Thursday, July 28, 2011

Well it's a brimful of Asha on the 45 (Cornershop)

I'm a tad depressed. I'm in London, having just been in Edinburgh. These should be the music capitals of the world right? Music stores all over the place filled with lashings of CDs and DVDs. Right? Because they always have been.

Sadly - they are not!!!

The Virgin Mega Stores are long gone. HMVs are closing down as I write - there is only one left on Oxford St. these days. The large FOPP in Edinburgh has been closed and a small one in Rose St. is a pale shadow of what it should be - mainly because FOPP has been taken over by HMV and it shows. The six Avalanche stores in Edinburgh have now become one store.

The situation is dire and will only get worse for music lovers like me who love browsing the bins.

Here's how dire: for the last two weeks, I have been looking for a new CD by Josh T Pearson that Mojo has reviewed with album-of-the-year style notices. I have also been looking for Keith Jarrett's Koln concert CD. It's a jazz landmark and I need to replace my old recorded cassette version.

I have tried everywhere - all the big and small HMVs, all the big and small FOPPs. Nada, zip, zilch, nuttin. There is only one thing I can do - go online.

And there you have the demise of record shops. Most people, these days, if they are going to buy a CD at all are going to maybe (big maybe) go to an HMV. One. Not there? Okay - let's try online. Done deal. All over rover.

Okay - enuf misery.  There have been some successes and I will be returning to the desert with a lot of great finds.

And the good thing is that vinyl is still around. Imagine my delight and surprise when I entered the FOPP near Tottenham Court Rd to find a 45 by Beady Eye. Fab - I snapped that up. Okay - only 2 tracks and it cost £4 but it had to be done.

In Keswick I stumbled on a vinyl treasure trove at a collectables' shop. Not only that but there was a large number of Zappa titles - including a mint copy of 200 Motels. I don't have it, it's managed to be elusive, so it was a £30 pound bargain in my eyes. Trouble is I have to wait until I return to my belongings in NZ at some point in the future to actually play them. Before that we'll need to buy a house to unpack it in - details, details.

Tomorrow we are off to Paris. I don't hold out much hope of adding to the collection there but I am forever optimistic.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So pack your toys away...your 45s're moving out today (Carole Bayer Sager)

We are moving apartments in Al Ain. From one side of town to the other.

Why? Short version - we are the only people continuing on contract in our old apartment (called 'Gardens') so it's not being renewed by my company and we are being moved to a new building (called 'Yellow Jimi' coz it's in Al Jimi district and painted yellow).

It's great! I love the change of skins. It means re-evaluating my DVD and music collection that has built up since we arrived in Al Ain last November. Ultimately our stuff will need to be shipped back to Nu Zild next year so I only want to ship good stuff home.

I've decided to be tough on myself and sift out the non essentials, then bin them (this is the tough bit - I normally recycle unwanted CDs to second hand outlets but these don't exist in the UAE). I hate having to throw away CDs and books but it has to be done. The weeding out process means only the strong survive and my collection is all the better for it.

So far the list includes some Fiona Apple, Lady Gaga (her latest one stinks like yesterday's diapers), early Lacuna Coil, Drive By Truckers and others.

Inevitably there is always a 10CC album that gets binned. For some reason I buy 10CC albums at regular intervals, thinking I will love them but they turn into massive disappointments. I never learn. Mainly because I love about four of their songs (The Dean and I, Rubber Bullets and the two listed below) and I am forever optimistic that they will be able to sustain that kind of quality over an album.

Latest hopeful victim was The Original Soundtrack. Two great tracks, I'm Not In Love and Life Is A Minestrone and the rest - bleugh.

I'm not sure why. They had Graham Gouldman in the band and he'd written some staggering songs that the Yardbirds took control of - Heart Full Of Soul, For Your Love and he did quality stuff like Bus Stop and Look Through Any Window for the Hollies. Eric Stewart has a great voice and Creme and Godley are clever clogs. In the end - two clever by half (haha).

They shoulda/coulda/woulda but, for me, they did nae fulfil their potential.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hear yer head a-banging on the door (Oasis)

Liam and Noel Gallagher's band, Oasis, broke up their soap opera existence a while ago (2009) and the brothers now find themselves in opposing camps.

Liam is an iconoclastic front man (even though he sings with his hands behind his back and his head tilted up so that he's singing to the pigeons on the enormo-stadium roof) and Noel is the iconoclastic guitarist and songwriter (Liam's songs are pretty naff).

Now Liam fronts Oasis without Noel - same members but now called Beady Eye (a really naff band name) while Noel is going solo with an album coming out in October (why so long?). I bought the Beady Eye album like I've bought all the Oasis albums on release. I've only listened to it once right through so far. It's okay but the Mojo review was full of unjustified praise. It's an okay Oasis lite album (I'd slot it in about 9th equal place in my favourite Oasis album list with their last two studio albums).
  • (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
  • Heathen Chemistry (2002)
  • Be Here Now (1997)
  • Definitely Maybe (1994)
  • Masterplan (1998)
  • MTV Unplugged (Noel solo) (1996)
  • ...There and Then (1996)
  • Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000)
  • Beady Eye (2011)
  • Dig Out Your Soul (2008)
  • Don't Believe the Truth (2005)
As you can tell I am inclined towards the Noel camp, although both of them can be pretty obnoxious. However, anyone who writes songs like Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger gets my vote. They both make good copy though and their interviews are always worth reading.

The sibling rivalry aspect is pretty interesting. At the end of the day blood is thicker than water but you wouldn't know it from the way brothers have tiffs in bands.

Dire Straits, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Kinks are three that immediately spring to mind. In each one a dominant song writing brother, who was the main singer (Mark Knopfler, John Fogerty, Ray Davies) outshone and clashed with the other guitarist brother (David Knopfler, Tom Fogerty, Dave Davies). Egos went into overdrive and being stuck together in a pressure cooker environment and having a baseline of sibling rivalry clearly added up to a potent brew.

In the Gallagher's case it turned ugly early on and ended in violence. Not a good recipe for sustained success.

I'm looking forward to Noel's solo album. In the meantime I'll have another listen to Beady Eye.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You introduced me, to my mind (Black Sabbath)

Nothing sums up my naivety more than this track. Of course, it is obvious to me now that this song is celebrating Ozzie's love of marijuana but I was a naive young 13 year old guy when I bought the Master Of Reality album and gazed at the long haired heavy metaller young gods lounging around a tree!

The song itself was a revelation to me at that seminal time. I loved playing it loud and the guitar riff burrowed its way into my skull over repeat listenings. Perfect air guitar fodder.

I have two memories that (maybe) reveal the ignorance/naivety of my teachers and parents.

During the fifth form, I had to do a speech at school for English, and I chose to do it on my musical discoveries (by then I had a sizeable collection and it was an obvious choice of topic). I threaded up my dad's reel to reel and used Sweet Leaf as a key track. My teacher was impressed and asked me to repeat my speech - obviously he didn't get the real intent behind the lyrics either.

The other memory is of my parents dragging me out of my bedroom at 18 Korma Rd., during a party they were hosting, to play Sweet Leaf to their friends. I did so (at some volume). I guess everyone was suitably amused and I went back to my room armed with party food. My parents (and I) never indulged in drugs so this wasn't a knowing wink to anything!

The technology has moved on in the intervening years and now I can add the track to my blog. Live versions don't do it I'm afraid. Even the rough Live At Last version is a pale shadow of the behemoth that roared out of one my first (and best) ever purchases.