One of my photos

1983 – Let’s Dance

February 18th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Not a brilliant year musically, but a big improvement on 1982. Metal continued to get more attention, synthesizers were getting everywhere, over-production was becoming the norm, and British jazz/funk/pop was getting ready to take over the decade. Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes both brought out new albums so us 70’s survivors had something to cling on to. [Read more →]

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Walls old and new

February 18th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Politics

While Donald Trump continues to try building his pointless wall, later this year it will thirty years since the Berlin Wall came down. Thirty years – where did it all go?

It was an exciting time. One girl from our office went straight out and booked a flight to Berlin so she could see the events unfolding and try to grab herself a bit of masonry while she was at it.

The next summer Roger Waters staged a performance of The Wall on the site of the wall and it was broadcst live on TV. I was at a house party in Shepherds Bush that night, but one room was reserved for people who wanted to catch this one-off event. Even after 6 or 7 months this ws still a big deal, as the consequences of it were still continuing.

When thinking about that time I am always reminded of the experience of my old lodger. She had lived in East Berlin and escaped to the West. She spent about three months going overland on foot and by train through Czechoslovakia and Austria to West Germany. She finally arrived in West Berlin in November 1989 just as the wall came down and walked straight back to her old apartment to pick up the belongings she had not been able to carry on her journey. How strange must that have been?

Historically there have always been celebrations about walls coming down, but walls going up are usually full of negative connotations, but Im sure Trump won’t let that stop him ploughing ahead with his white elephant vanity project.

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1982 – Situation

February 18th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music

It has to be said that 1982 was a pretty poor year for music. Yes it had highlights like The Number of the BeastTown Called Malice and The Message but they stand out even more for being rare diamonds in a pile of poo.

Most years you can look at a list of debut albums and see loads by acts that will go on to be huge. What is there is 1982? Culture Club, Fun Boy Three, Flock of Seagulls, Yazoo, Janet Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Donald Fagen, Asia and Kenny bloody G. The first four of them did not last long so what hugeness they had was short-lived. The debut of Kenny G is reason enough to mark 1982 as a bad year.

Even establishes acts were not putting out too much, or were putting out stuff that disappointed the fans and/or critics. The B-52’s released Mesopotamia which I personally liked but got written off. Bowie released the Baal EP, again I liked it but it didn’t set the world on fire. Supertramp followed up the brilliant Breakfast in America with the forgettable …Famous Last Words. Led Zeppelin released Coda – a compilation of old unreleased tracks. Does anybody even remember Fleetwood Mac’s album Mirage?

The few standout albums of the year were:

  • The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden. the first one with Dickinson as lead singer and the only Iron Maiden album you really need.
  • Pornography by the Cure. At the point where the band could have imploded they instead took off.
  • Combat Rock by the Clash. Their last good album.
  • A Broken Frame by Depeche Mode, proving that they could still survive after the songwriter left.
  • Upstairs at Eric’s by Yazoo. Keeping Basildon on the map.
  • The Nightfly by Donald Fagen. Soudning just like a Steely Dan record, which is fine.
  • Thriller by Michael Jackson. While it was no Off The Wall it seemed to do OK.

The Yazoo thing was interesting for me. At the time my neighbour in the flat upstairs (I had moved out of Dad’s spare room by now) worked for Mute records. She came down one day with a bit of gossip. Vince Clarke had found a new musical partner after leaving Depeche Mode through an advert in the music press and it turned out to be someone he knew anyway from the local music scene in Basildon. “Is is Alf?” I asked.

This made me appear to be very clued up, but actually Alf was the only person from the Basildon music scene I could name. I had seen her band The Screaming Ab-dabs a couple of times locally and was really impressed with her as a singer. She used to hang around our college and I knew her name, or at least her nickname Alf, because she used to wear a donkey jacket with ALF in chains on the back.

The few highlights for me amongst the singles of the year are Bananarama and the Funboy Three, Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa, Africa by Toto, 1999 by Prince, Golden Brown by the Stranglers, The Boiler by Rhoda/The Special AKA, and Annie I’m Not Your Daddie by Kid Creole & the Coconuts. The best single of the year was The Model by Kraftwerk and that was a re-release from 1978 so doesn’t really count and shows how poor 1982 was.

Slim pickings indeed, but Situation by Yazoo has to be the track of the year for me. At this time I was going out of my way to snap up everything that Depeche Mode and Yazoo put out. I had the albums, the singles from the albums in both 7″ and 12″ format, and anything else that cropped up. Situation was the B side of Only You, but released as a single in the US. The 12″ single version of Don’t Go is a close second, but Situation is 1982 for me.

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Redefining local

February 18th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I was just looking at the website of the Crawley and Horley Observer, the only remaining local newspaper in Crawley. It gives a lot of hints as to why local papers have been in such a decline. [Read more →]

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All Killer – Original Pirate Material (2002)

February 17th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Well this is a bit recent for me. When it came out I was nearly 40 and so I should be too old for it, but I picked it up at the market in Lower Marsh one lunchtime and when I put it on the stereo that evening I could not do anything until it finished, at which point I immediately ripped to to the computer and loaded it on my iRiver for the next day’s commute. [Read more →]

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1981 – Spellbound

February 17th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Although I enjoyed the 80’s at the time, I don’t enjoy looking back on them as much as the 70’s. Maybe I should make more of an effort. As far as music was concerned, there was a lot of good stuff, even if a lot of it was quite superficial and 1981 was no exception.

I said that most of the 80’s stales appeared in 1980 and all that was missing was Depeche Mode, but I should have added Phil Collins as a solo artist. Both put out albums in 1981, and Duran Duran appeared on the scene, along with the Thomson Twins, Kim Wilde, Level 42, Tom Tom Club, Heaven 17, and Soft Cell. [Read more →]

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1980 – Turn It On Again

February 16th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music

The 70’s are out of the way now, we’ll never see their like again. The 80’s started with a bang, only the first year of the decade and there were already all the elements that would define the musical decade. And 1980 had the one thing that 1979 was missing – a new Genesis album, Duke,  which demonstrated their own transition from a 70’s sound to an 80’s sound. This is one of the few albums that I bought on the day it was released, despite the mild ridicule from my ery indie mates at college. [Read more →]

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1979 – Street Life

February 16th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music

I’ll try to make this short, but be warned: 1979 is my year. For me it is the best year for music ever, for many reasons but principally because the best album (in my opinion) was released in this year, and that is almost reason enough.

This was a transitional time. The 70’s were ready to turn into the 80’s, the country was just entering a long period of Tory government, punk was fizzling out but new wave was getting into the mainstream, as was electronic music, and this new thing called rap appeared. On a more domestic level, this was my transition from school to college. The first half of the year was spent in the bubble of boarding school, the second half in a new place with new people and going home every day. [Read more →]

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1978 – Down at the Doctors

February 15th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life

1978 really was peak disco year wasn’t it? Obviously there were the Bee Gees singles Night Fever and Stayin’ Alive, but also the other singles from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and the soundtrack album itself which was released towards the end of 1977 but still selling well and spawning singles in 1978. And then there was Chic, Marshall Hain with Dancing in the City, and Instant Replay by Dan Hartman.

I stil enjoy listening to those disco songs, although at the time we were listening to very different stuff by choice. The disco we got from the radio, TOTP and the school dances, but what we were putting on our record players in the dorm was very rock-oriented. There was what is now called classic rock but was just rock at the time, prog and punk, even if that had already blown over to be replaced by the more general classification of ‘new wave’. Only a year after the Jubilee year summer of punk, the Sex Pistols were history by the end of the year and Johnny rotten had returned as John Lydon with Public Image.

They may seem to be polar opposites, but we took equal pleasure from concept albums like the Jeff Wayne War of the Worlds album and Pyramid by the Alan Parsons Project and singles from the Rezillos, Blondie, Squeeze, Jilted John, the Police, Gang of Four and Buzzcocks.

It goes without saying that Yes, Genesis and Elton John still featured heavily for us. Genesis released …And Then There Were Three and Elton had a few singles that get less remembered now but I still remember fondly – Ego, Part-Time Love, and Song for Guy. Meanwhile, Yes released the Tormato album which was hugely significant for me because in October I went to see them play at the Empire Pool, Wembley (as it was known then).

That was the first time I saw any band play live and my ears didn’t stop ringing for days afterwards. The concert was in the round and I was in row seven, close enough to see the stitching on Rick Wakeman’s cloak. It was not supposed to be my first gig though. I had tickets for the Tubes earlier in the year, but Fee Waybill broke his leg at a show in Leicester and the rest of the tour was cancelled. I ended up seeing them when they toured the Remote Control album and again on the Completion Backward Principle tour and more recently on their Wild West Tour so I made up for it in the end.

It took a lot of effort to get concert tickets in those days. You couldn’t just go online, pay by card and get a ticket e-mailed to you by return. You had to write a cheque or get a postal order if you were too young to have a bank account and put it in an envelope and post it to the box office. Some time later you would receive tickets or your returned cheque if they had sold out. if you lived near a venue you could go there, or visit a ticket bureau maybe, but if you lived in a small town it was the Royal Mail or nothing. Having said that, you were usually successful in getting tickets unlike today when shows at the O2 sell out in seconds or the Kraftwerk Tate Modern shows crashed the systems under the weight of the demand. I like the convenience of how it works now, but get annoyed by how you need to book (and pay for) tickets when the show is announced 18 months in advance to stand any chance of getting in. Back then you could get tickets for big tours just weeks before the show.

And talking of live music, 1978 was a good year for live albums. Some of my favourite live albums were released in this year: Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, the Tubes with What Do You Want from Live, Busting Out by Jethro Tull, and The Last Waltz soundtrack.

Again, there are too many great, significant and iconic singles and albums from 1978 to even attempt to list them all. Wuthering Heights, Babylon’s Burning, Roxanne, Baker Street, Mr Blue Sky, Sultans of Swing, Who Are You?, Hong Kong Garden, Parallel Lines, Tubeway Army, The Man-Machine only scratches the surface.

Above all of them I have chosen Down At The Doctors by Dr Feelgood just because. Because as a card-carrying South Essex boy I have to have them somewhere. Because although it is called “Down At the Doctors”, Lee actually sings “down to the doctors” all the way through it. Because of the mythical eight bars of piano. Because it showed that they could survive without Wilko, even if they were never quite as good. Because it is a real belter of a tune.

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Flowers for Valentines Day

February 15th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Personally I have always felt a bit ripped off knowing how the price of flowers seems to shoot up on Valentines day, in the same way that restaurants charge a lot more for meals on that day. In the last year I have learned a bit about the florist business at third-hand and feel a bit better about it. I also think I understand a bit more about the restaurants today, having read an interesting article in the Times. [Read more →]

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