Thursday, 25 August 2011

A Moody Blue Cad And A Red Jeff Lynne

There seems to be a glut of bands from the USA and Canada featured on this blog with enviable facial hair. Outside the United States you have to look to the Middle East for comparably moustache-centric nations. Indeed, some of the skirmishes during the Gulf War must have resembled particularly bloody disagreements at a Freddie Mercury fan convention. Sure, the British did face fuzz back in the 1970s, but often in a restrained, university lecturer style: more a case of failing to shave than consciously and creatively fashioning a chin or lip coiffure. Of course, there were some notable exceptions: the awe-inspiring sideburns clinging to the fizzogs of Slade's Noddy Holder and Trevor Bolder in his Spiders From Mars days have few serious rivals and the magnificent Moody Blues have done much to champion the Victorian cad and bounder 'look'. Mike Pinder in particular looks as if he was born to wear a Royal Hussars jacket and make inappropriate comments to your sister about the turn of her ankle beneath her crinoline dress.

Bodice Rippers

 I am delighted to have found a record in my collection by a band from the former East Germany whose cover seems to suggest that the lure of the lip duvet managed to penetrate the Iron Curtain.

Short-lived Zappa/Lynne Supergroup

 Not only is one member of Puhdys sporting a Barnet and nose-doormat combination that surely infringes Jeff Lynne's copyright, but he is doing so back in 1979 when Jeff's white 'fro look was at its zenith. They had to buy their Levis on the black market and had no choice but to eat boiled cabbage and potatoes at every meal, but, somehow or other, the East Germans were hip to the styles being sported by all the cool English kids back in '79.

10 Wilde Jahre (10 Crazy Years) contains one superb track, Ikarus II, which sounds like Hank Marvin jamming with a Space-Prog Boogie band. The remainder of the LP is unadulterated rubbish having more than a whiff of the bierkeller about it. Despite the absence of a brass band, there is something a tad 'oompah' about the rest of the tracks, as if the musicians are unable to free themselves from the malignant influence of the traditional German music that seeped into their collective subconscious in their formative years. It's comparable to an English guy going to a rave and finding that despite his best efforts he can't dance without waving a handkerchief and jingling a set of ankle bells because he was exposed to morris men as a child. I'm sure there are men with heroic mullets, bum-fluff moustaches and stone-wash jeans who, when they're not listening to David Hasselhoff CDs, get off on this 'oompah' rock, but it does nothing for me. Ikarus II on the other hand...

Monday, 15 August 2011

London's Burning: The Day The Music Died

Now that the fires have been put out and the big clean up has begun, the less immediately obvious effects of the riots that hit London last week are becoming apparent. Because a bunch of selfish dickheads couldn't do what the rest of us do when we want a new plasma television (that is, save up for one or do without), innocent people have lost their homes, their livelihoods and even, in some cases, their lives. How many of the morons who thought they were fighting capitalism by burning down the Sony warehouse in Enfield, North London, gave a moment's thought to the consequences of their actions? As it turns out, that warehouse contained the entire stock, both CDs and vinyl, of as many as one hundred independent record labels for whom Sony acts as distributor. There are rumours that many of these labels also used the warehouse to store their master tapes, so many recordings will be lost forever. Most of these independent labels are run on a shoestring and have no chance of surviving a catastrophe like this. Congratulations scumbags, in one fell swoop you've managed to kill off one hundred small, struggling businesses and left hundreds of bands without a label and without hope. Yeah, you really stuck it to the man! We know who to blame when there are no more independent labels left to release challenging, edgy, non-mainstream music. Let's face it, the ultra-cautious major labels aren't going to take a chance on anything that can't be stacked high and sold alongside the other landfill-bound tat in Tesco. Welcome to a world of nothing but lowest common denominator X-Factor dross. I ardently hope that the geniuses that torched the Sony warehouse are among those who have been kicked out of their council houses as a result of their crimes: good luck trying to find somewhere to plug in your stolen 52" plasma TV when you're living in a cardboard box.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Warp Cure Update

My attempt at rectifying the warps in my LPs failed miserably. Back to the drawing board. Arse!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Too Fast For Love, Too Warped To Play

A couple of weekends back Mrs Shelf-Stacker and I, accompanied by our very good friends Mr and Mrs Wurzel, attended the second annual High Voltage Festival in London's East End. And what a weekend!

...and the crowd went mild...!

It's always a relief not to be the oldest face in the crowd but, at the same time, it's great to see 'the kids' being well represented at an event like this. A healthy proportion of teens and twenty-somethings in attendance will help High Voltage to avoid becoming one of those cosy, nostalgia-fests that verges on necrophilia, with decrepit punters drooling over coffin-dodger bands. Having said that, I was determined not to let my dodgy knee get in the way of going crazy-ape-bonkers to bus pass-eligible headliners, Judas Priest. It's thirty years since I first saw them 'live' and they never disappoint. They're utterly ridiculous of course, but I don't want to stroke my chin, congratulate myself on my intellectual superiority and be preached to when I watch a band: I want to throw the devil's horns in the air, and sing really badly at the top of my voice. As Mrs Shelf-Stacker always says, she hates bands with a message, unless the message happens to be "Rock 'n' Roll All Night And Party Every Day". She is a woman of simple tastes.

How Metal?

So what's any of this got to do with vinyl then? Well, around the festival site were a number of stalls selling music: plenty of the devil's coasters of course, but a very healthy selection of vinyl LPs too. I'm not one to pass up the opportunity to add to my collection, but the thought of carrying a bunch of records around when I could have a pint of Hobgoblin in one hand and an organic courgette flower and pheasant wrap in the other just did not appeal. I was however delighted to see that many of the bands playing at the festival had their albums available to buy on vinyl alongside a not insignificant number of those very sexy 180 gram vinyl re-issues of obscure prog and proto-metal bands' efforts from the Sixties and Seventies. Even better, loads of people were flicking through the vinyl troughs. Better still, many of them were punters young enough to have bought their first ever album as a download. Best of all, they were actually purchasing the LPs, not just looking at them and trying to work out how the hell these weird looking CDs would ever fit in the little drawer on the side of their laptops. I did however find myself wondering how many of these LPs would be as warped as a Gary Glitter theme park by the end of, what was, a very warm weekend. I was particularly concerned for the LPs that were held aloft in the crowd as some sort of a show of loyalty or as an attention seeking device: look over here, I'm waving a brand new, sealed and quite possibly wavey-edged LP at you while you're up there rocking in the blazing sunshine. Can't you see what an Über-fan I am?

All is not necessarily lost for those over-exuberant festival punters' records. Today, with the thermometer pushing 30°C and with a number of warped LPs that I hope to restore to flatness, I have decided to conduct an experiment. To that end I have placed warped copies of The Hits Of Edwin Starr and Canadian band Sheriff's eponymous and only album between two panes of glass weighted down with bricks and left them in the sun for it to do its worst. I'm hoping that the heat of the sun will soften the vinyl which will then be sufficently malleable to be squeezed flat by the weight of the bricks on the glass. All I have to do is wait for the records to cool down when the sun sets and, Bob's your uncle! Well, that's the theory.

What did you do today, darling?

Incidentally, the Thomas The Tank Engine sandpit on which the whole shebang is resting is probably not essential to a successful outcome, so don't worry if you don't have one. I'll let you know how things turn out.