The English Disease

Symptoms include: Lack of energy, poor vision, tired thinking, heavy legs, loose bowels, delusions of grandeur, the inability to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. Symptoms may induce anxiety, momentary euphoria, and feelings of depression in others.

Download: That Same Old Feeling – Pickettywitch (mp3)


The Long Legs of The Law

My mother loved this show because it was about a tough, sexy blonde with a gun (and a really big shooter at the 36 second mark!) She makes Juliet Bravo look about as sexy as a woolly cardigan, I think I know who I’d rather be arrested by.

Apologies for my absence this week. You know how it is, things to do, football to watch, time to waste online etc. etc.

Man Out of Time

Some mornings when I’m on the bus on my way to work I feel like I’m living in the future. I look around me and see people holding digital devices usually not much bigger than a fag packet on which they’re listening to music, reading, playing games, watching videos, browsing the internet, sending emails, probably even blogging and — ugh — Tweeting. They have a dazzling multimedia experience in the palm of their hands while I’m just reading a boring old book and feeling increasingly like an old fogey with my “dead tree product”.

I know men are supposed to wet their pants over the thought of a new gadget but the grumpy contrarian in me is always suspicious of a sheep-like rush toward some shiny new thing (who are these people who camp outside a shop all night just to buy a bloody iPad?) and the current ubiquity of whatever Steve Jobs pulls out of the sleeve of his black roll neck jumper just makes me even less inclined to want one. I work in publishing which, like the music business, is currently being turned upside down by digital technology, working at a traditional print magazine these days is a little like being a Luddite when the mechanical loom was invented as we join the mad frenzy to embrace all these new gadgets. Though I’m rightly skeptical of the idea that a person can be reduced to a “type” or a category, especially by some smart-arse marketing executive, reading some of the character sketches at The Middle Class Handbook I came across a person they call a “Bitter” which captures a lot of my feelings about the “digital revolution”:

They are named after Twitter – a site they particularly hate. Bitters basically feel drowned by the technology everywhere, and yet are niggled by the idea that they ought to be trying to keep up. They were always crap with technology, they loathe any type of user manual, and feel a peculiar mix of resentment, jealousy and hatred when they see people such as the work experience kid clutching their copy of Wired and doing something futuristic on their iPhone.

Secretly, even though half of them do media jobs where it is quite essential the Bitters wish it would just all go away.

I’ve been using a computer to do my job for the past 20 years, know my way around the internets and can design web sites (like this one) so it’s not as if I’m some grandpa who doesn’t know how to program his video recorder (though I am one of those sad bastards who only uses his cell phone to make phone calls) but while I am niggled by the idea that I ought to be keeping up more — at least for the sake of my career — my real problem is that I’m bored by it all and find it impossible to work up any enthusiasm for the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Droid, or whatever the “must have” gizmo du jour is. I’ve used an iPad to “read” a magazine and the experience left me completely cold, tapping your fingers on a piece of glass is no substitute for the feel of a piece of paper no matter how many interactive bells and whistles they load it up with. As the legendary art director George Lois recently said in his usual pithy way: “there is a visceral feeling of having that thing in your hands and turning the pages. It’s so different on the screen. It’s the difference between looking at a woman and having sex with her.”

It’s not as if I’m going to quit my job and go work on a farm in Vermont but, yes, I do wish it would all go away. Which is probably what all those typesetters who were put out of work by desktop publishing in the 80s felt, they must have hated young fuckers with Apple Macs like me too.

Download: Computer World – Kraftwerk (mp3)
Buy: “Computer World” (album)

Much as I hate to give The Sun credit for anything, this was pretty funny.

My Mother’s Records

What is it with the British and soul music? Why did we fall so truly, madly, deeply in love with it, worship even it’s most obscure artists and form so many cults and lifestyles around its every permutation? I doubt if there’s another country in world with such an obsession.

The most obvious expression of this love affair was the huge popularity of Tamla Motown which seemed to be adored by everyone in England from sharp-dressed Mods to mums and dad. Growing up, Motown songs always seemed to be coming out of a transistor radio somewhere — usually introduced by the chirpy voice of Tony Blackburn — and I don’t think I entered a house that didn’t have a copy of “Motown Chartbusters” on the shelf, Volume 6 with it’s bizarre Roger Dean cover was especially popular.

So it was only natural that next to her Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett albums my mother should have a copy of the 1968 compilation “The Motown Sound: A Collection Of 16 Original Big Hits Vol.6”. I’ve no idea what was on the other albums in this series (I can’t find any of them online and the American version has a completely different track listing) but the thing I love about it (especially now) is that only about three tracks on it were big hits while the rest is made up of more obscure numbers which gives it the feel of a from-the-vaults rarities collection rather than a package of chart smashes. Little did I know when I was a kid jumping around our living room to the fabulous, rousing “I Got A Feeling” by Barbara Randolph that I was enjoying a cult tune that was filling the floors of Northern Soul clubs. It wasn’t until the Mod revival in the late 70s when I “rediscovered” the album, dusty and half-forgotten in our sideboard, that I realized it was probably the hippest record my mother owned.

Download: I Got A Feeling – Barbara Randolph (mp3)

My other favourite track was the ballad “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You” by Rita Wright which even as a kid I thought was heartbreaking (I was a softy even then). Though I didn’t know then that “Rita Wright” was better known by her real name Syreeta (and for a while as Mrs. Stevie Wonder), how this was never a hit either is beyond me as it’s utterly gorgeous.

Download: I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You – Rita Wright (mp3)