Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Crimson and Clover by Juli Page Morgan (book review)

Juli Page Morgan’s debut novel Crimson and Clover is reissued this week in a brand new, updated edition!

It’s unusual for me to pluck a book off the shelves that’s marketed as “Romance”, but this one is special – it takes place in my favorite era, my favorite place and stars my favorite people – rockers. So I snapped it up.

From Birmingham, Alabama, by way of Haight Ashbury, Katie travels to Swinging London for rock’n’roll, British accents and bacon. She meets rock singer Adam, but soon realizes her mistake – her real passion is for dark-haired lead guitarist Jay Carey. Katie and Jay fall in love, but Jay’s career involves long weeks on the road, where rock’n’roll’s natural companions, sex and drugs, always beckon. And Katie has a secret that’s she sure will drive Jay away if she reveals it – and the secret is one which, if they stay together long enough, he’s bound to learn.

I loved this story, at first for the obvious reasons (Ladbroke Grove, rock music, late sixties) and as I read on, I loved it for other reasons as well. For a start, although Katie is described as wanting a June Cleaver, white-picket-fence family life, she’s no pushover when she encounters the rock stars and their tough managers and road managers. She maintains her own vision as she lives and works among them. And one reason why I normally avoid things shelved in Romance is that I can’t stand the stress of three hundred pages of true lovers being kept apart by step-mothers, angry aunties, finicky fortune-inheriting rules, sadistic lords of the manor, World War II and all the other conflicts writers use to keep couples apart until the Big Ending. In many of these stories I feel the writer wanted to tell the story of How Frodo Got To Destroy the Ring After Three Book’s Worth Of Set-Backs rather than an actual romance. None of that in Crimson and Clover; the pair find each other quickly and satisfyingly, and tension arises naturally from the plot revelations. Given all that could come between them, can Katie really keep Jay Carey?

I think we’ve all seen those movies where Michael York, with his cut-glass accent and wearing a suit with a white carnation in the jacket pocket, has to interact for some manufactured reason with a Freak (played, if we’re lucky by Twink, if we’re not lucky (and we usually aren’t lucky) played by a toffee-nosed RADA graduate in a paisley blouse and fright wig) who says Hey Man and Groovy a lot and eventually persuades ‘uptight’ Basil to wear flares (bell bottoms) and trip out on pot in a Soho basement filled with writhing mini-skirted dolly birds and atonal music by a band probably called The Chocolate Teapot. This is not the book of that movie. As a Led Zeppelin fan, Juli has fully explored the late sixties and early seventies. As a DJ, Juli has met and mingled with real rock stars of various kinds and flavors. She understands (and more importantly, can get down on the page) the power and intensity of rock music and the intervening hours and days of monotony that accompany it – traveling on the road, staying in hotel rooms, bickering with band-mates, managers and wives – and uses the contrast to drive the plot and build well-rounded, fully human characters.  

Disclosure – I’m a friend of Juli’s, in that internet way where we’ve known each other for ages and yet have never met in real life. We bonded on a Led Zeppelin message board (of course) and shared our mutual appreciation of Ladbroke Grove, the late sixties and long-haired rock guitarists – all of which are featured in Crimson and Clover as well as in my own stories.

Read Chapter One of Crimson and Clover here.

Find Crimson and Clover at:  Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | All Romance

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Dead Weather: Live performance of Let Me Through and guitar technique

Third in the series of four Dead Weather technique videos:

Guitar World has the exclusive on Dean Fertita's guitar playing with the band, which he illustrates afterwards during the band's performance of Let Me Through from the new album Dodge and Burn.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dead Weather - Be Still (live performance, video)

Continuing the Dead Weather's Dodge and Burn album release blitz, a live performance of Be Still for you.

I note that the mannequins, including the Madonna of the Amplifier, are unable to follow the injunction to Be Still and move around capriciously. But not as capriciously as the goat, in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo appearance.

Goats are cool.

No "how to" instrumental technique on this one, alas.

The album drops tomorrow, so I'll be at Best Buy, angling for a free t shirt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dodged and Burned Dead Weather poison t shirt coming to a store not near you (in Nashville)!

I realize I'm functioning mainly as the Yorkshire arm of the Dead Weather publicity machine these days, but I can't help it. It's all so exciting! Third Man are printing limited edition cyanotype t shirts.

They don't go into details of their process - they say they use dodge and burn to make the image. (The album is called Dodge and Burn) but you don't see it in the video. And... is it safe to wear a t shirt dyed with ferric ferrocyanide?

Who cares? They're for framing anyway!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

For Doctor Who, a brickbat (not really)

I'm sure everyone who watched Doctor Who last night (2015-09-19) enjoyed the Douglas Adams-style jokes in the arena. One of them sounded familiar.
I'm not accusing Moffat of ripping this off - I'm sure two people can come up with the same to-a-person-from-the-far-future-British-culture-gets-confusing joke. It's just I re-read it recently and it was on my mind, along with the whole paragraph of great puns around it.
It's from Michael Moorcock's Dancers At the End of Time tales, this one being Pale Roses, from New Worlds Quarterly 7, edited by Hilary Bailey and Charles Platt, 1974.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Dead Weather: Mile Markers and bass technique, Late Show performance (videos)

This week it's lucky Mojo who gets the exclusive on the Dead Weather video release and not only new, but a premiere performance of a song.

The song is Mile Markers, from the soon-to-be-released album Dodge and Burn, and and the 'technique' part of the film is handled by Little Jack Lawrence, who is all about that bass.  He demonstrates - oops, wrote demon states at first there - the use of his bass microsynth and the riff from Blue Blood Blues and Mile Markers.

I'm surprised Little Jack has such long glossy hair, because when he switched on that microsynth pedal, the sound blew mine right off, and I'm standing behind a monitor.

Added: for a bonus, here's the Dead Weather's performance of I Feel Love (Every Million Miles) on the Stephen Colbert Late Show:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Dead Weather: Hang You From the Heavens (new version) and drum technique (video)

Modern Drummer  has an exclusive on a Dead Weather's video on instrument technique.

Today they are showcasing Jack White himself on drums, and three other videos will be forthcoming.

Today's is a ten minute video, starting with Jack explaining his drumkit and why it is the way it is, and (at the 6:08 mark) going into a kickass new version of Hang You From the Heavens featuring the whole band (authentic non-doppleganger version) a pile of tires and some of the mannequins from the I Feel Love (Every Million Miles) video premiered last week.

During the song, Alison plays herself. The "Alison" at the six minute mark appears to be Jack's little daughter, Scarlett.  Who the "Alison" is in the first minute of the video, I have no clue. I thought was Jack at first (same nasolabial folds) but unless Jack had his Adam's Apple shaved for the part, I guess it isn't him. Any guesses?

Friday, September 04, 2015

David Bowie : Starman by Paul Trynka (book review)

I recently picked up a copy of Paul Trynka’s biography, David Bowie : Starman.

It dates back to 2011, but I didn’t buy it at the time having burned out on a couple of biographies of rock stars that you would imagine would be fascinating but were, frankly, crashing bores – mostly the Iggy Pop Open Up and Bleed book also by Trynka), which failed to deliver a portrait of a man raised by wolves in a trailer park, and instead delivered a rather dull middle-class American, as did the Kurt Cobain book and the Eric Clapton book (if you substitute English for American). David Bowie, as a quintessential lower-middle-class southern English war-baby, didn’t seem much more promising. I was wrong.

For many rock stories, these days, I can turn to YouTube and get the history, in a few thousand spoken words, along with sights and sounds of the era and if I’m lucky, and if the producer has paid the royalties, even the songs of the rock star in question. So, given that I’ve watched Five Years (while it was available) and a number of other Bowie documentaries, what is the advantage of a book?

Words, mainly. (But you knew that.) The book must have around 120,000 of them, which is sufficient to explain nuances in relationships and timelines as well as evoke feelings and paint mental pictures. Trynka has done an enormous amount of research, and seems to have tracked down pretty much anyone who spoke to David Bowie throughout his career, and placed their words carefully where they’ll do the most good in the narrative. He’s also taken care to keep mentioning dates and, when a person or event re-enters the scene after an absence, makes sure to recap briefly. This makes the book, unlike so many others, a pleasure to dip into at random, or use as a reference. In a book this long, there’s always a time or two when you flip through the previous few pages in confusion thinking something like, “Wait, have we had the festival yet? Did I miss it?” but his style keeps that to a minimum.

I don’t need to recap the David Bowie story here, so I won’t.  His first hits came as I first started buying records, although the records I bought were by T. Rex. Bowie was a feared rival. Apart from a fallow period recently, he’s continued to have hits since, and the way he’s managed to keep re-inventing himself has always been of some interest. Trynka has a lot to say about his methods, from Oblique Strategies, to putting an unrehearsed, inexperienced band in the studio and demanding they deliver, to obsessively working out details beforehand. It seems he’s used all types of methods, and is vastly well-read in the philosophy and psychology of his art, as well. Surprisingly, neither Bowie nor his biographer seem to think he has much innate talent – they both put it down to obsessive, single-minded hard work.

The story weaves in an out of others that I’ve read – Marc Bolan, Mick Jagger, Lori Mattix (Maddox, Madox), Jimmy Page, Andy Warhol and the aforementioned Iggy Pop, and many that I haven’t, though I probably should – Lou Reed, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon. From a Mod hustling in London to a rather diaphanous character living in indescribably luxury with Iman, probably in a pink castle on a cloud near the Big Rock Candy Mountain, it’s not your average rags to riches tale but it is constantly interesting. 

Dead Weather - I Feel Love (Every Million Miles) - video

The "live" video for the Dead Weather's new single, I Feel Love (Every Million Miles) is here.

It really works live - shame that they're not touring the new album.  Jack White seems to have upped his game on the drums and Dean Fertita makes a barebones riff fill the sonic space.The video looks simple, but there's a lot going on - watch Alison's doppleganger. And why is the mysterious Madonna figure crouched over a Fender amp and not the more usual manger?

I love the video effect that makes bright white shine black, like an old Image Orthicon tube camera on some beloved old black and white show that boasted all the happening beat combos.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Speaking Birb

So a friend turned me on to an article that said, in part, that teen girls are the real driver of language change. Shakespeare, not so much. Teen girls are were it's at. They make the modifications to language.
It takes about a generation for the language patterns started among young women to jump over to men. Uptalk, for example, which is associated with Valley Girls in the 1970s, is found among young men today. In other words, women learn language from their peers; men learn it from their mothers.
The new language then misses a generation. The new words are passed on to the babies of the original girls.

So, I thought, if this is true, then Lolcat (2007) must have millions of young speakers. They learned it natively from 2007, making the youngest native speakers eight, and a large number of pidgin speakers between eight and fifteen. So what language are the teenage Lolcat speakers using?

It turns out the predictions are correct. Young people raised on Lolcat are modifying their native Lolcat speech and speaking Birb.  It's even less like English than Lolcat. I can speak Birb easily enough, since I follow @ProBirdRights but its corollary  Rate-my-reptile is a little tough to parse at first.

No problem. I can read it and sometimes write it. On the other hand, there are millions of people out there who purport to write English but don't know the difference between "lay" and "lie", which pisses me off a lot more.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Skrillex Academy (video)

Hilarious parody of the Whiplash trailer, focusing on the travails of a recruit in the Skrillex Academy. And I *like* EDM.

Here's the original for reference.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Kills - Live in Detroit 2015-08-01 (Video, HD)

Thanks to uploader VideoGremmie, seven songs from the Kills show from last week, in Detroit at the St Andrews Hall.

Details: THE KILLS perform U R A Fever and Future Starts Slow to open up their concert at Saint Andrew's Hall in DETROIT on SAT August 1, 2015. Shot in high definition in AVCHD mode using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 using 'P' mode in ISO 3200 with 1/60 min shutter speed.

He or she is in a good position in the audience as well, and has great sound levels. 

Fully recommended!

Edit: 7 songs, not the whole show.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Why Live Nation gets all your money

If you have a million dollars to invest, this Kramer segment will delight you. If, on the other hand, you want to go to concerts, this will explain why you have to pay a shitload nowadays and yet not quite get what you want. It's refreshing to hear CEO Michael Rapino explain how and why they charge for everything, and why they need to own every festival.

By "refreshing" I mean it's a call to action. Short watch, high payoff for this video.

Also it's funny to hear the tremble in Rapino's voice as he's obviously unused to being broadcast.

John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin in Simon Napier Bell documentary

Here from swinging, fab and cool London is a 1966 excerpt from a doco about Simon Napier Bell, one of the quintessential British music managers/movers&shakers.


It's a scant minute and a half, but manages to include a shot of John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame) in a soundproof booth at 33 seconds, and a shot of Big Jim Sullivan (with a beard) a few seconds later.

Tune is Endlessly Friendlessly Blue by Rory Fellowes.

Watching this, it's almost like being in happening London when it was happening!

Saturday, August 01, 2015


This is the Trelawny, my Veiled Chameleon.

When he has nothing else to do, he blesses his surrounding with this "Live Long and Prosper" hand-signal he does.

I bought him from a pet store (which is not recommended, but I did) as he was half-price due to "growing too fast to be sold as a baby".  He was four months old, so now he's about six months old and is still growing fast.

He has more personality than all my other lizards put together, and it's sometimes hard to remember he's only six months old. He's explored much of the house, and agitates early on in the morning to get out of his cage and go and explore.

It's not true that chameleons change color to match their surroundings (although they can do brighter and duller versions of their colors - the photo above is "average" for Trelawny).  However, they can change shape drastically. Above he's very thin and tall, like a tropical fish.  He can also do long and skinny, "look at me I'm a leaf" and a couple of other shapes.

Here he is sitting on his ladder in the window, admiring the trees outside.

And here he is at a slightly younger age, with the characteristic curly tail.


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