Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Davy is an icon from the '60s. I have a clear memory of walking down the hill to my junior school on a sunny day in summer 1969 or 1970 pondering who my favourite Monkee was and deciding that it was Davy, largely because he was British. Here is the song he's most closely associated with for many people - including me - 'Daydream Believer', one of the many Monkees classics.
Farewell Davy, you brought a lot of happiness...
Monday, 27 February 2012
The Sex Pistols have left Virgin Records to sign to Universal Music Catalogue UK. The back catalogue deal will be for the world excluding North America.
"Music can be great, when done by the great.
The Sex Pistols are the greatest.
Universal now has a trophy room,
Music is the imitation of nature,
The Sex Pistols are nature,
So please give generously.
An expanded and repackaged edition of 'Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols' will be scheduled for release later in 2012 to commemorate its 35th anniversary. There will also be other releases throughout 2012 and beyond.
Famous for inspiring a generation to rise against the musical establishment in the late 1970s, the Sex Pistols changed the face of music and popular culture overnight with one of the most influential and controversial records in British music history. 35 years after its release, Never Mind The Bollocks and the Sex Pistols' legacy continues to grow as new generations discover its powerful message and still relevant, seminal songs.
I'm intrigued by what might be included on an expanded version of the record but we'll no doubt find out in good time. It would be nice to think there'll be gigs later in the year to promote the release ....
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Silly Billy/What A Way [Single 1976]
Poly's first single was under her own (shortened) name of Mari Elliott. 'Silly Billy' is a pop reggae song about a girl who falls pregnant by a lad called Billy Smith who vanishes to Kingston. "Billy you silly to mess with this filly" isn't one of Poly's best lyrics but I always like the inventiveness of using an unplanned pregnancy as the theme for her first foray into the music biz. 'What A Way' was the 'b' side of the single and it's laid back, almost jazzy Caribbean reggae sunshine sound reminds me of the sound of Poly's first solo album, 'Translucence'.
Little Mari Elliott then emerged later in 1976, fully formed as the magnificent Poly Styrene with her anthem, 'Oh Bondage Up Yours!'
Oh Bondage Up Yours/I Am A Cliche [Single 1977]
The first X-Ray Spex single screamed into our lives with the spoken introduction, "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, But I think OH BONDAGE UP YOURS! 1-2-3-4!" before the drums and guitar started and then the unique sax joined the fray. It still sounds young and frantic, challenging and full of energy. In one of her last interviews Poly commented that this is the song she'll probably be remembered for - her first in some ways - and that's true. But what a song!
The Day The World Turned Day-Glo/I Am A Poseur [Single 1978]
A threat and a promise, this was Poly in future-proofing mode, singing in 1978 about things we still haven't solved 35 years later. Consumerism, waste, the environment, greed - it's all in there in a powerful set of lyrics and thundering sound, dragging you along and into the song whether you want it or not. I loved seeing the Spex on 'Top Of The Pops' with this blasting out from the screen, Poly dressed to the nines.
It had that iconic day-glo world on the cover of the single. My copy of the single is on bright orange vinyl. What colour is yours?
Identity/Let's Submerge [Single 1978]
A great song about confused teenagers of any age, people modelling themselves on others and not being themselves. It's just as valid today with the celeb culture taking over the news and magazines. "When you look in the mirror do you see yourself? Do you see yourself on the TV screen?'.
Germ-Free Adolescents/Age [Single 1978]
A slower song for the Spex this time but still with a burning message about leaving humanity behind and becoming artificial through excessive use of cleanliness and beauty products. Be who you are. "Her phobia is infection, she needs one to survive."
Germ-Free Adolescents [Album 1978]
The three Spex singles all appear on the classic album, 'Germ-Free Adolescents'. This is the crowning glory of X-Ray Spex and certainly one of the top 50 best albums of all time in my view. It's been released various times, usually with an expanded track listing to include 'Oh Bondage' and 'I Am A Cliche' but the original track listing was:
Side1: 'Art-I-Ficial', 'Obsessed With You', 'Warrior In Woolworths', 'Let's Submerge', 'I Can't Do Anything' and 'Identity'.
Side 2: 'Genetic Engineering', 'I Live Off You', 'I Am A Poseur', 'Germ-Free Adolescents'', 'Plastic Bag' and 'The Day The World Turned Day-Glo'.
I know that's the right track listing because I've copied it from my original copy of the album. The edges of the cover may be a bit worn but it's from love, not neglect. Have I mentioned that this blog is named after Poly's song on side 2 of the record?
Highly Inflammable/Warrior In Woolworths [Single 1979]
The final single from the Spex, a mid-tempo song with the sax clearly in the lead with a staccato riff and with some early keyboard synth sounds in the background. This is a far cry from the savage sax and guitar of the early singles and makes me wonder where Poly and the Spex would've gone next if they'd stayed together.
Talk In Toytown/Sub Tropical [Single 1980]
The lead single from Poly's first solo album, 'Translucence'. It features early synth sounds with a sort of gentle reggae rhythm. Gossip isn't cool, kids.
Translucence [Album 1980]
This offers a very different sound for Poly, with gentle rhythms, calypso and reggae, jazzy in places. This is an album for lounging in the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon rather than bouncing round the room in your day-glo socks. All new songs except for a re-recorded version of 'Age'.
The track listing is: 'Dreaming'. 'Talk In Toytown', Skydive', 'The Day That Time Forgot', 'Shades, 'Essence', 'Hip City Hip', 'Bicycle Song', 'Sub Tropical', 'Translucence'. 'Age' and 'Goodbye'.
Gods & Godesses [EP 1986] & Trick Of The Witch/Paramatma [Single 1986]
A four-track 12" ep, with the first track also being released as a single. The songs are: 'Trick Of The Witch', 'Paramatma', 'Sacred Temple' and 'Big Boy Big Toy'. I love 'Trick Of The Witch' with it's hard chugging guitar, synths and killer beats - why wasn't it a hit? "It's just a trick of the witch, she flicks the on-off switch...".
Love (by The Dream Academy) [Single 1990]
This songs is by The Dream Academy, a cover of the John Lennon song and sounds very much of its time, but Poly is there right up front in the mix chanting away. She also featured in the video.
Poly is also credited sometimes for arranging the chanting on Boy George's 'Bow Down Mister' but I don't know if that's true. Is it?
Live At The Roxy [Album 1991]
A short album of X-Ray Spex playing live at The Roxy in London in 1978, with 'Oh Bondage' featuring twice in best punk tradition of just keeping on playing your songs again and again until you fall off the stage . It's a live album and not particularly well recorded but it's a solid dose of real punk. This album is more for completists since the tracks have appeared elsewhere, most recently on the 'Let's Submerge' compilation album.
The track listing is: 'Oh Bondage Up Yours!', 'Identity', 'Let's Submerge', 'Plastic Bag', 'I Live Off You', 'I Am A Cliche', 'I Cant Do Anything', 'Oh Bondage Up Yours'.
Conscious Consumer [Album 1995]
This was an X-Ray Spex reunion record of sorts, with both Lora Logic and Paul Dean joining Poly and new musicians to make what I think is a great pop record. It doesn't have the raucous vocals and wild music of the first album but, after an 18 year break, why would it? The world had moved on by then and so had Poly and the band. It includes some great songs, some of which Poly played at the Spex reunion gig at the Roundhouse in 2008.
The songs are all on familiar themes for Poly - consumerism (of course), identity, her spiritualism, peace, vegetarianism, it's all there. My favourite song from the album is the final track, 'Party', that tells the tale of Poly going to a party and meeting all sorts of people. I love the chorus that has Poly in desperately honest mood: "Did you enjoy the party you went to the other night?/No, not really not really, no not really at all/I was bored stiff all night!" She then goes on to tell us about the boy who wanted to 'make love' to her, Prima who wanted to have a sex change and a guy wearing a tee shirt with the slogan 'destroy' (Mr Lydon or Mr Vicious anyone?). It's a classic three minute bouncy pop song and you must love it.
The track listing is: 'Cigarettes', 'Junk Food Junkie', 'Crystal Clear', 'India', 'Dog In Sweden', Hi Chaperone', 'Good Time Girl', 'Melancholy', 'Sophia', 'Peace Meal', 'Prayer For Peace', 'Party'.
Flower Aeroplane [Album 2004]
Poly describes this album as 'Mantra with muscle' on the back of the CD case. Half the songs are new and in dance-beats mode, the other half being re-recorded from 'Translucence'. As I wrote when I first got hold of the album through the X-Ray Spex website,
It's described as, 'An eclectic mix of soothing transcendent sounds with a metal edge' on the Spex site and as 'Mantra with muscle' on the back of the CD. The overall sound is calming and inspiring as Poly takes the listener on a trip on her flower aeroplane while singing a love song to Govinda. The album opens with the gentle dance beats of 'Atomic Rainbow' before moving on to the first of several songs re-recorded from her 'Translucence' album from 1980, repeating the jazzy-calypso feel that engulfs you in tropical sunshine. It works very well, the mixing of styles, a melange of journeys with Poly occasionally reciting Sanskrit prayers. And, in context, it works excellently. I was entranced on my first listen.
The track listing is: 'Atomic Rainbow', 'Essence', 'Beautiful', 'Spring', 'Shades', 'Sub-Tropical', 'Nice', 'B-Conscious', 'Airplane', 'Dreaming', 'Pink', Bi-Cycle', Earth Mantra'.
Let's Submerge - The Anthology [Album 2006]
There have been various collections of X-Ray Spex but this is my collection of choice since it has (as far as I know) everything from the '70s on it. It's a two disc set that includes all the singles and 'Germ-Free Adolescents', a few backing tracks, John Peel sessions, 'Live At The Roxy' and a bundle of demo tracks for the singles and album. It also includes Poly's solo version of 'Age' and the two songs released in 1976 as Mari Elliott.
Eye Witness (by The Brian James Gang ft Poly Styrene) [Album Track 2007]
Poly duetted with Brian James on this song on his self-titled album. It's very different for both of them, a slow acoustic duet.
City Of Christmas Ghosts (by Goldblade ft Poly Styrene) [Single 2008]
This song came out of the blue, a few months after Poly's triumphant X-Ray Spex gig at the Roundhouse in September 2008. Goldblade were the support band that night so they clearly hit it off. It's terrifically simple and bouncy, just what you need from a punk Christmas single. It includes the phrase that made me tear up when I heard it last Christmas, "Raise a toast to the ghosts of the friends we lost last year". That was the first time I'd heard it since Poly left us and I did raise a glass.
Live At The Roundhouse London 2008 [Album 2009 + DVD]
This is the CD and DVD package of the live gig at The Roundhouse in 2008. It's a lovely package with a good booklet inside full of photos and lyrics. It's particularly special to me since I was there that night and saw and heard Poly for the first and only time. It was a great privilege to see her on that stage a the Roundhouse, somewhere she last played in 1978. It was very lucky for me since I was going into hospital the following day for an operation so I went with great memories.
The songs included all the hits and bright lights from 'Germ-Free Adolescents', a few from 'Conscious Consumer' and a new song, 'Bloody War'. 'Bloody War' includes the refrain, 'Code pink, code pink, code pink yeah' and must be a relative of the very different 'Code Pink Dub' on 'Generation Indigo'.
Black Christmas [Single 2010]
Another single out of the blue that announced that Poly was back and there was an album to follow. It was given away free when you signed up to her mailing list and I did - I would've anyway! It's in punky reggae 70s style and it was great seeing Poly in the video with her daughter Celeste (who looks just like her mum). Needless to say, I play it endlessly each Christmas.
Virtual Boyfriend [Single 2011]
The first single from the album, 'Generation Indigo', downloaded as soon as it was available. Naturally. It was accompanied by remixes from Creep and from Leigh Dickson
Generation Indigo [Album 2011]
The long awaited album from Poly, 'Generation Indigo' was released on 25 March, just four weeks before Poly left us. It received universal critical acclaim and is full of perfect three-minute pop songs. As I said at the time:
This isn't an old punx last throw of the dice, this is a vibrant album full of hope and positive messages, written by someone who's experienced life and still believes in love and a higher spirituality.
One of my favourites (well, they're all favourites) is 'Electric Blue Monsoon' which I hear as a love-song to Krishna, although you might hear it as something else. I love 'No Rockefeller', an upbeat reggae skank reminding us that the majority of the world lives in poverty. I love 'L.U.V.' that tells us that love is all that really matters. I love 'Code Pink Dub' that tells us there must be a return of love and light and we need peace. I love 'White Gold' in which Poly wishes she could fly a plane of ice cubes to the desert. I love 'Thrash City', Poly's response to the madness that is modern London. I love the whole album. And so should you.
That says it all, really.
The track listing is: 'I Luv Ur Sneakers', 'Virtual Boyfriend', 'Generation Indigo', 'Kitsch', 'White Gold', 'L.U.V.', 'Ghoulish', 'Code Pink Dub', 'Colour Blind', 'Thrash City', 'No Rockefeller', 'Electric Blue Monsoon'.
The iTunes download edition includes a bonus track, 'Virtual Boyfriend (Youth Dance Mix)'. An early version of 'Code Pink Dub' has also surfaced on Youtube. There may be more in the vaults, songs that didn't make it onto the album for whatever reason.
Ghoulish [Single 2011]
This was a posthumous single and was released with a remix by Hercules & Love Affair. It was announced with the release of a great video to the song depicting a casting for a Michael Jackson look-alike. The video was made with love and ends with the words 'We *heart* Poly'. Which we do.
No Rockefeller (Wass N Burls Remix)/Black Christmas [Single 2011]
This final single was the result of a remix competition for 'No Rockefeller' and was released with the 'Black Christmas' single plus a remix of 'Black Christmas' by Khan. It was billed as the Somali Refugee Appeal single with all monies going to that charity.
And there you have it. As far as I know, this is the complete Poly Styrene - unless you know that I've missed something out. Have I?
Wouldn't it be great if someone pulled all this music together into a box set, remastered, re-packaged and high production values. How do you lobby for a box-set?
Friday, 24 February 2012
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
"'One Drop" is a reflection of where I grew up in Finsbury Park, London. The area that shaped me, and influenced me culturally and musically, a place I will forever feel connected to. But within this I am also saying it doesn’t matter where you come from, we all go through the same emotions especially the disenchanted youth of today, yesterday and the future. Bearing in mind the Olympics are in London this year and who knows what that could bring for London and our country."
You can listen to it on Pitchfork or The Quietus.
Naturally enough, they're doing some shows to promote the record and have already announced shows in London (sold out), Brighton and Leicester. The London gig is small (at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of BBC Radio 6's anniversary) so I'm hoping for another London gig to be added to the roster as well as others around the country.
All the PiL albums and John Lydon's solo album have just been reissued in re-mastered format so now is a good time to be a PiL fan. I just want to see them live again and playing the new music. In recent years I've seen them at The Electric Ballroom and at Shepherd's Bush and loved every minute. I need to see them again.
PiL has announced two gigs at Heaven in London on 1 and 2 April and offered a pre-sale this morning at 9am. I will be seeing PiL on 1 April - see you there!
Hobbling around with a stick has it's advantages - I haven't stood on a train or bus for weeks. It's quite interesting seeing people's responses to someone in difficulty and having a symbol of disability in my hand (ie Mr Stick). People holding doors open for me, letting me move first, giving up seats for me, all of these are good and humane things. Me being me, of course, means I don't always want doors held open for me because it makes me try to hurry up and get through them quickly so that nice people aren't inconvenienced. In reality, hurrying up can cause pain so I'd much rather you let the door close so I can push it open at my own pace. But thank you, nice people.
I was deeply grateful to the young hoodie that stood up so I could sit down on the Tube the other morning going to work. The others in the carriage, mainly in suits (both men and women) didn't move in the slightest. Yay for hoodies is what I say! It's very embarrassing when old folks give me their seats but I'm not proud. Well, not at the moment, anyway.
The selfish gene kicks in sometimes with people being incredibly selfish. They want what they want and that's all that matters. They want to get on that bus or train first and that's exactly what they do. They want to sit down and that's what they'll do even when they're in the seats reserved for disabled people. It's your problem if you're too slow to get that seat first. That's why I say yay for hoodies.
This afternoon I was out on an errand, slowly walking along the pavement, being very careful when crossing roads, letting cars and vans go first so there's no risk. I can't speed up if something heads towards me and suddenly stopping and changing direction physically hurts. So I take it slow and easy, watching out for traffic and other pedestrians, keeping out of harms way.
I started crossing a road with no traffic signalling to turn in or anything. Then, out of nowhere, a people carrier appeared out of the blue, braking suddenly and impatiently waiting to pull out into the main road. The fact that a hobbling figure with a walking stick was trying to cross the road didn't seem to enter the drivers' mind. It was a yuppy mummy with one small child in the back, a huge car with space for half a dozen and obviously in a hurry. I had to stop, slowly turn, and then walk around the thing. Then she just sped off before I'd finished walking round the damn thing. The most annoying thing was that it then meant I missed the bus because of the time it took to walk around her ridiculously big car. I thought harsh language long and hard at her.
I know I must be an annoyance to other people, moving more slowly than they'd want me to and blocking their access sometimes and for that I'm sorry. But what annoys me is the unthinking selfishness of some able-bodied people who will do what they want irrespective of who else might be within their vicinity. Stopping suddenly to avoid someone rushing towards me hurts. Changing direction suddenly also hurts. I can cope with that but I don't need it increased by my trying to avoid you bumping into me.
The result of today's adventure is a slightly sore lower back (which is slightly worrying) and a numb but tingling left foot (which is more worrying). The pain level seems to have passed into numbness. I'll see how it feels in the morning. I'm waiting for an MRI scan so the wise doctors can see what's happening with my spine. That probably won't be for a few weeks yet and won't be the answer, but will be progress.
If you see a doddery bloke with a black walking stick with silver stars around the bottom then please say hello but keep out of my way - I may look slow to you but I'm probably operating at Formula 1 speeds for me.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
On Friday I met up with around 40 other Ambassadors for our first training session. This session focused on information about the role, what's expected of us, what we should and shouldn't do and a few group exercises on how to deal with a wide range of questions from visitors to London from around the UK and around the globe. The second training session will be in a month or so and will be about customer care. The final session will be on-site to get familiar with our patch, local security arrangements and what the facilities are. We also had sight of the uniform...
The first thing we were asked was not to take any photos of the uniform - there've been no leaks so far and I'm not going to be the one to leak it. I was expecting the worst but it's really not too bad and will certainly make us visible. I actually quite liked it. I'll need to buy some black shoes or trainers (I don't do black footwear) but that's no hardship.
I've known I'll be an Ambassador for months now but the session on Friday somehow makes it seem more real - the Olympics are only six months away now. There are 8,000 Ambassadors and we've all been allocated a time and location to do our bit over the period of the Olympics and Para-Olympics. The thing I was pleased about was the enthusiasm in the room from people from all sorts of backgrounds who just want to get involved in this once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the greatest show on Earth. And it's all happening in London.
Friday, 10 February 2012
'Coriolanus' is a powerful tale of pride and fall and you expect to see high drama but this film seemed to be largely a monotone with little light or shade to highlight the high drama - with few exceptions it was at full throttle throughout and, although that can be very exhilarating, it can also be rather dull if not handled correctly.
Featureless landscapes and dull, concrete cityscapes have their uses but they were unrelenting here. It's supposed to be set in modern Rome with armies shooting and killing each other, savage hand-to-hand combat, blood and gore aplenty and, I have to admit, I just gazed on in bewilderment expecting the 'real' film to start at any moment.
I was terribly disappointed by it. That wasn't what I was expecting or hoping for at all. Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler played it at the same level, at fever pitch intensity throughout and that just loses me. The only light and shade came from the excellent Vanessa Redgrave who rules all the scenes she was in - clearly it's a well written role and perfect for someone like Ms Redgrave but it also served to point a finger and snigger at the two dimensional portrayals of the other actors. The worst scene in the whole film was near the end when Ralph is shouting at Gerard and calling him 'boy' and a close up resembled his portrayal of Lord Voldemort in a 'Harry Potter' film - c'mon people, it's obvious, delete the derogatory 'boy' and the scene might work. Instead, it whisked me away to Hogwarts.
It made me squirm. It made me flinch at the blood and gore. But I didn't admire it, like it or think it's a good film. It's 'Coriolanus' by numbers and I expected more.
Of greater importance is the news today that Amanda is heading back into the studio to record a new album! She's recording it with her band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, that supported her on her tour last summer (and I saw at Heaven in September). She's recording it in Australia in a few weeks time after a couple of weeks of rehearsals and a week of live shows to get the songs just right. She reported that she had about 20 songs to choose from, many not played live before. She also says that there'll be synthesizers on the record.
I'm really looking forward to this record, her first full album since 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' in 2008. Since then she's released some singles, the UkeleleHead record and 'Down Under' (and 'Down Under' has some excellent songs on it) but not a full album. I'm also assuming there'll be a promotional tour and lots of new merch.
Amanda's started talking about us, her fans, as her record label since she doesn't have one at the moment and doesn't seem to want one after her Roadrunner experience. She'll be crowd-sourcing what she needs for this record and I, for one, will be happy to contribute and buy pre-sales and whatever else. I assume that, since she's not tied to record label schedules that she can probably release the album in whatever format she wants, whenever she wants, so I'm expecting a summer or autumn release (that's my assumption, not Amanda's) even though not a single track has been recorded.
I'm really looking forward to this.
'Travelling Light' is billed as a funny tribute to the early Eastern European pioneers of cinema that became the movers and shakers of Hollywood. If that's what it had been then I might have enjoyed it more but I thought it was pointless and it didn't go anywhere. It had that big stage to play with but it stuck to the front few yards of the stage. Mind you, it wasn't helped by me nodding off to sleep for most of the first half (I know, the shame) but I didn't miss what little plot there was since it was easy enough to follow. The one thing I didn't understand was why Anthony Sher had a classic 'Fiddler on the Roof' accent but no-one else in the cast had an accent. What was that about?
Something altogether grander was 'She Stoops To Conquer', a classic play that I've never seen before. I thoroughly enjoyed this one without a drooping eyelid in sight! It's a tale of mismatched love, of manners and morality, of city versus country, age and youth - well, it's about everything if it comes down to that. Clearly, it's a great piece of writing by Mr Goldsmith but it's also a great cast and a great production - I'd find it hard to fault anything about this production (other than our hero channelling a manic Rik Mayall now and then).
I was particularly taken with the performances of the 'core family', of Sophie Thompson as the mother and Steve Pemberton as the father, David Flynn as the wastrel son and Katherine Kelly as the highly intelligent and saucy daughter. They were all excellent and I loved Sophie's trick of doing a deep curtsey and then needing a hand to stand up that she carried through into the bows at the end. That was a nice touch.
So, in my book, the score in that match is 1-0 to 'She Stoops To Conquer'.