Tuesday, December 26, 2006

walk with me / talk with me

My daughter is bopping around the garden singing I Feel Good

I’ve just received an email from a good friend telling me that James Brown has died. It being Xmas, I’ve been out all day doing Christmas type things (and sitting on the beach) and to be honest, this was the very last thing I expected to come home to. The internet, such is the nature of things, will be awash with tributes to one of the most influential musical figures of the last century, and beyond saying that without James contemporary music as we know it, and popular culture, would be a completely different beast, I’ll leave the musical eulogies to others.

I saw James for the first time in London in 1984, way past his prime sadly but still absolutely compelling. I’d turned down an invitation to see him on Auckland’s North Shore at the quaintly named Kicks Cabaret in late seventies, one of those gigs, and there have been a few, I’ve always regretted, in my naivety (and poverty) missing. I saw him again twice in the latter years of the eighties and he was never less than astounding. As I mentioned in my live overview, standing physically next to Maceo, and by extension, JB, who was chanting “Maceo, Maceo” over the sax solo, in Melbourne, in 1988, is quite a memory for me.

I turned down the chance to see JB in the early part of this decade (twice actually) and from all accounts, I made the correct decision. I’d seen him late enough in his career and didn’t want to spoil that by seeing a half baked money making machine. Those I knew that had also seen him earlier and saw the latter shows indicated that was all it was. Not that I begrudge the man that, it’s just that I didn’t want to see it.

Inevitably there has already been a whole bunch of stuff online along the lines of “one less wife beating junkie”, (his troubles dominated the CNN tribute I saw…it’s hard to be a black icon in the USA) and quite frankly, he wasn’t perfect or close to it…how many of our musical heroes are, especially those that come from the time and place that James did. But none of that can remove the sheer joy and exhilaration generations felt and will feel “taking it to the bridge” one more time.

In 1988 Stetsasonic released their classic Talking All That Jazz with the now famous lines

Tell the truth, James Brown was old 'Til Eric and Rakim came out with "I Got Soul"

which, whilst there was an element of truth in it, rather missed the point : the hip hop samplers may have given James’ catalogue a new life but the crucial point is that without JB, there would have been no hip hop. End of story. None. He, or those he surrounded himself with, invented the music that made possible Stetsasonic.

One of my favourite JB moments was seeing the man on Larry King in the early nineties claiming he had been sampled “almost 100 times”...uh okay James...are we talking in the average week...

But we can talking about legacy as much as we like, it’s all made absolutely irrelevant by the opening swirl of It’s a Mans World, or the breakdown in Talking Loud and Saying Nothin’, or for that matter, a thousand other moments. JB was always about the joy of hearing him; of never getting over hearing him; and of wanting to hear him again and again. I’ll miss you James, thank you….

His last words, so I've read, were I'm going away tonight. No you're not James, you'll always be here...

With that in mind I’m off to immerse myself, for a moment, get slightly morose and then grin widely to the glorious Ballads album

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Well I'm running / police on my back

Oh I’m proud of my wife. A few days after my post about the ongoing training being undertaken by the Bali Polisi, Brigid was stopped. In broad daylight, by the big roundabout that links Sunset Road and the Bypass, she was hailed over by a man in a brown uniform.

“You went through a red light, it may have looked green to you but it was red”
If you have ever driven in Bali, or anywhere else in Indonesia, you will be aware that lights may or may not go, and either way, no-one generally pays the blindest bit of attention anyway.

Regardless of that, she handed over her license, which was handed back, and he asked “What do you want to do about it”. She replied that she wanted the ticket and would go to court. He said she could not do that and he would confiscate her license. She then retorted that that was not correct procedure and she would neither hand it over or pay a bribe, as was being requested.

Furthermore, she said, her friend was a good friend of the Balinese Police Chief and she was going to ring her. Which she did. Her friend’s advice was to ask for a ticket and if he would not issue one, remember the name on his badge, give him RP50,000 and wish him a happy Christmas.

Upon being told this the man noticeably freaked, refused the money and told her to go.

Merry Christmas……

Friday, December 22, 2006

in the ocean / or in a glass / cool water is such a gas

I was out at dinner last night (Indian, and yes it was fantastic) with a bunch of fellow non-Indonesians...five English, three New Zealanders (us), an Austrian, a Taiwanese, a Filipino, and two Australians to be exact. Somebody asked if anyone wanted some Aids. There was, as you'd expect, deadly silence (the word deadly being appropriate here of course). The question was repeated in all innocence but no one put their hand up. And then it clicked. Only, I imagine, in Indonesia would a large company, with massive R&D budgets and a huge market share slip up so badly as to call their water ADES. English as a second language often has a new meaning when applied by multi-nationals who can afford to know better but clearly are so arrogant not to bother to ensure they've got it right. In this case they even spent a truck load of money to ensure placement and image. Considering its in no way the dominant brand, or even close, why on earth didn't someone say: ahhhh...what about the name. Especially when one considers the very large number of expats in a city like Jakarta or Bali (and tourists) who are directly marketed at. I can happily forgive a local business making mistakes in their non-native lingo. But it astounds me when a company like Electrolux put in the corner of a free post envelope "free sended with Indonesia", as we had this week. And then we have ADES, a product of the American Coca Cola company no less, which, to the Western tongue, rolls off as AIDS (locally of course its ARDAYS).....a mineral water (or a fancy filtered tap water like many of them) called after a fatally infectious plague... And it gets worse...down the bottom of the document I linked above is the following marketing ploy:

3. Donation to Hospitals Ø AdeS used as RTD water for patients Ø New outlet in hospital canteen
Oh dear.....

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I just want to need you / I just want to feed you

I thought this article, referring to the lack of catalogue sales of classic hip-hop was of some interest. It seems the much talked about Long Tail is totally subjective. When applied to music, it’s clearly genre specific…..bearing in mind, of course, that hip-hop as genre seems to be in a fairly hefty decline right now. Whilst I’m not going to predict the demise of any genre its clear that the recent golden age of hip-hop sales is over. Albums such as the rather wonderful recent Hell Hath No Fury by Clipse, would have, in recent years, possibly, with its pedigree, sold in multi-platinum quantities, rather than the now simply respectable, just under a million. And this week, in its second week on the US charts, the most acclaimed hip-hop album of 2006 slipped from 14 to 78! There is an argument of course that hip hop has always been about the single, and that the digital world has taken up some of the slack in physical sales. But despite that, its pretty hard not to come to come to the conclusion, that for the first time in close to two decades hip-hop ain’t selling.

But that wasn’t what I wanted to post about, it’s an interesting aside. I was more interested in the phenomena of a disappearing heritage. I was putting together the links for the Amazon store I’ve started, after a request or twenty, and I was rather taken aback at how little music that exists outside the mainstream, is readily available, either physically or digitally. I should qualify that. There is a lot of older music out there, its just that the “long tail” or whatever you want to call it, seems to apply to selected genres. Rock and pop are well catered for, as is jazz. It’s when you move out of those spheres that the problems arise. America seems blissfully unaware of much of its black heritage, especially in the more rhythm based styles. The big Hip Hop albums are out there but, man, there are some gaps. And when it comes to the genre which, arguably has had the most global influence in the past decade, house (and its slightly more twisted cousin, techno) forget about it. Unless you want to head over to Europe, where the traditions and styles seem to have substantially more respect, and pay silly money...

Try and find Fingers Inc’s seminal, and massively influential, album Another Side on Amazon…..or a dozen other classics of the genre…

That in itself is not a problem if the catalogues are intelligently revisited and complied. But sadly, once again the Americans seem utterly unable to do this with their heritage (in virtually any genre). It’s left up to the British and, increasingly, the Europeans to do document the American musical landscape. Witness the recent Larry Levan anthology out via Rhino (or any Rhino collection for that matter)...not that it isn’t any good, it is, it just isn’t all it could be. It’s an anthology of one their most influential producers / mixers of the eighties…and its half baked, no liner notes of any worth and half the tracks were only “played” by him. It was left up to the British to do decent collections of The Masters at Work, Derrick May, and the only half decent look at the so-called golden age of hip-hop…let alone all the revisits of the likes of Philly and decent Motown compilations.

So when they complain that no-one is buying the music, its not that people don’t want to, it’s just that you need to invigorate it, and no one has bothered or seems to know how to anymore. Make it attractive…reinsert the passion. The Europeans and the British constantly tell people how good this stuff is, via intelligent use of the media and smart re-packaging. They understand music is about passion…the Americans have forgotten.

Which brings me closer to home (well as close as I’m getting to home sitting in Bali) and a little bit of respect to the way, we, in New Zealand, seem to be wanting to grab some of our heritage of recent. I’m, of course referring partially to the mighty Flying Nun box set. Whilst I tend to feel that Flying Nun had a golden age from 1981 through to about 1988, and was a little bit the conservative old fella after that (and the last CD and a half confirms that pretty much), its wonderful to see that people are actually making the effort. An FN box set was a must-compile for a half decade or so and it’s warming to see it done to so incredibly well. I should also mention the rather cool thread of FN memories over at Russell Brown’s new-ish discussion forum. And to Manakura who won the box set for his memory of playing The Skeptics (who never really felt like a FN band to me) A.F.F.C.O video in a meat works boardroom….absolutely perfect….

But, as cool as it is, I hope that’s not it. As a nation we wax lyrical about our growing cultural awareness but musically we have been absolutely remiss in recent years. Flying Nun itself needs a swag of other intelligent compilations to excite people, another generation, not just the odd greatest hits, with a few unreleased tracks. Things like letting John Campbell loose on the catalogue…or Russell Brown…or Roi Colbert. And then there is the rest of the musical landscape of the past thirty years or so. The slow collapse (and its demise was, as was apparent for years, the culmination of a long steady decline) of FMR put a huge dent in what was available, and more to the point, removed the only avenue for compliers to release albums like the excellent John Baker collections, or The Scavengers. I doubt if Warners would’ve released the Toy Love album, but FMR did.

EMI has done a really good job with its 60s issues but what now. There is so much that has not been looked at, and is fast disappearing as those of us that were there get older

Just tossing around a few ideas (and now that FMR has gone, god knows who would release or back these…)

· The early days of NZ’s urban revolution….the stuff that was coming out of South Auckland and labels like Southside…there was a huge wave of it.

· An NZ post punk album

· A Deep Grooves collection based around the early dub and electronica the label did so well, and which still sounds so good

· A trawl through the incredible Pagan archives

· A collection of the best non-Flying Nun Auckland bands of the nineties (I’m thinking of the Picassos, Semi Lemon Kola and the rest…there were dozens)

· And perhaps a remix project of the best of the early NZ electronica…

Whether any of these would make money, who knows…probably not, but they are important to restating the musical landscape that we live and create in. And are as worthy of government support through its agencies as anything else.

Oh and while we are at it, a decent audio tape library, both digital and analogue, already rebuffed by the current government, is essential to keep the legacy that I’m talking about intact. We’ve lost so much already. That we don't even have the beginnings of one, is criminal

Saturday, December 16, 2006

gonna walk and don't look back

I bought The Bali Times today. I usually do, and I never really know why, as there is little usually in there. But it’s all we have, and its getting better.

However I’m pleased to see the bit about the compulsory course in corruption that our local constabulary are being forced to attend. Just to show how important this is to the powers that be, they’ve imported some experts from Jakarta to help. The last bit rather confuses me as I’ve always thought our local lads are rather good at the corruption and graft stuff and wouldn’t need any help. Clearly the brass thinks they have something to learn from the big city boys.

I can see the classes (and you’ll forgive my fractured Bahasa…I’m only up to stage one in my course) now…

“Jalan kaki ke pertigaan tengah….” (walk to the centre of the intersection)

“stop the first likely car or bike (preferably driven by a bulé)”

“tell them they went thru a red light / crossed a white line / didn’t give way”

“ask them to accompany you to the tempat polisi on the corner”

“ask them if you would like to solve this the easy way”….

Obviously, since I don’t want Bali to be seen as provincial, I hope the chaps from the smoke can teach our boys the correct approach, and the best of them, having passed this course can proceed to the Districtjudge 101, or other advanced courses, of which there are many.

Friday, December 15, 2006

when the party's over /and everyone has gone

My friend Harry, from the dark side of the five boroughs, has issued a request for some live gigs to go with my album, 12” and 7” lists. He provided me with a list of his own so I’ll post that first, elevated from the comments...its essential reading…and then I’ll post mine

  • Magazine....Mainstreet AK...right after the "Correct Use of Soap"...hard to top
  • Birthday Party...Victoria University Wellington....no matter how big the room was you just did not want to be in that room with those guys on stage that night...they were frightening
  • Tom Waits.....Hammersmith Odeon London 88 (I think)...right after "Franks Wild Years" and when he sat down at the piano for "Xmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" my world was in that the letter was written from
  • Rolling Stones.....Port Chester NY..forgot which year but it was the "Voodoo Lounge" tour...in front of 1000 people for a VH1 special...got out the limo in a cloud of pot smoke,looking at a wall of NY state troopers and the 8 Ball fell out me pocket...OOPS
  • Cramps...Marquee NY circa 1990...secret gig...maybe 40 of us there and Lux just tore that shit up....pulled out a TV guide and read to us what shows we were missing that night,then proceeded to go the whole 10 yards....when he wasn't wanking on stage he was sticking the mike up Ivy and licking it dry...
  • Pixies...CBGB's NY 1988....my first show in NY,my first time at CB's and the Pixies first show in the apple
  • Primal Scream...Ritz NY...right after "Screamadelica"...the 5th pill hit when they came out for the encore "Higher than the Sun"..the 6th kicked in when they followed it up with "No Fun"
  • Springsteen and the E Street Band...Giants Stadium NY...about 3 yrs ago.....U can love the guy or hate the guy but it's an insane experience seeing him in the middle of 10 sellout nights on home turf in front of 60,000 people....my thoughts were "If You go to Egypt Ya climb the pyramids" and if Your in NY and Bruce does Giants then it just has to be done....well worth it...
  • Aerosmith...Beacon Theater...last week....I know what yr thinking BUT these fuckers kicked...played 2 hrs of the first 2 albums intersperesed with covers like "Walking the Dog" and "Baby Please Don't Go"....very few people can go anywhere near Joe Perry,when he is on form....he's like Keith on Crystal....and he can fucking play...LOUD
  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse...MSG NY..Right after "Ragged Glory" came out Neil went on the road with Sonic Youth.Well the Sonic's like to make a racket and such but the first note of the "Star Spangled Banner" shook the building...right at the beginning of the first Gulf war with speakers draped in Dove's and peace signs..."Hey Hey,My My"
  • Sonic Youth..ULU London....86...right after Evol....anyone at that show would know...
  • the Orb...Roseland NY.....Not just the show but the 1/4 ounce of mushrooms we used as the seasoning on the Mexican food beforehand and the three days of chaos that followed....

and Some duds....

  • Johnny Thunders...Marquee London....walked onstage,promptly fell over and went to sleep...
  • Juliet and the Licks...Knitting Factory LA...it takes a hell of a lot to want to throw a bottle at a Hollywood actress,but they were so bad I had too...shame i missed..
  • Toto...BB King Club...Times Sq NY...How many people in the world can say "I Got so Fucking drunk last night,I went to see Toto"....not many...well I only caught two chords before the bouncers chucked me put for being too drunk...go figure...

And mine…I was actually trying to knock over the last of my albums but this will do in the interim. The year is sometimes vague. Excluding DJs of course, and with the proviso that I may well have been in a better state, although not always, than Mr Bastard, here we are….

  • The Screaming Blamatic Roadshow….Victoria University, August 1981…we had arrived in Wellington in our convoy of battered vans naively expecting a friendly reception at our gig. We hadn’t really planned on the reception from the Wainui boys…sub-neanderthal skinheads who had decided to beat all of us to a pulp, with chains and the such. It was all on, but I think, as we had the intellectual advantage, we somehow got the better of them. They were the sort you could say “look over there”, they would turn away, and you could thump. My two favourite visions are Don McGlashan with some thug’s head between his knees as he bore his clinched fist down on it; and Michael O”Neal from The Screaming Meemees calmly swinging his guitar to knock out some goon before he went to the guitar solo in See Me Go. Next morning Syd, from The Newmatics, had the tread mark from the sole of a Doc Marten on his cheek.
  • Beach Boys....Western Springs, Auckland, Feb 1978.. this was the legendary tour when Dennis got fired after some drunken fracas at the hotel, and Brian had no idea where he was whilst they played. He wandered on and off the stage, sometimes half way through a song. That said I was totally fried, it was an incredibly beautiful summer’s Sunday afternoon and the mix of seventies and sixties BB songs sounded quite good as I recall.
  • Led Zeppelin….Western Springs, Auckland, Feb, 1972…is was my first real concert. I was a kid and told my parents I was elsewhere. My very vague memories are the incredible noise..it looked and felt like a wall of sound, but photographs now show it to be otherwise. It was less than an impressive looking stage by contemporary standards, but, fuck it, I saw Zeppelin at their peak…..
  • Split Ends…His Majesty’s Theatre, Auckland Dec, 1974…the Christmas Pandemonium Concert. It cost a dollar and it changed my life. In two halves, I had memories of the second half starting with Judd on a deck chair strumming Titus. I dismissed it after all these years as a false memory until Richard Driver came up with the footage. I’d seen nothing like it..and still haven’t. They were never this good, this inventive, again.
  • The Enemy….. Zwines, Auckland 1978…the Dunedin’s hippy crew come to Auckland, play the toughest venue in the country and win, blood, glass and all...I’ve written about it before so that’ll do…you had to be there and I’m glad I was…I think…
  • Elvis Costello & The Attractions …Hammersmith Palais, late 1984…(almost) the last dates on the final Attractions tour. The encore was twice the length of the actual show, it just kept on going on and on…I missed the last train, had no money for a cab all that way, and walked to West Hampstead afterwards, fueled by lager and kebabs.
  • Lou Reed…The Auckland Town Hall, 1977…as I said earlier I went to an earlier show, around the time of Rock’n’Roll Animal, at His Majesty’s Theatre but I smuggled myself into this one in the company of Graham Brazier and Johnny Volume and I can’t think of two more appropriate people to go to see Lou with. It was the Street Legal tour I think. Johnny actually owned his old Les Paul Junior…the one he’d used with the Velvets, but sold in Auckland some years earlier for drugs. We tried to get it signed but Lou told us to fuck off…literally…he even called John an arsehole. We were happy with that. A year after John got drunk, dropped it and it was rooted forever. C’est le rock’n’roll…..
  • Billy Bragg….The Galaxy, Auckland, 1987….I sat in the VIP box with David Lange, various assorted celebrities and the like. A thoroughly wonderful gig, with Billy making a point of celebrating NZ’s anti Nuke stance, of course. But what really made the gig was the fact that I was sitting outside close to the dressing room door, with venue owner, Phil Warren and we proceeded to drink poor Bill’s beer rider. We were both legless, loved the gig and left him with a single Steinlager.
  • Roxy MusicAuckland Town Hall, 1975…god my memories of this are vague..I remember Eddie Jobson’s neon violin and a huge swirling noise going around. Like The Beach Boys, I was well toasted on various things, but it had an enormous effect on me. It destroyed any flirtation I’d had with the proggy stuff, and focused me more on a path which, happily, eventually led me to punk and the like…and I got into the after party….Beech supported, I remember that….
  • Hello Sailor….multiple times, Globe Hotel, Auckland, 1975/6…I really used to like early Hello Sailor, and it was part of that post Roxy thing I mentioned above. In the pre-punk days in Auckland they were about as real as it got. Standing right beside the tiny stage in the packed Globe…and I mean so packed you couldn’t breath…watching Graham and co grinding out Waiting for My Man (he meant it too) or sleazing through their take on Rum and Coca Cola was something else. And I’ve told them that countless times…
  • Nathan Haines & The Enforcers….Cause Celebre, Auckland, most Friday and Saturday nights 1992/94…they were, technically, supposed to come on about midnight but inevitably it was 1am or two, until 5 or so. Packed, smokey, incredibly hot, inspirational, chaotic…the band spilled into the crowd, the crowd spilled into the band, and some of the finest musicians in New Zealand played and improvised….words still fail me
  • John Cale…..The Windsor Castle, Auckland, 1986?....I was strolling down Parnell Road and heard a piano playing. I looked into bar to see two people…promoter Doug Hood and Cale, solo, sound checking and rehearsing solo at the piano on stage. I sat, drank beer with Doug and watched a large part of the Velvet Underground perform a set for the two of us.
  • James BrownMelbourne 1988…simply because during the support set by the atrocious Rockmelons, James looked out from between the stacks. The crowd saw him and went a bit crazy…Murray Cammick, whom I was there with, waved at him and then turned to me and said…he waved back…I liked that…oh, and the fact that Maceo came into the crowd, stood beside me and played Soul Power’s saxtramental bit…
  • Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five….Victoria London, 1982…men dressed as Buffalo or other ludicrous costumes on stage, telling everyone to go “ho!”, some guy making outrageous noises with two records, and the long intro to some, as yet unreleased tune called White Lines, as my friend Marc Baron (RIP) and myself had just returned from partaking in something similar. It was a long time ago…
  • David Bowie…Western Springs, 1978….it was the day of my Dad’s 50th…..Dad, I said, I love you but its Bowie….and so it was. As the sun went down, the neon strips behind came on, and the opening train noises from Station to Station moved from left to right. My flatmate, Sandra, got pulled out of the crowd by David’s security and didn’t emerge from his Mon Desir Hotel for three days. The polaroids were around our flat for months…
  • New Order…Mainstreet, Auckland 1982..the gig was perfect, it was their time in the sun, but what I most remember was, at the party, someone asking the band where Ian was…they’d heard he wouldn’t be seen dead hanging around with them…. Harry?.....24 years later, maybe, just maybe, I can repeat that one….
  • The Features and The Sobs…The Reverb Room, Auckland, 1980…The Sobs were a funny band. I saw them a couple of times. From memory, and I could be wrong, Gary Hunt from The Terrorways was on drums, and I know Hamish Kilgour was on vocals in one of those in-between The Clean periods. Anyway, they were power-pop and, considering their time together, very polished. The Features on the other hand were one of NZ’s greatest live acts….ever… beautifully anarchic and I recall Karel on his knees during Secret (he wasn’t pleading, he was exhausted) and Jed down to a single unbroken string…it sounds terrible but it wasn’t…refusing to change and still being able to extract something absolutely mesmerising from it.
  • Ian Dury & The Blockheads….Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1984….It was the reunion gig…I went with Greg Carroll on U2 freebies. We only saw one song…Sweet Gene Vincent…and then went to a local pub for a few hours. It was the last time I saw Greg…
  • The Birthday Party / Dead Can Dance…Bombay Rock, Melbourne, 1981…hometown for the BP, Nick Cave on stage looking like Jesus Christ to the crowd, and in the next room, very early DCD, although only half way through Brendan’s transformation from Ronnie Recent and the Marching Girls. Des was on drums and they still sounded like a pop band. Johnny Volume was unconscious on the floor.
  • Suburban Reptiles / Scavengers / Junk…Disco D’Dora’s, Newton Road, Auckland, May 1977….confused looking disco kids (it was an old disco and the mirror ball was still turning) and a bunch of young first time fans (Kerry Buchanan and crew) who would soon form a band called Rooter which mutated into The Terrorways. Des Edwards, the drummer from Junk, was a butcher by trade, and half way through their set he pulled a large slab of meat out of his trousers and plonked it on his snare to some effect. It then went around the room.
  • Ice T…..The Siren, 1989…in the room that became the Box, for three nights, with only 200 tickets per night. On the first night T (Tracy to his mom) asked for champagne which we provided. He then got his scantily clad wife, Darlene (as per the cover of his Power album) to spray it over the crowd. The next night he got Chardon. Four years later, as Flavor Flav djed in The Box, a drunk Ice T lay on the floor of the closed Cause Celebre, and microphone in hand, treated us to renditions of My Funny Valentine and Summertime.

And some duds….

  • Deep Purple….Western Springs, 197?....I won the tickets on a radio station and left 15 minutes into Tommy Bolin’s solo in Smoke on the Wate
  • Jethro Tull….Civic Theatre, Auckland…..a wooden dog, a flute playing man on one leg who thought it was funny to drop his trousers …the things you do to keep girlfriends happy
  • The Anti Violence Gig….XS Café, Auckland, 1980….somebody thought this would be a good idea….back, 26 years ago, the AK live scene was plagued with violence, mostly wrought by the skinhead and boot girl (who were often worse) element that tagged itself onto punk. I can’t recall who played, I know The Features and Shoes This High did, but it almost didn’t matter. It was perhaps the most violent thing I’ve ever seen. As skinheads beat anyone they could, including members of the bands who were dragged off stage, club owner, Bryan Staff, stood in the corner taking photographs (there is one inside the AK79 CD sleeve) saying there was little he could do but wait for the police. Before they arrived the Ponsonby gang, The King Cobras arrived and it moved into the street. The third gang, the Police then turned up and beat anyone still standing into a pulp. A week later the same venue hosted the Toy Love album release party. There were only about twenty of us there but Mike Dooley announced that they were going to split after the tour and it seemed clear that the party that had started in 1977 was over.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

can't you see / its a game that's laid on your brothers / by some others

After the fracas in New Zealand politics in recent months, Alexander Downer’s incredible toadying act this week (the photograph at the link is amazing and deserves a new caption...I just can’t think of one right now), and all the nonsense of the recent past in the US of A, I still find myself surprised how deluded those in positions of power are. And that still surprises me. I guess I still have an implicit, subconscious belief, driven into me as a boy at primary school in the sixties, by the media, the education system, with its raising of the flag every AM, and the generations that preceded mine, in the judgement and righteous intentions of those that lead us or those that are chosen by our elected officials to lead us. Vietnam killed that of course, oh, and Watergate. But, for my generation the germ of that idea is still there somewhere in the back of our minds.

My grandfather, a Maori Land Court Judge, was a good man, who’d fought in Italy and North Africa, had a Toby Jug of Monty on his mantelpiece…my parents have it now in a slightly less prominent position. He believed in the same general goodness that inspired the United Nations and tagged Mr Holyoake “Kiwi Keith”. I stood and watched LBJ drive through Wellington (my dad was the NZ Military Liaison on the trip, and I even managed a tour, at Ohakea, through Air Force One) when he was here to thank Kiwi Keith for pushing our young lads into harm’s way to prevent that damned, inevitable domino effect if the commies ever took Saigon. I was young and I waved a flag.

So forward thirty or forty years and nothing changes, except that we expect, if we think about it clearly, that our leaders, and those who lead our ‘free world’, will lie to us, as often as not, not because they want to, but simply because they are utterly deluded. The world they inhabit is a fantasy. If one needs any real evidence of this delusion, witness Tommy Frank’s quite bizarre new project The General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum. This, from a man who failed to pursue Osama when he had the chance, and made, whether you agree with it or not, an absolute dogs breakfast of the US invasion of Iraq. A man who famously once said, implying that he, as a General, was probably better suited to being a Corporal:

"No one was more surprised than I that we didn't find (WMD's)”.

Look, you can contribute to his institute if you want, unless you’re one of those dead-enders of course….Quick, give this man a Toby Jug contract and tell him to go where all old (failed) soldiers go….

Then we have the most deluded man on the planet, apart, perhaps from those that still buy into the simpleton approach and the stream utter garbage that dribbles daily from his mouth and that of his spokesperson. I give you The Leader of the Free World. The leader, who was once in such a hurry to invade Iraq, so much so that he couldn’t wait for any resolution to the issue that didn’t involve an invasion.

Now of course, on a day that another 55 deaths, that we know of, are announced in the Baghdad area, he is willing to wait until he offers any solutions. Perhaps until after his upcoming holiday, or because he is, wait for it, this is incredible, to quote an administration official :

"factoring in the college football championship game on January 8 in its determination of scheduling. “

There is, of course no hurry because the enemy is far from being defeated. The again when you have people like Tommy Franks and Alexander Downer rooting for your side, you don’t have a lot to worry about. There have been plenty of people over the years that have asserted that Bush is not some deluded idiot, but rather a rather crafty tactician. The evidence right now would suggest otherwise.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

i wish that I was born a thousand years ago

I bought my first record from ITunes….is an MP3 collection a record? Bugger it, I’m a stick in the mud old fella, and although I was corrected by my daughter, a record it still is to me, and always will be without apology. Now that NZ has its very own store I thought I should at least try it so that I have some sort of an idea of what the experience, and the store is like. I’m in no way a download novice. Quite the opposite, and, amongst other sites, I like both Beatport and Emusic a lot. They provide good music (and some crap of course) at a reasonable price (as does Apple). But they are also something that iTunes is not, after a few days experience, and that’s easy to use and attractive. Both look and feel far less amateurish than iTunes and that’s saying something as this is Apple for gods sake. Apple is not supposed to be facelessly corporate but iTunes is. I guess they forgot to ask Jonathan Ives whether the ITunes Store looked any good. Its both ugly and a bitch to get around and find music on. I like the way Emusic shows me a path forward. It’s a music addict’s site, a place that seems to offer me secret bits and pieces, hidden gems, if I just keep clicking, in the same way that the best record shops entice me just to flick through one more bin. Beatport is the same. ITunes on the other hand feels utterly corporate and its cluttered and confused, hard to find anything, dominated by greatest hits collections (so much for the long tail), and when you do find something there are no smart ways forward offered. It feels like a Wal-Mart. Still, like Wal-Mart, they have the market.

I bought Lou Reed’s Rock’n’Roll Animal live album from the early seventies. It was pure nostalgia I admit but I have a place in my heart for this album. Not only did I see him live, with bleached hair and attitude, about the time it was released but this album with its wall of sculptured guitar noise was the soundtrack to so many parties in the pre-punk years, and it’s tattooed into my mind. Lou Reed is, any interview with the man indicates, an obnoxious wanker. I like him a lot. He’s been everything a rock’n’roll artist should be…unpredictable, offensive and, in between, capable of producing many moments of sheer genius. That he is one of the most influential songwriters of the past fifty years is without question but I also love the un-listenable double album Metal Machine Music, not for what it sounded like but the fuck you to RCA it stood for. And it makes me wonder why recording artists are so damned nice these days. It feels like, and sounds like the backbone has been excised from popular music. It’s all too Brooke Fraser for me. Artists are meant to be difficult. Its no wonder music is not selling.

So it was Lou for me…my vinyl copy of Rock’n’Roll Animal on vinyl has been with me for close to thirty years, maybe more, and it’s a shitty old thin Pye pressing, the kind you can bend right around, from the old Paeroa factory. In a nostalgia free world I would’ve tossed it years ago, especially since BMG re-issued the album, nicely remastered about six years back. But Real Groovy for some reason saw fit to market a mid price import at close to sixty dollars. So they lost the sale.

Itunes on the other hand have it at $17, which is a snip, and now I have a listenable copy of Lou’s great cock rock, only a tiny bit bloated, masterpiece on my hard drive. And I can close my eyes and drift back to 1974 again and writhe with pleasure as it drops into Sweet Jane about three and a half minutes into the intro.

As an aside Peter Mac over at Dub dot dash has a bunch of New Zealand best ofs up, including mine, which was a bit of a cop out I guess as I touted an album to five to twenty five year old NZ indie tracks as the best NZ release of 2006. That’s more a case of not having heard half the tracks others are talking about, than anything else. But I can’t help but feeling that the lack of focus amongst all of we quotees indicates that, whilst the odd good record is being made at a grass roots level things are floundering quite substantially at any level beyond that. Over the past decades there has, year in year out, been some act or artist of interest or worth with obvious substantial forward momentum at any given time. That there isn’t right now is no indication that nothing is worthy happening it’s just a odd sense of ennui that I’ve never seen before in the industry. And it is a worry. I hope I’m wrong.

The NZ record that is getting a major buzz in the UK right now is the new Greg Churchill..which as he so rightly points out, like all his earlier records..including a UK pop chart entry..has had zero NZ on Air support (still that's what happens when you let people who have no idea about music, NZ radio programmers, near the selection process). After several plays on Pete Tong's incredibly influential Radio One show, its at number fifteen on the important DMC Buzz Chart. Makes yer proud....

Oh, and The Others album I mentioned and which I’ve been asked about by more than a few is called Something Error Happens and their MySpace is here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Where the thin men stalk the streets / While the sane stay underground

So the report of the Iraq Study Group is out. And has been tossed around by the various pundits, on both sides of the spectrum (although the pro-war community increasingly only talks to itself or has shut up in shame). The nutters and the Murdoch media are labelling it a surrender for gods sake, as illustrated. One armchair general on the always enlightening Little Green Footballs complained that only 3000 had died in Iraqnam and the US and it's allies had taken bigger losses than before and won. All true of course. That is assuming of course that the other half a million dead (they are your allies, no?) are sub-human and not worthy of being counted. But I guess on LGF that assumption is a given. What actually astounds me is not what the group has come up with in its deliberations (which in terms of a way forward really isn’t much at all) but, rather, how long its taken and how much money and committee hours have been spent in order for these esteemed people to tell the US Government pretty much what the rest of us have known for years. Firstly that Iraq is a damned mess…that’s been on obvious outcome before the first tanks rolled over the border or the first cruise slammed into a market. Secondly that Bush and all his various agencies and military organisations have actively and knowingly lied about the extent of the mess for years. A swift daily look at this site is enough to know this. Thirdly, that Bush and his cabal are responsible for the mess.

I don't want to sound like an arrogant know it all saying we told you so but...yes we know that, and I can’t help but think that this post on Daily Kos really sums up the way many of us feel. I know I do. Whilst Bush, the President you elected, still sits in the White House we can’t take you seriously as a nation anymore.

Fear will not be enough when the whole world is convinced that America will not correct its current ways, and that the problem is not just the current administration.

And the message still hasn’t got through. The man in The White House (I used call him a buffoon but half a million dead goes somewhat beyond the description of buffoonery) is now trying to lay down the conditions under which he will talk to Iran and Syria. He really doesn’t get it. He, and his nation are no longer in any position to set the conditions for discussion…he should be on his knees begging for whatever assistance these nations can give. I don't particularly like the governments of those countries but the USA no longer has the moral authority to set conditions or make the rules. So another parallel to Vietnam becomes obvious,. Like Richard Nixon in the early seventies, and into Watergate, the President has become so self obsessed and deluded that any semblance of reality has disappeared from his world. He can’t see what everyone else can see.

And yet like Matt Tabbi in Rolling Stone, I can’t help that feel that the US political system is now so irredeemably corrupt that nothing will change

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

You need coolin', baby / I'm not foolin',

Living in Indonesia…part 54….I’ve rattled and moaned about the service in New Zealand’s more pretentious places, god knows how many times, but Indonesia, in a particular Bali, operates differently. The term “service” can mean something else. Its a different consciousness. I’ve been told many times that it’s not worth complaining in a restaurant in this country and, unless you are in a select few establishments that’s absolutely true.

Take, for an example, the time I was in Kopi Bali’s Sanur cafe, famous for its extreme coffee creations. I’d had a mixed time there before when I’d found a piece of glass in my nasi and had simply been offered, begrudgingly, a 10% discount of my next bill. I swore I would not return. But I returned. By myself, as it happens as Brigid was in New Zealand doing something or other. I, without the restraint of the guilt I may have felt if she’d been there, indulged myself and ordered Eggs Benedict. Excellent…even after all this time I can still feel the anticipation.

After a wait and a coffee it arrived. It had a muffin, and two poached eggs. And it was covered in this brown separated mucky stuff. I have to be honest, I’ve eaten Eggs Benedict once or twice in the past…it’s a weakness I’ll happily admit to if pushed. But each and every time before this the telur-telur have been happily covered in a creamy hollandaise sauce. The thick, extra cholesterol and fat inducing stuff that doctors warn us against. That’s the way I’ve always been lead to believe I should expect it. And so it should have been this time. I called over the waiting staff, a young girl (who in all likelihood had absolutely no idea of the anticipation a Benny can arouse in a bulé male) and said “what is this?”. It was, she said, Eggs Benedict, as ordered. I did not concur so she called the big boss over who said…”ini Eggs Benedict”. I explained that Eggs Benedict did not usually have a brown sludge over it. He looked bemused, smiled and started to walk away. Calling him back I explained I didn’t want it, wouldn’t accept it, and ordered something else, a banana pancake as I recall. It came, it was ok and I ate it. Twenty minutes later the bill came, with one banana pancake and one Eggs Benedict on it. There is a mistake said I,..no mistake said he, you ordered both…but I sent the eggs back...”that was your choice” he said. What you do with logic like that. My Indonesian dictionary seems not to have a word for logic, beyond one stolen from English, and that seems logical.

Al I can do is resort to a phrase that had a reasonable currency during my formative punk years in the seventies but seems to have slipped from use.....fuck off noddy...

I have had other terrible meals here, not least of which was the appalling one at the world famous Legian Hotel. Actually I’ve only eaten there twice and neither time was good. But the first time it was simply overpriced average food. The second time, not only was the food worse than overpriced but the service was less than average too. That, admittedly may have had something to do with the fact ¼ of the four guests at our table had been up for twenty four hours, was exceedingly drunk and was perusing the wine list again. Her boyfriend, the Australian style magazine publisher, managed to side step the issue with some skill. That we’d been placed in the out of the way table and were being completely ignored by all the waiting staff, may have had had a little to do with that. But that still didn’t excuse the substantially sub-Warung Indonesian dishes being hawked off at US$20 a pop.

The there was one of my favourite Indian places a couple of weeks back. We go there a lot. I love a good curry more than most anything (and despise a bad one). And this particular Indian, which shall remain unnamed…lets just call it The QT…is one of the two finest on this island (the other is the Clay Oven here in Sanur, with the best vindaloo I’ve tasted since the last time I was in Brick Lane).

Because we go there a lot we get a lot of attention from the staff. Too much at times to be honest, but thats ok. And the manager spends a little time with us each time too. On the last occasion he was extra attentive. Thanking us for our patronage and asking what they could do to improve it. As we talked a young guy came to the table and asked Brigid to fill in our names on a paper. It was, she smiled, a voucher for RP200,000 (about $22) for the restaurant. This was very generous she said and they smiled uneasily before rushing away for a conference. We agreed with each other that it was a nice thing for them to have done but commented that we’d spent a fair amount there over the past year or two.

Five minutes later the manager was back, effusively apologising and saying that there had been a terrible mistake and the voucher was incorrectly offered to us. It should have gone to table A, not table 8. We had no voucher and he sent the young man to apologise too.

We were gob smacked..totally. We’d not expected the voucher but having had it offered, it had been withdrawn five minutes later. The voucher itself was not important but it seemed incredible that this manager had thought that $22 was worth offending, and perhaps losing, some of his best customers. The man, who had spent so much time training his staff in the finer points of service had not been able to make that small jump in logic.

We will go back (the food is to good to not), and as a matter of principle, make a point of explaining that perhaps that was not the way to have handled the situation.

If this wasn’t Indonesia, I’d say, how odd and perhaps even be offended. But it’s Indonesia so I’ll smile and simply tell the story.

Monday, December 04, 2006

hey brother / you guessed / I'm a dude

Taken from my friend Ian Morris' web site..well worth a tour around...I had to post this...what is Peter doing to that mike? Damn they look young...did Peter know that thirty years later he'd be championing "funky house" to the masses....

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Searchin' for a note / pure and easy

Simply put, what a great year for music. The repeated obituaries for the music industry were clearly erroneous, clearly overstated. In real terms the record industry is in big big trouble, especially the old guard record companies and the world they know and live in. If any evidence of that beyond falling sales was needed, witness the thrashing around of Doug Morris, the head of Universal Music, in his attempts to blame the impending demise of the system as they know it on anyone but themselves.

Right now the ploughs are out digging up the playing field. What and where we will end up, I don’t know, but the likes of iTunes is only a way station on the way there. Ask me if five years and I may have a clue…

So, 2006, a vintage year for contemporary music, I think, but aren’t they all. That I still get excited at my ripe old age about new music makes me happy, but I think I would shrivel up and die without it. And it’s easier and easier to get hold of, courtesy of our electronic world, something that must seem like a cruel irony to the record companies who monopolised for so long by controlling the means of distribution. There is more music everywhere than there has ever been in my lifetime and more people are listening.

So to my personal picks for 2006 (and thats all they are..nothing definitive, just the things I've liked)…..

Firstly singles…and there were a few. There are singles by acts that I’ve included in the albums but will avoid here to prevent a double up.

Albums....actually not that many, partially because I’ve found myself listening to a lt of older albums, but partially because my focus is very clearly less albums than singles these days. A few of these acts released a few singles that would’ve made my above list (especially Anders Trentemoller) but are either on the album or, in his case, come as a bonus disc. Lucky…

Mixed albums….

Reissues and comps

Sunday, November 26, 2006

You fasten the triggers / For the others to fire / Then you set back and watch / When the death count gets higher

One of the questions I get asked repeatedly these days is "what exactly are you doing in Bali". Quite a lot actually. But one of the pleasures of the jump from Auckland is having the time to read more. I read a lot and I find the time to read through long things like this, an excerpt from which is below

Faced with such complexity, and determined to have their war and their democratic revolution, the President and his counselors looked away. Confronted with great difficulties, their answer was to blind themselves to them and put their faith in ideology and hope -- in the dream of a welcoming landscape, magically transformed. The evangelical vision may have made the sense of threat after September 11 easier to bear but it did not change the risks and the reality on the ground. The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.
Written by Mark Danner and due for publication in the December 21 edition of the NY Review of Books, if you have the time this rather lengthy piece is a fascinating analysis of the hubris, deceit and incompetence that is and was the Bush invasion of Iraq.