Monday, February 19, 2007

gary numan & david bowie

when i was 14 i had a girlfriend.
her name was melanie, but that's not important.

what is important is that she had a brother (in fact she had two, but one was away in the army).

her brother's name was mark and i thought he was super cool.
he had an ear ring and rode a very large motorcycle.
a cool one.
he also had a bit of a numan haircut going on.
in fact, thinking back, he looked a lot like this:

gary numan | telekon

he was a really big fan of gary numan and david bowie.
but mainly gary numan.

the result of this?
i spent quite a lot of evenings tinkering with motorbikes with gary numan playing on a little cassette recorder.
i learned to ride that year - it's something i keep coming back to - i love the idea of bikes.
i've had three.
one at sixteen, one at 22 and one at 34.
unfortunately as soon as it gets a bit chilly the idea of riding a bike suddenly becomes a big turn off.
(i have no idea why i'm telling you this. this is, after all, meant to be a music blog).

tubeway army | tubeway army

one weekend i went on a trip to hay-on-wye with my dad - he'd got some work to do over there.
in the back of one of the many many bookshops i found a box of records.
and in that box i found a copy of tubeway army's 1st album.
dad bought it for me.
my girlfriend's brother tried everything he could to talk me into giving it to him.
i still have the exact same copy and it's still one of my favourite records.
i listen to it at least once a week.

through all the jokes that used to be made about gary numan's politics/failed flying adventures/marrying fans/fake hair/etc i continued to love his records.

over the last few years it's become cool(ish) to like gary numan.
the other day my daughter was watching an episode of "top of the pops 2" and numan came on doing cars.
"that's the sugababes music dad!", she cried.
so i gently explained the facts.
she understood.
after all, she's 13 and she likes bogshed.

david bowie | low

as for bowie, i heard plenty of his records that year too but he was more of a slow burner for me.
i really liked the singles that were out around then - "ashes to ashes", "fashion", even "modern love" - but i couldn't get into the whole ziggy/spiders stuff much at all.
then, for the girlfriend's brother's birthday i bought him a copy of "low" on cassette and boy did that change things.
"low" seemed otherworldly and sexy and dangerous and i dug it to pieces. mainly "sound and vision", but "always crashing" was just super too.

what am i trying to say?
dunno really.
maybe that even those early fumblings behind the bike sheds can be more educational than you thought at first.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

maureen tucker | valentines day 1992

maureen tucker | life in exile after abdication

in 1989 maureen tucker's "life in exile after abdication" came out on 50 trillion watts records.
i loved maureen - she was always my favourite velvet undergrounder - she and sterling morrison always had a cool that i didn't see in lou reed or john cale.

anyhow, i got the record home and played it again and again - songs like "spam again" and "hey mersh!" were instant hits.
on the back cover was a contact address.
it can't be her personal address i thought - she's moe tucker!
but i thought i'd write anyway. just a polite letter to say hello and
two weeks later i got a letter back.
it was from maureen herself.
we corresponded for a year or two, and up until 2000 i still got christmas cards from her.
in fact i probably still do but i've moved so many times since then.
i really ought to get back in touch.
she was always a great letter writer - funny, gentle, friendly.

maureen tucker | liverpool | 1992

anyway, in 1992 her band were set to come over to the UK for a small tour - london, manchester, liverpool, i forget where else.

i was put on the guestlist for the liverpool show and duly turned up, a couple of friends in tow.
the gig was at a small club that was then called mardi gras.
or was that just the name of the night?

maureen tucker | liverpool | 1992

i don't remember who supported - in fact i don't remember who was in maureen's band apart from sterling morrison, who was an absolute gentleman and was happy to take time to speak to everyone who wanted a word.
you know, that could even have been one of the last times he was in the UK - or was he involved in that velvet's reunion?

if anyone out there knows who maureen's nband was for that UK tour i'd love to know - her backing band on record was mainly made up of various members of half japanese.

the band were super.
crunchy clean guitars and falling apart drums playing 3 chord pop, maureen playing a gibson SG and singing from lyric sheets on a music stand in front of her.
absolutely the coolest thing i'd ever seen at that point.

i've recently dug the records out again - not heard them for a long time - and i've fallen back in love with the grand dame of female drummers, the patron saint of stand up drummers.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

now i'm getting angry - postscript

in case people don't read some of the comments left on this blog - all of which are always great and gratefully received, and because i think we could start a good debate on all this stuff, here's some extra thoughts:

i'm not having a dig at anyone in particular, it just gets so boring trying to navigate around tags for musical types all the time.

the bottom line, to me at least, is that all this music is pop music.
the dictionary again:

noun (also pop music) commercial popular music, in particular accessible, tuneful music of a kind popular since the 1950s and sometimes contrasted with rock, soul, or other forms of popular music.

because let's face it - all music is to some degree commercial or at least attempting to be.

maybe not commercially viable, but that's a completely different kettle of fish.

as soon as music is created and someone has bought it/heard it/hummed it/danced to it surely it's a piece of pop music.

ALL the music one can hear today (and as we all know there's a hell of a lot of it) can be traced back through popular music - taking in rock, punk, electronic music, rock & roll, skiffle, blues and further.

and of course people are always going to create catchall terms for types of music.

what i think annoys me most is that the term "twee" is derogatory - not in the way that the term "punk" was derogatory, but in an affected, knowingly coy, way that removes any notions of empowerment or action from the scene that might grow up around it.
the term "punk" for example, though it soon became used to describe a sound rather than a political understanding, at least had drive and excitement naturally attached to it, purely because of the connotations of the derogatory term "punk".
the "twee" on the other hand simply removes any sense of edginess, experimentation - it creates a safe and fluffy cushion on which people can comfortably sit without rebellion.

(excuse the convoluted sentences above - comes from thinking as i type. but i think my point's been made).

please bear in mind i'm simply trying to open a debate here.

personally i believe we should all be trying to reclaim the term indie so it can be used in it's proper form.
because independent has ALL the right connotations to empower us all as both listeners and creators of music.
and let's face it, 99% of the music we all love has that in common.

the fight starts here!

think i need a bit of a lie down.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

now i'm REALLY getting angry

or is that i'm immensley frustrated?

OK, i know this blog is set out to be tales from an indie boys youth in the 1980's BUT some things need talking about.

you'll recall my little rant about C86 and how it's been mythologised into something that it never was?
well recently i've noticed a rise in the term "twee" to describe a musical genre.
in fact to describe the same musical genre as C86.
and used by the same people.
now, can someone tell me EXACTLY how this works because:

A - the dictionary describes the term twee as:
twee |twē| adjective Brit., chiefly derogatory excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental : although the film's a bit twee, it's watchable. ORIGIN early 20th cent.: representing a child's pronunciation of sweet .

B - there are of course (and have always been) certain bands that could rightfully be described as twee. BMX bandits for a start. or the field mice. there are also, i imagine, swathes of bands alive and well today who've been influenced by sarah records and it's fall-out in the early 90's that may well be a bit twee.
but the problem i'm really having is that, like with the term "indie" in the early 90's someone's created a catchall term and is trying to shoe-horn anyone and everyone who is hip/liked/influential/etc into the catagory of "twee".

HOW ON EARTH are the following bands twee?:

josef k
june brides
age of chance
a witness
dog faced hermans
fire engines

...and that's just off the top of my head.

swans | public castration is a good idea

does this mean that in the next couple of months SWANS' "public castration is a good idea" live double will turn up as a twee masterpiece simply because it was released in the mid 80's and "twee-pop" kids will be swinging their man-bags to the gut-wrenching sounds of a band going at 2 miles an hour at maximum volume?

because by what seem to be the rules of what makes a band twee, these people SHOULD BE CHAMPIONING SWANS as they were highly influential on the wall of noise that my bloody valentine became.

and i'm told that my bloody valentine are, of course, twee.

(writer scratches head and has to have a sit down).