Friday, 21 December 2012

End of Year Report

2012.  So how was it for you?  From my viewpoint sitting here in the UK, it was probably an above average year as long as you looked in the right places.  Let’s face it, if you concentrate on the woeful economy and miserable weather you’d be marking it down quicker than a GCSE examiner.  So let’s forget all that real world stuff and focus on firstly…sport!

This year served up some bumper sporting moments if you were a Brit and this is something to be savoured as we, as a race, are not used to winning anything – at least since the rest of the world got to know the rules and beat us at everything.  There was Bradley ‘Wiggo’ Wiggins winning the Tour de France, Andy Murray winning his first Grand Slam Tournament, England’s cricket Team gaining World Number 1 status, the Ryder Cup comeback - and that was just for starters.

The jewel in the sporting crown was an amazing Summer Olympics and Paralympics which made household names of the likes of Ennis, Farrah, Wiggins (again), Hoy, Rutherford, Adams, Trott, Dujardin, Adams, Weir, Simmons, Brownlee, Ainslie, Pendleton, and many, many more.

Of course, nothing lasts for ever and it wasn’t long before the Cricket team lost their Number 1 status (but redeemed themselves in India) and inevitably here at the tail end of the year, the England football team continues to struggle in a poor qualifying group for the next World Cup.  Oh well, it was nice whilst it lasted.

But what about music?  Sad to say, I’ve found little to titivate my palette and consequently have bought very few CDs this year, preferring to pick up much improved remixed/remastered releases of favourite albums from my past.  If pushed to pick out a new album of the year, it would probably be Marina and the Diamonds’ ‘Electra Heart’ which has been on my ipod since release.  A close second would be either The Bangles’ ‘Sweetheart of the Sun’ or Doris Brendel’s ‘Not Utopia’, but other than these three not much else has really moved me which is a bit of a sad state of affairs and no mistake.  I might have to re-name this blog, ‘Sport Obsessive’.

So how does it all stack up when added together?  Well, on the music front, 2012 has under-performed a bit if you look at new music alone but if you argue that the art of re-mixing and remastering old albums has come of age then it has been a pretty good year with some stunningly revitalised stuff to the fore (yes, I’m looking at you, ‘Aqualung’).

But if you add in a massively dramatic sporting summer, 2012 acquits itself with flying colours and proves yet again that there is nothing quite like the real drama of live sport – there’s never a script and anything can happen.  Hoorah!

See you all in the New Year!

Friday, 7 December 2012

What Value Music?

The other day, in a moment of supreme weakness, I made the mistake of answering my phone without checking that the caller had WITHHELD their number.  This can only mean one thing; a cold call and if there’s one thing I hate it’s a cold caller.  I usually ignore such intrusions but this time I was caught and had to go through the rigmarole of politely telling them to bugger off.  This time it was from an on-line wine seller that I use regularly and whilst it started promisingly with the ‘only available off line to you, mate’ patter, it ended with a price that was no better than their normal on-line prices.  What was the point?

The trouble is, everyone wants something for nothing these days, including me, so ringing me up to offer the same price I could expect to spend elsewhere was never going to hold my interest and what goes for wine goes for music too.  Having said that, I am of a generation that at least expects to pay something for music, unlike many of today’s kids who seem to think it is their birthright to download everything for free, so cheap rather than free is always on the menu.

The old marketing hook of offering stuff at low prices can be a bit hit and miss.  For reasons that I don’t really understand to this day, back in 1973 I declined Virgin Records’s offer of ‘The Faust Tapes’ by Krautrockers, Faust for the miniscule price of 49p – an LP for the price of a vinyl single at the time.  Perhaps it was TOO cheap?  See how difficult it is?  In retrospect this was probably the correct decision as it is a jumble of live off-cuts but nevertheless, at that price who cares?

Yet some years before, in 1971, I had snapped up ‘Relics’ by Pink Floyd, a band I didn’t really know much about, but when it appeared on the cut-price Starline label, I couldn’t resist.  ‘Relics’ is a peculiar mixture of 1967-1969 period Floyd material bringing together the brilliant early Syd Barrett singles, atmospheric tracks from the soundtrack album, ‘More’, a collection of B sides and odd album cuts from their first two albums.  It was my introduction to The Pink Floyd and remains one of my favourite albums of theirs to this day.  As I have mused before, the late sixties was a strange period and the music created against the backdrop of social unrest and end of the Hippy dream still has a slightly haunted quality to it.  Certainly, this has an ambience that no other record I know of has.

So in the case of the budget label release, ‘Relics’ scored a hit and set me on the trail of proper grown-up Pink Floyd LPs.  Just let someone ring me up today and try and sell it to me…grrr.