I Love Your Live Action


Saw the Dum Dum Girls on Tuesday night who were absolutely fabulous. Whenever you go see a band for the first time there’s always that nervous worry in the back of your mind about how good (or not) they will be live, but those fears vanished the minute they kicked into the first song (though I thought lead singer Dee Dee Penny’s vocals were mixed too quiet). Cliched and creaky though the genre might be, there’s still something thrilling about a good rock combo, and their drummer was especially good at nailing a primitive, sometimes Glam-Rocky beat. The girls all looked very stylish too, it might seem a trivial point but I appreciate it when a band (girls or boys) makes an effort with the visual side and doesn’t turn up on stage in jeans and t-shirts like they just rolled out of bed.

They played all of the new album Too True to start and then another set of older songs which made me want to buy more of their records beyond the two I have. The emotional “Coming Down” was the highlight of the evening for me, but as I’m not into filming shows myself this clip of them singing it is from a different show earlier this year.



After the gig I joined the queue at the merchandise table to buy an album, but instead of the usual bored road manager or drummer flogging gear there was group leader Dee Dee herself selling stuff. Oh, the glamourous rock and roll life! Great though this was, it meant the wait was even longer as people kept posing for photos with her and asking her to sign the records. So when she served me I did the polite English thing of not bothering her too much and just bought a record and left without getting it signed. Bloody wish I had done now, my mate did take this picture though.


Look! It’s me buying a record from a sexy girl rock singer!

Fall Backwards


I lived in Florida for 10 years and it all sort of went by in a blur because there is no real changing of the seasons to mark the passing of time there. The climate just goes from really hot to less hot, and the palm trees look the same all year round.

In New England it’s hard not to notice the change of seasons, especially Autumn which announces itself in a colourful explosion of red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. It really is quite spectacular, people here drive out into the country just to see the foliage (we did it last week). The London “countryside” (ie: the parks) can be quite beautiful in the Autumn too, as you can see from the above photo taken from the book Richmond Park Photos.

Here’s another lovely change-of-seasons record. As you can tell, like most English people, when I don’t have anything interesting to say I talk about the weather.

Download: Summer Is Over — Dusty Springfield (mp3)

For the anoraks out there this was the b-side of “Losing You” in 1964 and is now a bonus track on the CD version of A Girl Called Dusty.

Something for the Weekend



My sister absolutely hated this record, saying that being 17 was bad enough without having to listen to a depressing song about it.

Season of Mists


I thought “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” was a surprisingly poetic cover line for a teen magazine, so I looked it up and it is from a poem: “Autumn” by John Keats (though he didn’t write that last bit obviously).

Very sophisticated and cultured of Jackie to be quoting Keats on their front cover which would be unthinkable for a mainstream glossy today. You couldn’t imagine Seventeen having nothing but a line from Phillip Larkin on their cover.

I guess they were trying to be lyrical about the coming of autumn which is a good excuse to dig out this beautiful Bobbie Gentry song (even if it is about Spring).

Download: Seasons Come, Seasons Go — Bobbie Gentry (mp3)

You Wear It Well


If you like my “Tribes of Britain” posts then you’ll really like the wonderful blog What We Wore which also chronicles British youth style but also has stories from the people in the photos so it’s far more interesting.

You may think this is just a funny song about some bloke buying a new suit but it’s actually one of the most subversive singles of the 1950s: a devastating critique of materialist desire, capitalism, and how the working classes try to achieve status through their clothing. Really.

Download: Shopping For Clothes — The Coasters (mp3)

New Monday



PC Music are something of a “Marmite” record label, you either love or hate the high-fructose pop they put out. I’m firmly in the former camp and think their latest release “Hey QT” — a collaboration between producer AG Cook and Sophie (actually a bloke) — is one of the best pop records I’ve heard all year. It’s certainly the most insanely catchy.

But for those who find it all a bit too Pinky and Perky, this “pitched down” version might be just the thing. Either way, it’s poptastic.



Buy it here.

Something for the Weekend



Bold choice of Gary Numan to release a moody, violin-driven ballad with no actual chorus as a single from The Pleasure Principle but this still got to No.6 in the UK charts. Clearly the man could do no wrong in 1979, at least as far as the record-buying public were concerned.

Though it’s probably hip to like Numan now a lot of people thought he was a bit of a joke at the time (myself included), but this is one of his records (along with “Down In The Park”) that I loved even then. Terrific video too, looking very analog retro-futuristic now.

Dear Smash Hits


I may have mentioned before that I once had a letter printed in Smash Hits. I don’t have the issue anymore and for some reason I only recently thought about searching through the archives at the terrific Like Punk Never Happened blog to find this major event of my youth. Here it is, from the March 6th, 1980 issue:


I was 17 when I wrote that, and while there’s no denying my teenage passion, my prose style could use some finesse (no change there). I remember being shocked — and then thrilled of course — that they’d actually published something I wrote. It was the first letter on the page too which made me doubly chuffed.

The Pretenders had only just become stars with the chart-topping success of Brass In Pocket but I’d been a fan since their first single so was smugly protective of them in the way only a I-liked-them-before-you-did fan of a newly-popular band can be. I was totally smitten with Chrissie Hynde too, so when this C. Wills fellow expressed his (still) idiotic opinion in this letter I was moved to defend her from the “blinkered” opinions of the unthinking masses in typically self-righteous teenager fashion.

I’m not entirely sure why I included The Police in my angry denunciation of “narrow minded hero worship” but they had also recently made the leap from minor act to big pop stars and I guess I must have been a bigger fan of theirs than I remember.

I am rather proud of the fact that I stood up for “real” women in rock music, though my feminist credentials are somewhat tarnished by the fact that I had one of those awful “sexy” posters of Debbie Harry on my own bedroom wall at the time, so I don’t know what I was being so high and mighty about. That last sentence is pretty good though, and I still think anyone who doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde’s voice needs putting away.

What’s most interesting to me is that this is the authentic voice of my 17-year-old self. My mother was an inveterate chucker-away of things and I never kept anything either, so I have nothing that I wrote (or drew) in my youth — no school essays, no diaries, no notebooks, none of the comics I created — so this might be the only thing written by the younger me that still exists. Reading it now is like some Back To The Future moment where I’m confronted by a teenage version of myself. It was so long ago I don’t know that kid anymore, but I do recognize the smug, superior tone common to teenagers with opinions they think are the absolute truth. It could be worse I suppose, while I was certainly too harsh on Debbie Harry (she was no bimbo) I should be thankful that I’m not expressing any of the really stupid opinions which I know I had back then. Thank you teenage me, for not embarrassing your future self.

Not using my real name was obviously a ploy to make me seem far cooler than I was.

Download: Tattooed Love Boys – The Pretenders (mp3)

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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