Friday, 19 November 2010

Misunderstanding


When I was little, I was always confused when politicians went off for a 'summit'.

I couldn't work out why they didn't know what they were doing.

I heard it as going off for a 'summat', you see.

These days, of course, I know damned well they don't know what they're doing. . .

*****

In similar warm and fuzzy recollections, I watched four aeroplanes fly overheard and my Dad mentioned something about a 'formation'. Soon after we saw another five more fly over, so I assumed that was a fivemation.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Awful thought about the next season of Doctor Who . . .


Speculation and possibly a bit too ming mong.

River Song, according to Father Octavian in Flesh and Stone/Time of the Angels, 'killed a good man; a hero to many'.

I read that one episode is being shot in America. A two plus two = five moment makes me think this:-

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON"T LET RIVER SONG NEAR THE GRASSY KNOLL!!!

That would be awful.

And besides, Eccleston was in the crowd. REAPER ALERT!!!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Times and Attitudes


This is going to be a weird an rambling piece and may not come to any sensible conclusion, so bear with it and forgive it it's foibles.

I grew up in a forces environment. There was a huge weight of expectation on me to join the military - specifically the air force - when I left school that I point blank (irony in choice of words there) refused to do. Mostly because I didn't want to, being born in the 60's and affected by the hippies more than I thought possible, and also by the punk movement and partly because I wasn't out as gay. The military didn't take gay men and women at the time. I was deeply anti-war, put on CND benefit gigs and supported and participated in non-violent direct action against nuclear bases up and down the country and was heavily involved in the almost legendary Sheffield Peace Centre squat.

I don't regret any of that. However typically freudian rebellion knee jerk, etc.... I don't regret anything I did.

I'm, obviously, much older now. Priorities and ideals change. What we did back then hasn't really achieved anything tangible.
Wars continue to be fought, people continue to die. It still all seems a terrible waste and the hippy in me wishes we could all get along and celebrate and respect our differences without attempting to convert or kill, etc...

But something has changed.

There was a period where you mentioned war and I went into a self-righteous monologue, refusing to accept any arguments for the necessity of an armed force. Now, well, I'd prefer it if there were no need for it, but see it as a necessity. Rather than sweep it under the carpet as an unfortunate and embarrassing necessity, I find myself in total admiration of those who willingly put their lives at risk so that I can live a relatively carefree life. To that end I found myself almost apopleptic with rage this morning when two women refused to stop talking during the two minutes silence. Luckily I wasn't the only one and several people gave them a good mouthful when it had ended. It shamed them into leaving.

It's easy for me to say, oh but they were young, I was like that once, yadda yadda yadda... but when I think about it, we were taught all this stuff at school. HOw can they not know about it? They weren't making any protest, just yammering about boys and Lady Gaga, so how could they not be aware of what was going on? How could they not care that they were upsetting a lot of people? If it was a protest, I could respect that, to a degree, but this was just obliviousness and vacuousness. How did they not get what was going on when it had been announced a couple of minutes earlier? How could they not know or care?

It's kind of embarrassing, in a way, the reversal of my beliefs came about as it's mostly because of popular culture. I certainly wouldn't have put myself into any arena where by neutrality or positivity towards the forces was likely - in my arrogance - so it crept up on me unawares with things like Blackadder goes Forth and A Few Good Men. THey opened my eyes to the possibility of nobility and sacrifice in the armed forces. The War on Terror sort of consolidated that. As much as I disagreed with the need for the war, I am kind of in awe of the fact that people were willing to go and be killed so that I can lead a life of freedom.

I still wont wear a poppy, white or red, but that's more because I don't like public, communal displays. I know how I feel about it and don't feel the need to display poppies. If people misinterpret that as not caring, then they are wrong and let them.

But I'm still saddened that all that anti-war stuff in the 80's came to nothing.

No doubt I'll witter on more about this later.....but in the meantime, I've just remembered the most shocking Memorial Sunday faux pas. About 6-7 years ago, we were in town on Sunday morning; the Memorial Service had just finished, the shops were opening and one bright spark starts to set up a small vending table. To sell replica guns. On armistice day. Unbelievable. He didn't last long. Apart from the constant verbal abuse he got, loads of people just went straight to the police and got him shut down.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

I'm going to hell

I walked past a Salvation Army band today. They weren't playing, just chatting. As I walked past the guy with the euphonium, he blew a bass note right into my ear. "FUCKING JESUS!!!" I yelled. The looks from the Sally army band were priceless! :-D

Overheard Bus Conversation #30

Woman: Do you go to our Carol's house?
Bus Driver: Dunno where is it?
Woman: You're fucking bus driver! It's next to Vic and Sheila's.
Bus Driver: (door shuts leaving mad bitch on the pavement)

Todays joyous conversation brought to you by First Buses and Stella Artois.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Sparks


I've just been reminded of this piece I wrote for Popshifter. It's a review of my the Sparks Gig during the "21 Nights:21 Albums" run in Islington a couple of years back.

Sparks Spectacular:
No. 1 in Heaven
July 30th


No. 1 One In Heaven: A Tale of Tragedy, Annoyance, Enormous Pain, and Ultimately, Transcendent Redemption

Things started off badly; I don’t travel well. Since moving from Southampton to Leeds, the relatively painless journey to London has become something of a nightmare. The option of flying is right out; airplanes terrify me in a way that probably only readers of Lovecraft can comprehend. The train, my preferred method of transport, was prohibitively expensive for one surviving on a student loan, which left the choice open to hitch-hiking (nuh-uh!) or the National Express coach.

The National Express? Ron, Russell. . . do you see how I suffer for you?

Four hours and twenty minutes on a coach was just about do-able. Or at least it would have been had it not been for some very large sporting function taking place at Wembley. The coach was full of people whose idea of a good time was to sing/shout loudly at the top of their voices to no recognizable tune about the prowess of people I’d never heard of. To make matters worse, they were scaring the four babies on the bus, all of whom responded by screaming for the entire journey.

Of course, I said four hours may have been do-able. Factor in road works and two fans going missing at a service station break and it becomes more like six hours. Once the service station farce was over, we were back on our journey. Journey implies movement in time and space, doesn’t it? I’ve ever had such a timeless journey where no progress seemed to be made. The guy sitting next to me decided to quiz me about my team allegiance. I didn’t even know what sport was being played, let alone what teams were playing. Oh, the joy of being pointed at and abused for three hours. How many people walked up the aisle to “look at the bloke who doesn’t like sport’”?

I was in Hell and, fittingly, waiting for Heaven.

It didn’t come at the hotel, that’s for certain. The room was damp, the wardrobes moldy, the windows made mostly of glass (but patched up with rotting cardboard), and strange things that probably once had a use were partially removed, the remnants jutted forlornly from the walls, their embarrassment covered by a thin layer of distemper. The strange red stuff oozing from the wall was best avoided. The lights above the bed didn’t work and the only place you could plug the kettle in was above the sink, meaning you had to hold it while it boiled. A single sheet tried to cover a double bed.

The bathroom was shared by four rooms and not en suite as advertised, didn’t have a functioning shower, and the guttering needed fixing. We knew that by the constant torrents of water falling outside of our window. It was a converted cellar, interior design by Josef Fritzl.

The kitchen next door woke us at 6:30 a.m. preparing breakfast so outlandishly bad the Geneva Convention should really be informed. The triumph being “raw toast” and instant coffee in a cafetière which they “plunged” for you at the table. Why? Anyway, we left to look for fun and found some at the British Museum in the form of prints by American Artists of the 1920s through the 1950s. Then we went to find food.

The next day (gig day!) was more fun. We found a good exhibition of Artists’ Books at the V & A, met friends for lunch at a cracking Japanese Bento specialist, and prepared ourselves for No. 1 in Heaven.

When we arrived at the venue, we settled into a good space and with good grace gave way to those with a more burning need to be nearer the front. Except once it became full and we really couldn’t move, some idiot about a foot taller than me and several feet wider did probably the rudest and most painful thing anyone could do in that situation. Without so much as an “excuse me,” he put his leg in front of me, trod on my foot, and at the same time pushed my leg back. He barged his body in front of me and trod on my other foot, effectively pinning me to the floor by my feet. He then thrust his arse back to “move me,” forgetting I was pinned, and in the crush, broke my little toe and tore the muscles and ligament in my left calf.

There are words for people like this. I’m sure you know most of them. I couldn’t move and he wouldn’t, despite being pushed and yelled at directly into his ear. My partner had to take something of a flying leap to remove him from my feet. He propped me up for the rest of the gig. Whoever that bloke was, I wish you nothing but pain, you arrogant wanker.

But, onwards. With many gins inside me (hic) and a stash of painkillers usually used for my back, I got through the gig. The healing power of music anyone?

I got through it and enjoyed it enormously, although previously I had been sort of apprehensive. I’ve said before that that only reason I was going to No. 1 in Heaven was to hear “My Other Voice” live for probably it’s one and only airing. This sort of damns the rest of the album with faint praise and that really wasn’t the intention at all. I love the album, the only reservations being with “Academy Award Performance,” which I have a love/hate relationship with.

However, On Came Ron, complete with the ill-advised haircut of the No. 1 in Heaven album photo. Marvelous. Definitely worth an outing just to see that! Some wag yelled, “Get your hair cut!” but Ron just rolled his eyes.

The synth-drums started and we were suddenly into “Tryouts For The Human Race.” When the beat kicked in, I tried to dance. Not the smartest of moves given the situation, but I bobbed happily. I don’t recall seeing this song live before, although I believe it may have been played relatively recently (maybe the Ocean gig which I left early because the sound was so painfully bad). I really don’t remember the album having such punch; “Tryouts” was a triumph! What made it work so perfectly was the two guys on backing vocals. I’m so pleased this was live, rather than keyboard/sample/backing track/whatever. It added so much to the immediacy, the passion, and the overall “liveness.” This was something special.

Next up, “Academy Award Performance,” the one I didn’t really want to see. Consider me converted. Again, the punch—the “liveness”—added so much and the do-do-do choruses were insane, frenetic, manic, and perfect. More nearly-dancing took place, the adrenalin, Paracodol, and gin easing the discomfort and facilitating more movement. (At this rate, I thought, by the time “Beat The Clock” comes round, I’ll be in a frenzy!)

What confused me at this point is that as much of a joy as the live performances of these songs have been before, the sound has always been a bit thin, a bit weak. . . so where the hell is all this power coming from? How are they making it sound so wonderfully visceral? It can’t be just the addition of real drums, although that really, really is helping.

Strangely, “La Dolce Vita,” was a sort of lull in the proceedings. It worked well, did everything it was supposed to do, and somehow didn’t quite hit the heights of the previous two songs. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; it simply wasn’t as revelatory as the previous songs. “Beat the Clock” was “Beat The Clock” only moreso, again sounding a million times better than previous incarnations, and clearer—so much clearer—with so much more verve.

It’s strange. The next song came as something of a surprise. Yes, yes, I know they were doing all the albums and all the songs from all the albums in order, but MY GOD! THIS IS MY OTHER VOICE! Cue girly scream. Honestly, I’m standing there and they are playing “My Other Voice.” No really! They really are! And it’s wonderful. It’s often overlooked, and Russell seemed a tiny bit embarrassed about playing it (a comment like “Well this rocks, sort of” along with a grimace led me to believe it’s not a favorite of the band), but it’s what I’m here for!

30 years I’ve waited and there it is being played live just, in my little fantasy world, for me. I’m utterly lost. Russell sings and, again in my fantasy world, validates Sparks’ entire output in the space of four lines of song. Transcendent. When the second verse comes along, complete with vocoder/processed vocals, I just lose it. Tears fall, I have to hang onto Andy for dear life. He didn’t really understand the sobbing and weeping, but then he’s not really a fan, rather an incredibly patient partner who understands Sparks’ importance to me. . . from a slightly bemused perspective. I could die now and feel my life is complete. I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo gay!

Luckily, having died, I get to go to Heaven. It’s the first time I’ve heard “Number One In Heaven” played live in its entirety ( I was always frustrated by the segue into “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” in live shows) and. . . oh hell, I’m totally lost, totally ecstatic, and dancing like an idiot. The sobbing subsided and I developed a Cheshire Cat grin which lasted for some time.

The encore, “Dancing Is Dangerous,” is a song I was aware of, but which I had never heard. I can’t say it’s the best thing Sparks have ever written, but it was worth hearing and acted as a perfect cooldown. I’ll try and track it down and give it a proper listen. But it was fun and good to see people singing along at the end.

And with that, they were gone. I was very very happy.

I even grinned all the way through the hospital visit. Yup. Broken toes, torn ligaments, strapped up, and on crutches. But I wouldn’t have missed that gig for ANYTHING.

The hotel was just as bad when we got back, the coach home slightly less unpleasant, but I’d seen “My Other Voice” live.

Does it get any better than that?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Dream (2)


A band that I managed put out a new album. Having spoken to the singer a month or so previously, I was surprised that it hadn't been brought up in conversation that they were back together and writing. The band consisted of three of the original members and a guy called Rhod Waronker.

The first I knew of the it was when I came across the album on the listening post in Virgin Records in Sheffield. THe album was called "Franz Ferdinand Versus Berlin - Germany Wins" and I managed to listen to a few tracks before waking up. One is burned into my mind. it wasn't the best of those I listened to, but it was a good tune.

The lyric, in it's entirety is:

"Carole Lester
I just met met her
She seems okay."

I"m going to recreate it as soon as I learn how to use that damned software!