Saturday, 28 January 2012
This made me smile and I couldn't help but grin when Brian channelled Little Nell for her lines in the song. Amanda doesn't know it but her job is to make me happy and she's doing it nicely. Magical things happen around her and she generously shares the magic. Thank you.
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Someone I follow on Twitter had a fifty-something birthday today, Older Than Elvis, and she wasn't happy. She started me thinking though, and I realised that every now and then I still think that people who are 50 are old and then I remember that I'm 51 and I don't consider myself old at all. One rule for me and one rule for everyone else.
I'm still seeing and doing new things, experiencing new things (hey, I baked cakes for the first time two weeks ago!). I haven't settled into the kind of routine I saw my parents enter and, presumably, every generation before them. I'm not old, but I'm older. I still think in terms of 'when I grow up' (and only sometimes I'm joking), when I settle down, when I buy the cottage in the country or by the sea... and it'll probably never happen.
I'm deeply proud of some of my heroes. I was browsing through some old blog posts to find something about the Blood Red Shoes and found my post about Siouxsie playing at Shepherds Bush four years back and noted then that I said I was proud of her. It's an odd thing to say, that I'm proud of someone I don't actually know, but I am. Those old punks are still doing things. The onus is on us to still be worthy of them.
One song that always gets me going is 'Quickstep' by The Adverts from their 'Crossing The Red See With The Adverts' album that includes the line, 'Pretty soon you're gonna see what punks can do...'. And we all did - you changed music, you changed culture, you changed me.
Young people are beautiful, all of them. And so are older people. We are all beautiful. Look into my eyes and guess what wonders they've seen, Look at my feet and wonder which paths they've wandered. Have you seen what I've seen? Have you done what I've done? Have you sat in a theatre with tears running down your cheeks with emotion or pogoed all the energy out of you to ear-splitting music?
Yasmin Limbert tweeted last week asking about things to do before you're 50. I replied seeing the orange/pink dawn over the Ganges at Varanasi. I could have added wandering down jasmine-lined country lanes in Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. Or danced with ghosts at Karnak? Or be taught to use chopsticks by an old Japanese couple in a restaurant in a little town outside Siem Reap in Cambodia. Or be shown how to see the rabbit in the moon in ruined temples at Kandy? I could add lots of things. I've seen wonders.
I wouldn't have seen those wonders - or appreciated them - if I was 20 or 30. Wisdom may not come with age, but experience certainly does. So does death, sadly.
I was strangely affected by the death of Poly Styrene last year, one of the great heroes of my youth and a hero of my older age by releasing 'Generation Indigo' last year. Poly came back to us in a flash of glory and then left to join Krishna. I never met Poly and I wish I had.
I also never met The Ramones but I saw them play back in the day. The founding Ramones all sadly died, but Tommy Ramone is still going and I had the joy of meeting him and shaking his hand when he supported Buffy Sainte-Marie in New York a few years ago. I *had* to go up to him and say I enjoyed his set as Uncle Monk, I just *had* to.
For me, the real punks were always just being themselves, not what anyone else thought they should be. And that's a key message for all of us. Don't be homogenised, don't be the same as everyone else. Walk your own road and be you. You might not be terribly radical but that doesn't matter. I always wear mis-matched socks as a choice. I'd rather not wear socks at all, but the weather doesn't always allow that. I have glitter in my bureau to comb into my beard when needed. I can see ballet one night and raucous punk the next night. That's all part of me.
Be you. Are you one of us?
Thursday, 19 January 2012
As soon as we got inside it started to draw me in with the chalk boards all over the walls with kids drawings, silly jokes, comments on school dinners and suchlike, getting us all in the mood. My favourite joke as 'Why is 6 scared of 7? Because 7 8 9' (geddit?). I'd be scared too! Inside the theatre proper and the stage and surrounds are also decorated with chalk boards and building blocks with letters scrawled on the side, flooding the place like a big primary school. It worked really well, not too over-powering but just enough to get us all in the mood.
It's the story of little five year old Matilda Wormwood starting school. Her parents didn't want a child and, if they did, wanted a boy not a girl. She's a genius in a humdrum household of a ballroom dancing mum and a used car salesman dad. But Matilda can tell stories and can challenge authority in the shape of the evil headmistress and help the nice teacher get her inheritance. O yes, Matilda is special all right.
I was terribly impressed with the professionalism of the child actors singing and dancing their hearts out, choreographed to a T and no flagging at all. The child actors change regularly but I was very impressed with James Beesley as Bruce with his love of chocolate cake, Jemima Eaton as Lavender who must tell us everything and, of course, Cleo Demetriou as Matilda. She gave a masterful performance, striking all the right poses, tugging at out heart-strings and successfully speaking Russian at the end. It'll be interesting to see where she in in 10 years times.
Of the adults, I liked Peter Howe as Matilda's dad - he usually plays her brother but was stepping up due the normal dad being off - and Josie Walker as her selfish mum. Lauren Ward was lovely as Miss Honey, the nice teacher (naturally) and Bertie Carvel was magnificently menacing as the creepy and evil Head Mistress, Miss Trunchbull, the former Olympic hammer thrower.
The songs are by Tim Minchin and they stand up in their own right with no hint of his voice singing them. I loved 'Loud' sung by Mrs Wormwood in praise of make-up and hair-dos and being loud as opposed to the mousey Miss Honey but my favourite song was 'When I Grow Up', the proper opener to the second half. It's a lovely song of hope and aspiration from the point of view of a small child and it transported me back an awfully big number of years to when I might have sung that song. I bought the cast recording on the basis of that song and I'm enjoying listening to the whole show again.
I also bought a badge at the merch stand that reads, 'The Bigger The Telly The Smarter The Man'. That is so *wise*.
Go and see it as soon as you can. And then see it again. I shall.
Monday, 16 January 2012
One thing I like about the big HMV shop is that it's virtually guaranteed to have every record on the day of release and, as a fan, that's when I want to pick up the new music from my heroes. Or, the re-released and re-mastered records from my heroes. So, since today, all the records from Public Image Ltd were re-released in re-mastered form (except 'Metal Box' that we re-released in 2009), I hopped on a bus to my record shop of choice and headed for 'P' in the racks and there they were - lots of shiny PiL records!
I was busy harvesting my records of choice without really paying attention, just checking they were all the re-mastered versions, when I suddenly noticed the price - £13 per CD. £13?!?! Eh? Single CDs don't cost that much these days - double albums maybe, but even then I'd think twice. I put the records back, all except for 'Happy?', a PiL album that was deleted back in the 90s and a record I never had until a year or so ago when it was finally available for download. I couldn't leave without any records, after all.
I've just taken a look on Amazon and all the PiL re-releases are priced at £6.99. Amazon is undoubtedly making a profit from selling the records so what kind of mark-up is HMV expecting to get from these records? For a company that's already in trouble, why is it going out of its way to alienate customers with a silly pricing policy? I'll buy my PiL albums from Amazon, thank you.
Sunday, 15 January 2012
The film is compered by Jan & Dean and includes great live performances from the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Lesley Gore, Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas, The Miracles (with Smokey, of course), the Supremes and the Rolling Stones. An odder line-up will be hard to find. It was full of go-go dancers (on speed from the looks of it) that included a young Teri Garr and Toni Basil and John Landiss (later to become a film director) was in the audience and provides a short commentary on the DVD.
If you're a fan of any of the bands you'll love this DVD - they all look so young. Except, of course, Chuck Berry and James Brown and, in all honesty, Mr Brown stole the show with his consummate professionalism and showmanship, falling to his knees in exhaustion only to get up again and drive the show forward. It was a case 'ouch' for his poor knees followed by 'wow' for the recovery. It must've been awful for the young Rolling Stones to have to try to follow that performance since they topped the bill that night. The Supremes looked a little bit lost in their nice evening frocks and big wigs standing next to the Stones (that Jan & Dean introduced as "Merseybeat").
The performance that made me think and wonder was from Billy J Kramer with his rocker hair and big white smile. Billy was big in 1964 and the decline started the next year. He was 21 and his career peaked with this show - he had more hit singles but none were as big as his 1964 hits, especially 'Little Children' and 'Bad To Me'. I'm not a fan of Billy but he has a nice voice, a big white smile and looked so young in the film, starting out on his career without realising that the biggest hits were already behind him. That's not to say that the best times were behind him - they probably weren't - but it must be odd to think that nothing will ever be the same again when you're only 21 years old. Of course, you don't necessarily know that at the time.
On the other hand, that's a great way to start your adult life, all the travelling, the people he must have met, the places he's been and things he's seen. He lives in America now and still performs now and then. He still has an impressive mane of hair.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
The gig starts with an acoustic 'Cosmic Dancer' before launching into Brian's thumping drumming for 'Sex Changes'. I saw The Dolls play 'Cosmic Dancer' years ago at the Astoria and still remember the buzz of conversation while they played since so few people knew the song (it's by T.Rex, of course) but good on Amanda and Brian for still playing it.
You can also see the encore in which a drunk twat gothgirl gave Amanda a nasty hickey and The Dolls play Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs', another old school song. Now I have live Dresden Dolls in high quality video available on tap whenever I need a fix.
Thank you Amanda and Brian and thank you Moshcam and Party On The Internet.
Monday, 9 January 2012
Sunday, 8 January 2012
They played an old school Dresden Dolls concert with a mix of their own songs, covers and surprises and it was fun to see Amanda take over the drums while Brian picked up his guitar hero axe for 'You've got to fight! for the right! to paaartaaaay!'. Starting with 'Cosmic Dancer' and finishing with 'War Pigs' was like the olden days returned for a re-run and it was great to hear Amanda's solo song 'Astronaut' with Brian bashing and clashing and tishing away most creatively on his drumkit. It sounded excellent.
The only bit I didn't like was during the first encore song of 'Mein Herr' when Amanda went up into the theatre balcony to sing and some drunk or stoned goth girl latched onto Amanda and wouldn't let go until she was prised off by a security bloke. Standing at the edge of the balcony looked dangerous. Afterwards Amanda tweeted a pic of her throat that the twat of a gothgirl had been sucking on and it looks nasty (see below or avert your gaze).
'Mein Herr' took me back to seeing the Dolls for the last time at The Roadhouse in 2008. They played two nights and I went on both nights. The gig was filmed for DVD and it's widely available. I still have fond memories of lighting up a sparkler to wave during 'Sing' at the end - little things make me happy.
Anyway, I took a few screen-grabs during the broadcast so here are a few pics of the Dolls live and kicking in 2012. Love at ya!
Thursday, 5 January 2012
Buffy's blogpost reproduces an article from 'The Guardian' a few years ago (click here) and ends with my photo of her from last year. I originally published that photo in my blog about Buffy's Union Chapel gig last year (click here). And here is the photo:
I have to say that I've never been satisfied with any of the photos I've taken of Buffy in concert. I always wish I'd taken them a second earlier or two seconds later, or when the spotlight was one her or a thousand other things. I have a couple of very nice ones of me being the fanboy and posing with Buffy but I'm not publishing those anywhere, they're *mine*.
One day I *will* take a good photo of Buffy on stage. She's playing the Highline Ballroom in New York next week and I'm now kicking myself that I didn't book time off to go there. I saw Buffy play there in 2008 (click here) before 'Running For The Drum' was released. One day, o yes, one day ...
Sunday, 1 January 2012
Best Theatre - Play
There are five nominees in this category:
- Flare Path
- Clybourne Park
- Doctor Faustus
Best Theatre - Musical
I saw some excellent musicals this year but the nominees have been narrowed down to:
- How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
- South Pacific
- Fings Ain't What They Used T'Be
- Crazy For You
- Sweeney Todd
The judges have quite rightly awarded the Baggy to 'South Pacific', the production I first saw at Lincoln Centre in 2010 with a foot of snow outside the theatre and I trudged and slipped my way back to the hotel in a south seas dream. Seeing it at the Barbican had a lot to live up to with Samantha Womack as Nelly Forbush, and it fully lived up to my expectations. An excellent production I went back to see again at the Barbican and have tickets to see the touring production at Wimbledon. A worthy winner.
This category picks up any performances that aren't plays or musicals and this year the nominees are:
- Meera Syal at The Purcell Room
- 'Big People Show' with Chris Tummings and Victor Romero Evans
- Noddy Holder narrating 'A Christmas Carol'
- Matthew Bourne's 'Nutcracker'
- Slava's Snowshow
I haven't been to as many musical gigs this year as in previous years but I saw bands, solo artists and collectives, such as the Ready, Steady Go! show and Carole King and Friends. The nominees this year are:
- Jimmy Cliff @ The Indigo2
- Amanda Palmer @ The British Library
- Buffy Sainte-Marie at Porchester Hall (with Donovan and Roger Cooke)
- Alan Price @ the Queen Elizabeth Hall
- Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine @ Brixton
Best Live Performance
I always like to pick out a few live performances from the gigs I've seen that stand head and shoulders above the rest for adding that something else to the overall experience. The nominees are:
- Shelby Lynne - You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
- Sandie Shaw - (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me
- Ray Davies - Lola
- Buffy Sainte-Marie - He's An Indian Cowboy At The Rodeo (@ Union Chapel)
- Buffy Sainte-Marie - Cod'ine (@ Porchester Hall)
I've seen Buffy perform 'Indian Cowboy' several times and it's one of my favourites, especially with the powwow singing at the end of the lovely song about a teenage crush. This time she took it further with not only extended powwow singing but also powwow dancing, with Buffy and the band dancing round the stage in front of the pulpit in the chapel, a glorious sight! A well deserved Baggy for a joyful experience!
Best New Album
Most of my new albums this year have been from 'old' bands and it's been a bumper crop. The nominees start off with the only 'new' artist:
- Amanda Palmer - Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under
- Poly Styrene - Generation Indigo
- Blondie - Panic Of Girls
- Kim Wilde - Snapshots
- Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow
This is especially poignant since Poly left us in April just weeks after the new album was released. Poly died of cancer and never had a chance to promote the album or play the songs live - something she tweeted she was looking forward to doing - and what great songs they are. The songs are still a staple on my playlists and 'Generation Indigo' is my most played album of 2011 according to Last.FM. Namaste Poly!
Best New Song
There have been some great new songs in 2011 and the nominees are:
- Amanda Palmer - In My Mind
- Poly Styrene - LUV
- Blondie - Girlie Girlie
- Cerys Matthews - Sweet Magnolia
- Kate Bush - Snowflake
I've been to various exhibitions this year and the nominations are:
- Diaghilev & The Ballet Russe - Victoria & Albert Museum
- Devotion By Design - National Gallery
- John Martin's Apocalpse - Tate Britain
- Fra Angelico et Les Maitres de La Lumiere - Musee Jacquemart-Andre
- Punk And Beyond - Signal Gallery
And there you have it, the Plastic Bag Awards 2011. Let's see what 2012 has in store for us ...