Thoughts on various subjects|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Friday, January 20th, 2012|
|Thursday, January 19th, 2012|
|My life in 2011- part six (November and December)
So we supported Jeffrey Lewis on November 3rd,
an honour for which I lobbied promoter Jonny Ackroyd after having back in March received an email of praise for my album (i.e. The Wayward Buskers) out of the blue from the great man himself (Jeff, not Jonny). I had supported him solo (both of us playing solo) in 2006, a much more low key gig, and I can't claim that that was any less of a big deal for me at the time (rather more in fact). But it was a long time ago. At some point Jonny was boasting (rightly so ) of how many times he had put Jeffrey Lewis on and I gently chided him for not once ever having had the Seven Inches support him before on any one of those occasions. (If I say so myself we seem a natural choice). He claimed to be surprised by this circumstance, and hadn't realised it to be the case. Oh well, better late than never. We played a characteristically short fast-paced set, including the full band version of “A New Friend” (which I played triangle on). During “Open-ness and Honesty” we got people to hit the lovingly home-made pinata which we had been presented with earlier, a two-headed turkey. This was the show I showed off my new cardboard keytar. Jeffrey Lewis loved us, or so he alleged. “What a band” he said on stage. He seemed shocked when I told him I had no more gigs or anything lined up till Christmas, though I justified it (to him, not to myself) when I said I had to finish my comic in time for a comics convention. Our old friend Nan Turner (see entries passim) was playing keyboards for him, too. It was a great Jeffrey Lewis gig (though appalling sound). Aside from any personal bias, of the three times I saw Jeffrey Lewis in 2011, this was the best.
photo courtesy Melanie: pinata courtesy Dom and Fiona
Which leads me on to Sea Mouse #2 which was finally completed in November, months later than planned, with my own contribution being one of the more grievous latecomers. I just struggled with it so much, while never really prioritising drawing this year, AGAIN. I am quite pleased with the drawing in the end, though I wish I had drawn some more pages to fit more of the story into one issue, thus hopefully engage people a bit more. More about Sea Mouse 2 here. For newcomers, it's the anthology comic I edit, contribute to and sell.
I had the day off the day I collected it from footprint, so I was also able to see Billy Bragg play at Occupy Leeds, which was really good. (Though I'm not even a slacktivist. It's terrible) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVuIijfPcU4
The next day was the Thought Bubble comics convention in Leeds, at which pygmyking
and I had booked a table to sell Sea Mouse and his solo comic Killjoy. I also brought along some issues of Dishes. I wish I had thought in advance to make more merchandise (printed t-shirts, bags, original artwork and craft). I had never been before and I was disgruntled that there was a hefty entry fee, thus discouraging casual punters. but I did have a good time, and it was interesting to see what everyone else was up to. the highlight was getting my picture taken with Posy Simmonds, one of my favourite cartoonist/graphic novelists. Our table was also next to where Dave Gibbons was signing, but this wasn't such a thrill as the art was never my favourite thing about Watchmen.
Here's what I bought
more or less clockwise from top left:
Dawky by Jane Richardson; Spirit of Hope, Japan and New Zealand Tsunami benefit anthology (w/postcard); Fruit Machine by Mimi*; Killjoy by Robert Brown; Comix Reader broadsheet anthology, Steampunk Literary Review by Doctor Geof; Hexjibber's Hobbies by Andy Sykes; Click Click bang Bang by Jade Sarson*; A Useless Super Hero by MT
*Our Table neighbours
All in all I made a loss, (Rob did better) but at least both issues of Sea Mouse made it into some homes it wouldn't otherwise have. Rob's blog about it all. (which features the Simmonds and Gibbons photos, so I've omitted them in this blog post)
On the Saturday night we skipped the official party so I could drag Rob to the Packhorse for an excellent show of Madame Laycock and her Dabeno Pleasure, Devil's Jukebox and David Broad. The first two of those bands each feature a different moonlighting band member of the Seven Inches. Then we headed to town for a clubnight called "Other Animals". I only mention this as an excuse to show off this photo of "Sparrow" from ML&HDP:
I discjockeyed once more at Don't Falter in November: http://open.spotify.com/user/marksturdy/playlist/20PXwAQZB6fNE55eXjaa4P
And actually, while I remember, a marathon couple of sessions in September:
I went to Rachel Dean and Matthew Bellwood's Christmas show in Theatre Int' Mill in Bradford which was spectacular. Rachel's varied solo dance routines, Matthew's spooky stories, and as a free bonus Gareth Cutter showed up again as compere. Gareth's main big idea was to re-enact The Snowman, with two volunteers to dress up as the little boy and the snowman. In Bradford, I was the little boy, and got to fly by the simple expedient of lying on my stomach on a swivel chair. I hope someone somewhere has some photos of it. (The link is to Gareth's own retrospective blog post about it).
Wonderful art opening by Alice Rix (who contributes to Sea Mouse and who you can see above gearing up to strike the pinata) and Kasia Breska. This was in Kasia's studio in an office building but felt a bit like a house party. It coincided with The Great Birthday Drinks Pile Up in which I tried to go to everyone's birthday drinks on the same night.
Then A Grand Day Out with a short and bracing walk from Grindleford to Hathersage for the Winter Solstice with our gang of friends. Prime instigator Woodknot has the full story and pictures here.
On 19th December Ian Cockburn and the Whole World played The Whatevers' Christmas bash. I panicked somewhat about there being four bands on the bill and the strict curfew, so I made sure we started early and we only played five songs. Very sadly it was too early for a lot of people who missed some or all of it.
the band was me, Shaun, Emil and Anna, and the set list was
I Thought We Had It Good (which I had also guest-vocalised with Anna at her first solo gig not long before)
Madeleine (Brel; I thought it was too good at Lower Woodstock to have only played it the once)
Winter Solstice Carol (not played live since the first seven inches gig in Jan 2002, almost ten years earlier)
Couples Holding Hands
Flanders and Swann (my tribute to the eponymous musical personalities)
The other bands besides the Whatevers (who I will hopefully be doing a collaboration with soon) were Bordeauxxx (pronounced Bordeaux) and Charles of the Ritz who were wicked. We all got on stage at the end to improvise a noise version of a Christmas Song and throw instruments around. For shame.
Bordeauxxx recorded some snapshots of it for posterity (Ian Cockburn and the Whole World footage at 00.29, )
For Christmas I went back to Shropshire as usual with my mum and brother and Hannah. I saw more new babies, had more Shrewsbury drinking time, and went for the usual Christmas day walk. Saw the film the Red Shoes, overindulged in food and pressies.
If you would fain see me joyful, dear reader, Feast thine eyes on the tableau below.
Back in Yorkshire, I went to a Todmorden NYE party that featured crazy scenes of wrestling. The neighbours were lighting Chinese lanterns: I tried to light one and found it was not so easy as I had supposed. But then, I was very drunk. good job I didn't burn the street down.
Happy New Year!
|Sunday, January 15th, 2012|
|My life in 2011- part five (October)
Gareth Cutter premiered his new performance piece about loneliness “Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto”, a mishmash of different elements, but all with his fresh-faced wit. It was part of “Emergency Accommodation”, a two day performance fest in Manchester with lots of interesting stuff ranging from comedy, interactive theatre and some self-mutilation that almost made me faint (literally- most embarrassing).
Leeds had its own artsy event the following Friday in the shape of Light Night, the annual “Nuit Blanche”-inspired burst of free happenings in the city centre. My friends' knitting group knitted some instruments including a working synthesizer.
I went to the Leeds library, a little known members-only independent lending library that has been there forever in the centre, which had a performance piece thing going on that featured Matthew Bellwood reading some of his 365 Leeds Stories.
Then me and Zoe went up a tall office building not to hear whatever nonsense was going on up there but to enjoy the view of the city.
After an appalling so-called Mexican fast food meal with Karren and Chris we all went to the town hall where we missed the Nosferatu screening, and instead went to the dungeons again (bit disappointing this year, and anyway we didn't realise that's what we were queueing for). Finally we found “Dormitorium” an exhibition of miniature film sets by the Quay Brothers. Then it all seemed to come to an end.
I finally went back to Berlin for a week. Some friends of mine (or anyone who has heard my song on the subject) may know that my 2003 trip to Berlin was one of the most thrilling and inspiring times in my life, and the city has assumed talismanic significance for me. And yet I'd somehow never got around to the return visit, all the more shameful as I had my good friend Britta to visit there (who by mischance wasn't in town the previous time I went). So, some time in the summer, while planning the Lyon trip, I thought I'd seize the initiative and book a week in Berlin too. A friend of my brother's who I got to know one Lower Woodstock kindly offered to put me up (in spite of his new baby), and I managed to arrange rendezvous with several of the people I now know living in Berlin (and some not).
However, though I saw lots of people, I was much more left to my own devices on this trip than I was in Lyon, much more on my own for long periods of every day. With Lyon so fresh in my memory, it made me realise how much nicer it is to travel and explore with friends (provided you're somewhat in sync with them). Also. tiredness and lots of rain, added to my loneliness, made this a holiday tinged with melancholy, a far cry form the hedonism, excitement and fun of the previous group trip of 2003.
Left to my own devices I have a tendency to go to too many museums and art galleries- which are great, but one can have too much of a good thing. If, say, Alice had been there I would have done more varied, less staid, things.
My first day, I was so melancholy and tired I just didn't have the energy for a museum, so after a walk starting at the Brandenburg Gate and walking East along Unter den linden, I went up the revolving restaurant up the telecom tower, one of my fondest memories of last time. There was hardly any queue as the mist made the view very obscure, and my first thought was that I had wasted 11 euros. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, so I went to the restaurant on my own and nursed a pot of coffee for an hour, and tried to draw what I saw. Soon I was restored to cheeriness with the soothing slow revolution of the restaurant, the blessed caffeine, the city emerging through the mist, the pleasure of drawing, and the knowledge that a day that seemed headed for utter disappointment had turned out well after all. I felt the Berlin magic return.
*Gemaldegalerie: One guide book describes this (the Berlin equivalent of London's National Gallery) as “Berlin's best-kept secret”. I read that and I sarcastically thought, “yeah right”. I had to go to it, even though I'd been the previous time. I was surprised to find it was indeed very quiet, as if the tourists were mostly giving it a miss. I can only conjecture this is because it's not on Museum Island. I had a great time with these Western Art masterpieces, my favourite of which, naturally, being Bruegel's Netherlandish Proverbs which I bought a big poster of last time. And despite seeing it on my wall every day since then I still had to have a good long gawp at the original. The only really top-rate Bruegel I've ever seen outside of Vienna I think.
Also has been used as a record sleeve but wholly unworthy popsters Fleet Foxes.
*The Altenationalgalerie, which is nineteenth century art, mostly realist and impressionist. It was almost deserted when I went. There was a temporary exhibition of some bankers' private collection which went on for ever and ever and wasn't much good but the permanent collection had fine work by Friedrich, Feuerbach, Courbet, Corot, Bocklin, and Overbeck. I've always loved German Romantic Art, especially its doyen Caspar David Friedrich, but rarely seen any except in reproduction.
Overbeck. Ever wondered who the "Nazarenes" were who I mention in my song "Same Old Scenes"? German Catholic painters wanting to revive the art, lifestyle and piety of the distant past. I read about them in "Romanticism" by Hugh Honor but this was the first time I ever saw any of their works for real. This is one that I had previously seen reproduced in black and White in Honor's book, and I always liked it. Great to have finally seen the original.
*The Berlin Gallery of Modern Art, all-Berlin modern art, with lots of George Grosz and Dada.
*The Jewish Museum- some of it depressing as you can imagine and too much writing to read but lots of interesting exhibits anyway.
*The last day I went to the Brucke museum, which was a right slog to get to (it's out in the suburbs) and it was totally not worth the effort. It is about the size of Church Stretton public library, it only has temporary exhibitions, and the exhibition at the time was watercolours by two Brucke artists not one of which was of any interest. I'm a fan of Die Brucke, but I love them for their raw bold oil colours, and their watercolours seem to expose their limitations. To make matters worse I walked the wrong way for a bit in my attempt to get back to the S-bahn station and civilisation.
*A sure-fire winner: the Kathe Kollwitz museum. She's one of my favourite artists and to see so many of her works in a variety of media, while getting more background, was great.
*The Pergamonmuseum There are about four major museums of mostly antiquities in Berlin, I didn't think I could concentrate on more than one on this trip. It had much magnificence and wonder, especially the Ishtar Gate and the Islamic rugs.
*Sadly not seen: the Neue Nationalgalerie, due to it being closed for refurbishment (same as it was on my last trip IIRC!) and The Bode Museum (blockbusting Renaissance exhibition causing ridiculous and insupportable queues)
I met up with Britta (not seen for nine years; looks just the same) and she took me around parts of North Berlin, including the squat-like art studio/gallery Tacheles. I met her boyfriend and we went to a free bar where a fine band from Seattle called the Toy Boats played music for pets' funerals to very scanty audience. They just played toy and small instruments, mostly instrumental numbers, often based on traditional folk songs from around the world.
On Tuesday I went to see my Canadian friend Ambika (not seen for eleven years; looks just the same) and met her Irish husband and two kids. We went to alternative gay pub Silver Future to see Chris Pureka and Clouds For Lunch on a friend's recommendation, but it was a bit dull. Afterwards we went to that bar everyone seems to go to right now where there's table tennis. Ambika introduced me to people and we went back to hers where I crashed for the night in the spare room.
The next morning Ambika gave me directions to a crazy second hand store where junk is just piled up everywhere so you can barely move. (Didn't find much I wanted though.) Her husband Richie gave me his band Michael Knight's CDs (I say band, it's basically him, I believe) and was later amazed how good they were. The kids were funny too.
“Say goodbye, you won't see Ian again”
“Because he doesn't live here, he lives in England”
“What's he doing here then?”
I went walking around East Berlin quite aimlessly for a while, saw some interesting architecture.
Wednesday I stayed in with my host Felix (his turn to look after the baby while his girlfriend went out) and we cooked and listened to the Seven Inches.
Thursday night I went out with another friend, Mar who recently moved to Berlin, after a meal we went to a punk show at Schokoladen, it was great fun though the bands weren't all that. Britta made a special effort to come at the end to say goodbye as I left early on Friday morning. A fine ending to my trip.
It was fortunate that I had booked a plane that got back on Friday as it so happened that we got offered a show supporting Blyth Power that very Friday night. It was an event on a temporary Events Licence at Wharf Chambers, which is the old Common Place building now risen like a phoenix from the flames in search of a new permanent licence.
Blyth Power have been one of my favourite bands since 1997, and I wrote a ten-page appreciation of/interview with them in Dishes 3, but we had never before played on the same bill as them. Emil and I were thrilled, you can bet. It didn't disappoint.
This was followed quickly by two other Seven Inches shows, first with Jelas and D'Astro, and then on 3rd November supporting the great Jeffrey Lewis. But that's a tale for the next entry.
|Friday, January 13th, 2012|
|My life in 2011- part four: September
Email interview I did with Nicola Chapman around this time. Full disclosure: I hinted beforehand what I did and didn't wish to be asked about, though I do generally support journalistic freedom.
I took rather a lot of short holidays this year, exceeding my 20 days' allowance slightly I think. This time I went to Shropshire for another weekend at my mum's. We attended the opening of our friend Beulah's exhibition in Shrewbury. She has never been either a professional artist or art collector, but has been an enthusiastic amateur at both, and this was a mixture of her art, that of her family, and other art works she has bought or been given. One print had been a gift from my brother. It was really nice, and- knowing her personally- very touching. Saturday was spent walking, picking fruit (apples, damsons and sloes) and other assorted jobs. On Sunday we got a special bus to see some old miners' cottages in the Stiperstones, then later to a country pub. An idyllic country weekend.
At the end of the month I went to Lyon, which has to take the crown as highlight of my year.
Our friend lilbitterbug is living there for a while, so given that it's nearer than America, me and Alice made a point of going to stay with her while she was there. She and her handsome partner were temporally staying in a fine big clean flat (up a LOT of stairs) in the middle of Old Lyon, so that's where we spent most of our time, and it was very beautiful. I don't know how many years or decades it would have taken to make me think of going to Lyon if Lex hadn't gone there but I'm so glad I went.
We went to the Roman Ampitheatre, the park which is also a free zoo, the famous puppet theatre Thèatre Guignol, an amazing food hall. We ate out quite a bit in the gastronomical capital of France, and we saw a gig by my pal Bridget Hayden who happened to be in town, in a cool kinda underground venue. Afterwards we went to a nearby bar and befriended a guy who was trying to chat me up, which doesn't happen very often.
We went to the big art gallery there, which had a pretty great exhibiton of mostly disturbing modern art from somebody's private collection, hung interspersed with old masters from the permanent collection by the likes of Gericault. Lots of French artists unfamiliar to me elsewhere in the collection. Loads by Louis Janmot (self-portrait, below), the city's local hero, whose somewhat sentimental style is unfashionable now but he sure had his moments, especially when he let his weird streak show through.
The museum of printing was excellent, both for the permanent collection and the display of virtuoso Chinese calligraphy.
We sat in a couple of other bars, including one run by a guy from Birmingham (UK). There was the obligatory (for me) comic shop stop where I got Calvo's incredible “La bête est morte”, a history of World war II done in an elaborate full colour funny-animal style (I say funny animal, it was done in all seriousness) drawn while it was happening. The first of the two original volumes was drawn secretly in Nazi-controlled France and published almost immediately after the liberation.
We spent a lot of time looking at the record and book stalls by the river, and I got five or six books to add to my bulging shelf of French language books. (Mostly books by the great French authors, though I also got an academic treatise on the Astérix comics).
Pretty and interesting and French as Lyon was, the trip would have been less than three quarters as good without my dear friends and all the time we shared together, and great conversations.
Lulu et nous
Backstage at the Thèatre Guignol. The play was pretty grisly and violent for children's entertainment, but they seemed to love it, and especially they love the hero Guignol.
We also did a lot of window-shopping
the French café life.
which cheese to choose?
Fantastic Bridget Hayden and lots of old LP sleeves
full Lyon album here: http://s64.photobucket.com/albums/h162/iancockburn/Lyon/
This trip combine dso many of my favourite things: travelling with like-minded people, France and the French way of life, wonderful food, great art and music, and dear friendship.
|Wednesday, January 11th, 2012|
|My Life in 2001 Part Three- June, July, and August
My brother and his girlfriend came to stay for a Korfball tournament. thus see my first ever korfball games. They later come and see me DJ at Don't Falter. Spotify playlist of my DJ set this time: http://open.spotify.com/user/marksturdy ... qaWbLHl4El
Featured in a famous Norwegian newspaper:
Lower Woodstock 5
A scratch Seven Inches acoustic line-up (minus Tim, Emily and Rachael but plus Anna on accordion) Premièred “A New Friend”, and also played “Elodie”, “Friends Don't Mix”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ioqrv3By2J0&feature=related and “I Just Heard The News”http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Lw9hYQ4Sqcs and- a first for the Seven Inches- cover versions of Jacques Brel's “Madeleine” and They might Be Giants' “Birdhouse In Your Soul”. My mum sang “Music For Travel Agents”http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hGVs8-wch_Q
The other acts were my dad, Tonieeee Clay, Gareth Cutter, Owen the French Defence, Idris Davies, Anna's solo set and Dave Davies and the Davieses. But of course, it wasn't all about the music, there was also food, camping, the inevitable bonfire and lots and lots of infants everywhere this year.
This was closely followed by Neil's birthday party where we played several lawn sports, formed several human pyramids and ended with the traditional bonfire.
Late July I went to the Red house in Sheffield, on of my favourite venues, for the classic line-up of Best Friends Forever, The Middle Ones and the Parallelograms (You're not going crazy if you think you've read this paragraph or seen this photo before; I initially put it in the previous entry by mistake, mixing up two Middle Ones concerts.)
After skipping last year's Edinburgh Fringe as I felt stressed for some reason and also the previous year's seemed too recent, I went for the second time in August 2011. I didn't see quite so many mindblowing things this time (no Daniel Kitson for starters), but it was well worth it.
Comedians: Richard Herring, Josie Long, Alex Horne, Tim Fitzhigham, Rich Fulcher (Bob Fossil in the Mighty Boosh), Jigsaw (a sketch troupe comprising Nat Luurtsema, Dan Antopolski and Tom Craine), Sarah Benetto's comedy storytelling night featuring (on the night we went) Tom “Bleak Expectations” Allen, and Francesca Martinez. There's a lot I regret missing but the only thing I regret going to was an appallingly unfunny duo called The Gentlemen of Leisure.
Plays: Cul-de-sac (black comedy set in "Middle England"), Chaos (possibly also qualifies as black comedy, three Scottish female actors playing lots of different parts). No fond memories of either, though my mum loved the latter.
Other: My friend Matthew Bellwood's storytelling show, South African popular singing group Soweto Ensha
Not even to do with the fringe, the festival or any of the other concurrent events: Saw my mum, brother, cousin, my brother's girlfriend, my housemate who was working there, and many old friends. Went to the Queen's Collection and the National Gallery of Scotland. Spent some time walking and climbing in Holyrood park trying to write songs in my head.
One day my mum and I got a bus to Portobello, a seaside suburb, where a young artist that my mum knows (from her singing adventure in Georgia) keeps a studio, to have a look at his paintings, see another artist friend of ours, and generally enjoy a seashore rest from all the hubbub.
Lots of food and socialising, which in many ways made up for not having seen so many great shows. Probably the thing I did see that sticks in my head the most, months later, is Josie Long's very political and personal show.
It may seem that my musical performing life never left the Fox and Newt (until recently unheard of as a venue in Leeds). I played there again as a woefully unprepared solo act (due to Edinburgh, I claimed.) I had meant to play six new songs, specially completed for the night. I only ended up playing two, a slight novelty one and an unfinished rewrite of a song from the January The What I Wanted To Dos album. Although I don't think I went down that badly all things considered, still there was non-stop talking that unnerved me so much that I gave up playing original material at one point and played “Girlfriend” by Jonathan Richman. I should have just ignored the talking. It was a very relaxed birthday gig featuring The Hipshakes and two newly formed friends' bands, all excellent.
In late August we planned to climb the three peaks of Yorkshire, Emil and I, along with Anna, Helen and Glen. (Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough). In the end we all climbed Pen-Y-Ghent, then after a cheese-centric lunch we climbed Ingleborough (without Helen and Glen) then, having run out of daylight went home. It rained a bit and it was generally wet and I fell in a sink hole at one point. Got some beautiful photos in the afternoon though.
Emil and Anna returned to climb the missing peak Whernside the following week. later Anna did the whole lot again leading a team for charity, and Emil went and did all three of them in the one day on his own, then capped it all by coming to dance at a club in Leeds for a bit.
|Tuesday, January 10th, 2012|
|My life in 2011- part two (April and May)
Ah Spring, a fine time to ignore reality, hide the to-do list, and generally act like everything's OK.
As the world rumbled and crumbled, and in my own life and that of my friends not all was well, still I remember a pretty glorious Spring and early summer. A bluebell-bedecked time of solace.
I went to Shropshire to see my mum, in glorious weather. We went to the bluebell wood and climbed a hill, reported orphaned lambs. My mum had already adopted one such back in February and let it live in her house; she hesitated to do so again.
The end of the month was a right parade of events.
I put on a solo Nan Turner gig, having put on her band Schwervon! in the past. I got my housemate the shadowy Herb Diamante to support, besides us of course. Nan got our drummer Rachael to play drums for her on one song completely ad hoc with no warning, and it was great. Emil and I were more forewarned in our choreographed dance routine for one of Nan's rap songs. Nan is lovely.
Guesting for Nan Turner: Rachael (above) and Emil and me (below). Photos stolen from Melanie.
Two days later (Friday 29th April) was a public holiday so, nothing loth, a bunch of us went walking from Bingley to Saltaire. A grand day out, royal family-free, with more bluebells.
What with Monday being a bank holiday, it would have been a lxurious four-day weekend were it not that I had work on the Saturday. However, as soon as it was over I rushed down to London for the third time that year. It was Alice's 30th birthday party on the Sunday, and I wanted to make the trip worthwhile. This takes us into-
We went rowing in Finsbury Park during the day on Sunday, then in the evening there was the birthday bonanza featuring Moustache Of Insanity, Shrag (hint: these are bands) and excellent DJing.
On Monday, after a leisurely London verandah day, back to Yorkshire in time to see David Thomas Broughton in a small pub in Sowerby Bridge and spent some time talking to him and his father. I was flattered that he said he'd played my album a lot. A great show from the North Korea-based maverick as always.
Instead of the obvious photo of David Thomas Broughton at Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge, here's the view from the beer garden outside. This reminds me how warm it was this May.
Jumbly Fest 2, though we didn't play this time, deserves a mention, as do all such all-ages concerts in Church Hall jumble sales.
Also to Sheffield's Cabaret Boom Boom for the second time.
Late May brought one of my favourite Ian Cockburn & The Whole World shows, supporting The Lovely Eggs and This Many Boyfirends at Leeds's Fox and Newt, a venue that seemed to permeate the year, along with Baby Jupiter.
Our setlist: Pettigrew Crescent, I Thought We Had It Good, Qui crois-tu que je sois?, Same Old Scenes, Hey Shauny Day, and I Just Heard The News. Our personnel: Shaun, Emil, Helen Butlin, Anna Rogers, Neil Shumsky and This Many Boyfriends. Loved the other bands. I went to Paris the very next day.
L-R, Helen Butlin, Anna Rogers, Me, Emil
I went to Paris mainly for the Manet and Redon exhibitions, and also to see my penfriend. The Manet exhibition was at the Musée d'Orsay, my favourite of all Paris museums which I hav ebeen too several times now but is always a joy. Apart from the Manet exhibition there was an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite era British photographs.
the Odilon Redon show was one of those rare exhibitions that diminishes one's appreciation of the artists: The familiar images were as great as i ever thought they were, but they were the exceptions rather than the rule.
My Paris postcards
Also returned to the Musées Cluny (the museum of medieval art) and finally made it to the Musée Gustave Moreau, a museum more interesting and admirable than the artist it celebrates. Also the centre for Naïve Art, whose current display was disappointing, but it's right by Montmartre so I went up to the Basilica du Sacré Coeur yet again.
I spent some time a bustling fleamarket covering several streets including a children's market where children sold toys to other children. My hostel was in the Gobelins area next to two cinemas saw the film Le gamin au vélo and managed to follow it without subtitles. T'was excellent, and I think the only film I saw in the cinema this year apart from Enemies Of The People (The Khymer Rouge documentary), Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The old musical) and Norwegian Wood (the Murakami adaptation)
It was interesting staying on my own at a youth hostel again. I eventually bonded with my roommates, who were of both sexes and were Quebecois, American and (IIRC) Argentinian. Belatedly saw the Wave Pictures were playing a show, but it had sold out by the time I got there.
I went to the Parc de la Villette for a free festival. The music i heard was off-putting, but it's always fine to go to a Park on a sunny day in the city.
EDIT: I also went to the quirky Musée de la chasse et de la nature (Hunting and Nature museum).
|Sunday, January 8th, 2012|
|My life in 2011- part one (January, February, March)
2011 was a salutary lesson in that initial optimism, positivity and good intentions are not enough to fulfil your objectives. You also need discipline, concentration, perseverance, assertiveness and determination. looking back at all that happened in my life,
however, it wasn't so bad after all. Good stuff happened. I'm still here.
(In an earlier age I would have courteously put this "under the cut" but i don't know if Live Journal is thriving enough for there to be any point in that any more.)
Started well with our set at the January edition of Mark Sturdy's clubnight Don't Falter. One of our most warmly received shows, though hindered by a cramped space. We also DJed. I made a perfunctory note of it at the time. As I mentioned there, Emil and I did some DJing, commencing a tradition of me DJing at Don't Falter. Here's a Spotify playlist of our set, along with that of our friend Kate.
Then we supported Allo Darlin and Just Handshakes, which brought us more gig offers.
Then we went to London to play a Seven Inches show in the middle of the afternoon in a bowling alley to an audience of some of our more organised friends and family. I made a weekend of it and got the Friday and Monday off. More importantly than the gig (to me), I took part in a The What I wanted to Dos album-making session, which I have already written about. I also finally made a start on the second Ian Cockburn and the Whole World album, getting Adam to record a guitar part. Unfortunately it was a false start, as he later lost the recording, and no further work on the album was done all year! However, at least we have the TWIWTDs album to show for that weekend (N.B. they have made many more albums without me since then, and now have I believe 24 hours of music in their complete catalogue.) contrary to the true spirit of TWIWTDs I intend to re-use two of the songs on the album, with revised lyrics.
Also went for the first time to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which didn't disappoint. As I wrote, There was a dazzling though slightly overpowering Norman Rockwell exhibition. [...] The permanent collection was very impressive, despite the fact that the collector who bequeathed it to the nation inclined to the prevailing taste of the time (late eighteenth century) and there was no art more recent, or any painter represented who has only been rediscovered or rehabilitated since then. There were a fair few of the paintings I rail against in my song Same Old Scenes, but I have long since trained my eyes to avoid looking at Rubenses, Veroneses and their putrid like.
circle of Baldassare Franceschini- St Catherine of Siena
Arent de Gelder- Jacob's Dream According to the note this was attributed to Rembrandt in the 19th Century and was one of the most popular pictures in the gallery. I think its hilarious when a change of attribution leads to the loss of a painting's popularity.
Unknown Artist- Nathan Field
I played three songs (helped by Emil) at the now-defunct Manchester cabaret night “Ida Bucket”, which was curated and compered at the time by my great friend Gareth Cutter. the theme was nostalgia so I played “Berlin” and a Noel Coward medley (Let's Say Goodbye/Someday I'll Find You/I'll See You Again). the other songs were "I Took A Chance On A Band Name" and “Hey Shauny Day” which had nothing to do with nostalgia but I thought would work well at a cabaret night given their high toleration of pre-recorded backing tracks. Other acts were my storytelling friend Matthew Bellwood (who will be mentioned more than once again in this year's tale) and mime artist Harry Dyer who did a fantastic routine. Also Gareth himself, and comedian/poet Jackie Hagan.
Back to London, to see a group art exhibition curated by and featuring my friends Sian Hislop and Jeremy Willett. It was a kind of a call for the return of bright colours to fine art, and was partly inspired by the 2001 book “Chromophobia” by the artist and writer David Batchelor. I think they said the exhibition name Apocalypstick came from a chapter in the book, and originally from a Serge Gainsbourg song. They got Batchelor in as a guest the night I was there for a Q&A session. It was lovely to stay over at their flat again, very colourful itself, and all ready for their baby which was to be born later in the year.
On the Saturday I went to the Exhibition at Tate Britain of the history and range of watercolour painting. I like it enough to buy the exhibition catalogue, but not enough to not wish I hadn't.
I ended my trip by seeing some of the last dregs of an indiepop weekender.
On the last day of the month we played a show at Leeds Met Student Union, premièring the full band version of “Blessing In Disguise”, one of our best in my opinion, which I've been playing a solo version of since 2006 I believe. Our set was broadcast on Leeds Indie Radio, you can download it here, though it's from the mixing desk so it's very heavy on the vocals and keyboards and very low on everything else. http://bit.ly/hq8mhJ
According to my diary, many parties and concerts (and a wedding) happened in March which aren't really appropriate to relate in a public diary like this. However, on the first day of the month we played a show with Standard Fare, This Many Boyfriends and Not Great Men. (A coda to this is that I saw Standard Fare play again at the end of the year and I could not for the life of me figure out where -or even if-I had seen them before!) There was another Seven Inches gig that month too. You wait months for a Seven Inches Gig, then five come along at once.
Milo concert, photo by Kathryn Taylor
I also played a shambolic solo show supporting Eux Autres and the Whatevers to an intimate audience (for intimate read minuscule but friendly). I premièred “The Simplest Songs” from the January WIWTD album mentioned above.
I also had the novel experience of having my hair cut in a public square, not as performance art but simply as, well, a haircut.
Oh and I Disc Jockeyed at Don't Falter again, Spotify Playlist here:
http://open.spotify.com/user/marksturdy ... 5hI3ZYuj8X
|Sunday, February 13th, 2011|
|The Simplest Songs
The What I Wanted To Dos recorded their 32nd album on the last Saturday of January 2011. Like the 31 previous ones, it was written and recorded in a single day with no overdubs. This was only my fourth time taking part I believe, but incomparably more of my fingerprints are on this album than the other ones. This was by necessity- It was just me, Adam, Amyas and Louise this time. As Adam and Amyas were the only two dependable instrumentalists of the quartet, it fell to me and Louise to do most of the singing and lyric-writing.
This was the first song on the album, and my favourite. I had wanted to write a really simple song for so long, and though the risk is that it's too soppy, I like it. I want to re-record it for the next Ian Cockburn and the Whole World album, unless someone talks me out of it, or discovers where the tune was unconsciously stolen from. If you have time, listen to it and let me know what you think of it._/Simple+Songs
From there you could, if you chose, listen to and download the rest of the album. I promised in my last (friends only) post a track-by-track commentary of the album when this was possible.2. Lachrymose Pete
(or Lackyose Pete as it's listed here)- some sort of vague Mexican/American Western kind of theme here. My vocal and lyrics, music by Adam and Amyas. Lachrymose Pete is the unlikely name i chose for the narrator's liquor of choice. If it sound as though i'm stumbling over the lyrics, it's because I couldn't read my own writing.3. Hudson Springs Immortal
. Louise sings, I just play melodica and join in the big singalong chorus. One of the highlights.4. Cuthbert Says Yes-
you can skip this one with impunity.5. Evidence of Formalisation of Aspects of Greek Life In The Archaic and Classical Periods
- Louise is not reading from a randomly chosen book here but her own cloth-bound embossed dissertation. Of interest to scholars of Greek Mythology, particularly as regards Dionysis. And also the layman. Notice how it's tastefully reigned in at three minutes sixteen seconds.6. Taggart's Mane-
out of practice at writing lyrics, I asked the others to give me a character's viewpoint to write from, to get me started. "Victorian workhouse boy" I was given, and I decided to send the boy to the navy. The silly period-drama lyrics are unimportant, I love this tune so much. This song is too good to stop here, I am sure, it needs to be rewritten and rerecorded. Unless... well, like "The Simplest Songs", I'm sure this tune must have been used before. Let me know if you think it's a ripoff of something. The recording machine ran out of memory and we had to re-record this one, which I was glad of as it meant I could insist on a necessary big power-ballad key change. ( The title is one Adam had prepared beforehand, as with track 9. It has nothing to do with the song.)7. Neville's Advocate
- Adam's only lead vocal of the album. All I contributed was the title and backing vocals. I couldn't remember if this was any good, I'm pleasantly surprised. A classic TWIWTDs three-chord singalong.8. The What I Didn't What To Blues
I had asked Adam if The What I Wanted To Dos had ever recorded a song called "the what I wanted to blues". He said no and that we should have to record such a song for this album. But the lyrics, about some unwanted attention Louise has been receiving recently from someone at "The Beeb", necessitated a slight change of title. Louise is great at singing the rockier or bluesier songs. Contains my most sustained and disciplined instrumental part- the rhythm guitar line. I also shout "I have the blues pretty badly, as you can see from this graph behind of meeee", which is misquoted from a Great Pop Things comic strip by Colin B Morton and Chuck Death. To me this is a throwaway, but one Moz who showed up to hang out said it was the best song on the album.9. This Song's Called Stratosphericalypso -
Amyas's vocal spotlight spot. I think he pretty much wrote and played it singlehandedly, beautifully. Another very simple, straightforward and beautiful song.
Um, this was supposed to be the big finale, and it had been decided it would be a Violent Femmes pastiche. It turned out to be an utter ripoff. As you may imagine, the titles and lyrics of the whole album are full of in-jokes and insider references it would be tedious to explain E.G. they had a big lump of pork for their dinner.11. Vitamin J -
Frequent The What I Wanted To Dos member John Perry was not present on this occasion but he had nonetheless already presented us, as a fait accompli
, with the album title and cover of art for this album. See, he has of late been creating "imaginary album covers" as a hobby, and had already prematurely exhibited (on facebook) the sleeve for "Album 32: The John Album" featuring a big picture of his own face. We went along with this self-fulfilling prophesy, and thus we felt we had to allude to our absent friend, but he didn't deserve any more than a last-minute novelty throwaway.
No-one is going to listen to it, of course. But I feel bound to not let these tracks vanish into the oblivion of the internet without comment.
|Saturday, January 15th, 2011|
|In praise of inconsistency
"Then he saw also that it matters little what profession, whether of religion or irreligion, a man may make, provided only he follows it out with charitable inconsistency, and without insisting on it to the bitter end. It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held, and not in the dogma or want of dogma that the danger lies. [...]
"Having then once introduced an element of inconsistency into his system, he was far too consistent not to be inconsistent consistently."
The Way Of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, Chapter 69.
|Thursday, January 13th, 2011|
Now follows a rather matter-of-fact entry to ease me gently back into posting here
“Don't Falter” at Baby Jupiter, Baby Jupiter, 8/1/2011
The Seven Inches set (from memory):
The Seven Inches get disorientated
Cravats and spats and feather boas
O. and H.
Stop pestering me
Second coolest person in town (now audible on http://www.myspace.com/theseveninches)
International dialling codes
Best job in the world
My later DJ set in tandem with Emil (also from memory, a more authenticated version should appear at some point in the clubnight's promotional material)
Shirley Ellis- The Clapping Song
Super Furry Animals- Juxtapozed with u
Patti Smith- Gloria
Divine Comedy- Something for the weekend
Buzzcocks- You say you don't love me
Evolution Control Committee- Costello kids in the hood
Prince and the Revolution- Take me with u
Herman Dune- I wish that I could see you soon
The Bigger the God- Miss Pritchard
Doris Day- Move over darling
The first Ian Cockburn and the Whole World album is available on Bandcamp for free download or donation.
The Seven Inches have two more shows this month, with Allo Darlin' in Leeds on the 27th and at the PopArt 5th anniversary party on Sun 30th in London.
The Friday following that I'm playing a solo cabaret turn at the Cabaret of Ida Bucket at the Green Room, Manchester, by invitation of innovative compere Gareth Cutter.
Despite this, I feel that I am getting nothing done. Will just have to stick at it and see if any of the new self-improvement habits I try to adopt bear fruit.
|Wednesday, September 29th, 2010|
Here's my own "Influence Map", but comprising only things that have influenced my comics drawing, and only things that had had influenced me by the time I was 18 or so; for my style has been pretty consistent since then (or has it)?
So here we are: Ian Cockburn's Formative Years Cartooning Influences Map!
Well, I made a mess of that, didn't I? You can't see those pictures very well, can you? Let's have some close ups.( more under the cutCollapse )
|Saturday, September 25th, 2010|
|meme courtesy reynardin
Here's how it Works:
- Leave a comment saying "What's up?!" [or some variation thereof...]
- I'll ask you five questions to satisfy my curiosity.
- Update your journal with the answers to your questions.
- Include this explanation and offer to ask other people questions.
Clear as mud?
Answers to questions from reynardin
under the ( cutCollapse )
|Monday, August 30th, 2010|
|Thursday, April 8th, 2010|
It occurs to me I missed a trick in my entry about the V & A the other day in not showing you any close-up details of the quilts, so here you are- another look at the A-Z of courtship. X is for "Xpression", by the way, and Z is for "Zingari", which the note on the card explained was used as a synonym for Romany- it shows a couple having their fortune told. The border consists of just pictures of people of all different nationalities.
|Monday, April 5th, 2010|
|Back to the present
Today I went for a birthday walk in Grindleford. It was Jo's thirtieth birthday (yesterday, Easter Sunday) and Nigel's 29th (today, Easter Monday). Afterwards we went back to their house in Sheffield for tea and two birthday cakes! I was pleased to see two minouette prints, and took this picture to show and tell:
|I love the Victoria and Albert
As you saw in my last entry (not counting the oeufs), I went to London the week before last. Besides going to that concert, I went for a fine day at Kew Gardens, and another fine day at my beloved Victoria and Albert museum (or the V&A for short). I always fine much to beguile me there, no matter how many times I go there. Whereas the National Gallery is my favourite museum/gallery in London, I already feel like I know it inside out, but the V&A keeps on giving of its plenty, ever-changing displays and all. And besides, while the National Gallery has awe-inspiring works of pictorial genius (I associate it most with Holbein's "Ambassadors"), the Victoria and Albert has objects ranging from works of that level of inspiration down to stuff that somehow seems of more practical instruction to the artist who cannot dream of ever scaling those Olympian heights. Planned as a museum to educate the British worker, artisan and craftsperson in the art of design, whatever field they worked in, to make the country and all its buildings and objects beautiful. So it's full of things that just set ideas ticking in my head that can be applied to the comics page, or to applied arts. And yet it also has lots of Rodin statues, (cast of some of his major works, and some less well known) which I spent a long time gazing at and sketching. Also had a long look at the Raphael tapestry cartoons
. I am no fan of Raphael, but I respect his achievement, and am impressed that these huge, full coloured works of distemper on paper survive and can be seen in a free London museum (displayed majestically in a very quiet, the crowds that usually gather around important High Renaissance works conspicuously absent).
I went to all three exhibitions that were on. The interactive "Decode: Digital sensations" exhibition was interesting. The "Horace Walpole: Strawberry Hill", was not too impressive, (second rate artefacts and paintings from the famous dilletante's collection) though it suggested that a visit to the actual Strawberry Hill might be more so. But the major exhibition was the wonderful quilts exhibition. It contained many curious and beautiful quilts from the last three hundred years, interspersed with some specially commissioned ones by modern artists. www.vam.ac.uk/collections/textiles/quilts-1700-2010/
ere's one called The ABC of courtship:
Here's one by one Ann West from 1820:
It is a coincidence that these two postcards that happened to be on sale in the shop happen to have a similar colour scheme and style. Really, this was one of the most varied of exhibitions, with constant surprises. I highly recommend it to everyone.
Spending most of the day at the V & A, I had refreshments in the William Morris-designed room, sketching all the while. This and the adjacent Gamble and Poynter rooms were the first museum restaurant in the world. I was excited to eat in the William Morris room, surprised that, far from having to pay extra to eat there, it was actually almost empty as most people chose to eat in the modern white-walled corridor amid more light. It was indeed dark in there, but very stately.
while I was in Kensington, I also had a look at 1a Scarsdale Villas, former home of Michael Flanders and setting of this monologue
. It was a very nice street, but there was no Pembroke Arms, no mind-bogglingly steep camber nor any bite taken out of the pavement. Most shocking of all, no blue plaque. Then I went to see the exhibition of Richard Hamilton political art at the Serpentine gallery in the middle of Kensington gardens (which meant I did the Kensington-Kew double). The exhibition was mostly very disappointing, though politically laudable. I poked my head in the National History Museum but went straight out again, not enough mental energy left by that point
|Saturday, April 3rd, 2010|
|Sunday, March 28th, 2010|
|Who's in, who's out, and who's best at Mah Jongg
Last Friday I went to see the Magnetic Fields at Manchester Cathedral. The first time I think I've been inside that cathedral, certainly the first time I've been to a cathedral for a concert. I had been wondering if they would play their supposed "gospel song", the God-bothering "Kiss me like you mean it". They opened with it, as it turned out. It was a wonderful place to see a concert, the setting grand and beautiful, the acoustics very good. They played twenty-nine songs, with a line-up of acoustic guitar, cello, ukelele, percussion and a little autoharp, and though there was lots from the new album, it was drawn from across their vast back catalogue, with lots of surprises.
I was sat with the inimitable Mr Cutter, who got me the ticket, and whose eccentric cabaret, "Bucket", I had been to the previous Friday, also in Manchester. Also with pygmyking. Both of these two had agreed to take part in my anthology comic so there was a fair amount of chatter about that beforehand.
We were welcomed by the Dean of the Cathedral, every inch a man of the cloth, who said a few words about the magnificent cathedral and said it was only the second pop concert they had had there. They are making a habit of it now though, for Tindersticks played there a few days later.
When they took the stage in a row below the gothic arches (not archies), Claudia said, "we'll try not to sweaer". Stephin said, "although it could be argued that the very name of this band is a swear word... the M.F.s."
I had forgotten how ravishing I found Claudia Gonson. (No need to tell me she's a lesbian, firstly I know that and secondly I was hardly going to ask her out anyway, was I?) I also find her very funny. It was the first time I'd seen them in ten years, which would make me feel old except I was already aware I am.
( Read more...Collapse )
|Saturday, February 27th, 2010|
|Saturday, February 20th, 2010|
|13 Albums That Changed My Life (Slightly)
1. Paul Simon- Graceland
The album that introduced me to the concept of “an album” in the musical sense. The family record player was gathering dust in a cupboard along with the LP collection and I don’t remember my parents listening to much music- until my dad started buying cassettes suddenly. The first few were “best of” compilations. Then this came along. For a long time I thought it only had three songs on it, I had conflated so many of them together in my mind. I was assured it had many more, and I came to realise very few albums have only three songs on them. And when this is the case they are usually called “pieces”, not songs. What do I think of “Graceland”? I liked it then, and though I’ve since had my differences with the earnest-to-the-point-of-humourless Mr. Simon, I still like it today.
Favourite cut: probably Boy in the Bubble
2. Pet Shop Boys- Actually.
One Christmas, my brother and I got given our own cassettes for the first time. I got a rock-‘n’-roll compilation with Chuck Berry and co., and my brother got this, because he had asked for it. I was at first dubious, because I was and remained for some years sceptical of chart pop music. But I eventually became jealous of my brother for getting such a clearly brilliant album, and I think I asked for a different pet shop boys album of my own for my next birthday. The pet shop boys became not only my favourite pop band, but the only pop band (as opposed to MOR rock) I liked for a long time. I would add that, good though “actually” is, both “Please” and “Behaviour” are better, and the dynamic duo are still making brilliant music today.
Favourite cut: What have I done to deserve this?- Two of my favourite ever acts (PSB and Dusty Springfield) together on one masterpiece.
3. Bob Dylan- Blonde on Blonde
At some point I lost my phobia of those huge scary-looking LPs in the cupboard and the dusty old phonograph with the faulty volume knob, and got them out, spread them about in my room, and checked out the records my parents listened to in their youth. I think I scratched most of them. This was my favourite, and Dylan became my musical hero, even though I have no idea what most of the lyrics on this acid-fuelled opus signify. But still, dig that “liquid mercury” sound. Also in this period I thrilled to the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”, LP, but I’m leaving that out to make room for more unusual choices.
Favourite cut: (Sooner or later) one of us must know
4. The Cure- Wish
This would be on the list anyway due to the effect it had on my teenage psyche, and the fact that I listened to it to death, never noticing that the songs were each about twice as long as normal songs. However it’s main significance as it marked a turning point in my musical inferiority complex vis-à-vis my brother. Previously he always took the lead. He would buy an album, say by REM, I would disparage it then eventually come it admit that it was actually very good and end up buying REM albums myself. I would try to strike out and buy an album, say by Bryan Adams, my brother would disparage it and eventually I would come to agree with him that it was a bit poor. It always worked out that way, he always won, and I was fed up with it. Finally I bought “Wish”, and my brother disparaged it about as much as he ever disparaged any album either before or since, but I knew he was wrong, and ceased to care anymore what he said. I proceeded to shut myself in my room with it for days on end, buy all their other albums, and cover my walls with Cure posters. And my brother could go to blazes. And yet, listening to “Wish” now- and it may be that I’ve simply worn it out from playing it too much- I can’t help wondering if maybr my brother was right after all.
Favourite cut: Trust
5. Dexys Midnight Runners Too-Rye-Aye
This was the other most significant discovery in my parents’ vinyl racks because it destroyed my belief in my parents’ musical judgement, and not before time. I know this process usually happens in front of the TV, with the latest trend in pop blaring out and the grown-ups wailing “it’s just noise!” “You can’t understand the words!” and so on, But in my case it occurred with an album that had come out when I was 4. My mum had apparently read a review of it and bought it as a present for my dad without having heard it. Neither of them liked it a bit and henceforth there it sat, a cuckoo in the nest of the collection, practically the only post-1975 record they had. I was warned it was rubbish, and therefore hesitated to play it for awhile, then when I did I wondered how it was possible for anyone to be so wrong about anything. It reminded me of The Cure, my favourite band at the time, but with their own angle on tuneful fully-orchestrated, lustily wailed pop songs. Of course, the Cure records it most resembled (e.g. “Why Can’t I Be You?) didn't appear until much later in the 1980s. In 1982 this mix of celtic folk and brassy soul music was thoroughly fresh, I imagine. So the spell of parental infallibility was broken at last, and I only had peer pressure to overcome to finally be able to call my soul my own.
Incidentally, most hardcore Dexys fans will tell you this is their worst album, and that “Don’t stand me down” is their masterpiece. In my humble opinion, it’s the other way round. “Lets make this precious” and “Till I believe in my soul” in particular are their finest moments.
Favourite cut: Till I believe in my soul
6. Cocteau Twins- Four-calendar café
Nowadays I can see the Cocteau twins in their historical context and see how they related musically to other new wave and indie bands of the early eighties. But when I first heard them, at the height of their mellow, refined rarified nineties style, I felt like I’d never heard anything like them before, and that getting this album was a bold step in broadening my horizons. This album proves they make good music on Mars, too. I got it for Christmas 1993 and for a long time whenever I played it it reminded me of Christmas and the taste of chocolate coins. The sleeve makes a cameo appearance on my GCSE art exam piece.
Favourite cut: Bluebeard
7. Pulp- His ‘n’ Hers
Another breakthrough in the musical war of wills against my brother, because for the first time I bought an album by an artist new to our house, and he liked it! Ever since we have more or less respected each others’ tastes, and have exchanged many a compilation with goodwill on both sides. I fist noticed Pulp when “Lipgloss” got played a lot on Mark Radcliffe and the Evening Session, both Radio 1 shows. However, in those days one never risked buying a tape on the strength of one song, so I waited till the other two singles had come out before I took the plunge. Pulp succeeded The Cure as my new favourite band, in a glorious reign lasting from 1994-1996. My favourite memory of this album is getting home from my first school disco and listening to it under the bedcovers, volume turned to minimum, speaker pressed against my ear, and almost subliminally absorbing the inaudible bittersweet strains of “David’s Last Summer”.
Favourite cut: David’s last summer
8. Boo Radleys- C’mon Kids
The Boo Radleys took over the favourite band mantle from Pulp for 1996-8, on the strength of this flabbergasting masterpiece, which I listened to every day for weeks. I had been a big fan of theirs since “Giant Steps”. I also remained loyal to them when “Wake Up” came out (indeed, I preferred it), in spite of its deeply divisive first single which lost them a lot of fans, and won them a lot of new fans who turned out to be even more unfaithful. Because of this, and because it had no obvious singles except for a couple of hard-rocking ones which were quite unrepresentative, “C’mon Kids” became a commercial failure. Well, OK, maybe it was because it was pretty uncommercial, too. But it really is incredible, from the complete unpredictability of its wild free-form song-structures, to the poignancy and pain of the actual content. Even when I knew the album off by heart, and it no longer took me on a thrilling roller-coaster ride because I knew what was coming next, the lyrics and tunes still continued to move me.
On the other hand, I later became more aware of true experimental music. In comparison with which, to a purist, this indie-pop band’s meddling with madness undoubtedly would seem small beer, old hat, what you will. But I hate purists (and I’m none too impressed by much experimental music) so who cares.
Favourite cut; Four saints
9. Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers- “Jonathan Sings”
Enter my guiding light. Well, in fact I had been aware of Jonathan for a while, through the Mark Radcliffe show and through seeing him at a festival. But this was the first time I heard a whole album of his (courtesy of the Leeds University Student Union Record Library, and- whisper- I taped it). Initially I thrilled to the original and best version on “That Summer Feeling”, and the minimalist rock n roll manifesto “This Kind Of Music”, which is the cut on here that really changed the way I think about rock ‘n’ roll. Other songs impressed me less at first, the ones that sounded a little too middle-of-the-road and country-ish. But as the years passed, I have come to love all of it. It is often criticised, especially by Jonathan Richman himself, for being too slick and overproduced, but it doesn’t sound so to me. Perhaps because when I taped it there was some distortion from playing it too loud, or lots of surface crackle due to fluff on the needle. Perhaps I have on this worn old home-taped cassette a unique ”mix” of the album as it should have sounded!
Favourite cut: This kind of music
10. The Beach Boys- Wild Honey
I used to read music historians, critics and indeed other musicians talk about the Beach Boys in such a worshipful manner that I wondered: why such hyperbole? I had “Pet Sounds”, like everyone else, and knew a fair selection of their singles, and was aware they almost made some very experimental album that never saw the light of day, but… all this just seemed to add up to them being an above average sixties pop group. I just couldn’t see what the fuss was about.
Then I heard “Cabinessence” on the local college radio station, and- after taking a year or two to persuade myself I had really heard what I thought I heard, I started to collect their other albums, and realised that there was far, far more to them than I thought, that they had in fact made loads of classic albums, not just one, full of untold and varied wonders, and that in fact what I had thought was those writers’ hyperbole was in fact understatement. The Beach Boys may even have ruined my enjoyment of most pop music I’ve heard since by setting a standard almost impossible to follow. The greatest pop group ever. (OK, well MAYBE the Beatles but they don't need any props from me)
(Even though I’ve never really got over my discovery that the college radio station that fateful day had segued Cabinessence into another record, an ever crazier record (its identity lost to history), and I mistakenly thought it was all one single, mindblowing piece.)
“Wild Honey” I have chosen arbitrarily as probably the one where I really started to “get it”.
Favourite cut: Darlin’
11. Jeffrey Lewis – It’s the ones who’ve cracked that the light shines through
Since Jonathan Richman there had really been no other singer to greatly expand my concept of what a song could achieve, what a singer could be, until Jeffrey Lewis, the Bob Dylan of our times. There had been many live performers who had influenced me in that time in terms of what a live performance could be, and Jeffrey Lewis, with the masterstroke of his “lo-fi videos” alone, did this too. In fact I tried to emulate this in my first ever gig with the Seven Inches, though I didn’t finish the drawings in the end, and abandoned the plan. At this point I had never even heard Jeffrey Lewis’s music, I had only read a review of one of his shows in the NME, which had been enough to inspire me. I forgot his name and didn’t expect to come across it again until by chance I later finally saw and heard Lewis, and discovered the incredible variety of his songs, with their amazing, lovingly crafted lyrics, often experimenting with existing songwriting and storytelling techniques in a marvellous manner. Whether describing a terrifying dream, making a trenchant political point, telling a hilarious story, going deep into the details of his own life and feelings, or simply indulging in hilarious nonsense wordplay, he was and is a master of his Art. However, his more “produced” records often don’t sound as good as they should somehow, or else they contain too many of his weaker songs, or neglect to include any of his songs at all (see “12 crass songs”). This is his only flawless album, but what a masterpiece it is. Rivalled only by Bjork’s “Vespertine” as my favourite album of the noughties.
Favourite cut: Back when I was 4 or Alphabet
12. Hefner- Breaking God’s Heart
Just as The Cure, Pulp, and The Boo Radleys all had two-year reign as my favourite band, here came Hefner to take on the mantle for 1998-2000. I’m not sure I didn’t buy this album purely for the pop-art sleeve (particularly alluring on the vinyl edition, which is what I bought) and the press endorsements on the attached sticker. Rarely have I so bought an album sound-unheard with such confidence that I would like it. The first side I played I loved so much I had to listen to it over and over before I could tear myself away from it to eventually play the other side, which was just as good.
I loved the rawness of the sound, seeming to convey very hungry feelings in a simple manner, delivering the wonderful, wonderful tunes in their purest form, in the most heightened emotion. The lyrics too were refreshing. Having got used to Britpop banalities it was somehow nice to hear all this sixth form poetry, with its obsession with sex and liberal use of religious imagery. And let’s not forget that there was a healthy dose of wit and self-knowledge in there too.
Favourite cut: The Librarian, or The Sweetness Lies Within
13. The Singing Detective (soundtrack album volume one)
Though Dennis Potter is to be applauded for his excellent TV writing, (actually I've only seen "Pennies From Heaven" and "The Singing Detective" itself) I principally thank him for opening my eyes to the wonders of pre-rock-'n'-roll popular music, especially of the 1930s and 1940s. Starting with my first hearing of this amazing platter. Since I heard this, I have sought out this kind of music: mostly dance orchestras before the (shudder) jazz set in too much. Bandleaders such as Lew Stone, Bert Ambrose and Harry Roy, singers such as Al Bowlly, the Inkspots, the Mills Brothers, Marlene Dietrich, and Sam Browne. This opened the floodgates for me to broaden my horizons much further. Nowadays I am less prejudiced towards post-1956 western pop/rock. I am open to all genres (though still very suspicious of jazz and it's relations.) Now I listen to classical, world and folk music on the radio as much as pop/rock, and simply judge music as music on its own merits, regardless of genre or age. This is in fact what I always tried to do, and I haven't actually quite got there yet even now, but the insanely unpredictable, raging version of "Limehouse Blues" here (by Ambrose) was a major staging post in the battle to acquiring this catholic mindstate.
Favourite cut: Limehouse Blues
This was going to be a list of fifteen (inspired by that "15 books" meme), but I couldn't decide on the other two out of this lot:
The Beatles: A hard day's night
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci- Bwyd Time
Tindersticks- second album
The Make Up- Destination Love: "live" at Cold Rice
Vivian Stanshall- Teddy Boys Don't Knit
Moldy Peaches- Moldy Peaches
Kimya Dawson- My Sweet Fiend Princess
Prince and the Revolution: Around the World In A Day
Four Tops: Greatest Hits (1967)
Kevin Blechdom- Eat my heart out
Helen Love- Radio Hits 1
American Roots (box set)
Folk songs of Britain: Songs of Courtship (field recordings collection)