Indisputably number one. The lurid, ransom note logo and album cover by Jamie Ried (cf my own at the top of this page). The sheer fucking excitement of the opening of "God Save The Queen" or "Pretty Vacant" makes this a fantastic album. The opening of "Bodies" still sends a shiver up my spine.
"London Calling" – The Clash
I’ll never forget buying this double album in 1979 for £3.50 (the same price as a single album) and the first time I played it. It was the first time I’d heard political music. It was my first exposure to reggae; I know it was from white boys, but until then I’d only heard sanitised pop reggae. The Clash just melted down loads of influences into something amazing. The cover is great – and the Elvis reference is genius.
"Inflammable Material" – Stiff Little Fingers
As I’ve said in my S.L.F. gig review, you can’t doubt SLF’s sincerity.This album is almost live, it’s so raw; "Suspect Device" as a single backed with "Wasted Life" is a double-A side that is Punk’s equivalent of "Penny Lane" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever". Other favourites are "Barbed Wire Love" and a shapeless Bob Marley cover/ reworking: "Johnny Was". My only quibbles are "Closed Groove" which is pretty wank, and the production of "Alternative Ulster": what’s going on with the vocals? Quintuple tracking through a comprehensibility-removing device?
"The Undertones" – The Undertones
I’ve got the original, but the reissue is better, as that contains the first two singles, "Teenage Kicks" and "Get Over You". The reissue occurred when the song "Jimmy Jimmy" hit the charts unexpectedly, and gave the record company a jolt. My Grandad Jim had given me £5, and I decided to buy an album: I was wavering between Abba’s "Voulez-vous" and this album. Thank god I made the right choice. "Jump Boys", "Male Model" and "Family Entertainment" kick ass.
"Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" – Dead Kennedys
Conclusive evidence, when I was 15 or so, that America wasn’t only Ronald Reagan and mad Christians. Dead Kennedys: humour; intelligence, and an appreciation of world events ("Holiday in Cambodia") that isn’t generally associated with Uncle Sam. And "Kill The Poor" is a great song, even when Tim accidentally twisted his his cassette into reverse and played us "Lik lik lik the roop".
"Parallel Lines" – Blondie
"Going Steady" – The Buzzcocks (cheating, cos it’s a compilation; also, "Boredom" and "Breakdown" are great and not on that album.)
"Best before 1984" – Crass
Another cheating compilation. Crass were angry and often unlistenable, but when punk was degenerating and loads of Nazi skins showed up, it was great to have a left-wing band who were hard bastards. Their album covers were great, too.
"Best of .. " – The Jam
Pick your random best of, cos they were always a singles band. I loved "A Bomb In Wardour Street", "Strange Town", "Going Underground", even "Beat Surrender" – and (of course) "In the City".
Talking of which, they must’ve been livid when they heard the Sex Pistols’ "Holidays In The Sun".
Aggghh .. where to start? Motorhead? Ian Dury’s "Hit me with your rhythm stick"? Some Joy Division? The Psychedelic Furs? The B52s debut album? The Ramones? MC5? I choose them all. (It’s my list and I’ll cheat if I want to).
On the other hand, Pippa’s just written to me berating me for forgetting The Stranglers, even though I’ve seen them live! So number 10 is Rattus Norvegicus, ‘cos I love "Hanging Around" and "Go Buddy Go".
Done with my band The Lucies. The guys in the band challenged me to write a vaguely happy song, so this song celebrates a midsummer’s day when I sat at twilight watching a dozen hot-air balloons fly low overhead, while smoking a spliff with sexy Sangeeta from the shoe-shop.
Shez plays bass; Nick Sherrard on lead guitar; Andy Cope on drums, soundman Paul Williams displays his unerring sense of rhythm on tambourine. Bruce on vocals and rhythm guitar; Andy and Shez on backing vocals. Written and recorded some time in 1991.
I’ve never seen you looking half as attractive
as you did when I woke early, warmed and reborn.
The sun beckons flowers through the rubbish and the plastic
to the purity of midsummer morning at dawn.
And you smile and say,
“today we’ll do the things
we couldn’t do any other day.”
I’ve never felt quite so insouciant;
I’m willing to wander and wonder and learn.
the sunshine provides the time to do precisely what you want –
to live and love until the winter returns.
Right here and now the world is timeless and beautiful;
suspended in space like a carnival balloon.
All my perceptions subtly different from usual;
each moment is musical and perfectly tuned.
So I was very glad to get a VCD of this film and watch it last night .. and I noticed something odd.
In the "cricket match" scene, the hero is wearing a cap emblazoned with the word "Boy". All the little cute spectator girls have caps inscribed "Girls". The stupid dog in the umpire’s chair has a cap marked "umpire". And yet one of the women leads is wearing a T-shirt unmistakably marked "BUM CHUMS".
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always understood "Bum chums" to be a childish slang expression meaning "gay partners". And I can’t believe that in a high-budget production in an English-speaking country, no-one involved knew that. Or maybe it means something entirely different in Bombay ?
Any Bollywood-afficianado readers care to enlighten me as to what could possibly be going on here?
(* The best Bollywood movie is the straight-to-video "Maharajah Ranjit Singh" which I was in.)
The all- knowing Madman writes to tell me that it means someone is "great pals" with someone else. Example: "Can’t you ask him for some help? I thought you both were bum chums."
No prizes for Dhrubo who tells me it doesn’t matter because, "It’s a shit film. Dixit’s minging".
It may surprise you to learn that I have other interests apart from excessive web design geekery. In fact, as an English with Drama graduate, I like the theatre and managed to palm some of the buy-plastic-crap-for-the-kids budget in order to see the second night of "Sir Thomas More" at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford last week.
The play is by several different authors, most notably Dekker and Shakespeare, and I’d never read it. The production was reasonable enough – the pacing not quite tight enough, and some scenes that were frankly baffling to a modern audience, and should have been cut by the director. One speech stood out, however: Sir Thomas calms a race riot by asking the citizens to consider the feelings of the 16th century asylum-seekers they’re protesting about:
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England. Imagine that you see the wretched strangers, Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage, Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires, Authority quite silent by your brawl, And you in ruff of your opinions clothed; What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught How insolence and strong hand should prevail.
It sounded just like Shakespeare, in amongst the rhyming couplets penned by lesser hands – and when I was reading the script later, it turns out that, indeed, this speech is in Shakespeare’s own handwriting.
An interesting comparison sprang to my mind about the difference between Robert Bolt’s wonderful 1960 play "A Man For All Seasons" (film, 1966) in which More is shown wrestling with his religious conscience, and going to his death for refusing to sign a document agreeing that Henry VIII was head of the church. In "Sir Thomas More", More goes to his death for refusing to sign a document, but we are never told what the document is.
Of course, a 16th century theatre-goer would have known – and it would have been very dangerous indeed in Elizabethan England to explicitly show a Catholic martyr as a tragic figure . In fact, there is no record of this play ever having been performed at all on the 16th century stage; the manuscript has the censor’s warning that the company perform certain scenes "at their peril".
It would by no means be the first time that the content of a Shakespeare play was dictated by political expediency. His Richard III is Tudor propaganda blackening the name of the King whom Elizabeth’s grandfather had usurped.
His Macbeth (one of my very favourite Shakespeare plays) was the first play Shakespeare wrote for King James I (James VI of Scotland), and curries the new King’s favour by being very short (James was renowned for having a short attention span). The emphasis on the Witches was because the King had written a book on witchcraft.
"Macbeth" also plays fast and loose with historical accuracy; the real Macbeth murdered King Duncan with the help of Banquo. However, James had written a book about the divine right of kings (in which regicide is considered deicide) and believed that he was a descendent of Banquo – thus the Shakespearian Banquo is a blameless hero.
James and his wife Mary-Anne Allen were my great-great-great grandparents. Here’s Mary-Anne in 1913 aged 37, two years before she died of Consumption (T.B.), and here’s Jim’s army photo of July 1918.
At 37, Mary-Anne looks as if she’s 60, with her collar done up and hair in a severe bun. When these photos were taken, there were not many houses with electricity. I wonder what they would have thought of the way I published this, and you’re reading it?
It’s a new month, so my bandwidth is back; I had an (ahem) liquidity crisis, so didn’t reupgrade my bandwidth, and it got maxxed out when I made it onto the Zen Garden. (No, Tim; a liquidity crisis is not geriatric incontinence.) Nevertheless, a lovely benefactor has offered to host it for me (it’s a couple of gigs a month).
I just launched a new site (literally, FTP’d it 5 mins ago) that I made for the Waterworks Jazz Club. It’s all standards-based, though the best thing is the logo, designed by Linda Goin of Chicago.