Liberal Conspiracy: My British Asian Armpits4August experience

by Taran Bassi

For those of you who are unaware this past month has seen a campaign called ‘Armpits4August’ take place.

Confused? Well think of it like this – Movember for women, but for our armpits. Organised to raise awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) that affects many women it is urging others to explore a main side effect; excessive hair growth.

Although being Asian guarantees me to have an eternal golden tan there is another consequence that is kept a closely guarded shameful secret by fellow Asian females. We are hairy. There I said it and I have exposed my fellow sisters!

The majority of Asian females are hairy and those who insist they are not are either one in a million or simply lying. As if being hairy and living in a society obsessed with strict hair free ideas of beauty was not bad enough – our hair is dark and therefore so much more visible.

The focus placed on British Asian females to be hair free is more complex than the narrow ideals of beauty within Western society and the fear of being viewed as ‘masculine’.

Instead, to be hairy and to embrace this is seen as a hesitation and challenge to fitting into a Western way of life. Within British Asian beauty guides and advice columns the obsession with hair removal is on par with the obsession to be light skinned.

Now – I have long battled with this and found myself trying to justify my hair removal regime to be necessary as my dark hair is more noticeable than that of my blonde-haired acquaintances. But I decided to stop feeling shameful about my body hair and I have spent the past month participating in Armpits4August.

My experience? Well it seems that many people felt compelled to be offended on my behalf for my own body hair. I had no issue in wearing sleeveless tops, but I was surprised by the reactions of others.

They ranged from being asked simply if I was a lesbian? To being branded ‘disgusting’ and even being told that luckily for me my face was pretty enough to pull off hairy armpits – erm thanks? What I have learnt is that body hair scares many. Especially dark visible hair.

My physical challenge to beauty norms allowed others to consider me to be vile, unhygienic (I actually smell really nice) and strange. But what I think is really strange is how the idea of a hairless woman is now accepted as a norm, even though all humans have body hair.

I have the option to remove the hair that I have grown for the last month and escape this criticism, but for those with PCOS the solution is not as simple as that.

So before judging a female for being ‘hairy’ and labelling her as ‘weird/dirty/gross’ just remember it is just hair – and the only thing strange is not its presence, but your own narrow minded reaction.

Taran Bassi blogs here and tweets from here.

via Guest Liberal Conspiracy

Digital Inspiration Technology Blog ImageEmbed Offers High-Quality Photos for your Blog Posts (mostly free for small blogs)

Image Embed helps you find photographs for your website and also offers an option for you to sell your Instagram, Flickr, Picasa and Facebook photos online.

This story, ImageEmbed Offers High-Quality Photos for your Blog Posts (mostly free for small blogs), was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 31/08/2013 under Creative Commons, Embed, Images, Internet

Global: Dave Hill | London Mela and Gunnersbury Park

The capital’s annual free celebration of South Asian culture has established itself in the history of one of West London’s “green lungs”

The eleventh London Mela, one of the capital’s largest cultural celebrations, takes place in Gunnersbury Park tomorrow (Sunday), offering its now customary collage of classical and contemporary music and dance, family fun and food with their roots in South Asia.

The BBC Asian Network will again be a prominent partner. Former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain will be a star guest. Last year’s event attracted an estimated 80,000 people. See You Tube clips and reports here and here and here.

Being an East Londoner I’ve many times travelled past Gunnersbury Park yet never set foot it. I’ll have to put that right. Once owned by the Rothschild family, it was formally opened as a public park in 1926 by then then health minister Neville Chamberlain. See some remarkable (silent) film footage of the occasion, courtesy of London’s Screen Archives, here. The park has inspired a pop song too. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

via Global: Dave Hill |

Liberal Conspiracy: UKuncut plan road blocks to protest Legal Aid cuts

The anti-austerity network UKuncut are planning to undertake “mass civil disobedience” against what they described as “dangerous changes that will destroy democracy”.

They said this week they plan nationwide road blocks to protest against government plans to cut legal aid.

The statement went on to encourage other groups from around from around the country to organise similar road-blocks on October the 5th.

The group was unapologetic as to the disruption that would be caused, saying “We know that this will be disruptive. We know that it will stop the traffic. But we know that this kind of direct action works”.

Other direct action groups including Disabled People Against the Cuts and Plane Stupid also plan to join in.

The plans emerge following a week in which England’s most senior family judge described government plans for legal aid as ‘disconcerting’ and suggested that ‘something needs to be done’.

Last month the government was forced to backtrack on a key part of the reforms, that of removing the right of legal aid defendants to choose their solicitor, following protests.

The government claims that changes will improve efficiency in the legal system, but this claim has been challenged by research showing that the estimated £6m savings will be dwarfed by £30m in knock-on costs.

via Newswire Liberal Conspiracy

God Is In The TV: Track Of The Day #346: Jack Cheshire – Gryoscope


Out now on the gun 20 imprint and being hotly pursued by an imminent long player platter entitled Long Mild Hotel is ‘Gyroscope’ by Jack Cheshire who hails from Bath and who to his sonic bow summons a strangely alluring array of generic reference markers and then consigns them to a huge mixing bowl only to speed mix the blighters and bake the resulting ingredients into something flavoured in the irrefutable spicing of English eccentricity.

’Gyroscope’ provides for such a case in point, partly cloaked in psychedelic hallucinogens, its warping stop start time signature sweetly arc and swell to accentuate a curiously crooked outsider pop framing upon whose axis a Barrett meets Drake mindset is forged reveling in a slacker soothed psych pastoral oblivion much like an old school Bevis Frond. As to the album – from what we’ve heard so far the darkly spun noir scratched folk framed ’heavenly bodies’ may well cause old school admirers of the big eyed family players to swoon while the parting rustically hymnal ‘Moving in a Straight Line’ is agreeably possessed of that same fleeting whisper that used to attach itself to releases by Elliott Smith.

Jack Cheshire – Gyroscope from Black Revolver Films on Vimeo.

via Mark Barton God Is In The TV

Liberal Conspiracy: Cameron’s tragedy is that he fails in even understanding the point of leadership

David Cameron is a terrible advert for Oxford PPE. He's long been ignorant of economics – as his prating about the "nation's credit card" and the "global race" attest – but his defeat last night suggests he knows little about politics and history too.

It's a cliche that this was a failure of leadership. I suspect, though, that it was a failure to even see what leadership is. Leadership is the art of getting people to follow you when they don't have to; if they do so because they must, you're not a leader but a boss.

But leadership in this sense is not just about speechmaking and doing the right thing. It's about getting dirty, and using the darker arts of politics.

One such art is timing. If your position is strong, you should act. If it's not, you should wait. Had Cameron waited until the UN inspectors have reported, his case would have been strengthened by reports of the incendiary bomb attack on a school.

But there's another failure. Leadership also means identifying potential oppenents and cajoling them – maybe nicely, maybe not – into supporting you. And at this, Cameron has long been poor. Fraser Nelson says he's "aloof."

And only a few months into his permiership one Tory sympathizer wrote:

There is little affection for Cameron on the Tory benches. His regime is chilly, even aloof. MPs who cross him know that they are unlikely to be forgiven. Slowly, the numbers of the disaffected and dispossessed are growing.

Contrast this with two great American leaders – Abe Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson. Their success rested on not so much on them taking the moral high ground – the best that can be said for LBJ's "moral compass" is that it wasn't quite as defective as Nixon's – but on their ability to twist arms, and appeal to low motives.

Their precedents are, I think, relevant. Both men faced parties which were loose and fissiparous, which is the condition of today's Tories. Not only are they intellectually divided – for example on both social and economic liberalism – but they are also socially so; the Cabinet might be full of public school millionaires, but the backbenches aren't.

His long failure to close this gap means that Cameron lacked both the ability to convert potential rebels and the trust which was necessary to induce people to follow him on what would have been a speculative venture.

In this sense, there's a tragic aspect to Cameron. He has thought of politics as (by his own lights) a noble venture – as when he pushed through gay marriage and in his desire to stop crimes against humanity. But politics isn't just that.

Sometimes, to win a moral crusade you need immoral means. Leadership isn't about being like Martin Luther King, but being like Lyndon Johnson. 

via Chris Dillow Liberal Conspiracy

God Is In The TV: RW/FF With Ben P Scott #27

This week: Nicky Wire seems pleased with my review of the new Manics album, I visit my local charity shop and emerge with some amazing records, and the NME continues to cater for morons rather than music fans. Also, as the grisly televisual abomination that is The X Factor returns, I prove the worthlessness of the show and every talentless cunt that it produces. No new music recommendations this week (aside from brief notes about Troumaca and MONEY), but instead there is Volume 9 of The RW/FF Compilation to listen to, plus a great track from the ‘Afrobeat Airways’ compilation… In the second half of the column i rewind to September 1995, and the beginning of my life at secondary school.

So after spending the last few weeks listening to their fantastic new LP, I was proud and honoured to find out that the Manic Street Preachers had shared my album review with their fans on their Facebook and Twitter pages, with Nicky Wire himself describing it as “great”. What makes it even better is the fact that this happened exactly 15 years and one day after I bought ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ on its day of release. Back then I’d dream of being a music journalist one day, so having my work read by my heroes exactly 15 years later seemed somewhat appropriate…

The charity shops around Wiltshire are always worth a visit when it comes to buying music. I found some incredible buys at my local Dorothy House shop last Saturday: Echo And The Bunnymen‘s amazing ‘Ocean Rain’ for £1 (already had it on CD, but sounds even better on vinyl), as well as ‘Brewing Up’ by Billy Bragg, ‘Warehouse: Songs and Stories’ by Hüsker Dü (the first record of theirs I have ever heard, or owned), and ‘Surfer Rosa’ by the Pixies, also all £1 each. Very pleased with those! The thing with charity shops is that they’re often staffed by retired folk or people who aren’t very familiar with music. They don’t know how to price things accordingly and often whack a bigger price on things that they think are popular, when really it should be the other way round! those ABBA and Phil Collins LPs theyre charging up to £6 for can be bought anywhere else for about 50p! I’m not complaining though, because they were completely unaware that a 12″ copy of ‘Victoria’ by The Fall should have been sold for more than £1!

My weekly radio show The BPS Broadcast was delayed slightly earlier this week, due to the fact that I arrived 20 minutes late to the studio. But I made up for the latency by delivering a fantastic set of tunes old and new, which included the latest additions to my ’1 To Z’ feature. For those who don’t know, every week ’1 To Z’ consists of two songs picked from my record collection, and will continue until I have featured every single band or artist whose music I own. This week it was the turn of The Abyssinians, and one of my favourite new bands of recent years, Two Wounded Birds. I thought they’d been quiet for a while, and decided to check out their Facebook page to see if they had any news to share with us. Then I saw a post from November 2012 announcing that the group had split up. So why didn’t I know about this? How could a hotly-tipped, critically acclaimed band like them split up without the fans noticing? It’s clear that certain “music news” sites aren’t doing their job properly. And yes, I’m talking about you NME, failing to inform us of news like this and instead preferring to cater for morons who want to read meaningless tabloid gossip.

The days of picking up the NME, being informed of important news and being kept updated with the latest goings on in the music world, are long gone. Their website is awful, and any relevant stories are buried under loads of showbiz “news”, so I’ve decided to re-launch my weekly news round-ups. This is how music news was when I was growing up. Unlike the NME, I don’t attempt to increase page views with showbiz gossip or stories about these manufactured pop stars who are irrelevant to the world of music. The only time you’ll hear about such people is when I’m giving them the critical kicking they deserve, something that I’m sure you’ll enjoy joining me in. My improved news round-ups can be found on the RW/FF site HERE.

For the last few days, I have been indulging in brand new albums from Troumaca and Money, both released at the beginning of this week. ‘The Grace’ is the debut from Birmingham’s Troumaca, a group described as “a melting pot of sound”. Judging by this superb LP, this description is an accurate one. Manchester four piece Money have kept an air of mystery about them, which suits the haunting enigma of their sound wonderfully. Their debut ‘The Shadow Of Heaven’ is already being talked about as one of 2013′s best albums so far, with God Is In The TV’s TC declaring “It’s dark, deep, emotional and needs some TLC….” More about those albums next week when I’ve spent more time with them. I’ve STILL not got round to hearing the new ones from Crocodiles, Vieux Farka Touré, and Nine Inch Nails. Things for me to do over the weekend. Unless I get another urge to listen to the brilliant ‘Afrobeat Airways Vol 1′ compilation on Analog Africa records, in which case I will be getting that one out again. Volume 2 is out in a few weeks on September 13. The priceless Monolith Cocktail site has a fine, appetite-whetting review of it HERE, and the site’s author Dominic Valvona is also responsible for this great write-up of Volume 1 HERE. From that first edition, here is ‘Me Yee Owu Den’ from K. Frimpong And His Cubano Fiestas.

The 9th edition of The RW/FF Compilation can be listened to via the Mixcloud player below. It showcases the music that has featured in this column over the last few weeks. 

The idea is to buy all of these tracks and burn onto a blank disc, hence why each compilation will be roughly the length of a CD. Featuring new music from: Temples, MONEY, Higamos Hogamos, Asian Dub Foundation, Hello Skinny, Horse Thief, The Family Rain, Gary Numan, The Little Kicks, Manic Street Preachers, Northern Uproar, Tripwires, Atlanter, Melt Yourself Down, Six By Seven, Weekend and Holy Ghost!

So this week the public and the press have been expressing their outrage at trashy teen pop star Miley Cyrus doing a sexually provocative dance in a flesh coloured bikini at the MTV VMA Awards. Yawn. What exactly did the public expect someone like that to do? Suddenly develop some talent and open up people’s minds by creating an innovative piece of musical art? I think people are forgetting who we’re dealing with here. It’s just another part of this industry-funded celebrity bullshit world that is entirely separate from the music scene. It’s tiresome, it’s pathetic and I can’t even be bothered to have an opinion on it. What annoys me more is people playing along with the game and making such a fuss over it that the publicity snowballs. Ignore it, get on with your lives and don’t do what those pop marketing men want you to.

Talking of cheap, trashy things, the horrific karaoke shitfest that is The X Factor seems to be returning to the TV screens of idiots around the country. I know this because one of ITV’s sponsored tweets ended up in my Twitter feed, spamming me with advertisements for Cowell’s dirty televisual cash cow. Well done ITV, you just earned yourself a “blocking”. If only Twitter would introduce that “Report abuse” button that’s been spoken of. I’d report them for abusing me by sending me what is effectively cyber junk mail, for abusing my intelligence by insultingly suggesting that I might want to watch that awful bollocks, for abusing the world with another series of this worthless shite, and most of all, for abusing the music scene by taking all publicity away from real musicians. 


The people behind the show find ways to desperately whip up media attention with shallow stunts and planned “incidents”, which gets it in the papers. The majority of people don’t want to hear about it, and yet it’s being forced down their throats from all angles. All this fuss, and what for? A karaoke show. 

By making it as annoying as possible for intelligent, well-informed people, this also helps stir up more promotion. People have asked me if I’ve heard the show’s boyband One Direction and their attention-seeking covers of ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’. They know things like that aren’t going to go down well with music fans. They are fully aware that it’s going to create a shitstorm. For people with taste, it can be very difficult not to criticise this programme, and when fans of the show hear these opinions, they realise deep down that they’re being sucked in by rubbish, and get offended by being made to feel like idiots. So it makes them even more determined to keep watching it and talking about it. Attention seeking is what it’s all about. Do any of the winners go on to make valuable contributions to the world of music? Unless “the world of music” has become a nickname for Simon Cowell’s bank account, then no. Morons and the misinformed can try and argue all they like that “these singers must be good because they’re having number one hits”. That’s not going to help in ten years time when they’ve wasted all those years singing whatever they’re told to, rather than developing as artists. Plus, by that point the hits will have dried up, no-one will remember who they are, and any money earned would have been spent. It’s the worst of both worlds. 

A few days ago my friend Jason B tweeted me to tell me news of an upcoming event at The Kings Arms, a hotel located in out home town of Melksham. In terms of live music, this hotel has recently played host to a couple of brilliant charity gigs that featured the region’s finest up-and-coming bands, but following a recent change in management, it seems they think that having rock bands there may “lower the tone” of the newly refurbished establishment. Jason’s Twitter message read: “Steve Brookstein to appear at The Kings Arms…”. A little bit confused, “who?” was my reply. Was I supposed to know who this Steve Brookstein is? A local singer perhaps? Then I was informed that this individual was in fact the very first winner of The X Factor! A small column on page 5 of the Melksham News confirmed this: “This is the first of many live cabaret nights planned” said the venue’s manager. Brilliant. All that hype, all that fuss, all that headline-attracting bullshit and what for? A cheesy twat singing cabaret at a hotel.

They may also be “forgotten about” by the majority of the general public, but at least many of indie’s former chart stars have always kept doing the same thing they always did: writing songs, recording them, and playing them to people. Due to the fact they’ve always been able to come up with the goods, they still have dedicated fanbases, even if they are smaller than they were in the 90’s. The only thing that’s changed is the fact that they’re not in the singles chart anymore. Pop singers only exist to make money, and when their moment in the limelight is over, they give up on their career as puppets and spend a bit of time enjoying the money they conned mostly from the pockets of the world’s children. Then, when they miss that attention they used to get, they attempt to desperately relaunch their careers, often with disastrous results. Why would any fans have a reason to stick with them once they’re out of fashion and out of the limelight? Their big hits are written by well-paid songwriters, who aren’t going to want to write for them when their success dries up. Because they don’t come up with their own music, they can’t be relied on to keep producing output of a consistent quality. There is no glory in being a pop star. Fake illusions of glory, yes: money, fame and popularity. But in the end, you’re left with no credibility, and no way to turn back and do start again differently. Meanwhile many genuine musicians may be penniless and ignored, but they have something more important and valuable than fame and money: a collection of work that they can be proud to call their own.

My full article, ‘The X Factor: A Shit Stain On The Pants Of Culture’ can be read HERE

From the horrors of today, to the wonders of yesteryear…


1995: September

In September, it was time to begin life at the George Ward School in Melksham. The transition from primary school to secondary school is always a big one. Rather than sharing an educational establishment with 5 and 6 year old, we were now sharing one with 15 and 16 year olds, in fact if you included the sixth formers, there were even students close to their twenties. The whole tone of the place seemed more serious, more grown up, and that was something that suited me. Towards the end of primary school, the rumour was that when you reached “big school”, all the older kids would hunt you down and flush your head down the toilet for being a “picnie”. That was a myth, but a myth that led the rest of my new class to think that bullying was one of those essential things that everyone had to take part in at some point to become popular and to earn a bit of power. Our class was the same size as it would have been in primary school, but instead of having about 14 different classes of kids to deal with, the school had at least 50, and being aware of every incident would have therefore been a lot more difficult for the teachers. It was a much bigger place, and teachers eyes are only able to see so far. 

Most of my classmates were a load of dicks, none of them showed any signs of maturity, and I felt that I had outgrown them on every level. I felt like I had already grown up in a lot of ways, and school was just a compulsory thing that had to be done to satisfy the system and to earn those official qualifications that we would be judged on in later life. 

However, I felt that music was in my blood, and it was my destiny to get a job somewhere within the music world. I was already a club DJ and an aspiring record collector (although it was mostly tapes and a few CDs) who had a more advanced knowledge of music than all the other 11 year olds. I felt that my future was going to involve earning a living from working with music in some form, and that school wasn’t teaching me anything relevant to what I would be doing as an adult. It all seemed like an inconvenience, and I thought that I would have been more useful out there in the wider world rather than sat in class. The other kids were starting to turn against me too, since I didn’t show any desire to follow their fashion or take part in the same activities they enjoyed. I would always be more interested in talking about bands and songs that they had absolutely no knowledge of, plus my increasingly evident wish to be an adult was beginning to take the form of dismissing everything my classmates did as “kid’s stuff”. Needless to say, this didn’t make me a very popular person. 

Each week seemed to follow a familiar pattern: start the week on Monday and patiently waiting through the next five days, tolerating boredom and bullying and hanging on until it was home time on Friday. The weekend was the time when I could really come alive, make use of my talents and be a part of that adult world. Music was now not only my passion, but an escape from the turbulence of school, and something which made me feel powerful and worthy. Perhaps at that point my brain formed a permanent subconscious link between music and being safe from the bad things in life. On Friday night, my Dad’s club would have a resident DJ playing a more dance-orientated selection of club tracks, and on Saturday night it was my job to take control of the decks. There would be a few less genuine clubbers around than there usually would be on the previous night, so I was expected to play some of the more commercial chart songs of the time, as well as a few older tracks for the more mature customers. However, watching the Friday night DJs pack the dancefloor made me want to do the same. The club had also begun hosting a house music night, where the tunes were unfamiliar to me and a great deal cooler than the more mainstream dance hits of the time. But since I didn’t know any radio shows or other places where that sort of music could be heard, I found myself listening to the next best thing available to me at the time: dance mix compilations that combined club mixes of chart hits with a few of the credible and slightly more underground tracks of the moment, as well as a few radio shows on Galaxy 101 that almost did the same thing. 

A few dance tracks I used to play at the time that I loved back then, and I still have a nostalgic soft spot for now: ‘I Believe’ by Happy Clappers, Jinny’s ‘Keep Warm’, the ‘I Feel Love’-aping ‘Sunshine After The Rain’ by Berri (a singer who Liam Gallagher apparently had a fling with), De’Lacy’s rather brilliant ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Destination Escaton’ by The Shamen, a single which I bought on cassette in Woolworths without having even heard the song. I was just curious to see how they’d changed since 1992’s ‘Boss Drum’, and was curious to see if they could be as successful as they were then. They weren’t. I didn’t get round to listening to the accompanying album ‘’ for about 17 years. I never felt embarrassed about playing those songs. Which is more than could be said for some of the other chart hits of the time: Shaggy’s ‘Boombastic’, N-Trance’s hideous ‘Staying Alive’ cover, Simply Red’s nauseating ‘Fairground’, and a crap remix of Michael Jackson’s uncomfortably soppy ‘You Are Not Alone’. By this point, every chart song had a compulsory dance remix, a way for mainstream hits to cross over into the clubbing world. Many DJs must have had their integrity and good taste compromised by being asked and expected to play these remixes. 

I also had to playlist novelty rubbish like Technohead’s ‘I Wanna Be A Hippy’ and Roy Chubby Brown’s “who the fuck is Alice?” update of Smokie’s ‘Living Next Door To Alice’. Add to those the tedious likes of Annie Lennox’s ‘No More I Love You’ and Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’, which were sometimes played at the beginning or near the end of the night as things were warming up or winding down. TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ was typical of the bland and utterly unappealing so-called “RnB’ that had started to leak into the UK charts like a trickle of piss. I hated it, and I hate it even more now for leading to the likes of Destiny’s Child, Mis-Teeq and a million other acts whose names I can’t remember because none of them stand out in any way. I don’t think I ever actually played TLC though, just as I was never expected to play Take That, Boyzone, East 17 or Bad Boys Inc (if anyone remembers them). Asking me to play those would have been crossing the line. But back then it wasn’t quite as easy to hate crap chart pop as it is now, because although we had to put up with it on the radio, there was an equally omnipresent wave of fantastic British guitar bands that were capturing the public’s minds and immediately presenting a more substantial and long-lasting musical future. It seemed unstoppable at the time, as Blur and Oasis were household names, while Pulp, Suede and Supergrass were in the process of becoming all-time greats. I didn’t think of it as “Britpop”, I just thought of it as the standards of popular music improving. 

At the time, it really looked like indie was replacing pop, and for those who wanted a break from the guitars, there was plenty of good dance music around. It made perfect sense to me, and I couldn’t see any reason why it should change. However my involvement in Britpop only really stretched to a knowledge of Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Suede and Supergrass. They’re still the ones that the majority people remember the most, but at the time other groups were emerging underneath my radar: Sleeper, Cast, Dodgy, Ash, Menswear, Gene, The Verve, Northern Uproar and Elastica to name just a few. Within a year I would have discovered most of those, but while Britpop’s main bands were all at their commercial peak, the upper part of the charts were still where my attentions wandered towards. A couple of non-Britpop tracks I bought at the time were ‘‘74-‘75’ by The Connells; a brilliant one hit wonder song that I purchased on tape from HMV in Swindon, and Def Leppard’s turgid ‘When Love And Hate Collide’, bought on CD from the short-lived Taylormade Sounds, which was a small shop in Melksham (now an amusement arcade next to the Iceland supermarket). Don’t have a clue why I bought that one.

Earlier in the year it looked like Blur were going to be become the biggest musical phenomenon the world had ever seen, and ‘Parklife’ was the ultimate way of promising that. But Oasis were catching up with them in terms of popularity and attention of the music world. Even though ‘Country House’ had beaten ‘Roll With It’ in that well-documented chart battle, Blur’s latest album ‘The Great Escape’ had failed to live up to expectations, and since the public had given Damon Albarn and co the time of day, many of them felt that they also owed Oasis a fair chance. The opinion on Blur had shifted somewhat, and for their Manchester chart rivals, the moment presented the perfect opportunity for them to prove themselves. The second Oasis album was coming, and it had already spawned two massive hit singles. 

One of my first memories of George Ward School was of an assembly that took place during our first few weeks there. Stood in the long line that filled the corridor towards the school hall, I was surprised to hear a familiar sound coming from beyond us. As we made our way in, it became obvious to me that for some reason an Oasis track was playing. This was fantastic. By the time all present were seated, the track was coming to an end. The school’s deputy headmaster Mr Austin introduced himself to us and asked everyone if they could name the song that had been playing. “‘Get It On’”, someone replied. To this day, I don’t whether they genuinely thought that it was in fact the T Rex classic, or whether they were making a knowing reference to Noel Gallagher’s musical theft. 

The song was of course ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’, and Mr Austin had brought with him the cassette format of the single with its fag packet-style packaging that declared “Rock n roll can be fatal”. According to him Oasis were misunderstood, and the song was actually an anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-drugs statement. At the time, I didn’t have the confidence, nor the cheek to correct him, and I wasn’t sure whether this guy was just making a misguided attempt at being “down with the kids” or not. It soon turned out that Mr Austin was by far the coolest teacher in school, and music was a major passion of his, just as it was mine. I doubt there were many school assemblies across the country that featured Oasis songs, but judging by their rising popularity at the time, it’s possible that there were many other instances of the Gallagher brothers appearing in places that you wouldn’t have expected them to. And as 1995 began to turn to autumn, it was them who would go on to define the year and perhaps the whole era… 

More next week.

via Ben P Scott God Is In The TV

God Is In The TV: INTERVIEW: David Stubbs


David Stubbs is considered by many to be the foremost writer on music, culture, football and comedy in the UK today. From Monitor to the Melody Maker, NME to The Guardian and When Saturday Comes, Stubbs’ love of Arsenal, hatred for the Tories and disdain for phoniness in general shines brilliantly through everything he writes. Sean Bw Parker spoke to him about his philosophy of life.

You spent your childhood in Leeds, but now live in South London. Would you say the north-south divide has widened over the past forty years, or narrowed?

(Actually, I live in South London – have corrected). Over the past 30 years, I’d say that it has narrowed in some ways – technologies like the internet and email have reduced the effect of geography. In the post-punk era, towns had their own distinctive, almost hermetic identity musically – even Liverpool was quite distinct from Manchester, though they’re not many miles apart, while Sheffield and Bristol, for example, were separate entities. There are still local scenes (see the latest Wire for the new Bristol one) but it’s less of a factor, I’d say.

In terms broader than just the musical, I still think that the UK could do with being a lot less London-South East/centric. It’s hard, though. The BBC moved some of their departments up to Salford but mostly people working there just baulked at that – it doesn’t seem to have effected any great cultural shift. So many people want to live in London. After all, there’s a strong argument that it’s the centre of the world, seriously. Where else? Paris? Berlin? Anywhere in America suffers from the solipsism and apart-ness of the USA as a whole. London’s a pan-continental vortex.

But it’s overloaded.

stubbs b&w
You invented the now-legendary character Mr Agreeable while writing for Melody Maker in the 1980s, who now appears occasionally in The Quietus. How did he come about?

I started out with a character called Mr Amusing, who made abysmal quips and puns about current acts and events, whose chortling levity ultimately only revealed how pitifully out of touch he was with modern mores. I used a cut-out pic of the late Freddy Garrity of Freddie & The Dreamers to illustrate the column, though it wasn’t a comment on him personally. Then, one week (in 1990), I got bored of Mr Amusing and decided, as what I thought would be a one-off joke, to replace Mr Amusing with Mr Abusing – a simple letter switch. Mr Abusing’s initial comments were initially simply terse volleys of swearing – “The Day I listen to a f***ing Dave Stewart record is the day I f*** my father”” etc. Due to people’s abiding love of expletives and the cathartic energy afforded by this column, it became popular. There’s a bit of the ventriloquist’s dummy syndrome about Mr Abusing, who was temporarily banned by MM publishers IPC after a reader’s parent complained, only to sneak back under the guise of Mr Agreeable. He could be scatalogically abusive in a way that I, as David Stubbs, journalist or any other journalist never could be. It was licensed jesting and, because, Mr Abusing/Agreeable hated everything, and I occasionally attacked artists I actually liked, no one felt it was necessarily serious, or aimed at them. But, of course, it was when it was ( Bono, Sting, Phil Collins, etc).

If anyone wants to read your facebook updates free, they can do so. How do you think this kind of ‘free publishing’ contributed to the recent sacking of Simon Price from The Independent?

I’m sure my Facebook updates didn’t lead to Simon’s losing his column! But if you’re talking about the amount of readable, professional copy freely available on the internet generally, then yes, inevitably you have a point. Music journalism was already coming under siege prior to the internet because, unlike in the 70s, it was no longer the exclusive preserve of the music press – even the Tory newspapers started to include extensive rock coverage, whereas previously, they’d never have touched, say, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin.

Add to that the de-monetising effect of the internet (free music, free music criticism at the click of a button) and clearly, there was going to be a crisis. Doesn’t need to be like that, however. Much as I loathe Rupert Murdoch, I think newspapers should follow his lead generally install a paywall, a la The Times, even if at this stage it feels like putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Pre-internet, no one begrudged the token pence you threw over the counter to buy papers, magazines – but now people can get it for nothing, it has had a ruinous effect on journalists. Simon Price losing his always-superb column is an absolute disgrace, an absurd, false and spectacularly unnecessary “sacrifice”, a conspicuous example of the ridiculous pass in which modern newspaper publishing has found itself. He is quality, and people should pay for that quality, the way they do in other sectors of the economy. If you jettison people like Simon (and keep what you keep), really, what are you for?

You are a lifelong Arsenal fanatic, and a contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine as The Wing Commander, a fusty old bigot. Do you find the more football becomes capitalised, the harder it is to romanticise it in writing, let alone support a club?

Ah, football is sent to try we fans. Yes, football has become a victim of all kinds of malign, corporate forces. And yet, it remains a great spectacle, with the capacity for moments of both the sublime and ridiculous, of surprise as well as the vast helpings of exasperation which in a strange way are a necessary part of the experience, if only to help you savour all the more the too-occasional moments of joy. I think it’s the greatest sport in the world. There have been match-fixing scandals and drug problems but the structure of football mean that it isn’t blighted in the same way that, say, cycling and track and field athletics have been. For all the attempts to try, there is something ultimately incorruptible about football.

You are known as a hard-left socialist. How do you respond when people claim that Britain has or should have moved beyond traditional left/right politics?

I’d have to confess that I’m an armchair socialist mostly. Also, while I’m in strong intellectual agreement with socialist arguments, my ultimate reservation with the left is in their optimism about the human condition. I don’t share that. Mind you, the people who had the sort of visions of real change in society were more optimistic about the human condition than me, so I’m sceptical about my own scepticism!

As for the idea that we are “post-political”, I think this is a naive, pernicious idea, born out of ill-founded, 1990s, end-of-history complacency. The pendulum of politics has swung far too far to the right since 1979. It needs wrenching way back to the left.

Not as Mr Agreeable, but as David Stubbs, could you describe in your terms how music has changed since your early Melody Maker days, up to now?

First off, I don’t believe in ideas about the “decline” of music, often enterained by elders whose own moment has passed. I believe that just has much good music is being made now as in 1988, even 1968, although then they had the advantage of tilling virgin soil. What’s changed is the context in which it is made. In 1988, there was a Top Of The Pops in the UK which was an annoyance but also a challenge, something which could be scaled, the way the likes of ABC/Scritti did, even though those days of entryism had passed a bit. What we never imagined is that in 25 years time there would be no Top Of The Pops – and no music press as such, or when that maintained the sort of counter-cultural pressure we routinely did.

Nowadays, there seems to be more a gulf than ever between the quality and the commercial, the overground and the underground. The cream gravitates to the bottom, the shit rises to the top. That’s not absolutely true but far more so than at any time I can remember.

What were your feelings about the London riots of a couple of years ago, and how has the mood on the streets felt since then?

Much as I would love to apply a political context to those riots, I honestly feel they weren’t quite rooted that way. The initial anger was sparked by the perennial rage at overbearing police tactics towards the black community, a la the Tottenham riots of 1981 and that I understand. Far too little has changed in that respect. What happened subsequently, however, felt almost desultory and delinquent – I can say that having been caught up in the Woolwich disturbances. I suspected that this was not righteous anger with any great stamina but more a one-off, parody/emulation of modern capitalist opportunism, grab what you can when you can, with no underlying sense of social contract. The fact that the riots haven’t been repeated, despite the continuing, slow deterioration of things, is telling to me. I believe the “real” riots are yet to come and if they do, they will be something else again.

What are your general views on the BBC nowadays, culturally or politically?

I find the BBC maddeningly skewed to right, when it comes to flagship political programmes like Question Time, for instance, or its sycophancy towards the Royal Family. The likes of the Daily Mail suspect it to be a hotbed of lefties and I suspect it has overreacted to that suspicion in some ways. Still, it’s the BBC and for all its myriad flaws, like the NHS, it’s an institution utterly worth preserving, a remaining institution of the post-1945 consensus that continues to redeem itself here and there in its programming. Beware of the agenda of those who attack it, and what monstrous drivel would fill the vacuum they apparently desire.

Any new bands/artists you’d like to name drop?

Two, among many – I continue to listen to, and be impressed by, contemporary music. As I’ve hinted earlier, I’ve a mistrust of elderly music critics who refuse to recognise anything after their own, beloved era and believe that the end of the Golden Age coincided with their own retirement from the music press.

1. Berangere Maximin – a Parisian based musician whose work straddles the previously considered vast divide between pop/rock and musique concrete.

Check her out!

2. Metamono. Co-founded by Jono Podmore, who has worked as Kumo with Irmin Schmidt (his father-in-law, as it happens). They’re dedicated to the “lost future” of analogue electronics, in their manifesto and means of production.

But for all the solemnity that implies, their music is at once incredibly elaborate and far-ranging in its reference points, from Acid House to Herbie

Hancock to Stockhausen, and yet ultimately incredibly, infectiously cheery and effervescent.

What’s your favourite alcoholic drink, and can you explain its properties and special effects to us?

White wine. İt’s considered effete in some quarters, particularly beer drinkers. It is, however, a nectar fearsome in its impact – the petrol of the Gods. I drink beer when I need to avoid a hangover. I drink wine when I propose to enter the golden portals of oblivion.

Finally, just for God Is In The TV, may we ask what Mr Agreeable’s position on Simon Cowell is?

You complacent, high-trousered, c*** faced lump of arseclag! I hope you have to spend f***ing eternity in a f***ing Beethoven-less, Beatles-less f***ing musical Hades of your own twatting f***ing making listening to nothing but the dismally expedient, pointlessly gymnastic and formulaic f***ing shite you saw fit to foist on the f***ing general public like sonic f***ing trans fats! I hope you choke on your own spunk in a f***ing exercise in auto-erotic narcissism gone wrong, you everything-spoiling, vile, loathsome c***!

via Sean Bw Parker God Is In The TV