A millennial’s unlikely obsession with Bob Dylan

Upon hearing Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” I had a feeling that Bob Dylan was going to become my new musical obsession. In my teenage years it was the Beatles, then Oasis (unfortunately), then The Smiths (who made up for wasted time) and now it appears to be Bob Dylan.

There’s something about tackling an established artist’s decades-long discography that I find can either propel one to devouring the years of talent and hard work that an artist has put in, or it can be completely off-putting because of the almost insurmountable question: where the hell do you start?

Dylan in the past was such a case for me.I took a day trip to Liverpool when I was around 17. Outside HMV I was lucky enough to find a £20 note on the floor. I went straight inside and blew it all on CDs, one of which was “Blonde on Blonde” which I’d heard at the time was a well-regarded and celebrated album of Dylan’s and I wanted to sink my teeth into this mysterious figure and get to like him.

At the time I didn’t get it. It’s not that I thought it was bad, it’s just that my expectations were too high. His voice was weird, the music too bluesy and the ballads too self-indulgent, or so I thought at the time. “Blonde on Blonde” sat unlistened on my iPod for years (the same iPod I use today), and I moved onto other things. I’m reminded of a Woody Allen interview where he talks about 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he said he saw when it came out. Allen said he didn’t like it at first and it took him a number of years to come to love and appreciate the film because he wasn’t at the same point in his life as the artist-Kubrick-was.

I was very much at the same stage in regards to Dylan: I was not yet mature enough to appreciate where the artist was coming from. His sixties records often contain themes of alienation and separateness from wider society, which at 17 were questions I had not begun to ask of myself, I was more interested in playing Xbox and half-assuredly talking to girls.

However, during this past year at University studying for my Masters, I stumbled across “The Ballad of a Thin Man” on a recommended playlist on Spotify. I loved how Dylan laughed at the expense of the narrow-minded bores in society. Mr Jones is a straight-laced journalist, he’s well read, he’s well known, but he’s just a damn square. Dylan was referring to the highly educated journalists who appeared to know shockingly little about popular culture in the 1960s, and I feel the same disconnect with the older generation nowadays and even with popular culture. I don’t like the politicians, I don’t like the careers out there, I don’t like most people’s attitude to life, I don’t like conformity for the sake of one’s own comfort and I certainly don’t like this feeling of perpetual hopelessness at my own accomplishments in my safe and boring little white male privileged lifestyle.  Any 20 something who doesn’t feel the same way needs to open their damn eyes.

With”Highway 61″ I was amazed at the superb wordsmith that Dylan appeared to be. Songs like “Tombstone Blues” seemed to contain seemingly endless poetic beauty and possess irrelevant, surreal characters and situations that someone seemed to speak to me about my own life. One month I bought practically all of Dylan’s sixties albums, loaded them onto my iPod. “Bring it all back home” is my favourite, containing some of the best lyrics I’ve honestly ever heard committed to music, here are some to conclude this post with:

“20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift..”

“Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on all around you”

“I try my best, to be just like I am, but everybody wants you, to be just like them”

“I jumped right in line and said I hope that I’m not late, when I realised I hadn’t eaten for five days straight”

“While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he’s in”

 

National Poetry Day 2016- My Poem

 

The Ocean’s Skin

Somebody suggests a different way to fix what is wrong

And all of the newspapers scuff scoffs and scorn

They say stick to the path and keep to the norm

They say you can only idolise that which is already born

The paupers are happy with their unbuttered corn

Money once again has sung, talked and sworn-

And then you notice one day that theme park sheen

Increasingly shapes and morphs the machine

And somebody peels back the ocean’s skin

And takes a peek at what lies within

He says I’ve seen it and it ends not with a bang but a whimper

And his mother says, you rascal, you faggot you swine, you tinker

The bouncer on the door, more than just his pitbull face

He’s observed and critiqued ideas of creed, purpose and race

Melinda takes drugs for the angst of being alive

Drugs to broaden the horizons of her mind

Her baby’s weight, more story than flesh

She drags upon her post-birth cigarette

Because there’s no room for nuance when you’re pressed against the wall

Why listen and change when there’s no point at all

Such as Gordon, who tries to be a moral man,

But old blind Bill led him by the hand,

He said take a look down yonder at the foundation of sand

That lays at the church’s foundations

And concede that God has left an emancipated nation

I’d love to contemplate it all, but I don’t have the patience

 

 

 

 

Which Wordsmith do I want to be?

One of the toughest decisions that I am still yet to make in life is which art form do I pursue? Do I become a master of guitar and music? Writing? Stand-up comedy? Video making? Each of these crafts can take a lifetime to master, and are all equally appealing.

A musician can inspire, move and uplift people. A good lyricist will craft his words in such a way that the listener can be struck straight in the soul by another who ‘gets it’ and has eloquently put words together in a succinctly beautiful combination. Is this what I work every day   to become?

Is this what I work every day  to become?

A writer is more versatile. A writer can take its readers to far-flung fantasy lands, back in time,  and to the future. A writer can instill empathy into its readers for differing groups in society. They can inform us, make us laugh, entertain us and make us weep like babies. A writer can write the blockbuster movie that everyone talks about in the Summer or the novel on which it’s based. Do I work every day to become this kind of wordsmith?

Do I work every day to become this kind of wordsmith?

A good stand-up comic can make an entire room of people laugh at the same time just by talking and using words. A stand-up comic can explore taboo topics and make its audience laugh at the absurdity of some aspect of it. A stand-up comic takes the absurd and drops it down at our feet like a deer carcass, we never saw it that way before and now the person we are has been changed slightly forever. Do I even try and get on a stage and give this a go?

Do I even try and get on a stage and give this a go?

All three of these art forms require writing to a high standard, and so I hereby vow that I will write whenever I can so I can perfect the craft and turn my hand to any of these. Musical proficiency is the thing I need to reach a compromise with myself on. Am I content to stay at the level that I have reached? Or should I aim to become consistently better over time without the illusions of grandeur of becoming a ‘professional?’

Whichever path I decide to take, if any, I will be disappointed. The grass is always greener on the other side but any of these choices is an extremely perilous path with little short-term reward. Anything worth having is bloody hard work as a man once said, so, in short, I’m going to aim at getting better at writing primariliy, and keep abreast of my music in the meantime. I’ll think of it as doing a major in writing and a minor in music.

 

A horror film beginner’s top five best Halloween films you should see before you die!

I’m not the first to put together a stupid list like this and I won’t be the last. However, that does not mean that the films I list have been selected lightly. These are what I consider to be five of the best Halloween movies you should watch this October.

 

The Wicker Man (1973)

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This is basically a horror version of Hot Fuzz (2007). Or rather Hot Fuzz lifts a hell of a lot from this movie: A creepy town that smacks of conspiracy, a frustrated policeman, weird British idiosyncrasies and Edward Woodward.

The film follows policeman Sergeant Howie, who is looking for a girl who’s reported missing. Suffice to say, a brilliant performance from the late Christopher Lee- who considered this his favourite film of his own- and a climatic ending which is spoiled in the same way as Planet of the Apes is by its bloody movie poster. Still, a great movie if you don’t mind some slow pacing this Haloween.

Halloween (1978)

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A boiler suit. A white mask. The suburbs. Teenagers. Halloween. The simple but extremely effective recipe that creates the John Carpenter classic.

Micheal Myers, (no, not the guy who played Austin Powers and Shrek) escapes from a mental hospital to return to the town that he murdered his sister one fateful Halloween in 1963 when he was six years old. Now he’s back to murder a young Jamie Lee Curtis and her promiscuous babysitter friends in one of the most electrifying and groundbreaking slasher films ever committed to film.

This is how you set up the premise to a horror movie: you make your movie a ‘sequel’ in the sense that the backstory is explained to the audience at the start of the movie. Audiences understand that Micheal murdered his sister when he was six, so we know he’s crazy and scary already as soon as he enters the film’s main story. Not to be watched alone, and certainly not over the phone with your babysitter buddies.

Not to be watched alone, and certainly not over the phone with your babysitter buddies.

 

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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One of the best things about this film is that it’s actually in the public domain, meaning that you have no excuse to not give this movie a go this Halloween. It’s admittedly dated, and corny at times, but you have to remember that this is basically the first ‘modern’ zombie film. George A. Romero essentially developed the type of slow walking, flesh- eating, undead zombie that we now see in so many modern interpretations of the zombie.

Although these days there is a penchant for the ‘infected’ rather than the undead- AKA the unkillable- this film is an important piece of film history that thankfully we can all enjoy and use for free due to the copyright claim being incorrectly submitted (no internet to research that shit in the 60s).

Th movie also benefits from featuring a lead black actor in the motherfucking sixties, a rarity in and off itself, especially with modern black actors often struggling to find decent lead film roles beyond, White leads compassionate black friend, breif which so many great black actors are wasted on these days.

 

Psycho (1960)

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The original slasher film to which John Carpenter’s Halloween owes a lot. This movie is so iconic that it also suffers from its heightened position within film pop culture. They even made an average Hitchcock biopic a few years ago with Antony Hopkins playing Hitch that seemingly ran on the fumes of the original film over 50 years later. The film follows a young lady called Marion played by Janet Leigh who steals money from her boss and goes on the run. She stays at the Bates Motel and the film evolves from there. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must surely be aware of the infamous ‘shower’ scene’,

The film follows a young lady called Marion played by Janet Leigh who steals money from her boss and goes on the run. She stays at the Bates Motel and the film evolves from there. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must surely be aware of the infamous ‘shower’ scene’, needless to say, the film grips you and engages you in a more effective way than most modern films tend to do. There’s a reason that people call Hitchcock the ‘master of suspense’, although this does not mean I would recommend all of his films.

Janet Leigh is also the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the lead in Halloween, which just goes to show that its who you know in Hollywood that matters in the end…

Mulholland Drive (2001)

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David Lynch presents one of his creepiest and unnerving films ever with this one, and that’s saying something when you think this is the same guy who made Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986). To attempt to explain the plot would be to trample on first-time viewers of the film, so in short, the premise is Naomi Watts plays an aspiring actress and moves into her Aunt’s house in L.A. She discovers a mysterious woman who does not remember her name or how she got there.

There, that’s all I’m giving you, you’ll have to watch it and discover yourself why this film is so creepy. Although not a strict horror film in the same sense as the others in this list, this film is likely to intrude your thoughts while you make your cup of coffee weeks and weeks after seeing it. So if you fancy some confusing, upsetting and unresolved scenes this October, then check out this film.

 

British Politics is messed up- Here’s why

One thing that we can all say for sure at the moment is that things are skewed in British politics at the moment. Following the Brexit vote, everything is up in the air. Borris Johnson is Foreign Sec, the Labour party is absorbing the hits on the crooked finger pointing and yells consisting of triumphant “Ha!”‘s and ‘Nobody votes for a divided party!” The Conservative party is also in disarray. Divides on the pace of Brexit and arbitrary battle lines of those for the soft and cuddly Brexit and the hard and stiff Brexit. And then, according to a two-page spread in  The Observer yesterday, Theresa May stands as the in the middle. A measured and collected mediator who draws up a compromise between the two groups and brings them together? Or the “Out-Of-Her-Element-Shut-The-Fuck- Up-Donny”figurehead waiting to get crushed in the middle from unrelenting demands on both sides.

A majority of 12 that was just about scraped together by David Cameron against Ed Milliband. Let’s read that sentence again. A majority of 12 that was just about scraped together by David Cameron against Ed Miliband. David Cameron barely managed to win a majority against Ed Milliband, possibly the weirdest choice for Labour leader in the modern televisual age. Ed Miliband tried to appeal to everyone. After all, that’s how you win elections, he probably told himself. You win over every person possible wth really cool policies that everyone will love and then you win the vote because the coalition is not doing cool enough stuff. This was basically his strategy. Appealing to everyone was a strategy that turned out to mean that you appeal to no one:

  • He just about won over left leaning people who were pissed off at the Lib Dems and found themselves reluctantly crossing Labour at the ballot box rather than the bloody Tories. Hardly a basis from which to launch your election with such lukewarm reception from your own people.
  • Floater voters either voted Tory, invested in the extremely long-term economic plan, or voted Ukip as so many were pissed off with the status quo.
  • Conservative voters, notoriously self-assured that their way of doing things is the only possible solution to the world’s obstacles, were never going to vote for Red Ed.

Red Ed worked effectively as a piece of right-wing weaponry against Miliband because it rhymes, it’s simple and it rhymes. “Red David” or “Red Jeremy” are not used because they do not rhyme. A potent Molotov hurled at Miliband by the tabloids which defined Milliband a loony lefty, whereas those on the left who understand what that actually means, accused Ed of “Tory-lite” policies.

Crushed in the middle by the demands of both wings of popular opinion in Britain, sound familiar? Theresa May has an enormous uphill struggle against the tide of public opinion on Brexit. She says she wants to please everyone but as Ed Milliband demonstrated this could mean pissing off everyone. Speaking of pissed off, the former government allies Gideon ‘Gidiot’ Osbourne and Sesame Street’s Big Bird in the form of Nicky Morgan, have been making waves in the media lately and they haven’t been terribly kind to the new Prime Minister: “Yes, I suppose she wanted a different face to mine.” said Nicky Morgan on a BBC political talk show, referring to Theresa May sacking Morgan as Education Secretary. A “different face” is an interesting and revealing comment for Morgan to have made. One perspective that Morgan considers secretaries as figureheads that are merely used as a tool for governmental departments to present policies to the media and withstand its scrutiny. There is a case to made that it is

“Yes, I suppose she wanted a different face to mine,” said Nicky Morgan on a BBC political talk show, referring to Theresa May sacking Morgan as Education Secretary. A “different face” is an interesting and revealing comment for Morgan to have made. One perspective is that Morgan considers secretaries of state as figureheads that are merely used as a tool for governmental departments to present policies to the media and withstand its tepid scrutiny. There is a case to made that it is actually the unelected senior civil servants that shape and drive forward policy reforms rather than the publically educated white blobs  who typically studied something like Classics at Oxford and after a few years tramping around after an MP, another white blob with the same story, are soon put in the charge of the entire country’s agriculture. Or foreign diplomacy, in the case of Borris “the racist” Johnson. Suffice to say, British politics is a unpredictable sess-pool at the moment: Theresa May has old enemies leftover from the Cameron government, the power- hungry Boris and the slightly mad and arrogant Liam Fox in key cabinet positions, a Labour party beginning to get its shit together, a divided country, a media with a right-wing agenda, a refugee crisis that is politically toxic to tackle because of media hysteria, a racist undercurrent, high housing prices, stagnant wages, a floundering creative arts, a crumbling NHS and an unelected Prime Minister who believes her own hype.  

 

The hunt for a job-a graduate’s woes

Trying to find a job these days is as boring as it is terrifying. Having just finished my Masters degree in modern history, I need to get one, because of rent, debts and for the sake of any ambition I have to do something reasonably interesting with my life.

Some positives with finishing my degree:

1.) I have started reading and writing for the pleasure of it more and more now that I’m not forced to read large volumes of boring books and regurgitate them into my own hoop jumping scripture.

2.) I can do anything I want. ANYTHING. This is a bit of a double edged sword, yes I can do what I like, but what the hell do I even like? I’ve been blindly following the treadmill beneath my feet up to this point, and now that I’ve looked up from all the head burying techniques I’ve used since childhood- reading books, gaming, watching films and more recently mind altering substances such as alcohol- I have no idea how to get myself into my own driver’s seat. Does anyone? Am I the only one? I know I’m not, and that’s little comfort. However, if I, and people of my age who find themselves in the same position, can just about manage to begin facing life head on like the majority of humanity seems to manage on a daily basis, then perhaps we can work out what the hell we want.

Two negatives with finishing my degree:

1.) Why the hell did I do history? Oh yeah, because I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I still don’t! I love playing music, or do I love the idea of playing music? If I want to do music then I still need a job in the meantime, but then what the hell do I choose? These are the sort of mundane non-problems that punch me in the chest with nervous anxiety fuelled ferocity all the time. I want to give music a proper go, no more half practicing, no more staying within my comfort zone forever and ever, it’s time I start getting serious about music if I want to be taken seriously. Perhaps I could tutor kids in maths or english as a way to support myself, or teach guitar to kids. If I taught guitar then surely I would get better myself because it would kind of force me to. If I put an ad out on gumtree and say I teach strictly beginners, then maybe I could make a few quid. And then I could have periods where I work in temporary jobs in order to boost my income and savings so I can carry on playing guitar?

2.) I’m a pussy. This is perhaps my greatest obstacle. Self-esteem, well ain’t that the dream? I’m terrified of making the wrong decision, I’ve only realised recently how much I constantly worry about everything. I think, I could set up a business of some kind, and then my first thoughts go; what the hell would I even set up? And then: I don’t know how to run a business, I would fail. I am a failure. i don’t believe in myself enough, even though I know in my head that I am smart, I am a fast learner, I can work hard, I can be funny, I can sing and write good music, I can do these things but I lack the capacity for the audacity for hope. I fear failure so much that it paralyses me, I fear not having enough money to do the things I want to do, and yet if money were an easy aspect of life then more people would become self-made rich people, and yet I still worry about it. Overall I have the confidence of a little fat 9 year old girl at a beauty pageant.

Liverpool Psychedelic Music Festival-A place for those looking for some edge

Liverpool’s psychedelic music festival just concluded its second year, and it did not disappoint. Amidst the swirling drones, the industrial noise, primal screams and multitude of keyboards and guitar effect pedals, this festival is where on can certainly find some edge.

Having booked just a Saturday ticket due to: not knowing what to expect, having no prior experience in psychedelic music and the cost of the ticket, I can now throughly recommend the festival to anyone considering getting a ticket next year to go for the whole weekend. I was lucky enough to live down the road from the festival and so did not have to fork out for the frankly overpriced hotel rooms on offer in way of accommodation for those traveling in.

The festival featured four stages, Factory, Furnace Camp and District and it was nice to be able to flit between the stages when something didn’t take one’s fancy. Which it sometimes did not, which was part of the beauty of it all. If you’re anything like me, then music that turns heads, breaks the mould and pushes the envelope is far more likely to hit your musical sweet spot than bland old cheddar cheese music (which has its uses, think how much cheddar we all must eat in a week).

Some personal highlights of Saturday’s offerings include Vayafuturo: a Mexican band who play dreamy floating music, taking advantage of ambient sound effects to create an impressive “full” sound, underpinned by the lead singer’s melancholic sound, kind of like a cool Mexican Robert Smith. Check them out here.

Also very cool were the LA Hell Gang, a Chilean three-piece band who played a style of heavy 60s psychedelic rock that had everyone’s head nodding in rhythmic affirmation.

The best band of the day for me personally was the Dutch band Rats on Rafts, very weird, very cool and very refreshing. Ferocious guitar playing, well dressed, screams of abandon, unsmiling, sweaty and melodically beautiful. Check them out here.

Headlining on Saturday were the continual disappointment known as The Horrors, the less said about them the better.

Overall this was a festival that is worth going to, and no you don’t need to get your hands on any psychedelics to enjoy the music (well most of he music anyway).