Secondary Modern(ism)

This is wonderful, like a segment from an avant garde Blue Peter with the kids making music with tape recorders instead of sticky-back plastic and old Cornflakes packets.

My music teacher at school was into Glenn Miller rather than John Cage so lessons were more In The Mood than experimental sound pictures.

(Discovered at The Belbury Parish Magazine)

Playing With the Art School Girls

Download: She’s Artistic – The Photos (mp3)

The Photos were touted as the new Blondie with their New Wave pop hooks and pretty lead singer Wendy Wu, but they crashed and burned after just the one album for reasons I’m not entirely sure about. I bought it but didn’t think they lived up to the hype. They did record a second album but it never got a proper release.

Pictured: The talented, beautiful, tragic Pauline Boty.

Something for the Weekend

Nice to see Talking Heads before they became a multimedia art project.

Something for the Weekend

Once upon a time, two little boys in France named Guy and Thomas saw this on the television and decided that when they grew up they too would be pop stars wearing space helmets. But when they told their friends of their dream all they said was “Don’t be daft, punks!”

Ooh Look (Again)

Originally posted August 2007.

I was never the sort of kid who was interested in planes or trains or automobiles, but even I got a kick out of seeing Concorde. It started commercial flights in 1976 and used to fly over our school one afternoon every week on its way from Heathrow to Bahrain. For a while that was the only route it flew out of England so spotting it was something of an event. We were usually in the playground on our way to the next lesson when it came over, everyone would excitedly look up when we heard its roaring engines and kids inside would rush over to their classroom windows to try and catch a glimpse.

What made Concorde so great was that it was (at least partly) British. It started flying during the dark days of the 1970s when the country was falling apart and we had little to be proud of except our “glorious” past, but here was this gorgeous, futuristic thing we helped design and build — easily the most beautiful passenger plane ever created. With it’s sleek, sexy lines and thrusting nose it was like the E-Type of aircraft, an object that stirred the loins of national pride. The fact that the Americans wouldn’t allow it to land at their airports made our pride swell even more, they said it was because of noise pollution but we thought they were just jealous because they hadn’t built the world’s first supersonic airliner themselves.

The Concorde project started in the 50s but to me it evoked the British “can do” forward thinking of the 1960s, that optimistic period when when we’d never had it so good and Harold Wilson was talking about the “white hot heat” of the technological revolution. It didn’t last of course, by the time Concorde was ready to fly the country was in the toilet and the oil crisis meant there wasn’t much demand for a petrol-hungry supersonic plane. So it was a bit of a white elephant that cost a boatload of money and ended up in limited service for the wealthy, but it was a magnificent white elephant and it was ours.

John Peel played some bizarre music on his show but “There Goes Concorde Again” by …And The Native Hipsters from 1980 must rank as the one of the most completely bonkers. This is nearly seven minutes of spoken word whimsy punctuated by tuneless electronic bleeps and bloops and the occasional clattering of typewriter keys. “Vocalist” Nanette Greenblatt sounds like some batty old cat lady who spends too much time indoors, watching the comings and goings of the world from behind her net curtains. You either love this or it will drive you from the room screaming. Me, I think it’s a lovely piece of peculiarly English eccentricity and never get tired of it no matter how many times she says “ooh look!” — which is a lot.

Surprisingly this was a big hit on the indie charts and I swear I remember Peel playing a parody version of it someone did about looking out of the window and seeing two Joy Division fans walk by carrying copies of “Unknown Pleasures” under their arms. Anyone else remember this or did I hallucinate the whole thing?

Download: There Goes Concorde Again – …And The Native Hipsters (mp3)

Brave New World

This is what the future was supposed to look like. But if it had stayed as bright and cheerful as this what would skinny white boys with synthesizers write songs about?

Download: Underpass – John Foxx (mp3)

New Monday

It’s taken me a while to warm up to Scottish synthpoppers Chvrches (not a typo), there are so many other similarly 80s-influenced bands around at the moment I didn’t think there was anything to separate them from the pack and justify the critical hosannas they’ve been getting. Frankly, I preferred Ladytron.

But I’ve been won over to the cause by their terrific debut album The Bones Of What You Believe with its big pop hooks and pumping synth beats. It’s a sound that’s been done a million times before but they do it very well.

Something for the Weekend

Somehow I’ve managed to have never seen this video before until recently. I’m very glad I have now, it’s just as brilliantly bonkers as the record.

Is this the best pop record ever made by “a loose collective of avant-garde and free improvising musicians”?



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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