With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

“I use the N.M.E. I use anarchy” – NME RIP March 11, 2018


It is time to pay a sad, but perhaps inevitable, farewell to a music magazine that has been a part of my life since I first became interested in music; the NME. I bought my first copy sometime in 1970 and I began buying it regularly in around 1972. I really only missed two or three copies per year and in the 1970s I avidly read it from cover to cover. I became a subscriber in 2010 and continued as one until shortly after it became a free publication in 2015. Is there room for a weekly print music magazine any more? probably not. Could the NME have become a monthly publication? I doubt it, the competition from Q, Mojo, Uncut, Vive Le Rock and others is pretty fierce.

The NME, or the New Musical Express as it was then known,  published the first ever UK singles chart in its first issue in November 1952. If you’re interested Al Martino was number one with “Here In My Heart”. I lived through some of the greatest British music journalism that there has ever been during its heyday; Charles Shaar Murray, Danny Baker, Nick Kent, Julie Burchill, Paul Morley, Andrew Collins and Tony Parsons to name but a few. Who can forget Danny Baker’s fabulous essays on Michael Jackson and his take on American male soul groups which if memory serves me well was called something like ‘In Praise Of Crimpeline Flares’. In the 60s the NME Poll winners shows included the likes of the Beatles and the Stones playing live. They were among the first to talk about and champion punk in the late 70s. This was a time when the paper became openly political and often published well written and venomous anti Thatcher articles, which I loved.

It came close to folding in the 1980s as it seemed to struggle to find its place in that musical era. But ultimately it survived and pulled through.By the 1990s the paper was very much a supporter of what came to us under the frankly ridiculous banner of BritPop. My favourite cover of this period recorded where the NME brought Brett Anderson and Suede and the Dame himself, David Bowie together. They also led the somewhat ridiculous battle of the bands between Oasis and Blur in 1995. Then of course there were the sometimes infamous Brat Awards as a left field alternative to the Brits. Even as recently as this week it has continued to publish some excellent pieces; Leonie Cooper’s column in support of International Women’s Day was bloody good. and take a look at the NME’s election coverage in 2017. I have seen many posts on-line recently since the announcement of the death of the NME many of them stating somewhat callously that the NME was no longer relevant and hadn’t been for many years. I disagree with this. NME was not the bands and not the music but it brought those bands and their music to our attention when everything wasn’t instantly available on-line. It gave a voice to protest when the ‘adult’ right wing press were not interested. I would argue that the need for that kind of protest and that kind of music reporting is still relevant, but it really doesn’t exist. There are many wonderful things about the age of the internet but compared to the days of paper publication it is often bland, corporate, washed out and washed up. We take our media in so many ways now and in the past the NME and some of its competitors were our vehicle for ‘sticking it to the man’. Now ‘the man’ is the industry, we lost the battle, ‘the man’ has largely taken over and we are happily drip fed Saturday night garbage like the X Factor and the Voice because they sell soulless, lifeless dross to the masses.

There are still bands out there that mean something and I am sure that all of you will be able to name at least one. In my opinion that includes the Tuts, Colour Me Wednesday and Avalanche Party. But ultimately the world has changed and that new world deems that the likes of the NME is no longer required. I disagree and I believe that there is a place for a publication that is passionate about new music, trends, fashion and politics. However it will almost certainly need to live on-line. Can nme.com deliver in those areas? Given the need for corporate advertising to survive, possibly not, so maybe now is time for a new underground movement. Who wants to join me at the vanguard of that? Or shall we just roll over and bow to ‘the man’? RIP NME.

 

The final NME Cover.

 

“We’ll build a glass asylum, with just a hint of mayhem” January 8, 2018


Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big David Bowie fan. This began in July 1972 when I witnessed that now iconic performance of “Starman” on BBC’s Top Of The Pops. I was lucky enough to see him play live ten times from 1976 to 2004 and I still buy every release, and to be fair there have been many since his death nearly two years ago. I recently received the latest in the seven inch vinyl picture disc series, the 40th anniversary release of the “Beauty And The Beast” single. It has a terrific version of “Blackout” on the B Side. Today would have been the Dame’s 71st birthday, I know to many of you that probably sounds old, but it is only 12 years older than me! Obviously like many fans I was saddened by his passing, but I am still somewhat freaked out by the amount of on-line Bowie fans that still speak of their despair at his loss, how they still wake up crying.

But enough of that morbidity, I do still celebrate the birthday of the late David Robert Jones. On a work day that means that I wear my David Bowie cuff links as I did today. I also received a few more David Bowie related books at Christmas, I think I now own around 70 in total. One of those Christmas presents was ‘David Bowie – A Life’ by Dylan Jones. Jones met and interviewed Bowie on many occasions and he uses that material along with old and new interviews with many people who were a part of the world of David Bowie. This includes the Spiders From Mars, Dana Gillespie, Bob Harris, Earl Slick, Mike Garson, Carlos Alomar, Peter Frampton, Nina Simone, Mick Rock, Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Bebe Buell and Coco Schwab to name just a few. The book is organised chronologically and is incredibly well put together. In my opinion it is beyond doubt the best Bowie biography for many years and easily the best to be published since his demise. It is tasteful and manages to unearth a few things that personally I had never read before; How he had tried to reform the Spiders From Mars in 1978 and how in the US in the early 1970s someone turned up at his hotel sweet and offered him a still warm, dead body to have sex with. In respect of the latter he was apparently visibly shocked and upset and turned the offer down. When he lived in Mustique at a property he used to own there he often referred to one drink from the cocktail menu in Basil’s Bar as a Penis Colada.

This evening I have also dug out the magnificent Alan Yentob documentary ‘Cracked Actor’ from the mid 70s. It is a fascinating portrait of a talented man in a spiral of cocaine addiction and ensuing paranoia. In many ways it is a magnificent insider view of the transition from the Halloween Jack character of the post apocalyptic tales on ‘Diamond Dogs’ into the white soul boy of ‘Young Americans’. If you have never seen it, whether you are a fan or not you should check it out. From just the social history perspective it is truly fascinating. This is a bit of a Bowie ramble I know, but I haven’t done a Bowie post for a while, well apart from the specific one about the song “Andy Warhol” back in December. I don’t really need an excuse to play some Bowie tunes, but a 71st birthday and the impending second anniversary of his death works for me. Let’s celebrate the Dame’s wonderful recordings together, what is your favourite David Bowie song? My top three favourites are currently; “Quicksand”, “Young Americans” and “Lady Grinning Soul“.

As a footnote the eagle eyed readers and bat eared listeners may have sussed out where I took the title of my blog from, go on take a guess!

 

“I use the best I use the rest I use the NME” March 7, 2012


All of you loyal UK subjects who pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth are obviously now very busy preparing your street parties and other events aren’t you? Well did you know that she shares her Diamond Jubilee with another British institution that is celebrating a 60 year anniversary? Today, 7th March 2012, is the 60th birthday of the New Musical Express, better known these days as the NME.

Now the last remaining weekly news magazine in the UK the NME has moved on considerably since 1952 when it replaced the ‘Accordion Times and Musical Express’. The nme.com website was launched way back in 1996 and is now the biggest stand-alone music site in the world with more than seven million users every month.

So whilst the old mag might not be as influential as she was, she is still very popular. I am now a subscriber who has bought it from when it was a newspaper style ‘inkie’ back in 1971. I have seen some great writers come and go; Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Danny Baker, Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill and Barbara Ellen to name but a few.

So happy 60th birthday to the NME and all of those who write for it and read it. Many years ago I had a name check in the NME when I sent a copy of an advert for the Sylvanian Family toys. One of the characters was called Roger Waters, which made me think it was both appropriate and amusing. Now celebrate with a couple of NME related songs. One that mentions the NME and two from the excellent C81 cassette issued by the NME in 1981.

 

“Don’t need a gun to blow your mind oh no, oh no” May 23, 2010


I had the pleasure of seeing a terrific new play this weekend at York Theatre Royal. It was called ‘Catcher – Before Chapman Shot Lennon‘. As many of you know, Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon was obsessed with J D Salinger’s ‘Catcher In The Rye’ The book was in his possession when he shot Lennon, in fact it is said that after he fired those fatal shots he sat down to read the book until the police came. I think he was obsessed with Holden Caulfield, the book’s principal character as well as with fame itself. Before he killed John Lennon he had previously been photographed with Stephen King and Bob Dylan amongst others. Click here to read a really strange and frankly highly unbelievable conspiracy theory that it was Stephen King that shot John Lennon. Personally I think this is complete and utter tosh!

Anyway, back to the play. It is believed that Chapman hired a prostitute and had her come to his hotel on the night before the killing. This woman has never been found and has never made herself known. The play is based on the conversations that Chapman my have had with his hooker in his room. There are just two actors in the whole play which lasts 75 minutes. Mitzi Jones plays the prostitute, both as her older self narrating past events and as her younger self in the room with Chapman. The way she portrays both characters is phenomenal, with just a few simple changes to her clothes and hair, which for me proves how talented an actress she is. Ronan Summers plays Chapman and he, like Mitzi, is brilliant. Very intense and he really seems to capture the potential madness and imbalance in Chapman’s personality.

Obviously as a music fan I was keen to see this play and I would like to thank Rachel V for booking it for us (Rachel, Catwoman and me). If you get the chance to see it you really should, I am sure you won’t be disappointed. You can read a couple of reviews of the play here; One in the York Press and the other from The Stage

In a bizarre coincidence I finished Nick Kent’s (a former NME scribe) 70s memoir ‘Apathy For The Devil’ the day after I saw the play and he mentions Lennon’s murder. He said that he had read a book which gave details of every Beatles session, quite a weighty tome I believe! He read it a few years after the murder and spotted a strange thing. Apparently in the early versions of “Come Together” Lennon opened his vocal with the phrase ‘Shoot Me’ George Martin changed this to ‘Shoo’ as allegedly he felt this would be more acceptable to the record buying public.

OK as this is very much a John Lennon related post here are three of my favourite Lennon songs

“Instant Karma” – Without doubt my most favourite Lennon song ever

Whatever Gets You Through The Night” – Perhaps not his most popular song, but I loved it from when I first got the ‘Walls And Bridges’ album on cassette back in the mid 70s. Elton John also plays piano, organ and provides backing vocals on the track. This is a live version recorded at an Elton gig from Madison Square Garden in 1974

“Woman Is The Nigger Of The World” – This is taken from the underrated ‘Sometime In New York City’ album. The song is based on a phrase first coined by Yoko Ono in the late 60s to describe the oppression of women, which is indeed what the song is all about. The use of the word nigger had the song banned from many US radio stations. This clip has Lennon explaining the song to Dick Cavett

 

 
I Am Incorrigible

Libidinous curmudgeon & faux intellectual snob. Fighting injustice and exposing media driven political hypocrisy. Evidence not ideology. Merit not money. Neither red nor blue. Blog best viewed at 125% (based on 19" monitor)

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