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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's been a back to mono Christmas


I got a Bose ® SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III for Christmas, with which I am well pleased. Since my phone is the player most of the time - either for music, radio or the recordings I preview for the Guardian Guide - it suits me to be able to pair it with a speaker that's easy to take around the house.

Yesterday I was talking to two younger blokes, who'd also got expensive items of audio equipment for Christmas. One was a Harman/Kardon Onyx Studio Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; the other was Sonos PLAY:1 Black - The Wireless Hi-Fi.

It's interesting how the things that were once important - things such as lots of speakers - are no longer an issue. I was talking to Alan Parsons recently about the amount of investment in quadrophonic in the mid-70s. It was just assumed that people would want a more sophisticated of what they had already. If you think two speakers are great, try four. It wasn't what they wanted at all.

I dimly remember a comedy sketch from the 70s where the gag was, "why not get rid of all these speakers and just have the music all coming from one place?"

Looks like it's happened.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I finally understand Nancy Sinatra's kinky masterpiece


Reading a novel set in the American Civil War the other day I belatedly realised the significance of the lyric of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'".

Most cowboy boots had a cutaway heel which made them ideal for placing in stirrups but not so good for walking. Any boots which were good for walking would advertise the fact.

Amazing how long it can take a penny to drop.

P.S. Lee Hazlewood must have made a fortune out of this one song.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Thirty five years ago today pop music stopped being "alternative"

Thirty-five years ago today I was woken by the news John Lennon had been murdered.

It's difficult to think back to that time when he was just another former rock star living in effective retirement in New York. However I have a feeling that he wasn't all that famous. Obviously he was famous but he wasn't as famous as he would become in death.

I was editing Smash Hits at the time. I wasn't surprised that people like me, who'd grown up with the Beatles, were deeply affected by his death but what amazed me is how keen the readers of Smash Hits, who had been infants at the time they broke up, were to join in the mourning and celebration.

In the days following his death everybody else piled in. The greybeards of the arts, the men of the cloth, the politicians, the soothsayers of the media, every last man jack who had ever been on a TV programme with him, everybody who had ever sung a pop song, been to the pictures to see "Help!" or combed their fringe forward. They all wanted to make it clear how much they approved of pop music.

Some of it was delayed reaction to Elvis Presley's death three years before. The editor of "People" didn't put Elvis on the cover because he wasn't sure it was a big enough story, which tells you a lot about the moment. His career had faded, much as Lennon's had, and it was assumed that the lustre would diminish along with it.

Of course, as we know now, it didn't. It grew. The process of mourning made both men bigger figures in death than they had ever been in life. In Lennon's case it also triggered the rekindling of the love affair with the Beatles, an affair which continues to this day.

It was the day pop music stopped being the alternative and became the mainstream.



Sunday, December 06, 2015

How to make the British love you - a guide for show folk

The Media Show interviews the TV producer Natalka Znak about how come "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here" continues to appeal to British TV audiences and yet two different attempts to launch it in the USA have failed.

She explains that whereas Americans like to celebrate the success of their celebrities, the British only feel affection for them when they've confessed their sins and asked forgiveness.

That chimes with my experience. It was this that made Q's big interviews work. Elton John or Phil Collins or Mick Hucknall would outline the full extent of their trespasses in eye-watering detail and then tell the interviewer that after a while even the greatest excess made them feel hollow.

The reader could nod sagely, secure in the knowledge that they had somehow dodged a bullet by never having gone to bed with three strippers and a mountain of cocaine.

The story told in these interviews always followed the same line: I struggled, I triumphed, I fucked up and now I'm sorry.

In this country it never fails.