Posts from 4th December 2000

4
Dec 00

THE PUB OF POLITICS

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THE PUB OF POLITICS
(The Blue Posts, Berwick Street, Soho: Two Rounds)

The Blue Posts on Newman Street was, as ever, almost entirely deserted. Its Berwick Street namesake is rammed, and we’re forced into a pokey corner near the cig machine and a curious vitrine in which a Damien Hirst-style display of nasty comestibles dustily sits. Chief among the attractions of this art installation is a bottle of hideous 70s wine Black Tower. Very odd. Next to us, occupying a huge table by himself, is a man who looks like a haggard version of Johnny Depp. He has obviously been stood up and it hasn’t filtered from brainstem to cerebellum yet, but his miserable demeanor suggests the moment of dawning truth isn’t far off.

No sooner have we raised our glasses than Tim announces he’s found a friend. Jim, the head of Matinee Records and the man who put out Tim’s band’s retrospective CD, is on the premises. An affable American from Washington DC who has been drinking since two, he is pleased to meet us all and considering the grilling we gave him was a jolly good sport. What better way to break the ice than with a discussion of Amelia Fletcher’s bra? The Heavenly singer has been performing with indie supergroup Sportique, and apparently has taken to stripping down to her bra and, frankly, leaping about. Tim is aghast, having walked out of a Sportique performance before this happy stage was reached.

Ms. Fletcher has a high-paid corporate day job, and shortly ‘Headhunters vs Headhunters’ is born. The rules of this surefire TV smash hit are simple. Every week a group of professional recruitment consultants are dropped in the jungles of Papua New Guinea where they find themselves at the mercies of actual headhunters. The game ends when they are all dead, and the music is naturally provided by Herbie Hancock. I sing “Rocket”, stupidly, and Jim tells us tales of Tim’s pop star past (which I missed, alas).

This Blue Posts has a curious toilet arrangement. There is a door next to where we are standing, marked ‘PRIVATE’. Somebody pushes it and is sternly told by the bar staff that no, that is not the lavs, it is a private area. The toilets are on the other side. OK, fair dos, walk round to the other side. Up some stairs. Ah, it is another door, also marked ‘PRIVATE’. However if you open this one it leads to a toilet complete with aluminium splashback facility.

I return from the toilet to find a very boring conversation about Firkin pubs continuing. If Pete wants to devote a post to this then that is his future lookout but I will draw a veil. It is mercifully interrupted by Johnny Depp’s brokenhearted departure and we sit down to talk about politics, i.e. harass Jim about the American election.

For a good twenty minutes the conversation is a Proper Serious One along those lines, though when Billy Bragg’s electoral reforms get a mention it’s clear the writing is on the wall for lucid and informed discussion. In the end it’s Dave’s sighting of a priest hole that did for matters. What is a priest hole? Well, thereby hangs a tale, and a very confused one dredged up from half-remembered Sunday teatimes watching By The Sword Divided. (It’s a hole where you’d hide priests.)

What are our conclusions from the political half-hour. That the Palestinian Society is the most powerful one in SOAS, and that China is the stupidest country in the world. (Proof! Proof! There are stupid people everywhere. So it stands to reason there must be more of them in China.)

Politics are swiftly forgotten in favour of a favourite pastime, pouring prejudice and scorn upon American pubs. The hardline opinion on this is ‘there are none’ – the liberal view is ‘there are some but they are shit’. From that we come to the petrol/beer price comparison – at ’14 a gallon, beer is plainly a national scandal. Two pints in and we are getting itchy feet: though we would love to stay where we have after all a table and an excellent drinking companion, there are three Blue Posts to get to. Next stop: Kingly Street.

The Ten Best Hip-Hop Remixes

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The Ten Best Hip-Hop Remixes: not actually much to be said about this other than that it’s interesting and mouthwatering. Always nice to find good hip-hop articles, too.

THE PUB OF LIES

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 505 views

THE PUB OF LIES
(The Blue Posts, Newman Street, Soho: three rounds)

The squad assembles, and conversation begins gently enough with a discussion of my new haircut, the rabbit/headlights difficulty of picking haircuts from a book, and the propensity for the models in said book to all look Italian. Always stick to numbers, says Tim sagely: he has started the afternoon in a low mood, thanks to a regrettable football result.

At this point Dave arrives, and is introduced. We quickly warn him that Pete is an inveterate liar, after a particularly unconvincing tale involving the Angus Steak House chain and the Turnpike Lane heroin cartels. A number of the man’s finest lies are recounted, to bring Dave up to speed. Chief among these is the Lie Of Xerxes, the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac, which has achieved worldwide fame thanks to members of the weblog community believing an if-I-may-say-so fantastic write-up of it on Blue Lines. I fluff the delivery somewhat and we get into a sticky patch with the Calvinists but a glorious new addition to the lie is born: “That’s why the Queen has two birthdays!”.

Pete demonstrates his newest fib. Why do we eat carrots? Because they’re cone-shaped, of course! They repair the cones in your eyes! This lie had been told to Justin’s girlfriend the night before and had been, astonishingly, believed.

We win a fiver on the Top of the Pops machine, to the ill-concealed chagrin of a couple who’d been playing it all afternoon but didn’t have our pop firepower. Tim is horrified by the swiftness with which Pete and I answer Echobelly questions. The conversation turns to music, and not for the last time. “Can you sing a Pearl Jam song?” is my challenge. Of course nobody can, short of muttering “Jeremy….Jeremy” with no idea of the tune. Why no idea? Because there is no tune. Grunge was an apalling rip-off and ruined American music forever, opines Tim. Nobody disagrees. I attempt to define ’emo’. The last pint is drained: it is time to pitch ourselves into the December air and head for Blue Posts II.

“The horror….the horror….”

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“The horror….the horror….”. Five of us set out on Operation: Blue Posts. And it must be said that five returned, though with Magnus it was a close thing. It has long been a contention of mine that the pub conversation is mankind’s finest cultural achievement: a safe statement to make since these conversations are rarely if ever recorded. But the Blue Posts pub crawl was a special occasion and demanded – or so I thought – immortalisation. And thus it was that I got out my trusty Challenge notebook and faithful biro and started writing – in note form – the various topics that arose.

A foolish, foolish error.

Before we enter the first Blue Posts, a word about our cast. The leaders of the mission were Pete and Tim: the stout-hearted sergeant of the platoon, if you like, and the old veteran on one final tour of duty. I was the smart arse writer like him out of Full Metal Jacket. Dave had just come down to London, and therefore is the obligatory ‘Country Boy’ in the squad. And Magnus…well, I’m afraid to say that Magnus is the greenhorn. Guest starring Jim from Matinee Records and Peter Stringfellow.

Bye Bye Select

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Bye Bye Select: Select has, of course, been crap for years. But I know that for a few of the people reading this it was something of a bible during its early-90s heyday, with endless articles about how great Julian Cope was, genuinely witty features, that poster of Rachel Slowdive in army gear, and the Pools Panel of Pop. It’s been an inspiration to the more frivolous end of this site, that’s for certain, and it ran the odd good bit of popcrit too. Off to the forum if you want to pay your respects.

The Blue Posts Pub Crawl

Pumpkin Publog2 comments • 1,252 views

The Blue Posts Pub Crawl – a bit like climbing Everest. I would imagine that there will be much discussion on this most successful of events round this publog in the next week or so (plus the plans for us to to retake this summit) – but first the basics.

Premise 1: There are five pubs in the Soho area called The Blue Posts.
Premise 2: These pubs are within 400 yards of one another, in no way affiliated to each other (by brewery or ownership) and all are vaguely pleasant.
Premise 3: We wanted to go to the pub on Saturday (2nd December 2000 for posterity’s sake).

The idea of this pub crawl has been lurking in collective minds for some time, and took very little organisation by myself and Hopkins. And a success it was – with the exception of Blue Posts V – the one which for some reason closed at 10pm. This is why the summit was not obtained, and why the crawl must be reattempted. More details shall ensue, but by way of introduction let me give you the names of all the pubs as now defined:
Blue Posts I : The pub of lies
Blue Posts II: The pub of politics
Blue Posts III: The pub of music
Blue Posts IV: The pub of sexism
Blue Posts V: The pub of failure

I think that with the Madonna / producer farago below

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I think that with the Madonna / producer farago below,my original thesis has been more or less proved. That being able to name the producer of Justify My Love cold on a live radio quiz (“this was not a phone in if you know the answer” jobbie) was more difficult than these things tend to be. It was not even multiple choice. And then all you won was a Texas gig with a PA by Madonna.

A discussion on radio phone-ins at the weekend brought up one of my darkest moments in my pop history. Sneaking into gigs pretending to be competition winners. Y’see if someone won free tickets to a gig they would just add the names to the guest list. Hence turning up early to the venue and claiming to be that person would get you in. You weren’t even cheating anyone, since when the actual winner arrived he would have ID and be let in. Pop Will Eat Itself at Brixton was a high point for this technique.

I also got a free pair of tickets for the Reading Festival in 1994 claiming that if I won I would give them to my newly married, very poor friends who had met at Reading two years before and had not had a honeymoon. It was, in retrospect though, a lousy festival so I got my comeuppance I suppose. Sorry about spoiling it for everyone else who went though.

Firstly Ally, my apologies. I had assumed that Lenny co-wrote “Justify My Love” but that Shep had produced it.

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Firstly Ally, my apologies. I had assumed that Lenny co-wrote “Justify My Love” but that Shep had produced it. Actually that explains the use of the breakbeat (the same one as on My Bloody Valentine’s “Instrumental” – the two tracks sound eerily similar), which I thought strange since Shep almost always used skippy drum machines. I like that “Beast Within” remix by the way. The one where Madonna recites from The Book of Revelations. Is that what you’re referring to?

Anyway, the point of this post is to stand up in defence of William Orbit. Now, of course I myself would much prefer that Madonna go back to Shep Pettibone and Andre Betts as on Erotica, but bashing Orbit seems a bit strange considering he outdoes Mirwais considerably on Music. In fact I’d say the three songs he co-produces (“Runaway Lover”, “Amazing” and “Gone”) are the three best tracks on the album.

In retrospect I think the problem with Ray Of Light was not Orbit’s production by itself, but its unfortunate combination with Madonna’s retrained voice and Patrick Leonard’s ponderous songwriting. All three aspects were suitable in certain situations – Leonard’s more serious, ambitious songwriting was a good foil for Madonna when she was still making bouncy pop songs circa Like A Prayer, and clearly Madonna couldn’t have done Evita without singing lessons. Meanwhile as Orbit later proved on “Beautiful Stranger”, he could certainly make Madonna sound at her most vital since Erotica with his swirling production. It was just the unfortunate mix of all three that made Ray Of Light seem so stiff and self-consciously “mature”.

However, on Music it’s Orbit and not Leonard who co-writes the songs he produces, and seemingly because of that “Runaway Lover” and “Amazing” stand out as the two big fun pop songs floating in a swamp of pointless electronic mix ‘n’ match genre-tourism with added vocoder wank (c.f. the excruciatingly awful “Impressive Instant” and the just plain embarrassing “Nobody’s Perfect”). “Runaway Lover” in particular is ace. With just enough trance influences to keep the club/pop threshold blurred, but not so much as would dumb it down, it’s a showcase for Orbit’s greatest strength: the sense of multi-layered depth which his best productions have. The best bit though is that slightly jittery house beat, which always makes me think of an athelete’s mid-race heart palpitations.

In comparison the best that Mirwais can muster is “Music” itself, which is pretty nice but a Madonna/Daft Punk bootleg would have sufficed. The only other good Mirwais track, “I Deserve It”, maintains its listenability only because the guy doesn’t mess with it too much. At the moment my realistic hope for Madonna’s future is not that she’ll ditch Orbit, but instead re-embrace him, and regard her stint with Mirwais as a necessary lesson as to what happens if you try to hold onto relevance just a little too hard.