Yes, I know, I'm late. Contrast Podcast came out this past Tuesday and I'm only now getting around to posting about it. I'm a delinquent FiL...
This week saw a celebration of 78 rpm vinyl. Indeed, skool doesn't get much older than that, unless you go back to wax cylinders. And what an eclectic celebration it is! Everything from Elvis to Hawaiian hula to Ferrante & Teicher. Truly one of the more contrastic podcasts of late. So don't pull your nose just because there's no Wedding Present, Sufjan Stevens, or Arcade Fire - have a listen to it here and expand your musical horizons! And if you want the tracklisting or are minded to comment, then pop on over here.
Unfortunately I no longer have any 78 rpm records; I believe they got lost somewhere between multiple moves and one basement flood. But my choice this week, Gracie Fields' "Biggest Aspidistra In The World," though ripped from a CD, was originally released back in 1938 on a 78. I was first introduced to Gracie Fields's music some thirteen years ago, under circumstances that spawned what are probably permanent emotional resonances.
Though born Up North in Derbyshire, My Great Uncle Don lived for most of his life in Shoeburyness, close to Southend-on-Sea in Essex. That's about forty miles due East of London. He was a pharmacist and for many years he and his wife, Ida, ran a local chemists in nearby Westcliff-on-Sea. My Father was very close to his Uncle Don and Aunt Ida, and while a teenager and a young adult in the 1940s and 1950s he would frequently visit them, often taking his rugby friends along. He regarded them almost as parents and spoke very fondly both of them and of his time in Southend. Ah, the Kursaal...
For the first few years that I lived in the UK, I would go down from Cambridge to Shoeburyness every so often to visit Uncle Don. By that time he was a widower in his late eighties. Uncle Don looked like a cross between a bulldog and a stout Flemish duchess and was always dapperly dressed in Marks & Spencer best. He was an infallibly polite man, though he held very strong conservative views and did not suffer fools gladly. He also had an dryly impish sense of humour.
My visits always followed the same script. After arriving at Southend Central train station on a Sunday, I would take a taxi to his modest bungalow near the seashore and then we would make our way to Thorpe Hall Golf Club, where he was a highly respected member emeritus. We would first have a drink in the club bar --Uncle Don always had a bottle of Worthington's White Shield strong pale ale-- then decamp to the dining room for a traditional English lunch of overcooked vegetables, decent roast meat of some sort, and a sticky pudding. We would then return to his bungalow, settle into his 1949 vintage sitting room, and chat for a while.
While conversation was occasionally grueling (due largely to his Northern taciturnity), more often than not I got him talking about my Father and The Old Days, and I just lapped up his stories. After a while he would suggest I put the kettle on and we would then sup tea with the TV on until he fell asleep in his armchair. I would then wait a respectable period of time, then loudly declare, as if we had been chatting all along, that Goodness, I'd better think about catching my train back to Cambridge.
Upon getting back to my digs, I would ring my Father in New York to relay the essence of my visit. It was usually late, and I would frequently be grumpy and irritated as a result of British Rail delays. Dad would always thank me for having gone to see Uncle Don, as distance and circumstance meant that he couldn't do so himself. And I was always pleased that I had been able to do it for him, pleased enough to significantly mitigate the irritation and grump.
In late 1994, at the age of 92, Uncle Don took rather poorly. After a spell in a nursing home, he was admitted to hospital following a suspected mild stroke. At the time I had just started work in The City and was in the midst of a distasteful crash-course on Basic Accounting For The Numerically Challenged. Nevertheless, a sense of urgency settled over my debit and credit thoughts, so I told my Father that I would go visit him one evening at Rochford Hospital. When I finally arrived, some two hours after setting out (thanks again, British Rail), I wasn't even certain whether or not he knew I was there; his eyes stared fixedly at the ceiling, and a horrid, raspy breathing laboured out of his gaping mouth. I told him that my Father sent his love and jabbered about I-remember-not-what for about fifteen minutes before taking my leave. He died later that night. My father was more grateful than ever that I had made the visit.
In planning the funeral, my Father asked me to track down a copy of Gracie Field's "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye." Apparently Uncle Don had mentioned to Dad that he'd quite like to have that jaunty song played at his funeral. I located a Gracie compilation, and on the appointed day the song duly rang forth as a conveyor belt carried Uncle Don's coffin from an achingly kitsch chapel into the flaming heart of Southend Crematorium. I remember my Father sobbing openly, oblivious to the confusion of the other attendees who had not been forewarned of the musical choice.
So that's how I met Gracie. And every time I hear her, I think of Uncle Don, overcooked vegetables, Southend-on-Sea, Worthington's White Shield, and journeys on old British Rail slam-door trains.
And of my Father. Crying.
Gracie Fields - Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye (buy here or e-here)
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Posted by FiL at 9/29/2007 03:19:00 PM
Monday, September 24, 2007
That Iranian president guy, wozzisname, Ahmadinejad. Yeah, him wot spoke at Columbia University today. Anyway, put aside the nuclear question. Ignore his crackpot views on the Holocaust. And on women. What really got me was this:
"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it."
Er, maybe that's because the regime has either killed them all or beaten it out of them?
Woman + woman, woman + man, man + man. It's all the same. Or should be.
Hey, look! A video! Pay attention, kiddies.
Senseless Things - Homophobic Asshole
Oh, alright. And just to drive home the point, here's a dab of queercore for you:
Pansy Division - Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other (buy here)
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I know this isn't a particularly original question. Indeed, it's a rather tired, cliched one that I've often seen trotted out in weak stand-up comedy routines and small-talk circles. But I'm going to ask it anyway:
What is it about cars that turns men into drooling, acerebral, aggressive baboons?
I ask because two separate incidents over the past week each brought the query to mind. Two times that led me to ponder whether castration might actually be a useful tool for social control.
I usually drive into work fairly early each morning, when the roads are fairly empty and the sun, at least this time of the year, is just starting to poke over the horizon. Our local speed limit is 50 KPH, but I usually tool along the long, straight stretch of my journey at the constabularially-accepted 60 KPH. I was doing just that one morning when a big, fuck-off pickup truck roared up behind me, and sat on my tailgate. I maintained my speed, and I could feel the hostility drilling through the back windscreen into my skull.
I slowed to a stop at a red light, next to a brightly-clad and lit bicyclist waiting to my right. The fuck-off truck pulled over slightly to the right and stopped, right behind the cycle. Just before the light turned green, the cyclist started off (naughty, naughty) and I did the same when the light actualy turned. Fuck-Off Truck then gunned his engine, swung right into the intersection, then left in an attempt to cut in front of me. I could see there was about two car lengths between me/Fuck-Off and the cyclist, and less than a length between the cyclist and a rw of parked cars dead ahead of him. I had a flash vision of a car-crash club sandwich consisting of me, Fuck-Off, a parked car, and cyclist-as-ketchup. So I hit the breaks and let Fuck-Off craze in front of and ahead of me, and past the oblivious cyclist. As he did, I glanced and noted that he was definitely a he. Thoughts of sheep-shears and de-orchidation crossed my mind and followed him as he roared away dig at least 80 KPH, though they were somewhat tempered by smugness when, still sticking at 60 KPH, I caught up with him at the next traffc light.
The other incident occurred last weekend, when I was taking Little Man and Dearest Daughter to some regular activity or other. I was pootling aong my normal route, and approached from the south a four-lane avenue in preparation of crossing it. As I rolled to a stop I spied a lady in a flourescent jacket standing in the gap of the grassy central reservation that divided the eastbound and westbound lanes. She was holdng a stop sign and pointed to my right. I then looked past her and caught sight of flocks of cyclists whizzing past. Some sort of sportng event. Mildly miffed, I huffed and turned right, hoping to turn left at he next intersection and continue on my way. Only there were similar flourescent people at all the intersections for the next several blocks.
Miffed grew to frustrated, frustrated grew to fuming, and I launched a mini-rant about the bloody cheek of it all and the stupidity of shutting down a large stretch of a major road without warning and how we were going to be late. The bairns were uncharacteristically silent. So I dipsied, and I doodled, and found an alternate route. I noted we were only about five minutes behind schedule, then realized that even if we were late it wouldn't have been a huge deal. Fuming then turned to sheepish. So I told Little Man and Darling Daughter that Daddy had been really silly, shouldn't have made such a fuss about nothing, and had forgotten that grumping soles nothing. They agreed with me. But I silently wondered why sitting behind the wheel had caused such a rush of testosterone to the brain...
So, I repeat: What is it about cars that turns men --myself occasionally included-- into drooling, acerebral, aggressive baboons??
Catatonia - Road Rage (buy here )
Oh, my lovely Cerys, you give me road rage summat fierce...
Fu Manchu - King of the Road (buy here)
No, this isn't Roger Miller's "trailer-for-sale-or-rent" ditty. This is the heavy, heavy stoner sound of SoCal's Manchus.
The Normal - Warm Leatherette (buy here)
Bleepy, whiny, antiseptic, early Mute magnificence. All hail the Korg 700s.
Prolapse - Autocade (buy here)
Ooooh, any excuse to post summat from these Leicester-born, arty post-punks who are, alas, no longer with us. NOTE: Be very careful when Googling Prolapse as you may run into some very unpleasant stuff...
Drive Like Jehu - Atom Jack (buy here)
This band looked to the Bible for their name, specifically 2 Kings 9.20: "and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously." But this ain't no Christian rock, boys & girls. In 1995 frontman Speedo ditched DLJ in favour of his other project, the mighty Rocket From The Crypt.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
This week the seventy-seventh episode of Contrast Podcast takes us back to 1977. Ah, what a year! You see, dearest Friends, 1977 was my Year Zero.
I saw Star Wars for the first time in 1977 and my eight-year-old imagination was completely enraptured. Thirty years on, the film still gives me thrills and chills, which I'm hopefully imparting to my very own children. Why, just the other day Little Man and I watched Empire Strikes Back together and now we have a splendid little game where I wheeze like an asthmatic scuba diver and proclaim in a Vaderian rumble "I AM YOUR FATHER!!" Little Man squeals in delight, retracts his arm into his sleeve, and runs around gleefully shouting "AAAAH! You cut off my hand!!" Yes, the delight continues.
The second Year Zero dawned when I first heard 1977's Never Mind The Bollocks as a callow, Billy-Joel-fed teen. It was a lightning bolt; then and there I knew nothing would ever be the same.
And so, now have a listen to 1977 through the eyes and ears of the Contrast Podcast contributors:
(00:00) The Pockets - Doin’ the do
Tim from The face of today
(03:08) The Clash - 1977
FiL from Pogoagogo
(07:07) Jackson Browne - Nothing but time
Marcy from Lost in your inbox
(10:54) Elvis Costello - Watching the detectives
Lyle from Mentok the Mind-taker
(16:40) The Fall - Last orders
Chris from Phosphorous.net
(19:30) Fleetwood Mac - Never going back again
Anna from Music I-Quiz
(22:58) The Saint Orchestra - The Return of The Saint
Shaun from Cold Citrus
(26:28) T.Rex - Dandy in the underworld
Natalie from Mini-obs
(31:46) The Heartbreakers - One track mind
ZB from So the wind won’t blow it all away
(34:35) David Bowie - Heroes
The Duke of Straw from The Late Greats
(38:28) Led Zeppelin - Rock and roll
James from Jamesisadork
(42:26) Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
Linda from Speed of dark
(47:53) AC/DC - Whole lotta Rosie
Dweller from Child without an iPod
(54:18) Ian Dury - Blockheads
Crash from Pretending life is like a song
(58:28) The Vibrators - You broke my heart
Mark from Cinema du Lyon
The Cortinas - Fascist Dictator (buy here or e-here or on eBay if you want the original 7")
Bristol band who wore their R&B influences on their leather sleeves. Picked their name cos it sounded cheap & nasty, just like the car.
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Mittageisen (buy here)
The lovely Siouxsie slid into punk as part of the Bromley Contingent, a group of fans who followed round after The Pistols. First Banshees gig was an impromptu filler slot at the notorious 100 Club Punk festival in December 1976, with none other than Sid Vicious on drums. They played a rambling version of The Lord's Prayer. Hallowed be their name...
The Damned - Neat Neat Neat (buy here)
Second single from these original editions, who are still going strong. They've been referred to as "The Beatles of punk" due to their longevity and influence. And if they end up like the Rolling Stones we'll never know, since gothy lead singer Dave Vanian has always brought an element of the undead to their performances (boom-boom, no, please hold your applause).
X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage, Up Yours [Live] (buy here or e-here)
Fronted by the snotty, spotty, lippy, and formidable Polly Styrene, this lot made a righteous din and used sax to great effect. Here you have them loud & live at The Roxy, which for a brief, shining moment was one of the epicentres of London punk.
The Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen [Live] (again, try eBay if you're keen)
Surely you don't need me to explain who these lads are... Here for your consideration is a vinyl rip from a bootleg recording of a couple of 1977 Swedish concerts. The sound quality is crap, but listen for the feeling more than the sound fidelity. You'll get the point.
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Love Comes In Spurts (buy here )
Ah, we cannot forget the Yankee cousins. Indeed, punk arguably started in the Yoo Ess ov Aaay, c.f. New York Dolls, The Ramones, et. al. Indeed, Malcom McLaren, the crafty impresario behind The Pistols, claims the Kentucky-born Hell gave him (and therefore his wife, Vivienne Westwood) the idea for all that safety-pin-and-torn-clothing gubbins. The Pistols say McLaren is full of shit.
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Born to Lose (buy here or e-here)
Huzzah for ZB!!! He has most excellent taste!! Noo Yoiker Thunders started out as bassist for the incomparable New York Dolls before plowing his own punk furrow. Richard Hell was also a Heartbreaker for a while. Thunders made his guitar scream, hung out with The Ramones, and necked all sorts of illicit substances. In 1991 he was found dead under a coffee table in his New Orleans hotel room, contorted "like a pretzel." Rumours of foul play still abound.
Oh, and you MUST have a wee viddy of how it all was:
Those nice Sex Pistols:
Oh Siouxsie! Sigh...
Ms Styrene & her X-Ray Spex:
Next week, more numerical japery as Tim asks us to contribute songs that would have originally been released on 78 RPM records. We're talking real old school. How can you contribute? Well, find out over here.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Top of the class!!!
So, Dearest Friends, it's that glorious time of the year when those of us with offspring dance a merry jig of relief as wee Cressida and Tarquin return to the hallowed halls of edjikaishun. Hip! No more whines of "Daddy, I'm BORED, there's NOTHING to do!!" Hip! No more scraping young faces off of TV screens after multi-hour Babarfests. Hooray! No more negotiations over extended bedtimes because it's still light and we have no school tomorrow.
But then there's also the Yah! of no more long afternoons spent discovering beachcombing treasure. The Boo! of waiting another year until the next PNE. The Sucks! of no more leisurely barbecues that ignore prescribed lights-out time.
You can't win. Or lose.
Anyway, yes, this week it's Back to School of the bairns, and also for Contrast Podcast! The curriculum for this week looks, as usual, extremely varied and rich. So sit up, no talking, download the 'cast here, and write your essays here. Pay attention: the lesson is about to begin...(00:00) Cocoanut Groove - End of the summer on Bookbinder Road
Tim from The face of today
In packing my schoolbag, I carefully considered what ditty to bring to class. Here are the ones that almost made the grade:
GWAR - School's Out (buy here)
A cover of the Alice Cooper classic, soaked in GWAR's patented blend of bodily fluids. Dismissed on the basis that the theme was back to school, not school's out. But then again the lyrics do exclaim "School's out for-EVAHHHH!!"
The Adored - Chemistry (buy here)
I hated chemistry, but our high school chem teacher was a scream. An unprepossessing dwarf of a Hungarian, he would regale us with low-key stories of being arrested as a lad for dropping boxes of sodium from Budapest bridges into the Danube (sodium + water = BOOOOM!). Oh, the Adored? Hollywood power pop punx in something of a 1977 stylee, and new best friends of Buzzcocks. Rather nice fellows too, even if ex-singer Ryan put a boot in my ear when I saw them support Messrs Shelly & Diggle.
OK, I know I missed teaching you the Moustache class last week. But I, er, um, have a doctor's note. Yeah, that's it. Anyway, your homework for next week: 1977. Learn how to submit your assignment here.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I stumbled across Rodney DeCroo purely by chance. It was the morning of a July Saturday, the second day of the Vancouver Folk Festival, and I was hanging out with Darling Daughter. I thought the Brand New Old School session looked promising, with Old Man Luedecke on that bill. So we settled down at Stage Two.
Sharing the stage was The Trucker's Memorial, an unassuming duo consisting of a bewhiskered DeCroo and the bespectacled Rae Spoon. My friends, Dearest Daughter and I were transfixed by the lovely alt-country they spun. And when Rodney's aching, gravelly voice got two-thirds through the poignant "Blue Rooms," tears welled up suddenly behind my sunglasses.
When comes the day for me to die
Well, I hope no-one I know
Sits around and cries
'Cause I've just gone back
To my place in that sky
Darling Daughter, seated in front of me intently watching the stage, didn't notice. For that I was grateful; while I think I could have tried to explain how DeCroo had managed in one simple verse to tap into a reservoir of loss I'd filled over the past year, it would have been, well, awkward.
My festival volunteering commitments meant I was only able to catch a brief additional glimpse of Trucker's Memorial onstage that weekend. But I loaded up on a couple of CDs, since what I had heard had left me eager to hear more. So what do you get, Dear Friends, when you listen to Rodney DeCroo? You get honest, raw, gritty, lucid, songs set to paced, elegantly sufficient country strumming. Stories of disappointment, hurt, regret, longing, and realization. And to misquote Johnny Rotten, he means every single word of it, maaan. You want soul? You got it here in spades. He lays it bare for you to see and hear, but without the melodrama and airbrushing of mainstream C&W.
Alright, alright, I hear you all clamouring for comparisons, for waypoints, for metaphor. Sigh, how to do this without sounding trite? Oh well, here goes: take the absolute best bits of Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan (yes, I know, even I can see there are good bits of Dylan), a handful of gravel, a lungful of cigarette smoke, and a bucket of pain and foibles. Mix them all up real good in a pair of battered cowboy boots, then pour into a six-string. And enjoy.
DeCroo's background certainly gives one a good idea of the rough grit whence his music springs. He grew up in a Bible-bashingly Baptist, blue-collar Pittsburg home. His Vietnam-vet father took the family to Canada when he was five so as to avoid a second tour of duty. However, the war had already damaged his psyche and DeCroo's mother took little Rodney back to Pittsburgh for safety. The teen years were (mis)spent up to no good, and at sixteen he fled the cops to Canada, where he joined his father drinking and brawling around the seamier, gothicky bits of the BC interior. After a few years bumming around Vancouver in a similar self-destructive vein and style, DeCroo found college and music, in that order. And things began to turn around, somewhat.
I was fortunate enough to chat with Rodney a couple of times during the festival, and what struck me most about him was his kindness and generosity. Indeed, his gentleness seemed at odds with his history, and I caught myself later on thinking that maybe the press releases and articles I had read after our meeting had exaggerated his past. But I think that through the another kind of grit, the kind that's synonymous with fortitude, he has shaped the man he is today out of the man he was.
Speaking of his generosity, Rodney was kind enough to share with me a few unreleased tracks, which I can't wait to share in turn with you. All of them are simply fantastic. But first, if you're keen to get your mitts on his material (and you SHOULD be by now!), you can start with his 2004 album, Rodney DeCroo And The Killers (no, not those Killers, silly!) which you can e-buy here or purchase here. His 2006 release, War Torn Man, you can e-buy here or get in hard copy here. Then there's the magnificent Trucker's Memorial CD, which you can get from here . Finally, he is frequently on the road, so drop by his Myspace page to find out when he's next in your neck of he woods. Then go see him. Vancouverites, take note: he plays the Red Room on 27 September.
Right, onto the music - enjoy!
Rodney DeCroo - War Torn Man
Alternate version of the song from the live album of the same name. A stark, powerfully haunting track about DeCroo's scarred father. "Once I heard my daddy cry / I was six and I didn't know why / All alone in the living room dark / With a bottle and a shotgun and a bombed-out heart."
Rodney DeCroo with Sam Parton - Rain Rain
Unreleased duet with Sam Parton of local Vancouver bluesy folksters The Be Good Tanyas. The released version can also be found on War Torn Man.
Rodney DeCroo with Sam Parton - Black Earth Green Fields
The Be Good Tanya lends her talents on this track as well. Apparently a DeCroo/Parton collaborative album is due out sometime this year, which, based on these two tracks, is indeed something to look forward to!
Rodney Decroo - Mocking Bird
Another beautifully sparse and unsettling track of withered love and betrayal.
I'm mighty pleased to have made Rodney DeCroo's acquaintance. Even if he did make me cry like a wimp.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
The phone rang at six-thirty this morning, the first of the Labour Day long weekend.
Dearest Wife answered it, but it was for me. A colleague in Ontario, some three hours ahead, who needed something urgently and was taking me up on my kind offer, made yesterday in a fit of sympathy, to help her out should she need it, seeing as she was working on a Saturday.
So I hauled my arse out of bed, showered, and drove to the office, all a-grumble.
But you know what, Dearest Friends? It all turned out good. In fact, MUCH better than good.
It was a sunny morning.
I had a pleasant natter with the security guard at the office, who told me a thrilling story about the time he escaped just before his truck was flattened by the payload of a Martin Mars water bomber.
It took me an easy fifteen minutes to sort out my colleague.
On the spur of the moment, I decided to swing by Granville Island, pick up a bag of fresh, hot bagels, and score a delish JJ Bean latte for myself and Dearest Wife.
The barista complemented me on my cool t-shirt.
And on the way home, I slipped some crucial dub sounds into the CD playah and had a rare connect-the-dots moment somewhere around Dunbar and 21st when it all came together, it all made sense, and was all crystal-clear, despite (because of?) the windscreen vibrating from all that bass.
It's going to be a fantastic day.
Max Romeo & The Upsetters - One Step Forward (buy here)
Dearest Friends, it was a fantastic day. Little Man, Dearest Father-in-Law, and I first headed to Gastown to see a classic car concours d'elegance. My dream car is probably now a 1937 Packard sedan, though I'd have to retrofit it with a hybrid engine and airbags.
While ogling autos, we stopped at a Starbucks for refreshments. As we sipped, Billy Bragg and Wilco came on the stere-ere-ereo singing California Stars. And dammit if I didn't have another one of those moments of clarity. Two in one day, eh? I must be using up my quota.
We drove to Granville Island via East Hastings which, Dearest Friends, thronged as usual with the damaged, the afflicted, the addicted, and the destitute. But as we stopped and started past boarded up shops and abandoned buildings, I could clearly see (more clarity!!) the ragged outlines of community. People chatting. People laughing. People helping each other. And my sorrow/shame was tinged with hope.
At Granville Island, a lovely lunch, though admittedly one tinged with thoughts of East Hastings. Next, a whip round to assemble the ingredients for a belated anniversary dinner: fresh spinach, purple potatoes, and fresh Haida Gwaii halibut.
And now home.
Billy Bragg & Wilco - California Stars (buy here)