Thursday, 14 April 2016

Time travel with music

There's a scene in Before Sunset[1] were Ethan Hawk's character is explaining the idea he has for his next book, in which a song encompasses both his character's present day and past. It is an interesting scene, and without spoilers, there's a few things of note that happen that you will just have to watch the film to catch up on.

The idea that music has time travelling qualities is not my own, and I'm not really in the mood to trawl the internet and my book and film collection for references for examples (let's face it, music is pretty self-referential in this aspect too). However, with the release of the latest James record[2], I've been listening to older James records as a reminder of both why I like them as a band and, consequentially, my youth.

We can get lots of reminders of our youths. First up and simple, shopping. A trip to Game recently revealed that said store has a better recall of my previous addresses than I do. Seemingly, when I bought games for my Playstation in 1997 I signed up a loyalty card using my then address in Poplar, East London. When I was presented with this information I got a little flustered, my memories of that house are not overly great (my flatmates were great, the situation wasn't). Yet, there's an odd connection to be found between the then-me and the now-me, a time travelling man[3].

Back to James. When I first started listening to them (John Peel, early nineties radio memories, when I listened to lots of music on Radio 1) it was primarily the name that picked my ears. James, named after me. Of course, Peel's description of them and their fans also helped (think he said cult at some point, though it might have been about Ned's Atomic Dustbin[4]). The singles off Gold Mother[5] struck a cord with me and led me to buying that lp. On tape. Now mangled.

Gold Mother and the following two albums, Seven and Laid[6], provided part of an considerably prolonged soundtrack to my late teenage life. I developed and grew as the records developed and grew. In parallel my life and those records continued to develop over the twenty-four and twenty-two years since, like Brian Eno's Discreet Music[7], initial shapes forming, colliding and then producing new meanings. Which is why in the last week I have been singing Next Lover in St Stephen's Church grounds and Low Low Low on the way to work (well, not exactly sing out loud). 

Most revealing though was Top Of The World. Here was one of my most favourite songs a new, those words, new shapes as I approach being older. 

I should listen properly, closely. Music is a good background soundtrack yet sometimes it is nice to have it there, full attention, like a good book, the experience of just listening.

Notes and references
1 - Richard Linklater, 2004.
2 - What, you didn't know? The Girl At The End Of The World.
3 - Did you catch the reference to the Rolling Stones in this blog post.
4 - Fun, Goon Show fact, Ned's Atomic Dustbin named themselves after a Goon Show.
5 - Original release was 1990, though 'my' version came out a year later.
6 - 1992 and 1993.
7 - Fun, Brian Eno and James fact. Laid was produced by Eno, who seemingly worked out how James worked and produced a second album at the same time, Wah Wah. Eno plays on the latest James record, too.

Lizzie and Sam not Rosie and Simon

Sometimes I amaze even myself[1]. When I looked back at my last proper blog entry prior to arranging my notes for this one, I was thrown by how things revolve.

My last entry was for Planetine. Last week I received news from Ryan, the curator, that we were going ahead. This week we held a meeting to confirm the exhibition would open on Wednesday 4 May 2016 in the Corn Exchange, Leeds. As I made my way through March Planetine came along regularly, I wrote and rewrote poems, made plans and discarded plans, and more than once almost gave up and asked to be removed from the project.

As March hurtled towards the Easter weekend, my thoughts had already settled on what I had wanted to write about. I had chance to do some shopping for books in Cambridge and have purchased some music. 

The books were mostly secondhand, and, aside from my usual authors, some poetry made its way onto my shelves. I have liked poetry for such a long time yet didn't buy a great deal. Full priced books are an investment which I didn't want to risk, where as books like the Forward Poetry collections were very useful yet feel limited. One of my purchases was by Kate Tempest, and I remember the incredibly snooty comments made about it in the introduction of that year's Forward collection.

I had been turned on to looking for poetry books by Jen Campbell as part of the workshop she ran and I participated. This interest was further stoked following a conversation with a colleague who also writer, I had asked her about spoken word performance and from that I came across Leeds University's spoken word society. I think I might give this a try.

Music was more exploitative and less new music exploration. James released a new album in March, so I rattled along to Jumbo Records to buy it on release date. I haven't bought a record on release day for years and then two in two months, James's The Girl at the End of the World and Muddy Suzuki's Good Grief. I would recommend both records.

There was another cyclical thing that happened in March and early April though I figure, dear reader, you don't want to read about food intolerance just yet.

Notes and references
1 - Yeah, another early start with the Star Wars references (George Lucas, 1977).
Mystery note - Can millionaires claim to be street fighting man. I ask as I am neither, though that song by that band does pose some questions.