There’s a beautiful festival in Wales called Green Man. It’s a decent sized festival for a man of my age. No major queues for the Real Ale and the Goan Curry was just as The Observer Magazine had described it – ‘spicy yet refreshing’. And let’s not forget the Kedgeree for breakfast, a snip at £8.
I was there to do some talking in an area called Babbling Tongues, first to interview Edwyn Collins and his wife Grace. It all seemed to go well and old acid head Julian H Cope was there. The man who made looking at stone circles cool. The man who became an expert on Neolithic Culture. I’m not sure if Neolithic Culture are a Dutch prog band from the early 70’s or not but Julian is an expert nevertheless. I had the pleasure of introducing Julian and Edwyn. Well, it was actually more like an episode of This Is Your Life. They had not seen each other for 30 years.
Julian chatted as Edwyn smiled and listened. Julian presented Edwyn with one of his books as he recounted tales of how dark it is in Norway and how his new novel is called 131, set in Sardinia and is mainly about football hooligans and the rise of rave culture. It really was a sight to behold. 1983 seemed like yesterday. And as my wife’s grandfather used to say, what a terrible day it was yesterday.
The other reason I was at the festival was to read some extracts from my forthcoming book. My good friend Richard King was going to interview me and allow me to ramble on and sing my song. I didn’t realise until the day though that I was going to be a warm up act for John Cale. That’s right John Cale was going to be talking right after me. At last I was on the same stage as The Velvet Underground – another dream come true. He looked fantastic for a man in his early 70’s. Short trousers and pink hair is a good look for someone who used to date Nico, produce the Happy Mondays and have tea with Graham Greene.
These moments sometimes reveal old memories. Seeing John Cale reminded me of listening to I Heard Her Call My Name from the second Velvet Underground album at ear splitting volume to annoy my step dad when I was 15. ‘What do you mean it doesn’t sound like music?’ I shouted back at him. ‘Neither does the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band’, I muttered to myself as my Mum’s husband loudly whistled the tune to The Floral Dance.
It also reminded me of being in Loop back in the late 1980’s. We played a gig in Rugby on Easter Sunday in 1987 – it was with Spacemen 3, The Perfect Disaster and a band called The Darkside. The event was cleverly titled EASTER EVERYWHERE. I recall that Spacemen 3 closed the night and invited us on stage. We did a 25 minute version of Sister Ray again from the second Velvets album. From what I recall it was totally brilliant – in reality it was probably only 5 minutes long and an utter shambles.
Seeing John Cale also reminded me of his great solo album from the 1970’s called Paris 1919. It’s a short, sharp shock of an album with beautiful melodies and catchy tunes, perhaps his most commercial album to date. The first song on the album is called Child’s Christmas in Wales, which got me thinking…
I remember on time in either 1986, 87 or 88. I was in Loop and we were on tour. It was a month or so before Christmas and we had a gig in Wales, Port Talbot to be precise. It was a cold, dark winter night. It was also a Sunday which meant everything was shut. I mean everything. We struggled to find a caff or pub to eat in and eventually settled for crisps and a mars bar from the local garage – which we caught just before closing time at 4pm. I recall trying to buy a packet of cigarettes as well. ‘20 Marlboro Red please’ I asked the old man behind the counter. He looked at me as though I was an alien. ‘We don’t sell them yankee fags’ he said. ‘They are the most popular cigarette in the world’ I arrogantly replied. ‘Not round here they’re not’. I accepted defeat and got 10 B&H.
We searched for the venue. There was no one around. It was like the end of the world. Eventually we came across a shopping centre – someone in the band remembered something about the venue being in a night club in a shopping centre. Surely there can’t be more than one shopping centre in Port Talbot. Bingo. This was it. We found the door to the night club. It was open.
We wandered downstairs and surveyed the scene. Classic discotheque vibes, mirrored walls and mirrored balls. We went back to the the van and carried our AC 30’s and Telecasters down the stairs. Get ready Wales. Get ready for a sonic aural assault. We 4 skinny leather troused oiks are gonna blow your little minds and take you on a trip to the outskirts of reality. Throw your indie preconceptions out onto the street, lock up your loved ones. We are out to destroy you with 30 minutes of vibrato, pounding drums and screaming guitar solos.
I looked for the stage so we could set up the gear. Where the hell is it? We looked around. Nothing. I spotted a dreadlocked chap behind the bar. ‘Excuse me mate do you work here?’
‘I do boy. I do.’What can I do for you boys then. Pint?’
‘We were looking for the stage actually mate. We wanna set up our amps and the drums for tonight’s gig.’
The dreadlocked man looked at me and smiled. ‘You’re after the stage are you lads? Sorry but we’re using it for Santa’s Grotto.’
Christmas in Wales. God bless John Cale and god bless Santa Claus.
The short story ‘form’, as it has come to be called, often feels like a younger neglected sibling of the better-nourished, over-indulged, fatter and brasher, novel. Novelists work on a big canvas tackling subjects in panoramic vision and glorious technicolor with the ambition of a Picasso approaching Guernica, or perhaps like Rothko, working towards a ‘pure abstraction’. They get all the prizes, attend all the glitzy parties, and generally monopolise the few inches of newsprint dedicated to literature on, and off, the shrinking literary pages.
Something about the short story is best suited to modesty, subtlety and the sharp prick or turn of the screw rather than the sometimes over-reaching ambitions of novelists to furnish us with a State of the Nation portrait. It’s almost as if the short story by-passed the longuers and the preoccupations with character and naturalistic narrative of 19th century literature and arrived fully formed as an early Modernist form, with Poe, Mansfield, Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant as its principal masters.
Our next monthly Faber Social on 2nd September, in association with Small Wonder Short Story Festival, is dedicated to the short story and the contemporary voices we love writing, and performing (and that’s something we often forget: short stories are perfect for public performance, being – mostly – short, dramatic, and self-contained) today. To tempt you along here are three stories by two published and prize-winning writers and one, as yet, unpublished, who will also be reading. Do join us in celebrating the charm, formal inventiveness, and explosive energy of the short story at Faber Social.
Read Winter Luxury Pie from I Could Ride All Day In My Cool Blue Train by Peter Hobbs here.
Read Verge by Will Burns here.
Read Torgren’s Travels from Petit Mal by DBC Pierre here.
Faber Social is proud to present a national tour of one-off events to mark the publication of Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by Bob Stanley.
Throughout October, founding member of Saint Etienne Bob Stanley will launch his book in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and London by hosting evenings of discussion, music and pop-nostalgia with a unique panels of guests including:
10 October: Gorilla, Manchester, with artist Jeremy Deller, Stella Grundy (Instastella), Paul Hanley (The Fall) and Ruth Daniel (Un-Convention). Buy tickets here
11 October: Leaf at Water Street, Liverpool with Andy McCluskey (OMD), Paul Du Noyer (NME) and Jayne Casey (Cream). In association with Waterstones. Buy tickets here
12 October: Off The Shelf Festival, Sheffield with Candida Doyle (Pulp) and Dave Simpson. Buy tickets here
16 October: Rough Trade East, London with Green Gartside (Scritti Politti) and Sian Pattenden (Smash Hits). Buy tickets here
Each unique event will give music fans a chance to hear about the story of modern pop, in each city from a selection of its informed aficionados and key players.
Other events include :
26 September: Cambridge Picturehouse as part of Cambridge Film Festival with a DJ set, book signing and screening of Elvis: That’s The Way It Is Buy tickets here
3 October: Barbican, London launches a month-long Yeah Yeah Yeah film season with a Q&A, book signing and screening of Arena- The Very Strange Story of The Legendary Joe Meek Tickets and dates here
22 October: Waterstone’s West End, Edinburgh in conversation with Vic Galloway Buy tickets here
25 October: Tyneside Cinema, screening of Elvis: That’s the Way It Is with Q&A with Bob Stanley and book signing Buy tickets here
15-17 November: Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast, a weekend-long Yeah Yeah Yeah film season with Q&A and book signing Buy tickets here
18 December- Saint Etienne Christmas Party Islington Assembly Hall, London Buy tickets here
Yeah Yeah Yeah
Published by Faber on 3 October, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by Bob Stanley tells the chronological story of the modern pop era, from its beginnings in the fifties with the dawn of the charts, vinyl, and the music press, to pop’s digital switchover in the year 2000, from Rock Around the Clock to Crazy In Love.
Yeah Yeah Yeah covers the birth of rock, soul, punk, disco, hip hop, indie, house and techno. It also includes the rise and fall of the home stereo, Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits, and ‘this week’s highest new entry’. Yeah Yeah Yeah is the first book to look back at the entire era: what we gained, what we lost, and the foundations we laid for future generations. It will remind you why you fell in love with pop music in the first place.
Bob Stanley’s Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop has already gained advance praise from the pop world. Artist Jeremy Deller describes the book as ‘a good old romp through the late twentieth century’s greatest art form.’ And Caitlin Moran says ‘London has the A-Z, and pop now has Yeah Yeah Yeah. Finally, pop music has its Boswell’.
Faber Social Presents …
Faber Social presents Bob Stanley, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop plus guests. Tickets available from www.eventbrite.co.uk.
Ahead of our event with David Peace at the Lexington on Wednesday 21st August, watch this trailer of Red or Dead, his new novel about the rise of Liverpool Football Club and Bill Shankly.
Tickets for David’s only London event cost £8 in advance / £10 on the door and are available to buy here.
Back in the Summer of 2010 I bored people stiff with my, as I then thought, uniquely inspired vision that Olympians by Fuck Buttons should be the ‘theme’ of the 2012 London Olympics. Imagine my surprise (he says) when I tuned in to Danny Boyle’s universally acclaimed Opening Ceremony to hear not Waterloo Sunset, When I’m 64 or My Generation but that very same song by the band with a name that would send shivers up the spine of even the most enlightened members of the Tory Cabinet. Fuck Buttons. What does that even mean? It sounds wrong in every single way and looks wrong every single way you look at it. And it was definitely wrong to hear Olympians blasting out on BBC1 last Summer. But there was also something thrillingly subversive about it.
Olympians was a white noise post-rave assault and fans of the Andrew Weatherall produced Tarot Sport will find equal pleasure in their new album, Slow Focus, just released by ATP. The noise, the music, Fuck Buttons make is difficult to articulate. After all, what great music is easy to describe? As Zappa said, ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.’ It’s a quote that seems particularly relevant to Fuck Buttons because each track on Slow Focus, the whole album indeed (and the same can be said of Tarot Sport) has a fine architectural shape.
Now there’s a sentence deserving of Pseud’s Corner.
The mess, the noise, the repetition, the blurry epiphanies, all feel crafted with a grand design in mind by two people who like James Murphy or Kieran Hebden, love to introduce chaos into a slow-mo dance framework. This is possibly the most exciting and terrifying album of the year so far: the anarchistic counterpoint to Pantha du Prince’s equally inspiring The Bell Laboratory.
Embrace the fear. Fuck Buttons are not for the faint hearted.
Join us for this one-off event celebrating Poetry & Music with a heady mix of stories, music and performance backed by a stellar line up; The Leisure Society, headed up by twice Ivor Novello nominated song writer, Nick Hemming, will treat us to an acoustic set of songs from their new album Alone Aboard The Ark, which is, in part, influenced by Sylvia Plath; fresh from his Essex Lion show at the Edinburgh Fringe and with his first collection Mondeo Man behind him, poet Luke Wright will entertain us with wit, wisdom and wordplay; previously published under the Faber New Poets scheme Sam Riviere (81 Austerities) and Joe Dunthorne (Submarine) team up to perform an energetic one-off piece about their relationship entitled Battle; and poet Ruth Padel will read from her mixed-genre meditation on migration, The Mara Crossing.
The Leisure Society’s Nick Hemming wrote a piece on capturing the essence of Sylvia Plath in song lyrics for Faber Social. Hear a track and read the article here. Luke Wright wrote an exclusive poem for Faber Social’s Beck Song Reader event last month, which you can read here.
Where: The Social, 5 Little Portland St, London W1W 7JD
When: Tuesday 24 September 2013
Tickets cost £7 in advance / £9 on the door and are available to buy here.