I figure this is possibly a good way to keep up the recent spurt of writing. I like writing, but sometimes I just can’t be arsed. And once I get going, I feel like I should keep going, keep pushing along. So, with the lack of daily baseball podcasts to listen to at this time of year, it makes a wee bit of sense to listen to music and maybe write about it. After Thursday’s day-long enjoyment of album after album, I did the same thing yesterday. Once again, I began with What’s Going On. Figured it could be good to start with the same record and see where it took me. In a way, it took me to a similar place as Thursday. Then, it was Blue Lines by Massive Attack, today a vaguely related album: Raw Like Sushi by Neneh Cherry. That album’s best song, “Manchild,” was co-written by Robert Del Naja, and the album was co-produced by Cameron McVey, who also co-produced Blue Lines. The album as a whole hasn’t dated particularly well. Still enjoyable to listen to, but aside from a few songs, mostly for nostalgic reasons.
I’m already coming across a problem with writing about these albums: how do I do it without just saying “it’s great”? Got to try to avoid that. Got to push myself to go beyond that and see what my head can come up with.
Even though Morning Dove White came out before I met him, it always reminds me of an old friend called Darren. He loved One Dove, especially their singer, Dot Allison, and who can blame him? We worked together at a record distribution company in the late 90s. It was a beautiful time. The music industry in the UK seemed to be going great guns. People still went to record stores and bought records and CDs. And we’d get awesome bonuses if the records we were distributing reached their targets (£100 bonus for getting this record into the top ten, £500 bonus if that record gets to number one; that kind of thing). Best of all, though, was the atmosphere in our part of the building. We did telesales. Not telesales in the sense that we were calling random people about double-glazed windows; we called the same bunch of record stores every week. You get to know people on the other end of the phone, and generally, it was an incredibly enjoyable job. You’re talking about music all day: what’s not to love? I was there for three-and-a-half years, and I’m still friends with many of the people I worked with. In a way, it was too much fun. It was my first office job, and no office job could have a hope of living up to it.
Dancing comes back to me when I hear certain records. If I listen to the Happy Mondays, I find myself shuffling around in that late eighties/early nineties white British man way. And listening to either of the first two Prodigy albums has a similar effect. If I walk to the kitchen, I won’t walk, I’ll end up doing some ridiculous rave-y hoppy skippy dance all the way. And it’s not just when I’m on my feet. If I’m sat at my desk, my work rate slows significantly. My hands are too busy dancing to hold a mouse or do keyboard shortcuts.
When I worked for the aforementioned company, I had the chance to go to the offices of the record company that released the Gravediggaz’ second album, and briefly met the two members of the group that weren’t RZA or Prince Paul. I forget their names. I’m useless in such situations. They were just two dudes, but, really, what the heck of interest did I have to say to them? And why would they give a shit about what I had to say? I can’t remember what I actually did say, but I can be fairly certain it was a whole load of meaningless nonsense.
I’m at a point in my life, I think, where I’m finding it pretty much impossible to sing along with David Bowie songs without slipping into a bad impression. And there’s a certain amount of Rolling Stones songs where I’m pretty much doing an impression of other people’s impressions of Mick Jagger. It’s strange that Let’s Dance was Bowie’s biggest selling album. Beyond the first three songs – “Modern Love,” “China Girl,” “Let’s Dance” – it’s not overly consumer-friendly. I can’t help but imagine that a lot of the people who bought this album after hearing those singles were probably quite disappointed with the remaining five songs.
I saw Brendon Benson live in Berlin in 2003. I think the venue was called Magnet. I remember enjoying it, but I don’t remember much of the event other than it was the night that the Iraq War started. The next day, on Viva – a German MTV-ish channel – instead of the usual happy smiley VJs, there were serious-faced VJs, sat around wearing CND t-shirts, discussing war with German teenagers. That’s nearly ten years ago now, but the images from that first night of the war are still really fresh in my mind. I’ve had very little hardship in my life. It’s been a relatively normal life so far. There have been a few small earthquakes that have rocked Mexico City since I’ve been here, and the first time, I was like a baby. It didn’t feel nice at all. And the aftershocks for the next couple of days weren’t fun either. It was difficult to sleep. The rumble of a big truck going down the street would nudge me awake: is it another earthquake? I would be so utterly terrified and crying and useless if a war were to happen in my city.
Jason Falkner is one of our time’s most underrated musicians, I think. He’s written and recorded some wonderful solo records, and he’s also been involved in lots of other great things. He was in Jellyfish, he’s worked with Jon Brion, Paul McCartney, Air (he sang on “Radio #1”), Eric Matthews, Beck, Aimee Mann, Ben Lee, Daniel Johnston, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Glen Campbell, and he co-wrote five of the songs on the Brendon Benson album. He is aces. If you have babies, and you wanna get them enjoying the Beatles early on in their lives, you could do a hell of a lot worse than buying Falkner’s two Bedtime with the Beatles albums, on which are his instrumental versions of the band’s songs, arranged as lullabies.
The last song on Jason Falkner Presents Author Unknown is called “Untitled” (YouTube). It’s one of my favourite ever songs. It’s incredibly beautiful. For about two minutes it goes along, being all lovely, with a few strings coming in here and there, and pretty much exactly halfway through, it shifts into a fully string-laden coda (not sure if that’s technically the correct word) with the same two lines repeated over and over again: You may not have been able to change the world/But at least you changed my world. I was listening to this album a lot when my mother’s second husband died after having had cancer for a while. My relationship with him wasn’t always wonderful; he was, after all, not my father, and that was a difficult thing to get my head around for a while. But he was a good man. And when he died, those two lines from the end of Jason Falkner’s song went through my head a lot. Like most of us, he wasn’t important in the grand history of the planet, but he was important to the people who knew him. Which is pretty much what we can all hope for, really.
And on that somewhat sombre note, here’s the names of the albums pictured above just in case you don’t recognise some of them. Left to right, top to bottom:
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Raw Like Sushi – Neneh Cherry
Morning Dove White – One Dove
Space Is Only Noise – Nicolas Jaar
Actually – Pet Shop Boys
Music for Jilted Generation – The Prodigy
Queens of the Stone Age – Queens of the Stone Age
Niggamortis – Gravediggaz
Viva! La Woman – Cibo Matto
Let’s Dance – David Bowie
Lapalco – Brendon Benson
Presents Author Unknown – Jason Falkner