Hold The Front Page ! November ended with birthday cake for breakfast, the memory of the Rebel Girls, Marissa (10) & Mika (6), singing “Happy Birthday” still making me smile. As I reflected on the best things about the past 4 weeks the first day of the new month marked the unveiling of a wonderful addition to the Interwebs. It’s been some time since a new website has seemed to be so thorough, comprehensive & genuinely exciting.
I’ve been listening to Neil Young’s music for over 50 years now, initially with Buffalo Springfield then as a solo artist & a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash &… Some of his music ranks up there with anything produced in that time period. The albums that are less fully realised, with less appeal to me, still feature tracks that are good & worthy of my time & consideration. There are 39 studio albums, many live sets, compilations, collaborations & soundtracks. Plenty of them have been on my shelves over the years. The guy who “borrowed” my copies of “Hawks & Doves” & “Journey Through the Past” is welcome round to mine any time for a warm beverage & to discuss why he never brought the flipping things back. Now here comes www.neilyoungarchives.com & what a lovely e-thing it is.
Neil has been talking about curating his extensive assortment of unreleased material for almost 30 years. The first “Archive” release came around in 2006 & “Live at the Fillmore East”, recorded in 1970 with Crazy Horse, was hotter than Georgia asphalt, raw, raucous Rock & Roll power. There have been 7 more subsequent releases, some of which I have missed through my own penury or because I’m still listening to those great nights in New York (see above). The website has got it all, official, unreleased, the films. Everything from the last 55 years, Blimey ! It’s a well-designed, attractive place & Shakey himself guides you though the controls. I’m being tempted by the classic records & I’ll be re-visiting neglected ones like “Old Ways” & “Everybody’s Rockin'” for the first time in a while.
I’ve been told that this resource will be free for the next 7 months when a “modest” subscription will be introduced in June 2018. I’m getting the feeling that that the current, produced by algorithm, one size fits all, Netflix Original fare (have you seen the “War Machine” movie ? A missed opportunity.), is not giving enough bang for my buck. When asked to commit my hard-earned to an artist whose body of work has given so much pleasure & inspiration & will continue to do so then I’ll be joining that queue.
This year’s Peter Perrett LP, “How the West Was Won” continues to give up its many charms & November has had me flipping through the back of the stack for the 3 fine records by his old group The Only Ones. A little Y-tube investigation yields 3 radio sessions for John Peel from 1977-80, some of the performances eclipsing the recorded versions. Back then we also had a bootleg of the band playing live in 1979 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, they really did pump it up onstage.
Now Peter & his new band are back on the road & back, 38 years later, at the Paradiso. He’s got some outstanding new material but it would be impossible & unreasonable to neglect his back catalogue. The clip of the month is this capture of the monumental “The Big Sleep” from “Baby’s Got A Gun” (1980). The acerbic Rock & Roll sleaze of his best songs resonated then & it still does. It’s great to see him working again after such long absences & while a prior commitment kept me away from this tour I really do hope that there is more to come.
So this month I went to the pictures to see “Thor:Ragnarok”, #17 of the billion dollar merchandising tent poles from the Walt Disney conglomerate (© Movie Bob). The first Thor movie reminded me of just how much of the Asgard, Loki, Rainbow Bridge, big hammer stuff I had absorbed as a kid spending too much time with Marvel comics. This one, the third one, is directed by Taika Waititi whose last 2 films “What We Did in the Shadows” & “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” are essential viewing. It was his name rather than the chance to see a shirtless Hemsworth that got me to the multiplex. The film was fun, it was funny & er…that’s it. Candy floss would have been more appropriate than popcorn. Asgardians of the Galaxy. Next up for Waititi is a starring role in “Corpse Tub”, a comedy about the ritualistic suicides of a deranged cult. Count me in.
Of much more viewing resonance was the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary “The Vietnam War”, a 12 part epic shown by PBS in the US & the BBC in the UK. This ill-judged & wrong-headed American incursion into South East Asia was a major influence on my own political viewpoint. I knew about the failure of 3 Presidents to bring order to the chaos, about the massacre at My Lai, I read Michael Herr’s “Dispatches”, had seen “Apocalypse Now”. But I was a kid in the UK when this thing started, other things to preoccupy me, no nightly news bulletins, no draft to dodge. Burns’ film covers all the bases, is even-handed, blends current interviews with contemporary footage brilliantly. You know that “the next episode will begin in X seconds” nonsense ? This was too serious, too affecting for that. The thoughts it provoked deserving of consideration rather than a binge watch. The whole series can be found on the Y-tube, it’s an achievement.