Thursday, 15 December 2011

They have not heard of Euros Childs

I ventured to Dalston last night on a trip to see Euros Childs – all edge and that as I hopped stations to pastures new [but not green] to stand in the company of many more and marvel at the simplicity of it all. I have written several times about Euros Childs – he’s kind of gotten under my skin [and gotten hold of my heart] It’s the simplicity coupled with the lunacy that I like. The turn of phrase and the subtle shift in lyrical matter that sends you smiling but at times reeling and [poodle] rocking.

He’s a slip of thing with a voice rich in insight – a kind of genuine soul artist. When I was asked in the office what he was like – I found myself stumbling and using words like psychedelic, welsh, a folk artist, a comedic Skellern, a raconteur, a good musician, that bloke from Gorky’s. It fell on deaf ears – I should just direct them to the National Elf Library.

He is none of those things – he’s more than that. And because of that we were treated to a slice of the magical misery that is Ends – another new album’s worth of diamond material that will never take out the X-Factor Xmas release. It was him and a piano – a lovely great grand piano on a tiny stage in East London. It says something that he sticks with the new material – he isn’t one to change his view – he’s often out to change ours.

I saw him once at King’s College and he gave us the entire Miracle Inn – all 14 minutes of it – told us not to clap. We just listened. It was wonderful. And last night was like that to – from the gothic horror of Cavendish Hall to the suffocating lament for safety in your Parents’ Place – it all made sense and touched me – I guess. As music is wont to do. I know I’ve argued that it doesn’t change the world – and I’ll stick by that.[ And don’t throw Live Aid at me – that changed fuck all – apart from the further removal of the state to intervene and a nice sideways Thatcher/ Cameron – we’re all in it together - so give us your fucking money hey hey hey Pyjama punk fuckers] But it can touch you – and you could feel that last night as Patio Song was wrestled away from him and into the mouths of the audience as we sang and he listened – all cruise sHIP and nods and winks.

It is always a pleasure to be in a room with him. I don’t think I’d feel the same with the X Factor ‘stars’ all tantrums and talc. I had a chat – got the CD signed – talked with the support act H.Hawkline and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Life gets simple when you get to forty. As for the X Factor – if I’m honest it is no different to the whole music scene – be it independent or major [and it’s hard to see the split these days] but part of me feels we should take all of those fuckers and do a Wicker Man on them. I guess it’s because afterwards as I stood shoulder to shoulder in a crowded train – slightly damp from the rain and awkward to overheard conversations from ‘city boys’ all devoid of politics and rage discussing corporate deals and bullshit power – I genuinely heard the following exchanges about the X Factor as a couple spoke to a fellow city minion:

He [out of focus and suffering from drink]: She was in the first round – yeah the ones before the judges come.

Her [all lashes and lipstick – but slightly saggy and a touch too shabby]: Yeah they’re just looking for a story at that point.

He: Yeah they either want the really good singers or the totally shit ones

Her:[not understanding that her boyfriend had confirmed her mediocrity in his attack of the whole media system] I mean I’m not bothered – I’m working on my own material – and if I can make it on my own terms then that will be better.

The conversation did not gather pace – it died in sighs and stupidity. They have never heard Euros Childs - they never will.

Everybody should know at least one song perhaps even two.


Costa Rica [going wrong] followed by Love radiates Around [A cover but on Ends]

and Horseriding [on Miracle Inn]

Friday, 2 December 2011

It’s not like I’m Jimi – you know.

And sometimes I pick up the guitar and play. I bought that guitar in 1992. A double payment from the dole office. Income support and unemployment benefit. A double cheque – clearly with no checks – as they never came looking for the money. The guitar and the wah-wah.

Now we got the funk.

Its paint is chipped – the single coil pick-ups worn – the knobs just metal. But it is my guitar. I can play that guitar. One day I will own the Fender Jaguar but in some ways some ways that will be an old man’s purchase – a vanity guitar – it will never have the love and attention like that one. The struggle to pick out a new chord on the neck, the wearing away of the wood, its weight in my hands. A new guitar – however much better and beautiful - will not really be the same. I am precious about it – but also non-committal – it can fall over – the kids can bang it.

It’s a guitar – it is built to kill fascists – it can take a knock.

Sometimes I open the pages of those ‘How to play’ books and rattle through a song – making shapes that resemble a chord and noises that pass for a tune. I was very anti-muso as young un – and there’s something of a sneer in me when I see a rocker grinding the axe man. Not when I witness the spectacle of an orchestra – it’s most likely a class thing. That elitist thing – which as I age and discard the postmodern pointers that equate the mundane with the sublime – I increasingly subscribe to - I blame reading F.R. Leavis at an impressionable age – although Emma will tell me that you can’t elevate the Pistols over Wham because they’re all pop – and therefore disposable. But we’ll leave that for another day – another rant. You’ve still got a hierarchy in pop.

But I was anti learning in a way. Not when I was at school – I lapped it all up – Christ I attended every lecture at University - bar one I think through illness. I loved it. But when it came to the guitar – I didn’t want to ‘master’ it – I wanted it to feedback and scream – I wanted it to buzz and fuzz. I didn’t care about tunings – or proficiency to the point of abstinence.

Three chords really was a mantra. Or four.

The first guitar I owned – all Kay’s catalogue and slightly too short strung perfectly for a week until the top E broke and I continued to learn – fucking up my finger positions as five strings was better than six. I had heard Keith Richards had done this – clearly this was not true. The spirit of the stones in Scunthorpe homes. Except it wasn’t – because I was anti – blues – I was anti this and anti that. I should have just shut up and played the guitar. I should have studied Scotty Moore’s technique, or the Stooges riffage, the arpeggios of Simon and Garfunkel and the major to minor Beach Boys cadence.

I didn’t - I learnt four – possibly five chords and refused to do cover versions.

This would haunt me for some time. Those knockabout sessions – where a guitar appears and people say you play – but you don’t really – you know chords – not tunes. So you make excuses but really want to hold it – but no one will sing along to your tunes. They are not hits my friend and never will be. Oh I could’ve been a YouTube sensation – but the net didn’t exist back then [this is an outright lie – I mean only 20 people ever read this] So this reluctance to learn was grounded in a sneer to the muso scene – the Phil Colllins thumping or the bass slapping of that Mark King from Level 42. It put up walls to it. And thus built walls around far too many things. So it’s taken a while to appreciate the skills and sleight of hand of many guitarists – because I was anti – music. As if Will Sargent couldn’t play or Johnny Marr or Bernard Sumner [actually he couldn’t - he’s more my kind of style]– but I don’t practise much these days.

And now I can appreciate it - I should.
A week ago I was in Nottingham placed firmly at the back of a merry pack of blistering guitarists. We played Valeria by The Zutons, I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, Panic by The Smiths and Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Andy Williams. I was able to mask my incompetence through stumbles and jangles. It's not like I’m Jimi – you know.

So here’s to three chords or four – but no more than five and what you can do with them. When the Pistols arrived all full of froth and posture – it was a two fingered salute – a start – that quickly went nowhere – bound to really – it’s far too easy to claim you’re bored when you doing nothing to stop the rot[ten] but at least it was a start. It was clouded in this and that – it didn’t care. But clearly it resonated – clearly it was a stone dropped in the pond.

And I should learn those chords as an old man. I should play the tunes to the family – all strummed out.

So here’s to simplicity and anger – all wrapped up in that Steve Jones style. It’s good to make music using your hands.