I remember when all this was fields

Burger
Some delicious dead thing

There was a recent Twitter trend #MyMumisaMotherfuckingBadass.

My post on this trend was about how my mum, aged 67, and on a Zimmer frame after 25 years living with Parkinson’s disease, walked 3 miles to see a Radiohead gig in a tent.

And then the next night, she did it again. Badass.

Bear in mind this wasn’t even OK Computer-era Radiohead. I happen to think OK Computer is the best album ever made, but it seemed to send Thom Yorke a little bit insane, and he reacted to its success by deciding to fuck with every music lover on the planet.

It was, it has to be said, a bizarre couple of years for Radiohead fans. Imagine Radiohead are a chef, and they’d just served you the best burger you’d ever eaten. It made you weep, it was so astonishingly good. And not just you: everyone agreed, it was a truly wonderful burger, fit to stand in the pantheon of all-time great burgers. It was rich and satisfying and curious, and it lingered on the taste bugs for months without ever souring or getting old. You just wanted to go back for more and more, and savour the ever-deepening complexity and creativity of this truly wonderous burger.

Then, a year later, Chef Radiohead changed his menu, and we all rushed back to find out what fresh wonders he’d created. But this wasn’t normal food any more. Sure, the Kid A burger could still be described as a burger, of sorts. There were ingredients; some of them recognisable, but many belonged in no burger you’d ever want to eat, such as lemons, a herring, coal and some wire. And try as we might, none of us really wanted wire in our burgers. I chewed and chewed and chewed, convinced I’d find something to like if I stuck with it and my teeth didn’t shatter. But eventually I spat it out and went back to eating the much more satisfying Dark Side-Order of Chips by Chef Pink Floyd.

But none of this stopped my mum, because she’s fucking badass. She walked to see Radiohead on her wobbly old legs, sat in the middle of the confused, nonplussed crowd on a fold-out chair the bouncers found for her, and moved to what Thom Yorke insisted was still, technically, music. Or maybe she was just moving to the Parkinson’s disease. It’s genuinely difficult to tell.

You see, unlike me, she’s never got old. She’s a widow now, and her Parkinson’s is getting to the stage where she’s considering going into a home. But do you know what stops her from doing it: she’d never be allowed to play Green Day at 120dB in the Perry Como Home for the Ancient and Beige.

But I’m getting old. I don’t feel it physically, and I don’t think I look my age. My knees are still working, I have most of my teeth and still far too much hair. Sure, I’ve lost a kidney, but I don’t think I was really using it. And I can’t smell a thing, but I can still hear when my girlfriend shouts at me, which is all a man needs to do.

But I see signs of decrepitude, and the first one is music. I can’t like new music. It’s all terrible.

When I was 14, and still recovering from the terminal horror of being caught losing my virginity by my own mother, I realised the best way to avoid those endless accusatory stares was listening to The Smiths.

Very little could keep my parents out of my bedroom as much as Morrissey mournfully wailing about humdrummery and his issues with William and Newport Pagnell, while I reeled around the end of my empty bed, longing for gladioli and pondering the best way to get my mum to agree to my painting the bedroom black. As soon as I played The Smiths my parents went out into the garden for a conference about “what the hell is wrong with the boy”, and started worrying about paying the phone bill for all the Samaritans I was clearly going to need.

At the very moment I wanted to be alone, The Smiths helped me feel I wasn’t. But now I feel alone again, because apparently I’m the only person on the planet who thinks Daft Punk is boring crap.

The only people in the world I currently hate more than Daft Punk are the bastards who put up the dividing wall between me and my neighbour, who has played Get Lucky to me over a trillion times. A trillion. That’s literally the number.

Sophie Ellis Bextor
Here kitty. I’ve got some cream for you.

I guess if you’re 14 and don’t remember the last century, you may be persuaded that Daft Punk have created a spectacularly innovative noise. But it’s only spectacularly innovative if you didn’t hear exactly the same noise from Groovejet 13 years ago.

The only discernible difference is that Sophie Ellis Bextor looks like an erotic, airbrushed cat with its head stretched over an ironing board, and Daft Punk clearly don’t, or they’d remove those fucking stupid helmets.

(Incidentally, I remember a best of list from 2000 which placed If This Ain’t Love as the 3rd best single of all time, which tells you how useful best of lists are).

Almost anything by Chic sounds fresher, and more original and a whole lot more fun than Get Lucky. The only “lucky” thing about that song is that people buying it aren’t old enough to remember Nile Rogers.

But I guess it was ever thus. As a Smiths fan I never liked Rick Astley, clearly, but he didn’t offend me as much as he offended my mum. When she first heard Astley’s hollow, robotic version of When I Fall In Love my dear, wobbly old mum swore for three straight hours, and never repeated herself. Now that’s creativity, you Daft Punk helmets (and I mean that in the sense of shiny, salty male genitalia).

Maybe it’s my age, and I’m missing something thrilling about modern music. But where is the David Bowie of today? (Other than David Bowie, obviously). Between 1969 and 1982 he released 14 albums of stunningly original material, each one of which pushed back the boundaries of musical experience. And none of them sounded anything like the previous one.

What’s Daft Punk’s style? Copycat Groovejet pop dance with the pretty lady replaced by a pair of French twats in what look like Liberace’s space-suit.

And what’s Bowie’s style? Folk, pop, discord, rock, world, dystopian musical, metal, African, techno, ambient, funk, indie, soul, glam, country, showtune, drum’n’bass, dance, thrash, German neo-classical and freeform jazz. Usually all on one album. You can buy anything he recorded for over a decade and it will be brilliant, challenging, intelligent, original and compelling.

(You can then skip forward to 1992, when he released his only album since Scary Monsters that’s actual genius. OK, he’s not infallible, but he had a pretty good run!)

And it’s not just Bowie, who might be a one-off and possibly an alien. Where are The Smiths of today? Where’s the Talking Heads? Sure, there are hints of it in Arcade Fire, but are they off making edgy New York punk, followed by a joyous funkadelic assault on the senses, followed by a polyrhythmic odyssey around South America? No. They’re ploughing one indie furrow with diminishing returns.

And for The Smiths you might copy/paste Belle and Sebastian, except they seem to have decided to move away from literate, gentle, studenty songwriting genius, and become a feeble Beautiful South tribute band produced by the Buggles of Video Killed The Radio Star fame.

Most music I hear today is the same music I heard in the 80s, washed at a high temperature until it shrinks and hardens and all the texture is removed by technology. Vocoder that, Will.I.Am, you drab, self-obsessed, vacuous hairstyle! Even in the 80s that kind of music was pretty dismal stuff. Other than 14-year-old girls obsessed with blow-dries, who actually liked Duran Duran? Probably the same mums who now like Take That, but it’s not music. It isn’t. Really. It’s posters, chat shows, teeth-whitening, and a row of stools (and I mean that in the sense of a line-up of turds, steaming on a fancy stage).

I’m not saying we’re completely bereft of gems. It’s just that in between we’re being fed a vat of pap, processed to a bland, soggy mess and marketed to within an inch of its life. I’m a veggie, but even I’m starting to ask of modern music: where’s the meat?

So after a few years, I decided to go back and try that undercooked, highly disappointing wire-and-coal burger that Radiohead had served me in 2000. And do you know what? It’s rather delicious. It just took me a while to get hungry enough to want it.

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Jesus Christ!!!

This blog is in danger of becoming a list of things I hate.

For example, here are some things I hate:

  • Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Chris Moyles
  • The Spice Girls (and their constituent parts)
  • God (and his constituent parts)

But somehow I still manage to nearly wee with excitement at the news that Jesus Christ Superstar is being revived and touring the country. Moyles, the UK’s 3rd most evil man, is playing Herod. Lloyd Webber, the UK’s 2nd most evil man, wrote the music. God, the universe’s most pernicious lie, is a major protagonist. And a Spice Girl is playing a warbling hooker in love with the wrong guy… which seems like an apt bit of casting, so fair play.

(The UK’s most evil man is, of course, Rolf Harris.)

Yet I’m thrilled. I know musicals are commonly held to to be a bit camp and gay and stupid and all of that palava. And I accept that many of them are, which is at least 73% of the appeal.

But Jesus Christ Superstar isn’t from the school of Glee, it’s from the school of Rock. It’s full of churning, thunderous brilliance. Not high-camp, stage-school impersonations of rock, but guttural, vigorous, angry, thrashing, powerful rock, with guitar hooks so hooky that they’ll spear right into you and never let go. It’s a bellowing, shrieking, clever, indignant, and strangely honest piece of work.

In it, Jesus is portrayed as a dreamy pillock with a death-wish that nobody else can understand, because maybe he’s crazy and God is just a symptom of his schizophrenia. Judas is the first man to say “Jesus Christ” in tongue-tied frustration, and is egged into betrayal by a chorus of soothing angels who are out to do God’s dirty work. Herod is a weak politician, bullied by the mob. Religious zealots are crazy and dangerous, and are constantly looking for a fight. And they all sing, which is a bit strange, but somehow works.

Why are you still here? Get your ass on Amazon and buy the album.

So I’m going. Line up now to point at me and take the piss, I don’t care. I’m going. And while you’re mocking me, here are some other musicals I’m proud to enjoy.

West Side Story

My Fair Lady

Oliver!

Oh, by the way, Rolf Harris is not the UK’s most evil man, that was a joke. He’s lovely. And Australian. And nobody can top Cowell for being pure, Sheffield steel, oak-smoked, all-leather, organic evil. He’s the M&S of evil. If anybody is capable of preventing me from seeing Jesus Christ Superstar, it would be the involvement of that man – if man he be! I’m still convinced that one day a camera will catch him slipping off his skin to reveal the lizard beneath, and then swallowing a lamb whole.

See? Back to hating again.

Meet the band

I hate name-droppers, but I’m also a terrible hypocrite.

So if I sometimes vanish from view, it’s just because I’m bending down to pick up names I’ve scattered throughout the blog. But don’t worry: all of these stories just indicate what a total fuckwit I am, and how I hold onto opportunities like a post-nailing Jesus holds onto marbles.

For years I’ve been dining out on the story that I was at school with Mick Hucknall. Well, not dining out exactly, because I doubt there’s a person alive who’s actually impressed by that, but I’ve certainly mentioned it, and people have said “Oh God, I can’t believe I used to actually like Simply Red”. Full disclosure: I own Stars. I haven’t played it for about 15 years, but I own it.

I know: I sicken you. I sicken me too.

When I decided to write this, I went to Hucknall’s wikipedia page to find out what years he was at Audenshaw School with me. And it turns out he’s 10 years older than me: I went to the same school, but not in the same decade, which means there must have been another ghastly ginger twat in my year who I assumed was Hucknall. They must breed them where I was brought up.

Not that there’s anything wrong with ginger people. But there is a lot wrong with Mick Hucknall, not least his alarming resemblance to Charlie Drake.

So that’s my first brush with fame utterly rubbished. But it was a rubbish brush to start with, so I’m not too worried. However, now it gets more and more rubbish…


When I was around 20 or 22, I worked in a bar just around the corner from a rehearsal room used by a barrage of hopeful, short-lived, talentless nonentities. You know the type: 4 students who know 5 chords between them, and think they’re going to conquer the world. I’d been in plenty of these bands, because I play the drums a bit, and am crap enough at it to be making a living designing websites instead. Even good drummers are changed more often than underpants, and I’d probably played (badly) in a couple of dozen bands, mainly in garages or school music rooms.

Into the bar one day came a couple of likely lads who were using the rehearsal space, and complaining about their drummer. We chatted across the bar, and after a while I got asked to try out with them. So I did. We severely damaged couple of Beatles and Kinks songs, it went reasonably well for a first attempt, and nobody was killed, disfigured or sued, which is a pretty good result for a novice band.

But I didn’t like them. I’d read several books, whereas all this lot seemed to have read was several invitations to attend court dates. The singer was a gibbon looking for a fight, and I knew it wasn’t going to be fun playing in a band with him. And all I wanted was some fun. You don’t become a drummer if you want fame and money: you do it if you can count to 4, don’t value your hearing, and are crap enough at getting girls to gratefully accept those rejected by the bassist.

So I never went back after than first try-out, and didn’t give it another thought until I picked up a copy of Q Magazine 18 months later, and there they were in all their monobrowed, estate-chic, coked-up, precinct-monkey glory: Oasis. The band I turned down.

Not that it matters (I keep telling myself). I hated Liam on the first day, I’d never have lasted 18 months (I keep telling myself). The idea that I might have played drums on a seminal album is a nonsense (I keep telling myself).

I keep telling myself this stuff, but I’m not persuaded. Dammit. Dammit.


I used to work with a guy called Mark, whose claim to fame was that he’d come second in the 1995 Stars In Their Eyes final, performing as R.E.M’s Michael Stipe. Due credit: it might be cheesy, but he was uncannily good.

In around 1999 R.E.M. toured the UK and Mark, myself and 2 other colleagues got tickets. The gig was on a Saturday night, and that afternoon I got an excited call from Mark: he had incredible news. He told me he’d been shopping in Manchester and bumped into Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who he knew to be a friend of R.E.M.

Having little or no shame, Mark had marched up to that well-known chirpy-chappy Yorke, and told him about Stars In Their Eyes. I’m trying to imagine what Thom Yorke thinks about cheesy Saturday evening Karaoke. I can’t imagine he’s a fan.

Anyway: Mark explaind how he’d always wanted to meet R.E.M, that he guessed Yorke was in town to see the gig; and bold as brass he asked if Yorke could arrange for him to get backstage and meet the band.

“Yeah, sure”, came the amazing reply, “I’ll organise backstage passes, just ask at the box office.” And with that, Thom Yorke ran away to write some inpenetrable music and destroy the reputation gained by OK Computer.

(Sorry, I’m still bitter about Kid A.)

When Mark called to tell me this story I began to wonder whether he’d had a stroke, I’d had a stroke, or Thom Yorke had had a stroke. There was no way on Earth that we’d have 4 backstage passes waiting at the box office. Couldn’t be true. Mark was being patronised.

But he insisted, and when we got to the gig, Mark leaped up the stairs into the MEN Arena 4 steps at a time, and bounded up to the box office while the rest of us stood back laughing. And then he returned, and we stopped laughing as he showed us 4 passes under his name, and a little handwritten note from Thom Yorke asking the passes to be given to Mark.

Gobsmacked.

So we went to the gig, and it was fine for a band on the wane in a vast, charisma-free cattle-shed, and we sang along and had a jolly good time, and became increasingly excited about the after-show party. Gig over, encores completed, religion lost and man put on moon, we made our way to the stage-door to gain access. We showed our passes to a gaggle of bouncers the size of Ayers Rock, and we ushered into a large echoing room. It was just a massive, bare-brick box with a silk rope across the centre.

One one side of the rope were the Manchester glitterati. All the usual suspects: Tony Wilson, Noel Gallagher, some Happy Mondays and a Stone Rose. A few football players and actors.

And on the other side of the rope were us four, trying hard not to look like we’d blagged our way in, and feeling incredibly uncomfortable next to a line-up of people with increasingly severe disabilities. Every one of them was in a wheelchair, and some of them had drips and huge battery packs powering lifesaving hardware. And us: four perfectly healthy computer geeks.

In came R.E.M. to a burst of applause, wiping themselves with towels, and walking down the line of people in wheelchairs, politely shaking hands and saying hello. Michael Stipe looked like he had no idea what was happening, just totally otherworldly. He shook hands with us all without really connecting or focussing. But the querulous, puzzled look of the bassist Mike Mills will stay with me forever, as will the way he subtly looked up and down our bodies trying to identify what was wrong with us. Nothing Mike: except for the Stipe-impersinator at the end, who had clearly led Thom Yorke to believe he was mentally ill.

And then they were gone, across the silk rope barrier into That Other World where we didn’t belong. And 25 wheelchairs were trundled out, leaving the four of us to meekly sneak away, hoping nobody would confront us about our deception.