What We Did On Our Holidays
(a comprehensive account, but with everything not pertaining to music subtracted)
Two nights at Shepherd Bush hotel called--wait for it, wait for it--K West!
Morning after overnight flight, waiting for the room to be ready; feeling unbodied and translucent with lack o’ sleep. Hotel bar music, translucent and unbodied, could almost be a Junior Boys canon of Eighties (or Eighties-redolent) pop--anaemic, bittersweet, Blue Nile-y. Highlight, revelation, only tune I actually recognise: Carly Simon’s exquisitely forlorn "Why".
Fabulous BBC 4 documentary on John Martyn--the man, the music, the amputated leg. Mogul/aesthete Chris Blackwell singles out for exaltation One World’s ambient ballad "Small Hours"--recorded at night, beside a lake.
Move to Shoreditch apartment swap. Uh-oh, they don’t have a radio. The whole entertainment set-up’s satellite.
Hoxton-twat Latin-tinged house music through the wall until 2-AM. Really hope this isn’t a regular occurrence.
M&VE Soul & Dance, Notting Hill Gate, UKG section: "Course Bruv", vinyl full-length, materialises like the face of an old friend.
Storage unit, King’s Cross: picking up old, crappy radio, plus 3 Roy Harper LPs, 3 Family LPs, John Martyn’s Grace and Danger, and the complete works of The Doors.
Pirates at once amazing (so many fucking stations) and disappointing (where’s da grime? It’s all 2step and old skool UKG! A summer thing? Or is this the inevitable/imminent/impending gender-polar pendulum-Nuum swing back to sexy swingin’ groovystuff 4 da girls dem?). Amazing the number of dancehall stations. And also hip hop ones. And strange anomalous unplaceable dance genres-- weird-house, phuturistic dub-tekno-bhangra… And then, traversing the frequency spectrum, I’m halted in my marrow by the unmistakeable grackling timbre of Beefheart singing "Electricity". Turns out to be a whole show of nothing but the Captain. Only in England!
Shish, Old Street: White-haired and eerie-faced, Miles Copeland, having dinner with--at a guess--his Gothette daughters
Borders, Charing Cross Road: Clangers CD, on Trunk, materialises like a forgotten desire.
Newspaper on the tube: reading about The Libertines’s self-destructive frontman. How can punters still get it up for this particular script? Quote from NME journalist saying this guy’s the real thing, a tortured genius, driven by demons. Ah, Alan McGee’s involved.
Another newspaper: piece on how John Densmore is suing his old bandmates for their Doors of the 21st Century travesty with Ian Astbury as surrogate Jim. Journalist mentions that he is actually being called as an expert witness for the trial. Yet in the next paragraph he describes Manzarek as the guitarist and Krieger as the keyboard player!
The ghostly sax-blare of Was (Not Was)’s "Wheel Me Out" wafts out from one of the archways in the disused railway viaduct that vaults over "our" road.
Bit later--are they actually having a rave in there?
Barbara Kruger (not really music, but she did design the cover of the UK-edition o’ Sex Revolts) style posters everywhere--"Plenty Should Be Enough", "We Are Slaves to The Objects Around Us"--stark severe fonts, anti-consumerist slogans. Except they turn out to be adverts for Selfridges!
Kruger-rip-offs (or she did consent?!) jostle with unappetising flyers for Hoxton-area parties. "Dirty Disco Electro". What is that and how can I avoid ever hearing it? This area really is the Williamsburg of London. Same Logan’s Run effect; especially in the evening when young people stream out of the Old Street tube on their way to bars and clubs, staring at me and Kieran (good lord, a child! What on earth… ) on our late evening strolls.
Smallfish: Spektrum album on Playhouse, as recommended in The Wire by comrade Stubbs. And it’s good, despite faintest whiff of....... Floy Joy.
Saving grace of satellite entertainment set-up: a million video channels. Choice selection #1: "The Streets Vs Blur". Choice selection #2: From the Smiths to Morrissey. Man, he had a bad Nineties, singles-wise (a few gems on the albums, one day I will write about that astounding ambient-Mozz ballad on Vauxhall & I ("I Am Hated For Loving"?)). Is there a single coherent lyric after "Everyday Is Like Sunday"? The new stuff: "Irish Blood"’s all right, s’pose, but "First of The Gang To Die" sounds so staid and lumbering. And what’s with all the fussy microphone lead tossing?
80s flashback: Midge Ure, "Vienna", wearing a British grenadier’s hat. Wottatwat.
M&VE, Berwick Street. While handing me a Black Ops 12 inch to check for scratches, sales assistant says to his colleague "I like a bit of grimey garridge, me", then makes facetious grrr-grrr-wahn-wahn "Flat Beat"/"Doom's Night" farty-bass noises. I decide to "punish" him by not buying it, even though it’s a bargain at 2 quid.
In the vicinity, so quick visit to Blackmarket and Uptown. Black Ops EP going for 6.99! Relievingly, it’s shite: rote Jon E Cash and the sales assistant’s bass-impersonation actually not far off. Gemma Fox’s "Girlfriend’s Story" almost worth getting for the title alone of the "Silky Gangsta Mix" (by J Sweet?). Almost. Instead, get something on Aftershock, a Davinche, and the remix of "Tingz in Boots". Which sounds mad, Mover-esque, like a drunken axemurderer, limbs scything and flailing, lumps of fleshy flying everywhichway.
Victoria & Albert; Vivien Westwood exhibition. Triple epiphany in the second, post-McLaren (man, he’s pissed at her and V&A!) room: the soundtrack hits three all-time personal ab-favs in a row--that most vaseline-on-the-lens idyllic track off the first Harold Budd/Brian Eno album; Holst’s "Neptune" sequence; Vangelis’s languid sax-vaporous romantic theme from Blade Runner, the one that oozes out everytime the girl-droid love interest comes onscreen.
Exhibition of "shed art" in the V&A courtyard. One of them is by Martyn Ware and Vince Clarke. Who did an album called Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle a few years ago, on Mute. Which I actually listened to, finally, after interviewing Ware, in an act of retroactive courtesy. Not bad at all, actually. Likewise the shed.
Passing a clothes boutique, Portobello: ESG’s "You’re No Good" emanates balefully into the street. Hope this stuff stays chic until the book comes out!
Rinse FM. Sub-lo/dark dubstep/Croydon Sound is fabulous for about 10 minutes, then diminishing returns set in. One or two killer tunes though. Like "Icy Piano Reverb Chamber Tinkler" (not real title), which has definite shades of 4AD/This Mortal Coil. Quite a few other tunes boasting eerie/enigmatic/cosmic female voices. Gothick garridge innit.
MV&E, Notting Hill Gate.
---Gryphon, Red Queen To Gryphon Three. Well it was only 4 quid. 2 quid in real money with these exchange tokens.
---David Bedford, The Odyssey. Well he did do the arrangements on Roy Harper’s albums. And Madness’s The Rise and Fall. Plus it’s even cheaper than the Gryphon. Future Policeman Andy Summers plays on ‘Circe’s Island’. Love the Virgin logo from the pre-punk days--hard to describe, but something like naked Siamese twins (virgins?) with flowing golden Robert Plant locks and really intense pubic hair. Axillary too.
---Peter Hammill, The Future Now, 1978, Charisma (another classic cheesy-prog label logo!). That album where he’s grown a beard and then shaved off half of it, so his face is perfectly divided with one side hirsute, the other hairless. Always wanted to own this since seeing the full page album-cover ads in the music press at the time.
--Various Artists--Electric Muse: The Story of Folk Into Rock. Island Records, 1975, four vinyl elpee box set, all the expected suspects and a fair few unknowns-to-me.
Mid-week pirates in that muddled mode somewhere between feckless directionless and inspired eclectic. One goes from Shades of Rhythm’s "Sound of Eden" (diva-gasm!) through Nina Sky on its way to 2step.
2-step tune with great bump’n’flex inside-out rhythm. Could be brand-new 2step-resurgence or just track I missed from ’99, either way just reminds ooh what days they were.
At last! The Raw Blaze signal emerges through the ether-murk. Fuck, we’re going out of town tomorrow.
En route to Kent country hotel. When travelling in someone else's car, you're at the mercy of their music.
---Bob Dylan, "Sarah", Desire. Amazing drumming. And what a drum sound. And the rest of the song's, er, not bad at all. [grits teeth] Must-stay-resolute, must-not-succumb-to-genius-of-Dylan. Mainly cos it'd be too timeconsuming.
-- Franz Ferdinand. For some reason, despite there being a copy in the apartment-swap flat and one in this car, I never seem to manage to hear beyond the first three songs. The first one sounds like the Stranglers. I like it--the record, the band. I think.
Ashford, Kent--looking for shelter from the rain, dart into a record store! Richards Records. Despite having two mischievous four year olds in my charge, still manage to flick through boxes of "on sale" vinyl on the staircase. Wouldyabelieve it, in box marked "funky house"--an early Terror Danjah twelve, on Solid City, 2002, "Highly Inflammable"/"Fire Cracker". For 1.50! Good thing, as Kieran tips over an entire box of records later, so best to mollify the owner with a purchase.
Steam train to Dymchurch, faded sea side resort where everyday IS like Sunday.
Return journey to London:
Jay-Z, The Black Album (New Cross-Peckham)
Kelis, "Trick Me" (Elephant & Castle)
Running back and forth between the future and the past. Radio, tuned to Raw Blaze, in the bedroom; TV, in living room, showing next episode in the same series (Originals) as John Martyn doc. This week, Richard Thompson. Great footage of Fairports doing "Tamlyn". Linda Thompson, today, looks more beautiful than ever. Why no "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight"? My problem with Mr. Thompson--great guitar, songs’re generally good, but the voice is bit characterless. And the " bleakness" shtick can get wearing.
Rinse FM. Tune that either samples or is an actual full-blown relick of "Bludclot Artattack". On another Rinse show--pure Croydon styleee--there’s a song, "Saigon", that uses a different sample of Martin Sheen from Apocalypse Now than the one used in the original "Bludclot". Other tunes include "Shivers" and "Knowledge" (by one Toasty Boy!). At one point the MC calls out to "the darkcore crew." They don’t call it a Continuum for nuttin, folks.
Bromley South--"Riot In Lagos". And two separate recommendations for the Vibracathedral Orchestra.
Choice FM, 96.9 (pirate or legal?), Mondays after-midnight--Jenny Francis "The Slowdown". The eroto-langourous mist of Co-Ed’s "My Place", underpinned with post-"Sexual Healing" 808 clave-poings and basspulse; the softcore pornhaze of Usher’s "Seduction"; Brandy’s Coldplay/"Clocks" piano sampling "Should I Stay". Slowjamz as ambient; put-you-in-the-mood music. Extremism of lushness/loveliness/luxuriance--refuting Noise-dogma as surely as Shirley Brown and The Dramatics did back in the day. Texted in, dedications to "Tulse Hill man dem."
Ravey Street. I shit you not, just a few hundreds from our temporary gaff, a road called Ravey Street!
Also nearby--the headquarters of Stuckism, the (parodic?) art movement co-founded by Billy Childish (tenuous music connection)
Dockland’s Light Railway (Kieran’s ab fav this trip) to Greenwich. Where there just so happens to be a branch of M&VE.
---Savage Rose, Dodems Triumf (Danish proggers rated by Greil Marcus in the all time rock list in the back o’ Stranded), except this album is the almost-all instrumental one which barely features tones of singer Anisette (who, when she turns up towards the end, sounds like a sort of cosmic Clare Grogan).
----Martin Carthy, Crown of Horn and Prince Heathen (the latter with Dave Swarbrick, as seen on the Fairport doc fiddling away full-tilt).
D’Arblay Street: Blackmarket basement, Uptown basement, at long last a proper trawl through the grime zone. Success rate for want list: 1 in 3. Just as well at 8 quid each. Destruction riddim, Pum Pum riddim, Fwd riddim, Wonder’s "What", more Aftershock, more Davinche, etc.
Missed connection in Toronto (home of North America’s most Anglophile rave scene, ardkore to jungle to UKG--not Grime though apparently) means one night stay in a depressing business hotel located within the vast Ballardian hinterland of the air field itself. Air Canada to the UK is just Air Canada, but for the flights to America it’s called Air Canada Jazz. Appropriately the only musical sounds I hear during the entire Canada sojourn is "biz jazz" (for all I know, could be Goldie’s faves The Yellowjackets) wafting through the breakfast parlour where guests gingerly probe animal proteins of questionable origin.
Major flight trauma--the overhead bin's really small, which means the bag with the vinyl has to be stored on its side (proper care of your records no-no #1).
Home at last. Whack on The Soft Parade, Mark E. Smith’s favorite Doors album, and possibly mine too. "Cobra on my left, leopard on my right"…