October sleevenotes: I first heard ‘Blue Monday’ on a waltzer at Goose Fair in Nottingham, blaring out of the speakers. It blew my head off; it sounded fantastic. That would have been in October 1983; I’d’ve just started sixth-form college. I can’t feel quite so ecstatic about the new New Order lp, but it’s certainly very listenable, and, I dunno, but watching their 6 Music session from Maida Vale on late-night TV the other night there seemed something very dignified, almost humble, about their comeback ‒ something in the way they carried themselves. Peter Hook would possibly beg to differ; but I love the 1983-sounding guitar line in the track, ‘Nothing But A Fool’, included here. The past weighs a bit heavy on this show: I’ve pulled out a few reissued classics from twenty years ago ‒ Oval’s Systemisch; David Kaufmann and Eric Caboor’s Songs from Suicide Bridge (not that I knew that lp back then) ‒ and from forty years back some new/old Lee Perry and Upsetters’ tracks. Light in the Attic, Paradise of Bachelors, Pressure Sounds, Hot Milk, Fire records . . . old news to some of you, I’m sure, but these days I find myself eagerly checking out the new release schedules of these labels and (many) more. There’s a nice mix of old stuff, and new. I never really understand why more people don’t seem to follow labels rather than bands or solo acts. As the type across the bottom of the sleeve of my battered 12” of A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Finley’s Rainbow’ says, ‘Remember, you’ll never know where it’s at until you learn where it’s from.’ True dat, even if they did spell ‘until’ wrong ‒ and there’s no credit to the original (Bob Marley’s ?)‘Sun is Shining’. The ‘previously unreleased dubplate mix’ from the Mr Perry, I Presume, the new Lee Perry lp on Pressure Sounds, is a bit spooky, but a beauty. All this provides a good excuse to dig out a drum & bass gem from back in the day; and this video made me laugh. (Especially the comment in the comments along the lines of, ‘This dancing, what is that?’)
We went to Goose Fair this year. The waltzer had a brake pedal and a taut wire, allowing you to really work up some stomach-churning revolutions. The cakewalk was bonkers; my daughter Edie won the Kentucky Derby; there was mushy peas and mint sauce (heaven) and beautiful autumn sunshine. There was just one person missing. RIP, Dad. I hope they’re playing Lonnie Donegan, Acker Bilk and Louis Armstrong up there.
A Wednesday lunchtime at Ronnie Scott’s.
The sun shining down on to dancefloor in the upstairs bar; a nice-looking drum kit tucked away at the back; an ice-cold beer, with some old friends, just after midday. Brilliant. It doesn’t get much better — and in conversation with Richard Williams was the critic Brian Case, ex-of the NME, Melody Maker and Time Out, and now happily retired, enjoying just listening to music or reading a book without having to strain for an adjective or a rush of adverbs.
Because of my line of work I’ve sat through a fair few literary readings or ‘in conversations’ in my time, mind wandering, trying to remember if I’d turned the oven off before I left, worrying about something ultimately irrelevant at work. But this was different: hugely engaging tales of a life in books and music, of picking Dexter Gordon up from Heathrow Airport in a battered old green van in the rain in 1971; of loving the simple speed of Johnny Griffin; of dealing with the razor-sharp wit of Ronnie (Scott) himself (and the bar’s staff during the venue’s heyday); of the ecstatic life-affirming nature of jazz, but also of ‘down’ writers like David Goodis.
The occasion was to mark the publication of On the Snap by Caught by the River books. The book itself is full of such yarns, the encounters around the pieces of journalism, rather than the journalism itself — hiding behind a breakfast counter of a Danish hotel to check out whether Tom Waits was a fake or not; celebrating the genius of Ian Dury’s rhyming slang; talking about great American writers with Norman Mailer. And on and on. It’s a slim volume, but with a huge canvas.
There are only a couple of jazz tracks in this show, but what beauties: Don Cherry live in Nantes in 1964 and, right at the end, Gerry Mulligan at the Newport Jazz festival in 1958. Serendipitously, it turns out Gerry Mulligan was one of the first jazzers caught live by a young, teenage Brian Case in Deptford.
If you’re driving home this Christmas you could do a lot worse than play JimDoes’ festive special. He’s created the perfect indie mixtape featuring Christmas songs by Half Man Half Biscuit, LCD Soundsystem, Allo Darlin’, Super Furry Animals, Summer Camp and a host of others – all of which were Christmas No1s in the alternate universe that exists in Jims head.
I thought I’d be too jaded, having read more than one history of independent music before now, but Richard King’s How Soon Is Nowis an entertaining read that rattles along well and is full of nice behind the scenes stories – be it Morrissey raising a placard during a version of ‘The Queen Is Dead’ bearing the request ‘Two Light Ales, Please’, or an account of Rob Gretton and Mike Pickering, pillars of Factory records, taking Quincy Jones out for lunch at Knutsford Services on the M6 (‘he loved it’). Hence this month’s show features a chunk of fine independent music (or ‘indie’) from back when the term meant something. Actually, after a decade of major labels appropriating all that had a spark and was good, small independent labels now feel as vital as they did between 1979 and 1986. I could have filled the show with tracks from the likes of Mississippi records, Kranky, Thrill Jockey, Erased Tapes and Temporary Residence, and many more of the plentiful heirs to the greats like Rough Trade, Creation and 4AD. People tend to look at me slightly quizzically when I say I often follow labels rather than bands . . . (OK, as well as bands), but it’s a mystery to me why more people don’t just latch on the good taste of the custodians mentioned above . . .
Ah, well. Other sleevenotes: the record I forgot to namecheck is Sam Amidon’s ‘I Wish, I Wish’, from his very listenable, lovely, folky album (on Nonesuch) Bright Sunny South, which appears midway through; and apologies for any buzzing, background noise and general distortion. This whole show was put together in a
less-than-soundproofed loft on a sunny Sunday afternoon – the wind in the trees, and kids yelling in their back gardens, having a good time, I can cope with; several helicopters flying over, the endless drone of circular saws, hammering, and the muted thud of next door’s ‘landfill techo’, you can live without . . . It puts me in mind of the great Steven Jesse Bernstein’s ‘More Noise Please’
This months show…what to say about this months show?
It´s probably the best ever. It does start quite badly though, to be fair, but once you’re over that hump you get to look forward to the likes of GOTYE, Kavinsky, a bit of chat and the usual gross audible frothing that Al 2 does when he gets excited.
Also, Al 1 gets to bring some tunes this time, so the overall standard of music is much better.
Look, if you´re reading this trying to make your mind up about listening – just listen. Go on. Please. If only for a few minutes, then it technically counts as a whole listen. Thanks. Has anyone mentioned how great you smell today. Because you really do smell great.