Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's V97...

V97. Not my first festival, but I still had an aversion to camping at this point, so took advantage of the much missed Argon Events coach to the Saturday date in dirty Leeds. In retrospect, this was madness as the Sunday was pretty good (pretty good? Daft Punk! Beck! Foo Fighters! Placebo! No Way Sis! Ahem...) but I was really only going because I wanted to see Blur again if I'm honest. In those days the northern leg of the V Festival wasn't really settled, starting the previous year in Warrington's Victoria Park, but as that was a bit tiny, so they shifted it across the Pennines to the vast grounds of a stately home at Temple Newsam just outside Leeds (where the Leeds Festival is now held yearly). The V Festival is now seemingly enshrined in it's northern-ish home at Weston Park near Shifnal.

Look at the bloody price. £28.50!!! That is mental. To think the price now in 2014 for a day ticket is £89.00 before booking fees and other sundry charges. Still, the value depends on what you're seeing that day. What exactly did I have to look forward to? On paper, lots, but as ever with these bloody things, acts on various stages overlapped and you'd never get to see everything you wanted, but might see some bands you'd rather have not. Hence the headline standoff between Blur, The Chemical Brothers and Ash. Well it had to be Blur, obviously, that's the reason I came. Ash were, judging on past experience seeing them live on the tellly, what they call in the business as "ropey". Tim Wheeler's singing was always a bit weedy, so despite loving their singles I'd give them a miss. It would have been good to see the Chems live, but a choice had to be made.

The rest of the bill though was, looking back, bloody average. having got there a bit late I managed to avoid non-league AC Acoustics and Linoleum, and being mad into what they called "Britpop" back in the day (and what a damning tag that was to become) watched a bit of bottom of the bill Division Two popsters The Supernaturals. You remember them. Of course you do. (Tumbleweed moment). They had a hit with the annoying "Smile", which was used in an advert for the bank Smile.co.uk. Which I'm shocked to find is still going. Anyway they were passable, and I always had a soft spot for "The Day Before Yesterday's Man", and their later single "Sheffield Song".

Next up was a trot over to the NME stage. I say a trot, it seemed like fucking miles. This was when I first began to realize I needed to factor in the walking between stages in my timing, plus stop offs for overpriced beer and giant Yorkshire Puddings. Don't remember anything about Symposium or Silver Sun, and I think it might have started raining along the way so there was a quick nip in to see Jimi Tenor in the Musik Magazine/Virgin Hi-Energy Dance Tent. Just to keep dry. Virgin Hi-Energy was some sort of drink if I remember, and Musik Magazine was a rival to Mixmag. Both those none-more-90's products are long gone, as is the memory whether Tenor was any good or not. Poor the Jimi.

So having had an ice cream it was time to venture out over to the NME Stage for Yorkshire's own Embrace. The band that wanted Oasis's crown. Alas, they had fantastic songs, but Tim Wheeler-disease afflicted singer Danny McNamara as he couldn't hold a tune in a bucket. At that point I may add - I've seen the band many times since and the singer has improved immensely, and the fact that they've just released a new excellent EP earlier this year after a long lay off proves they have some fire after all this time. Still, despite the bad singing Embrace had the crowd on their side, and with songs like "All You Good Good People" and "One Big Family" you can't go wrong.

Now Teenage Fanclub weren't playing, despite what the billing says. And I wasn't bothered about Pavement despite Blur's endorsement. So it must have been Monaco I'd watched next. And I was down the front for them. Being a long time New Order fan, going to see Peter Hook's new band was a no-brainer. I'd seen them that year in Manchester where they were great, and I really liked their debut album "Music For Pleasure". Don't think they won the crowd over but I was happy. No New Order or Joy Division tracks played though. Booo.

Fortunately watching Monaco led to me missing the likes of Reef and Dodgy. Ah, what was it about one word band names in the mid 90's? And why were the majority of them crap? However, I digress. The awful scheduling meant in order to get a good position for Blur, I'd have to miss The Divine Comedy as I'd have to trek back over to the main stage, thus also missing Mansun who I liked a bit. Bah. This also meant stumbling upon the latter half of the Kula Shaker set, who were on before Blur. Now Kula Shaker and I didn't fully get on. Yeah, "Govinda" and "Tattva" were quite good, and anybody who doesn't like their cover of "Hush" is a bit suspect in my book.

But their debut album wasn't all that if we're going to be honest, and lead singer Crispin Mills had one of those faces I could never tire of slapping. His ill-advised comments about swastikas that year didn't help in that respect. So I stood stony faced through 20 minutes of their self indulgent rock wankouts whilst the sun dropped behind us. Ironically, some years later at one of the later V festivals, they were low down on the bill, and sounded great - unfortunately never got to see them as we were just making our way in to the festival site that day, and could only hear them wafting across from the stage on the other side of the fence. Ah well.

Blur were as ever, magnificent. This was the first time I'd seen them playing anything off their most recent album, the eponymous "Blur", and from the opening notes of the recent number one single "Beetlebum", they could do no wrong. I've seen them seven times and never experienced a duff performance.  It wasn't exactly a safe setlist though, with many album tracks getting an airing. I suppose it says a lot about how popular they were at this point that these tracks were as well received as the singles.

Look at this setlist:

Beetlebum / Stereotypes / There's No Other Way / Movin' On / Globe Alone / M.O.R. / Country Sad Ballad Man / To The End / Popscene / Chinese Bombs / Advert / Bank Holiday / Girls & Boys / Death Of A Party / The Universal / Theme From Retro / On Your Own / I'm Just A Killer For Your Love / Coping / Country House / Parklife / For Tomorrow / Song 2 / Sing

Pretty much perfect. Plus the return of "Sing" to the setlist, long forgotten until Danny Boyle resurrected it to maximum effect in his movie "Trainspotting" the previous year. And of course crowd pleasing double bill of "Country House" and "Parklife".

Here's a gig of their's from the same year.

They think it's all over... but no. Blur's set ended at 11.00pm, but over on the NME stage, Ash were still playing. So it was only fair to give them a go, and traipsing off I went to the other field, where I could here the dulcet tones of Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy singing... He'd come onstage with Ash to give his own unique take on their hit single "Oh Yeah". Which was... interesting. But it rounded the day off nicely. 

A quick stop off at the t-shirt stall on the way back to the coach and that was my first V experience over. not bad all in all. I might go back the following year, I thought. 

But that's another post entirely.

About a Ticket

Twenty years ago this week I received this letter. It was from the box office manager of Manchester's G-MEX Centre, politely informing me that a gig I was going to on the 27th of March had been rescheduled to the 15th of April. Fair enough, you might say. Nothing strange about that. These days you'd get an email or tweet about that sort of thing.

This wasn't any old gig though. This was Nirvana.

It wasn't as if I wasn't expecting it to be postponed. Even in the pre-internet days, news travelled pretty fast, and the world was quickly aware that the band's iconic lead singer Kurt Cobain had overdosed in Italy on March 3rd. The rest of the tour actually had been cancelled a few days earlier as Cobain's voice had given out, but he was also suffering from severe depression at the time. After his wife, Courtney Love joined him in Rome, unbeknownst to her, he took 50 pills of Rohypnol, mixed with food and alcohol. Hospital and a stomach pump beckoned. Press reports at the time say it was accidental, but Love's own statements since show that this was far from being an accident.

There was doubt about whether the UK leg of the tour would ever happen. This would have been Nirvana's biggest tour here. They'd graduated on the back of the worldwide success of 1991's "Nevermind" album to playing bigger venues, and G-MEX was at that time one of the UK's largest and most successful venues, despite being basically a big shed. Their 1993 follow up album, "In Utero", whilst less immediate and commercially successful than it's predecessor, wasn't an artistic disappointment in any way, with it's increasingly bleak lyrical outlook and subject matter. In some ways it was a true reflection of Cobain's state of mind at the time. The trappings and pressures of success didn't sit easy with him.His mental health had been a concern for a while, and the nearer it got to the European dates of the tour, the less likely it sounded we would get to see the band, bearing in mind the many rumours that were flying around.

And so in Italy he accidentally/deliberately overdosed. Now this is not the sort of thing you'd expect someone to get over within a month. I mean, it's not as if it was just flu he was recovering from. But despite the reassurance of press releases from the likes of his record company that the band would be playing the rescheduled dates, something told me that I wouldn't be seeing Nirvana on the 15th of April. I was proven right, unfortunately. Cobain, as we all know, took his own life on the 5th of April 1994.

I never did get a refund on the ticket. I couldn't find it in myself to return it to the G-Mex for my money back, it didn't seem right somehow. It was the right decision.

Nirvana's legacy lives on. Unfortunately it partly lives on in the form of band t-shirts sold in Primark to people who haven't a clue who Kurt Cobain was. Still, I suppose if just one person goes onto iTunes and checks out their music after buying the shirt, that's something.

Isn't it? I'm trying to convince myself.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Not Old... Retro's Babe of the Day: Erin Gray

Biddy biddy biddy. Yep, September 1980 brought delights to young kids in the form of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on ITV, and a sudden interest in Saturday night sci-fi from older lads and dads. What? You think they were all watching for Twiki and a Aldi version of Lee Majors in the title role? Nope, Colonel Wilma Deering was the main interest, spandex leggings, silly helmets and all. And quite right. Didn't appreciate her at the time but it's amazing what you notice on the re-runs when you are older. Yes you realize it was actually a load of old crap but there's benefits. Such as Ms Gray. Yeah there was the scheming sex vamp Princess Ardala (right) played by Pamela Hensley but that was all a bit obvious. Wilma was where it was at. We all love an ice queen. And she's the reason why I remember the show fondly. Oh alright, and Twiki.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blackpool's Comedy Carpet

The Comedy Carpet, situated on Blackpool's promenade in front of the famous tower, is according to Gordon Young, it's creator, "a celebration of comedy on an extraordinary scale...referring to the work of more than 1,000 comedians and comedy writers, the carpet gives visual form to jokes, songs and catchphrases dating from the early days of variety to the present." Quite. It sounded a bit shit when first mooted and quite frankly, another waste of money by the Council but credit due, when you see it, either by day or night, it's quite a breathtaking, striking piece of art. And very amusing.

It's not a carpet as such. That would be crazy! Imagine the fluff and grit. And the hoovering of course. No, it's actually an intricately tiled area on the newly created Tower Headland, which, as you can see, you can walk on. To be honest, there's so much going on there that you could probably visit it several times and see something new on each occasion. It's quite gratifying as well that it's not just playing up to the idea of comedy in seaside resorts being just typical end of pier raucous Summer Season stuff, or old 50's comedians pedaling the same old gags. No, this truly does what it says on the tin. Ken Dodd next to Reeves and Mortimer, Python sharing space with Les Dawson, Carry On quotes mixed with Porridge. It's not often you find Chris Morris and Norman wisdom together is it? It treats funny then the same as funny now, with no boundaries, no distinctions.

Of course, one thing that, in years to come, will bind together visitors with a collective sense of non-plussedness is that there's no context given for the quotes. Unless you buy the guide book that is. You either know where it's from or you don't. Give it a few years and reading the carpet will be like watching Arthur Atkinson on "The Fast Show" doing his stupid catchphrases and not knowing what the hell the audience are laughing at. Which is funny in itself. I suppose "Where's Me Washboard?" isn't that far away from the Boosh doing a crimp about tasty soup. If you think about it, there are teenagers out there who think the "Father Ted" Christmas Special is just something that's always shown each yule, like we used to think about Morecambe and Wise specials. Brrrrr. Scary.

"I can't see any Horne and Corden quotes"
Of course it's highly ironic that the Council spend £2.6m on this, then realise it's too close to the trams and vandalize it on "Health and Safety" grounds without permission from the artists who created it in the first place, and who pointed out this design flaw at an early stage only to be told to "Carry on Regardless" by the same Council.

Top experts carefully remove the highly unsafe stones using delicate equipment
"Well done lads. now let's see if we can find another cock-up to fix." Anybody would think that someone on the council is deliberately trying to make work for certain building contractors who may or may not be rewarding them for doing so. I wouldn't think that of course.

The new improved Blackpool Council Version which now doesn't credit some of the comedians or writers, the artists themselves or Ken Dodd who formally opened it. Another winner.

Blackpool Borough Council - I bet any member couldn't find their own arse with both hands.

Despite this, it's still great. You can find more info on the map here: http://comedycarpet.co.uk/ and here's some of my pics of Gordon Young's brilliant designs...


Friday, February 8, 2013

Bring Back Alcopops!

Ahhh. Whatever happened to good old fashioned alcopop drinks? Hooch, Metz, Red Square, etc. Massive in the 90's, gone now, much like Heather Small's hair. Written out of history. I bloody loved them. The weirder, the better. I only mention it as I stumbled across this ad in an old magazine for one of my faves, Wild Brew, as seen in the advert above, and to your right. This contained guarana, so it was basically a vodka and Red Bull variation, just much better. By the way, what ever happened to those Cadbury's Boost bars, with the green wrapper that contained guarana? They were great. But I digress, and so soon as well. It apparently got banned because of a "marijuana type-leaf" on the bottle. Lame.

Of course, the one everybody remembers is Martini Metz, the schnapps drink. Bloody great that was. Just that sodding "Beware the Judderman, when the moon is fat" advert that freaked most people out. What were the marketing bods thinking here? And of course the later advert with a pre-Boosh Julian Barratt as a barman wearing an eyepatch banging on about the medical condition known "as a judder". I never felt the judder, but then again I was probably too pissed on disco vomit pop.

Nearly all of them went eventually, leaving the pathetic selection we've got today. Smirnoff Ice is possibly the classiest we get. All the others seemed to be aimed at people who live on council estates. WKD... I ask you.  Bloody hell. Of course the reason they were pulled was because it encouraged under aged drinkers, and the removal of such temptation from the shelves would help curb that worrying trend. Yeah, that worked didn't it?

Beware the Judderman...