Zappa, guitar, and Dangerous Cretins

A diminutive Scottish muso of the classical variety once sat down and watched a bit of the Bemolution’s extensive collection of Frank Zappa videos. Like a lot of classical buffs who stupidly shun anything that isn’t staggeringly, inscrutably complicated, thereby writing-off a mass of the most beautiful and exhilarating music ever created, she did have a somewhat bewildered but very genuine respect for Zappa.

That said, watching him scowl intently into his Les Paul and loudly, furiously, if not dementedly play for several minutes without stopping, she did hypothesise that music was just an excuse for Uncle Frank to angrily vent his dissatisfaction with the world through his guitar. She was half-joking, and there was nothing in life Zappa took more seriously that music, but to some extent she was on to something. Continue reading “Zappa, guitar, and Dangerous Cretins”

It’s Flooding: Moral sickness and the Daily Mail school of mob psychology

somerset floods
The famously low-lying Somerset Levels haven’t mixed especially well with nigh-on two months of sustained heavy rainfall.

The worst hit settlements have been gutted by floodwater, and hundreds of people have been evacuated. Prospects for the future look grim – and not just because the rain shows no sign of letting up.

The bill for repairing extensively water-damaged homes and replacing destroyed household appliances looks set to run into the tens of thousands of pounds, and if the big insurers prove as compassionate as usual, stricken residents could be left paying for most if not all of the reconstruction themselves. That’s on top of the emotional hammer-blow of seeing your home suddenly and unexpectedly ripped apart before your eyes, along with the kind of sentimentally valuable bits and pieces you care a lot more about losing than your microwave.

It’s a horrible predicament for anyone to find themselves in. That doesn’t stop The Daily Mail’s campaign to suspend Britain’s foreign aid commitments and divert the funds to flooded parts of the South-West being morally sick. Continue reading “It’s Flooding: Moral sickness and the Daily Mail school of mob psychology”

Generic Left: And Now For More Of That Scintillating Political Positioning Stuff (Part 2)

Ken
Ken

Spank your mouse here for part one.

Back when it was a short-trousered blog-based non-phenomenon, the Bemolution was also influenced by the anthropologically-tinged historical perspective of Ken Livingstone, Labour left-winger and ex-Mayor of London. From his 1989 manifesto for the ‘90s, Livingstone’s Labour:

“We evolved over 5 million years as a cooperative animal. Throughout that time the norm was for ten to thirty early humans to live together in extended groups, in much the same way as a the great apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees do today … The whole evolution of our species over 5 million years is thus linked to cooperative groups and values. When Mrs Thatcher argues that there is no such thing as society but only the individual, she is denying the very essence of our humanity”.

Ken’s fairly devastating conclusion: “Almost all that has happened to us in these few thousand years has gone against the grain of our evolved, cooperative humanity”. There’s no point trying to pretend human pre-history was all bounteous and lovely – it was undoubtedly grim.

But it’s also very clear that, out of blunt necessity, for the vast majority of their existence human beings have lived far more equal, social, cooperative lives than the ones we lead today. The unnaturally atomised, individualistic way of life we’ve been forced into, particularly over the last few decades, looks a very likely root cause for increasing levels of unhappiness and depression amongst relatively very affluent Westerners. Continue reading “Generic Left: And Now For More Of That Scintillating Political Positioning Stuff (Part 2)”

It’s Flooding: Austerity Bites In Sodden Somerset

Moorland
Moorland

It’s not stopped raining in Somerset for about a solid month. Arbitrarily, Bem Towers happens to be up a reasonably steep slope, water runs downhill, and thus our books, pot-plants and stacks of David Bowie CDs remain nice and dry. A few miles down the road in the villages of Moorland and Burrowbridge, though, people are dealing with a level of devastation you don’t often see in First World countries.

It’s quite inconvenient for the government. Ministers have been relying on the worst effects of their budget butchery not being felt for years, giving them time to finish the job then bail out into lucrative post-political careers on the boards of big private companies before people start brandishing pitchforks. Continue reading “It’s Flooding: Austerity Bites In Sodden Somerset”

Elvis Comeback Special (1968)

In 1968, Elvis Presley’s ethically dubious puppet-master Colonel Tom Parker was facing dwindling returns from his suede-shoed cash cow. Despite a euphoric reception from the standard hordes of hyperventilating teeny-boppers when he returned from two years of national service in 1960, his career began to slide as the decade wore on, a fickle fan-base tempted away by the so-called ‘British Invasion’. Elvis had put music on the back-burner to focus on films, but his recent cinematic output had left a lot to be desired. For a while, it looked like the game might be up for the boy from Tupelo.  

Parker, struggling to squeeze Presley’s now-standard million dollar fee from film moguls, got funding for a Christmas TV special instead. At first it was set to be a fairly tame affair, Elvis crooning his way through a set of festive standards, which, presumably, would’ve done little to bolster his flagging street cred. Fortunately for Presley, NBC assigned the project an ambitious and imaginative director in the form of Steve Binder, who seized on it as an opportunity to reboot Elvis’s career and set about planning a multi-medium extravaganza.

The man himself was understandably nervous. He hadn’t performed live since 1961, when a Hawaiian benefit concert raised $64,000 towards a monument to the crew of the USS Arizona, sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The remaining members of his original mid-50s band, including his guitar-slinging stalwart Scotty Moore, were summoned for rehearsals, and Binder watched, enraptured, as the old musical comrades jammed and reminisced about the old days between trial-runs of the shows more extravagant set-pieces. It was subsequently decided that the show would be a game of two halves – one section dedicated to lavish, bombastic, heavily-staged sections, another to this intimate and informal alternative. Continue reading “Elvis Comeback Special (1968)”