Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Art Of Noise A-Z Of Music: R

18 letters into the feature the Times Online has called a simple idea, but compulsive reading and our first case of overlap! But not to fear – the same subject has been approached from different angles by two different contributors, as you’ll see…

R is for …

… ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ – Boney M (drmigs)

Right, I'm not telling you this week, I'm asking you. What's going on with this track? It's a historical tribute to Grigori Rasputin, and at the same time it's a massive disco hit. How does that work? How did this track possibly come about? Now historical folk ballad, fair-enough; a rock tribute to his life style, that I could buy. A foot-tapping disco number, err it just doesn't seem right. But it worked… How do I know it worked? Because if you're reading this, you will know the song. And what's more, you've been well and truly ohrwurmed. It's that effective a disco number that it eats into the neural fabric of your auditory cortex and temporarily short-circuits itself; so that whenever there is silence, what you actually hear is: “Ra ra Rasputin / Russia's greatest love machine…"

I just don't understand – really, really don't understand – how this song came about / how it works. There's clearly a combination of genius and eccentricity at work - counterbalanced by a healthy disregard for common sense. No sensible band could hatch this crazy song. No manufactured ‘Pop Idol’ / pony-tailed pink-champagne-sipping producer / music industry sycophant could have made this song. So it's no surprise therefore that it was the brainchild of Boney M. But just because they were an eccentric disco bunch doesn't wholly explain the song.

Now it’s not that it's historical. There's no shortage of obscure songs about interesting historical characters. Characters whose stories musicians believe will be a compelling narrative for a song. In the folk line there's examples such as ‘Matty Groves’, in the
indie / rock line there is ‘(Good Luck) Mr Gorsky’. Both songs that made me go away and find out more about the protagonists. As did Boney M's ‘… Rasputin’. But folk and indie have a cerebral nature to them; disco, by definition, isn't cerebral, it's physical. And a physical genre would seem to be incompatible with a historical tribute. Cleverly however, Boney M take the sex and immortality aspects of Rasputin's legend, and work them into an involving rhythm. The story is a story of excess, and the subject of excess clearly lends itself to the clubbing scene.

So maybe I was wrong when I said I don't know how it works. It's very simple and very cunning. I'm just in awe of how they came up with the idea in the first place. It's not even that I particularly like the song; in fact it's often an irritant. However, I do salute Boney M for being brave enough to stick with the idea and make the song. History and disco aren't natural bed-fellows and anyone who has the foresight to think the unthinkable, and then execute it successfully, deserves respect in my book. Yes, even if it will leave me musically hallucinating "Ra ra Rasputin / Lover of the Russian Queen…" as I close my eyes and try to get to sleep tonight…

… Reading Festival (Pete)

I'm surprised that no one else has mentioned festivals yet, unless someone is saving "V for V2005". I have to admit that I haven't been to Glasto or Roskilde yet, so Reading remains my idea of a music festival. It might not be as good as Farmer Eavis's little June soiree, but it ain't bad.

From my first Reading, where on the last night I ended up running drunkenly round various campsites with twenty-odd strangers, all of whom were wearing binbags. And that was after playing football with Terrorvision's roadies. It's been the stuff of endless memories for sure.

Taking loads of Immodium to resolve the problem of a dodgy post-burger stomach. A Glo-stick fight between two opposing campsites in 2002 – harmless, but still a truly breathtaking spectacle. Buying a huge ex-army poncho to save myself from a wet Saturday in 2000. Heading back each night after the last band to light the campfire and open the next beer. Making early morning trips to the Salvation Army tent to get a cheap cup of soup and a roll. Shouting out whatever happens to be the slogan that year at the top of your voice at three in the morning. Crowd-surfing to 'In It For The Money'. Watching a load of metallers wreak havoc on Kevin Rowland's set and seeing Daphne and Celeste dodging the bottles of piss.

I could go on for a while here, so I'll move onto the bands. Perhaps not the usual suspects, but Mansun opening their 2000 set with 'Take It Easy Chicken' sticks in my mind, along with a frantic 'She's Got Spies' from the 'Furries at my first Reading in 1997 or even the moshpit during the Wannadies' 'You And Me Song'. Or perhaps even a triumphant 'Bittersweet Symphony'. Or Blur finishing their '99 set with a gorgeous and heartbreaking 'Sing'.

Perhaps the one thing that sets Reading aside from most other festivals is its timing. The site isn't that big, so by the third day everyone has visited all the stalls at least once, is probably suffering from a hangover and wanders round in a daze (although the latter might well be down to the Herbal Highs salesman). This adds to the definite air of resignation and reflection that lingers, not just because a long and enjoyable weekend is over, but because the end of summer is upon you. It can be a little depressing, but at the same time, I can think of few better ways to round off the summer months.

… Reading Festival (Paul)

August Bank Holiday Weekend, 1998. I spent more or less the whole weekend standing in a field wilting in the scorching heat and telling people where to park their cars in the guest parking area, before catching the odd glimpse of a band when I had a break.

For the paltry sum of £30 a day, I worked twelve hour shifts at Reading Festival, and thoroughly enjoyed myself into the bargain.

When I was there (and presumably this is still the case) there are two groups of stewards at Reading. There are those who donate most of their money to the Labour Party, and as a consequence get to steward the main arena, and there are those (like me) who keep the pittance they are paid but have to look after the entire campsite, and work longer shifts into the bargain.

As it was, my friends and I found ourselves working the 9am-9pm "day" shift. Needless to say we didn't exactly see much of the festival line-up unfold.

But that only made the bits we did see all the more special.

Having realised that by wearing our fetching fluorescent bibs we could wander backstage, we took maximum advantage of this, and blagged our way backstage on the Saturday night. There we quaffed booze with semi-famous people (well Kenickie and Steve Lamacq) paying ten pence more per pint than the main arena for the privilege. However, we did get to stand in the pit, right in front of the speakers, whilst the Beastie Boys played their magnificent encore, before watching them trot off the stage and into a waiting car in their Guantanamo-esque orange boiler suits.

Memories from those days are generally more confined to the work than the music, with a particularly fat obnoxious 4x4 driver launching a tirade of abuse in my direction for me asking him to park his car in a fairly snug (but sufficiently roomy) space instead of the massive four car gap on the other side of the row a memory that still burns in my mind.

Similarly, being bollocked for using the walkie-talkie frequency which the whole stewarding team had simply to communicate how many car parking spaces we had at one end of the field stands out.

Despite the meagre pay, the hellish overnight bus from Newcastle to London we used to get there, and the small number of twats we dealt with (including Sol from ‘Hollyoaks’, and Phil Mitchell from ‘EastEnders’ – the glamour!) it was a fine time, with glorious weather, stodgy food, ample supplies of booze and occasionally brilliant music to be enjoyed.

... (hyper)reality (RussL)

I once had a disagreement with someone over how "miserable" the metal band Khanate sounded. They said very, I said not so much. I love the band to bits, but the music made by them and most of their peers can't be called "miserable" so much as "a highly stylised representation of misery". When people are actually in the depths of despair they don't suddenly start screaming like their goolies have been caught in a vice and/or doing... everything... really... slowly, do they?

Such, however, is the nature of art in general and popular music in particular. Whenever we talk about an artist showing a lot of emotion, we're more often than not referring to the fact that they've managed to produce an effective depiction of it. How they actually feel is irrelevant. We can’t read the minds of our favourite acts, and unless we happen to know them personally we can never be sure that they weren’t full of the joys of spring when writing a sad song (or vice versa).

The "character" of a performer works in a similar way. Many have turned their back upon bands they used to like because they "sold out" and betrayed some previously professed principle. In the case of an abandoned ethical statement I can almost understand, but when it’s a matter of changed aesthetics (be they musical or image-based) then how can anyone not directly involved sensibly make that judgment? Can we really be certain that what they did originally wasn’t selling out and what they’re doing now isn’t more true to themselves?

Does any of it actually matter? I would contend not. Some people spend a lot of time and effort searching for the ‘real’ stuff, but I don’t see the need. Lest I be misunderstood, let me reassure one and all that I’m not advocating the “Stop thinking and enjoy it, maaaan” school of abandoning critical faculty. I just think we need to adjust our viewpoint and accept that pop is the ultimate hyper-real art form. It creates bigger-than-life avatars of things we think we know about, toying with our emotions and sense of reality. If it feels real, that’s all it needs to do.

… reggae (James)

I remember the first reggae record I ever bought. It was ‘Amigo’ by Black Slate and it was 1980. I can’t remember exactly why I liked it. I don’t exactly remember that much about it at all. It was kind of jaunty, and I have some recollection of being quite impressed by their dreadlocks. Not counting ‘Pass The Dutchie’ by Musical Youth (which is probably kind of unfair), it was a while before I bought another reggae record. I think it was probably ‘Off The Beaten Track’ by African Head Charge on the On-U Sound label in about 1989. More details on my obsession with that label can be found here.

In my late teens, I moved to Toxteth, with its rich mix of people and an even richer trove of music. Here I tuned into local pirate stations and had my ears blown apart with such a wealth of sounds – it resulted in a staggering learning curve. On the radio I encountered dancehall classics, roots and dub, Shabba in top form, Dennis Brown, King Tubby. Moving to Birmingham, I was fortunate enough to share a house with someone with a solid collection. Here I began to hear whole LPs, and spot differences. Most of all, I heard one of my reggae heroes (via On-U Sound) in his glory, Prince Far I. Since then, I have dug deep into back catalogues, compilations, anything that will unearth more gems.

But why do I love reggae so? Why do I still feel that buzz when listening to classics like the Lee Perry produced ‘Police And Thieves’, or the earthiness of ‘The Twinkle Brothers’, or the energy of Big Youth or Dr Alimantado?

Could it be the beat? Reggae, of whichever stamp, has that perennial offbeat that drives it onwards inexorably, never stopping, just pushing forward languorously. Reggae is never in a rush, but you know that it will get where it’s going. Reggae makes you want to stop and admire the scenery; to breathe in the air (or whatever); or maybe stop and sashay a little. Not considering the heavily sexualised dancing of the dancehall scene, reggae invokes a dancing in me (even in my soul maybe) that is marked by an almost absence of movement.

Could it be the bass? The bass maketh the reggae, and no one uses the bass like a reggae player. The sustain carries over the attack, rumbling and grounding every other sound, lifting it up high by sheer contrast. One of the pleasures of reggae at festivals is hearing the bass way before you see or hear anything else, bouncing hypnotically in the distance as the listener approaches with the reverence of Hajji.

Or could it be the spirituality? Religion and music are queer bedfellows at the best of times. Very few artists pull it off without appearing pompous at best, or hokey and amateurish. But in reggae, invoking the name of Jah is as natural as bling to hiphop. Here I find it refreshing and cleansing. Prince Far I calls me to be “free from sin” and to “read a chapter”; Jah Woosh calls me to “redemption”; while Dr Alimantado asks me if I am having a “wonderful time” and reminds me that I should think about the poor and oppressed. It is a political spirituality, and not a dogmatic one. While it recalls old school Bible study, it doesn’t beat you over the head with meaningless doctrine, but calls you to a better life – a life of peace, equality and righteousness – which is never a bad mix.

Do yourself a favour, throw a little Prince Far I on the stereo, open the windows, catch a breeze, and watch the mood lift. Go on, you’ll feel better for it…

… regional accents (Swiss Toni)

Considering its size, the UK has always seemed to be home to a disproportionably large number of distinct regional accents. Some of these accents have become oddly famous worldwide thanks to the export of British music. The most famous example of this is probably the flat vowels of the Liverpudlian accent which became unavoidable throughout the 1960s through the ubiquity of The Beatles. John Peel used to delight in telling how played up his Scouse accent when he lived in Dallas in order to seduce women. Apparently he never used to say OUTRIGHT that he was the fifth member of The Beatles, but the girls used to hear the accent and somehow assume that this must have been the case.

As the Arctic Monkeys return from their first sell out tour of the USA (including an appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’), it would be nice to think that something similar could happen to the Yorkshire accent. I wonder what the American crowds have been making of lyrics like “And yeah, I’d love to tell you my problem / You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham” and if they understand their “owts” from their “summats” yet.

For all that The Beatles showcased their accents in their films and in their many TV appearances and radio interviews, the Scouse accent is actually notable only by its absence in their music. If you didn’t know that the band were from Liverpool (and how could you not?), you would surely struggle to place them there simply by listening to their music. For many other bands, this would be a whole lot easier. Never mind their jingly-jangly guitar sound, with Lee Mavers’ accent, could The Las have come from anywhere else but Liverpool? The Futureheads and Maximo Park are both unmistakeably from the North East; Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol could only have come from Northern Ireland; The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were professional Scots, their leader never knowingly bothering to play down his origins. Even Blur, bless their Mockney little socks, are easy to place in Essex. Of course, there are many others…

But what have all of these bands got in common, aside from having easily placed accents? That’s right: they’ve all been relatively successful in the UK, but have made little impact anywhere else. Could it be that having a distinctive accent is actually a handicap to achieving global success? What have U2, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, REM and other stadium rock behemoths of their ilk got in common? Yup. Largely accentless English singing voices.

Tell me I’m wrong. There must be someone who has achieved global success with an accent… surely?

… Rock City (Ben)

I lived in Nottingham for seven years, and without a doubt the biggest drain on my financial resources during my time there was Rock City.

It’s as a gig venue that the Talbot Street club is best known – certainly, it’s one of the few British venues that American bands have queued up to play, and amongst touring metal bands it’s afforded legendary status. Motorhead return to play there every November – perhaps that’s the only routine Lemmy has to live by other than the bottle of whisky for breakfast?

I don’t keep a record of every band I’ve ever seen, but I do keep hold of gig tickets as a memento whenever possible (meaning I try to avoid paying on the door). Sifting through the pile suggests that the first Rock City gig I ever went to was Swedish rap-metal RATM wannabes Clawfinger in December 1997. Between then and May 2004, across Rock City’s three rooms (the Main Hall, the Rig and the Basement or Disco II as it used to be known) I saw an incredible number of bands. The gigs headlined by Fugazi, The Hives, Jane’s Addiction, Mogwai, Queens Of The Stone Age, Rocket From The Crypt and Spiritualized are among the best I’ve ever been to.

But others stick in the memory for other reasons: seeing Franz Ferdinand and The Fiery Furnaces on the same bill, supporting Hot Hot Heat in front of a half-empty Main Hall; watching The Icarus Line’s Aaron North walk along the Basement bar spraying Coke onto his guitar; finding my face pressed up against a fellow gig-goer’s chain-mail shoulder pad at a System Of A Down gig, and then seeing the looks on the band’s face as four or five fans pogoed up and down on the roof of a van outside afterwards; the whole Mr Miyagi & The Kung-Fu Fighters experience as detailed by Paul a few weeks ago; and the support band to The Icarus Line the first time I saw them there, who rejoiced under the name Shat, included in their number a vocalist covered in prosthetic penises and played a song called ‘Gonorrhoea Fountain’.

In recent years Rock City has gone from strength to strength with the opening of two new smaller sister venues, the Rescue Rooms and Stealth, both of which have enabled it to retain (or perhaps regain?) something of a monopoly on gigs of all sizes in the city. Securing the services of booker / promoter Anton of the cooler-than-cool Night With No Name has also been a real coup.

But it’s not just as a venue that Rock City will forever have a place in my heart. Throughout my undergraduate years there was a weekly pilgrimage to the Saturday rock night, back when it was a particularly ungodly place – cheap beer, uniform black clothing (much of it PVC), long hair, toilets awash with bodily fluids of all kinds, darkened corners occupied by couples indulging in all manner of sexual activities…

And then there were the regulars, whose faces we soon got to know: JS Clayden of Pitchshifter; Big Pete, who – as the name suggests – was a 6ft 8ins gentle giant and would place himself in the middle of the moshpit for people to bounce off; two different Dave Grohl look-alikes (one from his Nirvana days, the other from Foo Fighters) and a big-chinned Kurt Cobain look-alike who helpfully wore the smiley face T-shirt; and Wendy, a gargantuan spiky-haired metaller who wore black tank-tops to show off her knife wounds.

I recall one friend once being told by the bouncers to remove his Topman T-shirt because the image was offensive in that it suggested (falsely) that he was a member of the Hell’s Angels. Of course, recollection in tranquillity has often been made difficult if not impossible due to one bottle of Rolling Rock too many. On another occasion I woke up at 4am to find myself sat on the steps outside with my shoelaces tied together.

Things change, though. It’s not like it were in my day etc etc. The music isn’t as good, the characters have gone (all except the fat man who wanders around all night talking to no one with his head down as if scouring the floor for change), and we’re much happier down in the Rig now, once just the preserve of leather-waistcoated old cock rockers. A symptom of advancing years, perhaps, but you can’t argue with a bit of AC/DC.

… Roisin Murphy (Caskared)

Fashion shows can be fantastic – I mean real fashion shows. The lights, the absurdly angular models treading the runway, the vision of the designer turned into clothes, the anticipation of the crowd and the loud loud music. It’s a million miles away from the high street, it’s an event, the bleeding edge of cool is the aim. I am watching a Ukrainian designer’s collection at Russian Fashion Week, heavy black layers with sculptural metal spirals skewering the material. There’s an intensity, and then it quadruples: the models are marching to Róisín Murphy’s ‘Ramalama (Bang Bang)’. The electric Cherokee call opening is usurped by an artificial wood-block one-two-one-two; the models respond left-right-left-right. The synthesised hi-hats syncopate and the shallow percussive sound unravels, the shallowness feels mischievously appropriate. I break out into a grin as I recognise her voice and nod in time with the “one and only true note”, the cameras flash “taking a picture”.

The whole of Róisín’s album Ruby Blue is a delight. Much of the album has a futuro-domestic feel through its tricksy samples that could have used vacuum cleaners (‘Night Of The Dancing Flame’) or plumbing (‘Sinking Feeling’) as source material. There is a keen pace with a tick-tocking tempo (‘Through Time’ and ‘Dear Diary’) and the album dances by with an upbeat glee. Her vocals hit the right balance for each song; in the title track she leers and chants to the heavy distorted guitar, and at other times she sings sweetly (‘If We’re In Love’). And of course, the whole album is entirely eccentric, but how could it not be as she is one half of Moloko?

From hearing ‘Killer Bunnies’ played at a friend’s house from their first album Do You Like My Tight Sweater, I knew Moloko were something unique. Róisín and Mark Brydon made Moloko, the Russian, or nadsaat, for “milk”. Hilarious, menacing and completely original, Moloko produced albums and a remix of ‘Sing It Back’ stormed Ibiza which rocketed them to a wider public. I never liked that remix, but I did like the fact that everyone who bought the album on the strength of the single were exposed to ‘Radio Moscow’, ‘Indigo’ and ‘Remain The Same’, all songs that experiment with ideas of epic glam mod.

… Ronnie Ronalde (Skif)

You’re a referee punishing a foul. Maybe you’re a kettle flagging up your internal boil. Perhaps you’re just a dribbly letch wishing to alert a distant lady to the fact. Whichever of these you are, you are a whistler and as such share a great deal with Ronnie Waldron, born 1923. [Hmm, have you been reading John’s comment on Swiss Toni’s site, Skif?]

Early in his life, he would busk for pennies on the streets of London and this eventually led to the music hall stage, as well as a new stage name, as he joined Arturo Steffani’s Silver Songsters, working with the likes of Nat Gonella and George Formby. His virtuosity led to great success both in the UK and abroad, earning him the title Mr Variety, his whistle now in legend for apparently making Marilyn Monroe shiver and Roy Roger’s horse Trigger frisky

Others in music hall and vaudeville have been famed for their whistling, such as Brother Bones who recorded the whistled version of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ that the Harlem Globetrotters use as their theme, but Ronnie has been arguably the most famous of their ilk. Aside from whistling melodies and bird calls over delicate orchestral pieces (such as with his most famous number, the naturalistic ‘In A Monastery Garden’) Ronnie would sing in a quasi-operatic way that also made him a contemporary of Josef Locke and David Whitfield.

Now 82 years old and emigrated to New Zealand, Ronnie still plays shows, and even undertook a 40-date tour of the UK in 2003 to celebrate his 80th birthday, as headliner of a Golden Years Of Variety bill. Having been switched on to Ronnie’s status as the world’s most eminent siffleur by the nostalgic patronage of John Peel I went to see the Southsea leg of that tour, at the Kings Theatre, three years ago this past weekend as it happens.

The problem for variety revivalists nowadays is that most of its original audience have died away and, as such, the theatre only had about thirty people in it, dotted about the seats. Ronnie nonetheless performed and told anecdotes as though regaling the packed stalls of his post-war hey-day. A kindly grandfather now, dressed in a tight-fitting scarlet suit and a frilly shirt, age meant that his singing voice could not soar as it once did, but his incorporation of tweets and trills within tunes such as ‘Mockingbird Hill’ and ‘Tritsch Tratsch Polka’ made for warming and innocent entertainment from a bygone age.

I took my mum to that show y’know; sometimes you can leave the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, or at least the pretence to it, for another night. Speaking of which, am I the only person to have seen Ronnie Ronalde, Whigfield AND Napalm Death in concert? I hope not of course, just a shame that it wasn’t on the same night. That would have been a real rebirth for variety.

… The Rutles (Del)

The Rutles story is a legend. A living legend. A legend that will live a lifetime, long after lots of other living legends have died. The Pre-Fab Four. Dirk, Nasty, Stig and Barry.

Some parodies fall flat on their face under the weight of their own smugness. But some are so perfect, so exacting, so ruthless, possessing such wonderful attention to detail, they become greater than the sum of their parts. The Rutles 1978 biopic ‘All You Need Is Cash’ was a quite brilliant rewriting of the history of The Beatles, created by Eric Idle as part of Rutland Weekend Television, with all the Pythonesque genius you'd expect. Guest stars included Bill Murray, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger and a certain George Harrison. It is one of my all time favourite rock ‘n’ roll comedies, only bettered to my mind by ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. The Rutles’ full career from the Ratkeller in Germany, through ‘All You Need Is Cash’, ‘Sgt Rutters Only Darts Club Band’ to their collapse and ‘Let It Rot’.

But what makes it truly wonderful is the accompanying music. Each track on the soundtrack appropriated the style, lyrics and production style of a number of Beatles tracks. Some were obvious: 'Ouch!', 'Hold My Hand' and 'Piggy In The Middle' hardly require a musicologist. But often things are more subtle than that. The songs were all written by Neil Innes, whose solo track 'How Sweet To Be An Idiot' was plagiarised by Noel Gallagher on 'Whatever'. To avoid such similar mistakes, Innes actually sat down with John Lennon to ensure that The Rutles’ songs never copied original Beatles tracks directly. So instead of lame covers, it's like discovering a new Beatles album, with inspiration drawn from across The Beatles' career. But, and this is the key, the songs are still fantastic pop and stand up on their own. Nowhere is this more true than on closer 'Let's Be Natural', just a great song which is 'Dear Prudence' from a parallel universe.

‘All You Need Is Cash’ was arguably a more telling portrayal of The Beatles’ career than their own Anthology series which followed 15 years later. Never ones to miss a trick, The Rutles “discovered” a bunch of old tracks in Barry's shed, which appeared as Archaeology. On it, the art of pop pastiche was raised to a new level. The songs are like a love letter to The Beatles, each one combining elements from across their canon. Centre piece 'Shangri-La' manages to cram in 'A Day In The Life', 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite', 'Penny Lane', 'Yellow Submarine' and more before morphing into a never-ending fade-out chorus half 'Hey Jude' half 'All You Need Is Love'. Archaeology is the great lost Beatles album, with a healthy dose of winkingly ironic nostalgia, more rewarding than the three Beatles Anthologies combined.

The Rutles’ genius lay in managing to both harpoon the mystique around Beatlemania, and show almost unrivalled affection for The Beatles' work. Plus, they created two “comedy” records that stand up to many repeated listens. A rare feat. Do a pooh pooh!

* * * * *

Thanks to drmigs, Pete, Paul, RussL, James, Swiss Toni, Caskared, Skif and Del for their contributions this week.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ben said...

Pete: Your "end of the summer" point about Reading is spot on - it really does bring the summer to a close neatly. The problem with it, though, is that with it being that much later in the year it's darker earlier and also colder at night - by contrast Glasto is ideal for sitting outside drinking beer and chatting round a fire after the bands are finished. And even in its current relatively sanitised form it's such an experience. You've just got to give it a go...

James: Enjoyed your piece - I know next to nothing about reggae. Just wondering, though - you touch on the religious aspect of reggae. The problem, for me, is that the religious emphasis has resulted in the vehemently and occasionally aggressively homophobic lyrics of much of the genre's more recent descendents (ragga, dancehall). (I ask this without wanting to start a massive debate on ethics - there are plenty of bands / artists / authors I like who have made dubious statements within or outside of their art, after all.)

Swiss Toni: How about Oasis? Although their success across the pond hasn't been exactly stellar either.

Skif: Ronnie Ronalde, Whigfield and Napalm Death - your tastes truly are eclectic, sir...

4:03 pm  
Blogger SwissToni said...

Ben - I nearly listed Oasis in my regionally accented bands who haven't made it big worldwide actually, but perhaps that would have been a bit harsh. And does Liam Gallagher actually sing with a manc accent, or does he just sing in a manner all of his own? (imagine-ay-shee-un etc.)

As for Rock City - I loved your write up (and very glad I changed my mind at the last minute or we would have had 2 cases of duplication in a single week). Like you, I define a lot of my time in Nottingham by the happy hours I have spent in that place - the odd evening at the terrible "love shack" excepted. I think that the Queens of the Stoneage gig I saw there during "One Live in Nottingham" is probably the best single gig I have ever been to. They were amazing.

For my money it's not been the same since they changed the air-conditioning system. Not only does sweat no longer drip off the walls, but on occasion it's actually *cold* in the main hall during a sold out gig. Weird.

As for Anton - in another life I used to work with him in the Information Systems department of a large Nottingham retailer. As I recall, he subsisted mainly on a diet of crisps and cola. I wish I'd made more of an effort to get to know him, as he has clearly gone on to much bigger, brighter and more interesting things. I'm still here (more or less).

ST

5:20 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

ST: I think Liam does sing with a Manc accent, but it's also overlaid with his own idiosyncratic pronunciation. Now there's two words you won't find "Our Kid" using any time soon...

Rock City: well, I always write my piece at the last minute once all the other contributions are in to specifically to avoid overlap. It would have been on risk-taking if you (and fellow sometime residents of Nottingham Paul, Jez and Del) hadn't passed up the opportunity.

I've seen Queens at Rock City twice, the first time in The Rig when they were touring the first (underrated) album, and the second time that Sound City gig in 2002 when they were indeed amazing. Just a shame they didn't have Dave Grohl drumming for them still, as they had had at Glastonbury...

Someone else who knows Anton! He was once upon a time the music editor of the university magazine, and a few years after he'd left and started up his promotion stuff I stepped into his shoes on the magazine. Dunno about following him any further, though - from what I know about the separate experiences of Skif and Phill, promotion seems like too much hard work!

11:54 pm  
Anonymous Caskared said...

Ben: I saw Spiritualized at Rock City...amazing wall of noise stylee! (and they're from my home town)

7:28 am  
Blogger stevedomino said...

ah, rock city - i was more of a thursday -student-night person myself. memories of taking a baby-faced friend back up to the door in various guises (glasses, mussed up hair, latching on to a girl, etc) just to get through the door. Key gigs for me: Pixies in 1989, Beck after Odelay and Wilco early last year, amongst many other happy memories. The carpet still stinks and the beer is still grim. Long may it reign!

7:41 am  
Blogger skif said...

Ben: The comment on Swiss Toni's site? Afraid it's just a beautiful coincidence.

Besides songs featuring whistling, as opposed to the art of the ageing siffleur, could be a very different prospect indeed.

8:01 am  

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