Vague ramblings

Brightwing: as childhood slips away

Posted in Life, Music, Personal stuff by Ian Cundell on 25 May, 2016

It was, pretty much, an impulse purchase.

Since somebody had gone to all the trouble of sorting out absurdly complex music rights, it seemed downright rude not to take the opportunity to wallow in a bit of nostalgia for lazy Sunday mornings watching Channel 4’s diet of comfort telly.

A bunch of graduates and postgraduate students, more or less hungover, in the back end of the 80s easing themselves into the day. The Waltons (entire, in the correct order) and a rotation of The Fugitive, Bonanza or The Invaders – all terrifically atmospheric. But teeing it all up, The Wonder Years.

It is a show that succeeds for a variety of reasons – music from when blues-based rock and pop was in its pomp, tight scripts and stories rooted in truth. Mostly I think the key is that it was never afraid to let central character Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) be a total dickhead. Despite entirely American cultural references, the suburb could have been anywhere on in the industrialised World where people had no choice but to work hard for a living and, even then,  earned barely enough to get by – something the kids didn’t quite get.

So I settled in for a wallow. It it was fun, rediscovering how it knew when to prick the humour with pathos and vice versa, and exactly why it got us out of bed of a Sunday morning. I remember Karl and Gus and Alex and Maria  and, of course, Kath, from Rowfant Road with whatever the inner equivalent of a dopey grin is.

And then the last 5 episodes of Season 2 happened. They are an extraordinary essay on the pain of childhood loss – of the brother killed in Vietnam, of childhood starting to slip away and for a society showing the first signs of the fragmenting that would shape the World ever since.

And it began with Brightwing, which centred not on the three main characters, but on Kevin’s big sister, Karen (Olivia d’Abo). She induces Kevin to help her bunk off school, and lures him into her rebellious hippy world – blind that he is desperate to rekindle their earlier childhood bond. But she is trying to get out of the suburbs and, despite a promise to Kevin, jumps in a car with friends and tries to run away to San Fransisco. I doubt that Donovan’s Catch The Wind has ever been used to greater emotional effect.

There’s a lot of literature about brotherly love, about sisterly strength, about the pain of parents letting go and children moving on. There is much about father and daughter, mother and son, mother and daughter, father and son.

But this story understands the brother-sister bond, and that seems to be a very rare thing indeed.

It is a bond that cannot be broken, whether you like it or not. It can be stretched until it is a filament, no thicker than a molecule of DNA. It can rip at your heart, or ignite you rage.

But it doesn’t break.

When rain has hung the leaves with tears” it will still glisten in the morning mist.

Rebels, heroes and genies

Posted in Life, Music, Personal stuff by Ian Cundell on 11 January, 2016

When my radio alarm went off at the top of the hour, as it does, it jumped, as it does, straight into the news headlines. David Bowie has died. After maybe 20 seconds I rolled over and turned the radio off. It wasn’t – as it often is – irritation at the increasingly fatuous nature of modern journalism, but because my mind filled with this:

At that moment, I really didn’t want to think about that. But it is later in the day now.

Some time in the late 1990s – so when I was living in Docklands with my then-girlfriend – we were watching Top of The Pops 2, which sliced and diced TOTP appearances from across the entire run of the show. And this performance came on, in full Ziggy Stardust flow. Mick Ronson sharing the mic, TOTP deploying its amplifier-in-the-back-pocket, lip-syncing style.

And I realised that I remembered seeing it the first time round. Bowie and Ronson, arm-in-arm, sharing the mic. Then I worked out that, when I saw it for the first time, I hadn’t even started secondary school.

For the first time in my life, at the wrong end of my 30s, I felt something other than young. The impact was much too complex to summarise as either positive or negative, and it is not the only thing from my past that has popped up to stir my emotions. But it was sobering.

Artists can never know the full impact their work has. It can be at the individual level, like my unscheduled sobriety. But it can be much bigger, like the song that was – nominally – a poem to West Berlin youth’s penchant for making out at the Wall in full view of the East German watch towers, which became something much more potent. And you don’t have to take my word for that:

And, lest you think this a wistful whim of the German FO’s Twitter team, then Germany’s foreign minister put that to bed:

This dimension was exemplified by the years David Bowie spent in Berlin during the 1970s, when he recorded his song “Heroes” in the legendary Hansa Studios, a homage to Berlin at the height of the Cold War and a soundtrack of the divided city.

“Genie”, in its French form, génie, translates as “genius”. Pop stars, we were told in our rebellious youth, wouldn’t be remembered as the old singers were.

Ha!

I’d be willing to bet that Heroes will be played a lot in Berlin tonight.

 


No time to reflect right now…

Posted in Music, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 21 December, 2015

Ordinarily I would post something pensive and reflective at this time of year. I might yet, but in the mean time:

WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN’T BOUGHT LEWISHAM & GREENWICH NHS CHOIR’S ‘BRIDGE OVER YOU’?

Below is the official video, and these are the places you can buy it:

• iTunes – http://tinyurl.com/z4v98cj
• Amazon – http://tinyurl.com/jup2bb3
• Google Play – http://tinyurl.com/h2yu3xg
• 7 Digital – http://tinyurl.com/hg5swkf

The National Health Service at No 1 for Christmas. How bloody cool would that be?

Buy it, STREAM IT on Spotify (10 plays of at least 30 seconds = 1 purchase, and that is where Justin bloody B**ber is winning). And tell everybody you have ever met to do so too.

(Edit: to be fair to the Beibs, even he wants it at No 1. He is Canadian, so understands the value of universal health care)

Seriously. What are you waiting for?

No Man’s Land

Posted in Music by Ian Cundell on 11 November, 2013

A little something for Armistice day:

There are a lot of self-consciously “Oirish” versions of this song (written by a Scots born Aussie), but this version by Boston’s Dropkick Murphys avoids all of that and performs it is it should be: raw, unflinching and angry.

Lest We Forget.

Years may go by

Posted in Music, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 6 March, 2009

Courtesy of those nice people at Apple I have recently been upgrading my music collection to the whizzy new iTunes Plus format. A side effect of this was more poking around in my collection than I normally do and I stumbled upon something of a revelation.

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Moments of perfection

Posted in Ace Writers, Music, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 2 January, 2008

There are few immutable truths in the arts. Until recently, in fact, I thought there was only one: that pop music reached its moment of perfection, never to be surpassed, when Martha & The Muffins released Echo Beach. There has, of course, been much fine pop music before and since (the entire body of work by Squeeze springs to mind), but nothing has, or will, touch the completeness of Ontario’s finest export. That, to me, was the only truth in the arts.

Then I read Terminal Misunderstanding by the late Evan Hunter (better known to many as Ed McBain) and think I have found another one.

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