29 December 2009

The Noughties Fade Away

29 Zeus - Year 88 p.s.U.

The first decade of the Gregorian millennium is wrapping up. It seems unreal...what's that line from the Floyd?: "And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you/No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun..."

Ten years ago I was sitting in a somewhat modest apartment in Manchester, CT. It was New Year's Eve and I was hoping that 'Y2K' bug would manifest itself in some form. The girl I was kinda/sorta seeing at the time had gone home and I sat in the darkness near midnght, looking out of the living room window--waiting for something to happen. Even just the streetlights shutting down for a few minutes. Nope. Nothing. So much for the big scare. That's how 2000 started for me...I didn't even party like it was 1999.

What's happened in the last ten years, in my view? I'll try to write a short summary...

  • September 11, 2001/The War On Terror: It'll be a cultural touchstone for ages. Where were you when the planes hit the Trade Center? It also gave King George II carte-blanche to start a never-ending war...on terrorism. That's right--he actually thought he was going to 'git all them tererists'. Starting with that known Islamic fundamentalist, Saddam Hussein...leader of a secular Middle East gubberment. Now, I'm not saying Hussein was an innocent..far from it--but it seemed his ties to al-Qeada (who became the new threat--like the Russians were in the 1950s and early '60s) were fairly faint. That didn't stop ol' George and his cronies. It worked really well, too--as Iraq is now a peaceful, democratic place, full of contented citizens all praising the U.S. for their action. Soon, Afghanistan will be doing the same. That "War On Terror" was a great idea. Feel the sarcasm, George & Karl & Rummy & Dick & Condie & on and on...

  • The Rise of "Z-lebrities": I'm not sure when this all started. Maybe it had it's seeds in the 70s or 80s. All I can observe is that one day, critters like Paris Hilton and Jodie Marsh were being feted for....well, not doing much at all. They were given television shows, perfume contracts, film roles, music deals, etc. Most of them seemed to have no particular talent, even when various secret (or not-so-secret) sex-tapes surfaced. I suspect maybe Charlie Brooker or Stewart Lee has already taken this topic on with more finesse, but hey, I can have a bash as well. I'm hoping most of them go away in the next ten years...or at the very least, get off of my Tee Vee and computer screens.

  • Reality Shows: Urgh! They started out innocently enough, I suppose. Survivor...Big Brother. Then they were all over the shop--tons of 'em. I think some channels in the UK were nothing but 'reality programming'. The worst side-effect, to me anyway, were that these shows became breeding grounds for Z-lebrities, whose 'careers' were fed by magazines like Heat and Hello!. There seems to be hope, however, as the UK "Big Brother" may be cancelled, given that the last run had the lowest ratings for any of the series. I've definitely had all the 'reality-TV' I can take.
  • The X-Factorisation Of Pop Music/Talent Shows: Yes, I know - the pop charts have always been a place where a slick producer with access to studio musicians and a gullible moppet can make a quick fortune off of a hit record. The past ten years, though, have been a boon to the charlatans (no, I don't mean the 60s psych band or the Madchester outfit). Simon Cowell has made more than a fortune with Pop Idol and it's more famous off-shoot, The X-Factor. He brought it to the States as American Idol and so on and so on. I realise I come off as a snob and I also realise there is a market for slickly-produced love songs for the teenage set--but really, some of this stuff just seems like dreck to me. A treadmill of one-hit wonders and disposable singers. It shows no signs of slowing, as Willy Wonka would say. Oh dear. Some bright spark also thought it would be nifty to have an 'X-Factor'-type show, but open it up to all kinds of fame-hungry critters with various talents..and so Britian's Got Talent was splattered all over the toob. Great--thanks for that.
  • Global Warming: The bugbear that's divided critters of all stripes. Me, I don't know if it's really happening...but something seems to be happening. 'Is' it man-made, or the natural cycle of the planet? I don't know and I strongly suspect nobody else really does either. I try to ignore the zealots on either side of the debate and work out what I can from the information available. As my man Robert Anton Wilson used to say: "Don't trust your own belief-system 100% and don't trust anyone else's B.S. 100% either." I suspect more will be revealed in the next couple of years.
  • 2012 Theories: As that year now looms on the horizon--the theories are heating up. Some bleak, death-trip scenarios about the Earth snuffing out humankind are abounding. Those seem to be mostly the domain of religious types and misanthropic cranks. Terence McKenna thought it would be an immense enlightenment, a massive concresence of 'novelty' bringing about an evolved humanity. I lean more toward McKenna's view, but again, I don't know what will happen. I try to remain as agnostic as possible about what may take place in December 2012.

But hey now - it's not all war and death and famine and AIDS. It seemed to me there were some good things in the past ten years, too:

  • Music Files/Blogs: Don't ask me who it was (I can't be bothered to look it up), but some critter figured out how to turn music tracks into files. Not only could someone copy a CD (blank recordable CDs were a cool thing, too), but they could post it up on a page for others to download. Then Napster came along and headed up the whole 'peer-to-peer' network movement. The creators were forced to go legit and charge for tracks after a big court battle--but others sprung up in it's place. Another groovy development was the rise of music blogs, which showcase a lot of obscure, long out-of-print albums. Most of the albums were copied from LPs onto hard-drives, then converted to files. The only problem with that is, now there's almost too much music to listen to. I suppose some of those records are unknown precisely because they weren't good enough to make the wider muso conciousness. Still, if you want to hear some Hungarian progressive rock or Japanese art-punk, there's a blog out there for your perusal. Now, I don't condone down-loading albums that are still available or 'leaked' copies of new albums. I mainly stick to bootlegs and out-of-print stuff...support the artists when you can by actually buying the CD or files, especially directly from the artists's website.
  • The Internet: Yep. That collection of servers, computers and satellite connections that lets me type this post out and you to read it. Pretty fascinating. Just over 10 years ago, I was pretty much an internet virgin. I had sent a few e-mails through a work e-mail address and checked a few sites out. Since then, I've posted on 4 blogs, I've got two personal e-mail addresses, signed up on several sites to purchase music and other stuff, and on and on. I mean, yeah, it seems the Internet has gobbled up a lot of my spare time, but I still wouldn't trade it in. I've been able to catch up with old school friends and read about subjects that would've taken me ages to track down in a library. No, this isn't an ad for anything - it just seemed to me that the Internet definitely changed a lot of the way critters view their worlds in the past decade.
  • Humanity Gets Smarter: Er...actually, maybe I'll hold off on this one....

Heroes Who Checked Out: Robert Anton Wilson, George Harrison, Rick Wright, Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee, Paul Newman, George Carlin, Terence McKenna, Michael English, Alton Kelley, Joe Zawinul, Hugh Hopper, Philip Jose Farmer, Stanley Kubrick, Kirsty MacColl, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer...and to any others I may have forgotten, rest in peace!

21 December 2009

The Solstice Arrives!

Kull-i-Shay 1 - 9 Vahid - Year Vahhab

Another winter has officially started--it definitely feels like it in Britain. The weathercritters predicted snowfall..and lo!...snow fell. We didn't get much, in our little area of the country. We did get plenty of ice on the pavements and frost on the grass.

Apparently, Rage Against The Machine have 'won' the..ahem..'coveted' No. 1 X-Mas spot on the UK charts, over yet another fresh-faced, scrubbed-down X-Factor winner. This year, it's a Geordie called Joe McElderry and his single is The Climb, a syrupy cover of a syrupy original, sung by the annoying Miley Cyrus (I watched her interview on Alan Carr's Chatty Man show--she does seem to be one of the most irritating critters I've witnessed in a long time...it does make me thankful I don't have children, so I don't have to watch her programme or listen to her music). A more-or-less 'grass roots' campaign started to knock McElderry out of the top spot by buying Rage's Killing In The Name (famous for it's "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" lyric), first released in 1994. This critter has some compelling arguments about why the Rage campaign seems an ultimate failure. While it would please me to see "X-Factor" mastermind Simon Cowell upset that his latest pop-by-numbers ballad hasn't dominated the charts, I strongly suspect he's not really bothered at all. The latest run of the show was the most popular by far and I doubt ITV will let it's main cash-cow disappear, despite Cowell's intimations that he may end it for good. A lot of folks have also remarked on RATM's contract with Sony Music, one of the corporate music giants. Ah the irony, fighting the corporatising of music by buying a song released by a corporate giant. "Killing In The Name" seems dated to me now - it's only known for the "Fuck You.." bit. The tune itself seems like generic 90s skate-metal - couldn't anyone have picked a better tune? I thought maybe Pink Floyd's Welcome To The Machine, which describes McElderry's fate almost perfectly, would be a better choice - but then EMI, another corporate giant, would get the money. Oh, I don't know - I don't really give a shit about the charts, so I'm going to stop thinking about it now.

It's also nearly X-Mas...thankfully! X-Mas season seems to go on too long now, especially since some retailers insist on getting the seasonal clobber out in the third week of October! I suppose I'm becoming more of a Scrooge as I grow older. I really can't stand most of the standard tunes (Walkin' In A Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bell Rock, Let It Snow (though I have to admire it's coy 'bad weather = seduction' ploy), etc, etc, ad infinitum..). I'm even tiring of some of the tunes I still kinda enjoy - like Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Slade's So Here It Is (Merry Christmas). I did make my own holiday mix a couple of years ago, entitled Have Yourself A Psychedelic Christmas...And A Progressive New Year, as an alternate to all the old warhorses. I think I might give it a spin. See, I'm not a complete Grinch. Remember, war is over....if you want it.

To my regular readers - I apologise for the lack of content this past Gregorian year. I blame Facebook, eBay, Amazon.co.uk and getting out of the house for actual activity. O.K., so the last one seems good to me...otherwise my eyes would've morphed into mini-computer monitors. The others have sucked away a lot of my 'free' time--though I did get some nifty stuff and got back in touch with a lot of old friends, so it appears not to be a total loss. I will attempt to do a bit more blogging in the new year, but I can't promise anything. Thanks for your visits, even if it was just once in a while, or maybe just once.

I'll close this post with some more greatness from Cassetteboy. This time he's taking on the putrid and repulsive Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. Cassetteboy does a killer splice-n-dice job with Griffin's appearance on Question Time a couple of months back. It's not as belly-laugh funny as the Alan Sugar Apprentice remix, but it does what it's supposed to do--lampoon a racist twat. Check out Cassetteboy's blog, too. Enjoy.

01 December 2009

The Beatles Never Broke Up!

10 Agrahayana - Year 1931

David Jay Brown posted a link to a site on Facebook a couple of days ago. The site's owner claims to have a 'lost' Beatles album in his possession. Not only that--he's claiming the cassette that the music is recorded on comes from a parallel universe, where the Fabs never broke up! Far out, you say? Too much, you say? Well, read the story...

A bloke calling himself 'James Richards' has set up a whole page relating to the story of how he acquired this tape...it seems that on September 9th, 2009 (the very day of the Beatles CD re-issues and Rock Band video game release), he tripped (hmmm...) in a 'rabbit hole' while chasing after his dog in the desert and was knocked unconcious. When he awoke, he was in a strange house and somehow could tell he was in a populated area when, before his fall, he was in an empty desert. A guy named 'Jonas' explained that he had saved James by opening a 'portal' near to where he fell...and grabbed his dog, too. They talked for a while, including about music. James noticed that Jonas had some Beatles albums..well, mostly on cassette. Jonas played him some Fabs stuff that James had never heard. James told Jonas how (in our universe) they had split in 1969. Jonas replied that they stayed together and continued to release albums in the 1970s and 80s. No word on whether they're still around in the parallel universe, however.

James asked Jonas to make him a copy of one of the albums, but Jonas adamantly refuses, stating that James cannot return to this universe with anything, including a cassette. Luckily, Jonas gets distracted by another visitor to his house, and James grabs one of the cassettes, called Everyday Chemistry. He shuffles the other tapes around, so Jonas won't cotton on that one of them is missing...for a little while, anyway. Enough time for he and his dog to be transported back by Jonas. James states that he's in fear of Jonas coming back for him, because of the blatant disregard of the warning James was given.

That's pretty much it--James goes into more detail on the site. Phew! Now, in my current mix of education and ignorance - James's story seems about 20% 'true' to me. I strongly suspect it's a really clever viral marketing campaign for one bloke's re-mixes-n-mash-ups of Fabs out-takes, band and solo. I haven't heard every Beatles out-take...hell, I've only heard maybe 10% of the 1969 Get Back sessions. I've listened to Over The Ocean so far (you can down-load individual tracks or the entire 'album' on the page) and while it does sound 'new' to me - honestly, it's a bit light on the lyrics..something that the three songwriters in the group never skimped on..at least in this universe.

I also wonder why James never bothered asking about Jimi Hendrix, or Jim Morrison, or Brian Jones or Janis Joplin...John Bonham...or Marc Bolan. Maybe they weren't fortunate in that parallel universe either.

Ah well, it seems to be akin to a UFO abduction story...guy alone in the desert has a mysterious experience which, with a lack of witnesses, no-one can fully prove or refute. I'll let you reach your own conclusions as to the veracity, or lack, of the story. James is happy to answer questions about the experience, as shown on the FAQ portion on the page--though I do notice that he kinda-sorta dodges direct queries about the tunes being re-mixes. At the very least, it shows that the Fabs' legend continues, even if their physical form disappeared, in the space-time we're accustomed to.