Saturday, July 24, 2010

Feeling Guilty

There's so much stuff going on lately, it's all running interference in my brain making my memories elusive and uncooperative. I have a ridiculous amount of posts started over the last couple of months, just waiting for details to be filled in. They're staring back at me making me feel guilty.'s Mick Karn's birthday today and a good reminder that if you haven't yet donated to his appeal, please consider doing so. Or, if you have donated, maybe send a little more his way if you can. You can also support him by buying his music, his book, Steve Jansen's photos, or taking part in various fund-raising initiatives.

Hopefully I'll have some more posts up shortly - working on the Waterboys, the Church, the Alarm and lots of others.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Regrets, I've Had A Few

How many things in life have you seriously regretted, wishing there was some magical way to go back and change events?

I don't have many (really what's the point?), but I have two related to music.

The first I've already mentioned. I lost my large scrapbook of tickets, passes, music mag clippings, photos etc. during a move. Why wasn't I more careful? I don't really know what happened, I just know that I don't have it anymore. I assume it got tossed out by accident (here's a tip, don't pack valuable stuff in black garbage bags). Probably by me - I certainly don't blame anyone else. The photos are what I miss the most.

The second is entirely my fault. I threw out my records. Yes, that wasn't a typo. I threw them out in a moment of insanity. I had 100s of records. Some ultra rare, collectable, autographed, the majority imported, you name it.

I had been lugging them from move to move over a span of 10 years - the whole time I had no turntable to play them on. They gathered dust lined up against a wall, sometimes used as a shelf, eventually forgotten about.

I had just finished the first year of my extremely unsatisfying graduate degree, had a full-time, stressful hospital admin job to pay for it, exams, essays, stressing about what the hell I was supposed to do about my future when I hated my degree so much. Then came the panic attacks. Seriously debilitating, I had to be off work, I had to hand essays in late, I eventually had to go on medication. And on top of all that I had to move when I didn't want to.

I looked at the stacks and stacks of records that I hadn't been able to play for a decade with some indifference...I was going through a "don't give a shit about music" phase in the mid 90s - bored stiff with most of what was out there and, for a good three years, too exhausted from working and going to university to even care. The memories of all those great concerts and bands never surfaced in time to stop me from doing the deed.

So on July 1, 1997 I made several trips down to the garbage room and put the records near the bin in case anyone came across them and wanted them before they were tossed in the dumpster by the maintenance guy. My roommate's boyfriend at the time thought I was nuts (well, yes I was) and took my Led Zeppelin albums. The stress of the move meant I didn't give it a second thought.

I remember the moment when, after I finally got myself and my stuff settled and out of boxes, I was standing in the middle of the room feeling such overwhelmingly deep and utter regret for throwing those albums out that I just started to cry. What had I done? Why?

I thought of all those 45s, 12" and albums and how the majority meant so much to me - I worked such shitty jobs to feed my music habit (records and concerts). Most of the bands I loved were from the UK, which invariably meant imported records. I made weekly trips to the Record Peddlar on Queen Street East, thumbing through the stacks and trying to control my excitement when I found what I was looking for. Or browsing just to see what was new. I often found out about a band just by taking a chance and buying a record soley based on the cover or by chatting with the staff. I was rarely disappointed.

I loved the smell and feel of a brand new record. I wouldn't wait til I got home, I'd peel off the wrapping and read the liner notes on the long bus ride home. When I got home I'd put the headphones on, shut my eyes and just take it all in. I was fairly antisocial, listening to albums on the headphones was a way for me to escape and shut others out to some degree. I could daydream and lose myself in the music. I'm still like that. Listening to my most favourite music has always been a very personal act for me.

I spent a lot of money on imports and rarities (I get ill thinking how much some of them would be worth today). I also had a few autographed albums. I didn't even think of those when I threw the records out. What a low point standing in the middle of that room.

Every July 1 the date reminds me of that stupid act that only took a few minutes but the effects have lasted so long. I know the records are just objects but I suppose they symbolize such great times in my life, ones that were relatively carefree and happy. What I wouldn't give to be able to pull out one now and then and just look at it, relive some good memories and - because, of course, now you can get a turntable easily - play them again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Massive Attack - Saturday Come Slow

I came across a short film by Massive Attack and wanted to share. On July 4th of all days. Ironic.

Massive Attack promo film raising awareness of Reprieve's zero dB - against music torture campaign. To support the cause visit or

Directed by Adam And Olly and filmed in Cambridge University's anechoic chamber.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Got the Chills Listening to the Chills

I hate tapes. The quality is terrible and my ancient tape player speeds up and slows down on a whim so I don't listen to them very much at all. But I have a lot of tapes that I can't find on CD or MP3. Some obscure stuff, some mixes that people have made for me, some interviews we did with bands, some recordings I made of concerts (bootlegger? - who me?) and when it comes down to it, I'm not too keen on paying two or three times for the same album. I forget about the tapes because they're all boxed up and stored away.

Today I had to find something and as I was fumbling in the dark, down came the box of tapes all over the floor. Cursing, I started picking them up then noticed a few gems that made my heart beat quicker just because I loved them so much. Funny how sometimes you can listen to an album or a band so much and then almost forget about them years later. One of the tapes was Submarine Bells by The Chills from New Zealand.

I stuck the tape in the player then realized this was one of those albums I was just going to have to buy again, so I did. I love the album in general, but a couple of tracks stand out for me:  Don't Be Memory, and my favourite track, the gorgeous Effloresce and Deliquesce. I couldn't find it anywhere so I stuck it up on Youtube:

I have my long lost friend Jill to thank for turning me on to the Chills. She sent me a tape of Kaleidescope World back in the mid 80s. I found a couple of the tracks on Youtube, including the title track:

and one of my favourite songs from them, Pink Frost:

I only managed to see them live once, at Lee's Palace in Toronto in April 1990, and they were excellent. I'm going to listen to the whole of Submarine Bells now while I catch up on what the band's been doing for the last 20 years. I should dig through my tapes more often.

Monday, June 28, 2010

More on Mick Karn

So, I don't mean to turn this into a Mick Karn blog (not like that would be a bad thing) but his illness has made me quite sad. Over the past few months I've become re-acquainted with Japan and oddly enough it just doesn't seem like time has gone by. I've explored past and current solo efforts from all members that I never heard the first time around; some great and some not so great. I read Mick's autobiography - Japan and Self Existence - very well written, often funny, insightful, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes sad, never self-pitying, and certainly eye-opening to the unfairness of the music industry. That such a talented person, who's contributed SO much to music, is basically eking out a living is patently unfair. The book is a must read for any Japan fan, or any fan of music for that matter (hint: click the link and buy it).

Steve Jansen has generously offered to donate all proceeds from the sale of his photos to help Mick. I've been eyeing the photos since I first saw them. Should I? Shouldn't I? In the end, the should I won out. I ordered three photos, two of Mick and one of Richard Barbieri (if you've read my post about Japan you'll know that was inevitable).

Steve has many, many excellent photos for sale. If you're a Japan fan, consider buying one or a few if you're able to. If you can't but still want to help, I'm sure any amount is appreciated and donations are still being accepted via Mick's website. Many of Mick's friends and fans are organizing events, so there are plenty of opportunities to help out. At the very least leave a message of support on his website.

While you're on Mick's website, pick up some of his music. I've been enjoying The Concrete Twin and Love's Glove.

Mick contributed to this banging track (Knights of the Opium Moon) by Furiku. Check it out, then buy a copy (links on the Furiku website).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mick Karn

I'm so very sad about this news. I've copied information from his website if anyone is interested in helping out. I will always treasure my memories of Mick.

MICK KARN APPEAL - Posted 4th June 2010

With great sadness we regret to inform you that Mick has recently been diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer. Mick is currently in a positive mood and undergoing further tests and treatment. His family and friends are close with him, supporting him in practical ways, and surrounding him with their love, friendship and care.

Mick has been struggling financially for some considerable time now and we are hoping that this appeal may help to raise funds for any necessary treatment and perhaps go some way towards providing a small degree of financial support whilst Mick's immediate family provide the care and comfort we would all wish for him. We are hoping that his friends, fans and musical colleagues will, over the coming months, offer any support they feel capable of giving. Quite aside from the sheer brunt of daunting medically-related costs, Mick's clear and major concern is for the security and well being of his wife and young son.

If you would like to make a donation whether as an individual or as a group, you can do so via the paypal link below which has been set up for this sole and express purpose. Any support you are able to give, no matter how small, could make a difference in helping Mick cope during this difficult period. His friends will be looking at a variety of ways to raise funds.

If you would simply like to leave your kind messages of support for Mick, please do so, here: Messages

We will keep you all updated as often as we can.

Please do note that news is released with Mick's full approval.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dublin 1985

So I was going to write about something else, but then I was whiling away a rainy day listening to some Hothouse Flowers and checking out some old videos. I was transported back 25 years ago to Dublin 1985, a trip my cousin and I took primarily to see U2 at Croke Park. We'd been travelling all over the northeast and some of the midwest US to see U2 over 1984/1985 and with Live Aid and a huge show at Croke Park coming up, we were determined to get over there to see the shows. What started off as a trip to see U2, really became so much more and cemented for me my longtime love of Ireland and Irish people.

After all this time I can still remember the excitement and anticipation of leaving for our trip. We were going for a month, had almost no money (but I had a secret weapon, a credit card) and were going to hook up with some English U2 fans from Brighton (Jo and Lynne) who we met on the US tour. The idea was to see U2 at Croke Park but both of us wanted to somehow get to the Live Aid show in London as well, and if possible to see U2 in Rotterdam with Jo and Lynne. Of course things don't always work out like you plan.

We landed in Glasgow and took the train to Stranraer for the ferry crossing to Belfast. I can't really remember why we chose that route instead of going straight to Dublin, but it was probably cheaper. We must have been a sight on the train...I had hair teased to the heavens a la Eddie from the Alarm (who I had the hots for), a suede fringe jacket, and boots with one flapping sole. My cousin had equally teased hair and got more than one comment about her electric, vivid blue eye shadow. If we'd only had a camera back then! The only visual I have from those days is an old passport photo. The laughs we must have gotten once we passed the checkpoints! God how I miss those days...

Well doesn't technology suck sometimes? I was pretty much finished this posting, spent ages on it and with one odd hiccup lost everything past the paragraph above. Now I have to try and remember what I wrote. Grrr...

Anyway...Belfast in 1985 was not a cheery place. I don't remember ever feeling unsafe, but I do remember feeling unsettled. Despite a sunny day everything seemed bleak and grey. We spent the night there and got the train down to Dublin. My cousin reminded me of the razor wire along the train line; the checkpoints were disconcerting, with soldiers and guns reminding us where we were. I've been back to Belfast and the north and have seen some spectacular places but I'm not overly fond of Belfast. To be fair I haven't been back since 1988, I'm sure it's changed incredibly.

In Dublin, we stayed at Isaac's hostel by the Custom House. At the time it was pretty much a dump, packed to the rafters with no doubt other U2 fans coming in for the concert. I vividly remember the Germans walking around naked, the awful showers and toilets, and the totally uncomfortable beds (I swear some had STRAW in them). The whole hostel experience doesn't appeal to me, sharing rooms with a dozen other people. I remember one girl yelling in her sleep "hilfe! hilfe!" (help, in German). I'm pretty sure she got either my cousin's or mine foot up her ass (they were bunkbeds, I can't remember who she was above). One of us shut her up.

I think the Croke Park gig was the day after we got to Dublin. I remember a long walk from the hostel, and streams of excited people the closer we got to the venue. Along with U2 there was the Alarm, Squeeze, In Tua Nua and REM. I can't remember offhand what other bands, if any, there were. It was an amazing concert in part because it was on U2's home turf. The fans were over the top, the opening acts were great (except REM who I hate) and U2 was excellent. To be honest, I don't remember seeing a crappy U2 gig, although I do remember tiring of the stadium shows in general at the end.

I found this video on youtube, supposed to be from the Croke Park gig, and complete with close up of that odd, endearing thing Bono would always do, rocking back and forth on his toes lol:

After the concert our plan was to meet up with Jo and Lynne in England and try to get tickets for Live Aid and to possibly go to Rotterdam; however my cousin's passport was stolen by some wanker at the hostel so we ended up on the horrendous ferry and bus trek to London then going to the embassy to request a new one. We were in London for a grand total of a day. We didn't get to do much except go to Mike Scott's flat to say hello (except he wasn't there so we left a note instead, after snooping around and looking in the windows...sorry Mike!). We headed down to Brighton to stay with Jo but since we had to wait for the replacement passport to be processed Jo and Lynne went off to Rotterdam and left us behind. I think that's when I started to hate them lol. We spent a few days in Brighton but staying with Jo's family without Jo there was awkward and when we knew there was no way we'd get Live Aid tickets we were pretty dejected and just wanted to get back to Dublin, which we finally did after picking up the new passport. The trip back was a lot nicer - we went through Wales and I remember a lot of beautiful scenary. The ferry was horrible as usual.

I was totally in love with Dublin. From the minute we got back there I was so happy again, it felt like I was home. We walked everywhere, exploring places off the beaten track, around the docklands, the canals, but also more touristy areas like Grafton Street, Merrion Square, Trinity College and so many other places. The place was buzzing with so much youth and creativity. On Grafton Street we came across The Incomparable Benzini Brothers - basically Liam and Fiachna from the Hothouse Flowers. They were so fun and we went back often to try and catch them performing. I'm pretty sure Peter and Jerry were busking with them too, at least they were with us when we all went for pints afterwards. I wish I had photos from that trip (no camera) - nowadays we can take photos of anything and everything so easily. I'd love to see some photos of them busking, or of us all just hanging out. There are some later busking videos on youtube (nice one of them doing Hallelujah in Bristol) but I would love to see some early ones.

You couldn't help but love those guys, I will always remember them fondly. They were most definitely a highlight of that trip. We saw them as Hothouse Flowers a few times since then, but I haven't seen them lately. A few years ago I saw Fiachna on tv with Bob Blumer who was doing the "Guinness Diet" - try can catch it if you can, it was a good laugh.

Some random things I remember:
  • Cruising around the city like a couple of prats looking for places in U2's Pride video, with my cousin jumping off the stage like Bono
  • I couldn't believe how "white" Dublin was. Coming from multicultural Toronto it was a bit of a culture shock. We finally saw one black guy and a couple of chinese people
  • Ordering a full Irish in a cafe and having it come with black and white pudding (look it up). We were both "WTF is this stuff" and became adept at hiding it in our napkins and lying about how good it was. I became a vegetarian a few months after our trip. The pudding was definitely nasty and probably contributed to my decision
  • Seeing horses still pulling carts in the middle of a really busy street
  • Going back often to some odd little pancake house and eating loads of really tasty crepes
  • The smell of the Liffey and all the diesel
  • The Ha'penny Bridge
  • A lot of alarms going off
  • The Smarties bus

  • Somehow getting out to Howth, walking the whole perimeter and coming across a dog who wanted to follow us home. Hitching a ride back with some cute guy who thankfully wasn't an axe murderer
Eventually it was time to go home. I had the time of my life on that trip and didn't want it to end. Before I left I put an ad in the Hot Press classifieds looking for penpals to keep in touch (oh those prehistoric times) and made two great friends who I cherished and now miss - Nessa, who passed away and Charlie, who I lost touch with over something stupid. I've been back many times and will be back many more; no matter how much it changes I'll always love Dublin.