Friday, 23 November 2007
Friday Grab Bag: In the Crowd Edition
And so last night to the Carling Academy, a nightclub on the Cowley Road, to see From the Jam, which I would describe as a Jam tribute band except for the fact that it actually contains two-thirds of that mod-revival band. Songwriter/singer/guitarist Paul Weller gave the reunion tour a miss.
Even so, it was a great night. The Jam's "All Mod Cons" was one of the
first albums I bought in my "new wave" phase in high school. Back in those pre-Internet days you often had to purchase a record based on how it looked. Did it look like the sort of band that would do hard-edged, '60s-influenced rock? Skinny ties were usually a good indicator, but you could be fooled. I remember being disappointed by a band called the Yachts, whose LP I bought at the Peaches in Rockville, Md.
"All Mod Cons" delivered, though. As I listened to it (and read the lyric sheet, one side decorated with an exploded view of a Vespa scooter) I wondered which person pictured on the album cover played which instrument. The drummer, Rick Buckler, was easy to pick out. I decided on him right away. (We drummers know these things.) But which one was Weller, the genius behind the music? I remember wanting it to be the nattily dressed fellow on the left, and not the sallow, sneering, spotty-faced fellow in the middle. Of course, the one in the middle was Weller and one look at the picture and you could predict who would be least likely to join a reunion tour 30 years after the photo was snapped.
But, still, a great show. Bassist Bruce Foxton may look uncomfortably like Barry Manilow these days, but he has more energy than anyone his age should have. They did a 90-minute set and never flagged. I was reminded what an English band the Jam were, in a tradition of English bands that has no equivalent in the United States. Not that I would expect an American band to sing about uniquely English things, just that I don't think many U.S. bands would have hits with songs created from the small domestic details of daily life. The Jam often did that, as the Kinks did before them and Squeeze did along with them. (The Beatles did it eventually, but only after they'd become global superstars.) Jam lyrics include nods to things like "cans of baked beans on toast" and "pots of Wall's ice cream." Lonely housewives hold "empty milk bottles" to their hearts. There are takeaway curries, Eton Rifles, Smithers-Jones.... Your typical American listener must have gone, "Huh?"
Then there's "Down in a Tube Station at Midnight," one of the most chilling songs I've ever heard and a perfect snapshot of a certain sort of Britain at a certain point in time. It was interesting hearing it live, standing towards the front of the crowd, not far from where some relatively mild slam dancing was going on (we're all in our 40s, after all). You're meant to sympathize with the protagonist in that song, the young husband set upon by right-wing thugs. But live, the heaving, sweating crowd seemed to thrill to the ultraviolence, taking special delight in shouting "He smelled of pubs, and Wormwood Scrubs...." Whose side were they on, I wondered.
Are there still thugs on British trains? Why yes, according to this Daily Mail article on the dumbest muggers in Britain, teens who posed for the CCTV cameras after relieving their victim of his mobile phone and iPod. If you recognize them, please contact authorities.
Cor, blimey: A 102-year-old woman has stripped off her clothes to pose for a nude calendar that raises money for the village football club. If you've seen "The Full Monty" or "Calendar Girls" you know that the British love taking their clothes off.
Jellyfish have attacked a salmon farm off the coast of Northern Ireland, killing more than 100,000 fish. Of course, "attack" may be too strong a word. It sounds more like a crime of opportunity. Don't jellyfish just go where the current takes them, rather than say, "Okay, lads, let's go over there!"
I thought last week's story on a Scottish man convicted of having sex with his bicycle would close the door on intercourse with inanimate objects, but I had underestimated the kinkiness of the British populace. A London court heard evidence this week that a 24-year-old man broke into a park and attempted to have sex with a fence.
I may have been in England too long. The ironing board is starting to look pretty good to me.
Gargoyle of the Week
Not a gargoyle, but a stone carving nonetheless. It's Hercules, taken by My Lovely Wife while touring Burford Priory.
Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.