26 June 2009

L'Ete De Mort

5 Asadha - Year 1931

Summer's barely a week old and the casualties are mounting, at least from the 'sleb' world. it seems 'Mistah Death' has been busy the past 6 days. Farrah Fawcett, one of the original Charlie's Angels, succumbed to cancer a few days ago. She was pretty much a 70s icon, at least in the U.S. Everyone knew someone who had that red bathing suit poster on their wall. She dropped off the radar in the 80s, but made a few appearances in TV and films in the late 90s and early Noughties. The last thing I watched with her in was Robert Altman's not-so-great Dr. T. And The Women. Farrah turned in a decent performance as the Dr.'s wife, who suffers a nervous breakdown.

Sky Saxon, leader of the seminal California psychedelic garage band The Seeds, also passed away this week. They're probably best known for their 'hit', Pushin' Too Hard, which featured on every cheapo 60s/psychedelic compilation ever made--plus some good ones, like Nuggets. Sky continued on through the decades, long after the original Seeds split. With a garage punk revival happening lately, Sky's work has been re-examined and found to be quite worthy by the youngsters (perhaps after reading some Lester Bangs columns). He was touring again and was going to present a package tour, featuring The Seeds and other psych/garage/punk bands from the 60s.

Another 'underground' figure who left the planet in the past few days was Steven Wells, or "Swells", as he was called. He started out as a sort-of 'punk comedian' in the late 70s, then moved on to writing for the NME. To my estimation, he was a bit like an English Lester Bangs, skewering sacred cows with doses of funny profanity and dry wit. He would've hated my record collection and I strongly suspect if I had read a lot of his reviews in the 90s, I would've found him quite irritating. He emigrated to the U.S. and wrote for the Philadelphia Weekly. I've since read some of his columns for the P.W. and while I don't agree with everything he wrote, I can see the talent in his choice of words. Still, he was a scribe who wasn't in the pocket of the major labels and that's something to be commended.

Andy Hughes, sometime Orb collaborator, also died a couple of weeks ago. He appeared on The Orb's mid-90s albums - Orbus Terrarum through to Cydonia (2001). His biggest contributions were to the excellent Orblivion record, released in 1997. He left the band during the "Cydonia" sessions and some of the music was re-worked after his departure. He gave The Orb their final truly great period of creativity and while new albums have been dropped into the shops, their quality doesn't match that of the Hughes era (in my opinion, anyway).

...and, of course, the self-proclaimed "King Of Pop", Michael Jackson, passed away earlier this week (I'm writing this on 29th June). There'll be hundreds, if not thousands, of tributes and essays and eulogies. The tribute albums will flow like rivers after too much rainfall. Concerts will be staged and the tabloids will have fodder for the next months...and beyond. The man did achieve a level of fame in the 20th Century only equalled by The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, this led to a constant media-circus, especially where his private life was concerned. The excesses of fame seemed to drive him into a sensationalist existence and deprived him of being 'himself' (whomever that was).

Me, I just remember in the summer of 1983, being on vacation in Maine. Wanna Be Startin' Something was still going strong and it was on heavy rotation on the radio...and I mean heavy. It was being played literally every hour. My parents had gone out for the night and my older sister and I used to sing along with it, just belt it out--that was fun. I also remember being a tiny bit creeped out by the Thriller video. When I first heard Billie Jean on the radio in my father's car in 1982, I thought it was a female singer. I liked the funkiness of the tune. It may have been one my first exposures to R&B or 'soul music' or whatever you want to label it as (though I may have heard some Motown stuff when I was very young). I lost interest in M.J.'s stuff shortly after Bad was released. The music seemed to get blander as his personal life got weirder, though I do like Smooth Criminal and even Black Or White seems pretty catchy. There'll be conspiracy theories and debates about what actually killed him, or who and why. File it under another Kennedy assassination, 9/11, Area 51 and all that. No-one will ever find out the whole truth. There's no denying that MJ was an 80s icon. It seems a shame that he slipped so far down the tabloid route.

17 June 2009

A Belated Bloomsday Greeting

17 Juno - Year 88 p.s.U.

I missed posting this yesterday - Happy Belated Bloomsday, All!

12 June 2009

R.I.P. Hugh Hopper

Hugh Hopper, bass-player with Soft Machine and many other projects after he left the Softs, passed away on my birthday (June 7th). He was an essential part of the 'Canterbury Scene' and quite an eclectic musician. Check out his work on the Soft Machine - Vol. 2 album (1969), Soft Machine's Third (1970) and (one of my personal faves) Six (1973). His first solo record, 1984, released in 1973, is also worth a listen.

09 June 2009

June's In Bloom

20 Jyaistha - Year 1931

The solstice is nearly here again - another summer beckons. As usual, the English weather fluctuates quite a bit. Last week, Pixie and I donned shorts for our Sunday walk, this week I had to break out the hoodie, as the air was cool and the sky overcast. Predictions are for a hot summertime...we'll see.

We finally were able to haul the old CDs and LPs and that to the Kassam boot sale. Inexplicably, a lot of the prog-rock stuff is what sold. The dealer bloke who bought a box of discs off me at the last sale (2 years ago), bought another box for £80. I had brought some of my Japanese mini-LPs to sell off, as I've replaced them with SACD versions. The dealer tried sneaking a few into his £80 box, but I quickly grabbed them back and he went on his way. Another guy spotted our table, got on his mobile and started making a pile of discs - Can, VdGG, Moody Blues, Genesis and on and on. He bought about 70 CDs total, for the guy he was on the phone with. I imagine they're eBay sellers - but I couldn't be bothered to check if any of my discs were on auction later in the week. I also sold a few odds and ends - some band badges that I've had since the 80s (I've still got a bunch left over), a few bootleg cassettes and my Wonderwall DVD (I've got the deluxe edition, so I didn't need the regular one anymore). Pixie sold off a few cookery books that she didn't want as well. The LPs I brought didn't sell that well - I only managed to sell a copy of Pink Floyd's Meddle that I bought in the mid-80s. I found a copy at the Record Fair with the textured cover, so I sold off the 80s re-issue. Admittedly, the rest of the vinyl I was selling was very 'Murican stuff like The Cars, Van Halen & 'Weird Al' Yankovic, so I only half-expected any real interest in it. They've now gone to the local charity shop. All told, though - a pretty tidy profit for a few hours' work. We may be there again, at least once before the summer ends - I think I can get enough CDs together to spark up some interest.

Speaking of eBay...I've been on there hunting down prog and psych LPs quite a bit lately. I'm kicking myself for not buying this stuff 8 years ago, when interest in it was fairly low. It was all about CDs then--but vinyl's making a comeback and the collectors are out in force. Copies of the first couple of Island Records pressings of King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King are going for between £40 and £50. Some of the more rare editions of albums get up into the £100 range! I nearly lucked out with a fairly good copy of Third Ear Band's Alchemy for £5 - but I was pipped at the last minute. D'oh! Ah well, I'm sure there's plenty more copies around. I did get a copy of TEB's second (self-titled) LP, released in 1970, from a record shop in Germany. It's in excellent condition, with only a small punch-hole in the top right corner of the gatefold sleeve. Nice! I've also bought copies of Klaus Schulze's Blackdance and The Grateful Dead's Anthem Of The Sun (still waiting for that to arrive from the States). I'm eyeing a copy of Gryphon's Red Queen To Gryphon Three and the Floyd's Atom Heart Mother (which I used to own, 'till I lent it to someone ages ago and never got it back). So many LPs, so little cash...

Pixie and I had our birthdays this past week - another year lost to the maw of time. Ah well, I had a quiet day. I finally got round to watching my Beatles Help! DVD that I bought last X-Mas and a copy of the Bob Dylan '66 tour film Eat The Document that my mate Singing Bear burned for me last year. The best scene (it seemed to me) was Zimmy being driven around London, with John Lennon beside him in the car. The two (then) titans of rock meet in 1966, possibly one of the best years for the genre...and is it a summit on philosophy and revolution? Nope, Zimmy natters on about mundane topics, zonked out of his head on speed, booze and wracked nerves. Lennon, who may or may not be on an acid trip, tries to provide a comic foil, but sounds increasingly deadpan--even when Dylan wretches near the end of the car journey. The concert footage is great, though, especially the full version of Ballad Of A Thin Man, which is shown toward the end of the film. Riveting stuff.

Our computer problems have been sorted and I've replaced my old Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, with the brand new version. It's installed and ready to rock. I'll (finally) start on a new podcast episode in the next few days. Stay tuned.