Posts Tagged ‘Popular Music’
What do we do with lives and dreams after shopping?
The Scotsman, January 19th 2012
Another tottering titan fell this week with HMV going into administration. It is the latest in a long line of retail closures: Jessops, Blockbusters, Comet, JJB Sports.
This is part of a powerful challenge to the high street, to Britain’s sense of itself and its town centres, and in the case of HMV, the music industry, coming after the closure of Virgin, Zavvi and Tower Records.
These stories are usually imbued with a golden sense of nostalgia, people fondly remembering their youth and some key Woolworths purchase, and thinking the country is going to the dogs! Rarely are more complex feelings allowed to emerge, about what we do with town centres, the nature of retail, and the power of consumerism in our lifestyles and in how we make sense of our lives and pasts. Read the rest of this entry »
Gerry’s Desert Island Disc Grooves
August 10th 2010
For some reason over the last few weeks I began thinking about my Desert Island Disc choices. In part it has been listening to the show a bit more of late – usually by accident, rather than design – caused by an increase in Radio 4 listening.
Then there is my rising dissatisfaction with the conservatism and smug self-satisfaction with what modern pop culture has turned into. People going on about the Beatles. Give it a rest. The sixties. Punk and new wave which turned out to be even more insufferable and filled with aged bores and dinosaurs than the hippies. The indie scene of the 1980s. The Smiths, New Order or whoever else was at that Sex Pistols gig in Manchester they all lie about!
I used to love the Beatles. I still do, but maybe one day I will really like their music again. And it is getting that way for me for a lot of popular music which is just too over-exposed and too the received wisdom of what you are meant to like. You know the Mark Kermode/Stuart Maconie view of life: Joy Division as the central defining point of the musical universe. Then on thru the usual reference points.
All of this got myself thinking – what records would I want to take from the mainstream pop and rock culture of our times since the 1960s. Not many. I could happily live without nearly all of them. So here is my eight …. No Beatles or 1980s indie rock or lots of other things. Just an oddball list of things I think filled with something …. grace, style, affirming life and something special …. Read the rest of this entry »
Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Six
December 18th 2009
Into the final furlong. This has been both exhausting and exhilarating; now I know how much work those boys and girls at ‘NME’ and ‘Uncut’ work on their end of year lists. For me personally it has been an even more varied, stimulating and utterly captivating decade in music than ever before.
There are though some interesting (and some ominous signs) in the state of music (and I am not just taking about Cowell and the X Factor). There is the state of pop and plastic pop in particular. Apart from Girls Aloud, whose Greatest Hits appears in this list who else is championing catchy disposable pop and making great singles; Will Young, Gareth Gates, Leona Lewis, I mean, seriously! Trashy pop matters as the great days of Wham! and Culture Club show in the 1980s, who were great early on when they were in their ‘pop’ phases.
Then there is the state of music which engages with and shapes the political mood. Given what has happened in the last decade: Bush, Blair and the march of the neo-liberals, where are the subtle albums and songs about the state of democracy in Britain, America, and the never-ending wars? Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ hardly counts as a learned tome; instead where are the equivalents of the Specials ‘Ghost Town’ and even Pink Floyd’s ‘The Final Cut’, an album subtitled ‘A requiem for the post-war dream’? Read the rest of this entry »
Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Five
December 17th 2009
Just like the chart of olden days into the Top Twenty. Cue CCS ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Jimmy Saville with cigar! It is interesting to note what didn’t make my list. So as I said no Sinatra and I kind of feel guilty. The one Frank release which could have made it was ‘Sinatra in Hollywood’, a brilliant and comprehensive collection of all Frank’s film music – which is saying something – and which had for the first time the theme music for the stupendous ‘On the Town’ (one of the great tributes to the city).
I love Brazilian music and soul, the former one of my big discoveries this decade, and lots of wonderful things are missing from both. Gilberto Gil’s album with Jorge Ben which is simply titled with their names has them one night in 1975 learn a pile of songs and with minimal rehearsal record them through the night. And soul wise it was a great decade: with Betty LaVette making a stand out album with the rock band Drive-By Truckers (more of them later) called ‘The Scene of the Crime’.
Also missing are loads of people who I love individual songs of. Special mentions to Jock Scott’s hilarious drinking song ‘Barcelona’, ‘Zaz Turned Blue’, combining Mel Torme and Was (Not Was), and Le Tigre’s ‘New Kicks’ (which samples peace protests from around the world against the Iraq war). Read the rest of this entry »
Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Four
December 16th 2009
30. Post-War, M. Ward, 2006
This sound very old and very modern, fragile and unique and covered in a sepia-toned mood with Ward’s vocals as if they are coming from the past and the future. It all creates a very distinct atmosphere, with the ghost of Dennis Wilson in there alongside a cover of Daniel Johnston. This album follows his ‘Transfiguration of Vincent’ which is also superb, containing an acoustic, spellbinding cover of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’.
29. The Drift, Scott Walker, 2006
This is music matching the dark moods of the early 21st century, dark, brooding and intense, and full of insight and a sense of history and the act of remembering. Walker’s muse covers serious subjects: genocide in Bosnia, Mussolini’s mistress, but the biggest leap imaginatively is the track ‘Jesse’ comparing Elvis Presley’s twin brother who died stillborn with the attacks on 9/11, seeing them both as ‘twin towers’. Utterly brilliant and the work of a genius. I am glad someone has the courage and vision to make music like this.
28. Frank, Amy Winehouse, 2003
That Amy was a major talent and had ‘unfinished issues’ was apparent the moment this came out. For a start, there is the music here which sounds more late Billie Holiday than a 19 year old. Its cool, laid back jazz with great songs, delivery and songs, ranging subject wise from dating to boyfriends, sex, love and the music business. I saw her live just after this came out and it was a near total car crash. But this is timeless and personally I prefer it to the soul nostalgia of ‘Back to Black’. Read the rest of this entry »