The Glasgow Mix Tape

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Did anybody watch the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games?

Events like this really aren’t ‘my thing’, I’ve always been impressed by Danny Boyle’s films since Shallow Grave but despite him being appointed artistic director of the Olympics bonanza a couple of years ago, I just couldn’t muster the necessary enthusiasm to watch a single moment of the extravaganza he put together to kick off London 2012.

Being a Glaswegian, though, curiosity did get the better of me on Wednesday night so around nine o’clock I switched on my TV and settled down to see what sort of spectacle would be on show at Celtic Park.

Unusually the city was bathed all day in sunshine, the temperature reaching as high as 25 degrees C – the only thing higher being the price of drinks inside the stadium: £20 for four pints with shorts even pricier. Hopefully bucketloads of bevvy wouldn’t be required by spectators to enjoy the evening ahead.

We’d been promised the ceremony would be ironic and subversive so when Karen Dunbar and John Barrowman appeared first up with a dreadful song and dance number written especially for the show, I thought maybe it was a joke and that after somebody like the Krankies were introduced up next that maybe Ewan McGregor would quickly appear to recreate his ‘It’s shite being Scottish’ rant from Trainspotting and that things could actually get very interesting.

Okay, I didn’t really think this and the much touted potential audience of one billion plus was down by at least one within minutes. Time for some of Scotland’s national drink.

When I did flick on my remote back I caught a silver suited and more than slightly hoarse Rod Stewart croaking his way at times through Rhythm of My Heart and then Susan Boyle, a woman whose popularity has always remained an absolute mystery to me, performing what seemed like a shortened version of Mull of Kintyre which just wasn’t short enough.

Apparently I missed a giant kilt, hordes of people dressed as Tunnock’s tea cakes, loads of chairs being moved around by dancers along an old Andy Stewart tune and the aforementioned Ewan McGregor starting the ball rolling for some charity fundraising for Unicef.

In retrospect a better idea than my Mark Renton one. And if you’d like to donate five pounds to that appeal text FIRST to 70333.

My TV did go back on again an hour or so later and before I’m dismissed as a ‘detractor’ I’m happy to admit that things had improved. The athletes all seemed to enjoy parading round the multicoloured track (a little Jim Lambie-esque) and taking selfies. The English team arrived to a genuinely warm applause – so much for the Telegraph’s predictions that they might be booed and the stadium went berserk for the Scots, who arrived to The Shamens’ Move Any Mountain in their apparently controversial team outfits, which looked fine and dandy to me. Not that you’re likely to see me dressed in any garb like that the next time I make my way down London Road or Sauchiehall Street.

Billy Connolly, via a recorded message, told the story of Glasgow signalling the city’s support for the campaign to free Nelson Mandela by renaming St George’s Place to Nelson Mandela Place, a decision devised to cause maximum embarrassment to the South African consulate housed there.

Then it was time for the great and the good (I’m guessing) to spout clichés and (I’m guessing) engage in some political point scoring during (I’m guessing again) some very long winded speeches.

TV back off and onto Soundcloud for me where I listened again to the three tracks on new Glaswegian band Lola in Slack’s demo produced by former Simple Mind Mick MacNeil. Much more like the thing.

the Glasgow Mixtape

The bill for the Glasgow Mix Tape event taking place on this Saturday (2. August) is also much more to my taste than anything I witnessed at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

On Glasgow Green that day there will be everything from the Dixieland jazz of Penman’s Jazzmen to the good time ska of The Amphetameanies but the day will mainly reflect what the organisers, the East End Social describe as ‘the city’s extraordinary heritage for independent music making’.

Highlights for me should include The Phantom Band, an acoustic set from Edwyn Collins and, headlining the Living Room stage, Lloyd Cole and The Leopards – who can be seen below on Later performing Women’s Studies:

 
And this is Edwyn Collins accompanied by Paul Cook on drums doing Losing Sleep, the title track of Edwyn’s seventh solo album:

 
Keep the faith!

For more on the East End Social click here.

For more on the fantastic Lola in Slacks click here.

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Martin Newell, The Greatest Living Englishman

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Cleaners from Venus - Return To Bohemia

What do you know about the greatest living Englishman, Martin Newell? If your answer is nothing, or not much, then you need to put that right pronto. There’s never been a better time.

Soft Bodies Records have recently released the utterly splendid “Return to Bohemia“, which is the new Cleaners From Venus (aka Martin Newell) album.

Captured Tracks have recently released Volume 3 of their extensive Cleaners From Venus reissues.

And, on top of that, Martin Newell has also launched Mule TV, a new YouTube channel, in which he goes in search of a perfect pop song for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. Mule TV is a series of short, very entertaining videos that feature a host of diverse characters, all of whom look suspiciously like a certain Mr Newell.

Once you’ve embraced that little lot, there are books, poems, a website, and an enormous discography to explore. In summary, the man’s a national treasure, and our man nigeyb recently caught up with him…

 
Hello Martin.  You were ill in 2013.  How are you doing now? 

In most ways, I’m better than I was. The eyesight in one eye is still dodgy, but the surgeons saved the sight and we’re still working on it.

The collapse, a non epileptic brain seizure briefly killed me, I’m told, last May. It was a one-off we think… an electrical fault caused by temporary potassium deficiency, general exhaustion, lack of sleep and a bit of a drinking… quite a lot actually.

I listened to what the neurologist said… “More sleep and less wine… try to remember that you’re sixty now and not thirty..”

I said, “Okay Mr Shiraz.”

There was a pause.

“That’s Mr Sharif.” he said quietly.

So, that’s one death, two eye operations, then my mum died, a week after I got out of hospital. I got on with my album and tried not to take it all personally.

Congratulations on “Return to Bohemia”, the latest Cleaners From Venus album. It’s another wonderful collection that harks back to the golden age of classic pop. Even by your own high standards, this album seems to exude quality. What were your aims at the outset? How pleased are you with it?  Where does it fit with your other work?

I do have this ability to bury myself in music and writing when things are going badly. I wanted to write a cheerful album. After the brain seizure, last summer, all my senses were heightened… for a while this was quite intense. In case it was the last thing which I ever did, I thought that I’d better concentrate. I think it’s as good an album as ever I’ve made. It’s kind of ‘everything I’ve learned about pop so far; distilled into 12 songs. I do feel absolutely at the top of my game at the moment. I seem to have recaptured all my old DIY recording enthusiasm.


Tell us about your splendid new Mule TV YouTube project, including more about your quest to find an appropriate song for Eurovision 2015.  

This is at least half-serious. Whether I’ll get to enter the competition or not, I have doubts. The BBC, for the past few years choose our songs by a mysterious process called “internal selection.” Since I have one or two friends in high places, I asked a few questions yet have still not found out what ‘internal selection’ involves or who does it. I do know, however, that it’s very difficult to find out how to enter a song. For the past few years too, the public are not consulted or asked to vote upon the matter. The result? A number of absolute three-legged donkeys. This country is capable of writing the best songs in the world. Why are the “Auntie Knows Best” BBC hunched over the entry process? Is it, as some think, that if we actually won, we’d then have to pay to host it? I really do think it’s very strange. And I’m going to sit there on Mule TV mercilessly lampooning them, until I flush them from their cover.  Oh and it is terrific fun, too!

You seem to be having a ball on Mule TV, in addition to creating some marvellous comic characters. How much are you enjoying it?  Where have the characters emerged from?  How many are alter-egos?

The characters on Mule are probably all aspects of me to some degree. Mossy the ’80s miserablist singer is of course quite obvious. I believe that The Smiths and XTC between them just about covered the job in the ’80s that the Beatles did in the ’60s. I loved the Smiths.

What does Eurovision mean to you? Why has the UK fared so badly over the years?

I think of the Eurovision as this warm cuddly thing. It’s a shining example of a genuine entente cordiale — one which businessmen, politicians and sports majordomos can only bullshit about. Here is a chance for people of many nations and cultures to share each other’s music, humour and quirks. It’s been a bit hi-jacked by gender politics at present, but there are worse things to be hijacked by. I don’t wish to enter it as a performer, but I’d love to enter a song for it to represent my country, because I’m good at writing songs and I think that I may be able to write something which everyone would love. I’d like to see the contest redefined as a genuine song contest… not merely as a bit of high-camp. I know it’s fun… but I have to ask, “Where are the songs?”

The UK has fared badly, partly because of the Beeb’s arrogance and stupidity and partly because the whole art of songwriting is being buried under hyperbole and technology. Nobody wants to admit that we no longer produce songs of the quality and standard raised during the mid 20th century.


I notice your bicycle features from time to time on Mule TV, and in a recent episode you appeared to be watching the Tour de France when it visited Essex. What does cycling mean to you?

After a guitar, I think a bicycle is my favourite shape. I have never driven. For a while last year, the doctors told me not to cycle for a few weeks, while my operation scars formed. When I finally got back on the bike in late September, I was full of joy, like a pit pony let out into the meadows after a long winter.

I recently read (and loved) your 2001 memoir “This Little Ziggy” that covered your eventful life from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. You have published other books (poetry, newspaper columns, Wivenhoe). I read elsewhere you were planning another memoir, is that still the case? When might we be able to read it?  What are you writing about at the moment?

There are odd chapters and essays of my life after Ziggy all over the place. I think one memoir is enough for now. Ziggy was very raw and very honest. A little too much information perhaps and that wasn’t even the whole story. At present I write a 900 word feature each week for the East Anglian Daily Times about some aspect of my life or other and I write poems every week for the arts section of the Sunday Express. I’ve written a chapter for someone’s else’s book recently about the psycho-geography of East Anglia. I’m more absorbed in music and Mule TV right now.

Because I generally won’t deal with literary agents or London publishers (I’m sure the feeling is mutual) I don’t get hassled to write coffee-table garbage or pointless stuff for In-Flight mags or Waitrose Weekend… which is what lit agents make you do… so I only ever do the work which I like… I wait for someone to ask me to do stuff. If I like the idea I do it. So far as I’m concerned, if I have enough of everything: food in the cupboard, money for some wine, and work to do in the morning, then that’s enough. Why go rubbing shoulders with international twats and corpulent piggies? Anyway, my passport’s expired and I may not renew it.

Captured tracks, the Brooklyn-based independent record label, have – over the last few years – lovingly reissued three box sets of your back catalogue. Given that many of the original releases were DIY efforts, done independently, some cassette-only, and which presumably felt quite ephemeral even at the time, how does it feel to see all this work being reissued?  Will there be any more reissues?

I think nearly all the Cap Tracks releases were DIY things. I should feel somehow artistically vindicated that all these things have been so popular 30 years after I did them.

But hardly any were heard at the time by anyone who might have influenced their fate. I was after all, trying to set up an alternative to the music biz. Those things which were heard by music biz people… their attitude was nearly always “This needs a big studio and producer.” My own reaction to this, even in the face of being offered money was usually a two word answer rhyming with ‘truck’ and ‘cough’. On the few occasions I gave them a chance, tracks were usually ruined… or promises turned out to be lies. I eventually realised that I was dealing with people who didn’t know as much as I did. But to be fair I am an awkward and slightly damaged bastard and I do think that I know best. I’m not at war with them anymore, I just realise that my music has about as much in common with the music industry as say a French ballerina does with a small light engineering firm in the West Midlands.

Here’s some quick fire questions…

What’s your favourite track, or album, to…

…dance to?    

“Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango

…feel nostalgic to?

“On a Saturday” by Keith West

…cry to? 

“Kentucky Avenue” by Tom Waits

…relax with?

“But Beautiful” by Stan Getz (with Kenny Barron /live at Umbrian Jazz festival)

…ponder life’s complexities? 

“Esprit D Armenie” by Jordi Savall

Which artist, or artists, you respect or admire?  

Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Keef

Things that make life worth living?

Music, books, and German wine

If you couldn’t live in Wivenhoe (God forbid) where would you choose to live? 

Frinton…maybe Dedham

Thanks Martin

My pleasure

“Return to Bohemia” by Cleaners From Venus is out now.

*

nigeyb is, amongst other things, a chameleon, a Corinthian, a cyclist, a writer, a photographer, a DJ, an aspiring good egg, a slow lane dweller, a musical evangelist, an introvert, a dancer, and a wine enthusiast.

Goodbye, Tommy Ramone

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Sadly the last member of the original Ramones line-up, Thomas Erdelyi aka Tommy Ramone, has died, aged 62 in New York City.

The Ramones defined the sound of punk rock more than any other single band and Tommy played an absolutely integral part in that; drumming on and co-producing the first three classic albums, Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia. He also wrote or co-wrote some of the band’s finest tracks including this one, from the eponymous debut. This is Blitzkrieg Bop performed at their famous Hogmanay 1977 show at the Rainbow Theatre in London:

 
I saw the band play a relentless, pulverising concert at the Glasgow Apollo on that tour and it’s one of most exciting shows I’ve ever witnessed.

Ramones Glasgow Apollo December1977

To read one of Tommys last interviews click here.

Tommy Ramone
January 29, 1952 – July 11, 2014.

 

T In The Park(life)

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Even during my teenage kicks years I was never a natural festival goer. Maybe it’s down the fact that pitching a tent that doesn’t collapse within hours seems to be beyond my capabilities or maybe it’s down to me possessing the kind of pale skin that the average Goth fantasizes about. Certainly being someone who suffers badly from hay fever doesn’t help but mostly I think it’s down to the plain fact that music just sounds better in an enclosed space, preferably smallish, with decent soundcheck beforehand. It does, doesn’t it?

I could list a number of things that I dislike about the average music festival although I wouldn’t quite go along with Edwyn Collins’ ‘Yes, yes, yes, it’s the summer festival, the truly detestable summer festival’ lyric and I even once spent over a week at Stonehenge – a very interesting time albeit I’d struggle to name a single band that I actually enjoyed. I even trooped back the following year and by then – this was 1983 – I’d learned a valuable lesson, which was that a combination of scrumpy cider with magic mushroom tea is best avoided. In fact, it probably makes the Buckfast Challenge seem a sensible idea.

Despite having the reputation of being a hippy dippy festival where everyone wore tie-dyed clothing and discussed ley lines and chakras, Stonehenge was by this point attracting an element that were more Hate and War than Peace and Love. More and more hard drugs were being sold at the festival site and tooled up Hell’s Angels occasionally took great delight in attacking punks – although I never witnessed any aggro myself.

Even with some badass bikers on the rampage, compared to the Loch Lomond Festival of 1980, Stonehenge could probably appear as reasonably harmonious.

Taking place in the Cameron Bear Park, the first Loch Lomond Festival apparently proved pretty successful although I was living dahn south and couldn’t attend. The line-up was impressive and included The Skids, The Stranglers, Dr Feelgood, Buzzcocks and The Boomtown Rats, who opened their set by airing their new single, I Don’t Like Mondays, live for the first time in Britain.

The following year’s festival, which I did attend, will probably be remembered more for the violence that took place on the Saturday rather than for the music, which is a pity because The Only Ones, Stiff Little Fingers and The Jam were all top notch.

Loch Lomond 1980

Throughout the day different factions fought running battles with each other. The Punks fought with the Skins, and the Mods fought with the Punks and the Mods fought with the Skins too, although I forget the exact sequence of the fisticuffs.

Before all that, in an attempt to skip in, my pal climbed a massive wire fence (described the year before in Sounds as ‘impregnable’) only to discover once he’d started his descent down the other side that there were a number of brown bears on the that side of the fence.

It was called Cameron Bear Park for a reason.

He decided to pay in.

Anyway, the atrociously named T in the Park celebrates its 21st birthday over the weekend – the first headliners back in 1994 being Rage Against the Machine and Blur, whose Parklife had only recently been knocked off the top of the British albums chart.

You’ve likely guessed that I won’t be there this time around but there are though a number of acts I would rather fancy seeing; primarily Pixies, Paul Weller, Wilko Johnson, John Cooper Clarke, Call to Mind, Vigo Thieves, Franz Ferdinand, The Stranglers and a couple of bands I’ve recently featured in this here blog, The Moon Kids and The Human League.

Fresh from playing a string of dates across Europe supporting Jack White, this bunch are also playing and will be taking to the BBC Introducing Stage at 8pm on Saturday. This is The Amazing Snakeheads live at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club a few months ago with I’m A Vampire.

Remember folks, anger is an energy.

 
For more on T in the Park click here.

Generation X (x3)

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7x7-1977

GENERATION X: YOUR GENERATION
 
Nowadays when people mention Generation X, they tend to be using it as shorthand to refer back to the kind of characters chronicled in Douglas Coupland’s book of that name: North American 20-somethings from the 1990s, who although well educated had to make do with working in menial jobs; think some of young people who appear in Richard Linklater’s 1991 film Slacker or Dante Hicks from Kevin Smith’s Clerks from 1994 – the year incidentally that Coupland declared that Generation X was dead, complaining that that the term had been co-opted as a marketing term.

Generation X - Your Generation

Coupland has given a few different versions of how he came upon the name Generation X, one of which being that it came from the punk band, who themselves had taken their name from a book on popular youth culture written by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson in the mid 1960s – which Billy Idol’s mum happened to own a copy of.

Generation X Generation X by Douglas Coupland

This particular Generation X featured a collection of interviews with teenage British baby boomers, who spoke about ‘their hates and hopes and fears’. I’ve never read this book myself although I know that the ‘Yes, I am a Mod and I was at Margate’ quote used on the back of the 1977 Clash single White Riot was taken from it.

While I’m on the subject of record sleeve art, the cover of Your Generation was designed by graphic art genius Barney Bubbles, who here was heavily influenced by Russian Constructivism, an art movement that has also been borrowed a number of times by Franz Ferdinand, especially for their early album and singles covers.

Below is an ad on the same theme by Bubbles from Record Mirror:

Generation X - Record Mirroe ad 1977

Your Generation, the first single by Generation X, was released on 2/9/77, two weeks before the death of Marc Bolan (who belonged to the original ‘Generation X’ himself) and here they are performing the song on ITV’s Marc pop show with an introduction where the host decided to set his camp levels firmly to 11.

 
For more on Generation X (the band) click Here.

For more on the first Generation X click Here.

For more on Douglas Coupland click Here,

And for more on Barney Bubbles click Here.