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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Zodiac Mindwarp

I had a great day out at the weekend at a car boot sale in Clydebank, picking up a telescope, a book about astrology and a slightly-soiled packet of tarot cards for £1.50. I’ve been thinking for a while about making a career change, so it has occurred to me that I might be able to give the old ‘horoscopes’ game a bit of a go. If any of my predictions come true, please let me know. Once I’ve done a bit more studying, I will be available for personalised forecasts, tarot charts, exorcisms, bespoken curses etc.
Aries
Strong planetary undercurrents are at work and you could be pulled toward someone without even realizing it. The person you snogged at the Christmas party will win cinema vouchers in a raffle. With Pluto moving through the seventh house, it’s likely that you’ll need to think carefully about how to respond to this surprising development. Also, there is a carton of yogurt at the back of the fridge that has reached its sell-by date.

Gemini
The celestial balance of polarities between the macrocosmic and the microcosmic universe has shifted in a way that could make things tricky for you on Wednesday afternoon, so try not to wear anything yellow. If you are allergic to cats, stay at home. If cats are allergic to you, go out. If you are allergic to your house, buy a cat. Something quite small and made of wood will be the cause of an argument with a close friend.

Cancer
Your Day Sign in Mayan astrology is ‘Crocodile’, which symbolizes new beginnings. As a crocodile, your personality is clever, creative and assertive, but you would be well advised to avoid spicy foods towards the end of the week. Warning: On no account accept an invitation from a woman called Denise.

Taurus
Mercury’s retrograde movement means that romance might be in the air for you. You need to appreciate someone close and to make it clear just how much they mean to you. But whatever you do, don’t push it; sending explicit photos would be a serious error of judgement. Your lucky number today is 23,952. Be careful if you come across a big puddle – it may be even bigger than you think.

Sagittarius
You Day Sign in Mayan astrology is ‘Leopard’, which means you are playful and intelligent and comfortable around animals, mainly because they can’t answer back. Something that looks and smells like a squirrel will cause an argument between two close friends and you may have to step in to sort things out. An unusual planetary alignment has implications for your finances and cash flow issues will become prominent. There is a fiver down the back of the couch.

Aquarius
Finances or friendships or health or romance have been on your mind lately, but good news is just around the corner and you can finally give some thought to your own long-term interests. This might involve looking at holiday brochures, purchasing some cake-mix or maybe buying shares in a racehorse. A friend will make a chance discovery after a visit to an acupuncturist and will seek your advice. Next Thursday, go through your wardrobe and throw out everything purple.

Virgo
The odd celestial atmosphere means that some curious undercurrents are at work. Someone who is normally very careful with their words will want to tell you more about what they're thinking and feeling, while a Piscean subject may make an attempt to hack into your facebook account. On Friday, a cousin you haven’t seen for ages will turn up out of the blue and ask to borrow some money. Virgo subjects would be well advised to avoid going to the cinema until Mercury’s retrograde movement through the second house is complete.

Pisces
The current astral configuration means you will spend a lot of time wondering about the pros and cons of becoming involved in a certain relationship. You will meditate on it from various angles, but with Neptune in the ascendancy for the first time since 1998, it may finally be time for you to be bold for a change: Start by sending the person of your dreams a series of slightly ‘saucy’ texts. Who knows where that might lead? Later in the week, a friend whose name begins with D, E, F, G or T will sprain his (or her) ankle and /or have a bad experience at the dentist.

Scorpio
Not much happening at the moment.

Libra
According to Mayan astrology, you are Storm (or Rain), the nineteenth Day Sign. You have a soothing, nurturing nature and –in a previous life- you may even have had healing powers. Some folk find you annoying, but they are probably just jealous of your chakra, or whatever. Strange smells will be prominent over the next few days, while a Cancerian subject with the initial G, R, S, T or W will tell you about a money-making scheme and /or a painful ingrown toe-nail and /or a lost train ticket.

Leo
The curious planetary alignment today encourages you to view recent incidents in a new light. Everyone at work is talking about you and that unfortunate error of judgement over those ‘joke’ emails. Best to put it all behind you, but you should now give some serious thought to your personal hygiene. A friend or neighbour will be thinking about buying a new hat, but steer clear of giving him or her any advice. ‘Steve’ or ‘Stephanie’ will call.

Capricorn
Today’s planetary aspect means it is time for you to come out of your shell. Stop hiding behind excuses, routines, and timetables. Exciting moves are afoot; you will be invited to attend a meeting in Paisley sometime early next week. There, you will meet a man called ‘Yuri’, who will hand you a suitcase and the key to a safety deposit box at Glasgow Central station. You must take the 7.38 to Glasgow Central and deposit the suitcase in the correct box, then go home to await further instructions. Your lucky colour is mauve, or maybe yellow.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Song of the week: 'You can't tell a heart how to behave'





Recorded virtually live and then given a studio ‘re-polish’, this haunting track was once a staple of the Gum live set, although it was not included on either of their albums. The lyric touches on the old country and western theme of love gone wrong, but the fractured electronics and minimalist chords (spot the nod to Angelo Badalamenti) take it into rather more sinister musical territory.  The backing track was recorded live at a Gum rehearsal and, because we liked the overall feel of it, we decided just to overdub the vocals and add a couple of effects to finish it off.     


Gum - you can't tell a heart how to behave

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Kemal Pervanic interview



I’m privileged to have conducted a fascinating interview with Kemal Pervanic, a survivor of the Bosnian conflict of the early 90s.  He was put in a concentration camp and was interrogated and punished by folk who were formerly his friends, neighbours and work colleagues.  Kemal is a powerful and insightful speaker and I'm sure anyone listening to this interview will be moved by what he has to say.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have lived our lives without having to endure significant conflict can only imagine what it must be like to have your world turned upside down.  In Kemal’s view, it did not take much to tip his country over the edge from civilisation into chaos and he has some interesting things to say about the current state of play in Europe.      


Kemal Pervanic interview edited

Monday, 11 February 2013

Song of the week: 'Cruel November'



This week’s song is ‘Cruel November’ and is the first in an occasional series called ‘what I did in the 80s’.  I recorded this track in collaboration with Paul Piacentini around about 1988 or 1989.  A gifted musician and songwriter in his own right, Paul was very much the production brains behind this piece. As I recall, it was pretty much assembled by him on his own, with me providing the top melody line and throwing in one or two production and arrangement ideas. 
Paul and I spent several years not only playing in a band, but working on various songs, including one or two that were written for other performers.  Working with him taught me a lot about production and arrangements.  Although we often had very different ideas about how songs should be structured and presented, the creative tension sometimes worked to our advantage and we often found an interesting accommodation between our respective musical desires. 
Lyrically, the idea of using the seasons to evoke a political dark age is not blindingly original, but it’s only pop music, already.  The notion of this sinister ‘lawman’ and ‘his sloganeering gang’ is one that I have explored, for better or worse, on a number of occasions.



Cruel November

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cannibalism in pop: the next witch-hunt




In the last few months, we’ve been made aware of a series of sordid revelations about Jimmy Saville and some of his sleazy chums from the worlds of broadcasting and pop music. So damning are these revelations that it seems that the history books will have to be re-written in order to airbrush certain unsavoury characters out of the picture.  That process is already well underway; when was the last time that you heard, for instance, a song by Gary Glitter or Jonathon King on the radio? 

Some folk are glad to see pop music trying to clean up its act.  Any civilised society, they would argue, should make a point of hunting down and condemning all sex offenders. Thank goodness we have a legal system that allows offenders to be retrospectively identified, vilified, condemned and crucified by properly-qualified folk, i.e. those who phone-in to talk radio shows and /or tweet regularly and /or have heard a rumour about so-and-so who "always looked kind of dodgy, didn’t he"?
Yet in spite of all this righteous vigilance, some offenders remain under the radar and unpunished.  One act in particular seems to have escaped the notice of our PC police. 

As recently as 1982, the pop group Toto Coelo got into the top ten with their disgusting anthem "I Eat Cannibals".  As far as one can make out from the lyric, it was little more than a sordid glorification of a vile practice that should have died out years ago.  So why on earth did the authorities allow this sinister cult to peddle their foul omnivorous propaganda? Isn’t it time that this hideous act was brought to the attention of those wishing to clean up pop’s sordid history? Isn’t it time that the media spotlight focused on Toto Coelo and all that they stood for?  Or is there one taboo that even the PC police dare not touch? 

Cannibalism was once all the rage among the ruling classes, but it fell out of fashion during the Edwardian era and became more or less illegal in the UK in 1909, when parliament passed the ‘Foodstuffs, Comestibles and Victuals’ act.  The practice gradually died out and the last recorded incidence of cannibalism in the UK is said to have taken place at the Scarborough Cricket Festival in 1973, when, during a rain-delayed match against Fraisthorpe Colliery Colts, a visiting team from Sutton-under-Whitestonecliff is believed to have kidnapped and eaten the substitute fielder E.P. Dunstable.   

And yet, incredibly, less than a decade after that notorious incident, Toto Coelo managed to storm the charts with the clear intention of restoring cannibalism to respectability.  It is surely only a matter of time before our ever-vigilant press delivers a retrospective judgement on this sinister cult.