Tuesday, January 31, 2012

hi there

blimey, this is turning out to be quite a rant day, is it not? sorry, shall do some nicer posts in the not too distant future!

the road is once again blocked as i look from my window at verk. no sooner had the truck from Goldfields Logistics moved than one from someone called Clifford's Transport takes over in ensuring that people cannot get onto the M1 or M2 highway in any direction. oh, those, by the way, happen to be "the busiest highways in Africa".

Clifford's Transport are not alone in their guilt here. someone called Midlands Meat decided to join in the party. i could not get a picture of that van as the Police have arrived, and it is my understanding that one should not take pictures of the Police engaged in any (presumably) legal activity or duty as a security measure. which is fair enough, especially as they seem to be shifting these trucks. if only it was a legal offence to block the roads in the way they do.

neither of the Companies listed here have anything on their web page that suggests they pride themselves in blocking off major highways. it would be nice, then, if they would refrain from doing this in the future.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

third time lucky? dfk, dfc......

hi there

some of the title above stands for don't know and don't care, i am pretty comfortable with the idea of letting you work out what the other letter might stand for.

the third edition of (sigh) Rolling Stone South Africa is apparently on the shelves. as it tends to get buried away in a corner, i.e. not on prominent display anywhere, here's what the cover looks like.

unless i get really bored and happen to be in one of the few stores actually bothering to stock this i think i will just give it a miss. the largely disappointing first edition just led to the very, very bad second edition, full as it was with info that was old or irrelevant and topped off with editing errors that should have seen someone fired. i just don't see the margin for it getting better.

the cover certainly does not tempt one. the cover stars are an Afrikaans band. good luck to them, but this is an English magazine. i seem to recall the first edition featured another Afrikaans band, Van Coke or something, whining about how they do not like English. fine, you are not obliged to, but maybe keep out of English language magazines, then. other than that, the cover seems to promise details about Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. yay. as if this particular album had not been written about more than any other album in history, there's the small matter of this presumably pertaining to the (upteenth) reissue of this album, which happened in November last year. i guess, then that they are intent on this trend of only running articles and reviews for things which are 3 months old.

if you are interested, there's a mildly amusing article / press release
you can get to by clicking that link, in which they seem proud of them not doing what Rolling Stone magazine should be doing.

i have no idea why the actual, proper Rolling Stone magazine owners are happy to see this trash released in their name. is it that they are unaware, or that they do not care? what a shame that the magazine seems destined to fail when there is no reason for it to do so. i really wish we could get the proper magazine published here instead of this crap.

ho hum.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

cheers for nothing, Goldfields Logistics

Hi there

if you go past the Goldfields Logistics website you will see that they claim to be fast, easy and reliable.

the view from my window at verk suggests otherwise.

i have checked their site and nowhere can i see where it says that as a bonus they offer to block off the highway for thousands of people due to either incompetent drivers, overloading trucks or, if you're lucky, a combination of those two.

i am sick and tired of this happening, we seem to get a truck stuck at this point of the road at least once a week. i shall be doing my best, then, to name and shame those who block the road.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Stone Roses march on

Hi there

well, i can think of no good reason why anyone would look at my blog for information on gigs that The Stone Roses are doing when their official site does a rather good job of giving updates, but here you go.

the most recent dates added are off to the East of the world. The Fuji Rock Festival always sounds excellent, and that's where they will be on the weekend of July 27 - 29.

travel-wise, this one sounds quite handy for fans of the band in America and Australia, especially as no dates have been announced for either of those countries.

that same weekend sees the band lined up for the Jisan Valley Festival
in South Korea.

South Korea doesn't by sound immediately strike me as a place for rock festivals, but google away - the place looks beautiful and it sounds like the festivals have been excellent thus far. last year saw the Chemical Brothers and, most impressively, Suede headline. as Radiohead are at the Fuji festival, i wouldn't be surprised if they are announced for Jisan Valley too.

no dates seem to be about for south of the Equator as yet, with these two being the closest. perhaps they are just waiting for summer down here towards the end of the year. South America, Australia & New Zealand and South Africa shall just have to live in hope that a gig can be announced. oddly America is missing from their calendar too.

meanwhile, what of the new sound of the band? they have signed two record deals and commented that they were doing new material. some news, or even better a single release, would be excellent as we count down to the live return!

more news as and when i have it!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh, Yeah! but.......oh, no.......

hi there

those of you who are wise to the way of online videos and that may well have seen a ten second "teaser" clip for an advert that is scheduled to appear in the imminent "Super Bowl" thing that the Americans will be having.

erm, yeah, you read that right. sure, this Super Bowl business is always a big event for the adverts - "flagship" campaigns usually start during it, as it is the single most viewed / watched show on US TV. usually it's trailers for the big movies of the year that come along. but still, a teaser advert for an advert? how impressive must the advert be? well, in the case of this one, it all seemed to be very impressive indeed.

the trailer starts off with a man going to open the curtains in his bedroom. nothing too impressive there, until such time as the camera angle switches to the other side of the opened curtains. and then look at who it is.

yes, that's who you think it is. what happens next is Mr Broderick saying "how could i possibly work on a day like today", followed by a snippet of Oh, Yeah! by Yello.

i know you are or when you saw it were thinking what i am thinking. that would be they have done it. somehow, hopefully from a script left by the late, missed John Hughes, somehow they have gone and delivered the impossible dream; a sequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off!

the whole thing looks and feels perfect. you cannot do anything but have a huge fanboy grin on your face, scream and shout "yes!" at the monitor or whatever device you saw this on and be thrilled at such news. the whole thing, all 10 seconds of it, is so pitch perfect that it cannot possibly be anything else but a much longed for sequel.

actually, as it happens, it could possibly be something else. the "word" on the net is that it's just an elaborate advert for this lot.

wow. talk about having a bubble burst and being deflated. i really, really hope Honda know what they are doing, building up hopes and excitement in the minds of millions of fans, only to reveal that all of this is just an advert for some sort of Japanese car.

i am expecting one of those celebrated, notorious "fan backlashes" to this one. good luck Honda, and indeed to Mr Broderick.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

happiness is a jelly baby

hi there

no, there's no deep rooted classical meaning or post-modernist slant to the title there, just a quality picture of William enjoying a jellybaby!

i shall probably be only doing more updates next week, so have a most excellent weekend! and, of course,

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the water boys

hi there

well, collecting the boys from their schools is getting to be a lenghtier, somewhat demanding task to be honest. this is beyond the whole time and distance thing on our wonderful road system. William, as you can see, has discovered a new thing that is the most excellent thing ever in the world of most excellent things ever. this would be the idea of a water drinking fountain.

James obviously wanted to show William around his ace new "big school", and an important part of the tour once was where James can go and make water shoot up into the air. both of them, as is the case with most young chaps around the world, think this is simply excellent, and rush to have a go at it whenever the chance avails itself. or even if it doesn't.

i do my best to explain to them that they might be wasting water in messing around with them in the hope that they shall stop - James does rather like those "reduce, reuse, recycle" adverts on TV so i thought that might encourage him to stop. thus far, however, they have not shown any particular interest in stopping messing around with it. or should i say them.

the main point of appeal, it seems, is that there are two water fountains next to each other. all this is doing, outside of allowing two children to drink at once, is giving them the idea of a "mega spray", in which they will fire off both fountains at the same time. thus far they have not succeeded in doing it, but with some practice i am sure they will.

James at least does drink from the fountain whilst they are doing this; William not so much. he tries to, in fairness, but his attempts are via trying to catch the water with his hands, and then rubbing his hand all over his face and shirt! i have no doubt that he will get the hang of it, and indeed the height to do it, eventually!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

classic cinema : Year Of The Dragon

The news at the moment seems to comment on the fact that, within the world of the Chinese culture, we are in the Year of the Dragon. When I hear those words I cannot do anything but think “insane Mickey Rourke film”. As the time seems appropriate, and as it may get it out of my system, what better time to write an article on this somewhat controversial film?

It is perhaps best to start right at the beginning of how this film came to be. That would, if you will, mean Michael Cimino. That name tends, amongst film fans, to conjure certain images so let’s tackle that first.

By the time of Year Of The Dragon, Michael Cimino was a director best described as “a brilliant talent but responsible for a qualified disaster”. The brilliant talent was there in his directorial debut, the celebrated and often homaged Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, and then impossible to miss in the masterpiece that was The Deer Hunter. Qualified disaster, alas, came in the form of Heaven’s Gate.

No, I am not going to give all that much time to Heaven’s Gate, for the internet is full of all the information you need. Let it be said, though, that whereas the film is nowhere near as bad as people have made out over the years (it is a rather decent film), the nature and tone of the film was never likely to be a huge Box Office success in the form the director wanted to release it and then had no chance at all in the heavily abridged version that the studio released.

All of the above added together meant that it was not until about half a decade later that Michael Cimino got to make another film, when legendary film producer Dino De Laurentiis approached him with the Year Of The Dragon project.

In regards of the actual making of the film, there are a couple of points to note before discussing the finished product. Casting the then young and hugely promising talent of Mickey Rourke in the lead role was an interesting move, considering his part was intended for a much older actor. Cimino was, however, determined that he was the right man for the part, and opted to hire him and simply age him with make up.

The other interesting point from production would be the fact that they recreated Chinatown and various suburbs of New York in North Carolina, this presumably being cheaper than getting permission to film in New York itself. Just how well they did this, going on a comment from Michael Cimino, is summed up by the fact that after seeing the movie Stanley Kubrick was convinced the whole thing was shot in New York itself, and found it incredible to learn that it was not. Who knows, it might be this aspect which encouraged and assisted him in recreating Parris Island and Vietnam in downtown London for Full Metal Jacket.

Moving on to the film itself, and the plot deals with the rise of Joey Tai (played by the impressive John Lone) as he seeks to fulfil his ambition to be the head of all Triad gangs operating in New York and beyond. Stanley White (the equally impressive Mickey Rourke) is the most decorated officer in the New York Police Department and he is determined to stop him, something powered by his return from Vietnam with only one thing, a hatred for all things Asian. Both are prepared to use whatever means necessary to get their aim in life, with no sacrifice of anyone else’s life too high a price, no level of violence considered excessive.

People who went to see the film were given this onscreen warning before the credits rolled :

This film does not intend to demean or to ignore the many positive features of Asian Americans and specifically Chinese American communities. Any similarity between the depiction in this film and any association, organization, individual or Chinatown that exists in real life is accidental.

This was done to appease the uproar from the Chinese community in general and the population of New York’s Chinatown in particular, who were fearful of the damage to trade and tourism with the world presented in the film. This did little to appease the critics, though, who derided the film as one of the most violent, sexist, misogynistic, racist and xenophobic films ever to be unleashed. This approach to the film somewhat missed the point, I think.

All of the allegations made by the critics are true, if we are honest. However, the intention of the film was to a certain extent to illustrate this. It did not try and show all Chinese citizens of New York (or anywhere else) as being in Triad gangs, just as it did not try and show that all NY police officers carried with them the prejudices which Stanley White does not hesitate to show off. It does, however, show off that such things exist. The characters would neither develop nor be plausible if they were not guilty of the things listed above and the film would have been ineffective and unwatchable if either of the two in conflict were really, really nice chaps.

It has been years since I read the Robert Daley book on which the film was based, but full credit to Oliver Stone for the screenplay he delivered to this extent. Despite some dialogue clangers, Stone built a gritty, murky world in words which unfolded superbly onscreen. Much as was the case with his celebrated screenplays for Midnight Express and Scarface, there was little point in making any of the films if he wasn’t able to present the reality, warts and all, of the world all of the films explored.

If the above makes me some sort of apologist for Cimino, Stone or the film entire itself then so be it. I just don’t get why when you know a film is about an exceptionally violent, ruthless criminal against an equally violent, prejudiced police officer one would be surprised when it turns out they are like that. As shocking and offensive as the behaviour in the film is, in particular Stanley White’s reaction to an assault on Ariane, an Asian reporter who seems to be making White warm to Asians, if you know what I mean, in the context of the characters and the film it all makes sense. If Cimino, Stone or anyone else was standing up and saying “how White and Tai behave in this film is the way the world should be” then I could understand the criticism. As it is, the film seeks to expose the good and the bad in both sides of the law, and in doing so exposes why the world we created is the way it is, for better or perhaps worse.

As far as the onscreen violence goes, well, the term “unprecedented” gets thrown about a bit too much, really. Yes the film is graphically violent, but as the intended audience was those who had seen things like, off the top of my head, Scarface, The French Connection or practially any Sam Peckinpah film, it was hardly pushing the boundaries. I suspect it just seemed a good deal worse and stronger due to the rather horrid and vile nature of pretty much every central character in the film, bar Ariane (Tracy Tzu) and Louis Bukowski (Ray Barry), the two people in the world who for reasons best known to themselves are trying to save Stanley White from total self destruction. It’s not a film you should ever consider sitting down and watching with the whole family, mind.

The four actors I have mentioned give superb performances, full worthy of more praise than they got at the time. What one has to remember is that for the most part the actors probably considered the characters they were playing as loathsome and repulsive as anyone who saw the film did. Add to this the intriguing story and the previously mentioned superbly crafted look of the film and you have something close to a masterpiece of a movie that’s been more or less neglected over the years.

The box office on release was dismal. The negative reviews did not help, and the word of mouth was “oh it’s the guy who made Heaven’s Gate so it must be bad”. Such things tended to be spoken by people who had not even seen Heaven’s Gate (few did) and overlook the fact that other than that film, Mr Cimino had given the world the two cinema classics mentioned previously. If directors were not allowed to make good films after making a poor one, how do you explain the fine films made by, say, Spielberg after Hook or even Scorsese after Bringing Out The Dead?

The aftermath of the film was pretty much to signal the end of the career of the director, and the start of something of a lull in the career of its star. Michael Cimino went on to make The Sicilian, with a low budget and little interest shown, and from then on barely appeared in the movie making world. Mickey Rourke seemed intent on taking roles that would court controversy, in particular in the brilliant but reviled Angel Heart and the average A Prayer For The Dying, a film widely seen as being Mickey Rourke openly proclaiming sympathy if not support for the IRA. I seem to recall that bastion of good taste, The Sun “newspaper”, running a picture of Rourke with an IRA Provo tattoo, something that contributed to sinking his career for a fair while.

So, is the film worth seeking out or revisiting? If you have the will and the disposition to witness a genuinely gritty, nothing spared presentation of the down and dirty of police vs gangs, absolutely. On top of being a damned good story, it’s a ruthless, brutal portrayal of cultural, institutional and personal prejudices, exposing where they can and cannot be broken. One gets the feeling that if practically anyone else had directed the film it would have been celebrated as a “hard masterpiece” and make articles like this obsolete.

A reminder, though – Year Of The Dragon is not a film to sit and watch with the family!

Be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

please consider supporting and donating

Paul Collins, the brother-in-law of someone i consider a very good friend, is going to be running the London Marathon in April of this year. he's doing it in order to raise funds for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, and if you click on the link just there you can read the story as to why the family take every chance they can to raise funds for this.
quite frankly, if i were to attempt to even just drive the length of a marathon i would probably be out of breath, the mind boggles as to what would happen to me if i actually tried to run one. i suspect it might happen not long after starting it, though, and it probably wouldn't be pretty.
that last bit is all the more reason from my side, then, to give respect and thanks to Mr Paul Collins for making the sacrifice to go ahead and do this. i wish you all the luck in the world with the run itself, and i truly hope that you raise some much needed funds.

to everyone reading this, please note that no amount is too small, and certainly no amount is too big. when you click on the link to the donation page you will note you can hide the amount you are donating if you feel, despite what i have said, awkward about the amount you can spare. this really is a matter where every single penny helps and is appreciated.

on behalf of G Man, Paul Collins, their family and indeed myself, thank you for taking the time to read this and for considering supporting.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

the last great pop single....

....was, or if you will currently is, Bodies by Robbie Williams. i've just listened to it again this evening and yes, nothing has personified nor dared all that is great about pop music since this was released over 2 years ago. more on how sad that is later, but i suppose i should give a "why" first.

some presumably unrequired history first, though. Robbie Williams was, of course, the "not as pretty or talented as the others" member of seminal 90s outfit Take That. Robbie didn't particularly care for this tag as you would expect, but that only came to the notice of the public one fine June afternoon at Glastonbury. presumably fed up of being the personification of a fifth wheel at a Take That recording or rehearsal session, Robbie headed off to Glastonbury, armed with a crate of champange libertaed from the record label.

his intention was, presumably, to sit and drink it all whilst catching some decent music. a certain Noel Gallagher clocked this pop star and his booze, and asked if he could help him neck it. sure was the response, as legend has it, on two conditions. Robbie would share the champers so long as he could join in the "Brit Pop" game of football backstage, and indeed if he could go on stage with Oasis later that day. done deal for Noel, Robbie got to do both and practically overnight went from anonymous boy bander to being really, really f****** cool.

material was required to back up being cool, though. it came eventually. the debut solo single, a cover of George Michael's Freedom 90, did well, but Old Before I Die and Lazy Days failed to inspire. the debut album, Life Thru A Lens, did sort of OK, in particular when people clocked one track - the one that would be the next single, Angels. it was this last song that saved Life Thru A Lens from a fast trip to sale bins and indeed changed Robbie from being a quasi-one hit wonder curiosity into being one of the biggest solo pop stars, financially and sales wise, in history.

hit album after hit single followed, any venue holding one of his concerts sold out in the time it just took you to read this, awards were thrown at him. he became guilty, then, of the very worst thing you can be for certain elements of the British press and society - a huge success. after a decade or so of huge success it was time, some decided, to try and knock him down.

this he duly gave all and sundry the means to do.

whereas it sold a few million (4.5 according to some), Rudebox did not sell mega millions, and did not feed his adoring public nice pop songs and a ballad as was expected. a mostly experimental piece made for the most part with the Pet Shop Boys, it bewildered many and left a few more rather cold. it was as brave and as bold a move from him as the one he took to walk or get fired from Take That, but did't quite lead to a new level of success.

i'm not going to sit here and write how Rudebox is wildly misunderstood and wrongly overlooked. in respect of artist indulgence it's not Metal Machine Music, but that doesn't mean it's a classic. it has a reasonable following of admirers, though, and it did contain one bona fide great song.

She's Madonna, by being in sound and appearance a traditional Robbie Williams song, is so out of step with the rest of the album that when it comes up on the album you can almost hear the executives at EMI begging him to rather go back and record more like it. lyrically, it was an astonishing peek into the world of celebrity. if you are unaware of it, in some stark detail it gives over the information about how Guy Richie and Madonna came to be an item, and the break up of Mr Richie's relationship on the spot - "I love you baby / but face it she's Madonna / no man on Earth / could say that he don't want her". legend persists that this is how the conversation actually went.

by the time it was released, however, interest in Robbie was on a downward road to say the least, and the single barely made Top 20. so off Mr William vanished, for nearly 2 years.

so, let's skip forward 2 years (give or take) and get to September 2009. beyond tabloid tales of Williams living in a tent in the Nevada Desert in the hopes of seeing a UFO, little interest or attention was paid to what he was up to in his day job. as it turned out, Robbie had been writing songs, recording and producing them with no less than celebrated producer Trevor Horn.

in an exceptionally rare case these days and in particular at that time, no leaks or advance copies of what Robbie had done had made it near the internet. when the first new single from Robbie Williams in over 2 years got its world premiere on stations around the world at 8am GMT very few people had heard even a note of it beforehand.

after it had been played, there were some horrified reactions, with many stations (the one i heard it on here in particular) scrambling to give apologies for the lyrical content. it's safe to say that Bodies made quite an impact on debut.

if for some reason you've not heard the song and read this far, now might be a good time to stop and have a listen. here's the link to the official video.

musically, it is all that you would have expected and hope that a Trevor Horn produced Robbie Williams song would be. it is impossible to avoid referencing Horn's greatest ever success as a producer, the celebrated 80s singles of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. musically the song carries with it a sense that this would not be at all out of place if it were released between Relax and Two Tribes back in 1984, and yet it does not sound like some nostalgia trip or "homage". it's a song very much of its time. this is for the most part due to the lyrics, which feature things that not even the boundary pushing Frankie would have got away with back then.

other than the "f bomb" dropped on radio stations around the world early in the song, most outrage and complaints came from the religious references. these come in right at the start :

God gave me the sunshine,
Then showed me my lifeline
I was told it was all mine,
Then I got laid on a ley line
What a day, what a day,
And your Jesus really died for me
Then Jesus really tried for me

wow. whatever he did actually do for two years away, reducing his famous and perhaps beloved ego wasn't on the agenda. i do think, however, there's a bit more going on here that Robbie's usual flippant mentioning of how rich and celebrated he is. it's hard not to see this as a comment on the relative ease with which certain people have attained "celebrity" status, their fame as disposable as their thoughts on how it came to be. taking that thinking even further, and one gets a sense that Robbie's commenting on the disposable nature of life itself these days.

Praying for the rapture,
‘Cause it's stranger getting stranger
And everything's contagious
It's the modern middle ages
All day every day
And if Jesus really died for me
Then Jesus really tried for me

calling for the Biblical end of days because of the bizarre, state of fear way of the world? that pay off line of "and if Jesus really died for me / Then Jesus really tried for me" is a work of genius. it's basically saying "well, the presumed best of us tried and failed, we have no hope". no hope, perhaps, but no reason just to carry on, as the chorus so brilliantly shows off :

All we've ever wanted
Is to look good naked
Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection,
I want perfection

hiding behind a rudimentary rhyme scheme here is, for me, some of the best lyrics i have heard. the depth of what's going on with these words is staggering. this business of only wanting to look good naked - what's going on? a criticism of vanity? an open celebration of beauty? a scathing attack on the superficial nature of the world? and this whole "God save me rejection from my reflection" bit is sheer genius - not only is it witty, but placed in context of the "then Jesus really tried for me" theme then there's a suggestion of the narrator being oblivious to God doing his very best to save.

that Bodies works on so many different levels of interpretation is most impressive. i have no idea what or rather who the song is actually about. it could well be Robbie talking of himself, or presumably how he was, in a manner of honesty not seen since Dave Gahan begged his way through Depeche Mode's dark masterpiece Barrel Of A Gun/ equally, it could be him saying "well, this is how and who i am, deal with it". or it could be just a broad sideswipe at the world he lives in. the latter interpretation gets support from the album being called Reality Killed The Video Star.

the album title is commonly seen as a nod to producer Trevor Horn's greatest solo success, Video Killed The Radio Star. i think on top of that, though, it is the case that they just stopped him from calling it Reality Killed The Pop Star. that would have been a more honest name for it, really. the album sees Robbie return to the more "traditional" sound that the fans obviously wanted, but he's brought to it the sense and style of lyrics he explored in Rudebox. there's also a sense to it, though, that he's resigned to the fact that the world no longer has space of enduring, mega-sized pop stars.

the fact that Robbie William's 'comeback' single was kept off the top spot by the runner-up of some TV talent show tells you all of the sorry state that the music world has become. i am not saying that Robbie Williams or anyone else should automatically get to number one, but when a third rate band from a second rate talent show is outselling a genuine classic slice of pop by more than 2 to 1 you have to ask what's going on. as far as i can work out, mobile devices happened and "the kids" choose to rather download something catchy and all over TV to use as a ringtone instead of exploring and, more importantly, enjoying better (in my opinion) things.

Bodies, two or so years later, was clearly the last chance the industry has given to pop music being a decent force again. lavish production and promotion simply wasn't enough. sales did well, but not as well as Robbie had done before. of the pop music that has followed there has been one or two good moments - Lady Gaga, for instance, could be an all time great if she would only (a) stop stealing other songs and (b) in the case of something like Bad Romance, stop taking brilliant songs and ruining them by chanting "ga gaaaa oooh la la" over them again and again for no reason. Katy Perry is good too, although when you play all of her singles together you all of a sudden notice just how much experimentation and variety there was in Sigue Sigue Sputnik's Flaunt It album by comparison after all.

they say in 2011 pop records outsold rock records for the first time in a long while. yeah, ok, but you have to consider what they call a "pop" song these days. do they mean Moves Like Jagger, which just features some apparently gelded chap whining "I've got the moves like Jagger" over and over again? or do they mean I'm Sexy And I Know It, which just features someone sounding like the nerdy one out of Fresh Prince Of Bel Air channelling a homosexual variant of Barry White and chanting "i'm sexy and i know it" again and again? if so, then the definition of "pop" these days is "even more disposable than the last thing you flushed down the toilet".

Robbie Williams, and indeed Trevor Horn for that matter, aspired to do somewhat better with a humble pop record, trusting an audience to accept that "pop" had space for intelligence and interest. they reached their aspirations with Bodies, what a shame the audience for it had been denied proper, quality music for so long that they didn't know quite how to embrace it.

i kind of hope that i'm wrong with this and one day again the world at large accepts that music matters more than how it sounds as a ringtone or message alert.

thanks for reading.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mouse Known Pleasures

hi there

well, my first instinct when i saw this was to check the date. i might, for all i know or do not know, have slipped into a coma and been unaware of it, waking up on April 1. a check suggests, however, that it is indeed January 24, a date not usually associated with practical jokes.

so this t-shirt which combines the iconic images of Mickey Mouse and the band Joy Division is real, then.

erm, yeah. to semi-quote Nigel Tufnel and David St Hubbins, it's a fine little twist between clever and stupid. i am still trying to work out if this is one of the most excellent things ever made or one of the worst possible ideas that man has ever taken responsibility for. hats off to whoever came up with this, i for one will confess to never thinking of combining a Joy Division album cover with an imaginary mouse.

i kind of want one, but i also kind of want to wait and see what they do next. a Mickey Mouse altered version of Meat Is Murder or, even better, The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths?

if you are in a position in which you simply cannot wait to see what they do next and wish to own one of these shirts, this is the link you are looking for. happy shopping!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

for Jimmy Nail and Dennis Waterman enthusiasts.....

hi there

well, as a thank you to all who frequently leave comments on my posts about Nasher's online gigs, here is a link to selections from his shows. happy viewing.

i'm not at all sure that i get the comparison to either Mr Ain't No Doubt Crocodile Shoes or Mr I Could Be So Good For You, but each to their own - as long as you dig the music get down on it.

for your further consideration here's a recent interview with the man too.

with some luck Nasher shall be doing a gig in the not too distant future. his autobiography is also due out later on this year. in which, presumably, some of you shall be expecting to hear him tell takes of being a Geordie brickie in Germany, as well of course as looking after a Cockney spiv down in the Winchester.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10 great movie music moments that have been overlooked, apparently...

hey everyone

recently i had the chance to read and rather superb article from New York's celebrated Time Out magazine about the 50 Greatest Uses Of Songs In Movies. this sort of list is usually debatable at best, but they did a rather good job with it.

i would, however, nitpick with a few selections in their list, as you well might when you read it. i've selected ten other great music moments in movies for your consideration, some of which you may feel should be on that list instead of some of the ones chosen.

as Time Out appears not to have had any particular criteria except not to "cheat" and reference any musicals, i've followed path, using songs that are either specific to the film or were just used by the director to dazzling effect.

note that beyond this point *** SPOILER WARNINGS *** are applicable, but if you have not seen any of these films yet there is a very good chance that you had no intention of seeing them. if that's true, hope you change your mind after reading about one or two of them! here we go then, in no particular order.

Playing With The Boys by Kenny Loggins

yes, indeed. if we are going to discuss music in movies, why not with a film that was basically one long advert for young Americans to join the armed forces, using music as a soundtrack just like any above-average or indeed superior ad would?
the piece of music i refer to here, of course, is the soundtrack to what is widely viewed as the single most uber-homoerotic scene in any film in the history of the movies. yes, the volleyball scene. young, tanned, semi-naked muscular men bonding, flexing their wares for the benefit of other men and themselves. the scene has no valid place or purpose in the film at all, apparently existing just to amuse Tony Scott. whereas his brother Ridley tends to slide towards subtle direction, Tony likes to see a film camera as a massive sledgehammer to ram home a message to the audience. sticking a song called Playing With The Boys on this scene was basically writing "this is a sledgehammer" on the hammer he was hitting people in the face with. genius.

Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds / Changes by David Bowie

a masterpiece of teenage angst cinema that has lived through the decades for all sorts of reasons. i imagine that kids these days warm to it because it shows how life was prior to iTwat and BlueBerry devices when one had detention - we kind of actually spoke directly to each other.
the film is bookended by Don't You Forget About Me to superb effect, but it's the use at the start of the film that gets it included here. nice as the bit at the end with Judd Nelson raising his fist is, before you ask. if memory serves, at the start you have an instrumental of it playing, and up onscreen comes a quote from David Bowie's Changes. this perfectly sets the tone for the next 100 minutes or so of your life, making all the more sense as the movie progresses. whoever set it up like this knew exactly what they were doing. what a shame Simple Minds turned their back on this song for so many years, really.

Macho Man by The Village People

there, you see, a film does not have to be an all time classic to have a great musical moment in it. Terminator 3 is nowhere near as bad as people who worshipped the smoke and mirrors covering bad plot Terminator 2 would have you believe, but by any standard it's at best an average film with the odd truly spectacular moment.
Schwarzenegger did little, if anything, to hide the fact that he had agreed to do the film purely for an absolutely obscene amount of money. just how little he cared for what went on in the film so long as hourly deliveries of cash in a massive truck perpetuated is in many respects highlighted by the scene where he parodies the "sunglasses" on moments from the first two films. this time around, Arnold stands and puts on a pair of pink, star-shaped glasses as this classic from the Village People plays. it somehow managed to avoid accusations of stereotyping and being homophobic, perhaps because it is a really, really funny scene.

Singin' In The Rain by Gene Kelly / Malcolm McDowell

OK, perhaps it does beggar belief that in their list of 50 musical moments Time Out somehow managed to miss this one!
i am pretty much sure that i do not need to give much detail in regards of the first appearance of this song. apparently thought up and filmed by Stanley Kubrick and Malcolm McDowell on the spot, it remains one of the darkest most macabre moments in cinema history; succeeding as it does in making any normal view laugh out loud when one should be horrified. somewhat forgotten is how later in the film McDowell gives a second performance that is crucial to the plot, and let us not forget the sensational use of the original version of the song over the end credits.
Kubrick features rather a lot on the original 50 list, but with apologies to 2001 you kind of suspect that it was this use of music that he shall mostly be remembered for.

Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix

the only reason i own this film on DVD is for the use of this song. whereas there are some rather funny moments (Ms Christie under the table, anyone?), overall the film was produced by someone with ego issues, highlighting these by making a film which showed off the abundantly sexually active Warren Beatty 'acting' as the abundantly sexually active Warren Beatty with the suggestion that he might cut hair. hidden beneath this layer of the film, though, is a better film only hinted at, touching the loneliness and shallow nature of the protagonists' "just sex nothing else" life.
this part hidden away comes to the fore in a party scene towards the end. in it, Beatty is torn between pursuing two women. you see him rushing backwards and forwards in a superb physical manifestation of his psychological confusion, with Manic Depression playing away. the mixing of the song here is the trick. at first it sounds like it dips in volume to synch with his movement in and out of the main party room. on repeat viewing, however, it's clear that the song has been mixed to show the dips in his confusion and mixed feelings. brilliant.

Jumpin' Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones

Martin Scorsese features on Time Out's Top 50 more than once, and indeed shall feature again a little later on this list. and with good reason - when it comes to the correct music for a scene, few if any can be declared to be better than Mr Scorsese.
this scene in particular is legendary, and has perhaps been seen in documentaries and highlight packages by about one hundred times more people than ever saw the film. at least! although we had been introduced to De Niro's character at the start of the film (Johnny Boy blowing up letterboxes or similar, as i recall), here we get to see him proper. He arrives at a bar with two ladies who he has either picked up or (ahem) hired, checks in his pants and then proceeds to walk down the length of the bar with them, all smiles and greeting people. Keith Richards' legendary guitar and Jaggers' howling vocal provide the best soundtrack possible with the lyrics telling you all you need to know of the character. it's a moment that makes you think "i really wish i could do that".

The Boss By James Brown

in terms of audacious and career defining debut films, none more so than this first effort from Guy Richie, you could argue. he clearly clocked Scorsese's trick of making a great scene iconic with the correct soundtrack here. practically any scene involving music from this film, from the opening with Ocean Colour Scene's Hundred Mile High City to Fools Gold by The Stone Roses at the end, could have been selected. i, however, went with this one purely for the out of the box thinking shown on all fronts.
there was much mirth and humour found in the press by the idea that Vinnie Jones, footballer and nose biter of note, was to move into acting. no one thought there was any chance of him or any footballer (except Cantona) pulling it off, so his introduction to the film needed something a bit special. having the sounds of James Brown in uber-funk mode as Vinnie walks in, clad in as much black clothing as he is flashy gold jewellery, and then watch as he proceeds to smack someone senseless with, of all things, a sunbed is indeed something a bit special.
Guy Richie has a knack for this, shown by the use of Oasis in Snatch and The Clash in RockNRolla. to see what a good trick it is, watch a bad imitation - in the otherwise good film Layer Cake, one gets a scene of violence to the soundtrack of Ordinary World by Duran Duran. it just does not work.

Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

sometimes it feels like the only two people in the world who love this film are myself and Patrick Bateman out of American Psycho. that should concern me a bit i suppose, but it does not. it's just that for some reason the rest of the world is unaware of what an amazing, excellent film this is.
not only does this film put the song to great use (it is the soundtrack to the, erm, adult-orientated movie-within-a-movie that Craig Wasson and Melanie Griffith are making), it also puts the band to great use, having most of them visible in the scene itself. Holly Johnson appears to sing the song and guide Wasson through the (ahem) exploits going on, Paul Rutherford is sat at the bar chilling, digging everything. i have never had it confirmed if the other three members of the band are in the scene somewhere, although one of the chaps in a mask looks like it might be Ped.
what better song, i ask you, could be used for the scene to which it appears as the soundtrack for? it's the kind of thing the song was composed for. a masterstroke, if you will excuse the expression, by Brian De Palma and the team who made this film to get the song and the band involved.

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

if i had to select a favourite moment, then it is probably this one if not the one above. yes, it's that good.
the film soundtrack is loaded with 80s classics from both sides of the Atlantic. it is also filled with amazing moments of filmmaking and storytelling. in regards of the latter there, it contains one of the greatest scenes ever. John Cusack goes to visit the grave of his father. he stands in silence, empties a bottle of whiskey onto it, throws the bottle away and then walks off. in less than two minutes you have the entire story of this particular father-son relationship, presented visually in a way better than most films that have spent hours on this one particular theme have managed. genius.
combining the soundtrack and visuals best, however, is the bit at the school reunion dance, where ruthless but cute hitman Cusack is left alone with a baby briefly. in comes the "this is our last dance" verse from Under Pressure as a hypnotic scene plays out where Cusack and the baby stare into each others eyes. in a way as subtle as you can imagine, the facial expressions of both change, as if they are exchanging tales of innocence lost and innocence to be preserved and saved for as long as possible. one leaves the scene with a feeling that all of a sudden Cusack "gets" this whole "feeling" business that has been oddly absent from the last ten years of his life. a truly beautiful moment in a wonderful, must-see film.

Jump Into The Fire by Nilsson / Magic Bus by The Who / Monkey Man by The Rolling Stones

now then, Goodfellas, and indeed this scene, feature in the Time Out list. for some reason, though, they focus on the end of this part with the piano exit / coda from Clapton's Layla. whereas the whole scene - Henry Hill's last day as a GoodFella - is breathtaking, it's the start of it which i remembered the strongest.
there are few better ways to start any day than with a blast of Harry Nilsson. if that day is to feature firearms and drugs, then the roving bass, the smashing drums and splendid guitar and howls of Jump Into The Fire is what you want. if you are going to do an absolutely massive line of coke with your mistress and then look up with wide, bloodshot eyes, then Mick Jagger screaming "I'M A MONKEEEYYYYYAAAH" is what you want to be hearing. if you're going to be ripped to the hilt on coke and go out driving, all but ramming your foot through the floor of the car as you slam on breaks to avoid an accident whilst you are in a vehicle full of guns and silencers that do not fit, then Roger Daltrey wailing "i want it, i want it, i want it" would probably be the best way to describe the rush. in respect of the latter, Scorsese specifically selected Daltrey's vocal from Live At Leeds for this scene.
considering how many music-related scenes from GoodFellas could be picked here - how about De Niro contemplating murder as he stands at a bar smoking with Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love playing for a start - just how dazzling this montage is should be apparent. i have been known to just skip to this segment and watch it again and again, to be honest.

well, that's my "other" ten to go on top of the linked list. i hope this has brought back some memories for you, or indeed inspired you to go and watch one or two of the films. or just Grosse Pointe Blank at the least. if i have missed any out, or you know of equally good or even better ones, feel free to leave a comment!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jonny Guitar Live - 29 Jan 2012

hey everyone

well, what can i say - a week to go until we get another excellent gig via Stage It. the vastly talented Jonathan Granville will be online again doing another show. he will be performing on the evening of Sunday 29 January 2012, details available
by clicking right here.

i am not really in the business of giving praise where it is not deserved. if he was rubbish i would simply have denied ever knowing him and "defriended him". as it happens, i am fortunate to know him as it has meant i've got to hear some outstanding guitar and indeed a fair few of the best lyrics i've ever had the pleasure of.

to get to the gig is really simple. you just need to go to StageIt and login, either with an account for the site or with your facebook details. you need to purchase a minimum of US$5 worth of tickets, and those you can use at any show they have on. you can then use as many or as few as you like for Jonathan's show, which you can access via this link.

it shall be 30 minutes of your life that you shall not regret, well worth the time of any music fan.

if for some reason you fear that the show will not be Rock and Roll enough for you, observe if you will the below picture.

i really look forward to chatting to a few of you online at the gig as we listen to some outstanding tunes!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Samsung and the quest for zero clients

hi everyone

well, the first part of this post will be a little bit of help intended for people who have recently bought a Samsung SyncMaster SA10 monitor and are struggling to get the thing to come on with a Windows 7 PC. and believe me, there are many. i am doing it in the wild hope that google or similar helps people looking for assistance, as i found precisely none on the internet.

the second part shall be for pure whine / your humour purposes, so please take it or leave it.

righty-ho, starting with the assistance. the Samsung SyncMaster SA10 monitor gets very good reviews, and presently you can get it for a rather good price here. the trick is that many PCs running Windows 7 simply do not like it in respect of plug and play - all you get is a black, powered off screen when you plug it in. eventually, i worked it out.

here is how you get your new Samsung SynchMaster SA10 or S19A10N to work :

plug in your old monitor and power up.

right click (assuming you have a right handed mouse setting) on the desktop and select "screen resolution".

on screen resolution select the lowest possible resolution, normally 800x600.

don't worry that your screen will looked messed up and be showing barely a quarter of the screen. just make sure you click "accept settings".

switch off PC, plug in your new Samsung SynchMaster SA10 or S19A10N, power up and voila! watch as your new monitor now comes on and self or auto adjusts to run fine.

yeah, it really is that simple. so simple you would have thought it easy enough to tell someone this up front. sadly, however, Samsung take a radically different approach to assisting clients.

firstly, when searching for help for a Samsung SynchMaster SA10 you do not find much at all. once you clock that Samsung prefer to call it the Samsung SynchMaster 19A10N, however, you get somewhere. i really do get fed up with this - Samsung are not the only guilty ones. they sell you a product with one particular name, but then refer to it as their "special name" alone on their side. just why is it so difficult to make something, pick a name for it and then stick to just using that name alone on a universal level?

right, here you go with a transcript of 1 (one) hour i spent having an online chat with someone in the USA to try and get this fixed. read if you wish, but if you want the highlights, it is only one hour into the conversation that i get the advice above that let me work out how to use it.

Chat start time Jan 20, 2012 4:43:06 PM EST
Chat end time Jan 20, 2012 5:53:32 PM EST
Duration (actual chatting time) 01:10:26
Operator Danny

Danny: Hi, thanks for reaching out to Samsung tech support. How can I help you today?

lee: Hi there

Danny: Hi, please go ahead with your query.

lee: i just bought a Samsung synchmaster SA 10 s19a 10n, running Win 7 home premium. i just get a blank screen. when i plug it in to an XP PC it works fine.

Danny: I see that you are not chatting from the U.S. Did you purchase the unit in the U.S?

lee: nope, down here in South Africa. the model code is ls19a 10ns/xa

lee: i think, at least - model number print is very small.

lee: is there some sort of setting in Win 7 i need to change? when i press the power on the monitor i just get the mouse logo for sleep mode, moved mouse, pressed keys, nothing.

Danny: I am sorry; we are trained on Samsung US Products only. I recommend you contact your local phone support number at: 0860 726786 Mon-Fri 08-00 AM-18:00 PM. Sat-Sun : 08:00AM to 17:00 PM Closed on Sundays.

lee: you know, this is the last time i buy Samsung! no help anywhere! Win 7 is Win 7 wherever you are in the world!!!

lee: it works on an XP machine but not Windows 7?

Danny: I understand your frustration and I truly apologize for the same.

lee: nothing on your site anywhere, except lots of people with the same problem. are you telling me you have never heard of this before?

Danny: I am sorry for the inconvenience caused to you.

Danny: We don't have any known issues with the monitor.

lee: except when you look on the page for it on your site and there are problems people have listed, no answers given?

Danny: All Samsung monitors are Plug and Play.

lee: except this one, which plugs in but does not play. why not? what are the power settings i need to adjust on Windows 7 to make it work or respond to a "wake up" from the keyboard or mouse?

Danny: The technical information and specifications of a monitor vary from country to country. Also, the voltage and the power requirement vary from place to place.
lee: you really don't want to help, do you? it has nothing to do with voltage, i have told you it works on an XP machine but not a Win 7 one. the web is full of people with the same problem and no answers. for some reason it does not respond to "wake up

lee: on Windows 7, why not and how do i change the settings in Win 7 so that it does please?

Danny: I am sorry for the inconvenience.

Danny: Would you mind holding a few minutes while I gather the required information for your request?

lee: yeah, sure, midnight here, have been battling since 6pm to get a flicker of life, why not

Danny: Thank you.

Danny: Thank you for holding.

Danny: I suggest you please try connecting the monitor to another windows 7 PC.
lee: how many pcs do you think i have? if you look around the web and your own site this is a recurring problem, are you seriously saying you have no idea what settings i need to change to?

Danny: I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

lee: are you saying just take it back to the store and get an LG, then?

Danny: We don't have information about any known issues with the monitor.

lee: oh yes you do - please go to your own site for this model and look at all the unanswered questions people have posted, some with the exact problem i have.

Danny: There are no settings on the monitor for any operating system, the monitor is plug and play.

lee: let me try again - plug it into a Windows 7 PC, nothing, plug it into a Windows XP PC, works perfectly, what settings need changing in Windows 7 to make it work. the driver i downloaded from your site for it makes no difference.

Danny: All Samsung monitors are Plug and Play and there is no need to install drivers. The same holds true for windows 7 operating systems as well.

lee: so why do you have drivers for download and how do i fix this?

Danny: I am sorry; we have reached the limit of our technical knowledge on this product. We recommend calling 0860 726786 Mon-Fri 08-00 AM-18:00 PM. Sat-Sun : 08:00AM to 17:00 PM . They are trained in this product, and will be able to assist you further

lee: i have reached the end of my patience with Samsung. back to the shop with this printed out to show that you will not help, then posting it everywhere i can as a warning to anyone thinking of your products. hopefully one day you will make things that you can work and assist with,

Danny: I understand your frustration and I truly apologize for the same.

lee: then why not help? how hard can it be to tell someone where and what they change in the power saving setting so that the monitor and pc are speaking to each other?

Danny: I am sorry, we don't have knowledge about the settings in your monitor. We are trained on the US products only.

lee: it's the same thing as you have in the US according to your website. the problem is settings in Windows 7, which is a universal, unless you'd care to tell me about a Windows 7 USA only edition?

lee: http://www.samsung.com/us/computer/monitors/LS19A10NS/ZA#-reviews?bvaction=writereview

lee: the "us" bit in the address is a bit of a giveaway.

Danny: Thank you for the information.

lee: great, a pleasure to give you your own information back. does it help you to help me, in the words of Cuba Gooding jnr?

lee: i guess not.....

Danny: Would you mind holding a few minutes while I gather the required information for your request?

lee: ok

Danny: Thank you.

Danny: Thank you for being on hold, it is taking more time than required for me to pull up the information, please be on hold for the next few minutes.

lee: sure, way past my bedtime anyway

Danny: I will be right with you.

Danny: I am sorry.

Danny: Thank you for holding.

Danny: Could you please let me know are you using different PC's for XP and Windows7?
lee: yes i am, 2 different PCs. sorry if that wasn't clear in the 3 or 4 times i said i plugged it into a different pc.

Danny: Thank you for the information.

Danny: Which connection cables you are using to connect both the PC's to monitor?

lee: the one that came with the monitor?

Danny: Are you using the same cable for both PC's?

lee: it's not the cable because when i disconnect that all of a sudden your monitor works to tell me no cable is connected.

Danny: Thank you for the information.

lee: yes, same cable. monitor and cable are fine, the problem, as i did mention in passing, is that your monitor does not like Win 7 in respect of thos power saving rubbish.

Danny: Thank you for the information.

Danny: Could you please let me know native resolution set on the windows 7 PC?

lee: where do i find that info?

Danny: Please click on the below link to set native resolution on your PC.

Danny: http://support-us.samsung.com/cyber/popup/iframe/pop_troubleshooting_fr.jsp?idx=152790&modelname=S19A10N&modelcode=&session_id=PZcljQvJPpG40pdVP2lJcTKLD4dwqpVQnNSGJyX0PLnt1vGpLyMm!1007829046!-1367578310!1327094949554

Danny: Are you able to access the link?

lee: resolution 1280x1024(reccomended). this of course is on my old working monitor

lee: i have spent some time changing that setting this evening, switching off, plugging in the Samsung, getting a blank screen every time.

Danny: resolution native resolution of the monitor is 1366x768. Could you please set the native resolution to 1366x768?

lee: it goes no higher than 1280x1024 so i cannot do that.

Danny: Please reduce the native resolution to 720p.

lee: lowest it goes is 800x600

Danny: Please set it 800X600 native resolution and let me know if the issue persists.

lee: and how do i do that? i do not have the samsung plugged in, hence me being able to see this?

lee: i need a solution i can try once this is done.

Danny: Thank you for the information.

lee: i really don't get this Thank you for the information thing, it's a touch condescending and patronizing. i have explained the issue, advised you that it apparently common with Samsung and Win 7 and yet you seem to just skip this.

lee: btw, as i mentioned earlier, tried all the different settings on resolution and a blank screen, so yes the problem persists.

lee: the issue, once again, is that the monitor and PC are not communicating in regards of the power save thing.

Danny: The device needs to be serviced. Please file an online service request so that your monitor will be serviced.

lee: you are kidding? i just bought it brand new today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lee: it also works perfectly on an XP machine, you seem to forget>

Danny: I recommend you contact your local phone support number at: 0860 726786 Mon-Fri 08-00 AM-18:00 PM. Sat-Sun : 08:00AM to 17:00 PM Closed on Sundays.

Danny: I could've helped you if I had enough information on it and do not want to give you any wrong information. I hope you can understand our limitations.

lee: i have given you every single scrap of information there is, please do not speak such nonsense. your limitation seems to be you sell a product that people complain about and you cannot tell anyone how to fix it.

lee: cheers, thanks for nothing.

well, there you have it. how peculiar that Samsung wish to sell to the world and yet only offer support and help (if it can be called that) to US clients on a facility that can be accessed around the world.

i must say i am very happy with the monitor now that it is up and running, and indeed shall cherish it as the very last Samsung item i ever purchase.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

getting cut off in traffic.....

....isn't quite so bad, i suppose, when it's a Ferrari doing it to you. i mean, why else would you buy one?

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Listening To Who - Episode 6 : A Quick One

hello there

well, welcome to the latest edition of listening to The Who at random. this shall be, alas or happily for you, the last one for a bit. will go into that a bit later, but for now let's worry about what this one is.

and those of you who are astute enough to have read the title will know that what i have been listening to of late is their second album, A Quick One.

A Quick One, or Happy Jack as it was renamed in the States so as to avoid causing offence by innuendo, was the second album from the band. The debut album, My Generation, sold well enough to get Gold status and the non-album singles released in between, in particular Substitute and I’m A Boy, sold well enough to make it into the Top 10. It’s fair to say, then, that there was a degree of expectation for sales to be even bigger for this record.

The album, oddly despite getting a higher chart position, did not do this, selling less than the debut. This is a bit of a pity as, in my opinion and that the accepted risk of offending or outraging fans of the debut, this one is a much better album. The sales were perhaps hampered by someone (perhaps the label, maybe producer Kit Lambert) insisting on stating on the front of the record that one should use specific equipment and settings to hear the record “properly”; something that could well be off-putting to someone who has no idea what they are talking about.

With only one cover version on the record (Heat Wave), the album boasts compositions from all members of the band, and all songs being of a fairly high quality. Sure, the bulk is still Pete Townshend, but if I tell you that this is the album which features John Entwistle’s Boris The Spider and Cobwebs And Strange, the music hall via the psychedelic Sixties contribution from Keith Moon that served as the soundtrack to his segment on the The Kids Are Alright film, you presumably get the idea of what I am speaking about. It’s not like Roger’s contribution, See My Way, is bad either.

In general, the sound seems to move away from the traditional (i.e. not modern rubbish that has ruthlessly stolen the name) R & B and pop sound towards a skiffle via swing style with a good lashing of the psychedelic sound so strongly linked to the time, in particular with Roger’s vocals. There is also, thanks to Keith Moon’s obsession with the sound, a distinct West Coast (USA) Beach vibe going on. This certainly makes for a great record, and applies to all tracks on the album bar one – the opus which gives the album its name, A Quick One, While He’s Away.

The common consensus is that the track A Quick One, While He’s Away is Pete Townshend’s first go at a Rock or Pop Opera. This isn’t strictly speaking true – I’m A Boy, released before this, was intended to form part of a bigger concept, or if you will “concept album”. I’m not going to get into the whole debate of what constitutes a concept album nor the argument about which was the first one ever to surface. The main thing is, I suppose, that a track of this nature had seldom, if ever, been tried by a “pop” group before, although of course it would be something that would come to characterize The Who in the future.

As for the song itself, well, “fun” is the first word that springs to mind. It’s a saucy, cheeky tale of infidelity and forgiveness, taking in a whole range of musical styles to tell different parts of the story. One of the most famous musical styles The Who ever used features here, of course. As the song moves towards its end, or if you will climax, one gets to hear the band chanting “Cello” over and over again? Why? Well, the band wanted an actual cello quartet on the record, but were told that there was not enough money for it. As a consequence, either as a cynical dig or just an innocent idea, they simply took to just chanting the name of the instrument over the parts where they wanted it to be.

Whereas this song came to be great, it has to be said that the initial version of it here is in many ways the least satisfactory version of it. The best, without doubt, is the composite version made from studio and live recordings that featured on the 30 Years Of Maximum R & B album. Other than that one, any live version tends to work better – the one on Live At Leeds in particular, but the band doing it on the infamous Rolling Stones Rock N Roll Circus is a must have. Legend has it that it’s The Who’s performance of it on the show which left the Stones feeling they had been overshadowed and outperformed, hence them never officially releasing the film for many years.

Whereas the album itself is pretty good, it’s the rich amount of extras that come with the CD that make this an essential purchase. Topping that list would be 80% of the tracks which made up the legendary Ready Steady Who EP.

Disappointingly, the 20% missing is Circles, aka Instant Party. This track sits up there with Success Story off The Who By Numbers as a great tune that the band seem not to exploit the greatness of as much as they could. No matter, one can find this great song on the My Generation album, or if you can find it the Singles Box. To hear an exceptional cover version of it, though, you should consider finding a copy of Substitute : The Songs Of The Who to hear Paul Weller’s great take on it.

Leaving aside what’s not there, the other four tracks are seldom released and thus well worth having. Of particular high quality is the bands’ take on the 60s Batman theme. How good is it? Michele and I have had to play it about 100 times in the last week for the boys, with James coming to the conclusion that The Who must be the best band in the world on the basis of their version. That good. Also included is their cover of Barbra Ann, which was done at more or less the same time as the more famous cover by The Beach Boys, something which suggests a Mr Keith Moon was behind the band doing it.

Since we have brought Mr Moon up, a track he wrote on the “album proper”, I Need You, is widely perceived as an attack on The Beatles. For some reason Keith got it into his head that they were “talking about him” behind is back and thus, the story goes, simply did not like them. Odd when you consider what good friends he and Ringo were, but anyway. A song which is unmistakably a go at The Beatles is a b-side included here, Doctor, Doctor. It’s credited to John Entwistle, but have a listen – the song is basically The Beatles’ Help!, presented with different, possibly interpreted as “having a pop” lyrics.

There are even more extras, but to dwell on two more of them for your money you get a previously unreleased “acoustic” version of Happy Jack that sounds rather more like a calypso version of it (it’s excellent either way) and a quite frankly incendiary, ingenious take of My Generation that phases in to Land Of Hope And Glory. Moon’s drumming on this take of My Generation ranks as some of the best the lad ever did, which is saying something.

It would appear that A Quick One was not all that popular when initially released. This should not discourage anyone from seeking it out, as there’s really rarely a bad moment on the album. True, there are not all that many moments of astonishing greatness, but what it is certainly stands as above average.

currently both amazon and HMV have this album going for £3.97 at the moment, so take your pick in regards of where you'd rather buy it from. it is certainly worth getting!

and with that, i think i have done my bit for labour of love, unpaid celebration of Who albums for a little while. the only other two i wish to write about are those two rather large, monolithic in size and scale rock operas that i hardly need name here. in order to do them the justice they deserve i think it best to take a break from the sound of the band for a while, but i assure you i will write of them later on this year.

in the mean time, thank you very much indeed for reading!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!