Readers Recommend – The Future

Please let’s offer some ways forward people – this just in :

Dear Ralph,

First, my apologies for taking so long to reply to you. We needed to have conversations in the office about the future of RR, and one of the people necessary was away at the start of January. Then David Bowie died, which occupied most of last week. So only now am I getting round to emailing all those who wrote to me about RR.

The decision to end it was not done with a sense of joy. We simply could not continue it in its current form. While it may have appeared to be something almost effortless at our end, it wasn’t – the two blogs between them occupied up to three working days, divided between different people here, which we cannot continue to allocate. That said, we do want to find a way to keep the RR community involved.

At the bottom of this note, you’ll see the post I made to the Guardian Facebook page about it. What I said there has angered some people, which I understand. So I’m writing to you now to ask what new iteration of RR would satisfy you: the one stricture is that it can not involve opening up our production system to readers. As I have said, we can’t do it exactly the same as before. We’ll carry on thinking at our end, and I hope by end of next week, combining our thoughts with yours, I can send a suggestion out to readers to see how they feel about it. Please feel free to circulate this note among other RR readers you know, and when (and if) you reply, please put Readers Recommend in the subject header.

Best wishes,

Michael Hann

David Bowie Is at the V&A

You don’t need me to tell you about David Bowie, when I first saw him on TOTP, which LPs I have, the arc of his career, which gigs I saw, when I met him (!) – OK well I guess you might want to hear about that…
My friend Bruce was doing a show with Steven Berkoff called Greek. When I went backstage afterwards Bowie was there in his dressing room – they were doing Absolute Beginners together at the time. We all went for dinner at Cafe Pelican on St Martins Lane, Gary Oldman, Leslie Manville and Ann Mitchell joined us, and Iman was also there. DB sat with his back to the room and charmed and delighted us all with his intelligence and well, ordinariness. I blew it when the conversation turned to The Man Who Fell To Earth and Nick Roeg. My favourite Bowie LP is Low. I told him that over dinner, moving from dinner partner to fanboy in one small sentence. Ah well. I always was a fanboy for true.
The exhibition at the V & A runs til August. I urge you all to go. There’s only one David Bowie, and he is indeed a national treasure.

I’d like to know how much you love David Bowie out of ten (I’m a ten) and whether you have any name-dropping stories of your own. I think it was Paul McCartney who told me not to be a name-dropper. And as a sub-thought – how do you make a famous person comfortable with a fan ?

Brighton Festival May 2013

The Psychedelic Love Orchestra are back


Forgive a plug but glasshalfempty came down a few years ago and we’re doing it all again. We’re in a new venue this year – All Saints Church in Hove, with a bar running throughout the shows, a new set on Sunday night – The Life Of Brian (Wilson) which is a history of The Beach Boys, and on the Saturday our award-winning concert Pet Sounds/Sgt Pepper for the eighth year running…Friday we’re playing a new improved 1969 Show (best pop of that great year) to support the wonderful thing that is Abbey Road, the last Beatles album (or LP as I prefer to call it). A 16-piece orchestra will bring these timeless albums to life before your very eyes and ears. It’s a thing of wonder and love
see also

sorry I think those posters are a little small…

Choosing the A-list, a Guest Guru writes…

Well the A-list is finally in, after many last-minute shenanigans, song switches but more desperately, cutting down of words from 900 to 600.  Adam warned me that if I delivered over 650 words that the sub-editors would be in there with a large pair of pruning shears, so to keep control, I had to shave myself, which I do almost every morning anyway.  

It was an outstanding topic.  You lovely Readers contributed in droves, and with a huge breadth of material.  I think there are 350 songs in the Spotify list alone.  But the topic was broad and threw up a huge variety of material. Perhaps I can quote :

“Bravery can take many forms – standing up for your beliefs, facing your greatest fear, putting your life on the line for a friend.  But in your case it’s definitely that haircut” 

Well no one suggested a haircut song, in fact most people took the subject pretty seriously.  I wanted to serve the topic and use as many examples of bravery as I could, I also wanted to spread the musical taste as broadly as I could too, but in the end readers, it was all about the song.  If I felt the song wasn’t COMPLETELY FANTASTIC then I’m afraid it didn’t make the cut, and some really amazing artists (and subjects sadly) dropped away.  But I needed to find the final list Outstanding musically in the first instance.  It kind of speaks for itself you’d think, but it’s amazing the circular journeys your mind goes on when you’re the guest guru.

For example, my first list was fairly intellectual in quality, songs that “should” be there because of the subject matter or the person being sung about being totally heroic for obvious reasons.  I also included songs from different genres, again in an intellectual attempt at “balance”.  Bit of metal, bit of country, bit of folk.  But a glance at the Giant Obelisk that is The Marconium will spin any balance attempts on their axis, and I got a little lost in what The Marconium was saying to us about The Guardian and it’s and our taste in music.  Were we really recommending Saint Etienne 5 times and Gilbert O’Sullivan none ?  Smokey Robinson 3 times and Smog five ??  I had to withdraw and go back to basics because there was little I could do but nominate some more songs to add to this huge collective undertaking.

In the end I went with my feelings.  I screwed my courage to the sticking place and elbowed the intellectual approach  (gave it the Spanish Archer) – and went with songs that made me feel brave. Songs that empowered the listener. And inevitably – artists that were totally unrepresented in the A-list.  This made it easier to whittle the final group of 25 great songs down into 12.  

I thank you all for making it such a great weekend, and I hope you enjoy the final list whatever your personal taste.

I would of course, encourage you all to be brave and put your name forward for guest guru.  It is a lot of fun.

1960-62 The Barren Years

Elvis had been in the US Army for two years, The Beatles wouldn’t release Love Me Do until October ’62 and musical wisdom has it (yes I know) that these are “the barren years”, full of Elvis wannabes and whitebread covers of black rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues. My latest fad when a friend’s birthday comes around is to make them a CD from their birth year, so I’ve had cause to investigate The Barren Years recently. And they’re actually pretty good. Just a quick glance at the following tunes should convince you : Stand By Me, Desafinado, Cryin’, Runaway, Green Onions, Telstar, Big Girls Don’t Cry, These Arms Of Mine, Surfin’ Safari, The Wanderer, Send Me Some Loving, It Might As Well Rain Until September, You Don’t Know Me and Funny How Time Slips Away. If that doesn’t convince you – and apologies, I can’t find the instructions on how to make a playlist and I’m thick – try these vintage tunes for size :

Loving the early sixties right now !