Remember you can follow the SadPanda on Twitter - To stay updated on the latest articles just follow @StreetlampBlog.

You can talk to the SadPanda too. E-mail:

You can also now find us on Facebook , if that's your thing.


To re-direct to wikileaks please click here. We will endeavour to keep this redirect updated in the event of an IP address change.

Lovely people who read The Streetlamp

Monday, 28 May 2012

Songs in the key of Griff: Heart of Glass

Ok, Heart of Glass by Blondie - what do you know about it? Well, presumably the obvious stuff; it was written by singer Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein and featured on the band's third
studio album, the platinum-selling Parallel Lines, which was released near the end of 1978. Hugely popular at the time, and remaining the band's most popular and best-selling album, as well as being chock-full of hit singles, Parallel Lines has also garnered its fair share of critical plaudits. Heart of Glass was plucked from the album and released as a single in January 1979, topping the charts all over the world. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 255 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time

That's the official line on Heart of Glass, but it's not the one that I'm here to peddle. No, I would prefer instead to deal with the song, and its place in the Blondie canon, in my own idiosyncratic manner. So read on, and if the things I write are a little disparaging then do try to keep in mind that Blondie were, and still are, a band who hold a very dear place in my heart. For this is a 'songs in the key of Griff' piece with a difference; in some respects, I come to bury Heart of Glass, not to praise it.

Firstly, let's remind ourselves of the song. The version on the video below is the globe-straddling, chart-topping, mega-pop hit that you'll all be familiar with. However, I've chosen not to embed the famous Studio 54 video that is normally associated with the song but to go with a mimed performance from, what I believe is, a German pop TV show of the time. Have a look.

What did you think? Good song? Great song, maybe - or is something missing? The reason I wanted to use this video is that, in line with the theory I'll develop below, I believe it shows the band going through the motions in the most desultory fashion possible whilst their iconic lead singer, in a vain attempt to entertain, attempts a few woodenly choreographed moves, but mainly stands rooted to the spot, apparently overcome with ennui. Harsh, maybe, but look again, this just isn't a band enjoying itself and loving the music. This is a band, presumably in the middle of an expansive world tour, at the very top of the arc of pop fame, and who all look as though the very life is ebbing from them minute by minute. In my opinion, the video above demonstrates Blondie consumed by the big-label pop machine culture. So, why do I think this is? Let me explain.

First taking recognisable shape in 1975, Blondie grew out of the nascent New York punk scene with an idiosyncratic sound; one-part garage punk, one-part bubblegum pop, one-part New York, heroin chic art-rock, and one-part provided by the cynical, street-wise, squatter glamour of lead-singer Debbie Harry (pictured below).

Right from the band's inception, they experimented with mixing styles and genres in beguiling and unpredictable ways. In the early 70s, New York city was very much the crucible where disco music was formed; in 1974 New York City's WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show. But it wasn't on the airwaves that disco developed but, obviously, on the dance floors. In clubs favoured by the African American, Latino and gay communities, the sound was developed as a reaction against the po-faced, macho-posturing of rock music and the derogation of dance music by counterculture intellectuals during this period. Ever ones to experiment with new styles and forms, the band recorded a demo in 1975 of a song which utilised a scratchy, funky, rhythm guitar riff and a basic, slowed-down, disco beat. Never really firming the demo up into a completed song, the band referred to it simply as 'The Disco Song' and put it on the back-burner. Have a listen:

It's an odd little piece, don't you think, a real chimera. You feel as though the, unsteady on its feet, disco rhythm is going to fall apart at any minute and the lolloping reggae bass-line almost succeeds in unbalancing the whole thing. Debbie Harry, provides the vocal in her trademark early style, coming across like a wise-cracking, gum-chewing, New York waitress busting a cocky customer's ass; the line "soon turned out to be a pain in the ass" fitting perfectly with that persona. Yes, it's a not-quite-altogether, grubby piece of musical hybridisation, and I love it. This is a band capturing the moment, at the moment, and having fun doing so. Those of you who've played in bands will know the carefree, creative, doesn't really matter attitude that goes with this; it’s a feeling you can't fake and its why we call it PLAYING music; it's play, pure and simple.

The band went on to release their debut, and still their best, album, the eponymous Blondie, in 1976 and followed this up with the patchy Plastic Letters in 1977. Around this time, the band had another stab at recording a demo of 'The Disco Song', by this time known as 'Once I Had A Love'.
Have a listen:

I like this. It's more recognisably in the pop-rock style of Blondie at the period. The woozy bass line has been replaced by something more solid and Debbie's tough and brassy vocal complements the rough and rugged instrumentation. I find this version very evocative, it has the muffled, grimy, unpolished spirit of a live performance; it sounds like the sort of thing that's vigorously making the venue pound whilst you're in a cubicle in the toilets doing something illegal.

So, what happened next? Well next, the band then decided to record the song for the album, to be called Parallel Lines, which was to be produced by old-style, uber-pop producer Mike Chapman. How did Chapman, a man who had made his reputation churning out formulaic pop songs to provide a conveyer belt of hits for the likes of the Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Smokie and Mud, get teamed up with the unprofessional, art-school squalor style that Blondie represented, you may well wonder. Simple, at this time Blondie were gaining recognition as a punk/New Wave act in Australia and the UK. At home, in the US, however, they were still very much an underground band. Terry Ellis, the English co-founder of Chrysalis music, wanted to assign a producer who could virtually guarantee that the material Blondie brought to the summer 1978 sessions evolved into hit material; and he believed that man was his compatriot Chapman.

Chapman says, of his recruitment:

"I wasn't being used as a songwriter, but as a song manipulator and song construction consultant/technician. There was a lot of stuff that needed to be put together, because as loose as the band was, their songs were even looser." 

The band was, says Chapman:
"Musically the worst band I ever worked with."

So how did producer and band regard one another in the studio? Chapman says of the time:

"The Blondies were tough in the studio, real tough. None of them liked each other, except Chris and Debbie, and there was so much animosity. They were really, really juvenile in their approach to life
— a classic New York underground rock band — and they didn't give a fuck about anything. They just wanted to have fun and didn't want to work too hard getting it."

Regarding his own attitude:

"By then the only writing responsibilities I had were to come up with a hit or two each year for both Suzi Quatro and Smokie, and those were easy gigs because they were nice people to work with. There was no suffering on those sessions. Blondie, on the other hand, was all about suffering."

"Musically, Blondie were hopelessly horrible when we first began rehearsing for Parallel Lines, and in terms of my attitude they didn't know what had hit them. I basically went in there like Adolf Hitler and said, 'You are going to make a great record, and that means you're going to start playing better'."
"My relationship with Blondie was very interesting. As I’ve said, I was a perfectionist in the studio, and it was extremely hard for Debbie and the guys to accept my authority. I expected greatness from them and I got it. I had no choice but to use the whip to get those performances and make all those hits. Poor Debbie! She really didn’t know what hit her at first."

And what were his views on 'Once I Had A Love (the disco song)’?

" 'Heart Of Glass', on the other hand, was called 'Once I Had A Love' and they had it in a lot of different versions, but it wasn't right in any form. After they'd played me the covers, as well as some of their sketchy song ideas, I decided the first thing we should work on was 'Once I Had A Love’, I thought that track was the one that probably needed the most attention, because even though it was complete, it was wrong, and I knew that if we could get it right it might be a big hit. So there we were on the first day of rehearsals, in some little hole-in-the-wall on the Lower East Side, and all of the band members were being very, very cautious about having a new producer. This was not their idea, they would have gone back to Richard Gottehrer. And although they knew who I was and what I'd accomplished, they didn't quite understand what was going to happen. Neither did I."


"At the first rehearsal we worked on "Heart of Glass." This proved to be a blessing and a huge step forward in cementing our working relationship. It was a great idea that needed to be put into the right shape to find a home on American radio play lists."

"When we were rehearsing Heart of Glass, the song was a little different from the way it ended up.
It was sort of reggae-punk. I was worried that the reggae ingredient might lessen its potential in the US, so I discussed changing the vibe on the very first day. Debbie and Chris really liked the vibe that Georgio Moroder had with Donna Summer, so we decided to give it a bit of that and it sort of snowballed from there."

So, in an attempt to make a commercially viable pop hit, Chapman takes the song and basically remodels it into a clone of Donna Summer's 1977 disco smash hit 'I Feel Love'. Here's how that sounded:

Hear the similarities? Compare especially the vocals. As I've outlined above, one of the defining aspects of the Blondie sound is Harry's brassy, rock-pop singing style. Chapman, however, opts instead to ask her to modify it and then smooth it out with a sleek double-tracked vocal behind a single-track to produce a high-pitched cooing which sounds like Harry doing a karaoke version of Summer, and removes virtually all trace of emotion.
On top of that, for this track, Chapman changed the entire way that Blondie, a live rock band, recorded. The entire production of Heart of Glass was built around the use of a Roland CR-78 Drum Machine. This, for a band that included the drumming phenomenon that is Clem Burke! To add insult to injury, when it came to record the real drums, Chapman insisted on recording them one piece at a time; the kick drum first, then a hi-hat after that, followed by a snare etc etc.

Chapman recalls:

"Clem didn't want to do it this way at all, and he was very, very moody, but Debbie and Chris were running the show and they said, 'Just do it.' He hated it, and he probably still does, but at the end of that first day we had a great drum track and we all knew it."

Apart from Clem, presumably.

Once the band had recorded their parts to Chapman's satisfaction he set about manipulating the song to his own ends and, admittedly, came up with a hit record bought by many millions of people. He then changed the song title, explaining;
"At the same time, we also changed the title. I said, 'You can't call it 'Once I Had A Love'. The hook line in there is 'heart of glass'. Let's call it 'Heart Of Glass'.

The final change to the song, as we were first introduced to it, was to deal with the issue of the use of the expression "pain in the ass" within the lyrics which, at the time, did not sit easily with the BBC in the UK. The radio edit changed it to "heart of glass" and a hit was born. Interestingly, in Australia, the song was banned altogether from the radio on account of its "strong language."

( Blondie singer Debbie Harry and keyboard player Jimmy Destri in the studio with Chapman - presumably they've just heard his take on 'Once I Had A Love')

Blondie's Chapman produced Parallel Lines became the perfect encapsulation of money-spinning, high-tech, 1978, pop-rock (all 38 glossy minutes of it), and became a ubiquitous feature in virtually every home in the UK. I own it, and I do like it, after a fashion, but, for me, it comes nowhere close to matching the surprising musical delights offered up by Blondie on their debut album. Why is that? Simply, it lacks soul. To a certain extent, it's the sound of a band ground down by the pop-machine and simply going through the motions; which brings us back to the video at the top of the article.
You see, I like my music raw, genuine and emotional, and no amount of industry awards or platinum records can alter the fact that, if music doesn't move me, then it can never mean anything to me. No doubt, Chapman has become a very rich man through the rewards from his career in music and, after working with Blondie, he continued to fashion hits, penning Simply the Best for Tina Turner and Love is a Battlefield for Pat Benatar.
Chapman/Blondie’s Heart of Glass continues to be enjoyed on dance floors around the world. But is it art? When you take a classic New York underground rock band and turn them into anodyne, radio friendly purveyors of hummable, but emotionless, pop hits what have you achieved? Money, yes; fame, yes;  the regard of others in the 'industry', yes. But like Blondie might have said in 1976 - so fucking what?

I hope you've enjoyed this little tale of how a song can evolve from being a fun, mess-about in the rehearsal room to a massive, multi-national hit. Finally, I'm probably not supposed to do this but you can download the demo version of 'The Disco Song' 'here' and the demo version of 'Once I Had A Love' 'here'.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Griff says; Heavy metal mayhem! - Plutonian Ode.

If the article title made you do a double-take, then please forgive my little joke. The Streetlamp is not, of course, straying into the overblown, cock-rock territory of heavy metal music but, instead, does intend to add a few more precious points to the pretentionometer with an article on contemporary, American, 'classical' composer Philip Glass (pictured below). And the reason for our little foray into the world of orchestral music is that tomorrow, Thursday 24th May, at 7.30pm, in the sumptuous setting of the Grand Hall of Glasgow's City Halls, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is giving the UK Premiere of the composer’s Sixth Symphony.

 Naturally, the Streetlamp will be there, and as tickets are still available at a not unreasonably priced £12, we wanted to give our readers based in central Scotland the chance to attend what should be an excellent night of music.
The concert is part of the 75th birthday celebrations for Philip Glass and his Sixth Symphony is an apposite choice of piece as it was commissioned 10 years ago to mark his 65th birthday. Glass's Sixth Symphony, Plutonian Ode, is named for and inspired by poet, and anti-war activist, Allen Ginsberg's epic poem of the same title. The late Ginsberg, a long-time friend of Glass, is now widely, and properly, recognised as the pivotal figure linking the 50s Beat Generation and the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s.

Ginsberg (pictured above) wrote Plutonian Ode in 1978, at the height of the cold war, as an impassioned plea against the arms race and nuclear armament. During the last ten years of his life, he and Glass had performed frequently together in poetry/music collaborations. It had been their plan to collaborate on a piece based on Plutonian Ode but, unfortunately, Glass was unable to complete it until after Allen's death.
The three movements of the symphony follow the three parts of the poem, and follow, also, the narrative arc of the poem -- the first movement is a passionate outcry against nuclear contamination and pollution, the second a turn towards healing, and the final movement an epiphany arrived at through personal transformation.

The text of Plutonian Ode can be read 'here'. An MP3 of Ginsberg reading the poem (as well as MP3s of many of his other works) can be downloaded freely from the wonderful University of Pennsylvania site 'here'.

Here is a part of the first movement of Glass's Symphony to whet your appetite:

Tomorrow night, the orchestra will be conducted by Nicholas Collon, Principal Conductor of the Aurora Orchestra. Plutonian Ode is preceded by Richard Strauss’s classic tone-poem of decay and rebirth, Death and Transfiguration.

While we're on the subject of nuclear weapons and nuclear contamination, it seems like a good time to remind you all that, as of June 12th, the Faslane Peace Camp will have been in existence for 30 years. To celebrate this, a 30 Day campaign of anti-nuclear insubordination, from June 9th to July 9th, has been planned.

I visited the peace camp myself recently and I would urge anyone interested in this issue to get along and find out how you can help. With a vote on Scottish Independence and Trident replacement in the offing, now seems like the ideal time to revive the Faslane campaign. Due to the nature of some of the happenings being, ahem, not entirely approved by the MOD, the Faslane Peace activists are unable to provide a full list of events. However, here are the ones that they have announced;

PEACE PICNIC JUNE 17TH: Helensburgh CND would like to invite all local groups to a peace picnic at Faslane North Gate on Sunday June 17th from noon to 4pm. Jeely Peace cafe from Stirling CND will provide catering. Please bring banners, musical instruments and your friends. The Peace Camp will be pleased to welcome you before or after the picnic, or any time, ever.

PEACE MARCH FROM GLASGOW TO FASLANE 21ST-23RD JUNE: A group of enthusiastic walkers and concerned citizens will meet at George Square, Glasgow at midday on Thurs 21 June to walk to Faslane in the name of peace and no nukes! They will be stopping to camp en route overnight. The pace will be relaxed. Bring banners and practical shoes!

 RISE UP SINGING 1ST AND 2ND JULY: *Come and sing Trident out of Faslane and out of Scotland! *To re-invigorate the diverse creativity of Faslane 365 and to keep the issue of nuclear weapons firmly in the public eye and on the political agenda, Rise Up Singing (a Trident Ploughshares affinity group) has organised a two-day gathering to celebrate the 30th birthday of Faslane Peace Camp. Everyone welcome! No singing experience necessary. Bring a song to share, a banner and some cake, and we'll provide the tea.

ACADEMIC SEMINAR ROADBLOCK 6TH JULY: On Friday July 6th academics and activists from all over the world will participate in a seminar blockade as part of Faslane 30. The seminar blockade will be peaceful but will insist on claiming the public space for democratic debate on what security means both geopolitically and in people’s everyday lives. The seminar will involve creative public and participatory scholarship, using a variety of media and forms alongside workshops for small group debate, experience sharing and other kinds of learning. The timing and exact locations of seminar events will necessarily be determined on the day, but participants are invited to gather at the Peace Camp between 8 and 9.30 am.

CIRCA 7TH JULY: The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) will NOT be marching on Faslane nuclear submarine lair on Saturday 7th of July, oh no. Even though the Trident missiles at Faslane Naval Base could kill all the Clowns on the planet we won’t be there. Even though the Trident missiles at Faslane are going to be replaced at an astronomic cost when all Clowns are feeling the pinch, we will not be roused to action. Even though none of our Clown comrades and friends in Scotland want Trident or its replacement, CIRCA aren’t for turning (up). Most of all, even though Rebel Clowns would defend everyone for just the price of a rubber dingy and load of custard pies, even though Trident replacement will take our Army jobs away, we will NOT be part of Faslane 30. Academics say that CIRCA has died a death in Britain, and they are right. They must be right because they are academics and academics know everything about elites, exploitation, militarisation… (Funny how nothing changes, then, eh?) However. A new Army of Rebel Clowns from all over Britain is trained and ready to join our international comrades and peace camp friends to PARTY on the 30th anniversary of resisting nuclear nonsense at Faslane. If Trident makes us redundant and academics pronounce use dead, we will come to the party as the unemployable undead, as gummy vampires, vegan zombies and mangy werewolves. CIRCA will NOT be marching on Faslane, but a ghost army of Rebels Clowns – seasoned corpses and the freshly (sic) deceased (diseased?) might, just might, be there! Come on, do the Resurrection-Insurrection Shuffle!

Sound interesting? Then get yourself along to Faslane Peace Camp this summer. There are scenic camping spots, and vegan food will be provided for all meals (donations for which will be gratefully received from those who can afford it). Caravans will be allocated on a needs basis first, so do let the Peace Campers know in advance. They can answer questions and queries by email at or phone them on 01436 820901 or 07511793227. 

If you live in Scotland and you simply can't get along to support the Peace Camp's 30th birthday then you can at least support Scottish CND's Nae Nuclear Weapons Here Campaign. All Scottish CND want people to do is to add a pin to their map to show that people in every corner of this country want to see nuclear disarmament. Add your pin 'here'


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Griff says: California Über Alles - It's Eva on the Western Castle Island

I think we've probably got a unique combination of nationalities in a pop group for you tonight. If you know differently get in touch, but as far as we know Eva on the Western Castle Island are the only Finnish/Malaysian indie-pop group out there. The Finnish contingent is Ilkka, Eero and Martin who met in High School and who have been playing together ever since. In the spring of 2011, the boys found Eva through an advertisement she had posted on an internet music forum. Eva is a Malaysian/Chinese singer who had been singing as a professional in her homeland of Malaysia but had become disillusioned. Deciding that she needed a change, she moved to Finland, where her sister lived, and the rest is history.

Eva on the Western Castle Island have so far released only three singles; Shooting Stars & Satellites, 夏之恋 (Happy), and the nicely named PandaWonder - 奇幻熊猫. All of the songs are available as free digital downloads on their bandcamp page. Eva, as may be apparent from the song titles, sometimes sings in English and sometimes in her native Chinese. Her vocals give the band a distinctive Asian pop influence that sits nicely with the boys indie-surf accompaniment.
The line-up of the band is:
Eva Wong - Vocals
Eero Vesterinen- Bass, Vocals & Backing Vocals
Ilkka Saarinen - Guitar & Backing Vocals
Martin Linnankoski - Drums & Percussions

If you're wondering where the band name comes from, the surnames above give a clue, well to Finnish speakers anyway. Apparently, Eero’s surname of Vesterinen translates as Western, Martin’s surname, Linnankoski contains the word linna, which translates as castle, and Ilkka’s surname is Saarinen, containing saari, which equates to island. OK, that all clear now?

Anyway, the band recently got in touch to tell us about an acoustic video they have recently filmed for one of their new songs, California Shrills. I wanted to share it with you as I thought it was rather sweet. The band play on a raft, colourfully decorated with rugs and pot plants, on a freezing cold day on a small lake opposite, what looks like, a power station. It all seemed so whimsical, and featured such charming melodica playing, that I had to share it with you:

I hope you enjoyed that, I know I did. As well as bandcamp, the band can be found on tumblr, soundcloud and Facebook.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Griff says; Encounter with the shadow - Luna Moth

Tonight we're having an encounter with the shadow. Prosaically, I'd simply like to introduce you to the latest release by long-time Streetlamp favourite's Luna Moth (see 'here' and 'here' previously), entitled 'Shadows Casting Trees'. More fancifully, as befits an album which is mythic in provenance and intent, I use the term to subliminally remind you of the work of CG Jung (for, surely, subliminally is how he'd like to be remembered). I'm thinking here of his concept of individuation - the journey of transformation which is the mystical heart of all spiritual change. What has this got to do with music?, you're probably thinking. Well, let me explain.

Luna Moth is a music/art collective based in Norman, Oklahoma and has been operating since 2003 under the direction of main operative Joey Paz (pictured above with unkown chicken). Prior to this latest album, Luna Moth has recorded 8 albums of material, ranging in sound from minimalist lo-fi folk, to traditional Mexican ballads, to noisy psychedelic garage rock. All of the previous Luna Moth albums are available for free listening and download from the cllct music collective. You can also find them on bandcamp where, if you are inclined to support independent music financially, they can be downloaded on a 'name your price' basis. The Luna Moth bandcamp page is where you will also find this newly released work.

But what has this got to do with Jung and individuation?, the impatient amongst you are, no doubt, already asking. Let us allow Joey to explain:

"Thematically, Shadows Casting Trees is a concept album in which the ancient epic poem 'Metamorphoses' by Ovid is superimposed onto the canvas of the past year of my life, which has been defined largely by the discovery of previously unknown territory of mind through shamanistic plant healing in the Peruvian Amazon and the subsequent recognition of unconditional love. The idea behind Shadows Casting Trees is boundaries and forms shifting, the juxtaposition of sea and sky, the interplay of shadow and light, cosmic paradigms reversing, the simple beauty of all things reverting to their source. 

Aaaaah, now do you see? It's about the journey of transformation which is the mystical heart of all spiritual change. It seems that Joey in his travels arond the Americas and through his political battles closer to home in Oklahoma, "the most ultra-conservative state in the conservative U.S.", has had something of a metamorphosis himself, such that the doors of perception have been not so much opened as flung wide. So, what effect does this have on the Luna Moth music? It's difficult to say, to be honest, the Luna Moth sound has always been so diverse and wide-ranging. I'll setle for saying that, in general, 'Shadows Casting Trees' has a heavier, rockier sound than much of Joey's other work. But that's not the whole picture here. While the pounding drum intro and reverbed, distorted guitars of opening track 'Trees Casting Shadows' create a  fierce and ominous introductory energy, the mood of the album ebbs and flows to allow profound changes in atmosphere and  vitality - as witnessed by the enigmatic, spooky country-music of 'Lupine Blooms Voluminous'. I've embedded both these tracks below to demonstrate:

Lyrically, Joey is tilling in the abstruse soil of symbolism here and it probably helps to be familiar with Metamorphoses. This is a book which has lain untouched on my own bookshelf for quite some time now - probably as a result of having it forced on me at a tender age by an over-enthusiastic teacher. Funnily enough, when I pulled it from the shelf the other night, in order to reaccquaint myself with it, it automatically fell open at the tale of Arachne's tapestry, something which I believe may be referenced in some of the songs. Now, what would old Jung have made of that co-incidence?

I mentioned earlier that Luna Moth is a music/art collective. The striking artwork for this latest album was designed in collaboration with Oklahoma artist Tiffany Nachelle Edwards. The music and visual art are symbiotically connected so that the lyrical themes of the album inspired the creation of the painting that would soon become the cover, and vice versa. Tiffany Nachelle Edwards is also responsible for the other artworks used throughout this piece. You can view much more of her work 'here'.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Griff says; Refugees Welcome Here - May Day and everyday!

I attended the May Day rally in Glasgow today, as I usually do, and we were rewarded with fine, sunny weather for our march. For those of you who may be unaware, May Day, also known as International Workers' Day, is a celebration of the international labour movement. However, I didn't march with any of my Trade Union colleagues, who were presumably all sleeping off Saturday night hangovers, but instead attached myself to the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, who were glad to supply me with a placard proudly declaring 'Refugees Welcome Here'. I'm pleased that I was able to do my little bit to support the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees as they are a fine and honourable organisation, as I will explain in more detail below. But aside from that, after the rally at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, where speakers had been laid on by the Glasgow Trades Council, I was doubly pleased to be supporting a cause with such pure and noble aims, and I want to explain just why that is so important too.

But first things first; what is the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees?
Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees are a group of people from all walks of life who have come together with the aim of campaigning to improve the quality of life of asylum seekers and refugees arriving and settling in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Glasgow is a large city in one of the richest nations on earth and it seems only right that we should do whatever we can to provide sanctuary to people fleeing war, terror and persecution, particularly in the face of the racist smears and lies spread about refugees and asylum seekers by parts of the mainstream political parties and media in this country. Now, however, the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees has an even bigger fight on its hands. Around 150 refugees in Glasgow face eviction over the next few weeks by their landlord Ypeople, the former Glasgow YMCA. When evicted, these vulnerable people will be left effectively destitute without any access to work, benefits or any form of state support.

Ypeople, is a charity which is funded by the government to provide accommodation for asylum seekers and they currently hold housing contracts from the UK Border Agency in various locations throughout the city. However, these contracts are being handed over to the giant multinational company Serco, present in the military industrial & prison industrial complexes of most of the G20 countries, who have recently been granted funding to take over this role. Ypeople have until November before the contract is officially handed over to Serco but have decided to begin evicting people immediately. Those who have been told to leave include; families with children, pregnant women and people with severe health problems and mental health issues. To further compound the issue, this is happening at the same time as cuts have been made to the funding to the Scottish Refugee Council and other supportive community groups.

Thankfully, the people of Glasgow will not stand idly by while these, our brothers and sisters in humanity, are made homeless. The Glasgow Destitution Network, a network of community, faith groups and individuals, has set up a Night Shelter, which while very welcome, badly need support and resources. Go 'here' to see how you can help. You can also visit the Unity Centre Glasgow to see how you can help in other ways. Further to this, the FBU tabled an emergency motion to the recent Scottish TUC conference calling for no evictions. It also called for support for a national demonstration on 9 June by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and other campaigning groups. The Streetlamp will inform you of the details of this event nearer the time and would urge you to try to attend. For those of you in the UK, but not in Scotland we suggest a visit to the RAPAR website.

And now for some suitable music. Arts on the Run is a broad network of individuals and organisations across the Yorkshire & Humberside region in England with a common interest in refugee-related arts. The network was established in 2010 with the aim of using the creative power of the arts to promote social inclusion and integration. Arts on the Run welcomes and supports creative people who are refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers, exiles or who are otherwise marginalised, as well as individuals or organisations acting on behalf of these, or whose creative work explores refugee-related issues & the inevitable narratives of conflict, diaspora & sanctuary. In December of last year they released their first track, called We Are the Bridge, on bandcamp. The song is in Serbian, Shona and Kurdish, please check it out. It is available to download on a 'name your price' basis. Have a listen:

Now, a bit more about events at the Royal Concert Hall. While I was wandering around the various stalls before the rally began, I was pleased to meet and chat to a number of organisations whose causes I support. These included; Scottish CND, Scottish Friends of Palestine and The Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign. All good, solid left-wing causes. It had also been heartening on the march too to see anarchists and communists and Greens and various ideologically comitted socialist groups out there carrying the torch for progressive politics. However, something was bothering me, and I might as well be blunt and get right to the point, and say that it was the presence of Scottish Labour Paty members at both march and rally. You see, historically, there has been a symbiotic relationship in the ‘labour and trade union movement’ between the economic component (the trade unions) and the political component (the Labour Party). This remains evident today, as a majority of the unions still support or are affiliated with the Labour Party and provide it the bulk of its funding. The problem is, as has been mentioned before on this site, the Labour Party just can't realistically describe itself as a socialist organisation any more. It's time to face facts, the last Labour government laid the groundwork for much of this Government's agenda, from workfare to NHS privatisation. We had 13 miserable years of Labour government, which did nothing to support nuclear disarmament, illegally invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, carried on the legacy of Thatcher by further eroding trade union rights and encouraging privatisation. The same Labour governments carried out an unprecedented assault on civil liberties as part of their 'war on terror' and failed to tackle the growing wealth gap between rich and poor in the UK, instead preferring to kowtow to big business and the wealthy. The Labour Party is firmly signed up to the neoliberal agenda.
So, why do the unions continue to have anything to do with them? Why do Labour Party members continue to march with us on May Day? The keynote speaker at the Concert Hall was Owen Jones, an undeniably fine orator and, inexplicably, a member of the Labour Party. After delivering a rousing exposition of all that is wrong with modern Britain he rather spoiled the effect by telling us that the fightback had begun with the election of so many Labour councillors at the recent local elections. Another speaker made a similar reference. It was all I could do to remain in my seat and not voice my opposition. What planet are these people living on? There is a desire, a real burning and urgent desire in some areas, for an alternative to the vicious ConDem policies that are tearing our communities apart. But to even suggest that the alternative is the discredited and perfidious Labour Party is an offense to logic. When I was on strike last year with my union comrades, as part of the biggest strike in the UK since the 1920s, did Ed Milliband, the current Labour leader support us? When the same Milliband is asked what is his alternative to austerity economics, how does he reply? The man and his party are a disgrace and an affront to socialism. They are not the answer because they are part of the problem. We can never have a real socialist alternative while these wolves in sheep's clothing are loose amongst us; they are a fifth column among real socialist organisations. May Day is a proud and venerable institution, it is just the sort of event where organisations like Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and Scottish CND should be given a voice, a platform and a ready-made support network. However, in my opinion, its very essence is sullied by the presence of anyone associated with New Labour and I don't believe I'm alone in thinking that. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is the elephant in the room at any socialist or trade union event in Scotland. I'm sorry to vent my spleen in this way but I just had to say it. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you'll give it some thought.


Outré This World: The Music, Art and Aesthetics Of Man Or Astroman?

As regular readers of our Blogs (yes, all ONE of you) will know, if there is one facet of Pop music that we have a peculiar fondness for, it is the creation of other worlds. As we have said many times before, our favourite Brian Eno quote is that Pop music creates its own worlds...worlds exclusive to the particular artist.
Take The Cramps for example....they created an entire world based on 50s Rockabilly, Universal Horror movies, and Las Vegas bump-and-grind Burlesque; going way out of their way to have you believe that they actually lived in this particular world. But the same could be said for The Smiths who, through their record sleeves, lyrics, and group aesthetic created a world of Northern British outsiderdom; or Pulp who created a whole universe of polyester, crap-70's-TV hued sexual frustration and fumbling.
Or there are bands like reclusive oddballs The Residents who create an entire twisted parallel world based purely on the concept of themselves, then invite you to either visit or entirely ignore their creation.
And it's this high concept approach to Rock music that our subjects tonight go waaaaaay overboard to submerge themselves in....yes, welcome to the retro-futuristic radioactive outer limits of one of the few outstanding bands of the 1990s.....ignition sequence start....time to blast off with Man Or Astroman?

I first stumbled upon Man Or Astroman? by complete accident, and in the strangest of places. I had just passed my driving test and was driving up to Griff's one Friday night. The car was so old it didn't have a CD player, or even a decent cassette player, so I was listening to Radio1, which on a Friday night meant dance music. I think it may have been Pete Tong who was DJ-ing that night, and just as I got to the 5 lanes section of motorway heading into Glasgow, Pete slipped a weird pulsating Surf style instrumental into the glacial electronic mix he was playing. It coincided with that first look over Glasgow which was just coming to electrical life against a late Summer sunset. It was the perfect soundtrack. After the mix I heard Pete use the phrase 'Man Or Astroman?' and knew that had to be the track that had been played.
I knew I had to find out more about them....and I liked what I found....

Man Or Astroman? emerged sometime in the early 1990s. Coming across as a mix of Surf music, retro-Sci-fi and Punk energy, they sound like like The Spotnicks jamming with The Pixies, or Joe Meek wrestling Steve Albini (something I'd pay to see!!). Ditching the often trebley sound that plagues Surf music, for a more cavernous low-end thump, the band liberally sprinkle their songs and albums with snippets from old Sci-fi and Horror movies. They are also a ferocious live band, prone to outlandish stage theatrics, playing in space suits, and outré back projections.

But with Man Or Astroman? it's the whole package that counts, and their record sleeves and gig flyer artwork is an essential part of their overall universe, and some of the most beautiful sleeve artwork ever produced. Added to this, is the fact that the band prefer to release their records on vinyl in a deliberate rebuttal of Yuppie-scum CDs. Although their albums are often released on both vinyl and CD, their singles are almost uniformally pressed on 7"(and sometimes 5" and 10") vinyl, and coloured vinyl to boot.....even some glow-in-the-dark pressings! This also backs up vinyl junkies' arguments that record sleeve artwork doesn't translate well on the CD format, as some of the examples we'll look at show.
We here at the ~Streetlamp~ fully endorse the current vinyl revival, believing it is the only true way to hear music, especially Pop and Rock'n'Roll! Do yourselves a favour and look for the vinyl versions of your new record purchases!

But back to the matter in who are Man Or Astroman?
Claiming to be extraterrestrials sent to Earth to play Punk-Surf music, the band have kept their true identities fairly well hidden. The main core of the band are Star Crunch on guitar and occasional vocals, Birdstuff on drums, and Coco The Electric Monkey Wizard on bass and electronics. They have been assisted through the years by such secondary guitarists as Cap'n Zero, Dexter X, Dr Deleto, Blazar The Probe Handler and Trace Reading. Between 1993 and 2000 they released 10 albums and many 7" singles including many split-singles with bands on such record labels as Estrus, Clawfist, One Louder and Touch & Go.
They also recoded six sessions for John Peel, two of which can be downloaded here and here
In 1998 the band 'cloned' themselves to send out a touring band called the Man Or Astroman Clone Tour Alpha which featured clones Dorkstuff, Chromo Crunch, Dexter Y and Cocoid. After the success of that they cloned themselves again, this time as females called Coco Active, Chromita Starita, Tweety-Tone and Carol. This project was known as Man Or Astroman Clone Tour Gamma.
The original band split in 2001 but reformed for some live shows around 2006. In 2010 they reformed again and this time seem to be still going. Their Facebook page is regularly updated with live shows, and there are rumours of new studio material.

But let's now take a look at their incredible sleeve and poster artwork.
The band have always adopted an 'Outer Space' theme in their artwork, from the Astounding Stories comic book homages of Destroy All Astromen:

to the Exotica stylings of the Sounds Of Tomorrow e.p.

Then there's Sixties Spy Film themes

Americana Cheesecake

Retro Toy Commercials

Space Age Animation

And, of course, tons of the coolest Sci-fi

So there you have it....not just one of the coolest bands that has ever existed, but one which presses many of the ~Streetlamp~'s pleasure pads. For further explorations of deepest futures past check out some of the links below.

Keep watching the skies, my Friends...



A compilation of Man Or Astroman?'s earliest 7" singles, Destroy All Astromen can be downloaded here

A compilation of their later 7" singles, What Remain Inside A Black Hole Hole can be downloaded here
An official download of the band playing live at the BBC's Maida Vale studios can be found here
For a more in depth study of Man Or Astroman?'s record sleeve art then check out this outstanding Blog


Friday, 4 May 2012

Griff says; London Calling - Say Hello to The Tuts

It should now go without saying that The Streetlamp team like nothing better than an all-girl, pop-punk trio. Really, if this is news to you then you've just not been paying attention for the last two years. To be honest, I'm not really sure why we feature so many bands with that particular configuration; it just seems to be that if you take three girls and shake them up with a blend of guitar, bass and drums that it seems to produce the most fizzy, poppy, irreverent cocktail imaginable.
Anyway, our latest find in that category are The Tuts from Hayes, London. The trio have known each other since their schooldays, and their energetic brand of indie-pop is all self-written by vocalist Nadia. The full band line-up is:
Nadia- Vocals and Guitar
Harriet- Bass and vocals
Beverley- Drums

The Tuts don't have any records out yet, but will soon be releasing a 4 - track CD containing the songs; I Call You Up, All Too Late, Beverley, and Lying Lover (acoustic version). Keep an eye on the band's website for more details. They have also just completed their first ever video, directed and edited by Jennifer Doveton and Sam Brackley, for the song I Call You Up. Have a look and listen:

Excellent suff, I'm sure you'll agree. A free MP3 of that song can be downloaded from the band's tumblr page and also from their soundcloud page. The band can also be found on Facebook, and more tracks can be heard at Reverbnation.
It's worth noting at this point that Harriet, the bass player, is also a member of the wonderful Uxbridge pop-punk band Colour Me Wednesday. The Tuts' acoustic version of ‘Lying Lover’, which can be seen and heard 'here', also features Jennifer from the same band on harmonies. I thought that this was a good enough reason to indulge in a spot of Tory bashing, a favourite Streetlamp sport, and stick up the video for Colour Me Wednesday's Purge Your Inner Tory:

Ah, yes, that hits the spot! The full Colour Me Wedneday line-up is;
Danny Gardner - Bass
Harriet Doveton - Guitar
Jennifer Doveton - Vocals, and
Sam Brackley - Drums (did you spot the names of The Tuts' video directors in there?)

A free MP3 of that track can be downloaded from the band's soundcloud page. Colour Me Wednesday are also on Facebook.
Both bands seem to gig fairly regularly, so keep checking their websites to see if they are playing near you.

Griff xx

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

It's A Man Ray Kind Of Sky: The Sleeping Cinema

I fell asleep and read just about every paragraph
Just when you thought it was safe to return to Philistinism, the ~Streetlamp~ found themselves once again in the East End of Glasgow, having been invited to the latest event at the Pipe Factory....the Sleeping Cinema. This was a concept created by Alex Storey Gordon who we had met there the previous Saturday. The idea is to project the early cinematic works of the Surrealists up on to the ceiling whilst the audience lies on mattresses or in sleeping bags below. The idea being that audience will fall asleep, their heads scrambled by the avant garde images playing above them, and will be unable to tell where the movies end and the dreams begin.....

Read the scene where gravity is pulling me around
So we arrived in Glasgow on a rather pleasant Spring evening, the sky a whisky golden colour, and the usually bustling Barras area surprisingly quiet. As we made our way to the Pipe Factory, it struck us how odd the Barras looks on a quiet Tuesday evening as opposed to a frantic Saturday afternoon where the place is overflowing with street traders, winos and smack dealers. It was a totally different place. !esac ni tsuj arépO'l ed emôtnaF eL s'xuoreL notsaG fo ypoc debmuht llew sih gnola thguorb dah dnomyaR
Once again it was Alex who welcomed us in and showed us up to the top floor of the building where there were already some people lying on the floor, some entrenched in huge sleeping bags.
As we took our places, lying supine on the mats under the screen, the latest run of films was just starting....

Peel back the mountains, peel back the sky

The first film shown was 'L'Étoile de Mer', Man Ray's 1928 experimental work on which every shot is some way textured; either by being filmed off the surface of a mirror, through frosted glass, or simply out of focus. The swirling collage of images is probably the closest any of the films we saw tonight came to capturing the essence of a dream. Both Griff and Ray, who are usually quite resistant to the charms of Surrealist cinema, claimed this to be the most beautiful of the films we saw tonight.
Stomp gravity into the floor
The air within the building was surprisingly muggy, and I've no idea what Surrealism smells like but I'm guessing it may have the aroma of Sugar Puffs. Or it certainly did there, thanks to the two girls behind us!
It's a Man Ray kind of sky
Man Ray, originally a Dada-ist photographer, whose glorious monochrome images of women's faces, human bodies from strange angles, and industrial skylines are some of the most beautiful examples of Dada-ism, made only a handful of movies, but they remain the bedrock of the Surrealist film movement.
You can view the entire movie

Let me show you what I can do with it

The next film in the sequence was 'La Coquille et Le Clergyman', another film from 1928, this one directed by Germaine Dulac. The film is controversial in many ways. Firstly, it was denounced as not a Surrealist film at all, but one inspired by the German Expressionist movement. I feel personally however, that this is quite wrong....the bizarre juxtapositioning of images, the overt eroticism, and the ridiculing of the church and religion has far more to do with Surrealism than Expressionism.
Time and distance are out of place here
The second contentious point is probably the one it is most remembered for, and a perfect example of how the British Film rosneC are completely worthless, and utterly redundant! When the film was presented to the board of srosnec they immediately banned the film purely on the grounds that, and I quote "the film is apparently meaningless but if there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable". Yep, there you have it....because they didn't understand it, they felt it's message HAD to be offensive! That's British Film pihsrosnec for you! 
Step up, step up, step up the sky is open-armed
The film itself is a series of deranged hallucinations experienced by a Priest who has developed an infatuation with a woman who he is marrying to an army general. The mix of the clergyman's creepy behaviour and odd movements, coupled with the sinister, stoic deadpan General, and the dark-eyed eroticism of the woman prove a heady hallucinatory vibe that was matched perfectly by the bizarre circumstances we found ourselves in.
Again, you can view the film ʍolǝq...

When the light is mine, I felt gravity pull

It should be pointed out here that there was an air of contrariness about this whole venture; the idea of going to see films purely on the very real chance you may fall asleep seems very odd, as does the fact that Alex chose NOT to show the Grandaddy of all Surrealist films, 'Un Chien Andalou'. Surely this akin to having a night of Gangster films and not showing The Godfather! Maybe it was felt that 'Un Chien Andalou' would be too much of a distraction from the rest of the films, but there was no complaints when the next movie started, for yes, it was time for the yrelbbiw dnatstah that is 'L'Age D'Or'....
Holding my head straight (looking down)
This madcap collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali plays out like one huge Monty Python sketch....or rather Monty Python is L'Age D'Or stretched over four series. Again, the overall tone of the film is anti-religious, anti-authoritarian, and even anti-Cinematic as it steamrollers over every movie cliche of that time.
In his introduction to the Moviedrome showing of the film 'Performance', Alex Cox describes James Fox's character, after he has slicked his hair back with red paint, as the first Punk Rock movie star since Gaston Modot. And I'm guessing it's Modot's performance in this film that he was referencing. Surly, rude, truculent and prone to outbursts of violence, Modot also appears to have a cockatoo hairstyle in one scene after he's been thrown in the mud.
Completely bizarre in every way, L'Age D'Or features burning Christmas trees, decomposing bishops, cattle in the bedroom, priests and giraffes being hurled out of windows, a couple's constant attempts at sex being thwarted, a Christ figure losing his beard, a young boy shot by his adoring father, and a rat being killed by a scorpion.
It was during this film that I first noticed that Alex had removed all the subtitles from the prints. I guess this was so that the viewer doesn't become too involved with any narrative (fat chance!!), and that the viewer focuses only on the image. It's safe to say that subtitles aren't required for L'Age D'Or though, especially as this was about the 40th time I had seen it.
If you have never seen it before, I urge you to check it out, either by getting the DVD and watching it supine on your back....or on the viewer ʍolǝq....

This is the easiest task I've ever had to do
Way back around 1989, when I first got the book Incredibly Strange Films, I was fixated by the list of 'must see' films that the authors had compiled at the back of the book. I made a point of trying to see every film on the list. There, in amongst all the exploitation, horror and general weirdness, was a film called 'Land Without Bread'. I tried in vain to see this particular film but to no avail.
So, when the next film began spooling last night, and the opening card read 'Terre Sans Pain', I immediately became excited as I knew straight away that this was indeed 'Land Without Bread'. However, my enthusiasm was tempered slightly by the fact there were, as I pointed out earlier, no subtitles. The good thing, however, was that this meant you had to concentrate on the images playing out.
Reason had harnessed the tame
The film, again by Luis Bunuel, is more of a Surrealist documentary than a movie, and it deals with life in remote and desolate part of Spain, where the industrial revolution doesn't appear to have reached, and the people seem to live in a mix of poverty, desperation, and a basic sense of getting on with life. The faces are as craggy, pained and remote as the landscape in which they dwell. This is life at it's hardest and the haunted visages looking out at us seem almost to be from another world....or a nightmare.
Holding the sky in their arms
It was at this point that I realised that Griff had actually fallen asleep, as had a couple of other people in the room judging by the breathing patterns. Well, I guess that was the whole point of the artistic exercise. Ray later claimed that he found himself zoning in and out of the films, again exactly what was the desired effect. Unfortunately, thanks to my unusual body-clock which prevents me from feeling sleepy until 1:30am, I watched the whole shebang wide awake and worrying that Griff and Ray weren't enjoying the experience....they not being as fanatical about Surrealist films as I am.
Once again, you can catch the whole film

When 'Terre Sans Pain' finished, Ray and I decided it was getting a bit late and we had to drive all the way back to Stirling. So I thumped the mat Griff was sound asleep on and he practically exploded awake! As we made our goodbyes, Alex thanked us for coming and seemed pleased that we had really bought into the whole experience. He still had a few films to run, including the Cocteau trilogy 'The Blood Of A Poet', 'Orpheus' and 'The Testament Of Orpheus'. As we walked back to our cars, my worries that Griff and Ray hadn't enjoyed it proved redundant as they extolled the virtues of both the films and the whole event.
I think it's safe to say this was another success.
Me....I just needed a little shut-eye!

Gravity pulls me down



Lyrics by Michael Stipe