Friday 12 November 2010

Clandestine Classic X - The Ground Below

The single was released at McCulloch's solo career's lowest ebbThe tenth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Today's offering is a B-side from Ian McCulloch's solo years. After he'd called time on Echo And The Bunnymen first time around, McCulloch set off on a solo career to mixed reviews. Most people seemed to want his old band back. By the time he released his second solo album, Mysterio, in 1992 things were not going so well - it limped to number 46 in the UK chart. It did, however, yield an interesting single in the form of a Leonard Cohen cover, Lover, Lover, Lover. Again, UK success was hardly staggering - it dragged itself to 47 in the charts. Conversely, it did give McCulloch one of his biggest US hits though, reaching number 9. Being in the UK, I picked it up for 99p in the bargain bin of a sadly now defunct record store - I'd never been a fan, and The Bunnymen had come along a bit too early for me, but I liked the artwork and the promised Cohen cover, so I chanced my quid. A good choice, as it turned out.

Today's clandestine classic was the last of four tracks on that CD single, The Ground Below. It's a wonderfully stripped down affair, just vocals, acoustic guitars (two, I think) and some very sparse percussion. A deceptively simple track... but beguiling nonetheless. There are some beautiful lyrics in there too, notably the (sometimes annoyingly) catchy refrain:
Let me into your dreams
where all the darkest jewels glow.
You be the sky I've never seen,
I'll be the ground below.
I'd love to say that this song, or at least the CD from whence it came, turned me into a McCulloch fan, but it didn't. Sure, I bought Nothing Lasts Forever when Electrafixion gave way to a full and inevitable Bunnymen reunion. That's a good single too, but these remain the only two McCulloch offerings in my record collection. No, I prefer just to treasure my copy of Lover, Lover, Lover - all four songs on it are excellent, by the way, but for me The Ground Below is the pick of the crop. And at 2 minutes 45 seconds it was great for filling short gaps at the end of a side when making compilation tapes, back in the day...

You can find The Ground Below on the remastered and expanded double-CD of McCulloch's first two solo albums, Candleland and Mysterio, if you're so inclined. I couldn't find a dubious download of today's clandestine classic to offer you, but there's always YouTube. Enjoy.

If they can't keep up with themselves...

Like many web authors, I have a little hidden snippet of code on these pages that records information about visitors - what page they visited, what page they came from, what resolution their screen is, what operating system they use, that kind of thing. It's kind of interesting, and helps me design this and other websites for their target audience. If you limit your log size to the last 500 page views it's also free, courtesy of Statcounter.

Imagine my surprise, then, to see a visitor earlier today who appeared to be surfing from work... at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. Nothing too surprising in itself - he or she was interested in The Blue Aeroplanes. No, what struck me was this - he or she was using Internet Explorer 7. Okay, so it would have been better still if they were using Firefox or Chrome, but even so, IE7? IE8 has been out for one year and eight months, by my reckoning, and a beta of IE9 is already available. Yet MS are still using IE7. With Javascript disabled. Worried about security loopholes, maybe?

Microsoft use old version of IE in-house

If Microsoft themselves can't keep up-to-date in the browser wars, what hope do the rest of us have? At least my Redmond reader was running Windows 7...

Thursday 11 November 2010

"Some more of me poetry..." the title of an early collection by the inestimable Pam Ayres. It's also a reminder to myself that I had a spell, two to three years ago, when I wrote a lot of poetry too. I had quite a serious stab at it, and entered competitions and everything. Sadly, I wasn't much good, which is probably the main reason I haven't written a poem now for a long time.

This is probably the best of my efforts, and I'm publishing it here for no other reason than I finished writing it exactly two years ago today. At the time, my writing group found it too obtuse, and couldn't discern the meaning... though our tutor did. He seemed to quite like it. I hope he's not alone. Anyway, it's called Watching Them Go - see what you think. Personally, I think it's proof that I should stick to prose. I'd love to hear what you think it's about, though I feel I should make it clear, given today's date, that it is in no way about soliders going off to die in wars.
Watching them go
My children left home today.
I watched them go with a sad excitement
and nervous confidence,
out into the world to who knew what.
A world that listened as they spoke their names,
and watched their cautious black-booted progress.
A world that pointed rough sticks at
their tracks in the snow.
I love them without question.
Proud of their virtues, accepting their flaws
and ready to defend,
against a world of who knew what.
A world that judged them, found them all guilty,
and passed incomprehensible sentence.
A world that asked whose kids are these?
I denied them all.

Wednesday 3 November 2010


An actual, proper book. From an actual, proper publisher. With some of my words inside.I'm sort of in two minds about writing this - it feels far too much like flagrant, cheap self-promotion to be comfortable... but I'm going to do it anyway, having come to the conclusion that no-one else is going to make either a song or a dance about it, let alone both!

The picture on the left is of a new collection of short stories called Unthology No. 1, published by the quite splendid Unthank Books. It's the first in what will be a series of annual anthologies featuring established and emerging writers. And the reason I'm blathering on about it quite so much is that some words of mine will appear in it. Yes, really. I wrote a draft of a short story called Waiting Room last year; when I saw Unthank's calls for submissions earlier this year, I gave the story a quick tidy-up and sent it in. Next thing I know...

The book's publication date is the 1st of December (although, in some way that I haven't yet worked out, Amazon are already dispatching copies). There are going to be launch events and everything - I will even be reading an extract at one of these (and just how nervous will I be about that?).

So there we have it: an actual, proper book, from an actual, proper publisher (to whom I am in no other way related), with something that I've written inside, that you'll be able to go into Waterstones and buy (or at least order). I hope you can forgive the own-trumpet-blowing, but I'm a little bit excited about this.

If you're not already fed up with me wittering on about this - and I'm even starting to bore myself now - you can read a little more about Unthology No. 1 here.

I'll stop now, I promise...

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Normal service is resumed... and free, live Pixies...

For reasons best known to my web host, the last four posts I made during October disappeared for a while over the last couple of days. I won't moan too much though, they are a free host, after all. And of course being a good IT boy I had backups of everything, and October's posts are now restored to their former glory. I wondered why I wasn't getting many people reading my Halloween special on unsettling films... now I know.

And since I'm here, I might as well direct you to where, for the cost of your email address, you can download an entire Pixies live album. It's good too.