Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Cue the Music

It's with a tinge of sadness that I read that the next issue of Q magazine is to be the final edition. Q is a magazine that I started reading when I was 17 and had a disposable income in my pocket. Smash Hits, as excellent as it was, I'd outgrown, the 'inkies' like NME and Melody Maker always seemed to take thmeselves far too seriously while Kerrang! just seemed rather childish (and there's a whole other post in how hard rock and heavy metal in the media is dished up to the fans). So Q came along at just the right time as my interest in music was growing massively with its mix of what we now call 'legacy acts' and pushing the hot new darlings. There was also a sense of humour at work, which I wouldn't expect any less with former Smash Hits editor Mark Ellen at the helm.
So yeah, I'd found my mag. Each month I'd devour the mag from cover-to-cover, learning about the aforementioned legacy acts like The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd while looking to see what was new and exciting with the expansive Q Review which covered everything from albums to films to books. I'm not entirely sure but did they invent the star rating system? At the very least they popularised it. A one star review was always much more fun to read than a five star (complete with red stars to emphasise how great this thing was) because you knew the reviewer had put the boot in. This was 30 odd years before the admirable 'be kind' movement. It was the 80s and despite Live Aid, people weren't particularly kind.
Ah yes, Live Aid. Would Q have existed without the events of July 13th 1985? Probably but not in the form it went on to take - Live Aid validated the appreciation of artists whose best work was released perhaps ten to twenty years earlier. So it's no great surprise that McCartney appeared on the cover of issue 1 and the likes of the revitalised Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and Mick and Keef were regular cover stars in the first decade of its publishing life.
Then, bouyed by the success of Q, the publishers decided to launch Mojo. I think this diluted the brand somewhat. The legacy acts that had their place in Q were now on the cover of Mojo, so Q's shift was then on to the newer artists. To me that wasn't what Q was about. It was supposed to be 'the modern guide to music and more'. So as much as I wanted to read about Radiohead or PJ Harvey I also wanted to read about Fairport Convention or The Isley Brothers. I resented that I was being ased to buy two magazines. So I didn't.
I stuck doggedly with Q until 1997 when my circumstances changed - I had my first mortgage and percieved luxuries like glossy magazines were put on the backburner - I remember the last issue I bought as a matter of course clearly: the issue where the Oasis album Be Here Now was given a five star review. Now I know that artists are much more receptive to giving a magazine more access if that mag is seen as being on board with the product but five stars for Be Here Now? Really? Britpop was already going down the dumper and this lumpen, rambling, overlong, cocaine-fuelled muscal travesty was surely no serious music journalists idea of a five star album, was it? That was where the mag lost some cred with me.
So I did buy the odd issue when I could afford it or if there was something I really wanted to read in it. In fact for quite a while I hardly bought any music magazines regularly. Then the team that brought us Q originally then brought us The Word (or just Word as it was back then, not the definite article). Now this was the very magazine for me: legacy acts? Yes! Newer acts? Yes! Decent review section? Yes! Funny? Yes!
And then, sadly, The Word left us. But that had rekindled my love of music magazines. So I now subscribe to Prog and regularly (not every issue but regularly enough) buy Mojo (I finally succumbed,), Uncut, Classic Rock and Record Collector. Cherish these things and buy them because it's no good lamenting them when they're on the way out. Buy the physical copies. Don't be like the person I heard on a podcast a few months ago say that he no longer bought music magazines "because someone invented the internet". In all spheres physical product is king, streaming services whether that be Spotify, Netflix or Apple can and will pull things down and not bother paying the creatives their worth. Nobody discovered The Incredible String Band because they clicked a link on Pitchfork.

The photo up there is of the first Q I bought. So I was a regular for nearly a decade. Not bad going.


Monday, 20 July 2020

Percy

There's a good documentary to be made about Rockfield Studios to be made. Sadly, the one shown in BBC4 on Saturday night wasn't it. Dave Edmunds, the guy who made the studios name, was only shown in a brief clip and as much as I'm not fussed about Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody was talked about only in passing. However, we did get treated to Liam Gallagher effin' and jeffin' for ages and Chris Martin droning on about the gestation of Yellow. Which was nice*...

I was listening to a podcast the other week that claimed Robert Fripp had 'won' rock music: he's very highly respected, lives in a nice house and is clearly still able to make a substantial living from his work. Sadly for him, he  has the misfortune to be married to Toyah Willcox so no, Bob hasn't 'won' rock music. I'll tell you who has, another Robert and a contributor to the Rockfield film, Robert Plant. He's filthy rich, can pick and choose what he does, people are still interested in his output, can sell tickets, can and does tell Jimmy Page to do one, retains a highly approachable everyman image which sees him sitting in the stands with all the other punters at football and, crucially, he ISN'T married to Toyah Willcox.
So why not give this a watch instead of the Rockfield film?

*It WASN'T nice.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Concision

On Saturday night we watched This Is Spinal Tap, a film which clips along and lasts barely 75 minutes. We then watched Letter to Brezhnev which lasts just over 90 minutes. I've also been listening to a podcast about the third greatest film of the 1980s, An American Werewolf in London, which has a running time of 97 minutes. No film needs to last more than 105 minutes at the very most. Reservoir Dogs lasts 99 minutes which is the perfect length. Tarantino's latest film lasts for over 160 minutes. Why? Films are too long these days. If you need your film to last more than an hour and three quarters then turn into a TV series. And don't get me even started on The Irishman. Difference there is that at least you can watch that at home if you're one of these people with Netflix, so you can at least get up and have a walk around.

Rocket Man, the Elton John biopic could have done with some serious editing, knocking at least 20 minutes off it. I was well square-arsed when we came out of the pictures. I'm currently reading Elton's autobiography, as well as being a right rollicking read, we've already met Bernie Taupin by page 50, he's slayed the American glitterati by page 70 and the entire book is out of your way in less than 350 pages. Brevity in all things is what I now demand. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you have to. Films lasting far too long is what puts me off going to the pictures these days. I'm nearly 50, life is short, I have other things to do.

I like what this band do. They do prog, but hardly any of t
heir songs last more than three and a half minutes. Which is nice. For prog.

h

Friday, 27 December 2019

Worzel

Worzel Gummidge was a fantastic meditation on our countryside, it's lore, tradition and on how we should look after it. And with actual jokes. Mackenzie Crook clearly loves the British Isles but loves it in the right way, not by using a flag or national identity but by celebrating what we have and our luck at the complete accident that we live here. Long may he be be given money to make funny, educational, inclusive and entertaining television. We live in a beautiful country with some truly wonderful people in it, it's fantastic to be reminded of that every now and again.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

I want you...

...to attend Flying Vinyl no.5.
Our next Flying Vinyl session on November 24th will feature, just after the time of its 50th birthday, the final LP The Beatles recorded, Abbey Road. Produced at a time when personal and business relationships within the band were coming under strain, musically they were never stronger and more collaborative (all four band members feature on lead vocals and writing credits) which resulted in one of their very finest albums. We'd love it if you could join us and celebrate a significant anniversary of a milestone LP.


Friday, 16 August 2019

Newark Thrill Pt.2

I'll be doing my vinyl thing in Newark again this Sunday, Newark folk. It would be great to see you there.


Monday, 29 July 2019

Bright Ambassador Adoring

Well now, I received some very welcome news today - one of my favourite bands of the last fifteen years are getting back together after having been on a break since 2011. Pure Reason Revolution were my band from about 2005 onwards. This band were pivotal in getting me back into music after other concerns (mortgages, decorating, DIY, idiotic in-laws, my dad's death and life in general) had led me away from it in any meaningful sense in the previous decade. At the time I was with a long term partner, she was the kind of person who would ask "Haven't you got enough records now?". She was a teacher who had an arty disposition so I would never have dreamt of saying to her "Haven't you got enough pens now?"

Go back fourteen years, I was bored working the late shift one night. This was the time when Mark Radcliffe had a late night show on Radio 2 that ran from 10pm to midnight. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love Radcliffe as a broadcaster and I think his shows are always worth listening to. This night he just happened to say "I'm going to play a record now by a band called Pure Reason Revolution. This record has got echoes of Pink Floyd all over it. In fact they studied at what used to be called Regent Street Polytechnic which is where the members of Floyd met each other. I'm going to play an edited version of their new single, which lasts for over nine minutes, which is why I'm editing it. It's called The Bright Ambassadors of Morning". He was right about being influenced by Pink Floyd, the title even riffs off a line in Floyd's Echoes. I vividly remember how Radcliffe introduced the record because in the early days of catch-up radio, I revisited that part of the show over and over again during the following week just so I could hear this music which I felt had been written specifically for me. It pushed all of my buttons. I just loved everything about it: the different sections, the harmonies, the drums, the huge riff, even the length of it. This record changed my life. I just had to have this record as soon as possible. I knew that no record shop around here was going to stock such a niche thing so I tentatively made my first purchase from Amazon (sorry, I knew not what I was doing). A few days later a CD single of The Bright Ambassadors of Morning fell onto the doormat. I couldn't believe I now actually owned this piece of music and wouldn't have to listen to it over the internet (how times have changed, eh?). This record became my obsession, I needed to know everything about this band and find whatever else they had out there. This being 2005, MySpace was all the rage, so I set up a profile and found PRR. Turns out that PRR consisted of some friends from Reading (some of whom had been to the old Regent Street Poly) and one of them had been a member of a band made up of schoolgirls called Period Pains who got a bit of press coverage in 1997 when John Peel made their anti-Spice-Girls single his record of the week. And guess what, through MySpace, I found that other people out there liked this band too. Who knew? That was my first foray onto any kind of social media.
So what now? I had to have whatever else this band had out on release. So the CD of their one-off single for Alan Magee's post-Creation label Poptones, which was called Apprentice of the Universe arrived. And what do you know, that track and all the 'b-sides' were great too. This band were hitting the spot for me. A few months later, when they were getting ready to release their debut album The Dark Third, they were out on the road supporting Manchester prog-metallers Oceansize, so I just thought, sod it, I'm going to see this band (she didn't want to come, of course). So I did. On my own. My first time at Nottingham's Rock City in what felt like donkey's years. And they were great. And I got to the front. And I bought everything else they did after that (two more albums) and saw them twice more. One of those times was on their farewell tour, sadly. But I didn't need to ask permission to go because by that time I'd split with the teacher and was living on my own in a flat and had met the woman who was to become my wife who means everything to me and who shares my passion for music and performance. Which kind of felt like a natural end for the band from my point of view - they'd shown me another way, I followed it, was all the better for it and made a massive change. The power of music had pulled me back in. I had left a relationship that was going nowhere because if you love music as much as this, why would you be with someone who asks if you have enough records? Or be with someone who has absolutely zero interest in the things you're interested in? Besides, I was fed-up of being on my own all the time, at home (both her job and her hobby trumped everything) and at gigs.

Anyway, The Bright Ambassadors of Morning, then. I know it's not everyone's cup o' tea but surely if you love music then you know how it feels to totally connect with something (at the risk of sounding wanky). Here's the video for it, which was on the "Enhanced CD" (remember them?) single. There's a scene in Gregory's Girl where Gregory's sister orders this fluorescent green milkshake thing in Wimpy and she explains that the best bit is just before it hits your tongue, in short, the anticipation. Waiting for that moment. That moment for me hits at about 8m 30s in this video. You're just waiting for it - the headbanging section. The anticipation is better than the moment. You know its coming and that feeling is better than anything else. And that's music for me.



And here they are performing it on the German TV show Rockpalast:



So that's it, they're back together. I can't wait to hear what they have in store.

And now you know why I'm Bright Ambassador.