Saturday, 21 September 2013

Black Market Clash, 75 Berwick Street, Soho, 20th September 2013

Any die-hard Clash fan's attentions were guaranteed to be piqued by the announcement of a new exhibition.

A couple of years ago Mick Jones's Rock and Roll Public Library was well worth a viewing, containing lots of his personal memorabilia, recreating his living room (how could I forget, someone picking up a knackered VHS tape of The Simpsons with its £1.99 charity shop sticker on it - thinking it for sale, and getting told off - it belonged to Mick's collection!). That reminds me, I still haven't visited the Joe Strummer subway.

Now it's 2013, and I got giddy at the prospect of rare memorabilia and music tracks on show.

But for 2013, the approach - whilst it did include the above - was more corporate. Free entry to the viewing, great, but the first thing you spy on entrance is a brand new Clash boxset - is that a £99 price tag? Posters and t-shirts and mugs and tote bags, ranging from £10 - 20. Everything's for sale. The band have a right to make money out of their b(r)and, and I don't begrudge them it, they are a band who worked gruellingly hard, lost a lot of money to getting ripped off by the music industry... And, though not that surprising, it just felt a bit cold and disappointing to me. On top of that, the whole shebang seemed to be an excuse to for Fender guitars to peddle (pedal) their wares - a live guitarist playing away, shiny brand new guitars on show. I would have happily paid for a basic commemorative programme, though, that would've been useful and nice, and all right in lieu of entry fee.

I say, go home, and be in the true spirit of The Clash, and make your own. Spray paint is less than £2, so blitz a bag or a shirt yourself, with your own slogan. Or, donate to the Strummerville charity, so future young bands can benefit.

The exhibition itself was compact but for any fan, quite moving. Being in the same room as Paul Simonon's smashed, broken bass guitar (resting on red velveteen cushion!), as well as all those old, worn out guitars of Joe Strummer's, was an amazing opportunity and a little bit holy.


Seeing all those (holey) homemade shirts, hand-printed lyrics, rare photos, homemade tapes, and many books and records that inspired the band, was also wonderful. I loved seeing a spot of bright yellow here, a turquoise shirt there, and pinpointing performances from videos seen. Loads of trinkets crammed in too, like Paul's rings, old belts, scarves, badges, even a flicknife...

Joe Strummer's typewriter:

It was very small, and would've benefitted from being  a lot more spread out. I would have loved to have seen many more images, too. Surely there are hundreds of unseen/'reject' Pennie Smith shots, for starters. A whole exhibition could be made purely from such images. I really wanted to see much more.

Literally everyone was taking photographs (Don't Just Take a Photograph). I wasn't without guilt. I'd bought a disposable camera for this and Open House weekend. What Clash fan wouldn't want to be able to have to-keep images of their heroes' legendary guitars and such, anyway, be honest. I thought it was nice also to be able to email some digital photos to a Clash fan abroad who wouldn't get the chance to be in the same room as those guitars, too.

I worry how The Clash are received to the latest young generation - when everything's so consciously cultivated now, and music is more of a (quick, instant fix) commodity and has become ubiquitous, disposable, meaningless, more than ever. Of course, The Clash were cultivated (and they became a commodity as much as the rest), but it wasn't
contrived; and it was raw, it was new. I maintain that there's still a lot to The Clash that gets ignored in favour of the obvious punk and sloganeering (they covered so many more musical styles than punk, for one thing). And I doubt a band with as much passion and politics and heart could exist with so much heart-on-sleeve and unabashed sincerity, ever again, Fender sponsorship or not.

Oh yeah, one last thing: where was Cut The Crap? No acknowledgement whatsoever of this album (not even a poster on show or CD on sale). I don't need a barrage of reasons 'why it's so bad' (Pah, there are some fine songs on it, I reckon), the line-up change, the songwriting credits, etc etc - but it's still part of the Clash history.

Where are we going? We're all going mad.

Essential Saturday morning viewing here, in the guise of The Smiths appearing on Charlie's Bus, an 80s kids' TV show.

Everything about this video is perfect. From Morrissey uttering the above line to innocent kids, to Marr playfully threatening to duff up a kid on the top deck of the bus, to the downright absurdity of Sandie Shaw singing such relentlessly bleak lyrics and melody to a group of wide-eyed, attentive, but overwhelmingly bemused children on the grass in Kew gardens... All of that humour and absurdity is a little part of what made The Smiths (and the 80s for that matter) so uniquely superb.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Autumn songs

'Now it's getting colder, my hands chilled to the bone...'
(Barney and Me, by Boo Radleys)
                                          (NY Doll, by Robyn Hitchcock)

Lovely, wistful, warming, autumnal feeling songs, both.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Station Records opening, The Buszy, Milton Keynes, 29th June, 2013

I went along for the opening day of a new weekly Saturday record stall in the new community venue, The Buszy. There hasn't been an independent record shop in Milton Keynes since Fish Music closed down at in the last decade, so I was really stoked to see Station Records happening in my hometown!

The premises used to be the bus station, and bus drivers' caff! Now a charity project has been installed here, it has all been smartened up, with fancy chairs, lovely café area, dedicated staff, charity shop, plus so many classes and events going on for young people.

Of course I had to go along and get involved and show support for this ace venture. Monies raised from Station Records' weekly record shop go towards the youth charity Make a Difference (M.A.D). I had cycled along with some vinyl donations and brought a selection of mine and others' zines, which Warren of Station Records kindly agreed to have on sale. The All Thrills No Frills Music Bill is on sale on the stall weekly, including one of our most recent issues, which comprises my musical memories of Milton Keynes - venues, gigs, clubs that have long gone, buying my first guitar, etc etc. Here are all the zines:

I met one of the youth workers and had a really good chat about what they do at Buszy for the kids. Loved hearing that some of the kids have been making fanzines! It was really fun to talk to Warren about 'zines - we have both made zines Milton Keynes. His was more recent, within the last decade, and it was called New Pollution. Nice to be given a couple of issues to check out.

So much vinyl on sale! Cassettes and books too.

I was ecstatic to unearth a copy of Ceremony by New Order, on 12", and I bought a few other records too. It's clear that Warren is passionate about record selling, there's a wide range of genres and eras covered, and people were enjoying having a browse as the DJ played. It felt like a really positive community event, nice and relaxed Saturday afternoon, and the free samples of cake and sandwiches was very welcome too!
The thrift shop was something of a wonder too. I had a good look around - interesting clothes, books, records, ornaments, etc. Go and visit, or follow them on Twitter.
The Buszy is situated right opposite Milton Keynes train station, so it's convenient to visit if you're coming from a nearby town. If you're local to MK, it's not that much of a walk from the shopping centres and it's a much quieter part of the city, so it's nice to visit.

There is a bar with a patio, and there are various other music events going on, like Warren's Moments in Wax nights, where there's a vinyl album night and sometimes live acoustic acts upstairs. MK definitely needs more live music! If you're in a band or are a solo artist, you should think about coming here to play one of the nights. The venue's also available to hire for events.

The Buszy
401 Elder Gate
Central Milton Keynes
MK9 1LR, UK.

01908 231312
Hangover music has to be gentle, subdued, pretty... Yann Tiersen, I am calling on you to allay today's legendary, post-party hangover of mine...

I had thought that digging out my Galaxie 500 DVD would be just the cure - musically soothing, gentle, floating, sublime... But some of those videos left me much more unsettled! Frantic fast, fires, things collapsing, injured animals, flashing images, acid eyes, and so much swirling... It was entertaining to watch an old TV interview where Dean Wareham looked so severe as to be menacing. He said something caustic about having the permission to like fish and chips to Naomi.

I loved the surprise of seeing Dean and Britta appear in the film Francis Ha this year, casually hosting a dinner party. The projects the band members have gone on to do - Dean and Britta, and Damon & Naomi - are all so excellent and dreamy perfect. I need to hear Dean's new solo offerings too.

I digress, this is an off-the-cuff post, but weren't they a really cool band? I neglect them sometimes, but I had a really big phase for them in about 2003. Another thing I realise I appreciate them is how they are so clearly influenced by The Velvet Underground, yet they distil that into such a new sound - they're not doing it by numbers just to re-create their heroes - there're the often piercing vocals like a bird in frightened flight, mixed with gentle, slow atmospherics, a bit of moody, buzzing guitar noodling here, and how stripped back it all is; raw. I think Naomi doesn't get enough recognition as a bass guitarist heroine too.

A Galaxie 500 song for you, with superb kazoo use!:

'I think it's okay to wear your own band's shirt onstage during a show, but not for a trip to the supermarket.' - Dean Wareham.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


I was beginning to wonder how on earth I'd get a hold of the new Glasvegas album.. Unavailable at local independent record shop (which was first choice, to give my money to the best corporate cause), despite it being the release date... I had headed to the shop as soon as possible on the Monday, to get that new-release day feeling. Can that feeling really be replicated online? Parcels through the door are very nice, but I prefer them from friends - to go into a record shop, be amidst music on sale and music playing, see that new, desired/dreamed-of new album on shiny display, handle it with curiosity, go right up to the counter, buy it, maybe discuss it, then stroll home with it in your swag, hurrying home filled with thrill, the item glowing in the style of the heart in A Life Less Ordinary, almost illicit in its secret, wondrous splendour... I thought I had lost that giddy wonder, but actually, still, nothing can beat that. Even after my teens and my 20s.

Going into my local HMV store at the end of the week was actually more successful in locating this new release item. It was at a cheaper price than as cited online, too, bonus DVD/booklet shebang and all.

I greedily fed on the DVD show, a live concert in a church in Glasgow. It was powerful, the band still move me, the music still soars. The live DVD was the album rendered on piano, more intimate, heart-wrenching. I get a bit of the same feeling from this band as I do from The Cure.

Often the best music is 'that which tells of saddest thought'. I've always felt that Glasvegas moved me with emotion and melody - I've never really overanalysed it, just genuinely enjoyed it - and that overrides any sense of over-indulgent blues that people seem to accuse them of. There is something that runs throughout their work that really gets me every time. Sure, there are weaker moments, but the very best are those that transport me, lift me up high - because fraught, wrought, desperately sad music can be 'euphoric'.

Saddens me that people could write Glasvegas off now, when they still have that tunesome melancholy that lends me air of hope, joy... exhilaration. The emotional vocal delivery, the yearning in the melodies. I feel elated; enlivened.

Press reviews that are disparaging, and/or tell of a band that have dipped/changed are missing all the points. The heartbeat here is impassioned, and so human and heartfelt - the band always cause this huge sense of human emotion/open heart to shine through. If they come across as 'underdogs', that only makes me love them more. But a spectacular new drummer in Jonna has lent a new element of energy - also, the band are still the one that left me reeling years ago. It's in James Allan's surety, commitment, mighty-all in singing, the way the guitars fizz and sparkle still, and the way the band remain exuberant amidst lugubriousness.

Addendum: I interviewed some of the band for the next paper issue of The All Thrills No Frills Music Bill, but unfortunately the digital recording got deleted accidentally (at their gig the same night!). In 14 years of interviewing bands, I have never once lost a recording of an interview to anything - this is the first time. But actually, there was a David Gedge interview on there too. I can only fiercely apologise about all that, especially to the artists - but I can promise the next zine will still sweep you off your feet! Also, after another blow - that is, leaving my tape recorder in a cinema gig (that'll teach me to try and bootleg Robyn Hitchcock soundtracking a Clint Eastwood movie) - The All Thrills now has a brand new recording system. Onwards !