Posts from 9th November 2004

Nov 04

THE TORNADOS – “Telstar”

Popular36 comments • 8,909 views

#141, 6th October 1962

“Telstar” leads the instrumental beat boom to the wonderful land, packs it on a rocket and sends it to the stars – its all-or-nothing optimism is inspiring and bittersweet. Inspiring because Joe Meek wrote a hymn for a better future than he or we got, and the world heard it. Bittersweet because the valves and echo chambers, the clockwork, spit and blu-tack that Meek built his future out of were already beginning to creak and decay. “Telstar” – a beautiful modernist shock to the charts – still sounds thrilling now but also seems ancient and time-lost, as proud and sad as old Dan Dare comics.

But the thing with satellites is how many of them never come back to Earth. They just stay up there, blinking silently in the dark – the professionals forget about their signals and move on, leaving amateurs and enthusiasts to pick up the traces briefly through the static. Telstar itself went dead less than a year after launch; but “Telstar” was a sort of satellite too, opening channels back to America and rising up that country’s charts while its namesake beamed live into British living rooms. And after Joe Meek faded and died his satellite kept on transmitting, telling anyone who could pick it up (an Italian songwriter in Munich, a floppy-haired Sheffield fop, a Cornish mentalist) that here was a different way to make pop music. “Telstar” promised music which would walk forward hand in hand with technology, using it to do what pop does best – amplify the buzz of being alive. Here comes tomorrow!


Do You SeePost a comment • 790 views


Whodathunk that the highest paid alumnus from Clueless would be Brittany Murphy?

This plays in nicely to the pieces written about Mean Girls and Saved! over the last couple of days because Clueless is their loving parent. A film which picked up a truth about satire which had almost been forgotten in the nineties: you can take the piss out of someone you like. So rather than rolling our eyes at how vacuous the kids in Beverly Hills are, a la 90210 and laughing at their Valleyspeak, let us imagine them as full blown characters. Let us like our heroine, while we laugh at her.

It is quite possible that Cher is the only character that Alicia Silverstone will ever be able to pull off properly (perhaps it is too close to life). But Cher is a magnificent creation. Good hearted, joyous and yet troubled by the complications in her life. The learning curve of her character matches that of the audience. By the time we realise that there is actually going to be a real emotional story involved, we are already involved in it. By the time Cher realises that trying to be nice to Tia is in its own way equally patronising, and you cannot change others personalities, she realises it is too late. But nothing ever gets too dark, we have that perky unsure voice-over to pep us along.

Clueless reinvented a dead genre, to potentially frightening effect (certainly the She’s All Thats were pretty unwanted). But it also managed to hint at exactly what the teen movie could do. A genre as malleable as any other it has now become the Trojan horse with which to smuggle in other interesting stories. But heralding a new era of interesting a intelligent all ages films and pretty much reinventing and defining a genre at the same time is not the real reason Clueless is great. Clueless is great because it is very, very funny. Managing that whilst having Radiohead on the soundtrack is an achievement.

Beyond Zone 7

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 480 views

Beyond Zone 7: Beer in space – of course it has been tried. It would be stronger than earth beer according to drink scientists but you would need to drink it out of a plastic bag. This suggests to me that space beer is in fact Tennents Super.

Nothing to see here…

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 1,214 views

Nothing to see here…

…but Popular is, how you say, ‘back’. And it has something that Alan tells me I shouldn’t actually call a graph.

Auguste Bartholdi

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 277 views

Auguste Bartholdi

What’s the biggest gap between the fame of a sculpture and the obscurity of its creator? I can’t think that anything beats this man’s most famed work: the Statue of Liberty. (He created the original, and Gustave Eiffel, of tower fame, was responsible for its construction on the giant scale for New York.) I checked with a number of very knowledgeable friends this weekend, and not one of them knew his name.

That monument isn’t a particularly interesting piece of art, for me, but something else by him really grabbed my attention. There is a gravestone by him from the 1870s, as far as I can gather, for two soldiers. It’s two slabs of stone, one forced slightly askew by a stone arm coming up from beneath it and grasping at a sword. The message seems to be revenge, but I’ve not been able to find out the story of their deaths – and I also can’t find the image on the web anywhere. A link to this would be greatly appreciated, as would more information on the soldiers. It impressed me hugely: I think it’s an astonishing image for the 19th Century, a really daring and shocking work, and I’ve not seen anything else like it.

ELVIS PRESLEY – “She’s Not You”

Popular7 comments • 1,901 views

#140, 15th September 1962

Elvis’ singles at this point have turned their back on the odder excesses of “Wooden Heart” et al. and the King has become a sort of one-man Status Quo, offering competent wodges of boogie like this, which do nothing to stir the pulse or raise the bile. The singing is always velvet but the records lack conviction – the whole Presley project seems moribund (not, of course, commercially moribund).

FRANK IFIELD – “I Remember You”

Popular9 comments • 3,467 views

#139, 28th July 1962

I can’t help feeling sorry for Frank Ifield. Here’s why:

The X Axis on this graph is the early 60s. The Y Axis is Frank’s chart position. See the all-conquering pop hero of 1962, a million-seller with his second single, reduced to grubbing around at No.25 for the duration of his career. What happened? Merseybeat happened, and Frank clung on for a month or two before fashion took its toll on him. The graph is a neat illustration of the step-change in pop music that was on its way.

Meanwhile Frank Ifield enjoyed his place in the sun. His thing was that he was a yodeller. He was also Australian, which mattered less. On his cheerful records – like “I Remember You” – he ululates with glee when the mood demands, a happy harmonica backing him up.

I really like “I Remember You” – it’s the kind of record Cliff should have made. A more edgeless disc would be hard to find but its simple campfire good humour is infectious, the tune is fine, and to his credit Ifield yodels with skill and restraint – the bit where he breaks smoothly from the song’s one big yodel into a descending verse is marvellous. If ever a record merited patronising talk of a “more innocent time”, though, this is the one.

RAY CHARLES – “I Can’t Stop Loving You”

Popular11 comments • 2,278 views

#138, 14th July 1962

A measured shot of dignity, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” is immediately obvious as the work of an adult and a craftsman. Charles was 32 in 1962, and sounds twice that age as he steps carefully, resigned and brokenhearted, through this record. Like a lot of adult, crafted music it lasts maybe a verse too long, and like a lot of contemporary pop it could have done with reining in the strings a bit, but those are really its only flaws. The backing vocals, for instance, work fine, admitting the truths Charles’ own tightly controlled performance cannot – he never actually sings the song’s title himself, leaving it as an unspoken fact underpinning his grief. And the core arrangement – that mix of gospel support and country lachrymosity – remains startling.

Internet Explorer Must Die

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 216 views

Internet Explorer Must Die Part 2351
What’d’ya know? seems busy today.

I find the fanaticism surrounding Firefox alarming and puzzling. According to BBC news, “Fans of the software have banded together to raise cash to pay for an advert in the New York Times”. Now I know that a Bulletin Board not too far from here managed to raise cash from its residents in order to stay alive, but a bulletin board is a community and as such is likely to pull together in such cases. So how has a web browser managed to garner such devotion, and with the aim of promotion, rather than survival?

Firefox is definitely one for the geeks and the web-developers with it’s extensibility and developer-friendly plug-in architecture. I try it from time to time, but I just end up going back to Safari. Certainly you PC users out there should go get it. When the Mozilla server calms down.

Either way I’d love to see it make a major assault on whatever MS comes back with in Longhorn, and more specifically open things up so that no browser vendor can break the web (and web standards) the way that MS did.

FreakyTrigger’s recent Browser share:
MS Internet Explorer 67.8 %
FireFox 8.7 %
Safari 7.4 %
Mozilla 4.6 %
Opera 1.7 %

“Preaching” and “converted” spring to mind. Well done, you.

Pub Science

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 879 views

Pub Science
This is the first in a (possible) series of experiments in thepubology. It has become clear that greater rigour may be necessary in our understanding of the pub.

Experiment #1: The Railway

The proposition which we will set out to test is as follows:

Every pub named The Railway is a bad pub.

Go to every pub in London named The Railway and see whether or not it is a good pub.

Definition of terms
1. “The Railway”: we understand that some nouns in pub names convey no significant meaning except pub name-ness. Examples of this include ‘inn’, ‘tavern’, ‘arms’. Some ‘Railway’ pubs have significant nouns in their names apart from ‘Railway’, such as “The Railway Bell” or “The Railway Engineer”. We will take as “The Railway” any pub whose name has the word ‘railway’ as the only significant noun.

2. “London”: we define London for the purposes of this experiment as that area covered by the postcodes E, EC, N, NW, SE, SW, W, WC.

For our control, we will visit and assess two kinds of pub, which can be thought of as ‘nearly-railway’s:
1) every pub in London whose name contains the word ‘Railway’ plus another significant noun.
2) a selection of pubs near railway stations which do not have the word ‘Railway’ in their names.

1. For practical reasons, this experiment will be carried out over a period of time which may amount to several months. For the purposes of this study, we will attempt to remain aware of any time-based variations. For example, it could be argued that the added decoration and good cheer experienced in the second half of December, as set against the emotional and budgetary misery of January and February, may skew the results. We will try to take account of these variables in our assessments.
2. We are assuming that London “The Railway”s are representative of “The Railway”s as a whole. We understand that we could deal with the problems of this assumption by amending the proposition such that it refers to “every pub in London named the Railway” but we thought we would take this opportunity to irritate those of you who choose, for your own reasons, to live in Zone 7 or beyond.
3. There are many ways in which a pub can be a good pub or a bad pub. This area is one in which subjective judgements may sometimes – though not always – be required. This study therefore is run with the following assumption: we know a good pub when we see one.