Monday, 24 October 2011

Outbid blues band

I love it when I stumble across the original version of a track that I heard sampled as a youth, and it's even better than the track it was sampled for.

It burns me up when I get outbid on a copy of the album.

Outlaw Blues Band Deep Gully

Sunday, 23 October 2011

How I sleep at night

I have a couple of little notepads that I sometimes carry around with me in order to jot things down in. They often go missing for months on end only to turn up in obscure pockets in lesser used jackets. Anyway, a few weeks ago one reappeared and flipping through it I found the scrawl: O. G. S. Crawford Wessex From The Air. I can't remember how or when this came to my attention but decided it was time to follow it up.

Unfortunately a quick search of the usual internet places revealed a staggering price tag of around £300. So that was that. Not to be completely stymied I ordered instead a copy ofBloody Old Britain a biography of Crawford by Kitty Hauser. If you haven't already scuttled off to check I'll mention now that Crawford was first and foremost an archaeologist, and his day job was ensuring that ancient monuments were included on ordnance survey maps.

At first glance he probably looks just like you'd expect him to look, old school. And he was really, in his notion that, if enough evidence were gathered, we'd eventually know in full what actually happened in the past. I studied archaeology for a bit and loved the scientific side of it, like carbon dating and dendrochronology etc.(not that I actually did any of that kind of thing, but it was very interesting to read about). I remember though that the overwhelming attitude was that we couldn't possibly, really, ever know the past. I found that frustrating and packed it in.

I hadn't really thought about all this for a long time but there's a line in the book, "In their more extreme formulations post modern thinkers see historians as little more than glorified story tellers" . It took me back to an evening visit I paid to a friend some time shortly after I'd finished at college. My friend was still studying and his degree was in media studies. While he was off making us cups of tea I had a read through some of his notes. Very thought-provoking stuff, I remember thinking. And it struck me then that my own degree (in ancient history) was, by comparison, just...a load of old stories. I don't mean to knock it too much, it comes in handy sometimes when I'm doing the crossword (example in today's Observer, "The Queen of Carthage, accomplished nothing").

Anyway, back to O. G. S. Crawford. One of the first things that I noticed was what a close contemporary he was of my old favourite Wyndham Lewis (Crawford 1886 - 1957, Lewis 1882 - 1957). They were similar characters to an extent, bullishly convinced of their own rightness and doomed to suffer for their forcefulness. I wondered if they'd ever encountered one another and a scan of the index did turn up an entry for Lewis. Sadly, it deals not with a meeting between them but an amusing aside detailing Lewis' hatred for the scourge of advertising and his hope that fascism might do away with some of the many nonsenses that offended him, instigating, for a start, a single brand of state soap. I can't decide whether I'm for or against this stance on soap. The fact that it makes me laugh means, I suppose, that I find it ridiculous. It reminds me a bit of Arthur J. Evil's rant against god in Time Bandits ("Forty-three species of parrot...Are we or are we not in the hands of a lunatic?").

So far so not very much on Crawford. Already a competent field archaeologist a stint as an aerial observer in WW1 revealed to Crawford the clear outlines of ancient buildings and earthworks visible from the air, but which at best were only vaguely apparent at ground level. (Later, spreading the word, he would illustrate his point with two photographs of a patterned carpet, one from above, a man's view, and one from a few inches high, a cat's view.) Obviously the archaeological stuff is important and very interesting but the big deal in this book, I think, is that Crawford was a communist.

Parallel to his highly practical application of technology to his field of study he was a massively utopian idealist. His faith in communism staggered on until the end of the Forties but collapsed under the onslaught of revelations of persecutions. Without nailing my colours to the mast as far as communism's concerned (I don't know enough about the details) I certainly go along with his belief in the desirability of a single world government and the pre-eminence of science and rational thought as the basis for solving the world's problems.

The only thing that's missing are details of his personal life, on which his autobiography is apparently silent and so, consequently, is the biography. I'm not sure how important it is to have such details, however having come this far I'm sure I'll pick his autobiography up, just to hear what's been covered in Bloody Old Britain in his own words.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Excerpt from a teenage record collection pt. 3

I like weird dissonant music as much as the next man, more than the next man probably, but Loveless was just a bit too shapeless for me and also had some really naff sounds running through it. I have a copy of course and when I give it a spin the tunes on there affect me, make me feel a bit sad really. However, my great love of My Bloody Valentine is based on their previous album Isn't Anything and its two accompanying eps.

Amazingly, to me anyway, the tracks on these eps are only available on the original issues. The nine combined tracks are all excellent and when Isn't Anything gets its inevitable remastered reissue I'm sure they'll make a lovely disc two. Anyway, here's the track I listened to most, excuse the crackle.

My Bloody Valentine I Believe

Monday, 17 October 2011

Magnificent pagan beast

Julian Cope that is. Until a few months ago I'd got along with just the compilation Floored Genius Vol 1. Throughout the eighties I loved all of his singles that I heard and, I think, came close to buying Peggy Suicide. The only other homage I paid was in my student days when, on trips to the jukebox, Reward featured in my unbeatable 50p triumvirate (the other two being Geno and, slightly edgier, Love is the Drug).

As the years rolled by I'd sometimes give the neighbours a blast of Safe Surfer (still probably my favourite) but he was a relative stranger to my turntable and I never thought to fill the gaps between the Floored Genius tracks. And that might have been it had my interest not been reawakened by his autobiographies Head On and Repossessed, the best pop autobiographies ever written I think. At least the best pop autobiographies written by someone whose music I respected. (As I've said before George Melly's Owning Up is probably the ultimate music autobiography, but I just can't get excited by Bessie Smith). Oh, and that big book about megalithic monuments he wrote. He's an interesting guy.

So yes, I've been catching up with his eighties solo output, concentrating most recently on Fried. That's the cover up there. The record company hated it (Repossessed pg 74). My own position: what's not to like? It's one of those "two kinds of people in the world" thingies maybe, but I just don't get how a picture of a man wearing a giant turtle shell can be deemed inappropriate for an album sleeve.

Anyway, a snippet - this sounds very influential, or is it just so simple that other people were bound to come up with something similar?

Julian Cope Mic Mak Mok

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The right to bear umbrellas

While I own coats with hoods I'll often take an umbrella out with me if I think it looks like rain. At times I've become aware that people (other men, my friends in fact) regard the use of a brolly as somehow unmanly. Naturally, after this realisation I not only continue to use an umbrella to keep the rain off my head and upper body but also in utter defiance of this macho bollocks.

Anyway, my umbrella broke the other day. Or rather one of its spokes did. And then I discovered that it's almost impossible to get an umbrella repaired, the attitude of umbrella vendors is, unsurprisingly, that I should buy a new one. This irks me, considering it seems so minor an injury. I did find a couple of places that'd do repairs, but only if the umbrella was one of theirs. Which it was not.

Forced by this to put the broken brolly to one side (for now) I started to look into getting a replacement. On my lunch breaks I often used to walk past a suitable shop. James Smith & Sons, it looks lovely doesn't it? I should have guessed what was in store for me there. For something that looked just like my stricken brolly I was looking at £75, and you can spend almost £300. Unbelievable.

I found one for £25 eventually (here) and they even threw in a junior hiking stick, which I think I'll give to my mum, it's about the right size.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


I was disappointed by the Spiritualized concert. The performance was, in a word, turgid. Great venue, great back catalogue but on the night the presence of a choir and string section seemed to drag the whole thing down, "Messy", was the wife's conclusion.

After about an hour and a half everyone shuffled off stage and ten minutes later I was relieved when just the band and three backing singers returned. The remaining thirty minutes or so were an improvement but I was still far from blown away. At times I looked around and a few people were slowly nodding along, those whose heads were still were not (judging by their expressions) caught up in ecstasy, just a bit bored.

I don't mind the whole repetitive thing - if it's built right I can listen to the same guitar sound going round and around, with minimal variations, for however long. But as another tune ploughed towards its end in a crescendo of feedback I was thinking "What is the fucking point in this?". And then, to be fair, there was one immense moment - in what can only be described as a blink of the ears the maelstrom of sound ceased and we were listening to the beautifully gentle Shine a Light. The change in sound was matched by as sudden a change from blazing strobes to a still deep purple light. That bit was great, but I'd expected a whole evening of such quality. A final consolation prize was a decent enough run through of Take Me to the Other Side, allowing me to tick off another Spacemen 3 track heard live.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


Years ago I gave Geogaddi a try and didn't like it. But recently I find I'm getting quite into Boards of Canada. Maybe it's the influence of liking their label mates Broadcast that has brought me round to giving them another whirl. Since last week I've been mesmerised by this track.

I looked into buying it - but have you ever tried getting their stuff on vinyl? Good Lord! I'd maintained a vinyl only stance for the last few months and paid out what I regard as some reasonably hefty prices, $54 for the Human Beinz Evolutions, 230 Kronor for Gene Harris' The 3 Sounds (only about £21 actually, but it sounds horrendous in kronor). Anyway, I met my match with The Campfire Headphase. I watched another copy go on ebay for just over £64 yesterday morning.

Boards of Canada Chromakey Dreamcoat

Friday, 7 October 2011

Year zero

I was reading the other day about the slight controversy over the use of Common Era and Before Common Era for Anno Domini and Before Christ. I'm not really too bothered about keeping AD and BC, and generally I'm in favour of political correctness (or being nice anyway). But just removing the references to Christ while keeping the whole thing based on his birthdate and then calling it the common era seems worse than keeping it explicitly Christian. If, for whatever reasons, the dominance of the Christian calendar gets up your nose, then having it rebranded as the universal Common Era is even worse isn't it?

And so, after some thought I've decided that the date we should use as year zero is the date of the moon landing. I wasn't alive at the time but apparently the whole human race was united in thinking it was very cool. There might be rumblings that this was a victory for the American industrial military complex, but it was an undeniably big deal and furthermore a magnificent scientific achievement - no gods or prophets involved at all. So, there you have it - Happy Year 42.

It's a bit of a small number that perhaps doesn't do justice to humanity's many millennia of doing stuff but sadly the exact dates of a lot of our most significant achievements (the wheel, writing etc.) are lost in the mists of time.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

So sad about them

The first 15 seconds of this track is, I think, one of the most amazing things ever recorded. Nothing else I've heard comes out of your stereo like this. There are plenty of other Mary Chain tracks that I listen to more often and which are better songs, but as a listening experience this section is unsurpassed in its heavyosity.

I mention this in the wake of the reissues, particularly Psychocandy. Rather than giving us a load of previously released b-sides I wish they'd fling open the vaults and give us a mindnumbingly detailed account of how this singular album and its contemporary tracks were assembled (similar to the treatment that Pet Sounds got). Obviously accompanied by a sixty odd page booklet with tons of unseen photos and an Ian MacDonald style dissection.

Jesus & Mary Chain Cracked

Slight update, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. Apparently Cracked is Taste The Floor slowed down to half speed . And Taste The Floor was the first track on Psychocandy that I really got into.

Saturday, 1 October 2011


I got fed up with EARTH CAPITOL. Like so many of my utterances it was cribbed from the Simpsons (one of Kodos and Kang's exchanges) and the other day I saw they spelled it capital and that was just the last straw.