Saturday, 9 March 2019

Back to the 1990's

After the brilliant 1980’s my life changed once more in the 1990’s and it will remain a turbulent, yet ultimately enjoyable decade – particularly towards the end.

So much changed in the 1990’s in terms of music and fashion with new forms of music evolving from the legacy of the previous decade; at least that’s how it was for me personally. I suspect that as I matured, so did my musical taste. The elements that had shaped my musical choices  thus far were still evident but I was starting to enjoy a deeper appreciation of the actual tones and lyrics of the songs I enjoyed instead of being a young man bouncing away to your average pop song.

The 1990s gave us Indie Rock, particularly in the Madchester scene which was centred on Manchester itself. Some of the bands that erupted onto the music scene from my adopted city became famous overnight and were ubiquitous in the city centre bars and clubs.

Pop music was now rather boring for me apart from some aspects of the Britpop scene and Indie Rock and I sought solace in other genres including my old favourites and grunge.

Here are some examples of the music I liked in the 1990’s.

Tasmin Archer – Sleeping Satellite

Some pop music still appealed to me, particularly the more melodic songs that graced the charts. In the 1990’s I was still listening to the radio in bursts and occasionally a song like Sleeping Satellite would attract my interest with its soulful lyrics and it would stir an emotion in me that reflects the rollercoaster I endured in that decade. Such songs had a distinctive 90’s feel to them, something I struggle to elucidate, so the best thing I can do is let you listen to the song in the hope that you will see what I mean.

The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

Indie Rock became prominent in the 1990’s and plenty of new British bands erupted onto the scene and shared some success in the charts with other genres that, sadly, didn’t interest me. The 1990s was the decade when I sadly felt that I was beginning to lose touch with tastes of younger people for the first time. I suppose I was growing up a little bit even though you might say that in my 30’s I should have been an adult. Adulthood is a state of mind in my opinion and not something that defines you just because your body is older. Anyway, enough philosophy; Bittersweet Symphony was one of the many Indie songs I enjoyed in the 1990s.

Air – All I Need

Towards the end of the decade, I rediscovered ambient electropop as my life started to settle down again. I found it relaxing and a far cry from some of the heavier music I still enjoyed. In particular, an album called Moon Safari, by French duo Air, completely blew me away in terms of its emotional appeal. This song is from that album. I discovered it by accident while I was working in Hong Kong thanks to a free CD that appeared on Q magazine. I popped into HMV and listened to the album on headphones and fell in love with it. The album is one of my all-time favourites and would be one of my desert island disks. That surprises people who know that I love heavy metal but I like to think it shows my taste is quite diverse.

Nirvana – Lithium

I can’t mention the 1990s without mentioning Nirvana, the band that personified grunge. I liked grunge but for a while it threatened to take over the rock scene completely pushing heavy metal and similar genres out into obscurity. Thankfully it slotted in alongside similar genres. I actually had a ticket to see Nirvana in Manchester when tragically the lead singer, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide. I was deeply saddened by this because the band came from nowhere to be globally famous and the pressure took its toll. This is one of my favourite songs by the band.

Queensrÿche – Out of Mind

Progressive rock was still a niche genre in the 1990’s with a cult following. Rush, my favourite band were still going strong but others were popular on the rock scene. One band in particular, Queensrÿche, appealed to me because their albums in the early part of the decade were intelligent and very well written with thought-provoking lyrics, ranging from melodic ballads to heavy hard rock songs. Out of Mind is an example of the band’s more melodic offerings.

Metallica – Enter Sandman

Any rumours that heavy metal was dying in the 1990’s were totally false. In the 1980’s Metallica burst on the scene as an antidote to the “hair” metal of that decade, with songs and albums that were hard, fast and heavy. As pioneers of thrash, Metallica were responsible for face-melting heavy metal. In the 1990’s however, they released The Black Album and adapted their style to be more appealing to the mass market. Enter Sandman is a heavy song – there is no mistaking it – but it certainly grabbed my attention. It was – and still is – a great song to drive to.

And finally...

The 1990’s was a rollercoaster for me but the music certainly helped me cope with those stormy years. I learned a lot, suffered a lot but left the decade a better man and that makes me happy. I still look back with fondness at the music.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Back to the 1980's

The 1980’s was a wonderful decade for me, probably the favourite decade of my life. So much changed for me both in terms of my life and also the music that carried me through those changes.

Many people look back at the decade and laugh at the fashion and styles. I do too because I turned from a long-haired rock lover to a New Romantic before heading back to the comfort zone of Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock.

I started the decade with shoulder length hair before having it all cut off in an attempt to look like Duran Duran for a couple of years. I then grew a mullet – back to shoulder length hair but styled to the point where I had to blow dry it in the morning and cover it in hairspray to keep it all under control.

After a traumatic incident at a hairdresser, I finished the decade with pretty much the hairstyle I have now.

But I loved my mullet – I genuinely did.

Musically, the 1980s was as varied as the 1970s for me, with various styles of music popping into my life, most of which stayed there and are still present today. In the early 1980’s I barely listened to rock music at all, only rediscovering it later in the decade when the charts began to devolve into short sharp shit songs by Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley.

Here are some of the songs I loved from that weird and wonderful decade.

Hall and Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)

In my early days at university I would frequent night clubs, mainly to find myself a girlfriend. There was a certain style of song that always appeared, a song that has that distinctive 1980’s vibe to it. This is a perfect example of that type of song – a perfect pop song that you could dance to and mime the words while scanning the dance floor like a benign hunter, searching for a lovely lady who was doing exactly the same thing. Sadly, in my case, I couldn’t dance and my miming was terrible so I failed miserably. Nevertheless, this particular song transports me to those Scouse nightclubs and I still love it today.

A Flock of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)

Something new happened in the 1980’s – a genre collectively known as New Wave, which were electropop songs with a slight edge to them. I always liked songs with a little attitude so they fitted perfectly into my taste. While not heavy at all, the guitars usually added a little bit to what was a very enjoyable pop song. I Ran (So Far Away) is a perfect example of what I mean.

A-ha – I’ve Been Losing You

Certain bands arrive and immediately become sensational in terms of their following. A-ha were huge and had a huge army of female fans. I usually avoid such bands because the music is lame and formulaic but I joined the army for A-ha. I loved their music – and still do. They wrote intelligent pop songs that appealed to much more than the teeny bopper army. The songs on their albums in many cases are better than the singles they released. This particular song is my favourite by the band and is also from my favourite album by the band, called Scoundrel Days.

Rush – The Big Money

The 1980s was when I discovered Rush. I knew of them in the 1970s but it wasn't until I met a fan at university that I was exposed to their music. As a progressive band, they changed their style throughout their long career, ranging from space rock to heavy rock and even, on occasion, dipping into pop music. The 1980’s found them embracing synthesizers and moulding their music to follow the new trends that were around during that decade. This song is from Power Windows, an album very close to my heart in the late 1980s.

The Sisters of Mercy – This Corrosion

My sister introduced me to Gothic Rock, suggesting that I listen to the Sisters of Mercy. At the beginning of the 1980’s she was a huge  Duran Duran fan so I was reluctant at first, thinking she was trying to persuade me to like her music (and more importantly buy the albums so that she could tape them). She told me that if I liked rock music I would like also like this new genre. She wasn’t wrong. I heard This Corrosion (the full 11 minute version of it) and was astounded. I didn’t go as far as wearing all the Goth gear but I certainly appreciated the music, so much so that I went to a Goth club with sister in the late 1980’s. The fashion was amazing but the music was much better.

Judas Priest – Turbo Lover

Any rumours that heavy metal was dying in the 1980’s were totally false. Heavy metal evolved in this decade, with bands embracing the fashions (sometimes embarrassingly so – stand up Twisted Sister). However, the metal that I knew and loved in the 1970’s was still present and adapting to the new trends too. Judas Priest even included keyboards in the album Turbo (from which this song is taken) and adopted a more mainstream beat to their songs, while maintaining the heavy metal vibe. Rob Halford is even dad-dancing in this video.

And finally …

If I could choose a decade to go back to, it would be the 1980’s. The music from that decade is still a huge part of my life and the memories from those mad years are still vivid and make me smile.

Long live the 80’s!

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Back to the 1970's

Last night I was in a restaurant when the DJ in the adjoining bar started playing old 1970’s disco hits and as I listened, I started moving my shoulders in time to the beat, to the point where Mrs PM and her dad noticed.

I am quite self-conscious and giggled nervously before trying to change the subject.  Mrs PM smiled knowingly and then told me that 1970’s Disco Music in coming back.

I’ll take her word for that because I don’t listen to the radio stations that she loves. However, it did transport me briefly back to a time when I first began to take notice of music. In 1970 I was 8 years old and my dad had started to allow me to listen to the radio on my own. Thus began my love of music and if you were to look at my collection these days you would be absolutely amazed at the songs and styles that laid the foundation for my current taste.

Back then I was a slave to charts, which were filled with a huge array of different genres  all vying to rule the musical world, from Disco to Pop, from Glam Rock to Punk, SKA to Heavy Metal, from Progressive Rock to Electropop. I embraced all styles in those early days and my collection reflects that, including great bands and artists such as Abba, Electric Light Orchestra, Donna Summer, The Stranglers, Nazareth, The Sweet – the list is endless.

I thought I would share with you a few of the songs that I loved – and still love today. Bear in mind that these songs all contributed to my love of music and whenever I hear them I think of that spotty little bespectacled blond kid struggling with the pressures of childhood, school, puberty and decisions that would shape my life to come.

Stevie Wonder – Superstition

I’m not a huge fan of Stevie Wonder yet there is something about this song that allows it to fit snugly into my musical comfort zone. The bass guitar throughout has me playing along with my own "air” version as I am trying (badly) to dance to this whenever it appears at a wedding or party. This is easily Stevie Wonder’s greatest song.

Suzi Quatro – Can the Can

I was in love with Suzi Quatro. In 1973 when I was a mere 11 years old I remember seeing her on Top of the Pops and being utterly star struck. Here was a woman who was banging out an amazing song and she was gorgeous too. She even appeared in Happy Days as the aptly named Leather Tuscadero. The show had The Fonz and Suzie Quatro together. They were happy days indeed.

Chic – Le Freak

To me, this is the perfect disco song. It has all of the elements that made the 1970’s disco scene what it was, the elements that appealed to me, from the guitar, violins, lyrics and dance moves. Yes, this is another embarrassing dad-dancing wedding song that I have used to humiliate myself on a couple of occasions.

Focus – Sylvia

My current favourite genre of music is Progressive Rock and when I look back there are numerous bands that fall into this category, some of whom were especially big in the 1970s. Bands like Rush and Emerson, Lake and Palmer broke into the charts occasionally. So did Dutch rockers Focus with this masterpiece that I clearly remember from the mid-1970’s. Progressive Rock has been with me my entire music life and this is one of the earliest examples.

The Stranglers – Tank

I was never really that much into punk rock. Some songs were not bad and really I like the way punk rock evolved through the 1980’s and 1990’s. The one exception is The Stranglers who were my favourite punk rock band of the 1970’s before they changed their style in the 1980’s. Tank is the B side of a single I bought and while it is not that famous, it is a beautiful example of the best bits of punk rock.

Motörhead – Overkill

Okay – there had to be a bit of metal in here to finish off. In the 1970’s I discovered heavy metal and loved numerous bands, any one of which I could have selected as my choice in this genre. Nevertheless, as time has passed, I have become more and more of a fan of early Motörhead and the part they played in shaping modern metal. Overkill is a great example of their early material when the band was at its peak with Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clark and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. I simply love this song.

And finally ...

The 1970’s might not be well liked for political and economic reasons but the music that came from that decade because of the issues shaped the future of music, certainly in my case.

Monday, 21 January 2019

The Pros and Cons of Vampires

I’m fascinated by vampires and have been ever since I was a child. The whole concept of vampirism is terrifying and I have seen and read many examples from the laughable glowing human friendly plastic joke vampires of Twilight to the horrific parasitic shapeshifters of Brian Lumley's Necroscope books; they are not nice creatures at all.

I was recently watching Blade, a movie about a half-man half-vampire whose purpose in life is to turn all vampires to ash and wipe them all out. And I started thinking.

What would I do if I woke up in the middle of the night and found myself in the grip of a ravenous vampire about to turn me into one of his blood-sucking kind?

Would I welcome it with open teeth?

I thought I would try to list the pros and cons of being a vampire – for a bit of fun – and check at the end whether I would try to stake the thing or accept the mutation into a child of the night.

By the way – I am omitting the Twilight vampires from everything I discuss about them because in my opinion they are not vampires – they are imposters.

Let’s start with the cons:

(1) Vampires cannot go out in daylight.

I love the sun and I would really struggle if I had to wake up at dusk and get to bed as the sun rose. I love taking photos of sunrises and sunsets and because vampires burn and fry in the sun, I would probably not live to enjoy the fruits of my vision.

Actually, when I think of it, so do already burn now as a human, so much so that I avoid extreme sun and bask in the shade. My eldest lad’s girlfriend already calls me “The Vampire” because I am “scared” of the sun, which is also highlighted by my extremely pale skin.

Oh and the less said about the twinkling vampires in Twilight, the better.

(2) Vampires live on blood.

I am totally squeamish and hate the sight of blood. I look away in movies when blood appears in the scene, whether it is because somebody has been shot or a poor unfortunate has had his throat ripped out by an over-zealous vampire. The thought of having to drink blood fills me with dread. I would probably faint and starve.

(3) Vampires are evil.

Traditional vampires are considered evil because they either turn people into vampires or murder them to feed. Worse, they are considered to be satanic and can be burned by a cross or holy water. I think I’m a nice guy so I wouldn’t like to be hunted for being a godless creature.

(4) Vampires sleep in coffins.

I don’t like coffins at all and the thought of having to sleep in one fills me with claustrophobic dread. I like my comfortable bed too much. Moreover, you have to sleep with the coffin lid down for safety and I tend to wake up periodically so I would repeatedly end up bashing my brains in during the day.

(5) Vampires are allergic to silver and garlic.

I love garlic. I think it adds that certain something to a meal.  Having said that, as a vampire, I wouldn’t be able to eat food anyway so perhaps that is not such a bad thing. I do wonder whether a vampire could be injured if he inadvertently nibbled on the blood of a person who had just eaten a garlic infused meal. I don’t really care about silver to be honest.

And now the pros (yes there are pros).

(1) Vampires go out at night.

I love going out at night but usually for a meal and a beer or two and, of course, vampires cannot consume either of these two things. Still, there would be nothing stopping me from going into a night club or something like that as long as I could get an invitation. Apparently vampires can’t enter a building unless somebody invites them in; I guess you could use hypnosis though (see later).

(2) Vampires are immortal.

This is the most appealing feature of vampires. Once converted, you end up looking as you do at the moment for the rest of eternity and as long as there are no Van Helsings or Blades around trying to stab you with a stake then you can enjoy an amazing life. Knowing my luck, a vampire would attack me on the eve of my 80th birthday so I end up looking like a grizzled old man for the rest of time.

(3) Vampires are sexy.

There is something deeply sexual about vampires, which is a little bit of a paradox, considering that humans are the source of their food. Vampires have a kind of hypnotic power over humans, enthralling them as a lover might enthral their partner. I would definitely love to be hypnotist.

(4) Vampires are powerful.

In all of the movies and books I have seen, vampires are incredibly powerful creatures, much more so than your average person. They are stronger, faster and have more natural weaponry. If I were a vampire, Piers Morgan might be one of the first people I visited for this reason although the thought of a blood-drinking immortal Piers Morgan rampaging about the country is something I wouldn’t want.

(5) Vampires are shapeshifters.

Vampires can turn themselves into other creatures such as bats and wolves in order to escape or to travel quickly. I would love to be able to shape shift into another creature or, even better, another person. Sadly,I don’t think that’s possible.

The Verdict

All in all, I think I I’m quite happy not being a vampire so I would probably try to use a stake or garlic when confronted by a blood-sucker. I would be tempted by immortality and hypnosis but that would be too big a price to pay if I had to drink blood.

Dracula – please don’t pay me a visit.