Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Things are getting repetitive

In order to change the style [go wild]

I have decided to abandon the format that the previous entries were taking for a post that is just simply a piece of music.

Just waves of sonic experimentation building to bleeps and bass. There are no facts to uncover - there are stories - but I'm not going to write them.

A grower.

They have been known to call it.

A grower.

Just cool it man - just cool it

We travelled to concerts by car – the trusted Hillman Imp, a Mk3 Escort, that white car – young drivers and young minds. Reversing up motorways in the dead of night, missing bends and turning off lights as we careered down country roads and lanes to the cities. Well, city mainly – we used to visit Hull a great deal. I used to live in Hull. Well not Hull but Borough – where they made the aeroplanes – but we moved and like the lost son – I would return in my youth for my fix of independent music.

The Aldephi is one of the most wonderful venues you could ever set foot in. Run by Paul Jackson – the John Peel of the North East – as far as I’m concerned. You see the Adelphi opened everybody’s eyes to something new. It just let bands play and play and play. It was cheap – it was cheerful and when I was writing my fanzine all those years ago it meant i got to interview bands and do all that music journalism stuff.
I would take the portable cassette player – a Phillips one- i think and my list of questions and corner some unsuspecting member of the Razorcuts, The Telescopes, Brilliant Corners, The Siddleys, The Valentines or Spacemen3 amongst others, and rattle them off and tape our wild ramblings – both pre and post gig. I sometimes taped the gig as well – the tapes now sit in the garage somewhere – gathering dust and gently warping in the humid air. With other concerts bought from record fairs in Leeds and Doncaster or tapes of gigs sent by a friend from a friend of a friend’s band. They are all there somewhere – documenting that C87 movement – the next wave of shambling cacophony.

The Aldephi holds about two hundred people – it might be more – it could be less – when The Williams played it normally held about 12 to 15 people. So you can see my view of its capacity is somewhat sullied by the solitary clapping of a man at the bar. And we used to take people to the gigs – who clearly couldn’t be bothered to clap. This is of course a lie – and written to reignite an interest in The Williams – actually we did play in front a few fairly sizeable crowds – that’s what you get from supporting better bands. Except when we supported Tombstone Grafitti – there were shit [this is of course in no way bitter that they went on to wondrous fame as Hull’s own Kingmaker the next month] We were a little avant garde by that time – I blame pale saints and sonic youth.

But as i keep saying this is about the music – and on a warm,warm night in June, the 21st actually – i found that out because someone else has kindly listed all the concerts they have been to – it just so happens he was there – printing the date on his blog - we had ventured over to see Spaceman3. Spaceman 3 - a band of brothers united by the stooges, the velvets and can [amongst other things]playing rock n roll to the indie kids on Vox 12 string Teardrops and overdriven amps. I came to late to the Space[man] race but soon understood the [raw] power of their sonic assault was worth investing in. From the early drones to the open soul of Purity and beyond the Spaceman 3 felt like a connection.

I wasn’t expecting the Adelphi to be heaving – but it was.

The whole place had an edge. The band had an edge – whilst sitting on chairs.

It was that kind of night.

The Summer of Love was over and the terrace crowds had rained down to the local bars in search of new sounds and experiences. It was if Oldham’s Firm had popped by for a bit of the old droney drone. The old fuzz, fuzz, fuzz with that LSD buzz. And the Adlephi was getting hotter. Minute by minute as the crowd swelled and swayed in the haze – man. I had already interviewed Sonic – round the back – all positive words for the [fucked] up children of the world.

And now had flipped the tape to record the gig.

And still it grew hotter – and more people joined the already heaving room – I was talking to my brother about this concert at the weekend and he informed me that he stood on a ledge – throughout the whole thing. I was somewhere in the first two rows – camera ready for that fanzine shot – when I sort of remember looking down on myself. It was if the swelling of the crowd and somehow just let me go – and I was there just having a look around the place from above.

And slowly they began to play – with Sonic ‘cooling down’ the crowd – if you don’t want this song in fifteen instalments – he told us – righteous – but we wouldn’t have minded. It was going to be a long night. And still the heat rose – and sweat turned to steam as we swayed and rolled our way through a spaceman set.
So hot in there.

And suddenly through the haze a guitar – [coming down] gently repeating – three notes – Jason seated – it’s so hot – but we’re all beginning to connect – except the scallies – wanting revolution and dope to ease their mid week blues – but I’m with Jason now – floating in space with all the other gentleman and all the other ladies. As the guitar repeats and gently we crave for a stream – to wash away all of our discomfort – not a stream – an ocean – right inside the Adelphi – to cool us down – but right now it’s the cool sounds that are letting us breathe through that simple refrain that it’s so hot.

And in the heat the tape would strain and warp – stretch these simple sounds into squelches and screeches –and monotone noises. Sonic’s interview held in stasis – trapped in the tape – along with the beautiful sounds the spacemen made that evening.

There was a version from Spaceman 3 - but I found this lurking in the background - and it was Jason's song afterall.

I like The Beatles – I don’t know whether I love the Beatles

She said John’s already up there – he’s waiting for you.

I think she said he was sitting on the bed. Richard and I were kind of freaked by that – but that was Richard’s mum for you – had a turn of phrase and smile and a welcome for the strays who would wander through that home – up the stairs and to the record player and television that resided in Richard’s room.

He first introduced me to the Beatles – not that I hadn’t heard of them already but by the tail end of the 1970s and the new beginnings of 1980s – The Beatles had kind of gone right out of fashion. They seemed to be from another era – another time back then. The dissipation of all things Beatles had happened – you could pick up a set of Rock n Roll 1 and 2 for a couple of quid in Woolworths – there was no awe. And to be honest there shouldn’t be – people get shot because of that. So it was through Richard’s record player that I got to hear the hits of the past, the obscure tracks and Revolution Number 9 in the dark. Because playing music should be exhilarating and communal at times – the [in] sound of the [in]crowd.

Paul and I once created a ‘horror’ experience that had us playing a Japan b-side – it was Burning Bridges [if you want to try it yourself] at 16rpm as you entered a room full of shock. You could do that on record players then – slow it down – speed it up – separate the sound – switch the speaker – get to understand sound.

Richard understood sound.

Still does.

He would play me The Beatles – point out a harmony, a sound, a beat, a this, a that – and I would listen [and learn] And over time I’ve fallen in and out of love with The Beatles – they’re a huge behemoth in the world of the popular – christ [you know it ain’t easy] they practically invented it all – the boy band – the serious band – the arguments – the plundering of this and that – juxtaposition – it’s a drag man.

Richard and I wrote a play about the Beatles. We were young. We never took it to the West End – it wasn’t a sure fire hit. We still might cast it – Michael York as Rory Storm – that sort of thing. We also partook in a fancy dress competition – in fact – the only fancy dress competition I was ever in – not that I haven’t tried to look like my idols over the years – like some sort of perpetual fancy dress competition – I believe my Alex Patterson years were fairly successful – possible not my Flavour Flav’s. We went as John and Paul – we couldn’t muster a George or a Ringo – but looking back it would have been more fitting to be George and Ringo. We wore white collarless shirts and black trousers – Richard had fashioned some Lennon specs from chicken wire. He was Lennon – I was McCartney - as I shared a birthday [well all of my birthdays with Macca]. And obviously just in case our transformation was not good enough in itself – we put our names [that is John and Paul] on card around our necks.

We did not win.

Nor come second.

But immersing yourself in the those sounds in other people’s room’s was important. Of course my fascination [not musically] for Clifford T Ward was borne out of stops in that house – at the end of wibbly wobbly way and just down from Andy Ross’s. Some times I picture it vividly – those eighties days [and nights] sometimes I smell it too – a moment as I pull a record from a sleeve. I’m back in Richard’s house and a record is playing and we are talking – and invariably laughing about things. We still do that – laugh about things.

We should make time to play one another some records

But from time to time I return to Abbey Road Studios and hear the experiments in sound [and colour] that Martin and his mates put together. I’ve been listening to the Magical Mystery Tour album – all remastered and i-tuned for Apple[s] and that sloppy Ringo drumming keeps on giving me a smile. And the children have tuned in, turned on but not yet dropped out to the psychedelic sounds of Lucy in the sky with Diamonds, All you Need is Love, I am the Walrus and Strawberry Fields – so the car journeys are getting better [couldn’t get no worse] So it all starts again – this legacy – as two kids in juniors once did – playing songs for pleasure. The Beatles are the real rolling stones – they’re not stopping.

I bought the Beatles ‘Rarities’ album – this was a WH Smith purchase – upstairs in the precinct. Blue cover – simple – no pictures of the band – just their sounds. It had ‘Rain’ and ‘She’s a woman’ on it – I always come back to those. Not so much – ‘You Know My Name’ – although it does seem to surface in my life more times than I would have imagined back then. There’s something so beautiful about both of those tunes. There’s the Lennon sneer – as they ‘run and hide their heads’ and the all out blues of McCartney as he hollers that he don’t need no presents. This is The Beatles for me – fluid bass – scratched chords and harmonies rich in understanding – all the time accented by the fact that things might fall apart or get out of hand – that a shout might go up – a line get fluffed and before you know it – you’ve buried Paul and slayed the Tate household.

The Beatles are good people.

Being in the company of good people is always a bonus.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

'cause when I need a friend it's still you

I used to live in Nottingham – arriving there to become a teacher – to train – to aspire for something else other than the sad Scunthorpe existence that i had been carving out – one of intense self pity and futility descending into drunken shambles and idiotic behaviour. To be honest – i’ve always been an idiot – but those latter days back up north were ones that i needed to leave [them ] all behind. I had been to Nottingham several times – journeys in cars on motorways as we floored it and hit those top top speeds.

I first heard Dinosaur on John Peel – most people hear most things on John Peel. Well they used to. Now i think you have to download some DJ on iplayer to hear the new finds or switch to DAB and roll into the 6mix excesses. You knew were you where with four stations – pop music, different pop music, classical, talking. It was as simple as that. Now you find me listening to the four and the three – the middle class angst and cosying in and the beauty of Bach and Beethoven – all horrorshow indeed.

But generally as a teenager you would start with Janice Long, possible the Kid and then go round Peelie’s – see what he was playing. You know- the big kid in the know – the one in the gang who was working and had more stuff than you did – be it beers, crisps, clothes, fags or records. Things panned out like that. John Peel would discover them and then you would – and over radio waves allegiances were formed – friends rallied and music taped [my home taping as yet has not killed music]. There was something beautiful about a song on Peel that you fell in love with. You had a few opportunities to catch it – because after a week or so it was gone. Far too much to play you see – ephemeral pop music – pop pop pop.

That simple fuzz of overdriven guitars.

It does it every time. I bought myself an i-rig for the i-phone [oh yeah – I’m one of the nerd guys – shopping at Autism R Us] just to recreate that Marshall sound – this one goes up to 11.]  Dinosaur could do that – that Seattle throttle – that Jaguar jolt as we all joined in their freak scene. There was a moment when we suddenly became swept up with this lethargy – contradictory I know that we worked ourselves up to sit down. But the Seattle thing seemed like a PuNK thing back then. It was discordant drones for abnormal youth – the teenage riot of America offering kids the alienation they needed from the last throes of Thatcher’s Britain. If you play your guitar loud – perhaps it doesn’t matter that there aren’t any jobs, opportunities or even [teenage] dreams.

And guitars were played LOUD in the 1990s.

J Mascis was this freakbeat guitarist – laconic and laid back as the strings of his Fender Jaguar contrived to ring out our teenage frustrations whilst Lou Barlow provided the beast of the bass to hang our troubled times. And Murph hit the skins and we headbanged our frustration away. Suddenly this rock was not rawk – it felt authentic and heavy – moving me away from the anoraks and simple chimes – getting older see – getting that little bit angrier.

It was time for a change.

Graham from Pale Saints sent me [okay – me and Paul] the first dinosaur album – and we would listen to Mountain Man on repeat – feeling its anger but laughing at the redneck nature of it all. But those guitars still rocked man. And then Bug came along – all pop and racket and suddenly there’s a scene – a whole scene man – it had to be a scene – the NME said. There wasn’t a scene when I first ventured to Nottingham Polytechnic – only the Freak scene [gedditt?] And we waited an eternity for the dinosaur onslaught – Mascis mucking with the mix of the pedals – those endless pedals – phase this distort that and chorus nothing. But we waited – anticipated and all of that. To be honest Paul and I were recovering from the sheer rock attack of the Lunachicks – this was Russ Meyer with guitars – pure unadulterated heaviness. I would later fly from the Marquee stage wearing an elephant cord anorak as the ‘chicks pounded and throbbed through Sugar Love – but as i said elsewhere – that is another story.

And then it happened – guitar, bass and drum driving down to simplicity. This was my Seattle scene – my SUB[mersion] in POP. I remember when Nirvana came along I thought they were interlopers – and James asking if I wanted to go to the Astoria to see them – and I couldn’t be bothered – feeling I had my fill of electric guitars – oh – well some you miss – but I was glad to see Dinosaur at this point. Before it imploded.
I jumped, I shouted – I may even have played air guitar. Utterly thrilled. I even managed to interview J for the fanzine – fifteen words in fifteen minutes – still on some micro tape wedged in a draw in a Scunthorpe house no doubt.

So here’s to loud guitars and not much else.

It seems there are mighty wrangles over who owns the copyright to this track and you can't find the original video. So here is a live version from 1988.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

we queued and we danced

Waiting in a queue for a club or a concert is something that I seldom do these days – my queues are in Sainsbury’s now. Trollies pushed with purpose. But many a night had started with a queue – the anticipation building the teeth grinding and the chatter starting. The queuing was preceeded by a drive out of the industrial to somewhere more pretty and rewarding, the latest mix from Daryll keeping it four to the floor as we kept time with the [strictly] rhythm and began to feel that urge to dance – you’re going to dance and have some fun.

We used to park up in Nottingham city centre – this was before the move – already building this affection for a city that would ultimately shape my ways – all of it so familiar in my head now – but at the time it seemed so sprawling – so lit up by late nights and underground sounds. We used to go to Venus. This small club in a small street full of large characters and lots of love. Later – Emma and I would see a rat there in the street – by the fish and chip shop – but this hadn’t occurred yet and the street was still a magical place. It was the second, third, forth Summer of Love – whatever the mixmag or The Face had decided to label it.

We called it music. Still do.

There are a thousand tales to tell about nights out in the company of house music – in the company of Daryll. There’s another one I should have stayed in touch with – but late nights make you jumpy and off it – so we drifted. I see a pattern emerging here – I see what the root [down] cause is – I just don’t want to admit.[because if I say I am I’ll get it] Upstairs bar – coat off – drink – swaying to the garage sounds and hi hat clicks – then down the stairs to false light and fags –as the guest dj began their spot. Andrew Weatherall was always a revelation – always special in that tiny room. Dropping Rez by Underworld for the first time and taking us to a frenzy as Koenig Cylinders blasted our ears and all we could do was grin. Because beats and repetition go hand in hand as we drank Red Stripe and grooved. Or Dimitri dropping 1000 by Moby – a 1000bpm in a windowless room in the centre of the city.

Then at two o’clock that was your lot – out into the open air all wide eyed and delirious with joy – because music does that to you.

There was always a thrill to the club scene – the banter, the chatter, the open eyes and open arms. When Venus closed for a while and James moved the operation over to the Rockadero – we queued again – this time for Pirate TV and the Sabres of Paradise live – Weatherall rocking the spot from the stage this time – all of it leading to good times and fun. So I guess this should be about Weatherall – but I’m not ready to write that yet. And I think when I started writing this morning I was thinking of techno – of electronica – of dance music – of music.

But what filled my head was Sandy B – Feel like singing – and then suddenly it was the Nervous Track by New Yorican Soul and now I need to write about that repetition – its build and its release – all energy and soul and fat sounding keyboards. A guaranteed floor filler – tearing it up. There’s this sense of the never ending about it – just rolling and rolling onwards catching us all dancing in its net.Percusion and a horn stab - and feet just start moving. 

I long for that simplicity in music.

I long for simplicity like this.