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Archive for January, 2011

Camel, Nude and Forgotten Japanese Soldiers

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I read an article in yesterday’s Metro about Shoichi Yokoi a Japanese soldier whose war ended 39 years ago yesterday (January 24th 1972) when he was captured by two fishermen on the Pacific Island of Guam. He had refused to surrender as the Japanese forces retreated in 1944 believing that the war could still be won. On his return home to Japan, 28 years after the war had ended, he is alleged to have said “it is with much embarrassment that I have returned home alive”. He obviously managed to overcome this embarrassment as died at the age of 82 in 1997 having become something of a celebrity in Japan.

This story reminded me of an album by the largely forgotten UK band Camel. I was never a huge Camel fan, but they did have their moments, and this album I always thought was one of them.

Nude was a concept album, written by Andy Latimer with lyrics by Susan Hoover, who got the idea from a very similar story as that above. To be honest, before I looked into it for this post, I had assumed it was the same soldier, but Wikipedia tells me there were actually a number of Japanese soldiers dotted around the Pacific islands, all of whom refused to believe the war was over and surrender, and who then got forgotten. Apparently the Camel album was inspired by Hiroo Onoda (the album’s title Nude comes from his surname apparently) who finally came home in March 1974 after 30 years. The last Japanese solider, Teruo Nakamura came home 9 months later in December 1974.

It’s just ocurred to me that I bought this record shortly after its release in 1981, which scarily was 30 years ago and coincidentally the same length of time that Onoda was alone in the jungle. When I think what I’ve done in that time, it certainly puts his ordeal into perspective for me.

So although Nude is in not really a classic album, I did after all this time, rather enjoy listening to it on the way into work this morning.

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1979: The Best Year for Singles… Ever

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Following my recent post on Albums, I wanted to write one on singles, but I’ve been struggling to find a “single” idea to tie it all together.

After giving it some thought and poking around my books and the interweb, I’ve decided to opt for 1979. Rather a broad umbrella you may say and I would have to agree… but it’s my blog and there were some truly fantastic and life changing records released throughout this year.

I was in my early teens in 1979 and music was becoming a real passion for me, with most of my pocket money spent buying singles and albums. I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t get some of these records at the time they were first released, and its only with the benefit of hindsight that I realise how good they were. Having said that however, I wasn’t that far behind and I certainly would have had all these records in my collection before the mid Eighties when I went to Poly…..

Looking back, 1979 was something of a watershed year. Punk was fizzling out and becoming a parody of itself, rap was in its infancy and the eclectic sounds of the New Wave and the New Romantics was just starting to gain ground. The records below represent a huge spectrum of music, everything from pop to ska to rap to whatever Mr. Dury called his music.

So here are 12 tunes that were either released or charted in the month noted, and that for me justify my claim that this was the best year for singles EVER…

Listen to them all again here 1979 singles and remind yourself how good it all sounded and what wonders the next decade had in store for us…. (when the link opens, right click on “playlist by joejoe64”, copy link location and paste into the search field in Spotify and press the green arrow)

To be honest, I did intend to write a little something about each tune, when/ where I bought it, what it reminds me of  etc, but now I’ve done the Spotify link, I think I’ll just let them speak for themselves…

January – Hit me with Your Rhythm Stick, Ian Dury

February – Oliver’s Army, Elvis Costello

March  – Into The Valley, The Skids

April – Pop Muzik, M

May – Are “Friends” Electric, Gary Numan

June – My Sharona, The Knack

July – Gangsters, The Specials

August – Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Bauhaus

September – Making Plans for Nigel, XTC

October -Video Killed the Radio Star, Buggles

November – Walking on the Moon – The Police

December – Rappers Delight, The Sugarhill Gang

There’s more interesting facts, figures and names here Wikipedia 1979 page

Wong

January 21, 2011 1 comment

After a long hiatus, a very good friend of mine has once again started making art, something most definitely to be celebrated.

I used to have some of his paintings up in my old house. Sadly they have been lost to me for a long time now, but the one I miss most was called The Tick and was a simple but beautifully created shape floating across the canvas. Many are the times I’ve wondered where it got to and regretted that it was no longer mine.

More recently there were signs that he was starting to think about drawing again, when he presented me with this wonderful piece, depicting a small and fragile looking house being overrun by Moebius type tentacles.

So I was very pleased when he told me recently that he’d starting thinking about a series of images that could be developed over the coming  months.

These are the first two images he’s sent me, black star and thruster, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of this excellent work as the year progresses.

Good to see the pens back in your hands Andrew.

There’s more here if you’re interested….

Eject Fliers

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

For about three years, between 2006 and 2009, three like minded friends and I were (nearly) proper DJ’s… We put on a monthly club night in a small venue in Farringdon, East London, called our night “Eject”, and played a wide selection of music ranging from deep house to techno and from pop to hip hop. We generally tended to open with some subtle and refined tunage before gradually cranking it up, so that for the last three hours or so up to the close at 2.00am, it was big, loud and proper….

Our rather out of date MySpace page is here, which still hosts one of my mixes from 2007.

It started out as a small thing on the last Thursday of every month and developed into a much bigger thing where we were playing twice monthly to sometimes quite large crowds. Sadly it all fizzled out at the end of 2009, partly because I went travelling for 9 months and partly because I think it had run its course anyway…

Still it was great fun while it lasted and as well as getting to play stuff I really liked very loudly, I also got to design our logo and do all the fliers. Generally I did one a month and produced these as part of a short series of related or themed designs. Over the life of Eject, I guess I must have produced about 40 fliers. Some of my favourites are shown below….

Maybe one day Eject will once again entertain the folk of London. Unlikely I suspect, but never say never….

Channel 4 Idents

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I came across this site the other day… Channel 4 Idents

Someone has collected all the recent Channel 4 idents which involve movement through a landscape or view and which for one split second, creates the 4 of their logo.

My particular favourites are the neon American diner, the Tokyo street scene, the housing estate, the pylons, and of course the pigeon crusher over the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square…

Brilliant…

Fabric CD’s

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Ever since we signed up for the very first Fabric CD release back in 2001,  we have looked forward to our monthly delivery of new music.

Some of it has been excellent, and some of it I have to admit, doesn’t really do it for us, but having last week received CD number 110 (a stunning D&B mix from DJ Marky) I thought I would use the opportunity to take stock of what can only be described as a monumental “physical” achievement in this digital music buying age.

The releases are divided into two strands: Fabric (representing a Saturday night at the club) and Fabriclive (representing Friday nights). Craig Richards (Fabric) and James Lavelle (Live) started the whole thing off and the two strands have alternated releases each month ever since.

The diversity of styles, sounds and artists that have contributed to these 110 releases over the last 10 years or so is truly impressive. I won’t go into all the details, but a full catalogue is here if you’re interested.

Another striking aspect of the CD’s is that of the covers. Much like Vaughan Oliver at 4AD, there has obviously been a wholistic approach to the cd sleeves with the designs being in short runs (6 covers initially but latterly 3) by differing designers. These designs are not representative of the artist or music within, but suggest a broader interest in design generally and add up to an impressive series of images when spread out on your living room floor…

I would like to say that we have every single release but we are actually one short: Fabriclive 53 Drop the Lime, which was never delivered to us. It’s release got caught up in the whole Matter collapse/ Fabric nearly closing nightmare last year, and this post has reminded me that I need to go and buy it separately. Worryingly I couldn’t find Fabriclive 37 (Caspar & Rusko) for the photoshoot… no idea where that’s got to.

Another sad fact is that me & A actually have doubles of the first 30 or so releases as we weren’t living together when we first started subscribing and wanted one each…

For the record, my all time faves of the series include John Digweed (F20), Steve Bug (F37), Wiggle (F28), LTJ Bukem (Fl46), Jaques Lu Cont (Fl09), Swayzac (F11) Ralph Lawson (F33), Surgeon (F53) and David Rodigan (Fl54)

No idea how long they can keep the monthly issues up, but we’ve come this far and rest assured, we will be subscribers until the end.

So a huge thanks to the Fabric Label for widening our musical horizons and enriching our CD collection over the last 10 years, long may they continue.

Vaughan Oliver & 23 Envelope

January 9, 2011 Leave a comment

When I went to university in the mid eighties, a whole world of new stuff opened up for me in terms of design and music. New people meant new recommendations and things to discover, and one of the first things that I got into in a big way was the 4AD label, home to such bands as The Cocteau Twins, Colourbox, Pixies, Throwing Muses, The Pale Saints & Dead Can Dance.

Almost as important to me as the music, was the packaging. Between 1983 and 1988, almost every record sleeve, booklet and all associated advertising  material was produced exclusively by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson under the name 23 Envelope.

Grierson generally took the photos which Oliver then used as a starting point for creating beautiful, atmospheric and enigmatic images using a combination of fonts, filters and other effects (and all in pre-digital age please note…).

And these images seemed to so brilliantly reflect the music within, whether it was dark washes of atmospheric sound, noisy jagged guitars or just plain weird..

It won’t be a surprise to anyone reading this blog, to learn that I initially hoped to collect everything the label put out… however I only ended up with about 15 albums and associated singles before my grant money ran out… (records were a lot more expensive in those days), but looking at them again now for this post, I am still hugely impressed by what Vaughan Oliver achieved, which in my opinion was nothing less than a revolution in graphic design.

Some of it may look a little dated now, but the quality of workmanship and the scope of ideas can be in little doubt. I have a number of sleeves for instance that have artwork printed on the inside of the cardboard cover.. way over the top, no one could see it all properly unless you took it all apart…

But that’s what I like about it, much like Airside in more recent times (post to follow shortly) the overall concept and execution was seemingly more important than the cost of getting it made.

Sadly much of this approach has been lost with MP3’s and downloads, which I think is a bit of a shame for todays music collectors.

There’s some more of Vaughan Olivers work on the wonderful Hardformat site here…

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