Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

Guest Blog: Like A Virgin - Being a new music blogger in 2015

10:12am 24 Mar 2015


This week the inmates are running the asylum. You'll remember I asked you to Right This Blog! Our final guest blogger is Waldo Jeffers with his look at being a new music blogger in 2015.

In 2014 after six years of frazzled post-work coffee-fuelled study sessions and weekends of cram-crazy revision, I finally completed my BA in English Lit at Massey University. In May I will finally be a graduate at last, 24 years after I first enrolled at Queens University in Belfast. One thing I didn't expect when I re-started this degree around a decade ago was how much I'd slowly start to enjoy the craft of writing assignments and how successful I would become when I did come up with the goods. I really got a buzz out of digging deep in vast piles of books to prove a well-laboured point, piecing together a cogent argument based on the evidence and then hacking down the unedited draft to get just under the word limit before sending it on to the tutor. Most of the time I was completely aloof as to whether any of it was any good so much to my surprise the high grades and gushing praise from my tutor kept reminding me again and again that perhaps this was something that might be worth exploring.

So, with that in mind I decided that it might be worth having a crack at putting something together for Bloomsbury's biennial call out for their 33 1/3 series of books. When they make this call out "open", it really is completely "open" - nearly all those who are lucky to get their work on the shelves at the end of the process are first-time writers. My first stab in 2009 was frankly a slap-dash, last-minute effort with little attention to what they were really asking for: I wrote it like an essay rather than as a "treatment" and it roundly got dismissed. The second attempt in 2013 was a bit more considered and far more professional in approach but it too didn't make it.  Shame, as I thought my pitch on The Velvet Underground's 'Third' album was timely, with the rumoured 45th Anniversary re-issue on the horizon. I believed my take on the era (late 1968-early 1970) was an interesting one: "the lost era" of the band's history - Reed's most productive period of writing coupled with the big push on the road to stardom on their terms.

One piece of advice I heard again and again when I brought this double-disappointment up with friends was to at least consider the idea of setting up a blog, keeping my newly acquired skills fresh and active in the short-term. I did set up one immediately after my first 33 1/3 effort - The Napier Record Shack - but work and study commitments meant it never lasted beyond a handful of posts. Back then, I just couldn't devote time away from both to sit down and draft up my musings about what musical ideas were grabbing my attention that week. If there's one downside to these new skills I now have, it's that I'm a middling-to-slow writer - my ideas come in small, sharp bursts and I usually have heaps of writer's block to boot. So, that coupled with work and study meant that this idea was never going to get off the ground back in 2009.

But to get back to the present, time is now what I have heaps of after my degree and so as a result of some New Year optimism and inspiration from our dear leader Mr Sweetman, I started my new blog 33-45-78 shortly after our Xmas holiday break. As this blog odyssey is one long ramble through my long-gestating collection of 40 years, its raison d'etre focuses as much on the personal as well the musical. Each record has a memory of a time and a place for me and it's as much about getting a sense of that record's head space as much as what I think of the record itself now. The blog itself isn't fancy looking as it's one of the standard templates Blogger provides but I try to at least give it my own stamp by adding pictures of my own of labels or any other interesting paraphernalia around the record itself.

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Guest Blog: The kids are not all right

10:41am 23 Mar 2015


This week the inmates are running the asylum. You will remember I asked you to Right This Blog! So today here's our "Wild Card" Mike R. and his discussion of the Riot Grrrl and Black Metal scenes.

I read a lot of books about music. Sometimes they are on topics I have a real passion for, sometimes they just look interesting. Liking the actual music under discussion is not necessarily relevant to finding a good read.

Every now and then I stumble across a couple of books that read like companion-pieces. Sometimes it's unsurprising - for example Matt Thorne and Marc Dolan's excellent recent biographies of single-minded bandleaders/icons Prince and Bruce Springsteen. Sometimes though, two books will highlight connections you might have never thought to look for.

Such was the case recently when I got to the last page of Sara Marcus's Girls to The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, and picked up Dayal Patterson's Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult.

On the face of it, the Riot Grrrl (their spelling, in case you're wondering) and black metal scenes of the late 80s/90s shared nothing but a timeframe. Kicking off in Olympia, Washington, Riot Grrrl was a feminist punk principality in America's alternative nation - a DIY cross-pollination of the Pacific northwest scene that birthed Nirvana and Fugazi's socially conscious Washington DC hardcore. Dedicated to empowerment and activism, Riot Grrrl was not beyond criticism, but it was undeniably positive in its intent.Riot Grrrl

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Guest Blog: Muppet Band replacements

03:14pm 19 Mar 2015


This week the inmates are running the asylum. You will remember I asked people to Right This Blog! With that in mind welcome Dave (not Doug) with his discussion-paper around alternative Muppet Band line-ups.

Simon, I discovered the following on the net, so it's saved me a bit of work - why reinvent the wheelie bin?  My only concern is that it might not be legit, so BOTT readers should keep that in mind.

A theoretical investigation of possible human alternatives to replace the musicians of Electric Mayhem, aka the Muppet band

By Professor Theodore Huxley (BA, MEd, PhD, FHEA) and Doctor Susannah E. Cairo (MA, DMus, GKIA)

A serious topic, such as this one, deserves a serious approach. Thus, in this treatise, we are going to take the advice of that eminent music philosopher, David Williams (MTr, SoM, GPitA), and dissect this subject using a multi-disciplinary analysis, employing techniques of very critical criticism, along with an in-depth discussion of its tropes, memes and cultural significance in the post modern era.  To clarify a contentious definition at this point: the word 'muppet' is often used in a derogatory sense, signifying a fool, clown or incompetent, but if we were to consider the subject using that standard, we would be casting our net too wide, and its contents would certainly yield some unappetising bottom-dwellers (Liam Gallagher, Paul Hewson, Natalia Kills, Kanye West,  Justin Bieber et al.).

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Guest Blog: Krautrock and my abiding love of it

09:19am 19 Mar 2015


This week the inmates are running the asylum. You will remember that I asked people to Right This Blog! Here's Grant McDougall with a look at his abiding love of Krautrock.

You only need to look at my lounge wall to figure out that I really, really, really, really like Krautrock.

For on my wall is a framed promo poster for the debut album by one of the giants of the genre, NEU! - and it is signed by their singer and multi-instrumentalist, the late Klaus Dinger himself.Neu!

I first heard NEU! 22 years ago and since then I've delved deep into Krautrock and discovered a myriad of fascinating, ground-breaking bands and musicians that have made some of the most truly original, timeless and inspiring music of the last 50 years.

Krautrock, as the name suggests, is West German rock music. It is not a reflection of or influenced by the dominating US and UK rock music of the time, but a specific, wholly German creation - and for very, very good reason.

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Guest Blog: Yeti's Top 25 (Apparently)

03:07pm 17 Mar 2015


This week the inmates are running the asylum. You will remember I asked people to Right This Blog! Here's Yeti's iTunes Top Twenty Five (Apparently).  

Last year I had a severe computer system crash, some doohicky in the boxy thingamabob bent a transverse axel or something went wrong with the flux capacitor or it ran out of coal (tech not really my strong suit) ... anyway it was bad, giant paperweight with a blinkey light bad. 

Before I got my first iPod (the Brick, about 12 years ago) I had loads of my CDs stored on the Windows My Music side of my PC that I, to save time, had just dragged into the iTunes library. Big mistake. When my PC was returned to running order it had lost all the links to the My Music file & I had to manually move all these albums back across again. A painful process but during the course of doing this I did notice something I had previously paid no attention to in the iTunes Library: a playlist called "Top 25 Most Played".

Suitably intrigued I looked at the songs & boy was I in for a shock.

Just before I go any further and for the record both my wife and I share the iTunes library in the big computer but we both have our own iPods as we have generally quite different musical tastes and we both make playlists, her for exercise (5-10 songs) mine used be to help pass the work day and the slow trip home (1000-2000+ songs per list per "day") but I will swear, hand on a stack of Pop Mechanix CDs, three of the songs listed below have never been in any playlists either of us made.

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