Angry Dolphins Random acts of writing



Sunday :::
 
London July 20 2003

Been away a while. That's what happens when your motorcycle gets whacked by a car.

So I'm riding out to Teddington late on a Monday night in May, minding my own business on an empty road, when this car pulls out to turn right, and drives into the side of my bike. Witnesses said that I flew fairly gracefully and landed in the gutter, lying straight.

I have no memory of this. Ain't the brain a grand thing? It edits out the really, really unpleasant stuff, like the crack of both wrists breaking, the squishy sound of a shoulder dislocating, the scrape of helmet against tarmac, the thud of a body rolling over and sliding to a stop.

So anyway, I have just four memories of the accident - firstly, a woman (the driver? a witness? Dunno) leaning over and asking me if I had a mobile phone, and who she should call. Secondly, a breathalyser being inserted into my mouth - oh the shame! the ignominy! Thirdly, me complaining while they cut my favourite pair of moleskin trousers off me. And fourthly, me being wheeled into X-Ray.

After that, the morphine took over and I can't recall much of anything. Until I got out of hospital, with two wrists in casts and a suspicious lumpy left shoulder.

A week later, I'm back at the same hospital with a swollen and painful ankle. They discover that I also cracked an ankle. How the hell did they miss that? So they wheel me back into a ward that DOESN'T even have a television, and where the newspaper seller comes by around midday. For a week of antibiotics, before they operate on the ankle.

I got out of the casts just ten days ago, and I am still a pissed off dude. I wasted 2 whole weeks while they misdiagnosed my ankle - "It's probably ligament damage; wear a strap and it should be fine. They IGNORED my shoulder until my last visit, when the consultant lists a number of operations I can have. And they neglected to tell me about a broken toe.

Anyhoo, I can lift small things now, I have a really glam scar running inside my left wrist - like a suicide bid gone wrong. I can't even lift my friend Kate's four-month old baby dammit.

And if that weren't enough to deal with, I was thinking of ranting about the attitude of my fellow users of the Underground towards those with injuries and handicaps, but I'll just content myself with this: See if I give up MY seat when you're pregnant, or injured, or old, you suckwits. It's like a Darwinian petri dish, the Tube.

On the plus side, I've found a few new songs to groove to:

"Madam Helga" - the Stereophonics. They've done their research, they've got the whole hard-living rock thing down. This one's going to be played in biker pubs for the next decade.

"Smile" - the Supernaturals. How can you not like this song? It marches right up to you, grabs you by the scruff of the neck and commands you to jump up and down. You can almost imagine attempting to break the world mass aerobics lesson record with this song.

"Wasted Time" and "The Last Resort" - The Eagles. Definitely not easy listening. You know it's a Don Henley song when you feel you have to listen to the lyrics and get all righteously outraged at some perceived ill. On the other hand, "She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island" makes me smile.

"Eleanor" - the Turtles. Stereotypical 60s right up to the chorus, but "You're my pride and joy, etcetera" is a glorious line.

::: posted by Sun King at 6:49 PM



Thursday :::
 
London Mar 20 2003

More faves from the vaults:

The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" - Music doesn't get more direct or all-consuming than this. Sure-fire contender for the Greatest Three-Minute Pop Song Ever. I got to see them last weekend at the St. Patrick's Day festival on the South Bank and they played this - oh how happy it made me.

"Women in Chains" - Tears for Fears. Simple, atmospheric, and totally hypnotic. Set Roland Orzabal's muted scream "Men of stone!" against the warm vocal of Oleta Adams.

"Needle & the Damage Done" - Pete Wylie and The Icicle Works. I didn't think Pete Wylie could do much more than shout until I heard this. Soul-seared harmonising on a haunting version of one of Neil Young's best songs. Comes from an obscure anti-drug compilation album I came across while on Radio Caroline.

Nick Lowe's "Tonight": One of the simplest heartfelt teenage love songs ever: "Tonight we're just a boy and girl/The only people in the world".

"Biko" - Peter Gabriel. The segue from "Nkosi Sikelele Africa" into the intro is totally compelling. The threat of the fuzzed guitar, the inevitability of the funeral drumbeat. And the lyrics: so simple, so effective.

"Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric - despair, hope and tuneful tunelessness. A love song for closing time.

"Effloresce and Deliquesce" - The Chills. One of the most atmospheric productions you're likely to hear: fantastic echoed guitars, coupled to sharp, observant lyrics. I still don't know what either "effloresce" or "deliquesce" mean.

"Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry. Nastiest bass line. Ever.

"Homburg" - Procol Harum should be better known for this song rather than "Whiter Shade of Pale". Lyrics are just as totally bonkers, the mood is the same, beautiful keyboards and Hammond organ.

"Ace of Spades" - Motorhead. If you have to own one heavy metal song, this should be it.

"Stay With Me" - The Faces. It's a loud, obnoxious, raucous, mysogynistic, funny, irresistible party. You will dance. And to think Rod Stewart gave this up for dross like "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy".....

"Let Love Rule" or "Mr Cab Driver" by Lenny Kravitz. Towards the end of both songs comes a moment when Lenny's voice breaks and it's the most damn soulful thing you ever heard.

"Tipitina" - Professor Longhair. A rolling New Orleans bar-room groove, a master of boogie-woogie at the keyboard, a few shots of tequila... all you need is a Cajun dictionary to work out what he's singing.

"Kiss Me Hardy" - Serge Gainsbourg. He doesn't make for comfortable listening, his lyrics are often deeply suspect, but he had an impeccable ear for rhythm and a tune. Maurice Chevalier wouldn't have stood a chance if Serge had been around a little earlier.

"Peach" - Once in a while Prince gets back to his roots. If Dirty Dancing was a sport, this would be the soundtrack.

"The Sound of Musik" - Falco. If you thought "Rock Me Amadeus" was over the top, this goes just that little bit further. I think there's a kitchen sink in there somewhere, too.

"Silver Machine" by Hawkwind - actually I lied about the Motorhead track. There are two heavy metal songs you need to own, and Lemmy sings on both of them.

"Deeper Underground" - what is it with Jamiroquai? Jay's got the best soul voice since Stevie Wonder, he cooks up evil hooks, and he moves like he's slept in Vaseline all his life.

"I Ain't Ever Satisfied" - Steve Earle & the Dukes: there's a dusty, arid hopelessness about this song, perfectly conveyed by the almost-monotone vocals.



::: posted by Sun King at 11:07 PM


 
London Mar 20 2003

More faves from the vaults:

The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" - Music doesn't get more direct or all-consuming than this. Sure-fire contender for the Greatest Three-Minute Pop Song Ever. I got to see them last weekend at the St. Patrick's Day festival on the South Bank and they played this - oh how happy it made me.

"Women in Chains" - Tears for Fears. Simple, atmospheric, and totally hypnotic. Set Roland Orzabal's muted scream "Men of stone!" against the warm vocal of Oleta Adams.

"Needle & the Damage Done" - Pete Wylie and The Icicle Works. I didn't think Pete Wylie could do much more than shout until I heard this. Soul-seared harmonising on a haunting version of one of Neil Young's best songs. Comes from an obscure anti-drug compilation album I came across while on Radio Caroline.

Nick Lowe's "Tonight": One of the simplest heartfelt teenage love songs ever: "Tonight we're just a boy and girl/The only people in the world".

"Biko" - Peter Gabriel. The segue from "Nkosi Sikelele Africa" into the intro is totally compelling. The threat of the fuzzed guitar, the inevitability of the funeral drumbeat. And the lyrics: so simple, so effective.

"Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric - despair, hope and tuneful tunelessness. A love song for closing time.

"Effloresce and Deliquesce" - The Chills. One of the most atmospheric productions you're likely to hear: fantastic echoed guitars, coupled to sharp, observant lyrics. I still don't know what either "effloresce" or "deliquesce" mean.

"Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry. Nastiest bass line. Ever.

"Homburg" - Procol Harum should be better known for this song rather than "Whiter Shade of Pale". Lyrics are just as totally bonkers, the mood is the same, beautiful keyboards and Hammond organ.

"Ace of Spades" - Motorhead. If you have to own one heavy metal song, this should be it.

"Stay With Me" - The Faces. It's a loud, obnoxious, raucous, mysogynistic, funny, irresistible party. You will dance. And to think Rod Stewart gave this up for dross like "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy".....

"Let Love Rule" or "Mr Cab Driver" by Lenny Kravitz. Towards the end of both songs comes a moment when Lenny's voice breaks and it's the most damn soulful thing you ever heard.

"Tipitina" - Professor Longhair. A rolling New Orleans bar-room groove, a master of boogie-woogie at the keyboard, a few shots of tequila... all you need is a Cajun dictionary to work out what he's singing.

"Kiss Me Hardy" - Serge Gainsbourg. He doesn't make for comfortable listening, his lyrics are often deeply suspect, but he had an impeccable ear for rhythm and a tune. Maurice Chevalier wouldn't have stood a chance if Serge had been around a little earlier.

"Peach" - Once in a while Prince gets back to his roots. If Dirty Dancing was a sport, this would be the soundtrack.

"The Sound of Musik" - Falco. If you thought "Rock Me Amadeus" was over the top, this goes just that little bit further. I think there's a kitchen sink in there somewhere, too.

"Silver Machine" by Hawkwind - actually I lied about the Motorhead track. There are two heavy metal songs you need to own, and Lemmy sings on both of them.

"Deeper Underground" - what is it with Jamiroquai? Jay's got the best soul voice since Stevie Wonder, he cooks up evil hooks, and he moves like he's slept in Vaseline all his life.

"I Ain't Ever Satisfied" - Steve Earle & the Dukes: there's a dusty, arid hopelessness about this song, perfectly conveyed by the almost-monotone vocals.



::: posted by Sun King at 11:07 PM



Wednesday :::
 
London Mar 19 2003

More from the Radio Caroline diary

Mar 1988

Just as I was closing down the station last night, a boat from Holland came alongside, totally unannounced, carrying supplies and a new generator - our third. The crew of the Dutch boat had also been hired to repair the anchor chain, which is apparently rusted and decaying at the waterline.

So we were up until 5 am. stowing the supplies (mostly soda, beer and chocolate milk - yay!). This morning we had to take the generator aboard: it's a 50 kW job, weighs about three tons and is presently in 5 or 6 pieces.

The main problem was that the hatch covers to the hold were sealed shut. But the Dutch flexed their muscles and ripped the hatch off using a handy little crane they happened to have on their boat. And proceeded to lower the generator bits higgeldy-piggeldy into the hold.

Rumblings from the crew: "I suppose Ronan [the owner of Caroline] will want us to fit the damn thing and have it running by sunset..." Of course nobody has much idea how to assemble the thing and in any case without the crane we can barely move the alternator let alone the generator engine.

So we spent an eventful day welding rings to the hold's ceiling and stringing hoists and dragging everything around so we can at least lash it down.

The generator is likely to put out three times as much power as we have at the moment.

Technical note: The "Ross Revenge" is 300 feet long. The original mast was about 300 feet high, before it cut loose and walked off the ship in the wake of the hurricane in 1987. The new antenna array is a very rickety affair that works just as efficiently, BUT can only transmit one frequency.

The latest plot is to resurrect the short wave antenna for the ever-eager religious broadcasters.

Last night a long moaning session and discussion with James, one of the DJs, at the apparent lack of organisation. You have to wonder whether or not Ronan takes Caroline seriously. Look at this generator business: he makes a couple of calls, waves a chequebook around and that's it. We've had no warning of its arrival at all.

Also the problem of no money - James has a lot more experience of this, and says it's about time someone let Rnan know about the situation. However, Ronan DOES pay the crucial/essential staff - all 3 or 4 of them.

For a while last night it seemed we might be down to just 4 DJs, but we persuaded James not to leave with the Dutch boat.

Peter is selecting the new playlist - we had to shut down the station today because the Dutch crane was risking a quick blast of 50,000 volts, but there's been plenty to do.

Been seasick for the last two days, laid up in my bunk except for essential duties - like the show - and not keeping any food down. But yesterday another boat came alongside in the morning (they'd been anchored a mile away for 20 hours while the weather raged), and unloaded a new antenna, many more supplies, 3 relief DJs and one relief engineer. So now we have five and sometimes six DJs, and a whole pile of new records.

The new engineer has been filling us in on the latest plans - there's a whole mess of equipmentscheduled to come on board to help boost the 558 signal, resurrect the 819 signal, short-wave (for the God Squad) and...... FM!

Someone's calculated that an FM signal from a new 300-foot mast should scream all the way up the Thames estuary right into London. Apparently the station is currently the 4th most-listened to in London, with a potential audience of up to 25 million people.

This is all within the next two years - if the Department of trade and Industry's deregulation plans go into effect, the airwaves could become very crowded, very quickly and so an established FM station should clean up.

The only thing that keeps Caroline out *here* is the unpleasant insistence by politicians that radio content should be strictly regulated: only x many minutes per hour of music etc etc. A non-stop music station would wipe the floor with the Capitals of this world.

::: posted by Sun King at 2:00 PM



Saturday :::
 
London Mar 1 2003

Further Radio Caroline diary excerpts:

Feb 1988

Rumour has it we're going to be getting a new and more powerful generator. The last two months have been pretty strange from what I hear - the 300-foot tall array mast went overboard and was lost late last year, and the poor weather has meant that two weeks' work has taken two months.

For a while in 1986 there was some question as to whether the mast of the old Caroline ship - the "Mi Amigo" - was still visible. She sank years ago, but there are still those who say they can see her radio mast poking through the surface at low tide. The Laser 559 radio ship, the "Communicator", gave up the fight against the Department of Trade and Industry blockade and half-drifted, half0motored into Harwich harbour a year or so ago. The folks here were a little disappointed to lose the competition, even though Laser apparently knocked the spots off Caroline in terms of quality of broadcast. In any case, Caroline stole Laser's format and wavelength... imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

I've been coming across long-forgotten albums that I always jept meaning to buy, and so am very busy through the night making tapes of them. I "borrow" used tapes from the God Box in the back studio... occasionally there is some funny stuff that falls through the cracks: one tape I was using turned out to be a recording of features from "Punch" magazine, namely, a spoof of Idi Amin's memoirs.

Some of us are listening to a potential "payola" record at the moment: it's pretty dire stuff but the money will help out the land-based crew. The last two tender trips have been paid for by the shore manager - £250 each time. There really isn't much money around.

The sea is picking up a little today and we're definitely rolling, though I'm assured this is "mild" weather.

I've been reading up on the Radio Caroline history: it seems the UK government's efforts to close down Caroline tend to happen in 2-year cycles. in 1986 the DTI hired a ship to lay siege to the "Ross" and "Communicator" and effectively starve them into submission. The idea being that any UK-based vessel that came out to supply the radio ships would be impounded etc etc. There are newspaper cuttings plastered all over the walls, including one lovely note from the Independent Broadcasting Authority to all member stations, asking their staff to sooperate by giving names of any UK-based DJ's working on the ships: "while the staff of Laser all appear to be American, the Caroline jockeys all seem to be British. Any names or addresses would be appreciated."

Then there's the comedy about the 558 khz frequency: the DTI used to claim that 558 was an emergency/military frequency, but it now transpires that some new station in Essex wants to use that frequency, Lies, counter-espionage, warfare.

Just finished filing away the records and closing down the station at 1 a.m. Having only 5 DJs on board, each doing a 4-hour show, means we have four hours off-air so I, being the last one, play nightwatchman and have to wake Peter at 4 a.m. so he can be ready for 5 a.m.

Good weather forecast for this weekend, so we are expecting an Anorak Boat.

There are moments when being stuck out here, 15 miles offshore, can sem very claustrophobic. Late at night you can see the lights of Margate (or is it Ramsgate? who can tell), lights pf passing ferries and occasionally some larger traffic, and it feels wierd to be the only ones who aren't actually going anywhere.

There's been a rash of new music releases which we haven't been able to get hold of because there' s been no tender. So we've had to do a bit of electronic jiggery pokery. Peter videos all the music shows and transfers the music onto cassette, then to reel-to-reel and finally onto a cartridge tape: it's an bit of a long-winded operationa nd I'm sure a lot of sound quality is lost, but hey, it's a budget operation!

Steve spent an afternoon in the back studio doing an extended remix of Kylie Minogue - we only got about 2 and a half usable minutes on video, so he's had to loop a chorus or two and add some effects to fill it out. We'll be calling it the Caroline Remix, of course.

Some of the "privations" on board are a bit tough - the freshwater tanks have all been contaminated with saltwater, so our coffee, tea, showers etc all have a healthy kick to them. I'll be sticking to orange juice as long as I can. The cigarette supply has run out, so there's some pretty desperate scratching around going on.

And the station format can be a little stifling as well. The only real freedom we have is what we say over the intros to the records, and the order in which we play the records (always ensuring it is from the appropriate category for that particular slot). If you're very lucky you can string together a series of about six songs that follow a particular style.

Every DJ has to make an "aircheck" tape of all shis or her shows. The tape start srolling on every time the microiphone is switched on - a way of checking up on performance, if you like. The DJ guidelines make the point that Caroline only interrupts the music when we're paid to do so. And since we're only running three advertisements (Canadian lottery, Newsweek magazine, the Caroline Roadshow), there's not a lot of reason to interrupt records.

One of the advantages of being on board is that the generators run around the clock, so we have constant heat and hot water. Showers are never a problem.

::: posted by Sun King at 9:49 AM



Monday :::
 
London Feb 24 2003

More music:

"White Punks on Dope" - The Tubes. Fast, furious, this one bleeds all over the speakers and then comes back for more. If you know the Tubes, you know you can't take this seriously, since they satirised just about everything they came across in their early days, but lord, there wasn't much around in 1977 that came close to this for balls-to-the-wall rock. Two drummers, three guitars and a singer wearing a Bacofoil jockstrap and twelve-inch stack heels, these guys made Alice Cooper look like Moby.

"Surrender" - Cheap Trick: Why weren't these guys huge? They had the nous to take hard rock and splice it to the Beatles, they had the pretty-boy singer, the wacky guitarist and the doleful drummer thing all perfectly arranged. There are so many terrific Cheap Trick songs, this is just one of the best. Fab chorus for "the kids".

"Little Does She Know" - Kursaal Flyers. Right up there at the top of the list of forgotten classics, a mini pop-opera that just gets better and better. This one came out around the same as a lot of pub-rock in the lat 70s, and got a little lost among the Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds/Eddie and the Hot Rods/Dr Feelgood noise, but it's got one foot back in the 60s when songs told a story - sort of a Jilted John thing.

"Come and Get It" - Badfinger. Absolutely fan-bloody-tastic.

"Downtown Train" - Tom Waits wrote this and no matter how many folks cover it, his sandpaper vocals are the definite take on the song. It's about as close to a straight love song you're going to hear this man perform. Avoid all imitations.

"Don't Come Around Here No More" - Tom Petty's last truly GREAT song. This one is a killer: it's bitter, twisted, the drum/cymbal patter drives gently but firmly, the sitar gives the song a slight left-field feel, and the pain in Tom's voice would squeeze tears from a rock. This one can be handily dedicated to girlfriends who've just dumped you for the nth time.

"All or Nothing" - The Small Faces. I don't think there've been many performers able to convey the passion and anguish that the late Steve Marriott showed: there's always the feeling that this song is just about to spin out of control. The Small Faces were possibly the greatest British band of the sixties, they got the mix between rock and soul spot on, something only the Manic Street Preachers seem to have these days.

"Beasley Street" - John Copper Clarke: It's a poem, it shouldn't even need to be set to a backing track: it's a savage, pustulent, weeping sore of a poem that goes straight to the bottom of the pile of human experience, and it's brilliant.

::: posted by Sun King at 9:50 PM


 
London Feb 23 2003

Excerpt from a diary kept while on board the "Ross Revenge", home of Radio Caroline, in 1988.

Getting out to the "Ross" is an exercise in paranoia - original travel routes had to be scrapped and by the time we got to the port, the weather had kicked up and the whole affair began to look a little dangerous. Fun way to spend Valentine's Day.

The tender that was taking us out to the ship was about 25 feet long, a glass-reinforced plastic fishing boat: crowded with the usual fishing paraphernalia and the ton or so of supplies we had to take out to the "Ross". Bread, drinks, tinbs, electrical components, gas bottles for the cooker, newspapers, etc etc.

Fist myth destroyed: the tender doesn't go out every month. No daily deliveries of anything. So the SUnday papers we took out were the first the crew had seen in a month.

It tok three hours of battling a heavy northeasterly swell to get out to the "Ross". Once in the area, we had to collect ourselves for the final assault. The "Ross Revenge" is around 180-200 feet long, and the seas were running at about 10 feet. So the little tener had to be loosely tied on, fendered all down the side, and we had to pass over the supplies each time the swells crested annd brought us up to deck level. Stirring stuff. There were two of us going on board, myself and Robbie Jay, and four crew leaving.

The crew had been running short of a few supplies, and the most eagerly-awaited were the cigarettes. Seems we only brought 400 or so, so it'll be cold turkey in a few days.

The arrival an changeover took about an hour (3-4 a.m.) and the seven remaining crew stowed the supplies and generally got to know each other. The station had been off-air for most of the day so the antenna array could be re-strung and re-tuned. Apparently, Caroline had been putting out about 2 kilowatts of signal, but it's thought to be more like 3.5 kW now, all from a 5kW generator.

I went on air at 1 a.m. this morning, did a 4-hour non-stop music show, and tonight I'm on the 9 p.m.-1 a.m. show.

The boat is a revelation. The "Ross" is a former Atlantic trawler, huge and very roomy. Each of the crew has their own cabin, the old mess-room is now a lounge and day-room, complete with TV and video library. The newsroom is in the former chart room behind the bridge. Computer, printer, TV screen showing Oracle and Ceefax for the news and the record library list, from which the shows are picked. The bridge is apparently fully operational, satellite navigation, radio etc.

There are three studios on the "Ross": the Caroline 558 studio and a defunct Dutch station, Monique are side by side, separated by a glass panel, and a third studio is way back towards the stern and not used for much beyond production. The record library is just below the bridge, with 11,000 records to choose from, a stereo and carrier-current speakers to monitor the broadcast.

The programme format is very simple, all music, minimal chat. The music is selected by the producer from the music list and mixes contemporary "heavy-rotation" with classic hits. The CHR stuff is all pretty much Top 40, slightly rock-oriented. For what it's worth, the first tune I cied up on my first show was Marillion's "Incommunicado".

The CHR music is kept in the studio at all times, while the classic stuff has to be picked out from the library. Each show has a strict order of play, mixing in the old with the new. The only slightly disconcerting facet is that the entire record library is kept chronologically rather than alphabetically.

The "Ross" rolls about in the heavy seas, not enough to jump the needle on the turntables, but with the studio chair on wheels, it can be a little like human pinball in there. The chief engineer reckons we've been lucky so far, given the time of year.

Maintaining the equipment takes up a lot of time - we're always shoring up the broadcast equipment and trying to improvise: the insulation for the antenna array is sometimes made out of plastic buckets... at night you can sometimes see sparks dancing along the array and it's quite a sight.

There are constant reminders of the pirate status of Radio Caroline: news cuttings, posters and a vague feeling that we're being monitored. I've looked through some of the listeners' letters, revealing some seriously devoted fans. Caroline has been running a short-wave service as well, that broadcasts religious stuff to eastern Europe and that's been one of the few sources of revenue. There's a storage room opposite the rear studio that's full of what are called "God Boxes", each one holding a mass of tapes of previous religious broadcasts.

There seems to be a healthy bit of support for Caroline, even stuck out here in the North Sea: the Olau Line ferrries pass close by and you get a lot of waves and calling from the passengers, fishermen will come alongside and toss up the occasional fish. And of course there are the weekend visits from charter boats full of Caroline fans.

5:30 p.m. I've just pulled out all the records for my show, and done some intro timing to work out where I can do voiceovers. The policy is "No Dead Air" which gives us a little leeway for chat and the like, but not a lot. And once you're in the studio, juggling with the pots, the masters and the go button, it can get a little hairy. The turntables are operated by "stop" and "gamble" buttons taken from a slot machine.

Upstairs I can hear Peter typing up the news stories for the top of the hour, and they're cooking supper down below.

::: posted by Sun King at 12:30 PM



Thursday :::
 
London Feb 20 2003

On a totally different topic today, and one I'm going to have to revisit often....

I had a gig once as a radio DJ, which is just about as close to heaven as I think I'm going to get on this planet. Me and 30,000 records in a confined space, the time to explore and the tools to record the stuff I liked. I finished the gig with boxes of cassettes that I'd used to record random songs I came across and sometimes even got to play. I'm not one of those anal types who insist that the record has to be in mint condition, in its original sleeve or whatever: all I care is that I'm into the tune.

So I'm going to bore you with a periodic trawl through the collection. Starting today. But first, a couple of warnings - this stuff is commercial. I'm not John Peel, OK?

"Love Like Blood". They liked their apocalypses, did Killing Joke. An unstoppable, insistent bassline, washes of ominous organ and huge glass shards of guitar. Funky, in a nuclear kind of way. It echoes, it cuts and it glooms big-time.

"Come Back!" - The Mighty Wah! A love song to a city, if there could be such a thing. There's this massive, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production and Pete Wylie's got this soul thing going to match the passion of the lyric. There's a fantastic instrumental version of this that you can loop into a never-ending mellow bass background track.

"Me in Honey" - REM. The clincher here is the B52's Kate Pierson in the background doing this zombified droning, and it really really works. Michael Stipe plaintively, achingly, wailing "what about me??" at the end is one of those perfect hair-raising moments that I always wait for. Not sure why, but this song makes me think of sex.

"All Is Forgiven" by Jellyfish - I was just about the biggest Jellyfish fan going. They had this Beach Boys-meets-Stevie Wonder in Todd Rundgren's head vibe which made them incredibly fun to listen to. And they wrote intelligent lyrics which is always a bonus. This one's a full-on racket, just about to go out of control, and then they stop for a second to do this amazing "aaaahhhhhhhhh" in perfect harmony.

"Desperadoes Under the Eaves" - Warren Zevon. The most under-rated songwriter/lyricist of the last 30 years, bar none. He's like this scruffy, mumbling street person who picks over the rubbish in the street and stops passers-by to tell them something that they'll remember the next day and think, "You know, he's absolutely right!" He writes angry songs, sad songs, funny songs and each one sticks in your head.

"Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" - The Hooters. It took me about a minute before I realised what song this is, and then I was thinking: "Damn, that's clever!" Deconstructing a classic.

"Ocean Spray" - I never thought the Manic Street Preachers could make a pop song but here's one. They have this passion that nobody else even gets close to.

"One of Those Days In England (Parts 2-10)" - Roy Harper. Never mind he's an ancient hippy, never mind he's always been slightly the other side of bonkers, this is stunning. A rambling but focused epic, stuffed full of philosophy and Olde England references, a treat for the ears as well as for the brain.

"Sweet Jane" - Cowboy Junkies: It's not quite like playing the Velvet Underground original at 33 rpm instead of 45, but it's damn close. There's a groove that you think you can ignore, but it's so insidious and so strong despite sounding like nothing at all. And the voice sends shivers up my spine.

"I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight" - Richard and Linda Thompson: A perfect three-minute folk opera. It's like listening to an ancient folk song about being down the pub last Friday night. I like the version with the brass band, gives the song a sort of marching feel to it.

"The Great Gig in the Sky" - Pink Floyd. Stately piano, gorgeous swooning guitars, and then Clare Torry's feral, orgasmic keening. A song that proves how sex and death are just opposite sides of the same coin. Every time I hear this I just stop whatever I'm doing and let it wash all over me.

"Superstition". I miss Stevie Ray Vaughan. He did things with a guitar Clapton could only dream about. If you thought Stevie Wonder's original was was funky, this is downright dirty.

"I Saw the Light" - Todd Rundgren's mad-genius ultimate three-minute pop song, just to prove he could do it better than anyone else. So much of what he's done is kind of hard to get into, but once in a while he comes up with something that's just so perfect - plays every instrument, sings all the harmonies, writes the perfect hook. Damn.

"Movin On Up" - Primal Scream. Gospel dance rock. It's as if Sly Stone got religion, discovered guitars and took downers all at the same time. I like to play this one LOUD.

"Say It Ain't So Joe" - Murray Head. The most wondrous singing ever committed to record. He goes from this thin, warbly squeak all the way to serious passion. It's probably one of the saddest songs ever written, and one of the most beautiful. Steer clear of Roger Daltrey's pale imitation.

I'm going to bore for England on this topic.

::: posted by Sun King at 10:40 PM



Tuesday :::
 
London Feb 18 2003

Central London Congestion Charge - Day Two

Seems as though Our Ken has got away with his Congestion Charge for the moment - so far, the streets are fairly empty in central London. But you really have to admire the balls of the guy - he launched the Charge during half-term, so that traffic levels are anything up to 25% less than normal due to the fact that there are no brainless (and sadly, usually female) twits using their three-ton sport utility vehicles to drive their one kid the five hundred yards to school at the moment. Hey presto! Instant 25% reduction in traffic, clearly DIRECTLY attributable to the Congestion Charge. Ho-hum.

Better yet, there are dark whispers doing the rounds concerning traffic light phasing - folks are suggesting that some time ago, Ken instructed traffic managers to adjust the traffic lights' phasing to add to congestion. And now that the Congestion Charge has been launched, he's instructed the traffic managers to re-adjust the traffic lights phasing to reduce waiting times and hence congestion. Hey presto! Instant improvement in traffic flow, clearly DIRECTLY attributable to the Congestion Charge.

Meanwhile Steven Norris, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, has said he will scrap the Congestion Charge if elected. Yeah, right. I'm sorry, didn't the Labour party promise an ethical foreign policy, banning weapons sales to dictatorships etc etc, once it was elected? How many promised reverses in policy have actually happened when the opposition is elected? Norris is going to have to justify scrapping a system that cost however many TENS of million pounds to install, not to mention FOREGO the hundreds of millions of pounds in revenues the Congestion Charge is projected to bring in. I somehow think this is one decision he'd find very easy to reverse if he got into office.

One the subject of sport utility vehicles (as I was way back at the start of this), could someone enlighten me as to the point of these cars? They feature four-wheel drive (helping to propagate the myth that London really is back in the dark ages - Yo! Carmakers! We have REAL ROADS HERE!), gasoline consumption somewhere below that of a 747 (Yo! Carmakers! How big a kickback are you getting from the oil companies?), they're wider than the average Thames barge (which makes driving through suburban streets a real lottery when one of these mammoths comes along), they can usually accomodate seven passengers, yet they never seem to carry more than three people at any one time (Yo! Carmakers! Notice how popular the Mini is?). In short, they're an insult to our collective intelligence: better still, they are a completely accurate and infallible way to identify the idiots among us.

Rant over.

::: posted by Sun King at 1:39 PM






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