Category: Music & Radio

Jokerside sure likes a bop…

“Oh no, don’t say it’s true” David Bowie 1947 – 2016

Berlin Triptych Isherwood Bowie Pop

Bowie on Jokerside

A message about the action man. An unusual note for an exceptionally sad day.

THERE’D ALWAYS BE THAT DAY WHEN DAVID BOWIE BECAME PAST TENSE.  AND IT’S TODAY. Terrible words to wake up to, but thank the Starman that radio was set one minute out last night so I didn’t miss the name… And let that terrible realisation dawn during that endless pause of less than a second until the sentence was completed and the news confirmed. It’s obliterating. In the wave of reviews, articles, analysis and dissections there were all those ideas hanging since his final album launched just three days ago. Each day, more to read, disagree with, think about. What if Eno and Bowie teamed up again? Reworked Outside? What about Rodgers, Moroder and Visconti. Every time, Visconti.

Just last night, I was reading Tony Visconti on those songs from the sessions that didn’t make the cut. The promise of new material, maybe very soon? But it was such a brief and tight album, a small selection of brilliant tracks chosen for a reason. But those videos. That musical finally Off-Broadway for the South London kid who always wanted to write musicals. The being a stage reworking of his major film role. For the superstar who always wanted to be an actor, from mime to Brecht and beyond…

Lazarus. No, was never going to think about what that all meant.

Few people I will never meet will ever have the effect on me Bowie has.

There’s no doubt that I would be very different had it not been for David Bowie. This blog, if it existed at all, would be very different. The theatricality, the power for change, the hidden compromise, the surprise, the lyrics, the musicianship (though said he wasn’t a musician), the art (and was most definitely the artist he said he was), the production, the power, the quality, the volume, the intellectualism, the ridiculous, the soul, the glam, the rock, the ‘insert your genre here’. The risk. That’s him. And that was the inspiration. There’s a Thin White Duke hiding in the logo up there, a hint of Pierrot clown. Among other stuff, but it’s there.

Somehow, I managed to see him live three times. On the road during the Reality Tour, after I caught his magnificent Glastonbury return in 2000. Still, the greatest gig I’ve ever been to. (He’d take off that long coat you know, but he’s “too vain”). And then for the third and final time at his last UK gig at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2004. And he played Station to Station.

I don’t believe it. He played Station to Station.

I always had a secret lightning bolt across my forehead, just didn’t know it for a while. Until finally Bowie hit me full on the bolt when I was at art school in the late ’90s. Previously I’d ambled from ‘50s to ‘60s, Buddy Holly to the Beatles. And then slowly splintered with that decade into prog, metal, psychadelic. Into the 1970s and more of the same, then glam then… Suddenly it all stopped. That mini-evolution found one focus, the ultra-evolutionary, the chameleon able to change himself to suit his surroundings or oftentimes, changing them to match him. That would roll on to last Friday.

Back in the 90s I endlessly listened to the old ‘69 to ‘74 collection on a 24 hour bus trip to Barcelona. On cassette tape, of course. I’ve still got that. Hours was the first album of his that I bought on release, in the last year of the 20th century. I could have even downloaded it, the first full album to do that, had I known what downloading is. Six years ago I felt a bit strange from listening to the Station to Station LP too much and had to have a long lie down. I trailed around Berlin following his and Iggy’s mid-70s footsteps five years ago. Five Years. That became this triptych… A journey through Berlin with Isherwood, Pop and Bowie. I always look to layer and draw out links. Just another thing Bowie helped with.

Berlin Triptych Isherwood Bowie Pop

I was hailing his late ‘90s and early 21st century work when The Next Day caught us all by surprise in 2013. I had fun breaking his persona’s down in what’s probably my most read feature. But I also had to rant about him not swamping the Q Awards that year. Last week I was praising Labyrinth, ready for its 30th anniversary this summer.

And last night I was writing my review of . Working on the cartoon that I just couldn’t get to work. I was pleased to get some form of Jareth into last week’s Labyrinth retrospective, but now more than ever I can see that was just Jareth and not Bowie. I could never never really get that to work. It never quite felt right.

Now I know why it didn’t work last night.

That review of★ will now transform into something different for a new era of Bowie on Jokerside.

David Bowie is… In the past tense. But David Bowie is.

Matt

Doctor Who Series 9: Influences leave a Score to Settle

Heaven Sent Doctor Who Series 9
Doctor Who Series 9 Heaven Sent

Something tells me Rachel Talalay’s directing this one…

 

Heaven Sent broke many rules of rule-defying Doctor Who as it paved the way for the huge series finale of Gallifrey’s return. But was it such a great departure? It drew liberally from the show’s heritage, the considerable creative talent involved and the rich canvas of science fiction. Most importantly, amid the wealth of influences, it was as much a showpiece for the show’s music as it was the Doctor himself.

Trapped in a revolving door, inspired by Heaven Sent.

WHETHER IT’S THE MIDDLE PART OF A THREE PART FINALE OR A SINGLE SLICE OF ANTHOLOGY, HEAVEN SENT WILL BE LONG REMEMBERED. And apart from the evident format breaking, immediately following the departure of one of the New Series’ longest serving regulars, many strands of influences were evident in the penultimate episode of Series Nine. What’s not in doubt is that Heaven Sent is an immaculately produced piece of television thanks to those influences. And rising to the top is the mighty Murray Gold once again. In his tenth year as the show’s music director he’s once again seamlessly provided something so perfect that it’s easily overlooked. But as much as this Heaven Sent is held up as a one-hander for the Doctor, the music was with him every second of eternity.

Influences

Inherent horror

“Every 100 years a little bird comes”

The influences that comprise Heaven Sent run thick and thin. It’s a welcome return for director Rachel Talalay. Her entrance to the Who universe with the show’s first two-parter since 2011, Dark Water and Death in Heaven, made for an iconic and memorable finale in the rather downbeat Series Eight.

Heaven Sent is another adventure steeped in horror, just as Talalay’s previous episodes were. Although this time, the action moves away from crypts, the undead and body horror to a haunted house and corridors fit for a stalking veiled slasher. Heaven Sent is slasher horror in many senses of the genre. It’s strange to think of the Doctor’s nightmare as a palace of mystery with a corridor lurking monster, when it may very well have resembled a large, ornate garden in need of tending- as he takes a moment to dismiss early on.

Talalay’s worked extensively on genre television in recent years, but high on her resume is prolonged involvement in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Production duties led to her directing debut, helming 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare. That was the deep-end: not only the closing chapter and heightened meta entry of the series but filmed in 3d.

“I’m in a fully automated haunted house, a mechanical maze”

The Veil carries the hallmarks of the slasher genre in Heaven Sent. Haunting the corridors, sticking with a never changing speed akin to Michael Myers, an unknown origin like Jason Voorhees and the product of a dream world like Krueger himself. All that was missing was the slashing, but when that arrived it did so in sizzling and quite graphic quantity. Billions of years of it. Like those single-minded icons of slasher horror, the Veil was part of a code. There was no hidden morality, but its purpose was dictated by the singular aim of unlocking the Doctor’s confession. Unlike most slasher icons, this clockwork fiend never had the capacity to rise to anti-hero.

And of course, this might well have been Dracula’s Castle. It was steeped in the gothic tradition, the bizarre camera point of view that heralded the Veil’s Ghost of Christmas Future march – an update of mirrors that catch a vampire’s likeness. Or a keen reference to ScroogedContinue reading “Doctor Who Series 9: Influences leave a Score to Settle”

Britpop: Supergrass and I Should Coco at 20

Supergrass I Should Coco 20

Supergrass I Should Coco

It couldn’t be a worse time of year, I Should Coco is all about the summer of ’95 right? But no. It’s alright. After all, Caught by the Fuzz was originally released in autumn 2004. And today’s ‘wear your old band t-shirt to work’ day. And the now sadly dis- band have chosen today to release the remastered 20th anniversary special edition of their seminal debut. So that makes this the perfect day for Jokerside to salute Supergrass’ debut! Alright?

I DON’T KNOW WHEN I RELALISED JUST HOW GOOD I SHOULD COCO IS. I REMEMBER THE SUMMER LIGHT WAS FADING. AND THOUGH I CAN’T QUITE REMEMBER THE METHOD –WALKMAN SEEMS LIKELY – I DO VAGUELY REMEMBER THE STRETCH OF A PARTICULAR PARK. NEAR A COLLEGE CAMPUS, NOT MINE. Unfortunately that memory wouldn’t place it in 1995. No, I fully switched on to Supergrass with the release of their second album In It for the Money – or the release of the first single from that follow up, 1996’s Going Out.

I remember hearing the band interviewed by Steve Lamacq during or just before those In It For the Money recording sessions. I suppose backstage at the ’96 Mercury Music Prize, when they promised a more mature sound… And for once, that wasn’t a deflecting description. I didn’t really have the comparison beyond its predecessor’s singles at the time, but every part of In it for the Money dripped quality and confidence – it had a huge, solid sound that as it happened perfectly extended their bombastic debut while sparking it off in a myriad new directions. As I soon found out.

While In it for the Money had a slight melancholy, there it is on the cover of what’s their autumn album (released in the spring), I Should Coco was their defiantly summer LP. Although of course, that was recorded in the cold of the preceding winter in Cornwall.

“We honed the songs so they were short and full of energy and life”

That’s how Danny Goffey described it. It was some times before I took in the scrappier, more joyful, more vital and generally more pop punk I Should Coco. The moment it hit, that late afternoon, walking that path. Singles. Single after single. It was dripping in them. As much as the sun, as much as Britpop, as much as growing up, as much as sideburns.

Gaz Coombes recently declared there to be only a few great Britpop bands, and that much has been clear for a long time. But amid the heavyweight scrapping and flash in the pan chancers, wasters, lapsed shoe gazer and label hangers, Supergrass still stick out as the buzzing three piece from 95’s Summer of Britpop. In that leaner year than the fuller market of ‘96, they were the freshest and most alive during the fleeting movement that was always obtusely dipping in dolefulness. Oh, there are rock, riffs and darkness in I Should Coco, but also great peaks of vitality that brought the band crashing to widespread attention. It’s at the punk end of the spectrum – fast, three chord, break-neck – but that can’t disguise countless nods to an extraordinary number of other styles and English bands, from the rock pop of the Kinks to the ska infusion of Madness.

I Should Coco by the numbers

“1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4”

I’d Like to know, the album opener sets the agenda, almost by accident. It’s Gaz Coombes’ extraordinary and distinctive voice that steals the show, against thundering high tempo rock, with high pass backing vocals and a tendency to reach ear-piercing peaks and then surpass them. There’s a huge amount going on in this record. In a peculiar way, before the androgyny of glam and Bowie had fully swept into to fill out Britpop’s sixties fixation, it’s not genderless but it’s rather sexless – there’s nothing that sums the band up as a macho three-piece. As the long chords hang and tempos shift up and down with incredible speed, there’s the mantra – the call to arms to follow the strange right there.

I’d Like to know break, brings the instrumental of blistering chords and percussion that really shows what Supergrass could do. It’s the third longest song on the album thanks to that long and anthemic coda. And it ends on a sample of crashing waves, percussion thumping away… Until it hits the chord wall called Caught By the Fuzz. The single that was originally intended to have I’d Like to Know as its b‑side to. On the album, the difference is instant, as if this is the point where the album begins proper. The themes of the first song will be picked up later, but now’s there’s an even more singular tune, again first person and arguably the bands most daring – all based on an incident from young Coombes’ real-life. There’s the distorted vocals until the almost unbearable, reaching chorus. It’s frenetic and immediate. This is what arrived in 1994, a little presumptuously controversial than Supergrass would prove to be. It’s what caught their first attention. From bikers, as bassist Mick Quinn once said. Alright is mildy more reserved in its sortie through teenage life, but then it’s the carefree romp that comes before the claustrophobic rock of Caught by the Fuzz. And Alright’s video did much to create Supergrass’ New Monkees image. It was the hair right? Must be the hair. Because Supergrass were far more distinctive, talented and original than that comparison or Spielberg’s pitch of a television series suggests. Continue reading “Britpop: Supergrass and I Should Coco at 20”

Chris Moyles Returns Stage Right in 2015: ‘Gonna be here every morning on Radio X – until they fire us’

Chris Moyles returns on X Radio

Chris Moyles returns on X Radio

Three years ago, Jokerside opened its account with a look back at Chris Moyles’ final show on Radio 1. So, in the month of that third anniversary it’s very good of Chris Moyles to stage a much-hyped come-back on the retooled, regenerated and surely soon to be revived Radio X (formerly, XFM).

And he’s brought friends. Jokerside listened to his comeback show…

LOOKING BACK THREE YEARS… JOKERSIDE’S OPENING GAMBIT, A REVIEW OF CHRIS MOYLES LAST STEPS FROM BROADCASTING HOUSE, WAS A BLOODY MORBID AFFAIR. AWASH WITH TALK OF EPOCHS, ERAS AND AONS ENDING. Without so much as a Sic transit gloria mundi – although no one could have heard it over the wails of the gremlin scribes being crushed underfoot. “That’s no way to start a blog….” Splat. Well, now the next generation, a forgiving bunch, sit in polite applause. And it’s not simply that the intervening content has taken all their ire. No. A new era has begun. On 21st September, two days before autumn, pips rang out at 6.30 am on a new radio station with a familiar voice.

A quandary

“I’m glad the stars have aligned…”

Three years ago there was the quandary, subsequently proved to affect a large Moyles diaspora. On Radio 1, the belligerent Breakfast experiment saw the station target the younger market with masochistic downsizing to the no-gimmick Nick Grimshaw show. Even the show’s name was diminished. The idea of hanging on to Radio 1, so at least a few songs in the charts would stick in the head, was soon untenable. It was a change less admirable than the inarguable logic and commitment behind its change. And that’s from someone who previously abandoned the show during Sara Cox’s ill-advised reign. Grimshaw simply wasn’t boisterous enough, none of that balance of seat of the pants, intuitive and delicately planned broadcasting.

At the end, Moyles himself had knowingly pushed listeners onto BBC 6Music. Aside from that there was the rising trajectory of Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2, with his increasingly dazzling work ethic and fine-tunery now surely keeping him at full stretch. The Today Programme and FiveLive were serious options, but missing some notes. Away from the state broadcaster, the Global channels were an option, although Classic FM and Heart were again not boisterous enough. There was more hanging on this than I thought.

Perhaps like Johnny Vaughan, now lodged in the drive time slot after Moyles, it was a safe bet that the former Saviour of Radio 1 wouldn’t return to the early shift after his record breaking stint and dignified withdrawal. But so he has. There’s still something to say. And as undeniably one of the most gifted radio raconteurs of his generation, I’m glad the stars have aligned on what’s now called Radio X to make that happen.

Three Years

“Britain’s newest fun time radio station”

In short, since 2012, that heady year of the Olympics, Britain hasn’t changed too much. Sure, the Tories have a majority and now nobody knows the leader of the Liberal Democrats, but the most devastating thing to happen in UK politics since the coalition of 2010 (bar Tony Benn passing on) was the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, cemented a week before Moyles’ return. Even Bond, who’s last Albion-centric excursion helped solidify 2012 as one of the UK’s best years is returning within six weeks of Moyles’ debut. And just as the self-styled saviour, occasional enfant terrible of the airwaves left at the Queen’s Jubilee, so he returns just as Her Majesty’s taken the record for the longest reign. Back then Doctor Who was about to lose a companion, same now. The more things change, the more they stay the same – as I used to say in an old job of mine. But while the world seems to have shuffled during Moyles’ exile, the DJ is fond of saying that he’s a changed man. Though not too changed…
Continue reading “Chris Moyles Returns Stage Right in 2015: ‘Gonna be here every morning on Radio X – until they fire us’”

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