Black to the future: science fiction writer Tananarive Due talks about afrofuturism and why it’s important.
Whoa. Nostalgia. Back when I was a young metalhead, in the long ago days of the late eighties/early nineties, every Tuesday night I would listen to the one radio show that actually played metal, Vara’s Vuurwerk, presented by Dutch singer and media personality Henk Westbroek, with occasional guest presenting by the network’s big boss Marcel van Dam. Hearing that jingle for the first time in years brings back memories, especially of the programme’s annual Top Fifty Metal Songs, broadcast over Christmas and chosen by the listeners. The 1990 edition especially, extended to 65 songs because that was the network’s 65th anniversary year, molded a lot of my tastes in metal. Now, thanks to some enterprising soul, a selection of Vuurwerk programmes, mostly from 1987 but with excerpts from that 1990 list, are available on Grooveshark.
Robert Wyatt talks to the Grauniad about the Soundtrack of his Life:
When I’m not watching Russia Today, obviously, I’m watching pop TV. Even my son’s embarrassed by the infantilism of my tastes, but there’s some good stuff out there now. Pharrell Williams’s Happy– that’s absolutely fucking knockout. Williams is as good as any 60s soul singer and the song is brilliantly put together. It’s a great drum track, and there are only four chords or so, but they’re just enough. It’s really subtly done, absolutely spot-on. My granddaughter tells me I should totally disapprove of that other song he did, though. With someone else… something lines? Blurred Lines! That’s the one. Take it from me that I don’t like that one at all.
Cult prog rock hero, Robert Wyatt was of course one of the founders of Soft Machine as well as part of ur-Canterbury group the Wylde Flowers before that. He has the sort of sense of humour that left him to call his own group after leaving the Softs Matching Moles, as a pun or play of words by way of the French Machine Molle. Not to mention calling his first solo album after having become paralysed from the waist down after a nasty fal out of a window dead drunk, “Rock Bottom”. That sort of humour explains why his one and only brush with hitdom was with a Monkees’ cover:
There was a bit of mischief there, too. I didn’t like the fact that hierarchies had developed between what people thought was “serious” rock music and pop music– that was all rubbish. I was very uncomfortable with that. That was exactly the kind of situation I thought our generation had got rid of. I’ve always admired pop music, because I think it’s the modern post-industrial folk music. Everybody can join in, you don’t have to be a specialist. You can sing along with it. But there’s not much room in pop music for all the things I want to do. It’s a bit like food: I like all kinds of interesting food, but in the end, I can just sit down with an egg sandwich and really feel great.
Wyatt actually reminds me a lot of Alan Moore, carving out a similar uncompromising career in writing and with some of the same concerns and interests in magic and parascience, as well as magnificent bushy beards. In Wyatt’s case, there’s pataphysics:
Wyatt was introduced to ‘pataphysics in 1967, when Soft Machine—already established, alongside Pink Floyd, as darlings of the London underground scene, and about to tour the States with the Jimi Hendrix Experience—performed a live soundtrack to Ubu Enchaîné at the Edinburgh Festival. By the time of their second album, Wyatt was introducing the band as “the official orchestra of the College of ‘Pataphysics,” going on to prove these credentials by singing the letters of the alphabet in reverse.
Though sometimes the idea of Wyatt’s music appeals more to me that actually listening to it, at his best he’s brilliant, both solo and with groups like Matching Mole:
I go round in circles
Not graceful, not like dancers
Not neatly, not like compass & pencil
More like a dog on a lead going mental
I’m still here, but yet I’m gone
I don’t play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you ’til the end
You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna to miss you.
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is Glen Campbell latest and last ever song. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease back in 2011, he embarked on his farewell tour which finished 2012. Now checked into a long term Alzheimer’s care facility, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is his farewell song to his wife in the knowledge that the disease is taking away his memories of her.
Not a video you can finish with dry eyes.
Most polite version ever?
Paul Rooney – Lucy Over Lancashire.
Part one in what may become a series. Way back in the stone ages, or the eighties as it was know at the time, the movie footage videoclip became a common way to both promote a movie and provide a band with a cheap videoclip. For many of us growing up that time who were too young or lacked the opportunity to catch these movies in the cinema, these clips were the only way in which we saw some of the eighties’ biggest movies. And often once you did watch them, they were nowhere near as good as the video. Case in point, The Falcon and the Snowman, late Cold War spy thriller that never lived up to the promise of its melancholy Bowie theme song.
Current musical obsession fed by listening to to much 6music in the early afternoon.
Back in February, The Grauniad had Gary Numan look back at how he wrote Are ‘Friends’ Electric and what it meant:
All my early songs were about being alone or misunderstood. As a teenager, I’d been sent to a child psychiatrist and put on medication. I had Asperger’s and saw the world differently. I immersed myself in sci-fi writers: Philip K Dick, JG Ballard. The lyrics came from short stories I’d written about what London would be like in 30 years. These machines – “friends” – come to the door. They supply services of various kinds, but your neighbours never know what they really are since they look human. The one in the song is a prostitute, hence the inverted commas. It was released in May 1979 and sold a million copies. I had a No 1 single with a song about a robot prostitute and no one knew.
Of course now it is thirty years later and while its vision of the future never quite came to pass, it still sounds as futuristic and chilling as it must’ve done in 1979. That both Ballard and Dick were influences on Numan doesn’t come as a surprise; it’s clear from the music.
Bonus: Nine Inch Nails invites Numan up on stage for Cars.