Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
AMID the weeping and gnashing of teeth last weekend that we (er, that’ll be ‘you’ - d) got some agents wrong in our doom laden critique of modern British comedy, what could easily be discerned from the replies received is the fact that many people agree that modern comics are slowly beginning the slide towards the narrow mainstream they once felt duty bound to avoid.
Step forward Frankie Boyle and his Daily Mail baiting gag about the Queen’s pussy being haunted, step forward Russell Howard and your morally objectionable use of the word rapey and more prominently step forward Jimmy Carr and the legion of paedophilia and rape gags which you can pass off as ‘ironic’.
Telling rape and paedophilia gags doesn’t offer anything to the reassessment of morality or social mores, it just narrows the intellectual gene pool of comedy and short changes a generation of punters.
If all they are being served is Frankie Boyle talking about the
It takes no work or skill to have a dig at these – I want these comics to have a go at radical Muslim clerics while in a mosque or beat down a Mossad operative’s heckles by saying he’s a bit puffy. If you are going to be edgy then do something that is genuinely dangerous. Test the courage of your convictions.
While Lee is funny and clever while being guilty of the charge of sanctimony, Josie Long or Robin Ince are always clever but just not that funny. They’ll take their quirky
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
No one pop star ever touched me more than Strummage and never a week goes by without listening to The Clash or his four 'solo' albums.
I wrote this interview a month prior to his death for the Liverpool ECHO.
It's a rubbish interview because I was overawed speaking to a hero, I hope I did him justice. He even phoned me a day later to make sure I had got the pictures his wife was sending for it. I was feeding our daughter Ella her brekkie when I took the call, I dropped Weetabix all over the floor.
All the best, Joe.
Liverpool ECHO, November 22, 2002
THE voice is as enthusiastic and passionate as it ever was, the beliefs as idealistic as they ever were.
Joe Strummer's back in town and he ain't changed a bit.
Leader of punk deities the Clash, musical pioneer, political idealist and doting father, Strummer remains undimmed by the slings and arrows of 25 years outrageous fortune in the music industry.
And, excited punk rock pop pickers, he's heading our way.
On the phone from his West Country home, the man born John Mellor in Turkey 50 years ago is looking forward to coming back to Liverpool, a city which took the Clash to its bosom like no other.
But more of the nostalgia later. This time he's bringing his band, the Mescaleros, back to town next Friday at Liverpool University's small but perfectly formed Stanley theatre.
This is the story so far.
Strummer and his young band have recorded a couple of critically acclaimed albums (Pop Art And The X-Ray Style from 1999 and last year's Global A Go-Go) and won rave live reviews since the great man came back from nearly a decade of self-imposed showbiz exile three years ago.
They rip through a handful of Clash classics every night and augment these punk favourites with the best tracks from the two albums, as well as throwing in the odd new song or reggae cover.
And how would you describe the new songs?
Well, deep breath now, it's an interesting mixture of pop, blues, reggae, dance dub and African jive.
It's infectious and irresistible for anyone with a passing interest in quality sounds.
This time around they are hitting the university with the intention of honing a set ready for recording a new album early in the New Year.
Cue Joe, rapping quickly and enthusiastically about the vibe in the band.
He says: "We were out in Japan and America and we were really rocking, blowing crowds away with the new songs. So I wanted to get it back out on the road again and bash the songs out and make them stronger before we get in to the studio.
"The new songs are mutating, and becoming more human because we are banging them out without fussing.
"Playing live is a part of the process; we aren't interested in making something pristine, we want to bash the songs out before we get into the studio.
"But what I have learned is that when you are on a roll like this and the vibe is right you have to keep riding it; the only time we ever managed to do it before was with (legendary Clash triple album) Sandinista."
Clang! That there, folks, is the sound of the Clash name being dropped, and it's a musical legacy you can't ignore when interviewing the great one.
Liverpool loves him and he loves us. Heck, Liverpool is practically home territory for Strummer, who made his long-awaited return to the stage at a legendary show at the now closed Cumberland Street venue the Lomax in 1999.
But for many an ex-punk about town, a Clash show at Eric's in 1978 was the high water mark for both the band and the movement.
Joe adds: "We had some great shows in Eric's where it really went off, they were brilliant nights where we really rocked the house.
"We loved Eric's and loved playing Liverpool."
In fact Eric's in 1978 can claim to be the most packed show of all time - the club only held a couple of hundred people, but up to 10,000 claim to have been present.
Despite these nostalgic waxings there was no place for the Clash on the cheap TV celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the birth of British punk.
As middle-aged men and women rehashed a quarter of a century-old anecdotes, Strummer and his band mates Mick Jones, Topper Headon and Paul Simenon kept a dignified silence.
Strummer simply says: "That's all false memory syndrome. I don't want to look back, I want to keep going forward, I still have something to say to people.
"I don't want to be seen as one of the Searchers, doing the same things over and over again.
But until then, I'll just keep going."
There is no chance of a potentially multi-million dollar reunion of the Clash, but they are still the band most revered by the current crop of garage groups.
On top this of their 1979 classic London Calling has been voted one of the top 10 singles of all time by music bible NME.
Joe says: "That's better than money or anything else in this job - that's respect, the fact that these great bands acknowledge a debt to us. That's fantastic."
So that's Joe , punk rock Godfather and a man of the people.
* Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Stanley Theatre, Liverpool University, Friday, November 22.
Friday, 18 December 2009
GM Irish Comics Layout 2
GM Britcomedy Layout 1
Sunday, 13 December 2009
A CASUAL glance at the listings pages of the posh papers tells you everything that you need to know about the current state of stand-up comedy in
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Send me a jpeg of you holding a work of art that you love or that means a great deal to you and I will publish it no questions asked, no explanation required. It must be something which you believe speaks for itself without any semblance of qualification or extrapolation.
Let's build a new canon of canonical texts.
You must own it or have it, that's the only rule, it must be tangible.
Ergo, All I'm Saying Is...
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Helmed by close friends, John Oliver (Daily Show cast member, former Mock the Week panellist and big Liverpool fan), and Andy Zaltzman (Radio 4/ Radio 5 comic and big Harlequins rugby union fan), it is simply the the funniest thing available anywhere every week. That's largely thanks, one feels, to the weary presence of producer Tom, the man forced with making this Transatlantic satire masterclass happen.
Recorded via ISDN with Oliver in New York and Zaltzman in London, The Bugle rarely disappoints. With 97 editions under their belt the paircould be forgiven for running out of material, but they never do. Producing two or three podcasts most months, their topical banter is the best anywhere. It puts all the reruns of Never-Mind-QI's-Mock-the-Top-Gear-Week to shame.
This week their best gags were on the the Iraq shoe thrower's release from jail. (Listen below)
While all the commentators were pretending that they thought about Ozymandias when the Dubai building bubble crashed, they came up with this brilliant Bugle Feature section.
The Bugle is available from iTunes and the Murdoch owned (spit here, Scousers) Times website.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
WE OCCASIONALLY dip our toes into to the world of newspaper and magazine design, usually the great redesigns of US newspapers.
However my local prospective Lib Dem candidate Richard Clein, a former journalist and now successful PR man is the mastermind behind this A3 'local freesheet style newspaper leaflet which came through the door.
a) How in the modern age of inexpensive DTP and sophisticated campaigning did this pass the quality control? It's appalling. And,
b) the back page looks like it was designed by whoever puts together Sovereign Nation, Saoirse or one of the other dissenting Republican newspapers. In fact it makes their design sensibility seem like Wallpaper* or Vice magazine.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Haven't bought anything but I really enjoyed finding Pomplamoose the other day on twitter before the Ireland SA rugby union international. I imagine it isn't to everyone's taste here. Hey, ho. Nataly Dawn's voice is great.
Cork hurler Donal Óg Cusack's autobiography 'Come What May' written with the Irish Times' Tom Humphries is the best sporting biog for a long time. (Humphries is the best sports writer in the two islands, and that is a fact.)
Billed as the book in which Cusack becomes the first male elite athlete to come out while playing, it's much more about player strikes, personal vendettas and a strong willed, cantankerous, competitive, succesful, obstinate fecker who will stand up for himself against anyone. He also hates Kilkenny with a passion. Strongly recommended.
For work: Again, 'Irish Freedom' by Richard English: brilliant dissection of the modern 'myths' of Irish republicans.
Generation Kill again, Andrew Marr's Making of Modern Britain was extraordinary and caught up on Andrew Graham Dixon on BBC 4 (see link in the side bar here). Now watching the end of Misfits on C4 which is very tightly written and very watchable for yoof oriented TV
In Our Time with Lord Bragg has been on fire recently particularly the Sparta show and Portrait of the Artist episode last week. Listened to it three times so far. Please download.
Also, Studs Terkel podcast tribute at the brilliant Democracy Now! website. Jesus, I love Studs, God rest him. See below.
Went the flicks TWICE.
- 'Men Who Stare at Goats', a wee bit lacking in plot and clunky as a result. Ewan McGregor in it simply for a long running Star Wars gag but George Clooney is incredibly watch-able. I think he is the actor of his generation in so many ways. (See below)
- 'Law Abiding Citizen' - just to see how bad it was. Total merde. Trailer (seen disbelievingly at TMWSAG screening)is enough. Absolute shyte. (See below)
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Malachi remembers thinking 'We'll get nothing off the police or the injured man so why go?' But when he got there the crew interviewed people on the street and kids coming home from school and assorted people coming and going.
What resulted was a fantastic piece of human interest journalism which said more about the shooting and its effects on the area than any conventional form of news report ever could.
But in this age of being conditioned by the for-and-against style of adversarial journalism (you know the kind: 'Hey, let's talk about the Arab Israeli crisis - and on my left Abu Hamza...) we have rather lost sight of the kind of journalism that Malachi remembered.
Who'd have thunk it? Getting honest to goodness interesting stories from people, real people? This must be one of the ways forward for our industry, especially in an age of PR, spin and councils putting out their own propaganda sheets.
We must look at the effects of process and policy journalism and not the forms themselves. We have got to get back to those we have left behind (not just them venting nonsense in the blogosphere) and look at the prosaic elements of their lives and see the glory of the minutiae of those lives.
The democratic divide doesn't just mean not seeing our democratic bodies in our papers, it means not seeing the effects of what they do in our communities in our papers - two very different things.
But that is a side issue to my point - we need to recover the interesting, valuable people in our communities and write about and/ or broadcast them.
To be hyper local we have to connect with the local and not just in an advertising revenue sense, although that is important.
So who are the interesting people in our communities? The answer? Everyone. Everyone has a story to tell, we have to give them multiple opportunities to tell those stories.
While we in Britain involved in journalism's future have been distracting ourselves looking at networks and imagining building bogus business models based on major American cities full of tech literate people (thought up by a generation US academics who are themselves feathering their own nests BTW), we have lost sight of our everyday reality.
Studs Terkel, whose death a year ago robbed the US of one of its great journalistic talents, spoke to remarkable people from every walk of life. From Martin Luther King at the bedside of Mahalia Jackson to the soldiers and domestic helps he spoke to for The Good War, he was interested in people rather than their news worthiness. Their human worth was more valuable than any kind of manufactured hook to hang them on for the perceived audience.
And it is this model we should be looking to in the new age.
Wrestle away the blogosphere from the mountains of people interested solely in themselves, their shopping lists and scatter gun reactionary opinions and get them to write about other people - and who can do this best? Journalists.
Who can be at the heart of the knowledge transfer which perpetuates this new form of journalism? You guessed it, journalists and media organisations.
The first professional job I had in journalism was on the Crosby Herald 15 years ago. It's a paper in a small town which is essentially a suburb of Liverpool and the growth of Liverpool is changing Crosby's old distinctiveness by the week, almost.
But in all the sports teams and groups our daughter is now involved in and the church groups I go to, I get the sense that everyone wants to know the same kinds of information I once gathered for the Herald.
In 1995, I wrote the paper's People page and the pub column. They were about marriages, deaths, people in boozers and so much more besides.
I had more reaction from those pages than any I have written since - bar the massive legal action Cavern City Tours took against the Liverpool Daily Post in 1998. (The Post hierarchy were pussies. The story stood up.)
People love people, they simply like things, objects or devices. People are sexy, things aren't. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Here, and listen to me, I'll let you in on a wee secret Studs taught me: ordinary people are more interesting to read about or speak to than celebs or pop stars. FACT. Well mostly fact - Strummer was great, Jack Charlton fab, Paul McCartney even fabber.
But, I had a whale of a time speaking to John McHugh the composer or Gill Burns the rugby player or Nick the manager of the Blundellsands Hotel than I ever had speaking to Jimmy Carr or Sean Lennon or some identikit singer of a doomed indie band.
Journalism's future is recalibrating ourselves with our immediate environs and that which means most to us and not just in seductive global networks linked with nodes or whatever.
As journalists we know good stories and the best of us can tell those stories and teach people to pass them on.
The lesson of this tirade? To paraphrase something I quoted here a few months ago: Then Patrick Kavanagh's ghost came whispering to my mind, he said 'Gods make their own importance.'
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Mick Fealty, creator and head buck cat at Slugger O'Toole, esteemed Belfast journalist and publisher Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Gary McKeown discuss the future of news and the blogosphere with Donal Lyons.
Why Trinity Mirror or Johnson can't harness the talents of the independent sector like this to augment their regional newspaper coverage and build new online markets - I have no idea.
I'll let you sit down and have a wee look at an excellent debate on the future of news, primarily in Northern Ireland, but with wider lessons.
Blogtalk (episode 6) from Northern Visions/NvTv on Vimeo.
Monday, 30 November 2009
Studs Terkel at the mic, circa 1960 (photo: Russ Arnold), pic here
THE great Chicago author, disk jockey and social historian Studs Terkel was the senior keeper of the annals of the American left for the majority of the 20th Century.
He was a rare beast in terms of the modern media - a man equally concerned with interviewing the ordinary working American as he was with locking horns with global leaders or celebrities.
A prominent civil rights campaigner and target for the House on UnAmerican Affairs Committee, he was a committed Socialist and stood by his politics even when he it cost him work in the early 1950s.
He was best known for The Studs Terkel Program which ran daily on radio station 98.7 WFMT Chicago between 1952 and 1997. He interviewed thousands of guests during that time from Martin Luther King to Bob Dylan and Leonard Bernstein. He asked difficult questions and nearly always got great answers.
He didn't get to see that historic night for the US but in many ways it was the perfect ending for a life that had been so involved in civil rights and the advancement of rights for the black community.
He died at home at the age of 96 in October 2008 but has left a mountain of books and recordings to guide the way of young journalists wanting to know just how to do it. Maybe if we follow his optimistic and committed example and see the inherently interesting nature of all humans and not just so-called celebrities, then may be new hyper localised form of news media will emerge as voice for all of us.
The Chicago History Museum and the city's historical society have joined forces to produce this remarkable website with transcripts and excerpts from some of his many thousands of interviews of the years, with the wonderful title Conversations with America
He set a standard for all broadcasters in his commitment to finding the real story behind the lives of ordinary people, believing these stories were as valuable as the lives of popes, presidents or pop stars.
Fittingly it is a response to one of his millions of questions that sums up Studs to me. He asked award winning stage actress Uta Hagen about faith, her response could have been about the great man himself.
Hagen: [...] That I am truly religious about. Oh my God, I think that the faith, the miracle of creation is what a human being is capable of communicating. It's not a private thing, it has to be communicated. Which is what I love about art—that you pass on, you make an offering of your spirit to somebody else hoping that it will help them, enlighten them, make them laugh, make them cry. These are things that make our lives worth living as far as I'm concerned. To me, that's art. That's my religion.This brilliant documentary from Democracy Now is a fitting tribute to a great man.
Friday, 27 November 2009
His belief about London music is that the story telling elements of classic capital musicians like The Kinks, The Small Faces, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Madness, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Dizzee Rascal form part of an unbroken link between the singing broadside news sellers of the pre-17th Century, pre-newspaper era and the cockney market traders who became the template of music hall.
Furthermore, this thesis is deepened by evidence of the historic pool of talent who sought London as their Whittington-esque showbiz El Dorado over the years.
Musicians headed to London to make their name through the ages and so in the era of music hall they assumed the popular Cockney stereotype that the people loved. The showbiz and 'media' industries of the day were there, and as a result, in later years they went to London because that's where the work was. From music hall to big band, to jazz to folk and rock - even the feckin' Beatles did it - London continued to be a centre for the popular arts.
And although the Beatles didn't, to a large extent, become proto-Lahndaners, London, for most performers is a place where they go to reinvent themselves and to make money in the process. London is pragmatic and showy in equal measures - that's just what people do when they get there. It's the reason why outsiders like Damon Albarn, Jimmy Pursey, Paul Weller et al, suburban boys unsure of themselves, become more Cockernee than the the 'cor blimey, love a dove' natives.
As GM follower Tom McGeehan tweeted after the event today, the key point about Paul's talk was: "London is a city, Liverpool is a state of mind."
Paul's belief that Liverpool has a melodic, stoned and anarcho-surrealist pop sensibility is more in keeping with a debunking of the notion that there is a North South divide fashionable in deconstructions of British culture.
Rather, Paul said, we should think of Liverpool's position in Britain's musical canon more in terms of an East/ West divide that it fits in with a line that runs from the Western Isles of Scotland and takes in Glasgow, the Lake District, Wales and Cornwall.
In these terms, he said, Liverpool's melodic, slightly melancholic dispositions fit in with notions of a residual Celtic Twilight - of a place people may have gone to escape their previous malaises but are marooned because they haven't got to their desired final destinations of the USA or the new world - just like those who came to Liverpool in the first wave of Irish immigration in the mid 1840s.
But the seagoing tradition of Liverpool in the time of its prosperity in the 19th and early 20th centuries, drove a collective imagination: dads and uncles came back from foreign lands with exotic stories and the sight of big ships and the eternal Mersey skyline (even to this day) inspire Scouse musicians to produce, not pragmatic storytelling, but dreamy eyes-to-the-sky reverie.
It was a great event, enjoyed by one and all and you can listen to third year journalism student Dave Jenkins interview Paul on Radio Hope in the clip above.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
It poses three questions:
a) why would I even go near any of these films? They all look dreadful,
b) has Guy Whattyacallim fallen so far since Lock Stock... that his name is so small on the poster for the obviously dreadful Sherlock
c) why, in an era of crowd sourcing and trending, would you think the, perhaps, lefty types who have gone to TMWSAG would want to see any of these four movies?
BTW: The Cameron Diaz-fronted The Box is an unembedable YouTube, perhaps because it is awful. Try and find it, GM-ers
I have put together a collaborative playlist on Spotify as a talking point for one of the questions.
However, what do you think are the best songs about Liverpool and London or the best songs from acts from those cities?
If you are a Spotify user please contribute here or add your suggestions below.
Click on the picture for initial choices from GM HQ.
Please offer all your opinions widely and generously.
Monday, 23 November 2009
The Go-Betweens 'Headfull of Steam'
IN May 2005, I was backstage in Liverpool venue the L2 at The Go-Betweens with Coleraine lad Andy Kelly of the Liverpool Daily Post and his soon-to-be missus Rachael - and we were actually talking to the actual Robert Forster and Grant McLennan of The Go-Betweens.
I really couldn't have been happier because the band had been my big love for much of the 1980s.
Based around the friendship and song writing partnership of McLennan (above, right) and Forster (left) they were the greatest cult band of their era. Albums like 16 Lovers Lane, Tallulah and Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express were classically literate pop music made by very intelligent people.
They wrote a clutch of remarkable songs on three or four brilliant albums. They may not have troubled the top reaches of the charts, but NO band meant more to me.
They were loved by great looking intelligent women in short Paisley skirts, black tights and DM shoes and wrote magnificent songs and that was enough for me.
As I got older and they broke up to pursue solo projects, McLennan's music meant even more to me. His four solo albums and various side projects were treasured thanks in no small part to the memory of the Gobies. Even Forster's solo albums, although not as treasured, meant something to me.
In this era of free music on demand, I still treasure McLennan's solo albums Watershed, Fireboy, In Your Bright Ray and Horsebreaker Star. They are real high water marks of the era and whether anyone else feels the same way, I couldn't care less.
Then, around the turn of the century, they got back together and made The Friends of Rachel Worth and then in 2005 the glorious Oceans Apart.
After the release of the latter, I interviewed Grant on the phone from his Brisbane home before they played Liverpool, it was a dream come true. He was witty, intelligent and gracious in the way I had imagined he would be when I pretended to do interviews with him as a teenage fanzine writer and wannabe journalist in the 1980s.
As a result of the following piece in the Daily Post I was dubbed 'the wonderful Paddy Hoey' by the band's website, it's still my most treasured achievement in journalism.
Then Grant died and it all stopped. Just after their best album and when they were writing the best music of their lives to the biggest audience the ever had.
Just like Lloyd Cole, The Go-Betweens never let me down, always surrounded me with love and we are all better people for their body of work.
There, didn't mention 'jangly' or 'arch' once.
FOLLOW FRIDAY 10 Spotify collaborative playlist here.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
But that would be unfair to a brilliant wee movie which offers tonnes of laughs without being the satiric master class it sets out to be. It certainly has none of the anarchic mentalism of the best of the Coens as well as stopping short of the classic anti-war texts of Catch 22 and M*A*S*H.
But, based on the uproarious 2004 Jon Ronson book of the same name, it fictionalises the US Army's actual madcap investigations into new age and paranormal activities, now fictionally placing them within the context of the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Crucially it keeps most of the screwiness of Ronson's text.
In the 1970s, the army believes that the Russians have been developing the psychic powers of their operatives and so the Yanks try to do the same themselves thanks to the general who believes he can jump through walls if he concentrates hard enough. Clooney's character (Len Cassady) comes to prominence when he 'actually' psychically finds an Italian kidnap hostage and goes on to stop a goat's heart just by staring at it. (He probably didn't really do.)
Ewan McGregor (who seems mostly to have been cast for a long running Star Wars-derived gag) plays mid-Western newspaper reporter Bob Wilton who stumbles upon this story of the Psy-ops organisation during the break-up of his marriage and travels to Iraq to rejuvenate his career. (Having said that, his accent is only authentically mid-Western if we consider the American mid-West to lie somewhere in an area which centres on the Scottish towns of Crieff, Dunblane and Perth).
Clearly, this is another of those ideologically driven projects Clooney takes on, normally with Steven Soderbergh, which sit outside of his main gig of being mega bucks, big box office/ coffee endorsing gold.
TMWSAG takes apart the ridiculousness of the free-market approach to the war in Iraq, as Clooney and McGregor stumble into Iraq during the invasion. We find out that the latter, a former member of the top secret paranormal unit of the US Army, is being 'guided' there psychically thanks to a dream, to find Bridges' character - his former commanding officer.
At this juncture, two rival US security firms shoot one another up in Ramadi and the Robert Altman-style satire is a little heavy handed, but that is unfair of a movie which makes a bigger point.
Through a series of voice overs and flash backs we get a picture of the new age, paranormalist unit which we know actually existed thanks to Ronson's excellent book. The ludicrousness of the Cold War ideology drove some US generals to believe in the nonsense of paranormal powers. In this ludicrous premise, this movie says, lies the ridiculousness of believing in those who believe they can sort out Iraq. If they believe in killing goats mentally - how can we trust their strategy in the theatre of war.
Despite there being a tonne of people on screen, this is essentially a tight ensemble cast. Kevin Spacey puts in his usual brilliant mad turn as Clooney's nemesis, Bridges could have phoned his part in, but doesn't and is as endearing as always. McGregor, accent aside, is convincing as a man cast adrift from the earlier realities of his life and willing to subject himself to the inherent madness in Iraq as a result.
But, ultimately, this is Clooney's film. He is absolutely mesmerising. Every twitch, every eyebrow raise is hugely watchable. It's worth £6.95 of anyone's money of a rainy Saturday evening.
And here's the point of this, frankly, terrible review: we need actors of commitment like Clooney - a man who can make one for the studio and one for himself when the latter movie is trying to make a serious point.
Clooney has an admirable left of centre political heart which seeks out movies which he knows play against his type and which make a stronger point because of it. In this respect, in committing to a bi-polar career, Clooney becomes something even more important: an actor with a heart, a conscience and a mesmerising presence which decorates anything he is in with a veneer of quality.
Name one other actor who does that from blockbuster to art house?
TMWSAG may not be is not satiric enough to be M*A*S*H or Catch 22 and may not be funny enough to be a Coen's screwball classic, but at least Clooney continues to be willing to put his head above the parapet to do interesting projects which wouldn't normally get made.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
I did talk far too much, but it was brilliant to be speak to the great man and the result is available above.
That, however, may be an example of what (name drop, ahoy) Joe Strummer once described to me as 'false memory syndrome.'
Please listen to extracts from his new book here and listen to the future of arts journalism and broadcasting here.
You can download the podcast from the Sound Cloud website by clicking on the audio bar above.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
MALACHI'S book The Telling Year: Belfast 1972 is one of the best written about the bloodiest year of the of the Troubles. Please listen to this extract, because it says much of what it was like to grow up in Northern Ireland in that period.
You can listen to extracts of his new book Under his Roof here.
His own CV says more than any crass repackaging that I could do here. It's an astoundingly ambitious body of work.
His current show The Art of Eternity, 'unravelling the mysteries of the art of the pre-perspective era', currently showing on BBC4, is a thoroughly engrossing examination of the role of religion in the development of art from Byzantium to the Renaissance. iPlayer the mutha here.
His genius, and it is really is worth such high praise, is in presenting the difficult historiography of modern art historianship in an accessible way. What shines through is a deep knowledge and love of art nurtured during his postgraduate studies in the Courthauld Institute in the early 1980s. C
He has an enthusiastic onscreen presence and a pleasantly plummy public school way which still fits the role of the modern on-screen intellectual.
But, beyond such simplistic Wolfy Smith-style class politics from me, he succeeds in portraying art history as an essential, interesting, vital and invigorating subject. You will never once think, 'Meh, well it's... just OK.' He makes great art interesting and brilliantly sets it in its historical context.
And, big claim alert, he is exactly the kind of exemplifier we need to use to justify the licence fee in the not-too-distant future debates we will be having with the free marketeers who want to break-up the Beeb.
Every single penny we have paid him was worth it. There, argue that Daily Mail.
Listen to the opening address of his landmark three part series The Art of Spain below and I dare you not to be enthralled and begging to watch every minute of a work which moves from the Moors to Goya through Picasso, Dali and Miro to modern architecture.
Saturday, 14 November 2009
MAYBE it's the day for reminiscences of Lismore Comprehensive in Craigavon, but that's where it all started for me with Lloyd Cole. Who'd have known it would end up with sharing a great 12 year old Irish whiskey in a dressing room in Birkenhead next to a vintage tram?
In the mid 80's, in Mrs Gallagher's form class, there was a coterie of hip lads who had older brothers and so they knew the best music. I was a crushingly unhip, insecure and sheltered first born and became obssessed by this C90 tape they were knowingly passing around with the words 'Lloyd Cole and the Commies' written in felt pen on that wee name strip tapes have.
So I went to where I always went when I needed to find music without asking people and risking looking foolish - the four big white revolving locked racks of tapes in Craigavon library. Mary Thomas the librarian got me Rattlesnakes and away I went. Loved it, I mean really loved it.
I never got to see the Commotions, as I found out they were called (hey we didn't have the internet or Google) until much later, so the tapes meant a great deal to me.
And despite getting into Madchester, Irish indie, rap and hip hop and folk music, Lloyd Cole always stayed with me. Like Joe Strummer or Paul Brady or Public Enemy or Van Morrison, he was always there - a song, a line or a well sung syllable constantly returning to me.
Unlike a lot of Cole fans, after the demise of the Commotions, his music got even more interesting and important to me.
His move to America in 1990ish seemed to bring on better albums and some great interviews in Q magazine, I'm sure one was with Du Noyer.
His first solo record, X, had some brilliant songs on it as did Don't Get Weird on Me which had fabulously cool sleeve art with pics shot in LA at the Capitol Building. Even the universally dismissed Bad Vibes, from 1993, had a couple of great tracks on it, including 'So You'd Like to Save The World' and 'Wild Mushrooms'.
But 1995 was the year that sealed it for me. Just before moving to Liverpool and right after university, I got Love Story and that was it, I was going to be with him for good, for better or worse.
And it is all down to one song, 'Like Lovers Do', a fabulous tale of love in three episodes which still entrances me. The great video is available here.
You know that idea of one small bit from a song, one tiny sung syllable can be the thing you love most in any artist's canon? Then for me in the final chorus, when Cole sings 'Well, I'm looking right at you now, girl' and his voice descends to a cool, low register, man I'm gone every time.
Even after he went on hiatus after he had been dropped by Polydor, (when he and his wife Elizabeth started a family), I listened to Love Story regularly.
And then in 2000, I got The Negatives in Quirks Record shop in Ormskirk (where I was working on the incredibly underrated local paper, the Advertiser). It was, for me, the perfect Lloyd Cole album: cool, literate, very Manhattan (where he had been living) and every song on it was brilliant.
I started working on the ECHO the week after I got it and our daughter Ella was born at the end of the year. My happiest memories of this decade are of Ella bouncing along to 'Impossible Girl' in one of those bouncers you hook to a door frame as I did my weights and sit ups. All records you love have a very specific context within which they become more special.
He confounded expectations by producing two even better original albums, Music in a Foreign Language and Antidepressant, in 2003 and 2006 respectively.
It was before MIAFL, as he was launching his current solo folk singer incarnation, that I interviewed him first, for the ECHO. It was great and, unlike Van Morrison, it didn't disappoint. As I fed Ella her lunch we chatted and he was witty, urbane, didn't seem to mind me blowing smoke up his ass and he took the piss out of various people, especially the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch and the Waterboys' Mike Scott. He gave good copy.
I interviewed him again after MIAFL - this time for the Daily Post as he was about to play Birkenhead's Pacific Road venue and we had a blast, talking about how his dad had been a golf pro at the club local to us and more specifically - Irish whiskey.
I promised him a bottle of Red Breast back stage as it was going to be his birthday. The gig was great, if a wee bit shouty (as Merseyside gigs can be) - I know he didn't particularly enjoy it. But I got backstage and delivered said single pot still nectar and we broke it open and chatted for a few minutes.
I dearly wanted to tell him about Mrs Gallagher's form class and Craigavon library and singing along to The Negtives as our wee daughter bounced and about that really, really great low note in 'Like Lovers Do' and our wee nascent family singing along to the doo doos from the 'Brand New Friend' 12" in the car on holiday in France and how much his music had meant to me over the years. I wanted to tell him how much he had meant to me.
But I didn't.
I became an eejit journalist and pretended he was my mate and just shot the breeze in a dressing room full of strangers in a venue which shared space with a transport museum that has a vintage tram in it.
I wish I had said, 'You know what Lloyd? You're brilliant and you helped me out of a personal jam more than once and gave me some great memories over the years. And, by the way, you know that wee low bit in the end chorus of 'Like Lovers Do' - it kills me every single, bleedin time, lad.'
But I didn't. And I regret it.
He has released two live albums and a collection of Stephen Street mixes of his solo recordings this year (as well as two volumes of Commotions Live at the BBC), reviewed here, and I couldn't be happier.
Oh that I could say this about every Tom, Dick and Harry band I have invested time and emotional energy in over the years; but Lloyd Cole has never disappointed me. God bless the old boy.
Please add songs to the collaborative Spotify Playlist here
Friday, 13 November 2009
The old boy was apparently very partial to the 19th Century Austrian composer, but I don't know much more than this. Alas I was listening to it merely because the symphonies are a magnificent noise as background to writing. Very inspiring. One and all should, as the kids aver, check them out, innit.
Click on picture for the tunes played this week.
In fact he was the only person I knew anywhere with any rap music - Craigavon, a town 26 miles from Belfast and at the centre of an area once known as the Murder Triangle in the 1970s, didn't really embrace hip hop. The Bronx, Bed-Stuy or Sugar Hill it was not.
But Seamie was a good lad, same year as me at Lismore and been in the cubs together - so I knew him well enough to try get a gander at this hallowed item.
So I got an invite round to his house in Edenbeg - he won't mind me saying this - he wasn't a great one for tidying. He was 16 and living alone at the time, I think one of his parents had died, can't be sure, but there amid the physical and emotional mess was a pristine copy of It Takes a Nation of Millions...
And not just that, there was Eric B and Rakim and EPMD and Stetsasonic, these were the coolest things I had ever seen. Maybe in the intervening years the incident has become heightened in my memory, maybe he'll tell me it was a one Redhead Kingpin 12".
But the point is that he was always into rap and performance, a bright and intelligent bloke who had no outlet for his massive creative energies. Maybe he felt he shouldn't display his sensitive side and to be fair, there weren't too many performance poets in the lounge of the Drumgor Tavern at the time - you could have measured with a microscope the shortness of the shrift you would have been given in the boozer if you had said: 'houl on there lad, I'm gonna bust a wee haiku here."
But there is a poet in the lounge bar now because Craigavon's finest bard is the Irish performance poetry champion. He's got his demons but he meets them head-on with a wit and a forthright nature he learned from all those hours listening to 'Cold Lampin' by Flava Flav.
My favourites are Ulster Fry, Trying to Get My Head Straight and the brilliant, brilliant Colonial Ceremony but there are also a number of sensitive love poems he perhaps doesn't get enough credit for. You can hear them here at Malachi O'Doherty's brilliant podcast site.
You should also check out the brilliant montages he does to accompany his poems.
This is what Chuck D would have been rapping about if he'd had a bottle of wine under the curly wurly bridge, bai.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
We previewed the event, at 1pm on Thursday, November 26, here previously.
Paul's two brilliant books Wondrous Place and In the City are required reading for any lovers of modern popular music, great journalism and especially for those of us who love both.
Deep in the middle of research for a long piece on Ian Dury for The Word magazine (it's hard to believe it is nearly 10 years since the great man died), Paul took time out to reflect on the city of his birth and the city he has spent his adult life in.
Paul Du Noyer - Food for Thought, Venue: Cor 114.