Tuesday 21 February 2017

For a limited time only

Three years ago, I started another blog. Let me explain why.

During the 1990s, BBC Radio 1 ran an annual mini-festival called Sound City (not to be confused with Liverpool Sound City or the Dave Grohl movie – if it wasn’t branded “Radio 1” then it’s not relevant here). The idea was that every year they would occupy a series of venues in the city of choice, and broadcast gigs live every evening. I used to tape (look it up, kids) some of these gigs off the radio, despite the fact that home taping was killing music. And occasionally tracks from various Sound City gigs would make their way onto magazine cover-mounted CDs or tapes.

Anyway, the purpose of the new blog was to pull together various recordings and other memorabilia from those gigs, highlighting the quality and, if truth be told, ignoring any dross. I only started doing this after trying to find a track from Sound City 1993 online and being unable to – it was twenty years ago, after all, and how many people were digitising live radio broadcasts back then?

The trouble was, I featured a Manics track, and got DMCA'ed. Thinking I was smart, I moved the whole shebang from Blogger to Wordpress ... and promptly got DMCA'ed again, for the same live Manics track. Realising corporate behemoths have the resources to be smarter than me, I mothballed the whole lot.

Except I don't want to deprive the Internet of that one track I couldn't find anywhere else online (The Frank And Walters doing an acoustic cover of The Vapors' Turning Japanese - I eventually found my old taped recording and ripped it), or any of the other gems I found. So, for now at least, The Sound City Sessions is back up, minus that Manics track and the songs I'd sourced from Grooveshark, which has since ceased operations (a shame, as I had found some Pulp, Oasis and, er, Jamiroquai live tracks on there).

I won't be adding anything new (unless something exceptional turns up) but for now, assuming the DMCA police don't get upset again, the Sound City Sessions blog is back up for your listening pleasure at:


Here's a sneak preview of the sort of thing you'll find there:

And the limited time only bit? I'm thinking of re-mothballing it all again this time next week. So hurry, hurry, hurry...

Monday 20 February 2017

Especially for you

We've gone from The Cardigans and James Brown, to singing this together in the car. I don't need an excuse to play it but if I did, today's the day.

Thursday 16 February 2017

(Re-) Introducing the band

By my reckoning, The Blue Aeroplanes formed in 1981. Their first album followed in 1984. They flirted with success around the time of their most famous album, Swagger, were buddies with REM, and released a Paul Simon cover in a blatant chart position chase. They nearly made it ... but not quite. Their brand of art-rock has perhaps always been a bit too "art" for some and not enough "rock". Labels came and went. Most critically, I think, vocalist and band kingpin Gerard Langley's spoken-word delivery may have held them back a little, despite being their USP. It's hard to sing along with a singer who doesn't sing, if you get my meaning.

Now I should counter these criticisms by saying that I am a massive fan, and have been since buying their World View Blue e.p. as an undergrad in 1990. I own an unhealthy number of their records, some now quite valuable if the resale values on Amazon are to be believed. I've been to Aeroplanes gigs where the stage has groaned under the weight of guitarists (sometimes co-opted from the supports acts) and the manic dance moves of Wojtek Dmochowski (the pre-Bez Bez, if you like, but much more energetic). This is a band I have loved. And they're still, I'm happy to report, plugging away, as the picture of their latest album, Welcome, Stranger!, illustrates above. Not only that, they've just recently completed a tour in support of the album that was anything but a nostalgia exercise.

So how does a band that is knocking on 36 years old keep going and stay fresh? That is the question.

Bec Jevons, more than holding her own on the Blue Aeroplanes front line
The answer seems to be in having a transfer policy. Now the number of people that have been in The Blue Aeroplanes at one time or another is something of a running joke. If you come from Bristol and play the guitar, there's a good chance you've been in the band. Indeed, the band themselves play to this joke with a t-shirt on their merchandise stall that poses the question: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of The Blue Aeroplanes?" On a more serious note, the band also maintain a line-up history on their website which is comprehensive if not necessarily complete. Anyway, a certain turnover seems to have kept things fresh. Yes, Gerard and Wojtek are ever-present, but every other slot is up for grabs. In HR speak, there is churn. And this is a good thing. It means new ideas, new styles, new sounds are always coming into the mix. In turn, this means that, well into their fourth decade, the band still sound fresh.

The latest round of churn has also introduced a bit of youth into the mix, in the shape of Bec Jevons. In a band comprising lots of men of a certain age, she stands out, being in her mid twenties. She brings youth, vitality, energy and, most importantly, a real rock presence to live performance. Clearly honed in her other band, all-woman trio IDestroy, Bec has a stagecraft that belies her relative youth. Crucially, she also brings a bit of power to The Blue Aeroplanes, moving them back towards the "rock" end of the art-rock spectrum - personally, I think it is no coincidence that her involvement has coincided with The Blue Aeroplanes making their most accessible album in many a moon.

Chatting to Bec after a recent Aeroplanes gig, she's clearly loving her involvement with the band, and can't wait to start on the next album. She seemed very enthusiastic, genuinely lovely and happy to talk to fans. She signed my IDestroy CD too, which was nice. But I digress. What I should be saying is this: check out Welcome, Stranger! - it's excellent - have a listen to IDestroy, and keep an eye on Bec Jevons - the music business is a capricious world but if there's any justice, she'll go very far indeed.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

If not now, when?

I had half an idea for, well, at least a blog post, maybe something longer. The idea was essentially "these are all the reasons the human race is screwed." I know, cheery. I was going to group my theories and supporting evidence into five broad categories: climate change (cause and effects); extreme politics (plenty of that going round at the moment); the Earth as a closed system; conflicting belief systems; and the daddy of them all, the theme that underpins all others, spiralling global over-population.

I've been marshalling my thoughts on this for a while, which in part explains why there have been fewer blog posts in general lately, here and elsewhere. However, the more prep I've done on this the more three things have become evident: firstly, it will be a grim old read; secondly, very few people will read it all, or even at all; and third, it will have no effect - not a blind bit of difference

So I've put it on hold. But I did have an alternative thought. Let's just say I believe the comfortable, modern, point-and-click world of convenience and plenty that we currently have will be gone soon, for one reason or another. And when I say soon, maybe I don't mean in my lifetime or that of the next generation, but maybe the one after that. It's another grim thought ...

... so an alternate perspective might be to grasp the nettle, do that thing you always wanted to do. Take a chance. Have a go. That boy/girl* you've loved from afar for years? (* delete as applicable) Tell him/her how you feel. That instrument you've always wished you could play? Take lessons. That novel you've had kicking around on a USB stick for years? Submit it to agents and competitions.

Have a go. Go on. Try. Try to be that version of yourself you wish you were, that best version of yourself. Strive to be your best. We're in humanity's geriatric phase right NOW - dementia will follow soon enough. So if not now, when?

Friday 3 February 2017

Tosh I've Learnt Today - II

Listening to Radio 4 this morning, specifically a discussion around the apparent shortage of lettuce, courgettes and broccoli, I heard reference to the British Leafy Salad Association. Now I don't know about you but I had never previously imagined such an organisation might exist, but it really is very much a thing, look.

If their primary aim is really to increase UK consumption of leafy salads, they're up against it though as we all know ... you don't win friends with salad ...

Thursday 2 February 2017

Great unnoticed headlines of our time - II

Another corker, courtesy of BBC Business news:

Here's the story to go with it which, whilst good, can never quite live up to that headline. I also feel compelled to say "No bacon shortage - denied!" because I am old and still think Wayne's World is a comedy classic.