‘This is my happening and it freaks me out!’ Thank you, Vintage TV: Brix & the Extricated featuring new tune ‘H.C.’ (plus Pneumatic Violet, Valentino, L.A., Damned for Eternity, and Hollywood). Fun stuff.
Me yammering on all things noir and writing over at Write with Phil:
Why do you write?
‘It’s fun! There’s a Dylan line about needing a dump truck to unload his head. Writing is my dump truck.’
I didn’t know what a Graham Gouldman fan I was until I made my way through this book. To be fair, I only have two speeds: not interested and totally obsessed. Unfortunately, the obsessions can be really off kilter and sometimes I’m running so fast after the thing that I think is interesting, I don’t stop to question the assumptions passed along the way.
Like 10cc=Godley & Creme. Ha!
10cc (and Godley & Creme) has been one of those fading in and out interests. Of course Consequences because of the Peter Cook obsession, but one of my top fave singles as a youngster was ‘I’m Not in Love’ and yet it didn’t really sink in that the song was ‘written by band members Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman.’ Ditto ‘Things We Do for Love’ which was the only 10cc record I bought at that time. I know: eejit.
But it goes back further. On my scratchy hand-me-down but beloved Herman’s Hermits LP the best song by a mile (much as I enjoyed all the bubblegum) was clearly ‘No Milk Today’ which of course is also Gouldman. So I’ve been catching up on his solo stuff and kicking myself for being obtuse.
Now about the rest of this book: there’s tons of reviews here and there, and some great interviews (including this new one with Real Gone), so I won’t drone on about the usual things. It’s an inventive angle (A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings) which really brings out the deliberate desire of many Mancunians to ignore London and its machinations as much as possible.
It doesn’t matter that this London isn’t entirely real. The fact that the elitist, greedy, insular, condescending Emerald City exists as much in the collective minds of the North as it does on the streets of the capital doesn’t make its rejection any less important.
The intimacy of the recording tradition in Manchester has a lot to do with it starting small — minuscule even — but also that it’s rooted in the musicians and sound folk wanting to give back to their community. Hanley contrasts this with the whole-hearted embrace of the capital by groups like The Beatles, who not only set up there but in the richest neighbourhoods, too. Savile Row and Mayfair certainly radiated ‘success’ but left them a little rootless.
It’s worth emphasising this again, when Eric Stewart first pondered the possibility of building a professional-standard recording studio outside London, he was completely alone. The thought hadn’t struck anyone else at all.
Strawberry Studios became a nexus of creative sound for the next three decades, an influence that’s still felt. ‘You could tell it was built with love rather than profit in mind,’ the studio’s first female engineer, Julia Adamson, told Hanley.
It’s a fascinating look at pop music, recording, musical influences and the history that binds together any given record made in the city in these formative years. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a terrifically funny book. I read most of it on the train then on a cross-Atlantic flight and I’m sure I annoyed the people around me by constantly chortling at Hanley’s mordant wit (cf footnote 161). What might have been a dull listing of names and dates instead sounds like the best pub conversation you ever overheard.
An oldie that mashes up the odd Fall lyric, Peter Cook ramblings and a little Dud:
I’m not sure I will write up the kind of remembrance or encomium that many folks are producing out in the wake of the news that The Fall’s frontman Mark E. Smith died yesterday. I tend to write at a slant anyway. But I will say that I wouldn’t have much of a crime fiction career without his lyrics. Some would doubtless argue I still don’t have much of a career at all, but what I do have — that I don’t owe to Mr B — I owe to MES (and some to Aitch as well because I probably wouldn’t have picked up Renegade without that crazy night on the tube reading out lyrics from the Orange book in German and English after the show where he made me miss John Cooper Clarke opening and his brother got hit by a bus [non-fatally–it didn’t even slow him down]).
It would be easier to list the stories and books that weren’t inspired by lines from Fall songs. So many: I suspect MES shared that same weird phenomenon where a word or phrase gets stuck in your head and the best way to exorcise it is to use it in something. I guess I will keep on doing that. You will be missed, Mr Smith.
My little tale of a heist gone wrong is over at the brand-spanking-new A Twist of Noir. We’re all glad to see ATON back sharing stories — and surprise, I’m following on the heels of Mr B, who’s got a fine little black diamond, ‘Things I Used to Like’ (and he gets to be #007, too). You won’t be surprised to find ‘Copped It’ is another title stolen from The Fall. I can’t help being inspired: originality is overrated anyway 😉 besides, you might catch a few other references in the tale.
This was another fantastic year for great sounds. Sad to have lost Pauline Oliveros, though glad I got to see her perform in September one more time. There were so many discoveries I may have to end up just linking to great stuff.
Without a doubt one of the best things to come out this year was this Cherry Red collection Sharon Signs to Cherry Red. What an amazing cornucopia of sounds! The sheer wealth of material suggests there is so much more to dig out from this time when we just keep hearing the same old hits. Mind you, I was astonished to hear my punk rock gal in the senior seminar was unaware of the Slits and the Raincoats (:-O) but I know how she feels being smacked in the face with new amazing sounds. Sure there’s some folks you know here — like The Mo-Dettes, Mari Wilson and Strawberry Switchblade and folks that went on to bigger fame under other names — but there will be plenty to delight and probably surprise you. Seriously, Caitlin O’Riordan’s band before the Pogues?! This set is in the car and has been spinning a lot.
On a Fall-related note, there was the Blaney release Urban Nature, which got the most press for having the ever irascible Mark E. Smith collaborating on vocals for a few tracks. Between managing the band and running the Salford Music Festival, you might wonder how he found time to record but the disc has a great variety of sounds that will delight folks beyond the city itself, drawing in besides Jenny Shuttleworth and Jim Watts, as well as Blaney’s daughter Bianca. That family & friends ambience lends a real sense of place — relaxed enough to experiment, but not slipshod in anyway. Tight: check it out.
The head of the incomparable Linear Obsessional Recordings, Richard Sanderson, has come out with a recording of his own that to my mind embodies the kind of thing that would delight Oliveros. A Thousand Concreted Pearls offers up the kind of meditative experimentation that really rewards attentive listening. If you think ‘accordion’ and immediately blanch, this is the album to change your mind forever as to what the instrument can accomplish. Endlessly fascinating and engaging.