.15 on Saturday, the one that wallpapers over the complexities and consequences of fair trade is on everyone's lips and 80% of wrists. Now people will have maybe some idea of what it means.
I'm not certain that Live 8 has - in itself - raised awareness of anything other than Fearne Cotton. But it's just part of something bigger, something that's actually organised and structured and has a lot of common sense behind it. The cry to make poverty history is actually just the beginning of something that has the chance to make a real difference to the world.
I could write about this all day, oddly. I could write about the difficulties involved - and they're huge. I could write about my experiences in India again, but they're somewhere in the archives. I could write about the political consequences of fair trade in the developed world. I could write about how this weekend has made me reassess Bill Gates. I still might. You've been warned.
Fame is a fickle mistress, and few among us could know this truism as well as the erstwhile Peter Pan of Pop, Saint Michael Jackson.
The slackfaced children's entertainer was, while I was on holiday, acquitted of a range of charges from molestation to being slightly twee. The world rejoices. Hoorah.
Sadly, Jackson is a perennial ingenue, who thrilled the world twenty years ago by proclaiming that Billie Jean was not his lover, but later jumped around on cars clutching his crotch in a way that was described as "oddly unerotic". The man comes across as childlike and innocent, but also as his own biggest fan. This is possibly a mistake.
If one were trying to restructure Jackson's career, the sensible approach might be to go low-key. Working with some of today's contemporary youth artists, perhaps. Or hiding for a year and then producing a song so stunning and beautiful that it heals the world, and makes it a better place. But Jackson, I suspect, is not like that.
I predict a triumphant "Greatest Hits" tour, around the amjor cities of America and of poor War-torn Iraq, standing proud in open limos, waving to his vocal and often uncannily quirky fan-base, while doing nothing to attract new fans. If he is really to become a success again and pay for his exorbitant legal fees, it seems likely that the best approach would be to disappear for a couple of years and then emerge with a new face, the same music, and Billie Piper as a sidekick. I hear that she'll be out of work soon.
UK-based Psychic Uri Geller was unavailable for comment on the verdict, but is reported as having said that he always knew Jackson would be acquitted.
I'm your only friend. I'm not your only friend, but really I'm a little glowing friend, but really I'm not actually your friend but I am.
I don't do discos these days, except when it's in a good cause. I avoid pubs and clubs where the music is loud, because let's face it, I go to these places to drink with my friends. It wasn't always that way, though. I used to go out to places where the music was loud, and you could meet someone and carry out an entire conversation with them over the space of an hour and still know nothing about them but you'd had three drinks together and then they were your best friend for the evening.
I love this song.
Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch who watches over you, make a little birdhouse in your soul. Not to put too fine a point on it, say I'm the only bee in your bonnet make a little birdhouse in your soul.
It was also the last song that I danced to. That makes it special, doesn't it? If there was a blogger's disco, it's the song I'd play. And the dancefloor would be full.
Who sings what.
Chris Martin (Coldplay) - It's C word time, there's no need to be afraid. At C word time, we let in light and we banish shade
Dido - And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy. Throw your arms around the world at C word time.
Robbie Williams - But say a prayer, Pray for the other ones. At C word time it's hard, but when you're having fun.
Sugababes - There's a world outside your window, and it's a world of dread and fear.
Fran Healy (Travis) - Where the only water flowing
Fran Healy and the Sugababes - Is the bitter sting of tears
Fran Healy and Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) - And the C word bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Bono - Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
Will Young and Jamelia - And there won't be snow in Africa this C word time
Ms Dynamite and Beverly Knight - (Oooh) Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow
Group of 10 and Joss Stone - Do they know it's C word time at all?
Tom Chaplin (Keane) - Here's to you
Justin Hawkins - Raise a glass for everyone
Dizzee Rascal - Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived, if the table was turned would you survive
Busted - Here's to them
Justin Hawkins - Underneath that burning sun
Dizzee Rascal - You ain't gotta feel guilt just selfless, give a little help to the helpless
Joss Stone and Justin Hawkins - Do they know it's C word time at all?
Tom Chaplin - Feed the world
Tom Chaplin and Chris Martin - Feed the world
Tom Chaplin, Chris Martin and Sugababes - Feed the world
Everyone - Feed the world, let them know it's C word time again (repeated)
Fran Healy - Wooo
Group of 10 - Feed the world
Everyone - Feed the world (repeated to end)
Joss Stone - Ad-libs over outro
Vangelis plays in my head as I step out of the airport in to the heart of Kowloon. The sky above Kai Tak is the colour of television tuned to a dead channel, and it's always just starting to rain. It's a city redefined by Ridley Scott, by William Gibson, by Haruki Murakami. Except it's more than that, and less.
My view of Hong Kong and Tokyo is driven by my experience, partly from a brief holiday back when I was 24, and partly from watching movies and reading books. Big, bright, dark, exciting, modern, primitive, raw, new. The reality... the reality is different. Human, frail, nostalgic, broken. Behind the facade is more facade. Prosperity is held up by the old woman pushing the stack of flattened cardboard boxes up the hill. There's a shrine in Gough Street with a picture of Ryan Idol stuffed behind half a dozen incense sticks. Illegal gambling is only half hidden, and the twittering of sparrows fools nobody.
Superficial society breeds superficial culture. The musical heroes of the day - Andy Lau, Coco Lee, Leon Lai seem androgynous, sexless, bland and interchangeable. I put it down to a lack of understanding on my part. This isn't my society. I don't understand the signals. Fair enough. I try to understand and fail, but I'm a better person for trying. And then, I meet Mr Twinky, and he introduces me to Faye. Cantopop beaten about the head by the Cocteau Twins. Fantastic.
I've heard Sing and Play, Only Love Strangers, Fable, Faye Wong, It's My Style. I've read the lyrics translated in to English. They still make no sense. But nonetheless, I love her songs, the richness of the arrangements, the tone of her voice, the sheer challenge of them. I don't know what they are supposed to be about, but to me they're about the way that Hong Kong should be. The Hong Kong that I wanted, that doesn't really exist except in the imagination, in videos, on the page.
I fell in love with a scar
I fell in love with a lamp
I like to listen to the seconds tick away
I don't like other rumours
What I like is more naive than one's countenance
More innocent than a household pet
When I need a kiss
Just give me a kiss
I only love strangers
If you disrespect anybody that you run in to
How in the world do you think anybody's s'posed to respect you
If you don't give a heck 'bout the man with the bible in his hand
Just get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thing
You the kind of gentleman that want everything your way
Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day
Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don't respect yourself
Ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
I'd be cruising down a highway, with the roof down, the volume up, my best guy by my side, Republica blaring. It's just his permanent disguise, yeah, yeah.
I'm paid to take some shit in my job, but I'm not paid to take the amount of other people's shit I'm taking now. I don't have time for my own job, I'm so deep in it. I'd have Furniture blasting out. I must be out of my brilliant mind.
I've got about a thousand songs on my Nomad.
Back when I was young, we used to have records. They were big - twelve inches wide. They came in cardboard sleeves, and when you bought them you could put them in a big plastic bag to carry them home. They flapped in the wind, but only rarely were snapped in two by bashing against the toggle on your duffle coat. And they had ten songs on them, or thereabouts, on two sides of about 22 minutes each.
And they were a bugger to play an individual track on - you had to lift the stylus (or "needle" if you couldn't afford a stylus), and then you had to put it down carefully. Otherwise you'd damage the record. This was a good thing to do, sometimes, like if it was your younger sister's record, and she'd had the last Jammy Dodger.
But it was much easier to listen to a whole side all the way through. Five songs, 22 minutes.
Then we got a tape recorder. Back then, this was a separate thing. So you had to have the microphone (built-in to the tape recorder) very close to the speaker of the record player (built in to the record player) if you wanted to tape a record. It was a lot of hassle, but you could fit both sides of almost all records on to one side of a TDK C90. And it got even easier after the invention of the "music centre", which had a wire that ran from your record player (which was now called a "turntable") to your tape recorder (which was still called a "tape recorder").
Now we could listen to a whole album (as records were called), all the way through, without getting up and turning the thing over. Or scratching it. Tapes were portable and cool, and with the invention of the Walkman (looked like a brick when it came out), you could listen to the whole thing as you walked around.
The size of music had changed. Before that, we listened to records a side at a time. Now we listened to them a record at a time.
Recognising this, the music industry decided to invent the compact disc. This only had one side, and you could get about 40% more music on it. Nobody told recording artists, and they still went on writing ten song albums, structured around two halves, until eventually records disappeared except for 'scratching', which was ironically what we'd wanted to avoid all along.
Essentially, anyway, the concept of an album changed. Before, each side would have been constructed to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Really, it would. People used to really care about the order of songs on an album. If you don't believe me, tough. When the CD did away with 'sides', the whole approach to delivery changed. It took a bit of time, but the beginning-middle-end cycle suddenly applied to twelve songs over a single side of a CD rather than five songs, all on one groove etched into a vinyl disc.
The CD lasted as the main source of musotainment, pretty much untainted for about five hundred years. But that's changing.
MP3 players (most of which play other formats, and only support MP3 as an afterthought) were introduced. Now you can zap all of your huge CD collection on to one small portable hard drive and carry it around with you. You can digitise almost all of your music collection (within certain limits due to copyright restrictions). So I've got 1,000 tracks or more, easily accessible. I can chop and change whenever I want. I can play an album if I want, or I can listen to random tracks.
The quantum of music used to be a side of an LP (as records were called), then it was a CD (as compact discs were called), and now... it's not even a track.
Because I can listen to anything, or everything, I listen to virtually nothing. Ten to thirty seconds of a track and it's already triggered every memory - times, places, events, smells, tastes. And a single button press and I've moved on to another new set of stimuli.
So what next for the quantum of music? The thirty second song? The intro with no lyric?
The "music industry" is already affected by this quiet revolution. The 'single' is being phased out, as obviously nobody is willing to pay three quid for a single track, three 'remixes' when in practice you can download it either for nothing (with attendant risks) or you can download it legally for just less than the cost of a new mobile phone logo. The CD is evolving by introducing security measures, making certain new CDs impossible to play on a PC - apart from the issue of whether or not this contravenes the purchaser's legal rights, all this really does is force people who want to listen to protected CDs through an MP3 player to download the tracks illegally - and that's got to have a positive impact on sales, doesn't it?
Overall, the response of the music industry seems to be about
- restricting freedom of trade
- underestimating the benefits of non-traditional distribution
- cutting margins
And sales of albums have increased.
However, if the quantum of music shifts ever smaller, from the CD to the track, to the intro, perhaps even to the chord or riff, how will the music industry respond?
And what do the artists want?
I was awake at some ungodly hour this morning, and I had a lyric in my head. I can't remember the lyric.
The lyric wasn't
And my dreams would be the colour of your car
But, I think it came from the same CD.
I've looked for help on the interweb, but it's not very good about obscure trivia from the mid to late 80s. Brilliant for obscure trivia from 2002, obviously, and there are huge web sites devoted to The Mighty Aloud, probably. But nothing on the colour of your car, and no way to find the annoying lyric from last night...
Not a lot of people realise the link between Kate Bush and Quentin Tarantino. But the whold plot of Kill Bill is derived from a lyric from her 1980 Meisterwork, Never For Ever.
No, I'll never give the hunt up,
And I won't muck it up.
Somehow this was it, I knew.
Maybe fate wants you dead, too:
We've come together in the very same room,
And I'm coming for you!
Did you think I'd ever let you
Get away with it, huh?
He swooned in warm maroon.
There's gas in your barrel, and I'm flooded with Doom.
You've made a wake of our honeymoon,
And I'm coming for you!
All of the headlines said 'Passion Crime:
'Newlyweds Groom Shot Dead
'Mystery Man.' God help the bride!
She's a widow, all in red,
With his red still wet. She said--
"I'll get him on the wedding list!
I'll get him and I will not miss."
Now I realise that these days, one shouldn't admit to having ever heard of Kate Bush in polite company, and certainly not within earshot of Tori Amos, unless you want to be on the wrong end of a decapitation. But not even a mention of her in the credits...? There's something very wrong there.
Eurovision - why did the UK fail to get a single point?
Was it political, as suggested by the song's writer?
Was it the poor quality of the song? I don't think so, although the song wasn't great. It wasn't bad though?
Or could it have had something to do with the singing, which was a little pitchy?
(Note to readers who haven't seen Fame Academy - a little pitchy is the new way of saying indredibly embarrassingly flat).
I love your shoes, and I know you say you want to sit this one out but don't refuse. I'm dressed to the nines and I really want to twist and shout.
I love your tongue, and I love the wicked things that it says. I'm all undone and ready to hear the error of my ways.
I love your mind - it makes me want to stay right here in bed. I'm way behind you, darling, and I never want to get ahead. I know there's a thunderstorm coming but we musn't let that get us down.
We're going to have the best time. The time of our worthless lives.
I was faced with a choice at a difficult age
Would I write a book? Or should I take to the stage?
But in the back of my head I heard distant feet
Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat
quot;Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat"? What were they on?
As can probably be surmised, my magic sound helmet is filled to the brim with vintage Pet Shop Boys at the minute. I like to keep it this way so that I can avoid listening to the thundering roar of traffic as I cross roads, thereby risking life and limb on a regular basis. It's almost as exciting as guessing where the pedestrian crossing is today.
So I'm listening to this with my critical faculties engaged. And I'm impressed by the production values, naturally, and by the texture of the sound, and then it strikes me that essentially all of the instrumentation - including the vocal - has a singular tone - there's no crescendo in there, except through the layering of more and more noises. There are a couple of minor exceptions, but on the whole Neil Tennant's vocals are very cool, very level, and just a lyric on which to hang the background, which is where the emotion of the song is delivered.
Or perhaps I'm talking drivel.
Then we posed for pictures with the competition winners
And argued about the hotel rooms, and where to go for dinner
And someone said: "It's fabulous you're still around today,
You've both made such a little go a very long way"
Very was released in 1993. I was in my mid twenties, and I was probably at the lowest point in my life. This was before I did all the stuff that changed it and sent it spinning off in crazy directions only to end up back where I belong. There's a huge story here, and this isn't the time to tell it.
I bought one of the copies of "Very" that came in the rubber packaging, the ones that don't fit in to your CD library, the ones that stand out from the crowd and say "Look at me" in husky, seductive tones. And I played it at top volume. Lots.
The irony of this, of course, was that at the time I told myself I was just being broad minded and that my love of the Pet Shop Boys didn't mean that I had to be gay, did it?
Oh, naïve little muppet that I was...
I'm playing this at top volume on my magic sound helmet as I walk in to work these days. And it's just as exhilarating as it always was for me.
Well, Sinead Quinn may not have won Fame Academy, but she still signed a deal to record up to five albums. The value of the deal is apparently EUR1m, but the article here doesn't say if that's the value to her, the cost of the investment, or the profit that the recording company expect to make.
Regardless, it's an example of the real thoughts that are going through people's minds when they're voting for these drawn-out talent competitions. Vote for the underdog, because if the runner up is any good, they're going to get a contract anyway...
Syria is Wonder Woman. But not just any Wonder Woman. She's Wonder Woman as portrayed by Linda Carter, which is pretty much the standard interpretation these days. And she's bored.
Why is she bored? Well, principally it's because her better half, Superman, is out saving the world all the time, and she is stuck at home doing the hoovering, which is pretty easy when you can lift the sofa in one hand and vacuum clean beneath it with the other. She dreams of rolling on the beach with him, but the most exciting thing that she does in real life is lassoing a couple of bag snatchers with that magical lasso of honesty thing she used to have. Sad.
But a great video. A catchy song. Almost as good as the original version of Las Ketchup.
It's hard for a forty-something housewife in London, particularly if you have two small children to bring up, and for some reason the media have decided that you're newsworthy.
Is it any wonder that sometimes you feel the need to strike out, to get some relief from your tensions?
The video for 'Die Another Day' is imminent.
I know exactly how she feels right now. Work is getting all over me, and not in a good way. And I've got a filthy hangover. And my plan to track everything that I spent money on this month has kind of gone completely wrong. Oh well.
No one ever wants to court a Warthog
Though a Warthog does her best
I've spent a lot of money for a Warthog
I am perfumed and prettily dressed
I've lustrinsed my hair
I'm perfumed here and there
My gums were tinted when I brushed my teeth
I'm young and in my prime
But a wallflower all the time
'Cos I'm a Warthog
Just a Warthog
I'm a Warthog underneath
Head hanging she wanders away from the floor
This Warthog whom nobody loves
Then stops in amazement
For there at the door stands a gentleman Warthog impeccably dressed
In the act of removing his gloves.
His fine chiselled face seems to frown
As he looks her first up then down
I fancy you must be a sort of Warthog
Though for a Warthog you look a mess
That make-up's far to heavy for a Warthog
You could have chosed a more suitable dress
Did you have to dye your hair?
If that's perfume give me air!
I strongly disapprove of scarlet teeth
But let us take the floor 'Cos I'm absolutely sure
That you're a Warthog
Just a Warthog
The sweetest little, neatest little
Dearest and completest little Warthog underneath.
It's a funny phenomenon, really. Everybody has one. The embarrassing uncle. The one who did a party turn fifteen years ago when he was pissed, and everyone thought it was funny at the time, and made the mistake of laughing. Maybe once or twice you asked him to do it again. And now, every time he has as much as a half of shandy there he is, standing on the table telling that joke about the rabbi, the rabbit and Hayden Christiansen's nipple, or whatever the party trick happened to be. It's awful. The joke isn't funny any more - it's too close to home, too near the bone, and besides you've heard it so many times before. And the uncle - he used to be well liked and respected within the family. Now he's just a joke. A victim of his own success. Well - I hope you're proud of yourself.
So last night, I went to see Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine in concert. The setting was - well, it was a dark smoky room, full of people and alcohol and heat. A warm snug of a place, which also happens to be five minutes walk from our flat.
Boo Hewerdine opened. He's not well known, which is a real shame. His group, The Bible, had a couple of hits in the late eighties, both of which he performed. I was slightly surprised to find myself singing along. These days I know him better as someone who writes &/or co-writes a lot of Eddi Reader's material, and who performs with her. Nonetheless, it was good to see him on his own.
About ten, Eddi herself arrived on the tiny stage, and launched into her set. Now, in 1989, she was huge. Her band, Fairground Attraction, was at number one for ages with the annoying (and I mean truly annoying, in the sense of me saying that I loathed it) Perfect, now a stalwart of Karaoke and the occasional advert. Of course, they couldn't follow it up, and there was something of an implosion. Fairground Attraction disappeared from public view, and a few years later, Eddi appeared as a solo artist. Her mainstream career had a couple of false starts, and never really took off in the way that it deserved. She built a loyal fan base, had a couple of minor hits, and eventually parted company with major record labels, and became an independent artist - a move which she says really suits her. She's overcome that awful stigma that hits many bands after they have a huge hit, that they can't top, and she's found her niche, and she's damn comfortable there.
All of which meant that rather than playing to huge stadiums where you wouldn't catch me dead, I could see her in my local pub. The gig had a wonderful impromptu air to it; it didn't seem to be planned, and they seemed quite happy to perform more or less anything from Eddi's repertoire based on shouts from the audience. Two vocalists (Eddi and Boo), three guitarists (Eddi, Boo and Colin Reid), and an audience enthralled.
And, about ninety minutes into her set, Eddi introduced the song that for her is the 'Embarrassing Uncle' - the one huge success that could never be followed up. "Perfect", blues style. And the place went wild. Far from embarrassing, far from loathsome. Fantastic.
Nineteen Ninety Something.
In my humble riverside flat, I am working late, listening to the radio. It is the time of Love, Sex and Intelligence, of Ebenezer Good, and 1000%. And then... The Pale.
They were a dog with no tail, no sense of direction, slightly derailed but staying for breakfast. Far too rich to eat, these manic Irishmen suddenly lapsed into French half way through a song. They had one hit single, one album "Here's one we made earlier" and then they vanished. I wonder where they are now...
Similarly, Fairground Attraction, who had to be perfect, or The Bible who would never see Graceland. I know what happened to them, though. Their lead singers, Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine are playing in Whelan's tonight. And assuming that I'm back from Brussels, I'll be there.
Work is keeping me busy at the moment. I spend all day in meetings, in pre-meeting confabs, and in all sorts of activity designed to make me look busy while achieving virtually nil. This means working long hours, merely to achieve the appearance of having done nothing. But that's okay, because I have rediscovered a secret weapon against ennui - Macy Gray.
Every so often, a song comes along that dares you not to sing along, a song that just catches a hook deep in your brain. "Relating to a Psychopath", the opening track on Ms Gray's second album "The Id" just blew me away last night. Words like 'funk' and 'groove' come to mind. It's the sort of song that almost had me singing along while walking along the street. Hot - like hot wings with hot chocolate in hell.
Today's the fourth of July
another June has gone by
and when they light up our town I just think
what a waste of gunpowder and sky
I'm certain that I am alone
in harbouring thoughts of our home
it's one of my faults that I can't quell my past
I ought to have gotten it gone
Oh, baby, I wonder -
if when you are older -
you'll wake up
and say, 'My God, I should have told her -
what would it take?
But now here I am and the world's gotten colder
and she's got the river down which I sold her.'
So that's today's memory lane
with all the pathos and pain
another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless
and they're always the same
a verse, then a verse, and refrain.
I clearly have too much time on my hands if I'm spotting errors in this story:
Enrique Iglesias-lookalike Will Young had the fastest-selling single in British history - beating the Beatles - with his cover of Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen."
I'm still boggling at the huge amount of research in that one sentence.
Searching for 'one man went to mow' in swahili brings up three pages. One of them we'll ignore, one is my 'q and a' page, and the third is a page commemorating the life of Revd John Vivian Mortland Sturdy, Dean of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. The last verse reads:
Watu kumi wamakwenda
kwenda kulima shamba.
Watu kumi watu tisa watu nane watu saba watu sita watu tanu watu wanne watu watatu watu wawili 'mta moja na'mbwayake
kwenda kulima shamba.
Somehow, that seems appropriate.
Will Young, once the slightly photogenic underdog doomed to come second in Pop Idol has confounded my expectations once again. This time he's painted himself gold and started talking about changing the world through pop.
Obviously, my main concern in this matter is the opportunity to see his torso - which I had always suspected was slightly hairier than this. I'm also slightly concerned about his nipples. Although it might just have been cold.
I would consider spray painting oneself gold to fall firmly within the category of temporary body modification, and not really a lifestyle choice.
if you do paint yourself gold remember to leave a patch of unpainted skin or you'll end up dead like the girl in goldfinger
I could paint my buttocks orange.
I think I need to go and lie down for a short while.
if you paint your buttocks orange you could get a large canvas and do buttock prints and then sell it for a large amount of money to someone who has huge amounts of cash but no sense.
That's better... now, why the hell has 'Time Out' titled the piece "Golden Balls", rather than "Golden Boy" or "Golden Voice", either of which would make more sense?
To compensate for his tiny nipples?
Or he is super-evolutionary, and with every passing second his nipples grow ever smaller.
Nipples v reminiscent of Hayden Christensen's in Clones. (But of course, both men are aimed at the same markets - teenybop girls and middle-aged gay men.)
Time Out could see the bottom half of the photos.
How long were both of Hayden Christensen's nipples visible in "Attack of the Clones"?
It was news to me too.
I note with interest that your redesign now overides my selection of window background colour. Not for long though :-)
For almost half a minute. You have to be aware of these matters.
Well then, maybe there's a reason for me to see "Clones" after all.
"reminiscent of Hayden Christensen's in Clones [...] of course, both men are aimed at the same markets "
Was nobody else struck by this statement? Could it be true? Are they cloning vaguely attractive youths?
Twigged it - he's auditoning for the big-screen version of 'Claws of Axos'. The nipples are really projectile weapons, part of the bio-mechanical menace that is Axos.
Before reading this, I had no idea who Will Young was, this micro-nippled man who paints himself gold and tells readers of the Sun that he owes his pop stardom to Karl Marx. A spectre is haunting Europe, indeed...
Douglas - I did that especially for you
1) I wish *I* was still a vaguely attractive youth.
2) I wish someone would twig *me*.
3) I wish these comments blocks were Googleable, so you could document the hits you'll get for "micro-nippled man."
I've got to work out how to do that automatically.
In my search for the internet equivalent of the society papers, I have recently stumbled across the fountain of junk that is Ananova. This has only fuelled my strange desire for news about Pop Idol and Hear'Say (or 'the Uglies' as they're known in Pumpkin Villas). And today, I am shocked to discover that they've asked Victoria Beckham for her views on Pop Idol - surely some mistake? So she'd like Will to win. He seems like a nice guy... well, he certainly seems like a nice guy from where I'm sitting, but what does that have to do with anything?
She adds a comment that whoever wins might face problems in the future as Hear'Say have done. With a single winner, how can one go solo? Kind of ironic coming from a Spice Girl, really. In related news, she reveals that her husband David is trying to grow his hair back. I can just picture him, sitting with his fists clenched, WILLING it to grow back. But I think I'm just babbling now.
Mono's Formica Blues was released a shade over four years ago. Its spiritual home is somewhere between the tag end of the 1960s and that bit of the early 1970s where waif-like girls pointed at balloons in an effort to advertise bread that made you thinner. And they were going to be the next next thing - at least in the mind of myself and the guy I was dating at the time.
And then it turns out that everyone had heard it and thought it was great. And it is absolutely sublime. Deceptively simple, and at times threatening to veer towards lounge music, and yet retaining just enough edge to make me think "Wow, haven't heard this for a while" when I heard it in the coffee shop on the way to work.
Whatever happened to Mari Wilson? Back in the early 80s she may have cried a river, but then she got just what she always wanted, including a ring from Paris, a ring from Rome and a whole new wardrobe in her home. Fabberooni. Whatever happened to her beehive? Did it misbeehive itself, or is it still quietly coupling in the background somewhere. Joanna Lumley has a lot to answer for.
Debussy understood that a work of art or an effort to create beauty was always regarded by some people as a personal attack.
I love Neneh Cherry. I need her to do more. I love everything she's done, from Raw Like Sushi through Homebrew to this.
Highlights are basically every track - but the closer, Everything, is a complete stonker that just leaves you wanting more. And this was released five years ago, dammit.
I worked in a bank over a summer, in the clearing department. That was where I learned how to type large columns of numbers on a numeric keypad without looking at my fingers. That was also where I learned that there are two ways to listen to songs. I listened to the record (as things were in those days) Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman and picked out "For My Lover" as a favourite, based on the expressions in the voice and the instrumentation. I discussed this with a female colleague - and she had actually listened to the lyrics, and formed her opinion based on that! But she liked Deacon Blue, so what did she know. She thought she was a chocolate girl, and I was far too busy reading Grant Morrison comics.
Can't remember her name, though.
Sadly, Make It Better is not as impressive as Disgraceful, but still an enjoyable listen. Sarah Blackwood's vocals are as good as ever, the songs are deadpan stories of communal suicide, mass destruction and astral projection. Not as much of a grabber as I would like, but still a few stand-out tracks on this. Particularly "Stay"
One of those albums that amazon recommends to you endlessly, despite the fact that you own it, love it, play it to death again and again. It's music to wallow in, music to enjoy and luxuriate in, guitar driven, mellowed out, perhaps a touch angsty, but certainly touching in all the right places at all the right times. A bitter-sweet melancholy with moments of pure inspiration.
Radiohead's previous album, Kid A, underwhelmed me in the extreme. I don't know if it gets better on a second listening, because I didn't bless it with one. Amnesia went straight on to repeat as soon as I'd heard it all the way through.
It's one of those things about Radiohead that it's hard to talk about them in anything except extremes. Their music is something that you either "get" or you don't. The fact that so many people "get" it is either a testament to good PR or a testament to the fact that Radiohead tap into the right bit of the zeitgeist. Anyway, I like it.
We only went to Miss Saigon because it was there. We got cheap tickets, that turned out to be six rows back and slap in the middle, with a bloody good view. Excellent performances, stunning spectacle, and a dramatically satisfying mix of bitter and sweet. And of course we have to love this sort of thing because it's in the rules.
Naturally, I look at the whole thing with an eye for historic and geographic accuracy. After all, the whole thing is set in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, two places I know very well. And it passed with flying colours. I just wish that I knew less about Vietnamese prostitutes than I do.
We sail tonight for Singapore,
we're all as mad as hatters here
I've fallen for a tawny Moor,
took off to the land of Nod
Drank with all the Chinamen,
walked the sewers of Paris
I danced along a colored wind,
dangled from a rope of sand
You must say goodbye to me
We sail tonight for Singapore,
don't fall asleep while you're ashore
Cross your heart and hope to die
when you hear the children cry
Let marrow bone and cleaver choose
while making feet for children shoes
Through the alley, back from hell,
when you hear that steeple bell
You must say goodbye to me
Wipe him down with gasoline
'til his arms are hard and mean
From now on boys this iron boat's your home
So heave away, boys
We sail tonight for Singapore,
take your blankets from the floor
Wash your mouth out by the door,
the whole town's made of iron ore
Every witness turns to steam,
they all become Italian dreams
Fill your pockets up with earth,
get yourself a dollar's worth
Away boys, away boys, heave away
The captain is a one-armed dwarf,
he's throwing dice along the wharf
In the land of the blind
the one-eyed man is king, so take this ring
We sail tonight for Singapore,
we're all as mad as hatters here
I've fallen for a tawny Moor,
took off to the land of Nod
Drank with all the Chinamen,
walked the sewers of Paris
I drank along a colored wind,
I dangled from a rope of sand
You must say goodbye to me
This afternoon, I am mainly being interested in Baz Luhrmann's cinematic endeavour "Moulin Rouge", a work of fiction about a red windmill. Featuring a pretty impressive sounding soundtrack, the film seems to be set in the seedy backlife of 1890s France that exists in the same strange parallel turn-of-the-century universe as the London where it was permanently night and you couldn't see beyond your nose for the thick pea-soupy fog. It's a doomed love story, naturally. But it's also a musical, featuring the dulcet tones of its stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, along with David Bowie, Beck, there's some Massive Attack in there too. And Christina Aguilera.
I've not listened to much music recently, but picked this up because I'd read a sufficiently glowing review of it. And I've been completely blown away by it. I'm listening to it at top volume, obviously, and the mix of styles and the huge mess of contemporary music references is washing over me like a big washy thing. Worth listening to for El Tango De Roxanne if nothing else.
It certainly makes me want to see the movie (which, I'm sure, is the intent). Even Christina Aguilera isn't too offensive.
I wish I'd written this.
Ms. Spears's latest artistic endeavour is perhaps her most profound. While her early muscial dabblings have been more concerned with pathos and aphorism-- more reminiscent of Shakespearean sonnets than tragedies, this coup de roman pulls no punches in grappling with titanic moral and philosophical dilemmas. Ms. Spears has always maintained her interest in the paradoxical conflicts between moral degradation and industrial-economic evolution in our post-modern era. I recall her sentiment: "I believe Sartre's ill-fated reconciliation of dialetical materialism and French existentialism, while noble in intention, is retarded. I mean, Marx was like German and Sartre's like from France and those are totally different countries, which precipitated the boondoggle that defined _Sartre's Search for a Method_."
Spears thematically depicts the Marxian-Existential conflict in her moving work, and she does so with characteristic artistic ingenuity. Only Spears could frame such a profound analysis in a style combining Saul Bellow's languish and John Updike's penetrating wit-- topping it off with a positively phosporescent surrealism that makes me scream, "Dali! Dali!" with each eager page-turn. Even though her work is essentially a philosophical discussion of the existentialism - dialetical materialism grudge match (squarely in the Borgesian tradition) she also turns her attention to other important issues including Dewey's Instrumentalist Logic, Kantian and Cartesian Transcendentalism, post-colonial Globalism, and a fabulously charming refutation of Walter Lippman's critique of popular Democracy. Spears hasn't lost her moral compass, however, and lightly spackles the novel with ethical maxims of which only a social observer of her caliber is capable.
Spears has done no less than revolutionize the novel. Spears outdoes Joyce by rebuilding the art form he destroyed. Writers and scholars will be inspired, influenced, and, quite rightly, perplexed by Spears's idubitably nonpareil prose. We, as readers, can only be grateful we are alive at a time when Spears's inimitable art can lift our souls, revolutionize our minds, and metamorphasize the people of the world into altogether more enlightened race. Britney Spears is the apotheosis of art.
I'm listening to Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea for the first time in ages, and it's bloody good. Rough around the edges in a very good way, it makes me listen, makes me think, and is extraordinarily cathartic.
Currently, my favourite track would be 'Good Fortune', the second track, full of guitars and reminding me of the sort of stuff I listened to on the Richard Skinner show when I was growing up. Except good.
Call me old fashioned. I'm on about Eminem again. He has been heavily criticised for his violent lyrics. Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has accused him of promoting prejudice against homosexuals.
I guess I must have missed this. There's some anti-gay remarks in there, sure, and yes, the man is a role model. Yes, he is sexist and homophobic. He's also deeply screwed up and incredibly clever at the same time.
I don't find him offensive, but then I don't take him seriously.
People might be influenced by him, I guess. But he's an entertainer first and foremost. There are sexist, homophobic passages in the Bible, and that's not meant to be entertainment. It's meant to influence. Maybe I should start a move to ban the Bible.
Or maybe I should just shut up.
Blood, guts, guns, cuts, knives, lives, wives, nuns, sluts.
Makes more sense in context.
I'm going to skip over yesterday's presentation. I'm going to skip over the fact that I appear to be the only person in the office this morning. I'm going to skip straight to Disney music.
Walking through the shopping centre this morning on the way from the Marriott Hotel to the office, I found myself listening to the Muzak and completely mishearing it as that song from Disney's Little Pretend Mermaid Cartoon Thing where Ariel (not a washing powder) is singing about wanting to be human. It's a jaunty little number, probably reduced to a power-dirge when released as a single by Mariah Carey (although that could be something else).
Anyway, as I say, I was singing one tune, the Muzakal accompaniment was something completely different. But the two worked together. The two worked together so well that within seconds, I felt tears welling up in my eyes and I had to stop singing. I can draw only one conclusion from this.
Disney put drugs in their music. They add in mood-altering notes physically in to the tunes, that force you to emote. Even if you're a heartless and callous bastard like me.
Sam Brown has a new album out on another new label. It's called Reboot
Like her previous album, I found this by searching for her on the web on a whim, only to discover that she'd released the album within the last month. Odd and bizarre.
She's famous for being Joe Brown's daughter, for singing backing vocals for Pink Floyd (notably on The Division Bell) and for performing with Jools Holland. She also has a fine and distinctive voice, sings great songs, and gives me a warm glow inside. I associate her with crossing Sidney Street with a copy of "Stop" on vinyl, back in the days when that was what I did in the afternoon instead of studying. A fine period of my life that resonates to the soundtrack of Sam Brown, All About Eve, Tanita Tikaram and New Order.
Yet a sensitive heart the rhinoceros owns; if you doubt it here's the proof - that thing on his nose is for taking stones out of a horse's hoof. He seldom, if ever, meets a horse - it is this that makes him sad. If he does, then it hasn't a stone in its hoof but he would if he did and it had.
My dad introduced me to these guys, probably about twenty years ago, and I still get a huge kick out of the cleverness of the lyrics.