Saturday, 28 April 2012

'Vinylcast' - Tell 'Em Steve-Dave! (2012)

"I’m getting the turtle."

Behold the future, kids. The world’s first (possibly) vinylcast! That’s right: a podcast on vinyl. "Er, are you really sure about this being the future? It seems kind of a step back." Well, you say that now, but everyone will be doing this before the end of the year. Yes, even you. "But I don’t even have a podcast?!" That won't stop you. "It kind of will." Let’s not argue about this in public.
"So who is Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave ?"
Well, Mr Steve-Dave himself is New Jersey basement dweller Bryan Johnson. ("Ok, this is already confusing.") And he’s supported on the show by comic shop impresario Walt Flanagan and ‘Impractical Joker’ Brian ‘Q’ Quinn. If you’ve ever caught an early Kevin Smith film (‘Mallrats’, ‘Chasing Amy’), you’ll have seen these guys pop up as they’re all friends from way back.

"And what happens on the podcast?"
Imagine three men sitting round a beaten-up poker table in the back room of a small town comic shop and chatting about flea markets, bottle dumps, and Kim Kardashian. Sound good? Then this is the podcast for you.   

New shows can be downloaded for free every Friday (most often Saturday in the UK) on Kevin Smith’s Smodcast network. A good starting point is the classic ‘Makin’ Hay’ two-parter, where the gang go on a weird and wonderful field trip to Collingwood Auction:

"How did you get your hands on this Vinylcast?"
I threw my $35 in to a Kickstarter project that Q instigated at the start of this year – they were aiming for $6,500 to make it worthwhile pressing a few hundred vinyls and received over $60,000! Welcome to the future.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

'Welcome To The Pleasuredome'* - Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1985)

"I have it,
So I market it.
You really can’t afford it,

How’d you like them apples? Or apple? Or apple-shaped, seven-inch vinyl, photo disc? Oh, this really isn‘t working.

You’ve got to love Frankie for their glorious extravagance. Surely not economical to press. Completely impractical to ship, sell and store. And most likely to sound awful (though who’s really ever going to play it?). But then, forget all that, as it’s absolutely lovely to behold.  

More folk should do this kind of thing. I’d buy that Celine Dion record if it was shaped as the Titanic.("That’s just a bare-faced lie for comic effect, Michael." Rumbled!) 

Spotify linky:

Not to be confused with this post on the album ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

‘Do I Wait / Darkness’ – Ryan Adams (2011)

"What's this?" 
Limited Record Store Day release that I picked up in Boston.

"Do I wait here forever for you?
Did you ask me to?"

Ryan’s playing in town tomorrow!! At the Palladium, no less. The spiritual home of Bruce Forsyth. So you can guess who I’ve been listening to all day. No, not Brucie. (Yes, I know you saw that coming.)

We know it will be awesome ("Do we, Michael? Do we??") But the question is: how awesome? Other questions (in chronological order and with bullet points) include …

·         Will there be a sad clown in the rafters reading a newspaper like at the Royal Festival Hall in 2001?
·         Will Ryan be wrestled from the mic at quarter past one in the morning as happened in Boston?
·         Will I need to help him back up on stage like at Bush Hall in 2006? (Yes, these very hands have been placed on Ryan’s back. Yes, I have washed them since.)

All these quesions will be answered in a post-gig update. What a cliffhanger, eh?

("Hang on, Michael! Does this really count as a full-on post? It reminds me of one of those episodes of ‘The Simpsons’ where they just string some ‘best of’ clips together, and throw ten seconds of new animation at the start and end." Hmm, let me think about this... Yes, it counts!)

Spotify linky:
Ryan Adams – Do I Wait

So how awesome was Ryan at the Palladium? Well, on a scale of one to Helena Bonham Carter (with HBC being the pinnacle of awesome), he was certainly 'A Room With A View'.   

Saturday, 21 April 2012

‘Crocodiles’ – Echo And The Bunnymen (1980)

"Listen to the ups and downs,
Listen to the sound they make.
Don’t be scared when it gets loud,
When your skin begins to shake."

Every town should have an indie record store. Why isn’t this a law already? In my teens/early twenties, mine was the glorious Rock Box in Camberley. Every Saturday morning was spent there. And very many Mondays (record release day), if I could hitch a lift in my friend Chris’ Mini during school lunch-time.

At a guess, I’d say about a quarter of the records I write about here were bought in that vinyl treasure trove. You can always tell which ones, as the owner would pencil the price on the inside of the sleeves. You could usually pick up an album for £3.49, a 12-inch for £1.99 and singles for 99p – a little bit of historical context for you there.  

As with all the best indie record stores, it was situated on a street where none of the big shops wanted to be. The Top 40 atrocities of Our Price sat gleaming away in the pedestrianised shopping arcade, while the Rock Box needed to be sought out on a back road, between the rundown carpet store and the boarded-up dry cleaners. To me, it seemed as magical as the TARDIS in the way such a plain and small shopfront could house so many wonders inside and take you on so many musical journeys.    

I’d head down there for a Bunnymen album, and come out with a Fall white vinyl german import, a Mission box set, a Primitives T-shirt, a Cure In Orange billboard-sized poster, some Siouxsie Sioux postcards, and a Smiths badge set. Bliss.

For a few days in 1989, it even inspired me to open my own record store when I left school. That never happened. But I did use the Rock Box as a case study for my A-level Industrial Studies project that year – must dig that out some time. A quick Google search tells me the Rock Box is still there, and long may it run. I’d like to think I'll pop back in some time and find the vinyl version of The Fall’s ’Grotesque’ that’s always eluded me.  

£3.49. See?
Spotify linky:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

‘Three Sides’ – Sidi Bou Said (1993)

"You don’t see me,
The way I do."

Dear Michael.

Enough with the Disney picture discs and Michael Jackson storybook albums!! I really don’t expect to see this sort of twaddle when I irregularly visit your site as a distraction from doing my timesheets.

I demand you get back to holding aloft obscure indie records that I have no wish to hear. Ideally, anything limited to under 1,000 copies, with a hand-made sleeve. And if it has a delightfully shoddy, shot-in-a-back-garden-with-zero-budget video, that would be a bonus.

And I then expect you to accompany that with a tale of acute embarrassment or woeful misadventure from 25 years ago. Ideally, with some goth stuff thrown in. Why don’t you tell us about that girl you knew who collected obituaries from the local papers. The one you took on a date to see ‘Teen Wolf’. How’d that work out?
I only say these things for your own good.

La la love you,

Cherished reader, no 34.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ – Narrated by Michael Jackson (1982)

"When someone in the dark reaches out to you,
And touches off a spark that comes shining through,
It tells you never be afraid."

"What’s your favourite Michael Jackson album?" No-one ever asks me this. It won’t be making my new FAQs section (see last post).

So here’s a scoop: it’s the album above. Yep, in 1982, Michael Jackson sat down with Quincy Jones and narrated the story of ‘E.T’. And they threw it into a box set, with a glossy/creepy poster and a storybook. Now this probably deserves an FAQs section of its own, so here goes…

"Does Michael Jackson duet with E.T at any point?"
He actually does. Kinda. Before the story kicks in, Jacko treats us to one of his trademark saccharine ballads (sample lyrics above), accompanied by E.T. throwing out some of his catchphrases. It’s odd.

"Can you moonwalk to this album?"
Not really. It would look stupid.

"Any of the classsic John Williams score on this album?"
Yes. Lots. Except Jacko keeps talking over it. And there’s movie dialogue too. And all manner of sound effects. All of which Jacko continues to talk over. The effect is kind of like popping to the kitchen to put the kettle on while a softly spoken child describes all the bits of the film you’re missing on the telly.

"Does Jacko do any high-pitched yelping?"
I don’t think so. It’s hard to tell. I’m assuming all the high-pitched yelping belongs to E.T. and Gertie.

"Does he say 'Alli-ga-tors in the sewers'? Please tell us he says 'Alli-ga-tors in the sewers'." (The best line in the movie – fact!)
Nope, he doesn't.

And that’s all the questions we have time for today. Feel free to add any others to the comments below and I’ll make every effort to answer them. Probably. I'm off now to dig out my picture disc of Whitney Houston narrating 'Short Circuit 2'. 

Saturday, 14 April 2012

‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’ – Fairy Godmother (1950)

Mechicka Boola,
Put 'em together and what have you got?

"Would you ever sell your record collection, Michael?" I get asked this a lot. (Note to self: Time for an FAQs section?)

"So would you?" Well, how do you put a value on something like this 'Cinderella' album from Disney’s 1981 Picture Disc Collection? "That’s easy, Michael. It’s $9.00 on eBay." Ah, but is that its true value. "Yes, Michael. $9.00. About £6 in sterling. Are you haggling?"

Well, to me it’s priceless. A gift from my grandparents. Featuring the wonderful ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’. One of my top ten songs of all time (in, fact, it's nestled at number 6 in my Melody Maker Reader's Chart from 1992). So I can’t imagine ever parting with it. And the same is true of every record in my collection. Even the ones that don’t feature singing mice.

Plus, I’m an obsessive compulsive hoarder, so the question’s pretty moot really. Next…

Spotify linky:

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

‘Milk’ – Garbage (1996)

What’s this? A limited edition hologram sleeve (01485, number fans). 
Looks better in real life. Garbage always did wonderful covers in the early days.

"I am lost,
So I am cruel.
But I’d be love and sweetness,
If I had you."

What’s she getting out of that carrier bag? Please don’t let it be food. Please don’t let it be food. It’s food!! Argh. Food at the cinema. Heresy.

But, hang on. That looks like cheese. And more cheese. And, yep, there’s some more cheese. Next thing you know she’ll be pulling out a board to put this all on. And she is! She’s brought a cheese board to the cinema. Who brings a cheese board to the cinema?! Well, this woman, obviously.     

This is going to be distracting. How am I supposed to concentrate on Clooney and Kidman tracking down stolen Russian nukes when I have an elderly lady slicing cheese beside me? This is meant to be a "breathless thriller", not a tasting session at the deli counter.

Now Charlotte’s noticed. Raised eyebrows. Yes, I know. Cheese. Furrowed brow. Exactly. Now we’re both distracted. There’s a car exploding on screen, but all our attention is focused on a lump of Gruyère.

The film’s ruined. Yes, it was hardly a masterpiece anyway, but Cheese Woman hasn’t stopped eating for two hours. I’m bursting to talk about this with Charlotte. But first the credits. Ok, credits over, let’s leave. Out on to Haymarket. Turn around. Cheese Woman is behind us! Charlotte’s noticed too. Ok, best not talk about her cheesy weirdness yet. Hop on to the tube for Hammersmith. Charlotte nods to my right. It’s Cheese Woman again. She’s on our carriage. This is too odd. At least she’s stopped eating.   

Jump off at Barons Court (no apostrophe, grammar fans). She’s still behind us. This is ridiculous. Charlotte and I are now communicating in worried glances and barely audible whispers. The odious swinging cheese bag is making more noise than us as we listen intently to hear if the footsteps behind stop or change path. And finally, after cutting through the cemetery, they do. And we finally risk a glance back. Cheese Woman is gone. Never to be seen again. But visions of Camembert still haunt me whenever I think of George Clooney.

Spotify linkys :

Monday, 9 April 2012

‘Moonchild’ – Fields Of The Nephilim (1988)

"Well, they tear you down,
And they’ll bear your shame.
Longevity, hear my pain."

"Why are you rubbing flour in to your coat, Son?"

"You wouldn’t understand, Dad."

Parents, eh?! It’s August Bank Holiday 1988 and time for another Reading Festival. The Nephilim have jumped to third on the bill after releasing the Top 28 chart sensation ‘Moonchild’ – I’ve even heard my milkman whistling it. So in tribute, I’ll be going for the Neph’s look this weekend.

"And what exactly is that?" Well, think Spaghetti Westerns. And those iconic ankle-length, sand-weathered, trail duster coats. That's the look I’ll be recreating. With an old trench coat from the Army Surplus store and a bag of my mum’s Homepride flour in lieu of real desert dust. What could possibly go wrong ?

Let me answer that for you right away. It could rain. And it did rain. Of course it did. It’s a Bank Holiday and the Reading Festival. The twin harbingers of rain. What was I thinking? You can guess what happened next. Instead of looking like a fearless outlaw from the dusty plains of the mythic Wild West, I looked like I’d barely survived a bun fight at the local baker’s.

My Dad wasn’t exactly chuffed about letting soggy, doughy me in his spotless car that night for a lift home. He had that ‘I told you so’ look on his face for the whole journey. Parents, eh?!

Spotify linky:

Ooh, look. You put the back sleeves together and you get this.
Another of the many joys of vinyl. Take that, CDs!

P.S. And, no, I don't hold the copyright on the above image from 'Once Upon A Time In The West'. Will happily remove and apologise if there any objections.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

‘EPs’ – Lanterns On The Lake (2008–2010)

"Don’t waste your love,
You know you need better."

Well, here’s the ultimate dilemma. (Yes, the ultimate. Don’t try to think of any others. You won’t succeed.) Do I crack open the wax stamps on these lovely Lanterns On The Lake EPs? Or do I leave them sealed forever?

It’s a heart-wrenching decision we’ve all faced. To this day, I’m haunted by the memory of slicing in to the limited edition, vacuum-packed PVC sleeve of the Orb’s ’U.F.Orb’ album. And, of course, opening the exquisite pill box that housed Spiritualized’s ’Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.’ But those are both stories for another day.  

Today, it’s all about Lanterns On The Lake. These three EPs have been sitting unopened since the start of the week, when I saw the band support Low at the Royal Festival Hall in London. They were a wondrous revelation. A cavalcade of astounding sonic intensity, with a deep, deep heart. Look, there’s a guy playing his guitar with a violin bow. What’s not to love? A trip to the merch stand was needed immediately after to snap up their back catalogue. (Obsessive? Me?) But now I can’t bring myself to open any of it. I should have bought doubles. Argh!   

Ok. I’ve made my decision. Time to find my letter opener.
Spotify linky:

Thursday, 5 April 2012

‘Oh, The Guilt’ – Nirvana (1993)

"She seems to think,
She seems to breath.
She takes a week to get over it."

"That singer you like has been found dead."

My mum is in the kitchen. (I know, what a cliché.) Ironing. (Cliché overload!) I’m walking through to the living-room. It’s a Friday evening. (Little bit of scene setting for you there.)

"What singer?" Me. Curious.

"I can’t remember his name." Continues ironing.

Ok. Slightly concerned now. "Is it Robert Smith? From The Cure?"

"No, I don‘t think so." Ironing continues.

"Morrissey? Is it Morrissey? He's the one with the flowers." I’m holding the counter now for support.

"I really can’t remember his name. I just remember thinking that you like him."

Sighs. This is 1994. Pre-Internet (in my home, anyway – we’d only just got a videoplayer). There’s no hopping online for an instant answer. It must be someone big if they’re putting it on the news. That most likely rules out Mark E Smith and Andrew Eldritch. But I’m going to have to wait the best part of another hour until the 10 o’clock bulletin to find out. Or so I thought.

I actually heard the news of Kurt Cobain’s death just minutes after, when I raced up to my room and dialled through the radio stations. (Yes, dialled – did I mention it was 1994? And we’d only just got a videoplayer?) It seemed every station was running tributes. And wildly speculating about Kurt’s final hours. And then speculating some more. Which still continues to this very day.

It was hard to turn the radio off that night. And when I did, it was only so I could dig in to my record collection and let Kurt’s voice sing out. The weekend continued like this as the first pictures of Kurt’s garage were released and fans held candlelight vigils in Seattle parks.

On the Monday, I had my first day in my very first job. It felt like stepping in to a whole new world. In more ways than one.   

RIP Kurt Cobain (20 February 1967 – 5 April 1994)  
Spotify linky :