Friday, August 29, 2008

When you're eight turning nine and rather green when it comes to all this, then "Seven Ages of Rock" has a purpose. It's Pop Music for Dummies watered down, now with 50 percent more mythology!, and without the 5,000-word foreword from Bono. "I filled the great holy void that Ian Curtis' untimely death created." Sorry, Bono -- Joy Division isn't mentioned in "Rock of Ages." Yeah, I checked.

Anyway, my oldest enjoyed it, blissfully unaware, naturally, of how the series packaged the history of pop music -- or in the case of the episode we watched, punk -- into nifty, toteable, timeworn anecdotes. Most of this imagery left iconic status long ago and is now approaching the cartoonish. If I caught one more shot of the dirt-encrusted Bowery with the Empire State Building teasing and gleaming in the background like some sort of sex toy gherkin . . .

Journalist: "I saw the Ramones play their first show. They did 12 songs in 16 minutes. Or maybe it was 16 songs in 12 minutes."

Glen Matlock: "John wore a T-shirt that said 'I hate Pink Floyd.'"

Johnny Lydon: "I had this Pink Floyd tee and I wrote 'I hate' on it. It was madness, really."

Mick Jones: "There was like, this row at a gig and we were like, 'We want in on that!'"

Journalist: "Yobs! The 'hole lot of 'em!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I put on a download from Frank Conakry's wonderful blog, Voodoo Funk: "Cooked from Scratch," which I discover contains C.K. Mann's "Funky Hi-Life," a rapidly ascending favorite of mine. I've gone and accumulated a summer's worth of soil in the cracks of my toes (the price of wearing flip-flops), so I slowly soak them in a foot spa. Happy feet bubbles, vintage African records from the 1970s -- only one thing is absent.

So I have a Boddingtons close by and when I open it, the beer spouts everywhere (as those magical widget cans so often do). I hold the pint can over the foot spa and the beer falls into the water. In no time at all my feet are cured. Something should occupy the eyes: The light at this end of the room is good and I'm re-reading The Sun Also Rises. Jake Barnes just got his knob polished. "Sent him for champagne. He loves to go for champagne." Then later: "Do you feel better, darling? Is the head any better?" "It's better."

It's a simple life, really, but we get on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sometimes 225 words just aren't enough. Further panning what needs to be panned further: In The Studio With Martin Hannett is a Joy Division legacy cash-grab that would make even Tony Wilson blush. Martin Hannett madness imagery is so threadbare it's nearly see-through; putting him in that pantheon of gone-crackers producers like Phil Spector and Brian Wilson is a sin against laziness. Even worse: Because Hannett was eccentric and daft and constantly making drummers take their kits apart for noise that only he heard!, we're led to believe his studio offcuts and engineering experiments are, I don't know, important to clutch and study. Sure, there's an alternate version of "Digital" that's so obviously Mancunian in the way it sounds recorded from the other end of a crumbling, red-brick railroad tunnel. And there's another track where Hannett noodles around with the broken glass we recall from "I Remember Nothing." But these aren't so much highlights, as much as they're mildly interesting, one-off material amid track after track of relative dross. In The Studio With Martin Hannett was touted as one of the most important Joy Division discoveries ever, which only leads me to believe that there's a special ring in Hell for label publicists.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You post a picture and attach very few words to it because you're undeniably lazy, or because the boss is extra demanding today, or because you've spent too much time weighing the merits of your nattily trimmed beard. But sometimes pictures need very few words, or in more rare cases, no words at all. And so you go searching for said pictures, partly intent on covering up your laziness, industriousness, beardiness, etc., but mostly intent on delivering some sort of bold pronouncement your words aren't qualified to make. This is one of those pictures. One night I listened to "Atmosphere" and stared at this photo, splashed across Paul Morley's book, and wondered if the step ladder needed to change the industrial bulbs in that dank tunnel would have been tall enough to tie a proper rope for a hanging. I often feel like only the most morbid of queries haunt the curious. Ian also pondered this in my company, but only after I had turned him off and gone to bed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he'd got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this 'other dimension.' That's what the song is about."

"And it stoned me to my soul / Stoned me just like jelly roll."

You don't take Bear Notch Road . . . (wait for it, Yakov) . . . it takes you. While the idling SUVs with green canoes strapped to the roofs teemed with unbuckled impatience, I hugged corners and my elation. But I didn't share my secret; while companions inched behind consumers, I drank local beer and debated internally whether Van forges stronger bonds while one is grounded or in transit. And we were all better for it.