Category: ageing


To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2018)

vivThis is not a memoir about music but if you come to it as a fan of The Slits you will not be disappointed by the embodiment of the punk spirit that Viv Albertine represents.

In it, she describes herself as questioning, militant, aggressive, secretly shy, awkward, mistrustful and solitary. Continue reading

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MERCURY REV live at Teatro Moderna,

Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy 13th September 2018

Mercury_RevThis is one of a limited series of concerts to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mercury Rev’s breakthrough album ‘Deserter’s Songs’.

At the time of release, this band from Buffalo, New York were at the point of imploding due to rapidly depleting sales. The songs were therefore composed with no real expectation that they would reach a wider audience and there was even some doubt that they’d even find a record label to put them out. Continue reading

Less by Andrew Sean Greer (First published in the USA by Lee Boudreaux Books 2017)

lessAs a picaresque, comic novel this, at first glance, appears to be an unlikely winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Yet, although there are moments of high farce, there is a serious message behind the humour.

It is the bitter-sweet tale of Arthur Less, who is about to turn 50 and is described as “an author too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered”. He is far from being a failure but a long way from being the success he once dreamed of. He is a single gay man whose most significant of numerous relationships was with a Pulitzer prize-winning poet who is now gravely ill.

Aside from this, Less has recently ended a relationship with a younger man on such amicable terms that he has been invited to his ex’s wedding. Anxious to avoid this, he devises a plan. Continue reading

Dad

My Dad : 20/4/26 – 16/9/86

There’s something sobering about reaching the same age that my Dad was when he died.
He passed aged 60 in 1986 of stomach cancer after being diagnosed just 6 months earlier. Prior to that I never recall him being sick. Being in good health and then being gone is one of the scariest things. More so than those who die after what the newspapers euphemistically call “a long illness”.
I suppose, on balance, it’s better to go quickly than becoming a burden to your loved ones. Dad would have hated that.
I’ve recently found that I suffer from high blood pressure despite my virtual straight-edge lifestyle and relatively stress-free work. This has caused me to find articles about ‘the silent killer’ of a heart condition you don’t know you have until it’s too late.
I don’t smoke, drink in moderation, exercise like a demon and eat what I like to think is a healthy plant-based diet. Maybe I drink too much coffee so I’ve now virtually cut that out too.
I have begun to envy those who don’t seem health conscious in the slightest yet don’t seem any the worse for it.
Most books on ageing and dying refer to the consolation of faith at some point but I don’t believe in an afterlife or in reincarnation so these are useless to me.
The way I feel is that my heart or some other vital organ will give out sooner or later. “Most things may never happen:this one will”, wrote Philip Larkin in Audabe so when I wake in a cold sweat I can’t console myself that I’m worrying about nothing. It’s the very nothingness that is most chilling.
My Dad suffered briefly and then was gone. As a dodo or a doornail.
For now I put morbid fears to one side and keep on training and jogging. I know full well that however fast or far I run the grim reaper will catch me one day but I don’t intend to make it easy for him.

1966 – The Year The Decade Exploded by Jon Savage (Faber & Faber, 2015)

1966“It’s pretty obvious that contemporary music reflects contemporary life. And vice versa” wrote Tony Hall in Record Mirror in 1966. What is taken for granted now needed to be spelled out then.

Nevertheless, there are still precious few writers who able to contextualize music as expertly as Jon Savage.

When writing about Punk in 2004’s ‘England’s Dreaming’, Savage was able to draw directly from his own experiences but, as he was just 13 years old in the Summer of 1966, he is not able to rely solely on first-hand knowledge for this book. The 55 pages of source references illustrate the substantial research that lies behind this authoritative and illuminating study.

I was just 8 years old in that year so I remember even less than he does but I do recall the impact of some TV shows (e.g. Batman, The Monkees, Time Tunnel etc.) and music like The Beatles, the Motown acts and Dusty Springfield. But as far as historical events go, only England winning the soccer world cup sticks in the memory.

Most articles about the sixties paint a superficial and idealised portrait of swinging London, sexual liberation and the birth of the Woodstock generation. Savage goes deeper and reveals the darker aspects of this era and shows that it has definite parallels with the world we inhabit today.

Far from being a time of hedonism and freedom, this was a year lived under the shadow of the atom bomb and the cold war. In addition, the black civil rights movement, growing opposition to the Vietnam war, the demand for women’s liberation and the struggle for gay rights were just some of the causes that led to politicization of the youth both in America and in the UK. Add LSD to this heady cocktail and it’s easy to understand why this year was so musically explosive and accounts for how “1966 began in pop and ended with rock”. Continue reading

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