Love it or hate it

18 06 2020

I saw a typically clever Marmite ad online the other day. If you’re not familiar with Marmite, all I can suggest is you study particle physics instead. It’ll be easier to explain. The rest of us will just quietly continue…

It was making reference to the fact that the source material (spent brewer’s yeast) was currently in short supply and the larger size jars were temporarily unavailable.

Marmite Ad: Image Source… heaven

It reminded me that many things are quite polarising, especially in the arts. Indeed, as I type this I’m listening to “Too much  too young” by the Specials as Mrs E looks on with undisguised distate.

The works of Roger Waters fall into this category, I found. Ex of Pink Floyd, and no doubt drawing his old age pension, he’s still producing music and touring. I’d bought tickets for my son and I to see him in Vancouver this autumn. COVID put an end to that, so we’ll see how outrageous Ticketmaster behaves when it comes to rescheduling/refunds.

Many people find his music repetitive or dirge-like, but personally I love the imagery of his lyrics. Admittedly they can be a bit self-indulgent sometimes, but I still love the imagery.

Take the lines from “4.50 AM (Go Fishing)” on “Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking”:

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat

There’s mention of Eeyore and Pooh in the song too! Classic word-weaving.

Anyway, Spotify served up one of his later pieces from “Amused to Death”. It’s not what you’d call a light spirited album but again, I find the word pictures very evocative. Given the times we live in, I thought the lyrics for “Too much rope” particularly relevant.

Muslim or Christian, Mullah or Pope
Preacher or poet who was it wrote
Give any one species too much rope
And they’ll fuck it up

Love it. Hate it. Just don’t waste it!





Mike Scott and Wings

19 06 2016

Yeah, yeah, I know Wings was Paul McCartney’s band and you’ve likely no idea who Mike Scott is, but bear with me.

So last night I went to see Lloyd Cole play live in Vancouver with First Born and Mrs. E.

ClDRTmkUoAE3fvr

Now there’s a bit of a story to this. Back in the early 80’s I was at university in Durham and foolishly forewent the opportunity to go and see the upstart Lloyd Cole and the Commotions when they played nearby. Likely Newcastle. I don’t recall… it was after all 30+ years ago! Many years later, in the late 90’s he was still pumping out some great – if somewhat melancholy – music. His style suits my own perfectly, and I’ve always appreciated his deep insightful lyrics… and easily recognise his slight pretensions within myself (not everyone can fit “Simone de Beauvoir” into a song lyric).

I was delighted to learn he was to do a show in Northampton which was an easy drive from Milton Keynes where I lived at the time. I was totally gutted when it was cancelled at the last moment. Years later I even had a brief Twitter exchange with the great man who was kind enough to explain the circumstances.

2016-06-19 (2)

Anyway, this time, it all went smoothly. First Born had to collect her ticket at the venue (thanks Ticketmaster… another example of your stellar service that you charge unreasonable amounts to not provide!) so we got there early. The venue didn’t have a separate “Will Call” window so we ended up in the normal queue for entrance and therefore happily close to the front.

The venue is normally a cinema so we ended up with primo comfy seats in the centre and only a couple of rows back from the stage. We had to wait an hour or so for Mr Cole to make an appearance but that was fine. When he first briefly appeared, it was to set up his own gear (plainly a low budget affair… as hinted at by the venue itself). He does not portray “rock star” at all. More “bored dad”, I’d say. He’d definitely benefit from a stylist though… denim jackets went out with Cool Hand Luke. He’s a few years older than me, but looked fit and well… and in possession of a full head of greying hair. Pretty much the same style as back in the 80’s – kudos.

IMG_0722

Lloyd Cole does his own tuning and sound check

The show was in support of a retrospective boxed set of his music covering 1983-1996 so I was anticipating singing along to every song – highly familiar as I am with his entire catalogue. I was slightly perplexed when he came on to perform, picked up one of his two guitars (freshly tuned) and launched into a song I’d never heard. He has a dour face at the best of times, and had not spoken a word. This did not bode well…

Thankfully he then identified the tune as a Prince song. He’d been listening to much of his music of late (no pun intended) and had realised the chord progression was similar to one of his own songs (Loveless) from the setlist. He said it was not originally on the setlist, but I see he played it at the previous gig in Portland, so I think that was a white lie. I’m not familiar with much of Prince’s work, but I identified the song as “Sometimes It Snows In April” and not “Tracy” as listed for Portland.

Decide for yourself with the help of Youtube:

He soon got into his stride and verged almost on the chatty between songs. After playing Butterfly he told a story of playing at a concert with Mike Scott (lead singer of The Waterboys) and finding his music dark and moody. Darker and moodier than anyone else’s. He claimed he’d re-examined his own material and not played Butterfly for a decade after the concert! I’m not sure many in the audience knew who Mike Scott even was, but the point was well made.

He joked about his age and needing to wear reading glasses over his contact lenses for fine work (like tuning his guitar), and admitted to maintaining some small portion of vanity. He laughed and said when he removed his specs, he was sometimes left with “wings” due to his still ample hair, and asked the audience to let him know if this was the case.

Naturally – being an audience full of ageing hipsters – “Wings!” was called out at various times for the rest of the evening. Lloyd seemed to genuinely enjoy his reception and smiled when he got a Canadian “you’re welcome” to his rock star “thank-you” at the end of each song.

IMG_0725

Lloyd Cole getting all emotional… honest

His guitar work was excellent, and I was impressed that he re-tuned his guitars occasionally, “because I care” as he explained. At one point a member of the audience ambled up to the stage and delivered a pint of beer. Something I myself have done to support particularly good pub bands… but I’ve never seen it at a “proper concert”! Oh Canada… you’re so, er, Canadian!

He politely accepted the pint (perhaps in fear of opening the door to a steady stream of further offerings) but said he’d save it until later, explaining he’d once tried Karaoke when drunk in Japan, and realised too late that “We will rock you” actually had verses! Assuring us of his relative success with the chorus, he launched quickly into the next song.

He actually fluffed the words in one song, stopped with an annoyed “dammit”, apologised for the tongue-twister words (hey – come on Lloyd, YOU wrote them!) and continued to a note-perfect ending. It was very human and didn’t detract one iota from the performance. During the intro to another song, he hit a bum note and explained his little finger now had a groove in it due to all the concerts and he sometimes found it hard to hold the string down properly. He restarted and played note perfect for the entire thing. So very dad-like.

After Charlotte Street, he explained he’d written it while living in London. He claimed it actually related to events he’d experienced on Upper Street (the A1), but figured Charlotte Street (off the famous Oxford Street) sounded better. He then poked fun at Big Audio Dynamite, saying someone should have told them Upping St. was a bad name for a record. As far as I can tell, Upping St. doesn’t actually exist.

The night seemed to be over in a blink, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Apart from the unexpected Prince homage, I knew all the songs and heartily sang along to most. Thankfully it was dark. Just sayin’.

He saved Perfect Skin and Forest Fire until the encore and was rewarded with stand up ovations – well deserved! I certainly hope he includes Vancouver in the tour for the next boxed set.

IMG_0730





OK GO outdo themselves

11 02 2016

Masters of the “one-take, no edit” music video, OK-GO have gone a step further in their colourful choreographed music videos. This time – weightless.

  • No less choreography.
  • No less colour.
  • Just less gravity…

EDIT: So it seems the original link to Youtube that I posted wasn’t “kosher” and has been removed. Try instead the official OK GO posting, which can be found here. If you’re interested in how it was done (and where the joins are when gravity returns) check out the FAQ & credits.

036-1280x905





Boob spelled backwards is boob!

13 12 2015

Source: He wrote a song about his mom’s cancer. That’s when famous musicians sent him their version.

When young Archer discovered that his mum’s breast cancer had returned, he decided it was dumb. She’d kicked its arse once, and it was dumb enough to come back for more!

Determined to do his bit to help, he wrote a song. Well, the words of a song anyway. Luckily his dad is a radio DJ and with a little help from the various famous musicians that came through the station young Archer’s song was given form.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women, and Archer’s mum happens to be one. She’s on the mend again and Archer’s creativity has helped shine a bit more light on this disease. Enjoy his song, and look for ways you can help.





The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

15 03 2015

What ever happened to Roger Waters?

Years ago, a great friend of mine asked if I wanted a CD of an album that he just couldn’t “get on with”. We were both Pink Floyd fans (indeed he even got to see them live), and this was a solo album by Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.

Wikipedia: The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

I’ve learnt over the intervening three decades that it is definitely a divisive album. Even those that love The Floyd and even Waters generally can have polarised views on this particular album. He sketched it out alongside The Wall in the late 70s and offered the band one, the other was to be a solo project. It took him until 1984 to finish it.

Even the cover is controversial. The more keen observers will note that the naked woman has been relieved of her face, and arguably then further objectified. The really keen observers will note she’s on the right of the road making her likely a hitcher in the UK, facing traffic driving on the left.

Love it or hate it, it’s a clever concept album. Each track is titled with a time (in realtime if you’re an insomniac) as the narrator spends a sleepless night having various dreams and recollecting his fears, memories and thoughts of adultery.

There are really strong saxophone and guitar elements from  David Sanborn and Eric Clapton. That said, I was personally drawn by the typically clever Waters lyrics. The guy can be provocative for sure, but he can tell a story and wields words with the grace and precision of any master painter.

And she smiled as she finished her sandwich
And her cold eyes fixed me to my dark history
As she brushed the remains
Of our love from the bed

 

Fixed on the front of her Fassbinder face
Was the kind of a smile
That only a rather dull child could have drawn

 

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat

 





I try

24 02 2015

Tick tock goes the clock.

The Vancouver Sun Run is not getting further away, and I’ve been trying to keep up some sort of training regime. Gym a few times a week; running the rest of it; a hike at the weekend…

I did a half-decent hike on Saturday, but have been a bit lazy since then. Even my nagging FitBit hasn’t been successful in breaking my fug. I’ve been a bit low emotionally lately and that never helps with motivation.

Today though, I managed to cajole myself out for a run. As usual, I put my iPod on random and set off into the night. As I’ve mentioned a few times, there is often a single song that sticks with me as particularly memorable out of the 10 or so that play during my circuit. This time though, I noticed just how many of the tunes were about lost loves, or other forms of self pity. It could of course just be one of those weird statistical things, or it might be a reflection of the type of music I am drawn to.

The song that stood out for me tonight was the lovely Macy Gray and “I try”.

I try to say goodbye and I choke
Try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not here

Nice steady beat though, I shaved almost 5 minutes off my circuit time which was a shock. I’ve been favouring the gym of late and didn’t think my road speed would have been maintained. Seems I was wrong. Now if only I could lose some of the excess weight I’d be quids in…

Trawling youtube to find the official Macy Gray video, I came across Natalie Imbruglia and Alanis Morissette videos. Interesting. They are both frequent visitors to my iPod, so I plainly fit whatever algorithm youtube is using for “if you like this, you’d probably also like…”.

So, as a bonus today, I bring you one of my favourite Alanis tracks – “Everything”. Any song that can begin with I can be an asshole of the grandest kind is right up my street.

I love the self-effacing timbre of much of her music, and the celebration that someone can love you despite everything you are…. or perhaps even because of it.

You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here





Criminal

27 01 2015

Well, I’m trying to get my money’s worth out of my son’s monthly gym membership…

If I go, he feels obliged to come too, so’s not to be shown up by the old man. My card is per-visit, so there’s no particular pressure as to when I go, but his is per month, so if he doesn’t go, it’s wasted money… and it’s my money!

As is often the case, the iPod “spoke” to me. Tonight’s stand-out song was Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. Back from her early days… though she was still as skinny as a beanpole.

Dubious taste in video if I may say, but close your eyes and absorb the imagery wrought by the poetry.





163 bpm

27 01 2015

So once or twice I’ve written about how some ditty or other stood out from the crowd on my random playlist as my iPod accompanied me on a run or at the gym.

Last night was no exception, but this time the stand-out wasn’t for the poetry. Ha – far from it.

The tune last night was the Quo‘s “Caroline”. Hardly highbrow art, but catchy nevertheless.

Come on sweet Caroline
You’re my sweet Caroline
You know I want to take you
I’ve really got to make you
Come on sweet Caroline

Hm… not a lot to say about that really. Let’s just remember it was a product of its time and leave it at that.

I see from that 1973 video that Messrs Rossi and Parfitt still had their nasal septums back then.

Anyway, the point is that I finished my usual ~4km run significantly faster than usual. Five minutes faster. Now of course statistically it might be that I suddenly got a lot fitter, but the fact I collapsed in a sweaty heap on my return kind of thwarts that theory. No – I think it’s that this particular song was subconsciously driving my pace a little faster than usual. So I sniffed around the rear end of the internet and discovered a website that tells you the bpm for pretty much any song you care to name. It’s called jogfm and it also works in reverse and offers a list of songs for a given target bpm! Several of the suggestions for 163bpm are in my iTunes collection (well it is many GB in size, so it’d be more of a surprise if they weren’t!) so I think I know what I’m doing next weekend…

Just for the record, 163bpm is equivalent to a pace of 5:24/km. Or in other words, a sub-hour Sun Run… maybe this year’s the year.





Tonight’s Primo Tune

23 01 2015

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes one song really stands out from the shuffle playlist on my iPod when I’m running or at the gym.

Tonight it was Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.

The particular “poetry”?

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars Lyrics | MetroLyrics.

Video of them playing it live at the Royal Opera House (they are awesome live, BTW!)





Evolution and competing for life

19 01 2015

So you may recall I was given a FitBit for Chrimbo.

Quite a discrete little thing – not much bigger than my handmade leather (and EVER so masculine) bracelet. It faithfully logs my every step and reports on my restless sleep each night. All it asks is that I recharge it every now and then. It’s even thoughtful enough to email me when it’s time to perform that little task.

I went for a swift bevvie on Friday with a couple of old workmates. Old as in “not current” – they’re both substantially younger than me. Anyway, one of these gents let slip that he too had recently bought a FitBit, though his was a more sophisticated one that also counts stair flights climbed, heart-rate etc.

Atrial Fibrillation aside, I tend to see heart-rate as a pretty digital thing: “on” or “off”. Off is not generally considered a good thing and can lead to permanent lack of income and a loss of social status. “On” in my case can be anything from 70 or so bpm when at rest to off the chart when it’s in fibrillation. Not a lot of point paying extra to measure that, then!

Anyway yesterday I received a curious email suggesting I become his friend on the FitBit site. This seemed harmless enough, and as I’ve recently given up FaceBook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter etc, I figured I’d best say yes so he doesn’t think I’m spurning him. What I was too dim to realise of course is that this is basically an invitation to be on a scoreboard with his daily FitBit data being compared to my own.

The theory it seems is that a little competition will egg all parties concerned to try a little harder. This naturally works best with men and women of a particular mental slant – viz: egocentric. I’m hoping Darwin was only partially right. I have no issue at all with the survival of the fittest. I’m just hoping that coming second doesn’t mean an instant relegation to the land of the dead!

So this evening I went to the gym with my son (number 3 child). Years ago I bought a “10 entry” pass for the Surrey area leisure centres. I was down to the last one or two, so I bought another 10 entries (it gives you a discounted price). But there was a snag. It seems the original 10 units were not time limited (indeed – I look very young and slim in the photo), but the new block of 10 units runs out in 2 years. What?! That’s five gym visits a year! That’s positively obsessive behaviour that is! I’m just relieved my Yorkshire genes were held at bay and I didn’t go for the slightly cheaper per unit 20 entry pack. That would be almost one visit a month! My gods, I might actually get fit if I went that often. Are they mad?!

Joking aside, I find it very calming to put on my iPod and zone out with my private thoughts whilst pounding away on the elliptical trainer. I find myself feeling a little superior when people come and go on the machines around me, demonstrating as much staying power as a kitten with a ball of string. The woman on the machine next to me was barely at walking speed, was on her phone most of the time, and didn’t even break into a sweat. I on the other hand needed to wade to shore after my session, there was so much moisture exuded.

I have eclectic music tastes and a large capacity iPod on shuffle. It’s always something of a mystery then what my fitness playlist will be on any specific occasion. Usually though one particular song stands out. For last night’s run, it was Arctic Monkey’s “Suck it and see”.

Your kiss it could put creases in the rain

You’re rarer than a can of Dandelion and Burdock

Now that, dear reader is poetry. Though possibly only if you know what Dandelion and Burdock is.

Tonight’s standout song was Ani Difranco’s “As Is”. A very dear friend alerted me to this song years ago, and I love the sentiment in the lyrics.

Cause I’ve got
No illusions about you
And guess what?
I never did
And when I say
When I say I’ll take it
I mean,
I mean as is

So, whatever the long term results of this accidental competition I seem to have entered are, at least I will continue to be reacquainted with some great poetry set to music.

Now, if you’ll excuse me dear reader, I have a dog to walk (to get my FitBit steps in for the day ;o) ). Good job I have a dog, or I’d be forced to steal one for the purpose…