Word #41

Issue 41

July 2006

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Cover star – Neil Young

Word shuffle

1) P96 – reviews of ‘Superb’ by The Beautiful South (“…after any seven Beautiful South songs you feel like you’re drowning in blancmange”), Frank Black’s ‘Fast Man, Raider Man’ (“the songs are uniformly strong, though inevitably not always quite strong enough to justify 27 of the buggers”) and a remastered version of ‘Paris 1919’ by John Cale (“….the album comes over like a dusty relic of another world, as comforting as a crackling hearth in the thick of winter, as familiar as a convivial uncle”.)

2) P52 –Andrew Collins praises the Hairy Bikers. “You might say that I, along with 2.4 million other proletarian cookery fans with an empty belly since Jamie Oliver became a social reformer, have fallen for the Hairy Bikers. They are like a 3D Viz strip (helped by Si’s crackling Geordie accent) with their fantastic cries of ‘How fantastic is that?’ and ‘Whack on your tomatoes!’ and to love them is to love life.”

3) P116 – Edward Lawrenson reviews some films including’Offside’ from Iran. “…a lively, quietly angry salute to women with a passion for football and freedom that rather puts to shame our habit of slumping in front of the TV to watch the World Cup. It’s rewarding, thought-provoking viewing, well worth a trip to the cinema.”

4) P10 – a two page piece on the Dixie Chicks and the aftermath of their anti-Bush statement three years earlier. “Now they return with their first record since the furore, in which no concessions are made to a country audience that is no longer listening. ‘When we were doing the marketing and publicity plan for the release we said ‘Exclude radio – we have to be creative’, says (singer, Natalie) Maines. ‘There are 147 country radio stations and only 20 something are playing the new album. So to me that’s pretty much finished. But we planned for that’.”

5) P69 – David Hepworth speaks to Steve Van Zandt over four pages about his bid to ‘rescue radio and save rock and roll’. “We have to make sure that bands get out of this regular-guy look. The two things that could stop this revolution are the regular-guy look and the three-piece band. The two biggest garage bands and the White Stripes and the Hives and they both have a look. I’m all for democracy but we need the separation and mystery is necessary. If you look on stage and you see exactly the same as you, what is there to aspire to? What is there to inspire you?”

Interesting – Neil Young is interviewed by Robert Sandall. “His (Neil’s) love of nature, as expressed by his ownership of a working farm stuffed with a zoo-like array of different animals, prompted a tirade against the arrogance of a certain strain of Christianity and their proposition that humans were made in God’s image. ‘What about the squirrels? How do they feel about that?

Graeme Thomson delves into the working methods of Sufjan Stevens. ” His album ‘Illinoise’ was the product of of months of research, reading everything from Carl Sandburg to police blogs, while he talks about ‘gathering material and reinforcing plausability in the narrative’, not a sentence you’re ever likely to hear Shayne Ward or even Phil Collins utter.”

Andy Gill writes about Grant McLennan’s short life in the Depature Lounge section. “According to Go-Betweens bassist Robert Vickers, McLennan was a bohemian to the last, a man who shunned the usual worldly demands, preferring to spend most of the day chatting about books and French new wave movies over cigarettes and beer.”

Dylan’s ‘Theme-Time Radio Hour’ is given an enthusiastic appraisal by Robyn Hitchcock. “The beauty of the show so far is how Dylan manages to shed light on himself by illuminating the music in which he was marinated as a youngster. It’s probably not all to his taste but then the same went for the world he was growing up in. None of his selections is as barbed as his own songs, although he’s deliciously ironic at times. ‘Bueno, Stevie, bueno’, he murmurs after Stevie Wonder’s rendition of A Place In The Sun. His long quote from the Italian lyrics is bound to end up on someone’s answering machine.”

Longer article

This issue’s Word Of Mouth section in which celebrities and subscribers say what they’re enjoying in music, books and film.

 

Word #40

Issue 40

June 2006

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Cover star – Leonard Cohen

Word shuffle

1) P29 – a whole page advert for the ‘Pirate Radio’ 4CD and 1 DVD boxset from The Pretenders. It features 15 previously unreleased songs, track by track notes from Chrissie Hynde and a souvenir poster.

2) P132 – David Hepworth reviews a selection of books which all deal with US soldiers’ experiences in Iraq. “If Vietnam was the first rock and roll war, then the two Iraq conflicts are the first ones to have been fought by young men obsesses with style, weaned on films about Vietnam and uncomfortable when too far removed form a source of digital entertainment.”

3) P116 – another page of adverts, this time one for Imogen Heap’s ‘Speak For Yourself’ (“Smouldering, melodic electropop – excellent” according to Time Out and Scott Walker’s ‘The Drift’ which is  possibly the plainest advert ever to grace the pages of the magazine.

4) P26 – the second of a two page piece by Steve Yates about old records which had another life after being sampled on hip hop records. Who knew that Charles Aznavour’s ‘Parce Que Tu Crois’ was sampled by both Dr Dre in ‘What’s The Difference’ and in ‘Breathe’ by Blu Cantrell?

5) P19 – Hazel Davis writes a two page feature on celebrity marriages such as J-Lo and Chris Judd (“… the fat-bottomed diva married her backing dancer, Cris Judd in September 2001. Nine months later the marriage was over…). Liza Minnelli and David Gest (“throughout their marriage the pair denied rumours that Gest, a concert promoter and lifelong collector of Judy Garland memorabilia, was gay”) and Britney and Jason Alexanvder (“The Louisiana lovers walked down the aisle in blue jeans and baseball caps, but annulled the hasty affair after two days”).

Interesting – A great pop trivia fact from interview with Paul Simon – that Robin DiMaggio, the nephew of ‘Joltin’ Joe’ played drums on his album ‘Surprise’.

Graeme Le Saux (‘he reads the Guardian you know’) reveals his love of various 4AD bands. “Pat Nevin, a good friend of John Peel, got me into 4AD – The Pixies and This Mortal Coil, a brilliant band. I got really into the 4AD artwork by Vaughan Oliver and everything, like you do when you’re young with an enthusiasm for something.”

Mark Hooper of Esquire magazine waxes lyrical about lyrical waxings. The grandly titled Donald C Davidson Librabry’s Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project has been converting some of the oldest recordings to MP3 format. Hooper writes that the songs are “…from an era that has been completely written out of musical history in a Stalinist rejection of anything no longer deemed cool or relevant to the modern consumer. While the rock family tree’s roots are firmly bedded in folk and blues, another has been entirely overlooked: the one represented by Edward M. Favor’s ‘I Think I Hear A Woodpecker Knocking At My Family Tree’ (1910).”

Nige Tassell reviews ‘White Bread, Black Beer’ the comeback album from Green Gartside.“The Princess Di bouffant may be gone (he now sports a lumberjack’s thick goatee), but there’s one thing the extended hibernation hasn’t altered – that breathy, androgynous voice, seemingly preserved in aspic from Scritti’s mid-80’s heyday.”

Joe Muggs writes about the ‘OC Effect’ – that is quirky or unusual bands who’ve gained exposure through “…hip TV dramas like Six Feet Under and Californian rich-teenagers soap The OC.” He chats to one such beneficiary, Imogen Heap. “It’s a fantastic way to reach people, unlike radio where you’re just another song among many, and where they would never play a song as unusual as ‘Hide And Seek’ anyway, the song is placed in a real powerful context without any introduction or anything. Straight away there’s more involvement with the song, a more immediate emotional reaction, and then a feeling that it’s something exciting to seek out.”

Andy Gill explains the inspiration behind Leonard Cohen’s ‘Sisters Of Mercy’. “They were literally two sisters whom he met in a doorway whilst sheltering from a ferocious snowstorm in Edmonton, Alberta, where he was playing guitar at a coffee-shop. He invited the young women back to his hotel room, where the weary travellers immediately fell asleep in his bed whilst he sat by the window looking out over the river, and wrote the song. “Whatever erotic fantasy I had had about the whole situation evaporated very quickly”, he told Norwegian journalist Kari Hesthamar. Everybody had different purposes – theirs was fatigue and rest, and mine was some kind of bewilderment as usual about the whole situation. That was the first time I ever wrote a lyric from beginning to end without any revision. When they woke up I played them the song and everyone was happy.”

Longer article

Pete Doherty meets Sylvia Patterson. One of the oddest encounters in the history of Word magazine.

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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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Word #37

Issue 37

March 2006

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Cover star – KT Tunstall

Word shuffle

1) P23 – A full page advert for ‘First Impressions Of Earth’ by The Strokes.

2) P92 – The final page of a 9 page article on Nick Drake by Trevor Dann, an extract from his book ‘Darker Than The Deepest Sea’.

“The initial release of ‘Bryter Later’ was barely noticed. There were no reviews in the music papers and, in spite of the urgings of Island’s record plugger Gareth Redfearn, Nick was adamant that he either wouldn’t or couldn’t promote the record with gigs, radio sessions or even press interviews. Still smoking what his friend and collaborator Robert Kirkby describes as ‘unbelievable amounts of cannabis’, he was beginning to exhibit the first signs of psychosis. In those innocent times, the heads and freaks of bohemian London may have had a vague inkling that smoking joints and getting high could lead to temporary apathy, but they weren’t bothered about longer-term effects. Dope was cool – unlike drink which made people violent. Smoking was creative. It was mind-expanding. It was harmless. Not until many years later did scientists begin to establish a link between cannabis and schizophrenia.”

3) P115 – Album reviews of Juelz Santana’s ‘What The Game’s Been Missing!’ (“he has a line in mawkishness that would make even  Tupac blush, introducing the album via a conversation with his five year old nephew…”) and ‘Songs From A Dazzling Drift’ by Yo Zushi (“i,,ediately likeable and with the unerring ability to bring a smile to the lips of any music fan, the album leads the listener on an uptempo tour of Yo’s well-stcked record collection from the Neil Young inspired ‘Mary Magdalen’s Barbershop Blues’ to ‘Pin Brooch Cabaret’ with its languid nods to Leonard Cohen’s perfectly constructed lyricism”).

4) P20– From an article on cinematic firsts. We learn that the first feature in 3-D was ‘Bwana Devil’ (1952) – “Though Oboler (the director) had shot his exotic advenure with the new sterescopic photographic technology, his story-telling was so flat nobody gave one D, let alone three.” The first feature-length Sci-Fi movie was ‘The Lost World‘ (1925) -“The picture was the first to edit together live action and stop-start animation. While filming one of the stop-motion scenes, the cameraman spotted a pair of pliers in the picture. So as to not draw attention to them by having them suddenly disappear, he moved them a little at a time until they were out of the shot.”

5) P51 – John Simm and Katie Melua are featured in the ‘Word Of Mouth’ section.Katie is looking forward to the next album by Polly Scattergood (“a quirky British singer with really interesting lyrics”) while John’s musical choices are ‘Chaos And Creation In The Backyard’ by Macca and ‘A Bigger Bang’ by the Stones (“deeply uncool the pair of them, but that’s one of the joys of getting older, I don’t give a fuck!”) Bookwise, John says that Bukowski’s ‘Ham On Rye’ is “the greatest book ever written.” Katie has been reading ‘The Mandarins’ by Simone de Beauvoir (“…all about a journalist returning to normality after the war. It’s quite fascinating in terms of the philosophy.”)

Interesting – David Hepworth looks at Stereogum (American website) and their list of candidates for Miss Indie 2005. “As Stereogum’s list proves, what appeals to Indie Boy is a number of minute variations on a bouquet of fantasy girlfriends: young women who appear soulful, considerate, well-mannered, fragrant, properly educated, wine-drinking, well-read, moderate, flirtatious, interested in music, pretty and – except when called for – clean. Much as it appealed to their fathers.”

David Sinclair writes about MySpace, at the time “the world’s number three ranked internet service in terms of page views and user time online (ahead of Google and lagging behind only Yahoo and MSN). Big enough to ensure that no band or artist, however well-established can sensibly afford to ignore it for much longer. And it’s free.”

The DVD of ‘The Ipcress File’ is reviewed by Jude Rogers. “Like many modern thrillers, it’s as much about sound and visual trickery as it is about twitching moustaches and cloak and dagger espionage. Caine spends the bulk of the action shot from strange angles, through the glass panes of phone boxes, and in shadows, which, as Caine himself describes in a fantastic interview on the extras disc, makes the viewer feel like they’re spying too.”

The writer Joss Whedon (‘Toy Story’, ‘Speed’, ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’) is interviewed by Neil Stephenson about the slipping of his Hollywood halo.

“How could this man, who talks of ‘giving audiences what they want need rather than what they want’, get another chance from the TV networks? There’s one final ray of hope. Thanks to DVD players and Tivo, people are starting to watch their television in new ways, filtering out the dross, and rewatching their favourite shows. Deeper television can survive now there’s an audience able to watch it more than once.”

Andrew Marr recommends that you keep reading ‘War And Peace’. “I’ve probably read it 14 times. It’s the greatest novel. It’s got everything in it. It’s got good people, bad people and everything in between. It’s war, peace, love, sex, knobhead intellectuals screwing things up, megalomaniacs…Every time you read it you’re older and so the book changes.”

Longer article

The current state of the British folk scene by Colin Irwin and Jude Rogers.

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Word #36

Issue 36

February 2006

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Cover star – Johnny Cash

Word shuffle

1) P115 – Jim White’s review of the film ‘Jarhead’. “It’s an examination of how young men react under duress. Particularly the manner in which these soldiers, absorbing the imagery of movie warfare, see themselves as participating in a remake of their favourite films. The scene in which Gyllenhaal and his buddies relax during training by watching the helicopter scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’ is astonishing. Wound up into a frenzy of machismo by the brutality of their preparation, they are not shocked by Coppola’s anti-war epic, rather they sing along to Wagner and cheer as each Vietnamese village is blasted as if they are watching some grand sporting event.”

2) P63 – final page of a 4 page article on the appeal of Arctic Monkeys by Andrew Collins. “Try this from B-side ‘Bigger Boys And Stolen Sweethearts’: ‘Have you heard what she’s been doing?/Never did it for me/He picks her up at the school gates/At 20 past 3/She’s been with all the boys/But never went very far/She wagged English and Science/Just to go in his car.’

The magic for me, is in the use of the word ‘wagged’ – a colloquialism that takes me right back to a time when The Undertones were my favourite band; another bunch of urchins in affordable jeans who made the heart somersault with songs about chocolate and girls. Alex Turner is a poet. He may not have Morrissey’s jaw, or indeed his wilfully effeminate style, and he hails from the wrong side of the Pennines for George Formby, but he clearly attended the same school as both.”

3) P12 – a 2 page photograph of the Sex Pistols on stage in February 1976. Johnny Rotten crouches down with a tin of Heineken, looking out into the smiling faces of the small crowd.

4) P65 – the 2nd of 4 pages about the longevity of espionage tales by Christopher Bray. “The spy novel faces the same pitfalls as the real-life spy. If language and race prevent the CIA from infiltrating Osama’s crew, how is a novel about such infiltrations going to satisfy our need amid what Ian Fleming once called our ‘fantasies of the bang-bang kiss-kiss variety’, for that ballast of realism all the best spy stories are weighted by?”

5) P104 – album reviews of Beck’s ‘Guerolito’ (“at its best a supremely funky and surreal companion to the original album”), The Blue Aeroplanes’ ‘Swagger’ (“the remaster gives even more sparkle to an already blindingly good album”) and ‘Sound Mirrors’ by Coldcut (“like Gorillaz’ ‘Demon Days’, the mood is broadly dystopian; paranoia stalks the obliquely menacing ‘Boogie Man’ and the clanking camera shutters of ‘Just For A Kick’).”

Interesting – Word writers argue the case for the 30 best and worst cover versions in existence. In the worst category they place Michael Ball’s ‘Life On Mars’ (“There was always a bit of Vegas in Bowie…but never this much”) and Cilla’s ‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’ as covered by The Smiths (“By some miles the worst Smiths recording”) but top – or bottom – spot goes to Rod Stewart’s interpretation of ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’ (“Rod turns ‘let’s ‘ave it’ into ‘I’ve ‘ad it’ in one fell swoop”).

For the best they offer us ‘Common People’ by William Shatner (“Captain Kirk’s hamtastic spoken version is oddly appropriate for this piece of modern Sondheim”), ‘All Apologies’ by Kathryn Williams (“William’s chamber-folk reading reveals the sweetness in Cobain’s melodies, making the song’s mystery still more mysterious”) and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ by Sita (“dancefloor stormer done in delicate acoustic style”). The cream of the crop is Fiona Apple’s ‘Across The Universe’ (“genuinely, no messing, it’s better than the original”).

In the ‘Word Of Mouth’ section, Beck talks about his early experiences in London. “I first came one winter when I’d dropped out of high school with $200 to my name. I was sleeping on a friend’s father’s floor, and I’d wander around the city in the day, but it got too cold, so I just lived in cinemas to keep warm. Early on, I saw a Luis Bunuel triple bill, one of which, ‘The Phantom Of Liberty’ had such an effect on me.”

Joaquin Phoenix loves the Fab Four – “I have to say The Beatles, without a doubt, are the greatest band ever”, whereas Siobhan Fahey prefers “people like Goldfrapp and Peaches – sexy, visual, slightly saucy stuff that’s great to hear and watch”. Chas Smash from Madness speaks up for MC Skinnyman’s ‘Council Estate Of The Mind’ – “It’s street but with real social import, a feeling of what it’s like to live on an estate; the only way out is being a bad boy.”

Trent Reznor discusses Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ and admits that, at first he “…had no use for Cash’s rendition. ‘I listened to it’, he told me shortly after his death, and it just seemed incredibly strange and wrong to me to hear that voice with my song…I thought, “Here’s this thing that I wrote in a moment of frailty, and now Johnny Cash is singing it.” It kind of freaked me out.’ But, as it did for so many other people, Romanek’s video made Cash’s reading of the song more visceral – and undeniable – for Reznor. ‘I felt honoured to be a part of it.”

Julian Cope has learnt not to resist a gimmick. “The gimmick in rock is important. Absolutely! Look at Morrissey with his hearing aid or Jimmy Page with his violin bow. It’s a way to achieve transformation – because if you can allude to something then you can reach that thing. I feel I’ve really nailed the gimmick – I’ve had the telescoping transporter mike stand, the turtleshell and the dog jacket with three paws – to name but three.”

Longer article

John Ingham  looks back at the problems with last year’s Apple/Motorola music handset.

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Word #35

Issue 35

January 2006

 

 

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Cover star – Bob Dylan

Word shuffle

1)      P36 – Joe Muggs writes about Lady Sovereign and calls her “the Daily Mail‘s nightmare: the voice of the multicultural underclass answering back; not only bolshy but articulate, funny and optimistic”.

2)      P79 – part of a six page spread about the absolute worst of everything. On this page, Geri Halliwell is named the worst pop star ever (“Geri’s legacy is the biggest pop lie ever told, the one that says ‘anyone can be a pop star”), the worst film is ‘Sammy And Rosie Get Laid’ (“Hanif Kureshi’s hamfisted harrangue at all things Thatcher looked merely risible in its day. Two decades on it looks like a dictionary definition of everything that went wrong with post-’60s British cinema”), ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ is the worst book (“I only managed to finish it because I was paid. The author recently boasted “I think my books have a built-in mechanism for eliminating readers with poor concentration. I only want determined readers”. Well, I only want want good writing and there was precious little of it here.”) and Madonna’s ‘Sex’ book is declared the worst pop star side project.

3)      P17 – second page of  Sylvia Patterson’s ‘Facetime’ with Chris Langham. She asks him if he’s glad that he took the scenic route to fame. “Well, I drank too much and took a lot of drugs and then didn’t die and found out it was OK to get through life without having to do that. I mean, it’s a high class problem to have and irksome though it’s been to live a life which seems to be extremely compromised from the point of view of being successful, that is my gift. My gift is that I’m not a fuck-up”

4)      P101 – part of a three page article by Stuart Maconie rounding up the year (2005) in music. “Spiky post-punk continued to be the template for UK guitar rock, be it in the shape of Franz Ferdinand, Maximo Park, Editors, Bloc Party, Futureheads or any one of a rat of bands weaned on their older brother’s copy of ‘Unknown Pleasures’. Ever inventive, Oasis picked a new ’60s British pop group to pilfer, The Kinks this time, for ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’, the year’s most enervating hit.”

5)      P55 – the musician Terry Edwards has a letter published about the piece on John Peel in the previous issue. “Frankly, if I had to trade never being played on his show again for him being alive and well I wouldn’t think twice.”

Interesting – Mark E Smith is interviewed by Roy Wilkinson. “I don’t like lyric sheets. There should be an element of mystery. People should be wondering what you’re singing. It should be surprising when you work out what it’s actually saying. I grew up with an Irish family in Salford. I went a bit nuts when I was eight or nine, and me mam and dad were pretty poor, so I ended up staying with this family who were helping me mam and dad out. They were always singing Elvis or Dubliners songs. They never knew the lyrics – they just used to make ’em up. I remember them singing ‘All The Young Dudes’ – “I’m going to Woolworths, I’m gonna shag some cow to death…’ That’s the stuff [laughs]”.

Christopher Bray rounds up the books of 2005 and gives “…the real prize for paper usage in the past year to…Sudoku”. He goes on – “The weird thing is, although everyone you see on the train these days is filling in their missing numbers, they are all doing so in newspapers and not books – so who’s buying these collections? The Sudoku Conundrum – sounds like the new Robert Ludlum thriller.”

Various writers attempt to dispel myths about Bob Dylan. Danny Kelly takes on the received wisdom that Bob was ‘Only Any Good In The ’60s & ’70s’.

“Dylan is Dylan. Or, to be rather less mythological about it, Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan. He never conformed to the laws that govern normal pop stars, normal artists or even normal human beings. Thus he has never quite been where we’ve thought he’s been, or where we’ve expected him to be. Equally, he’s often been somewhere, artistically, that no one else can apparently see. When he was appointed Spokesman For A generation, he thought he was actually a jobbing folkie. When he was viewed as the speed freak demon king of rock and roll, he thought he was a smart arse French poet. And, for a couple of decades now, when he could reasonably be expected to be declining gently into his his physical and artistic dotage, he has in fact kept up a working schedule that younger men would have found debilitating and that many others – refusing to swallow Dylan’s get-out line about being “just a song and dance man” – have found utterly baffling. The result of all this is that it’s hopeless to try and divide Dylan’s stuff up. It has to be taken for what it is, warts and all.”

Andy Gill argues against the saw that ‘Dylan Was A Protest Singer Who Sold Out’.

“If his detractors cared to investigate, it was obvious that Dylan had never abandoned protest at all. Indeed, at exactly the point when folk purist were accusing him of treachery, he wrote and recorded a series of songs – most notably ‘Gates Of Eden’, ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m, Only Bleeding’ and ‘Desolation Row’ – that were effectively protest songs of a higher order. What Dylan was really being attacked for, in effect, was his refusal to stick to simplistic naturalism.”

Longer article

Paul Du Noyer reviews ‘Ariel’ by Kate Bush.

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