21
Jun 18

the eight-and-a-half pillars of true punk

Hidden LandscapesPost a comment • 74 views

(disclaimer: some of them are false)
[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

A fun thing about the podcast is the way Hazel’s questions rattle away inside my most ancient, unexamined opinions — things I think that I no longer quite remember starting to think. When I pop-quizzed her on the groups that played in the 100 Club Festival, 20-21 September 1976, I wasn’t surprised she’d heard of almost all of them: it was a tiny two-day event more than a decade before she was born, but (a) she is knowledgable and full of curiosity and obsessed with music past and present, and (b) it was the founding event for “rock at the end of rock”, when you were required, as an index of your commitment to the necessity of the splintering, to take implacable sides within your own splinter. To this Shropshire-based punk noob — I didn’t move to London for another six years, I hadn’t yet started reading the music weeklies — the festival mapped what punk had been in its first (some say only) year, and what it was going to have to become as it expanded and divided and dissolved. Above all, it’s the moment of division, forming lines that can just about still be traced, if you look carefully in the right places.

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17
Jun 18

Pop World Cup 2018: Group A Match 1

New York London Paris Munich13 comments • 594 views

It’s here! The opening game of the Pop World Cup finds the four teams of Group A raising the curtain on the tournament. Pop football veterans Russia and Uruguay meet two Arab states – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – with less of a record at this level. Who will prevail? You decide. Spotify playlist and YouTube links below the cut with the team talks – go listen and vote for your favourite TWO tracks.

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14
Jun 18

Pop World Cup 2018 – Tournament Eve Update

New York London Paris Munich/5 comments • 217 views

This year’s POP WORLD CUP is almost here! I appreciate the Pop Football governing bodies have been quiet about the tournament since the initial announcement, but behind the scenes, we’ve been busy constructing stadiums finalising squad details. Well, almost. We have a shock eve-of-tournament vacancy for one of the favourites, SOUTH KOREA. So if you know your K-Pop (like, at all) and want to step into the hot seat, please let me know.

Otherwise, expect the first match at the weekend, and a fairly brisk clip of games across the summer. (The PWC takes a bit longer than that other World Cup). The managers are sending in their first tracks and the referees are counting their bribes. Because of the truncated time frame, the group games won’t follow the same order as the football tournament. If you ARE a manager, and didn’t get my emails this week, please shout! I might not have your current address.

If you’re following along as a spectator, we’ll have YouTube and Spotify links wherever possible and a playlist of available tracks. It’ll be a simple format so please do join in, listen and vote.

31
May 18

no longer a debate? lennon’s REVOLUTIONS 50 years on

FT + Hidden Landscapes8 comments • 231 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

“The blues are beautiful because it’s simpler and because it’s real. It’s not perverted or thought about: It’s not a concept, it is a chair; not a design for a chair but the first chair. The chair is for sitting on, not for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.” (John Lennon to Jann Wenner, 21 January 1971)

lennon fistWhen Jack Hutton quit Melody Maker in 1970, to set up what became Sounds, he told Richard Williams, who stayed behind, that it would be a “left-wing Melody Maker”. Hutton’s no longer with us, so I suppose if I get the chance I’ll have to ask Williams one day what exactly was meant by “left-wing” here. My guess — based on what Sounds actually turned out like — is that Hutton meant the new paper would be centred on rock. Even though both papers covered rock and pop and everything else, MM’s moral centre was arguably still jazz at that point. Even though the jazz fan-base always had a left-wing in the UK, with old-school communists solid among its supporters and chroniclers, it was a music (or so many seemed to feel) whose time was past. Rock was new and rock was now, the very voice of youth — but beyond this, rock had had, for a while by then, a tangled relationship with politics, radical left politics in particular.

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21
May 18

the invisible dandy: scribbled farewell notes on TOM WOLFE

Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 69 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

kandy koloredYou only have to read the titles and the trend-naming — ‘Tiny Mummies’, the Tycoon of Teen, Radical Chic, From Bauhaus to Our House, the Me Generation, The Right Stuff — to see, instantly, that there was something here. Like some motormouth manager promoting the new pop group he was making famous and secretly ripping off, he had the liveliest huckster’s imagination. Here was a energy that made thing happen: Wolfe watched and listened and took notes and got inside heads — some heads — and when he got back to the page, delivered an intensely vivid cartoon sketch of a scene, sound effects in place among capitals, italics, dots, dashes and exclamation marks, the main narration often broadcast as if from behind the eyes of its participants, an inner-monologue ventriloquism that enabled the writer subtly to imply unreliability or even foolishness in a scenester.

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14
May 18

other jacksons in your house

Hidden Landscapes18 comments • 1,327 views

… or how when we made Morrissey we made him bad

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

panic | hang the DJA bitter office quarrel — the so-called the ‘HipHop Wars’ — had been making life at the NME miserable from some time. At issue was the current and future direction of the paper — how to give the readers what they wanted to read, week on week, while staying abreast of music’s future trends — so when the Smiths released ‘Panic’ in late 1986, it crystallised everything. “Hang the DJ!” sang Morrissey: “Burn down the disco!” Those who cared for black music at all — future and past — were appalled: to them it was very clear who this talk of burning and hanging was aimed at. His supporters scrambled for a less ugly reading: not that kind of DJ! Not those discos! Much was made of Steve Wright following a news report about Chernobyl with a Wham! song. Concluding statement for the defence: He’s not anti black musicians, he’s anti bland music — and that goes for us all, surely?

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10
May 18

SUGABABES – “Round Round”

Popular18 comments • 1,666 views

#933, 24th August 2002

sugaround Xenomania – the songwriting and production team on “Round Round”, led by Miranda Cooper and Brian Higgins – defined 00s British pop, at least in the eyes of chart-friendly critics. Their magpie approach to genre, their patchwork song structures, their knack for a resonant line, all added up to music that wore its artfulness and populism with equal pride. If you believed that pop was worth celebrating, Xenomania provided gift-wrapped proof.

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The Inaugural FreakyTrigger TV Poll: #12 – #1

Do You See + FT5 comments • 416 views

hqdefault“Hi, I’m the Ghost Of The 1979 ITV Strike, and I am here to resurrect and complete the somewhat delayed (due to strikes probably) Freaky Trigger TV Poll. Imagine if you can the landscape of 1979 British television. Three channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV – and then suddenly one of those channels being off. Its like a third of your choice taken away. Because it is. Up and down the country member of ACTT (Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians) withdrew their labour in a pay dispute for three months, leaving in most places this blue title card to be displayed. Which still got more viewers than much of BBC2. Anyway it was a fun time I can tell you and a civilised picket the likes of which British TV has barely seen since. And given the option of the twelve shows below or a blue title card what would you watch. (Doctor Who’s Planet Of Death was the answer in my day – interesting to see that is still going.)”

Thanks, Ghost Of A TV Strike, and huge apologies for the delay in the publishing of this. If I do it next year I may get help… But in the meantime here is the top twelve:

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8
May 18

HIDDEN LANDSCAPES: THE PODCAST

Hidden Landscapes1 comment • 153 views

Three episodes are now up: Hazel Southwell and Mark Sinker talking through the story of the UK music press from two very different angles (bcz I am old and she is not), to help start the conversation around my upcoming book.

pod 1: the pilot!
pod 2: uh merry memories of the nme!
pod 3: the ins and outs of PUNK ROCK

If you’re enjoying it, please subscribe to our PATREON, to help cover soundcloud costs and admin, and help us put aside the fortnightly time to make it as good as we’d like it! Also please point people in our direction if you think they’d enjoy it. I’m also blogging there every week: essays now up on MORRISSEY and why his bigotry wasn’t seen sooner and challenged harder in the 80s, on the late TOM WOLFE, and how the music press ran with his ideas, and how JOHN LENNON AND YOKO ONO‘s interaction with the radical political press of the early 70s fed into the end of rock and the start of post-punk, and so on and so forth…

Plus here is the book’s COVER courtesy SAVAGE PENCIL — due out end of July (UK) and end of August (US)!

hiddenlandscape-web

7
Apr 18

eagle-god turned trickster gremlin

FT1 comment • 514 views

This was originally published in The Wire in 1999, in their EPIPHANIES section. RIP Cecil T 1929-2018

It began in 1977, at second-hand: I knew before I heard a note of it that I’d love Cecil Taylor’s music. In a jazz encyclopaedia I’d already read of a pianist “zipping and unzipping the keyboard” — but first contact came from a sideways leap out of bent chartpop. Across Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Mike Garson’s cocktail piano clichés mutate towards cancerous splinters, which rock reviewer Charles Shaar Murray approvingly compared to Taylor. I needed to know more.

Photograph @ Charles Rotmil, 1960s

Photograph @ Charles Rotmil, 1960s

With other princes of the Utterly Out — Ornette, Coltrane, Beefheart — I was, I confess it, puzzled by how tame they seemed against the buzz of advance promo. But Cecil — on Black Lion/Freedom’s 1975 Silent Tongues, his 1974 Montreux Festival solo performance — did not disappoint. Perversely, far more subsequent time was spent addressing Coleman and the good Captain, battling to discover ways to hear their sound as deranged delight, learning tolerance for the well-meant overreactions of enthusiasts. And so my response to these others to this day sometimes seems suspect, post-fabricated out of a need to be wowed, or to seem weird; the pianoman, by contrast, I always knew I could trust, to swoop in, connect instantly, and transfigure. With Cecil, no need to fake it.

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