Posts Tagged ‘Music’

I had never been to The Shacklewell Arms before last night.  It seemed fitting that my first visit to the legendary Hackney pub and venue would be for a special occasion. And the last night of the first tour from The Earlies for eight years was definitely special.

By some feat of logistical and spatial magic, the eleven-piece band and their huge array of instruments and technical gear managed to squeeze themselves onto the tiny stage, some of the musicians hidden from view in darkened cubby holes. But once they began their first number they all made their presence felt. With The Earlies, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Writing about what music sounds like is a fine art, or a mug’s game or both. Even quite good music writers have failed to capture the diversity, richness and genre-defying sound of The Earlies in words. So I won’t even try. At one point in the gig, though, looking at and listening to the cellist, trombone player, trumpeter, flortist, singers, guitarists, pianists, percussionists, an image sprang to my mind. A school orchestra gone awol, released from the limits of their classical disciplines into a wonderous world of free expression and… ok yes, I did think of School Of Rock for a moment.


I’m a full blown sentimetal country music fan, and there are plenty of country twangs and moods in Earlies’ songs. But I like how they resist – both musically and lyrically – the let’s call it ‘schmaltz’ of a lot of country music. The Earlies don’t overtly sing about heartbreak, or nursing a glass of bourbon on the porch. But last night I suddenly remembered where their first (2005) album had reached me, somewhere in Northern England, heartbroken, probably nursing a bottle of wine on the back step. And when they played Wayward Song, I let the tears fall as if the Earlies were Loretta Lynn or Johnny Cash after all.

‘…in this life we love who we can, then they’re gone…’


…whoever you are

I wasn’t feeling too well when I dragged myself out last night to Kings Place London to see The Emily Portman Trio. But that’s just one brilliant thing about music and the people who make it – if we are not up to creating and performing, to living at full blast, they always will be. My spirits were lifted and I forgot any physical or emotional ailments for a few hours.

Folk music often draws on mythology, fables and fairy tales. Emily Portman puts a modern twist on stories and songs she has read, heard or simply invented. One of her numbers ‘The Hinge of The Year’ is based on Angela Carter’s Nights At The Circus, Another is about a curious, magical character Portman conjured up whilst walking home at night as a young woman in a Newcastle suburb. And much of her work takes fairy tales and myths – such as Cinderella, and Leda and the Swan – then turns them into something all her own.


I highly recommend the Emily Portman Trio – for banishing bugs and bad vibes, and for reminding us why folk music is very much still with us, and as beguiling as ever.

You may remember the Kinsey Sicks from my recent enthusing over their unique brand of ‘dragapella’ extravaganza. Now this irreverent barbershop (nail salon?) quartet are celebrating their 20th birthday with a rather brilliant song and video.

Why The Fuck Aren’t We Famous? is not only a very good question considering the talent, wit and style of the Kinsey Sicks, it is also a timely comment on contemporary celebrity pop culture. Aping  A and R men and Pop Idol judges, the Sicks list reasons why they’re not Top of the Pops along with the Biebers and Gagas of the world.

‘if you wanna be commercial minimise the controversial, people want their chicks with sticks to cut off the politics’.

I think there’s a very serious point here, in amongst the make up, stilettos and oh so lovely harmonies. In a world where popular culture has pretty well entirely  gone gay – see Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Eurotrash, Jersey Shore, Big Brother, The Golden Girls, etc etc – actual gay men writing and singing candidly about their sexuality, politics, and gender, still come across as a bit too much for the mainstream. In other words, Kinsey Sicks, darlings:

‘why can’t you all be like Ru Paul?’

I particularly love the therapy sessions in the vid, with the Kinseys taking it turns to sit on the couch of ‘Dr Fraud’ and tell him their woes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the original, unacceptably intellectual and open-minded Dr Sex would be a fan of the Kinsey Sicks, should he be alive today.

Famous or not, I am glad these talented performers are still here…er…sticking it to polite yet often hypocritical, celebrity-obsessed, trash TV society, and proving that good old-fashioned Camp is alive and well, and as brash yet subtle as ever.

Remember the Libertines and that explosive, intense, doomed love affair between Doherty and Barat? This photo of them, topless, sweaty, lips touching over the mic (dick?) sums their homo love up beautifully. I don’t care if they fucked or not, the sexual tension that powered their music was enough for me.
I’m mentioning this because according to tumblr, One Direction that squeaky clean British boy band, have also done some mic -licking recently. You can see the animated gif here.
According to ‘gay academic’ Mark Mccormack One Direction are an embodiment of a new, ‘inclusive’, ‘softening masculinity’ that allows for ‘playing with sexuality’ even if they’re straight.  Softness v Hardness aside, I and @lindygeek reminded Dr Mccormack on twitter, that this kind of homosocial flirtatious bonding between men in pop is nothing new. See Bowie, Prince, Little Richard etc:
And, who is it who is headlining Glastonbury this year? Yes, some kings and queens of ‘omnisexual’ rock and roll: The Rolling Stones.  I rest my case.

This rendition of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released by Mama Cass, Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers is really quite something. Look at those outfits!

I don’t have much else to say, except it’s a song that has huge resonance for me. Maybe I will tell you why one of these days. Any day now, any day now…


‘I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m reelin
Down the old highway
I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m reelin
Down the old highway
I’m gonna whip it on you honey
Taste your blood today
I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m shovin it
Through your pants
I got my cock in my pocket
And I’m shovin it
Through your pants
I just wanna fuck
This aint no romance
I got my cock in my pocket’

This Iggy and the Stooges track is new to me. What I like about it is how it reminds us of the potential for the ‘masculine’ ‘active’ expression of sexuality to be available to anyone. Detaching the ‘cock’ from the body and putting it in one’s ‘pocket’ is what many pop stars, men and women, do when they perform. For the phallus, as Iggy, a doyenne of ‘feminine’ ‘passive’ display knows so well, is far bigger, harder, and more powerful than that pink delicate fleshy member most men carry round in their trousers. I got my cock in my pocket, and I’m reelin’ down the old highway.

Happy New Year #QRGMassive !!