Rock blog

So I’m on a train on the way back to Sheffield from London and I really should be doing some work. But fuck it, I’ve been at it for ten hours today and I’ve had a three day, forty hour week already, so I just don’t feel like it. As Eden has said – many times – fuck ‘em. Fuck the lot of ‘em. Cunts.

(As an aside – polyphonic ring tones. What the FUCK is that all about? They’re too loud, too distracting and too SHITE. I can’t wait to get a phone that does them. One of the most intense mobile users I ever knew, a Mexican management consultant living in Brussels who is, still, probably the most fantastic manager I ever met, didn’t use a ringtone at all. He just used the vibrate function. He could take calls in the middle of a meeting without anyone noticing – and stand up and start presenting at the end of the call, without missing a beat. But I digress.)

So let’s talk about David Bowie.

As many of you know, I have a somewhat deep-seated aversion to the Velvet Underground which is largely mirrored in my feelings for La Bowie. Too much self-indulgence, too much artsiness. Actually, let me just dwell on the Velvets – again – for a moment. I totally understand the adulation, I just find it REALLY IRRITATING. There’s too much knee-jerk knee-bending over records that are really pretty ordinary in the main. Let’s not dwell on the details – I’m sure they’re painfully familiar to most of you – but what is interesting about the Velvets is the milieu, not the group itself. I accept they did some good songs and shows, I just think it’s more about the reflected glory from the ideas of the Factory et al.

I enjoyed playing their songs in a teenage post-punk band, but I never got the elemental rush of discovery from the Velvets. And it was not for want of trying. Like Matt TWANBOC (who still regularly worships at their shrine) I was exposed to them in early teenage, in my case by the trendy boyfriend of an older sister (perhaps the coolest way of getting into music as for an adolescent). So I got the whole slew of albums and bootlegs taped right from the off.

But it never quite made me go whoosh. Possibly because I’d already been introduced to the Doors and the Stooges, and indeed to the infinitely superior tech-funk of Cabaret Voltaire (I was a MASSIVE Cabs fan at 13, just DYING to grow up enough to buy more records and go to their gigs).

So I’ve never been convinced by the Velvets. And I imagine this might perhaps slightly pain someone like Matt TWANBOC, because if I imagine someone slagging off the Clash, who were my most-favourite, number one band when I was a teenager, and the first proper band I ever went to see live, at 13, then I think I’d find it really quite painful. (He’ll probably give the Clash a good kicking now, but I don’t care – Sandinista is still the best album made by anyone ever…)

And I tend to put Bowie into the same bag as the Velvets. I’ve never got on with all that Lodger / “Andy Warhol” / voice-and-piano foppishness. (No doubt this would make me a stranger in Coldplay’s or Radiohead’s houses.) Too much preen, not enough gleam. But what I DO love about Bowie, and always have done, is Scary Monsters, both the song and the album. I say this having just listened to the song at high volume in a dodgy pub in Kings Cross over a couple of pints of wallop. Christ, entertainment doesn’t come much better than that. It has everything – screaming noise, remarkably funky grooves (I was fantasising about dropping it in a club set, it would work) and exaggerated Croydon accents – what’s not to love? It puts a big, shit-eating smile on my face every time I hear it, especially the daa-daa-daa woah-woah-woah bits with the metal shredding guitar counterpoint at the end. And I really like the album too, which is odd cos there aren’t really many other Bowie albums I can say that I truly hand-on-heart love. Well, there’s Young Americans, but I don’t have it, in fact I’m not 100% convinced I’ve even heard it all the way through, but who can resist Fame? Perfect emulations of James Brown (and other black superstars) are what white people are FOR. Just listen to The Micronauts’ The Jag, which is a fabulous, fabulous take on the essence of 70s transcendental soul, with just the right intervals in the chords. And the Speedy J remix is a corker. I lost the CD but managed to pick up the 12” on eBay for a song. Which Made Me Happy).

On balance I’d say I was still interested in Bowie, still open to the idea of buying a few old albums and still willing to lend a sympathetic ear to, well, even his new stuff, which I would imagine must be dire, though the odd bar finding its way to my ears isn’t that bad.

Perhaps best of all – and this will turn the stomach of pretty much everyone reading this except Marcello, even Eden, and he was down in the trenches with me at the time – is the fact that Bowie did the whole double-headlining tour thing with Nine Inch Nails, who as Marcello has already pointed out really were one of the most important bands of the 90s. They were a fantastic live event too, neatly creating the apotheosis of high tech rock, before wisely and somewhat defiantly jacking the whole thing in. (Me and Eden went to see NIN… as he will no doubt contradict in no uncertain terms, I had to beat them off with a shitty stick…)

In fact I’d go so far as to say they kept the On-U / Tackhead current burning, what with Adrian Sherwood producing the first LP and everything (to, it must be said, the complete bemusement, if not disinterest, of their peers, target audience and industry). Never mind the Goth pantomime of the guitarists. Feel the beats, the textures, the shapes, and understand why most white Americans with their cultural background didn’t need techno and certainly didn’t need drum’n’bass when they had NIN. How much of a pisser this must have been to Reznor only adds to the deep, comic irony of this band…

So, this seems to be my Rock Blog – the ideal antidote to the current spate of Prog Blogs (none of you will pass muster without doing Genesis, BTW, and none of you have the stomach to confront their – yuck – prog populism. But Genesis is Genesis and Rush is Rush and there’s a difference. You simply haven’t done prog till you’ve done Genesis. Ask any middle aged German ROCK fan.)

So is this the moment I tell you about The Cult, Love Removal Machine, and Ian Astbury being the cousin of my ex-brother in law? It’s a classic Essex hippy story. But it will have to wait. Cos it’s time for a piss and I’m already at Kettering.

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