75 Years Ago

My drive to work and back is just about two hours twenty minutes each day, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more, and I have started listening to audio books as well as podcasts and music. I’m currently listening to ‘Life’, the autobiography of Keith Richards and he’s just finished talking about ‘Exile on Main Street’. One point he made about it is it’s longevity. It was released in 1972, 44 years ago, and people still listen to it and buy it. The recent expanded re-issue did very well. As with the Beatles, some teenagers today are discovering the Stones for themselves. This had set me thinking about what would I have been listening to if, as a teenager, I went back 44 years, what would I discover? What, if anything, had the longevity to present itself to me at that time?

In 1980 I was thirteen years old, so we have to go back all the way to 1936 for the same time span as ‘Exile On Main Street’. This makes me feel extraordinarily old, but it’s not like I was there, so the first track I found (I’m not expecting to find albums but songs) was ‘Summertime’ by Billie Holiday, which certainly stuck around and which has been covered many times.

There’s lots of Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Fred Astaire, quite a few more from Billie Holiday. There are lots of different people ‘and his Orchestra’ and Fats Waller. More interestingly, particularly as this look into the past was inspired by Keith Richards, we have Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy.

The musical landscape was quite different then. BBC television was launched in ’36 so there was no exposure to music for kids from TV, it was all from radio and there were only a couple of stations back then, controlled by the BBC, but there was Radio Luxembourg and by 1938 they had a bigger share of the 5 million listeners than the BBC, so, of course, laws were passed to try and prevent anybody but the BBC broadcasting and, of course, when the war broke out Radio Luxembourg was controlled by Germany.

There was also still a lot of sheet music sold. I seem to recall that the first music charts were based on sheet music sales and not records which I suppose made popular music much more social and family oriented.

I think it was the rise in popularity of Albums, which weren’t some singles and cover versions, but a collection of original songs, that brought about the longevity that Richards speaks of. There are, of course, albums older than ‘Exile on Main Street’ that still do well and are still being re-discovered, ‘Sgt. Peppers’ being an obvious suggestion, but also ‘Miles Davis’ with ‘Kind Of Blue’ which came out in 1959 and is still being re-issued now.

I can’t draw many conclusions by looking back that far. There was a lot of music that was released locally, in the US and they had local hits. Much of this could have been amazing, but it never hit the mainstream so here in England, all these years later, they are not just forgotten but never discovered.

I’ll leave you with that Billy holiday song, it’s wonderful.

 

You’ll be blown away buy what happens when this guy cleans a record.

You’ll be blown away buy what happens when this guy cleans a record.

Well, probably not, but that seems to be how the internet works nowadays, minds are blown, jaws are dropped and so on, over some rather ordinary things. Truth is, whilst my mind wasn’t blown, the results really were unexpected.

Record Store Day 2016 – Mew

On record store day 2016 number 1 on my list of things to pick up was by Mew,titled “And The Glass handed Kites”. The first store I went to didn’t have it, the second did, but they sold it straight away, so I had a 50:50 chance and blew it. I then had a look around Ebay and it was in the region of £90 on there. I’ve mentioned before that this is one of the failings of RSD, there are a lot of people who buy just to immediately sell at inflated prices thereby not rewarding the loyal customers who frequent the stores throughout the year.

In football, tickets to certain games are difficult to come by if you support one of the larger clubs, so many have a system in place whereby if you have bought a specific number of tickets for other games during the season you receive priority ticket allocation for the big games. A similar system might well be the answer for RSD. Buy something from the store at least averaging once a month between RSD days and you get let in an hour early perhaps, or for an hour the night before, or perhaps some other deal to reward the loyal customers. I can see flaws in this system as well as it then alienates the casual customer, who are potential future regular customers. Perhaps certain releases, not all, are available to regular customers first, so that at least there is some kind of loyalty factor in play.

I don’t have a definitive answer, but there must be one!

This is not why I started writing this though. Having missed out on the Mew album, and not being prepared to pay extortionate amounts for it I thought I’d have a scout around and see if I could pick up a different album to satiate my thirst for Mew. I have the album ‘+-‘, which I’ve really only just started to like, but that’s all. I had a quick look on Amazon and to my surprise, there it was, at a standard price. I ordered it, half expecting to receive an e-mail to tell me there had been a mistake of some kind, or for a CD to turn up instead of vinyl, but there wasn’t, and it didn’t, to my delight it turned up this morning.

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No. Title Length
1. “Circuitry of the Wolf” 2:45
2. “Chinaberry Tree” 3:33
3. “Why Are You Looking Grave?” (features vocals by J Mascis) 3:50
4. “Fox Cub” 1:15
5. “Apocalypso” 4:46
6. “Special” 3:12
7. “The Zookeeper’s Boy” 4:43
8. “A Dark Design” 3:29
9. “Saviours of Jazz Ballet” (+ hidden instrumental: “Fear Me, December”) 3:18
10. “An Envoy to the Open Fields” (features vocals by J Mascis) 3:40
11. “Small Ambulance” 1:05
12. “The Seething Rain Weeps for You” (+ hidden instrumental: “Uda Pruda”) 4:18
13. “White Lips Kissed” 6:45
14. “Louise Louisa” 7:20

The album was released in 2005, their fourth release, and it was well received, being likened to Sigur Rós, Dinosaur Jr. and Ride. Some consider it a concept album and it has also been described as Prog Rock, I’d agree with the former but not so much the latter. All I can say for sure is that it is a great listen and I’m genuinely delighted to have my own copy.

 

Spitalfields Record Stalls

I was down in London yesterday and decided to visit the record stalls at Spitalfields Market. They have them there every 2nd Saturday of the month and it seemed worth a look. I was in Oxford Street so took the tube to Liverpool St Station and walked from there, it’s not far.

I couldn’t find the stalls at first but I turned a corner and there they were. I was, in truth, a little underwhelmed. A lot of what was there was just standard stuff, no better than  what I could find locally and quite a lot of it was dross. I found an Isaac Hayes album that looked ok for £3.00, then I looked at the vinyl and saw why it was so cheap, it looked like somebody had attacked it with an electric sander. This then made me dubious of everything on this particular stall as it was only really fit for the bin as the cover was a bit damaged as well.

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Most of the other stalls were just standard fair, prices were not particularly competitive and there were a lot of 3 for a tenner crates that had little of interest in them, to me at least.

The stall in the picture above had a lot of David Bowie bootlegs on both vinyl and CD, but I wasn’t after those. The stall in the picture below was probably the best of them but the guy overvalued his stock a bit I think. I did buy three things from him though, two Future Sound Of London 12″ singles, which were a little overpriced,  and an album, which was definitely overpriced. I took a punt on it as I didn’t know much about it and it was a triple. Sometimes you have to try things as that way you can discover new things, or perhaps, the opposite, you discover things you aren’t that keen on and can avoid in the future. I’m somewhere in the middle with the album I bought, repeated listening will decide it.

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The album was ‘Full Lick’ by Satoshi Tomiie, who has been a pioneering and driving force within the global house community since the late 80’s. He has a load of stuff on soundcloud if you want a free listen. This particular album is from 1999 and what it lacks for me is intricacy, it needs to have more layers for my taste, little bits and pieces happening that catch me by surprise, but it doesn’t, it ploughs forward in a single groove much of the time, but I will have to give it more opportunity to ensnare me as I definitely paid over the odds for it and feel buyers remorse looming.

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Here are some more recent tracks from him.

I won’t be making any special effort to visit Spitalfields for vinyl again in the future, if I’m there and they are there then great but I’d do better going to a record fair in Birmingham, Coventry or Leamington Spa.

That Special Record

Having looked around for a vinyl subscription service and not had any luck finding one that I thought would suit me, I stumbled across, That Special Record who might well be just what I was looking for. My musical tastes are quite eclectic but I have a penchant for electronic, instrumental and ambient music, which this subscription service seems to cater for quite well.

They are based in Portugal but shipping is included and the 1 LP a month works out at £22.00, roughly what a new vinyl album costs + a bit to cover shipping, say £3.00 of it. What is more intriguing to me though is the surprise that it will be. I like the fact that what I receive I will never have heard of and that there is an opportunity to discover something wonderful. Conversely, I may hate everything I’m sent, but I think it’s worth the risk.

There are a few option available, you can sign up for 1, 3 or 6 months, the monthly cost decreasing the longer your term, although it is all paid up front, so 6 lps over 6 months will be a single payment of around £110, which renews with another single payment after the 6 months is up. There is also the option to subscribe to 1 LP and 1 EP, over the same periods at a higher cost to include the EP. I’ve gone for 1 month, to see how I like it, as I can cancel at any time that way without any up front outlay.

The releases from the last 3 months have been (just the albums not the EP’s):

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Icarus Records

Kevin Verwijmeren – Those Glorious Heights LP / Ambient music to travel deep into lost memories and accept the dark side of life.


 

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Black Sweat Records

Ariel Kalma– Interfrequence LP / Beautiful ambient space library record from the 1980’s, now finally reissued by Black Sweat Records


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Where To Now?

Ketev – Traces of Weakness LP / Hypnotising ambientish techno LP


They’ve been operating for over a year and a full list of everything they’ve issued is available at the site. I find the above intriguing and am quite prepared to give whatever turns up in the mail a fair listen.

“Most of our picks are records limited to 150-400 copies or under the radar records we believe are essential to any record collection. Sometimes, whenever possible, we send our members records pressed exclusively to That Special Record. Our boxes also regularly include stickers from the record labels we work with and a personal postcard with liner notes.”

I’ll update again when I’ve received a record.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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It’s out! I’ve listened to the entire album through once and my first impression is that it is just wonderful. Right now, I can’t fault it at all. In fact I don’t think I’ve had this good a first impression of a Radiohead album since ‘OK Computer’.

I’ve ordered a vinyl copy of course but have listened to it as soon as it appeared on Apple Music. Here is the track listing:

A MOON SHAPED POOL

  1. BURN THE WITCH
  2. DAYDREAMING
  3. DECKS DARK
  4. DESERT ISLAND DISK
  5. FUL STOP
  6. GLASS EYES
  7. IDENTIKIT
  8. THE NUMBERS
  9. PRESENT TENSE
  10. TINKER TAILER SOLDIER SAILOR RICH MAN POOR MAN BEGGAR MAN THIEF
  11. TRUE LOVE WAITS

There’s also a special edition which contains the following:

  • Case bound album, inspired by the albums for 78rpm shellac records in the library of La Fabrique, France
  • 32 pages of artwork
  • The 11 track album on two heavyweight 12″ vinyl records
  • Two compact discs: one with the album and one with two extra tracks
  • Recording tape belly band applied *
  • 320kbit MP3 or 16-bit WAV of the 11 track album available to download now

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You have to wait until September for it though, presumably due to it being a bit more complicated to put together.


I am listening again now. It is so damn good.

I only had chance to listen to Daydreaming earlier today and to watch the video. I loved it immediately, and I hope Thom eventually found his car keys. For me, this is without doubt the best release of 2016 so far and it’s going to take a lot to top it.