Archive for the ‘Music’ Tag

In the Wake of Waking Up

I’m writing this after having just finished an online session about the Sirens chapter of Ulysses with the Charles Peake Seminar group – it’s the chapter centred on music. I switched straight from that which finished at 8pm to a live online gig from the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin by Iarla O Leonaird (singer in Gaelic) & Steve Cooney (guitar player) which started at 8pm. Music is a Big Thing for Joyce – this morning I got to The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly at the end of the second chapter of Finnegans Wake, marking the culmination of the rumours about HCE’s shameful act, fixing that moment for the long term in folksong. It actually opens with musical staves and notes, underlining the collagey, encyclopedic and scrapbooky nature of the Wake.

Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And he curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
At the butt of the Magazine Wall,
The Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?

He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he’s kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he’ll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.

I noticed this morning after finishing this section and the couple of pages before it that when I went to read another (conventional) novel it took a good few minutes to go back to conventional reading – you get into a different mode of reading and thinking when immersed in the Wake. It was a really interesting reading experience. The way you read the Wake is more engaged, playful and energetic than normal reading.

I want to finish off this second post by starting a couple of lists. The central character, HCE, has his initials explained in a number of ways in the book and I want to start capturing them:

  • Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (p30) – see last post
  • Howth Castle and Environs (3) = 1st line of the novel, a key location in both the Wake and Ulysses
  • Haveth Childers Everywhere (a section published in 1930 as part of Work in Progress) = Adam, father of mankind
  • humile, commune and ensectuous (29)
  • Here Comes Everybody (32) = Everyman
  • habituels conspicuously emergent (33)
  • He’ll Cheat E’erawan (46) = a sinful fella

HCE Group-Logo-Landscape-Colour

Another list I want to begin here is one of all the different ways Joyce refers to the city at the heart of the novel (as with Ulysses) – Dublin:

  • Dabblin (p16)
  • (Brian) d’ of Linn (17)
  • dun blink (17)
  • durblin (19)
  • Devlin (24)
  • Dumbaling (34)
  • Poolblack (35) = Dub/black Lin/Pool : dubh linn (Gaelic) black pool
phoenix-park map finnegans wake

The focus of Wake’s Dublin

(I’ll keep building these lists as I read through.)

 

Art School was Rock School

A couple of years ago I went to a meeting at University of the Arts/Chelsea College of Arts to discuss a programme idea about Art Schools in the UK. Waiting in the cafe bit near the entrance I was really struck by the proportion of Chinese and South-East Asian students in the packed room – a sign of the times. In 2016 I was teaching on an MA course at the Royal College of Art, set up by designer Neville Brody (of ‘The Face’ fame) – I had helped him shape its curriculum. Of the 18 students in the room, one was British – most of the others were European, a couple from South-East Asia. My point is about the mix and the absence of young Brits (rather than the presence of students from abroad).

brian eno roxy music

Brian Eno in Roxy Music

In February 2017 I went to an event in Cecil Sharp House, Camden Town at which Brian Eno was interviewed by Tanya Byron (with whom I worked on ‘Bedtime Live‘ [Channel 4]). He talked a lot about his teacher at Ipswich Art School, Tom Phillips (a signed print of whose is sitting on this desk, just behind my screen, a present from my mum – we went to collect it from Tom’s house together). His teachers there had a formative role in his development as a musician. There’s a good account of their relationship here.

Today I was reflecting again on the vital contribution of Art Schools to British music, not least in the punk and post-punk era in which I was a teenager.

malcolm mclaren vivienne westwood

malcolm mclaren & vivienne westwood

What those schools represented among other things was a space for experimentation, to figure out what you want to do with your life and art, to come across & play with ideas. No nine grand a year debt hanging over your head. They were also a place for people who didn’t fit the mainstream tertiary education system – or rather it failed to fit them.

Paul Simonon The Clash by Sheila Rock

Paul Simonon of The Clash [photo by Sheila Rock]

This is the first of a two-part article on the subject – I want to round off this introductory part with a (kick-off rather than comprehensive) list of musicians who went to art schools around the UK to give a sense of the enormous impact of these places on music across the globe:

  • John Mayall – Regional College of Art (Manchester), 1955-1959
  • Charlie Watts – Harrow Art School, 1956-1960
  • John Lennon – Liverpool College of Art, 1957-1960
  • Keith Richards – Sidcup Art School, 1959-1962
  • Jimmy Page – Sutton Art College, 1960-1964
  • John Cale – Goldsmiths, 1960-1963
  • Viv Stanshall – Central St Martins, 1961-1962
  • Ronnie Wood – Ealing Art College, 1961-1964
  • Eric Clapton – Kingston Art College, 1961-1962
  • Pete Townshend – Ealing Art College, 1961-1964
  • Ray Davies – Hornsey College of Art, 1962-1963
  • Cat Stevens – Hammersmith School of Art
  • Syd Barrett – Camberwell College of Art, 1964-1966
  • Roger Waters – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Nick Mason – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Rick Wright – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Bryan Ferry – Newcastle College of Art, 1964-1968
  • Brian Eno – Ipswich Art School, 1964-1966 & Winchester College of Art, 1966-1969
  • Malcolm McLaren – St Martin’s & Chiswick Polytechnic & Croydon College of Art & Harrow Art College & Goldsmiths College, 1963-1971
  • Ian Dury – Royal College of Art, 1964-1967
  • Freddie Mercury – Ealing College of Art, 1966-1969
  • Joe Strummer – Central St Martins, 1970-1971
  • Adam Ant – Hornsey College of Art, 1972-1975
  • Jerry Dammers – Lanchester Polytechnic, Coventry, 1972-1975
  • Mick Jones – Hammersmith School of Art, 1973-1974
  • Paul Simonon – Byam Shaw (London), 1975-1976
  • Marc Almond – Leeds Polytechnic (Leeds Beckett University), 1976-1979
  • David Ball of Soft Cell – Leeds Polytechnic (Leeds Beckett University), 1976-1979
  • Andy Gill of Gang Of Four – Leeds University
  • Jon King of Gang Of Four – Leeds University
  • Sade – Central St Martins, 1977-1980
  • Jarvis Cocker – Central St Martins, 1988-1991
  • Graham Coxon – Goldsmiths, 1988-1989
  • Damon Albarn – Goldsmiths
  • Alex James – Goldsmiths
  • Justine Frischmann of Elastica – Central St Martins
  • PJ Harvey – Yeovil Art College, 1990-1991
  • Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian – Stow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) 1995-
  • Stuart David of Belle and Sebastian – Stow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) 1995-
  • Fran Healy of Travis – Glasgow School of Art
  • Corinne Bailey Rae – Leeds University
  • Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine – Camberwell, 2006-2007
  • Paloma Faith – Central St Martins
Damon Albarn of Blur by Julian Opie

Damon Albarn of Blur by Julian Opie

If you know other British musicians who came out of art school, please add them in the comments below.

Best Music of 2019

Just taking a moment to record for posterity/reference the highlights of 2019’s music from a London point of view in the form of the playlist of Robert Elms’ annual New Year’s Eve episode of his Radio London show before it drops off BBC Sounds (Audio on Demand app) in a couple of weeks. (The bolding is my recommendations.)

celeste singer

Celeste

The recorded music and live sessions from his show played by Robert Elms on 31/12/19.

  1. Bob James Trio
 – Ain’t Misbehavin’
  2. Hiss Golden Messenger – 
I Need A Teacher
  3. 
Jack Savoretti
 – Catapult (Radio London Session, 15 Jan 2019)
  4. Monkey House
 – 10,000 Hours [shades of Steely Dan – in a pleasing way]
  5. Danny Toeman – 
She’s Got Something About Her (Radio London Session, 8 Aug 2019)








 [shades of 70s soul – in a groovy way]
  6. Emily King – 
Look At Me Now
  7. 
HAIM
 – Summer Girl
  8. Celeste
 – Lately (Radio London Session, 4 Apr 2019)
  9. Nick Lowe
 – Love Starvation [can still teach the young’uns a thing or two]
  10. Natty Rebel
 – Copper And Lead [fresh roots reggae]
  11. 
Jo Harman – 
Cloudy (Radio London Session, 1 Mar 2019)
  12. Michael Kiwanuka
 – You Ain’t The Problem [contender for LP of the year]
  13. Ralph McTell
 – West 4th Street & Jones (Radio London Session, 27 Nov 2019) [lovely reflection on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – a cover I own the original contact sheet from by photographer Don Hunstein]
  14. Paul Weller
 – You Do Something To Me (Live At Royal Festival Hall, 2018) [just a great song]
  15. Kat Eaton – 
Barricade
  16. Monks Road Social
 – If It Was All Down To Me
  17. Bruce Springsteen
 – There Goes My Miracle [his singing is impeccable on this]
  18. Kelly Finnigan
 – I Called You Back Baby [shades of Aretha – in a funky way]
  19. 
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – 
Texas Sun
  20. The Divine Comedy – 
Norma And Norman (Radio London Session, 7 Jun 2019)








 [quirkiness at its best]
  21. Teskey Brothers
 – Pain And Misery (Radio London Session, 11 Feb 2019)








 [shades of Otis – in a surprising way]
  22. The James L’Estraunge Orchestra – 
Closer [shades of Aztec Camera – a lone Scot in his bedroom making an astonishingly big sound, playing everything himself]
  23. Durand Jones & the Indications
 – Morning In America [shades of Gil-Scott Heron – in a respectful way]
  24. Greentea Peng
 – Risin’ (Radio London Session, 24 Oct 2019)
  25. 
Gabriella Cilmi
 – Ruins
  26. 
Lissie
 – Dreams
  27. The Delines
 – Eddie & Polly (Radio London Session, 4 Nov 2019)
  28. Roseanne Reid
 – Amy [offspring on a Proclaimer]
  29. The Brand New Heavies & N’Dea Davenport
 – These Walls
  30. Maisie Peters – 
Favourite Ex (Radio London Session, 2 Aug 2019)
  31. 
Leif Vollebekk
 – The Way That You Feel
  32. Richard Hawley
 – My Little Treasures
  33. 
Judi Jackson
 – Better In The Fall (Radio London Session, 20 Mar 2019)
  34. Geraint Watkins
 – Heaven Only Knows
  35. Ady Suleiman
 – Strange Roses (Radio London Session, 7 Mar 2019)
  36. Jamie Cullum
 – Drink (Radio London Session, 10 Jun 2019)
  37. Yola
 – Faraway Look

    The original programme [3 hours] is here  but will disappear at the end of January 2020.

Greentea Peng


Greentea Peng
 – more proof that young music is alive & kicking in London

Best of 2019

 

joker joaquin phoenix actor movie stairs

The scene of the year

Film:

Joker

Mid90s

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rolling Thunder Review

Booksmart

Last year: Vice, Cold War

 

Foreign-Language Film:

Parasite

Last year: The Square 

 

Documentary:

Rolling Thunder Review

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love; Knock Down the House; Apollo 11

 

Male Lead:

Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Sunny Suljic (Mid 90s)

Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell)

Taron Egerton as Reggie Dwight/Elton John in Rocketman; Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)

Last year: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Female Lead:

Elizabeth Debicki (Virginia, Vita & Virginia)

Beanie Feldstein (Molly, Booksmart)

Gemma Arterton (Vita, Vita & Virginia)

Last year: Joanna Kulig – Cold War

 

Male Support:

Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin in Joker

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Olan Prenatt as Fuckshit in Mid90s; Lucas Hedges as Ian in Mid90s; Stephen Merchant as Deertz in Jojo Rabbit; Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Na-Kel Smith as Ray in Mid90s

Last year: Terry Notary (The Square)

 

Female Support:

Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose in Motherless Brooklyn; Scarlett Johansson as Rosie in Jojo Rabbit

Last year: Amy Adams(Vice)

 

Director:

Todd Phillips (Joker)

Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Last year: Adam McKay (Vice)

 

Writer:

Todd Phillips & Scott Silver – Joker

Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Taika Waititi – Jo Jo Rabbit

Last year: Adam McKay (Vice)

 

Editing:

tbc

Last year: Vice

 

Cinematography:

Roger Deakins – 1917

Last year: Lukasz Zal (Cold War)

 

Film Music:

Rolling Thunder Review

Last year: Bohemian Rhapsody / Cold War

 

Single/Song:

Lately – Celeste

Last year: I Want You (Sam Reid & Claudia Jolly – The Girl from the North Country)

 

Album:

Ghosteen – Nick Cave

Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka; Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen

Last year: The Girl from the North Country (London cast)

 

Gig:

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets (Roundhouse)

Kamasi Washington (Brixton Academy)

Patti Smith (Westminster Central Hall)

The Midnight Special – Abbey Road anniversary (Jazz Cafe)

Abdullah Ibrahim (Cadogan Hall)

Proms: Jonny Greenwood (Albert Hall)

Last year: David Byrne – Hammersmith Odeon

 

Play:

A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios)

Last year: Girl from the North Country [2nd viewing]

 

Art Exhibition:

Van Gogh in Britain (Tate B)

Preraphaelite Sisters (NPG)

Tate St Ives

Last year: Picasso: 1932 (Tate Modern)

 

Book:

A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell

The Order of the Day – Eric Vuillard

The Cut-out Girl – Bart Van Es

The Quiet American, To Have & Have Not, The Catcher in the Rye, The Drowning Pool

Last year: The Leithen Stories – John Buchan

 

TV:

After Life (Netflix)

The Boys (Amazon), The Crown – S3 (Amazon)

Last year: Mrs Wilson

 

Podcast:

13 Minutes to the Moon

The Tip-Off

Sport:

England beating the All-Blacks at the Rugby World Cup, Japan

 

Dance:

The Red Shoes (Sadlers Wells)

 

Event:

150th anniversary of Girton College (including event at Trinity, Dublin)

50th anniversary of Moon Landing/Apollo 11

Mythos: The Gods – Stephen Fry

 

Dearly departed:

  • Emily Hartridge (who I made Oh Shit I’m 30! with)
  • Judith Kerr (with whom I was on Woman’s Hour)
  • Leon Kossoff
  • D.A. Pennebaker
  • Clive James
  • Jonathan Miller (who I walk with in Aldeburgh while he was having a cheeky fag)
  • Albert Finney
  • Gordon Banks (his Esso medal hangs on my wall along with his 1970 World Cup team mates)
  • Peter Fonda
  • Ginger Baker
  • Doris Day
  • Dr John
  • Mark Hollis (who I have a vague memory of meeting briefly at Solus, my first job)
  • Agnès Varda
  • Mary Warnock (Mistress of Girton in my era)
  • Jeremy Hardy (he contributed to my Omagh project at Channel 4)
  • Terry O’Neill
dylan-doc-rolling thunder review scorsese

Performance of the year

 

Best of 2018 and links to earlier Bests Of

All Souls’ Day

Patti Smith 1975 by Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989

Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe (1975)

Today is the day the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946. Today is the day the guitarist Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith of the MC5 died, a quarter of a century ago. Today is the day Patti Smith’s grandchild was born. Patti was married to Fred, and was best-friends with Robert.

Coincidences is one of the things I write often about on this blog. It feels like there’s a pattern in the coincidences of these dates. It’s the kind of thing that makes me think of myself as a pantheist.

Two days ago, on All Souls’ Day, I went to see Patti Smith at the Central Hall Westminster aka Methodist Central Hall, a two-thousand seat domed venue near the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey (and Channel 4) which served as venue for a number of key Suffragette events around 1914. It is also the building where the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly took place (in 1946). Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Churchill have all spoken there.

On Saturday evening Patti Smith spoke about her work and life and read from her new memoir ‘Year of the Monkey’. She also performed six songs with her bandmate Tony Shanahan.

1 Wing

I was a wing in heaven blue
soared over the ocean
soared over Spain
and I was free
needed nobody
it was beautiful
it was beautiful

After the UN General Assembly used the hall on 10th January 1946 with 51 nations attending it repaid the venue by paying for it to be painted light blue – perhaps heaven blue.

The song comes from ‘Gone Again’, Patti’s 6th studio album, which was released in the wake of various losses in her life – Fred, Robert, her brother Todd and her pianist Richard Sohl among them. All Sohl’s Day.

2 Beneath the Southern Cross

Oh
To be
Not anyone
Gone
This maze of being
Skin
Oh
To cry
Not any cry
So mournful that
The dove just laughs
The steadfast gasps

This song is from the same LP – it features Jeff Buckley on backing vocals. Tony Shanahan played bass on the record. ‘Gone Again’ came out in the summer of 1996 – Jeff died in the summer of the following year. All Souls’ Day.

3  My Blakean Year

In my Blakean year
I was so disposed
Toward a mission yet unclear
Advancing pole by pole
Fortune breathed into my ear
Mouthed a simple ode
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

I’m not sure which year was Patti’s Blakean one – it might have been 2004. That was the year ‘Trampin’ ‘ came out, her 9th studio album. I am sure that her Year of the Monkey was 2016 – a trying year for many of us – Brexit, Trump, illness in the family, it was one you celebrated reaching the end of. The day after this gig I broke out this T-shirt from 2017 to mark the memory:

2016 survivor tshirt

on the floordrobe

Blake is a big presence in Patti’s life, as he was in Allen Ginsberg’s. I met Patti Smith briefly once not far from Blake’s grave in Bunhill – it was after a concert she gave at St Luke’s church/concert hall in Old Street. We talked about Rimbaud and his time living in London. Rimbaud is another big literary figure in her life. In the wake of the All Souls gig I went for a walk yesterday with the member of my family who had been unwell in 2016 and we passed the house where Rimbaud lived for a couple of months with Verlaine.

verlaine rimbaud camden town plaque

8 Royal College Street, Camden Town

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

Chanson d’automne (Paysages tristes – Poèmes saturniens) – Paul Verlaine (1866)

[Autumn song from Sad Landscapes]

4 After The Goldrush by Neil Young

neil young patti smith

Neil & Patti

This song appears on ‘Banga’, Patti’s 11th studio album from 2012. It was co-produced by Patti, Tony Shanahan and others. Both her children with Fred – son Jackson and daughter Jesse – played on it.

Well I dreamed I saw the knights in armor comin’
Sayin’ something about a queen
There were peasants singin’ and drummers drummin’
And the archer split the tree
There was a fanfare blowin’ to the sun
That was floating on the breeze
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 1970s
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 1970s

A timely anthem for the climate emergency. She changed the lyrics towards the end to:

Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 21st Century.

5 Because the Night

patti smith bruce springsteen

Patti & Bruce (1977)

This song was co-written by Patti & Bruce Springsteen, fellow New Jerseyites. Patti said at the gig that it is about Fred. It was on ‘Easter’, her 3rd studio album, the first one I bought, after having picked up a single ‘Hey Joe’ / ‘Piss Factory’ out of intrigue at the cover and the B-side title. Inside the ‘Easter’ vinyl sleeve is a photograph of Rimbaud, a First Communion portrait with his father Frédéric.

Take me now, baby, here as I am
Pull me close, try and understand
Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is a banquet on which we feed

Come on now try and understand
The way I feel when I’m in your hands
Take my hand come undercover
They can’t hurt you now
Can’t hurt you now, can’t hurt you now

6 Pissing in the River

patti smith hey joe piss factory single record cover

1974 debut single

Two years after her debut single (Piss Factory) came another piss song (Pissing in a River).

Pissing in a river, watching it rise
Tattoo fingers shy away from me
Voices voices mesmerize
Voices voices beckoning sea
Come come come come back come back
Come back come back come back

It appeared on her second studio LP, 1976’s ‘Radio Ethiopia’, which followed her ground-breaking, landmark debut ‘Horses’. ‘Horses’ features a classic photo by Mapplethorpe on the cover:

horses-cover_patti smith

1975 debut LP

Patti got most into her stride performing this song, which is perfect for All Souls’ Day

Come come come come back come back
Come back come back come back

She spoke most movingly about working with her friend Sam Shepherd on his final publication. He passed on in 2016. As did her friend record producer Sandy Pearlman who produced Blue Oyster Cult and The Clash’s ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ among others. I remember walking through the snow on New Year’s Day down to Loppylugs in Edgware to buy that record in the days when you had a delicious wait for things.

I always associate in my head BOC’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ and ‘Because the Night’ – I’ve no idea why, they were released two years apart (1976 and 1978). Patti didn’t talk about Pearlman although he was one of the key losses behind ‘Year of the Monkey’. But she spoke at length about Shepherd and made it clear that he didn’t really fear the reaper – he got to the end of his book with Patti’s help – he could no longer hold a pen or type on a keyboard, or play his Gibson in the corner of the room where they worked together on his Kentucky ranch – so she had to capture his voice and ten days after finishing he went to the big farm in the sky. One thing that really struck me about what she recounted about Sam was that they had written together back in the early days in New York so it was familiar to do it again at the end of his time in Kentucky. They had always been able to write side by side on their own things, alone and together at the same time. I love being alone but together – for example, in the house when all the family are sleeping like this weekend just passed, all souls as one.

patti smith at central hall westminster 2 nov 2019

Soul music: Patti & Tony at Central Hall

 

Best of 2018

 

Cold War pawel pawlikowski film movie

Cold War

Film:

Vice

Cold War

Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody

Last year: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Florida Project

Foreign-Language Film:

The Square

Cold War

Last year: The Square (Sweden)

Documentary:

Faces Places

Three Identical Strangers, RBG, Bombshell, The Ballymurphy Precedent

Male Lead:

Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

Christian Bale – Vice

Viggo Mortensen – Green Book, Robert Redford – The Old Man & The Gun, Steve Coogan – Stan & Ollie

Last year: Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread, Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes

Female Lead:

Olivia Coleman – The Favourite

Joanna Kulig – Cold War

Last year: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards

Male Support:

Terry Notary – The Square

Steve Carell – Vice, Sam Rockwell – Vice

Last year: Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards, Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards

Female Support:

Amy Adams – Vice

Sissy Spacek – The Old Man & The Gun, Rachel Weisz – The Favourite, Emma Stone – The Favourite, Nina Arianda – Stan & Ollie

Last year: Brooklyn Prince – Florida Project, Mary J Blige – Mudbound

Director:

Adam McKay – Vice

Last year: Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Writer:

Adam McKay – Vice

Last year: Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Editing:

Vice

Last year: Dunkirk

Cinematography:

Lukasz Zal – Cold War

Last year: Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049 (went on to pick up his 1st Oscar for this, after numerous nominations)

Film Music:

Bohemian Rhapsody

Cold War

Last year: Three Billboards

Single/Song:

I Want You (Sam Reid & Claudia Jolly – The Girl from the North Country)

Last year: Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

Album:

The Girl from the North Country (London cast)

The Prophet Speaks (Van)

Last year: undecided

Gig:

David Byrne – Hammersmith Odeon

The Midnight Special – White Album anniversary; Tom Robinson – Shepherds Bush Empire; Hothouse Flowers/Hot Press anniversary – Nells; Donal Lunny & Andy Irvine – Barbican

Last year: Hothouse Flowers – Electric Ballroom, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Millennium Dome, Avishai Cohen – Barbican

Play:

Girl from the North Country [2nd viewing]

Last year: Girl from the North Country, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Art Exhibition:

Picasso: 1932 (Tate Modern)

Collections Privees (Musee Marmottan)

Last year: Basquiat (Barbican)

Book:

The Leithen Stories – John Buchan

Last year: Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

TV:

Mrs Wilson (BBC)

13 Reasons Why (Netflix), Maltese (More 4)

Last year: Stranger Things S1

Sport:

Ireland beating the All-Blacks

The demeanour of the England team at the World Cup in Russia

Event:

50th anniversary of The Beatles’ White Album

Dearly departed:

  • Amos Oz
  • Philip Roth
  • Aretha Franklin
  • William Goldman
  • Chas (Hodges)
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Eric Bristow
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Ken Dodd
  • Roger Bannister
  • Dennis Edwards
  • Peter Wyngarde
  • Dolores O’Riordan

[Nov] Ireland beat world champions New Zealand for the first time ever on home soil - Jacob Stockdale scores the only try

[Nov] Ireland beat world champions New Zealand for the first time ever on home soil – Jacob Stockdale scores the only try of the match

Best of 2017 – with links to all previous years

Join Hands 11.11.1918-11.11.2018

In 1979 I went to see Siouxsie & The Banshees playing at Hammersmith Odeon – it remains one of the best gigs of my life. Just before the tour half the band had gone AWOL so new musicians had to be drafted in including Budgie on drums (formerly the token man in The Slits, one of my favourite drummers – Stewart Copeland considers him one of the most interesting drummers for his “very economical and offbeat” playing, that offbeat being what I most like about him) and John McGeoch on guitar (formerly of Magazine). That tour marked the release of the LP ‘Join Hands’. The hands joining are those of four bronze WW1 Tommies on the war memorial between Horseguards Parade and St James’s Park (the Guards Memorial) – I passed it regularly when I was working at Channel 4 and it always brought me back to that music and excitement. The LP opens with the tolling bells of a 2-minute track called Poppy Day.

In the same way that Punk (especially The Clash) introduced me to reggae, through this track it introduced me to the First World War poetry of John McCrae, a typical example of the less known poets who emerged in the Great War, the one-hit wonders and offbeats. McCrae was a high-ranking Canadian army doctor serving on the Western front. In Poppy Day the resonant bells give way to the distinctive driving guitar wailing of The Banshees and then just a few short lines, delivered in a distorted Siouxsie voice:

In Flanders fields
The poppies grow
Between the crosses
Row on row
That mark our place
We are the dead…

I don’t think McCrae is credited for the lyrics which are very close to the opening of his In Flanders Fields, in fact every word is derived from the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Siouxsie & The Banshees filtered out the patriotic and the warmongering/cheerleading to open their record with the zombie or heroic or haunting dead, we don’t know which. What we do know, two years after the Silver Jubilee and the Pistols’ God Save the Queen (the Fascist regime), with rubbish piling up in the streets of strike-bound London, is that these dead were neither glorious nor patriotic in the establishment way.

The band were inspired not only by the chaos and crapitude of the late 70s Home Front but also by conflict witnessed on their suburban Kent TVs, particularly in Iran. (Plus ça change).

siouxsie and the banshees join hands vinyl record album LP cover design

Siouxsie_and_the_banshees_Join_Hands_war guards memorial

The LP cover was extracted from this shot – L to R Steve Severin (bass), John McKay (guitar), Siouxsie Sioux (vocals), Kenny Morris (drums) – before McKay and Morris went AWOL

Banshee stalwart, bassist Steven Severin in the wake of watching the two minutes of silence in memory of the war dead on TV on Sunday 12th November 1978 explained about Poppy Day: “We wanted to write a song that would fittingly fill that gap”. On the inner sleeve of the record (which sits still in the room just below me, alongside its vinyl sisters The Scream, Kaleidoscope, Juju and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse) beside the lyrics of the song is specified (with echoes of John Cage): “2 minutes of silence”.

So here we are on Sunday 11th November 2018, 40 years after Severin watched that broadcast, 100 years after the world watched that bloodbath, that futile wiping out of a generation, and we are still all struggling to join hands. The irony of The Banshees brooding in the studio while recording this masterpiece of an LP and splitting up in its aftermath is as nothing to the irony that we mark this centenary at a time when the world’s international institutions are being deliberately dismantled, Europe re-fracturing and the zombie voices of patriotism, nationalism and fascism wailing more discordantly than John McKay’s guitar. We are the Dead. We are turning in our graves row on row between the poppies.

siouxsie and the banshees paris 1980

Reinforcements arrive: L to R John McGeoch (guitar), Budgie (drums), Siouxsie & Steve – Paris (1980) where 70 world leaders are arriving this morning to mark the centenary of the Armistice including Macron (accordion), Merkel (tuba), Trump (mouth organ) and Putin (triangle)

 

For the record

A relative in Ireland recently sent me one of those chain postings in Facebook – I don’t go for passing those on but since I did the thinking – about what my favourite records are – I’ll plop them in here for posterity.

Talking Heads Remain in the Light record album cover design music

marvin gaye whats going on record album cover design music

kind of blue miles davis record album cover design music

My funeral record (last track)

solid air john martyn record album cover design music

blood on the tracks bob dylan record album cover design music

the clash london calling record album cover design music

garveys ghost burning spear record album cover design music

van morrison a night in san francisco record album cover design music

songs for swingin lovers frank sinatra record album cover design music

john coltrane a love supreme record album cover design music

My other funeral record (first track)

David-Bowie-Station-To-Station record album cover design music

 

Coincidences No.s 208 & 209

13.ii.18 Theatre503

I meet the Creative Accountant, Sydney Levinson, for tea in Mayfair (Little House). At the end of the meeting he has to head for home to get ready to see the play of a friend of his at a small theatre in Battersea – Theatre503. I’ve never heard of the place.

I leave the tea with Sydney to go to a special preview screening of a documentary I’d recently commissioned, Sorry I Shot You. The screening is in Bermondsey in a back-street cafe run by an ex-offender. The director of the film, the protagonist, and various people at the gathering are also ex-cons. I meet an interesting and pleasant man called John who has done time in Liverpool for armed robbery. He is smartly dressed and articulate. He has recently written a play about his time inside which is about to be put on …at Theatre503.

10.iii.18 & 14.iii.18 Wildwood

I am walking from home to Crouch End through a string of woods. When I get to Queen’s Wood I read the information board at the entrance which explains that the woodland which covered England until 5,000 years ago was known as ‘Wildwood’. Not a term I have ever heard but I know a road called Wildwood near where I live, beside an island of woodland. I explain all this to my friend Roddy over breakfast at Banners.

An email comes through this evening about a newish band I’ve never heard of: Wildwood Kin.
A family trio – two sisters and their cousin – Wildwood Kin formed four years ago while in their mid to late teens. Their extraordinary debut album Turning Tides entered the UK charts in the top 40 and whilst it borrows from early folk influences, not least in their hypnotic three-part harmonies, it delves deeply into other genres, featuring both electric and acoustic instruments and boasts inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics.”

I’m listening to their inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics (out of Exeter) as I write this and it’s not unpleasant. Though I’d sooner have the band I saw last Monday (5th March) at the Imagining Ireland gig at The Barby, Saint Sister, a harp-keyboards duo (out of Derry & Belfast), not actual sisters but with a sisterly vibe. 

saint sister irish band

Gemma Doherty (Derry) & Morgan MacIntyre (Belfast)

Here’s a really striking song they performed, Corpses:

 

The State of NME

joy division nme newspaper magazine cover 1980 ian curtis tribute

Ian Curtis tribute edition (1980)

You never listened to a word that I said
You only seen me from the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been to the colour of my hair

Public image you got what you wanted
The public image belongs to me
It’s my entrance my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye

Public image
Public image
Goodbye

NEW

Today the last printed edition of NME is being published. It played a vital role in many British teens’ lives at a certain point, especially during the dynamic days of Punk and Post-Punk. In many ways it was our internet.

MUSICAL

It was the place to find out about gigs, get the latest band news, find upcoming talent, get hold of the most desirable records, get insights into the musicians that mattered.

EXPRESS

It also nurtured a generation of writers from Paul Morley to Danny Baker, from Julie Burchill to Nick Kent. My friend & former colleague from Channel 4, Stuart Cosgrove, was among their ranks. His latest book ‘Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul‘ has just this week been shortlisted for the Penderyn Prize for Music Book of the Year, which the NME dubbed “The Mercury Prize of Books”. It’s the second book in the trilogy that began with ‘Detroit 67’ – he’s currently writing the third, ‘Harlem 69‘. It’s up against Cosey Fanni Tutti’s ‘Art Sex Music‘ which looks like formidable competition (though I haven’t read it yet).

Cosey Fanni Tutti was in Throbbing Gristle. I saw a then unknown Marc Almond perform a 15-minute version of the Throbbing Gristle song ‘Discipline’ at Hammersmith Odeon, supporting an emerging band called The Cure and headliners Siouxsie & The Banshees. Years later, down the road at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I saw Marc Almond (son of Leeds) perform Wendy Rene’s ‘After Laughter Comes Tears’, a Northern Soul classic. Stuart is an aficionado of Northern Soul, it’s from that passion that ‘The Soul Trilogy‘ springs. These are the threads that made up the text and texture of NME in its heyday when it was ENeMy of the state and friend of new musical expression.

NME
NME
Goodbye

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS (NME) Music Paper 28th MAY 1977 SEX PISTOLS GRATEFUL DEAD JOHNNY THUNDERS (NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS NME)

Changing of the Guards: The Pistols meet The Dead – May 1977

The original NME Cover of the Clash from April 1977 By Chalkie Davies

The Crossroads: The Clash meet Fleetwood Mac – April 1977

keith levine guitarist public image limited PIL NME cover

The Tangled Web: Keith Levine of Public Image and The Clash – 1980

undertones nme cover

The Threads: The Undertones meet Siouxsie meets PiL

nme cover the slits

The Slits – September 1979 (one was married to PiL’s John Lydon)

the specials nme cover two tone

Two Tone: The Specials – August 1979

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