God Is In The TV: MIXTAPES: The Sound Of 1995 (six parts!)

At last, it is ready. My epic 1995 compilation, six CDs of incredible music from a glorious year. Remember when pop music was made by musicians who had talent? 1995 was a year that changed many lives as Britpop took the nation by storm and music entered a new (and final) golden age… While parts 1,2 and 6 deals with the indie guitar legends, the other instalments of this compilation delve into more eclectic worlds. 
Truly, there was no better time for me to grow up. Sometimes part of me wishes that I could have been a few years older, so I could have understood Britpop more at the time and experienced it fully. But it was fate that it all happened before my teens. It put me on the right path, at the right age, at just the right time. A few years later it would be a lot more difficult to discover great music in the mainstream, but I got there just in time. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. If people told me back then that those were the best days of my life, I wouldn’t have believed them. At that age all I wanted to do was grow up. 1995 was a year that changed everything for me, hence why I have spent such a long time writing about it. People will argue that many of the Britpop bands were far from alternative, but to an 11 year old in the mid 90s this really was something new and exciting. Many of the bands and artists who arrived into my life in 1995 have never left. What a year. You can read two rather lengthy articles about my memories of 1995 HERE

Spiritualized – Medication
The Chemical Brothers – Leave Home
Bjork – Army Of Me
David Bowie – The Heart’s Filthy Lesson
Tricky – Overcome
Leftfield – Afroleft
The Orb – Oxbow Lakes
Dreadzone – Little Britain
The Fall – The Joke
Pavement – 
The Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet With Butterfly Wings
PJ Harvey – Down By The Water
Garbage – Queer
Levellers – The Fear
Radiohead – Street Spirit (Fade Out)
CD 4
THE CONNELLS – ’74-’75
PAVEMENT – Father To A Sister Of Thought
CORNERSHOP – 6am Jullander Shere


via Ben P Scott God Is In The TV http://ift.tt/OKkGuV

God Is In The TV: Track Of The Day #452: James – Frozen Britain


Ordinarily I’d be running at some considerable speed in the opposite direction of this, I don’t generally hold with ghosts from your stereo’s past and I’ll admit that the last stuff I listened to by them was way over 15 years ago, but then everyone appears at the moment to be obsessing about all things 90’s and while this lot where stirring the wheels of another fashion crisis that pre-dated the flag waving Brit pop explosion, they were like Pulp the most deserving acolytes of success after years of being every other over achievers favourite band.

I refer of course to James, a band whose industrious success at selling t-shirts (i still mourn the loss of my nifty looking ‘How Was it for You’ top even to this day) in the early days outshone their ability to actually push records sales. The cool kids U2. Discuss. And anyway throughout the 80’s they were arguably and musically more interesting than the Smiths (stand back for the backlash).

Back after an age – apologies I’ve temporarily mislaid the press release – do I recall rightly first new album in 6 years, entitled ’La Petite Mort’ – the set was written during a traumatic period in Mr Booth’s life – losing his mother and a close friend in quick succession and while the albums title might hint darker elements and some mood lowering self healing by all accounts its bouncing with radiance and effervescence as clearly evidenced by the teaser track ’Frozen Britain’. Now depending on your perspective the mere mention that this is James rediscovering their ’Gold Mother’ mojo could be viewed both a good thing and a bad thing, but petty disagreements aside this three minute blast into the past is acutely coiled in the kind of old school hooks that ought to ensure lighter sales excel at this years festivals, the burning question though what sizes and colours do the t-shirts come in.

via Mark Barton God Is In The TV http://ift.tt/OK3Igi

God Is In The TV: Britpop Month: Ben P Scott’s Musical Memories from 1995 Part 2

(continued from HERE)

The summer of 1995 was something I still daydream about to this very day. A summer soundtracked by classic songs that were not only hit singles, but musical treasures crafted by truly exciting bands who would soon go on to be legends.

Another one of these soon-to-be legends entered my life as the instantly addictive and unforgettably anthemic ‘Common People’ catapulted Pulp into the mainstream and to the attention of this 11 year old. I can recall buying the song on cassette during a day out with my Dad’s friend John Hanson, his son Wilf and my brother. My only clear memories of the day are standing in Melksham park while my brother and Wilf played football, more interested in looking at the new addition to my tape collection that I had proudly purchased. I also remember I got another single on that same outing, ‘Caroline’ by Kirsty McColl, who I had got into via my (then) Uncle Phil and who I knew from her vocals on ‘Fairytale Of New York’ by The Pogues. Brilliantly ‘Common People’ kept Michael and Janet Jackson’s unimaginative, overblown ‘Scream’ from the number two spot, but was outrageously denied a number one by Robson And Jerome’s dire karaoke cover of ‘Unchained Melody’. Oh well, you can’t win them all I suppose. But true to my theory of hating bad music more if it enjoys more success than good music, I utterly DESPISED these two pricks… Actors from a TV show singing a tacky novelty cover version, catering for the most unimaginative and simple of minds, enjoying more success than Pulp?

Just from his lyrics and his vocal delivery, I could tell that Jarvis Cocker was going to be a hero of mine. I certainly identified with his geeky, outsider style and to me the song seemed to lay into the shallowness of wanting to be cool and popular, and celebrating being different. Of course that wasn’t exactly what the song was about, but you could tell that was where Pulp were coming from.

Supergrass also arrived into my musical world during that summer of 1995, albeit in an unexpected way. My family had a habit of holidaying in Lyme Regis, since I used to be fascinated with prehistoric life, and was keen on fossil hunting. But the lack of a campsite in Lyme Regis meant that we stayed at the Newlands Holiday Park in nearby Charmouth, a place that ended up becoming an annual holiday destination for us. I can’t quite remember if it was that year or maybe one that shortly followed it, but ‘Boom Boom Boom’ by The Outhere Brothers could be heard almost repeatedly blasting from a nearby funfair for hours. It probably was that year, since that atrocity was everywhere at the time. Having become a DJ myself, visiting the campsite’s bar and club meant spending much of the night criticising the DJ for playing too much kiddy-pop and not enough club tracks. Of course I more than enjoyed the growing number of indie songs that were spun, but when I saw this annoying family up on their feet singing along to this unfamiliar track, it irritated me and intrigued me in equal measures. I thought they were sad and needed to get a life, trying so hard to make the rest of the place aware that they were fans of this song. But what was this song? It was jolly, fun and very catchy indeed. And to my ears it sounded French for some reason. I soon heard the song again on the radio. It was ‘Alright’ and it was by Supergrass. After arriving back from the holiday I soon bought a copy of the CD single from American Dream, the small comic and CD shop in Corsham.

The influence of my Dad’s aforementioned mate John was important: introducing my ears to Radiohead, the Cranberries, Pink Floyd and most importantly, Blur. It was like being given a leg-up, like being moved three years ahead. But my actual age meant that it took me a while to decide what was good or bad, in fact it was like having an 11 year old musical brain and a more critical 14 year old musical self. This allowed me to balance things out and form a realistic opinion on the things that were good or not. And if BOTH sides of my musical brain told me something was good, then I’d know it for a fact. Sometimes songs like ‘Dreamer’ by Livin’ Joy would be rejected by my mature side for having no depth, but appealed to my young side because of their instant melodies and catchy hooks. I’d accept them as “enjoyable rubbish”, harmless pop music that was fun to listen and sing to but sounded nowhere near as essential, important or substantial as the various guitar bands who were emerging at the time. I knew the difference between liking something and knowing that something is genuinely, undeniably great. I was fully aware that Alex Party’s ‘Don’t Give Me Your Life’ wasn’t one of the era’s golden greats, yet I enjoyed it hugely back then. But when I heard McAlmont And Butler’s majestic ‘Yes’ for the first time, I could immediately detect real magic.

Tracks like this were the ones I’d listen to most at home, saving the club anthems for my nights behind the decks. The dance hits of the time were sometimes novelty rubbish and some sound very dated in retrospect, but there’s no doubting that the quality of even the worst pop songs of 1995 eclipsed most of the garbage churned out by major labels nowadays. There are in fact a number of club hits of the time that I still recall fondly, including ‘The Bomb!’ by the Bucketheads, Strike’s ‘U Sure Do’, ‘I Luv U Baby’ by The Original, ‘Push The Feeling On’ by The Nightcrawlers, and the equally repetitive ‘Son Of A Gun’ by JX. There were also songs I considered to be rubbish, but harmless fun rubbish that could get people on the dancefloor: the pointless Perfecto Allstarz update of Pigbag’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’, Corona’s ‘Baby Baby’, and the inescapable ‘Dreamer’ by Livin’ Joy, a big hit that was number one for weeks.

Clock were an awful novelty dance act, almost like a budget 2Unlimited. However that didn’t stop me from playing their lame ‘Axel F’ cover during my sets. Same goes for some other musical mishaps of the period:Bobby Brown’s ‘Two Can Play That Game’, D:Ream’s ‘Shoot Me With Your Love’ and pseudo-rasta Shaggy’s terrible remake of ‘In The Summertime’. I even bought ‘Think Of You’, the forgotten follow up to Whigfield’s massively annoying ‘Saturday Night’. I think I got it to play during my DJ sets so I’d have an excuse not to play THAT previous hit… All awful songs sure, but none of them as offensively shit as 2013’s big pile of manufactured chart trash…

I was young, unaware of underground music and willing to make compromises, unlike now. But the cheap musical filler didn’t matter when there was a new Blur album about to come out. The new Oasis LP wasn’t to be released until later in the year, and with Blur winning that infamous chart war as well as being Britain’s biggest band at that point, ‘The Great Escape’ was surrounded by anticipation and a lot of high hopes. On a day trip to Poole (or somewhere very near) there was a record shop not far from the beach where I can remember seeing the promotional display stands for the album. The week it was released I purchased it on tape and on the very first listen could tell that this would never sound as good as ‘Parklife’ did. So what do you do when you have a successful formula? Blur did more of the same on what is considered to be the third and lesser past of a classic British trilogy. This time the character based songs were more prominent: ‘Country House’ was the silly but infectious tale of a millionaire with an empty life, ‘Charmless Man’ concerns an upper class fool who hides behind his lifestyle, and ‘Stereotypes’ is a superb bit of commentary on sex and suburbia. ‘Entertain Me’ is a relative of ‘Girls And Boys’, with an irresistibly funky bassline from Alex and a Mark E Smith-esque vocal from Damon. Despite the presence of two of their greatest tracks, the misty-eyed melancholy of ‘Best Days’ and the classic ‘The Universal’, overall the album certainly wasn’t as consistant as the previous two, and in places the cheeky Britpop sound began to wear thin. But what I didn’t realise was how many memories the album would conjure up every time I would listen to it in years to come. 

Another band that I got into through hearing my Dad’s friend John playing them on car journeys was the incredible Radiohead. Before 1995, the only thing I had heard from them was the megahit ‘Creep’, perhaps the most miserable singalong of the era which gave the Oxford group an unfair reputation for being “depressing”… I thought it was more of a powerful sadness. But hearing their second album on John’s car stereo confirmed that there was a LOT more to them than their worldwide hit single. I got a CD copy of ‘The Bends’ from a car boot sale not long after it was released, and realised that even outside of Britpop there were exciting things happening to British music. This was not just a few great songs and some filler, but an amazing album by an amazing band, released during an amazing era. 1995 had quite a few of these.

Pink Floyd’s live album ‘Pulse’ was a number one album at around the same time, and I bought a copy of it on tape, not being able to afford the fascinating CD version with the flashing LED light. I admired the weirdness of the artwork and the dark ambience of the music, all making for a rather mind blowing thing for an 11 year old to experience. The weird 20-plus minute soundscape that followed the live ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ on tape 2 wasn’t something I could get my head around at that age.

At some point during that summer I also acquired a copy of ‘I Should Coco’, the thrilling debut from the previously mentioned Supergrass. John’s ex-wife worked as a rep for EMI and was frequently given promo CDs, a lot of which ended up in John’s hands. In fact, he could pretty much get hold of anything new-ish for free as long as it was released through EMI, and knowing that I was really keen on Supergrass, he managed to get me my own CD copy for free. At this point it MAY have been the very first CD album I ever owned, and a bloody good one it was too. I have a lot to thank John for. He was the cool grown-up who introduced me to many great things at a vital stage in my life, the age where seeds are planted and future tastes are shaped. Thanks to him I decided not to support Manchester United like all the other kids, and chose Chelsea instead. But even more vitally he directed me towards the right musical path. Cheers John. In September it was time for me to start secondary school , and one of the greatest summers of my life was over…

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 ‘Axix Mutasis’ 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 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 Austinintroduced 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… 

Like the other months of the year, October 1995 threw a diverse variety of musical happenings into the charts, which at the time were still interesting and relevant enough for me to take notice of. Tracks I’d spin during my DJ sets included a Sister Bliss remix of Donna Summer‘s ‘I Feel Love’ (which I thought was great until I heard the vastly superior original), and an ill-advised dance cover of the Cranberries‘ ‘Zombie’ by ADAM Featuring Amy. Higher up the quality ladder were ‘Weekend’ by the Todd Terry Project, along with Wildchild‘s infectious ‘Renegade Master’ and Josh Wink‘s tweaky acid workout ‘Higher State Of Consciousness’, two club classics that both entered the Top 20 the same week. However the latter two tracks didn’t find their way into my DJ sets until a few months later when they appeared on various compilation albums.

Away from dance music, I was still restricted to the charts, and often used to dig around the bargain basket in Woolworths in case I found something great for a reduced price. Sometimes I’d find something I was completely unfamiliar with and buy it simply because it was 29p on cassette. One such purchase was the dismal ‘Have Fun Go Mad’ by someone called Blair, which I bought before i had any knowledge of the Labour leader who shared the same name. I saw him a couple of years later miming the awful at a Galaxy 101 roadshow that took place at Longleat, Blair the singer that is, not the future prime minister. I can remember that piss poor piece of pop being re-released a few times due to its failure to make much of an impact on the charts, like the record company couldn’t figure out why no-one wanted to buy such a rotten turd of a song. Perhaps because folk that were aware and had any sense were busy buying excellent records like ‘Great Things’ by Echobelly, ‘What Do I Do Now’ by Sleeper, ‘Alright’ by Cast, ‘Fantasy’ by the Levellers and ‘Lucky You’ by the Lightning Seeds. These were all songs that I didn’t know about when they were first released, but soon came to my attention via Top Of The Pops and The ITV Chart Show over the coming months.

My Dad’s club had just had a brand new jukebox installed, which was still using good old vinyl records. When new singles were added, old ones were removed and given to me by my Dad. Needless to say I was more than grateful to have them passed on to me, especially since my Dad would make some unwise choices like replacing a Beatles record with a Celine Dion one, meaning that the Liverpool legends would make another entry into my collection while customers at Bentley’s would have to tolerate the wailing Canadian nuisance. Other records that i acquired included ‘Love Spreads’ by The Stone Roses, Ash’s ‘Girl From Mars’ and a remix of New Order‘s ‘Blue Monday’. In hindsight I’m glad that Dad didn’t know much about indie music. Because he hadn’t heard these songs, he didn’t think they’d be worth including on the jukebox. 

Great indie music seemed to be finding me when I was just the right age for it to have maximum impact. Thankfully that band who released the year’s summer anthem ‘Common People’ didn’t turn out to be one hit wonders, as Pulp returned with the brilliant ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, a tale about someone losing their shit on drugs at a festival. At the time possibly an inappropriate thing for an 11 year old to be listening to, but then again it was sort of an anti-drugs warning as well as an amusing story. From the short lived Taylormade Sounds I purchased the CD single, the same one which led tabloid cunts The Sun to call for this “sick stunt” to be banned, claiming that the artwork to the CD encouraged kids to take drugs. Still, it was good to see Jarvis on the front page. 

One thing in particular dominated October 1995, and would soon come to dominate and define the rest of the decade. On October 2nd Oasis released their second album ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’, which already boasted two hit singles. As well as being influenced by the music my Mum and Dad owned, and learning about some great stuff from family friend John, my Auntie Julie was also responsible for helping me on to a glittering musical path by getting me into Suede and by playing me ‘Definitely Maybe’. Her younger brother, my uncle Justin was another important figure in my life and the development of my musical knowledge. He still lived with my Nan and Grandad, and as well as a collection of model Minis and West Brom football memorabilia he owned a rather interesting selection of CDs and records. 

When we’d visit every Sunday, me and my brother would often go up to his room to play the Sega Megadrive and so I could listen to his music collection to find something new to add to my recorded tape collection. A genuinely nice bloke, often Justin would let us go up to his room if he was there or not. He must have only been about 22 at the time, young enough to seem like more of a brother to me and Daniel rather than an uncle. The fact that he owned so manyDepeche Mode CDs suggested that this band must be bloody good if they could take up such a large section of his CD rack, and indeed they were. One day, Justin informed me that he had just bought the new Oasis album, and that it was worth a listen. I would often go there with blank tapes, but this time I vaguely remember running out to my Mum’s car to grab something that I could tape over in order to get a copied recording of this album. I knew it was going to be brilliant, and I wasn’t wrong.

When I pressed play and ‘Hello’ roared in, the only word that comes to mind is “excitement”. ‘Roll With It’ I already knew of course, but for some reason it sounded a million times better as the second track on this album. Then I hear ‘Wonderwall’ for the very first time and am immediately reminded of The Beatles: the classic songwriting, the mood, the elegantly subtle strings, and the fact that I KNEW this song was destined to go down in history as one of the all time greats. At first the stolen piano intro from Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ was too hard to ignore when hearing ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, but it didn’t take long for this unforgettable anthem to find an eternal place in my heart. ‘Hey Now’ didn’t stick out at first, but grew over time, ‘Some Might Say’ made even more sense in amongst more fantastic songs, ‘Cast No Shadow’ was genuinely moving, and ‘She’s Electric’ was slightly silly, yet brilliantly infectious and impossible not to love. The dramatic title track is a song that makes me feel invincible every time it visits my ears. Every song was a classic. In terms of a classic album reaching a major climactic peak, the magnificent ‘Champagne Supernova’ is the ultimate rock n roll epic. The way those guitars rev up just before the chorus sent shivers down my spine the first time i listened, and still does so to this very day. Its power made you believe that a band capable of something as incredible as this could do anything. They could be the biggest thing to EVER happen to music and they could change the world. 

As an 11 year old, in my eyes everything seemed to be an improvement on before, in fact for a few years afterwards I had faith that a band would only release a new album if it was better than the previous one. After all, my mum wouldn’t buy new wallpaper for the living room if it wasn’t an improvement, so why would a band release new music if they didn’t think it was better than what they had already made? It seemed that Oasis were rising higher and higher, and even though ‘Champagne Supernova’ was truly as good as it got, its magic made you believe that even bigger and better things were to come. It was like the next logical step: they were certain to become the biggest band in Britain, and with music like this they could easily take over the world. The optimism of my pre-teens combined with the crazy times and unstoppable growth of Britpop is something that as a 29 year old in 2013, I would give anything to experience again. Amazing days, exciting times, and incredible music.

The album went to number one and after playing it pretty much non-stop for weeks, I bought myself a proper cassette copy from Woolworths in Trowbridge. As word of mouth spread about how good it was, lots of other people bought it too, although after one week at the top of the charts it was displaced by Simply Red’s ‘Life’. Hard to believe eh? I don’t need to tell you which album went on to make the biggest impact. I preferred Blur in some ways, or at least I wanted to. I certainly respected them more as people, and initially agreed with my Dad that the Gallaghers were a pair of troublemaking louts. But ‘(What’s The Story?) Morning Glory’ not only confirmed that Oasis were completely different from Blur, but also blew ‘The Great Escape’ out of the water. It was now undeniable: Oasis had made a much better record that was in a different class altogether…

Following the release of ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’, there wasn’t much else I listened to at home. The Blur album that was only a couple of months old didn’t get played for a while after Oasis had put it in the shade. During the rare occasions that I wouldn’t be playing Oasis, I’d be investigating more music by the band that they resembled (some say plagiarized) the most. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my Mum grew up in the 60′s with the music of The Beatles and owned a number of their albums on vinyl. To this day she still has the same vinyl copies of ‘Help’, ‘Let It Be’ and the red and blue albums that she bought back in the day. Back then fans would personalise the sleeves their favourite records with doodles and other additions to make it feel like their own. A lot of people considered their favourite album as an extended part of themselves, and would carry their most prized piece of vinyl everywhere with them. Coming to think of it, this was still happening in the 90′s and I know this because of the fact that I’d proudly bring my tapes and CDs into school to show them off, almost like a way to express the sort of person I was and how I looked at the world. 

When people who I didn’t like at school (for good reason) brought in their own excruciating musical choices, it made me hate the bad music in question even more. And it made me dislike the people in question even more as well. It also saw the beginning of a link and a theory that in most cases has proved to be true: the worst people I’ve encountered throughout my life have all listened to terrible music. I’m not going to claim that all people who listen to bad music are also bad people, because these include some of the best human beings you could ever meet, but it’s almost as if other people who understand the music that I can relate to are people who can understand and relate to my way of thinking. 

A few weeks after the album had hit the shops, ‘Wonderwall’ was released as a single, an obvious choice. As I had predicted, it soon became an anthem that elevated Oasis to yet another level. They were now truly household names, and unlike most household names, the music press were on their side. Not everyone was on their side though… The DT class (design and technology) would allow us to either listen to the radio or on rare occasions even bring our own music in. I had bought the ‘Wonderwall’ CD single from Woolworths in Chippenham and was blown away by the quality of the B sides, particularly ‘The Masterplan’. It sounded so incredible to my ears that I honestly thought that their music was powerful enough to convert anyone cursed with poor taste and little knowledge, so I took it into my DT lesson ready to blow everyone away with this brilliant 4 track CD, one of the finest examples of its kind. So when some arrogant wankers labelled it “shit” and followed it with their own idea of musical excellence, I had to laugh at their diabolical choice: ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ by Coolio. What an unforgivably awful song. Worse still, it was a tape containing multiple versions of the atrocity. To me it just sounded like the chorus of someone else’s song interspersed with some terribly poor attempts at rapping, and this was at least 16 years before I was even aware of the (needless to say) far superior Stevie Wonder track that the talentless Medusa-haired twat had based his lazy, appalling pile of shit on. It was number one for a while too, something that suggested that while Britpop was the focus of the nation, many of the kids my age who would soon become teenagers were listening to disposable nonsense. 

When they grew a few years older they’d be buying the singles that dragged the singles charts downhill, but this was yet to come and I didn’t see it happening, especially while a new golden age of guitar bands seemed to have discovered a magic touch, like they’d learned some sort of winning formula that was going to cement their places in history as the biggest of all time. In hindsight, the kids who would have been gripped by the Britpop movement were a couple of years older than us, but I was lucky enough to know about their music as well as being young enough to see the things I loved as exciting enough to be able to dominate everything. At 11 years old I had that optimism, and even when being bullied and taunted at school I’d still think positively and assure myself that it would soon pass. Nowadays I think that this was also due to me enjoying life outside of school so much, and also down to the inner strength I gained from my favourite music. 

I was lucky enough to experience the days when Britpop in full swing, and also just about old enough to remember the closest thing any of the post 1960′s generations got to enjoying a Beatles reunion. A Fab Four revival was also taking place partly due to a certain Manchester band demonstrating their fondness for their music, which helped introduced many new listeners to John, Paul, George andRingo. Not that they’d ever been out of fashion. I’d already been aware of much of their music for a while, and this new revival plus the (then) upcoming reunion saw my interest in the band reach new levels. More on that next time…

Now for the ‘Rewind’ part of the column, where I continue to tell the story of my life and how music has shaped it. I think every music blog writer should do these every so often, it may be time consuming but it’s brilliant for reliving the past and enjoying old memories. It also brings the reader closer to the writer, giving them a better understanding of the author’s musical roots and maybe allowing them to identify more with the writer too. And those of you who also grew up with Britpop will certainly be able to relate to my recollections of 1995. I have now reached the latter part, around about this exact point 18 years ago in fact…

Usually the music that people hear in their early teens is the music that they’ll treasure most throughout their lives. But for some people it happens earlier than that, and those people are usually the ones who embrace music as a lifelong obsession. For me it was aged 11. At that age your ears become a tiny bit more advanced and you begin to appreciate and notice certain qualities in music that you didn’t hear before. And because 11 is still a young age, you still get massively excited about things in the way kids do. In 1995 it didn’t matter that there was plenty of what I considered to be shite in the charts, because there was a lot of great stuff to make up for it. Cher’s awful ‘Walking In Memphis’ cover and an even worse version of ‘Itchycoo Park’ by M People were two things I used to play during my DJ sets, and yet I didn’t think they were that bad at the time. A number of regrettable solo tracks from Madness frontman Suggs were also spun during those nights, but were understandably eclipsed in the memory by Blur’s magnificent ‘The Universal’ and the unavoidable ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis, which had ridiculously been held off the number one spot by another one of Robson And Jerome’s dire karaoke covers. Other things I remember buying at that point: Bjork’s ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’, the unplugged ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ cover by The Rolling Stones themselves (purchased for 25p from the WH Smith bargains shelf not longer after it was released) and the glorious ‘Miss Sarajevo’ collaboration between U2, Brian Eno and Pavarotti which was released under the name Passengers. As great as they could be, it’s easy to forget singles like that when there was so much of an emphasis on indie guitar bands at the time, something which still defines the era in retrospect. 

During the mid 90′s, Blur, Suede and Oasis arrived, followed by Pulp and many others, ushering in the very last golden age of popular music. For a few years, the “alternative” became the mainstream, and as Creation boss Alan McGee remarked “the lunatics had overrun the asylum”. Truly, those years felt like one big party. The optimism can be heard in the tone and vibe of much Britpop-era music, something else that makes those glorious songs shine with a massive nostalgic power when you hear them now. It’s sometimes even found in the lyrics too… “We will find a brighter day…” “It really, really, really could happen…” “We’re coming out of the sidelines…” No wonder I thought that Oasis were going to become so massive that one day they’d achieve world peace. How ridiculous does that thought sound now? But I truly believed that this music was amazing enough to bring the entire world together in harmony. The older generation had spent the previous few years expressing how they felt that the quality of music had declined since the golden days of the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s. But in the 90′s, we had a revival of classic songwriting. Britpop wasn’t about image, gimmicks or chasing fame. It was about good songs and nothing else. And for those who didn’t like indie guitar bands, there was plenty of other stuff going on in the charts. The 90′s had everything. It had everything the previous decades had, even The Beatles. Well, sort of. 

Since my Mum had always been a huge fan, the Fab Four had always been part of my musical life. But it was in 1995 that I started exploring their remarkable music further, coinciding with the news that remaining members Paul, George and Ringo were to reunite and complete some unreleased John Lennon demos, effectively a Beatles reunion on record. With the great new bands of the mid 90′s evoking the glory days of British music in the 60′s, it seemed an appropriate time for them to return. Yes it did feel a bit weird, but tremendously exciting. Everything was back then. I had massively high hopes for ‘Free As A Bird’, after all this was the greatest band of all time making a comeback. Some would quite reasonably argue that the majestic ‘Abbey Road’ was the perfect way to say goodbye, and that this partial reunion was unnecessary, even wrong. But I loved it. The song was premiered along with a wonderfully nostalgic promo video as part of the ‘Anthology’ television series that I watched avidly as my love for the group’s music grew and grew. I bought the single on CD the week it came out, and played it pretty much repeatedly (along with the b sides). I even played the undeniably downbeat track during my DJ sets at the club, although it would be aired towards the end of the night as things wound down. Unbelievably, this beautiful song was held off the number one spot by Michael Jackson’s below-par ‘Earth Song’. Yes, 1995 saw a lot of classic singles being denied the top slot by some truly terrible records, but better than every single decent song of the time being ignored in favour of utterly worthless trash (hello 2013). As usual, I digress… 

At around the same time, from the Woolworths in Chippenham I got myself a copy of the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ album on CD with the ten pounds my Dad would give me each weekend in return for my DJing work, but listening to their music wasn’t where my obsession ended. I will never forget holding my own ‘memorial day’ to mark the 15th anniversary of Lennon’s death, a day where I had a photo of the man propped up on my school desk throughout every lesson I had that day. Most teachers saw it as a touching tribute, and those who must have been Beatles fans back in the day could understand my respect for the man. But a certain Religious Education teacher took exception to my commemoration and ordered me to take the Lennon photo off of my desk and put it away. I refused. “This is religious education isn’t it?” I replied, “well, music is my religion and Lennon is one of the Gods I worship… And at least we know that John Lennon actually existed”. That REALLY didn’t do me any favours. Coming to think of it, she may have had the famous “bigger than Jesus” comment fresh in mind… Some people, eh? Weirdly, another R.E class involved a question and answer exercise with the teacher, which inspired a kid called Grant to ask her what she thought about “Noely” from Oasis putting cocaine on his cornflakes. The funny piss taking little bastard. Thinking back now, Grant was actually an alright dude, one of the very few people in my class who wasn’t a popularity-seeking wanker. I digress again. Christ, no wonder this 1995 recap has taken me months to write!

The first Beatles ‘Anthology’ album was at the very top of my Christmas list that year, and unwrapping it on the big day made a memorable festive season even more enjoyable that year. While still being young and materialistic, by then I had also come to appreciate the joy and warmth of Christmas songs and the sparkle of the decorations a lot more. So much so, that by this point I was turning my tiny bedroom into my own comfy little grotto, sitting in the warming glow of my many fairy lights and basking in the optimism of my Christmas hits compilation tape (mostly recorded off the radio). But the festive songs would soon be put away for another year once I had been bought some new CDs as presents. One of them was by a band who, like The Beatles, were also returning with new material, despite their singer being dead. Yes, I’m talking about Queen’s could-have-been-much-better ‘Made In Heaven’ album. It’s safe to say that none of that was up to the standard of ‘Free As A Bird’. I also got a copy of ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’ by David Bowie, a single which I hadn’t even heard at that point probably due to it being deemed to “weird” for the radio. Compared to the rest of the extraordinary ‘Outside’ album (which I acquired the following year), it didn’t seem that odd. But more importantly I now owned a copy of Pulp’s awesome ‘Different Class’, which confirmed them as something very, very special indeed. Every song sounded like a hit single, even the sleazy, somewhat smutty ones that I didn’t quite understand back then. All these great bands seemed to come from nowhere that year.

Truly, there was no better time for me to grow up. Sometimes part of me wishes that I could have been a few years older, so I could have understood Britpop more at the time and experienced it fully. But it was fate that it all happened before my teens. It put me on the right path, at the right age, at just the right time. A few years later it would be a lot more difficult to discover great music in the mainstream, but I got there just in time. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. If people told me back then that those were the best days of my life, I wouldn’t have believed them. At that age all I wanted to do was grow up. All I could do was hope that the next few years would pass as quickly as possible so I could be an adult and do what I wanted. The 29 year old me would have urged the 11 year old to think differently and to savour every second. If I could go back, it would be incredible. 11 years old, life in front of me, a little 2 year old Max running around, all my family and loved ones still there, nights at my Dad’s club, and Britpop in full swing. I would give anything to relive it all again.

At the beginning of the year I didn’t know what indie music was. I knew of the Indie Chart that was featured on the ITV Chart Show, but wasn’t entirely sure what the term meant. Soon I knew of Blur, Oasis and Suede and I knew that there was something different about their style of music. But this style had now become something of a standard, and in such a short space of time, the backbone of British music. 1995 was a year that changed everything for me, hence why I have spent such a long time writing about it. People will argue that many of the Britpop bands were far from alternative, but to an 11 year old in the mid 90s this really was something new and exciting. Aside from the dance acts whose music I would buy for use in my dj sets, many of the bands and artists who arrived into my life in 1995 have never left. What a year. 1996 was equally memorable. More on that to come in my regular RW/FF With Ben P Scott columns…

via Ben P Scott God Is In The TV http://ift.tt/1cfE7GC

God Is In The TV: Britpop Month: Ben P Scott’s Musical Memories from 1995 Part 1

(continued from HERE)

As 1994 turned into 1995, something exciting was coming to life within the music world as Blur, Oasis and lots of others were beginning to shake things up in a massive way. By this point, aged ten I had become a fan of both aforementioned bands, although I wasn’t ignoring the other stuff in the charts. Back then, there seemed to be something for everyone. It’s why I argue that the 90′s was the best decade of all time, since it had absolutely everything. Just have a look at the singles chart back in 1995. There was the phenomenon of indie going overground, a time when the alternative was becoming a huge part of the mainstream. There was also electronica, american rock, trip hop, cheesy euro-dance, as well as the AOR acts, rap groups and weak boybands. There was so much to choose from. The radio also seemed to reflect this, even the local station GWR was playing a varied mixture of stuff. Well varied compared to the horror that the station descended into a few years later before being bought out by the ghastly Heart FM. Radio One had a bigger playlist and would play stuff that GWR’s presenters wouldn’t have been aware of. So even though the radio reception was weaker for Radio 1, and the presenters seemed to talk a lot more, it became my station of choice. However, I still settled for GWR whenever I couldn’t get a good R1 reception, because in 1995 it didn’t sound that bad to me. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my Dad managed a club in Corsham, where the DJs at the time would play a mixture of dance hits, club mixes of pop songs and house music. Of course this made me think of how cool it would be to get paid for playing records, and yes I did indeed want to be a DJ one day. But what sort of a DJ was I going to be? I had a major love for classic and alternative music but the sound of the clubs was beginning to make an impression on me. My dad had also developed a fondness for dance music, perhaps it was from running a club or perhaps it was his way of showing that his age didn’t mean he was entirely out of touch. Of course sometimes he was a bit: he was impressed by a mixtape that included a ridiculous amalgamation of The Grid‘s ‘Swamp Thing’ and George Formby‘s ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’. At this time I myself was (for some unknown reason) impressed by this as well, perhaps because I thought the songs on the tape had all been mixed by the club’s resident DJ. But after hearing the Grid/Formby mash-up on the radio, I realised that this was not the case.

I’d discovered Blur the year before, and now in February 1995 the band sensationally swept the board at that year’s memorable Brit Awards. You could feel the excitement everywhere, and there was a sense that this group had set a new standard. It felt like this was how things were going to be from then on. It was too good NOT for it to stay that way. Well, that’s how it felt at the time anyway. The day after the Brits, the band were household names as well as critic’s favourites, and became part of the British culture that had inspired ‘Parklife’. I had a recorded copy of it on tape, but this was undoubtedly THE album of the time. So essential that I NEEDED to own a proper copy, and indeed I did end up owning one, purchased on cassette from WH Smith’s in Swindon. From what I can remember, I also bought the Simple Minds single ‘She’s A River’, which I probably got because I might have had a pound left after buying Parklife. I can’t think of why else I would have bought it at the time, since I didn’t have a clue who Simple Minds were.

I was lucky enough to be around as Britpop was on its way to becoming the most phenomenal musical movement in years. As a ten year old kid, it seemed even more thrilling to me. And it all happened at just the right time to influence my life in a massive way…

During the same week that Blur swept up at the Brit Awards, I also made my debut as a DJ aged just ten years old. My Dad managed a club, and it was there where I would become interested in the art of spinning records and filling dancefloors. I also became fascinated with the concept of mixing two songs together, something that I was hearing on dance compilations as well as from the DJs at the club. With a function room upstairs the club was also the ideal venue for my brother’s 7th birthday party, and if I could learn how to use the decks and the mixer, then I would be the DJ. It took a while, but I eventually learned. My DJ debut at that party was by no means a demonstration of turntable wizardry, since I was just crossfading tracks rather than mixing the beats together, and I was also using one turntable, a CD player and a tape deck. Plus how could I have mixed the music that I was playing? It was hardly Jive Bunny.

‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ failed to get a room of six year olds rushing to the dancefloor, and I couldn’t figure out why. My attitude was “It’s a great song, so dance to it!”. None of my Bowie records inspired any movement either. There was a slightly more enthusiastic reaction to Blur, but in the end I had to resort to sticking on a chart hits compilation and breaking up the songs with bits from a party mix tape. I also recall having a terrible hairstyle and a brightly coloured waistcoat on, since my Dad would frequently wear one behind the bar and I was very much like a mini version of him. I also remember refusing to dance with an admiring girl that my brother had invited from his class. I was a bit shy yes, plus a three year age gap feels like a whole generation to a ten year old. But I took the stance that a DJ shouldn’t dance. It’s uncool. I play the records, THEY will dance. Perhaps because I wasn’t exactly cool and popular at school, it meant that I needed a way to feed my ego. DJing gave me that. And when I eventually became quite good at it, the ego became more of a confident sense of achievement. But I didn’t become any good at it until I had learned more about dance music and embraced house. 

In early 1995 I would just play novelty dance hits, new chart singles, well known classics and songs from my favourite new bands Blur, Suede and Oasis. I had at that point only heard one Oasis single ‘Whatever’, along with its electrifying B side ‘It’s Good To Be Free’, but very soon a car journey to Yorkshire and the arrival of the band’s next single would make them my heroes… 

It was March 1995. I had been listening to Blur’s ‘Parklife’ constantly, along with the Oasis single ‘Whatever’ and Suede’s ‘New Generation’. My Auntie Julie and Uncle Justin were both fans of these bands too, and Julie owned a copy of the debut Oasis album ‘Definitely Maybe’. Along with my Mum, my younger brother, Justin and Julie, I came along to visit my Auntie Karen and Uncle Phil, who lived in Barnsley with my three cousins. This involved a long car journey during which my ‘Parklife’ tape became a singalong road soundtrack, but we also had to listen to one of Justin’s tedious M People albums along the way. He always did have a varied taste. Everyone agreed that Freak Power‘s ‘Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out’ was “shite”. But when Julie put on ‘Definitely Maybe’, hearing those songs for the first time was too exciting to put into words. It blew my mind and confirmed that this band were something truly special. 

When we eventually got to Barnsley, the first thing I did was purchase a blank tape so Julie could record a copy of it for me. There are lots of things I remember about that week, like my Uncle Phil trying to convince me that Sting‘s solo stuff was good, and a birthday party disco for Karen and Phil’s birthday, where I heard Green Day‘s ‘Basket Case’ for the first time. I can remember hearing Michael Jackson‘s ‘Thriller’ album being played a lot that week, and also recall visiting a Barnsley record shop and finding an interesting item in their bargain bin; a CD copy of the Sparks single ‘When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)’. Considering I hadn’t heard the song, it was a very random purchase for a ten year old to make. That week and the car journey that preceded it will always have a place in my memory, perhaps because life changed after hearing ‘Definitely Maybe’. After Blur had won all the Brit awards that year, to a certain extent, Oasis were in their shadow, but after hearing that debut album I just knew they’d become extraordinarily huge. 

April of that year saw the release of a new Oasis single, the first to be taken from their second album. ‘Some Might Say’ had all the giddy excitement and wide eyed optimism of the time, and hearing it 18 years on instantly evokes nostalgic memories of a hugely exciting time for British music. Growing up with these brilliant new bands of the time was vital. My interest in music had been growing for a couple of years, and now I found myself witnessing the rise of guitar bands during a time when the underground burst its way in to the mainstream, the most thrilling time for popular music since punk. As well as a fantastic live act, the off-stage antics of Oasis had made it into the music press, and soon the tabloids would pick up on the band.

There was a small comic shop in Corsham called American Dream, which also sold a small range of CDs, the only place in the town that you could buy music from. I bought ‘Some Might Say’ from there during the week it was released and played it repeatedly when I returned to the nearby flat my Dad occupied at the club he managed. I remember trying to get my head around that weird sleeve and what the hell it was all about, and then the lyrics helped it all make sense “the sink is full of fishes… standing at the station in need of education…”. I also remember Paul the barman at the club asking if he could have a listen to it on the music system in the bar, but it wouldn’t have been a favourite of my Dad’s. Although there would soon come a time when the bar would HAVE to play Oasis, my Dad dismissed them as well as Blur, saying that they were both the same thing and were both just “boy bands” copying groups from the past. He seemed to be the only person who disliked these groundbreaking bands at the time, although now he’d probably recognise both as the greats of the era. 

‘Some Might Say’ made it to number one and confirmed that Oasis had not only broken into the mainstream, but were beginning to make their presence known. The CD also featured three additional tracks which left me stunned that a band could just throw such incredible songs onto the B sides of singles. Here they actually perfected the art of the four track CD single, and years later it seems to stand as the format’s greatest moment. The storming ‘Acquiese’, featuring the vocals of both Gallagher brothers, and ‘Talk Tonight’ allowed me to hear Noel singing for the first time, since at that point I only owned ‘Definitely Maybe’ and the cassette edition of the ‘Whatever’ single that didn’t feature ‘Half The World Away’. Liam blasting through ‘Headshrinker’ remains a mind blowing moment and one of his finest vocals.

Another single I purchased from American Dream at around the same time was the breathtaking ‘Haunted’, an old Pogues b side reprised as a duet between Shane MacGowan and Sinead O Connor. It was good hearing Shane’s gruff tones countered by such a delicate female voice, and what a lovely song too. Should have received more airplay, and should have been a bigger hit. Can’t complain though, in 2013 it wouldn’t have got anywhere near the charts. My fondness for The Pogues continued, and at some point during 1995 I borrowed various Pogues albums from the local library to record and add to my tape collection. These included the superb debut ‘Red Roses For Me’, and the not-so superb ‘Waiting For Herb’, an LP recorded after Shane had been booted out of the band. ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ and the beautiful ‘Tuesday Morning’ were my favourites from that one… The other tracks paled into insignificance.

‘Some Might Say’ was also included on a Various Artists compilation album I bought around about the same time. As well as featuring ridiculous but fondly remembered novelty fun such as Scatman John and total bilge like that year’s Eurovision entry by the appalling Love City Groove, the cassette also featured the massively infectious ‘A Girl Like You’, my introduction to the magnificent talent of Edwyn CollinsThe reason I began buying compilations of chart hits was because I was slowly but surely learning the art of DJing, and May ’95 saw the 50th anniversary of VE Day, an occasion that the country seemed to revel in. The club was celebrating the event with a day of drinks promotions and a 1940′s themed disco throughout the day. There were only so many Glenn Miller records and WW2-themedJive Bunny mixes I could play, so as the day went on the disco gradually focused on more contemporary stuff, including some of the chart hits of the time (Rednex, N-Trance and dance remixes of Celine Dion tracks) and a double LP of summer-themed tunes from The Beach Boys, Katrina And The Waves and Mungo Jerry. Must have been a hot day. But I can remember that being the day that I could finally consider myself to be a good DJ and being able to operate the decks and mixer without making too many errors. Soon the club’s resident DJs would be sacked and replaced by a new higher profile DJ who did the Thursday and Friday nights, but taking control of the Saturday night disco would be me. And I was only 10 years old at the time. Great days…

June 1995 was memorable, as was the rest of the year. As is sometimes the case now with manufactured boy bands, when a group became a pop phenomenon, publishers would see an opportunity to cash in by releasing “unofficial” magazines featuring stories and lots of posters. In a short space of time, Blur had come a long way and by this point had become a household name after their triumphant night at that year’s Brit Awards. I was still buying Smash Hits, which at this point was featuring more of Blur, Oasis and a growing number of other guitar bands. Because of the pull out posters that came inside the magazine, my bedroom walls were covered with Blur and Oasis, as well as a few Chelsea football posters. At the time all I knew was classic music from the past and the chart hits of the day, so Smash Hits didn’t seem like it was missing anything. It featured people I liked and people I didn’t like. I remember wishing that guitar music would become big enough to take over the magazine and banish all those rubbish boy bands from its pages. It wouldn’t be too long before that came close to actually happening. 

As the summer holidays were approaching, we were entering the last few months at primary school, and to mark the occasion the class and our teachers went camping in the Wiltshire countryside for a week. It also happened to be the week of my 11th birthday. The clearest memories I have of this included bringing a Blur magazine on the trip and reading it a lot. I remember me and my mate (and tent partner) Mark putting on some “hair gel” in an attempt to look smart for the evening, only to find that it was some sort of weird gel shampoo. And since someone as legendary as John Peel can write about shitting his pants on a bus in his autobiography, then I can also admit to a toilet-related accident of my own that happened during a long walk back from Stonehenge. I have recently uncovered some photos from this trip, taken back in 1995. As soon as I’ve figured out how to work my scanner, those will appear in a future column maybe. I also found photos taken on my brother’s birthday party that marked my debut as a DJ.

Although I wasn’t keen on some of the boring releases from older AOR artists and the squeaky clean boy bands who had formed in the wake of Take That, there wasn’t a lot of music I disliked back then. As a kid growing up in the mid 90′s, I would hear all sorts of different stuff on the radio, and although the overall selection would be limited, there were enough different genres played to give the mainstream radio stations a sense of variety. I say “mainstream” stations as if there were any other choices back then. There weren’t.

In the UK during the 90′s there were a lot less radio stations around than there are today, so because there were no specialist stations where people could hear their preferred type of music, everyone had to listen to the same thing, meaning that the main stations had to cater for everyone. This meant that as well as the main pop hits, they’d also have to pick a number of indie, dance and other tracks. In fact most people would listen to Radio 1 or their local commercial station (ours was Wiltshire’s GWR FM). There were no specialist stations apart from Classic Gold (which played hits from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s), Classic FM (which played classical) and the dance orientated Galaxy 101. Radio 2 was seen as old, uncool and out of touch, as were the local BBC stations. All the other stations were all on MW or LW frequencies, which meant poor sound quality. So by default most people listened to Radio 1 or their local station. Everyone from different walks of life would all be tuned into the same thing. It was something that couldn’t happen in 2013: lots of different types of music being played in the same place, with lots of different people listening. The closest thing you could get to one nation under a groove.

With Britpop rising, daytime radio would allow a limited number of indie songs on the air, and because those songs were the only indie tracks being played regularly, the indie fans would focus on those songs more than they would have if the whole playlist was made up of that style. They stood out. Plus the fact indie music was played on mainstream radio meant that the neutrals had a chance to hear it alongside everything else and it even meant that some pop fans were converted to indie. I would easily describe my 11 year old self as a neutral listener who would listen to all genres, but I had definitely become more of an indie and dance fan, although I hadn’t yet developed a distaste for cheesy pop music. I was lucky to have grown up during a time where everyone was hearing and buying such a diverse range of music. It enabled me to sample everything that was on offer and make my decisions as to what I liked the most. If I’d been unlucky enough to grow up in the current decade, I’d have no chance of hearing indie within the mainstream.

Because my tastes were varied and the musical climate was too, the DJ sets I did at the club my Dad managed always delivered a good mixture of stuff. A few examples from around about June ’95-ish… Rednex – ‘Cotton Eye Joe’, N-Trance – ‘Set You Free’, Paul Weller – ‘The Changingman’, Perfecto Allstarz – ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pig Bag’, McAlmont And Butler – ‘Yes’, Alex Party – ‘Don’t Give Me Your Life’, Edwyn Collins – ‘A Girl Like You’,The Bucketheads – ‘The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind)’, The Boo Radleys – ‘Wake Up Boo’, Strike – ‘U Sure Do’, Grace – ‘Not Over Yet’, Oasis – ‘Some Might Say’…

OK, Rednex were ridiculously shit, but at least they weren’t dull. Nowadays rather than exciting variety, what’s classed as the “mainstream” is mostly boring homogenised nonsense that all sounds the same. In fact there isn’t really a mainstream anymore, certainly not one that represents the many different sections of listeners that make up this country. Everyone likes to stick to their own thing and hear more of it, rather than having to put up with stuff they don’t like while waiting for something good to come on. Indie fans listen to the indie stations, commercial pop fans listen to what are now commercial pop stations, and so on. 

We’re not all tuned into the same thing and experiencing each other’s music anymore. In the 90′s it was a shared experience and most of the nation was the audience. Today, it feels like we all live in our own little worlds when it comes to music. Britpop was to be the last time that the nation would unite and sing together in harmony… What a fantastic time to be a kid. 

Back then, I was under the impression that the records David Bowie released from 1971 to 1974 were the main ones that needed to be heard. That changed when I bought a cassette of ‘Station To Station’ from the HMV in Bristol. The opening title track was an extraordinary mini opus that took my ears on a journey, a paranoid multipart groove that was one of the most infectious things I had ever heard. The music on that record taught me yet another side to Bowie, and despite being only six tracks long, it delivers more than enough in terms of essential music. It’s a masterpiece, and that’s a fact.

By this point I was fascinated with this absolute polymath. Not only did I recognise Bowie as a genius, but I was convinced that he had some sort of superhuman ability to create magic through music. I became so fascinated with him that I even sat down to watch the whole series of ‘The Buddha Of Suburbia’ just to hear Bowie’s soundtrack. I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I just waited patiently to catch the occasional sound of my idol. Another notable memory I have from that period was belting out ‘Modern Love’ at a karaoke night that took place at the club. Some will disagree, but I still think that’s a great song.

18 years ago, I was enjoying some life-changing moments, in more ways than I realised. Primary school was over, and following the summer holidays I would be starting “big school”. Back then the summer holidays seemed to last forever, and in retrospect part of me wishes that particular summer COULD have lasted forever. John Major was PM (although a Tory in charge is never a good thing), life was simple and exciting, and in August one big question was on everyone’s lips… I doubt there’s many people in this country who didn’t get asked “Who do you prefer, Blur or Oasis?” in the glorious summer of 1995, and for a good while afterwards. It was almost as if your answer would determine what sort of a person you were. From August 14th to the 20th, music fans from around the country were rushing out to their nearest record shops as Blur fought Oasis in a headline grabbing chart battle. The Essex band’s ‘Country House’ and the Manchester group’s ‘Roll With It’ were both released the same week during a time when a fierce rivalry between the two was at its most intense. 

”The Battle of Britpop” may have been a media-stirred and rather shallow way to settle scores between two bands who had nothing in common except for the quality of their musical output, but it brought Britpop to the forefront of the British press and to the attention of many of kids waking up to music. The tabloid press turned it into a war that was as much about British class and regional divisions as it was about music. Oasis the working class northerners, Blur the posh student types from the South. The chart war captured the public’s imagination and gained mass media attention in national newspapers, tabloids, and even the BBC News. Provoked by Oasis, Damon Albarn turned a petty feud into a national debate… “Yes I did move our release date to match theirs! The main reason was that when Oasis got to Number One with ‘Some Might Say’, I went to their celebration party, y’know just to say ‘Well done’. And Liam came over and, y’know, like he is, he goes, ‘Number fookin’ One!’, right in my face. So I thought, ‘OK, we’ll see…’”

My clearest memory of it all was going to Our Price in Bath on the day before the singles charts were announced, and buying both singles. Initially I thought both weren’t the best either band had released, ‘Country House’ was frankly a bit silly, and ‘Roll With It’ seemed to lack the weight of their previous hits. But both grew on me and being an excited 11 year old caught in the thrill of Britpop, it would have seemed like missing out if I didn’t buy at least one of the singles. On the day I was going to decide which one to buy on CD, the Blur one was cheaper at £1.99, but at £2.99 the Oasis one had more tracks, and their b sides were known to be fantastic. In the end I purchased both on cassette. That evening was the yearly carnival in Melksham, which went past the end of my street and which that particular year I remember not really paying much attention to because all I wanted to do was get back home and play these new Blur and Oasis singles. So exactly 17 years ago today, the chart results were announced. I remember that instead of doing a recap of the top 40 before playing the week’s number one song, they did it before the top 2. “So the song at number two this week is… Blur” followed by a pause “… or Oasis…”

Blur won, selling 274,000 copies to Oasis’ 216,000 – the songs charting at number one and number two respectively. Blur were presented by their record company with a framed copy of the charts. The inscription read: “‘Better than Blur any f—ing day of the week’, Liam Gallagher, Glastonbury Festival, 1995.” Underneath that it read, “NOT TODAY SUNSHINE!” A few weeks later things had become very nasty. In an interview with the Observer newspaper Noel Gallagher said “I hate that Alex and Damon. I hope they catch Aids and die.” Lovely…

So back in school, what did I answer when asked THAT question approximately 130 times every hour? For me it was and still is impossible to choose between Blur and Oasis, because both have had such an equally huge impact on my musical life, and did so back then too. Ugly rivalries aside, there were plenty of positive things happening…

It was a time when youngsters, adults and all of the general public were given the chance to hear all kinds of music, and able to choose what they liked the most. Britpop was truly the ultimate gateway genre. I believe that every person has a true music fan inside of them, and hearing something amazing at the right time is what unlocks that passion. Most of the kids who were buying East 17 and Take That singles probably grew up to become casual, unconcerned passive listeners, who don’t give two shits about what they listen to and who probably own a small pile of CDs at the very most. Whereas a lot of kids who got into Britpop then went on to discover less commercial indie music, which in turn led them down many weird and wonderful avenues and into alternative music’s obscure past. I know that I probably wouldn’t be sat here now writing this column if the golden period of the mid 90’s didn’t happen. I certainly wouldn’t have my massive and eclectic record collection either. Vitally, the Britpop phenomenon also meant that bands of the future were being formed as a result of rock stars becoming heroes again. Kids saw Noel, Liam, Damon, Brett and the rest of them, and were inspired to pick up guitars and form groups of their own. You won’t find the chart “stars” of 2013 inspiring kids to play instruments, since they are nowhere to be seen in the world of pop now….

At the time it seemed like this was how things were going to be from now on. The people were getting bored of blandness and tacky pop, and now all these great bands were coming along at the same time, sending the 90’s into full swing and restoring some pride in British music. I thought it would never end, because why would anyone want it to end? As a kid you don’t see any reason why something so good would ever fade away. It felt like things were getting bigger and better as more and more fantastic groups appeared on the scene. I didn’t even think of it as “Britpop”, I just considered it as real, authentic pop music made by talented people who were genuinely fit to be stars. It wasn’t just a scene, to me music was improving and this was the beginning of the biggest musical revolution the world would ever witness. Blur and Oasis were going to be the most successful bands ever, and more fantastic groups would continue to appear, become massive and maintain a set of newfound musical standards amongst the general public. There were going to be no more shit boy bands, after all why would anyone need them now we had real musicians bringing their own brilliant and accessible songs into the mainstream once again?

However back then I didn’t hate bad music quite as much as I do now, and neither did most people. Maybe it’s because I was too young to have heard all the brilliant stuff that wasn’t in the singles charts, and didn’t realise that a lot of great music didn’t get the exposure it needed due to populist radio playlists and limited space in record shops, both things that led to awful songs (like that year’s truly stinking UK Eurovision entry by Love City Groove) enjoying greater success and recognition than great songs (such as ‘If fingers Were Xylophones’ by Gorky’s Zycotic Mynci). But even so, there was still a fair mixture of the good and the bad in the charts at the time, due to the fact that there were only a few radio stations to choose from, and all of them would have to cater for the mixed audience. Dance people would hear indie, rock fans would hear acid jazz, and younger people would be able to discover a gateway into more substantial music via the more mainstream acts who had come up from the alternative world. Things were able to cross over, people enjoyed variety and diversity, and there was more of a fair playing ground. There may have been some shite in the charts, but I didn’t actively HATE any of it just because it wasn’t to my taste. There was plenty of music I did like that was enjoying just as much chart success as the crap stuff, in some cases more success and certainly more credibility. I guess the less rubbish there is in the charts, the less you hate it. In fact there did come a point where I started to actually pity these manufactured pop acts, the poor unfortunate talent-free bastards who were going to be gradually upstaged, outclassed and demoted by this new wave of excellent British groups…

the story continues HERE


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God Is In The TV: NEWS: The Human League to headline Sunday at Galtres Parklands Festival

As if by stealth, this year’s Galtres Parklands Festival has slowly been creeping up on us. Late last year it was announced that those two great live acts Levellers and Bellowhead were going to be topping Friday night’s bill on the main Duke Stage. Then we were drip-fed the names of one of rock n roll’s greatest failures John Otway, the death defying British festival perennials The Men They Couldn’t Hang, occasional Daintees’ frontman and general cheeky-chappy Martin Stephenson, plus local legends and good friends of the festival Chris Helme, Holly Taymar and Boss Caine. But then it all sort of went quiet.

That is until yesterday when first Public Service Broadcasting and then The Human League were unveiled, with those genuine pioneers of futuristic electronic dance music headlining the main stage on Sunday night and bringing the festival’s tenth birthday celebrations to what will undoubtedly be a suitably euphoric close with their timeless pop tunes.

In the weeks and months ahead and as we edge ever nearer to the event’s traditional August Bank Holiday slot expect many more names to be added to the Galtres Parklands line-up, including that of the Saturday night headliners, eventually swelling the number of acts to more than 100 who will be performing on the festival’s eight stages over those three days.

Galtres Parklands Festival will be held from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2014 at Duncombe Park, Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

The festival website is here:


With all of the ticketing information here:



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God Is In The TV: INTERVIEW: Johnny Dean (Menswe@r) “A “movement” like that (Britpop), regardless of your opinions about it, will likely never happen again.”



Inspiring of both derision and affection the ‘Take That of Indie’ Menswe@r divided opinion in the mid 90s as now, some see them as the superficial nadir of Britpop the band that were built on more hype than substance. Others are enamored by their sharply suited style and their bright, crafty tunes that followed in Blur‘s slipstream and harked back to the artfulness of Wire to the tuneful classicism of the Kinks. Known primarily for their hit ‘Daydreamer’ that saw a memorable Top of the Pops appearance, Menswe@r’s debut 1995′s ‘Nuisance’ possessed more quality than is sometimes aknowledged, Menswe@r songs like ‘Crash’, ‘I’ll Manage Somehow’, ‘Being Brave’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘The One’ are fondly remembered by some. Now there’s even a Britpop club in London called Nuisance in London.

The Menswe@r story was perhaps the biggest distillation of the swift asset quickly followed by a bursting of the ‘Britpop’ bubble. Arriving in Camden around 1994 they were in Select before they were even a fully formed band. With a flurry of hype surrounding them,  a showcase at Smashing and one memorable song Menswe@r were everywhere! This swiftly insured a major label battle to sign them, three or four singles (most notably ‘Being Brave’ and ‘Daydreamer’) that graised the charts and a debut album release, before a downward spiral that saw them nursing breakdowns, addictions and a very strangely promoted second album that vanished without a trace.

We caught up with Menswe@r’s enigmatic front man Johnny Dean as he prepares, Menswe@r 3.0 (the newly regenerated Line up of the band) for a special show at Bush Hall this March. This comes off the back of Johnny Dean’s comeback performance of David Bowie songs at Nuisance in aid of the National Autistic Society, last year and a warm up show with the new Menswe@r in Islington.

In this interview Johnny talks about his past, dispels some myths surrounding the Menswe@r story and Britpop. Tells us about his experiences of Depression and autism plus his thoughts on the music business in 2014. …

Hi Johnny, how are you?

Busy. Steve Horry keeps sending stuff at me! Hahaha!

What was your earliest musical memory?

It’s weird this, because back in the 90s, I was being interviewed all the time by some of the biggest music publications in the world, for television, radio, you name it. Not once was I ever asked this question. Seriously. A lot of the time I was being asked about stuff that had little to do with music. Madness! Yet since I’ve stepped back in the ring I’ve been asked at least three times. What is that about? So I’ve had time to think about it, because it’s one of those questions that relies on distant memory… But there are three memories that are quite distinct. When I was a small boy, just coming out of toddlerhood, I lived on a NATO base in Germany. In Nordrhein-Westfalen, a place called RAF Bruggen near the Dutch border. We had forces radio out there, I’m not too sure about TV, but I remember I watched children’s programs that were not English. Forces radio seemed to play older stuff, or stuff that wasn’t exactly current. My mum would play the radio when she cleaned and I have a specific memory of being in the garden and hearing “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry wafting out from a window. The second is entirely visual, and was Marc Bolan on television, I think he was performing “Children Of The Revolution”. It left a big impression on me that. I’d never seen a guy in make up like that before. I was simultaneously perplexed and awestruck. In the UK his mainstream career was probably over by that point, so I guess I was lucky to catch it as it was obviously four or so years old. The last memory is me walking up and down the garden banging the hell out of one of those kid’s drums. I can’t play the drums. I am rubbish at it.

What was the first record you bought?

I was six or seven years old when I bought my first “record”. It was a cassette album of “Danny Kaye Sings Hans Christian Andersen and Other Favourites”. Not very rock and roll. My mum was supervising this purchase which may have had something to do with it.
What was the plan in coming to London?

The first time was to study graphic design. The second to escape the brain numbing, mundane existence of signing on in Southend-on-Sea in the early 90s. It was really getting me down. I needed more stimulation, at the time it seemed so backwards compared to what was happening in London. Morrissey used Southend for the “Every Day Is Like Sunday” video, which gives an idea of what it was like at the time. A little dreary. Faded Victorian glamour. That record shop in the video is Golden Discs, I used to go in there on breaks when I was at college. I don’t want to criticise Southend, I think it’s improved now, and everywhere was like that at the time I guess. I’d come to London regularly as a boy to visit my Aunt and Uncle and it always seemed very magical. I was always going to end up here regardless. Although now I’m in the suburbs. After twenty years London gets a bit dreary too!


I’ve read that originally Menswe@r consisted of yourself and Chris Gentry, how did you recruit the other members?

That’s not actually true. It was myself and Stuart Black. I met him at the Blow Up Club in ’93. He’d get drunk… well we both would, and try to persuade me to form a band with him. Eventually I capitulated. I knew Chris through a mutual friend in Southend. He was really awkward and just as scruffy but played guitar, and seemed like a sweet kid. I persuaded Stuart that he (Chris) was cool, he tidied himself up a bit and was “in”. So that was the core. That’s when we started our campaign to woo the music industry. Haha!


We managed to get the interest of a number of record companies and were being written about in the press without a note being heard by anyone. Just by being ruthlessly annoying. We had one song, “Daydreamer”, written in a kitchen in Dartford by the time Simon and Matt joined. Originally we had a guy on drums called Todd Parmenter, but he was in other bands so couldn’t fully commit. Matt was bought in by me, he knew my girlfriend of the time. Simon was drafted by Chris. Both of them joined weeks before our first gig. They’re both Brummies so knew each other. Chris, Stuart and I had been in a Select Magazine piece which became infamous. It was written by Sian Pattenden, who I guess “discovered” us. It mentioned Menswe@r, an unsigned band, friends of Blur and Pulp etc. That pretty much sealed it. We had interest from labels, a gig secured at one of the best club nights in London (Smashing), a manager, one song and a few weeks to get a full time drummer. The drummer part was easy. My girlfriend got me to phone Matt who was studying at Middlesex Uni. Not long after that I was approached by Simon in The Good Mixer. He seemed very keen to be friends and kind of freaked me out. I’m not good with that kind of thing. It was a Smashing Club night so I got him in for free as our newly acquired manager ran it. I didn’t see him for the rest of the evening. I think he made a bee line for Chris. I’m not sure whether they had already met. Pretty much at the next rehearsal Chris confided that he felt he couldn’t handle guitar duties on his own. We both agreed that he should ask Simon to join (he probably already had, thinking about it), but that he should tell Stuart and Matt first. He didn’t. We were all at the Good Mixer. Steaming. Me and Matt were outside when Stuart delivered a message from Chris, inside, that went something like “I’ve asked Simon to join and if he can’t then I’m leaving”. Bit dramatic, and disconcerting. How do you deal with that? Reports by some people have me down as being furious about this, but I wasn’t. Mainly because I knew it was going to happen. I think it has suited people in the past to make out I was appalled to paint me in a certain light, a class piece of manipulation. Nonsense. If anyone was agitated it was Matt. He and Simon had some history from being in bands up in Birmingham. He was not a happy guy. Stuart wasn’t too pleased either. I was just upset about the way Chris went about it. This kind of nonsense went on to become something of a regularity. Eventually it resulted in the sacking of Matt and our demise as a “unit”. But that’s bands… As I’ve said, there are different stories told. But this is how it really went down. God’s honest truth. I have the memory of an elephant. The name Menswe@r was suggested to me by Steve Mackay and his girlfriend. I thought it was funny, but that it worked brilliantly. It seemed to fit just right…pun intended…

Daydreamer, it is claimed, was inspired by Elastica riff, is this true or an apocryphal rumour?

Myth. The worldwide web is an amazing invention. But is it me or is it killing research? It seems to have created what I call “copy and paste viewpoints”. No one seems to “find stuff out” properly anymore. They google a subject. Go to the first result. Copy and paste. Bob’s your uncle. That is some seriously half arsed bullshit. People! Bloggers! Yes, even you journalists! You are misusing the most powerful research tool known to man! Before you write something on any subject, hell, before you even say something, challenge it first. Check it thoroughly. Make sure it’s true. Don’t take another authors seemingly respectable credentials to mean that what they have written is fact. That is lazy. Ok… Rant over haha!

When me and Chris used to come into London to go to Blow Up we’d be stranded at the end of the night. On occasion Graham Coxon would let us crash on his living room floor and sofa. He introduced me to a band called Wire. He’d play Pink Flag a lot. It made an immediate impression. I hadn’t really heard anything like it before. That angular art rock.

“Daydreamer” was influenced by a couple of tracks on Pink Flag. The stop and start thing was influenced by “Lowdown”. And the other heavy influence is “Strange”. At the point of writing “Daydreamer” the only Elastica track I’d heard was “Stutter”, I think. Which is nothing like “Daydreamer”. Obviously, there was a Blur/Elastica connection (another pun). Which is why you hear Wire in both of those band’s music. Quite literally in Elastica’s case. I remember hearing “Connection” for the first time and thinking “Fucking Hell! They won’t get away with that!” There’s a lot of other stuff in “Daydreamer” that people don’t seem to have noticed. A number of influences. Cherry picked. But none of them come from the Elastica tree. Some of them are so obvious it’s a wonder they’ve never been discovered. I don’t think the rest of Menswe@r are even aware of them! I suppose by the time “Daydreamer” was actually released in ’95 Elastica were already pretty well established, and Chris and Donna were often billed as being an item, so people just jump to conclusions. And other people accept those conclusions as being fact. I actually wrote the lyrics to “Daydreamer” waaay before in 1990 when I was 19. On an acid trip. Anyway, simple song, indie dancefloor classic, Britpop standard.

Menswear are often derided as the joke of Britpop why do you think that is? There seems to be another school that feels that Menswear were actually quite under rated and poorly treated in some ways….

There’s a lot of sour grapes out there for Menswe@r. For seemingly infinite reasons. I could not give a flying toss. At the end of the day I’d absolutely hate to be in a band everybody loves. Really. A band should divide opinion. As soon as you’re at the point where you want everybody to love you, you should retire and call yourself Bono. Menswe@r are a pop band. If you don’t like it, it’s not for you. I’m not the kind of guy who unwinds to Philip Glass (although I do like it) with a glass of Pinot Noir (I have no appreciation for wine) and a hefty tome about Napoleon (although I do sometimes read history books) before going to bed and crying myself to sleep. I am also not the kind of guy who owns a suede brush for his Clarke desert boots, has a haircut that appears to be too small for his head, and is ludicrous enough to suggest (let alone believe) that only music made with guitars is “proper”. I am who I am. Menswe@r is what it is. I make no apologies. Go and protest about something that might actually change or save lives. I don’t sit down and think “I’m going to write the kind of song Paul Morley would enjoy”, what kind of maniac would do that?

Who was it who coined the phrase: ‘Menswe@r are the Indie Take that?’

The wonderful Miranda Sawyer. Love her. It was for an interview that made the cover of Select magazine. I completely get it. We happened a little too early I think. Our record label didn’t seem to know how to push us. Teeny pop band, or serious “write your own songs” band? You couldn’t do both at the time. Things are different now. I like to think we helped. What? Let me have my victories!

What were your influences musically in the early 90s?

Blur. Suede. Primal Scream. The Beatles. The Small Faces. The Velvet Underground. Underworld. Lots of stuff. That’s a whole other interview…

What are your memories of your debut gig at Britpop night Smashing?

Not having a toilet backstage. Matt did a poo in the basement. It’s probably still there. I have no idea what he wiped his bum with. Campag Velocet supported us. They used Matt’s bass drum pedal and he was very unhappy. He even told them that they’d never work in this town again. He could be quite dramatic sometimes, could Matt! And he was the sensible one! I thought that was brilliant. Genius. I can’t remember the actual gig. Too discombobulated. But it was heaving. Rammed. Mainly with music industry. It was apparently quite good. Jarvis told me it was anyway. And Jarvis never lies. Does he?

How was it being a buzz band for that brief period was it kind of a whirlwind that you were enjoying initially? The buzz started before you were even a proper band and there was a record label battle of the kind you might not see now, what are your memories of that time?

It escalated so quickly I really didn’t have time, whilst it was happening, to fully appreciate it. It doesn’t happen to many people, that kind of thing. There is no manual on how to act, how to cope, it’s not like other jobs. It was literally fucking madness, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Absolute, unmitigated, glorious chaos. A car speeding down a hill with dodgy breaks, at night, with no headlights, and you know there’s a wall waiting somewhere up ahead. We gate crashed this party and ran with it, made friends, enemies, left our mark and got ejected by the organisers because we dared to turn up and give it a go. We put a lot of noses out of joint. And I’m really pleased with myself about it. Because not only does this not happen to people every day, but a “movement” like that, regardless of your opinions about it, will likely never happen again. And I was part of it. Me. With my big beaming face. A funny thing, but we caught a lot of flak for getting signed after five gigs. But you know who else that happened to? A little band called Blur.

How was recording your debut album Nuisance, many reports claimed that you only had a handful of songs at one time?

Nonsense. We had the whole album written, as well as most of our B sides, when we walked into Real World Studios to record Nuisance. Pow! Another myth bites the dusticles.
What was the inspiration behind songs like ‘Being Brave’ and ‘I’ll Manage Somehow’?

Simon wrote the “Being Brave” lyrics. So I have no idea. It sounds like nonsense to me. Haha! As far as “I’ll Manage Somehow goes”, I wrote the lyrics for the second verse and added the word “jolly” to the chorus. Because that is how I roll. The verse I wrote is about mental illness, and wanting to escape mediocrity before time runs out. Classic rock and roll themes. Tried and tested.

Reader question: Why didn’t Menswe@r put The One out as a single? It should have come out after Stardust, would have been a much bigger hit than Sleeping In which was just a good album track (bizarre single choice)

You have reader’s questions? For real? You didn’t make them up like Smash Hits? I would have loved to have put “The One” out as a single. It’s the dark horse of the album. Quality. “Sleeping In” was a record company choice as far as I know. I was on tour when that gem of a decision was made. It was probably a managerial mistake, or the manager kowtowing to our record label. He did that a LOT. I think he may have been confused about who he represented. Who paid him. Or he may have been a dick. One of those. It’s my fault ultimately for not getting shot of him when just about everyone was telling me to. But yes, “Sleeping In”, at the time I thought it was an odd choice to put out in the middle of winter, it has summer written all over it. Shit happens. Before we parted ways with our record label I was at a Christmas party that they threw, and the head honcho patted me on the back and said “We should have put The One out as a single”. It’s moments like that that can really test a person. You know that face Martin Freeman does all the time? Yeah, that.

Reader Question: Also why did they hide Bones & Red Meat as bonus track when it’s better than almost every other song on the album.

It’s nice that one isn’t it? We hardly ever played it live either. I’m not sure it’s the best song on Nuisance though. I don’t think it’s a good recording. But then I think that about most of Nuisance… Ha! I think we could have done it more justice. I don’t know why we did it. I think it was popular to have a hidden track on CDs at the time. Don’t ask me! I’m just the singer!

In his book on Britpop ‘The Last Party’ John Harris says the rise and fall of Menswe@r was like a distillation of the quick drug fuelled assent and dissent of the whole movement, what do you think?
I think that’s a pretty fair conclusion. Someone should write a book about menswe@r. No one would believe it was real. Anyone want to give me a publishing deal? I did have a quick chat with someone about this not long ago. They said I’d have to change all the names!
There was a hoax story doing the rounds last year that your debut album Nuisance had gone Platinum, did this amuse you?

It might actually have gone gold? At least silver? Bronze? I have no idea. Yes, I thought it was funny. Mainly because a lot of websites reported it without researching it first (see my earlier comment about research). Even the NME website! But some people decided to make up a lot of nonsense about me being unhappy about it, based on a post I made about something unrelated, but in a roundabout way connected. I basically found out, through this hoax, that some people are intent, after so many years, to still make nasty little comments about me. These dreadful little cliques. A bunch of grown men playing “Heathers”.

Trying to be social media gangsters but coming across like a bunch of terminally backward, goofy brained, Beavis and Butthead impersonators. So I went nuclear. But not because of the hoax. Let that be clear. Some wires evidently got crossed. Or more likely, someone crossed them. Someone who needs to get a hobby other than drinking. Maybe even a life. Anyway, a lot of these websites probably felt a bit silly for falling for it, so they deflected any negative attention by scapegoating me using a dubious Holy Moly article, which was definitely fed to them by someone with an axe to grind. I tried to tell the guy who wrote the article, but he was very disparaging, and tried his uttermost to wind me up even more. Even going so far as to belittle the fact I have Asperger Syndrome. Never mind. You can’t win with people like that. It’s not worth it. Well done, you’ve made my ‘shit list’, and these things have a tendency to come around and bite you on the arse. I’m far more careful with social media now. It’s so easy to be misunderstood. To get wound up. Winding up autistic people is like shooting fish in a barrel. Too easy. And not a nice thing to do. But it did result in some positives for sure. I’m all about being true to myself and positivity nowadays. Fuck those guys! Lick my balls! Let’s fucking have it. New Menswe@r. New rules. Love. Let us speak of this no more.

What’s your favourite Menswe@r song to perform live?

Crash. The One. And people singing along to Daydreamer still gives me goosebumps. Even now. Although, since regenerating the band with a new line up, the amount of fun I have when we play Hollywood Girl is notable.
What was your favourite Menswe@r gig?

The new Menswe@r did a gig last year for a mental health charity in a small venue in Islington. It was a toe dipper as far as Menswe@r was concerned. There were technical difficulties. It was a tiny weenie “stage”. But it was undoubtedly the most fun I have ever had. And it convinced me to push on.

Since you were in at the groundfloor so to speak of the rise and fall of Britpop what are your favourite memories of it all now, either good and bad? Were you friends with many of the other bands or was it more of a competitive situation?

There’s really too much. Far too much. Good and bad. It was a special time. I can see why it garnered some criticism. The proliferation of Union Flags, the perceived jingoism. Yeah, I was a little uncomfortable with that. It didn’t work so well in the States either. American culture translates far better with the British than vice versa. Most of America just didn’t get it. It was also a fairly misogynist thing, Britpop, the mid to late nineties. New Lad. The Ladette thing. Again, it made me cringe. I’m sure many of the girls in bands at the time were used to this attitude that they were only doing it to hang out with guys in bands. So there were negative aspects. But obviously it was a positive time for British music. Strangely enough though, during that entire time, other than a couple of bands I really didn’t listen to much Britpop!

There was a lot of competitiveness between bands. Some of it good natured, but much of it less so. It’s a shame really. People should have just concentrated on the music and enjoyed the moment more. This thing that had started really small but captured the world’s attention. A lot of the animosity was often fabricated by the press. It sells, y’know?

Last week you tweeted about the ‘Yuppification of pop’ during the Brits, do you think back in the Britpop days the music industry felt a little bit more democractic and more diverse in terms of the backgrounds of the artists involved?

Put it this way. If it wasn’t for the welfare system, I doubt I could have survived during the genesis of the band. And that’s something most of my peers would agree with. If you want to be a success, you have to be a band 24/7. It’s hard to juggle it with a day job. You may need to have long periods of unemployment. And some people don’t get that. The unemployment services don’t. But the government is happy to take vast quantities of money from you if you do well. Or hang out with you for photo opportunities.

Learning instruments, buying guitars, drum kits. That’s expensive. I think it discourages a lot of kids now. It’s cheaper to download cracked sequencer software and make music that way. And I think that’s fine. It’s almost punk. It is punk! I think music should be made by anyone, anywhere, by any means, with whatever you’ve got. Early hip hop was just turntables and a MC. Music isn’t exclusively the domain of middle class kids whose parents can afford to buy them their instruments and pay for lessons and send them to drama schools. Because that seems to be what’s happening. This split. You can see it. I saw it at the Brits. And it’ll become more prominent if this government continues to dismantle our wonderful welfare system. It boils my piss. David Cameron banging on about The Jam and The Smiths. Intolerable cunt.

What was the point when it all started to fall apart do you think? You have made illusions to various forces around the band being negative?

We started falling apart as soon as we formed. No joke. There was a lot of selfishness, manipulation, hard drug use, bad decisions, stubbornness. Regular band stuff. But it seemed to be amplified with menswe@r. Everything was always full on with us. We weren’t all on the same page. Fuck, we didn’t even go to the same library. It was doomed. Always doomed. I tried to keep things together, make compromises that were ultimately harmful to the band, but it was so detrimental to my health. Far too much to cope with, and it often seemed engineered to be so. My advice to people is be careful who you choose to be in a band with, take some time to find out if they’re on the same wavelength. Get tight, be a gang. It’s “you against them”, don’t forget it. And get a manger who isn’t a total waste of time and money. And if you form the band, be the boss, anyone doesn’t toe the line…? Get rid. Be hard. Have a vision. Stick to it.

I heard several tales of how mentally difficult the chaos of touring/existing as Menswe@r became latterly for some members of the band?

Yeah. But y’know most bands are mentally damaged or indeed deficient. Menswe@r had both in aces. I was an undiagnosed autistic, and the other guys had their problems and demons. Drugs, depression, unbridled narcissism, delusion, arrogance, paranoia, closeted homosexual tendencies. It was all there. Freud would have had a field day on our tour bus. He’d have given up psychology if he had met our manager. Hahahaaaaa! I witnessed a lot of things that could be described as sociopathic behaviour. Mensb@d.

Reader question: We Love You…. just why??

Because sometimes bad things happen, and you have to let them happen, in order to prevent even worse things from happening. I hate that song. It is awful. Truly. I will never play it again. Promise.

How do you feel in hindsight about the band’s lost second album Hay Tiempo? I remember reading a dodgy interview with Menswe@r line up 2.0, with you all in western gear and Cowboy hats!

Seriously, I don’t even….

Last year you performed David Bowie songs at Nuisance was this the genesis of the idea to regenerate Menswe@r as an entity? I’ve seen you get criticism for the decision to perform songs again, but that seems a little mean spirited in a way?!Have you tried to get in touch with any of the original members.

People are entitled to their opinions. But I’ll do what I like with my band. Thanks. There may have been contact with original members. That is between us. It’s nobody else’s business.

I’ve seen you talk openly about how depression has afflicted your life in the period since Menswe@r disbanded. Did it take you a long time to get to the root of your problems? Do you think the Time to Talk campaign can help tackle stigma of mental health issues?

I’ve always struggled with depression. Before, during and after the band. It’s a beast. After the band things came to a head and I eventually ended up on a psychiatric ward. Depression has a root, always. And you have to find out what that is, and you have to accept it and try to move on. To do that you need to be either exceptionally self-aware, or have someone to talk it through with. Be honest about it. Chances are everyone will be affected by depression at some point. Everyone. And we all need to start being open about it. Because keeping it to yourself is detrimental, harmful.

Depression kills more young men than cancer. Fact. So why do we take one seriously and not the other? That really is crazy. Charities like Time to Talk and C.A.L.M. and Mind are essential for the work they do in promoting the dangers of keeping mental health problems to yourself. I have nothing but admiration for them. Big massive props.

Linked to this you also talked about being Autistic and have raised money for the National Autistic society, what are the signs of Autism and when did you realise it was something that was causing you problems?

The signs of autism are manifold. There’s a scale. Autistic people are all very different, just like neurotypical people. There are a lot of characteristics that you may or may not have, but difficulties with social interaction is the common thread. And by that I don’t mean anti-social. People with autism are not all anti-social. Some might be, again like neurotypical people are sometimes anti-social. Autistic people do not recognise social conventions, cues, nuances, changes in a person’s face that communicate how they feel. We have to learn these things. They’re not natural to us. It causes problems.

I always knew I thought differently to other people around me, since I was a kid, but I thought that I might be insane. Or stupid. Because people didn’t seem to understand the things I’d say. And sometimes I wouldn’t understand them. About ten years ago I found out about Asperger’s and had a light bulb moment. Then, when I finally ended up in hospital due to a severe depressive episode, I decided to explore the possibility of having an autistic condition, which led to my diagnosis. Since then things have really improved, I feel I know myself better, understand my limits, and have the strength to deal with the future. I recommend anyone who suspects they may be on the scale to do the same thing. Don’t be fobbed off either. It can happen with adults seeking diagnosis. Be strong. Sometimes you have to fight, but it’s worth it.

Are you looking forward to the debut of Menswe@r 3.0 at Nuisance this March? Who is in the new line up?

Of course. It’s going to be great. It’s a great team. Steve Horry on guitar, Robert “Bobbles” Smith also on guitar, Dexy Klepacz on bass, Jon Sheehan on the ivories, Lee Macey banging the skins. And also the ‘swe@rettes, Mira Manga on backing vocals and Emma Cooper on saxophone, flute, backing vocals and anything else we throw at her.

What do you think of bands like Suede and Blur reforming and performing and recording new material?

I don’t think about it at all it I’m honest. It’s good though, no? Good bands them.

We’ve even heard whispers of a new album from Menswe@r anything written/demoed for it yet?

Stuff may be occurring that shouldn’t be when one reaches my age.

Any other future plans?

I’d like to write a book, make a film, do some acting, visit some places, meet some cool people, have a bit of fun. Any offers out there? Get in touch.

Select or Melody Maker?

Melody Maker gave us our first front cover, but Select wrote about us first. So Select.
Blur or Suede?

Back then Blur, but now Suede. They’ve aged better I think, musically.

Louise or Justine?

Really? A gentleman never tells.

Elastica or Kenickie?


Top of the Pops Or the Chart Show?


TFI or the Word?

The Tube

Definetly Maybe or Suede? Common People or Parklife?

Suede & Common People & Return of the Rentals

Blow Up or Smashing?

Blow Up. It’s where it all started.


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God Is In The TV: NEWS: Oasis confirm deluxe edition of ‘Definitely Maybe’ for 20th anniversary…

To celebrate the twentieth year since the release of their debut album, Oasis will be re-releasing their first three studio albums over the course of 2014. All three albums have been meticulously remastered and will be released, in chronological order, with a carefully selected collection of rarities (including ALL of those incredible B-sides) and additional tracks culled from Oasis label Big Brother Recordings and the band’s own archives.

 OASIS def

“As part of the reissue series, named ‘Oasis: Chasing The Sun’, ‘Definitely Maybe’ will be released on the 19th May, with ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ and ‘Be Here Now’ to follow later in the year. Each album will be made available as a special edition 3 CD set, heavyweight vinyl in a gatefold sleeve, and extremely limited deluxe box set (including both formats plus a 56 page hard back book, bonus 7” and exclusive memorabilia) as well as standard CD and digital formats.


Original 1993 Demos, a replica of the demo cassette handed out by the band before they were signed is also being made available for a limited period. Additionally, especially for Record Store Day on Saturday April 19, Big Brother will release a limited edition re-mastered replica of Oasis’s debut 12 inch single Supersonic on heavyweight vinyl.


Regarded as the biggest musical phenomenon since The Beatles (indeed, nothing as big has happened since), in their 14-year recording career Oasis sold over 70 million albums worldwide, had 22 consecutive UK Top 10 singles and seven No.1 studio albums.


Definitely Maybe was originally released in August 1994. The fastest-selling debut album ever (at the time), it went seven-times platinum in the UK (over 2 million copies), and sold 5 million worldwide. Containing the debut single Supersonic, released April1994, and subsequent singles Shakermaker, Live Forever, and Cigarettes & Alcohol, Definitely Maybe frequently appears on ‘best album of all time’ polls, including a No.1 placing in a 2008 Q Magazine/HMV poll of the Greatest British Albums.”


Tracklisting below…


Special Edition 3 x CD:
Disc 1 
1. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star 
2. Shakermaker 
3. Live Forever 
4. Up In The Sky 
5. Columbia 
6. Supersonic 
7. Bring it on Down 
8. Cigarettes & Alcohol 
9. Digsy’s Dinner 
10. Slide Away 
11. Married With Children 

Disc 2 
1. Columbia (White Label Demo) 
2. Cigarettes & Alcohol (Demo) 
3. Sad Song 
4. I Will Believe (Live) 
5. Take Me Away 
6. Alive (Demo) 
7. D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman? 
8. Supersonic (Live) 
9. Up In The Sky (Acoustic) 
10. Cloudburst 
11. Fade Away 
12. Listen Up 
13. I Am The Walrus (Live Glasgow Cathouse June ‘94) 
14. Whatever 
15. (It’s Good) To Be Free 
16. Half The World Away

Disc 3
1. Supersonic (Live At Glasgow Tramshed) 
2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (Demo) 
3. Shakermaker (Live Paris in-store) 
4. Columbia (Eden Studios Mix) 
5. Cloudburst (Demo) 
6. Strange Thing (Demo) 
7. Live Forever (Live Paris in-store) 
8. Cigarettes & Alcohol (Live At Manchester Academy) 
9. D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman? (Live At Manchester Academy)
10. Fade Away (Demo)
11. Take Me Away (Live At Manchester Academy)
12. Sad Song (Live At Manchester Academy)
13. Half The World Away (Live, Tokyo hotel room)
14. Digsy’s Dinner (Live, Paris in-store)
15. Married With Children (Demo)
16. Up In The Sky (Live Paris in-store)
17. Whatever (Strings)

Original 1993 Demos cassette

Side One:
1. Cloudburst
2. Columbia
3. D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?
4. Strange Thing

Side Two:
1. Bring It On Down
2. Married With Children
3. Fade Away
4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

Supersonic 12 inch single, Record Store Day limited edition

Take Me Away
I Will Believe (Live)



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God Is In The TV: NEWS: Further music announcements from Deer Shed Festival

The Deer Shed organisers are quite clearly hell-bent on ensuring that their fifth annual festival is going to be even bigger, better and far more musically diverse than has hitherto been the case. The second wave of musical acts to be announced for Deer Shed Festival 5 will firmly attest to this. To the already impressive list of headliners – British Sea Power, Stornoway and über-cultural icon and all round man of cool, Johnny Marr – we can now add the names of Toy, Wolf Alice, Cate Le Bon, Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls.

Toy will draw their wonderful psychedelic paisley patterns across Friday’s main stage, with Wolf Alice purveying164a their brand of indie-dance under the canvas of In The Dock earlier that evening. The ever increasing, and fully justified recognition that has been heaped upon Welsh free spirit Cate Le Bon is reflected in her headlining the festival’s second stage on Saturday night, whilst Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls (pictured here at the 2012 Ramsbottom Festival) take a further break from their day jobs with The Wonder Stuff to help close out the festival on Sunday.

When further account is taken of yet more additions to the bill in the varied form of Bleech, Teleman, Catfish and The Bottlemen, Cheatahs, Girls Names, Lyla Foy, Woman’s Hour, John Smith, Eliza and The Bear, Samantha Crain, Sam Airey, Post War Glamour Girls, Beccy Owen and Keston Cobblers Club you can start to get a real sense of why this year is going to be such a huge musical event. And that is before you even start to think about all of the arts, science and workshop programmes that will be running alongside.

The almost complete music line-up can be found here:


With all of the ticketing information for this year’s event here:



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Global: Dave Hill | theguardian.com: Gentrification tension, New York and London

Gentrification has a mind of its own, but its effects need to be regulated if city neighbourhoods as a whole are to benefit

New York film director Spike Lee has angrily complained at a public debate about his father Bill, an octogenarian jazz musician, being the subject of a string of complaints from a recently-arrived next door resident in his long-time Brooklyn neighbourhood. Late night rehearsing has been Bill’s habit for decades, but, he says, the newcomer is the first to complain.

My first reaction on hearing this was surprise. Have you heard Bill’s soundtrack for Spike’s She’s Gotta Have It? I’d be complaining if I couldn’t hear him through the walls. But the reason the noise dispute is attracting fresh attention – it’s been public knowledge since last May – is that the younger Lee has placed it so firmly within the frame of Brooklyn’s gentrification.

“When you move into a neighbourhood, have some respect for the history, for the culture,” he insisted. “If you have to be a millionaire to live in New York City,” he later told CNN, “then New York City is not [any longer] going to be the great city that it is.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Similar feelings are running high all over London too. In my bit of the capital, Clapton E5, amazed street corner conversations about the sudden glut of laptop coffee shops and shabby chic restaurants occur daily among we old-timers. For the moment it’s quite exciting, adding new dimensions of vitality and variety. Yet house prices and private rents are sky-rocketing still higher because of it. That’s OK if you already own and want to ship out – you could sell up and buy half of Sunderland. But round the corner from me newly-built terraced houses, not all that large, have just gone on the market for £745,000. A nearby one-bedroom flat will set you back £330,000. Future buyers seem unlikely to be the young, artsy pioneers of the recent past. Will they actually live here? If they do, will they move the place so far upmarket that it goes downhill?

Lee’s respect-for-history line resonates with a story I heard on a visit to Bermondsey. Affluent new arrivals had been complaining about early morning noise from a bakery that’s been there for donkey’s years. Property prices have been soaring in those parts too, limiting still further the options for overcrowded social housing tenants – many of them adults still living with their parents – for moving out while staying local. One of the more media-ready London housing narratives of late concerns the middle-classes being priced out by speculators from overseas. It’s certainly part of the bigger story but property price inflation has been a factor in routine outward migration for decades and, in the austerity age, its effects are also inhibiting the supply of homes people on low incomes can afford.

The problem with the debate about gentrification is that, as emotive subjects will, it too easily becomes crudely polarised. Those rightly concerned about its negative effects on Londoners who aren’t well off can sometimes sound sentimental, insular, even bigoted and lacking appreciation of cities’ historic, inherent changeability. Those who applaud it and engage in it uncritically are blind to the downsides for those who profit from it least.

Taste, aspiration and enterprise are all part of the picture here, and these are factors with lives of their own. The huge role of housing, planning policy and the property market, though, could and should be better managed by politicians to help ensure that gentrification helps neighbourhoods more than it hurts them. Respectful regeneration strategies and more genuinely affordable homes might not sort out every noise disturbance row, but would certainly help to protect some of the best things about our city.

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God Is In The TV: PREVIEW: Denovali Swingfest, 18th and 19th April, London

Easter is once more rising. Back for its second year in the capital, the Denovali Swingfest will take place at the Village Underground and Cafe Oto venues in east London on Good Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th of April 2014.

Since 2007, the cult German independent music label Denovali Records has been curating and promoting a series of international music festivals in first Essen and then both Berlin and London. Adhering to true egalitarian principles, the festival rejects any notion of there being a headliner and each artist to appear performs for an equal amount of time with every individual set being the length of a full club show.

The line-up of artists to appear at the Denovali Swingfest is always drawn from a core of the label’s own roster – this year’s London edition sees Piano Interrupted, Origamibiro and Petrels on the bill – with a number of other selected non-label acts, which this time round will include The Haxan Cloak, Anna von Hausswolff (pictured below), Porter Ricks, Ulrich Schnauss and Hidden Orchestra who will be performing a special Audio Visual show together with a video installation from Lumen.

The festival provides a very broad spectrum of experimental music, which ranges from darker improvisation through elements of techno, ambient, electronica, post-rock and neo-jazz to what are much lighter string-based arrangements.

This year’s full line-up is as follows:

DAY 1: Friday April 18 – Village Underground, 54 Holywell Ln, London EC2A 3PQ
:: Porter Ricks (GER)
:: The Haxan Cloak (UK)
:: Anna von Hausswolff (SWE)
:: Hidden Orchestra (UK) + Lumen (UK) (special AV concert)
:: Ulrich Schnauss (GER)
:: Witxes (FRA)
:: John Lemke (GER)

DAY 2: Saturday April 19 – Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin St, Dalston, London E8 3DL
:: Thomas Köner (GER)
:: Piano Interrupted (UK)
:: Origamibiro (UK)
:: Petrels (UK)

In previous years and in addition to the full musical programme, the festival has also put on accompanying events such as experimental cinema, installations and lectures.

Ticket prices are:

Friday – £28; Saturday – £18 (limited to 200 people); and a full festival ticket costs £46.

Full ticketing information can be found here:


With all of the festival information here:


Anna_von_Hausswolff_by_Anders_Nydam(Photo: Anders Nydam)

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