It’s quite odd what strikes an emotional chord sometimes. I surprised myself last night by being genuinely upset to hear that there has been a large fire at the Stables Market in Camden, north London. It seems the fire broke out at about 8pm yesterday evening in the roof voids at the Chalk Farm Road end of the market, and the flames and smoke were soon visible for miles around – which resulted in hundreds of people being evacuated from the surrounding area. According to the BBC, ten fire engines and more than 70 firefighters were sent in to tackle it (which suggests it was a pretty big fire), eventually getting the blaze under control several hours later. Considering that yesterday was a beautiful, hot early summer day in London, the area around the market must have been very busy even at that late hour. It is quite amazing that no-one, it seems, was hurt in the incident. However, I suspect that many livelihoods and many memories have been destroyed by this blaze.
Camden is a part of this city that I know very well, and the markets there have long been an essential place to visit if you were ever an alternative kid in London – it certainly was an important and formative place for me. When I was growing up, Camden Market was one of only a few places in London where you could actually get such hard-to-find alternative essentials as black nail polish, extreme metal band t-shirts, bootleg albums of highly dubious origin, proper flared trousers, hair dye in colours never to be found in nature, glow-under-UV-light hoodies, stash tins with wonky-looking cannabis leaves painted on them and the kind of pungent Indian incense that sets smoke alarms off in ten seconds flat – amongst a vast plethora of other random things that you never knew existed, let alone that you wanted!
There was always a definite hippy kind of vibe about the place, almost as soon as you walked out of the tube station. Admittedly though, to actually get from the tube station to the Lock Market and the Stables Market you’d have to run the gauntlet of dodgy-looking geezers offering you something herbal that was allegedly weed, ageing punks with dogs on strings drinking Special Brew and shouting at people (the punks, not the dogs!), and, of course, the odd confused tourist standing in the middle of the pavement intently studying an upside down A-Z – but that was all part of the Camden Experience in the early 1990s.
Earlier this month, I posted about my latest music list – this time, I’ve been counting down my Top 50 albums of the 1990s. If you’d like to discover more about my choices (and check out some other great lists), you can visit the dedicated Top Fifty Nineties Album blog where you’ll find my reviews for each album and some great videos too. In the meantime, as promised, here’s a quick rundown of my now-completed list all the way from fifty to one…
50) Cornershop – When I Was Born For The 7th Time (1997)
49) Lo-Fidelity Allstars – How To Operate With A Blown Mind (1998)
48) Sabres Of Paradise – Haunted Dancehall (1994)
47) The Lemonheads – It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)
46) Primal Scream – Vanishing Point (1997)
45) The Chemical Brothers – Brothers Gonna Work It Out (1998)
44) Cypress Hill – Black Sunday (1993)
43) The Prodigy Presents: The Dirtchamber Sessions Vol. 1 (1999)
42) UNKLE – Psyence Fiction (1998)
41) Tricky – Maxinquaye (1995)
Yes, the music lists are back! Only this time I’m doing it all slightly differently…
As the title suggests, this new list is of my Top 50 albums of the 1990s (if you are a music fan you’ll know that this was a brilliant era for great albums!). I was in my teens and early 20s during the 1990s, and it was a formative period for my taste in music – a lot of the choices on this list have a very deep emotional resonance for me, and I decided I wanted to write about that. So, instead of inflicting fifty geeky music essays on you, I set up a dedicated blog for this challenge, and it is that I have been working on over the last few weeks.
When the whole list is completed, I’ll be posting a rundown of the full Top 50 on Another Kind Of Mind (of course), but in the meantime you can catch up with all my selections so far on the new blog here.
And if you’d like to see even more Top 50’s of the 1990s (and a few links to the results of previous music list challenges) as compiled by some of the lovely people on Twitter, you can find them here.
I’ve had some fantastic feedback on my list choices and the new blog already (there’s still 20 albums to go!), and I’d love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to head on over to the blog and leave a comment, or check the list as it goes out on Twitter (hashtag #CB90sTop50) – I look forward to hearing from you!
It’s really not uncommon these days to find social media sites up in arms about something or other on a regular basis – and last night’s overexcited Twitter storm was no exception to that. But this time, surprisingly, Twitter wasn’t getting its collective knickers in a twist about the latest political outrage, celebrity foot-in-mouth comment, Daily Mail screed of hate or exploitative reality TV show.
Instead, and to the astonishment of music fans (of a certain age, mostly) everywhere, the mysterious and now almost mythical shoegazer band My Bloody Valentine finally released the very belated follow-up to their classic 1991 album Loveless onto their website in the early hours of this morning, to a response on Twitter that can only be described as mass indie hysteria.
Unsurprisingly, the demand for mbv (as the album is inventively titled) almost instantaneously crashed the band’s website, and it remained down for several hours – leading to frustrated jokes aplenty about MBV frontman Kevin Shields breaking the internet or spending 22 years creating a beautifully crafted error message instead of an album.
In a way, all this was typical of My Bloody Valentine – they’ve never been a band to do anything the conventional (or even easy) way. The recording sessions for Loveless, for example, comprehensively demonstrated Shields’ notorious sonic perfectionism at its peak, plus the completed album ended up almost bankrupting Creation Records in the process.
I can feel the earth begin to move
I hear my needle hit the groove
And spiral through another day
I hear my song begin to say
Kiss me where the sun don’t shine
The past was yours
But the future’s mine
You’re all out of time
The Stone Roses – ‘She Bangs The Drums’ (1989)
Yet again, the press are reporting this morning that the Stone Roses are to reform. According to the NME website, this time vocalist Ian Brown and (non-macho) guitar god John Squire finally resolved their decade and a half long feud at the recent funeral of bassist Mani’s mum. Mani himself, who managed a supergroup free transfer into Primal Scream when the Roses split, has apparently long been well up for it. It seems that all they have to do now is persuade genius drummer Reni to get back on board and a “megabucks reunion” is in the offing.
However, the NME‘s report is originally from that well-known bastion of responsible and truthful reporting, The Sun – so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not entirely convinced by it. And anyway, we all know that it’s never quite the same when bands reform, especially if you were a huge fan first time round…
That this house notes with sadness the 10th anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks, on February 26th 1994, at the age of 32; recalls his assertion that his words would be a bullet in the heart of consumerism, capitalism and the American Dream; and mourns the passing of one of the few people who may be mentioned as being worthy of inclusion with Lenny Bruce in any list of unflinching and painfully honest political philosophers – Stephen Pound MP, in a February 2004 Early Day Motion before the House of Commons.
Today would have been Bill Hicks’ 49th birthday. Born on December 16th 1961 in a small town in Georgia, Bill was about as far away from the stereotypical resident of the Deep South that you can imagine. Discovering at an early age that he had a gift for making people laugh and that he had a lot to say for himself, he grew up to become – without exaggeration – the most influential comedian of his generation and, as Stephen Pound MP pointed out in his extremely unusual EDM, a modern philosopher.
Despite the fact that Hicks had to cross the Atlantic to make a success of himself (he was immediately and passionately adored by us Brits from a very early stage in his professional career), and although his material was frequently outrageous and often very closely skirted the borders of good taste, there were many in his homeland and elsewhere who were inspired into action on hearing his vicious, pin-point accurate critiques of humanity and American culture. He loved and despaired of his country in equal measure, and was never afraid to poke at cultural sacred cows with a pointy stick.
So it appears that New Order’s legendarily low-slung and grumpy bassist Peter Hook has written a book. I must admit I was pretty astonished when I heard the news as I’d never had Hooky down as the literary type, although I was less surprised when I heard what the book was about (of which, more below)….
Hooky’s authorial outpourings are just the latest installment in this year’s exciting episode of the continuing saga of the 80’s and 90’s Manchester music scene; a long-running and often quarrelsome saga that refuses to go away, despite the fact that many of its protagonists have long since produced their best material and should probably have sloped off into quiet rock legend retirement quite some time ago.
So far this year, we’ve had the latest set of rumours of a Stone Roses reformation (please god, never! I’d rather remember them at their incandescent early best than as the meandering stoner rawkers they had become by the end), rumours which appear to have been finally and firmly squashed by the recent news that Ian Brown – who did, after all, get custody of the talent when the Roses split – is to form a supergroup with the equally legendary Smiths/Electronic/Modest Mouse guitarist Johnny Marr. In fact, the Roses have been positively blooming this year (sorry…), what with the 20th anniversary special edition re-release of their truly classic and nigh-on perfect self-titled debut album getting rave reviews in the music press all over again, and guitarist John Squire’s solo art exhibition receiving column inches galore (admittedly, mainly only after it was noticed that one of the installations stated in no uncertain terms that he would play no part in any Roses reformation).
“That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’ll be the best band in the world, because I fuckin’ hate that twat there. I fuckin’ hate him. And I hope one day there’s a release where I can smash fuck out of him, with a fuckin’ Rickenbacker, right on his nose, and then he does the same to me, ‘cos I think we’re stepping right up to it now. There’s a fuckin’ line there and we’re right on the edge of it” – Liam on Noel, Wibbling Rivalry, 1994
“I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that’s nasty” – Liam, 2008.
You know, I think I would care more about Noel Gallagher quitting Oasis if he were actually leaving a half decent band. No, really. I mean it. It’s not like they’re even anything special these days – they started out as a halfway fun and definitely second-rate bunch of Beatles copyists, and have ended up as a fourth-rate, washed-up parody of themselves, as postmodern as that sounds.
Admittedly, I remain rather fond of their first two albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, mainly because they remind me of a long ago and far away period of my life when I was young and naive and British pop music ruled the world (again). These days, however, I would argue that ‘Britpop’ is a distinctly lazy descriptive; the only commonalities shared by the bands lumped together in that scene were that they were all guitar bands of some sort and that they were all… er… British. Unlike most bona fide music scenes, none of the first generation of Britpop bands actually sounded anything much like each other, or even really came from a common set of influences. In fact, most of them didn’t even sound like the swingin’ sixties pop scene the media supposed they were emulating.
But Oasis had clearly grown up on a steady diet of The Beatles and punk, and this showed in the swagger and arrogance of their unfeasibly tuneful early releases. They may have been spectacularly ripping off Lennon and McCartney via the Pistols, but they had the balls and vicious charisma enough for that not to matter. And the regular and very public punch-ups between Noel and Liam made the band all the more attractive to the media right from the very start.
It is common knowledge that feuds and tensions between fellow band members can produce some remarkable results. Faith No More spent most of their career hating each other, and are, in fact, widely acknowledged to have produced some of their greatest material during the period when they had both a gay man and a somewhat homophobic redneck among their line-up, with all the unpleasant tensions that naturally entailed. Brothers Ray and Dave Davies of the quintessentially English and truly god-like British Invasion band The Kinks spent much of the sixties and seventies utterly despising each other (to the point of physical violence) – yet this was the period that produced some of the band’s most enduringly classic and influential songs. Mark E. Smith of Peel favourites The Fall has fallen out with an almost countless number of different musicians over the band’s thirty-three year history (most fans have given up counting, anyway), but The Fall remain a vital and visceral presence on the British music scene. And that’s just three examples from an industry that seems to thrive on antagonism and antipathy.
It was always different with the Gallaghers, though. The chaotic lifestyles of the brothers (and the rest of Oasis) alongside the notoriety spawned by the constant brotherly bickering actually distracted from the music, which rapidly deteriorated and soon took second place to the scandal and bad behaviour in the eyes of the band as a coherent entity, as well as in both the tabloid and the music media. And there was always a slightly cynical element of class about it all. Now as then, the music media in this country, in particular, is predominantly southern, very middle class and almost entirely male, and the countless articles recounting the antagonistic fraternal squabbles between these two working class Mancunian siblings were always shot through with a patronising amusement. Watching the Gallaghers slug it out was, it seems, inherently funny in a way that the equally stupid bullshit spouted by the likes of Damon Albarn wasn’t – which probably accounts for Fierce Panda’s release on vinyl of Wibbling Rivalry; a recording of a 1994 interview by the journalist John Harris with the Gallaghers, which almost immediately deteriorates into a huge, fiery and very, very sweary argument between the brothers (see the quote above).
All this leaves me thoroughly unsurprised that Noel has jumped ship – after all, he’s threatened to quit on numerous occasions in the past. And his reasons for leaving are even less surprising. In a statement released on Friday, Noel describes how things had finally come to a head, and that “the level of verbal and violent intimidation towards me, my family, friends and comrades has become intolerable.” This comes as no shock when one realises that rather unpleasant stories of Liam publicly questioning the legitimacy of his niece Anais (Noel and ex-wife Meg Matthews’ young daughter), and very deliberately not inviting his older brother to his wedding, have been circulating for a number of years now. This long dysfunctional relationship between the two brothers seems to have finally broken down, which is certainly sad for them on a personal level – but it may yet mean the end of Oasis, something which should have happened years ago. The band should have retired gracefully when they had the chance, leaving behind an at least partially valuable musical legacy instead of finally imploding like the last great Britpop joke.