Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dreamt I lived in a country mansion with British Sea Power. Lots of rambles in open countryside, can't recall much else - still, wouldn't be bad!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Feels cold enough to be Scandinavia, so listening to a Labrador Records compilation.

Issue #2 of the main paper fanzine is coming along. I could do with some fingerless gloves to type with, though.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

1998 mix tape

Found this old mix tape that a pen pal made me in 1998.

In true indie-pop teenager style, the holes of a kids' audio story tape were sellotaped over to enable recording, and the tracklisting is stamped with pink Barbie images and red hearts. Lost touch with this pen pal way back, but I sometimes get to wondering if the people from those pen pal days still listen to indie, and if music is still quite as important to them as it was then. I'm still in touch with the odd few, but those that are just out there somewhere, that I haven't had contact with in years, I wouldn't know and get curious when I find old pieces from the past.

I'd forgotten all about that Snug song. And I couldn't place the song that turned out to be by Ballroom, but oddly could sing along a bit after all these years. I think I owe it to this pen pal for encouraging my love of Uresei Yatsura. Another sadly missed/overlooked little 90s band. I had never heard Millie before this, and I still remember my reaction to how much she stood out like a sore thumb on the tape! Grew to love that song, though. It's a wonderful, playful mix up of stuff on this tape - Abba, Nirvana, reggae singer Millie, Radiohead, Angelica, Sebadoh... summed up her tastes well. This was before the internet, and this pen pal was a bit younger than me, so for a 16 year old, a pretty amazing compilation/tastes. I love the mix between CD sound and the scuffle of vinyl stopping and starting too. Internet/digital, you just can't provide that! The tape still plays perfectly well - 15 years on.

Here is a ropy photo of the tracklasting - handwritten in biro:

And here's the exact tracklisting, for reference:
Side A:
1. Snug: think i'm square
2. Belle and Sebastian: dog on wheels
3. Pavement: passat dream (actually, the song on the tape is 'Starlings in the Slipstream', if you're curious for precision!)
4. Yuresei Yatsura: no no girl
5. Ballroom: her sweet saliva
6. Blue: villa rosie
7. The Bluetones: heard that you were dead
8. Millie: my boy lollipop
9. Ultrasound: kurt russell
10. Nirvana: about a girl
11. The Pastels: don't worry baby
12. Sebadoh: temptation tide (cuts off)
Side B:
1. Radiohead: prove yourself
2. Abba: dance (while the music still goes on)
3. Delgados: M-emulator
4. Uresei Yatsura: black holes
5. Elastica: stutter
6. Bluetones: sleazy bed track
7. Blur: peter panic
8. Belle and Sebastian: Dylan in the movies
9. Bis: dance to the disco beat
10. Radiohead: lucky
11. Angelica: teenage girl crush
12. Uresei Yatsura: strategic hamlets
Would anyone else save their boxes of old mix tapes in a house fire? Mine are all in different places and in quite a jumble, but no less the precious.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snow time

Another beloved song that is conjured in my mind when it snows - this time for its video:

I don't think The Cure Play Out has been released on DVD yet, but I have the VHS version which features The Cure messing around with snow in their record company office. There's a lot of interesting stuff on that video, quite nice that it isn't on DVD yet, a curio.

Further thoughts on music buying/HMV

Here's a genuine overheard person on a mobile phone - the location was a little secondhand book shop:

'I'm in a book shop'
'I'm old school - I still buy CDs!'

My heart sank. And I just felt the really strong urge that I am not of these times. It was someone not that much younger than me. Something like that makes me feel so sad - it's so odd and alien to me that buying any kind of physical music product can be seen as, what, kitsch? A stylistic choice? Or just plain old fashioned.

I enjoyed Stuart Braithwaite's addition to the great HMV debate, recently.

He has a good point about extremely low pricing making CDs seem disposable when once they were £15. I remember paying £15.99 for CD albums that weren't even new release, and I remember cassette albums in their last days in the album charts being £15.99 too, which is pretty shocking to look back on. The in between always seems fair to me - and a lot of independent record shops have got that right, eg new releases at anywhere between £8.99 and £12.99.

And the below is too true to:

'As a trusted brand, HMV could quite easily have used its position to establish digital music sales far earlier and far better than it did. Filling its shop floors with iPods was surely an act of cutting one’s own throat, and I had a discussion with someone working in Waterstones recently who felt the same way about its stores selling ­Kindles.'

It will be interesting to see what changes get made to the stock/store policies should a buyer take over HMV.

It's incredibly hard for me to comment or get my head around any potential for there to be a next generation who expect all their music free and therefore for music buying to end totally, as I don't know anyone that feels that way, and the most hardcore music fans I know all adore and use record shops in towns and cities - they also tend to see the urgent need to support bands direct, buying albums and t-shirts at gigs so the band get the money direct, and so on. The thought occurs that new music is so much more ubiquitous now than when I was a teenager, there is almost no escape, and TV shows and advertising in particular have gone indie soundtrack in a way that baffles me that would not baffle those growing up now - a song by Clinic in a Weetabix advert is still beyond comprehension to me! Music seems to mean much less in many ways, too - it is fashion, it is commodity more than ever.

I was recently excited to visit a new shop in the provincial town I grew up in, which specialised in band t-shirts (I'd harboured dreams about opening up a record shop there, selling albums and merchandise, as I didn't think just albums would be a success, in such a shopping-centre-driven place). Then I realised the horror that it was all in the name of fashion - it was all stuff that is worn more as a logo of cool/identity than fervent music fandom - a Ramones t-shirt now can sit alongside a Jack Wills one, it is just a style choice. I'm not the first music fan to find themselves seeing band t-shirts in trendy high street stores, and to see people wearing them in the street, and find myself wondering if they even own albums by this band. I once had a flatmate who worked for a major record company but whom owned about 20 CDs, and I once saw on her packing list for a festival trip - 'Rolling Stones tee'. There wasn't a Rolling Stones record in the house, and no other reference to them to be seen/heard from her either. And there is huge peril there that that's a big part of how music has come to seem disposable to people...

On a brighter note, the staff at HMV Curzon Cinema seemed positive about the cinema remaining functional, due to the part ownership by Curzon - which is such a relief. Had some drinks there and celebrated. Also, bought a few items in the actual HMV store.

I leave the mini free versions of this 'zine in there regularly, but I do wonder who is picking it up, and I do wonder if there are that many 'old school'(!) music fans out there that are bothered about/interested in such a thing as a printed music fanzine anymore. Unless it becomes fashionable via an article in the mainstream press and is generally seen as some hip current phenomenon, it does seem to be a niche/dying art for a perhaps soon-to-be-lost generation - and it makes me very reluctantly... twee.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Other than what's been said about downloading/Amazon/eBay &c, surely an overriding factor is lack of spending money from a lot of people that has taken a toll on HMV? Even as someone with a music blog/fanzine, who would class themselves as a huge music fan for a significant sum of my life, I will freely admit that I haven't been buying as much music as I once did. Albums are quite a luxury to me now, as much as it would pain me to say and think about. My enjoyment in them has not abated, but hard times and responsibilites and adult life and all that.

When I was in my teens and early 20s, I could spend in music shops frivilously without much thought. I would adjust my pocket money then in later years my student budget/bedsit budget to whatever albums/gigs I desired. Eating came second, and I would prioritise my weekly food allowance against gigs and albums. Memories of living on gone-off Polish bread, cold beans out of a tin, a chocolate bar as dinner, and so on - as long as I could get out to my gigs, or get that new single or album.

Living in a provincial town before I went to university, I had - at the peak - four mainstream music shops to choose from (HMV, Our Price, Andy's, and I forget the fourth but can picture myself queuing up to buy singles on a Saturday), then it dwindled to two (Virgin 'Mega' Store, and HMV), then just HMV. But moving to a city, I could shop at the big HMV on Oxford Street (quite a regular Saturday joint or meeting/browsing point, a perennial, known fixture), but then I had all this amazing selection of independent record shops on Berwick Street, and a plethora of second-hand joints to bargain hunt in. If my teenage years were filled with Mondays and Saturdays using up all my pocket money to buy up a handful of singles, then my 20s was where my album-buying really stacked up - Music and Video Exchange serviced my collection with an archive of every 90s indie album I could want, pretty much.

In later years, HMV was always around, and believe me I did and do shop there (Christmas and birthday presents for friends were bought there most recently) - and also believe me, for years I have been concerned about its longevity and would shop there when I could (in fact, when someone recently asked me which 'download' store I'd like a gift voucher for, I requested instead HMV) - but as I got older, it became a concern that independent record shops needed my custom/support significantly. I shop in places run by individuals/independent businesses more often for this reason (read the book or watch the film of The Last Shop Standing, if you care about music and haven't yet, please). I think the problem also reaching my late 20s and my 30s is that unless I visit huge branches of HMV, the selection of stock is often like being back in the playground - got, got, got. The back catalogue of stock seemed to get lost and there'd be multiple copies of the same latest album on racks at times, too. Conversely, though, I still love the day when I recently went into my hometown's HMV (a medium-sized branch on two floors, but not a town with a noticeable indie crowd, at all), and saw obscure albums by Beat Happening and other lesser known indie bands - pleasingly obtuse. There was also the time I found a copy of the Mark E Smith spoken-word solo album (muttered stuff about orange tents and tomatoes, god Knows!), and when I reported back to someone they said it was rare, even deleted. I've got vivid memories of buying really great, life-changing stuff (and, even, old reciepts tucked inside old albums of mine).

My greatest sadness right now about HMV is that the one closest to me also has a cinema which it owns. A cinema which regularly shows independent, art-house films and that for a small pocket of London, is really quite something. The bar is also the best place to meet round here if you are interested in your culture/alternative leaning stuff. There might be what some consider a 'faceless' big name brand store on the ground floor here, but on the top floor is a cinema run by staff who put independent thought and effort into the music they select to play (over the years, have heard Yann Tiersen, Thom Yorke, War Against Drugs, Jeff Buckley, Robyn Hitchcock, British Sea Power, and stuff I couldn't name), and they are interested in talking about such stuff with you. This place has been a core place for me to place issues of the paper version of this very blog you are reading - which the staff have positively commented on, and which has proved welcome to people taking an issue home with them.

So it's that that gets me the most about HMV's situation in this moment. To lose the only decent indie place to socialise in locally for me, which also shows great films, and which also houses the only music shop round here, would be a huge personal blow to me and those I know who have visited with me.

I meant to post this yesterday...

Always think of this song when it is snowing - although what initially got lodged in my head when I saw a snow-topped scene yesterday were various godawful Cliff Richard Christmas songs somehow. This is cooler (pun, naturally, intended).

Thursday, 10 January 2013

2012 in zines

Just hopping on to post and say that all the zines from 2012 are still available. I'm being slack with a zine for January, but hopefully there'll be one by the end of the month/beginning of Feb. when gig-going gets livelier and there's more to review, or I might just cobble together some pop star satire that was generated over Christmas! For now, just a post of all the zines I made in 2012:

As ever, available via email, certain music shops round London and Surrey, and free mini ones are often to be found scattered around various venues/pubs/shops/cafes around some bits of the UK. Get int touch with questions.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Record fair fun

Thank you to the guys at my local record fair for buying up some of my 'zines to sell! I'm grateful for the enthusiasm and encouragement. It also lent opportunity for a nice chat about one of my favourite musicians (a customer of theirs, I am gladdened to hear). And I may even get a stall at some point, to sell my many different music 'zines and a small selection of records. I'm lucky to have regular record fair within easy reach. If you're interested in going along and you're in the London area, Soundbite Record Fairs dates are listed online. Just playing one of my purchases now - thought I was having a John Peel moment with the record speed, but Claire Grogan's voice really does sound like that - even higher and more child-like than I remember! I also got a cracking looking Clash bootleg DVD, with live and TV performances to go with the stack of others I have amassed in time! Nice to see bootlegs (CDs too) available here, as you don't tend to get them much - well, not since so many market stalls and stuff have had to close down. There was a brilliant one in my hometown, I've still got the Cure one I got there, bought so many old tapes/CDs from that stall as a teen, it introduced me to so much music, sad it's gone.