In this month’s NARC magazine I’ve expounded my thoughts on some things I reckon sound good, in their regular Mix Tape column.
For those of you not able to pick up a hard copy, plus links to some of the tunes, read on. (There may even be a prize in it.)
When it comes to music, I’m more of a receiver than a giver. I’ve only once ever DJ-ed – a random selection of B-sides of someone else’s 7” collection – and I don’t think anyone was listening. I find the endless, silent racks in record stores somewhat intimidating, so mixtapes and record gifts have formed the basis for many of my aural pleasures.
Left to my own devices here’s what I like to listen to:
Nellie the Elephant (Toy Dolls, 1984)
When we were small, my dad bought my sister & me each a 7″. My sis is called Louise. Her record was called Louise. My name doesn’t lend to such easy immortalisation in song. Initial confusion at being likened to an elephant quickly receded when we listened to it, and realised not only how great a song it is, but that we could exercise our choreographic flair in a dance routine, and run round the living room super-fast in the chorus build up. Louise never got a look in.
This wasn’t my favourite song on a lovely mixtape from an ex, but I liked that this was the only way the name would fit between the narrow dotted line and half-cassette-width space on the C90 cardboard insert.
Listening on the radio is a multilayered sonic-sporting experience. The boing-thunk of the ball is a fantastic baseline, layered with visualisation cues by the commentators as shots are played, and a top line of tension as points get close, challenges are made and hearts race. Plus, you get the results before the TV.
Joni Mitchell on Miles of Aisles, 1974
During breaks between songs at gigs, audiences banter with musicians, call out for their favourite tunes. During this recorded live concert, Joni playfully compares songwriting and painting, her own artistic media, in response to the requests.
In this performance, each song is reworked, musically with her live band – The L.A. Express – and lyrically, as she reflects on the day and the city she’s in. In their original versions her songs are contemplative, perhaps more suited to the solitary, distraction-less experience – similar to looking at a painting. As in all the best gigs though, these versions swell, encapsulating both the live-ness of the gig and the living form of the song.
Live music draws its audience together into one body. There’s immediacy, an electric flow from making sound to hearing and feeling it. And then there’s the heckles, the singing along, the mass jumping and clapping, the heat haze as bodies crush together. You don’t get that in a record shop.
Catherine Bennett, or CB to her fans the CBeasties, is a Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model. She is the pop star invention of 9 year old Tyler, the niece of artist Bryony Kimmings. Bryony plays Catherine, and together they want to challenge the proliferation of unrealistic, untenable role models for tweens, through the power of pop. In her day job, Catherine is a palaeontologist. She likes tuna pasta and zigzags and sounds a bit like Lily Allen. I’m hoping she comes to Newcastle before her stratospheric rise to fame takes her out of reach of mere mortals.** But as she’s getting 5 stars in her shows in Edinburgh and was already invited by Yoko Ono to be part of Meltdown, we’ll have to catch her quick.
* It would be a give away if I said who sings it. Maybe NARC will give you a prize if you guess right. Or maybe I will – you could always get in touch on@WeAreWunderbar or @ilanamitchell if you think you know)
**Or before she discovers a new dinosaur.