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WHAT'S NEW IN iJAMMING!...

THE SPRING HITLIST
Albums, singles, a movie, a book, food and more...

THE IJAMMING! INTERVIEW
Mick Jones on Joe Strummer

SO MUCH WINE, SO LITTLE TIME
18 Wines from four dinners

WILLIAMSBURG W***KERS
The FischerSpooner Album Release Party

FEATURED WINE:
PONT NEUF 2003
Vin De Pays du Gard, France

BRIGHTON ROCKS BROOKLYN
The Go! Team at Southpaw

THE MARCH HITLIST:
15 ALBUMS

NOTES FROM A POSH NIGHT OUT:
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Dinner

FEATURED WINE:
Bremerton 'Selkirk' Shiraz 2000 Langhorne Creek, Australia

THE IJAMMING! INTERVIEW:
TIM BOOTH

FEATURED WINE REGION:
BANDOL

THE FEBRUARY HITLIST:
Chemical Brothers, Lemon Jelly, Slits, Erasure, T.H. White, M83, Tim Booth and more

FEATURED WINE:
JEAN LALLEMENT CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV

THE JANUARY HITLIST:
They Almost Got Away: The Best Of The Rest of 2004:

The IJAMMING! Interview:
Matt Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces on Pete Townshend

MINUTES OF A 'MIRACLE':
The Birth of our baby Noel

2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
1) The Best Album & Singles
2) Most Disappointing Albums
3) Best Wines of 2004

THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR:
TED LEO in concert

THE DECEMBER HITLIST:
Album reviews of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Nick Cave, The Scumfrog, Freq Nasty, DFA, Grip Weeds, High Dials

THE IJAMMING! INTERVIEW:
Wayne Kramer on Pete Townshend

JOHN PEEL: A Tribute

The biggest night out that you'll ever have in." Jockey Slut
"Hedonism will have you gripped from start to finish, guaranteed." International DJ


Tony Fletcher's debut novel HEDONISM is out now. For more information and to read excerpts, click here.


HEDONISM is available mail order in the USA from Barnes&Noble.com. It's available mail order in the UK from amazon.co.uk or musicroom.com.

DEAR BOY The British edition of the Keith Moon biography is available in paperback at book stores, amazon.com and amazon co.uk. More info here.

REMARKS REMADE The first ever R.E.M. biography fully updated with ten new chapters covering Reveal and beyond. Available at UK bookstores, amazon.co.uk and musicroom. Available at select stores in the States and through BN.com.

MOON The American edition of the Keith Moon biography is available in paperback at book stores, amazon.com, bn.com and amazon co.uk. More info here

iJAMMING! is a music and lifestyle web site hosted by
author, journalist and dee jay Tony Fletcher.
Click on the buttons above to access the different areas of the site.
For the latest additions, see What's New
To find a specific item, use the search engine
Tony's current musings follow below.
Previous musings are archived here.

NEW RELEASES... NEW WEB PAGES...

Going Up In The World: Apocalypse 1982-83 available through amazon.co.uk, Cherry Red, amazon.com and at all good record stores.

APOCALYPSE WEB PAGES now online
Sample the songs, watch the video, listen to the sleevenotes, view the scrapbook.
Plus: 'Don't Stop 1983' MP3. Go!

The Clash: The Complete Guide To Their Music available online through amazon.co.uk, and at all good UK bookstores.

CLASH PAGES now online
Read excerpts from the book. Plus: Mick Jones interview. Go!

SATURDAY MAY 7

WEEKEND FUN

I've written about the Losers Lounge a couple of times here at iJamming! - specifically their David Bowie night shortly after 9/11, and their James Bond tribute at the Celebrate Brooklyn series last summer. Joe McGinty and his gang of downtown dropouts never seem to run out of ideas: next month, they're doing a face-off...

The goliaths of gloom go toe to toe... Losers Style!!!

...with music from The Smiths and The Cure. Sadly, they're doing it at Knitting Factory, probably the worst venue in NYC for this kind of thing. More info here.


...Losers Lounge used to perform at Fez, which closed in March. Of far more concern to long-term New Yorkers is the cloud that hangs over CBGB: the lease is up in September, and the landlords - ironically, a non-profit - want to double the club's monthly rent to around $40,000. Of all the protests and petitions to have sprung up since the story broke, this must be the strangest: I quote directly from the press release I received.

Save CBGB, Eat More Chocolate

Debuting on Monday, 16 May, 2005, Chocolate Bar, in collaboration with Hilly Kristal unveils two edible lines of CBGB products including the CBGB Punk Rock Box ($25.00); a 16 piece truffle collection embossed with the pioneering history and iconic imagery of CBGBs illustrious music scene. Served in a chocolate brown box, hot-stamped with the venues famed logo, it comes complete with a postage-paid petition to save CBGB, a record-shaped biography, steel logo keychain and a collection of CBGB stickers.

Anyone who understands why CBGB is under threat - because The Bowery has been completely gentrified, as best explained in this Village Voice special of a few weeks back, and the value of rental property has gone through the roof - might see the "16-piece truffle collection" as part of the problem, not the solution. If so, they can always buy the CBGB Retro Bar for $3, which also contains the petition. Or they can just show up at the club and buy a t-shirt. Or go to this page at the CBGB site and send off some letters. Or, perhaps, even pay to see a gig. After all, CBGB is famous for its music, NOT its chocolate.


If you just can't face the bands at CBGB - or the toilets - and yet you miss the change to jump around to loud music like you used to, you could alwys sign up for Punk Rope. The poster at left should be self-explanatory. Promoter/organiser/keep fit fanataic Tim Haft came along to the Happy Ending event the other night and gave me a free coupon. If I use it, I'll be sure to report on it.


FRIDAY MAY 6

AND YOU THOUGHT THE AMERICAN SYSTEM WAS BAD...

The British Election results are more or less all in, and the results are as follows:

PARTY

% of Popular Vote

% of Parliamentary Seats

Labour 36.2% 55%
Conservative 33.2% 31%
Lib-Dems 22.6 9%

In other words, almost 2/3 of the population vote against the Ruling Party, and the Ruling Party wins an absolute majority of power anyway. Hardly what you'd call a perfect democracy. Britain needs some form of Proportional Representation, and badly.

Of couse, I'm not quite as pissed off at the discrepancy as when Thatcher won only 42% of the vote in 1983 and, with an astonishing 61% of the Seats in Parliament, was nonetheless able to run roughshod over the majority that had voted against her. And from my own very distant perspective, the result seems like the best of some bad choices. Sure, the British population is angry with Tony Blair, and the considerable drop in support for Labour is seen as a vote of dissatisfaction in him, directly. (Which is why I ask the question: if you could have voted for Prime Minister separately from your local MP, would you have done so?) But Blair has already promised to step down during the coming five years and chances now are that it will be sooner rather than later. I don't know enough about Gordon Brown to know if he'll prove a better leader; at this particular point in time, it's hard to imagine he'd be a less popular one. In the meantime, the Conservatives are thankfully kept out of power. My sympathy really goes to the Lib-Dems and their followers; when you pick up almost a quarter of the popular vote but less than 10% of the actual power, you have a right to believe that the system is inherently faulty.

It was quite entertaining watching the BBC World News team, on Public TV, try and explain the vagaries of this system last night, knowing full well that many viewers across the world would be scratching their heads in confusion, much as the Brits had when Bush was elected President on a minority of the vote in 2000. But it was not as entertaining as watching the result being declared for Conservative Leader Michael Howards' constituency of Folkestone. (Most Brits would have missed this, as it was about 4.20am UK Time.) As each of the eight Candidates' votes were announced, somebody very close to the microphone interrupted with a hefty, enforced hurrah of approval that completely broke with protocol. Only when he stepped forward to acknowledge his own votes – all 175 of them – did I realize that the heckler (of sorts) was none other than Lord Toby Jug of the Monster Raving Loony Party. There's still something right with the system, after all.


THURSDAY MAY 5

For those who still have the energy after last night: our very own Paddy Casino will be at the White Rabbit tonight....

HAPPY ENDINGS

A big thanks to everyone who came out to last night's event at Happy Ending, which was so much more fun than your typical reading. Oren Bloedow of Elysian Fields opened and ended proceedings with short sets of beautifully delivered acoustic songs, including a tearjerker written from the perspective of his recently deceased mother to his sister, and a closing cover of an Ernest Tubb song. Then Daniel Robert Epstein from the Suicide Girls site interviewed Neil Swaab about his paedophile teddy bear cartoon series Mr. Wiggles. Swaab was hilarious, almost as funny in person as on paper, and I dreaded having to follow him. Fortunately the audience indulged Daniel's questions – and my responses - about Hedonism, The Clash, R.E.M., New York City street life and kinky sex.

I'm not sure how often the Suicide Girl events are going to take place at Happy Ending, but I'll alert you to the next one. In the meantime, Amanda Stern hosts the Happy Ending Music and Reading series every Wednesday at 8pm. Info can be found here.

There's another reason to come out join the fun each week – because when the music and words stop upstairs, a massive reggae party kicks in downstairs. Or at least it did last night. Queen Majesty and Deadly Dragon Sound were promoting a Jamaican Take Over that brought out a seriously 2 Tone downtown crowd. It, too, was free, and so was the Red Stripe.

It was, in fact, one of those New York nights. I started the evening with a long overdue catch up with my good friend Phil Foxman, who is about to return to his native Australia and tour his new album Up Antenna. We met at Vegetarian Dim Sum on Pell Street in the back of China Town, where $20 bought us more food than we could finish - and Phil enjoyed an orthodox Jew's rare privilege of eating "ham" and "pork" without guilt – given that it was all made of soy protein and gluten.

We then stopped in at the karaoke bar Winnie's right round the corner for the launch of Disbelief Street's new album Happy Endings, which entailed much incredibly bad karaoke to deliberately bad videos supervised by my friend and former neighbor Andrew Deutsch.

That's one way to launch an album: Disbelief Street's Andrew Deutsch celebrates Happy Endings with karaoke.

Proud new East Side Bar Co. owner and father Carlos Santamaria with DJ Joeski.

After the event at the former massage parlor actually called Happy Ending (one of only several serendipitous coincidences that marked the night) and enjoying the beats downstairs, a few of us iJamming! regulars made it to the newly opened East Side Co. Bar on Essex Street just above Grand. Disguised out front as a log cabi-cum-members club and decked out inside like a subway car masquerading as a diner but with tin ceilings, the East Side Co. is part owned by Carlos Santamaria, who used to hit Communion as a 16-year old and who has been promoting the city's longest running weekday underground house night – Mondaze at Sapphire – for almost a decade now. (He's also a new dad: congrats!) In yet another serendipitous moment, I had in my company an iJamming! regular, Lincoln Rose, who actually built Sapphire in the first place. Anyway, the East Side Co. Bar is something special, and should be quite the hit once they get the DJs properly booked and the name out there.


We'll do a proper iJamming! Pub night out – without the distractions of people reading, talking, playing music etc. – in a couple of weeks. Probably at 12" Bar further up Essex Street early enough in the evening that people can come from "work" and bring music to play before the DJs kick in. Follow the thread here.


WEDNESDAY MAY 4

BROOKLYN BEATS

Damn, that last post was too long. On a much shorter note, the Brooklyn Museum of Art's First Saturday party this May 7 promises to be a treat. Among other events, it includes a showing of the 1981 movie Downtown 81, in which Jean-Michel Basquiat plays a downtown artist suspiciously like himself; there's Fab 5 Freddy discussing how Basquiat's work interplayed with the music scene at the time; and two separate dance parties, one featuring Basquait's old friend B. Dub spinning a suitably retro set. Why the Basquiat obsession? In case you hadn't noticed, the BMA is hosting a massive Basquiat exhibition right now. Read my own rather muted review here.


BROOKLYN BUST?

Being away last week, I missed out on one of those major local "stories" that fills a community with the stench of envy, greed, gluttony and several of the other deadly sins – at least until a new "scandal" comes along with similar gossip power. The buzz? Turns out that the author couple Jonathan Safran Foer (new novel: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) and Nicole Krauss (new novel: The History of Love) just bought a house in my home neighborhood of Park Slope for, get ready now, … $6.75 million.

Now, if you know anything about Park Slope, you'll know it's a nice area: we've got the stunningly beautiful Prospect Park, the delightful brownstones in what has been successfully preserved as a Landmark District, we've got the long-standing fancy shops on Seventh Avenue, and in recent years, the far more preferably funky feel of my local 5th Avenue. On the edge of the Slope, there's the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the grand Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. From a perspective purely of physical architecture and social infrastructure, who would not want to live here?

Well, for many years, the answer was: almost everyone. In the 1960s, as white flight decimated New York in general, this neighborhood in particular found itself on the verge of collapse. Many of the 'beautiful' brownstones were being used as SRO hostels; most were in a state of desperate disrepair. That was until, around the start of the 1970s, a generation of teachers and hippies, artists and writers – often all within the one family – saw the potential value of both the houses and the neighborhood and, carrying with them no social prejudice, settled into Park Slope and began the area's long, slow process of genuine rejuvenation.

In a wonderful story in the current Park Slope Reader, Fonda Sara, the founder of the plant store Zuzu's Petals, talks with genuine fondness about the journey, which she undertook in 1971.

"Most people who lived in the neighborhood looked like they just came off the mountain, or off the college campus: everybody wore jeans and backpacks and was very laid back," she says. "There was this immediate sense of community and openness. There was also a sense of people living an alternative lifestyle; not getting married and buying a house in the suburbs and having kids, it was women who wanted to have businesses and careers, and people who wanted to live together without getting married."

Many of those people are still here. We've got a fair few of them on our block. (To be honest, most of them did have kids – but the point about not wanting to move to the suburbs was surely key.) And the contributions they made to this fine part of Brooklyn will hopefully last forever. Much of the upper slope is now a registered Landmark District, meaning the Brownstones can't be torn down or altered without going through due process. Park Slope in general is famously left-wing – comically so at times – and long may it stay that way. Specifically, the Park Slope Food Co-Op is the closet I've ever come to seeing socialism in action. (And occasionally in inaction too. But that's the price you pay for cheap food and social values.) We have a strong gay community and an even stronger lesbian one. We have all ethnicities and creeds, and an incredible spirit of tolerance. We have more yoga centers than any community should rightfully need, but these days, we also have more bars and restaurants than necessary, too. This is a great place to cultivate both good health and bad hangovers. Hell, we even have Southpaw for anybody want to see The Stereophonics in a small club later this month.


Oh, and we have writers. Everywhere. And editors, everywhere else. You can't walk into a wi-fi coffee shop without tripping over earnest young novelists and journalists powering away on their laptops. Drop a bomb on the neighborhood and chances are there'd be only half as many books published in America for the next few years. I'm not joking. I've got novelists to the back of me, novelists to the front. And I know several writers almost well enough to call friends who are genuinely successful: they're the type who've moved in over the last few years even as property prices hit ludicrous levels, piggy-backing straight over our own lower Slope delights and settling into the condos and brownstones near the park with what I can only assume were the proceeds from generous publishing advances. The writers I'm thinking of specifically as I type are, I believe, good people: I want to assume that they will propagate the Slope's long-standing liberal spirit with their offspring even if their own professional lives are so demanding they can't find time to join the Co-Op or attend a Community Board meeting.

But none of them have the staggering wealth of Safran Foer and Krauss. When writers pay $6.75 million for a house in this neighborhood… well, you have to wonder, has the world gone mad?

New novels, new property deals:

Safran Foer and Kraus cope with over-exposure


Maybe not. The couple are getting three lots for their money: not only have they snapped up one of the most des res's in the whole Slope, on 3rd Street near the Park, they've got a private yard that runs the length of a city block alongside the house, taking up two full empty lots with it. Those could always be sold off if the movie deals dry up. It's possible then that, "irrational exuberance" not withstanding , they've made what will turn out to be a good investment. After all, having moved into the neighborhood all of 18 months ago, snapping up a brownstone for what then must have seemed a daunting $1.86 mill, they've managed to flip it for a cool $3.25 million. The couple clearly know a thing or two about playing the market.

On that subject, had it been investment bankers making the most expensive private purchase in Park Slope history, there would have been none of the same gossip potential. That's what you expect of the financial community and the captains of industry, is it not: to be thoroughly ostentatious with their wealth? (Oh, and rappers too, if we're going to be honest about it.)

No, what's really got the hood's hackles raised is that while Safran Foer and Krauss may have made enough moolah to raise the down payment, they're not seen as having paid their dues. Did I forget to mention that the couple - who have but four novels published between them, though crucially, a couple of movie deals too - are aged, respectively just 28 and 30?

That's why, by the time I came back to Brooklyn last weekend, the New York print media was running stories full of quotes from the couple's new neighbors who couldn't hide a sense that - good luck, great fortune and considerable talent aside - something is not quite right with this picture.


The best observations came from a less famous neighborhood writer, Louise Crawford, who runs a high quality community site called Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn – and who had been inside the couple's new 3rd Street abode during one of those House Tours a few years back that she rightly describes as "real estate porn." After writing about the house's interior on her blog, she was quickly tapped by the New York Sun for some envy-filled quotes; before she finally got to see her own name in print, she wrote an astute essay on her site. I'm editing it down to what I think are two key points, number one being...

"Writers can be an envious lot. But that wasn't really my beef with the whole thing. Personally I'm not that high and mighty about the art and commerce thing. I don't believe that true artists have to be starving in garrets.

But a part of me feels bad (but not that bad) that these two serious artists are going to be known as the couple who spent $6.75 million on a house in Park Slope. The timing seems really odd: they both have new novels out AND they decide to buy this mega house. Plus Nicole's publicity photo is way too sexy, her blouse way too low.

I'd fire their publicist. It's too much at once. If it were me, I'd want people to focus on my literary accomplishments and not how much money my in-laws have or how much Jonathan has stocked away from his bestsellerdom or how gorgeous Nicole is."

And I agree. As I say, the neighborhood is already filled with successful writers, many of whom have actually established something called a back catalogue. No one begrudges them their royalties. But likewise, none of them have ever been dumb enough to act this ostentatious at such a crucial moment in their young careers. The only writer who lived here who ever really pissed me off was Dave Eggers. But while Eggers' publishing company McSweeney's is the last word in smug self-consciousness, at least he put his royalties where his mouth is with the Superheroes Supply Store that fronts as a homework drop-in Center and literary program for kids. Likewise, you don't hear people dis Jonathan Lethem because a) Lethem is extraordinarily talented with a number of fine, well-written, but not cleverly clever books behind him, b) he's written two novels about growing up in 1970s Brooklyn that are filled with love and affection for the then run-down neighborhood, and c) for all his success, he's a perfectly modest, humble person.

Safran Foer, on the other hand, has this ability to wind people up no end. Just last month he had the Daily News in stitches after sending out an e-mail to friends begging them to buy his book and KEEP IT on the NY Times' Best-Seller list. (Couldn't he have just bought the necessary copies himself?) The New York Post ran a So Over Foer column. The NY Press had him on its 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers List – in 2003!


And those are just the sound bites. The NY Press also ran a highly critical 2,000 word cover story about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which covers 9/11 from the perspective of a nine-year old. (It ends with a 30-page flip-book.) Columnist Harry Siegel wrote:

"Foer isn't just a bad author, he's a vile one."

That same week, I read an equally critical profile of Foer in what I could have sworn was The Onion or the Voice, but as I can't currently find it in print or online, you'll have to take my word for it. (Though in the interest of fair play, here's a piece entitled In Defense of Jonathan Safran Foer from internet lit site The Simon.)

Anyway, back to Only The Blogger Knows Brooklyn and Crawford's second key point, which is not about professional envy or overexposure, but about the Slope itself, .

"For me, what's irritating about the price tag on that house is that it epitomizes the state of real estate in Brooklyn right now. I'm probably not the only one who feels completely marginalized by what's going on out here; the sense that this is becoming a rich person's neighborhood. I will never be able to buy a house and that was always my dream. Being priced out of your own community feels very lonely and very sad.

It seems to me that Brooklyn has moved beyond gentrification into the realm of big-money development (and possibly corruption). Just look at the condos on Fourth Avenue and everywhere else, the coming Whole Foods, Ikea, the Atlantic Terminal Mall, the proposed stadium and on and on. It's all about money and politics now. Maybe it always was."

Maybe so. But maybe there's hope. Zuzu's Petals, the plant store on 7th Avenue of which I made reference earlier, was put out of business by a fire last year. Fonda has re-opened Zuzu's on 5th Avenue – with much help from her friends. Here she is, quoted again in the PS Reader.

"People were handing me money, offering me money, but it was uncomfortable for me to just take it," she says in the current Park Slope Reader. "So we created an event called a barn raising, and we sold seed money, and we invited 135 people who came on October 5, and we had a party. Cocotte provided all the food, and we had a cash bar, and it was like the last scene in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which is what the store is named after, Zuzu’s Petals. And we collected - [Fonda paused for long time to compose herself before continuing with her story] - we got all the money for the renovation. So it was like a mandate, people giving us money and saying “You have to do this, because you have to make the store again.”

There are then, still many good reasons to live here. Let's just hope that our newest neighborhood residents have them in the right priority.


TUESDAY MAY 3

PICK IT UP?

Has anyone had a chance to read Simon Reynold's 600-page new book, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-84? (It's only out in the UK so far.) When Simon – who also lives in New York, not that we run into each other much – first told me about the book a few years ago, I was surprised he'd been able to secure a deal; it seemed like a marginal project at best. Maybe he's just good at reading the cultural tea-leaves, because at this juncture in time, what with the whole Franz Ferdinand/ Rapture/Bloc Party/Hot Hot Heat/Killers/Bravery retro being at absolute bubble-bursting point, I doubt a publisher could conjure up a more timely music book. Appropriately then, it's riding high in the amazon uk charts. Anyway, Simon interviewed me for Rip It Up – being as I was actually around the scene and wrote about many of the bands for Jamming! - so obviously I'm interested to read it eventually. Drop a line at the Pub if you've seen it.


A DATE AT THE GATE

If real physical Pubs are more your fancy, you might be interested in Dan Freeman's blog. And when I tell you it's called thousandbars, you might get the gist of it already: Dan is on a mission to drink in a thousand bars in one year. When I tell you that he's already up to number 461, you might think - as I did – that he must have started six months ago. But no: he only started his venture on January 1. A quick perusal of his online diary reveals that while he's got some strict rules - he's drinking alcohol at every one of the bars, and by the look of it, mixing it up quite spectacularly – he's making it easier on himself by confining the project to bar-saturated New York City. (Now I look at the blog again, I see he's managed to make a trip to Mexico too!) Dan has already catalogued most of Smith Street over in Cobble Hill and many of the places I know in Manhattan, and now a friend of mine has convinced him to make The Gate, here in Park Slope, the halfway point. The date is set: Saturday May 14th, 2pm. The Gate, 5th Avenue and 3rd Street. Bar number 500.

When The Gate opened in 1997, it was a revelation. There were, simply, no bars of any merit anywhere on 5th Avenue, let alone one that poured Old Speckled Hen, Belhaven or London Pride, had a dart board, a cracking juke box and, to complete the very Briotish experience a Man Utd fan with a Southern accent for bartender. The Gate's success has inspired many imitators, to the extent that 5th Avenue now offers one of the most grueling pub crawls in all of New York. I've only tried it once myself – when my old Apocalypse band mate Tony Page was visiting last year. We gave up after about six bars. God knows how Dan Freeman is doing over 100 a month. God knows how he's financing the venture. (Book deal, anyone? Movie? Judging from the opening posts at his blog, he's aware of similarities to Supersize Me, having taken advice from his doctor and joined a health club before setting off.) And in case you're wondering, yes he is married and yes his wife does think he's crazy. Far as I can tell, they're still together…


A DATE WITH YOUR GOOD SELVES....

And this is an appropriate point to remind any iJamming! New York readers that we're making my appearance at the Happy Ending reading series tomorrow night the firts in what will hopefully be a regular series of iJamming! Pub members nights out. Hope to see some of you there. Info here.


MONDAY MAY 2

The iJAMMING! HITLIST
SPRING (CLEANING) 2005

A hectic bout of spring cleaning has unearthed innumerable prized personal artifacts from under, within and between various boxes that have otherwise been doing little but turning moldy these last few years in the Brooklyn basement. Fortunately, with the exception of some foreign editions of my R.E.M. book, just about everything has been well enough stored to have avoided accumulative dampness damage, and as well as those old gig lists that I talked about a few weeks back, I've been having fun going through diaries, photos, posters from yesteryear.

Best (if most daunting) of all, I've been back through my many boxes of cassettes. God knows how many of these quaint old audio files I must own, but I'd probably place it in the several thousand. And every time I think that the format is so cumbersome, so archaic, and of such poor sound quality that I may as well put them on the street and be done with it, I start playing some of them and realizing just how much more great music I own that I had ever thought. In the early days of iJamming!, the occasional rummage through cassette boxes inspired a Lost/Forgotten Classics series, but there's no time for such lengthy ruminations any more. Here's a brief run down on some of what hit the tape deck last week – and the memories they provoked.

LIVE AT THE NASHVILLE - THE SPECIALS (June 1979)

An audience recording and one we might presume is a bootleg but for the fact that 'Too Much Too Young' sounds suspiciously like the one that ended up on the top of the British charts a year later, this live tape was a trader's fave during The 2Tone heyday. And well it should have been, for if there's a better example of a band still playing the small clubs, on the brink of stardom, at the peak of its powers, and with a fanatical following already singing along to most of its words, well, I haven't heard it. In fact, you could scrap just about all the Specials' studio work, and present this instead as ample proof of their early brilliance. The set, so lively you can visualize the skanking, is perfectly dated by youth cult references. A breathlessly energized Neville Stapleton refers to the audience as "rude boys," though they prefer the soon-to-be-prevalent chant "skinheads." An equally motivated Terry Hall disses The Sun for its treatment of the mod revival as introduction to 'It's Up To You.' And the gig ends with an encore dedication to "the next band to sign to 2Tone Records," and a ferociously enjoyable version of that group's impending hit cover: Prince Buster's 'Madness.'

LOVE TRACTOR/AROUND THE BEND – LOVE TRACTOR (IRS), 1982/83

Hard to believe listening back to this "double-play" cassette, but the almost all-instrumental Love Tractor were once the biggest band in Athens, so much so that early drummer Bill Berry seriously considered committing to them over his friends in R.E.M.. Twenty-plus years later, history confirms that Berry, who has a solo songwriting credit for 'Motorcade' on the 19782 debut album, ultimately made the right decision: Love Tractor's party music is endearing enough, but only in short doses.

SOME SOUL KITCHEN - COOK DA BOOKS (Kiteland) 1984

History has Cook Da Books down as Liverpudlian also-rans, but listening to this album-length cassette – which I'm not sure ever saw vinyl release – that would appear to be our loss. Subtly synth-based, quietly grooving and perpetually, um, soulful guitar rock that was not, at the time, soft enough to be considered popperly commercial nor hard enough to be considered credibly rock, Some Soul Kitchen has endured surprisingly well. You might, if you were a Peel fan of the era, recall 'Wouldn't Want To Knock It' or the reggae-fired 'Piggie In The Middle Eight.' For my part, I recall an absolutely mental night in Zurich featuring a bunch of Liverpool bands (including The Icicle Works) during which Da Books sized up some potential trouble makers in the crowd and asked me if I was ready to join them for a rumble. The second song 'Gotta Learn How To Fight' takes on greater resonance with that memory in mind. It's sterling stuff any which way you listen back on it – and don't blame the band for the fact they weren't sufficiently fashionable.

SOUND OF CONFUSION/THE PERFECT PRESCRIPTION – SPACEMEN 3 (Fire), 1986/87

Last year, I helped edit/proof a biography on Spacemen 3. Wanting to listen as I read, I instead encountered major gaps among my CD collection – which seemed odd given that I felt like I was familiar with Spacemen 3's music itself. And here's my explanation: I had the albums on cassette all these years. As yet, I've only made my way through these two releases, of which I found the seven-song Sound Of Confusion far superior to the 'proper' debut album The Perfect Prescription. I'm not sure if that's despite, or because of the fact, that it features three cover versions, but I know that finale 'O.D. Catastrophe' sets out the group's stall in fiery form – and warns all too clearly that underling Jason Pierce will come to steal Sonic Boom's thunder in years to come.

LIVE AT THE COUNTY HALL - THE SMITHS May 1984

I surely wasn't the only person thronging London's South Bank that glorious day - 21 years ago this month - who brought his tape deck with him, but mine's still the only recording I've heard. A major musical show of support for Ken Livingston's embattled GLC (which Thatcher duly shut down anyway), the day included sets by, predictably perhaps, Billy Bragg and The Redskins. (It was not all peace and left-wing love: Jamming! contributor Richard Edwards got his nose broken taking on some fascist skins during the latter group's set. If anyone knows Richard's whereabouts, I'd love to find him.) As for The Smiths, they were at the top of their game at this time, and it's hard to believe that anything could have upstaged their hour-long performance. However, that's exactly what happens about fifteen minutes in to this tape, when the crowd – which numbered in the tens of thousands – switched attention from the stage to the brazen (drunken?) fool scaling the County Hall walls to get a greater view. As he swings precariously from gargoyle to window ledge, the entire audience buzzes and finally erupts in applause when he settles down on top of some inanimate object a couple of hundred feet above the ground. Suitably inspired, others follow suit and though The Smiths pass no comment at these various Spiderman impersonations, they too sound energized. The show never looks back. The songs? You name them, they played them. Tape quality? Not bad, not bad at all.... Apart from the so-called friend who walks up during one song and announces, loudly, "How's the tape going Fletch?"

HOODOO GURUS – BLOW YOUR COOL (Elektra), 1987

The straight-ahead Aussies never sounded more American, and I meant that in a good way: Blow Your Cool blows most of the era's American Invasion groups (Long Ryders, Green On Red, Three O'Clock etc.) "out the door," as the opening track puts it. The three songs that follow - 'What's My Scene,' 'Good Times' and 'I Was The One' – may not win marks for originality but they're as hard rocking as power pop ever gets without losing its appeal.

BIG FUN – INNER CITY (Virgin), 1989

It's funny to think that songs like the title track and 'Good Life' were considered techno anthems at time of their release - because 15 years down the line, they sound more like lite house. And, though the impact of Kevin Saunderson's Detroit-based group was monumental "back in the day," you may not be surprised to hear that it hasn't aged so well. On E, however, back in the clubs, it's probably a different story.

CLOUD CUCKOOLAND – THE LIGHTNING SEEDS (MCA), 1990

In the same box as this, there's a separate, pre-release cassette out of the UK with similar tracks in an entirely different running order that's simply entitled The Lightning Seeds. So let's presume that Cloud Cuckooland is the American revision, forget about what it must be like to see your running order re-arranged, and enjoy Ian Broudie for what he's also been best at: timeless, buoyant, classic, elegiac pop. Songs like 'Pure' and 'All I Want' may not be desperately deep, but for someone like myself, who's spent half his life in search of the perfect three-minute single, they're eternal nirvana.

LES 5 PLUS GROSSES BÈTISSES DES GARÇONS BOUCHERS (ISLAND), 1991?

Posie and I saw this band at CBGB many moons ago – and though she doesn't remember anything about it, I recall it being big fun. Precursors by many years to the whole American white boy rap rock band, Garcons Bouchers sound like Gypsy Kings jamming with The Pogues and Fishbone. Listening back to this undated tape, I ignored the painfully titled 'Le Rap,' and instead almost sang along to the far better named 'Du Beaujolais Pour Oublier La Nuit Ou Est Partie Marie.' Expect this song to crop up as an obvious music-for-wine recommendation the moment about now.

2005 MUSINGS:

April 25-May 1: Erasure live, LeNell's Wine store, Happy Endings, Peter Hook
April 18-24: Rockin' & Shockin', M83/Ulrich Schnauss live, NJ Marathon, Ribolla Gialla wine
April 11-17: The Spring Hitlist, Springtime In Brooklyn, Restaurant Reviews, Supermom!
April 4-10: Twenty wine reviews, FischerSpooner, KEXP, Loveless, Rockin' & Shockin'
Mar 28-April 3: Loathsome! Daft! Human! Overload! Rockin' & Shockin'
Mar 21-27: The Go! Team live, Ian Brown dead, Pont Neuf wine, Hall Of Fame rules, Cocotte restaurant, Marilyn Monroe/Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibitions
Mar 14-20: The March Hitlist, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Dinner report,
Mar 7-13
: Bouillabaisse 126 restaurant review; Going Up In The World; Dandy Mama; Tim Booth
Feb 21-Mar 6: Live reviews: Ian Brown, Schizo Fun Addict, Soft Explosions, The Stands. Wine review: Langhorne Creek Selkirk Shiraz.
Feb 14-20: Ten Words Of Wisdom, Weblinks, Stone Roses demos, Lyceum revisited, Bandol wine review
Feb 7-13: Fanzines, Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll, Chord & Tabs, The Plug Awards, Tear Down The Discos, Jean Lallement Champagne review
Jan 31-Feb 6: Erasure/Tim Booth/M83/T.H. White album reviews. WebFriends Day. The Jam vs. The Smiths vs. The USA, Iraq elections
Jan 24-30: Chemical Brothers/Lemon Jelly/Slits album reviews. Ted Leo/Benzos live reviews. Gang of Four/Specials/Happy Mondays/Farm/Bureau reunions. Tempranillo wine reviews.
Jan 17-23: The January Hitlist: Those That Almost Got Away, Revolutions, Remixes, Remisses, Justin Timberlake, Fiery Furnaces, Jimmy Edgar live
Jan 10-16: Tsunami observations/relief efforts/fund-raisers, Best Wines of 2004, British vs. American charts, Alba Chambourcin wine review
Jan 3-9: The Best Of 2004 - Albums and Singles; Biggest Disappointments of 2004; Minutes of A Miracle: Our Son Noel; New York Club Nights

2004 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
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iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2005