Monday, November 24, 2008

Ray Durgnat Remembered

I’ll always have fond memories of my film theory lectures at the University of East London. The promise of watching cool French New Wave movies had me eagerly scampering through the less-than-lovely environs of Plaistow to the art dept. at Greengate every Wednesday.

Most of all I used to love listening to the lecturer waxing lyrical about the revolutionary days of the 1960s, where films were not merely entertainment, but weapons that would bring down capitalism and replace it with some kind of Maoist utopia.

His name was Ray Durgnat (we called him Ray Donut of course - oh, what wits). He was a slightly shambolic, eccentric little guy in big horn-rimmed glasses and a beard. He wasn’t particularly charismatic or forceful, but his knowledge of film had me captivated.

He hung out with Jean-Luc Godard when radicalism was at its height – and Paris was briefly convulsed by glorious anarchy - in 1968. His anecdotes from the period were full of wry observation, but he never traded on them like some would.

And I just found out that he died. Six years ago.

So I’m a bit late with this, but Ray Durgant I salute you. Your books on Godard and the Nouvelle Vague (which I found accidentally in Scoob Books) are bloody great and I loved your lectures.

Here’s Ray’s obituary for those interested in this modest, brilliant man

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dip Into

I wrote about a while ago, after a bit of a fiddle with that particular music community site. They’ve improved the interface a bit, but I never got hooked on it. I am, however, now totally addicted to

The best way I think of describing is that it’s like twitter with songs. You can search a huge database of songs, play them and ‘blip’ them – share them with other people on the site along with a pithy comment. So instead of sharing tweets, you’re sharing songs. You are the DJ.

You can select favourite DJs to join your ‘song stream’ or just listen to what everyone around the world is listening to. It’s really, really cool.

The other great thing about it is that it’s stupidly easy to export a link to a song into Twitter or Facebook.

If you haven’t given a go, then hop over there now. I’m MysticTris if you want to hear what I’m playing on the ‘wheels of steel’. I’ve adopted the persona of a Terry-Thomas character circa 1955. I’m not really sure why…

Monday, November 10, 2008

Justified Ancient Records of Mu Mu

Continuing on my musical nostalgia trip this weekend I alighted in the lost land of the Mu-Mu. I dug out the White Room by the KLF, otherwise known as the JAMS or the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. I’d forgotten just what fucking brilliant ideas they threw at an unsuspecting listening public in the early '90s.

Combining situationist pranks, a self-referencing mythos based on the Iluminatus! Trilogy, massive irony and epic videos, the KLF are the kind of act that I can’t imagine getting into the charts now. I listened to their collaboration with Tammy Wynette, ‘Justified and Ancient’, with my elder two kids the other day and the joyful whimsy of lyrics had them giggling– particularly ‘they're Justified and they're ancient, and they drive an ice cream van’.

Afterwards I was depressed by watching the ’50 biggest selling singles in the last 10 years’ on 4Music. Will Young was at number one and the top 50 was littered with X-Factor singles, like budgie shit at the bottom of music’s misery cage. How depressing that more acts with the KLF’s imagination and playfulness haven’t appeared in the mainstream since they retired to burn money.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Pipes of Shit

After reminiscing about one classic album I loved and lost, it’s time to confess to one that I loved and have no desire to rediscover. In fact, I am now terribly, horrifically embarrassed that I owned it. It’s aural equivalent to admitting that I once spent good money on pig excrement and adored smearing it over myself in my bedroom.

Yes, my old friend Steve has blog-tagged me again. This time the challenge is: name your most embarrassing record ever!

Well, I’ll cut straight to the chase. I once bought and enjoyed ‘Pipes of Peace’ by Paul McCartney (or ‘Fab Macca Thumbs Aloft’ as Smash Hits called him at the time). Not just the single, but the whole bloomin’ album. I think I was 13 at the time. I’d done well up ‘til then, with a diet of ska and stuff like Buggles, so I still can’t figure out why I lapsed so badly. Since I vaguely remember having a weakness for Billy Joel shortly afterwards, the paucity of taste continued with worrying regularity.

I suppose my current guilty pleasure on the iPod is a smattering of ELO. But, come on, Mr Blue Sky is rock genius…

So, Paul, when can I meet the kids?

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Nostalgic Ramble on the Subject of Renaissance: the Mix Collection by Sasha & John Digweed

I had Goosebumps this morning. And they weren’t caused by the chill November winds. After searching for ages, I finally tracked down a copy of Renaissance: the Mix Collection by Sasha & John Digweed. This was the soundtrack to my rave era back in ‘94 and ‘95. As soon as I listened to the opener – ‘The Song of Life’ by Leftfield – I was transported back to a time when I could wear a fluorescent lime green t-shirt, dance for 8 hours solid and not feel like a twat or, indeed, a knackered twat. It was a time in my life marked by Ecstasy, wind machines and deafness.

Although I went to raves before then, I first took E at a Megadog at the Rocket, Holloway. It was revelatory. It was liberating for someone as buttoned down and English as me to just go nuts on the dance-floor and make instant friends with complete strangers.

At no other moment in my life, for instance, can I imagine dancing frenetically with a topless scarified S&M freak with chains hanging from his pierced nipples. In fact, I must have looked freakier than my new pal because the security guards kept bringing me cups of water. I thought they were being lovely and kind, but a friend pointed out afterwards that they were worried I was going to collapse from dehydration.

Before that E, I could take or leave dance music. I was still into Blur, Nick Cave and indie in general. Afterwards, however, my brain was entirely rewired.

I suddenly ‘got’ house. I could see how the music fed the experience – that you needed E for it to get its hooks into you. The music brought on the rush and the rush informed the music. The best moment of a club night for me was when the music was banging away, then suddenly paused; the wind machines came on; everyone stopped dancing and stood with their hands in the air; then the beat would slowly build again, my rush building at the same time. Then the music would kick in and everyone would go mental. It was genuinely as good as sex.

Then, in someone’s front room on a Sunday morning, we’d share a spliff and listen to the Renaissance Mix Collection. Then I got it on tape and listened to it EVERYWHERE. Just trying to replicate a little bit of that high from the Saturday night before (especially on Wednesday when my comedown would hit rock bottom).

As you can imagine, listening to it for the first time in 10 years, even as I walked through Welwyn Garden City, gave me a real high. I’m just hoping the comedown won’t be quite so savage.

Footnote: Of course the downside of ecstasy is memory loss - it literally took me 30 minutes to drag the word 'Megadog' from my addled brain just now. And that was a watershed night in my life!