Thursday, 8 April 2021

Seems Like a Long Time

March 25th - the date was naggingly familiar, but for a while I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. And then I remembered. It was on that very day, 21 years earlier, that I closed the doors on my little record shop for the last time. 21 years...blimey. The numbers pile up. By the time I took on my own business, I'd already been working in record shops for 7 years. Then I spent 14 years behind the counter at my place. Now it's been 21 years since it all ended. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday - sometimes it seems like a very long time ago indeed.

I recently came across the photo at the top of this post in the middle of a negative strip. It looks very much like 1989 to me. I've no idea why I took it, unless it was to document my recently purchased CD racking, which cost me an arm and a leg, but, as I tried to explain to my long-suffering bank manager at the time, CDs are the future y'know! 

Name those sleeves.

Rod Stewart - Seems Like a Long Time

Monday, 5 April 2021

Monday Long Song

Now I'm known to have become obsessed with a few prolific artists in my time, but even I struggle to keep up with all of John Dwyer's many musical adventures. Best known as motivator-in-chief of Thee Oh Sees (aka OCS, Osees and sundry other variants) and guv'nor of Castle Face Records, Dwyer is the dictionary definition of restlessly creative. He's also released records under such monikers as Netmen, Dig That Body Up, Zeigenbock Kopf and, most recently, Witch Egg. Dwyer had a hand in a couple of my favourite LPs of 2020, one of which was 'Bent Arcana', recorded in cahoots with a stellar cast including Peter Kerlin from Sunwatchers and TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, a man who, by the by, once made me an espresso in a Williamsburg coffee shop.

I could offer influences and comparisons for Bent Arcana's music, but this comment left by someone who purchased the album from their Bandcamp page captures its essence nicely:

'Cosmic music from another dimension transmitted via your brain-stem to usher in a new era of fraternity and respect for all'

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Chills and Fever

One of the earliest books that I can remember having a lasting effect on me was Rogue Male, a 1939 thriller by Geoffrey Household. I must have been around 10 years of age when I read it, along with the rest of my English class at junior school, but vivid elements of the story have stayed with me over the ensuing half century, in particular a tightly written chase scene around Aldwych tube station and the claustrophobic later chapters where our unnamed perpetrator hides underground in the hollowed out bank of a remote country lane in Dorset.

I had my first AstraZeneca jab one morning last week and for the following 6½ hours thought I'd got away with it, but then, over the course of just 45 minutes that evening, I went from feeling completely tickety-boo to suffering full-on flu symptoms. Shivering violently, sweating profusely and with my head thumping, I took myself to bed, where I stayed for much of the next 48 hours, phoning into work sick for only the second time ever. Firing up the BBC Sounds app on my phone to murmur away in the background for company as I drifted in and out of a fevered state of consciousness, I discovered that a fifteen part, 2004 serialisation of Rogue Male, read by Michael Jayston, had recently been repeated on Radio 4 Extra and was available to listen again, so I let the whole story go round and round on a continuous loop for most of the two days, missing great chunks when I sank into a fitful sleep and picking it up again when I came to. 

Feeling a bit better on the third day, I returned to work, but my head still wasn't quite right. Indiscriminate thoughts kept popping into my muddled brain throughout my nine hour shift, which seemed for all the world like hazy half forgotten memories of real events, but were actually random scenes from Rogue Male, absorbed while in my delirious state and now seeping out into my mind as I worked. For a while it took a real effort to separate fact from fiction - a very odd sensation indeed.

A mate, one month younger than me, had his first jab on the same day as me with absolutely no side effects whatsoever. My Aunt, at 91, thankfully sailed through both her jabs without issue. Conversely, another guy at work, fifteen years my junior, was rendered totally out of commission for five full days following his injection. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason. My second run-in with AstraZeneca is slated for the first week of June - I've already taken the precaution of booking a couple of days off work, just in case.

Teacho & the Students - Chills and Fever

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Two Find Light in the Deep Light Shining


Latin Playboys was a Los Lobos side project, consisting of two fifths of that band, David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez, plus producers Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom. They issued a self-titled album in 1994, followed by another, 'Dose', in 1999. At the time these releases were difficult to track down in the UK - the first available, but unpromoted, the second only obtainable at considerable expense via the import market. The band were awkward to classify - sharing the roots heritage of Los Lobos, but taking the sound to more experimental places. Think 'Mule Variations'-era Tom Waits....without Tom - told you they were difficult to classify! If you like 'Kiko'/'Colossal Head' period Los Lobos and are up for something similar, but a little more off-kilter, then hunt down the first album at the very least. 

To whet your whistle, here's 'Ten Believers' from the debut and a very fine 1999 live clip of 'Mustard' from 'Dose', the latter featuring a guest turn on fiddle from recent Monday Long Song star Lisa Germano.

 

Monday, 15 March 2021

Monday Long Song

I've been living in the new gaff for nearly five months now, yet I've still to meet, or even cast eyes upon, four of my six immediate neighbours - they come and they go, very quietly it has to be said, at all hours. I'm assuming various forms of shift work are involved. Anyhow, while enjoying a few days off work last week, I took the opportunity to make myself known to any of the locals who might also have happened to be at home, via the good offices of On-U Sound collective Singers & Players. Over the course of one afternoon I played through 'War of Words', 'Revenge of the Underdog' and 'Staggering Heights' at, what can probably be best be described as, a potentially neighbour-bothering volume, but I never heard a peep from any of 'em, so I can only assume that either my neighbours weren't at home or weren't bothered.

Here's a heavy heavy tune from the 1981 Adrian Sherwood produced, Singers & Players debut LP, featuring the mighty voice of thunder himself, Prince Far-I.

Singers & Players - Quanté Jubila

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Window

I always got a big kick out of photographing the birds that visited the grounds of the former Swede Towers - I occasionally shared the resulting images on these very pages. When I relocated last October, I assumed those days were well and truly over. My second and third floor apartment sits at the back of a converted late-19th century maltings, with no great views to speak of from the living room windows downstairs, save the back gardens of neighbouring houses. It transpires that my initial negative assumption was a tad hasty, however. 

As I type these words I'm upstairs, sitting beneath a Velux window that affords me a direct eye to the sky - the only other objects in my line of sight are the overhanging branches of a tree (sycamore I think, but I'm no expert). To my delight I've discovered that the tree in question appears to be a pretty convenient stopping off point for all manner of feathered friends. It's a bit like having my own private hide - I can see the birds, but they can't see me. The most exciting thing I've spotted so far was a tree creeper working its way up to the very top branches. I've only ever had a single fleeting glimpse of one before, but this sighting was clear as a bell, uninterrupted and a real delight. I was so transfixed by the tree creeper that I didn't even reach for my camera, but when a small group redwings settled for a while, I hastily fired off a bunch of shots. I still only have a simple point and press camera and I was shooting almost directly into the sun so by and large the results weren't anything special, with the exception of the one at the top of this post, which I'm well pleased with. I'll let you know if anything else interesting drops by. 

Trash Kit - Window

Monday, 8 March 2021

Monday Long Song

In the years leading up to her 1991 debut LP 'On the Way Down From the Moon Palace', Lisa Germano recorded for such diverse acts as Simple Minds, Indigo Girls, The dB's, Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, predominantly as a session violinist. Latterly, she's continued to contribute to albums by the likes of David Bowie, Eels, Howe Gelb, Sheryl Crow, Crowded House and Iggy Pop. Germano's second LP 'Happiness' was released in 1993 on Capitol in the States, later catching the ear of Ivo Watts-Russell, who remixed and reissued the album on 4AD in the UK the following year, the first of four long players she'd put out on the label. The reissued 'Happiness' was proceeded by the 'Inconsiderate Bitch' EP, which, confusingly, includes this haunting and greatly extended version of the LP's title track.

Lisa Germano - Happiness

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