On Bowie.

Jan. 11th, 2016 04:34 pm
askygoneonfire: David Bowie in profile with a hat (Bowie Man Who)
What to say on such a sad day?

How to put into words the depth of a loss which affects no material change in my social circle? How to express all the things that stranger, that alien, that musician, that performer, that extraordinary star meant to me?

I woke up to text messages asking me if I was ok. Their sources were diverse enough that I knew it was not a relation. So I ran through the options in my head; Nicky Wire? David Bowie? David Bowie.  David Bowie.

Open twitter to read what I already knew in the pit of my stomach.  And laugh at the absurdity. David Bowie clearly cannot die.  How ridiculous. I spent all weekend listening to the new album. Nobody who made something so vital could possibly die. How ridiculous. Spent the weekend thinking about how Blackstar was like, and unlike Outside. Mulling over the imagery in Lazarus.

Got in the shower. Lost my breath to wracking sobs. Can't be true, is true, can't be true, is true.

BBC News channel, the only place to go when the world turns upside down. Is true is true.

But, united. The whole of my twitter timeline, text messages, messenger keeps pinging, all of my facebook feed.  All united. Saying "surely not? He means too much to us all.".

At first I couldn't understand why his illness had been kept secret, but it is better this way. We'd have mourned him for a year and a half whilst he was still here. Brutal though today has been, it's clean. 

_ _ _ _ _ _

David Bowie pre-dates the Manics, as my obsessions go.  Like the rest of my generation I met him in Labyrinth. But I'd always known his songs; I remember playing with space station Lego, singing Space Oddity to myself, over and over again when I was 4 or so. But it came together in 2002, I bought Heathen after a rave review in Q and added it to Hunky Dory of my shelf. For 3 months in 2005 I listened to nothing but The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  I waxed lyrical about his acting skill, and his dick, to a friend, when I got thrown out of a party for being too drunk and made him watch The Man Who Fell to Earth with me.  I went to Berlin with Station to Station and The Next Day in 2013.

I saw him live, his last UK show, in 2004 at the Isle of Wight Festival.  It was beautiful.  Perfect, actually.  He came on after England lost at football in some competition or other. Made a quip about sharing his initials with David Beckham. Launched into his set.  Turned around the mood.  Turned around the festival.  The sun went down as he played and when he went off stage, at the end, the woman near me shouted "we'll scream until the sun comes up".  As we walked back to the campsite there was a buzz.  People babbled in disbelief at what and who they had seen. I overhead two lads talking; "we saw him! The Thin White Duke! I can't believe we saw him!".  

I can't believe I saw him.

I knew I was not straight when I was young, perhaps 14 when it started to come into focus for me.  I remember asking my Mum, when I was 16 or so, if she liked Bowie.  She said "I did, until he said he was bisexual and then I went off him". And I remember that going to my very soul.  Bowie was with me, my Mum was not.  I clung to him. Immersed myself in Bowie's otherness.  I was sure my Mum would go off me, just like she had Bowie, when she knew the truth of me.  When I finally came out to my Mum it was with reference to that conversation; "would you hate me if I was bisexual?".

She didn't hate me.  She doesn't hate Bowie any more either. She told me today the news hit her like a punch to the stomach.  I think my sexuality and feeling accepted, and my Mum's feelings about Bowie will always be all tied up together for me.  

When I started reading autobiographies I felt a new sense of connection.  His brother had schizophrenia, before his sad death.  And that shaped who Bowie became and how he moved through life. A few people quote him as saying he feared he would lose his mind.  I know that fear. I am shaped by that fear.  Nobody who has stood so close to madness, to schizophrenia, can feel anything else.  My brother lost his mind when I was 11.  And then again, and again.  And by the time I was 16, perhaps earlier, I had no greater fear than losing my mind.  Still don't.

I took comfort in knowing Bowie shared that.  It changes you. It pushes you on.  

How far can you push yourself before you do? How does the free-wheeling, top of the roller-coaster moment feel? Who else can you be? Why be one person? If you have nothing to lose but yourself then it's time to let go of that tight grip of who you are and explore everyone you could be.

And look what happens when you let go, look what happens when you reinvent yourself, casting off each shell as you outgrow it. 

So he can't be gone, can he? It's just the latest reinvention.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)

I don't think I ever found the time to write about going to Manchester to see No Manifesto: A film about Manic Street Preachers. It was a documentary that was largely recorded 9 years ago and has been stuck in post-production for several years for want of funding to get a cinematic release. This year it finally came together and in January and February this year it had a limited theatrical release. I was interviewed for the documentary in 2006 and suspected I'd made the final cut as I'd been in the theatrical trailer they'd released several months earlier. Sure enough, I appeared in the 'cast photos' the film makers put on Facebook and I can be spotted a couple of times - although if you blink/close your ears you miss me.

On a personal note, I adore No Manifesto. It's all the things I, as a contributor and fan, hoped it would be. It has a light touch, a wry look at the band and the fans that come with it.  I sat with [livejournal.com profile] snapdragon_666 and we laughed and giggled and cringed and had a thoroughly wonderful time watching it - and in our day together either side of it. 

No Manifesto has a wonderful line from Nicky Wire where he says "sometimes the fans hate us, and sometimes we hate them, and that's ok." And it really is.


Yesterday I attended the Manics Cardiff Castle gig which I had been so excited about since it was announced in December.  Unexpectedly, it was broadcast on BBC 2 Wales and, for the non-Welsh, on BBC red button.  It's available for the next 29 days on iPlayer too.

Even more unexpectedly - as I resolved to queue for no more than a couple of hours and decided I'd be quite happy not to be on the barrier - I ended up on the barrier.  And, taking my place on Nicky [Wire]'s side of the stage as I always do, found myself in front of the crowd camera.  I sent my parents a text to let them know they might spot me on tv.  I didn't expect to find myself featured quite so heavily and got home to my hostel last night to a pile of twitter notifications from friends telling me they'd seen me (and our other mutual friends with whom I was standing) on the live feed.

I travelled home from Cardiff today, still feeling the afterglow of a thoroughly massive, energetic, energising gig, and as I was getting the photos off my camera, I watched the first half of the gig on iPlayer.  And yep, there I am! Singing, dancing and generally having the sort of time I only enjoy when I'm crushed against barrier and bodies, screaming at Nicky Wire, without another care in the world.

This was one of the times we didn't hate each other. It was one of the times we bloody loved one another.  Fans and band, running off one another's energy.

A Day Like This a Year

So yes, my last entry was rather melancholy.  But, predictably, that doesn't reflect all of life.

And it's moments like these - laughing until I cry at a documentary in a cinema in Manchester with what felt like a room-full of friends, singing and dancing and cheering amid a mass of 10,000 bodies at a castle in Wales - that really make life.  These are the moments that last.  These are the moments that see me through.  These are the moments - especially the moments yesterday and this morning with friends - that really matter.


Oct. 22nd, 2013 11:02 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Regina Spektor's Us is an extraordinary song for me.  It means two very special people to me.  Firstly, it means J, who bought the album (Mary Ann Meet the Gravediggers and Other Stories) home one day, and put it on in the living room. But we only had an ancient playstation hooked up to our tiny tv, and it automatically played the enhanced bit of the cd which was the video for Us, and I was utterly transfixed.  Secondly it means Lu, who told me that people play Us at their wedding because they don't understand what it's about.  And I was amused, very amused.  Like it was a secret joke.

I have taken to turning off the tv in the evenings recently.  A long time ago my best friend's boyfriend, a stoic, no frills sort of man, told me I should watch less tv because it made me sad, and listen to music in the evening instead. I laughed then.  But I think, several years on, there's something there.  TV is deadening.  I have it on for noise and noise alone.  It is rarely on to watch, and even less frequently contains something to inspire me.  I think I rejected it because as a teen I listened to about 8 hours of music a day, almost always in isolation, and it didn't make me feel good.  TV became the other media, the social media, the media that was about outside spaces - spaces outside me - and not the ones inside.

I'm 29.  I'm not the person I was when I was a teen. It's ok to walk the same paths - I won't end up in the same place.

Us is still a beautiful song.  Huge and sweeping.  Sometimes it makes me laugh and sometimes it makes me cry.  Life living with J at uni was, retrospectively, glorious.  I was awful to live with, a sackful of neuroses, he stuck by me with good grace and humour.  We had hi jinks and stupid conversations until 4am.  Knowing Lu was wonderful.  And frustrating and confusing, because she was human and we were young when we first met and were awful to each other and wonderful to each other as kids are.  And she was heading into adulthood the same way I was - forwards and backwards and reluctantly and willingly - which I suppose is why it's still so fundamentally perplexing why she decided to bow out early.

One song.  Two people.  Two huge sets of emotions.

Gig Report

Sep. 25th, 2013 12:14 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
If you're not interested in gig reports and/or the Manics then scroll on by...

Last night I went to my 14th Manics gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire which is one of the few 'classic' London venues I haven't been to before.  I arrived about 5pm and got lost trying to get from the tube station to the venue which was quite serendipitous as a woman approached me and asked if I was trying to find the Empire, I said I was and then a passer by who overheard us pointed us in the right direction.  We chatted on the way and it turned out she was on holiday in London for a week and quite by chance had googled the Manics earlier that day and discovered they were playing and decided to come down and see if she could get a ticket.  Once we got to the venue I joined the (fairly small) queue and she went to talk to the touts.   

She got a ticket for £70 (face value; £32.50, ouch!) and we stood listening to the soundcheck through the fire escape.  We got talking and it turns out she's from Thailand and had been trying to see the Manics for years - back in 2008 they were due to play a couple of days after all the protests and the airport being closed/occupied so they cancelled, rescheduled twice and then cancelled entirely so she was beside herself with excitement.  Then a chap came over and started to talking to us, he was 52, from Italy and had decided to buy a ticket from an online tout (£85) and fly in from Italy that morning and was going straight to Stansted after the gig to catch a flight back again!  Manics fans are nothing if not dedicated!

After that I began talking to the guy ahead of me in the queue who was wearing a pair of leopard print converse that I had been eyeing up for some time.  He had been to every date on the tour so far (see: dedicated!) and at the Bristol gig the night before, had got back to his hotel to discover his ears were bleeding! We chatted and joined forces in our plan to get a good spot on Nicky's side of the stage.

Much laughter and chatter later we were in the venue.

I have a few negatives about the actual gig and I'm going to get them out all at once so I can move on and talk about the good things.

Bad things

There was a hugely aggressive atmosphere. Some lager totting-Ben Sherman shirt wearing knob pushed in front of me as soon as the support act finished and proceeding to completely obscure my view and slam into me as he danced. When he left after a few songs, there was space for three people to move forward, two women from my right moved into the space and aggressively prevented me from moving forward for no reason I could comprehend.

Later, two women who looked rough as all hell (i.e. people I would not mess with) started having a go at the nice guy standing next to me because he was pushed up against them; newsflash ladies, if you are in the 4th row at a standing gig and there have been multiple crowd surges people will be pushed up against you.  I intervened after I heard him repeat for the 3rd time that he couldn't move backwards because he was squashed/there was no space.  I told them there was nowhere for him to move and that we were all squashed, they were basically suggesting he was a pervert because he was pushed up against her back - poor guy was nothing of the sort.

Another woman who I had seen hanging around outside the venue (but not queuing) forced her way to the front, screamed in my ear repeatedly and completely obscured my view of Nicky by holding her massive Galaxy Note phone up to photograph him for the full length of 3 three songs - a lot of people were shouting at her, and she kept leaning on the shoulders and heads of the people in front of her which I'm sure was even more annoying than what I suffered - but she ignored everyone and just kept forcing her way forward.

Towards the final third of the gig the mosh pit which usually happens in the centre and off to the left moved right and into the area in front of Nicky where I was standing - I got smacked in the back repeatedly and about 4 blokey laddy types forced their way in front of me.  I have been knocked over, shoved, kicked, fallen on by crowd surfers, squashed, lifted off the floor by the force of the crowd, and generally abused in gigs - and at Manics gigs - but I have never been so persistently and deliberately attacked and punched as I was last night.  The type of men who were smashing their way to the front exclusively danced and sang to the hits and simply were not the sort of people who have been at gigs in the last few years.  By the penultimate song I had been shoved halfway to the back (from my original position 2 people from the barrier this is a considerable distance) and into an area of calm.  I decided to move out of the centre entirely for the final song and found myself in a group of people dancing, singing, smiling and shouting which made me really regret not moving there sooner.

So, that's out.

Good things

Despite the aggression, there was a lot of positive energy.  The crowd singing on the very first track - Motorcycle Emptiness - was HUGE.  One of the loudest responses I've ever heard and from a relatively small crowd/venue.  Nicky and James seemed to really thrive on the volume and energy of the crowd, there was a lot of interaction (although relatively little talking from them between songs)

The acoustic set in the middle - just James - was spectacular.  One of the best I've seen him do.  He completely fucked up both the lyrics and chords for The Everlasting but we sang him through.  All the new tracks - of which they did many more than usual in an album tour - sounded fantastic.  Richard Hawley came on to do his guest spot on Rewind the Film but it's still just not a winner for me.  That was really the only song I didn't enjoy.

Nicky also did an acoustic bit - he sang the first verse of Marlon JD (much to my unconfined joy, delight and surprise) and then went into [new track] As Holy as the Soil (which made me tear up) but he was tremendous.  His voice was an open joke amongst fans when he started singing but it has definitely improved over the past few years.  That was a really special moment for me.

Motorcycle Emptiness and Design for Life were the first and last song respectively and were the purest moments for me with regard to immersive, unifying energy from crowd and band.  I feel I missed the enjoyment of a number of songs as I was forced to concentrate on avoiding fists in the latter section of the set but overall it was really solid.


I said goodbye to my new Thai friend (who, by the way, spotted my Thai language tattoo and translated it - I did get it right! - and then gave me a lesson on correct pronunciation!) and sent twitter messages to the guy to say goodbye.  We both waved off a smiling Italian man too.  I headed for the tube and got talking to a guy from Yorkshire who told me the last time he'd been to see the Manics was the final night at the Astoria back in 1994.  Manics fans saying they were at the last night at the Astoria (Richey's last gig) is a bit like people saying they were at Woodstock - the number who claim it and the number who were documented to be there simply don't tally - but I am inclined to believe he was telling the truth.

Made the final-ish train to Brighton at midnight and walked home in the deserted streets of 1:30am.  I bade good morning to a fox taking an amble down the road (he paused at the zebra crossing, apparently contemplated where he wanted to go and then resolved to carry on down the pavement on the side of the road he was on) and fell into bed - aching but basically content.

"You can't expect to be happy all the time. A few minutes everyday is all I expect" - Nicky Wire
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Yesterday I went to the V&A for the David Bowie Is exhibition.  I bought my tickets in September when the exhibition was first announced and I'm not even a little bit surprised it has given the V&A the biggest pre-sales ever.  

The second half of the exhibition was my favourite, where things were more firmly divided and there was a room dedicated to the Berlin years (including some of David Bowie original paintings!!!), a video room with 3 walls of enormous projections of live performances, and a room dedicated to Bowie's acting career - with a selection of clips running on a loop.  This included a clip from his stage performance of the critically acclaimed The Elephant Man which was really moving and makes me inclined to write to the BBC (the clip was credited to the BBC archive) and beg them to release it on DVD. (you can see the same clip here from 2:11)  There was also a clip from Bowie's first Art School-esq film which was delightful.

Everything else on the loop, except The Prestige, I've seen, multiple times.  So, I've ordered The Prestige on DVD and I'm rewatching everything else.  Starting with the first Bowie movie I ever watched; Labyrinth.

Labyrinth (1986)

The opening credits take me right back to my first ever viewing; laying on the floor of my friend's living room at a pajama party.  Being absolutely mesmerised by the (now looking very low tech CGI) flying owl and captivated from the off by the music.  Refusing to go home at 8pm, choosing instead to remain glued to the screen until the end of the film.

And then, just as we're warming to Sarah for hating babies (an impassioned position I continue to occupy to this day with a few exceptions allowed over the years for family and friend's babies) there he is, all glitter and eyeliner.  I don't remember being afraid of Jareth; he's surely the most non-threatening of baddies.  More accurately I remember being then, as now, mesmerised.  The crystal manipulation (famously done by a man standing behind Bowie with his arms under Bowie's armpits) remains a delightful trick and, as with many Henson productions, maintains its magic years later thanks to the simplicity of the visual.

Like so many family films of the 80s, there's a lot of cheeky stuff and more than a few lines that would be considered inappropriate - if only because of use of words they just don't allow anymore (see also: Back to the Future and the use of 'shit')  I like that the DVD copy has decent enough audio that the you can understand some of what the goblins who turn over the stones in the maze, things like "You're mother is a fragging aardvark!" always make me laugh.  Concluding with some cracking crotch shots, the beautiful Escher room scene (which involved some crazy ass harnesses for walking around 180 degrees which can be viewing in making of documentaries, if your copy is so endowed) and, of course, the soundtrack there is so much to love about Labyrinth.

There's a lot in Labyrinth I've more or less been chasing since I first saw it; a Ludo to call my own, a flamboyant and gorgeous wardrobe, David Bowie promising to be my slave if I love him and fear him.....usual stuff.  I also admitted to the friend (who wasn't a Bowie fan) who I went to the V&A with yesterday that I've been waiting for 4 years for someone to have a fancy dress party so I can go as Jareth; I think perhaps my 29th birthday this year might be the moment if a fancy dress party doesn't happen before then.

Like many of my peers, Labyrinth is a seminal film for me and continues to be in the hard repeat section of my DVD collection; again, as with many of my peers it even taught me a few things - the meaning of oubliette was recently a BBC quiz show answer which caused twitter to erupt in Labyrinth triumph.  I recently bought The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg which laments Labyrinth as a joke in an otherwise faultless career, which alienated fans at the time.  What Pegg neglects to consider is how many people, like me, grew up with Labyrinth and came to Bowie, if only partially*, through it.

*My first Bowie memory is around age 5 or 6, playing with my brother's hand-me-down 70s space station Lego, singing "Ground control to Major Tom, commencing countdown, engines on, check ignition....."  Obviously my first Bowie experience was much before then as I'd learnt the lyrics to Space Oddity, but yeah, he get's stuck in your head doesn't he? He's been in my head my whole life.  How wonderful.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Yesterday, finally, my copy of David Bowie's The Next Day arrived.  I've been avoiding reading reviews as I hate to have my first listen tainted by reviews when I plan to buy an album no matter what (naturally, reviews can provide me the reason to purchase an album which is an entirely different dynamic).

I set aside time today and listened to it twice through, back to back.  In brief, I think the second half is stronger and up until Where are We Now? came on I would characterise my response to the tracks to have been cautiously disappointed.

I'm not going to review the album in full though, there are plenty of better qualified and more thoughtful sources for that out there.  What I want to talk about is what I heard in that album.

With almost every track, I heard an echo of an earlier track or album.  Where Are We Now? had reminded me of Heathen and Reality from the first listen so I was expecting more of that, instead, The Next Day is more eclectic though and Bowie's voice, influence, and lyrical content seems a vignette of a past him.  

This is Bowie, clearly he doesn't do anything accidentally, but can he produce something original any more?  Could he, if he chose, pull out a new Bowie from the bag - not this newest Bowie incarnation - the old man looking back on himself -?  Year on year I find my own creativity waning.  I try and console myself that my PhD study is itself an act of creativity - thinking new thoughts, making new connections.  But the kind of bold creativity that comes with naivety and youth?  That's more elusive.

Confronted with a pile of lego what would you make? What would you do with what you made? I think I could still knock out a house, car, space station, but creating a story for it? Beyond me.  The art of play - we broadly accept we lose it, I think, but is resignation the right response?  I understand story tellers, actors, sculptors, they retain it, but even then its constrained, within boundaries and frameworks of intelligibility.  They can still access it though, more than I can.  Is that imagination or practice?  

There's a certain loneliness to having a bounded internal world, one that doesn't take a leap to a new landscape when prompted.  Is there a key to be found to reopen that door or is a muscle that wastes from under-use?
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I'm currently going through a Bowie phase so intense it is only rivalled by a three month period in 2005 in which I ate only beans on toast and ryvita and listened only to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

I've been scavenging the net, and newly bought 'Starman: David Bowie - The Definitive Biography' for all the ins and outs I need.  I am a big believer in finding the music of an artist before you read up on the mythology and political wrangling that brought them to the fore because it can have such a dramatic impact on your relationship with the music.  This impact isn't always negative (just last year Nailed to History: The Story of the Manic Street Preachers prompted in me a new openness to the Manics commercially disastrous Know Your Enemy) but it can be and I think the immediacy of music in coming through your stereo in a closed room is something that should not be compromised by critical analysis in the first case.

I am struck by the similarity in the story of Bowie's rise to fame with the Manics upward trajectory; from letter writing campaigns, to form coming before substance as they both proclaimed themselves to be - not the next big thing - but the big thing.  I find it fascinating that whilst it takes time - both Bowie and the Manics taking several years from inception to record deal to mainstream recognition - pure, unwavering self belief, self aggrandizement and ruthless ambition is truly the best policy.

As far as my own relationship with Bowie and the Manics goes I think the similarities in their stories are striking; from modest backgrounds, determined to not just transcend those roots but to realise their individual love affairs with rock n roll in it's most idealised form.  Glam rock - 'high glam' as Bowie apparently termed it once, given it was primarily a conceptual statement - of this ilk is borne out of frustration and ambition, and as such is much more seductive than any other music genre I have encountered; perhaps the reason I am only obsessive over these two acts has more than a little to do with that.  Yes, in my youth I donned the uniform of baggy jeans and jumpers for Sterophonics, Coldplay, Travis, Mull Historical Society, Embrace, and Easyworld gigs, but the defining and enduring relationship has and always will be with the glam of the Manics and David Bowie.

Such preening, extroversion, and posturing are at odds with my own natural state.  At my core I am an introvert - and I'm ok with that - but somehow Bowie and, to a greater degree given their continued live presence, the Manics, provide a safe framework within which something in me cuts loose and I am free - eyes blackened with eyeliner, hair glossed and often dyed, short skirts, 'DIY aesthetic', pressed to the front of the stage calling out lyrics with all the simultaneous seriousness and irony required of a good Manics fan.  

Bowie's honest/dishonest declarations on his sexuality and wilful visual confrontation provided me with a much needed touchstone for queer identity when I was a teenager living in a world stripped of any alternative influences or role models.  That his purported bisexuality may have been nothing more than a calculated technique to court publicity is, to me, irrelevant - it provided me an image and a route into a world I inhabit now.

It struck me as ironic when I was watching a late night repeat of Radiohead at Glastonbury in 1997 and the crowd sang to 'Creep', that a song about isolation and alienation could unite so many people without any apparent hypocrisy for them.  That is the remarkable thing about music - it starts off purporting to be about alienation, outsiders and otherness and creates, as it gains momentum, an entire sub culture -membership of which depends on correctly enacting that same 'otherness'.  I do wonder at what point it stops being true - how many of those people repeating the lyrics of Creep like a mantra have any connection to the content? When does belonging obscure identification?

I think that, almost uniquely, glam does have an honesty in its performance because it is founded on artifice.  The whole intention is to create a new reality which stands both in parallel to, and above, the norm.  Followers of glam, recreating themselves to attend gigs, are aping their idols in every respect - stripping it off to go back to work on Monday is in keeping with the artifice.  Many people speak of coming to glam through one defining realisation after a single spectacle - for many with David Bowie I understand it was his 1972 performance of Starman on Top of the Pops that changed their relationship with fashion, sub culture and music.  When that is the case, when one moment draws you in, and you can dress yourself in that moment, I propose that you are recreating the moment of epiphany.  A genre which makes you see the world differently in one move can, therefore, offer you revelation every time you dress.  And you can dress a hundred times, a hundred different ways.

Bowie recognised that - that's why he was able to reinvent himself so many times and why the Manics duplicated so many of his statements (from replicating a certain image in You Love Us (Heavenly Version) from Bowie's Boys Keep Swinging amongst many, many other visual statements).  It's a vocabulary of outrage, confrontation, statement and, above all, freedom.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Nicky recounted a conversation he'd had with Richey by way of an introduction to Revol [live performance from last night here]. Richey was discovered smashed off his face in a hotel room. Nicky asks him what's going on. The subsequent conversation, we were told, went like this;
Richey: "I've got an amazing lyric, it's about group sex in the Kremlin".
Nicky: "Sounds like a winner to me Rich"

Nicky ended the gig last night by throwing his guitar to the ground during the end section of A Design for Life, before retrieving it and, to the delight of the crowd, smashing it to pieces. He reflected on this a couple of hours later on twitter;
Wish I hadnt smashed one of my fave bass guitars in half- its had it- such is life xx

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I don't believe I've taken the time to talk about how glorious Saturday night in Cardiff was.

Nicky just SMILED and SMILED.  He looked happier than ever. Then he put that skirt on and started doing high kicks and standing with his left leg up on the amp flashing his pants for the world to see.  Unfortunately, his boa-mic-stand/electric flamingo was blocking my crotch shot view so I had to keep leaning on [personal profile] harleyrose in order to get a clear look.

Nicky, Nicky, my Nicky.

And I smiled too.  Like I never do.  I only smile like that.  I only stand there, breathless, sweating, pressed against a thousand other bodies (actually, it was something like 7000 other bodies on Saturday) shaking from head to toe, screaming and SMILING like that when I am in front of them.  In front of Nicky, in front of the wall of sound, in front of that energy.
askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
 ".....as we are told that this is the end..." Then the freaking confetti canons went off and the air was thick with red, white and green confetti.

And I felt something inside me go 'click' and I knew that it was the end.  Of what, I don't know; I just know I felt the most acute sense of loss in that moment.  I stood, singing, staring alternately at Nicky's exuberant final strut and the impossibly thick rain of confetti and mourning the end of I know not what.

When it finished, and we turned and laughed and exclaimed what an incredible gig it had been, I noticed I was shaking.  I was still shaking as we made our way out of the doors and into a frantic Cardiff evening.

It feels like a dream somehow, over 130 miles away and nearly 24 hours since the event, it very nearly is.  Except I'm still suffering a real, hard sense of loss.  I've heard that song a thousand times and at 11 gigs, what was different this time?
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 One way or another our parents shape our music taste; whether that is because we are busily fleeing anything that sounds like what we were subjected to or because it sounds like home.  I'm also of the opinion that, whatever response you have to your parents music taste on the above spectrum, there is always a single band carried on a generation.  For me, it is the Beatles.  

My Mum - as I have mentioned before - taught me to sing Yellow Submarine as the first song I ever learnt.  The Beatles were - and are - to her the single most important music moment in her life and whilst she saw some awesome bands live in the 60s the only story I ever hear about live music in her youth is the one that got away; her Mum went to buy Beatles tickets for her and her brother but by the time she got to the front of the queue they had sold out, so she bought tickets for the Rolling Stones instead ("I don't think she understood there was a difference", is how my Mum consoles herself on that one).

The band I want to gift to the next generation/my children? The Manics of course.  Not least of all because they will tie very nicely in with all the books I want to gift to my -as-yet-nonexistent- offspring.  What band do you want to pass on?  What music could you not, in good conscience, neglect to force on a new generation of listeners?

I think the most interesting and important aspect of this musical inheritance is the way it enables us to bridge the gap in culture, experience and age.  I could explain - without ever having to lay it out - to my kid that when I was young I felt alienated and desperate to believe that I wasn't living in an Orwellian nightmare - despite the way my peers might behave.  And in listening to the Beatles I learnt about the energy and optimism of my Mum's youth giving way to political upheaval and uncertainty.  In listening to the bands she didn't like; David Bowie, the Beach Boys, I learnt about the things she feared and found unsettling.   And by having my own responses and connections to albums like Pet Sounds, Ziggy Stardust and Rubber Soul, my Mum had a measure of what kind of person I was that comes through much clearer than any heart to heart could be; you can't fake an emotional connection to music. 

My Mum was (and kind of still is - you can't say a bad word about him in our house without her WRATH coming down on you-) a die hard Paul McCartney fan; she was always vaguely dismissive and negative when telling me anything about John Lennon.  Bear that in mind as I tell you that tonight came what I think is the clearest reflection of our relationship as mediated through music;

I stuck Rubber Soul on whilst I played with the rats, my Mum was in the bath in the adjacent room and shouted through the door "I still know every word to these!".  "Of course you do!" I replied.  Shortly after she came out of the bathroom, she pauses for a moment before going into her room and turns to me, saying; "I think you'd have been a John Lennon-er." I smile "yup, I think I would have been."

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I went to see the Manics last night with Becky and Harley.


One of the best performances I've seen them give.  James was in spectacular voice and hitting notes hitherto unheard by human ears.

Drank vodka in the queue - as is the Manics fans way - and talked to some people who had flown from continental Europe for the gig.  

In an unexpected turn of events, Tolerate made me cry.  The first bar was played and I knew with the absolute physical certainty you have the moment before you throw up that I was going to burst into tears - completely involuntary, somehow more than mere emotions - and pow! I was sobbing my heart out, alternately sobbing and smiling so broadly I thought my ears would crack.   Tolerate has never made me cry before, I wonder if it is an expression of my sublimated fears regarding the political instability and social reorganisation this country is currently experiencing.  Whatever it was, that song is epic and it absolutely overcame me last night.

Currently nursing a back and legs covered in bruises from various crowd surges but overall the Nicky pit was as stable as it ever is.

I just can't put into words how seeing them live - when they are on form as they were last night - is a transformative experience.  Body and soul altered and shaken.  I came away alternately smiling and feeling as though I was going to cry again.  Harley and I were both on that adrenaline high that only the Manics provide and both of us only managed 6 hours sleep last night - finally coming down around 1pm today while we were having lunch.    I woke up with a great big smile on my face and laid back just letting it all come back to me.

Becky has never really been into the Manics but I asked her to come with me in the hopes of converting her.  I don't know that she was converted, or that she enjoyed it - although she tells me she enjoyed some parts of the set.  She asked me why people were so obsessed with them and expressed shock at the fact that at one point during the set she looked around her and found that everyone was crying.  I'm not sure I have a sufficiently large vocabulary to put into words why that happens - but I know with absolute certainty what those other fans were feeling who surrounded Becky. 

The Manics are, and were last night, greater than the sum of their parts - quite literally when they play live given Richey's absence - and that really is as much explanation as I can give as to why I, and many many others like me, find ourselves in tears in front of the stage, mid gig, singing every line as though it is our last.

I'll leave you with a couple of links to blazzingly short video clips....
Nicky's unfeasibly long legs from 00:21
May your gods be with you

And the set list;

ETA: Review from the Independent.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
List five things you would save if your home caught fire.

1. The rats, obviously.
2. My external hard drive.  It contains both my dissertations and all my photos from 2003 onwards.  I should probably back it up actually...
3. My iPod.  A damn sight easier than saving my entire shelf of CDs and representing 10 years or more of music collection.
4. Manics cds.  I know what I said above, but as I said in a previous entry, they are more than the physical cd. 
5. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.  This book is the bible (even down to the wafer thin paper) of university study.  It's more highlighter and biro now than it is printed word and the dust jacket was lost long ago, but I wouldn't go near an academic course without it.  It's glorious.

In other news, I seem to be experience some sort of crazy (har har) hypo-manic mixed episode which has only happened to me a couple of times before and is as much fun as you would expect.  Fuck off brain.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
In 2003 my English A Level class went to Birmingham to hear a day of lectures on Shakespeare. We arrived into Birmingham early, just as the shops were opening. It was a grey and dreary day, we scuttled through the town centre from Birmingham New Street Station, following our teacher who didn't really like students and appeared to be trying to get away from us rather than lead the way.

A dreary start gave way to an unseasonably warm spring day, I recall I was only wearing a t shirt during the lecture itself. Unfortunately that's the only positive the inauspicious start threw up. The lectures were terribly dull and we were, by a country mile, the 'rough' kids - not in uniform (we didn't have one) and lounging about on the lecture hall seats - who got disapproving from the other schools' representatives. Most of our party, including the teacher, fell asleep during the day and we ducked out at the earliest possible opportunity.

Our teacher told us we had 45 mins before the train and to meet at the station, then she disappeared at top speed. Slowly we all dispersed, not out of a desire to stay together, but for want of knowing where to go. I split off with a friend, Lux, and we ambled around the shopping centre. Being 18 we gravitated to a large HMV and split up. I fished out a copy of Generation Terrorists by Manic Street Preachers, it was priced at £17.99* and after some debate with myself, I decided to go for it.

At this point I owned Forever Delayed (bought in Grantham on a rainy Sunday afternoon, with S, from a now defunct record shop), The Holy Bible (from now closed HMV Listergate, Nottingham - Saturday afternoon) and Gold Against the Soul (also from now closed HMV Listergate, Nottingham, Saturday afternoon. Listened to it in car on way home, got Life Becoming a Landslide stuck in my head for 2 weeks, my Mum told my brother I was listening to 'suicide music' as a result of me singing it semi-constantly) and nothing else by the Manics. The logical next choice should have been Everything Must Go (from Amazon, no idea when) but there I was, in HMV in Birmingham, one peculiarly out-of-place afternoon, holding Generation Terrorists.  I was wearing a pale blue golddigga zip up jacket, jeans and Vans trainers.

I paid, rejoined Lux and we went to MacDonalds to pass the time before the train. Gazing out the window at the passers by, I don't recall us talking much, companionable silence I think they call it.

Once on the train I sat against the window on a table seat, travelling backwards. This is back when Central trains ran the line so the carriage was a gaudy shade of green. I put the new CD in my Panasonic 40 second anti-shock portable CD player, sat back, turned my eyes to the window, and listened.

I couldn't believe this was the same band who produced the mature The Holy Bible and the polished Gold Against the Soul. I poured over the lyrics in the insert booklet as I had done with the other studio albums but my eyes widened as I tried to distinguish details in the collage of black and white photos in the centre. It was loud and stupid and glorious and joyful.

The album - if you skip the second Repeat (Repeat UK), as I did, thinking it was a duplicate track - lasts exactly the same time as the train journey from Birmingham to our destination; Melton Mowbray

When I was packing up my posessions in Brighton I tried to find Generation Terrorists - nothing helps packing like Motorcycle Emptiness - and couldn't, I had the box yes, but not the disc . With difficulty, I managed to convince myself it'd 'turn up' when I unpacked. It did not.

What to do? Another disc from Amazon or the like would not be the one I reverently placed in my CD player that day.  Besides, what would I do with the case? The one which had first caught my eye and convinced me to buy it? Take the disc out of the new box, place in old box and discard? That seems like cross contamination! It was quite the conundrum.

Fate, however, was smiling on me.  It sent me to Birmingham on a course.  A dull course at that.  Only a month or two ahead of the original purchase anniversary I found myself standing in front of the very same HMV, some 40 minutes before my train to Melton Mowbray departed, after an unrewarding day's study.  

I took the stairs to the fourth floor 2 at a time and rummaged until I found it - Manic Street Preachers: Generation Terrorists. Lyrics: Nick and Richey, Music: Sean and James.  This time it was a snip at £7.  Glowing with pleasure I clutched it and found myself, for the first time in many years, browsing real live CDs, rather than pictures of them online.  

In due time I paid and departed for my train where I pulled off the wrapping and opened the booklet.  In lieu of a CD player I turned on my iPod and navigated to the appropriate album.  

To my surprise, I enjoyed listening to Generation Terrorists on yesterday's train journey homeward in a way I haven't done since that first time in 2003.  It sounded fresh.  And I actually listened to it - something I rarely manage to do these days, particularly with albums I know inside out.

When the train arrived into Melton I decided to listen to the album again in my car on the drive home.  But it was the same old Generation Terrorists I've come to ignore over the years.  Somehow, the spell was broken the moment I got off that train.

It has made me reflect on how I buy music.  I categorically do not buy album downloads because I would rather have the cd and manually make it digital but I think I'm still missing something by buying those cds online. I can tell you where every single CD I bought in person came from and usually the time of year and where my first listen was.  Every single one.  I'd struggle to tell you when I received the ones I bought online, much less where and how that first listen sounded.

Music has always been more than the sum of it's parts for me, I just never realised how key one of those parts was in creating something more.  Consider my new years resolutions amended.

* This in a time where the average cd price was around £12, so it was still expensive.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Day 2: Put your music on random shuffle. List the first 5 songs and discuss.

I'd be Lying - Greg Laswell
I bought this album and a couple of other cds after I saw him as part of the Hotel Cafe tour in Brighton sometime in 2007/2008.  I completely fell in love with his understated style in contrast to the others on the bill and thought that, whilst there was some rough edges (frequently recurring melodies, repetitive at times), it was very promising stuff.  

This song was on a playlist I used to listen to whilst painting so I can't hear it without immediately seeing the surroundings of my room in Brighton, sitting on the floor on the rather sad beige carpet, easel in front of me, paints and brushes scattered across the room.  Sunshine coming through my window - even in winter my beach front south facing window always caught the best rays of the day.

Oh My Love My Love - Kevin Johansen
Forgot I had this! Nice surprise on shuffle.

This comes from an album I bought whilst in Buenos Aires.  He was chart fodder and on the music channels with some cute video with a puppet show almost constantly.  Being in BsAs for nearly 3 months, these things permeate.  Headed down to my nearest record store and bought this.

This track is one of the strongest on the album without too much cheesy Spanish guitar and has pleasing harmonies and a rhythm which sort of rocks you comfortably in your seat.

Keep Punching Joe - Daniel Johnston
Bought this double album (Hi, How Are You?/The Continued Story) after watching the phenomenal The Devil and Daniel Johnston from the tiny little dedicated indie retailer who bought the rights and protected them while Daniel was ill/invisible.  This jazzy, grainy recording has heart-in-mouth potential; you can hear every single shred of ambition and inspiration that the young Daniel sang into his tiny tape recorder on this track and it sort of breaks my heart this is the best original recording there is.

Change the Clocks - The Boy Who Trapped the Sun
This is from an E.P. I bought during a gig, The Boy Who Trapped the Sun was supporting Lisa Mitchell who was playing the basement bar in Komedia in Brighton just a few months ago.  His set far outstripped hers in talent, performance, originality and enjoyability.   He was also jolly nice when I had a quick chat to him while purchasing this E.P.

More specifically, this track reminds me of sitting way off to the right of the stage with James, who was down to Brighton for a couple of nights, and my then-girlfriend Cilla.  Cilla and I had been to London that day to visit my favourite gallery, Tate Modern, and had narrowly avoided completely missing the gig.  I was entranced with TBWTTS's performance of this particular track - other audience members were talking and laughly LOUDLY and generally being a bit dickish and ignorant to the rather spectacular performance that was unfolding in front of them.

You Make Me Want to Drink Bleach - Easyworld
Lancaster University; first year, second and third term. LUSerNet (Lancaster University's greatest contribution to the world).  Driving to Cumbria.  V2004 in the Strongbow tent, whilst Keane played on the NME stage.  Exhilirating. Youth.  Freedom.

Although, it has to be said, I prefer the stylophone mix [/picky]

I'm surprised by how non-shameful my shuffle was.  I expected to have to skip songs I've never listened to but still sit in the bowels of my [6 year old] iPod but I didn't!  Perhaps the time to actually *use* shuffle is now.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I really think that Hunky Dory is David Bowie's greatest album.  I mean yes, obviously I love and adore Ziggy Stardust, I wouldn't call myself a fan if I didn't, but I think Hunky Dory does more things.  It represents all the things Bowie had been up to that moment, all the things that were happening in the world at that moment, all the things people thought might happen in the world at that moment and all the things Bowie would go on to become.  Actually, that's inaccurate; it doesn't just represent them, it shows you them; you can hear it in ever bar and every change and every harmoniously-discordant shift from track to track.

Take the tracks individually and you could be forgiven for thinking they span a decade.  Take them as a whole and you will be blown away every day for the last 40 years and every one for the next 40.  

I like the Beatles, I do, but I really don't think Rubber Soul (my favourite Beatles album*) - released just 6 years before Hunky Dory sounds anywhere near as fresh.  Christ, if we're going to get down to it, I don't think that The Holy Bible even sounds as coherent, fresh and complete as Hunky Dory.  And you know how I feel about the Manics.

More interesting still is the fact that Bowie (or David, as I prefer to call him, on account of our Relationship) still plays a reasonable selection of songs from Hunky Dory live and doesn't just succeed in avoiding that most heinous of long-career-pitfalls of becoming your own tribute act but actually makes the songs live simultaneously in their past and our present.  In live shows David himself leaps from the strutting, arrogance of youth which catapulted him to fame to the reflective melancholy of age; but it is not an act, and it is not conscious, I really believe that changing energy comes from the songs themselves.  Just compare 'Oh! You Pretty Things' to 'Eight Line Poem' and you'll hear the voice which is absolutely appropriate to the writer/singer of 'Slow Burn' come up against the 24 year old Hunky Dory artist.  

And it is fascinating.

It's well established that Bowie's career has had the longevity it has because of his incredible capability to reinvent himself (Let's Dance!) but most people look at that over decades; I'm saying it happens over the course of one, 11 track, album.  And whilst other Bowie albums may approach that sort of scope, none of them do it as effortlessly and beautifully as Hunky Dory.

It's £4.93 on Amazon right now, if you don't own it, I suggest you remedy that now.

* The chronologically closest Beatles album being Let It Be which seems an unfair comparison on account of it being a bit rubbish and made during a Difficult Time for the band whilst Hunky Dory and Rubber Soul exist in that 'golden era' all artists experience if they make more than 3 albums; and in Bowie's case, occasionally manage to resurrect from time to time.  Madonna and Kylie probably also being reasonable additions to that category of 'multiple, unconnected golden eras', but I digress.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
On a train home to Brighton after my unsuccessful interview. I asked for feedback and she said about three times that I was overqualified, too intellectual for a menial job and er, overqualified again. Turns out when I got up to the school, had a look round and met the people I would be working with I realised I really wanted the job so went all out in the interview so I am disappointed.

Another dead person on the line in the Brighton-London area this evening causing train chaos, at least this one did it on a Monday, the Friday night jumpers are the ones I never understand.

Listening to an eclectic mix on the old iPod, just had Beach Boys (I just wasn't made for these times, which always makes me tear up at the wrong time of month/year. Beach boys lyrics are quality. True story) Los Campesinos! now. Later, Manics.

Anyway, moral of the story, give me a freaking break universe, I want a decent job, one that doesn't write me off the moment they see I have a degree (MA is now officially off the CV) or the moment I open my mouth and exercise my vocabulary. If all else fails I'll try and go back to HMV for Christmas.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I have two songs absolutely wedged into my head. I think both of them say quite a lot, in one way or another. Indeed the second one I'm linking to is the one complete with the John Lewis advert that is currently running, because I think it's kind of beautiful. And I know that makes me woefully prone to the effect of advertising, but whatevs, I loves it. The first one is beautiful too, only more lyrically than visually;

We still lie together every night, while I sleep I dream that we're all right, if this is love I'd rather keep dreaming, you could never be an actress, I know the knife's underneath the mattress, if this is love I'd rather keep dreaming, dreaming like a fool
The Boy Who Trapped the Sun

Billy Joel/John Lewis

My Northern getaway is drawing to a close and I can say with confidence that I am in no way ready to return to the South. Life down there needs to change dramatically in the next few months or I simply don't know what I'm going to do.

Actually, I think I do. Will review life in September with an option until November to make a decision. Leaving Brighton being the question at hand.

Strange, I thought I loved that city, but a few days away with the situation that is awaiting me on my return? Not so much. "Lately it feels like we're drifting apart". That's the way with love, I suppose.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
a sky gone on fire

August 2017

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