Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

From Art
posted on June 23rd, 2011

In January 2010, I began taking a photo each time I went in a loo; posting them to Twitter with the hashtag #loo2010. At the end of the year I wanted to stop but hadn’t done enough trips overseas, so felt I had to keep going (new hashtag #loo2011) until I’d at least captured some European and North American loos. I caught 180 loos in 2010.

The original inspiration was the loo of my friends Gypo and Jo, in Port St Mary on the Isle Of Man. They decorated the walls and ceiling with countless little plastic trolls and also made a musical toilet roll dispenser. It’s a fantastic room, in fact their entire home has been so stunningly beautifully decorated in a mash-up of psychedelia, folk-art and kitsch, it’s like no other. Frustratingly I haven’t been back since I started, so it’s not been captured yet – but I will.

The vague rules are:
(1) Photos are usually the toilet itself or the cistern but (2) if there’s something more interesting, I’ll snap that instead. (3) There’s no connection to what I’ve been doing in the loo: often I’ll go in a loo not to use it, for example changing clothes in venues without dressing rooms, or washing hands. (4) I only capture a loo once; the first time I visit it, (5) unless it receives a major overhaul.

I can’t tell you why I started, or why I have to keep going, hopefully I’ll be able to stop at the end of 2011. I made a limited edition A3 card print – A Year In Loo – of 72 loos from 2010. It was an edition of 253 and there are a few left HERE. Partly this is to raise money to fulfil my dream of a loo photo book. I’ve taken a lot of ‘support’ photos nobody’s seen as well, of different details in the loos, so there is a lot of material.

 

posted on June 10th, 2011

50 protest songs from the history of pop. Of course it’s not a definitive list, there are some ‘classics’ in there but some curveballs too: for me the idea is that each song/track can open the door to a story, adding a key element to the history of protest rock’n’roll. If I wrote a lecture series about protest song, this is the soundtrack. It’s inspired by Rick Rogers, who runs a popular music course down in Falmouth (and in fact used to manage one of the acts who made the list) – he sent me a fascinating questionnaire about protest songwriting and my own political songs.

A protest song is a song that’s so specific you can’t mistake it for bullshit.
Phil Ochs

50 PROTEST SONGS (full spotify playlist link)

Here’s the complete tracklisting, with individual Spotify track links, if you just want to listen to one track.

01 Pete Seeger – What Did You Learn In School Today?
02 Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
03 Josh White – Trouble
04 Paul Robeson – Joe Hill
05 Woody Guthrie – This Land is Your Land
06 Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues
07 The Plastic Ono Band – Give Peace A Chance
08 Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
09 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Redemption Song
10 Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
11 Scott Walker – Next
12 Country Joe McDonald – I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag [Live]
13 Stevie Wonder – You Haven’t Done Nothin’
14 Bob Dylan – Hurricane
15 Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen
16 Tom Robinson Band – Glad To Be Gay
17 The Specials – Ghost Town
18 Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message
19 Ian Dury – Spasticus Autisticus
20 Randy Newman – Short People
21 Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee
22 U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
23 Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding – Remastered in 1998
24 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Born In The U.S.A.
25 Paul Hardcastle – 19
26 Sting – They Dance Alone
27 Dick Gaughan – The World Turned Upside Down
28 The Proclaimers – Cap In Hand
29 Billy Bragg – Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards
30 Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning
31 Boogie Down Productions – Stop The Violence
32 Public Enemy – Fight The Power
33 The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy – Television The Drug Of The Nation
34 Sonic Youth – Swimsuit Issue
35 June Tabor – All Our Trades Are Gone
36 Rage Against The Machine – Bullet In The Head
37 Ani Difranco – Lost Woman Song
38 Sinead O’Connor – Famine
39 Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – Bloodsport For All
40 Pulp – Common People – Full Length Version / Album Version
41 Radiohead – Electioneering
42 Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?
43 Steve Earle – John Walker’s Blues
44 Toby Keith – Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)
45 Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart
46 Bright Eyes – When The President Talks To God
47 Bruce Springsteen & The Sessions Band – How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live
48 Dixie Chicks – Not Ready To Make Nice
49 M.I.A. – Paper Planes
50 John Trudell – Look At Us/Peltier Aim Song

Notes

The list isn’t completely chronological, though it does start with early 20th century American folk-protest and then moves forward in bursts. There are two separate traditions going on, which makes things a bit complicated: there is a musical tradition of folk-protest. Then there is the simple lyrical act of commenting on current affairs – which has nothing to do with any instrumental, melodic or arrangement tradition. There’s no way Radiohead‘s ‘Electioneering’ owes any musical debt to the folk-protest movement, yet the words are potent and could be re-worked into that tradition with no problem.

There are a few ‘non-left’ songs included, although it’s tricky to find decent right-wing protest songs that don’t just bolster the powers-that-be (which by definition means they’re not protest). I’ve droppped in Merle Haggard‘s anti-hippie, anti-progressive classic ‘Okie…’ and personally I think Morrissey‘s ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ is a right-of-centre, rather than true outsider, rant.

Steve Earle‘s ‘John Walker’s Blues’, which empathises with American Taliban John Walker, is placed beside arguably the best-known fiercely right-wing protest song of recent years, Toby Keith‘s furious pro-Bush response to 9/11.

What’s missing? There are some things unavailable on Spotify that could’ve been useful; The Beatles‘ right-wing ‘Taxman’, some early 60s Dylan for example. I’ve left out Neil Young for now because his idiosyncratic journey through various issues and shifting positions is worth a playlist to itself, which I’ll do later. If I really did a lecture series on protest song, I’d probably do a whole lecture on Neil Young Making Up His Mind.

I also missed out a few for space that are still worth checking separately: Against Me!‘s sardonic ‘White People For Peace’ for example. I wish Ian Hunter‘s 90s album Rant was on Spotify – it’s as political a British right-winger has got I think. Underground leftist heroes (David RovicsEvan GreerUtah PhillipsAnne Feeney) write great songs, deeply embedded in the counter-culture. My friend Frank Turner has written easily the finest libertarian (anti-state, so I do think of it as ‘right-wing’) anthem of recent years; ‘Sons Of Liberty’ and its anthemic Levellers / NMA style fools many UK lefties, who think he’s one of theirs, partly because of his earlier tune ‘Thatcher Fucked The Kids’.

We deliberately end ‘out of period’ with John Trudell‘s extraordinary poem of American Indian despair because it is uniquely powerful – a voice from an earlier time and yet an unresolved horror. It is an emotional impact, rather than an intellectual end.

My (poet and drummer) friend Ben makes an interesting inclusion to the ‘protest’ genre, which I decided not to include here but is worth mentioning: that is music where the content is not political but the artist’s behaviour – or the context in which the music was performed – makes it political. His example is Benny Goodman‘s multi-racial band, performing jazz to an audience for whom this was completely shocking.

 

My punk/folk rising star friend Frank Turner just released his fourth album England Keep My Bones. It’s a great record but more importantly, I sang on it. Buy it from iTunes HERE.

To mark the occasion, journalist Brad Barrett has re-published his 2008 joint interview with me and Frank from 2008, where he got us to question each-other. Read it on his blog HERE.

posted on June 6th, 2011

I’m very proud to announce a selection of my ‘Empties’ photos are being used in a new collaborative book from the Dark Mountain group, edited by Paul Kinsgnorth and Dougald Hine. Dark Mountain Issue 2 is at the printers and will be available this month, so watch this space.

From News, Words
posted on June 6th, 2011

My punk/folk rising star friend Frank Turner just released his fourth album England Keep My Bones. It’s a great record but more importantly, I sang on it. Buy it from iTunes HERE.

To mark the occasion, journalist Brad Barrett has re-published his 2008 joint interview with me and Frank from 2008, where he got us to question each-other. Read it on his blog HERE.

From Words
posted on June 6th, 2011

Finally, a T-T live show suitable for your Grandma and your kids: renowned underground punk/folk singer-songwriter Chris T-T (“genius, a modern-day Blake” – SUNDAY TIMES, “genius” – HUW STEPHENS, RADIO 1, “genius songwriting” – THE GUARDIAN, “The best English folk singer for 50 years” – FRANK TURNER, “Chris T-T’s an idiot!” – JACK OSBORNE) performs brand new musical versions of A.A. Milne’s classic 1920s poems…

LISTEN FREE AND BUY DISOBEDIENCE ON BANDCAMP

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From News, Words
posted on June 6th, 2011

I’m very proud to announce a selection of my ‘Empties’ photos are being used in a new collaborative book from the Dark Mountain group, edited by Paul Kinsgnorth and Dougald Hine. Dark Mountain Issue 2 is at the printers and will be available this month, so watch this space.

posted on June 2nd, 2011

Beyonce has apparently had a pile of trouble with her new ballad ‘1+1’, which is possibly being shelved after an exceptionally poor reaction on American Idol or some such. It also got a mauling on Nihal’s Radio 1 review show; unexpected since she’s usually impregnable and over again, the critics were left with the painful “I love Beyonce but…” gambit.

But just one simple lyric change would rescue the whole song. Seriously, if you know anyone who works with Ms Knowles, tell her this, urgently: they need to alter the chorus line of “Make love to me”, repeated over and over, for something non-sexual and oriented back towards the longing of the verse lyrics.

My pick would immediately be “Make time for me” sung to the same melody, with the same passion, which, although it seems pretty cheesy / mainstream on first listen, is actually very unusual – and I can’t remember ever being used in that way for a slow hit ballad.

Thing is, it’s a song about assuaging loneliness, so when the “make love to me” chorus kicks in, it undermines the sentiment and makes the listener put the song into a different box – while at the same time we have no choice but to feel a bit taken aback by the shift from supportive need to sexual need. I reckon this – and only this – is why the song is struggling.

Nothing else needs to change. The arrangement, verses and production are great; unconventional and brilliant. People keep saying ‘Prince-like’. But it needs the clean, powerful uplift of a non-sex chorus. Then it becomes like Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’, a piece for universal emotional steadying, instead of bonking your way out of trouble.

I’m right – and if they listen to me they’ll smash it.

After looking at such a tiny detail of the Ultrasound song in the last entry, I need to mention stand-up comedian Stewart Lee‘s ferociously brilliant new book How I Escaped My Certain Fate as a great resource if you’re into developing any kind of self-absorbed analysis of your own work-in-performance.

(I did have a powerful personal reaction to the book as well, but prefer to blog it here, not on Blognostic, to focus on its value as a resource. But I did LOVE it; it punched me in the face with recognition over and over again, on different levels.)

It is partly a memoir of Lee’s abandoning of live performance after near stardom in the 1990s, his confidence shattered, then his unexpected success with Jerry Springer: The Opera, leading to a tentative, more thoughtful return to stand-up in 2004. The book features three full transcriptions of key live shows since that return, which have been annotated in intricate, lengthy detail. The shows are transcribed from specific live performances (the sets used for DVDs I think, since they were taped) rather than using some kind of generic ‘perfect’/’idealised’ script.

Lee makes a jawdropping success of writing down his insightful analysis of his own creative performance process, of breaking down each stand-up show and relating clearly how the prepared material blends with the live unfolding moment, how the set might digress or not, what he says and what he’s trying to say. It’s not just fascinating but truly useful: obviously (the task of) stand-up is a magnified, concertina’d version of (the task of) music performance: the audience feedback that happens every 3-4 minutes for a songwriter, at tacitly agreed points (between each song) happens near constantly, second-by-second for a comedian. They need to be far greater masters of crowd control than we are, especially if they’re trying to do more than tell jokes, if they have an underlying point. Thus it would be less relevant if Lee were a populist gag man but his stuff is multi-layered, a complex, ambitious beast unfolding with plot and rhythm.

Beyond the analysis, I also found How I Escaped… brutally honest, yet oddly reassuring about the continuing potential for a career in minority interest, uncompromising performance arts today. Lee’s comedic rebirth and his refusal to bow to the shit he’d bended to in the past, exactly mirrors the ‘new DIY’ approach so many of us musicians are facing/embracing. He’s not trying for an over-arching message but I took from it a determined: ‘the quality will out’.

Read it if you can.

From Singles
posted on June 1st, 2011
Page 1 of 3123
© Chris T-T 2008–2013
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