Tuesday, August 25, 2009

bleedin' aida

glengarry glen ross.

There was a time, a couple of decades ago maybe, when I rather fancied to have the Stooges' "Gimme Danger" played at my funeral. Well might you chortle. These days I am no longer quite so given over to melodrama. At a push I often feel Lieutenant Pigeon's "Mouldy Old Dough" would be a good deal more fitting. Not to mention modest.

I can easily visualize some c@nt in black tails and stovepipe hat fidget a liver spotted finger onto the button primed to lower my casket as that jaunty drum roll kicks in. Like Jacob Marlowe in leather and mothballs, I take some rancorous comfort in those perceived gasps fluttering up from the pews. Assuming the news of my demise might scrape up any mourners at all, of course. The way things are heading fiscally, the end result is more likely to be a black plastic body bag stuffed in the fiery maw of an anonymous hospital waste disposal unit.

Worst case scenario ? Our government has already drafted a skein of (none too) secret measures to cope with the anticipated surfeit of Swine Flu fatalities. Mass burials might soon be back in vogue on European soil.

For a time back when I brokered health insurance. There's a laugh; have I confessed that one before ?

I even sold life insurance direct down the phone; cold calling at its worst. Of course, neither myself or my fellow agents ever dreamt of similarly investing in the same. Think 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and you would not veer too wide of the mark. The floor we worked stank of mints and bad feet. Farts and desperation.

A supervisor patrolling the aisles of our hunched undead once found a bag of smack in the cracks between floor tiles.

I'm sorry. I hope I never sold you any product, brothers and sisters. I had a gun to my head. Meantime, like Tiny Tim on death row, I tiptoed through the tulips.

I'm doing my utmost to make up for it now.

Recorded September 10th - October 6th, 1972 at CBS Studios, London.

IGGY & THE STOOGES: GIMME DANGER from "Raw Power" LP (Columbia) 1973 (US)

Monday, August 24, 2009

after balloon burning...

The wasted tail fin hovers under the radar. Peeling decals fluttering. The cockpit has been hosed down and the instruments crackle on autopilot; a rusting colossus immune to nagging; neglect; and niggardliness.

"So far as I'm concerned, the early 70s were the Pretties' finest twinkling hour. Ladbroke Grove was their acid drenched stamping ground, home to Van Morrison's Madam George and the group's fluctuating line-up saw them brazenly trading key members with pioneering mental cases, the Pink Fairies ; recording in and out of Abbey Road studios and switching record labels as quick as jumping on a London borough bus."

From the ground its black silhouette hangs like a painted flag. The ghost of 'SF Sorrow'. One by one those remaining occupants crawl through the hatch and drop. It would be cheaper to get there by underground, missed opportunities refracting off steamed glass like kisses on the top deck window of a stalled bus.

"As smokey brown as the Beatles' "Abbey Road" in places, but shimmering and translucent too as the best of Chilton & Bell's Big Star. A perfect pop masterpiece painted from a well rehearsed palette of limited colour, a perfect teenage summer's trip."

The girl you covet waits at the bus stop. Her knees are trembling. She glances up and over her shoulder, where sweet wrappers and discarded beer tins pock thistle and wayward berries. There is something moving behind the fence. This is the sound of your free period on a summer's afternoon. Or the 8:00 AM journey from a suburban outback into a blotter tinctured oasis of hallucinogenics and Ritalin lozenges; an aggravated spinster in laddered tights by the roundabout who shares much in common with Sunday's maiden aunt. A spindle-legged hankering. Old English Spangles and Dandelion Clocks. Arachnids weaving unseen in the dewlaps, spotted hounds off the leash and foaming. And. Transgressions on your tongue.

A tangle of strings.

Free-fall. For aviators and survivors of 1970's unopened "Parachute" everywhere.

THE PRETTY THINGS: GRASS from "Parachute" LP (Harvest EMI) 1970 (UK)

THE PRETTY THINGS: LOVE IS GOOD from "Freeway Madness" LP (Warner Bros.) 1972 (UK)

brian and dennis, wilson and wilson; sans charlie

'dirty doll". photograph from here.

From the second disc of Pavement's 2004 re-release of "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" - L.A's Desert Origins - featuring previously unreleased material which was subsequently rerecorded for their third album, "Wowee Zowee".

I met Steve Malkmus once on stage at a village hall in Belgium during Sonic Youth's "Dirty" tour. I did not like to inform him I generally considered "Slanted & Enchanted" a work of some genius. Modesty, and my woefully reserved Celtic temperament, absolutely forbade it. Besides. I was too busy looking up Kim Gordon's ass.

Sorry. Mrs. Thurston Moore's ass. The marital thang is still something of a novelty. I will get used to it. Fine asses always warrant serious reconsideration. Genuinely.

kim gordon by richard kern.

Possibly recorded at 'Louder Than You Think', Stockton, California, 1993.
Engineered by Mark Venezia.

PAVEMENT: PUEBLO (BEACH BOYS) from "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (L.A.'s Desert Origins)" 2 x CD (Matador) 1994/2004 (US)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

S&M ?

"shy boy in soyapango, el salvador". photograph by donna decesare.

Any allusion to a large UK supermarket chain's commandeering of this piece through its television advertising is lamentable. But sadly inescapable. I detest food pornography, and it is a fairly safe assumption that Carlos Santana does not need the bread, however finely baked or dressed.

I notice, too, that a large mobile network has just launched a campaign underpinned by the Box Tops' "Neon Rainbow". I hate that kind of shit. Jim Morrison was right to be churlish. Hand back the jaded junkie glamour it deserves.

Produced by Fred Catero and Carlos Santana.

SANTANA: SAMBA PA TI from "Abraxas" LP (Columbia) 1970 (US)


de sole et vento", aesop's fables. detail from illustration by francis barlow, 1666.

wid•der•shins |ˌwɪdəʃɪnz| (also with•er•shins)
adverb chiefly Scottish
in a direction contrary to the sun's course, considered as unlucky; counterclockwise.

ORIGIN early 16th cent.: from Middle Low German weddersins, from Middle High German widersinnes, from wider ‘against’ + sin ‘direction’ ; the second element was associated with Scots sin [sun.]

A wind...

howled in from the south or north this morning - up or down, I am undecided. Buffeting the kitchen window in sudden sheets of rain which drained away in minutes. I could hear it whistling through the cracks left open to allow i
n some air even as the kettle sputtered and boiled. A witchy sound; blowing hot and cold.

All day long the skies have been bruised and pewter. Autumn is just around the corner.

I have been on the caffeine again of late. Yesterday was all but dry.

Still. I imbibed a little cider. Just enough to whet the whistle. It did not do it for me, th
ough, and I left the bottle pretty much alone and opted instead for tap water. It was alright. Toxic though it may have been, I miss the dull metallic tang which comes solely from a domestic supply routed through archaic plumbing; its slow percolation through countless submerged yards of unfit lead.

I pottered aimlessly around our flat and eventually poured a bath. All the while I listened to that wind.

It reminded me, not unkindly, that there is doubtless worse to come.

What is wrong with architects round here ? They all start out with misguided preconceptions, prejudices or inherited vices. Shutters would be nice.

Yesterday morning I rose early and strode out to deliver some thank you letters to the mailbox down the street. As close as I dare get to doing the same in person. Today I slept in until 10 or so. It seemed like the safe thing to do. I lay for a while and listened to Rosa move things around. Put breakfast cereal in china bowls for the kids. No hangover behind my eyes. No twitching in the body's extremeties.

Actually, I have not gotten drunk for quite some time. Well. Not in the habitual sense. Maybe I am losing it.

Don't speak too soon kid, the wind warned me: there is a gale brewing.

DONOVAN: CATCH THE WIND [ECHO & STRINGS] from "Catch The Wind b/w Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do ?" 45 (PYE) 1965 (UK)

BOB DYLAN: IDIOT WIND from "Blood On The Tracks" LP (Columbia) 1975 (US)

Friday, August 21, 2009

why we never hired a wedding singer

don gibson and reprobate accomplice, 1972.

Alright. A Don Gibson number recorded, of course, by Faron Young in 1956 and Patsy Cline in 1963.

It was Louisiana born crooner, though, Tommy McLain- one time time member of the Vel-Tones, alongside country singer, Cline West - who scored a #15 hit on the U.S. Billboard charts with this one in 1966 and brought the song to international prominence.
This is the one I remember most fondly. Big cheese and Brilliantine. The cops are on the way... and everything is cool. Nothing ominous.

TOMMY MCLAIN: SWEET DREAMS from "Sweet Dreams b/w I Need You So" 45 (Decca / London) 1966 (US)

earthman supersmell: sand and sod

A time to reap, a time to sow

August is fallen upon us and the hour is ripe for harvest. Several months back as winter settled in, I exhumed 1991's "Earthman Supersmell" from Eindhoven collective, Alabama Kids, a group justifiably lauded in their native Holland at the time as deserving of major league status. I pondered:

"Not a lot of information is available on the Kids. From Eindhoven, they were touted as the Dutch Dinosaur Jr. and built their reputation on sprawling live performances attended by a small hardcore in and around the Netherlands in the early 90s. As a guitar band - think Neil Young snagging picks and overstepping licks with Peter Laughner; an uneasy alliance somewhere between Cleveland and the other side of Lake Michigan - the J Mascis comparisons are certainly valid, and to my ears Alabama Kids should have been truly huge.

'Stadium' rock played out in countless church halls connected by equally endless stretches of anonymous motorway; and not a stadium in sight.

Flatlands and Skunk. Crates of Amstel."

Feloniously, the album - released on Schemer, a subsidiary of Semaphore - has been out of print for longer now than is seemly. Their sound, contrastingly sparse and dense and earthy, quite perfectly evokes the peculiarly Dutch landscape; mile after mile of conspicuous flatland and the odd marriage between arterial freeway and quietly flourishing pockets of agriculture. And in the south, near the border with Belgium, the squat spectacle of one of the world's first panopticon prisons. More like a botanical hothouse than a holding centre for violent offenders.
And closer still - stagnant canal water and the ruinous wasteground of a derelict hospital where I exercised a pair of snarling dogs. A return favour for a friend.

I roomed overnight with an Irishman who had come just to photograph that gaolhouse. Not for nothing is the first port of call for newly released inmates a bar named after New York's Bellevue.

Michel Boekhoudt: bass; Jacco Van Rooy: drums ;
Rob Geerings, Stefan Vermeeren: guitar;
Djie Han Thung: guitar
, vocals.

Mixed by Pidah; recorded by Pieter Kloos.

Thanks to Milo, whose recent comment prompted me to dust this one off before it spoils.

ALABAMA KIDS: DON'T ASK ME from "Earthman Supersmell" LP/CD (Schemer) 1991 (NL)

ALABAMA KIDS: THE LADDER from "Earthman Supersmell" LP/CD (Schemer) 1991 (NL)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

sans cowbell

Written by Donald 'Buck Dharma' Roeser.

"Agents of Fortune" line-up:
Eric Bloom: vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion, cowbell;
Albert Bouchard: drums, vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica;
Donald Roeser: synthesizer, guitar, percussion, keyboards, vocals;
Joe Bouchard: bass, guitar, piano, vocals;
Allen Lanier: bass, guitar, keyboards.

Patti Smith: guest vocals ("Vera Gemini");
Randy Brecker & Michael Brecker: horns.

Produced by Sandy Pearlman.

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: (DON'T FEAR) THE REAPER [BUCK DHARMA ORIGINAL 4-TRACK HOME DEMO VERSION] from "Agents Of Fortune (Remastered + Bonus Tracks)" CD (Columbia/Sony) 1976/2001 (US

Sunday, August 16, 2009

it's a rainy day, sunshine girl

Well. I am a married man; it is a done deal, brothers and sisters. The well is flowing over.

Well and truly.

By morning last Friday, the rain began to fall. By noon it became clear this was no ordinary precipitation. Those raindrops were the size and colour of bright pennies, bouncing back up from the pavement to gath
er round the knees like a charm bracelet. Sluicing down under the collar and the back of one's neck.

In many cultures the presence of rain on a wedding day is considered an auspicious omen. The Italians, I hear, have a phrase for it: "Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata" - a wet spouse is a lucky spouse - bride and groom anointed with good fortune. A token of fertility seemingly.

My God. We have three already. We might yet sire a football team.

Buddhists and Hindus, too - I am told - are united by this conviction.

All that rain could not dampen our spirit any. Although I would have welcomed the chance to stroll along sun dappled lanes rather than dash between taxi and registry office sheltered beneath a golfing umbrella. Still. Our Portuguese piper had earlier called the tune, stoically observing that pipers are much like the rain here in Scotland; guaranteed to grace the day. And so he did. Ceremoniously playing us out like a trooper through the do
wnpour; our guests braving the same as they showered us with confetti. Some of it in my face as harshly as a slap.

Thank you, Jose. And all those who joined us despite the awful traffic threading and choking the city centre. Like salmon fighting upstream we made it in the end.

14th August, 2009.
For my beautiful wife, Rosa.

TOM VERLAINE: RAIN, SIDEWALK from "Around" LP (Thrill Jockey) 2006 (US)
THE BLUE NILE: TINSELTOWN IN THE RAIN from "A Walk Across The Rooftops" LP (Linn) 1983 (UK)
BOB DYLAN: EARLY MORNIN' RAIN from "Self Portrait" LP (Columbia) 1970 (US)
FRED NEIL: LITTLE BIT OF RAIN from "Bleecker & MacDougal" LP (Elektra) 1965 (US)
LED ZEPPELIN: THE RAIN SONG from "Houses Of The Holy" LP (Atlantic) 1973 (UK)
DIRTY THREE: RAIN ON from "Cinder" LP (Touch And Go) 2005 (US)
FAUST: IT'S A RAINY DAY, SUNSHINE GIRL from "So Far" LP (Polydor) 1972 (Germany)
THE BEATLES: RAIN from "Paperback Writer b/w Rain" 45 (Parlophone) 1965 (UK)

Monday, August 10, 2009

this little piggy went to market

son of sam says...

Man. Those leathers don't fit me any more. Not even the act of cutting Jim Morrison darts in the waistband is gonna help. No sir. I had hoped the diet might have gotten me closer, but given the liver no longer functions as it ought to, there was fat chance. Mid life crisis ? Not a bit of it. I just never wanted to fill the trotters of the common garden porcine groom.

So. There are options.

I thought briefly about a long kilt. No dice. I saw a gaggle of wedding guests last Friday in the West End rigged out in full kilt hire regalia with Ray-Bans on the side and it looked, I felt, just f@cking ridiculous. I got a jacket. I bought a collarless shirt - no fucking ties, alright ? - and that was okay. Vaguely the same muumuu pattern Homer Simpson might opt for at a pinch.

There. It is only the lower half which concerns me abjectly; the conventional option of dress trousers or otherwise. Yes, a suit can be fine, but only if the wedge in your pocket stretches to Giorgio Armani. The A-List celebrity shit, in short. Clearly, this is not an option. No dough to go Italian or French ? If you are no longer quite the skinny f@ck of yesteryear, my advice is think again.

Let's go Dutch. I have no notion of dressing up like Christopher Lambert for the ubiquitous budget Highlander sequel or Gibson in his Braveheart slice of ham. F@ck Sean Connery while we're at it; his kilt no doubt cost him the price of one of our smaller islands.

In the end it was jeans, of course. Are you listening Mr. Lydon ? What may be the lower bowels of hell, sartorially, for you, is by no means the same piece of shit for the rest of us. It still cuts the mustard quite adequately, I feel. Maybe I am misguidedly conservative. Inverted. Granted, I may not possess the credit to opt for imported US brands which sell here for a ludicrous premium, but I am f@cked if I am going to clad myself in a bin liner out of a shop on the Kings Road just to grab some backhand coin. You know where I am coming from. It was all a simple matter of under the counter spoils.

Jeans, I tell you. Nothing more and nothing less will do.

And. If I do happen to ever shed these surplus pounds of shrieking blubber, you can be guaranteed it will be back in the leathers in the blink of an optometrist's eye. No f@cking PVC for me.

TAD: BEHEMOTH from "God's Balls" LP (Sub Pop) 1989 (US)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

sno doz, the city which never sleeps


up near the eaves, waiting to drop like a stone, it was close to business as usual. Norris Gable, sometime broker in scrap iron - and officially the groom - paced the floor cagily and threw coffee after coffee down his throat. Outside the occasional siren wailed and the constant jackhammer in his head could only be appeased with a chain-smoker's fumbled offering.

In and out, the fumes catching in his chest and the butterflies protesting.

"Fuck this," he said. "My nerves are shot. I am almost out of cigarettes and I'd sooner recycle those butts in the ashtray than go down there and buy some more."

He pressed his nose to the glass puttied in the metal frames and ran his fingers over his neck. Agitated, he wasted five minutes or so rifling the window sill for stray papers. There were none and he knew it. He mi
ght kill an hour pointlessly going through pockets hanging on coat hooks next to the electric meter but in the end he would come back empty-handed. There was no percentage in it, it was just the unconscious desire to worm his head into the noose; to fiddle with the knot.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he went. Creaking back and forth.

The minute hand on the clock on the kitchen wall turned faster than he could believe. Not spinning, no. A kind of spastic twitching, merely. The tick of one hand clapping in mirthless applause.

"Oh well. There is nothing else for it. I will just sit down and watch that tv programme on The City Addicted to Crystal Meth. That should be distracting."

It was just like peering into the mirror. A procession of strung out blank eyed insects; each one twisting on bespoke soldering wire. Going through the motions of nothing in particular.

Keep the green tea on ice. His own bag from now until tomorrow was nothing more than caffeine, like Philip K. Dick with an empty fridge.

Blink and you might miss it.

note: ring shown not actual size.

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: MILDRED PIERCE REPORTING (OLD SARGE) from "Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales" CD (Island Red) 1993 (US)

Friday, August 7, 2009


detail from "les très riches heures du duc de berry" by the limbourg brothers, circa 1413.

On the littered waste ground my apartment block looms over I spied a woman in a white jacket. She was on her knees, still as death, feeding a gathering of pigeons. Or observing them intently. In much the same way I stood watching her.

We are so high up, at first I mistook her for just another plastic bag. I actually had to retreat into the kitchen to fetch the scratched set of binoculars which once belonged to my grandfather. I am a nosy motherf@cker at times, I must admit. Add that to my list of vices.

Well, alright. It transpired it was just another plastic sack, but that doesn't mean we don't have our ration of Francis of Assisis round here. Albeit most are content to simply drizzle breadcrumbs from their windows. Or leftovers and glass bottles; and on one notable occasion a pair of scissors which very nearly impaled my skull. There is even a Chinese family with impeccably green credentials who rise every morning at the crack of dawn and sally forth to uplift beer cans and used syringes before the many children shared between twenty-three floors spew out in a tide.

A regular battalion of weasel faced brats watch the elderly matriarch stooping to retrieve the debris which has accumulated overnight. They too are forced out of their homes as soon as the sun comes up. They watch her dispassionately as they cram crisps into their mouths. They drop their emptied packets under CCTV cameras mounted on the walls and run.

In less than a year they will begin to swagger. This is the ritual.

I cannot quite grasp why the Chinese family persist with it. But I admire their dogged perseverance all the same.

I hear Bill Burroughs whine in my ear:
' "Aren't you going to do something?" I demanded. He looked at me and yawned.'

That old woman refuses to be cowed. Like a peasant sowing the fields while the B52's buzz overhead.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

reup: from the gorbals to stonehenge

roger kynard erickson's
all-seeing eye, or some outlandishly fiendish occult plot ?

This song was recorded in Roky's manager's office in Marin County, California during an acoustic solo performance in which the Aliens were notable by their absence.

"from the gargoyles to stone henge
from the sphynx to the pyramids
religious temples praising the devil right

to the devils club as it strikes midnight..."

Hear that first line quoted above ? I'm still not convinced.

Ever since my friend, Gus - an Erickson aficionado - first brought this song to my attention a couple of years after its original release, I have been stone cold certain Roky actually sings "From The Gorbals to Stone Henge"...despite the odds. Even listening to it now, having finally sourced the lyric on the web somewhere in a bid to lay old ghosts to rest, I continue to harbour grave doubts.

Gargoyles just don't do it for me.

ROKY ERICKSON: I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE BEFORE from "Gremlins Have Pictures" LP (Pink Dust) 1986 (US)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

sans palmolive, without lubrication

Oh, well. It's now or never. In less than a fortnight I shall be officially married - road traffic accidents and strokes, excepting - a convention I have studiously avoided in the thirty odd years since I legally 'came of age'. Out of atypical modesty, I have thus far resisted the urge to announce said event. That, or the faint anxiety regarding plans which gang awry.

Anyhow. The game is afoot. Events have been set in motion.

A piper, even, has been procured; a splendid Portuguese busker on Spanish pip
es who kindly agreed to step by and bless the ceremony. Far better a relaxed Iberian note than the spectacle of pomp and circumstance. A far more colourful route to travel than booking a complete stranger through any agency, I would suggest. It rained abysmally in the moments of my asking him if he had ever done a wedding gig. He carefully flicked a raindrop off the display on his cellphone as we swapped numbers and made sure we were not about to drag him on to the steps of a church. A man of the cloth, his tartan was wholly black. Without stripe or accent.

"Pipers are much like the rain in Scotland," he said. "One can always be assured we will be there."

I have not stepped foot in Portugal for quite some time. Twenty years, in fact. Give or take a downpour. From his tattoo I took him to be a man of his word.

Tessa Pollitt: bass;
Ari Up: drums, vocals;
Viv Albertine: guitar;
Steve Beresford: keyboards;
Bruce Smith: drums.

Recorded on October 12th, 1981;
first tra
nsmission on October 26, 1981.

Produced by Tony Wilson.
Backing vocals by Neneh Cherry.

THE SLITS: EARTH BEAT / WEDDING SONG from "The Peel Sessions" CD (Strange Fruit) 1998 (UK)

smile a little smile

Delightful schmaltz from the UK production / songwriting partnership between Tony Macaulay and Geoff Stevens; better known through their association with The Foundations - "Build Me Up, Buttercup" - and Pinkerton's Assorted Colours.

Owing a massive one farthing debt to "Penny Lane" era woodwind flourishes and cow lashed McCartney-isms, one also harbors a secret admiration for the way the middle eight almost meanders off through the overspill of trash cans from Ray Davies' "Dead End Street". A little piece of uniquely shameless English whimsy.

Tony Newman: vocals, guitars;

Steve Jones: guitars, vocals; Sam Kempe: vocals;
Stewart Coleman: bass;
Paul Wilkinson: drums.

Written by Geoff Stevens and Tony Macaulay.
Produced by Tony McCauley.

photograph by alex waterford hayward.

THE FLYING MACHINE: SMILE A LITTLE SMILE FOR ME (MONO) from "Smile A Little Smile For Me b/w Maybe We've Been Loving Too Long" 45 (PYE) 1969 (UK)