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It Was 20 Years Ago Today, ish

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.)

Residivistish

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.

Toys

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.
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Oh, Space Angel, say it's not true

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.
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It's Not Me, It's You

As many people have pointed out to me over the past few weeks, Lily Allen is releasing an album by the name of It's Not Me, It's You. Back on the 19th May 2003, I released a record of my own called "It's Not Me, It's You". Compare, contrast.

 

Those were the days when I still felt moderately excited about the possibility of selling lots of records and people thinking I was great as a result. Nowadays, I want people to just think that I'm great without me having to write any songs, which is a hopeful supposition , but hey, that's the kind of hulking brute that I am. It was the second album by The Free French; the first was kind of an accident, a home project that ended up morphing into a record that suddenly required a band to be formed in order to play it. So this one already had a band formed to play it, but I played everything myself – except the drums – because that's the kind of controlling, hulking brute that I am.

I think it's better than Lily Allen's record, although I haven't heard Lily Allen's record, and I made this one myself, so who am I to say. I have this small hope that fat-fingered simpletons on Amazon will buy my record instead of hers by accident, but as Pinnacle Distribution has gone bust, I feel fairly certain that no money will leak back into my fluff-laden pockets. Oh well. As per Momus and Vichy Government, here's my track-by-track recollection. Cos I'm in, on a Friday, on my own. Collapse )
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Everywhere we go the GTO must go

There's an odd rehearsal room next to Borough tube station. It's odd for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's a former home of PWL, Pete Waterman's classy, high-concept 1980s label that brought us such thought-provoking concerti as "Big Red GTO" by Sinitta. Secondly, it's cheap. I mean, ridiculously cheap. You're hard pushed to get a four hour rehearsal in London for much less than £40, particularly when all the extras have been added in – ride cymbals, speaker cabinets, Ayurvedic massage and so on – but here it's five quid an hour. Desperate to arrange a last minute practice with Dream Themes for our gig tomorrow night (slick, indie-jazz versions of Bergerac don't rehearse themselves you know) I was told about this place. So I rang them, and they said that they'd be delighted to offer us four cut-price hours on Saturday afternoon, from 2 until 6.

Friday night they rang me to say that there'd been a bit of a cockup, and they'd double booked us. I expressed mild fury, as there's not much a bloke answering the phone in a rehearsal studio has to do, over and above write the names of slightly shit bands in a diary and ensure that they don't overlap. After a 5-minute call that wasn't so much a conversation as a stand-off, he said that he could find a room for us from 4 until 6, if that would be OK. I considered the musicianship of the band, the complexity of the TV theme tunes we were due to play, realised that we were screwed, and just said "yeah alright" because there wasn't a lot else I could do.

Saturday afternoon I tried giving them a call to check on a minor technical issue; no answer. Tried again; no answer. I left for the studio; sexyworld was already there, and couldn't get in. I arrived; we only managed to get in because someone else happened to be leaving the building. We found a spare room; I went off to try and find a cashpoint.

(Sorry about all this – can I stress that anyone persevering with reading this is unlikely to be rewarded by any kind of payoff.)

There's a convenience store next door with one of those machines that charges you £1.99 for giving you £20; for that kind of level of commission I'd be expecting the machine to do more than spit out money, I'd want it to help me secure long-term work contracts and touch me on the bottom. But it still only charges you £1.99 if you take out £50, so I tried to take out £50. It accepted my card, accepted my PIN, made the whirring sound of counting money, but no money appeared. Then it just said "Hardware Fault". I looked at the guy behind the counter. "Do people often have trouble with this machine?" I said. He looked at me, blankly. "Does this machine usually work?" I asked. He just smiled at me, as if I was a bit-part character in "As Time Goes By" (starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer) who had just delivered a barely amusing punchline. "The machine is broken," I said, "it might be an idea to get a bit of paper and stick it on there, warning people that it doesn't work." He carried on smiling. "The machine is fine," he said, smugly, "I suggest you check your account to see if there's any money in it." At this point my splenetic juices exploded, and I'm ashamed to say that I started raising my voice at him in fury. Luckily, the two customers who were waiting to be served weighed in on my side, and didn't start attacking me with Pot Noodles and cans of fizzy guava juice. The manager eventually appeared, got out his own card, put it in the machine, and took out £20 with no problem, which was my cue to leave the shop looking like a sweary, poverty-stricken idiot who tries to take out money he hasn't got from cashpoints.

Back in the studio, none of the guitar amps were functioning, and the sole employee of the studio – who had miraculously appeared by this stage – was pressing buttons randomly on the front of said amps in a lame attempt to get them working. "Don't worry," we said, although not in unison, "we'll sort it out." We did. We rehearsed for the remaining 90 minutes or so, knocked out a staggering version of Bergerac, packed up, and attempted to find the guy to give him some money. He was nowhere to be found. We explored the building. All we could find were rooms in which lights didn't work, in which were sat youthful members of up and coming bands, the stars of tomorrow if you will, all patiently waiting for someone to turn up and take some money off them. "Bollocks," I said, "let's just go." Paul said that doing a runner wasn't really on. I was adamant that I wasn't going to hang around to hand over ten quid to someone who'd probably forget that I'd given him ten quid, and that I'd send them a cheque. After 15 minutes more loitering, we agreed to do a bunk.

At about 8pm I had a call from the studio. "Hi – did you call the studio earlier?" Um... yes, I said, about 7 hours ago, before the rehearsal. And that since then we'd been to the studio, and gone, but there was no-one to take our money. "Oh..." I could send them the money. "Um... no, it's OK." But you're running a business, right? I'm happy to give you the cash. "Uh... no, it doesn't matter. Something... something must have gone wrong earlier. The guy... uh... oh, never mind." As I say, it's an odd place. Cheap, though. Free, in fact.

If the weather doesn't get any worse, Dream Themes are playing tomorrow night at the Buffalo Bar with imomus favourites The Chap. Only five quid. Highly recommended.
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Endless Fun and Pleasure

This tweet led me to this review of White Lightning:

On the night, I drank very little. My cousin and a female friend got really stuck in to the White Lightning however. After approximately 5 pints (he was drinking out of the bottle so it's hard to tell!) he was unable to stand up nor make much sense. The female friend was falling over in to trees and bushes as well, after approximately 3 pints.

I had to drag my cousin out of the woods, during which we had to stop for him to be sick at least 5 times. He was wearing a trench coat and by the time I got him back to the main road he had dried cider and sick all over it, his trousers and his face. Squashed hamburger meet from the BBQ had also wedged itself in the zip tracks of his coat.


Contrast this with the second review:

Vibrant and Fresh: The passionate edge you desire

Advantages: Will give you endless Fun and Pleasure
Disadvantages: Can leave you feeling Hot and Flustered...

White Lightning is a vibrant, fresh cider with a passionate edge. People often complain of dull unimaginative drinks – so look no further than this sexy, yet beautifully mature cider. You will not be disappointed.
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Oh, man

I'm in my flat. On my own. Tears are running down my face, and I've been screeching with laughter for the last two minutes. This doesn't happen often.



Oh, and while we're at it, there's this, which is just wonderfully poetic and gets better with subsequent viewings.



Apologies if you've seen either of them before.