This post is inspired by so many things that I’m not sure where to start. I have to confess that it’s at least partly about work avoidance – I’ve been off work all week (no particular reason) and I promised the younger MissToffee that I’d put down laminate flooring in her bedroom sometime this week. Well. it’s Thursday, I’m out all day tomorrow and it ain’t done yet …
The immediate spur that made me want to share something with y’all was the following incident. I just opened a new packet of (warning: product placement) Kellog’s Cornflakes (do I live for pleasure alone, I hear you ask) and I suddenly got that feeling of excitement that I used to get when there was the prospect of finding a small plastic figurine of some sort, buried deep within the packet. I experienced a warm glow that lasted for several seconds and then remembered that I’m a 48 year old man. But for a moment I was seven again.
And that reminded me of the line in Summertime about nostalgia:
Sittin’ with your friends cause y’all reminisce
About the days growin’ up and the first person you kissed
And as I think back, makes me wonder how
The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia
And that reminded me that Summertime would have been a good shout for this week’s theme, if only for the “first person you kissed” line.
And with the weather we’ve been having in this part of the world this week, you can almost believe that summertime is here.
And do we really need an excuse to listen to Will Smith’s finest hour?
Of course, it’s always summertime on the ‘Spill …
Question: what sparks up your nostalgia?
Alternative question: what’s your most treasured free gift?
I have a new musical crush. (Although it’s not new at all, it’s at least a decade old, and it’s hip hop, so some might say it’s not musical.) It’s the Digable Planets. Are you all laughing? They’ve been around forever–where have I been? I got one album today and liked it so much I got another. Is it a coincidence that in these two tracks they sample Tighten Up and an Eddie Harris track? It’s all part of the ‘Spill ebb and flow.
McFlah’s, make notes.
This is the movie you should rent, purloine or otherwise procure by any means necessary. This movie fits your ‘what should we rent?’ parameters to a shiny little tee. Stanley Tucci’s brilliant ‘Big Night’. Definitely, one of sourpus’s all time favorite flicks.
Spillers, also lend an ear.
If you have never heard the soundtrack album for this film – get it. Simple as.
There. I’ve stuck my neck out.
You know that bit of text that someone (I’m assuming in the McFlah camp) puts at the top of the comment box? The one that usually says ‘Spill it baby, Spill it’ or somesuch? Well, that bit of text currently keeps triggering the very most powerful of formative memories for me:
‘In West Philadelphia born and raised
On a playground was where I spent most of my days’
It reminds me, every time, of the one inalienable fact that I hold to be true of ALL English males of my generation – we know, each and every one of us, the full words, without hesitation, to two musical pieces:
1. The theme tune to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air (played in its much less known full version here)
2. John Barnes’ rap from ‘World in Motion’.
I was bewteen 10 and 12 at the time both of these tunes became popular and I reckon that this is the time at which certain – often bizarre – lasting musical memories can most powerfully be created. I can also, if pressed, remember almost every word to ‘Ice Ice Baby’, but we’ll leave that alone for now.
So I ask you, what sticks in your head from years gone by that you just can’t (indeed won’t) ever shift? Inexplicable, random, emotional or just plain odd, how does your brain work?
Altogether now, ‘You’ve got to hold and give, but do it at the right time…’
via Kanye’s blog
Have you ever bought an album purely off the strength of one single which you heard on the radio, took it home, listened only to that one track (maybe give or take a short blast of one or two of the others, just to check them out) and never taken the blessed thing down from the rack again?
This was one of mine, I remember: Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms by China Crisis and the song, Christian.
Last week I made a vague offer to take on the ‘Album of the Week’ slot at some point, with an album that might persuade some of the sceptics about the sheer wonderfulness of jazz. I’ve since been desperately trying to think of what album could possibly support such a reckless promise. After all, there are so many different reasons for disliking jazz, and so many different tastes in music displayed on this blog – how can one album address them all? I really ought to have kept my mouth shut.
And then, on Saturday night, somewhere in the middle of the third bottle of home-made cider, it came to me. Where to find great tunes for ToffeeBoy and Frog Princess, and wacky experimental stuff for Japanther and Shoey, and some heavy guitars for DarceysDad, and folky stuff for treefrogdemon and DebbyM? Not on any one jazz album – but in the whole history of jazz, certainly. And by the end of the fourth bottle, the idea of a series of posts on different aspects of jazz was more or less sketched out, and not even the risk of being compared with nilpferd’s brilliant essays on Miles Davis records could deter me.
This isn’t claiming to be a history of jazz, or a complete account of the genre. It’s more like ToffeeBoy’s pop music series, except that rather than focusing on different artists I’m going to be talking about themes or motifs, which will, I hope, add up to an impression – very much a personal impression – of what jazz is about. And if I spread the net wide enough, there will surely be something for more or less everyone in here somewhere…
That’s the theme for this first selection: variety. All five of these tracks would normally be labelled jazz – even if some jazz fans might wish to deny that title to at least one of them. The issue of definition, of what is and isn’t jazz (or is and isn’t ‘proper’ jazz), of what limits can and should be set on what musicians do in the name of this music, has been argued over furiously for at least the last seventy-five years, if not longer. Almost any statement that one might make about jazz (even, perhaps, “jazz is a genre of music”) could be disputed on the basis of a track produced by a jazz musician.
One response to this is to insist that, nevertheless, my definition of jazz is the true one, and everything that doesn’t fit is therefore not proper jazz. Another is to develop looser and more flexible definitions; for example – as I’ll be talking about in later posts – noting the importance of rhythm for jazz, rather than specifying a particular sort of rhythm. Another is to argue that the whole point of jazz is to question restrictions and to push beyond boundaries, so as soon as you try to ‘define’ jazz there will be a jazz musician wanting to probe that definition, question its limitations and turn it upside down…
Duke Ellington once remarked that he didn’t know “how such great extremes as now exist can be contained under the one heading.” These tracks are intended to illustrate that point (though I’m prepared for the possibility that, to a non-jazz fan, they may all sound rather similar): classic small groups to big bands and orchestras; traditional instruments to electronics and sound manipulation; almost free improvisation on classic tunes to carefully orchestrated compositions. The one thing all these tunes have in common, I think, besides the absence of vocals, is fun; a sense of the possibilities of music and sound, and of the joy of creation.
Sonny Rollins, Moritat (1956) – aka Mack the Knife
Colin Towns’ Mask Orchestra, Dreaming Man in Blue Suede Shoes (1999) – Towns’ main living is as composer of TV theme tunes and the like, but he’s invested a lot of the profits in running his own big band and jazz orchestra to play his music
Emily Remler, Daahoud (1988) – cover of a classic Clifford Brown song
Food, Freebonky (2001) – British saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Hendriksen, in experimental mood
Guy Barker, Sounds in Black and White (2002) – inspired by 1940s film music, with each instrument playing a different character. The sections are: Opening Titles; The Guy (described, when I heard this live, as a Cary Grant type); The Girl (Ava Gardner); The Bad Guy; The Chase, The Romance and The End.
Well, Shane seemed to give me the green light, so I went ahead and nominated myself for AOTW…
Formed out of the ashes (literally – the singer died in a car crash) of cult US indie heroes Brainiac, Enon have been a staple on the Japanther stereo for several years now
Whilst hardly being 100% unique, Enon can be filed alongside Deerhoof and Blonde Redhead (in fact, singer Toko Yasuda used to be in Blonde Redhead) in your off-kilter-American-indie-band-with-Japanese-American-female-singer section. But for me, Enon have got the edge when it comes to memorable pop tunes and songwriting sensibility.
Released in 2002 on Touch ‘N’ Go Records “High Society” was their third album, but first with Toko on the mic. (and then not all the time) and for me, still their best. I love the unashamed poppiness, all round indie-ness and the boy-girl vocals give it that extra zip that makes them something of an American Delgados.
I managed to see them live in Shinjuku a few years ago and they had a real chemistry and understated star quality about them that made them instantly engaging and likeable.
Here’s the obligatory (but rather sparse) Wiki:
and of course the MySpace:
Generic indie or pop genius? You decide.
OK, I’ll admit up front that my own contribution on the day was pathetic: one purchase, three quid (although it was a Double Disc re-issue of REM’s Green and Monster, so the VFM factor was high.)
don’t listen too closely, I didn’t really scan the words.. the cover.. oh I was doing something else so just knocked this one up.. do you like it?
see you around then………….
1 Ooberman (summer holiday early 80′s come on Eileen #1 every sunday while we listened to the radio and compared bumps)
2 Her Space Holiday (in hospital not long after already reminiscing about lost innocence – good film references)
3 Stars (get drunk, end up in bed, accidentally fall in love.. it’s the English way – that often goes wrong!)
4 Camera Obscura (why’s she punching me? oh she’s got the hots!)
5 Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (she gets a boyfriend – you can’t compare ballgowns, happens all the time doesn’t it lads)
6 Art Brut (for Japanther – let’s all sing Ms Kanes name on buses)
7 Black Box Recorder (Football, then Music, then Girls go and ruin your easy life – Jarvis re-mix I think – lost the info)
1 Viva Voce (you can say so much with a mixtape without stumbling over your words)
2 Brakes (then you find that tape in a junk shop after all the effort you went to)
3 Ballboy (…picked over by parasites)
4 Jens Lekman (but you still have the A and B sides of the Vinyl)
5 Jens Lekman (and finally you meet the one in the middle of 3 Million people.. have babies.. eat pancakes.. dream of building eco houses together and try to stop wars)
On the blog today, ashenfacedsupremo noted of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks that In vinyl times the first side was entitled In The Beginning and the second side Afterwards and there is a feeling of a journey through life and even of death and re-birth.
Because this week’s Album of the Week was a story and needed to be listened to in order, it had to have a Please Play in Order label.
Life in the digital age, I guess. Question is, does song order matter on an album anymore (indeed, did it ever honestly in most cases)? Do any of us play album tracks in order, or do we just listen to whatever order our media player chooses?
I was absolutely thrilled to read in the actual Guardian when I got home today that Marilyn Monroe by the Ian Campbell Folk Group was indeed in the ‘Actors’ A-list. On the offchance that you haven’t heard this song, I’m giving it a post to itself – I’ll do a First Love one later.
I used to frequent the folk club that was held every week at the Green Man in Potters Bar. It’s the custom in folk clubs that ‘floor singers’, ie members of the audience who get up and do a song in the interval, get in for free, so I used to sing to them every week. The club’s resident band (who were all men) decided that they needed a female singer and they asked me to be it! Unfortunately when I asked my mother she said no, because I was doing my O levels at the time.
But if I HAD joined the band I’d have sung this song often, because I learned it from them and they probably sang it every other week.
The link to music and indeed to Toffee’s valiant defence of Coldplay is my current new obsession. Bear with me here because we get things a little later then you do. But I’ve discovered Elbow (they are on the brink, the cusp, nay the verge of becoming really big in France as opposed to Japan). If deezer plays the game, their album The seldom seen kid can be listened to here.
You’ll hate me for saying this but.. (Alan Partridge Voice) “Elbow? They’re only the band that Coldplay could have been….”
And the question: Favourite British comedy series – and why?
I was going to post this before Actors came up.. thinking the subject of film, stars and celebrity had been exhausted….
I love the way song writers use the imagery from film to paint a picture in your minds eye of exactly what they are getting at.. and expecting you to understand the workings of film making at the same time…
It’s not at all cut well and was going to have me talking about some of the songs too, but I can’t work out the technology properly at the moment. There’s about 33 different tracks all together and I’m guessing none of them got in any of the RR subjects.
But as Actors will be finished at midnight here is the rough cut.. I have many more subjects that I can do in the future!
As I’m stuck at home with msdebbyjr and a ton of paper tissues, waiting for my lost voice to return (sorry, tin, I’m going all medical on you again), I thought I’d grab the chance to actually participate on this blog and post this week’s instalment of five non-musical questions for you all.
1) Details of the first car you ever owned, please – colour, pet name, number of scratches on the driver’s door…
2) Apologies to anyone forced to suffer an adolescence without a dress code imposed by their local education authority: what colour was your school uniform and do you EVER wear it now? (the colour, not the uniform – that’s probably wishful thinking for most of us these days)
3) What would be your absolute culinary luxury? (see above for msdebbyjr’s ketchup delight)
4) Your favourite beach, wherever in the world and for whatever reason (doesn’t have to have anything to do with a holiday)
5) Do you prefer your socks plain or with a pattern?
It’s not easy to think of questions that have nothing to do with music!
Need something to cure yourself of sourpus’ earworm? Try this…
Honestly I don’t mean to poke fun at Christian rock. It’s the production design, It’s the rug, it’s the pink lighting, it’s the fancy dance moves…