Category: Pop Culture

The Last Train to Clarksville has left the station: RIP Peter Tork

The Monkees - May 1967

The Monkees – May 1967

So many celebrity deaths in recent years, but this one has really hit me on a very personal level. On the surface, the Monkees might have been a manufactured band with a daft TV show, but their music had a very profound impact on me as a child.

When my sister and I were little, we were given our dad’s old record player when he got a new one. It was one of those old-fashioned boxy turntables with a built-in speaker, and one of the very first records we had to play on it was a Monkees greatest hits album.

We must have driven our parents mad with how much we played it – it ended up much loved and completely scratched to death (we weren’t very good at looking after our vinyl at such young ages!).

Indeed, listening to ‘A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You’ on YouTube this afternoon, my brain still anticipated the point in the song where our record always used to skip. The fact that my subconscious does that more than thirty years later says a lot about the impact that record had on me!

With that battered old slice of vinyl, Mickey, Mike, Peter and Davey instilled in this music mad little girl a love of pure melody, harmony and perfect pop that remains to this day, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Peter Tork, you will be missed.

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Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘Felix The Ghostbreaker’ (1923)

Today’s spooky/silly cartoon features one of the most popular (and still recognisable) animated characters of the silent film era – Felix the Cat. First introduced to the big screen in the immediate aftermath of World War One, and possibly based on an earlier animated version of Charlie Chaplin, this cheeky and slightly surreal black and white cat was an immediate success with critics and the cinema-going public alike.

In this 1923 short, Felix encounters a ghost who is up to no good. Following the spook, he sees it scare an unsuspecting householder and the man’s livestock. The householder calls out the reserves to rescue his property from the ghost, but that doesn’t work – so Felix offers to try to lure the ghost away with a bottle of rum! Once the phantom is off the property, Felix pulls a gun on it and, in a reveal worthy of Scooby Doo, we discover it is really a human rival of the householder who is trying to scare him into selling his home…

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Ever Fallen in Love?: Pete Shelley (1955 – 2018)

Goddammit, I hate writing these things. The last few years have been pretty awful for music fans, so to hear of the death of Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley this evening was another bitter blow for many of us.

I’m not going to say any more, except to suggest that you hit play and turn the volume up very loud…

Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘The Skeleton Dance’ (1929)

Are we feeling spooky? If not, here’s a creepy treat for you this Halloween night. This funky little cartoon is an early Disney animation, and the first of their long-running Silly Symphonies series (reputed to have inspired Warners to call their equivalent Loony Tunes). The plot (what there is of one) is simple but effective: four skeletons cheerfully dance round a graveyard in the dead of night, only stopping their leaping, skipping and jumping when dawn begins to break.

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#KeepingItPeel 2017: Soundgarden (1989)

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the death of John Peel, so I’m Keeping It Peel with a choice session from his long-running Radio 1 show. Since we also tragically lost Soundgarden’s astonishing vocalist Chris Cornell earlier this year, I decided on this, recorded by the Seattle band in 1989 – just before the grunge scene exploded into the mainstream.

This session shows Soundgarden in a slightly different light to their usual downtuned metal-influenced rock, featuring as it does unexpected and rather fun versions of Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)’ and John Lennon’s ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)’.*

As always with Soundgarden, I recommend you crank the volume up high – and while you do that, I’ll be off to play Badmotorfinger at the wrong speed in tribute to Peel and Cornell; two men who shaped my musical taste at a formative age.

Until next year, keep it Peel…

*If you fancy more unexpected and frankly odd cover versions, head over to Twitter and follow @UnlikelyCovers.

Playlisting: Songs With Spoken Word Intros

Inspired by a recent tweet on the subject of such songs, this time I threw the Playlisting suggestions box open to my Twitter followers. And, as ever, they didn’t let me down. Thank you to everyone (especially @sirsidneyp) who took part in the fun over on Twitter last night for their excellent contributions to this cracking playlist!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of relevent tunes, so I’ll be adding to this playlist over time. If you have any suggestions of songs I might have missed, feel free to comment or tweet me, and I’ll add those too. Previous Playlisting posts can be found here, here, and here

Quote of the Day: Motorhead pay tribute to Lemmy

There is no easy way to say this…our mighty, noble friend Lemmy passed away today after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer. He had learnt of the disease on December 26th, and was at home, sitting in front of his favorite video game from The Rainbow which had recently made its way down the street, with his family.

We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren’t words.

We will say more in the coming days, but for now, please…play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD.
Have a drink or few.

Share stories.

Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.

HE WOULD WANT EXACTLY THAT.

Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister

1945 -2015

Born to lose, lived to win.

(Motörhead’s statement)

For anyone who grew up on metal or punk, Motörhead were one of the ultimate, all-time legendary bands. And their frontman Lemmy was one of the ultimate, all-time legendary rock ‘n’ rollers. They simply don’t make ’em like him any more. Personally, I always thought he was immortal. I’ve always had this image of the aftermath of whatever apocalypse destroys us all: Lemmy and Keith Richards sauntering out of the smoke and debris and cockroaches with a couple of crates of bourbon, a guitar and a bass…

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Recommended Reading: Books on Music UPDATED

Last year, I posted a list of recommended books about music. The initial list was made up of my selections, but when I asked for any books I may have missed, the wonderful people on Twitter sent me so many new titles that I had to compile a second list!

I have recently updated both lists with even more recommended texts, and you can check them both out here:

Recommended Reading: Books on Music (my personal list)

Recommended Reading: Books on Music – Your Choices (the Twitter crowdsourced list)

If you have any more books that you’d like to see on the crowdsourced list, please do get in touch here on on Twitter.

Enjoy!

#KeepingItPeel 2014: Peel Sessions Playlist

#KeepingItPeel - October 25th (image via http://keepingitpeel.wordpress.com/)NOTE: As of October 2015, a lot of the videos featured in this playlist have sadly disappeared from YouTube. However, I’m leaving it up for what’s left, and because there are a number of other sites linking to it.

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.

23/05/15: Having just updated my personal list of music books, I asked if anyone had any more suggestions for this crowdsourced list…. and Twitter, you did it again! Thank you SO much to all of you who have contributed to the makings of this amazing list – you’ll find all your new additions in bold type below. Any glaring omissions may well be found on my original list (see link above); if not then please do get in touch here or on Twitter.

Also, many thanks to @damiella, who pointed me in the direction of this excellent post on the subject of music books over at Quirk Books, and to @maffrj, who sent me a copy of Mark E. Smith’s autobiography last time round!

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