The Adam Curtis three parter of the same name, though guilty of quite broad statements, is very impressive both visually and from a narrative perspective. Get it on the BBC iPlayer while you can.
October 16, 2010
In the late 80s there was an educational Granada-produced TV show called Information Technology who happened to make an episode focusing on the run up to the release of ‘Bummed’ by the Happy Mondays. It covers all sides of the process from the band deciding on sleeves with Central Station Design, to studio time with Martin Hannett. As they start promoting the album they go to a radio station where the presenter asks Shaun Ryder ‘Why are you on factory?’ – ‘Cause no-one else wants us’ he answers. From there it’s off to an amazing looking gig at Dingwalls.
I have nicked this wholesale from Caught By The River so if you enjoyed the piece have a dig about their site as there’s lots to get lost in. Here’s what Jeff Barrett (press officer for Happy Mondays and Heavenly chief) had to say on the times and enjoy the clips.
“Our man in Manchester, Mr Dave Rofe, sent me this you tube link yesterday. The heading in the e mail read “Fox ‘ead”, a nickname given to me twenty odd years ago by Bez when, whilst sporting way too much hair, I was publicist for Happy Mondays.
I got around a bit back then and the downside of the digital boom is the amount of times the words ‘Fox ‘ead’ appear in my in-box. I’m not embarrassed but I do open the link with a little trepidation knowing that someone is gonna say, “Is that really you? fucking hell!”. Well, this is one of them.
It’s an educational TV programme that was made in 1988 to enlighten young people into the business workings of a record label as they make and release a record. So far, so what. The good bit is that the label they chose as the subject was Factory and the record they chose was ‘Bummed’ by Happy Mondays. Genius.
I’d not been in the job long, in fact ‘Bummed’ was the first record I worked (I was press guy for the whole Factory label) though I did have previous with the band as a fan (and London gig promoter) and I knew their manager, Nathan McGough, from when he managed The Bodines, a band that had been signed to Creation when I worked there in the mid eighties. A big thing to point out here is that what you are gonna watch is PRE ‘Madchester’. This is very important.
Those in the know were already aware that the the Mondays had ‘it’. Tony Wilson certainly knew that they were an important group and you can see it in the film as you follow him from recording studio to production meeting to launch party (the bit where he pretends to be interested in the production costs is funny). What struck me while watching it is how innocent things were at that time and it brought back to me just how fucking great a band the Mondays were. Look at the live footage – from Dingwalls, London – incredible. We were so lucky to have them.
A year later, as we now know, things went mental. The city was re-branded. A culture was sold and innocence got lost. It got dark and greedy and before long it got boring. The sad thing is that now the Mondays get seen as a joke turn on the revival circuit instead of a very important group. It’s probably their own fault and they probably don’t care but I do. It was a real honour to do that job and I’m proud to say I was there. Hey, I even got a nickname off of Bez! ”
Here’s a quality interview with Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley about the history of Boy’s Own and the record label. Looks like it was done in the studio as they were recording the follow-up ‘Substance’. Weatherall dismisses techno in fine style, and the clip also features the videos for ‘Raise’ (as Terry calls it ‘a hillbilly balearic anthem for the summer’) and the Less Stress cover of ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’. London attitude in full flow.
Thanks to Nick Dart.
January 23, 2010
Great Arena last night on BBC4 covering the work and life of Brian Eno. Eno gave Arena access to observe him working in the studio and talking with friends and colleagues including Richard Dawkins, Malcolm Gladwell, David Whittaker and Steve Lillywhite. The program is available until Friday 29th January 2010.
Here he talks about his favourite productions.
“Produced by Giorgio Moroder, it’s an amazing production. Putting the crudely mechanical, duugguder dugguder dugguder, this kind of Germanic robot thing, against the incredibly sexy emotional organic gospel singing. It sounded so far ahead of people who thought they were making modern music.”
The Beatles: Tomorrow Never Knows
“Again very important for me because it was very clear that song didn’t exist before it got to the studio (plays the song on a guitar). You know… It wouldn’t have been, well I am sure it wouldn’t have been as crappy as that (referencing version he just played) but that’s the kind of thing it would have been and yet it turned into this amazing jet stream psychedelic fantasy piece and entirely to do with electronics and with the use of the studio and with a lot of brilliant open minds.”
“Then the Velvet Underground – that’s production of restraint. You have to admire people who say the best thing I can do for this piece of music is defend it against the recording industry ’cause I am sure there were all sorts of people sitting around saying ‘ooh you should get a proper drummer, it’d be so much better with a proper drummer, instead of that woman who can only hit one drum at a time’.”
He then went on to talk about his life growing up in a small town in Suffolk which was surrounded by air bases (both American and British) and in turn had 17,000 GI’s within about 5 miles of the town.
“As the town was the closest place for them to go for entertainment there were lots of coffee houses in the town, which had jukeboxes, which mostly had American music on because the clientele were mostly Americans. So from an early age i was hearing really, really good doo wop and deep southern R&B. I’ve still got some of those records. ‘Life’s too short’ by The Lafayettes, which was not a doo wop song but a very mysterious single that meant a lot to me. The main rhythmic element in it is just someone playing rim shots, playing on the edge of the snare drum, there’s no big drums in it. So you have this very sparse background feeling and this urgent singing over the top.
I was always impressed by music I couldn’t penetrate the mystery of.”
September 21, 2009
In music documentary terms, triumph over adversity usually refers to someone getting over a drink or drug problem of their own making. For Edwyn Collins, much loved for songs like ‘Falling And Laughing’ and ‘Rip It Up’ with Orange Juice and for his standalone 1994 hit ‘Girl Like You’, his triumph was a real one. This documentary, first screened last year by Artworks Scotland and voiced by Alex Kapranos follows Edwyn as he recovers from a brain hemorrahage and stroke in 2005, learning to read walk, and talk again – and incredibly to write new songs and eventually to make his way back onstage. The film culminates with his performance at the BBC Electric Proms in 2007 and if you can watch him perform ‘Home Again’ without welling up then you’re made of stone. But it’s the final shot that’s the real killer. Asked what he misses about his old life (which incidentally, he doesn’t really remember), Collins pauses for a long time. “Nothing,” he says eventually. “Nothing at all.”
‘Home Again’ is available on the BBC iPlayer until Friday 25th September 2009. Watch it. Also available is the Caledonia Dreamin’ documentary covering the history of Scottish pop music and in particular Postcard Records.