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Monday, 19 November 2007

Current Vacancies...

Some nice little jobs going at the Tear Fund...

(They no longer seem to be advertising the post that a friend of my sister was going to be interviewed for - salary £50K... maybe she got the job...?)

Or Oxfam are looking for a Campaigns and Policies Co-ordinator in Yemen... [NB: Oxfam will meet any tax and social security liabilities of the postholder in addition to the net salary ...and £26K in Yemen'll buy you a harem or two, I'm guessing...)

Nice looking position with Save the Children - Major Giving Director (aah!) - just says 'very competitive' salary...

Still, you know what they say - you pay peanuts...

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Hear how Bob's getting on in his search for 50 Missing Records...

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Missing Records Podcasts...

I've posted up the first two - here...

Or if you want to listen or download from here, just left or right click respectively on the song title...

Can't Stand Losing You

The Drowners

To subscribe and get the episodes as they're posted up, try here...

I won't be posting my ramblings about 'The Drowners' up here, so do have a listen to that episode if you're interested in following the series.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Can't Stand Losing You...

b/w Dead End Job

A&M: AMS 7381 (blue vinyl)

Released: September 1978


Found: 12/9/2007

Packages begin to arrive. I open the first cardboard envelope and there he is; a man with a noose around his neck, stood on a block of ice that's been strategically positioned close to the red glow of an electric fire. Inside that sleeve is the blue 7 inch disc, just as I remembered it. 'Can't Stand Losing You'; that seems as good a good place as any to start, I suppose, especially if your theme is loss. I had planned to work my way down the list methodically, but instinct and impulse have somewhat taken over and this one seemed to call the loudest; I succumbed to the siren call of that long-lost pellucid polo mint stained a Quink permanent blue. Perhaps this disordered, groping anti-method is better anyway; more in keeping with the vagaries of my fraying memory...

For a band who achieved such enormous worldwide popularity with their accessible 'white reggae' style, the songs of The Police mine a surprisingly dark seam. Prostitution ('Roxanne'), paedophilia ('Don't Stand so Close to me'), brooding sexual obsession ('Does Everyone Stare?', 'Every Breathe You Take') and the essential loneliness of existence ('Message in a Bottle') provide the subject matter for their best (and, by and large, their best known) songs. So 'Can't Stand Losing You', an exploration of the psyche of a (possibly potential) suicide fits quite snugly into the band's bulging boxfile of case studies in which they chart the dysfunctional mechanism that is the human mind.

We know we've got a case on our hands pretty much from the off. The steady skank of the song's opening riff is almost immediately disrupted by Stewart Copeland's ominous off-kilter tom-tom thumps which provide an early hint of the mental instability that will be revealed later in the song. It's rather like the sound of someone banging their head repeatedly on a desktop before running into a school with a machine gun and opening fire indescriminately. The jilted lover has tried all the usual stuff; persistent phone calls, first to his ex- and then all her 'girlfriends' - at least, I'd always assumed that the injuring party was female, until I listened closely and realised that at no point is the gender of the one who does the dumping specified. The only clue that it is probably a female is the (still fairly ambiguous) use of the term 'girlfriends', as opposed to just friends; a choice that was most probably forced upon Sting by the imperative of jemmying the line to scan.

Whatever her or his gender, things have got so bad that the unfortunate recipient of all this no longer required attention has had to rope in a very big brother to help them out. Letters and records, the latter - and this shows just how bad things must have got - 'all scratched', have been returned but the singer still isn't taking the hint. He may think he is in the process of losing a lover, but as far as the other party and the listener are concerned, this one appears to have been lost quite some time ago.

Then, a moment of unexpected clarity amid all the derangement; one of Andy Summers' ambient guitar interludes where you'd normally expect to hear a solo. His eureka moment arpeggios are effects pedal-drenched and jazzy, providing an oasis of calm in which the enormity of the decision to be made is weighed up by the protagonist. It's a no brainer, announced as calmly as a break for coffee. One loss will be repaid by another, one from which there will be no redemption and no way back. Because as he's already told us, 'to carry on living doesn't make no sense' to the song's narrator. The desperate mathematics of the prospective suicide find a subtle echo in that double negative as if two wrongs really will somehow add up and make a right in the distorted logic of the pained mind. But then there's never just one negation when it comes to suicide; there's always more than just one loss, always more than one who loses.

Sting's insistent, monotone bass, Summers' unswervingly sustained high guitar and Copeland's patient drum pattern crank up the tension beneath the valediction, an arrangent as tight and menacing as the lips spitting out this vindictive 'last goodbye';

And you'll be sorry
When I'm dead
And all this guilt
Will be on your head.

That 'you' feels more direct, somehow, listening to it now. Suddenly you find you have been implicated in all this madness. It was not some abstract, genderless and spurning lover in some silly little new wave song who didn't care enough, but you. You didn't care enough, so someone died.

Great pop songs - singles, to be more specific, I suppose - allow us to superimpose our own lives on to them. Perhaps the brevity and the ephemeral nature of the format allows this more readily than other more earnest and lengthy artforms. Songs multiply their meanings as our experience of life deepens. It's a trivial form, perhaps, and so not always ideally suited to the grand subject. But then, you could write several novels set in pre-World War II Europe and never match the emotional whack and resonance of these few lines from a simple popular song from that momentous time:

There may be troubles ahead
But while there's moonlight and music
And love and romance -
Let's face the music and dance!

The whole impending catastrophe of the second World War seems to be contained in the oh-so-delicate embrace of those few words. And isn't there a wonderfully liberating contradiction expressed in that last line?; "let's face the music and dance". If you read that facing of the music - as perhaps you're meant to - in the sense of confronting an unpleasant reality, or even, perhaps, accepting responsibility for an error one has made, then it seems incongrous to do so whilst indulging in the hedonistic escapism of a dance. But that is exactly what the dancer and the listener alike are invited to do. The song asks us to face the music and to dance; to confront the grim reality whilst simultaneously averting our gaze and seeking pleasure as a relief from the very same actuality. But then, isn't that the beauty of art?; that it doesn't feel the need to reconcile the contradictions that we come across in life and appears happy just to play with them or point them out. So, like that couple on the pre-war dance floor, we are able briefly to look upon the horror even as we make our glides around the floor and look away.

We've all broken up with people, have all wanted someone more than they have wanted us, been wanted more by others than we have wanted them. We might have bombarded them with phone calls for a while, or they have us; perhaps even done the rounds of all their friends, or they of ours. We may have returned or had returned once precious mementoes to or by our erstwhile lovers, whether having damaged them or not. Or perhaps we or they went one step further, and kept them for ourselves? Most of us have quite possibly felt at one time or another that we "can't see the point in another day". But most of us don't end up taking our own lives.

I had a friend who did. Most of the time you wouldn't have known that this friend suffered from periodic (and, as I later discovered, ever-deepening) bouts of depression. You'd spot the odd sign of obsessive-compulsion in those frequent visits to the ladies' room during which, I'm told, there'd be much over-zealous washing of the hands. You'd probably assign to the martyrdom of those excruciating period pains you knew she suffered from, that feint, slightly unhinged undertone that would occasionally come to the surface every second or third particularly hellish month or so. Perhaps, after all, you didn't really know her as well as you thought you did. But then it would have been hard, surely, for anyone to reconcile that gloriously giggling girl who comes most readily to mind, the one who could sing 'Ten Green Bottles' in fluent German through the madcap, tucked in two at the middle laughter, with someone who would one day take her life.

But she did.

And was she thinking this all that time?:

And you'll be sorry
When I'm dead
And all this guilt
Will be on your head...

You can't ever know what was going through their minds as they approached the point of no return, can only take a best guess as Sting does in the song. And unlike the successful suicide, we can play out that same scenario as often as we like when we come back to play that luminous, translucent record. A rediscovered piece of blue about those blues that for some can't be resolved.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Oxfam Economics...

I was asked to speak on this subject at a recent symposium and, as we're once again approaching the dread Comic Relief/Children in Fucking Need/Of course they don't know it's sodding Christmas, they're fucking well starving season of goodwill to all men (and Jonathan Ross) I thought it timely to post it up here. For the sake of clarity, I've excised most of the expletives...

Oxfam Economics: Finding a Way Forward for the Grey Market in the Age of the Digital Download

by Dr. R. Swipe, Egregious Professor in Semantic Molly-Coddling, Faculty of No One is Allowed to be Bad at Anything, Online University of San, CA.

Like many academics, I have an ambivalent attitude towards charity. On the one hand, I am, like most rational individuals, mildly annoyed at best (and violently enraged, at worst) by the constant demands on my finances made by the rapid expansion of the benevolent sector. How often has one had to suppress the desire to crush the skull of the gaudily-bibbed, and infuriatingly tutting post-graduate as you have politely declined the invitation to discuss the setting up of a direct debit, index-linked tithe upon your wages to be set up on behalf of any of the various good causes that these organisations profess to support? Many of you, I'm sure, have failed to show the same restraint as I usually manage to; and whilst I don't condone such rashness, neither can I wholeheartedly condemn it either.

Obviously, one doesn't wish to be seen as a callous, impecunious old fuddy-duddy who cares not a jot for the sufferings of the poor African/Palsied Individual/Mental Defective/Abused Pet etc. Fortunately, there is a way ahead that not only allows one to appear as if one does indeed care a jot about the sufferings of the poor African/Palsied Individual/Mental Defective/Abused Pet etc, but which requires no positive or altruistic action on one's own part. My extensive research, painstakingly conducted over the last two and a half weeks has yielded some fascinating and surprising data. Let me share with you some of the astonishing discoveries I have made whilst outlining the Theory of Oxfam Economics...

The principles behind Oxfam Economics are simple. Charities and charitable donors have created a self-sustaining loop that does neither good nor harm to the prevailing state of either the beneficiaries of the charity or of the donor. Confused? Let me provide a concrete example. As you'll have observed by the statement of responsibility beneath the Title of this proposal, I work for a University. I also spend a lot of my disposable income on secondhand records; often, though not exclusively, buying the aforementioned in large quantities from one of the many charity shops in the area where I live. All well and good, you might think, but how does this help to explain the Theory of Oxfam Economics?

A few years ago, whilst trying to find a way of circumventing the various (and utterly needless) pornography filters on our University's mainframe, I happened to notice a news item on our home page celebrating the securing of a £2 million donation from the Cancer Research charity. Two Million Smackeroonies. That's a lot of research. Or is it? Because that £2 million probably gets slopped around with all the other funding that goes towards making our Universities the pride of...well, I think you can see my point. Bit of creative accounting here, a few jollies to Trinidad & Tobago to laugh at the even more primitive state of their refectory than even your own institution's pathetic eaterie... the odd Honorary degree (and stipend) to the occasional disgraced former Tory cabinet minister and... you get the idea. Some of the money may even go towards a whole raft of very useful and important educational and research-led activities; the annual sponsored book burning, or funding a new Rastafarian translation of the Classics initiative ("Is this a dagger I see before I and I?"), perhaps the Student Union's Campaign to Free Dierdre Barlow (Retired Members) Pension Fund Committee might get a new overhead projector - who knows, we might even get that new refectory we've been after for so long...and so on.

To cut to the chase, some of those 2 million sobs probably ended up, no matter how circuitously, in the pockets of yours truly. I no doubt, in turn, returned some (if not all) of those sponduliks to the very same charitable source from whence they came. So there you have your loop. Oh, I've no complaints; we senior lecturers in Applied Semantic Molly-Coddling in the age of the Digital Download have to spend our ackers on something. And they've a fine selection of records, carefully selected and regularly updated so, if anything, it's a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned. I get paid, shell out for a few treasured lumps of drastic plastic, the charity gets to feel that it's performing a worthwhile societal role without doing anything to deprive itself of its own raison d'etre and, eventually, the cash dripfeeds it's way back into my pay-packet and we can start the process all over again...

This is the shop-based, 'classical' or 'perfect capitalism' model, of the charitable concern in which would-be consumers are invited to donate their unwanted tat and bric-a-brac in return for, well, buggar all, basically. This essentially valueless junk is then assessed by highly paid business graduates and put up for resale at a highly inflated price often based on a cursory glance at a Collector's guide whilst phoning Uganda on the office mobile. This massive price hike would not be possible without a highly impressive (and otherwise completely superfluous) re-branding of the charity shop so that it resembles in every respect (apart from the quality and newness of the wares inside it, obviously) the 'normal' retail environment. Evidently, such a sophisticated retail ambience does not come cheap.

But there are easier ways to redirect money given entirely well-meaningly to aid a particular cause away from the intended recipients and into the bank accounts of the well qualified Western Middle Classes. The hard-nosed, new entrepreneurial charity has moved off the high street and on to the street in search of your hard-earned cash. Those red-bibbed beggars I mentioned earlier are all graduates with excellent careers ahead of them in the high-end of the Cold-Calling industry. What better start for them in the finer arts of persuasion than the opportunity to service their student debt by way of an honest day toiling on the high street, guilt-tripping their well meaning but fatigued and life-immersed fellow citizens into contributing to whichever charity they purport to represent. Who knows? After the squadron of hawkers and clip-board-wielders have received their five figure stipend, there may even be enough of a residue to build a shanty hut/prefab rest home/poorly sanitized lunatic asylum/kennel or two for the odd African/Palsied Individual/Mental Defective/Abused Pet? So there you have it - Oxfam Economics. It's a pretty good scam, isn't it?

So, dig deep, citizens; every little helps. And whoever it is who has been donating their pristine and beautifully chosen records, please keep an eye on these pages; I'll be posting up a list of LPs some time soon...

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Eine Symphonie des Grauens...

Monochrome Set - Eine Symphonie des Grauens

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

The 45s...

1. Ernie - Benny Hill

2. The Israelites - Desmond Dekker & the Aces

3. The Funky Gibbon - The Goodies

4. Twist & Shout E.P. - The Beatles

5. Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles

6. Something Else/Friggin' in the Riggin' - The Sex Pistols

7. Sunday Girl - Blondie

8. Can't Stand Losing You (blue vinyl) - The Police

9. Message in a Bottle (green vinyl) - The Police

10. Up the Junction (mauve vinyl) - Squeeze

11. What's so Funny 'Bout Peace, Love & Understanding (Nick Lowe on sleeve) - Elvis Costello & the Attractions

12. How I Wrote Elastic Man - The Fall

13. Gangsters/The Selecter - Special A.K.A./The Selecter

14. Tears of a Clown - The Beat

15. Hands off She's Mine/Twist & Crawl - The Beat

16. A Forest - The Cure

17. Eine Symphony des Grauens - The Monochrome Set

18. The Last Time - The Rolling Stones

19. Going Underground/Dreams of Children (double pack) - The Jam

20. This Charming Man - The Smiths

21. This Charming Man (12 inch) - The Smiths

22. Everyday is Like Sunday - Morrissey

23. Hit me With Your Rhythm Stick - Ian Dury & the Blockheads

24. The Prince - Madness

25. Green Onions (Atlantic re-issue) - Booker T. & the MGs

26. Big A' Little A, Bouncing B - Crass

27. Original Sin/Legion - Theatre of Hate

28. Dancing With the Rude Boys - The Ruts

29. Hi Hi Hi/C Moon - Wings

30. Anticipation - Delta 5

31. It's Different for Girls - Joe Jackson

32. You're so Fine or I Found a Love - The Falcons [can't remember which I used to own]

33. You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin' (re-issue) - The Righteous Brothers

34. Baal E.P. - David Bowie

35. Magical Mystery Tour E.P. (mono) - The Beatles

36. Run Run Run [I think it was this one we had] - Jo Jo Gunne

37. The Harder They Come/Run Rudolph Run - Keith Richards

38. Car Trouble - Adam & the Ants

39. She's Not There E.P. (blue vinyl) - The U.K. Subs

40. Big Tears/Tiny Steps - Elvis Costello

41. The Drowners (12 inch) - Suede

42. Jim One - James

43. Christmas Day (white vinyl) - Squeeze

44. Working for the Yankee Dollar (double pack) - The Skids

45. Paint it Black - The Modettes

46. On my Radio - The Selecter

47. I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down - Elvis Costello & the Attractions

48. Daddy Cool - Darts

49. Two Pints of Lager & a Packet of Crisps Please! - Splodgenessabounds [this may have been coloured vinyl too - I honestly can't remember]

50. Something That I Said - The Ruts

Bubbling Under:

51. For My Country/The Black 45 EP - UK Decay [I'm pretty sure I had one of these...]

52. Pulling Mussels From the Shell [Clear vinyl, I think] - Squeeze

53. I've Just Been Feelin' Bad - Eddie Floyd [This was a b-side. I can't remember what the A-side was, as I fell in love with the flipside...]

54. Dreaming - Blondie [I have this and the b-side on Eat to the Beat, but it's just such a great single...)

55. Let it Be/Get Back - The Beatles [I think I had the Get Back single in the Let it Be sleeve...]

56. Blow Away - George Harrison

There are one or two tenuous ones, records that I never actually *owned* but which spent enough time in my collection for me to feel as if they were in some way briefly mine, if only in spiritual sense - The Fall, James and Monochrome Set are examples of such gestalt ownership and thus, I think, the only real cheats. I suppose that opens up a whole other argument about the notion of ownership itself, and I'm sure we'll delve into that more later on.

But otherwise, it's a fairly scrupulous list, I hope. There may have well been several important and inadvertent ommissions, but these are more likely to be lapses of memory, not necessarily attempts to conceal bad taste. Many of you will no doubt find more than enough examples of such tastelessness as it is to put your minds at rest on that score. Consequently, with the exception of the three interlopers already mentioned, I've tried to avoid too much wish-fulfillment. So there's no room for records I loved at the time but didn't buy - which is a shame, because I currently have a real hankering to hear, for example, 'I Got You' by Split Enz and I'm sure there will be others like it in the months ahead that come into my mind unbidden, some that may even have been eligible for this list. But, as you'll see, that's been excised from this list. It is, after all, an inventory of the lost, not the never found.

I've already ordered a few of these via ebay and I can see that the Royal Mail is going to make a pretty penny out of this one. So if anyone can help me to keep the Post Office's or Insignia's or whatever the fuck they're calling themselves now's profits down by donating any of the above in the interests of literature, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can email me here:

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Missing Records...

I'm not sure if this is a side effect of loss, or just of growing older, but rather than appreciating the abundance of wonderful stuff I do possess, I find myself increasingly dwelling on the things that I no longer have. I suppose anything else would be like lopping someone's arm off and expecting that amputee immediately to express their gratitude for the three limbs that they still found themselves in possession of; you might be able to see the logic of the proposition, perhaps, but you would probably feel entitled to remain somewhat aggrieved at being an arm down. Oh we all come to terms with loss eventually in our own ways, but the first part of that process, surely, is to accept the loss, to acknowledge it for what it it is; unwelcome, intrusive and painful, and perhaps even plain bloody unfair. Later, maybe, there will be time for us to count our blessings, more room to give thanks for what we still have. But first we need to mourn for what's been taken from us; perhaps even to rage.

And loss, you start to realise, is not a temporary, once and for all occurence; loss goes on and on. Once lost to us, people stay lost and their continued absence becomes apparent in a variety of ways, even if we do find ways to bring the lost ones back and keep them living, if only in our minds. And then, just as you feel you've come to terms with one, another loss occurs. And one day, like those ubiquitous gondolas that so derail the Monty Python travelogue's narrator, you feel one day that is all that there will be; loss, loss and more fucking loss. And that's just the lost people. Loss then opens up a second, a third and a fourth front; you lose your looks, lose your youth and finally you lose your mind.

Perhaps this is as much a sign of the extent to which I've been shaped by the materialistic culture that I was born into and grew up in as much as it's a symptom of loss, but the finding of lost things now has a definite allure for me. We are all too aware of the realities of of life and death and have already or soon will be keeping a careful watch on that unyielding, hoarding burglar we call Time. So there's something quite joyous, I find, in the perversity of these thief-defying artifacts, the ones that turn up every now and then, unsoiled, unblemished to remind you of a time long gone. You welcome them home as you would a returning prodigal.

To that end, my counter to the losses - my compensatory factor if you like - has been buying second hand records. Like many in the mid 1980s, I got caught up in the rush to CD and pretty much gave up on those relatively fragile 33 1/3s and 45s some time ago. Then, sometime around 2002 or 2003, I bought the cheapest turntable that I could find with the aim of transferring to CD some of my harder to find old LPs. The turntable quickly became an obsession. The already surprisingly good sound achieved by this incredibly modest deck meant that it was rapidly enhanced and customised, tweaked and supercharged before it soon gave way to better turntables as the crazy, rekindled passion grew. The old family home was ransacked for what remained of my collection - sadly, nowhere near complete after a series of retrospectively agonising carboot sales and visits to the Collectors Record Shop. Daft, I know. But it was one way of coping with loss.

My mum had died in August 2002, you see. It was a long illness, very traumatic at the time and I suppose, looking back now, something of a watershed in my own life. You can still think of yourself as being young in your mid-to-late thirties. But death just makes you feel so old. It's not so much that you become more aware of all those days stacked up behind you. No, it's just the sheer violence that a loved one's death can inflict upon your body. Death just wears you out, frankly - at least, the ones that come at the end of long drawn out illness do. In death's wake, everything you do seems slower, less natural, less spontaneous; the easy pace of youth moves into a slower gear; your Little Red Corvette is forced to dawdle on the narrow country lane by the snail-like milkfloat chuntering up ahead.

But, if anyone's still reading after such a bleak opening as this, it's not all bad news up ahead. You start to cling, as you get older, to the comforting myth that youth is indeed wasted on the young. It isn't, of course, but there is a dividend of clarity that pays out when that superannuated body of yours starts to slow. There's the bittersweet thrill of finding lots of good stuff that you missed out on at the time and thought had gone for good and yet, there it is, still waiting patiently, like an over-generous or slightly desperate blind date. And what seemed at the time to have been a curse, to have missed out on the Sixties as those of us did who's teenage years happened to take place in that decade's wake, now seems more opportune. It's only six years, after all, between the Beatles split and the rise of the Sex Pistols. Another seven, and we've reached the Smiths. We were close enough to peer back not too far at all that wacky flower power stuff and still had plenty of good things to look forward to, one starts to feels as the years tick on. So Pop Time can do old gits like me a favour, even if the Old Father kind is not so....well, kind.

It does seem strange to me that a grown man - I'm well into my 42nd year as I write this - still has so much time for such a supposedly juvenile form. I suppose that we all carry a residue of youth, even when it seems it ought to have no place in us. And, as you get older, you start to realise with increasing certainty that there really is no way back. You can only rewrite so much history. You remain the product of the choices that you made and if you want to understand yourself, you have to face up to and understand those choices. I guess that, if I'm honest, is what is fuelling this quest.

I haven't told you about the quest, have I? That's age for you. This will probably seem to most of you like tilting at a windmill, but what the heck. I've compiled a list of 100 records - 50 singles, 50 LPs - all of which at one time or another passed through my hands but none of which I currently own. I 've replaced most of the things I used to have on vinyl, but not these strays who've somehow slipped through the net. The quest is to find them and to discover what, if anything, they still mean to me; a sort of audit of their emotional value, I guess. It's a pretty poor list if truth be told - as you'll see tomorrow when I post the names of the 50 singles up. But it's an honest one. They are all missing records. I just want to find out how much I'm missing them. And who knows, in amongst the mistakes, and the horrors, there may be a few pleasant surprises. I just hope that I can find them all...who knows - maybe some of you may even be able to help?

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Contrary to what you may have heard, satire actually is by far the sharpest weapon in the writer's armoury. That said, to all intents and purposes, it might as well still be the bluntest for all the good it does. You see, it seems that no matter that s/he may have aimed to skewer the heart or how accurate the barb, the satirist still only succeeds in doing little more than clipping the toenails of the intended target with his or her rapier-like wit. I suppose it does loosen and redirect some bile though, so it's not completely without purpose...

Lsst night I made a terrible mistake. Scrolling through the onscreen TV guide, I alighted on a programme I didn't recognise from it's foreshortened title in the listings. Unfortunately, it featured Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - or Hugh Titting Fearnley-Fucking Whitting-Cunting-Stall as he's affectionately known in our house. I don't want you to get the impression that we don't like the chap. As vegetarians, we like little more than to turn on our set, sip at a glass of freshly squeezed kitten's blood and watch Hugh saw away at a bison or hang a calf upside down or any similarly rational and cuddly activities he might deploy to entertain and educate us in matters culinary.

He is, in the unlikely instance that anyone reading this hasn't come across him already, the sort of carnivore who looks askance at a dollop of buffalo mozarella before enquiring in a pained voice, "what have you done with its horns?" So you can imagine my joy at finding him there on the screen before me, grappling some chocolate sponge cake-coloured soil with a demonic Nicky Horne lookalike from the other side of the Atlantic at his side. It transpires that Hugh has hit upon the idea of dispensing with the services of the local market gardens and abbatoirs and embarked instead upon transforming his own backyard into a fully functioning farm capable of providing comestibles for his famous restaurant, the River Cafe - or something or other Cafe. All excellent stuff.

So, soil duly grappled - "is it any good?", Hugh asks the diabolical bearded dwarf beside him; Christ, the man really will eat *anything*, it seems - the Hughster sets about inspecting his livestock. "I'd been a bit apprehensive about this aspect of farming", confides Hughie as he does that cutlass sharpening thing with a couple of lengthy carving knives, a maniacal grin spreading about his otherwise cherubic face. "But it turns out to be a breeze". Apparently, you just bung a bit of sawdust in the general direction of those little brown things with the wings and beaks and give the occasional showers to the penned up pink thingies with the snouty noses every now and then and nature pretty much takes its course.

"The pigs are a real revelation", enthuses H.T.F.F.W.C.S. "Not only can you get a fair old bit of meat off them, but the kids love 'em and they're actually rather good company!" I don't want to appear to be jumping on my soapbox here and lapsing into a predictable and over-emotionalised piece of animal rights polemic or anything. So can I just assure the gentle reader that I have at no point in my life ever owned, much less stood upon, anything as coarse and demeaning as a soapbox. Now, can I get back to the predictable and over-emotionalised piece of animal rights polemic? OK. But, really, one can only hope that The Hughster doesn't waver from this attitude when Monty Don or Sophie Grigson or any of his other "well, I just sort of ambled into a career in the media really, because I come from a good family and I can be more or less relied upon to open a bag of seeds the right way up and not say the word 'oik' when I'm referring to a tradesman and that sort of thing" friends come for supper. "Ho Ho Ho, yes isn't uncle Monty a card trussed up like that Jemimah. Now, are you sure you can manage a whole leg, Alpha Romeo? And how about you Ezekiel? Are you sure you wouldn't rather I sliced the trousers off for you?"

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against people who eat meat. Most of them would, I'm fairly sure, be like me if they had to wring a chicken's neck or stab a lamb in the throat themselves to get their food. The worst you can say about the average British carnivore is that they're a bit lazy. No, it's cunts like H.T.F.F.W.C.S. and Gordon Fucking Ramsay - the sort who take such a peculiar delight not only in inflicting death on their fellow creatures so blithely but also insist that the television audience looks on as they do it - who I wish to eradicate.

There seems to be something quite perverse about a society that considers legislation enabling the police to detain terror suspects for up to 56 days in order that the constabulary has time to come up with a reasonable justification for having said suspects taken out by trained marksmen on the platforms of our noble public transport network when men like Ramsay and Fearnley-Fucking Whitting-Cunting-Stall are free to walk the streets.

But Hugh can rile me even without the butchery. Just watching him as I did last night,fondling some hideously distorted root vegetable or other and cooing "ooh - look at my celeriac!" is enough to boil the blood. The man is seriously warped - and, no, I don't mean eccentric, I mean *warped*. Only a person of sectionable derangement would dress up in a beekeeper's outfit and go out in the middle of the night to scour the acres upon acres of lamb's lettuce he has had planted in his garden that's a quarter of the size of the Duchy of Cornwall for slugs. "Gotcha, you little pest!!" Hugh gloats before throwing his head back in silhouette against the full moon and letting out a maniacal and blood curdling laugh (...alright, I made that last bit up...) I turn off before I can find out what horrible fate is inflicted on the poor, wretched mollusc. You see - he really *will* eat anything...

Funny, isn't it? All the pomp and ceremony of the State opening of Parliament and the Queen's speech pass me by without a murmur and yet I can take one look at Hugh and want to line the whole fucking lot of them against a wall and gun the bastards down.

Why is the world so wrong??

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Billions Watched...

Saturday 3rd November, 2007: Arsenal 2 (Fabregas, Gallas), Manchester United 2 (Gallas o.g., Ronaldo)

It had to happen sooner or later, I suppose, the first real stumble of the season. Not the team; the two draws that have so rudely interrupted our fine sequence of wins in all competitions were both against quality opposition, so no disgrace there. I'm talking about the book; the writing is the problem at the moment, not the team. Three days have elapsed since William Gallas' late goal earned us a point against the reigning champions and I have been, until now, unable to get any words to come out at all. I've been stuck, sat before the white sheet with nothing coming; just blankness and a fuzzing of the brain. With the away game in Prague looming, I've forced myself to start writing, just to see what comes, before the whole lumbering juggernaut that is The Road to Moscow judders to a halt with barely a quarter of a season played. Moscow seems a long way away right now. I've come very close to jacking it in.

Like a billion other people, I watched the Man U game on television. Maybe that's the problem. After all, most of those billions of souls - we'll assume that most of them had or now have some interest in the broader game of football - might reasonably be expected to comprise the bulk of my prospective readership around the globe. If they've seen the game, as I did, via the mediating filter of satelite TV, what could I possibly tell them about Arsenal versus Manchester United that they don't already know? Why should my experience of the match be worth reading about when they already have a perfectly good one of their own?

So we all sat there; or slouched or stood or sprawled across the floor or the sofa or reclined in an office chair and gawped at the screen on the wall of the dilapidated pub, or at our laptop in Silesia, or a projector in Saigon. The vagaries of the shapes and dimensions of the screens no more significant than those of different sized bowls into which uniformly apportioned slops of identical gruel might have been doled on a collectivized farm. Because even with the death of communism, we can still be made to endure a similar communal impoverishment of the consciousness. Oh sure, you can choose your own camera angles and listen to the commentary team in Swahili, but it's still nothing at all like being there is Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV. It's better than some dandruff-ridden 70s satelite transmission of a game from the soviet bloc, but in the end you just endure a different kind of tyranny; one of pizzazz and hyperbole not that of static, snow and a rolling drum of a picture.

I suppose this is the kind of problem you can expect though, when you write about the popular or common experience in the age of the globalized media. We all think we know more than those who play the game or the men who pick the teams. The stodgy-faced Man Utd fan sat in the corner rails at the screen "you have to do better than that" as Ryan Giggs' instinctive reaction shot at the end of a cross he's not expecting to reach him pings just wide. It's as if there's a suggestion that Giggs might somehow prefer to miss than score a goal. We all know - or think we know - the game inside out; a global panel of pundits and experts strtching from Beijing to Nova Scotia. So what can I say that might add anything at all of worth to our understanding of the beautiful game?

I could tell you about the soft Irish-flavoured lilt of the home-shirted Liverpool fan stood beside me at the bar, I suppose. I coulod try to describe the way his spectacles did that goldfish bowl thing that makes the wearer look like Joe 90 or one of the Tracey brothers from Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. Or I could pass on to the gentle reader that this lad's seat was in the end where all the goals were scored iun Istanbul that night in May 2005 when Liverpool came back from three goals behind to snatch the European Cup from AC Milan. Or I could tell you how we hugged - two perfect strangers united in antipathy towards Man U - when William Gallas' late goal levelled the scores. But then, a billion others would have watched as we did, theie eyes like ours refusing to believe the referees unarguable point back to the centre circle, only losing any doubt the goal was good once we had born witness to the gentle dropping down of that levelling two in place of a loser's one, as slow as a day clicking over on the counter of a wristwatch, on the Sky scoreboard. Gallas' goal thus legitimised, only then could our festivities begin.

But then you will all have your own stories; the billion others of you out there who either leaped for joy as we did or hung your head in despair at that late, two point-stealing goal. Or maybe you were a neutral, just happy to enjoy the game? Perhaps it's you I'm writing for; the uncommitted, the one who likes but does not love, applauds rather than cheers. But how do you describe in words a passion to those who do not share it? How could In describe that joyous leap, the ....of fists raised up towards the ceiling; pink-faced, our hearts pounding laughing at the outrageousness of it all. Substitute the elation they felt and the doom in our hearts when Ronaldo scored their second, and perhaps that's why a game we only drew had more of the feeling you'd expect from a victory.

Or maybe I'm writing for someone else entirely. Someone not yet born; someone who may never know a game called football who may wonder what they used to do in that crumbling wreck called Emirates. Someone to whom our loafers and trainers, polo shirts and tracky bottoms will seem as antiquated as a Roman tunic or a gladiator's sandals or that once great Colloseum do to us. You write for time, I suppose; to tell the billions yet to come what it was like to be among the billion who were once here.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Bob & Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Club...

See? Aren't we good to you?

Just when you thought Radio 2 had been *completely* overrun by young hooligans like Ross and Lamarr and you were starting to think the good old days of Jimmy Young were all but over...



Subscribe in i-Tunes.

L.U.V. on y'all,

Bob & Stray

Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bob and Stray's Crackly Saturday Record Clubcasts now available at Jellycast!!

The Black Sea...

I've been having a bit of a think (don't worry, it doesn't happen very often) and I've decided to stop posting the 'Road to Moscow' up here. It seems silly merely to replicate the posts here when, as my poorly maintained (and probably inaccurate) statistics seem to suggest, more people are listening to the podcasted version than are reading here (...unless of course there's just one very sad and obsessional Swipester out there who spent most of October downloading the same episode 950 times....which is a possibility I'm afraid I can't discount which case, please stop it Spinster.) So if that's OK with you guys, I will try to post up the story of the season as it unfolds every week or so via the ploddingcasts and get back to blogging...

All of which, allows me to use this space to indulge my other passion in life (well, it would if you were allowed to upload images of donkey-based pornography involving dwarves and Haagen das ice cream) so I suppose it'll have to be records...

And here is an example of the very same that I was fortunate enough to come across in the Cancer Research Shop yesterday (how they haven't found a fucking cure yet after all the dosh I've been putting their way over the last few years, I do not know!) I thought this might interest Istvanski, if no one else, anyroad...

It's a copy of XTC's rather excellent 1980 LP, The Black Sea, complete with customised XTC, The Black Sea wrapping paper. Oh, but that's not all. A closer inspection reveals that the label of this fine original pressing of the album is somewhat of an oddity. The Virgin logo and track listing and so on appears to have been stamped over a Robert Stigwood Organisation label, as would have been more befitting an offering by stablemates of that label such as the Bee Gees or Eric Clapton....

Fascinating, eh? Obviously, being the lazy sod I am, I've made no attempt whatsoever to do any research, so I can't shed any light on the reason for this bizarre label/logo mash up in a ragga-stylee, but can only join the curious reader in speculation. Perhaps Richard Branson, finding himself overstretched financially by the twin demands of running a record company and starting up a budget airline had simply run out of the wherewithal to provide proper annotation to his vinyl product. Shamefaced and apologetic, the bearded elfin-faced entrepreneur sidled up to fellow impressario Stigwood to beg a few blank labels. All of which begs the question, are there a few hundred copies of Spirits Having Flown floating about with bare black centres? We'll probably never know. But do drop me a line if you ever come across one, won't you....

I also found this...

To my shame, I'd never owned this LP until yesterday. I'm not as obsessive a collector of bands' back catalogues as some of my mates, even when I really like them. Laziness again, I guess. I suppose I saw them as a singles band too; they really did pick such strong material for release in the 7 inch format - 'Strange Town', 'Eton Rifles', 'Going Underground' and, from this LP, 'Down in the Tube Station', 'David Watts, and 'A-Bomb in Wardour Street'. I always had a strong affinity with this album's darker, bleaker follow-up, 'Setting Sons'. It's a beauty though, even when you come to it belatedly as I have (I knew most of the tracks, I've just never had a copy of it.)

There's barely a mark on it, so it's an absolute joy to listen to. The boat whistles and horn and effects that usher in the unlisted (on the sleeve, at least) 'English Rose' play about the stereo soundscape quite magically; you really have been transported even before Weller's delicately finger picked guitar starts up. It's a lovely tune and, if the idea of it being used as the backing track for an advertisement raises the hackles, then that ire is slightly pacified by the appropriateness of the English Tourist Board benefitting from the song's bittersweet and haunting evocation of the loved and loathed place of one's birth.

I should have put a picture of the back of the sleeve up too, there's a photo of Weller's Rickenbacker guitar which bears a sticker for a band called The Boys - about whom, more later...

I'm not sure how many out there share this fascination with old records - one feels a bit like those old neighbours from one's own youth who clung obstinately (how English, how Orwell is that?) to their swing 78s while 45 and 33 1/3 rpm discs were then the state of the art preference of most. The smell of urine on one's clothes and an eternity spent trying to remember what you got up from the settee to go into the kitchen for can't be far away, you feel. But I quite like that feeling of being out of step and, who knows, perhaps even a little eccentric now. If an eccentric is what you are when you are true to yourself in the face of ridicule from others, then I suppose that I can live with that. And for any one who hasn't had the pleasure of listening to a really good pressing of a favourite pre-digital era album or single on a reasonably good turntable, it really does open your ears to what you've been missing out to by succumbing to the autocracy of the compact disc and MP3.

It opens your eyes too - in the broader, consciousness expanding sense. You are actively involved in the production of the sound, for a start rather than being a passive listener as you become once you hit that forward pointing triangle on the tiny keyboard in your hand. The stylus has to be maintained, cherished before being lowered onto the disc; no remotes, no remoteness here. Similarly, the surface of the record has to be nurtured and protected - perhaps that's what all this is; child substitution? I hadn't thought of that. De-ionised water or a pant of breath can help to lift those grubby paw prints off the playing surface; they're worse than scratches even, ruining the listening experience and the stylus at the same time. Velvet and fine cloth massage the grooves; this is another appealing aspect of the record playing experience as opposed to the act of bunging a CD on; it's very tactile. In fact, there's a whole dimension of listening to music that has been excised by the rush to digital. I could go on, but I'm sure I'll return to this subject, so I won't (and please excuse the choice of such an obvious metaphor here) start sounding like a stuck record just yet...

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!