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The return of Melodic Randomiser Unspooled…

I thought it was time to delve once more into the little plastic boxes of nostalgia that make up my vintage cassette collection, just because I haven’t done a Melodic Randomiser post for a while and it seemed like a good idea.
The box I dragged out from under the stairs this time is as eclectic a selection as any of them and this one offered up a fine juxtaposition of styles.

First we have the epitome of ’90s indie pop, Travis, with their debut album, Good Feeling, from which I’ve picked my favourite single, All I Want To Do Is Rock

….followed by Hey Dude, by hippy rockers Kula Shaker, from their first album, K

…and completing this most unlikely trio with the full album of the frankly unhinged Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters by bonkers Hawkwind alumni, Robert Calvert:


So there you have it, a playlist you won’t find anywhere else, I hope you find something to enjoy.

Stay tuned for further trips back in time in the not too distant future.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2017 in Blogging, Melodic Randomiser, Music, Video

 

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Melodic Randomiser Unspooled 4…

After much burrowing around in the cardboard box and carrier bag breeding ground of our under-stairs cupboard, today I managed to haul out the second box of rattling plastic nostalgia cases that is my cassette collection.

Throwing caution to the wind, I blindly grabbed a trio of magnetic memory magnifiers and slotted the first one into the stereo before I’d even checked to see what it was.

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So you can imagine my delight (or maybe you can’t, you might not be so easily pleased) when this next installment in the trip through my own personal musical heritage began with an album that gave us the best song from the soundtrack to a movie cult classic, the wantonly strange Donnie Darko (which, if you haven’t seen it, go find it and watch it).

The Church are not, in the UK at least, a hugely well-known band, hailing as they do from Sydney, Australia. But this song (as well as featuring one of the only acceptable uses of bagpipes in pop) is an instant earworm. It appears at a pivotal point in the movie and perfectly captures the dreamy and surreal tone of Donnie’s world.

Here it is then, from 1988, The Church and the sublime Under the Milky Way Tonight

…plus, if you liked that and because I’m feeling generous, why not check out the full album, Starfish, while you’re at it.

From antipodean indie to U.S. political hip hop and rap/rock, the next stop on our eclectic journey brings us to a tape that was put together for me by an old friend from Sussex (hello Chris) and it tackles themes that are, somewhat depressingly, just as relevant today as they were in the early ’90s.

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy were an astute and politically aware hip hop four-piece from San Francisco who, despite their short lifespan, (they split after only three years) provided us with one of the most memorable rap anthems of the era.
Their album, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury, was one long rant on the state of America at the turn of the twentieth century’s final decade, and although it’s filled with angst, it sidestepped the “cop killer” attitude of many rappers by concentrating on social issues and generational injustices.

Of the two tracks I’ve chosen from that first blistering album, this is the one you’re most likely to remember, Television, the Drug of the Nation

…and this, the album’s opener, is just as apposite in 2015, here is Satanic Reverses.

But if proper, eye-popping, vein-bulging anger is more your type of political poison, look no further than the other side of today’s tape two.
Because there you will find some truly furious men, the no-holds-barred riffing monster that is Rage Against the Machine and their ground-breaking eponymous debut album.

I could have picked a couple of the less well known tracks to play you, but there really is nothing that compares to their signature anthem from 1991, the musical steamroller they call Killing in the Name

…and I’m going to follow that with a performance I was fortunate enough to witness, the apoplectic Bullet in the Head, live from Reading Festival in 1996.

Which brings us to the final selection in today’s trawl of the tapes, lightening things up a bit with some American new wave pop from The B52’s and their ’89 breakthrough album, Cosmic Thing.
I could go the really obvious route and play the massive worldwide smash hit, Love Shack, but instead I’m going for two of my favourites.

First of all, here’s Roam

…and to complete this visit to the archives, let’s all join the Deadbeat Club.

Thank you for listening.
And as always, remember: Be kind, rewind.

 

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Travel n Ravel post: Sting in the tale…

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Following last week’s Travel n Ravel story from the lazy, hazy days of continental childhood camping trips, I thought I’d round off the theme with two more small tales of happy holiday high jinx by reposting another re-jigged post that many of you may have missed previously.

Today’s flashback concerns my dad’s expulsion of an invading army and the misadventures of teenage wine connoisseurs on walkabout, which includes another of Ho’s bespoke blog toons. I have called this one;

Sting in the tale.

I hope you enjoy it.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in Guest spots., Ho., Humour, Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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Travel n Ravel post: In continent weather…

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For the second of my posts for Ian Cochrane and his Travel n Ravel blog, I have decided to use an old story that I published on Diary of an Internet Nobody when I first started writing, one that many of you probably haven’t seen before.

Now that I have (I hope) a little more skill at writing, I’ve tidied up some of the clunky prose and re-edited the rather long original into two separate posts, the first of which you can read at the link below, with part two to follow next week.

So as the summer holidays of 2015 drizzle to a somewhat disappointing end, let’s go back and relive an equally damp but far more exciting summer, spent battling the elements on the other side of the channel, or as I like to call it;

In continent weather.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Guest spots., Humour, Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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Melodic Randomiser Unspooled 3…

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Welcome back to the fragile plastic box of delights that is the prequel to the CD Melodic Randomiser, a selective plundering of my huge collection of cassette tapes, some of which are approaching forty years old and still going strong.

This selection is made up of music from the eighties and early nineties (the closing half of the cassette’s glory days) both from this side of the Atlantic and the other, not to mention the other side of the border and across the Irish Sea too.

The first of today’s trio is one of two compilations, this is one called Absolution and is themed around what I suppose you would call the indie-goth sound.

The first half is livelier, more spiky and abrasive, with side two demonstrating the introspective side of the genre, building to an angry, bass driven, post-punk classic.

I keep feeling the need to use that word, classic, but it can be applied to so many songs here, including this, from arch-miserablists Echo and the Bunnymen and their 1983 hit, The Cutter

…then there is this, my all-time favourite David Bowie cover, the Bauhaus version of Ziggy Stardust.

Closing side one is a bona fide goth anthem, The Jesus and Mary Chain with the wondrous Some Candy Talking.

Side two starts softly and becomes darker as it goes on, with Enjoy the Silence from Depeche Mode

…followed by the surprisingly gentle and sophisticated tones of The Stranglers with this, European Female

…and Absolution ends with a thundering beast of a song, New Model Army‘s No Rest, which is so good, I’m giving you the full album.

You’re welcome.

Tape two is another much-played favourite, a solo project from Husker Dü frontman, Bob Mould, and I’ve chosen the single, If I Can’t Change Your Mind from Sugar‘s 1992 album, Copper Blue.

If you like that and want to hear more, you can listen to the whole album HERE.

Which brings us to the last of my random selections for today, a slightly poppier affair, compiling some upbeat chart hits from Scottish and Irish bands of the nineties, from which I’ve picked Orange Juice and their biggest single, Rip It Up

…this unlikely hit from the fabulously named Goats Don’t Shave and Las Vegas (in the hills of Donegal)

…and I’m finishing this third dip into my magnetic archives with an absolute, genuine, fully-fledged, copper-bottomed pop (yep, I’m gonna use that word again) “classic”, the sublime Somewhere In My Heart from Roddy Frame‘s Aztec Camera.

Go on, sing along, you know you want to.

I hope you can join me again soon for the next spool back into the past and in the meantime, remember…
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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in Melodic Randomiser, Music, Video

 

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Melodic Randomiser Unspooled 1…

image Welcome, one and all, to the first installment of this new archival plundering of my music collection, this time via the little plastic cases of wonder/frustration we folks from the olden days knew as cassettes, or simply “tapes”.

Melodic Randomiser Unspooled will follow the same pattern as the CD version; I shall occasionally dip into my vintage cassette library, progressing through the various boxes of pre- and  home-recorded albums and compilations, posting videos and links to whatever random example of magnetically preserved masterpiece takes my fancy from each trio of tapes.

Since the same principal of chaotic disorganization that ruled my CD racks has been applied to storing my tapes, you never know what sort of strange brew you’ll end up with, with today’s first mixtape being a fine example.

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The Steve Miller band had several pretty big hits, one of them briefly resurrecting Steve’s career, by way of its use in a jeans commercial, although the  track I’ve chosen today isn’t one of his most memorable songs.
This is probably due to the fact that it comes from the 1984 release, Italian X-rays, a bad enough name for an album as it is, without adding insult to injury by swamping any remaining musical credibility with horrible cheesy ’80s synth lines.

I thought I’d go the whole hog and play the one track that’s completely synth-based. I mean, when you’re dealing with cheese, there’s no point in going for half measures is there?

Here’s Bongo Bongo, terrible eighties animated video and all.

Next up, a mixtape in itself, one made for me by a friend, (that noble, pre-internet tradition of music sharing; Hello and thank you, Nick) kicking off with Side One, Various Artists and the first of two tracks, Richard Warren‘s multi-genre project, Echoboy and a song called Kit And Holly

…followed by another man whose style is impossible to pigeonhole, Johnny Dowd and the fabulous Monkey Run.

Side two has a definite theme, beginning with a few songs from Talking Heads Fear Of Music album and I’ve chosen this characteristically spiky offering, Paper

…segueing nicely into a couple of solo David Byrne songs, my favourite of which is this joyously percussive slice of eccentrica, Look Into The Eyeball.

So far, so varied, but tape number three ups the eclecticism ante somewhat, containing as it does a radio recording from ten years ago.
BBC Radio’s One’s “Peel Day” was a celebration of the life and work of veteran DJ, champion of unsigned bands and national treasure, John Peel, who tragically died one year earlier.
The live, all night broadcast featured interviews, live performances and archive sessions by bands and artists who had been mentored by John, had appeared on the show, or were simply inspired to make music by listening to his legendary late night transmissions, from both the BBC and the studio at his family’s home, “Peel Acres”.

The first track that came on when I pressed play (sacrilegiously, the tape hadn’t been rewound!) was instantly recognisable as one of the so called “world music” artists to get regular airplay on John’s show, Kanda Bongo Man.
Listening to Peel was what introduced me to the frenetic rhythms of African music, especially the sort of lively guitar sounds associated with music from Soweto and the Belgian Congo (now called Zaire).
This song from the Congolese superstar reminds me of that thrill of new musical discovery, all those years ago.

This is Sai.

Then, in typical Peel fashion, I was treated to this historic live session recording of Whole Lotta Love by rock’s Golden Gods, Led Zeppelin, from way back in 1969.

Side two of the last in my opening salvo of jukebox tom-spoolery begins with something that, again, couldn’t be more different, a live performance from hardcore electronic experimentalist, Kid 606 and from that set I’ve chosen this, the original video for The Illness.

Which only leaves us with the final song they played in tribute to one of radio’s greatest exponents of new music, the song of which John Peel once said;

“If they ever do a tribute show for me when I die, this’ll be the last song they play.”

A fitting end then, to the inaugural post of the Melodic Randomiser‘s return; ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for Roy Harper and When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease.

Thank you for listening.

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Melodic randomiser: The previous generation…

image Back in the mists of time, in the years BCD, (Before Compact Discs) man survived on a musical diet that consisted primarily of freshly pressed vinyl, supplemented by the temperamental, fragile, also-ran of audio formats, the cassette. The sonic equivalent of a fast food bargain bucket, to vinyl’s aural banquet.

Now of course, all your music is polished and shiny; the laser etched tracks of a CD will remain unchanged pretty much forever, with only minimal maintenance and care; mp3 downloads can be copied, backed-up and re-uploaded ad infinitum at the cost of a few pence and that’s only if you want to actually own a piece of music.
If all you want to do is listen, then there are internet radio stations and streaming services at every junction on the information superhighway.

Prior to the advent of CDs in 1985, when newly converted devotees of the gleaming silver disc started their campaign to piss off vinyl fans by going on about “dynamic range” and “bass response” being so much superior and Vinyl enthusiasts (including myself) would insist that CDs were “too tinny” and “don’t have that organic sound, man”, there was one thing that everyone agreed on.

Compared to vinyl, cassettes were crap.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea to scale down the huge reel-to-reel tape recorders of the past into an easy to use, portable format which allowed anyone to make home recordings was, in principal, a brilliant one, but a system which relied on running a flimsy magnetic tape across a metal pickup head by pinching it between rubber rollers whilst under tension was always going to be fraught with problems.

If it wasn’t the tape getting wrapped around the rollers, (resulting in hours spent with a pen knife, sticky tape and that all important staple of the cassette repair tool kit, a pencil) it was the spools getting over-tightened, resulting in “tape wobble”.
Then there was something old RCA cassettes were particularly known for, the magnetic coating wearing off the tape, leaving muffled “drop outs” in the music.
And who could forget that other old favourite; twists in the tape that meant you would suddenly find yourself listening to side two, backwards, half way through side one?

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Now, where did that screw go..?

But despite all that, we all bought them. Because they were cheap, because they were portable, but most of all because you could make compilations to share with your mates.
Like playlists, alright?
But in a box.

So you’d think that, what with cassettes being so prone to damage and deterioration, most of those old albums and mixtapes would be history by now, wouldn’t you?
But of course that isn’t the case at all.
There must be millions upon millions of little plastic boxes of music all over the world, because there’s something fundamentally wrong about throwing music away, so people (well, people like me anyway) keep their old LPs and cassettes, as though they’ll be passed down like family heirlooms.
Sadly, the future’s music fans won’t have much patience for a medium that requires five minutes of rewinding to allow them to play forty minutes of muffled, hissing noise and the nearest you’ll get to a cassette walkman these days is an ironically designed mp3 player, complete with rotating LCD spools.

With all that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new occasional feature, Melodic Randomiser 2: The Cassette Years., in which I will trawl the boxes of tapes that lurk in the dark recess under the stairs to find an eclectic selection of memorable musical morsels from my formative years.

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This is the first of several similar boxes, totalling maybe 400 tapes.
I’m sure a good few of these will be in less than perfect condition, others will be a bit worn out from repeated playings and one or two will be completely unplayable (kept, in the spirit of hope that cassette connoisseurs everywhere will understand, against the day that I get round to repairing them) but I know for a fact there are albums in there from the early ’70s that play better than CDs which were produced fifteen years later too, so I’m looking forward to spoolling back the years and taking you along for the ride.

I know this one’s in there somewhere…

Join me for the first trio of tapes in the next post.
Don’t touch that dial.

 

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