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Rhodri Marsden
23 June 2009 @ 10:17 am
It's June 1989. In the aftermath of the Tianenmen Square massacre, London indie nothings The Keatons decide to record and release a 7" single all by themselves, partly because it would be a gloriously independent gesture in the spirit of post-punk DIY, but more because no other bastard was ever going to ever pay for them to do it. I wasn't in the band by this point; I was struggling manfully through a clutch of A Levels, including an Economics paper which asked me to write an essay about the monopoly enjoyed by the Severn Bridge, not that the Severn Bridge itself was able to smugly revel in its enviable position. By the time the record came out I had joined the band, however, and I've spent the last 20 years pretending that the record had something to do with me whenever I imagined that would be advantageous to me in some way, i.e. never. Anyway, I may as well keep up the pretence.

This is what it looked like; I've just swiped this image from eBay because I can't find my copy anywhere, which is annoying, in fact I might even have to buy the bastard off eBay.

Two things struck me when I got my hands on it for the first time. First of them was: "Hang on... Isn't recidivist spelt with a 'c', not an 's'?" To which the answer is "yes", and the explanation is "Steve the bass player didn't know that when he sorted out the artwork". Of course, there's no such word as "recidivistish", although there should be, so I suppose we could have got away with "residivistish", because that isn't a word either. The word "recidivistish" doesn't appear in the song, either, which further complicates, some might say trivializes the issue still further. Certain band members could never be bothered to say "recidivistish" if the song ever came up for discussion, and they'd say "recid", which would be responded to with withering scorn and laughter by pedants within the group, who would insist on saying it in full.

The second thing struck me when I put it on the turntable. It's slow. I mean, horrifically slow. You need to play it at about 50rpm for it to be at the same pitch and speed it was recorded at. I've still no idea how this happened, and when I rang Steve in a panic and mentioned it, he said "yeah, I noticed that at the cut, but I was more interested in getting the record made to be honest." The b-sides are slow, too, play at about 47rpm for best results. Fortunately, thanks to the onward march of technology, I can use magic computers to restore them to Concert Pitch, which is what I've done.

(I should add at this point that if you find post-punk angular guitars in the mould of Wire and The Fall to be deeply annoying, you should probably stop reading, although you probably have already.)


This was the glorious A-side which received a glowing review in Sounds from Andy Ross, head of Food Records, not that he was sufficiently moved to give us any money, or indeed hookers. An anti-verse consisting of grown men bellowing "pick a vice", followed by an unusually chirpy chorus:

Oh I bless you, such a recidivist fish
Up to the blue deep lake, the feelers twitch
Tote en hiver
Scrawl what's on my mind

Gibberish. I remember John Peel playing it one night and the excitement being so intense that I almost did a little wee.


Neil, the singer, would write the songs on a battered acoustic guitar. They'd often consist of a nothingy two-string riff repeated ad infinitum followed by a slighly more exciting chorus. "Toys" is a good example. The longevity of this tune was quite remarkable, by which I mean vaguely interesting to about 8 people. We played it at most gigs we did, and were still playing it 6 years later at a shit outdoor festival in Jena, East Germany, when it became clear that no-one really wanted to be in the band any more and we all went home, arguing as we went. Sounds mighty, though, I think. I reiterate that I'm not on it, but I could easily have been, if I'd been in the band.

Dark Sudden Something

God, there's a lot of flanging and chorusing on all this stuff. It's a bit disorientating, like having a blindfold on in a small rowing boat and two jam jars each containing a bee sellotaped to the sides of your head. This was a song that got louder and sped up towards the end, ending in chaos and general thrashing about; 20-something men are under the erroneous impression that this makes a fantastic ending to a live set, so that's what we often did. Extraordinary bass riff from a man who pronounced fussy, flashing guitar playing to be evil incarnate, but still. A reference in the lyrics to someone called "Jenny Ginsberg". No idea who that might be, although there's a Jenny Ginsberg on MySpace these days, who has written a song called "Do I Subtract or Divide to get to I?", to which the answer is "Hahaha, no idea love, sorry."

No idea why I did the above. Sheer nostalgia, I guess. Back to work.
Rhodri Marsden
05 June 2009 @ 06:35 am
So I received a text message at 9.42pm last night, saying the following: "I think Nick's ex-wife is on Big Brother." And while this was something of a surprise, actually, when I thought about it, it made perfect sense.

I've posted on here about Angel, aka Space Angel, aka Sadko, aka Helen Sadko, aka Helen Hobbs, aka Elena Tchebotareva a few times before. She's one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met, which isn't to say that we're great mates, in fact quite the opposite: she probably thinks I'm a tedious pessimist, while I've always been utterly terrified and slightly contemptuous of her unwilting belief in her imminent fame. This is someone who could never be criticised for not throwing herself wholeheartedly into everything she does. Her effort levels are strangely inspiring. But her music is disorientating and a bit upsetting (as is her web design), her boxing career has been marked by an incredible series of straight defeats, and while she once claimed to be a "world famous visual artist whose paintings can be seen all over Europe," I only ever saw them all over her house.

My ex-boss fell for her in a big way while he was working in Moscow, and began a long-distance pursuit which eventually paid off. She came to live in London in the mid 1990s at the house where I went to work every day, and the two of them got married at Brixton Registry Office while wearing garb so hilariously outlandish that the registrar seemed slightly concerned that the whole thing might be being filmed for You've Been Framed. She began to pursue a career in, uh, music and general larking about, while I worked like a bastard in an adjoining room to help my boss earn the money that would pay for it all. From an earlier blog entry:

The latter years of working for aforementioned boss were liberally dotted with instances of me having to run errands for her, and my boss claiming that, as he was paying me by the hour, this formed an integral part of my job. The tasks could range from teaching her how to use Macromedia Flash, to phoning people on her behalf, to debugging her MIDI setup, to just fixing her computer when it became "stoned". "Rhodri, help me. My computer is stoned." You mean it has crashed? "Yes, yes. Help me." I became wearily resentful of her, and, as it was a 2-person business, increasingly annoyed at the amount of money she was leeching out of it (she had a credit card which was paid off automatically by my boss's bank accounts.) In early 2001 I did some sums, and worked out that she was pocketing way more than I was, and all she did everyday was paint nude portraits of my boss and leave them lying around the house, and then make sub-Pet Shop Boys pop music with heavily accented English lyrics. "I want to fly," I remember her singing. "Fly away, away, away." I quit the job shortly afterwards.

Thing is, she's not unpleasant. Far from it. She's lovely. It's a shame that she was roundly booed by the crowd on entering Big Brother last night, and I get no pleasure from the fact that she's already getting hammered on various online forums, but I'm not surprised. I don't think she'll last a month in there, if the public have anything to do with it. They'll see her as a grandstanding fake, but actually, she's just wildly eccentric. So eccentric that she didn't even consider removing her phone number from her website before going on one of the most popular shows on British telly. Older blog post, continued:

Since I quit the job, she has embarked on a short lived career as a rapper, including a memorable appearance on Living TV ("I want to fly, f-f-ffly") and then began boxing. "I am the top lady fighter in the UK," she told me. "I make a lot of money. I fight another lady, I get paid 2,000 pounds. I go to the Olympic Games, America, I become very famous." She appears to have married the owner of a "boxercise" studio in Herne Hill [actually, it turns out, she just adopted him as her father, whatever that means] and she turned up yesterday at my flat in a swanky car, carrying a brand new iMac (unopened). "Rhodri, put some software on this computer for me." I spent an hour updating her system, at which point she chucked £50 on my desk. "Here you are, fifty pounds," she trilled. "I love money, you know. I make lots of money. I fight other ladies, make lots of money." She looked bruised, battered and as hard as nails. I wasn't going to argue. I pocketed the money. "And you know when everything change, for me? When I give up music. I give away guitars, keyboards, I don't play music anymore. Then suddenly I make money. Music is a curse, Rhodri. A curse. You must stop making music. Then you make money."

I've never met anyone so utterly driven by the pursuit of fame. I'm glad she made it onto BB; I imagine it's probably been an ambition of hers for some time. It's terrible to say this, but she's probably perfect for the format, because a) she's unpredictable, b) has an unquenchable desire to be famous, but c) doesn't really have the raw talent to back it up. Although, having said that, she's a bloody amazing set builder. If you want scenery, she's your girl. Last blogcerpt:

She's very good with powertools, making stuff, being creative with wood and paint. So, imagine my horror while coming down Herne Hill the other day, to see an enormous, garish sign [outside the boxing studio] above the Half Moon. Even from a couple of hundred yards, I could tell immediately that it was Angel's handiwork. The name of the studio has been cut out of plywood, painted bright pink and stuck on the outside of the building. To the right of the sign is a 2D plywood figurine, in a boxing stance, black, wearing shorts and vest, and presumably represents Angel's [father]. And to the left, another figurine, female, also in a boxing stance, with 2 bloody great enormous wings sprouting out of her back. No guesses as to who that might represent. Highly incongruous, garish, utterly inappropriate for a boxing studio, but somehow rather marvellous nonetheless. If you're in the Herne Hill area, do go and have a look. I believe that it might become a tourist attraction.

Sadly it's not there any more. Angel, Elena, whatever your bloody name is, good luck, and for god's sake don't pay any attention to the British public.
Rhodri Marsden
28 May 2009 @ 10:52 pm
Sorry if you've already seen this on Twitter. I was bored today, and ended up – almost inevitably – at omegle.com. Again.

Rhodri Marsden
10 May 2009 @ 11:09 am
I'd quite like to look like this.

Anyway, it's funny to see a book listed on Amazon before I've actually finished writing it. It appears to be coming out on my birthday. Again.
Rhodri Marsden
16 April 2009 @ 08:20 am
The news that Clement Freud has died gives me an excellent excuse to repost the best joke known to mankind.