An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

From a time when music was inventive...Bauhaus

Years ago, as a young lad hungry for music, I spent many a year just going to any gig going. When I wrote my Fanzine in 1991-92, I went around the local counties interviewing bands and seeing concerts. Then when I joined a band and did gigs around the country, I inevitably saw a lot of other bands also doing the same thing. Then on top of that, going out nearly every weekend and then several times a week, meant seeing a lots of bands that just happened to be on.

Unfortunately, I would say in my humble opinion, that the vast majority of bands I saw were somewhere between OK and terrible. On the rare occasion that there was something that had potential or promise, they were never seen again. For me the early nineties were a turning point in music, where popularity started to mean more than originality in music. Even in the marginalised gothic culture that I was heavily into, anyone who thought the big goth four were just ok (Mission, Sisters, Nephilim, Rosetta Stone) and preferred more of the diversity of the culture, were even marginalised within a marginalised culture. Where goth music had sprouted out from the roots of punk, by the early '90's it had drifted heavily into standard stadium rock and the diversity was drastically diminishing. Every band on the scene was trying to either emulate the big four or emulate each other emulating the big four. The only hope at the time was from outside the UK.

So in my older years, I got more picky about what music I went to see. In the yesteryear, before the internet and a million young bands, the only way of finding new music was either taking a chance and buying it or going to copious gigs in the hope of stumbling across something worthwhile. Of course today, anyone can spend an eternity looking for new music on the interweb. There was an interesting statement in this months record collector magazine about how the easy access to music has cheapened it for many of today's youth, to the point that the majority just don't see the worth in music and have very little attention span for it.

In the past fews years I have seen some of the best gigs of my life. I've already gone on before (at great length you may think...sorry) about how good Dead Can Dance are live, or even better a Lisa Gerrard gig. But this week I went to a gig that really blew me away. Peter Murphy is currently doing a world tour, playing only Bauhaus music. I saw the first leg of the UK part of the tour this weekend and I have to say it was one of the best gigs I have ever seen. I came out it thinking about how privileged I am to be able to listen and witness the kind of music I am exposed to at the moment. I was too young to have seen Bauhaus when they were a live act, so be able to just grab a snippet of that experience before either I or the creators of this music pass away has been a rare honour indeed and one that I would encourage anyone to see before the tour is over.

What also struck me about the gig and has also been the elements that I found the most fascinating about goth music when I first got into it, were the strong combinations of drums and bass. Bauhaus' music was built on this combination, with everything else being an additional flavouring on the top. Today the bass guitar seems a forgotten instrument, unfortunately. My love of Joy Division and The Cure also had this same element, where the bass accompanied by some skilful and diverse drumming patterns, makes the music so powerful and strong, that the additional of a guitar or keyboard becomes almost an afterthought. The rhythms punched out at the Peter Murphy gig from the songs Dark Entries, Stigmata Martyr, In the Flat Field and Kick In The Eye were so powerful and strong it kicked the audience into a frenzy. These songs are over 30 years old now and still there is nothing like it around. I couldn't help but think how the younger generation are missing out on such music as there was practically no-one under 35 years old at the gig.

So just in case you are under 35 years old and starting out in a band, for goodness sake, give this stuff a listen, the world needs more music like this.

Then send me a copy of it please.
If you have the chance, go and see Peter Murphy on his tour.

The one surprise song from the set was a cover of Dead Can Dance's Severance, which wasn't done that well, but then I would think that Dead Can Dance wouldn't do a Bauhaus song very well either.

Just a quick message to TinyPie that I have seen your comment. There seems to be yet another version of the Bauhaus single Dark Entries which TinyPie has found, so that would bring the tally up to eight versions, will this end I ask myself while pulling the remainder of my hair out! I will get this added soon. Thanks again to you all for reading, let me know if you have seen Peter Murphy on this tour and let me know your thoughts

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I have twice the standards, they're double standards

I know, I know, don't nag me, I've taken too long to post again. I have been a busy chappy. The book I'm writing is taking considerably longer than expected, but is slowly progressing. I have also been hit by numerous small disasters at home, which hit the home finances somewhat, making buying 4ad stuff a secondary priority. So far this year we have suffered a bathroom leak, a central heating blockage, a total washing machine failure, my wife going off to Australia for two weeks and the car needing tyres, brake discs and pads. Then we had a holiday booked in Italy, but that was the inspiration for this blog entry.

I don't generally go mad when it comes to gigs and paying for high ticket prices. I have seen over the past few years how concert ticket prices have soared. When the average ticket price for a large stadium size gig a few years ago was around the £20 to £30 mark, many large stadium concerts today have ticket prices of £100, £150 or even £200.

As a consumer I have always thought that I have a responsibility to help maintain the market. There should always be a level where a price is just too much for a service or an item. If we, as consumers, have no limit and are willing to pay anything, then we encourage a market to over inflate a price because the market knows the consumer will pay it. This is evident in car insurance for young people. Years ago, a teenager couldn't afford several thousand pounds a year on car insurance, so had to forgo owning a car until they were a little older. This reduced consumer demand and the insurance was cheaper than today. Today, teenagers feel that they cannot do without a car, that having a car is not a luxury, but a necessity and therefore are willing to pay any price to be insured and be able to drive, even if that means getting into a large debt at an early age.

This is also true of any shop a consumer visits. During my holiday in Italy, I visited a second hand shop in Florence. To my surprise, the shop had loads of stock that I wanted and was desperate to get. But I had to walk out empty handed because the prices were just too high, about double what they should have been. To pay the prices would allow that business to carry on inflating the prices which would reflect back on me and other customers again the next time we visit, because the prices would likely have increased. I do talk quite a bit about the worth of certain records in monetary terms, but this is one of the reasons. When buying records, there has to be a standard set where the price paid is too much and the retailer is just being greedy, but then the price has to be a certain level so that the retailer can keep a job and help us source those records we want. So a balance has to occur.

I think this is the same with concert tickets. There has to be a level set where anything over a reasonable price, the promoters are just taking the piss. But unfortunately if a minority are willing to ruin it for the majority by paying any price for a concert ticket, then the prices will just keep going up. I can understand when a concert is a rare event and the punters are afraid of missing a rare event. When Led Zeppelin decided to reform to do just a couple of concerts, after nearly 30 years since they split up, many of the fans must have been willing to pay just about anything to have seen them. But in the end, it's just a gig.

But then, to be a complete hypocrite, I'm tempted to break the rules to see Dead Can Dance, but I wouldn't directly break them. Some artists are worth the extra effort. When I saw that Dead Can Dance were to play a Roman Amphitheatre close to the city of Florence, I thought it was an opportunity not to miss. I live in the UK, so it would be quite a trip just for a gig. So I decided to wrap a holiday around it, giving me the chance to see the lovely Italian countryside and the incredible history that Tuscany had to offer. So I didn't break my own rule directly as the ticket price was just at the top end of what I'm willing to pay, but the rest of the trip, the flights, car hire and holiday added immensely to the price of the ticket!

The concert was worth it, as also was the rest of the holiday. About half way through the concert, behind the stage and over in the far distant mountains, a huge thunderstorm brewed and exploded into a fantastic light show as though the Roman gods themselves approved of the music. Quite a unique experience and worth every penny.

This weekend I'm going to see Peter Murphy play a lot closer to home. He is touring, playing only songs from Bauhaus. Will it be a good gig? I'll let you know quite soon.