Thoughts, Tuesday 6th June 2000
Finally started Unlimited Freeserve Time today. £10 a month and nothing else. It's the sort of thing an American would not perceive as a luxury or at all unusual, but I do, despite myself. After all, I am British and have been socially conditioned to expect to have to pay absurd amounts for the privilege of using the internet, so I'm still getting used to the fact that I don't.
I'm slightly ashamed of myself for my failure to update this site much (read: at all) recently, save the regular revisions to my Top 10 over on the music page. Other website contributions, mailing lists etc. have taken far too much of my time. All the old "coming soons" are retained, but I suggest that a certain mid-90s advert involving the Union Jack and an electric guitar will be scanned and dissected here sooner.
The mystery deepens!
Oh, and there's going to be a blog soon. Hopefully.
Sunday 11th June 2000
This Radiophonic Workshop CD has been pretty much destroying me this week, though not in a negative sense ... more in terms of admiration for what they achieved, but also a sense of sadness for how such incredible, hidden, under-the-covers innovation could happen in a massive Establishment cultural corporation, without anyone attempting to tap it down or regulate it so as to effectively prevent it, when it so clearly could not happen now.
But there will be more of that in a new piece very, very soon anyway, so I won't go on. And I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed as to why these musings always portray someone at odds with the direction of the modern world, when in fact I enjoy and appreciate so many aspects of this era. But hopefully there'll be a blog for all this stuff soon anyway ...
Monday 12th June 2000
Hard to believe I went from December until last night without hearing David Inglesfield's music (http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/inglesfield.htm). Playing it again now has reawoken something that was dormant in me for so long, the Romantic, utopian side. Something in me still doesn't aspire towards London, something in me still wants to remythologise what I've been culturally conditioned to despise. It's a part of me that seemed suppressed to the point of extinction, but it's there again now.
All I know is that this ruralist Radiophonic Workshop (something that would have been utterly alien to the RW's intent, of course, which makes it all the more intriguing) is the finest electronic rendering of the symbols of authenticity I've ever heard. It reminds me of Momus's new thought (http://www.demon.co.uk/momus/thought110600.html) and the Native American spirits reborn in the electronic imagination. This is the British equivalent. Imagine images of Morris dancers and, yes, hay bales, deliberately engineered through the computer to sound as homemade yet utterly, gloriously technological as possible. Not as an escape from the modern world, but a reinvention of what once was using techniques that never existed "back then". That's what this Huntsman has achieved.
Monday 19th June 2000
Words cannot describe my contempt for an overwhelming majority of opinions currently expressed in the British media, from the description of hip-hop as "gangsters' music" by Paul Donovan in yesterday's Sunday Times, to the ongoing articulation of the hunting lobby as "the voice of rural Britain" across several newspapers, to the plans for a "Countryside Party" to stand at the next election, as revealed in yesterday's Observer. I just want to hide away and not do anything to associate myself with these fucking intolerant racist bastards, and the country (or specifically, the part of the country) they purport to represent.
This doesn't necessarily mean leaving it, though. On the contrary, as I struggled to explain to Tom Ewing yesterday (great afternoon, though!) I'm propelled and pushed more and more to stay here so as to assist in the reclamation of rural Britain, promoting wider public awareness of the Chartists, the Levellers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and all the other ruralist radicals, and telling those bastards William Hague and Charles Moore that, no, they don't fucking own the countryside, in fact most of those who live there want nothing to do with them. It's all very well to choose the easy option (metropolitan life) which is already very much the territory of the liberal left. It's more of a challenge (which is something I thrive on) to reclaim what the right think they own, and to promote widespread public awareness of the other great rural British tradition, and its continuing cultural manifestation.
http://www.commonground.org.uk, in this context, seems like the most admirable website in Britain.
Oh, and there's a new piece up ... http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/haines.htm. Enjoy.
Saturday 24th June 2000
I visited the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Museum yesterday (see http://www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk). It has only one ignorable fault - the pathetic attempt at a 19th Century Dorset accent by someone whose voice can be heard on the CD-Rom - and even that is overcome by Tony Robinson's superb narration for it. The description of what happened, and the contextualisation of it as a vital step in the creation and strengthening of the British trade union movement, could not be more accurate or evocative. The strong links between trade unions and the museum, which is located in the cottages where those men lived, are made clear to any visitor, a superb unspoken, implicit expression of contempt for men called Hague, Dacre and Moore.
Walking through the village afterwards I noticed a car with six Countryside Alliance / British Field Sport Society stickers, declaring "Hunting First, What Next?" and other such self-centred, self-perpetuating slogans. I could barely hold back my rage, that organisations like this, which still attempt to write the Martyrs out of history, can get any support at all, least of all in this place. I managed to hold myself back from pushing the car into the street, but it took several minutes of quietly, desperately and angrily walking around, attempting to work off my feelings of revulsion and disgust.
Tim Hopkins, from http://www.papercuts.co.uk, told me last weekend that the countryside was shit, and the right-wingers "can have it". I defy anyone to visit the Tolpuddle Martyrs' Museum and still make such a statement.
The Music page gets another Top 10 revision, and http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/haines.htm is slightly expanded, and illustrated.
Sunday 2nd July 2000
Not too much to write today. I'm just exhausted from everything else ...
The first Column is to be had, though! On The Other, to be found at http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/exotic.htm.
And there will be more soon.
Saturday 8th July 2000
Nick Currie has just enthused about me thus:
"He writes with such authority about stuff that happened before even I was born (February 1960, for those who don't know) and about 20 years before he was!
I wouldn't be surprised if we have a future Simon Frith in the making here. The definitive history of British pop has yet to be written."
I'm genuinely in awe that anyone can speak in such glowing terms about me, especially someone of Nick's standing. But I'm not going to fall down in uncritical admiration. Far from it. I still feel my writing is only 75% there. But it's closer to "there" than I could have imagined it being six months ago - the very early stuff from this website (apart from the Plone piece) seems so obvious, so hamfisted, so clumsy now. If I embarked on a journey at some point in 1999, it's getting to the really interesting stage right now.
When I travelled from Weymouth to London on Thursday, there was another train in the platform at Waterloo to which my train had been allotted, and as I was at the back of the train I was forced (along with everyone else in the back four or so coaches) to walk through the train to a point where we could get onto the platform. About 10 minutes of unbearably humid claustrophobia. For fuck's sake. You couldn't get a greater indictment of the incompetence of Britain's privatised railway system than that.
(The devil's voice: feed the enemies. OK, then, I'll link to http://www.swtrains.co.uk.)
Oh, and Momus's "Fakeways" CD is absolutely fascinating on first listen. But then it would be, wouldn't it?
Tuesday 11th July 2000
There's another new arrival on the site! All interested parties are directed to http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/radiophonic.htm.
And, horrendous as it is, I have to mention http://www.countryside-alliance.org.uk/index/mfha.htm. Especially the fourth paragraph. I must start a website to counter this kind of thing.
Wednesday 19th July 2000
The latest arrival on this site - http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/britpop.htm - does for the mid-90s what The Auteurs' "How I Learned To Love The Bootboys" does for the 70s, essentially. It rages against the detritus of the recent past, displaying absolutely no affection, let alone sentimentality. I think it's necessary, in pointing out the absurdity of the Britpoppers' conceits when, although the movement itself has been discredited, the lie on which it was built hasn't.
Mind you, looking at this week's Radio Times cover I might feel forced to write something similar about the 70s soon.
Oh, and The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt has told the NME that the British either can't or shouldn't appropriate funk, and that "all British funk is a mistake". OK, the 80s artists he's condemning - Level 42 et al - were uniformly atrocious (though I still say "I.O.U." by Freeez is one of the best British pop singles of its era), but I still find this a depressing return to traditional American stereotypes of what the British are "capable" of, especially because "69 Love Songs" has barely been out of my CD player for the last 24 hours, and I wouldn't hesitate in claiming it a masterpiece.
Interestingly enough, there is a "best of" album by The Wurzels currently being advertised on British television. Perhaps that is closer to what Merritt thinks the British "can" do. I wouldn't have expected those comments of a man I admire so much.
Saturday 22nd July 2000
These will be the last thoughts on the front page - which, according to my computer, is rapidly on the verge of overtaking the Radiophonic Workshop piece as the largest on the site - before they move to a new page. Probably http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/thoughts.htm, but don't rush to this non-existent URL yet!
Following on from the rather catty mention of Stephin Merritt last time I did this, I thought I should mention a list Tom Ewing directed me towards: http://www.timeoutny.com/rock/223/223.music.century.sb.html. The entries for 1907 and 1931 are, in their way, indescribably depressing, but that for 1987 especially (and quite a few of those that follow it) more than make up. He's a man of taste, let there be no doubt.
But the idea that the British "basically have no business with funk" remains well suspect. The man himself isn't (and his music is wonderful), but the idea is.
Wednesday 26th July 2000
Just a quick announcement that, from now on, the thoughts that have previously appeared on this front page will go to http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/thoughts.htm. It's now open!
Thursday 3rd August 2000
Housekeeping stuff: new musings on http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/thoughts.htm, and some thoughts on The Magnetic Fields' magnificent 69 Love Songs: http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/fields.htm.