Late Night Stargazing

Sometimes when I’m trying to decide what to post on some of these long-running series, I rule one out on the grounds that I must have posted it before.

Such is the case with tonight’s choice.

I read recently that it’s the 25th anniversary of R.E.M.’s “Automatic For The People” album this year. When I read that, I stopped for a moment. That can’t be right, can it?

So I thought back to where I was when I first heard “Drive”, the opening track and lead single from the album, and sure enough they’re not wrong. 1992 it was.

So I figured I’d post something from that album, but immediately decided against tonight’s choice on the aforementioned grounds: I simply must have posted it here before.

But a quick sweep of previous posts revealed that not only has tonight’s song not featured in this series, it’s never featured on the blog at all.

Often, when I post a song by R.E.M. a conversation about what their finest record is. Consensus seems to be that it’s “Country Feedback”, and I’m certainly not going to argue with that, but I reckon this delicate song of passion and beauty must be a very close second:

Nightswimming Front

R.E.M. – Nightswimming

More soon.

Advertisements

Heard It On Film

Let me take you back. It’s 1997, and I’m smitten with the films of Danny Boyle.

Admittedly, at this point, there had only been two that he had directed (although he did crop up as Executive Producer on the massively under-rated “Twin Town” in 1997) – 1994’s “Shallow Grave” and, of course 1996’s “Trainspotting” – but if you’ve seen any of those – and if you haven’t, what are you doing here, go watch them immediately – then you’ll probably agree with me that they are great, great films.

And not just for the plots, or the ground-breaking artistic visionary style of the films, but also for the soundtracks. Those films came out at around the same time as Tarantino’s first couple of movies, “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”, two films where the soundtrack played such an important role, it was virtually an extra cast member.

Boyle’s movies are similarly blessed, and so it was that by the time of his third film, “A Life Less Ordinary”, acts were queuing up to contribute to the soundtrack: The Prodigy, Faithless, Sneaker Pimps, Alabama 3, some chap called Elvis Presley (although I suspect he may not have been queuing in person), The Cardigans, Underworld (of course) all appear.

It’s by far and away the best thing about the film which is not Boyle’s finest moments, but when the bar had been set so high by what has come before, you can forgive the odd blip.

And speaking of odd blips, here’s a song which first saw the light of day as part of that soundtrack, although it later got released as an edited single, and cropped up again on the deluxe reissue of “Odelay”. It’s also probably my favourite song in Beck’s marvellously varied back catalogue:

MI0000148278

Beck – Deadweight

“Deadweight” was nominated for Best Song from a Movie at the 1998 MTV Movie Awards. It lost out to Will “Wicky Wicky Wild” Smith’s godawful “Men in Black”.

I know. Go figure, right?

There’s two other truly great tracks on there; firstly a different, more electronica version of R.E.M.’s “Leave” than that which appears on their 1996 album “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”, which hinted at the direction they’d be taking soon, when drummer Bill Berry quit the band (starting the sad decline of the band over the next few albums):

R.E.M. – Leave

…and not forgetting the wonderful title track performed by Ash, displaying the talents of new member Charlotte Hatherley for the first time:

Ash – A Life Less Ordinary

Corking.

More soon.

“In the End, It Took Me a Dictionary to Find Out the Meaning of Unrequited” #5

Another indisputable classic tonight, but a song so often misunderstood, seemingly because the title contains the word “religion”.

I’ll allow the singer and lyricist to explain:

Michael Stipe explains…

As for the song in question…Well, those of us who had been fans for a while were well aware of how great R.E.M. were; when we heard this, though, we knew that pretty soon, everyone else would know too:

R-1565557-1249647415

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion

And it still sounds as great today as it did way back in 1991.

More soon.

You’re Fired!

Bar my howl when the results came in, I haven’t really said much about the Trump administration.

And that’s because everything he does is pretty much above and beyond satire or comment.

But this week, Donald Trump fired James Comey, the head of the FBI.

Of course, this had nothing to do with any ongoing investigation into links between the Trump election campaign and the Russians.

And how do we know this?

Well, in two ways. Firstly, there’s the letter which was hand-delivered to Comey:

170509181301-james-comey-fired-letter-trump-exlarge-169

There it is, in black and white. “Not under investigation”.

And then there was the official denials. This sacking was on the recommendation of Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General and was, obviously, all to do with Comey’s announcement several days before the election that the FBI were re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email account useage. You know, that thing that gave Trump that extra leg-up to the White House. Of course it was.

Problem is, nobody told Donald.

Turns out, Donald had already made his mind up to fire Comey before those recommendations came in.

Now why would that be?

Feel free to install waterproof sheeting on your beds before answering that.

I’m just going to leave this here for you:

ed8da3a1

R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend

More soon.

Must I Draw You a Picture?

Glastonbury 2003.

R.E.M. are headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Friday.

My little gang – me, Mike, Vicky, Mark, Val, Claire – are relatively close to the front. We are 8 or 9 songs into the set when I turn to offer Mark a cigarette.

He declines.

“I like to have a smoke when one of my favourites is on,” he says by way of an explanation.

Fair enough.

Song 10 starts.

“Now I’ll have one,” says Mark.

The song? This, and whenever I hear it, I think of Mark:

REM_FALL+ON+ME-108569

R.E.M. – Fall On Me

I mention this now because Mark is an amazing artist. Here’s something he sent me the other day:

Mark Stipe

Yes. That’s a drawing (the blue spot is my fault, can’t get rid of it, sorry!) of a photo that featured in – if I remember correctly – a Melody Maker article, circa 1989.

Amazingly good, isn’t it?

You can follow Mark on Facebook at “Must I Draw You a Picture” (which is a genius name, as any Billy Bragg fan will tell you); ask him nicely and he’ll do something for you, for a nominal fee, of course. I’ll be eternally grateful if you did.

More soon.

A Message to The Chain Gang

Hello.

I owe you all an apology.

Here we are, in the last full week of January 2017, and so far we’ve only had one edition of “the best thing on the internet” ™ (not my words, the words of Top Gear magazine more than one you kind folks) so far this year: The Chain.

Truth be told, I’ve been finding it quite hard to get myself motivated to write it. I’m not sure if this is a case of the January blues. I think not.

I think it’s to do with the amount of work it takes (and yes, I know I always say that I just host The Chain, but since most of you write or have written blogs yourselves, I think a lot of you recognised that as utter bullshit false modesty.)

Maybe if I talk you through the process of how it is (normally) created, you’ll get the idea.

Wednesday: between 23:30 and midnight, post the latest instalment.

Thursday & Friday: erm, not a lot happens here, move on.

Saturday, Sunday & Monday: start sourcing all of the songs suggested so far that I don’t already own.

Tuesday: source all of the cover art, and any outstanding suggestions. Try and make some sort of narrative sense out of the songs, so that it’s not just “SWC suggested this:” and “George came up with this:” Try to think of some clips to include, as well as my own suggestions. Place all the songs on a playlist on my iPod.

Wednesday: listen to the playlist on the way to and from work, trying desperately to think of something, hopefully something funny or at least mildly amusing, to say about some of them. Get home. Start writing. Finish sometime between 23:30 and midnight, publish, eat.

Now I don’t want to sound all ungrateful, because I’m deeply touched that you all stop by here, read what I have written, leave kind comments and superb suggestions for the next edition. But frankly, last week I found myself approaching Monday night with a certain amount of…not dread, more apathy. The same on Tuesday. And again on Wednesday.

See, I spend my entire working day, as I’m sure many of you do, sitting in front of a computer screen and sometimes the last thing I feel like doing when I get home is to spend another five or six hours in front of another one.

I’m not having a pop here, by the way; lawd knows that I encourage you all to make multiple suggestions, sometimes posting the ones you mention in passing even if you have specifically stated it’s not your actual suggestion. I’ve always wanted this place to be an interactive blog, so I’m certainly not complaining now that The Chain is exactly that.

But, in short, something had to give, and unfortunately for the past couple of weeks, that’s been The Chain. And for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mulling over what to do about it.

Here’s the options as I see them:

  1. Limit the amount of suggestions to two per person. I’m not doing this. Apart from what I’ve just written, I genuinely love seeing the stepping stones of your thought processes as you skip from one tune to another. So we can rule that out.
  2. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t actually start writing The Chain until all the suggestions are in, so perhaps instead of giving you seven days, we could make it five. I’m not doing this, as I think it would exclude some of you who, having posted something earlier in the week, suddenly come up with an absolute blinder at the nth hour. So we can rule that out.
  3. Make The Chain a fortnightly post. Nah, I don’t like that either, as it just means I’ll have two week’s worth of tunes to write come Wednesday night. Next.
  4. I can knock it on the head now, quit while I’m ahead.

Hmm. I have always said that once writing not just The Chain but this blog in general becomes a chore, then it’s time to stop doing it.

So, fellow Chain Gangers, it is with a very heavy heart that I announce that tomorrow’s edition of The Chain, the 36th edition, will be the last.

…To be posted on a Wednesday.

Instead, after tomorrow we’ll be moving to a Sunday. This will give me the whole weekend (assuming my hectic playboy lifestyle allows it) to tinker around writing it, rather than trying to cram it all into a five hour space I don’t really have spare. Also, it means I should have more time to write about other stuff during the week, and read some of your excellent blogs, which I am very, very behind on.

Hope that all meets with your agreement?

And just in case it does turn out that it’s just a case of the January blues, I intend to listen to this anytime I can’t be arsed with writing:

ed8da3a1

R.E.M. – Get Up

More soon. Like, tomorrow. Or later today, depending on when you read this.