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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lord Gnome's Organ: 50 Years Of Ripping The Piss

One of the greater things about living in a democracy with a free Press is that you can hold that so called free Press up to the light for proper and thorough scrutiny. The British Press, and we include both sides of the Political coin here, have aligned themselves with the Political Parties of their choice and thus, our daily newspapers are a quagmire of tittle-tattle, scandal, political name calling and, on occasions, all out lying. So it's a blessed relief then that we also have Private Eye magazine. And this week sees that trusted organ reach it's half century of publication.
So to celebrate, let's have a little light reflection....

Private Eye started out purely as a satirical periodical, founded by Christopher Brooker, Andrew Osmond, Richard Ingrams and Willie Rushton. Quickly, however, it also became a source of investigative journalism when the great Paul Foot became involved. Legendary satirist and comedian Peter Cook also became a major contributor both in funding and material. Other early contributors, many who stayed for the course, included Barry Humphries, Gerald Scarfe, Auberon Waugh, John Bird, Barry Fantoni, John Wells, and Sir John Betjeman who wrote the first few 'Nooks And Corners' columns which attacked the ugliness of modern architecture.

The magazine became instantly recognisable for it's notorious 'speech bubble' covers; some, like the infamous Lady Diana memorial edition causing much public offence.
Very quickly the magazine took on the mantle of media scrutineer; picking holes in media broadcasts, highlighting hypocrisy and untrue reportage in the newspapers, hounding tax-evaders, ridiculing media and financial fat-cats, questioning MP's expenses, investigating dodgy deals between politicians and arms dealers or between shady businesses and the police, and generally just being a thorn in the side of the corrupt and the corrupting.

Of course it's not all politics at the Eye; many regular columns investigate a myriad of other social discrepancies; 'Rotten Boroughs' investigates corruption in local councils, 'The Agri Brigade' takes a (metaphorical) scythe to all things farm and farm produce related, 'Signal Failures' looks at the problems and scandals affecting the rail networks, 'Square Basher' covers all things to do with the army, and 'Medicine Balls', possibly the most alarming column in the magazine, investigates the troubles related to the NHS, often relying on whistle-blowers whose information on how badly the NHS is being handled, and how the current Government are desperate to get rid of this unspeakably essential institution, makes for very troubling reading.

But, of course, the magazine is also spectacularly funny! It's constant parodying of the cult of celebrity alone is unrelenting, as indeed are it's attacks on the pretensious('Pseud's Corner') and it's regular 'CommentatorBalls' feature, which spotlights hilarious gaffes by TV pundits.

As you would expect for a publication that doesn't flinch from naming and shaming, the Eye has made many enemies over the years, namely Robert Maxwell who repeatedly sued the magazine for libel(although clearly the Eye was vindicated in the end!), Rupert Murdoch, corrupt MP Johnathan Aitken, Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Cecil Parkinson, and news reporter Andrew Marr who they revealed was behind a press gagging injunction whilst all the while preaching about freedom of speech.

Private Eye's investigating has often been years ahead of the game, and not without it's own controversy; the Eye was the first to suggest that John Profumo be taken to task over his relationship with Christine Keeler; it was the first to name the Kray twins as London's most feared gangsters( a report which led then editor Peter Cook to leave the country for a short while!); it suggested as far back as 1977 that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were more than friends; a month after the Lockerbie bombing, Paul Foot suggested that Libya was NOT responsible for the bombing, and that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was an innocent patsy.

Today, under the editorship of Ian Hislop, the magazine remains as thorough, as ruthless, as funny, and above all, as essential as it did 50 years ago.
We won't end by saying here's to another 50 years, we'll say "Here's to time when we won't need Private Eye because all corruption and political wrong-doing will be a thing of the past!"

Not likely is it?

Happy 50th Lord Gnome!!


I Misplaced It At The Movies: Das Neue Babylon

The trouble with being a bit of a film geek, especially one who seeks out the more bizarre and the more left-field cinema, is that it is very easy to become jaded. Having seen endless low budget exploitation films, or lofty, pretentious art-house confuse-athons, as well as surrealist extravaganzas like 'L'Age D'or', 'Le Sang d'un Poète', or even 'Eraserhead'; you just get to the point where nothing seems to surprise, shock or challenge you any more.
And then I saw 'Novyy Vavilon' aka 'The New Babylon'(or even 'Das Neue Babylon' as it was titled on the German DVD I have of it).
In 1929 Hollywood was embracing Talking Pictures as the new art form, seemingly unaware that the first examples of this new hoopla were braincrushingly awful! Terrible stagy melodramas with static camerawork and even more static performers.
Whilst Europe may not have grasped the 'Talkie' mantle yet, it continued to work within the Silent framework and was creating works of startling creativity e.g, lush, opulent adult(as in 'grown-up') dramas such as G.W. Pabst's 'Pandora's Box', or the dizzying works of Russian master Sergei Eisenstein.
Or indeed 'The New Babylon' by Russian directors Leonid Trauberg and Grigori Kozintsev....

'The New Babylon' tells the true tale of the Paris Commune of 1871, a Government led by the people for the people, formed from an uneasy alliance between the Marxists and the Anarchists. The film is set at the time of the Franco-Prussian war during which France suffered some devastating losses. This led to the gap between the rich and the poor not only become wider, but becoming glaringly obvious.
The Proletariat, refusing to take the barbaric working and living conditions anymore, rise up against the fat-cats who have sunk in to a cesspool of decadence, debauchery and debasement, and take control of the city.
Building a Socialist Government within the Commune of Paris, the workers(or Communards as they were now known) tried to quickly set up a manifesto of workers rights. Perhaps what they should have been doing was preparing for the onslaught of the Prussian army which was now heading towards the beleaguered capital. Acting in conjunction with it's invading aggressor, the Versailles government declared all Communards as enemies of the state and joined in the re-taking of the city. The Communards; men, women and children, were marched in their thousands to Versailles to await judgement, many facing public execution.

The film itself is a dizzying and dazzling swirl of images, and a masterpiece of subjective editing. Early scenes depicting the decadence enjoyed by the land owners and factory owners are utterly mindbending. A fat slobbering Champagne quaffing drunk sits in the foreground whilst all around there's a whirling sense of utter debauchery, often resembling moving Escher puzzles.

The rise of the Socialist Government is filmed like the Eisenstein montages of 'Strike!' or 'October', and there's a general sense of pulsating empathy that rivals ANY propaganda from any country.
The battle scenes are extraordinary and, possibly, were an influence on directors as varied as William Wellman or Sergio Leone. The scene in which the Communards are named in a torrential rainstorm is surely mirrored in Leone's 'A Fistful Of Dynamite', a movie which also deals with Marxist Revolution.
The final image of graffiti declaring the power of 'the Commune' leaves no-one in any doubt of the film makers objectives.

No, there's no getting away from it, the whole movie is an allegory of the Russian Revolution, showing it's viewers not only how a Socialist society can exist but also how to avoid the same fate as the Parisian Communards by being prepared to take arms against any aggressor.
Because of the film's politics, it obviously remained unseen for many years outside of the Soviet Union. And while many may obviously disagree with those politics, there can be no doubting the skills of the film makers involved. This is a staggering film; one which careers along at a frightening pace(belying the myth that Silent Movies are turgidly slow), and is full of breathtaking sequences that, as far as I am concerned, have never been equalled.
It may not be to easy to see the movie(I had to acquire a German DVD to get a chance to see it), but for anyone with an interest in Silent Movies, or for those interested in Political Cinema, or even for any film geek who just wants to see something a bit different.....this is HIGHLY recommended!
Vive La Revolucion!!


Monday, 24 October 2011

Griff says; I'm a 99!

Last Saturday, the 22nd October, at 3.00pm in George Square, the Occupy Glasgow movement, plus their supporters, collectively agreed the initial statement below.

1 The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.

2 We are of all ethnic backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities, dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.

3 We refuse to pay for the banks' crisis.

4 We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.

5 We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.

6 We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.

7 We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world's resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.

8 We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

9 This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!

The Stretlamp was there to witness this (and added our 'jazz hands' to show approval) and we are delighted that the Occupy movement now has some local presence. We, ourselves, are too long in the tooth to be camping out in George Square over the Scottish winter but we will do whatever we can to support the occupiers. You can too, just check out 'here' to find out how you can become involved. Those of you who don't live near Glasgow can find out about the Occupy Movement near you by searching on-line.

You can also make donations for the movement by purchasing the single 'I'm a 99' by Nomadic Firs on bandcamp. All proceeds go to the cause. If you can't afford to donate then download the single for free 'here' and then post it on-line on your blogs, play it on your podcasts or send a copy to all your friends.

Nomadic Firs is the psychedelic bedroom-pop project of Ryan Boos. Based in Knoxville, US, Ryan garners inspiration from his home life. With his wife leading the way, they are faithfully building a sustainable Urban Farm.

As he says himself of 'I'm a 99':

"This song was recorded to offer some semblance of support to all the 99er folks protesting all over the world. Its not nearly enough, but I hope it can add a back drop to the fight!

Back Up Vocal By Ann Milner. In the photo (above) Tea Leigh, check out her music on soundcloud. Please Please DOWNLOAD FREE AND SPREAD THE WORD!"

Ray of The Streetlamp has made a little video (below) to accompany the song in the hope that it will help spread the word. Please feel free to embed the video in your blogs etc. Nomadic Firs music can be heard and freely downloaded 'here'.

---The Lyrics----
A shot wrung out in the middle of the square
Nobody was there
Nobody cared,
-They all came Round
to see what's where
to see whose fair
to see whose next

-Stop Them Now
the media dare
the media glared
the media dead

-Round them out
to kids with dreads
smoke whats left
then ditch their bags

-Its all us now
together again
wishing we were fed
from the 1 percent.

-Stop them cows
from taking our beds
and burning whats left
putting us in debt

-Not right now
laying in regret
pain they left
no second best

-What happens next?
no more livin' in the tents
the kids are pissed
its the end of congress

-Join together now
its hands in hands
everyone's here
doing their best

-Call them out
put them to the test
no more stress
shut the office

-It's all us now
together again
wishing we were fed
from the 1 percent.

-A shot wrung out in the middle of the square
Everybodys's there
Everybody cares

The Chorus
I'M A 99

OK, Streetlampers, spread the word, and remember;
We Are the 99%!


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Three Slices Of Pure Pop Confectionery

I'm afraid my Blog tonight doesn't have any set theme to speak matter how hard I tried, and how tenuous the links I tried to bind the songs together tonight, I came up empty handed. In the end, all I can say is that thing that the three artists I'm writing about tonight have in common is that they are all fine purveyors of sublime, dreamy Pop music. So here, for your delectation, are three slices of musical confectionery that just happen to sound wonderful when collated together.


Club 8

On my recent sojourn to foreign shores, as I always do, I loaded up my MP3 player with a varied mix of groups, artists and styles. It wasn't until listening to the songs beneath the Corfu sun that I realised that the artists chosen had a rather dark and sour tone overall; Crass, Marc Almond(in the guise of Marc & The Mambas), The Passage, Jacques Brel, The Fall, plus some compilations of 60s Psychedelic music. I wasn't unduly unhappy with my choices but there was an overwhelming sense of dark eyed drama.
Then, like the sun appearing from behind some thunder clouds, came the silky, dreamy sounds of perfect, pure Pop! The track was 'Missing You' by a band called Club 8.
I had never heard the track before, and had only added the folder to which it belonged at the last minute to fill up space. The song came from a sampler album for the Swedish record label Labrador. The album/folder had been given to me a few years ago by a Polish friend of mine called Gosia who loved Twee and Indie music so much that she accrued the very moniker Tweepop! She'd given the album in amongst a bunch of other folders but I had never gotten around to listening to it. Now, as I sat by the swimming pool, glass of wine in hand, the sun beating down, the crapness of work a million miles away, this beautiful piece of dreampop played like life's own was like experiencing love for the first time, it was like a warm rush of endorphins on a cold, grey November morning, it was like hearing MUSIC for the first time....

Club 8 are, of course, Swedish (and I know what you're thinking....fantastic Indie Pop? From Sweden? How unusual!!); they are a duo of Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergard, both of whom had played in previous Indiepop bands Acid House Kings and Poprace. The pair formed Club 8 back in 1995 and, despite often venturing on to other projects, they still keep Club 8 alive and as recently as last year were still creating music under the Club 8 name.
The other track that I had of theirs on my MP3 player was 'Love In December', and it is every bit as beautiful...

I for one will definitely by checking out more by this wonderful band, and I entrust that you, dear Reader, do the same. In the meanwhile you can download both songs mentioned here below:

Missing You

Love In December

Olympic Swimmers

One of the downsides of running a Blog like this and not living in Glasgow itself is that you tend to miss things, even little things, that would enhance and strengthen the Blog.
For example, last night (Saturday the 22nd of October) a band called Olympic Swimmers were playing in the Center For Contemporary Arts as part of the Document 9 Human Rights Festival. I know this because I read about in the accompanying brochure that I picked up in that very building last Saturday. Unfortunately neither I, nor the other two ~Streetlamp~ members were able to attend, which really bugs me as A)the CCA is a cracking place to visit at any time, and B) because Olympic Swimmers are a completely fantastic band!
Listen below and you'll hear what I mean...

Olympic Swimmers hail from Glasgow (and I know what you're thinking...dreamy, life affirming Pop music? From Glasgow? How unusual!!), and capture all the best elements of fellow city dwellers Camera Obscura and The Delgados, whilst mixing in their own flashes of Shoegazing atmospherics, and widescreen musical palettes. And in Susie Liddell's mellifluous, heart breaking vocals they have yet another gifted Scottish female vocalist. The musicians themselves have all played in previous bands, namely with Emma Pollock, and with the band Bad Dancer.
This song, 'Apples And Pears' may well be my favourite song of the year so far...
At present Olympic Swimmers have two EPs on Soundcloud (not for free download though, unfortunately), but here are the other tracks not featured above:
A Curse Or A Blessing by olympicswimmers
I Won't Sleep by olympicswimmers
Father Said by olympicswimmers

Again, a band that MUST be investigated further, and I can only display my utter jealousy towards those of you caught them last night at the CCA....still, maybe next time.....


The recent re-showing of old episodes of Top Of The Pops from 1976 proves one thing that I have always believed; that most huge chart hits (from any era!) are in fact, CRAP!! Most hit songs, especially in Britain, are really quite poor, or at very best, average. Some of the biggest selling records of all time, in fact, are the worst culprits....take for example that tripe by Bryan Adams which was at Number 1 for 16 weeks, or that gruesome 'Diana' version of Elton's already dreadful 'Candle In The Wind'!
Now you may be wondering what I'm getting at here, but my point is that the next song I'm featuring here is one of my favourite songs of all time, almost certainly in my Top 10 EVER Songs.....and it baffles me beyond comprehension how a song as beautiful, as catchy, as dreamy, as heart-stoppingly gorgeous in every way, can have failed to have been at Number 1 for 17 weeks, to be part of the British public's psyche, to be a regular fixture on karaoke tripefests like The X Factor, or to be repeatedly discussed and dissected on TV shows depicting the Greatest Songs Of All Time!
The song is 'Me As Helen Of Troy' by the Swedish band Cinnamon (and I know what you're thinking{That really is quite enough}:Griff & Ray....), which was released back in 1997 and which I have treasured and adored since the very first time I heard it.
But....even though I love the studio version to death, the wonderful thing about the Internet is that you discover such joys as that which I offer you below; a live version of the song from Japanese TV. I GENUINELY believe this interpretation to better even the official version, although much of that joy may of course stem from seeing the heartbreakingly beautiful Frida Diesen actually perform the song in the flesh.....

Cinnamon lasted until just after the millennium, although Frida still records as a solo artist. All of their stuff is available to listen to at all the usual online outlets, though it's pretty difficult to find any of the songs for free download. However, should anyone like an MP3 copy of the studio version then just e-mail the ~Streetlamp~ and I'll send you a copy.
The studio version can be heard below as well as another live performance from Japanese TV:

Well, like the best confectionery, I hope this selection has left you sated, satisfied and with a bit of a sugar rush. Now all you need is a fine glass of unoaked Chardonnay to wash it down and you're ready for the onset of Winter.
Only Pop Music can save us now....


PS: that sound you hear is the sound of Griff and Ray packing their bags and setting off to try to emigrate to Sweden.......

Monday, 17 October 2011

Griff says; Evelyn McHale - the most beautiful suicide

I wanted to write a bit about Evelyn McHale today. Her restless ghost seems to swirl eternally around the world of art and thus swims into my consciousness every 6 months or so. I wondered why that was, undeniably she looked serene and beautiful in death, but is that all there is to it? Has she merely, tragically, become the poster-girl for angst-ridden, teen suicide wannabes or is there something deeper at work here? So, rather than use the photograph of Evelyn's calm repose - perplexing and contradictory as it is to the violence of her death - as a hook to hang a couple of songs on, I wanted to think a little bit about the power of the image itself first.

For those of you who have never heard of Evelyn McHale, and for whom that first paragraph makes no sense, here (below) is a detail from the extraordinary image of Evelyn, which has inspired so many artists.

This photo by Robert C. Wiles, a student photographer, was published as a full-page image in the 12 May 1947 issue of Life Magazine. It ran with the caption:
“At the bottom of the Empire State Building the body of Evelyn McHale reposes calmly in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a car.”

The accompanying text read:

"On May Day, just after leaving her fiancé, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note. 'He is much better off without me ... I wouldn't make a good wife for anybody,' ... Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped. In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Across the street photography student Robert Wiles heard an explosive crash. Just four minutes after Evelyn McHale's death Wiles got this picture of death's violence and its composure."

Death's violence and it's composure, is that what it's about? Is that what makes this image so striking, so seductive? This idea that we will find peace in death, no matter how grisly our end? It could be, but personally I'm not sure that she looks at peace. Yes, her face is calm, composed as though sleeping and her legs crossed at the ankles as though in an attitude of relaxation. But look at her hands, balled in to fists, betraying tension despite the almost studied insouciance elsewhere. Is it instead this juxtaposition that catches the attention?

Or is it the creepy, faux-glamorous intimacy conveyed by the composition? We watch, unseen, a beautiful girl; she is completely relaxed, unaware, her eyes closed, her shoes kicked off. This effect is heightened by the point of view of the witnesses in the background; the crumpled metal of the car shields Evelyn from their gaze. Our viewpoint alone provides association, sympathy, participation even; with Evelyn and through her with death?

Perhaps there is no humane reason and this image merely serves as the cardinal example of the cold visual logic of photography; its ability, supreme among the arts, to turn horror into beauty. I'm not sure. What is noticable is that this image arrests the attention even before one knows the melancholy back-story. For further details of that, Codex 99, a weblog about the history of the visual arts and graphic design, has a well-researched article 'here'.

Further to this, the following can be found on

Evelyn Francis McHale was born in Berkeley California Sept 20, 1923. She was the next to the youngest of seven children, the first four children were spaced 1 year apart, the last three were spaced 2 years apart. Her father was a bank examiner, orig from Illinois, her mother orig from Pa, was a housewife. Around 1930, they moved to Washington, DC, where her father became an examiner for the Federal Land Bank. Also at this time the mother left, moving to an apartment in another part of Washington. The father retained custody of all seven children. Evelyn was 6. Whether the mother left voluntarily or was told to leave is unknown at his time. They appear to have moved a few years later to Tuckahoe NY, where Evelyn went to high school. After high school, in 1943, Evelyn became a WAC and was stationed down in Jefferson Mo. After she was discharged, she burned her uniform. At some point, she moved to NYC to work, and met and became engaged to a young man named Barry Rhodes, who was just out of the Air Force and attending Lafayette College in Easton Pa. They were to be married at his brother’s house in Troy, NY. A year before her death, Evelyn had been a bridesmaid at Barry’s younger brother’s wedding. After the wedding, she removed her bridesmaid gown, said “I never want to see this again” and burned it. On the day she jumped, Barry said she seemed happy and looking forward to the marriage when she boarded the train home. Barry’s birthday being April 30th, I assume Evelyn had gone to celebrate his birthday with him. There was a security guard less than twelve feet from where she jumped. She dropped her handkerchief over the ledge just prior to climbing over and leaping to her death. In her suicide note, she wrote the following: ” My fiance asked me to marry him in June, but I don’t think I would make a good wife for anyone. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies. I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family -don’t have any service or remembrance for me.”
She was cremated.

And so that should have been the end of the story of Evelyn McHale - a woman who pleaded not to be remembered. Yet remembered she most certainly continues to be, the compelling, iconic image of her dead body a seemingly irresistible lure to any passing artist. The first to do so appears to be the great hoodwinker himself, Andy Warhol, who used Wyle's original photograph as the basis for his abstract print, Suicide (Fallen Body) (below).

The image also inspired the cover art of the 1995 album Gilt by industrial rockers, Machines of Loving Grace (below):

Although this image fails to capture the power of the original in my opinion.

Musicians too have been inspired by Evelyn's story. Most famously, perhaps, excellent, Portland-based, experimental pop band Parenthetical Girls who released a track entitled Evelyn McHale on their 2010 release Privilege, pt. I: On Death & Endearments EP.
Here's a video of the song (below), an MP3 of which can be downloaded for free 'here'.

The other artist who swam into my ken via tragic Evelyn is bleak, melancholic UK song-writer Anton Rothschild whose thoughtful, introverted indie-pop is well worth seeking out. His track 'A Love Song to Evelyn McHale' is the superb opener to his 2009 album The Diffident, released on Dainty Records (…the world’s most fragile recording company). A visit to the latter's wonderful little site will enable you to freely download the aforementioned album, as well as the rather fine Bratislava EP, released earlier this year by Fire Island Pines, the band with whom he now plays.

Here's the track now:
A love song to Evelyn McHale by anton rothschild

I'll finish off by embedding (below) Beautiful Suicide, an experimental art-film submitted for his final-year thesis by Jordan Morris, a film student at Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia, US.

I hope that you have found this article, written in response to the art inspired by Evelyn McHale's death, thoughtful and sensitive and that it hasn't come off as tacky and exploitative; if so, then I do apologise. Please feel free to comment on your responses to the photograph in the comments box below and to let me know of any other Evelyn McHale inspired art that I may have overlooked.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Reclaim The Eighties: The Imperfect List

Here at the ~Streetlamp~ we've never really been ones to hide our political light under a Garry Bushell, and regular readers of our Blog will know us as Guardian-toting, Commie Pinko Marxist Stormers-Of-The-Winter-Palace....always have been, always will be. And yesterday as we sat supping Guinness in Glasgow's 13th Note bar, getting our copies of 'The Skinny' covered in grease from our spicy chips, I pondered why our Leftist leanings, and our fanatical hatred of the Right and all it stands for, were so passionate, and why we linked them so clearly to our love of music and culture.
I guess it's because we grew up in that most derided of decades, the 1980s.

The 1980's have rather annoyingly been thoroughly misrepresented in both the current media, and the history books. Buy any CD claiming to be 'The Ultimate 80s Album' and you'll suffer the tired old performances of Wham, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Nik Kershaw, The Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, Culture Club etc, and any TV retrospective will churn out the usual tirade of Thatcherism, Yuppies, big hair, shoulder pads, Armani suits, filofaxes, and the general sense of 'me me me', all the time portraying good men like Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and Neil Kinnock as beaten down caricatures of the 'old Left'.
We here at the ~Streetlamp~ say BOLLOCKS TO ALL THAT!!!

The 80s for us weren't the awfulness mentioned above; they were The Smiths, Crass, New Order, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Sarah Records, Creation Records, Rough Trade, the NME, joining the Miners Strike, campaigning for the CND and the women of Greehnam Common, generally doing everything to take a stand against Thatcher and all that she represented. Of course slimy, smug Right Wing apologists will argue that if it hadn't been for Thatcher then Leftist musicians, artists and writers would have had nothing to rail against....but we'd still have preferred NOT to have suffered her at all.
Being Scottish, we had even more reason to hate her than most; not only did she rupture the mining industry up here, she also closed the steel yards, and then tried the Poll Tax out on us like we were some single-cell guinea pig.
We HATED her!!!

And the only other people who despised the old witch as much as we Scots were the Scousers (that's people from Liverpool to our overseas readers!). And it's a fine release by good Scouser Pete Wylie that I am here to Blog about tonight.

Pete Wylie was of course the brains and talent behind the myriad Wah! projects that ran through the 80s, but my favourite release of his was under the strange moniker of Big Hard Excellent Fish. Their one and only release was 'The Imperfect List'; under Wylie's supervision, performance artist (and Wylie's girlfriend of the time) Josie Jones reads out a list of all things vile, mostly related to Thatcher and the 80s, over an ambient soundscape created by Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins.

Here is the list in full as read:

Adolf Hitler

Mike Gatting

Terry & June

Fucking Bastard Thatcher

Insincere social climber of mixed origin


Scouse impersonators

Macho dickhead

Bonnie Langford

Poll Tax


Lost keys

Phoney friend

The Royal Family

Stock Aitken & Waterman

Heartbreaking lying friend

Smiling Judas

Myra Hindley

Acid rain

Stinking rich female in furs

Disloyal lover

Wife & child beater

Drunken abuser



The Sun newspaper

AIDS inventor

Leon Brittan

All nonces

Massive massive oil slick



Hard cold fish



Imperfect list

Gut wrenching disappointment

Evil gossiping fashion bastard

Tasteless A&R wanker

Nurse Ratchett

The Tory invention of the non-working class

Cold Turkey

Mister Jesse Helms


Weird British judges



J Edgar Hoover

John Lennon's murder


Anyone's murder


The breakdown of the NHS

The Bomb

Heysel Stadium

Police harassment

The death of the rain forest

The troubles


The Klan


Imprisoned innocents

The all-American way

Red sock in the white washin'

Nancy's term

Tiananmen Square

Ronnie's term

Sexual harassment

Jimmy Tarbuck

Mile long check-out queue

Sick baby

Nelson Mandela's imprisonment


Where were you?

The single was released in 1990 and was one of the first records to attack the 1980s as a whole, as though it were a product of Thatcherism itself. Despite it's ambient beauty, the track is still fairly savage and the hatred of the Right runs all the the way through it.
Unsurprisingly, the single wasn't a hit and wasn't played on many Radio stations either, whether for political or censorial reasons, who knows?
I feel though that it's time the 1980s were reclaimed by those of us whose view of the decade was forged by political activism and Left Wing art and culture; let's debase all these horrid notions of a synthetic, money burning, selfish, culturally vapid decade, and let's remember that among all the detritus, there was a generation who didn't just sit back and take it.....and we still wont!!

Unless we act now, this current decade will end up tainted and tarnished and in an even worse condition than Thatcher left us with back then!

You know what to do!


You can download the track here

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Griff says; Give it back to the Indians.

Readers on this side of the pond may not be aware of this, but tomorrow marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, which occurred on October 12, 1492. This event is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States and as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America. You may not be surprised to learn that The Streetlamp is of the opinion that the European colonisation of the American continent, with its accompanying genocidal campaigns against Native Americans, is not something that should be glossed over by the spinning of falsely-positive Columbus myths and empty celebrations.

Therefore, to mark the event in a proper fashion we are pleased to bring to your attention the documentary film, The Canary Effect (trailer embedded below). This sensitive and thought-provoking film takes an in-depth look at the devastating effect that US government policies have had, and continue to have, on the indigenous people of America.

The film was written and edited by Robin Davey and he also co-directed, along with his partner Yellow Thunder Woman. Now, if those names seem familiar to you it may be that the duo are, of course, better known as the mainstays of the alternative pop act, and internet phenomenon, The Bastard Fairies (pictured).

The Bastard Fairies began when singer Yellow Thunder Woman (the English translation of her birth name, Wakinyan Zi Win), a member of the Yankton Sioux, met English guitarist Robin Davey in Minneapolis in 2003. Soon after, they began to create their own music because; "there wasn't any music out there that they liked listening too."

The duo, working on a shoestring budget, soon wrote recorded and produced their debut album,Memento Mori, which they immediately made available as a free internet download. This free 12-track pop gem soon began to spread via word of mouth and to this day remains a favourite of The Streetlamp's own Ray.

The duo continue to make music, and please do have a look at their site. However, in 2006, they branched out into documentary film making and made the grim but compelling and essential film The Canary Effect, which is free to watch on-line 'here' and 'here', and which I'm urging you to watch tonight. As you do so I hope you will remember that the oppression and degradation of other races and cultures under the justification of 'opening them up to the West's civilising influence' is an old, perverse and pervasive excuse that must not be allowed to stand unchallenged any longer


Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Nippy Sweeties/Musical Prozac Hybrid: A Decade Went Mad

If there is one thing that sums up the 1960s more than anything relevant to any decade before or since, it's the complete sense of 'anything goes' that applied to virtually any artistic statement, be it cinema, literature or, especially, music. In the 1960s it was felt that you could release any mad nonsense and there was a definite chance that it could be a hit. With musical pioneers like Lennon & McCartney and Brian Wilson continually pushing the boundaries of music, many others joined in the experimental free for all, not always with satisfactory results.
These days, unless you already sound like the next winner of The X Factor, or are prepared to churn out bland karaoke friendly M.O.R tripe, then you have practically no chance of scoring a chart hit.
So let's look back at a more adventurous time when musicians genuinely strived to achieve something unpredictable and original, or at the very least just a little left of center of the norm.

Here are a few choice cuts:

Jan & Dean

Okay, so we're off to a rather safe start with the pasty skinned, whitebread, milquetoast purveyors of 'the whitest music imaginable' that is Jan & Dean, but beneath their all-things-cornbread exterior there lay an element of mischief, and at times all out blathering stupidity.
Let's start with the rather bizarre 'Bucket T'; a song that blends elements of the Benny Hill theme tune with some overplaying of the cowbells and a completely loony vocal. To add to clownage we have a random clip of Pan's People dancing unconvincingly to the track and, just when things can't get any sillier, Dave Lee Travis appears sprechen sie, seriously! Watch and learn....

Next up is their bonkers track 'The Anaheim, Azuza & Cucamonga Sewing Circle Book Review and Timing Association', and YES, they do manage to fit that whole phrase repeatedly into the chorus. It all gets a little strained and the brass section seem to be deliberately trying to faff their playing for comedic if it were needed!

Albert De Salvo & The Bugs

Filed in the bad taste section, our next entry is credited to 'Albert De Salvo & The Bugs', for those who don't know, Albert De Salvo was the man who confessed to being The Boston Strangler, the notorious serial killer of the early 60s. Evidence points away from it being him, and he was never actually jailed for the crimes but for other offences. However that didn't stop some bright sparks from recording this rather distasteful gem....

The Jelly Bean Bandits

"Look to the skies//The flying saucers will always be there!" There's a common myth/belief that people started to take a lot of drugs in the late 60s. Suddenly 'the kids' were popping Aspirin, vegging out on Bi-carbonate of soda, and finding a shortcut to the mystical inner mind experience by dabbling in cough linctus. And one can only ponder which weapons grade anti-inflammatories cause The Jelly Bean Bandits to see flying saucers all day, but see them they did! This track, 'Generation', is a pretty wild track with lots of slashing guitars, pounding drums and the sound of someone hitting the P.A. system, over which an excitable young chap lists all the looks and quirks of the new hip generation; leather jackets, long side-burns and 'engineer boots'(?) among the ephemera mentioned. Far out!

The Driving Stupid

Perhaps Kings of the wild psychedelic garage, The Driving Stupid achieved immortality through the Pebbles series of compilation albums thanks to their two mindbending tracks 'Horror Asparagus Stories' and 'The Realities Of (Air) Fried Borsk'. I'm including only the former on the Blog tonight though, as the version of the latter on Youtube is a re-recording with all the foaming-at-the-mouth delirium removed. However, the track I'm featuring more than makes up for this, containing as it does the superb last couplet "My cousin was a kangaroo//And I, my friends, am the square root of two".

The Brain

A quick jaunt over the pond to England next, for a dollop of jabbering whimsy called 'Nightmares In Red'. Apparently this slice of musical anarchy and silly voices is all down to future King Crimson, Robert Fripp. Nobody does whimsy like the English....if only King Crimson had remembered this!


Next up is the track 'Rattle Of Life' by Oshun which dates from July of 1967. It's pretty hard to describe this 'song' other than that it sounds like an attempt to convey exactly what it sounded like to be in Haight-Ashbury at the time of the Love-Ins. How much of the background noise is authentic, I'm not sure, and if anyone can tell me what on Earth is going on in the last 30 odd seconds, then good luck! This was released by Mercury Records(although I'm guessing not THE Mercury Records that still exists today), and it's pretty difficult to see what commercial potential they thought this had....

The Fee Fi Four Plus Two

"I'm outside the world and I can't find a way to get in// The cube I took just cut me a little too thin"; you have to admire their subtlety. I believe that hidden within the lyrics of this scorching Garage gem, 'I Wanna Come Back(From The World Of LSD)' are vague and obtuse lyrics about drug usage! Can't say I hear them myself, I've always believed this is a song predicting the decimalisation of British currency, hence I wanna come back from the world of pounds, shillings and pence. You really have to laugh at the naivety of people in the 60s....

(The) Jason Crest

There's a popular misconception that Heavy Metal originated in the West Midlands when A)a bunch of lank haired thugs called Earth changed their name to Black Sabbath and abandoned the psychedelic whimsy of their pop/rock for darker, doom laden material; and B)when golden haired, leather trewsed Rock God Robert Plant joined forces with Crowley worshipping guitar behemoth Jimmy Page to form Led Zeppelin. But, of course, we here at the ~Streetlamp~ say tish, pish and piddle to all that nonsense and suggest that people look back almost TWO years previous when a bunch called Jason Crest(sometimes referred to as THE Jason Crest) cut an alarming track called 'Black Mass'. Everything you associate with early Heavy Metal is present here; from the dodgy subject matter to the doomy atmosphere, from the backwards squalling guitars to the lead singers unbelievable caterwauling. All that AND the magnificent monastic chanting. None More Black indeed.....

The Unfolding

When Pebbles Vol. 3: The Acid Gallery was originally pressed, it contained a mysterious, unknown track on Side 2 which subsequently disappeared on later pressings. It turns out that the track was called 'Prana' and was the product of a band called The Unfolding. Like the Oshun track before, this seems to have no commercial worth whatsoever, but just as Oshun appeared to trying to capture the experience of Haight-Ashbury, so The Unfolding seem to trying to encapsulate that whole inner-mind psychedelic opening of the doors of perception. Or of course, it could just be a bunch of bored studio musicians faffing about and talking bollocks!!

Walham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association

Crikey O'reilly!! As if Jan & Dean didn't appear to be taking the piss with their ridiculously convoluted song title, here come a bunch of rum English coves with the type of name that had all the commercial possibility of 'Glitter & King's Babysitting Services'!! Did they really expect to oust The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who with a foolish moniker like that? Probably not, all told. It's more than likely that this was a bunch of(possibly famous) session musicians larking about, BUT...what they did capture was rather a cute slice of semi-detached suburban English life. The song, 'Sorry Mr Green' has a bored office worker hoping to find sexual promise in the arms of his new secretary, away from the ogre-ish spectre of his battleaxe wife....aaahhh, they don't do sexism like they did in the 1960s!!

Friday's Keepers

Being a smug, I-know-everything-about-music bastard, there's nothing I like more than being proved right, especially in front of a bunch of philistines who THINK they know everything about music. Back in 1988/89, some of my more chemically enhanced friends had really gotten into the whole Spacemen 3-taking-drugs-to-make-music-to-take-drugs-to nonsense. However, I tried to point out that this was hardly a new thing and that there were songs released in the 1960s that seemed perfectly tailored to accompany the whole altered state mind-rot. As an example I proffered 'Take Me For A Ride' by Friday's Keepers, and sat back to enjoy the sound of jaws hitting the floor. 'Take Me For A Ride'(a VERY Spacemen 3 title) has woozy melodies, weird harmonies, backwards phased guitars, and an overall sense of chemical inbalance. But it's masterstroke comes exactly one minute in when a weird, subliminal noise starts working it's way through the song. Seeing my friends freaking out when this moment occurred still gives me goosebumps all these years later. Remember kids, Just Say No....if the doctor asks if your friend took anything suspicious before he passed out!

There....I rather enjoyed writing that Blog and delving into the weirder Sixties records in my collection. And the good news is that I have literally HUNDREDS more to dig up, so maybe there will be a few more of these down the pipe some time.

Remember....the flying saucers will ALWAYS be there!!


Friday, 7 October 2011

Griff says: Strew palms where they advanceth

Back in February of this year I wrote a piece on Holiday Records (see 'here'), a US netlabel offering free downloads of some rather fine indie-pop music. In particular, they seemed to have cornered the market in exciting garagey surf-pop à la The Drums, but a little rougher. Unsurprisingly, really, as one of the co-founders of Holiday records is Jacob Graham, The Drums guitarist. In that article I wrote:
"I first came across Holiday Records in 2010 via the music of sublime Russian indie-surfpop band Palms On Fire (more of whom in a future blog)."

I intend to fulfill that promise tonight as Palms on Fire have lately released an excellent new single, 'Birds in a Supermarket'. This lovely little slice of indie-pop is backed by the equally appealing 'Simple Perfect Life'.

Both tracks are available as free downloads from the band's soundcloud and pages. At both of these sites, latecomers to the Palms on Fire experience can also freely download their two previous EP's. So what are you waiting for? Here are the two latest tracks to whet your appetite:

Excellent stuff, I hope you'll agree. The band line-up is;
Anna Kislova
Max Kislov
Konstantin Korolev, and
Anton Bochkarev.

Rather interestingly, for purveyors of a surf-pop influenced sound, they hail from Izhevsk, Russsia - hundreds of miles from the sea but home of the AK-47 rifle, fact fans.

I should also mention at this point that there are no links to the Holiday Records site in this article as my anti-virus has been refusing to download that page for over a week now. I'm not sure why, all I know is that I keep getting a severe-looking red-edged warning whenever I try to do so. I suggest you tread there with caution yourself.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Griff says: Deaf Jam - Stanley Odd's new EP!

As I mentioned in a recent blog, Scottish hip-hop outsiders, Stanley Odd, are set this month to release a brand new EP. 'The Day I Went Deaf' will be released on Monday 24th October 2011. The EP is the follow up to 'Pure Antihero Material' which came out in February this year, and marks the second of 3 EPs to be released this year.

I got the 'The Day I Went Deaf' preview CD a couple of weeks ago and I've been listening to it pretty much since I received it. The accompanying press release did say that this EP was 'showcasing a darker, more direct musical shift' but I'll admit the sound fairly took me by surprise. Don't worry, the CD is still chock-full of killer tracks. However, like me, you may be surprised at just how much the band's sound has developed from the pop/funk/hip-hop vibe of their debut album, 'Oddio'. Quite frankly, 'The Day I Went Deaf' is a brilliant and unexpected new change of direction from this band.

I suppose, looking back at 'Pure Antihero Material', the signposts were there (particularly in 'The Controller') and I should've been alerted to a shift in the band's sound but I think the poppier more straightforward grooves of 'The Oddyssey' and 'Winter of Discontent' eclipsed the stylistic shifts I should have noticed in the other songs.

On 'The Day I Went Deaf' the most obvious change in the sound is in the percussion. When 'By Way of Explanation' starts up with it's grimey sounding snare and electronically modulated bass sound I thought I could detect a dubstep influence, which I just wasn't expecting at all. In fact, the whole CD has a grimey dubstep sound to these ears. To see what I mean just have a listen to the intro of 'Broken Has Morning'. In fact, that whole track has a dirty, glitchy, electronica vibe with virtually no 'keeping to the groove' funk or hip-hop influence.

So where did that percussion sound come from? Where did Samson, the drummer, pull all these choppy/off-centre beats from? I asked Solareye, rap vocals, to fill me in on this new, irregular and gritty Stanley Odd sound. He told me;

"In terms of the drums and the dubstep sound, you are entirely correct to assume that Samson has a lot to do with this. Samson is also a bass-music and dubstep producer under the name of Dunt and I think his influence on the band's music is so evident from 'Pure Antihero' into 'Deaf' and beyond.
In addition, we have completely revised how we work in writing material. Basically me, Samson and T Lo demo beats and email them back and forth, then we go into the studio and replace the drums with Samson's kit, taking the wee musical idea and layering stuff on top of it. Samson is generally only allowed 2 passes through the song then we chop up the sections we like and bounce the multitracks as soon as possible - trying to force ourselves to make decisions early on."

This new song-writing style, eschewing the funky bass lines and rock guitar riffs all over the 90s style, live hip-hop sound of Oddio takes the band into places you could never imagine the Stanley Odd of 2010 going, and you can really hear the band stretching themself. For instance, the lurching, fractured rhythm on 'Get A Grip' is unexpected and almost jarring at first, yet marries so perfectly with the sentiment of the song that it just works beautifully. But the whole CD is full of such dark surprises.

I mean just have a look at the cover art (above). The whole feel of the EP from the artwork onwards suggests something brooding, tense and anxious. These themes are heard in the overwhelmingly minor keys of the music and also within the lyrics. Stanley Odd has always traded on a Solareye's clever, sly humour and Veronica's smooth and catchy pop vocal input. These, virtually trademark, elements are almost completely absent on this EP. Just have a listen to Veronika's vocal on 'How To Sing The Blues Laughing'. Singing lower in her vocal register than normal, she imparts a real depth of solemn feeling into the lyric.Also, check out Solareye's humourless and cynical "Ha Ha Ha Ha" on that same track.

See what I mean about the sombre undertone? And that's just not something you'd normally associate with this band. Indeed, there's a lot of lines on this new EP that don't have the gallus, bouncy, Solareye feel about them.

"At late I've slipped between annoyed & depressed" By Way of Explanation

"I'm feeling less than human" By Way of Explanation

"gradually the world turned a darker shade of grey" The Day I Went Deaf

"I didn't go deaf, I just stopped listening" The Day I Went Deaf

I asked Solareye if that a deliberate ploy or whether 'something of the night' had subconsciously seeped into the music? He told me:

"As for the lyrics. I think sometimes in the past I felt like I was consciously trying to write something that would maintain rap credibility whilst also being accessible to people outside of hip-hop. Sometime that seemed to work and other times I felt it achieved neither. So this time I was just trying to write something with continuity and a bit of honesty. Some of the concepts are less focussed or finished maybe - like I wonder sometimes if you sit too long trying to start-to-finish tell a story then it might lose a bit of the impact in the process... not sure that I'm articulating that very well... there's definitely some darker stuff in there - I still hope to walk the fine line between actual sentiment and not taking myself too seriously but I'm not sure I always manage it."

Another obvious stylistic change is the incorporation of electronic chip-tune style sounds into the Stanley Odd mix. You'll hopefully recall that these were used on Pure Antihero Material's 'The Controller', where they sync well with the song topic. 'The Day I Went Deaf', however, sees them becoming an integral feature of the Stanley Odd sound ('Get A Grip' and 'Broken has Morning'). I asked Solareye where they had come from? He told me:

"In terms of the chip-tune orchestration, again we've just been trying to develop our sound and, as you say yourself, consciously move away from the 90s influenced live hip-hop vibe. The multi-layered part-structure of By Way of Explanation is an example of T Lo's contribution, building and swelling toward the verse section. Other parts, like the warbling choir section section in the outro of that tune were originally T Lo, then me and Samson ran it through some vinyl software and messed about with it on the record - just trying to create more interesting original parts."

Overall then, Stanley Odd have finished what they started on Pure Antihero Material and really burst out of their slightly-retro, 90s style hip-hop sound for something much more modern, serious and mature. Gone are the quirky cartoon characters of the Oddio cover (above) to be replaced by a monochrome sense of brooding, lonely alienation. I hope that, like me, you'll be surprised but impressed by the musical diversity on 'The Day I Went Deaf'. The band tell me that there are only 250 CD copies available, all of which have been handmade. You can pre-order your copy now 'here', and in doing so will be able to download the EP in full straight away. There you go, what are you waiting for?

There will also be an EP launch party, which will take place on Friday 21st October at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh. The show is open to over 14s, and tickets are available to buy now, or as part of a package with the EP, 'here'. The band will also be out on tour throughout October. These are the dates so far confirmed:

21 Oct EDINBURGH Liquid Room (14+)

22 Oct ABERDEEN Tunnels 2 (Oxjam Takeover)

27 Oct INVERNESS Mad Hatters

28 Oct STORNOWAY Jager Rooms

29 Oct AVIEMORE Old Bridge Inn

If you're wondering why there are no shows in Glasgow, or the West of Scotland, on this list and, like me, are pretty upset about that. Solareye had this to say:

"Oh yeah - the Glasgow gig thing is already causing quite a few queries and complaints - we're hoping to play a major show in Glasgow in January. But it hasn't been confirmed, so we can't announce it yet."

Roll on January 2012! Keep watching The Streetlamp for more details.

In the meantime Samson's EP of dubstep music,'Here Comes The Snake', released as 'Dunt' on abagarecords can be freely downloaded from 'here'.

Dunt, Solareye and Harvey Kartel also have a further new project called Downtimers, with a new EP to be released soon. For a wee taster of what to expect and a free download of the demo track 'Where's The Hook?' visit their bandcamp site.