Holda You (I’m Psycho) to Honey

Day six of the blog post a day in May challenge

NEITHER is the toughest challenge in the world.

Certainly when you compare them to the world record Jamie McDonald has spent the last week breaking across the Docks from here – 524 miles on a treadmill in aid of his Superhero Foundation (check out adventureman.org for details or to donate, believe me he’s earned it).

But combining two different challenges has thrown up a few slightly different (slightly less exhausting) tests.

Listening to my iPod from A-Z is merely an excuse to listen to music and provides the simple answer if cannot decide on what to pick from the 13,713 tracks (sure it was more than that at one point).

And been able to do it at my own pace – very slowly at times.

But combine it with the attempt to write a blog post a day throughout May and it starts getting problematic.

Not the writing – although finding the time to get something down on screen without finishing it and posting some time around midnight is proving easier some days than others – but getting enough music under my belt.

Put simply, three A-Z posts in six days means catching myself up, even with a bit of a head start.

Recent form suggests three such posts would cover at least three months – far longer than planned but have had to stop listening to avoid too big a gap between listening and writing.

But with this challenge and a schedule mapped out for the first 20 days (including a novel solution for this problem which will be revealed when we get there), A-Z is down for today so let’s see what gems have popped up in the latest batch of listening.

Not a lot to be honest.

Partly because the need to write more regularly means we have only covered 53 tracks from White Denim to Torres.

Have fallen in holes, gone on holiday to Hollywood and home again, probably the most notable moment was the growing frustration while on the bike in the gym, waiting for the hidden track after several minutes of silence at the end of Holy Roller Novocaine.

And not just because it was Kings of Leon.

That’s slightly unfair. The first album from where it came was worth a listen, certainly at the time. Even went to see them live when the second album came out – at pretty much the exact moment their true worth was revealed.

The bearded, backswoodmen had transformed into slick, rock pin-ups on their way to omnipresent anthems and the attraction of anything after that debut album is a complete mystery.

Probably the musical highlight of this section was Holes by Mercury Rev, which popped up in album form and a live version (albeit with the ever-present threat of boogie-woogie piano after a Jools Holland intro).

Can remember my first hearing of Holes, mainly because it was (and still is) so different from anything else around.

Was sat in the car at a drive-through McDonalds in Newport one Sunday lunchtime (next to a supermarket which came with the chance of bumping into Nicky Wire in the aisles) en route to putting together the paper’s Monday sport supplement.

It must have been near Christmas because Danny Baker was asking Danny Kelly for his song of the year and he chose Holes. Spent the next few weeks listening to Deserter’s Songs, including a few nights lying on a sofa in a French ski resort while suffering from food poisoning.

Remarkably, Kelly choosing a song of the year for Baker on the radio was also my first exposure to Creep. Before it was a hit on re-release.

No idea when first heard Honey by Moby, not sure too many people are. Believe me, you know it – the one from that advert or background music that’s not Sigur Ros.

Billy Bragg popped up twice (nothing unusual there) with Home and The Home Front, while we grabbed a couple of punk holidays – In Cambodia with The Dead Kennedys and In The Sun with The Sex Pistols.

We stopped off at Hollywood 4-5-97 from American Music Club, from an album listened to on pretty much constant repeat for a few months but not for years. More from them in the near future.

And a couple of classic bits of Paul Simon – one born out of turbulent southern Africa, the other written on Widnes station.

Can’t be sure but almost certainly first heard Homeward Bound being played by my parents, certainly became aware of it (and much of Simon & Garfunkel’s catalogue) sat in the harbour in St Ives listening to a couple of buskers.

Always wanted to do the same – just a lack of talent getting in the way.

Homeless, not surprisingly, was a fairly regular part of the soundtrack of my African adventure and transports me back not just to under African skies but also to seeing Simon on the Graceland tour.

Not my usual live music experience but certainly one worth having.

Hey, maybe don’t have to listen to so many songs for each of these posts after all.

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GOD. to Good Man

WE have touched before on this journey about how certain songs can transport you to places and times far away.

In a sense, that’s what this A-Z journey through my iPod is all about (apart from catching all the bits that have somehow hidden undiscovered), stumbling across tracks that spark something in my head vivid enough to jump out onto the page.

Many tracks have taken me back in time, to places from my travels or people encountered along the way. Ryan Adams  even summoned memories of a bank holiday kitchen clean and ongoing battles with an errant flatmate.

Goddess On A Hiway takes me back to two days on a sofa in a French ski resort.

Not just Goddess On A Hiway, the whole of Deserter’s Songs brings back a long 48 hours or so when venturing too far from the sofa, doubling as my bed in the small apartment for a week’s skiing on a budget, would have been far more of a challenge than any black run.

It had all been going pretty well for the first few days, exploring the pistes (limited, but enough for us) and the evening delights (seriously limited) of Val Cenis, not a resort as much as two strung-out villages on the valley floor lumped together under one marketing umbrella.

We’d investigated pretty much every bar (think we’d covered that on the first night), becoming regular enough visitors to have our favourite spot at the bar in the one nearest the apartment. Next to the bloke who operated one of the lifts having his late-night pastis.

Food options were not that much more plentiful and we had revisited the one main option – small, rustic, nice tartiflette – before heading to the quiz night arranged by the various reps in the resort to bring their various clients together.

And just as we were waiting for the questions to start, it became obvious that maybe the tartiflette was not quite so agreeable to my system and it was a quick sprint – very quick, considering my health, state of fitness and the icy roads – back to the apartment.

Will spare you the details, suffice to say it was a double-edged impact through a long night (and no doubt very unpleasant one for the person sharing the facilities with me) and many ski trips later have still not managed to face another tartiflette.

But it did leave me on a sofa listening to Mercury Rev for a couple of days.

There was another album on the flip side. Pretty sure it was The Bends. The years don’t quite add up, but my cassette version did play slow so pretty good chance it got taped onto a C90 – part of the routine ahead of each new year ski trip.

Along with my back giving way and a trip to osteopath.

Had thought it might be Grandaddy’s Sophtware Slump, but too early. That must have been the soundtrack for another ski trip, Livigno if my chronology is right.

It was definitely Deserter’s Songs in Val Cenis. And it provided the soundtrack to reading Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend In A Coma.

The Smiths may have provided the title – as briefly glimpsed in the previous post – but rarely can a book and an album have been created to work so well together. At least for a bloke feeling rather sorry for himself on a French sofa.

There is a theme running through the album of leaving (walking away according to front man Jonathan Donahue), but more of a mood which fits in with Coupland’s eco tale  of unexpected second chances and sacrifice – both personal and global.

If somebody ever makes a film of the book and does not use Deserter’s Songs – NME’s album of the year in 1988, when it is was still relevant and worth consuming, but we’ll get to that in the next post – is missing a trick.

It is not the only album or C90 that brings back memories of a holiday, a rather different one to the Greek island of Zakynthos soundtracked by the wondrous Doolittle by the Pixies and the eponymous debut from The Violent Femmes.

There’s tales to tell – just not here – about moussaka, suppositories, darts and girls from Blackpool to the sound of Black Francis and Gordon Gano, who popped up twice on this latest stretch of my iPod from Kendrick Lamar (see, it’s not all “white boys with guitars” to quote John Peel) to Eileen Rose with Gone Daddy Gone and Good Feeling.

There’s also been contributions from a couple of acts installed on this summer’s gig list, actually on the same night in (bizarrely) an arboretum – God’s Footballer by Billy Bragg and Good As Gold by The Beautiful South (actually just two of the band at the gig, but you get my drift).

And there’s been plenty of stuff from people who crop up in my live history.

Echo &The Bunnymen were my first proper gig and are also on the list for the next few months (with full orchestra evidently) and we went right back to the early days with Going Up.

Seen Carter USM (Good Grief Charlie Brown) multiple times early in their career, courtesy of their habit of playing the Banana Club at Gloucester Guildhall, while saw Sugar twice inside a week.

Surprised my hearing had come back in time for the second gig, both of which were opened with the triple-headed assault from the start of the still great Copper Blue album of which A Good Idea sits in the middle (by which point was hopping around after standing on a pint glass in the mosh pit first time round).

Also saw REM twice in a week – a contender for best gig in Newport, not so much in the bigger surroundings of the NEC – and they popped up with Good Advice (not one of their best). Ryan Adams would also be high on the best gig list and he popped up with Gonna Make You Love Me.

The Wonder Stuff (supported by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin) would not be so high on the list, not just because of the effect on my ribs of being wedged against the barriers before spending a night shift pressure testing fuel injection systems. Not to be advised with sore ribs. They popped up with Golden Green.

Never got to see The Jam (not that old) who cropped up with Going Underground. but did see Buffalo Tom (who provided a cover) and judging by early hearings of their new album it may be time to end a long wait to repeat the experience.

Sadly, never got round to seeing Pavement (Gold Soundz, twice) or Super Furry Animals (Golden Retriever), but have sat across a Cardiff pub from various members of one of them on a few occasions.

Might even have been sat on a sofa.

photo by:


eldh

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