We’re Not Addicted To Oil But Our Cars Are.

Way way back I had a provisional driving licence but I never got around to actually learning to drive. I delivered milk on a Sunday & surprisingly you were deemed capable of pointing a large electric vehicle in the right direction, on a real road, with no previous experience. My route took me out of town to a couple of villages & it was a good thing that the float knew the way because at 6 a.m. on a Sunday I was likely to be asleep at the wheel. My girlfriend lived in one of these burgs. She taught Sunday School at the church (Really !), I would give her & some of the kids a mild ride in my 3-wheeled wagon. I’m guessing that this would be frowned upon by the dairy & possibly against the law. I liked the job, every day I got the wheels, the empty glass bottles & myself back unscathed was quite a big deal.

Any road up, my family didn’t own a car until after I left home. Dad used the redundancy money he received when his “job for life” became economically unviable. He later upgraded with the compensation he got for the occupational lung disease which killed him before he was 70…the working life eh ? I spent the next 30 years living in cities & joined the twice-daily commotion of rush hour commuter confusion. This metropolitan mayhem got old fast but the more private alternative to public transport seemed no more attractive, all of us, being driven on the bus or driving themselves were in the same dreary boat.Of course I knew people who were car owners, good folk who were kind enough to allow me to accompany them on their journeys. More than that, in fact I gave up my virginity to a lovely young woman in the back of a friend’s Ford Cortina estate. Thanks for the loan Dave.

 

 

Yeah ! Like Iggy, I am the Passenger. Happy to be riding shotgun & never interfering because I have no idea or opinion about what goes on after the turning of the key. Instead I try & be the best fellow traveller around. I can read a map, select a killer playlist, talk up a storm to keep you awake or just shut up, take care of the catering & roll up a doobie in the dark. Let’s see your sat-nav do that. This  combination of Jeeves & Dr Gonzo seems to be what is desirable from the ideal passenger…maybe it’s the company I keep. I’ve been the minder/muscle on cocaine deliveries, the guy who threatened to kill me in a Tesco car park in Leeds put me off that game. I love treks across continental Europe because it’s an rare opportunity  to experience the driver’s eye view of the road. Sacre Bleu ! No wonder I don’t drive.

 

“The more you drive, the less intelligent you are”, says Miller in “Repo Man” (1984). Now Miller is an acid-fried hippie burn out but some of my best friends are a little…well, y’know & I’m not about to take the risk that he may be right. Have you seen those men-but-still boys who present “Top Gear” ? Makes you think. My friend Martin, one of the most considerate & insouciant humans I know, undergoes a Hulkian transformation when he’s behind a wheel. I am always shocked by this when I travel with him. I can bore for Britain on many subjects but I am excluded from the “what do you drive ?” petrolhead small talk. I get to  walk away from any discussion anywhere about shock absorbers, spark plugs, the best way to negotiate every town’s one-way system & that’s the way I like it.

 

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The infernal combustion engine, that’s some invention. Congesting our towns & cities, a 6-lane network of  concrete & tarmac imposed in the name of progress across any bucolic bailiwick. Urban public transport is left to the lumpen while the beautiful National Railway Museum in York is a poignant memorial to a superannuated technology. The automobile won. Henry Ford’s assembly line aimed to put the world on wheels & mass production is pointless without mass consumption & that’s the only reason you own all this crap that your grandparents never had. Cars are still sold with ridiculous associations to “freedom” & “individuality”, constructs that have no relation to the stuff you buy so fuck that noise. The primacy of the car has made the Western world dependant on a cheap, plentiful supply of gasoline…that’s working out well !

 

 

Unlike the Buzzcocks I don’t hate cars, fast of otherwise. I quite like the red ones ! My boss would give me a lift home in his Rolls Royce. You were probably a gangster if you drove a Roller through the city’s ripped backsides of the Old Kent Road & I made sure that my street knew we were coming. I just never got around to learning how to use  them & they seemed to take up to much time, energy & money. I enjoy walking, I talk about the terrible weather to the old ladies at the bus stop, try to put them right about their casual racism & this July I get my free bus pass so that’s it for me then.

 

It’s probably a little ingenuous (who me ?) that I am still gratified when someone turns up in their motor to run me about. It has never been an everyday thing & I would never impose on a friend to provide a free taxi service. What’s today…Friday ? I was in a car on Tuesday & it’s a possibility that I will be again over the weekend…what a life I lead ! I now live in an industrial town surrounded by villages undisturbed since the Viking incursion. My nephew Dan & I get mobile & explore market towns stranded by the Industrial Revolution, picnic in the rolling Wolds, visit an undeveloped perfect beach or make a 30 mile round trip for the best ice cream in the county. I’m the guy being driven around, head out of the window like a puppy, expecting good things around each corner. We make a good team, there’s a division of labour going on. Dan likes to drive & I am very happy being the Passenger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music And Movies (Punk)

In recent years Michael Winterbottom has made films in Estonia, India & one which took 5 years to shoot as the director waited for his child actors to grow. His last brush with the mainstream was a well-judged adaptation of “The Killer Inside Me” (2010) with 3 proper Hollywood stars. At the first whiff of controversy this enjoyable film was buried. If you are at all serious about apprehending the spirit of Jim Thomson then your film will contain brutish, amoral, psychopathic violence…I mean really ! Winterbottom’s new film is his 3rd (plus a TV series) made with Steve Coogan, a very funny man who’s big screen career does not reflect his talent. A re-make of “Around the World in 80 Days” ?…with Jackie Chan as Passepartout ? Oh yeah, that’ll work. The Alan Partridge movie has been a long time coming. The Winterbottom films & a cameo in “In The Loop” are, up to now, the only work to stand alongside his TV character comedy.

“24 Hour Party People” covers the Manchester music scene from the arrival of the Pistols in 1976, the adventures of Factory records to an inevitable bankruptcy in 1992 as excess, a groundbreaking but loss making club & allowing the drug-fucked Happy Mondays to record in the crack capital of the world converged to cause a crisis too far. Tony Wilson (Coogan) is the bulls-eye of the tale. As a presenter on local TV news he was already a face but if you lived in Manchester & liked music (as I did) then he was bloody ubiquitous. OK, he had the best club, the best bands were on his label but really he was always there. Just as he was at the Lesser Free Trade Hall for that first Manc punk gig. Winterbottom informs us who the players are in his story & how he intends to tell that story in a different way.

This ain’t no rock/mock/doc/biopic “I Walk the Line” nonsense. It is a proper attempt at rock & roll myth making, playing fast & loose with the facts when it suits, being more concerned with the substance, energy & ideas. The Rock Gospels, from Elvis walking into Sun Studios to Woodstock/Altamont are affidavits guarded by a generation who have taken themselves way too seriously. Let the new fables kick against the pricks, show the art & the artifice.The clip of the real Pistols fused into this scene is from an entirely different gig & it really does not matter. In the later “A  Cock & Bull Story” Winterbottom & Coogan mix it up even more exhilaratingly. It is a cliche about Tony Wilson that he got things done but he was a wanker. He really did seem to love any kind of attention. Well he may have been a fool but he was our fool & “24 H.P.P.” is one of the best films about music around because it is about the people, the drugs, the city. To quote Don Logan,” It’s the charge, it’s the bolt, it’s the buzz, it’s the sheer fuck off-ness of it all” .

“Bringing Out The Dead” (1999) is the 4th &, to date, final collaboration between director Martin Scorsese & writer Paul Schrader. So there’s faith, guilt, redemption then, it’s what they do. This character study (there’s little plot) of a paramedic struggling to see anything good in an Infernal New York is more than “Taxi Driver II”. Frank’s (Nicholas Cage) contact with the doomed & the dying give him  nightmares which have infiltrated his days. Cage gives one of those performances which will prevent you from watching any more than 3 minutes of “Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance”. The script, cinematography & direction grab you by the balls & the throat. The reason “Bringing Out..” is not regarded as classic Scorsese is that there are fewer touches for a broader audience this time around. No Joe Pesci swearing & killing motherfluffers imaginatively, this is black & barely comedy. It could be Scorsese/Schrader “fin de siecle” but I prefer, in the spirit of New York punk, End of the Century.

The film has the usual classy & spacious soundtrack from both Bernsteins through Motown & reggae to R.E.M. But this is Scorsese’s punkiest movie & the use of “Janie Jones” is perfect in this scene with Cage & ready-for-rehab Tom Sizemore crunching through the mean streets taking direction from the disembodied voice of the man himself. Hey, I’m so bored with the USA.

Hey ho, let’s go. I have finally managed to get “Repo Man” (1984) on to one of these posts & about time too. It is not good enough to invoke the spirit of the B-movie, the exploitation movie,  then just stand back & expect to be admired. That spirit, one of imagination & audacity wins over any budget restrictions. I am going to give Tim Burton “Ed Wood” but “Mars Attacks !” had a $70 million dollar budget & $5 of that was for ingenuity. “Repo Man” is as ramshackle as “Dark Star” & “Eating Raoul” , like both these films,it nails an attitude so adroitly that it transcends any cult status & is just a great film.Of course it takes a film made away from Hollywood to get punk on to celluloid properly. Stuff happens in my life every week that makes me think “what would Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) do ?” Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate ’em.”…Only joking, or am I ?

Emilio Estevez as Otto, “a clean-cut kid in a dirty business” makes his case to be regarded as the likeable Sheen brother. 30 years later there has been no reason for anyone to doubt him. Director Alex Cox, an Englishman abroad, talked a good fight too, looking back to John Ford & Nicholas Ray as touchstones for his punk rock, sci-fi, B-movie comedy…cheeky beggar. He got the “Sid & Nancy” gig because of “Repo Man”. I thought he did a good job. Both films have a fine sense of the ridiculous, playing fast & loose with facts or reality. Subsequent movies were criticised for being too political, too rough, too clever or too stupid, as if any of these was a bad thing. He had to spend too much time scratching around for enough money to just make the films & they are all worth a watch. Any road up, here is the closing scene of “Repo Man”. “What about our relationship ? Fuck that !”, a flying, glowing car & a song that Iggy Pop wrote for the film. Gotta send you out of the cinema with a smile on your face & a safety-pin stuck in your heart.

There’s one – Born every day. Sing song – Then fade away. (Toppop)

There is a Y-tube channel which has kindly uploaded a mountain of clips from the 70s & 80s off of a Dutch music TV programme called “Toppop” . Of course there is the good, the bad & the Bay City Rollers. There are Europop acts that you have never heard of & there are others that you wish you had never heard . But, every once in a while, among the fool’s gold , the vacuous glitz & bluster there is an absolute nugget. So let’s get on it.

Now those were strange days indeed. The night I saw Roxy Music his position as “sound manipulator” involved attacking a synthesizer with plastic cutlery…golden. Immediately after leaving Roxy Music, long before he became rock’s premier intellectual, young Brian Eno thought he could be a pop star. The music papers loved him &. it seemed, he liked all the attention. A hook-up with pub-rockers the Winkies for a tour to promote his first LP lasted just 5 gigs before a collapsed lung hospitalised the new frontman. Two weeks of the rock & roll life & Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno needed a long lie down.

If it was just down to the quality of the tunes then Eno would have been chartbound. “Seven Deadly Finns” is not on either of the first 2 solo LPs. “Here Come The Warm Jets” & “Taking Tiger Mountain” include jagged, futuristic pop songs like this which easily rank alongside the more cerebral glam rock 45s which were hits. A world where “Baby’s On Fire” & “Burning Airlines” were smasheroonies would be a better, more interesting place. There are tracks on the 2 subsequent solo LPs which could have sold a zillion too. Take a listen & decide which they are. A man with a brain the size of a planet, given an unlimited budget & a free run at the new video art…you know that just might have worked. Anyway, here is a clip of Eno in his medieval glam finery peddling his new single. It was not to become a regular thing.

” Shall I compare it to an atom bomb? a wrecker’s ball? a hydroelectric plant? Language wasn’t designed for the job.” (Robert Christgau on “Fun House”). The Stooges made art from chaos,  as an impressionable teenager I heard the first LP,  I read about Iggy in “Rolling Stone” & I was a little afraid. How great is that ? Scary music ! In the first half of the 70s rock became more subdued. Those LPs by the Stooges, the MC5 & the Flamin’ Groovies sounded pretty good compared to the soporific strains of Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles. The longer the decade went on the more Iggy & his gang improved..

There was a long gap &  Iggy, now David Bowie’s best buddy & a/the “Godfather of Punk”, released 2 LPs in 1977.  “The Idiot” & “Lust For Life” were his shot at showing he could do this music thing. After the contemplation of “The Idiot” he accelerated for the follow up. Surely everyone knows this title track from the first seconds of the Sales brothers stomping intro…a rock classic & no mistake. It was not a hit record. The sight of Iggy rolling around a TV studio, smeared with what I hope is ketchup, ripping up the potted plants, is really funny & the song will never sound less than great. TV could never capture his intensity in a lip-synched performance but he gives them the wild man routine & takes the piss. I love it. There is a contemporaneous live clip of Iggy performing in Manchester. He looks out at his audience & exclaims “I love this music !”. Watching, you believe him & share in his love…that’s proper Iggy !

Well…a Powerpop classic. From 1977’s “Greg Kihn Again” on the Beserkeley label, “For You” does for Bruce Springsteen what everybody was doing to Dylan songs in the 60s. I first encountered Kihn on the “Beserkeley Chartbusters Vol 1” LP which was Jonathon Richman’s first go-round too. I liked what I heard & though I bought too many Beserkeley records, “Again” is a cracker. It’s clean & clear with the opening Buddy Holly cover informing you that the heart of the record is in the right place. “Real Big Man”, “Madison Avenue”…a quality record. The Earthquake & Rubinoos LPs are at the back of the stack but Greg Kihn gets a regular airing. In the US he was the label’s biggest success. He got his Top 10 hit  with “Jeopardy” but I could not hear the freshness & enthusiasm of the first 2 records. The lamest naming sequence ever, a series of terrible puns, did not help but “Again” is all the Greg Kihn you really need. It’s great to find this quality clip of an old favourite by a good band. Less than 300 views….you are ‘kihn joking me (Oh no !).