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FRIDAY JANUARY 9

ALIAS SMITH AND JONES

I was invited yesterday to check out the new mod-based web site Positive Energy Of Madness. It's scruffy, scrappy and grammatically challenged, like all good fanzines always should be, and it exudes a healthy enthusiasm for many of the good things in life. This includes an interview with Archbishop Tenison's old boy Don Letts, whose name has come up frequently at this site over the last couple of years, both for his brilliant, Grammy-winning Clash documentary From The Westway to the World, and for his role in Big Audio Dynamite alongside former Clash guitarist Mick Jones.

Don Letts: Envies plumbers

The Letts interview suffers from a classic fanzine writer's mistake – moving on to the next written question without following up the preceding answers – but Letts' common sense shines through none the less. For example, he questions whether cheaper technology has cheapened the artistic results: "When I bought my first super 8 camera in the 70’s it cost a lot back in them days and that price weeded out the people so it meant you wanted to have a go… Today it’s created a lot of mediocrity. Of course it’s good to facilitate ideas, but what it can’t do is create that chemistry that gave us Morrissey and Marr!"

Yes, Letts is a big Smiths fan. And as a keen observer of pop culture, he questions whether the surge in home-based technology served to postpone a late 90s musical revolution such as he has otherwise seen occurring towards the end of each decade. "Maybe technology put every one in their bedrooms and working on their own and took out that organic bit that happens between people like Jagger & Richards!"

He's also got plenty to say about the British Empire, film-making, travel and… plumbers: "It seems to me that skilled labour is not valued. I mean, why can’t that plumber be an artist in his plumbing? The amount he gets paid he better be an artist!"

Mark E. Smith: Also envies plumbers

The artisanal plumber is a recurring theme in Mick Middles' biography of Mark E. Smith, a book I first mentioned yesterday. Plumbing is not only an everyman occupation that the Fall leader reveres - "Ordinary people, plumbers and that, can be very very clever… they can see the surreal," says Smith – but also, like Letts, one he somewhat envies. The Fall frontman, it turns out, was originally tapped to follow his father into the family plumbing business. "Which I wish I'd done," he tells Middles at one point. "I really (laughs) wish I'd done a plumber's apprentice. It'd be great to be able to do your art and have that back up. Plumbers make fortunes."

Don Letts, who's still counting the cost of adding an extension to his house, clearly agrees. Early in the PEOM interview, he relates his time in Big Audio Dynamite: "We were not financially successful; it was all cred and no bread!" And he closes out the interview by grabbing Matteo Sedazzari's dictaphone and declaring:

"LET ME TELL YOU NOW FOLKS. I AM NOT A RICH MAN, I KNOW A LOT OF OUT OF WORK ACTORS, I KNOW EVEN MORE OUT OF WORK MUSICIANS. BUT I DON’T KNOW ANY OUT OF WORK PLUMBERS. THEY ARE LIVING LARGE, MAKING LOTS OF MONEY AND WORK WHEN THEY WANT TO!"

Middles' book closes, meanwhile with the observation of Mark E Smith that:

"He would have made an extraordinary plumber."

If Letts and Smith agree about plumbers' income and skill, they have different memories of Joe Strummer's merit. "The Clash didn’t give a toss about their audience," Smith said after The Fall opened for Strummer, Jones and co. in New York in 1981. "All they were interested in was numbers and becoming the biggest band ever. Pathetic… really pathetic to see an English so-called punk band behaving like that."

Interesting, then, that 25 years later, Letts is asked why Strummer's death didn't receive due attention on British television. He responds, "Joe doesn’t need their respect! … Fuck them! The respect he got is in the air. Joe operated outside of the norm and the law. And the respect he got is outside of this!!"

A statement that could surely be made of MES, too. And so it goes…


Following our themes for the day to illogical extremes, PEOM links to the One Mick Jones web site, which in facts pays homage to two Mick Jones's - The Clash guitarist and the former Leeds United player – under the heading "Football Talk for Clash City Rockers." I'm a little hesitant to send you there in case their pub lounge looks more inviting than iJamming!'s; then again, we've yet to see any Leeds fans grace our local. Fifty members and counting. Who's round is it?


BEST OF THE BEST OF 2002 LISTS

Amazon.com's Editor's Top 100 of 2003 is surprisingly adventurous and alternative for what you might consider the Walmart of online commerce: The Top 10 alone includes The Shins, The Postal Service, The Thrills and Visqueen. Elsewhere in the Top 50, the editors also find room for some of my own personal 2003 faves like the aforementioned Joe Strummer, Fountains of Wayne, and Richard Thompson. The coolest thing about the list is that it links to readers' reviews, which may not be as well-written as the professional editors', but often contain more insight. Like this 'music fan from Brooklyn' (not me) on Stellastarr*:

stellastarr* may conjure up a thousand and one comparisons to The Cure and Echo and every other seminal '80s rock band, but by grabbing bits and pieces of their genres' histories then rearranging, reworking, and blatantly toying around with them, ss* has managed to craft a sound that might not be original (or even close to it), but still somehow oddly refreshing.


THURSDAY JANUARY 8

WANTED: A SENSE OF HUMOR

I was asked for New Year's Resolutions by Tricia Romano over at the Village Voice the other week. I must have been in a bad mood that day, as my responses - published this week - are entirely devoid of humor, especially when compared to the bitchy and campy resolutions offered by some of the city's more illustrious professionals, a 'burlesque performer,' 'comedienne extroadinaire' and 'tea connoisseur' among them. (And yes, the last of those is Moby.) Curiously, my resolution is followed by that of the only respondent I'd consider a currently close friend, and his is equally serious. Perhaps that explain the friendship?

Once past the weekly's gossip-and-lifestyle fueled front pages, The Voice usually specializes in political put downs, a stance that harks back to its golden era as an investigative newspaper but which often these days merely reflects a new cynicism for the Millennium. Good then to see a two-page feature highlighting New York City's three prime achievements of the last twenty-thirty year: "the extraordinary improvement in public safety," "the improvement in public transportation" and "the rebuilding of much of the city's housing stock."

As author Michael Gecan admits, the latter two accomplishments don't make for glamorous copy. Example yawn about transportation: "In 1982, subway trains broke down every 7,000 miles, today they run more than 100,000 miles without a major problem." And none of us greets our fellow New Yorker with the shared relief that the number of abandoned city-owned buildings – a mere 105 according to the city, some 800 according to the New York Times – is down 95% from the early 1980s, and compares impressively to the "more than 30,00 abandoned structures in each" of Philadelphia and Baltimore.

But they're impressive statistics all the same. And Gecan rightly observes that the combination of all three turnarounds enabled New York to survive a major terrorist attack (quick thinking across a properly functioning transportation system on 9/11 day saved hundreds of lives; none were lost anywhere on the subways, buses or PATH trains) as well as endure the resulting economic slump (home owners in improved neighborhoods have more reason to stick it out than renters in struggling communities). As for the impact of improved safety, Gecan asks "How do you measure the yearly "savings" that 1,700 fewer murders (2,250 in 1990, 580 in 2002) represent? Here’s one way: Black male life expectancy has dramatically increased since 1990."


Been doing some side work indexing a couple of books for my UK publishers, Omnibus (a job which, incidentally, usually goes to the eagle-eyed, attention-detailed Johnny Rogan, whose fastidious indexing of my Moon bio was accompanied by such lengthy explanations on the originations of the British pop charts he could have written a new book on the subject! Have nearly finished with Mick Middles' biography on The Fall which, in a reversal of yesterday's Howard Dean complaint, received so much co-operation from its subject Mark E. Smith that the singer/front man/lyricist gets a co-author's credit. Mick wrote for Jamming! years ago, but so did everyone else, and I don't know him well. However, given that he's a vegetarian who gave up smoking years ago, runs to stay healthy, and freely admits to drinking far too much red wine, it's fair to say he's a good egg.

How do I know so much about Middles if I don't know him? Well, in an attempt to ease Smith's worries of a trainspotter's biography, Middles was encouraged to allow his own experiences and involvement with the band to weave in and out of the narrative, which renders it more a Fall fan's memoir than a conventional rock book. For the most part, when Middles doesn't ramble, it works. And even when he does ramble, it's no more or less confusing than Smith's alcohol-fueled ruminations and exhortations. The result is a book for Fall fans who already know the music (the appeal of which is left mostly undiscussed) and want to learn more about the mind at the heart of the matter.

That mind is best explained not in Smith's own words but in his actions. Take the story of one Arthur Kadmon, founder of Manchester pioneering post-punks Ludus, who was invited to join The Fall's memorable mid-80s line-up following a lengthy Saturday pub session talking about "the government and the NME," which was, according to Middles, "just about par for the course." Middles continues:


"The very next day, Kadmon was surprised to be told by Mark that he should henceforth present himself at a Bury studio to commence the recording of The Fall’s next LP, which would eventually surface as Room To Live. Arthur Kadmon picked up his guitar, his essential Albert Camus paperback – such was the prevailing hipness of the day – and set forth, clearly under the impression that he had joined The Fall.
…The session began badly for Arthur. He wandered cheerily into the studio, proffering a hand of comradeship to the assembled band members, although he didn’t know their names, or indeed what they played…
…“Oh yeah, forgot to tell you lads, this is Arthur… he’s the new guitarist,” announced Mark when he eventually arrived…
…After enduring the seemingly eternal set-up that precedes any new recording session, he was duly told to go and tune up and play a few test samples, which indeed he did: four chords, a tune up and a finger loosening solo. It took just sixteen seconds.
“Thanks Arthur. That’s superb. That’s just what we wanted. You can go home now.”
“What? That’s it?”
“Yeah, thanks cocker.”
To this day, Arthur Kadmon never knew whether he had upset Mark with his short soloing, or if one of his remarks had increased the tension, or whether he was ever really a possibility for a Fall guitarists… or whatever! He was never contacted again although, to his credit, he continued to listen to The Fall for a handful of years, until finally succumbing to a semblance of reality. He now works in an office in Macclesfield and has a big house."

And you thought YOUR fifteen minutes of fame were short-lived?


WEDNESDAY JANUARY 7 2004

THE DEAN AND HIS CREDITS

Getting yourself on the cover of Newsweek and Time in the same week is a big deal in the States. A very big deal. (I can't even think of an equivalent British comparison.) Bruce Springsteen achieved it in the 1970s and spent the next decade trying to live the achievement down. Saddam Hussein managed it the other week, though not in the manner, nor with the photo, he might have once hoped for. And now Dr. Howard Dean has achieved the rare feat – for the second time in barely five months. If proof was needed that Dean is the likely Democratic Presidential Candidate next November, this is it.

Both covers in the same week, and for the second time in five months. Not even the Boss pulled that one off.


Actually, according to Matt Taibbi in this week's New York Press, "the unofficial coronation of Howard Dean as the Democratic nominee" had already been made "by none other than George Bush himself," who "In a fundraising e-mail sent out to would-be supporters…for the first time made what appeared to be a specific characterization of his eventual opponent.

"Whoever wins the nomination will have done so by energizing their party’s left wing with angry attacks," Bush "expressed" in the e-mail.

The 'coronation,' infers Taibbi, is the word "angry," something of a euphenism for Dean right now. But Taibbi goes on to question whether Dean's "anger" – and by extension, his supposed temper – is a genuine issue, or was invented by Time and Newsweek back when the mags each put Dean on the cover last summer. (This would involve a degree of collaboration one wouldn't expect of fiercely rival publications, but of course conspiracy theories are rarely bothered by facts.) According to Taibbi, who accompanied the former Vermont Governor on the same cross-country Sleepless Summer stumping trip as the leading news weeklies, "Dean was never anything but congenial and accommodating." However, Newsweek and Time carry so much weight, Taibi explains, that where they lead, other media must follow.

And certainly, the media is following Dean's every move right now. Taibi's sympathetic column in the NY Press, for example, is followed on the next page by Michael Signorile's interesting explanation for Dean's strong support among the gay and lesbian community; that is followed on the next page by Russ Smith's Mugger column, which picks up on a Washington Post op-ed notion that Dean's apparent "arrogance" and "anger" go hand-in-hand with his former employment as a Doctor. Now, it's true that members of the medical establishment can be patronizing and domineering, that they sometimes withhold important information and don't like being contradicted, especially by patients, but it's still a generalization, the sort that we wouldn't abide if it was said of a race or a creed; as it happens, my son's seen a few doctors this past week, unfortunately, and they've all been the exact opposite of this above caricature.

Presidential candidates are then, almost by nature, an individual Rorschach test – we essentially see in them what we want to see, be that positive or negative. Many conservatives, for example, see Howard Dean's temper as a positive: the National Review even ran the recent front cover headline 'Please Nominate This Man', on the grounds that Dean's anger will appear so transparently unreasonable to middle-ground voters come November that they will swing or recoil instinctively over to the Bush camp.

Andrew Sullivan, widely considered a political conservative himself, also wants to see Dean nominated as the Democratic candidate, and also because of Dean's supposed "anger." But his reasoning shows far more foresight: "I think it would be refreshing for this country to have a real choice and debate this year, not an echo or yet another focus group," he wrote yesterday. (He took real heat for the column too. He's spent much of today backtracking.)

"I think (Dean's) hatred of Bush will shine through," Sullivan continued, "and give a voice to millions of people who feel the same way… The Dems haven't given themselves an opportunity to vent about the way they really feel... It would be really unhealthy for America and the Democrats to repress that any longer. They'll give themselves a collective hernia. Dean represents an opportunity for honesty, for relief, for a true cultural clash. At this point, in this divided nation, I think it's riskier to avoid that clash than to give it an opportunity to be explored and democratically decided. That's especially the case after the Dems' excruciating loss last time around."

I take his point. In the last election, taking the softly-softly approach, the presumed intellectual Al Gore was beaten by the supposedly illiterate George W. Bush in the debates. The voting, from the Florida butterfly ballots to that State's flawed count to the Supreme Court decision, made a mockery of democracy. (Though I'm sure citizens in all manner of fascist and totalitarian countries would love to have had such burdens.) As anyone who's followed my writings here over the last couple of years will know, I fear that large sections of the left have lost the plot, that their vitriol and hatred for Bush and his team has blinded them to a number of realities. Rather than ignore these people, the Democratic candidate should take the gloves off this time, should be ready to come out swinging, and should be willing to give voice to those who claim they are being muzzled by some ongoing shredding of the Constitution. If Dean is indeed the candidate, if he continues to energize those on the left who frequently don't vote for conservative Democrats, if Ralph Nader doesn't come in to spoil things again, if we avoid a Florida style fiasco...and then if Dean still loses to Bush, then one would hope (though perhaps against hope) that the left might just accept that this time round it was a fair fight and that the people have spoken.

And if Dean wins, all the better.

Personally, I'd like Dennis Kucinich to be Democratic candidate for all kind of radical reasons, but of the major candidates, I can see myself getting behind Dean. I say this knowing full well that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and that he was a Vietnam draft dodger. The young leftists who've readily rallied to Dean's cause will at least then have to stop throwing those charges at the current President, which will help partially level the playing field.

These three Democratic Presidential candidates would all have you believe they wrote their own books. But one of them didn't. Nor would he share the credit.

But there is one blight on Dean's track record that, as a writer, I'm having a hard time dealing with. Away from its main feature on the Doctor, Newsweek ran a one-pager this week about the Democratic candidates' books, those autobiographies doubling as manifestoes whose publication conveniently coincides with them hitting the campaign trail. Only two of the eight candidates to have published such books claim to have written the words themselves, and one of those, General Wesley Clark, did so before he became a candidate. (Kucinich is the other. Carol Moseley Braun has no book to her name.) All the other six candidates credit, to various extents, their ghost-writers, co-authors and collaborators. But for one. That's Dr. Howard Dean who, according to Newsweek, "is the only candidate who doesn't acknowledge in his book that he got help with it. His ghostwriter, Ian Jackman, says he likes Dean and doesn't care about getting credit, but admits that a mention would have been nice."

I'm sure it would have been. Anger can be a necessary virtue in a politician. But modesty and fair attribution are equally important.


TUESDAY JANUARY 6 2004

BEST OF 2003


TONY'S TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2003

THE RAPTURE – ECHOES – Strummer Read review
THE RAVEONETTES – CHAIN GANG OF LOVE – Columbia Read Review
JOE STRUMMER AND THE MESCALEROS – STREETCORE - Hellcat Read Review
THE STRATFORD 4 – LOVE AND DISTORTION – Jetset Read Review
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE – WELCOME INTERSTATE MANAGERS – Virgin Read Review
VARIOUS ARTISTS - CITY OF GOD SOUNDTRACK - Milan Read Review
THE KILLS – KEEP ON YOUR MEAN SIDE Rough Trade Read Review
GROOVE ARMADA – LOVEBOX – Jive Read Review
VARIOUS ARTISTS - MANA MEDICINE – CyberOctave Read Review
ELBOW – CAST OF THOUSANDS – V2 Read Review

(These are my votes for the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll, in no specific order. Each album gets 10pts from a collective 100 points.)

THE PROCESS

Choosing one's favorite records of the year should be an easy process – simply list the ones you listened to the most and be done with. When you write about music for part of your living, it gets more complicated: there's a tendency to a) establish your superiority by picking records from across different genres, b) announce your hipness by naming obscure indie releases regardless of likely longevity, c) pre-empt obvious accusations of elitism from (b) by choosing records from the best-selling mainstream, and d) pick at least a couple of the albums favored in other polls to ensure you're not given the cold shoulder by your peers later down the line.

I've tried to avoid the above traps in picking my top 10 albums and singles of 2003. I know, for example, that the White Stripes' Elephant has won most critics polls, and I recognize its worth, but truth be told, I listened more frequently this year to an album by a different white male-female blues-based duo: Keep On Your Mean Side by The Kills. I understand Radiohead's Hail To The Thief is considered by many to be a classic, but I was so disappointed by both Kid A and Amnesiac I initially gave Thief a miss. Likewise, Blur's latest has been awarded considerable acclaim but I tired of the group in recent years and allowed Think Tank to pass me by. I'm only now catching up on those albums. Elbow's hauntingly beautiful second album Cast Of Thousands (a 2004 release in the States) gets my vote in the vaguely experimental British rock category instead.

Over in the dance music arena, meanwhile, which has supplied so much of my listening pleasure these last twelve years, the unanimous choice among rock critics is Basement Jaxx' Kish Kash. It's a brilliantly busy album but it's frequently smothered by its ambition, and I found Groove Armada's equally varied though widely ignored Lovebox (a 2002 UK release) a more immediately accessible album full of, dare I say it, better songs.

Other albums I left out reflected my personal tastes rather than that of other pollsters. I've championed Stellastarr* incessantly and believe their eponymous debut largely lives up to expectations, but they were edged out in the American psychedelic rock stakes by San Francisco's Stratford 4, in the power-pop bracket by Denmark's Raveonettes, and in the New York debut album arena by The Rapture. The Joe Jackson Band's Volume 4 was as good a comeback as I heard last year, but I certainly couldn't choose Jackson over that other Joe (Strummer), whose Streetcore is a posthumous triumph, nor could I suggest that Jackson's songwriting was more relevant than that of Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, the duo that made Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers the cleverest and most sympathetic tribute to suburbia since Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were in their Squeeze heyday.

A couple of compilations made it through. Mana Medicine, the ambient-dub album from Youth's Butterfly stable, is an obvious outsider, but as a contemporary throwback to a music I always loved and greatly miss, I've found myself playing it frequently and include it, perhaps self-consciously, as my token elitist obscurity. Finally, the soundtrack to City Of God is a marvelous album by any standards, effortlessly segueing whole generations of Brazilian music - but it also serves as the most relevant souvenir from my trip to Rio earlier this year. Top 10s should be personal. Mine is.

Other honorable mentions include: Gallowsbird's Bark by the Fiery Furnaces, a late discovery I still intend to review, Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham's L'Avventura, Slipstream's retrospective Transcendental, the Party Monster soundtrack, Cockahoop by Cerys Matthews, Goldfrapp's Black Cherry, which I'm sure would feature in my wife's top 10, Richard Thompson's The Old Kit Bag, Client's eponymous debut and the Yes New York compilation.


A snapshot of everything that was good in 2003. LCD Soundsystem at the Bowery Ballroom, October 9. Great show - and the act's 'Losing My Edge' was one of my singles of the year. Frontman James Murphy doubled up as part of the DFA production duo, responsible for The Rapture's Echoes (an album of the year) and many another great production (Black Dice, The Juan McLean) and remix (Le Tigre, Radio 4) in 2003. Other LCD band members also play in Outhud. New York bands respect one another again. The Bowery Ballroom is a great place to see bands. LCD Soundsystem rock out and get you to dance. The crowd that night did both. It's all good.....

TONY'S TOP 10 SINGLES OF 2003

When choosing their top singles, many people afford themselves some guilty pleasures, opting for unavoidable hip-hop, R&B or Pop Idol style hits from the last year. Most of my selection reflects my occasional work as a DJ, with a couple of rock bands thrown in for good measure. Again, they are in no selective order.

Plump DJs - The Gate/The Funk Hits The Fan (Fingerlickin)
Zero – Emit/Collect (Streetwise)
I picked these two up in a 30-minute buying frenzy the same day we were launching Hedonism in London. Each is a guaranteed floor-filler on its own, but even better, they mix in and out of each other almost seamlessly. The Plump DJs album was almost good enough to make my top ten; read my ecstatic review here. The Zero track can be heard on Paul Oakenfold's new mix CD The Great Wall.
The Thrills – One Horse Town (Virgin)
I found the Irish group's album So Much For The City woefully inconsistent, but a few more tracks like this and it might have been the greatest debut of the year.
The Chemical Brothers featuring The Flaming Lips – The Golden Path (Astralwerks)
Lighter than many a Tom-and-Ed single and all the more effective for Wayne Coyne's typically transcendent vocal.
Outkast – Hey Ya (Arista)
The universal song of choice. And the best video.
Stellastarr* - Somewhere Across Forever - (RCA)
Two of three tracks on the New Yorkers' debut EP rocked hard and filled indie dancefloors. The other was a racuous instrumental. Nice work.
LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge (DFA)
A 12" single so tragically hip I could never bring myself to play it in a DJ set; it would have sounded unhip. (You'd have to hear it, and probably have to have lived in New York these last three years, to understand that contradiction.)
!!! - Intensifieder (Sunracapellectrohshit mix 03) -(Touch & Go)
A New York 12" dance single, a guaranteed floor-filler – and not produced by DFA. (This essentially untitled track is actually the b-side to the inferior 'Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard.')
Electric Six - Danger! High Voltage (XL)
Deliriously dumb. And hey, Jack White sings on it, right?
R.E.M. - Bad Day (WB)
Not necessarily a 'return' to form – the song's been sitting around in various guises for years – but more than welcome for being R.E.M.'s hardest rocking single in a decade.


OVERVIEW

Looking at the above lists, I seem to reach two somewhat contradictory conclusions:
1) 2003 was a great year for music. Punk disco thrived. Outsider rock made the mainstream. Transatlantic snobbery evaporated. (The NME included four American bands, three of them from New York, in its writers' top 10). And the monopolizing major label distribution system was severely challenged by the success of Apple's Music store and their iPods. Music, and the music business, are in a healthy state of confusion.
2) For all its surface gloss, 2003 did not deliver much truly great music. Look at those lists again. Look at your own. Look at those in other magazines. How many of the album choices are likely to be receiving the same acclaim in ten years? Can even the most blindly acceptant of fans truly put hand on heart and say that the albums released in 2003 by Radiohead, Blur, The White Stripes, The Strokes, Outkast, Jay-Z and Missy Elliott were those acts' very best? Did The Rapture and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, from opposite ends of the New York spectrum, truly and honestly deliver debuts of the absolute brilliance we dared to expect? I don't think so.

But that's alright. It was, perhaps more than anything else, and despite the fact we all spent much of the year embroiled in a divisive war, a fun year for music. Overall, things are good, and that's reflected in…


TONY'S TOP CONCERTS OF 2003.

1) Bruce Springsteen – Shea Stadium. The Boss in his element. Read review
2) Manchester Move – Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Perfect weather, great bands, brilliant audience. What more could I ask for? Read review
3 Any number of New York City club gigs. Whether it was New York bands Radio 4, Stellastarr*, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol and the Rapture, Scandinavians The Caesars, the Raveonettes, The Flaming Sideburns and Divisions of Laura Lee, or Brits The Libertines, Echoboy, British Sea Power, The Kills and yes, Joe Jackson, live rock and roll was at its element in the 500-capacity club last year, especially Manhattan's Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn's own Southpaw.

Manchester Move: Good festival

Renewable Brooklyn: Bad

DISAPPOINTING CONCERT OF THE YEAR
Renewable Brooklyn, Prospect Park. Read review
I had an invite to an afternoon party at the Waldorf Astoria for the Who's Kids Are Alright DVD, hosted by Roger Daltrey. I could then have gone to see R.E.M. at Madison Square Garden. But no, I wanted to support the local scene and environmental causes with the Renewable Brooklyn show in my local Prospect Park. It was a disaster. 2 Many DJ's didn't show. U.N.K.L.E. canceled. Outhud's gear blew up. It was freezing cold and wet. And paying customers could not have exceeded a hundred in a bandshell area that holds thousands. Oh well: Daltrey would probably have had me thrown out anyway.



TONY's DJ GIGS OF 2003

1) Step On, June-December. Thanks largely to the unrequested manouvering of Sheffield Jamie (who promptly went back to Blighty to follow the Owls through the lower divisions), I found myself hosting a regular night for the first time in years. And it's been brilliant. First Fridays of the month at the Royale on the fringes of Park Slope. Anything goes, with an emphasis on the golden era of baggy pop.
2) Death Disco, London, April. The hosts and regular DJs didn't show. I did. The crowd danced to everything I played. And none of it had dance beats. That's what I call a success.
3) The Central Park Film Festival, September. As weird as the gigs get, but on the last night of the Festival, preceding the movie Hair, I played a carefully pre-programmed set that took us from mid-sixties innocence to late sixties revolution; those who were old enough to have lived through it were up on their feet throughout.
4) Transmission, Plant Bar, January. This happens quite often when you're a DJ: the night's strolling along, not going great but no disaster either, and you're starting to wonder what time you'll get home when something just clicks, and boom! It goes off. Rarely does it go off like it did that Monday night at Transmission though, when the crowd suddenly started dancing on the tables and bar tops to Hardfloor, Donna Summer, the Messiah, and Sterling Void. A few weeks later, Plant was temporarily shuttered by the dance police. The Cabaret Laws suck (thankfully, they're about to be repealed), but it would have been hard for Plant to claim they were unfairly cited.


All this and still I don't feel like I've covered the half of it. The Top 10s posted over at the iJamming! Pub have sent me scurrying off for those songs and albums I inadvertently missed. Already, I'm highly fond of TV On The Radio's 'Robots' from OK Calculator, Loquat's 'Swingset Chain' and Stars' 'Elevator Love Letter'. Feel free to comment on this list or post your own. Hopefully we all become wiser in the process.


MONDAY JANUARY 5 2004

STEP INTO NEW YEAR

Had another riotous night at The Royale last Friday for our monthly Step On party. As well as playing all the usual Madchester candidates (Roses, Mondays, Charlatans, James, Carpets, Smiths, New Order), I was either encouraged or inspired to slip in the following: 'What is House?' by LFO, 'Cubik' by 808 State, 'Malfunction' by N-Joi, 'Thunder' by Renegade Soundwave, 'Last Train To Transcentral' by the KLF (Bill Drummond in one of his musical guises), 'Star Guitar' by The Chemical Brothers, 'Voodoo Ray' by A Guy Called Gerald, 'Planet Love' by The Dylans, 'I Need Your Love' by The Rapture, the DFA mix of 'Dance to the Underground' by Radio 4 and a quintet of great 7" singles: 'Come On Back To Me' by the Foundations which led perfectly into 'Geno' by Dexys, 'Rat Race' by the Specials, 'My Girl' by Madness and 'Speak Like a Child' by The Style Council, and later on, the brilliant 'Burn The Beat' by the JAMMS aka The Timelords aka Bill Drummond in another of his musical guises...

My wife Posie introduced Wire, The Stranglers and Golden Girls into the set, while Desko 2000 opened proceedings admirably, playing tracks either I'd intended to (Joe Strummer's 'All In A Day', !!!'s 'Can You Feel It Intensify'), cuts I'd deliberately left at home because I play them every month (Blur's 'There's No Other Way,'), or songs it's just always a pleasure to hear (Sinead O'Connor's 'I am Stretched On Your Grave,' B.A.D.'s 'Contact,' The Who's 'I Can't Explain'). Beat-mixing at The Royale is always a pain, due to the fact that the monitor booth doubles as the main floor speaker, but that's no excuse for the fact that when I decided to get cocky with the night's theme song, introducing it on CD and then mixing two 12"s back and forth, I forgot to turn down the CD. Fortunately, all three versions were playing at the same speed, but all the same, consider that rather confused rendition of 'Step On' an absolute one-off! Thanks again, as always, to everyone who came down and either shook a leg or just hung at the bar.

A New Year hangover mentality – i.e. let's keep partying like it's still 2003 – was clearly in full effect because we had a late, late late crowd, keeping us busy all the way until 4am. Normally this wouldn't bother me too much but I'd spent the whole holiday season avec famille turning in by midnight, including on New Year's itself, which rendered me absolutely shattered when I woke up at 8am as usual on Saturday. We'd promised to take Campbell to FAO Schwarz in midtown before it closes (leaving Hamleys of London as the world's undisputed greatest old-fashioned toy store), and we had some SERIOUS post-holiday tidying to do round the house, but I still spent most of the weekend recovering on the sofa, watching videos of Fawlty Towers, the new series of Sex and The City and Curb Your Enthusiasm, renting the movie Rodger Dodger and trying to figure out my top 10s for the year...

...My task has been rendered harder by the fact that those who've listed their own year-end faves over at The Pub have me embarrassed: for all I must have listened to a thousand albums or so this last year (really!) I still obviously haven't heard half the best ones, judging by iJamming! reader tastes. So I also spent a big chunk of the weekend on Limewire, 'sampling' some of the music I've missed out on this year. I'm posting my own Top 10s tomorrow, but I have the feeling they're going to look rather tame by comparison. Anyone else who's got some spare time during their first day back in work, let us know what you've been listening to. Signing in takes but a minute. First round is on the house. See you later.

2003 MUSINGS:
DEC 22-JAN 4: Blind Boys of Alabama live, Joe Strummer, Year-End Lists, Finding Nemo, The Return of The King
DEC 15-21: Placebo live, Park Slope, Angels In America, Saddam's capture
DEC 8-14: The Rapture live, Guardian readers change lightbulbs, Keep iJamming! Thriving
DEC 1-7: Cabaret Laws, Ready Brek, Kinky Friedman, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Jonathan Lethem, Julie Burchill, Blizzard running
NOV 17-30: Lost In Music, Lost In Translation, Neil Boland, Political Polls, Press Clips, Australian Whines
NOV 10-16: Ben E. King live, Hedonism readings, A***nal, Charts on Fire
NOV 3-9: Brother Bear, Oneida, P. Diddy, Steve Kember, Guy Fawkes, Iraq, the Marathon
OCT 27-NOV 2: CMJ Music Marathon report, NYC Running Marathon preview, Prey For Rock'n'Roll, Yellow Dog, Gen Wesley Clark, Halloween
OCT 20-26: Television Personalities, defending New York rockers, Bill Drummond Is Read
OCT 6-19: LCD Soundsystem live, Renewable Brooklyn review, Blind Acceptance is a sign...
SEP29-OCT 5: New York w(h)ines parts 1 and 2, Bruce Springsteen at Shea Stadium.
SEP 22-28: Atlantic Antic, Pacifists for War: General Wesley Clark and the Democratic Debate, Danny Tenaglia, Running Wild, Steppenwolf
SEP 15-21: Radio 4/DJ Vadim live, Manhattan Mondaze, Circle of Light, Renewable Brooklyn
SEP 8-14: Central Park Film Festival, Roger (Daltrey) and me, September 11 Revisited, The Raveonettes/Stellastarr* live, Recording Idiots of America,
SEP1-7: Film Festivities, Party Monster, Keith Moon RIP
AUG 25-31: Punk Planet, Carlsonics, Copyright Protection, Cline Zinfandel, BRMC
AUG 18-24: Black Out Blame Game, John Shuttleworth, British Music mags, Greg Palast, The Thrills live.
AUG 11-17: The New York blackout, Restaurant reviews, The Media as Watchdog, What I Bought On My Holidays
AUG 4-10: Step On again, Shaun W. Ryder, Jack magazine, the BBC, the Weather, Detroit Cobras, football and Rock'n'Roll
JULY 28-AUG 3: De La Guarda, The Rapture, Radio 4, Stellastarr*, Jodie Marsh, A Tale of Two Lions, Hedonism launch photos,
JULY 14-27: Manchester Move Memories, Hedonism is Here, Holiday postcard
JULY 7-13: Chuck Jackson live, Step On, Beverley Beat, British Way of Life
JUNE30-JULY6: David Beckham, Geoffrey Armes, Happy Mondays, Step On at Royale
JUNE 23-29: Ceasars/The Realistics live, weddings and anniversaries, Cabaret laws.
JUNE 9-23: Hell W10, The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite, Nada Surf live, Field Day debacle
JUNE 2-8: Six Feet Under - Over, Field Day, Siren Fest, Crouching Tigher Hidden Cigarette
MAY 19-JUNE 1: Ian McCulloch live, New York's financial woes, Six Feet Under, Hedonism, Tommy Guerrero.
MAY 5-18: Live reviews of The Rapture, De La Soul, Carlsonics, Laptop, The Libertines, Echoboy, The Greenhornes; observations on Chris Coco/The Blue Room, The Apple Music Store, Alan Freed, Phil Spector, The Matrix Reloaded, Rare Earth, Tinnitus and Royale!
APRIL 28-MAY 4: Flaming Lips, Madonna, Bill Maher, The Dixie Chicks, the war
APRIL 21-27: Rotary Connection, War(n) Out, Cocaine Talk
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 Feet 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
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE:


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2003




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WHAT'S NEW IN iJAMMING!...

THE BEST OF 2003
Tony's Top Tens

FEATURED WINE REGION:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES
updated and re-designed

The DECEMBER HITLIST
Bruce, Bowie, Iggy, Joe and Jodie...

From the Jamming! Archives
TONY PARSONS on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, 1984

THE IJAMMING! HITLIST:
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FEATURED WINE:
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THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 2
TRIPPED OUT BRITS: Nine albums of vaguely psychedelic bliss

FEATURED ALBUM:
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FEATURED WINE:
Paul Durdilly Les Grandes Coasses Beaujolais Nouveau 2003

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 1
BRITISH DANCE MUSIC:
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THE OTHER NEW YORK MARATHON: 10 Live Reviews from the CMJ Music Marathon, October 2003

THE OCTOBER HITLIST:
Albums from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, New York and New Jersey.

NEW YORK W(H)INES:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

DANCING IN THE DARK:
Bruce Springsteen at Shea Stadium

THE AUGUST HITLIST
What I bought on my Holidays (CDs, 12"s, books and magazines from the UK)

HEDONISM
What, Where, How and Why...

MANCHESTER MOVE MEMORIES:
A report from a proper Field Day Festival (includes R.E.M., The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets, and Badly Drawn Boy)

THE JULY HITLIST:
10 NEW NEW YORK ALBUMS

THE JUNE HITLIST:
15 NEW ALBUMS
10 OLD ALBUMS
5 MOVIES

THE MAY HITLIST:
20 NEW ALBUMS,
1 ONLINE ESSENTIAL,
3 NEW MAGAZINES

FEATURED MIX CD:
2 CD's & MP3's

INSPIRAL CARPETS
live at the Brixton Academy

The iJamming! Interview:
2 MANY DJs
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From the Jamming! Archives:
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interviewed in 1981

WHY I OPPOSE THE WAR
as of March 11

THE MARCH HITLIST:
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20 ALBUMS, 5 EPs

THE FEBRUARY HITLIST:
25 ALBUMS

2002: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Ten Major Memories and a number of lists

INTERPOL in concert

JOE STRUMMER: A TRIBUTE

THE DECEMBER HITLIST:
5 ALBUMS, EPs, MIX CDS, COMPILATIONS and SONGS

the iJamming! Book Review
WHY TERRORISM WORKS
by Alan Dershowitz

CABERNET FRANC
The 'Other' Cabernet Grape Takes Root In New York
Part 1: The Basics/Regions
Part 2: New York Wines
Part 3: Loire Wines
Part 4: Conclusions

THE NOVEMBER HITLIST
30 Albums 10 Songs

HOW MUCH WILL IT HURT?:
Tips for the marathon virgin.

From the Jamming! Archives:
THE JAM
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The iJamming! Interview: UNDERWORLD
NOW WITH LIVE PHOTOS

Coming and Going
Chapter 3: THE PALACE

The iJamming! Interview
RICHARD BUTLER Part 2

From the Jamming! Archives:
ADAM ANT
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REMARKS REMADE:
Available Now!
The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography is here.

A Decade In Dance
BT & BANCO DE GAIA
10 Years (Apiece)

2 MANY TASTINGS:
The iJamming! Wine Round Up October 2002, including:
Sauvignon Blanc
Chardonnay
Pinot Noir
Rhône Rangers
Southern France
Zinfandel

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT
The whole 1990s catalogue

From the Jamming! Archives:
PAUL WELLER
interviewed in 1978

The iJamming! interview:
CARL COX

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iJamming! Wino/Muso:
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The iJAMMING! interview:
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The iJAMMING! chat:
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From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation

The iJAMMING! interview:
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The biggest night out that you'll ever have in." Jockey Slut
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