Friday, July 29, 2005

Out of My Brain on the 5.15 Plane

It’s amazing what sixteen hours in the air (using the laptop as a battery re-charger) can do for your ears. I spent the best part of my ten days in drab and grumpy old Auckland revitalising my iPod and left with close to 2000 songs, many of which were found in the boxes of old CDs out the back of the office, some of which haven’t seen my light for close to a decade or more. It was like making acquaintance with a bunch of long lost, and sometimes estranged friends…you know, you fell out but some time later you have no idea why and just put it down to an over familiarity some time back.

I don’t know if I really want to roll out lists of what I listened to...sixteen hours is one hell of a long list & beyond me… and, anyway, if it comes to iPod lists, Jen over at The Smacked Face does it so much better than me. But I did, as I said, revisit a few dark recesses which had no idea I was heading towards. I love shuffle and I have a fairly unbending rule that I don’t look at the display and I don’t fast forward.

Of course the shuffle process is marred by one obvious flaw…payola. Nothing on this planet will convince me that Quincy Jones and Steve Jobs are not, somehow, deviously, in cahoots. I had a Quincy Jones compilation (put together actually by my buddy Nathan Graves at Universal Jazz in the UK before he ran off to look after Gilles Peterson’s various ventures) on the pod and its now down to about five tunes left as I filtered the things off, but regardless of this, Quincy keeps on coming around every few songs. Day in day out, there is the bloody theme from Ironsides or Stuff three or four songs in…I’ve resisted deleting the lot as some sort of perverse experiment to see how long this keeps happening… must be some sort law, the number of plays per Quincy track is inversely related to the number of tracks on your pod or something like that…QJ=IPOD2

Nevertheless, the vastly enjoyable fact that I can be hit with Johnny Cash, then Quincy of course, then Fingers Inc then Timebox (the not as obscure as it used to be 1968 post-mod epic, “Beggin” from Mike Patto (I released a record from Ivan Zagni who used to be in this band, although not on this record...six degrees blah blah…) complete with soaring and crashing strings…who needs drugs when music is this good) then The Who (two tracks, in a row, off their best studio album, “Quadrophenia”…when Pete Townsend pulled all those strands together in one almighty peak before it all got a little sad) then Elvis Costello (of course) doing a “Radio Sweetheart” shuffle, then Barbara Tucker and the MAW dub of “I Get Lifted”, is the crucial upside of a digital player for me.

To be honest, I scribbled these ones down somewhere north of Darwin but got a bit moody on the next one and lost the plot for a spell.

Eugene Record did my head in. I love Eugene Record. As a kid growing up in New Zealand in the seventies I had no exposure to the mighty Chi-lites, or even less than none to the man’s solo works for Warner’s later that decade…we were all punkish and silly by then anyway and the afro-ed man in the flared suits and platforms would’ve made us run a mile then. How silly you can be. Sweet soul had a bit of traction in NZ….the Stylistics of course and the odd Philly hit, plus I remember falling in love to Blue Magic’s wonderfully understated “Sideshow” at age 17, but it was never more than the odd track. So it took Paul Weller to bring me to the Chi-lites, via The Jam’s cover of “Stoned Out Of My Mind” on the “Beat Surrender” EP. I tried to find an album around Auckland with no success until I eventually stumbled on a Greatest Hits during a raiding session of the samples in the CBS NZ boardroom in 1982 and was besotted, something that’s not changed since. I discovered the joys of his solo work (and as recently as a month ago found a hitherto unknown, at least to me, Impressions album from 1981, produced by Eugene and his longstanding production partner, Carl Davis, which featured a killer cut of “Fan the Fire”, which Eugene had done so well a couple of years earlier in his mostly not so hot disco phase). Eugene got the Lord a few years back and gave it all away, which is fine (you can find that side of his life here if you are so inclined…a graphic artist he clearly was not) as he did his bit and if the Lord was ever to judge a man on his contribution to the soul of mankind then….. I could go on and on about how wonderful Eugene and The Chi-lites were but there’s no need. You could even forgive him for the lyrics to “Homely Girl”:

It must have broke your poor little heart When the boys used to say, You looked better in the dark.

So at 40,000 feet the little white rectangular machine spun across to “Overdose of Joy” and I read almost at the same time in the newspaper I had on my knee of Eugene’s passing from the big C (did you know Capsicum is highly carcinogenic…just thought I’d pass on that phobia) at the early age of 64 and I lost it… a grown man sobbing…I got an odd look or two before I pulled myself together. I’m just pleased he died a deservedly wealthy man, after “Crazy in Love” which is little more than a cover of his “Are You My Woman” with new lyrics (and Danny Krivit did a sterling job of mashing the two together on a “limited” 12”). I was reading in Mojo about Bo Diddley sitting in his “modest’ house in the South and I thought “modest’??? What did Bo do? He invented Rock’n’Roll that’s all but gave his rights away to Chess (read: Universal, who could surely afford to give them back but show no inclination)…..

So, bugger it, Luther and Eugene in a month. It’s all coming of a time…more and more of my heroes are passing and (damn….Phuture’s “Acid Trax” has just come on the I’m happy) so hazard I’m feeling a bit vulnerable and aged. It happens I guess as time flows on but each one still pricks a bit. I got a bit sad about Joey Ramone the other day too for some reason, all that promise and then fifteen years stuck in a typecast prison with people you hate…and then you die…

I’m getting morose again…

And talking of time flowing, it’s a sobering thought that its twenty years since the French government, in act of terror that they’ve yet to really be held accountable for, blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour and murdered a photographer.

I was, last week, fortunate enough to see a rough cut of Claudia Pond-Eyley’s forty minute documentary, “The Women Who Launched a Rainbow”. Made for less than $2000, and rejected out of hand by TVNZ who had their own Rainbow Warrior documentary which I’ve not seen (but I fail to understand how such an important occasion can’t support two pieces) and TV3, but fortunately picked up by Greenpeace globally and several festivals, the work focuses on several women who lived and worked with the ship throughout its decade of work and is profoundly moving, especially the final sequence as the boat slips below Matauri Bay with the recent remake of Don McGlashan’s “Anchor Me” as the soundtrack. The film is made with same passion (and this more than compensates for any budgetary fact the way it is made is integral, maybe even vital, to the film’s spirit) that took New Zealand to the place it was in the nineteen eighties when, for much of the decade, after the Stalinism of Robert Muldoon’s misgovernment, the people of the nation spoke, firstly with the 1981 tour then the anti-nuclear movement when the overwhelming will of the populace was heard and listened to. As a New Zealander I’m justifiably proud of my country’s stance then and most of my countrymen and women would agree something we need to protect and treasure but are, in 2005 in grave danger of losing as the National Party refuses to commit to such. Mallard’s comment about policy being made in Washington may have been unwise but the drift was not…senior National party members have already said in the past couple of years that they would unquestioningly follow the USA wherever it went. There really can’t be any doubt that Brash would happily align New Zealand with a US foreign policy that in 2005, as London recently found out, is not a happy place to be.

Brash’s refusal to answer the question about New Zealand’s commitment to Iraq under his administration is simply gutless and his dismissal of the question as hypothetical and historic is appalling. I doubt if many Iraqi’s would agree it is all historic. Polling today suggests many NZers agree…

You have to ask yourself too, how many New Zealanders would be dead now if NZ had been under a Brash administration in 2003.

As an aside, I've also been wondering, based on current reporting standards, when the NZ Herald ceased to to be a newspaper and became a National party auxillary as it now plainly is...the obvious twists and anti-government bias I saw whilst back in NZ in July were so blatant they would make The Sun blush...

And finally, sticking with old fogies...check out Danny Barnes’ fine review of Danse Macabre at The Kings Arms last week, on Peter Mac’s site. I got to spin a tune or two before and after and had a ball…….