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Friday, 1 July 2011

Griff says; Cycling Non Stop

You may not be surprised to learn, given the other cultural indicators which are prominent throughout this blog, i.e. the vegetarianism, the championing of feminism and socialism etc., that the Streetlamp team's preferred mode of transport is undoubtedly the bicycle. Yes, when it comes to getting around, the Streetlampers predictably conform to the stereotype of all righteously indignant, anti-capitalists the world over.
I love cycling and every day quite happily make a nuisance of myself to car drivers all over west central Scotland during rush hour. Yes, I'm the guy shouting and gesturing at you when you pass me too closely, and then trying to catch you at the next junction to harangue you further. Ray, is also a passionate cyclist and a huge fan of tight lycra to boot. Gordon, interestingly enough, used to put in the most cycling hours of all three of us. Right through his teens and twenties Gordon must have cycled virtually every day, putting in literally thousands of hours in every kind of weather (and this is Scotland, so I really do mean every kind of weather). Nowadays, sadly for Ray and I, it's difficult to coax him onto the bike (despite the fact that he truly hates, loathes and detests cars) , but we live in hope. I suppose that the sheer length of time he's spent in the saddle, and I really wasn't exaggerating above, has just scunnered him but I hope that tonight's blog will go some way to reminding him of the thrill of the open road and also bring back some fond memories of a band who he used to adore in the late 70s and early 80s.
This blog is also timely as it serves to remind you all that tomorrow, Saturday 2nd July, one of the world's greatest annual sporting events begins. I refer of course to The 98th Tour de France.

For the benefit of the non-sporting readers, The Tour de France is an annual bicycle race held in France and nearby countries. This year it will be made up of 21 stages and cover an energy-sapping 3,430.5km (2,058 miles). For three weeks the 198 riders will strain the human body to the limit; over mountains, through valleys and into the heart of France's towns and cities. It will all end on July 24th on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. During that time, do not expect to see much of our Ray. To say that he's a fan of le Tour is a bit of an understatement. I think it's fair to suggest that every time I meet up with him in the next six months he'll mention something about events in this year's Tour. Then, for the six months following that he'll start with the, "Not long now to the Tour" conversations. Gordon and I can only try to cope by steering the conversation gently onto something distracting, like the films of Audrey Tautou or the legs of Victoria Pendleton.
For our American and Australian readers I should probably point out that the Tour is a truly great European institution. It is, indeed, one of the largest international sporting tournaments in the world, with the globe's largest viewing figures for any annual sports event, and is surpassed in scale only by the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics. It inspires huge passions and absolutely dwarfs small, local sporting events, such as the laughingly-titled World Series of Baseball for instance. It has also, rather nicely for my purposes, inspired some wonderful music by another truly great European institution; those ironic purveyors of avant-garde electro-pop, Germany's own Kraftwerk.

In 1982 the band's leader, Ralf Hütter, had been looking for forms of exercises that fit in with the Kraftwerk image and, as a result, he encouraged the group to become vegetarians and take up cycling. At the time, the band were in the studio recording a new album and, in keeping with their new found passion, they wrote and recorded the song called 'Tour de France'. This atmospheric slice of Euro-pop included bicycle-themed sounds, such as; chains, gear mechanisms and the hard breathing of a climbing cyclist. At the time of the single's release in 1983, Hütter tried to persuade the rest of the band that they should record a whole album based around cycling. Unfortunately, the other members of the band were not convinced, and the theme was left to one solitary, but exceptionally good, single. Here it is (below):

C'est magnifique, non? And that may have been it for bicycle-inspired music for the rest of history but, luckily for us, 20 years later in response to the Tour's centenary, Kraftwerk finally got around to giving us that album based around cycling with the release of 2003's 'Tour de France Soundtracks', the groups first album of new material since 1986's Electric Café. Here's a sample song, Titanium (below):

Hope you enjoyed that. An MP3 of the wonderful 1983 single can be downloaded 'here'.

And remember, the Tour starts this Saturday.This year, Stage 1 is the Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouettes, a distance of 191.5 km.

Et maintenant, pour la gloire et pour l'honneur, laissez les jeux commencer !



Gordon angrily retorts: Pah! How dare you(of all people) beat me(of all people) to the Kraftwerk Blog!!! What next? Me writing about Ian Campbell & Friends Folk Band?
Only joking, of course....this is a great article and captures the symbiosis of Kraftwerk's music and subject far better than I would have done. Good stuff!
As for getting me back on a bike....kiss my saddle-sore arse!!!

1 comment:

  1. HaHa you know me too well Griff,

    Music and Cycling what a brilliant combination.
    Didnt know Kraftwerk were fellow cyclists, makes them even more cooler :)