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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Griff says: Solstice Reborn

Don't worry about the title, this site hasn't suddenly shifted from blogging about music to blogging about games. The Solstice reborn I'm referring to is the latest precious musical offering from Streetlamp favourite Syd Lane (pictured). You may be a little confused at this point, and may even be asking yourself; "Has Griff lost it? Why he rhapsodised over Syd's new album, Hypatia, only last month." Indeed I did, and for those who are not yet acquainted with the very lovely Syd, you can catch up 'here'. But tonight I'm talking about a newer album, or rather a new, old album. Confused? Let me explain.

On the 21st December (the day of the Winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere) 2009, in her home studio in Dublin, Syd Lane recorded nine songs in a couple of hours, with no breaks in the recording process. The album was named The Solstice Sessions and can still be found on Syd's bandcamp page. Syd felt at the time that she didn't want to hold the songs back and, in January 2010, she released the songs as they were, but deep in her heart she knew that, like all great works of art, they weren't quite finished, but instead abandoned. Syd has now returned to these songs and, with Jason Raspa of frogville originally ear-marked for mastering duties but unable to do so, has herself produced the fully realised conception of that which she heard in her mind back on that short Winter's day in 2009. So how does the remastered Solstice compare to the original? Well, magnificent, of course, but whatever I have to say about it I doubt very much that I could top either this review 'here' by the poet Jeremiah James for insight and affection or this 'here' by the irrepressible Smally of Quixodelic Records for sheer enthusiasm and passion. Please check them both out as they really will make you want to listen immediately to this wonderful album. Incidentally, the album now contains 10 tracks due to the inclusion of Love Far Away. I'd like to write more about how beautiful and sincere this music is but I feel constrained not to. I guess that sometimes I feel that Syd is like a tiny, fragile bird that I'll damage if I hold her too tight with my words, so instead I'll let her fly free and leave you with my two favourite songs from the album.

Beautiful! If you loved those, and I fervently hope that you did, then you may also want to check out Syd assisting Jason Raspa on frogville's brand new Syd Barrett covers EP; Songs In the Key of Barrett. As with Syd Lane's, all of Jason Raspa's music, including new album Love, is free to download from bandcamp.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Poly Gone! A Tribute To Poly Styrene

It seems almost inappropriate, indeed downright offensive to begin such a personal and poignant piece by quoting a pompous buffoon who has no place in the ~Streetlamp~, but....."How long? How long must we sing this song?"
With the metaphorical ink barely dry on our obituaries to Ari Up and Tura Satana, once again we find ourselves in mourning at the passing of another of our musical heroes and Pop Culture icons.

For today we wake to find that Poly Styrene has passed away.
Poly Styrene (real name Marianne Elliot-Said) was the lead singer with one of Punk's most unique and thoroughly original bands, X-Ray Spex.
One of the first wave of Punk bands in the UK they sounded completely apart from the rest of the movement, but were as every bit as essential as any of the others. Most of Punk's original icons had a distinctive look (a far cry from the heavily xeroxed rent-a-Punks that comprised the second wave); just look at Lydon, Vanian, Strummer, Ari Up, and Siouxsie for example. But Poly was way out on her own, dressed in eye-scorching Dayglo, cheap plastic accoutrement's, and with her corrective braces still wired defiantly to her teeth. She was an imposing sight for sure, frightening my parents on Top Of The Pops like she'd just arrived from another planet whilst I sat agog and agape, enjoying every second.
Vocaly too, she was quite extreme, possessing one of Punk's true Marmite voices; you either loved it or hated it.....I'll let you guess where we stood on the matter.
And then lyrically, well, again she was out there doing her own thing. Unlike the other Punk voices of the day she wasn't whining on about unemployment, boredom and the state of the nation. No, she was singing about turning the world Dayglo, teen consumerism, OCD level cleanliness, spiritual and physical bondage, non-conformity, and of course pure individualism. Something Poly had in spades.
I can't really speak for Ray on this matter but I know that Griff and I must have played X-Ray Spex's first (and in a sense only real) album 'Germ Free Adolescents' in excess of a thousand times. And no, I'm not exaggerating! I know this must be the case as I own the original vinyl pressing which I got when I was still at Primary School, the CD re-issue from around 1990, and then the Special Edition Box Set CD with all the demos, B-sides and a full concert. It's always been a record that has been around us.
And why not? Unlike some other Punk records, the playing is immaculate; the band incredibly tight with the startling juxtaposition of Lora Logic's mournful sax rubbing against Poly's shrill vocals.
Below are a few of my favourites:

After 'Germ Free Adolescents' X-Ray Spex just seemed to fritter away. Poly vanished from the scene, becoming a bit of a put it mildly! Occasionally she would do interviews but these seemed to wander off into talk about the Hari Krishna movement and the existence of UFOs.
John Lydon remained a friend but even he seemed troubled by her fragile state of mind.
There were often rumours of some kind of comeback and only recently did she release a new album called 'Generation Indigo' to very favourable reviews. There was even speculation of some live dates to accompany the release. As I write this I haven't got the new album yet but it is high on my agenda. I had also hoped to persuade Griff and Ray to go and see her in concert if she toured. Now, sadly, just like the final Slits tour that we never got to see, it's not to be. I will probably write about the new album in this Blog at some time in the future, but now it's time only to reflect on a beautiful human being and an extraordinary talent.
Farewell then Poly,
You turned the world Dayglo for us,
We thank you....and we miss you,
Sleep well xxx


A little addendum:
Several years ago I was at a record fair in Glasgow and I noticed that the original vinyl pressing of Germ Free Adolescents, identical in every way to my own much-loved copy, was going for a price in excess of £50. Not a bad price when you consider that I probably only paid a few quid for it. Needless to say, however, I wasn't tempted cashing-in. To even consider parting with this record for monetary gain would be on a par with selling my soul to the devil. No, this LP stays with me until the bitter end. In a sales-driven world of high-turnover, disposablity and accelerating consumption, always remember that there are higher ideals, deeper truths and alternative paths to walk... that's what Poly taught me.


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Rudimentary Peni...And The Fine Art Of 'Losing It'

If there's one thing we here at the ~Streetlamp~ love, it's a bit of diversity.
So for every sun-dappled reminiscence about some beloved Sarah Record there'll be some wallowing in the grime of some caterwauling anarcho-punk scrawl; for every moody and pertinent piece on a new ukulele and autoharp duo there'll be a skreeeeee of nails-down-the-blackboard Industrial Post-Punk cacophony. And so it only seems fitting that, following some deeply ironic incense and Holy Water stained prattlings about apparitions of the Virgin Mary(see Blog here) that we should come to write about a band whose anti-religious fervour teetered on the brink of madness. Teetered...and then fell in!

Yes, welcome to the Rudimentary Peni Blog. Be's NOT pretty!
I've always loved the diversity of music! When I was at High School it was not unusual for me to buy something by Japan or Blancmange one weekend, and something by Cabaret Voltaire or the latest release on Crass Records the following.
Just last week Griff and I were discussing that many of Morrissey's fans seem to like the things that he does solely because he likes them! The trouble with this is that most of the things he likes aren't very good; thus The New York Dolls and Jobriath are held in high esteem by Morrissey's fans when in fact both are crap!
Likewise, not everything that was released on Crass Records was necessarily all that good either, yet we still bought them. Some WERE good, some were very poor, and a couple were outstanding.
And nearly 30 years on, Rudimenary Peni's 'Farce' e.p. still sounds magnificent!!

A 7" single, featuring 10 songs and lasting around 14 minutes, 'Farce' is a volatile explosion of jagged edge music and some of the angriest vocals I've ever heard; and all housed in a sleeve that seems to have been designed by a very troubled mind (more on that later!)
It's the sheer force of both vocal delivery and playing that propels this fine record along; the music, despite it's aggression, is very precise and very intricate with 1000m.p.h songs stopping dead on a sixpence. But the vocals, delivered by guitarist Nick Blinko, give the record a uniqueness that stands it apart from most other 'Crass' bands, and indeed most other Punk bands.
For an easy introduction, let's try E.P opener 'Sacrifice'. Listen to the absolute rage in Nick's voice as he bids us in with "God is nothing more than an obsessive lie// While Sunday school children are brainwashed into the line//And presented with as truth what's really just a lie//Another childs' self-belief is sacrificed"....take it away Nick:

Then, we notch the outrage up just a smidgen. On 'Cosmetic Plague', Nick's anger is threatening to take over. You can almost see eyeballs popping from head, veins in the neck bulging to bursting point:

But for all out venting of spleen, it doesn't get any better than 'Mice Race'. Remember when Ricky Tomlinson, while playing Bobby Grant on Brookside, would go into one of those fully committed rants, usually in support of striking workers, a performance he would hone to perfection playing Mike Bassett, England Manager? Or one of those performances from Michael Caine when he REALLY loses it? Well that's what we're dealing with here. This is one of the most apoplectic rantings I've ever heard from a vocalist in ANY band. Check the moment out at 1min55sec when he goes up a notch into full screaming's quite incredible. I wish I could have been in the studio to see him capture this performance. I can only imagine it must have been like watching some great method actor....or, he really was THAT angry at that moment.

Rudimentary Peni are John Greville on Drums, Grant Matthews on Bass, and Nick Blinko on Guitar and Vocals and worked with both Crass Records and Corpus Christi in the early 80s. They have continued playing, albeit sporadically due to health problems; Grant Matthews being diagnosed with cancer, and Nick Blinko's psychological illness.
Over the years, Nick has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals, having been sectioned under Section 3 of the Mental Illness Act. As you can probably tell by the brilliant but troubling artwork that accompanies RP's records, and of course by Nick's manic performances on record, this is a man with serious issues. It has been said that he creates his artwork while NOT using the medication he has to treat him. He also once created an entire album while sectioned in hospital called 'Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric', and is still highly regarded as an artist by the Outsider Art Scene.

Hugely influential upon many US Hardcore acts, RP are still viewed with great fondness by Punks and Outsiders alike. Probably because it was pretty obvious they weren't faking it, or indulging in bullshit platitudes.

Rudimentary Peni....turning the act of 'losing it' into a work of art.


You can download the 'Farce' EP here

And their mighty 'Death Church' album here

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Look Who's One Year Old Today

Today is our first birthday and we'd like to invite you to join us in the celebrations and also thank you for sticking with us throughout the year. It's been a wonderful year for us, we've met loads of nice people, heard a vast amount of fantastic songs and our faith in humanity has been restored. Those of you who've been with us from the beginning will remember that in our very first post we outlined the reasons we felt the need to push one more music blog into what is a, frankly, already saturated market. In those first fresh and innocent blog posts we hopefully gave a sense of our 'mission'; to promote the music which we as individuals love, to promote new bands and musicians as part of a non-commercial culture which prizes art over commerce, and to give space on the internet to those artists with genuine merit, both old and new, who might otherwise be overlooked by more mainstream music sources. We hope that we've been succesful in meeting those ideals and we hope that, above all, each of you has been introduced to an artist somewhere along the line who has come to mean as much to you as they do to us.

Speaking for The Streetlamp team I have to say that the success of the blog has far exceeded our expectations. We entered into this venture not really expecting a huge audience for an outsider music blog with occasional diversions into left-wing politics and classic European literature, so we've been really surprised at the depth of readership. With over 20,000 page views for our articles and over 6,000 views for one of our SadPanda videos we can declare ourselves both surprised and delighted. Every person who has read one of our blogs, watched one of our videos or given us feedback we consider to be part of The Streetlamp family. That's why, as part of our first anniversary celebration we'd like to introduce you to (drum roll); 'The First Annual Streetlamp T-Shirt Competition'.

A Streetlamp T-shirt, you say! Hmmm, how does that look? Well, take a look at the one in the picture, below, as worn by our gorgeous Streetlamp model.

That's a quality t-shirt, folks! Now just imagine, having one of your own to roll around in on top of your own pile of pricelss art. How do you get one? Easy, to take part in the competition, here's what you have to do. Take a long hard look at the picture, above. In true Streetlamp psuedo-intellectual style we have posed our model on top of a random selection of pretentious records and books; some well-known, some obscure; which were influential on The Streetlamp teams cultural development. Your job is to see how many you can recognise. Stick your answers on an e-mail to along with your name, address and t-shirt size (state if you want male or female fit). The person who recognises the greatest number of The Streetlamp's precious cultural artefacts gets a free t-shirt. Simple!
Think it looks kind of hard? Don't worry, here's a clue; the photo contains 23 books, 28 7"singles and 26 12" albums and singles. Still too hard? Ok, to make it really easy, have a look at the pic minus the model, which you can download 'here'.

We look forward to hearing from you. And remember, The Streetlamp would like to continue to build on its first year, so if you're in a band, or if you make videos, or if you fancy submitting an article, get in touch.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Griff says; New Orleans Swim Team - Not waving but drowning

I hope the artist doesn't mind being described this way, but I've got a rather 'odd' little musical treat for you tonight. The artist is completely new to me and goes by the name of New Orleans Swim Team. Don't assume by that name that we're talking about a large ensemble here, however. No, these are the intimate solo recordings of Alberta based, self-taught, multi-instrumentalist Jacob Ulickij (pictured) and he's burst into my consciousness this week with what appears to be a debut album; Sitting On Fences. Like much of the best indie-folk brought to you by The Streetlamp, this music is self-recorded at home and has the urgent, soul-baring insistency and labour-of-love imperfection of all great outsider art. Given my appreciation of honesty in art I find myself drawn to its compelling, almost guileless, sincerity. Jacob plays all of the music on the album and, rather than singing his dense, elaborate, poetic lyrics, he speaks them in a vulnerable, often whispered, undertone that just adds to the intimacy of the messages therein. Listening to the songs is rather like plugging in directly to the philosophical stream-of-consciousness of a sensitive young man trying to make sense of a confused and confusing world.

The music itself is largely indie-folk with a dash of primitive chamber pop and some art-rock experimentalism thrown in for good measure. The only artist that it really reminds me of at all is illustrious and enduring experimental artist and musician, Laurie Anderson. See what you think yourself, I've embedded (below) a couple of songs from the album. There are nine songs in total and all of them can be downloaded for free on the New Orleans Swim Team bandcamp and soundcloud pages. I suggest you do visit the bandcamp page though, as all of the lyrics are printed there and, if you're at all like me, you will want to read them just as elemental prose poetry.


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Jacinta Was Such A Cynical Ghost

~A Tale Of Half Truths~

The heat was already beginning to build as I stepped into the square before the Basilica. It was still early morning but the unforgiving Portuguese sun felt especially fiery today. It was my third time here, so the sight of people making their way to the Basilica on their knees wasn't so shocking anymore. As usual the place was packed, yet it always amazed me how so many people could be so quiet, there was a serene air, almost like a buzzing, shrouding the place.
The Basilica itself stood like a colossal work of art, the haunting images of the dead children looking down on the faithful, forever captured in that moment of fear and bewilderment, locked in that monochrome daguerreotype for eternity. The steps that led up to the building were crowded as usual, but I happened to notice one little girl staring at me intently, a strange glow surrounding her. As I looked closer she appeared to be beckoning me. As I saw her face clearer I saw it was HER, from the image above.
"You took your time" she said.
"Hello Jacinta" I replied.
"You'll need this" she said, handing me a thoroughly battered Walkman that was held together by insulating tape and sticking plasters.
I put the headphones on and almost immediately 'Morning Light' crashed in. She took me by the hand a led me into the square.

"How come no-one else can see you?" I asked.
"I only appear to one person at a time. It's easier that way"
"Why me though?"
"I always pick an unbeliever. That way they don't go mad and start flapping around all bug eyed! I mean, look at some of this lot!!" She pointed to some of the pilgrims, agonisingly making their way on bended knees, or so disabled they could barely stand let alone walk or crawl. She skipped around them, sometimes dropping to her knees and mimicking their actions.
"You're terrible" I said.
She spat through her teeth, and replied "You'd think some of them would get a life. Haven't they sussed it by now?" She handed me a water bottle. "You'd better fill this up from one of the fountains. It's going to be a long day" she instructed.
"But the fountains are blessed. That's Holy Water!"
"It's just water. It's JUST water!"
She touched the sleeve of my shirt...

....the backdrop shifted and changed.....

We were in the house where she and Francisco had lived. The tape spooled onto 'Walking'.

As we stood in the tiny house I realised that we were both here in real time, and back in April 1919 as Francisco lay dying in his bed. As the procession of tourists and pilgrims made their way through the narrow room, I could also see the grieving family gathered around the small bed. Jacinta looked down lovingly at her brother.
"I never thought he'd go before me" she said.
"He looks so young" I replied.
"He's only 10 years old. He'll always only be 10 years old". She sneered at the procession making it's way through the house. "Look at them! Always touching his walking aid or stealing threads from his bed or scarf. It makes me sick".
She touched the sleeve of my shirt....

....the backdrop shifted and changed....

The wistful melancholy of 'Dear Flies, Love Spider' shook me out of me stupor...

We were now in Jacinta's own room. Again we were here in the present day, and also in February 1920. Jacinta was looking down at her own dead self, apparently unmoved. "Barbarians!" she said suddenly. "Barbarians! That's what they were like in those days. I had the pleurisy bad and do you know how they tried to treat me? They removed two of my ribs. I was only nine! How could they!"
It wasn't sadness I saw in her eyes, it was anger.
"I see this every day, and every day I curse them. They never even left a nurse with me on my final night" she cried as the faceless troop of believers walked through the room. "Come on, we need some fresh air" she said and grabbed my sleeve...

....the backdrop shifted and changed....

We found ourselves upon a hill in Aljustrel, "Thoughts Of You" crept onto the tape.
"So this is where it all said to have happened" I remarked.
"Yeah, this is where we said we saw Her....Our Lady....Haha!" She shook her head. "And they took the word of three little kids" she continued, laughing, "Those clowns would believe anything we told them....angels, apparitions, the sun falling from the sky! I mean look at us! Why would SHE appear to us, eh?"
She began acting out her reverential behaviour from the days of the visitation. Exactly on cue she shouted "Look what we've done?" in time with song playing in my head.
"I think I need a drink" I said.

.....the backdrop shifted and changed....

We found ourselves walking the busy streets of Fatima, '...Of Lights' fitted the mood.
We looked at all the tat. Christ shaped paperweights sat amongst Virgin Mary styled lava lamps. Biscuit tins with 'Our Lady's benign face filled shelves groaning under a ton of Rosaries. I could only shake my head in incomprehension. Jacinta yanked me into a little cafe. I ordered a bottle of Vino Verde and a bowl of bacalhua. Jacinta helped herself to some of the food then took a swig from the bottle.
"Hey, you're under-age!" I exclaimed.
"I'm 101 years old actually....and I think I'm entitled to drink. Better than that Communion wine anyway!"

We walked back to the square at the Basilica. The place was now heaving as the faithful began to gather for the mass and the procession. Aptly 'Rosary' played on the tape.

As we walked amongst the believers I couldn't help but notice that Jacinta now looked a little sad. She told me of how she and Francisco had come here nearly every day for the past 90 odd years and how they had missed their friend Lucy all that time. Now that Lucy had joined them, she was an old woman and had little time for their boisterous activities. As the sunset bathed the square in a golden glow Jacinta said it was time for her to go. "Can't let all these people down now, can I?"
I looked at all the people making their way to the various altars; candles, Holy Water and rosaries in hand.
"And to think, all of this because three little kids made up some nonsense saying they saw the Virgin Mary" I laughed.
Jacinta shot me a quizzical, angry look.
"Made up nonsense?" she glowered. "I never said we made it up. We really did see Her! She really did appear to us, just like we said"
I felt a chill in my stomach as she took back her Walkman.
"Actually" she continued, smiling, "You'd like her. She's an Atheist too!"
And with that, she disappeared into the throng.

I could still hear 'Rosary' in my head, it swirled around me like the vapour of a cynical ghost.....

~For Jacinta Marto, March 11, 1910 - February 20, 1920~

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

When All I Knew Was A Sunny Day: 'Under The Milky Way'

As we've been getting all melancholic and reflective of late, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to write a Blog about a song that I really feel I should have written about before now.
But first a bit of perspective....

About 10 years ago, Griff asked me to compile a mixtape(this was in the days before we had mastered burning CDs or compiling MP3 playlists) of the songs that meant the absolute world to me, songs which had soundtracked my life to that point, and songs which I simply couldn't live without.
I began the tape with the song that not only meant the most to me, but which I felt was ME in songform, if that's not too pretentious! It's a song I can barely listen to now as it just get's me right HERE every time I hear it, so overpowering is it's hold over me. Simply hearing the song alters my perspective, and for a few minutes my DNA, and takes me to time free of unhappiness and stress, and one full of brio and nights on the lash.

The song is 'Under The Milky Way' by the Australian band The Church.
No other song in my vast collection of records, tapes, CDs and MP3s has the effect this song has on me. From it's strummy minor chords intro I'm drawn into a world that no longer exists but which comes spectacularly alive; "Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty// Sound of their breath fades with the lights".....the place IS empty now, but when I hear this song it rings with laughter, with passion, with the hopes of a young generation.
'Under The Milky Way' was released in late 1987(I think) and was played on Radio 1 a few times in early 1988 but failed completely to make the British charts at all. I find that utterly bizarre! Were there really 75 records that outsold this wonderful song at any point in 1988? Really??
In 1988 I jettisoned the bratty, obnoxious Punk image I had cultivated for the previous 5 years and began to take myself more seriously. It almost felt like I was emerging from a badly dressed coccoon. 'Under The Mily Way' soundtracked that whole experience. It was a song that was played before embarking on nights of revelry, and a song which acted as soothing balm when I crashed in in the middle of the night either with a heart full of young love, or a heart torn in a million pieces by some thoughtless girl. But mostly it acted as a salve for the intense burning of unrequited love that seemed to plague me in those days.
"I think about the loveless fascination".....Griff has always said that I'm too much of a romantic for my own good, but if being a romantic means suffering the painful pleasure of that REALLY unattainable girl....then I'm happy as I am.
"Wish I knew what you were looking for// Might have known what you might find".....sometimes I have to admit that I think the lyrics of my records are a voice speaking directly to me. As an Atheist, music is my religion and I often feel that certain voices and lyrics are like the voice of my own God directing my life. The amount of times I've heard that lyric and wondered if it was speaking directly to me, so often did I play the record in moments of emotional crisis.
"And it's something quite peculiar// Something that's shimmering and white// Leads you here despite your destination// Under the milky way tonight"....if you've read our Blogs you'll know that we talk a lot about how we spent our teenage years outside, prowling the streets on even the coldest of nights. I think that's why these lines resonate so deeply within me....the voice is saying "You may think you know where your life is headed, but that special girl, the one you can't see yet, will take you away from all this, to a better place".
The melancholy poignancy of the music aches like a stinging tattoo, the little scattershot synth flourishes flutter like your inside when she first speaks to you, the subliminal backward keyboard melody fills the air like her smile fills your dreams, the song reeks of perfume and lipstick, you can hear the gush of the burn at the bottom of the Auld Toon Brae as she wraps her arms around your head, the thump of the snare drum like second heartbeat required as your own is bursting at that first kiss.
You never forget those nights and you never forget the soundtrack that accompanies them.

Is this my favourite song of all time? You know, I'm not quite sure! It's certainly one of my Desert Island Discs, but does it mean more to me than something by The Smiths or The Beatles or Tindersticks or The Monkees or indeed ANY song I've written about in these Blogs? Who can tell? All I know is I could never live without it. What would be the point??
Interestingly despite my absolute adoration of this song I never checked out ANYTHING else by The Church....not one single note of music. Maybe I'm scared to tarnish the feelings I have for this track, or maybe my head hurts that EVERY song they have is as good as this one. But I'm happy to leave it like that.
They've left their mark on me.... that lovebite you hope never fades!


Monday, 11 April 2011

Songs in the key of Griff: Dark Lonely Street

Now, I know that I generally leave the meanders down musical memory lane to Gordon, but I'm going to break with tradition today and write a retrospective piece about a song that means an awful lot to me, for reasons that I hope I'll soon make clear. In actual fact, it was Gordon who prompted this piece and it's really a companion piece to his own commendable Eddie Cochran blog (see below). After reading Gordon's blog I was struck with two thoughts:
Firstly, I was wryly amused by his mention of my own, off-the-cuff, joke based around the premise that the listeners would have an intimate knowledge of obscure Eddie Cochran B-side tracks. I'm afraid to say that that is indeed a true account of the type of badinage in which the Streetlampers indulge, even when engaged in 15 mile treks across heath and muir . If that glimpse into our day-to-day life makes us seem a little like music-obsessed, anal compulsives then I can only say in our defence... Erm, actually, I can't say anything in our defence, we are what we are, but we're harmless at least!

Secondly, it made me think, for the nth time, about a song that has haunted me from the first moment I heard it, namely; Dark Lonely Street by Eddie Cochran. Interestingly, although it was originally a B-side, I first heard this song on a, hard to obtain, 1985, recorded in mono, vinyl LP that I had borrowed from Gordon. Called 'Eddie Cochran - The Hollywood Sessions', the album features; Eddie, sound engineers and assorted musicians rehearsing songs in a fairly informal way in the studio, while the tape recorder rolls in the background. For a neophyte musician, the album was a priceless insight into the process by which professionals record and how they behave in doing so. What's more, it was agreeably reassuring to hear the multiple false starts and re-takes so familiar to my own musical experience. Many people would consider an album of discarded studio out-takes to be merely a typical music industry, scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel, money-making exercise, but to me that album constituded an incalculably valuable part of my musical education. Plus, it brought me Dark Lonely Street.

So what is it about Dark Lonely Street that marks it out from other songs? Let me attempt to explain. A couple of years ago I decided to compile a list of those songs which held the most meaning for me personally. The culmination of this was a blog-piece I posted on Myspace called '15 songs I wish I'd Written' (it was originally 10, but I couldn't confine myself to that. Believe it or not, I actually started with a list of around 80 songs - if you're interested you can see and hear them here). Dark Lonely Street made the cut and featured as one of the 15, and essentially, I suppose, it is because of one line in the middle of its mere 9 lines of lyrics. Here is the lyric in full:

mmm ... mmm ... mmm, this dark lonely street
here am I, I walk alone, I have no love of my own
now each shadow I pass is my looking glass
on this dark lonely street
I'm in love with the dream, of a girl I've never seen
out of reach, out of sight, will I find her tonight
on this dark lonely street?
is my love just pretend, will this dream never end
maybe this cigarette, will help me to forget
this dark lonely street?
mmm ... mmm ... mmm, this dark lonely street

So, what are you thinking? Seems rather slight, perhaps even superficial. Well, I don't think so. Yes, it's sparse and succinct, but it's by no means insignificant. After all, a haiku is composed of only three lines but manages to contain beauty and reveal great truths within that economy. Perhaps it's the very constraint of the medium that makes it so intellectually and aesthetically satifying? The genius of the haiku poet is to focus on 'showing' rather than 'telling' and that's something that Cochran (and song-writing partner Jerry Capehart) manage to such telling effect here. The crucial line, which adds such weight of meaning of the song for me, is:

'I'm in love with the dream, of a girl I've never seen'

The motif of the 'dream lover' is a common one in popular music and has long held a fascination for me through songs such as; Roy Orbison's 'In Dreams', Sunny Clapp's 'Girl of My Dreams' and Patsy Cline's 'Sweet Dreams' to name but three. Where Cochran differs from these songs is that, as well as painting a pithy picture of dark and brooding existential angst, into this he suddenly introduces a further degree of removal from his ideal archetype by singing that; 'he's in love with the dream, of a girl he's never seen'!
He then goes on to ask; 'is my love just pretend, will this dream never end?'

What could he mean? From the moment I first heard this song, this lyric has gnawed at my psyche. In my opinion, this song cuts right to the heart of the nature of love and romantic idealisation, and perhaps even the nature of reality itself. The line "I'm in love with the dream, of a girl I've never seen" shows how aware Cochran was of the self-deceiving notion of romantic love and of how we are all chasing an unattainable exemplar against which reality is a poor and shabby substitute. This lyric can look cynical but to me it's more than that. I believe that in these few lines Cochran shows devastating self-insight with a brutal, penetrating, yet somehow abstruse truthfulness that few pop writers ever achieve. In doing so, he arrives at a philosophical self-awareness that one would normally associate with French existential novelists or ancient Eastern mystics. You think I'm reading too much into a three-minute pop song? Perhaps, but as Gordon would say, if you don't take music deadly and profoundly seriously then you're on the wrong blog.
The other strength of the song is the way in which the music is so beautifully married to the mood of the lyric, something that many song-writers would do well to study. To see what all the fuss is about, here's the song itself on a 78rpm pressing played on a magnificent, classic Dansette-type player (as favoured by our Panda mascot).

An MP3 of the song (minus the crackles) can be downloaded, courtesy of The Streetlamp, here, for further contemplation. For good measure, I'd also like to throw a couple of other cultural nuggets your way. The idea of Maya (the illusive, dreamlike concept of reality found in Indian religions) hinted at here can be found in other Western pop culture artefacts. See the chimerical, intriguing films (and music) of David Lynch or Syd Lane's wonderful, complex album, Hypatia for a very recent example. This type of art, on the edge of the unreal, full of hints, allusions and implications follows in the ancient, mystical tradition; the truth is in there, but grasping it takes both perseverance and a willingness to take leaps into the unknown. Also, as a very good illustration of the unattainable ideal; forever pure and uncontaminated by the disappointment of real life; in popular art I can think of nothing better than this incredible scene from Orson Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane:

One of my favourite scenes in cinema history; I think it's fair to say that not a month goes by since I first saw that scene that I don't ponder on the enigmatic and transcendent truth that it contains.

Well, that's all from pseuds corner for this installment. Normal service will be resumed next time, but I hope that this deviation from my usual posts was at least a little 'enlightening'.


~Gordon~ Says: appears we are mutating into the same being. A hybrid so scary it defies comprehension!
(I see the girl in the white dress every day....but then you knew that!!)

And now I know where that album went to!!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

~Nippy Sweeties~#8: Just Like Eddie's Girls

Just yesterday the three of us who comprise the ~Streetlamp~ were partaking in one of our non-musical pursuits, and spent one of the warmest, most pleasant days of the year so far hill-walking, geo-caching and cultivating melanomas due to lack of sun-screen. And for this reason we awake this morning with faces like skelped erses!
During the walk, Griff made a joke that, unless you had extensive knowledge of Eddie Cochran b-sides, would have fallen on deaf ears. I won't bore you with the joke as it could well be completely meaningless, but just the mention of the song in question('Cut Across Shorty') caused a a ripple effect within me that led to recollections of Eddie Cochran and songs that used to mean a lot to us, for very different reasons. It was one of those afternoons where we reminisced hugely on old friends and on music in general, so it seems only right that I should choose a couple of Eddie's less well known, but utterly wonderful songs as the basis for today's Blog.
When I was a tiny child, the only music I had access to was my parents record collection. They didn't have a huge collection but what they did have(mostly my Dad's records) pretty much shaped my listening mode for the rest of my years. There were albums by Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Bobby Vee, Ray Charles as well as a couple of Beatles albums and the first Rolling Stones album, plus a clump of singles featuring John Leyton, Ricky Nelson, Gene Pitney and Del Shannon. A lot of these records struck me then, as now, as very dramatic and very emotional, something which has stuck with me ever since.
There was also an album called 'The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album'; an album of hits and lesser well known songs issued immediately after Eddie's unfortunate death. This was an album that, even in pre-school days, I used to insist be played with alarming regularity.
One song from the album that really stood out for me was a track called 'Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie' that must go down, surely, as one of the most exciting songs EVER to emerge from the first Rock'n'Roll period. Just listen to it below! It rattles along with a fair old clout, the pounding piano pummeling all in before it. And just listen to the ecstatic quivers and yelps in Eddie's voice as he delivers a vocal teetering on the brink of full-on sexual lust. This, my friends, is what the Wasp-ish Christian Right parents dreaded in Rock'n'Roll.
I assume the track was recorded in one take as it sounds completely like nothing that could be replicated twice without a cold shower and few hours kip.
Back around 1983 when our little schoolboy Punk band was on the brink of collapsing in on itself, our musical tastes began to drift away from the generic Punk twaddle we had tolerated so long and I recall that Griff began to put obscure Rock'n'Roll tracks on the ghetto blaster that used to accompany us everywhere. 'Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie' was one such track and I remember us arguing with the rest of the band that this song had more drive, energy and excitement than all the Punk songs in the world. They may have sneered, but then they all laughed at Christopher Columbus....

The second track to feature tonight is from the same album and again contains just a girls name in the title. 'Teresa' is an absolutely beautiful, compelling and otherworldly song that, if you are hearing it for the first time tonight, then of all the songs I have written about in these Blogs, then this is the one I feel most proud of to bring to your attention. I may have resolved to stop mentioning certain French writers in these Blogs, but seriously folks, if ever a song transplants me right back into my childhood it is this one.
With a production so cavernously echoey that you'd expect Joe Meek's name to be on the credits, a melody so heart-stopping, female backing vocals so poignant and angelic they melt your heart right there in it's chest cavity. This song is MAGICAL. Again with a vocal performance of sultry longing and hidden sexual desire.
Within this song I can hear everything I would eventually come to love about music; from Morrissey's tremulous quiver to Sarah Records painful adolescence, from Tindersticks' grandiose dramatics to Joe Meek's other-worldliness. The very bedrock of my musical taste lies within this song.

Listening to these songs again I can see why many people have argued Eddie Cochran's corner in the great Rock'n'Roll wars. Had he lived, would he have overtaken Elvis or Buddy in the popularity stakes? He was worshipped by John Peel, adored by McCartney and even Sid Vicious proclaimed him his favourite singer.
Whod've thunk we'd find ourselves agreeing with old Sid eh?
Good times my Friends!


(And just for posterior:)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Griff says; To those who may wonder where wonders do wander

To those who may wonder
where wonders do wander
they wander until wilting away...

It's almost a year now sice The Streetlamp first (ahem) 'burst on to the scene' and interestingly enough my very first post was about the CLLCT musical collective and their wonderful dream of bringing free music straight to your PC. Looking back through the Streetlamp archive, I see that, since that first post, I've written about CLLCT bands a further seven times. Quite a good return for CLLCT, and proof that it has served as a rich source of material for this blog. I'm pleased, then, to bring yet another CLLCT band to your notice tonight. The band is a six-piece called Cream Trees and they hail from Rockford, in far northern Illinois, USA. Last month the band released a six track mini-album, called Wandering Wonders, and made it freely available to dwnload on both their CLLCT page and Reverbnation page. I've been listening to it for the last few weeks now and it just keeps growing on me. On their CLLCT page the band describe their music as experimental pop. Personally, I think it has a strong psychedelic flavour and is more folk than pop; to these ears it's not a million miles away from Streetlamp favourites Luna Moth. So, file under psychedelic folk or, if you prefer, use the band's own rather fuller definition:

"Cream Trees are the perfect soundtrack for the easy hours, after you have changed out of your drab work clothes and are ready to intoxicate your senses. Each note seems to have a place in time, endlessly resonating and delivering immediate aural pleasure. Slow spectral glides evoke feelings of love, indulgence, bliss, and contentment. If you seek melancholy- look elsewhere."

As a tater, here's the opening track 'Here We Are Again', which has the most catchy melody ever and comes on like an adorable, psychedelic Fleet Foxes.

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Now go and check out the other tracks, you won't be disappointed.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Griff says; Spooky happenings in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, surely the most haunted place in Scotland judging by the sheer number of ghost walks put on for the eager tourists, and home for tonight's band; Scotland's own The Spook School. Those of you educated in art history may well be confused at this point, as previously the phrase 'Scotland's own Spook School' referred, of course, to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and friends and their Celtic influence on the Art Nouveau movement etc. But forget all that, it's irrelevant (unless the band get in touch and tell us that the Glasgow School is an influence on them, which would be unusual, admittedly, but pretty cool). Anyway, I digress, this The Spook School are a young, unsigned, indie-pop band from Edinburgh who have thus far recorded two songs, funded by Creative Scotland, both of which can be freely downloaded on either their page or bandcamp page.
I know very little about the band other than that the members are; Naomi Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamley. I also really like this blurb on their bandcamp page:

NOTE: Even though it says 'Buy Album' above, you can download these songs FOR FREE. We wont mind. Honestly. Obviously we'd be very flattered if you decided to give us some money, but it's really not a requirement. We'd rather you had them. TAKE THEM!

Well, it would be rude not to do just that after such a generous invitation. As regards the songs, it's difficult to say just what sort of sound The Spook School will eventually evolve. The first track 'History' has a memorably oblique and quirky lyric, the backing though is a fairly standard but competent stab at indie-rock. The second song Hallam is, in this writers opinion, much more interesting and had me sitting up right away. Again the lyric is arresting and unusual; this time, however, the accompanying music is perfectly matched and every bit as attention grabbing. The track starts with the melancholy calling of seagulls before some lovely light mandolin(?) playing ushers in the music. The song then builds slowly up with sweeping reverb-laden guitar chords and some wonderfully ethereal backing vocals. This produces a marvellously evocative and eerily doomed air, which I found impossible to resist. Have a listen below and see what you think:

Excellent, I hope you'll agree. More like this please, guys.