This popped up on one of my falls down the YouTube rabbit hole and made me realize it must be years since the lovely Clare made an appearance on this blog. This is my favourite single of theirs and the video is almost too delightful for words.
Month: March 2014
A New Career in a New Town
I doubt if the designers of this poster intended to make “new town” Milton Keynes look like some post-apocalyptic dystopia populated by creepy zombie families living in concrete bunkers, but that’s what they ended up with.
No, I’m not going to post that Style Council record because I don’t like it much. This 1987 club classic (that they covered), however, is brilliant.
Download: Promised Land (Original 12″ Mix) – Joe Smooth (mp3)
I Can Do It In the Mix
I’ve just put together — sorry, curated – a music mix for the excellent Cooking Up A Quiet Storm site. Entitled A Gentle Simmer it’s a spacey trip along the 1970s pop radio dial with stops at ELO, Hall & Oates, Jean-Michel Jarre, Colin Blunstone, and Wings. Cheesy to some, a blissful dreamscape of Angel Delight and instant mash to me.
Listen to it (and see the full tracklisting) here or through the handy little widget below. Don’t forget to check out some of the other excellent mixes at Quiet Storm too, it’s all fab.
I know absolutely nothing about CuckooLander except that she’s British and this is her first record. Pretty damn great it is too, though I am naturally disposed to like records with titles like Dum Dee Diddy Dumb anyway.
Something for the Weekend
Always loved this record and hearing her actually sing it live on TOTP makes me love it even more. And Tony was right too, this was a hit.
If the sounds on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk threw a lot of people for a loop, the front cover was also a radical departure from Rumours. Gone was the ornate type and hippie-mystic imagery of the previous album, jettisoned in favour of a sharper-edged and more modern style.
Instead of a picture of the band there was this curious snapshot of a little dog snapping at someones ankles which could represent the often spiky tone of the record and the feral nature of some of its rhythms, or maybe the dog was meant to be a coked-up Lyndsey Buckingham attacking their audience expectations. I’ve no idea, but it’s a way more evocative image than a picture of an elephant would have been.
The cover’s speckled background, abstract shapes of colour, spaced-out type, and randomly-scattered layout was inspired by a style known as California New Wave, a very American version of Swiss New Wave design which developed in late 1970s and was most well-known in the work of April Greiman (below) and the cult arts magazine Wet.
Very cutting edge at the time, California New Wave was like the anarchic, torn-paper aesthetic of Punk design transferred to a warmer climate where the sky was bluer and the colours brighter — though the colour palette of Tusk was rather more earth-toned, a reflection of the album’s ethnic influences.
The sleeve was designed by the firm of Vigon/Nahas/Vigon (who also did the previous two Mac albums) and is quite the production as befits what was, at the time, the most expensive rock album ever recorded. Instead of a gatefold the two records were housed in double inner sleeves which made the process of taking them out to play as much of an anticipated event as its release was – nearly three years since their previous album! Normal now, but an eternity back then.
The four sleeves were illustrated with the dense, African-inspired collages of Peter Beard and more arty photography which added to the feeling that this was a record made in some abstract, druggy dream by a band who were a bit fractured.
That surreal group photo is very reminscent of this famous poster April Greiman designed for CalArts the year before in 1978 (see the whole thing here.)
The signature visual elements of California New Wave would eventually become very identified as 1980s design, and Fleetwood Mac would be one of the few 1970s AoR bands to make a successful transition to the new decade, unlike their peers The Eagles who put out an album the same year with a drab, funereal cover. Subsequent Mac sleeves were far more conventional and they were never as experimental again, but in 1979 they (or at least Lyndsey Buckingham) were looking forward musically and visually.
Download: Walk a Thin Line – Fleetwood Mac (mp3)
Tea Among The Ruins
Why Hitler lost: You can bomb our houses, destroy our streets, but you’ll never take away our tea.
Download: Who Do You Think You’re Kidding, Mr Hitler? – Bud Flanagan (mp3)
Something for the Weekend
This is wonderful, like a segment from an avant garde Blue Peter with the kids making music with tape recorders instead of sticky-back plastic and old Cornflakes packets.
My music teacher at school was into Glenn Miller rather than John Cage so lessons were more In The Mood than experimental sound pictures.
(Discovered at The Belbury Parish Magazine)
“The Greater London Council is responsible for a sprawl shaped like a rugby ball about twenty five miles long and twenty miles wide; my city is a concise kidney-shaped patch within that space, in which no point is no more than about seven miles from any other. On the south it is bounded by the river, on the north by the fat tongue of Hampstead Heath and Highgate Village, on the west by Brompton Cemetery and on the east by Liverpool Street station. I hardly ever trespass beyond those limits, and when I do I feel like I’m in foreign territory…It is the visitor who goes everywhere; to the resident, a river or railway track, even if it is bridged every few hundred yards, may be as absolute a boundary as a snakepit or ocean.”
Jonathan Raban, Soft City (1974)
A bloke at work asked me recently if I’d been to Abbey Road to see the famous zebra crossing and was really shocked when I said I hadn’t. He assumed that, being a Londoner, I must have.
Besides the fact that I would never act like a sight-seeing tourist in the city I grew up in*, Abbey Road is in NW8 which might as well be Mars to this boy from Fulham SW6 who rarely ventured to the north of the city. To me, Camden was a foreign land I only ever visited to go to the Electric Ballroom. My London — the city I knew and was comfortable in — was bordered on the north by the Westway, went as far east as Holborn, out west to Hammersmith, from there south of the river to Barnes, and then east on that side of the Thames as far as Wandsworth.
If it was a Tube map it would look like this:
Though I have lived and worked in some of them at various times, the areas beyond these borders might as well have a Here Be Dragons sign on them – or at least Here Be Media Luvvies (North London) and Here Be Pub Fights (SE London) — for all I know about them, or care to. Visiting friends who lived outside my comfort zone I often didn’t feel like I was still in London even though the A-Z said I was — I mean, where the bloody hell is Stoke Newington? It’s doubly uncomfortable feeling like a stranger in your own home city, and you don’t ever want the shame of someone thinking you’re a tourist or out-of-towner by asking for directions or looking at a map.
Every Londoner will have their own version of the city like this (just as there are New Yorkers who never go uptown or downtown) because it’s just too big for one person to feel at home everywhere. I remember several times falling asleep drunk on a night bus and waking up in unfamiliar territory near the end of the route. You quickly get off the bus in a panic — where the fuck am I? — and start walking (or staggering) back in what you think is the right direction. Then, in the distance, you see a building or road that you know and immediately your spirit lifts and your pace quickens. You’ve crossed the border into your London and everything is going to be all right.
Download: London Town – Light of The World (mp3)
Pretty sure I posted this song before a few years ago but what the hell, it’s worth doing again. Think this might be my all-time favourite London record, and there’s been some good ones.
*I have also never been inside Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, or The Tower of London.