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Saturday, March 31, 2012

How Fandom Looked Before The Internet...

Long before message boards, websites, Twitter, Facebook et al enabled us to express our love / admiration / disgust / disappointment of a group or artist in the click of a mouse, beyond the mainstream music press there lurked the humble fanzine, loitering with intent on the fringes.

Usually a labour of love, these fabulous concoctions of letraset, tipp-ex, golf-ball typewriters, and heaps of enthusiasm were a precious node of connection; an often sporadic signal that someone, somewhere out in the cultural wasteland shared the same interests as yourself.

Notwithstanding Simon Clarke's excellent Carbon Nation, I'd forgotten just how much I loved the fanzine format until my recent online researches led me to Facelift magazine.  Over the last few years I'd kept meaning to buy back-editions but never quite managed to write the cheque for one reason or another. Until last week.

A couple of days ago a complete run of the entire back catalogue turned up on the doorstep. A bargain, if you ask me, for just 32 of your English pounds. 

This wonderful fanzine straddled the time when the internet was just beginning to take root in our lives but wasn't yet a resource that everyone had easy access to.

Facelift editor Phil Howitt cites the net as being partially responsible for its demise which is easy to understand. Given the kind of low production costs and instantaneous distribution available via the internet, a print-based publication makes little sense.

Despite the diffusion and infinite breadth which the net affords us these days, there's an infectious vitality to each one of these A5 magazines that you don't quite get when looking at similar information online.  Reading through these was like delving into a tiny treasure chest of ardour, commitment, and energy.

Whitley Bay Daily Photo XCI

Nominations For God CXVII

Aaron Copland

Friday, March 30, 2012


Crisis what crisis? In what seems like a fairly obvious attempt to move the donations scandal off the front pages the government have invented a crisis where there wasn't one. Last night as we drove back from The Sage we saw queues at petrol stations that are normally deserted.

Needless to say, nobody is talking about David Cameron's trouble anymore as blanket coverage has been handed over to the petrol shortage crisis. The only reason there's a shortage is because idiots like Francis Maude told motorists to fill their cars, jerrycans and Lord knows what else. 

Ironically, the tanker drivers are working even harder and longer hours as the companies try to keep up with the sudden surge in demand.

It would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

Still, don't worry. Ginger Bob tells me he's got everything under control.

In other news, Tom baked some bread today and boy, does it look good...

Hand-made and baked by my son's own fair hand. Can't wait to taste it!

Whitley Bay Daily Photo XC

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quiet City

After a round of phoners and transcribing, I felt I needed a change of scenery. What that means for me is exchanging one room full of books and CDs for a much larger room filled with books and CDs - yes, a trip to the Lit and Phil.

At the Monument in Newcastle...

Underneath the Monument was a priceless photo opportunity that I tragically failed to pull together:   an elderly banner-waving evangelist marching crookedly around the base of the Monument, and sat on the steps was a young man, his iPod headphones jammed in tight, reading a paperback copy of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. By the time I noticed the convergence, the young man got up to meet a pal and they walked off.

What a pic that would have made! Like an angler's one-that-got-away story, you'll just have to take my word for it.

 By way of a (not very good) consolation prize here's the banner-waving evangelist...

Onto the Lit & Phil...

In position...

Part of the day spent reading things picked up off the shelves at random and found myself stuck with a collection of HG Wells short stories which I couldn't quite put down. Not exactly a page-turner really, but simply admiring the way his tales get from A to B in a rather efficient though workman-like way.

After a day spent cogitating, reading and doing a bit of writing I met up with Debra. She'd put in a long day on her feet and insisted that instead of walking, we got the bus from Newcastle to The Sage...

A quick cup of tea inside The Sage with Debbie...

We were due to rendezvous with Lesley and Bernard for this concert but in the end only Lesley was able to make it with Bernard being struck down with a bout of flu-like symptoms which Lesley had been suffering from the previous week...

Quiet City by Copland is one of my favourite pieces and this was the first time I'd heard it performed live. I have to say the Northern Sinfonia did us proud. Richard Martin (trumpet) and Mike O'Donnell (cor anglais) were sublime, handing the beautifully weaving melody back and forth between them. My goosebumps had goosebumps pretty much all the way through. 

If you don't know the piece here's a passable performance swiped off Youtube. Whilst not as good as the Northern Sinfonia's rendition, it gives you an idea of what's going on. The section between 4.00 - 5.14 is wonderfully poignant.

After opening the concert with Quiet City I found myself sitting with a stupid grin on my face. Although all the pieces that followed it were highly enjoyable, with conductor Nicholas Collon keeping things on even keel during a typically rambunctious Ives piece, Quiet City had me in its thrall and never quite released me from it for the rest of the evening.

Elton Dean's Ninesense The 100 Club Concert 1979

Elton Dean’s Ninesense
The 100 Club Concert 1979
Reel Recordings

Fans of British jazz in the 70s owe Riccardo Bergerone a debt of gratitude. With his trusty tape recorder placed centre stage, the young Italian fan, then visiting London to soak up what he could of the live scene, caught Elton Dean’s all-star venture in truly brilliant form.  Despite its humble origins, the resulting tape provides a remarkably clear account of the evening and bears witness to the powerful and inventive forces that made the UK such an invigorating force.

The recording provides a ringside seat that enables the listener to hear the sizzling interplay between bassist Harry Miller and Louis Moholo’s frantic drumming in exquisite detail. The stamina required to keep the Ninesense train stoked and on the rails is quite astonishing yet the pair never once falter during the demanding and choppy bounce of One Three Nine. Whilst Dean’s raucous sax plies fluid cascades, and Harry Beckett’s melodious flugelhorn jabs and punches through loud and clear, only Keith Tippett’s piano struggles to make itself heard above the uproarious brass.

This frustrating aspect aside,  there’s much to marvel at here. Dean’s ample charts and arrangements are designed to bring out the best in all the players with Alan Skidmore and Mark Charig's incendiary excursions provide some stunningly crisp bravura soloing along the way. 

This two-disc treasure trove comes with extensive, touching liner notes by Bergerone, a generous selection of Jak Kilby’s band photos and Reel Recordings’ usual high production values. A must-have souvenir to cherish and celebrate these fiery talents on an undoubted high point. 

You can buy this album direct from Reel Recordings

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LXXXIX

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Whitley Bay LXXXVIII

White Willow Terminal Twilight

White Willow
Terminal Twilight
Termo Records

After the psych-tinged summery pastels of 2009‘s The Opium Cartel, Jacob Holm-Lupo has returned to the more musically expansive regions that White Willow have charted across six albums since the mid-90s. Unafraid to adapt and change since starting out, with shake-ups in personnel and sound, they’ve happily augmented their bombastic inclinations with more intimate observations and even a slice or two of smart, intelligent pop along the way.

Mixing vintage prog tropes that wouldn’t sound out of place on an album recorded 40 years previously, (Terminal Twilight is nothing if not a Mellotron fest!) White Willow constantly shift gears within the eight episodic songs. A sparkling folky inflection also helps to keep things feeling fresh and lively, helping them avoid the traps of any unnecessary and gratuitous stodgy virtuosic displays.

The mood is mostly dark and occasionally brutal in places, yet there’s an overwhelming sense of optimism and hope threaded into the pieces. One the album’s most powerful tracks, Red Leaves, frames Sylvia Erichsen’s gorgeous multitracked vocals with surging guitar runs, cavernous keyboard chorales, pensive forays with crepuscular Fender Rhodes electric piano and snazzy dynamics underpinned by Änglagård’s Mattias Olsson’s brilliant percussive flourishes.

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LXXXVIII

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LXXXVII

Negatives And Postives

Another brilliant, sunny day here in Whitley Bay and once again the mist has stayed away. The view from the office at about 8.00 a.m. today...

An hour later, my sister Lesley called round for a walk, talk and a bit of sun-soaking. Some inhabitants from round these parts were already ahead of the game on this one...

The view from the end of the street... 

We both agreed that sometimes when people screw around with you (whilst taking your money) the energy required to remedy the situation sometimes simply isn't worth it. The cost of being exposed to all that negativity can ultimately be a price you can't really afford to pay. 

The bay was surprisingly empty I thought given the gloriously sunny day. Picture postcard stuff nevertheless...

Lesley headed off to her pensioners keep-fit class whilst I walked back home realising that I was going to have a slightly sun-burnt head. 

Upon my return, the postman had delivered this rather pleasant package...

 A lovely lunch hour spent listening to the new Peter Hammill album!

Ditko's Here III

World Book Night XXXIX


Outside a rustling and twig-combing breeze

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Politics and Sausages

The day started off incredibly misty outside - great billowing clouds of the stuff rolling about the place. At one point it was quite difficult to see the houses on the other side of the street. Of course when the sea fret's putting its damp blanket over Whitley Bay, you know that elsewhere - even just a mile or so away - everyone else is enjoying blazing sunshine.

Later in the morning I was on the blower talking to Chris Cutler (ex-Henry Cow) about the first Rock In Opposition concert that took place in March 1978. Chris, just back from Berlin and en route to France later that day for a series of concerts with his electric kit, was incredibly generous with his time.

As soon as the interview was completed Debbie and I took advantage of the receding mist and popped out for an hour's wandering...

Walking and talking is a great way of blowing out the cobwebs. Discussions around families, relationships and friends were aired and pondered as we plodded along...

After an hour or so (including a little bit of shopping in the town centre) we got back home and made a round of scrumptious sausage sandwiches, a pot of tea and sat down with the Sunday papers. For many years in the 80s and 90s, this was such a regular occurrence for me. I could probably count on two hands the times I've done this in the past decade.

The big story today is about the Tory party treasurer offering access to Cameron and ability to influence policy. What's that you say? Access to the PM & other power possessors for wealthy vested interests in exchange for large cash donations to the Party? Well I'm utterly shocked!

Needless to say the man in question has resigned and has said he's sorry. My guess is he's only sorry he's been caught red-handed. The defence seems to be that he had let his mouth run away a little bit, that none of what he was claiming a large donation could buy was possible. Of course, it's a spectacular piece of Orwellian doublespeak as it's more than likely that it will get donors precisely what the man was claiming it would.

It's not really a shock of course. Labour, Libdems and Tories have all been at it in one form or another for years. What's truly shocking is that every now and then we get to see the realpolitik of public life. Given that this sting was done by a Murdoch-owned paper, I wonder if this isn't a case of the disgraced tycoon getting some payback for the Leveson inquiry which has been pondering (among other things) the whole issue of the press freedom and the public interest. 

They say you should never see how sausages are made. The same probably applies to our politics.


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