Archive for October 31st, 2013|Daily archive page

Doing the Box – part 1

I’m having a session with The Box tonight and its 50+ songs as I’ve just made an adjustment to the record-player set-up to increase accessibility (a crafty pull-out shelf) and to usher in a new age of black plastic – the Vinyl Frontier is crossed.

Here’s what I’m listening to and the thoughts prompted/verdicts. Going according to how they sit in the box, so pretty much random order.

turntable record player

Thin Lizzy – Emerald

Started with this B-side after which my friend Eddie named his production company, with which I worked for a couple of very happy years. The song is typical Thin Lizzy, a romantic view of the Hibernian past, epic battles turning green fields red. Phil Lynott was a fascinating character and I love passing his statue off Grafton Street in Dublin, with plectrums attached by fans in homage (I believe it’s been restored recently, though it’s not that old – probably been living the high life and taken plenty of abuse).

Phil Lynott statue Thin Lizzy Dublin

Pet Shop Boys –  It’s a Sin 

Always had a bit of an ambivalent attitude to the PSBs. Couldn’t take the Smash Hits roots seriously. This one has a touch of the A-ha synth sound about it but is none the less catchy for that. Jolly and not very sinful or dark.

Pet-Shop-Boys it's a sin 45

Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U

How on earth can a vinyl single wow and flutter? – this one does! But nothing can obscure a unique, soulful and beautiful voice like this. It’s not flawless but it is perfect. This song is very difficult to separate from its video which sears itself into the memory with its simplicity and beauty.

sinead o'connor nothing compares 2 u video

Irish Heartbeat – Billy Connolly

Bit of an Irish theme so far (not that surprising given the mix of my friends). This is comedian Billy (who used to make me laugh the minute he opened his mouth, from his accent and attitude alone) doing a Van song, with a Scottish twist when he wheels in the band of bagpipers. It’s a live performance and he gets away with a larger than life approach. (But I’ll take the Van version if push comes to shove.)

billy connolly_bigyin

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Philips with one L (Day 41)

parallax-view-silhouette

Two meetings with Philips with one L. Firstly with Philip Dodd, formerly of Sight & Sound and the ICA, now a regular arts & ideas broadcaster on BBC Radio as well as a pioneer of British business & culture in China. He reads an awful lot of books so his guidance with this one was invaluable, some higher level perspectives to help avoid specific bear traps. We met where Fitzrovia meets Bloomsbury, the literary territory both Philips call home.

A midday interval in the grounds of UCL writing en plein air. Have Air will travel.

Then a long interview session with the second Philip – Philip Hedley, formerly artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East in the wake of Joan Littlewood’s regime, joining as Assistant Director at the tail-end of that era around 1973. Philip talked with insight as the afternoon sun faded outside his art deco apartment building, the room darkened and his face became silhouetted. At the end of day 41 I was watching Alan Pakula’s The Parallax View which makes an art form of silhouettes in architectural frames.

Philip and I had begun chatting outdoors at the cafe opposite, his regular, in the cul de sac where GLO Productions was when I was setting out on my career. A fella called Gordon ran it til it went bankrupt; Tim Pope directed promos for them, produced by Lisa Bryer who went on to produce the likes of Film4’s The Last Kind of Scotland. I haven’t been in that streetette since the day of the winding-up meeting in the late 80s. A short stretch of the long and winding road…

The room we were subsequently talking in, home to Philip H for some 40 years, once housed a hastily convened meeting called by Joan to address the future of the Theatre Royal as Joan & Gerry’s time there was closing. Unusually she was taking the minutes herself. At the meeting she had strongly advocated the collective direction of TRSE, adamant that no leader was needed to succeed her. In the minutes she wrote that everyone turned their eyes to Philip when the issue of leadership surfaced but Philip made no response. The gap between her perception or recollection and Philip’s was Joan’s dramatic imagination, her romanticisation and theatricalisation of life which fuelled her creativity and characterises her autobiography, Joan’s Book, in which she recounts events in ways many struggle to recognise. As someone who ‘founded her life on the rock of change’ (a phrase she used to Philip in his five hour job interview for the Stratford gig) I suspect a book would be anathema, too fixed and rigid and not forward looking or moving…

the-parallax-view

A Gaye Daye (Day 40)

a-clockwork-orange-graphic design

I’m writing this post in the grounds of University College London (of which one of my forebears was a founder – I found out earlier this year whilst researching my family tree online) – opposite Birkbeck College where my dad got his PhD (having arrived in London from Leipzig in 1938). It’s a nice spot to write, with its air of bookishness and naively optimistic youth.

Day 40 was centred at BAFTA where I am No. 26 member of the Interactive branch. I don’t really use it often enough as a pied-a-terre. Maybe because it’s so close to Hatchards (est. 1797) which always costs me money. I went in there for a browse between meetings and came away with a signed copy of Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary. As I looked around the enticing book displays, the sheer volume of material published, the wonderful variety of subjects, I oscillated between: I can do this – No I can’t – I can do this…

My first meeting was a last minute addition through Alfie Dennen (who I’ll interview for the contemporary/digital strand of the book) with a TV producer from CCTV in China. I gave him a few ideas to help with a series he’s doing on European cities (London, Paris, Berlin).

As he was leaving he got to meet my interviewee who had just returned from a long stint in China as voice coach for Nicholas Cage on his current movie. Gaye Brown acted under Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal Stratford East as well as touring with Oh What a Lovely War around Britain. She was in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange as well as in some classic TV from On The Buses to The Goodies. She also worked in The Establishment, Peter Cook’s club in Soho, alongside Jason Monet, grandson of Claude and the person my youngest brother was named after. She’s the first person other than my mum (who was at art school with him) I’ve ever heard mention that name.

Chatting to Gaye was a delight – story after charming story of acting in the 60s and 70s in particular, and of hanging out in London during that era, all framed by a rich mix of a life.

The rest of the afternoon involved reverting back to the Advertising world and tapping away on Paul Arden as the autumn sun raked along Piccadilly.

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