Thursday, 7 March 2013

What the Boy Was Waiting For

Tomorrow I am going to see the Stones Roses. I have waited 23 years to be able to say that. Twenty three years. To put that in context, the lovely young woman who serves me my coffee of a morning is coincidentally turning 21 tomorrow. So basically I have waited her entire life, including her conception and gestation and then some, to see a band who arguably hit their peak in 1989 - the year before I started waiting.

To be fair, 95% of this time there was no waiting going on; just a growing realisation that it was probably never going to happen. In the first few years the Roses were in a state of hibernation, hidden away from the world and pretending to record a second album. Back then everyone was waiting for Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni and Mani; not just for a concert but for any sign at all that the band was alive or that another album might be on the way.

Even after Second Coming emerged at the end of 1994, the stop-start story continued, most significantly with Reni leaving the band. Still, against more odds than I can explain here, when their first tour proper finally happened it included a show in my home town of Bridlington. Rather inconveniently, I was living 1000 miles away in France at the time. Missing this particular show – apparently one of their best and attended by just about everyone I know - was arguably where the waiting began.

Sadly a few months later Squire was also gone and before the end of 1996 the band was no more. Brown went solo, Mani joined Primal Scream and John Squire thought the Seahorses were a good idea. A possible reunion became the topic of choice in any interview for the next 15 years, with the opposing camps taking pot shots at each other about what drugs the other had taken or how mean the other had been.

As a result a reunion never seemed likely. Even as recently as 2009 Squire created a piece of art bearing the legend "I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses 18.3.09." Don’t hold your breath, seemed to be the message. So, I didn’t.

Yet all the while something else was happening, something deeply personal that I still can’t define or provide a reasonable logic for: I fell utterly and inexorably in love with the album, The Stone Roses.

This may seem rather obvious, not just for what I’ve written above, but also because The Stone Roses is regularly cited as one of the UK’s favourite albums. I’m hardly alone in liking it, and many better writers than I have gushed pages about why I should. I’ve also read enough comments by its detractors to know reasons I shouldn’t. I have a critical (enough) ear and I’ve spent enough time around indie kids to choose my words carefully when talking about things I love. And I’m a contrary bugger who likes to be different. Hearing other people like something is as likely to turn me off as on.

Yet listening to The Stone Roses is a visceral experience I can’t deny. Each and every time I the needle hits the groove or play gets pressed I am enthralled. From the gentle train-like chugging that precedes I Wanna be Adored to the breathless, blisteringly nasty ending of I am the Resurrection this is an album that picks me up, flings me every which way around, makes me soar, makes me angry, makes me sad and then drops me on the ground, emotionally spent.

Even re-reading these words I cringe a little. It sounds unlikely doesn’t it? It feels a bit melodramatic and maybe a little immature to have that kind of reaction from a record – especially one recorded by four blokes from Manchester. The Stone Roses? Just a band… right, Scroobius Pip?

So then how do I explain completely breaking down listening to Made of Stone on a bus one day on the way to work? What to make of the urgent need to dance to a song as utterly undanceable as Waterfall? Why the need to play jangly air guitar in front of other humans to Bye Bye Bad Man? Why do I lose all dignity during the breakdowns at 3:40 and 5:20 of Resurrection every single fucking time I hear it to the point where I yelled ‘Fucking COME ON!!’ from the dance floor of my own wedding? (I'm sorry mum).

Why? I don’t know. These things just happen. These things just are. This record just is. There are no words to describe the way I feel.

Scarily, they are all experiences that don’t even require a concert – they happen anyway. Given that, what has occupied my mind since the announcement of these unlikely concerts is ‘how will I feel?’ When Ian Brown unexpectedly played three Roses songs at a 2008 Sydney gig I burst into very real spontaneous big happy tears. Mrs Custard had no idea what to do with me.

Now, on the eve of a Melbourne show that finally brings together my love for my favourite album and the band that made it a quarter of a century ago, I expect my reaction will be what it always is: genuine despite myself. Somewhere deep down, when I’ve stopped pinching myself, I suspect it will all have been worth the wait.

Fucking come on.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


So today is my birthday. I haven't been in much of a mood for celebrating lately, but things aren't so bad really. Not really.

I got woken up by Mrs Custard with coffee, vegemite on toast and a faceful of licks from two excited dogs. I got a ticket to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in three weeks. If I hear There She Goes My Beautiful World it might be the best birthday present ever. That or my new solid metal jaffle iron, primed and ready for it's first campfire cheese toastie. That mother is going to be volcano hot inside when it's done.

I got a big old birthday hug from my Grandma. I don't remember the last time I saw my Grandma on my actual birthday. Maybe 20 years ago at a surprise party when I turned 18. She wrote in her card that she enjoyed being able to share her birthday with me last week, but she was even happier to be here to share in my birthday today. I love my Grandma.

Even Metro Trains' daily train-cancelling-rerouting-we-hate-you-commuters fuck up couldn't spoil this morning. I just sat there and felt the little buzzes of my phone as friends and family got in touch to wish me a nice day. I replied to each and every one of them. I didn't really tell anyone about today, but people still knew. I even got my first Facebook birthday greeting. 5 years ago I would have moaned on about the lack of sincerity of such an act; today I am grateful. Genuinely grateful for good friends and a caring family.

Outside of work the Big Issue seller was going nuts with his sales pitch, serving a hyped up and unlikely weather report predicting hurricaines and blizzards. As I bought a copy he enthused about a picture of a spritely looking Dustin Hoffman on the cover. "Looks good for 75 doesn't he?" I looked at the actor's squishy face, and his hand raised with thumb and index finger circled into an 'okay.' "He looks happy" I replied.

I'm not sure if I look happy; I'm sorry if I don't. But I can't say I don't have reasons to be. Not today and probably not ever. So I'll report that today, I'm happy. Hope you're happy too.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Full Tilt

People are mean aren't they? 

Not everyone, obviously. Lots of people are lovely. You're probably lovely yourself. If not, I'm sure you know at least a couple of people who would rank highly on a lovelyometer. At least a "7" - maybe more. And yet, whenever I fire up the internets I don't see many lovely people: I just see mean people.

I'll admit to being a sensitive little flower at the best of times, so I may be overreacting, but right now I'm a bit over the online proliferation of mean.

I guess I should be clear I'm not talking about websites and forums written for targetted audiences - be they racist, sexist, mysogynist or whatever. The internet is a big place and such things are easily - and best avoided. I'm also uninterested in the trolls: those folks who deliberately provoke angst amongst commenters by posting the opposite of what everyone else says to get a reaction.

No, my knickers are being twisted more by the adoption of mean by mainstream news websites - whether through publication of polarising attention grabbing articles (why, hello Ms Burchill) or through giving too much of an unmoderated voice to Jo(e) Public in their comments sections in the hope of increased traffic.

I suspect Tim Berners-Lee didn't toil over a hot keyboard in the 1980s hoping that his and one of mankind's greatest technical achievements would be used so people could share pithy comments about whether something or someone was shit or not. I don't know for certain but I'm guessing he doesn't feel much pride knowing that the primary use of his brainchild by some people is to put a pin into other people's enthusiasm and creativity.

I have a friend who likes to accuse me of tilting at windmills. Being less learned than her I had to look up what this means. Yes, I used the internet. Of course I did. Apparently it comes Don Quixote. It basically means I'm prone to unrealistic attempts to right perceived wrongs based on misplaced idealistic notions. In this case, people - nay, the world - is a bit mean and I think I can do something about it. 

Naturally my friend's advice is to just get over it. I should accept that those people who use the internet to tell people what they think or like is wrong own the internet too. Railing against them is, if you'll excuse me, like pissing in the wind.

And you know what, I do. I get that this is the way business is done. I get that given the option of contributing something positive, people generally do the opposite. Consequently I just don't read such articles anymore. I avoid trolling articles, rarely peruse reader comments and have just about given up on Twitter. 

So what's my point? I guess my point is it's not enough. It's not sufficient for me to hide away and leave people to it. It's not windmill-tilty enough for me.

In its purest form, his internet is an enabler. It creates possibility. It offers infinite opportunities for us to communicate, to access information, to learn. For some it creates the chance to connect, to be part of something. For others it offers anonymity; a place to be without being. It is what you need it to be, it is an extension of what you are.

And who am I? I'm a person with a great deal of unashamed enthusiasm for stuff. I'm someone who likes to connect with people meaningfully. I'm a person who was scared witless by the death of a friend whose rich, complex, beautiful personality is slipping from memory to become a series of dot points. I'm a person who who is starting to forget the things that made him who he is and what makes him tick. I'm a person who likes to write, even if no one is reading, for the love of writing but also so I don't forget either.

So here I am again, back in front of a keyboard and a blank screen. Online activity has moved on so far since I started on here. I've spent so long interacting with my phone that blogging feels like a chore from long ago; like sweeping a carpet rather than running the vacuum across it. But it still feels like the best place to be me. A place to gush enthusiastically about the things that make me smile, that make my chest heave with emotion, without wondering how may likes of retweets my feelings might merit in the eyes of others.  

Of course nothing I do here will hold the tide of cynisism elsewhere on the internet. It is what it is. But these pages can also be what they are and hopefully in some small way they can add to the balance.  

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Should old aquaintance be forgot?

Oh hello you. Well, this is a surprise.

It's me. You know... Mint Custard?  I wrote a bunch of stuff and nonsense? You occasionally stumbled upon it? Mostly by accident I'm guessing, but it was still nice. Well, it was for me anyway...

So, how are you? Good I hope. Bloody great, I hope.  

This all feels like a very long time ago doesn't it? Almost another life. 

Didn't robots threaten our very existence? Didn't I think writing about cooking was a good idea? Wasn't I permanently excited about Daniel Kitson and the Super Furry Animals?  Wasn't that when I read books?

It seems such a very long time ago. 

A time before Tw*tter and Faceb**k; before 3G and Tumblrs and Instagram and apps and androids and tablets. Well, I suppose they were there, really. But they weren't here.

Now look at me. Facebooking and Twittering like a champion; liking things, retweeting things. Being friends with people. Loads of people. Reading books? Pah and phooey. I have books. I buy books. But read? When would I do that? I have pithy comments to make and crap photographs to tart up on Instagram so I can put them on Facebook. I have several rounds of Words with Friends to get through. Everyday. Plus I just bought a Nintendo Wii,a full 2 years ahead of schedule. Reading book? Imagine. What would Mario and Luigi say?

But I must admit, it's nice this. Being here together again, just us two. Don't you think?

Sure, we won't get any likes and no one will leave any comments. No one will retweet us and the only people who really care are me and you.

But I think I miss that. I miss us. I miss this. Do you? Maybe you do?

What say we try again? Just me and you. We don't have to do much. We can do whatever you want; talk about whatever you like. I'll get overexcited and use bad grammar, and you can roll your eyes and think 'why does he bother?' Just like the old days. 

Tell you what, I'll be here again next week. Turn up if you fancy it. Nothing special, just the two of us? Just me and you. Butch and Sundance. The old team.

It's up to you, of course, but I think it might be rather nice. 


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Brahms and List

Songwriters, the poor diddums, often try to convince us lesser folks that penning lyrics is hard. Phoey says we. Firstly, if it's so hard how do you explain the genius of 2 Unlimited (exhibit 1: "Techno! Techno! Techno! Techno!"') or the silliness of Toto ("I know that I must do what's right as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti")? 

What's more, the songs played on Centrelinked this week proved that as long as you have a decent tune you can just write yourself a list of random stuff, sing along and a hit record can be yours. Here's what got played, with a bit of a summary of what their lists were about.     
  • Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis Presley (things you can do instead of standing on shoes)
  • Kiss Off - the Violent Femmes (numbered things, with ten being EVERYTHING) 
  • Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3) - Ian Dury and the Blockheads (see title)
  • 52 Girls - B-52s (names of girls. guess how many.)
  • Run DNA - The Avalanches (things that fit in backpacks)
  • Choose Life - PF Project featuring Ewan McGregor (icons of middle-class death)
  • It's Grim Up North - The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (Northern towns)
  • Vogue - Madonna (Hollywood stars)
  • My Favourite Things - Julie Andrews (raindrops, roses, whiskers on kittens etc)
  • Far Out - Blur (celestial bodies)
  • Palaces of Montezuma - Grinderman (things Nick Cave would give his lady)
  • The Referee's Alphabet - Half Man Half Biscuit (things football referees observe)
  • Rappin' in Plastic - The Lovely Eggs (Twin Peaks characters)
  • It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) - REM (stuff)
Some others that didn't quite make the list list:

  • We Didn't Start the Fire - Billy Joel (things Baby Boomers remember)
  • Kinky Boots - Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee (boots and boot appreciators)
  • Hey Matthew - Karel Fialka (80s children's TV programs and professions)
  • Song for Whoever - Beautiful South (girls names exploited by songwriters)
  • Collarbone - Fujiya and Miyagi (body parts)
  • What Did the Hippie Have in His Bag - Cornershop (hippie shit)

 Your tuppenceworth's are welcome as always. 

Fancy listening? Centrelinked is on from 11am (AEST) on Saturday mornings from 11am thanks to 98.9 North West FM. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

All That Glitters

So you might have noticed that there's going to be some large scale competitive sports thingy going on next week. Whilst Centrelinked hates any kind of bandwagon jumping and would never try to make any self-serving connection with 'the Games' that hadn't been authorised personally by Lord Sebastian of Coe himself and signed in his own blue blood, we thought what the hell and had a golden theme. Tunes were:  

  • Fools Gold – Stone Roses
  • The Golden Age – TV On the Radio
  • Gold Soundz – Pavement
  • LES Artists - Santogold
  • Gold – XTC
  • Band of Gold - Freda Payne
  • I am the Black Gold of the Sun – Nu-Yorican Soul
  • All That Glitters – Death in Vegas
  • What’s Golden – Jurassic 5
  • Gold and Silver – Toots and the Maytals
  • I’ve Got a Golden Ticket - Charlie and (lazy) Grandpa Joe
  • Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow - Felt
  • The Golden Age of Aviation – the Lucksmiths
  • The Golden Age of Nicotine – Custard
  • Heart of Gold – Neil Young
  • Golden Earrings – Peggy Lee
  • Golden Slumbers – the Beatles
  • Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey
  • The Man with the Golden Gun - Lulu
  • Gold Digger - Kanye West and Jamie Foxx
  • Golden Years – David Bowie
  • The Golden Path – the Chemical Brothers and Wayne Coyne
  • Oh La La - Goldfrapp
  • Gold – Spandau Ballet
  • Theme from the Golden Girls (Thank You for Being a Friend)
There are so many others that could have been played but for reasons of length (like James' rather mental 7 minutes of Goldmother) and highly restricted availability (Gruff Rhys' 2012 Record Store Day limited 7" Gold Medal Winner) we had to leave it there. Feel free to leave your own personal golden nuggets in the comments below...

Centrelinked - Saturday's 11am on 98.9 North West FM ( 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Ecoutez et Repetez

Something slightly different on Centrelinked this week as we celebrated Bastille Day with a few French tunes to get folks in the right frame of mind. I was never going to be able to cover a century of chanson in 45 minutes so it was a case of playing a few personal French favourites. And Joe le Taxi

This is what went to air (with some reasons why if you like that kind of thing)...

Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher - Eileen: French versions of English songs were all the rage in the 1960s (with some coming the other way such as My Way/Comme d'habitude) and Eileen's take on These Boots are Made for Walkin' is still one of the better Franglais floor fillers from 'les AnnĂ©es Ye-Ye.'

Joe le Taxi - Vanessa Paradis: not strictly one of my favourite French songs but included because it represents the first time I was ever encouraged to listen to pop music by a school teacher. Without Mlle Paradis I might never have taken the time to listen to other French music so she deserves some kudos for that (although not for the terrible dancing in the film clip). 

Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi - Jacques Dutronc: One half of the most beautiful couple in French pop, Jacques Dutronc is so ace he's even included in the lyrics for Brimful of Asha. Other notable hits include Les Cactus and the Spencer Davis-esque Le Responsable but it's Et Moi's... kooky commentary on Parisian existentialism ("50 million Vietnamese, and me and me and me... I think about it then I forget about it") that I come back to most.  

Comment Te Dire Adieu - Francoise Hardy: although more famous than her husband, Mrs Dutronc is as much known for her unquestionable beauty as she is for her music. The gentle Tous les Garcons et les Filles was her biggest hit but Comment te Dire Adieu is a slightly jauntier affair. It's actually another French language adaptation - Serge Gainsbourg creating new lyrics for It Hurts to Say Goodbye. The favour was returned by a solo Jimmy Somerville who covered the French version in 1989.

Noir et Blanc - Brigitte Bardot: if you can get past the eccentric old racist she became there is always something genuinely thrilling about seeing BB in action. It's like watching a James Dean or Marilyn Monroe film instead of just seeing them on airbrushed posters in IKEA, with Bardot every bit as iconic in French culture as Monroe and Dean are to the USA. She can sing and dance a bit too as I found out watching Divine BB, an anthology of her music from 50s show tunes to psychedlic collaborations with Serge Gainsbourg. The black and white clips are a revelation, with Noir et Blanc starting as Carry On-like call and response about getting attention from men but morphing into a cautionary tale of BB's blackened soul in less than 2 minutes.

7 heures du Matin - Jacqueline Taieb: I discovered this tale of French teenage life in the Sixties from a great compilation called Pop a Paris which gives a good representation of Ye-Ye music. I especially like it for her singing along to English and American bands (notable Elvis and the Who), her lustful thoughts about Paul McCartney and the important discussion about toothbrushes...

Le Poinconneur des Lilas - Serge Gainsbourg: always one of my favourite Serge songs, it was given new life when I discovered this 1958 film clip, complete with full lyrics in English. Please watch it. You'll be glad you did. If I'm ever asked to present Rage this will be first up.  

Favourite Song - Vincent Delerm (avec Neil Hannon): a disarmingly sweet take on cross-channel relations which sees Delerm and the Divine Comedy's frontman singing in each other's language about listening to foreign language pop songs as teens and not understanding a word. Sandwiched here because of Hannon's pleading "Un poinconneur des lilas? What does that mean?" (see above).

Requiem pour un Con - Serge Gainsbourg: even playing two songs doesn't do Gainsbourg's legacy justice, but between Poinconneur and Requiem (1968) you at least get an idea of the musical journey he made in less than a decade. From arch Camus-infused chanson traditionelle to nasty proto-hip hop beats in the blink of an eye, it's not unreasonable to view Serge as an equal peer of the Beatles at this time. His Frog Chorus moments were to come but by then his mark was well and truly made.   

Goutes mes Frites - Valerie Lemercier: back in 1995 Lemercier was most famous for being the rather shrill woman in the time travel movie Les Visiteurs who hollers "Hugggggg" to great comic effect. I'm not sure what led her to record an album of songs but this tale of sisterly support over a bowl of chips has remained a favourite of mine ever since. 

Non Non Non Non (Je Ne Suis Plus Saoul) - Miossec: another one from the school of '95 Christophe Miossec exploded into the consciousness of French music fans with Boire, an album of short, simple, grown up songs played with an raw intensity. Think Lloyd Cole played by Arcade Fire with some gallic instrumentation and you're partway there. 'No No No No (I'm Not Drunk Anymore)' is one of the lighter numbers on Boire. It's that good.

Vous - Camille: despite a sizable audience for French film in Australia, Camille Dalmais is one of the few French language artists to have broken through into Australian popular culture. Her album Le Fil was a standout in 2005 with Ta Douleur even making the JJJ Hottest 100. That doesn't happen with many non-English language songs, never mind ones with such unique instrumentation as these. I picked Vous because I had 45 minutes and it is short, but it is a neat example of the album as a whole. 

Johnny Rep - Mickey 3D: Johnny Rep was a gangly Dutch footballer who played in the famous Holland teams of the 1970s, as well as alongside superstars like Michel Platini at Saint Etienne. He shares a similar kind of cult place in European footballing culture as George Best and Robin Friday but without the drink and drugs. I mention this to explain why this indie strummer by (the terribly-named band) Mickey 3D breaks into football commentary over a piano accordion riff half way through. Still, you don't need to speak French to know it's a great song.   

L'Empire du Cote Obscure - I AM: there is a long and wonderful tradition of French language hip hop which has given a voice to generations of French youth in ways traditional French music never could. Sadly I don't know anything about it, apart from people love MC Solaar. However, I can tell you that if you stick samples from Star Wars to a huge bass line and your rhymes is dope [(c) "the kidz"] then I'll lap it up in spades. I AM's tune also offers a cute linguistic lesson; references to 'Dark Vador' a reminder that French people don't do "th" sounds. Que la Force soit avec toi...

Rue St Vincent - Yves Montand: what better way to conclude than with France's very own Frank Sinatra? Montand was already a world famous crooner and actor when I first saw him as the despicable Cesar in Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. He reminded me of my Grandpa, but a mean version. Who knew then that a man behind such a performance of bastardry could produce one of the most perfect songs of love ever recorded. It was another film - Wes Anderson's Rushmore - that brought this song to me and I'm glad I can now reconcile the two sides of Yves in my head. Rue St Vincent's simple beauty is only rivaled by Donovan's Sunny Goodge Street  in my affections. Lush.    

Here's a couple more that I love just as much but just didn't have time for: 

Ondule - Mathieu Boogaerts: real time videos are a bit two a penny now but this one from 1995 has always stayed with me, with Monsieur Boogaerts launching his career with a well timed hair cut and close shave. Imagine if it had gone wrong. But it doesn't. Great little lo-fi tune too. 

Le Deserteur / J'suis Snob - Boris Vian: Le Deserteur was played to us at school by our French teacher Mr Hargreaves as a listening exercise. This is probably because Vian enunciates his reasons for declining an offer to join the army with such clarity that even us with our basic French could understand every word he said. Still, it's always stayed with me and it led me to other Vian numbers like the gauche J'suis Snob which is a far better song but probably not the best for impressionable Yorkshire teenagers.

Des Attractions Desastres - Etienne Daho: in the UK Daho is mostly known for his gimmicky collaboration with Pete, Bob and Sarah on He's On the Phone as 'Saint Etienne Daho' but he was a star in his own right in France, especially after the success of the album Paris Ailleurs, from which this is the opening track. Comme Un Igloo from the same album is equally ace. It's grown up pop music, which I guess is what attracted the Saints to work with him in the first place. 

Mathilde - Jacques Brel: another staple of gallic cool, inspiring Gainsbourg, Scott Walker, Marc Almond, Jarvis Cocker and especially Neil Hannon, Brel is an icon of French chanson. My own introduction to Brel came courtesy of a young lady called (yes) Mathilde, who was horrified that I had no Brel in my collection and bought me a Best Of for my birthday. Listen when you need a bit of thunderously paced high drama in your day.  

C'est Le Vent, Betty - Gabriel Yared: I was a little young for the Betty Blue phenomenon that affected many (mostly male) students in the late 1980s but I will admit to a healthy interest in the famous movie poster, a copy of which was to be found in my best friend's brothers room when we were growing up. I suspect I'm not the only person who can visualise Beatrice Dalle's lips on request without hesitation. When I was old enough to watch the film itself (known as 37.2 Degrees le Matin in France) it wasn't just Mlle Dalle that stuck in the memory thanks to Gabriel Yared's haunting soundtrack. Rolling piano refrains and reverb heavy electric guitar can sound a little dated now, but it still transports me back to the world of Betty and Zorg and their little beach hut. Just before Betty burns it to the ground. 

The astute amongst you will have noticed a distinct lack of French dance music in this list. These duties were ably fulfilled by Mrs Custard on her show immediately after mine with more Air, Daft Punk, Cassius, Bob Sinclair and Stereolab than you can shake a baguette at. Just goes to show why you need to tune in to 98.8 North West FM on Saturday mornings. 

Anyway, joyeux 14 Juillet to you all. Hope you had a great one, wherever you are. Normal Centrelinked service will resume next week with an Olympic inspired show about GOLD!