Thursday, 21 October 2010

Remember how it started?

I first met Mark Straw at a party – in a darkened room – my head swimming with cider and my mouth brimming with words. Mark made me laugh. A lot. Mark was also a marine with a slick side in modernist aesthetics – he was a ticking, clicking, gin sipping time bomb who put a smile across your face in an instant. I miss Mark. A lot.

Mark and I liked Paul Weller. We did not know this at first but we would [solid] bond over Weller’s look, lyrics and loves as those summers raced by. Clean living in dirty times was our mantra. To be fair I looked a right old hippy when I met him – in some attempt to grow out my hair – through what I would still like to imagine as a quality Ian Brown phase – but in retrospect I looked like a fat version of my mother in the 1960s – with a more pasty complexion and sunken eyes. So my hair was getting wilder but mind was staying focused. Again I would liken this to Roger Daltrey’s modernist balance in Tommy – it’s reckless, relentless but focused with the right amount of humour and aggression. This is where I was at.

I was in the throes of trying to hang on to a London life I had left behind – arriving back from that hippest of institutions – that Goldsmiths’ vibe man – I had surrendered the cultural sights and slights to a life at first behind a bar and then propping one up. But at least those Scunthorpe soul [less] days were spent with soulful people. All will be written about at some point. You are not forgotten.

Once again Paul has the underlying role in all of this [I have discovered some tunes myself] he returned home from town one day clutching THE PAUL WELLER MOVEMENT 12 inch single – those first bars of Into Tomorrow – descending scales and fluid bass as we all took a trip down boundary lane – and here I found myself again. I’d been losing track of myself [somewhere] for while – I would do again funnily enough but now was the time to wallow in the Weller and take that modernist approach to getting high/ by. This sudden grand return to modernism – a backlash against the grunge – the Seattle [freak] scene was welcomed in the North – it meant a return to suits – you see you know where you stand with a suit – you get dressed up for a Friday night. See me walking around – I’m the man about town that you heard of.

And Paul Weller was the catalyst for all of this – the loaded scene – the reinvention of the new male – one who could laugh at the 70s but secretly yearn that it was all a lot easier when Benny Hill was prime time. Now I had my fair share of mightily misogynistic moments – but I didn’t want to nail my colours to a scene of ignorance and stupidity of football chanting mediocrity - and Weller I feel had a little more soul than areshole about him. And that first single chimed with the times – it embraced the changes we were all looking for – and it made the style council seem redundant. It seemed if Weller had really channelled the Marriot magic and the Paul Weller Movement album just proved this - it’s underlying funk and RnB riot laying siege to the modernist within.

So we bought flat fronted trousers in markets in Manchester. Scoured second hand shops for shirts and tops and looked for new loafers to loaf in at public houses. And a dear friend Richard even got handy with the sewing machine, an iron and some soap – and was turning out the four button high collar suits with flat fronted fixed crease narrow cut trousers. I cannot fit into mine now. At that point I was the face. If you wanted it.

But let’s get back to Weller.

I saw him at the Royal Albert Hall – early Wild Wood tour. He simply was on it. It was excess with finesse. Craddock and White holding it all in – as Weller strutted in his Peacock Suit and sang with the masses. This was not dad rock – it never was to be honest. But lazy journalists like lazy terms.

But Mark and I’s love of the Weller would culminate in us sending ‘Stanley Road’ home in a taxi as Paul raged evermore and I drank to excess in The Honest Lawyer. You see I was a postman – that meant I was always up early – not always awake but up early. To sort my round – to put the letters in the frame – to bag up and get out. Feeling resentful like Jimmy in Quadrophenia. So with instructions to purchase the CD box set of Stanley Road – in its 12inch Peter Blake designed glory – I finished my round of the downtown of Westcliff and the surrounding environs and made my way to Mark’s so we could go buy it together.

Duly purchased we made our way to the finest public house in Scunthorpe – The Honest Lawyer and had what would be described as loosener. And then we had several more. All the time that Record Village plastic bag lay at the bar – shouting out that it was meant to be being played in a bedroom somewhere on the way to Ashby. It was one of those drunken epiphanies – to call the local cab office – to send it home – in the front seat the belt on. It arrived safely and I eventually rolled home. You see music can do that – it can send you spinning into places unknown.

And often with Mark the unknown turned out to be a revelation.

And often Paul Weller provided the soundtrack.

Paul Weller Time Passes

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

I am counting bleeps

I had a feeling this was rolling into some guitar based – keeping the indie spirit [dead or] alive and sometimes it was the sound of machines that soothed my heart and perhaps I should write about that.

I guess those industrial towns that bring the soul down were crying out for the onslaught of technological future music and despite my loathing of a system that exploits and plunders people as commodities I’m thankful Detroit has burned and burned over the years. Because to be honest this is where I trace most of my musical journeys [oh you can say it was New York or Chicago or London and Manchester] but i think my heart lays somewhere in that Motor City. Admist the burned and broken buildings resides soul and I know you got soul.

But I don’t want to be all historical – and social – and political today – I just want to write about beats and bleeps. We know that these tunes are political statements – they are weapons – they undercut the banality of pop culture in an effort to create something new. They are opinions – wrapped up in LFO modulation calling out from that thick black vinyl to those who see new futures and horizons.

They make me want to dance.

I guess the thrill of the pill and the sublime experiences of acid house culture stay with you over time – but I was dreaming to the sound of repetitive beats for a long time before [if you count The Ronnettes – Be my Baby as a floor stomper] This Scunthorpe soul was amazed by the KORG catalogues in ‘Paul’s Music’ and Roland keyboards on TOTP – in fact the first instrument I owned wasn’t a guitar - it was CASIO MT65. Sort of creamy white with a few orange switches – it had simple drum loops and sounds you couldn’t modulate. But it felt like a synthesizer to me – like I was a member of The Human League or Depeche Mode.

And over time I would return to the euphoria of the acid bass line, the heavy beats and gated reverbs of ‘dance music’ – I just call it ‘music’ but you know some people get hung up on all of that. So it turns to late Saturday night this weekend just gone. Emma has ventured out – in celebratory style to drink, eat and laugh - looking happy and beautiful as she leaves for the taxi. Which leaves me at home with the twins and Constance – thankfully sleeping and thus giving me an evening to.

So where to start – as ever it starts with the beats – not the guitar and I find ‘High Tech Soul’, a DVD ordered some time back and still yet to be viewed. That’s because of children, tiredness and the fact that Emma knows that Derrick May ,Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson will not make her laugh like The Odd Couple or Miss Congeniality will. Nonetheless this paean to the emerging Techno scene of Detroit – the history it is not – but all the greats are on show – discussing those underground sounds that make you get down, finds its way to the DVD and I watch enthralled and amazed at the sound that Detroit produced – I remember those nights when Eddie ‘Flashin’ Fowlkes played – or Ritchie Hawtin or Weatherall and I was all out of breath and smiling and giddy and fawning and super charged and on it.

And then as I check the Guide [you see it’s The Guardian in our house – not just on Weekends either – papers should be delivered] I see that Fabric are hosting the 25th Birthday Party for Metroplex,with Juan Atkins manning the decks amongst other legends of Detroit.

And I am home – with children listening

And I am still dancing

MODEL 500:  No UFOs 1985