May Update

Hello everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine!

Now that I’ve finally moved into my new flat and have got most of the important unpacking and furniture stuff sorted out (as well as the ridiculous amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork which always go along with changing your address!), I am sure you will be glad to hear that I can now finally get back to Another Kind Of Mind a bit more seriously.

I’ve got all sorts of bits and pieces coming up for you, including the latest edition of my long-running Election Propaganda series which will be posted to coincide with this week’s European and local elections (although sadly I have not yet received anything through the post from UKIP, so I will be unable to be rude about them this time!).

I have also updated the Top 50 Albums Lists blog with the final part of my 1970s list, a few geeky stats, and some news about a brand new set of lists which will be coming up this summer. And if you’d like to submit your 1970s Top 50 to be included in the now semi-legendary List of Lists, you can still get in touch with me!

If you’re interested in photography, you might want to head over to my Flickr page, which I have recently updated with lots of new London street art images and some photos I took in the spring sunshine during a recent exploration of a rather lovely and historically interesting local cemetery (watch out for another picture I took that day in a post I’m planning for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One in August…).

You can (still) find Another Kind Of Mind over at Tumblr too, plus I’m also on Twitter (a lot!) and Goodreads (should you be curious about what I’ve been reading recently…) – please feel free to follow me at any or all of these sites!

Don’t touch that dial, folks….

claire x

Quote of the Day: Melody Maker explains why rock ‘n’ roll will never work…

Once upon a time, there were four weekly music papers in the UK. These were Sounds, Record Mirror (both of which folded in the early 1990s), the New Musical Express (still published and better known as the NME) and the grandaddy of them all,  Melody Maker, which originally dated back to the mid 1920s and finally gave up the ghost in 2000. Affectionately known as ‘inkies’ because they were once published on the kind of newsprint that covered your fingers in black ink as you turned the pages, these publications were a hugely important part of the lives of generations of British music fans and introduced many a music-mad teenager to the latest, greatest hot new thing. But they didn’t always get it right…

Melody Maker, in particular, began life as a paper aimed squarely at jazz and dance band musicians, and as such they stubbornly and snobbishly ignored the growth of a new kind of popular music that began to emerge in the 1950s – the ‘cheap and nasty’ threat of rock ‘n’ roll. If they did mention it, it was to dismiss it as a pointless and distasteful fad that they desperately hoped would never catch on, as reviewer and broadcaster Steve Race wrote in May 1956:

Viewed as a social phenomenon, the current craze for Rock-and-Roll material is one of the most terrifying things ever to have happened to popular music. [...] Musically speaking, of course, the whole thing is laughable. [...] The Rock-and-Roll technique, instrumentally and vocally, is the antithesis of all that jazz has been striving for over the years – in other words, good taste and musical integrity. [...] It is a monstrous threat, both to the moral acceptance and artistic emancipation of jazz. Let us oppose it to the end.

The irony in this, of course, is that these are exactly the kind of negative things that were said about jazz in its early days too (and worse – a great deal of the criticism aimed at the jazz of the 1920s and 1930s had a distinctly and often openly racist tone to it). Even more ironically, a direct line can be drawn from the British ‘Trad’ jazz scene of the 1950s to the rhythm and blues-based rock scene of the early- to mid-1960s that gave us the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds via the ‘Skiffle’ craze of the late 50s (which was where the Beatles started out….).

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UPDATE: The 2014 Diagram Prize

At the end of last month, I wrote my annual post about the Diagram Prize – which is probably the oddest, and certainly my favourite, literary prize of the year. The winner of the 2014 Prize was announced yesterday after a public vote, with top spot going to the very weirdly-titled (and possibly a little pointless?) How To Poo On A Date: The Lovers’ Guide To Toilet Etiquette by Mats & Enzo.

In a statement, the publishers of How To Poo On A Date drily commented:

We are very happy and honoured that the public thought our book worthy of first place in this much sought-after prize; we’d have been disappointed to be number two.

Oh dear

RIP Tony Benn

Some people are born to be troublemakers – in the best possible sense of that word. The veteran Labour politican Tony Benn, who died yesterday at the age of 88, was certainly one such. The kind of trouble he made was the kind of trouble many more of us should make in this life: he was prepared to stand up and say what needed to be said, usually in no uncertain terms, and often much to the discomfort of the government of the day (and even his own party, at times).

While reading the many tributes that have been made to this principled man in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was reminded of the role he played in paying tribute to someone else, another determined and impassioned individual who stood up for what they believed in – the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who is remembered by an unusual memorial plaque in the House of Commons (see text below). I first encountered the story of this once secret plaque and Benn’s part in it from the MP and ex-Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, who told it at a Climate Rush event commemorating the suffragettes in 2010, and it has intrigued me ever since:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF

EMILY WILDING DAVISON

IN THIS BROOM CUPBOARD EMILY WILDING DAVISON HID HERSELF, ILLEGALLY, DURING THE NIGHT OF THE 1911 CENSUS.

SHE WAS A BRAVE SUFFRAGETTE CAMPAIGNING FOR VOTES FOR WOMEN AT A TIME WHEN PARLIAMENT DENIED THEM THAT RIGHT.

IN THIS WAY SHE WAS ABLE TO RECORD HER ADDRESS, ON THE NIGHT OF THE CENSUS, AS BEING “THE HOUSE OF COMMONS”, THUS MAKING HER CLAIM TO THE SAME POLITICAL RIGHTS AS MEN.

EMILY WILDING DAVISON DIED IN JUNE 1913 FROM INJURIES SUSTAINED WHEN SHE THREW HERSELF UNDER THE KING’S HORSE AT THE DERBY TO DRAW PUBLIC ATTENTION TO THE INJUSTICE SUFFERED BY WOMEN.

BY SUCH MEANS WAS DEMOCRACY WON FOR THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN.

Notice placed here by Tony Benn MP.

“I must tell you, Mr Speaker, that I am going to put a plaque in the House. I shall have it made myself and screwed on the door of the broom cupboard in the Crypt.”

It’s a great story, but it’s more than that. It says a great deal about the kind of person Tony Benn was. A tenacious and principled man who was happy to speak his mind, as the very fact that he was so determined to commemorate this event (even secretly) – and that he considered it to be important enough to memorialise – shows. Like many from across the political spectrum, I have long admired the principled stance he maintained all the way through his political life – and this memorial to Emily Wilding Davison is but one example of the way his democratic and socialist principles were so important to him.

I never met the man himself, but I saw and heard him speak at countless rallies and he was always fascinating. I suspect we might not always have agreed on everything had we ever met, but, quite frankly, that really doesn’t matter. The accounts I have read over the last twenty four hours from those who did meet him all point to a man who was fascinated by people and who would always find time to speak to those who buttonholed him – and, unlike most modern politicians, who would really listen to and absorb what he was being told, whether he agreed or not.

Tony Benn was the kind of politician you just don’t see any more. Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Gary Younge points out exactly what it was that made Benn the kind of politican we should see more of:

He advocated for the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich and labour against capital. He believed that we were more effective as human beings when we worked together collectively than when we worked against each other as individuals. Such principles have long been threatened with extinction in British politics. Benn did a great deal to keep them alive.

And it’s now our job to continue to keep these principles alive in the face of the current political climate…

Quote of the Day: Julian Cope on being on Top Of The Pops

Sorting through a large file of newspaper clippings this afternoon, I came across this 2008 article from The Times on the subject of the legendary and late-lamented British music TV show, Top Of The Pops. The article quotes Julian Cope on the subject of his 1981 appearance on the show with Teardrop Explodes. If you know anything about Cope and his eccentric working methods, you’ll soon realise that this was no ordinary TOTP performance – in fact, he had dropped some acid beforehand, which probably wasn’t particularly sensible under the circumstances, since:

The piano started melting and I was wading up to my thighs in it by the chorus.

I dread to think how much mess that made….

Just say no to melting pianos, kids.

Top 50 1970s Albums: The Full List

Last year, after much deliberation, I posted a list of my favourite fifty albums from the 1990s. Since then, I’ve compiled a 1970s list, which you can find in full below. For more information on the Top 50 Albums Lists project, visit the blog here – and you can find lots more 70s Top 50s on the List of Lists here.

50) The Police – Reggatta de Blanc (1979)

49) Madness – One Step Beyond (1979)

48) The Damned – Damned Damned Damned (1977)

47) Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (1979)

46) Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

45) Various Artists – Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (1972)

44) Gram Parsons – GP (1973)

43) Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971)

42) Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power (1973)

41) John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)

40) Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977)

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The 2014 Diagram Prize: More Odd Books

Well folks, we’ve reached that time in the literary calendar again. The nominations have been announced for the 2014 Diagram Prize, which is awarded annually to the book with the oddest title of the year – and just so happens to be my favourite book award for that very reason (you can read about previous Diagram Prizes here).

So, as usual, here are this year’s prestigious nominees (and yes, these are all real, published books)…

Working Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City by Chris Balsiger and Erin Canning

Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown

How to Poo on a Date by Mats & Enzo

Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography by Jo Packham

How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God by Ian Punnett

The Origin of Faeces by David Walter-Toews

I’m not sure what my choice would be yet, but I’m currently leaning towards the South African fish for some reason. If you’d like to cast your vote for this year’s prizewinner, visit We Love This Book here. The results will be announced on March 21st and I’ll be reporting back on the title of the victorious volume…

February Update

Hello everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know I haven’t forgotten you all. I’m actually in the middle of moving house, so I’m currently surrounded by a ridiculous amount of dust and cardboard boxes and kept busy moving furniture around. All this could take some time – it’s going to take forever just to shift all my books and CDs, let alone anything else!

I’ve also been working on my 1970s Top 50 Albums list (you can find part of it here – the rest will be going up once I’ve moved), and adding lots of other excellent 1970s Top 50s to the ongoing List of Lists (which you can browse here). Feel free to get in touch if you’d like your 70s list included too.

I’ll be back soon with more of the usual random stuff, so don’t touch that dial….

claire x

Albums of the Year 2013

Since 2013 has finally drawn to a close (and since so many people asked me to), I’ve compiled the now-traditional end-of-year list of my favourite albums. As far as I’m concerned, 2013 has been a very interesting year for music. I’ve certainly been listening to more new albums over the last twelve months than I have done for a very long time – particular thanks must go to the #twitterindiecrew for all their excellent suggestions and recommendations (you know who you are!) – although this has also been a year for (re)discovering many old favourites too, which is perhaps reflected in the choice of artists and albums below…

10) MARK LANEGAN – IMITATIONS:

I confess that I find it pretty difficult to resist almost anything Lanegan does; I could listen that wonderful, world-weary voice of his sing the phone book and still love it. One of the joys of his voice is the sheer range of styles he can sing – everything from the blistering rock roar of his work with Screaming Trees to his delicate take on some of the well-known standards and more obscure tracks that appear here. Highlights include a lovely version of Nick Cave’s ‘Brompton Oratory’ (and I am not a Nick Cave fan), an astonishing reworking of the Bond theme ‘You Only Live Twice’, a gorgeous, heartbreaking take on Neil Sedaka’s ‘Solitaire’ and, to my delight, a deliciously melancholy version of Brecht and Weill’s classic ‘Mack The Knife’. This album is a fascinating treat for the music lover.

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