It’s 1989, I’m 13, and perhaps the only thing that rivals my love for music is my obsession (since abated) for superhero comics. And 1989 is a good year to be a fan of superhero comics, as Tim Burton’s much-anticipated Batman movie is about to hit the big screen. I watch the movie three times at the Wimbledon Odeon that summer, before I can bring myself to admit that it’s not really all that great, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, that summer my best friend taped me a copy of his brother’s copy of Prince’s Batdance album. And, to be honest, I wasn’t all that crazy about that either. But, to fill out the b-side of the C90, he’d dubbed me Prince’s previous album, Lovesexy, too. And I became instantly obsessed with that album, wearing out the batteries on my fake Walkman spooling back to the beginning as soon as the ominous, oceanic sounds of Positivity drew to a close. I was an 80s kid with open ears and the radios in my life all seemed permanently tuned to Capital FM, so I was already aware of Prince. But Lovesexy was where I became a convert to the cult of Prince and his genius, albeit a year late, and that illicit cassette was my gateway to the rest of his catalogue.
Fast-forward to this June, and I find myself in my hotel room in Wichita, Kansas, engulfed by butterflies in anticipation of my guests: the members of The Revolution, the multi-racial, pan-sexual funk-pop geniuses who helped Prince cut all of his albums from Purple Rain to Sign O The Times (albeit uncredited on that final opus). I spent five or so hours with the wonderful, wonderful Wendy, Lisa, Brownmark, Bobby Z and Dr Fink, retracing the Purple one’s path genius and getting under the skin of what Prince was really like. My story’s spread across ten pages of the current MOJO, and it’s something I’m ridiculously proud of and giddily glad to have been a part of. Buy it!
One thing you need to know about me is, I’m really bad at updating my website.
SO, in last month’s MOJO, I raved at length about Natalie Prass’s new album, The Future And The Past, which every home should own, and also chatted with her about Nashville, The Carpenters and how the album is a subtle, powerful political statement.
And in Kerrang! in May, I wrote a piece about the closure of historic music venues, in which I was assisted by many sterling souls who work night and day to keep music alive, in a very real sense.
And, most exciting of all for me (I’ve only been chasing this story for five years, he’s only the most exciting and prolific rock artist around right now), in the current issue of MOJO I have a big feature on John Dwyer and his magnificent Oh Sees. Please buy a copy. Magazines rule, and this one also contains excellent pieces on Millie Jackson, Echo & The Bunnymen, Wayne Kramer and David Bowie.
See you in a few years when I next remember to update this shebeen.
Hey! I have a cover feature on Smashing Pumpkins in the latest issue of Kerrang!, on newsstands now, tracing the group’s history upon news of their forthcoming reunion tour and album. So buy it, it’ll be something to read during SNOWMAGEDDON!!!1!
So many reasons to buy the new MOJO: Keith Cameron’s fab, in-depth interview with Neil Young and profile of the grunge grandpapa as a protest-rock pioneer; a no-holds-barred chat with The Damned’s Dave Vanian by Pat Gilbert; a fond farewell to Mark E Smith; a long chat with David Byrne. Also, glued to the cover you’ll find one of the best CDs the mag has ever put out, a wildly eclectic treatise on the protest song featuring my favourite Gil Scott Heron song, a Curtis Mayfield jam that’s one of my top ten best Mayfield Moments, a Misty In Roots banger that’s sent me to discogs.com to find a copy of Live At The Counter Eurovision, and Mike Ladd’s Feb 4th (For All Those Killed By Cops), which is hands-down one of my favourite tracks ever, and which, if I’ve ever made you a mixtape, you’ve almost certainly heard.
But hey. This is my blog. So, once purchased, skim to the reviews section and you’ll find my review of Jack White’s provocative, mind-blowing new solo album, and a meaty page-long Q&A with Jack – our first interview together in over a decade – that was a lot of fun to conduct.
Magazines! Where would we be without them?
Planet Rock magazine‘s sixth issue hits newsstands (an Americanism, but as I grew up reading Stan Lee’s Bullpen Bulletins I’m sticking with it, thank you) today. Led Zeppelin are on the cover – all four covers, actually (gotta catch ’em all!) – and the magazine contains an in-depth chat with Jimmy Page by Phil Alexander, a classic Zep piece by former Melody Maker writer (and editor of my Sonic Youth and Black Flag biogs) Chris Charlesworth, and an eight page essay by yours truly, tracking how Led Zeppelin conquered America, how it changed the band and how it redrew the landscape of the rock industry (not to mention uninvitedly redecorated a plethora of hotel rooms).
Led Zeppelin have long been one of my favourite bands of all time. As a kid, my dad would play home-made mixtapes in the car, one of which featured Whole Lotta Love (albeit with the psychedelic freakout in the middle excised – my mum hated that bit, and, indeed, most of Zeppelin’s catalogue), which was often the provocation for him to regale me with stories of his 60s misbehaviour. I was 15 when the Remasters compilation came out. My school-friend Adrian, the only one of us with access to a CD-player, borrowed it out of the library and dubbed us all copies on cassette, and we all spent that summer marinating in the Zeppelin discography, a mind-expanding expedition later expedited by my discovery of my dad’s girlfriend’s collection of battered Zeppelin vinyl, which I accordingly dubbed and shared among our friendship circle. A complex band, with a complicated history, but still the lodestone for so much music that followed, and I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t have even a brief Zeppelin obsession in their teens. Indeed, 15-year-old me is very proud of 42-year-old me today.
With the assistance of Phearless Phil Alexander (which, as you’ll learn tomorrow, will be a recurring theme this week), I wrote an essay on the importance of protest music in today’s uniquely terrifying age in the latest issue of Kerrang! Please do grab a copy, I love the magazine to death.
Happy New Year!
Last December, on what felt like the coldest day of the year, I visited the cosy studio of inspired, Mercury-winning Edinburgh idiosyncrats Young Fathers to discuss their deftly perverse new LP Cocoa Sugar. I had so much fun, and you can read about in the new issue of MOJO, on shelves this very minute, and also for a few more weeks. But don’t dawdle – time is of the essence!
I’ve almost been attending absolutely tonnes of only the finest metal and heavy rawk concerts of late, for the Guardian. Top of the bunch was a ferocious brawl at Wembley with Queens Of The Stone Age, but the mercurial progging of Mastodon, the chest-bared emoting of Nothing More and the frankly ridiculous carnivale of Lacuna Coil were all fabulous evenings out.
Have a wonderful 2018…