iJAMMING! is a music and lifestyle web site hosted by
author, journalist and dee jay Tony Fletcher.
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You are in the right place for Tony's daily musings.
Sunday May 11th: Shout!, Bar 13, University Place and 13th Street, Manhattan, New York City. 10pm-4am. Launch party for the Shout! compilation album, The Revolution Rave-Up Alive 1997-2003 featuring The Greenhornes playing live. Spinning on the top floor with Kid America.
One of the reasons for running a site like this is to occasionally wax lyrical about great music for the sheer hell of it. So let me take this end-of-the-week opportunity to sing the praises of Rotary Connection, a late 60s/early 70s Chicago-based progressive/pyschedelic group whose work I would never have known but for MCA releasing some of it five years ago under the rather disingenuous name Minnie Riperton: Her Chess Years. Riperton, who we should all know and love for her 1975 global smash 'Lovin' You,' had sung in the pleasantly generic Chicago girl group The Gems in the mid-1960s, but her label boss Marshall Chess recognized that her operatic range was wasted in a sub-standard Supremes and placed her alongside male vocalist Sidney Barnes and in front of five white male long-hair musicians in a bold attempt to marry hard Chicago soul with the progressive psychedelia of the era.
Much of the band's repertoire across its six albums was cover material, but re-arranged so spectacularly as to be almost unrecognisable: check their versions of 'Respect' and 'Tales Of Brave Ulysses' from 1969's Songs for evidence. Or listen to their sparkling, truly angelic version of 'Silent Night' from the previous year's concept Christmas album Peace. Throughout, Riperton's angelic voice soars quite majestically: the five-octave range and high-pitched trills that made 'Lovin' You' so distinct can be found on several songs here years ahead of her 'public' discovery. As the band's career progressed, guitarist John Stocklin wrote wrote more of the material, including the band's biggest single success: the beautifully uplifting 'Want You To Know'. It peaked at a miserable number 96.
I haven't yet tracked down the six studio albums the Rotary Connection songs hail from, but obviously I should do. In the meantime, if you buy one old compilation in the next few months to fill in a spiritual hole in your collection, Minnie Riperton: Her Chess Years should be it. All the aforementioned songs, and three from Minnie's pre-Rotary years, can be found on it. If you do have the rest of Rotary's output, lucky you: let us know if it's all this good.
POSTED: The May Hitlist. Reviews of twenty new albums including Air, Aphrohead, A.R.E. Weapons and Absinthe Blind and that's just the A's. In other words, why dont you get over there and read them all for yourself? I will tell you that my album of the month is one I've been tipping since receiving an advance CD back in January: Love and Distortion by The Stratford 4. And to go with such a sensual Californian offering, I've posted a new, complementary wine review: the Big Break Vineyard Late Harvest Mourvèdre 1997 from Cline. Yes, it's a mouthful, but a delicious one at that. I've also written about one new on-line essential and three new British rock magazines.
One album out this week which I opted not to review because of a conflict of interest is the The Revolution Rave-Up Alive 1997-2003, a compilation celebrating the six years and counting of Sunday night's Manhattan rock-and-soul party Shout! The conflict of interest is that I wrote the sleeve notes (the cooly unadorned front cover is shown at left), but that shouldn't put you off the music, which features The Warlocks, The Boggs, The Hiss, Calla, Elefant and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club among others. My personal fave act from the set is 'Good Times' by the Greenhornes, who will be playing the official launch party for the album at Shout! (where else?) on May 11. As will I. And someone called Kid America. Who you may know better than me. If you can't wait till then, I'll be at Shout! this Sunday April 27, sharing the main floor with the club's founding DJs Steve and Pedro.
Those who saw how much I had to say about the Iraq war before it started may have been surprised by my silence once it actually kicked off. There's a perfectly good reason: a few days after the bombs started falling I headed to the UK for a hectic visit and though I was often connected the Internet, stayed in houses with televisions and religiously read the daily newspapers, I still struggled to keep up with the speed of developments. As such I felt there was no point my trying to offer daily observations: whatever comment I may have made one day would have looked outdated just 24 hours later.
At least that was the lesson I learned by carrying around the New York Times dated March 31st, the day of my departure from the States, back when the American armchair pundits were predicting a Vietnam-style quagmire just because Saddam's most fanatical of loyalists had decided to put up a futile fight. By the time I came home a fortnight later, however, the war was over. Baghdad had fallen. (And Basra and Nasiriya and Mosul and Kut and Kirkuk and Tikrit too.) And it had all happened at such a pace that I must have been one of the few people who didn't see the moving images of Saddam's statue brought down in Baghdad: I was out and about in London all that day and night (April 9) and traveling all the next day, and by the time I had a chance to watch TV again the news channels had moved on to the inevitable looting and anarchy.
The speed at which this war was fought and won also brought home the realization that while the right to comment and criticize is probably the most important freedom we have in a democracy, my own passionate interest in the reasons and methods for this madness made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. So while I would likely have pored over the flow of news at home in New York and posted regular observations on this site, I preferred in London to enjoy a springtime that proceeded with remarkably peaceful normality. Few conversations immediately led to the war and I admit that because my time with friends was so short I redirected some potentially heated discussions on to more convivial topics.
Still, I quickly learned that public opinion in the UK was every bit as (healthily) divided as it was in the USA. At one end, I have friends who believed the war to be "all about oil" or who would play the moral relativism game and cite Israel and Zimbabwe as being equally as repressive and dangerous as Iraq, or else state openly that they "sided" with "the French" (based, I assumed, on their belief that the French wanted peace, rather than on Jacques Chirac's noted support and friendship for dictators including Saddam himself and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe).
Seen from most European capitals, France is the chief diplomatic loser of a short, effective Iraq war. The opposition front led by France would have held only if the war had produced terrible loss of life or led to a wider regional conflict
Little now binds the anti-war coalition of Germany, France and Russia, apart from the sense of being on the wrong side.
Roger Boyes, The Times, April 11.
I have other British friends who went on the anti-war marches some without reservations, and others who came home with doubts about the (politically unrelated) banners being waved around them. And there were many who, more like myself, confessed that with older age and a wider world view they had lost all patience with the world's most egregious dictators and equally with the ineffectiveness of the United Nations to do anything about them and, while deeply regretting the need for it, could not see any other way to get Saddam out than by force.
Finally, up in Yorkshire, where Union Jacks were flying in considerable numbers from shop, house and car windows, a couple of older family friends delivered a eulogy to the discipline, professionalism and compassion of the American forces: it was unrequested and unexpected, but clearly deeply felt.
This generally civilised and moderate outlook was also reflected in the national newspapers I devoured on my tube and bus rides. (I think I bought every paper during my stay in the UK except the Daily Express.) The Guardian and The Observer in particular shocked me by their relative level-headedness; The Times surprised me by its pro-war boldness. Only the Independent followed its doomsday anti-war scenario all the way to the end, with its readers using the letters' page as perhaps the last bastion of ostrich-like pacifism. Ironically, the Independent also employs probably the best columnist in the UK right now, Johann Hari, whose clear-headed, truly independent op-eds (which can be accessed here) are only matched, with equal irony, by Tony Parsons at the Daily Mirror, a newspaper that ended up hanging itself on its own flag of anti-war fervor.
"If Bush and Blair are mass murderers, then what language do we use to describe Saddam Hussein?
Blair was right about this point if you add up the Kurds killed in northern Iraq, the prisoners tortured to death in Saddam's jails and 200,000 Iraqis who died in the pro-democracy uprising of 1991, the figure is horribly close to the number of peace marchers in London on Saturday [Feb 15].
A parallel march of around one million ghosts. And I doubt if one of those murdered Iraqis would say that, 'war is never the answer' or have the temerity to call Tony Blair a mass murderer."
Tony Parsons, Daily Mirror, Feb 17
Parsons' occasional wisdom aside, the Mirror represented everything that infuriates me with that part of the anti-war movement that proposes peace to the point of total appeasement. Its ongoing front-page proclamation 'Not In Our Name' was a total misnomer, an entirely self-serving attempt to ratchet up sales based on a thorough misreading of the population. When the first British casualties were suffered, the paper took great delight in accusing Tony Blair of lying about the circumstances; when the war stalled for all of two days, it relished in the prospect of a quagmire; and when seven Iraqi civilians were killed in an ugly American checkpoint incident after suicide bombers had been introduced into the equation, it took enormous delight in pandering to all the worst stereotypes of murderous American military power.
Every last bit of this media campaign was fought very much in the Mirror's name, and only at the end, once editor Piers Morgan grasped that Saddam was about to topple without the eagerly anticipated bloodbath, did he switch tactics, launching a cynical Ali Appeal for a tragically injured Iraqi child in a purported sign that his paper actually cared about the citizens of that long-terrorized country though I saw it instead as just one more desperate means to satisfy his own self-righteous conscience and halt his dwindling circulation.
Following that aforementioned horrific checkpoint incident of March 31 (an event that would never have been reported in such grim detail had not the Coalition Forces allowed reporters unprecedented front-line access), British newspapers boasted how much more honorable and restrained a war "our boys" were fighting. To the extent that wars can ever be 'honorable' and 'restrained', I agree. I deplore the American military's habit of painting apocalyptic names and slogans on its tanks, bombs and helmets, especially when it claims to be fighting as a liberator, not a conqueror; I dislike its 'shoot first' policy that guns down civilians whose only crime is attempting to escape the crossfire; and conversely, I experienced an entirely unexpected but genuine pride for my home country when I saw the British soldiers in Basra exchange their helmets for berets and engage the locals in a game of football. It would be easy to agree with the UK newspapers that on this form, the British have the 'best' army in the world. But it's not the biggest, nor the most technologically advanced, and it wasn't being called upon to speed all the way into Baghdad, using maximum force with minimum civilian casualties.
And the popularly espoused theory that the Brits would have done a better job manning checkpoints than the Americans, based on experience in Ulster, was a notable example of selective national memory, conveniently ignoring the truth about Bloody Sunday, Jan 30 1972, when the same British Army fired upon protestors on the streets of Derry, killing 13 of them. In the days since Baghdad has fallen, it has also been revealed that the British security forces were involved in, or failed to prevent, many Loyalist assassinations in Northern Ireland through the late 1980s. Rather than the dubious citation of Ulster then, I suspect that in the future the British will cite the Battle of Basra as the benchmark of a meticulously prosecuted campaign.
"America can act for good as well as bad. ..
Our job on the left is not to try to stop America from ever acting; one of the great tragedies of the 1990s, the Rwandan genocide, wasn't caused by too much America but by its failure to act. No, our job is to try to steer this colossus towards spreading the values of its own American revolution: the overthrow of tyranny and the birth of democracy.
Johann Hari, The Independent, April 11
So, certainly some credit for a mercilessly brief war goes to the manner in which the British fought; much of it must go to the assertive and yet not indiscriminate methods by which the Americans campaigned; and some blessed credit is due to the speed at which the Iraqi army deserted. Public opinion meanwhile was swayed by the discoveries of mass graves and death chambers, the first-person horror stories delivered by a suddenly un-gagged people, and by the unintentionally hilarious daily press conferences of 'Comical Ali' the so-called Information Minister, whose constant dismissal of irrevocable Allied advances indicated to what extent the Iraqi leaders habitually lied to their own people and the world at large for 24 years. Putting this all together, it's really no surprise that just a few weeks after the British public was, reportedly, ferociously opposed to taking part in the war, two thirds of one new poll stated that Tony Blair had been right to lead the country into it.
All in all, apart from a few percentage points here and there, I can't say I noticed a major difference of opinion in the UK from in the USA: there is/was some feverish anti-war dissent in both countries just as there was some staunch backing for action, and then there's a clear majority in the middle which has offered restrained and cautious support a desperate hope, more than a proven belief, that we might this time just possibly be doing the right thing.
"It is worth pausing to celebrate that something wonderful has happened. Saddam's terror is over. The people of Iraq have been unchained from appalling torture and tyranny. That the West too often in the past gave succour to that tyranny was never a reason for not dealing with it. It was an imperative to try to make good what the West had done wrong."
Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer, April 13
I've just re-read my previous lengthy essay of March 11, 'Why I'm Opposed to the War' and I wouldn't change a word. My opposition then was based on the failure of Anglo-American diplomacy and the long-term effects of what the world would see as near-unilateral action; it was not based on any desire to see Saddam coddled and propped up a single day longer by the international diplomacy, nor that there was any other way to remove Saddam but by military force. I still don't trust the Bush Administration's motivations and I'm frightened for the immediate future of a country that understandably sees the Americans as an occupying force.
Which is why I'm going to put my hand up here in closing and say that, after spending two weeks of this 21-day war in the UK, I do trust the motivations of Tony Blair's Government, and I'm glad that he led the British into what was initially such an unpopular campaign. After all, not even the most hardened cynic accuses Blair of going after Iraq's oil, and only self-important fools (stand up George Michael) would look back at everything that's gone on in recent weeks and maintain the illusion that the fiercely independent Blair is Bush's poodle.
If Bush provoked the war for all manner of reasons that few of us remain convinced by, there was always the feeling that Blair backed it from a stance of pure morality - to help free a nation from the most offensive of war-mongering dictators, even, or especially, when the international community preferred to preserve the status quo. As the Bush Administration continues to rewrite the Middle Eastern map some of it, certainly, for the benefit of its population, and much of it, surely, for the benefit of American business interests we should be glad that Blair has Bush's ear and can keep him focused on his pronounced promises. That way, we may be able to look back in years to come and conclude that we didn't just win the short-term battle for Baghdad, but we won the long-term war yes, the one for the 'hearts and minds' of people throughout the Middle East as well.
CAITLIN MORAN WRITES BRILLIANTLY IN THE MAY ISSUE OF NEW BRITISH MAGAZINE WORD ABOUT DRUG-ADDLED HYPOCRITES:
I was always amazed by the number of vegetarian, Amnesty International-subscribing bleeding-hearts I knew who would weekly blow a third of their wages on slam-dancing with Mr Foolio.
"It's not harvested by a joyous collective of disabled arts students under the watchful eye of a beneficent Man From Del Monte, you know," I would boggle as they snorted lines off their Fair Trade brochure. "I can't believe you cry about battery chickens whilst taking stuff that people get their hands cut off with machetes for." But given that cocaine can make 'All Around The World' sound brilliant [the Oasis song, not the Jam single], it can make fairly short shrift of someone quacking on about international trading policies.
AND 15-MINUTE BRITPOP STAR CHRIS GENTRY OF MENSWEAR REVEALS IN THE MAY MOJO THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE MUSIC BUSINESS ARE THE WILLING ENABLERS:
"The night before we actually signed our deal, we were at some party at [a certain record company] and they were trying to get us to pull out of our deal. We said, "We really want to get some coke." They said, "Oh, we know where you can get some, but it's in Liverpool. If you get in this cab now, we'll drive you to Liverpool and give you cocaine."
Along with a number of other confessionals I could cite, it seems like the cocaine hangover has finally kicked in in Britain. It always surprised me that a British music biz and social system that prided itself on being so far removed from rampant American consumerism and capitalism became addicted to the furthest and darkest corners of that culture. But perhaps the tide has turned. At least one [primarily Britpop] generation appears to be wondering where went the most productive years of their lives...The clanger by Tony Popovic on Saturday, which enabled promotion challengers Sheffield United to stay in the game, was bad enough, but the one Tuesday
APRIL 14-20: Belated London Musings on Death Disco and CPFC.
APRIL 7-13: London Musings: Madness, Inspiral Carpets, the Affair, the Palace, the Jam
MARCH 31-APRIL 6: Music be the spice of life, London Calling: Ten Observations from the Old Country
MARCH 24-30: Six Foot Under, Peaches/Elefant live, MP Frees and Busted Boy Bands
MARCH 17-23: Röyksopp live, Transmission, Worn-Out War Talk
MARCH 10-16: Live reviews: Stratford 4, Flaming Sideburns, Joe Jackson Band, Linkin Park. Why I Oppose The War (For Now).
MARCH 3-9: The Pursuit of Happiness, Weekend Players, U.S. Bombs, Al Farooq, A New Pessimism, Brooklyn Half Marathon
FEBRUARY 24-MARCH2: Orange Park, Ali G-Saddam Hussein-Dan Rather-Bill Maher-Jon Stewart TV reviews, Stellastarr*, James Murphy, The Station nightclub fire, the Grammys
FEBRUARY 17-23: Village Voice Poll, Singles Club, Smoke and Fire
FEBRUARY 3-16: Snug, The Face, Pink, Supergrass live, Keith Moon, Phil Spector, Gore Vidal
JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2: Communist Chic, Spiritland, Daddy You're A Hero, Keith Moon, State of the Union, CPFC and more on Iraq
JANUARY 20-26: Divisions of Laura Lee, Burning Brides, Words On War, Child Abuse of a Different Kind, Losing My Edge
JANUARY 13-19: Pete Townshend, Pee Wee Herman, South Park and more Pete Townshend
JANUARY 6-12: Interpol in concert, Tony Fletcher's Top 10 Albums and Singles of 2002, More on Joe Strummer and The Clash, Fever Pitch and Bend It Like Beckham.
DECEMBER 31 2002 -JAN 5 2003: A tribute to Joe Strummer, Radio 4 live on New Year's Eve
DECEMBER 25-30: NO POSTINGS: ON VACATION
DECEMBER 16-24: Metro Area, Breakbeat Science, Sting makes Wine, New York Downtown redesigns, Keith Moon anecdotes, Campbell's jokes.
DECEMBER 9-15: Tiswas, pledge drives, The View from Up North
DECEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Weekend Players and Snow Lit Piano Bars)
FOR NOVEMBER 25-29 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Joe Hurley, Thanksgiving, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin)
FOR NOVEMBER 16-24 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Longwave, The Pleased, Get Your War On, Powder, Radio 4, Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Ben Neill, Baldwin Brothers, Thievery Corporation)
FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween)
FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2003