On Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet, there’s a track called “Incident At 66.6 FM” – a 90-second cut-up of derisive, racist radio commentary on the band that brings you-the-listener right up to speed on why they felt besieged, and puts you on their side for the fightback. The first thirty seconds of “Three Lions” pull off a very similar trick for a rather less radical cause: England fans. It’s a compact, adroit bit of pop scene-setting. In the background, the low swell of a stadium rousing itself for battle. In the foreground, critics officiate at a funeral. “I think it’s BAD NEWS for the English game…not CREATIVE enough, not POSITIVE enough… we’ll GO ON getting bad results…”
Wait, though – even as these suited vultures gather, we hear another voice – lone and thin, but firm and honest, singing a song that is halfway to a prayer. “It’s coming home, it’s coming home… “ Against the ranks of pessimism, cynicism, analysis and fact, against their own better judgement, the fan can’t help but believe. Football is coming home.
It’s a magnificent bit of manipulation: the marketer in me swoons in admiration. The rest of “Three Lions” develops the theme but all you need to know is in that intro. Who, on hearing it, wouldn’t be on the side of the fan’s simple faith against the doomsayers? In half a minute “Three Lions” defined the English game’s sense of itself for the rest of the 90s, and the 00s too – sentimental belief against obstinate fact, with the former winning the moral victory every time. more »
It’s the 13th issue of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s run on Young Avengers tomorrow. Aside from a foreboding moment for triskaidekaphobic fans, it’s the start of the end of this season. A season I have miserably failed to live up to the initial commitment of writing about every issue of. For largely boring adult reasons like ‘needing to do the washing,’ ‘never seeming to get a minute to think,’ ‘being very stressed and tired’ and worst of all ‘not really being able to get away with writing at work.’ All of the responsibility and none of the capacity.
If I saw myself as a grown up, from the vantage point of some reality-trashing portal back to youth, I’d be thoroughly appalled. Where did all my conviction go? “No, shut up,” my older self would plead, “it’s incredibly complicated trying to remember to function like a normal human being” while my sullen, accusatory teenage self glared at me with all the anger and disappointment of discovering that ‘normal human being’ becomes the peak of her existential ambition. more »
Distilled from several years of pop experience, here from the WORST to the BEST are ways to approach a cover version.
The Acoustic Guitar: i.e. “Any good song will sound great on an acoustic guitar”, runs the prized nugget of MOJO wisdom which results in Travis mauling “…Baby One More Time”. Culprits throw up their hands in innocence – “It’s not ironic, it’s a great tune”, not any more it isn’t mate.
The ‘Gary Jules’: When in doubt SLOW IT DOWN. Close relation of above, guaranteed to leech all life, rhythm and joy from a song. Critical banker, though (“Nick Cave’s sensitive reading of Bombalurina’s hit reveals the deep psychic wounds beneath the original’s flimsy pop etc etc.”)
The Atomic Kitten: After a karaoke night you maybe remember a quarter or a third of the performances more »
I notice elsewhere, in my absence, some young scamp over on NYLPM has started a concept piece, some say think piece entitled the Alphabet Of Pop. Now no-one knows more than myself the beauty of lists, as my Week Of Wank and Breakfast Of Banality proves. Its cheap easy journalism and also gives one a built in deadline which battles stronger than the average slagging of Pavement with the Bombay Sapphire. So I have decided to counter such nonsense more »
One of the happy upshots of the Bosman Ruling which we have been living with for almost ten years, is the effect it has on players prices near the end of their contract. Take Clinton Morrison (Birmingham wish someone would) the Republic of Ireland striker. Bought for a club record of £4.25 million three years ago, he is certainly not at the end of his playing career. But his contract is up next year, and Birmingham have just realised that if they don’t sell him now, he will go on a free transfer.
Therefore the pack of clubs hovering are in an interesting position. Southampton, Norwich and better the devil you know Crystal Palace have all brandished chequebooks. But are also taking their time? What does this remind us of? Why, its record collectors returning week after week to the Music & Video Exchange in Notting Hill, waiting for a record the really want to go down in price for them to buy it. more »
The Notorious Bettie Page is a film about the good old days of porn. You know, when it wasn’t exploitative, and all the girls portrayed within were not only fun loving conspirators in an art project, but believed in Jeebus too. Most film about porn are about the good old days. Inside Deep Throat told us how great things were before video cameras spoiled everything with their readers wives amateurism. Auto Focus gave us the nice world of sixties do-it-yourself and be in it yourself porn. Sure, sleazy guys were always around the scene, but all scenes have their anal trainspotter types, desperate to collect the set of fetish pics. But hey – it was really quite quaint, all of this thrusting after black and white glossies of spiked heels and corsets. more »
Or: Games I Have Known. For the sake of my patience and yours, I have mostly restricted this to games I either owned or played – ones where I read a friends’ rulebooks and only dimly remember have been ignored, with a couple of notable exceptions. If you want to know more about any of these, you have but to ask. Games listed in order of my encountering them:
Dungeons And Dragons: The original in its simpler and frankly more elegant form. If you’ve ever played a computer RPG, you’ve played this, pretty much.
Advanced Dungeons And Dragons: Sprawling Gormenghast-like monster with 20 rulebooks that somehow became the most popular RPG in the universe. The default setting for most “I Was A Goblin” posts. more »
My first encounter with the exotic was on the Magic Mill at Thorpe Park, a South-East England theme park which from appearances had originally been based around a cramped zoo or city-farm set-up. At some point in the late 70s it had seemingly panicked, though, and parked itself up in order to survive. With its born-delapidated aluminium-heavy decor and threadbare bunny mascot, the park ended up an icon of crappiness for my friends and I, but at age eight or nine you don’t think in those knowing terms. Even then, though, Thorpe Park was noticeably lacking in actual rides, preferring to emphasise hearty activities like karting or pedalo boats, leisure options which left bookish little me forlornly stranded in the model village. more »
Here we stand at the summit of Pop Football achievement, looking back at 63 matches: some wonderful, some perplexing, some illuminating, very few boring. We’ve heard so much pop, enjoyed so many marvellous moments, and we have 30 losing managers to thank for all their research and taste.
Never mind all that, though. Here at the summit we can also look forward, forward to the Big One. Two teams remain, two managers giving it one last best shot each. Matt DC’s Nigeria have powered through round after round; a drawn game in a tough group mars an otherwise-100% record, but they accelerated through the knockout stages and stand confident and consistent in the biggest game of all. Andrew W’s Germany have plotted an altogether mazier path to today; second to Ghana in their group, they found some form in beating the USA in the round of 16, then enjoyed winning two of the closest games in the tournament.
This match and this Championship close at midnight on Monday 14th June more »
One of the things that’s fascinating about the UK Top 40 is that a device designed to be a pure expression of popularity also works as a reflection of so many other things. People buy songs: if enough people buy a song it gets into the charts, or to #1. Simple! But so simple that it neglects one very important element: why somebody is buying a song.
There’s a baseline assumption that people are buying a song to listen to it because they like it. But of course that’s not the only reason: often people buy songs because the song is part of a wider experience. A world cup, a summer holiday, a movie, a TV show, a human tragedy. This isn’t “hijacking” or manipulating the charts: the pitiless charts, after all, don’t differentiate between purchases out of loyalty, love, or grief. A song bought as a souvenir has still been bought. more »
I semi-remember just two lines from the NME’s (Charlie Shaar Murray’s?) review of “Armed Forces” (secret unused title “Emotional Fascism”). One was that one of the other songs resembled ELP “jamming in the bottom of an oil drum”! The other — more germane to this post, as well as being true — is that “with the boys from the Mersey, the Thames and the Tyne” is a brilliantly compressed evocation of a nation’s sense of itself (if “a nation” = England obv), the disparate togetherness of an army abroad. The other thing I recall from the time is this: watching EC&tAs play this on top of the pops, and someone sitting near me — who was iirc an organ scholar — saying in sudden surprise (as he watched Steve Nieve play the triple-stabbed piano chords of the bridge passage into the second verse), “Oh! He can actually play!” more »
“Sunday morning, up with the lark,
I think I’ll take a walk in the park,
Hey hey hey, it’s a beautiful day …”
Daniel Boone, “Beautiful Sunday”, 1972
British bubblegum pop, circa 1968-1972 – as distinct from its more worldly and sophisticated American equivalent – is a pure insight into a country long gone. It’s simplistic, childish, over-excited, innocent, full of absolute certainties and safe knowledges.
It’s fabulous stuff.
It essentially bridged the gap between the poppier end of the mid-60s beat boom and glam rock more »
Here we go – including randoms. If I don’t already have an email contact for you I will need one, but I will chase that up when I get back from Thought Bubble.
We usually get drop-outs so if you do fancy playing please say and we’ll put you down as a reserve.
Billy – Greece
Carsmile Steve – Spain
Chelovek na lune – Russia
Chris – Cameroon
Chris B – Argentina
Cis – Nigeria
Garry – Cote D’Ivoire
Glynn – Belgium
Iain Mew – South Korea
intothefireuk – Croatia
Jessica – France
Job – Netherlands
Jonathan Bogart – Ghana
Kat – Honduras
Katharine – Algeria
lartsaegis – Chile
Lex – USA
Matt DC – Brazil
Matt Powell – Australia
Matthew – Uruguay
Megan – Ecuador
Mullah Resmat – Switzerland
Patrick Mexico – Colombia
Patrick St Michel – Japan
Pete – Costa Rica
Ronald – England
Scott M - Bosnia/Herzegovina
Steve M - Mexico
Tak – Germany
tomschaller – Italy
Weej – Portugal
Wichita Lineman – Iran
The passing of an era – this is the last (to date) directly Eurovision-related Number One, 29 years after the first. And honestly, even Gina is an outlier: the Eurovision Song Contest had intersected with mainstream UK pop less and less often since its 70s and early 80s heyday. Glam, bubblegum, AOR balladry and soft rock had been good fits for it – hip-hop and house distinctly less so.
Freed from any hope that it might reflect or divert the currents of modern pop, Eurovision could settle fully into the role in British pop it had half-played for years. It presented a comfortable image of what European pop was: gaudy, kitschy, ironic and out-of-date. Marketers, then waking to the idea of the pink pound as an untapped resource, seized on the show’s popularity with gay audiences (and students) and promoted it to the UK mainstream as an unabashed festival of camp. At the same time, though, the definition of Europe itself was expanding. It seemed post-communist countries wanted to use Eurovision the way Western Europe once had: as a symbol of European belonging and a fillip to national pride. The tension between these two trends made for fascinating contests, and Eurovision in the 00s was the competition at its best – after it had ceased to ‘matter’ in UK chart terms. more »
This data – on every UK Top 10 hit, taken at 10-year intervals – comes from a study on alcohol references in music, published in Psychology Of Music last month. The study is less interesting to me than this one fascinating table, which puts a bit of concrete data around trends in pop over the last 30 years. They even significance tested it! I’ll add my analysis under the cut. more »
Ten years, or considerably more, ago Friday nights were easy. Some of us involved in FreakyTrigger would go to the pub. We would have a suitable amount of beer, and then often as not retire to my house, where a few more beers were drunk and maybe some records were played. But how to choose those records? Well luckily, when we weren’t playing Genius/GZA’s Liquid Swords (which was actually quite a lot), we would pick some seven inches to play. I had a lot of seven inch records, and we discovered that about an inch of them was exactly the right amount to take us to the time we had to sleep. And my seven inch records were in no particular order (though they did contain much godawful 90′s indie to my now jaundiced eyes).
Of course life has moved on now, and it has been a while since we have subjected ourselves to an inch. But in taking stock of items at work (and anyone who listened to the Lost Property Podcast will know, this is where I get my best ideas), I realised we still have a vinyl jukebox, and we also have about 3000 jukebox records. In no particular order. SO I wondered whether it was worth resurrecting the old game (for game it was, with very arbitrary rules) and see what an inch of these records were like.
So when Tom came in to do his Lost Property Office, I also grabbed an inch of records and we had a go. The result is a little rough and ready, it turns out there is genuine skill in talking whilst cueing a record absent when you are doing it with CD’s or mp3s. There is some serious music chat, some guff and some guessing. I’d be very interested to know if you liked it, if you wanted to hear more and how you think it sounds. In the meantime, here is an Inch.
“All that bullshit conversation, baby can’t you read the signs?”. This is a curious record: there’s little in pop like the way “Fastlove” marries seductive form – the discreet grind of its mid-to-uptempo groove – with an impatient candour that undermines it. Other seduction jams enjoy their playfulness, however frank they are about its endgame. “Fastlove” is wary of allowing itself that generosity. more »
… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community, and crossposted at FT.
In which 5IVE and disgruntled chums help a revenant but unrepentent DAVROS to infect his multitudinous metal brood with MORGELLONS the MORVELLAN DISCO VIRUS, as a reward for getting him out of jail. Or something.
[11.10.13: commentary updated below]
A notoriously very-hard-to-follow DO-YOU-SEE allegory for the utter lack of honour among the galactically villainous. Doesn’t help that from the off it’s a switchback of mistaken identity via doubles: meaning that coppers and soldiers and even daleks are not who you immediately think they are. Doesn’t help that I watched it more than a year ago, before various distractions intervened and derailed me, and haven’t revisited (bcz my “method” does not allow me to). So instead of discussing the plot I’m going to bore on abt the Daleks, turning the tables you might say hohoho *sigh*
The setting: two places and two time (Butler’s Wharf and a prison ship in space; 1984 and THE UNSPECIFIED FUTURE ) have been superglued together by a time-corridor. The prison ship is under attack by a space cruiser.
“Isn’t technology wonderful?” says one of the inhabitants of Pallet Town, Kanto – your home in Pokémon Blue, and the root of every Pokémon game, and every Pokémon journey, ever since. It’s a statement of outright optimism from the dawn of the mobile gaming era. Mobility – the pocket power of the handheld device – is the central ideal of Pokémon. It’s in the miniaturised creatures your character carries around, and in the Game Boy he and they live on. Throughout all the games, your reality – trading and battling with friends, and latterly just passing strangers by – mingles with the gameworld. Your real journeys criss-cross its routes and cities.
Pokémon games include magical artefacts, fantastic beasts, haunted towers and psychic powers, but the world of the games is almost always a modern, brisk one. In Pokémon Blue you keep running into technology. Your climactic battle with the larcenous Team Rocket takes place in the region’s most high-tech corporation, you explore a burnt-out research centre, and your reward for becoming champion is a chance to capture the most powerful creature of all – not some ancient or primal force, but a clone in a set of form-fitting mecha-style armour. This constant genre shifting – explore a ghost tower one minute and a modern skyscraper the next, all in the name of adventure – is one of the reasons Pokémon is so beguiling.
The lion’s share of attention and celebration the games receive go to their creatures and mechanics. The texture of Pokémon – its settings, stories and themes – gets much less love. But as one of the best-selling game franchises of all time, Pokémon is a core part of modern children’s literature – its lands, concepts and ideas as much a fixture in the imagination of its players as Narnia or Hogwarts. They deserve more attention, and these posts – one for each of the game’s six generations – are an attempt to do justice to these fantasy places which have occupied so much of my and my sons’ time. more »