Friday, 20 July 2018
People don't really change very much. Wandering round Pompeii with its streets, houses, fast food take aways, bars and taverns, graffiti about politics and love, mucky pictures on the walls in the brothel and grand public buildings, I was struck by how similar the people of ancient Rome were to us. I took the picture at the top in the Colosseum, a pillar constructed somewhere between 70 and 80AD, that was graffitied by visitors wanting to leave their name on an ancient monument in the 1880s. The doorway in the picture below was round the corner from our hotel in Rome, which includes the line in the middle 'Heraklion Hooligans est 1984 Gate 4', left by visiting fans from the Greek football team OFI Crete FC. The sport we watch may have changed from ritual slaughter to football but the arenas and fervour are largely the same. The impulse to carve or write your name on a public wall, to leave your mark, isn't a modern phenomenon.
I've had Spacemen 3 and related bands looping around my head for the last few weeks. There may be another one to follow today's post before the next few days are out. I'd forgotten about Sonic Boom's cover version of Beat Happening's Indian Summer. A good cover version, definitely one to keep.
Beat Happening's original version from 1988 is a lo-fi, primitive classic, a song I can come back to time and time again. In both versions here it is a perfect evocation of sexual awakenings, lost youth and heady days.
'Breakfast in cemetery
Boy tasting wild cherry
Touch a girl apple blossom
Just a by playing possum'
Thursday, 19 July 2018
Rome is a good city to walk around, despite the mad roads, even madder driving and uneven pavements. Some cities seem to be very delineated with different areas for shops, business, hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants. In Rome, everything is mixed in together. The driving is unreal, people largely driving (and parking) how and where they want. And hundreds of Vespas, in all kinds of condition and age- the one above was a beauty parked up on a pavement near Piazza della Repubblica. The picture above was taken in the courtyard behind Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a rather beautiful basilica built on the back of the Baths of Diocletian. The railway station, Termini, is just across the road. Our hotel was a 5 minute walk away, on the edge of an area packed with cafes, little bars and tabbachis, and street markets, populated by a broad ethnic mix. Walking around the city, up and down its streets, brought glimpses of side streets and across piazzas. It was hot and we got tired from walking but it was well worth it, especially as the sun started to go down and the golden sunlight lit up painted buildings.
Field Of Dreams have just released this song, Nothing Is Perfect, an uptempo electronic delight with vocals from Mr Bradley that remind me of Liam from Flowered Up. The run out groove contains two well chosen words to our current government. There is also a monster of an Andrew Weatherall remix. Out now on vinyl with individually hand painted sleeves.
Wednesday, 18 July 2018
I got back from my trip to Rome and Sorrento on Tuesday and then spent today in Blackpool (which takes in both ends of the coastal scale). Italy is amazing. I'll come back to things in more detail over the next few days but in short Rome was stunning and full on and the Bay of Naples and Sorrento are beautiful with jaw-dropping views and a way of life very different from the UK. Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, took my breath away. And it was hot, by Zeus, it was hot. At Herculaneum it was as hot as I've ever been. We packed a huge amount into 5 day and nights, a bit of a mad dash to some places that without an itinerary and 42 teenagers in tow you might do at a more leisurely pace, but it was a great way to see some incredible places. Sorrento is the kind of place I could return to and many people told us that Amalfi, just down the coast, is a must.
This is the latest from Gabe Gurnsey's upcoming solo album, a thumping, vibrant, track called Harder Rhythm that according to Gabe is inspired by 'the twin primal instincts of sexual attractions and our instilled affinity with rhythm'.
Thursday, 12 July 2018
Well, there you go, a game too far maybe for a young and inexperienced side but there is no shame at all in being beaten 2-1 in the semi-final of the World Cup by Croatia. Well done to Gareth Southgate and the whole squad. I'm sorry to all my Scottish friends who've probably got fed up with it but you're just going to have to live with it this little piece of English football pride we've enjoyed over the last few weeks and you'd have done the same if it had been you.
As this publishes I shall be on a plane to Italy, on a school trip taking in a couple of days in Rome and then a bus ride south to the Bay of Naples for a couple of days, to Sorento visitng Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius. There won't be any blogging going on while I'm away. The weather forecast looks even hotter and sunnier there than it has been here for the last month. I've never been before and am massively looking forward to seeing the historical sites and sights of ancient Rome and Italia in all its glory. See you all next week.
To make Thursday start off with a beautifully relaxed start here is some blissed out, sunkissed Italian house from Q-Base in 1991. If you hear anything more chilled out than this today, please let me know.
Il Sulo (The Sun) Deep Mix
Wednesday, 11 July 2018
Whatever happens tonight in Moscow- England are playing Croatia in the World Cup semi-final in case you've been asleep for the last two weeks- the team have done themselves proud and exceeded any expectations many of us had of them. Since the late 1990s England have failed so often and so abjectly it became difficult to believe that any major tournament could be a success. Having shed themselves of the so-called 'Golden Generation', some really poor managerial appointments and the millstone of the superstars that hung around without really ever doing anything, Gareth Southgate has done something extraordinary- he's built a squad of young men that play for each other and for the team, egos and factions apparently a thing of the past, with the confidence that being young and talented brings and also actually preparing for things like penalty shoot outs. The idea that England could be contesting a place in a World Cup final still seems a bit unreal to me. Last time around, in Brazil, they were the first team home, defeated twice in a matter of days, left playing a third and final group game that meant nothing.
The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final was 1990, a night in Turin against West Germany that ended with penalties and defeat. 1990 was a different world- Germany was not even re-united in summer 1990. Nelson Mandela had only been released in February 1990. John Major was not yet Prime Minister, Thatcher still in power and with no reason to think she wouldn't be by the end of year (Major ended up leading a Tory cabinet and party massively split over Europe, so plus ca change maybe).
In July 1990 I was twenty years old and a group of us had been to Glastonbury at the end of June, arriving home to our shared student house part way through the England- Cameroon quarter final match to see England win 3-2. Glastonbury had been headlined by Happy Mondays and The Cure (both still playing big shows all these years later). We'd seen Sinead O'Connor, De La Soul, James, Jesus Jones and then Archaos closing the Pyramid Stage by tightrope walking across the top of it. There's a review here which describes it as all mud, flares and the Mekong Delta. New Order had hit number one with World In Motion. Adamski had been number one with Seal and Killer before that. Spike Island was only 6 weeks previously, a promise of something that never happened. With the university term and year over I watched the semi-final back at my parent's house and as Chris Waddle put his penalty over the bar someone at our house, an older person who had dropped in, said 'never mind, they'll be in another one soon'. Not that soon it turns out. Whatever happens tonight, it's been a long time coming. Good luck England.
The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme
Tuesday, 10 July 2018
Who could be fail to be moved by a call to arms set against some very funky mid-80s pop, railing against reactionary regimes and economic policies that keep people poor (with a slightly po-faced pop at Frankie Goes To Hollywood)? Who? Boris Johnson maybe. David Davis? Theresa May. The complete disintegration of the Conservative Party over Europe is a lovely idea. Long may it continue.
The Style Council's 1985 single Walls Come Tumbling Down is ace and their appearance on Top Of The Pops to promote it is proper time capsule stuff, Weller centre stage looking sharp with wedge haircut, blue shirt, white jeans and Rickenbacker bass. But, let's be honest, Dee C Lee upstages him, in black top and jeans with yellow cardigan combo, dancing non-stop, hotter than hot.
Headstart For Happiness is another Style Council gem, but personal rather than political and proof Weller could do wide eyed optimism when he wanted to. This is the version that closed Cafe Bleu, a delicious guitar riff and vocals shared between Mick, Dee and Paul, a song about being in love with being in love.
Headstart For Happiness
Monday, 9 July 2018
In his book Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands Spacemen 3's bassplayer Will Carruthers recounts the time a royalty statement arrived in the post, at a time when he was skint, and opening it to find out he had made the princely sum of £0.00. This is when he starts to open his eyes to music being a business, an industry, and not just some friends making music. He goes on to discuss the Spacemen 3 song Suicide, the only joint Kember-Pierce composition on Playing With Fire, a song Will points out the two men received royalty payments for writing- an instrumental, two note groove-drone, based on a Stooges riff (in itself ripped off an old blues riff), in tribute to Martin Rev and Alan Vega. That's how songwriting works. The song was agony for Will to play, his left hand clawed on the strings and neck of his Gibson Firebird bass. This version was included on the cd release of Playing With Fire, a live version recorded while they were on tour in The Netherlands. It is magnificent and as an extra you can feel Will's pain while it plays.