Broadcasting live

You know what else I hate? Not finding out that one of my favourite groups are on tour and playing where I live until the night of the actual bloody concert and missing it as a result. This never happened back in the days when I read the NME religiously every week, now it’s so much harder to keep your finger on the pulse. My old finger anyway.

The band in question were avant-pop radiophonic/electronic act Broadcast, who I saw live several years ago and would love to have seen again as they’re on the ever-shrinking list of active bands whose new releases I buy automatically which helps to preserve the illusion that I’m still hep to what the kids are digging. The good news was they were on tour in support of their first new record in four years, an experimental mini-album with the brilliant title “Broadcast & The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age” which is all a bit peculiar and sounds like the incidental music to some cult 1960s horror movie you caught late one night on BBC2 when you were a kid that gave you nightmares for weeks. It comes with this beautifully creepy “trailer” video which has a major “Children of The Stones” vibe to it.

For those that aren’t familiar with Broadcast’s eerie radiophonics (shame on you) try these tracks from their previous albums on for size. The best description of them I can think of is Francoise Hardy singing the theme from Dr. Who.

Download: Pendulum – Broadcast (mp3)
Download: Unchanging Window/Chord Simple – Broadcast (mp3)
Download: The Book Lovers – Broadcast (mp3)

Just for the hell of it, here’s one more video.

"What kind of music do you like?"

Don’t you hate being asked that? I think I’d find it easier to explain quantum mechanics than come up with a simple answer to that question. When I was about 14 I could just say (and I did) “I like ELO, Queen, and Elton John” which was as far as my taste went at that age but, like everything else in life, it’s so much more complicated now. If I said “well, I like all sorts” (which is true) it would be too vague and noncommittal and I’d sound like one of those people who isn’t all that bothered about music and only buy two albums a year, both of which are related to something they saw on the telly and were on sale at the supermarket. For a while I used to say “I like everything from the Sex Pistols to Frank Sinatra” which is more specific, also true on one level, and name-drops two acts with unimpeachable cred, but I don’t really like everything on the imaginary spectrum between those two and sorting out who I do and don’t would take all bloody day, by which time the person who asked the question would have left the room or fallen asleep. If I was a real ponce I could reference Miles Davis’ quote about there being only two types of music — good and bad — and say “I like GOOD music” but I think I’d want to punch myself in the face if I ever said anything as smarmy as that.

But what I think annoys me the most about the question is the assumption that a person’s taste can be reduced to a single “kind” — and even if it could wouldn’t you hate to be that person?

So next time someone does ask me I think I’ll just sing this song to them.

Download: Music – John Miles (mp3)

(For those that don’t know this was a big UK hit in 1976)

Big Mac with small fries

I didn’t deliberately set out to write a long post about Fleetwood Mac that didn’t mention Stevie Nicks it just turned out that way. This was probably a little remiss of me as she was obviously the most visible member of the group by virtue of being the prettiest one and having the most distinctive voice, but she also had this Mystic Meg persona that made me think she’d sniffed way too much incense so I was never quite sure what I thought about her. Like Kate Bush you wouldn’t mind her being your girlfriend for a while but you’d soon get tired of spending all your time sitting in dark rooms reading tarot cards.

I have always loved this song though and she really belts it out in this clip. Love her Farah Fawcett hairdo too.

Big Mac

The biggest-selling album in 1977 was Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours which shifted so many copies (40 million!) it went way beyond being merely a successful record into the stratosphere inhabited by cultural juggernauts like Saturday Night Fever and Thriller — before those two came along it was the best-selling album of all-time (it’s now the 8th). I bought a copy too even though I don’t remember particularly being a fan of the group or any of the singles from it (none of which even cracked the Top 20 in England) because I thought an album that had become such a monster was something I should buy as a 15-year-old with growing pretensions to being a “serious” music fan (though I still didn’t “get” punk.) I bought the mega-selling Dark Side of The Moon for the same reason — “you have to buy it!” a schoolfriend had said to me — but that turned out to be a dull snoozer of an album (God, what a bore Roger Waters is) that I only played a few times while Rumours was actually a decent record, though I’m still puzzled why it sold the cartloads it did — it’s good but not that good. I didn’t particularly care for their more folky, mandolin-y leanings but I did love the bright AM pop songs of Christine McVie who is still my favourite voice in the group.

Download: You Make Loving Fun (alternate outtake) – Fleetwood Mac (mp3)
Buy: “Rumours” (Expanded Edition)” (album)

Obviously there were other, more radical, things happening in 1977 and I imagine that a lot of people who didn’t buy Rumours bought the first Clash album instead and saw rich, long-haired soft-rockers like Fleetwood Mac as representatives of the rock ruling class who would be among the first up against the wall after the punk revolution. So by the time they followed it up over two years later (an eternity back then) the musical landscape had completely changed, supposedly making the group and their brand of sunny Californian AOR irrelevant, at least in England — I’d had my own musical epiphany too during that time and was now firmly on the side of the revolutionaries.

But surprisingly, the Tusk album didn’t sound like they had just spent the previous two years lounging by swimming pools and smugly counting their royalties but were actually very aware that there had been a musical earthquake while they’d been gone and were open to it. Instead of Rumours: Part Deux it was a sprawling, often “difficult” record full of banging primitive beats and nervy jerky rhythms that sounded like Lindsey Buckingham (in particular) been listening to a lot of Talking Heads and probably The Fall and Gang of Four too (I vaguely remember him name-checking them in interviews), it was startling to hear these laid-back hippies making a noise like this:

Download: The Ledge – Fleetwood Mac (mp3)
Download: What Makes You Think You’re The One – Fleetwood Mac (mp3)
Buy: “Tusk” (album)

Too startling for some people I guess as the album “only” sold four million copies (boo hoo), though the bizarre Tusk single was a bigger hit than anything off Rumours had been in England. It must have been a nightmare trying to follow up the biggest selling album ever so they decided to not even bother and do the “interesting” thing instead. So I ended up buying that album too but not because I felt any obligation to either, turns out these oldsters weren’t that bad after all and maybe didn’t deserve to get shot.

Something for the weekend

A few things came to mind watching this:

1) Why is it in black and white? England wasn’t that primitive in 1973.
2) Noel Edmonds was always an annoying twat, wasn’t he?
3) But how great was Phil Lynott?
4) Fantastic pair of dancing dollies at 2:31, and keep an eye out for the lad in the starry jumper behind them who may be the worst dancer I’ve ever seen. Hope he wasn’t trying to pull.
5) “Telly’s on the blink again!” (my Grandad)

You’re not going out dressed like that

I’ve had mates who were Punks, Mods, Soul Boys, Skinheads and Rude Boys but I’ve never known anyone who called themselves a New Romantic, and not because I have anything against blokes in frilly shirts and eyeliner either. I used to work with a girl who was a regular at Blitz and knew Boy George before he was famous but she’d laugh if you applied that label to her, the scene was far too individualistic to be pigeonholed in that way which is why for a while they were called The Cult With No Name.

Yes, New Romantics looked a bit ridiculous at times (Exhibit A above) and were often better at dressing up than they were at making records, but given the choice between their flamboyant silliness and the plodding denim rockism of an Oasis I think I know who I prefer, especially when they made such cracking 12″ mixes as these.

Download: Night Train (Dance Mix) – Visage (mp3)
Download: Planet Earth (Night Mix) – Duran Duran (mp3)
Download: The Art of Parties (12″ version) – Japan (mp3)

Read: Spandau Ballet, the Blitz kids and the birth of the New Romantics (excellent article)