I doubt anyone’s noticed (or cares) but I haven’t posted my Best of 2014 list yet. What with Charli XCX and (shockingly) D’Angelo putting out new albums in only the past week it seemed a bit previous to do it any sooner, and to be honest I’ve just been too busy and lazy to write the bloody thing. I shall hopefully be doing that over the Christmas holiday while eating, drinking, and loafing.
This Proggy track from 1971 isn’t actually about a sleigh ride (apparently the title is an old whaler slang term) but it’ll do nicely instead of the usual Yuletide song fare. Brits of a certain age may recognize parts of this from it being used as the theme music for Weekend World.
I’m signing off for the year now, hope you and yours have a great festive season. See you in 2015.
Download: Nantucket Sleighride – Mountain (mp3)
Imagine what Jerry Lee Lewis would have sounded like to a kid living in drab Manchester where this was filmed in the early 60s. Like an alien from another planet probably. No wonder this lot are going bonkers, and no wonder their parents thought rock and roll was dangerous.
Contender for greatest ever live performance on TV?
Posting that terrific Archie Bell & The Drells clip on Friday got me to dig out this old 12″ single. Wally Jump Jnr. & The Criminal Element was a pseudonym of legendary producer Arthur Baker and singers Donnie Calvin and Will Downing who released this version of “Tighten Up” in 1987 that mixed in a pinch of Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You” with some massive drum beats to make one ferociously funky dancefloor workout.
Download: Tighten Up (I Just Can’t Stop Dancing) – Wally Jump Jnr & The Criminal Element (mp3)
BONUS BEATS: The same year Baker also put out the stonking “Put The Needle To The Record” under the name The Criminal Element Orchestra which sampled a little bit of “Kiss” by Prince with an even bigger drum sound and twisted, turned, and stretched it out into a pile-driving beat monster.
Download: Put The Needle To The Record – The Criminal Element Orchestra (mp3)
If you’re a Chromatics fan like me you would have been happy to hear they have a new album called Dear Tommy due out early next year. On top of that, band leader Johnny Jewel continues to be a very generous man by giving away lots of music for free. The past few weeks he’s been clearing out his vaults by putting up unreleased tracks, demos, and alternate takes on his Soundcloud page for download.
Most of those tracks have now been collected on two albums called Drumless and Running From The Sun which you can buy on yummy coloured vinyl at their store for the measly price of $12 each.
This song doesn’t appear to be on either though, nor on the new album, which will surprise you when you hear how good it is.
Sometimes it can take a while to choose a clip for my Friday post. But sometimes I see one that’s so great I immediately know I don’t have to look any further.
This is one of those. Just fantastic.
One more from “Lost Worlds”:
“One of the great losses of the Information Age is texture. Consider the pre-computer desk: a litter of papers, large and small, handwritten, printed and typed, coarse and fine; letters in varying hands, envelopes of various sizes bearing stamps from all over the world. Here are books, annotated and bookmarked; here is a typewriter with its ribbon and its heavy steel frame. Here are photographs and drawings, coins and banknotes, documents bearing seals and counter-signatures, pristine originals and faded carbon copies, correction fluid marking the palimpest of human error, dog-ears distinguishing what has been well-thumbed from what has been largely ignored. Papers lie in piles, navigable vertically according to what has been most recently consulted; some are turned sideways-on to mark the stack. Boxes of note cards are neatly indexed; bundles of them, held with rubber bands, less neat but closer to hand; notes and memoranda are thumbtacked to the bulletin-board.
Now consider today’s equivalent. All is stored on the network and accessed via mouse-clicks on a clean glowing screen. Everything is the same: an image seen through glass. We touch nothing, mark nothing, smell nothing. In the new world of IT, it is not just the desktop that is a metaphor: everything is a metaphor, where nothing yellows with age and everything is clean and new. We have become creatures of sight alone, our whole attention focused on a hundred and fifty square inches of expensive glass.
We have lost something in the process. Not just texture. Something more. The computer makes everything retrievable but it doesn’t retrieve everything. Only the surface. Scratch that surface and — look! — more surface. The rest is lost.”
Download: Digital – Joy Division (mp3)
Too distracted by other things to finish a proper post at the moment so I thought I’d go back to one of the original wells of inspiration for this blog: the book “Lost Worlds”, a compendium of vanished things written by Michael Bywater. Here he is on why nostalgia for our childhoods is such a powerful thing:
“Generations beyond number — certainly they were active when the Old Testament was being composed — have lamented that time when men were men and women didn’t mind; when the air was cleaner, people stood taller, children obeyed their elders, food tasted better, wine left one mellow rather than crapulous, flowers were brighter, rain softer, animals more obliging, harvests richer and a hazy mellifluous peace engulfed the living world…
Yet its location in time remains uncertain. Just as the garden always looked better last week, just as the orgy was always the day before yesterday or down the road, so the Golden Age occupies a strange, shifting region of time; the opposite of the phenomenon observed by authors, lawyers and software engineers, the Constant Time to Completion effect. The Golden Age is always, and has always been, a little before we were born; perhaps when out parents were young. After all, it’s they who spent our childhoods telling us how much better things were when they were children.
But here’s the secret. The Golden Age is always, really, us. It’s the memory of our own childhood. Not that is was necessarily wonderful; just that it was simultaneously us, and yet entirely foreign. Nobody can recapture how they thought as a child; how the world felt; how alert the senses were; how the world seemed to offer endless opportunity, unalloyed promise under the sun. The seventeenth-century mystic Thomas Traherne saw our lives beginning, as infants, in a condition of amazement, like angels; and so the Golden Age is the angelic infancy of the world. No wonder we yearn for it.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Literally. He’s a much better writer than me.
Those Spandau Ballet boys did some cracking 12″ single mixes during their own Golden Age.
Download: Glow (12″ version) – Spandau Ballet (mp3)
Here’s an early Christmas present from you, a terrific new holiday song from Dum Dum Girls. Even better, you can download it for free, just use the button in the little player widget below.
They recorded it as part of an Xmas compilation put together by Converse, and unusually for them it’s a synthpop tune.
“Peter Marinello has just been signed to Arsenal for the fantastic fee of £100,000!” Sadly Peter has fallen far from the glamour of giving out prizes to dolly birds on TOTP.
This clip is just great from start to finish. With the goofy charm of Tony Blackburn, the summery pop stylings of Edison Lighthouse, and the groovy dancing dollies during the credits, the TOTP studio looks like the happiest place on earth.
One curse of being a graphic designer is that it’s impossible to turn off your professional eye so you’re constantly noticing the design of things from the shittiest advert on the bus to the nicest record sleeve. The worst is the compulsion to mentally fix bad type kerning when you see it, which is often sadly.
It’s a curse that even Jenny Agutter is powerless to overcome, because my first reaction on seeing this picture was to admire the poster behind her and wonder who designed it. While 99% of the men looking at this are probably thinking “What poster?” I cannot control my eyes from being more interested in that than the lovely Jenny. Sad, isn’t it?
Of course I had to research it and, as I thought, the poster is the work of the great Seymour Chwast. Jenny had very good taste.
Download: Girl Watcher – The O’Kaysions (mp3)
Northern Soul aficionados will know this sweet classic from 1968. I always assumed The O’Kaysions were black but apparently not.