Monday, 31 December 2007

Stop! by Sam Brown

Another disc from the second-hand racks of Vinyl Village in Barkingside...

I suppose I was curious why the single Stop! wasn't followed up in any big way. After all, they pulled out all the stops (hmmm...) in promoting that single - memorable video, red lips, platinum blonde hair, red outfit.

Maybe there wasn't another hit on there of the same quality, but
the rest of it was pretty decent: a varied album which sounds like a group of talented musicians had fun making. It just doesn't find its way onto the CD player often enough.

Sam's wikipedia entry says she's an artist in control of her music, not prepared to bend to the will of interfering record companies and preferring to avoid the limelight. She also co-wrote a song with Maria McKee.

Have I been too hasty here..?

The Joshua Tree by U2 - Remastered Deluxe edition

Irresistable and flying off the shelves quicker than you can click confirm, such that prices on eBay are already escalating.

Will doubtless be repressed in a month or so.

City of Sin by This Picture

I first saw This Picture playing a lunchtime set in the big top at Greenbelt 1987. In the programme they professed to be influenced by Led Zeppelin and The Waterboys, a clever way for a rock group to avoid mentioning U2 in the 1980s. Their peformance was understated, but the music was interesting, so I resolved to keep an eye out for them.

A year later they were headlining in the big top on a Saturday night and their confidence had grown measurably. Simon Bye was prowling the stage with an air of practised distraction, resembling a rustic Michael Hutchence in his brown corduroy jacket. Stephen Hughes's remarkable bass playing ensured he wasn't dwarfed by the green-illuminated Trace Elliot stack standing behind him. Top hat-wearing Robert Forrester tore at his guitar while brother Duncan was pounding the drums behind him. This was the template for This Picture live shows for the next couple of years.

I began following This Picture's London shows. I remember two at The Mean Fiddler in Harlesden, supporting Something Happens and Blue In Heaven. At one I cheered the announcement of "Rape The Hillside", only for Simon Bye to pause after the first word of the title leaving me feeling extremely uncomfortable. There was no Underground to Harlesdesn, so I'd borrow my dad's car and drive back to Essex afterwards around a nearly-deserted North Circular Road.

A friend of the group who'd travelled up from the west country kindly made me a tape of their Radio One session for Janice Long and their first demo, both featuring signature song "Naked Rain". Within a year Rough Trade would release a one-off EP featuring a less-interesting version with violins over the introduction.

The group signed to Dedicated Records whose headquarters in Notting Hill weren't far from the office where I worked as a record plugger. I struck up a friendship with Colleen who worked there and popped in regularly to drop off copies of records we were promoting, and - self-servingly - pick up copies of their latest stock. It was great - and slightly rare - meeting people who were as enthusiastic about music as I was.

There was a hiatus as Stephen Hughes was replaced by Austen Rowley on bass. That saddened me, but I continued to follow This Picture across London - The Borderline, Fulham Greyhound and The Underworld - to the mainstage at Greenbelt. They released an album - A Violent Impression - featuring some of the songs they were playing live, alongside newer compositions. It felt slightly unbalanced and the songs sounded like they'd been swamped by the studio during the extended gestation.

I spoke with Simon briefly at The Underworld show, half hoping we might get some plugging work, only to find they were handled by one of the leading pluggers in the business. He told me about Stephen's departure, remaining optimistic for the future. As time went on, the recession deepened. I left the music business. Dedicated Records was disbanded. This Picture ended up on Arista who released this album and then tried to ignore it. Other than the singles, I don't recognise the songs... but it still has its moments.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

The Brothers McMullen

One of the few films cited in Peter Biskind's Down And Dirty Pictures which I've never seen, this independent film was shot over ten weekends.

It doesn't seem to rate highly with anyone, but should still be inspiring.

U2 - Popmart Live From Mexico City (Special Edition)

It seems increasingly unlikely I'll pick this up cheaper.

Whether I'll watch it again is another question.

I wonder if I'm really improving?

Men, Women, & Chain Saws Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover

I took a course in "horror films and their audience" at the NFT led by Dr. Brigid Cherry. This book, and Barbara Creed's The Monstrous Feminine were frequently cited, so they've been on my to read list for a while.

Academic but not impenetrable, this takes a deeper look at "low culture" horror movies and makes some useful points about the gender roles in the stories told.

A nice addition to the film library.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Sounds of Science by Beastie Boys

This is good... it has all the hits... the ones which are always on the radio... and is thus redundant.

Monday, 24 December 2007

White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity by Swans

I acquired a lot of freebies while working in the music business. I clung tightly to them, not admitting I never listened to any of them.

Perhaps I convinced myself it made up for not always getting paid.

Most of it was dodgy vinyl from "has-beens, never were and never will bes", but occasionally there was something genuinely interesting.

Swans were an experimental group from New York with a reputation for making noise, who emerged around the same time as Sonic Youth.

I listened to Sonic Youth more. I should probably have put this on a few more times.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Mission by Patrick Tilley

This has been hanging around a long time, ever since I bought it, new, in Forbidden Planet, Denmark Street, in 1983.

I seem to remember reading a summary of the story in the back of another book, perhaps The Soul Of A New Machine by John Tracy Kidder?

Although it recounts the fantastic story of the discovery of Jesus Christ's body (which subsequently returns to life) in contemporary New York, the consequences are explored logically, in a similar way to Ken Grimwood's Replay.

Fond of the story, I hung on to it for sentimental reasons. But I can't imagine re-reading it now.

Sorry Patrick. And I only just discovered you too hail from Essex...

Friday, 21 December 2007

Hold Your Horses by The Piney Gir Country Roadshow

Although I made the video for The Great Divide, I never picked up a copy of the album as Piney had given us a promo copy to work from.

It was great to listen to, but I can't live without a copy of the full release.

Now, I just need a copy of the EP with the video on!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Rattle And Hum by U2

Flicking through my U2 LPs recently while updating my website, something I sadly haven't done
for several years, I noticed a hole where the double vinyl version of Rattle And Hum should have been. I had a Canadian copy, a Yugoslavian version and now even a Japanese one, but no UK release.

Scouring the eBay listing, the copies I saw in reasonably condition were all too high-priced - I was even outbid on a couple - so when I came across a couple of decent copies in Cambridge market, I handed over the cash.

It won't take up much room. Will it?

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got by Sinead O'Connor

I was walking through Westbourne Park on my way to work once when I saw a shaven headed woman in fluffy pink slippers and a Public Enemy t-shirt walking back from the post box at the end of the road.

"Hah! Sinead O'Connor," I laughed to myself, not having many bald female reference points beyond Lt. Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

As walked past me, I realised it was Sinead O'Connor.

I bought this album some time earlier, from the secondhand racks of Vinyl Village in Barkingside. It was one of those albums I thought I should hear. After I'd heard it, I rarely returned to it. Not because it's bad - it isn't: I Am Stretched On Your Grave particularly sticks in my mind. Perhaps the more mass market appeal of this album over its predecessor put me off.

I saw Sinead a few more times. Once cycling along Talbot Road with her son on the back of her bike. Another time she beckoned me past as I waited for her to reverse her car out of her driveway.
And now I am beckoning this CD off the shelf and onwards to a new life.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Now Ain't the Time for Your Tears by Wendy James

Unlike some of my friends, I was never a big fan of Tranvision Vamp, but I was intrigued when I heard Elvis Costello had written an album for Wendy James. Moreso when I read articles implying the songs were a tongue-in-cheek jab at the supposedly unaware singer and Costello was refusing to comment.
Listening to the album, the issue is ambiguous. London's Brilliant copies the opening riff of Clash City Rockers and mentions "...digging up the bones of Strummer and Jones..." but it sounds more affectionate than a spoof.
A colleague once asked Wendy James when she was going to release a jazz album. "When I'm forty," she sneered sarcastically. We're still waiting.
I am not waiting to hear this again. Off you trot.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Flowers of Romance by Public Image Ltd.

I felt I should be more familiar with Public Image Ltd.'s repertoire, so I bought this.

I didn't listen to it much.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Attack Of The Clones

Another gift I found it hard to get rid of.
My dad tries hard, he really does. He saw "Attack Of The Clones" on my Amazon wish list and went out and bought the DVD for me. Isn't that great?
But I was the music I wanted. On CD. This I would have waited for until a triple trilogy boxed set came out.
And I would have bought that boxed set too, if the final film hadn't been so poor.
Actually, this is the better of the latter three... give it back!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Jerky Boys by Jerky Boys

An NME cassette from the late 80s featured an amusing prank phone call from this album titled "The Egyptian Magician", featuring a character named Tarbash describing his act to a potential agent on the phone ("Then I take fork and stab customer in eye. But in my country, that is considered art.").
I bought the album, listened to it, laughed and put it on my shelf.
Now, nearly 20 years later, I'm taking it off my shelf.
It's gone.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Ni Un Passo Atras, Folkways: A Vision Shared, Common Ground: Voices of Modern Irish Music, Greenpeace Rainbow Warriors - all by Various

My collection of U2 appearances on compilations is impressive, but not exhaustive.

Common Ground was released the weekend I went to Dublin with a couple of friends on a U2 pilgrimage, visiting lots of sites associated with the band, missing them at their studio at Hanover Quay as they worked on Pop (Bono's Bristol was parked outside). I first heard the version of Tomorrow on this album in an HMV store in the centre of Dublin on a Sunday morning (after a night at The Kitchen). I never bought it at the time.

Jesus Christ from Folkways: A Vision Shared was recorded in the Sun Studios session featured in Rattle And Hum, although the track doesn't appear in the film. One of the great compilation songs, I never owned a CD copy before.

Greenpeace: Rainbow Warriors is an archetypal 80s compilation - almost everyone you can think of is on it. It opens with a different edit of the live version of Pride (In The Name Of Love) which appears on Rattle And Hum.

Ni Un Paso Atras! is a compilation I wasn't aware of which features some solo Bono tracks. I wouldn't usually bother.

More for the pile. Forgive me.

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Dead Zone

A memorable David Cronenberg film from a story by Stephen King, with a great central performance by Christopher Walken.
If I had the gift of second sight, would I still have bought this?
Maybe. I see no reason to hang on to it though.
I may watch it every ten years. But it'll probably be using different technology each time.