Iris to Ivy

HAVE been on a few lengthy  journeys in the last decade or so. That’s actual journeys, not the ones people go through during a few weeks on reality TV.

While chasing a lifelong dream to succeed in a show which did not exist for much of their lifetime.

In my reality, there has been London to New York without flying. Ten months from the north to south of Africa and back again. An uncompleted circle of South America. And being a Gloucester rugby fan.

But one journey has lasted longer than all of those combined (bar the Gloucester bit, that’s been going on for decades, currently on a largely upward curve) – the one through the I songs on my iPod.

A lot has changed since the start of that journey though songs beginning with I, towards the end of a (possibly ill-conceived) drive to write a blog post a day for a month with the only live blogging entry of listening to my iPod.

One is more likely to be repeated than the other (although, with the assistance of time, both have their merits).

Back then (May 2019), Gloucester had just lost in their first play-off semi-final for far too long and are still in with a chance of their first since, having changed coaching staff, lost a lot of big-name players, flirted with the wrong end of the table, blooded a lot of young players, returned to the play-off flight and still have Billy Twelvetrees in the midfield when necessary.

And, oh yeah, they scored more than 130 points in two home games against Bath. Just thought that needed mentioning.

More important stuff has happened in the wider world – the dog years of Trump and its ridiculous aftermath, the equally ridiculous ongoing Johnson Government, Covid, the fallout from Brexit, the war in U…. oh, just trust me on this, a lot has happened. it is all getting downbeat.

The UK even managed to go from zero points to second in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Seriously, it happened.

Personally, went from working out my notice at the start to journeying overland most of the way around South America, meeting someone along the way (she reckons she is the star of this blog so apparently has to be mentioned somewhere), being forced home from Colombia by Covid, working predominantly as a reporter for the first time in many, many years, keeping up a long-distance relationship, heading back to the newspaper production and getting engaged.

And listened to a lot of songs beginning with I (with several long breaks along the way).

The last blast took us through about 160 tracks from The Goo Goo Dolls (one of those songs which always seems to have been there and have no memory of downloading) to Taylor Swift.

There were plenty of frequent visitors, topped by four versions – two of them live – of It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by REM, which is a lot back to back even for such a great song.

Is This It by The Strokes popped up twice while there multiple entries by Half Man Half Biscuit (Irk The Purists and It’s Easy To Be Cynical at Christmas), Belle and Sebastian (Is It Wicked Not To Care? and It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career) and early career Billy Bragg (It Says Here and Island of No Return).

And it would appear Evan Dando has a penchant for writing songs beginning with It’s as there were appearances for It’s A Shame About Ray (title track of one of those albums which revisiting always brings happy feelings), It’s All True and It’s About Time.

The latter has one my favourite moments in any song- when Juliana Hatfield echoes ‘Sunshine’ to herald the band kicking back in and manages to spread a little bit of exactly that – which is always worth anticipating as it approaches and then savour as if drifts off into a tune which deserves more than being remembered for a single moment.

Other old favourites popping up to wave farewell to I included Echo and The Bunnymen (It Was A Pleasure), The Undertones (It’s Going To Happen), Jason Isbell (It Gets Easier), The Pogues (in tandem with The Dubliners on The Irish Rover) and John Grant (It Doesn’t Matter To Him).

There were less frequent, but nonetheless welcome, visitors The Streets (It Was Supposed To Be So Easy) and Let’s Eat Grandma (It’s Not Just Me), who will pop up with their latest album on the catch-up before we start cracking on with K.

There was also It’s All You from Sebadoh, which takes me back to a summer when the album it came from seemed to live in my car stereo (1999 apparently).

And we had two first-time appearances – one welcome, one not so much amid a debate over my self-imposed rules.

The welcome one was the first track from the Hamilton soundtrack – It’s Quiet Uptown – after a very enjoyable night out on a post-engagement few days in  London.

Less so was a second song called Iris – this one, complete with the brackets (Hold Me Close) from Apple’s less than appreciated dumping of U2 tracks in my collection a few years back.

Have ignored them by not downloading them, but a change of iPod – not sure how many more times can do that – brought it in automatically and after much debate with myself, opted to follow the rules and listen to it on a walk along the canal to Sainsbury’s

Which is pretty much all that sticks in the mind.

So that, after all that time and the largest number of tracks for one letter, is that and on to J… well, almost.

Over the three years it has taken through I,  a lot of new stuff has dropped in that needs mopping up from A-I – a late burst of new releases in recent weeks taking that diversion up towards 600 tracks.

Better get started…

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Burgundy to Byrd Joel

IT has been a week of three major events in the A-Z iPod Challenge – one a landmark, one a long-anticipated arrival and one dropped in from on high regardless of my thoughts on the subject.

One received absolutely no coverage – until now – one has earned a welcome amount of column inches and one was designed purely to snatch as many headlines as possible (which it certainly achieved).

And while one brought a slight sense of accomplishment and fresh impetus on a long journey, one has meant a brief detour off that journey – so far into what looks very welcome territory – and the other is just really, really annoying.

The landmark was the end of the Bs on this lengthy meander through my digital music collection, all 766 of them taking the total so far up to 1,315. Still some way over 10,000 tracks to go.

It was a pretty quick sprint from Warpaint to Red House Painters to usher us towards the border with C, which will currently take 684 tracks to cross en route to D, but there were still some pretty notable stop-offs en route.

A rash of Burn tracks was topped off by three outings for Burn Baby Burn by Ash, while Billy Bragg delved way back into his archives for another of his regular appearances with The Busy Girl Buys Beauty and Lambchop spearhead a surprising number of Butchers with two versions – one live – of The Butcher Boy.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Hammersmith ApolloThe Boo Radleys supplied their “shoegazing shit with trumpets” (their words, not mine) with Butterfly McQueen from their career high Giant Steps album, the first side of which lasted pretty much exactly as long as my commute from Yate (the type of place referees come from, according to Half Man Half Biscuit), while Nick Cave provided his sublime reading of By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

And as The Stone Roses waved us farewell with Bye Bye Badman, there was quick diversion to mop up the A and B songs which have crept into my iTunes collection since we went past their spot in the order.

Gruff Rhys popped up three times in that selection, which also included two outings apiece for Protomartyr and The So So Glos, one for Morrissey and more evidence that both Conor Oberst and Hiss Golden Messenger need exploring further at some point in the future.

And there was also an outing for Am I Safe, which made its way into the line-up as part of the second major event of the week – the release of the new, self-titled album from Ryan Adams.

Ryan AdamsA new album from Adams has, for a long time, not been that exciting, partly because of the sheer weight of his output (even after slowing down considerably over the last few years, this is his 14th album in as many years) and the fact he has only fleetingly matched the sheer brilliance of his first two solo outings, Heartbreaker and Gold.

But this one, partly because of that drop off in productivity and partly due to rumblings of a real return to form, has attracted a fair amount of attention with lead single Gimme Something Good (a radio regular on my US road trip) serving up enough promise to suggest that its own request may be heeded.

Too early for a full verdict, but the signs are good – not Heartbreaker good, but very few things are – and major in-roads into the Cs will just have to wait.

As will any attempt to even contemplate listening to the new U2 album – the third, unwanted, unsolicited arrival this week.

BonoApple’s deep pockets  paid paved the way for this slice of kindness in the public glare when they could just as easily have done something we actually wanted – like donating some cash to all those good causes St Bono is always campaigning government figures to use our tax money on.

Or the Irish government could use his tax money. Or maybe not, as this wonderful article from Quietus explains.

What Bono seemingly struggles to understand is that large chunks of the half a billion people who were being gifted his latest slice of self-aggrandising, instantly forgettable music by numbers don’t want it. And some us object to having it forced into our personal collections.

Make it free to download, sure. People can choose to have it. But thrust it upon us, no thanks.

It all creates a problem for the A-Z Challenge. The rules, imposed by my own sense of doing it right, mean these tracks have to be listened to. There’s some rubbish on this iPod, you’ll get no argument from me on that, but nobody put them there but me.

The simple answer is to delete it, but like burning books, there’s something wrong with deleting music – even U2. That’s why there’s a couple of CDs in my collection which are hard to explain – not bought by me but please, never look in the Os – but simply can’t be thrown out.

This reaction to U2 would have been very different back in my teens.

Those early albums shone brightly in my early, burgeoning collection. Introduced to them by Live Under A Blood Red Sky, their earlier work followed that into my collection, along with The Unforgettable Fire, a War T-Shirt, a Christmas present copy of their biography and a lunchtime cycle from school to buy The Joshua Tree on the day of  release.

Even went to see them on that tour in Cardiff and if those early tracks come on in a bar, you will still find me singing along.

But then came Rattle and Hum, Achtung Baby and Bono’s conversion from rock singer to self-important, preening saviour wrapped up in a pair of expensive shades, the cost of which would probably go a long way towards making poverty history (something we can all agree on).

He is, however, subject of a great, probably apocryphal tale.

“Every time I click my fingers, somebody dies,” he earnestly states from the stage, rhythmically clicking his fingers.

“Well stop clicking your bloody fingers then,” comes a shout from the crowd.

And please  stop polluting my iTunes.

 

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