Word #39

Issue 39

May 2006

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Cover star – Jack Johnson

Word shuffle

1) P8 – Michael Krugman writes 3 pages about Arctic Monkeys’ attempt to conquer America. ” ‘That man just yawned” said Alex Turner in the middle of ‘A Certain Romance’. He stabbed a finger at a member of the audience without missing a beat. It was a rare moment of spontaneity on the carefully choreographed ‘Saturday Night Live’, the Arctic Monkeys’ first North American TV appearance. To widespread confusion, Matt Helders’ bass drum was emblazoned with the words ‘ASBO’.2

2) P92 – A 4 page interview with record producer Joe Boyd by David Hepworth. “My role as a producer was to be their audience. To first of all be present in one form or another and to put the kind of energy into listening that gives them the same feeling of performing for an audience that they get in a great concert. When we had eight-track tape and Richard Thompson was overdubbing a guitar solo, he had one track and so after each take you had to choose. Are we keeping it or wiping it? That adds an intensity to the moment which has some of the elements of being in front of an audience, knowing you have to do it better and better. These days you can build up ten tracks of guitar solos and not only pick and choose between them but also take bits from this one and edit them together with bits from that one. It takes hours and it’s soul destroying. The contrast between that and the moment at the end of a session when you’ve got to make something happen, there’s no question which one I’d rather be in.’

3) P12 – a single page on Norah Jones and her country and swing project, Little Willies. “Inspiration came when the five performers realised they all loved the classic American music of their parents’ record collections – artists such as Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson. ‘Getting into this music now that I’m older, it feels so much closer to my heart’, says Jones who talks fondly of her grandparents playing Nelson to her as a child in Texas.”

4) P145 – A single page article by Michael Moran about what the video in your pocket could mean for you. The opening sentences are extremely accurate. “It’s difficult to believe that there was once a time you couldn’t take music with you everywhere. In the future we’ll be equally amazed to think there was ever a time when TV wasn’t just as portable.”

I remember that it was in this article that I first came across a mention of YouTube. “The streaming content of YouTube.com is uploaded by enthusiasts with seemingly limitless VHS archives. In five minutes we found live concert footage of Gentle Giant from 1973, a classic promo video from The Time, and a compilation of F1 crashes. In copyright terms questionable, in entertainment terms unrivalled.”

5) P127 – From ‘Recommendation Station: Punk Singles’ – an article rounding up the best 7 inches from 30 years ago. Sheryl Garrett recommends ‘Typical Girls’ by the Slits (‘Ari’s yelping voice screamed freedom, opening a new world of possibilities’), David Hepworth goes for Richard Hell’s ‘Blank Generation’ (‘there weren’t many punk records that swung, this gets nearer than most  -it almost has an arrangement’) and Rob Fitzpatrick swoons over Wire’s ‘Outdoor Miner’ (‘to Wire’s eternal credit they chose to write so succinct and beautiful a pop song about a chlorophyll-eating insect, the serpentine miner’).

Interesting – Word chooses the 20 best and worst sitcoms. In the bottom group is’ Bottom’ (‘fatiguing bum/knob/trousers-a-thon’), ‘Babes In The Wood’ (‘Denise Van Outen, Samantha Janus and some other one share a flat in St John’s Wood – DO YOU SEE?’) and ‘Agony’ (‘an arid sun-baked gag desert’). Among the best sitcoms are ‘Man About The House’ (‘like ‘Life On Mars’ without the crime’), ‘Brass’ (‘completely forgotten parody of ‘Brideshead’ and trouble-at-mill costume drama with Timothy West as mining plutocrat Bradley Hardacre’) and ‘Arrested Development’ (‘the dad’s an embezzler, mum’s a soak and the star’s siblings are a moron, a spendthrift and a magician’).

Simon Amstell is quizzed in ‘Facetime’. Hazel Davis asks him about whether he deliberately tried to upset the acts on ‘Popworld’ as much as possible. “Not at all. On our first show Atomic Kitten were singing a capella for some reason and one of them was pregnant and she said ‘Oh, the baby’s kicking’, and I said ‘It’s probably saying stop.’Afterwards the producer said ,’I don’t think you should say things like that to Atomic Kitten’ and it took a year to convince anyone that we actually should say exactly that sort of thing to Atomic Kitten. It just comes down to truth again. We responded in an honest way to people who were on the show. And it worked.”

Jude Rogers meets the Raconteurs. “If you’re Jack White you can do anything. You’ve spent the last five years separating the reds and whites at the washing machine, making multi-platinum albums for peanuts on ancient equipment, strumming banjos in ‘Cold Mountain’, playing five-minute marimba solos at Glastonbury and everyone still loves you.”

Richard E Grant’s nicknames at school were Dolly Boy and Ponce Box.

Four pages are given over to a piece by Christopher Bray on the slow decline of Orson Welles. “Thirty-odd years ago, Welles was to be found in this great land of ours, doing voiceovers for food ads. Here’s an outtake from one session. Everything you need to know about Welles is, I’m afraid, there. There is his love of rhetoric and oratory (no matter how much you adore that burgundy growl, Orson adored it more). There is his love of melodrama. And there is his love of of picking fights – especially fights he couldn’t win.”

Longer article

David Quantick in praise of the recently departed Linda Smith.

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Word #38

Issue 38

April 2006

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Cover star – Pet Shop Boys

Word shuffle

1) P140 – A page of book reviews, largely given over to Rob Fitzpatrick’s views on ‘Do I Come Here Often?’ by Henry Rollins. He’s not a fan. “Rarely, if ever, has the life of even such a reluctant rock and roll star seemed so crushingly depressing, so free of any kind of relief or humanity. Rollins is supremely focussed and has a well practised knack for a cutting put down (fans, other bands, groupies, tour managers, women in general beware), but his life is one endless plough of the same lonely, frustrated furrow.”

2) P27 – A 2 page feature on photos of Madonna from 1980. The pictures were taken by her boyfriend at the time, Dan Gilroy and show her looking like Pat Benatar in a Lycra jumpsuit or drumming in a Laura Ashley frock with the Breakfast Club.

3) P97 – A 2 page interview with Peter Ackroyd in one Dickens’ favourite watering-holes. “He (Ackroyd) was a precocious kid. At five he was reading newspapers. At seven, he realised he was gay. At nine, he wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. He won a scholarship to a private school in West London, and another scholarship to Cambridge where he got a double first in English and lost the vestiges of his London accent. After a spell at Yale, where he met his long-term partner, a dancer called Brian Kuhn (who died of AIDS in 1994) he came back to London and, at only 23, got a job as literary editor of The Spectator and published his first poems.”

4) P138 – DVD reviews of ‘Godzilla’ (“Godzilla is one giant lizard who needs to get back to his core brand message”) and ‘Ryan’s Daughter: Special Edition’ (“…audiences fed on ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Performance’ derided the overblown crescendo of violins that announces Rosy’s first kiss with Shaughnessy. A more considered viewing reveals the point of the fanfare: its brashness refers to Rosy’s callowness, and renders the silence of her later love scenes with Doryan all the more eloquent”).

5) P66 – From ‘Word To The Wise’ with Dara O’Briain. “We (the Irish) do charm and whimsy, whereas the English do cynicism, wordplay, surrelaism, sitcom, the whole lot. You have a broad collection of arrows in your bow, whereas we just smile and wink winsomely. And twinkle…I’ve been twinkling for years.”

Interesting – David Hepworth looks back at the records that were recalled, reworked and remastered for various reasons. “10, 000 Maniacs were so cross about the former Cat Stevens’s apparent ambivalence over the Salman Rushdie fatwa that they had their record company take his song ‘Peace Train’ off their record ‘In My Tribe’. In 1977 Roy Harper put out the album ‘Bullinamingvase’. One of the songs on this record, ‘Watford Gap’, made the grievous (and manifestly untrue) allegation that the hospitality at this legendary motorway stop amounted to little more than “a plate of grease and a load of crap”. The threat of legal action forced Harper to remove the offending tune from UK copies of the LP, though the same, neatly rhyming libel continued to be propagated overseas.”

Martin Freeman talks about his love of Motown and his Paul Weller obsession as a kid. “I never had the clothes though. For one thing, I was a very small child. My friend at school had a pork-pie hat and it looked like a Stetson on him. In my mind I looked like Jerry Dammers. In reality, I looked like Steptoe.”

Jude Rogers interviews Graham Coxon. “A few things point to his age. His new clothes and shoes are more classic English gentleman these days, he notes sartorially, the trousers “proper high-waisters” and he “doesn’t wear trainers anymore”. Then there’s the other stuff. The toy cars and helicopters, the crude blobby paintings, a small pair of pink wellies and a rocking reindeer with a backstage pass hanging off an antler. They belong to Pepper, Graham’s six-year-old daughter. Every other week she’s here and Dad does the school run.”

Neil Tennant is interviewed by Andrew Harrison. “People of our age now listen to pop music, and yes, pop has become more like films, where it’s possible for a man in his fifties to have a career in Hollywood as a serious actor, maybe. But sometimes, at the end of the day, I wonder if it’s only about sex. If you’re not selling sex, are you fucked, as it were? Does it all end when you’re too old to sell sex? I’m not disputing that Madonna is making great records but is she just selling sex as well?”

Rhys Ifans is a big fan of The Cramps, The Clash and Butthole Surfers.

Longer article

As swingorilliant Smash Hits finally goes down the dumper, Mark Ellen looks back.

For further reading try this comprehensive archive from Brian McCloskey or Sylvia Patterson’s ‘I’m Not With The Band’. And do watch the interview between Pete Burns and the Popworld presenters that Mark references at the end of the article.

 

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