Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Play the record - just play the record

I found an old Stooges CD this weekend – stuffed in a draw – it was Funhouse. All that energy tucked inside a draw. Is this how my children will discover sounds – in draws on scratched CDs or mini-discs piled up in boxes shoved at the back of a cupboard? Or the record boxes in the garage – or on USBs - or even on soundcloud as we remix the oldies and throw them up for the youth.

Actually don’t get me wrong I think Soundcloud is wonderful – there are talents and possibilities now. It’s not looking for a drummer amongst four friends or having someone in your band who has a perm and thinks that’s alright – it is a remix – reload and re-present in the most open way. You don’t form bands down your street you run rings around the world.

I chance upon sounds these days. I don’t actively search. I read about them but I never go and search them out like I used to. I guess I’m not as immersed [bothered] in the same way – don’t have the time to be honest.

I look at all that vinyl taking up space in my house [and my life] and wonder – like the books on the shelves will I ever get round to listening to or reading it again? And then I think how will they discover it – not through shops and racks but downloads and apps. They will look at the covers and type in the tunes.

Never listening to the full album as it stands – as it is presented.

There was a time when you would wait for a record’s release – a journey in and a journey out of town – not knowing whether they had it or not. And then purchased and placed in plastic and carried round town – if there were other visits to make –to the market, the library or possibly Fosters for a new t-shirt. And then later in the small shop fronts with different postcodes shopping uptown in Ladbroke Grove or centrally in Covent Garden. New releases and racks upon racks of records.

The act of playing a record - of watching it revolve is both comforting and pricked with anticipation. Have your heroes lived up to your expectations? I was going to write a line about pop stars never being my heroes and then I remembered the long list of names and styles I have followed and appropriated over the years. I am currently devoting much time and energy to the mid 1970s Brian went to bed look. There are hundreds of these moments to mine – I think getting The Queen is Dead by The Smiths was a big un – all gatefold sleeve and grandiosity. From the opening chants to take me back to dear old blighty to the closing guitar refrain from Marr as we discovered that some girls were bigger than others - this was a successful purchase from Record Village and would not be returned.

There’s a scene in Control – the film about Ian Curtis – in fact it’s the opening scene after the bit about all hope and ending an that – that’s a bit depressing innit? There’s Ian walking through the concrete jungle of Macclesfield – all flares and purpose. A record tucked tight under his arm. Aladdin Sane by Bowie sound tracking the colour in this dreary landscape. But that was it – the impact of the 12inch piece of plastic. As Curtis takes his drag on cigarette laid on his bed as Bowie plays in his room – it’s clear he’s thinking. And all those grooves can make you think. Perhaps music doesn’t much these days – for me. It might for you. That scene, it taps into the power of the record – right there. I’ve said it before and I will continue to write it down. Immersing yourself in sound should be through conscious choice not passive and futile in its approach.

Turn the fucking radio off.

But I was reading about the Kaiser Chiefs all future technologies and that – you know come down our shop and pick a few tunes – you take the effort to make the album because we can’t be bothered. We can’t make decisions like you. So choose your top ten songs from the twenty or so on offer and we’ll throw in a cover so you can recognise it on the ipod.

And then the listening experience becomes removed from everybody else. Because Frankly Mr Shankly will not end and I know it’s Over begin. Because I put it in a different order – I bought different songs to you - in fact my The Queen is Dead opens with Panic.

So it will be odd to witness the ways they listen – because when I was growing up the world wouldn’t listen – well not to our tunes – our selections. The Clouds didn’t get a TOTP performance – nor BMX Bandits. But I was meant to be discussing the ways in which the whole experience of listening is caught up in the grooves of the vinyl – the breaks in between before the sound surges and wraps itself around the room. For every pulsating hit record comes the filler - side two of Parklife anybody? So what if you don’t return to it or you lift the needle and pass it by – you know it’s there. That song you didn’t quite like – but you might find it again – you might stumble on it and suddenly there’s a whole open road ahead – it happened with The Beach Boys for me. I had purchased a straightforward sounds of the sixties Beach Boys compilation, by its very nature it should have been the hits anyway – all killer – no filler. Yet once played it sounded weak, light and conservative. I wasn’t dazzled by the production, the harmony – none of it. Then a chance suggestion and a purchase of the Pet Sounds led to discovery and returning and retuning my ears to listen again – listen with brother.

And I’m not certain that those non single tunes will ever be listened to in the ways they were meant to be. Sometimes you have to make the effort to break on through to the other side. I once met a man – the owner of Glendevon Enterprises – on Broadway in Ashby. A place that has resisted change so much that even its shoppers rock a seventies look. Glendevon Enterprises is no more. He must have sold up, taken the Alsatian out the cot and dropped all the rot in a skip. It was a tantalising, illicit sort of place – all books and fag ends, electrics and magazines deep in the back – on a rack. Paul and I would go there and sell stuff – to make up the coppers for the records we wanted – selling this and that for £8 or a fiver. He ripped us off – it was daunting in there. But he liked his tunes and he told us – with a serious look on his face and no twinkle in his eye that he was saving the second side of Dark Side of the Moon for when he was truly depressed – because he marvelled at the majesty of the A-side and knew the B-side could bring him down from the ledge. Paul and I thought he was a daft fucker for missing out – you know - what if he died without listening to it. But there lies the power of all the songs on a long player.

The bands put them on for a reason.

They at least made the effort – so I think it’s worth a listen.

Not something to be skipped over because it wasn’t a hit. So getting back to that Stooges CD – Funhouse. I hope that at some point when Constance is digging through the crates and she comes across it – she doesn’t just skim over it. Rather she has a listen in full. Gives it a go. Like we had to and not resort to typing the stooges into a itunes and picking the hits.

Saying that did the Stooges really have any hits?

I’m not saying that there isn’t a whole heap of filler on the slabs of plastic in my house. But I do think I’ve given them a fair chance. That’s all I’m saying – give them a chance.

Here’s to the songs that follow the singles.

Loose The Stooges – coming after the single Down on the Street. It’s the second song on Funhouse.