Monthly Archives: June 2015

Manufacturing Dissent: The Modern Apocrypha

As relevant now as it wasn’t then.

Things have gone too far and I don’t know if I can get them back to where they should be. But I’m going to try because there’s an awful lot at stake. We all know about ‘the elephant in the living room’ and the desire not to disrupt the status quo, however gross the anomaly may be –  sat there –  right in front of us. We don’t want to be ‘conspiracy theorists’ or ‘idealists’ either but we do so want to be ‘realists’ and ‘toe the party line’. Right?

No. Wrong. It’s got to stop. The falsifications, fabrications, outright lies – right down to the shaded nuance that undermines us and leaves us on uncertain ground. Calumny and manipulation of information have become institutional sacraments. It all has to stop now before we become characters in a Kafka novel. But where to start?

Thomas Alva Edison is where I’ll start.

Thomas Edison

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Boom Baby, Boom!

I was born in 1946
20% more babies were born in 1946 than in 1945
In schools, the pass mark for exams to achieve higher education was set higher than previously
I started work in 1964, aged 18
It was easy to get a well-paid job with prospects

We told people that we had a work ethic
People tell us we have a sense of entitlement

We were revolutionists
We were profligate conservatives

We tell the world that we were making history
History was making us

We invented Rock and Roll
Record companies and promoters invented Rock and Roll

We tore up the old rules, created new ones
Richard Nixon tore up the old rules, the traders did the rest

We created gender equality
The scientists employed by pharmaceutical companies created gender equality

We crashed through the class barrier
Wealth replaced class as the instrument of status

We liberated fashion, art, science  as well as fuck and cunt
The world is dying and it will cost you a million dollars to buy a house in Auckland

It’s 2015 and all the votes I’ve cast have counted for nothing
The class of ’46 has lived through important times
And has been beguiled by them
Boom baby, Boom!


Original Sin

I’ve been in and around music for a hell of a long time – certainly most of my adult life. Over the years, I’ve developed some ideas about quality, permanence, ability and relevance. I’ve tried to be discriminating you might say. But above all, I do love music. And I love musicians and what they give to the world. That’s why, mostly, I don’t buy into the bagging of musicians when they’ve aged and no longer have much to say, much that’s worth hearing. I guess most of these old boys and girls have only ever had one job and that’s the only one they know. Whatever. I don’t have to buy their new albums, not even for old time’s sake. I did write an earlier blog on this subject which focused on Rod Stewart.

So, that’s one bugbear. There is one other and it’s about covers. A few months back I got into a discussion with friends about Jimmy Barnes and his recording of ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’. This great song was first recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966. It was written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright who were part of The Esquires, Sledge’s band at the time. The majority opinion in the room was that Barnes’ version was better than Sledge’s original. I took issue with that for two good reasons, as I saw it. Firstly, Jimmy Barnes cannot sing and he slaughtered this fine ballad like only a character from one of Billy Connolly’s Glasgow pub stories could. Secondly, accepting that my opinion in the matter of talent may not be universal, no cover can ever be ‘better’ than the original. You can prefer it – but it can never be better. There can be no besting of being first, being original, having uncompromised integrity. I can admire a good forgery, perhaps be taken in by it – but it is still just a forgery. Something that exists only by dint of an earlier original that inspired or provoked imitators. Having got that off my chest, I’ll happily admit to admiring many cover versions of great songs. And I’m happy for them to co-exist alongside the originals. It doesn’t need to be an ‘either/or’ decision. Al Green’s ‘Take Me to the River’, for instance is a fine example of Green’s coy juxtaposition of sensuality and spirituality. But when David Byrne and Talking Heads took the song on, lust and religion were thrust together in one pounding, insistent punk-fuelled rhythm. Genius. But not better.

There are also many examples of cover versions that have superseded the original to the point where the original is all but forgotten. The cruel irony for some of these songs is that, often, the original is infinitely superior to the cover. I’m not going to make a list but if you’ve got this far you may like to check out Gloria Jones’ 1964 recording of ‘Tainted Love’ which ought to obliterate all memory of Soft Cell’s 1981 cover. An even better choice would be Bessie Banks’ 1964 recording of ‘Go Now’ which is several light years distant from the 1965 version which became a hit for the Moody Blues – a band whose music, I might add, should have been consigned to the Atlantic’s Puerto Rico Trench years ago.

In closing, I need to pay tribute to my all-time favourite cover of a great original. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is one of Paul McCartney’s greatest songs and covered by The Faces on ‘Long Player’.  Macca has acknowledged that his own live performance of this great ballad was influenced by how Rod and the Faces performed it. Not better. Not either/or. Just great.




American Music

American Music is my private dancer
It dances across the water
And the water holds me down
Letting the days go by
Into the blue again and out of the black
My my

American Music woke me up this morning
And asked me to loan it a dime
to buy some black coffee and cigarettes
While we waited at the crossroads
For the slow train coming by
Have mercy

American Music? Ah um says the preacher
It gonna make you get up – get on up
To seize everything you ever wanted
But first we take Manhattan
Then we take New York, New York
One time

American Music gonna mess your mind
And you’re still a fool time after time
If you listen to the music in a fever
And see white rabbits eight miles high
With some guy in the sky
Strange days

American Music on Beale Street
On Broadway
On Green Dolphin Street
On the street where you live
Skyscrapers bloom in America
Cadillacs zoom

American Music rocks around the clock
In the ghetto and the length of Route 66
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
On the lonely highway perhaps?

Life don’t work out my way……