Ok, so it's now SEPTEMBER. So I've meant to get this done for the last NINE BLOODY MONTHS. Which means I am crap at this. I never used to be crap at this. I used to be so shit hot at getting these things done. Maybe it's my age? Maybe it's just having a hundred and one other things to done at any one point in my life. I don't know. But I do know that I've made a point of getting this done this week, it found a place on the to-do list, which means it gets crossed off right now. This is a good thing.
The BEST OF XXXX CD has been a regular thing at Bruton mansions since way back. It's something I do for me and for a few friends, usually posting them their cds with their Christmas cards. But not this year, oh no.... Sure, I could do them as mp3 downloads, or as Spotify playlists, but there's something wonderfully old-school about making a cd. Which is weird in itself, the idea of a cd being 'old', since I can vividly remember that sense of 'the future' that came with getting my first ever cd - it was The Shamen, Pro-Gen, one of those ace 3inch cd singles that were all the rage when cds first came out.
My first proper cds were That Petrol Emotion's Chemicrazy and Ultra Vivid Scene, Joy 1967-1990. Which puts my first cd player as 1990. Now, seeing as TPE and UVS are still two of my favourite bands, and have never let me down, I reckon that's pretty damn good. As far as The Shamen go, they're one of those bands I love to a point, specifically about half of the Boss Drum album. After that it's pretty unlistenable.
So, as for this year...
Daft Punk & Giorgio Moroder - GIORGIO BY MORODER
I actually wrote about this earlier in 2015, where I called it beautiful, powerful, the sound of the future. It still is, it always will be I reckon, the chill that shoots down the spine as the words come in, as Moroder talks so simply about the click track, about his choices, about the sound of the future. It's just a magnificent wonder of a track, capturing every moment of Moroder the pioneer.
Daniel Avery - DRONE LOGIC
For those that have the cd just be impressed with the seamless mix from track one to track two, for those of you without the cd you'll have to trust me on this, with a little bit of manipulation, the beautiful end of Moroder, with the click track leading out... click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click .... and the start of Daniel Avery's brilliant Drone Logic is just perfect.
Drone Logic is everything Moroder dreamed of or possibly everything he would have hated, a magnificent drone of a song, repetitive beats playing out so perfectly. The sort of track I put on here knowing some of you will absolutely hate it, but some will love it every bit as much as I do.
Brody Dalle - MEET THE FOETUS / OH THE JOY
Ex of Distillers, Brody Dalle delivers a fabulously loud, wonderfully shouty few minutes of song. Cracking.
St. Vincent - BIRTH IN REVERSE
New to me. Maybe not to you. Clever and inventive and interesting. And a great lyric in the process.
Ibibio Sound Machine - LET'S DANCE
Not necessarily an unusual sound, especially not when Peel brought the sound of Africa to my ears back in the late 80s and early 90s. But it's a bloody gorgeous sound, energy, energy, energy, a real happy piece.
Le Tigre - HOT TOPIC
I knew of Le Tigre. I heard Le Tigre back when they formed at the tail end of the 90s. But they dropped off my listening radar over the years. Just one of those things. But thankfully, I was brought back into the fold thanks firstly to Julia Scheele's Double Dare Ya! zine and secondly thanks to Spotify. The entire back catalogue hit heavy rotation and of that, this is the one that just stuck around in my head. And frankly, who doesn't love a good list song?
The Fall - THE CLASSICAL
Some bands are album bands. Some bands are best-of bands. I got into The Fall with a best of - the 458489 A-sides and B-sides. And aside from a few subsequent albums they remained a best-of band, the compilation covered much of the time Brix Smith joined and pulled the band and new hubby Mark E. Smith in a slightly different, more poppy, more accessible direction. And then a year ago I got it into my head to start listening to the whole bloody discography. It's necessarily patchy sure, but there's some incredible songwriting coming out of Mark E Smith.
Sinead O'Connor - THE WOLF IS GETTING MARRIED
Go on, admit it, you thought she'd stopped making music ages back didn't you? But you remember those first couple of albums don't you? That voice, that brilliant passionate powerful voice, alongside some great tunes made '87s Lion & The Cobra and the follow up in '90, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Go, just excellent. This is from How About I Be Me (And You Be You), a massive return to form in 2012.
Damon Albarn - HEAVY SEAS OF LOVE
I've more time for Albarn than lots of folk. Blur hit at just the right time for me, and Albarn's musical career since then has been eclectic and clever, and he does a damn good singalong tune as well. Which is just what this is.
Mick Harvey and Anita Lane - INITIALS BB
God knows where I heard this. Radio at some point in 2014 I think. A weird one, a Serge Gainsbourg cover where that lecherous French genius does his usual lecherous French genius thing over Brigitte Bardot.
As for Mick Harvey, well he's an Australian who came along with Nick Cave, forming The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, and this track is from the first of two Gainesbourg cover albums.
The Rolling Stones - TOO MUCH BLOOD (EXTENDED)
Another one of those Spotify 'lets listen to the catalogue' things, just like The Fall. I'd always had a hankering for some of the Stones music, but it tended to veer towards the more esoteric, Mother's Little Helper, We Love You, that sort of thing. But I also loved, always loved Undercover Of The Night, a thudding, throbbing thing. And when I got to that album I heard this and loved it. Absolutely daft beast of a track, all over the place in its way, Jagger doing something he thinks of as rap probably. There's even an Arthur Baker remix of this that ramps it all up another notch but loses a bit of the driving Stones funk in the process.
Elbow - NEW YORK MORNING
Another band who suffer like Damon Albarn does from an over familiarity in people's minds. Blame the massive success they had. But whether they're fashionable or not, Guy Garvey's voice and lyrics are typically lovely in this one.
Robert Smith - C MOON
Ok, it's cheesy. It's predictable, it's a strange idea, Smith doing a twee Paul McCartney song for the Art of McCartney tribute thing. But it's a ridiculously infectious song, and it guarantees a smile on my face.
Carter USM - THE MUSIC THAT NOBODY LIKES and THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW CROSS
This is from the final gig the band did in 2014. Well, it's meant to be the final Carter gig, but they've said that before. For a while they settled into a nice nostalgia package of doing a few gigs a year. But no, it seems a little more decisive this time.
But god, Carter were amazing, another band that have long been favourites, ever since I heard Sheriff Fatman. I'd seen them numerous times and always had a fantastic time.
So these couple of songs are just a selection from the whole set that was one the radio. The whole set's well worth listening to. You might remember them as a couple of strange looking indie kids with jangly guitars, crap hair and shite jumpers. I say look past that and open your ears to them, listen to some incredibly perfect pop songs, packed full of an energy that has you bouncing and a lyricist in Jim Bob who really does do the whole modern poet thing so damn well.
These two were picked because of a couple of gorgeously soppy moments where the 40+ me reached out to the younger me 20+ years back and said it might just be ok...
"Say goodnight Jim Bob....
".. goodnight Jim Bob"
and of course, from The Only Living Boy In New Cross...
"Hello... good evening ... and goodbye...."
Both still bring a slight, but very stupid misting to my eye. Dopey git that I am.
Christ, it's over. 51 days of summer. A weirdly long summer holiday of seven weeks rather than six.
And if there was one image that summed it up....
Yep. Writing. Gin Martini. I'm still working on both to be honest. The writing's an ongoing thing. But the Martini is getting close to perfection. Currently on a mix of two parts Gin to one part Vermouth, mixed over ice, stirred (not shaken, sorry James), three olives, served dirty (with brine). But I'm working on the exact mix of Gin to Vermouth. I'll get it perfect before Christmas and shall report back.
Ok. There were other things that happened this summer holiday.
Molly turned 16. It was ace. She also had her exam results. They were ace.
Molly and I went to Anglesey. It was ace.
I went to Dudley. It was ace.
There were other things. Oh, they were epically, wonderfully ace as well. I just can't tell you about them.
Because hey, you really think I tell you everything?
During my summer hols, I visited Dudley. Which might well seem strange to anyone who's ever been to Dudley, there's certainly precious little about it that makes it journey worthy as a holiday destination, that's for sure.
But I'm a product of Dudley. Born and raised there. Ok, so I left there and moved to be a Birmingham boy once school had finished, but still, Dudley is a place dear to me, or at least the memories of bits of Dudley are anyway. three places; Dudley, Birmingham, Yorkshire. Born and raised in Dudley, adulthood split between the big city and the small town of Birmingham and Pocklington. I've regularly gone back to Birmingham, both solo and with family, visiting friends and family, but aside from a quick drive-through a few years back, I've not been properly back to Dudley for the best part of a couple of decades.
Bloody hell. It's changed.
Granted, even when I did go back before, when ma & pa used to live there, it was a dive and had been for many years. Thing is, I only really went back and saw them, so all I really saw was the nicer end. (Yes, the posh end). But walking through the town centre it's scary how distanced I felt from where I grew up. The people and the places, all have changed, but my memories carry on.
So many wonderful memories, so many wonderful experiences this time round. Now, it might be a couple of years before I head back again, but when I do it will be with great pleasure once more. There's no way to reclaim the past, but you can certainly remember it fondly, enjoy the now, look forward to the future.
First up... the marketplace. It's hardly the place I remember from being a kid, but it's still pretty much the same. Although at least Teddy Grey's sweet shop is still there - ice-cream cone with choc sprinkles thanks very much..
This I used to love as a kid. The bridge from Beatties to Fisher Street car park always looked so incredible to me as a boy, a playground of intersecting walkways, a maze of stairs and platforms. Sure, I know now it's a small thing, a few stairs and that's about it, but hey... childhood and all that.
Oh, and Beatties isn't there anymore. Hasn't been for a fair few years though. I remember it so well, spending lunchtimes there, taken along by Grandma Bruton (paternal Grandma, very posh, spent money like no tomorrow, died of drink) to have lunch with a load of ladies.. all I really remember is an almost cartoonish level of fur coats smothering the young me. Yeah, it was that sort of group.
Fountain Arcade. Oh, this was a shithole when I returned, practically empty of anything but crap little half stores, too many boarded up shops.
But there is one incredible shop still there, the Arcade Toy Shop. It used to be in two locations when I was a kid, both in the arcade, but now it's just in the one. But oh, the memories. Star Wars toys the first time round, back in the day when it was children getting excited about toys rather than a rather unfortunate breed of middle aged men-children (God, if I see one more post on Facebook et al with a 40-something chirping on about how excited they are for the new action figures, well, I'll probably roll my eyes and tut a bit)
And do you see that slash of blue there in the window... well it's this, a ride-in rocket that used to be in the arcade itself, but it's now inside... more fantastic memories...
And this is the brand-new post 16 thing that's sitting on the site of the Dudley School lower school. (iAdvance? Really?)
And here's the old Upper School, rebranded as Castle High many years ago, but always The Dudley School to me...
Now, this might be silly, but this was the architectural and nostalgic highlight of the trip... Dudley Library, beautiful, wonderful, spectacular building, the old revolving doors removed a while back sadly, but the marble steps are still there. It's changed a fair bit no doubt, but it's still structurally the same, and wandering around the place so many memories came flooding back...
The children's library where a love of books began, including the wonderful treasures of Asterix, Tintin and Raymond Briggs. The music library where some wonderful soul had a fabulous taste in music, which meant I could borrow so much good stuff, including Cabaret Voltaire, The Cure, Talking Heads... and so much more, good and occasionally bad. Borrow them, illegally record them onto tape. Home Taping was meant to be killing music at this point, but that's not my experience, not my experience at all. Those of us who loved music at that age could never afford to buy all we wanted to experience, not at the time, but when I started earning any money, it found its way very easily into the tills of many record stores. There are albums I first listened to from Dudley Record Library that I've bought in numerous versions... going from crappy Saisho C90s from Dixons, to buying the tape proper (I was a tape kid, never a record kid), to getting it on CD, then buying it again when the expanded editions came out, then buying the remastered, even more expanded versions. Over the years at Dudley I copied a load of music, but in the years since then, that beautiful immersion in the music triggered a love of music that payed back any debt from taping many, many, many times over.
Oh, and as I was wandering round, I happened to look up and couldn't believe this, a tapestry/artwork I'd long forgotten, but immediately recognised when I saw it up on the wall...
Other things... Priory Park, where I cycled, climbed, played, whether with Grandpa Bruton, who lived just down the road, or later on my todd, with friends. Many happy memories of this one as well...
Oh, and as for where Grandma and Grandpa Bruton lived... this was it. Well, it was smaller back then. When they died, dad extended it and it became a family home, for about a month or so, as that's all I really stayed in it after University.
Southfork was what friends used to call it...
And of course, what trip to Dudley would be complete without a trip to the castle and zoo. Although it's a damn sight steeper these days than I remember. Heaven forfend I go there if my back was any worse than it is, that would be a quite ridiculous thing indeed.
16 years ago today little Molly Alice Bruton was born at Dudley Road Hospital, Birmingham.
Since then she's made the world a better place simply by being part of it, has amazed and confounded, surprised and delighted, entertained and thrilled all those she meets. But most of all, she's filled my life with happiness.
So Happy Birthday Molly Alice Bruton.
Enjoy your day. Love you. Even though you no longer look like this...