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A couple of weeks ago, reading through the Uncut NME Originals special on The Clash, I noted Allan Jones' hilarious dismissal of The Sex Pistols back in April 1976. Yet curiously absent from the Uncut special - which presents itself as the definitive collection of "interviews, reviews and rare photos" - is Charles Shaar Murray's review, in the NME, of the first Clash gig in London, opening for the Sex Pistols at the Screen on the Green in Islington, August 1976. It's the one where CSM wrote:

"They are the type of garage band who should be speedily returned to the garage, preferably with the motor running."

Uncut? Perhaps. Unabridged? Certainly not.

Staying with The Clash, I've ripped the entire band's music files onto the laptop to have them at hand whenever and wherever I need them. But listening to Give 'Em Enough Rope on headphones, I realized I was surely doing the band a dis-service by reducing their music to either MP3 or, in this case, Apple's recently introduced AAC format. So, I conducted an experiment. I ripped the song 'London Calling' onto the laptop in all four formats, as follows:

AIFF – Digital copy of the original. Bit rate: 1411kbps. File size: 33.7 MB
Apple Lossless Audio File – New format that Apple claims offers "the same quality as AIFF or WAV, but about half the size." Not quite. Bit rate: 1029 kbps. File size: 24.6 MB. (I make that three-quarter the size of the AIFF, significant when you're dealing with such big files.)
MP3 - You know the score. Bit rate: 160kbps. File size: 3.9MB.
– According to Apple, "a 128 kbps AAC file should sound as good as or better than a 160 kbps MP3 file." And so: Bit rate: 128 kbps. File size: 3.2MB.

And you know what? I've been listening to these different versions in fixed order, in random rotation, through the computer speakers and on the headphones, and I'm damned (clashed?) if I can tell the difference. Really. The moment I think I'm getting more top end out of the original file, I A-B it with the MP3 and it sounds so similar I figure I must be hearing things. (You know what I mean…)

I'm aware from experience (making the Factory tribute CD last week, for example) that if I download music as an MP3 off the Net, convert it to AIFF and burn it onto a CD, it will sound terrible compared to music ripped straight from my own CD as an AIFF file and re-burned. But listening to these four different files on the headphones is really posing a problem...

Now, obviously, the laptop is not my highest quality system. I have a good Onkyo set-up at home, which feeds into flat Tannoy monitor speakers on the desk and large, bass heavy Infinity speakers in the living room. It's always a joy to hear great music played loud through a serious hi-end sound system.

But that's not the way most of us hear most of our music, nor has it ever been. The Americans among my readers, along with younger Brits, may have grown up listening to FM radio, but Brits of my age, thanks to a conspiracy between our government and the BBC, were limited to hearing our pop music on one radio station – BBC's Radio 1 – and on AM only. (John Peel's program was on FM, but that was because it was late at night and doubled up with Radio 2; the BBC assumed all the housewives had gone to bed by then and they could close down 'The Nation's Favorite' for the night.) One of my most fascinating introductions to the music business was when we launched Jamming! Records, spent a considerable amount of (Polydor's) money recording the band Rudi at a 24-track studio, only for the radio plugger to come along with a magic box that promptly rendered the expensive recording through godawful compressed Medium Wave. That was all he was concerned about: how it would sound on the radio.

Essentially, that's what most of us should be concerned about. Does a new song rise above the clamor of outer noise and inner turmoil and grab you when you hear it on the radio from across the office or factory? Does it sound good on the iPod, the Walkman, the Discman, when you're on the tube/subway? Has a favored old classic survived the test of time on that cassette tape you made a couple of generations ago? Does your scratched, worn, 7" single still bring back all the emotions and memories of the remixed, remastered, repackaged, digitally transferred CD? It ought to. To bring my old radio plugger's MO up to date, Music that doesn't sound any good as an MP3 won't sound good on any system.

At the other extreme… I spent last Saturday evening at an A&R friend's 'country pile' where, disproving the theory that major label employees lose their love of music along the way, he has reinvested what must be the GNP of a medium-sized African dictatorship into a state-of-the-art sound system that would be funny if it wasn't so finicky. Funny? He blew a fuse in not one, but both speakers (at different times) while attempting to play me 'Comfortably Numb' – the Pink Floyd version, not Scissor Sisters' – on heavyweight vinyl. Each blown fuse necessitated lifting a 90lb tube amp off the floor and removing a dozen screws from the casing.

However, the listening experience, once I finally got to enjoy it, was indeed cosmic, not so much like being in the studio with the group as having the group perform in person in your living room. (Remember those Peter Murphy Maxell ads. It was like that.) After asking him to play me the first two songs from Quadrophenia, I came to understand why hi-fi fans in the 1970s would spend entire evenings just "listening" to music. I could have happily closed my eyes and not opened them again until the album had finished.

But apart from the fact I would still have needed someone turned over the record (thrice, being a double album) that's not particularly social, especially when you've been invited for dinner, and so such obsessive listening bvehavior to be reserved for special occasions. Such as: My A&R friend has all The Clash records on original pressings and an open invitation to come listen to them on his system. I'll take him up on it for sure. I will probably hear things in the recordings I've never heard before. But question is, and maybe you can help me answer it, if I can't hear then come back and those same minor details on my MP3, laptop, miniature system in the kitchen, or flat monitor speakers on the desktop, how important is it to ever know they're there?




Newly posted: a June Hitlist, featuring a dozen new full-length album reviews, including The Streets, Secret Machines, Mocean Worker, Alanis Morissette, the Beta Band, Denise James, Start Trouble, Armand Van Helden, tweaker and a few I should have got to earlier. There's 15 more albums briefly mentioned as In Rotation, a trio of new New York singles and some books. Yes, I do get through a lot of pop culture.

Wine, too. Two new reviews up, of three new wines. From Oregon, a Gewürztraminer from Foris Vineyards and the Witness Tree Pinot Blanc. (I paired them with Denise James, who as a French-born singer living in the States should appeciate these American takes on French grapes.) From the very heart of Tuscany, there's a Chianti Classico 2001 from Aziano. I figured this would be a good one for The Streets' Mike Skinner next time he takes a date out to the local high street Italian restuarant. Chianti's come on a long way since it was routinely poured out of staw fiaschi.

And that's it from me for the next couple of days. Please do read. You can find the June Hitlist here. Feel free to make your own comments in the Pub. Keep my seat warm, will you?



Step On founder and Pub regular Sheffield Jamie recently sent me another bumper package of press cuttings from the old country. I was intrigued by this comment in the midst of a Guardian Part 2 cover story about the London Marathon, headlined, logically enough, WHY?

"One theory is that people who run marathons are primarily men suffering mid-life crises. Running 26.2 miles in a fast-ish time, say 3.45, is a way of reasserting your youth, reclaiming your dignity and reducing your waist size. The queues of people registering for Sunday's race belie such a simplistic view - all human life is here. But, concedes Steve Seaton, editor of Runner's World, "we see a lot of what we call second-sport males. People who played team sports in their late 20s, but then found their life got busier and their weight went up. They are attracted to running because it is flexible and fits in with their schedule. They are attracted to the marathon because they tend to be very goal-orientated. They are not necessarily having a midlife crisis, but they may well be having a midlife sporting crisis."

Seaton's comments apply almost perfectly to yours truly. I gave up Sunday football here in New York about ten years ago when I could no longer afford to give up a day of my weekend. My weight went up after we had a baby and stayed in more at nights. I like running because I can do it in my own schedule. I'm goal oriented. The Marathon is a serious goal for anyone to aspire towards.

But running the Marathon also served to get me back into team sports. In theory, playing in an over-30s 5-a-side league at Chelsea Piers takes but an hour of playing time and an hour of travel time every Monday night; it's not meant to be an enormous strain on the schedule or the body. In reality, half the players in the League are UNDER 30, which means if you don't stay super-fit you're going to find yourself sick at the end of the game. And those games can kick off as late as 11pm, hardly conducive to a good night's sleep so early in the week. Goal-oriented? Yes. Goalscorer? Fraid not. Crazy Legs United ended our season crashing out 9-1 last night in a game that decided the final Play-Off spot for possible promotion to the top division. (We ended the season with six wins and four defeats; a few weeks ago it was five wins and one defeat.) Crystal Palace we are not. There is, as they say, always next season. At this point, I'm not sure how many next seasons I can face.

Still, sooner be run round the 5-a-side field for an hour than take part in the Nike RunHitWonder Race, which comes to New York (and Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland) in July. Get this:

"Celebrate summer in New York with this evening run in Central Park and outdoor concert . . . all in one. Join us for a pre-race concert with Kajagoogoo in Morningside Park. Groove to the sounds of one hit wonder bands A Flock of Seagulls, Tommy Tutone, and General Public playing live along the course. To top it all off, an exclusive post-race concert with Devo and Tone Loc in Morningside Park."

This event is, doubtless, a response to the success of the Rock'n'roll Marathons across parts of America (Las Vegas included), where bands perform at every mile for motivation. (They do the same in New York but it's less disciplined; musicians merely show up to offer encouragement, rather than being corralled and sponsored by the promoters.) In true New York style, and especially given that we already have one of the world's elite Marathons, looks like our city just wants to take a short run and have bands with a small enough catalogue that we don't feel compelled to hang around and listen too long.

You can't help but wonder though… What compels an artist to take part in an event that actually confirms their dubious status as OneHitWonders? Obviously, money is a factor, and for someone like Tone Loc or Tommy Tuttone, the OneHitWonder status might not be in question anyway. A Flock Of Seagulls and Kajagoogoo, each of which got back together after the recent VH1 series BandsReunited, are probably willing to take part in whatever revival tours will pay their mortgages. (And yet, much though I despise them both, surely they each had more than one hit.)

But how did Devo get their name associated with this travesty? Devo were a major act in the late 1970s and early 1980s, highly influential both then and now, and with enough decent songs to their credit that I've got albums called both Greatest Hits AND Greatest Misses. It may be that their free concert in the park was lined up before the Nike event and that the shoe making giant is merely taking advantage of that fact. Which only leaves the mystery of General Public. The question has to be – and I'd love to find the answer – how much are Nike paying them that Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger should prove willing to set up and play on a city street, to an audience that's not even meant to stop and to listen, and to be confirmed as One Hit Wonders? They say every man has a price; I just (1 Hit) wonder if General Public haven't named theirs a little low.

BTW, Sheffield Jamie is coping with withdrawal from Brooklyn by helping people in his home city build a miniature replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently the eighth wonder of the world was built with Sheffield Steel. More info on this project as we have it!



Last Friday night's Step On has to have been the best night we've had since launching the monthly Madchester-Hacienda-catch-all revival party in our Park Slope neighborhood almost a year ago. Of course, hosting a birthday bash as part of the occasion is a time-proven way of ensuring good vibes, and I managed to arrange for some of my wife Posie's close friends to be at The Royale early and surprise her upon her arrival. Posie turned 40 last Sunday, but being that it was in the midst of a holiday weekend, she hadn't celebrated with anyone local. Through the use of mobile phone signals, I got the friends to light the cake just seconds before she walked in. Her face was a treat. (Campbell helped me decorate the bar after school and, to my delighted disbelief, avoiding giving the game away over subsequent hours. He must be growing up.)

But everybody seemed to show up to party on Friday, especially our guest DJ Dan Selzer, who played just as and what I'd hoped, opening his set with some real Factory funk (ESG, 52nd Street, Quando Quango, Section 25) interspersed with the likes of the Human League, Yazoo, New Order and Depeche Mode, and later tag-teaming with yours truly as we ran through some acid house classics. I can't remember everything we played between us, but I know it included Royal House, A Guy Called Gerald, 808 State, Maurice, S'Express and Bomb The Bass. Posie showed absolutely no signs of birthday fatigue, let alone supposed middle age, by closing things out and spinning all the way through till 4am with a set that included Basement Jaxx, Dirty Beatniks, Tim Deluxe and some remixes/re-workings of 70s American AOR tracks that mean nothing to me but seemed to strike a welcome chord of familiarity with those 'of a certain age' on the dancefloor. I also made sure we got through all the Madchester mainstays – you know who they are - though given the increasingly upbeat, nearly delirious mood of the night I was unable to accommodate the requests of the two young female Morrissey/Smiths fans. (What is it with Mozzer and young girls? He's almost old enough to be their granddad!)

Good enough to eat (and it was)

Birthday girl in the middle, Dan Selzer at the back...

Can you feel it....?

...Yes we can!

There's NEVER enough time to play everything we want to, especially with three DJs and only about four hours of core action; I barely got the new !!! single into rotation and missed the moment to drop another local band - Ghost Exit's cover of The Pop Group's 'She Is Beyond Good And Evil.' But I think it's fair to say people had an absolute blast. Nubile Morrissey fans aside, we get something of an older crowd at The Royale than the parties I play in Manhattan and, as an 'older' person myself, I like that they feel wanted and welcome. Among the regulars are several of our parent friends from the neighborhood who either hire sitters or take turns coming out to let what's left of their hair down. Which means, it's true: 40 is the new 30.

Next month Nick Marc from Tiswas joins us. I'm thinking it might be an opportunity to redress the balance slightly from the serious dance beats of this last week and offer up an opening Madchester hour that focuses on the B-List artists. You'd be surprised how many of them we get requests for. Paris Angels, New FADS, World Of Twist, Dylans, Northside, Flowered Up, Mock Turtles Who have I forgotten?

Happy Hour last Friday was, as discussed here and over at The Pub in advance, the Factory tribute hour. I ended up burning the CD so I could enjoy the champagne and birthday cake. Tracklisting as follows:

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Worm Is Green
Blue Monday – Flunk
Ceremony – Galaxie 500
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Moonspell
She's Lost Control – Girls Against Boys
New Dawn fades – Moby
Love Will Tear Us Apart – The Cure (supposedly, though I'm not convinced...)
Bizarre Love Triangle – Frente!
Atmosphere – Technova
Love Will tear Us Apart – Squarepusher
She's Lost Control – Grace Jones
Shack Up – Banbara
Blue Monday – The Orgy
He's Gonna Step On You Again – John Kongos

As a parting note, I had a late night conversation with an English guy asking about that last song – "the weird cover version of the Happy Mondays" as he put it. He refused to believe he had just heard the original. "But that's like the Happy Mondays theme song…" he complained, clearly upset to learn that the lyrics had not in fact been composed by Shaun W. Ryder. 'Step On' was a number 4 british hit for the South African born Kongos back in the spring of 1971. Six months later he had another number 4 British hit with 'Tolokoshe Man.' The Mondays covered that one as well...

MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,

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

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