Posts from 24th January 2005

24
Jan 05

THE SUPREMES – “Baby Love”

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#181, 21st November 1964

At the start of this record – though maybe it was mixed in years later – there’s a lovely bit of stereo panning where a troupe of polite feet tap across your head from right to left and then quickly back. What images does it summon? Fuzzy TV pictures of women in formation, a tidy, untouchable trio swaying and clapping in perfect order. “Baby Love” still irresistibly provokes movement – but neat, clipped, upper-body movement. It acquiesces mildly to Motown’s rhythmic grid, never challenging it and just as crucially never really using it to build momentum. There’s a hint of drive in the gradual crescendo on the sax break but “Baby Love” is still the most inert of the big Supremes hits.

Does that mean it’s a bad record? God no, it’s a fantastic record. In terms of the drama and energy of its stablemates “Baby Love” falls flat but it’s hard to think of many other hit records so absolutely committed to simple gorgeousness. In fact I have only just realised – on, what, my 100th listen? – that the story in “Baby Love” is one of romantic crisis, so to the track’s other failures we must add a total inability to reflect its own lyrics. And does that matter? Not at all – a single coo dispels the heaviest doubt. “Baby Love” is a gambol, a delight, a chiming wonder, a focused pursuit of prettiness centered on Diana Ross who turns out to be a professional and a performer and one who knows precisely how much sugar you need to ice a cake.

SANDIE SHAW – “Always Something There To Remind Me”

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#180, 24th October 1964

Something in Sandie Shaw’s voice reminds me of Helen Shapiro, but whether it’s the vastly improved material, or the changed times, or those few crucial extra years on her, Sandie sounds impressive where Helen sounded precocious. There’s maybe half an eye on Cilla Black, too – take a Bacharach hit and submit it to a heavy dose of dynamics – but Shaw starts off commanding and her belting isn’t so extreme. In fact if I listen closely I tend to think she’s more in control of the song when she’s giving it welly on the chorus – there are little mannered twinges in the verses (“city strits“) which might grate if I paid them too much attention.

So I don’t. I let the song sweep me past them. There’s a balance to be struck here between reflectiveness and jiving, and to be honest I would prefer a little more of the former. There’s a lashing anger in this song which the busy, floor-ready arrangement hustles off to the sidelines. As someone commented on a Cilla entry, it’s hard to get a great Bacharach song wrong. But it’s hard to get one exactly right, too.

ROY ORBISON – “Oh, Pretty Woman”

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#179, 10th October 1964

The song where doughy, doleful Roy Orbison finally gets the girl – of course we’re on his side from the start, and Orbison plays on his persona and our sympathies with a wonderful piece of three-minute theatre. From the opening, stuttering, is-it-a-riff-or-isn’t-it, everything on this superbly crafted record is tackling the same questions: will he dare to ask? will she say yes? The odds are frankly against it (Roy’s clumsy, perceptive chat-up line is asking if she’s as lonely as he is). He psychs himself up – “Mercy!” – he sends himself up – “rrrrrowwwwl” – he turns all courtly… and he falls flat. The section after his brave-faced “OK” tears me in two – half of me is swooning over every sob-soaked vocal nuance, half of me just wants to give Roy a hug. And then the ending, perfectly understated, that final drum hit drawing a line and giving us a chance to cheer our hero into the sunset. Listener, she married him.

(And then, for the Pretty Woman of the title was Roy’s wife Claudette, she cheated on him. Sometimes I really hate search engines.)

I was hurt on Saturday, and could not explain why to myself.

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I was hurt on Saturday, and could not explain why to myself. And then I worked it out. Good friend and TMFD editor Tim was reticent to talk about the football game we had both been to, down different ends, which was remarkably unlike him. At the time I thought perhaps it was the come down of a big week with two losses, perhaps he felt hard done by with the 1-0 Barnet win over Exeter (which would probably been fairer as a draw). But I had to remind myself that football was much more of his life, and as a fairweather fan (as I like to always remind punters) my schoolboyish carping was probably beyond the pale.

I worked it out yesterday why I felt so bad. It was not really the game that Tim was unhappy with. It was my club – so me as an extension of my club. And when I say my club, it was not even the players. And I was embarrassed for my club being so crap and saw his side. Firstly lets say that the state of affairs at Exeter, the blood-sweat and tears expended by the fans to keep it alive – is not the case at Barnet. Blood you will get on the pitch, and sweat: but even when we went down three years ago there were not a lot of tears. We are doing well, we are doing remarkably well and we do not really deserve it. A quiet bunch of fans, with a pretty tiny gate with a less than exceptional degree of fan fervor. All these are contributing factors, but probably not the main rez for Tim’s.

On Saturday we only opened one turnstile for the away fans. Exeter are well known for having considerable traveling support, and this was the week after their big televised game. And yet we only had one gate to accommodate them. In the home end I got in a good three or four minutes before the game started. Apparently the rest of my party in the Exeter end missed the first five minutes. Considering we are fleecing the away fans at eleven pounds a pop, this is bad form.

I suppose in hanging around with Exeter fans and AFC fans I am used to the principled end of the football world. But you do still identify with your club, no matter how crap. An insult to my club felt like an insult to me – which it clearly wasn’t. And it was an insult deserved. My club is by no means the worst, but it does coup away-fans in a tiny corner of the ground with rubbish sightlines and one turnstile. I doubt a supporters trust could ever really take off at Barnet, the fans are not numerous or passionate enough. I just wonder if I had drifted to another club, an AFC or Exeter type club when I was fourteen, I would not be such a lip-service, fairweather fan? It was a bit like realising your Dad was a Nazi in WWII.

(Tim will of course now post that all of this is nonsense and he was just looking forward to eating some faggots.)

On Team America: World Police

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On Team America: World Police

  • Politics I: Any real ideology is eclipsed by the need to make things funny.
  • Politics II: If they were really evil republicans with an axe to grind, wouldn’t they attack people loved by the left and hated by the right, like Greg Palast and Robert Fisk, not clowns like Sean Penn and Michael Moore?
  • The accuracy of the pimp’s mustache on Sean Penn makes him more ridiculous than anything he does in the film.
  • Parker and Stone are now, as they have always been, the leading proponents of Baran’s Law: Repetition improves all comedy.

Day 10: Deeper Underground AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

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Day 10: Deeper Underground
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

I must have walked for miles in that cave system. Everytime I seemed to be getting closer to the source of the infernal noise, it turned out to be another echo chamber. Much of the system was lit by glowing mould, which I suppose would be a very polite way of noting the perspiration of the Sugar singer. Not being a naturally polite person I would call him that Sweaty Fat Fuck Bob Mould, but I digress.

Indeed digressions were my problem. Caves branched in places, and I generally head downwards, figuring that whatever creature was at home here would hide a far away as possible. At one point, tired to almost the point of exhaustion, I stopping a cool cave which had a natural pool in it. The water was reviving – not tonic water, not heaven help me Gin, but enough to quench my thirsty. I made a fire out of what looked like discarded Bibles (the only Bible I felt comfortable burning contained Boo Hewardine but it was not to be) and settled down. When I awoke what lay before my eyes was shocking. I crept to the corner of the cage as I watched some strange, inhuman creature ripping apart the body of what looked like Kim Catrall and dumping the corpse in the lake. Then discarding some books the mis-shapened beast picture up a small pile of records and ran off howling.

I quickly ran over the corpse. It was fresh but one could still see the lines on the Sex In The City star (or as I am sure Crispian would have put it, Mannequin star). Where were we? What was this creature doing to these minor celebrities and how. I could not let this injustice go on. After a quick search of what was left of her person for concealed miniatures (bah – Americans and their teetotalism) I set off in hot pursuit.

Hot pursuit it became indeed. In my headlong pelt I barely noticed that the heat was rising, as the occasional puddle of lava bubbled away in the periphery of my vision. That said, all the brimstone and lava in the world could not prepare me for the diabolical horror that confronted me, deeper underground, a sight of such hellish nature that I passed out with the heat and shock. For what I discovered in the lair of that infernal creature was my worse nightmare made flesh. Or at least vinyl. For this lava spiked cauldron of sin appeared to be A RECORD LIBRARY.

Swoon!


JAMIROQUAI: Deeper Underground

If there was one place that Jay Kay should have gone, and gone from his first benighted release, it would be Deeper Underground. Not in a musical sense, though I have never understood the suggestion that cutting edge, obscure music be called underground music. Perhaps it is due to the fact that we plant seeds underground, and they therefore have the promise of blooming into something fantastic. Not anything that would apply to any kind of music, who in the seed world would be like the magic beans in Jack & The Beanstalk. But without the beanstalk bit.

Even more amusing is that Jamiroquai could go even further underground than he was at that point. His status as a cutting edge, avant garde musician after all was as underground as standing on top of the Post Office Tower which had recently been transplanted to the top of Primrose Hill. ie Not very underground at all.

Perhaps Jay’s desire was linked to his liking of moles. Perhaps he wanted to go deeper underground to be just like them. Grubby, living in a world of perpetual darkness. Indeed living in a state of darkness would seem to be exactly the reason why Jay would want this deep core activity. After all he nicked his music from Stevie Wonder, there was no reason why he should not do the same with his eyesight.

Deeper Underground? Buried alive is preferable.

BLOG WHAT YOU SEE

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BLOG WHAT YOU SEE

After once seeing a certain chocolate bar in the shop round the corner, and then never seeing it again EVER in my life (expect me to blog the full story when I have access to a computer at the same time I have access to several bottles of red wine), I have learnt when finding such menko foodstuffs as the below, to 1) purchase and 2) GIVE EVIDENCE. Thus, I present to you: Lion Original Sports Mixture. I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS ANYWHERE. Does it only exist in Stamford Hill?

I thought I had had bought the packet into work with me, so I could share the baffling exhortions it behoves you to make on the back, but it appears not. The only one I can remember is “DUC’E A PINEAPPLE*! So, eat some harsh looking wine gums, then indulge yourself in a game of ultimately unsatisfying duece-duece game of tennis, then. With a pineapple. Marvellous.

I am sure these are horrid

*I don’t know how to do the accent above a capital letter, sorry all.

Resolved: Visit one new (to me) football ground a month

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Resolved: Visit one new (to me) football ground a month

January:
Teams: Leyton FC vs Wealdstone
League: Ryman Premier
Entry Price: ‘8
Programme: ‘1.50
Stadium Architecture: Won’t trouble the Stirling Judges

Leyton FC claims to be the oldest professional football club in London. I claim it to be the nearest ground to my flat. I left at ten to three and still had time to purchase a cup of tea before kick-off. I dropped it on the way to my seat.

I missed the first goal as I was trying to count the crowd (about 150). The second one I could see coming a mile off. Leyton’s nippy centre forward nipped in nippily and nabbed it. It should have been three. Leyton’s left back advanced down the wing like a well-fed Roberto Carlos. Defenders fell away and glory beckoned. He hoofed it out of the ground. Like Roberto Carlos. I was the only one who found this hilarious. Perhaps I should go to non-league more often.

It was really cold on Saturday. The wind found its way up my trouser legs and swirled around my forbidden zone. At half-time I completed two circuits of the pitch, stamping my feet as I went along. The Wealdstone Ultras had that two-nil down look about them. A door leads from the corner of the stadium out into a wasteland area. The Dagenham Brook, a tributary of the River Lea flows behind one goal. It was filthy; full of trash and the left back’s shot.

Second half was more of the same. Two further goals. The floodlights looked as if Malaysian betting syndicates had tampered with them. Pockets of the pitch lay in shadow. After the fourth went in, the PA announcer burst into life. “IS THIS THING ON?” she yelled across East London.

Four-nil to Leyton. I was back indoors by 5pm.

During The Goldrush

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During The Goldrush

Never let it be said that I won’t take one visit to one club and grossly inflate it until it becomes a ‘state of the nation’ piece about a kind of music I don’t even like anymore!

During The Goldrush

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Club Seal and the Indie Boom

You can tell a band has a particular grip on people when fans turn up to discos and dance only to their songs. Club Seal, on Friday in Islington, was the first ‘indie club’ I’d been to for about three years. Not counting my own, of course. It wasn’t particularly full, but everyone there seemed to be having fun, except for a table of three to the side left of the dancefloor, who sat and drank aloof for most of the night. Setting themselves apart further, they’d made an effort to dress up – one of the men in shabby hobo gear and a tilted panama hat, another in a suit-and-highlights combination that made him look awfully like a shorter Charlie Busted.

Were they here for the beer – it surely wasn’t the tunes or the company? But then why the sartorial effort? At one o clock it all became clear. “Can’t Stand Me Now” started and these scions of young Albion marched to the centre of the floor, shuffled and mouthed every word, and then sat back down again, perhaps to await another Libertines track that never came. Charlie B made the odd subsequent move, but Hat Man held the line and didn’t so much as twitch his hip again.

I’d guess back in the day there were Smiths fans who did the same – maybe even Oasis fans in their era. For their truest fans the Libs are/were top dog – no quarter asked, no imitations accepted. To even respond to other music would be to dilute the aura.

I’m projecting, of course. That kind of monomania is foreign to me and rather fascinating – but maybe they just weren’t in much of a dancing mood and got up to the Libs out of duty more than passion. They looked the part, anyway. Scanning the rest of the crowd the fashion codes of New Improved Indie are pretty oblique – Franz Ferdinand’s call to smartness seems not to have taken; anything still goes. Ian Watson, of flame-keeping night How Does It Feel To Be Loved, calls the modern groups “haircut indie” – it seems a little misplaced, the return of post-punk is a fashion thing alright but not I think a Fashion thing, if you see what I mean.

How Does It Feel keeps a tight and tasteful ship, in fact looking at the website you could be forgiven for thinking of it as an exercise in defining an aesthetic – but lots of friends of mine go and have a great time, so whatever it’s doing it works. But just waving away the new stuff as “haircut indie” isn’t good enough. If we’re to criticise the current sounds we need a better handle on them.

Look to the Libertines, then. What separates them from the Killers, or the Kaiser Chiefs, or indeed from laurelled, statesmanlike Franz? There’s all the public junkie stuff but on it’s own that doesn’t do the trick – what makes it seem to matter is the way it’s allied to manifestos and mythologising and the apparent belief that making their tumbledown racket is intensely urgent. What they share with a lot of the touchstone How Does It Feel acts, and what the other current groups seem to lack, is the sense that making DIY pop music in that particular form is culturally important. At the twenty-year distance between us and Orange Juice or the Bodines, that sense diffuses into a vague aura of integrity, but for the Liberteenies I suspect it’s still keenly felt.

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