Enjoy The Day

This came out last Friday- Enjoy The Day (Hardway Bros Meets Monkton Downtown Remix)– a four way collaboration that sounds like it should be filling floors at discerning discotheques near you as the December party season gets underway. The original track is by Phil Kieran and Green Velvet and here is remixed by the combined force of Hardway Bros and Monkton. The deep, dark groove and hedonistic vocal are one thing but the Italo piano that comes in is something else entirely, a gloriously happy/ sad, bittersweet refrain. The 808 rattles away, there is acres of lovely echo and space and the longer it plays, the better it gets. A pulsing, squiggly acid line pushes its way to the fore and rhythm gets tougher. Buy here and then rinse and repeat, as they say.  

I Stand Up Next To A Mountain

Had he lived long enough Jimi Hendrix would have turned eighty last weekend. There were some documentaries on, one of which focussed on Jimi’s involvement in a film called Rainbow Bridge. The film eventually came out in 1971, directed by Chuck Wein who had a vision of a new kind of film, scriptless and improvised with non- actors all drawn from Hawaii’s countercultural youth community. Wein had produced three of Andy Warhol’s films so was no stranger to films with no plot or script. As the money ran out and various investors got jittery someone convinced Jimi to appear, convinced that concert footage of Hendrix might rescue the project. Hendrix plays in a field on the side of a mountain on the island of Maui, on the edge of an active volcano- Haleakala- in front of a few hundred people. The cast had earlier on chanted ‘Om’ for a few minutes and there was something about the frequencies that the volcano was emitting. Hendrix, with his Cry Of Love band, play on a scaffold with wind blowing across the stage. The film ended up only using a few minutes of Hendrix and no songs in their entirety which when you watch the lost/ now re-found footage is absurd. This turned out to be the penultimate Hendrix live appearance- he died in September 1970. 

Jimi is clearly at the peak of his powers at Maui, a man moving fast and in total control. Looking at the set up- microphones wrapped in foam to dampen the sound of the wind, a small crowd, a flimsy looking stage- it’s a wonder anything good came out of it. This though, Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), is the best thing you’ll see today. One guitar, two pedals (a wah- wah and a fuzzbox), a Marshall stack and the accompaniment of Mitch Michell and Billy Cox (Mitch said in the documentary that musically they just followed Hendrix). Hendrix looks as cool as fuck too- headband, open necked black shirt with hippy trim down the sleeves, flared jeans and boots. A few groovy souls get up and dance but much of the crowd just sit and stare as Jimi works his way through the song, firing laser beams out from the fretboard, dive bombing runs, crunching riffs and spiralling solo parts. I’m not generally given to guitar heroism but this is worth every single bit. Cox’s bass playing anchors it and Mitchell’s drumming is superb too but it’s all about Jimi.

Due to the wind, Mitchell had to re- record his drums in New York a year later as the film reached release but Hendrix’s parts are as filmed on that day, 30th July 1970, on a hillside in Maui. 

The studio version from Electric Ladyland isn’t too shabby either- one of those songs that was part of the soundtrack of 1989 as well as 1969. The final verse, ‘If I don’t meet you in this world/ Then I’ll meet you in the next one/ Don’t be late’, nails things too. 

Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

The Groop Played New Century Hall Music

If ever anyone was ever meant to play Manchester’s recently restored 1963 venue New Century Hall it is surely Stereolab, whose retro futuristic music is perfect for a 60s version of the future, the white heat of technology and all that. I got an offer of a ticket from my friend Darren (the second this month, so many thanks Daz). On Sunday night we were down the front waiting for the band to appear. They arrive on stage at nine, the five members looking very much like a group of teachers on Inset day who took a wrong turn out of the conference centre and ended up on stage by mistake. The songwriting pair Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier are very much the front pair, Lætitia welcoming us ‘to the new century’, chatting between songs, singing and switching between synth and guitar. Tim is in front of us with guitar and pedals. The opening song is Neon Beanbag, synths bleeping away, keys chiming, motorik drums and Lætitia’s sung/ spoke vocals, ‘I’m sad to see that you are sad’. After that there are a few technical issues involving leads and synths and missing plectrums that need sorting and then they’re off into a twelve song set that is lapped up by a crowd spanning all ages, teenagers to sixty- somethings.

There are times when they sound very New York, a splicing of Silver Apples modular synth psyche and the feedback and organ of The Velvet Underground, Tim strumming gently but then a stamp on his pedals and it’s all feedback and clanging notes. The funk, bossa nova and exotica influences are all in there too, a skillful blend of the obscure and the pop. This song from the 1993 mini- album from The Groop Played Space Age Batchelor Pad Music is aired early on, between Eye Of The Volcano and Refractions In The Plastic Pulse. 

U.H.F.- MFP

As they build to the conclusion, the drums get faster, the synths wiggier and the guitars more scratchy, it all coming together in bursts of noise and sing- song vocals, red and purple lights and the gorgeous ceiling of the New Century Hall reflecting back at the groop who finish with Super- Electric (from way back in 1991). Returning for an encore, after the briefest of disappearances (there’s a 10.30 pm curfew so there’s no time to be wasted), they blast into Allures and power straight into French Disco with its electrifying drones and guitars, synths and a call to rebellion and not giving into life’s absurdities that is French Disco’ss two word chorus, ‘La resistance!’. One  more song, Simple Headphone Mind, from the 1997 collaboration with Nurse With Wound allows them to rock out even more, channeling the spirit and sounds of West Germany in the late 60s/ 70s, filling the hall with cosmic, avant- pop.

French Disco

Monday’s Long Songs

I’ve posted music from Feriasdasferias here twice this year- one release just a few weeks ago here – but make no apologies for offering you this today, a collaboration with Marcelo Gerab recorded live and then broadcast on radio in Sao Paulo. Cirurgical Cuts 54′ 54” is six long pieces, all eight minutes long except for the last one which is ten minutes. The sounds are hypnotic, rhythms and drones, repeating patterns and layers of synths, overlapping and returning, vague hints of voices dropping in and out, acres of reverb and echo, electronic lo fi dub from Brazil. By the time you get to the third part, 17’39”,  you’re in so deep, so mesmerised, you have little choice but to follow it all the way through. You can listen and buy here

Another of Eduardo Ramos’ many pseudonyms for making music in Sao Paulo is Pandit Pam Pam. As Pandit Pam Pam in July 2021 he released this track, Bondade. It was recorded in the countryside in deep summer, as Eduardo says, ‘surrounded by trees and lots of sun… while looking at a small gathering of lemon trees and orange trees’. It sounds like it was too. 

Forty Minutes Of My Bloody Valentine

The other night I was about to go upstairs. Lou was halfway down, a quizzical look on her face.  

Her: ‘There’s a horrible, whining, drilling sound coming out of the computer… what is it?’

Me: ‘Dunno’.

I rushed upstairs to see what was happening. I’d left my mp3 player plugged in to the USB slot to charge it. When it’s fully charged it switches itself on and starts playing random songs, through it’s own tiny, tinny speaker. The ‘horrible, whining, drilling sound’ was You Made Me Realise by My Bloody Valentine. 

Me: ‘That’s not a horrible, whining, drilling sound. That’s You Made Me Realise by My Bloody Valentine.’

A My Bloody Valentine Sunday mix had occurred to me a while back and this seemed like an ideal opportunity to put it together. They are an acquired taste I think it’s fair to say and there are times when if the mp3 player is in shuffle mode in the car, they can jar and disrupt a good flow of songs like few other groups. The string bending, feedback, tremelo, full on assault of Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher against the sometimes raging rhythms of Colm O’ Ciosoig’s drums and Debbie Googe’s river dredging bass can be a heavy jolt to the senses. Equally, the same noise can be uplifting and life affirming in a way all of their own. They also do a beautiful line in a sort of head- spinning, post- coital comedown wooze, something Sofia Coppola knew when she put the soundtrack for Lost In Translation together. 

The music below is almost entirely from their 1988- 1991 heyday. There’s nothing from the 2013 mbv album- not deliberately as such, I just didn’t have it to hand and couldn’t remember anything about it, so if nothing else I will go back to that record and see what it sounds like now. When it came out in 2013 it was their first album since Loveless in ’91 and was recorded in bursts up between 1991 and 1997, then resumed by Shields in 2006 and then again in 2011. Instead I’ve gone for songs from Isn’t Anything, Loveless and the EP releases around those albums apart from a cover version they recorded in 1996. 

Forty Minutes Of My Bloody Valentine

  • Don’t Ask Why
  • Slow
  • Feed Me With Your Kiss
  • Loomer
  • Drive It All Over Me
  • Map Ref 41°N 93°W
  • You Made Me Realise
  • Soon 
  • Soon (Andy Weatherall Mix)

Don’t Ask Why is my favourite MBV song, a gorgeous, swooning tripped out song, gently strummed, chiming, slightly off kilter guitar and Kevin’s voice, very clear and upfront. Belinda coos in the background and a shimmering reverb covers everything until the moment at three minutes six seconds where a second guitar comes in like a weather system. It was on the Glider EP released in 1990 in the run up to Loveless, which kept getting pushed back. In his book on Creation Records David Cavanagh speculates that many of the song titles from this period were coded messages to Alan McGee- Soon, Don’t Ask Why, Off Your Face. 

Slow was a B-side from the You Made Me Realise 12″ in 1988, an indie rock (with the emphasis on weird, disorientating rock) about oral sex. You Made Me Realise is from a point in time when indie guitar music, as made by this band and a handful of others, was going somewhere it hadn’t been before. Drive It All over Me is from the same EP, effortless, late 80s brilliance. 

Feed Me With Your Kiss was a single in 1988 and appeared on Isn’t Anything. A friend of mine bought Isn’t Anything on cassette, played it and took it back, assuming there was something wrong with it. ‘The guitars keep slipping out of tune and time, the tape must be too slack or stretched or something’, was the gist of his complaint. ‘That’s what they sound like’, he was told.

Loomer and Soon are both from Loveless, released in 1991, a year not sure of groundbreaking, high quality albums. It sounds as breathtaking now as it did then. Soon is Brian Eno’s favourite MBV song, the song which sounds like the six minutes where everything Shields was searching for came together- it is both very vague and sharply in focus, guitars hinted at and right in your ears, a blur of memories and feelings worked into something approaching a song. Belinda’s vocals sighs and Colm’s drums provide the top and the bottom. Everything in between is like the ghost of indie guitar rock, recorded onto tape and then faded, blurred, bleached. Loveless is according to legend the record that nearly bankrupted Creation and McGee’s relationship with Shields and the group broke down as a result. He went from My Bloody Valentine to Oasis (you can probably insert your own sentence here depending on your point of view).

Andrew Weatherall’s remix is a groundbreaking record too, the acid house dancefloor dynamics and samples taking Soon into another place. Hugo Nicolson, Weatherall’s production partner at the time, was presented with the records Andrew wanted to sample and the pair (with the band in the studio wanting to check what was happening to their music and apparently wanting also to see what remix culture was all about and what the process was) went about inventing indie dance and then destroying it at the same time. I wrote about this remix here and the various samples Weatherall and Nicolson used- West Bam, Gang Of Four, Claire Hamill, The Dynamic Corvettes, Rich Nice and as Hugo told us, the voices from a Volvic television advert. 

Map Ref 41°N 93°W is a cover of a Wire song, recorded for an album of Wire covers that came out in 1996 called Whore- Various Artists Play Wire. Lush, Band Of Susans, Bark Psychosis. Lee Ranaldo, Mike Watt and Godflesh are among the other contributors.

Listen

Andy Bell has just released an EP of covers, three of which were already out earlier this year and posted here along the way. The songs make up some of the influences on Andy’s solo album Flicker, released at the start of 2022. His cover of Arthur Russell’s Our Last Night Together is a wonderful, small hours piece of music, so gently frazzled it almost falls to pieces while it’s being played. I’ve posted the cover of Pentangle’s Light Flight already. The third is a cover of The Kinks’ The Way Love Used To Be. The fourth part of the jigsaw came out yesterday, Andy’s cover of Yoko Ono’s Listen, The Snow Is Falling

How good is that? 

Very good. 

You can buy the Untitled Film Stills EP here. Worth every penny.

Yoko’s original, what she calls ‘the first pop song I wrote’ came out in 1971, the B-side to John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s Christmas single Happy Xmas (War Is Over). The band was an all star/ John’s friends affair- Lennon plays guitar, Klaus Voormann bass, Nicky Hopkins is on organ and Jim Keltner on drums and bells. Anyone who is a Yoko naysayer, should listen to this. 

Listen, The Snow Is Falling

Wilko

Several blogs from this corner of the internet paid tribute yesterday to Wilko Johnson who died earlier this week aged seventy five and I felt I should do so too. Wilko was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in 2013 and then went onto defy medical science by recovering from it. His past, guitarist and writer in Dr. Feelgood, playing hard, short, slashing r’n’b inspired guitar influenced all the punks who followed them- Joe Strummer, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Suggs and Bill Drummond were all fired up by Wilko and Dr. Feelgood. He was the latest (in the early/ mid 70s) in a line of English guitarists inspired by the music that came from the Mississippi delta, another English beat boom fanatic but one who stripped it back and sped it up, amphetamine frenzy, no plectrum, fuzz guitar, using the guitar as percussion instrument as much as melody. 

One of the things I like most about Wilko is that he took his home, Canvey Island, the Thames and it’s industrial skyline and oil refineries and made it into a romantic, rock ‘n’ roll home, the Thames estuary now linked by his records and his guitar style to the Mississippi delta. Andrew Weatherall used to say that what he did was he took his influences and added his own wonky take on them, and that’s exactly what Wilko did. 

I saw Wilko play at Sale Waterside, a ten minute walk from my front door, back in April 2012. Norman Watt- Roy was in the band on bass and they played an hour or so of Feelgood/ Blockheads style pre- punk, British r’n’b. Wilko was pure Wilko- black suit, strutting across the front of the stage, eyes bulging and occasionally holding his guitar up at his shoulder as if machine gunning the audience. Electrifying. I was in two minds about going, nearly didn’t and was very glad I did. 

Roxette was Dr. Feelgood’s debut single, released in 1974, written by Wilko. It turned up on their debut album Down By The Jetty and year later and a live version came out as a single in 1976. 

Roxette

R.I.P. Wilko Johnson. 

Twenty Three

Back in November last year, a week or two before Isaac died, I started reading a book about The KLF by John Higgs titled ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned A Million Pounds’. It is not a conventional band biography- Higgs supplies two different endings (read both, decide which one you prefer) and as someone somewhere quipped, at times the book is more a history of Discordianism with appearances by The KLF as much as the story of Bill Drummond, Jimmy Cauty and their adventures in the music industry. 

Discordianism is/ was one of the foundation stones of Drummond and Cauty’s world, the modern day religion of chaos and irreverence dreamed up by Greg Hill and Kerry Wendall Thornley in 1963. Higgs brings in much more as well and branches off all over the place- Situationism, Dr Who, punk, rave, Carl Jung and Dada all show up. It’s difficult to tell at times, and I think this is one of Higgs’ key points, whether Drummond and Cauty know what they are doing and whether they are in control of what they unleash or whether the magical forces of Discordia and the Illuminati have taken over completely. I’ve always found it difficult to tell whether Drummond and Cauty are deadly serious or playing with it. Either way, it leads them to The Brits in February 1992 where they machine gunned the audience while Extreme Noise Terror thrashed away behind them, to having to be talked out of dumping a dead sheep on the steps of the venue and then to the Isle of Jura where they burned a million quid. Something they’ve been unable to explain (to themselves or others) ever since. 

The KLF v Extreme Noise Terror 3 A.M. Eternal (Top Mix)

When Isaac got taken into hospital with Covid I was a few chapters in. I didn’t pick the book up for a while after all of that but at some point went back to it and almost immediately found myself in the chapter on Discordianism and specifically the number twenty three. Discordianism a parody religion. Probably. One of it’s central practices is/ was Operation Mindfuck, an attempt to undermine all conspiracy theories by publicly attributing major events (wars, assassinations etc) to the Illuminati, thereby demonstrating how ridiculous conspiracy theories are- while also contributing to paranoia and creating more conspiracy theories. 

For Discordians the number twenty three is everything, the secret behind it all. The number five is also important because two and three make five and two and three are twenty three. William Burroughs cited the so called 23 Enigma to Robert Anton Wilson in an interview (Wilson wrote the Illuminatus! Trilogy). Drummond and Cauty took their name The JAMMs from the books and twenty three is littered through The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu and The KLF’s works. Drummond and Cauty burned the money on the twenty third of August and then agreed to not discuss it for twenty three years. This is where you suspect they’re playing with it- except burning a million pounds is not playing. 

In a normal frame of mind all of this would have been amusing and interesting but in my raw and grief stricken state it fully freaked me out. Isaac was twenty three when he died and his birthday is on the twenty third of November. One of his birthday presents we’d given to him a week earlier, on the twenty third, was a United shirt with his name on the back and the number twenty three beneath it. The shirt was already with him, in his coffin. I put the book down and the day after- I don’t remember exactly when this was but I think it was some time in December. The day after I picked the book up and read the chapter again and it disturbed me again. Moreso when I looked at my phone to see what time it was and it was, of course, 23.23pm. It disturbed me for some time afterwards- but then I was already very disturbed and it didn’t take much to tip me over. There were a couple of other Isaac numerological coincidences around the same time which added to it all. 

Robert Anton Wilson, the writer and philosopher recognised in Discordianism as a saint, has since said that the mystery around the number twenty three is self- fulfilling, proof that the mind can find meaning or truth in anything. ‘When you start looking for something, you tend to find it’ he said, ‘it is all selective perception’. I’m sure he’s right. 

This is the twenty third record in my record collection. A Certain Ratio in 1990, remixed by Bernard Sumner. 

Won’t Stop Loving You

Twenty Four

Today would have been Isaac’s twenty fourth birthday. I can’t find the words to adequately express myself about this at the moment. The weeks leading up to today have been awful at times and the thought that he’s dead still has the power to stop me in my tracks and leave me trying to catch my breath. Isaac loved birthdays- cards, cake, presents, going out for tea, all the routines and traditions. I hope in years to come we can celebrate him and the twenty three birthdays that he had with us but right now it just feels like a date filled with massive loss. 

Often on his birthday I’d post songs relevant to the age he was turning, so today should have been songs with twenty four in the title or in the lyrics. I thought I may as well go ahead with this. Neither Joy Division’s 24 Hours nor Happy Mondays’ 24 Hour Party People seemed to strike the right note. I’m not really a fan of Gene Pitney’s 24 Hours From Tulsa. Half Man Half Biscuit’s Twenty Four Hour Garage People plays on Happy Mondays in the title and lyrically takes in the Rollright Stones, Talk Radio, Pringles, Marmite, scotch eggs, Kit Kats, motoring atlases, Leadbelly, various sandwich fillings and the worker at the all night garage. It is a song which can still, twenty two years after it was released, make me laugh out loud and today of all days that’s a big deal. 

Twenty Four Hour Garage People

Neil Young’s Old Man contains the line ‘Old man, look at my life/ Twenty four and there’s so much more’. Neil wrote the song after he bought the Broken Arrow ranch with the proceeds of his songwriting success. He was shown round the ranch by Broken Arrow’s caretaker Louis Avila. The line is about Louis’ incredulity that a young man could buy a $350, 000 ranch in 1971. When asked how he afforded it Neil told Louis, ‘just lucky, Louis, just real lucky’. It goes elsewhere, as Neil Young songs often do, musing on the similarities between the old man and the younger man, that their basic needs and desires are the same- ‘Old man, take a look at my life/ I’m a lot like you/ I need someone to love me the whole night through’. This version is from the legendary Massey Hall gig in 1971, a solo acoustic show in Toronto in January 1971. 

Old Man (Live at Massey Hall 1971)

Happy birthday Isaac. Love you. 

Gal Costa

Gal Costa died earlier this month aged seventy seven. I knew the name but didn’t own any of her music. I was aware she was a Brazilian singer and heavily connected to the Tropicalia movement, the musicians and artists who married Brazilian rhythms and styles with psychedelic rock in the late 60s, upsetting the government and establishment in that country along the way. I have a compilation by Os Mutantes, fellow travellers in the Tropicalia movement, but no Gal. A friend sorted me out with a few choice pieces last week and I’ve been digging into them, the bossa nova rhythms, percussion, acoustic guitars and psychedelic rock influences providing a very welcome alternative to what I’ve been listening to recently. This song in particular has been hitting all the right notes…

Baby

Baby was written by Caetano Veloso, legendary Brazilian composer, singer, guitarist, writer and political activist and recorded for Gal’s 1968 self titled solo album. The strings, the echo- laden percussion and Gal’s voice, singing first in Portuguese and then English, are all gorgeous. 

R.I.P. Gal.