Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

Just one more from the Lost Jukebox. Not a fan of the occasion myself and neither is Beverley by the sound of it. Happy 2012.
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Intensified

Music like dirt.

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Chi Chi Bud

Aside from the Lost Jukebox, my other main source of music this year has been Dub Vendor which used to be in Clapham but is now just online. Here are a couple I have particularly enjoyed.

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Friday, 30 December 2011

The Lost Jukebox

I fancy myself a take it or leave it kind of guy. But I have hung on to a lot of records and now cds.
And I mean a lot of records.
And a lot of cds.
And a lot of cassettes (incidentally. I made these shelves from one of the kids' old beds).
And a lot of people (well, my wife and my dad) ask me why do I have so many and why can't I make do with fewer. I probably hang on to more than I need through a mixture of inertia and diffidence but the answer to why I buy so many in the first place lies in the world of The Lost Jukebox.
This is a series of over 200 cds compiled by an American called Jeffrey Glenn from pop singles from the 60s and 70s, mostly, from the US and UK, generally speaking, that failed to make a significant impression on the charts, more or less. So far,so ordinary. What sets this apart is the sheer quality of the music on offer. None of it is from any recognisable genre or sub-culture of those years, it is all mainstream popular music issued by major record labels recorded by proper musicians accompanied, often, by an orchestra. It should be the squarest compilation ever.
But Glenn has made brilliant choices in what he includes on each cd. They are not thrown together to show what a large collection he has. Many of the cds are themed around girls names or the summer or the Beatles. Each cd is pleasingly sequenced and the material chosen is of a consistently high and innovative standard.
I have spent much of the past year listening to these cds and most of the music on this blog is taken from them. I have previously heard only a very small fraction of the music on these discs. And I have heard a lot of music before.
The big black wodge in this photo are the Lost Jukebox cds piled together.
I have been listening to popular music for almost 40 years and here is a huge range of material none of which I had heard before. And some of it is sensational.
That is why I keep acquiring music. To hear something I have not heard before and that will make me feel different or change my view or just bring me pleasure.
I have started trying to find copies of those 45s on the Lost Jukebox that I have particularly enjoyed, some of which are on this blog. I want to have the record as cds do not count.
Glenn's achievement is significant, I think. He is more than a compiler and this is more than a comilation. But even if that were all it was, it is still a significant technical accomplishment. Think of how many 45s you might have. Now imagine compiling only those that conform to the 60s and 70s timeframe and have not been included on any compilation before and organising them in a pleasing sequence. Now imagine doing that 230 times. And then he had to actually put the music onto the cds.
I think it is a significant art project which stands against those who might claim that some genres of popular music have more, deeper significance than others. Glenn does not attempt to weed out the hip from the square, the groovy from the bandwagon jumpers exploiting that week's teen craze. He provides no context and makes no attempt to isolate quality from the tawdry. Everything here is judged solely on musical merit, which sounds obvious but so many people judge pop music on non-musical grounds. Glenn sends us back to judge on the basis of our ears alone (literally in my case, as my eyes will not allow me to read the track listing on printed versions of the cd covers).
I think that the timeframe is also significant. I doubt that I would wish to listen to 200 cds of mainstream popular music from the 80s and 90s.

Daddy, my Daddy.

Say these words to any British man my age and they will all think of Jenny Agutter, at least those with daughters will. Here is Pebbles from the Flintstones offering her thoughts on the subject, you'd have to have a heart of stone etc. Dedicated to Lily.

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Didn't Know What Time It Was

I do not like falsetto vocals, so here is a song with some. I like that it sounds elegiac, unusually given that the singer's dilemma could be easily solved through the purchase of a watch.
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Love Hit Me

It's got a good beat and you can dance to it. This is the sort of thing they should have the acts on X Factor singing. I love the girls voices together, slightly out so you can tell it has not been double tracked. The lack of Autotune adds to the urgency as does the lack of separation in the instruments.
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What Else Do You Do For Kicks

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Sounds like Love is Strange as recorded by Joan Greenwood.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Cities Make the Country Colder

I fancy they do though. It was very cold in the country today when I went to the Post Office.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Heaven Can Wait

I fancy myself someone who does not do modern music but I like to listen to this on the train in the morning. Beck again. And Charlotte Gainsbourg, n'est pas. Video thinks it's out there but isn't.



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Protestant Orchard

I fancy myself Piere Schaeffer and this is an experiment in musique concrete using tapes of other recordings and the radio and ambient sound.

Country Electro

Tune by Bob Wills. Beats by Two Sisters. New genre by me still awaits wider acceptance.

Some Beautiful

I fancy myself a 70s kind of guy and here is a key 70s figure. I put a Jack Wild clip on my other blog http://neverbeloudenough.tumblr.com and it made me want to hear one of his songs that I got off ebay the other day for ten bob or so. Came in a lovely company sleeve with "I love Jack Wild" and Jack Wild is the best" biro'd all over it (see photo).



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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Megamix 3

Last one. Aside from Grandmaster Flash, I think these experiments were also driven by discovering I had a tape recorder with a very efficient pause button. All the source material on my mixes comes from cassette tapes rather than the original records suggesting they were made on one of those double cassette dubbing tape machines. Although we could put the music in juxtaposition, we did not have the capability of dubbing it on top of other pieces, preventing us from doing a real Grandmaster Flash. Nor did we possess more than one record deck. Again, this will be from about 1981. At the time I did not see any distinction between making music using guitars and other instruments and making it in this way and I still do not.

Remix

I fancy myself a remixer. This is a remix of myself and friends recorded at a very small studio in Tyneside running through a selection of our classics. I took all the non-vocal parts from one song and stuck them together to create an instrumental. I then charged myself £50k for having done so.

Megamix 2

This was my response to the previous post. I can clearly remember being very impressed by hearing the Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (although I did not know at the time that that is what it was called). That would date this at 1981/1982.

Megamix 1

I fancy myself a mixer and here are some mixes myself and friends made in the very early 1980s. I cannot remember the exact chronology but here is a mix that a friend made. This was before the days of mash-ups but we clearly enjoyed the juxtaposition of sounds and themes.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Feedback Piece 2

This is a second feedback piece, created by a friend, which is more successful than my previous effort. It has plenty of tension, the feedback seemingly activated by sounds made within the immediate environment.

Feedback Piece

I fancy myself an avant garde composer. I was talking to my son about the previous Wolfman post and he said that anyone could do that. I said that it was not that easy and to prove it here is an excerpt from a piece that I did in 1981 which lacks the build, tension and structure of Wolfman.

The end of the piece was inspired by the final music from the film "Badlands" which I had watched the night before. Right at the very end you can hear my sister complaining that she liked the piece and slamming the door because I had glowered at her for interupting me mid-creation.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Wolfman

I fancy myself a person of mainstream tastes. I do not seek out of the way stuff for its own sake. It does seem to me to be completely mainstream to want to hear something a bit unusual now and then, just for a change. I like stuff that succeeds on its own terms and I think this piece does that. Its full version builds from a quiet start but this edit just jumps in at the good bit. I have listened to this piece quite a few times and always find it relaxing. There is a consistency to the intensity of conception and performance so that, although dissonant, the piece does not jar or unsettle.

This is a recording of a performance piece from 1964 by the composer Robert Ashley who is more famous for much quieter pieces. The performer is a jaded nightclub singer who exhales lengthy notes into a heavily overloaded PA system resulting in a 15 minute feedback holocaust. It must have been awesome to experience live. Seriously, I do not understand how anyone could not appreciate and enjoy this.

Monday, 28 November 2011

I Sing the Supremes Part 1.

I fancy myself a singer (see "One Night Only" post) and here is the proof. This sounds tinny because of the poor quality speakers on your pc. Try listening through headphones for a slightly better listening experience. This is the first prduct of my new found ability to digitise cassette tape recordings, of which I have several hundred.

Happy listening.

I Sing the Supremes Part 2.

I fancy myself Diana Ross and here I am channelling her style of free singing that is liberated from the tyranny of the melody and consistent keys. Not to make excuses, but the circumstances under which this was recorded were two tape recorders playing in both ears earlier recordings of the song while I accompanied myself on guitar and kazoo and attempted to sing in tune and remember the words while not getting too close to the 3rd tape recorder's microphone so as to drown out everything else. Something of a technological tour de force, in my view. Recorded in 1983, in Throckley. the rock'n'roll capital of the world.

This is also the conclusive evidence as to from whence Lily's vocal abilities do come.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sunglasses

I fancy myself someone who takes listening to music seriously while at the same time deploring people who take music seriously. I do believe that you should be able to say what it is about a piece of music that you like, how it affects you and what thay feels like. But having said that, I do not really know why I like this.It reminds me of 1970s interval music. The vocals are sweet and urgent. I like singing that has that kind of careful enunciation and clipped English tones. And obviously the subject matter is of vital, biting importance.

Don't Let Him Touch You

I fancy myself as moral but I find that this song manages to be salacious while preaching morality. Not an easy trick. Jonathan King wrote and produced it. I am not going to be cheap and make a comment about that, given the song's title. Nice big chorus, always a plus in any song, I think. I like the cello and slightly hesitant vocal in the verse too. It even pulls off the one trick normally guaranteed to make me never want to hear a song again, namely a key change in a reprise of a chorus. The singers of this later sang backing vocals on Bryan Ferry's version of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall", amongst other things.

Remember, girls "if he has you, he will leave you. Don't let him touch you".

That's The Way A Woman Is.

I fancy myself intelligent but find that as I get older I like music that is much stupider than what I used to listen to. This song makes me feel happy. I like that its only lyrics are "Uh huh uh huh huh huh huh huh huh uh huh uh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh that's the way a woman is". There are some other words as well but they are only there to fill in the song until we get to the good "Uh huh uh huh" bit again. You certainly get absolutely no insight into the way a woman is. But you can't argue against a good rhythmn and a good tune. The fact that it makes no sense is irrelevant. In fact, it is probably something to be celebrated. I like that it reminds me of when I first heard music, and what I heard was the overall sound of the record. How loud were the drums, how noisy were the guitars, what was the singer's tone of voice like. This is what was important then and all songs could have gone "Uh huh uh huh huh huh huh huh" for all I cared.

The Rose of Allendale

I fancy myself as growing up immersed in the music of the North East but know that probably is not as true as I would like. I fancy that I learnt this song in school but I suspect I actually first heard Nic Jones' version on John Peel in 1977. This is my favourite version of this song, by the Copper family from Rottingdean. People assume that this is a Scottish or Irish song but Allendale is just outside Hexham. People also assume that this is a traditional song but it was written in the 1840s by two blokes. However, through the folk tradition a Victorian composition set in a tiny village in Northumberland is passed down by a family of East Sussex agricultural workers.

This is dedicated to my beautiful wife who will illustrate the song for you. Her middle name is Mary, which has relevance to the song, as you will see. I have a particular attachment for the final verse. Not the stuff about Africa's burning sands, obviously, but the stuff about my life being a wilderness.

My life has been a wilderness
unblessed by fortune's gale,
had fate not linked my lot to hers
the rose of Allendale.

Monday, 21 November 2011

One Night Only

I fancy myself a singer but this is a real singer. This is my daughter singing on the radio. She is an actress too. All kinds of people can act but very few people can sing like this.

She must get it from her mother.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Live at the Acropolis

I fancy myself a polymath but this Beck bloke takes the biscuit. A hip-hop artist, rapper, multi-instrumentalist who plays country-blues, tropicalia, pop, rock, and is a writer, performer and producer. As well as making his own records, he found time to write and produce Charlotte Gainsbourg's most recent record and has been remaking classic rock lps and putting them on his website. His latest effort in this strain is a remaking of "Live at the Acropolis" by Yanni, who is a Greek composer of new age music, all long hair and flouncy white shirts.

I was thinking that no-one makes really good avant-garde records anymore. Not like they did in the 60s and 70s. It seems too easy now to have some electronic equipment make a funny noise and to drop some sound effects over it and give it a metaphysical title. But this whole album is fantastic. Others in this series sound a bit like people just having a bash at songs they are familiar with but they prepared real arrangements for this recording and employed some proper musicians to play them. The arrangements reconfigure Yanni's original score into something more interesting, not so polite. Keener to engage than entertain.

There are some great tonalities across the whole album. There is a piano being played in a big empty room but recorded from next door, a funky bass, drums that are not so much played as thrown around the studio and lashings of feedback poured over the whole thing like custard over a slice of apple pie. It is Beck's masterpiece.

I absolutely love this and have had it on in the car constantly for the past couple of days. The wife and kids really dig it too.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

I fancy myself the rootin', tootin' kind and I like the swagger of this song. I love it when he sings "Ain't good looking but, you know, I ain't shy. Ain't afraid to look a girl in the eye". What a come on.

I've got this record but I also have a later live album by him which is very boring, American AOR. His early stuff is much more vigorous. "Sock it to me, Santa" is another good one by him that I would pay actual money to have a copy of.

Monday, 14 November 2011

87 Sundays

I fancy myself as lachrymose and have very emotional reactions to some songs. I listened to this song again this morning as I got off the train at Victoria and it made me cry again. This is the best song ever written or recorded.

This song came out in 1968 and I love songs from the 1960s that present the antithesis of the swinging time that everyone was supposed to be having ("Paper Sun" by Traffic is another example).
I do not know anything about Ruth nor about who wrote this song but I would pay a lot of money to have an actual copy of this record.