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STEP ON: THE LAST THREE MONTHS

Step On is stepping down. Read why here. There are three chances left to enjoy our Brooklyn-based Madchester Revival night:

FRIDAY OCTOBER 1: TONY FLETCHER and MS. POSIE.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 5: GUEST DJ NICK CAIN.
FRIDAY DECEMBER 3: THE FINAL. A full on night of musical madness and magic, with short sets from as many of our guest DJs as we can fit.

STEP ON takes place at The Royale, 506 5th Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn. 9pm-3am, Free admission. Call 718 840 0089 for more info.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 1

THIS SPORTING LIFE. PART 2:

TONY'S BRIEF SUMMER TOUR OF ENGLISH FOOTBALL STADIUMS...

1) SELHURST PARK, CRYSTAL PALACE

"We've got just as much chance of getting three points as they have."
Crystal Palace captain Tony Popovic in the programme for the Palace-Chelsea game, Tuesday August 24.

If the above statement was really true, Palace would not have been given 2000-1 odds on winning the Premiership, with Chelsea ranked a mere 2-1. The bookies aren't fools: Palace lost the game against Chelsea 2-0 without getting a proper look-in at the opponent's goal. A month later, Palace have yet to rack up three points in total, let alone from a single game; Chelsea remain unbeaten.

We're back, we're back, as a matter of fact. Pre-game introductions at a sold-out Selhurst Park

Still, for the Palace faithful like me – watching my first Palace Premiership game in over 6 years - the scoreline against Chelsea was only part of the story. It's difficult to overstate the excitement of being a newly promoted team; it's something that Arsenal and Liverpool fans simply can't contemplate. After all, what's life at the top worth if you don't know how it feels at the bottom? Last year, Palace managed to experience both sensations: after staring relegation in the face at the season's halfway mark, we clawed our way up the table (thanks to the arrival of Iain Dowie as manager) to become last-minute qualifiers for the Playoffs – at which, being form team, we somehow won our games against ostensibly superior opposition to round out a season that, even by Palace's never-a-dull-moment standards, was especially turbulent.

Being the Form Team in the First Division, however, means nothing when it comes to competing in the Premiership. We know we can't expect any mercy, we know it'll take more than an inspirational manager to keep us up with the big boys, and that's all the more reason to enjoy the Premiership while we're in it.

Following an away draw at fellow promotion team Norwich and a frustrating 3-1 home defeat against Everton (all the more disappointing for initially being one goal up), the game against Chelsea was Palace's first real quality opposition of the season. But it was also our first London Derby, which made the event all the more exciting. Many Palace fans have a fierce rivalry with Chelsea, based on a shared catchment area in South London. (As Chelsea are actually based north of the Thames, I never understood this –until I lived in Battersea in '96, where I was south of the river but Chelsea was my closest club.)

I don't share that animosity with Chelsea - my rivalries fan south and east rather than north and west – but I could easily subscribe to the match as a battle between the nouveau riche and the unlikely upstarts. Chelsea is now owned by England's richest man (the exiled Russian oil baron Roman Abramovich), managed by the newly hired and much admired Portugese Jose Mourinho, and started the new season with three of 15 the top paid English Premiership wage earners on its books. Yet on the night, none of those three – not Frank Lampard, who earns £80,000 a week, Damien Duff, on £70,000 every seven days, nor Didier Drogba, the £24 million signing from Monaco who's on a basic £65,000 a week salary – found the Palace a pushover. Sure, our Eagles didn't really worry Chelsea, but neither did they lay down and die. Palace fans across Selhurst Park – the 25,000 attendance as close to a packed house as the segregated, season-ticketed stadium can expect to be these days – stayed in fine voice from start to finish, and even if the atmosphere was not comparable to the pre-seated days of 45,000 crowds, the occasion nonetheless gave me the shivers. There's nothing like a return to the Premiership to bring out the schoolboy in the middle-aged man, and at the end, I joined in heartily applauding the Palace players off the field. After all, who knows when we'll next host Chelsea in the League?

All we are saying... Palace try and threaten the Chelsea defence in front of the Holmesdale home end. This is about as close as they got!

2) THE RIVERSIDE STADIUM, MIDDLESBOROUGH

Palace fever duly reinstalled, there was no way I could be staying in Yorkshire the following Saturday and not take the 90 mile trip further north to Middlesborough to see my team again. My plans hit a brief snag when, four hours before kick-off, my Club Director Palace friend called from London to say he was stuck at work and would not be flying up to the game as intended. Undeterred, I spent 20 minutes on hold with the Riverside Stadium to confirm that there were still tickets on sale – I'd sit with the Boro fans if need be - then jumped in my mum's car and, even with a Bank Holiday traffic snarl outside York, whizzed up to Teeside in under two hours.

It's stating the obvious, I know, but football has changed so much since my generation got hooked on it in the Seventies. There's lots I miss about the old days, like the ability to walk up on match day and gain entry anywhere in the ground, the free movement around the terraces once inside, the clusters of singing fans, the camaraderie, and not least the cost of it all. But a lot of what was good came with the bad, and it had to change, as all of us who lived through Heysel, Bradford and Hillsborough came to realize at enormous cost. So now it's fixed seats at premium prices in what are often brand new stadia – like Middlesborough's impressive but homogeneous Riverside Stadium.

And if it's all a little middle class and respectable then, with some exceptions (and my fellow Brits say it's a growing trend), at least there's no longer the threat of violence when you follow your team away from home. For my first ever visit to Middlesborough (city or club), I took the Palace-Chelsea programme's advice, and headed to the pub recommended for away fans. It was a refreshing sight for someone whose only previous memory of a Palace-Middlesborough game was fighting on the Holmesdale: Palace fans wearing the red and blue team shirt mixed freely with locals, many wearing the red 'Boro top, as we all rooted for Blackburn to hold out against Manchester United in the lunchtime live game on TV. The good vibes extended to my own fortunes: at only the second attempt, I found Palace fans with a spare ticket for the away end. Now I didn't have to sit on my own among Boro fans – and as importantly, now I could make some noise.

Of course Palace lost the game, and in the same frustrating circumstances as at home to Everton a week earlier. Following a scoreless first half in which we were clearly the weaker team, we took the lead through an Andy Johnson penalty – at least I had the joy of seeing Palace score a goal – yet within minutes Palace captain Tony Popovic contrived to put the ball in his own net from a Middlesborough corner. (He did exactly the same thing in the next league match, against Portsmouth.) 'Boro then sealed the points with a superbly taken free kick by new signing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the kind of class finish that separates men from boys – and Premiership mainstays from newly-promoted pretenders.

But though we lost, you wouldn't have known it in the stands. Either Middlesborough's brand new Riverside Stadium – being of a standard, almost pre-fabricated design - lacks atmosphere, or the fans are spoiled by their Premiership status. Either way, these were the quietest 30,000 home supporters I've sat next to in all my years following football. (And in the tradition of many a prior away match, I found myself right alongside them - though only getting the eye-ball when one of the teams scored.) Apart from some pre-game enthusiasm, they barely raised a chant from start to finish. Even their two comeback goals late in the game only inspired a brief flurry of victorious singing before they fell back into their relative stupor. I know it's always a more exciting experience as an away supporter, but the Boro "faithful" were, truly, embarrassing. What do they have to be quiet about? Their team's playing in Europe this year. They've got the likes of Hasselbaink and £68,000-a-week new signing Mark Viduka enlivening their form. After beating Palace, they were fourth in the Premiership. The ground was filled to 90% capacity; it's not like there were many empty seats to keep them quiet. There's only one cliché to conclude: Some people don't know how lucky they are.


THE KC STADIUM, HULL

The fans of Hull City display no such complacency. After years of dour placings in the lowest of English divisions and paltry four-figure crowds to match, they're now doubly blessed. They've got a brand new ground, the Kingston Communications Stadium, that they share with the local rugby team. And with former Palace legend Peter Taylor at the managerial helm, they've also found impressive form, gaining promotion last year to what's now, ludicrously, called the Coca-Cola League 1. (It's the third division by any other criteria.)

Build it and they will come: Hull's attractive KC Stadium is pulling in record crowds. And R.E.M.

The combination of new stadium and new-found glory has pushed Hull City's support to an enviable level. Crowds this season have been averaging 17,000 – a figure only beaten by fellow Yorkshire team Sheffield Wednesday. All the more reason why, when the fixture list drew Hull against West Yorks rivals Bradford at a time I knew I'd be staying nearby, I decided to treat the family to a football night out. It promised to be an emotional occasion: not only my boy's first ever football match, but a small return of favour to my mother for taking me to Selhurst Park so many times in the Seventies.

The Kingston Communications Stadium is a shining example of how new grounds should be. Rising from what appears to have been wasteland, yet comfortably situated near the heart of the city, it avoids the formulaic rectangular shape of the Riverside Stadium, and is not encumbered with awkward re-development history, nor boxed in by housing, like Palace's Selhurst Park. A well-lit path leads out from the city centre and then dips down into a concrete moat that gives the ground the ominous feeling of a castle. Outdoor training fields stretch off in the distance. The Club shop is about as big as a Sainsbury's. (And about as busy – though all the demand in the world does not justify charging £35 for a kid's replica top.) There's even a crèche. In the concourse of the East Stand, which the Hull staff had kindly told me via e-mail was where we'd want to sit for maximum atmosphere, there's a Supporters Wall where fans can buy plaques and place personal messages. The bar serves Tetley Bitter as well as Carling Lager. During the half-hour before the match, the DJ played Underworld, The Verve, Oasis and The Jam. As you can imagine, I was in something close to heaven.

The view from the KC's East Stand. Rather than the rectangular box shape of Middlesborough's Riverside Stadium, the KC curves up around - and rises to an extra tier on the west. It's a beautiful ground.


At least until the game started. The Hull crowd was fantastic: good-natured, full of voice, and keenly aware how lucky they are to have such a grand ground and a winning team. But the game was abominable. A Hull side residing in fourth place struggled to put passes together; a Bradford opposition still finding its way into the new season played with understandable caution, but with little more imagination. My poor son Campbell, whose introduction to baseball at Shea Stadium was a game that remained scoreless through the first five innings, assumed as little kids do, that a couple of not-so-near misses must have gone in judging by the crowd's excitement and his skewed view of the net. He seemed genuinely non-plussed that halftime found the match scoreless.

The second half was barely any better: there is a gulf in quality between the Premiership and this so-called League One that's far wider than the 24 Teams that separate them. Even Hull's home-born former Spurs legend Nicky Barmby seemed to have lowered his standard, while the team's one exciting player, Stuart Green, couldn't connect with his fellow players: this was the sort of game where the ball was relentlessly played down the middle for lack of decent wingers. The fans stayed loud, but they started to lose heart, and I could hardly blame Campbell for letting his attention wander. Inevitably, he was looking the wrong way when, with 13 minutes to go, Bradford's Darren Holloway seized on a loose ball some 30 yards out and rocketed a shot into the top corner of the net. It was a beautiful goal, but the kind you appreciate that much more on TV than when you're sat near grass level at the opposite end of the field.

Either way, it was enough to secure the points for Bradford. And though the home team had played quite atrociously, the Hull fans still knew how lucky they were: they applauded the players off the pitch and stayed in relatively good cheer as we left the KC Castle behind us and headed back to city center and our parked cars, local trains and buses, nearby houses – or, for some, the pub. True football fans know that winning is a bonus. And Hull fans have spent long enough at rock bottom that the occasional home defeat – especially in a higher division, and in such a fantastic stadium - feels like up to them.



THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 30

THIS SPORTING LIFE. PART 1: THE OLYMPICS

More delayed reactions and observations from my summer vacation in the UK. Still relevant? Hell yeah! Tomorrow, it's English football. Today, it's the Athens Olympics. I had to miss almost all the Athens Games through pre-trip work, endless traveling, and a fair amount of time spent running. C'est la vie. I barely gathered a focus on the American achievements until after I returned to New York. So, I'll confine my comments to the British perspective:

1) PAULA QUITS

I WAS in front of a TV, in the UK, in April of 2003, when Paula Radcliffe shaved two minutes off her own Womens Marathon world record in London – by chasing, for the first time in Marathon history, a male "rabbit." There was nothing actually illegal about this, and the rapturous BBC commentators failed even to see anything immoral. Certainly, her time was authentic, and her achievement genuine. But London – as with Chicago, which Radcliffe had won six months earlier, also in Record time – is a notoriously flat, fast Marathon course. And the London weather in April, as per Chicago in October, is usually mild – the kind of weather that long-distance runners fantasize about. It struck me watching that London Marathon how, like a champion boxer only fighting those contenders he knows he can beat, Radcliffe was hand-picking her victories.

The mark of a true champion, as any sports fan knows, is in overcoming formidable opposition. And by this criteria, when Radcliffe came up against conditions not of her own choosing - i.e. the incredibly harsh hills and blistering heat of the Athens Marathon - she turned out to be a loser. Despite leading for part of the race, she never established a real lead, and when she slipped to fourth and realised she was out of the medal hunt, she stopped running. There's a word for that: quitter. (She stopped running at 23 miles: it would certainly not have been impossible for her to at least jog the remaing 5k.) Fellow Brits Liz Yelling and Tracey Morris managed to finish in 25th and 29th respectively, Yelling recording a time of 2:40:13 and 36-year-old Morris 2:41:00. Yet after the event, the media only wanted their opinions on Britain's failure. (Yelling, who must surely have felt frustrated that the focus was not on the finishers rather than quitters, noted of Radcliffe that "Maybe she underestimated the course.") For now, Paula continues to hold the World Record – though only, I imagine, until someone else insists on running an equally fast and flat course, in equally clement weather, with a superfast male as rabbit. At which point Radcliffe will not have even an Olympic Medal for consolation.

Paula Radcliffe escorted from the Marathon course by two fans. Nothing is certain in sport.

Kelly Holmes completes the Perfect Race, takes home a Second Gold.


2) KELLY KICKS

With Radcliffe fallen from grace, the mantle of National British Heroine suddenly fell on a proper underdog, Kelly Holmes, a 34-year old who, after a career in the Army, had returned to running late in professional life – only to battle injury problems in the last two Olympics. She looked destined to be ranked along athletics' "should-have-beens" until she finally proved her mettle and won the 800m gold medal in Athens. I didn't see or hear that race. But I was driving back from Middlesborough when the 1500m final took place on the Games' penultimate day. Could Holmes win a second gold in the twilight of her competitive career? Yes she could, and how.

Listening to the commentary in the car was a rare sporting joy: it was obvious from the outset that Holmes was running a perfect race. She started at the back, ran wide of the pack (which means running a greater distance), and at the halfway mark was lingering casually on the leaders' shoulders. Coming round the top bend, Holmes kicked and moved up to fourth; with just 100m to go, she left her competition gasping for air as she soared to the front and took the gold. You don't have to be a runner to appreciate her victory any more than you have to be a basketball player to marvel at Michael Jordan, a golfer to admire Tiger Woods, or a footballer to admire Wayne Rooney. This was perfection personified.


3) KHAN CAN

Boxing for Bolton, Bury - and Britain: 17-year old Amir Khan shows how to treat the BNP and other assorted racists.

"Do you know how the little Asian kid got on in the boxing?" The man behind me at the queue for Hull's excellent tourist attraction The Deep, asked me the question on the lips of every Brit not glued to his goggle-box the last day of the Olympics. But his wording revealed the nation's continued racial divide. It wasn't "the British boy" my man asked about, and he certainly didn't refer to the boxer by name. To the white man on the street in Hull, 17-year old British lightweight Amir Khan was still something of an outsider, an "Asian." And yet, however he cloaked it, the question failed to mask a thoroughly British pride: the interest in the "little Asian kid" from Bolton and his remarkable march to an Olympic Final, had by now become a national obsession.

Across much of northern England, in small cities very much like Bolton, the odious British National Party have been stirring up trouble between famlies of Asian descent and white people, winning council seats in the process. Khan's surprise Olympic success (he came home with the Silver) may not be able to singlehandedly stop the BNP in its tracks. But it did as much to promote a multi-cultural Britain as perhaps anything since Viv Anderson first played for England and The Specials topped the charts. Next Olympics, hopefully, the man on the street will call Amir by his name – and think of him as thoroughly British.


WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 29

STOOP TO REMEMBER (Stop to forget?)

Clearing through the CD collection, it's amazing how many acts I'd forgotten about, and how many more deserved to be forgotten about. It's less surprising that after 40 years of rock'n'roll, bands have been running out of new names. Here are some of the acts that have been rubbing up against each other on my dusty shelves these last few years. If any of them inspire particularly poignant or potent memories, then drop in for a Virtual Pint and share them with us.

Wank and Wink
The Water Walk
and The Waterlilies,
Westpier
and Wilson,
We Are Going To Eat You
and We Know Where You Live,
Walt Mink
and The Waltons,
Weed
and Ween
The Wild Swans
and The Wild Strawberries
Wax
and Waxworth Industries
The Wendys
and Wendy and Lisa
World Of Leather
and World Of Skin
The Weather Prophets
and The Weathermen
The Wedding Present
and Weddings, Parties, Anything
White Town
and Whiteout

From band name to album title, from sleeve design to production, from songwriting to singing, this has to rank as the worst album ever to be associated with Baggy. Worst of all, it was released on Factory.

And these are just the W's…

Just one that I have to comment on. I generally keep all things British and indie as it's my culture. But The Wendys' 1991 album Gobbledygook is dreadful. Truly, awful third rate imitation Madchester. (They were from Edinburgh - never the most baggy of cities.) It's like the least inspired moments of Northside and Flowered Up – multiplied. I can maybe understand it being released on FactoryTony Wilson had a notoriously erratic A&R track record, after all – but what excuses did Ian Broudie (Echo and The Bunnymen, The Lightning Seeds, 'Three Lions,' The Primitives, Sleeper etc.) have for doing such a terrible job as producer? Does this qualify as the worst record Broudie ever handled? Or was his generally recognized Midas Touch found similarly lacking on other (best) forgotten albums? I think we should be told.


TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 28

FULL COURT (MUSIC) PRESS

For my two trips back to the UK in '03, I took the Laptop and posted my musings along the way, here, here and here. It wasn't so convenient this time round, so I left the Mac at home and got on with enjoying myself. (As you'll see from my V Festival Review, I succeeded on that score.) Obvious outcome: here I am, a month later, wondering if the various observations I made in my notebooks, and all the press cuttings I clipped or circled, are still relevant. Sure they are! Rather than overload you in one go, I'll post them as I get them together. Today's are all about the British music media.


WORD UP DOWN

This one stayed on the rack...

Though I don't write for them much any more, I'm a music magazine junkie. But I simply could not hand over my money for the September issue of Word, not after I skimmed through and saw a piece on dead rockers and the inevitable entry for Keith Moon. According to Word, Moon's autopsy revealed "32 different pills" in his body.

They were "32 different pills" in that each one was, logically, an individual pill when it went into his system. But they were all the same drug: Heminevrin, a sedative intended to help an ailing and desperate Keith deal with the side effects of alcohol withdrawal. The Word comment plays up to the notion of a Looning Moon who continued mixing drug cocktails till the bitter end. Word, a refuge for former Mojo writers, does not appear to be selling well; nor should it, if it insists in playing this kind of tabloid titillation game.


CRACK EDUCATION?

Still, that comment did not offend me half as much as this one from my former idol Paul Weller, speaking in The Times' magazine (28 August) of his four children.

"They're all in private school. No, one's in state school," he corrects himself. [The kids stem from three different relationships.] "If you've got the money, I don't see how you've got a choice, really. I don't want my kids mixing with crack and guns."

This is the sort of ludicrously damning, ill-thought condemnation you'd expect from some upper class dickhead with more money than brains. Not from Weller - the man who wrote 'The Eton Rifles,' the archetypal punk socialist, the man who sang in praise of working class unity, and who, for years, publicly reviled wealthy rock star tax exiles and the nouveau riche. Yet here is, like so many who are given the gift of money (by his largely working class fans, we should note), extricating his children from the general population and putting them in with other elite kids, based on the worst, most insulting generalizations about public education and everyday youth.

"Just because I've got money, doesn't mean I'm middle class," he says earlier in the interview. "I'm not having it." No: the middle classes are more likely to keep their kids in State Schools and support the notion of public, socially mixed education. Maybe Paul just leap-frogged into the upper class instead?


STONED AGAIN?

More dumb comments from older generation rock stars who should know better. Lloyd Cole's Pet Hate, according to the September issue of Uncut:

"I still hate the first Stone Roses album as much as ever. They were just a bunch of car thieves. Nothing wrong with being a car thief as long as you don't go making crap records. Overrated rubbish."

Nothing you can say to that one, really, is there? You either disagree with him or you…


RUDI CAN'T FAIL, pt. 1

Mick Jones and Paul Simonon took part in the September Uncut cover story on The Clash's London Calling 25th Anniversary Edition; they were interviewed for the magazine while being filmed for the Reissue's accompanying Don Letts documentary DVD The Last Testament. But those interviews didn't make it onto the finished DVD: my copy only includes footage from the same interviews as formed the definitive documentary Westway To The World. I suspect a continuity problem: it probably made more sense for Letts to draw on the four Clash members as they all were at a specific moment in time (the very late 1990s), rather than confusingly cut to Jones and Simonon in current old-geezer mode. (Check page 56 of Uncut to see how drastically Mick and Paul have aged in the last few years.)

So, do DVD viewers miss out on any revelations in the process? Not really, based on the Uncut excerpts, which primarily offer familiar stories and new variants on much-loved Clash myths. The anecdote about road manager Johnny Green losing the demos he was entrusted to deliver to Guy Stevens, has evidently been over-emphasized over the years: it's apparent now, with the release of The Vanilla Tapes (as a bonus CD with the re-issued London Calling) that the band recorded demos in their rehearsal rooms on an almost daily basis. Jones does offer a slightly different explanation about 'Train In Vain' showing up uncredited on London Calling. There's no dispute that the song was initially recorded for an NME flexi disc. But in the sleeve notes for the Clash on Broadway box set, Kosmo Vinyl states that the NME postponed the flexi, after which The Clash rushed it onto the otherwise finished album. Mick Jones now says otherwise: "We thought, 'This is a bit to good to give away on the NME,' so we didn't."

Elsewhere, Simo and Jones remain remarkably positive about producer Guy Stevens' input. This confirms that they were never the type to grass on people at school. Because, while The Last Testament documentary DVD is relatively tame then, and here I'm quoting from my upcoming Complete Guide To the Music of The Clash, to be published in February 2005 by Omnibus Press,

"Perhaps more fascinating is the 16 minutes of black and white footage that shows the band in Wessex, with Guy Stevens in “direct psychic injection” mode, throwing chairs and ladders around the studio as so frequently claimed. However, it hadn't been known until now that said incident took place during a raw and unusable jam of 'Louie Louie', meaning that Stevens' method of apparent inspiration remains unproven to the wider public. Worse, his behaviour largely lacks humour: it's fairly safe to conclude that the producer is, at the very least, drunk on duty. The only other real footage of The Clash at work (as opposed to Stevens running wild) is of Strummer recording his vocals; there's also a blues jam featuring Headon on rhythm guitar, his girlfriend at his back, a roadie on drums and Strummer at the piano. All the same, the material has a grainy, archival magic. In modern days, with digital filming so inexpensive, camera crews routinely document "the making of the album"; here stands a rare case where such footage has been recovered long after the fact."

One minor criticism about Don Letts' latest Clash documentary. Simonon is heard (but not seen, for reasons that will become apparent) expounding on the background of 'The Guns Of Brixton,' as follows:

"Writing songs was a bit of a problem, I suppose because I always played reggae. So once I started having ideas for songs I'd throw a song in, and everyone would just go (imitates reggae guitar)..."

This is actually an edited quote from one of the many hilarious comments as so enlivened the Westway To the World documentary. The original version started as follows:

"Writing songs was a bit of a problem, I suppose because I always played reggae. And played reggae. And played reggae…"

As every comic knows, it's all in the timing.

A couple other comments about the 25th Anniversary Edition of London Calling. (I'll save my thoughts on The Vanilla Tapes themselves for the upcoming book. Anyone else care to comment in the meantime?) The packaging is excellent, and in its very British bias, corrects the American leaning of Clash On Broadway. I particularly like Tom Vague's "psychogeography" of The Clash' London. Vague is writing a book about the history of Notting Hill Gate, and is kindly posting a chapter at a time on this web site. Even better, it's available as a pdf file, so you can store it on your computer and read it when you want. Is this the same Tom Vague as ran punk fanzine Vague back in the Seventies? I imagine so.


RUDI CAN'T FAIL, Pt. 2

Q/Mojo cover: That's the way to sell 'em

Jamming! 18, 1984 - Not the way to sell 'em

The Q/Mojo 2-Tone Special Edition is a Major Nostalgia Kick. What a great time that was to be a teen. (Except for all the violence that went along with living in a multi-culted – as opposed to multi-culti – Britain.) What I've read so far serves primarily to bring back fond memories. And I note that the photo session we commissioned for Jamming! 18, in which Jerry Dammers was photographed lying in the gutter, against a spray-painted graffiti wall reading 'Burnt Out Stars', has been resurrected for the section on The Specials' album, In The Studio. That issue of Jamming! was the lowest seller we ever put out as a glossy: the dark, depressing photo (by Paul Cox, who took many splendid cover shots for us too) had a lot to do with it.

I'm always happy to pick up a new music magazine, in the hope that I'll have my faith in the format fully revived. Not so with Klub Knowledge. Shoddy writing, poor editing, very little of any real substance. Given the steadily declining sales within the world of British dance music, I don't give it a chance of surviving beyond Christmas.


FREEBIE CDS

And staying with British music mags, I noticed a front page headline in Music Week along the lines of "Music Industry concerned that free magazines CDs are damaging long-term sales." Well, no shit Batman. Album CDs in the UK cost £10 if you're lucky – that is, if the labels decide to discount them – and anywhere up to £16 otherwise. Spend just £4 for certain monthly magazines and, as well as a considerable amount of reading (some of it even worthwhile!), you'll get, based on recent offerings, a free CD of tunes handpicked by Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (Mojo), an album's worth of new buzz releases (Uncut), an album's worth of quality cover versions (Q), or a Carl Cox mix CD (Mixmag). Buy all four and you've easily got enough music to get you through the next month – all for the price of a Tim Booth album.

Of these various freebies, only the Uncut contemporary compilation theoretically serves a beneficial purpose for the industry: in teasing listeners with one track each from 15 different new albums, the records labels are clearly hoping we'll get hooked on at least a couple of them and pick up the complete CD. It's an admirable ploy, and it works: I've ordered The Go! Team's album based on the magical mess that is 'Bottle Rocket.' (But also, I should stress, on the buzz about The Go! Team from those in the iJamming! Pub.) Yet, as regards most of the other artists, I'm primarily keen just to know what their new material sounds like; I'm not in any rush to spend yet more money and buy their albums too.

There's another point rarely discussed about these compilation CDs. As the labels can't afford to give away the singles – that would really defeat the purpose – in most cases they're offering up mediocre "album" tracks that may not do the artist justice. The Paul Westerberg song 'Looking Up In Heaven,' for example, is thoroughly disappointing; but it may just be the weakest track on his new album Folker. Unless I hear anything else to convince me otherwise, I won't know better.

In a depressed industry, the labels may feel like they have no choice but to give away this much music in the hope that we'll come back and actually pay for some. But for as long as almost every tom, dick and harry publication can offer a free CD, there's little reason for the rest of us to head much further into a British record store than the magazines rack.


MONDAY SEPTEMBER 27

RUDI CAN('T) FAIL

More weird coincidences. Catching up online late Sunday night after a weekend in the woods, I'm visiting a couple of sites I regularly drop in, including Melody Nelson; decide to take a random surf to one of her many permanent links, the Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era site, where I find myself staring down an MP3 file of the single 'Crimson'/'14 Steps' by RUDI, which I released on Jamming! Records back in another lifetime.

Far more recently - less than two weeks ago - I wrote about the encouraging spate of MP3Blogs across the web, and given our overall enthusiasm here for spreading the word about good music via the web, I don't have any beef with Lost Bands. Besides, the host has politely (and properly) stated, "If you are the creator or copyright owner of a song and would like me to remove the file, please let me know. It is not my intention to violate copyrights." And it looks like the files only stay up for a short period of time. So, given that I loved Rudi, invested a lot of time and energy on the band, and at the time – 1982 - thought that 'Crimson' had the makings of a Top 10 Hit, I recommend all iJamming! Readers to visit the Lost Bands Of the New Wave Era site and download a copy while you can.

If you like what you hear, please pick up the official Rudi compilation, Big Time, available through Cherry Red Records.


The perfect segue. In early 2005 Cherry Red will be releasing a retrospective CD by a band called APOCALYPSE. Some of you will be running for the hills at this news; others will be putting in your advance orders; and most of you will be saying, Apoca-who?

Simple answer to that last question: Apocalypse was my old band. Formed at school, first gig 1979, last gig (at least with me in it), 1984. A great single on Jamming!, a terrible one on EMI, with a mixed bag of recordings along the way and all manner of memorable gigging experiences, including two tours with The Jam. Some of the recordings that never saw official release were truly fantastic, and I'm glad we have the chance to finally get them out to the public. Compiling this CD is bound to prove an emotional experience, and it's made all the more so as it involves one of those ludicrously sentimental middle-aged burying of the hatchets with a former band member and songwriting partner. I should say that the CD would probably not have come about if it wasn't for this web site: I have been genuinely amazed by the amount of people who've tracked me down through iJamming! and asked where they can get Apocalypse music. And I really thought nobody cared. Lots of details still to be finalized, not least a title. Suggestions anyone? (That is, anyone who knows what I'm talking about!)


It's clearly the season for it. An American label is compiling a retrospective CD of the band THREE COLORS, whom I managed in the mid-late 80s and who were largely responsible for my coming to America. Like Apocalypse, the Boston-formed Three Colors never made it big; unlike Apocalypse, three of their members went on to respectable careers. The two singers and songwriters, Hub Moore and Chris Harford, each landed (short-lived) solo deals with majors, and Chris continue to tour and play with his Band Of Changes. Sax player Dana Colley went on to fame and fortune with Morphine. The Three Colors compilation, One Big CD, is also scheduled for next year: my involvement extends to being tapped for the sleeve notes. As with the Apocalypse record, assuming that the tapes are cleaned up sufficiently, it will be well worth the retrospective interest.

I'm not actually a big nostalgia freak. I listen to more new music than most people my age and prefer to look ahead than back. But this week, and maybe for a little bit thereafter, as I continue clearing through old CDs and vinyl for an impending stoop sale, I may continue to wax lyrical about some of the music that's passed my way over the years. I'll be sure to intersperse it with observations on what's happening now.

2004 MUSINGS
SEP 19-25: The Zutons/Thrills live, Brian Clough RIP, Iraq, Hunting, Virgin Trains, Punk Voters, Step On Steps Down
SEP 17: The V Festival Review: Pixies, Charlatans, Scissor Sisters, Fountains Of Wayne. Basement Jaxx, Audio Bullys, Freestyler, The Killers, Pink - and camp cameraderie.
SEP 12-16: Johnny Ramone, Village Voice vs. New York Press, Love Parades
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
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,

2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE:


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2004




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FESTIVE MEMORIES:
A report from THE V FESTIVAL, Stafford, England, Aug 21-23

FEATURED WINE:
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ABSOLUTE AFFIRMATION:
A NEW YORK HITLIST
(10 new Albums)

FEATURED WINE:
DOMAINE VALLET
SAINT JOSEPH BLANC 2001
Rhône, France

The SUMMER HITLIST:
More culture than makes sense

From the Jamming! Archives
THE HOMOSEXUALS, 1979

DVD REVIEW:
JEFF MILLS - EXHIBITIONIST

BOOK REVIEW:
SONGBOOK by NICK HORNBY

HIGHWAY TO UNHEALTHY:
Why Fast Food depends on Cheap Oil

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THE UNDERTONES
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Live at Bowery Ballroom
Live at Mercury Lounge
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SUICIDE GIRLS just wanna have fun

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CHÂTEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2001
Rhône, France,

THE FEBRUARY HITLIST:
Ten That Got Away

NEW YORK W(H)INES Part 2

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:
Global Techtronica

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 2
TRIPPED OUT BRITS: Nine albums of vaguely psychedelic bliss

FEATURED ALBUM:
Eargasm by Plump DJs

FEATURED WINE:
Paul Durdilly Les Grandes Coasses Beaujolais Nouveau 2003

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 1
BRITISH DANCE MUSIC:
Down But Not Out

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

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