Category: music


Jonathan Wilson’s hippy dream

RARE BIRDS album by Jonathan Wilson (Bella Union, 2018)
JONATHAN WILSON LIVE AT THE BRONSON CLUB, RAVENNA 20th April 2018

rare“There’s no fear, no hatred, no killers, no guns”. This is the hippy dream of Jonathan Wilson – songwriter, producer, musician and all round gentle spirit. It comes from a line in ‘Over The Midnight’, one of the many highlights from his latest feel good solo album ‘Rare Birds’.

Mellow LA vibes usually leave me cold but this record has really warmed my soul this year.

We are so resigned to expressions of cynicism and negativity that it takes music like this to remind us that it doesn’t necessarily have to be like this. Wilson admits that he wrote the ELO-esque ‘There’s A Light’ as a conscious antidote to the darkness that surrounds and inhibits us. Continue reading

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YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE directed by Lynne Ramsey (USA, 2018)

you_were_never_really_hereThis breathtaking and riveting film is based on a novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames. As the title suggests, it is the story of a man (Joe) deep in the throes of an existential crisis.

We see him hovering on a train platform evidently contemplating suicide and in a very real sense he is already half-dead inside. Ramsey described Joe as “a ghost in his own life”. Continue reading

THE DISASTER ARTIST directed by James Franco (USA, 2017)

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Forget about Grinding Nemo and Gary ‘Winston’ Oldman, the Oscar statuettes this year should have gone to ‘The Disaster Artist’ and James Franco respectively.

Of course, neither were even in contention due to the serious allegations of sexual impropriety hanging over Franco but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a brilliant and hilarious movie.

Franco’s full-blooded star turn as failed actor and wannabe movie star Tommy Wiseau is compelling from start to finish. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in the cinema. Continue reading

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

 

AMORTALITY by Catherine Mayer (Vermilion, 2011)
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“What a drag it is getting old”.

Mick Jagger wrote these words when he was still in his early 20s. It’s a line from ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, the first track on The Rolling Stones’ 1966 album Aftermath.

Far from being the usual affirmation of the ‘sex,drugs and Rock’n’Roll’ lifestyle, this atypical Stones song addresses the plight of stressed housewives who turn to prescribed drugs to calm their nerves. Jagger adopts a mockney accent in an attempt to convince us of his sincerity but it all sounds very mannered and false.

If Jagger still finds aging a drag he hides it fairly well. Now in his mid-70s he’s still performing concerts and impregnating young women with abandon. He is living proof of what Catherine Mayer calls ‘amortals’; those who refuse to ‘act their age’ and live as if it were impossible to die.

With improved healthcare, it’s not just the  wealthy who are living longer with plenty of energy left to burn. Mayer observes that “there is no such thing as age appropriate behavior anymore” and refers to the growth of this ageless living as a “grey tsunami”. Fast approaching 60 and having run my first full marathon last year, I feel that I’m an active member of this tidal wave of ‘amortals’ but found the book disappointing.

It was conceived as “a guide to an uncharted phenomenon” and in the opening chapters the author is at pains to reassure us that it is not intended as a polemic. However, by the end, she gives up any pretense of objectivity when she challenges institutionalized ageism, stating : “I hope readers will take from this book inspiration to push for change, on a personal level and as consumers and voters”. So much for not being polemical! Continue reading

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