Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nirvana Top Five

As Kurt Cobain fades into history and poor old Courtney remains to be withered by age like the rest of us, Nirvana become less a band and more an icon.  Cards on the table city. I own a copy of Bleach but for some unreason never bought Nevermind.  Nevertheless, I do love both and I'm not going to just pick from Bleach, cause I'm not that kind of pretentious.

1.  Lithium - There is little I can say to this.  I love this because I've lived it so often and so long.  When Kurt died, well you know, it's only because Courtney said "A fucking lie" as she read his suicide note.  Courtney saved a lot of lives that day.  This is my favourite.

2.  Sliver - Still hurts so damn good to listen.

3.  Heart Shaped Box has beautiful lyrics and beautiful music to compliment Kurt Cobain's lovely, lovely voice.  I love the way the guitars shred as Kurt's voice starts to change from melancholy melody to an angry fractious scream.

4.  Smells Like Teen Spirit - I am not one of those people who pretends not to love this because it's been done to death.  So no, Weird Al, this song does make sense to me and I love everybody's version, even Paul Anka's, but nevertheless, Nirvana's performance of this was seminal.

5.  About a Girl, in which Kurt Cobain sings melodically like Neil Young's choirboy and on Bleach there was some awesome guitar work to back it up, but yannow, thought I'd give the unplugged version a go, cause I loves it so.

Hurts to leave out In Bloom, Tourettes, You Know You're Right, Sifting and that's just the ones I'm thinking of right now.  Oh wait, Come as You Are, can't forget Come as You Are can I?  And on and on it goes.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Music of Irish Origin

Layzangentlefiends.  I get asked so often to come up with a top five of a particular artist.  Sometimes I copy them here, sometimes I don't, but this week, for the first time in ages, I said no.  No Ladies and Gentlemen, I am NOT going to do a Todd Rundgren top five.  Ain't gonna happen.  Nosirree Bob!. Instead, I'm going to do my very own MOIO (music of Irish origin) awards.  So without further ado, here they are.

And rather than begin with a number one, I thought why not begin with a theme tune for the whole show.  I'm not judging this tune at all, merely placing it, as a traditional tune at the beginning and end.  So we begin with a version by the Dubliners. So take your seats as you listen to the traditional song Oró sé do bheatha 'bhaile.  This is the modern version updated by Padraig Pearse, who among other things changed the leader who will come with a thousand warriors from Séarlas Óg to Gráinne Mhaol

1 Let's begin with Sinead O'Connor.  Well obviously, of course I'm going to choose Sinead.  The question is, will I choose, "This is a Rebel Song", or "This is the Last Day of Our Acquaintance", or maybe "Troy"?  All of those are marvellous songs but I'm going to pick "Famine", which tells the truth about the Great Hunger, often called the 'Famine' by those who would call it a natural event.  I confess that my own Irish ancestors left Ireland long before the Hunger, and even before the Wolf Tone Rebellion and became travelling people, but that doesn't mean this song doesn't make perfect sense to me.

2 I've noticed that with this one exception, I've chosen solo artists.  But my favourite Irish band is Stiff Little Fingers, and in defining them as such, I have of course defined Ireland with the most inclusive possible definition.   Might as well pick this one then mightn't I? Alternative Ulster!

3 Christy Moore wrote some brilliant songs, such as "Viva La Quinta Brigada", many find themselves sung by crowds, but he's also a fine singer.  And a man who sings that which is Truth to those who need to hear.  This is my favourite "If They Come In The Morning"

4 Shane McGowan produced some brilliant work in his career, from that Christmas Song that gets played so much we have to pretend we don't like it, to The Snake With Eyes of Garnet, but my favourite is this.  A Pair of Brown Eyes.

5 Luke Kelly cannot be missed from any list of Irish music.  A singer so great, a man so famous, they names a bridge after him.  A man loved on all sides and here he sings Patrick Kavanagh's "On Raglan Road".

There are so many I regret having to leave out.  Teenage Kicks by the Undertones.  Much of Mary Black's Gaelic work.  The Wolfe Tones, even the Boomtown Rats but that's all there is so let's go back to the theme tune.  It's a song sung by so many Irish artists.  I could have had Sinead or th Wolfetones singing it but let's go for the great Mary Black.  Goodnight.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Roy Orbison

So here they are, the favourite five, the fervid fantastic feeling-fuelled five, the best of Roy Orbison as he exists in my head.

I Drove All Night
Beautifully sad, fascinating. I mean kinda creepy as well yeah, but I know how he feels. I know how she feels as well. This is the best kind of pop music, the kind that makes you cover your ears and rip your own heart out with a nailfile even while you love it beyond reason. Even while you shouldn't. Cause it IS kinda creepy.

Pretty Woman
I think I don't like this song. Maybe think I hate it even, but then I listen and remember that, yeah actually I do. It's camp and kitsch and beautiful. Roy Orbison sounds as though he ought to be wearing a red coat at Butlins, but the truth is, he's what they would sound like if they could get the best to play and sing for them. He is the Uber Redcoat.

Running Scared
Yes. I know this fear. The knowledge that I'm not good enough for you. The knowledge that you'll always choose the other over me. And so I play this song and by the time it reaches the crescendo, the bath is full. But before anything bad happens, I have to go pick up the arm and move the stylus back to the beginning again. Thank God they never invented MP3s.

I sing this in the bath. There, that's a confession from me. And Emily says to say she loves the version where Orbison plays with the delicious K D Lang. This is splendid. It's delightful and everything pop should be. So what happened?

In Dreams
I love it, I hate it. I want to kill this song. I want it to kill me. It is so brilliant. Do I want it at number 1 or number 5 or a number so large it's stretched to Peoria with the numbers on my screen. It's sad, it's great. God, I thought I was going to have trouble finding five Orbison songs I love. How was I to know I'd love the ones I hate? Thanks Mr Orbison for being.

And do you know which one it really hurts to leave out?  End of the Line, by the Travelling Wilberries because it celebrated Roy's life and marked his end.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Polly Jean Harvey

So.  P J Harvey.  Damn was it really only eight albums? It feels like eighty eight.  Achtentachtig!  It's like she's everywhere.  Somebody you forget when thinkign about your favourite records because she's as everywhere as Elvis.  Damn but I love you Polly Jean!

THE WHORE'S HUSTLE AND THE HUSTLER'S WHORE.  Polly Jean does rock and roll and she does it brilliantly.  I would love to cover this.  So would Emily.  Maybe one day.  Maybe one day soon.  For now though.  Love it.  P J Harvey at her best.

IN THE DARK PLACES almost my favourite song by her.  Another day it would be, but today, well who I am today is who I am.  Let it be said though, that this is a song I love.  It rips out my heart with a rusty bayonet and then buries me in beauty.

DOWN BY THE WATER is the song I hear in my head when somebody says, 'P J Harvey'.  It's not the first of hers I heard but that chorus about her lost daughter is beautiful, evocative and enough to drive me even crazier than I already am.

IS THIS DESIRE? Well yes it is.  Minimalist and beautiful.  That's the thing about Polly Jean.  Voice is good, yeah but the music comes not from musical instruments but from Polly Jean's Oh so human heart.

MAN SIZE takes a while to get going but it is full of perfect humour and perfect spirit and PJ's perfect sense of rock n roll timing and of course, her perfect voice, and words that make the paper bleed.

Hurts to leave out: Horses in My Dreams; One Line; Big Exit; Shame; Bitter Branches; White Chalk; The Words that Maketh Murder, and that's only the solo stuff.

Sunday, 2 August 2015


Twenty seven years old, and you know what, when she died, I hadn't a clue WHO Janis Joplin was, and that's okay, because I never knew who Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix were when they died either, or for that matter, Buddy Holly, Eddy Cochran, Ritchie Valens or even the Big Bopper.

And in retrospect, I never even knew who I was when I was twenty seven although I sure wanted to die.  I was writing and sending off to publishers these short stories and the nice people at Interzone would send kindly notes back explaining what was wrong with them and so I was getting a kind of education.  Unlike Fear Magazine and 2000AD who never sent stuff back despite the stamped self addressed envelope, which pissed me off.  But the letters from Interzone, they could be like the apprenticeship I wanted, a chance to practice and get good and get great and build a great career (even though every letter felt like they ripped out another little piece of my heart, cooked it and ate it). So I guess I graduated as a short story writer when Interzone wrote back and said, "This is a good story and moves along well but is not suitable for Interzone."  I died that day, twenty seven years old but unknown.  I got in the bath and cut my wrists wrong way and then began to make plans to blow myself up, if only I could think who to take with me. Never knew, never did, still here, still alive more than 27 years later.

So that makes number one pretty obvious.

1) PIECE OF MY HEART - I love this song so much that I would love to give it all fifteen points, but I guess that isn't possible, so it's just number one, with a bullet fit for a president.

2) BALL AND CHAIN - recorded at the Monterey Festival in 1967.  Love the intro, love Janis Joplin's voice.  Feel those weaponised teardrops flowing down like angel falls.  Oh my.  I can only watch, open mouthed and wait fro angels to fly in.  This is why it's unfair that I was only ten when she died and never got to wonder what she'd produce next.

3) SUMMERTIME - I love to sing this song myself when they'll let me, which pretty much means in the shower these days.  George Gershwin, an excellent composition, performed over and over by so many.  Here it's Janis and Jimi.  Rock music? Sure but this is exactly what jazz should be about as well! Love and Peace to the both of them.

4) TELL MAMA - Oh my goodness there's not much to say about this.  Watch the video.Be still my heart.  Emily loves this and she's screaming in my ears to make it number one.  Well sorry Emily, it's number four but that doesn't mean it ain't brilliant.  Janis plays fast and loose with the so called rules and makes those little notes sit up and BAYYYug.

5) I NEED A MAN TO LOVE - now just listen to this.  This was done when it was.  There was no reason for much of the seventies, for blue eyed soul, for disco, for Blood Sweat and Tears, for so much of the music that was around in the seventies (you know the kind, the stuff that in retrospect makes you imagine that music wasn't all THAT dire in the seventies).  There was no need for any of it, because Janis had done it all before. I pick this at number 5 as a generic track of hers, not a particularly brilliant one, but one that shows how damn GOOD Janis was.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Leonard Cohen's Covers

So many people have covered Leonard Cohen. His popularity with musicians is comparable to Elvis, or the Beatles, to Jacques Brel or Brecht and Weil. So to try to come up with a top five Cohen covers is going to be hard, perhaps harder than picking a top five of his own tracks. Difficult or not, let's have a go
Beautiful though it is, 'HALLELUJAH' is not one of my top five Leonard Cohen tracks... his own version is special and so is Jeff Buckley's but listening to IMOGEN HEAP's breathy acapella version, it becomes something new, something that is entirely her own. Beautiful.
When she first came to the notice of the media, I decided I didn't like TORI AMOS without even really giving her a listen. That was wrong of me, as I realised when I heard her singing along with Maynard from Tool in their version of Mohammed My Friend. After that, I listened to much of her stuff and among her lovely covers was a cover of Mr Cohen's "FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT"
NICK CAVE's version of I'M YOUR MAN is so firmly fitted into his own ouevre that for a moment, one might forget it's Leonard Cohen's. And yet it's one of Cohen's finest songs as well. Both bring something wonderful to the party. I love it. What more can I say?
BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE doing "THE PARTISAN" is something wholly different. A free woman of the Piapot Cree Nation singing of resistance to the invaders has a different ring to it. And of course, Buffy's voice is something extraordinary, partaking as it does of the prairie winds themselves.
Sorry that Mr Cohen is speaking over this, but it's lovely. I love Antony's voice and it feels so, so very right for this song. ANTONY HEGERTY of Antony and the Johnsons singing "IF IT BE YOUR WILL".
Hurts to leave out. Loads including multiple versions of Hallelujah, The Partisan, and Famous Blue Raincoat.... And if anybody asks, I may add a link to the one I forgot.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Leonard Cohen

Oh my my, Leonard Cohen.  What can I say.  Ever since my music teacher, Marijke turned Class Three Y at Deliverance Grammar School (which included me) onto Cohen back in 1974, I've been a bit of a fan.  never heard a song of his I didn't like.  Never found a band that'd let me do covers of his work (bastards! - whatever my favourites are, I wanna do a cover of The Traitor).

So... top five Leonard Cohen sings Leonard Cohen's songs? Now that is HARD!

Leonard Cohen was a telepath and a prophet.  He could see into our hearts but even more, he could see the future in his crystal ball.  He was so RIGHT.  He still is.  There's a whole load of shit gonna come down this river before the clean meltwater of the former icecaps gets here,  Ladies and Gentlemen! THE FUTURE

Oh! How I was wrong!  You see I did not miss the attack.  I was waiting for the bus to picket the Stockport Messenger back in 1983 and I was kissing a girl I thirsted for.  But I was not what I should have been and I bid farewell and joined my comrades for a futile battle.  I was wrong and I hate to sing this song, but I know I should, in penance.  THE TRAITOR

Tears drip like acid down my ravaged cheeks as I listen.  I don't know how I know how it feels but somehow I do, and I think Cohen had a lot to do with that.  Over and again, they pour across the border (or maybe win by 'democratic' means) and we're cautioned to surrender, but that would break our hearts and sear our souls.  THE PARTISAN

Oh how Leonard gets me.  He knows where I feel so often.  The love that wants to sacrifice, to demand, to offer all and beneath the promises well... I was always a beggar for love, but you know I'd howl just like Leonard.  Yeah  I'M YOUR MAN!

Suzanne was somebody I knew when we were still children of 20 (and yes twenty IS a child) and we would spend nights together in her room talking until the world tasted of coffee and cigarettes and yeah, like the song, she got me.  I was a one and she was at worst a seven so I couldn't imagine why she'd want to know me.  Anyway, this was our song.  SUZANNE.

Hurts like cancer (and yes I know) to leave out: "So Long Marianne"; "Gypsy Wife"; "Famous Blue Raincoat"; "Dance Me to the End of Love"; "Bird on a Wire"; "Stranger Song", "Waiting for the Miracle"; "Halleluiah"; "Darkness"; and so many more.  But oh forget cancer, some of these hurt like gangrene (no, I had to ask my wife about that one).

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Elton John

Elton John was never one of my favourites when he first appeared on the scene, but he wasn't one of those acts who made the seventies particularly horrible either.  That sounds like I'm praising Elton John with faint damns or damning with faint praise but that's not true either.

Mr Dwight was a superstar and there was nothing mediocre about him.  I found myself getting bored later on, especially when he started eulogising Princess Diana but that was later.  Many was the time I listened to him on Radio Caroline or even Luxembourg and many are the times I thought, 'Hmm, nice one'.  So the fact he was not my cup of tea does not diminish his greatness, nor even my recognition of said greatness, in any way.

So here's my top five.

1) Under the covers on a Friday night, by torchlight on a cheap transistor radio.  That was how I would listen to the radio and this was one of the songs that made me feel really good.  Lazengenlmen! Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.

2)  This could be a personal anthem for any of those of us who crawl out of the alligator infested swamp of an abusive childhood to stand on Sunset Boulevard and growl at passing cars.  With fist raised in salute.  "I'm still standing, better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid."  Yep.  I'm still standing

3) Tommy was one of my favourite musicals.  And this song gives me goosepimples.  Added to which, there was a time when I stood in front of the pinball machine in Cambridge YMCA for two hours only to see Tim Cyanide beat my top score.  I know just how the champ feels. Pinball Wizard.

4) Okay, confession time.  I always thought this was kinda cool but no more, and only because of Bernie Taupin's lyrics, but then I heard Big Bill Shatner's cover version and it made sense, and so did Elton John's version, so yes, I do love this.  Rocketman

5) A sad and thoughtful one.  Not to my taste.  But I can imagine this played on an acoustic guitar by somebody like Emmylou Harris and suddenly I realise, this is a brilliant song.  It's not Elton's fault I dislike the arrangement (okay it is, but it's still going in). Something About the Way You Look Tonight.

Hurts to leave out?  Well I wouldn't go that far but there are other songs of his that I might have included in my top five.  Sacrifice for example, or I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.

On the other hand I would not dream of including though either the Princess Diana version of Candle in the Wind or the version of Yellow Brick Road dedicated to Princesss Di as 'English Rose'.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Gil Scott Heron

So, Gil Scott Heron.  A top five might take some work because there is One song I would like to give all Fifteen points.  The first is obvious.  There can be only one.  This is a work of genius. I love this.  It's probably the best soul record ever.
1) The Revolution Will Not be Televised 

The second is a brilliant cover of my favourite song by Robert Johnson.  When I came back to music after a 21 year retirement, this was the first song I sang.  Oh yes and this is an AWESOME video.
2) Me and the Devil

Okay, for the third, I have said so many times that this is not my world and I want to go home.  Gil Scott-Heron sums up my feelings in this song so it has to be included.
3) Alien (Hold on to your Dreams)

My mother was crazy but not an alcoholic... but her father was an alcoholic and that's why she didn't drink.  Turns out the demons are not in the bottle, they're in the person drinking from it.  That said, this next is another fantastic track.
4) The Bottle

My last choice is one I love for the lyrics.  The music is 1970s.  I hated the seventies, everybody knows that.  Punk took TOO long coming but if I'd been listening to the lyrics, this would have been an exception.  These words are wonderful.
5) Winter in America

Hurts to leave out?  No, nothing really.  There are other tracks I love, pure poetry that I would love to hear shrieked by banshees and rapped by angry hiphoppers but to be honest, I only know their names when I hear them, because the first thing about soul to me is the dull elevator music played underneath these beautiful blistering battlefield lyrics.

I love your words so much Gil Scott Heron, but I wish I could also love your music.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Massive Attack

Believe it or not, I've never been to Bristol but somehow, when I speak to someone with a Brizzle accent, or watch television series such as the excellent Skins, or I listen to local acts like Hazel Winter, Annette Berlin, Hysterical Injury or, of course, Massive Attack, then I feel right at home.

So, my Massive Attack top five shouldn't be all that hard.  I first heard of them working with the awesome Tricky so my starting point is naturally going to be Protection, isn't it?

1) But of course, I defy expectations.  And Teardrop is just beautiful in so many ways.  There are versions with so may singers.  I wish one of them could be me.  So if you read this Massive Attack, any time, any place, anywhere, Emily would love to do 'Teardrop' with you.

2) You all know me by now.  Big fan of lyrics and the lyrics in Protection are awesome but what's really brilliant is the beats themselves.  But... big fan of Bristol too, and of Tricky, So let's have not the version from the album of the same name but a live version played in Bristol and featuring not only Tricky, but also the less brilliant (in my opinion) Portishead. But still.  "Stand in front of you, take the force of the blow, protection."

3) And next comes a song that with many another band would be number one but this is Massive Attack and they've done so much more.  Meine Damen und Herren - Babel.

4) Oh and this one too.  Another song that calls me to the dance floor and then whispers in my ear and speaks of philosophy.  So YES.  I'm sure I want to be with you and I have nothing to give either.  We are what we are.  This is it Comrades, delightful rhythms, spine chilling vocals and delight in between.  Bey & beyum, meine Damen und Herren, Mesdames et messieurs.  Karmacoma

5) Oh but I loved Mezzanine, and the only question is what song to choose from that album.  Ladies and gentlemen, here it is.  Black Milk.

AND oh gods, it hurts to leave out, Invade me, Unfinished Symphony, Silent Spring, Dissolved Girl, Angel, Paradise Circus, Safe From Harm and Man Next Door.  And that's only the ones that were in my top five before I deleted them due to my renowned ability to count.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Desert Island Dicks

I've been asked to do Desert Island Disks... obviously not the real deal on Radio 4, because that is for people with voices, people who get listened to and that is something I'm not.  Nevertheless when somebody asked me about this, I thought, why not, I can share it with all my acquaintances in blogspotland.

My childhood was shit.  Literally, I would often piss or shit myself and get beaten for it.  This probably happens to a load of children but in my case, it lasted so long that I can remember it.  My parents would beat me.  Once they said I had pneumonia but it wasn't pneumonia, it was a broken rib.  Sounds horrible and yes it was but sometimes my father would take it into his head that it was time to listen to some music.  He would bring out his paltry record collection and, in the dark with the record player plugged into the light socket, we would listen to the music.  The only thing that remotely approached rock and/or roll was Poor Jenny b/w Send a Message to Mary by the Everly Brothers.  But I'm not going to take that to the desert island with me because there's something that brings memories much more unique to those interludes of decency in a life that held precious little.   And of course, added to that link is the fact tat through Mme Ferrier I learned of Gustav Mahler and his marvellous Kindertotenlieder (Child Death Songs).  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Kathleen Ferrier singing "Blow the Wind Southerly"

At school we learned to sing.  I remember some of the songs we would do, such as Halleluiah I'm a Bum (from the Big Red Song Book - yes really) and a bowdlerised version of Big Rock Candy Mountain (some of you may have heard me singing it with the Sweet smelling swampies.  But the one that really sticks in my memory was Mary Hopkin's rendition of a Russian folk song translated as 'Those Were the Days'... Not only because we had to learn it but also because it gave me the ambition to get on stage and perform for an audience, so although I might fondly imagine it was the Partridge Family that ignited my desire to sing, the truth is, it was way back in the days of school concerts. And of course, because I'd had all the noise literalyl beaten out of me along with the piss and the shit, I was quiet.  It was so hard for me to raise my voice enough to be heard but this song released me to a degree and there I was a nine year old singing lyrics about lost youth and the disappointment of surviving.  That's the story of my life but here instead of Mary Hopkin is the Leningrad Cowboys with the Red Army Choir singing "Those Were The Days".

And then along came the seventies.  It was full of disco music, northern soul (and sorry Sally but I disliked soul with a passion because it didn't speak to me).  Here I was, this Gypsy/Irish Traveller kid (I'm descended from both) raised as an outsider in a violent household and having been taught that anything I openly desired could be used against me, so no wanting for me and it follows no songs about sexual desire.  The first single I bought was not one of those ubiquitous love songs we were supposed to rave about in the school disco, it wasn't even T-Rex or Slade.  No, the first record I ever bought was Hello, Hooray by Alice Cooper.  But I'm not going to play that now, instead, here is the b-side, a beautiful song about madness and suicide  Ladies and Gentlemen Alice Cooper singing "Luney Tunes".

So here I was, living in Science Fiction worlds and determined not to have to live in the world that my hormones would desire.  Truth is, I thought I was the wrong gender, but knew I didn't want to be the other gender either.  I've never been happy with binaries.  In the real world, either/or is a choice foisted upon us, a form of oppression that seeks to force us to ignore the myriad other choices out there.  It's possible that I made a mistake in the choices I made, but on the other hand, maybe it's not.  Suffice to say, in my teens, when all the music was about love and I knew that was a place from which I was excluded, I didn't listen to music.  The only exceptions were soundtracks of the science fiction in my head.  So, I loved Hawkwind, I loved Kraftwerk, and I loved this one glorious song by Queen.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Brian May singing his own composition, "39".  If you'd offered me the chance to be one of the "score brave souls inside", I'd've bitten your arm off.  It was my fondest ambition to go to sleep for a hundred years and awaken when all my so-called friends were dead.

And then along came punk.  Punk taught me so much about politics, about why it is really really fucking stupid to campaign for people not to vote in a general election (maybe I was right, maybe there was no difference between Callaghan and Thatcher but in this case, being right would have been even worse. But before that, all of the choices that would make up my life were laid out upon a plate, no this is not going to be the Black Angel's Death Song, it will be the story that described my life.  There I was, seventeen years old, living in a movie and already I'd seen the closing credits.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Patti Smith singing "Piss Factory".

And punk carried on, I've been a punk more or less ever since.  I might not dress punk, I may work in Whitehall, I may have even joined a political party, namely the Greens, but inside, I still have this anarchist black heart that knows down to the depths that whoever puts his hand upon me to govern me is a tyrant and a usurper.  This is why there is another punk song here, one that sums up my politics.  Comrades, I give you Vi Subversa with Poison Girls singing "Persons Unknown".

And then comes my life and it's so hard to choose one song to sum up the last thirty years.  Not least because any song that would fit is probably a monstrous dirge about drudgery, frustration and wishing for things I never strove for.  All those wasted years waiting to emerge from the shadows and join the oh so inevitable revolutions.  Well you know what, this time I'm NOT going to do that.  I'm going to go with something beautiful, something to show how it might have been if I'd let myself go and expressed my emotions out there in the mundane world instead of the virtual world in which I found myself.  Sometimes you have to scream it all out bitterly.  Yes, I could have been venus as a boy, I could have been all the things I wanted to be but I spent too long in the shadows. I never got laid until I was 29, possibly because I was shy, possibly because my desires were all mixed up and poisonous.  But that doesn't have to be ugly, that confusion can be beautiful and bright, scouring the skies of sunshine.  It can be like this.  Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Sinead O'Connor singing "Troy"

And finally we come to the song I want them to play as they cook me on Gas mark 10 for long enough to make me tender and nice when they eat my age-raddled flesh. (Or throw my body into the sea or wastefully burn it, or lower me into the ground as wormfood so a tree can grow from my remains).  There is no choice in this and tha's the way I like it.  Choices only bring guilt and disappointment and when I'm dead I don' want to leave anything like that behind.  Here's Skunk Anansie boys and girls.  Here's "You'll Follow Me Down".

So, since this is desert island dicks, I get to choose a book and a luxury too.  Apparently the Bible and Shakespeare are already there but here in a room with around two thousand books, how the hell am I supposed to choose only one.  Well you know what?  I can.  I have a favourite book.  Sometimes there are others that I get obsessed with but over and over again, I go back to this.  My book is Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, written in 1979, it's a pretty accurate depiction of the days we live in.

The luxury though.  And they told me I couldn't have a lover which is a shame.  I could take an infinite supply of paper and pencils, but that doesn't help me if I never get out of there.  Instead, I'll take a musical instrument.  Most of the ones I have are stringed or require batteries and that doesn't help if you leave me here forever and they go out of tune, so I want something with keys, something highly portable.  I'll take my sansula thanks, a form of African thumb piano.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Iggy and the Stooges Top Five

When I was seventeen, I sold all my old Deep Purple cassettes and, clutching my £4.50, I went to Woolworths and bought two new albums (the 'New Wave' compilation album and Iggy and the Stooges' "Raw Power".  I played that album so many times that I'm surprised the grooves have not eroded as deep as the Grand Canyon.

There was a band with James Williamson on guitar, and I'm not one to cream my jeans over guitar technique - I'm a voice fan myself but Williamson's guitar was nothing short of brilliant.  Then there was the solid gold rhythm sector of Ron and Scott Asheton... and then Iggy himself.  What is not to love about the Stooges.

I am tempted to pick five from Raw Power, not to neglect their other work but because it is so awesome.

Here is my Iggy and the Stooges top five.

1)  Search and Destroy
This is the seminal punk anthem.  Williamson's guitar screams as if in the midst of passion.  The Ashetons move with a rhythm of pure joy and then there are such perfect narcissistic lyrics from the initial "Street Walking Cheetah with a heart full of napalm" to the final incoherent scream of the 'forgotten boy'.

2) I Need Somebody
From the beginning, the music before the words, and it's so rare I say or even imagine saying that.  And then in come the the words.  "I am your crazy driver, honey I'm sure to steer you wrong.  I am dying in a story, only living to sing this song."  I like lyrics and I'm not usually a fan of Iggy's but these are so lush and so louche.  I was seventeen remember and I could feel the truth of this, like it was the story of my life, the story that could destroy.

3) Penetration
It's the whole package.  Williamson and Iggy, Pop and James and the ashetons behind, and those GORGEOUS fucking (and I use the world appropriately) lyrics.

4)  Gimme Danger
Oh so sleazily lovely, so S&M, so love, so social disease.  And the voice man, yeah... and the drums... oooh yeah it drives me into an incoherence of my own.  Whips and Chains and Gags Oh my! Yeah!  Little Straaaaaaaaaaangerrrrrr  can you feeeeeeeeeeel me?

5)  I Wanna Be Your Dog
Same driving rhythms as Search and Destroy.  Same deliciously incoherent rantings of Iggy Pop, and James Williamson's guitar caress but somehow it's more knowing and that is both its glory and the reason this is not much higher.  This is though, my favourite track that's not on Raw Power.

And yeah, looks like I'm rubbish at resisting temptation, but there is so damn much.  It aches like a severed left temporal lobe to leave out...
Sick of You, Death Trip, I'm Bored, Lust for Life, China Girl, Raw Power (the track), Dirt, TV Eye,Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell...
Hell, it even hurts to leave out the Passenger and the Stooges version of Louie Louie and that cheesy duet of Did You Ever (All the Time) that Iggy did with Deborah Harry.

Friday, 20 March 2015

So, somebody asked me about my Patti Smith top five.  Can you people see just how cruel that could be?  I mean this is Patti Smith!!!  The woman I voted for in the Sounds poll for 1976 as the sexiest woman, man, androgyne or any other kind of gender.  The woman I worshipped when I was a downtrodden, broken up bullied and gender dysphoric fifteen year old.  THAT Patti Smith!

First things first then, thinking of the ones it absolutely hurts to leave out.  Naturally that begins with Piss Factory.  There was no rap in those days, or if there was, I'd never heard of it, and I heard this, poetic, beautiful, ripped still bleeding from the pages of Babel (and that, OMG THAT was the book it really hurt to sell when I was so desperate for food that I walked with a suitcase full of books from Leytonstone to Barking to Rodney's, a shop I knew would give a good price.  Selling that book was like ripping out my own heart). So that's the first, number one I guess.
1 Piss Factory

So then what comes next.  Another beautiful lyrical injection of Patti's words perhaps?  Something iconic?  Oh and yes of course, I remember watching Millennium as Land was shot as a 9 minute music video while Lara Means lost her mind. It's also the reason I bought Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons' book "The Boy Looked at Johnny".  This is a rollercoaster, steam roller, JUGGERNAUT of a song, that rolls over Georgia and leaves smoking ruins in its wake.  Of course I love it.  I hate it too (of course I do, I wish to Gahd I'd written it!) but mostly I love it.
2 Land

Two monsters of songs that bleed into my skull and leave my brain wrung out and bleeding with the pain of such an early comparison with all the shit I'll ever write myself.  Even though this comparison was what brought me closer than anything else I have ever thought of experienced to suicide.  They are just too beautiful.  I am reluctant to include a song that Patti didn't write for herself, even though she took this into the charts and made 1977 more tolerable for me than it might otherwise have been. It was decades before I found out that she had written this with Bruce Springsteen.  In the end though, I couldn't leave this one out even though my heart will bleed to leave out others in its wake.
Desire is Hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is the banquet at which we feed
And this was recorded AFTER she recovered from a broken back.
3 Because the Night

You all know where I grew up by now.  The place that I call Deliverance.  Listen to the lyrics to this one.  Feel the rhythm.  Dance to it and feel the taste of human flesh as it clings to your teeth. Feel the lust that binds you, the sex that makes it feel okay before they rip the flesh from you in sacrifice.
And I laid upon the table, another piece of meat!
4) Summer Cannibals

And now we come to the final place and I know that when I say 'hurts to leave out' this time, I mean it.  I am so torn about this.  There are at least three songs that are holding me hostage and demanding that each of them get the last place.  Well sorry songs, much as I would love to, you can only have one.  And I guess that the big time sensuality of Distant Fingers beats out both the spiritual excess of Dancing Barefoot and the politico-economic clarity of Glitter in their Eyes.
5 Distant Fingers

Hurts to leave out... and this time it's not just a formality.  I Can hardly bring myself to leave out the aforementioned Dancing Barefoot - a glorious song about woman as angel and woman as drug.  And of course Glitter in Their Eyes - a lovely song about the theft represented by international trade agreements.
Yes but that's not all, I ache to leave out: Ask the Angels; A Room In Lebanon; People Have the Power; Privilege (Set Me Free); Tramping; Peanuts; Ain't It Strange; Boy Cried Wolf; Space Monkey; Waiting Underground; Frederick; Kimberley;  I think you get the picture.  It broke me as a child to know that I could never grow up to be her, even if I could find some musicians to work with that even half understood what was in my head.  I hate and love and worship and wish... but that is sharkbait.