We’ve just crossed the threshold of the Theatre of the Absurd or, more properly, the City of Manchester Stadium to where the Mancunian Sky Blues moved during the 2003/4 season from their ageing yet much loved Maine Road with its slightly sloping pitch and once home to goal-keeping legend Bert Trautmann.
He was a former German prisoner of war – who, famously suffered a severe neck injury with about fifteen minutes left to play in City’s 1956 FA Cup Final defeat of Birmingham City but, in true Roy Of The Rovers style, carried on regardless. It was only three days later and after a thorough set of x-rays that it was revealed that he’d actually dislocated five vertebrae with the second cracked in two places – in straightforward terms, he’d broken his neck.
Terribly stiff upper lip and all that… and all frightfully Rudyard Kipling, whereby the very notion of pain is an anathema… but, in earlier times, Trautmann had been awarded the Iron Cross for heroics performed on the Eastern Front, had been a Paratrooper within the Luftwaffe as well as something of a Houdini, escaping from both the Russians and the French Resistance – thus, the minor inconvenience of a broken neck wouldn’t have felt like much of a setback as he kept goal at Wembley.
So, here we are behind the highly French-polished, closed doors – where danger lurks behind every filing cabinet – and the board, the Sheik of Arabi-owners and manager are sitting discussing this potential world record-breaking transfer fee and attendant salary for player # 1, the Brazilian dribbling-whizz Kaka.
As is known, the figures being bandied about are as follows: the transfer fee is said to be 100 million with a yearly net salary of 15 million for the player – obviously that’s not counting in his personal endorsements, merchandising rights and so forth. However the arithmetic is done, it’s a tidy sum.
Over forty league games, that’ll mean he trousers 375,000 per match; so… with each game going the distance – ie, he’s not substituted or predisposed by a severe case of man-‘flu– that’ll mean that for every seven and a bit minutes he’s on the pitch, he’ll earn 30,000 – in other words, more or less the average UK worker’s wage… for a year.
Equals – if person Z works for 45 years (give or take the odd recession here or there), then they’d expect to pocket around about 1,350,000 during that time. Not bad in the wider scheme of things.
Yet – it’d take that one man or woman – eleven working lifetimes – to bank what Ka Ka will lodge into his current (probably off-shore) account in any 12 month period.
Which is a bit more than George O’Dowd will be earning over the next fifteen months while he is a guest of Her Majesty – having, this afternoon, been banged up for the (illegal) handcuffing to his bed of a Norwegian male escort who… ultimately escaped (which just goes to prove that pink fur-lined handcuffs don’t always work), charged off down Shoreditch High Street wearing just trainers, boxer shorts and hand-cuffs… caught a ‘plane (that didn’t crash-land into the Hudson River) back to Oslo and… then sold his tale of woe and anguish at the hands of that nasty Mister O’Dowd for five and a bit grand to a local scandal rag.
There is a curious bit of symmetry here… because… the video for Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, Culture Club’s 1982 light-reggae-tinged numero uno smasheroonie in over a dozen countries from their Kissing To Be Clever debut album featured George in not just a courtroom scene but… sulking behind bars too.
Fifty million records sold world-wide and yet, you can still be jailed. Community Chest anyone… or just throw a double-six and collect the cash by by-passing Go and avoiding multiple hotels on My Fair lady..?
Government initiatives come and go; they’re up and down and on and off like so many tart’s thongs… Green is the new red white and blue and is there life on Mars? It appears so – well, according to one well-read tabloid who tend to avoid words of more than two syllables ‘cos long words are a bit tricky for their readership to grasp. Thus the word methane makes it onto their front page.
I honestly don’t know why anyone’s particularly bothered about finding methane (or marsh gas as its more commonly known) on Mars. After all, if it is to be used as a source of green energy, how is anyone planning on getting it back since the acknowledged best method of transporting methane is via a pipeline.
Mars is roughly 35 million miles away… it tends to move about a bit, due to orbits and complicated stuff like that. Equals – an awfully long pipe and… what’d happen if it sprung a leak?
So, wouldn’t it be better to use more available resources? Wouldn’t research zillions be better spent on figuring out how to hook up a herd of cows to an energy distributor – cattle flatulence accounts for one-quarter of the UK’s methane emissions with a single cow producing 400 litres of gas per day… that’s potential energy and the pipe would be a lot shorter.
Of course this could also translate across to men coming home from the methane-inducing combined pub and late evening vindaloo experience – whereby the following morning’s full-monte-fry-up could be cooked by harnessing and the overnight storage of… (un)natural gas.
And, for the life of me, I can’t see why there are so many objections to wind farms – that’s not a lot of cowsheds all wired up; that’s row upon row of wind turbines. Natural energy. Yet… the detractors are in there and any process of harnessing natural energy – which seems so logical to me – is fraught with difficulty and takes ages to get up and running.
Perhaps I’m ill informed or just plain stupid but, that particular technology has been in use for centuries to grind corn and so forth so, what on earth is the problem with modern day equivalents? They’re a lot cheaper and safer than the Chernobyl option and by no means unattractive – driving way down south in France a couple of summers back my youngest daughter and I came across an astonishing array ranged right across the top of a lowish escarpment… a car-stopping, camera-wielding moment. Beautiful. .
And, today – whiling away the in-between Project X hours until sundown – I’ve also been thinking about another compilation that might have been. And, I’ve come up with the following which I’ve entitled Aural Symmetry (Snapshots In Time)… and, this is what I reckon should be on it… and why.
1. Book Of Rules – The Heptones… a single (WIP 6179 – though never one to trouble the compilers of the charts) as well as a veteran cut from a number of Island compilations over the years, most of which have been long since deleted. Produced by Harry J in 1973, this is harmony-led rock-steady at its very finest, never past its sell-by date as it remains as fresh-sounding as it was the day the initial acetate was cut in Kingston town.
2. Brother Can You Spare A Dime – Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance… founder of the Small Faces and then the engine room behind what became Rod Stewart & The Faces, Ronnie recorded two albums for Island but this is a one-off single (WIP 6229) and taken from the 1975 film of the same name. Never a hit and, besides, Slim Chance were always a better live outfit – their set one of the highpoints at the Basing Street Christmas party a year earlier, ending with Ronnie’s wife and a couple of others can-can-ing around the studio. Tragically, the musical world lost Ronnie to Multiple Sclerosis in 1996.
3. Lady D’Arbanville – Cat Stevens… From literally dozens to choose from, this is the opening cut to his curiously entitled Mona Bone Jakon album; the first song (and single) that would re-introduce the world to the man who’d earlier hit Decca / Deram paydirt with Matthew & Son… His total, troubadour style Island reinvention ultimately pitch-forked him into the monster selling league when the two follow-up albums went stratospheric. The bristling pin-up of countless bed-sits is still bearded, but now better known by his faith name, Yussef Islam
4. Times Square – Marianne Faithfull… it’d probably be logical to think of a cut from Broken English, La Faithfull’s Grammy nominated comeback that took the entire world by surprise… surely that’s not that pretty blonde chick from Reading who once squired Michael Philip of Jagger then got down and out spitting out the lyrics to Why D’Ya Do it..? It was… but this is from her A Child’s Adventure album, although the jury’s still out in terms of whether this is the better variant since the live version of her co-write with Barry Reynolds recorded in New York for the Blazing Away record and featuring Dr John is equally killer.
5. Tiny Goddess – Nirvana… many students of music wouldn’t be aware that Kurt Cobain’s group was not the only one named Nirvana. This is from 1967 and the duo’s (Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos ) first of two Island releases – the Story Of Simon Simopath – very possibly the world’s first quasi rock(ish) opera since it long pre-dated The Pretty Things SF Sorrow’s own footprints in that particular bed of quicksand. Over forty years on, the entire album remains a seminal slice of psychedelia while the original gate-fold cover would now be something of a collector’s item.
6. A La Perla De Cadiz – Paco de Lucia… born plain Francisco Sanchez Gomez in Algeciras in southern Spain, virtuoso de Lucia (who can barely read music) is acknowledged as one of the greatest ever exponents of Flamenco Guitar – indeed, noted by many commentators as one of the all-time greatest guitarists; this outstanding track is taken from the first of his two Island albums, Almoraima
7. Concrete Jungle – The Wailers… As much as it is with so many Island acts, it’s a nigh-on impossible task to choose just the one – definitive – track. With Marley, its beyond impossible so, the rationale behind this is: it’s the opening track from the Zippo-lighter sleeved Catch A Fire album and… it’s the first ever Bob Marley track I heard. And one that – quite literally – changed my known-as-it-was-then musical horizon for ever. Those opening few bars (first encountered in an upstairs conference room in a Horsham hotel during an Island presentation of forthcoming releases to the EMI Sales team of whom I was a member at the time) should have carried some form of health warning… once the needle dropped into the groove on that white-label test-pressing, I’d begun my journey past the point of no return.
8. I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight – Richard & Linda Thompson… Former Fairport Convention stalwart (acknowledged by Rolling Stone in 2003 as one of the top-twenty guitarists of all time) together with his then wife Linda (Peters), The CWS (Manchester) Silver Band and their enduring – though minor – hit from this, their 1974 debut album – the first of three recorded for Island.
9. Genius Of Love (original 12” mix) – Tom Tom Club… a loose collective based around half of Talking Heads – Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz; Genius Of Love is the second single from their 1981 debut and was only released in the US after over 100,000 copies of the 12-inch platter sold in to the US as UK imports. Incredibly widely sampled over the years, Genius Of Love has been ‘utilised’ by Grand Master Flash, Ziggy Marley (Tomorrow’s People from the Grammy Winning #1 album Conscious Party). Mariah Carey and other Bad Boy MCs and re-mixers such as the X-ecutioners.
10. Rehab – Amy Winehouse… multi-million selling, recipient of every award under the sun, a modern-day phenomenon, a true Island artist of any era. If there was a previously unreleased version of this absolute classic, then that’s what would live here since every other released variant of this timeless three and a bit minutes has been hammered to death. File under indispensible.
11. The Apple Stretching – Grace Jones… taken from 1982’s top-twenty release, Living My Life, the last of the Sly & Robbie infused Compass Point trilogy of albums. The track was written by Melvin van Peebles for the Broadway show, Waltz Of The Stork. Featured heavily in her One Man Show of the same era, the album cover is yet another striking Jean Paul Goude image – Grace as a US Marine with square hair and a white sticking plaster over her left eyebrow (although its not – its white masking tape as used by graphic artists at the time and cunningly positioned over the final, heavily manipulated, photograph).
12. Midland Maniac – Steve Winwood… a musician who is more a cornerstone of Island than anyone; this is the closing cut from – back then – one of the most long-awaited solo albums of all time. Steve’s first stab at the genre resulted in what became Traffic’s magnum opus, John Barleycorn Must Die and it was as near as dammit two decades later that this hit the streets. Legend has it that this track is about the late Chris Wood but true or false, who knows? What is true is – this was a solo record in every sense of the word; every instrument, every vocal was Winwood – and he both engineered and produced it too. This wasn’t a single, not much played on the radio either but this track is as pivotal a piece of music as almost any other in his remarkable career.
13. Some Guys Have All The Luck – Junior Tucker… alas, poor Junior – he never did as it was Robert Palmer who scored with this. Junior’s sugar-sweet, early-teen voice married to an almost lovers-rock variant on the arrangement we all know and love and yet, sadly never much of a hit though, from memory, it dented the lower reaches only. To compensate, we took Junior shopping in Hamleys during his promo-trip to London – an uneasy expenses reclaim explanation followed. Just a one-off single yet… it still hits the spot.
14. Sailing – The Sutherland Brothers… written by older brother, Gavin Sutherland – thus he copped all the publishing when Rod Stewart covered the song; the BBC used it as the theme for a documentary series about HMS Ark Royal in 1976 and took it on a chart-topping rollercoaster all around the world. Two versions exist, the better is the pure brothers one as opposed to the one recorded with Quiver with whom they toured and recorded two albums. An alternative track would be The Pie from the brothers’ first, sans Quiver, album.
15. My One Temptation – Mica Paris…from a pure Gospel background, Mica signed to Island subsidiary 4th & Broadway when she was 17 and this is the lead cut from her 1988 debut – So Good that also featured a collaboration with Will Downing (Where Is The Love).
16. May You Never – John Martyn… recently awarded an OBE, John’s career encompasses folk-roots Glasgow although by the time he signed to Island in 1967 he was a major-player within the mid-sixties London club scene – May You Never is from his epoch-defining 1973 album Solid Air (one of Q Magazine’s top 100 albums of all time) wherein his jazz-slurred vocals and echoplexed, fuzzbox treated acoustic guitar embraced a densely-rich new tapestry of his own making. On first hearing, yet again a ‘what the fxxk is that’ moment.
17. Molten Gold – Paul Kossof… one of the great young white blues players and justifiably famed for his guitar exploits with Free, this is from Koss’ only solo album – Back Street Crawler and features Jess Roden’s harmony vocals; Koss died of a heart attack mid-air on a flight from Los Angeles in March 1976 yet his enduring legacy lives on.
18. Jah Heavy Load – Ijahman… born Trevor Sutherland in Manchester but converted to Rastafari whilst serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure in the early seventies. The opening cut from his 1978 debut is a pearl of a tune that also featured Steve Winwood on keyboards – album design by the ubiquitous Tony Wright who (probably) created more Island album jackets than anyone else.
19. Bad – U2… from Mount Temple School in Dublin to the biggest band on this planet via three chords and the truth; perm any six tracks from three hundred and still there would be disagreements. There are many versions of Bad – within this compilation it’d be the never released twelve or so minutes of audio from Live Aid (if one could attain the clearance rights)… the afternoon when Bono went walkabout leaving the rhythm section stranded; the evening the band nearly fired him because they only got to play two songs and therefore missed out playing their hit of the time (Pride) and the morning after when – along with Queen, U2 achieved global acknowledgement as one of the two genuine uber-highlights of that extraordinary July Saturday in 1985; the moment U2 took hold of centre stage by the scruff of its neck and never let go.
20. Dear Addy – Kid Creole & The Coconuts… signed to Michael Zilkha’s ZE records and licensed to Island, the final track from their Fresh Fruit In Foreign Places epic… a regular closing song within their mid-eighties live set and, quite simply one of the great love songs of all time; with Darnell’s gut-wrenching, heart-rending vocal delivery of a song written about his soon to be ex-wife, Mama Coconut herself.
Hmm… those explanations (if that’s the right word), those rationales of inclusion on a song by song basis almost read like the beginnings of sleeve notes.
Yet, as I read back through what I reckon wouldn’t be that bad a little snapshot in time, I’ve realized that there’s so much more that could’ve been included.
For example, I’ve yet to find a place for the Stereo MC’s; the Fratellis; Head Hands & Feet; Jess Roden and Bob Marley (although they’ve both appeared in the background); Will Downing; Paul Weller; The Waterboys – hey, if a ZE or 4th & Broadway artist can be included, then so can an Ensign one; Ultravox!; Dave Mason; the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra; Steel Pulse; Art; Birelli Lagrenne; Claire Hamill; Toots and The Maytals; The Plastics or Third World… and that’s still only the tip of this particular iceberg… but, Anthrax; Mott The Hoople; Mountain; Automatic Man; Scaffold; Salad; The Slits; Baba Maal; LKJ; Etta James; Millie and The Jags… they’re all part of the story too but… where would they live?
You know what..? I can feel more of this ilk emerging…