Category Archives: The Sound of Music

The Sound of Japan

Pretending to feel the warmth of sun rays on my neck, I walked from the garden to the kitchen my thoughts were distracted by the telephone. Having lifted the receiver I immediately knew Mysterious Vee voice was awaiting my ears. Her journey this time was the eclectic rhythms of the Japanese soundscape.

Synthesiser for the Devil

Mysterious Vee calls from a telephone booth in rural Punjab, Indian, and brings another collection of artists and tracks, some well known and some not so. Her theme in this episode of Lost In a Wide Open Field is an exploration of artists, some known and some not so, who have utilised the honourable synth.

Krautrock 1968-1979

Mysterious Vee presents over one hour of classic Krautrock from a telephone booth located in the centre of a Wide Open Field. 10 tracks spanning the genre, some have long been deleted and are fearlessly sought after by obsessive collectors. Including in this bunch, you will find an improvised nugget from Can during their a John Peel session in the 70s.

Today I stumbled upon: Slumb Party

There is something quite refreshing about Slumb Party, although plenty of the old tricks can be found in their production. Influences from bands such as XTC and Gang of $ are plain to see in their DNA, but their own identity is not lost in the mix. This is a really, really good album and I feel we may hear more of Slumb Party once the 6 Music sent picks them up.

Today I stumbled upon: Kosmischer Läufer

Sometimes you’ve just got to acknowledge you are late getting to a party. The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 83 is just an excellent concept and most importantly backed up with some truly exhilarating music. The narrative goes, “for the first time since it was recorded in East Berlin over 30 years ago, the music of Martin Zeichnete can finally be heard. A disciple of the Kosmische Muzik of the likes of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! that was drifting across the Wall from the West, Martin’s idea of using the motorik, hypnotic beat of krautrock in the training of athletes was taken and exploited by the DDR’s Olympic Committee.” 

My introduction, I have several memories that are managed over the years to blend together into a romantic melting pot of musical discovery. It is difficult to separate truth from fiction now, but the timing is pretty much self-evident. I know it was during a period of school exams, so I’m guessing it was around 1976 when my ears first discovered what I would get to know as Krautrock. That genre of experimental music, which had emerged in Germany in the late 1960s drawing influence from psychedelic rock, the avant-garde, electronic music, funk, minimalism, jazz improvisation, and world music styles.

I know some of the punk bands I was starting to listen too had referenced the likes of Kraftwerk, Neu and Can. My music teacher, Mr Bell had given me a copy of one of Kraftwerk’s early albums, which I still have to this day. Maybe, I’d subconsciously developed a liking for Krautrock as I listened to John Peel show on my radio while preparing for exams.

How my admiration for Krautrock developed I guess I will leave to my fond memories, no matter how clouded they increasingly become. Today, I’m happy to just stay behind the illusion of the Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 83. I did start to do some research, but you know what? As we continue to consume ourselves a little piece of escapism, which transports us back in time to a period where things seemed a little bit simpler, black and white, may not be an altogether bad thing now and again.

Revolutions are Made at 78rpm

30 minutes mix of digitally transferred phonograph records from the age of 78rpm, which changed the face of music forever and ushered in the age of rock n roll. Things would never be the same again with the exception that as then and as today the musician gets ripped off. Expect the odd crackle, pop and the unexpected. For those who went before and to those who stand on their shoulders. I salute you.

Before the East Fell: Cassette Punks

I recently re-discovered a box of old cassette tapes, which I either made or exchanged between my friends when I was around 16/17 years old in 1977-1979ish. Now digitalised and uploaded here they provide an insight into the late 1970’s DIY punk scene. The tracks here, I’m guessing have not surfaced for a long time and include several bands from my native north-east — most, if not all I had seen live. Where a better-known group is featured, I have chosen to add a less-known track. As you will imagine sound quality is a little ropey at times, but please enjoy 45 minutes of noise recorded at a time when the internet was far from a concept.

Out in the Field Mix-Tapes

Vol.1: Leo’s Sunshipp, Pete El Conde Rodriguez, Johnny Hammond, Orchestra Harlow, Billy Stewart, Chuck Carbo, Robert Parker, Broadneck, Johnny Otis Show, The Gil Evans Orchestra.

Vol.2: Ofege, People’s Choice, Funkadelic, Edwin Star, Betty Davis, Lil Buck & The Top Cats, Skip Easterling, Cymande, Fabulous Emotions, Barry White.

Vol.3: Robert Belfour, Sly & The Revolutionaries, Charlie Louvin, Centers, The Lafayette Afro Rock Band, Afrissipi, The Selector.

Vol.4: Air, Mum, The Bees, 1 Giant Leap, Craig Armstrong, Moby, Badmarsh and Shri.

 

Tom Robinson (Band): It’s Yesterday Once More

24.10.18: Nostalgia is a bitch. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid through the years ever since witnessing the Sex Pistols reunion, Finsbury Park, 1996 and quickly realising that hard-fought reputations and credibility can be deconstructed at an alarming rate. So it has come to pass for much of the bands churned out towards the end of the 1970s under the threadbare banner of punk.

Its the winter of 1977, at 16-years old, I met a mate Ste Birmingham (sadly no longer with us), and we took a bus from our hometown of Stockton on tees to the neighbouring town of Middlesbrough Rock Garden to catch the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) live.

It was my first gig without parental guidance, involving a stop off at a pub (The North Eastern) where I managed to drink 2 pints of Double Dimond Beer, witness grown men being men with their racist and sexist banter, masculinity overdrive, play my first game of pub pool (lose…badly), select a record on a pub Juke Box for the first time (New Rose by the Damned) and then subsequently make a fake excuse go outside gasp fresh air and throw up in the adjacent alleyway.

Within an hour or two I’m standing in an exuberant crowd of young men, full of testosterone, mostly dressed in homemade punk regalia singing, “Glad to be Gay.”

Today, such are the changes in attitudes that this would hardly raise an eyebrow, even in some of the UK’s most conservative towns and villages. Back in 1977, it carried the risk of a life-threatening physical assault from a mainly hostile public and police where queer bashing and racist abuse seemed a norm and a routine way of life. Nowhere more did these attitudes manage to incubate than in the pubs and socials clubs of 1970s north-east working-class England. This may feel like a lazy indictment, but nonetheless a cultural acceptance I was brought up in, which had many a complicated reason.

I recall a nervous confidence in Tom Robinson’s voice that night as he introduced ‘Glad to be Gay.’ A nervousness which is equally shared by an audience, initially not sure what to do with the singalong anthem. Sweat-drenched men who have been bouncing relentlessly to the guitar-powered set are now looking at each other, fuck it by the second chorus, a unified audience is wholeheartedly singing. Its one of those small moments in time when things start to change for the better.

Tonight (41 years on) I find myself at the Fleece, Bristol to capture Tom Robinson performing his classic ‘Power in the Darkness’ album in full and in celebration of its 40th year since release. First and foremost it remains a great (I mean a really great) rock album. Lyrically it is not only a reflection on how far we have come. It is also a recognition as to how far we have allowed ourselves to regress back into the darkness.

This evening I raise a glass to my old mate Ste and Tom Robinson’s bravery, his art, the man and a band of young men who recorded an album that had a very significant contribution in shaping my politics.

PS: I’ve still got my vinyl copy and its accompanying spray can stencil remains in perfect condition, unused….until tonight.