Friday 31 January 2020

Stop Snivellin'

The 40th anniversary of the beginning of my record shop career slipped quietly by in December. I wrote in some detail about that period of my life way back in 2012 (here) in what is one of my favourite posts, one that became something of a precursor to my 55 From 55 series three years later. A number of records come to mind (for a number of different reasons) when I think back to those days of late 1979/early 1980, amongst them is the debut album by The Pretenders. I don't know exactly how many fully autographed copies of the LP were sent out into the world by the band, but I was lucky enough to be in a position to bag one of them, which I still have. Amazing really, considering some of the great records I've reluctantly let slip out of my hands over the years, when I've been short of cash.

The Pretenders - Tattooed Love Boys

Monday 27 January 2020

Monday Long Song

It's both a blessing and a curse to love as many prolific artists as I do. The blessing is the immense joy I get from the huge amount of  incredible music these bands put out. The curse is financial. Actually, not that much of a curse really - I mean who needs food, water and heat when there's a great LP that needs buying anyway? Take Big Blood. On December 31st 2019 they announced the immediate digital release of a new album 'Deep Maine', with the promise of a physical version (probably in the form of a self-produced CDr) to follow. I couldn't wait and splashed the cash for the download - and it's a terrific piece of work. Sixteen days later (16 days!), the band announced another, entirely separate new vinyl release, 'Do You Wanna Have a Skeleton Dream?', which the blurb informed me was an LP in a limited edition of 300, expected on or around February 28th. It arrived last Monday - over a month ahead of schedule! It's also terrific. Much of Big Blood's earliest music was issued in screen-printed sleeved, limited runs of CDr's and there is talk of some of these rarities getting the full reissue treatment later this year. The sound you hear is that of my credit card melting and dripping out of my pocket.

While I go in search of my boss to plead for more overtime, enjoy 'Slumber Me' from Big Blood's 2006 CDr 'Strange Maine 11.04.06'. If you like what you hear, a selection of the band's back catalogue is available to sample/pay what you like, over on their Bandcamp page (here).

Big Blood - Slumber Me

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Aunt Update #2

 Mum (on the left) with Emmy in 1947 and at their last meeting in 2010

Long time visitors to this place might remember that I used to write quite regularly about my two elderly London based Aunts. Sadly Emily, forever Aunty Emmy to me, passed away last July aged nearly 92. I wrote a little about her life lived on one Bethnal Green street a few years ago (here). Emmy remained very active, outgoing and well known in her community until a fall in 2017, after which she never fully recovered. She deteriorated steadily over the next two years and to see this once fiercely proud and immaculate lady become ill and housebound was heartbreaking. Although she was a couple of years older than my other elderly Aunt (Joyce, who I wrote about last week), Emmy was actually my Mum's cousin, making her technically my second cousin. Mum and Emmy remained extremely close throughout their whole lives, much like myself and my own cousin.

In the last 30 years alone Emmy survived a heart attack, took up photography, maintained a forceful position in her local housing association, became a confident online presence (emailing me regularly between our weekly phone conversations), was heavily involved in the campaign for a memorial for the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster, contributed to number of WW2 documentaries on radio and TV and was name-checked as a consultant for a novel based in the East End of her youth. Her early life was no less busy. At Emmy's funeral the vicar was forced to pause for a moment to take a breath as the many highlights of a full and busy life were recounted, while the order of service quoted heavily from interviews with her in the Daily Express and on Channel 4.

No tune today, instead here's a short clip from that Channel 4 interview in 2015. Rest easy Aunty Emmy.

Monday 20 January 2020

Monday Long Song

After several years of CD or digital only releases, French five-piece Moon Rã issued their debut physical LP 'Moon Rå' very late in 2019. It's a cracking, intricate listen, with nods to prog, post, kraut and space rock. The significance of the differing umlauts? No idea mate. Apparently only 200 copies of 'Moon Rå' were pressed, the first 50 of which came with a CD containing some of the band's earlier recordings. I was too slow off the mark to bag the CD, but Moon Rã's back catalogue can be sampled / downloaded via their Bandcamp page (here).

Moon Rã - Alkaïd

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Aunt Update #1

 My Aunt & I in 1963 and at her 90th birthday party last August

This was written a few days ago, but all being well, as you read these words I should be speeding my way back up the M11 towards home after spending a few days in London with my Aunt Joyce. She lives alone, celebrated her 90th birthday last year and required some minor outpatient surgery yesterday. Her daughter, my cousin, lives in New York, so I went down to transport Joyce to and from the hospital, then make sure she was as comfortable as possible before zipping back to East Anglia and to work. In four days I start a week's holiday and I'll be heading back down to London in order to check in on the patient, who, knowing her, will be a very impatient patient. By then I imagine she'll be desperate to get out of the house for a wander along the High Street, a bus ride to Romford, or a shopping trip to Chelmsford. She's had a few knocks over the years, but doesn't like to sit still for long. Hopefully though, she won't overdo it and will hang on until I arrive back in town next week, when I can whisk her off for a pub lunch at her favourite spot.

The Upsetters - Medical Operation

Monday 13 January 2020

Monday Long Song

I'm shocked and stunned to note that I've not previously featured the music of Danish quartet Mythic Sunship on these pages. Their brilliantly titled 2018 double LP 'Another Shape of Psychedelic Music' was a big noise, quite literally, at Swede Towers. Indeed, I dug the album out just a few weeks back to annoy the neighbours with it all over again. The band were augmented by saxophonist Søren Skov on the record and he's also in evidence on the forthcoming live set, 'Changing Shapes', featuring performances captured from three shows at the Roadburn Festival in 2019. 'Olympia' is the first taster from 'Changing Shapes' and the magnificent racket of this one tune alone was enough to have me hastily reaching for my credit card. You too can pre-order the album here.

'If Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.' - The Obelisk

Thursday 9 January 2020

Heart Emoji

You may remember my somewhat frantic post back in August, concerning a mate who, on feeling a little under the weather, visited his doctor and was immediately rushed into to hospital, placed in a medically induced coma and had undergone major open heart surgery - all within the space of about 48 hours. We sat on tenterhooks for days, waiting for any updates from his wife. Slowly, miraculously, he recovered enough to be allowed home to convalesce, where I visited him towards the end of November. He was weak, tired and hoarse from the tubes he'd had down his throat for some weeks, but I say, the only word that comes to mind is miraculous. I felt like hugging him and simultaneously hugging the whole of the NHS.

Frail as he was, his sense of humour was completely intact and he had us all laughing out loud as he recalled being brought out of the coma soon after his surgery. He groggily found himself in bed in a virtually silent and completely white room, surrounded by a group of people dressed from head to toe in white. Confused, disorientated and in considerable pain, he managed to attract the attention of one of them and whispered, quite genuinely, 'Am I dead?' 'No dear,' said the nurse, ''re in Basildon'.


Richard Dawson's '2020' is a phenomenal stream of consciousness, state of the nation address - one of the truly great albums of 2019.

Monday 6 January 2020

Monday Long Song

For a number of reasons, I didn't get around to putting a proper 2019 retrospective post together. It might still happen, but just in case time runs away with me as we career headlong into 2020, I'll try to slip in the odd, previously unfeatured favourite from last year as and when I get a chance. Take Elkhorn's 'Sun Cycle' for example. The duo's fourth LP finds their usual acoustic/electric psych-folk sound palette expanded by the addition of percussionist Ryan Jewell (though he doesn't feature on this particular tune) and the additional experimental guitar playing of Willie Lane. 'Sun Cycle' arrived simultaneously with a sister release, the self explanatory 'Elk Jam', an altogether more far out affair, a tune from which might also make an appearance as a Monday Long Song one of these days.

Elkhorn - Song of the Sun

(If you like what you hear, check out the whole album here)

Wednesday 1 January 2020

A Kungens Calendar - Januari

Back in 2013 (seven years ago!), the mighty Kungens Män decided to release an album of downloadable music per month for a whole year, though for reasons best known to themselves, they actually kicked off the series in October, concluding it in September 2014. Therefore January's entry, 'Januari - Kungens Män glor på skor', is actually the 4th volume, but, call me old fashioned, the first month of the new year is where I'm starting!

The title translates as 'The King's men glare at shoes'....and why not? For fellow lovers of improvisational psych, interspersed with all manner of other cosmic influences, I can't recommend the band highly enough and it was one of the true joys of 2019 to finally catch them in concert. Kungens Män released two official LPs last year, as well as music from a bewildering amount of offshoot projects, many of whom have already featured on these pages and all of which are worthy of your further investigation. With barely a pause for breath, there is apparently yet more new music on the way quite soon. My credit card is on standby.

All 48 minutes of 'Kungens Män glor på skor' is available here for a 'name your own price' contribution.

Kungens Män - Vilse i frid

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