Archive for February, 2011

Tony time

We’ll need to manage the release of it. I call it ‘Release Management’.

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I don’t want to die in a nuclear war

Released at a time when The Kinks appeared to be on the wane, 1970’s unconventionally-named Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One brought them back into the public’s conscience largely off the back of perhaps the most celebrated ode to transvestism in pop history.
 
The album itself failed to chart in the UK, which seems somehow fitting, given that large parts of it are a feast of Ray Davies’ cynicism and bitterness about the music industry and its principal actors – agents, managers, the press.
 
Top Of The Pops takes us on an entertaining jaunt through the lifecycle of a hit single climbing up the charts, leading to recognition in the streets from screaming fans and interest from the Melody Maker (ask your Dad, kids). This culminates in a momentous phone call from the singer’s agent with the news that the song has gone to number one, resulting in the opportunity to “earn some real money!”. Similarly, Moneygoround laments the complex web of music industry types who each dip their hands into the money earned from a song’s success, leaving Ray initiating litigation with survival his only goal, while Powerman is both defiant and resigned.

Other themes on the album include alienation, paranoia, and despair at modernity. Perhaps the most touching song on the album is Get Back In The Line, based on the Davies’ father’s experience of unionism and the effects it had on him, not to mention those it had on the young Ray seeing his father return home, jobless still. Also memorable are two Dave Davies-penned songs: Strangers, and Rats. The former is somehow both existential and full of human warmth; the latter drips with fear and paranoia, features a class-A addictive intro, and is oddly representative of my own feelings on my infrequent trips to that London. We also have the call of nature which is Apeman.

For me, despite (or indeed because of) its imperfections this album is essential listening for anyone with even a passing interest in The Kinks: it is executed with characteristic humour, and in a way that belies its underlying negativity, showing some of the Davies brothers’ finest moments.

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Dacre Stoker’s Whitby: an illustrated guide

“They neared the grounds of the abbey and here she noticed anew how the trees simply disappeared, as if the land was so cursed it could not sustain life. Storm clouds smothered the sky. She drove on and suddenly there it was, their destination. Carfax Abbey sat broken, haunting the cliffs above the sleeping town of Whitby. Its Gothic towers scratched the skies and its long-empty cathedral-like windows kept a silent and solemn watch over the mist-filled graveyard next door”

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A book at bedtime (4)

Dracula The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt (2009)

Not that I’m a sucker for any old tat related to something I’m obsessed by, of course, but I was always going to buy this book. It being £1.99 helped. Jointly written by a direct descendent (a great-grandnephew) of Bram Stoker and a self-confessed “horror geek”, this is a perhaps surprisingly ambitious novel, rather than a money-for-old-rope attempt to cash in on the family name.
 
The authors’ stance is that of attempting to reconcile the many different threads in film, theatre, and literature that were spawned by the original novel (many of which were a result of a failure to enforce copyright in North America). At the same time they seek to be true to both Stoker’s intent and the context of historical real-world events in 15th century Romania.
 
As I say, surprisingly ambitious.
 
This results in a novel which paints a more ambiguous picture of Count Dracula than most other portrayals, setting out to ‘give him his say’, describing him as a “complex anti-hero”. It also merges fact and fiction, making Bram Stoker himself (and, of course, his most famous work) part of the story, also including real-life ye olde worlde people such as Sir Henry Irving, Frederick Abberline, and, in passing, Oscar Wilde. Abberline’s involvement is as a result of a plot device which intertwines the Jack The Ripper murders with the story of Dracula, the Harkers and co, and which sees both Dracula and Abraham Van Helsing fingered as suspects for the Ripper’s killings. Finally, the end of the novel includes the departure of the Titanic from Queenstown in Ireland.
 
Meanwhile, the idea of reconciling different takes on the original story sees Carfax (in the novel, a house in Purfleet purchased by the malevolent Count; in film, an abbey) combined with Whitby Abbey to give us ‘Carfax Abbey, in Whitby’. Similarly the asylum in which the lunatic Renfield is originally held is relocated, again from Purfleet to Whitby.

This blending of fiction, fact, and, um, fictionalised fact does require a fair amount of deliberate explanation to be made, in order to make the new events more plausible. The authors do this by telling us that Stoker senior wrote his original novel based on a tale told to him in the pub. Stoker, believing this tale to be the fanciful ranting of a drunk, then took liberties with what were actually (but of course) true events. This, we are told, led him to using incorrect dates for Dracula’s arrival in England via Whitby harbour – thus allowing our modern-day authors to re-set the original novel’s events in line with the Ripper murders, the Titanic, and so on.

I don’t know about you, but I’m becoming very confused by this.

Anyway, the book has its weaknesses. In addition to understandable criticism aimed at the above faffing about, there’s a surprising amount of sex and swearing (I’m no historian, but however common the word ‘bollocks’ was in the early 20th century, it simply seems incongruous), and one ‘twist’ in particular was screamingly obvious from the outset. That said, the complexities described above are executed very entertainingly, and even just a passing knowledge of one or more of the original novel and its subsequent adaptations will mean they become all the more fascinating. Similarly, the mixing of old fiction, fact, and new fiction makes for an interesting read. There is also an extensive afterword, penned by an academic who has the honorary title of ‘Baroness of the House of Dracula’, as well as lengthy notes from the authors – these suggest they are indeed genuine in their love of the story, and sincere in their attempts to create a ‘legitimate’ sequel.

Personally, I like it. I like it to death.

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Tony time

I’ve noticed you don’t drink much, but then you eat a lot of fruit so you get your liquid source from your food input.

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Paluel nuclear power station

Paluel, Haute Normandie, France

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Sexy on a Saturday night

British Sea Power wrote Who’s In Control? in mid-2009, but it wasn’t released until late 2010. Curiously, this time gap allowed it to seem immediately resonant and zeitgeist-y.
 
One of BSP’s stompier affairs, the song is aimed at the disaffected and oppressed, a call-to-arms in the face of everything that’s “yours and mine” being sold down the river. Beseeching us to “fight, fight, point and stand, point and stand and fight”, the song immediately called to mind the student-led protests in response to the ‘austerity measures’ imposed by Little Lord Osborne and his chums.
 
Not long after, it was easy to consider the lines “Over here, over there / Over here, every-fucking-where / … I’ll never be, I’ll never see/ I’ll never be what you want me to be”, and reflect on the social uprisings in so many north African countries: British Sea Power, instigators of popular regime change? You read it here first.
 

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