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What's new in iJamming!...
Thu, Oct 21, 2004
KIDS IN AMERICA
A weekend with John Mayer, Sugarcult - and Elvis
THE VILLAGE VOICE PAZZ & JOP POLL
What the Hell Is Going On Here?
From the Jamming! Archives:
PAUL WELLER
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
CARL COX
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Concerts, Singles and Books - and comments on the Village Voice Poll
Strange Currencies:
R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall
In his room:
Brian Wilson at the Festival Hall
MUSING on The Manhattan 'Edge':
Will the Island Ever Again Be A 'Cultural Ground Zero?'
FEATURED ALBUM
FEATURED WINE
GOLDEN SHOT
hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour
THE CREATION
An American Debut 35 Years in the Making (Time)
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE WHITES
Featured wine region 4:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE ROSÉS
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
The iJAMMING! interview: DAVID SYLVIAN
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
DAFT PUNK
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
LLOYD COLE
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
VIOGNIER:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
Featured wine region 1:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE
SUPERDRAG
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
The full iJamming! Contents
Musing through early April:
Fri April 5

Return from a few days upstate respite to DJ the launch party for the fifth issue of Aquatulle 'zine at Don Hill's. Raquel Bruno's publishing labor of love reflects her ongoing obsession with the decade of her youth - the 1980s. Fortunately, Aquatulle does more than print high-school anecdotes about dressing up for Culture Club and Duran Duran concerts; her fifth issue includes new interviews with the Damned, Andy Summers, David Sylvian, Steve Severin and photographer Roberta Bayley - oh yeah, and she pilfered the Jamming! Archives to reprint our Adam Ant feature from back in 1978. (The same breakthrough fifth issue of Jamming! In which we interviewed The Jam.) That interview came about because my local pal, then 14-year old Chris Modica, was already a big fan at a time when Adam and the Ants were considered subversive rather than comic, and as well as introducing me to the group and setting up the interview, he took some wonderful pictures at the Marquee that are also included the Aquatulle reprint. I lost touch with Chris over the years, though he did show up name-checked in The Beloved 's 1988 classic 'Hello' and we met up in New York a couple of years thereafter. I don't know if I met Adam Ant again; he turned into a very different kind of pop star than the one we expected him to be, but those early shows were extremely sexual and quite risque, even by today's S&M friendly standards.

Raquel Bruno, Aquatulle publisher, and yours truly, at the Aquatulle launch party, April 5 2002 Seconds magazine publisher, Hardcore archivist and Rock Candy host Stephen Blush at the Aquatulle do.

I've never considered myself an 80s DJ - which in the States carries connotations of horrible British synth-pop - but the last hour of the Aquatulle party at Don Hill's gave me the chance to jump around musically and have some fun. The pressing question was how to follow the set by Johnny Only and Dez Cadena of The Misfits, with Jack Rabid on drums, playing a short but incredibly loud tribute to Joey Ramone that ended with 'Blitzkreig Bop', (which I'd heard unexpectedly the night before on the Johnny Neutron soundtrack of all things). I decided that the best way to follow their three Ramones covers was with the real thing and by following that with Blondie and then the B-52's, I was off in the world of new wave pop from which there was no return . During the following hour, I played the Smiths, Depeche Mode, the Buzzcocks, Soft Cell, the Jam, the Selecter, Dexys, Big Country, U2 (my original copy of 'Gloria,' scratched to all hell and probably worth a few bob by now), Pigbag, Big Country, Tears for Fears, Echo and The Bunnymen, Gary Numan, the Alarm, Tears for Fears, R.E.M., Midnight Oil and B.A.D.. Sometimes it's fun to let go of your valued adult hipness and return to the crassness of your own (or other people's) youth. On the right occasion, such a celebratory mood can prove infectious, and indeed, when hardcore archivist Stephen Blush followed me on the decks to host his regular night Rock Candy night, he stayed in the spirit, spinning the only Duran Duran song I've ever liked ('The Reflex') and then the full length mix of Tin Tin's 'Kiss Me,' such a classic as I won't hear a word against. Much fun was had by all.
Saturday April 6

When my English neighbor Paul pointed out that Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros were doing five nights in Brooklyn, we felt compelled to attend. Not for nostalgia's sake, but in support for Strummer's making our adopted home town his only American stop of 2002. The St Ann's Warehouse was an inspired choice: the venue has a simplistic feel reminiscent of the better British Uni halls, clean, clear, friendly and with only a fraction of the nicotine poison that made me feel sick the morning after the night at Don Hill's. Currently, it's mainly used for theatrical performances; hopefully, more live music can be included in future schedules.

Support throughout the five nights was given to some of the new New York talent; we arrived for the last few songs by Stellastar, who had just about everything necessary for year 2002 hipness: a compelling singer, a cute bassist, enough attitude to launch a Soho runway and a tendency to wrap the best of the Cure up in a Bowie-Suede like flair. The chance that this is the last I will hear of them is extremely remote.

As for Strummer, he comes on like an ageing boxer unwilling yet to retire from the ring, which seems to be how his audience likes him - and if he's a little slower on his feet, he's also more graceful with his punches. Besides, anything Joe himself lacks in musical finesse his talented back-up band amply makes up for. Keyboard player Martin Slattery, for example, doubles up on guitar, flute and sax; fiddle player Tymon Dogg handles acoustic too; the bass player performs trombone on which occasions the second guitarist switches to bass; and so on.

Paul and myself were anticipating predominantly Mescaleros material and so were surprised when Strummer opened proceedings with 'London's Burning.' Not thrilled though: of all the oldies played - and there were many - this seemed the least relevant to the occasion, and for all that the first Clash album remains one of the greatest in rock'n'roll history, hearing Strummer croak his way through this song was not the reason I coughed up $35.

Fortunately, that was one of only a few dubious choices in a set that quickly divided into two areas. There was new material like 'Johnny Appleseed,' 'Bhindi Bhagee' and 'Mega Bottle Ride', all of which showed their worth as multi-culti singalongs and were welcomed by a crowd that was versed with the Mescaleros' 2001 album Global A Go-Go. And there were covers of every reggae song in the Clash pantheon. For Paul and myself, this was manna from heaven: I can not over-emphasise the importance 'Police and Thieves' played in my musical upbringing, nor my subsequent fondness for subsequent Clash b-sides like 'Pressure Drop' and 'Armagideon Time' (all three of which were played). To be blunt, I always thought the Clash were as good a reggae band as they were a punk band, and when they truly combined the two - as on 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' - the result was like nothing heard before or since. And yes, Strummer played 'White Man' too - and now you mention it,.Jones, Simonon and Topper were all sorely noted by their absence.

Strummer's enthusiasm for covers, while extending to Jimmy Cliff's 'The Harder They Come,' also saw him close out the set the same disappointing way he started, with the Bobby Fuller Four's 'I Fought The Law.' In my interpretation of Clash history, it was with that song that Strummer and co. deserted UK reality for American mythology, a journey from which they never truly returned. However, there remained occasional moments of magic, such as when they combined their rebel image with their reggae roots on 'Bankrobber' and as his choice of final encore, Strummer more than made amends.

Though he barely alluded to The Clash's famous ten-night residency of 1981 at Bond's in Time Square, Strummer seemed proud to be in Brooklyn; his encores, 'Walk on the Wild Side' and 'Blitzkreig Bop,' offered his own tribute to an ever-changed New York City without unnecessary fanfare. (And by coincidence, made it the third night in a row I'd heard the Ramones classic without expecting to.) Strummer's set was more nostalgic than I expected of him, but any time a band as tight as the Mescaleros comes to town to play the entire Clash reggae catalogue, I'm there. In spirit at least.
Tuesday April 9

An e-mail from my friend Jemma Kennedy, confirming that the launch party for her debut novel Skywalking, which took place last night in London and was promoted by her own 'Ladies First' collective, was a roaring success. I have a personal interest in seeing Skywalking take off. I first met Jemma at a Massive Attack show the night she moved to New York; I was reviewing the gig so had pen in hand, and as we got to talking about writing, she explained her hope that a move to New York would inspire her to complete her first novel. I quickly invited her into a writing group I already had going with four other aspring novelists, and her input was a breath of fresh air. Over the following two years, we would meet religiously every few weeks, both offering up and reading fresh chapters of our works-in-progress and dishing out -and absorbing - equal parts criticism and praise.We all emerged as stronger writers with thicker skins by the end of it. And though all of us finished our books (mine, as you might surmise if you know me, is Hedonism), Jemma's is the first to get published. Ms Kennedy will readily tell you that her success (getting published is success in the world of fiction) was pure luck - a friend of a friend knew someone at Penguin who fell in love with the book before it was even finished - but all the connections in the world would have meant nothing if she didn't have a publishable page turner to begin with. And she does.

The story of Skywalking is told, alternately, by each of four different characters during a particularly chaotic London day; there are two males such as you know you've seen before - the cooler-than-thou Lovell, and the somewhat Morrissey-esque Ted - but the story really comes alive when Lovell's seven-year old nephew Kiddie takes his Star Wars fascination a step too far by mistaking the unhappy female narrator Sara as Princess Leia and escaping his uncle's clutches to follow her around London. It's a charming, easy-going read, but it's full of human insight, it's cruelly amusing and it's as sophisticated as it is smart. Hopefully, it will be selling well by the summer at which point it would make wonderful beach reading; and that's fully intended as a compliment.

Though she was busy here working with the Wall of Sound label, the Propellerheads and throwing occasional parties, Jemma got sufficiently homesick as to move back to London before publication of her book: her involvement in the hey Ladies collective also played its part in her decision. Whatever now comes of Skywalking - and I hope there'll be a considerable return on her investment - she'll always be proof in my book of how you can move to New York, thoroughly enjoy yourself, make a social impact, and still succeed in carrying out the artistic ambition you came for.
Wednesday April 10

Celebrate the final final finishing of the book by attending an 'off-line' in Greenwich Village. An offline is what some of us winos - who regularly meet 'online' to discuss the grape in all its subjective glory - call our face-to-face critiques of the grape's actual taste. In other words, it's an excuse for a piss-up. You need the constituency of a wine athlete to get through one of these occasions, being that everyone in attendance brings at least one bottle, and given that I'd got but three hours sleep the previous night and had gone without red wine the whole last month while writing furiously, I was out of training. And though I tried to take it slow, that's not easy when so much good quality wine is being passed around the table. Liquid highlights were the 1989 Clos du Mont Olivet Châteauneuf du Pape (a great producer from an excellent vintage just reaching its peak, this wine would have had to have seen bad storage NOT to have been excellent), the 1999 Crozes-Hermitage CUVÉE Albert Romeric from Gilles Robin (a 100% Syrah), a surprisingly good but very minty 1993 Palmer Select from Long Island (a Bordeaux style blend from one of Long Island's pioneers), and a pleasant if oaky 1998 Belle Pente Pinot Noir “Murto Reserve” from the Williamette Valley in Oregon. But the real highlight as always was the excellent company. Apart from the presence of one or two aficionados who are ITB (in the biz), we are totally disparate New Yorkers with all manner of jobs, habits, likes and dislikes, but we are united by our love of wine - and our willingness to shout about it. That we are passionate should not be taken for snobbery: frequently, it's one of the least expensive wines on offer that beats out the big boys for 'wine of the night'. This get-together, being without a theme (other than welcoming a visiting friend from Boston), was short on five-star classics, but typically long on good times. Of course I paid for it in a big way the next day. . .
Thursday April 11

Yesterday's mail brought new releases by three of the great maverick auteurs of our times: Neil Young,Van Morrison and Paul Westerberg. The first two are renowned for a prolific output that easily rides out the various fashions and fads of the rock world; the third has rarely been heard from since his days in the Replacements. And interestingly enough, given that all three showed up the day I finally finally finished Remarks Remade, all have played a role in the R.E.M. Story. Neil Young has served as a successful example of how to "Just do what your heart tells you to do and you'll either sink or swim, but you'll do it on your own merit and you won't be a puppet of a giant record company," as Mike Mills put it a couple of years back. Peter Buck recently told me that R.E.M. Were inspired to keep making records by the fact that they'd still to make something as good as Morrison's Astral Weeks. "It sounds like he's making it up on the spot. You can barely call them songs because it sounds like no one knows what's going on. But it's magical." And Paul Westerberg, of course, was in the R.E.M. Peer group with his band the Replacements, who were long tipped to follow R.E.M. to the top. When that never happened and the band broke up, Paul Westerberg all but disappeared with it.

Neil Young is surely the most visible of the three artists, and the most likely to take a sudden musical left turn without warning. Backed throughout by Booker T Jones and Donald 'Duck' Dunn, he does exactly that on track five of Are You Passionate?. He has spent the preceding four songs working his way through conventional attitudes towards love and romance, from the Motown-influenced 'You're My Girl' (with deliberate nod to the Temptations classic of almost the same name), to the gorgeous 'Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)', and it's all sounding very much like his soul album for the new millennium. . .But then comes a harsh drone followed by the sound of a cell phone. It's 'Let's Roll', Young's tribute to the passengers of Flight 93, who fought back against their hijackers on September 11 and caused their plane to crash in a Pennsylvanian field.

Young has swung back and forth politically over the years, which is part of his charm. He wrote 'Ohio' just days after four students were gunned down by the National Guard At Kent State University in 1970; and he penned the caustic anti-sponsorship, MTV-busting 'This Note's For You' in 1988. But he was also a vocal supporter of Ronald Reagan, and 'Let's Roll' delivers lines such as Bush Jr. no doubt wishes he could commission: "Let's roll for Freedom, let's roll for Love, We're going after Satan on the Wings of a Dove" is the stuff of presidential speeches. I know people who accuse this song of playing up to a militaristic and simplistic patriotism where everything can be defined conveniently as either 'good' or 'evil.' And it's true that Neil Young has used some of the most basic language of the post 9-11 landscape on 'Let's Roll', such as the line "You got to turn on evil when it's coming after you." But then it's already been six months since Young handed this song to radio, and if he didn't want to stand by it, it wouldn't be on the album. As someone who's survived 35 years at the top by following his instincts, I'm sure Young knows what he's doing. And while 'Let's Roll' lacks for subtlety and complexity, it strikes such an unequivocal emotional chord - equal parts anger and admiration, hope and fury - that I don't think it will ever lose its power to stir.

Certainly, though, nothing on Are You Passionate? Sounds comforting after we've heard 'Let's Roll.' In the subsequent title track, which could be taken as a love song in normal times, Young talks of a former career as a soldier ("I let my missiles fly"); 'Goin' Home' opens with reference to Custer's last stand. The notion of love and romance takes on an air of desperation, as if every hour together might be a couple's last. On the penultimate song, 'Two Old Friends', Young's Preacher narrator visits heaven and asks God "show me how to live like you and see no evil, hear no evil, feel no evil." We never hear God's response.

The excellent sleeve notes to Van Morrison's new Down The Road could, in parts, apply to Neil Young too. He's "the seeker, the entertainer, the wanderer, bringing the news into town and then moving on down the road." Morrison is now at the point where most singer songwriters who've spent a life traveling as a minstrel decide its time to return home, but in this 35-year veteran's case, he seems to have decided he may just stay out there for ever. This causes Morrison to ponder aloud about time and travel on what is indisputably his finest album in a while. "Whatever happened to PJ Proby?' he inquires on the song of that name. "Where the hell do you think is Scott Walker?" He ruminates about how "the beauty of the days gone by, it brings a longing to my soul' on 'The Beauty of the Days Gone By.' And while the album opens with a title track about ceaseless travel, and closes with a song, 'Fast Train', that suggests his journey is stll in top gear, he finds the occasional moment to pause in the present. Most noteable Is 'Meet Me IN the Indian Summer,' an offer of romance to a spiritual partner to "go walking to eternity". The band is clear-cut, disciplined but full of soul - they cover 'Georgia On My Mind' with embarrassing ease - and Morrison's voice, unlike Neil Young's constant strain, just gets more beautiful with time. Van Morrison and Neil Young have over seventy years of music-making between them, and probably as many albums, yet their creative well seems in no danger of drying up. I bow my head in wonder.

Only a few tracks into Paul Westerberg's Stereo, I found myself feeling exactly the same way about the former Replacements front man. As the sleeve notes explain, these are songs "written and recorded at home...cut mostly live in the middle of the night...No effort was made to fix what some may deem as mistakes: tape running out, fluffed lyrics, flat notes, extraneous noises etc..... Unprofessional? Perhaps. Real? Unquestionably." What might seem their author's excuse for not recording them 'properly' demands external approbation: here we have one of rock's truly pained geniuses boldly refusing to tart his songs up for personal consumption, but delivering them to us the way they sounded at birth. Paul's got a soul as deep as the Grand Canyon and he taps into it with such regularity on Stereo that it's positively haunting.

Paul's voice on these ballads (as they mostly are) sits, aptly enough, somewhere between Young's high-pitched whine and Morrison's free-flowing warble, and it cuts straight to the core throughout. On the second song, 'Dirt To Mud', he opens with the challenging words "As long as my veins flow with my blood" and you know this is a man back to fighting form. He remains honest to a fault, which makes his admittance "The only lie worth telling is 'I'm in love with you" all the more painful for its brutal home truth. Several of the tracks hearken back to his wondrous everyman ballad, 'Here Comes A Regular,' most notably 'We May Be The Ones' with its gentle 6/8 jig of a rhythm and its refrain, "We may be the ones to set the world on its ear, if not then why are we here, I wanna know, I wanna know."

Yet as much as these songs sound all the purer for their Bare bones recordings, the 'mistakes', such as they are, render them more than just Westerberg's promise that they're "real." For example, when 'Dirt To Mud' closes out abruptly, just as a new line begins 'as long...' it seems evident that the tape had run out. Yet he couldn't have planned a more deliberately disconcerting edit if he'd tried. The same with the song 'Don't Want Never' which ends equally suddenly on the words "If you can't get me now." Part of me wishes Westerberg has ensured there was enough tape in the deck before opening up his heart like this, but another part of me knows all too well how the muse sometimes supersedes discipline. From Moby's appropriation of spirituals on Play, through to the critical success of the Langley Schools Music Project, there's an increasing leaning these days towards what were once known as "field recordings"; by bringing a similarly low-tech attitude towards his own new music, Westerberg is part of a ground swell fighting against over-production, preferring to present his songs instead in all their naked beauty. Not only do they sound all the better for it; I'm not sure that Westerberg himself has ever sounded so good. Certainly not since the Replacements broke up.

I'm glad though that I played Stereo so many times before discovering the existence of a companion CD, Mono, in the same package. A bonus release by Westerberg's new nom de plume for band recordings, Grandpa Boy, Mono follows (or introduces) the same disdain for professionalism as Stereo, but is disappointing in comparison. I have no argument with Westerberg's written claim of Mono that"How it sounds, what it says, who played what is irrelevant. It feels right, this is my blood." My problem is just that almost everything on Mono sounds like the Replacements circa Tim, and while that 1985 album contained 'Here Comes A Regular' as it also did no less than half a dozen other classics of the American post-punk era, there's no point our hallowed heroes bouncing back into action if they're only going to sound like they did seventeen years ago. Some of the songs on Mono are good enough to excuse their dated appeal: both 'I'll Do Anything' and 'Knock It Right Out' sound like demos from the Boss's 'Born IN the USA'; 'Eyes Like Sparks' has the bluesy exuberance of the Stones circa '66; the finale 'AAA' has a brilliant chorus lyric "I ain't got anything to say to anyone anymore" that is buried under one of the brightest guitar licks of recent years. But for the most part, this is Replacements-by-numbers long after the event. Start with Stereo, and stick with it, like I did. Treat Monoas a good-natured bonus and you'll be in good stead.

It pains me that I'll be in England when Paul Westerberg plays for free at the Virgin Megastore in Union Square on April 28. I'll have to make do his Letterman appearance the following night. Westerberg has not given us the consistency in his solo career that we've come to expect from Neil Young and Van Morrison: I just played his 1996 album Eventually, and to be blunt, it's terrible. But both Morrison and Young just kept at it over the years, and now it looks like Westerberg is keen to make up for lost time. Let's hope that Stereo truly represent a re-birth - and that in another twenty years, we can look back on an overall career of similarly sterling quality as the great Neil Young and Van Morrison. In the meantime, God - or whoever- bless all three of you for your unyielding dedication to sharing your emotions through music, however much that sometimes hurts.
Continue for more Tony Fletcher Musings through April 02.
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