Sunday 27 October 2013

Lou Reed

Very sad tonight to hear of the death of the great Lou Reed at the age of 71. Of course, you don't need me to tell you about Lou Reed, do you? The man was a true legend of rock music. Songwriter, Velvet Underground leader, grumpy old curmudgeon, reluctant popstar, Andy Warhol collaborator etc. etc. From the anti-Summer Of Love experimentalism of the Velvets' Venus In Furs and White Light / White Heat, through the unexpected pop success of Walk On The Wild Side, right up to the recent, controversial collaboration with Metallica, Reed was always going his own way and pushing at the boundaries of music / art / performance.
 Here he is with friends and fellow rock outlaws / spacemen David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Bowie at the time was one of the biggest stars on ( or off ) the planet but owed a hell of a lot to Lou and Iggy, who had blazed a trail that the former David Jones had followed to become Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane etc. As well as producing the Stooges' Raw Power album, Bowie also produced and played on Reed's classic Transformer.
And here's a very groovy pic of the Velvet Underground and Nico, the band that famously sold something in the region of bugger-all records during their brief existence but inspired countless future musicians to put on dark glasses and write hymns to nihilism and excess.
 Lou Reed was a true innovator and unique artist and will definitely be missed in this age of corporate-sponsored, bland, take-no-risks rock stars. I'll leave you with one of my favourite Reed songs from 1989's angry, political New York album...

RIP Lou Reed ( 2nd March 1942 - 27th October 2013 )

And back at the Wiltshire Pedro sits there dreaming
He's found a book on Magic in a garbage can
He looks at the pictures and stares at the cracked ceiling
"At the count of 3," he says, "I hope I can disappear
And fly, fly away..."

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Scratchy old 45s

The Cost Of Living EP / Radio Clash / This Is England / The Magnificent Seven / Straight To Hell / White Riot by The Clash
C'mon Everybody / ( I'm Not Your ) Stepping Stone / Black Leather / Holidays In The Sun / God Save The Queen / Something Else by the Sex Pistols
Kick Out The Tories / Mindless Violence by the Newtown Neurotics / Flares 'n' Slippers EP by the Cockney Rejects / Into The Valley by the Skids / Kids On The Street by the Angelic Upstarts
California Uber Alles by Dead Kennedys / All Out Attack EP by Blitz / The Serenade Is Dead by Conflict / Puppets Of War by Chron Gen / Reason For Existence, Demolition War, Religious Wars by Subhumans
No More Heroes by the Stranglers / Stand Strong EP by Vice Squad / Into The Abyss by Sex Gang Children / Warhead by UK Subs
Sun Is In The Sky by the Seers / XX Sex by We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Going To Use It / You Trip Me Up by the Jesus & Mary Chain / Lean On Me by the Redskins / Catch by The Cure / Being Boiled by the Human League / Kiss by The Age Of Chance
( And just to prove my old singles collection isn't all about Punk and indie... )
Fascination by the Human League / Bang Zoom! Let's Go Go by The Real Roxanne and Hitman Howie T / Pump Up The Volume by MARRS / Saving All My Love For You by Whitney Houston / Sue Sessions EP by Ike & Tina Turner / Kiss by Prince & The Revolution / If Your Heart Isn't In It by Atlantic Starr ( really... )
Gotta have some Adam Ant to finish:
Deutscher Girls / Young Parisians / Antmusic / Cartrouble / Zerox / Dog Eat Dog / Stand And Deliver / Prince Charming / Friend Or Foe

Monday 21 October 2013

Steven Moffatt, Emma Thompson and Sebastian Faulks at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

After years of somehow missing it, I finally managed to get to the Cheltenham Literature Festival this year. I took James along to see Doctor Who head honcho, Steven Moffatt, at Cheltenham Town Hall last Sunday. His talk, entitled "The Doctor, Sherlock And Me", was delivered to a sold-out hall of Whovians, Cumberbitches... and real people...
Moffatt talked with his usual mix of dry wit, self-deprecation and megalomania ( how does he do that? ) on his two massively successful TV shows, before answering questions from the audience. Although managing not to reveal anything much about the forthcoming new episodes of either show, Moffatt was hugely entertaining and addressed such subjects as the Doctor's supposed regeneration limit, not targeting Doctor Who at an American audience, the megastardom of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the original pitch he and Mark Gatiss made for Sherlock and, as they say, much more. One of the most memorable moments came when he was asked by a member of the audience about the "message" of his shows. Moffatt said he didn't like built-in messages and, in any case, wouldn't go to TV writers for the meaning of life... but, if the shows had a message it would be "Clever is good and kindness is strong..." That'll do :-)
It was good to hear Moffatt talk candidly about the creative process and production realities of making TV shows as well as good-naturedly shooting down some of the more obsessive fan theories. And it was definitely a pleasure to feel such a friendly, warm atmosphere in the room, far removed from the often bitter, nasty and unrealistic comments directed at Moffatt online from so-called "fans". James and I both enjoyed the talk hugely and it was fun to be a part of something like this during the good Doctor's 50th anniversary year.
 To demonstrate the diversity on offer at the Festival, on the previous Sunday Sarah and I went to a talk given by actor / author Emma Thompson on her continuation of  Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit stories. The lovely Ms. Thompson charmed us all with her story of how she had grown up with the "tails" of that mischievous rabbit and then found herself, unexpectedly, being asked to carry on his adventures. The publishers had sent her a box, tied up with string, containing some half-eaten radishes and a note from Peter Rabbit himself, asking her to tell his stories. Of course, she couldn't resist.
As well as talking about what an honour it was to follow in Potter's footsteps Thompson also discussed Beatrix Potter's life ( especially her conservation work ), with digressions into the subjects of movies and kids' TV. ( When she mentioned her father, Eric Thompson of The Magic Roundabout fame, Sarah and I started a round of applause for the great man which soon spread around the marquee. ) As an extra treat, Thompson read from her second book, The Christmas Tale Of Peter Rabbit, enchanting children and adults in the audience alike...
As a total contrast I also went to see author Sebastian Faulks discussing his classic World War I novel Birdsong. In conversation with radio presenter James Naughtie, Faulks proved to be a warm, witty and eloquent public speaker, holding his audience spellbound. I read Birdsong last year and was absolutely knocked out by Faulks' brilliant evocation of the horrors of life in ( and underneath ) the trenches, as well as his portrayal of a passionate, forbidden love affair in pre-War France. The book became an instant favourite for me so I was extremely pleased to hear the author speak so movingly about his experiences researching the novel, visiting former battlefields and interviewing old soldiers. Faulks said that, at the time he was writing the novel, the First World War seemed to have been largely ignored in the public consciousness and he wanted to remember the sacrifices that had been made through his fiction, while the War was still in living memory. ( In fact his American publishers at the time  -  unbelievably  -  urged him to rewrite the wartime sections of the book and relocate them to a more modern conflict. Quite rightly he refused. ) Twenty years later, Birdsong is an acknowledged modern classic, taught in schools at A-Level, and the old soldiers are all gone. Faulks also mentioned the recent BBC TV adaptation ( which he was politely positive about ) and a potential movie version which has seemingly foundered. Of course, the book is the important thing and I'm sure no adaptation could capture its wounded humanity and shattering impact...
So, three very different talks from three wonderful writers. I'll definitely have to make the effort to go again next year. I'll leave you with a few random photos from the Festival...

Wednesday 16 October 2013

The Three Doctors

The BBC have posted some new images from the forthcoming Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, The Day Of The Doctor, on their official site. I particularly like this one of Smith, Tennant and Hurt, all trying to out-grump each other. Cheer up boys... it's your anniversary :-)
And here's a nice pic of Jenna Coleman and Jemma Redgrave too...

Wednesday 9 October 2013

You've got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

Some sage words of advice on playing music from the late Thelonius Monk...

Click on image for like, largeness, man...

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Reading update: Ringworld

It's been a long, long time since I've posted anything about books here at TGWS. It's not like I don't read any more but I certainly haven't read as much fiction this year as I would have liked. There are many books sitting on my shelves, staring balefully at me, waiting for their turn, feeling dustily neglected. As well as more recent purchases by the likes of Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter and Brian Aldiss I have several trees' worth of classics by DH Lawrence, Victor Hugo, Edith Wharton and many more that are all filed under "to be read... one day..."

David Bowie's recent, highly-publicised Top 100 books list has been all over t'internet in the last couple of days, creating much debate. I have to admit I've only read four books from his list ( well, I say "books"... but one was only Viz... ) and, at the rate I've been reading lately, there's not much chance I'll catch up with the Thin White Duke any time soon.
Something I have read is Larry Niven's Ringworld, one of Gollancz's series of SF Masterpieces. It's a novel I've wanted to read for a very long time and I have to say I was disappointed by it. It's a classic case of a Science Fiction novel bursting with concepts and hard science but lacking in more of a literary quality. The Ringworld itself is one of the ultimate Big Dumb Objects: a mind-bogglingly huge construct  -  a whole solar system used as building materials and forged into a colossal ring, with a surface area larger than thousands of Earths, and set spinning around a star by unknown aliens. A team of four explorers  -  two humans, a humanoid tiger known as a Kzin and the utterly bizarre Puppeteer, Nessus  -  crash land on the Ringworld and fight for survival as they try to cross vast distances to find a way back home.

Niven sets up this huge canvas on which to tell his story and presents us with some initially interesting characters ( the long-lived Louis Wu, the unfeasibly lucky Teela Brown, the warlike Speaker-To-Animals, the insane Nessus ) but seems content to just let his explorers wander the Ringworld and constantly lecture each other on physics and interstellar politics... when they're not fighting amongst themselves. The long, long journey with unlikeable characters was a real struggle for me and the book felt far longer ( there's that word again ) than its 280-odd pages. Niven's prose is very matter-of-fact and failed to convey the sense of wonder I would expect from a story set in such a fabulous world, unlike Arthur C Clarke's similar Rendezvous With Rama which I definitely preferred. I'm glad I finally got round to visiting the Ringworld but I wouldn't want to stay there...

As a further update, I've just started reading Christopher Priest's The Separation and will have to post a review when I'm finished. Hopefully it won't take the months (!) it took me to read Ringworld ;-)

Soundtrack: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel


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