The Berlin Wall in London

'Change your life'

I bet you didn’t know that there’s a piece* of the Berlin Wall in London.

You can see it in the photograph above, taken yesterday in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, where it has been since 1991. This small section of the Wall was originally from the area around the famous Brandenburg Gate and, according to the plaque at the foot of it, the striking artwork is by the graffiti artist Indiano.

It’s strange seeing this piece of the Wall here in London – and as history, too. Like so many, I grew up seeing it on the TV news as an ever-present Cold War reality, symbolic of a divided city and a divided nation. Twenty-five years after those vivid, emotional images of Berliners from both sides of the border finally meeting on that dark November night as the Wall began to fall, it still stands as a powerful reminder of those times and of those who lost their lives attempting to cross it.

* In fact, there are actually several pieces in London – the National Army Museum in Chelsea holds a number of segments in its collection and there is also a section situated at the German School in Richmond. Other pieces of the Wall can be found at sites in the UK and around the world.

Autumn Colours

Autumn colours

Walking to the doctor’s surgery this afternoon, I came upon this small, half-bare tree, spindley branches reaching up towards a near-perfect blue sky. Still partly dressed in its vivid Autumn colours, the contrasts of colour, shape and texture were immediately striking.

As the days get shorter, and the nights longer and colder, such flashes of colour become fewer and further between – so be sure to enjoy it while it lasts, Winter is definitely on its way…

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkinhead...

Happy Halloween to all my spook-tacular readers!

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to put together a brand new seasonal post this year, but here’s a few of my previous Halloween offerings for your scary enjoyment:

How to work out if they’re dead… or just undead.

Jack O’Lanterns, second sight, Soul Cakes and sea monsters – Halloween traditions and superstitions.

Single? Try some of these methods for predicting your love life at Halloween.

Things that go bump in the night – ghostly tales for Halloween.

Creepy crows and foretelling the future.

It’s time for me to hop on my broomstick and fly, so wrap up warm and stay safe this Halloween. And make sure you check under the bed for monsters before you go to sleep tonight…

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us! – traditional Scottish prayer

#KeepingItPeel 2014: Peel Sessions Playlist

#KeepingItPeel - October 25th (image via http://keepingitpeel.wordpress.com/)It’s hard to believe that it’s now ten years since John Peel died. It’s still hard to believe there will be no more listening to his show on headphones, half-asleep under the duvet: no more sessions from obscure and noisy bands from the middle of nowhere making you go ‘wow!’, no more grinning as Peel played yet another record at the wrong speed, no more cheeky on-air references to his beloved family and equally beloved Liverpool FC.

For the generations of music fans who grew up on John Peel’s legendarily eclectic and very human late night Radio 1 show, he opened the door to a whole new world of music – the kind of stuff you’d never hear on daytime radio, let alone find in mainstream High Street record shops. For all sorts of young and up-and-coming bands, it became a badge of honour to be invited in to do a Peel Session, and, although quite a few of these acts never went much further than the famous Maida Vale studios, many of the bands he championed did go on to much greater things.

Personally, off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozen very different successful bands and artists I love who I first heard on Peel’s show. So, to celebrate this year’s #KeepingItPeel, I put together this playlist of great Peel Sessions (below) from every decade of his broadcasting career, along with a few moments from the man himself (including his fascinating 1990 Desert Island Discs and the famous moment on air when he played The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ twice in a row).

Compiling this playlist was a real labour of love – there were sessions I vividly remember, sessions I’d forgotten, and some superb ones I’d never even known about in the first place. And on many of these recordings you can hear the voice of Peel himself, crackling out of the ether ten years on. I hope you enjoy my choices, and be sure to let me know if there’s something I might have missed. Send me any interesting links in the comments here or on Twitter and I’ll check them out.

Now crank up the volume….

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Recommended Reading: Books on Music – Your Choices

Well. I wasn’t expecting this when I asked you to suggest any books on music I might have missed! When I compiled my original list, I thought I might get maybe half a dozen folk recommending their favourite music texts, if I were lucky – instead, I was sent suggestions by nearly forty different people. Indeed, at one stage last night, the tweets were coming in so fast that I couldn’t keep up with them all and make a note of all the book titles you were sending my way at the same time! My apologies if I didn’t reply then – but I did see and note down all of them, and all of them are here (apart from one or two that I couldn’t find any info for).

And there are some great books here. Some I had actually read and shamefully forgotten about (Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles and Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me for a start), some classics which I really should have read but haven’t (such as Ian Hunter’s Diary of A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star), and some I’ve never heard of but will definitely be tracking down as soon as I can (like Mark E. Smith’s autobiography, which sounds terrifying!). But they’ve all been recommended by people whose taste and opinions I respect – and therefore I happily recommend them to everyone else…

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone whose contributions made this list possible. I’d thank all 37 of you individually, but we’d be here all night and this post would be even longer than it already is. You know who you are.

This list has, like the original, been divided into three sections for ease of perusal. Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs contains exactly that – books written by or about a band, artist or music industry insider. Scenes, Eras and Places lists volumes covering specific times, locations and musical movements that have had an important impact in some way. Finally, Collected Writings covers more general texts, and compilations of music journalism and other writings. Each section is listed in alphabetical order by the author’s surname and the date given is that of first publication where known, unless otherwise stated.

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Recommended Reading: Books on Music

I’m often asked what books I would recommend to someone wanting to delve deeper into the history of the various popular music scenes of the past fifty years or so. That’s an interesting question, as there are so many fascinating volumes out there (and a fair few blatant cash-ins too, which really aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on). Rummaging through my own now-sizeable collection of music books inspired me to put together this list  – that and being a total listoholic, as regular readers will know!

When it comes down to it, I’m not necessarily saying these are the ‘best’ books on music ever because that’s such a subjective definition – I’ve chosen these books because I have read and enjoyed them all, and because I think they would be of interest to those music fans wanting to learn more about the music they know and the music they don’t. Most of them will be easy enough to find – your local library or bookshop should stock many of these titles – but you may have to track down one or two online. They’re worth the effort though…

The list has been divided into three sections for ease of perusal. Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs contains exactly that – books written by or about a band, artist or music industry insider. Scenes, Eras and Places lists volumes covering specific times, locations and musical movements that have had an important impact in some way. Finally, Collected Writings covers more general texts, and compilations of music journalism and other writings. Each section is listed in alphabetical order by the author’s surname and the date given is that of first publication, where known.

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National Poetry Day 2014

Today is National Poetry Day, so (just like last year) I decided to share a poem with you. As this year’s theme is Remember, I’ve gone for one of the first poems I learned by heart as a child – and still remember with pleasure…

Cargoes

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

John Masefield

John Masefield (1878-1967) was Poet Laureate for thirty seven years between 1930 and 1967, and is also well-known for his classic childrens’ books The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights – amongst a huge amount of other writings over his long life, both prose and poetry.

I was introduced to ‘Cargoes’ as a precocious poetry-reading child by my late mother and immediately fell in love with the tongue-twisting phrases and vivid, intriguing imagery. This is a poem to be learned, read aloud and remembered…

Thank you Toppermost!

After last month’s excellent series of guest posts on Another Kind Of Mind, it was suddenly my turn to be writing something for someone else – indeed, the nice chaps over at the very excellent Toppermost interactive music website kindly asked me to put together a playlist and an article on the solo albums of Bob Mould (ex-Hüsker Dü and Sugar), one of my favourite musicians.

So, naturally, I jumped at the chance – and you can read the finished article at Toppermost here.

And as a taster, here’s one of my favourite tracks from the Bob Mould Toppermost playlist. Turn it up loud and enjoy!

Weird Words of the Day: Part Two

Back in May of last year, I posted on the subject of strange words for unusual concepts. That provoked a lot of interesting responses from you all, so I (perhaps a little belatedly!) decided it was time to dig out a few more weird and wonderful words to define for you. Some of these lexicographical oddities may be more familiar than others, but they all refer to strangely familiar ideas and experiences you might be surprised to know there is even a word for!

Grawlix:

Well, I’ll be @*&%ed, so that’s what a grawlix is! And indeed, that sentence contains an excellent example of exactly what a grawlix is – the use of a string of random punctuation marks to indicate swearing, more usually seen in comic book speech bubbles. Created as what was, quite frankly, a bit of a private joke by the American cartoonist Mort Walker in the 1960s, the use of the word grawlix to indicate such a concept has come to take on a validity and a life of its own. By the early 1980s, Walker had written The Lexicon of Comicana, which defined both grawlix and a number of other rather excellent words for common comic book concepts including squeans (the squiggles round a character’s head indicating drunkenness or dizziness), solrads (lines indicating the brightness of the sun or a light) and briffits (the cloud of dust left behind when a character dashes away at speed). Walker’s book is still in print and has become a key text for anyone studying the art of the cartoonist.

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September Update

Much to report, but I’m going to start by sending a huge thank you to Rick, Fi, Ian and Rose for their brilliant 5th birthday guest posts – and an equally huge thank you to everyone who read those posts and responded on Twitter, Facebook and in the comments here. A fantastic way to celebrate five years of Another Kind Of Mind!

If you missed any of the birthday posts, you can find all four of them here:

Guest Post: Music just isn’t that important these days…

Guest Post: Why do we love music?

Guest Post: Music or Lyrics?

Guest Post: Mental Illness – Stigma and Why We Choose To Stay Silent

I have lots planned for the next few months, including more in my World War One series of posts, a bit of the usual general randomness you’ve all come to expect round these parts, some dramatic and destructive 17th century history, and my recommendations for building a library of books about music.

And, on the subject of music, I have also been busy adding loads of new Debut Albums Top 50s to the List of Lists over at the Top Fifty Albums Lists blog. Please get in touch with me if you too have compiled a Debut Albums list and haven’t sent it my way yet!

As well as all this, my offline life is about to get busier again and I may not be around quite as much in the near future – I’ll be beginning a part-time MA course with the Open University in October (but don’t worry, it won’t stop me blogging…!).

Thank you again for all your recent input and responses – and here’s to another five years of Another Kind Of Mind.

claire x

PS: Despite the fact it’s only September (how did that happen anyway?), I’ll soon be turning my mind to my now-traditional Christmas posts. I’m not sure yet as to which seasonal topics I’ll be covering this year, so if you have any bright ideas or suggestions, please get in touch – it would be great to crowdsource a few Christmassy posts for this festive season!