Tuesday, March 27, 2007

White Horses

There are those of you to whom this will mean something, and there are those of you to whom it won't.

Just click the link.



Well folks. If you liked that, and you're sitting there all misty-eyed, then this is for you too. No visuals but listen to the music...

Monday, March 19, 2007

Playing YouTube clips

NOTE: To view the clips without annoying 'sticking', click on them to start the download, then hit the pause button at bottom left of the clip, and wait until the clip is fully loaded (ie. the red line has moved fully from left to right, below the video image). Then hit play, and it should run smoothly.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Now that's what I call music, Volume 1

Listen to Frank Zappa, The Prodigy, The Velvet Underground, Big Joe Turner, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Laurie Anderson and many more, in my virtual jukebox!

Below, you will find a selection of excellent music, hand-picked with loving care by me from YouTube. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is that I love them all.

I'll choose a selection every month from now on, so do come back and see what other gems I've unearthed in April.

In the meantime,if you hate Kraftwerk, or think Hank Williams is shit, don't despair. There is a massive variety of stuff here, and all of it is stuff you won't see or hear very often. If you don't like any of it, well, Volume 2 will be along in a month or so.

First up, one which usually divides people into love/hate camps. It's Canadian multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, with her surprise 1981 UK number 1, 'O Superman'.

Although the repeated "oh oh oh oh oh..." may get on your nerves initially, give it a chance; it becomes positively hypnotic after a minute or two. I've never researched what Laurie meant to say in this piece, but listening to the words leads me to believe that it's about the moment of detonation of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The truncated "oh oh oh oh oh..." represents the reaction of the victims, perhaps the start of a word or sentence, or just an exclamation at the white light that ended the exclaimer's life, cut off and frozen in time forever by the annihilation of the bomb. The words speak of mundanities, messages left on answering machines, everyday lives brought to a sudden halt. The words "Here come the planes. Are they American planes?" are filled with menace once you place them in context. Chilling.

There. That wasn't too bad was it? I hope you perhaps viewed it in a different light, bearing in mind what I said about it. I find it beautiful, sinister and terrifying.

Now, surely, comes a piece of music that everyone loves. A truly groundbreaking piece of teutonic sound engineering from 1974 (!), recorded using no digital technology whatsoever, remember. Such things were the sole province of Star Trek. This, animated later, in 1979, by a very young Roger Mainwood, is Kraftwerk, with 'Autobahn'...

Good eh? After Laurie's spine tingling, unnerving calmness, and the Vorsprung Durch Technik of Kraftwerk, are you suitably relaxed, or perhaps poised in glacially aloof elegance? Well sod that! It's time to liven things up!

Here, to raise the roof, is Big Maybelle Smith, from the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, with the hollerin' 'I ain't mad at you'...

Gotcha dancin' eh? Big Maybelle sure knew how to party. Rock and roll? Bah! In 1958, the black folks been doin' it for years.

Speakin' of rock and roll, remember chubby kiss-curled Bill Haley and his watered down version of 'Shake, Rattle and Roll'? They had to change the lyrics to disguise the fact that it was full of metaphors for sex and sexual anatomy, metaphors too salty and redolent for the sensitive ears of white folks. Big Joe Turner had no such qualms however. You think Kraftwerk were cool? Nah. Big Joe and his buddies were cool. Just check out their suits man! Anyway, here he is in 1955, live at the Apollo...

BIG JOE TURNER ladies and gentlemen! Yeah! How about that band!

So, what was the white folks doin' back then when the black folks was bein' so damn cool and inventin' rock and roll for the white folks to steal? Well they was makin' a whole heapa shit, but shinin' amidst that shit was some real diamonds, some of which the white folks who had some damn taste would go on to breed with the black folks music, to make Elvis. There was this one guy, who could sing about waitin' for a train, or bein' lonesome, and break your heart. Hank Williams, come on down!

The man was a genius. That was at the Grand Old Opry, in 1952. He sang like a lone coyote howling in the cold desert night and was a million miles removed from some of what passes as 'country' these days. It sounds almost alien by todays over-produced standards, but listen to the phrasing and the rhythm and you can hear the rock and roll just like you can with Big Maybelle and Joe Turner.

OK, let's come back up to date, or at least to December 1996. In 2004 I saw Orbital's final show, at Glastonbury. Awesome was, for once, an apt word to use to describe the experience. Here they are, appearing on 'Later', with the pulsating 'Satan'...

I don't know where the strange dialogue at the intro to that track comes from originally, but I do know that The Butthole Surfers used it well before Orbital, as the intro to the song 'Sweat loaf' on the superb album 'Locust Abortion Technician' in 1987.

OK, now that Orbital have got us into a mood, let's continue with The Prodigy, from the 1994 album 'Music for the Jilted Generation'. Watch out for the ever-nuts Keith Flint sporting long hair. Doesn't make him any less scary. This is 'Poison'...

The Prodigy videos are always guaranteed to give you bad dreams.

Speaking of bad dreams, this next selection, whilst it represents Frank Zappa at his peak, also features one of the best videos of all time. The clip is recorded from the Old Grey Whistle Test, sometime in the late 70s. I have no idea who did the animation but it is mind-bending.. The track is 'City of Tiny Lights' from Zappa's 1979 album 'Sheik Yerbouti'...

I read a comment on YouTube under this video which read "Wow, that was some weird trip, and I'm sober!" Quite.

So whilst we're all spiralling through our Zappa-induced weird trip, let's up the ante, with one of the 80s great underground bands, Spacemen 3, playing live, somewhere, some time. The track is 'Suicide'. Unfortunately it's split into two separate YouTube clips (well, it is 22 minutes long!), but it captures something of the intensity of the band's live performances...

That was part 1. if you dug that, click below for the rest of the song. Apparently there's a live DVD around, from which this is taken. Enjoy...

I saw Spacemen 3 at a place called Adam and Eve's in leeds, which became The Central, and is presumably now something else; a downstairs bar/club off the pedestrianised street opposite The Duncan pub near the Corn Exchange, behind what was X Clothes, but is now, probably, not. They were pretty intense. Immediately after the gig, I went across town to The Warehouse, which is still, as far as I know, The Warehouse, to arrive in time to see The Happy Mondays. Shaun had long hair and his dad was dancing at the side of the stage, and the audience was mainly lads in footy shirts. They were a brilliant, bellowing, beery, blokeish riot and a far removal from the wraparound-sunglassed po-faced hallucinatory intensity of Spacemen 3, despite the chemical overlap.

From Spacemen3 to a much earlier psychedelia now. No idea where this 1969 clip is, but it's sunny, and Owsley's finest was probably surging through everyone's cortical capillaries in a dazzling rush. All the better for listening to Quicksilver Messenger Service and their sheet-lighting guitars, as they scorch the earth and the mind with 'Mona'...

Good eh? Quicksilver Messenger Service are one of the oft-overlooked jewels in the crown of West Coast psychedelia, and well worth checking out if you like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead or Moby Grape. Speaking of which...

That was, apparently, from The Mike Douglas Show, 1968. I was six!

Still in that era, let's have some Velvet Underground shall we? Not one of the wired classics but the gentle and dreamy 1967 comedown of 'Sunday Morning'...

Mmmmm...dreamy....let's continue dreaming with Chico Hamilton. This is from the same 1958 newport Jazz festival that the Big Maybelle clip came from. The tune is 'Blue Sands'. Nice title. Beautiful music...

I'm away now, looking down on the world from the point of view of a teddy on a cloud. I don't want to break the mood so this next tune fits in well. Factory Records weren't all about harsh and bleak urban soundscapes. They also had the soft, spiralling glitter of The Durutti Column, the obvious soundtrack to J.G.Ballard's hallucinatory visions in 'The Crystal World'. This is (I think) 'Never Known' from 1996's 'Lc'...

OK folks, time to get a bit menacing, moody and sinister, building up to the conflagrative finale I have for you! In 1988, Nick Cave released the album 'Tender Prey'. On it was a song written from the point of view of a man going to the Electric Chair. It was called 'The Mercy Seat', and here is Nick, without most of the band, giving a superb delivery of the terrifying lyrics, which are printed below, so you can sing along...

It began when they come took me from my home
And put me in Dead Row,
Of which I am nearly wholly innocent, you know.
And I'll say it again
I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner meals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood.
And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.
Interpret signs and catalogue
A blackened tooth, a scarlet fog.
The walls are bad. Black. Bottom kind.
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath gathering at my hind
I hear stories from the chamber
How Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
Died upon the cross
And might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told
Like my good hand I
tatooed E.V.I.L. across it's brother's fist
That filthy five! They did nothing to challenge or resist.
In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I'm told
All history does unfold.
Down here it's made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away.
Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And anyway I never lied.
My kill-hand is called E.V.I.L.
Wears a wedding band that's G.O.O.D.
`Tis a long-suffering shackle
Collaring all that rebel blood.
And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.
And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this weighing up of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die.
And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smoking
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this looks of disbelief.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
Nor a motive why.
And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way I'm helping
To be done with all this twisted of the truth.
A lie for a lie
And a truth for a truth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die.
And the mercy seat is melting
And I think my blood is boiling
And in a way I'm spoiling
All the fun with all this truth and consequence.
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.
And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of proof.
A life for a life
And a truth for a truth
And anyway there was no proof
But I'm not afraid to tell a lie.
And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And anyway I told the truth
But I'm afraid I told a lie.

And now folks, it's time to wind it all up with the ultimate party tune. Another that's so long it has to be YouTubed in two parts. Some of you may find this hard going, but persevere beyond the blast of noise at the start. This is the unclassifiable genius Diamanda Galas, whose work I've long admired and whom I'd love to see perform live, but she performs only rarely in the UK. Anyway, here is Diamanda Galas, with 'The Litanies of Satan', parts 1 and 2...

That's all for this month. Vol 2 will be posted in April. Hope you found something to enjoy here. Bye-bye, pop-pickers!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lunar eclipse

Last night (Saturday) was clear and beautiful. I wandered outside onto the decking in the back garden around 10.30pm to watch the silvery Moon slowly vanish into Earth's shadow, and take on a copper-red colour, as the Sun's light refracted through the Earth's dusty atmosphere. Fantastic.

Looking on the net for a nice pic, I found this superb composite series of images, taken by an unidentified photographer, which clearly and beautifully show the way the Moon's colour changed through the eclipse. Thanks, whoever you are....

The Epic

I went climbing on Friday. First time I've been on the rock for about a year! I did far more mountain biking and even walking last year than climbing, but this year I'm determined to do more climbing. After all, it's something I've been doing for 28 years and I don't want to become an ex-climber. I get far too much from it for that to happen.
I had a day off work, intending to use the good weather to trim back the big weeping willow in the garden. My mate John 'Simmo' Simpson rang, to arrange a mountain bike ride for Saturday, and on hearing I had the day off, suggested I come climbing with him and his mate Alex. Hmmm...climbing in the early spring sunshine, on God's own rock at Stanage, or climbing a tree to saw dead branches? Contest? I think not.
So a sunny but chilly afternoon saw the three of us stretching our collective rusty joints and muscles on the 'soaring crackline' of Robin Hood's Right-Hand Buttress Direct (HS4a), Inverted V (VS4b), Twin Chimneys Buttress (VS4c) and Heather Wall (VS4c).
Bloody hell it was good to be climbing again after such a long lay-off! I was a bit creaky and my confidence isn't all it should be, so VS is about as much as I felt up to, but I'm determined now to try and get on the crag more regularly. Maybe I'll finally get round to screwing my plastic holds to the outside of the house to finish my traversing wall, and maybe I'll even replace my 20 year old Scarpa Cragratz with some more modern footwear (probably just get 'em resoled again though).

Below: looking up the groove of Inverted V to the exposed finishing moves (Photo by James Parratt, from the UKClimbing.com photo database. Climber: James)

Below: Heather Wall (Photo by Lizard, from UKClimbing.com database. Climber: Amanda James)

Incidentally, we went out on the mountain bikes yesterday, setting off from Castleton for a circuit more or less around Mam Tor, taking in much of Rushup Edge and the hairy descent down the Chapel Gate track. It was a great little circuit, even though I had a bit of a skidding nightmare on the technical descent to Greenlands from the Mam Nick bus stop. The mud was so sticky it just clogged my tyres up and I lost any grip. The slightest touch on the front brake or change of direction simply sent the bike sideways. How Simmo managed to stay on I don't know. It didn't help that my Time cleats are so worn that my left foot comes unclipped at every bump. Not good when you're flying down a rocky obstacle course at speed. Must replace them, although the shoes are falling apart as it is. Maybe time to look on ebay and see if I can find some cheap replacements.

Hmmm...I haven't got any recent pics of me climbing. The best I have are these:

Below: Me on Lancet Crack, VS5a, Brimham, in 2004 (Photo by Simon Jacques)...

Me on Great Western, Almscliff, in 2003...

I had a minor epic on Great Western, which puts me in mind of this poem which I wrote, about having an epic on a hard climb...

The epic

This is easy, even fun.
Climbing up past cracks,
their protection eschewed in misplaced confidence.
Moving smoothly, strongly upwards,
unknowingly striving towards a desert
of fear
and unexpected exhaustion
(you'll know it when you get there)
Movement falters then stops
with a sudden stab of regret

at those ignored cracks.
Cast adrift in a sea of rising panic,
as veins bulge like wire,
and arms begin to sing their fading song.
The grey stone sighs and hums,
looking the other way,
offering nothing to help.

No relief, no purchase, another loser, NEXT!
Shaking and sweating,
panicked grimace versus cold face
staring impassively, eyeless,
at, through and beyond,
indifferent to the drama of the personal
and the frailty of the organic.
Death whispers in the distant ground,
the final spotter, reliable to the end,
transmitting a silent siren call
up the rope’s increasingly dead weight.
The imaginary creep of rubber on rock,
the start of sweat from face and finger,
breed sheer fear.

Legs burn and scream.
Arms fossilise, cement-like.

Looking up in desperation,
as hunter becomes hunted,

with all tables turned.
Now it’s fight or a free flight
to your final destination.

Here come your final moments,
seconds from the end of all things.
Fingers whiten in their grip on disappearing life,
as the other hand is whitened,
catching in the bag,

then reaching up.

Iron calves are bellowing
like old machines made to turn.
A hand of pink bananas, all thick skin and mush
finds sanctuary in the everted cathedral,
A salty echo of the sea
falls from a sniveling nose
through an eternity of empty air
to explode against another dimension.
Soon to be followed by a redder splash?
The white knuckles ride
on the Ultimate, Oblivion, Nemesis!
But sanctuary is squared!
Feet now skitter and scrape in a bad dance.
Engines misfire and cough,
sucking the dregs of fuel.
Death laughs now and opens his arms.
The rubber and rock find a new embrace.
Ridiculous banana finger parodies
make the cold face crack a thin smile.
The joke is shared!
Holding on, looking down,
fumbling for aeons with heavy jewellery.
Looking for the right bling to keep that grin.
Offering accepted, the dead weight of purple cord,
still touching death’s disappointed sulk down below,
adds years of life with just one automatic action.
One clip.
The Cumbrian Rope Trick.
One clip brings
a universe
which seconds ago wasn’t there.

The beckoning ground is now above,
just out of sight,
almost within reach.

That was originally posted by me on the multi-faceted forum community at Fex Wezner's Art Forum. You can be sure to find a forum on there to suit you.