Tuesday, 31 March 2009

How to write a Van Morrison song

(picture by Michael Romanos)
HIPPY MYSTIC and curmudgeonly 50s pop cultural warrior Van Morrison is rightly lauded as one of the finest songwriters of his generation or any other. A troubled Celtic troubadour locked in the fug of 1970s Northern California despite living in North Down for many years, his style is enigmatic and difficult to emulate. Or is it?

Strum malevolently... on a ukulele. A complex circular chord structure of C, F & G is the best framework.

It is vital to set up the essentially utopian nature of the past while establishing the essential Celtic nature of the piece, I suggest something like:
“Way back, back, back, way back/
Way back/ back in days gone by,

At this point add a reference to a semi-obscure jazz/ blues/ country figure whose American roots authenticity clashes with Celtic soul of the initial lamentation. Something like:
“When Big Joe Turner rumbled from the radio/
Woody and Wolf and Buck Wheat Zydeco

(Ignore the fact that Big Joe Turner, Woody Guthrie, Howling Wolf or Buckwheat ever, erupted from any Ulster Radio)

Now, despite the fact that the song has been sung in a mid-Atlantic drawl thus far, one needs now to insert a couple of geographically and colloquially specific Ulster references in a VERY thick East Belfast accent. Perhaps:
“I was eatin’ a pasty bap and Paris buns/
By the cinema down the Creggagh Road”

Another temporal reference (passing seasons, perhaps) and one more matriarchal reference, and it's nearly time for the chorus. Maybe:
“Now there’s brown leaves rustling in the trees/
I can still see mama’s bitter tears for me”

Move towards a self piteous lament for how crap it is being successful, but, most importantly, link all three previous factors utilised in the verse: reminiscence, Northern Ireland psycho-geography and perhaps a hippyish pop cultural reference.
Pay no attention to scan or syllable structure. Scat sing like a mother lover.

‘Not as good now as it was then (kick it)
Dharma Bums and Kerouac’s Zen (uh huh)
Flute bands and Woody Guthrie (C’mon)
Mama , mama, Lord, lord, lordy lord,
Why am I so lonely?’

Break now for a gratuitous harmonica and/or saxophone solo augmented by the most under valued but expensive session band money can buy.

Finish with a dash of Georgie Fame and/or Brian Kennedy harmony.

Repeat for 4mins 56secs

Sunday, 29 March 2009

You can make hope out of folding papers

The following brilliant piece by Peter Preston was in today's Observer

MEDIA GLOOM? It sometimes seems like a norovirus surging round Heston Blumenthal's kitchen. Great American papers cut salaries (on the New York Times) or slice away a third of their staff (in Atlanta). British groups, from Northcliffe to the Guardian's own regionals, announce hundreds more redundancies. Advertising falls off a cliff. Polly Toynbee and other mainstream columnists suddenly scent a hammer blow to democracy - and, in Polly's case, want local ratepayers to chip in and help out. We're between perfect storm and perfect panic. So there's nothing to do but calm down.
"Don't write off newspapers. They aren't finished," said Sly Bailey, CEO of Trinity Mirror, the other day. "This is absolutely not facing oblivion. We believe in the future of newspapers."
Well, she would say that, wouldn't she? She runs 140 or so titles around the UK - but she's closed 27 of them in the past 14 months, sold four more, and made 1,300 staff redundant. Ad revenue at Trinity plunged 30% in the first two months of 2009. And her share price - once the be-all-and-end-all for misty-eyed investors - has followed suit, from 314p to 25p over 12 months.
Yet she's not part of the rather long pundit queue crying doom via internet bloodbath. She's much more hopeful about real business and real recovery prospects - and she's not alone. Read the authoritative Pew Center annual report on the future of American journalism and you'll discover that "the death of newspapers is not imminent, despite news of bankruptcies and even some closures. The industry still took in roughly $38bn last year, and earned profits in double digits. Some 48m newspapers are sold everyday in the US. Even newspapers whose companies are in bankruptcy are profitable."
In short, Bailey - reminding us, along the way, that 140m newspapers are bought in the UK every week - is right to point out that there's a hell of a lot left. Better to analyse rather than wail.
High-profile papers closing? The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one total and one print-version casualty from 2009 thus far, also have one thing in common: they were both one of two papers in town. Denver still has the Post; Seattle still has the Times. And in San Francisco, despite the problems afflicting its Chronicle, Hearst is negotiating cost cuts, not closure. When you look at the victims on both sides of the Atlantic, you see a clear enough pattern.
Those 27 Trinity Mirror closures mostly affect third or second papers in their markets, too, many of them freesheets that couldn't keep an ad revenue stream flowing. Evening newspapers in the US are on their last legs, killed by different commuting patterns, deserted city centres and suburban traffic jams: nothing to do with the net. And many of the same imperatives increasingly apply in Britain.
Factor in simple changes in the way we live. Factor in 30% advertising revenue drops over two brutal months, and blame the crunch, not the net, for that, because web advertising is drooping, too. Factor in the mounds of debt that chains like Johnston Press have wrapped round their own necks, plus extraneous investments unhinged by recession. And what have you got?
Not death by the net, or salvation by the net, but something a little more complex. The really significant US news of the past few days, in fact, has been good, not bad: the purchase, after a year in limbo, of one of America's top 30 newspapers, the Union-Tribune in San Diego, bought by equity capitalists - and clearly bought cheap. Conclusion: print still has a price and is still worth buying if that price is right (which it hasn't been through 20 silly years). Now, as the price goes down, recovery prospects rise.
That won't prevent much evident pain and loss in print's shrinking ranks, but it will begin to rebalance perceptions. Is the 20-person website that now serves Seattle as a residual Post-Intelligencer up to snuff? No, it's thin and ordinary and - above all - short of reporting resource: it direly needs more of the 145 or so print journalists it couldn't afford to keep because average ad takings on the net are only 10% to 15% of what they remain on paper.
"We have an absolute belief in our print brands, but alongside a growing, profitable digital business," says Bailey. Crucially, she's talking not one or the other, but both: a transition of shared necessity. It isn't a future that will comfort those 1,300 who have lost their jobs; bitterness and blame inevitably flow free across recession's landscapes. But it is a future with evidence - not self-feeding hysteria - attached.

The myth about the death of newspapers

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

THIS brilliant video to some extent shows the lunacy of those in charge of running newspapers in the modern age and the human tragedy when one shuts down.
Let's start examining more closely the business model of newspaper chains hungrily sucking profits from still successful titles to pay executive bonuses while laying off journalists and crying wolf about the internet.
Let's look at the unsuccessful grand lies of centralised systems etc of the late 1990s and early 2000s which robbed us of cash which could have been used to ward off the current downturn.
Let us talk about the groups run mostly by people from weekly newspaper advertising departments who have no inherent belief in the contribution of editorial to what the insultingly call 'the product'.
Let's talk about how these groups have yet to go their staff to try and innovate in any way.
Let us talk about groups that are still fundamentally talking to their communities rather than having a conversation with them.
Let's look at the groups still looking to generate ad revenues from that one large print circulation rather than recognising the thousands of smaller overlapping communities the net offers us.
Let's get back to thinking of our readerships as valued, breathing, human communities with stories to tell rather than as demographics or potential figures on a ledger and then maybe we will fix this without closing any more papers.

A Twisted Love Story

gm_the wire_twisted love story gm_the wire_twisted love story Paddy

Click on full screen mode button in the top right hand corner of the SCRBD tool bar to read the page. This is an experiment, so please leave your comments and pass the address on to friends and get them to post their thoughts on this format.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


MDAH MJ Wire 3 Page Template_Layout 2 MDAH MJ Wire 3 Page Template_Layout 2 Paddy

I'm working on a project on integrating high quality print pages on to the net for work.
I know this needs work but let me know what you think anyway.
Click on the SCRBD full screen button in the top right and read from there.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

"All this to make a bedlam of adolescent noise"

A real life Mr Cholmondly Warner on the Burns electric guitar found by GM's Wellington, New Zealand bureau chief, Steve Perrin

The Wire: “There’s some shameful shit going on” The Wire and the death of journalism

IF THERE is one storyline that touches me deepest in The Wire, it is Series 5 where the systematic deconstruction of the Baltimore Sun’s influence in the city is facilitated by a management eager for prizes rather than ‘the truth’.
Attention grabbing stories, however spurious, badly researched and written, are lauded by senior management while job cuts see staff with extensive contact books and years of experience taking buy-outs.
Creator David Simon announces his intent with a fairly simplistic metaphor midway through the opening episode of the series.
As city editor Gus Haynes (pictured right, played by Clark Johnson), a former crime reporter turned desk man, comes back from a smoke he notices two editorial staff in the conference room watching a fire in West Baltimore.
He asks if either have called the crime reporter – neither have. His reply, “Who watches a fire? There’s some shameful shit going on round here,” gets to the heart of the meta-narrative that runs, often unseen, through all five series: corporate journalism is watching as itself - and the communities it is supposed to serve – are burning and dying.
Simon admitted at a talk with USC students (available on youtube.com) that it is a simplistic visual metaphor but he couldn’t help himself.
Perhaps the simplest of messages have the most power and by the end of The Wire we are left in no doubt about the complicity of the institution of journalism in the degradation of society by the other institutions of civil society.
It chimed with me when I first watched it because at the same time something similar was happening on the newspaper I last worked on.
Older staff with great contacts books were being let go, desk men and women who taught me how to maintain the spelling, stylistic and ethical standards of the paper were leaving for poorer newspapers, becoming PRs or taking redundancy. These were people who helped me grow-up (very quickly) and gave me the kinds of values Haynes instils in junior reporter Alma Gutierrez in series five.
The result now is that the newspaper I worked on is becoming a vessel for press releases.
In recent history that newspaper broke incredible stories of civic corruption thanks to the contacts of the council reporter. One of the most recent crime reporters has written an award winning expose of one of Europe’s biggest drug dealers who came from our city. He has, needless to say, left sometime ago feeling unloved and overlooked for senior jobs given to lickspittles with a tiny sliver of his talent and news sense.
The days of his kind of expertise are gone because it costs too much. As the outgoing crime reporter says in The Wire, it costs a whole lot less to put out a poor newspaper which no-one reads than trying to get a quality product on the streets.
The news hole is shrinking thanks to the internet and we have to do more with fewer staff.
Ironically, by commanding remaining staff to fill more pages with lifestyle nonsense, we have never said less journalistically in the history of our industry.
Through job cuts and redundancies we are literally rendering ourselves impotent journalistically while patting ourselves on the back for saving shareholders overheads. Nero is the obvious, clichéd parallel and I’m not good enough to ignore it.
There is little or no real analysis on the newspaper I worked on and less investigative reporting on hard news issues.
Poor (celebrity) columnists and their knee jerk reactions to trifling headline grabbing national stories are our puerile stock in trade now.
Communities we served are ignored largely because we have no-one of experience to get out and speak to them as it costs too much. We are in thrall of blogging about what we had for dinner rather than about what’s going on in the lives of the people who live in the areas we should have sworn to uphold.
If The Wire (Series 5) tells us anything, it is that the historic role of the regional newspaper as a watchdog on corruption and crime, civically, is dead.
It also shows us that management, hidebound by delivering cuts to satisfy share holders are, at best, unable to avert this catastrophe. Perhaps more pertinently, at worst, they are unwilling to thanks largely to self interest.
Man, I’d have loved to have worked for Gus Haynes, he’d have been a righteous dude to have gone into war with in conference. He’s the journalist we’d have all loved to have been.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Wire series 1 opener

THE WIRE, starting on BBC2 next Monday night, is a highly addictive dissection of the illusion of the US war on drugs.
Just like the corner boys punting their wares with words 'Get your WMD' or 'Pandemic, pandemic, get your pandemic' the creators constantly sell the explosiveness of their truth.
In The Wire, seemingly a mere cop show, the illusion of equality of opportunity hides the inevitability of failure from many sectors of African American and white working class society.
The Wire is about the systematic deconstruction of the myth of the 20th century American dream in the 21st. As creator David Simon told Simon Mayo months ago, it is about the two Americas that live parallel to each other.
Man, but you peoples who have never seen this programme before, I am so envious of the next few months you have on BBC2, but we'll be with you again, nonetheless.
This opener to Series 1 tells you all you need to know about politics and outlook of The Wire.

Primark Competition

I saw a competition on MSN win £3K to spend in Primark. Yep, three whole K.
How long would that take? Is there enough time in the world? How long would the queue be behind you in the Liverpool megastore?
Would it be physically possible to spend £3k in Primark and carry it home on the train? How big would your biceps be after that. How many hundreds of brown paper bags would you have after that?
What are the other hellish places to spend £3k in?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Billy Bragg: Now that's what I call protest songs Vol 1

Now this is how it's done on US network TV. What a way to lift yourself after a terrible day...

The Wire: A twisted love story to a city and its people

It's The Wire week on GM

If the underlying conceit of The Wire is essentially socialistic, that the venality and greed, in all its guises, of corporations, civic institutions and the drug trade is killing the city of Baltimore - then there is one burning high note.
That is the belief, of the creators and writers, in the spirit of the city and many of its inhabitants to be reborn.
The Wire is cynical in the truest form: it protests at how bad things are because it shows just how good they could they can be.
While many characters are brutalised and become almost feral in their pursuit of power, wealth and influence, at the core of the programme are a handful of shining beacons.
Among others, The Deacon (played by former real life heroin lord Little Melvin Williams), to the gangster-turned-boxing coach Cutty, to top cop Bunny Colvin and Miss Donnolly (assistant principal of Edward J. Tilghman Middle School) these characters are quixotic outposts of hope and belief in the human ability to change.
They mirror the work of Miss Ella who runs the nursery in the Wire’s HBO mini-series precursor, The Corner; community workers investing great bundles of emotion and optimism in the face or overwhelming disappointment.
In many ways the moral barometer of The Wire is Bubbles, played wonderfully by Andre Royo (pictured above right with Wire creator David Simon). He is a troubled but immensely likeable and intelligent junkie trapped in the all-consuming grip of drugs and their trade.
Bubbles may be a chronic drug addict but he has an acutely and righteously tuned moral compass which illustrates the wider complex morality at work in the programme. There is no real good and bad, just shades of whatever colours those vague concepts may be represented by.
It’s a terrible cliché, but, his prison is his addiction. The bridges that addiction has helped to burn with his family and the suffocating reach of drugs, both spiritually and geographically in Baltimore, conspire to offer him no obvious means of escape.
We watch Bubbles’ multiple bids for salvation from the abyss and they mirror Baltimore’s. We watch how cops, friends, outreach workers and reformed addicts reach out to him and how he reaches out to other addicts in a bid to leave this world.
It takes 60 hours of viewing to resolve itself, though, ultimately nothing is ever that morally simplistic in the world of The Wire.
It is nevertheless, addictive TV. Utterly compelling, vital and paradoxically, uplifting.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Wire: How to say everything by saying very little

You can discern everything about how good the writing in The Wire is by the fact that you can use the words fuck or motherfucker 38 times in a three minute period and still communicate beautifully. How many different emphases are there on these two words?

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Wire: A treasure of the modern age

GM is celebrating the news that the BBC has announced that it is to show all 60 hours of The Wire.

IN the last series of The Wire a routine in-joke repeats itself: editors ask reporters of the Baltimore Sun to examine the Dickensian nature of the education system and then homelessness problems of the city.
It's an in-joke between the creators and writers because the Dickensian nature of The Wire was one of the great praises sung of the show by critics exultantly reviewing early series.
They ultimately pointed to its often very gradually unfolding, novel-like plotting as the central pillar of its vast panoramic illustration of inner city Baltimore in decline.
It is the very novelistic, episodic nature The Wire that sets it apart and allowed it to achieve what many TV shows have either failed to do or just clean ignored - classic entertaining drama as a dense political treatise.
The only comparable example in Britain has been Our Friends in the North and even that is merely a super-charged mini series, albeit a bloody brilliant and era-defining one.
The Wire has a set of principle players augmented by many, many supporting members of an extraordinary ensemble, giving the drama an acute sense of place, community and time.
In many ways it mirrors the work of some of its key writers: the novelists Denis Lehane (Mystic River), Richard Price (Clockers) and perhaps most closely, the work of executive producer and crime writer, George Pelecanos (pictured above right with Wire creators Ed Burns and David Simon).
Each writer documents their places of birth, Lehane in Boston, Price Brooklyn and Pelecanos in Washington DC.
Pelecanos, a fellow resident of the Maryland suburb of Silver Springs with Simon, is the creator of several wonderful novels which document the decline of inner city DC from the 1940s through to the present.
The recurring set of characters in The Wire mirror the recurring neighbourhood characters in his Nick Stefanos and Derek Strange books.
Characters from different series often make brilliant cameos in other books which tickle the reader no end. But they act not merely as a post modern in-jokes, they also give a fictive but tangible representation of the living communities of Washington DC in the same way as happens in the West Baltimore of The Wire.
In The Wire, people live and die on the drug corners, they exit and re-enter the narrative often in different series.
We see people grow-up and fall victim, become rehabilitated and fall again and become brutalised by the harsh realities in the ghetto.
The Wire is epic, not in the way that Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Hammond describe some £300,000 super car, but in the sheer scope of its scale and sense of social purpose.
It is rightly called epic because it is on the heroic narratives of Greek drama and Russian fiction that it shamelessly styles itself.
What an aspiration for TV drama to have in the first place. But to achieve that ideal, and then some, makes it a treasure of this often trivial modern age.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A new high from Jon Stewart

If ya'all want to see how comedy can uncover the greatest problems in society, do a cheeky download of the Daily Show of March 12.
Host Jon Stewart invited on Jim Cramer of CNBC's Fast Money financial news magazine show and highlighted the network's complicity in the current global financial crisis.
Stewart is the greatest satirist in the world and, in short, ripped Cramer a new one. It was embarrassing how good Stewart was. He was simply awesome.
British comedy never has been, and never will be, this good because it doesn't have the balls, ability or aspiration to do this kind of public service.
More shame on us who pay the licence fee to get James Corden or Marcus Brigstocke.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Waters led project is a cut above the rest of Floyd


The Final Cut is the highly anticipated follow up to The Wall and what many regard as a low-grade b-side album, but this has to be the pinnacle of Pink Floyd’s catalogue. The opening track The Post War Dream lays the concept of the album out on the table, war, politics and grief.

Throughout the album bassist and songwriter Roger Waters' voice is the one that is heard while guitarist Dave Gilmour only delivers backing vocals on Not Now John> It was through this period when the two band leaders' strong personalities were clashing. Keyboardist and founding member Rick Wright was fired before the recording began and tension was high. Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason have said that they were in constant disagreement with Waters who was obsessed with being in control of everything.

And rightly so, as this may even be construed as a Waters solo album, which was performed by Pink Floyd. Many Floyd fans would rank this at the lowest in their list of greatest Floyd albums due to the creative control that Waters had over the album. But to others (including me) that’s exactly why this is their greatest work and why it does, in one disc, a much better job of what The Wall attempted to do in two.

The music itself is fairly simple if even basic, but it’s the simplicity that amplifies the effect of Gilmour’s solos and presence, or the feeling as the orchestra swells up and dissipates over us or when the saxophone rips out an emotional solo on a track like The Gunner's Dream.

The album is dripping with the theme of War, in particular the Falkland’s and WWII. The writing about Margaret Thatcher does little to hide Waters political and even moral stance on war as he writes about his late father who died in WWII and the others who died have died through war. Throughout the album Waters condemns war, and tyrants like some of the residents in The Fletcher Memorial Home.

The Final Cut is defiantly the most personal writing from Waters, the most tense and dramatic album they’ve ever put in a sleeve, and it’s this that reinforces the most effective and key element of its music, the lyrics. If you’re looking for something to truly listen to and absorb and appreciate then you will listen this, Waters' finest hour.

A guest contributor to GM: But beware he's writing about Floyd

I did a seminar on journalism the other day at my old school, Lismore Comprehensive in Craigavon, and was knocked out by the quality of the writing from everyone in the room.
So here is our first contributor, Mac geek and teenage Floyd theorist Matt Larkin. He's Waters Floyd too, not Sid Floyd and that's always controversial.

How do you write the great riffs of rock in words?

There are great riffs in pop music, but how do you write them in words? It's one of the eternal problems for rock journalists.

"Dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee"
There She Goes
The La's

"Do, do, do, dodo/ Do, do, do, dodo/ Do, do, do, dodo do/ chi chick, chi chick "
Blister on the Sun
Violent Femmes

Bah, bah, bah/ bah, bah/ bah, bah, bah
Smoke on the Water
Deep Purple

Any entries for Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division or She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult gratefully accepted

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Wire on terrestrial! At last everyone can see TV's highest achievement

The BBC has announced that it is to show all 60 Hours of The Wire spread across a number of weeks.

Those of us in the know, and that is hundreds of thousands of people in Britain with DVD box sets, are aware that is the greatest programme ever made for TV and could quite conceivably be the highest achievement in narrative cinema, if Dr Mark Kermode had not rendered this phrase a cliche.
The Wire is about the slow death of the American city told through the conventions of the cop show. The city is dying thanks to the drug economy and the venal greed of the institutions of society which turn a blind eye to the degeneration of Baltimore.
Politicians, the media, police and community leaders put self-interest first as the city they live in falls foul of the effects of crack cocaine and heroin addiction and all their attendant social ills.
The characterisation and acting are inspired. Brits Dominic West (above right) and Idris Elba play central figures Det Jimmy McNulty and drug lord Stringer Bell respectively. (Show creator David Simon has said: "Give them credit for playing these two very American characters.")
Michael K Williams and Andre Royo give stand-out performances as the principled non-cussing stick-up man Omar Little and Bubbles the troubled junkie respectively. Wendell Pierce as Det Bunk Moreland is absolutely flawless.
Most of these heroes are compromised in some way, some of the villains and anti-heroes are noble and virtuous at various points. It makes no apologies at killing off people you grow to love and it allows bastards to succeed. It is, in short, a lot like real life.
There are few happy endings and, in one case, something that could could have been an explosive and dynamic plot line was simply ignored without ever being mentioned again. (Bill Rawls and a bar is all I can say to avoid spoilers).
It has a great soundtrack of soul, rock and Baltimore hip-hop which only rarely penetrates the story when required.
The Wire, created by Simon and former Baltimore cop Ed Burns is a twisted love story to their city tied up in the form of a protest song about the inequalities in modern US society. Simon says that ultimately it is about how money and power route themselves into the American political system and how this effects the lives of 'ordinary' people.
It has balls and character and yanks you by the lapels, pulls you to its face and screams: "CARE ABOUT THESE PEOPLE, YOU BASTARDS."
Next week is The Wire week here on GM

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Top 5 pop musical Erics/ Ricks/ Daves/ Davids/ Joes

Can we come up with a list of the top 5 holders of individual christian names in rock?
Top 5 Erics
Eric B
Eric Clapton
Eric Bogle
... (fill as you will)

Top 5 Robs/Bobs
... (fill as you will)

Top 5 James/ Jims
... (fill as you will)

Top 5 Johns
Spencer (Blues Explosion)
... (fill as you will)

Top 5 Rock Michaels
Skinner (Streets)
Flowers (Pops)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Craigavon: The real story

Tonight's media has showed just how limited 24 hour news is in telling a story.
Some myths to be exploded:
1) According to the BBC reporter she was standing at the crime scene with a sprawling estate to her right. Ardowen (where we lived in 661 until 1979) is not sprawling, it's fairly average sized council (Housing Executive) estate.
2) Craigavon has been a hotbed of paramilitary/ drug violence. It is not and never was a hotbed of violence. Historically starved of cash (for feck's sake it was never finished) and like many new towns that have been ignored by the authorities, it has experienced problems with drugs and gangs recently. But it has never been a hotbed of anything other than perhaps Buckfast consumption.
Before the Peace Process there were relatively few incidents during the Troubles in Craigavon.
3)The British media has ignored Northern Ireland as a story for too long, its bipolar nature has ignored the problems that allow dissident Republicanism to exist. Nationals have been laying off NI stringers and not paid attention to areas like Craigavon, areas which have not drank at the well of the Peace Dividend to any great extent.
God help us, but Ken Maginnis is the voice of reason so far. Maybe that is a measure of how far we have moved.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Craigavon, my home

Maybe my blog, in its short history, hasn't been the place for overt politics, but it is tonight.
A policeman was shot dead in my home town of Craigavon tonight and I can't tell you how sad I am for him, his family and the area.
He was shot dead, doing his job, a mile from my parents' house in a housing development in fields around my school, Lismore, where I ran cross country and close to the pitches where I kicked points with our Martin and our cousins Eoin and Kieran the last time I was home.
He was assassinated near the school I'm going back to on Thursday, 18 years after I left, to give a seminar on journalism to 16-18 year old pupils.
This shooting has devastated the name of the wonderful place I grew up in and a wonderful place to go to school.
When I was growing up, Lismore was (and remains) a shining beacon of educational equality where you could achieve academically without going to many of the grammar schools that satellite Craigavon.
I would say that. My ma teaches at the school and I worked there at every level of staff from substitute teacher up to cleaning staff. My ma and da serve St Anthony's chapel as does my uncle Fergus and Auntie Pauline.
I still feel proud to represent Lismore and Craigavon every day of my life. It made me what I am. I feel ashamed to have run away from it and make a life elsewhere.
But much more than this, and contrary to news reports tonight, the Craigavon I grew up in was not a ghettoised place full of dissident Republicans.
In Drumgor Tavern, a mile from Lismore Manor, Prods and Taigs, Catholics and Protestants drank side-by-side. All the soccer teams I played for were mixed, the lads and women I served in the Goodyear Sports and Social Club were of mixed religious backgrounds.
Ultimately, this blog about Curtis Mayfield's bongo player or a Lloyd Cole lyric or a Bill Hicks punchline seems a trivial self indulgence full of complacency and hubris.
God bless him, whoever he was.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Bill Hicks: The Lost Hour

A 63 minute set by Bill Hicks from the weeks after his axing from the Letterman Show (see the first post in this blog) has seen the internet light of day.
Those very au fait with his final album Rant in E-Minor and the fact that he knows he is dying of pancreatic cancer, will recognise the cathartic score settling Hicks is indulging in. In this case, it's the Letterman show controversy itself.
It's not classic Hicks and is an often uncomfortable hour, you can clearly hear some groans and 'oh no's' as Hicks runs through his deeply felt upset.
There are, however, some brilliant lines - 'Gee, I don't know whether I can learn to juggle that quickly,' is one when he recounts being asked to come back on the show a fortnight later to do less controversial material.
Letterman has since aired a wonderful tribute to Hicks, including an interview with the comic's mum Mary (and a touchingly sincere apology for his own censorship).
Hicks' set is a much watered down version of the Rant... anti pro-life segment, but shows his ability to tailor material to an audience.
Also, who else has the class or chutzpah to successfully start a usually anodyne Letterman set with the punchline: 'Let's hunt and kill Billy Ray Cyrus?'

Have a look at both:
Hicks lost hour

Letterman apology

Hicks' Letterman set

The treasure trove that is Lord Kitchener song titles

Fellow new blogger Big Spoons opened up a new avenue for GM: Lord Kitchener's songs and their titles, among the funniest things around.
In the comments for the best lyrics, Spoons flags up Kitchener's wife's unease at his, ahem, needle, coming at her from behind.
This will be the same wife, presumably, whose bedtime garb is celebrated in the classic calypso 'My Wife's Nightie'.
Paul Du Noyer reviewed Kitchener among others in his write-up of the album which introduced me to him, London is the Place for Me, you should find it somewhere in the Word archive.

Kitchener song titles
My Wife's Nightie
Bulldog Don't Bite Me
Victory Test Match
If You Are Not White You're Black

And the best ever bracket song title
I Was There (At The Coronation)

What are your favourite 'bits' or 'segments' of songs?

THERE are great albums, great songs and great opening lyrics (‘Bless my cotton socks, I’m in the news’ The Teardrop Explodes), but what are the great ‘bits’ of songs?
By that I mean, what are the wee parts of songs you love?
The grunts, the oohs, the two note guitar solos and the spoken intros which make you want to join in.
The saxophone solos, the count ins, improvised skatting or unusual pronunciations of words you cherish and make you reach up to the headphones and press them that bit closer to the ear drum.

My starter for 10 (in no particular order and to be added to)

“Have you forgotten, that once we were brought here, we were robbed of our name, robbed of our language, we lost our religion, our culture, our gods... and many of us by the way we act, we even lost our minds...”
Farrakhan sample at the start of Night of the Living Baseheads by Public Enemy. Hip hop’s finest moment quickly followed by the almost as brilliant sample ‘We goin’ to get on down now’ soon after. Pure Bomb Squad alchemy. Perfect in every way, just as the album It Takes Million... is. I honestly believe this is pop music’s highest moment. Period.

The ‘1,2,3,4’ preceding the final verse of Springsteen’s Born to Run, usually accompanied by a delirious punch of the fist followed by a deep tinge of regret that you are bladdered at 1am in your Merseyside front room and not in a bar on the Jersey Shore circa 1978.

Strummer's lupine 'Ow Ow Ow Ow' in London Calling by The Clash

'Fuckin' long, ain't it' Magnificent Seven by The Clash

The ropey saxophone solo in This Old Heart of Mine by the Isley Brothers

Everything in either the four minute or near nine minute versions of Movin' On Up by Curtis Mayfield, especially the bongos

The opening John Byrne-penned riff to - and the very final G chord of - There She Goes by The La’s

All the horns on the later segments of Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness

‘Let’s hear it now for Otis Redding’ and all the subsequent ‘fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa’s’ on Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music

How Weller’s voice raises up on the word society in the line before the chorus in the Jam’s Going Underground. ‘And I want nothing of what soc-IERTY wants, I’m goin...’

The ‘Put Yer Fur boots on’ exclamation by Van Morrison on the intro of the Bang Sessions version of Madame George

The guitar lick on The Needle and Damage Done by Neil Young

The opening to Where the Streets Have No Name by U2

The opening riff to Streets of Your Town by the Go-Betweens

the 'la la la' bit of Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

U2: Or how the future of the major label band is ever more tawdry whoring of yourself

If U2's shameless whoring of themselves around the BBC last Friday proved anything in British musical circles it was two things:
1) The BBC is the last broadcasting behemoth, a multi-platform, publicly funded showcase for product second to none. A 360 degree red button catch all unique to the world.
2) U2 are a brilliant, shameless publicity machine willing to do anything to get their message out there. Rim Chris Evans? You got it. Blow smoke up Simon Mayo's ass - consider it done. Pretend to be the Beatles on the roof? What again? OK then
Avoid tax dodging questions. Sorted.
Enigmatically run through some well crafted answers which say nothing, we'll take pride in it. (See what I have done there)
Plug a tour coming to a stadium, probably not near you and six months from now - the 2 are shameless masters.
BTW: Why are Larry and Bono never seen together other than on stage? Hmmm?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

My favourite song lyrics: Part 1 (of many)

What are your favourite song lyrics?
This is the opening salvo from me:

The greatest lyric of all time (and utterly postmodern for those interested in such things)
"Tramps like us,
And we like tramps"
Charlemagne in Sweat Pants
The Hold Steady

"They were married in June
She was gone before the leaves were even turning
She said "Well, I knew he was a fool, but I
somehow thought my welfare concerned him"
Unhappy Song
Lloyd Cole

"They smelt of pubs
And Wormwood Scrubs
And too many right-wing meetings"
Down in the Tube Station
The Jam

"A freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow"
I am a Rock
Simon & Garfunkel

"There's a crowd says I'm alright
Say they like my turn of phrase
Take me round to their parties
Like some dressed up monkey in a cage.
And I play my accordion
Oh! but when the wine seeps through the facade
It's nothing but the same old story
Nothing but the same old story"
Nothing but the Same Old Story
Paul Brady

"From the time I could walk he’d take me with him
To a bar called the Green Frog Café
Where old men with beer guts and dominoes
Lied about their lives as they played
I was a kid and they all called me sidekick
Like Desperados waiting for a train"
Desperados Waiting for a Train
Guy Clark

"88 you wait the S-One's will
Put the left in effect and I still will
Rock the hard jams, treat it like a seminar
Teach the bourgeois, and rock the boulevard
Some say I'm negative
But they're not positive
But what I got to give
The media says this
Red black and green
Know what I mean
Yo, don't believe the hype"
Don’t Believe the Hype
Public Enemy

"Everything dies baby, that’s a fact
Maybe everything that dies someday comes back"
Atlantic City
Bruce Springsteen

"We just sit in this hazy bubble with our quarters
Discussing how beautiful Gail Porter is"
The Irony of It All
The Streets