Category Archives: Musical Mumbo

Fan

chk-chk-chk-sasquatch-11

I’ve always thought of fans as a sub-set of humanity, in a corner with people who get bum implants, or who surround themselves with exclusively pink things.

Self-esteem issues canabalising IQ points. An inability to distinguish passion from obsession. That whiff of intense energy lasered into something erroneous, or unworthy of the ardour. Kathy Bates.

Flip a nucleotide in their DNA and they’d be serial killers, I thought.

On Saturday I met a bonafide one, and I might be changing my mind.

Chk chk chk (!!!) are a niche-ish dance punk band with funky electro indie soul bits.

Actually, I have no idea how to describe them, and if you go to a show you too will know less afterwards than when you arrived.

They’re a paradox, because you can’t feel their wired vibe unless you see them, but the nuances of their layered sound only reveal themselves when worming directly through a thin tube into your inner ear.

They make your head feel like a bee hive, with an instrument doing its own thing in each of the little hexagons. (There are quite a few of them, and on this occasion they’d collected a new female singer because they liked the cut of her jib.)

The effect is more soundscape than music, and manages to be self-consciously ridiculous at the same time- so it’s strangely funny too.

The lead singer’s a minor- maybe a major- legend.

He’s almost rubbish at singing: you can’t hear a lyric unless he invites a sing-back, in which case you might catch it gratefully from your neighbour.

He looks like a muppet from Sacramento who gets off stratospherically on freaking out in a garage with loads of jamming musicians and some choice recreationals… which is sort of what he is.

He’s got untamed curly hair that gets so sweaty he has to drape a hand towel around his neck for most of the gig, like an 80s tennis player.

He wears old t-shirts and shorts, has a hilarious faux camp dance style, and is plugged into the national grid in a way you suspect he takes off stage.

He swears like you’re supposed to swear; like it’s going to explode right out of his fucking face into your shitty ugly one that he doesn’t give a fuck about.

He’s all performance, and no performance. He thinks he’s the audience, and the audience is him: an all-out authentic bonkers dude wigging out to his own tunes, believing 100% you’re on board with the party.

So here’s this band playing an eclectic mix of new material to a small Hackney crowd of 300, and a few of us push through to get closer to the stage.

And we end up standing in front of a balding older guy with a buttoned-up check shirt and a salt-and-pepper cropped beard, who’s clearly in the throes of having a bumper evening.

And as the songs ramp up it turns out he’s vocal in his enthusiasm too, rich Northern vowels audible in some belter phrases: ‘Go on, bloody well ‘ave it’, and ‘That’s right- raise the BOLLOCKS off it’, and ‘Say you can see it- ‘e’s sooch a fookin’ geezer!’

Every now and then he turns to seek support from some slightly bemused-looking chums who aren’t giving it anywhere near as heavy duty as he wants it. But then he gets excited that we’re excited, which cranks him up even more.

The set is short. Soon it’s over and our new friend’s spilling over about how these relatively unknown guys rock his world.

He first saw them 3 years ago in the States and thought, ‘What the hell is this?’ But by the end of the gig he was having ‘a near religious experience’, and his Chk Chk Chk love’s been growing and growing ever since until… BAM! up shoots his arm, and there’s a whopping great 3-D ‘!!!’ tattoo under his bicep.

Since then, he’s been catching them whenever he can, he says, this time enticing the bemused mates to drive down with him from Manchester in a day, for this one hour of musical bliss.

They thought he was off his rocker for suggesting it, and don’t seem to have modified their opinion too much in light of the experience.

So there you have it: a lone wolf in his late fifties overflowing with joy and admiration for a man 15 years his junior from the other side of the world, and in no conceivable respect his peer.

And yet, not really admiration for the man, but for his talent, and for the way he pulls it off.

Because here’s the thing. True fanship can lead to hysteria, but that’s because great love breeds great passion. At its core is a monumental generosity of spirit.

There’s an openness and a capacity for wonder less to do with subjugation of the self, more about setting the self aside to make space for awe.

It’s not blind worship, but one person honouring the gifts of another with no vested interest- and what’s that but the very definition of love with a capital ‘l’?

Weakness now seems like surrender; fanaticism, like deep and humble appreciation.

With a throbbing heart in its chest, and a juicy fat smile on its face…

When’s Bieber coming to town?

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Trip

 

(Track from 15:25 to 25:25. Headphones. Volume up.)

Start I step out onto the pavement and turn right.

I check out the kind of day and the kind of me in it.

How I will feel in it. How I do feel in it.

Straight away I know it is this kind of day and I am that kind of me and I’m ready for it.

There are cars and trees. I feel better than OK. I can open.

It’s almost cold. It’s sunny. I can feel the energy from the street, from the people. The people are full of energy today. I am falling into sync with it. With them. Walking. Looking straight ahead. Walking into straight ahead.

I’m moving forward. Moving forward into this space.

There is me and there’s air.

I see a man. He’s walking too. There’s a siren. And a dog. Moving forward through this day. Me too. Pushing through. Striding into next. With the dog and the man and feeling better than OK.

And seeing without looking. The rhythm of the day in my walk and in the sounds on the street and in the people.

It’s sunny. I’m cold. The energy is there on this street, coming from the people. Coming from the cars. They are falling into sync with me. I’m walking. Looking straight ahead. Walking into straight ahead. I’m being moved forward. Forward into this space.

There is air and there’s me and we join.

Breathing the man and his walk and no siren. Watching a girl and her phone. Watching her watch the pavement in the sun. Watching her move through this day.

Feeling it. Breathing it. Not waiting. Meeting. Could almost close my eyes looking out. Feeling out.

The air and I.

1:44 Wait wait there’s a shift. Am I shifting to inside. Turning in on my purpose. I could turn in now. I do do that. I turn. Away from the sun and the cars and trees. Into fiction. Inwards.

Whirring, whirring.

2:02 No, I decide, no. I brace. Embrace. I yield. Back here. Fully in this street. Now. Alive.

Moving forward.

Feeling the pavement. Hearing the sun.

2:35 Yes, and noticing the trees, hearing them ask me to notice them.

Honouring the asking trees.

Eye-kissing the sky.

2:52 And the birds. Feeling them, feeling now. Kissing the pavement.

Loving the birds.

Loving.

3:08 And gathering in this sun and feeling open. Opening. Smiling.

Opening the warmth on my face.

Smiling.

3:25 And there you are. You are. I see you there in the distance.

But I see no distance.

3:41 You are walking towards me. Walking forwards, towards.

Walking my air.

3:58 You call over. From over there. I feel deaf. You are all I hear. I meet you from this space.

Time streeeeeetches.

Dissoooooolves.

4:31 And you’re here. You arrive. We are parallel. We walk.

We walk in parallel.

4:47 We walk forward. Side by side. The trees and the birds and the energy.

You talk. You say loads.

You keep saying it.

You say nothing.

5:04 In amongst it, you say something.

You say something.

5:21 It’s a trip. I trip on what you said. What did you say. It was nothing. Was it something. I am walking and tripping.

I’m tripped up.

I’m suspended.

5.38: Because I’m smiling and talking. But I’m looking to the making of meaning.

To make an OK meaning of the nothing that you said that might have been something.

How it can be made OK.

Why it didn’t seem OK.

Working on it being OK.

5:55 Getting there.

Arriving. Arriving.

Striving.

6:11 Finally, I make the meaning fine. I bring in perspective. I bring you into perspective. I reject perspective. I stop tripping. I walk.

I’m back.

6:45 It’s OK and it’s OK because here is now and that’s all the fine meaning.

And it’s getting better and better.

I can feel the birds now. The trees are part of me. This road, this street is a part of me. The buildings are building into a part of me. I am building up to it. I’m inside it.

It’s all that matters.

I am saturated.

I am bliss.

I am air.

I am bliss.

7:01 And it could matter forever.

7:35 This could last forever. This is forever. Walking down here in this moment. In this life. In parallel. In this parallel life.

In this paved street with trees.

In this paved bliss with breathing trees.

7:51 And if you feel the whole of me, of all around us. If this energy, this pitch is part of you. If it is your total now. The vibration.

That the vibration could be no other than it is.

That it is.

That it does.

8:43 And we arrive. We are here. I am full. I am full of the trees and my blood.

No man. No dog.

But our blood.

9:05 And your blood begins withdrawal. It gathers in. You hear it gather in silence.

You hear now that darkness of goodbye. That deafness. That deathness.

But that is not the end of completion.

It is depth.

It is context.

It is resonance.

And there will be renewal.

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Loving Elvis for Elvis

Elvis Presley and Rufus revealed to me something magnificent last week.

If you can spare 3 full minutes to listen to this with your eyes closed, the rest of this post might have more meaning:

I was in the Hammersmith branch of ‘Tiger’, seeing to some functional gift buying (and it doesn’t get much more functional than prevaricating over decorative paper napkins in an urban mall shop in February)…

…when Elvis came piping in over the store sound-system, with non-functional things on his mind.

‘FFS,’ I thought crassly but accurately, in an expressive sense. ‘I spend 90% of my life trying to side-step the yawning chasm of my existential angst and now I can’t buy a bloody napkin without being pushed in.’

Back home, mission accomplished, I returned voluntarily to hand-wringing and put Elvis on the Youtube duke box.

As I revisited cavernous rooms of rank sentimentalism, I came to realise that Rufus had stopped re-purposing a tissue box as a receptacle for matchbox toys in order to listen to the ‘mugats’ and was being held quite in its thrall.

Moments later, reaching up, he said, ‘Ugg’ (a request for an embrace, not an outdoor slipper boot); I happily complied and we sort of square-danced around the study to The King.

Lo and behold, ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ was no longer the background to the ‘stories’ of my life- the soundtrack to my emotional movie.

It was the song as Rufus was hearing it, in his childish way: pure; beautiful; without narrative. It was moving him to soft kisses which, for a child, is Love.

So I listened to it one more time- without the noise of my histories, my projections, my over-packed hormonal baggage- as if Elvis was just singing it, rather than singing it with the express intention of messing with my equilibrium.

Try it. It’s amazing. It’s a liberation.

Now imagine doing this with every thing.

Imagine engaging with your day in a way that minimizes major themes and maximizes minute experiences as they are unfolding; imagine frying an egg for breakfast and not shell-covered disillusionment; imagine eating lunch without the memory of your mistakes or the judgment of your fear; imagine receiving, not creating people; imagine creating yourself in the act of being.

Imagine loving Elvis for Elvis.

It may not work all the time.

But when it did, you’d be humming a Louis Armstrong song instead.

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Stream

Last night I went to the Royal Festival Hall to listen to the incessant jabbering of my stream-of-semi-consciousness against a background of the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ : look at the people- two and half thousand of them- all sitting in this one box, nobody coughing, everybody successfully containing themselves; visualise body surfing over the silver-haired appreciators or shouting out a manifesto that is filmed by a co-conspirator and broadcast on youtube; imagine this happening in venues all over London, executed in synchronicity; salivate over the publicity but conclude that everybody would hate whatever you had to say coz you said it rudely in the middle of their night out so you would have shot your own campaign in the foot; look at the musicians, having individually fought their way through streets of crime on an innocent mission, smugly lugging their instruments, converging on this time and place, enjoying their black clothes and dangly earrings and smart socks, knowing the notes, feeling confident they won’t do a bum one; think of all the flacid cocks in the slacks of the men and the frozen shepherd pie portions in the freezers of the pea-green and coral-sweatered women; wonder when a Royal last sat in their box in their eponymous Hall; wonder if they felt like Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons, when everyone turns to look at her with scorn; wonder if there is an energy in that empty box and if there is what it feels like; look at the conductor, with a body language all his own, the jerks and smooth trajectory of his arms; imagine him putting on his shirt, his fears, his investments for retirement; wonder what his wife thinks of him, what she’s doing now; marvel that people can be bothered to go out, that old people aren’t scared of Embankment tube, that some people aren’t old at all but young and dismissive of X-factor; acknowledge my out-dated ageism; consider the difference between the way classical and popular music is engaged with- one private and serious-minded, one provocative and vivid; think of the irony of quiet souls absorbing the creation of a composer brimful of opium, elsewhere e’d-up dancers freaking out to the tunes of a sober club d.j; question if classical composers used samples of each other’s music; imagine them writing it in cliched, candle-lit rooms, with leeches on their backs; imagine this performance sampling contemporary songs hidden in the symphony; wonder if this might be funny for an ad or a comedy; consider branches of this idea- rap artists in symphony seats, behaving themselves, a symphony of conductors directing a sole musician on the podium; picture Mark Zuckerberg; wonder if the violinists enjoy the plucking bits; hear a theme in the music that’s beautiful, that makes sense; feel proud of myself that I can enjoy the culture of intellects; realise I’m not concentrating; feel shallow; notice a swell in the music; feel moved; allow emotions; well up with tears about Sad Things; want some more wine; contemplate carnal pleasures in Festival bathrooms; try to come up with something interesting to think about the Central Bar Area; make a game-plan for returning chewing gum quietly to its wrapper; consider if other people would find it distasteful if I tapped notes into my phone, how much hatred they would summon, even if I held the handset low, because clearly I was a heathen and had no manners and was a bit common; worry about my new tooth and if it will continue to feel it’s not welcome, like my mouth is The Other; wonder if the person behind me has an opinion about the back of my head; try to make one about the person’s in front of me; ask if the people in the black and white boxes have season tickets, if they are thinking other things, if they are leaning forward because they’re so engrossed or because their seats encourage them to do so, either by the way they are designed or by the way they are overlooked or by both but not necessarily in equal measures, even if  you could quantify such a thing and whether there would be any advantage in doing this anyway; and why we’re all benefiting from looking at musicians when its the sounds they are creating by instructing their arms to make movements, that we want to hear; feel happy for the musicians that they haven’t lost their arms; wonder if they hate the lead violinist or if they want him and who’s winking at whom over a Rich Tea biscuit after the performance; wonder if the violinist thinks he’s special, wants extra biscuits, wants his tea just so; wish I could see his features; remember my lost specs are why I can’t; enjoy looking at the harps, seeing angels at them; run through mental archives of Elbow playing here, so much admiration in the space, for the lead singer, the clear acoustic quality of his voice; start to clap and hear someone do that appreciative shouting thing at the end and feel glad to be a part of that whoop.

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Mariah Scarey

I was plugged into the video of Mariah’s song ‘Obsessed’ at the gym this morning and I experienced fear.

The way she starts the song with the words ‘I was, like, why are you so obsessed with me?’ struck me as, like, a deliberately offensive way to, like, start a song.

Then the visual throwback of her walking past an L.A. hotel carrying loads of shopping bags and wearing a gold necklace saying the word, ‘Angel’ made my skin tingle in a different way to the dumb bells.

But coming in at number one most creepy thing to have been let out of the creative industry’s doors in a long time was her cameo appearances as the obsessed stalker himself. (The knowing smile at the end indicating that she is, like, totally cool with any self-obsessed implications.)

Yes, dear reader, what might have elicited a smug little ‘cheeky twist’ chortle from the music producers at an initial meeting has been carried through to its breathtakingly unnerving conclusion.

Mariah Carey as an Eminem chauffeur/hoodie/male stylist parody, with a hairdryer and a fluffy goatee beard, doing blokey hip-hop moves while fawning over her snakeskin-body-hugger-wench self made me slam the emergency ‘STOP’ button on the treadmill.

Stay in on Hallowe’en and pop her on the DVD player with lights dimmed.

mariah-carey-obsessed-video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hpiwPXkbVc

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Liberian Girl

sunset-beach-serene

It’s 1987.

I’m 14 and and at boarding school in the Lake District.

After lights out- Walkman smuggled under duvet- Michael Jackson is my escape route…

Here we go, lots of dreamy G notes and exotic birdy sounds.

‘Naku penda piya-naku taka piya- mpenziwe’

Does that mean something? Sounds a bit silly.

Ooh, I know, maybe it’s Liberian. Where’s Liberia? I hate Geography.

Definitely hot; you can’t wear leather there. Or white gloves.

‘Liberian girl…

You came and you changed my world’

Here’s the slow beat, here’s Michael. He’s smitten. She’s done lots of changing, this girl. Maybe she gave him Bubbles. And coconut hair oil.

Now the second verse and – what a treat!- a key change so soon. Normally you have to wait until the end of a song for that.

Plus- Double Fantastic!- Michael’s splitting himself into two, high and low.

She can’t doubt his feelings now, with the oral pincer bonanza.

‘More precious than any pearl’

Gosh, I’d love to be more precious than that. Will I be one day? Not to any of the boys at the school dances; they wouldn’t understand.

Now she’s asking if he loves her and he says it out loud: ‘Endlessly’.

ENDLESSLY.

Oh, Michael, I think I love you like that. Your voice isn’t very masculine but that’s O.K., that’s Motown.

‘You kiss me then,

Ooh, the world,

You do this to me’

Michael, I’m here! On the top bunk in Kirkby Lonsdale.

I’m wearing my froggy nightie but I’ll be a woman soon.

I’ve already been sick on alcohol!

And she’s still changing his world and now he’s changing hers back and when he tells her he loves her this time the notes aren’t descending, they’re rising, and he can’t suppress it! Out to the hot night sky! He’s mad for the girl!

‘All the time!’

And now multiple Michaels. All over the place. You can’t stop them.

Singing ‘Girl’ and ‘I want you baby’ and all the loving stuff.

She must be thrilled. I am and he’s not even talking to me…

Press rewind. All over again. Maybe 3 more times.

I’m there, I’m there.

Batteries sound drunk. Press pause.

Listen to see if my sexually-precocious room-mates have finished talking about doing unspeakable things to boys.

Yes, they have. Walkman away. Time to dream.

On a beach in paradise with Michael Jackson moonwalking back to me.

‘Just like in the movies’…

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Blissfully Naff from Hammersmith

Dear Auntie Soph,

How right you were.

I’m so naff I could marry Geri Halliwell at a Sandals Resort.

Not too-naff-for-Hoxton but properly white Ugg boot naff- right to the tips of my highlighted hair.

I feel like I’ve been trapped in some kind of hellish media-world merry-go-round and you’ve come along and set me free.

Everything about me was a lie (apart from my thing for karaoke, which friends thought was ironic but wasn’t).

I’m out and proud and being slightly too friendly to cool people.

I’m telling them that I like white bread.

Not hunks of thick-crusted rosemary and walnut bloomer but thick-cut Sunblest slices with iceberg lettuce in the middle. And malt vinegar.

I’m rubbing their eye-shadow free faces in my French manicures and taking mail-order catalogue gifts to their ‘kitchen suppers’, with a bunch of garage flowers.

Before your letter I was ashamed to say three little words. Now I’m prepared to shout ‘Malibu and Pineapple!’ from the back of the Eight Bar.

I love Dale Winton, roller-blading and yellow sports cars.

I think Mr Bean is comic dynamite.

Plus I’m going to let my parents stay with me and leave the house in daylight. They’re not as naff as me but they are old and unsightly.

Gastropubs are arse.

If you want the truth, lentils make me gag.

I crave breaded mushrooms at a Harvester.

And if it’s my birthday I want them to turn the lights off and for the whole restaurant to sing to me over a Viennetta with sparklers in it.

Don’t give me a glass of dry white wine, for crying out loud.

I want it sweet and I want a bottle. Wearing a dinner jacket wine-cooler.

And at Christmas you can ***k off with your Jo Malone.

I want a perfume gift set from BHS and tickets to see Gareth Gates. In anything.

Today in Waterstones I bought a copy of ‘Girl Power’ when I was waiting at the desk to pay for Kerry Katona’s autobiography.

I’ve enclosed it for you to sign (remember to dot your ‘i’ with a little heart).

Love and hugs,

Blissfully Naff from Hammersmith xoxoxox

*

Dear Blissfully Naff from Hammersmith,

Please stop writing to me.

Auntie Soph

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