Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Jack is a real cool cat

...and he lives on top of Manhattan Chase. So said David Bowie in Diamond Dogs. Apparently Halloween Jack White lives in a guano-colored church in evil East London.

Nice little video of Jack White (and three almost silent DWs) being interviewed in London. Hard to believe there are four people in this band.

And another one:

They are playing a pop-up store gig on Halloween at Shoreditch Church, because, Jack says, Halloween is not big in Britain. It seems he has a different attitude to promoting modern American practices in social customs than he does to accepting modern American music-listening practices, his antipathy to which he explains in detail in the video.

It's a shame I don't still work in the blood transfusion department at Whitechapel Hospital a couple of miles from this church, otherwise I would definitely have won Jack's competition to be the audience member most covered in blood.

To his credit he does correct himself a few seconds later and say 'fake blood'.

It's also a shame that Shoreditch Church isn't the Hawksmoor church in that parish. I think The Dead Weather and Hawksmoor would have gotten on like a house on fire. When I first saw the pop up store was going to be at Shoreditch church I almost flew over to go see. Luckily I checked on the interwebs first.

They'll be selling the usual Third Man tat, but apparently with very limited edition glow in the dark spooky singles. Lucky England.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Dead Weather Live on Jools Holland

Good lord, these downloads are getting higher and higher quality. will even allow you to keep this a HD mp4 file.

Good stuff. My brother saw The Dead Weather in northern England today and pronounced it one of the best gigs he's seen. And folks, he's seen The Pretty Things. His word counts!

The Dead Weather - Treat Me Like Your Mother... by RaheemBeau

Watch Little Jack Lawrence rock out! And watch Dean Fertita cut the intrusive cameraman dead at 2:30! Love the Beeb's approach to this with their high contrast, balls out video.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Under My Thumb

Heard this in the car today, on The Rolling Stones' Aftermath (was it on the UK version? I can't remember), the joyous Under My Thumb. I thought I'd share.

Mick Jagger captures that time when a boy becomes a man, and gets that thing, whatever it is, that women want. The girls who pushed him around now sit demurely waiting to hear his whim. "The change has come," he sings, sounding almost astonished, "she's under my thumb".

I'd lose my Club of Women card if I ever disclosed whether men could get that power, of course, so we'll assume for blogging purposes Jagger is fooling himself. It's such a happy track though, with the joyous surprised vocals, and the Motown R&B of the Stones embellished with a Brian Jones marimba riff. You can't help getting caught up in the vibe.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Cut Like a Buffalo B video (version II)

On October 12th I was all a-twitter, so to speak, because I was alerted that there would be activity on The Vault. And there was. Jack White himself came on and introduced this video to us. He also looked right into my eyes (well, actually right at my tits, but I think that was a matter of camera placement rather than intention) and made all of us solemnly swear we wouldn't rip it and post it on YooToob.

(Edited) At midnight last night, the band put the new on up on their MySpace. I've embedded the YouTube official version.
Although I prefer the first video, Jack had some story about the UK banning it because of the knife-wielding ladies in it. I'm not sure exactly what that means - I had no idea the British government had any control over non-cinema content (unless you are a horror writer in which case you should just give up and move to the US) - but I guess it was a serious enough threat that the single needs a UK-approved no-knife video.

I like the use of bold shapes in this cut. (Am I allowed to use the word 'cut' if this blog is shown in the UK?) The early shots with the silhouetted LJ, the scroll and heft of his stand-up bass and the huge, illogical curves of the buffalo head are lovely. The new narrator is BP Fallon, again, and he mangles the name of the video differently from the cowboy guy.

I was going to end the post with a brilliant coup along the lines of "that isn't the first time Beep has performed with someone who looks like Marc Bolan - here is video of him playing a conga on Hot Love with T. Rex in Germany, 1971!!!!1eleventy!"

Here it is anyway. The other conga player (with the hat) is of course Mickey Finn.

If you click the one below at the same time it might give the same effect, furrfu.

(Not with Beep)

Edited to find working links for videos 09/18/2013

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jesus remains my joy

From Steve Audio, one of the blogs in my blogroll, a hymn. It's Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, or Jesus bleibet meine freude in the original language.

As the blog points out, one of the salient points of Bach's music is the insistent beat. On a guitar, a player has to find room for the melody, the harmony and the pounding beat, all with a couple of hands on a small instrument. As he hints, the very accomplished Christopher Parkening can play the hymn beautifully but doesn't quite express the way the parts are put together. As with most guitar players, there's a certain running up and down steps vibe to his playing. This young woman, Koari Muraji, keeps the whole piece in her head as she plays, so the expression is a genuine sampling of the underlying intelligence behind the piece.

Not my usual fare but lovely to hear.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Extinction, megafauna and The Dead Weather

Zoologists have long been puzzled by the extinction of megafauna in the Americas. The continent was filled with giant vampire wombats, elephant-sized tree sloths (sloths elephant-sized, not trees) and armadillos large enough to feature on ELP triple concept albums. They all died off about ten thousand years ago [1]. No one is sure why. I am not making this up.

I think I know the answer. There must have been a Dead Weather tour about ten thousand years ago. Those guys go through megafauna like a Mythbusters' rocket sled through a scratch car. At Toronto, they brought a bear skull on stage. In their current video, a stuffed buffalo head gets the girl in the end [2]. At the recent Dallas House of Blues concert, it took three of them to carry a stuffed giraffe onstage.

All my companion animals are lizards, so I don't tend to get misty-eyed about mammals. But man, what is Baby Ruthless going to shoot next?

Apologies to the photographers for not remembering your URL. Your uploads are much appreciated.

[1] The Mastodon alone survived. I saw them at San Diego Street Scene festival last month.

[2] Which end is immaterial.

My turntable's not dead

People keep telling me there's a vinyl revival. I have friends in their fifties and in their twenties who have recently bought vinyl records, and yea, even I have bought some, because I'm a member of the Dead Weather's fan club - it has a spiffy name, The Vault, not "the Dead Weather fan club" because that wouldn't be hip - and you won't be getting no CDs from a Jack White enterprise. In fact their record company, Third Man Record's, slogan is "Your turntable's not dead".

And you know what? It isn't. I had a day off yesterday and I was playing records on it. Not The Vault records because they're collectors' items (tm) so they are stored in a hard vacuum at absolute zero between non-reactive flat-to-the-nearest-nanometer titanium plates at 60 pounds pressure. OK, I'm lying. They're in their paper bags I brought them home in.

The records I was playing were from the 1970s. Some of them I've had since back then and some I've acquired via that excellent resource, the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It's creepy that people who bought Rocket Man or Every Picture Tells a Story are now old enough to be involuntarily donating them to charity shops, but on the other hand, for people from Yorkshire, who like me were too poor or tight-fisted to buy them back in the day, it's a boon. And what have I learned about vinyl?

The turntable wasn't dead, but the records were frankly moribund.

Records really don't last very long. Certainly they don't last the forty years its been since the seventies began. A goodly proportion of them, both ones I've had in my possession the whole time and the ones I've recently obtained, have enough surface noise to interfere with listening pleasure. These aren't long scratches, and it's not just dust (I dusted them). They are the usual snap, crackle and pop that records seem to attract from nowhere. I imagine that if scientists were to study the phenomenon closely, they'd find out this is where all the Higgs Bosons are at - they are attracted to vinyl and leave a crackle wherever they strike it.

Since I had experience in tuning out the crackles before CDs were invented, it's pretty easy to get back in the groove, so to speak. But what do newer vinyl collectors do? Is it going to come as a horrible shock that the third time they play a record, as if by magic, it has developed that sound you hear when you listen to a sea-shell, if not actually the sound of a chain of firecrackers?

There's a lot you can do to mitigate it, of course. Specifically you can not roll joints on them, which I think was a major source of analogue errors back in the seventies. Other good tips are to not leave them in sunlight, not leave them leaning against something, vacuum them before every play, make sure your stylus is in good condition, and the number one tip - only play them once, rip them to a wav file and then never play them again. Or buy a CD, of course.

I have heard of vinylphiles who buy buckets of rubber glue and coat their records thickly with the stuff, leave it to dry and then peel off the rubber, theoretically taking all the crud that was in the grooves with it. I haven't tried it myself, mainly because who can afford that much glue? The one person I asked about it said he did it before he, you guessed it, ripped the record to wav and wasn't expecting to ever have to do it a second time.

Probably the most enjoyable record I listened to yesterday was The Meters' Rejuvenation. I think I bought it because Led Zeppelin liked it - not realizing at the time that John Bonham liked lots of things I didn't like, like prize Hereford bulls and dragsters, and his stamp of approval wasn't necessarily a recommendation. I've grown to appreciate funk a bit more since then, and this is a very funky record indeed. The cover shows a woman in full seventies drag eating a Twinkie and treating her records in a way that is bound to cause surface noise. Hasn't she listened to a word I've said?

You can buy the mp3 or the CD at the link above, but you won't get the listening experience I did with my original vinyl. Mostly because the edge of my vinyl is warped like a sneering lip and the first track on side two has three skips because of it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Throw Rag live

Last night, October 3rd, I went to see a local band I haven't seen in several years, Throw Rag. I used to know the singer, Sean, pretty well and we went along to every show we could.

Last night they were at a little bar in Huntington Beach, a So Cal city long known as Surf City. The Surf City Saloon continues the the surfer tradition, with surf movies on the screens in the bar. At $10 cover, the price was certainly right. Once again, we marveled at the weird American ritual of the checking of the IDs and the stamping of the hands, in this case with a picture of Crazy Frog, to prove we were over 21.

The first band was Shaun Kama and the Kings of the Wild Frontier, and they were more than adequate. The singer, Shaun Kama, seems to have modeled himself on a combination of Johnny Cash, Tom Verlaine, Tom Petty and Joe Strummer, which isn't a bad start, and had songs to match. There was an accomplished guitarist on Chuck Berry riffs via Telecaster and a pretty good drummer. As a downside, the singer had not heard the adage about letting the songs do the talking for themselves and instead let his talking do the talking. Eventually I got fed up with the talking thing. Songs were good though. And Shaun Kama had a greasy, good-looking rocker vibe that went down well.

Best spoken lines:

Man in audience, yelling: I want to have your baby!
Shaun: Do you really? Well, I'm glad somebody does.

Throw Rag was awesome as always. Sean was his usual self, a mass of skinny torso, OTT tattoos and from-the-desert features and goatee. The band's sound and professionalism has soared since I last saw them. Also new since I last saw them was the tendency of the women in the crowd to come up and sing a verse on stage whenever they felt like it. One was so striking (well over six feet, two hundred fifty pounds and with ink to rival Sean's) that she startled even him when she managed to loom up silently behind him, but he recovered well. We all danced and generally had a good time.

Capt. Sean, Throw Rag, October 3rd 2009.

I bought a t shirt and then regretted it because it's got naked tits on it and I don't think there are many venues where I can wear it. Sigh.

The audience wasn't very much like the video below, and Sean didn't strip all the way last night, though I have seen him do that before. It's that kind of a band.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Sittin' spare

From Fast Company, a lovely slideshow of Led Zeppelin photos from the new book Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times, A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band, by Jerry Prochnicky and Ralph Hulett, which I may be compelled to buy by forces outside my control.

Photos here.

Look at number 8, for instance - Jimmy Page playing his custom Gibson Black Beauty with the Bigsby tremelo arm, just a short time before it was stolen. Note the three pickup switches - it had been modded. It used to look like this:

Led Zeppelin, January 24th 1970, Leeds University refectory.

You'd think this ad, specifying the modification, would have sent it home to daddy, but alas the guitar remains stolen to this day.

On second thoughts, maybe I don't need another book on Led Zeppelin.

Friday, October 02, 2009

I Cut Like a Buffalo/Wild Pigs

I do love the old, weird America, as Greil Marcus calls it. At least, I think I do; I've never been. It's far too late to go to a Chautauqua, or see the big panoramas, or generally walk in the dreamtime that for America is so much more tantalizingly close than it was in Britain. It's as gone as King Arthur or Boudicca was. But it's qualitatively different. Here in the States, you're just one old-timer's lifetime worth of years away - maybe eighty years - from actually living in the Golden Age.

Luckily, there are always bright young Americans who miss it too and attempt to bring a little of it into their lives. I've seen a panorama in Los Angeles, albeit about one fiftieth the size of the ones in the myths. I've been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology to see the its cabinets of curiosities which recall, however faintly, the classic ones. I watched the X-Files religiously, and I use that word carefully, to see every myth, from the circus freak to UFOs, brought to life by Chris Carter's excellent and evocative scripts and his outstanding choices in cinematographers.

Another young old weird American is Jack White, who seems to have lived it both wisely and too well, in that it is not possible any longer to tell if he's acting or One Of Them. His new video for The Dead Weather's new single, I Cut Like a Buffalo, is soaked in it. I see a few comparison's to David Lynch already on the web; I think they're drawing water from the same well and similarities are both coincidental and to be expected.

It looks like Jack Dreams of Jeannie, but she's not your father's Jeannie. The bowler-hatted guy is BP Fallon, of course, which makes Jack's uncanny physical/sartorial resemblance to Marc Bolan all the weirder. It has a rather October feel, I think - the end of the year when the division between the living and the dead wears thin - the Third Man slogan is "not dead", but the video begins "you're dead". And Jack sure likes his redheads.

Here's a gif that pleases me. Hope the endless loop isn't as annoying as I think it's going to be.

Jack White and Sunny Becks
Of course, somewhere in the distance, the Old Weird England still carries on in its superannuated way. And Americans play with it. For example, is this Virtual Dime Museum article on the Wild Sewer Pigs of Hampstead for real? How the hell would I know?

Victorian England's answer to the mythical alligators that were said to have roamed free in the sewers of New York City were the feral pigs or "black swine" which were said to have lived in the sewers of Hampstead, London in the early 1850s.
The story seems to have originated with some London sewer workers, interviewed in 1851 by Henry Mayhew, who quoted them in his London Labour and the London Poor:There is a strange tale in existence among the sewer-workers, of a race of wild hogs inhabiting the sewers in the neighborhood of Hampstead. The story runs, that a sow in young, by some accident got down the sewer through an opening, and, wandering away from the spot, littered and reared her offspring in the drain, feeding on the offal and garbage washed into it continuously. Here, it is alleged, the breed multiplied exceedingly, and have become almost as ferocious as they are numerous.

David Lawrence Pike, in his book Subterranean Cities, notes that urban legends about wild creatures in the sewers are directly related to myths about the underworld. These exist in every culture, ranging from the Greek Tartarus to the Buddhist Naraka. The urban sewer is a particularly frightening symbol of a dark and dangerous underworld teeming just below the surface of the mundane, regulated everyday world.
I've been to Hampstead hundreds of times, and although I remember lots of magic mushrooms grew wild on Hampstead Heath…which may explain something, come to think of it…no one, but no one, mentioned Wild Sewer Pigs, or dilated on the connection between stories of sewer dwelling beasts and the myths of the underworld. Although I'm surprised the article doesn't connect them to the collective unconscious of C G Jung.

Well, now I have and I claim my Ph. D.


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