The Tuesday Muse – Classic Albums.

I am currently working my way through the vast expanse (seriously, it’s bloody huge) of ‘classic’ albums that exist but I’ve never actually heard. i started with Radiohead’s ‘Pablo Honey’, Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ and Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’, which all proved to be pretty damn good really, an awful lot better than I was expecting. Then I delved onto albums I’d never heard as albums (only individual songs), including Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ (I can safely say every song is a hit here) and David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (obviously, the same can be said for this album). Moving onto Talking Heads’ ‘Talking Heads ’77’, I wasn’t as impressed as some of the other albums, but it’s still pretty good really. Perfectly listenable to, but not really amazing, and David Byrne’s voice kind of grates after 11 songs. Sorry Byrne, it’s true.

Anyway! The point of this blog was that it got me thinking of the classic albums of the first decade of the ‘naughties’. And yes I understand it’s not always possible to see what will be deemed classic and widely influential now, but what can we site as fantastic and those that will stand the test of time now? I can see very few, but then I don’t have the power of retrospect and all that. Anyone got any ideas? And don’t you dare say all music from this generation is drivel, because it’s not. There’s just a lot of drivel to sift and wade through before you get to the good stuff.


Glastonbury 2010 – Part Two.

This edition takes us into…

Friday, and music (finally) properly starting! Saying “finally” suggests boredom – which, obviously it wasn’t – but it did get a little exhausting walking around the site in such heat.  It was all about water and suncream (unlike last year, and I did not wish to be so sunburnt this year). We had quite a busy schedule for Friday this meant, but that was definitely a good thing. It was quite impressive the amount we managed to see, but first we started the day off with a plate of vegetarian breakfast food from a cafe in the Green Fields. I am now a major fan of the Green Fields – not specifically for the breakfasts as this particular one wasn’t the ultimate way to break your fast this festival – but the general ambiance and relaxed nature of the place meant it was a lovely little area to escape to if Shangri-La and Stevie all became too much for you.

The Bin-Men groove away to Steel Harmony

So what did we see? First we went to another of my favourite areas, The Park, to be entertained by the first act on here, called Steel Harmony. This was advertised to me as “a steel-pan band from Manchester”, to which I said “yeah alright then”, but they turned out to be excellent, and so much fun. The weather was perfect as they played somewhat more buoyant covers of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Transmission’ (Joy Division), ‘Hey Ya’, ‘Single Ladies’, and, my favourite number, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’. It was an excellent way to start the main music, and I would recommend them. You missed out!

Next came a search for shade, which was a tricky time considering Worthy Farm, being a farm, is pretty exposed and all covered parts were already taken by those who had had the idea earlier than us. However, Femi Kuti, son of the pioneer of Afrobeat Fela Kuti, was performing on the Pyramid Stage at this time, so our attention was drawn to him more than the sun, even if he did state that the weather was like being “in Nigeria”. Awesome. However, Kuti Jnr had some serious tunes – I prefer his work to his dad’s, as Fela seems to have a habit of milling a song to death, turning it into a ten minute track when it should have been three. Which is what Femi does, he makes songs of a decent length. Plus they all looked like they were having fun, and put on an excellent show. It was music that you didn’t have to know before you went, and that makes up for a lot. Good work Kuti clan!

We were able, after this, to make our way to The Other Stage and catch the majority of The Stranglers set, which also turned out to be very good. The area was packed, which I found unusual – I’ve always found support for the Stranglers minimal in today’s society, and deem them as one of the most underrated bands of all time, but it was a good performance, and we saw ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Peaches’, ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Nice And Sleazy’ to name but a few. Crazy seeing such numbers you listened to on scratchy vinyl, and it was hellishly hot by this point, but good all the same.

Seth is Powered By The Sun

Then a quick transfer to the Croissant Neuf stage in the Green Fields, to see one of my favourites, Seth Lakeman. I was mildly disappointed that someone (Tom) wasn’t quite as enthused by him as I’d hoped, but the tent was PACKED and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too 🙂 I love Seth. He ended the first round with ‘Kitty Jay’ but it was so crowded and lacking in air-flow that we didn’t stay for the encore and went for a wander instead. Had I not seen him previously, I would have insisted on staying longer, but I am not a fan of making people do things they don’t wish to (Kristof).

As the heat continued to melt us, we went in search of shade in the Pyramid Stage field, as Willie Nelson was playing. The only cover available was under the big tree quite a way up the hill, and we found a corner to sit in as Mr Nelson belted out song after song, in his 30-track set. Quite impressive for someone who’s nearly 80. His songs, being only around 2-3 minutes in length each, were occasionally broken up with a mumbled “Thank you very much” but generally he just kept going. Such stamina!

We moved on to The Other Stage as Tom wished to see Phoenix. They didn’t exactly inspire me, but I was able to sit and save energy, whilst Tom stood and provided shade (boyfriends are AWESOME 😀 ) Musically, this was probably the weak point of the day, as I found it, to quote the final festival review (I think) “accomplished, but not particularly memorable, Middle Of The Road”. Which disappointed me as Tom’s taste is anything BUT middle of the road. Usually weird and controversial, but definitely MOR. But the evening sets more than made up for it!

Yorke and Greenwood get their melancholy mood on

After Phoenix’s performance, we made our way up to The Park, by way of the tent, for supplies from Mummy Bench and a beverage of the wine or ale variety (I miss Glasto 😦 ). For supper, we tried Teriyaki Chicken! I’d only ever had this in crisp form before, in that crazy selection of new crisp flavours that Walkers brought out for the World Cup (which was, obviously, SO worth going to all that trouble). This makes me sound retarded and uncultured. I am not. I was merely brought up as vegetarian, and therefore haven’t tried such delicacies as marinated chicken. It turned out to be pretty good really, except possibly a little bland as it was just chicken and rice. And why oh why did they give us chopsticks? I’m all for authenticity, but this is a field in Somerset, not a Tokyo high street, and there’s no need to be so impractical. Or pretentious. Forks always work better.

The general plan was to head to The Park for some of the evening anyway, but then we were informed that the Secret Gig there that evening could be Radiohead. Radiohead! But it would clash with Hot Chip… Struggling with which musical treat to choose, we stayed in The Park, thinking that we could hop down to Hot Chip if it turned out to be some retard instead. The Radiohead rumour disagreed with what the sound-desk had informed Tom earlier – that the Special Guest was to be Michael Jackson.

We found a space very near the front, and the first guest on stage was Mr Eavis himself. Huge cheers! Who would have thought a humble farmer would be such a hero? He introduced the next two stars, and the set turned out to be one from Thom Yorke and Jonny “I’ve got no face” Greenwood. It was outstanding. Thom Yorke looked like “a homeless tennis player”, and they played a selection of his solo work, ending things with Karma Police which was immense – the entire crowd joined in and gave me tingles on the back of my neck. Sounds gay but it’s happened to you I’m sure. Their last track was Street Spirit, and even after they left the stage, people were still yelling “For a minute there, I lost myself” (etc), and this was definitely a Festival Highlight. And as it turns out, Hot Chip are playing at the Berlin Festival, so we made the right choice.

Snoop introduces the Plastic Beach

Not only were we able to see those two marvellous musicians, we got a relatively decent spot for Gorillaz, the Friday headliner, and they put on an excellent show. It was definitely more a ‘show’ than just a set or them playing their music, and such effort had been put into it! General feedback seems to be disappointment, although this generally seems to be down to people not knowing the newer material, Albarn possibly considering it might be like last year’s Blur performance, and people wanting to hear Clash songs and other numbers from the guests and members of the Gorillaz live band. But why? They are performing as Gorillaz, not anything they’ve done previously. I was very much impressed with their set – not quite a Festival Highlight, but still very, very good. So many stars on stage! All guests appeared apart from Mos Def, and they played some absolute tunes. A very good way to round-up a lovely day of music.

The next plan was to head to Shangri-La to check out the insane night-life there, but it was so full of people trying to get there (to the point of being claustrophobic in a crowd), and the main entrance was blocked off, so it really wasn’t worth it. Instead, we found joy in the 50p Tea Tent, with a cup of hot tea and sharing a piece of cake. Which is much better than trying to force your way into something that could be rubbish. You can always rely on tea.

Mezzo Forte Monday, Pt 2.

The Meaning Of Music

Did you know the playing time of ‘The Holy Bible’ (original 1994 release) is a mere 56 minutes and 17 seconds? ‘Ok Computer’ being 53:27, and ‘Rumours’ only 39:03. Looking further back, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ ends at just past 30 minutes and ‘Elvis Presley’ only 28:03. Not that this is a comparison between the length of songs/albums in different decades, but it is amusing to contextualise sometimes.

Anyway, the point was that while the playing time, out of context of the fact it is an album, seems quite small, the meaning can be huge. Huge! And if it’s a good album, it frequently is. Songs hang around for days in my head, usually cropping up at the most unlikely of times, and if it’s a song that “grabs” me immediately (Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man Machine’ and Delays ‘Tonite’ being recent examples), I will listen to it repeatedly until I can’t anymore. Idiotic I know, as I potentially ruin some amazing songs. At least there are others out there.

Being in physical form, music will also be visible for years, and giving you the ability to handle it. Artwork adds a lot to each album, which is why it’s quite a shame no one buys hard copies anymore, unless it’s a really special occasion (like a new Sea Power album). I feel this sort of diminishes the value of music – as a package I mean – as sometimes you get the lyrics, sometimes pictures, sometimes just some detail that is intrinsic to the album itself, so as a majority the fact that most music comes (or is available) digitally is a negative thing, but the silver lining could be that it means you scrap away the outer layers and get to have an uninfluenced version of the music, unbiased from the artwork surrounding the album. And it really is about the music then, and nothing much else. It certainly is more convenient coming in digital form, seeing as technology is all geared towards that nowadays, but it is much more pleasant having a slice of vinyl to play rather than an MP3 file or similar. A shame but that’s how things seem to rock at the present moment.

Obviously the digital format leads to the illegal downloading argument, which is a huge other topic to cover – not now – but while the artist should be concerned with “what they are owed”, should they not also be concerned that music is an art form, and therefore the money is just a secondary bonus and not something to make music for? It is a very good thing that people wish to listen at all, the fact some want to pay you money for it is even better. And if they really like you, I’m sure they will. Which is why you end up with Lily Allen stating how bad file sharing is (clearly no one wishes to pay for her god awful excuse for music…), and then people like Ed O’Brien saying the opposite, and urging people to “Move quicker” to get over such an issue. And yes I am aware of Radiohead being a huge band and therefore it is unlikely they will ever be struggling like  small band at the moment.

One of my favourite things about music is when you inadvertently are listening to it a-plenty at some significant moment, or on holiday or with a particular friend or something – and whenever you play it after, it reminds you of the feeling you had at the time. I don’t think anything else does that in quite the same way music does, which makes it even more special.

I suppose it really depends how much music means to you – whether you don’t care at all, whether it’s something just to have on in the background to break the silence at an awkward supper, or whether it near enough consumes your life and it’s always there. Even so, in twenty years time, if you play ”, the likelihood is that everyone will remember, and it will be sticking around for a lot longer than the 3 or 4 minutes it took you to play it. Music has longevity, so perhaps we should not be so illegal with it.

Celebrities and a World Crisis.

Given the recent devastation in Haiti, many stars, celebrities, and other famous people who are actually famous for something they are good at, took the opportunity to raise funds for the survivors of the quake. But, when watching ‘The Politics Show’ (I would like to stress there is nothing else on at this time..), it raised a very good point of why they are doing this. Is it because they actually want to help people? Or because they are doing it for the publicity?

Dame Diana Rigg was a little put-out (in that she was quite angry) about this last suggestion – and gave the look of the disapproving and disappointed mother when talking about it – and who would want to disappoint Diana Rigg?! I feel her title on the show could have been more than “Former Avenger”, but it did not detract from her presence as a very well-respected star. Obviously there are famous people who do really want to help – unless I am very much mistaken, Audrey Hepburn was helping out whoever she could right up until her death, and if she was so interested in herself, then you would have thought she would have taken these last few years off to have for her own.

One could say that celebrities have a duty to show their faces and contribute their time to such causes – for the majority of celebrities, this should not be too difficult considering the amount of back-breaking work they have to do on a day-to-day basis… But how will lending their support do anything? If they are famous for a scandalous sex tape, or because they married some rich tosser for all his money then divorced him two months later – surely this would have a negative effect, as who would have them for their idols? I place a lot more respect by people like Radiohead playing an appeal gig. Incidentally, they raised over £500,000 for this.

It could be said that the celebrities of this world would be more likely to show their support simply for the publicity – they clearly just wish to be famous, and this is going to make them more so. The same could be said by the sheer number of bands who have joined forces to raise money – but at least they are actually using their talents to do this. It is just so hard to believe someone like Davina bloody McCall when she waltzes through the slums and worse-off parts of the world, stating about how tragic it is. We all know that! But what are you actually doing about it?

And, just for another argument, people do seem to find Bono and Bob Geldof the most irritating souls that walked the earth – and they have spent ages raising funds for people all over the world. Surely if anyone deserves some form of respect, it is people like this. But then – as so many people have so many different idols, I suppose it is best to say that even if they are doing it for the publicity, at least they are doing it and using their “power” to sway people’s minds to those less well-off than us. Even if it was their publicist who told them to do so.