Monday, November 27, 2023

Old Wave video special


"1973 - Five musicians, collectively named the Global Village Trucking Company, decamp to a house in Norfolk to focus on their music, supported by girlfriends, roadies and a baby – fifteen people in all. But was it to be an idyllic, natural life, or one of stressed, cramped arguments?

This was an episode of documentary series By Way Of A Change, and it captured the public’s attention so much that a follow-up documentary aired thirty five years later, in which the band reconvened for one last gig."- BBC Archive

Bonus Old Wave

Tractor and this lot surprisingly raw and rudimentary despite the Old Wave look 

Hearing this next one was when I first got an intimation there might be more to the Old Wave than I'd reckoned 

This would have been in 1988 on a tape made for me by Gerard from the Blue Aeroplanes, with the express aim of turning me on to the treasures of the pre-punk 1970s. Some of it I had actually heard already and in a few cases liked, but there were plenty of revelations.  I even liked the track by Al Stewart. But "Burlesque" was the stunner on this C90 - it got me heading out to pick up some Family records. Never heard anything else I liked as much "Burlesque" and its Beefheartian lurch. A hit single, would you believe? Another song by them went Top 4. Different times... 

First heard the name Family a year or two earlier when an older bloke I got friendly with mentioned them and was incredulous that I'd never heard them / heard of them. "One of the most important bands on the Underground", he noted with a trace of indignation. 

Perhaps this was his first premonitions that the world he'd grown up inside was slipping away, slipping out of popular memory?  I get these regularly - almost weekly - now that I'm teaching 20 year olds... 

Thursday, November 16, 2023


One of the first pop songs I can remember that wasn't the Beatles. 

My mum liked it and sang it a lot, in part because the word "Simon" appeared in it.  She also liked that Alan Price - nice looking fellow. 

Alan Price had this sound that I think of  as "rock without guitars" and that descends from the Paul McC side of Beatles - "Hey Jude", "Lady Madonna". A little bit too ingratiating.  Cosy.

Only recently realised "Dancing Bear" was written by Randy Newman, one of those crit-beloved (American-crit beloved, really) artists I've never got to grips with. The shadow of "Short People", perhaps. 

(You gotta love the sloppy disregard of Decca's design people, misspelling Alan on the single cover)

I guess it's one of these songs that if not exactly anti-showbiz, is perhaps ambivalent about the indignity of entertaining a bunch of paying strangers?   

Apparently for Newman it had some kind of secreted meaning to do with how showbiz is a way for minorities - Jewish or Black - to find acceptance in White America. 

This other big hit for the Alan Price Set is this "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"-ish knees-up. Also has more than a tinge of vocal blackface about it.  

Alan Price is all over the soundtrack of O Lucky Man, the Lindsay Anderson movie. 

Warm Horlicks Englishy sound, very 1971

That flat cap. 

I always remember Price unfondly as the one who joins Dylan in bullying the earnest student journalist in Don't Look Back -  (at 45.50)

(Student aka Terry Ellis, who went on to co-found Chrysalis Records)

Sunday, November 12, 2023

avian-garde music - a compilation of artificially concocted bird song.

Particularly enjoyed this titular effort from Andrew Pekler

release rationale

When you listen to birds, they usually talk about food, sex/family, or anxiety. If they knew about the true nature of humanity's cruel and exploitative relationship with birds, they would be discussing rebellion. Humanity's current trajectory about birds is to cause the extinction of one-third of all bird species by the end of this century.

This record crystallises the borders between memory, beauty, and anxiety. At the core is an amalgam of all the birds we have met and heard, their sounds synthesised from a blend of memories. Esthetically it simulates the qualities of bird sounds, hitting similar frequential sweet spots. There is a great variety of birds captured here, from high to low frequencies, from solo voices to groups, from birds standing on their own to complex world-building, where the bird voices are part of an ecosystem, becoming one of the instruments.

You could stop there, enjoying this record on a musical level, but it invites us to do one step further, to consider reconfiguring our relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants. To question our impact, and to ask why we need synthetic bird music. Is it just a visionary endeavour or is it because we are failing at fostering a world in which organic birds and other creatures can thrive?

32 artists from the whole world, including our favourite artists from Eastern Europe, have contributed to this compilation both with new and previously released music. Their music is ordered from dawn to dusk and into the night. For many of the artists it's their first time on mappa, but some have previously released an album with us.


Profits from the record will be donated to the SOS/BirdLife Slovakia, organisation protecting the bird biotops by river Ipeľ, in south of Slovakia, where mappa has been formed.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2023



You're working at your leisure to learn the things you'll need
The promises you make tomorrow will carry no guarantee
I've seen your qualifications, you've got a Ph.D.
I've got one art O level, it did nothing for me

You plan your conversation to impress the college bar
Just talking about your Mother and Daddy's Jaguar
Wear your political T-shirt and sacred college scarf
Discussing the worlds situation but just for a laugh

Working for the rat race
You know you're wasting your time
You're working for the rat race
You're no friend of mine

Inter-band class friction? Given that a third of The Specials, including its leader-founder Dammers, were art school products. Whereas the writer of "Rat Race", Roddy Radiation, had worked as a painter and decorator for Coventry council... 

The Fall tirade started out back in the band's earliest days as "Hey! Student" - W/C autodidact scorn for higher-education sheep, inspired by the sheer density of colleges in Manchester - but then Mark E. Smith changed it to "Hey! Fascist" (perhaps aware that an increasing proportion of the Fall following were university-educated? That seems a little politic and polittesse-y for one as bloody-minded as M.E.S. Probably it was to do the urgencies of that Rock Against Racism and Anti-Nazi League moment). 

 I don't think "Hey! Fascist" was ever recorded. But then in the early '90s, it became "Hey! Student" again and was finally recorded for the appropriately titled Middle Class Revolt

Ah-well I'm walking down the street,
It's always students that I meet,
Long hair down and sneakers on your feet.
Write your letters to the Evening News
I clench my fist and sing this tune:
I said Hey student, hey student, hey student,
You're gonna get it through the head,

Henna in your hair,
As you
I clench my hand before I flip my lid.

Long hair down and sneakers on your feet.
As you listen to Pearl Jam in your room.
I'm thinking like that when I sing this song:
I said I walk some more, walk some more,

As you stare in your room at Shaun Ryder's face
Down long long long long days

The dead brains of class A-B
Twin swastikas

Reflective of Lady Sovereign's love of her parents' 2-Tone and New Wave records, perhaps. 

Sipping snake bite and black kick
Didn't taste nice, in fact it was flat
Sitting at this halfback harly rat student union bash
You asked me to dance, I said no so I sat on my arse,
Watching all these arty farty hooligans charge at the bar
How bizarre?
Went to the courtyard for tobacco and tar
Saw these chicks doing this flex, wearing tee's but not wearing bras

La la la la
It was all la la la la la,
At the student union bar,
I was dragged to the student union bar,
It was crap at the student union bar,
I was at the student union bar,
What a headache?

Yeah, sipping on cheap drinks and geeks galore,
Somewhere I ain't been before
I never went to uni and I never was a student
I'm a high school drop out, a popular loner,
Making papers not exams,
Yeah, I brush my shoulders man
Roll up smoking get up joker, flagging down the enemies,
Sipping on your vodka
Oh my gosh I think I might have clocked ya,
If that's how ya go about becoming a doctor

Oh my god,
They're looking at me,
Shit, no, I don't go to uni, na,
I'm just here, my friend brought me here
Shouldn't you lot be like studying or something?
Like, I don't know about uni or things like that but,
Yeah, alright, I'm going

What other examples are there of liminal class disdain for uni-challenged tosspots? Must be some Oi! rants on this subject, surely. 

This song by The Streets is typical-liminal in its twin contempt for both the student stoner Tim and the lumpen beer monster Terry. A tour de force of observational comedy / character sketch stereotypy / method acting by Mike Skinner playing both roles.

Hey! I never knew there was a video for it, with proper acting.

Hello, Hello. My names Terry and I'm a law abider

There's nothing I like more than getting fired up on beer

And when the weekends here I to exercise my right to get paralytic and fight

Good bloke fairly

But I get well leery when geezers look at me funny

Bounce 'em round like bunnies

I'm likely to cause mischief

Good clean grief you must believe and I ain't no thief.

Law abiding and all, all legal.

And who cares about my liver when it feels good

What you need is some real manhood.

Rasher Rasher Barney and Kasha putting peoples backs up.

Public disorder, I'll give you public disorder.

I down eight pints and run all over the place

Spit in the face of an officer

See if that bothers you cause I never broke a law in my life

Someday I'm gonna settle down with a wife

Come on lads lets have another fight

Eh hello. My names Tim and I'm a criminal,

In the eyes of society I need to be in jail

For the choice of herbs I inhale.

This ain't no wholesale operation

Just a few eighths and some Playstations my's vocation

I pose a threat to the nation

And down the station the police hold no patients

Let's talk space and time

I like to get deep sometimes and think about Einstein

And Carl Young And old Kung Fu movies I like to see

Pass the hydrator please

Yeah I'm floating on thin air.

Going to Amsterdam in the New Year - top gear there

'Cause I taker pride in my hobby

Home made bongs using my engineering degree

Dear Leaders, please legalize weed for these reasons.


Like I was saying to him.

I told him: "Top with me and you won't leave."

So I smacked him in the head and downed another Carling

Bada Bada Bing for the lad's night.

Mad fight, his face's a sad sight.

Vodka and Snake Bite.

Going on like a right geez, he's a twat,

Shouldn't have looked at me like that.

Anyway I'm an upstanding citizen

If a war came along I'd be on the front line with em.

Can't stand crime either them hooligans on heroin.

Drugs and criminals those thugs on the penny colored will be the downfall of society

I've got all the anger pent up inside of me.


You know I don't see why I should be the criminal

How can something with no recorded fatalities be illegal

And how many deaths are there per year from alcohol

I just completed Gran Tourismo on the hardest setting

We pose no threat on my settee

Ooh the pizza's here will someone let him in please

"We didn't order chicken, Not a problem we'll pick it out

I doubt they meant to mess us about

After all we're all adults not louts."

As I was saying, we're friendly peaceful people

We're not the ones out there causing trouble.

We just sit in this hazy bubble with our quarters

Discussing how beautiful Gail Porter is.

MTV, BBC Two, Channel Four is on until six in the morning.

Then at six in the morning the sun dawns and it's my bedtime.


Causing trouble, your stinking rabble

Boys saying I'm the lad who's spoiling it

You're on drugs it really bugs me when people try and tell me I'm a thug

Just for getting drunk

I like getting drunk

'Cause I'm an upstanding citizen

If a war came along I'd be on the front line with 'em.


Now Terry you're repeating yourself

But that's okay drunk people can't help that.

A chemical reaction inside your brain causes you to forget what you're saying.


What. I know exactly what I'm saying

I'm perfectly sane

You stinking student lameo

Go get a job and stop robbing us of our taxes.


Err, well actually according to research

Government funding for further education pales in insignificance

When compared to how much they spend on repairing

Leery drunk people at the weekend

In casualty wards all over the land.


Why you cheeky little swine come here

I'm gonna batter you. Come here.


Apropos of not-quite-nothing, the word "uni" - yukk! Sets my teeth on edge, whenever I hear it.  Wasn't used in my day, of that I am sure. When did it take over? 

In America, people talk confusingly of school, when they mean college. University is not a word in common parlance. Let alone "uni"


Late addition, suggested by Ed in comments - The Undertones's "My Perfect Cousin", which adds family romance to comprehensive versus grammar school intra-class tensions. 

I've got a cousin called Kevin

He's sure to go to heaven

Always spotless, clean and neat

As smooth as you'll get 'em

He's got a fur lined sheepskin jacket

My ma said they cost a packet

But she won't even let me explain

That me and Kevin we're just not the same

He's got a degree in economics

Maths, physics and bionics

He thinks that I'm a cabbage

'Cause I hate University Challenge

Even at the age of ten Smart boy

Kevin was a smart boy then

He always beat me at Subbuteo

'Cause he 'flicked to kick'

And I didn't know

His mother bought him a synthesiser

Got the Human League in to advise her

Now he's making lots of noise

Playing along with the art school boys

Girls try to attract his attention

But what a shame, it's in vain, total rejection

He will never be left on the shelf

'Cause Kevin, he's in love with himself

Oh, my perfect cousin

What I like to do he doesn't

He's his family's pride and joy

His mother's little golden boy

Ed further points out that college is celebrated far more in America pop culture - and that groups are unashamedly collegiate. Certainly Vampire Weekend's first album had some songs whose mise en scene was dorms and quadrangles and Ivy League type stuff. 

But then I thought of this - a song that is anti university (or at least ambivalent about it) by people who went to university. 

Ed also mentions college radio which was once a huge thing (members of Animal Collective were involved in it and schooled in weirdo music through doing it) but isn't anymore. I mean, it still exists, people do it - but I don't think anyone's listening. Whereas once upon a time, in some regions, stumbling on the signal of the nearest college radio station was revelatory, an induction point into an entire realm of alternative music. Before the internet it was one of the only ways you found about this stuff, accessed it. (The other being music magazines and fanzines). 

Indeed college radio / college rock was such a force there was a magazine in service to it: College Music Journal, or CMJ. It was industry-oriented, rather than critical: a indie-scene counterpart to Billboard. CMJ then became the name of an annual music festival, a showcase of new, rising, alt groups. I think it was called CMJ Seminar, in fact, because of the panel discussions and talks during the day (I was on a couple, over the years, back in the '90s). A sort of funkier, cooler version of the New Music Seminar, which was probably slanted to "modern rock" as opposed to indie-alt.  But in both cases, there was a hustle-bustle of networking and talent-spotting and deal-signing. 

But back to college radio - there wasn't an equivalent in the UK. My sense is that student operated radio was purely a training place for those who hoped for a career at the BBC or in commercial radio. No one would ever tune in as listener,  surely?  I mean, I never did, in part because I didn't know of any station's frequency or even of their existence. (Why would you bother when you had Peel and the early evening DJs on R1?). Someone playing records on a university radio station possibly reached fewer people than hospital radio. Maybe it's changed now that the university radio stations go out on the internet rather than through the air... I should imagine not, though.

What was enduringly important was the student union run college gig circuit. It was so vital to the Underground during the progressive rock heyday, that Melody Maker had a weekly column called Student Statement.  Being a student union entertainments officer was a position of real power. They had NUS funding to burn - some concert promoters complained bitterly that student largesse had ratcheted up the cost of hiring a band like Stackridge or Hatfield and the North. 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Comb-Over - RIP

  [a vintage post reconstituted in honor of Britain's greatest footballer, Sir Bobby Charlton, RIP- and a great comb-over owner]

One thing I've noticed on my visits back to England over the last few years--you will never see a comb over anymore.

They used to be the mark of male middle age.

Bus conductors, men in betting shops, famous footballers, TV quiz presenters.... half the teachers at my school.... they all had comb overs.

At some point sense prevailed and the balding started to shave down their side tufts to near invisible.

Much more dignified (did they really think they were fooling anybody, the comb over squad?)... no need for yucky hair cream to plaster thinning elongated strands across the pate... and unlike the comb over invulnerable to the elements or a football colliding off the bonce. 

However one side effect is that walking through a crowded public space in the U.K. today, it can feel like there's a lot of aging, getting-stout skinheads about.

Old Wave video special

  "1973 - Five musicians, collectively named the Global Village Trucking Company, decamp to a house in Norfolk to focus on their music,...