So…last year I wrote a post bemoaning the disspearance of the British summer. As you can have expected I have been pinching myself during this last week or so. It’s utterly flabbergasting. We have not had an extended period of hot dry weather like this in the UK since 2003 and I am revelling in it, lapping it up, knowing that it could well be another ten years before we enjoy anything like this once again.
And it’s sent me back to records like this, the sort that only make sense in the sunshine. Le Kid are a Swedish five piece who have had some success in their home country and Germany, but haven’t as yet had the big push in the UK. Mercy Mercy was first released back in 2009 and then again the following year, both times kinda halfheartedly, with zero promotion and no airplay that I can recall. I’m stumped as to why this hasn’t already been a massive summer hit. Listen to it three times and you’ll never be able to shake the chorus from your head. It’s that good.
And yes it does sound a bit like Girls Aloud’s ‘Can’t Speak French’. But it’s better, miles better.
I DJed at the Plough in Bristol last week and the last record of my set was the one new-ish single that I had bought especially for the occasion – Daft Punk’s recent Number One. Cue pandaemonium – people dancing on stage, mouthing the lyrics and playing air guitar. I kind of half expected that reaction, but it was still pleasant all the same. In my experience it’s very very very very rare to find a ‘new’ record that causes those kind of scenes, but as DJs all over the world have found out in the last couple of months Get Lucky is something close to a universal panacea. It’s on course to become the biggest selling single of the year, quite probably this decade. And it deserves every accolade that comes its way. It’s my favourite single of the last 5 years.
How exceptional? Well, I think the last time a new record was in the terminology that I use, a ‘banker’ (ie the sort of record you know will fill the dancefloor not matter the occasion, whatever the crowd) was Madonna’s Hung Up. And that was, what…2005? Before that? Probably Crazy In Love and Hey Ya! And they were both released in 2003.
Nothing much released in the last ten years has had anything like that kind of power. Lady Gaga? Don’t make me laugh. The only halfway useable track of hers is Born This Way and even that is tainted by the fact it aches to be a gay lib anthem so much that you just can’t love it. No funk, no groove, and it (and she generally) just tries way too hard.
Get Lucky though, like all truly great singles, sounds effortless, even though you just know that it was the product of a huge buckets of sweat by all concerned. It’s one of those rare examples of a collaboration between top line artists that truly is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Pharrell supplies a typically cool feline vocal, Mssrs Bangalter and Homen-Christo add their trademark touches and then there is the sweet joy of hearing Nile Rodgers play guitar like that for the first time in years.
But all four know that they are there to service a great song, full of hope and self belief. “We’ve come too far to give up who we are.” Who can’t apply those words to their lives? I know I have. Released in late April (the most hopeful time of the year in the northern hemisphere) it’s obviously stirred millions of hearts. When we listen it’s impossible not to feel that whatever your situation has been over the last few years, even in a world where we’re now five years into an economic downturn, a world where (for a while at least) pop was taken over by Auto Tuned-dullards, where we all stand on the brink of ecological catastrophe, there is still time left for all of us – personally and collectively – to seize triumph from the jaws of disaster if only we can hang in there long enough and somehow, somehow get lucky.
I think it will be a long time before I get bored of it.
…Is what I’m going to be doing over the next week.
Tomorrow (November 10th) I’m going to be on BBC Radio Bristol from 9.30am discussing ‘Freedom Through Football’, the Cowboys, Bristol’s Radical History and a lot more besides, I’m sure.
Then on Wednesday (the 14th) comes the London launch of ‘Freedom Through Football’. It’s at HOUSMANS, London’s premier radical bookshop, in King’s Cross from 7pm. It’ll be great to see any of youse lot there.
Freedom Through Football: The Story Of The Easton Cowboys And Cowgirls is unleashed out into the wider world tomorrow (Friday 5th October). It’s a biography of the Bristol-based sports club that I’ve been a part of for 20 years. The book uncovers the true stories behind our tours to Zapatista-held Mexico, the West Bank, Brazil and South Central LA, tells how we’ve created a vibrant community around our part of inner city Bristol and played a part in building a network of similar left-of-centre sports clubs around the world.
It’s on sale at Waterstones, on (spit) Amazon, at the M Shed in Bristol and at Bristol Museum and through the Cowboys and Tangent Books’ website. 256 pages, many in full colour and retails at just £9.99.
There’s also a launch, or two. The Bristol event is at The People’s Republic Of Stokes Croft, 35 Jamaica St, Bristol from 6.30pm TONIGHT (Thursday 4th October). There’ll be a short talk about the Cowboys and films of some of exploits down the years. It’d be great to see you all there.
I can’t add much more to the acres that have been written about the Olympics over the last two weeks. Sorry to stick to the party line, but yes I thought it would be awful, a farrago of branding police, cops with guns and transport gridlock, all topped off with two solid weeks of rain. I’d bought tickets, but I was cynical in as much as that I assumed (from 40 years of experience) that Britain’s biggest ever sporting event would magnify all the country’s very worst defects – its mean-spirited obsession with security, its woeful short termism and unerring ability to cock things up.
Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that way. Myself and a friend went down to the Olympic Park, tickets in hands last Monday and like everyone we were flabbergasted at the friendliness and enthusiasm of the volunteers and the good spirit amongst the crowds. In just a week these statements have become cliches. But they still bear repeating, and comparison against what we were expecting on July 26th.
But I also wonder whether it marks another staging post on the way to an era where civic minded communitarian ideals are pre-eminent once more. It feels like something is happening. We’ve had thirty years of rampant neo liberalism rammed down our throats with its concomitant view that sees humanity as nothing more than atomised individuals, all out for whatever we can get. And we’ve seen where that’s got us. If you want to look at a sporting insitution has been bent out of shape by these forces just fix your gaze on the English Premier League. And turn away. In disgust.
Of course, we still have a Tory government in power but the Olympics made Cameron look nervous for a number of reasons. And it wasn’t just the U turn on schools funding, the embarassment over sales of school playing fields or the fantastic NHS tribute in the opening ceremony. The Tories already look like a government that has run out of ideas, whose tired free market mantras currently reside on a cul de sac, on the opposite side of town to where all intellectual, economic and cultural traffic is currently flowing. The answer to where all that traffic is eventually heading is, I suppose, what everyone on the left is waiting for. I suspect that whoever it is that eventually articulates that vision will base it around the values we saw on display during this dream-like fortnight – ordinary people working together towards a common goal, a generosity of spirit and a modest, guilt-free patriotism based on quiet achievement rather than imperial arrogance.
Mind you…the closing ceremony was still rubbish though, wasn’t it?
The summer of 2012 (‘Britain’s greatest summer ever’, lest us forget)…where do you start? Aside from a brief 10 day respite at the end of May it has not stopped raining since the first week of April. That’s three and a half months of rain. And there’s no sign of it ending yet. Up north and in the west there have been floods. It’s not been much better down here. There is just one question on everyone’s lips: WHEN WILL IT END?
We are all familiar now with the notion that it is the jet stream curling in the southerly direction that has caused this, but what’s more worrying is that this is now becoming an annual event. For the record it is now almost a decade since Britain enjoyed a warmer than average summer, in 2003. It is six years since we had what could be described as an average summer that was warm in places but also cloudy and wet in parts. Since then we’ve had 2007, a complete washout, the worst in over 40 years. 2008 was scarcely an improvement. The following three years all followed a similar pattern in that any warm dry weather was frontloaded to the start of the summer – April and part of May. July and August – traditionally the warmest part of the year – have been wet and mild for over six years now. You have to be over 15 now to remember what was like to enjoy a hot summer in Britain. An entire generation is growing up not knowing what it’s like to bask in temperatures over 80 degrees and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with not having to remember to bring a bloody umbrella out day after day after day.
So what’s happening? Some climatologists have posited the theory that this alteration in the jet stream is linked to the melting of the polar ice caps. If that is correct (and being climatologists they are hedging their bets, saying that many more years data are needed before they can come to a definite conclusion) then there’s a certan karmic justice in all this, isn’t it? Capitalism will destroy our planet and thus the human race. And as Britain was the first industrialised country, the first to fully adopt free market capitalism on a mass scale then there’s a certain poetic justice that we are reaping the whirlwind that is the result of our burning of fossil fuels for over 250 years. Actually ‘whirwind’ is probably the wrong word in this context. Can you reap a weekly deluge of rain followed by interminent showers?
Until then shall we stop using the word ‘summer’ to describe June to September in this country? The ‘British monsoon season’ is surely a more accurate description of the climate we enjoy between those months now.
It’s rare these days that a pop son truly touches me.
But I don’t know, but Ladyhawke’s current single ‘Sunday Drive’ really hit home this week for me, something about the way she sings ‘Please don’t go/ I need your love’.
There’s something terribly vulnerable about Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown as a pop character. We’ve all read about the New Zealander’s battles with Asperger’s, how she dreads playing live and finds interaction with other people extremely difficult. Boy band members being ‘sensitive’ are ten a penny, but these days it’s a rare female singer indeed who’s brave enough to sound really truly fragile. I hope she’s alright.
At the moment you can’t walk very far in London without encountering a Union Jack. It’s been, of course, the weekend of the Diamond Jubilee and when you factor in the small matter of the upcoming Olympics, you have an opportunity for outward displays of patriotism that is unlikely to be repeated again in our lifetimes, if ever.
Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about my attitudes to all this. Not so long back seeing such a preponderence of Union Jacks would have brought me out in hives. I associated it with the far right and the sort of patriotic nonsense that I dimly remember from the Silver Jubilee of ‘77. The last time I remember them being employed in such numbers was during that strange week in September 1997 when Britain momentarily took leave of its senses. On that occasion half mast Union Jacks seemed to sprout up in places you’d not normally see them, over civic buildings, schools and libraries.
And now? Perhaps it’s age but the flag doesn’t vex me so much anymore. I’m certainly finding it harder to work myself up into a state of annoyance over the Diamond Jubilee as I have over previous royal anniversaries. It’s difficult to be enraged by any old woman in her 87th year. And even I have had to begrudgingly admit that in her 60 years as head of state Elizabeth Windsor has proved herself to be something of a skilled operator, always carefully positioned above the party political melee, aloof and slightly mysterious. (I doubt whether her son will be so adroit)
But strangely I also feel a teensy bit sentimental the Union Jack now. It’s highly likely that in two years time Scotland will vote for independence, leaving a rump Britain of England and Wales. Britain will live on as a geographical term, but as a political, social and sporting entity it will have had its day. No more Team GB. The flag will surely have to be re-designed too, ommiting the St Andrew cross. What this all means for us is unclear. What I do know is that these days I feel more comfortable calling myself ‘British’ than ‘English’. The word ‘England’ and the St George cross makes me think of fat bald football fans, piss weak lager and unfortunately yes, the idiots from the EDL, where as the multinational British identity feels inclusive, modern, cool even. I suspect that many years from now we’ll look back on the Union Jack and ‘Britain’ in a far more favourably light than could have ever felt possible during the 20th Century. It could well be that the summer of 2012 will be their last hurrah.
Hollie is, of course, the daughter of Paul Cook, drummer and the quiet one from the Sex Pistols and looking at her tonight you get the impression she’s inherited quite a bit from her old man. She’s demure, obviously a bit shy in putting herself forward. Which is fine if you’re a drummer, but not so good when you’re supposed to be fronting your own show.
In fact, most of the stage announcements tonight emanate from Hollie’s drummer. This is a launch party for the Prince Fatty dub version of her eponymous debut album that came out last year. Musically it’s agreeable fare – savoury slightly wistful lovers rock embellished with the occasional dub flourish. We get most of that debut plus a cool cover of The Whispers’ And The Beat Goes On. Nice to shuffle around to, but there’s nothing gripping enough to raise it above the level of background music. Hollie seems uncomfortable in the spotlight and lacking a really strong voice or the sort of presence that demands our attention, fades into the background herself all too easily. Oh well.
Last week my girlfriend and I spent a night camped out at St Pauls. Obviously having jobs and lives outside activism we were not able to stay there indefinitely, so spending one night there seemed an easy way for a pair of lightweights to support the cause and salve our consciences a little.
What did we find there? Well, this isn’t some patronising ‘aren’t these young people wonderful’ Gruandiad-style piece nor an Evening Standard demolition job. Overall, I’d say I found the experience invigorating and inspiring. My hat goes off to all the main organisers. They still hold the upper hand in the propaganda battle and have already achieved a great deal – for one thing, they have already been there longer than their comrades in New York.
But I wonder if their major weakness might be the ‘come in come all’ stance they’ve adopted. To put it bluntly, Occupy London XS seems to have attracted a number of people with serious mental health problems. Some of these are homeless, others are clearly drug addicts or alcoholics. My girlfriend was followed round during the morning by an crackhead who said he used to be a member of the IRA. We met one girl whose tent had been stolen and there were various other stories of theft. We also encountered other individuals, some of whom lived on the street and were clearly in serious need of professional help but had been attracted to St Pauls like flies to amber. Perhaps it was the free food and tea. Hanging around the enampment there were clear signs of alcohol being consumed and spliffs being smoked, in clear contravension of the ‘no drugs or alcohol’ signs that the organisers have put up.
What do you do about this? It’s clearly a problem for the Occupy movement and one they really need to confront sooner rather than later. Do you eject people displaying signs of chaotic lives? Can you attempt to police this utopian enclave? But how? And through what sort of force? In my opinion charging people for the food and refreshments would be a start. But many would argue that that would run contrary to the anti-capitalist spirit of the camp.
I don’t have the answers but I have seen these same problems occur at social centres before. And I do know that no matter how ideal the ‘alternative’ society, some sort of class stucture usually ends up reasserting itself pretty quickly. Outcasts usually end up becoming outcasts once more. But Occupy have objectives and it would be a huge shame if these were thwarted by the wooly-minded idealism that (in my mind, at least) undermines the movement as a whole.
Talking of objectives…yes, contrary to what the majority of the media believes, Occupy London Stock XChange do actually have a number of concrete goals. Last week they offered three demands to the City of London – to publish year by year breakdowns of the City cash account, that the City be subject to the Freedom Of Information Act and that a detailed account be provided of all the advocacy undertaken on behalf of the UK’s banking and finance industries since the 2008 crash.
Now, to my mind these are not unreasonable. In fact why on earth aren’t the Lib Dems and Labour demanding these very measures themselves?