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Monday, January 31, 2005

Ricky, don't lose that number (32 spot)

Congratulations to Ricky, our favourite Pompey-based purveyors of West Coast harmonies and breezy jangle, who have become the first Portsmouth band since Cranes, as far as I am aware, to break into the Top 40 charse.

Their split single with Liverpool's Amsterdam has been very well managed by new record label Beat Crazy. Noticing the reasonably large fanbases each band has, they signed up both, bunged em together on 3 formats and on tour and they now find themselves going out on Radio 1 on a Sunday afternoon. Good news indeed.

I bought the DVD and the 7". I like to think I played my part. Whether the nation thanks me is another thing entirely.

Nonetheless, considering my reputation, well-deserved, of being a mercenary blagger, Ricky, at least, should feel very honoured.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Baton (and on)

Well, Ben at silent words speak loudest has passed the baton of questioning to me. So here goes. Sadly, I won't be as obscure as he predicts.

1: What is the total amount of music files on your computer?

A few odd bits, a Captain Beefheart Peel session and the odd song that usually are radio recordings or such. Not much though. What with having no internet connection at home, I don’t get chance to download much. Besides, as a fanzine writer, I’m well catered for with the physical stuff coming through the post.

2: The last CD you bought is:

2 formats of the Ricky/Amsterdam split single out this week. Just helping a Pompey band (Ricky) in their assault on the tip-top pop charse, mate.

3: What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

Well, it was the last track on the ‘Cliff Richard & The Dark Side’ album which I reviewed whilst on a National Express coach between London and Liverpool last night. It’s a massively distorted bludgeoning of the ‘Summer Holiday’ soundtrack. Vaguely demonic, largely unlistenable, but utterly great, of course.

4: Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

Cardiacs – Big Ship.
The all time favourite. Heard live twice in 3 nights recently and I doubt it’d get boring if I heard it played live every night. The incessant drive of the coda makes me tingly like nothing else can.

The Fall – Cheetham Hill.
Probably the track that started it all for me. That or ‘The Chiselers’. I’m 1996 Fall vintage, y’see.

Red Letter Day - Rain.
I lost count of the number of times I jumped on stage to join in with the final chorus on this one. A band that inspires the spirit. And Ade's me chum. And a H&W supporter. What more could you want.

Lonnie Donegan – Grand Coolee Dam
A Woody Guthrie song given extra life by the skiffle legend. Hearing him perform this at Guildford Festival 2001 was one of my favourite ever gig moments.

Pere Ubu – Lonesome Cowboy Dave
I don’t pretend to be an Ubu expert, but this song is perfect for opening compilation tapes that I make (if anyone wants one, do let me know!), being that my name is indeed David. But don’t tell anyone.

Like Ben, a number of these 5 will change tomorrow, and the next day.

5: Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

Leon. As he tells me a blog is forthcoming, but he could also put something on his news board on the current web page.

Ian. Give him an excuse to get some content on his blog thing.

Loopy Librarian. Wor gaffer.

Friday, January 21, 2005

To promote or not to promote

Just purely by chance, I have caught the gig promoting bug again. I am wondering whether or not I should let it take over me, or send in the white blood cells of common sense.

Since the 3 oDD/eVEN events to coincide with the first few issues in 2002 (photos here) I have left gigs WELL alone. I ended up not enjoying the shows through stressing myself out getting things sorted on the day, soundchecks and so on, and worrying about how many punters would turn up. In the end the 3 shows left me ten quid up, so I can't complain, but due to heavy rain, the final show with Tender Trap was very quiet, bodies wise.

That said, I like the idea of being the chap who brings some interesting new bands to town. Tying it up with VP can't hurt it's standing in Liverpool (at the moment, it's just something that litters the flyer table in Probe), and it may also give me a chance to spin discs again. Thats half the reason I'm so keen. I'm a VERY frustrated DJ, with plenty of records itching to be spun.

But I don't know, especially as the nature of my tastes makes the bands I want to see, and put on, very unknown quantities. This is very much case with the band that has caused my interest to reawaken. A few issues ago, VP interviewed a New York band, Luminescent Orchestrii, simply because they emailed out of the blue and asked if we would. They then sent me a CD and I liked both that and the ethic of what they were trying to do.

Just thinking today that I should catch up with what they're up to, I noticed several changes to their website, and a e-mailing-list sign up box. Having banged that off from my work address, Sxip from the band emails and asks how a UK punter has heard of them, so I reveal that I am also 'Skif', of VP fanzine. I ask him to keep my secret identity safe. It's a Batman thing, y'know.

Anyway, he reveals the band are looking to play some dates in the UK in the summer and asks for some contacts. I assist with Leeds, Portsmouth and Liverpool. Then I get to thinking. Maybe I could do it in Liverpool. After all, last month I went to an Americana night at the Heav'n & Hell club in Fleet Street and that seemed an ideal size for the sort of gigs I would want to put on. Bringing a punky Eastern European gypsy folk band from New York to town would be great.

But would anyone come?

Is this lunacy?

Do I desperately want hypertension?

But maybe it'd be different this time. Maybe...

How to review music pt. 1

...whilst watching football on the telly.

Having attended the Man U/Exeter shenanigans at Old Trafford, it seemed like unfinished business not to watch the replay, broadcast live by the ever helpful BBC. Exeter's charming St James' Park is a ground I've long wished to visit, but I reckon H&W will end up there one day, in some capacity, so I am in no particular rush to go. Also it's feckin' miles away.

I was aware though, in the corner of my eye, of the burgeoning pile of 7" records that have built up, so I thought I'd review some whilst watching the game on mute. Now I can deal with a lack of commentary, as you don't get that if you are actually THERE, but with no sounds of crowd, the thwack of foot on ball or, indeed, the crunch of studs on kneecap, it is a pretty eerie experience, leaving rampant bloodlust unsatisfied as the sound is everything. A good mantra for a reputable music fanzine writer there, I guess. If only I could find one.

This lack of 'sound' was overridden though by the excellent quality and innovation displayed in the 7 singles I managed to get through. 4 of these were on the Sparticus Stargazer label, and of those half were by DJ Ordeal (splendid gonzo stuff, love it!), who also contributed backing sounds to probably the best of the lot, by the Sparticus Stargazer herself. Imagine a 90 year old lady, sounding as through from Worcestershire, reading the hobo poetry of the likes of Peggy Lee and Don Van Vliet. There you have it. Magic on a small vinyl platter.

Also managed to listen to the 4 bands on the 2 7"'s in the Asking for Trouble box-set I described earlier. All excellent, but particularly like Uter. The fact the mini-fanzine inside contains a guide to how the record was put together makes this set just magic for me and would implore anyone to buy it. They wanted to put out one record (well, one 'set') and make it the best in the world, and they describe the ups and downs of trying to achieve that.

Now THAT is romance, people.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

You mean the early 90's rustic hip-hop outfit?

It is a source of great delight to me that the US sitcom Arrested Development is returning to BBC's 2 and 4 at the end of next week. The continuity announcement at the end of the episode 13 (of 22) 'Beef Consomme' shown on BBC4 before Christmas suggested that the series for UK viewers would end there, possibly down to poor viewing figures, I thought, as I didn't know anyone who has seen it. But then I don't really know anyone.

Thankfully though we start from where we left off next week. Frankly, I just love it, the humour is as subtle and sharp as The Larry Sanders Show, but without the causticism, instead espousing the quirkiness and cuddliness of Seinfeld.

Plus it has the magnificent Jeffrey Tambor in it! My only complaint would be that he is not in it nearly enough.

I am also delighted that a UK DVD release for the first season of AD is planned for the end of February. Seems everything is getting a DVD release these days. I notice Curb Your Enthusiasm is garnering good sales despite not appearing, to my knowledge, on terrestrial TV. So why then can't we have the Larry Sanders Show treated in the same manner? 6 'best of' episodes is not enough!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Top 50 #1's

As highlighted on silentwordsspeakloudest, Mike at Troubled Diva is compiling a chart of the favourite number one singles by way of tribute to the 1000 number ones mark recently being breached.

I haven't taken as much time on this as an anal retentive, such as myself, would usually like, but I think this is roughly about right for my top 50 including some VERY guilty pleasures. It is immensely frustrating when your favourite songs by certain artists aren't the ones that got them to number one (Buddy Holly, and the Big 'O', amongst others).

Some very harsh cuts to be made and possibly some surprises. For instance, Showaddywaddy are in there simply because for a couple of seasons, when we were doing well, 'Under The Moon Of Love' was a Havant & Waterlooville terrace anthem, much to the bewilderment of supporters throughout the Southern League.

I make no apologies for the records I have liked, but rest assured a Top 50 without restriction would look very different (although the Pet Shop Boys and Lonnie Donegan would definitely appear).

50: Tight Fit - The Lion Sleeps Tonight
49: Roy Orbison - It's Over
48: T.Rex - Metal Guru
47: Wurzels - Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)
46: Madonna - Like A Prayer
45: Conway Twitty - It's Only Make Believe
44: Cornershop - Brimful Of Asha
43: Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock
42: Desmond Dekker & The Aces - The Israelites
41: Bee Gees - You Win Again
40: Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
39: Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sixteen Tons
38: Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
37: Althia & Donna - Up Town Top Ranking
36: Fleetwood Mac - Albatross
35: Midge Ure - If I Was
34: Lou Bega - Mambo No5 (A Little Bit Of...)
33: Showaddywaddy - Under The Moon Of Love
32: Beatles - Paperback Writer
31: Ricky Martin - Livin' La Vida Loca
30: Marc Almond/Gene Pitney - Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart
29: Adam & The Ants - Prince Charming
28: Belinda Carlisle - Heaven Is A Place On Earth
27: Bill Haley & His Comets - Rock Around The Clock
26: All Saints - Pure Shores
25: Abba - Waterloo
24: Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays
23: Eiffel 65 - Blue (Da Ba Dee)
22: Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Two Tribes
21: Lonnie Donegan - Gamblin' Man/Putting On The Style
20: Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds - Three Lions
19: Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas?
18: B. Bumble & The Stingers - Nut Rocker
17: Elvis Presley - Return To Sender
16: David Bowie - Ashes To Ashes
15: Art Garfunkel - Bright Eyes
14: Englandneworder - World In Motion
13: Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
12: Pet Shop Boys - Heart
11: A.T.B. - 9pm (Till I Come)
10: Tom Jones - It's Not Unusual
09: A-Ha - The Sun Always Shines On TV
08: Walker Brothers - Make It Easy On Yourself
07: Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
06: Ben E. King - Stand By Me
05: Adam & The Ants - Stand & Deliver
04: Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights
03: Lonnie Donegan - Cumberland Gap
02: White Town - Your Woman
01: Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind

Friday, January 14, 2005

‘Ow’s ‘E Fadder?'. ALRIGHT!

There I am just strolling to work and out of nowhere, in my head, I get an epic medley of Ronnie Ronalde doing 'If I Were A Blackbird' (with his astounding quasi-operatic voice and range of bird calls and trills - they don't make entertainment like THAT anymore, folks) and the Wurzel's stumbling into 'Where be that blackbird to, I know where 'ee be?'.

Perhaps I need more sleep or maybe this is a synaptic manifestation of 'the Friday feeling'. In which case I prescribe late 1940's whistle-core and novelty farm-rock all round.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Shadowplay #13

Love getting hold of other fanzines. Check out the competition (not that it exists, I'd like to think we're all in it together). Shadowplay comes out so regularly that I now can spot editor Alex's handwriting on the envelope. Oddly, it felt a very thin package this time, and indeed it is, as issue #13 would appear to be a single page. A4, mind. Matters of luck and fortune are weaved into a gentle tale and it would appear to be an attempt to avoid any ills inflicting a full Shadowplay issue. From what I can gather, #14 will see a return to normal service. A nice sidestep for the superstitiously inclined.

The next VP?


We proceed, but with extreme caution.

Shadowplay can be contacted via alexowl26@hotmail.com. The website is here. Alex has just moved to Sheffield, I believe, to do the degree thing. Good luck with that, fella.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Open the box

Nothing beats a box-set offered by a tiny label, almost apologetically for being so grandiose when, in fact, it is nothing of the sort. My purchase of the Asking for Trouble set arrived this morning, in a simple white box, with a blue sash advertising the label and bands within. Once inside, there's a couple of split 7" singles, some inserts from each of the 4 bands involved, a mini fanzine with band interviews and a guide to some of the mystery individual gifts that are supplied with each box. It doesn't talk about mine, a calling card for an osteopathic therapist in Rainham, but looking at the other things offered maybe the Scottish pound note or, as Jimmy from Robots got, a street map of Osaka would have been more exotic, but I love my tiny yellow piece of card just the same.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Pops topped

I've been asked by the folks at 'I'd Rather Be Fat Than Be Confused' fanzine (put together by members of the Radiator Experts), to send my top 5's of 2004 for inclusion in their next issue. I am aware that a few people are likely to have been asked but nonetheless I am truly honoured.

I'll post my top 10's for 2004 on the VP site once IRBFTBC has surfaced.

Blogging the blag

First fruits from my contacting of artists reviewed in the latest Robots & Electronic Brains have started to arrive. Despite not having any copies of the record I had enquired about left, the good people at Static Caravan sent on 4 7" singles, including a couple of splits, so plenty to investigate. The Marcia Blane School For Girls does sound promising - I have come across their name before - not an easy one to forget really.

I am always uneasy about upfront blagging, but I guess some are more mercenary, at least I offer something in exchange i.e. publicity, and usually good publicity. I only hope that people do read VP and check things out. Robots & Electronic Brains never fails to inspire me in that respect and I hope we do the same.

Certainly I would never blag and NOT review something, although things I get unsolicited from PR companies sometimes go unreviewed (mainly due to them not inspiring me greatly and I'd rather not publish negative stuff if I can help it). That doesn't happen that much though as my other writers might see something in it that I don't so I'll send them on if I am failing a record in this way.

One golden rule though - unsolicited demos will ALWAYS be reviewed, otherwise what is the point of fanzines? Have had some terrific demos in VP's time, as well as self-released stuff and stuff on real low key labels - The Bearded Lady, Qhixldekx, he Radiator Experts and The Party spring instantly to mind and they are not alone. The full list would go on for some time. I always look forward to getting stuff from new artists - you may only be a few minutes listening away from being blown away. It's not a bad life this.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Blogging out the block

Am hoping this NME attention spurs me into action as writer's block has kicked in it would seem. Usually a record as innovative and exciting as Fiery Furnaces' 'EP' collection causes me no problems, even inspires me into action, and keeps the writing fresh (or so I'd hope). I'll admit to be struggling to put into words exactly what I think of it.

Had it rendered me speechless? I'm not sure it's that good.

The Scaramanga Six LP, which I've had since last summer but have been embargoed from reviewing (to tie in with their Spring 2005 release), also finally needs doing and then there's the Magoo EP amongst others. All great stuff, am sure I'll do them justice in the end. I think sometimes I make it feel like much more of a chore when I put pressure on to get things reviewed before a huge pile builds up. Means perhaps the records aren't getting exactly the attention they deserve, although I do ideally listen to everything twice if not three times.

Ah well, Lovely Jenny's out tomorrow night so gives a good opportunity to occupy the front room, just me and the choons. These things have always come in patches - getting used to being in work again too after a year as a layabout student. It'll settle - it always does.

The Big O

Bought a Roy Orbison collection for £3.87 or something ridiculous in ASDA the other day. 'In Dreams' is melting my heart. Not sure this cheap compilation is going to be enough for me. Shame I'm skint really.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Franz Ferdinand 'edited' NME out this week does a feature on fanzines. VP is given very nice coverage - nice big scan of VP11 cover with 'Go You Big Red Fire Engine' very clear. Adam Hills will be pleased. He seemed pretty happy when I presented him with a copy at his recent Liverpool show.

However, does this mean I've now sold out to the gutter rock press? If a few more people write in for copies of VP, I think I'll cope with it. Also to be featured alongside the great Robots & Electronic Brains and sublime Homelovin' allows VP to bask in their reflected glory.