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"Motivation for the Spacin' Generation..." [Jul. 7th, 2009|04:53 pm]
[mood |nostalgicnostalgic]
[music |Transvision Vamp: Pop Art]

Ah, Transvision Vamp!   Of all the music I've ever liked I suppose T Vamp must go down as the guiltiest pleasure - but only because the snobbish music press have forever written them off as being crap!   I'd beg to differ though.  Hardly high brow, they were a bit like a T. Rex for the late 80s with a hint of commercial Velvet Underground thrown in - trashy and fun, semi-bubble gum pop with a seedy side.

Although I never play their second album "Velveteen" anymore, their debut "Pop Art" remains one I still listen to quite often twenty years on - it's stood the test of time much better than it's better known successor.  

Catchy tunes are all over the album with some really rather clever and amusing lyrics at times.  I still particularly love 'Sister Moon', 'Hanging Out with Halo Jones' and 'Andy Warhol's Dead'.

The closing 'Sex Kick' is the only track I sometimes skip (and back in the day Wendy's dubbed-on orgasmic screams were a bit embarrassing with my parents around!!) and I'd have preferred several of the excellent single b-sides (such as 'Evolution Evie' or 'Long, Lonely Weekend') in its place.

I actually saw them twice live two nights running at the Barrowlands in 1989 and had two posters of Wendy on my bedroom wall for a while that year (although I really wanted Tracy from The Primitives but there wasn't any posters of her!)

"Trash City, watch out here I come"
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Ashes to Ashes - Series One Revisited [May. 12th, 2009|10:28 pm]
Rewatching S1 on DVD before moving on to the current S2, I actually enjoyed it more second time around when expectations were lower, although I note with interest the lukewarm write ups S2 is receiving in the papers and even the likes of Philip Glenister himself now admitting the first series of Ashes had "verged on parody at times" (which is what I was saying all along!).

Not to say Ashes isn't a good series (and well worth a  tenner for the DVD set from Amazon!) but, although I know they've GOT to do this, it still bugs me that the DVD documentary has Keeley Hawes saying,  "I wondered, can it be as good as Life on Mars?  Then I read the scripts and oh my God it's even better!" (get real - who are you kidding?).  Then the creators raving about Hawes as pretty much the only choice for Alex Drake when she was so slated in the press (with even Glenister feeling he had to speak out in her defence) that I had actually wondered if she might be replaced for Series Two!  Personally, I didn't think she was anything like as awful as some people said, although clearly she wasn't anywhere near being in the same class as John Simm's Sam Tyler.

In contrast to LoM, some of the dialogue was clunky (i.e.  many of the Alex Drake-Caroline Price scenes were cringeworthy in their awfulness) and a shame to see Ray and Chris reduced to comic relief, while Gene - although always great value - wasn't quite as effective or realistic this time around. 

Someone said they couldn't understand when I wrote on Amazon a year ago that maybe Ashes would have been better not being made as if what I was saying didn't make sense - so in that respect it was gratifying to see the director of most of the Ashes S1 eps recognise this very aspect as he said, "We questioned whether it was a good idea to do a sequel/spin off?  We didn't want to tarnish the memory (of Life on Mars)".  I enjoyed Ashes but still feel deep down they should have left it with just the two utterly brilliant Life on Mars series as, by being inferior, Ashes does (for me anyway) detract from the original series.
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Bowie Berlin period/Reality/Iggy Pop - rambling thoughts [Mar. 18th, 2009|05:29 pm]
Whilst on holiday in Keswick last week I read the 'Bowie in Berlin' book I got for Christmas from start to finish - a really good read with a very "chatty" writing style and even quite a lot of stuff I didn't know about. I ordered Iggy Pop's Lust for Life CD cheaply when I got back (given Iggy's The Idiot and Lust for Life both being extensively covered in the book as the author clearly considers these two Iggy albums as very much a part of the whole "Bowie in Berlin era" - more so than Lodger in fact, which despite its usual status as one of "The Berlin Trilogy" has little to do with that city at all, being recorded elsewhere and Bowie had effectively left Berlin by then.

The CD arrived yesterday and sad to say, after a couple of listens anyway, I think it's pretty crap really and doesn't deserve to be spoken about in the same breath as Bowie's albums of the period. I can't understand how Lust for Life often appears in these "best albums of the 70s" lists. The Passenger is superb of course and the original version of Tonight is good, being much edgier than Bowie's pallid rendition but I didn't think Iggy's Neighborhood Threat was all that good. Bowie's version (although good) would have been better had it been a bit "grittier" but Iggy's seems too murky and unfocused - more like a demo. Then there's stuff like Sixteen and Turn Blue, which are pretty dire - indeed, the latter won't be played ever again!!

I remember Iggy Pop's 1986 song 'Shades' from his Blah Blah Blah album sounding very much like Bowie and from the Berlin book I got the impression that The Idiot had a similar "feel" to "Heroes" but after the disappointment of Lust for Life I don't know whether to bother with that album.

The book rates Low and "Heroes" extremely highly, with the author going as far as to state that side one of "Heroes" may be the single best side of a record/run of five straight tracks in Bowie's entire catalogue! Although a cool album, I wouldn't say that is true by any stretch of the imagination though. "Heroes" is without question one of Bowie's greatest and I really like Beauty and The Beast and to a slightly lesser extent Joe the Lion but neither Sons of the Silent Age or Blackout are amongst the best of Bowie's output in my view. I like them okay but they are nothing outstanding.

So I've been listening again to the Bowie Berlin era stuff - Low twice, "Heroes" 3 times, Stage and Lodger all since I got back from Keswick. Certainly the remastered Stage is quite stunning. Had Lodger playing in the car on Monday, probably its first outing for around six months or so. I did enjoy, albeit the album as a whole probably contains some of my least favourite Bowie tracks from the 70s (I've never liked Red Money or Yassassin, DJ is one of his weakest 70s singles and a few other songs are little more than "quite good" in my opinion). Still, good to hear it again once in a while.

I got stuck in a traffic jam on the way back so ended up hearing half of Reality as well and - better production notwithstanding - I just can't shake the Never Let Me Down vibe! Some of it seems really leaden (the repeated "I'm Ready" etc. in New Killer Star and the abominable Looking for Water). I continue to be surprised that Reality - though not afforded 'classic' status - seems to be generally highly regarded (someone on Amazon even wrote "far better than Heathen", which seems utterly inexplicable...and just plain wrong!).

I'm certain that Bowie's later work will eventually be widely recognised as containing moments of greatness - just not with anything like the consistency of his RCA years, and I don't consider anything on Reality as being anything like from his top drawer. That said, I'm more of a 70s Bowie afficionado, whereas many other fans probably enjoy the whole of his career more evenly (Outside and Heathen apart, I do wonder how many DB albums post-Let's Dance I would own if they weren't by Bowie...).
Discounting Pin Ups, it's Young Americans and Lodger which are the two from the 70s I have least affection for, the instrumental 'Neukoln' on "Heroes" makes for painful listening and I really wish he hadn't included 'Fill Your Heart' on "Hunky Dory" but those aside I think he was pretty much consistently brilliant throughout the 70s (and 1980 of course!) and never approached that consistency since (even Outside has a few rather duff tracks and Heathen includes the irritating 'A Better Future', which I can't stand). Even Young Americans is probably a very good album but simply not my cup of tea. Moving on to the 80s, I'll continue to defend Let's Dance though and even Never Let Me Down and Tin Machine I - Let's Dance seems to be subject to major revisionist criticism, despite being a fine album and I remain adamant that the other two are nothing like as bad as many would like to make out.

Due to forgetting to change my in-car CDs I ended up listening to Reality, then Never Let Me Down and part of Reality again back to back. I do like Pablo Picasso - which sounds edgy and a bit off the cuff (shame it's a cover) but then Never Get Old comes on and it sounds so utterly ordinary (as does the rest of the album to my ears). F*ck it, I don't care what anyone says, I still prefer Never Let Me Down! At least it has Time Will Crawl, Beat of Your Drum and Zeroes - three of Bowie's best from that period IMHO.

Okay, Beat of Your Drum hardly matches up to almost anything really from the RCA years (or even most of Let's Dance) but it caught my ear on the radio prior to the album release and I recall thinking to myself "that sounds much better!" Blame the producer for Never Let Me Down perhaps (I wonder what it would have sounded like had Visconti been at the controls?). The sound is flat and dated but my criteria remains based on how much I enjoy the songs and when it comes to Reality it's "not that much" on the whole, whereas I get more pleasure from NLMD, bad production and all.

Over familiarity can also be a factor of course and the later Bowie material (for me anyway) can still offer some surprises perhaps on repeat listening. There are several artists where my most played albums of theirs these days aren't necessarily the ones I regard as the best. That said, something like Panic in Detroit, Sweet Thing or Big Brother (and many others) can still send a shiver down the spine and a song such a Soul Love (which for years I never regarded as being a stand out) has in recent times become a real favourite!
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New Doctor Who - WTF????? [Jan. 3rd, 2009|06:07 pm]
Probably the end of the line for (new) Doctor Who for me as Matt Smith (who??), a 26 year old with a mere handful of credits to his name is announced today as the new Doctor....

I never thought I'd be sorry to see the back of RTD and David Tennant, but this takes the biscuit.  Totally f*cking crap.  Many will say fans shouldn't be so precious and that the programme makers know better than fans but please God, don't let these twats (RTD and Steven Moffat) anywhere near Blake's 7!

Seriously though, apparently some late (and, as it turned out, obviously incorrect) "insider information" had it that Chiwetel Ejiofor had already signed for the role of the Doctor (which would have been great news) so this is all the more disappointing.

Interesting to note that Moffat was saying Smith "has great hair" - I note it is very similar to a (rather derided) style I used to sport myself for many years...

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Diamond Dogs artist Guy Peellaert dies [Nov. 27th, 2008|08:18 pm]

Just read the news that Belgian pop-artist Guy Peellaert - creator of the legendary Diamond Dogs cover art - sadly died last week.

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US Open tennis [Sep. 9th, 2008|05:46 pm]
To my enormous relief Roger Federer pulled out one of his masterclass performances (for the first time in quite a while, actually) and took Andy Murray to school in the US Open tennis final!

The media hype is insufferable and the soaring support for complete tosser Murray (because he's a Scot or a Brit: take your pick, depending on where you come from yourself) continues to defy logic. For example, there's a guy in my office who always wants to see Murray win, yet admits he's a miserable git who's totally unlikeable.... Tennis isn't a team sport and Murray is playing for himself not a national team, so I'll never understand why so many will want to see their fellow countrymen win purely because of that fact (snooker's Stephen Hendry was another case in point). Roger Federer, by contrast, seems a genuinely nice guy (albeit some find him rather smug at times) and he had lots to prove, having been written off after what has been a poor year by his standards. The great champion showed his class and was really a case of a man against a boy.

Murray need not be too downcast though as his time will surely come and a first win over Nadal remains a huge feather in his cap.
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Doctor Who [Jul. 18th, 2008|04:44 pm]
So the Beeb are to offer David Tennant £1.5m to stay on as the Doctor for a fifth season! He is undeniably a popular Doctor and I have warmed to him a bit (though I still think he's over-rated) but after 2009 it would surely be time for him to exit. I felt his Doctor was fairly predictable and repetitive from the word go and he's now a huge star and bound to be in big demand for other roles.

Still Tennant is a avid fan himself and was once quoted as saying he'd like to stay in the part forever. In this day and age, with the massive media hype you can hardly open a newspaper or magazine or switch on the TV without seeing Tennant so I'd be glad to see him go and see what the next Doctor brings. BUT, on that note there are (surely ludicrous) reports that - get this! - Amy Winehouse "could" be a candidate to take over.....Mmm, maybe better pray Tennant stays after all! What a joke that would be with low-life Winehouse in the role (not that I expect there is any actual chance of that happening!)
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Ashes to Ashes - Glenister unhappy? [May. 10th, 2008|11:57 am]
There was an interview with Philip Glenister on the BBC website where he defended the much-criticised Keeley Hawes and some of his statements were a bit ambiguous:

"You can't get it all right and try to follow up something like Life On Mars and expect it to be an amazing thing.

"We all have to learn from it and find out where we went wrong, what we need to improve on and and come up with some great storylines."

"But you tend to get an instinct about when something should finish. And I certainly wouldn't want to drag it on and on.

I think such statements show that deep down, Glenister was unhappy with the way the series turned out. So was I - a few good episodes here and there but I was generally very underwhelmed indeed. The Gene Hunt character did sail very close to being a caricature at times - the stuff with machine guns and speedboats with Gene in sunglasses in the first episode being prime examples. And, if Glenister quits after S2, then surely it is all over.
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Lloyd Cole at the Oran Mor, Glasgow 12 April 2008 [Apr. 18th, 2008|12:36 pm]
Lloyd Cole was a great night - the eleventh time I'd seen him dating way back to 1986. Although the ticket said "standing", in fact it was unreserved seating and we got front row centre! Probably about 300 there and sold out. We had been expecting a really flash venue going by the photos on their website but seems that was for adjoining hall used for weddings etc.). So, the actual concert venue was nice enough (stone walls, sofas at the sides) without being spectacular. afterwards, I read on Lloyd's website that the three Glasgow gigs were in doubt due to a throat infection but glad I didn't know that until later, otherwise I'd have been worrying! His voice sounded fine to me - his update from last Wednesday said he was consulting a doctor as, although his throat was much better, he was worried about playing that night in case of doing damage that might result in subsequent gigs having to be cancelled. As far as I know though, all 3 Oran Mor gigs went ahead as planned.

I was sitting next to a couple who asked "what time will THEY be on?" and "just to let you know, there will be dancing!" Of course, it was a one man acoustic set and these two left at the interval, not to be seen again! I think they had expected to party!

A truly outstanding songwriter, but someone who has had a decidedly low profile for a long time now, it's great to see Lloyd selling out shows more than two decades on from his "pop star" days with the Commotions, and at a reasonably sized venue too. Prior to the gigs, Lloyd had requested fans to ask for songs they'd like to hear (a bit like Bowie on his Sound + Vision tour), though ironically, although the song I picked ("Vin Ordinaire") was one of the three top choices, he didn't play it on Saturday. Curiously, despite it apparently being popular with fans, he also mentioned that, of all his songs, Vin Ordinaire is his wife's least favourite!
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Charlton Heston 1924 - 2008 [Apr. 6th, 2008|02:14 pm]
I woke up to the sad news that film legend Charlton Heston has died. Not unexpected news, indeed, had probably been expected some time ago.

One of my all-time favourite actors, a shame that his politics turned so many again him in more recent times, to the extent that I've read a number of "about time" (he's dead) comments on line today... :-(

A true film great, I'm glad to see the news coverage has focused primarily on his acting roles and the sheer presence of the man, not the whole firearms thing, as there is no right and wrong there, only differing views.

El Cid remains my favourite film of all time and Ben-Hur and Planet of the Apes are right up there too, followed by a considerable number of other excellent films.
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